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“Boots On The Ground”

“Our only hope will lie in the frail web of understanding of one person for the pain of another.” [John Dos Passos, December 1940]

“Boots on the ground” refers to active ground troops in a military campaign, men or women who are physically present and fighting in a war zone. The term can be traced to a 1980 interview with General Volney F Warner, concerning the Iranian Hostage Crisis and published in the Christian Science monitor.

In shorthand, “Boots on the ground” means having combat troops deployed in a foreign country. Little known,  a few days prior to the Russian invasion, Ukrainian President Volodvmyr Zelensky announced the formation of a new military unit, the International Legion for the Territorial defense of Ukraine.  Following this call to arms ,separately, he stated, “Every friend of Ukraine who wants to join Ukraine in defending the country, please come over. We will give you weapons. Everyone who is defending Ukraine is a hero.” Subsequently, he claimed that 16,000 foreigners had signed up.

One recalls Obama saying, repeatedly, that he opposed American “boots on the ground” in far flung parts of the world, yet his administration made exceptions for special operation forces.

The Atlantic ‘s “Cliché of the Moment: ‘Boots on the Ground’ “by Kathy Gilsinan” commences with the words, “Since when did footwear decide whether or not America is at war? The following paragraph from this well written article is illustrative of the commonness of the given phenomena.

“Earnest went on to detail how the president had been ‘quite clear’ about situations ‘where combat boots have been on the ground inside of Syria’ including during  a failed mission to rescue hostages in 2014, and a raid in May that killed an ISIS leader. In this sense, Obama’s initial statement in August 2013 regarding US military action in Syria—‘in no event are we considering any kind of military action that would involve ‘boots on the ground’—was rendered inaccurate not by the upcoming deployment announced last week, but by previous actions revealed after the fact in recent months.”

Biden has consistently refuted the idea of having “Boots on the ground”, his rationalizing being the probability of an ensuing WW3. Rather than engaging logic, it is as if he can be guided by ill equipped politicians. Would he indulge himself in the same thought had his family members faced such violence and brutality.

BBC News Magazine Monitor of 30 September, 2014 asks the Question ” Where does  the phrase ‘boots on the ground’ come from?’ The lead answers the question”:

“Boots on the ground” is short hand for combat troops deployed in a foreign country.  Barack Obama and David Cameron have both used it –it’s a phrase that is constantly cropping up in the news. But where did it come from?

The earliest known use of the precise phrase we accept today occurs dates back to  1980. This was the conclusion reached by the late New York Times columnist, William Safire, “who investigated the subject in 2008” with the help of an army historian. The historian rifled back through published sources until he found an instance  of the expression in a Christian Science Monitor [CSM] story written during the Iranian Hostage Crisis. The reporter attributed  the coinage to a US General Volney Warner.

New America’s publication , “The war is out of our hands” represents a firm endorsement of the subject matter. An extract follows:

” Foreign belligerents in Libya are not only’ on the ground’. High above the mercenaries, fleets of cheap, but lethal drones and foreign  fixed wing aircraft have filled Libya’s skies, piloted by personnel from  the United Arab Emirates [backing Haftar] and Turkey [backing the Tripoli government], as well as Russian aviators  and mercenary pilots from other countries . Three in total, there are at least ten foreign  states that are militarily contributing to the Libyan conflict.”

Normality provides a clear understanding of militias engaging in a war against each other. It most certainly does not consider the specific targeting on civilians including children and children. Does not democracy focus on human rights. Would Biden and NATO rule out “boots on the ground” if their children were facing shear brutality? As the extraordinary Holocaust survivor, Professor Viktor Frankel once said “Being human means being conscious and being responsible.”

Fortunately, there are world citizens who are both courageous and responsible. As an example, from the website , C Democracy published , “Foreign Fighters: Taking the fight to Russia in Ukraine” by Claudia Ciobanu on March 22, 2022, we learn that when Russia attacked Ukraine on February 24, with thousands of troops and equipment entering Ukraine from Belarus in Poland , they were among the first to mobilize to provide help to Ukrainian refugees.

