Some thought provoking words from retired Chief Petty Officer Jeff Edwards who writes for Military.Com ------ America's military can win wars. We've done it in the past, and I have absolute confidence that we'll continue to do it in the future. We've won fights in which we possessed overwhelming technological superiority (Desert Storm), as well as conflicts in which we were the technical underdogs (the American Revolution). We've crossed swords with numerically superior foes, and with militaries a fraction of the size of our own. We've battled on our own soil, and on the soil of foreign lands -- on the sea, under the sea, and in the skies. We've even engaged in a bit of cyber-combat, way out there on the electronic frontier. At one time or another, we've done battle under just about every circumstance imaginable, armed with everything from muskets to cruise missiles. And, somehow, we've managed to do it all with the wrong Army. That's right, America has the wrong Army. I don't know how it happened, but it did. We have the wrong Army. It's too small; it's not deployed properly; it's inadequately trained, and it doesn't have the right sort of logistical support. It's a shambles. I have no idea how those guys even manage to fight. Now, before my brothers and sisters of the OD green persuasion get their fur up, I have another revelation for you. We also have the wrong Navy. And if you want to get down to brass tacks, we've got the wrong Air Force, the wrong Marine Corps, and the wrong Coast Guard. Don't believe me? Pick up a newspaper or turn on your television. In the past week, I've watched or read at least a dozen commentaries on the strength, size, and deployment of our military forces. All of our uniform services get called on the carpet for different reasons, but our critics unanimously agree that we're doing pretty much everything wrong. I think it's sort of a game. The critics won't tell you what the game is called, so I've taken the liberty of naming it myself. I call it the 'No Right Answer' game. It's easy to play, and it must be a lot of fun because politicos and journalists can't stop playing it. I'll teach you the rules. Here's Rule #1: No matter how the U.S. military is organized, it's the wrong force. Actually, that's the only rule in this game. We don't really need any other rules, because that one applies in all possible situations. Allow me to demonstrate... If the Air Force's fighter jets are showing their age, critics will tell us that Air Force leaders are mismanaging their assets, and endangering the safety of their personnel. If the Air Force attempts to procure new fighter jets, they are shopping for toys and that money could be spent better elsewhere. Are you getting the hang of the game yet? It's easy; keeping old planes is the wrong answer, but getting new planes is also the wrong answer. There is no right answer, not ever. Isn't that fun? It works everywhere. When the Army is small, it's TOO small. Then we start to hear phrases like 'over-extended' or 'spread too thin,' and the integrity of our national defense is called into question. When the Army is large, it's TOO large, and it's an unnecessary drain on our economy. Terms like 'dead weight,' and 'dead wood' get thrown around. I know what you're thinking. We could build a medium-sized Army, and everyone would be happy. Think again. A medium-sized Army is too small to deal with large scale conflicts, and too large to keep military spending properly muzzled. The naysayers will attack any middle of the road solution anyway, on the grounds that it lacks a coherent strategy. So small is wrong, large is wrong, and medium-sized is also wrong. Now you're starting to understand the game. Is this fun, or what? No branch of the military is exempt. When the Navy builds aircraft carriers, we are told that we really need small, fast multipurpose ships. When the Navy builds small, fast multi-mission ships (aka the Arleigh Burke class), we're told that blue water ships are poorly suited for littoral combat, and we really need brown water combat ships. The Navy's answer, the Littoral Combat, isn't even off the drawing boards yet, and the critics are already calling it pork barrel politics and questioning the need for such technology. Now I've gone nose-to-nose with hostiles in the littoral waters of the Persian Gulf, and I can't recall that pork or politics ever entered into the conversation. In fact, I'd have to say that the people trying to kill me and my shipmates were positively disinterested in the internal wranglings of our military procurement process. But, had they been aware of our organizational folly, they could have hurled a few well-timed criticisms our way, to go along with the mines we were trying to dodge. The fun never stops when we play the 'No Right Answer' game. If we centralize our military infrastructure, the experts tell us that we are vulnerable to attack. We're inviting another Pearl Harbor. If we decentralize our infrastructure, we're sloppy and overbuilt, and the BRAC experts break out the calculators and start dismantling what they call our 'excess physical capacity' If we leave our infrastructure unchanged, we are accused of becoming stagnant in a dynamic world environment. Even the lessons of history are not sacrosanct. When we learn from the mistakes we made in past wars, we are accused of failing to adapt to emerging realities. When we shift our eyes toward the future, the critics quickly tell us that we've forgotten our history and we are therefore doomed to repeat it. If we somehow manage to assimilate both past lessons and emerging threats, we're informed that we lack focus. Where does it come from: this default assumption that we are doing the wrong thing, no matter what we happen to be doing? How did our military wind up in a zero-sum game? We can prevail on the field of battle, but we can't win a war of words where the overriding assumption is that we are always in the wrong. I can't think of a single point in History where our forces were of the correct size, the correct composition, correctly deployed, and appropriately trained all at the same time. Pick a war, any war. (For that matter, pick any period of peace.) Then dig up as many official and unofficial historical documents, reports, reconstructions, and commentaries as you can. For every unbiased account you uncover, you'll find three commentaries by revisionist historians who cannot wait to tell you how badly the U.S. military bungled things. To hear the naysayers tell it, we could take lessons in organization and leadership from the Keystone Cops. We really only have one defense against this sort of mudslinging. Success. When we fight, we win, and that's got to count for something. When asked to comment on Operation Desert Storm, the U.S. Army's Lieutenant General Tom Kelly reportedly said, "Iraq went from the fourth-largest army in the world, to the second-largest army in Iraq in 100 hours." In my opinion, it's hard to argue with that kind of success, but critics weren't phased by it. Because no matter how well we fought, we did it with the wrong Army. I'd like to close with an invitation to those journalists, analysts, experts, and politicians who sit up at night dreaming up new ways to criticize our armed forces. The next time you see a man or woman in uniform, stop for ten seconds and reflect upon how much you owe that person, and his or her fellow Sailors, Marines, Soldiers, and Airmen. Then say, "Thank you." I'm betting you won't even have to explain the reason. Our Service members are not blind or stupid. They know what they're risking. They know what they're sacrificing. They've weighed their wants, their needs, and their personal safety against the needs of their nation, and made the decision to serve. They know that they deserve our gratitude, even if they rarely receive it. Two words -- that's all I ask. "Thank you." If that's too hard, if you can't bring yourself to acknowledge the dedication, sincerity and sacrifice of your defenders, then I have a backup plan for you. Put on a uniform and show us how to do it right. (c) 2005 Jeff Edwards. ;?