Friday, August 04, 2006

About That Barrel We’re Over . . . .

The bad news from Iraq comes in so fast it’s starting to blur together. I found this on BBC: US Troops face ‘war crimes’ claim; a military prosecutor branded four US soldiers “war criminals” as he pressed for them to face a court martial and thought it was a reference to Steven Green, the murderous rapist of Mahmoudiya. But no; this is one I hadn’t heard before:

The men are accused of murdering three Iraqi detainees in cold blood close to the central city of Samarra in May. The defence say the men were killed as they tried to escape, and argue there is insufficient evidence to proceed.

Maybe the defense is telling the truth. Perhaps America is safer now that these three men are dead. But “killed while trying to escape” ranks up there with “your papers, comrade” in scary police-state clichés and it’s not what I grew up associating with America.

At least the military is pursuing this rather than trying to cover it up. And I’m pretty sure that when anyone in the administration is asked about this, the “few bad apples” excuse will come up again. But how many bad apples does it take before you should give up on the whole barrel?

5 Comments:

Blogger rhhardin said...

There's the population effect.

Something does not become less safe when the population goes up. For instance, being struck by a tornado is a pretty low risk in life.

Yet many are killed each year. The larger the population, the more killed.

Your personal risk, however, is the same as it would be if you were the only person on earth. Essentially negligible.

If you want to make it a ``public problem,'' say to increase your weather budget, you cite the increasing risk to life of tornados, with statistics to match. Many lives are lost each year, we need warning nets, etc, etc.

Who can argue against saving a life?

Yet it's a waste of money, because it's no risk really. It's up in hit-by-asteroid territory.

TV crisis news works by taking a rare happening and presenting it as if it's in your own neighborhood.

Your neighborhood is about the real size of the population you're wired to judge risk in. You hear about somebody several blocks over killed on the way to buy pizza in a traffic accident, say every ten years or so, and decide that's within the tolerable risk in life not worth thinking about.

TV news, though, gives you a tragedy a day, right in your own neighborhood, or so it seems.

So, by not dividing by the population, you're scared into supporting all sorts of causes that waste your time and money.

Similarly with the barrel here. It's a really large barrel. A few bad apples prove how rare bad apples are.

Probably fewer than in the general population, for the military in fact stresses character, and drums out the unsuitable at a pretty high rate.

6:25 AM  
Anonymous Wild Pegasus said...

It should be no surprise that the organisation which asks men to kill on command draws men who enjoy killing, or at least those who think they will.

Furthermore, once the civilisation is deconditioned out of young men, it shouldn't surprise anyone when they act savagely. Compare the domestic violence rate of military men to the general population.

Take young men who want to kill, and decondition their moral training not to kill. Now, who's amazed when they don't follow the rules of killing?

- Josh

5:23 PM  
Anonymous A Moose said...

Compare the domestic violence rate of military men to the general population.

Not valid. Compare the military to the lower socioeconomic strata, as that is what comprises the majority of the military in terms of aggregate numbers.

By implication, you're saying that training to expeditiously kill people translates to predisposition to rape and abuse spouses. It does include dehumanization of "the enemy", but that doesn't translate to acquaintences.

The bigger problem is using the military as a social experiment causing loss of mission focus. The military is designed to go in, bring hell with them, and leave a cinder or two. It is not designed as a police force, it is not designed as the Peace Corps, and it is not designed to rebuild, at least on the whole. There are units which are designed to do that, in the Combat Service Support Element (at least that's what we used to call it), such as the Seabees, the Red Horse squadrons, etc. However, on the whole, what we're asking the military to do is completely beyond what they're designed to do, so translate that into a civilian job and then check your frustration level, add a background where spousal abuse is more acceptable, and then introduce hard separation for six months at a time at least. I would think you'd be better off looking there than making broad brush statements about military people.

7:12 PM  
Anonymous Wild Pegasus said...

Not valid. Compare the military to the lower socioeconomic strata, as that is what comprises the majority of the military in terms of aggregate numbers.

This is commonly believed, but the data do not back it up. Link The Armed Forces are a middle-class operation.

By implication, you're saying that training to expeditiously kill people translates to predisposition to rape and abuse spouses.

Correct. When someone is conditioned that violence is okay, it stands to reason they will use violence more frequently. Violence is about power, just as domestic violence and rape are.

And, please, don't tell me that domestic violence is understandable because life is hard. You wouldn't say that about Hezbollah, and you probably wouldn't say that about urban minorities, and you'd be right not to do so.

- Josh

9:00 PM  
Anonymous Barry said...

"The military is designed to go in, bring hell with them, and leave a cinder or two. It is not designed as a police force, it is not designed as the Peace Corps, and it is not designed to rebuild, at least on the whole. "

Which means no COIN ops. Good thing that we don't need that capacity; for a minute there, I was worried that we were missing a very important capability :)

1:52 PM  

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