Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

Most misleading news story of the day: The NY Times’s screwed-up comparison

Unfortunately the Dewey Award for screwing up the news goes to the New York Times for a story yesterday that stated that the U.S. Army would be cut to its pre-World War II size. This was technically, narrowly correct and yet, at the same time, quite misleading. In fact, it is a mess, and not ...

Wikimedia
Wikimedia
Wikimedia

Unfortunately the Dewey Award for screwing up the news goes to the New York Times for a story yesterday that stated that the U.S. Army would be cut to its pre-World War II size. This was technically, narrowly correct and yet, at the same time, quite misleading. In fact, it is a mess, and not just on timing, because it leaves out the Air Force.

Yes, if Defense Secretary Hagel's proposed cuts go through, the Army will be trimmed to its 1940 size of about 450,000, and at that point the United States had not entered World War II. But it was rapidly getting ready for it, and had been since George Marshall had taken over leadership of the Army in 1939, when the Army, including the Army Air Force, was at under 200,000. That is the real pre-World War II number.

So, in fact, if the proposed Hagel cuts go through, the contemporary U.S. Army and the U.S. Air Force, combined, will be close to 800,000 -- that is, roughly four times the size of their pre-war counterpart. Hence the Dewey Award.

Unfortunately the Dewey Award for screwing up the news goes to the New York Times for a story yesterday that stated that the U.S. Army would be cut to its pre-World War II size. This was technically, narrowly correct and yet, at the same time, quite misleading. In fact, it is a mess, and not just on timing, because it leaves out the Air Force.

Yes, if Defense Secretary Hagel’s proposed cuts go through, the Army will be trimmed to its 1940 size of about 450,000, and at that point the United States had not entered World War II. But it was rapidly getting ready for it, and had been since George Marshall had taken over leadership of the Army in 1939, when the Army, including the Army Air Force, was at under 200,000. That is the real pre-World War II number.

So, in fact, if the proposed Hagel cuts go through, the contemporary U.S. Army and the U.S. Air Force, combined, will be close to 800,000 — that is, roughly four times the size of their pre-war counterpart. Hence the Dewey Award.

Here’s a good summary of what the SecDef actually had to say.

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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