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July 13, 2009
I posted this on a comment thread elsewhere - an earlier comment I left had been misunderstood, I thought I should explain where I was coming from. In writing it down I realized I had extended a courtesy I should likewise do here. Given that we are at war (this point is critical, what I say here has no bearing on whether we should be at war or not), where do I stand? Do I support the effort? Do I approve of the strategy and tactics currently employed? The answer is yes, but what does that mean?
We are right now at the beginning of a new phase in the war in Afghanistan and Iraq. Now seems a fine time for a bit of introspection, as things are about to get interesting. Reasonable people can differ, but those who haven't considered where they stand on such a topic as this could probably benefit from a brief pause to do so.
I believe it's foolish to expect or predict success for any given strategy or tactic - which is different then saying any specific strategy or tactic shouldn't be tried. But very few people with any experience express unqualified belief in the inevitable success of any plan at it's outset in the first place. "Worth trying" or "best option available" is about as far as anyone can reasonably go. Unreasonable people will also support the effort, however.
On the other hand, there's no shortage of those who will predict inevitable failure and disaster for the specific strategy or tactic. They may or may not have a different plan in mind; their motives may be clear or not, as might their intentions. For various reasons some will accuse others of painting "rosy scenarios" for merely saying some version of the reasonable statements I used above. (Being compared to the unreasonable members of that first group will annoy the reasonable members beyond belief. This will increase the glee with which some will do it.) Another large percentage of people will simply declare the whole thing a waste of time from which we should flee. In time the distinction between people described in this paragraph ("group B") especially when viewed by those in the previous paragraph ("group A") will blur, and vice-versa. Because group B is confident they will be loud - both adjectives relative to group A, whose best response will be some version of "shut up and let us fight the war." (But the unreasonable group A members will make unreasonable arguments that the reasonables will then be accused of supporting.)
On the battlefield we'll try things out, the enemy will respond, we will adapt or die. Each adaptation will be declared a small victory for group B. Ultimately, whether we adapt and win or lose, group B will claim they were right all along. Group A-reasonables will just be glad it's over. No one will care what the group A-unreasonables think or say.
In the real world we just completed that process with Iraq (this is different than saying Iraq is "over") and folks are switching teams for Afghanistan. I did the best I could to be a group-A reasonable member throughout Iraq (probably failed from time to time), and intend to do the same for Afghanistan. (Yes, I know it isn't the "new" war - but then again it is.)
So for those new to the group, welcome aboard. It sucks and the abuse is unrelenting. We're a minority, get used to it.
Posted by Greyhawk / July 13, 2009 3:45 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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