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November 2, 2009
The Washington Post: Afghan election commission declares Karzai winner. "In the capital, a sense of relief was instant and palpable. Kabul residents honked horns and exchanged celebratory text messages as the news spread."
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown "welcomed the cancellation of the second round run-off in the disputed Afghan poll and congratulated President Hamid Karzai on his re-election, Downing Street said." And Brown hailed opposition candidate Abdullah Abdullah's decision to pull out of the presidential election run-off, saying he had acted "in the interests of national unity".
In the United States, Senator Joe Lieberman urged the White House to move on: "I think it's time for us to stop beating up on President Karzai and start building up President Karzai and his government to be the government we need because they're not the enemy. The enemy is the Taliban. Our troops need reinforcements. General McChrystal has said that. We lost more American soldiers in the last month than in any month previously in the year. It's-- it's time to send help."
That point about the enemy being one that may have become somewhat muddled in the administration's zeal to prioritize restructuring the Afghan government - even as the country descended ever deeper into the chaos of war.
In simplest terms, this was the plan:
Karzai wins election, Abdullah concedes, Karzai magnanimously gives his main rival a key position in the Afghan government - no runoff required. To sweeten the deal the Obama administration had tied the future of the American military presence in Afghanistan to the outcome - the culmination of months of calculated planning and often contentious (and always uncertain) diplomatic effort.
But negotiations in Afghanistan do not follow rules established in the West, and both candidates remained obstinate. Karzai, by virtue of his mandate (even after fraudulent votes for both men were discarded Abdullah was a distant runner-up) wanted Abdullah's concession prior to offering him a position in the government; Abdullah preferred that his participation result from Karzai coming to him - and felt he had the support of the American White House to bolster his position. Behind the scenes, representatives of foreign powers, heavily invested in the country's future, tried desperately to broker a deal between the two while hoping to avoid the appearance of meddling in Afghan affairs.
But Karzai knew the "power sharing" option (and a concurrent "constitutional rewrite" suggestion) was just step one towards the Obama administration's goal of diminishing the authority of the elected President of Afghanistan - at least as long as Hamid Karzai held the office. Ultimately he called the (thus-far) final bluff, declaring that in accordance with the Afghan constitution a runoff election would be held - a contest in which Abdullah was widely expected to finish a distant second once again, emerging with his position of strength for negotiations even further diminished.
Expressing their displeasure with Karzai's adherence to his nation's laws was clearly a losing proposition for the Obama administration. But even though a heavy price of blood and treasure would be paid for a second round with a foregone conclusion, the Obama White House quickly (but somewhat cautiously) took up a position in front of the story, embracing the development but crediting an administration 'outsider' (Senator John Kerry) with the accomplishment - and seizing the opportunity to describe Karzai as man forced to bow to their will. Given that Karzai was the only player to potentially benefit from the runoff, that story should have been a hard-sell - but when it comes to messaging the Obama administration has dependable allies.
The New York Times:
By the looks of it, the ceremony that unfolded last week inside the Presidential Palace here was marking a joyous, even triumphant, occasion...However, the Times explained, while Karzai's decision "meant the Afghan election would go to a second round, one that Mr. Karzai could conceivably lose... It was only Senator Kerry's relentless efforts, and a round-the-clock lobbying press by American and European leaders, that staved off political disaster."
And that, ultimately, was the underlying message in the ceremony announcing Mr. Karzai's concession last week: Mr. Karzai may have agreed to follow the law -- he may have agreed to act in a democratic way -- but he did so only after representatives of the United States, the United Nations and the largest European countries all but pushed him onto the dais to do it.
"For its part," the Washington Post would explain, "the administration says it is more than happy to have Kerry aboard, especially to the extent that he hews to White House policy." Within days, however, Abdullah withdrew - and the White House found itself in desperate need of damage control.
Once again, friends in need - and some are more dependable than others. During David Axelrod's appearance on CBS TV's Face the Nation, long-time media pro Bob Schieffer would carefully read the administration's previous position in the form of a question, and Obama's senior adviser would quickly explain how badly the media had misinterpreted the situation mere days before:
Both versions are fiction, of course, but Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia after all.
Next: Plan B
Posted by Greyhawk / November 2, 2009 3:01 PM | 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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