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Thread: The Kill Company

  1. #41
    Moderator Steve Blair's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Schmedlap View Post
    What baffles me is that Steele's antics were well known for years. The guy was notorious throughout the Army for being a loud-mouthed, arrogant, arguably incompetent, and reckless leader. My NCOs had the displeasure of working with him in 3/75. Their assessment bore true in real life when I was deployed at the same time in Bosnia when he was there as a Bn Cdr - thankfully I did not have much interaction with him, but even then his antics got ample attention throughout the MND. And as noted earlier on this thread, I had the misfortune of doing RIP/TOA with his BDE when they arrived in theater. Within one week, tales of his antics were circulating and BDE policies that he put into effect left us all scratching our heads. The guy was a clown.

    Steele has been a known quantity for years. Why was he put in command of a Brigade (let alone a BN before that)? I'm glad that some ADC finally took the initiative to look into this and officially record it, but it seems like too little, far too late. The damage has been done - to the mission, to innocent Iraqis, to the reputation of the Army and 187, to any decent subordinate who chose to ETS (to the detriment of the Army) after enduring his crap, and to any Soldiers who may have been misled by his disgraceful example and thought it right to emulate him.
    The sad thing is that some of this is very reminiscent of the conduct encouraged by the CG of the 9th ID in Vietnam during 1968-1969. Seems we never DO learn.....
    "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."
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  2. #42
    Council Member Uboat509's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by carl View Post
    This comment worries me a little. Please define coercion as it you believe it would apply in American police practice.
    An example I was thinking of might take the form of, "If you don't tell me who shot the victim I will charge you as an accessory." That is not the physical type of coercion that I suspect that original poster had in mind but I believe that the principle is the same. You are attempting to gain information from a source by threat of an unpleasant consequence.

    It would be nice if more people just did the right thing and freely provided information. It would be nicer still if life were like CSI and the suspect would just admit to everything once they were confronted with the evidence. Unfortunately, life is not like that, at least not in Iraq. We have to find other ways to get people provide information, whether that takes the form of paid informants or threats of greater charges or longer prison sentences, or whatever other means that they have within legal bounds.

    SFC W

  3. #43
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default The Ranger mentality is not the finest invention of the US Army.

    It has a lot going for it but it must be tempered -- and too few are willing to temper the "Kill 'em all and let god sort 'em out" mentality but are more than willing to stomp on any attempts at imaginative or innovative tactics or new ideas.

    Hard to fire people in the Army other than those you can Chapter out (too easily IMO); thank, in Steele's and many others cases, AR 600-200, DOPMA and OPD 21 and the Congresses that dictated them in a well intentioned effort to be fair and prevent abuses. It's as difficult to fire people in the Armed forces as it is to fire Civil servants, all thanks to Congress. Plus the personnel system creates a lot of problems for itself. Can't say that COL X is a slug because LTG Y sat on his promotion board. We are reflective of a nation awash in political correctness; can't criticize others, can't embarrass the institution.

    While it can embarrass itself with impunity, speaking truth to power -- or the prevailing wisdom -- just isn't done.

    Fortunately, some of our friends aren't so encumbered. For example, it doesn't seem to have gotten to these two smart Strynes who have figured out that bogus COIN is not the way to go. LINK, LINK.

    What is being called COIN is a dangerous road for anyone. If you're an outsider intervening in another Nations, it is doubly dangerous. If you're a generally disliked outsider, it becomes triply dangerous. If you have not been trained for the role, it is quadruply dangerous. You cannot expect a force told to do only high intensity conflict to adapt quickly to the stability ops environment without hiccups, big ones. Steele and the Rakkasans sort of showed that, the two linked articles sort of highlight it.

  4. #44
    Council Member Greyhawk's Avatar
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    Default "honest, balanced, and thoroughly disturbing"

    In the interest of balance - in that the article itself isn't accessible, a couple brief quotes from it:

    "During his deployment in Iraq, Steele saw eighteen of his soldiers killed in action—the same number as in Somalia. The brigades that preceded and replaced the Rakkasans each lost more than twice as many men."

    and

    "Quantifying the level of discipline in a unit as large as a brigade is not easy, but, according to Army data, the number of Rakkasan escalation-of-force incidents in 2006 was below the median for brigades in Iraq."

    Meanwhile, elsewhere and more recently (while it could stand alone I think it has a place here)...
    http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/htm...anistan08.html
    CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan — U.S. Marines trapped Taliban fighters in a residential compound and persuaded the insurgents to allow women and children to leave. The troops then moved in — only to discover that the militants had slipped out, dressed in burqas, the loose enveloping robes some Muslim women wear.

