Photo credit: @julesdwit.
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In "Echoes from a Distant Battlefield," Mark Bowden, Vanity Fair contributing editor, and author of Black Hawk Down and Worm: The First Digital World War, dissects the 2008 Battle of Wanat and the shifting blame for the high death toll.
What makes America's the "greatest military in the world"? I ask this question literally, not politically: What makes a great military? The amount of money spent? This skill of soldiers with specific kinds of weapons? The soldiers' discipline; i.e., ability to follow orders? Their physical strength? The strategic capacity of the leadership? This "greatest" phrase is used in the same way that saying the U.S. is the "greatest country in the world," a phrase also not defined: Is it the happiness level? The wealth level? The education level? The mortality rate? The health status?
It seems as though moderators and commentators among others use these phase a bit too casually, as a shorthand whose meaning is only defined by the listener.
I called in and the author clarified that there were 49 American troops and other Afghan troops or irregulars. I don't remember if he said how many Afghans there were. Did the casualty figures reflect only Americans or include Afghans? I suppose the answer is to read the book. Anyway, by any measure, it was a disaster.
So in order to address a looming public relations problem, the Army brass decided to sacrifice the careers of some junior officers' careers and leave the senior officers who made the command decisions untouched. Nice to know some traditions don't change (see Calley, Capt. William, My Lai). Good work to the captain that fought back, cleared his name and brought out the full truth. And thanks to your guest for telling the story.
The severity of the casualties relative to the size of the unit becomes clear when you measure 9 dead and 27 wounded against the 50 troops which is the usual strength of a platoon.
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