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02 July 2006

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john

Confusedponderer and pl bring up several questions. The most important question entails the relationship of the military with the public. The modern phenomenon of the mass society birthed total war. The technologically and governmentally enabled pursuit of total war changed war and the warrior forever. War is now public, and how the public perceives the war and participates in it determines, to a greater or lesser degree, how the government prosecutes it. Politicians know this well and manipulate public passion to permit the slaughter of friend and foe, uniformed and civilian. War no longer requires merely numbers of willing young men to fill uniforms and coffins and an empty field for bloodletting. War requires the suspension of humanity and reason as well as the spending of obscene amounts of money. War requires destruction on an epic and indiscriminate scale. The public must be willing to sacrifice some of its young, some of its future, and some of its goodness to facilitate the ambitions of the war’s leaders and proponents. What sane person would offer life or future to the arrogance and ambition of a politician without a righteous purpose? As confusedponderer asserts in his posting, it is the Warrior, however, it is the Warrior who is emotional not the military professional.

My country right or wrong—the military professional prefers right, but, unlike the Warrior, fights even if the country is wrong. The distance from Main Street, USA, to parade field is sadly lengthening.

Good topic.

Green Zone Cafe

I once saw a great takedown of a "Warrior" by a warrior. This was 25+ years ago.

I was in the Army reserve, serving as a supply sergeant to a Special Forces ODA while I was in college. I had been a unit clerk on active duty, but preferred hanging out with these SF Vietnam veterans having fun in the woods to drilling in the dreary support unit, so I wrangled a space as a 76Y supply guy in this detachment and they sent me to Basic Airborne. It was fun for a couple of years, my career in the military took a different direction after that.

Most of the ODA were SFCs who had served in Vietnam, with a couple of more recent flash-qualified accessions and appendages like me.

This guy joined the unit, he was a racist and anti-semite, bad-mouthing one of the guys who was Jewish (and a Vietnam vet SF, and a research physicist with a Ph.D) behind his back. Someone had to go to him and tell him to STFU. The scary thing was he was a security guard at a nuclear weapons-related facility.

One weekend we had a class with this active duty SGM. This guy had seen it all, from Vietnam to Bolivia during Che's time there (and he probably had something to do with the end of that).

The subject of My Lai came up in this class. The "Warrior" started in how you can't fight a war with your hands tied, Calley was justified, etc.

The SGM just said, "You don't massacre women and children. That's not what America is about. Calley was a disgrace and he should have been hung by his balls."

jonst

Yes, I agree with John, this is a good topic. And a vital topic. Thanks for the post PL. I also agree with John that “The distance from Main Street, USA, to parade field is sadly lengthening”.

My question, among others, is: Is that lengthening the result of purposeful actions? Perhaps perpetuated by people (and in this case I use that term cautiously) in the military industrial complex. Draftees, have, in the past, often proved to be a nettlesome lot. Especially to the ‘Warrior’. They combined the worst of both worlds to the Warrior. Often questioning orders, roles and missions, and complaining, often, in that touch-feely way that so enrages the Warrior, yet they have achieved, however begrudgingly, the mantel of combat vet. So they hold some, and often a lot, of credibility in the civilian world. Behold…..the John Kerry’s of the world. Yes, yes, technically not a draftee. But heading up, or rather, being perceived anyway, to head Vietnam Vets Against the War. A group made up primarily of draftees. Oh, yes, god how the arguments, and fights, stick in my head as the draftees (some of them, anyway) encountered the Warrior types in the VFW posts of the 1970s.

How Rummy’s disdainful words, recently uttered ring in my head with regard to draftees of the Vietnam era It was funny (not in a ha-ha manner) when I heard him. And the affect was more pronounced yet, when I saw the look of arrogance and repulsion that briefly came over him as he spoke those words.

Its funny become those were, and are, some of the finest people I have ever met. They, often,did not like the military. They often, did not support the war. But they did their jobs as best they could. Not in all cases, of course. But in most cases. And when they came back they, or many of them opposed the war. They did not glorify it or sentimentalize it. We had to wait around till the 1980s to see that.

Yes, it’s a long way from Main Street to the parade field. But why?

