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Sure, I'll admit that letters to the editor aren't exactly paid articles and they probably shouldn't be displayed like they meant anything. But at least they were published and besides, I don't have that many published items to my name. They are fun to write though, because I rarely get fired up enough to write and complain about an article (sadly, reading articles I agree with does not inspire me to write). They don't take much time to write and they give you more freedom to vent. It also helps me take letters complaining about my articles better. I figure if I respect the authors I complain about (though I may disagree strongly with a particular point of view, other published works may reflect my views closely and/or provoke thought that leads me to revise my opinions), others may respect what I have written notwithstanding their complaints.

Since I started my blog, The Dignified Rant, I probably won't be adding to this page.

In any case, here are letters prefaced with a very brief summary to help place my comments in context and citation of the article that prompted the letter should you wish to see the author's arguments in full:

Lt. Col. Robert L. Leonhard, "Winning Outnumbered," Army July 1996

In this article, the author advances the idea that historically, smaller armies have been victorious in battle more often than not. The author reached this conclusion by creating a database of battles compiled from a number of dictionaries and encyclopedias and analyzing the resulting data. Ultimately, his research should ease our minds about the reductions in the Army's size and lead us to applaud the reductions as a means of assuring victory. In my letter, I responded in two parts. The first part critiqued his methodology and source reliability. This part was deleted although my arguments were taken up by another letter writer who raised nearly every objection I had voiced (this appeared in the issue prior to my letter). The second part of my letter was published in the September 1996 issue of Army and addressed the ramifications of his argument.

The published letter is as follows:

In an age when our Army fields 495,000 soldiers (with further cuts discussed) in 10 divisions, it is too convenient to hear that sheer numbers are not only unimportant but actually counterproductive ("Winning Outnumbered" by Lt. Col. Robert L. Leonhard, July). We must not kid ourselves that fighting outnumbered is ideal or comfort ourselves with the simple fact that factors other than numbers determine victory or defeat.

What do we discard next? Are we to accept that technologically advanced equipment is irrelevant because training is arguably more important? After all, advanced equipment is expensive. And then does training become expendable since morale is critical? Other armies have held this to be so. Political and fiscal reality dictate that our Army must train to fight and win outnumbered. This is a fact to be overcome, not celebrated.

On the other hand, the author's demonstration that smaller forces can fight and win outnumbered is important. The number of troops, armored vehicles, aircraft, artillery and so on that are employed in battle is only one of many factors (as Clausewitz wrote and Dupuy demonstrated) that determine not only victory, but the scope of victory. Given that our Army will be smaller than in years past, we must work to ensure that the other factors that determine the strength of an army work to our advantage.

The Army must have superior equipment, training and morale, and its leaders must employ it in mass with the proper tactics and in terrain that allows it to fight effectively. Our civilian leaders must give the Army clear, militarily attainable objectives, ensure that it fights alongside allies and that it does not fight more wars than it can handle.

With only 10 divisions, our Army cannot afford many mistakes once committed to war. As the author recognizes, "there is much more analysis to be done."


This letter did not make it into ARMY Magazine but did get an airing in the September 1998 online "More Letters" segment (the link is now dead) of the magazine (http://www.ausa.org/armyzine/moreletters98sept.html). I strongly disagreed with the author's proposal and could see no good coming of it. The many problems apparent from first glance made it shocking that the author would propose it (especially since I have seen other work by him that is perfectly reasonable and with which I agree). As a new author, that is an important lesson alone. Anyway, with all due respect to the author of the original article, I could not restrain myself in my response (but make no apologies for that!):

CONSTABULARY WOULD CREATE PROBLEMS

A constabulary force within the U.S. Army as proposed by Col. Don M. Snider, USA Ret. ("Let the Debate Begin: The Case for a Constabulary Force," "Front & Center," June), is the wrong way to respond to the impact of operations other than war on the combat readiness of the Army. An Army Constabulary Force (ACF) would not solve the Army's dilemma; instead, it would create problems worse than those the Army copes with today.

