April 7, 2010

Supersized Asshattery

This, from Reuters:

In the sprawling military base at Kandahar, the fast food outlets facing the axe include Burger King, Pizza Hut, and the U.S. chain restaurant T.G.I. Friday's that features a bar with alcohol-free margaritas and other drinks -- all set along the bustling "Boardwalk" area of the base.

On any given day, the giant square-shaped walkway features the surreal sight of soldiers sipping gourmet coffee and eating chocolate pastries with guns slung across their shoulders, while Canadians play ice hockey at a nearby rink and fighter jets thunder overhead.

The U.S. military says its beef with the burger joints is that they take up valuable resources like water, power, flight and convoy space and that cutting back on non-essentials is key to running an efficient military operation.

"This is a war zone -- not an amusement park," Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Hall wrote in a blog earlier this year.

"Supplying nonessential luxuries to big bases like Bagram and Kandahar makes it harder to get essential items to combat outposts and forward operating bases, where troops who are in the fight each day need resupply with ammunition, food and water."

When I first heard this story, I had conflicting thoughts and reactions. And then I didn't.

I understand the logic but, since I've never been in the military, I can't claim to understand what it's like to be deployed. My liberal pro gun-control ass has been properly FBI-trained to shoot a wide variety of handguns. But I can't imagine what it's like to shoot at a person. I can't imagine what it's like to be dropped in the middle of the desert with my family thousands of miles away to get shot at. I can't imagine what it's like to have the very real possibility of getting blown up by a roadside bomb each and every day. I think I know enough to understand that it's a tough, high-stress job.

The time of debating whether or not we should be there is over. We're there. It's time to debate how we take care of our troops. And shouldn't they be entitled to a burger? To have a drink at at TGIFridays? It seems like - literally - the least they're entitled to. Hell, they should be given caviar, champagne and handjobs (and, for the ladies, whatever the corresponding, appropriate sexual act may be). Yes, water and supplies and the myriad of other logistics and supply chain considerations are vital and should in no way be interrupted. But we should be able to spot the troops a burger.

There's no possible way they wake up in the morning, look at the desert sprawling in front of them and, for any length of time, forget the fact that they're not in an amusement park.

Am I off base? Which side of the argument do you come down on?

Posted by Chris at April 7, 2010 7:01 AM

Well, I'm a military wife - and fortunately, my husband isn't deployed -- but if he were away from home, I think I would feel better if he had some of the comforts of home and if that's familiar food (Military food is kind of craptastic, IMO), then... so be it.

But, I've never asked his opinion on it - I should. Now I'm curious.

Posted by: sarah at April 7, 2010 7:11 AM

Gimme the Big Mac and Fries with an ice Cold Coca Cola!

Posted by: Maribeth at April 7, 2010 7:44 AM

Another military spouse here, with a husband who's been deployed before. He was in Baghdad for seven months and while he was there he had an allowance of $100 a month. Doesn't sound like much, but he lacked for nothing; everything was taken care of for him. The highlight of his weekends were going to the food court available and getting a Cinnabon. Every week he lived for those, and it gave him something to look forward to because it was a comfort from home.

Do I think our military should be spending big bucks to build and maintain large facilities that look like TGIFridays? No. But to provide a taste of home for hardworking and mostly underpaid Soliders, Marines, Airmen, and Sailors? Yes. Give them that.

Posted by: Heather @Critter Chronicles at April 7, 2010 7:59 AM

I do not agree with the war(s) and the spending.

I do agree with you, that these men and women are entitled to and should have available the comforts of home -that much looked forward to Cinnabon every week- if it helps them, for even a minute, detach from the world that surrounds them. These men and women are the ones risking their lives each day regardless of whether we agree with it or not. I think we can all agree that they are not animals that deserve the bear minimum in supplies. They are mothers, fathers, children, uncles, aunts.

You wouldn't deny your child a freshly baked chocolate chip cookie. What makes this any different?

Posted by: Angelica at April 7, 2010 8:14 AM

My son and his new wife just made it to Hohenfels, Germany last week. The base helps them to feel not so far away from home. Where was the first place they ate when they got off the plane in Frankfurt? McDonalds!

He will be deploying to Afghanistan in July. If we are going to give money away for all these other programs (and yes, I am pro liberal programs) then I think that we should spot our troops a frickin' burger.