    The fighters, who may owe their lives to the new U.S. commander's emphasis on limiting civilian casualties, were among hundreds of militants who have fled the offensive the Marines launched last week in southern Helmand province.

  5. #45
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    Quote Originally Posted by Greyhawk View Post
    "Quantifying the level of discipline in a unit as large as a brigade is not easy, but, according to Army data, the number of Rakkasan escalation-of-force incidents in 2006 was below the median for brigades in Iraq."
    In regard only to that point, that is easily impacted by what EOF incidents are reportable. For example, my company in 2005 was in an AO that was more violent than adjacent AOs to our north, east, and west, and significantly more violent than the BN AOs surrounding our BN AO. Other battalions were required to report every warning shot. We only reported sustained engagements. The BDE experimented with having us report every gunshot. After three days, they reversed that policy because we flooded them with so many incidents (I think our company and the company to our south reported over 100 incidents in 3 days). I'd be curious to know what the 187 policy was for what type of incidents were reportable.

    It is also worth noting that Salah ad Din province is not really comparable to most other BDE AOs. I don't think they inherited Baquba, so that would only leave Samarra and Beiji as the big hotspots and 187 barely even covered down on Samarra - only putting 1/3 the number of Soldiers of the previous unit there. Areas in and around Tikrit were pretty quiet. Even if Baquba was covered down on, in 2006 that was still not much of a comparison to, say, a BDE responsible for a sector of Baghdad, Mosul, or - at that time - a sector in Anbar.

  6. #46
    Council Member Greyhawk's Avatar
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    Default Violence metrics

    Good points, Schmedlap. I'll add that I don't find "violence metrics" particularly useful.

    Beyond the apples/oranges points, the "next Brigade" losing more soldiers doesn't necessarily indicate the previous one did a better job - in fact the opposite could be argued. Brigades in '08 lost considerably fewer soldiers than the ones they replaced - one would be wrong to claim that's because they were better, smarter, or faster.

    But these numbers do offer some perspective on what we're talking about here - I didn't intend them to refute anything said previously or dismiss the significance of the discussion. Given that we are discussing a document that others can't see I likewise think it's worthwhile to point out said document isn't a one-sided hit piece on the subject. (In fact, ultimately the author does not condemn him but acknowledges things aren't quite as black and white as he thought when he began.)

  7. #47
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    Default I respectfully disagree

    Quote Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
    The real problem is that Afghanistan is not COIN, it's a war. Our efforts to treat it as COIN effort and our US Government wide institutional failure to be prepared for or to reject participation in such conflicts are partly why it is now a war.
    I read this comment echoed several times on this thread and others. Afghanistan is counter-insurgency fighting. An insurgency attempts to overthrow the government; a counter-insurgency attempts to defeat those attempts. By defining insurgency and counter-insurgency like this, we can see that politics is the key driving force on either side (whether your politics are religiously motivated or not, they are still politics).

    I have to define Afghanistan as a counter-insurgency because it will require political solutions. When commenters say it is not COIN it is war, what they mean is it is not Iraq. That is true, it is a rural insurgency fought mainly with guerilla tactics. It is also extremely intense and kinetic, but it is still COIN.

  8. #48
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Not a problem; we're here to learn and disagreements are part of that.

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael C View Post
    I read this comment echoed several times on this thread and others. Afghanistan is counter-insurgency fighting. An insurgency attempts to overthrow the government; a counter-insurgency attempts to defeat those attempts. By defining insurgency and counter-insurgency like this, we can see that politics is the key driving force on either side (whether your politics are religiously motivated or not, they are still politics).
    I agree with all that. I could quibble and point out that most armed disagreements have politics as the key force on either side but that's minor.
    I have to define Afghanistan as a counter-insurgency because it will require political solutions.
    Does this mean that war is not amenable to political solutions?
    When commenters say it is not COIN it is war, what they mean is it is not Iraq.
    Incorrect statement. It may be true for some people but you did not qualify it by adding 'some.' It is absolutely not true for me. I suspect most others here who have said the same thing would also say it is not true for them.

    I said it is not a COIN operation for the simple reasons that: (1) the US is not the government with an Insurgent problem; It may be a COIN effort for the Government of Afghanistan, it is not for the US. That, as they say, is doctrine. We are engaged in FID LINK and SFA LINK (both links .pdf) (2) there are other armed and hostile players aside from the insurgents that are admittedly present thus while there may be insurgents, there are other -- and larger -- problems. If that were not true, we would likely not be there in the first place... (3) Facets of conventional and irregular warfare aside from COIN like efforts are imperative or the coalition casualty rate will climb rapidly.

