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The Wall Street Journal - Tea Party Could Stir Afghan Policy:
Observers now wonder whether the expected arrival of a new crop of conservative legislators after the U.S. midterm elections--and a likely Republican takeover of at least the House--may speed up, slow down or even reset the clock in Washington.
At issue is whether candidates backed by tea-party activists may force a shift in the terms of debate over the war in Afghanistan. While Republicans are traditionally hawkish on defense--and foreign policy hasn't emerged as a major campaign issue--some GOP candidates have expressed skepticism about the scale of U.S. military involvement in the region.
Let's repeat this line for emphasis: "foreign policy hasn't emerged as a major campaign issue..." - that might be unprecedented for an election conducted while US troops are dying on two battlefields. But this year's really boils down to "Obama vs not-Obama," and it's hard to define "Obama" when it comes to war. Take a position on Afghanistan and I'll show you where the president agrees with you. Change your position and I'll show you where he still agrees with you.
But there's another big Afghan strategy review scheduled for December* - so if you don't know what your candidate thinks about all that before the election, maybe you'll find out shortly after.
*Footnote: The Pentagon's review of Don't Ask Don't Tell is due just after the elections, too. Funny how that worked out.
This year's fundraiser is coming soon. Get ready, team.
...(and believe me, it's hard to get my givadameter to tick up even one notch above zero on this story) this is the best analysis I've read lately, so I'll urge others to read it, too. I prefer thoughtful insight to emotional tirades - the former seems to be rare on this topic. (And completely absent from all topics this time of year. At least, this time of this year.)
- Or "more of the same".
The Washington Post:
WIKILEAKS FOUNDER Julian Assange claimed at a news conference over the weekend that the release by his organization of 391,000 classified documents on the war in Iraq was intended to "correct some of that attack on the truth that occurred before the war, during the war and which has continued after the war." In fact the mass leak, like a dump of documents on Afghanistan in the summer, mainly demonstrates that the truth about Iraq already has been told.
Noah Shachtman came up with what turned out to be one of the most-discussed "angles" to the Wikileaks story this go-round - "WikiLeaks Show WMD Hunt Continued in Iraq - With Surprising Results." I think that illustrates the point perfectly.
Moral of the story? Don't be a Bradass.
(Having been reminded by Starbuck, on Facebook, that this is indeed that day.)
It's also "a day most famous for the battles that occurred on it: the Battle of Agincourt in 1415, the Battle of Balaklava (Charge of the Light Brigade) during the Crimean War in 1854 and the Battle of Leyte Gulf in the Pacific theater in 1944."
"I could not grasp how these diplomats could let these murderers off the hook with a letter from the principal's office. To my way of thinking, the demarche should have been delivered to Mullah Omar First Class, up his ass, on the warhead of a TLAM missile!"
But he's speaking of the '90s, maybe misremembering. Back then everyone knew that Iraq was the real focus - Saddam Hussein with his hidden stockpile of WMD's was the true threat. Osama bin Laden (if you'd even heard of him) was just another would-be jihadist, angry about our presence in Saudi Arabia and treatment of the Iraqis...
And for the record:
August 20, 1998: Operation Infinite Reach - US cruise missile strike on purported terrorist bases in Afghanistan and Sudan as retaliation against bin Laden for the embassy bombings. Cruise missiles hit suspected terrorist training camps in Afghanistan and Al Shifa, a pharmaceutical plant in Khartoum. US intelligence claims that Al Shifa is tied to the production of chemical weapons for bin Laden. The Sudanese government vehemently denied these claims.
The Washington Post:August 26, 1998. Scott Ritter resigns from UNSCOM. In his letter of resignation, he says the Security Council's reaction to Iraq's decision earlier that month to suspend co-operation with the inspection team made a mockery of the disarmament work, stating they were "hobbled by unfettered Iraqi obstruction and non-existent Security Council enforcement of its own resolutions." Ritter also charges that the U.N. Security Council has become "a witting partner to an overall Iraqi strategy of weakening the Special Commission." UNSCOM chairman Richard Butler accepts Ritter's resignation.
...lawmakers from both parties were quick to rally behind Clinton in a deluge of public statements and appearances yesterday, a marked contrast to the relatively sparse and chilly reception that greeted his Monday statement on the Lewinsky matter.
