good to see
Smart letter to the editor
in the Dec. 30 Middle East edition of the Stars and Stripes
Use of the ‘bigger hammer’
In “Using facts to mislead” (letter, Dec. 12), the writer lambastes the writer of “Use of white phosphorus” (letter, Dec. 4) for suggesting that U.S. forces had a hand in hitting Vietnamese civilians with napalm. While the colonel is correct that this incident was not the fault of U.S. forces, he misses the point in the comparison between that incident and the use of white phosphorus in Fallujah, Iraq.
The fact is, while incendiary weapons are tactically useful, we may be ill-advised to apply them in areas where there is a great chance of causing civilian casualties. Even were we to set aside the moral considerations of collateral damage, we must not forget the strategic consequences of killing innocent civilians. Every picture of a dead child broadcast over the television news is a strike against our moral case for conducting war and further undermines our cause. The horrific wounds caused by incendiary weapons are particularly likely to draw the ire of the civilian populace we are attempting to aid.
One may argue that tactical necessity requires the use of such firepower, but this is also incorrect. As described by Marine infantry leader H. John Poole and others, there are tactics that will allow soldiers to infiltrate and seize complex terrain without heavy firepower. But this can only happen if soldiers are properly trained and junior leaders are given the room to lead them.
The U.S. military has relied for too long on the “bigger hammer” approach to war-fighting. In a theater where the enemy will always hide among the innocents, this method may prove disastrous. More firepower did not work in Vietnam. We have yet to see if it will work here in Iraq.
The colonel states that omitting truth, either through ignorance or intentional manipulation, is obscurant. I agree. Let me go one step further and say shame on us if we do not recognize the flaws in our own tactics and do our utmost to correct them.
Capt. Christian E. De Leon-Horton
Logistics Support Area Anaconda, Iraq