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Friday, August 17, 2007

Iraq War, or Live Fire Training?

This was written a few weeks ago but I'm just now getting it posted...

There it is again today - "The Iraq War has it's lowest popularity yet". When did wars get their own tracking numbers? And since when do we make war by public opinion? Since Viet Nam I guess. But first things first...

I have a problem with this "war". No, it's not what you think. I'm actually in favor of the invasion of Iraq and the fighting there. I think we did the right thing (deposed Hussein), for the wrong reason (Bush family beef). But it's still the right thing, however it gets done.

My guess is the anti-war types will stop reading right about HERE...

But if you're open-minded, I hope you'll read a bit farther. You might be surprised (or even more outraged). Who knows, you may even agree with some of my points. Besides, the open-minded are the only ones I'm writing for anyway.

As I've said, I'm in favor of the Iraq war. I just have a problem with it being CALLED a "war". It's far less of a conflict than most wars in our history. Our presense in Iraq is about as much of a "war" as our invasion of Korea was a "police action" as an inverse.

Our political leaders (and media) have a tendency to marshal resources by using dramatic terms. Or the inverse. There are lots of examples - War on Drugs, War on Poverty, War on Crime. Not one of those campaigns were an actual war, nor is this thing in Iraq. I think it's more like baby-sitting angry children, some of whom happen to have guns and bombs. If it become's an actual war, politicians will deny it, as was done in the Korea example above.

OK, I'll grant you that for the first few weeks after we invaded, Iraq was more like a war - tanks rolling in and airplanes bombing. But soon things were secure enough for it to just be called a very hostile environment, which it remains in various places to various degrees.

Shit Magnet

But Iraq is not just ANY hostile environment. It's a very VALUABLE hostile environment - I like to call it a Shit Magnet. Here's why it's so valuable...

When our troops first rolled across Iraq, it looked like things would be over fast. I remember during those few days when the Iraqi Defense Minister said on TV, "America is about to encounter a kind of war they have never seen, and will never be able to win", or something to that effect. A bold statement indeed, and largely spoken out of desperation.

He was of course talking about the coming insurgency. He knew the call had gone out, and weapons had been stored to carry out this long-term campaign of troop harassment.

His objective was to tap into the American media's soon to be warmed over Viet Nam script. You know the one. It's all about body bags and getting bogged down in un-win-able wars. He was looking for a political solution when the military one was already lost. And of course most American media signed right up for his cause. And they continue to soldier on largely in his behalf. But back to the topic at hand.

Ever swat a fly on the sidewalk and noticed another one landing on the carcus? When you swat that one, two more land? Pretty soon you've killed off all the flys in the area without even getting out of your chair. My cousin Dave did this very same thing with rats, one at a time using a .22 rifle. And he never left his postion on the porch.

Immediately after the "war" started, Iraq became a place to defeat "American Imperialism". Fundamentalist Muslims from all over the world began to funnel into Iraq through a cooperative Syria, and plant bombs. Falluja became a hot-bed of action with terrorist from as far away as Indonesia and even America. At one point it's reported that more foreigners were fighting Americans in Iraq, than Iraqis!  If so, it proves my point.

When we finally went in and cleaned out Falluja, we killed more terrorist in a shorter period, than we ever could have done chasing them around the world one at a time. And just like the flies and rats, this process continues.

There are those in the world who hate western culture while selectively enjoying it - go figure. Whatever their reason, they are gathering in Iraq to take a shot at Uncle Sam. That's why I call Iraq a shit magnet - an it's an effective one. It brings our enemies to one location where we can do our target practicing on OUR terms and away from America.

I believe this shit magnet is the main reason we've had less trouble here at home. It's far better facing these guys in Iraq instead of Omaha, Atlanta or Portland. The "war" in Iraq is a major success for this reason alone.

But wait! There's more! It slices! It dices!

Body Count

We've been very lucky in Iraq. Our losses have been relatively light for a "war". The troops have performed well and are learning to do even better.

Three thousand dead out of a typical of 150,000 deployed over four years is still on the same order of magnitude as training losses for comparably intense training.

