Mashup

Mashup

Weekend Mashup July 24 to 26

By Steven Pressfield | Published: July 24, 2009

Announced this morning: Sgt. 1st Class Jared Monti will be awarded the Medal of Honor.

 

From Gina Cavallaro’s Army Times’ article titled “White House Confirms Medal of Honor“:

 

Sgt. 1st Class Jared Monti, a fire support specialist who was killed June 21, 2006, in Afghanistan, will receive the Medal of Honor for his actions in combat.

 

The announcement was made by the White House in a news release Friday morning. The award will be presented to Monti’s parents in a Sept. 17 ceremony at the White House. . . .

 

He will become the sixth service member to receive the Medal of Honor during operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and the first soldier to receive the nation’s highest award for valor in Afghanistan. Navy Lt. Michael Murphy is the only other service member to have received the award for actions in Afghanistan.

  

All of the awards have been given posthumously.

 

Does anyone know why it took three years to make this announcement? A long time for families to wait . . .

 

 

Earlier this month, the Denver Post’s Captured photoblog ran a post titled Marines Pour into Afghanistan. I saw it for the first time this past week. Amazing. Please check out these images. And while you are there, you should look at some of the other entries, such as 40th Anniversary of Apollo 11 Moon Landing, which ran last week. There’s an older post, titled Five Years of War, too.

 

 

Now for some Rap and Foreign Policy . . .

 

National Public Radio’s (NPR) “Morning Edition” did a segment titled: “Rapper Feud Mirrors World Politics”:

 

Some of the greatest minds in national security have turned their attention to a classic problem: When there is one dominant power, the rest of the world tries to challenge it. That’s what happened to Britain in the 19th century and to the United States today. The same thing is happening in the world of rap.

 

“The way that rappers compete with each other — this is soft power,” says Marc Lynch, author of a recent article for Foreign Policy.com comparing world politics to rap feuds.

 

“This is the way you try and make a reputation, try and get what you want, and you have to do it through this very intricate series of alliances.”

 

This wasn’t the only pop culture reference of the week.

 

 

The New Republic’s “The Plank” featured a post by Michael Crowley, July 23, titled The ‘Pickup Basketball’ Theory of the Taliban. In the post, Crowley quotes Pakistan’s Daily Times:

 

Peaceful elements within the Taliban should be given a chance to cooperate with the government, EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana said on Monday.

 

Crowley adds:

 

Negotiating with non-hard core Taliban elements seems like a good idea–so long as it doesn’t involve ceding large swaths of territory that are subjected to brutal Sharia law–and I’m surprised we haven’t seen more progress on that front. “Taliban,” after all, can mean a lot of different things–including young men who are little more than bored mercenaries. If one thing has defined warfare in Afghanistan these past 30 years, it flexible allegiances.

 

“Flexible allegiances.” Yes. That wraps-up what we’ve witnessed. Crowley offers a great pop-culture comparison, by providing this quote from Dexter FilkinsThe Forever War:

 

War in Afghanistan often seemed like a game of pickup basketball, a contest among friends, a tournament where you never knew which team you’d be on when the next game got under way. Shirts today, skins tomorrow. On Tuesday, you might be part of a fearsome Taliban regiment, running into a minefield. And on Wednesday you might be manning a checkpoint for some gang of the Northern Alliance. By Thursday you could be back with the Talibs again, holding up your Kalashnikov and promising to wage jihad forever. War was serious in Afghanistan, but not that serious. It was part of everyday life. It was a job. Only the civilians seemed to lose.

 

 

Afghanistan women outraged at proposed family planning law,” is the name of an article by Janine di Giovanni, which ran in The Guardian:

 

The Shia Family Planning law was signed last March by President Hamid Karzai in an attempt, many believe, to appease powerful mullahs. The Afghan constitution allows Shias to have a separate family law from the Sunni majority based on traditional Shia jurisprudence, and some think the law is linked to the August elections and the Shia electorate who would have to abide by it (they could form up to 20% of the electorate).

 

Among other things, the law sanctions “marital rape and brought back Taliban-era restrictions on women. . .”

 

Following international outrage, Karzai backtracked and said the law would be reviewed. This month it was amended and re-signed by the president, but has not yet been ratified by parliament. Human rights groups say it is unclear how much the amendments have done to improve the law. And the law has already achieved its aim – instilling fear and insecurity among an already traumatised female population. . . .

 

Ruling by fear… Janine di Giovanni also notes:

 

Technically, women received the right to vote in the early 1960s, and everyone talks about Kabul in the 1970s, when women wore miniskirts and were the smartest ones in the medical schools. But Afghanistan is scarred by decades of war and occupation. The fact that a law like the family planning law could even be conceived in 2009 – even if it did come through Iranian-influenced radical mullahs as many believe – is surprising to most Afghans.

