The Nation recently published a very interesting article written by Major Bill Edmonds, a US Army Special Forces Officer who served in Iraq for one year advising Iraqi intelligence officers. Maj. Edmonds laments the cultural divide that seperates Iraqis from US soldiers and is frsutrated by the latter's reluctance to even attempt to overcome it.
"I have come to realize that we isolate our soldiers from the societies inHe found that this lack of awareness was a huge contributing factor to the insurgency.
which we operate. We airlift and sealift vacuum-sealed replicas of America to
remote corners of the world; once there, we isolate ourselves from the very
people we are trying to protect or win over."
"'It is how you act," he [a captured Iraqi insurgent] says, 'and howMake sure to read the entire article.
we are treated that makes me fight. For many Iraqis this anger at you is just an
excuse to kill for money or greed. But for most others, they truly feel they are
doing what is right. But you give them this excuse; the American military gives
them the excuse.' So now terrorist leaders pretending to be pious Iraqis target
this very common base anger, Iraqis fight and civilians raise their fists to
salute the Holy Fighter."
Soldiers are also well poised to analyzes the current situation in Iraq. In an article for CSIS, Lt. Col. Stephen Sklenka, USMC discusses the perils of withdrawal. Col. Sklenka argues that U.S. troops in Iraq are serving two very important purposes: (1) stemming the influence of Iran in Iraq and thereby forbidding Iran from become a regional hegemon and (2) preventing a genocide.
The former argument is more or less common these days; however, I haven't heard too many people using the term "genocide" yet. Though his analysis may seem a bit alarmist, Col. Sklenka's overall argument is quite persuasive. Here is an excerpt:
"In the quest for political and economic supremacy, there are strong indicationsI have a bit of problem with this argument. I'm not sure whether it is fair to say in certain terms that removal of US forces will result in exponential increase in violence. Sure it is likely, but arguments that the presence of US troops incite a great deal of violence are not entirely without merit. Moving on:
that Shi’a leaders are not just aiming for dominance over the Sunni, but rather,
full and complete subjugation of their traditional antagonists. The only
thing preventing fulfillment of their unspoken goal is the presence of US and
coalition forces. If those troops, serving in a de facto mediating
capacity, are removed from Iraq, the already high level of violence will
potentially rise to unspeakable levels of horror as Shi’a death squads assert
their newfound dominance. If the current rate of killing is occurring
while American forces are still in Iraq, one can only conclude that removal of
US forces from that country will be accompanied by an exponential increase in
In fact, it is not beyond reason to forecast those levels of violence
approaching, if not actually assuming, religio-genocidal proportions as Shi’a
seek to exterminate their Sunni adversaries. For those who dismiss the likelihood of sectarian violence reaching such an extreme, it is important to remember how the various groups in Iraq tend to view themselves.
Unlike their neighbors to the north who consider themselves Kurds first and then
Sunnis, the vast preponderance of Shi’a and Sunni identify with their sectarian
affiliations first and embrace their secular identities a distant second.
That distinction is important because it lays the foundation for understanding
the cultural-ethnic dynamics that have existed in the region for hundreds of
years, long before the concept of an Iraqi nation was articulated.