Sunday, October 11, 2009

Eight Years On

The Second World War lasted six years and long before it was over the American people had built airplanes, ships, tanks, bombs, guns and bullets to support the troops.  No effort was spared.  Rationing of sugar, butter, meat, milk, gasoline and rubber were endured by the citizenry (rich and poor alike) so that the troops could have what they needed to ensure a successful outcome as well as spreading the pain equally among the populace.

It's been twenty years since we had a president with direct experience on the battlefield and it shows.   Once you've had to dodge a few bullets or your plane has been shot out of the air you tend to appreciate your equipment and hope that it is the best there is.  Unfortunately, the troops of today don't have that confidence and haven't for many years.

Eisenhower warned about the military complex in his farewell speech to the nation while also pointing out their responsibility to the country.  Somehow the military complex has grown without holding up its share of the bargain.
A vital element in keeping the peace is our military establishment. Our arms must be mighty, ready for instant action, so that no potential aggressor may be tempted to risk his own destruction.
When I was in basic training they ran us through a simulated firefight using tracer ammunition. Even though I knew I wasn't going to be harmed it was still a terrifying experience.

We were on a night march and bombs started going off and there was incoming "fire". We were supposed to return "fire" while trying to make it to a safe outpost. Things were going okay until about five minutes into the firefight when my M16 jammed.  It's amazing what you can do when you're scared.  I cleared my weapon while on the run and after firing a few more rounds, it jammed again.  Thirty five years later and the troops in Afghanistan are having the same problems with their weapons except this is not a training exercise.  The M4 jams under duress and during last year's battle at Wanat, during a critical time in the battle, many of their weapons were rendered unusable due to jamming under heavy use and nine US soldiers lost their lives.

As I've stated before, the longer you are at war the more the enemy learns about tactics and the more willing they are to employ them.  In 2006 the Taliban pinned down a group of Green Berets, they repeated it in Wanat and once again this past week.  The absolute least, and I mean least, we could do for our troops is provide them with weaponry that works when they need them.  Every time.  A rifle is meant to be fired, not used as a club and it shouldn't get so hot that you are unable to clear a jam.  If shuttle tiles can be built to withstand the heat of orbital reentry, weapons designed for war should be able to withstand sustained usage under the conditions they are supposedly manufactured for.

Eight years on and our troops are still going to war with inferior equipment.  Mullah Omar may have retreated eight years ago but he's back now with experience under his robes and willing to use it.  No one has ever successfully invaded Afghanistan and we aren't going to succeed using equipment that doesn't do its primary job.  That we haven't learned that painful lesson is the second error of historic proportions and sending in 40,000 more troops with shoddy equipment isn't going to change anything except our troops increasing body count.