Friday, September 26, 2014

Inappropriate But Hardly Stupid

Why is the idea of setting up a mercenary army to fight jihadis, as Bill O'Reilly called for, stupid?

This writer thinks little of the idea:

To counter the threat from the Islamic State terrorist organization, O’Reilly proposed a “mercenary army – elite fighters who would be well paid, well trained to defeat terrorists all over the world,” said O’Reilly. The idea, from what we can tell, would be to re-create a Special Forces unit without the personnel of a Special Forces unit.

The idea was to raise 25,000 mercenaries. The Washington Post critic mocked O'Reilly for even bringing it up.

And no, the proposal doesn't call for creating a new special forces-quality force. The critic doesn't understand that American special forces train foreign soldiers as their primary non-kinetic mission (and prior to 9/11 that was their primary mission)--and they don't train special forces, for the most part. They simply use their cultural understanding and skills to train ordinary soldiers.

So the critic simply displays his own military ignorance rather than O'Reilly's so-called ignorance.

As for the criticism that Americans in this force would be American casualties no different than actual uniformed military casualties, that ignores the history of Iraq, where contractor (mercenary) casualties weren't included in the weekly casualty lists; and whose deaths in Fallujah in early 2004 led one prominent lefty to dismiss their killing by jihadis (and stringing up from a bridge) in Fallujah with the words "screw 'em."

In fact, if you weren't determined to ridicule O'Reilly (and I'm not a particular fan of his, I'll say) you'd call it a very European (dare I say nuanced?) notion along the lines of France's Foreign Legion or Britain's Gurkha regiment.

I think Jonah Goldberg had it absolutely right:

Arguably the most hated host at the most hated news network (in large part because both are so successful), O’Reilly could come out in support of the law of gravity and the usual suspects would run the headline, “Fox Host Supports Law Requiring Babies and Puppies to Fall from Great Height When Dropped.”

Heck, I once proposed the idea of mercenaries to help relieve the stress on our ground forces without expanding our ground forces (and risk disruption in the inevitable post-war demobilization). I called for 15,000 in an American Foreign Legion.

I ultimately rejected my idea, but the idea is not inherently stupid. Private warfare is here, people.

If this is a mock-worthy idea, what do you call the Obama administration's idea in 2011 to do just that in Iraq?

U.S. Army helicopter brigade is set to pull out of Baghdad in December, as part of an agreement with the Iraqi government to remove U.S. forces. So the armed helicopters flying over the Iraqi capital next year will have pilots and machine gunners from DynCorp International, a company based in Virginia.

On the ground, it's the same story. American soldiers and Marines will leave. Those replacing them, right down to carrying assault weapons, will come from places with names like Aegis Defence Services and Global Strategies Group — eight companies in all.

That article quoted said we planned for 5,000 mercenaries to defend our State Department mission in Iraq! So Hillary Clinton and her boss Barack Obama are as ignorant of military matters as O'Reilly?

Hey, you know what is stupid? Calling for a draft to fight ISIL, as Representative Rangel recently called for:

I have called for levying a war tax in addition to bringing back the military draft. Both the war surcharge and conscription will give everyone in America a real stake in any decision on going to war, and compel the public to think twice before they make a commitment to send their loved ones into harm’s way.

Rangel is a veteran. Which proves that military experience doesn't automatically make you an expert on military matters.

We're already taxed enough. The problem is that we lavishly fund every other line item rather than prioritize defense as a core federal government function.

As for the draft? I've long been against it for supplying manpower for our current war on Islamist terrorism and related fights. If we are short of troops, we are talking about a matter of tens of thousands. In what world does a draft in a country of over 300 million people make sense?

A draft would need few people and so the exemptions to the draft would have to exclude the vast majority of those turning 18 each year; or the lottery level unfairness of selecting just a few at random of all the eligible recruits would be horrible.

By all means, argue against the idea of a foreign legion of mercenaries. Or for it, if you want. But the notion isn't inherently stupid.

NOTE: Excuse the many typos and clarifications for the original intent that I corrected since hitting "publish." I guess I picked the wrong week to quit sniffing glue.