It is presumptuous to assert, as Col. Snider did, that defending the Army's purpose of fighting and winning the nation's wars simply repeats "a tired slogan irrelevant to the completed debate and counterproductive to the Army's needs." I do not believe Col. Snider acknowledges that the debate has been resolved in favor of operations other than war. In his support of the ACF concept, he claimed the ACF will allow the Army to refocus "on the high end of the spectrum [of conflict] where it belongs [and] limit the pernicious impact of [operations other than war] on the Army's major role as America's landpower for the 21st century." If the focus belongs at the high end (as I believe it does) and real-world operations emphasize the lower end to the detriment of the Army's combat mission, clearly a debate is needed over these conflicting strains on the Army. I am pleased that two readers took up the challenge ("Constabulary Force: Home Remedy?" by Col. David A. Fastabend and "Raising More Issues than It Solves" by Lt. Col. Pedro L. Arbona, USA Ret., "Front & Center," August), but I am not entirely satisfied with their conclusions.

The concept of the ACF fails when assessed by the type of force it would be and the effect it would have on American involvement in operations other than war. The author proposes to create the ACF -- equivalent to three military police brigades (15,000 personnel) -- with a mission of maintaining the peace. It would be kept in high readiness, trained in minimum use of force and committed to seeking "viable international relations rather than victory because it has incorporated a protective military posture." Instead of tapping the Army's recruiting pool, the ACF would supposedly appeal to young people opposed to enlisting in the military but interested in promoting peace in exchange for a college education.

I have serious doubts about such a force's ability to coerce or maintain peace and the appeal of service in the ACF to the "tie-dye and granola" crowd. If that is the recruiting base, how will the Army bring about the high level of readiness and capability to instill fear that will keep potential belligerents at peace? These volunteers will be worthless unless they are willing to accept discipline, carry a weapon, learn to kill and control unruly crowds. If willing to do so, they will not be part of the cohort of young people supposedly willing to work for peace in exchange for a college education. An additional issue that Lt. Col. Arbona raised is the fairness (or effectiveness for that matter) of foisting such enlisted personnel on those staff sergeants and above who have devoted their lives to an Army career. They deserve better than that sort of career speed bump.

If the constabulary force simply takes away 15,000 slots from an Army already too small to fully man its current structure, why would the Army want to give up 15,000 real soldiers? If the ACF is to be composed of new personnel, why not create three new MP brigades if Congress is willing to expand the Army by 15,000? Assuming the Army recruits, arms and deploys volunteers committed to minimum force in pursuit of peace, these constabulary troops will become hostages to warriors with no scruples against slaughtering civilians, let alone sheep in wolves' clothing. In addition to the combat support and combat service support units necessary to deploy with the ACF, as Lt. Col. Arbona noted, Regular Army forces will need to be close at hand at all times to intervene and protect the pseudo-military constabulary force.

As for relieving the burden of operations other than war on the Regular Army's combat forces, the ACF is a false solution. Col. Snider made several arguments that are clearly incorrect concerning the positive effects such a force would have on policies regarding operations other than war. He stated that the existence of the ACF as distinct from the Army would, "if political agreement could be reached between the executive branch and Congress," set the upper limit of involvement in operations other than war by having only a limited pool of constabulary troops that all would agree are the only forces suitable for operations other than war. If further missions arose, the author reasoned, the nation would debate the need to end an existing mission in order to take on a new mission. Why? If this political agreement limiting American commitment to operations other than war cannot be reached now, what would the existence of the ACF do to create it? If agreement can be reached, the Army would not need the ACF to limit the strain on its combat forces.

Col. Snider further claimed that mission creep will be averted if the United States sends in the ACF because everyone would accept that the ACF only carries out milder forms of operations other than war. I doubt that civilian leadership will fathom the differences between two organizations with identical uniforms but different orientations if it does not understand current capabilities. Did not our forces in Somalia attempt a more demanding mission even after civilian leadership denied a request for a handful of heavy armor? Where was the policy debate between famine relief and 18 dead soldiers in Mogadishu? Absent political consensus, the ACF would not in itself limit mission creep. Instead of placing a brake on escalation, the ACF would simply be at greater risk of failing when ordered to escalate.

