Shortage of Protective Masks in Korea while
Missile Defense Budget Zooms Upward

March 4, 1999

Comment: #243

For years, the military and foreign policy elite have been harping on the threat posed by weapons of mass destruction (chem/bio/nuc) in the hands of rogue states, particularly the missile threat from North Korea. North Korea's failed attempt to launch a satellite with a three-stage variant of the Taepo-dong I missile last August has raised these fears to a level approaching hysteria.

Despite the Taep-dong's failure, the threat mongers now say the capability demonstrated by this test shows that the North Koreans will be able to threaten most US cities with a small chemical or biological warhead in a few years, and therefore, they argue, we have a moral obligation to increase the missile defense budget. No one seems to care about the fact that missile defense (a program of programs) has soaked up over $60 billion since 1983 without producing one deployable weapon.

One must admit, however, the symmetry of their thinking is stunning: a failed test of a North Korean missile is used to justify increased expenditures on missile defenses that don't work either!!

But then, form is far more important than substance in Versailles-on-the-Potomac as it prepares itself face the challenges of globalism in the 21st Century.

While more reasonable thinkers may disagree over the North Korea's intentions, there is little doubt that the North Koreas have some kind of tactical capability to launch a chemical attack on parts of South Korea, and therefore, the North Korean chemical threat to our troops in South Korea is far more real than the North Korean chemical threat to the US homeland. But the email below is from an active duty staff sergeant stationed in Seoul, South Korea suggests our leaders are ignoring this clearer, more present danger.

SSGT XXX tells us the troops don't have enough protective masks to go around. Units going to the field for training have to borrow masks from other units. But he also tell us the military is planning to buy masks for family members. He says it would make more sense militarily and would be far cheaper to remove family dependents from South Korea.

Read the sergeant's email carefully -- it is a good example of the warped priorities that result from decisions to spend billions on weapons that don't work to defend against threats that don't exist, while ignoring simple low cost defenses against threats that do exist.

When decision makers condone hypocritical priorities like these, is it any wonder that mid-career officers and non-commissioned officers at the pointy end of spear become disgusted and leave the service in increasing numbers?

Oh well, maybe we can bribe the sergeant to shut up by increasing his salary ... or better yet, maybe we ought to bring him to Versailles and assign him to the Defense Acquisition Board as a sanity checker.

------[email from SSGT XXX]----------

A friend of mine in 1/6th Cavalry at Camp Eagle told me that there is shortage of protective masks. They have to borrow from other units when they go to the field. When a soldier gets to be about 3 weeks short, he passes his mask over to a newbie.

The rumor I heard about giving pro masks to family members is true.

This is stupidity at its highest. Bringing protective masks in for family members instead of evacuating the family members from a potential war zone. It would be cheaper to take the family members out of Korea. That way everyone would be equally miserable.

There would be no need for day care centers, schools, youth activities, or any of those other cool things. A housing shortage would be eliminated.

Of course, the wives will lose out on the opportunity to live like Brit Colonialists in India, but all in all the right thing to do is to get the Family members out of here.

Chuck Spinney

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