In Defense of — gasp — Rummy

First, in a contest of who'd be more fun to have a beer with, Spc. Thomas Wilson and his balls of steel trump Rummy's squinty CEO bluster by a parsec. But the secretary did have something of point that is being lost in the rush to declare up-armored Humvees the solution to all the world's problems.

Truth is most U.S. military vehicles have required some kind of armor upgrade to withstand the volleys of RPGs and large-munition roadside bombs the Iraq conflict has produced. The Stryker units have what looks like steel grating around them to throw up an anti-RPG "fence," photos of Bradleys show what looks like reactive armor kits in place, and even the mighty Abrams appear to have been modified with extra plating.

So it is just not a case of the bloodless Pentagon stiffing the Guard and Reserves with thin-skinned Humvees, as some of the comments today seem to suggest. Rummy was right, if typically tone-deaf, by telling Wilson he could get blown up in a tank too.

Further, more armor is not a magical solution, never has been. It is represents a trade-off between protection and mobility, just as in the age of knights when if the peasants managed to violently unhorse an up-armored foe, they could go off and have lunch and leave the knight flailing face down in the mud. If he didn't drown, you could always stab him in the eye-slits later.

The preference for less armor can be seen today with at least some Marines in Fallujah. They point out that up-armoring their Humvees reduces the ability to see threats coming. Oh, but they bitch that the regular Army gets all the good stuff anyway, so at least that's square.

Finally, was it a disgrace or outrage that American tankers in Normandy had to cut up German steel obstacles to make hedge-cutting teeth for their tanks? No, it was an inspired response to the insanity of war. Rummy being nuts has very little to do with this sad and eternal fact.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • ||

    Rummy's response may have been well reasoned, and, for all I know, Marie Antoinette may have had a whole lotta extra cake lyin' around, but I bet both of them, given the chance, would rather take it back.

  • ||

    Wonder if they'll find an opening in bomb defusing or landmine clearing for Spc. Wilson?

  • ||

    "You can have all the armor in the world on a tank and a tank can (still) be blown up," he said.

    No shit.

    Is it just me or does it seem obnoxious and condescending to fly in from Washington D.C. and tell the people working and living in fucking Iraq that they can get blown up?

    What a douchebag.

  • ||

    Not to pick nits, Jeff, but knights were never so heavily armoured that they couldn't fight while dismounted. For tournaments, knights would often wear the heavier armour that required help for them to mount and would've made it difficult to move and fight on foot. But for actual combat, knights would never want to be helpless if the were knocked from their horse.

  • ||

    I realize that there's a judgement call over how much armor is too much armor.

    Something tells me that Spc. Thomas Wilson is more qualified to make that judgement call than Rummy.

    But I should emphasize that if John Kerry were President the situation would be much worse ;->

  • ||

    "You can have all the armor in the world on a tank and a tank can (still) be blown up."

    And as Dallas showed us, you can have the best security team in the world, and still get assassinated. So I guess you won't mind if we take away your detail, Mr. Secretary.

    The Humvees don't have enough armor because the war plan didn't anticipate a guerilla resistance. The fighting is going to be at the "tip of the spear," and those lightly armored Humvees wouldn't be seeing much hostile action anyway, just driving around in "the rear."

    Think about that: we invaded the oldest fucking place on earth, a place full of Arab Muslims, removed its government, and didn't expect that there would be a guerilla resistance.

  • ||

    I agree with Lowdog. Having been a former SCA'er in my youth, I learned that our ancestors weren't as dumb as we think they were.

  • ||

    Lowdog,

    What would be the thAC0 on that?

  • ||

    "But I should emphasize that if John Kerry were President the situation would be much worse"

    Sarcastic as you were with that comment, you are right. Much worse indeed they would have been.

    On to the armor question. The Marine is right, it is the attitude and aggresiveness of the Marines that works better than any body armor you can get.

    The best armor in the world has weaknesses, that can be exploited.

    You don't know what kind of attack you are going to get, and the enemy constantly changes tactics. But, in a situation of an IED, more armour is better. In a situation where you are engaged with small arms, I prefer less armor. Less armor generally means you more mobility, and it means more ability to shoot them first, before they can figure out what your weakness is.

  • ||

    Isn't there a better stategy than constantly running this duck shooting gallery by the local roadside bombers and rpg'ers?

  • Warren||

    All of this is just ancillary to the core problem. Rumsfeld is Satan.

  • ||

    Ruthless,
    Supplies have to get delivered, things have to get built, poeple have to go places and meet and organize stuff. There is a country being rebuilt, and a brand new democracy being formed.

    And there are some that are trying to prevent it from being formed.

    What would your solution be? There are only so many birds, and they can be shot down too.

  • ||

    I hope they're not building a democracy. Semantics are improtant here as people conveniently forget that we live in a republic, and this is what we are trying to install in other peoples' countries...because ours has worked soooo well.

  • ||

    In France at the time of Marie Antoinette, if a baker was out of bread, he had to sell cake or whatever other products he still had at the same price as bread.

    So, the "let them eat cake" comment was not as heartless as people think.

  • ||

    Think about that: we invaded the oldest fucking place on earth, a place full of Arab Muslims, removed its government, and didn't expect that there would be a guerilla resistance.

    Do you ever get tired of making things up? Is there a point at which you decide, "Well, I guess I've fought enough strawmen for a while, maybe I'll take on an actual argument put forward by my political opponents or an actual historical occurrence instead of something out of my oh-so-fertile imagination"?

  • ||

    I think the idea that knights were so heavily armored that if they fell off their horses they couldn't move is anti-medieval propaganda from the Enlightenment. Or maybe that's an urban legend in reponse to another urban legend.

    Always have to improvise in war, but hummers were never meant to be used as front line fighting vehicles. In an insurgency the front line is everywhere. That's where the criminal incompetence comes in. It appears that they didn't even consider to anticipate such a thing.

    They thought Iraq was going to be like Afganistan. Quick win with a relatively small force and air power. Install Chalabi and get out.

