Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Friedman and the officer corps in Afghanistan

Tom Friedman's column in today's NYT strikes me as a bit simplistic. Yesterday, his column was about how courageous and wonderful it is to create girls' schools (which is true) but it was also extremely sappy. I think I actually thought "aww" as I was reading it--don't get me wrong, schools for girls are great but did the column have to elicit an "aww"?

Today's column is about how officers in Afghanistan today have figured out an anti-insurgency strategy. A question or two: does the lingo here matter? is that an intentional phrase? He says these officers, many on their at least their third deployment, are different because:

They learned everything the hard way — not in classes at Annapolis or West Point, but on the streets of Fallujah and Kandahar.
And then after a very general explanation of clear, hold, and rebuild, and why this may be an impossible mission, he concludes with not much at all:
So, here’s hoping that The Class Too Dumb to Quit can take all that it learned in Iraq and help rebuild The Country That’s Been Too Broken to Work.
Oh, and what's up with the capitalization? Is there supposed to me some extra meaning there?


  1. These were very Tom Ricks-y opeds from Friedman. Why use real analysis when you can tug at heart strings and put cutesy titles on everyone and everything? That's much more useful than actually dissecting the underlying issues and challenges...

  2. Lil, you're trying to assess the reason, logic, and accuracy of a Friedman op-ed.

    Stop, step back, and realize the initial fallacy of that endeavor.

  3. MK--you're alive and well I see:) Fair point...

  4. A "bit simplistic," Lil? And, really, one test for any officer in OEF or OIF? Can we tear up the ASVAB now because Tom "Sad Sack Hack" Friedman wants to make another point even the most challenged simpleton wouldn't try?

    THis is just horsesh*t: "Their biggest strategic insight? “We don’t count enemy killed in action anymore,” one of their officers told me."

    Yeah, isn't even put on the SIGACT anymore. Who is he kidding? Of course we count EKIAs, EWIAs and all sorts of other metrics.

    "One relationship built with an Iraqi or Afghan mayor or imam or insurgent was worth so much more than one K.I.A."

    Depended on the KIA. What a third-rate hack. He has no idea what he's talking about, and he's not competent enough on military subjects to challenge the saccharine nonsense he's spooned. What does he think we did with the HUMINT we obtained from these relationships? We INCREASED CAS and indirect fires that killed MORE civilians and, along the way, a lot more of the enemies because we had the grid coordinates.

    And as for Abu Ghraib, is he really so callow that he doesn't get that we simply contracted out the nasty business to Iraq's Ministry of the Interior?

    Want to know how to get an immediate confession out of a Sunni Arab insurgent? Tell him that you're going to turn him over to the Shiite IAs. Gunslinger, I'm sure that you've seen this game played, too.

    Iraqi interrogators beat the information out of their enemies, then they disappear them. How do you imagine all those bodies ended up in the streets of Baghdad throughout 2006 and 2007?

    But we can't just concede this because it deflates the dominant narrative about us getting all cuddly with the insurgency.

    Maybe Tom "Witless Hack" Friedman is just the reporter who is Too Effing Dumb to Quit spewing platitudes in lieu of honest policy analysis.

    It's a parlor game, a cheap swindle. He's unreadable, a columnist tethered completely to his sources, and a man who makes his earning not from his pointless op-eds but from punditry built atop them.

    He's an insult to every man in that crowd who raised their hands. By someone's sixth deployment, he deserves better than to appear in a Valentine's Day card from Tom Friedman.


  5. And what you're really thinking about as you hit another deployment: How many times can I go to the well?


  6. Tom Friedman was too effing dumb to quit,
    So we had to act like we gave a sh*t.
    He walked past the severed limbs,
    Spouting inane acroymns,
    Proving he's just a nitwit.

  7. A Limerick to Ricks and Friedman

    The loud beating from Tom and Tom,
    Their wisdom to us like a psalm,
    They always want to fight wars,
    They're addicted like crack whores,
    But they're not the ones to face bombs.

  8. There once was a Ricks from DC,
    Who confused "Taliban" with Vee Cee.
    I have the perfect oplan,
    For Iraq and Afghanistan,
    One size fits all -- you'll see.

  9. God, you've created a monster.

  10. Friedman ain't no CJ Chivers,
    Either in Kabul or the Land of Two Rivers.
    His op-eds are pure crap,
    His recommendations a trap,
    CJ? At least he delivers.

  11. "I've created a monster!"
    Said Gulliver, OG gangster.
    But SNLII wouldn't quit,
    He gets paid for his wit,
    And prefers to dine on lobster.

  12. Your prize is coming right up, thanks to Gunslinger, in Schrute Bucks.

  13. Tom and Tom and their punditocracy,
    Designed to please the bourgeoisie,
    They sure like to squawk,
    Like a shrill chickenhawk,
    Neither one was a 'Nam draftee.

  14. Wasn't the redemption value of a Shrute Buck 1/100th of a penny?

    You say I shall earn a Shrute Buck,
    But really, Gully, I don't give a ...
    I'm addicted to verse,
    And it can't get much worse,
    I mean, I could get sent to the suck.

  15. Tom Friedman is a witless hack,
    And Tom Ricks is one sad sack,
    They get paid by the word,
    Each idea a polished turd,
    And here they won't fight back.

  16. OK. I'm sated. I'll quit.

    Catharsis, really.

  17. This will all be collected as chapter one of my Anthology of Counterinsurgency Poetry. Norton: I'm gunning for you!

  18. I've got a title for you. Ready?

    Collected Verse of the COIN Commentariat

    Good, eh?

  19. There once was a mullan named "Omar,"
    Who studied to be a poppy farmer.
    He turned out plenty of horse,
    And just when it couldn't get worse,
    We made him Kabul's Drug Czar.

  20. It's just asking to collect dust on a bookshelf. I love it.

  21. Collected Verse of the COIN Commentariat

    Lil was the COIN maven,
    Gunslinger put his faith in the Raven.
    But SNLII dissed a lot of COIN,
    From Kabul to the Battle of the Boyne,
    Gulliver thought it mostly craven.

  22. There once was a president named Barry,
    Who believed in the COIN fairy.
    Every night at Eleven,
    Down came the angel from heaven,
    Retrieving the bodies of John, Luke and Harry.

  23. Friedman's piece was over simplified. This said, he missed some important challenges in Afghanistan.

    Challenge 1:
    Afghanistan's annual revenue is $800 million. Very conservatively, the annual steady state budget of the Afghan state will be $6 billion a year (MoD + MoI + Education + Energy + Transportation + Health.) What is the strategy to help the Afghans increase tax revenue over the long term?

  24. The only reason that Friedman matters at all is that some people still give him credit for making more sense than Joe Random Schizophrenic on the street corner. Sh*t, he was one of the cheerleaders for the Iraq War. In a more just world, he'd have been airdropped into Fallujah in 2004 for a test of new body armor, and his luxury estate turned over for the care of wounded soldiers.