"I think the president did exactly the right thing," House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) said of the bombing attacks. "By doing this we're sending the signal there are no sanctuaries for terrorists."
Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) called the attacks "appropriate and just," and House Majority Leader Richard K. Armey (R-Tex.) said "the American people stand united in the face of terrorism."
Senate Minority Leader Thomas A. Daschle (D-S.D.) praised Clinton for doing "the right thing at the right time to protect vital U.S. interests against terrorist attacks," and House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt (D-Mo.) said the United States "should respond forcefully when U.S. lives are at stake."
Gingrich dismissed any possibility that Clinton may have ordered the attacks to divert attention from the scandal. Instead, he said, there was an urgent need for a reprisal following the Aug. 7 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.
"Anyone who watched the film of the bombings, anyone who saw the coffins come home knows better than to question this timing," Gingrich said. "It was done as early as possible to send a message to terrorists across the globe that killing Americans has a cost. It has no relationship with any other activity of any kind."
...and so on.
As for retaliation for the October, 2000 Cole attack - yeah, not so much. But by then the question was "Monica who?"
They're still playing Rocket Bingo.
I've heard from a couple of sources that the number of attacks increased after 'the last combat brigade" left Iraq. If getting media attention is part of the motivation for that, it won't work.
Good news: Coalition Forces Routing Taliban. And that's a New York Times headline, so you know it's true.
They credit President Obama's surge:
The civilian and military effort in Kandahar has been 18 months in the planning. Only after thousands of extra troops were in place at the end of August -- part of the surge of 30,000 troops President Obama ordered last year -- did the operations finally begin producing results.
As if the good news story wasn't enough, they also remind us by editorial ("Afghanistan Today") that "President George W. Bush shortchanged the Afghan fight for seven years" but now "Mr. Obama and his top commander in Afghanistan, Gen. David Petraeus, appear, finally, to be putting in place the pieces of a more coherent plan."
This is supergood stuff. But they begin by bemoaning the fact that "Voters don't seem to be paying much attention to the war in Afghanistan and President Obama certainly isn't making it an issue." Well shucks, maybe the Times can change that?
Virginia Congressman Jim Moran, D-8th, doesn't think serving in the military is public service. At the October 6th meeting of the Arlington County Democratic Committee, Moran was videotaped telling fellow party members:
"What [Republicans] do is find candidates, usually stealth candidates, that haven't been in office, haven't served or performed in any kind of public service. My opponent is typical, frankly."
However, Moran's opponent happens to be Col. Patrick Murray (US Army-Ret.), who served 24 years in uniform, was deployed to four different combat zones, including Baghdad, as part of the 2007 troop surge under Gen. David Petraeus, and was even shot at by foreign combatants. If that isn't public service, I don't know what is.
The story also reports the Military Officers Association of America chastised Moran for falsely claiming they had endorsed him. (They can't - by law.)
"Moran can't say he misspoke, because he proves he knows about Murray's military service with his next comment, "And of course, for 24 years, he's taken a government check because, frankly, the military still is part of the Federal government, uh, and, yet, his principle platform is to cut government spending."
Elsewhere (more specifically, New York): "The only thing that I've shipped overseas in the last few years has been myself and my paratroopers to fight for this country."
Or better yet, get angry.
Except that if they convince voters that politicians support the troops, they don't fail - because that's what such scorecards are for. The linked post is important, because it counters that flawed thinking, in detail.
The Commander-in-Chief, Senior Vice Commander-in-Chief, and Junior Vice Commander-in-Chief had requested the VFW Political Action Committe (PAC) to rescind their endorsements as they were not the voices of the VFW membership and the ramifications from these endorsements by the PAC were having a detrimental effect on our organization.
Unfortunately, the leaders of the PAC refused to honor the C-in-C request, and did not rescind the endorsements. Yesterday, Friday, October 15, the Commander-in-Chief revoked all of the appointments to the PAC. Effective immediately, the PAC is a memberless committee, whose fate will be decided at the National Convention in San Antonio, next August.
(Title explained here - and in emails I've received complaining about inaction prior to the Ladies Auxiliary decision, which strikes me as merely a good example of how the civilized world really operates.)
The attack on the Cole - October 12, 2000.
