Wearing a Mask in Combat? It’s Just the Universe Not So Blissful

You’ve probably never thought about how difficult it must be for a soldier to see someone wearing a mask during combat—but it’s really serious business.

Multiple photos of Iraqi soldiers and American soldiers depicted by the New York Times wearing fake-masks to ensure that they do not target each other in combat. I saw photos of soldier-mask-wearing athletes on television after the Olympics, and I remember how appalled I was. Even the face mask, which is usually not used during battles, is worn to hide the inferiority of life in post-apocalyptic America.

Although it may be difficult to fully appreciate this protection tactic in war zones, it is an entirely natural reaction. The reason is simple—drones—and it is a reason well-earned. Recently, a German drone shot down a Ukrainian fighter-plane, showing us how easy it is to mess up American war-fighting efforts. What does that have to do with your jeans and shoes?

Everything. The drone is made to work really well. In the United States, armed drones perform as intended. They are small—that’s the beauty of armed drones. But the Germans had to learn the hard way that these small drones are not American-made or American-friendly. In any case, they still operate under NATO auspices, and they are directed by a German staff officer rather than an American “director of operations.”

And this brings us to the justifiable outrage that accompanied the news that the U.S. decision to begin the withdrawal of military from Syria was based in part on lack of progress in combating ISIS. Who were the movers and shakers pushing for this kind of withdrawal? Unclear. Do we know who wrote the argument that ISIS is on the run? Mostly not.

Take a look at the State Department’s official explanation for the decision, and you’ll find that the Trump administration (the new one) focuses on the following final paragraph:

The campaign in Syria is approaching the end phase, and we have substantially degraded the capacity of ISIS. Many of the remaining ISIS fighters, both in Syria and Iraq, will transition into terrorist activities and extremist groups to which they aspire, and we are working with our partners to identify areas where they can emerge, and where others will remain a threat.

So the foreign policy spin here is that ISIS has “capacities”, and in some places like in Libya that “capacities” are actually quite limited and not taking over the government. Elsewhere in the world, the idea of ISIS is as tenuous as a mountaintop.

If you’re a supporter of President Trump, part of the reason that you have such support is the sentiment that he’s attacking the most vulnerable people in society—immigrants. And your supporters feel—reasonably—that Mr. Trump is just doing what he was elected to do, while those liberal folk need to get on with our lives.

But as I’ve learned in teaching this class in media and communications—students do not have the same moral compass that we do. Your students, more so than most Americans, understand what war is like in other parts of the world. They understand when they are targeting people—they know it hurts. They also know that other countries—warplanes, drones, tanks, armored vehicles—and the states that have them are killing other people. They also understand that more often than not these are the ones who are perceived as the more innocent—so they don’t think that the other guy is helping us either.

Your student knows that militarism in the United States—forces we send to war—has an evil part. That people—soldiers, even—can kill.

But more than that, your student knows that militarism and oppressive political positions like freedom of speech, religion, or expression that distorts reality cannot survive if people are taught the truth about both America and our allies.

As one of my students once said, when you are in good standing, it’s okay to wear masks. But when people push back, you know that mask has to come off.

Todd Starnes is host of Fox News & Commentary, heard on hundreds of radio stations. His latest book is “God Less America: Real Stories From the Front Lines of the Attack on Traditional Values.” Follow Todd on Twitter @ToddStarnes and find him on Facebook.

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