"... 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