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September 22, 2009
A source close to General McChrystal speaksBy Greyhawk
More accurately, writes.
The thing that annoyed me most about the dozen or so reporters who called today chasing stories on the assessment (aside from the fact that it was clear that only a couple had even bothered to skim the document before calling) is that most of them are intent on forcing this story into the tired journalistic formula of the military man versus the politician. Did McChrystal leak the assessment himself to force the President's hand? Will he resign if the President rejects the approach recommended in the assessment? Questions like these show a reflexive craving for controversy and a bewildering ignorance of the fact that civil-military relations in the United States have matured in the 58 years since General MacArthur's arrogant public confrontation with President Truman. More importantly, they show a blatant disregard for how such a narrative could be exploited by partisans who would accuse General McChrystal of exceeding his military authority or President Obama of not supporting American troops.
Read the whole thing - but this quote is key "This story is not about an argument between two powerful men. It is about an argument between two or more sets of strategic assumptions concerning the mission and desired end state in Afghanistan." (I rarely use bold emphasis - but in this case I added it.)
It's always easier to tell the story as mano a mano than to explain the complexities and introduce the cast of thousands, but in some regards that's the difference between fiction and non-fiction. (Or maybe intended reader/audience age level is the more appropriate consideration.)
Added: "an argument between two or more sets"... I suppose without adding a bit more I'm as guilty as anyone of taking an easy way out. Admittedly, to expand that phrase to a point of full understanding would be impossible, in part because there's truth to the old adage: the more I learn the less I know. But I've followed (and contributed to) with great interest the debates hinted at in that brief phrase. I lack the clarity of the partisan, or one who has invested anything beyond time and thought to the subject matter, but I offer this example of what is actually a much more multi-dimensional argument: Counterinsurgency vs anything else. Silly, wonkish stuff; geeky, insider academic, ivory tower, think tank arguments that often can't get past semantics (COIN is nation building!) and are nothing more than a playground for those divorced from the real world... until one ponders the impact of their resolution on who gets what contract and how many F22s or (insert any other item here) we're going to buy or who gets to be president next.
Easy enough to toss them all out, right? Especially when they're carrying on while our boys are dying in the desert. I've certainly grown increasingly frustrated with the lot, something I expressed in a comment I added (in the voice of an imaginary and generic "scholar") to a post here:
Central to the (not entirely serious) post was a Sonny and Cher video, hence some admittedly awful puns are included in that bottom line - but whether my attempt at humor is appreciated or not, I do anticipate a day when, right or wrong or not applicable, all involved in the debate (or not) explain how right they (and only they, and very few others) were. We're at that day with regards to the surge in Iraq (and everything Vietnam, for that matter) - it's to our detriment that day coincides with big issues in Afghanistan.
There's much to ponder here, but that's enough for one humble blog post... but more to follow.
Posted by Greyhawk / September 22, 2009 1:19 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...)
The Mudville Gazette is the on-line voice of an American warrior and his wife who stands by him. They prefer to see peaceful change render force of arms unnecessary. Until that day they stand fast with those who struggle for freedom, strike for reason, and pray for a better tomorrow.
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