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Wednesday, December 03, 2008

What's Wrong with A Battalion?

The Pentagon announced it's going to post a 20,000 man rapid reaction force in the U.S. to respond to large scale terrorist attacks - particularly nuclear.

This makes me nervous on several levels.

1. Somebody really believes we're headed for a large scale biological and/or nuclear terrorist attack - enough so that they're ready to deploy military units whose primary job will be controlling panicky Americans rather than fighting enemy combatants.

2. The founding fathers were particularly nervous about standing armies being used against US Citizens. Last time that happened was during the Civil War. We have very wisely decided that in cases where a military presence within the United States is necessary to maintain order or cope with disasters, that we will use the National Guard and that only Governors of the individual states can call out those troops. Whenever the feds try to call up troops to cope with riots and such, the governors get rightly unhappy about it. They are closer to the problem and probably better suited to make the decision to deploy the troops. The standing military is supposed to be spending its time getting prepared to handle an external invader not our own citizens.

3. Colonel David Hackworth used to get really unhappy with military officers he called "perfume princes", political officers for whom military service was about advancing their careers more than it was about defending the country. For them military action is about posturing to intimidate, not about actually using the military. They don't believe in taking risks. They find it impossible to act quickly. They never move unless they have overwhelming force. That's why the mark of the perfume princes is all over this idea of having a battalion for use against a terrorist attack. Instead of the military developing plans to deploy more appropriate troops like SEAL teams and Delta Force special forces groups, trained in hostage rescue and rapid response, quick insertion missions that would be needed to respond to terrorism, the princes want to deploy large overwhelming groups to make sure they crush whatever opposition they have with little or no casualties. The problem is, moving these sorts of large groups is slow and often ineffective where you need surgical strikes. We don't need a battalion of storm troopers, we need a highly specialized group like television's "The Unit" - one that works fast, hits hard and is willing to take casualties in exchange for saving lives and winning battles. Big military responses often sacrifice lives in exchange for playing it safe. Remember how slow they were to get moving in the aftermath of Katrina. Large military groups don't move quickly. The Perfume Princes won't let them. They had the equipment, they had the capacity, but the generals wanted to make sure nothing happened too quickly lest soldiers' safety be threatened.

Since Vietnam, American generals have been reluctant to put soldiers in harm's way. This happened after the US/Mexican war too. As a result, General Grant had a real problem with the generals he had to cope with during the Civil War. It wasn't until he promoted cavalry guys to command who had a special forces kind of attitude, like Phil Sheridan and Bill Sherman was he able to get the job done. They moved fast, hit hard and took risks when it advanced the mission. Other generals had to be poked, prodded and sometimes threatened to get them to move quickly and do things they considered risky. Thank God Lincoln found a commander in U.S. Grant who wasn't afraid to win. Had Grant not been focused on winning the war instead of furthering his future political career, the Army of the Potomac would still be wandering around Northern Virginia trying to find Robert E. Lee.

Liberals understand the perfumed military. Real warriors make them uncomfortable. I worry that under a liberal administration and the sunshine generals who will rise to the top in such a military, a battalion of soldiers that is tasked with crowd control will be used for the purpose of advancing political advantage. That is a valid purpose for the military in the leftist mindset and the temptation may be far too great.

Left leaning presidents have consistently turned the US military into some kind of community service/jobs program, using money that ought to go for weapons and training, to do social engineering in the military. Because of that, the Vietnam war was never about winning, but about gaining political advantage and testing new weapons systems for the military industrial complex which poured money into political campaigns. After 4 years of Carter's gutting of the military, they so screwed up the Iranian hostage rescue mission by trying to make sure the political needs of the 4 services were met. They wound up with a team so poorly trained and coordinated that they wound up crashing into each other and getting themselveskilled out in the Iranian desert.

A particularly telling exchange happened during Clinton's first inauguration. The Air Force sent a formation overhead to salute the president. One of his staffers complained. "What are those AIR FORCE PLANES doing here?" he complained with all the self-righteous disgust of a member of the peace movement.

Ron Silver was standing close by answered him. "But don't you see? Those are our planes now!" The guy was happy after that.

After 8 years under George Bush, we have a military in place with experience and the ability to do what they are supposed to do - seek out and destroy America's enemies. They've successfully replaced an evil dictator, wiped out tens of thousands of terrorists and freed the people of Iraq and Afghanistan from tyranny while keeping terrorists so busy that we've had not one terrorist attack on the homeland since 9/11 even though Osama has been threatening us for 8 years.

I fear that for the next four years, the perfume princes will be back in power in the Pentagon and they'll change all that. Instead of improving weapons systems, training and military planning and execution, they'll be back to changing the color of the berets and making sure they count how many women and gay people are in each unit so things will be "fair". Maybe they'll create some exciting new shoulder patches or some of those tight britches with the stripes down the leg.

I know - jack boots!!!!

Ulysseys S. Grant must be rolling over in his grave!


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