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Thread: Scrutinizing Petraeus's Record

  1. #41
    Council Member Rob Thornton's Avatar
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    Steve -
    Very valid concerns & well spoken.
    I also need to amend this:

    There are differences in how beliefs are formed, and I think its important to discuss those if the public wants to understand why War is different, as are the people who wage war on behalf of the state.
    to include those who wage on the behalf on non-state. it might read:

    I think its important to discuss those if the public wants to understand why War is different, as are the people who wage war on behalf of the state or the political purpose and goals of non-state entities.

    It may seem like a fine point - but it acknowledges that there are other entities that wage war, and impose more, or decrease the restrictions on what is acceptable in waging it. There interaction with us has an effect on how we wage war - it may be subtle and evolutionary in nature, but I beleive its there.

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    Just quickly about civilian vs military, or no war experience vs war experience. (IMO a civilian's opinion with war experience is just as credible as a Soldier's opinion) I have no clue personally what war is like, but I can get some idea by listening to those with the experience. (do you with war experience agree with this?). I'm not saying we can know what you felt, but we can get an idea from listening to your stories. Example: What is in someone that makes him fall on a grenade to save his buddies? I'll never know the answer to that no matter how much I read about it. But if a Marine writes a good, descriptive article about what it was like fighting in Fallujah, I can get a better grasp. (but I still won't understand completely what it was like)
    This is the best we civilians can go on right now without experiencing it. Whatever opinion you guys formed from your experiences, political or policy, makes mine irrelevant...that is, until I go over there myself. How do I know I'll support OIF after I've been there for 6 months? I don't know that.

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    Moderator Steve Blair's Avatar
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    Actually, ski, I'd say your opinion is as valid as anyone else's. The difference lies in the foundation of that opinion. If you're seeking out information and background, your opinion has more validity than one formed by someone who does not. And since Small Wars involve all levels of society, all levels need to be included in the discussion. It's not just a military problem, or a combat problem (although those do factor in). It takes the cop, the historian, the economist, the doctor, the nurse, the grocer, and every other occupation you can imagine, to be successful. And that may be an area we fall short in. Because so many people are afraid to express themselves, or to lend their talents to the fray because they lack a certain membership card, we fall behind in the war of ideas; a major component in any Small War.
    "On the plains and mountains of the American West, the United States Army had once learned everything there was to learn about hit-and-run tactics and guerrilla warfare."
    T.R. Fehrenbach This Kind of War

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    Steve, thanks, but I may have worded it incorrectly. I meant my opinion about what war is like in general is irrelevant.
    I support OIF, yet if a Soldier (and I don't mean a Soldier with a bad attitude problem about military life) just returned home and says it's a mess and he doesn't support it anymore, who am I to tell him he's wrong? Yes, I have the freedom to state my opinion, but he has the authoritative opinion. (I'd rather a guy who's been there tell him he's wrong)

  5. #45
    Council Member Rob Thornton's Avatar
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    Ski,
    We absolutely want you (as a representative of the greater American public) to understand as much as can be obtained through assimilating the experience of others (BTW - we also do this through History) - because as Steve notes - its critical to the vitality of our society that you do. As for the exclusiveness of the "soldier" - if you are involved in a war on a personal level - a non-soldier in a war, then the commonality of that experience is much greater. Even the civilian who lives in the city plagued by war, has an understanding of the horror of war - and if they must live with it their entire lives, they know it better then most.

    Since war is a social activity, and the make up of healthy societies are diverse - so are the opportunities to contribute in solutions. Much of a person's success in understanding war without participating in it, or suffering from it is based upon that person's willingness to empathize on a number of levels while thoughtfully considering why war happens, how it changes things and what its nature is.

    There should be no membership cards with regards to thinking about war - the goal should be prevention if possible, resolution as quickly as possible, and the establishment of a peace that prevents the next war in the same location between the same people. We all can play a role in addressing the fear, honor and interests which drive people to war.

