I’ve been speaking today with several members of my battalion who recently returned from a rotation in Iraq about their feelings on which direction the country may be headed, what is working and what isn’t, and why we are where we are.
Understand that their views (and mine) are generally pro-invade-Iraq, but keep in mind that in Special Forces we work at a different level than most military units do and interact much more closely (and live with) with our Iraqi counterparts (or whatever our counterparts happen to be — Iraq isn’t the only thing going on, of course). We actively seek to understand our counterparts’ viewpoints and over time tend to absorb and adopt some of their views. While we understand where they believe themselves to be coming from, this does not necessarily extend to sympathizing with them in every respect (or sometimes any respect). One of the reasons that understanding doesn’t extend to sympathy is that, quite frankly, what many Iraqis (and Americans, for that matter) believe is reality is often not quite true — well, in the case of Middle Easterners very often much of what they believe is completely fabricated. As much as I bash the Western media the fact we have a free press does actually prevent us from going too far any one direction — and its easy to forget the vital function a free press serves until you spend some time in a place that lacks one (whether because government controls it or because local thugs violently enforce a specific view — and sometimes there’s not much difference between the two).
Understanding how a person’s values were enculturated, what experiences they’ve had and other things they have been exposed to does not mean that you must agree with them. You can understand all the why’s and still hold judgmental views on their society (as a culture or even a foreign subculture), how its run, or have very strong feelings against the way they do things. Understanding situation, motive, etc. doesn’t mean you agree with a Muslim teenager holding an RPG any more than it means you agree with a serial killer who keeps body part trophies in his fridge.
I’d like to explore things I’ve come to realize about places like Iraq if I ever get the time. Part of the problem is thinking hard enough and completely enough about the subject to organize the thoughts into something coherent enough for consumption outside of my own mind or my own little community of SF guys who all approach things from a background of similar experience. This may lead to a few essays over time that I’ll post elsewhere.
…unless I never write them. I’ve got a horrible backlog of essays I want to write and some that others want me to write… enough that a few folks have actually complained. Which is weird, since I thought nobody ever read this blog.
The Iraq issue in particular so strongly influences discourse in our society today and will frame political discourse across the world for decades that I feel compelled to explain the views I and most of the SF community have developed over a period of involvement with terrorism and Second and Third World problems that is much, much longer than this particular event we call the Global War on Terror.