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We're The Red Coats

I remember from high school history class that a key advantage we Americans had over the British during the American Revolution was that the British simply didn't know who to shoot.  The American rebels all looked like farmers, and farmers looked like nonthreatening civilians.  The British forces, on the other hand, were clad in bright red wool uniforms (“The Red Coats”), making it blatantly obvious that they were the bad guys.  They might as well have been wearing red and white target circles on their chests with sandwich-board signs proudly declaring, “We're the bad guys!  Shoot at us!”

My country hasn't really “won” a war since 1945; and in those days of conventional warfare, there were distinct teams.  The Allies had their team uniforms and the Axis had theirs.  War was like any other team game―shirts vs. skins, yellow team vs. blue team, or the Hornets vs. the Bears.

War has changed a lot since 1945; and unfortunately, America hasn't changed with it.  I see Middle East war images showing American forces clad in American-looking uniforms, patrolling in Humvees, waving American flags, and looking outstandingly American.  As far as I know, the Taliban or Al Qaeda or whatever don't have official insurgent uniforms and color-coordinated rocket launchers like we do.  They look just like any other law-abiding  Afghan opium farmer.

It seems to me that we're the red coats.

And in a situation like that, there's only one thing to do―get the fuck out of there.  Sure, you can dress the American army up in Islamic tunics and give them a regiment of beat-up mid-80s diesel Mercedes sedans to patrol in, but you can't as easily change their skin or ethnicity.  We stand out in a very bad way.

I mean, wasn't Vietnam the same deal?  I imagine American soldiers donning stylish late-1960s jungle camouflage fatigues forging ahead to the next napalm-ridden checkpoint.  The war-torn landscape is only slightly broken by the poor, rice-picker-hat-wearing farmers busily harvesting in the summer heat.  But then those peaceful civilian-looking farmers whip out a cache of AK-47s, and a wicked unforeseen firefight ensues.  “No!  Don't shoot!  I'm just a farmer...NOT!”

If we ever expect to win a war again, we have to smarten up and stop falling for the “I'm a peaceful farmer” act.  Wearing red coats didn't work for the British in 1776, and it's not going to work for us in 2010.  If we can't even the odds and play the part of the chameleon guerrilla farmer like they do, then best to just get out and stop picking fights with clandestine commando horticulturists.

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