Already experienced in providing support to their compatriots escaping repression, Belarusians set up databases to match refugees with homes and drove to the border to pick up Ukrainian families.

According to Ales Zarembiuk, head of Belarusian House, “dozens of Belarusian fighters have already gone to fight over there, with the most recent group departing on March 15.

War on The Rocks:”Making the Most of Foreign Volunteers “in Ukraine” by Austin C Doctor published on March 7, 2022 is very much to the point. Judging by the foibles of the media, it is somewhat unknown.

Just days into Russia’s attack, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announced the formation of a new military unit, the International Legion for the Territorial Defense of Ukraine. In a separate call to arms over the weekend, he stated: “Every friend of Ukraine who wants to join Ukraine in defending the country, please come over. We will give you weapons—Everyone who is defending Ukraine is a hero.” On Thursday, he claimed that 16,000 foreigners  had signed up.

Austin Doctor remarks, “To be sure, foreigners offer Ukraine forces an immediate boost in manpower and may help stave off military defeat.”—-“In the immediate term, using the influx of foreign volunteers to support the defense of key urban areas may prove especially efficient. John Spencer, an expert in urban warfare, recently estimated that it usually takes 5 attackers to 1 defender to successfully  execute an urban assault.” Concluding:

“Ukraine has flung its military open wide to foreigners. As they pour in, the host may find many of their new guests to be capable and committed advocates of their cause. Foreign volunteers stand to offer a much needed, immediate boost in manpower. But as more arrive and stay for longer, new vulnerabilities and points of friction may emerge.”

There is truth to the fact that one cannot make direct comparisons between the Holocaust and other manifestations of disgusting human behavior, particularly its scale. That having been said, what comes to mind almost immediately is a work of the late Rabbi Jonathan Sacks ZTL, “To Heal a Fractured World – The Ethics of Responsibility ” and in particular, ” A conception of human life without responsibility fails to do justice to human dignity and is no way to ensure our survival as a species.”

That the refusal to recognize the saving of human lives as displayed by Biden, his “useful idiots” and NATO replicated the “it’s not my business” as portrayed in David S. Wyman’s “Abandonment of the Jews.” Assistance to Ukraine occurred far too late in the day as has been the failure to recognize the considerably larger Russian army when compared to the Ukraine army. True, Zelensky did not request “boots on the ground” but he did request a no-fly zone. The combination of all these items would have made a major difference to saving the lives of civilians and by so doing adhering to Judea and Christian ethics.

With meeting after meeting and far too little action, this writer recalls the words of his father “talk is cheap”. Even more so, the words of Polish Jewish underground courier, Jan Karski [Kozielewski], “Jewish leaders abroad won’t be interested. At eleven in the morning you will begin telling them about the anguish of the Jews in Poland, but at one  o’clock they will ask you to halt the narrative so they can have lunch. This is  a difference which cannot be bridged. They will go on lunching at the regular hour at their favorite  restaurant, so they cannot understand what is happening in Poland.”

As recently as April 21, 2022, Commentary released Noah Rothman’s “Barack Obama Made the World a More Dangerous Place”. Obama, who pledged “change” for America. Rothman asks, “What similarities are there between 2013-2014 and 2021-2022 except for the presence of a Democrat in the Oval Office and the prospect of a renewed nuclear deal with Iran in which Russia plays an instrumental role? ” He answers, “American presidents wield a lot of power, and Barack Obama used hid to lay the foundations for the more dangerous world we all now inhabit.”

About the Author
Alex Rose was born in South Africa in 1935 and lived there until departing for the US in 1977 where he spent 26 years. He is an engineering consultant. For 18 years he was employed by Westinghouse until age 60 whereupon he became self-employed. He was also formerly on the Executive of Americans for a Safe Israel and a founding member of CAMERA, New York (Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America and today one of the largest media monitoring organizations concerned with accuracy and balanced reporting on Israel). In 2003 he and his wife made Aliyah to Israel and presently reside in Ashkelon.
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