“Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we.” - George W. Bush

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Different Soldiers for a Different War


Perhaps it is time to form an American fighting force that is decidedly foreign in appearance, culture, and language. Maybe the United States should raise several of them, and soon.

Many people have written about the United Statesreliance on contractors, and have suggested the use of foreign nationals to bolster the military’s ranks due to trouble at the recruiting stations. Normally, the prospect of armed foreigners or mercenaries executing foreign policy draws the ire of pundits, in and out of uniform. The normal counter-argument to any such suggestion is that “a military operation not worth employing American soldiers for are simply not worth doing”.

But what if there are military formations that could be more effective than those organized and employed in the orthodox manners of today? Would a new type of unit be worth creating, training, equipping, and deploying abroad then?

Many of the so-called flashpoints around the globe are in areas where languages and cultures are vastly different than our own. Take the subtleties of the different tribal, ethnic, and religious groups in many Middle Eastern countries, for instance. United States forces often have difficulty developing intelligence in such areas. Also, the heightened differences between the indigenous people and the American Soldiers’ cultures contribute to the force protection/enclave mentality that has arguably impeded the U.S.’s effectiveness; huge bases lead to massive manpower and logistics requirements, which increase the signature of American forces, which lead to more and more barriers between the population and the U.S. forces. Base operations in these cases often become ends in themselves.

But what if, instead of erecting ring after ring of Hesco barriers, the United States employed small units of soldiers who looked like the indigenous people, spoke their language, and shared their culture? Perhaps some of the enormous bases could downsize a bit, and the American presence would not seem so looming. More importantly, an ethnically aligned force such as this could likely swim through the proverbial sea of people there, gather intelligence more effectively, create a smaller footprint, and potentially achieve dramatic effects in the operational environment.

Small units of battalion size (400 Soldiers or less), comprised entirely of personnel of a similar ethnic background (for instance, an ethnic Pashtu Afghani battalion, or an Iraqi battalion), could be established and employed in areas where the United States has long term security commitments; if new, potentially enduring commitments arise in different regions, then additional units could be raised, trained, and employed.

An irregular force such as this could be highly effective at interfacing with the population in a counterinsurgency, gaining trust, and gathering intelligence to identify an insurgent network or cells; such a force would likely be effective working “by, with, and through” the indigenous force security elements to target and destroy the insurgent organization as well.

So you are saying the United States should establish a Foreign Legion, or hire foreign mercenaries then, correct? Well, no, not really. Before anyone considered recruiting foreigners to raise an ethnically homogeneous force or hiring guns (and opening up a massive political argument), the military could look at establishing such units comprised of people from various immigrant communities located right here in America. There are hundreds of thousands of Middle Easterners residing in and around Dearborn Michigan, for instance, many of them from places like Iraq; similarly, there are significant populations of Afghanis living in California, and communities from various Latin American countries living in Miami and New York.

The Department of Defense could very well establish targeted recruiting to raise an “Army of Foreigners” within its own borders. The aforementioned examples of Iraq and Afghanistan, where the United States has dedicated, long term security commitments, would be ideal starting points for such a force.

There are many practical issues to be resolved before any such force could be recruited equipped, trained, and fielded. Issues such as doctrine, organization, incentives, funding, among other things, would have to be resolved. However, this is the optimal time to develop innovative solutions for problems the United States is likely to face in the coming years.

Many diverse immigrant communities exist across America and they are often intensely proud of their cultures, languages, and traditions; if the Department of Defense learns how to harness them, it could potentially develop new tools for the many foreign policy challenges this country will face in the 21st century.



Post Script: Google the Lodge Act to see a Cold War attempt to do something of the nature described above (although considerably more ambitious than what this author is proposing).

40 comments:

  1. Great idea. First you have to crush the Pentagon view of the Star Ship Enterprise. Very un-PC putting all the zulu's together, but a damn smart idea.

    We can get 500 different flavored battalions from Brooklyn and Queens alone.

    Maybe even a boomer battalion filled with deferrees that missed the first time.

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  2. We have been in Afghanistan for nearly five years now; even if establishing a force took 2-3 years, such a force conceived in October 2001 still would have been available for operations there now for over 24 months.

