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Thread: Chaplains as Liaisons with Religious Leaders: Lessons From Iraq and Afghanistan

  1. #101
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default It is a major concern, WM

    and you expressed it more succinctly than I.

    Much as I dislike matrices and metrics, I have to agree with you on that probability.

    More importantly, you ably characterized my shorthand using the word 'personality' applied to the Chaplain(s) with the far better
    "...Even though he is an MD, you wouldn't go to a dermatologist for triple bypass surgery, would you? "
    Just as some Commanders are better at certain things than are others, all Chaplains are not created equal and we should avoid embedding any process that may work well with some people at a point in time as THE way to do business.

    Thank you...

  2. #102
    Council Member wm's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
    and you expressed it more succinctly than I.

    Much as I dislike matrices and metrics, I have to agree with you on that probability.

    More importantly, you ably characterized my shorthand using the word 'personality' applied to the Chaplain(s) with the far betterJust as some Commanders are better at certain things than are others, all Chaplains are not created equal and we should avoid embedding any process that may work well with some people at a point in time as THE way to do business.

    Thank you...
    "No," he said in his best Alphonse and Gaston imitation, "Thank you."

    All joking aside, in the name of expediency, our representatives open up Pandora's Boxes every day out there in the AOR. This is one that I would prefer that we keep carefully lidded. As Gian pointed out in his protest, sometimes, the ends do not justify the means. I would argue that whenever one tries to use "ends justify the means" argumentation, some very shady stuff is going on.
    We are here faced with what some might call an instance of the "dirty hands problem" (when government employees have to do things in carrying out their public responsibilities which are morally unacceptable or illegal from a private point of view). I reject that characterization out of hand. There is no physical, logical, or moral necessity to use chaplains in this role.

  3. #103
    Council Member Ron Humphrey's Avatar
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    Question So in the end

    Is the real answer here to count on Dover or whomever to provide the necessary knowledgeable personnel or do we need a subset within INT with greater awareness and training of said battlefield in order to do what needs to be done without involving those who need not be involved?

    And on that note I will once again leave the fray

  4. #104
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default No. I insist. Thank you...

    Okay, I'll quit now...
    There is no physical, logical, or moral necessity to use chaplains in this role.
    True. I'd suggest there are several reasons in all categories to avoid so using them. When it is done, it should be very carefully thought out and applied.

  5. #105
    Council Member wm's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ron Humphrey View Post
    Is the real answer here to count on Dover or whomever to provide the necessary knowledgeable personnel or do we need a subset within INT with greater awareness and training of said battlefield in order to do what needs to be done without involving those who need not be involved?

    And on that note I will once again leave the fray
    Intel helps prepare the operator to engage on the battlefield. Intel does not do the engagement. Chaplains serve a similar function to we Intel weenies in my opinion.

    To return to my medical metaphor, doctors can get in serious trouble when they perform functions outside their scope of practice. Radiologists are some of medicine's intel guys. They may tell the surgeon where the suspected problem is, but the surgeon still wields the scalpel, deciding where and when to cut as well as how deep. Anesthesiologists are like the chaplain. They help the surgeon by preparing the patients to be operated on, getting them ready for the upcoming trauma, and monitoring them during and after the trauma as well. Let's not conflate intel guys/radiologists with Info warfare/nuclear medicine specialists--the first finds the cancer, perhaps using radiation; the second treats it with radiation therapy. Let's also not confuse chaplains/anesthesiologists with civil affairs officers/neurosurgeons--the one enables treatment by sedating the nervous system; the other treats problems with that nervous system.

  6. #106
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    Hi Marc,

    Quote Originally Posted by marct View Post
    so if you are going to allow them in field, there has to be a fair amount of discrimination and, for want of a better term, "moderation". This would, in turn, be a hard sell politically back in the US where many of these groups are based.
    Completely agree with you that there has to be moderation..and a lot of it. I think a well-trained, well-educated, and religiously well-mixed group of people can pull it off effectively. And, my own opinion (sorry MSG Proctor) I don't think this is a job for the military. A chaplain could be there, but I'm not so sure the military should initiate this. They should use it where or whenever they can, but they should not lead it. (would that help with selling the idea politically?)

    I also agree with what selil said about the extreme Christian right infiltration. Keep them out of there! And, personally, I don't know of many who would be interested in getting involved in inter-faith dialogue anyway.