"For the seventeen sailors that were killed that day, as well as the three shipmates we have lost since then, not a day goes by that I don't think of them. I miss my shipmates."
VA ads should make good military recruiting commercials, too - but there's not much help needed in that department.
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 shall remain
INDEPENDENT - A non-profit member association, with no government support, that does not lobby for special interests;
NON-PARTISAN - An independent, professional military association with a mission, goals and objectives that transcend political affiliations; and shall encourage
IDEAS - Through its respected journals Proceedings and Naval History, its conferences, its books and its online content, in support of those who serve.
"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:
Closing Blogs is nothing new. So many site's owners just give up on their own. They come and go, you know, these MilBloggers do. Like any other sort of blogger. Many post in the lonely down hours far from home, spill their guts for the world, then abandon their spots when the tour of duty is up. They have lives again somewhere in the world, and no need to share the details. So it goes.
Many are truly gone - no site left at all. "The page cannot be found." Other blogs remain, like abandoned defensive positions in shifting desert sands.
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...)
Or: don't ask for whom the WTF is asked, it's asked for you.
So, I'm reading my (gratis from the publisher, he said by way of disclosure) copy of Obama's Wars. More by way of review later, for a quick one-liner (which won't be on the jacket flap of the next edition): it's 90% true and 10% of the truth. But that description fits most such books - credit Bob Woodward with being able to create a more readable version than the majority of his contemporaries, Obama's Wars is a page-turner.
For purposes of this post I turned to page 36 and those following, where we first meet retired General James L. Jones, as Obama surprises him (they had no previous relationship) with an offer to be his national security adviser. Short version of the explanation from the book: Jones had "served in the Marines for 40 years... rising to the top position, commandant, then four years as NATO commander, ...before retiring in 2007," and Obama wanted someone "who wasn't perceived as his guy... It could give Obama more leverage with the Pentagon... that was the terrain Obama knew the least..."
Still, many of the then-future President's closest advisers weren't exactly thrilled with the choice; intense rationalization ensues...
Podesta and several of the others were coming to realize that once the president-elect got an idea for who should fill a critical post, he stuck with it, unless something disqualifying was found. Podesta examined Jones' record and talked to several people in the national security community. He did not find Jones to be very strategic, certainly not in the mold of what he called the "Kissingerian, master-, uber-strategist."
Maybe that would be less crucial under Obama, Podesta thought, because Obama's approach was so intellectual. He compared Obama to Spock from Star Trek.
Not sure exactly what would have been declared "disqualifying" - because a few paragraphs later we meet Tom Donilon, who "had been preparing all his life for a top national security post" but (gosh darn it!) "had served seven years as in-house counsel to Fannie Mae," a connection described as "toxic" in the book - as in "might have serious problems in a Senate confirmation."
Fortunately for him, a "friendship with [Rahm] Emanuel went back several decades."
And now back to Mr Woodward's tale:
The next sentence is a gem: "What sealed the deal for Jones was a promise Obama made..."
Jones told Obama that he would have to consult his family.
In retirement, he was heading the energy program for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, serving on several boards, and speaking, earning over $2 million a year. Accepting would mean an 80% pay cut. But the family agreed it was worth the chance to cap his career with one of the most important posts in government.
If he accepted, Obama said that on national security issues, "I will always ask your opinion or judgment before I do anything." It was a personal pledge. To the former commandant of the Marines, whose motto is "Semper Fidelis" ("Always Faithful"), it meant everything. Jones said yes.And if you haven't already face-palmed, see how much farther you can read before you do:
One of the first orders of business for Jones was picking a deputy - a key post that had been occupied by half a dozen other men who had then gone on to be promoted to national security adviser. Obama had told him that he could pick whomever he wanted...
Emanuel had suggested Jones consider [No! Shouts the reader in horror, knowing full well where this is going - a tribute to Mr Woodward's finely honed skills...] Tom Donilon, a 53-year-old lawyer and former chief of staff to Secretary of State Warren Christopher in the Clinton administration... extremely close to Vice President-elect Joe Biden, [Donilon also] had served as co-head of [Obama's] transition team for the State Department. His friendship with Emanuel went back several decades.
The Fannie Mae connection was toxic, and Donilon might have serious problems in a Senate confirmation.
