“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Hoorrah for Hollywood

Uncle Sam casts 600 Arabs in 'Hollywood war'

Allan Hall, Berlin theage
February 10, 2007

AMERICAN forces in Germany have placed newspaper advertisements seeking Arabs to join them in war games before troops are shipped out to Iraq.

In Berlin and other large towns this week, the US military set up a casting agency to hire 600 Arabic speakers.

From March 20 to April 11 at a base in Germany, the American army is creating a "mini-Iraq", with the emphasis being on making it as close to the real thing as possible. Arabs who sign up will live for three weeks at the High Rock Combat Manoeuvre Training Centre between Nuremberg and Regensburg.

Ten villages have been erected on the 20,000-hectare training area to resemble Iraqi communities. "Volunteers are required to play the role of Arabs in Iraq for 24 hours a day," the newspaper ads say.

But recruiting hasn't been easy. Germany in general, and its Muslim population in particular, oppose the war in Iraq. Media reported many Muslims walking away from the agencies in disgust when they found out what they were being asked to do.

The "extras" for this US Army Hollywood-style effort have been told that all women must wear head scarves and all men turbans. A mosque, a brothel, barracks of the sort US troops occupy in Iraq and many other features have been built to mimic daily life in the war zone.

Some Arabs will play the bad guys — laying roadside mines, attempting suicide bombings — others will play the good ones, teaching "grunts" how to behave and to respect the traditions of Islam and the Iraqi people. Most of the 19-to-24-year-old soldiers to be trained have never left America before. "The Arabic speakers are seen as an essential component in training these troops for their role in the country," a US military spokesman said.

Those signing up for the short-term service of Uncle Sam will receive 90 euros ($A150) a day.

One fear expressed by Arabs about the scheme is what happens if things go wrong? One Lebanese man told a Berlin newspaper: "What if we get shot accidentally? What guarantees do we have that we will be helped? What do the Americans care about another dead Arab, whether it's in Iraq or Germany?"

A lawyer employed by the US military at the recruiting agency in Berlin said: "The highest standards of safety will apply." But he said no media would be allowed into the training area while the role playing goes on.

Palestinian Mohamad Kabouli is one of the few who agreed to the terms this week. Aged 27 and jobless, he said: "I just want to make some money and go home."

Timothy Good, responsible for the "civilians on the battlefield" plan, is not too optimistic that all the places will be filled. "There is a lot of animosity towards the US," he admits.



  1. Huh? This movie sounds more like a training film to educate Soldiers to be PC, than an effort to win the war.

    Did I read it right?

  2. The new Corps Core Values, writ large in training.

    Many detainees being taken in the Surge.
    Few enemy killed.

    No new prison camps being built.
    One in - one out.
    Catch & Release

    No Justice - No Peace

  3. This is an example of THE PRESS being light years behind THE TIMES.

    The Joint Readiness Center at Fort Polk and the National Training Cneter at Fort Irwin have been hiring people of Arabic descent as role players for the last few years.

    It provides a more realistic training environment for Soldiers undergoing the training than, say, a bunch of soldiers from some other unit dressed as indigenous people.

    Here is a press release from Polk referring to this stuff back in '04: Check it out!

    I believe (and I am too lazy to do the research right now online!) that both places have frequently hired roleplayers comparable to indigenous personnel where a unit in training was about to deploy to; for instance, hiring ethnic albanians prior to a balkans rotation.

    The comments in this thread point to a PC type training environment, but having roleplayers in a stability operations training scenario who look and act like the people where you are deploying to is innovative and effective.

    And what is the causal relationship between this training, and the ROE that releases detained personnel on the battlefield?

  4. Jr was tasked with being a Hadji at one othese villages, after he returned from Iraq.
    The story he related was one of a PC training enviorment.

    No grenades were used in building clearing training. To likely to injure Iraqi civilians.

    Better Marine casualties than Iraqi civilians down.
    Jr left the Marines.
    Will not be going back.

  5. Not even flash bangs, for US Marines. Troops fight like they train.

    The casual relationship is one of unseriousness.

    Since '03 there have been 25,000 detainees held in Iraq. Either no new dtainees have been taken, since then, or the detainees are rotating thru the system. Maintaining the process.

    POWs are held for the duration.

