The Best Defense

Rebecca's War Dog of the Week: The Real Reason Why the Taliban Capture of a Military Dog is News

By Rebecca Frankel
Best Defense Chief Canine Correspondent

There has been a lot of response to the Taliban's recently released video footage in which it touts the capture of what it originally claimed was a U.S. military dog called Colonel. Thursday morning's initial reports lacked much in-depth reporting and it turns out the dog is thought to have been attached to British forces and originally went missing in December after a NATO mission gone wrong. The majority of headlines and discussion were focused not on the validity of the reports or the video, but just the news that a war dog was captured.

Later commentary yesterday, like this Washington Post blog post, attempted to broaden the discussion by asking the question: "Why do we care about this dog?" I take issue with this on a few levels, but on its face this is not a totally worthless question to ponder. However, in this instance it's the wrong question. It begs an answer that needs no validation. You don't have to be a dog lover to understand that. You don't even have to weigh the ethics of waging war or the cost of life -- whether soldier, civilian, or canine -- to understand that. Yes, it pulls heartstrings to see this dog, confused and uncomfortable. But the gut twist of this footage doesn't begin and end with the emotion of seeing a dog in the hands of men who may very well end his life. It's not just a hit to our collective morale.

The question we should be asking -- and forgive me, for I am repeating myself -- is this: Why does the Taliban care about this dog?

Why does the Taliban think that releasing a video of this dog is going to make a difference to the U.S. military? For anyone who might scoff or pass this off as a clumsy move on behalf of a few Taliban fighters who, by showing off a handful of weapons and a dog, believed they scored a victory against their enemy, seriously underestimates how seriously NATO forces need and rely on these dogs. They also underestimate how good these dogs are at their job, how many lives they save, and how much the men and women on the ground value them -- consider them a fellow soldier more than a tool or piece of equipment.

I hate to say it, but the Taliban got it right when they banked they'd gotten their hands on something of unquantifiable value. And that's a bit of news worth noting.

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The Best Defense

Future of War: Rosa Brooks smacks down 19th c. industrial era theories about warfare

The promised smackdown arrives.

Everyone knows that the character of war changes constantly but that the nature of war is immutable. Why do they know this? Because they were told so at war college.

Everyone, that is, except my FP & Future of War teammate Rosa von Brooks. She's read all the books and she comes away unpersuaded. For example, she writes, "Take cyberwar: Much of what is often spoken of under the 'cyberwar' rubric is not violent in the Clausewitzian sense of the word. Cyberattacks might shut down the New York Stock Exchange and cause untold financial damage, for instance, but would we say that this makes them violent?"

She notes that Clausewitzian strict constructionists will then respond, "You can blather on all you want about cyberwar or financial war, but if what you're talking about is not both violent and political, it's just not 'war,' but something else."

Not so fast, she counters. "But there are many other ways to understand and define violence. Consider various forms of psychological torture or abuse. Or consider cyberattacks that lead to loss of life as an indirect result of extended power outages: Why not view such attacks as a form of violence if they lead predictably to loss of life?"

Then Brooks gets all neo-Westphalian on their asses. "It is the state that creates and defines the role of the military.... It is also the state that defines the legal contours of war." So, for a truly subordinate military, war might be war, but war is what your civilian superiors say it is.

I can't do the piece justice with this summary, so if you are gonna comment, please read the whole thing first. Brooks, considered by some to be a leading candidate to become the next president of Robot Rights Watch, the cool new NGO, also provides links at the end to some of her other writings.

Meanwhile, two other FPsters have been dishing some good stuff lately.

And in the Twitty world, I seem to have accumulated 1,000 followers. But a friend of mine tells me they might not all be real. If you are not real, you probably should stop reading this blog.

Wikimedia/Foreign Policy