Thursday, January 05, 2006

A rock and a hard place

There is lots of talk of soldiers being "ambassadors" for peace in Iraq. Not only are we here to fight the terrorists but we are here to "win the hearts and minds" of the Iraqi people. Sounds great to me and I hope it eventually happens. The thing about the notion of soldiers as ambassadors is that it sounds good on paper but it doesn't always pan out in reality. Soldiers in today's military have an incredibly hard job. We aren't facing the Nazi's whom wore uniforms and drove tanks, we aren't facing Japanese pilots who were easily identifiable, and we aren't even facing the same thing as soldiers did during Desert Storm where the Iraqi army wore uniforms that American soldiers could single out when fighting. Today we are facing an enemy who cowers behind civilians, who hides far from the battlefield armed with remote detonator switches, and an enemy who you can look dead in the face and not know whether or not he is good or bad. And soldiers must fight their enemy while at the same time being essentially handcuffed for fear of being punished for mistakenly engaging a non-combatant. While soldiers try to figure out who and where their enemy is, the terrorists gladly remain hidden among the general population observing the military's every move.

On a battlefield where friendlies and enemies alike mix, soldiers are asked to be ambassadors for peace and treat Iraqis with respect and courtesy. I do think Iraqis should be treated well and in my experience I have met some great Iraqi people, but for young soldiers who are worried about living this can be an incredibly hard task. Soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan are the most paranoid people that I know because we don't know who to trust and who to shoot at. The military controls this by implementing a number of measures upon soldiers such as Rules of Engagement but it is by no means an easy day to day task to complete. One day we might shoot at an American-supporting Iraqi civilian just because they weren't paying attention to where they were going and the next we might let a terrorist walk on by as he simply stands by the road and waves as he waits to bomb the person behind you.

This duty rests upon the shoulders of relatively young men who face jail time should they make the wrong split-second decision. So ambassadors for peace we are and I guess we will continue to be, but we do it in a hostile environment where even the most seasoned veteran would have trouble distinguishing friend from foe. The next time you read about a soldier "screwing up" over here take it easy on him and think about what a difficult task awaits him each and every day.


Gypsy said...

I've often thought about how difficult (to put it mildly) it is for our Military to distinguish friend from foe. I never judge when I read of an "incident", and feel anyone not in country shouldn't either.

You are in my continued prayers and have my thanks for your service. Stay safe.

aandn said...

Hey Boggs - -A Rock And A Hard Place really was good Timothy. This has been something that bothers me endlessly. I may be totally wrong but I can't understand how we can fight a war like this - -when you guys have to be so careful not to get "innocent" people along with the enemy or instead of the enemy. It seems too much to expect of our great young men to me. If we didn't have to be careful to the point of getting our own men killed because of it maybe the Iraqis would be more helpful in turning in the enemy and be more careful about who they hang out with. War is hell and and it looks to me like we expect "everything" of our Military and "nothing" from the people we are defending and helping. Shouldn't they take more responsibility for themselves? And why do we have to, excuse this expression, but, kiss ass to make them like us. For Gosh sakes, Boggs, you guys are giving your all to clean the terrorists out of their midst and give them a better life and all that goes with freedom. Thanks for helping me to understand - -but I don't think I'm quite there yet. You all do a great job and obviously a better job than I would do in your place! I always get very angry when I see the MSM or anyone say rotten things about our military from their armchairs. Where has common sense gone? You are great Boggs! Annie