Diary

Six Minutes With McChrystal

I’m no expert on such matters.  I read and I consider.  But lately I get physically tense with angre when I consider the politics behind the dithering on our Afghanistan strategy.  I’m going somewhere, so bear with me for a moment.

I get upset first and foremost because there are troops now in the field who know something awaits, but haven’t a clue what that is.  And so, until white smoke appears atop the White House, we ask the soldier in the field to tread water with a plan that we have told him is imperfect.  What leadership.

I get upset also because military opinion on this seems remarkably consistent.   We’re not getting a flood of retired colonels and generals offering a variety of strategies.  Ralph Peters is one of the few strong anti-COIN voices I’ve heard.

I get upset with the disgustingly political way that this new strategy decision is playing out.  Did John Kerry even READ the McChrystal Report?  If he did, he’d know that much of what the good Senator suggested  in his wonderful speech was already embodied in the report.  The only difference, I guess, is numbers and resources.  How about selling the merits of the plan?  Clearly, the Senator doesn’t dispute the thrust of the plan, but he wants to “nuance” things in the course of covering for the “something less” we seem to be soon to get.

Lastly (but not really lastly), on that same point about politicizing warfare, this notion that we have to wait for a fair national election is just insulting and “upset” isn’t a strong enough word for me.   If there’s one pervasive theme of the McChrystal report, its that emphasis must be on a DEcentralize approach; winning the Afghani people on the village level, where the only choice is between the Taliban and the unknown “something worse” (my words, not McChrystal’s).   At best, the report suggests assisting the national Afghan government with the “battle of perceptions”; but the larger focus is on building all at the local level.   Again, the approach is decentralized, and yet we wait on this one election, with what everyone seems to concedes is a foregone conclusion.  In the end, the best we can hope for out of President Karzai is that he doesn’t screw up whatever operation we finally do install.   I can’t help thinking that the dithering has more to do with the November elections in THIS country than in Afghanistan.  But I’m not the first to suggest that.

So, with all that said, on to six minutes with McChrystal.   I know many here have seen this documentary before, but there’s one particular part that speak so strongly to the current debate on Afghanistan.  This is the National Geographic film Inside the Green Berets.   It’s one of the most compelling pieces of film making I’ve ever seen, but there are six minutes of it that should be required viewing for anyone who would ever think to utter an opinion about our next step in Afghanistan. It starts at 13:40 and runs to 19:40.

Briefly, a Green Beret patrol returns to camp.  They arrive to find a few dozen Afghan elders, some who have walked for more than a day, entering their camp to speak with them about their “Taliban problem.”  Several things are abundantly clear, and illustrate much of what the McChrystal report says:  This is a people that trusts no one yet; these people WANT to trust someone; these people want to trust someone other than the Taliban; and, finally, these people will put their own lives on the line with those whom they genuinely do trust.   That last part is my leap of faith, but that’s the implication in the clip – that these tribal elders risked their lives to meet with the Americans at Camp Cobra.   This is essentially McChrystal in broad and general strokes.

Again, the part I’m talking about runs 13:40 – 19:40, but if you haven’t seen the whole thing, I can’t recommend it highly enough.

That’s all I have.