Dems Clueless about Combat
Warfare has progressed geometrically since I was a young sergeant on the ground in Vietnam. The huge advances in computers and electronics have given our American forces capabilities never before possessed in any of our previous wars. Among the most widely known of these is drone warfare, wherein an unmanned, armed, aerial vehicle enters enemy airspace, guided by an office-based pilot somewhere many thousands of miles from the actual conflict, and launches lethal missiles against detected targets.
To this old infantryman's way of thinking, that is a great concept. The idea of being able to win wars from the air goes back to WWI; the concept was used to great effect in WWII, when strategic bombings in Germany and Japan greatly degraded the fighting ability of both those countries and undoubtedly saved tens of thousands of American servicemen's lives. I can't begin to express my gratitude to those Air Force and Naval aviators who flew over my ground positions and delivered lethal ordinance on my enemies in the hills, mountains, and rice paddies of South Vietnam. But for them, I might not be writing this.
So keep all that in mind when evaluating my take on this new Defense Department medal for those who pilot the drones. We are going to create a new class of combat award for a group of technicians who, through the incredibly complex inter-connections between their U.S.-based control centers in the docile deserts of Nevada or some other undisclosed remote location and the combat zone, are able to provide close air support for our ground troops or air strikes deep within enemy territory.
Let's picture this:
Somewhere in Afghanistan, a small team of American soldiers, commanded by an Army captain, occupies a forward outpost. They are so far into hostile country that they must and can only be supplied by helicopter. That means then that they get only the minimum necessities. They have no running water source, so they are persistently and continually hungry -- and hygienically ripe, indeed.
At 2:00 am on a cold morning, they get hit by a large enemy force that has every intention of overrunning them and killing them to the very last man.
They inform their headquarters of the attack, and within minutes, that headquarters is busy directing an armed drone to assist in their defense. On the other side of the world, some Air Force captain, who slept comfortably at home last night with his spouse in military quarters somewhere in the Nevada desert, and who had a full, hot breakfast this morning, sips his coffee and views the information coming in through his computer. With a few strokes on his keyboard, he is able to redirect the mission of an armed drone hovering somewhere over Afghanistan to the beleaguered outpost, which by that time has endured many casualties and is in very real danger of being overrun.
Through damage inflicted on the assaulting enemy forces by both the Hellfire missiles fired from the drone at the command of that comfortably ensconced Air Force captain somewhere in Nevada and the perimeter defense directed and coordinated by the Army captain in command on the ground, the attack is beaten back, with but a few American troops killed and several more wounded.
As all the after-action reports are filed and this minor event gets logged into that bottomless swamp of history of American military combat, there will be those singled out for their performance under fire and recommended for awards for valor. Seldom in the history of the United States Army or the United States Marine Corps has there been such a ground fight when some brave soldier or Marine did not distinguish himself with exceptional valor. They, justifiably, should have that valor recognized by a grateful nation in the form of a medal.
But what about that Air Force captain back there in Nevada -- the one who entered the proper sequence on his keyboard to launch those Hellfire missiles that did, in fact, help break the back of the Taliban assault? Did he contribute to the victory? Without question, he did. Were his actions valorous in the way we understand that term -- that is, reflecting courage in the face of a lethal threat? Of course they were not. Does he then deserve an award for service and valor in the face of the enemy equivalent to that bestowed upon those who faced that enemy on the ground under extreme duress and hardship?
That's pretty simple to answer for anyone with a lick of common sense. Apparently however, our uninformed, never-uniformed commander-in-chief and his equally uninformed and never-uniformed secretary of defense do not possess that lick. In their eyes, the comfortable, coffee-drinking young officer lounging in front of his computer console in Nevada -- what airborne troops would call chairborne -- is entitled to an award for valor equivalent or superior to the one waiting for those guys who fought it out on the ground.
Should there be an award for drone pilots? Sure, but it should be to recognize their technical proficiency, not their valor (with one exception: if that drone pilot is operating within some sort of mobile command post in a forward operating area and his post comes under fire in the course of battle, then a "V" device could be awarded in recognition of that reality, as we now do with the Bronze Star).
Doesn't this fiasco say it all about how clueless liberal Democrats are about the realities of combat?