The “No Right Answer” Game

The Wrong Army

Jeff Edwards has an opinion piece up on about criticism of the military. He points out (very rightly) that the military is always portrayed as having had the wrong stuff in the past, having the wrong stuff now, and wanting the wrong stuff for the future. It has the wrong weapons, the wrong tactics, and the wrong mind-set.

In fact, except for winning all the time, it can’t really do much of anything right.

When the Army is small, it’s TOO small. Then we start to hear phrases like ‘over-extended’ or ‘spread too thin,’ and the integrity of our national defense is called into question. When the Army is large, it’s TOO large, and it’s an unnecessary drain on our economy. Terms like ‘dead weight,’ and ‘dead wood’ get thrown around.

I know what you’re thinking. We could build a medium-sized Army, and everyone would be happy. Think again. A medium-sized Army is too small to deal with large scale conflicts, and too large to keep military spending properly muzzled. The naysayers will attack any middle of the road solution anyway, on the grounds that it lacks a coherent strategy. So small is wrong, large is wrong, and medium-sized is also wrong.


No branch of the military is exempt. When the Navy builds aircraft carriers, we are told that we really need small, fast multipurpose ships. When the Navy builds small, fast multi-mission ships (aka the Arleigh Burke class), we’re told that blue water ships are poorly suited for littoral combat, and we really need brown water combat ships. The Navy’s answer, the Littoral Combat Ship, isn’t even off the drawing boards yet, and the critics are already calling it pork barrel politics and questioning the need for such technology. Now I’ve gone nose-to-nose with hostiles in the littoral waters of the Persian Gulf, and I can’t recall that pork or politics ever entered into the conversation. In fact, I’d have to say that the people trying to kill me and my shipmates were positively disinterested in the internal wranglings of our military procurement process.

As I’ve said many times before, the biggest problem with media coverage of the military is the fact that they don’t understand the military, military strategy and tactics, or military history. This, of course, is a gross generalization of journalists, but I read their work and I know that I know more about the military than 99% of them. And I don’t know jack.

So how can they be counted on to cover military stories and issues capably? Well, they can’t. Fortunately for them, most of the public also doesn’t really understand the military, military strategy and tactics, or military history, so they generally don’t get found out.

Go read the whole thing. And I also followed the link to Edwards’ website The Deck Plate, which looks like it’s definitely worth keeping an eye on. (via Blackfive)

And, for what it’s worth, I think the US Army is too small.


  1. Dear Murdoc, I try not to get offended by criticism of the military. The fact is Americans just do not accept mediocrity. We expect to have the best military in the world and regularly argue about how to keep it that way. Some of the media stuff is obviously based on ignorance and I dismiss it without a second thought. It is nice to know people are interested in the quality of their military. Those of us in the military criticize and complain about things too. Just look at the posts on gear such as the M-16, XM-8 and Styker. We don’t criticize because the M-16 or the Stryker are truly bad. We criticize when we don’t have the very best. In my time in the American military I have always expected to have the best training, the best equipment, the best comrades, and the best leadership in the world. Over the past 16 years, those expectations have been met far more often than not. I wonder how the media in countries such as Mexico, Canada, Brazil, and France cover their respective militaries. My guess is that since most people there don’t care, their medias have few stories positive or negative about the military. Why report on something your audience does not give a damn about? At least Americans care – even the ignorant and misinformed ones.

  2. I agree…….we need to add at least 2 division equivilents back to Army end strength. And……we need to commit to the slow process of building up a larger Special Forces (I mean Green Berets) capability within that end strength increase. It takes 18 months to two years to turn out a qualified Beret…….if only the public (and the Regular Army) was cognizant and admit (respectively) how much they contributed to our success in the Stan and Iraq. Better (cooler, lighter, & stonger) more widely distributed body armor, a better assault 5.56 rifle with effective bullets, FN P90s for all vehicle troops, etc etc. Oh yea……….quit using Humvees as substitutes for M113s, LAV25s, Bradleys, and Strykers! DUH!!

  3. Just as a point to note (while being US) I live in the UK and can answer what people think of the military: Noone really cares, cause there are no high profile projects about to create much interest- like in the US with say the F-22, UAV’s, Hummers with lasers etc. They could use potato guns and people would not care (they use the sa-80 which has a very poor track record). They have cut back severly on all military fronts and no-one in the general public seems to raise any protest! They are combining and cutting back on unit numbers which raised a little protest with veterans, but still cares are minimal. I know that they all had to buy the ski-goggles for the sand in Iraq by themselves and also equipment such as bullet-proof vests(although they claimed that they actually had enough, but it was just a logistical error). The only thing raised in the media was a guy who was shot and died, but would have survived had he had body armour- which he had just surrendered under order because someone else needed it (kinda f’d up). Other countries I think never hear about their military and therefore don’t really care much about it.

  4. We get a fair bit of negative comment over our military in Australia but not as much as the US. FWIW, I think where the criticism is appropriate it’s not the military’s fault, it’s the government. I’ve heard criticism of our locally built submarines (the media says they suck, I heard they’re actually pretty damn good for diesel boats). I’ve also heard a lot of criticism about our F-111s, which the defence minister wants to scrap and replace with F-18s. I think that’s a load of bunk. Look at a map and see how big Australia is and how far away large, belligerant, well-equipped neighbours like China are. To seriously think we can take them on with some small F-18s, no matter how modern they may be, is just silly. They want to use air-to-air refueling to extend range. That’s going to be pretty hard in the face of concerted resistance by modern long-range fighters, which most of our serious neighbours have. I won’t even start talking about the criticism that ensued after our PM agreed to send a force of about 1500 to Iraq on the request of the Japanese. Anyway, soap box mode off. I suppose that puts us somewhere between the UK and USA in terms of military criticism.

  5. The ‘No Right Answer’ Game (Inspired by ‘ The Wrong Army,’ by Jeff Edwards, USN, Ret., warrior and novelist) America’s forces have won all their wars, From Revolution to war in Iraq; And Lefties don’t point to the Vietnam War, Where you stabbed winning troops in the back. No, the truth is we win; we win time and again; Done it time after time after time. Doesn’t matter to you, ’cause whatever we do, We’ve always somehow dropped the dime. To Lefties our generals just have to be wrong, Wrong tactics, wrong weapons, wrong forces; We’re the gang who somehow can never shoot straight, To hear the mainstream media sources. Just look at their headlines, view every day’s news, With their blistering barrages of blame. To warriors out here at the point of the spear, It’s those losers’ ‘No Right Answer,’ game. In this lugubrious game loved by Liberal elites, There’s just but one rule to enforce: Whatever we do, in whatever war, Must naturally be wrong of course. There is no right answer, no matter what, Even when our warriors are winning; There’s always the sly implication we lie, In the splenetic stories they’re spinning. In peacetime they charge our forces too large During wartime they squall they’re too small; In peacetime they whine we’re spending too much; But in war, ‘Where’s the armor for all?’ With consummate confidence they know what’s best, Puerile pundits so smug and so smarmy, Pontificate loud to their Liberal crowd, That we once again have the wrong Army. Pick a war, any war, or a period of peace; Field marshals of the media are spinning; If generals of journalism are so in the know, Why are genuine generals winning? So here at the front, harsh home of the grunt, We ignore their attempts to defame. The troops know the score, know what this war’s for; They can stuff their ‘No Right Answer,’ game. SSGT Russ Vaughn 2d Bn, 327th Parachute Infantry Regiment 101st Airborne Division Vietnam 65-66 ‘The Wrong Army’ can be found here:,14790,Edwards_031405-P1,00.html