Good Answer

Nice one, Mike!!

Just when I was about to write Michael Yon off after his disembedment, he comes up with a comment that is both insightful and relevant…

The father of a veteran now in Afghanistan emailed with a question: “Michael: What would you say to a group of US soldiers if you were a company commander (and it’s easy for me to imagine you in this role) if after a briefing you gave them as you and they were about to participate in the BfK – when after inviting questions a soldier asked: “Sir, are we being asked to risk our lives to prop up Wali Karzai and if so, is he a good man or just my generation’s Diem? (Or some such question.) A beneficiary of the drug industry, a thug, feared and hated by the people of Kandahar City? How would you Michael Yon answer this US soldier?”

I would likely say, “Yes, we are being tasked to prop up a drug lord. That’s our orders. Let’s get to work.”

It’s a good point – as much as some elements continue to portray the war in Afghanistan as a ‘nice’ war in which no harm really befalls anyone, except the bad guys, and which is conducted according to the highest moral principles….which, of course, is totally false…if what is going on in Afghanistan was anything close to nice, then there would be no need for the thousands of combat troops, strike aircraft, etc, etc, etc…NGOs and aid agencies could run rampant over the country to do-good their little hearts out…but it’s not like that and we shouldn’t be kidding ourselves that it is…

On the same theme are the bedfellows that we might have to partner up with in order to achieve our national objectives…let’s NOT forget that the reason that all these forces are in Afghanistan in the first place is not an overwhelming concern for the wellbeing of the nation or people of Afghanistan…some nations are their for flag-waving purposes, others because the rest of their gang is there, others again perhaps hoping to secure trade or commercial gains…whatever the underlying motives, there is little room for altruistic partnerships based on niceness and the moral high ground. To be blunt about it, most of the nice people that you might be able to partner up with are probably amongst the least effective…

To get the job done, your partners of opportunity will more than likely be those whom you would NOT bring home to meet Mother or the voters but they are way more likely to advance your aims and objectives…

The other insight that falls from Mike’s comment is that these issues of lawful or unlawfulness generally exist at levels stratospherically above the tactical level where the down and dirty fighting occurs…as Mike implies, these issues are not things that the troops on the ground need to be worrying about – so long as someone has taken the time out to remind them why they are face down int eh dirt and the sand, listening to bullets zing by, just over their heads…the direction and ownership of said bullets is largely irrelevant when you’re face down in the sand and the dirt….

Sallying Forth

My brief foray out into civilisation last week went very well. I had (another) great visit to the Air Power Development Centre @ RNZAF Ohakea and am looking forward to doing a lot more work with them. I overnight in Ohakea this time and must comment on the standard of the rooms in the Mess, even for a casual guest like myself…my room had all the amenities necessary for someone working away from home…especially the little details like an alarm clock, towel, bathrobe, iron and ironing board, even a Do Not Disturb sign for the door and some of those little soap and shampoo thingies…all the little details that are such a PITA to lug around with you on the road…very nice…

The following morning I drove down to Wellington – catching the early bird parking deal @ the James Cook by less than two minutes – to listen in on Josh Wineera’s lecture The Contemporary Operating Environment to Victoria University’s Counter-Terrorism course; after which I delivered  Doctrine, COIN and Kilcullen (critiquing The Accidental Guerrilla). It went OK but only OK and I am really annoyed that I ran overtime (despite numerous rehearsals to the big dogs at home) and had to skim over the Kilcullen section. Hopefully I will have other opportunities to polish up my delivery for this type of work as I think that part of the problem is that I haven’t had any opportunities this year to practise let alone hone presentation skills.

I’m now converting the elements of that PowerPoint brief into a loose paper, combining the images with the accompanying words, for Jim Veitch at Vic as a record of those thoughts. I found last year that both MS Word and OpenOffice’s Writer are sub-optimumal tools for this and have opted to try this using a dedicated desktop publishing application called Scribus. It’s open source as well and like much of these open source apps has an almost vertical learning curve (the reason I uninstalled it last year) but I cracked it last night and am now making pretty good progress. The result for this project probably won’t win too many marks for prettiness as I am learning as I go but progress is progress….

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