    My thinking is based solely on peacekeeping moreso than intel gathering, if that makes any difference.

  7. #107
    Council Member MSG Proctor's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wm View Post
    There is no physical, logical, or moral necessity to use chaplains in this role.
    Umkay.
    I was invited here by one the Combined Arms Center's Counterinsurgency experts as a subject matter expert on religious leader engagements in counterinsurgency operations.

    I respect the members of the SWJ Council and their rights to argue pro/con on this and any other issue that the moderators deem fair game.

    However, there is just too much data that forcefully makes the case that religious support teams have been, are and will be contributors to the Joint Force's counterinsurgency efforts. Moreover, my own extensive experience in this arena as well as the hundreds of interviews I have conducted in researching this issue will not allow me to concede to arguments like that quoted above.

    While deployed in southern Baghdad my unit encountered issues like this one too many times. This is my unit featured in the article.

    Here is another scholarly treatment of the subject matter from USIP.

    I have probably said all that I can say here. Not sure who the readership of SWJ actually comprises, but I know my boss appears here from time to time. He is a big proponent of STRATCOMs (telling our story) but I'm not sure about the value of debating whether or not something is a viable operational tack when its actually already been done and is ongoing.

    Thanks to all who have dignified my posts with a response.
    "Its easy, boys. All we have to do is follow my simple yet ingenius plan..."

  8. #108
    Council Member wm's Avatar
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    In my perception of this thread, no one is arguing against the value of religious support teams in the theater. I think the focus has been on who ought to be members of such teams and what limits, if any, ought to be set on their missions.

    To borrow from the world of sports, the folks who can be successful as a double or triple threat are few and far between. When we try to make a guy a place kicker and a running back, the threat of failure is not too great (unless you wagered your whole life savings on the game's outcome with some bookie in Vegas).
    Given the persuasive case you have made for the the ubiquitousness of religion in the lives of natives in the current AORs, we cannot make the same correlation to a miscue by our multi-tasked chaplain.
    To repeat, RST are good, but they are not a panacea to go chasing willy nilly. We need to be careful whom we task to man them and what missions we have them perform.
    Quote Originally Posted by MSG Proctor View Post
    Umkay.
    I was invited here by one the Combined Arms Center's Counterinsurgency experts as a subject matter expert on religious leader engagements in counterinsurgency operations.

    I respect the members of the SWJ Council and their rights to argue pro/con on this and any other issue that the moderators deem fair game.

    However, there is just too much data that forcefully makes the case that religious support teams have been, are and will be contributors to the Joint Force's counterinsurgency efforts. Moreover, my own extensive experience in this arena as well as the hundreds of interviews I have conducted in researching this issue will not allow me to concede to arguments like that quoted above.

    While deployed in southern Baghdad my unit encountered issues like this one too many times. This is my unit featured in the article.

    Here is another scholarly treatment of the subject matter from USIP.

    I have probably said all that I can say here. Not sure who the readership of SWJ actually comprises, but I know my boss appears here from time to time. He is a big proponent of STRATCOMs (telling our story) but I'm not sure about the value of debating whether or not something is a viable operational tack when its actually already been done and is ongoing.

    Thanks to all who have dignified my posts with a response.

  9. #109
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MSG Proctor View Post
    I respect the members of the SWJ Council and their rights to argue pro/con on this and any other issue that the moderators deem fair game.p
    I suspect everyone here respects your right to believe in and fight for your position.
    However, there is just too much data that forcefully makes the case that religious support teams have been, are and will be contributors to the Joint Force's counterinsurgency efforts. Moreover, my own extensive experience in this arena as well as the hundreds of interviews I have conducted in researching this issue will not allow me to concede to arguments like that quoted above.
    Perhaps I missed something but I don't think anyone is disputing that it has been done and that it works. Nor do I recall anyone saying it absolutely should not be done -- though some have come close, mostly on moral grounds (and all are entitles to their own version of those; there is no 'right' or 'wrong') -- all most are espousing is caution and common sense. I'm at a loss to understand why that is offensive.
    I have probably said all that I can say here...but I'm not sure about the value of debating whether or not something is a viable operational tack when its actually already been done and is ongoing.
    Again, I'm unsure anyone has questioned to viability. My impression was that most who demurred simply espoused caution, were concerned for the Chaplains themselves or had moral reservations (everyone's prerogative).