    Best Regards, Rob

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    Council Member Rob Thornton's Avatar
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    I support OIF, yet if a Soldier (and I don't mean a Soldier with a bad attitude problem about military life) just returned home and says it's a mess and he doesn't support it anymore, who am I to tell him he's wrong? Yes, I have the freedom to state my opinion, but he has the authoritative opinion. (I'd rather a guy who's been there tell him he's wrong)
    Ski, if there is a war, its likely it is a mess. The conditions which led to war, and prolonged it almost guarantee it. In our society, that soldier is certainly entitled to his or her opinion, and I think its healthy to our society that they can voice it. What you can do to further your own understanding is ask questions that provide more insight to the thoughts you already have - where was the soldier at, what did they do, what exactly do they mean by "its a mess"? Where that soldier may have served may be much worse then the next city over. Wars have an objective and subjective nature to them. The subjective extends right down to the personal experience by individual participants.

    Does that help?
    Regards, Rob

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    Moderator Steve Blair's Avatar
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    Default Perhaps...

    yet like all opinions, his may be authoritative for his specific place and time. One of the deeply frustrating things about Small Wars (and war in general) is that conditions vary greatly from foxhole to foxhole. If you look back at World War II, you'll find some bitterness among some Pacific veterans that the war in Europe drew so much more coverage, and within the Pacific subset there are those who remain convinced that MacArthur intentionally declared areas "secure" prematurely so that he could pull US troops out and rotate in Australian and New Zealand troops to "mop up," thus keeping perceived US casualties low.

    And as Rob points out, your opinion of war is valid if for no other reason than as a civilian you sustain home front morale and support. If your opinion isn't informed or clear, then one of the pillars of any conflict is weak. War by its very nature is a multi-faceted thing...no one person can understand all aspects or faces of it. A combat soldier sees a different side than a medic, or an aid worker, or a citizen in a city that has seen conflict, or the person sitting at home trying to make sense of the many different sides he sees painted for him. One of the greatest challenges, and rewards, of a historian is trying to blend all those perspectives together into something resembling a whole so that future generations can understand (or have a chance to understand) what transpired during a particular fragment of time.

    Not everyone who has been in war understands why it happened, or even what happened. In many cases all they see is their snapshot of it, and some never leave that snapshot. That also happens on the civilian side (witness the numerous anti-war types that seem to be desperately trying to link back to the 1960s). The complexity of it is perhaps beyond total human comprehension, but the more you know the more informed your personal decisions are, and the more you can help others frame their decisions.
    "On the plains and mountains of the American West, the United States Army had once learned everything there was to learn about hit-and-run tactics and guerrilla warfare."
    T.R. Fehrenbach This Kind of War

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    Moderator Steve Blair's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rob Thornton View Post
    Ski, if there is a war, its likely it is a mess. The conditions which led to war, and prolonged it almost guarantee it. In our society, that soldier is certainly entitled to his or her opinion, and I think its healthy to our society that they can voice it. What you can do to further your own understanding is ask questions that provide more insight to the thoughts you already have - where was the soldier at, what did they do, what exactly do they mean by "its a mess"? Where that soldier may have served may be much worse then the next city over. Wars have an objective and subjective nature to them. The subjective extends right down to the personal experience by individual participants.

    Does that help?
    Regards, Rob
    Exactly. Vietnam is a good example of this, although there are as many examples as there have been wars. I'd like to use a handful of war movies to illustrate the point (with the standard disclaimer that movies aren't war, but they often provide a good visual reference point for general discussions).

    Oliver Stone insists that "Platoon" is the Vietnam War. There are also those who insist that "Hamburger Hill," "Go Tell the Spartans," "Full Metal Jacket," or "81 Charlie Mopic" are Vietnam. The answer (if there is one)?

    Yes. They all are, but for the specific viewpoint and spatial reference point of the main character(s). Platoon may be valid for Stone, but it isn't for the people being painted in Go Tell the Spartans. And the sort of conflict painted in those movies doesn't reflect the streetfighting in Hue shown in Full Metal Jacket or the larger-scale "hill fights" that can be generically shown in Hamburger Hill.

    For the World War II example, Saving Private Ryan shows one snapshot, as does Midnight Clear and Letters from Iwo Jima.

