According to a statistic about the US military, “more active-duty soldiers killed themselves than died in combat“. This is an interesting article to read, all the more interesting for me as it makes me think of the significant changes in the conduct of warfare that took place more specifically since the age of technological innovations.
Just like peace, war practices, were part of ways human came to understand their selves and their relation with other humans. Just like peace had rules, war too. And just like peace permitted the construction of ethics to develop forms of human dignity, war was a mean through which humans could learn about themselves, about their representation of an enemy, how to deal with that enemy through certain form of ethical conduct, and by ethical, I mean some form of human excellence at perfecting skills that benefit everyone. So in this sense, the skills of a Hitler can’t really count.
But today, with war being practiced more and more from a distance, protagonists don’t come to really “face” an enemy. Technology has permitted the creation of an abstract field were combat techniques take place. In this sense, video games are actually the real way in which war take place because soldier are living that fantasy situation all throughout, unless a severe disruption contradicts the familiar story and threatens to disrupt their mental, spiritual and physical stability.
I don’t want to extend on all the implications of what that mean in the way war is conducted (there is a lot written on that), but I just want to point out how pointless the “war experience” has become for these soldiers who are not only unprepared to face conflict situations, as they increasingly live in a fantasy of what war could be, as a game, but do not use war as a transcendental or spiritual experience for developing ethical excellence.
The Pentagon considered a proposal to create a hormone bomb that could turn enemy soldiers into homosexuals and make them more interested in sex than fighting.
Along those lines, US contractors may want to rethink the wisdom of sending former SLA and LF guys into Iraq as security guards. Lebanon’s gentler sex might, perhaps, serve as a more effective deterrent against evil-doers.
“For reasons that are not yet clear, America’s general officer corps underestimated the strength of the enemy, overestimated the capabilities of Iraq’s government and security forces, and failed to provide Congress with an accurate assessment of security conditions in Iraq,” Lt. Col. Paul Yingling said in the article published Friday in the Armed Forces Journal.
Those stateside like me have had to endure an endless amount of blather — legal and otherwise — about what role the US Congress should play in the government’s war-making powers. Those who argue for an expansive reading of Article II’s CinC powers often suggest that the legislature should not be involved in battlefield decisions, lest the military be compromised by vissicitudes of politics. This is utter bullshit. Having abandoned its constitutional role in matters of war and peace by deferring to the Executive, the US Congress has only futher politicized the ranks of the US military leadership. Instead of our elected representatives making such decisions, we have generals deciding whether we are at war or peace. One can witness this phenomenon in the fetish over the Pentagon’s IED presentation or in the revolving door of the Iraq command structure.
I will edit and elaborate when I get the chance.
Watch the HBO documentary. It is well-done and has a very “banality of evil” feel to it.
The French and the Russians, for example, won asymmetrical wars in Algeria and Chechnya in the 19th century, but lost asymmetrical wars in those same places in the 20th century. “In the 19th century, there was not a literacy for nationalism. You look at a lot of these colonial wars. The great powers could play off tribes against each other. By the 1960s, you cannot do that anymore.”
I would aver that “nationalism” is only one of now available technologies that doom such adventures.
“There are four or five generals and admirals we know of who would resign if Bush ordered an attack on Iran,” a source with close ties to British intelligence said. “There is simply no stomach for it in the Pentagon, and a lot of people question whether such an attack would be effective or even possible.”
The propaganda wars are in full swing in the British press. Let the leaks continue …
ADDENDUM: It seems Sy Hersh has prepared an update on US war plans. I think I am on record here saying that Hersh sometimes gets played by his sources and cherry-picks and then over-inflates evidence to fit his particular narrative, but his work is unparalleled here in the US. If it is somewhat conspiratorial in form and content, it seems a necessary evil in the national security state. It is also a bit funny that Nasrallah says he is willing to talk to the Americans, but Jumblatt says he cannot talk to Hizbullah. I had thought Hersh was coming out with a piece on the Hariri assassination. I guess not.
“A senior Israeli defence official said negotiations were now underway between the two countries for the US-led coalition in Iraq to provide an “air corridor” in the event of the Israeli government deciding on unilateral military action to prevent Teheran developing nuclear weapons.”
As I have said before, I believe the pro-war faction in the US is delighted over how its opponents insist the Administration is getting ready for just such a war. Here is military analyst William Arkin on the recent BBC report:
I have argued in these pages that that is why it is essential that we not overstate what the United States is really up to and that the Bush administration recognizes that its “planning” might be misinterpreted by Iran and lead to the very thing it supposedly is hoping to prevent.
Stay tuned …
A must-read on former SecDef Donald Rumsfeld’s career (among other things) — part one and two. It’s long and at times and in places unfair, but it is a very well-researched polemic.
Henry Kissinger came to think Rumsfeld the “most ruthless” official he had ever known …
In this way, Rumsfeld and others, including Gates and his slightly mad patron Casey at the CIA, would all, in some degree, become policy godfathers of the mullahs’ regime in Tehran as well as of Hezbollah…
To a blight that Charles de Gaulle once deplored in his French army as “solely careerism”, the post-Korea US military added the fetish and pseudo-science of “management” – warriors astride desks, commanding paper flow and brandishing the numerology of budgets with ever more expensive weapons systems…
With Vietnam lessons unlearned and careerist blight as well as contract pillage uninterrupted, the military system’s answer – already emerging as orthodoxy under Rumsfeld in 1976 – would be the simplistic, foolproof dictum, claimed by Colin Powell but hardly his originally, of fighting only with overwhelming forces, crushing firepower, and uncontested air cover (and even then having a precise “exit strategy” in place). This was, in sum, a version of General Taylor’s “deter and win quickly”. (As a “doctrine”, it was as if the army or navy football team would only go on the field with its own rules, its own referees, and a 33-man team in the latest equipment to face an opposite 11 without helmets, pads, or the ability to pass.)