Guides to Britain, Iraq (for WWII GIs but also for today)

Before returning from a term at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth, a friend gave me a book a great little book: Instructions for American Servicemen in Britain 1942. This was issued to American GIs headed for the to-be-UK and is full of great little bits. Here are but a few of them:

  • "The British have theatres and movies (which they call "cinemas") as we do. But the great place of recreation is the "pub".
  • The English language didn’t spread across the oceans and over the mountains and jungles and swamps of the world because these people were panty-waists.
  • [The] British [are] reserved, not unfriendly.
  • It is always impolite to criticize your hosts; it is militarily stupid to criticize your allies.

This is a fun read that is appropriate to anybody traveling there even today. While I was trying to find the equivalent book on the French, which I remember was not as kind as the one above, I found this: A Short Guide to Iraq. Issued by the US War and Navy Departments servicemen (did any women go there?) going to Iraq to defend the oil fields. It is amazing how timeless this book is. You can read the whole thing here.

I never did find the French book, which I did see online two or three years ago. Maybe some French hackers took it offline.

Foreign Affairs – Pitch Imperfect – Sanford J. Ungar

In an era when public opinion and perceptionmatter, when social networks are more important than military networks,
and the resulting interconnections can form terrible insurgencies, why
are we not acknowledging the power of media? The demise — or cutbacks
if you’re an optimist — of the VOA inspite of a proven track record is
short sighted. A full frontal cultural and media attack, sublte and not
sublte, is necessary to counter perceptions and understandings of the
West.

Link: Foreign Affairs – Pitch Imperfect – Sanford J. Ungar.

Summary: The Voice of America — the United States’ best tool of public diplomacy — is being subjected to systematic cutbacks, even as the country’s international image is suffering. Washington must reverse the trend or face even greater hostility abroad.

No more rear areas

Besides the obvious issue ofimproperly preparing troops for duty, the trend of the forced war on
the military — the military you go to war with not the military you
want to go to war with — is simply going to hurt the US in the mid run
(i.e. not even so far out as the long run). Moral will be hurt,
national guard enlistments ("I didn’t sign up for this") have been hit
hard, what does the government not see that we don’t? Not addressed but
certainly just as important is the impact of private contractors
filling roles previously held by military personnel: cooks, drivers,
etc. The old news now is there are no more rear areas:

One
of the biggest lessons to be relearned from Iraq is that there is no
safe place on the battlefield for soft-skinned or poorly-trained troops.

Robot Grunts

Quick Note on the remote and unattended combat front: More Robot Grunts Ready for Duty.

Hunting for guerillas, handling roadside bombs, crawling across the caves and crumbling towns of Afghanistan and Iraq all of that was just a start. Now, the Army is prepping its squad of robotic vehicles for a new set of assignments. And this time, they’ll be carrying guns.