The Gospel According to COIN

At my own risk and peril, I’ve got to take issue with Joshua Foust on this one (third bullet point down in his post). The problem here isn’t that Al Jazeera “cannot tell the difference between standard issue evangelical boilerplate and a command to go destroy Islam in the name of Jesus.” It’s that a population that already suspects it’s being targeted as part of a religious crusade against Islam might not be able to. Given some of the quotes in the article, I wonder whether the evangelicals at issue might not be able to either.

Clearly the U.S. Army has regulations prohibiting prostletyzing, just like it has regulations prohibiting many other things. And clearly, those individuals who want to get around — or violate — that regulation will do so, just as with the others. To the extent that this is not an institutional problem of the Army, Foust is right.

But that doesn’t mean it’s not a problem for the institution that is the Army. The article reveals a failure on the part of the prostletyzers to understand how badly their sincere efforts to follow both the dictates of their faith and those of their employer are in direct opposition in Afghanistan. To paraphrase Mark 8:36, For what shall it profit a COINdinista, if he shall gain a man’s soul, and lose his heart and mind? So there has obviously been a breakdown in sensitivity training as part of the core mission objectives here, too.

It’s also difficult not to put this into the context of the growing evangelical presence in the U.S. military, at all levels of the chain of command, and wonder whether it actually is a de facto — if not de jure — institutional problem for an Army so actively engaged in the Muslim world.