    Since my wife say I have no morals, I'm obviously not one of the latter.

  10. #110
    Council Member MSG Proctor's Avatar
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    Here's more evidence from actual combat that chaplains are key contributors.

    ""Our first priority is to the American troops," he explains. Though he doesn't spell it out, the implication is clear: Just by joining Moheburahman for lunch, Fisher is stepping outside the traditional role of ministering to troops and advising command. Yet in so doing, he is also affirming the value of the chaplaincy."
    Chaplain Engages Afghan Clerics

    "From there I met with the local head Imam [the Muslim equivalent of a Pastor or Priest]. I said to him, 'For me everything has to do with relationships and all I'm here to do today is to meet you and see what we can do, so that in the long run long after I leave we have a relationship built on faith."

    From that day on, it was win-win; there were no attacks on our guys in that region, there was only support, more support from them, and more money came from us to rebuild their roads and bring them water. So all of a sudden they were helping us understand them and they would meet with me, and the Imam would say, "Explain Christianity to us, we don't have a clue."
    CH(MAJ) Paul Madje of the 101st AASLT DIV

    "The U.S. military's lack of understanding about Iraqi culture helped create the conditions for the insurgency that U.S. forces face there, according to a military adviser who has written a new book about the insurgency."
    U.S.'s Cultural Ignorance Fuels Iraq Insurgency

    Quote Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
    Nor do I recall anyone saying it absolutely should not be done --
    Originally Posted by wm
    There is no physical, logical, or moral necessity to use chaplains in this role.
    Attached Images Attached Images
    Last edited by Jedburgh; 03-13-2008 at 03:15 PM.
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  11. #111
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default So you equate the words

    "There is no physical, logical, or moral necessity to use chaplains in this role." with 'absolute?' Different definition, I guess. To me saying there's no necessity is not the same thing as saying 'this should not be done. Ever' which sounds kinda absolute to me. Seems as though he's saying there are alternatives...

    And, of course, there always are alternatives; doesn't have to be your or my way to work...

  12. #112
    Council Member marct's Avatar
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    Hi John,

    Quote Originally Posted by MSG Proctor View Post
    I was invited here by one the Combined Arms Center's Counterinsurgency experts as a subject matter expert on religious leader engagements in counterinsurgency operations.
    And I, for one, am glad you are here. This is, in my not so humble opinion, the core issue of warfare for the next 100 or so years.

    Quote Originally Posted by MSG Proctor View Post
    I respect the members of the SWJ Council and their rights to argue pro/con on this and any other issue that the moderators deem fair game.
    Good ! Now, speaking as the moderator for this forum, let me say a couple of things. First, while I personally dislike the FOUO category, it still does have to be respected. Personally, I consider it to be the embodiment of psychotic bureaucrats, but.....

    Seconds, we need someone here who has been operational in the field dealing with religious issues. Issues of "religion" and "identity" will be the crucial ones for quite a while, and we need to have them on the table. I think that it bis crucial that we realize that religion will play a major role and that the capacity be built for dealing with religious issues.

    Quote Originally Posted by MSG Proctor View Post
    However, there is just too much data that forcefully makes the case that religious support teams have been, are and will be contributors to the Joint Force's counterinsurgency efforts. Moreover, my own extensive experience in this arena as well as the hundreds of interviews I have conducted in researching this issue will not allow me to concede to arguments like that quoted above.
    Personally, and I have been involved in inter-faith issues for almost 20 years, I have no problem with religious support teams. I do have major problems with the military being used by psychotics to further their own religious agendas and also have problems with requiring chaplains to engage in actions they consider to be morally and ethically wrong. As a side note to Gian, I have no problem with priests killing people -they've done it in the past and they will do it in the future. My only concern is whether or not the killing is justified.

    Quote Originally Posted by MSG Proctor View Post
    I have probably said all that I can say here. Not sure who the readership of SWJ actually comprises, but I know my boss appears here from time to time. He is a big proponent of STRATCOMs (telling our story) but I'm not sure about the value of debating whether or not something is a viable operational tack when its actually already been done and is ongoing.
    The readership is quite varied and from all over the world. Somehow or other, we got the reputation of being a "graduate seminar in COIN", and that is pretty accurate. But let me note one key point - "seminar". SWJ is an ongoing seminar; we rarely come to a unanimous conclusion on anything. A large part of our role is to raise awareness of questions surrounding issues, and this thread is certainly a case in point.

