Two of the fundamental truths of military science, which all soldiers learn during their first days in the training barracks, are that shit always rolls downhill and stink always wafts its way to the top. Operations that are planned by the division staff are executed by a young buck sergeant leading a squad of even younger infantrymen, and when something goes wrong with the plan the general hears about it. Sometimes heads roll. The ideological war hawks of this administration fail to understand either of these principles, which is why the troops are sounding off.
Some people dismiss these complaints as typical of disgruntled privates bellyaching about the chow and the mail. Others, especially on the far-right, are outraged: â€śHow dare they not support the President?â€ť But these arenâ€™t a bunch of privates pitching a bitch about a latrine detail; the guys sounding off are mid-level officers and senior NCOs. Soldiers with experience and training who wear combat patches on their right shoulders, veterans of Gulf War I, Somalia, Bosnia, Haiti, Macedonia, Afghanistan and Kosovo.
Those soldiers know what theyâ€™re talking about. Theyâ€™ve seen peacekeeping operations done right, in Bosnia, Haiti and Kosovo. And theyâ€™ve seen them done wrong in Somalia and Afghanistan. One of the most common complaints we keep hearing from the troops is that theyâ€™re not trained, staffed or configured for peacekeeping operations.
The ideologues who planned this operation have always hated the idea of peacekeeping. During the 2000 Presidential campaign Condi Rice articulated the contempt that hard-right conservatives felt toward peacekeeping by saying, â€śWe donâ€™t need to have the 82d Airborne escorting kids to kindergarten.â€ť In fact, one of the Bushies first moves in the Defense Department was to abolish the Army War Collegeâ€™s Peacekeeping Institute. This agency analyzed past peace operations, including NGO participation and military-civilian agency interaction, and passed the results on to the hundreds of American military officers who attended its seminars and courses. Based on this agencyâ€™s input, the military services developed their own unique peacekeeping doctrine, incorporating the lessons learned from past operations. But hey, weâ€™re the greatest power on earth, said the neo-conservatives. We donâ€™t need no stinking Peacekeeping Institute.
As the Nurse says, "Go read it."
(Cross-posted to Brian Flemming's Weblog.)