Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Lost in Kandahar

Not much to say that hasn't been said about this, except that it seems vastly frustrating to me to read stuff like this and wonder "Didn't we go down this road once already? Didn't my platoon sergeants remind me that "...the locals are always friendly to the guys with the guns..."? because they'd walked through the ville full of smiling kids and nodding mama-sans and caught booby-trap hell on the way back? When the hell did we forget all this stuff?This story is already all over the web; here's one take on it, and here's another.

The really irritating thing I got from reading this is what Foust calls the "America Good!" syndrome. I ran into it awhile back on a blog called something like "Great Satan's Girlfriend", where the blogger was all up in everyone's grille about what great things our country does beyond the Jersey shore and how dare the filthy unwashed savages like the French and the Democrats question the purity of our precious bodily fluids.

While I yield to no one in my delight in the things my country has done well, there is no doubt that it has done some things in foreign lands exceptionally badly. Liberty and justice at home are no guarantee of decent behavior abroad; go visit the nice people in Brussels and then read about the nightmare that was the Belgian Congo. The Huns were probably wonderful husbands and fathers, too. We're all of us humans capable of horrific barbarity to those not in our tribe; it's not an American failing, it's a human failing and having a lovely Constitution and lots of indoor plumbing doesn't make us any less human...What MAKES this frustrating is that it's not a difficult fix. It's not like there's some massive, structural problem standing in the way of a U.S. foreign policy towards the Middle East and central Asia that makes some coherent sense. The realities of global power and that subset of power called imperial war are fairly straightforward - people have been doing it since Ramses' day, after all. The difficulties creep in when you insist on seeing not what is, not what you want in honest terms, but what you want it to be and what you pretend to desire.


  1. Chief,
    Even when you are carrying a Car 15 the people looked at us with death in their eyes.
    It wasn't a WE ARE THE WORLD type of feeling.
    It's sad when cultures meet over rifle sights.

  2. I'm curious where "Paula" is earning her Ph.D.

    She might want to go to another university since it seems she's not getting her money's worth in reporting, or journalistic writing, or for that matter propaganda.
    Man, what are they teaching in the Army for propaganda these days?

  3. Reading her original post, you got the feeling that this was really suppose to come across as a success story, of how we "doing it right". That it doesn't simply shows how far our view is from that of those calling the shots in Afghanistan.

    Big explosions = victory.

    And America is too big (and too rich) to fail.

  4. I've been seeing this type of stuff happen since 2003. We take artillery units, who (no offense FDC) probably shouldn't be carrying long rifles, and make them "provisional" Infantry units. We give them an AOR and ask them to do Infantry like tasks. Time and time again, it is a disaster.

    Three tours in Iraq, the scariest thing I ever did was go on a patrol with some "battlespace owners" that was an ADA Bn, doing presence patrols. It got dark, and I literally said to the CPT leading the patrol, "Ah, looks like you guys got things under control here, we are heading home." And we got away as fast as we could. Did I feel bad. Yes, but shit was scary.

    I later saw some FA units designated as a Training team for Iraqi forces. Holy shit, I thought them doing patrols was a bad idea, now these guys were training Iraqis? I never saw more prejudice and racism in the Army then I saw that day.

    And here we are years later, do the same damn thing. I know the argument, too much battlespace and too few troops. I would assume risk and leave some parts of the AOR uncovered, because in my experience, the FA battalions had a tendency to do more harm then good.

    You guys know I have nothing against FA, but they have been asked time and time again to do a job that is just way outside their skill set and training. But we keep doing it....

    IRT this PhD student, she sounds like the typical GEN P sycophant. No news here. He has a whole court of them. I am not sure where she got the label "advisor", just another one of King David's subjects.

  5. jim: Sad, yes, but it's been going on since the Hittites took armed vacations in their neighbor's houses. It's not rocket science, and if we're gonna do it we should do it right. This SO violates the "go Roman or go home" rules that I don't know where to begin. All this pointless flattening of the ville does is piss the locals off without instilling terror. Stupid.

    Sheer, seydlitz: I think this is called being "captured by your own propaganda"; like the Japanese in 1844, this woman honestly believes that this stuff is winning. We called it "victory disease" when it caused the Japanese to throw lives away reinforcing defeat. What the hell do you call it now? I call it "bringing the clueless"...

    bg: No offense taken - I've been pissing and moaning about the damage being done to my branch by this idiotic galvanized infantry retraining since back in the intel dump days. It's bad for the cannon cockers and bad for those around them. But the fact remains that this shouldn't have been a mission for a US maneuver unit - we have no idea what the local politics or personal relations are. The province chief should have been all over this ville before the Talibs got in, or, once they did, should have been there suborning the village chiefs and buying treachery and assassination.

    This was a classic example of Paul Vann's knife-fight, and instead we used the thing he told us was the VERY worst - airplanes. And yes, this idiot woman is there to dance on the ruins to celebrate her chief's Great Big Brain.

    Don't know whether to weep or laugh at the stupidity...

  6. The problem is that since we retain the power to remain committed both tactically and operationally, we can ignore the fact that the war is already lost for us at the strategic level. That means that this is a very profitable proposition (for those willing to profit from this misery) as long as the scam lasts or until the "too big to fail" enterprise collapses . . . as in 17th Century Spain . . .

