Our policy is to point to the original full sotry online whenever the source offers a persistent URL that does not require registration. Below are extracts from Tom Friedman’s “The Class Too Dumb to Quit,” as flagged by Marcus Aurelius, pseudonym for a Special Operations officer with decades of HUMINT abroad.
This scene is a reason for worry, for optimism and for questioning everything we are doing in Afghanistan. It is worrying because between the surges in Iraq and Afghanistan, we are grinding down our military. I don’t know how these people and their families put up with it. Never have so many asked so much of so few.
The reason for optimism? All those deployments have left us with a deep cadre of officers with experience in Iraq and Afghanistan, now running both wars — from generals to captains. They know every mistake that has been made, been told every lie, saw their own soldiers killed by stupidity, figured out solutions and built relationships with insurgents, sheikhs and imams on the ground that have given the best of them a granular understanding of the “real” Middle East that would rival any Middle East studies professor.
. . . . . . .
Early in both Iraq and Afghanistan our troops did body counts, à la Vietnam. But the big change came when the officers running these wars understood that R.B.’s (“relationships built”) actually matter more than K.I.A.’s. One relationship built with an Iraqi or Afghan mayor or imam or insurgent was worth so much more than one K.I.A. Relationships bring intelligence; they bring cooperation. One good relationship can save the lives of dozens of soldiers and civilians. One reason torture and Abu Ghraib got out of control was because our soldiers had built so few relationships that they tried to beat information out of people instead. But relationship-building is painstaking.
And that leads to my unease. America has just adopted Afghanistan as our new baby. The troop surge that President Obama ordered here early in his tenure has taken this mission from a limited intervention, with limited results, to a full nation-building project that will take a long time to succeed — if ever. We came here to destroy Al Qaeda, and now we’re in a long war with the Taliban. Is that really a good use of American power?
. . . . . . .
The bad news? This is State-Building 101, and our partners, the current Afghan police and government, are so corrupt that more than a few Afghans prefer the Taliban. With infinite time, money, soldiers and aid workers, we can probably reverse that. But we have none of these. I feel a gap building between our ends and our means and our time constraints. My heart says: Mission critical — help those Afghans who want decent government. My head says: Mission impossible.
Does Mr. Obama understand how much he’s bet his presidency on making Afghanistan a stable country? Too late now. So, here’s hoping that The Class Too Dumb to Quit can take all that it learned in Iraq and help rebuild The Country That’s Been Too Broken to Work.
+++++++Phi Beta Iota Editorial Comment+++++++
“Relationships Built” versus “Body Count” is a major step foreword. However, the management of “Full-Spectrum HUMINT across the US Government is so inept as to be virtually criminal. Within the Department of Defense, the Human Terrain System (HTT) and the lack of linguists also able to write coherently in English stand out as sucking chest wounds.
With respect to Viet-Nam, click on the cover below to read our review of Triumph Forsaken. There is absolutely no question in our mind but that IF the U.S. Government were to find its integrity, strategic center of gravitas, and the will to restore the Constitution and the Republic, that Whole of Government operations could not only create a prosperous world at peace, but we could also wipe out our multi-trillion dollar deficits within a decade. INTEGRITY. One word, one world, one outcome.