 

From mini-skirts and medical schools to madness . . .

 

 

A few of you have asked what books I’m reading. Most recently, @macengr at Twitter asked about the books I read while doing research for The Afghan Campaign.

 

The two primary books for The Afghan Campaign were the ancient texts by Arrian and Quintus Curtius.

 

Arrian: History of Alexander, Volumes 1 and 2 from the Loeb Library, Harvard University Press.

 

Quintus Curtius: History of Alexander, Volumes 1 and 2, also from the Loeb Library.

 

Another good translation of Arrian is from Penguin Classics (Aubrey de Selincourt). It’s the same book but titled The Campaigns of Alexander.

 

Of modern texts, the ones that really delivered paydirt were Robin Lane Fox’s Alexander the Great, J.F.C. Fuller’s The Generalship of Alexander the Great, N.G.L. Hammond’s Alexander the Great and The Genius of Alexander the Great.

 

My fave, just because it’s the geekiest, is a really obscure one–Donald W. Engels’ Alexander the Great and Logistics of the Macedonian Army. He gets into excruciating detail about how much weight a single mule could carry, how much barley could be harvested in April in Mesopotamia, etc. I love that stuff (and you’ll see a lot of it in The Afghan Campaign.)

 

What am I reading now? Just finished (for the second time) Sean Naylor’s Not A Good Day to Die. He is without a doubt the most under-rated military/historical writer today. I believe absolutely that, if he writes what he’s capable of writing, he’ll be the best military historian of his generation–and beyond that if he wants to go for it.

 

Speaking of writing. . . Started “Writing Wednesdays” this week. Thank you for your comments. More to come!

 

Please send me your comments for next week’s Mashup.

 

As I was about to close out this one, I saw a comment from “membrain.” The suggestion? Check out the blog Afghan Quest, “formerly Bill and Bob’s Excellent Afghan Adventure.” Thank you for pointing this out. I’ve seen “Bill and Bob’s” listed on a few blogrolls. The links never worked. Now I know why.  

 

Posted in Mashup

5 Responses to “Weekend Mashup July 24 to 26”

  1. July 24, 2009 at 6:05 pm

    Thanks, Steven! Loving the book so far.

    Scott (@macengr)

  2. Steve Heise
    July 25, 2009 at 5:54 am

    Thank you for mentioning ‘Logistics’ in your post.

    “It works out thus: for a three-day expedition, the personnel could actual carry all the requirements of the army. For a four-day expedition, however, 11,400 pack animals would be necessary, and it would be impossible to carry provisions for 5 days.” The logistic problems were solved by water transport, but this meant that it was necessary for Alexander to conquer port cities on a timely basis. When the monsoons interrupted the supply lines, he was forced to march through the Gedrosian desert. “It is a tribute to Alexander’s leadership and organizational skill that one-quarter of his land army and his entire fleet did escape the desert despite hostile nature which destroyed his planning by holding up the fleet for three months.”

    It was my first inkling, as a high school student, that planning and support could be as important to a campaign as martial skill and heroism.

  3. herb
    July 26, 2009 at 8:47 am

    The three year delay in the announcement is typical. The threshold for a MOH is so high that the investigation effort takes at least that long. The military are extremely careful about this award.

    Clinton tried to degrade the medal by his mass awarding to the WWII backlog (some of which were deserving, Im sure but some sure smell of politics)

    • July 26, 2009 at 4:46 pm

      Clinton wasn’t the first to degrade it. The MoH has been trampled all over a few times in its history. In its early history, it was awarded rather loosely on several occasions (a large number of which were rescinded in the early 1900’s). The higher standards for awarding the MoH, which we’re accustomed to now, didn’t really begin until the WWII era, and there has still been controversy in the time since.

      Today, I’ve heard arguments that it is being too closely guarded. In some of my military forums I’m active on, there’s been displeasure expressed with how its being awarded, most specifically who isn’t being awarded with it. A lot of folks think that there are living, surviving, troops who deserve the MoH for their actions. I tend to agree.
      Not to denigrate those who’ve received it recently – The recent awards have been highly deserved. But, the standard for award has not always been as high as it is today, and there are plenty who feel that today it is too high.
      Who’s right? Who knows.

  4. July 27, 2009 at 4:54 pm

    Three years is not uncommon but alittle on the long side.

    I was reading an article that given modern politics there is another factor. They do a quiet background investigation on the reciepeint. They do not want it turn out that he had been a skin head or some such in which case the medal would be downgraded.

    The same sort of logic is limiting the MOH to posthumus awards.