Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Flak, Literal and Figurative

It seems Senator Clinton is taking the Bush Administration to task for body armor that fails to protect certain parts of the wearer's body. Specifically, the (formerly) secret Pentagon report stated that 74 Marines who were killed in Iraq had been hit by bullets or shrapnel in the torso or shoulder.

In 2004, I wrote to Powerline and in this blog that I noticed in 1998 that Special Forces troops seemed to have more advanced body armor that protected less of the neck and shoulders. This was likely a tradeoff for more mobility or shifting the weight to plates that could actually stop a round (rather than just shrapnel or a ricochet).

Senator Clinton's complaints are wrong for a couple of reasons.

1. It fails to take into account the restriction on mobility that covering the shoulders would involve. Less mobile troops could lead to more casualties.

2. It is doubtful that you could create anything wearable that would protect the shoulders from a direct hit.

3. If they were shot in the torso or shoulders, was that the only place they were shot? Is it the case that but for a different flak vest, the Marines in question would have survived?

4. The old body armor did cover parts of the shoulders. They replaced the old body armor with the ceramic plate kind that was more likely to stop a direct round.

5. Now the enemy knows where to shoot.

I fear that this is another effort to get to the right of the Bush Administration on national security, while not offending the anti-war left.

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