Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Military Cross Section of America

I was reading Michael Yon's latest dispatch which is a letter from Gen. Petraeus on the values of the American fighting machine vs. those of our enemy.

Our values and the laws governing warfare teach us to respect human dignity, maintain our integrity, and do what is right. Adherence to our values distinguishes us from our enemy. This fight depends on securing the population, which must understand that we—not our enemies—occupy the moral high ground. This strategy has shown results in recent months. Al Qaeda’s indiscriminate attacks, for example, have finally started to turn a substantial proportion ofthe Iraqi population against it.

This in response to a poll that showed almost 50% of the troops would not turn in themselves or a friend if they killed a civilian, accidentally or on purpose, as well as a few other disturbing (or not) thoughts from the general military populace.

In general, the original poll was supposed to be on the general mental health of the military since many had been deployed and ended up pointing to a small problem in Petraeus' counter-insurgency plan: not all of the troops have the right mindset. Many would simply like to kick everyone's butt and come home, but counterinsurgency doesn't work that way.

What really struck my attention over at Yon's place, compared to the 50 other places I've seen making note of this poll and letter, is the answers from the commenters that I believe shows that the military is truly a cross section of the American populace and we should own up to it instead of trying to determine who supports or doesn't support the troops.

Read on:

Fine words from Petreous, but I would question the utility of not only letting pass the Iraqi civilian’s obvious lie about not knowing anything about a 1500 lb bomb buried in front of his doorstep, but even paying him or others for damages resulting when those bombs go off killing our troops.

Where will the disincentive come from?

And not allowing our troops a bit opf reading material because ‘it doesn’t belong to them?’

They are risking their lives for these people!

Why is this war being fought like a social work intervention?

They will never respect you or like you. They may as well fear you enough not to participate in killing you.

Just my opinion.

Another wrote:

I don’t understand why it would have been improper to kill the occupants of the two houses that were adjacent to the site of a roadside IED. Those people clearly knew that terrorists had planted a bomb on the road and did nothing to prevent it from being detonated killing 4 U.S. soldiers and an Iraqi interpreter. To my untrained mind, they should have been shot on sight. Please explain why I am wrong.

This is not to point out the caliber of Michael's readers. Simply that it seemed these sorts of comments were more likely than those reasonable ones explaining why we have this message (as if it needed explaining, but...). The point here is that the regular populace doesn't understand counterinsurgency any better than the military average GI Joe.

That is a problem in both fields.


David M said...

Trackbacked by The Thunder Run - Web Reconnaissance for 05/15/2007
A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I kinda went that route too in an email convo with John last week. I said we should look at the same study done on other groups: jocks, frats, and college students. When we knew what the baseline was we could then say what's shifted.

I like yours better though. It directly looks at the problem. COIN, according to many authors I've read lately, seems to have been the red headed step child in the way our country thought about war.

I've said it once and I'll say it again: this country likes its wars short, bloody(for the other side), and decisive.

Kat said...

Yes, Ry, that is a problem. It is part of our historical sense that the only wars that were okay to be long were wars that we know we won with a decisive end: army defeated, leaders sign surrender or offer up their sword.

I often think that we are simply a product of our inability to truly grasp history, even our own. How few books on the civil war talked about the true depredations visited on civilians inside cities like Fredricksburg or Vicksburg.

It is part of our "mythology" of America. and, lord forbid you challenge it while simultaneously insisting it was still one of our greatest moments. It cannot be terrible and honorable, great and humbling at the same time. Our psyches simply cannot handle it.

so, when it comes time to participate in such things as long, insurgencies, we simply regress to either black or white and demand the impossible.