The PR struggle America wrestles with today is the nature or role of our troops in the Middle East. We may see ourselves as liberators, but whether we like it or not, we’re viewed as occupiers. “To the extent we are seen as occupiers, or are portrayed as occupiers by al-Qaeda, Al Jazeera, and insurgent groups, our job is that much harder,” writes Dick Couch in Chosen Soldier. “A recent study of suicide bombers revealed that the common thread that ran through their twisted thinking was their conviction that Americans in Iraq and Afghanistan are an occupying force.”
To recap, this summer I’ll periodically be blogging about Chosen Soldier: The Making of a Special Forces Warrior by Dick Couch, who has written a number of non-fiction and fiction books about military life. Chosen Soldier focuses on the recruitment and training of Army Special Forces, or the Green Berets. On one level, this non-leisurely summer reading is a personal interest.
But on another level, the goal is to understand better this current global war that we, for better or worse, nonetheless are caught up in—and what might lead us out of it. Which is where the Green Berets come in: In this particularly different war, we need a different, more efficient type of warrior. As I wrote in the last post, this “most essential warrior” not only will fight physically, but also intellectually. They infiltrate a region’s culture, gaining the trust of the locals and gleaning invaluable information about who the real enemy is, as that enemy is hidden among innocent communities. Not only that, the Green Berets also act as teachers, equipping the people to work out their own liberation.
So while we entered this war being viewed by some—including some in the United States—as an occupying force, the Green Berets and the rest of special forces could lead us to be seen as liberators. This would be not just PR damage control, but truly providing liberation to people in the Middle East by empowering them to control their destiny. What that may end up looking like, we must realize, is not Western-style democracy. After all, as Couch notes, one argument used against U.S. engagement in counterinsurgency is the Duarte regime in El Salvador and its alleged “human-rights violations and the infamous death squads.”