A New Enemy: A Letter From The Front

New Enemy

U.S, Army 37th Military Advisory Division Sept.–20–
Somewhere on the Syrian Border…

Dear Jane,

We arrived here last night. I don’t think I am supposed to tell you where “here” is but I think that is silly. With GPS and other technology the enemy must surely know where we are. No one is invisible anymore.

It is devilishly hot. It feels like 110 degrees in the shade. The new “No boots on the ground” directive is in effect so we have all been issued moccasins, not very good for a victory parade but they are supposed to be effective for sneaking up on the enemy and catching them by surprise. Anyway we have ample supplies in case they wear out. Speaking of the enemy I hope we get some guidance on who and where they are. In the good old days armies had distinctive uniforms and soldiers knew who they were supposed to kill. Here everyone wears the same raggedy clothes. We should have brought a supply of shirts saying “I am a moderate rebel” to distribute. Anyway, I think our job is to support and advise rather than kill. No one asked for my advice yet which is a good thing. As you know we had a crash course in Arabic before we left. I tried conversing with a fellow who looked harmless enough. He kept smiling and nodding. It turns out our instructor spoke with an Egyptian accent which no one here understands.

Before we left we were told of a vast coalition of people ready to fight with us. Maybe I will meet them later. Or maybe they are helping in other ways like rolling bandages or sending food packages.

We were also told that crushing and uprooting the Islamic State was not an easy task and that we were here for the long haul. But what I am wondering is how will we know when we have won? In the good old days and from what you see in the movies armistices were signed, and then there were unconditional surrenders. Treaties followed. Everyone shook hands and everyone went home. The End. But wars are not what they used to be. Anyway I hope I get someone to support and advise soon. Maybe he will even speak English.

Sorry if I sound downbeat. Hope you are well and I will write again as soon as I can.



  1. Nice letter Joe!
    Even our ‘good’ wars like World War II were not easy or heroic. You will like reading “The Guns at Last Light,” published last year, an amazing and brilliantly told history of the liberation of Europe in 1944-45. The push across France and into Germany was mainly about total destruction and slaughter. It’s hard to believe that Germany recovered or the hatred between nations ever healed.
    This might be the grave difference with war in the Middle East, that one side will defeat the other but the adversaries will never ever reconcile.

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