War in itself tends to be misunderstood. Even by the men and women who fight them.
I'm not sure where the phenomenon started, but after reading something written by a great man, I sized it up with my own thoughts and concluded that
our military (and country) has a major Achilles Heel, and it is the "warrior" mindset. I consider the warrior mindset the stereotypical mentality
the U.S. as a whole has when it comes to war. Servicemen who fight for freedom and liberty, real American heroes, unfailingly loyal to the country,
has God on his side. This type of mindset is perfect for huge, high-intensity, do-or-die wars like World War II and other wars with moral clarity
(good vs. evil, right and wrong), and maybe, MAYBE, in wars against equal or superior enemies with the ability to annihilate you. They are also
appropriate in wars that have a real, solid enemy, and are grand on scale, the type of war that guys like Patton, Schwarzkopf, and hell, we'll throw
in Oliver North and Tom Clancy, would relish and live (or die) for.
Keep in mind that the above mindset has existed in the U.S. psyche regarding war ever since World War II, except for a new dry spots in the 1970s and
1980s, and has otherwise been the dominant mentality that persists among our soldiers today.
However, this mentality is completely inappropriate for the present setting and wars of the type we are seeing in Afghanistan and Iraq. These are not
wars in the usual sense, these are wars that require (surprise!) the support of the population, these are wars in which victory is measured by how
well you can change someone's opinion (something far more challenging than stopping Nazi Germany), in other words, victory is in the head, and is
purely political, not military or economic, because, as we know, nobody can defeat the U.S. in industrial warfare.
But the mindset of our soldiers currently prevents us from recognizing this. Our soldiers, encouraged by the war-supporters and politicians at home,
continue to ignore reality and continue to fight this war as if it were indeed World War II, as George W. Bush once said himself. They see no reason
to understand the enemy, as they are all just terrorists and terrorist-sympathizers, and lesser beings than Americans and our allies. They get pissed
off when the enemy employs some unconventional, perhaps contrevorsial, yet creative tactic to fight the U.S. war machine, and complains to the media
and their superiors that the enemy is "cowardly" for not being stupid enough to go toe-to-toe with an M1A1 and make it an easy victory for the
American warriors. They also don't like the presence of "wild cards," everything must be either friend or foe, nobody must be neutral, everybody
must take a stand, otherwise, they're French surrender-monkeys (even if they're not French). Even when the military field manuals stress the need to
have a non-warrior mentality when it comes to modern warfare, the soldiers and their leaders do everything in their power to be as warrior as they can
It doesn't stop there. The warriors forget that war is a two-way street and that good intentions are not always justification for a certain action. A
warrior believes in unintentional collateral damage, only when its the enemy who suffers. A warrior believes soldiers can be innocent. The warrior
forgets that he can bark all he wants about "how he's glad to be here," but nothing will change the fact that if he wasn't ordered there, he would
have never gone. Most importantly, the warrior believes when it comes to the enemy, there is NO justification. Terrorists and insurgents are who they
are because they are somehow different from us, and NEVER because of circumstance. Yet the warrior is obsessed with justifying everything he does,
even when the best course of action is to repent and move on with his life.
In the end, it is dramatically ironic, that the very people who fight our wars and suffer still end up not really understanding what it was all about.
The "great man" I referred to (who helped me interpret my own answer to the question) said it the best:
Thus the furious, embittered insistence of Warriors that “We won Tet of ’68. We slaughtered them! We won, dammit! Militarily, we
absolutely won!” Swell, but politically they lost. It was a catastrophe on the order of Kursk or Dien Bien Phu. But they can’t figure it out.
The warrior doesn’t understand what “victory” means because he thinks in terms of firefights, courage, weaponry, and valor. His approach is
emotional, not rational. Though not stupid, he is regularly out-thought.
In case you're wondering, the "great man" is a Vietnam veteran.
I could really go on forever here, there is so much I have not covered in this rant, but I feel like I've really made the point well. Like I stated,
it really strikes me as oddly ironic when someone like Michael Yon talks about our enemy being unjustifyably evil and that our soldiers "died in Hell
fighting the Devil himself." A prime example of an emotional approach to war. Even as a former Army Special Forces soldier, he and many like him, as
some of the "outcast soldiers" would say, just don't get it, even after all they've been through.