Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Could we show the troops some respect?

Next week I’ll be teaching some some students at the high school I work for on the Battle of Gettysburg. I’m totally stoked about it. I think it’s because I’ve always been a fan of the military's use of two important elements: brawn and brains. It takes so much discipline and strength to be a good soldier – but it also takes someone with a genius mind to orchestrate an army’s strategy.

Study and experience has led me to personally see both.

In high school I served in an ROTC of sorts, flying up to Chicago from Kansas to take part in the US Navy’s basic training program at Great Lakes Naval Station. Since then I’ve run into countless numbers of former Navy men who went to boot camp there as well. My overall time in this Naval program pushed every aspect of my life to the limit, making me a far stronger person today. In addition to all the hard work I did, I was able to do some really cool things – like firing M-16s, working with a dozen or so Navy SEALS, and getting up close to stealth fighters and bombers.

My own study has led me to see what it takes to be a good military commander. It’s like playing chess without seeing all the pieces. So it naturally upsets me when I hear people say: “Military intelligence is an oxymoron.” Come on, you wouldn’t say that about a chess champion! I think all this today has to do with a secular culture that despises the military. Hollywood is quick to produce a movie which makes soldiers look like idiots, unquestioning orders that they know to be bad or morally abhorrent.

One last point: look at Iraq. With the ensuing violence following the death of Saddam Hussein, almost everyone thought it was a doomed situation, plummeting into civil war. Then last spring they announced a troop “surge” which would stem the violence. Most media outlets said: “Hey, what good will an additional 20,000 troops really do? Others called it an escalation to violence and not a solution. Many made fun of the president and the new general in charge of the surge. Little did they know how effective the surge would be.

The day was one, however, by a combination of military brains and brawn.

The strength of the surge troops was combined with a new strategy which defied the mentality of Congress over the past two years (that’s right, military decisions should be made by generals, not senators). In the past, troops were ordered to stay in their vehicles for protection while Congress ordered thousands of new heavily armored Hummers to protect them. The new strategy: get out there and engage the Iraqi population. Help them, encourage them, and show them what it really means to live in a free and democratic country. The violence has now dropped considerably (US combat deaths numbered only in the teens – as opposed to 126 deaths last May; Iraqi civilian deaths are down 75 percent!) and we are awaiting reconciliation movements to grow between Iraq’s various religious and cultural groups.

Please, let’s give the troops and generals the respect they deserve!

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