    And now I need to stop...too much fuzzy philosophy type stuff on a Sunday morning.....
    "On the plains and mountains of the American West, the United States Army had once learned everything there was to learn about hit-and-run tactics and guerrilla warfare."
    T.R. Fehrenbach This Kind of War

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    Yes,Rob, that helps.

    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Blair View Post
    yet like all opinions, his may be authoritative for his specific place and time.
    .....
    but the more you know the more informed your personal decisions are, and the more you can help others frame their decisions.
    I agree, but I still feel uncomfortable telling an experienced Soldier with a differing opinion that I disagree.Maybe that's just me.

    Not to get sappy here, but to try to answer (and add to the philosophical discussion) "what is in someone who falls on a grenade to save his buddies?" Yes, it's honor and bravery, but IMO it goes beyond that. There's a spiritual dimension to it. To paraphrase Jesus: "There is no greater love than a man who lays down his life for his friends"

    THAT, my friends and heroes, is what separates you from us. (maybe I understand more than I think I do)

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    Moderator Steve Blair's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by skiguy View Post
    Yes,Rob, that helps.


    I agree, but I still feel uncomfortable telling an experienced Soldier with a differing opinion that I disagree.Maybe that's just me.

    Not to get sappy here, but to try to answer (and add to the philosophical discussion) "what is in someone who falls on a grenade to save his buddies?" Yes, it's honor and bravery, but IMO it goes beyond that. There's a spiritual dimension to it. To paraphrase Jesus: "There is no greater love than a man who lays down his life for his friends"

    THAT, my friends and heroes, is what separates you from us. (maybe I understand more than I think I do)
    This is also a level of bravery that is not unique to the military (one only need look at the VT incident to find an example of it), although it is within the framework of military service that it is most often expressed or noticed.
    "On the plains and mountains of the American West, the United States Army had once learned everything there was to learn about hit-and-run tactics and guerrilla warfare."
    T.R. Fehrenbach This Kind of War

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    Council Member Rob Thornton's Avatar
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    Ski - it might be jumping on a grenade, or maybe one of the many acts our soldiers, airman, sailors and marines perform every day and never seek credit for. However, it might be a fireman, or police officer running into a burning building, or patrolling a section of a large U.S. metropolitan city alone and unafraid in the late hours. It might be a volunteer trying to unearth survivors from the twin towers, or risking a mine collapse to save his buddies - or recover their bodies so their families can say goodbye - it might be a doctor or nurse who goes to some place stricken by a deadly, communicable disease, or a NGO or IO working in a village under the control of some warlord. There are lots of heroes that walk past us everyday, and never wear a label, or ask for a thank you.

    I mentioned in our PM traffic that there are so many ways people can serve a greater good. All of it helps. All of it stands for people who will not be afraid at the potential that they might sacrifice themselves in order to help others. As Steve mentioned, selfless service extends well beyond the uniformed services - but uniformed service, because of its nature, highlights many of the things we regard highest about ourselves -duty, honor, virtue, love. I will tell you I have met many a man and woman though that showed tremendous bravery, and selfless service, but never wore a uniform, but their humanity was very visible. Anyone who serves something greater and better then themselves is probably somebody worth knowing.

    Best Regards, Rob

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    Council Member Abu Buckwheat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Blair View Post
    Actually, ski, I'd say your opinion is as valid as anyone else's. The difference lies in the foundation of that opinion. If you're seeking out information and background, your opinion has more validity than one formed by someone who does not. And since Small Wars involve all levels of society, all levels need to be included in the discussion. It's not just a military problem, or a combat problem (although those do factor in). It takes the cop, the historian, the economist, the doctor, the nurse, the grocer, and every other occupation you can imagine, to be successful. And that may be an area we fall short in. Because so many people are afraid to express themselves, or to lend their talents to the fray because they lack a certain membership card, we fall behind in the war of ideas; a major component in any Small War.
    Hear hear, well said.
    Putting Foot to Al Qaeda Ass Since 1993

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    Default Working Man Blues

    I really liked what Mr. Thornton said. The common man is a common hero forming the backbone of our nation. It's hard to assign hero status to guys who go to work every day, raise their kids right, pay their bills and taxes and don't break the Law, but when the nation goes to war, they go to the factories and don't ask for nothing except honest pay for honest work. It is particularily galling for the common hero to have a man like General P. ascend through the ranks, pay his dues, put himself in danger for the nation then get treated like a piece of ####.

