Why an Early Onset of Alzheimer's Does Not Hurt Defense Reformers

April 5, 2002

Comment: #443

Discussion Thread - Comment #s - 442, 354, 273, 237


Attached References:

[1] Sydney Freedberg, "Guide to the War," National Journal, December 6, 2001, page 3754

[2] "Evolution of Armed Forces Day Posters as a Portrait of Our Values," from 1997 to 2002.

It just came to my attention that last December 6, Sydney Feedberg, a defense reporter for the prestigious National Journal, named our network's Defense and the National Interest Website (i.e., the one you're reading now) as one of the top 5 defense-related websites on the net. Congratulations to all who have contributed. Maybe volunteerism works in Versailles on the Potomac after all—at least it has been fun for our merry band of clapped-out reformers.

Herewith is Freedberg's article [Atch 1].

Oh … by the way, for those old reformers on this list who might be tempted to rest on their laurels—FORGET IT.

There is a lot more work to do.

But don't worry, your early onset of Alzheimer's and loss of short-term memory won't be a hindrance—the same old horrors may be coming back to kill American soldiers and marines with a vengeance.

Remember the M-16 in Vietnam. You know, the automatic assault rifle that jammed all the time and had no hitting power. The gun that was so inferior to the primitive AK-47 carried by the Viet Cong that even Congress eventually had to hold hearings in response to angry letters from the parents of terrified soldiers.

Well, if the following message from Gunny X is half-way close to being correct, that horror of horror stories may be rising like a Phoenix in Afghanistan.

[For you newbies in want of some background information on the M-16 horrors, go to page 76 of Jim Fallows' National Defense (Random House 1981) and start reading!]

A email from the Gunny's mailbag:

Date 26 Mar 02
From: the Gunny X's Mailbag (a Gunnery Sgt in a Marine line combat unit)
Forwarded by Officer XXX,
Camp Pendleton, Calif.

Subject: Small Arms Performance in Afghanistan

Report of American small arms performance from a friend currently assigned to an infantry unit in Afghanistan:

"The current-issue 62gr 5.56mm (223) round, especially when fired from the short-barreled, M-4 carbine, is proving itself (once again) to be woefully inadequate as man stopper. Engagements at all ranges are requiring multiple, solid hits to permanently bring down enemy soldiers. Penetration is also sadly deficient. Even light barriers are not perforated by this rifle/cartridge combination. Troopers all over are switching to the seventy-seven grain Sierra Matchking (loaded by Black Hills) whenever it can be found. Its performance on enemy soldiers is not much better, but it does penetrate barriers. We're fighting fanatics here, and they don't find wimpy ammunition particularly impressive!

Adding to our challenges, our issue M-9 pistol (Beretta M92F) is proving itself unreliable. They are constantly breaking. To make matters worse, the 9mm hardball round we use is a joke. It is categorically ineffective as a fight stopper, even at close range. Some troopers, after numerous, desperate requests, are now being reissued 1911s! However, the only ones available for issue are worn out. Magazines are hard to find, and 45ACP ammunition is scarce.

We are frustrated here that none of the forgoing seems to be of the slightest concern to people in Washington. It is a damn good thing that we have air superiority and are not yet heavily engaged on the ground. Inferior weapons and ammunition are making us all nervous."

Lesson: Here we go again! We're going into war with small arms and ammunition we know to be impotent and (in the case of the M-9 pistol) lacking in durability. What makes the iniquity even worse is that these inadequacies have all been common knowledge since the Gulf War ten years ago.

During WW1, American troopers were issued a French light, automatic rifle, as part of an economic sweetheart deal with the French. The gun, called the CSRG (Chauchat), was notoriously unreliable, and that fact was well known by Americans and French alike. But, it was issued anyway, and we will never know how many Americans were needlessly killed as a result. That this kind of casual nonchalance is apparently still standard procedure at the Pentagon, is disillusioning. We really haven't come very far in eighty-five years. Our young men, in the minds of politicians and military brass alike, are still cannon fodder!

[Forwarded] Very Respectfully,
Officer XXX I-Marine Expeditionary Force
Camp Pendleton, California

End Gunny X's email.

Rest assured, the Gunny is right about at least one thing in this article. People in Washington don't care. You won't read about his problem in the hundreds of lessons-learned articles that have been pumped to date by the courtiers in Versailles on the Potomac.

But, then, why should you? Courtiers don't hang out with Gunnys. After all, Gunnys have tattoos and they live in tents. And they eat MREs and have no taste for pheasant under glass. They chew tobacco, and there are no spittoons in the Georgetown salons.

Most importantly, Gunnys are techno-deficient—how could a Gunny possibly understand how a techno revolution can quickly rout the Taliban even though there are almost no dead bodies and only a few prisoners? They think guns are supposed to kill people and take prisoners. It takes a general who understands the larger theory of virtual attrition—i.e., the theory of dead bodies not seen through the all-knowing soda straw of a Predator's mesmerizing TV tube [see Comment #442]—to understand how such a rout can occur.

The Gunny would understand one thing about the big picture in Versailles, however: Bad guns aren't the only Phoenae that rise from the ashes. He would, for example, see through the mega metaphor of the value system that worships technology more than its people—I am referring to the value system that induced Bush Administration to resurrect the Clinton Administration's obscene policy of issuing Armed Forces Day posters that celebrate weapons instead of people. Taking people off the posters undid one of few recent achievements of our old merry band—namely, our victorious three-year battle between 1997 and 1999 to induce the Clinton Pentagon to put people back on the posters (see Comment #s 354, 273, & 237 as well as the figure below).

Write your congressman or congresswoman and ask him or her to get people back on the poster, but more importantly, TELL them to find out ASAP if there is a problem with the gun.


[Disclaimer: In accordance with 17 U.S.C. 107, this material is distributed without profit or payment to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving this information for non-profit research and educational purposes only.]

Attachment 1

From "Guide to the War,"
Sydney Freedberg,
National Journal
December 6, 2001, page 3754

For at least two decades, a band of maverick defense thinkers inside and outside the Pentagon has been crusading for military reform. Patriotic, embittered, and often insightful, these mavericks take aim at everything from Pentagon budgeting to national strategy itself. This site, Defense and the National Interest, is one of the best reflections of their thinking.

[Thank you, Mr. Freedberg - from the editors of DNI.]

Attachment 2