    None of that is semantic or doctinaire nit picking, those are significant points and that last item is overlooked by entirely too many, some in high places, some actually on the ground, who fail to understand that reality and get people killed unnecessarily.
    ...it is a rural insurgency fought mainly with guerilla tactics.
    So far and in general if not in totality; we'll see if that remains the case. Night vision devices and much improved TTP have already been detected in use by the bad guys...
    It is also extremely intense and kinetic, but it is still COIN.
    You may call it what you wish. What is important is that we realize the US is not engaged in a COIN effort, it is engaged in a stability operation assisting a foreign government which has an insurgency and a major lawlessness problem and that many efforts that government would apply in a COIN effort cannot be applied by us in Afghanistan as we aren't the government nor can many be applied by the Afghans themselves due to the nature of the society and their economic circumstances. Also, as you say, it is indeed extremely intense and kinetic and thus many things one would do ordinarily in support of a COIN effort cannot be done at this time (I'd suggest that alone makes it a war, YMMV).

    I'm reminded of Rifleman's old tag line (and use it hoping he won't mind) quoting a Hessian officer who said, "Call this war by whatever name you may, only call it not an American rebellion; it is nothing more or less than a Scotch Irish Presbyterian rebellion." He was correct but many British Officers disagreed -- they were also correct as later events showed. Names aren't that important. What is important is that those involved (and those here in CONUS) realize it may be a COIN effort for the Afghans with us and others in support and that certain techniques must be employed but that it is in fact a war for all practical news release and funding purposes.

    More important is what's being done to bring it to a reasonably acceptable conclusion. You're doing your part, for which I thank you.

  9. #49
    Council Member IntelTrooper's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
    I said it is not a COIN operation for the simple reasons that: (1) the US is not the government with an Insurgent problem; It may be a COIN effort for the Government of Afghanistan, it is not for the US. That, as they say, is doctrine. We are engaged in FID LINK and SFA LINK (both links .pdf) (2) there are other armed and hostile players aside from the insurgents that are admittedly present thus while there may be insurgents, there are other -- and larger -- problems. If that were not true, we would likely not be there in the first place... (3) Facets of conventional and irregular warfare aside from COIN like efforts are imperative or the coalition casualty rate will climb rapidly.

    More important is what's being done to bring it to a reasonably acceptable conclusion. You're doing your part, for which I thank you.
    I put these two portions together because I think they are closely linked. The fact that we are engaged in SFA and FID should determine our way forward more than focusing on a COIN strategy, per se. Points number 2 and 3 should be heavily considered (and I believe they will be) with the "reasonably acceptable conclusion" always in mind.

    In my experience with the Afghan government, honestly, there were times that I found myself empathizing with the Taliban. The Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan is one of the major roadblocks to establishing lasting security and governance in Afghanistan.

    As Shmedlap and others have pointed out, we have two competing insurgencies struggling for control. One of them is savvy, plays on the emotions and sympathies of the masses, has an effective IO campaign, and an extensive support network. The other is clumsy, dishonest, elitist, and insenstive with an ideology that resonates with few people. I'll let you figure out which is which.
    "The status quo is not sustainable. All of DoD needs to be placed in a large bag and thoroughly shaken. Bureaucracy and micromanagement kill."
    -- Ken White


    "With a plan this complex, nothing can go wrong." -- Schmedlap

    "We are unlikely to usefully replicate the insights those unencumbered by a military staff college education might actually have." -- William F. Owen

  10. #50
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Great truths...

    Quote Originally Posted by IntelTrooper View Post
    ...I found myself empathizing with the Taliban. The Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan is one of the major roadblocks to establishing lasting security and governance in Afghanistan.
    "As it was in the beginning, is now ..."
    As Shmedlap and others have pointed out, we have two competing insurgencies struggling for control. One of them is savvy, plays on the emotions and sympathies of the masses, has an effective IO campaign, and an extensive support network. The other is clumsy, dishonest, elitist, and insenstive with an ideology that resonates with few people...
    We, the US, do have a knack for getting into similar situations again and again. We seem to have done that about once a generation since 1898. One would think there'd be a message in that but apparently not.

    In any event, I expect little real change in Afghanistan; our opponents are more patient than we are while temporary and expedient deal making there has been the way to go for 3,000 years. We'll do what we can and it will be better than it was when we arrived...

