New War, All Over Again

Like the War in Iraq, Israel’s invasion into Gaza has become controversial.
Is it a just war? Was it a last resort? Is the reaction proportionate to the cause?
If I were to know no history of the tensions and hostilities between Israel and its neighbors, I would probably believe the recent invasion to be, in a way, unjust. After all, Israel did not attempt an economic embargo or attempt to recruit UN involvement in this specific instance.
However, even from the limited amount of knowledge I have regarding Israel’s interactions with Palestinians, I simply cannot answer the question, “If you were Prime Minister of Israel, what would you do?” in any other manner than the course they have taken.
I am a pacifist at heart. Nothing would make me happier than if we could all live out the song, “Why Can’t We Be Friends?” But if, tomorrow, a terrorist group started sending rockets into my city, you won’t find any flower bouquets or peace pipes near me.
Israel has tried diplomacy. The UN, notoriously anti-Israel, isn’t going to be helping any time soon–so what more can Israelis do than to defend themselves forcefully?
The main difficulty of the scenario, I believe, lies in the character of the initial terrorist attacks, and the characters of the terrorists. Like the World Trade Center bombings, Israel’s civilians are being attacked, and in a way in which direct defense is nearly impossible. Hamas is not marching across the border with blazing guns. Rather, they are deploying the blazing guns without the soldiers–same as September 11th. Also like America post-9-11, Israel is faced with a ‘faceless’ enemy insofar as Hamas does not have a country, uniforms, or formal structure.
Confronted with a garden full of normal and poisonous plants that are identical in appearance, both America and Israel have, for lack of a visible better option, been forced to use conventional warfare in unconventional wars. Civilian causalities are part of the result: to Hamas, the primary means of war, and to civilized nations, a horrible, tragic part of war, which seems unavoidable in this conflict.
Is there another way?–I throw the question out to you.
If warfare must be used, (which I believe it must), is there an honorable and unconventional type of warfare that Israel can use against an insidious but also unconventional enemy?

Thank you, veterans

Thank you to all of our readers here who are veterans. I appreciate the work you have done and the sacrifices you have made for the rest of us.
Thank you to my brother-in-law John, who ships out to Iraq for the first time in just a few days. Thank you also to my other brother-in-law, Joey.
Today I am thankful especially for the service of a very dear childhood friend, Lcpl Darin Thomas Settle. He died in Iraq 2 ½ years ago.
Thank you, veterans, for allowing us to honor you. It is good for us to remember your service, and you do us a great service by permitting us to do so.

The Cold War Against Recruiters

For the past few weeks Michelle Malkin has been documenting the attacks–in both word and deed–on America’s military recruiters:

Ideas have consequences. Inaction has consequences. For the past several years, I’ve chronicled the Left’s escalating war on military recruiters-and the apathetic, weak-kneed response to it. In Unhinged, I devoted a sub-section of my chapter “They Don’t Support Our Troops” to the organized campaign of harassment against recruitment offices on college campuses nationwide. The anti-recruiter thugs have thrived thanks to a combination of public indifference, law enforcement fecklessness, and left-wing ideological apologism.

