Following Lex’s advice, I e-mailed Michael Yon about an answer to our Oliver’s question on my previous post. Irene Pinsonneault responded that the best example was in Yon’s two-part dispatch:
1) Desires of the Human Heart I, which describes the respect with which the The 1-4 Cavalry from Fort Riley, Kansas take over the The Pontifical Babel College.
In the latter, Yon observes:
Some people at home complain that we will lose more soldiers by putting more out with Iraqis. They probably are right. Heavily armed Iraqi police and soldiers have had hundreds of chances to kill me personally, and haven’t done so yet. They are not all our enemies.
Though we will almost certainly lose more soldiers by weaving them more tightly with Iraqi forces and people, this is a price we must be willing to face. I might feel guilty writing that we have to take these chances if I were not planning to stay out with them.
The new troops who are flooding into Iraq are coming with an entirely new plan in mind. They will move out into the neighborhoods. In each of nearly 80 neighborhoods, our people will make “Combat Outposts” and staff those with American and Iraqi forces or police.
These dispatches were from April 25 and April 30. Comments like this should have prepared us for more casualties in the early summer months; they also should have prepared us for the more positive news in the months following.
Picked up by other services, these describe areas in which many have abandoned their homes. As Americans moved into emptied buildings, the commanding officers repeatedly gave orders of ways to care and renovate – they are clearly treating the buildings and what’s left not as the bounty of battle but see themselves as caretakers of the property of those who will return – e.g., look at the attitude toward the books of the college library. (Of course, given that it was a battle area, one of the first things they do is set up a garbage site and haul off what they and the inhabitants see as trash.)
This is well after Petraeus has been confirmed – and well before the full component of the surge has arrived.
We have free will and some will act heroically and some will not when tested. However, we might ask how much better are we likely to act if we see ourselves through Michael Yon’s lens than if we see ourselves through Scott Thomas’s? And while I have no doubt that it is important to recognize the extent of human evil (which Yon, by immersing himself in the battle has a stronger notion and describes more horrifically than someone like Thomas), it is also important to recognize the extent of human good. Yon helps us all by describing those (American and Iraqi) who demonstrate human possibility.