W. Patrick Lang

All

I think that it is not a problem that we have a preofessional force backed up by militia. Real professionals (warriors) are not a danger to the civilian world. It is the "Warrior" mentality whether found in uniform or not that is the danger. pl

sbj

I remember a story about a Samurai retainer who, upon the assassination of his master during a visit to the home of another by agents of that host, simply drew his sword and removed the head of the doublecrossing host in an instant. Then, as the story goes, the Samurai felt he'd disgraced himself because he'd allowed anger, (emotion),to take control of his actions.

I pretend no knowledge or direct familiarity with warrior life, but certainly it does seem to me that in almost any endeavor where emotion and ego wind up playing too dominant a role in guiding people's actions, that honor and integrity and positive results from those actions are quite often greatly diminshed.

Achilles may have been a great hero and courageous beyond description in battle, but was he a "Warrior" in the profound sense the Sioux fighter or the Venetian soldier above embody? Is it so that great courage and heroism can manifest even in those not infused with a true warrior code? Was Achilles a warrior in the noble sense or was he driven ultimately by vanity?

I thought this might resonate here in relation to this thought-provoking post.

Serving Patriot

GZC,

"The SGM just said, "You don't massacre women and children. That's not what America is about. Calley was a disgrace and he should have been hung by his balls."

That is the heart of it. We're losing because of exactly this - and the inability to get it through our skulls. Every outrage committed should be thought of along the terms your SGM laid out. Our strength is/has been in the idea - not the hard power we so recklessly throw around.

Yet, who has paid? Some low level soldiers and a dog handler here and there. Few in responsibility have been string up; fewer believe any of these people should be.

America these days acts like the grasshoppers in "A Bugs Life." There are about 5.5 BILLION ants out there in the big old world. The same world from which we draw an inordinate number of resources. In general, its best not to piss off the ants. And make them want to become grasshoppers themselves.

Not happening now. And becomes less likely every time a kid or his mom gets killed (intentionally or not) in Iraq and Afghanistan.

SP

john

Jonst, the why has many answers. Some have to do with the modern prosecution of war. Some have to do with nostalgia. Some have to do with politics. I think a big lesson from Vietnam has to do with burden sharing. The manpower burden of the Iraq War rests on a volunteer force with comparatively long individual service obligations. The financial burden of the Iraq War rests on our children and grandchildren. The current service-age citizens largely have escaped the duty of serving in or paying for this war. Coupled with an earnest governmental effort to inconvenience the public as little as possible, the war is not wearing on the public as heavily like during the Vietnam War.

If I remember our early history, the public and its leadership had a healthy distrust for a large standing army. Thus, the early emphasis on and tradition of the citizen soldier yet perseveres up to our own time. As an aside, I wonder what the affect of the heavy usage of the National Guard, the modern citizen soldier, will have on those formations in the years to come. The warrior types found themselves in the small standing military with a few intermittent years of expansion, little feast and much famine, until WWII. The standing army famously rubbed the militiamen and their political-appointee officers the wrong way and vice versa. But from the time Napoleon unleashed his citizen army on Europe and our own experience in the Civil War the nature of warfare changed. The draftees vastly augmented the volunteer citizen soldier, and the warriors had to adjust to the new reality of mass armies and total war. War became industrialized, jingoistic, and involved increasingly larger shares of the nation’s manpower and wealth. Then, technology allowed and Vietnam forced a reappraisal of our military structure. The much-touted equity of service that the draft provided during WWII, Korea, and Vietnam was seen as ineffective, high turnover rates was one of many problems.

Now, once again the US has a small standing military in terms of personnel strength though not budget. The gap between the missions and the active force structure is made up through citizen soldiers (National Guard and Reserves) and contracting. For the current crop of politicians this is politically advantageous, just as the draft system was once considered politically advantageous. So, where does this leave the public-military relationship in American society? The tradition of the citizen soldier and professional service are embraced by a shrinking percentage of the population. Indeed, a significant number of citizen soldiers are former active duty personnel. Some of this is due to population growth and better sensor-weapon systems, and some, I think, is due to political machinations as previously described. Military service has become the exception and not the rule for large segments of the public and the government. Luckily, military service does not carry a stigma in my experience. But, fewer and fewer citizens have taken the plunge. Some, like VP Cheney, have other priorities.

