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December 19, 2004

WAS THE ARMORED-HUMVEE STORY A HOAX? Power Line is calling it one, and has this: "At the time the question was asked, the planted question, the unit had 784 of its 804 vehicles armored." Reading the followup, I think the number was more like 810 out of 830, but the ratio is still colossal, and it's rather shocking that we're just now hearing this.

UPDATE: Meanwhile Jason van Steenwyk is busting Dick Durbin for phony numbers. ("What's the deal with the idiots on the pentagon beat? Why are they just taking the claim at face value?Why does it fall to me to dig this obvious crap out?")

ANOTHER UPDATE: Donald Sensing has more, and observes:

My long-term readers may recall that I am no member of the Donald Rumsfeld fan club myself, but the calls for his head from US Senators over the phony armor shortage is absurd - especially from Republican Sen. John McCain; I increasingly wonder whether he knows he often seems to disconnect brain from tongue when making the talk shows. McCain's Senate duties have included direct oversight of DOD expenditures since the years of the Clinton administration.

Yet the Tennessean reported,

The Pentagon is spending $4.1 billion over the next year to add armor to vehicles in Iraq. [Army Brig. Gen. Jeffrey] Sorenson said 35,000 of them need armored protection, of which 29,000 have been funded by Congress.

Got that? The Army's funding for armor is 6,000 vehicles short because John McCain won't choke up the money.

All of which is to say that it's business as usual on Capitol Hill: to seem rather than to be.


MORE: Greg Djerejian thinks I'm letting Rumsfeld off too easily. Well, possibly -- though that's because most of what I've seen aimed at Rumsfeld has looked like a cheap shot to me. McCain is guilty of flaming hypocrisy and obvious showboating, and I wanted to point that out. (And even bloggers who usually know better have launched some unfair attacks, like this from Andrew Sullivan: "Now that Powell has gone, Rummy will see it as a matter of cojones that he stay for a while, if only to prevent sufficient manpower being deployed to win the war in Iraq." So Rumsfeld doesn't want us to win? Puhleez. Rumsfeld might be wrong, of course, but the notion that he simply has an irrational aversion to having enough troops because he wants us to lose is absurd, and merely serves to diminish the credibility of those who make the claim.)

Greg thinks we need enough American troops to physically protect all the polling places in a country the size of California. That strikes me as a very unwise allocation of military assets. McCain and Hagel think we need a bigger army, and they may be right. But as I noted, the way you get a bigger army is to create one, and if McCain and Hagel think the need is that screaming why haven't they introduced legislation to do that, instead of simply calling for Rumsfeld's resignation? I don't think that getting rid of Rumsfeld is likely to yield any additional troops.

So where are they going to come from? The "more boots on the ground" folks don't seem to be doing much talking about that. (This post from The Belmont Club notes that it's not as easy as it sounds.) We could enlarge the Army (probably a good idea, but it won't produce any new combat formations for a year or more, probably more if the new formations are to be any good), or we could send troops from somewhere else. Where? Korea? Europe?

I remain unconvinced that we need more troops in Iraq. Afghanistan saw successful elections with far fewer U.S. troops. I'm not convinced that we don't, but we'd need a million troops to blanket all the polling places,and we're not going to have that. So what's the mission? Just as one seldom wins a war by slapping armor on everything (and no army in history has armored all its soldiers and transport vehicles), one seldom wins a war by dispersing forces to lots of locations in a "prevent" defense. That seems to be what the "more troops" crowd has in mind, but it strikes me as a poor idea.

It's quite hard for me to judge Rumsfeld's performance, but it's not so hard for me to see that a lot of the attacks on Rumsfeld seem to be opportunistic and dishonest (something that Greg freely admits). That has no doubt colored my evaluation of the case for his resignation, but I'd welcome some explanation of why, say, a Secretary McCain would do a better job. Tom Maguire sides with Greg, tentatively, but there are some interesting arguments in both posts' comment sections.

Rumsfeld's efforts to transform the military may or may not be a good idea, and I'd be interested in hearing more about that -- though clearly some degree of transformation is called for. Rumsfeld has irritated a lot of the brass by doing this, and he's irritated the press and many Senators by not suffering fools gladly. Does someone have a better plan than Rumsfeld? I'd love to hear it, instead of hearing about armor and condolence letters. When people stress those issues, it tends to make me think that they don't have much else.

So far, the best criticism I've seen is this one, from Austin Bay:

If there is one mistake I think we've made in fighting this war, it's been the way we've soft-pedaled the ideological dimensions.

But he's not blaming Rumsfeld, specifically. If people were criticizing Rumsfeld for that, they might be on firmer ground -- but because people have been talking about bogus issues instead of this, I'm not sure whether that would be a fair criticism of Rumsfeld or not. But it's a fair criticism of somebody, and if we were talking about substance we might know more.

MORE: Greg Djerejian says I misunderstood his protect-the-polling-places post. Sorry -- I read it as calling for that, but I guess I misinterpreted it.

Meanwhile, does it say something significant when I note that I care more about what Ali thinks than what John McCain thinks? Yes, it does.

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