War Stories

Bullet Points

What the Fox network could teach the Pentagon, etc.

If the U.S. anti-terror campaign can employ quick strikes, then a column covering it can too:

  • According to news accounts of Operation Anaconda, after it was discovered that a Navy SEAL was missing from a helicopter that had been attacked when it landed, in-theater U.S. commanders quickly dispatched two helicopters back to the battle scene, where they were assaulted in a firefight that ended up costing six U.S. dead and 11 wounded. So, here’s a question for enterprising war reporters to look into: Why were the helicopters sent back to the landing zone without first softening it up with airstrikes or artillery barrages? (We do have precision weapons, so suppressing threats in an LZ doesn’t require vaporizing the folks we’re trying to rescue too.) Wasn’t the importance of avoiding a “hot” LZ a lesson learned in Vietnam?
  • Did you realize that last week’s celebrity boxing matches were on tape and that the results had been kept secret until air time? So, somehow Fox could keep a lid on the winner of Tonya vs. Paula, but the White House and the Pentagon couldn’t keep tip-top-secret nuclear war plans out of the newspapers. And, come to think of it, the results of the Oscar voting—this year’s was completed today—are never divulged ahead of time either. Hmmm … maybe the government should start recruiting its security types from Hollywood.
  • The Washington Post reports that in response to a shortage of Navy and Marine officers, the head of the Naval Academy has proposed enlarging his student body by 10 percent. But the real answer to any officer shortage isn’t to expand the service academies, it’s to expand the college-affiliated Reserve Officers Training Corps or the 90-day-wonder Officer Candidate Schools, which produce officers in far greater numbers and at far less cost—with no discernible difference in performance or length of service. And, by the way, none of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, the Pentagon’s top officer Gen. Richard Myers, or Enduring Freedom commander Gen. Tommy Franks is an academy graduate.
  • OK, we’ve all had a good laugh over the Office of Homeland Security’s first concrete effort—that dopey color-coded alert scheme. So, now it’s time to focus on the domestic security measures that should be adopted instead—like a passenger interview program, the linchpin of El Al’s storied flight security. El Al security agents intensely question every would-be passenger on such details as the purpose of travel and the nature of the interviewee’s occupation. Could it be that many of those now employed to watch airport X-ray screens would be utterly intellectually incapable of conducting such interviews (El Al mostly uses university students for this), and therefore that implementing this reform would mean wholesale firings of current security personnel? Is that a good reason not to get serious about airport counterterrorism?
  • If it was the height of political insensitivity for President Bush to refer to the 9/11 response as a “crusade,” then what sort of s-storm awaits if the U.S. Army wins final approval for and eventually deploys to the Muslim world its $11 billion field artillery system called the … Crusader?