They Said It Better Than I Ever Could...


These words that I write, they keep me from total insanity. -Charles Bukowski

Who is the happier man, he who has braved the storm of life and lived, or he who has stayed securely on shore and merely existed? -Dr. Hunter S. Thompson

Jan 21, 2009

Hey Mr. President, What Do You Think Of This...

Well a lot of the guys around here make fun of me because I say certain things a lot. Amongst the things I say with ever increasing frequency is this:

You’re going to be fine, you’re going to be just fine.

So why did I tell you that? Because I am about to ask Barack Obama some questions and then I am going to answer them for him. Not to mention I am going to throw a little commentary at you about the conservatives in the military and I just love to say that to them.

YOU’RE GOING TO BE FINE, YOU’RE GOING TO BE JUST FINE…

To whom do I say this little gem? Pretty much everyone I know at one time or another. Where did it come from? Prison, a federal prison is where this one originated. This is what I tell my inmates whenever they get onto one of their little fits of bitching where if one did not know better and heard this tirade you would swear that the sky was falling.

I say it calmly and with the requisite amount of condescension but it’s true, the sky is not falling, the sun will rise again tomorrow and you are going to be fine.

Which is what I love to tell all the conservative lunatics that are here in Uncle Sam’s mean green machine whenever they lose their cool talking about what Obama is going to do when he gets into office and what not.

You would think that the conservatives around here thought that Obama is about to usher in an age when the military will be weakened to the point of irrelevancy, and all their money is about to be taken by the government and given over to…France.

Now the extremity of their ideas is laughable but for the most part the virulent dialogue that qualifies as debate around here is almost exclusively directed at Obama. Which provides me with an endless amount of entertainment given the fact that I love to stir up the shit and I also love to be the guy who disagrees with everyone else. Sometimes I wonder if I was home in Chicago where everyone loved Obama if I would’ve supported McCain just to be a pain in the ass. But I digress.

We all know that Obama has a full plate to deal with. He has one war to end, and one war to win. He has an economy that is truly in the shitter, and all the problems that come with that. He inherits a country whose standing on the world stage has never been shakier, and on and on…

Which issue is most important to me? Well if you guessed the war in Afghanistan, then there is another ETS cookie for you.

What is he going to do about this war? Where will he take it? How many more guys will he send here? How is he going to deal with the war-profiteers err civilian contractors that are here? If he does send more guys here, where will he have them sent? The questions about this one are literally endless. Each answered question gives rise to about twenty more.

So in order to further my patriotic duty as an American soldier, and in order to offer constructive solutions as opposed to just bitching I am going to answer every one of my questions and present the new president with a little plan on how to win this thing. I am going to use the “If I were you” format for answering the questions. I also realize the obnoxiousness it takes for a lowly enlisted soldier to presume to lecture the president on how to conduct a war and his international affairs, but hey, I am obnoxious so here we go.

What are you going to do about the war?

If I were you the first thing I would do is come up with a workable timeline for leaving Iraq. I think anywhere from 18-24 months would be feasible. The whole 16-month thing you were talking about might be a little too ambitious and you want to leave yourself some wiggle room. If something goes on that would delay the whole thing you don’t want to be shackled to the 16-month promise.

Next thing on the agenda would be moving most if not all of those combat assets from Iraq to Afghanistan. Actually this would be a concurrent thing. As resources are no longer needed in Iraq they could be transported over to Afghanistan. I would recommend that you have all this stuff fixed in Kuwait or Qatar so that the equipment would not have to go home. Easier shipping, you know what I mean.

Following the transfer of all of those military resources to Afghanistan I would hope that the generals you have in charge would see the need for a massive redeployment of troops and material within the theater. I have talked in the past of Afghanistan’s strange political dynamic that places the real power firmly in the hands of the tribal elders, mullahs, warlords, and militiamen out in the countryside and the mountains. Contrary to the American model which concentrates political power in the urban centers. Bearing that dynamic in mind two things should happen.

First, military forces in this country should be concentrated in the borderlands between Pakistan and Afghanistan to prevent the free reign border crossing that makes this war so damn hard to fight. In addition those forces should be concentrated out in the countryside to the south and east of this country. That is where the Taliban is rebuilding from, so that is where we need to be with the guns and bombs to prevent that rebuilding from taking place.

