Greetings! You are reading an article from The Mudville Gazette. To reach the front page, with all the latest news and views, click the logo above or "main" below. Thanks for stopping by!
September 28, 2009
Hanky PankyBy Greyhawk
According to senior administration officials, the Afghan war plan that President Barack Obama announced in March -- which called for a comprehensive and manpower-intensive counterinsurgency strategy -- was built around the assumption that Mr. Karzai would emerge from last month's elections with new legitimacyThe "credible partner" statement is correct. And the latest conventional wisdom in Washington is that election fraud has destroyed any hope for Hamid Karzai to be that partner in Afghanistan. But is that fraud story really news, or just newly convenient? Here's a brief look back at the fast and furious first few weeks of "Barack Obama's war"
Foreign policy evolution, or revolution?
Dining on platters of rice and lamb at the heavily fortified presidential palace in Kabul, Biden and his colleagues grilled Karzai about reports of corruption and the growing opium trade in the country, which the president disingenuously denied. An increasingly impatient Biden challenged Karzai's assertions until he lost his temper. Biden finally stood up and threw down his napkin, declaring, "This meeting is over," before he marched out of the room with Hagel and Kerry.Whatever the answer to my question, that recent New Republic account of a February 2008 dinner party at the Presidential Palace in Kabul certainly illustrates one approach to diplomacy - and a departure from others:
It was a similar story nearly a year later. As Obama prepared to assume the presidency in January, he dispatched Biden on a regional fact-finding trip. Again Biden dined with Karzai, and, again, the meeting was contentious. Reiterating his prior complaints about corruption, Biden warned Karzai that the Bush administration's kid-glove treatment was over; the new team would demand more of him.
Fair enough. We won, as the saying goes, and you better get used to a new sheriff in town - one who knows what fancy napkins are for.
So what, exactly, has been done beyond napkin toss and stompaway? Let's move a few weeks forward to February, for Karzai's point of view:
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.
Quite a sad story for Valentines Day. But if the President was otherwise engaged, other specialists were available:
Who's "right"? Well certainly some corruption is present in any government - this is no excuse for whatever level may exist anywhere - but certainly one measure of excess is the opinion of the governed. That said, these February, 2009 poll results ("jointly commissioned by the BBC, ABC News of America and ARD of Germany") from Afghanistan are worth a look:
In your view, what is the biggest problem facing Afghanistan as a whole? And after that, what is the next biggest problem?
How much progress do you think ____ is making in providing a better life for Afghans in the future?
How would you rate the work of:
Obviously different answers could be found in different areas (what government? in some) but it's worth noting that efforts to "connect the people to the government" - difficult as those may be when pursued by those viewed slightly less favorably - wouldn't be starting from zero.
Days later, the Times unveiled the year-old napkin story:
Between platters of lamb and rice, Mr. Biden and two other American senators questioned Mr. Karzai about corruption in his government, which, by many estimates, is among the worst in the world...
In spite of the hanky throwing, stomping, claims, counter claims, finger pointing, accusations, denials, and other diplomatic niceties - within days President Obama announced his "Afghan troops surge":
The move made good on a long-time campaign promise:
"Yes, I think we need more troops. I've been saying that for over a year now. And I think that we have to do it as quickly as possible, because it's been acknowledged by the commanders on the ground the situation is getting worse, not better." - October, 2008
And, the White House added, the "17,000 troops would deploy to Afghanistan ahead of the Afghan national elections scheduled for August 20, significantly building up the 38,000 US force battling the spreading insurgency" even though "US intelligence has warned that endemic corruption and the government's inability to deliver services and protect the populace has eroded its legitimacy."
The new troops could be a down payment on an even larger influx of U.S. forces that has been widely expected this year, and it will get forces in place in time for the increase in fighting that usually comes with warmer weather and ahead of national midyear elections.However
Obama last week ordered a strategic review of U.S. policy in Afghanistan and Pakistan, headed by former CIA officer Bruce Riedel, Richard Holbrooke, Obama's special representative for the two countries, and Michele Flournoy, the undersecretary of defense for policy.
Meanwhile, back in Afghanistan:
That was the first week of March. By the end of that month, the strategic review was complete.
Posted by Greyhawk / September 28, 2009 11:30 AM | Permalink
Welcome to the Dawn Patrol, our daily roundup of information on the War on Terror and other topics - from the MilBlogs and various sources around the world. If you're a blogger, you can join the conversation. If you link to any of these stories, add a ... Read More
When you want to know at least one side of the story of the political battles in Washington, Joe Klein is as good a source as any:In fact, most of the hoo-hah about Obama's Afghanistan strategy review has been a matter of smoke and mirrors....Why, then... Read More
A few more cards on the table - as evident from this Times (London) account (headline: "White House seeks to explain its hesitations on Afghanistan") the Obama administration has come as close as it likely ever will to acknowledging the story behind th... Read More
(Part one here) ***** As the scheduled November 7 second round election date draws near, last minute efforts to replace the Karzai government in Afghanistan are moving into high gear. From London:Dr Abdullah Abdullah is meeting his main allies in Kabul... Read More
Good news (via the Dawn Patrol): Gen. Stanley McChrystal Says Tide Is Turning in Afghanistan. If he felt otherwise we could certainly go ahead and pop smoke. So, "what would it take for you to say to yourself, 'this can't be done'?" Diane Sawyer asked ... Read More
(Live video feed ended) (Quick aside - well, this is very different from some of the General's previous experiences before this august body... serious people talking serious business here. Unfortunately, the cynical Greyhawk thinks that should ensure ... 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...)
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.
Furthermore, I will occasionally use satire or parody herein. The bottom line: it's my house.
I like having visitors to my house. I hope you are entertained. I fight for your right to free speech, and am thrilled when you exercise said rights here. Comments and e-mails are welcome, but all such communication is to be assumed to be 1)the original work of any who initiate said communication and 2)the property of the Mudville Gazette, with free use granted thereto for publication in electronic or written form. If you do NOT wish to have your message posted, write "CONFIDENTIAL" in the subject line of your email.
Original content copyright © 2003 - 2011 by Greyhawk. Fair, not-for-profit use of said material by others is encouraged, as long as acknowledgement and credit is given, to include the url of the original source post. Other arrangements can be made as needed.
Contact: greyhawk at mudvillegazette dot com