    The National Security Strategy of America calls this conflict we are in "The Long War", but there are few programs that have been established to make this war different from any other conflict.

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  3. The British definitely were reosurceful at employing people from throughout their empire to sustain that empire.

    Many argue that our current geopolitical situation is in many ways similar to the British at the height of their empire, contemporary sensibilities notwithstanding.

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  4. What if it wasn't DOD employing such "unorthodox military formations"?

    Did you see this article by Westhawk - My Own Private Foreign Policy?, a concept perhaps further advertised here.

    Would such a notion be simply speculative conjecture, or an informed opinion?

    Many possibilities emerge from the blurring of nation-state boundaries.

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  5. Isn't this exactly what the Northern Alliance was?

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  6. I commented on westhawk's article a few weeks back.

    Agreed that the British were pretty good at it - by giving indigenous populations a stake in the internal security of their colonies, it appeased them to some extent and diffused resentment towards the British. The Sikh regiments in India come to mind.

    Therein lies the problem of maintaining what essentially should be a significant, but minor footprint. Taking steps to ensure the Legions we create and train are not aligned too overtly with our troops, such that they attain an elitist status. Being stuck with the label of "collaborator" did not bode well for the results, since a rift between the population and the Legion would place us back at square one.

    You would also have to question the wisdom of mobilising these diaspora in America: between the time they migrated and now, are they still as attuned to the realities of the particular country which we want to deploy them to? Granted that they are just as likely to be as sensitive/insensitive of the realities as any American soldier, but the track record for exiles - think Chalabi - isn't exactly inspiring.

    Nonetheless, if these diaspora are seriously interested in helping their former nations out, then by all means, employ them! I would not doubt their sense of patriotism and good intentions.

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  7. Good luck raising these ethnic brigades out the US population. My understanding is that we can't get enough foreign language (Arabic, Persian) speakers hired into civilian positions.

    How long are the personnel to be deployed? One year? Longer? You have the risk of your guys going native or becoming an army unto itself.

    Lastly, I read somewhere that the Iraqis are suspicious of any Arabic speakers with a foreign accent. In fact, they are ready to throw them all out. So, accent and dialect are a problem.

    I would like to know what the recruiting numbers for Dearbornistan are. I understand there's a large Iraqi population there. Did they step up to the plate?

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  8. Sam posted this up on a previous thread. I did not want it to get lost. It reminds me of what I sometimes forget.

    Why I never voted for a Democrat since I laid eyes on John Kerry.

    It reminds me of July 4, 1967. Returning from three years overseas, Completing my active duty and separation from the Air Force, I had a look at what the country I left had become. I was a stranger in my own country. I could not stomach it and after two weeks of "freedom" back in in "the world", I promptly returned to the military.

    This my friends is a The Battle hymn of the Republic.
    Cicero was never more eloquent.

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  9. The last place I worked, in the corporate world, had an office of a couple of hundred people; about 10 % women.

    Out of all those men, only two of us we're veterans.

    The most common comment made when discussing the military and the W.O.T. was; It's great we have a volunteer military - better them than me!

    Now... I'm not disparaging the volunteer force, being a volunteer myself, but every time I hear talk of having others fight our battles, I get physically sick to the stomach!

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  10. Answers to points made in the comments thread:

    The Northern Alliance were an indigenous force already in existence which the U.S. allied itself with to fight the taliban, enabling it considerably with Special Forces advisors who, among other things, could provide close air support.

    The initial phase of Operation Enduring Freedom was an example of classic Unconventional Warfare, another capability the United States needs to keep.

    My proposal involves targeted recruitment of American citizens of desired ethnic backgrounds, and forming them into units to generate an irregular capability.

    Whit, your comments about the inability to get enough language-qualified interpreters is valid, and I have no doubt it would be challenging to raise these forces. However, the military, other than some Spanish language advertising, has never truly done targeted recruiting to obtain recruits of a desired ethnic background. If the proper funding, incentives and command influence existed, such a force could be recruited.

    And you bring a second valid point in terms of deployments. I would expect any force of this nature to be relatively small, due to the challenges of recruiting enough highly qualified personnel; it would consist of Americans, Soldiers from a targeted background, but American soldiers nonetheless; therefore, it would have to have a rotation plan of some sort like all other units.

