December 26, 2009
December 04, 2009
But I can't help but keep thinking about firebombing Dresden vs vaccinating goats. It's such a different tactic. And I fear that we're starting to mistake the hearts-and-minds missions as being the end, not the means.
I wrote earlier this year about my husband's career field:
It's a fascinating way to look at his job, and sadly it takes a confident person to accept that role. Civil Affairs as a branch doesn't want to see itself as just a tool for Special Forces. Some in the branch look askance at my husband when his briefings show the Civil Affairs work as Phase 2 and what SF built out of their work as Phase 3. They want to feel like their role is important. It certainly is, but only if it helps get us closer to the bad guy.
Happy, healthy goats in Afghanistan shouldn't be our goal; winning should.
The reason we are in this war is to stop terrorists from killing Americans. The point is to prevent another 9/11, to cut off the funding for and state-sponsorship of terrorism, and to kill as many al Qaeda and terrorists as possible. We vaccinate the goats because hopefully that will help nice Afghans and Iraqis point out where the bad guys are, or take up arms and help us fight them. We don’t vaccinate the goats because we want to do charity work for them.
But that’s not the military goal. We have to remember that that is a means to an end: a better educated and more economically sound populace should lead to less people joining al Qaeda out of desperation, or becoming a suicide bomber for the money. I want Iraqis and Afghans to flourish, but I have an ulterior motive for that desire. I am not just blindly altruistic in my support for these missions and programs. They have to advance the cause of the US military, otherwise they're missing the point.
So when I read this interview with author Greg Mortenson this morning, I got my feathers all ruffled:
And I see that right there as an epic FAIL.
My husband is not there to "serve" the people of Afghanistan. He is there to creatively find ways to do compassionate missions, with the end goal always tucked away in the back of his mind that it only makes sense to run the mission if it will somehow benefit the American military agenda. If he wanted to build schools for needy people, he could've just joined Habitat For Humanity.
The Mortenson advice is all well and good if you are an NGO or just an kindhearted fella who wants to open schools in Afghanistan. His goal is to help those people; he "serves" them. The military doesn't; the military serves the interests of the United States. The American military is not one big money tree that Afghans can keep coming to to get "served." Or at least it shouldn't be. But every soldier working in Iraq and Afghanistan has a horror story of following Mortenson's Rule #1 and asking the local people what they need...and then getting an earful of upgrades. "We need power restored to the entire remote village." Well, have you ever had power before? Did you have power back when Saddam ran the country? No? Then how, pray tell, do you expect us to "restore" it? My husband visited a school last year and asked them what they could use; they gave him plans for a state-of-the-art kitchen they wanted installed in the cafeteria. Scale it back a bit, folks; Uncle Sugar isn't going to turn your hot plate into Paula Deen's kitchen. Especially not if it's not going to get us anything in return. I want to be assured of quid pro quo before we vaccinate anybody's goats, or at least have a pretty good idea that we'll get something for our effort.
The US military is not one big charity organization trying to fix Afghanistan. Let the Gates Foundation do stuff like that. Our missions need to have purpose and need to be grounded in some sense of how this helps the overall goals of our fighting force: If I vaccinate this goat or build this school, will ol' Farzad in the village let us know is he hears rumors of the next planned attack? If not, then Farzad can find his own damn vaccination.
We are not there to "serve" him.
Related thoughts from Ralph Peters on TV. Clip here. Relevant quote:
December 03, 2009
I have a friend in my knitting group whose husband died as a contractor in Iraq. She has never been forthcoming with details, and I certainly have never wanted to pry. But last week she let me know that an episode of Battlefield Diaries would be on the Military Channel, and that it was the attack her husband was killed in.
I had no idea he was killed in the convoy where Matt Maupin was captured. Nor did I have any idea that I knew the lieutenant who led that convoy; Matt Brown and I were in youth group together in high school.
I am just stunned by the coincidence right now.
December 01, 2009
What I answered was that it depends on what the 30,000 will be used for. Will they be sent to urban or rural areas? Will they be doing counter-insurgency or counter-terrorism? And as far as an exit goes, I said it depends on whether Pres Obama announces what the end game is. Will he state concrete goals? Will he announce a victory strategy? It makes no sense to denote an arbitrary end to a war based on running out the clock; what does victory look like to the Obama administration?
And I obviously over-thought the substance of the article, because I was apparently over-expectant on the substance of the speech.
I wanted details. I can't form any opinions on whether we're making the right move if I don't know the specifics. And I feel like I didn't learn anything new from listening to Pres Obama's speech tonight than what I already knew from what got leaked ahead of time. (Except I learned there is something called a "tool of mass destruction." Which sounds more like a witty insult than something serious.)
What I wanted was Perot or Beck-style charts and graphs. I wanted another version of FDR's fireside chat On the Progess of the War.
Look at your map.
Heavy bombers can fly under their own power from here to the southwest Pacific, either way, but the smaller planes cannot. Therefore, these lighter planes have to be packed in crates and sent on board cargo ships. Look at your map again; and you will see that the route is long – and at many places perilous – either across the South Atlantic all the way (a)round South Africa and the Cape of Good Hope, or from California to the East Indies direct. A vessel can make a round trip by either route in about four months, or only three round trips in a whole year.
In spite of the length, (and) in spite of the difficulties of this transportation, I can tell you that in two and a half months we already have a large number of bombers and pursuit planes, manned by American pilots and crews, which are now in daily contact with the enemy in the Southwest Pacific. And thousands of American troops are today in that area engaged in operations not only in the air but on the ground as well.
In this battle area, Japan has had an obvious initial advantage. For she could fly even her short-range planes to the points of attack by using many stepping stones open to – her bases in a multitude of Pacific islands and also bases on the China coast, Indo-China coast, and in Thailand and Malaya (coasts). Japanese troop transports could go south from Japan and from China through the narrow China Sea, which can be protected by Japanese planes throughout its whole length.
I ask you to look at your maps again, particularly at that portion of the Pacific Ocean lying west of Hawaii. Before this war even started, the Philippine Islands were already surrounded on three sides by Japanese power. On the west, the China side, the Japanese were in possession of the coast of China and the coast of Indo-China which had been yielded to them by the Vichy French. On the North are the islands of Japan themselves, reaching down almost to northern Luzon. On the east, are the Mandated Islands – which Japan had occupied exclusively, and had fortified in absolute violation of her written word.
Read that and imagine any recent president talking to us citizens this way. Imagine being treated like you have a brain in your head, and that you're a part of what's taking place. Imagine your president asking you to follow his complex speech on a map or with pen and paper.
Instead, we got "We will not target other people...because their faith or ethnicity is different from ours." And praise for teachers, community organizers, and "Peace Corps volunteers who spread hope abroad."
That's all well and good, but I wanted details about Afghanistan.
I don't know why I expected I would get that.
Bad writing. Lame delivery. Tepid response — from cadets ORDERED to be nice. And a strategic vision equal parts High School Essay Content and low-rent public relations.
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