  • ||

    Yup, I made that right up. The plan never assumed a quick restoration of order by the Iraqis, never assumed that the populace would be grateful to us for liberating them, and never assumed that things would be stabilized within a few months, so reducing the amount of firepower needed that the number of troops in country would be below 50,000 by this point. Yup, I just made all of that up.

  • ||

    No, Brian, nobody ever thought those things. You're making that up. Stop it. Nobody ever thought that major combat operations were over once Baghdad and Tikrit were captured. Having 130,000 troops battling a guerilla insurgency was part of the plan all along. Don't you ever tire of imagining slanders against Dear Leader?

    Tell him, Josh.

  • ||

    joe is finally getting with the program: Anything that doesn't fit with politically necessity must be something that you made up, because it couldn't possibly be true.

    Freedom is slavery. We have always been at war with Eastasia. Four legs good, two legs better.

  • ||

    Joe, as shocked as I am that you responded completely tangentially to my post without ever dealing with its actual point, I feel compelled to remind you that you asserted that the Pentagon "didn't expect that there would be a guerilla resistance," not "sometimes when the Pentagon looks into the future it gets certain details wrong."

    If you'd like to address the former instead of the latter, that'd be great. Or if you'd rather just ask me why I can never admit any wrongdoing by the Bush administration, I'd accept that too.

  • ||

    Claude Blair, the author of "European armour circa 1066 to circa 1700" spent a lot of time weighing armor and he determined that most of the field plate fell into the 40-70 pound range, while the much heavier tournament armor could weigh up to 90 or so pounds. I can say, from personal experience, that the moden Infantry soldier carries between 40 to 90+ pounds, and they are expected to walk, run, jump, and fight with it on.

  • ||

    Shit, I was going to post that there was never any guerrilla resistance in Iraq and that it was just a figment of the mainstream media's imagination, but Thoreau seems to have disarmed that potential weapon in my arsenal via a sarcastic post above! Now what the hell am I going to argue.

  • ||

    kwais,
    I hear you, and I don't have a stategy. I was hoping someone here would.

  • ||

    Just to clear this up, my knight in the mud is AN EXTREME. Knights on foot could slaughter peasants by the dozens. But did they get knocked half-silly from their mounts and have their weak points set upon quicker foes? You bet.

  • Jason Lefkowitz||

    This explanation betrays a lack of understanding of the source of the problem.

    It's not that the Army accidentally underestimated the armor requirements of the modern battlefield. It's that Rumsfeld's doctrine of "transformation" *specifically calls for heavy armored vehicles to be replaced with lighter, thin-skinned ones*.

    In other words, there is a doctrinal flaw at the heart of the US military, and it is getting soldiers killed -- and the guy who did the most to make it happen just got re-upped.

    "Transformation" advocates argue that better information systems can make up for the lack of armor -- that "information is armor" because it lets units get out of the way of incoming enemies. That may be true when you're fighting out in the open desert, a la the 1st Gulf War's Battle of 73 Easting. But in an urban environment, where you are hemmed in by buildings and every window can conceal an RPG, the value of information is limited. Vehicles are going to get hit, and if they can't stand up to the hit men are going to die.

    (Related: there is a great article about the limits of technology and transformation in November's issue of MIT Technology Review.)

  • Warren||

    Samuel Clemens

  • Warren||

    oops sorry about that. Here's my full posting:

    Thought I'd weigh in on the medieval armor discussion. The idea that knights were burdened down by their armor can be laid at to feet of Samual Clemense. In his novel A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur's Court, he depicts armor laden knights being hoisted by winch onto horseback. Complete hogwash included for comic effect with no historical basis.

  • ||

    I saw on the "Free Republic" comment board that some folks are already saying that people like Thomas Wilson are committing treason, and furthermore it's they're fault we're losing this war.

    Remember: NOTHING that goes wrong in this war is in ANY way the fault or responsibility of the Secretary of Defense. It is the responsibility of the troops to make him look good, not ask him difficult questions he can't answer well.

  • ||

    The medieval talk brings to mind an old strategy for countering urban resistance: seige. Rather than attack, wait until the other team is too weak to hold an RPG. This might be unkind to non-combatants, though.

  • ||

    I think Brian's comments are the most on-target so far. Humvees are generally not armored because, surprise surprise, they're not Armored Fighting Vehicles. They were intended to be more like Jeep 2.0 than anything else. The flaw is not a technical one, or even a doctrinal one, IMO, but a tactical one: sending unarmored vehicles into fierce firefights is a good way to lose them.


    Jason Lefkowitz: I disagree with your argument about the value of visibility in open-field vs. urban combat. In an urban situation, attacks are more likely to come from any angle and any distance, and you are more likely to be ambushed: you don't have the relative luxury of having a lot of time to spot hostiles at a distance at which hits are not likely and you have time to maneuver, break contact, seek cover, etc. In MOUT, you can't cocoon and say "my armor will protect me", because that just ensures that you're not going to see the enemy before he's got the drop on you. And modern armor is still vulnerable - the Russians lost tanks in Chechnya doing exactly that kind of cocooning.


    There are good reasons to use lighter armored vehicles - they're much easier and faster to move around the world, for example. But you have to be careful where and how you use them.

  • gaius marius||

    It's not that the Army accidentally underestimated the armor requirements of the modern battlefield. It's that Rumsfeld's doctrine of "transformation" *specifically calls for heavy armored vehicles to be replaced with lighter, thin-skinned ones*.

    In other words, there is a doctrinal flaw at the heart of the US military, and it is getting soldiers killed -- and the guy who did the most to make it happen just got re-upped.

    precisely. rummy's transformation -- smaller, lighter forces -- is proving to be a colossal error of policy for the kind of war they want to fight. yet he remains dogmatically attached to it.

    then combine that with the delusional tactless arrogance that it takes -- right or not -- to stand in front of men who are being shot for their country and tell them that he knows better than they do what they need.

