Friday, August 6, 2010

No Fire Support; No Glasses; More 'Chai'; No Warrior Friendly Change!

For those who held out hope that the ROE was going to undergo a 'positive transformation' under General Petraeus, you will be disappointed. This is the point where I am suppose to say; 'I told you so'.

The truth is that there is very little satisfaction in a comment like that because in almost every case; the moment has passed. The salient points, the truths, the opportunities for change have usually passed; subtly, unnoticed and the great harm those points might have stopped, will, in this case, most certainly lead to the death of someone's loved one; a cost of arrogance.

When the initial story broke 3 days ago, it went almost entirely unnoticed and even for those who read it, the most egregious element of the story seemed to be missed entirely and that is the highlighting of General Petraeus's unchallenged ego. In a war that has seen a growing number of well-informed, well-educated and experienced individuals challenging the strategy and it's ROE, there is also this relentless effort to push forward even in light of a growing body of evidence that it is a losing strategy. Even the entire spectrum of the media seems incapacitated or unwilling to accept the possibility that there seems to be a problem.

The Gulf Oil Spill, the Boy Scouts, Charlie Rangel's broken compass, Lindsay Lohan, the cost of Mastiffs, Reality TV, Obama's Maine vacation all seem to bear greater significance in the American psyche than does the plight of young Men and Women who have, in the taking of their oaths, pledged to lay down their lives at the whim of madmen. It just isn't 'sexy' enough.

This morning I got a note from Andy Bostom, a good friend with a passion for the welfare of our troops, with what is now the official release of the good General's assessment of the ROE and his intent. From the story: "Going several steps better, General Petraeus has reportedly expanded the ban on air strikes and artillery fire to all types of buildings, tree-lined areas and hillsides where it is difficult to distinguish who is on the ground." The fact is, not only has he deemed the ROE as proper, he has deemed it not tight enough.

This is a precisely correct assessment in a COIN environment. If it is going to succeed and if the leadership on the ground deems it to be succeeding, each iteration and review of the ROE will be necessarily tighter than it's preceding version. This highlights a problem in the way the media and most of those studying and following this issue view it and assess changes to it. The assumption that a new leader might be willing to 'loosen' the ROE means the person making the assumption, does not understand the doctrine and that is what we have been trying to change; the lack of understanding of COIN.

He has even determined that the wearing of Oakley, polycarbonate safety glasses by our American Warriors to be detrimental to the apparent security of the Afghan population. He has directed that all, 'in-country', make great efforts to meet and greet the locals, without the glasses. For those of you who don't know, those glasses use ballistic lenses that protect against the micro-sand famous in desert terrain, shrapnel, flying debris and, oh yeah; intense sunlight. This is not only a safety device but a 'health and comfort' item. Many parents were upset when McChrystal ordered the removal of fast food restaurants in Afghanistan. I have made it clear it was of little consequence to the average Marine Corps Infantryman who rarely if ever saw one while there. But these glasses represent one of the few 'amenities' available in that extreme duty and they are in fact necessary for their protection.

Diana West's latest piece in discussing the folly of COIN in this environment details the complete lack of understanding of the culture in Afghanistan which is defined by it's adherence to Sharia. Trying to impose our delicate western sensibilities on the battlefield is foolish enough, doing it on a battlefield within a Sharia compliant country is suicide.

So the main question remains; what will it take to wake up the American citizenry, the unresponsive political servants in DC and the money-minded media?

As Christians we understand that the way we live our lives in the presence of others is a testimony to our faith and of the transformation that has taken place within us by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The resilient determination of our Warriors in the face of a violent culture in Afghanistan and a relentlessly defiant ISAF and his immoral ROE, is the testimony of a remnant of this generation's sense of personal honor and their understanding of selfless service.

The good General should be advised not to seek the limits of that resilience or the ignorance of the general American population.

1972 is not that long ago....

Semper Fidelis;

John Bernard