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December 9, 2004
Regards to MurphyBy Greyhawk
No wait, here's more! The desired image the reporters on this issue want to evoke in your mind is one of American troops at the mercy of terrorists, going into a hail of bullets and rockets (think Fallujah) sans protection. That is the popular vision of Iraq in the media, even though that level of violence represents the situatiuon in a tiny part of this country. If combat is the destination of these troops, and if what the young man says is true, then somewhere someone didn't get the memo. That "someone" was not Don Rumsfeld, nor was it President Bush, who in fact wrote said memo. Who "someone" was should be found out. Believe it or not, between Congress and contractors and the Pentagon and delivery systems and grunts in the field there are some weak links in the military supply chain (stifle those gasps!) and that is as inevitable as it is inexcusable.
Yes, it would be satisfying to see some incompetent clown shown the door as a result of this episode, and that might happen, but the system is big beyond any single human's ability to control (yes - even the President of the United States!) the odds of anyone guilty being punished are about equal to the odds of some scapegoat getting the shaft. It's also likely that "someone" won't be found, because it's possible that "someone" doesn't exist.
Ignoring for now the slogan chanters and political partisans, there are a few key points to keep in mind. I will now try to explain to you why this whole situation seems dramatic to those outside looking in and complaining, and less so to those who are doing the best they can to fix the unfixable.
An anonymous quote worth knowing: "The U.S. military has always been perfectly trained and equipped to win the last war".
This painful truth was probably never more evident then in 1990-91 when virtually every piece of equipment in the inventory had to be re-painted from German forest green to a Saddam-inspired tan. The task was accomplished though, and U.S. forces made short work of what was until then the world's 5th largest army.
So for now, at least, enough of a shred of American "can-do" attitude and perseverance survives to ensure that the truism stated above remains only a minor inconvenience. As further evidence of our ability to improvise, adapt, and overcome, when 'bunker-busting' bombs were needed in the first Gulf War they went from drawing board to the desert in approximately 17 days, arriving "too hot to handle" by the waiting ground crews.
A bit of evidence to the contrary though, (or support to the "last war" theory), could be the current state of affairs in Iraq. Many argue that the military proved to be an irrestable invasion force (per 1991 doctrine) that was completely unprepared for the resulting chaotic lack of surviving government infrastructure and the insurgency that has been an often-deadly thorn in the side of progress here. But add that progress is now made in a political/military balancing act (see Fallujah, April through November) and few (none of sound mind) would fault the military completely for any shortfalls.
But here a second painful truth comes into play. "No plan survives first contact with the enemy." It's one of Murphy's Laws of Combat, though Mackubin Thomas Owens relates the actual origin of the phrase here, giving the original quote from Helmuth von Moltke, chief of the Prussian general staff some hundred-plus odd years ago. Von Moltke is often credited with the paraphrasing of his actual quote that is more commonly used today. But given this rule, it's often amusing to hear criticism of the Iraq conflict that includes the phrase "didn't have a plan..." for war, peace or otherwise.
By all means, lets make the supply system better, faster, and more flexible - but lets do so in a way that gets us ready to win the next war. But a caution to those who cry out urging the military to remake itself to fight the current Iraq war, whether by re-defining the role of the Guard/Reserve or other large-scale force structure efforts: Be certain you aren't demanding that the U.S. military strictly adhere to painful truth number one above. In other words, to start preparring now to win the conflict in Iraq - a conflict that will soon be winding down. (See Owen's piece, and imagine the current situation as paralleling the allied approach to the Rhine.)
On the other hand, to those who think that planning now to win the Iraq war is a problem, I offer painful truth number two, which just shows that painful truth number one doesn't matter.
As long as the paragraph about "can-do" attitude and perseverance above remains true. That, by the way, was the key point of the whole discussion. But you knew that when you read it, didn't you?
