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Body Armor and Trade-Offs:

Phil Carter (a prominent military blogger -- and former law student of mine -- who's now back on active duty in Iraq) comments on the downside of heavy body armor in the UPDATE to this post; the post itself, by Noah Shachtman, is generally pro-armor. I know nothing about the subject myself, but it sounds like Phil and Noah do, so I thought I'd pass along the link.

Richard Aubrey (mail):
It seems odd that one side of this argument appears not to want to discuss trade-offs.
That's dishonest.
The discussion would be far more useful if the downside were acknowledged.
To not acknowledge it seems as if there is something more at stake than soldiers' lives.
1.17.2006 3:56pm
ajf (mail) (www):
i'm curious (in a detached academic way) about the economics of body armor. this time around, we're seeing enormous numbers of casualties that are "merely" traumatic amputees, who in an earlier war would be fatalities.

what makes better economic sense? supplying troops with body armor and paying the disability when they get maimed, or not supplying, and paying the death benefits when they're blown to bits?
1.17.2006 4:27pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
This is hardly the subject on which to get all clinical.

But the equation must include the further contributions of the folks once they get fixed up. Some return to active duty, one or two even in the combat arms, with their prostheses.

During WW I, the medical folks got a handle on sepsis, meaning many horribly wounded guys lived. However, they weren't much good at reconstructive and cosmetic surgery, resulting in switching huge numbers of guys who would have been dead in earlier wars to the hideously maimed, crippled, and disfigured to remind all and sundry what the Germans had done once.
The contribution of that issue to the Allied treatment of Germany and Japan, smashing them flat and ruling them until they got new cultures, has not been, as far as I know, discussed.
But I would think it easier to remember fondly the honored dead and lose some anger than to be reminded of it daily.

The French even built resort villages for guys too horribly disfigured to want to go out in public. Imagine motoring across France ca 1921 and deciding that the place over across this little vally looks like a good place to stop for lunch....

Grim subject, but unanswerable until some quantification of the further contributions of the wounded is agreed upon.
1.17.2006 4:41pm
Rich Egan (mail):
for some one the debate from a military prospective you may wish to check out
http://www.blackfive.net/main/2006/01/body_armor_deba.html
1.17.2006 4:46pm
Pete Freans (mail):
Since working for a law enforcement agency, I have learned that- at least with our officers (many who are former military)- less body armor (both military and domestic use) is more a matter of comfort and personal choice rather than economics (as Sen. Kennedy recently attempted to exploit). Technologically speaking, the hope is that body armor becomes more protective yet lighter and more responsive to the full range of movement necessary for combat.
1.17.2006 6:50pm
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
I saw something on this last weekend on C-Span. What the military commanders involved kept plugging away at is that they have a lot more armor available, but that in most cases, it is not used as it cuts down in mobility and increases overheating in 100 plus degree heat. For example, they have armor that easily straps on to protect the shoulders and upper arms. They kept emphasizing the tradeoffs made by the commanders in the field, requiring that this level of armor be used for this type of mission, and this much more for that type of mission.

Obviously, this is the party line for the military brass and the Administration. However, I do think that they have a decent point.
1.17.2006 7:38pm
TC (mail):
It's not a party line; it's common sense. Strap on 20 pounds of hot, stiff ceramic plates and kevlar in addition to: kevlar helmet, M16, load bearing equipment, full ammo load, NVGs, camelback, and all the other items carried.

Now go do this daily, in 120+ degree heat, climbing in and out of vehicles that aren't designed for comfort.

It's easy to see that any increase in armor is a trade-off in combat effectiveness.
1.18.2006 9:07am
Andy Freeman (mail):
It's not just combat effectiveness, weight can be the difference between being hit and being missed. It can be the difference between having someone else along to cover your six. In other words, the choice is not just between disability vs death.
1.18.2006 11:47am