Thursday, August 25, 2005

Good guys and bad guys

We live in a world of fantasy where Disney has won, the fantasy of Disney. It's all fantasy. That's why I think that if a writer has something to say he should say it at all costs. The world is real. - Bob Dylan

I don't usually do politics in fhb, but watching Iraq play out like some waking nightmare of Vietnam is getting me a little crazier each day, sometimes making me wonder whether the world is real, or just a mass fantasy.

Jeff Jacoby has a particularly annoying column in today's Boston Globe where, among other things, he writes...

'When I was in Vietnam," retired Army Colonel Jack Jacobs, a 1969 Medal of Honor recipient who had just returned from a fact-finding trip to the Sunni Triangle, told NBC News in May, ''if you asked anybody what he wanted more than anything else in the world, he'd say: to go home. We asked . . . hundreds of soldiers, low-ranking soldiers, in both Afghanistan and Iraq . . . the same question. And the response, to a man and a woman, was, 'To kill bad guys.' . . .
... which, when I read that last line, gave me a strong need for bull shit protectors for the eyes. I have no knowledge of Col. Jacobs past the bio I linked to, but with all due respect for the Colonel and his obvious past bravery, sir, if he really believes that garbage, it makes me very happy to have missed serving under him.

Anyone who has ever been in the Service knows the "to kill bad guys" rhetoric is complete, stupid, comic book gung-ho nonsense that drill sergeants - at least the smart ones - spend much time kicking out of recruit's heads during basic training and AIT. The primary aim of any soldier in any war, from Normandy to Vietnam to Iraq, all the way back to Caesar's legionnaires in Gaul, is to make it out alive and in one piece while attempting to execute whatever s/he has been ordered to do by people like the good Colonel. Not "kill bad guys." Killing bad guys that might be in your way may be the best way of accomplishing your mission, but is, at best, a sub-routine, not a prime directive. At least for those of us interested in staying alive and with, as the Salinger line goes, all our faculties intact.

Jacoby goes on to note that, "...['Today" show's Matt Lauer] tried valiantly to coax some Vietnam-style disillusionment out of the soldiers he met, but as NBC's transcript makes clear, the troops weren't having any of that..."

I saw that interview too, and Jacoby is essentially right, although don't you wonder how those spit-polished troops, almost all of whom who had something to say seeming to be R.A. officers, got in front of Lauer? One wonders whether a troop out in the field, uncontrolled by Army P.R. would have had the same enthusiasm for the ubiquitous "mission."

But who knows? Maybe they would. Certainly Service morale is higher in an all-volunteer Army than one composed of draftees. Back in my day, 48 percent of the manpower in the Army was either drafted or, as the saying used to be, "draft-motivated," and many of us, were not, ah, particularly happy with that fact. The fastest way to end the Iraq war would be to restart the draft, but if it comes to that, we're all going to be in deep shit.

Jacoby's title for his column, "Iraq is no Vietnam," is right too. At least for right now. But in a comparison to Vietnam, we're still in the early days in Iraq, in maybe around the 1964-65 period, where most Americans still probably couldn't have located Vietnam on a map, and troop morale was still high. There were gung-ho troops in Vietnam too in those days ... but many of them were gone, or dead, or disillusioned by 1968, having discovered that in the minds of the Viet Cong, they were the bad guys.

Iraq is no Vietnam. Not yet. We'll see what it is, and what troop morale is like then, if we're still there in three or four more years. And maybe by then, if I'm wrong and the Colonel is right and "killing bad guys" is really the troop mindset of today's Army, we should start thinking about restarting the draft. Getting a few less-than-gung-ho troops into the mix might not be all that bad an idea.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well, hell,yeah, fhb! It's good to see some sanity somewhere. Maybe you should do some politics a little more often. :-)