Rapid Fire

3 cups of tea

Literally a storm in a teacup…I doubt there is anyone who ever published a book than was 100% honest in EVERY way and which did not lean towards one agenda or perspective or another in some way…

Greg Mortenson shot to worldwide fame with the book “Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Fight Terrorism and Build Nations … One School at a Time,” which describes his getting lost in an effort to climb K2, the world’s second-highest peak, being rescued by Pakistanis in the village of Korphe and vowing to return there to build a school for local girls.

Now it appears that it wasn’t quite as he says which is causing a little embarrassment around the traps for those who may have supported his initiatives financially or, like the US DoD, who may have extracted insights from Three Cups of Tea for use in COIN doctrine and TTPs…personally I agree with the headline, if not all of the content, of the Wired article on the subject Does It Matter If The Military’s Fave Do-Gooder Sells Three Cups of Snake Oil?  When an organisation like the military moves out of its comfort zone, in this case, of large very structured kinetic military operations like Grandad used to do, it has to cast its net wider for ideas…

Let’s not forget that the COIN effort in Iraq got off to a false start as too many people heralded the false zealots of COIN the Malaya way, the US in particular, picking the wrong time to listen to its vocal but fickle ally from the other side of the Atlantic…it was only the efforts of David Petraeus, David Kilcullen et al who turned the tide towards a COIN strategy that would (and did) work in Iraq, this being encapsulated in the December 2006 version of FM 3-24 CounterInsurgency (don’t knock it unless you have actually read it!!). But, however applicable that FM 3-24 might have been in the Iraq of 2006, it was less applicable to the almost-forgotten Afghan war which had been festering away since March 2003 and which, as a problem, bore little resemblance to Iraq.

So, more power to those who cast the net wide in their attempts to get a better handle on the specific of the Afghan problem…Jim Gant with his One Tribe at a Time paper was one; those promoting Three Cups of Tea were others…and so what if Mortenson streamlined his experiences or even made them up? Are we still so template-ridden from the Fulda Gap that we can not think for ourselves and extract the nuggets from the rough…it’s just slipped my mind but one of the tenets that I referred to often in my work in the late 90s came a from a source that I eventually tracked back to one of Don Pendleton’s The Executioner pulp paperbacks…someone that I was working with at the time was mortified that I might draw real world insights from such a ‘disreputable‘ source but so far as I was, and am, concerned, it is not who the source is that is of prime importance but what it is saying…One area in which this has become very apparent and implemented in SOPs is in the Lessons Learned world where collection teams will endeavour to draw observations, issues and lessons (OIL – yes, it’s still all about OIL!!) from as close to the horses mouth as they can get – the trick, of course, being to avoid the equine’s other end…

On failed states

Got the cue on this article from Michael Yon’s Facebook page…always a good source of links to interesting articles…as well written as it is, I think it’s all semantic smoke and mirrors…three decades ago our biggest threats came from established states like France, the Soviet Empire and Maoist China…once again we need to resist the temptation to slap a template on a nation and use that to determine their level of potential threat or risk or not…as above, we should be able to consider each form or threat and risk on its own merits or or lack of thereof and draw our own conclusions…this sort of pseudo-analytical, ‘Eureka!‘ style of writing really leaves me cold…

Kiwi Gunners

On a positive note, I came across this great written snapshot of a Kiwi gunner’s perspective on Vietnam and the New Zealand of the time, again drawing the cue from someone’s (sorry, can’t remember the source) Facebook page….it’s not that well known that our artillery was in Vietnam well before there was any infantry deployment…and especially topical when one remembers that yesterday was ANZAC Day…

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