Skip to comments.America's Best Ambassadors: Our Troops
Posted on 04/11/2003 7:49:26 AM PDT by Stand Watch Listen
America's best representatives to the people of the Middle East may be our men and women in uniform. The armed forces fighting in Iraq may show the people of that nation and its neighbors the real America and real Americans at our best.
More importantly, exposure to our military may show the Arabs that the horrible stereotypes of Americans they have seen in the media are nothing but fiction. The Arabs may learn from our military that many Americans are good people of great faith and tremendous honor who really believe in and practice the high ideals that we espouse. The Arabs may learn to like, respect and even admire America and Americans by seeing our military forces in action.
The average Arab's idea of Americans comes from the media; the deceitful propaganda put out by his own government; and the horrible distortions that fill our own media. From what they've seen, the Arabs think that all Americans are weak, soft, greedy, materialistic and vicious. They believe that all American military people are Nazi-like storm troopers. They believe that all American women are whores and that American men are either greedy sex fiends or wimps. They also believe that Americans are hypocrites who possess neither values nor faith.
Sadly enough, many recent Western visitors to the Middle East have confirmed these horrible stereotypes. Obnoxious tourists, self-proclaimed peace activists willing to stand with their nation's enemies, greedy businessmen looking for a fast buck, self-serving oil company executives willing to do anything to get an oil concession, sniveling diplomats and politicians interested in appeasing vicious dictators, soft-headed, morally blind intellectuals and celebrities willing to kiss up to despots in the name of peace, sanctimonious missionaries trying to push their religion down the throats of Arabs, shallow and hypocritical journalists willing to report the propaganda lies of the worst Arab dictators as the truth and worse.
Unfortunately, what the Arabs have seen is Americans and Westerners at their worst. Is it any wonder that many Middle Easterners despise us?
I can't think of a better antidote to all of these distortions than exposure to our men and women in uniform. They are honorable, honest, sober, decent, friendly, civil, polite, brave, professional, hardworking, tough and disciplined. They actually believe in the ideals for which this nation stands and many of them are people of deep faith who take their religion seriously.
The Arabs respect all of these qualities and understand them. When they see the US or British servicemen, a great many Arabs will finally see a Westerner, a Christian or an American that they can actually respect. They'll realize that the men and women in the US and British uniforms aren't their enemies.
The Arabs are a warrior people with a long and glorious military tradition. They respect soldiers and traditional military values such as honor, discipline, loyalty, courage, and valor. The militaries of the United States and Britain exemplify those values. The Arabs will have to recognize this and respect our countries more.
The troops' actions will speak louder than all the propaganda in the world. When the Arabs see American and British soldiers displaying courage on the battlefield, risking their lives to save a wounded comrade or putting themselves in harm's way to knock out an enemy position, they'll learn to respect those soldiers.
When the Arabs see American soldiers actually demonstrating respect toward their mosques and showing courtesy to their women, Arabs will begin to see that they've been lied to by their leaders and the Western media and start asking why. When the Arabs see American doctors and medics treating sick and wounded Arabs and Americans distributing food to hungry Arabs, they'll realize that Americans aren't all greedy hypocrites.
When the Arabs see that American troops do not burn Arab villages, rape Arab women, torture or execute Arab prisoners or loot Arab homes, the Arabs will see how civilized we really are. Especially when they compare the actions of American and British troops to the behavior of Saddam Hussein's storm troopers.
More importantly, the Arabs will see that people who live in a democratic society do not have to be greedy, materialistic, arrogant and ruthless. They'll see that freedom and faith can coexist and that modernization does not lead to becoming Sodom and Gomorrah.
So perhaps the best side effect of this war will be the impression of America and Americans that our military personnel deliver to the average Arab. We won't necessarily influence the opinions of the self-proclaimed Arab intellectuals and the worst of the Arab extremists, but we could change a lot of the minds of the ordinary people of Arab nations.
In the long run, the discipline, courage, professionalism, faith and values of our men and women in uniform may turn out to be the trump card in the battle for the hearts and minds of the Arab people.
(Daniel G. Jennings is a freelance writer and journalist who lives and works in Denver.)
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It is in the breaking news sidebar!
Cough. Not since the 13th century.
Mr. Henninger is deputy editor of The Wall Street Journal's editorial page. His column appears Fridays in the Journal and on OpinionJournal.com.
YOUNG AMERICANS HIT THE BEACH
BY DANIEL HENNINGER
Here's a two-word phrase you don't see or hear much any more: young adults. It sank beneath the waves of a more recent, more powerful force: the "youth culture."
The youth culture in America is a lifestyle, emphasizing the one thing that youth tend to be very good at: thinking about themselves. Pridefully inner-directed, it opens itself to the outer world primarily in two ways: style and "attitude." Membership in the youth culture is defined by mass marketers as a "demographic," which begins about the age of 12 and runs without interruption to the age of 35. A "young adult" is an anachronism.
