Thursday, October 25, 2012

Bayonets and Submarines

The debate earlier this week contained this exchange:
ROMNEY: Our Navy is old -- excuse me, our Navy is smaller now than at any time since 1917. The Navy said they needed 313 ships to carry out their mission. We're now at under 285. We're headed down to the low 200s if we go through a sequestration. That's unacceptable to me...
OBAMA: But I think Governor Romney maybe hasn't spent enough time looking at how our military works. You mentioned the Navy, for example, and that we have fewer ships than we did in 1916. Well, Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets, because the nature of our military's changed. We have these things called aircraft carriers, where planes land on them. We have these ships that go underwater, nuclear submarines.

It has since come out in numerous news sources that we actually have more bayonets than in 1916, that they were used in Iraq and Afghanistan, that we used horses actively in Afghanistan, and that we had submarines in 1916 (As did the Germans in sinking some of our ships leading up to our entry into WWI).

The most common response I've seen to this is that it's pedantic and misses the forest for the trees.  I disagree.  It would be pedantic to point out that Romney said 1917 (because by 1917 we had built more ships for WWI) and Obama would have been technically accurate about bayonets if he had also said 1917 (we drastically increased the size of the Army, and thus the number of bayonets, after entry into the war).

The problem with Obama's statement isn't the minor facts, it's that he's using the minor facts to show that his knowledge of modern combat is far superior to either Romney or the Defense Review Board that asked for more ships, thus the dismissive introduction about spending time looking at how the military works.  If Obama had spent the time he claims Romney needs to spend on "looking at how our military works" he would know that every one of our Marines still carries a bayonet, is trained to use them, and have used them in recent conflicts.  Worse his ignorance is practiced.  This isn't a line he came up with on the fly, he had prepared this response knowing that the question would be asked.  He could have justified his decision to hold the number of ships down by some example of how he believes we can adequately project power with the 285 ships we have, but he didn't.  He made a premeditated decision to instead portray Romney as a backwards ignoramus who is stuck in the days when we used bayonets and horses, not understanding that we still use bayonets and horses.

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