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.