Some say the youth culture began at Woodstock, the celebration of song, self and mud in 1969. Perhaps the beginning of the end of that era is taking place right now in a similarly grimy but singularly other-directed gathering of young-adult Americans in the Iraqi desert. This war is the anti-Woodstock.
At Woodstock, the idea was born to love the one you're with, meaning whoever was handy.
In Iraq this week, one of the embedded reporters, CNN's Martin Savidge, came across the new meaning of love the one you're with.
Mr. Savidge offered four young Marines a chance to call home on his satellite video phone. Instead, one of the Marines ran off to get his sergeant, who hadn't talked to his pregnant wife in three months. Mr. Savidge offered the phone to the other three. They said they'd use the phone time to call the parents of Lance Cpl. Brian Buesing, who died last week near Nasiriya. "Where do they get young men like this?" Mr. Savidge asked.
There is an answer to that question. It was provided in this newspaper nearly eight years ago by our then-Pentagon reporter Tom Ricks. Mr. Ricks did what became a famous piece on the training of Marines on Parris Island for the new, all-professional U.S. military. "Parris Island routinely transforms the Beavises and Butt-Heads of America into United States Marines. After 11 weeks here, recruits emerge self-disciplined, with a serious bearing. They are drug-free, physically fit and courteous to their elders. They have overcome deep differences of class and race and learned to live and work as a team."
The core of Mr. Ricks' piece, however, was not this training, but the resulting alienation these young Marines often felt from their peers back in "the world." For example, Mr. Ricks noted: "Once notoriously foul-mouthed, Parris Island's drill instructors today are forbidden to use obscenities. At the same time, their recruits arrive steeped in casual vulgarity from pop music, cable TV and everyday conversation." That of course remains our culture; in the military, it's left behind.
I am not suggesting that all young people need a tour through Parris Island. Despite the persuasive arguments for the benefits of universal service, the Pentagon will never go back, preferring young men and women who've at least shown a commitment to the military's culture of selflessness. But for two weeks now we have watched, in random interviews, remarkably well-spoken, courteous and other-directed 26-year-old American adults. These young soldiers seem without modernist guile; they show no need, or inclination, to create an ironic, snickering distance between themselves and everything around them. What I am suggesting is that maybe it's time for the "youth culture" back home to think about growing up.
Even antiwar protests now get reduced to a kind of goofy joke, as with the recent "Puke-In for Peace" in San Francisco, featuring forced vomiting by some protesters. Or wearing a big smile and a baseball cap to accept an Oscar and insult the President of the United States. This is infantilism. This isn't protest by people concerned about what is going on over there; it's about drawing attention to them, to "me."
Young America's Journey to the Center of Me started about 20 years ago. I learned this when a newly graduated Wall Street Journal reporter back then recounted to me how when she arrived as a freshman at Princeton University, from Beverly Hills High in California, her Eastern classmates thought she was virtually a shaman because of her ability to talk, for hours, about herself. "But I'd been doing that for years in high school," she said. Twenty years later, perhaps the most totemic program on TV is "Sex and the City," often funny but always about narcissistic self-absorption.
But for all the seeming knowingness and sophistication, this is a culture that at its heart is puerile. It's the world of Peter Pan, a kind of Neverland where one never ever has to grow up. It's just about this time every year that MTV cranks out "Spring Break" from Florida's beach, beer and boob utopias. Yes, it was ever thus and probably harmless, but this is the aspect of younger life in America that now seems to carry the most peer weight. And so some escape into the armed forces, and end up fighting for the U.S. in Iraq.
This is a culture, for instance, that just now is determined to turn Jessica Lynch into a celebrity. Last week she was a 19-year-old from West Virginia who'd volunteered for the Army and was doing her job on a maintenance crew. But you know for a fact that Larry King, Katie Couric and many others are moving heaven and earth to get her on TV to talk about, what else, herself.
But the long-running infatuation with celebrity, now manifesting itself in the everyman celebritydom of reality-TV shows, is the inverse of the military's values on display this week--a world in which it's considered attractive to subordinate one's inner needs long enough for some common good to prevail. We're not talking about mindless military robots, either. The Rangers who rescued Jessica may subordinate self to a cause or plan, but success also depends crucially on initiative, improvisation and individual courage. Together, these are the attributes of young adulthood. For a few weeks, anyway, it's nice to see them being celebrated in prime time. ---------------------
They're still there!
They believe that ..........and that American men are either greedy sex fiends or wimps.
Sounds like they've met the same men I've dated recently! LOL
I'll bet a thousand dinars that none of those human shields have been hugged and kissed with a "Thanks for shielding me from the bombs" comment. The real peacekeepers are the ones with the M-16s slung over their shoulder.
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