Thursday, January 06, 2011

All In: when it’s better to have only girls.

WilliamBrydon_Booker

It’s no secret among my readers that, four months hence, I plan to fly out of Afghanistan without so much as a glance aft; and further, I would recommend this course of action as policy.  But not everyone can say this.

The last briefing of the day was from senior officer M leading the anti-corruption efforts.  Summary: the problem is epically bad, from Karzai on down.  Public offices are sold; those offices are then used to enrich their purchasers at the expense of the populace.  The top echelon of ISAF recognizes (because they have said this specifically) that the present alternative to the Taliban isn’t a weak government, but a predatory government.  And our solution is . . . .

“I do,” I said when M asked if we had any questions, “but nobody else wants to listen to my questions anymore, especially right before lunch.”  I had hammered at least three briefers with what should have been a simple question:  what is the recidivism rate among re-integrees?  “Re-integree” is ISAF-speak for captured or surrendered insurgents that we have deemed rehabilitated and then released.  (Answer:  as measured by the number of re-integrees we have captured again, the rate is low, but it grows when you consider the size of the insurgent force compared to the number of detainees.)

“I don’t envy you your job,” I told M after everyone else had left, “and I admire your candor about the size of the problem.  But I have to say,” gesturing to the PowerPoint slide, “that nothing up there under ‘solutions’ looks like an actual solution.  They all look like glittering generalities and wishful thinking.  What concrete successes can we claim against corruption in Afghanistan?)

We talked about this for a while.  “The corruption isn’t just on the Afghan side, “M said.  USAID has poured many tens of billions of dollars into contracts here, a large fraction of which has simply disappeared.”

“I noticed that.  Like, what’s up with this outfit Black & Veatch?  100% cost overruns on a diesel power plant for Kabul, and they still get the contract for a plant in Kandahar.”

“But the worst part is that we estimate some $300M of the missing development aid has made its way to the insurgency.  When you consider that building and placing an IED only costs them $350, you begin to realize just how bad the situation is.”

“But that just leads to the question:  why are we even here?”

M paused a moment.  “Well, I can tell you why I’m here.  Two years ago my son was killed here.  What am I supposed to do, go back and tell Mrs. M – and there are two of them since my son was married – that he died for nothing?”

 

What do you say in the face of that level of personal investment?

6 comments:

Professor Hale said...

The sad truth is that most people throughout history have died for nothing. It is a rare almost non-existant person who dies a "meaningful death". The measure of a life is what you lived for, not what you died for. American soldiers who die in Afghanistan are no different than office workers who get hit by a bus on the way to lunch in NYC.

Instead of bringing meaning to his son's death, M only increases the chances of his own meaningless death.

No one can bring meaning to another person's life after that person has passed. Trying to is futile. The truth is what it is.

I do find it amusing about how US govt officials complain about corruption in the Afghan govt. Pot-kettle.

eumaios said...

Professor Hale: "Instead of bringing meaning to his son's death, M only increases the chances of his own meaningless death."

And ensures that others will lose their husbands.

Erik said...

Public offices are sold; those offices are then used to enrich their purchasers at the expense of the populace.

So mission accomplished, then.


What am I supposed to do, go back and tell Mrs. M – and there are two of them since my son was married – that he died for nothing?

Two words: sunk cost.

What Hale said.

Professor Hale said...

The other thing he could do is remind Mrs M that M jr was doing what he liked, with people he cared about, on behalf of people he loved (them). That is the best anyone can do.

Shithole third world countries even under the best of conditions will never be good enough to merit American blood on their own merit. Looking to them for positive results and justification is a black hole of despair.

Elusive Wapiti said...

Can't argue with PH here.

I am amazed at how resilient our rulers' effort is to install mercantilist feminism at the point of a gun. It is and will be next to impossible to turn off.

"And ensures that others will lose their husbands. "

Both friendly, non-combatant civilians, and enemies as well. And for what?

toughgod said...

My brother lost both legs in Iraq, and a number of his friends lost their lives. Was it for nothing? My brother wrote an article for Army Times a number of years ago that mentioned that the US Army had a better record in counterinsurgency warfare than any other modern army. He was refering to the frontier wars against native Americans and he implied that the US military was overconfident after the gulf war. It was not for nothing if we've learned something. We can be a republic or an empire, but not both. A competent empire might be modeled on the pre-WWI British and might use non-US forces the way the British used Gurkas. See Thomas P. M. Barnett's comments on "The Pentagon's New Map". Or perhaps we could become a republic again--nah no way...