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November 1, 2009
Abdullah Abdullah pulls out - should we?By Greyhawk
Abdullah Abdullah, Hamid Karzai's main rival for office of President of Afghanistan, has withdrawn from the scheduled November 7 runoff election there, saying his demands for ensuring a fraud-free election had not been met. However, he stopped short of calling for his supporters to boycott the vote.
Abdullah Abdullah - Obama's man in Afghanistan?
That's accurate - but it neglects to point out that Abdullah gained in percentage only because he had fewer votes declared fraudulent than Karzai did - a point lost in reports on the Afghan elections now focused exclusively on Karzai's numbers.
Few (in or out of Afghanistan) actually want a runoff election; weather, security, and voter apathy in the face of a predictable outcome are among the reasons - and "power sharing" is the ultimate goal. Current actions by any participants in the contest should be viewed as tactics used to gain leverage to negotiate from positions of strength. Karzai benefits from an Abdullah concession prior to an offer to participate; Abdullah from an offer to participate in the government without first offering that concession. This, in short, is the situation in Afghanistan today.
While most reports explain that the legitimacy of the Afghan government would be damaged if the runoff elections proceed without Abdullah's participation, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton offers a dissenting point of view: "We see that happen in our own country where, for whatever combination of reasons, one of the candidates decides not to go forward," she said. "I don't think it has anything to do with the legitimacy of the election. It's a personal choice which may or may not be made."
Clinton's comments may be an indication that the Obama administration is not pleased with Abdullah's action; a concession and an acceptance of a position in the Karzai government would have been the quickest solution to what's now become a domestic dilemma confronting the American president. A reasonably quick establishment of a new Afghan government with a diminished role for Karzai was desired following the August elections, and potential American troop levels were the centerpiece of negotiations. But Karzai resisted pressure, ultimately supporting his position by declaring the existing Afghan constitution would be followed and runoff elections would be held. These drawn out negotiations forced the Obama administration into a series of apparent delays on a decision to respond to General Stan McChrystal's request for additional forces, the latest of which occurred this week. After indicating a decision on troops would be made public sometime "between November 7th and 11th" (immediately following the runoff), sources in the White House are now indicating no announcement is likely before November 20th. But while tying troop levels to election results rather than strategic requirements could ultimately prove disastrous for military efforts in Afghanistan and lead to serious questions of government legitimacy among the population there, President Obama's domestic political opponents have attacked him for what they describe as "dithering" on the decision instead.
From all indications, Abdullah is the Obama administration's preferred partner in Afghanistan, and a man who's shown early signs of American political savvy. Last weekend he assured CNN viewers "the president of the United States is doing the right thing" by taking his time to deliberate Afghan troops levels, but warned Fox viewers that General McChrystal's additional troops were needed to reverse his country's deteriorating security situation.
And in a move away from neutrality, Western officials are beginning to (anonymously) signal their desires. Descriptions of Karzai as "belligerent as hell" and Abdullah as a man who's "done a great job of elevating himself as a statesman on the international stage" are beginning to appear in media coverage, as the odds of Afghans getting a (second) vote on the matter grow increasingly dim.
But while the Obama administration would like to see Abdullah holding a substantial position in a re-tooled Afghan national government and has tied potential troop increases to the outcome, this week the president requested data on provincial governments in Afghanistan, suggesting he would be willing to "work around" any national government there altogether.
Meanwhile, the deaths of British, American, and Canadian troops in Afghanistan during the final days of October pushed the already record-setting monthly death toll there higher still - and even before the "record numbers" were announced Obama's approval ratings on Afghanistan were plunging.
Posted by Greyhawk / November 1, 2009 8:09 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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