Earning My Keep

I sort of feel like I should be hyping Atlantic content, but all the real articles are subscription-only, so what's the point? Brian Mockenhaupt talking about his article on military training in the latest issue is interesting, though less interesting than the actual article:

But at the same time the drill sergeants are going to explain that situations will arise when shooting is not the answer because it will turn against you down the road. It might be really hard, especially when you’re under fire, and you’ve been taking casualties, and you feel that a neighborhood might be against you. But to win in the end you need to exercise extreme prudence and restraint. For someone who has only been in the military for a short time, this can be a difficult lesson.

To my mind, probably the big thing that makes me skeptical about the idea that better manual and training regimes will make counterinsurgency viable is that this lesson is not only hard to teach, but needs to be taught almost perfectly. Say 95 percent of your soldiers take the training and act perfectly. Well, if you're got 100,000 soldiers in Iraq, that means 5,000 guys who are two quick to open fire. Over the course of six months or so, 5,000 heavily armed trigger-happy soldiers can kill and main a lot of people and destroy a ton of property. There's your alienated population right there. And yet, a 95 percent success rate is very high.