Thomas Ricks; Is readiness overrated?

| November 21, 2013

People keep telling me how smart Tom Ricks is, and I keep looking for something that proves it. He called Kayla Williams’ book one of the best books about the recent wars, he called for a draft saying the all-volunteer force is a thing of the past, he criticized Fox News for keeping a spotlight on Beghazi, while he was on Fox, actually.

Now he says that we really don’t need too much to be ready for the next war because readiness is overrated;

Do we really need a military primed to go to war? I don’t think so. Rather, what we need to do is preserve essential skills and personnel. That might mean going to a cadre-like military, with only two Army divisions kept at high readiness, likely one light infantry and one armored, and the other eight active-duty divisions shrunk down but preserving their skills. That is, with fewer soldiers, but with good training for that smaller force. That might mean squads entirely of NCOs, trained to expand if and when necessary.

Of course, let’s say we’re attacked by competent warriors (not al Qaeda) and we need large numbers of troops to respond. I guess this goes to his whole draft thing. Where we can call up civilians and send them untrained into combat, like we did in Korea. But those troops had the benefit of training on the ship as they went to Korea. Not much time or space to qualify with a rifle on a C-17.

Of course, as I’ve pointed out before, Ricks has no military experience. He’s two days younger than me, and he likes to talk about all of the stuff he’s written about war, and all of the war he’s seen, but he and I were both born after Task Force Smith, but it’s lessons are stronger in my mind than his obviously. I’m pretty sure he sees troops as numbers, like we did in the early half of the last century, not as technicians who must be proficient at their profession – that requires training and all goes to readiness.

Somehow, he’s still thinking in early 20th century terms as far as naval power goes, too;

And keep in mind the cautionary example of the Royal Navy in World War II: It was the world’s biggest and most powerful navy, but because of bad choices made by its leaders, was largely irrelevant to much of the war.

Yeah, well, when was the last time the Navy played an important role in warfare like they did in World War II? Not that they’re not good floating fire support bases, but, other than in the Falklands, not too many ships have engaged in actual naval warfare since World War II. So why is Ricks talking about the Navy when his main example of readiness was hollowed out infantry divisions? Maybe he should talk about the troops training with boards as rifles and cardboard signs reading “Tank” hung on a JEEP – now that’s readiness training that Ricks can get on board with.

Category: Dumbass Bullshit

Comments (22)

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  1. Instinct says:

    Well, that kind of military combined with all the ‘smart diplomacy’ ™ that’s been going on. What could go wrong?

  2. xbradtc says:

    Absent the RN, there’s a good chance much of the US Army would have been largely irrelevant in World War II.

    Just goes to show Ricks is a legend in his own mind.

  3. Hondo says:

    Tell Ricks to ask anyone who lived through Korea with the 24th ID in Jun/Jul 1950 if they think readiness and training is “overrated”. Somehow, I don’t think he’ll like their answer. We very nearly got thrown completely off the Korean peninsula because we simply didn’t have enough trained forces available to prevent it. Had the North Koreans had one or two more divisions available or a better logistical support structure, IMO they’d probably have been able to do exactly that.

    I also want to know how you preserve collective skills – which, by definition, mean “skills possessed by the group vice an individual” – in a unit that is “cadre only”. Tell Ricks to ask any college football coach how things generally work out the during a year when they only have 3 or 4 returning starters. Those skills typically take weeks to months to develop at the small unit level – and can take a year or more to develop at the Brigade/Division level.

    Most of the time, Ricks is a fool. Unfortunately, he’s a fool with an electronic megaphone and backing.

  4. A Proud Infidel says:

    Ricks is little more than someone’s highly visible “useful idiot”!

  5. The Other Whitey says:

    The Royal Navy was pretty fucking relevant when their destroyers pulled my Grandpa and other survivors of his torpedoed Liberty ship out of the Med in 1943. And hunting U-boats in 3 oceans. And shutting down the German surface fleet. And pulling off the Dunkirk evac. And kicking the shit out of the Italians. And tying up the Japanese navy in Indonesian waters so they couldn’t affect the CBI theater. And making the landings on Borneo in ’45. And has this guy ever heard of the Bismarck or the Graf Spee?

    Tell me the RN was irrelevant when the frigate HMS Glowworm defended her convoy singlehanded against a German battleship until she had no guns left and was taking on water, then rammed the motherfucker rather than give up in one of the most epic last stands in maritime history.

    I don’t claim to be an expert here, but his examples suck.

  6. Mike says:

    @5 Never heard of the HMS Glowworm. If the story is half as badass as you have described, I must know more.

  7. Sparks says:

    This guy is too big a dumbass to be sucking air! A cadre-military! Is he for real. The president and his administration is out to decimate the military as we know it already. God forbid we would actually have to send a large, well trained force anywhere in the world to fight. He’s another limousine liberal who never served and think they have the credentials to dictate what an effective military takes or should be. Why, because they write some books about the military. Unfortunately the president listens to and loves to hear this kind of chatter. The Joint Chiefs are too busy ass kissing or ass covering to stand up and take the offensive in keeping our nation’s military strong. Tom Clancy was a great military writer but he would never have presumed to know or show his ignorance by saying what kind of military strength or readiness is appropriate for our country. Clancy was a class act. Ricks is a wannabee.

