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September 21, 2009
A beginner's guide to time (and other news)By Greyhawk
I may have alluded to this in an earlier post, but it's worth restating. General McChrystal's report is in the news, but not news. He was selected to command the mission in Afghanistan with the full approval of President Obama; his mission (in simple terms) was (and is) to execute the President's plan.
One of his first orders was to evaluate the situation and report back - the commander's assessment. This is routine at virtually any level of command anywhere; a commander is an "owner" responsible to his commander - upon accepting ownership he takes stock of what he owns. He evaluates his available resources (people and materiel) compared to the requirements of his mission and reports shortfalls in hopes they'll be corrected.
That's a generic description. For the specific case at hand, most of what the General has requested is no surprise, at least to anyone paying attention to the situation in Afghanistan. Those shortfalls have been identified elsewhere (and repeatedly) , in many cases by reporters (and others with other expertise) on the ground making independent judgment, so they are well known.
Less well known but still very much presumed a safe assumption is that the President would not like his field commander's report. Returning to generic terms - there is not much likable in a list of requirements. (Consider getting an estimate for costly home or car repair work and you'll be close enough to the reality of this - and the realization that any shock at the experience is most likely relative to the experience of the owner holding the estimate.)
Also presumed is that the issue was in negotiation - the President's Press Secretary has been fielding questions from reporters (in a very professional manner) on that topic for some time now. Likewise, that said negotiations were delicate is near certain, a concern leading to not only a close-hold on the report but a removal of the actual cost (any actual number of troops) from it to a separate report. One could draw several conclusions from this, among them that the assessment was thereby "leakable" - and perhaps could be done as a sort of inoculation (or trial balloon) against later revelations.
The unexpected (if not completely) angle is that said negotiation is not ongoing - or is at least insufficient given an as-yet unmentioned (in this discussion) resource: time. That story is found here, along with strong indications that patience - at least on the part of someone in the DoD (though a White House source can't be ruled out) - is rapidly diminishing. That may be justified, the amount of time available for negotiations (which is part of a finite but unknown "total time") - even if perceived differently between the parties involved - is undeniably something over which neither has control or certainty. In short, it can be negotiated but is subject to numerous third party input and controls - and most of those parties don't play fair. (This is one reason why time is a luxury the experienced soldier is generally safe in assuming he lacks in any great quantity - and a resource of which he harbors no illusion of control.)
Can the President find time for discussion this week? This story says it's "a possible problem" in a very busy week, with the "Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the drive of "rogue" nations toward nuclear power and uncertainty in the U.S. relationship with Russia" already on tap - not to mention an address to the U.N. on global warming. (Strike that - climate change. Oh, and Letterman tonight.)
Mercifully President Obama isn't distracted by Iraq. In overlooked news, the Third Infantry Division, veteran of the Thunder Run, a second tour in 2005, and the surge in 2007, is about to ship out for its fourth tour there. Combined with other units scheduled to deploy, the 30,000 total troops will enable pre-surge force levels to be maintained in Iraq.
As mentioned previously, much still to come on this topic, to be sure.
Posted by Greyhawk / September 21, 2009 1:52 PM | Permalink
There seems to be much confusion swirling around the Afghanistan strategy debate - which probably isn't helped by the fact that the arguments were well advanced long before the average person noticed there was one. Because of that, much of what's discu... Read More
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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