  • ||

    Rummy is right. An armored Humvee will not withstand a modern RPG. Supply trucks have never been armored against anything bigger than a pistol in the history of warfare.

    Yes, urban fighting means that you can't use maneuver to compensate for armor. No, that doesn't imply that you should spend billions to turn every recon vehicle into a main battle tank with no gun. You wind up less effective for your lack of an ability to field as many units that can't go anywhere very fast and get crap gas mileage.

    I have no doubt that every soldier feels that he should be able to move from point A to point B in an M1A1 big enough to hold a platoon, but that isn't reality. The Israelis actually tried this with their Merkava main battle tanks that could also be used to transport 4-5 troops. The problem? More armor meant less room for troops and gear, and you couldn't buy enough of them to keep a sizeable infantry force deployed.

    The reason that guys on the ground don't get to write policy is that they only know their piece of the puzzle. Strategically, it is desirable to be able to move your army somewhere quickly. Anyone want to take a stab at what it looks like to move M1A1s by air? How about the amount of gas you need to feed them? Mass chains you to the earth, which is just fine in a push from a beach head across a continent to your destination, but it starts to really suck if you need to do air transport. The size and weight of our Cavalry divisions almost completely dictate our opening strategy. Soldiers in general would not benefit from subjecting every main unit to the same constraints.

  • ||

    Jeff - point taken. As I said, I was picking nits. It just happens to be something I've always been interested in.

    wellfellow - not sure what the thAC0 would be...I play D&D3.5 now. :)

  • ||

    Putting aside the question of whether or not Rummy's reasoning was valid, why would Rumsfeld make himself the centerpiece of what was, essentially, a talk show format for marines to take shots at?

    ...He already has a reputation as a loose canon; just because you won the election doesn't mean it's safe to start shootin' your mouth off.

    P.S. I'm tryin' to picture McNamara takin' questions from the audience, and I just can't.

  • ||

    The real problem with Rummy�s transformation is its centralized, hierarchical nature. What is needed is a switch to decentralized, �3rd generation� maneuver warfare. Rummy wants cameras on every soldier�s helmet. He wants all decisions run through Tampa or DC. That is not the answer.

  • ||

    Genuine question:

    Are there examples of armies winning urban warfare against guerrillas in the modern era? Are there any parallels between those situations and Iraq that would give us hope?

    I honestly don't know the answer to this.

  • ||

    (pre-emptive apology in case this posts twice by accident, as I ran into a problem with the software)

    Genuine question:

    Are there examples of armies winning urban warfare against guerrillas in the modern era? Are there any parallels between those situations and Iraq that would give us hope?

    I honestly don't know the answer to this.

  • ||

    I'd say the Battle of Algeirs, thoreau, but I know that's controversial.

  • ||

    P.S. ...dyslexia's actin' up again.

  • ||

    Thoreau � We are fighting 4th generation forces. 4th generation forces have never been defeated by a 2nd generation (the US is second generation) military.

  • ||

    I'd love to get my hands on this DVD.

    http://www.rialtopictures.com/eyes_xtras/battle_times.html

  • ||

    Ken-

    What was the story in the battle of Algiers? I know nothing about it, but I'm guessing it was some sort of urban battle in the city of Algiers. Who were the participants, what was the outcome (or what are the various controversial claimed outcomes), and how long did it last?

  • ||

    Thoreau,

    I know more about what happened to Algeria long after the battle was over than I know about the battle itself; the link I posted above gives a concise overview of why the battle is relevant now.

    ...The question of torture came up, how to deal with insurgents, etc. The French won the battle because of their tactics but they lost Algeria, some argue, because of their tactics too.

    The ultimate effects of the battle of Algiers on Algeria may still be playing out; I don't think anyone would call Algeria between 1958 and 2001 a big success in regards to human rights. If Algeria is in any way indicative of how our stay in Iraq will play out, then I don't think it offers much in the way of hope.

  • ||

    Pretty lousy point of view there Jeff Taylor. I would never want to get in a humvee with doors similar to what a jeep wrangler has in Iraq. The arguement that bullet proof armor would slow a vehicle down really doesn't fit since the top speed of a humvee is about 70 mph and armored doors wouldn't make much difference.

  • ||

    The breeding of an Army that worries more about protection than offensive actions is bad, bad, bad but we'll get over it.

    That Rumsfeld's a real leader, though. He loves the formulations "I believe", "I understand" and "That's what I'm told". It takes real leadership to avoid responsibility as well as he does. If only the Army wasn't so big, expensive and necessary he could actually implement his RMA fantasies, but since he can't it's all the fault of the hidebound "legacy warriors" in the Army. And people wonder why the Army doesn't find him all that amusing.

    As to armor, as we used to say in the light cavalry, "Anyone can fight behind the armor of a brad or a tank but it takes a real man to fight behind the fiberglass hood of a HMMWV."

    Dragoon!

  • Jason Lefkowitz||

    Ken Schultz,

    you can get "The Battle of Algiers" on DVD now from the Criterion Collection:

    http://www.criterionco.com/asp/release.asp?id=249

  • Jason Lefkowitz||

    JD,

    good point about cocooning. I didn't mean to imply that assuming a posture like that was the way to go. In fact, as you point out, luring a tank into a constricted area like a city is a good way for infantry to neutralize the tank's inherent advantages (as history shows going all the way back to WW2).

    The real issue is a "horses for courses" one: tanks are good at some things, APCs/BFVs at others, light transport (HMMWV) still others, etc. But transformation is driving the adoption of new vehicles that are known to be inadequately protected before they ever go into the field, and pushing existing vehicles (like the HMMWV) into roles for which they are not designed.

    I wrote about this last spring:

    The Pentagon's Procurement Mess

    It's a sad story, but then what coming out of the Pentagon these days isn't?

  • ||

    The Straight Dope says that "let them eat cake" was misattributed to Marie A., and doesn't mean what we moderns think it means.

    http://www.straightdope.com/classics/a2_334.html

    Kevin

  • ||

    Okay, here it is in a nutshell:

    Soldiers bitch.