Emanuel lowered the hammer. First he had suggested and now he was almost insisting. He wanted Donilon in the White House.
Jones did not know Donilon but had agreed to meet him. They hit it off...
Which is a good thing, since Donilon was exactly who Obama meant by "whomever Jones wanted." Woodward reports that one "could almost hear the collective sigh of relief from Obama's political and transition teams."
Like I said - a page turner. And now we turn a few weeks worth of pages forward... to Tuesday, January 20 - inauguration day - and time for a big speech...
What would Obama say? One of the people wondering was General Jones, who as Obama's national security adviser ought to know. But he had not seen a draft. "I had asked," he said, almost trembling. Emanuel and the political operatives would not show it to him...
The new president's national security adviser had no need to know. In his first address to his country, "Obama devoted one sentence to the wars," Woodward writes.
More pages forward...
Another page, another WTF moment:
He would invite them [the president's senior political aids] to strategy briefings... but more often than not they didn't show.
...Worse for Jones, he often felt sidelined by Emanuel, who would regularly come to the national security adviser's suite and see his deputy, Donilon. So Jones told Emanuel, "I'm the national security adviser. When you come down there, come see me." It got better for a short time...
On June 11, Fox News reported that Jones was not up to the job, saying, "One NSC staff member claimed that Jones is so forgetful that at times he appears to have Alzheimer's disease."
- That bit about the White House having Fox News jump through their hoop like a trained monkey is one of my favorite parts of the book... but "enough!" you shout, "I can't stand the suspense - tell me how this ends!"
Well, the book does end, of course. But even after you close it, in awe or anger or frustration, the story goes on and on. Predictably:
I am also proud to announce that General Jones will be succeeded by his deputy, and one of my closest advisors, Tom Donilon.
Tom has a wealth of experience that will serve him well in this new assignment. He has served three Presidents and been immersed in our national security for decades. Over the last two years, there is not a single critical national security issue that has not crossed Tom's desk...
One last excerpt from Woodward:
[Jones] called Donilon into his office.
"I will leave at some point," Jones said... "Maybe you're my replacement, maybe not," but let me give you my sense of where you stand...
Jones praised his substantive and organizational skills... But Donilon had made three mistakes. First, he had never gone to Afghanistan or Iraq, or really left the office for a serious field trip... "You have no credibility with the military."
...Second, Jones continued, you frequently pop off with absolute declarations about places you've never been, leaders you've never met, or colleagues you work with..."
Woodward goes on, but like most good novelists he leaves much to the reader's imagination. Like whose office did Donilon go to first to tell the tale? And how hard did they all laugh?
...he had previously indicated to his staff that he intended to leave by the end of the year. But the schedule was accelerated, and in recent weeks White House staff members had been increasingly critical of General Jones for statements that he apparently made to Bob Woodward, the author of "Obama's Wars,"...
Yeah, that's funny too.
Update - don't let the screen door hit ya where the good Lord split ya, as they say:
...one administration source told The Cable. "In six months, you will be hard pressed to find anyone in the administration who notices that Jones is no longer there."
And a great big Semper Fi to you, too.
His nickname Unræd is usually translated into present-day English as 'The Unready', though, because the present-day meaning of 'unready' no longer resembles its ancient counterpart, this translation disguises the meaning of the Old English term. Bosworth-Toller defines the noun unræd in various ways, though it seems always to have been used pejoratively. Generally, it means "evil counsel", "bad plan", "folly".
"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.
Bayh: ...all of this is subject to differing interpretations. And I would just ask you the question - isn't it true that a fair amount of humility is in order in rendering judgments about the way forward in Iraq - that no one can speak with great confidence about what is likely to occur, is that a fair observation?
Petraeus: It is very fair, Senator, and that's why I have repeatedly noted that we haven't turned any corners, we haven't seen any lights at the end of the tunnel, the champagne bottle's been pushed to the back of the refrigerator, and the progress, while real, is fragile and is reversible.
Bayh: In fact reasonable people can differ about the most effective way forward, is that not also a fair observation?
Petraeus: I dont know whether I would go that far, sir. Obviously I think that there is a way forward, I've made a recommendation on that, and so I think in that sense...
