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June 24, 2010
Last Man StandingBy Greyhawk
Or: "Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!"
Michael Hastings, from Afghanistan, in Rolling Stone: "Petraeus makes sense. He's considered the hero of Iraq, and he has the public's trust. He won't be caught dead calling the offensive in Marja a "bleeding ulcer," as McChrystal did. His appointment neutralizes him as a potential (though highly unlikely) political rival for 2012. He literally wrote the book on counterinsurgency, drafting the Army field manual on the U.S. strategy that is being pursued in Afghanistan." I agree with that. And no, it's not from his Runaway General story. (And yes, he's still embedded with US troops.)
Bing West (via SWJ): Gen. David Petraeus' 3 keys to victory: How to win in Afghanistan after Gen. Stanley McChrystal. I'm not sure General Petraeus has those "keys" - but I am sure he's confronted with locked doors.
Read the whole thing - but here's the key graf:
Ultimately, whether the mission succeeds or fails will rest upon the relationship Petraeus establishes with Obama, who has been standoffish about the war. The President has to become more involved; he has to act as the commander in chief who is determined to prevail, as President George W. Bush was in Iraq. Petraeus will be a great asset to the President. But in the end, it is Obama's war, and so far, no one knows how committed he is.
Meanwhile, at the New York Times: "Obama Says Afghan Policy Won't Change After Dismissal"...
There's one lesson among many in the events of the past few days - "the officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity" gets to continue his career. Whether they accomplish anything worthwhile seems less certain, perhaps the two are mutually exclusive ends. This isn't the first example of that.
The problem area with the Obama strategy isn't counterinsurgency (it's still the best way to counter an insurgency), ROEs, or the other two keys suggested by West. Those are indeed problems to solve on the lower levels, but there will be no solution to any of them until this presidential-level issue is resolved:
The latter half of that was designed to appeal to Democrat voters in America - but they've been less impressed with that message than others elsewhere have been. Some might have thought I was joking when I first pointed out the problem with that approach last March: "Why must Americans be forced to choose sides, as those who've decided to support President Obama will soon be forced to confront those who are equally determined to support President Obama instead?" I was deadly serious, as I was in posing a different version of the same question last December: "Why must Americans be forced to choose sides, as those who've decided to oppose President Obama will soon be forced to confront those who are equally determined to oppose President Obama instead?"
General McChrystal's ultimate "mistake" may have been to be the last man standing to have bought into that commitment/important angle. With the Taliban, Karzai, the government and people of Afghanistan and Pakistan, most of the US State Department, and an increasingly large number of US troops of all ranks ("Patrol only in areas that you are reasonably certain that you will not have to defend yourselves with lethal force...") lining up solidly along the president's exit ramp his position was increasingly untenable.
I know there's no one more qualified than General Petraeus to unlock the many doors his predecessor tried to kick down, and I certainly wish him well. And I know "success" in Afghanistan is possible. But until that over-arching problem is resolved (and three years is too long to wait), those who debate or argue over who's in charge, rules of engagement, the appropriate use of FM 3-24, or a host of other issues critical to effectively conducting war in the Central Front of What We Used to Call the War on Terror might as well be arguing over proper flower arrangements in the Kandahar Airfield Burger King.
Mar 28 2009: The Plan Unveiled (III)
Jul 13 2009: The (unpaved) road from hard to hopeless
Sep 27 2009: Moving parts (2): in the Wiggle Room
Oct 12, 2009: The other side of the mountain (part one)
Nov 13, 2009: Hey Rube!
Dec 3, 2009: FIFY
Dec 17, 2009: Business as Usual
Posted by Greyhawk / June 24, 2010 9:29 AM | Permalink
I know there's no one more qualified than General Petraeus to unlock the many doors his predecessor tried to kick down, and I certainly wish him well. And I know "success" in Afghanistan is possibl...Read More
Tadd Sholtis:The most offensive comments appearing in the Rolling Stone article -- by what I believe were a few people of relatively low rank and limited experience with reporters -- were inappropriate and deserved rebuke. They should not have been mad... Read More
Live: var so = new FlashObject ("http://pentagontv.pb.feedroom.com/usgov/pentagontv/embedoneclip/player.swf", "Player", "322", "277", "8", "#FFFFFF"); so.addVariable ("Environment", ""); so.addVariable ("SkinName", "pblibrary"); so.addVariable ("SiteI... Read More
Danger Room's Spencer Ackerman: "Is Obama's 2011 Afghanistan Deadline a Mistake?" Here's a one-word answer from me that might surprise: "no." But here's a question I'd answer differently: "Is publicly announcing a deadline a mistake?" My answer: "yes."... Read More
"A Marine with Weapons Platoon, Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, sprints down the line of heavy machine guns to deliver a map," read the supplied caption, "after a firefight with Taliban insurgents, Feb. 9, at the "Fire Points" int... 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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