May 19, 2009

On Nazis and the CJC

I for one find Ezra Levant's ongoing discussion of the Canadian Jewish Congress' support for the Canadian Nazi Party in the mid 1960s fascinating and hope he keeps it up. Back in the early 1990s I covered a few of the Heritage Front-AntiRacist Action street clashes in Toronto as a student journalist, and I confess if I'd known of the previous instance I might have been more likely to call shenanigans on that put-up job, too, as we all later found out we probably should have.

Posted by BruceR at 10:58 PM

Adventures in indigenous armies

Afghanistan:

Of 30 rifle magazines recently taken from insurgentsí corpses, at least 17 contained cartridges, or rounds, identical to ammunition the United States had provided to Afghan government forces...

(Personal note: as far as I could tell, there were 2 logical courses of action open for many of those more vulnerable unmentored Afghan police stations in the wilder parts of Kandahar Province: 1. Sell your ammo in exchange for not getting overrun at night. 2. Get overrun and lose the ammo anyway. The end result, at least as far as the ammo was concerned, would have been equivalent.)

Iraq:

Because Iraq's security forces are paid in cash that is passed down the chain of command, many commanders lie about how many soldiers they supervise so they can collect the wages of fictional soldiers...

Also worrisome, U.S. military officials say, is the Iraqi government's failure to spend money on maintenance and spare parts for the vast fleet of armored vehicles and other military equipment the United States has donated to Iraq's armed forces in recent years...

Some pretty obvious and uncomfortable parallels there with a previous indigenous army advisory experiment, should you ever feel like reading/rereading that sorry history.

Addendum: ...one of the [insurgents'] rifles had been issued to an Afghan auxiliary police officer in 2007. How Taliban insurgents had acquired the rifle was not clear. The auxiliary police, which augmented the Afghan Interior Ministry, were riddled with corruption and incompetence. They were disbanded last year.

It would be more accurate to say the auxiliary police, or ANAP, were another one of those periodic attempts to bring the independent militias operated by local powerbrokers/warlords into the fold by giving them a stamp of government authority. Obviously, it didn't quite work out. But that experience is part of the reason why a lot of experienced people remain skeptical about the U.S. plans to rearm those same tribesmen now... yet again.

Posted by BruceR at 10:02 PM

The schools debate, continued

Mike Steinglass responds to an earlier response of mine to an earlier post of his, itself a response to something I said. I'm grooving this blogging thing.

For the record, I left Afghanistan in April. Otherwise, I tend to agree with everything he says. Kandahar Province needs teachers more than schools: having the security to allow teachers to make a living without, you know, dying, is the military's part of a larger reconstruction problem, in which it is coupled with the building of sustainable civilian institutions to recruit, train, and support those teachers. Not my piece of the pie, that: it's certainly not something you would normally see the military having any kind of involvement with. Which I guess speaks to the necessity for the kind of close civil-military cooperation on development that the Provincial Reconstruction Team concept was meant to institutionalize.

Posted by BruceR at 12:52 PM

Things I don't care about, at all

Added to a large and growing list:

Ruby Dhalla and her nannies: I don't find any side in this story remotely believable.

Don Rumsfeld's Christianized Power Points: I think the Draper GQ article is a must-read, and a damning one, for its depiction of Rumsfeld during the Katrina situation alone, but the allegations he put Gospel quotes in to liven up the President's slideshows leaves me wholly unmoved. I mean, man, whatever: you do enough of these, you'll find you do just about anything to break the monotony.

I once spent two weeks briefing my counterparts at a NATO agency and for no reason other than boredom, prefaced every presentation with a quote from Talledega Nights. Pointless non sequiturs go with the form, man.

Posted by BruceR at 12:41 PM

The new honesty?

A masterful example of excellent damage-control PR following up on equally strong public-interest journalism. Kudos, all around.

Speaking of forthrightness, I'd say this is pretty much on the money in terms of a time estimate:

The Afghan national army could lead operations in Afghanistan in two to four years, with the U.S. playing a support role, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said during a May 8 interview, portions of which aired on CBS' "60 Minutes" Sunday.

I still find estimates in the Gates range (3 years, +/-1), for army building anyway, to be credible. I always valued my discussions with American, British and Australian officers who'd done a tour in Iraq before their current Afghan go. I found it comforting that so many did say the challenges they were facing in Afghanistan now seemed very similar to their challenges they had run into in their specific areas of expertise in that country a few years before, areas that in the Iraq context had since shown marked improvement.

We may not like it, but we simply have to accept that because of choices that were made (rightly or wrongly) at the level of higher strategy, the real start of the rebuilding of national institutions in Afghanistan was retarded, and probably should really be dated at the earliest from 2005, around the time of Karzai's election, not 2002: two full years after the start of similar American efforts in Iraq. And recall Iraq's real low point, its worst year (so far) was 2007. Which is, my now-somewhat-informed guess is saying, about where we are in Afghanistan today: the dark before the dawn. That's not to say it couldn't get still worse -- we could absolutely still mess this up -- for as Gates takes pains to say, the enemy has yet to cast his vote. But any expectations we should have been doing much better, specifically in security-force-building at this point, given the paucity of resources assigned to the problem in its earliest years, are simply unrealistic.

Posted by BruceR at 09:14 AM