14 September 2006

Body Armor II

Faithful commenter Matt writes regarding the body armor ad:

It's also absurd. Let's go over what this argument supposes:

A) That Donald Rumsfeld would not take more budget if you gave it to him.

B) That you know more about the effective distribution of resources for battlefield safety than staff at the Pentagon.

Seriously, the body armor thing is a horrendously stupid argument. Could it make a great campaign? Sure, but it just fails on its merits.

You may have noticed that the narratives that define political campaigns occasionaly deviate from slavish devotion to "facts" and "truth." What this ad is is brilliant political theatre. There are a million legitimate ways to criticise the administration's execution ot the Iraq occupation. The problem is this: they're complicated, boring, and impossible to explain in a 30-second ad.

This is exactly the same thing as the "John Kerry voted against $80 Billion for the troops" that was so effective against him. It is a minor out-of-context vote (maybe even a procedural vote?) that is used to illustrate the broader point.

In Kerry's case, the point was: Kerry is soft on terror.

In this case the point is: The Republicans have screwed up the war.

Both points are debatably true, but more importantly, both fit well in the narrative that the parties want to use in the respective campaigns.

9 comments:

  1. Not to be a wet blanket, but have you seen "Baghdad ER"?

    Side note: I do think ineffective armor, both personal and vehicular, led to a lot of preventable deaths and dismemberments in the current military example of political myopia. Buy stock in prosthetic companies.

    In it, the nature of current war wounds are illustrated--lots of limb wounds, few torso wounds--most U.S. casualties delivered (by helicopter for the most part--lessons about the golden hour learned from the Vietnam War and WW2 have been taken seriously this time around) to the CSH are of extremity or facial nature, usually secondary to IED's.

    The lesson here? In this assymetrical war, the enemy prefers to strike from a safe distance with explosives versus in person with AK-47's. Rockets (Hezbollah, the wave of the future) are going to define warfare, and combat medicine, and politics, for the next few years.

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  2. Dex makes a good point.

    I think it demonstrates that there really is no acceptable way to fight a war.

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  3. I wanted to see Baghdad ER, but my TIVO failed me for once. Oh well. And yes, the modern military trauma system is nothing short of amazing.

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  4. I certainly see it as effective. A super strategy if they can get it out in the right way. The Dems might finally have figured out how to run a campaign.

    "I do think ineffective armor, both personal and vehicular, led to a lot of preventable deaths and dismemberments in the current military example of political myopia."

    So you've done the studies of battlefield safety and trade-offs between big equipment purchases, satellite badwidth costs vs. armor? And you've correlated that with the type of combat scenarios are troops are in? And you've compared those solutions to the various types of armament and capabilities of the enemies they fight?

    That's good to know. If only Rumsfeld had known you were so experienced, he could have saved so many lives!

    Or, are you swayed by individual stories of hardship by soldiers who have been through casualties and are willing to be interviewed by CNN?

    It's just not that easy.

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  5. "So you've done the studies of battlefield safety and trade-offs
    . . . .
    That's good to know. If only Rumsfeld had known you were so experienced, he could have saved so many lives!"

    I don't understand why I should give Rumsfeld so much credit. He lied or was wrong about the WMDs. He lied or was wrong about the strength of the resistance and cost of occupation. Why should I believe that Rumsfeld carefully evaluted the issues you present?

    I am an intelligent voter who believes we could have done more to protect our troops and prevent civilian deaths. Rumsfeld says--or actually, I think we're assuming on his behalf--that the money that could have been spent on body armor was better spent on satellites. That sounds like a mixed question of policy and technology. Do I have to just accept that Rumsfeld is right because he is the one charged by the President to make the decisions? If that is true, what happens to Democracy?

    Now, a lot of this goes back to Iraq being a war of choice. We did not have to invade, so deciding to invade under anything other than the ideal circumstances--and I mean ideal--or in the ideal fashion seems fair game to criticize.

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  6. Jim, those are fair points, but the problem is that we are reacting emotionally to the idea of troops who could be more well-armored. Of course they could be, but the basic point is that there *are* trade-offs, and until you give the Pentagon infinite budget there will be armament trade-offs in any conflict. And of all our government agencies, you'd be hard-pressed to convince me that the military is not the best in terms of fulfilling its main mission.

    And I happen to believe that Bush/Rice/Cheney are the policy makers here, and not Rumsfeld. I'm quite sure he agreed readily to go to war, but I don't think he or his office was out there deciding how much WMD evidence was sufficiently justification for war.

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  7. And I happen to believe that Bush/Rice/Cheney are the policy makers here, and not Rumsfeld. I'm quite sure he agreed readily to go to war, but I don't think he or his office was out there deciding how much WMD evidence was sufficiently justification for war.

    Agree that the decision for war came from above Rummy (though he was a backer), but I don't think we can exculpate him from responsibility from the way the war and occupation were botched. He was an advocate of the strategy of the "lighter, faster" army and having far fewer boots on the ground. He famously disregarded the State Dept's government transition plan. And he has repeatedly been caught unaware of key points in the execution of the war (insurgency) -- the unarmored Humvees, the inadequate body armor, the Stryker troops doing house-to-house, etc.

    And I share matt's respect for the professional soldiers in the DOD, which is why we should note how many of Rumsfeld's policies and decisions have been over the objections of the senior leadership in the military. Which in my mind makes his policies very much fair game for criticism.

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  8. Body armor is relatively inexpensive. If the life of my son or daughter depended on it, i would put off buying a new TV or set of clubs for a few months and invest in the good stuff for them.

    Likewise, those young, single troops living on base actually have a decent amount of disposable income that they often spend on alcohol, cars, stereos and loose women. The rest of it, they just waste (bada BOOM! had to say it)

    Seriously, what is $1,500 out of your own pocket if it keeps you alive?

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  9. I'm sorry, but obviously none of you folks have military experiance.

    I spent time in Lebannon in the 1980's and we DIDN'T want the body armour issued us, as it was 120 degrees out, and the extra heat and weight of the armour outweighted the advantages.

    If you can't run, you'll die.

    Most of the troopers I've spoken to lately say the same, that the armour is only useful in certain, limited, situations, and that they don't wear it most of the time.

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