Secondly, have you ever heard of a “loya jirga” Well it’s a big council meeting of Afghan leaders. Not just the political appointees and the elected gangsters that they have in Kabul right now. I mean real Afghan leaders; the tribal elders, the mullahs, and all the guys that hold real sway out in the provinces that aren’t controlled by Kabul. Just so you know that is pretty much all of them except Kabul, not to mention I would bet my left nut that Kabul only holds power inside the city limits of Kabul and has very little real power outside the city in its own province. But I could be wrong.

I would recommend that you, or someone with some real juice come here under invitation from Hamid Karzai and perhaps secure the invitation of the Pashtu leaders in the border areas. (This would help out immensely with security, given the Pashtu and Islamic value placed on hospitality) Come here and participate directly in a debate with the loya jirga. I am not going to lie, this would be wild, Afghani politics is a contact sport and they would come out guns blazing. Maybe that was a bad metaphor.

Come to the loya jirga ready for them. Make sure you come with a plan. Tell them what you want to do for Afghanistan economically, socially, culturally, and militarily. And tell them what they have to do to ensure that American resources are not squandered and/or misused.

I would do some reading up on this one, the loya jirga I mean. There is nothing in American politics that really comes close. The closest thing would be like a congressional debate with very few rules and a two-drink minimum. Also be advised that one of the recent loya jirga’s that took place consisted of over 1800 people. This is not going to be any small affair.

Doing this would serve a myriad of purposes. First you would endear yourself to the Afghani people. Second you would be able to put your finger on the pulse of this nation. When presented with an opportunity like this the tribal leaders and warlords would come out in droves. Which would serve a third purpose of helping to identify whom holds power, and where they hold that power. If they had the juice to get elected to the loya jirga they obviously have the juice to make the moves that are needed to bring stability to this nation.

Take each and every suggestion seriously and examine all the possibilities presented. These people know their country and what it needs better than we do, I think if you want to preach the politics of inclusion there is no better chance than this to show you are serious.

Where will you take this war?

If I were you, the logical conclusion of this war is a stable Afghanistan with a functioning economy and society, and a government favorable to the United States and the world in general.

Well that is a mouthful and a shit ton easier said than done. So what would we need to do to accomplish that end?

Interconnectivity in this country is key to the stability of this country. Not only am I talking about cell phones and computers but I am also talking about the infrastructure of this land that will allow the free transport of goods, services, and people across the barren wastelands that permeate most of Afghanistan.

A nationwide highway system is so important to any stability that Afghanistan will ever see. There is no way that any central authority could ever be achieved in this country without it. How can the government assert its power in the countryside if it can’t even get there?

This is going to require one tremendous investment on the part of the international community. I couldn’t even begin to imagine how many billions of dollars it will take to pull this off. So may I be so bold as to make a suggestion as to how to do it.

Pull all civilian contractors out of the war in Afghanistan. They have already made entirely too much cash off this war anyhow. Tell them to go home and find regular jobs with paychecks that are commensurate with their skill set as opposed to coming here and driving a truck for $10,000 a month. There is precedent here as well. I found out that while in Kosovo and Bosnia (NATO or the UN) whoever’s mission that one was gave $2,000 per month per soldier to all nations that sent soldiers there. The governments of some other countries gave that money to their soldiers, while others, our government included kept that money and did not give it to the soldiers. Why? Because American soldiers are not mercenaries. Am I the only one who finds it slightly hypocritical that we would do that and then turn around and pay these people astronomical amounts of money to do something that all logic would say should be done by a soldier. But I digress.

This highway would not only connect the country to the city, it would speed the movement of military assets and material, it would contribute to winning the hearts and minds of the Afghani’s and would connect them to each other facilitating the transfer of ideas and dialogue and debate. Even if they have to drive it from one place to the next.

The second step in the process of connecting this country is telecommunications. Now this unfortunately is an area where civilian contractors would have to be used. Last time I checked the army didn’t have a phone company.

Cell phone towers need to go up everywhere. Make it to the point where cell phones are just as common here as they are in the states.

Get the regular phone lines up.

Get the mail system up to par.

Get the computer and Internet systems here up to a level where they can support the massive amount of demand that will come when people realize what is going on.

AND MAKE DAMN SURE THAT NONE OF THIS SHIT IS CENSORED!!!!

If you see what I am getting at, I do truly believe that this society would never be able to handle a free and democratic government right off the bat. But maybe it is a bit Machiavellian of me, but I can deal with that, so long as the avenue that will lead to the eventual formation of said democratic government is there.

The free exchange of all the ideas that this country can muster and the debate that will lead to the formation of new ideas, all of which will be facilitated by the Internet cannot be overstated.

