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Defense Myths

There is a quaint quality about Lawrence Korb's assertion that "the main reason political leaders continue to approve ever larger expenditures on defense than necessary is that they have accepted a series of misleading assumptions, or half-truths, about the current state of America's military" ("Ten Myths About the Defense Budget," April 2). Why, one wonders, does he use "accepted" when the more apt word is "created" or "welcomed"?

Korb surely must know that--given the current enormity of the U.S. war machine--the main reason ever larger defense expenditures are appropriated by leaders of both major parties is the politician's need to provide welfare for armaments manufacturers like Boeing, Raytheon, General Dynamics, et al. The misleading assumptions and half-truths are simply the usual pap they expect the American public to accept.

Lester Goldstein


Lawrence Korb makes some good points concerning the size of the military and current procurement strategies. However, I take exception to his partial, and misleading, explanations of two of the "myths."

"Myth #8: The services are failing to meet their recruiting goals, even though they have lowered the quality standards they maintained in the '80s."

Korb assures us that the quality of military recruits remains high. However, in "disproving" this myth he says nothing about the number of recruits entering the military. The first part of his myth, and not the latter, is the issue that should be addressed. As I understand it, the military is well under strength.

"Myth #9: Personnel are leaving the services because a much higher percentage of the force is deployed overseas than during the Cold War."

Korb is failing to distinguish between military personnel who are stationed overseas and those who are deployed overseas. During the Cold War, large forces were stationed in Germany and Korea (and elsewhere) in what can best be described as garrison duty--these personnel lived in military housing, were mostly accompanied by their families, and enjoyed basically stable lives and reasonable living conditions. Since the end of the Cold War, military forces have been deployed frequently to various areas of the globe (the Balkans, Somalia, Haiti and the Middle East). These missions tend to be of short (a year or less) duration and are characterized by primitive (at best) living conditions and prolonged separation from family and loved ones. Anyone should be able to see the distinction between being stationed in Germany and being able to go home to one's family at the end of the day and being deployed in Bosnia, Haiti, or Somalia and being able to go home to one's drafty tent for a few hours of sleep each night.

Not only does Korb assert incorrectly that deployments are actually down, but he tells the reader nothing about actual turnover rates in the military, or the reasons cited by personnel for leaving the military. Had he done any research into this issue, I suspect that his "myths" would have proven to be reality.

Cpl. James H. Boschma
Troop E, 31st Cavalry
Alabama Army National Guard
Tuscaloosa, Alabama


I fully agree with Lawrence Korb that the Pentagon's budget has vast room for revision. I further agree that leaders have "accepted a series of misleading assumptions, or half-truths, about the current state of America's military."

But whenever one discusses the military prior to either World War in comparison to the military of today, as Korb does, it would be good to remember that we spent the first year of losing both World Wars--sending thousands of inexperienced civilians into combat, allowing attrition and the terrors of combat to train the soldiers that eventually drove back the enemy. The point of today's standing Army and its realism-based training program is to avoid those massive initial casualties.

But this does not compare to what follows. I wonder how Korb, former assistant secretary of defense for manpower, reserve affairs and logistics, could attest that the two-war strategy "defies ... history." Was the 50th anniversary of World War II not enough to remind him of the two-front war that spawned that policy?

The greatest myth of the Pentagon is that high-tech equipment can replace human soldiers on the ground. This myth is an especially powerful one, since it appears to reduce the risk of American casualties--and is a massive pork barrel for military manufacturers. This prioritizing of technology over troops leads to the second-greatest myth--that "fringe benefits" for soldiers are unnecessary. Many of these "fringe benefits" (such as health care) have been slowly drawn down over the last decade, making it harder for soldiers to support their families. Insofar as post housing (another "benefit") goes, I'd just like to ask Korb if he's lived in base housing recently. Or, if he'd be comfortable having his family living in a house where the lead paint had not been removed, but just painted over.

The defense budget needs serious overhaul. There are plenty of real problems with the military and its budget. I don't understand why Korb had to create imaginary ones to prove his point.

Steven Saus
Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri


Thanks, Moberg

Kudos to David Moberg for his article on Free Trade Area of the Americas ("FTAA, Eh?" April 16). As a freelance writer who reads several Canadian papers everyday, I found Moberg provided the most cogent analysis I've seen on that issue. Having failed to inform myself through daily stories that cover only the events, such as protesters and police preparing for the Summit of Americas in Quebec City--and not actual trade issues or the protesters' reasons for such passionate resistance, I am pleased to assert that I am now informed. Before, I was uncertain about attending the summit. That has changed. Moberg, you may just have created one more activist.

James Moran




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