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    Council Member tequila's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by goesh View Post
    It is particularily galling for the common hero to have a man like General P. ascend through the ranks, pay his dues, put himself in danger for the nation then get treated like a piece of ####.
    Leave General Petraeus alone!

    edit: The idea that criticizing or questioning the pronouncements of a general simply because that person is a general is quite misguided as well as being a bit hypocritical given the nature of this site. Most of the people in this particular web community are guilty of the same, if not GEN Petraeus than Generals Sanchez, Abizaid, Casey, Clark, Dunlap, or many, many others. LTC Yingling upbraided the general officer corps as a body to the general applause of many here.
    Last edited by tequila; 09-24-2007 at 03:11 PM.

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    It is particularily galling for the common hero to have a man like General P. ascend through the ranks, pay his dues, put himself in danger for the nation then get treated like a piece of ####.
    Tend to agree, though for different reasons. Primarily, because it's just stupid, stupid politics. Had a longtime pol friend (Democrat) who made a point of "learning" me a few political lessons, that the brilliant pols in DC apparently haven't learned.

    First off, don't make fun of a person's name (like a certain much discussed ad did). Makes you look petty, and honestly, it's a cheap shot. And when it's a cheap shot, it colors and cheapens the entire debate that follows.

    Secondly, remember your goal - it's really a political version of COIN - the goal is to build alliances and a network of supporters to further your interests, not to damage your own base of support. Ask yourself if you want to be aligned politically with individuals who take cheap shots and "go to the mat" over petty issues.

    Third, it's never really your enemies you have to worry about - you know what they'll do to you. It's your friends you got to worry about.

    Lastly, when you make fun of a person's name, it can get very personal. And you never know who out there you are pissing off until afterwards, and then it's too late. You never want to get that personal in politics.

    GEN Petraeus came to D.C. and did his job. I sincerely doubt you will see a replay of such political stupidity the second time around. I fully expect the next time, there will be an unwritten political agreement in place so we don't have a replay of this type of congressional spectacle (read: debacle) occur.

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default I think the issue is not that anyone trashed

    Quote Originally Posted by tequila View Post
    Leave General Petraeus alone!

    edit: The idea that criticizing or questioning the pronouncements of a general simply because that person is a general is quite misguided as well as being a bit hypocritical given the nature of this site. Most of the people in this particular web community are guilty of the same, if not GEN Petraeus than Generals Sanchez, Abizaid, Casey, Clark, Dunlap, or many, many others. LTC Yingling upbraided the general officer corps as a body to the general applause of many here.
    the General -- it is that our 'esteemed' Congress critters trashed the General...

    IMO, making themselves look pretty tawdry. YMMV.

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    Default Bacevich on Petraeus

    http://www.amconmag.com/2007/2007_09_24/article2.html

    His judgment is rather harsh. But there certainly seems to be a logic to this argument:

    What then should he have recommended to the Congress and the president? That is, if the commitment of a modest increment of additional forces —the 30,000 troops comprising the surge, now employed in accordance with sound counterinsurgency doctrine —has begun to turn things around, then what should the senior field commander be asking for next?

    A single word suffices to answer that question: more. More time. More money. And above all, more troops.

    It is one of the oldest principles of generalship: when you find an opportunity, exploit it. Where you gain success, reinforce it. When you have your opponent at a disadvantage, pile on. In a letter to the soldiers serving under his command, released just prior to the congressional hearings, Petraeus asserted that coalition forces had “achieved tactical momentum and wrestled the initiative from our enemies.” Does that reflect his actual view of the situation? If so, then surely the imperative of the moment is to redouble the current level of effort so as to preserve that initiative and to deny the enemy the slightest chance to adjust, adapt, or reconstitute.

