Tanks in Small Towns

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Thanks to many, many people who have written in about the ongoing militarization of the police, and the ramifications of police over-reaction to the Occupy movement in Davis, Berkeley, and elsewhere. Will format* and share some of these tonight or tomorrow. For the moment, here is just one, from a U.S. Army veteran:
If you liked the wheeled APC in Galax Virginia, you're gonna love the M113 with a cupola mounted .50 cal machine gun that Richland County SC picked up [ a few years ago]. 

 Note the SWAT team posing around the vehicle with submachineguns. Lovely.

SOuthCarolinaTank.jpg

As a former US Army Cavalry soldier, I have to say I am astonished and horrified that anybody in law enforcement would think that an M2 .50 cal machine gun has any place at all in a police force. It is a weapon made to destroy vehicles (like light tanks, APC's and helicopters) and unreinforced buildings. A single round can literally tear a person in half if hits him in the abdomen. It will go through your house and the house after that and then continue blithely along for another mile or more until it hits something else.

While I'm at it, here is one more -- about the way the militarization of the police perversely ignores the way the real military is evolving: 

Reading about the militarization of local police forces made me think about the strategic shift to counter-insurgency operations in Iraq under the leadership of GEN Petraeus.

As commander of the 101st Airborne, GEN Petraeus saw combat for the first time during the division's drive up the Euphrates Valley, with sharp firefights in Najaf, Karbala and Hilla. But it was during the division's subsequent occupation of Mosul and northern Iraq that he won widespread acclaim by resurrecting the local economy, restoring services and preserving order with strategic force. Posters in the division bivouacs read: "What have you done to win Iraqi hearts and minds today?"

The famous "surge" in Iraq was successful because of many reasons (including financial support to western tribes) and one  was a fundamental shift in strategy from operating out of heavily fortified, centralized compounds with periodic patrols, to dispersing soldiers to smaller, more numerous locations in order to "win Iraqi hearts and minds."  An unverified account of the orders GEN Petraeus gave upon initiating the surge:

    - "Secure and serve the population.

    - Live among the people. Promote reconciliation.

    - Move mounted, work dismounted; situational awareness can only be achieved by operating face-to-face, not separated by ballistic glass.

    - Walk."

A good theme for our police leaders to keep in mind.

* This is a surprisingly tedious chore with our blogging software. As the world goes, not a big problem, but it's not a simple matter of cutting and pasting from messages. Just for the record.

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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.
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