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April 1, 2010
"Blood will be shed"By Greyhawk
If this is pessimism, it's not your typical, "Iraq unraveling" hand wringing.
Some of the Green Zone dwellers think the post-election jockeying between the various political factions will be American style "horse trading" as we saw in the health care debate; they have sold this line to the Washington Post and New York Times. This is bunk. Iraqi politics is a full contact sport, and blood will be shed. Nor will the battle be primarily sectarian. It will be a Shiia-on- Shiia affair. If it doesn't end up in a civil war, it will look like a Chicago gang war before it is over.
And please don't overlook the "if" I opened with. This very well could be realism.
While not "rapid," the rate of progress towards political stability in Iraq over the past two years has surprised me. It's exceeded my expectations, which were ever a bit better than those of analysts who've been quick on the draw to declare failure at every juncture, be it progress or impasse. Every bombing or murder (and they still happen - but at a much reduced rate from the 2006-2007 levels) has led to predictions of waves of violence sweeping the country. Such predictions are defensible, and not unreasonable regardless of recent track record. Somewhat paradoxically every arrest of an alleged bomber or murderer has been declared cause for the same. Somehow that ensuing violence doesn't materialize, a point that seems chiefly used to justify "pent up anger" reports when the next violent event does occur - lather, rinse, repeat.
Meanwhile, each political compromise solution reached, as with every solution not reached, is used to predict waves of violence sweeping the country as citizens (often quoted expressing their dissatisfaction with said political compromise and/or failure along with their complete lack of trust in their political leaders and suspicions of who's interests are really being served) reportedly become increasingly distrusting of Democracy in general and disenchanted with the notion of peaceful means to a political end.
That's been the news cycle from Iraq for some time now - though it's a news cycle that's garnered no real attention in the United States - and barring any actual increase in violence (guaranteed to bring a chorus of "ah-hah! just as I've been saying all along!" from folks who've been wrong for a long time now) that's likely to remain the case. So, it's easy to dismiss the opening quote above as more of the same.
But as usual, easy is wrong.
Colonel Gary Anderson, USMC Ret., recently left the State Department after a one year tour as a Senior Governance Advisor with an embedded Provincial Reconstruction Team in the Abu Ghraib District (Qada'a) of Iraq's Baghdad Province.
He, you might correctly guess, is the source of the quote. If events play out as he describes (and I'm not convinced they will - but the people of Iraq tend to defy expectations) US forces in Iraq will find themselves in a very different situation than what confronted us in 2006, when an existing government was threatened by those who didn't want to play nice. There were no major boycotts of elections this year, even those candidates who were ruled ineligible (generally Sunnis declared tainted by former connections to Saddam's regime) urged their supporters to get out and vote. The results have led to a damned intriguing situation (to say the least) with three major coalitions each claiming the backing of a considerable portion of the electorate, and the Kurds a sizable fourth. Secular-fundamentalist/Shiia-Sunni/Kurd-Arab/Maliki-Allawi-Chalabi (yes, really)-Sadr/Iran-Iraq-"the region"-the Americans... All in all it's a drama worthy of much attention and getting none. Should it become more "action-oriented" (what the ADD kids think of as attention worthy) that ignorance will be a tragic shame.
Posted by Greyhawk / April 1, 2010 6:22 PM | Permalink
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
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...)
The Mudville Gazette is the on-line voice of an American warrior and his wife who stands by him. They prefer to see peaceful change render force of arms unnecessary. Until that day they stand fast with those who struggle for freedom, strike for reason, and pray for a better tomorrow.
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