From the New York Times Magazine:
I wondered how [26-year-old Capt. Dan] Kearney was going to win back his own guys, let alone win over the Korengalis. Just before I left, Kearney told me his biggest struggle would be holding his guys in check. “I’ve got too many geeking out, wanting to go off the deep end and kill people,” he said. One of his lieutenants wanted to shoot every Afghan in the face. Kearney shook his head. He wished he could buy 20 goats and let the boys beat and burn them and let loose their rage. He tried to tell them the restraints were a product of their success — that there was an Afghan government with its own rules. “I’m balancing plates on my goddamn nose is what I’m doing,” he said. “All it’s gonna take is for one of these guys to snap.”
My initial reaction to this is disgust, given the indifference to the idea of inflicting suffering and death on goats. I understand (and agree with) the desire to save people before animals, but that’s not the call here. The either/or scenario here is self-imposed. Yes, the soldiers are a victim of circumstance. No, that doesn’t matter. They’re professional soldiers.
After that thought passed, this quote indicates the problem with our military strategy. Take an invading force and turn it into an peace-keeping force and this sort of challenge seems inevitable. Afghanistan was a legitimate war. From the moment the Taliban’s involvement in permitting attacks on the United States was clear, it was always reasonable to plan to oust it from Afghanistan. But we also needed to prepare for the rebuilding aftermath of invasion, both in infrastructure and government. Capt. Kearney’s concern reveals a flaw somewhere in the chain of command if a problem can fester long enough to create this type of rage. How badly has the transition been managed? How prevalent is this in Iraq? How significant will this be when these soldiers return to civilian life in the U.S.?
War is chaotic. Outcomes are unpredictable. I accept that, and some uncomfortable level of challenge in multiple areas is not a sign of extraordinary behavior. But this is ridiculous. The manner in which the Bush administration drove us into two simultaneous wars with seemingly little concern for these long-term outcomes and consequences displays a mind-boggling level of incompetence.