July 16, 2007

Permission to worry you again

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.

10 comments:

pommygranate said...

Gracchi

It's a god point. I have go to know some of the army personnel down here in Oz. They are all appalled by the lack of professionalism in the US army. It's not what it used to be, apparently.

Not surprising given how many troops are serving around the world.

mutleythedog said...

UN Peacekeepers from a variety of countries have been involved in serious offences for example in Congo, child sex, extortion violence etc..Its obvious the US military needs strengthened Policing...

This is my first visit on yer sexy blog, I shall link you if thats OK?

Gracchi said...

Link away sir! Yeah its not just a US problem these stats though made me think of the US.

Rob said...

It's bad that there's more criminal types in the US forces than before - for the reasons you mention.

Worse, this must be indicative of the US forces having reached the bottom of the proverbial barrel in general. What other qualifying factors have they relaxed? Fitness? IQ?

This really annoys me, because I don't think the Iraq and Afghanistan issues can be improved by throwing more armed men into the mixer anyway. Its a problem that needs brains not brawn.

Surely the forces should be recruiting fewer, cleverer people instead? Or am I being incredibly naive?

Orined said...

“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”. The best way and the “only?” way to gain those hearts and others (they are not the only ones who dislike American politics in the world), is to withdraw first and to apologize.
Now they are hiring criminals because no more immigrant wants to risk his life for an hypothetic green card. They all understood that a green card is useless if you do not come back alive.

Lord Nazh© said...

12% have a criminal background...

You do realize what that means exactly don't you? I personally have a 'criminal background' thanks to pleading out a charge long ago.

You make it out like it's the end of the world (if not now, then sometime next week) and the comments after follow suit like lemmings over the cliff.

Yes they have more criminally inclined personally than before, but they also have MORE people than before, so the drive to recruit is up on both law-abiders and 'criminals'.

(One of)The reason the wars are not going as they should (aside from the 'cute' policy of not actually waging war) is that people not in the war have no stomach for it AT ALL. You mention another Abu Ghraib, yet except for the 'outrage' what torture actually occurred there? Yes things were done that aren't right and people were punished, but unlike the bad guys, no one was beheaded, no one had their limbs seperated... etc. Yet there has been more written and more 'anguish' over the plights of the would-be's than has been written over the people that have been tortured, killed and generally run into the ground.

If the people of the civilized world could get up the same amount of outrage over the terrorists killings of innocent civilians as they do over panties on the head pictures, we'd be doing a lot better.

Anonymous said...

Lord Nazh -
"Yes they have more criminally inclined personally than before, but they also have MORE people than before, so the drive to recruit is up on both law-abiders and 'criminals'."

But as the percentage of criminally inclined people in the army HAS increased the recruitment drives are failing to attract law-abiding citizens and having a disproportionate effect upon the criminally inclined. Now there are a number of reasons that this could be - finding work with a criminal backgroud is harder than without so if the military is prepared to employ you without too many problems it could be a tempted, perhaps the criminally inclined are more likely to like the idea of working in the military, I don't know.

Gracchii's point was that an increase in criminally inclined people in the army is not the best way to wage a supposed hearts and minds war as the few criminal acts committed by the minority cloud out the professionalism of the rest.

Also on your point about Abu Ghraib the defence "well those guys are doing worse things than us" is the most childish way to justify criminal behaviour. As an invading force who wants to be taken seriously as a bringer of peace and democracy to the area there is no excuses for behaviour that is beyond international law. The forces in Iraq need to be squeaky clean.

Lord Nazh© said...

Nice to meet you anon...

"Also on your point about Abu Ghraib the defence "well those guys are doing worse things than us" is the most childish way to justify criminal behaviour."

I wasn't defending Abu Ghraib, I was pointing out a major difference, if you can't see it, step away.

edmund said...

I do think the 12% figure doesn’t mean very much the question is what- I’m not going to get too excited if convicted cannabis users are being let in- rapists or armed robbers then yes! It all depends what it means - I think Gracchi's assuming too much on the back of it. I would add to reason doubt means more serious dangers could be allowed in who lack a crimal record than many who do.

there does seem a problem in recruitment sounds to me like congress needs to raise spending and pay (possibly resources could be diverted from elsewhere in the military budget- don’t' know enough to comment about that)

here's an article dealing with the fall in standards in the US army more generally interestingly the army seems most keen to keep IQ up

http://www.slate.com/id/2127487/

Lord Nash i accept your (very good point) was not that Abu Ghriab was in any way justified but that it was much less bad than what al quada does and yet got similar moral outrage. However I can see from your post why annoymonous thought you were saying that to be honest_ i think we have to be careful to make these points precisely. I may add that it appears to have been the result of errors and misbehaviour on the ground-while Al quada's abuses

I think historic perspective is also needed- the US and UK have been incredibly restrained in these wars by historic standard compare Vietnam never mind world war 2.

Graeme said...

For what it's worth, the US Army has also relaxed their tattoo requirement. People can now enlist if they have neck and hand tattoos. Not sure about face tattoos, but I suspect people who get their face inked likely would likely fail the IQ test in any case.