The Rhetoric v. Reality Game: Military Readiness

Here’s one of my favorite games for a snowy weekend: Rhetoric v. Reality! Simply compare things that Bush said while campaigning to the reality of his administration. Here’s an easy one from today’s news.

First, George Bush during the RNC, August 3, 2000:

“Our military is low on parts, pay and morale. If called on by the commander-in-chief today, two entire divisions of the Army would have to report, “Not ready for duty, sir.””

Second, Dick Cheney, August 27, 2000:

“Military readiness has reached its lowest level in modern times, and the Clinton-Gore administration has done very little to reverse that decline.”

Note that at the time, the U.S. Army disputed those claims:

The U.S. Army said Friday that Bush was wrong when he said in his speech Thursday night to the Republican National Convention that two of the Army’s 10 divisions were not ready to fight.

Bush had said: “If called on by the commander-in-chief today, two entire divisions of the Army would have to report …, ‘Not ready for duty, sir.'”

But Maj. Thomas Collins, an Army spokesman, told CNN: “All 10 Army divisions are combat-ready, fully able to meet their war-fighting mission.”

So much for the rhetoric. What about the reality? How well have Bush and Cheney done in improving military readiness? From today’s Washington Post, December 6, 2003:

Four Army divisions — 40 percent of the active-duty force — will not be fully combat-ready for up to six months next year, leaving the nation with relatively few ready troops in the event of a major conflict in North Korea or elsewhere, a senior Army official said yesterday.

Briefing reporters at the Pentagon, the official said the four returning divisions will be rated either C-3 or C-4, the Army’s two lowest readiness categories…

Excellent — a find like this should get me a lot of points in Rhetoric v. Reality!

If we were supposed to think that having 2 divisions unready to defend the US (even though they actually were ready) was bad back in 2000, then what are we supposed to think about having 4 divisions actually, certifiably unready to defend the US? Problably that it’s fine, that there’s nothing to worry about. Note that – in stark contrast to August of 2000 – the assertion about the readiness of the US military today comes not from a political partisan, but from the Army itself.

You can play Rhetoric v. Reality!, too. Just try matching up other specific examples of pre-election rhetoric with once-in-office reality. It’s wholesome fun(*) for the whole family! (**)


(*) note: the term ‘wholesome’ not meant to be taken literally — game not actually wholesome.

(**) note: game not suitable for children, people with heart conditions, or people susceptible to fits of rage in the face of breathtaking hypocrisy.