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  11. Tiger,

    the purpose of any such force proposed here would NOT be to replace American citizens or to bolster shortfalls; if anything, the establishment of this force would be an expensive proposition, much more so than regular military forces.

    The reason proposed for a such a force would be to create greater capabilities dealing with indigenous personnel, and to reduce the U.S. Signature on the battlefield.

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  12. Then expand the military with Americans, Bob W!

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  13. Tiger, I think Bob said they would be Americans. The US used Japanese-Americans in WWII but did not entirely trust them and sent them to Italy. They also used Native-American Indians for purposes of encrypted voice communications, without encryption.
    The Union Army used celts from Ireland and Scotland during the Civil War.

    Bob is calling for a return back to the future.

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  14. Deuce, the American Way is based on "all for one, and one for all", E Pluribus Unum, etc.

    Right now we have a country divided. A portion of the country is valoriously fighting our battles and another is kicking them in the teeth at the same time.

    Aside from the effective use of S.F forces to meld with the indigenous population (to a point), we need American forces of all stripes to press the American Way in foreign lands, not a Romanesque melding of American/Shar'a action.

    This is exactly why we're in trouble in Iraq. We didn't go in telling the Iraqis; "Here! It's the U.S. Constitution - Learn It, OR ELSE!" Instead, we said; "keep your radical ways, it's OK with us"!

    Either you believe WE are RIGHT, or you don't.

    Establishing ethnic based forces only divides us. IT DOES NOT UNITE US.

    Besides, the REDNECK force won't accept any stinking Yankees! : )

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  15. If we want to rid this country or another one of Radical Islam and their influence we must go after their institutions;

    -Mosques
    -Madrassas
    -Burkas
    -Islamic Professors
    -Their Supporters (Saudi Arabia) and every Arab country, including Turkey
    -Political Correctness
    -The U.N.
    -The Democrat Party
    -ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, etc...

    ... the list goes on and on ...

    You think I'm a bigoted nut? This is asymmetric warfare. We're not fighting a conventional war.

    THE BUSH ADMIN DOESN'T GET IT.

    CONGRESS DOESN'T GET.

    COL.HUNT IS CORRECT AND HAS BEEN FOR YEARS - NOT MANY PEOPLE GET IT!

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  16. Hooray for bob!

    I'd use immigrants, 2nd Generation and foreigners.

    The Latin Americans referenced in the "Contractor" thread were flocking to the "high pay", $35 USD per day.

    If one decides thay brush fire wars are to be engaged in, best find some firefighters.

    A foreign volunteer will be a better troop than a US draftee.
    A ten year enlistment, with a Green Card upon graduation.

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  17. Tiger, did you get get locked into a Starbucks last night or were you looking at your accounts payable?

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  18. No, I was just reading about Cheney doing a "peace with honor" comment!

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  19. It's getting to a point where we need to start giving veterans only a right to vote.

    This idea's not new - been around a long time.

    -Veterans only can vote or run for office

    -They get first dibs at University and tuition assist programs

    -much more can be done!

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  20. Besides, I've always had a high coffee tolerance. Can drink a pot full and go right to sleep!

    -I always though Army Joe was weak.

    -My mother used to put whiskey in bottle as a babe.

    etc ...

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  21. All the signs are getting lined up.

    From Mr Cheney, to Ms Rice, Mr Maliki, Tony Blair. Mr Gates, most of all.
    "Get out of the way"
    Win or lose.

    Listen to what they really say.

    As to the comprehensive Peace.
    The Golan will change Administrators. Mr Bush thinks the world of the Baker-Hamilton reccomendations. Lot's of good stuff there, he allowed.

    Doubt it goes well, Long Term, but the deciders will not be concerned, hoping for the best.

    In pursuit of peace, all risks are worthy. Mr Olmert will not want to contemplate the alternative.
    He'll "Give Peace a Chance"
    even after Gaza, the Israeli did not "give" enough, you see. That was the real problem.

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  22. Oh! And I listened to Cong. Johnson's video. If that doesn't make you mad, nothing will!

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  23. Starship trooper, tiger.