  11. #51
    Council Member IntelTrooper's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
    "As it was in the beginning, is now ..."
    We'll do what we can and it will be better than it was when we arrived...
    Indeed. The Soviets provided the airfields for us this round, and the next foreign power to get involved will have some ready-made operating bases and better roads...
    "The status quo is not sustainable. All of DoD needs to be placed in a large bag and thoroughly shaken. Bureaucracy and micromanagement kill."
    -- Ken White


    "With a plan this complex, nothing can go wrong." -- Schmedlap

    "We are unlikely to usefully replicate the insights those unencumbered by a military staff college education might actually have." -- William F. Owen

  12. #52
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Yeah, we've got that development thing down pat.

    Left 16 big airfields in Viet Nam.

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    Default From Ken's link ....

    to JP 3-07.1, Joint Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures for Foreign Internal Defense (p.31 pdf):

    (3) In all cases, the strategic initiative and responsibility lie with the HN. To preserve its legitimacy and ensure a lasting solution to the problem, the host government must bear this responsibility. A decision for US forces to take the strategic initiative amounts to a transition to war.
    From the standpoint of military logic (not looking at the legal aspects), who has taken the strategic initiative (US or Karzai govt) ?

  14. #54
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Don't ask, don't tell?

    Seriously, US forces assisted in the toppling of the previous imposed Afghan government and in the establishment of a new, democratically elected government. That was a strategic effort which was completed. That was followed by an operational effort to assist the newly formed government using FID authority under a Congressional Resolution and with continued support by Congress at that level. That supported Afghan government is in no position to launch a strategic initiative at this time so they are unlikely to attack Pakistan. Nor are we likely to do so as it isn't in our interest.

    Thus it seems to me that the answer to your question is that no one has taken the strategic initiative; the 'D' in FID is Defense and that is what's occurring. You should be concerned with the legal aspects because that is the intent of the paragraph you quote.

    On a practical rather than a legal level, people are making things go 'boom' and people are being killed -- that makes it a war, as I said earlier, a war with COIN like efforts included:
    war (wr)
    n.
    1.
    a. A state of open, armed, often prolonged conflict carried on between nations, states, or parties...
    A for real war in dictionary and practical terms if not one in US legal terms.

    You and others may call it a COIN operation if you wish, you may call it FID if you wish. You may call it frangipani if you wish. You may also play with 50 USC 33 if you wish, I'm not going to do that and I'll call it a war because of the killing and dying. Besides, Joe will want to tell his Grandchildren he was in a war...

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    Perceptions of "what is a war?" are weird.

    I once had a law student tell me that the invasion of Iraq was not a war. This left me scratching my head. I then asked him a few questions, such as, "so the US military fighting against the Iraqi military is not a war?" Finally, he explained that it was not a declared war. Once that was established, I had to ask what significance that had to the original topic that we were discussing. He couldn't think of one. Neither could I. But it was weird that he would suddenly rise up on this point that was so insignificant within the context of the discussion. It is not an uncommon reaction - I've seen and heard it several times in other situations. I've never understood why people insist upon declaring open hostilities involving military forces to not be wars.

  16. #56
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default My personal belief is that for some, it's because

    Quote Originally Posted by Schmedlap View Post
    Perceptions of "what is a war?" are weird...I've never understood why people insist upon declaring open hostilities involving military forces to not be wars.
    they'd rather be involved in helping others than acknowledge the job is essentially killing people; do all the COIN stuff you want to, you're still helping the Armed forces of the US kill opponents. For others, it's that line in the Constitution, Article 1, Section 8; "To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water" They read the first clause and ignore the rest and assume it has to be 'declared,' not knowing that if it is declared, there are a slew of Statutes on the books that give the Executive branch of the Federal Government some awesome powers and Congress wants to avoid that. That's why all our wars since WW II have not been 'declared.' I think all that boils down to differing agendas, perhaps...

    Then, of course, there are those who just want to be contrary.

    Best way to make the determination IMO is ask the folks that are there. All of 'em, see what the consensus is. On balance, I'm with you, even with those explanations seems to make little sense to me...

    Quit picking on the squirrels at AM. 22-6 indeed...

  17. #57
    Council Member Greyhawk's Avatar
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    Default The "Fight for Peace", anyone?

    I think much of what drives this semantic discussion is that our political leadership is very much concerned with the semantics. This has much to do with now being in charge of things they've opposed (implied they would end, even) for the past few years and coming up with ways to explain and support the effort without using exact terms that countless YouTube clips would reveal them condemning.

