Newsweek’s 20 Dec 2004 issue contains an article about the current shortage of armor for troops in Iraq. An exploration of why an armor shortage exists, the article says: Other Army officers complain that the nation does not have the industrial base any longer to produce equipment for a new kind of war.

That sort of statement really rubs me the wrong way.

In Wisconsin alone, there are thousands of recently unemployed workers that previously were employed in metal fabrication industries. When the work those folks previously did was moved abroad, the factories were shutdown and the workers laid off. Of course, none of the buildings have been torn down yet, and most of the workers still retain their skills. To restart those factories wouldn’t require much more than a government contract (to reassure investors) and someone willing to make money by restarting the factories, rehiring workers, and replacing any worn or missing equipment.

In Wisconsin, Michigan, and Ohio there must be hundreds of thousands of people who previously were employed in metal fabrication industries. In Cleveland alone there must be three or four steel foundaries sitting idle, just waiting for a reason to start functioning again.

And what sort of equipment do they think we need to fight this “new war” that the American industrial base cannot produce? Tanks? No, not really. Bombs? Boeing makes those by the truckload. Planes? Only wearing out, not really being shot down. Trucks? Oshkosh Truck Corporation makes those. Armor? Apparently not, since they seemingly gave up on ordering that.

Where does the Army get nearly 100% of its equipment already? The American industrial base. The same industrial base that the Army now says it cannot trust. Weapon systems are almost exclusively designed and produced under contract to the Armed Services by American companies. To turn around and proclaim that American companies cannot meet the needs of the Army sounds more than a bit specious.

Even more insulting is the implication that American “know how” went missing sometime in the last twenty years. When World War II was in full swing, did the Armed Forces sit back and say, “Damn! Those German tanks really kick ass! We better not even try to make tanks.”Of course not. Americans decided that if they couldn’t make tanks as individually powerful as German tanks, we would make tanks that would overwhelm the Germans by force of numbers. The American industrial base then produced those tanks at a rate that Germany could never, ever hope to match.

Did the country lose that drive, that desire, that creativity sometime in the last year or so? After all, the US is the country that invented the Internet, the PC, HDTV, stock options, and innumerable other modern marvels. Does the Army brass think we can no longer manage to put together some lousy armor plate? How insulting is that?

Comments like the one above make me wonder just how much the Army brass and the Adminstration are covering their asses and just how many people have died in Iraq (both American and Iraqi) to further that goal.