March 14, 2010

This week's essential Afghan reading


The [police training] program, which will probably include sending thousands of officers abroad for training, is designed to rebuild a force of more than 90,000 Afghans who were dispatched to police stations with virtually no training and little supervision. After nearly nine years of war, senior U.S. and Afghan officials said they are essentially starting from scratch.

"We weren't doing it right," said Lt. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV, who oversees the NATO training effort in Afghanistan. "The most important thing is to recruit and then train police," he said, emphasizing the steps necessary before any deployment. "It is still beyond my comprehension that we weren't doing that."

Also from the Washpost, a piece on frustration with one ISAF contingent's troublesome caveats. Not European troops... Marines.

Posted by BruceR at 02:30 PM

Upon reflection...

My yammering on about Michael Yon's bridge stuff stops after this post, I promise. But the events have had the side-benefit of reorienting me a little, as well.

I don't challenge Yon's or anybody else's right to make a living as a journalist, and I do think soldiers need friends on the web or in the press. Sure, his reporting on this issue was inaccurate, but inaccuracy's a failing, not a sin. If you write something that's untrue, it only hurts you in the end, because people who know the truth will discount what you had to say, and no harm done. If Yon's Facebook posts and blog entry had only been inaccurate, I might have quibbled a little with the facts as I'm prone to do, but I wouldn't have gotten ANGRY.

No, what got me all mad was when Yon crossed the line into advocacy, however well-meaning: when rather than just make his observations and let us draw our own conclusions, he said things like "This Canadian general should be fired," "Canadians should not be commanding Americans in battle," etc. I would hope I'm objective enough still that that would have bothered me even if it hadn't been directed at Canadians.

The argument from authority was, last I looked, still a logical fallacy. And in condemning an entire brigade for laziness and a commander for incompetence, Yon was assuming a role of infallible judgmentalism, that no one had assigned to him.

The trouble is, that when I, after some time, identified what was really bugging me about Yon, I couldn't help but glance askance at some of the things I've written recently as well.

I try my best not to let it show in the writing, because I've always wanted my experiences and reasoned arguments to stand on their own objective merits, but I'm sure it's still obvious I remain privately passionate when it comes to the value of the Canadian Forces to our country and the cause of peace globally, and their still I-think-entirely-admirable actions in the context of the Afghan mission. (I'm also a little passionate about Afghan soldiers, now, too.) But where once I would just link to newspaper articles that I thought told their story well, or point out logical or factual errors in those that didn't, upon reflection I had to admit that in the last week or so I've let that passion drive my writing more than it should have, and in so doing I became a little more like Michael Yon than I'm comfortable with.

So, in order to keep the alternating Yon and non-Yon posts here from becoming too much of a pot-kettle experience, where I was saving everybody else the trouble by impeaching my own arguments on alternating days of the week, I've gone back to a few more recent posts where I now feel I crossed that line between explanation and advocacy and dialled those ones back. I apologize to anyone who might have enjoyed or linked to a now-missing paragraph, etc., but I can no longer support what I once wrote there. My hypocrisy, it seems, is not without its limits.

It's easier for me to do this, because I make no pretenses to being able to do as much damage as Yon. If you are reading this, you are one of approximately 100 people, according to Google Analytics, who do, lucky you. I have never promoted this site, or asked anyone to read this page; I have never sought nor accepted interviews with the press, only the occasional scholarly researcher. And I'm happy to remain the anti-Yon in that regard, as well.

Now, there are 2,300 individual posts on this website, accumulated over nearly 10 years. And I'm sure I could unwittingly in another fit of pique cross my own hard line on this subject again, some day in the future. So this just to say, if any of you Lucky Hundred ever think I've broken my own ground rules, above, and offered blind advocacy in place of the informed perspective I was aiming for, just email me. I promise I'll appreciate the corrective. Best, all.

Posted by BruceR at 12:39 PM