Posted tagged ‘keyboard commandos’

The half a percent solution follow up: Obama’s Afganistan numbers.

February 22, 2008

By now most of the blogoliterate crowd has probably had a round or two of the argument on a statement by Sen. Obama in last night’s debate. In the context of defending his capacity to serve as Commander in Chief, he pointed to the fact that the decision to go to war in Iraq had specific consequences. For example:

…It has diverted attention from Afghanistan, where al Qaeda, that killed 3,000 Americans, are stronger now than at any time since 2001.

I heard from a Army captain, who was the head of a rifle platoon, supposed to have 39 men in a rifle platoon. Ended up being sent to Afghanistan with 24, because 15 of those soldiers had been sent to Iraq. And as a consequence, they didn’t have enough ammunition; they didn’t have enough humvees.

They were actually capturing Taliban weapons because it was easier to get Taliban weapons than it was for them to get properly equipped by our current commander in chief. Now that’s a consequence of bad judgment, and you know, the question is on the critical issues that we face right now who’s going to show the judgment to lead. And I think that on every critical issue that we’ve seen in foreign policy over the last several years — going into Iraq originally, I didn’t just oppose it for the sake of opposing it. I said this is going to distract us from Afghanistan; this is going to fan the flames of anti- American sentiment; this is going to cost us billions of dollars and thousands of lives and overstretch our military, and I was right.

Senator Obama is here providing a blunt example of the consequences of magical thinking trumping elementary arithmetic. I’ve picked up the current controversy from Philip Carter at Intel Dump and John Cole at Balloon Juice, both of whom (a) confirm Obama’s statement, and, (b) especially in Carter’s case, deepen the critique on the point I’ve tried to raise in this post. That is:

Afghanistan is going badly right now — and has been for a while. But people who read too much of Boys Magazine (or perhaps a stray columnist, straining to bend a dimly remembered, perhaps unread Rudyard Kipling to support his cartoon version of war and the world) still believe that the old school try, pluck, and a handy Predator or two are all it takes to prevail in combat or in so-called Grand Strategy.

But they don’t call it “military science” for nothing. It may be — it is — a highly imperfect discipline. Even so, people who have actually spent time on this stuff, and especially those who (unlike me) have tested what they have learned in the face of the enemy, know that 24 soldiers can’t do the job of 39 on any sustained basis. To succeed in war — or really in just about anything of consequence — you have to be able to look at the data head on. You have to be able to count.

We haven’t seen that faculty much in use at the top levels of our government (or much of the media) for a while. It’s past time we did.

Image: Richard Caton Woodville (The Second) “The Charge of the Light Brigade.” Source: Wikimedia Commons.