SOFT TARGET, HARD SELL
The United States Army is a soft target but the solution to the problem is a hard sell.
Rant Mode ON:
At Fort Hood, Texas, on November 5, a Muslim zealot or a crazed army psychiatrist (take your pick) went on a shooting rampage, killing 13 people--mostly soldiers--and wounding 30 others. After perhaps 10 minutes he was shot and wounded by civilian police hired by the Department of Defense. (Reportedly a SWAT team arrived half an hour later.) One of the responders was wounded herself, but fortunately she will survive.
The Fort Hood massacre was unique only in the body count. Remaining in a state of denial for years, the United States Army has ignored lethal assaults by soldiers and civilians sympathetic to our enemies:
In Kuwait in 2003 a Muslim GI “fragged” 16 of his comrades with grenades and rifle fire, killing two. He was sentenced to death but his case has been on appeal since 2006. No military personnel have been executed since 1961.
In 2007 federal agents arrested six Muslims in New Jersey who planned an attack on Fort Dix, based on knowledge gained in pizza deliveries.
In June 2009 a Muslim civilian shot two soldiers at an Arkansas recruiting office, killing one.
Before anybody jumps on the anti-profiling soapbox, listen up: We should not suspect every Muslim in the U.S. armed forces. If we’re going to pursue the global war on terror, we need Muslims for their cultural knowledge and language skills. Some of them are better soldiers and better Americans than many Christians, Jews, and atheists.
The situation goes way back. In 1985, after four marines were executed in a San Salvador restaurant, a naval aviator asked some admirals why officers in nonflying billets were denied smallarms training. He considered the situation “demeaning to military professionals.” No explanation was forthcoming.
Lapse-dissolve, fast forward:
Post 9-11; after nine years of a two-front war against radical Islam; after repeated attacks within our own borders, WHEN WILL THE ARMY WAKE UP AND DO AWAY WITH PREDATOR ENHANCEMENT ZONES?
Apparently not anytime soon.
Some perspective: The Fort Hood toll exceeds the KIAs of 14 Coalition countries in Afghanistan since 2001, and it’s more than 17 of the 24 allied nations have lost in Iraq since the invasion in 2003.
That’s why it’s called the Global War on Terrorism!
Fort Hood’s commander addressed a news conference the night of the attack. Responding to a question about soldiers being armed henceforth, he said that measure was not being considered, adding, “This is our home.” The implication being that decent people do not own weapons to defend their homes. He noted that additional military and civilian police patrols would be deployed.
Here’s what the general’s policy means in flesh and blood terms:
An unarmed military policeman said, "I told him (the killer) stop and drop your weapons. I identified myself as police and he turned and fired a couple of rounds at me. I didn't hear him say a word... he just turned and fired."
WHY WOULD THE KILLER DO OTHERWISE?
A judicial officer quoted in an internet circular was present. He said, “I’ve been trained how to respond to gunfire, but with my own weapon. To have no weapon, I don’t know how to explain what that felt like.”
HE SHOULDN’T HAVE TO KNOW WHAT THAT FELT LIKE! In a self-respecting army, he wouldn’t have to.
We the People pay an enormous amount of tax dollars to maintain a professional army. Our soldiers (and marines and sailors and airmen) are not half-trained conscripts, though some cynics have noted that many are half-trained volunteers.
The problem is administrative, not tactical. By definition, the military is a control-freak institution. Consequently, officers (read: careerists) seek to control circumstances that might affect their careers, so they impose bureaucratic limits upon potential solutions. The unimaginative among them—the huge majority—default to school solutions. In the Fort Hood case, the school solution is cops: civilian contractors and MPs patrolling more than before. A spokesman said that (excepting police) anyone transporting a weapon on base must keep it unloaded and out of reach.
Apparently nobody at Hood has broken out of the school solution box: allowing soldiers to carry weapons. Says a retired NCO, “They’ll start strip searching troops arriving on base before they allow any of them to carry guns.”
The army needn’t arm everybody. Let’s face it—many of our troops have no business "packing" because they lack the training and/or the disposition for it. But many others are fully capable of carrying rifles and pistols with routine safety. After all, nearly everybody in the Israeli Army carries weapons off duty. The internet shows pictures of teenaged girls in green, hanging out at the post exchange or riding public transportation with unloaded M16s or Galils. Totally safe, ready to respond.
Obviously, if the Israelis can do it, so can we. The difference is that Israel lives 24-7 with a combat mindset. To an extent so does Switzerland. America does not, and never has.
Besides additional police patrols, the army is addressing the situation with counseling, which we hope proves helpful but certainly pegs the irony meter. After all, the “suspect” in the shooting is a psychiatrist produced by the same system that enabled the massacre in the first place!
Our suggestion to The Army of One: allow competent soldiers to carry their issue weapon on base, unloaded with a full mag available. Yes, some guns may be lost or stolen. Yes, some idiot will pop a round that might hurt or even kill somebody. So what? We lose nearly 2,000 people in DoD every year: over one-quarter through accidents and negligence. But how many firearms accidents does it take to offset 13 KIAs and 30 WIAs on one of the world’s biggest military bases? How often do we sustain 40 combat casualties in one day?
However, since service politicians may be trusted to place their perceived personal interests ahead of the troops (witness the nine-year Tailhook witch hunt), we may not trust many star-wearers to Do The Right Thing. Consequently, what’s required is a DoD directive requiring combat-trained troops to carry on base, and permitting qualified individuals in uniform off base to carry openly or concealed. Absent that, we’ll see more of the same.
In closing, consider an old military maxim: “A commander may be forgiven for being defeated. He may not be forgiven for being surprised.”
On November 5, Fort Hood and the U.S. Army were surprised. Forgiveness will depend upon the state of mind of the bereaved survivors. Meanwhile, it remains a hard sell to change the army’s policy favoring itself as a soft target.
Rant Mode to STANDBY.