Robert Kaplan has an enlightening and entertaining essay in the March 2004 issue of The Atlantic about Colonel Tom Wilhelm, US defense attache in Ulan Bator, the capital of Mongolia. Kaplan followed Wilhelm around as Wilhelm politicked around Mongolia visiting remote outposts and drinking blood and vodka with the locals. The Mongolians are afraid of the Chinese.
Despite seven decades of virtual Soviet occupation, Mongolians are less afraid of the Russians than of the Chinese. Russia's empire is disintegrating; China's is rising. The Chinese are migrating in large numbers into adjacent Russian Siberia. We could see the Chinese border post from our hotel: a brightly lit, well-engineered arc, symbolizing the Sino-industrial encroachment on Zamyn-Uud's sprawl of felt tents and scrap-iron huts.
"In my blood I don't like the Chinese," a high-ranking Mongolian official declared in an interview I conducted in Ulan Bator. "China is not interested in developing Mongolia's economy, but in exploiting our natural resources. The Russians dominated our politics for seven decades but did not incorporate us into the Soviet Union. The Chinese have the possibility to utterly absorb us."
Wilhelm claims the rising belief in evangelical Christianity is what made possible the transformation of the US Army into an internally cohesive organization in which the lower ranks can be trusted with a great deal of power and authority.
The full flowering of the middle ranks had its roots in the social transformation of the American military, which, according to Wilhelm (a liberal who voted for Al Gore in 2000), had taken place a decade earlier, when the rise of Christian evangelicalism had helped stop the indiscipline of the Vietnam-era Army. "This zeal reformed behavior, empowered junior leaders, and demanded better recruits," he said. "For one thing, drinking stopped, and that killed off the officers' clubs, which, in turn, broke down more barriers between officers and noncoms, giving the noncoms the confidence to do what majors and colonels in other armies do. The Christian fundamentalism was the hidden hand that changed the military for the better. Though you try to get someone to admit it! We never could have pulled off Macedonia or Bosnia with the old Vietnam Army."
The whole article is worth reading in full.
|Share |||By Randall Parker at 2004 March 11 02:47 AM Military Warrior Culture|