    Rummy is a bureaucrat.

    The media is going to be all over this like stink on shit because they have a very clear political agenda (and mix this with sensationalism).

    But to more important things.. knights in heavy armor actually had far more flexibility then people think. I saw demonstrations where a guy in full plate did cartwheels. I guess it all depended on the craftsman.

    Also, peasants thunking on an un-horsed knight wasn't the turning point.. it was the invention of the longbow. And we didn't have mad mothers those days who wanted to ban armor-piercing arrow heads.

    Okay, sorry, but ranting tangent here.. there's a front page piece in the Washington Post today about mad mothers formulating national policy. IS THIS A GOOD THING?!

    www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A49646-2004Dec8.html?sub=AR

  • ||

    Jeff A. Taylor,

    It is represents a trade-off between protection and mobility, just as in the age of knights when if the peasants managed to violently unhorse an up-armored foe, they could go off and have lunch and leave the knight flailing face down in the mud.

    This is a myth. It was pikemen who killed horse and rider during a charge which routed mounted armies. Indeed, the armor of the mounted in combat was never as heavy as that found for ceremonial or sporting purposes (in other words, jousting). Dismounted, hand to hand combat was common for armored knights to engage in. And of course, the age of very, very heavy armor (if you care to visit a armor museum in Europe) came actually after mounted charges had become of far less importance due to the advent of firearms (like the advent of the matchlock in the 15th century, the wheelock 16th century, etc.).

    Finally, was it a disgrace or outrage that American tankers in Normandy had to cut up German steel obstacles to make hedge-cutting teeth for their tanks?

    If the U.S. military hadn't been so boneheaded (and arrogant) and adopted Hobart's "funnies" they woudn't have had to do that. Instead they ignored these very innovative efforts and American troops paid the price for the American general staff's arrogance. The "funnies" did remarkably well on the British and Canadian beaches and shamed the American general staff in the process. The point of course is that the technology existed without men on the ground having to improvise to save their fucking lives.

    thoreau,

    The French won the battle, but it was a phyrric victory, since the mobile search and destroy tactics used in the war - though it suppressed the rebellion in Algeria and had granted France military victory there - created such sharp divisions at home that it undermined the military victory in Algeria.

  • ||

    "The real issue is a "horses for courses" one: tanks are good at some things, APCs/BFVs at others, light transport (HMMWV) still others, etc. But transformation is driving the adoption of new vehicles that are known to be inadequately protected before they ever go into the field, and pushing existing vehicles (like the HMMWV) into roles for which they are not designed."

    I don't know that this is true. Note that Stryker is a key transformation platform. It is a versatile base that can be moved relatively easily by air and can carry additional armor if the situation so requires. Stryker is not a light weight in the right configurations, but it is much more useful overall.

    Here is a pic of one that drove off after being hit with a 500 lb roadside bomb. This is a guaranteed mobility kill on a tracked IFV or APC, and lets not even talk about what would happen to an m113.

    http://www.strategypage.com/search.asp?target=d:inetpubstrategypagerootgallerydocsmilitary_photos_2004101123.htm&search=stryker%20500

    Fear my mighty html skills ...

  • ||

    Mr. Nice Guy: "The media is going to be all over this like stink on shit because they have a very clear political agenda (and mix this with sensationalism)."

    Ow! You made me shoot hot coffee out my nose I laughed so hard. Anyway, if the media has a "very clear political agenda", then why didn't they mention this issue ***before the election***, dipshit? Col. David Hackworth has been reporting first-hand accounts of defective gear, inadequately armored vehicles, degraded flak jackets, etc. since 2003. Get a clue: This is big news because it is an administration official getting reamed on camera, not because the media hates Bush/Rumsfeld.

  • ||

    When GIs had to make hedgerow-cutting devices, it wasn�t �an inspired response to the insanity of war.� It was an awkward, imperfect response to an intelligence failure. Both the British and U.S. armies had intelligence units devoted to studying the terrain the troops would be traveling through. Forgetting that tanks couldn�t travel easily through hedgerow country is like forgetting that tanks traveling in the desert might have trouble with sand in the air filters.
    As for Rummy saying that you could get blown up in a tank--isn't it just a bit harder to blow up a tank than a truck? (I�ve driven both, but I was in an M-48A2C back in the day.) What the troops should have been asking Rummy is why he didn�t have the guts to tell the President (and Congress) that at least 250,000 troops would be needed for an effective occupation.

  • Jason Lefkowitz||

    Here is a pic of one that drove off after being hit with a 500 lb roadside bomb. This is a guaranteed mobility kill on a tracked IFV or APC, and lets not even talk about what would happen to an m113.



    I checked out that link -- you should read the comment thread attached to the story, if you haven't already. Readers fisked the story and found that the damage to the Stryker in the photo was caused not by a 500 lb IED, but by rolling into a canal (oops). The photo of the damaged Stryker isn't there anymore so I assume that someone got embarrassed and took it down.

    Here's a link to the discussion thread.

  • ||

    The argument about transformation is an interesting one. I don't see that anybody really seems to understand it on this thread, but exactly what mix of forces and equipment is precisely correct is a point of great contention. From what I can see everyone thinks they know, and they are all wrong. Why? Because each conflict and situation is different, the situation changes after the start of combat, and the best answer to many issues is developed from experience.

    I am usually unimpressed with arguments that assume those in charge are idiots. Rumsfeld may have been wrong about many things, but we seem to be ignoring the many benefits of his approach (which those describing his approach don't seem to understand, i.e. Rummy is not trying to centralize everything. Maybe he should be stressing an even less centralized approach, but no standing army this century has utilized decentralized approaches more than the force fielded by this administration.)

