Upper Left Coast

Thoughts on politics, faith, sports and other random topics from a red state sympathizer in indigo-blue Portland, Oregon.

Friday, August 17, 2007

The troops are baby killers and torturers

Oops, I guess it's harder to say that sort of generic slander with a straight face when you read this (emphasis mine) about Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of coalition forces in Iraq:
In the face of a gruesomely persistent Iraqi insurgency, Gen. Petraeus [who, by the way, has a doctorate in international relations from Princeton] was charged with revamping the outdated counterinsurgency doctrine. In an unprecedented collaboration, he reached out to Sarah Sewall, who directs the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard University, to help him organize a vetting session of the draft manual at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas.

The conference brought together journalists, human-rights activists, academics and members of the armed forces to exchange ideas about how to make the doctrine more effective and more humane. Ms. Sewall, who since 2001 has been trying to get the military to bring the concerns of the human-rights community to the table, tells me that with Gen. Petraeus it is like pushing on an open door.
These cultural anthropologists truly believe that being allowed to help shape military policy will help our troops avoid offending Iraqis (inadvertently or otherwise), thereby improving both Iraqi and American lives. As chapter one of the new manual states, "cultural knowledge is essential to waging a successful counterinsurgency. American ideas of what is 'normal' or 'rational' are not universal."

As the story points out, the academic community is not exactly best friends with the military, and a few breakthroughs do not necessarily define a trend. Some argue that any collaboration between academe and military is selling out by the former.

Still, as Sewell said, a growing number of anthropologists are questioning the conventional wisdom and reconsidering whether the most effective way to influence the military is "by waving a big sign outside the Pentagon saying 'you suck.' "

Because, you know, the Pentagon is so easily swayed by what Code Pink is doing outside its doors.

Labels: , ,


  • At 8/17/2007 3:42 PM, Anonymous "gunner" said…

    I've seen a remark that "the military can learn from academics" in this debate. I'd suggest that academia might also learn from "the brutal and licentious soldiery" who, in this day and age are a far cry from "Tommy Atkins" once despised by the british elite even while Tommy cleaned up their messes, and for that matter Tommy was not the stupid, brutal thug he was made out to be, nor are our soldiers today.

  • At 8/31/2007 9:32 PM, Blogger John said…

    Some American units were better at counterinsurgency warfare than others. The 4th Infantry Division is notorious for it's beligerent attitude, which played right into the gameplan of the insurgents.
    American troops were let down by incompetent leadership at the top, beginning with General Franks, who thought the war was over when we seized Baghdad, to Lt. Gen Gonzalez, who did not understand counterinsurgency warfare.


Post a Comment

<< Home