Tuesday, February 13, 2007

White House's wishful thinking on Iraq

By Libby Spencer

Back in the days before I took up political punditry and had better eyesight, I used to read a lot of fantasy fiction. The books, generally set in medieval times, inevitably featured a lot of battles and the one thing I learned about warfare is you equip and train your troops before you attack your foes. This is a lesson that apparently escaped our military geniuses. We invaded Iraq with an estimated $56 billion equipment shortage and have struggled ever since to stay abreast of the escalating need for new armaments.

Apparently the White House learned nothing from this in the last four years, since Bush has insisted on launching the new escalation in Baghdad at a time when the Army lacks more than 4,000 of the latest Humvee armor kits to equip the new incoming troops. Not that they're likely to do all that much good, even when they do get them installed.

U.S. commanders have voiced frustration recently at the ability of enemy fighters in Iraq to change tactics to defeat U.S. protective gear. "Equipment that was, we thought, pretty effective in protecting our troops just a matter of months ago is now being in fact challenged by some of the techniques and devices over there," Adm. William J. Fallon, the new U.S. commander for the Middle East, said last month.

Overall, Army equipment backlogs had grown so severe, Anderson said, such a troop increase would not have been possible last year. He said the Army is in a far better position now, thanks to an infusion of $17 billion last year to replace and repair equipment.

Even more depressing is our billions of dollars worth of Humvees are being beaten down by devices that cost the insurgents about ten bucks to make while our $5.9 million dollar helicopters are being shot down with ground fire from inexpensive hand held weapons. At those prices, you can sure that the insurgents have not spent over $400 billion to keep us at bay all these years. We're the only country that has that kind of money to squander on improbable tactics and most of our money has gone into the pockets of favored military contractors and not to the troops.

Perhaps the Pentagon should have spent more time reading fantasy fiction themselves before they concocted their fairy tale strategies.

(Cross-posted at The Impolitic.)

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