Friday, June 17, 2005

Light Weekend Reading

Military Cultural Education
Over the past decade the Army has increasingly engaged in lengthy overseas deployments in which mission performance demanded significant interface with indigenous populations. Such interaction and how it affects military operations is important. In fact, engagement with local populaces has become so crucial that mission success is often significantly affected by soldiers' ability to interact with local individuals and communities. Learning to interact with local populaces presents a major challenge for soldiers, leaders, and civilians.

Comment: I don't think the Army, as a whole, is very culturally literate, and it impacts our operations. One of the big problems is that the quality of the training is so hit or miss. Some units get great training, and their mission readiness exercises include cultural training. Some don't. We had a large slice of our unit mobilized and deployed last year, and they didn't get any formal Iraqi/Muslim cultural training from the Army. It was all stuff that they came up with on their own.

I'm experiencing that in my own unit. I can't really get the type of cultural training that I want. So, I'm looking to outside resources. College professors. Local religious leaders. So far, I haven't been all that successful.

I'm Trying To Learn Arabic
When I walked into Arabic class last week, Karam, my teacher, cheerily asked me how I was doing. I said, "Tamaam, hamdulillah," which means, "Fine, thanks be to God." But I was lying. I'd just spent a full day at work and was sitting down at a desk for two hours of mind-bending grammar, vocabulary, and pronunciation. I knew it would be a long night.
I am not one of those people who dreads the thought of learning a foreign language. While everyone else was partying in high school, I was learning the Spanish past subjunctive and loving it. I studied German, French, and Portuguese in college. I speak decent Russian and have taught myself some half-decent rudimentary Japanese. Languages are usually fun. But Arabic is really killing me.

Comment: Language and Cultural proficiency is a long term commitment--a multi-generational effort. Why? Because its so damn hard.

Soldier Rap, The Pulse of War
June 13 issue - It took only a few ambushes, roadside bombs and corpses for Neal Saunders to know what he had to do: turn the streets of Baghdad into rap music. So the First Cavalry sergeant, then newly arrived for a year of duty in Sadr City, began hoarding his monthly paychecks and seeking out a U.S. supplier willing to ship a keyboard, digital mixer, cable, microphones and headphones to an overseas military address. He hammered together a plywood shack, tacked up some cheap mattress pads for soundproofing and invited other Task Force 112 members to join him in his jerry-built studio. They call themselves "4th25" --pronounced fourth quarter, like the final do-or-die minutes of a game--and their album is "Live From Iraq." The sound may be raw, even by rap standards, but it expresses things that soldiers usually keep bottled up. "You can't call home and tell your mom your door got blown off by an IED," says Saunders. "No one talks about what we're going through. Sure, there are generals on the TV, but they're not speaking for us. We're venting for everybody."

Comment: I'm an uptight white guy with, as my fellow company commader 1LT K like to point out, a terminal case of "white-itis". Bsscally I'm a honky so I'm sure that can't really understand this completely. But, I find it very interesting. I've asked 1LT K to guest blog on this topic. So more to follow. BTW, 1LT K does not suffer from white-itis.

Far from media focus: steady democratic progress in Iraq
Recent international reporting on Iraq has focused on the wave of violence and the spike in insurgent activity. Yet only a few weeks ago, press reports were trumpeting a lull in attacks as the end of the insurgency.

The political process in Iraq - as covered by the few reports that do not focus exclusively on the number of bombs and shootings - appears similarly erratic: elation over the elections rapidly deteriorated into cynicism and despair over parliamentary wrangling. The press has painted a picture of political chaos in which inflexible politicians are squandering the momentum created by brave Iraqi voters.

Comment: If you don't read the CS Monitor, you should start.

Panel: Interagency confusion hampers intelligence reform
WASHINGTON - Overlapping responsibilities among U.S. intelligence agencies could lead to failures in assessing terrorism threats, experts said Monday in examining changes at the CIA and FBI since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Comment: Its the intelligence, stupid.

Outside Iraq but Deep in the Fight
ALEPPO, Syria -- When the Americans led the invasion of Iraq, the men of Abu Ibrahim's family gathered in the courtyard of their shared home in the far north of Syria. Ten slips of paper were folded into a plastic bag, and they drew lots. The five who opened a paper marked with ink would go to Iraq and fight. The other five would stay behind.

Abu Ibrahim drew a blank. But remaining in Syria did not mean staying clear of the war. For more than two years, by his own detailed account, the slightly built, shabbily dressed 32-year-old father of four has worked diligently to shuttle other young Arab men into Iraq, stocking the insurgency that has killed hundreds of U.S. troops and thousands of Iraqis.

Comment: This article was making the rounds last week. Its a good piece of journalism, and I think an important read. How do we get better at this? I think one technique may be use the US Border Patrol to help train our soldiers and intel guys on how cross border smuggling works. I'm putting that on my to-do list for the next training year. Any border patrol agents out there want to help? Former SGT L are you reading this?

Social Commentary:
Leaving the left I can no longer abide the simpering voices of self-styled progressives -- people who once championed solidarity
Nightfall, Jan. 30. Eight-million Iraqi voters have finished risking their lives to endorse freedom and defy fascism. Three things happen in rapid succession. The right cheers. The left demurs. I walk away from a long-term intimate relationship. I'm separating not from a person but a cause: the political philosophy that for more than three decades has shaped my character and consciousness, my sense of self and community, even my sense of cosmos.

Comment: I don't agree with all of what this guy has to say, but it's a good read. Even though I'mleftytie, his thought certainly mirror my own reservations. I'm working on a piece about "National Security Democrats" right now. Not sure what I'm going to do with it, but it articulates my thoughts on the left regarding chosensen profession(s).

Flashback Friday:
Afghanistan: Crossroads of Conflict
The Soviets, both in their Afghan encampments and back home in the Kremlin, were surprised by the bitterness they provoked when they marched into Afghanistan last December–at least as surprised as Jimmy Carter says he was when they did so. Why are the Soviets in Afghanistan and what can the United States do about it?

From all available evidence, the Soviets came to Afghanistan not to conduct a Marxist revolution but to stop one or, more precisely, to postpone it for a number of years. The real Marxist zealots came to power in Kabul in April 1978. The Soviets helped them do it because the opportunity was there and because it is more desirable to have puppets on a nation's border than truly neutral countries. At the time, Afghan Communists represented one or two percent of Afghanistan's population.

Comment: This is a reprint from the May 1980 issue of the Atlantic. Great perspective.

Vacancy Announcement: Social Worker - Homeless Program Coordinator
The incumbent in this position functions as the Medical Center’s Liaison/Case Manager for VA's Health Care for Homeless Veterans Programs, Homeless Providers Grant and Per Diem Program. The incumbent is responsible for monitoring and coordination of services provided by community-based programs funded under VA's Homeless Providers Grant and Per Diem Program and is supervised by Social Work Service Homeless Program Coordinator.

Comment: I just wish there wasn't a need for this type of position.


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