We are at the moment involved alongside the United States in two major wars- two wars in which the cooperation of the local populations are indispensable to our victory if we are to have a victory and if its possible now to have one. Both in Iraq and in Afghanistan we are faced with a situation where failure would be a disaster- the British House of Lords recently debated Afghanistan for example and found that the situation was serious and if left would have extremely serious consequences (I wrote about the debate on Bits here). Given all of this- today's news from the Boston Globe makes heavy hearted reading to anyone who wishes the Western alliance well in what is happening both in Iraq and Afghanistan. The newspaper reports that last year more than 12% of the soldiers entering the United States army entered with criminal convictions- that's up from 4.6% in 2003 and 2004. Soldiers who have already offended are as John Hutson, a former judge advocate general of the navy, noted much more likely to offend again. In normal times of course the consequences of reoffending by soldiers in uniform are not good but they are largely confined to being a matter of military discipline. But when we are in occupation with the United States of two areas of the world, and when our safety and that of the world particularly in Afghanistan depends upon the popularity of American troops in those regions, then the idea of soldiers reoffending against say Afghan or Iraqi civilians should scare us. In both Iraq and Afghanistan we lose if we lose the hearts and minds of the people- and the best way to gain those hearts and minds is for the soldiers who are out there to behave well- unfortunately it must also be said that one Abu Ghraib may wipe out the memory of forty thousand positive encounters between servicemen and the population- sending criminals out there may be America's only option- but if so it strengthens the chances of failure.