Posted by Greyhawk / December 9, 2004 5:05 PM | Permalink
MY VOTE Not that anyone's interested, but here are a few of my votes in the 2004 Weblog Awards. Have you voted today? Best... Overall Blog- I enjoy reading Mr. Hewitt daily in spite of his Northern Alliance membership. New Blog- And I predic... Read More
November 26, 2010
I think anyone who's ever pondered the "comment" option - once only available on blogs and bulletin boards, now ubiquitous on almost any web site - will appreciate this:
The so-called faculty of writing is not so much a faculty of writing as it is a faculty of thinking. When a man says, "I have an idea but I can't express it"; that man hasn't an idea but merely a vague feeling. If a man has a feeling of that kind, and will sit down for a half an hour and persistently try to put into writing what he feels, the probabilities are at least 90 percent that he will either be able to record it, or else realize that he has no idea at all. In either case, he will do himself a benefit.
That's wisdom from the past, captured for posterity at the US Naval Institute, shared via the web on the institute's 137th anniversary.
From their about page:
"The Naval Institute has three core activities," among them, History and Preservation:
The Naval Institute also has recently introduced Americans at War, a living history of Americans at war in their own words and from their own experiences. These 90-second vignettes convey powerful stories of inspiration, pride, and patriotism.
Take a look at the collection, and you'll see it's not limited to accounts from those who served on ships at sea, members of the other branches are well-represented.
I'm fortunate to have met USNI's Mary Ripley, she's responsible for the institute's oral history program (and she's the daughter of the late John Ripley, whose story is told here). She also deserves much credit for their blog. ("We're not the Navy nor any government agency. Blog and comment freely.") We met at a milblog conference - Mary knew (and I would come to realize) that milbloggers are the 21st-century version of exactly what the US Naval Institute is all about. Once that light bulb came on in my head, I mentioned a vague idea for a project to her - milblogs as the 21st century oral history that they are.
"Put that in writing," she said (of course - see first paragraph above!) - and here's part of the result.
Shortly after the first tent was pitched by the American military in Iraq a wire was connected to a computer therein, and the internet was available to a generation of Americans at war - many of whom had grown up online. From that point on, at any given moment, somewhere in Iraq a Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine was at a keyboard sharing the events of his or her day with the folks back home. While most would simply fire off an email, others took advantage of the (then) relatively new online blogging platforms to post their thoughts and experiences for the entire world to see. The milblog was born - and from that moment to this stories detailing everything from the most mundane aspects of camp life to intense combat action (often described within hours of the event) have been available on the web...
And et cetera - but since you're reading this on a milblog, you probably knew that. And you know that milblogs aren't just blogs written by troops at war, that many friends, family members, and supporters likewise documented their story of America at war online in near-real time, as those stories developed.
The diversity in membership of that group is broad, the one thing we all have in common is the impulse to make sense of the seemingly senseless, and communicate the tale - for each of us that impulse was strong enough to overcome whatever barriers prevent the vast majority of people from doing the same. Everyone at some point has some vague idea they believe should be shared - we were the people who, from some combination of internal and external urging, found and spent those many half hours persistently trying to write it down.
But where will all that be in another 137 years? Or five or ten, for that matter. That's something I've asked myself since at least 2004 - when I wrote this:
Membership in the ghost battalion has grown in the years since, and an ever growing majority of those abandoned-but-still-standing sites are vanishing. Have you checked out Lt Smash's site lately? How about Sgt Hook's? If you're a long-time milblog reader you know the first widely-read milblog from Operation Iraq Freedom and the first widely-read milblog from Afghanistan are both gone from the web. If you're a relative newcomer to this world you may never even have heard of them - or the dozens upon dozens of others who carried forth the standard they set down.
If you have a vague notion that something should be done about that, (a notion I've heard expressed more than once...) then you and I and the good folks at the US Naval Institute are in agreement. Preserving the history documented by the milbloggers is just one of the goals of the milblog project, the once-vague idea that we're now making real.
And it's a big idea, if I say so myself - too big to explain in one simple blog post, so stand by for more. Likewise, it's too big a task to be accomplished by just one person. So if you're a milblogger (and exactly what is a milblogger? is a topic for much further discussion on its own) I'm asking for your help. All I'll really need is just a little bit (maybe just one or two of those half hours...) of your time, and your willingness to tell the tale.
We've already made history, it's time to save it.
(More to follow...)
The Mudville Gazette is the on-line voice of an American warrior and his wife who stands by him. They prefer to see peaceful change render force of arms unnecessary. Until that day they stand fast with those who struggle for freedom, strike for reason, and pray for a better tomorrow.
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