blogenlust
12.08.2004

Morale, What Is It Good For?


The Associated Press article mentioned in an earlier post leads with the following graphs:

CAMP BUEHRING, Kuwait - Disgruntled U.S. soldiers complained to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld on Wednesday about the lack of armor for their vehicles and long deployments, drawing a blunt retort from the Pentagon (news - web sites) chief. "You go to war with the Army you have," he said in a rare public airing of rank-and-file concerns among the troops. In his prepared remarks earlier, Rumsfeld had urged the troops — mostly National Guard and Reserve soldiers — to discount critics of the war in Iraq (news - web sites) and to help "win the test of wills" with the insurgents. Some of soldiers, however, had criticisms of their own — not of the war itself but of how it is being fought.

From Dominic D. P. Johnson's Overconfidence and War, page 14:
The confidence of soldiers, commanders, statesmen, and nations has long been appreciated as an ingredient of success. Napolean believed that, in war, morale was three times more valuable than physical strength. More than a century and a half later, writing about the Vietnam War, Leslie Gelb and Richard Betts suggested that high morale remained a key attribute: "Optimism is psychologically necessary for dedicated and energetic performance." Indeed, differences in morale can turn tides of wars. Low morale can lead to military coups or domestic revolutions that bring down the home government (as with Milosevic in Serbia); high morale can allow nations to keep fighting apparently hopeless battles for years without surrendering (as with the resistance against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan). Weaker sides sometimes win wars--even against superpowers--and this is often attributed to the higher resolve of the underdog. In extreme cases, the resolve of a weaker power can render even massage military coercion by the stronger side effectively useless. The United States failed to break Norh Vietnamese resolve despite years of carnage and more tonnage of bombs dropped during all of World War II. As Ho Chi Minh promised: "Kill ten of our men and we will kill one of yours. In the end, it is you who will tire."
This further highlights the fact that there are serious problems inherent in our inability to a) put more troops into Iraq, and b) rotate those that are there often and reliably. I'm worried that the morale of our troops is dangerously low, not only because many of them have been there longer than they ever expected, and for reasons that now seem exaggerated (to put it nicely), but also because there seems to be no end in sight. For all the electoral praise Bush and Co. received for being stronger on Iraq and the war on terrorism, I still haven't heard a substantial proposal from them for how the hell we're going to get out of Iraq and what constitutes winning. That might not be a huge concern for you and I, after all, we can just turn off CNN or Fox and the war goes away. But for those there, who have families and loved ones back home, not knowing an exit plan, or even what constitutes victory, has got to be a huge and unnecessary burden. In contrast, we're fighting people whose motivations and goals are crystal clear. They want independence and freedom (irony is alive and well!), and probably want it more than however much we want whatever goals we have. That, in a nutshell, is why we're going to have one hell of a time winning this war (in any real sense of the word "winning"). Update: As PusBoy and BlondeSense note, Rumsfeld's full quote is even more disgusting: "You go to war with the Army you have, not the Army you might want or wish to have." I like what BlondeSense says, "So a big fuck you, you're going to die for Christmas," courtesy of the SecDef. Not to mention that this is just another beautiful example of irony in action. Rumsfeld, of course, went to war in Iraq with the Army he wanted and wished for.