Friday, November 21, 2008

A Lt. Col. Reflects on the militarization of the USA

Photo: U.S. Army soldiers from Hawk Company, 3rd Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment verify an Iraqi man's identification and check for his name on a list of wanted terrorists as they conduct a sweep in a village near Muqdadiyah, about 90 kilometers (60 miles) north of Baghdad in Iraq's volatile Diyala province on Friday, Aug. 1, 2008.

(AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)

I would bet that the names are not written in Arabic, since the US soldiers likely cannot read Arabic. That means that the names have been translated to English, and since there are sounds in Arabic that are not present in English, there could be several different translations.

Retired Lt. Col. William J. Astore:

But here's the question to ponder: At what price virtuosity? In World War I and World War II, the Germans were the best soldiers because they had trained and fought the most, because their societies were geared, mentally and in most other ways, for war, because they celebrated and valued feats of arms above all other contributions one could make to society and culture.

Being "the best soldiers" meant that senior German leaders -- whether the Kaiser, Field Marshal Paul von Hindenburg, that Teutonic titan of World War I, or Hitler -- always expected them to prevail. The mentality was: "We're number one. How can we possibly lose unless we quit -- or those [fill in your civilian quislings of choice] stab us in the back?"

If this mentality sounds increasingly familiar, it's because it's the one we ourselves have internalized in these last years. German warfighters and their leaders knew no limitations until it was too late for them to recover from ceaseless combat, imperial overstretch, and economic collapse.

Today, the U.S. military, and by extension American culture, is caught in a similar bind. After all, if we truly believe ours to be "the world's best military" (and, judging by how often the claim is repeated in the echo chamber of our media, we evidently do), how can we possibly be losing in Iraq or Afghanistan?

Of course, we are losing in Iraq and Afghanistan because we are fighting against the native peoples of those countries, who will not go away or give up. I wish they (the people of Iraq and Afghanistan) had stuck with doing NON-VIOLENT resistance. I believe that they would have succeeded sooner, and with vastly less toll on the people who live there, and with less damage to the culture and historical artifacts.

But like the Germans, I often think that Americans will not turn their backs on war-making unless one of two things happens: war comes to our front porches, or we go broke. Of course, if war comes to us, we will likely end up broke anyway.

I am headed to Fort Benning this weekend, to join the protest of the School of the Americas.

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