Skip to comments.Our enemies aren't drinking lattes
Posted on 07/05/2006 8:56:53 AM PDT by 68skylark
'AMATEURS TALK strategy. Professionals talk logistics." That well-worn saying, sometimes attributed to Gen. Omar Bradley, contains an obvious element of wisdom. Modern militaries cannot fight without a lengthy supply chain, and the success or failure of major operations can turn on the work of anonymous logisticians.
Yet there is a danger of professional soldiers becoming so focused on supply lines that they lose sight of larger strategic imperatives. In Afghanistan and Iraq, we may already have crossed that threshold.
In the past few months, I have traveled across U.S. Central Command's area of operations a vast domain stretching from the deserts of Arabia to the mountains of the Hindu Kush. Everywhere, I have found massive bases fortified with endless rows of concrete barriers and stocked with every convenience known to 21st century Americans.
Some front-line units continue to operate out of spartan outposts where a hot meal is a luxury and flush toilets unknown. But growing numbers of troops live on giant installations complete with Wal-Mart-style post exchanges, movie theaters, swimming pools, gyms, fast-food eateries (Subway, Burger King, Cinnabon) and vast chow halls offering fresh-baked pies and multiple flavors of ice cream. Troops increasingly live in dorm-style quarters (called "chews," for "containerized housing units") complete with TVs, mini-refrigerators, air conditioning/heating units and other luxuries unimaginable to previous generations of GIs.
No one would begrudge a few conveniences to those who have volunteered to defend us. But the military's logistics feats come with a high price tag that goes far beyond the $7.7 billion we spend every month on operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. U.S. troops in those countries consume 882,000 liters of water and 2.4 million gallons of fuel every day, plus tons of other supplies that have to be transported across dangerous war zones...
(Excerpt) Read more at latimes.com ...
Air conditioning is one luxury that might strike some people as excessive. But it's actually a good way to avoid heat injuries while on duty -- soldiers who can spend at least 4 hours of down time each day with a/c can function at a higher level in high heat.
I got an email from a friend last summer. He was in Iraq and they were giving each other IV fluids just to stay cool in the heat. It was something like 121 degrees. I guess that works if there isn't any A/C. I know there is this tough guy soldier idea and all, but I think A/C for these soldiers makes a lot of sense. They are still pretty tough in my opinion.
I suspect the ones at The New York Times drink quite a few.
Ping for later digesting. Very interesting article.
Salem, you might be interested in this, though it's not exactly pinglist material.
Anyone knows that air conditioning is a necessity in those conditions, if they've ever lived in the desert. You can get by with less expensive "swamp coolers" for dryer climates.
Are they talking about permanent military bases, when they mention fast food and swimming pools? Most permanent bases provide things such as those, as well as arcades and a movie theater.
Anyone who thinks A/C is "excessive", has never had to put up with 115 degree heat.
Absolutely. Air conditioning is not just a luxury. In those kinds of temperatures and doing that kind of heavy, active work, it's essential to periodically reduce the body's core temperature back down to a functioning level, and a cold room will do that. I don't begrudge our soldiers anything, especially something as necessary as maintaining their physical health.
I'm reminded also of the scene in Battle Of The Bulge when the German tank commander played by Robert Shaw tells an HQ flunky that Germany cannot win by showing him a package that his men took off an American GI: a chocolate birthday cake his mother sent.
His point: "We cannot even get oil from a few miles away to our tanks to fuel them, but the Americans can ship individual chocolate cakes 3,000 miles before they go stale."
Logistics win wars and psychology wins wars.
An American GI enjoying a fresh-brewed latte after he blows one of the bad guys away is an awesome statement of our might.
Arguments against war (any war):
1) Our young men will die fighting an unjust war.
2) Innocent people will die in the line of fire.
3) Can't we all just get along?
4) It's too expensive.
That is all this brilliant whistleblower expose of government waste and corruption amounts to: why we shouldn't be fighting to protect ourselves. Did they ever stop to ask how much it cost to have the World Trade Center demolished? That was an expensive proposition. And what would it cost to have another such disaster inflicted upon us?
I think that Boot is suggesting that this war can be managed better. With fewer support services, we could cut the costs of the war dramatically AND put more troops "outside the wire" where they are needed. And furthermore, if we did this right we may be able to have much shorter tours in Iraq.
I'm not sure if he's right or wrong -- it's a complex subject. I think he may have some good points.
Sounds like a completely bogus and fabricated quote to me. In Iraq people don't ask rhetorical questions like that.