Mind you, I am not advocating a reinstitution of the peacetime draft. I do, however, strongly favor an increase in the number of active duty personnel and an end to the privatization of national defense—the two go hand-in-hand. As for pl’s point about the danger the Warriors pose, politicians purposefully stimulate passions and emotions. They play to the crowd for often short-term advantage. Wave the bloody flag, send someone else to death or ruin, all in the name of God and country. Nonetheless, the military professional understands the honor and obligation of service that transcends the mundane mouthings of politicians and the impassioned rantings of Warriors, who are in reality true believers of political pap.

Freeman

Col -- I am pleased that you chose to highlight the excellent comments by Confusedponderer. It's always good to come across a new way of looking at things. For myself, I guess I'm schizophrenic over whether I'm a Worrior or a warrior (or maybe just a worrier!), despite 25 years service.
What does concern me, however, at a philosophical level is whether a worrior force can hope to prevail on the ground over a Worrior force when they are fighting in the midst of a civilian population. As in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan, Worrior insurgents can terrorise the local population more fiercely than can our more disciplined worrior forces, and hence can coerce cooperation and complience by the local population more effectively than we can. There are numerous examples in Iraq such as forced closure of alcohol sales outlets, assassination of police and lawyers, torture of people cooperating with the government we support, etc. All this is also happening in villages in Helmand province, Afghanistan, and the villagers are forced to help the Warrior warlords.
It's generally easy to see why the locals should be complient to the wishes of insurgents who act this way. They have a simple calculation in mind: if I help the foreigners will they persevere for however long it takes to wipe out the warlords? If not, if I can't depend on them staying the course, then when they go the warlords will have no mercy on me; so I reluctantly have to cooperate with them.
If one accepts the logic of this calculus by the locals, we are for ever destined to fail on the ground against ruthless insurgents as "everyone knows" that we shall eventually get fed up of being shot at and go home.
This is where I see Thomas Barnett's idea of a SysAdmin as being so hopeless. If I understand him aright, he wants to see a middle-aged Peace Force type of organisation (with rifles) who will hopefully rebuild a failed gap-country in something like our connected democratic image. Some hope! But maybe I exaggerate a little. Anyway, I don't see any such SysAdmin people staying around and being shot at, IE'd, assassinated, taken hostage, etc, for very long. So I suspect that it's a non-starter. As they used to mark on some solution papers at Staff College: "Neat, plausible and wrong". (Sorry, T.B.)
My only attempt at a constructive suggestion is to say that we should try better to keep out of wars, especially in the middle east, but, if we are forced to act to defend our absolutely vital interests, we should be content with doing it at arms lenghth by overwhelming air power; let the locals do the clean-up while we stand by for a return if the lesson has not been learnt and friendly diplomatic talks not engaged. It's a hard, Worrior type of answer, but we are surely always going to have a difficult time if we attempt to fight insurgents man-to-man on their own ground and against their own rules.

angela


I see no desire on the part of the "Warriors" to "stay the course" or succeed. To engage in a bit of butchery before we leave, yes. But they are trying to get us out while pretending victory and blaming liberals for any problem.

It's true that they don't particularly care if Us troops die. Their heroes are the dodgers: the Waynes, The stallones, the Cheney's, the Limpbowels. They stil can't forgive the army because it's attorney humiliated Joe McCarthy. Good old O'Reilly was on one of the old themes just a week ago, he was saying prosecuting SS for killing Us prisoners was a war crime.

They hate "warriors."

They want out because it costs them votes and because the situation embarassases them. But it will be declared a total victory, the greatest victory ever distorted only by the enemy withing the same liberals who led to the fall of victorious Germany in WWI.

The never cared about success, to them these places aren't real, they live in Green Zones. From the beginning they downplayed difficulties, they fired people for saying it would cost a couple hundred million, when constructive criticism came in it was called terrorist loving treason because the pretence of success was more important than choices that would lead to it if those choices called their infallibility into question.

But they will not persist, they will work hard to get us out of this mess in the worst possible way. They are delusional.


Eric

Helluva thread here.

