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October 20, 2009
The wicked game (part two)By Greyhawk
CNN: Karzai accepts Afghanistan election runoff. "Afghan President Hamid Karzai bowed to Western pressure Tuesday, agreeing to take part in a presidential runoff vote in two weeks." Not exactly the solution the Obama administration was hoping for; however, "Abdullah told CNN on Monday he was prepared to participate in a runoff, but said "the door is open" to other alternatives." Karzai is widely expected to win any runoff election.
"The international community and the Obama administration appear to favor the unity government rather than an election," said Khalilzad. "But you could get a government which is weak and divided and it would not have strong legitimacy," cautioned Khalilzad, who met both Karzai and Abdullah during his trip.
For now, at least, that position appears to have won the day. From the White House, President Obama announced "I welcome President Karzai's statement today accepting the Independent Electoral Commission's certification of the August 20 election results, and agreeing to participate in a second round of the election."
Karzai's decision was immediately hailed by U.S. Sen. John Kerry, one of several Western representatives who appeared alongside the Afghan president at Tuesday's delayed news conference.
It's admirable that President Obama, a product of the Chicago political machine, can't tolerate dealing with foreign governments tainted by corruption - as Karzai's government most assuredly is. Perhaps in Afghanistan he intends to establish the first government in world history to be free of accusations of criminal activity, greed or abuses of power. Or perhaps reality is close to that described last week, here:
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?
Or perhaps the truth lies somewhere else entirely. Whatever the case, the first strong indication that the Obama administration was going to enlist the aid of the U.S. military as pawns in a game of leverage over Karzai came not with the "leak" of General McChrystal's report, but with a slight change in timing of the due-date of the report a month prior:
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.
And the displeasure of "military officials" for their part in the plan could be clear from the leak of that story before the elections - or Secretary Gates' pushback hidden within other comments made regarding those elections shortly after the general's report was "leaked".
In fact, the corruption question regarding the Karzai government was of greater concern to the Obama administration than it was to the people of Afghanistan, who routinely expressed other concerns as far more significant problems for their country:
In your view, what is the biggest problem facing Afghanistan as a whole? And after that, what is the next biggest problem?
...and preferred local solutions to those imposed by foreign powers:
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:
But the "leak" of the McChrystal report, and subsequent "leaks" of alternatives to a counterinsurgency mission as part of the military package in Afghanistan (complete withdrawal - or even a substantial reduction of U.S. forces - was never seriously an option on the table) set the stage for pressuring Karzai to deal. Give us what you need and we'll use our troops to keep the country from descending into chaos; otherwise, we'll just stick around to occasionally kill terrorists and see what happens.
And while they initially gave hope to those who would prefer to exit Afghanistan and angered those who would prefer to "complete the mission" there, each and every leak and news report - from Woodward's scoop on the McChrystal report to "officials" describing the "Biden alternative plan" can be viewed now for what they always were - messages to Karzai: we don't need you.
But more recently, real leaks have also occurred, providing glimpses behind the scenes. Klein: "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." And a few days later, George Stephanopoulos reported "key questions tied to any troop recommendation" passed to him by administration officials - and all but one were tied to Karzai's responses to American demands:
Posted by Greyhawk / October 20, 2009 4:00 PM | Permalink
Hersh is so far off the mark here it would be astounding - if this were anyone other than Seymour Hersh. Given that much of the "rift" he's squawking about is a well-choreographed show for one man's consumption (not that "the Pentagon" enjoys its part ... Read More
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
(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
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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