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Thread: COIN v. Conventional Capability Debate

  1. #41
    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wm View Post
    I am just waiting to see the MTOE changes that make all the BCT commanders one-star billets--shouldn't be too long
    Honestly if they would maintain the flattened structure and ramp up actual combat power of the BCT (versus staff and all others), I would not mind that happening --if that BCT became and independent brigade like we used to have. But as you imply if it happens under current and emerging structures it would just be another case of rampant rank overkill.

    Personally I always thought that Defense Attaches should be called Generalissimos or maybe just El Heffe Supremo with SLA Marshall oversized stars....

    Tom

  2. #42
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default My original guess, given the truncated

    maneuver strength was that, come a war, they'd add a maneuver Bn, enlarge everything else, maybe add a GS Arty Bn and go to a one star. Y'all may be right, they may do it regardless.

    Sigh...

  3. #43
    Council Member Vic Bout's Avatar
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    Default Of Generals and coffee boys...

    Rick Atkinson mentioned in The Day of Battle, that the U.S. Army in 1943, exceeded 6 million and was "...led by 1,000 generals, 7,000 colonels, and 343,000 lieutenants."

    How many of each are there today? In an army of what...522,000?

    I think the question becomes not how many generals does it take to screw in a light bulb, but rather how many generals can we promote IOT enable light-bulb screwation.

    Sorry to have declinated a few degrees off thread, but inflated GO billets rub me raw
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  4. #44
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    Default Divisions

    Division staffs are chock full of good, smart, professional people. They usually have competent, intelligent commanders. The problem, as we have transitioned to BCT structures and gotten involved in small wars, is that divisions (mostly morphed into JTFs) have less and less ability to influence the fight. Most of the resources are pushed down to the brigade level; a good chunk of the remaining forces are in self-contained, specialist task forces; logisitcs becomes routinized; there are no reserves to speak of. As a result the division becomes involved in parceling out a handful of helicopters or PSYOPs teams or whatever - there is rarely even a need to prioritize resources as the pace is slow enough that nobody ever goes without air support or MEDEVACS or ammunition. Due to human nature, the division staff and its leadership therefore begins to micromanage and meddle while turning into an information vacuum. At one point, CJTF-76 in Afghanistan had six (count 'em, six!) general officers, at least four of whom had only a single colonel to supervise.

    The problem with just bagging the idea of the division is that someday we will be invited to a war involving brigades passing through each other, opposed river crossings, brigade-level deep aviation operations, commitment of reserves, terrain management, artillery that has to displace, and more targets than we can service simultaneously. Hell, maybe even integrated air defense!Some form of higher headquarters will have to do this (and be trained to do it before being called upon to execute). As others have pointed out, these are the kind of requisite warfighting skills that we are neither training for nor learning-by-doing.

  5. #45
    Council Member wm's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eden View Post
    Division staffs are chock full of good, smart, professional people. They usually have competent, intelligent commanders. The problem, as we have transitioned to BCT structures and gotten involved in small wars, is that divisions (mostly morphed into JTFs) have less and less ability to influence the fight. Most of the resources are pushed down to the brigade level; a good chunk of the remaining forces are in self-contained, specialist task forces; logisitcs becomes routinized; there are no reserves to speak of. As a result the division becomes involved in parceling out a handful of helicopters or PSYOPs teams or whatever - there is rarely even a need to prioritize resources as the pace is slow enough that nobody ever goes without air support or MEDEVACS or ammunition. Due to human nature, the division staff and its leadership therefore begins to micromanage and meddle while turning into an information vacuum. At one point, CJTF-76 in Afghanistan had six (count 'em, six!) general officers, at least four of whom had only a single colonel to supervise.

    The problem with just bagging the idea of the division is that someday we will be invited to a war involving brigades passing through each other, opposed river crossings, brigade-level deep aviation operations, commitment of reserves, terrain management, artillery that has to displace, and more targets than we can service simultaneously. Hell, maybe even integrated air defense!Some form of higher headquarters will have to do this (and be trained to do it before being called upon to execute). As others have pointed out, these are the kind of requisite warfighting skills that we are neither training for nor learning-by-doing.
    Thanks for more transparently saying what I think Gian was after in posts 26 and 34 and I was definitely trying to get to in post 28.
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  6. #46
    Council Member Ratzel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
    He noted:That's of far more concern to me than is our ability to crash train and reorient units and people if required. Over reliance on contractors for logistic support is something that the Army cannot control for. My suspicion is that factor has not been adequately addressed in planning for any type of future operation; hopefully, I'm wrong...

