A long trip in Afghanistan

This is an interesting story by a BBC correspondent, which pulls no punches. Easy to see why he was left feeling bitter.

There are two sides to every story of course, and I’m sure the military folks would tell you about security rules, zero tolerance for violation of force protection imperatives, risk asessments, etc, etc, etc. But that’s all missing the point. When you are doing counterinsurgency work, you have to be close to the people. You have to earn their respect by finding out what earns respect in their culture and then finding a way to do it inside of your own culture. They, in turn, will come to know you and, if you deserve it, you’ll earn their respect in return.

It’s not easy, and it’s not fair: they have the right to reject your cultural assumptions, but you have to understand and take into consideration all of theirs. That’s because you are the guest in their country, and it’s not easy to be the guest. But the nature of counterinsurgency is that you are making yourself a guest (by force no less). So suck it up and be a good guest.

Come on NATO guys, get it together. The Brits learned how to do this in Iraq once (in the early 1900’s). The Americans relearned it. Now it is time to hit the books and re-re-learn the lessons.

PS: Force protection is thinly disguised CYA (Cover Your Ass), which is, in turn, just another form of cowardice. You don’t have to be stupid and get killed, but if you happen to get killed doing something important, then so be it. Life is too short to hide behind “force protection” and not achieve legitimate goals like “safe schools”, “water for kids”, etc. Just do it!

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