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June 27, 2011
Info (more) graphicBy Greyhawk
Of course, that little drawdown is supposed to be completed before the 2012 elections (that's the whole point of it) - but you get the idea. However, Matthew Yglesias thinks the White House didn't like it for other reasons:
Earlier this week, ThinkProgress produced a graph illustrating the fact that Obama's "withdrawal" plan from Afghanistan will leave more troops there than were present at the start of his administration. Seemingly in response, Ben Rhodes from the National Security Council posted a counter-chart on the White House blog depicting combined troop levels in Iraq and Afghanistan as steadily declining since the administration took office...Ben Rhodes' national security job is strategic communications (or information operations, if you prefer). That means it's up to him to convince Americans that everything about Obama's various wars is doubleplusgood. Here's his chart (at the White House they call it an "Infographic"):
If I'd made that chart I'd have used Obama's full quote from West Point: "I have determined that it is in our vital national interest to send an additional 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan. After 18 months, our troops will begin to come home," along with some other important things he said about "the real central front of the war on terror" - but here we can certainly see that when you combine troop levels from both wars (ignoring Libya) you can create a super easy chart that any Obama voter can understand. Two points connected by a straight line representing January 2009 to now, and then the future, which has been restored to its proper pre-election goal. (Another chart showing how much Congress has reduced the spending on those wars over the past couple years would be nice too, but I don't think any such thing currently exists... Besides, Obama brought the troops home, and that's a promise kept!)
But Matthew says "not so fast..."
Follow the links for bigger versions if those aren't legible. I doubt any of the national security experts at Think Progress know it, but that big jump early in Obama's term is the result of a slick little scam he pulled on the American public about an Iraq troop drawdown - but that's all water under the bridge. There's certainly been an overall drawdown since, and hey - it's not like the Think Progress crowd won't do everything they can to get Obama four more years no matter what. (After all, they wouldn't want Jones to come back, would they?)
All an all an interesting series of charts though. But I couldn't help but notice something missing - something that really adds meaning to them...
It's something that's been missing from our national dialog on war since late 2007 - remarkably, prior to that it was all anyone ever talked about.
The chart above shows the combined American death toll from Iraq and Afghanistan, as reported at icasualties. The blue line depicts the monthly totals, the red line a running twelve-month average. The variability in the raw numbers - the cyclical peaks and valleys in the blue line - reflects the "fighting season" in Afghanistan. (Here's another look, and here's another comparison of trends in both wars.) In the red line you see more clearly the steady rise in American deaths from the last year of President Bush's term to the past twelve months - a seventeen percent increase coincident with a seventeen percent reduction in troops.
Simplify the red line to a straight one connecting the Jan, 2009 point to now (the end points) and overlay it on the White House infographic and it looks like this (click the charts below for larger versions):
Of course, what it might look like in the future is hard to predict - a lot of that will be up to a group of people President Obama likes to call the Tollybon. They got his December, 2009 promise we would be leaving, too. Since that's a promise kept maybe they'll be patient; maybe not. If they are, then all the troops will be able to vote in November 2012 just like you.
This is pretty nifty, too (unless you're one of the dead people or their relatives). Add the same date points that Mathew selected to my red line overlayed on his infographic and it looks like this:
Remarkable, I think. Of course, what matters is what those troops accomplish on the road to successfully completing the President's stated goals. And we should never forget what Rhodes emphasizes on the White House web site, "Our troops have provided extraordinary service and sacrifice in both Afghanistan and Iraq for nearly ten years."
Like whatsisname and whosisface, the ones Obama gave that Medal of Whatchamacallit to.
Posted by Greyhawk / June 27, 2011 8:45 AM | Permalink
Back in late 2009, when President Obama decided to halfass his Afghanistan mission and to announce the July 2011 deadline to begin removing the troops he did send there, the DoD was able to manage one concession from the commander-in-chief: he would u... 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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