Not to mention the ability of the Afghan people to see the rest of the world and how it functions and to be able to demand similar conditions from its own government is paramount.

The Afghani’s will eventually come around to a western way of thinking. Everyone always does so long as they are exposed to the ideas.

The free exchange of ideas is one of the few real questions I have. I don’t really have any suggestion for ensuring that other than requiring it of the Afghani’s and that smacks of American elitism and condescension. Which is not good. But you have people smarter than I to figure that out.

I already spoke to what I would like to see done with the civilian contractors so I won’t reiterate it. Just understand that the only civilians that should be allowed into a war zone are those who have such a highly specialized skill that no soldier, sailor, airman, or marine can be found who can do their job. Enough said. The next questions were how many more guys will you send here and if you do, where will you send those guys?

If I were you I would secure the border first. The border between Pakistan and Afghanistan is already well known as the most lawless place in the world. I know for a fact. How do I know this? Because I live really, really close to it. I don’t really know, nor do I have the resources required to give you an accurate estimate of how many troops it would take to secure this border. But I can say that it would number somewhere north of 150,000. (Bear in mind there are like 190,000 guys in Iraq.) Probably more, not to mention that the border between Iran and Afghanistan has to be secured for the same reasons. I mean there would need to be FOB’s, and outposts, and border patrol stations every 50 feet or it quite frankly is not going to work. Now that sort of presence could not be sustained for years on end, but it could be sustained long enough for the interior of the country to complete some of the work or rebuilding and by doing that you would make the country hostile to those crossing the border.

Next thing up would be chasing down the ones that we have in here already. You know the ones that don’t jump the border every October to avoid the harsh Afghani winters. Presently, our forces are concentrated in a few urban centers. This is a bad idea, the Soviets tried it and we all know what happened to them. Our forces need to be concentrated in the countryside and mountains of Afghanistan. I’m not advocating that we abandon the urban areas but they are no where near as important or volatile as the rural enclaves that have allowed the Taliban to reemerge as a powerful force in this country.

The Taliban presence in this country cannot be allowed. In no capacity can the Taliban operate in this country. They must be hunted down, killed or imprisoned and they must cease to exist as an entity. That is all there is to that. I have seen and felt the work of these men first hand. There is room neither on this earth, nor in any sort of civilized world for them. They must be eradicated.

To that end, a whole lot of American soldiers will be needed to secure the countryside. Once the border is secured then their reinforcements and supplies will come to a screeching halt and then the troops within the country can begin the hopefully not so long and arduous task of hunting and killing the remnants of the Taliban and the insurgency.

With a secure border the work of rebuilding this nation could take place. No one should assume that it will be easy or without tragedy or loss of life but nothing ever is. However, once that work begins in earnest and the Afghani’s see that there is nothing to be gained from opposing the development of their own country and that the west in general is a friend to Afghanistan then, as I said before, they will become hostile to those who would disrupt this process. Then the Taliban, and the insurgents would feel not only the weight of the American military but also the weight of the Afghani people. Taken together that weight would be a crushing blow.

Well I am sure that someone has already said pretty much every thing I have come up with thus far. All you really have to do is to look at history to see how to fight this war. Read all about how the Soviets did things here, and then do the exact opposite. So that is what I suggest.

Mr. President, I don’t know if you will ever even see this but at least I got it out there. Now to the rest of you, especially the Professor and Sooner23, let’s hear it. I want a debate on this one. I want questions, I want suggestions, I want “what ifs”, I want disagreement, I want alternate theories, I want it all. I didn’t just sit down and write damn near seven pages like I am a freshman in college again for nothing. Consider this a rough draft of a work in progress that needs to get critiqued and graded and cut up and analyzed and revised. And I want all of you to help me with it. So let’s hear it, what are your thoughts, what are your ideas for improvement, what did I get wrong, what did I get right, and all of that.

All right, so I am done, for now.

Later,

I love you mom…

12 comments:

  1. You may be a self-described "lowly enlisted soldier" who is "obnoxious", but you have seen first hand what works and what doesn't work. That sort of experience is invaluable and it's unfortunate that the people giving the reports to the President seem to only get pretty little reports that aren't accurate because the soldiers they visit with are made to make things seem better than they are (in my opinion, from what I've read from other soldiers, at least..).

