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May 08, 2004

What can we learn from Abu Ghraib?

Watching Donald Rumsfeld undergoing his own particular form of torture and humiliation yesterday, i.e. being publicly roasted over a hot, glowing Senate Armed Forces Committee panel, I tried to think if there was anything we could learn from this massive clusterfuck.   One lesson, I would suggest, is that we need another branch of the U.S. armed forces that would specialize in peacekeeping, constabulary duties and maintaining or creating public order in conflict or disaster torn areas.   The new military service, perhaps called the Reconstruction Corps, would be fully independent department within the DoD with a Secretary that would report to the Secretary of Defense along with the other service chiefs.

I have written about this idea before, including here, here and here. For reasons of my own laziness, I suggest you go read those posts to get more background on the idea and some of the reasons for it.

But looking at the pictures and biographies of those dim bulbs who committed these atrocities or allowed them to occur in Iraq, illustrates one important argument for creating an entirely new and separate peacekeeping force.   In any war-fighting organization, the people assigned to military police duties are always going to be the dumbest, least imaginative, least motivated soldiers. Simply put, it is a convenient backwater to push underperforming officers and non-coms out of mind's eye.

By contrast, in an independed Reconstruction Corps who's sole purpose was peacekeeping and establishing social order, functions like policing and establishing camps for detainees would be important, high priority missions.   Civil affairs, instead of being a backwater like it is in the Army or Marine Corps, would be the elite function where the most ambitious and motivated officers and enlisted personnel would want to be assigned.

A Reconstruction Corps might also have an advantage in recruiting young, patriotic Americans who want to serve their country (and the world at large), but for whatever reasons would prefer not to do it as a warrior.   I suspect that such an organization would do much better in recruiting college graduates and others who don't ordinarily consider joining the military.   Of course, the Reconstruction Corps would enforce military discipline with ranks and uniforms and the rest because it would often have to operate in difficult or hostile surroundings.   Reconstruction Corps troops would also be armed and trained in basic infantry skills, but most of their training would relate to duties like policing, peacekeeping, re-establishing basic healthcare and municipal infrastructure, disaster relief, logistics, etc.

Obviously, troops liked these would have been invaluable in Iraq or Afghanistan.   They would also be the types of forces one would want to send to help stop the genocide in western Sudan.   But having the capabilities of a force like the Reconstruction Corps would also be very helpful in the event of a massive domestic terror attack or a large-scale disaster.

May 8, 2004 at 11:32 PM | Permalink


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This seems like a fundamentally good idea to me. In fact, I am amazed that we haven't done so decades ago. America has a long history of reconstructing its defeated enemies, from the Civil War (damn Yankees!) to Japan on down. Given this long-term pattern in our military history, it seems ridiculous that we have not set up a formal branch of the armed forces, or at least a major sub-section, to handle such projects.

Posted by: Jordan | May 9, 2004 2:28:27 AM

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