Saturday, February 03, 2007

Not in the News: Two Grassroots Military Opinions

We have recently enjoyed brief conversations with two intrepid members of the American military, both enlisted soldiers in the Army Reserves and both with orders that will likely take them to Iraq, where they have served before. On such occasions, we resist the temptation to guide the conversation to our own points of interest and instead cultivate the difficult art of listening.

About these conversations we note the following:
  • Neither soldier appreciates having his life interrupted by active duty, but both accept the necessity and importance of the task and so refuse to complain. They embrace the notion of duty.
  • Both express frustration at the inner workings of the military bureaucracy, which to their minds consistently wastes resources of time, talent and money. But they understand it is endemic and was the experience of their forebears in the military.
  • Both express confidence that their efforts in Iraq have been fruitful in the past, whatever the problems and setbacks.
  • Both express optimism that current changes in tactics will yield better results. They understand that a shift from force protection and training Iraqis to anti-insurgency operations and supporting Iraqis will mean greater risk to themselves but offers a greater opportunity for success.
  • Neither thinks that Iraq will become a peaceful place quickly.
  • Both consider that their mission is too important to abandon.
  • One in particular complained that he does not appreciate those who claim to support the troops but not the war. His words, to paraphrase, went something like, "The war is my job. It's what I do. You can't say you support me and not support what I do."
Once again, we thank these brave individuals for their sacrifices. We are humbled by their humility, not to mention their determination, patience and wisdom.

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