    Rummy isn't an idiot. He has done many things wrong because large enterprises always do. More importantly whatever his faults, as Jeff pointed out, Rummy's response that we fight with the army we have, not the one we might want is absolutely correct. Rummy is using an army primarily equipped long before he became secretary of defense. It is not simply a matter of seeing a need and filling it. Production has to be ramped up. It has to be decided what are the tradeoffs in making the changes, how many vehicles actually need to be upgraded (and I use that term advisedly since in the next operation we may find we have changed the vehicles in ways which degrade operational effectiveness given the new situation) etc. Then the bureaucracy takes over, plants often can't physically handle the volume, there are turf fights over all kinds of issues, the bid process is questioned, quality versus expense versus speed in delivery in choosing vendors, on and on. It is fashionable to gripe at the whatever the current administration is when this happens, but I would assume one of the reasons many of the readers of this site have a libertarian perspective is because we know it is always this way, whoever is in charge. If Rummy slashes red tape and the interminable bidding process we have accusations of malfeasance and favoritism (see Haliburton, Bechtel.)

    To sum it up, even if Rummy had had the foresight to predict the shape and characteristics of the resistance, the situation with the hummers and many other issues would have still existed. If resources had been applied earlier and in greater quantity on these issues we would have others to complain about. That is the nature of living in a world of tradeoffs, scarcity and radically imperfect knowledge complicated by war and bureaucracy in any large organization.

    I too have many complaints with Rummy, but I have had many with every administrator our government has ever had. Rarely is it because they are as awful as partisans tend to portray them. Much of what Rummy has overseen has been breathtakingly successful. Others have seemed frustratingly inept (though usually I admit in my criticism that the correct answer may not have been as obvious as me or anyone else wants to admit, and critics of such things have the advantage of not having their opinions falsified.) This issue falls into neither camp, but is just the way it is. I tend to judge Rummy by historical standards first, absolute standards second. By historical standards the preparation of our forces in training and equipment (I am not talking about strategic planning) has been better than any army the world has ever seen. It is much better than under Clinton, Bush I, Reagan or any previous army. Of course some of that credit must go to the previous administration. By absolute standards it has a ways to go. Unfortunately that will always be true.

  • ||

    So the media is purely objective? So the media doesn't live in an ideological vacuum? So you trust them to give you just the facts, and not take things out of context?

    Be careful with that coffee shooting through your nasal cavity, pal. You don't want any of that seeping into your brain.

  • ||

    Lance, here is a quick piece on transformation worth reading. Rummy's transformation values sexy and expensive machines over people. It values centralized control over flexibility in the field.

  • gaius marius||

    Rummy isn't an idiot.

    mr lance, i would agree. but he IS an ideologue, and an arrogant one. you can argue that he has to be arrogant; but he does not have to be dogmatic. that the question of some lowly private fazed him so readily should be taken as evidence of his bubble, imo.

    his error primarily lies in misapplying the force he has to the war he wants to fight instead of fighting the war as it is. which is why i said

    rummy's transformation -- smaller, lighter forces -- is proving to be a colossal error of policy for the kind of war they want to fight. yet he remains dogmatically attached to it.

    the army has more men to apply to the job; general staff planning called for an army three times the size knowing they could field it. rumsfeld simply refuses to apply them -- out of doctrine alone, despite the reality.

    he has a vision of war which he is dogmatically applying which is unattached to the situation of iraq. and he did this over the objection of his entire general staff. this is a mortal error which many failed generals have made in history.

    furthermore, as seymour hersh articulated in "chain of command", rummy's office scrapped institutional planning procedures to take personal control over requisitioning and marshalling of forces and material. this resulted directly in massive equipment shortages from which our forces there have not yet recovered. central -- no, personal control is a problem for him.

    canning him for someone more flexible is a great first step. don't repeat the mistake of hanging on to haig. for what? there are a hundred men of rummy's capability sans the emotional baggage and the history of fiasco.

  • ||

    "It (transformation) values centralized control over flexibility in the field."

    No offense, but this is absurd. Division strength heavy armor in no universe has more operational flexibility than air liftable mobile units. Platoon level discretionary fire control over artillery batteries and in some cases air power is not less flexible than what we have now, nor does in favor centralized authority. What we have now is not at all flexible. It is devastating but tremendously ponderous with a size 24 logistical footprint.

  • ||

    Jason:

    Heh. Guess I should have read the thread, eh? Thanks for pointing that out.

    Even at that, the Stryker is not less protected than the Bradley with the armor add ons (two RPGs on the turret finish the M3, as well), which also has the disadvantage of being taller than an M1. Wheels work very well in urban environments, it is faster and quieter, and so on.

    The legitimate criticism of the Sryker is that in the configuration we are using it now, it is not airliftable ready to fight in a C130, which was one of the original requirements. I'm not saying the thing is perfect, but it is not nearly the travesty everyone was making it out to be.

    More generally, more armor can't be viewed as a given desireable.

  • ||

    Jason Ligon, I am not claiming what we have now is flexible. It is not. But changing equipment etc� is only part of the issue. I am talking about philosophy. We are still too centralized and hieratical, and Rummy wants to increase this. We focus on weapons technology as the solution to nearly all challenges. Rather than focus on men and their minds, rather than train forces to take initiative, we focus on the technology. Technology is great. But it is not enough. Our troops are not taught to take the initiative. They are trained to follow set procedure. Obviously we need both procedure and technology. We also need to train our troops to fight 3rd generation maneuver warfare. Flexibility means more than changing the composition of units and what they carry into battle. It is about how they fight. You might find the link I posted above interesting. Lind is dead on with his analysis of transformation vs. a 3rd generation military (he writes about it in many more articles than the one above).

  • ||

    "rummy's transformation -- smaller, lighter forces -- is proving to be a colossal error of policy for the kind of war they want to fight."

    Actually, the military did remarkably well in the kind of war Rumsfeld wants to fight - that is, the drive from Kuwait through Baghdad to Tikrit. The lighter, faster military beat the snot out of the Iraqis' main battle forces.

    The problem is, Rumsfeld/Cheney/Bush assumed that that was the war they were getting into, and didn't send an army prepared to fight the war that they actually had to fight. This isn't just about unarmoured Humvies, but about inadequate forces to guard important facilities, road, and borders once the government collapsed, the decision to disband the Iraqi regular army, and the entire litany of mistakes that allowed Iraq to turn into a guerilla insurgency.