Only about 8 million men out of 28 million eligible ever wore the uniform during the VN era (think it's defined '62-'75).

While I served reluctantly, I did, at the end of the bad boy.

Seems, by the looks of it, we are outnumbered,now, by the Wannabees.

I see them around often enough. Think they missed something and feel hurt.

It's often a bad parody of Unforgiven:

Young Kid: See that, out there 500 yds. about?

Old Man: You're sure you can do that with that?

Young Kid: Sure.Did it all the time in Nam.

Old Man: You go ahead kid. I could never see that far on my best day.


Now, if someone would please pull off a 20 rd burst from an M16-A1, right beside my ear.

So I could clear my head.

And figure out if I'm a worrier, a warrior, coflicted, or don't really give a rat's ass anymore.

Ian Welsh

I have always had it explained to me that a "warrior" and a "soldier" are two different things. A warrior is about personal skill, excellence and bravery. He doesn't follow rules or take orders all that well.

A soldier on the other hand, does take orders well.

Could be wrong, and I'm not associated with the military of any country.

But I've known soldiers, and I've known guys who loved to fight (and were damn good at it) and while the two groups have overlap, they don't seem to be the same thing.

Michael Siger

Colonel, Confusedponderer as the empathetic an explanation of the soldiers who allegedly raped and murdered an Iraqi girl and killed her family. I have never heard an explantion of that atrocity and Calley's crimes so clear. This comment was a great contribution to a real learning page, learning blog. Thank you again Pat for making this happen. Michael Singer

Charlie Green

Damn! This is serious stuff here.

I knew (and fortunately didn't work for) a draft dodger, uh, draft deferred, supervisor (and confronted him on the subject) who went to Soldier of Fortune conventions and got a woody over the US attacking about anyone. When anyone called him out about it, he just got belligerant and threatened them (mostly me).

My experience in VN with these two philosophies can be summed up as those between the gunship platoon and the slick crews in the 281st Aviation Co in which I served for a year.

Most door gunners and crew chiefs of the slicks felt we were doing some good, particularly when we could get a team out of an LZ before they engaged NVA companies after a successful recon.

The only attitude from the gun platoon was how many bullet holes were found in the victims of their miniguns.

Who's the warrior?

searp

Modern warfare is increasingly fought with standoff weapons. Many of these weapons simply obliterate their targets, which tend to be geographical.

The Warrior/warrior mentality matters most at the policy level. It is the choice to go to war that matters. The killing or abuse of civilians is a policy matter. It is the mentality of the policymakers that ultimately matters.

W. Patrick Lang

Searp

It is true that the "Wariior" mentality matters a great deal at the policy level of decision, but I think you are quite wrong in the assertion that "modern wars" (whatever that is) are fought increasingly with stand off weapons. The history of the world since WW2 and continuing into the present indicates that the advances in technology have not diminished the role of ground forces.

What good are stand off weapons in Iraq? what good were they in the Falklnad Islands, etc? pl

W. Patrick Lang

decius

"soldier" and "warrior" are two different things. a soldier is a disciplined member of a military force who is regularly paid by higher authority for performance of his duties. That is what "solde" implies in French. pl

taters

Thank you for posting this, Col. Good posts, all.
While we're all familiar with Calley, sadly not enough is mentioned of Hugh Thompson. Or Glenn Andreotta and Lawrence Colburn.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Early in the morning of March 16, 1968, Thompson, door-gunner Lawrence Colburn and crew chief Glenn Andreotta came upon U.S. ground troops killing Vietnamese civilians in and around the village of My Lai.

They landed the helicopter in the line of fire between American troops and fleeing Vietnamese civilians and pointed their own guns at the U.S. soldiers to prevent more killings.

Colburn and Andreotta had provided cover for Thompson as he went forward to confront the leader of the U.S. forces. Thompson later coaxed civilians out of a bunker so they could be evacuated, and then landed his helicopter again to pick up a wounded child they transported to a hospital. Their efforts led to the cease-fire order at My Lai.

In 1998, the Army honored the three men with the prestigious Soldier's Medal, the highest award for bravery not involving conflict with an enemy. It was a posthumous award for Andreotta, who had been killed in battle three weeks after My Lai.

