Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

John Perry Barlow
"Kicking butt is mandatory. Taking names is optional."

So runs the headline on a current U.S. Navy recruiting ad. This may sum up current U.S. military philosophy pretty neatly, whatever the branch of service. No one from the Pentagon knows, or seems particularly interested in finding out, how many civilians we have killed in Iraq so far. I would guess it exceeds many times over the number who died here on September 11. One of the liabilities of conducting a military operation that is so heavily based on "death from above" is that, even with our surgical new targeting abilities, we are dangerously abstracted from the consequences below.

Barlow rants about the situation in Iraq.


It reminds one of the unofficial Vietnam war slogan. "Kill them all and let God sort them out."

Some background info on that quote:
Kill them all. God will know His own. (found via Google)

"Kicking butt is mandatory. Taking names is optional."

I suppose the US Navy figures that this sort of tagline will attract the kind of people they want. It seems to have worked so far.

Specifically, the tagline betrays a mentality that exposes our enlisted ranks for what they generally are: a group of immature, and uneducated folks who are currently awash in a culture they don't understand and aren't trained to handle. (Iraq)

Why are we surprised by what happened at Abu Ghraib? The type of person who might make an intelligent and capable soldier would never be encouraged to join the military by such an inane tagline as the one above. Only dummies would answer its call.

Apologies to the E-7's and above who might read this, but I think you know that what I'm saying is true. The stocking of our enlisted batallions with uneducated redneck kids from our hinterlands and cookie-cutter suburbs has to end. The missions they are asked to undertake are too important and are obviously beyond their mental ability to deal with.

If our enlisted ranks continue to be staffed with 5-watt cranial capacity losers, what will happen when the US military has to fight against a force much more formidable than the Iraqi army?

I was enlisted and in my time as an enlisted man I saw hazing, sexual harassment, blackmailing, cronyism, coercion, and outright incompetence on a daily basis. And I was encouraged by E-5's and E-6's to keep quiet about it all.

The enlisted culture is a sick one whose symptons happen to have come to light at Abu Ghraib. Their incompetence has irreversibly betrayed the benevolent points of our mission in Iraq. They should not be forgiven.