Bayh: (interrupting) General, you would not mean to say that anyone who would have a different opinion is by definition an unreasonable person?
Petraeus: Senator lots of things in life are arguable, and certainly there are lots of different opinions out there, but again I believe that the recommendations that I have made are correct...
Bayh: (interrupting) Here's the reason for my question, gentlemen. Just as I acknowledge your honor and patriotism which I think is absolutely appropriate I hope you would acknowledge the honor and patriotism of those who have a look at this very complex set of facts and simply have a different point of view - and as you both are aware some argue that to not embrace the assessment you're giving us is in fact to embrace defeat - or to embrace failure in Iraq, and I simply would disagree with those characterizations and that was the reason for my question to you.
Petraeus: Senator, we fight for the right of people to have other opinions.
(Update: report and pictures here.)
"Supreme court is a fahkin zoo today," reports an observer. "There is a dude wearing only underwear with a sign that say "fred phelps wishes he was hot like me" standing next to a dude with a sign that says "fag marriage" over an upside down US flag with 2 stick figures performing sodomy."
We'll presume he is still outside the building.
(And we'll hope that crew doesn't make their way over to the White House later.)
A note from Troy ("Bouhammer") Steward:
The following blog post was written by a friend of mine (MT) who knew Medal of Honor Recipient Robbie Miller well. Tomorrow on October 6th, Robbie's parents will be presented with his Medal of Honor by President Obama. In light of that fact, MT wanted to write this guest post highlighting how he remembers his friend. A man that the world will now know as a true hero who made the ultimate sacrifice for his brothers and his country.
Naval Institute: You dedicate the new book "To those who serve." How would you say this book helps the men and women of the military? What did you really set out to do?
Woodward: To explain what really happens, what the policy is, and the unsettled nature of what's going on in the Obama administration: 30,000 troops, a withdrawal date that's vague, what it means. What you find in the details is that the President underscores privately in secret meetings that he wants out of Afghanistan, regularly saying things like "This needs to be a plan about how we're going to hand it off and get out of Afghanistan. There cannot be any wiggle room."
Naval Institute: How would telling that story benefit the troops?
Woodward: Because it's the truth.
Naval Institute: It seems to be demoralizing...
By odd coincidence, I stumbled across this BBC story from 2005 just this week:
Greyhawk started commenting himself on blogs in late 2002, and then started the Mudville Gazette when he found out how easy it is to blog.
"For years I'd seen others 'speak for the troops', or choose which actual voices would be heard," he said, and wanted to communicate the thoughts of "one GI in an interesting time - the build-up to the war in Iraq".
"I don't claim to speak for anyone but myself, but there's the appeal of blogging. I don't need anyone to speak for me," he said.
Of course, "appeal" from my POV could be "threat" from others... That said, among the 5,000 Woodward interviews I've seen this week, this is one worth reading.
(Top secret exposure/disclosure: Greyhawk is working on a project with the US Naval Institute that in part will document the history of milblogs, AND he has received a review copy of Obama's Wars from the publisher.)
Here's the official Medal of Honor site for Staff Sergeant Robert Miller.
"Every color but camo" - great headline.
Although Harvard expelled ROTC over the Vietnam War four decades ago (after antiwar students burned down the ROTC center), it now gives as a reason for not reinstating the program the military's adherence to "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" -- though that program was instituted under President Bill Clinton, who has not been similarly barred from the Harvard campus.
Nor has Harvard Law alumnus Barack Obama, who has maintained the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," policy -- and who has urged Harvard to end the ROTC ban.
President Obama's other alma mater, Columbia University, booted ROTC from its campus in 1969 and also hasn't reinstated it. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who tortures and imprisons bloggers and other critics, is welcome at Columbia but not a program to train officers for the US military.
One thing I've noticed about our Harvard-educated Commander in Chief is his unmatched ability to identify those problems that are hard to solve, and who exactly got us into those problems in the first place. If that skill set is a product of an Ivy-league education, than I can say without hesitation that somehow the military has done just fine throughout the period of the ROTC ban.