"It was the ability to do the right thing even at the risk of their personal safety that guided these soldiers to do what they did," Army Maj. Gen. Michael Ackerman said at the 1998 ceremony. The three "set the standard for all soldiers to follow."

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5133444

When Mr. Thompson returned home, it seemed to him that he was viewed as the guilty party.

''I'd received death threats over the phone,'' he told the CBS News program ''60 Minutes'' in 2004. ''Dead animals on your porch, mutilated animals on your porch some mornings when you get up. So I was not a good guy.''

On March 6, 1998, the Army presented the Soldier's Medal, for heroism not involving conflict with an enemy, to Mr. Thompson; to his gunner, Lawrence Colburn; and, posthumously, to Mr. Andreotta, who was killed in a helicopter crash three weeks after the My Lai massacre.

The citation, bestowed in a ceremony at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, said the three crewmen landed "in the line of fire between American ground troops and fleeing Vietnamese civilians to prevent their murder."

He was presumably mindful of the ostracism he had faced and the long wait for that medal ceremony in Washington. As he told The Associated Press in 2004: ''Don't do the right thing looking for a reward, because it might not come.''

http://select.nytimes.com/search/restricted/article?res=F20E10F935540C748CDDA80894DE404482


fasteddiez

Colonel,

As to the provenance of the warrior article submitted from confusedponderer, it comes from Fred Reed, a former editorialist for the Army Times family of magazines as well as other publications. He is a fellow Virginian as well as a USMC Vietnam combat veteran. the article is linked here:
http://www.lewrockwell.com/reed/reed96.html
and his site URL is here:
http://www.fredoneverything.net/

His politically incorect screeds are quite funny as well as wide ranging, and would no doubt be enjoyed by many of your readers.

I share Fred Reed's general disdain for today's so called "conservatives" who lustily cry out for foreiners' blood and for our volunteer military's sacrifice, while sacrificing no inconvenience themselves.

Like Reed, I was a Marine (grunt, not Tanker) in Vietnam. I have monitored the conversations on this blog for a while, while never commenting. It is my favorite site. I went back into the USMC in 1980, and after an evolution as a platoon sergeant, went into the tactical HUMINT field until retirement.

My uneducated take on this topic is that the warrior ratio has probably increased since 9/11. More people joined up for patriotic reasons. Young grunts now think of themselves as Spartans, with whatever baggage they think it entails. Methinks they should drop the Hubris and focus on tactical snap 24/7. The small unit leadership should not encourage the warrior oohrah stuff and focus the unit members on doing their mission in a tactically sound manner, while restraining themselves from blowing away as few innocent non military aged indigenous personnel as is possible. Even if they do everything right, there is a good chance that they will be IED'd into next week. Thanks of course to the cretinous bootlicking F-22 lovin' folks.

PS Colonel, good Strat course at Huachuca, did you have any imput during your reign at the original recipe DHS?

Respectfully Submitted

Chris Bray

There are, of course, other categories -- chief among them people who know that they aren't natural-born warriors, but who also believe that the republic has to be defended and so they might as well help. I think it would probably be difficult to overstate the importance to this nation of people who don't have a taste for war, don't wish to posture as if they did, and serve in uniform anyway. Quietly and with forebearance. And are very grateful to see the restoration of peace, so they can go home.

W. Patrick Lang

Chris

Sounds like a political speech.

Don't kid yourself. An army made up of people who really don't want to be "there," doing "that" depends on the warriors for leadership. If it does not get it, it does not fight well at all. pl

W. Patrick Lang

fasteddiez

Welcome aboard.

I pushed the system as hard as I could to make HUMINT run better. what the long term effects were. I know not. pl

confusedponderer

After 911 I long wondered how America could embark on policies that I found incomprehensible and, worse, clearly against what I understood to be their rational interest.

The 'Warrior' description is interesting, but only offers a glimpse. They are dangerous insofar as they see the US military as an end in itself. That's a facist tendency.

The appeal of the use of military force, however, is not limited to the 'Warrior', but is IMO a strongly bipartisan thing. I can't get out of my mind how Madeleine Albright said: "What use is that splendid military of yours if we don't use it?"

