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:
It also deserves an entire article in response. I don't have the time to write it right now, so I'll just quote Ruth:
Remember, well at least I am old enough to, the Marshall Plan? We made sure we won and then we sent the money. Seems like a good way to do it to me.
In short, giving comes second. We should pay Afghans after they pay us with info. No freebies.
Posted by: Amritas at December 04, 2009 03:50 PM (+nV09)
Posted by: SciFiJim at December 05, 2009 09:59 AM (oyiPt)
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