    This is not a comment on the worthiness of either our leadership or the semantic discussion here, merely an observation of what I perceive is happening. I believe that for some participants the NCA-level semantic discussion is divorced from any strategic decision making, btw. While that relationship is of concern to those here, and the framework of these discussions, for those "calling the shots" it's less "what is this that confronts us and is there an appropriate strategy" and more "how do we sell this? It's X but we can't call it that, we're anti-X after all."

    (X meaning "war" or "surge" or any number of things. "Nation building" is certainly unpalatable too, for a slightly different reason.)

    Speaking of marketable semantics, here's a WaPo headline over a well written and in many aspects troubling account of Marines in A'stan from Rajiv Chandrasekaran): "A Fight for Ordinary Peace".

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn...102815_pf.html

  18. #58
    Council Member Greyhawk's Avatar
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    Default What I see as troubling in the article -

    The Marines will get no extra troops, American or Afghan. In light of that they've asked if they can arm the locals ala SoI (another semantic story, by the way) - but whatever it might be called, so far the answer is also "no".

    What do they get? They get one year to do what Marines do. I'll bet they're well aware of what they're doing, and quite adept at explaining it in the correct terms to media embeds.

    To bring that more in line with the topic of this thread, hopefully few will get their names in the paper for all the wrong reasons. Apparently (from another account) one group of Taliban, cornered in a building with female hostages walked away dressed in Burkas as part of a deal to let those females go.

    On a "positive" note re: numbers - not in that story, but meanwhile some in Britain are arguing they should send more troops and gear. Their Afghan death toll just exceeded Iraq, and that "more" argument is the opposition response.

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    Council Member Kiwigrunt's Avatar
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    Good article, Greyhawk. (‘A fight for ordinary peace.’)

    Something else I think is potentially troubling is this:

    Experts from the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development will arrive in Nawa this summer to assist with longer-term reconstruction and governance initiatives, including a $300 million program to provide agricultural aid to 125,000 farmers through vouchers to purchase seeds and farm equipment. That program will also seek to employ 166,000 young men in projects for six months.
    Once these hearts and minds have been bought, sorry, won, what happens in six months time? Do the farmers receive more vouchers? Are the workers given new jobs? It would appear to me that hearts and minds bought and then lost may end up becoming more troublesome than hearts and minds never won. And I say this without wanting to get into the ‘hearts and minds’ conversation as such (which I'm enjoying).

    [added] hmmm, just realised this post is a bit off topic here.
    Last edited by Kiwigrunt; 07-14-2009 at 09:19 AM. Reason: added off topic.
    Nothing that results in human progress is achieved with unanimous consent. (Christopher Columbus)

    All great truth passes through three stages: first it is ridiculed, second it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.
    (Arthur Schopenhauer)

    ONWARD

  20. #60
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Our political leadership has been that way for years

    Quote Originally Posted by Greyhawk View Post
    I think much of what drives this semantic discussion is that our political leadership is very much concerned with the semantics.
    The Truman, Kennedy and Johnson administrations all played that game in big wars while Reagan and Clinton played it in small ones. The more forthright Bush adminsitration initially did not but after the media jumped them over the 'harsh' rhetoric, even they played the game -- deluding the ignorant.

    Oh, well, at least we're still honest enough to call a Destroyer a Destroyer...
    (X meaning "war" or "surge" or any number of things. "Nation building" is certainly unpalatable too, for a slightly different reason.)
    True; we have a poorly educated public and give too much space to far out fanatics on both sides of the political divide.
    On a "positive" note re: numbers - not in that story, but meanwhile some in Britain are arguing they should send more troops and gear. Their Afghan death toll just exceeded Iraq, and that "more" argument is the opposition response.
    Simply the 'one-third rule' in operation. That's what drives the semantic discussion above.

    Kiwi Grunt makes a pertinent observation:
    Once these hearts and minds have been bought, sorry, won, what happens in six months time? ...
    Point derived from the linked articles and the comment is that we, NATO and other coalition members do not have enough troops to employ "COIN tactics" in Afghanistan -- much less will we all provide enough to do that. We can plus up the ANA and Afghan Police -- but who's going to pay for that plus up (Heh...)? Who's going to sustain that huge amount of money when, as they surely will, the west leaves?

    Hearts and minds being won, foolish term that is often misunderstood as has been mentioned, costs big bucks. There is also a pretty tough human cost. Armed Social Work is not the panacea many seem to believe. Go in, stir things up to 'help,' to 'stabilize the situation' (by adding to the instabilty? ), make a big mess -- then leave.

    Brilliant...

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