What the U.S. Doesn't Need: J.R. Labbe

Who is J.R. Labbe? Some woman who writes for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Why is she important? Because her writing is an example of the mindless drivel that pours from the pens of U.S. journalists like the radioactive sludge from Monty Burns' nuclear plant into Lake Springfield. Except bad journalism doesn't breed twelve-eyed fish. Just ignorance.

J.R. took it upon her poor old Texas shoulders to rebut an article written by the guy who designed the A-10 Warthog and F-16 Fighting Falcon about why the U.S. doesn't need to spend $65 billion dollars on a few hundred F-22 Raptors. J.R., whose military design credentials include being deputy editorial page editor for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram (read, "none at all"), says the U.S. does need a bunch of super-fighters and is prepared to take on one of the smarter guys in military aviation to prove it. Except. She fails miserably. So, what follows is the response I wrote to her, concerning her article. I suggest checking out her article for context.

Dear J.R.,

I suppose I should have expected the tough wrangler talk you displayed in your column "F-22 is still what the US needs," given the TV oil-man whom your sobriquet recalls. But I think even the J.R. of Dallas had too much good business sense to come up with anything as silly as you did.

"This is good news," you write, "and not just for the more than 1,800 Lockheed Martin employees who build the plane's midfuselage at the company's Fort Worth plant." Quite a rationale; the size of our military force should be determined by the number of jobs it will provide. Come to think of it, I think FDR justified the US military build-up after Pearl Harbor the same way.

Your suggested words for England, the military man in charge of overseeing F-22 production; "Ending the program at this stage would be a boneheaded move for both defense of the homeland and our ability to dominate the airspace over our global allies, interests and deployed troops." This line suggests you endorse him acting as even more of a bonehead. Defense of the homeland? Do you really think there are a buch of Japanese Zeros looming on the Pacific? Who is going to project an aerial force on the CONTINENTAL UNITED STATES? Venezuela? China?

Your ignorance of defense strategy is matched only by your ignorance of our potential foes' air forces. Sure China's got a new plane in the hangar, and it's about as effective and well-designed as the Osprey, which is to say, a malfunctioning, money-pit, hunk of junk. And Chavez, by the way, already has a bunch of F-16's (which are about all the country can afford; getting rich off oil like Venezuela has buys you a handful of old planes, not a fleet to fill the skies like the Luftwaffe).

Also, the "awesome war birds" you write of will have little effect even if the rest of the world teams up to throw their fighter jets at us all at once, because to build your "magnificent planes" is fine, but you might recall that they are not flown by computers but rather, humans. And our budget to train those pilots to fly your planes is reduced because people like you insist on your F-22's and F-35's (probably because they make for prettier pictures than pilots) and there isn't enough money for everything. So we have the planes, and no one to fly them. It's kind of like Don Rumsfeld's statement pre-Iraq that we should "forget Afghanistan; there are no good targets there." You may also want to consider that these blockbuster planes, recall, again, the Osprey, are rarely as useful as the in-the-trenches budget builds like the A-10 Warthog which has flown countless sorties in our current conquests compared to your F-22's zero.

You jump on the bandwagon to turn Russia and China into our future bogeymen. But who, I ask, will fly Russia's future fleet? A bunch of 85 year old Kossacks? Russia will mostly be owned by China in twenty years and will have a population at that point on par with, say, Wyoming, given the average population age and dearth of young people. I also encourage you to continue your liberal use of quotes around the term "allies" when referring to nations like China and Russia as the best policy when dealing with other world-powers who make us jealous in their youth and economic good-fortune is to treat them like petulant younger siblings. Nice foreign policy work!

Finally, you write, "the F-35 [apparently another plane you’ve got a fixing to get into the air] is a magnificent plane. Its projected ability to carry out missions against fixed or mobile ground targets is eight times more effective than legacy aircraft." That's some interesting Enron-accounting. The F-35's FUTURE ability to carry out its missions WILL BE eight times more effective than legacy aircraft. As you note that no F-35's will be ready for about another five years, I wonder whether you did in fact consult Arthur Andersen for those figures.

What the U.S. still needs is not 183 F-22's. What the U.S. still needs is for people in our media who discuss subjects which they are wholly unqualified to discuss intelligently, to recognize their ignorance and abide by a variation on something all our parents used to tell us: "If you don't have anything intelligent and well-informed to discuss, then don't discuss anything at all."

Shame on your pathetic excuse for journalism. You're a disgrace to this country's fourth-estate.

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