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November 4, 2009
Plan BBy Greyhawk
A fine report - but lacking the "inside connections" of the New York Times, al Jazeera was unable to match the big-city paper's dramatic report of one other White House desire - a human sacrifice:
But neither report offers word on whether background noise could have impacted the discussion: "In the capital, a sense of relief was instant and palpable. Kabul residents honked horns and exchanged celebratory text messages as the news spread." News of Karzai's victory, that is.
But that response was not universal: "There is no point in voting,'' one Afghan told reporter David Wood prior to Abdullah's withdrawal. "Karzai will win anyway. You know that. He is your man.''
And that perception could be even more injurious to success in Afghanistan than any claims of corruption, real or imagined. But in post-election Afghanistan we'll deal with all of the above, and in Wood's grim assessment, "The script couldn't have been improved if Taliban chieftain Mullah Omar had put himself to the task."
And there lies the irony - not only is Karzai not Obama's man, the conversation between the two was one of the few they've ever held.
As the New York Times reports, "In the early days of Mr. Obama's presidency, he and his aides searched desperately for a plausible alternative to Mr. Karzai." And even al Jazeera will acknowledge that the President of Afghanistan's access to the White House is via the kitchen door:
When Karzai was finally invited to Washington in May he was forced to share the spotlight with Pakistan's president and was not granted a bi-lateral meeting with Obama - a courtesy normally extended to world leaders deemed to be significant.
Just over one year ago, then-candidate Obama had explained to Americans that "we're also going to have to work with the Karzai government," and "we have to press the Afghan government to make certain that they are actually working for their people." But from the beginning their relations as presidents of nations allied in war would turn out to be distant, at best.
Afghanistani President Hamid Karzai admitted on Friday that he had not spoken to Barack Obama since the new US president assumed office last month and conceded that he had become increasingly isolated as American support drained away.
Some of those others could now find their names on that list of desired high-profile heads on a platter.
For his part, in his first speech following his victory Karzai pledged to address corruption in his country:
If there is a silver lining here, it is the opening created for the Obama administration to shift its focus from creating a strong central government to simply ignoring the capital and focusing on building good governance in Afghanistan's 34 provinces.
However, he adds, "Provincial governors are not elected... they are appointed by the president." (Of Afghanistan, to be clear.)
...Obama had requested data on provincial governments. Presumably that's already been done in-country as part of prioritizing where any number of troops could most effectively be deployed, but the Post reports the request for detail "reflects the administration's turn toward Afghanistan's provincial governors, tribal leaders and local militias as potentially more effective partners in the effort than a historically weak central government that is confronting questions of legitimacy after the flawed Aug. 20 presidential election"
...but once again, some powerful figures in provincial politics may be on the platter list, and the U.S. and its allies have little time to spare now in a hunt for those without pure heart.
But don't worry - the White House indeed has a plan to "boost popular support for President Hamid Karzai and erase the doubts about his legitimacy raised by his fraud-marred re-election." That according to "a U.S. government document that outlines part of the proposed Compact and was obtained by McClatchy."
The document outlines proposals for ceding greater power to authorities who run Afghanistan's 34 provinces and nearly 400 districts, including providing them with more development funds and the ability to direct them to projects that they think are most needed.
Certainly every American will appreciate Obama's concern with a corrupt, uncontrolled federal government wielding excessive power.
"The Obama administration has been developing the Compact for months in coordination with U.S. allies and Karzai's government." McClatchy reports, "It's tried to keep the effort quiet so it could be presented as an Afghan initiative, according to several U.S. and European officials and the U.S. government document. "Afghans must lead," the document says." Obviously - otherwise, the people might believe their government is only following the dictates of the West.
Step one in a plan to make it look like their idea might be not leaking that it isn't - but leaks are certainly nothing new in this ongoing drama. And if the we've been working on this plan for months claim also sounds familiar, it might be because Vice President Joe Biden used the same line back in July in defense of plan A: "I think the right approach is the one we have chosen, the Obama/Biden administration," he told ABC's George Stephanopoulos by way of saying "give it time."
"We did a thorough review of what our objectives and policies were and should be in Afghanistan. We set in motion a policy which is now only beginning to unfold. All the troops we agreed to increase are not even all in place at this point."
"We spent five months, with the entire national security team - the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense, the National Security Adviser - down in that tank, down in that situation room, laboriously banging out the plan"
And five British soldiers were killed "by a suspected Taliban infiltrator who turned his gun on the servicemen at a checkpoint in Nad-e-Ali in Helmand, dubbed the 'Wild West', on Tuesday."
Meanwhile, back in the United States, the staffer who "leaked" information on ethics investigations of "30 lawmakers and several aides in inquiries about issues including defense lobbying and corporate influence peddling" has reportedly been fired. Alert action by the ethics committee chair ensured lawmakers weren't caught off guard by the revelations. "Shortly after 6 p.m. Thursday, the committee chairman, Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), interrupted a series of House votes to alert lawmakers about the breach."
Posted by Greyhawk / November 4, 2009 1:33 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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