I once spent two weeks in the desert at Fort Irwin, California. I was there with tens of thousands of other GIs doing military exercises. Our death rate was exactly one per week, and this wasn't even LIVE fire training! One was shot with a flare gun and died. The other was backed over with some piece of equiment, having the same result.

But light or not, death is a pretty heavy cost when it's you or your loved one. Each death is a tragedy somewhere. War is hell, even if it isn't a real war. But it's what these soldiers sign up for. Every recruit has that very risk in mind when they take the oath. It speaks volumes about their courage. It's a sad part of the job, but a part none the less. The key is to minimize the casualities and provide good medical care when they happen. In this area, the U.S. Army is probably the best in the world. And getting better specifically BECAUSE of this war. Which gets to the real point of this post...

Live-Fire Training

At the beginning of most wars, troops are green and losses are high. Only after a few battles do the veterans emerge, and the army become mores effective. Losses decrease. This is well known to students of military history.

So how do we create veterans BEFORE the next real war starts? That too has a standard answer - training. But normal training can only take you so far.

As Winston Churchill said, "There is nothing so exhilarating as being shot at and missed.". THAT experience is the key to creating true veterans. That's right.  Live-fire is ultimately the best kind of training. And it's even more effective when someone's shooting back. This is why Iraq is helping to make the U.S. military a much better fighting force.

Not only does Iraq train our toops, it's also driving the development of new technology in urban warfare by improving armor and sniper detection, as well as tactics in separating the good Iraqis from the bad ones and learning to fight in an urban environment. The U.S. military couldn't BUY that kind of training resource anywhere in the world. In Iraq we get it for free, except for it's obvious costs.

I know this post is going to challenge the sensibilities of some of my Burning Man friends, and I welcome their comments. You might think I'm some kind of war monger, but the opposite is true. I think war is actually an obsolete aspect of human behavior - right up there with jealousy, rage and selfishness. Unfortunately, not everyone has gotten the memo. And until they do, we must maintain an effective military. For all it's cost, Iraq is helping us do just that.

And if a truely new democracy comes into existance in Iraq, that will be a bonus. We've given these people a chance. Now they need to take advantage of it. It happened in South Korea, creating an amazing contrast with North Korea even Kim Jung Il can't deny.

And as far as Americans being "Imperialist", one need only look to Germany, Japan or Korea with their true democracies, freedom and standard of living to realize we're an ultimately benevolent force.

If we can do the same in Iraq, those three thousand GIs will certainly not have died in vain.

I for one would like to see each of them count for something noble.

And I believe they will.

Where am I wrong?

Please leave your comment below.



  2. Two positive responses... you deserve more. Anyway, it feels good to have a thinking person like you for a friend. I am proud of you Rod, keep up the good work.
    P.S. I would like to see a response from some of your peacenik friends.

  3. I think you need to be careful. I don't know if you're an MOT or not but with a name like "Coleman" you're going to be assumed to be such. Referring to Iraqis as "shit", "flies", vermin, etc, is not going to go over well with the vast majority of non-MOTs, most of whom are more dovish on the ME than we are and many of whom already have negative attitudes towards us. Sorry to be frank here but I don't think that it will do much harm especially not in a comments section--people believe what ever they believe--but they act according to what they think everybody else thinks so it doesn't come to anything as long as they don't see it on CNN. But you've got thousands of websites like www.nowarforisrael.com, whatreallyhappened.com, etc, you've got "atrocity photos" (like it or not that is how they will be perceived) all over the place in conspicuous places like the memory hole, etc.

    If that weren't bad enough, you've also got well-meaning websites that are so used to preaching to FELLOW MOTs that they are completely oblivious to the fact that their screeds sound like racist hate speech to non-MOTs. Even supposedly respected websites like www.adl.org are making public relations mistakes and now the Armenians hate us for denying that they were ever massacred by the Turks.

    If you support the war, the best thing you can do is talk about the positive things that the war has accomplished (be careful of your language), and keep the peaceniks busy with global warming, Darfur, and that sort of thing. A lot of the synagogues are hosting PR experts from Israel to talk about how to talk about the war to non-MOTs.

  4. A couple of places where you might have a problem:

    While we're being trained under live fire - so are they.

    Not only do they learn our tactics and capabilities, so does the rest of the world just by watching. i.e. the Iranians.

