Soldier, Human or Both?

Just let it out
Just let it out! Photo: SuperFantastic/flickr

As the controversy surrounding Rolling Stone‘s profile of General Stanley McChrystal (and the comments of his staff) winds down, NYT columnist David Brooks offers up an interesting thought about soldiers, or really, anyone who is a subordinate: They complain.

And they’re human.

Venting is part of being human. And even though members of the military are held to a higher behavioral standard than a common employee, is it really that extraordinary that McChrystal and his aides had some not-too-flattering words for the US president and his administration?

From Brooks’ article:

Military people are especially prone to these sorts of outbursts. In public, they pay lavish deference to civilian masters who issue orders from the comfort of home. Among themselves, they blow off steam, sometimes in the crudest possible terms.

Now, as to the intelligence of the military folks who decided to blow off steam in front of a reporter (it seems that McChrystal was done in more by hearsay than anything else), that’s a whole other post.

But, do we hold members of the military up to too high a standard by expecting them to remain ‘strong and silent’? Shouldn’t they be allowed to kvetch, vent, gripe and do whatever they need to do (within reason) to let off steam?

Since, at least in the US, they volunteered to put their lives on the line for their country, shouldn’t they have the right to complain…even if it is about the commander-in-chief and his administration?

Another question: Does complaining about someone or something automatically equal a lack of respect for that someone or something?

Again, I think it was absolutely asinine, especially in the day-and-age of gotcha journalism for McChystal’s aides to repeat his words in front of a reporter, but if you’re in the type of high-pressure situations that military members find themselves in, perhaps kvetching is understandable.

Because even though they’re in the armed forces, they’re humans too.

Categories
Audio/Video

Freestyle Iraq, fo shizzle

Freestyle Iraq from The US Defense Department
Screenshot: Freestyle Iraq from The US Defense Department

Yo yo yo wazzup y’all.

I’m late to the party with this ish…but I just wanna pull your coat about this sick video podcast I found while chillin like a villain. It’s da deelio on what’s going down when Uncle Sam’s throwin’ down.

YaknowwhatI’msayin? This tight joint is from the US DoD fo all y’all.

Oh, excuse me. I was just feeling Freestyle Iraq.

From the Pentagon Channel site: “Freestyle Iraq is a lifestyle news magazine set smack dab in the middle of a combat zone…yep, IRAQ! ”

Yep. It’s a hip and happening look at how US troops cut loose when they’re not dodging

Blazin (a cigar) on Freestyle Iraq
Blazin (a cigar) on Freestyle Iraq

bullets from insurgents. Freestyle Iraq full of MTV-style jump cuts, pans, and an on-cam crew trying their best to get their hip-hop swagger on.

And hark, I think I heard a little Public Enemy in the soundtrack of one of the episodes.

Does Chuck D know about this?

Some of the dialogue is cringe worthy (The host said “Bring your A-game” in reference to being on top of your game on the basketball court. The last time I said “Bring your A-game” to anyone I was…wait…I’ve never said that to anyone.)

All kidding aside, Freestyle Iraq does two things: It attempts to show the human side of US troops, which, right or wrong, is important for fashioning wartime imagery; and it presents the military in an attractive manner to prospective recruits (who shouldn’t be too hard to find).

And the fact that it’s available on the official Pentagon channel is something to note.

Perhaps the folks in uniform are ready to get buck?

South America: Opposing Signals

F-16 jet, courtesy of Jeffk42/flickr
F-16 Jet, courtesy of Jeffk42/flickr

In his article for the ISN weekly theme, Dr Markus Schultze-Kraft explains that the “political-ideological rift that divides the region, deep mutual distrust, opposed geopolitical projects and international alliances, and not least the enormously challenging nature of the transnational security threats, such as Colombia’s armed conflict and drug-trafficking, all conspire against regional security improvements.”

I will not argue against this statement that summarizes perfectly the issues that South America is facing today. I will elaborate on something that has not been mentioned and that is, to me, crucial to the (non-)establishment of confidence and regional security in the continent: the militarization of South American countries.

A Kinder, Gentler Army?

Sigmund Freud's sofa / Photo: Konstantin Binder, Wikipedia
Sigmund Freud's sofa / Photo: Konstantin Binder, Wikipedia

For some reason I thought this practice was already in place, but the US Army has announced that it is starting an obligatory “emotional resiliency” program for its troops.

According to the NY Times the program is meant to head off the plethora of mental health issues soldiers bring back with them from their tours of duty in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The move comes after the military has faced criticism for failing to provide proper care for its troops, which some say has led to an “epidemic of suicides” due to post-traumatic stress disorder and what’s termed ‘Gulf War syndrome.’

The weekly, 90-minute sessions will involve exercises in which participants will examine methods “to defuse or expose common habits of thinking and flawed beliefs that can lead to anger and frustration — for example, the tendency to assume the worst.”

Off topic comment: That’s not just needed for the military.

In an atmosphere in which a person is formed into, for all intents and purposes, a killing machine, this type of program is/was sorely needed. But it does go against the normal military culture; one of bravery, manliness and keeping a stiff upper lip in the face of danger, or worse.

“Psychology has given us this whole language of pathology, so that a soldier in tears after seeing someone killed thinks, ‘Something’s wrong with me; I have post-traumatic stress,’ ” or P.T.S.D., Dr. Seligman said. “The idea here is to give people a new vocabulary, to speak in terms of resilience. Most people who experience trauma don’t end up with P.T.S.D.; many experience post-traumatic growth.”

And perhaps give a new definition to “bravery.”

Strange Things in the Sky

Arnold_crescent_1947
American businessman Kenneth Arnold pointing out a drawing of an UFO he saw on June 24, 1947 while flying his private plane near Mount Rainier, Washington.

The UK Ministry of Defence has released some 4000 pages of previously classified files on UFOs. The sightings documented were between 1981 and 1996 and include observations by private citizens and members of the military such as fighter pilots and other personnel.

Interestingly enough, according to the Times, the yearly sightings of UFOs in the UK increased after the first screening of the X-Files. However you want to interpret this, some disturbing facts remain:

As Nick Pope, a former head of the MoD’s UFO desk is quoted by the Times:

“There are some fascinating cases here [in the released files] and while we could explain 95 per cent of the sightings, the rest were a genuine mystery. We were particularly concerned by near misses with aircraft and cases where UFOs were seen close to military bases.”

So the MoD admits that there are unknown flying objects that can’t be explained and that show up around military bases. Yet people doing research on UFOs are frequently ridiculed and named lunatics by the media and academia.

Can anyone who takes his job in security policy seriously disregard the fact that something is flying around over our heads and we have no idea what it is?