Friday, August 17, 2012

Sitting Ducks

We gotta take these bastards.  
Now we could do it with conventional weapons,
but that could take years and cost millions of lives.

 No, I think we have to go all out
I think that this situation absolutely 
requires a really futile and stupid gesture
 be done on somebody's part! 
--Animal House (1978)

USAToday argued this week that the expensive MRAPS (Mine Resistant Ambush Protection vehicles) have saved far fewer troop's lives than reported by the Pentagon -- perhaps 2,000 to the military's estimate of 40,000. The Pentagon stated that classified data was unavailable to the author of a Foreign Affairs study which gave the lower figure.

Rather than quibble over a few tens of thousands of lives, the question actually is: Why are our troops tooling around in these death traps at all?

An MRAP, contrary to popular belief, is NOT a combat vehicle; it is just a big truck, up-armored to resist blast damage.  The same is true of the Humvee which it replaced (which replaced the Jeep) -- these are troop-transport or mobility vehicles.  No one would expose either the Humvee or the MRAP to enemy direct fire weapons except in extreme circumstances, yet somehow they have become fixed in American minds much as the horse was for the mounted gunfighter.

The misconception probably began when the TOW anti-tank system was mounted on the Humvee.  This resulted from the MP Corps insistence that they could fight the RAP (Rear Area Protection) battles by killing tanks in the rear.  (Of course, no one explained how enemy tanks could get into the rear without the front either collapsing or contracting.)

This Corps scenario conventional thinking miraculously regenerated in the Phony War on Terror (PWOT ©) when United States Forces deployed Humvees as road-cruising vehicle in threat environments.  The battlefield with clearly-defined boundaries was dismissed as a doctrinal concept, and vehicles were employed as they were never intended.  "Combat" became road-running and detonating Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), and hoping to escape the ensuing explosion with the minimum bomb damage.

The question not asked: How or why can armored trucks win an insurgency war?  Why are U.S. forces tasked with this basic support function of keeping the roads open?  Why doesn't the Host Nation secure its own borders?  Why are U.S. soldiers running a daily gauntlet?

The Pentagon has spent $45 billion on MRAPs since 2007, a price tag criticized recently in an article in Foreign Affairs, the magazine published by the Council on Foreign Relations. The trucks do not perform significantly better than Humvees, the cheaper vehicle they replaced, according to the article's authors, who based their findings on Pentagon data.

Former Defense secretary Robert Gates said in a statement to USA TODAY that it was impossible for anybody, including the authors of the article, to determine how many lives had been saved by MRAPs (Tally of Lives Saved by MRAPs Lower).

The discussion over cost and effectiveness of MRAPs versus Humvees is a distraction from the essential question which is: What will troops so engaged accomplish?  

The insurgents -- who have now been re-tagged as "gunmen" in the media, neatly conflating their actions with every other gunslinger out there -- will adapt their tactics to neutralize the MRAP's capabilities, like moving their operations to rough terrain disallowing MRAPs from traversing the terrain.

The Pentagon disputed the article's findings, saying classified data unavailable to the article's authors prove the safety of the vehicles used in Afghanistan. In July 2009, Gates ordered more MRAPs to Afghanistan, including 5,200 of a new MRAP variant specifically designed for Afghanistan called the M-ATV.

Why offer MRAPs and M-ATVs to the Afghanis when they lack the logistical and mechanical capability to sustain the vehicle?  Why is this data classified?  Surely the enemy cannot use these statistics as a battlefield tool.

The U.S. has the best airlift capability, a plethora or support and supply and our weapons systems are the most sophisticated  ever seen on the battlefield.  But we will still lose, regardless of the superiority in materiel.  Money and sophistication will not trump the advantage of a people wearing shower shoes and toting AK-47s on Vespas.

It is their country, a fact that MRAPs nor any of its next generation can alter. 

Labels: , , , , ,


Anonymous Anonymous said...

"....But we will still lose, regardless of the superiority in materiel."

True, of course. However we will also lose due to stupid politicians. I am thinking of Clinton as I write this; though strong independent woman persona aside she is probably just BHO's sock puppet.

