Barack Obama says he’s a Christian. Good for him (and for the Gospel). But rarely has a Christian paid such obeisance to another faith and ideology. The president’s bow and scrape to Islam knows no end. That’s not so good.
The Army is soon to issue a handbook instructing soldiers to copy Mr. Obama’s example of when and how to defer to an alien ideology that stands against everything Americans are taught, whether by faith, ethics, morals or another code of good conduct.
The new manual, which runs to 75 pages, orders American military personnel to refrain from saying anything to offend the Taliban in Afghanistan, to be careful not to criticize the practice of sexual relations with children, the abuse of women, beheadings, massacres of girls, and the killing of “unbelievers” and Muslims who Taliban enforcers regard as insufficiently devout in the faith. Holding to what they have been taught, whether at Sunday school or a mother’s knee, is presumably OK for American soldiers, at least for now. But they must keep such ideas to themselves.
The manual, issued in the name of the U.S. government, obviously at the command of the commander in chief, suggests that Western ignorance and arrogance and not the Taliban are responsible for the surge in deadly attacks by Afghan soldiers against the soldiers of the allied coalition.
U.S. troops should prepare for “psychologically challenging conditions” in Afghanistan, and be prepared for “stressors” that some American soldiers have remarked from previous deployments, such as finding Afghan security forces “profoundly dishonest and [having] no personal integrity,” and “gutless in combat,” and “ignorant and basically stupid.”
The manual’s bottom line, as first reported by The Wall Street Journal, is that “troops may experience social-cultural shock and/or discomfort when interacting with [the Afghans]. Better situational awareness/understanding of Afghan culture will help better prepare [coalition] forces to effectively partner and to avoid cultural conflict that can lead towards violence.”
The Army, citing “etiquette,” specifically orders soldiers to avoid “conversation topics” such as “anything related to Islam, mention of any other religion and/or spirituality, debating the war, making derogatory comments about the Taliban, advocating women’s rights and equality, directing any criticism towards Afghans, and mentioning homosexuality and homosexual conduct.” The manual, according to The Journal, is the work of the Army’s Center for Army Lessons Learned at Fort Leavenworth, Kan. Some lessons, alas, are still to be learned.
Some of this advice would be just good manners at a proper dinner party for the elites and the effetes, where custom forbids talking about religion or politics. But bitching about anything and everything is a soldier’s cherished right. Any top sergeant (or major general) could tell you that bitching is crucial to good morale.
Nor is this the first time the Army has issued a manual to GIs with advice about avoiding cultural potholes. Every GI arriving in Britain in 1942, to train with our British cousins for the invasion of France, received a 31-page pamphlet detailing how to get along with the natives. Some of the advice is quaint today: Don’t use the word “bloody” if women are present; “it’s one of their worst swear words.” Never apologize for “looking like a bum” to the British; “this means you look like your own backside.” American GIs were reminded that a British female officer or noncommissioned officer is entitled to give orders to a man; “the men obey smartly and know it is no shame.” Both American and Brit were civilized, of course. That made everything easier.
It’s the tone and tint of the manual that offends. The Army of yesteryear would never feel it necessary to beg for an enemy’s mercy or cultural indulgence. Ike did not caution Americans not to speak ill of the Nazis on the eve of D-Day lest they abuse his soldiers. FDR did not describe the beheading of American pilots by the Japanese in 1942 as “workplace violence” lest he offend the men of Nippon. Ike and FDR counted on soldiers and Marines to be big enough to take care of themselves.
The Army manual offends American fighting men today, too. Marine Gen. John Allen, the top U.S. military commander in Afghanistan, neither endorsed the manual nor agreed to sign a foreword written in his name. “Gen. Allen did not author, nor does he intend to provide, a foreword,” a spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition said. “He does not approve of its contents.”
We should thank him for small mercies. No thanks at all to the commander in chief. All is not lost, not yet.
• Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times.