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February 13, 2010
We're all in this mushtarakBy Greyhawk
Opening line from that last link:
I'll just come out and say it: ISAF's inability to discuss the Marjeh operation in consistent, understandable terms leaves me serious doubt that they have established realistic, achievable goals in taking the town.
Let's start with this: could be. And let's get this straight, too: I read Registan for the knowledgeable insight on Afghanistan Josh Foust provides. On the military, not so much. But even an expert on either (as much as that's possible) can be thoroughly confounded by what they've heard on Marjah lately. If you haven't already drawn that conclusion from what I've been posting on the topic, start here, and let me know where I failed.
Now, unless you've got a direct line to ISAF, you're relying on reporting about what's going on. That's done by reporters who are well aware of the limitations above, will use that to create the best story possible, may or may not be on the scene, and may or may not be unbiased (beyond biased to put out a "good" story). Some reporters might abuse that - but I'm not bashing reporters here.
But conflicting reports lead many news consumers to settle on a narrative and stick with it, dismiss as bad information that which doesn't fit and embrace that which does. A big mistake when done with first reports - or if your mind is made up before the first reports arrive. That's hardly news - it's been the case for as long as I remember, but it's certainly more obvious since Desert Storm - when immediacy of cable news changed American's perceptions about how fast they could get information they might or might not mistake as answers. But speed of communication has no impact - zero, zip, nada - good or bad - on the accuracy of the information conveyed.
Nor does the quantity of information - when much of it's conflicting (as it invariably is). But this is hardly the first example of a military op with heavy embedding of reporters - see Baqubah, Fallujah, and the initial invasion of Iraq for previous examples. So what's different? Back to my first post on Marjah: "What has changed - and clearly - is the tone of newspaper coverage." Behind me, as I write this days later, my TV is tuned to CNN. They're extolling the virtues of American efforts to avoid civilian casualties, denouncing the horrific evil of the Taliban, and passing on ISAF talking points as facts. I know these are mostly true things - but it's notable (to the point of being almost disconcerting) to hear that said on CNN in the manner it's being presented. I'm reminded of Iraq reporting - as it was until approximately 1 May, 2003. After that date reporting on Iraq was reliably consistent - therefore simpler. Those who grew used to that might be puzzled by the return of nuance today.
Will all Afghanistan reporting be like CNN's today? Certainly not. So the task of sorting through information will be more challenging when the providers aren't all saying the same simple thing.
Welcome to the Goodwar.
Previously: Marjah: mount up
Next: The inevitable dead
Posted by Greyhawk / February 13, 2010 11:17 AM | Permalink
Afghan Civilians Killed in Offensive on Taliban That headline could have been written before the operation started.Afghan officials put the death toll in the rocket incident at 10. "We just know that a rocket hit a civilian house and 10 people were kil... 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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