Its all balance though. The burger places shouldn't overrun and overuse resources either. There has to be a happy medium.

Posted by: Debbie at April 7, 2010 8:19 AM

I was in Afghanistan for 15 months. While I understand the concept of budget issues and trying to be efficient, I think taking these things away will actually create a HUGE problem.

I spent time on a large FOB (Forward Operating Base) and on a much smaller one. The large one had a Pizza Hut and a Green Beans Coffee Shop. The Pizza Hut was simply a large mobile walk-up type place. There were a couple of stools in the coffee shop.

On the smaller FOB, we had no such amenities. We actually made a small "shopette" inside of a conex (metal container much like you see on freight trains). About once a month, my platoon sergeant would make a run to Bagram and pick up smokes, toiletry items, snacks and magazines.

On the occasion that I got to Bagram or back to the larger FOB where my parent company was stationed, having these tiny bits of normalcy helped to keep sanity.

Sure, it looks like a bunch of soldiers sitting around drinking fruity drinks and chatting like they are back home. That was the very outlet/escape that let us for just a short while have some sense of normalcy & at least have a few moments free of "Oh shit, I'm in hell".

If they take it all away, I guarantee that they will find more soldiers getting into trouble. They'll find drugs, make moonshine and, in some cases, cheat on their significant other. All in the name of "escape".

Posted by: Holly Reynolds at April 7, 2010 8:31 AM

I say if they are willing to die for our country then they deserve whatever we can afford to give them. If we can afford this touch of home they deserve it (and much more). I can't imagine that any of them wake up and think they are home when they get to go get a McD's burger but if the memory it gives them gives them a bit of peace while away from home and protecting my rights then I would never deny them.

Posted by: daisy at April 7, 2010 8:42 AM

I have nothing to base my choice on except for good old common sense:
Give them the McD's and BK and TGIFriday and allow them some simple treats so far from home.
After all the money that's being thrown at this "war", it's the least we can continue to do.

Posted by: NancyJ at April 7, 2010 8:43 AM

If it's really keeping people from getting stuff they need, then it's obviously inappropriate and needs to be shut down. Otherwise, let 'em have a damn Whopper.

Posted by: Fraulein N at April 7, 2010 9:00 AM

If it's really keeping people from getting stuff they need, then it's obviously inappropriate and needs to be shut down. Otherwise, let 'em have a damn Whopper.

Posted by: Fraulein N at April 7, 2010 9:00 AM

If we can't afford to support the troops properly then we should pack up and come home. It'll be a win-win, if not a win-win-win-win.

And BTW I completely disagree with the sentiment that the time for debating our presence over there is past. We should debate that every single day. If we don't, we'll still be there in 20 years.

Posted by: COD at April 7, 2010 9:05 AM

It's already there, why would you yank it out? Sounds like military politics to me. Make an argument that it's costly and taking away from field rations and I'll say, "ok". But the idea that it's too much fun is idiotic. There's nothing fun about being deployed and he knows it.

At a minimum, you could cut back on the supplies they are allowed to take in and limit the hours to half-days, or 3 days per week or something. Shutting them down is a dick move.

Posted by: Brad at April 7, 2010 9:34 AM

i say Let Them Eat Cake! or burgers, as it were.

Posted by: bri at April 7, 2010 9:38 AM

Clearly, somewhere behind all this is a bean counter without a soul.

Lemme guess:
It probably takes a couple of semi's twice a month to keep the area supplied. That means fuel, drivers, security, overhead expense of the vehicles, cost of the facilities, wages for the people working there, overhead for the electricity, and so forth. I'd be willing to bet that it adds up to a couple of million a year when it is all said and done ( and this is just a SWAG estimate ).

I'm pretty sure that the shoulder mounted missiles that our troops fire ( the ultra-whizzbang smart ones ) cost a few million a pop.

So, for the cost of one fire and forget piece of equipment, we are able to improve the morale of thousands of troops? But since morale cannot be tracked on a balance sheet, it looks like a huge waste.

Thanks for bringing this up. We should make a stink about this one and embarrass them into reversing it. What a great recruitment slogan:
"Army Strong. ( It's not an amusement park )"

Posted by: metawizard at April 7, 2010 10:14 AM

You know my political leanings. They aren't changing, but I'm becoming a functional Darwinist when it comes to politics and countries. Sometimes it's a good thing to let a country fail, or falter.