    Maybe we should start thinking of contractors as part of the force?
    "Politics are too important to leave to the politicians"

  7. #47
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default I agree there needs to be an echelon above

    Quote Originally Posted by Eden View Post
    ...The problem with just bagging the idea of the division is that someday we will be invited to a war involving brigades passing through each other, opposed river crossings, brigade-level deep aviation operations, commitment of reserves, terrain management, artillery that has to displace, and more targets than we can service simultaneously. Hell, maybe even integrated air defense!Some form of higher headquarters will have to do this (and be trained to do it before being called upon to execute)...
    the BCT and below theater -- or Army, situation dependent -- level. I believe that a Hq on the original WW II concept of the Corps (fairly small, tactically oriented, no fixed units) with an as required two or three button an able to control two to six BCT is doable. Need to continue to tweak the log processes, obviously.
    ...As others have pointed out, these are the kind of requisite warfighting skills that we are neither training for nor learning-by-doing.
    WR to 'training for' makes one wonder what the Divisions here in the states are up to. Getting ready for the next trip, yeah -- but the staffs are certainly more than large enough to do multi-tasking...

  8. #48
    Council Member ODB's Avatar
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    Default Lack of governing body and METL tasks

    I would like to know the counsels thoughts on the lack of divisional control in the current fight? Could this be part of the many battlespace issues? The last I checked the Army's structure is in such a way that no one directly leads more than 4 men. For this we will look at a divisions structure, CG has how many direct subordinates? A fire team leader has how many direct subordinates? In theatre today what is the structure? Who really answers to who from the BCT level up? Then throw into the mix how many direct subordinates does the BCT commander have? IMO if your going to bump the BCT commander to a 1 star then he should have 2 full birds below him (kinda like a division). I cannot believe I just said that!!!!! Additionally then we must bump my SF brothers as well. (Officers and enlisted) Unfortunately in todays politically correct Army many will only deal with you if your of certain rank.

    I have to ask this here. Why are units not training thier basic (conventional) tasks during their non-deployment time? This past off rotation for us we went back to the basics. Started with weapons, every weapons system in our MTOE was trained and shot (pistols to 81 mm mortars), day and night. Then we went and did basic FM 7-8 battle drill live fires. Imagine that an SF team doing movement to contact, through the woods day and night. Somewhere along the way we had leaders realize we were getting away from training the basics and needed to get back to it. As I look at the multitude of problems that ones are griping about my question is what are they doing to fix it? Why are they not doing their, wait here it comes, METL tasks? I gather by what is being said, we have thrown out our METL tasks and are doing our own thing? I understand repeat rotations, but I'm sorry if we can do it in six months between rotations why can't it be done in 12 months? Before someone says we have more resources and money, one might want to know that every piece of land here except 1 training area (for an entire SF group) has been given to the BCTs. Any training we want to conduct at home station we have to beg, borrow, and grease the palms of the BCTs. Figure that one out!

    Maybe I am to simple minded and naive to look at this and that is why I think the way I do, but then again maybe others are too quick to not take the hard road. Yes I love family time and down time, but I love my life and my brothers lives even more. It is our job to train and be prepared for whatever is required of us. If this means a few more days or weeks away from the family then that is what it is. That is what we are paid (not enough) to do and what is expected of us. Man how I wish I could be SMA for a day!!!
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  9. #49
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ratzel View Post
    Maybe we should start thinking of contractors as part of the force?
    Or maybe the government should throw in the towel and admit that the mass outsourcing of functions to contractors in DOD was never the good deal it was promised to be, either financially or otherwise, and return those functions to military/ government personnel? This all got underway in the early 90s, IMO at least heavily influenced by the wild popularity of management cult gibberish and the downsizing/"rightsizing"/consolidations going on in business at the time. The military is not a business and what works in industry has limited application at best in the profession of arms.

    EDIT: this is starting to drag the topic OT, my apologies... I'll shut up now.
    He cloaked himself in a veil of impenetrable terminology.

  10. #50
    Council Member Ratzel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Stevely View Post
    Or maybe the government should throw in the towel and admit that the mass outsourcing of functions to contractors in DOD was never the good deal it was promised to be, either financially or otherwise, and return those functions to military/ government personnel? This all got underway in the early 90s, IMO at least heavily influenced by the wild popularity of management cult gibberish and the downsizing/"rightsizing"/consolidations going on in business at the time. The military is not a business and what works in industry has limited application at best in the profession of arms.
    I'm not sure that it would even be possible to "throw in the towel." The Army is having trouble meeting its goals for man power as it is, do you really think we could recruit the 150,000 troops that would be required to replace these contractors? I'm not trying to give you a hard time, but can you provide me with any data to support your claim that outsourcing certain functions is not "a good deal" financially? I would think, that if there's at least one very solid argument for outsourcing that it would indeed be financial.

