Balkinization  

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Re "the corps of compassion"

Sandy Levinson

Michael Gerson has a column in today's Washington Post with the above title, about US Marines in Haiti. The key paragraphs follow:

As I arrived at Carrefour, a Marine officer in charge of civilian relations was convening the first meeting of community activists, nongovernmental organizations and local officials -- a group that will gather every day to assess the needs of eight sectors of the city. The officer explained to me the complex Haitian class dynamics that determine local leadership. American Marines of Haitian background were speaking a rapid Creole -- one of the benefits of a multicultural military. The goal was to begin handing out food through community institutions instead of distribution sites or coupons, so Haitians could begin taking ownership of the effort. The Marines are practicing a kind of noninvasive surgery -- providing structure and security, but cultivating community institutions that must continue to stand after America leaves.

Where in the world did U.S. Marines learn this kind of cultural sensitivity? Lt. Col. Rob Fulford, in charge of the Carrefour operation, answers: "In Iraq and Afghanistan, where the equivalent was dealing with tribal sheiks. . . . There is a maturity level inside our Marines that didn't exist in 2003 when we invaded Iraq. A cultural awareness. An ability to leverage relationships."

Another officer on Fulford's staff adds: "It is very similar to Iraq and Afghanistan, except that here there is no bad guy. We're helping the populace, winning their trust. This is right up our alley. All of us are products of the COIN manual."

He is referring to the counterinsurgency field manual authored by Gen. David Petraeus, which involved a dramatic shift in military thinking -- increasing the focus on population security, cultivating indigenous capabilities and isolating the enemy by improving the lives of the locals. This strategy helped save the American mission in Iraq. Its reach and benefits can now be seen on a Haitian beach.

Major military deployments such as Haiti involve a paradox. They put a tremendous strain on military equipment. Traveling from ship to ship off Haiti's shore, I was told of clean-water condensers that had broken down, of scavenging for essential parts, of preventive maintenance postponed.

But the people of the military gain skill and experience -- moving supplies, treating trauma cases, dealing with complex cultural challenges. Despite many hardships, those who train for a mission love performing their mission.

No empire of history could boast such tenderhearted legions....

I have no desire at all to criticize the work being done by the Marines in Haiti. They deserve the plaudits that Gerson gives them. But it is absolutely eerie to read this column in the context of Col. Dunlap's scenario for the 2012 military coup as presented in a 1993 (!) article by Tom Ricks in the Atlantic, for a major theme of the article is precisely the switch in the military from a traditional "war-fighting" machine to one that indeed takes on "community development" as one of its missions, and then comes to the conclusion that they can do a better job of it than the corrupt politicians who are trapped in a gridlocked system. Might not this be the message in 2012 of a candidate Petraeus, the decidedly "new-style" celebrity general committed (unlike Colin Powell) to the new religion of counter-insurgency as community building. And what community is in greater need of efficacious rebuilding than the United States? I suppose it wouldn't count as a "coup" if we simply vote into office our 21st century version of the "general on horseback," running as the candidate of the Republican Party while claiming, of course, to be "above" politics and "ready to make the tough decisions that need to be made." Who knows, perhaps he'll promise us "change we can believe in."






Comments:

Where in the world did U.S. Marines learn this kind of cultural sensitivity? Lt. Col. Rob Fulford, in charge of the Carrefour operation, answers: "In Iraq and Afghanistan, where the equivalent was dealing with tribal sheiks. . . . There is a maturity level inside our Marines that didn't exist in 2003 when we invaded Iraq. A cultural awareness. An ability to leverage relationships." Another officer on Fulford's staff adds: "It is very similar to Iraq and Afghanistan, except that here there is no bad guy. We're helping the populace, winning their trust. This is right up our alley. All of us are products of the COIN manual." He is referring to the counterinsurgency field manual authored by Gen. David Petraeus, which involved a dramatic shift in military thinking -- increasing the focus on population security, cultivating indigenous capabilities and isolating the enemy by improving the lives of the locals.

Its a tragedy the WP did not embed its reporters with the Army and Marines during the Surge in Iraq and Surge II in Afghanistan. There were dozens of similar stories there.
 

Its a tragedy the WP did not embed its reporters with the Army and Marines during the Surge in Iraq and Surge II in Afghanistan. There were dozens of similar stories there.

# posted by Bart DePalma : 4:07 PM


Baghdad, dropping bombs on people is not the same as rescuing them after an earthquake.
 

Rescuing Iraqis from al Qaeda suicide bombers and Hatians from the elements shares the common element of saving lives.
 

Rescuing Iraqis from al Qaeda suicide bombers and Hatians from the elements shares the common element of saving lives.