    What's happened in Iraq doesn't contradict Rumsfeld's vision for a quicker, lighter, more responsive military's ability to win military engagements. The pre-flight suit day campaign demonstrates exactly the opposite. What's happened in Iraq since then contradict's the administration's strategic thinking on a much higher level - their ability to understand the nature of the conflict we're involved in, the nature of the enemy, and the basic shape of the global security situation.

    Rumsfeld didn't bother to send an army capable of securing Iraq, because he assumed we wouldn't have to. He bought into the "History Changing Battles" fairy tales of people like Victor D. Hansen. Once we achieved an overwhelming military victory, the Iraqis and the rest of the region were going to fall on their knees, repent, and reorganize their society along the lines we'd prefer. So why would we need our forces in Iraq to be equipped for a stabily/counterinsurgency operation?

  • ||

    Are there examples of armies winning urban warfare against guerrillas in the modern era? Are there any parallels between those situations and Iraq that would give us hope?

    If you mean battles, there are any number, including Fallujah. For that matter, the ne plus ultra of guerrillas beating heavies, Chechnya, is something of a red herring, as the Russians wound up taking Chechnya on their second try, and I believe they hold it to this day.

    If you mean, has a nation fielding a modern army ever permanently defeated a guerrilla force that fought in urban settings, that is a different question that I'm not sure I know the answer to. Guerrilla wars are won and lost on political grounds, not military ones, for the most part.

    As for the fantasies about how we are a second generation army fighting a fourth generation force and doomed to fail, well, from a military perspective that is bullshit.

    Our forces are more than a match for any forces that can be put against them in any setting, period, in large part because our military is operating on a informational and firepower plane that no one else has yet approached.

    We can lose this war, but if we do it won't be because our military couldn't handle the military tasks put before it. It will be because we lost the political will to win this war.

  • ||

    "lost the will to will this war" = "not willing to use nukes on a population center" Just like Vietnam.

    I like to think most Americans never had the will to do what would be necessary to win this war, or that one, but I'm probably deluding myself.

  • ||

    Guerrilla wars are won and lost on political grounds, not military ones, for the most part.

    If a definitive military victory over a guerrilla force was possible in a reasonable time frame then the political issues would be moot. The fact that guerrilla wars bog down is precisely the reason why political factors matter.


    I think joe hit the nail on the head: I am completely confident that Rumsfeld's vision of a faster and more flexible military can defeat any conventional army on the face of the earth. I'm even confident that in guerrilla warfare the sophisticated use of information technology will be a great asset.

    But some things in life never change. One of them is that guerrilla wars are long, drawn-out affairs where decisive victory is rarely (ever?) possible, hence the battle shifts to the political theater.

  • ||

    RC Dean � You are correct that our military can more than match any forces put against them (assuming we are within reason here, and not talking about a land war in China etc�). We might be a second generation military, but we are a very good one. Understanding the nature of 4th generation forces, who do not even attempt to compete on the battlefield in a �fair fight�, is more complicated than winning battles in any setting. As in Vietnam, it is possible to win every battle of consequence and still lose the war. 4th generation forces have never been defeated by a state military, not that I know of anyway. That is not to say we are doomed to fail. It is stating a fact.

  • ||

    What a lot of people seem to be forgetting is that the SecDef, the second most senior leader in the military chain of command, was not only questioned, but answered as many of those questions as he could.
    If Rumsfeld was as dodgy and obstinate as many of you suggest, why put himself in that position in the first place? Better to have avoided the whole meeting thing and flown directly home from the presidential swearing in ceremony that was the result of the "election that was never going to happen because there was to much violence in the country that could never be fully taken because the terrain was to bad and the enemy to prevalent...."

    Another thing that many people seem to willing forget or gloss over, is that under the Goldwater-Nichols reform act, the CinC of the area command, in this case General Abezaid (sp?) of Centcom) has the next to final authority on what does or does not happen. Abezaid is there (unless he's shuttling back and forth to McDill and the Senate committees and whatnot). The Commanders and generals on the ground are there.
    Why aren't they screaming for more troops?
    How is it some journalist in the Green Zone, whose never been outside the compound, or a senator or congressmen who has yet to go to the middle east, let alone Iraq, seems to know more about what's needed than the guys who receive all the unfiltered intelligence?

    Have mistakes been made in this conflict? Yes.
    Name a conflict that went according to plan. Exactly according to plan.

    Transformation is about fighting smaller, faster, and harder than anything else out there. And it worked, unless anyone here wants to dispute that Iraq and its ruling party wasn't destroyed or run off in less than a month. Hell, even the campaign in France, 1940 took longer. What Transformation was not equipped for, and what the DoD was not equipped for, was the revolt that followed, but then again, how do you predict such things? Disbanding the Iraqi Army was a bad idea, letting the looting happen was a bad thing as well, but you know what, shit happens in war, and sitting here months later bitching about what happened is solving what exactly?

    Also, by the by, the hedgerows in Normandy were an Intelligence failure. Aerial Photographs clearly showed the hedgerows, but planners thought they were like the "English" hedgerows, planted in the ground and neatly trimmed very once and awhile. They had no actual HUMINT from anyone in the Normandy area telling them these were actually berms planted with hedges and trees that had been there for years, if not decades and centuries, and would be some of the most overgrown areas they would encounter.

    Can you imagine the MSM's reaction today to such a situation?

    Also, in perfect (or good) weather conditions, armored knights can move with relative ease and grace. In some cases, getting on a horse can be tough, especially wearing the heavier tournament armor, so a winch contraption was used from time to time. It wasn't prevalent. Agincourt happened as a result of bad weather and French impetuosity, the knight who were shot of their horses fell down into a field of mud and could not get the footing to get back up.

    Three peasants can indeed kill a knight pretty easily, but more than a few factors have to be met for that to happen, and peasants weren't exactly known for their bravery in battle.

