"You go to war with the Army you have," not the one you might want, was the retort of Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld as reported by CNN to questioning by troops after a morning conference at Camp Buehring, Kuwait . This particular inquiry (as reported by the AP), presented by Thomas Wilson of the 278th Regimental Combat Team concerned the logistics of combat:
"Why do we soldiers have to dig through local landfills for pieces of scrap metal and compromised ballistic glass to uparmor our vehicles?" Wilson asked. "We do not have proper armored vehicles to carry with us north," Wilson went on.CNN further reports that: 'A big cheer arose from the approximately 2,300 soldiers in the cavernous hangar who assembled to see and hear the secretary of defense.'
Rumsfeld replied that, "You go to war with the Army you have..."
The original AP story includes more of the Secretary's response,
Rumsfeld replied that troops should make the best of the conditions they face and said the Army was pushing manufacturers of vehicle armor to produce it as fast as humanly possible...
...the defense chief added, armor is not always a savior in the kind of combat U.S. troops face in Iraq, where the insurgents' weapon of choice is the roadside bomb, or improvised explosive device that has killed and maimed hundreds, if not thousands, of American troops since the summer of 2003.
"You can have all the armor in the world on a tank and it can (still) be blown up," Rumsfeld said.
The wisdom of the Secretary captured in this one notable response, underscores our great fortune to have men of substance, candor, and character in the Pentagon and the White House at a time when the nation is in dire need of great Men and Women, not infants and adolescents pandering to consensual emotions and soundbites.
The war we have, is one christened with the murder of some 3000 civilians. The war we have, was pre-staged by decades of diplomatic incompetence, and international malfeasance (see Wrethcard's post) . The war we have, is one being fought with a defense budget that is a fraction of the federal education budget, despite a Constitution that expressly outlines the duty of the federal government to, "provide for the common defense," first, and "promote the general welfare," next.
I sincerely respect the concerns of troops in the field that know first-hand the hardships and challenges of the combat environment. I further applaud their ability to improvise and overcome adversity, as they have done in all wars. In the Spanish American War, more troops died of food poisoning than from being shot (reference). As many recalled yesterday, the most armored ogres of war, were shattered like butterfly wings by the bombs and torpedoes of a surprise assault at Pearl Harbor. Those that survived, dug out of and through the wreckage and overcame assured defeat to prevail.
That being said, I would gladly give those men and women on the frontier anything I could muster to get them more of the items that will both protect them and improve their capability; even as the county in which I live extracts duplicating income taxes to ostensibly amend the exhorbitant amounts wasted on a failing education system. Note that Oregon Congressmen are not pleading for budget shifts to their National Guard contingent to pay for armor. At the same time, do let's remember that this IS a new kind of War, begun with an attack on the homeland, by terrorists and their State sponsors that recognize no difference between an armored soldier and naked civilians. One they shoot. The other they behead. And they would just as soon bomb a Humvee with an IED as they would set off a backpack loaded with C4, shrapnel, and rat poison in my Metro bus which is also not armored. Likewise, they might simply infect a few of their loyal sappers with Small Pox and send them into my midst. I have no armor from that. Or they may just set off a cannister of ricin or sarin in the museum I visit with my family. God only hopes we can reach the gasmasks we purchased off Ebay (and carry for that one possible and horrific contigency) in time to improve our personal protection from attack. We are all fighting this war you see. And we are all improvising and overcoming the horrors that we did not invite upon ourselves, but nevertheless have to deal with on a daily basis.
The war we want, is not a jigged video game where we have an unlimited Halo of power, armor, and weapons. The war We want, is no war at all.
If only the enemies of Man, shared that desire... or the champions of stupidity understood the stakes.
A cursory review of my blogroll yields scant discussion of this topic. There is an ongoing thread at Free Republic with some decent feedback. Kevin C. at Sgt Stryker has a slightly different take on this issue from my own. And while I don't disagree with his initial point, I would challenge the argument that we are conducting this war "on the cheap." The budgetary implications of 8 years of Clinton, and another 4 years of moral conflict and virtually parallyzing political division have manifested domestic challenges nearly as formidable as the physical resistance of an elusive enemy. And yet we have prevailed astoundingly in three years of war with fewer casualties than that of the first 3 hours of World War II, and nearly half that of the first 90 minutes of World War IV. Victor Davis Hanson's latest arcticle at NRO puts this all in very clear perspective. A new mandate was established on November 2nd that changes the equation. Fallujah was the first step since. January's elections will be another. Nevertheless, Iraq is but one battle in a long conflict. Hanson sums it up best,
There may well be even more terrible things to come in Iraq than what we have seen already, but there will also be far better things than were there before. And there will come a time, when all those who slandered the efforts — the Germans, the French, the American radical Left, the vicious Michael "Minutemen" Moore, the pampered and coddled Hollywood elite, the Arab League, and the U.N. will assume that Iraq is a "good thing" like Afghanistan, and that democracy there really was preferable — after they had so bravely weighed in with their requisite "ifs" and "buts" — to the mass murders of Saddam Hussein. Yes, they will say all this, but it will be for the rest of us to remember how it all came about and what those forgotten soldiers and people of Iraq went through to get it — lest we forget, lest we forget...
The War we have been delivered will be resolved in the manner we see fit, and as we choose. It is ours to lose.
Matthew H. weighs in with good insight at Froggy Ruminations. Likewise, I would not begin to question the Sgt.'s criticism. But, the War we have is being engaged at many levels. While being overly concerned about arming his rear, this Guardsman's criticisms amplified through a hostile media, may encourage a dozen new insurgents to put his face in the sights of their weapons... and a few more IED's along the road to victory.
Also, Check out 2Slick's Forum for an extensive first-hand discussion of this issue. Good Stuff.
Drudge is reporting, RUMSFELD SET UP; REPORTER PLANTED QUESTIONS WITH SOLDIER. Embedded reporter, Edward Lee Pitts of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, manipulated the questions and the questioning ensuring that HIS question would be asked via Guardsman Wilson. Are we surprised?
Closing my final thoughts on this subject as I walked the blacksheepdog, it occurred to me tonight that the MSM never questioned the armaments of Marine equipment after the ambush in Somalia - the infamous Black Hawk Down incident. Few questions were levelled by reporters at the Clinton Administration for denying troops armored support during that deployment. Democrats in Congress did not demand the resignation nor even accountability of Clinton's SECDEF. When did Les Aspin or William Cohen ever face the troops for candid inquisition? In the years after, how many stories were written by Mr. Pitts or his colleagues demanding logistical upgrades for the U.S. Military or increases in defense spending? Only when it came to the protection of his own arse, and the furthering of his particular agendas, did Mr. Pitts feign any solidarity with his benefactors, even as he manipulated their real concerns. Do let's see now, if the journalists will defend increases in the Defense budget and tolerate the necessary wartime deficits needed to fight an extended war for our very survival. Or is this another fickle finger flipped at the defenders of freedom for engaging in the unnecessary agression of what the Left believes to be Bush's War for oil. For additonal insight, check out the perspective of one who actually attended yesterday's session with Rumsfeld over at Missick (Hat Tip Blackfive).
To all those good Men and Women standing tonight on the frontiers of chaos on my behalf, I say... Thank you. If I have it and you need it, its yours.