  7. FDChief: All this pointless flattening of the ville does is piss the locals off without instilling terror.

    I have no idea of what the Afghans feel toward their "land". By "land" I mean the piece of this Earth that is their home.

    I grew up in a strongly Sicilian family where I understood the notion of "a house being a home". Each of our family units bought their "home", and on that parcel of land, and in that structure, our hearts and souls were planted, our lives were lived and succeeding generations were born.

    When we moved to Greece, we built on a small (1/8 acre) parcel of ancestral lands owned by a neighbor, Georgo, that had been given to his grandfather when he had to flee here their centuries old home in Smyrna, Turkey. While he still has many, many acres of land, this was still part of him. His entire extended family lives on these lands, farms them, raises generation upon generation on it. I thanked him profusely, saying that it means a lot to us to have this "gift" from him, and that it is now our land which we will hold, live on, care for and love for the rest of our lives. I told him that he is always welcome to come for coffee, to chat, or just to walk on the soil. I meant that sincerely.

    Back to the topic of the thread. If the people of Tarak Kolache are anything like Georgo, me, or countless other people, what has been destroyed cannot be rebuilt. The village has been raped and plundered and will never be the same. There is an emotional attachment that may very well be blasphemed, and 99% of Americans have no clue.

    And for what???


  8. Al-

    What you've brought up explains so much. We Americans are pretty much rootless. We came to America leaving family behind and long after, into the 3rd, 4th, 8th generation, we continue to leave family behind in most instances. Land is something to be exploited, changed, beaten into a desired shape, not something to be cherished, preserved, stewarded. Of course we used to have a large community of Americans who thought of the land quite differently, the farmer on his land with his family, the land being passed on from generation to generation, but that social group has been unable to "compete effectively" in the market and is today pretty much a shadow of what it was even going into the 1960s.

    Is the war in Afghanistan really about the Afghanis, or is it about us, about "winning", about showing the world what we (still) have the power to do . . . ?

  9. Seydlitz: I'd say, rather, that "winning" and "losing" are meaningless terms in the way we define them here. So we can "win" every firefight, and still "lose" if the locals are simply willing to wait long enough to see the back of us before we force our solution on them. And I don't think that we can afford the time, money, or lives it would take to be ruthless enough to do that...

    Al: Your comment gets very much to the point of what make the original journo (and, by inference, her contacts on Petraeus' staff that fed her the story) so clueless. Let's look at just one paragraph;

    "They express great gratitude for helping them claim security in their river valley and push the Taliban out."

    Sure they do; you're standing there in the middle of a bunch of armed GIs. They'd tell you they'd worship your father's penis if you asked them.

    "Sure they are pissed about the loss of their mud huts (look at the picture again) but that is why the BUILD story is important here.

    This is just appalling. Mud huts? Pissed? Woman, like Al points out, these "mud huts" may represent generations of their families. Not everyone in the world thinks of their dwellings as a coat rack and a warm place to shit. Fuck yeah, they're pissed.

    "I’m still not saying that razing a village is the best approach to clear/hold strategy, and to answer Paul’s question, I don’t know that this is a trend but I don’t think you should limit the option for commanders. Truth be told, ISAF expects heavy fighting again this spring and summer, so I suspect there will be more of this razing to come in other key terrain areas."

    There's an old saying; if you're going to fuck with me that bad, just kill me. Because otherwise I'm going to get my revenge one way or another. IF you're going to burn and bomb the people out, you'd better kill them, too, because putting them back in little prefab Serbian-made huts is just gonna piss them off that much worse.

    This is worse than a goddam crime; it's a huge mistake, and to me it says that for all the buildup that Mosul Dave got for getting all COIN-y that he doesn't really "get it".

    Yeah, Al. WASSSSSSF.

  10. To All,
    Remember the interview in RVN?
    Or words to that order.
    Why does the Amie public continue to tolerate the wars? Nobody that i casually talk to ever voice support for the wars. It didn't start out that way, as we all know.
    In fact the other day i was even wondering why anti nuc demonstrations have disappeared from the face of the earth. We'll see dinosaurs on Main St. before we'll see anti nuc/war demonstrations.Whats this all mean?

  11. jim: I think it means that the governing class is approaching its desired end-state: the supposed masters of the democracies, the People, have been simultaneously confused, distracted, and discouraged from taking an active part in their own governance. Thus without having to do a 1933 the people who DO matter - the wealthy, the corporatist powers, and their elected tools - can run things without interference.

    If this governance were even mildly beneficial I wouldn't even really kick that hard. But the folks running things now seem as clueless as the people who ran things in late Imperial Rome or late Imperial Spain were, and seem determined to run the place into the ground. That's what gets me. The point behind the American Revolution was that a group of informed citizens was more likely to make good decisions for their own lives than a small, insular elite. Assuming the elites are truly gifted rulers that's not true. But the Founders had seen for themselves that gifted despots are as rare as gifted people in general, and that most elites are clueless fucktards like most of the rest of us. Their plan was to spread the power out to enable a sensible center to pull the fucktards away from the fire before it burned the rest of us. That plan appears to be breaking (or has broken) down, if it ever worked all that well to begin with. The question for me now is - is there a way of returning authority to a broader citizen base, or are we headed, as in the case of most republic-to-oligarchy transitions, for an ever-decreasing circle of powerful men at the top of everything?

  12. This is good . . .