Small Wars Journal

Remembering America's New Friends

Westhawk, a first-rate blog and a daily read for me, has a post up titled Remembering America's New Friends. Here is an excerpt.

This decade, a million American soldiers have deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. Many have had a chance to develop relationships with Iraqi and Afghan soldiers, civil servants, and businessmen. Summed together, these relations are now forming bonds that will endure beyond whatever decisions statesmen in these countries decide to take. The personal relationships between Americans and their counterparts in Iraq and Afghanistan will influence the strategic balance in the region. These relationships are also likely too numerous and too deep for any statesmen to control.

Rob Thornton is a US Army officer and combat veteran of the Iraq war. He spent a year as an advisor to an Iraqi battalion and now works at the US Army school house at Fort Leavenworth improving the US military's foreign military advisory efforts. Thornton recently wrote a comment at Small Wars Journal Blog that illustrated the bonds that are strengthening at the personal level between Americans, Iraqis, and, presumably, Afghans...

More, read it all.


Great Post. The veterans of this war in the US, Afghanistan and Iraq are the leaders of tommorrow.

And they will be better men then the leaders that proceeded them.

I can't say enough about our soldiers. We just have to keep things together long enough for them to take the reins.

And we definitely had an impact on the Iraqi's, especially the young ones we worked with, Chris Cline above is dead on as well.

I can see this may turn out to be like our relationship with the Philipines, 100 years ago a bitter war. Friendship, mutual respect and fighting as allies since.

Rob Thornton

Mon, 06/09/2008 - 9:43am

There is an interesting follow up to the anecdote that shows how relationships extend beyond Iraq. One of the contractors here at JCISFA who works for Northrup Grumman, and who is a retired Army SF officer began telling me one day about his connections to Iraq. He'd retired some time ago and had not participated in OIF. A couple of months ago we began talking about Mosul. He spoke of one of his former Team Sergeants in his BN who'd been a close friend, and who'd won his respect. He was gratified to hear about the competency of 1/2/2 IA and told his friend Tony was killed there advising Iraqis in 2004.

I then asked him if his friend Tony was part American Indian, and was sometimes known as big Tony. When Tom confirmed this I told him the full story as I related it here. That the Iraqis still held on to their memories of Big Tony as someone who set the standard for soldiering and friendship closed a circle for Tom. Not only had Tony's service made (and continues to make) a difference in Iraq, but Tom's service and friendship to Tony therefore made a difference in Iraq.

I thought "man what are the chances?" All you can respond to something overwhelming like that is "small Army, huh?" - which is wholly inadequate response to chance of something like that, but at the same time transmits instant understanding between soldiers. Hopefully we'll start seeing more and more Iraqis and Afghans over here in our service colleges and courses. We need to recognize nationally what has occurred on a very personal level in war and build on it.

While destruction (or the threat of it) is the basic premise upon which armies are built, the political purpose to which they are employed is rooted in achieving a better, or more sustainable peace. How you interpret that probably depends on your view of our strategic culture, but for me helping to build an institution that is both doing what is was designed to do increasing well, and also has a personal face on it is key.

Best Regards, Rob

Westhawk, thanks for picking up on "Big Tony", his actions reflect not only what we hold highest in our profession, but I think hold highest in our humanity.


Mon, 06/09/2008 - 9:11am

Not only did our relationships with the Iraqi adults but the kids will always remember the American soldiers.

In 10 years down the road, this will have some amount of influence. The kids loved us and respected us. I hope this will pay off 10 years down the road when they remember the US soldier's compassion for them.