  8. The Other Whitey says:

    I also recently posted on another thread here at TAH about what my other Grandpa (Dad’s stepdad) experienced in Korea when the Truman administration decided to try out Ricks’s “cadre” concept for the infantry. Suffice it to say, lots of Americans died needlessly in the name of budgetary constraints. He was lucky enough to come home with a souvenir rifle and lots of bad memories.

  9. teddy996 says:

    @5- it was a heavy cruiser that the Glowworm rammed. The Prinz Eugen, if I recall. Still badass, as 8″ guns kill DDs just as well as 15″ guns.

    @6- The captain of the German ship was the one who recommended the Glowworm’s skipper for a Victoria Cross. That’s how badass it move was.

  10. TankBoy says:

    The sad part is, if you substituted the name Ricks with the current SECDEF or POTUS, I would have no trouble believing they said it. This seems to be a recurring theme in the liberal circles lately.

  11. Elric says:

    Don’t worry, the train system in Europe is so slow that it will be impossible to mobilize everyone at once und vee shall have plenty of time to train the home guard. I’m assuming that he advocates a draft for our laander regiments.

  12. The Other Whitey says:

    @9 Just looked it up (been a while) and I stand corrected, it was a heavy cruiser. The Admiral Hipper, to be exact.

  13. Ricks was always vastly overrated as a military analyst. He’s got a good Rolodex of sources to the Pentagon, which makes him a rube for whoever wants to leak some inside baseball information to him.

    He’s also generally been willing to say all the things the beltway liberals want him to say. But he missed the important things in Iraq, all along the line. He published “Fiasco,” for example, just as we were clobbering the bastards.

  14. NHSparky says:

    Jonn–you nailed it with Task Force Smith. I wonder how much he’d be prattling on if he was one of the folks there in Korea in June of 1950.

    Or the Philippines in December of 1941.

    Or…you get the idea.

  15. B Woodman says:

    I was going to jump on the dog pile, but never mind. .

  16. MGySgtRet. says:

    Ricks wrote a good book many moons ago called “Making the Corps” about Marine Corps recruit training. That book made him an “expert” on the military. Try as I might, I have never read anything else that he has written and been impressed.

    He hated Bush and badmouthed the war in Iraq to no end. He has become such a fucking naysayer about the military that I wonder if he is not on the payroll of the Democratic National Committee.

    I do not trust anything that comes out of his mouth and most of the things that he says turn out to be wrong. This whole “cadre” idea is a case in point. Is he such a big shot and “military expert” that he does not have to read history any more to know what he is calling for has been tried and has failed??

    Go home Mr. Ricks, you are not invited to the party any more.

  17. USMCE8Ret says:

    I’m with Master Gunns on this one. I haven’t read any Ricks’ works, but I’ve seen and heard him speak. Not impressed either way.

  18. Cedo Alteram says:

    Ricks is a good researcher and writer(though I don’t agree with all his conclusions), his problem, like so many journalists, is he lacks critical thinking skills. Just because you tagged along with Soldiers/Generals/whoever and observed them, isn’t the same thing as being in their position. Understanding the tools in a given subject’s tool kit is one thing, applying them in a given circumstance is another. I understand Football, doesn’t mean I can personally play in the NFL.

  19. Cedo Alteram says:

    Oh yeah Cadre military concept still stupid, see above.

    As for the USA being reduced to two Divisions, they’re talking possibly 8 in the future! We didn’t have the manpower available for Iraq/Afghanistan forcing to expand the Army by 30,000. As things stand today the USA/USMC together can comfortably field 3-5 Divisions, that’s half the force we had in Korea and Vietnam, that’s what landed on Okinawa, one fucking corps to police the planet!

  20. Veritas Omnia Vincit says:

    There is one reality here though, as long as most of the US remains disconnected from service members they have no frame of reference and no real experience to draw upon regarding budgetary issues versus practical necessity in defense of the nation.

    That will continue to make the military a convenient target, I’m not saying a draft would fix that I’m just saying when 0.5% of a population is invested in something and 99.5% is not there’s not a lot of historical precedent for the 99.5% to care much about what happens to the 0.5% even when that tiny minority is essential to the safety and welfare of the 99.5%.

    If history has taught us anything it’s that majorities are notoriously selfish and democracies are routinely unprepared for war…I expect to see a continued piling on by other talking heads about the “military” benefit when budgets to the military are cut and personnel are reduced. Those who dissent will be dismissed as war mongering cranks or chicken hawks…even if those dissenters have hundreds of years of history on their side.

  21. PintoNag says:

    @20 It sounds like we’re back to what Heinlein talked about in Starship Troopers again. Maybe it’s time to make military service a condition of citizenship.

  22. HS Sophomore says:

    He does seem to be a crappy strategic analyst, seeing as how his advice has been pretty much tried in Korea and how it failed utterly. As MgySgtRet said, though, Making the Corps was a very good book. It definitely does capture a lot of the essence of USMC boot camp, at least according to a USMC Sgt. Ret. I gave it to. I learned a lot from it. He’s got a pretty liberal ’90s view on the disconnect between the all-volunteer military and society that virtually nobody on this thread will not vehemently disagree with, but I recommend it anyway just for its description of USMC Parris Island. Maybe a case of a stopped clock but eh, I’d read it even so.