    The US arrests Iraqi criminals, then processes them thru an Iraqi "Justice" System.
    Average detainee returns home in under 6 months.

    It's a mindset of civility.
    Not requiring warriors.

  6. Are we losing Soldiers/Marines/the War because Soldiers/Marines are not throwing hand grenades in buildings during training events?

    I don't think so. Most of the raids executed by U.S. forces in the counterinsurgency environment in both theaters is more police-like than military. Raids often involve "dry holes" where the person in question does not reside (bad intel) or is not there at the time (semi bad/good intel). Throwing a grenade through the door in this environment = probably not very counterproductive in the long run.

    They are training the way they are going to operate with these roleplayers.

    Post Script: In addition to the roleplayer scenarios, most training center rotations involve complex Live Fire iterations as well, on range apparatuses where there are not people, just targets. During the LFX phases units are able to employ their weapon systems to full extent, just like they will have to do in combat.

    I would further argue that the military is exponentially better at this type of training than it was a generation ago (at least the Army); I have heard more than one General officer say that the first time he maneuvered an element with real bullets was under hostile fire in Vietnam. I don't believe it would be possible for any combat arms unit deployed to OEF/OIF to say this right now.

  7. When I posted this I thought there must be another point of view. i posted it without opinion. It only took a few posts to get a balanced view point. As in almost every post, there is more good information below the fold than above. That is the value in the blogs without moderated comments and participants with opposing intelligent views.

    Picking up on Bob's comments,the US military is the single greatest education institution on the planet. It is astounding how many personnel and the quantity of resources used to support the US Armed Forces. The follow on economic benefits and changes in lives of ex-military personnel is incalculable.

  8. Yeah, w, Marines leave when they are not utilized as Marines.
    Jr had no desire to be a gate guard at Camp Fallujah, again.
    No desire to train "boots" to not clear buildings with greandes and automatic fire, but as policemen making arrests.
    No desire to be prosecuted, or even investigated, for killing an enemy combatant instead of capturing him. As occurred in the Battle of Fallujah, when an NBC stringer tagged along on a patrol.

    The high quality of the troop on the line is meaningless, if the Miltary & Civilian Insfrastructure does not support him.

    Enemy combatants recycled to the battlefield, after an R&R with 3 hots and a cot, at US expense.

    Catch & Release just signifies how poorly the US Government supports it's troops in the field. In real time, real life.
    Not just politicians voting on meaningless Resolutions.

  9. The Military builds eyewash training centers, then mistrains COMBAT troops.
    But turns out inadequate policemen.

    Over at westhawk General Pace's position is discussed:
    "... Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the House Armed Services Committee that risks have increased because U.S. forces are not training for the full range of operations that may confront them.


    American forces have such a short turnaround time before heading back to places like Iraq and Afghanistan that some aspects of their training for these higher ends of war are being shorted, Pace said. For example, combined arms training is being purposely shorted to concentrate on aspects of war that soldiers will need in Iraq, he said.

    Good troops do get out, bob w, when you know you are mistraining troops for combat, when you know you are being misutilized, when you know each succeeding Unit you're assigned to is steadily degrading in combat competency, then you get out.

    Performance counts.
    In this Generation or the last.

    Training in Korea in the 80s, training in the Canal Zone, in the 70s & 80s, training in Germany in the 70's was real time, with real natives. None were hired, we moved through their towns, villages and homes.

    No faux villages required, we used the real thing. By this time, after four years the faux villages should not be in Germany, but Iraq.

  10. Saddam statue toppled in central Baghdad - Apr. 9, 2003

    The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said this on 12 Feb 07

    Pace said the big difference between Baghdad and the southern provinces, where the Australians operate, is that those in the south want stability while "in Baghdad right now, not enough people want to have stability, and therefore no matter how many troops you put in, until they want that stability, until the government is able to provide the kind of political leadership they are will have problems," he said.

    It has been almost four years since Saddam fell. The US Military has a plan to secure Baghdad, politics.
    There is no military solution according to the US Military.

    No matter how many troops we send.

    General Pace quoted in The Conservative Voice down in OZ.

  11. I heard a report on NPR a few weeks backs about training going on in 29 Palms. Iraqis are hired there to provide assist in a more realist "police style" training experience for soldiers prior to deployment. Among other things, the curriculum includes training on the particulars of Arab and Iraqi culture.

