Saturday, February 16, 2008

American soldiers then and now 

Glenn Reynolds publishes an email that in the simplest and most obvious way distinguishes the American soldiers in Iraq from John Kerry and those of his ilk during the Vietnam war. My question: Is it our soldiers who are different, or the enemy? The answer, I suspect, is that the two wars could not be more different in countless ways, occasional journalistic and political narrative notwithstanding.


By Blogger D.E. Cloutier, at Sun Feb 17, 12:04:00 AM:

What the hell are you talking about? The American military did not lose a battle of any consequence during the Vietnam War.

Some interesting info here:
Vietnam: Fact vs. Fiction

Last summer, along the Tigris River in Iraq, U.S. Army soldiers got a glimpse of the American military experience in Southeast Asia. Drew Brown of Stars and Stripes wrote about one operation: "The terrain drew inevitable comparisons to the jungles of Vietnam 40 years ago."

Said one American soldier, “That was the worst thing I’ve ever been through.”


By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Feb 17, 02:01:00 AM:

There was a marked difference between Vietnam prior to 1969/70 and Vietnam after 1969/70. There was also a significant attitude difference in small units based on the commander and his NCOs.

Young men in the military are always looking for a fight to test their mettle. Historically US troops, NCOs and junior officers are the best in the world. Unfortunately, US mid level and higher officers are some of the worst in the world. Iraq is no different in this aspect.


By Blogger D.E. Cloutier, at Sun Feb 17, 02:03:00 AM:

P.S. Since some readers won't bother to click on the link "Vietnam Fact vs. Fiction," I will cover a few of the key points here:

1. Two-thirds of the men who served in Vietnam were volunteers. Two-thirds of the men who served in World War II were drafted. Approximately 70% of those killed in Vietnam were volunteers.

2. Vietnam Veterans were the best educated forces our nation had ever sent into combat.

3. The average infantryman in the South Pacific during World War II saw about 40 days of combat in four years. The average infantryman in Vietnam saw about 240 days of combat in one year, thanks to the mobility of the helicopter.

4. About 240 men were awarded the Medal of Honor during the Vietnam War.  

By Blogger TigerHawk, at Sun Feb 17, 08:52:00 AM:

All good points, DEC. Note, however, that I was at least attempting to be precise in my wording -- "John Kerry and his ilk". I know full well that there huge numbers of American soldiers who were very different from "Kerry and his ilk." I find it interesting, though, that this war really has not produced anybody quite like him. Yet, at least. Sure, there are a few Iraq veterans who have complained about various things, but it has been primarily about the treatment of American soldiers or the management of the war, not that American soldiers are themselves doing substantive or unlawful harm (except, of course, in a couple of cases when it was actually true, Abu Ghraib in particular). Moreover, I think the Iraq veterans, as a generation, will have a very different influence over American institutions, political and otherwise, than the Vietnam generation did.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Feb 17, 09:43:00 AM:

Kerry's ilk.

Their website says they will be "testifying" from 3/13-3/16. Before Congress? No, at their own event apparently.

Their testimony will be broadcast on KPFA (fairly unbalanced) in Berkley. Self references include "the GI resistance movement."  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Feb 17, 10:14:00 AM:

Space Commando: To steal a phrase from Pravda, it is no accident that such an event will be occurring in the Bay Area. It would be interesting to later correlate the actual Armed Forces experience of said "witnesses" with what they claim it to be. Consider the disconnect between testimony and truth of such “witnesses” as Jesse Macbeth. While Jesse claimed that he and his unit had committed war crimes in Iraq, he had been discharged from the Army before he had completed Basic Training. Of course, there is also Scott Thomas, a.k.a. Scott Beauchamp.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Feb 17, 11:20:00 AM:

"I find it interesting, though, that this war really has not produced anybody quite like him. Yet, at least."

How about that piece of Sh** called Murtha? Is he really that much different than "John Kerry and his ilk"?


By Blogger Eric, at Sun Feb 17, 02:29:00 PM:

Tigerhawk: "Moreover, I think the Iraq veterans, as a generation, will have a very different influence over American institutions, political and otherwise, than the Vietnam generation did."

I hope that's true. However, the numbers gap and the civil-military gap argue against that happening. With numbers, such a relatively small number of the current young generation will have served, in peace- or war-time. Even fewer from the educated middle and upper classes that produce most of our civil leaders will have served. I doubt that by themselves, young veterans will be able to form a critical mass to be influential. More likely, young veterans will be forced to put away their hard-earned military heritage and assimilate into, rather than transform, civil society.

