What's Going On

Discussion in 'Middle East - General' started by Annie, Dec 2, 2003.

  1. Annie
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    Annie Diamond Member

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    December 2, 2003
    OP-ED COLUMNIST
    Boots on the Ground, Hearts on Their Sleeves
    By DAVID BROOKS

    http://www.nytimes.com/2003/12/02/opinion/02BROO.html

    oldiers in all wars are called upon to be heroes, but our men and women in Iraq are called upon to define a new sort of heroism. First, they must endure the insanity of war, fighting off fedayeen ambushes, withstanding the suicide bombings and mortars, kicking down doors and searching homes.

    But a day or an hour or a few minutes later, they are called upon to enter an opposite moral universe. They are asked to pass out textbooks, improvise sewer systems and help with budgets. Some sit in on town council meetings to help keep the discussions on track. Some act like foundation program officers, giving seed money to promising local initiatives.

    Trained as trigger-pullers, many are also asked in theater to be consultants and aldermen. They are John Wayne, but also Jane Addams.

    Can anybody think of another time in history when a comparable group of young people was asked to be at once so brave, fierce and relentless, while also being so sympathetic, creative and forbearing?

    When you read the dispatches from Iraq, or the online diaries many soldiers keep, or the e-mail they send home, you quickly sense how hard it is to commute between these two universes. Yet the most important achievements seem to occur on the border between chaos and normalcy.

    At spontaneous moments, when order threatens to break down, the soldiers, aviators and marines jump in and coach the Iraqis on the customs and habits of democracy. They try to weave that fabric of civic trust that can't be written into law, but without which freedom becomes anarchy.

    For example, in a New Yorker article, George Packer describes an incident in the life of Capt. John Prior. He was inside a gas station when a commotion erupted outside. A mob of people was furiously accusing a man of butting in line and stealing gasoline. Prior established that the man was merely a government inspector checking the quality of the fuel. Frazzled and exhausted, Prior took the chance to teach the mob a broader lesson: "The problem is that you people accuse each other without proof! That's the problem!"

    Another soldier, who keeps a Weblog, collects toys and passes them out to Iraqi children. He brought a pile of toys to an orphanage, but the paid staff at the place rushed the pile to grab the toys for themselves — "like sharks in a feeding frenzy," he writes. He has learned that if he stations himself with an M-16 over the toys, things go smoothly.

    Another soldier writes of his dismay at seeing Iraqi parents give their kids toy guns as presents after Ramadan. He wonders, Haven't they had enough death? Don't they realize how dangerous it is for a kid to wander the street with a piece of plastic that looks like an AK-47?

    When you read the diaries and the postings of the soldiers in Iraq, you see how exhausted they are. You see that their feelings about the Iraqis are as contradictory as the Iraqis' feelings about them. You see their frustration and yearning to go home.

    But despite all this, their epic bouts of complaining are interrupted by bursts of idealism. Most of them seem to feel, deep down, some elemental respect for the Iraqis and sympathy for what they have endured. Far more than the population at home, the soldiers in the middle of the conflict believe in their mission and are confident they will succeed.

    When you read their writings you see what thorough democrats they are. They are appalled at the thought of dominating Iraq. They want to see the Iraqis independent and governing themselves. If some president did want to create an empire, he couldn't do it with these people. Their faith in freedom governs their actions.

    Most of all, you see what a challenging set of tasks they have been given, and how short-staffed they are. And yet you sense that in this war, as in so many others, the improvising skill of the soldiers on the ground will make up for the cosmic screw-ups of the people up the chain of command.

    If anybody is wondering: Where are the young idealists? Where are the people willing to devote themselves to causes larger than themselves? They are in uniform in Iraq, straddling the divide between insanity and order.
     
  2. Psychoblues
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    Psychoblues Senior Member

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    Not at all, Katrinanne. They are following orders as issued to them by their commanders and leaders. As the article that you posted would suggest they are confused and untrained for the assignments they are given. Nonetheless, they deserve all the praise and rewards that this country is willing to give to them.

    If Viet Nam, Grenada, Panama or Gulf War I are any indication then I would expect this country is not willing to give them much. Rah, Rah, Siz Boom Bah is about all they can expect.
     
