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28 June 2010

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Fred

"When a reporter with a pad and a tape recorder helps to take down a four-star general in charge …" Yes, as if generals are not in charge of their own conduct.

Perhaps McChrystal will take a page from Ceasar and write "Commentaries on the Afghan War"; I'm sure Sarah Palin's publiscist is available. Of course Ceasar won that war...

N M Salamon

as an illustration that the USA media fails the citizen, please observe:

Obama and Erdogan's 75-minute talk at G-20

at: http://justworldnews.org/

something neither NYT nor WP found of interest [=sorry if I missed them]

William R. Cumming

It is clear that all in the military must understand that they are always "on the record" and act accordingly! I would argue that in a combat ops situation personal views of the situation should never issue forth from the military. Is this self-censorship?
Absolutely but part of the discipline needed to protect combat ops and its operators.
That said what is the role of a media in the situations of modern military ops that fall short of "War"?
Well first, it seems to me that if possible combat veterans should be the first to go for the MSM? Will they favor the military and not report accurately? Well maybe but something should be realized. First, all reporters are careerists in their own way and make daily tradeoffs often under pressure from skilled editors. And of course their is definitely an interest in a successful career in the military officer corps. So embedding even if inclined to bias is of some utility. Again it would help if the deployed media had linguistic and culture knowledge of the geographic area in which they are deployed! Difficult but possible. The fascinating thing is that with the new social media not sure how exaclty field censorship programs are working. But the bottom line is that no handouts from the command chain should ever be regarded as other than self-serving. The real problem is that both MSM reporters and the miitary have an incentive to emphasize what is going right not what is going wrong! The tensions between these two cultures will often lead to problems. But in this case the 4-star shot himself in the foot.

Patrick Lang

All

It does not appear that you all like what I said on the NJ blog today. pl

frank durkee

Having known s few generals and a lot of D.C. type reporters over the years in that town I think you got it about right Col. If Sherman was a bit harsh then Hastings shows why.

Fred

Col,

You were absolutely correct in your comments. McChrystal should have know better. Perhaps I was unkind to him; but there are plenty of political generals out there, though I think the public at large won't buy thier books or much more of this war.

Adam L. Silverman

Sir,

What's the most interesting here is actually what Hastings has said about this affair. He made it clear on CNN yesterday (I read the transcript, having to watch the Sunday AM shows gives me a migraine) that he's not the type of reporter that sucks up for access and that his past work demonstrates this, specifically the GQ piece that he did about his embeds for Newsweek during the 2008 presidential elections and why he quit rather than stay on the project all the way through the end of the campaign.

Moreover, he should have been well known to the PAO's Office at CENTCOM because he spent two years in Iraq as Newsweek's correspondent there and was notable not only for his coverage, but for the fact that his girlfriend and later fiance joined him in Baghdad working for an NGO, which resulted in her being kidnapped and then killed. This was related in a number of news stories, as well as the book he wrote entitled "I Lost My Love in Baghdad".

Here's the link to the CNN transcript:
http://crooksandliars.com/susie-madrak/rolling-stone-reporter-michael-hastin
and here's to his GQ story on the 2008 election coverage:
http://www.gq.com/news-politics/big-issues/200810/michael-hastings-newsweek-presidential-campaign?currentPage=1

Charles I

You're still writing, I like it all.

Bobby Murray

Thank you for a wonderful read. Always a pleasure, sir.

This is from NPR, I heard ith this morning. somewhat off track but I thought it might be of interest.

"Combating Computer Illiteracy in Afghanistan"

Benjamin Tucker is a captain in the Army Reserve and the author of Greetings from Afghanistan, Send More Ammo.
My biggest contribution to the Afghanistan war effort had nothing to do with combat victories against the Taliban. It occurred in a cramped hut about as far away as you can get from the battlefield. This was both office and barracks for the six-man Afghan National Army administrative staff section, known in Dari as the "Pe-john."
(cont'd)

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=128167900

Thomas

Sir:
Everyone pissed off at you for calling the magazine left wing?

Observations from the Rolling Stone article:

"The doctrine of counterinsurgency requires a credible government, and since Karzai is not considered credible by his own people, McChrystal has worked hard to make him so."

So, the policy is to make the leader of the country credible.

""General," he called out to McChrystal, "I didn't even know we were fighting in Uruzgan!""

