17 July 2009

SWJ's latest

Since I'm re-hydrating after a surprisingly strenuous night of consuming alcohol last night, I'm not going to post anything too creative.

Anyway, leave it to SWJ to find the great links for me (there's a reason they're in Rolling Stone Magazine and, most recently, on the Foreign Affairs counterinsurgency reading list). Today, they ran two good links in one post.

Link number one comes from Politics Daily, and it concerns overly-optomistic speeches during times of war. It's pretty much a "no kidding" article, as the author makes the point that troops are cynical towards speeches from politicians which claim that the war or the current deployment or whatever is nearly over. Indeed, it's a "no kidding" article for those of us in uniform, but the author makes the case that not everyone has realized this. And to think there might be people out there who are actually surprised that troops would be so cynical when their leaders tell them that the mission is accomplished... The author concludes the article with:

Lesson for Obama? Avoid categorical war claims ("Absolutely, we're winning!'') Balance positive news with sober and realistic assessments from the battlefield.
And expect some skepticism from the grunts out there.
Indeed, I've taken to compiling much of the history of my unit's deployment, and I've cautioned myself that, since this history will be viewed decades into the future, that I ought to have a healthy dose of realism in it and not thump my chest in victory at the end of the deployment.

Link number two is from Herschel Smith at The Captains' Journal, and it regards the appropriate "end state" and "exit strategy" from Afghanistan. Clearly, we need to be realistic about our expectations for Afghanistan--the institutions upon which democracy is based (literacy, economic development, etc) are virtually non-existant in that country. Furthermore, the original mission to pursue and destroy al Qaeda has slowly become the victim of "mission creep", turning into a Kilcullen-style "hybrid war": an anti-Taliban counterinsurgency campaign, coupled with the counter-terror campaign al Qaeda, now largely relocated to Pakistan, as well as the counter-narcotics campaign being waged throughout the country. Smith brings up some great points, and there are a lot of good comments to the article that are worth checking out.

Bonus: As I was sifting through the RSS reader, I came across a number of articles (Times Online, Kings of War) regarding the state of the British Army. It seems as if the UK is experiencing the same crisis of faith and leadership that the US military began realizing in earnest a few years back. Thomas Ricks dedicates two blog posts to the subject (here and here), noting that the British military has yet to produce the innovaters on the order of a Nagl, Yingling or Petraeus--those who had made such an impact at helping to reform the US Army. The articles are well worth a read (particularly the second article from Ricks).

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