    Yet Petraeus has chosen to do just the opposite. Based on two or three months of (ostensibly) positive indicators, he has advised the president to ease the pressure, withdrawing the increment of troops that had (purportedly) enabled the coalition to seize the initiative in the first place.

    This defies logic. It’s as if two weeks into the Wilderness Campaign, Grant had counseled Lincoln to reduce the size of the Army of the Potomac. Or as if once Allied forces had established the beachhead at Normandy, Eisenhower had started rotating divisions back stateside to ease the strain on the U.S. Army.
    But I'm very much a layman. I'd be curious what others with more expertise think about this piece

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Professor Bacevich is a smart guy

    and he makes imminent sense in many things. I agree with him that both US political parties are equal elements in the problem that is the governance and the foreign policy of the US. We do not agree on some other things.
    His comments in the linked article are his opinion and track totally with his history on the topic of war in general and this one in particular -- however, he's being disingenuous in the article. While I generally agree with the thrust of that article, there are some anomalies in it that merit scrutiny. At one point he says:
    "A single word suffices to answer that question: more. More time. More money. And above all, more troops."
    Totally true -- but -- he elides a critical point of which he is totally aware. In 1942, then Major general George S. Patton Jr. was at Camp Irwin training a Division to go to North Africa. He was called to the War Department and told he was being elevated to command the operation. Shortly, a Plans Officer went to see General George C. Marshall and told him "General Patton said he needs more troops, more equipment and more time or it cannot be done." Marshall looked up and said "Tell General Patton to return to California and continue training, we'll give the job to someone else." Very quickly, Patton was talking to Marshall and accepting the mission -- with the Troops available.

    The point, of course is that Generals have egos and that they hate to refuse missions, no matter how difficult. Sixty years later, Tommy Franks got caught in the same trap. Five years after that, so did Petraeus. Bacevich knows that...

    The North Africa operation, BTW, had its problems; as in Iraq, an Army not prepared for what it would confront fumbled a lot of things.

    Any military operation is constrained by a number of factors; most critical are Mission, Enemy, Terrain, Troops available and Time (METT-T). The mission is prescribed by the civilian leadership, the enemy is wild card, the terrain is what it is and one has to live with it, troops available are always subject to many limiting factors and the time is generally short and occasionally a political construct, not a military one -- and Bacevich is aware of all that.
    He also said:
    "This defies logic. It’s as if two weeks into the Wilderness Campaign, Grant had counseled Lincoln to reduce the size of the Army of the Potomac. Or as if once Allied forces had established the beachhead at Normandy, Eisenhower had started rotating divisions back stateside to ease the strain on the U.S. Army."
    Supremely disingenuous; Bacevich knows there are no more troops unless the Army is totally committed to Iraq -- and he knows that is not going to happen much as he wishes that it or a rapid withdrawal be undertaken. Both parties will rebel at that either and Bacevich knows as all of us should that much of what goes on in Congress is not about the Troops or even Iraq -- it's about the 2008 elections.
    Further from the Article:
    "Lt. Gen. Peter Chiarelli is one officer keen to confront rather than ignore that contradiction. In an article appearing in the current issue of the journal Military Review, General Chiarelli writes:

    "The U.S. as a Nation—and indeed most of the U.S. Government—has not gone to war since 9/11. Instead the departments of Defense and State (as much as their modern capabilities allow) and the Central Intelligence Agency are at war while the American people and most the other institutions of national power have largely gone about their normal business.""
    I'd go a step further -- the US has not been at war since 1945. General Chiarelli's (one of the really good guys, BTW) statement applies just as well to Korea and Viet Nam with only the caveat that due to the draft that existed on both those wars there was very slightly more Mr. & Mrs. America involvement -- but not one ounce more involvement by the US Government (to include the Pentagon...) or the nation as an entity. Bacevich knows that as well.

