Monday, October 16, 2006

Following Up

A follow-up to the previous post. It was running long in the comments.


Q: If military folk have a flame war on a forum, does that mean the loser has to die?
A: Naw, but I hear that Marines have to kill their families to earn their stripes.


Q: But are those tendencies institutional--that is, are they encouraged by the military? And are they unavoidable? Clearly, some people do leave the armed services without becoming misogynistic bigots. But it also seems like there's been a fair amount of misconduct in the Iraq war, even assuming that there are always atrocities in war, and I'd like to know if those attitudes are the reason why.

A: Definitely not encouraged, but on the other hand largely institutional. You see similar attitudes in nearly any kind of male-dominated environment, especially in ones where a certain level of aggression/anxiety is maintained. Couple that with the current socio-political climate and a lot of ignorance bubbles over. Price of the patriarchy, perhaps.

I don't know that there's more misconduct in the Iraq Invasion than any other war, which to me is a sad fact. But there's no doubt we're seeing a lot. There are lots of explanations, I'm sure - a few off the top of my head:

1. Mission creep - with no clear goal, either on a strategic or tactical level (if you have to clear a city every few months, it's obvious you're getting bullshit missions), unit cohesion, morale, training, community relations break down. Familiarity breeds contempt, not just for Iraqis vs Americans but within military units themselves. I still find it ridiculous that the Marines are even involved at this point - they aren't Swiss peacekeepers.

2. Dehumanization - Dehumanization of the enemy is almost standard practice at this point, and it's especially dangerous. Everyone uses slurs and repeats the worst kind of racist myths about, not just the enemy, but civilians. While this makes combat easier, peacekeeping is much harder. A lot of people joined after 9/11, and got shuttled off to Iraq revenge-minded - they're idiots, but I put more blame on the bastards at the top for pulling off the deception.

3. Broken military - Not enough time/money for training/equipment, way too many deployments (when I went in, a deployment was 6 months max - now it's over a year), loads of risky vaccinations, a completely poisoned environment in Iraq (they ask you if you were exposed to various things - radiation, burning fuel, etc. - and I ask "How would you know?").

They've done a good job pretending that recruitment is fine as they lower the minimum test score and raise the maximum age, but they're hurting. They can fix the numbers because a unit is only required to have a certain percentage of job spots filled in order to claim 'readiness' - I think my comm unit was at 74% when I left over a year ago. You have two companies, essentially mirror units, the idea being that one deploys, one stays behind to train, then replaces the first unit, but we were cannibalizing the other company and even other units just to get the minimum numbers (and other units were doing the same to us). Juggling will keep it going for awhile, but meanwhile training is going to shit (very hard to stay current in the sandbox) and people are getting promoted just because spots are opening up, not because they're qualified.

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