The quiet suffering of far too many military families goes far beyond the worst; the specter of horrible injury to or the terror of losing forever their uniformed loved one. It sinks considerably deeper; a frightened child with nightmares of never seeing his or her father again, a lonely wife beset upon by “friends” who tell her to leave her “inconsiderate” husband now on his 2nd, 3rd or even 4th deployment and the sheer uncertainty of it all; the maddening fear and worry.
I once worked with a sailor who chose IA (Individual Augmentee) duty in Iraq for a year. He was scared out of his wits about going over there, but he steeled himself to the mission at hand and shared his reasoning for going with a few of us. His wife had been unfaithful to him while he was out to sea on a 6 month deployment, started hanging out with the wrong crowd and now did a variety of drugs with all sorts of men in the house while their three year old daughter slept in the adjoining room of the apartment. While out to sea on another deployment with us on board the USS Kitty Hawk in Japan, she filed for sole custody of the child after their divorce and won. After being granted emergency leave and flying back to the States to try to fight the ruling, he returned a broken man, chastened by an uncaring family court (ruling against him even after the chain of command on the ship had actually taken care of a sailor in a bad spot for once and secured a duty posting for him close to his daughter). So his last hope was to go to Iraq for a year, save up and get out of the Navy, hopefully to win back custody of his little “angel”.
Every night I pray for this guy (admittedly his case is about as bad as they get, most divorces don’t involve spouses who go on multiple day long drug binges) . He is one of numerous people I know across the military who face this kind of challenge, and I’m grateful the AP has reported on the problem.
They are people like Marine Cpl. Levi Bradley, helping to fight the insurgency in Fallujah, Iraq, at the same time he battles for custody of his son in a Kansas family court.
Like Sgt. Mike Grantham of the Iowa National Guard, whose two kids lived with him until he was mobilized to train troops after 9/11.
Like Army Reserve Capt. Brad Carlson, fighting for custody of his American-born children after his marriage crumbled while he was deployed and his European wife refused to return to the States.
And like Eva Crouch, who spent two years and some $25,000 pushing her case through the Kentucky courts.
“I’d have spent a million,” she says. “My child was my life … I go serve my country, and I come back and have to go through hell and high water.”
“Real talk”: I really don’t want to be negative here, but this is the type of story that the few Americans who actually bother to read or watch the news will cluck their tongues about and then move on. Some Democrat will bitch at a hearing about it to some general, probably one who failed miserably in Iraq as most of them do, and a few days later (mercifully, maybe another week) some father of a “little angel” will die in Iraq and be pictured on the Washington Post’s “Faces of the Fallen”.
The military solution that miserably substitutes for the political solution there will continue to waste away precious American lives, and more Iraqis will die at the hands of their fellow Iraqis and “dead-ender” foreigners. Pres. Bush will show up at a speech at a military base with a crowd of waving, cheering uniformed
sacrificial lambs soldiers who seem not to comprehend that he and his ilk don’t give a damn about them.
Back in Iraq, some Iraqi kid who was somebody’s “little angel” is going to see his parents butchered to death by one of the many paramilitary groups that “run” the country right now. Some pompous American general will have the gall to march up to Capitol Hill after another few suicide bombings that kill a few hundred people and set off more ethnic cleansing and claim “progress”, as they’ve been doing for 4 years now.
Man we did us a damn fine job of spreading that freedom and avenging 9/11 didn’t we? Is it even possible to be proud of America any more?
John Robb is to be commended; he has written the kind of book that is destined to become a word of mouth phenomenon among tens of thousands of confused individuals and groups over the next few years. Count me among the lucky first, as I have been largely unable to decipher the many phrases and descriptive methods Robb has used on his theme blog, Global Guerrillas, a failure of comprehension that has impoverished my wider comprehension of the ongoing trends and events in Sri Lanka, Colombia, Iraq and elsewhere.
My days in the darkness are officially over.
“Brave New War” serves well as an all-encompassing introduction to Robb’s vision of now and the future as well (in a secondary but encouraging way) as an amazing fusion of the brilliant ideas of more than a dozen individuals that serve as valuable contributions to his vision; a selfless effort that bodes well for future works by people throughout the myriad of fields important to understanding our world.