The civil-military gap further and dramatically diminishes the value of military experience in the young generation. For many young Americans - or Americans period - military service is at best an alien concept outside of their understanding, and at worst, they believe the negative stereotypes. Praise for the military is often cliched, thoughtless lip service. After all, the bestowed honor of military service derives from the deep appreciation of selfless service, sacrifice, and duty, yet those civic values have not been emphasized in our society, even after 9/11. Formative pop culture and many young people don't view the Long War as a noble cause, rather the opposite. Without that counter-balance of popular honor, the more-tangible consequences of military service, eg, life-long physical and mental injuries, deaths, reluctant participation in a frightening war, and highly visible loss of life, career, and academic opportunities are more tangible proof of the negative value of military service to the young generation. . . in other words, the civil-military gap.

With that said, I *very much* want the veterans of the current young generation to be and act proud of their military heritage and the honor they have earned. They did the harder right instead of the easier wrong and deserve to be rewarded. More importantly, their achievements ought to be set as the social standard for future generations. I want their service to translate as a positive influence in their lives and for society as a whole, with tangible benefits everyone can understand. I want the veterans' life-long civilian generational peers to come to wish, with regret, that they had volunteered to serve in the military, too. With the numbers and civil-military gaps, though, I just don't believe that phenomenon is going to happen by itself.

Moving forward, young veterans - if they want their military service to be valued and beneficial in their lives - need to take it upon themselves to build upon their military heritage in civil society rather than put it away.

We need many more visible, active, and attractive groups like the US Military Veterans of Columbia University (military veterans who are students at Columbia U.) and Hamilton Society (Columbia U.'s ROTC cadets and USMC officer candidates group) sprouting at grass roots in esteemed corners of civil society.

Young veterans need to make 'veteran' a dynamic, powerful product and - even more importantly - build a positive, attractive marketing brand for 'veteran' in civil society. This can only work as a growing movement; if more young veterans opt to sell out (and wholy assimilate) to the civil-military gap rather than buy into (and build the 'veteran' brand in) a veterans' movement, no one will make this social change happen for them.

Of course, any help from civilian supporters and members of older American generations would be helpful and appreciated. :)  

By Blogger jj mollo, at Sun Feb 17, 10:05:00 PM:

A quote from Bill Whittle:

I bow to no one in my respect for the courage and integrity of the American soldier. From Bunker Hill to Missionary Ridge, from the stinking black sand of Iwo Jima to the jungles of Vietnam, these men have shown a tenacity, decency and valor unmatched in history. My respect and admiration for them all is boundless.

But with that said, there have never been soldiers like the ones we have deployed today. Never.

These men and women have been asked not only to be warriors, but also policemen, judges, marriage counselors, businessmen, administrators, referees, bodyguards, traffic cops, teachers and ambassadors.

From what I have seen, soldiers today are proud, strong and competent. I expect that they will thrive beyond any expectations, and they will have an outsized effect on America's future. As Bill points out, they have trained for everything, but mostly they have learned to succeed. They have seen the world, and they have been personal witnesses to the strength and weaknesses of America. Education can't give you these things, and there is no reason that they can't get any level of education they want when they come home. We should be especially thankful that most will be coming home alive.  

By Blogger D.E. Cloutier, at Sun Feb 17, 10:15:00 PM:

Obviously today is a red-letter day for you, jj.

This topic shouldn't be treated like some kind of top-10 list at a radio station.  

By Blogger jj mollo, at Sun Feb 17, 11:58:00 PM:

I made the whole thing a link, and that's the way it came out. It looks better on some other sites. I should have previewed it. I can't read it either.

I didn't mean to offend. Obviously, if today's soldiers are good, it's because good people decided to make them that way -- based on what they had learned themselves. The link is to a Bill Whittle article. It's about USAF Col. John Boyd, who had witnessed success in WWII and Korea and was very frustrated by the difficulties our pilots were having in Vietnam. So he decided to fix it.  

By Blogger D.E. Cloutier, at Mon Feb 18, 12:30:00 AM:

I wasn't offended, jj. I understand you and TH want to show support for the men and women in today's military.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Feb 18, 07:43:00 AM:

Maybe a major difference between this war and Vietnam is now we are onto the mainstream media and won't let them get away with the crap they got away with during Vietnam.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Nov 09, 10:35:00 AM:


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