America is the only country I know of, where civilians discuss with a venegance how to improve the military to make it stronger, more mobile and even more powerful - as if it is weak atm (it certainly isn't).

There seems to be a genuine belief in the 'hardware fix', not so much as far as weapons systems are concerned but in respect to US military force as a natural solution for political problems.

With that in mind Bush's 'unilateralism' doesn't come as a surprise - Albright's war on Serbia IMO was as much a war of agression as Bush's invasion of Iraq. When you see US military force as legitimate and virtuous, always, the refusal to accept the iron limitations of Art.2 Nr.1 & Nr.4 UN Charter come natural. With this in mind I don't so much see Bush acting as a renegade anymore. In this respect Bush and his administration are very much in the tradition of previous administrations. The silence in the US about their administration merrily committing the supreme crime of Nuremberg is telling.

Albrights belief in US force of arms to *solve* the balkan's crisis is to me as much an utopia as the neo-con belief in re-shaping the Greater Middle East through military induced regime-change.

It seems to me that military strength has become part of American national identity. That too suggests that in case of political problems, there is an inclination to seek a military solution rather than a political one. I find it quite striking that the US right routinely denounces the diplomats at State as 'Liberals', corrupted, and out of touch with America. Only the virtue of the US military to them guarantees a solution in tune with US virtues.

The faith in the genius of the US in military affairs nurses grandiose expectations about the use of force to establish the ultimate triumph of American ideals. That, however, includes 'liberal interventionists' as much as 'neo-cons', or the 'Warrior' (who likes every war, anyway).
It also suggests to me that the Iraq war won't be the last foolish enterprise the US is going to embark on.

confusedponderer

Another thing: With the over-glorification of the military, it's virtues and it's people, there easily comes the misperception about what a military can realistically accomplish. Talk about re-shaping the Middle East and it's societies ...

For the interventionists, liberals and neo-con's alike, military action is the quick fix, the take-it-all solution instead of the corrupt give-and-take of diplomacy. The war in Iraq as originally envisioned by the neo-cons is the perfect showcase: Purifying violence, the force of arms, is the means to prevent American virtues and ideals from being compromised in Kissingeresque dealings with the world's scum. That's their 'moral clarity'.
I see this rather as an act of moral cowardice. Rather than getting their hands dirty themselves, the folks advertising this brand of foreign policy, merely delegate the getting dirty to the military.

When use of military force becomes the norm in (foreign) policy as soon as things get tricky, military force over time ceases to be a means to an end. Klausewitz would comment sternly on that I presume.

fbg46

One of the abiding characteristics of the Wannabees is that they have no appreciation for how interconnected and fragile an institution like the Army is. It's resilient, but if it's used wrong for long enough it will break. Just as it broke in the early 70's, so it's breaking again. The Wannabees don't know and don't care . . . it's all playing dress up to them.

The rape/murder of the Iraqi family (if indeed that what it turns out to be) is a symptom of the Army's breaking. It just isn't possible to have soldiers do two and three tours in Iraq and not have these kinds of things occur. And I'm not arguing this is an excuse: as the lawyers know, the first thing decided is guilt or innocence; only if and when guilt is determined does the focus shift to aggravating or mitigating factors.

jonst, you are so right about the draftees. I was an RA, but had the privilege of serving with many of the USs; they were a cross section of the part of the country for which deferments and connections into NG units didn't exist.
They by and large quietly came into the Army, did what they were asked to do under often terrible circumstances (often doing more than was asked of them) and then quietly went home to deal with the aftermath on their own.

There is a special place in the Robert Strange McNamara Wing of Hell reserved for Rumsfeld.

Chris Bray

Now that you mention it, sure: It was intended as a political speech. A very short one.

Robert E Lee and Stonewall Jackson were natural warriors; so were Grant and Sherman. Fifty other examples available on request. Every military organization has true warriors in it -- including the ones that lose horribly. The question is, what else does an army need to win the wars it fights, and in a way that makes its victories serve their intended purposes?

The "monasticism" of people for whom war is "a way of life suited to their nature" is only as valuable or politically healthy as the material it's anchored to.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but it's something like this point that I see over and over again right here, on your website: Why are the warriors fighting? On what premise, and toward what end?

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