While it’s encouraging to see Malkin and others take up this cause, there is a greater concern that is largely ignored. The biggest challenge for military recruiters is not the heated battles with Code Pink protesters but the cool indifference of mainstream Americans.
If you want to see the contrast between what people say they believe and how they live, spend a day with your local military recruiter. You’ll be amazed by the number of people you’ll encounter who go out of their way to tell you how much they “support our troops” and how they appreciate our service. Then you casually inquire about their son or daughter and when they will be stopping by the recruiting station to learn more about serving their country. The reaction is palpable: their spines stiffen, they smile blankly, and a coldness comes over them. If they are quick-witted they will find a way to jokingly dismiss the question. More often, though, they will simply blurt out honestly that there is no way they’d let their own child enlist.
Since I spent my years as a Marine Corps recruiter in Aberdeen, WA — the hometown of Kurt Cobain — I had hoped my experience was an isolated case. But then I talked to others who told the same tales about being brushed off by school counselors and dismissed by parents. Often times, when I would call a student’s house and tell the parents I was with the Marines they would hang up on me. Imagine how different the reaction would be if I told them I was a recruiter for Harvard.
If Americans valued and respected the institution and the troops as much as they claim the military would be more difficult to get into than any Ivy-league school. We wouldn’t be able to take everyone who wanted to enlist. The “elite” would be lined up around the block, letters of recommendation in hand, hoping to serve in the greatest military in the history of the world. Rather than having to bribe “scholarship mercenaries” with a generous college fund, recruiters would be forced to turn away highly qualified applicants.
But for all the talk, most Americans are willing to support the troops only insofar as they are not expected to add to their ranks. We are more than willing to leave our country’s defense to the “military types” and lower classes who need the employment. We have other priorities: advanced degrees to pursue, careers to build, money to be made. Besides, we pay our taxes. What else should we be expected to do?
Yes, Americans support our troops and respect their service. We just don’t want our own sons and daughters to be the ones to serve. And if, like the citizens of Kyrgyzstan, we have to pay out of our pockets to keep our children out of the military we’ll have just one question — “Who do we make the check out to?”

The Red Poppy

In 1915, a Canadian medical officer named John McCrae published what is probably the single best- and popular poem from the First World War, “In Flanders Fields”:
Red Poppy

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

After reading this poem Moina Michael, a college teacher and YMCA War Worker, was so moved that she was inspired to write a response. Hastily written on the back of an envelope, she penned the lines to We Shall Keep the Faith:

Continue reading The Red Poppy

Button Your Lip, MilBlogger:
Why the Army is Right…and Conservative Bloggers are Wrong

After Noah Shachtman, of the excellent Danger Room blog, about the Army’s stringent new regulations for online communications, the conservative blogosphere exploded in protest against the order. I propose that these bloggers consider how they would react upon hearing the following two statements:Button Your Lip!

1) The editors of the Washington Post released details about operational security in their newspaper that may have led to the deaths of 14 American soldiers.
2) A group of milbloggers released details about operational security on their blogs that may have led to the deaths of 14 American soldiers.

Imagine the reaction if the editors of the Post were to justify such an irresponsible move based on their right to “freedom of expression” or the American public’s need to “know what’s going on in Iraq.” We would rightly consider such rationalization indefensible. So why are the same arguments being used to excuse milbloggers who are able to have a far more deleterious impact?
Operations security is necessary to protect “critical information from adversary observation and collection in ways that traditional security programs cannot.” As the Army regulation explains, “the OPSEC process identifies the critical information of military plans, operations, and supporting activities and the indicators that can reveal it, and then develops measures to eliminate, reduce, or conceal those indicators.” Maintaining OPSEC has always been essential to winning wars and preventing unnecessary casualties.
My friend Ed Morrissey acknowledges that OPSEC is important but claims that “no one has any evidence that milbloggers have violated Opsec orders in their communications.” This is a stunning claim, for anyone who understands what OPSEC entails and has read enough milblogs knows that isn’t the case. In fact, the Army has an unclassified PowerPoint presentation that provides an example of what they are trying to prevent [emphasis and commentary added]:

Continue reading Button Your Lip, MilBlogger:
Why the Army is Right…and Conservative Bloggers are Wrong