Though the man doesn’t even know what is going on in his country.

"You better be out there hitting four or five targets tonight," McChrystal will tell a Navy Seal he sees in the hallway at headquarters Then he'll add, "I'm going to have to scold you in the morning for it, though." In fact, the general frequently finds himself apologizing for the disastrous consequences of counterinsurgency. In the first four months of this year, NATO forces killed some 90 civilians, up 76 percent from the same period in 2009 – a record that has created tremendous resentment among the very population that COIN theory is intent on winning over."

The doctrine is don’t kill unnecessarily, but bring back 4 or 5 targets is the order.

After publication the author stated the point of the article was the following story:

"McChrystal's new marching orders have caused an intense backlash among his own troops. Being told to hold their fire, soldiers complain, puts them in greater danger. "Bottom line?" says a former Special Forces operator who has spent years in Iraq and Afghanistan. "I would love to kick McChrystal in the nuts. His rules of engagement put soldiers' lives in even greater danger. Every real soldier will tell you the same thing."
In March, McChrystal traveled to Combat Outpost JFM – a small encampment on the outskirts of Kandahar – to confront such accusations from the troops directly. It was a typically bold move by the general. Only two days earlier, he had received an e-mail from Israel Arroyo, a 25-year-old staff sergeant who asked McChrystal to go on a mission with his unit. "I am writing because it was said you don't care about the troops and have made it harder to defend ourselves," Arroyo wrote.
Within hours, McChrystal responded personally: "I'm saddened by the accusation that I don't care about soldiers, as it is something I suspect any soldier takes both personally and professionally – at least I do. But I know perceptions depend upon your perspective at the time, and I respect that every soldier's view is his own." Then he showed up at Arroyo's outpost and went on a foot patrol with the troops – not some bullshit photo-op stroll through a market, but a real live operation in a dangerous war zone."

I give the man credit for this action.

"Six weeks later, just before McChrystal returned from Paris, the general received another e-mail from Arroyo. A 23-year-old corporal named Michael Ingram – one of the soldiers McChrystal had gone on patrol with – had been killed by an IED a day earlier. It was the third man the 25-member platoon had lost in a year, and Arroyo was writing to see if the general would attend Ingram's memorial service. "He started to look up to you," Arroyo wrote. McChrystal said he would try to make it down to pay his respects as soon as possible.
The night before the general is scheduled to visit Sgt. Arroyo's platoon for the memorial, I arrive at Combat Outpost JFM to speak with the soldiers he had gone on patrol with. JFM is a small encampment, ringed by high blast walls and guard towers. Almost all of the soldiers here have been on repeated combat tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and have seen some of the worst fighting of both wars. But they are especially angered by Ingram's death. His commanders had repeatedly requested permission to tear down the house where Ingram was killed, noting that it was often used as a combat position by the Taliban. But due to McChrystal's new restrictions to avoid upsetting civilians, the request had been denied. "These were abandoned houses," fumes Staff Sgt. Kennith Hicks. "Nobody was coming back to live in them."
One soldier shows me the list of new regulations the platoon was given. "Patrol only in areas that you are reasonably certain that you will not have to defend yourselves with lethal force," the laminated card reads. For a soldier who has traveled halfway around the world to fight, that's like telling a cop he should only patrol in areas where he knows he won't have to make arrests. "Does that make any fucking sense?" asks Pfc. Jared Pautsch. "We should just drop a fucking bomb on this place. You sit and ask yourself: What are we doing here?"
The rules handed out here are not what McChrystal intended – they've been distorted as they passed through the chain of command – but knowing that does nothing to lessen the anger of troops on the ground. "Fuck, when I came over here and heard that McChrystal was in charge, I thought we would get our fucking gun on," says Hicks, who has served three tours of combat. "I get COIN. I get all that. McChrystal comes here, explains it, it makes sense. But then he goes away on his bird, and by the time his directives get passed down to us through Big Army, they're all fucked up – either because somebody is trying to cover their ass, or because they just don't understand it themselves. But we're fucking losing this thing.""

The military to military disconnect on policy and actions? At least the enlisted can get a word in on the policy debate through the media.

