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April 20, 2011
Hearing the dogs (of war) that don't barkBy Greyhawk
"We rushed into this without a plan," said David Barno, a retired Army general who once commanded U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan. "Now we're out in the middle, going in circles."
He's talking about Libya. I don't believe that got much notice, beyond paragraph five of that LA Times story. And I believe his assessment is valid, and based on military - not political - considerations.
Once upon a time, quotes from retired generals ("a nightmare with no end in sight") were big-time headline makers (even - or especially - if they lacked anything close to valid military critique), as in the AP, The Washington Post, and the New York Times all ran with 'em, along with Fox, MSNBC, and CNN. That link is to one example among many, and probably not even the best*. (I revisited that one recently myself for other reasons, so it was convenient.) The many examples I can think of all had something in common (besides being "anti-war"): the retired general was either running for office or campaigning heavily for someone else who was - invariably as or for a Democrat. (Other, non-politically motivated retired generals offered their own critiques on Iraq, too- invariably made with suggestions for improvements - but somehow they were never really found to be headline-worthy.)
In fairness to the various media outlets that loved to push a story like that, there was a certain "man bites dog" quality to it, if you ignored the fact that "man" in these examples was employed as a professional Democrat. (Which they mostly did, preferring to focus on their great credibility as a former soldier.) The slightest hint of that same "man bites dog"-type story in the Age of Obama leads to headlines/discussions/outcries about "crises in the civ/mil relationship," unless it's just ignored altogether.
Or as Glenn Reynolds said regarding another story on how the anti-war movement has somehow all but vanished over the past couple of years: "Yeah, it's as if all that self-righteous moralism, and cries or war criminal and illegal wars and concentration camps at Gitmo was just a lot of lying, self-serving twaddle by people who really just wanted power for their team. Who knew?"
I don't want to ever see a day when Republicans bring two dozen well-choreographed tap-dancing ex-generals and admirals out on stage at their convention to sing hosannas for the military brilliance of their candidate and party, but I am willing to point out that yes, the trash bags who did that a few years ago were just trash bags doing what trash bags do.
*Footnote: Sanchez' quote is "not the best" example because it was actually ripped from context of a larger talk in which he lambasted the media's handling of reporting the Iraq war - something about which he was absolutely qualified to opine. (At least as far as that period back when he was in charge...) Ironically, his "nightmare with no end in sight" assessment then - Fall 2007 - was based more on media reports on Iraq than on reality in Iraq. And obviously - and equally ironically - it gave them more hot air to inflate that myth-bubble he was attempting to pop.
Posted by Greyhawk / April 20, 2011 4:15 PM | 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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