Just a guess: if Congress lifts DADT and Harvard reinstates ROTC, there will be no significant change in the number of homosexuals or Harvard grads in military service. Members of the first group have always been among us, as willing as any to serve. As for the second,
"Shame on the man of cultivated taste who permits refinement to develop into fastidiousness that unfits him for doing the rough work of a workaday world," Roosevelt admonished those who attended his speech at one of the oldest universities in the world, adding his disregard for those "who always profess that they would like to take action, if only the conditions of life were not exactly what they actually are."
As Glenn Reynolds' brief historical review from the first link above makes clear (to me, at least) conditions of life are always somehow exactly what they actually are.
"In the History of Milblogs book there will be a chapter (at least) devoted to Chuck and Carren Z." That's how I started one post here about them some time ago. It concluded with "but no matter how fast I could type, the story would keep getting better and better at a pace I couldn't maintain."
Here's the latest.
(More news on that History of Milblogs book here soon.)
Unless you've been on a camping trip in a remote wilderness for the past few days, you've heard about the video that a British climate change advocacy group prepared. The short video takes you through a variety of settings (classrooms, workplaces, sports fields), in which people are encouraged to diminish their carbon footprint and, importantly, assured that there is "no pressure" on them to cooperate. Then after a show of hands of those who willingly respect mother Gaia, those who don't get with the program are blown up, with an accompanying shower of blood and guts. Here's the video...
The producers say they were "delighted when Britain's leading comedy writer, Richard Curtis - writer of Blackadder, Four Weddings, Notting Hill and many others - agreed to write a short film for the 10:10 campaign."
I hadn't heard about it, but no doubt Osama would approve. More here.
And update two - for my part, I'm going to buy an Audi.
And don't forget, kids,
"Everybody out there has to be thinking about what's at stake in this election and if they want to move forward over the next two years or six years or 10 years on key issues like climate change..."
Good enough idea? We'll see.
At this point in our relationship with Pakistan it must be difficult to resist the urge to shout "too hard," throw in the towel, declare our original goals unrealistic and unobtainable, and instead simply acknowledge that America can always absorb the inevitable next terrorist attack. Fortunately for us, the Obama administration is composed of folks made of sterner stuff, who know how to solve any problem...
We're at war in Afghanistan. At least, Afghanistan is where the troops are - and they are at war. That's hardly news, but maybe the headline over the latest Washington Post excerpt from Obama's Wars will be a surprise to some - Obama: 'We need to make clear to people that the cancer is in Pakistan'.
Perhaps the administration has failed in that regard. If so, that's another reason it's unfortunate the White House's March, 2009 Af-Pak strategy has been flushed down the memory hole - it opened by acknowledging just that. So, no denying that the Obama administration (like its predecessor) knew from day one that our relationship with Pakistan was essential to achieving our goals in the region. As complex and difficult as that concept might be it's hardly an unprecedented geopolitical challenge; international conflicts up to and including war never actually concern just two belligerent nations. We can discuss examples without end - for many, a comparison to our relationship with the Soviet Union during World War Two is apt; for others our experience with Vietnam's neighbors is about as far back as history goes.
But I'm not offering up the longer view of history today. Instead let's look at now - the latest in our relationship with an ally every bit as uncertain as they are essential. Here's the perfect illustration of that from the New York Times this week - "Signaling Tensions, Pakistan Shuts NATO Route":
American officials pressed their Pakistani counterparts on Thursday to reopen a vital supply route for American and NATO forces in Afghanistan, as relations deteriorated after the fourth strike by coalition helicopters in a week killed three members of Pakistan's border force.
One of those officials is "C.I.A. director, Leon E. Panetta, who met Thursday with the Pakistani military chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, part of a stream of American officials who have come to alternately cajole and coerce Pakistani cooperation."
Some of our other shaky allies might not appreciate our treatment of Pakistan - but fortunately (or fortuitously), a horrific credible non-specific plot against Europe with roots in Pakistan was revealed to the world just earlier this week:
US and European officials said Tuesday they have detected a plot to carry out a major, coordinated series of commando-style terror attacks in Britain, France, Germany and possibly the United States... The new threat to France, and to Germany and Britain and the U.S., is coming from Pakistan, according to intelligence officials.
ABC TV also reported that "this latest plot was personally approved by Osama bin Laden" himself, (more here) and that "The threat may help explain the increase in U.S. air strikes in the mountainous area along the Pakistani and Afghan border."