    Besides that, why should we waste precious man power on cooking, guarding the base camp, and driving trucks when we can have patriotic civilians do it? Many of the contractors we use are retired service people who have the skills and motivation to preform these functions and not using these people would be a major waste of human capital.

    Contractors also have a comparative advantage at certain skill sets. Blackwater does a fine job at guarding diplomats. How many SF people would we have to divert from doing their missions if we didn't have Blackwater to preform this function? How many troops would we have to have back in Kuwait if we didn't have contractors repairing tanks and Bradly's in the rear? Before the invasion of Iraq, my unit was trained by ex-SF people for MOUT. This training was the best training I ever had in urban combat and I can say without a doubt that this training increased my units skills for the war. All of our trainers were ex-SF and Rangers with 20 years plus of experience and each one of them had seem combat. Why should these guys be back in the US when they can used to train people? What else should people of this caliber be doing while a war is going on? Perhaps they would be better off as the town sheriff or the sporting goods manager at the Wal-mart?

    This is not to say there isn't negatives with contractors. We all know there's issues relating to accountability and the possibility of Special Forces personal leaving for the big money that some of these firms provide. But in general, I think a cost-benefit analysis would prove the contractors to be beneficial to the force.
    "Politics are too important to leave to the politicians"

  11. #51
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    Default Contractors and Conventional War

    Let me try to tie this little sub-thread back to the main topic. I agree that contractors are for the most part patriotic, can-do, and competent. I also agree that we could not sustain the level of effort in Iraq and Afghanistan without them. I also think we need to constantly review what we contract out and exercise caution in those functions we allow to be executed by civilians.

    I say this because there are real problems with contracting, even if we postulate that all individual contractors are qualified and all contracting companies provide honest service for a reasonable fee.

    Contracting tends to reduce the flexibility of any military force. By replacing soldiers with contractors, you automatically reduce the pool of manpower available for mowing grass, raising the flag, providing individual augmentees for wartime operations, or manning the defensive perimeter when the Chinese break through the lines. This creates a problem that can only be solved by either further stressing the remaining soldiers...or hiring more contractors. This leads me to my next point.

    Contracting is addictive. It is a simple fix for a variety of problems, and this leads to contracting creep. Functions that used to be off-limits for contractors are now routinely farmed out. Training, for instance; twenty years ago it was not considered a good idea to contract this function. It was seen as a core military function. Now, as previous posts point out, we see contractors doing this all the time. In TRADOC, contractors are increasingly doing our thinking for us as concept developers and doctrine writers. General officers, instead of training their own subordinates, rely more and more on retired generals to head up 'evaluation teams', presumably to free the active leaders for more important duties. Maintenance contractors are doing more and doing it further forward - or perhaps I should say closer to the action these days. It is a cycle - either vicious or virtuous - that shows little sign of abating.

    Contracting creep leads to mission creep. I have been in organizations that, despite personnel and fiscal reductions, continue to do all tasks assigned and accept more. How? By contracting those functions out. It can become a death spiral fairly quickly.

    Contracting erodes military skills. When fewer soldiers teach, or maintain, or cook, or develop training programs, or write doctrine, we produce leaders with an increasingly narrow skill set. It also deprives leaders of learning experiences that produce deeper understanding of 'how things work'. Consider the simple example of a maintenance shop. A leader with a 'military' maintenance shop must learn the grimy details of inspections, repair, dispatch, etc., in order to keep his fleet operational. The 'contract' maintenance shop, however, tends to be a black box, and the only skills the leader develops are contract maintenance.

    Finally - and to bring us back to the COIN vs Con argument - we only have the luxury of extensive contracting because we operate in low-threat environments. Should we have to fight against a near-peer on a high-intensity battlefield, we may find ourselves having to reinvent numerous wheels. After all, the historical trend from, oh, 1792 to the recent past had been to reduce or eliminate contractors from the conventional battlefield, because they proved to be inadequate to the demands placed on them.

  12. #52
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Great post, Eden. Last two paragraphs in particular are cautions

    that the force structure folks should heed.

    The statement that contracting is addictive is particularly true and contracting most training in particular is a dangerous course that has significantly eroded our ability to train and thus our total effectiveness. I submit a part of the problem that has forced us into contracting is legislative but the major flaw IMO is that we have not adapted to the size of the force dictated by costs. We're still largely trying to 'operate' the way we did in 1960 and that is simply not possible.