If you had an base that takes casualty inducing rocket and mortar fire daily (between 1300 and 1500 hours) from the Pak side of the border, wouldn't you have some kind of air asset up there (Puffcomes to mind) at that time waiting? Why would you give Pak $10s of billions only to deny yourself the opportunity to protect your troops by flying over the border? Where are these shower shoes wearing "gunmen" obtaining thousands of 122mm rounds?

Why after 11 years are there not sufficient numbers of Afghan troops such that they can train themselves and control their own damn "country" such that it is?

Why is the media - the media that streams into the typical american household - not covering the daily deaths and maimings of US troops?

Why is neither presidential candidate talking seriously about it?

WTF? over


Saturday, August 18, 2012 at 6:57:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...

If we the people were offered AFGH at the price of 45 bil$ would we buy the country??!?
Of course not, we already have Alabama and Louisiana and don't need the place at any price.
So why spend the money and lives for this shit hole?
The 122 rockets are warsaw pact weapons and probably come thru Iran as well as Pak, but in fairness if we arm the ass hat Afgh's then why can't the opposition be provided arms? Remember the Monroe doctrine?
It is their playground and we have no legitimacy being there.
Yes let them control their own destiny, and we'll do the same. Indeed why do the prez nominees even discuss this?
The closest we come is the Mittster promising to bomb the old boogeyman Iran.I love tough guys that never shit between 2 combat boots.
As for HRC-what quals did she,or does she have for being a SECSTATE? I love me some strong weemenz, but how did the SECSTATE become a equal opportunity slot?
The media doesn't cover the deaths b/c nobody gives a flip.
As for the candidates not talking about it i can understand this. Hell they won't talk about global warming either,BUT the key question is=WHY AREN'T WE THE PEOPLE asking these questions.

Saturday, August 18, 2012 at 8:57:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger FDChief said...

Well, I think there are two things going on here, one that "explains" the mine-protected vehicle, the other that explains why it's always going to be part of the problem rather than part of the solution.

The direct ancestor of the current US MRAPs are the South African mine-protected transports like the Buffel and current Mamba APCs. These were developed for constabulary duties in places like Rhodesia and Angola during the long guerrilla war between the RSA and its current rulers the ANC. I suspect that this connection had been buried as deeply as the Pentagon can dig it in because nobody wants to draw the lines between that the white supremacists in the RSA were doing there and what we're doing in southwest Asia, but the actual military tasks are pretty damn comparable. So the point behind the mine-protected vehicle makes some sort of sense that way.

As for the comparison between the HMMWV and these trucks I think it's apples and oranges. The thing is a personnel transport, and as such replaces not just the humvees but the five-tons and tracked APCs like the M2/M3 Brad variants.

There's no question in my mind that if you set off a command-detonated mine under a standard M1098 the results will be catastrophic for the passengers. Any mine-protected vehicle will provide at least SOME better protection. But a five-ton? Or a Brad? Probably about a wash there. So this one may well be a case where "both sides" are right; the Foreign Policy authors are correct in that the MRAP is no better overall than the vehicles it replaced - the Pentagon is right in that it's better THAN A HUMVEE.

Sunday, August 19, 2012 at 10:18:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger FDChief said...


The other thing is what happens when you look at the bigger picture behind the story of the RSA's mine-protected vehicles.

The white government in South Africa was trying to shovel sand. It represented, at best, a tiny minority and one that was (to the outsiders in that country) corrupt and brutal, and seen as a tool of foreign colonialists. The SADF - which was a hell of a good army, BTW - could tool around the roads all day in these things and not change that. It could, and did, routinely send air assets up over the neighboring countries that harbored its enemies. Hell, it often fired off airmobile raids against those countries, attacking the ANC sanctuaries there. It did as well as an army could do against its enemies...

And in the end, all that meant nothing. Because of the inherent flaws and instability in the white government's position, because of the inherent disaster that is the economy and society of South Africa the place is fucking doomed and would be regardless of whether the SADF had magical mine-resistant flying fucking carpets.

This entire disastrous business has little or nothing to do with equipment and tactics and everything to do with logistics and geopolitics.

So for me the question to ask isn't "Why are we spending all this money on this-or-that vehicle or flying or not flying this or that mission over this or that place" but...

Why the fuck do we think that we have the time, money, lives, and intelligence to remake a part of the world that stymied Alexander the Fucking Great?

Gimme a call when we've figured THAT one out.