# posted by Bart DePalma : 4:51 PM


Only if you completely ignore the fact that we created the mess that resulted in the suicide bombers in Iraq.
 

what a warped view of the war and its purpose bartbuster must have to spew such nonsense. and if you took the time to read before knee-jerking you'd find that the reference was to cheiftans and tribal relations etc. not sure how many of those you're going to find in Baghdad...
 

what a warped view of the war and its purpose bartbuster must have to spew such nonsense. and if you took the time to read before knee-jerking you'd find that the reference was to cheiftans and tribal relations etc. not sure how many of those you're going to find in Baghdad...

# posted by Jay's stuff : 6:38 PM


What fucking difference does it make if they're not in Baghdad? They're in Iraq. We now own the entire fucking mess.

It's not my view of that disaster which is warped, it's yours. Got WMD?
 

I suppose then that your objection to the Iraqi and Afghani campaigns is on the grounds of using our troops and military power to "police" other nations, or to using our power to level oppressive minorites, dictators, and the like. Aside from the Pacific theatre I dont think there is a single military action in the past century that could be realy called "defensive" ie. to neutralise a real domestic threat. We have taken up arms in defense of our allies and our ideological peers in all others. If you object to that on principal or if you object to war\violence as a solution in general that I can understand, but to object to one military action when it is in line with what we have been doing for over a century seems ill thought out.
I dont think that W and co really needed an excuse to go back into Iraq, it was realy just finishing what had already been started but not finished; to remove an oppresser from a region and assist our allies; in this case Israel, and bring democracy to where it was badly needed and wanted by a majority under the rule of a dictator (and take out anti US conpiracists if possible) .
Objecting to that is essentialy "un-american" (to grossly over simplify the arguement); as the role of global-champion-for-good-and justice/ombudsman has been long since cast; and if we dont fill it someone else will and to their ends not ours... my point is: focusing on wmd's or uranium or whatever is realy irrelevant to the larger overarching reasons we are there and what the ultimate goals are and objecting to war on principal is un-American as we currently are culturaly. (maybe you're Swiss?)
(and of course we own that mess, just as we owned Japan, Germany and countless other places we have had to put back together over the years and years, it's just part of finishing the job properly, something I hope we do this time around)
 

I suppose then that your objection to the Iraqi and Afghani campaigns is on the grounds of using our troops and military power to "police" other nations,

I object to the Iraq Disaster on the grounds that we have pissed away over $1 TRILLION and thousands of lives for absolutely no reason. At this point only a complete idiot could possibly think that invading Iraq was a good idea.
 

Culturaly speaking it is right in line with what we have been doing militarily and as a Democracy what we do in the future will continue to be shaped by the majority cultural values...
But I believe the point of the post in the first place was the concern of over involvement by the military in non military matters. Personaly I think its about time for some more involvement ala Corp of Engineers works post WW2 and the massive push forward we got infrastructuraly; but we are not likely to see another Eisenhower anytime soon, nor is the political climate even close to what it was then...
 

Aside from the Pacific theatre I dont think there is a single military action in the past century that could be realy called "defensive" ...but to object to one military action when it is in line with what we have been doing for over a century seems ill thought out.

What about Afghanistan?

Alternatively, do you think fighting the Germans in Europe is comparable to invading Vietnam? I don't. Defending our allies against Hitler is a clear example of responding to aggression. Invading Vietnam? What aggression is this a response to? Cold War paranoia is more like it.

Similar with Iraq. Saddam's aggression against Kuwait was dealt with by Bush I. Clinton maintained a regime of sanctions. Bush II had no cause for an invasion. His aggression was unprovoked by any credible threat and his actions were "completely fucking illegal" in the words of a true American patriot by the name of Pat Tillman.
 

Culturaly speaking it is right in line with what we have been doing militarily and as a Democracy what we do in the future

# posted by Jay's stuff : 8:42 PM


You are fucking delusional. We launched an unprovoked invasion of a country that had not attacked us and was no threat to us. Culturaly speaking it more a lot more like Nazi Germany invading Poland.

As for the future, the fact tha Iraq was a complete disaster should mean that it is virtually certaim we won't be doing anything like it again any time soon.
 

be if we were rounding up Sunnis or Kurds and putting them in camps and shoving them into ovens then I could see how you could correlate what the Nazis did to what we are doing in the Middle East, that lacking I fail to see any similarity. Further, Poland was a natural land annex that was a progression of German expansion, when we decide we need to claim Alberta or Chihuahwa and start rounding the dissenters up then you will definitely have a point...
If you truly equate the prevailing political views of the US to Nazism I sure do hope you live somewhere else where you will be happy...
 

be if we were rounding up Sunnis or Kurds and putting them in camps

What the fuck do you think happens when we get our hands on Sunnis, Shiites, or Kurds that we decide are "bad guys"? Seriously, where the fuck do you think those people end up? We haven't fired up the ovens yet, but I've heard assholes like you cheerleading for using nukes on Iraqi cities. If you think we're the good guys in this disaster, you are an imbecile. We're the bad guys.

