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September 28, 2009
One hour on warBy Greyhawk
Actually, 13 minutes. But General McChrystal is obviously capable of providing a lot of information in minimum time. No surprise in that. It's a good thing, sez I, that America got a chance to meet the man who's been leading a war they've only heard about from others.
His appointment last May to command U.S. and ISAF forces in Afghanistan was newsworthy - though it drew far less media attention than that of General David Petraeus' selection to lead MNF-I in 2007. But General Stan McChrystal is a quiet professional; he'd probably prefer not have to spend any more time in front of the cameras than he has to.
Watch CBS Videos Online
The claim that McChrystal's assessment somehow "stunned the White House" is TV drama, not news - it reaffirmed what they knew all along. The White House clearly wanted to control the timing of the public release of the report ("after the elections"); whether they succeeded in that or someone else jumped the gun is actually an unanswered question. (Current assumptions on that point certainly overwhelmingly favor the latter.)
Based on McChrystal's comment "...since I've been here the last two and a half months..." it appears this video was recorded sometime before his report was "leaked". McChrystal arrived in Afghanistan in mid-June and hit his three-month point in mid-September. That's a quibble, but given the Sep 21 publication of the report in the WaPo it's a significant one. It's at least worth remembering that 60 Minutes is not the nightly news; this video (or at least the McChrystal portion) is recent and newsworthy but not live from the front.
Another minor quibble - the observation that McChrystal's morning briefing is conducted before a large number of people is accurate, but that's not unusual for those types of briefings. Their function is to get everyone on the same page. If the reporter thought this was an amazing and unique thing, that speaks more to his experience at this sort of thing. TOCs do look crowded on first visits but that doesn't equate to popularity. (Afghan Army remote participation, on the other hand, might be something new. If so it's a great idea long overdue.)
But more notable (although subtle) is McChrystal's response to the assertion that he's under pressure not to ask for more troops. If he refuted that his words didn't make it through final editing.
Once is not enough.
Update: on the other hand, I see the attraction but honestly that detail isn't the big deal in this discussion. President Bush didn't do a whole lot of direct chatting with Petraeus, either. (But he did have Jack Keane.) What that no-contact is supposed to prove (arms-length or greater disinterest, presumably) could be true enough, but this is not solid supporting evidence of it and doesn't make the case. The big deal is that this isn't news, it's just more evidence of foot dragging that's been going on for weeks with no end in sight. (The report was due 10 August, it will soon be "outdated".) Obama knows what's going on but doesn't believe it to be urgent.
More: On the third hand, group discussion ain't the same as one-to-one (the first couple of comments point out most of the errors in the argument presented). Yes, Bush was more directly "plugged in" to the war in Iraq (and Afghanistan for that matter) than Obama is to any military action anywhere. No, that is not a violation of the sanctity of chain of command that Obama has restored. And yes, it is a reminder that Iraq '07 was a bigger issue than Afghanistan '09 - a reality Obama advisers are trying hard to downplay, at least. (Jones: "the challenges Obama faces in the Afghan war are more "complex" and "bigger than the surge" decision President George W. Bush faced..." - Holbrooke: "The war in Afghanistan will be "much tougher than Iraq,"...) True or not, the whole comparison issue sounds petty on one level - and that case certainly isn't bolstered by Obama's "restoration of the chain of command".
Want some really deep end stuff? Try here and here. (If you really want to send a message that you have no business discussing military issues, point out how little you know about chain of command by adding the Joint Chiefs to it.)
From the above examples comes the sad conclusion that those who put their own political ideologies above other considerations when the urge to pontificate strikes (or who let that ideology overwhelm their knowledge that they really are better off not delving into issues they either aren't qualified for or have been ignoring for a very long time) will just as likely defeat their own arguments. The sad part is it won't matter, the choirs tend to forgive and forget - rapidly. After all, tomorrow brings another sound bite.
Posted by Greyhawk / September 28, 2009 11:14 AM | 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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