"As one Special Forces officer pungently put it to me: "The only function that thousands of people are performing out here is to turn food into [excrement]."
A/C can be very useful, but it is the sheer mass of excess the article is about, the patterns of change have always been the same, when an all male group welcomes their females into it.
As the military approaches the goal of a 50-50 mix it will become a much more comfortable, civilized place with different areas of the budget replacing traditional areas.
Generals in Infantry and other combat arms units will lose influence and budgets to Generals with duties that are in the growth areas.
If you are disappointed at the rate this is happening, remember we are war right now, these type of power shifts accelerate when hostilities end.
Any thoughts on this? ( lol )
Well, yeah. ;-)
He's describing the bases that are called "enduring" bases. Regardless of what the liberals say, there will be a U.S. presence in Iraq for a long time to come. Not always at combat strength numbers by any stretch, but as we have in Germany and Japan and other locations, we will keep a presence, barring any unforeseen events.
So, yes, these bases will have the comforts of home just like any other U.S. military base in the world.
As for the complaining about how it's so great people forget where they are until the mortars come in - that's pushing it.
This reporter wasn't here for long. He needs to realize that most of us can't go outside of our perimeters. We are confined. We can't go cruising off to restaurants, movie theaters or shops in the evenings. We live trapped inside our high, concrete walls. Therefore, it makes sense to provide entertainment amenities to keep people from going stir crazy. This reporter should hang out on one of those "cushy" bases for a year and then see how he feels about it.
And it wasn't always like this. I came over in January of '04 and there were none of the big PX's, fast food places or any of that and the chow halls were either tents or little tin cans. I spent some time living in a tent as did most of the people who were here in the early days.
We're not roughing it like we did in the earlier days, but it's nothing at all like home, either. As far as comfort goes, it doesn't even come close.
It makes me wonder if this is a way to help placate our troops through this time.
On one side, it seems much of this amounts to needless luxury. On the other, it seems a nice way of saying "thanks" to the troops.
It's really not. His descriptions are blowing things out of proportion. Even the movie theaters and "Wal-Mart style PXs" are rough edged. And those PXs really aren't anything like WalMart. They're just bigger than the tiny trailers that used to serve for PXs here in the early days.
Amazingly, I thought you'd say something like that.
Maybe the reporter needs to go live in the SW desert for a few weeks (without the A/C and lattes of course), and then report how tough he is.
It gets "hotter'n two Hells" around here in the summer.
Seen 130 in the shade over there....
This sounds overly dramatic. It sounds like the author is trying to manipulate the reader and I HATE it when someone is trying to manipulate me.
I remember at the beginning of the war there was an window unit A/C drive...does anyone else remember that? Seems like some organization was sending them over to support the troops.
I wonder how many of these ACs were sent by these guys! And I don't think they were the only ones sending them.
It is like heat in that when you need it, you really need it.
And I think heat may be much more deadly than cold in that heat can kill a person much quicker.
IIRC on one large construction job there were the temps in a concrete spillway that were reaching 120-130 Fahrenheit and they kept two full crews and the men were only allowed to work about 20-30 minutes and then had to break for an equal amount of time.
Construction foremen should always keep a very close eye on their crews when the heat is on. One friend lost her young healthy nephew recently. He worked with a roofing crew in Florida and IIRC his heart stopped from screwed up electrolytes caused by drinking too much water.
I never liked Max Boot, since the first time I read him years ago. He's a globalist (America excellence suborned to the abitrary "good" of the global "community") on the same level as NYT columnist Thomas Friedman.
Wideawake wrote, "An American GI enjoying a fresh-brewed latte after he blows one of the bad guys away is an awesome statement of our might."
I agree. Developing that further, American GI's living in as much creature comfort as possible overseaswhile our Jihadi enemies are living under rock, in cavesand still on the run, well ... just brings a smile to my face.
Of course, I agree with you totally. It just sounded like the basic services found on a permanent military installation. The author of this piece could be fishing for ways to view the military in a negative light, once again.
This was my initial reaction to the article:
How dare this loafer-wearing, cappucino-drinking, probably-has-a-summer-house-in-The-Hamptons snotbag deign to come over here and then criticize how "good" we all have it?
Then he turns around and goes home to his lap of luxury where he can go wherever he wants whenever he wants, eat whatever he has a craving for and walk and drive around the streets without fear of mortars, kidnapping, car bombs, etc. So screw him.
There. That feels better. ;-)
Uh, Boot is a conservative.
Doesn't matter. That is still the reaction I had to reading the article.
He's a military/political historian -- Savage Wars of Peace, etc.