    We will, in all probability, continue to debate the role of chaplains and of religion in general for the next century. This shouldn't be looked at as a failure in any way - it isn't; it is a success .
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  13. #113
    Council Member wm's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MSG Proctor View Post
    Great cut of Charlie Heston, a heavy hitter for the absolutist NRA lobby in his later life as I recall (wonder if he picked up that complex after playing at Moses in the movies). If it is meant to portray my position then I think you have it just backwards. I submit that your claim that RSE must include chaplains seems much more of the absolutist sort epitomized at Exodus 32's portrayal of Moses' reaction when he returned with the 10 Commandments to find the people of Israel worshiping the golden calf at the foot of Mount Sinai.

    I was using the word "necessity" as a philosophical term of art, as in a necessary condition or a sufficient condition. By way of definition, to say Y is a necessary condition for X is to say if there is no Y, then X cannot be. I took you to be arguing that this was the case for your RST membership--it required military chaplains or it would not work. I have yet to see you prove that point in all of your examples and anecdotes.

    Do you have any evidence to show that using non-military members on RSTs has failed? How about conducting something like a double blind test? Right now I feel like I'm watching the ad that says, "90% of dentists surveyed recommend Trident for their patients who chew gum." What do all the other dentists recommend? What do the surveyed dentists recommend in an unqualified way to all of their patients, not just the ones who chew gum? What would the Iraqi clerics prefer as a counterpart in their dealings with the coalition? Without exposing them to alternatives, it would be pretty tough for them to tell us, wouldn't it?

    I have been trying to point out that all of the functions you were urging upon us as responsibilites of an RSE/RST did not necessarily require that they be performed by a military chaplain, particularly by a military chaplain who also happens to be a staff chaplain in a troop unit. It could quite as easily be the case that our religious support team membership be derived from the faculty of Union Theological Seminary or the Harvard Divinity School, to name just a few place with religious scholars who could easily be seen as representatives of the commander when they presented their credentials/bona fides to their counterparts in the Iraqi mosques. Maybe we should deploy the Chief of Chaplaind and his staff to man these teams. Golly gee, maybe we could even get our Turkish allies to contribute some imams to act as RST members. Wouldn't they be even better at bridging the religious gap than a bunch of Christian prelates who just got off the airplane in BIAP after spending most of their lives in places that have a strong affinity to Tikrit or Basra, places like Lafayette, Louisiana, York, Nebraska or Boise, Idaho? One of my church's ministers is a great pastoral caregiver to our congregation who I would welcome as my unit chaplain to minister to my troops, but I would not want this person advising me in Iraq on how to deal with the Islamic aspects of the AO--this role just would not be a good fit, IMHO.

    It is my turn to thank Ken White for making my point much more eloquently than I did:
    And, of course, there always are alternatives; doesn't have to be your or my way to work...
    Last edited by wm; 03-04-2008 at 02:25 AM.

  14. #114
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Oxymoron alert!

    "...psychotic bureaucrats..."


    Moving beyond that to this:
    "I have no problem with religious support teams. I do have major problems with the military being used by psychotics to further their own religious agendas and also have problems with requiring chaplains to engage in actions they consider to be morally and ethically wrong. As a side note to Gian, I have no problem with priests killing people -they've done it in the past and they will do it in the future. My only concern is whether or not the killing is justified." (Emphasis added / kw)
    I strongly agree with all that.
    "We will, in all probability, continue to debate the role of chaplains and of religion in general for the next century. This shouldn't be looked at as a failure in any way - it isn't; it is a success"
    Well said and hopefully correct.

  15. #115
    Council Member MSG Proctor's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wm View Post
    Great cut of Charlie Heston, a heavy hitter for the absolutist NRA lobby in his later life as I recall (wonder if he picked up that complex after playing at Moses in the movies). If it is meant to portray my position then I think you have it just backwards.
    No. Moses = prophet/visionary. Your position seems quite limited IMHO.

    I do not need to make the case for RST involvement in RLE; you need concrete (and not mere abstractions/theoreticals) counter-arguments. Since I entered this thread I have provided example after example of how RSTs are contributing to COIN efforts in the ITO. Nearly everything I have heard to the contrary (even from recent vets) is conjecture/what ifs?.

