July 1, 2009
So I was watching this documentary on, uh, The Military Channel, and it’s about this bunch of Marines in Iraq. And before you continue, you should know the following:
1) As previously stated, I am a pretty big military nerd.
2) I am something of a military apologist. Although I am a bleeding-heart liberal, I will almost always be On The Side Of The Troops (although I also object to cheesy things like FREEDOM ISN’T FREE stickers… but that’s because I’m a snide jerk.)
This documentary airs in three parts, and the first part is about how the Marines go on “knock and talk” missions in their area, where they walk the streets and go up to houses and are all “Hello. Do you have more than the one rifle per military-aged male you are allowed? Also, do you know any insurgents? Great – have a nice day, AND ENJOY YOUR CRAPPY, FALLING-APART PSEUDO-DEMOCRACY.”
Total hearts-and-minds stuff, etc.
Husband Guy sometimes points out to me, when I am grumpy about such things, that you can’t really train Marines to be stone-cold killers and then also expect them to be effective beat cops, diplomats, and grassroots nation-builders. And yet the way we currently invade countries* seems to require exactly those skills of them. So I get that there’s some tension there.
And I’m just rambling because I’m trying to set up that I am ordinarily SUPER ON THE SIDE OF THE DUDE KNOCKING ON THE DOOR ASKING ABOUT YOUR RIFLE. But man – by the end of this first hour of documentary, I was basically all
I ONLY CRY FOR THE VIETNAMESE!!!!
Which was weird.
There was this one platoon sergeant who you just know walked around flexing his jaw and saying things like “You have to DOMINATE the SITUATION, gents! Establish your territory!”, and who was the most startlingly ineffective Ugly American I have ever seen in action.
Like for instance! So he’s in this marketplace, and the shoe-seller guy who speaks about six words of English and is AFRAID OF HIM and who keeps doing this placating fear-grimace can’t or won’t tell him who keeps planting IEDs.
And the Marine starts to lose his temper, so he reaches out and puts his hand on the guy’s throat and FEELS HIS PULSE (…) and then is all snide all like “Wow, his pulse is kinda fast for a guy who’s not lying…”
(…or, you know, right on target for a guy who’s afraid of the heavily armed bully who showed up and started getting all in his FACE and then put his HAND ON HIS ACTUAL THROAT.)
The Marine did not seem able to make any kind of connection between his own behavior – which was repeatedly shown to be, uh, really emasculating and humiliating and fear-inducing and just RUDE (like when he barged into the lady’s house even though no adult male was around and kind of strutted around her little room, poking at her stuff, demanding to know where the family’s rifle was kept. Which is obviously a really terrific way to win hearts and minds in a majority Muslim country.) – and the fact that the people he talked to were unhelpful and kept declining to lead him to insurgent hideouts.
The best, though, and the one where you could really see that this guy had literally NO IDEA how he was getting the result he was getting, was when he kept losing his temper at this late-teens kid who was saying that his father had taken the family’s rifle – so, no, he couldn’t show it to him. When the finally dad showed up, SSG Dillweed started to berate him and his son in this kind of chest-bumping way- you know. I don’t really know how to put this. Just to say that I would not have been at all surprised if he had single-handedly taken a family who just wanted to handle their business to a family who were ardent supporters of their local DEATH TO AMERICA chapter.
Fabulously, the dad eventually produced the rifle, and the Marine kind of flipped out into an honest-to-God temper tantrum, yanking it out of his hands, stomping off to a nearby pond, and dramatically flinging the rifle into the water, SO THERE.
(The rifle, of course, was a Kalashnikov, a notoriously sturdy weapon that insurgents probably TOTALLY STORE AT THE BOTTOMS OF PONDS ALL THE TIME WITH NO PROBLEM. So… good job, sir. Way to show that dude who’s the boss.)
So while I find this guy annoying on a personal level, it’s kind of fascinating (TO ME, BECAUSE I AM A NERD) when you think about how the US is currently trying to control an insurgency in Iraq. Which is something that seems to me to hinge somewhat largely on your ability to create fewer Angry Young Men. And yet this Marine, the first line of offense against this problem, was unintentionally spreading bad mojo all over town.
I mean, if someone said to me “Hey! I’m thinking of invading a country, do you have any thoughts on conducting a successful occupation and suppressing insurgency?”
I would say things like “Man, you need to watch Red Dawn. Also, I personally would learn from the lessons of the second Iraq invasion. So you know, when you overrun a nation with your shock troops, you want to IMMEDIATELY take control of all the weapons caches you find, instead of relying on the honor system. (“Why would anyone want to take these mortars? That’s ridiculous.”) And you should instantly implement basic services, because basic services keep people docile and happy. And also, men need jobs. I mean – ladies need jobs too, obviously. But if women don’t have jobs, we grumble to other women and then have a snack and mope around. Whereas when men, especially young men, don’t have jobs, they tend to hang out on street corners. You don’t want young men hanging out in groups on street corners. That’s a really great way to foment yourself an insurgency. But! Even if you do nothing else, you really, really, really don’t want to have your military folks going around the country being emasculating dicks to the few people who are still relatively neutral to your cause. EVERY TIME YOU HUMILIATE A LATE-TEENS BOY, AN INSURGENT GETS HIS WINGS.”
Obviously, that Marine’s job is astoundingly hard. I, of course, could not do it. Very few people could do it even to the degree that he was able to do it, I’m sure. But it does make me think that maybe we need to (if we plan to keep invading countries, that is**) have two separate military forces. Like first you have your SHOCK TROOPS: your Marines, your Army guys with Ranger tabs and thousand-yard-stares. They come in and just wipe out the opposing force. And then RIGHT BEHIND THEM you have smooth operators selected for their skills in the areas of empathy, linguistics, organization, persuasiveness, and general interpersonal goodness. So instead of
1) SHOCK AND AWE SUCKERS
2) Um, we didn’t really have a plan for the next part
4) Let’s hire KBR! THEY WILL FIX EVERYTHING!
You would have more like
1) SHOCK AND AWE SUCKERS
2) Hello. My name is Stan. I’m with the First Diplomatic Division. We’re here to restore your water and power and survey the needs of your village. Can I invite you to step into the shade and join me for a cup of tea? Oh, and this must be your lovely wife. How nice.
3) Hearts and minds, small American flags on a stick for everyone, huzzah!
That’s all I’m saying. If President Obama decides to invade Iran or anything. This is a way I would consider going.
Here is the trailer for RED DAWN. Because it is awesome:
*I AM NOT ADVOCATING INVADING ANY ADDITIONAL COUNTRIES.
**So I guess maybe the simplest solution is to knock it off? Pffft.