You might like this better:
I never agree with anybody 100% of the time, including columnists and the politicians who get my votes.
The tone of this article struck a nerve. If he'd spent a year here like most of our troops do, he'd very likely have had an entirely different perspective.
I don't even agree with myself 100% of the time.
I don't know -- I found the story interesting and a good jumping off point for discussion. Unfortunately, it probably won't get a lot of discussion.
We have a volunteer military, not a drafted military like WW2
We'd also have massive anti-war protests rather than a few loons. For all their talk about caring for the Vietnamese people, most of the anti-Vietnam War protesters really just didn't want to go to war (you'll notice that their concern for the fate of the Vietnamese people evaporated once the draft ended -- most don't know or care what the North did when they took over).
I also don't think we'll put the War on Terrorism into the WIN column until we are ready to invade, encourage a coup, or bomb out of existence Iran, Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Lebanon, and North Korea. And the problem with at least some of them has more to do with global politics than the size of our military. Sadly, it's probably going to take a very large WMD attack on the United States before people treat it like a war.
"... growing numbers of troops live on giant installations complete with Wal-Mart-style post exchanges, movie theaters, swimming pools, gyms, fast-food eateries (Subway, Burger King, Cinnabon) and vast chow halls offering fresh-baked pies and multiple flavors of ice cream. Troops increasingly live in dorm-style quarters (called chews, for containerized housing units) complete with TVs, mini-refrigerators, air conditioning/heating units and other luxuries unimaginable to previous generations of GIs... a fresh-brewed iced latte at a Green Beans coffee shop."
And it seemed fairly straightforward why this is a concern...
"Keeping everything running safely and smoothly eats up a lot of scarce manpower. According to Centcom, there are 20,000 combat service support troops in its area of operations and another 80,000 contracted civilians. (The U.S. has a total of 150,000 troops in Afghanistan and Iraq.) The latter figure no doubt includes many private security guards, but numerous soldiers are also needed to protect all of these logistics lines, and casualties are inevitable."
"Most of our resources arent going to fight terrorists but to maintain a smattering of mini-Americas in the Middle East. As one Special Forces officer pungently put it to me: 'The only function that thousands of people are performing out here is to turn food into [excrement].'"
Speaking ill about anything related to Iraq, at least among conservative circles, is akin to being un-PC in leftist circles. Unfortunately, we need to come to the realization that our armed forces are not perfect. Otherwise, business as usual will result in a long, protracted defeat. There are plenty of folks frustrated and even disillusioned with the organizational irrationality and institutional ineffectiveness of large parts of our military. Max Boot simply had the gall to say what many others are thinking. In my opinion, Max Boot nailed it with this line.
"How to explain this seemingly counterproductive behavior? My theory is that any organization prefers to focus on what it does well. In the case of the Pentagon, thats logistics. Our ability to move supplies is unparalleled in military history. Fighting guerrillas, on the other hand, has never been a mission that has found much favor with the armed forces. So logistics trumps strategy. Which may help explain why we're not having greater success in Iraq and Afghanistan."
That describes very well what happens in Iraq, Afghanistan, Bosnia, and Kosovo, once the initial wave of trigger-pullers comes in and wipes out the conventional threats. We always joked in Bosnia that rather than intelligence driving operations, logistics and safety concerns drove operations and operations drove intelligence (okay, maybe it's not a very good joke if you're not in the military). In Iraq we often laughed at the notions of being "an Army at war" or even more laughably, "a nation at war" since, as we saw it, we were little more than a few scattered battalions at war, while the rest of the military was flat on its butt playing water polo and getting fat in the KBR chow hall.
The notion that "any organization prefers to focus on what it does well" really nails it. As the Army works as feverishly to erect desert paradises as it does to crush the insurgency, field grades and senior NCOs are working hard to recreate the garrison environment in Iraq. Many senior NCOs who were raised in the late 80s and early 90s don't seem to know much more than police calls, uniform inspections, and other menial tasks that have very little relevance to a combat operation. But that is what they do well, so that is what they are more comfortable focusing on.
Those who claim that all of the garrison and stateside type amenities and protocols are necessary for morale should sit down and discuss this with Army and Marine infantrymen who spend their tours in Iraq in a filthy patrol base, burning their crap, not bathing, working much longer hours, and enduring much greater danger and whose units meet or exceed their re-enlistment goals. Many of these men occasionally pass through the large base camps or visit for various reasons and many of them hold tremendous contempt for the other half, for the very reasons that Max Boot points out.
Ever read "Imperial Grunts" Robert D Kaplen? Good stuff