"It profits me but little that a vigilant authority always protects the tranquillity of my pleasures and constantly averts all dangers from my path, without my care or concern, if this same authority is the absolute master of my liberty and my life."

--Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Horses and Bayonets

The left is all atwitter about President Obama's snarkiest moment from last night's debate:

Mitt Romney attacked Barack Obama in Monday's debate on what the Republican senses is a weakening military, charging that our navy is smaller now "than at any time since 1917." But the president turned out to have plenty of ordnance. "Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets," Obama answered sarcastically. "The nature of our military has changed. We have these things called aircraft carriers where planes land on them. We have ships that go under water: nuclear submarines. The question is not a game of 'Battleship' where we're counting ships."

The problem for Obama is, while his know-nothing lefty pals think this snark was just swell, nearly everything about it is wrong:

  • Special Forces soldiers famously rode on horseback in Afghanistan in the weeks after 9/11 as they took down the Taliban.   This was the subject of probably the biggest best seller to come out of the Afghanistan War, Horse Soldiers by Doug Stanton, which is being made into a movie by Jerry Bruckheimer in Hollywood.   There is even a monument to the horse soldiers of Afghanistan at Ground Zero in Manhattan, which was just unveiled.
  • U.S. Marines and Army infantry still all are trained in the use of bayonets:
In 2004, with ammunition running low, a British unit launched a bayonet charge toward a trench outside of Basra, Iraq, where some 100 members of the Mahdi Army militia were staging an attack. The British soldiers later said that though some of the insurgents were wounded in the bayonet charge itself, others were simply terrified into surrender.

Instilling such terror is at the heart of the philosophical argument for keeping bayonet training, historians say.

“Traditionally in the 20th century – certainly after World War I – bayonet training was basically designed to develop in soldiers aggressiveness, courage, and preparation for close combat,” says Richard Kohn, professor of military history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
  • Nor are his converse propositions true.   Aircraft carriers and submarines are not uniquely "modern" weapons.   The first U.S. Navy aircraft carrier, the Langley, was commissioned in 1922.   And submarines, as any schoolboy knows, played a role as early as the Civil War (hey, Mr. Obama, did they teach you about the Monitor and the Merrimack in your grade school in Indonesia?).
And, of course, it is a matter of record that the U.S. Navy has requested 310-316 ships, and the current policy of this administration does not foresee being able to accomplish that goal:

The Navy’s FY2013 30-year (FY2013-FY2042) shipbuilding plan, which was submitted to Congress on March 28, 2012 (more than a month after the submission of the FY2013 budget on February 13, 2012), does not include enough ships to fully support all elements of the Navy’s 310-316 ship goal over the long run. The Navy projects that the fleet would remain below 310 ships during the entire 30-year period, and experience shortfalls at various points in ballistic missile submarines, cruisers-destroyers, attack submarines, and amphibious ships.

Snark does not equate to Presidential leadership, particularly on matters of national security.

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