Saturday, April 30, 2005

The Dogs of War

The New York Times Magazine is running Peter Maass' article on Iraq's General Adnan Thabit who commands 5,000 commandos in the new Iraqi army and is the driving force behind Iraq's newest reality show: Terrorism in the Grip of Justice.

The commandos cultivate a vaguely menacing look. They wear camouflage uniforms, but also irregular clothing, like black leather gloves and balaclavas -- not to hide their identities but to inspire fear among the enemy. It is a look I saw among the Serbian paramilitaries who terrorized Croatia and Bosnia during the Balkan wars in the 90's, and it is the look of the paramilitaries that operated in Latin America a decade earlier....

Though the commandos and their American advisers were working together in Samarra, their approaches were decidedly different. The American way of combat is heavily planned, with satellite maps, G.P.S. coordinates and reconnaissance drones. The Iraqi way is improvisational, relying less on honed skills and high-tech than gut instinct and (literally) bare knuckles. It is the Americans who are learning to adapt. At the bottom of printed briefings that American soldiers receive at the bases in Samarra, a quotation from T.E. Lawrence is appended: ''Better the Arabs do it tolerably than that you do it perfectly. It is their war, and you are to help them, not to win it for them.'' |Link|

It's worth a read if you have the time.

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