Krugman and the troops

Matthew Hoy
By Matthew Hoy on August 12, 2003

I wasn't in the mood late last night to deal with Krugman's latest screed. When I read the article, the first thing that came to mind was: "Troops are complaining -- this is news?" I remember reading some of Stephen Ambrose's books and recalling that troops were complaining then.

Krugman attempts to play the complaint that not enough is being spent on defense (concerns about that budget deficit have miraculously disappeared -- for the moment).

A couple of individuals have done an excellent job picking apart Krugman's latest bit of tripe.

Phil Carter, a former military officer, over at Intel Dump does an excellent job and highlights this little bit of wisdom:

1. Krugman starts his column with a description of American woe in Iraq -- based on the griping of a soldier about food.

A few days ago I talked to a soldier just back from Iraq. He'd been in a relatively calm area; his main complaint was about food. Four months after the fall of Baghdad, his unit was still eating the dreaded M.R.E.'s: meals ready to eat. When Italian troops moved into the area, their food was "way more realistic" — and American troops were soon trading whatever they could for some of that Italian food.

This should bring a smile to any veteran's face, because it's a time-honored tradition in the Army to gripe about food. In fact, they taught us as new lieutenants that your soldiers probably had a real problem if they weren't griping about their food, and that such gripes about Army chow were a sign of good morale. Frankly, I'm not a fan of eating MREs for 4 weeks straight, let alone 4 months. But I'm not too concerned when I see this gripe in the news... in the pantheon of Army b*tching, it's pretty low.

Robert Musil points out that Krugman selects quotes out of context with the larger point of the source material.

As usual with Herr Doktorprofessor's more striking complaints, there's not much provided to back them up - and the sources that are cited in context don't say what the quotes he chooses from them at first seem to say. He quotes the Newhouse News Service as reporting: U.S. troops in Iraq suffered through months of unnecessarily poor living conditions because some civilian contractors hired by the Army for logistics support failed to show up. But he omits the Newhouse article's qualification: conditions have improved. Worse, although Herr Doktorprofessor serves up this article to support his contention that it is Bush Administration officials who intervened to "privatize" something that the Army wanted to keep for itself, the article seems to say that it was the Army, not Bush Administration officials, who misjudged the logistics: "We thought we could depend on industry to perform these kinds of functions," Lt. Gen. Charles S. Mahan, the Army's logistics chief, said in an interview. No evidence is provided to support Herr Doktorprofessor's insinuation that the relevant Army policies of the Bush Administration differ from those of the Clinton Administration. But, even if the Bush Administration has moved further into privatization, there is no evidence adduced that the SNAFU's are anything more than new systems being worked out. Herr Doktorprofessor's argument seems to be: There were some problems, therefore the military should do everything for itself. Without evidence that privatization is being persued for extra-military purposes, he is simply absurd.

There's more at both places -- check 'em out.


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August 2003



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