Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The US Military - An Outside View

Dawn is a Pakistani news service. They recently posted an article by Kamran Shafi on his observations on the American Armed Forces. and the implications for the Pakistani Armed Forces.

I have been to Fort Myer in Virginia with my chum and course-mate Zafar Kayani who was married to Colonel Jo Ann Kayani, now sadly passed on, good and gracious woman. Jo Ann was commander of Headquarters Company, US Army, stationed at Fort Myer and it was my pleasure to visit not only her spartan office but also the canteen where officers ate alongside privates, carrying their own trays and standing in line waiting their turn. Fort Myer serves the Washington D.C. military district and the senior-most officers serving in the Pentagon live there. I have had the pleasure of seeing Gen Colin Powell, then chief of the joint staff, mow his own lawn in one of a row of houses that housed him and other senior generals including the chief of the army staff. The houses were in typically American suburban style: no walls, with sloping lawns running onto the pavements.

Most of all, I was astonished to see that there was no wedding hall anywhere in Fort Myer. Neither was there was any burger joint catering to all comers in any of the officers messes, and none of the mess buildings had bank branches and wedding dress boutiques in them. The US army had not constructed shops all around the fort either, and its soldiers did not sell pastries and bread. I saw no evidence of banks and travel agencies and textile mills and sugar factories and cornflakes-manufacturing mills and estate agencies being run by the US army (or the US navy and the US air force for that matter) in my travels across America. Armed forces stations were just that: armed forces stations with limited access to civilians, and those too who were accompanied by a member of the armed forces or their dependent(s). Neither, and this is important, does the US army run farming operations and get into disputes with the tenant farmers who till the land as share-croppers.

Since one mostly drives in the US to get from point A to B, many were the times that I came upon army convoys on the highways. Every single time the convoy travelled in the slow lane, at the designated speed, the drivers with both hands on the steering wheels, headgear on, looking straight ahead. No slouching, no cigarette hanging from the drooping lower lip Humphrey Bogart style. In the back, if there were soldiers being transported, they sat up straight, headgear on, no slouching, no smoking. And no leering at passing cars either!

Of course, with a closer view I saw the warts he missed, but his comments are appreciated. What he is talking about is an attitude in and out of the military; that is not dependent on this or that defense policy option, this or that weapons system, or budget level. Whatever is done with defense policy maintaining this attitude is vital.


Read the article, his comments on the current fighting in the Swat and Bruner areas is a different but worthwhile perspective than is given in the American news media.

HT: Pragmatic Euphony who provides a look from an Indian point of view.


El Jefe Maximo said...

Hey Hank,

Thanks for the interesting link. I have often wondered if Pakistan was a country with an army, or an army with a country. It certainly seems that for much of that place's brief history, the Army has been the only thing to even half-way work, and as the author of the Dawn piece indicates, this brings its own problems.

hank_F_M said...

El Jefe

Thanks for the comments.

I have been following the Dawn repotting on the war. One of the positve things is that it seems the non-Pathan Provinces see the Taliban a threat and look to be providing the Government with backing it needs.

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