Training foreign forces

I was emailing with a follower of the podcast recently and she asked how I would see the Ukraine situation through the eyes of my own time in the Army:

Thank you for your kind words on the episode.  I must commend you; you are exactly right.  For some reason, my mind hadn’t yet connected that aspect together.  But aside from handing out Javelins or other heavy weapons, this is exactly what I did with the Iraqi police.  I passed out weapons, taught classes, gave orders, and so on with the Iraqi Police.  Their presumed cowardice during battles I was in or near makes perfect sense to me now, although I’d hardly consider it cowardice today; Iraqi Police officers often and in large numbers would abandon their posts during firefights; they too, like the young teens Chris Hedges mentioned being ambushed, clearly understood the old axiom of “survival being the lesser part of valor.”  A minimum amount of training and getting a new rifle or pistol does not instill battle competence or courage, especially considering my ignorance of the economic situation.

A common occurrence in Iraq was for Iraqi Police officers to sell their weapons, uniforms, etc. in their local markets.  Like the cowardice view, soldiers at the time saw this as a betrayal of our efforts to “free” them, giving up brand new gear to be traded in the market for a few hundred dollars.  We didn’t comprehend that issuing these weapons gave these Iraqis something worth enough money to change their and/or family’s financial situation in a massive way, especially in the horror of the U.S. invasion.  Our minimal cultural / economic training on Iraqi culture, economics, society, etc. focused entirely on the U.S soldier viewpoint and even then, it wasn’t terribly informative.  The dismissal of the entire Iraqi army / government did more than fill the ranks of Iraqi insurgents; it also took away the paychecks of a huge number of government employees, not to mention the overall economic downfall of Iraq post invasion affecting non-government Iraqis.  American soldiers are driven greatly by improving their own economic situation; why don’t we see Iraqis or other groups as working towards the same end?

Bottom line: nothing about arming groups in pursuit of U.S. policy goals is romantic or glamourous. If ordinary people in the U.S. lie through social media, pretending their situation is different so as to become more popular or keeping up with the Joneses, why are we seeing the arming of Ukrainians with the same kind of skepticism?  Is it even clear to whom the weapons are being given?  What happens if Ukraine, like Libya or Syria, becomes a starting point to send these weapons elsewhere?  Ukraine is central enough to make a perfect jumping off point for weapons to end up in Eastern Europe, the Middle East, or even northern Africa.  U.S. leaders have said they want to give Russia “their own Afghanistan.”  This could mean years of sending all kinds of weapon-driven horror, sans observation or control of any kind, while U.S. leaders embrace subterfuge and disseminating war propaganda through the intelligence and military communities, placating the average American and allowing this massive pool of bullshit to continue without end.

Lastly, you’re right to understand how different American troops are treated by the mechanisms of their military time than other countries treat their respective troops. However, most of the tiny bit of humanization given to U.S. troops is from years of advocacy and legal work on their behalf. Our country has such an ingrained relationship with the myths of the American military, every once in a while something good actually happens to change how troops are treated. But we do have the basics down: food, uniforms, medical care, working weapons and ammo, armored vehicles, etc. I’m currently looking for books on Russian soldiers to make some more comparisons like this, as I know very little about how other countries treat their soldiers.


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Fortress On A Hill is hosted, written, and produced by Chris ‘Henri’ Henrikson, Danny Sjursen, and Keagan Miller. https://bit.ly/3yeBaB9

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