December 10, 2008

CNN's MRAP Story Feasts on Ignorance in Effort to Demonize Marine Corps

Once again, CNN puts its ignorance and dislike of the military center stage:

The U.S. Marine Corps knew of the threat posed by roadside bombs before the start of the Iraq war, yet did nothing to buy protective vehicles for troops, according to a report to be released by the Pentagon.

Additionally, Marine leaders in 2005 decided to buy up-armored, or reinforced, Humvees instead of Mine Resistant Ambush-Protected vehicles to shield troops in Iraq from mines and other explosives -- a decision that could have cost lives, according to the report obtained Tuesday by CNN.

The report by the Department of Defense inspector general was requested by the Marine Corps in early 2008 after a civilian employee with the service complained that bureaucratic delays undermined the program to develop the armored vehicles.

Inspectors found that the decision not to buy MRAP vehicles in 2005 stopped the Marine Corps Combat Development Command, the agency in charge of finding the best protective vehicle from troops in Iraq, from "developing a course of action ... to attempt to obtain funding for [MRAPs]," according to the report.

The report found that the Department of Defense knew before the war started in 2003 of the threats of mines and roadside bombs in Iraq but did nothing to acquire "MRAP-type" vehicles ahead of the invasion.

What the author of this CNN article fails to explain is that you can have either mobility, or you can have armor; you can't have both.

A vehicle that can withstand IEDs built from artillery shells is going to be too heavy (14 tons in some variations) to leave the main roads or even cross many of the world's bridges. The has two significant and lasting effects. It cedes the majority of territory to the insurgents, and also creates targeting funnels where ambushes can be concentrated, increasing the likelihood of Marines being hit by IEDs.

When insurgents know that they face a vehicle with limited mobility, they can then concentrate on building bigger or more effective types of IEDs to defeat that specific vehicle, while simultaneously using the majority or their forces to dominate the surrounding towns and villages.

Historically, the Marines have always chosen mobility over armor, using speed, tenacity, and tactics to overwhelm opposing forces with weapons systems lighter armed and armored than that of their more heavily armed and armored Army counterparts.

It is true that some Marines who died in HMMWVs because of IED strikes may very well have survived strikes by similar weapons on MRAPs, but at what cost?

Would they have had the mobility to strike al Qaeda and insurgent supply lines running though remote areas of the country, or find weapons caches located on farms and in fields far away from the hardened roads that MRAPs require?

Could Marines have penetrated communities and established relations with friendly Iraqis to develop a counterinsurgency program while hiding inside these metal beasts? The answer to these questions is a resounding "no."

MRAPs are great vehicles for their intended purpose of protecting their occupants against IEDS, but their mobility is horrific, and cedes the majority of the battlefield to the enemy, leaving the enemy to pick the time and place of engagement with American forces.

In short, an early deployment of MRAPs into the Iraqi theater of operations may have saved some lives in the short run, but it would have crippled the Marines ability to take the fight to the enemy and put the insurgency on the defensive.

MRAPS and similar vehicles have a time and a place, as does every weapons system, but they are not nearly mobile enough to be as useful in an offensive war against a lightly armed and mobile enemy as are the lighter and less armored HMMWV.

Of course, you don't have to take my word for it. Even Army soldiers used to more heavily armored equipment find the MRAPtoo heavy and slow:

And so we rolled out of FOB Falcon in those giant MRAPs. It seems that most of the seriously experienced combat soldiers do not like MRAPs. Yes, MRAPs are great for the main roads and convoys, but they are too big and too cumbersome, and they get stuck in mud that you could peddle a bicycle through. MRAPs are not offensive vehicles. There is no doubt MRAPs can save lives – they’re like giant vaults on wheels, though I did see the wreckage of one in Afghanistan that had been nearly obliterated. When we’re on the main roads, I love MRAPs, but we will never win wars or major battles with those things, or by staying on main roads. MRAPs need good roads. Good roads are bomb magnets. In Afghanistan, many of the Taliban scoot around on motorcycles, and there is no doubt that mobility is a weapon. We should melt most of the MRAPs down and forge that metal into killing machines like Strykers. The combat vets from 10th Mountain that day were also not fans of MRAPs. And though it’s easy to find MRAP-lovers, the hardcore fighters seem to want more mobility than steel.

Marines encumbered by MRAPs cannot take the battle to the enemy, and Marines that can't take the battle to the enemy will not win wars.

CNN's article is a poorly-researched hit piece designed to attack the credibility and judgement of the Marine Corps.

Perhaps before questioning the judgment of others, they should start by looking at their motivations and biases first.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at December 10, 2008 12:30 PM

You can't argue with physics. I learned these elementary facts in high school. Even if you didn't learn them, it's intuitive to figure out that a panther can move more quickly than an elephant and get into tight places the elephant can't get into.

