Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Our Bull-session President

We all know the guy that thinks he's so clever when he interjects this kind of remark in an all-night student bull-session:
You mentioned the Navy, for example, and that we have fewer ships than we did in 1916. Well, Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets, because the nature of our military's changed. We have these things called aircraft carriers, where planes land on them. We have these ships that go underwater, nuclear submarines.
Only it's a little disconcerting to realize that the guy grew up to become president.  Now, of course, liberals and conservatives are busily fact-checking each other on whether in fact the US Armed Forces do indeed have less in the way of horses and bayonets than in 1916.  We may indeed have more bayonets than in 1916.

Anyway, I seem to remember seeing photo circa 2002 of a bearded special-forces guy in Afghanistan riding on a horse.  I found the photo oddly reassuring.  What I want in our armed forces is adaptability and resourcefulness.  If a horse is what you need in Afghanistan, then go do it.

I also once knew a guy who'd started in the US Army before World War II as a horse groom and ended up as a flight instructor on B-52s.  Only in America!  He once told a story about the difficulty of mid-air refueling a jet-powered B-52 when the tanker was a piston-powered C-97.  The C-97 would fly flat out and the B-52 would be on the edge of a stall. One time his B-52 stalled and fell 2,000 before it recovered.  (Note that as the B-52 takes on fuel its stall speed will go up.)

Enough of the war stories.  The problem with the president's remark, apart from its rudeness and snarkiness, is its lack of content.  What Americans want to know, Mr. President, is what kind of navy you think we need, and how you propose to pay for it.

I'd say that a great global trading nation needs a good blue-water navy to keep the pirates in port and the tin-horn dictators in their palaces.  What do you think, Mr. President?

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