Marine Corps Rules for Gun Fighting

The Marine Corps Birthday makes me nostalgic for the good ol’…well, maybe good is too strong a word. In fact, I can’t say that I miss being on active duty; but I do miss being with my fellow Marines.
Thinking about my friends who are getting shot at by ungrateful Iraqis reminded me of this list, an old Corps favorite, on how to act in a gun fight:
1. Bring a gun. Preferably, bring at least two guns. Bring all of your friends who have guns.
2. Anything worth shooting is worth shooting twice. Ammo is cheap. Life is expensive.
3. Only hits count. The only thing worse than a miss is a slow miss.
4. If your shooting stance is good, you’re probably not moving fast enough nor using cover correctly.
5. Move away from your attacker. Distance is your friend. (Lateral and diagonal movement are preferred.)
6. If you can choose what to bring to a gunfight, bring a long gun and a friend with a long gun.
7. In ten years nobody will remember the details of caliber, stance, or tactics. They will only remember who lived.
8. If you are not shooting, you should be communicating, reloading, and running.
9. Accuracy is relative: most combat shooting standards will be more dependent on “pucker factor” than the inherent accuracy of the gun.
10. Someday someone may kill you with your own gun, but they should have to beat you to death with it because it is empty.

Continue reading Marine Corps Rules for Gun Fighting

Happy Birthday Marines!

[Note: In honor of Veterans’ Day and the 231th birthday of the Marine Corps, I’m reposting a story that reminds me why I love my fellow Marines.]
valor.jpgDuring the late ‘90s I served a three year sting on recruiting duty in Olympia, WA. The long hours and tedium of dealing with teenagers was wearing me down so on a rainy October day my partner and I decided to take a trip out to Evergreen State College. Our area of Washington wasn’t exactly friendly to recruiters but that particular school had a reputation for being so unwelcoming that it was rumored that no one from our office had visited in the past ten years.
Evergreen, considered one of the most liberal schools in the country, prided itself on being one of the first schools to hold protest against the first Gulf War. The only thing that we shared in common was that our organizations both had Latin mottos. (For the Corps: Semper Fidelis, “always faithful”; for the Greeners: Omnia Extares, “let it all hang out.”) As we stepped on campus in our dress blue uniforms we prepared ourselves for what was sure to be an interesting visit.

Continue reading Happy Birthday Marines!

The Red Poppy

In 1915, a Canadian medical officer named John McCrae published what is probably the single best-known and popular poem from the First World War, “In Flanders Fields”:

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

After reading this poem Moina Michael, a college teacher and YMCA War Worker, was so moved that she was inspired to write a response. Hastily written on the back of an envelope, she penned the lines to We Shall Keep the Faith:

Continue reading The Red Poppy

Happy Birthday Marines

[Note: I left active-duty seven months ago, but in honor of Veterans’ Day and the 230th birthday of the Marine Corps I wanted to share a story about why I love being a Marine.]
valor.jpgDuring the late ‘90s I served a three year sting on recruiting duty in Olympia, WA. The long hours and tedium of dealing with teenagers was wearing me down so on a rainy October day my partner and I decided to take a trip out to Evergreen State College. Our area of Washington wasn’t exactly friendly to recruiters but that particular school had a reputation for being so unwelcoming that it was rumored that no one from our office had visited in the past ten years.
Evergreen, considered one of the most liberal schools in the country, prided itself on being one of the first schools to hold protest against the first Gulf War. The only thing that we shared in common was that our organizations both had latin mottos. (For the Corps: Semper Fidelis, “always faithful”; for the Greeners: Omnia Extares, a latinization of the sixties catchphrase “let it all hang out.”) As we stepped on campus in our dress blue uniforms we prepared ourselves for what was sure to be an interesting visit.
When we arrived, though, we were disappointed by our reception. No spontaneous protests broke out, no one called us names, no confrontations with patchouli wearing hippie chicks. Instead, we received a cool reception. Stares and smirks and polite bemusement, but no one went out of their way to be rude or unkind. They simply ignored us, figuring that we would soon just go away without a fuss.
We walked over to the student union, ordered some lunch and sat at a corner table by ourselves. Most of the students did their best to avoid making eye contact but one young girl, dressed in Birkenstocks and sporting white-girl dreadlocks, walked up to us and smiled.
“Are you two Canadian Mounties?” she asked. I smiled, thinking that she was making fun of our uniforms. Then I realized she was serious. “Um no,“ I said, “We’re U.S. Marines.“
“Oh,” she said, looking puzzled. “So what do Marines do?&#148

Continue reading Happy Birthday Marines