    Not gonna happen.
    Even if it did, Mr Murtha and JFKerry all still qualify, as did Mr McGovern.

    Drop the Chicken Hawks from the Federal Government and the US would never War again.
    We would withdraw from Iraq, starting today.
    The Democratic Veterans in Congress, like Mr Webb, lead the antiWar Bloc, along with that decorated veteran, Mr Hagel (R).

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  24. Exactly right, Rat! I can still dream, can't I?

    I'm almost a LIBERTARIAN but can't quite do it. I'm so sickened by government...

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  25. Desert Rat said: Drop the Chicken Hawks from the Federal Government and the US would never War again. We would withdraw from Iraq, starting today. The Democratic Veterans in Congress, like Mr Webb, lead the antiWar Bloc, along with that decorated veteran, Mr Hagel (R).

    What that tells me is that men who have actually been in combat and had buddies who died under fire know when an expedition is FUBAR, party affiliation notwithstanding.

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  26. Desert Rat said, A foreign volunteer will be a better troop than a US draftee. A ten year enlistment, with a Green Card upon graduation.

    Foreign troops comprised two-thirds of Napoleon Bonaparte's army, and they deserted in droves during his failed Russian campaign in 1812. And don't get me started on the decline and fall of the Roman Empire.

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  27. Mr Howard gave Mr Obama what for, for advocating beginning a withdrawal from Iraq.

    What say he about the UK's pullout?

    I've yet to hear.

    Mr Blair announced that almost 25% of the British force is headed home. Mission Accomplished, Victory in hand.
    Basra is free and secure, using Iranian script.

    The US is Surging 15%, while the Brits withdraw 25%.

    The US sending 21,500 troops
    The Brits withdrawing 1,500

    The Austrailians stand pat, with 550 troops in country. A little google and Howard defiant is how TVNZ describes the reaction. They do not quote Mr Howard:
    But the government initially defended the British move as a reduction in troops, not a withdrawal.

    "The British government are reducing their troop numbers in Iraq ... they're not withdrawing," Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said.

    "They will be leaving several thousand troops in Iraq and the important point to make here is the British are not withdrawing from Iraq."

    But he later admitted the British plan could be seen as a withdrawal.

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  28. Ms T.
    For every story of failure there is one of success.

    The Gurkha Bns- 250,000 men in WWII
    The Kenyan Rifles
    French Foreign Legion
    Al Sievers and the Apache Scouts
    El Salvador '83 & 84
    The Hmong - Montanyard
    Cuba, Bay of Pigs etc.

    In Iraq would we have not been better served building a 150,000 man Iraqi Army that we commanded, paid and trained?
    Well vetted, after 5 years since initially authorized, the Force could have been built around pretrained Iraqi exiles.

    Then we'd have someone competent to hand off to, the US/Iraqi Army holds the Governments hand as "democracy" develops.

    The Turkish model.
    Better than maintaining a 150,000 man US force in Iraq for years on end.

    "Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun"

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  29. 400 US soldiers are 400 US soldiers, be they "ethnic" or otherwise. Either adding to or replacing existing forces, you're not reducing your footprint. You're adding to your overall language capability, but when it comes to cultivating relationships that require, quite literally, that the other party trust you with their life, common language is not a key factor; incentive and reliability are.

    Additionally: If you don't make it a clandestine force and disperse it, it's as quick a target as any other Coalition outfit. If you make it a clandestine force and disperse it, you're begging for a counterintelligence nightmare and confusion among the very people you're trying to cultivate, while only marginally reducing physical risk. And your guys are still going to live behind the wire.

    Lastly, our problems reach far beyond language deficits and initial cultural ignorance. We're propping up unpopular client governments among hostile populations riven by deep animosities, tribal and sectarian loyalties, and material deprivations that exist independently of us. Populations into their umpteenth year of (collectively) foreign war, civil strife, sanctions, etc. A bad set of circumstances 400 native language speakers are not going to ameliorate.

    What I'd like to know is wherefor the sudden interest in dragging this debacle out. Did you all take leave of your better judgment?

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  30. Not me, darlin',
    I'm just thinin' of next time.

    There will be a next time.

