First is an idiotic quote by semi-regular commenter Aaron on my earlier post about media coverage of this issue:
supporting our troops to death again are we?
And then he quotes the “actual article”, which is a different article than the one I was commenting on, then he writes
you guys are covering for george again? your pathetic.
Those of you familiar with Aaron’s comments on MO know that he isn’t terribly likely to respond in a meaningful way to any direct questions or even to stay on topic if he decides to respond at all. I guess I should have read the “actual article” to see where it was that “george” was implicated here.
Next up: USMC: Armor Gaps Prove Fatal on Defense Tech begins by echoing concerns in the “actual article” and then notes a response by Phil Carter (normally of Intel Dump) on the National Security Round table Yahoo Group. Mr. Carter is currently serving in Iraq.
Here is an NYT editorial (that is, an opinion): Marines Without Armor. Although I might quibble with the implication of the deceptive headline, I can appreciate the fact that this is an opinion piece. I’m constantly bombarded by people attacking my suggestions of Liberal bias in Legacy Media by people who don’t seem to understand the difference between reporting and editorializing. So I’m pointing this out as an example of something that I don’t necessarily completely agree with but can still appreciate the opinion offered as an opinion rather than an opinion offered as fact. Plus: I don’t often read NYT editorials (gee, ya think?) but I swear that whenever I do they write about US “marines”. An American marine is a “Marine”. It’s not that difficult.
Here’s the current #1 Google News hit for ‘marine armor’: Mom buys body armor for son for Christmas. Here’s a much more detailed story about it, which notes that it wasn’t a lack of standard armor but a desire for better armor that led to the purchase.
The Monsters and Critics story is from the UPI, which has this latest offering: Outside View: Our troops’ unmet needs. In the lead paragraph is this gem:
Many in Congress and the Pentagon boast American troops have the best equipment in the world. But reports from the battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan say otherwise. The information about the failures is not new; solutions are long overdue.
The only alternative to the current equipment mentioned is the AK-47. If our armed forces have such a glaring deficiency and do not have the “best equipment in the world”, simply point out the equipment that is so much better. Remember that that the claimed claim is “the best equipment in the world”, not “perfect equipment”.
Then the UPI goes on to enter into the 5.56 debate with this:
The small size of the 5.56 mm bullet for the U.S. M4 carbine, M16 rifle, and M249 machine gun is highly controversial among some troops. One official report said troops “asked for a weapon with a larger round, ‘so it will drop a man with one shot.'”
Even the M9 pistol, which shoots a sizeable 9mm round, impressed few.
Followed shortly by
That the large 9mm caliber M9 pistol is collecting similar complaints brings into question just what it is that troops are complaining about.
If you do not understand why a larger pistol round is not doing better than a smaller assault rifle round, you probably out to stick to something you know.
Finally, I’d like to look at history for just a quick second or two. You may recall the Battle of Agincourt in 1415. Okay, maybe you don’t. How about Shakespeare’s King Henry V? Well, the big battle was Agincourt. (Note to MO’s British readers: Please forgive American ignorance of your 15th Century history.) The French had finally cut off the light British invading force and thousands of heavily-armored knights and men-at-arms jockeyed for position. 20,000 to 30,000 Frenchmen on their home field staring at about 6,000 Englishmen, less than 1,000 of them armored knights and men-at-arms. Unfortunately for the French, the rest of the Englishmen were archers. After a few feints and some ineffectual cavalry action by the French, the mass of France charged. And the English began shooting. The exact details of the battle are disputed and lost to time but here’s a description of the charge in Osprey’s “Agincourt 1415”. I’ve done more than a little reading on the subject, and this seems to be a pretty reasonable write-up:
The arrow storm forced every man to keep his head down for fear that a shaft might penetrate the eye slits in his helmet. Furthermore the English stood with the low, winter sun behind them — another unnerving and disorientating factor. As the range shortened, there can be no doubt that English bodkin arrows, designed for the job, began to go through even plate armour protection. When the French arrived at the English line, after three hundred yards of blind, muscle-wrenching foot-slogging, there can have been no impetus left. Perhaps they did push the English back a few yards, represented poetically as a ‘lance’s length’. But many of the French must have been stupefied with exhaustion. And they were so crowded together that even if they had the strength to lift their weapons there was no space in which to aim a blow.
