- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 17, 2007

Stryker successes

Overall, the article “U.S. Strykers take beating in Iraq” by Robert H. Reid and Anne Flaherty (World, June 6) presents a fairly balanced view of what some critics view as shortcomings of the Stryker Brigade Combat Team and the Stryker family of combat vehicles.

However, as I read through the article, several thoughts occurred to me. First, the Army did more than hope to create a faster, more agile armored unit than those equipped with tanks but with more firepower and protection than light-infantry units — it did exactly that. The Army’s Stryker Brigades are the fastest, most agile, most lethal and best-protected light infantry units in Iraq today.

Every Arrowhead Brigade soldier you interviewed loved his Stryker. As Spc. Christopher Hagen, a veteran of more urban combat than most of the article’s commentators, stated, “I love Strykers … you’re mobile, you’re fast. … They bring a lot of troops to the fight.” I’d be willing to bet any of my other combat-veteran Stryker soldiers would say the same.

In order to combat the insurgents’ tactics — deadly but mostly hit-and-run — we require an agile and lethal force, a force that has the ability to bring large numbers of infantrymen to the fight quickly. No other unit in our Army can put more boots on the ground faster than a Stryker Brigade. A company with 10 Infantry Carrier Strykers can put 120 dismounted infantry soldiers on the ground in less than an hour anywhere in Baghdad — using only 20 vehicle crewmen. It would take 40 armored Humvees and 80 vehicle crewmen to transport as many infantrymen. Additionally, Stryker soldiers are well protected en route to the target and rested and situationally aware when they arrive.

Loren Thompson is quoted as saying that when the Army conceived the Stryker it “was more concerned about mobility and agility than it was about protection.” In fact, the Army built superb protection into every Stryker. In two tours and 23 months of combat in some of the toughest places in Iraq (including Samarra, Mosul, Tal Afar, Najaf, Al Kut, Baghdad, Diwaniyah and Baqubah), we have had only a handful of penetrations of a Stryker from rocket-propelled grenades, though hundreds have been fired at and scores have struck our Strykers. The roadside bombs that sometimes damage or destroy our Strykers are large or sophisticated enough to defeat any vehicle — M1A2 tanks included.

The Stryker isn’t perfect, but it is clearly the best vehicle available for the kind of fight we are in right now. One of the few protection improvements we would suggest for the next generation of Strykers, or the Army’s future combat system, would be to add additional blast-resistant design features to the bottom and wheel wells — lessons that apply to all of our current combat vehicles.

We like to say that the most powerful thing about the Stryker concept is not the superb vehicle, but the well-trained and well-equipped nine-man rifle squad that comes out of the back when the ramp hits the street. The correct formation for urban fighting has been debated since World War II. U.S. Army doctrine states that the most effective force is a combined arms team that balances the lethality and mobility of an armor force with a high concentration of infantry to control the complex terrain — in other words, a Stryker Brigade

Finally, if you want to know about Stryker utility or effectiveness, why ask think-tank critics?

Ask any of my soldiers which type of unit and vehicle they want to fight with. Ask any commander in Iraq what type of formation he would like to have for this fight and I think the answer will overwhelmingly be Stryker.

Ask me what type of unit and vehicle I want to fight with in Iraq — Stryker.

As to the comment about added armor straining the engine — maybe so, but we have not seen any empirical data to support the claim. Our Strykers didn’t seem to strain too much when our brigade moved more than 250 miles from Mosul to Baghdad at 60 miles per hour.

COL. STEVE TOWNSEND

Infantry

Army

Commander, 3-2 SBCT

Baghdad

A total failure

It’s interesting that so many pundits consider the Hamas takeover of Gaza a “failure” on the part of everyone directly involved in the conflict (“Divorce, Palestinian style,” Commentary, Saturday). In a cosmic sense, failure must mean the putting off of a two-state solution to which everyone (except Hamas) gives lip service. But who really wants a two-state solution? The only genuine enthusiast seems to be the United States.

The Palestinians have shown no talent or inclination for governance; quite the opposite. Once Mahmoud Abbas gets his hands on international handouts again, he will be content to skim off the cream and sprinkle enough remaining droplets to keep the “street” quiet if not happy. Yasser Arafat, Mr. Abbas’s role model, got rich that way with no serious thought of a Palestinian state and the headache entailed therein. The Israelis surely do not need a terrorist entity on their border threatening the heartland, nor a redivided Jerusalem. Having the Palestinians sitting on the critical West Bank aquifers is not a happy thought, either. The notion that Israel is strong enough to prevent a newborn Palestinian state from becoming an armed camp is ludicrous insofar as Israel cannot even stop the arming of tiny Gaza or the firing of crude missiles from there. Imagine defending a border more than ten times the length of Gaza’s.

That leaves America. Its overriding interests are tamping down Iraq and keeping Middle Eastern oil flowing westward. Aside from the United States, none of the parties to the conflict is wedded to a two-state solution or very desirous of it. The splitting off of Gaza will provide yet another opportunity for the Palestinian Authority to demonstrate an incapacity for governance even with the benefit of having the Israel Defense Forces on hand to stifle the West Bank’s terrorists (generally inseparable from the PA itself).

So, what have we got here? Hamas would call conquering Gaza a success, the PA will shortly feel successful as new money starts flowing, Israel will be relieved though hardly feel secure, and only the United States will briefly wring its hands and slip the baton to the next administration. President Bush must be scratching his head: He was wrong to “neglect” the conflict, and he was wrong to be “too involved” in trying to determine the outcome. It’s a failureevery way you view it.

DAVID KROSS

Columbia

Treaty inaccuracies

The Op-Ed by John D. Negroponte and Gordon England “Reap the bounty,” (Wednesday) contained a number of inaccuracies.

They state that by assigning responsibility for maritime zones, the treaty would improve protections for the environment. It could do just the opposite. It requires, for example, that nations either harvest their entire allowable catch in certain areas or give the surplus to other nations. Such a use it or lose it policy is reminiscent of federal grazing policy, which until recently required ranchers to use their forage rights or lose them. Because ranchers lacked the flexibility to remove cattle for extended periods, overgrazing resulted.

Mr. Negroponte and Mr. England also suggest that ratification is needed to have legal certainty of such maritime rights as “innocent passage.” They’re wrong in two ways: Such rights already exist under the 1958 Convention on the Territorial Sea, and the treaty governs the behavior of signatories — currently numbering more than 150 nations — regardless of whether the United States accedes to the treaty.

Finally, they suggest the treaty would bolster U.S. national security. Instead, it would complicate some of these efforts by subjecting certain actions to judgment by an international tribunal.

The Law of the Sea treaty should be scuttled.

DAVID RIDENOUR

Vice president

The National Center for Public Policy Research

Washington