    The instructor said that nine times out of ten when soldiers enter an Iraqi home the situation "will be safe."

    I wondered about that tenth time.

  12. Gents,

    By NO means did I intend to disparage the service of those who came before, and wore a uniform in Korea, Vietnam, the Cold War, or at any other era for that matter. I chose my station in life largely due to the example that these men set for me.

    My point is and remains that Soldiers and Marines training for a deployment should focus their efforts on likely scenarios they are going to encounter after they step off the plane/float.

    In Iraq and Afghanistan, the boots on the ground are doing a wide range of missions. More often than not, their missions require them to act like "police on steroids".

    I don't personally believe that the tactical training our troops are receiving right now is a detriment in any way whatsoever to them when they arrive in theater. I have not read nor heard anecdotal evidence that Soldiers are failing on the battlefield due to training deficiencies.

    Additionally, many units continue to train while they are deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq; they routinely fire their weapons on ranges, they rehearse actions before execution, etc. Afghanistan, if it does not resemble the moon, certainly bears a strong resemblance to an impact area in many places!

    Again, I speak largely for the Army, and have very little contact with the USMC.

    I know the units here in my neck of NC trained their collective behinds off before they deployed; they clogged up the ranges on post, bused down to Fort Polk, etc.

    DR, I think the ROE issue you wrote about is a highly valid point in both theaters, although I am less familiar with the issue and don't feel I can add more to the discussion. If bad guys are rolled up and simply released, then it would seem that there is little value to the risks Soldiers are taking every time they pass through a doorway into the unknown.

    I would add that while the detainee process may be inadequate, the news below the fold in the last several months has shown that many key insurgent leaders/enablers have met their fate at the hands the U.S. or host nation militaries.

    And, even if the ROE is a serious problem that must be addressed, I don't believe there is a causal link between the training and the Operational level ROE.

    I think your discussion where you wrote "Marines leave when they are not utilized as Marines. Jr had no desire to be a gate guard at Camp Fallujah, again. No desire to train "boots" to not clear buildings with greandes and automatic fire, but as policemen making arrests" is an interesting, worthy of expanding into a full fledged post. I strongly but respectfully disagree with you here, DR.

    Marines spent the better part of the 20th century doing tasks exactly like what you say their latter day counterparts abhor. The Marines deployed repeatedly in the early 20th century to places like Haiti and Central America, doing what we today call stability operations, or nation building. I believe the first example of close air support occured with a Marine unit deployed to Nicaragua in the 1920s (don't look for footnotes here, I have to re-check this one!!).

    One of my most cherished books, one that I have combed over throughout my career for guidance and information, is the Small Wars Manual, which the USMC published for its forces in 1940, after two decades of hard experience.

    Marines excelled at these types of operations due to their flexibility and determination. Many of the Marine Generals of WWII and Vietnam cut their teeth on these operations as junior officers back in the day.

    I have read many books about World War II, and not a single one of them ever wrote about the lack of lethality of the Marines in the Pacific during the War. Despite nearly three decades of so called "low intensity conflict, the 20th Century Marine call rose to the call during the War and answered in Spades.

    Junior Officers and NCOs serving now who stay in will likewise be seasoned combat veterans, who will be able to use the experiences gained the hard way on the battlefield to lead the military in the future, whatever it may bring.

  13. DR, FYI I offered some counters to the points made in the Gen Pace article here.

  14. bob w,

    While I cannot recall an instance of it being addressed, the history of the US Army in the failed reconstruction of the post-Civil War South may, in some important ways, offer lessons for the present exercises in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    Without claiming training inadequacy, Oak Leaf at PoliPundit has expressed concerns as to the associated risks inherent in the accelerated ops tempo of the Surge et al. On the whole, I think the USA and USMC are not compromised yet. As to those USAF personnel being used to fill empty slots downrange, their training is pathetic, if not outright criminally negligent. An Air Force clerk is not, by choice and training, a grunt.

    Looking to General Pace for guidance is problematic. When he is not Sphinx-like, he is incoherent, in my opinion.

    Thanks for your posts here and at your site; they are always thought provoking.

  15. Allen,

    thanks for the compliment, and as always, I appreciate all those in here who help to contribute to the outstanding range of discussions.

    The Elephant Bar rocks!