I am appalled by how ignorant journalists are. Instead of inquiring into the Marine Corps' reasoning about these vehicles, they just wanted to take a cheap shot.

Posted by: miriam at December 10, 2008 02:24 PM

"A civilian whistle-blower working with the Marine Corps on the MRAP program wrote a scathing report about delays in the procurement process in early 2008."

Hmmm... how exactly does one get to be a "whistle-blower?" What's the 401K plan like? Since they're not clear on this, can I guess that it's just a schmuck that works for the manufacturer and is passed that the USMC simply didn't buy his friggin' product?

Posted by: tsmonk at December 10, 2008 03:57 PM

It doesn't surprise me at all that journalists don't know what they're talking about. That's normal. What is aggrevating though, is the necessity for long and complicated explanations they generate. Of course, these explanations are to people who are only marginally interested in listening to them and have no background on which to base an even small understanding on. The stupidity just goes on and on.

Posted by: Tonto at December 10, 2008 05:18 PM

Marines and soldiers = reel stupid.

Journalists = reel smirt.

There, I think that covers the basics. Too bad we can't all be as intelligent and well educated as your typical J-school grad, but somebody's got to do the work these parasites feed off of.

Posted by: Steve Skubinna at December 10, 2008 07:16 PM

My position is "Don't DIS the Marines". Also, if the Marines need funding to have the best armored equipment, GET THE FUNDING TO THEM!!! Then let commanders decide what is the best in each given situation.

I am 100% thankful for those who serve in our armed forces, and I want them to have the best of the best in each given situation to achieve goals and protect and defend their lives.

The ins and outs of this sitch, I don't completely understand. But I support what it takes to keep our troops safe and achieve their objectives and want funding for it. That's REALLY the reason why we pay federal taxes: for our troops to be kept safe, etc., and to have the best of equipment, etc. Give it to them!! (And don't dis them... whoever would criticize our troops.)


Posted by: l at December 10, 2008 09:25 PM

I know from my days as a grunt that I would trade speed over flac jackets everytime and none of us wore the damn things.

Posted by: tjbbpgob at December 11, 2008 01:22 AM

I remember Wolf Blitzer interviewing a Marine approximately two years ago. It was just after the incident where an AAAVP7 was hit by a huge IED. Blew it clear off the ground and it landed upside down. This is a fully armored vehicle almost thirty feet long that weighs 22 tons. Wolf's first question to the Marine information officer was, "Would these Marine's be alive today if they had been in an uparmored HUMVEE?"

Posted by: Have Blue at December 11, 2008 03:53 AM

"The U.S. Marine Corps knew of the threat posed by roadside bombs before the start of the Iraq war..."

Not to be nit-picky, but we've known about the threat and dangers of road-side bombs since the advent of gunpowder! As CY noted, its a trade off between mobility and armor.

The real reason journalists create the demand for up-armored HMMWVs is a direct coorelation to the risk adverse society modern humans have become. In today's society, no one can be injured, no one can die and if someone does, someone else must take the blame. It is utter bull!

Quite frankly, we can make our soldier's completely impervious to all attacks, the problem is, they wouldn't be able to move more than a few yards a day because of the weight and mobility limitations.

I agree the loss of life is tragic, but it is war, and I expect that people will get hurt and die, we just need to stop trying to find someone to blame for it. Accept the risk or don't do it, but quit trying to make the world into a risk free society, it's a losing battle.

Posted by: David M at December 11, 2008 10:03 AM

OK... reality Check... Most of the guys I've talked to here would rather be in HMMWVs (1114 or 1151 variants) than the MRAP. Granted, the MRAP is impressive as far as being able to take a hit, buh the fact remains that most MRAPs, (what I call the "Uparmorded PT Cruiser") only carrys 4 to 6 people... in and when the 'shytte' hits, these things don't have a hell of a lot of manpower.... granted, they keep the guys alive, but what good is it if they get on site, and they only have 4 guys (besides crew) to deal with businesss? Thats my question...

Posted by: Big Country at December 11, 2008 05:58 PM

The mainstream media should stop sitting around getting drunk and trying to solve the world's problems and just report the f'n news.

Posted by: DoorHold at December 14, 2008 12:27 PM

From what son's told me, they often used a mix of the vehicles on patrols. Except for the times, mainly in winter, when the roads were soft and couldn't support the weight of the MRAPs. And when they were going to areas where the roads were too narrow or in terrain that was too tight for them. Then they used the Humvees.

The MRAPs are armored out the wazoo; from what he told me of two vehicles that hit mines, the vehicle took serious damage but nobody was injured. But, as you said, big, heavy and not too maneuverable.

Posted by: Firehand at December 14, 2008 08:12 PM