Monday, February 6, 2012

Reagan's humor

I've posted before on this. I've tried to find some new stuff.

A nice collection featuring his pokes at himself and his age, the communists, religion, golf, sports, the press, and a little fun at Democrat party expense.

"When I go in for a physical they no longer ask how old I am, they just carbon date me."

Wonderful. A happy warrior.

Ronaldus Magnus at 101

Gotta love this photo. From the Reagan Presidential Foundation

Didn't Reagan have some self deprecating joke about politicians and hot air?

Revolt of the Colonel

A sit-up-and-take-notice article penned by Army Lt. Col Daniel L. Davis, paints a very bleak picture of prospects in Afghanistan. It is based on a year's worth of interviews with American servicemen and Afghan partners during Davis's second year-long deployment to A'Stan. [See the story (linked below) for more details as to his deployments and career.]

The sanka freeze-dried version (with excerpts).

1. The Colonel has taken the unusual route of bypassing chain of command and going directly to Congresscritters, the press and the web with his concerns.

{This does recall to mind the "revolt of the generals" during the Bush years, but is markedly different in that, the generals in that case were mostly retired, and were...well..high ranking. Davis is middle rank, and active duty. An unusual step to say the least.}

2. Petraeus and others seem to be taking this in stride, and not attempting to muzzle or discredit the Colonel.

3. Davis's article makes the claim that intentional misrepresentation has been carried out for around 7 years vis progress in setting up a viable indigenous government/military/police force, winning hearts and minds, and defeating the Taliban crime family. Where official testimony has been of the "cautious optimism" variety, there has really been no sufficient cause for optimism, cautious or otherwise.

4. The Afghan government, such as it is, is corrupt and incompetent, nationally and locally.

5. Afghan National Police don't police. In fact they avoid danger. Excerpt:

In January 2011, I made my first trip into the mountains of Kunar province near the Pakistan border to visit the troops of 1st Squadron, 32nd Cavalry. On a patrol to the northernmost U.S. position in eastern Afghanistan, we arrived at an Afghan National Police (ANP) station that had reported being attacked by the Taliban 2½ hours earlier.

Through the interpreter, I asked the police captain where the attack had originated, and he pointed to the side of a nearby mountain.

“What are your normal procedures in situations like these?” I asked. “Do you form up a squad and go after them? Do you periodically send out harassing patrols? What do you do?”

As the interpreter conveyed my questions, the captain’s head wheeled around, looking first at the interpreter and turning to me with an incredulous expression. Then he laughed.

“No! We don’t go after them,” he said. “That would be dangerous!”

According to the cavalry troopers, the Afghan policemen rarely leave the cover of the checkpoints. In that part of the province, the Taliban literally run free.

In June, I was in the Zharay district of Kandahar province, returning to a base from a dismounted patrol. Gunshots were audible as the Taliban attacked a U.S. checkpoint about one mile away.

As I entered the unit’s command post, the commander and his staff were watching a live video feed of the battle. Two ANP vehicles were blocking the main road leading to the site of the attack. The fire was coming from behind a haystack. We watched as two Afghan men emerged, mounted a motorcycle and began moving toward the Afghan policemen in their vehicles.

The U.S. commander turned around and told the Afghan radio operator to make sure the policemen halted the men. The radio operator shouted into the radio repeatedly, but got no answer.

On the screen, we watched as the two men slowly motored past the ANP vehicles. The policemen neither got out to stop the two men nor answered the radio — until the motorcycle was out of sight.

To a man, the U.S. officers in that unit told me they had nothing but contempt for the Afghan troops in their area — and that was before the above incident occurred.

6. It ain't no rosier with the Afghan National Security Forces. They too make deals with the Taliban, or acquiesce in their power and threats.

7. American outposts are about the only areas not effectively controlled by the Taliban crime family. Once again, an excerpt:

Davis: “Here you have many units of the Afghan National Security Forces [ANSF]. Will they be able to hold out against the Taliban when U.S. troops leave this area?”

Adviser: “No. They are definitely not capable. Already all across this region [many elements of] the security forces have made deals with the Taliban. [The ANSF] won’t shoot at the Taliban, and the Taliban won’t shoot them.

“Also, when a Taliban member is arrested, he is soon released with no action taken against him. So when the Taliban returns [when the Americans leave after 2014], so too go the jobs, especially for everyone like me who has worked with the coalition.

“Recently, I got a cellphone call from a Talib who had captured a friend of mine. While I could hear, he began to beat him, telling me I’d better quit working for the Americans. I could hear my friend crying out in pain. [The Talib] said the next time they would kidnap my sons and do the same to them. Because of the direct threats, I’ve had to take my children out of school just to keep them safe.

“And last night, right on that mountain there [he pointed to a ridge overlooking the U.S. base, about 700 meters distant], a member of the ANP was murdered. The Taliban came and called him out, kidnapped him in front of his parents, and took him away and murdered him. He was a member of the ANP from another province and had come back to visit his parents. He was only 27 years old. The people are not safe anywhere.”

That murder took place within view of the U.S. base, a post nominally responsible for the security of an area of hundreds of square kilometers. Imagine how insecure the population is beyond visual range. And yet that conversation was representative of what I saw in many regions of Afghanistan.

In all of the places I visited, the tactical situation was bad to abysmal. If the events I have described — and many, many more I could mention — had been in the first year of war, or even the third or fourth, one might be willing to believe that Afghanistan was just a hard fight, and we should stick it out. Yet these incidents all happened in the 10th year of war.

As the numbers depicting casualties and enemy violence indicate the absence of progress, so too did my observations of the tactical situation all over Afghanistan.

Davis's conclusion:

When it comes to deciding what matters are worth plunging our nation into war and which are not, our senior leaders owe it to the nation and to the uniformed members to be candid — graphically, if necessary — in telling them what’s at stake and how expensive potential success is likely to be. U.S. citizens and their elected representatives can decide if the risk to blood and treasure is worth it.

Likewise when having to decide whether to continue a war, alter its aims or to close off a campaign that cannot be won at an acceptable price, our senior leaders have an obligation to tell Congress and American people the unvarnished truth and let the people decide what course of action to choose. That is the very essence of civilian control of the military. The American people deserve better than what they’ve gotten from their senior uniformed leaders over the last number of years. Simply telling the truth would be a good start.

If things are as bad as he portrays, and there is no intention to vastly increase the 'occupation' forces, and stay a (long) while, it would seem the third of his options would be the one to take. For, the other two options raise questions that are struck at the heart by the substance of his piece. To continue as-is doesn't seem to be supported by the results so far. And, what 'altered' aims would satisfy us if we were to continue with a different strategy? I would submit the only altered strategy that holds even the possibility of leaving an Afghanistan that no longer poses a threat is one that involves a Roman patience with occupation. Americans are not that patient. What to do about the probable Taliban resurgence as the vacuum forms? And what of Pakistan?

The $64k questions.