Thursday, December 06, 2007

Training Can't Buy Me Love

Ilan Goldenberg on what has become a familiar obstacle in Iraq (outside of Iraq in the present example!):

There have in the past been a number of proposals out there to take Iraqi security forces out of Iraq and train them in a safer environment. This does of course lead to one complication. They don't really want to go back

Numerous Iraqi military and law-enforcement officials brought to the U.S. as part of special intelligence and training programs have run away and are seeking asylum in this country or disappeared altogether, The Washington Times has learned.

Intelligence officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity, say nearly a dozen Iraqis fled military training facilities in the U.S., including a brigadier general who went to Canada with his family earlier this year.

Actually, even when they do go back, the trainees tend to either desert, or gravitate to one or another faction. This gets to the heart of one of the significant strategic flaws behind the policy of keeping US troops in Iraq in order to "train" security and military forces. Iraqis don't necessarily need more training, better training or the relocation of training to some exotic locale. At least, the tweaking of the training process itself will not solve the problem of creating an effective fighting force motivated to defend the nation of Iraq, as distinct from the communal identification that has superseded the notion of nationalism for far too many. The problem is, and always has been, one of motivation and allegiance. Back in 2005, during a guest sting at Djerejian's spot, I wrote this:

...[T]he Iraqis don't necessarily need training as much as motivation and loyalty. The various militias, for example, fight quite well without deserting even though they lack the advantage of superior equipment and advanced tactical instruction. What they do have is commitment and loyalty in spades. The task, and it's a daunting one, is to field an Iraqi army made up of soldiers that are highly motivated, committed to the larger purpose (not just looking for a paycheck), and that owe their allegiance first and foremost to the Iraqi nation - and not to one or more ethnic, sectarian or tribal groups. Given these lofty standards (made less accessible by the polarizing effect of sectarian/ethnic violence), it is easy to understand how the number of stand alone battalions has gone from three to one. This article on the state of the recruitment and training of Iraq's police forces, written by a captain in the US Army, highlights many of the same impediments...

Two years later, and there has been little discernible progress despite the countless hours and hundreds of billions of dollars dedicated to the cause of "training." Which should come as no surprise. Two years from now, we will likely be spinning our tires in neutral still. After all, we cannot generate the will in recruits to transcend Iraq's many civil wars and conflicts any more than we can will the Iraqi people in general to embrace reconciliation and put aside the grievances, fears and objectives that hinder peaceful resolution. Those are our priorities, not the goals, fears and objectives of the Iraqi people themselves.

Which is only human. Americans are by no means immune. After all, our own civil war would not have been averted, or brought to a close sooner, had there been better "training" of the various combatants at any stage of the process. The Confederacy (particularly its officer corps) had military training in spades. But we don't even have to go back so far, or bend the analogy quite so much. We have relevant experience with the futility of this approach as a foreign, occupying force more recently. We familiarized ourselves the same shortcomings of "training" in Vietnam. History repeats, the old conceits.

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