Today, my brother Vincenzo celebrates his birthday in the greater Kandahar metropolitan area. He was deployed soon after the birth of his youngest child. Vin was promoted a few weeks back- he was commissioned in the mid-nineties, when the U.S. considered itself a "unipolar hyperpower". Yeah, no Cold War, what possible conflicts could the U.S. become embroiled in? My baby brother, Gomez, was commissioned two years later. They both received a spectacular education courtesy of Uncle Sam, and they are continuing their postgraduate studies in the school of hard knocks.
Vincenzo has a dynamic personality- he's the guy who thought nothing of posting the address of the family homestead on a bulletin board and telling his comrades that the door was always open. He'd arrange carpools to bring his overworked comrades home so they could unwind, and live some semblance of a normal college life. While posted in American Samoa, he made a point of picking up a smattering of the local language, and learning about the culture. He's always had a knack for languages, and loves shocking the hell out of people by dropping a phrase of their lingo into a conversation. Before his current deployment, he spent some time at the Joint Readiness Training Center running simulations in Potemkin villages set up on the post- arabs, both from the U.S. and Iraq, were settled on base to help soldiers role-play different situations, from home searches to negotiating with family or village elders. Paradoxically, for a guy involved in the most hierarchical organization on the planet, my brother has always been pretty skeptical of authority... a punk rock officer and gentleman is something not to be expected.
People like my brother are going to play a major role in a necessary reorganization of the military after two decades of foolish adventurism. Ever since 2001, the military was used as a private army for a coterie of sociopaths and war profiteers. Even Colin Powell, long thought to be the "last honest man" (although his role in the My Lai horror was a shameful one), completely ignored the precepts which came to be known by his name. The military is supposed to be used as a last resort, when diplomatic means fail- it's not supposed to be used in a tinhorn dictator's personal Risk game.
I have no doubt that my brothers will make a career of the military, and they will be entering the upper echelons of the military hierarchy at the tail end of an extremely bad era in U.S. foreign policy. I have no doubt that they'll learn the lessons of the noughts, after having seen two administrations forget the lessons of Vietnam. I just hope that they will have the authority to make sure that the mistakes we've made aren't repeated (although the current saber rattling about Iran is really, really dismaying).
Happy birthday, Vincenz, this one's for you:
On an unrelated topic, this is my 30th post this month, I can haz Nablopomo?