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October 6, 2010
Attack or retreat?By Greyhawk
"Oh, so what do you think of this Afghanistan situation?" asks an old High School friend while you, GI Joe, are home on leave. You give your response - and oh noes, before you know it you're involved in a debate you didn't want to be in with someone who appears to be more passionate about the issue than you. (Because they're better informed than you, too - you don't watch their favorite cable news channel enough...) Fear not, this Mudville Public Service Announcement is just for you.
With an election looming - and boosted by the sales campaign for Woodward's Obama's Wars - the age-old (ain't that right, President Washington?) question of military members in political debate is once again newsworthy. See here and here and here for just a few examples of this week's variations on the theme.
Given that any issue involving the military is a political issue it is impossible for a military member to opine on a military issue without opening him or herself to charges of involving themselves in politics, perhaps even threatening the very Constitution they've sworn to defend!!!! This presents a dilemma for members of the uniformed services, who may sometimes find themselves forced to explain themselves, whether at the family dinner table, in the media, or before Congress.
When that happens to you - and it will - do not despair, the solution follows. By the time of this April, 2008 Senate appearance, General Dave Petraeus had gained much from experience - I'd urge all military members to watch and learn from this three-minute video. Always try to limit sharing your thoughts to reasonable people only, but when you find yourself in that same unhappy position (even if you're just being confronted by crazy Uncle Ed or Aunt Eunice), follow this example...
If you lack video capability, the transcript is below. If I wasn't clear before, don't get bogged down in the specifics of the brief discussion (or "maneuvers" - if you prefer) that precedes them - the General's final eleven words are what matters. (And you'd do well to recall those words before entering any such discussion, not just to have them at the ready, but as reminder that whoever you are talking to, reasonable or not, they are the people the General meant.)
A final warning on the topic of reasonable - it's worth noting that the political debate in America just now includes a sizable number of people who view their political leaders as messianic (if not God-like) figures. It follows that those who see (Barack Obama/Sarah Palin/I could go on...) in that light also see the other as Satan. Strangely enough, both groups see Dave Petraeus (or Bob Gates, or other military leaders) as the devil's right hand, and you as one of their mindless minions. Do not seek to reason with them - point out that you fight for religious freedom, too, and move quickly away.
Posted by Greyhawk / October 6, 2010 2:20 PM | Permalink
"Oh, so what do you think of this Afghanistan situation?" asks an old High School friend while you, GI Joe, are home on leave. You give your response - and oh noes, before you know it you're involved in a debate you didn't want to be in with someone wh... 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.
Furthermore, I will occasionally use satire or parody herein. The bottom line: it's my house.
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