Wednesday, March 19, 2008

"The Army is Unraveling" - Just Like Vietnam!

Well, no. It's not.

2007: Army Broken, Experts Say

The United States Army wasn't wasn't when retired General Barry McCaffrey, wrote: "My bottom line is that the Army is unraveling, and if we don’t expend significant national energy to reverse that trend, sometime in the next two years we will break the Army just like we did during Vietnam." (Memo to West Point Colleagues)

And it wasn't when former head of the Army War College, Army Major General Bob Scales, wrote an editorial in the Washington Times on March 30: "If you haven't heard the news, I'm afraid your Army is broken, a victim of too many missions for too few soldiers for too long. ... Every brigade save one in Korea has spent time in combat.

" ... Today, anecdotal evidence of collapse is all around." "Is The Army Headed For Collapse?" Washington Times (March 30, 2007) page 23 - republished in a Military Quotes and Quotations forum

I do pay attention to what men with military experience, who are old enough to remember Vietnam, say. But I also recognize that they're human.

My guess is that, like so many others, they learned the wrong lessons from Vietnam.

2008: Army Must be Broken, Some Experts Say

Army Major General Scales took another look at the facts, and has changed his mind. Now, he says that he was mistaken last year: and that combat brigades of the U.S. Army have been "surprisingly resilient," as "U.S. Army Isn't Broken After All, Military Experts Say" put it. FOXNews (March 19, 2008)

"In fact, what we've seen over the last year is that the Army retention rates are pretty high, that re-enlistments, for instance, particularly re-enlistments in Iraq and Afghanistan, remain very high," Scales said. Even troops who had served multiple tours were re-enlisting at a high level.

Not bad for a "broken" army.

Other "experts" insist that the Army is broken. Never mind the re-enlistment data. It's broken! Broken!

In fairness, the opposing view is much more articulate. The Center for American Progress and House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton are in agreement that there is a disparity between actual data and the Pentagon report.

In short, since the reported facts don't match their expectations, the military must be lying.

Facts, Assumptions, Wishful Thinking, and the Broken Army

I can't help that there's a certain amount of wishful thinking going on here.
Vietnam! Remember Vietnam!
"Everybody knows" that every war that America is involved in is just like the Vietnam involvement: as imagined by Berkeley protesters, ca. 1969.

In the real world, there are differences.
  • Draftees
    • Soldiers were drafted in Vietnam
    • Now, America has a volunteer Army
  • Working with human nature
    • Soldiers were treated as interchangeable replacement parts in Vietnam
    • Now, the American Army
      • Rcognizes that soldiers fight better as teams
      • Works hard to keep those teams together
By the way, have you noticed how anti-war politicos tend to be the same ones who are horrified at the unfairness of an all-volunteer army, and ache to get the draft re-instated? They may be a lot more clear-thinking than they seem, assuming that they want to weaken the American armed forces.
Atrocities Just Aren't What They Used to Be
In a way, I feel sympathy for the dedicated anti-war activists. In my younger days, all someone had to do was say, "My Lai," to open the floodgates of anti-war, anti-America passions.

The war in Iraq provided a promising atrocity in 2004. The Abu Ghraib prison photos managed to shock an American public hardened by the fall of Martha Stewart and Enron.

But even though the Abu Ghraib atrocities were real, unlike the popularized version of My Lai, "Abu Ghraib" hasn't caught on as a rallying cry.

I suspect that the American public isn't quite so trusting of traditional news media as they were in the days of Huntley and Brinkley. I also think that having online sources of information, that aren't controlled by old-fashioned editors, helps, too.
Related information:

U.S. Army statistics "Chart A: US Army Reenlistment FY 95-07" (six pages, including data back to 1961)

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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.