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Thread: Helping Joe Understand the Locals

  1. #21
    Council Member marct's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    Ottawa, Canada


    Quote Originally Posted by Stan View Post
    Case in point: Those successful immigrants in CONUS speak (English) and know our culture to exactly what level? Do they need to speak English or even understand American Society to succeed?
    One word only - "Lawyer".

    I'm not sure about the states, but in Canada, the answer is Yes - you do need a certain amount of the language and more of the culture to succeed.

    Quote Originally Posted by Stan View Post
    OK, it's not war or social and political upheaval. Or is it?
    Heh, welcome to the other part of my world .
    Sic Bisquitus Disintegrat...
    Marc W.D. Tyrrell, Ph.D.
    Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies,
    Senior Research Fellow,
    The Canadian Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies, NPSIA
    Carleton University

  2. #22
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Jul 2008


    George L. Singleton says:
    The tribal and jiirga traditions are as feudal and unrelated to Western style democracy as an day is to night.

    That's funny, because I've attended local Shuras, and there seemed to be some recognizable form of debate and collective decision-making based on representative agreement. I've attended a village level Shura in order to review local projects and the selection of new projects. I've spoken to villagers about the elder representation system. It was conveyed to me that the elders are not elected but can lose acceptance as representatives based on poor leadership, ideas, or influence. When you discuss shifting historical alliances as if they were the representative local politics that I observed, you would certainly come up with a different conclusion.

    Since 9/11 almost daily dialogue with Afghans, together with good friends at pretty senior levels there, in the field, do not support you view.

    I see. The pretty senior level people I saw spent very little time at the village level. They showed up, they met with a Wuliswahl or attended a district Shura, or they attended a Provincial Security Council meeting and they left. O-6 level visits were extremely rare and O-7 and above a white elephant. The higher the "pretty senior level," the farther from the ground reality.

    However, you can use your new math ideology and allow me to depend on factual history and we are each entitled to construe different viewpoints respectfully and maybe even humorously for that matter.

    Condescension will get you nearly as far as flattery with me, Sir, and does not appear to be respectful. My "new math ideology" is based on my experience on the ground in Afghanistan, which I will take over all of your course work and long distance conversations with Durrani leftovers any day of the week. I would submit, Sir, that I am in possession of more "facts" than you are in this case. Your attempt to snow me over with your historical credentials and "good friends at pretty senior levels" leaves me singularly unimpressed, and your attempt to brush me off with the equivalent of "you don't know what you are talking about, Sonny," leaves a faintly fecal scent, Sir. You are welcome to view that as humor.

    I do not wish to waive the "Been There, Done That" T-shirt too boldly, but I have spent a considerable amount of time in Afghan villages at the local level speaking with local inhabitants who experience local politics on a daily basis. I subscribe to the school of "all politics is local." You may quote history as you like, but I've still got Afghan dust in some of my gear, Sir. This is not the rotor-washed dust of Bagram but the dust of Tag Ab, Chapahar, Kalagush, and Alingar.

    I was not a ghost-chasing counter-guerrilla, Sir. I was an embedded advisor. I sometimes lived for weeks at a time "outside the wire."

    Again, the concept of locally elected/selected representatives to decision-making assemblies is not a foreign idea to Afghans. The idea of an elected central government is a very new idea to them, but is not completely incomprehensible to Afghans. They struggle with the concept of a national identity, but the ANA is a very good example of the fact that Afghans can get past tribalism and work together. Local loyalty often transcends tribal loyalty, and village politics has some vaguely democratic elements. Different from Western democracy? Yes. "Night and day?" No, Sir.

    There are a group of people who tend too far into social anthropology and get lost in the weeds. You would be surprised at the awareness that a lot of these backwoods villagers have of the basic concepts. It is in fact an issue in the districts that the district and provincial councils have only an advisory role and that the district and provincial governors are appointed and serve at the leisure of the president. These villagers would like to see these local executives become elected and therefore accountable to the local population. This would actually tie the traditional lines of power at the local level to the GIRoA.

    This is an Afghan solution.

    Over-analyzing the social anthropology of Afghanistan makes assumptions that are frequently in error visa vis the reality on the ground and is a distraction from the real point of this discussion, which is that our Soldiers are failed by training and leadership in their ability to be the "strategic Corporals" of COIN. Declaring the task too difficult, or even irrelevant, with pronouncements that Afghans are clueless as to any practices resembling democratic principles is diversionary. Further, it is incongruous with my personal observations at the local level.

    Those are my "new math ideology" personal observations, Sir.

  3. #23
    Former Member George L. Singleton's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    South of Mason Dixon Line

    Default Reply to Old Blue

    First, Old Blue, thank you for your service to our nation.

    Secondly, much of the current tense feedback I get weekly is from people at the level as you describe yourself, both family friends serving there, as well as relatives who are young cousins.

    Some of these young men are Marines, others are Army, and yes, some are SEALS, Navy types.

    You have to work with whatever is there. Understood. But, a zebra is not a fox. The system of local governance is feudal and no where akin to what we here, where you come from, know as "democracy", there is no democratcy or republican experience in the history of Afghanistan.

    Your experience with local customs and gatherings is obviously getting the job you have to do done, which is the bottom line, and thank God, you are safe and have gotten through all this in one piece.

    One very dear young friend is a law student now at George Washington Law School in DC, having sustained a major disability which limits his mobility for the rest of his life. He was a young Lieutenant, a West Pointer, and a good friend of our children. His parents, as well as he, are my good friends, too. He is now on life long disability from his wounds. His wife recently had their first baby so they are doing well these days.

    The fact that I originally in recent days addressed in a macro overview sense your criticism of my recemt remarks is because that was the level of the conversation when I joined it on this site, at the strategic or macro level. But, I am glad to have your pinpointed tactical/micro working experience, as of course that is where the job is actually done. But it takes folks at all levels to do the complete total puzzle job, you are part of a total team from top to bottom and teams pull together which you have done I'm sure.

    Your work and risk of life and limb are appreciated by this old trooper who will shortly be age 70.

    I was first an NCO before being commissioned eons ago. Wounded January 30, 1965 in the Rann of Kutch during the first dust up of what became the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965. Yes, I was a sort of spook and was the only American on the scene when wounded among a party of Pakistanis in their Land Rover which was hit by an Indian tank shell, indirectly, as the Air Force later chose to interpret the matter. Lifelong lower spinal damage with eventual major surgery resulted. I switched over from regular to reserve commission and thereafter, from 1965 forward the flight surgeon(s) kindly gave me waivers the rest of my 31 years active (6 years) and reserve (25 years) career.

    I turned down a disability pension voluntarily to stay in the reserve, while others under the old rules and law drew both disability and reserve pay. One has to have one's own values, and I am not I assure you a wealthy man at all.

    Of course, I don't care for your choice of words nor your tone, but that is where you were when you wrote these remarks. Remember, you critiqued me and I replied, but that is water under the bridge today.

    I would openly request the administrators of this site not to rebuke you for your language nor your tone as you felt those feelings toward an unknown to you writer and you are entitled to a one time pass. But think before you leap in choice of wording in the future. You can get your meaning across just as well.

    Again, we had and have both friends and family serving there, so my comments are not vague nor dated, but only now have I made this clear to you.

    I also have still living today friends who are native to over there who are my age who live part of the year over there and part of each year here in our home town, where his grandchildren and children are now naturalized US citizens.

    Good luck in your career and again, stay safe.
    Last edited by George L. Singleton; 02-17-2009 at 09:25 AM.

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