Yesterday, this blogger went to see "Restropo" (2010) and saw a U.S. Army platoon deployed in Afghanistan's Korengal Valley. After six years in the Korengal resulting in hundreds of U.S. wounded and 50 U.S. soldiers dead (and heavier losses on the less well-equipped Afghan side) the U.S. Command withdrew the troops from Korengal. Can you spell Vietnam, dear reader? The pointless final year of the Korengal Valley campaign recorded in "Restropo" as the men of 2nd Platoon, Battle Company, the 173rd Airborne Brigade, engage in round-the-clock, but sporadic, firefights with the enemy on the hillsides and the troops attempt to operate as police (capturing the "bad guys") and diplomats (negotiating with village elders about a cow that the troops shot after the animal was hopelessly entangled in perimeter concertina wire). In yesterday's post, Professor (and retired Colonel) Andrew Bacevich asked "What's the point of constantly using our superb military if doing so doesn't actually work?" The abdonment of the Korengal Valley is a demonstration of our failure in Afghanistan. If this is a (fair & balanced) damnation of our folly, so be it.
Our Military's Disturbing Transition To Warriors
By William Astore
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A subtle change has been happening right before the eyes of Americans. Our troops are being told they're no longer primarily citizen-soldiers or citizen-airmen; they're being told they're warriors. Indeed, they're reminded of this linguistic turn in "creeds" that many of them (and often their families) display with pride.
Here's an excerpt from the new Airman's Creed (2007):
"I am an American Airman.
I am a Warrior.
I have answered my nation's call.
I am an American Airman.
My mission is to fly, fight, and win.
I am faithful to a proud heritage,
a tradition of honor,
and a legacy of valor."
The Army's Soldier's Creed (2003) makes the same point about the need to be a warrior first and foremost.
Now, some would say there's nothing wrong with this. Our troops are at war. Don't we want them to have a strong warrior ethos?
The historian (and retired citizen-airman) in me says "no," and I'm supported in this by a surprising source: An American army pamphlet from World War II with the title How the Japanese Army Fights. After praising the Japanese for their toughness and endurance, the pamphlet, citing a study by Robert Leurquin, makes the following point:
"The Japanese is more of a warrior than a military man, and therein lies his weakness. The difference may be a subtle one, but it does exist: The essential quality of the warrior is bravery; that of the military man, discipline."
In 1942, our army cited the "warring passion" of the Japanese as a weakness, one that inhibited their mastery of "the craft of arms." Yet today, our army and air force extol the virtues of being a "warrior" to young recruits.
Today's cult of the warrior, as represented by these new "creeds," may seem cosmetic, but it cuts to the core of our military's self-image. That most Americans have no knowledge of it speaks volumes about the ongoing militarization of our language and even of our country.
After nearly a decade of war, we don't need more "warrior ethos." What we need are disciplined citizen-airmen and citizen-soldiers who know their craft, but who also know better than to revel in a warrior identity. We knew this in 1942; how did we come to forget it? Ω
[William J. Astore, a retired lieutenant colonel (USAF), read modern history at Oxford and earned a D.Phil in modern history in 1996. He has taught cadets at the Air Force Academy and officers at the Naval Postgraduate School, and now is an associate professor of history at the Pennsylvania College of Technology. Astore's books and articles focus primarily on military history and include (with Dennis Showalter) Hindenburg: Icon of German Militarism (2005).]
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Sapper's (Fair & Balanced) Rants & Raves by Neil Sapper is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. Based on a work at sapper.blogspot.com. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available here.
Copyright © 2010 Sapper's (Fair & Balanced) Rants & Raves