    The thing that struck me about your plans (aside from them being really well thought out) was a concern about the timeline for building infrastructure (roads, etc) vs the timeline of getting the borders and Taliban under control. It seems that it may be futile to try to start building roads if the Taliban is not controlled (which I think you touched on in making controlling the borders a first priority) and will just blow them up/destroy them. Although, having roads could make it easier to get around to areas to root out the Taliban. Interesting and frustrating cycle of which comes first.

    Either way, the work that you and your guys are doing is appreciated.

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  2. Another thought that occurred to me is something that quite a few businesses do. If you're coming in at a management level, there are a growing number of companies that require you to rotate around the company doing all sorts of odd jobs in order to understand the inner workings of things (i.e. with Frito Lay, you spend time driving a Frito Lay truck).

    The program is rooted in the idea that you cannot fully understand the intricacies of a business without having been there yourself.

    Maybe the generals are too far removed from their time in combat (and I know that there generals who are active in the war zones), but it seems like it would be a really good idea for the President to have a panel of soldiers to hear and review ideas. Have the generals, but also get enlisted guys and officers who are fresh out of Iraq/Afghanistan. No one experience will truly be definitive of the way things are running (read: "well, when we tried that, it didn't work" wouldn't necessarily be reason not to try something again), but I don't think that MORE opinions from guys on the front lines could ever be a bad thing. That's just my two cents though.

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  3. First let me start by saying that no one knows what should be done. If they did we would be doing it. All opinions on this matter need to be looked at, especially from those who are living it.

    I find your post to the President interesting. Here are a few comments to mull over:
    1) How do we get any one of power within the US government to show up for the "loya jirga"? Would it really be prudent to send Clinton? A woman? I wonder how that would fly. Would it be political suicide to support expanding operations in Afghanistan?
    2) The Internet would not initially provide much value to the Afghan people. According to a previous post of yours, they can't read. I was also under the impression that the Army’s Signal Corp could set up the telecommunications infrastructure.
    3) Border guards might be an issue. What about sniper teams? Provide a few accessible ways to legally cross the border. If people cross anywhere else, well you get the idea.
    4) The free exchange of ideas is great, however, without a democratic government in place there is a real possibility of ideas being suppressed.
    5) Civilians can stay the hell home. Blackwater and other such contractors can come back to the states and work. It is a war zone.

    I believe that everyone knows what needs to be done. Here are my thoughts and the order to which they should be addressed:
    1) The rules of engagement must be changed. This is a major hurdle. How can we allow soldiers to do their jobs and streamline the bureaucracy? Soldiers need to be held accountable but at the same time be allowed some freedom to act. This will outrage the international community, France I am sure will be first in line to complain. I have always had issues with “rules” of combat. I do not think I can stress this enough, it is a war zone. The tools utilized in conducting a war do not lend themselves to societal niceties.
    2) The border has to be secured. The rules here, again, must be changed. Controlling the Afghan border is a bit more complicated than controlling the U.S./Mexico border, which we all know how much of the bang up job we are doing there. It is a war zone.
    3) The Afghani people need to be given a stake in their country. What I mean by this is they need to have a reason to fight. The United States had a reason; we did not want to be ruled by England. The goal was freedom. We had a pretty good idea what it meant to be free. Do the Afghani people? Why would they want to be free? Of course Americans know the answer to that question. This stage should be the early foundations of the educational system. Knowledge is power.
    4) Get the international community to support the new government. The Afghani people must support it as well. People have to be willing to accept and follow any laws put in place. The government needs to be able to enforce the laws. Checks and balances. Legitimacy is a requirement. Governmental capacity is critical. The building of rural infrastructure and connectivity to urban areas is a necessity.
    5) I cannot speak to where and how our forces should be deployed. I do not know enough about the layout and demographics of the country. I have no idea of the number of military personnel required to accomplish this tasks. I will try and be positive and say that I am sure someone in our government does.


    At every stage of this developing country the educational system needs to be expanded. The foundations of everything hinge on people understanding what is going on around them.

    This is a monumental task. Building a country from scratch is not something that can happen overnight. We need to be all in or not. There can be no middle ground here.

    Maybe there could be tax incentives created for corporations to donate out dated technology. Even out dated technology by American standards is considered light years ahead of what the Afghan country has now. The American people need to be invested.


    You wanted my opinion you got it. This is just off the top of my head. I look forward to a continuing debate about this topic.

    Stay safe, Stay Strong.

    Sooner23

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  4. Just dropped in to see what you were up to. I found your post very interesting. I'm sure that the powers that be could take some advice from "lowly enlisted soldier(s)" such as you.