    Todd

  • Kevin Carson||

    joe,

    And nobody ever thought that oil revenue would fund the cost of war and reconstruction, either.

    BTW, I can't even see Rummy without thinking of something really gross. I used to work in a nursing home where one of the residents was an old man who looked kind of like Rumsfeld. He was really into fecal smearing. And when he smeared shit on himself, he did it with a facial expression exactly like the "ain't I a corker" look that Rummy puts on at his press conferences.

  • ||

    The Brits had a hard time in Malaysia after World War Two, but ended up doing a very good job against the insurgency there. Its practically a handbook for how to defeat an insurgency and restore a country. The only drawback that would shock and horrify most people today is that it took them 10 years to do so. Today, it seems if you can't get it done yesterday, then you can't get it done at all and may as well move on to something else. That or throw words like quagmire around.

    Todd

  • Mike H.||

    Once we achieved an overwhelming military victory, the Iraqis and the rest of the region were going to fall on their knees, repent, and reorganize their society along the lines we'd prefer.

    Actually joseph, according to the VDH school o' military thought that's the problem: we haven't yet achieved an overwhelming victory. US forces largely maneuvered around cities and "allowed" entire Iraqi divisions to simply dissolve.

    FWIW, it seems to me that contributing large amounts additional forces could prove much more harmful than beneficial in the long run. Correct me if I'm wrong, but the ultimate goal is not only some sort of democratic-like post-war Iraq, but a self-sufficient democratic Iraq. My fear is that a large occupation force would relieve Iraqis of the "responsibility" of their own security (not to mention exponentially increased resentment among the populace).

    It's my opinion that the quickest and most efficient way to turn this into another Vietnam-esque political failure would be to send hundreds of thousands of more troops.

    Like every war, this one is being fought to achieve a political aim. I fear that we could very well find ourselves in the situation of winning every single military engagement, but losing the overall war by creating a parasitic Iraqi political structure.

    But the question is: how much Coalition involvement is too much?

  • ||

    "Correct me if I'm wrong, but the ultimate goal is not only some sort of democratic-like post-war Iraq, but a self-sufficient democratic Iraq."

    Ultimate goal, yes. But that is a goal that requires numerous interim steps. Achieving that end requires the conditions that make it possible, among them security. Failing to provide that security makes it impossible for Iraq to become either self-sufficient or democratic. Allowing looting, murder, and mafia-rule to become established as the "new norm" in Iraq told the Iraqi people that we would not or could not keep them safe from the insurgents, making collaborating with them (or at least keeping your eyes shut) a prudent thing to do. It also told potential insurgents that, yes, there really is a chance of beating the Americans.

    I always considered the decision to invade Iraq a close call, even after the dishonesty behind the WMD pretext became obvious to me. The case made by writers at The New Republic, the same case they made for intervening in Yugoslavia and Rwanda, was quite compelling to me. What tipped me into the anti-war camp was the certainty that the Bush administration was not morally or intellectual sturdy enough to do it right, and that they'd make a hash of the whole enterprise.

    I wish I'd been wrong.

  • Morat||

    Want some fun? Check up on the number of US troops deployed in Vietnam in '68 and '69, and the number of NVA forces in those years. Then run the casualty figures.

    What you find is straightforward: The NVA fielded about 75% of the number of troops the US did, and we killed about 14 of theirs for every one of ours.

    For Iraq to be in the SAME position, there would need to be about 100,000 insurgents, approximately 15000 of whom we've killed. (Probably more. We lose fewer men thanks to better armor and medicine than we did in Vietnam). Methinks our kill ratios are a bit lower than in 'Nam, and that the insurgency probably numbers a fair bit more than "5000 to 10000".

  • ||

    Have we reached sort of a consensus guerrilla wars are long and drawn out, and our occupation should take about 10 years?
    If so, shouldn't we have gone down the road of truly free trade and open borders?
    Same ten years: the former "lose. lose." The latter "win. win."
    Which to choose?

  • ||

    "Allowing looting, murder, and mafia-rule to become established as the "new norm" in Iraq told the Iraqi people that we would not or could not keep them safe from the insurgents, making collaborating with them (or at least keeping your eyes shut) a prudent thing to do. It also told potential insurgents that, yes, there really is a chance of beating the Americans."

    This is the case made by the 'more troops' camp. The counter argument is that this position fails to appreciate the hostility generated by a large force breaking enough heads to prevent looting and murder by insurgents to occur.

    I am reminded of one of the first broadly discussed security failures of the conflict - the national museum. If you park a visible force in the streets to prevent looting, one outcome is certainly that looting is deterred. Unfortunately, the other outcome is that you have to shoot a whole crapload of Iraqis in front of CNN, Al Jazeera, and everyone else.

    I sometimes sound like I'm completely convinced that the small forces argument is the correct one, but I'm really not. I just don't think it is at all obvious that everything would be better with more troops. More and more distributed troops are more targets and more opportunities for something horrible to be done by American troops reacting to a chaotic situation.

    I don't know enough about the history of insurgent fighting right now to be certain of either argument, but there are merits and problems for both camps.

  • ||

    "If you park a visible force in the streets to prevent looting, one outcome is certainly that looting is deterred. Unfortunately, the other outcome is that you have to shoot a whole crapload of Iraqis in front of CNN, Al Jazeera, and everyone else. "

    Make that 'potential outcome' in both cases.

  • ||

    The counter argument is that this position fails to appreciate the hostility generated by a large force breaking enough heads to prevent looting and murder by insurgents to occur.

    Now you start worrying about pissing off Arabs?

    Besides, the basic idea is that if you park a large force in front of the museum you don't have to shoot anybody. This thing called deterrence comes into play.

    Then again, the whole invasion of Iraq was based (in part) on the notion that deterrence doesn't work against Arabs.

    I give up.

  • ||

    Oh, wait, I misspoke. Deterence wouldn't work against Arabs if we didn't invade Iraq, but once we do invade deterence would work in the future.

