Recently I saw an interview with General McChrystal, head butcher of the the Pentagon’s Democracy Implantation Force in Afghanistan. The General was explaining our ongoing victory. Yes, victory. We were making progress. It was only a matter of time. He could see the light at the end of the tunnel. He didn’t explain what were doing in a tunnel in the first place. I guess he forgot.
The man was a superb explainer. He was intelligent, lean and fit, tanned—American Gothic in olive fatigues. Earnestness rolled off him in waves, accompanied by Firmness, Soldierly Determination and, I suspect, utter incomprehension of what he was doing. Thirty years in the military will make the most brilliant officer into a simpleton. Most achieve it by the time they make first lieutenant.
The guy was Westy, I thought. They’ve dug him up and added animatronics. He had the same statistics, drew the same comforting graphs showing the same progress in pacification, the same decline in Bad Things and rise in Good Things. Yes, he thought, we really should stop killing so many civilians, but we would stop. We were going to help the Afghans, as soon as we finished killing most of them. (He didn’t say the part about killing most of them but seems to be working on it.) We would win their hearts and minds by beneficent and salubrious bombing. (OK, he didn’t say that either. It seems to be what he thinks.)
Gret Gawd, I reflected not too charitably, if this guy ever gets sick, he’ll need an equine proctologist.
So now we are invading Marjah, a city, to build schools and hospitals. Schools and hospitals are characteristically built with heavy artillery. As soon as we have destroyed the place, they will love us and see the virtues of the American Way. (The first thing we did was to blow up a house, killing twelve civilians including the mandatory contingent of children. If that’s not a hearts-and-minds move, I can’t imagine what could be.
The strategy makes perfect sense, really. I mean, if Afghans killed your tyke, wouldn’t that make you want to adopt their form of government, and let them improve your life? It would me.
All of this is so eerily familiar. Westmoreland, the Ghost of McChrystal Past, was also a pacifier of hamlets. Kill their kids, give them five hundred bucks and a lollipop in compensation. Explain voting. What a plan.
Sez me, officers should not be allowed to try to think. A constitutional amendment would be appropriate. They spend decades steeped like green tea bags in a martial culture that doesn’t have a poodle’s grasp of how people work. If you want to fight the Red Army in the Fulda Gap (I don’t particularly) send McChrystal. He doubtless knows armor, helicochoppers, large guns that say boom. But about people, he ain’t got the sense God give a crabapple. And this is a people’s war.
Understand: soldiers are not normal. They live in a bubble world, sealed away on semi-isolated bases with profoundly isolated minds. The usual traits of human behavior don’t apply, such as individual thought or mental independence. They believe in God and Country (at least, those who stay in long enough to make policy do). They are clean and neat, feel themselves part of a collective working together, respect authority and believe that others, such as Afghans, would be happier if they only did what they were told and got with the program. The military’s notions of Good and Evil are stark and very, very simple. We’re good, and wogs who don’t want us in their country are bad.