Tuesday, January 11, 2005

The Military You Have

Something I haven't seen discussed much, within the context of Rumsfeld's clumsy comments about going to war with the military you have, is that Rumsfeld and Bush also went to war with the military they wanted. It isn't an accident that the military was deployed with Humvees which were lightly armored or unarmored. That was part of Rumsfeld's plan for a fast, light-weight, highly deployable military. The idea was that, if you can outrun the enemy's tanks and artillery, you don't need the armor.

Even before the Iraq invasion, a friend of mine pointed out the problem with this approach: What happens when the enemy works by roadside bomb or ambush, instead of trying to hit you with a tank or artillery shell. What if the U.S. forces in an urban setting are led into a dead-end, where an unarmored vehicle would be incredibly vulnerable?

Recall that the M1/A1 tank, which has been invaluable in the Iraq war and occupation, was intended for retirement before the war? As that article notes, the future of the tank had been called into question, with "Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld recommending a lighter, more technologically advanced military" - one which would depend primarily on wheeled vehicles which could be quickly airlifted to their destination, rather than massive vehicles which had to be transported by land and sea. For Rumsfeld to suggest that the military in Iraq was the one he had, not the one he wanted, is truly disingenuous. Rumsfeld wanted Iraq to be a showcase for his plan to reinvent the U.S. Armed Forces into a light, fast, highly deployable army, and going in with lightly armored and unarmored vehicles was an integral part of his plan.

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