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  31. Teresita,

    Many of the Lodge Act soldiers rose to the highest officer and enlisted ranks in the army, and several of them distinguished themselves on the battlefield, particularly in Vietnam. The French Foreign Legion, although established for a different purpose, has served with distinction over the decades as well.

    The United States has been heavily involved militarily overseas, in various forms, throughout its history. Priorities may shift from decade to decade, but the prevalance of US forces deploying across the globe in support of American interests is unlikely to change in our lifetimes. This post, as well as the last one, are simply discussions about new "tools for the toolbox" so that the United States can be more effective at achieving objectives via the military element of national power.

    Not everyone lives "behind the wire" in massive camps in either theater, either, or in other areas around the globe. Many SF Units live in and operate closely with the populaces where they are deployed throughout the world, even in the CENTCOM theater. This proposal would simply increase their capability to do so. Unfortunately, most of SF soldiers in the aforementioned theater (and several other regions)lack the language skills and ability to truly understand, blend in, and engage the countries they operate in them as well as people originally from these countries could.

    Trish, I agree that any unit, diplomat, or dollar is only as valuable as the foreign policy its tied to. The post was a tactical/operational discussion of how to make the military better at what it has invariably been ordered to do for the past 100 years.

    But why a "debacle"? Wouldn't a debacle be for intelligent people not to identify, discuss, propose ways to make the elements of the United States government more effective at achieving foreign policy goals?

    Cheers.

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  32. "Not everyone lives "behind the wire" in massive camps in either theater, either, or in other areas around the globe. Many SF Units live in and operate closely with the populaces where they are deployed throughout the world, even in the CENTCOM theater."

    In CENTCOM, unless you're on an op, you're behind a wire, bob. Or behind a gate, in a compound. Even the SOF.

    Especially the SOF.

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  33. "Wouldn't a debacle be for intelligent people not to identify, discuss, propose ways to make the elements of the United States government more effective at achieving foreign policy goals?"

    Only if and to the extent that you agree with those goals.

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  34. Bob W: This post, as well as the last one, are simply discussions about new "tools for the toolbox" so that the United States can be more effective at achieving objectives via the military element of national power.


    What we need are the kind of tools who showed up at the recruiter's office on the morning of 9-12-01, not the ones who are just looking for a green card or a fat paycheck from Blackwater. And in order to attract those kinds of recruits, we need to shift our foreign policy goals to serve American interests again. That is, instead of sending our boys over there to die for the South Koreans or the South Vietnamese or the Haitians or the Bosnians or the Somalis or the Iraqis, how about we send them to protect or avenge America for a change?

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  35. Bob W said Unfortunately, most of SF soldiers in the aforementioned theater (and several other regions)lack the language skills and ability to truly understand, blend in, and engage the countries they operate in them as well as people originally from these countries could.


    You are calling for something we have already done in Afghanistan, which is simply to ally ourselves with the Northern Alliance. Who better to blend in and operate in-country than rebels from that very country? The model for all future operations should be CIA and special forces with a very small footprint, in concert with local forces, aided by surgical air power.

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  36. Bob W: Wouldn't a debacle be for intelligent people not to identify, discuss, propose ways to make the elements of the United States government more effective at achieving foreign policy goals?

    The debacle is that any proposal to modify those foreign policy goals to 1) conform to what is possible with the forces we have, and 2) conform to America's real economic and security interests, rather than utopian ideals of universal democracy, are off the table. Even bringing them up raises charges of treason and unpatriotism.

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  37. Desert Rat said,
    The US sending 21,500 troops
    The Brits withdrawing 1,500


    The difference, amazingly enough, is the original 20,000 figure that was kicked around for the Surge.

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  38. Bob W said: Many argue that our current geopolitical situation is in many ways similar to the British at the height of their empire, contemporary sensibilities notwithstanding.

    Empires are characterized by one-person rule, even if they are mere figureheads. Rome had Caesar. England has the King/Queen. Germany had the Fuehrer, Japan had the Emperor. In America we put our maximum leader under oath and ask him about the knobby he got in the oval office. Empires occupy foreign lands with garrisons and exact tribute from the populace. We forgive our Iraqi debts and go around trying to get other countries to do it too, which is precisely the opposite of an empire. We don't even demand a fee for keeping the sea lanes open for other nations.

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