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October 10, 2009
(Part four in a series that began here)
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....
Setting aside the absurdity of John McCain as leader of neocons, the idea that Republicans would love nothing more than to depict President Obama as soft on national security is undeniably true. (McCain himself is probably best described as a proponent of sufficient troops for the mission - his advocacy now is no different than his position on Iraq: Mr. McCain's "early and consistent call," which began in the fall of 2003, was long dismissed by the White House, which insisted that the president was following the advice of his commanders. Mr. McCain returned from each of his trips to Iraq arguing that the commanders needed more troops, and lambasted Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld as "irresponsible" for urging a quick turnover of the effort to Iraqis. If President Obama is upset at all by the Senator's current behavior, that's something else he and his predecessor can commiserate on at the next POTUS reunion.)
The political right, however, was ill-prepared to assault Obama using McChrystal as bludgeon. In fact, they had already begun a campaign to depict the general as the president's lackey, endangering the troops with politically correct ROE. This absurd narrative was just gaining slight traction when seemingly from out of the blue the "McChrystal vs Obama" theme became available. Attempts to reconcile the two perhaps hit their peak of absurdity with this depiction of General McChrystal as yet another Obamabot struggling not to be "thrown under the bus".
With so many on the right having knocked themselves out of the discussion early, it's hardly surprising that the political left was the side that took the bait offered with the leak of the general's Afghanistan assessment - and the 10,000 leaks from seemingly out of control anonymous "administration officials" that followed it - and jumped most eagerly into the perceived fray, defending their president (who had expressed neither opposition or discontent with his general, or even a desire for outside help in dealing with the matter) most vigorously from what they saw as a blatant attack by a career soldier who somehow never learned his place in the chain of command.
Now, however, they're discovering the error of their ways. And by golly, it's that mean ol' neocon McCain who was actually behind this whole thing!
Buried a little further down in Klein's piece (well below "two brigades, or 10,000 troops, will probably be sent to secure Kandahar city and environs, and two other brigades will be sent to train and advise the Afghan security forces.") is a little line you'd hardly notice...
Several of the principals involved in Obama's strategy review have told me that their ultimate position on troop levels will depend on whether a plausible government, newly committed to reform, emerges when the Afghanistan election process is finally completed.
Maybe you weren't even supposed to notice that. Just as no one was really supposed to notice this last August:
The timing of Gen. McChrystal's primary assessment remains in flux. It was initially due in mid-August, but the commander was summoned to a secret meeting in Belgium last week with Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and told to take more time. Military officials say the assessment will now be released sometime after the Aug. 20 vote.
But it's the real story on what's been going on in Washington. Karzai, you see, aint' showin' the proper respects. Maybe he's even skimming off the top, and you let someone get away with stuff like that right under your nose, you look weak. And sometimes in cases like that you obviously got to lean on a guy. If he thinks you need him more than he needs you, then you got to send him a message, remind him who's boss. It's strictly business, see?
And maybe there are signs that business is working pretty good, or else you really would have seen a much bigger story surrounding the firing of the American representative to the UN Afghan mission over the issue of election fraud instead of odd comments like this:
With American officials increasingly accepting the idea that Mr. Karzai will be the next president despite a large number of well-documented irregularities in the election, Mr. Galbraith's stance put him at odds with both the Obama administration and the United Nations.
And nothing from the US Ambassador to the UN on the subject even as she did the weekend talk show circuit immediately afterward, and chatted about troop levels instead.
But who knows, maybe that story will turn out big after all. Maybe it was just briefly eclipsed by all the fixation on the story of a general who was over the line. (Something the general didn't appreciate one bit, I'm sure*.) Maybe Hamid ain't really got the message after all. But for now, at least now that we know the whole McChrystal vs Obama thing was actually just John McCain making trouble, we can get back to business.
Hellavagood game though - and every American got to play a part.
Previously: Smoke signals
* "...one tragedy of being an honest and decent person is that you will allow influential actors in your system of government to spread misperceptions of your presumed disloyalty precisely because you are loyal to the system."
Posted by Greyhawk / October 10, 2009 7:43 AM | Permalink
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
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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