Admittedly much of the book is disturbing, as the prospects for the near to mid future are bleak for most of us, whether or not “global guerrillas” target us on a sustained basis, with the threats of global virus outbreaks, climate change and residual nationalism (to exacerbate trade tensions and cultural conflicts) that can curtail globalization as we know it.
Our vulnerabilities are wide and far, our protective efforts centered in the wrong direction and in the past. Robb is wise to hone his message in the end though not so much on the dangers we face or the terrible trials to come, but in the realistic opportunities we have to be resilient communities and nations. There is not a whiff of panic or alarmist rhetoric, merely cold, calculated analysis of the ferocious impact guerrillas are having on American forces, Russian authorities, Nigerian kleptocrats, petrol company robber barons and others.
An exceptional book that deserves far better than a whopping 0 copies in my local Borders & Barnes & Noble.
An immediately accessible book that is one of the few I can comfortably loan out to another sailor and not expect to have to spend a half hour explaining the concept behind it and what the author is trying to get across.
A thoughtful book that should be read more widely than the latest Tom Friedman whopper, Chalmers Johnson scare tale or Bill Kristol hack fest.
A powerful example for anyone with a new idea and a fresh perspective on the world to follow, with the synthesis of thought from multiple fields into a robust package.
After reading it twice (once for enjoyment and again to take notes), two key questions come to mind arising from my quirky set of interests.
What could it mean for non-violent movements in the developing world?
With participatory, responsive democracy on the wane across much of the world, what effects will the advent of global guerrillas have on dissident groups (like the anti-Mugabe Zimbabwean opposition) that strategically tend to eschew violent tactics because of the moral superiority they hold in the eyes of the people and international media and organizations by not taking lives?
Will the temptation to wage systems disruption campaigns against vampire regimes like Mugabe’s that take few lives be too much for them, given the likely consequences of hollowing the state’s authority and weakening the regime’s appearance abroad, especially in global investment circles? This appears to have important ramifications for the future of struggles for power and freedom in many places of the “Melted Map”.
Will the US or private organizations support GG tactics in the future?
Under what circumstances could one imagine the US supporting such tactics and groups in the future? Would such a campaign be reasonable in the face of a hostile Pakistan after Musharraf is overthrown? Or in response to aggressive actions from Chavez and his cohorts in Colombia and Brazil destabilizing those allies? As a response to a renewed Sudanese civil war where China has armed the Northern invaders to the teeth?
In the first place, not all GG groups can be considered terrorists, though that could be the simplistic thought that comes across a few minds when reading the book and following Robb’s theories. One cannot reasonably challenge the validity of the real and ongoing grievances of the Niger Delta peoples, who have been subjected to constant exploitation and poverty for more than a century with no end in sight and now wage a GG campaign after the failure of older tactics like non-violent protest and democratic community organization in the face of an unresponsive corporate polluter and repressive government.
While Nigeria is a US ally now, in the near future Nigeria may begin to fall apart for reasons apart from the damage of GG tactics in the Delta, and the contest for influence with the country’s leadership of corrupt, greedy elites and military leaders who care nothing for Washington’s annoying pressure on human rights and transparency may be won by China and Saudi Arabia, potentially shutting the US out of the oil market there as well as dooming Christian and animist rebellious elements in the South and East. Could such a chain of events lead the US to consider supporting MEND and other forces fighting against the North?
I see this as credible in a sense because China is already appealing to the base instincts of Nigeria’s military in providing them arms and training with no qualms about human rights or rule of law, which will worsen the impact of such heavy-handed tactics as already utilized by the Nigerian military. The Saudis pump money into promoting Islamic superiority and aggressive forced conversion campaigns that are ripping the country apart at the seams. America’s interests in the coming civil war are with the peoples of the South and East, not the North.
Bottom Line: Why can’t GG’s be pawns (willingly or not) yet again in state (perhaps market-states but that’s another discussion) competition?