The fighting was nevertheless intense. The English did suffer casualties, the most notable of whom was the Duke of York. He probably was not suffocated under a mound of bodies as is usually claimed, but had his helmet beaten in so that it smashed his skull. The same fate nearly befell the King. All the eighteen squires who had supposedly sworn to fell Henry were killed, but somebody (perhaps one of them or possibly the Duke of Alençon) struck him a blow on the helmet which lopped a fleuret off the gold crown and left it heavily dented. Henry was certainly in the thick of the action. He stood over the badly wounded Earl of Oxford and prevented him from being killed by the French. The battle between the men-at-arms seems to have been very close fought. Surprisingly, perhaps, the most effective intervention in the outcome of the fighting seems to have been provided by the lightly-equipped archers. All accounts describe them as throwing down their bows and engaging in the fray. They were equipped with swords, including the chopping falchion, axes and heavy mallets (used for hammering in the stakes and now for beating down the enemy).
Their nimbleness, being so lightly clad upon the heavy ground, made them more than a match for the exhausted and bemused men-at-arms who opposed them — men, furthermore, who despised the low-born archers but now fell easy prey to them.
- Note that the French had to keep their heads down to prevent an arrow to the eye slits. Obviously the French lords cared little for their men or they would have purchased additional plates of steel to cover their faces.
- At some point, even great armor will be pierced. This is an important point to remember, as we won’t always be fighting ragheads with hand-me-down AKs. At some point we will be going against an enemy with weapons designed to defeat our armor. How thick, then, will the ceramic plates have to be?
- The French slogged their way to the fight, then were too damn tired to fight. Our troops are already heavily-laden. Adding more armor won’t help this situation and must be looked at very carefully.
- The professional fighting man, a greatly-superior specimen of warrior, was undone by hired bowmen with secondary weapons. If you don’t see the potential for parallels here, you’re blind
Now, all this isn’t to say that more armor is definitely a bad thing. But too much of a good thing can be a bad thing, and the issue isn’t nearly as simple as getting a chart and pointing out that if only more bullets or fragments had been prevented from reaching the bodies of American fighting men, fewer would have died.
The key, of course, isn’t more ceramic plates in today’s armor. The key is better armor that’s lighter, or at least not heavier. Think back, if you will, to the initial days of the body armor shortage in Iraq. Remember all the (true, in most cases) horror stories of Reserve, Guard, and support troops with “Vietnam-era flak jackets”? That gear was considered to be nearly worthless and the Interceptor Body Vest was what every deployed US service member deserved. Now, that isn’t good enough. It’s the extra plates that are needed, we’re told. And in some cases, that’s exactly right. But probably not in all cases, and magically distributing all those plates to everyone would have side effects not foreseen by some.
Recall the rush to up-armor Humvees. Now the problem is that the Humvees are falling apart under the strain of the additional armor. It’s not inconceivable that every life saved by side plates (for instance) could be offset by a loss due to fatigue or the inability to move quickly enough when it counts. Or to get up quickly enough. Or to twist around a corner just right.
Last, and certainly least, while in the process of writing this post Aaron responded. Here it is:
No nicholas, whats pathetic is the bush administration’s repeated failure to get the best equiptment to our troops in the field. body armor. whats so f–king tough about that?
but hey, you go to war with the army you have. not the army you could have had with 2 years lead time. and 2 3/4 years in the field. and an unlimited budget.
go click on my link and read the actual article.
and when are you signing up nicolas?
easy enough to make excuses when your a REMF.
I’m sure that there’s a lot more where that came from. Unfortunately.