As Col. Fastabend explained, the ACF would simply compete with the Army for scarce resources. The Marine Corps' influential lobbyists are bad enough, without creating another drain on the Regular Army. If policymakers want to participate in several operations other than war requiring 20,000 troops and the Army says it cannot because its 15,000 constabularies are already committed to ongoing operations, Congress will create 5,000 more ACF personnel. Anyone who does not believe that these 5,000 will come out of the hide of the Regular Army is badly deluded. To keep these slots, the Army will have to bite the bullet and send in the regulars -- just as it does now -- or see the regular force shrink in favor of a "more relevant" constabulary force.

Although Col. Fastabend and Lt. Col. Arbona rightly reject the concept of an ACF, they effectively argue for diverting the few combat units the Army has to the plethora of missions that operations other than war represent. While these are missions the Army must master, the world is not so benign and the Army not so dominant that the Service can slash its heavy forces to carry out every operation that compassion can conceive. Unfortunately, all three authors, coming from different perspectives, would reduce the Army's deployable combat forces by design or effect.

The United States does not need a Peace Corps in battle dress uniforms. The proposed constabulary will not only fail to alleviate the high operational tempo U.S. forces are committed to in operations other than war, it will threaten the Regular Army by creating another force that will compete with the Army for people and resources. The ACF will look like soldiers, but they will not be soldiers. Ultimately, they will be called upon to fight as if they were soldiers. If they are recruited and trained on the basis of their nonviolent mission, the shock of combat will be all the greater.

Our enemies will not care that these are peaceful kids, only that they are wearing American uniforms. We may get lucky and never have to face the body bags coming home, but why risk the pitfalls of the Army Constabulary Force when its benefits are illusory? Raising three new brigades of military police would be a better solution than the ACF. Indeed, the status quo would be better than the ACF "solution." In any case, the debate over the Army's future is hardly settled.

For what it is worth, I advocate an Army focused on fighting and winning our nation's wars -- tired slogan though it may be.

Brian J. Dunn
Ann Arbor, Mich.


Well, I thought I wouldn't write many letters to the editor, what with a blog and all, but getting in print just once still tops all the hits on my web site thus far. In this letter in the July 2003 Army magazine, I actually commented on a May 2003 letter about an earlier letter regarding the strains on the reserve components of the Army. The author of the letter I responded to completely dismissed the issue of repeated reserve call-ups as frivolous. Not only did I find this ridiculous but if that attitude prevents us from addressing the problem, soon the only reservists we'd have are those serving a couple mandatory years after their active duty is over. I wrote:

Col. Baumgarten, in his letter (May), ignores the main point of examining the proper role of the reserve components. Obviously, when a reservist is called up, his duty is to salute and show up. I donít believe anybody is arguing that even multiple call-ups relieve an individual soldier of the duty and obligation to put on the uniform and deploy; but to dismiss this issue as frivolous is hardly intellectual grumbling.

For citizen-soldiers who have civilian careers (remember, they chose reserve duty and not active duty), failure to address the issue of repeated call-ups is to refuse to face a real problem, for even though these soldiers will continue to show up, when it comes time to sign on the dotted line for another term of service, frequent deployment will absolutely be a factor in their decision.

I signed up for the Army National Guard in 1987 because I felt that my place was with the Army if the Soviets decided that they were going to roll through the Fulda Gap. In that era, calling up the reserves was a big deal. Short of a major conventional war, I didnít expect to be called up for anything other than a bad snow storm. I donít think I would have joined if I thought that I would likely be called away from my chosen civilian life to serve in a peacekeeping mission or occupation duty every few years because the active component was too small to do the job.

Reservists should not be cheap day laborers called up for the dirty jobs and then sent home to rest up (at low pay) for the next peacekeeping rotation. They get the worst of both worlds: interruptions of their civilian career and the poorer compensation and military opportunities of the military reserves. If reservists are going to be sent off at the same pace as full time soldiers (who get full time pay and benefits), why will reservists continue to sign on the dotted line?

In my view, many of the current mobilizations are a reminder of why units properly in the reserves during the Cold War should now be in the active component. The War on Terror is a different environment and an Army active/reserve balance designed for the Cold War has not been updated for the post-Cold War world, let alone the age of terrorism. The active Army needs to be larger with more of what are currently reserve functions on active duty. Iím not sure what is so unclear about that. That was the point I believe Maj. Faith made in his letter.

BRIAN J. DUNN
Ann Arbor,
Mich.