Posted by: Knot at April 7, 2010 11:04 AM

I saw the article previously, so I had more time to digest it. Being a veteran and having served overseas, I think this seriously bites. Yes, they are at war, but they are deployed for long periods of time. Having access to burgers regularly isn't asking much. War is expensive and the logic they gave is nonsense. This cut couldn't possibly make a big difference in the budget or resources. This was already in place, I feel they should leave it alone and let them have some comfort food and enjoy their junk food.

This is a morale issue for me and I think it stinks.

Posted by: One Mom's Opinion at April 7, 2010 2:20 PM

My brother was deployed twice to that base as a Canadian Soldier and I know the amenities provided are appreciated by the men and women who serve there. For him, being able to enjoy a Tim Horton's coffee was like getting a little taste of home in what is otherwise an entirely alien world (when it comes to weather, climate, culture etc.). I imagine that's what TGI Friday's or Burger King represents for the American Soldiers (not to say the Canadians don't enjoy the fare from those places too) and I would hate to see them punished by having that taken away. They're serving their country for f***ks sake...let them have a little pleasure!

Posted by: Procrastamom at April 7, 2010 3:13 PM

I have two stepsons in the army--one is in Germany, and the other deploys to Afghanistan in a matter of days.

I don't even want to get into how I feel about the fact that they joined up at all (ANGRY), but they did, and taht's reality, so I'll deal.

I feel like a person who's putting his/her life on the line every day deserves a freakin' BURGER. Because it's not just a burger, it's home. How is that more than these kids deserve???

Posted by: Elise at April 8, 2010 10:04 AM

I'm with you (in a number of respects): we're there now, whether or not we wanted to be back when our country was being "ruled" by a bunch of neo-idiots. While we're there figuring out the best way to do as little damage as possible, we owe it to the troops -- give them the basics and then give them a few freaking comforts as well. I understand that this may complicate the logistics, but you know what? War is complicated. The men/women fighting and dying deserve some niceties along with their craptastic gvmt issue.

Posted by: pvz at April 8, 2010 2:28 PM

I come down on the side of the argument that's with the *people of Afghanistan*.

Both my parents grew up in countries that got occupied by the Nazis, then occupied by the liberating forces. You want the locals on your side? Don't put in freaking burger joints only your privileged troops can go to while Afghani parents living a few blocks away debate whether to risk their and their daughter's lives by sending her to school.

I did not know that Canadian troops were using an ice rink in a country where daily highs are 30-ish Celsius (80-90 ish Fahrenheit). Now that I do, I'm ashamed. How much electricity is that rink using to keep the ice cold while Afghanis living nearby do without any power at all?

Yes, if you're a soldier, you deserve some R&R time, to say the least. But if your R&R is making you stay there longer -- and what else can it be when you are being poster children for what the Taliban is fighting against? -- then there needs to be a rethink. Surely soldiers can be provided with amenities and rewards that don't rub it in the faces of the people they're supposedly protecting. How can we justify spending money on ice rinks and Burger Kings when spending the same money might help solve the reasons *why* the troops are there faster and get them home?

And sorry, I don't buy the "well, they're there now" argument. We left Korea and Viet Nam (which 30,000 Canadians voluntarily fought in, even if our government never officially sent troops), we can leave Afghanistan. Politicians decide when the troops come or leave, not some weird concept of fate.

Usually I agree with you. Sorry about this one.

Respectfully etc.

Posted by: Kat at April 8, 2010 10:44 PM

I agree with all the comments that I read that they need to keep a piece of home and comfort for these men and women. They are there is a dangerous world and anything that helps them keep their sanity a while longer is a necessity, not just a want.

Posted by: Debra at April 8, 2010 10:53 PM

Of COURSE our soldiers deserve every amenity we can safely supply, no debate. And I don't understand how having these chains over there takes away from the military's ability to handle military logistics ... is the military providing logistics for these chains as well? If so, perhaps THAT needs to be reviewed, but I'm sure if it is the case, there is a prioritization at work. Wouldn't you think?

Posted by: Lisa at April 17, 2010 4:09 PM