    Stay safe, my friend. Praying for you and all other heroes who are deployed.

    Blessings,
    Mary

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  5. The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 01/22/2009 News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.

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  6. Hi Mud Puppy. You've obviously put a lot of thought in to this post and you've prompted a good well thought out response from Sooner23.

    He's got a good point on the Loya Jirga and quite frankly I can't see a place there for any others at the table than Afghans.

    Cell phones are a good idea but for years in the future as the transmission towers are easy targets for the Taliban and they've been known to get nasty when ordinary Afghans are using them. (Plus they can be used to set you guys up for ambush.)

    Security is the main issue, and as you point out the first thing to secure is the Af/Pak border.

    The next issue of importance I believe are the roads as they help people get goods to market and from what I've been reading it really pisses them off when the Taliban destroys the roads.

    So maintaining roads and building more as you suggest to allow for the flow of goods and services is a good start,

    This too requires a major security operation, but it can be done. The Canadians have had some success with this in Kandahar province for example.

    But the biggest thing that you point is what the fuck are all those people doing on giant FOBs.

    It appears that the National Guard has been tasked with providing the ETTs and PMTs that get out in the country and work with the ANA and the local tribes. They don't appear to be getting enough support from Big Army.

    (And these guys are out there in small numbers totally letting it all hang out. If you haven't read Vampire 6 at Afghanistan Shrugged you owe it to yourself.

    http://afghanistanshrugged.com/

    He's got a few pointers for the new Commander in Chief himself.

    Enjoy your R&R MP. This Buds for you.

    Stay as safe as you can.

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  7. Mudpuppy,

    Like everyone else it is quite obvious you have put a lot of thought into this. Now work on the logistics. How many soldiers, hummers, howitzers' clerks, Med/Vac etc do we need and how do we get them there? Remember it took two years to plan D-Day.

    For the fact I might get you in trouble I would have sent this to my congressman and senator. I do agree with the one comment that the generals are too far from the front. I really do believe they need to be in the front of the battle lines like the commanders during the revolutions leading their men, not prodding them!

    Keep you butt close to the ground and your helmet on!

    Pops

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  8. Have a look at this link and the series of posts that follow; it's a long but very worthwhile read. The author and this and it's sister blog have had a significant effect on the British DOD. They also see roads as the key to winning in Afghanistan

    http://defenceoftherealm.blogspot.com/2008/06/winning-war-part-1.html

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  9. Hey Rupert, Thanks for checking out Mud Puppy's blog. He's got some good ideas.

    Thanks for 'putting your oar in' as you guys say. I had a look a Defense of the Realm and it's great. I've linked to it on my blog.

    Cheers

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  10. Dont you think that Obama actually has two wars to win? Or do you think Iraq is allready won?

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  11. I hope the administrations is open to your idea, "The free exchange of all the ideas that this country can muster and the debate that will lead to the formation of new ideas, all of which will be facilitated by the Internet cannot be overstated" since it appears the administration is unable to have an open debate here in America.

    Silly hearing a President dictate to citizens and their representatives which voices should be heard and which voices be stifled.

    Over the last eight years we all heard that 'Dissent is Patriotic' so how come the president is so fearful of dissenters?

    I bet a year from now Iraq will be freer than America.

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  12. You sure did a lot of homework on this one Mud Puppy. You've got some good ideas here. One point, good luck getting anywhere near 190,000 troops over there. I'd be very surprised to see to much over 100,000, especially for the next year or two.

    I've been "out of the loop" militarily for a long time, I served from 1967 to 1970. I do however try to keep up with shit from the two war zones. One of the first things that comes to mind is that we could probably use a lot more UAVs over there. Those things are really "the cat's ass"! Can you imagine what it's like to be sitting in what you think is a "safe house", breaking bread with your evil buds when all of a sudden----with absolutely no warning----BOOM----you get your friggin virgins? Talk about "the suck"!

    I got yer drift about the civilian contractors. We had Air America back in my war. Bastards did all the safe easy shit for 10 times the pay we got. Why is moral so low? DUH??

    One thing you only grazed at in your ideas was getting more Afghani help. It would seem that maybe there is opportunity to get more of them fighting on our side, but, as I said, I'm out of the loop. I would think that some of the guys (preferably non-coms and low ranking officers)coming from Iraq that worked directly with the Iraqi's might have a few pointers. You give any thought to sending this to some politicians stateside? You should if it won't put you on the spot.

    I gotta get going. Good luck.

    Joe (from New Hampshire)

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