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June 2, 2009
McChrystal/Stavridas Confirmation HearingsBy Greyhawk
Here's the video and liveblogging, so consider those thoughts as first impressions:
Today is an opportunity for the Senate to focus the eyes of the nation back on Afghanistan and demand of General McChrystal how, exactly, he intends to carry out the president's strategy. How will he measure success? How will he secure the population? How will he ensure the passage of a free and fair election in August? These are serious question and are more important than either the death of Pat Tillman or the alleged abuse of detainees. (And this blog has, for the record, always taken a firm stance against torture.)But question one was on the alleged abuse of detainees.
However, after quickly hitting that topic (and the Tillman issue) the focus shifted to the pertinent questions on strategy and plans, and for the most part the Senators stayed focused. I'd note too that Levin asked the abuse question and McCain brought up Tillman - in what I saw as a bi-partisan acknowledgment of those issues and their level of significance (a hurdle to be quickly cleared before getting down to business).
The political and strategic levels of war are deeply intertwined, often to the detriment of those whose business is the strategic. And confirmation hearings are one example where the overlap is apparent - at least to those who are aware of the difference in the first place. In the past (think Petraeus here) the injection of the political has been excessive, to the great detriment of the process. The more political the theater, the more simple the task for those providing media coverage - you don't have to understand the issues to report the blow-by-blow of a fight. (Recall that when Hillary Clinton called General Petraeus a liar that became the story.)
Much of the anticipation of a focus on abuse or Pat Tillman has been a reflection of the desire for that focus on the part of those who don't want to really develop any understanding of the strategic (or operational/tactical) issues confronting us in Afghanistan (and Pakistan) today. But the tone of this hearing has been markedly different than those of the past. The balance between the political and the strategic has been rediscovered. (That may or may not be obvious from the resulting coverage - we'll see.)
Everyone in D.C. wants the U.S. to "succeed" in Afghanistan (even Lindsey Graham wasn't afraid to say he supports the President). Ironically, Exum's (valid) lament that "there is no real sense of urgency in Washington to deal with Afghanistan" probably reflects that reality; it's now viewed as a strategic/operational/tactical issue, and few congressman (or reporters) have the experience or knowledge base to weigh in on that sort of thing.
Quick notes (paraphrasing):
McChrystal doesn't like "AfPak" term. Some of the kewl kidz are going to have to adjust.
Graham to McChrystal (after McChrystal assured him that Adm Mullen had told him to "ask for what you need"): Will the administration support your requests for additional resources? McChrystal: "I don't know." (Update: here's a closer look at that exchange.)
Whoops - spoke too fast: Webb is hammering away on the Tillman issue. I like McChrystal's reminder that we were also fighting wars at the time.
Say, maybe they could have some sort of separate hearings on Tillman? Oh, nevermind...
(By the way, here's the transcript from the 2007 hearings on "Misleading Information from the Battlefield". McChrystal's name is misspelled "McCrystal" if you want to search for it.
Say this out loud: "Poppy crops". It sounded funny when McCain said it, too.
General: War in Afghanistan is `winnable' (AP/Robert Burns)
Posted by Greyhawk / June 2, 2009 10:12 AM | Permalink
Yesterday's hearings on Capitol Hill were kind of important, right? I mean, the confirmation of a controversial new commander for the war in Afghanistan should have attracted as much attention as the Spring 2007 hearing with General Petraeus and Ambass... Read More
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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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