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« Astronaut food: someone needs to invent that Star Trek food dispenser | Main | In class or take-home exams? »

December 08, 2004



NEWSFLASH : Life isn't perfect. Life is all about trade-offs.

We made a decision during the Clinton administration to move to a lighter, faster military -- vis-a-vis the "peace dividend". Remember rapid strike forces? You can either have rapid strike, or big, heavy, strong protection for our forces. Pick one.

You don't see the Hummvee gracing the cover of Car and Driver in a shootout with Corvettes or Porsches, do you? Now what do you think a Hummvee will do when you drop a couple of tons of deadweight on it? Lordy, people! My Focus mileage drops with a trunk full of groceries. Imagine putting just 500 pounds of armor on a Focus. Or 1,000 pounds your SUV. Now imagine what you have to do to the suspension on the Hummvee just to keep the belly from dragging. It's not just a matter of bolt-on-and-go.

So, do you beef up your Hummvee and get outrun by a 10 year-old kid, or do you strip 'er down to be quick as a flash but blown to smithereens by a firecracker on steroids? Ah, if only the rest of us could see the future with 100% clarity so as to pick a sound course of action like the armchair quarterbacks...

Tung Yin

True, life is about trade-offs. But in this case, it's the troops who are bearing the cost of the trade-off.

It seems to me there are at least two responses Rumsfeld could make. One is the one that you make, which is, putting armor on Humvees will slow them down too much. Perhaps that's right. But that's not what Rumsfeld is saying. He says the military is trying to get more armor, which is the second response, essentially, "we're working on it."

In other words, if you want to say that what the troops want is technologically infeasible, that's one thing. If what Rumsfeld is saying is that we were too cheap to provide the troops with what they need, well, let's just say the troops weren't the ones who made the decision to go to a lighter, quicker strike force.


When I read this post I though, "Well, let them eat cake!"


You can either have rapid strike, or big, heavy, strong protection for our forces.

That's not true. We have both. Airborne-infantry ( http://www.bragg.army.mil/www-82DV/ ) troops move in fast and light. But not ever soldier is an infantryman.

Urban warfare (which is the phase we're at now) requires lots of civilian affairs and armor. The troops need heavily armored vehicles to protect them from sniper fire as they move through the streets; and body armor to protect them from fire when they're clearing buildings. They need CA to let the Iraqis know we're there to help.

The logistical concerns you address are real. But Rumsfeld did not say, "Unfortunately, we are having significant logical problems in getting the troops what they require." That's one way of saying, "I'm sorry, I'm doing my best." Rumsfeld did not say that. Instead, he said, "Too bad."

Al Nye

Rumsfeld often engages his mouth before his brain. Our troops deserve better.

Al Nye

B. Powers

Shouldn't another issue be discussed that arises from this incident? The issue being the ability of troops to vocally question higher-ups in this regard. I completely agree with the message the troops were trying to convey in their questioning, but I also consider the leverage given to a military when it's allowed to question its leaders. I hate to harp on a democratic system, but I didn't think that was what we had in our military. "Our men follow orders - or people die" to quote... all right i'm quoting "A Few Good Men" but the sentiment is still there. While discourse by citizens towards the war should be wholeheartedly condoned, the soldiers should continue to follow orders without question so that on the day that a war is fought that some of us might agree with we don't have our army second-guessing their superiors. Such an incident of disobedience would resemble a wide-scale mutiny of sorts and compromise our abilities.


Shouldn't another issue be discussed that arises from this incident? The issue being the ability of troops to vocally question higher-ups in this regard

My understanding is that Rumsfeld opened up a forum for soldiers to air their grievances. According to the report Yin cited, there was a "question-and-answer session." I've been to these things, and sometimes the speaker regrets having opened up a forum, but it's not insuborindation to air one's grievances if a forum was opened up for that purpose.

B. Powers

I'm not asking for a court martial or anything of the sort. It's more a question of respect by the soldiers. I've been in positions where i've had to put myself in harm's way because of a superior's decision that I didn't agree with, but I did it without questioning the command because that's what the job entailed. I did this because I understood that lives were at stake and a chain of command had been established that needed to be respected in order to get results. Rhetorically questioning Rumsefeld in a public forum may have been allowed, but I really don't think that it was prudent. The situation may not have been as dire as taking place right on the battlefield, but the soldiers present will most likely take this sense of insubordination with them overseas. In addition, I do think Rumsfeld could have turned the situation into a positive thumbs-up for everyone if he possessed even an ounce of diplomacy.



Could you believe that 1) Rumsfeld agreed to this and 2) they allowed it to be televised and the press to be present?

I'm glad they did, but it was a huge miscalculation on their part. Did they think that everyone would be discrete and deferential? "Scrap Metal Guy" was madder than hell and he wasn't going to take it anymore.


Tung :

We have a limited ability to convert the Hummvees. Remember the "peace dividend"? Remember "base closures". I live near one of the very few arsenals we have left, and the Hummvees are being armoured there - Rock Island, Illinois - and then shipped to the sandbox. This is not a quick procedure.

Funny - you don't hear the Democrats whine about outsourcing/downsizing our defense. Ever.

When those bases closed, so did our ability to rapidly respond to a conflict we have not "planned" for. The saying goes like this - life is what happens while you are making other plans. Rumsfeld touched on this when he said you go to war with what you have, not what you wish you had. We had limited resources to work with, and we are doing the best we can under the circumstances.

Don't like it? Take it up with everyone who signed on the dotted line for the "peace dividend". You reap what you sow, and right now we are reaping the "peace dividend". Bigtime.

Mike :

You have got to be kidding, right? Perhaps you can explain how you shove armor through a doorway? What you consider big, heavy armor is considered by the military as light armor only meant to stop small arms fire. That is the truth Rumsfeld spoke. We have planned for urban conflicts (read: conventional combat) not urban war (read: terrorism) and the current conflict is a mixture. You cannot forsee which situation is going to crop up before you send your team out. So you "run what you brung" because you do not have time to do anything else.

I take that back - the armchair quarterbacks can forsee all situations, evidently. This is where they draw the ability to criticize with impunity.

The reality is, people, NOBODY forsaw 9/11 because we were blinded by our beliefs. We wanted to believe such a thing was not possible. Our enemies envisioned a different reality. We ALL believed in the peace dividend because we WANTED to believe. Now we know better. We can adapt, but it takes time. Have some perspective people - we took four years to win WWII after converting nearly all of our economy to guns and away from butter.

Still, I have to wonder how many people would happily skip their SUV purchase if we converted GM over to making armored Hummvees? How many would sacrifice one iota for the troops if push really came to shove. My bet is not many. Especially the armchair quarterbacks. That would mean coming down off their ivory-tower-ensconced La-z-boys and joining us in the real word.

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