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February 14, 2009
Spending Valentines Day waiting for the phone to ring?By Greyhawk
...sad, if so, but you aren't the only one:
Kabul: Afghanistani President Hamid Karzai admitted on Friday that he had not spoken to Barack Obama since the new US president assumed office last month and conceded that he had become increasingly isolated as American support drained away.I'll assume the U.S. President has been too busy with this stimulus thing I've been hearing about. But now that it's all but a done deal, maybe that phone will ring...
Or else maybe he's just not that into you.
Update: I probably should make this clear - a new President should speak to leaders with whom his nation is allied in war early and often. Unbelievable that the first call would be one month down on the "things to do" list.
That said, I find this comment from Stephen Biddle quite sensible. He's responding to the question "Putting aside questions of whether we should have even been in Iraq in the first place, thus creating the need for a surge, might we see this same strategy in Afghanistan, where we should have had a surge a long time ago? Isn't that where our attention should be focused now?"
Stephen Biddle: US strategic attention is definitely refocusing on Afghanistan. And there will clearly be a shift of resources - as well as attention - from Iraq to AFG. The pace of that shift, however, is a key unresolved decision for now. My own preference is for a slower shift rather than a faster one. This is partly because I see a continuing need for substantial US forces in Iraq to provide a crucial peacekeeping role. But it's also because I think we need to keep the strategic interests at stake in these two conflicts in context. Failure in Iraq is still possible, and threatens profound US interests in the stability of the Persian Gulf. Afghanistan is important, too, but its importance is less direct than sometimes supposed in the US debate, and does not necessarily dominate the scale of our continuing interests in Iraq. The key US interest in AFG is now across the border in Pakistan. We invaded Afghanistan because bin Laden used it as a base for the 9-11 attacks, but bin Laden is no longer in Afghanistan - by all accounts, bin Laden and the AQ global base structure is now in Pakistan. The stability of Pakistan is a critical US security interest - about the only way AQ is likely to get its hands on a nuclear weapon is if Pakistan collapses or its government is toppled and loses control of its nuclear stockpile. Chaos in Afghanistan makes the threat to Pakistani stability worse (the Taliban is a cross-border Pashtun movement with important connections to other Pakistani Islamists), but our actual influence over events in Pakistan is pretty limited. And our ability to ensure Pakistani stability by defeating the Taliban in Afghanistan has important limits, too. We can make things *worse* by failing in AFG, but we can't make things all that much *better* by succeeding there. The result is still a very important US security interest in AFG, but the view one sometimes hears that Iraq is a sideshow for real US interests whereas AFG is central because bin Laden planned 9-11 from there is overstated.Still more: The Afghanistan section of the latest Dawn Patrol is full of related must-reads, from Feinstein's slip to the "Mumbai style" attacks in Kabul to the future role of the British military and the war on poppies - and, as always, first-hand reports from milbloggers there, too. If Obama ever finds time to talk to Karzai there should be no shortage of topics.
Posted by Greyhawk / February 14, 2009 5:24 PM | Permalink
November 26, 2010
I think anyone who's ever pondered the "comment" option - once only available on blogs and bulletin boards, now ubiquitous on almost any web site - will appreciate this:
The so-called faculty of writing is not so much a faculty of writing as it is a faculty of thinking. When a man says, "I have an idea but I can't express it"; that man hasn't an idea but merely a vague feeling. If a man has a feeling of that kind, and will sit down for a half an hour and persistently try to put into writing what he feels, the probabilities are at least 90 percent that he will either be able to record it, or else realize that he has no idea at all. In either case, he will do himself a benefit.
That's wisdom from the past, captured for posterity at the US Naval Institute, shared via the web on the institute's 137th anniversary.
From their about page:
"The Naval Institute has three core activities," among them, History and Preservation:
The Naval Institute also has recently introduced Americans at War, a living history of Americans at war in their own words and from their own experiences. These 90-second vignettes convey powerful stories of inspiration, pride, and patriotism.
Take a look at the collection, and you'll see it's not limited to accounts from those who served on ships at sea, members of the other branches are well-represented.
I'm fortunate to have met USNI's Mary Ripley, she's responsible for the institute's oral history program (and she's the daughter of the late John Ripley, whose story is told here). She also deserves much credit for their blog. ("We're not the Navy nor any government agency. Blog and comment freely.") We met at a milblog conference - Mary knew (and I would come to realize) that milbloggers are the 21st-century version of exactly what the US Naval Institute is all about. Once that light bulb came on in my head, I mentioned a vague idea for a project to her - milblogs as the 21st century oral history that they are.
"Put that in writing," she said (of course - see first paragraph above!) - and here's part of the result.
Shortly after the first tent was pitched by the American military in Iraq a wire was connected to a computer therein, and the internet was available to a generation of Americans at war - many of whom had grown up online. From that point on, at any given moment, somewhere in Iraq a Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine was at a keyboard sharing the events of his or her day with the folks back home. While most would simply fire off an email, others took advantage of the (then) relatively new online blogging platforms to post their thoughts and experiences for the entire world to see. The milblog was born - and from that moment to this stories detailing everything from the most mundane aspects of camp life to intense combat action (often described within hours of the event) have been available on the web...
And et cetera - but since you're reading this on a milblog, you probably knew that. And you know that milblogs aren't just blogs written by troops at war, that many friends, family members, and supporters likewise documented their story of America at war online in near-real time, as those stories developed.
The diversity in membership of that group is broad, the one thing we all have in common is the impulse to make sense of the seemingly senseless, and communicate the tale - for each of us that impulse was strong enough to overcome whatever barriers prevent the vast majority of people from doing the same. Everyone at some point has some vague idea they believe should be shared - we were the people who, from some combination of internal and external urging, found and spent those many half hours persistently trying to write it down.
But where will all that be in another 137 years? Or five or ten, for that matter. That's something I've asked myself since at least 2004 - when I wrote this:
Membership in the ghost battalion has grown in the years since, and an ever growing majority of those abandoned-but-still-standing sites are vanishing. Have you checked out Lt Smash's site lately? How about Sgt Hook's? If you're a long-time milblog reader you know the first widely-read milblog from Operation Iraq Freedom and the first widely-read milblog from Afghanistan are both gone from the web. If you're a relative newcomer to this world you may never even have heard of them - or the dozens upon dozens of others who carried forth the standard they set down.
If you have a vague notion that something should be done about that, (a notion I've heard expressed more than once...) then you and I and the good folks at the US Naval Institute are in agreement. Preserving the history documented by the milbloggers is just one of the goals of the milblog project, the once-vague idea that we're now making real.
And it's a big idea, if I say so myself - too big to explain in one simple blog post, so stand by for more. Likewise, it's too big a task to be accomplished by just one person. So if you're a milblogger (and exactly what is a milblogger? is a topic for much further discussion on its own) I'm asking for your help. All I'll really need is just a little bit (maybe just one or two of those half hours...) of your time, and your willingness to tell the tale.
We've already made history, it's time to save it.
(More to follow...)
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