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August 2, 2010
Meanwhile, back at the frontBy Greyhawk
Sig Christenson's on the ground in Afghanistan report is a must-read. This isn't combat action - it's an account of a meeting between Admiral Mullen and local Afghan leaders in Kandahar.
Read the whole thing - but these four paragraphs pretty much nail down the key issues in Afghanistan:
The astute reader will note there's a fifth paragraph in the excerpt - Admiral Mullen's response to the final point. Until it can be resolved - if it can be resolved - the others are insignificant. (Note: DoD account of the meeting here.)
Back in Washington, the Obama administration launched a weekend news show blitz, with Secretary Gates taking the point on that question:
For his part, President Obama didn't acknowledge any drawdown discussion, but did signal (CBS Sunday Morning) what most observers have interpreted as lowered expectations for Afghanistan
"Jeffersonian democracy" was echoed by Biden - who expanded the concept on NBC's Today Show: "We are not there to nation-build. We're not out there deciding we're going to turn this into a Jeffersonian democracy and build that country. We've made it clear, we're not there for 10 years."
"Let me tell you what I'm happy with... You're going to see [troop numbers] coming down as rapidly over the next two years..."
...but as yet no comments from the White House indicate any sort of "firm resolve" on Afghanistan.
Graham's across-the-aisle Senate colleague Harry Levin put much of the blame for public dissatisfaction with Afghanistan on the media:
Somewhere, Donald Rumsfeld smiles.
Meanwhile, back at the front - ISAF says success: "Afghan and Coalition Forces Tallies Another Successful Month in Afghanistan."
Apparently the old "we don't do body counts" notion is another victim of change.
But on that topic, while much of the Afghanistan coverage and commentary over the weekend can be attributed to the Wikileaks story, the news that July was the deadliest month for Americans there has also prompted increased attention in Washington.
Some of those percentages will be going up: "...the Dutch mission in Afghanistan formally ended Sunday, though it will take some days for troops to complete their departure. About 1,600 troops from the Netherlands were deployed in Oruzgan province, with a presence of several hundred more elsewhere in the country."
For some good news - "The Kabul police have cleared a United States Embassy vehicle of fault for a deadly collision on Friday..." - but there's more to the story:
Kabul police announced only one fatality from the collision, with three injured, two seriously. Three contractors involved in the crash were reported wounded in the subsequent rioting, along with four Afghans (including two policemen).
But for real carnage, nothing beats a well-placed IED:
A minibus full of civilians struck a roadside bomb in southern Afghanistan early Sunday, and Afghan officials said six of those on board were killed...
No riots were reported.
Afghan and coalition members from the Combined Air Power Transition Force teamed up Wednesday and Thursday to rescue more than 2,000 Afghan citizens from flooding in the Nangahar and Kunar provinces.
(That last bit's for you, Senator Levin.)
Posted by Greyhawk / August 2, 2010 10:48 AM | 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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