As for where I live, I live in the USA. And now that we tossed warmongering scum like you out of power, I'm pretty happy about living here. I have no idea how you got the idea that the "prevailing view" supports disasters like Iraq.
 

if we were rounding up Sunnis or Kurds and putting them in camps and shoving them into ovens then I could see how you could correlate what the Nazis did to what we are doing in the Middle East

If you don't mind, I made no comparison of the US to Nazi Germany. I contrasted our response to the Nazis with our interventions in both southeast asia and the middle east. For you to put them all in the same category is baffling.
 

This comment has been removed by the author.
 

This comment has been removed by the author.
 

Jay:

BB and Charles Gittings are part of the anti-military left and genuinely believe that our troops are Nazis, that America is responsible for the al Qeada murders and that the liberation of Iraq is the equivalent of the Nazi conquest of Poland.

There is no reasoning with them. Their delusions have only intensified since we won the Iraq War and Obama adopted nearly all of the Bush "neoconservative" policies in Afghanistan rather than surrendering as they had hoped.
 

Baghdad, how is that WMD search coming along, you warmongering, fascist piece of shit?

I don't think our troops are Nazis. I think that scum like you are Nazis.
 

The latest poll numbers indicate that 60% of Americans oppose the Iraq Disaster. It is likely that this is the least popular "victory" in US military history.
 

Once again this thread has been hijacked by persons who cannot restrain themselves. To put it mildly,recent posts have almost literally nothing to do with the point of the original posting. The reason Jack stopped accepting comments is precisely because of such hijackings that make any kind of genuine discussion next to impossible. If Mr. DePalma frustrates (or angers you), ignore him. No one who actually takes time to look at comments believes that "silence implies consent" to what is said by a previous poster.
 

Sandy, if my responses to that fascist asshole frustrate (or anger) you, you should consider taking your own advice.

As long as you allow propaganda spewing fascists on this blog, you are going to have people responding them. Get used to it.
 

Save that the same two or three people consistently take over all threads and destroy any possibility for genuine conversation. There is a genuine reason that Jack Balkin stopped accepting comments, and I'm not sure he was wrong.
 

It's really only 1 person. Get rid of him and 99% of your problems will go away.
 

It's a common dynamic where there are too few people posting comments, and the subjects of discussion are politically charged. As unfortunate and predictable as monkeys throwing feces.

What this blog needs is more people in on the discussion, not fewer.

I would only maintain that, if anybody is going to get banned, some attention should be paid to who's flinging the feces, and who's trying to engage in reasoned discussion.

As for Jack, he demonstrates all too frequently the downside of not allowing comments. It frees him from having BS called on him when he perpetrates it, such as his idiosyncratic use of the term "originalist" to describe people who are anything but.
 

It's clear that Brett will never get over Wickard v. Filburn:

"As for Jack, he demonstrates all too frequently the downside of not allowing comments. It frees him from having BS called on him when he perpetrates it, such as his idiosyncratic use of the term 'originalist' to describe people who are anything but."

and the failure of Raich (via Randy Barnett's "Lost Constitution") with Justice Scalia's originalist role.

Perhaps Brett can reveal the identities of those people (in addition to Jack) who are anything but originalist in Jack's eyes. (We know that Brett is attached at the hip with Justice Thomas on the Commerce Clause.)
 

Why should I get over it? The decision took the restrictive language of the commerce clause, and rendered it without effect. All Congress has to do to regulate things that are neither commerce nor interstate today, is make a formal assertion that they might somehow effect interstate commerce. But the commerce clause expended some words specifically to limit the power to less than that.

Similarly, I have no intention of getting over the Slaughterhouse decisions, or any of the other bad faith rulings the Supreme court has perpetrated over the years to gut the Constitution.

Nobody should get over them. Should we get the new constitution Sandy wants, the same sort of judicial bad faith will gut it of any benefits he hopes for from it. No constitution can mean much when the judiciary feels free to re-write it whenever it inconveniences the government in power.
 

But who are these "faux" originalists (in addition to Jack)?
 

Actually, Jack is about the only one I've noticed trying to claim the "originalist" name for living constitutionalism. But it's not like I've got the time for an exhaustive examination of the field.
 

What this blog needs is more people in on the discussion, not fewer.

You're absolutely right, Brett.

Banning Bart would go a long way towards achieving that goal, IMO.
 

Rather than, say, somebody so obsessed with attacking anything Bart says, that he's taken the handle "bartbuster"? Or somebody who thinks calling somebody a backpacker is an argument?