  3. Annie
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    Annie Diamond Member

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    Psycho, you do not relate, or do not read very well. These are guys who are not only disciplined, i.e., following orders, they are also guys interested in those they are NOW told to serve:

    These are the best the US has, and they are doing us proud:

     
  4. Psychoblues
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    Psychoblues Senior Member

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    I will and I do agree. I hope this country will do better by them than it has for it's veterans from other wars. No good G.I. does anything that he/she is not so ordered or compelled to do in the line of duty. That's his/her gig. Nothing less, nothing more.

    A common grunt sitting in on town hall meetings is laughable. The officers, yes, I can agree with that but for what purposes? To indoctrinate or to understand the prevailing culture? Democracy cannot be imposed on anyone. Contrary to popular American beliefs, democracy is not desired by everyone. Even the English still worship their monarchy.
     
  5. Annie
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    Annie Diamond Member

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    Other than Vietnam, don't know of what you speak. My dad, the most anti-war person either of us could meet, with a purple heart and silver star, will tell both of us and GW that war will never solve anything.

    YET, he'll tell you, that the only reason his hands and eyes and back are screwed up is that he didn't step up when asked to go for OCS training. Thought it would be too much work. He opted for machine gunner. LOL
     
  6. Psychoblues
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    Psychoblues Senior Member

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    Well then maybe your Dad can explain the differences in the care for veterans between Democratic and Republican administrations to you. It never ceases to amaze me.
     
  7. Sevendogs
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    :) This is all true. This is a kind of freindly occupation to help another nation. Our soldiers live, work and fight there. Nevertheless, reality is not as freindly to them. This is a different culture, religion and many see occupation ugly as it is. They want to govern themsleves as soon as possible. It would be much better, if twe would let them to fight for their freedom themselves. Now, when Saddam's party is in retreat, they can keep their freedom, if they value it. You canot teach other people to value their freedom and keep it by fighting for them, it comes naturally. I see they serve in the police only for money and would run away as soon as our troops would leave Iraq or stop paying them.
    When I was a boy, we played with toy guns and all kinds of the weapons. We even made our own out of copper pipes and wood and they were shooting, but when we grew up, we did not want to become soldiers, if we did not believe in the cause.
     
  8. dijetlo
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    That's a valid point. The troops are not going to the townhall meetings as anything but security. Every private knows his chain of command, and he swiftly learns the penalties for deviating from it. If one of them gets' a brainstorm/brainfart while present he better write it down and give it to his section leader, piping up with it is likely to land him a couple days cleaning sand out of intake filters. If I was his NCO, I'd see to it. If the officers want your opinion you will know, they will ask you. Otherwise, the US army is not a democracy, at least until you get a couple stripes.
    The townhall meetings are vital if the Iraqis are to move on to the next step in electing a national government, caucuses. The problem is that the Shia Clergy, in the person of Sistani, want popular elections and are set on a parliamentary instead of representative democracy. Seems with a solid majority of the population, they wont be gerrymandered into the back seat by the Sunni. Bad news for the Iraqi National Congress and Bremmer, but at this point it looks like we are going to give them what they want, so look for a government that is going to be very friendly with Iran coming soon to Baghdad. It seems the Shia are taking the promise of June seriously and while they have no experience with democracy themselves, they are aware of the shortcomings inherent in a representative democracy (like our own).
     
  9. Annie
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    Annie Diamond Member

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    posted by Psychoblues

    I do believe you are underestimating the calibre of military we now have:
    try navigating around this site for a bit: http://www.estripes.com/

    The military is actually encouraging the members to not only help the natives, but educated the American populace through blogs and such. Granted, they want to vet them, but if you check some out, you'll be surprised at the candor, criticisms, and praise.
     
  10. Psychoblues
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    Psychoblues Senior Member

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    I am not underestimating our military. But I may be overestimating it.

    I'm an old vet. I wish I was still able to be directly involved in the military process. Our soldiers and our equipment are the very best in the world. I've never intimated differently. You are just confused.

    Because we happen to have the best soldiers and the best equipment does not entitle us to throw our weight around as that will certainly lead to our downfall as a world-power and possibly as a nation. Do you not agree?
     

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