American Gurkhas

John Robb is asking an interesting question: if we’re going to be fighting/occupying large parts of the Middle East for the foreseeable future, why doesn’t the US Army have an Arab Division? There are probably lots of patriotic Arab-Americans who’d be willing to volunteer, as well as non-citizens who’d be eager to serve in exchange for US citizenship. If such a unit was modeled on the British Gurkha Brigade, it could be very successful — the Gurkhas have a fearsome reputation as one of the world’s most elite military formations, forged over almost 100 years of fighting for Britain from World War I to today (there are Gurkhas in Iraq from Umm Qasr to Nasiriyah and beyond). Another similar example is the valorous conduct in World War Two of the Nisei units, formations of Japanese-Americans who fought in the Pacific Theater against Japanese forces with great distinction. (They, too, were motivated in no small part by a desire to prove their loyalty — many actually volunteered straight from the internment camps the US government had ordered them into!) Having Arab troops on the ground in American uniform would definitely help ease the perception of imperialist meddling, and provide an example of valor for Arab-Americans to point to with pride.

(Note, please, that this is different from segregating all Arab-Americans in the Army away from other soldiers. I certainly don’t think we should go in that direction. Ideally an Arab Division would be comprised entirely of volunteers — Arab-American soldiers who wished to stay with their current formations could do so. And an Arab Division could draw volunteers from an entirely new pool — Arabs who are not, currently, Americans — who would fight for the promise of citizenship.)