    The resources required by us to sustain this effort are enormous. In contrast, they require almost nothing and can continue harassing us pretty much indefinitely.

    But your biggest problem might be this: Islam, Tribalism, and their culture in general. Islam is NOT a democracy friendly religion and their cultural and historic hate for each other go back thousands of years. This will be the hardest thing to overcome.

    Ultimately, it's a question of manpower, willpower, and staying power. And I don't think we have enough of any of them to pull this thing off.

    Fortunately, (unlike George Bush) I've been wrong about a lot of things in my life and I sincerely hope that I'm wrong about this also.

    See you in Black Rock City!

  5. > I think you need to be careful.

    Why? Did the first amendment get repealed when I wasn't looking?

    > I don't know if you're an MOT

    I doubt it. I assume you're referring to the Semitic god of death, or his followers. Until I looked it up, I didn't know what MOT was, and as I stated in the post, I think war and violent death are tragedies. Do you have another definition for "MOT"?

    > Referring to Iraqis as "shit",
    > "flies", vermin

    I did NO SUCH THING! I believe virtually ALL Iraqis are reasonable people who deserve a life of peace and freedom.

    I DID refer to that tiny minority of fundamentalist Muslims from around the world who wish to control the majority through threat, death and intimidation as was so nicely modeled by Saddam Hussein. I even noted that MOST of the insurgence is staffed by FOREIGNERS.

    I even state my HOPE for Iraq! How do you construe my post as an attack on Iraqis? I believe our enemy are a very few misguided fools who offer themselves up for target practice.

    > many of whom already have
    > negative attitudes towards us.

    I don't believe our priority should be others attitudes. I think it's far more important to simply do the right thing.

    > people believe what ever they
    > believe

    True. But sometimes it helps to point out the various side effects of certain actions as opposed to blindly following the media's "analysis".

    > you've got "atrocity photos"

    And where there's violent killing, there will always be such selected photos. Anyone who accepts them without question deserves the "truth" they acquire.

    > their screeds sound like racist
    > hate speech to non-MOTs.

    In what way was my post racist? Or even hate speech for that matter? I'm just being practical and honest.

    > making public relations mistakes

    In my opinion, copy that makes no public relations mistakes is not worth reading. It presents no new or useful ideas. You have to break eggs.

    > and now the Armenians hate us
    > for denying that they were ever
    > massacred by the Turks.

    The most hated are those that work hardest not to be. Do the right thing. Let the chips fall.

    > If you support the war, the best
    > thing you can do is talk about
    > the positive things that the war
    > has accomplished

    I think I listed them in detail! Were you reading another post?

    > (be careful of your language)

    I always try to be careful with my language, thank you. I was trying to challenge conventional "wisdom". If I could have made it more vivid, I would have.

    > A lot of the synagogues are
    > hosting PR experts from Israel
    > to talk about how to talk about
    > the war to non-MOTs.

    Cool for the Jews. I'm not one, and my post has NOTHING to do with Jews or their issues. My post is about America, Iraq and democracy.
    I tried to make some non-obvious points as clearly as I could.

    Think what you will.

    And thanks for the comment.

  6. I disagree with you on many of these topics, but I appreciate the fact that you have an actual opinion as many of my military family and friends act as squak boxes repeating the exact same stuff they hear on Faux News. I am diametrically opposed to our occupancy of various countries in the Middle East almost non-stop since the late 70s but I support the troops who are out there literally putting their asses on the line, and who unfortunately are generally never the ones deciding to go to war. I personally think if you haven't served in a war zone, you have no right to make a decision regarding going to war- which NONE of Bush's administration ever served actively, save Colin Powell.

    Alas, I digress. I just wanted to say that I appreciate someone with a real opinion, even if I disagree with the majority of what you say. (By the way, I just wanted to say that for the record, I'm a gun loving liberal who just bought a SKS for my fiancee for our anniversary and spent our anniversary shooting our newest addition to our arsenal. I'm part of the militant arm of the progressive Democrats, and I just utterly disagree with the way our government has dissolved into an paramilitary corporation willing to bomb our way to any natural resources other countries have that we want while killing our men and women on the front lines in the process.)