by Charley Reese
One of the clichés one hears incessantly from the mouths of politicians is that we have the "best-trained, best-equipped Army" in the world.
No we don't. We have a military that is overstretched and underequipped because it has more missions than resources. We have a military that is suffering from a leadership crisis. We have a military with way too many women in it. We have a military that still suffers from logistics problems.
Don't take my word for it. Go to www.sftt.org. This is a site set up by Col. David Hackworth — a fellow King Features columnist — that, among other things, invites comments from officers and men actually on the battlefield. We have soldiers who didn't get the vests they needed. We have unarmored Humvees that have cost Americans dearly. And, to hear the enlisted men and young officers tell it, we have about the worst military leadership at the top since Abraham Lincoln struggled to find a general who knew how to fight. Unbelievably, many soldiers in Iraq have had to purchase equipment on the open market because it was better than the Army stuff or because the Army stuff wasn't available.
And we have promiscuous medal-giving. Some of our top generals look like stereotypes of Latin American dictators with their ribbons and medals. Then there was the case of the young West Virginia girl who was made a celebrity and given a medal for bravery even though she herself said she never fired her weapon and was knocked unconscious by a vehicle crash. She was honest. The brass were not.
The general sense conveyed by these young men is that a young officer who follows the warrior's path and takes care of his men is never going to make it beyond major. To go beyond requires an entirely different approach based on social and political skills as well as on avoiding all of the politically incorrect traps.
We have seen how the military reacted to soldiers voicing criticism or even pessimism to the press. They were told to shut up in no uncertain terms. At the same time, we saw that disgraceful episode in which some soldiers were persuaded to sign a boilerplate letter to their hometown papers saying how everything was peachy-creamy, hunky-dory in Iraq.
Well, the military suffers for the same reason public education suffers. Essentially it is an organization designed and run by politicians and bureaucrats.
It is easy for the politicians to oversell the military situation, because they have been careful not to allow the military to fight any country with one-tenth of the resources to put up a good fight. The last time we did, in Vietnam, we lost. Yes, I know we never lost a battle on the field. We lost in Washington, D.C., but we did lose. When the fighting stops and the enemy holds the ground, we've lost, whatever excuse you want to make about it.
I highly recommend Col. Hackworth's Web site. You will get more truth from there in one five-minute visit than in listening to Donald Rumsfeld and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs for 10 hours.
The only protection the ordinary fighting man has is informed and aroused citizens who demand of their politicians that problems be corrected. That's especially true when the top generals and admirals fail in an officer's most basic duty, which is to look out for the men and women under his command.
March 19, 2004
Charley Reese has been a journalist for 49 years, reporting on everything from sports to politics. From 1969—71, he worked as a campaign staffer for gubernatorial, senatorial and congressional races in several states. He was an editor, assistant to the publisher, and columnist for the Orlando Sentinel from 1971 to 2001. He now writes a syndicated column which is carried on LewRockwell.com. Reese served two years active duty in the U.S. Army as a tank gunner. Write to Charley Reese at P.O. Box 2446, Orlando, FL 32802.
© 2004 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.