Friday, September 15, 2006

Can You Spell "Turkey Farm"?

In bureaucratese, "turkey farm" refers to assignments (or units) to which the least able (or those affiliated to the opposite party) are relegated. I thought of it in connection with these interesting Iraq pieces:

From the Post, Anne Scott Tyson: "The conflict in the Anbar camp, while extreme, is not an isolated phenomenon in Iraq, U.S. officers say. It highlights two clashing approaches to the war: the heavy focus of many regular U.S. military units on sweeping combat operations; and the more fine-grained, patient work Special Forces teams put into building rapport with local leaders, security forces and the people -- work that experts consider vital in a counterinsurgency." [Tyson comes down on the Special forces side, but shows they reinforce the tribal status quo.]

Seth Moulton, an ex-Marine with 2 Iraq tours in the Times op-ed page says: "Green Berets in 12-man teams have already replaced entire battalions of conventional forces in some Iraqi cities."

"Yet despite the success of advisers, [emphasis added] the Army and Marine Corps still have a habit of sending their least capable troops to fill these positions." (Moulton praises advisers and disses the regular units.]

What I take away from these pieces is a renewed faith in the persistence of the military mind-set. Much as I've said about FBI agents, the military is macho, gung-ho. But it's also political, so it doesn't want flack from politicos. Consequently, most of the best and brightest head off to combat units, which is prerequisite to higher command. That means they look down on advisers, giving them less support. It also means they huddle in base camps, well protected against insurgents, but possibly less effective in winning the war. (I say "possibly" because I'm not convinced anyone really knows much about insurgencies.

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