    Sorry for the error.

  • ||

    "Oh, wait, I misspoke. Deterence wouldn't work against Arabs if we didn't invade Iraq, but once we do invade deterence would work in the future."

    It isn't about deterring Arabs, it is about deterring Arab tyrants. Running over a loose coalition of non arabic warlords very far away doesn't accomplish that, and Saddam was demonstrably not deterred by that act. There is certainly a case to be made that a certain Syrian colonel fell in line not after Afghanistan, but after Iraq.

    "Now you start worrying about pissing off Arabs?"

    Come on Thoreau. I don't believe that you really don't get the distinction between basing one's entire foreign posture around not pissing of Arabs and managing an occupation in such a way as to minimize the pissing off of Arabs.

  • ||

    The question I have re: the humvees, is not why they don't have armor on them yet, it is why were they ever made in the first place without armor? I've always thought it was odd.

    In any war, anywhere, they would be vulnerable.

  • ||

    Never mind the populace, it seems like many of the arguments here are saying.

    It does not matter if your army is the second, third of ninth generation of warfare, the mandate of the populace and their patience directly decide the ultimate fate of that war.

    Vietnamese people, south and north were fighting not on the communist theme. HoChiMinh was using the nationalism theme, "defeating the imperial foreigners, etc..." They were ready to die by the truckload, millions (US= 500,000) and years and years of fighting. Ideology and the populace's patience will decide when peace will be.


    Israel/Palestine is a good example. :-)

  • Patrick||

    "Putting aside the question of whether or not Rummy's reasoning was valid, why would Rumsfeld make himself the centerpiece of what was, essentially, a talk show format for marines to take shots at?"

    Because Rumsfeld is a brilliant standup guy who has the best interests of the military at heart.
    Seriously. Go here http://www.missick.com/ and read a real 1st hand report on the visit.
    Besides, he has taken far more annoying and worse questions at each and every press conference.

    Also, check my blog for some facts about the up-armor situation: level 1 armored Humvee production went from 30 a month last year to 450 a month now, and 6,000 of those plus 10,000 factory armor-kit vehicles are in use. Then some vehicles, mainly cargo trucks, have plates protecting the cabs (level 3) - Of 30,000 vehicles in theatre,
    70% have armor, and the rest are used on base or in rear areas where the armor is not useful.
    The blunt fact is, the issue has been recognized for over a year by DoD as a serious one and has been adequately worked on by them. No unit is going into Iraq without the armor needed; as they deploy they are getting 'up-armored' at shops in Kuwait for those vehicles not already outfitted. Any vehicle without armor is transported by flatbed to its base and used on-base only. (see DoD press conference of Thursday for details).

    Reality completely obliterates the MSM hand-wringing on this. Sure, it's a concern,
    but it's not a 'fiasco' or 'scandal' or the other terms that the MSM Rummy-bashers use.

    "not why they don't have armor on them yet, it is why were they ever made in the first place without armor? I've always thought it was odd."

    Not odd at all... they were not designed for heavy combat but as transport... the more armor, the more logistics it takes to move them.
    If more armor was always the right answer, every Army vehicle would look like an M1A1 tank. It isnt because there are always tradeoffs. The original author is correct. More is not always better when it comes to armor. OTOH, the insurgents attacked with RPGs and IEDs precisely because they are effective against our vehicles, so the balance of best-fit-to-use shifted from 'less armor' to 'more armor'.

  • Patrick||

    "The real problem with Rummy�s transformation is its centralized, hierarchical nature. What is needed is a switch to decentralized, �3rd generation� maneuver warfare. Rummy wants cameras on every soldier�s helmet. He wants all decisions run through Tampa or DC. That is not the answer."

    Wow, is this ignorant. I'd suggest you visit some MilBlogs to understand what the h*ll is really going on in our military and what transformation is really about. You have it completely wrong to say 'He wants all decisions run through Tampa or DC'. Especially when "What is needed is a switch to decentralized, �3rd generation� maneuver warfare." is EXACTLY what Franks did in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Geeez.

  • ||

    Many people here keep refering to Rumsfeld's transformation of the military, but this actually came about as a directive from General Eric Shinseki, and it was forced on him as a result of the military downsizing under the Clinton and Bush the elder. We went from 18 active divisions to 10, and since the same Congressmen demanding the "Cold War Dividend" also demanded that no bases be closed in their districts, unfortunately most of the cuts were to the fighting and direct support forces. Consider that we deployed eight full divisions and various separate elements to Gulf War 1. Under that kind of reduction, there are only two choices: Either you give up projecting any serious force beyond our borders, or you do it with less men. This reduction has certain advantages as well, and Franks is (in my mind at least) a genius in doing what he did with what he had. Patrick is absolutely correct; the point of increased information flow is not at all centralization of command structure; it is increased situational awareness at the company or even platoon level. A platoon with greatly increased situational awareness can have the effect of a company. This is a GOOD thing, not a BAD thing. And while I don't a agree with the choice of the Styker, Shinseki's choice reflected our sad lack of fast heavy transport. Without the choice of increasing our fast heavy transport, he tried to make the most capable fighting force he could quickly deliver. You then rely on battlefield intel and information flow to leverage this lighter force into the kind of effect a conventional heavier force would have.

  • ||

    As to Agincourt, that was no fluke. The French knights grew to so fear the English knights that many of them leaped off ships to certain death rather than face English knights. (I'm reminded of the story of the French king's jester, who was cursing the cowardly Englishmen. When asked by his liege why he called the English cowards after the recent route of Frenchmen, the jester replied: "Because they refused to leap into the ocean like our brave Frenchmen.") When the French finally defeated the English, it was by withdrawing into walled towns and castles and burning everything that couldn't be brought inside. Lots of French peasants starved, but so did the English army.

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Video Game Nation: How gaming is making America freer – and more fun.
  • Matt Welch: How the left turned against free speech.
  • Nothing Left to Cut? Congress can’t live within their means.
  • And much more.

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement