Sunday, December 30, 2007

New Armored Vehicles Destined For Iraq Drive Heated Debate

Washington — It was just what American soldiers had been longing for — a patrol vehicle designed to withstand the powerful roadside bomb blasts that have killed more service members than any other insurgent weapon in the Iraq war.

But just as the Defense Department hits its year-end goal of delivering 1,500 heavily armored, V-hulled “mine resistant ambush protected” trucks to Iraq, the feeling in the Pentagon is far from elation. Instead, an intense debate has broken out over whether the vehicle that is saving lives also could undermine one of the most important lessons of the whole war: How to counter an insurgency.

While offering needed armor, the MRAPs lack the agility vital to urban warfare. “It's very heavy; it's relatively large; it's not maneuverable as you'd like it to be,” Gen. William S. Wallace, the officer in charge of Army doctrine and training, said recently. “All of those things should be of concern.”

But with nearly 12,000 of the trucks on order in a program that has a projected cost of more than $17 billion, the MRAP — the most expensive new Army weapons systems acquired since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks — is likely to influence how the Army fights future wars.

Geoff Morrell, the Pentagon press secretary, said MRAPs are an important part of the military's response to the needs of U.S. soldiers in Iraq.

“There is never one silver-bullet solution for all the problems you find in war,” Morrell said. “The key is to find a combination of things that address the problems.”

Support for MRAPs within the Pentagon has weakened recently in part because of a decline in military casualties in Iraq. With the threat from roadside bombs diminishing, the military services worry that they will be saddled in the near future with thousands of large, heavy and expensive trucks that they will no longer need.

But more fundamentally, the MRAP has reignited a debate that has bedeviled strategists since the war began: Is the best way to save soldiers' lives giving them tools to survive attacks, or pre-empting the attacks?

On one side of the argument are senior officials in Washington, including Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joe Biden, D-Del., who have insisted that MRAPs are a moral imperative, needed to protect vulnerable soldiers from death and dismemberment.

But a growing number of counterinsurgency experts, prodded by an October report by influential Pentagon consultant Andrew F. Krepinevich Jr., have argued that the hulking vehicles are antithetical to fighting a guerrilla war.

Guerrilla warfare, or counterinsurgency, requires soldiers to mingle with Iraqi citizens — a task that has been at the center of the strategy implemented by Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, the Iraq war commander.

“You've got Dave Petraeus telling his people get out and walk, because the long-term solution to reducing our casualties is ... getting to know the people, providing security in the neighborhood,” Krepinevich said in an interview. “In a sense, you've got two competing priorities.”

The decision to make MRAPs the Pentagon's top wartime procurement priority was one of Gates' first decisions as defense secretary. Occasionally frustrated with the department's inability to move quickly, Gates ordered MRAPs flown to Iraq in scarce cargo planes in an unprecedented logistical effort.

“There was a moral imperative to provide a better way to protect soldiers,” said Lt. Gen. Stephen M. Speakes, the Army general in charge of procurement programs. “That was the driving factor that united all of us in a realization we had to do something different. Soldier protection was job one.”

But earlier this month, Marine Corps officials announced they were cutting the number of MRAPs they intended to buy from 3,600 to 2,300, citing the reduced violence in Iraq and the questionable utility of the vehicles in other missions.

Army officials, who were planning the largest purchases, are considering a similar move


Story of this Presidents war. Always reacting, never on the offensive.


Blogger B Will Derd said...

Happy New Year, MT.

And on this subject, read a little history to get perspective on such things. Leaders are always fighting the last war or the last battle. by the time the tactics and gear catch up to the situation, the situation changes. Those who succeed are those that don't quit. This war and this President are not unique. What you read in real time accounts and critiques bear little resemblance to the account recorded in history. At times Lincoln was hated, Truman despised, many considered Roosevelt a traitor, Reagan is still considered a buffoon by many in the Left. I still think this one could well be considered a high point in our history, but a lot of it has yet to happen.

10:48 PM  
Blogger madtom said...

Happy New Year Will

12:06 AM  

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