Training Iraqi soldiers requires more than just weapons and equipment. In our rush to change direction, let’s not overlook the fundamentals.
The strength and soundness of our military is based on the willingness of our soldiers to put this country above their own self interests. Those who volunteer to wear our nation’s uniform, recite the following oath:
"I DO SOLEMNLY SWEAR (OR AFFIRM) THAT I WILL SUPPORT AND DEFEND THE CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES AGAINST ALL ENEMIES, FOREIGN AND DOMESTIC; THAT I WILL BEAR TRUE FAITH AND ALLEGIANCE TO THE SAME; AND THAT I WILL OBEY THE ORDERS OF THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES AND THE ORDERS OF THE OFFICERS APPOINTED OVER ME, ACCORDING TO REGULATIONS AND THE UNIFORM CODE OF MILITARY JUSTICE. SO HELP ME GOD."
This simple paragraph forms the foundation of strength, duty, and loyalty in the U.S. Armed Services. When a soldier says these words, he is bound by them, above all other priorities. This is the enlistment oath taken by military personnel of the Armed Forces of the United States. Careful inspection of the oath reveals some of the truths necessary to successfully train the Iraqi Army.
There has been much talk of the need to infuse up to 40,000 U.S. trainers in the Iraqi Army. This will be helpful from a tactical standpoint, but it misses the big picture. We have currently trained an Iraqi security/military force of more than 300,000 and have been doing this for the past three years. In training the Iraqis we must not forget that the core principle of the United States Armed forces is the allegiance that these men and women pledge to protect this nation.
This same loyalty and obedience must be infused in the Iraqi armed forces. If the soldier is given all the equipment and training in the world, but is not loyal to the nation, then that training and equipment is futile. When a Sunni soldier is sent on a patrol to root out a Sunni cleric that is acting as a gang member against the Republic of Iraq, their duty to Iraq must trump their religious and sectarian affiliations. Similarly, if a Shiite soldier is sent out to patrol a Sunni sector of Baghdad, he must not kill or harm Sunnis civilians without a legitimate threat to the nation of Iraq.
Let us take this one step further. The enlistment oath specifically designates that the soldier will bear true faith and allegiance, will obey the orders of the President, and the orders of the officers appointed over him, according to the regulation and the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
The Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) and its predecessor, the Articles of War, provided the U.S. with a separate system of laws and statues that is directed toward maintaining morale and discipline in the armed forces. These laws exist distinct from the civilian system, which focuses on jurisprudence, liberty, and due process. The point of military law is to ensure those who pledge allegiance to the Constitution as members of the armed forces uphold their obligation, under all circumstances. Even in 1775, the founders of this nation could see that a separate system was needed to ensure duty and order in the military. These factors are essential to winning any war and establishing public confidence in the armed forces. They are essential to the armed forces of Iraq.
Therefore, before we go headstrong into training the Iraqi soldiers on the latest technology and equipment, we should be careful to first lay the foundation for their success. Their armed forces must be subject to a separate and distinct military justice system that proscribes harsh penalties for failure to comply. This will not only ensure loyalty on the battlefield but also restore the confidence and trust the Iraqi people must have of their military and security forces. These forces are the bedrock of this new democracy and, without strict allegiance to the Republic of Iraq over all other affiliations, all the training in the world is doomed to failure.