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more on Mid-level military officers on responsibility for Iraq
From: David Farber <dave () farber net>
Date: Mon, 24 Apr 2006 08:18:12 -0400
Begin forwarded message:
From: Tom Fairlie <tfairlie () frontiernet net>
Date: April 24, 2006 8:05:59 AM EDT
To: dave () farber net
Cc: EEkid () aol com, plevy () citizen org
Subject: Re: [IP] more on Mid-level military officers on
responsibility for Iraq
Jerry (and Dave),
There is some general truth to your anecdotal stories,
particularly in your description of the difficulty in sustaining
high-tech hardware. However, since I work in the defense
industry, I'd like to bring up some counterpoints.
First of all, military officers are no more or less clueless
than managers in any other profession. Some will have a
hard time tying their shoelaces, some will be corrupt, and
others will be so utterly competent that a bestselling book
may someday capture their exploits after a long career.
I know many military folk who respect the AK-47 (almost
everyone "in the know" does) and vehicle armor (it's not
always what they want or need; a good sniper can take it
out regardless). The reason why many don't know about
commercial availability of military hardware is not because
they're dumb, but because there exists a lot of insulation
between the commercial and military worlds (which is
blurring every day, with both good and bad effects).
The old "we can't take out large enemies without nukes"
rule has been dying slowly ever since MacArthur was fired.
Strategically, nukes make sense because they are much
more efficient than conventional weapons and cause far less
American casualties. However, our military continues to
invest billions in conventional weaponry (Cf. Future Combat
System or FCS), specifically to take out large, advanced
combatants. The US Army's website even has videos of us
taking out enemies in Europe and Asia. http://www.army.mil/fcs/
The question of training and readiness is more sticky and
has a lot to do with what country we *want* to be. For example,
if we want to live in constant fear and strike militarily every time
someone looks at us funny, than we might be able achieve the
readiness state of a nation like Israel, which is at constant war.
However, if we want to take a more peaceful approach to globalization
and reach out economically, than perhaps we might want to continue
outsourcing our military might and just make sure that our young men
and women know how to operate the high-tech equipment we're making.
The great thing is that, in our country, we have a choice which to
----- Original Message -----
From: "David Farber" <dave () farber net>
To: <ip () v2 listbox com>
Sent: Monday, April 24, 2006 6:15 AM
Subject: [IP] more on Mid-level military officers on responsibility
Begin forwarded message:
From: EEkid () aol com
Date: April 24, 2006 2:16:53 AM EDT
To: dave () farber net
Subject: Re: [IP] Mid-level military officers on responsibility for Iraq
Unfortunately, I think the writer of this article doesn't really
understand the problem. Prior to the Iraq war, many of our nation's
military officers were clueless to the realities of the battle
field. Sure, some of the most senior officers knew, but they became
senior officers because at some point in time, they became
politicians in uniform. This article brings to mind a day I had a
couple years before 9/11. I was attending a Marine Static Display,
which is a display of military hardware. I stood there shooting the
breeze with an officer and we were talking about how great the
Humvee's were. I asked if the composite body panels where bullet
proof and he said no. I was a bit surprised that they didn't take
such a rugged design to the next level with some light Kevlar armor.
He added, that Humvee's aren't used in areas where fighting occurs.
He made some comment about the only time "jeeps" are on a battle
field is in the movies. Immediately my thoughts traveled back in time
to a family friend who was severely wounded in Vietnam while driving
a jeep down a dirt road. He was shot with an AK-47. This wasn't on
a battle field. We moved on to another display which featured an M-16
with a third generation night vision scope. He commented that the
technology was new and only available to the military.. I was a bit
shocked that he didn't know this exact same scope was available on
the internet. In fact, I later printed out an ad from the internet
and gave it to him later. The display also had several confiscated
AK-47's and he commented that they were worthless at a hundred yards
because they were so inaccurate. Well, I've personally shot many
types of AK-47's from all over Europe and Asia and every single one
was accurate enough to put a bullet on a pie plate at 100 yards with
ease. I walked away wondering what would happen if we ever had to go
In addition to this experience, I once had a conversation with an
officer regarding our reliance on very expensive, slow to produce,
high tech weaponry. I commented that we could never fight a large
scale protracted war with these weapons because we simply couldn't
build them fast enough. His response was we will never fight another
large scale war. I said, what happens if we were to go to war with
China? He said, we will never let that happen because we know we
can't win without using nuclear weapons. I walked away stunned.
I'm not criticizing our military here. Let me make an analogy.
Suppose you have an engineer who graduated from a good engineering
school. He then hangs out with other engineers from other good
schools. Yet, none of them have ever designed anything. After a
decade or so, they're suddenly given a very complex, large scale and
taxing engineering project to do in a short amount of time. They are
going to make mistakes and miscalculations, we as humans can learn
from books but we learn the most about our environment by doing.
Sure, I know our military constantly trains, but I bet they didn't
train in an environment with real roadside IED's and car bombs in
public places on a regular basis.
In a message dated 4/23/2006 7:09:40 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time,
dave () farber net writes:
There is a fascinating article in this morning's New York Times,
based on interviews with mid-level officers and others, suggesting
widespread discontent and debate within the military over the failure
of senior officers to give candid advice to Rumseld and the
Adminsitration about the reasoins why the invasion of Iraq would be a
Officers making such comments as,
"This is about the moral bankruptcy of general officers who lived
through the Vietnam era yet refused to advise our civilian leadership
properly," said one Army major in the Special Forces who has served
two combat tours. "I can only hope that my generation does better
"The history I will take away from this is that the current crop of
generals failed to stand up and say, 'We cannot do this mission.'
They confused the cultural can-do attitude with their
responsibilities as leaders to delay the start of the war until we
had an adequate force. I think the backlash against the general
officers will be seen in the resignation of officers" who might
otherwise have stayed in uniform."
There was also an interesting angle on Condoleeza Rice's famous
comment about "thousands of errors," casting it in a light I had not
considered, as a slap at the military and a deflection of
responsibility for the Administration's own failures:
The debates are fueled by the desire to mete out blame for the
situation in Iraq, a drawn-out war that has taken many military lives
and has no clear end in sight. A midgrade officer who has served two
tours in Iraq said a number of his cohorts were angered last month
when Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that "tactical errors,
a thousand of them, I am sure," had been made in Iraq.
"We have not lost a single tactical engagement on the ground in
Iraq," the officer said, noting that the definition of tactical
missions is specific movements against an enemy target. "The mistakes
have all been at the strategic and political levels."
Paul Alan Levy
Public Citizen Litigation Group
1600 - 20th Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20009
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- more on Mid-level military officers on responsibility for Iraq David Farber (Apr 24)