    I'd also note that the contract security I've observed at the last three or four bases (Army, Navy and AF) I've visited make me seriously question the security thereon...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
    I'd also note that the contract security I've observed at the last three or four bases (Army, Navy and AF) I've visited make me seriously question the security thereon...
    Well, hey, a lot of our nuclear weapons infrastructure is run by contractors, and they are great at security!

  14. #54
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Surely not. Googling Nuclear Security Failures

    only gets 2,250,000 hits...

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    Council Member Ron Humphrey's Avatar
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    Question Just a quick clarification

    When referencing concern for contracting in training do most here include educational training as well? I ask because when I think about it in the other areas mentioned I can see the validity of the arguments but when it comes to good ol schoolin it still seems to me that the balanced if not slightly heavier civilian presence is a better thing. If for no other reason than the diversity of experience and approach to teaching it provides.

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  16. #56
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Can't speak fer uthers

    but too me, eddication and trainin is differunt. i'm well trained, not so well eddicated

    I gree on the civilyun fackultee.

    Anything less would be uncivilized...

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    Default

    Forgive me for digressing from some of the themes developed here but a couple of points:

    1. On the "ghosts of vietnam" thread, poster 'steve' made a comment "But, sadly, another historical reality seems to be that the American Army prefers to prepare for the enemy it wants to fight and not the enemy it has to fight. This has been the trend since the Revolution, and I see no real signs of it ending." I find it illuminating that no one acknowledged this comment, even to summarily dismiss it.

    2. I am fascinated that certain parties find it disturbing that 90% of the U.S. army artillery is not certified. Why is that a problem? Are we expecting a dire need for 90% more artillery in Iraq or Afghanistan? Artillery, when you boil it down, is a science, and not a particulary difficult one at that. Point the gun on a certain azimuth, at a certain inclination, factor in wind, and a few other factors, and the projectile will fall at the desired target. Period. I learned how to do these calculations in high school. Modern technology virtually eliminates 'stubby pencil' errors. Of course running an efficient gun line is a lot more than that, but are the dire prognosticators telling us that you can't take a current unit to the field, supply them with sufficient training ammunition, and NOT have them operating at a proficient level within a few weeks? Huh? If that is really what is being suggested, my opinion of the Army will drop a few notches. My apologies to the cannon cockers here, I respect you very much and agree that you are very much needed in certain types of war, but the fact is proficiency in artillery can be regained within a few weeks. Proficiency in COIN, if ever gained, takes years.

    To regurgitate some Kilcullen, our enemies will make us fight this type of war until we get it right, and while progress has been made we have not quite got it right yet.

  18. #58
    Council Member Adam L's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by stanleywinthrop View Post
    2. I am fascinated that certain parties find it disturbing that 90% of the U.S. army artillery is not certified. Why is that a problem? Are we expecting a dire need for 90% more artillery in Iraq or Afghanistan? Artillery, when you boil it down, is a science, and not a particulary difficult one at that. Point the gun on a certain azimuth, at a certain inclination, factor in wind, and a few other factors, and the projectile will fall at the desired target. Period. I learned how to do these calculations in high school. Modern technology virtually eliminates 'stubby pencil' errors. Of course running an efficient gun line is a lot more than that, but are the dire prognosticators telling us that you can't take a current unit to the field, supply them with sufficient training ammunition, and NOT have them operating at a proficient level within a few weeks? Huh? If that is really what is being suggested, my opinion of the Army will drop a few notches. My apologies to the cannon cockers here, I respect you very much and agree that you are very much needed in certain types of war, but the fact is proficiency in artillery can be regained within a few weeks. Proficiency in COIN, if ever gained, takes years.

    To regurgitate some Kilcullen, our enemies will make us fight this type of war until we get it right, and while progress has been made we have not quite got it right yet.
    I understand the point you are trying to make, but I think you are going a bit too far. Yes, it is unlikely we are going to have a demand for a massive amount of artillery overnight, but part of the Army's job is to be prepared for that. If in the unlikely event we suddenly had to send a massive ground force into somewhere, we are going to need artillery (and a lot of other things) quickly. (Although I have no idea what is needed to certify the units and/or give them proper train up, I can guess it would be difficult to deal with 90% overnight. Money, ammo and instructors don't grow on trees.) One thing we have learned through out history is that we never fight the war we want and rarely the one we predict/expect. We also often found ourselves having neglected some very basic essentials.