But in the meantime, Pakistani officials have other problems:
The Pakistani military, angered by the inept handling of the country's devastating floods and alarmed by a collapse of the economy, is pushing for a shake-up of the elected government, and in the longer term, even the removal of President Asif Ali Zardari and his top lieutenants.
So, nearly two years after announcing "the core goal of the U.S. must be to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda and its safe havens in Pakistan, and to prevent their return to Pakistan or Afghanistan" the Obama administration is confronted with a nation seemingly on the brink of collapse, with a population, military, and media increasingly hostile to a government whose support to us (up to and including helping us kill people on their soil, or at least not acting too upset when we do) is seen as weakness by its citizens but is essential to achieving our goals in the region. (Assuming our goal is to make the region into something other than a terrorist safe haven.)
At this point, it must be difficult to resist the urge to shout "too hard," throw in the towel, declare our original goal was unrealistic and unobtainable and instead simply acknowledge that America can always absorb the inevitable next terrorist attack. Fortunately for us, the Obama administration is composed of folks made of sterner stuff, who know the one magic solution that fixes any problem. Their latest "advice" to the government of Pakistan?
"Pakistan cannot have a tax rate of 9 percent of GDP when land owners and all of the other elites do not pay anything or pay so little it's laughable, and then when there's a problem everybody expects the United States and others to come in and help," Clinton said to a round of applause. She noted that Pakistan's finance minister is now presenting a package of economic and tax reforms.
If you didn't come up with that solution even before you read it, you're probably a Republican. Likewise you may wonder why Pakistan's tax structure would be Hillary Clinton's concern - or why Pakistan's government would care what Hillary Clinton thinks. The answer can be found by searching for the term "Secretary of State" in the Text of S. 962: Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act of 2009 - she's got a lot to say about US aid to Pakistan. (That US aid bill was actually opposed by many Pakistanis, who declared it a "violation of sovereignty". However, they were reassured by their government last year that their perception that it gave the US too much control over their country was mistaken.)
Secretary Clinton isn't a lone voice on this issue, nor is Pakistan a sole target:
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, who was also on the same panel, drove home the message that countries who want U.S. development aid must adopt the reforms that Clinton is advocating.
But Pakistan is the immediate issue - and Geithner dismissed concerns that the Obama administration's demands for Pakistan to raise taxes "could conflict with other U.S. objectives in the region." Obama's "regional expert," Af-Pak envoy Richard Holbrooke, also seems unconcerned:
On Monday, Af-Pak envoy Richard Holbrooke made a similar plea while appearing on the Rachel Maddow show.
"Their maximum tax rates are much lower than ours, and there's a lot of tax evasion there, as has been well reported."
Because we can absorb terrorist attacks, we can acknowledge that "victory" is a bad word - but if there's one thing modern American government officials can't tolerate, it's tax cheats. (If there's two things modern American government officials can't tolerate, it's corrupt government officials and tax cheats. And if there's three things they can't tolerate, it's corrupt government officials, tax cheats, and hypocrites - but I digress...)
Clinton and Geithner weren't the only Obama cabinet secretaries addressing the most critical aspects of American foreign policy this week - their panel also included Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, but he seemed more concerned about Iraq...
Clinton, Geithner, and Shah were speaking on a panel about the president's new development policy. They were joined by Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Chairman of the Millennium Challenge Corporation Daniel Yohannes.
Gates lamented that the State Department and USAID can't seem to get enough money from Congress to fulfill its mission, especially when it comes to the U.S. presence in Iraq.
"We are making a transition to a civilian-led process [in Iraq], but the Congress took a huge whack at the budget that the State Department submitted for this transition," Gates said.
"It reminds me of the last scene in Charlie Wilson's War."
But Iraq's a war Obama (and Congressional Democrats) always said we couldn't win - or at least that military success couldn't translate to political advances there. You can hardly blame them for refusing to support a transition that would prove them wrong while the real central front of the war on terror* is still a festering boil.
As for Charlie Wilson's War, well, there's that long view of history again. (And if there's a fourth thing most modern American government officials can't tolerate, it's those people who insist on living in the past.)
*Footnote: "War on Terror" - I'm not sure what we call it now, apologies for my use of the old term.
(This entry is part of a series that began here, with more to follow.)