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I've noticed on the cable talk shows, sometimes called "news," that the so-called experts are always introduced as former somethings ? former Green Berets, former CIA officers, former generals or colonels, etc. and so forth.
Well, not to be outdone, I'd like for you to know that I am a former tank gunner. Naturally, that doesn't make me an expert on anything except firing a now-obsolete 90 mm tank gun, but what the hey, being a former Green Beret or CIA case officer doesn't make one an expert on the Middle East or terrorism or anything else, either. Expertise is not a product of vocation outside the field of that vocation. America has an excess of pseudo-experts and a critical shortage of legitimate experts.
Nevertheless, as a former private first class and tank gunner, I would like to point out another of the many contradictions in the Pentagon. At the same time that there is general acknowledgment that American armed forces are "stretched thin," the secretary of defense ("SecDef," in military jargon) is busily preparing to cut "excess capacity." This will include plans to eliminate more military bases, which has chambers of commerce all over the country as nervous as a fastidious cat trapped in a house without a litter box.
So what's the deal? Do we have too many forces or too few? Is our military stretched thin, or is it obese?
Well, regardless of what the SecDef thinks, I can tell you as a former private first class that your forces have to match your missions. I would say that right now we have an excess of missions and consequently a shortage of forces. It would seem to me to be common sense to reduce the number of missions rather than reduce further the armed forces, given that the president has managed to destabilize most of the world. We have, to use that abominable cliche, "boots on the ground" in about 120 different countries, none of which is a threat to America.
Another military maxim that even privates know is that you evaluate your potential enemies based on their capabilities to do you harm. Intentions can change instantly; capabilities cannot. Right now, the only countries that have the capabilities of inflicting serious harm on America are Russia, China and possibly North Korea.
It then follows as fleas to a dog that we have misdeployed our armed forces, and they are assigned missions most of which have nothing to do with protecting the United States of America. Last time I checked the Constitution, that is the only role allowed for the armed forces of the United States.
Still another maxim privates know is that the mission dictates the size and shape of the forces, not the other way around. Since at the moment we are engaged in guerrilla warfare in Iraq and Afghanistan and supposedly with terrorists, the appropriate forces are special operations and light infantry ? not armored divisions or naval armadas. A nation as in debt as we are cannot afford to use million-dollar missiles just to kill one or two scraggly terrorists with serious body odor.
Privates also know, even if the SecDef doesn't, that the armed forces of a great nation have to be designed to deal not only with the immediate threats but also with potential threats in the future. One day, China or Russia or both might decide that they don't like us very much. I would not wish to have to rely on Halliburton and a few Green Berets to combat intercontinental ballistic missiles.
Oh, yes, part of the SecDef's plans to cut capacity is to contract more military jobs to civilians. The problem with that is that when the bullets are flying, the civilians don't show up. They figure they contract to make excessive profits, not to get killed.
All I can say is that given the leadership in Washington, I'm darn glad to be a former private first class rather than a current private first class. One of the disadvantages of being in the military is that stupid leaders can get you killed for no good or useful reason. ? 2003 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.
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