    Also, everything is more complicated or challenging than it seems. Never underestimate the difficulty of any task, especially when it will have to be performed in combat.

    Adam L
    Last edited by Adam L; 05-17-2008 at 12:32 AM.

  19. #59
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Digress away...

    Quote Originally Posted by stanleywinthrop View Post
    Forgive me for digressing from some of the themes developed here but a couple of points:

    1. ... I find it illuminating that no one acknowledged this comment, even to summarily dismiss it.
    Perhaps because it's true?
    2. I am fascinated that certain parties find it disturbing that 90% of the U.S. army artillery is not certified. Why is that a problem? ... My apologies to the cannon cockers here, I respect you very much and agree that you are very much needed in certain types of war, but the fact is proficiency in artillery can be regained within a few weeks. Proficiency in COIN, if ever gained, takes years.
    First, for a number of reasons, the training problem is not quite as easy as you blithely say. Second and more important; proficiency in COIN does not take years and is easily gained; high intensity combat is more difficult than COIN -- both are necessary skills.
    To regurgitate some Kilcullen, our enemies will make us fight this type of war until we get it right, and while progress has been made we have not quite got it right yet.
    There is no right -- or wrong; there are only acceptable outcomes to be aimed for. Enemies don't make you fight unless you choose to do so. War is war; but warfare mutates, we are seeing such a mutation and we're catching up rapidly enough. No worries.

  20. #60
    Council Member Sargent's Avatar
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    Default Combat Support and Logistics not for contractors

    Quote Originally Posted by Ratzel View Post
    Besides that, why should we waste precious man power on cooking, guarding the base camp, and driving trucks when we can have patriotic civilians do it? Many of the contractors we use are retired service people who have the skills and motivation to preform these functions and not using these people would be a major waste of human capital.
    Because, when it comes to operating at the front lines, private contractors won't cook, guard base camps, or drive trucks. This was the first lesson of American military history, in the War for Independence. It's why George Washington took one of his best combatant commanders, Nathanael Greene, and made him the Quartermaster General -- because the sutlers and other contractors weren't getting the food and other materiel to the troops, causing very serious problems with the line troops.

    A memorial was erected at Antietam to McKinley, for bringing a hot meal and coffee to the battle weary troops. A bit of a political move to build the memorial, no doubt. However, the action was genuine, and to the troops fed, it was no joke.

    In WWI, kitchen trucks were frequently shelled getting food to the front line troops.

    In WWII, soldiers were killed when the German arty opened up on them as they tried to get a Thanksgiving dinner to others in the frontlines.

    At Chosin, the cooks and other support staff of 1st Marines had drop their spoons and mops and grab rifles to fight the Chinese.

    Fast forward to the winter of 2007, and there was a MTT sitting in the city center of Fallujah, not getting fed. For three months they tried to figure out an answer, and finally, the only one guaranteed to work was to send the SINGLE Marine messman stationed at the FOB out to them to cook for them. Of course, they still couldn't get anyone out to empty the portajohns, but that's another story.

    We've decided to unlearn our first lesson in war, one supported by 200+ years of subsequent history.

    Contractors can quit. They have no bond to the people they support. (Consider the analogy to Marines preferring Marine aviators flying CAS for them -- they know that these guys have, before doing their flight training, spent six months at TBS, learning the job of the guy on the ground, thus being bound to him in a way that no other aviator really ever can.) If they don't do the job, it's very hard to get the money they've been paid back -- the government does anything about it, takes it as a sunk cost. Look at all the unfinished/badly finished projects in Iraq. Also, a lot of the contractors in Iraq aren't all patriotic Americans -- this is not a criticism, I'm simply pointing out the fact that they're not, and therefore cannot necessarily be counted on to care that much about what America or Americans want.

    Maybe there's something useful that can be done with the former service personnel -- a draft? If they're so keen to serve, why not go back on active duty? Oh yeah, because for doing the same jobs they get paid way more than the military personnel. And if it costs less to hire one of them than to send a Lance Corporal, it's because we the tax payers have already paid for their training, which the private corporations get to leverage at no cost to their own bottom lines. (Maybe we should demand a rebate from them?) But I think the cost savings is more like a shell game -- I don't think it's really costing us less in the long run.

    So, I'm not much of a believer. War is not business, and it cannot be run like one. It has costs, and trying to minimize those costs according to business principles is a bad idea all around. If we cannot afford those costs, then we need to rethink how we fight. Or we need to consider whether the effort is worth the cost. But to think we can cheat the costs of war is a foolish game.

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    Jill

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