    I would need to go to classified information to provide more compelling evidence - and I can't do that. Most of the links and vignettes I have provided have been either ignored or shrugged off.

    The reality is that RSTs are providing multiple-level religious support in a complex operating environment and are NOT sacrificing ministry to troops in order to deliver it. If you opened the link I have twice provided for the interview with the MNF-I chaplain, he says that the clerics wanted to meet with US Army chaplains.
    "Its easy, boys. All we have to do is follow my simple yet ingenius plan..."

  16. #116
    Council Member marct's Avatar
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    Hi John,

    Quote Originally Posted by MSG Proctor View Post
    I do not need to make the case for RST involvement in RLE; you need concrete (and not mere abstractions/theoreticals) counter-arguments. Since I entered this thread I have provided example after example of how RSTs are contributing to COIN efforts in the ITO. Nearly everything I have heard to the contrary (even from recent vets) is conjecture/what ifs?.

    I would need to go to classified information to provide more compelling evidence - and I can't do that. Most of the links and vignettes I have provided have been either ignored or shrugged off.
    And that is part of the problem - sigh. Of course, another part of the problem is that we don't get much of the counter side. How many chaplains have refused to engage in this type of work? Have there been career repercussions from that decision? I don't know - we lack data. How about non-Christian chaplains? Are any deployed? Are they engaged in this type of work? What was their reception? Again, we lack data.

    Quote Originally Posted by MSG Proctor View Post
    The reality is that RSTs are providing multiple-level religious support in a complex operating environment and are NOT sacrificing ministry to troops in order to deliver it. If you opened the link I have twice provided for the interview with the MNF-I chaplain, he says that the clerics wanted to meet with US Army chaplains.
    Hmmm. As a social scientist who specializes in qualitative research, let me just note that one interview is not a statistically valid universe . Leaving that issue aside, however, do we have any open source information on training for this type of action?
    Sic Bisquitus Disintegrat...
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  17. #117
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default We probably need to chill a bit. This is an important

    topic and we should be able to disagree without being disagreeable.

    I do not think I've seen anyone say that the process is not working. You can say that concerns about Chaplain involvement are abstractions / theoreticals yet you personally acknowledged up thread that some Chaplains had concerns with the process.

    Why don't we sort of cool it until tomorrow; I see no sense in any of us getting hostile.

  18. #118
    Council Member MSG Proctor's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by marct View Post
    Seconds, we need someone here who has been operational in the field dealing with religious issues. Issues of "religion" and "identity" will be the crucial ones for quite a while, and we need to have them on the table. I think that it bis crucial that we realize that religion will play a major role and that the capacity be built for dealing with religious issues.

    .
    Thank you, Marc. Just about everything I have read indicates that this type of warfare is here for a while. I commend you for your attitude on this subject; it is far from universal. Thanks for your encouraging remarks and supportive comments.

    Irregular warfare is about people, not platforms. IW depends not just on our military prowess, but also our understanding of such social dynamics as tribal politics, social networks, religious influences, and cultural mores. People, not platforms and advanced technology, will be the key to IW success. The joint force will need patient, persistent, and culturally savvy people to build the local relationships and partnerships essential to executing IW.

    - Irregular Warfare Joint Operating Concept, 11 Sep 07
    Last edited by Jedburgh; 03-10-2008 at 02:08 PM. Reason: Added link. Stop being lazy with your sources.
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  19. #119
    Council Member marct's Avatar
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    Default Good plan, Ken

    Quote Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
    Why don't we sort of cool it until tomorrow; I see no sense in any of us getting hostile.
    And, by way of ending off the day, here's an amusing monologue by Stanley Holloway linked by a friend of mine (an Anglican priest) on facebook.
    Sic Bisquitus Disintegrat...
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  20. #120
    Groundskeeping Dept. SWCAdmin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MSG Proctor View Post
    I would need to go to classified information to provide more compelling evidence - and I can't do that. Most of the links and vignettes I have provided have been either ignored or shrugged off.
    OK. Stop there. A few feathers have already fallen off Icarus' wings.

    You've brought plenty of info, and a little controversy, to the discussion. Controversy is good as it challenges group think. To a point. It wears when it is re-hashed.

    All -- the "seek to understand, then agree to disagree point" is right up on us, if not already in the rear view mirror, on some of these dimensions here. But there are many fascinating angles to this to continue to explore. Game on. Unclass.

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