By Mac McCallister | Published: May 12, 2010
Reality in Afghanistan (or in any other country for that matter) isn’t a template of do’s and don’ts. Reality is something that military units and the local inhabitants in specific areas create for themselves.
I recently read a number of manuscripts by the constructivist scholar Alexander Wendt.
The takeaway from Wendt’s work?
The only reality that exists is the one we socially construct for ourselves and others of like mind.
There exists no one reality that can be accessed through empirical research. And, we can’t be sure that the reality we observe exists independently of our observation of it. All human associations, social identities and the interests of purposive actors, are continually shaped, and guided primarily by shared ideas and biases. Furthermore, all relations are socially constructed and given form by social practices and interactions.
By Steven Pressfield | Published: March 15, 2010
[Part Four of Four]
COIN doctrine, counter-insurgency theory, says “protect the people” comes before “kill the enemy.” In meeting after meeting we heard all the right things from officers and civilian leaders who were earnest, brave, well-intentioned, smart, sincere, hard-working and absolutely decent and ethical. We heard about construction projects and rules of engagement and mitigating civilian casualties, about liaising with tribal elders and managing escalation of force and irrigation and extracting resources and using local people, defeating the corruption of the Karzai regime, delivering good governance, etc. But I didn’t see any Afghans in the rooms. I didn’t see any in the PRT sessions (the meetings with the Provincial Reconstruction Teams.) (more…)
By Steven Pressfield | Published: March 14, 2010
[Part Three of Four]
It’s more than a little weird, participating in one of these PR walkarounds. Self-congratulation is the inevitable theme. The bubble can get pretty thick. For me, at least, it’s almost impossible to grok the street reality. Are things going great or are we all lining up to drink our own Kool-Aid? For all I can tell, the sullen, hood-eyed bandits eyeballing our procession have been cutting loose AK rounds at Marines twenty-four hours earlier—and may be doing it again three days from now. Not that that means anything. Earlier in the trip, Gen. Mattis, speaking of Iraq and the Anbar Awakening, had credited British general Graeme Lamb with the philosophical breakthrough that made that turnaround embraceable by the field commanders, the battlespace owners. “Gen. Lamb’s mental model divided the Iraqi population into two groups—those who were reconcilable and those who weren’t. The trick was to reintegrate the first group into the life of the nation–and to kill or chase the second bunch out of Dodge.”
Gen. Mattis with an Afghan commando in Marjah, 28 Feb 2010