Saturday, November 3, 2012

The Training Dodge

Everybody relax!  It's just a training mission
What are armies for?  Or even more simply, why does a nation build and fund a military force?  The answer is as obvious as it is eternal - a military force is a fighting force, meant to dominate other nations and impose their will on other other governments.  Thus it has ever been, with the wealthiest nations building the most powerful militaries, conquering the most territory and holding the greatest empires.

But nobody knew how different the post Vietnam, post Cold War world would be.  Oh, sure, everybody builds powerful armies, navies and air forces, and even more powerful coalitions and alliances, but no longer can they admit the raw greed and lust for power that has traditionally driven the violent conversion of wealth to power.  The acquisition of territory by conquest after the excesses of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan have been judged as evil, and the imposition of external coercion on sovereign nations is a war crime.  Now, don't believe any of this is anything more than a thin veneer of civilization over man's most base instincts - the golden rule is now, just as it has always been, that the one with the guns makes the rules.  It's just important in the modern era to wrap this ancient process in some kind of marketing message, where no matter what your army is doing to entire nations and populations, you can frame your efforts in terms of helping that nation, rather than destroying or looting it.

So now, it seems that the primary purpose of armed forces anywhere in the world is educational in nature - they're there to train the indigenous and local troops.  Training, not fighting, is a soldier's job today.  If you listen to the Pentagon, that's all we did in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Pakistan, in Uganda - anywhere we go, it's merely to train that nation's soldiers.  It's hard to determine which is more amazing - the incredible need for training throughout the worlds armies or the amount of actual combat that seems to occur during these "training" missions.  It's also interesting how open-ended a training project can be.  Apparently, despite any and all efforts, everybody is in training but nobody is ever actually trained.  To me, this would call into question the actual capabilities of the trainers, but I'm cynical.

Obviously, it doesn't take one hundred thousand American troops to train the Afghan army.  You train up a cadre of Officers and Non-Coms and let them train their troops at the Company level, selecting the best of them to be retained to help train the next wave.  It's logarithmic - in a couple of years you have built a complete, professional training system that requires very little in the way of external support.  The US has merely decided that "training" sounds better than "stomping around the countryside hunting down local people who feel unrepresented or disenfranchised by their deeply corrupt, tribal government".

Now, of course, every foreign military adventure is advertised as a "training mission".  From Americans in Columbia, Yemen and Jordan to the French in Mali to the Iranians in Syria to the Russians in Georgia.  What we're seeing is another manifestation of blatant dishonesty in government.  I know, not exactly news, but if government is supposed to have the consent of the governed and they won't even tell the governed what they're doing, it's time for a serious re-examination of our so-called "democracy".

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