    In short, it's not a bad article but it's beautifully tailored to make his long standing points on governance and the use of force -- and this war. I think his conclusion is overly pejorative and unproven -- and I'm not a Petraeus fan.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rob Thornton View Post
    RA, I'm not so sure you do - although I'm sure you believe you do. The strategy is to secure the population while working on some of the other things (infrastructure, economic and both high end (national) and low - end (local, provincial and even tribal) politics to take some of the pressure of the hatreds, animosities, etc. that further put Iraqis at odds.
    A) I think the strategy may have changed and no one told you. Arming the Sunnis, doesn't seem to fit into what you said.

    B) The strategy you describe is contrary to human nature. If you wanted Rush and Michael Moore to agree, would you remove all pressure on them, or would you lock them in a room without food until they agreed?

    (When I started browsing here I really didn't expect to contribute much, but as a marketer I need to understand something about human nature and I am amazed by how little thought has gone into the basic human nature of Iraqis. If two kids in a school yard had a dispute, you know that letting them pound on each other for a while is the fastest way to get them to agree. You watch, and only intervene if one starts pounding the crap out of the other. And then it's easy to intervene, because the loser wants your help. If you try to keep them apart, they just go to a place where there are no adults and have the fight they wanted to have earlier. That's basic human nature.)

    Quote Originally Posted by RTK View Post
    You'd be suprised how many times you've probably seen me on camera doing just that without knowing it.
    Post the youtube links, and anymore pictures of you with the Stanley Cup.

    Quote Originally Posted by RTK View Post
    Here's another way of saying it:

    Unless you've been covered in your brother's blood, stood at attention while your First Sergeant calls his name three times, and written that damnable letter to a family none of us wishes ever to write, then you don't understand the reasons why we feel the way we feel.
    There's a reason the corner worker has a white towel. The bloody boxer is often too involved in the fight to make the right decision. There's also a reason that a boxer has a trainer. Sometimes the boxer forgets that retreat isn't the same as defeat. In no way does that diminish the boxer's accomplishment or bravery. In fact, the boxer who listens to his trainer is most likely to emerge victorious in the end.
    Quote Originally Posted by Rob Thornton View Post
    Ski, if there is a war, its likely it is a mess.
    I agree, but the reason wars start is usually because both sides believe, "It won't take us very long to kick their ass." Cheney and Rummy weren't the only ones saying OIF would be over soon. If the public has false perceptions, the military helped create them.
    Last edited by Rank amateur; 09-29-2007 at 09:29 PM.

  20. #60
    Council Member Rob Thornton's Avatar
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    A) I think the strategy may have changed and no one told you. Arming the Sunnis, doesn't seem to fit into what you said.
    RA - the Sunnis are already armed - anyone in the country can have an AK with a magazine - its legal - the change is in getting them organized and responsible for portions of their area. To arm them further- the Iraqi govt will have to step in and provide additional means, or they will have to acquire it other wise. Its hard to imagine how this can be from over here - Congress has been told repeatedly - but they still don't understand - they must think there is some kind of assault weapons ban in Iraq - things are different there - and the only way to understand it is to go.

    If two kids in a school yard had a dispute, you know that letting them pound on each other for a while is the fastest way to get them to agree. You watch, and only intervene if one starts pounding the crap out of the other. And then it's easy to intervene, because the loser wants your help. If you try to keep them apart, they just go to a place where there are no adults and have the fight they wanted to have earlier. That's basic human nature.)
    Its not as simple as you make it sound - its far more complex - and the consequences are too hard to ignore. I don't care for Rush or Moore - Peacocks don't have to live in the real world with all of its consequences. I'm not a politician, pundit, talk show host, or director, etc. I'm a soldier - while I can empathize with all the other folks who are not soldiers - in the end I'm still a soldier - and we don't make policy - but we do have to execute it. The environment we operate in changes constantly and the situation that was last week is dynamic and changes constantly - and so does the way in which we pursue our objectives.

    I think you do have a snapshot of human nature - and am glad you are participating - there are two reasons I take part here - one is to gain insights and knowledge outside my own experience - the other is to educate the public on what I've seen or done and perhaps help them understand the uniformed services - I've been in since 1985 - and have seen a bit. While I think you have a part of it in your experience set - I'll tell you there is a great deal more out there - because of what I do I'd say I've had a chance to see the very worst of human nature and the very best.

    Best Regards, Rob

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