At this point, the comment base is so small, even those two would be missed. Maybe the mention by Volokh will help?
 

Brett, your two complaints are mooted by my proposal. That's pretty clear, no?
 

It looks like the dyslex-sick constitutional originalists duo of Brat and Bert continue in lockstep. "Backpacker" is a term of endearment, in recognition of his once need to photo identify himself with his comments, with a subsequent photo change perhaps because the backpack lacked the capacity for all his lies, perhaps to enhance his image. Like our former intrepid backpacker, Brett avoids follow up, including his recent reference to "faux" originalists, declining to take the time to identify those in addition to Jack, leaving his accusation in place.
 

No, Mattski, it's far from clear that making the comment threads here more of an ideological mono-culture in order to placate a self appointed nemesis, and someone who seems to think name calling is argument, would do anything to improve the situation. We need more people commenting on the posts, not less.
 

Brett, getting rid of that asshole has nothing to do with placating me. Getting rid of him rids this place of a fascist propaganda spewing scumbag. I don't see how that is a bad thing.

In any case, this place will be a shithole as long as he is still posting here.
 

Brett,

Bartbuster is correct. The purpose behind banning a commenter like Bart is not to please YOU by alleviating your two complaints. That is a fringe benefit.

The purpose is to encourage MORE people to post here. People who presently stay away because--let's face it--Bart is extremely obnoxious in addition to being dishonest and irresponsible.
 

I think we must have radically different definitions of "obnoxious".

I don't find it obnoxious when people are wrong, or defend views I strongly disagree with, even if I suspect they're doing so in bad faith. If you find that sort of thing obnoxious, you're going to have little tolerance for debate.

And maybe that's why so many sites such as these devolve into mutual congratulation societies, with a handful of people slightly disagreeing on the margin, while imagining that they're having wide-ranging unfettered debate. They got rid of the obnoxious people?

I do find it obnoxious when people resort to name calling in what is supposed to be a rational discussion. I would ask you to note who habitually throws around words like "asshole", "shithole", "scumbag"... You think that sort of thing doesn't drive people away from comment threads?

If Sandy is really considering cutting off comments, I'd ask him to first post on the subject of comment moderation, and we can have this out in detail.
 

Brett,

To quote Anderson from this thread: http://volokh.com/2009/01/29/developing-a-comment-culture/

I wouldn’t go to a Catholic blog and waste time in comments arguing that there is no God, or that Jesus didn’t exist. That’s just being hostile.
Similarly, where a blog like Balkinization had clearly staked out a position, and invited debate as to various nuances of that position, I think it was hostile to *incessantly* post comments challenging the fundamental culture of the blog. And I think that after a few weeks or months, hostile commenters like that should have been gently asked to play elsewhere, or else banned.


I highly recommend a re-read of that thread to you, because I'm not advancing a minority position here.

And I think you get some fundamental issues of fact wrong.

If you find that sort of thing obnoxious, you're going to have little tolerance for debate.

Little tolerance for debate? I guess that means I wouldn't be commenting at a libertarian-leaning blog on a semi-regular basis... Oh, wait.

And maybe that's why so many sites such as these devolve into mutual congratulation societies, with a handful of people slightly disagreeing on the margin, while imagining that they're having wide-ranging unfettered debate.

You know, Balkinization might look like a mutual admiration society to YOU, but I don't think your view is shared by many who have posted here in the past. And who-the-f*ck-are-you to decide whether the debate here is sufficiently engaging?? It's not your blog, and if the presence of liberal legal scholars is an intolerable irritant to you maybe you should consider psychotherapy?

No, I don't approve of Bartbuster's tactics and language. However, I share his opinion that the debate would be far, far better here without Bart. I also think the debate would be much improved if JB were more involved with the commenters ala Orin Kerr.
 

*Brett, don't misunderstand, I think psychotherapy is great. I'm meeting my therapist on Tuesday. ;^)
 

I do find it obnoxious when people resort to name calling in what is supposed to be a rational discussion. I would ask you to note who habitually throws around words like "asshole", "shithole", "scumbag"... You think that sort of thing doesn't drive people away from comment threads?

# posted by Brett : 5:54 AM


I wouldn't use that sort of language with someone who was attempting to have a rational discussion.
 

Bartbuster, it's more accurate to say that YOU have no interest in rational conversation, you'd rather sling your feces and scream, in the hope the zoo keepers will eventually kick your targets out, instead of you.

Well, my copy of Sandy's book arrived, I've got some reading to do.
 

Bartbuster, it's more accurate to say that YOU have no interest in rational conversation,

# posted by Brett : 6:31 PM


No, it's definitely more accurate to say that Baghdad Bart has no interest in rational conversation. I'm just flinging his feces back at him.
 

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