Friedman Op-ed

Viper1

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Posting here for your thoughts and comments....

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/22/opinion/22friedman.html?scp=2&sq=friedman&st=cse

July 22, 2009
Op-Ed Columnist
The Class Too Dumb to Quit
By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN

Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan

I’m here in Helmand Province in southern Afghanistan. This is the most
dangerous part of the country. It’s where mafia and mullah meet. This is
where the Taliban harvest the poppies that get turned into heroin that
funds their insurgency. That’s why when President Obama announced the more
than doubling of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, this is where the Marines
landed to take the fight to the Taliban. It is 115 degrees in the sun, and
Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is addressing
soldiers in a makeshift theater.

“Let me see a show of hands,” says Admiral Mullen, “how many of you are on
your first deployment?” A couple dozen hands go up. “Second deployment?”
More hands go up. “Third deployment?” Still lots of hands are raised.
“Fourth deployment?” A good dozen hands go up. “Fifth deployment?” Still
hands go up. “Sixth deployment?” One hand goes up. Admiral Mullen asks the
soldier to step forward to shake his hand.

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.

I’ve long argued that there should be a test for any officer who wants to
serve in Iraq or Afghanistan — just one question: “Do you think the
shortest distance between two points is a straight line?” If you answer
“yes,” you can go to Germany, South Korea or Japan, but not to Iraq or
Afghanistan. Well, this war has produced a class of officers who are very
out-of-the-box thinkers. They learned everything the hard way — not in
classes at Annapolis or West Point, but on the streets of Fallujah and
Kandahar.

I call them: “The Class Too Dumb to Quit.” I say that with affection and
respect. When all seemed lost in Iraq, they were just too stubborn to quit
and figured out a new anti-insurgency strategy. It has not produced
irreversible success yet — and may never. But it has kept the hope of a
decent outcome alive. The same people are now trying to do the same thing
in Afghanistan. Their biggest strategic insight? “We don’t count enemy
killed in action anymore,” one of their officers told me.

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?

At least The Class Too Dumb to Quit is in charge, and they have a
strategy: Clear areas of the Taliban, hold them in partnership with the
Afghan Army, rebuild these areas by building relationships with district
governors and local assemblies to help them upgrade their ability to
deliver services to the Afghan people — particularly courts, schools and
police — so they will support the Afghan government

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.

Copyright 2009 The New York Times Company
 

AWP

Formerly Known as Freefalling
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I think he's optimistic to the point of being delusional, BUT I agree with him on our chances in Afghanistan.
 

Marauder06

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We're "too dumb to quit" because we're committed to winning our nations' wars and making sure the terrorist organizations that attacked our country and killed thousands of our countrymen can't follow us back home and do it to us again? Fuck off :mad:

This is one of the dumbest things I've ever heard:
I’ve long argued that there should be a test for any officer who wants to serve in Iraq or Afghanistan — just one question: “Do you think the
shortest distance between two points is a straight line?” If you answer
“yes,” you can go to Germany, South Korea or Japan, but not to Iraq or
Afghanistan. Well, this war has produced a class of officers who are very
out-of-the-box thinkers. They learned everything the hard way — not in
classes at Annapolis or West Point, but on the streets of Fallujah and
Kandahar.

No you dumb shit, the shortest distance between two points IS a straight line. It's just that most of the time in an insurgency, the straight line isn't going to get you to your destination. If you're going to use a one-question litmus test to determine whether or not a servicemember belongs in Iraq or Afghanistan, a better one question would be, "in an insurgency, is the direct or indirect approach more likely to result in a favorable outcome over the long term?"

I get so tired of hearing people spout off about "out of the box" thinking like it's some kind of panacea for solving all the military's ills. It's becoming another trite, overused buzz phase that people who don't know what they're talking about toss out there to sound cool. There's a very fine line between "out of the box" and "out of control." Too often, "out of the box" is code for, "the rules don't apply to me," with all of the attendant deaths, mission failures, integrity compromises, and loss of credibility that results.

Initiative=good. Loose cannons=bad.

Signed,

Heading Off To My Seventh Deployment, and Still Too Dumb To Quit. :rolleyes:
 
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