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Why Our U.S. Military Can't Do Its Job

By Roy D. Follendore III

Copyright (c) 2003 by RDFollendoreIII

If I could push a button and make Iraq a peaceful and productive part of the world I would.  Most Americans would.  The question is not if our individual American intentions are in the right place.  The question is no longer if something was wrong with the idea of invading Iraq.  Anyone who has been keeping up with the news has gotten the message that the reasons why we attacked Iraq were phony. The question is why can't our military do their job.  This essay is about all of that.  Because of the economy and the fact that an awful lot of Americans are getting by because of the swelling of Federal Government it becomes harder to question the fundamental justifications for what we have been doing. But many Americans happen to think that is not a good enough reason to turn a blind eye to the welfare of our troops.  As our troops begin to filter home, the first hand truth will start to come out and there is going to be political hell to pay. Until then, we American need to begin to think about fundamentals.   

September 5, 2003

We citizens forget that our military is made up of citizens and that they are just like everyone we know around us.  Soldiers have dreams and they have families with aspirations that their children will be better off then they have been.  The career men and women of the Armed Forces are not only dedicated, they are committed to the ideals of the organization in which they live.  But they exist as a military force to do a nasty job.  For those who know the differences between reality and fiction, there is too little glory in what they do.  What they do for a living is no more or less than efficient cold and calculated professional killing.  Someone has to be able to do it if this country we live in is to survive.  This does not mean that our troops want war.  No one understands the impersonal implications of killing and being killed by someone that you do not know better than a soldier.

The problem that many American citizens have had with the war in Iraq is that it was not necessary.  It was not justifiable because there was no imminent danger to the United States.  The administration of our President and the Prime Minister of England created this war.  For America it is obvious that this was an expeditious political decision more than it was a justifiable military one.  England has had a long history of doing just this sort of thing in the middle east.  Americans are discovering that this war was no accident.  It was a premeditated decision to project our influence as though the mechanics of culture works like a predictable physical machine.  Like Vietnam, to our surprise we are waking up to find that is not true.  The bottom line is that we have placed our men and women in the eyes of the middle east with the idea that what we have not been able to succeed in doing though diplomacy, can otherwise be accomplished through military occupation.

What makes this particular war so wrong from a military perspective has been pretty much the same as what was so wrong when the German military began it's attempt to take the Europe.  It is also the same fundamental problem that the Japanese were confronted with when they tried to take China.  It is also the same problem that my generation faced in Vietnam.   Military activities are never really long term generalized processes, they are always simply transactions with specific targeted objectives.  It is for this reason that setting objectives like "establishing democracy" or  "winning the hearts and minds" are really not specifiable in military terms.  To take a specific position or to deny a position from others is a specific mission that is easily within the scope of a military plan.  The military organization and the tools which it uses allows it to do these kinds of things.  To symbolize and represent cultural ideals is an entirely different matter.  The only way that the military influences is by its presence and existence, in other words, through its dominant occupation, and there is always a cost to that.    

Julius Cesar could have advised us of the fact that to occupy and dominate a culture required tremendous resources of the Romans.  The Romans were able to accomplish it for so long through shear brutality.  They were willing to commit genocide if necessary to suppress a conquered population.  The fundamental reality is that the inability of armies to handle actions higher than forceful transactions means that to be successful, the ends must be appropriate to the means.  If not, then far more social problems are created than are solved.  This is precisely why the Roman Empire was oriented toward the flexibility of adapting to other cultures.  Rome usually set conditions on conquered lands that allowed it to coexist with its empire.  They used taxes to keep the population weak and they used troops to enforce the taxations.  At the same time however, Rome geared its religion toward the adaptation of other Gods so that it could coexist.  The difficulty with Christianity and Jewish religion with respect to the Romans was that they were rejected all other gods and therefore the essential core Roman doctrine of religious coexistence.  The Muslim faith places this issue as one of its pillars of belief.  The indoctrination of thinking has had enormous consequences for their society.

Some believe that what America is largely about is tolerance and to a large degree that is true.  But saying that it is OK to have a different belief is quite different from participating in and embracing someone's else's belief.   Religious philosophies, and in particular those in the middle east require a singular and absolute expression of faith.  In other words, you either believe in "my" God, the true God, or you are less in my God's eyes and therefore mine.  It is an acceptance of others through divine proxy, not rationality or first order actions.  This means that people who are not "true believers" do not do good things for the "correct" reasons and therefore no good can come from it.  By this way of reasoning, any goodness from an unbeliever can be attributed to the level of an unintended accident of God.  

By extension, it also means that the great resistance to an invasion by unbelievers is therefore not merely resident within the scope of military arms.   To an a true scientific eyes of the academic, religion is above all else a social philosophy that biases both reasoning and judgments.  It is therefore the fundamental philosophical difference in the way that middle eastern people think that makes us different.  From a sociological perspective, religious cultural bias acts much like that of an physical antibody, rejecting long term external invasions within the body.  Religion essentially acts as a internal social protection mechanism and eliminate external influences.  In this environment, the moral act is not considered that of coexistence but participation in the religious support of the status quo. 

The idea that our troops can coexist for sustained periods within a culture who will condemn them for their failures and will not in their way of thinking give due credit for their deeds is foolish.  The hostility of the people of Iraq will continue to grow and the bias toward America will increase, even if that bias is against best interests of the people of Iraq.  Our penetration into Iraq was militarily well executed, but nonetheless it was narrow minded foolish planning on the part of our political leaders and our military to have chosen to ignore the reality of such a conquest. Before a single troop was committed into combat, these people deliberately left modern social scientists who think about such things out of the cycle of planning. It was reckless to have done so and it is incredibly foolish to allow the forces which defend our nation to languish in such an environment.  

What our current American political regime now fear most is that when and if America pulls out, there can be far greater consequences to the Iraqi population, on a scale equal to or greater than the killing fields of Cambodia.  For this administration this has been an economically, militarily and politically costly miscalculation. Our military has been deliberately put in a no win situation.  On one hand, if our troops stay they can not succeed in the mismatched objectives to which they have been assigned and they will continue to take causalities at an increasing rate.  On the other hand, if our troops leave they will have been responsible for a destabilized region who's civil war they will have initiated and millions could perish.       

There can be no doubt that the United States of America must defend itself against enemies foreign and domestic.  The question is how this can be best accomplished.  In reaction to the failure of his administration to protect our nation from a catastrophic terrorist attack, our President has lead our Nation into a declared war against a philosophy.  The problem was that he discovered is that a philosophy can not be defeated. Against the advice of the rest of the world he then ordered our troops to invade a sovereign country without considering the consequences of military victory. There were no contingency plans for immediate success.  In the period of only a few months, Iraq has become a billion dollar a week gushing wound to our American economy. 

The reason why our U.S. Military can't do its job is simple.  We do not have civilian and military leaders who have thought out the problems and solutions that they are willing and able to act upon.  This American regime that somehow got elected did not understand the real reasons why the Third Reich utterly  failed in their military conquest. The whole is always larger than the sum of the parts.  George W. Bush acted alone.  He depended on the singular idea that military actions affect social order. Our direction of regional social order through the barrel of a rifle only works against a population if we are willing to indiscriminately pull the trigger.  This administration has been unable to reach the conclusion that our troops are in a no win situation nor that through delay we have lost the moral justification for the invasion.   In the mean time, our troops are stuck in perilous positions performing stabilization missions that they can not defend without mounting costs and causalities, while our political policies are stuck in the impossible rhetoric of a terrorist war.  Our men and women overseas do not deserve that kind of treatment.

 

 

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