Because of the book I recently wrote about Afghanistan — focusing on Combat Outpost Keating and Observation Post Fritsche — I have a lot of Facebook friends who are in the military. In addition to staying in touch on our personal and professional lives, occasionally I ask troops what they think about issues pertaining to the military and foreign policy. Recently I asked for some general opinions about intervening in Syria, and the following exchange took place.
The troops gave me permission to reprint their discussion as long as I excluded their names. I also slightly edited some of the conversation.
SOLDIER NUMBER ONE — Jake, last week you asked for soldiers opinions on striking Syria for the use of chemical weapons. Before viewing your recent video on CNN broadcasting the videos of children being affected by the chemical attack I was at a crossroads.
After viewing it I agree and support the administration for taking action in Syria. I do belive America holds the responsibility of defending the innocent from tyrants and genocide not only in America but all over the world. The same way any normal man would defend a child being beaten to death in the street.
The people responsible for the chemical attacks against innocent children deserve to die. However, In order to minamize more innocent civlian casualties the only way to do this is boots on the ground. Not dropping bombs or launching missile strikes.
SOLDIER NUMBER TWO - Really?
There is no possible way putting “boots on the ground” will help solve this problem. There is no possible way we can determine friend from foe on the rebel side leading to more “green on blue” attacks because the rebels are our friends, right?
These people as a whole are not fighting for a democratic outcome. It is a mix of Islamic extremists fighting for their own agenda not a unified Syria. You should know that this part of the world does not hold our American values or our way of life. Boots, bombs or any other American intervention is not going to solve Middle Eastern problems.
As much damage and terrible war crimes Assad has committed — which I agree is disgusting — places like that are only ruled by fear, power and greed. It’s a civil war there ,let them handle their own problems. If they want to mess with our ally Israel, put me in a plane. But until then there is no real difference in death by bomb, artillery, bullet or gas. Death is death.
SOLDIER NUMBER ONE — I’m surprised to see you oppose this for several reasons.
When we were in Afghanistan together you were one of the most dedicated soldiers to building relations with the Afghans an other foreign soldiers. What changed your opinion? Two, with the job you are switching into these type operations are going to be everything you are doing and stand for.
Trust me I still have my harsh opinions on Islamic radicals and anyone who knows me knows my hatred for them. This is why I said I was at a crossroads before viewing the video. This is what I based my decision and opinion on… If you view the video on CNN that Jake Tapper did a story on, you will see a small 8 year old girl convulsing in pain dying slowly. No child should have to suffer like this I don’t care if they are Muslim, Christian or African.
If we take all our political views out of the equation and base it off this idea it makes it easy…. If you had the power to take justice on a man or group of men responsible for the torture and death of innocent kids would you take action? If you decided to take action would you risk repercussion from the friends of these evil men? Would you be willing to sacrifice your own life for the justice of these innocent kids?
Forget politics and religion and base the answer off that alone.
No man, especially a soldier like you will answer no and not to take revenge. when you take religion and politics out of the equation. That’s all this comes down to.
I understand we have the same problems all over the world and we cant fix everything. However, we can do right when right needs to be done.
With that being said you may have misinterpreted what I said by boots on the ground. I don’t think we should handle this like Iraq and Afghanistan. We should not invade and build bases over there to try and change the peoples way of thinking and attempt to make them believe in our culture. I think we should send in Special Forces with all the assets they need to kill everyone responsible in the chemical attack and then move out. That way we send a clear message of what America stands for.
SOLDIER NUMBER TWO — I agree with you it’s a sad story and it is terrible any child has to go through something like that. But you can’t change their way of thinking or culture. It is what it is and always will be.
I can’t disagree with you that I tried my best in Afghanistan at OP Friche, COP Keating and OP Mace to work with the Afghan Soldiers. As you and I can both remember I was respected highly among the Afghan soldiers and still had one draw down on me.
On the second tour to Afghanistan one of them killed two of our soldiers on our base with the M16 we gave him and escaped.
So this is what we are dealing with now which has become more effective then an IED: someone who wears the allies’ uniform who breaks bread with you then shoots you in the back.
Unfortunately the US Soldier on the ground in Syria will see this as a regular ground troop or Special Ops soldier. There is no good answer for this and with US interdiction could lead to more bloodshed. As true hearted the American Soldier is and willing to make a real difference for the good of humanity, he is hated and misguided by those we try to help.