Sunday, August 19, 2012 at 10:27:00 AM GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post and comments. Thanks! GSJ

Sunday, August 19, 2012 at 12:25:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

If u take the cost of the mraps and divide by 2000 lives supposedly saved then the cost is extremely high.
U run the numbers, and just for fun then use 40,000 saved and the cost is still prohibitive.
Who minds(mines) this store?

Monday, August 20, 2012 at 10:29:00 AM GMT-5  
Anonymous Blakenator said...

As a country we are getting dumber by the year. In Korea, we had sense enough to get out after a couple of years; in Viet Nam it took longer; it seems we don't want to leave Afghanistan because it isn't time, yet. It started out as the "commie menace domino theory" and has morphed into the "they can't take care of themselves" despite the fact that Iraq and Afghanistan have much longer histories than the good ole USofA. Eisenhower was right about the military-industirial complex.

Monday, August 20, 2012 at 11:46:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

When we left S KOR we left an Army on station.It's still there to checkmate the evil NK's.
When we lv AFGH supposedly next year we're lving 68 thou soldiers. That ain't exactly leaving.

Monday, August 20, 2012 at 1:08:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous Blakenator said...

I stand corrected on the details, I am trying to agree with your premise but I got in a hurry and used bad examples. In Korea, we called a truce to the shooting war and I am not convinced that keeping an army there has done anything but keep the tensions high. I'll try again: we got tossed COMPLETELY out of Viet Nam and now Viet Vets go on tours to the old battlefields and even meet the fellows they were trading shots with. Our pols have a nasty habit pushing perpetual war on everyone and I dislike that.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012 at 12:43:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

Your points are all well taken, but i'm just a fussy old fuck.
BTW we were winning when i left rvn.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012 at 1:01:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

Roger your cmts on the South African vehicles.Pls remember that we bought similar vehicles for use in rvn from dutch/holland sources. I believe they were called v100's and i physically saw them in Saigon.
They were semi-combat vehicles , but restricted to road use as they were wheeled.
IMO the mraps have no use on a battlefield or in a insurgency. Actually they should be restricted to county fair tractor pulling contests.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012 at 4:18:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger FDChief said...

jim: The SADF found them useful because the ANC had no real military capacity; they were largely urban gangstas, a sort of Baader-Meinhof writ large. They did tend to plant mines, though, so the MRAPs cut down on the casualties those could inflict.

If we were fighting an enemy like the ANC we, too, might find them useful. Unfortunately the muj in Afghanistan learned to fight against the Soviets who tooled around everywhere in BMPs and BRDMs. Not a big stretch to figure out how to do a vehicular ambush after that...

But, again, my point is that it wouldn't really matter if we issued every GI his own personalized pink plastic Barbie car; we're trying to turn the most backasswards part of central Asia into suburban New Jersey. That ain't gonna happen, not if we fired yummy candy out of our asses. What we drive around in as we don't do what we want to do in central Asia is really a sort of non-issue, IMO...

Tuesday, August 21, 2012 at 8:18:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous tw said...

"BTW we were winning when i left rvn"

Really ? Might have to call BS on that one Jim. I'd say all we ever did was occupy that country. We still had to circle the wagons every night.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012 at 12:10:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

OK, so i over stated my point.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012 at 12:39:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous Deryle said...

Way to go Jim, having the moxie to change yo opinion by adding "we were almost winning when you left.

I'd have to say "some of us where hoping to win." or "thinking about winning" or "wishing we could win."

I guess we did win by getting our asses back home in --kinda--one piece.
'Course that doesn't include the mindfuck haunting us after all these years.
Who said : "Boy, you gotta carry that weight?"
There it is,


say, what happened to that little anti-robot thingie?
I was getting used to it.

naa.. a vast retromove improvement by removing it.

Friday, August 24, 2012 at 3:05:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous Deryle said...

Well, some of got ourselves back in kinda one piece, it being relative and all--like this discussion about the right kinda equipment it'd take to keep man from defending his homeground.



Friday, August 24, 2012 at 3:16:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...


I'm not changing my opinion on VN -- I'm just being a sarcastic prick.

I knew that situation was lost after 3 days in country.

Friday, August 24, 2012 at 7:56:00 PM GMT-5  

Post a Comment

<< Home