Iraqi army

Why can’t our Vietnamese fight like their Vietnamese? That is the question posed by many Vietnam Veterans back in the day I’m told. You see, Marvin the ARVN was the name for the South Vietnamese Army and our American warriors would routinely wonder why Marvin couldn’t fight like the North Vietnamese. It’s a fair question and I trust the perspective offered from our Veterans of that era. Yet, it seems Marvin the ARVN has been reborn in Iraq and it has led me to ask the question, Why can’t our Iraqi’s fight like their Iraqis?  Because right now, our Iraqis are getting their butts handed to them by their Iraqis.  It is a fun question to consider why.

Training the Troops

The President is sending an additional 450 troops to Iraq to train the Iraqi army to which I say great. But let’s all pause and take a look at the training of some Iraqi troops that should inspire confidence in us all.

First off, let me just say that these trainers must be some stone cold killers, because I would poop my pants with laughter if I had to train these guys every day. I can just imagine the creative phrases that would come out of my Drill Instructors mouths were they to witness such a PT session. In fact, any Drill Sergeants or Drill Instructors feel free to give it a shot in the comments.


But let’s consider this. It took 3 months to turn myself from a baby faced kid into a United States Marine. Granted I was still a stupid boot after 3 months, but I was a Marine, would have fought, held the line, or done whatever I was ordered. Army bootcamp is only 2 months. I am not sure that is relevant, but I just wanted to point out Army boot camp is shorter because suck it Army, that’s why! Then of course you have Navy and Air Force boot camp which I am pretty sure is just a long weekend campout.

drill instructor

But fun banter aside, within 6 months, the average American can be transformed into a fully capable infantryman and America does it year round. So what is the problem with Iraq? So what was the problem with Marvin the ARVN? Basically, I am asking, what is the problem with our American trained allies sucking it up on the battlefield while our enemies of the same nationality display aggression, courage, and tenacity? Why can’t our Vietnamese/Iraqis fight like their Vietnamese/Iraqis?  I’m sure there were examples of bravery and courage from both Marvin and the Iraqi Army.  However, it doesn’t seem to taken en mass.

Thus, I don’t think it is from substandard training.  Granted, America benefits heavily from our institutions and military tradition.  Yes, America has superior technology, but when you put the American Grunt against the Iraqi Grunt and they are just two men with a gun, the American Grunt wins every time.  Then again, when you put the ISIS grunt against an Iraqi grunt, the ISIS grunt seems to win everytime.  Perhaps there is some universal correlation between the ability to do a jumping jack and the ability kill, but if that were the case Richard Simmons would be Alexander the Great.  Rather, it seems there is something at the core of this ineffectiveness.

A Theory

Whereas we can all kick around theories, and I hope we do, I would like to offer this little nugget of wisdom from the one and only, Full Metal Jacket:

“Personally, I think, uh… they don’t really want to be involved in this war. You know, I mean…they sort of took away our freedom and gave it to the, to the gookers, you know. But they don’t want it. They’d rather be alive than free, I guess. Poor dumb bastards.”   Private Eightball


The Kurds have it, that is the desire to be free and they fight like it. The Iraqis, not so much. Nationalism doesn’t mean the same thing to everyone and to expect them to die for it equally seems absurd.  It doesn’t appear that a rice farmer in Vietnam cared whether or not they were communist or capitalist because either way, they are still just farming rice. Much seems to be true for Iraqis. They will apparently always be more Shia or Sunni more than Iraqi.  I don’t know what we expected for a country that was just made up out of thin air less than a 100 years ago.  The truth is, the only people that cared about a State of Iraq were the Ba’athist.  Now that they are gone, actually not gone just fighting on behalf of ISIS, there is no one left to care it seems.

I truthfully can’t speak as informed about Marvin the ARVN and would love for our Vietnam Vets to enter they fray and speak.  However, this seems like a problem America needs to figure out before spent too much time training foreign warriors that turn out to just be bullet catchers or world class track runners in the opposite direction.  Why can’t our Iraqis fight like their Iraqis?  For me it seems to boil down to conviction and purpose, but what say you Warfighters.

Don’t Be Marvin the ARVN! Click like on the Unprecedented Mediocrity page below or else ISIS wins. 


5 Replies to “Marvin the ARVN and the Iraqi Army”

  1. We have tried to install puppet governments in countries across the world for decades and it never seems to work very well. The problem is the people of that country have to have the drive to support that puppet government. Our intentions were probably good. We wanted to help people on this planet avoid living under a repressive government. On the face of it that is a noble motive. I was in Vietnam and witnessed the ARVN and Vietnamese marines first hand. The mentality was to survive more than to win. It seems the same is true in Iraq. While we go to these countries for short periods, the people who live there are typically there forever. They learn to bend with the wind rather than break. As Americans, we don’t understand not being inclined to fight for freedom. It’s such a basic principle for us, but not for the people who have lived under oppression all their lives. Our model of letting politicians wage war is the biggest mistake of the last 70 years. I agree that only politicians should make the decision to wage war. HOWEVER, once the decision is made, it should be left to the military to win the war. We cannot continue to be the world’s police force. Especially since we don’t get paid to do that, nor should it be our youth who die to try to instill an ideal in foreign lands which they do not understand.

  2. Remember the phrase they had? It was something like “inshallah” which meant God’s Will. If it was Gods will they would win but if they thought it wasn’t then they would just roll over and quit. I think they are like our kids. We can train them up in the way they should go but at some point they have to do for themselves. I think we were fools to leave that place when we did because we will have an interest there for as long as the oil flows. I would say give the Kurds their State and divide the rest among Kuwait, Saudi Arabi, And Syria and let Iraq fade into history.

  3. “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” Our politicians need to have that phrase tatooed on their hand when they take the oath of office. Jon Stewart has a bit that is entitled “Learning Curves are for Pussies” where he points out the parallels of the mistakes made in both those regions and our supposedly brilliant civilian leadership never seems to learn. Regarding the the fighting spirit, there is a line from the movie Patton that goes “Americans love a winner and will not tolerate a loser.” Our culture is steeped in our fighting tradition for independence as well as sports 24/7. If a country does not have that it will be tough to generate that warrior spirit en masse. Individuals fighters will do well, but the majority will not.

  4. Where are the DI comments???? I was really looking forward to some colorful conjuring of conjunctions! But again I don’t know if mine could read or not!

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