"McChrystal and his team show up the next day. Underneath a tent, the general has a 45-minute discussion with some two dozen soldiers. The atmosphere is tense. "I ask you what's going on in your world, and I think it's important for you all to understand the big picture as well," McChrystal begins. "How's the company doing? You guys feeling sorry for yourselves? Anybody? Anybody feel like you're losing?" McChrystal says.
"Sir, some of the guys here, sir, think we're losing, sir," says Hicks.
McChrystal nods. "Strength is leading when you just don't want to lead," he tells the men. "You're leading by example. That's what we do. Particularly when it's really, really hard, and it hurts inside." Then he spends 20 minutes talking about counterinsurgency, diagramming his concepts and principles on a whiteboard. He makes COIN seem like common sense, but he's careful not to bullshit the men. "We are knee-deep in the decisive year," he tells them. The Taliban, he insists, no longer has the initiative – "but I don't think we do, either." It's similar to the talk he gave in Paris, but it's not winning any hearts and minds among the soldiers. "This is the philosophical part that works with think tanks," McChrystal tries to joke. "But it doesn't get the same reception from infantry companies.""

Ah! We have won the hearts and minds of the think tanks. But the soldiers?

"During the question-and-answer period, the frustration boils over. The soldiers complain about not being allowed to use lethal force, about watching insurgents they detain be freed for lack of evidence. They want to be able to fight – like they did in Iraq, like they had in Afghanistan before McChrystal. "We aren't putting fear into the Taliban," one soldier says.
"Winning hearts and minds in COIN is a coldblooded thing," McChrystal says, citing an oft-repeated maxim that you can't kill your way out of Afghanistan. "The Russians killed 1 million Afghans, and that didn't work."
"I'm not saying go out and kill everybody, sir," the soldier persists. "You say we've stopped the momentum of the insurgency. I don't believe that's true in this area. The more we pull back, the more we restrain ourselves, the stronger it's getting."
"I agree with you," McChrystal says. "In this area, we've not made progress, probably. You have to show strength here, you have to use fire. What I'm telling you is, fire costs you. What do you want to do? You want to wipe the population out here and resettle it?"
A soldier complains that under the rules, any insurgent who doesn't have a weapon is immediately assumed to be a civilian. "That's the way this game is," McChrystal says. "It's complex. I can't just decide: It's shirts and skins, and we'll kill all the shirts."
As the discussion ends, McChrystal seems to sense that he hasn't succeeded at easing the men's anger. He makes one last-ditch effort to reach them, acknowledging the death of Cpl. Ingram. "There's no way I can make that easier," he tells them. "No way I can pretend it won't hurt. No way I can tell you not to feel that. . . . I will tell you, you're doing a great job. Don't let the frustration get to you." The session ends with no clapping, and no real resolution. McChrystal may have sold President Obama on counterinsurgency, but many of his own men aren't buying it."

Last sentence says it all.

"Whatever the nature of the new plan, the delay underscores the fundamental flaws of counterinsurgency. After nine years of war, the Taliban simply remains too strongly entrenched for the U.S. military to openly attack. The very people that COIN seeks to win over – the Afghan people – do not want us there. Our supposed ally, President Karzai, used his influence to delay the offensive, and the massive influx of aid championed by McChrystal is likely only to make things worse. "Throwing money at the problem exacerbates the problem," says Andrew Wilder, an expert at Tufts University who has studied the effect of aid in southern Afghanistan. "A tsunami of cash fuels corruption, delegitimizes the government and creates an environment where we're picking winners and losers" – a process that fuels resentment and hostility among the civilian population. So far, counterinsurgency has succeeded only in creating a never-ending demand for the primary product supplied by the military: perpetual war. There is a reason that President Obama studiously avoids using the word "victory" when he talks about Afghanistan. Winning, it would seem, is not really possible. Not even with Stanley McChrystal in charge."

Well, the initial storm was about Civil-Military relations in the US. The follow-up will be about the strategy of COIN along with the Civil and Military responsibility for it.
I agree with you on how journalists should be embedded with the troops and at Headquarters. Let the editor and publisher fulfill their responsibility and weave the different narratives to present the overall picture.

Patrick Lang

Anon

Yes, but not at those covered under Article 88. pl

Patrick Lang

Thomas

McChrystal is a brave man and a good soldier. That is irrelevant. Journalists have no obligation to write "balanced" material. As I said, "Rolling Stone" is a left wing magazine. pl

Thomas

Patrick,

Yes it is.

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