There are many voices out there who speak a lot of hypothesis, who get visits from the Good Idea Fairy and, while well-intentioned (for the most part,) there is a lot of wandering around in circles. Some, driven by a deeply rooted defeatism or some sense of purpose leading to withdrawal, literally preach the "impossibility" of the task of succeeding in building a free Afghanistan. Many even espouse the idea that Muslims are incapable of developing and living under a representative form of government.
There is little understanding of what it's like on the ground in Afghanistan.
More after the jump
There are a million voices out there, some influential, some inconsequential, all asking to be heard. I read many who just don't get it. Some are deeply affected, educated men like Andrew Bacevich, who while an honorable man who can argue his points very well, in my opinion have lost any real concern for the outcome and have come to believe that the security of the United States is not affected by what happens in the little valleys in a distant land nearly halfway around the world. I disagree with his assessment. It's a shame, because he is a very smart man who could be adding a lot to the conversation instead of wanting to call it off.
At the other end of the spectrum are men like Robert Young Pelton, who used his embed as a platform to assassinate a team of people who are working in a young program under difficult circumstances and to try to forward his own business interests by doing so. We have so few good journalists downrange who can paint a real picture of what it's like to be on the ground. We have so few smart guys who are willing to, in good faith, throw the flag at things going on downrange that are less than fully productive, and present realistic alternatives that would be so much more effective than what we are doing. We are seriously in need of both.
Let's go to the journalist side first. Before August, 2006, I had sought deployment to Iraq; rarely, like the rest of America, thinking of Afghanistan. When I learned of the ETT mission and began researching it, I found a number of sources of information. Scott Kesterson was an embedded journalist from Oregon who had gone to Afghanistan with the 41st BCT. I read his reports with relish, and his video clips gave me rare glimpses into what I was getting myself into. Now, as a veteran of Afghanistan, his work is even more impressive.
Scott, in partnership with some really good people, has made a documentary film called "At War." I have not had an opportunity to review this movie, but I hope to soon. In the meantime, there is a little support that people can lend to the movie to help it get more attention and reviews. Check this out over at Bouhammer (who went downrange with Scott and knows Scott well) as far as what you may be able to do to help this important documentary gain some more attention.
Now to those who offer solutions to some of the most overriding concerns standing in the way of success in Afghanistan. Today's post by Tim "Babatim" Lynch over at Free Range International speaks volumes about the need for a civilian surge; what works and what doesn't. There are several links to others there as well as a podcast. Tim spends a lot of time outside the wire and outside the influences that may tint the opinions of others. Tim knows what works and what doesn't from experience, and he really needs to be listened to. He also puts his butt out there, so he can speak clearly as to what he sees.
What can the average citizen do? Here's a recommendation; start sending blog links to your congressman and/or senator. Educating yourself by reading milblogs is great stuff. If you are reading this, you are likely seeking and finding information on everything from the experience of warriors in the GWOT to what it all means. I applaud you. Now, let's use that knowledge to steer our politicians to some of this information that doesn't make it to the Wall Street Journal or the Washington Post. If you didn't find what you were looking for there, why would you leave your elected representatives in the dark. They are busy people; give them a hand.