Sunday, October 18, 2009

Journal 12-18 October 2009

Click on the TAPA entries for more information!

12 Oct 09
Bible Reading: I Kings 4-7
TAPA 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue and landed at San Salvador, Bahamas.
2000, In Yemen, al-Qaeda suicide bombers in a small boat ram into the destroyer USS Cole, killing 17 sailors. I visited survivors at Portsmouth Naval Hospital, Virginia later that Fall while on a Joint Doctrine Working Group meeting for USSTRATCOM. There were lots of cards, letters and stuffed animals and flowers in every room.
Workout: 60 mins on elliptical (5 miles); sit ups, stretching
Breakfast: Protein Shake, oatmeal w mixed berry yogurt, coffee
Lunch: Tuna salad wrap, fruit salad, V-8, diet coke
Supper: Taco salad, strawberries, V-8, diet pepsi

13 Oct 09
Bible Reading: I Kings 8-10
TAPA 1775, The Continental Congress authorizes an American naval force. Happy Birthday, Navy!
1903, the Boston Americans beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 3-0 to win the first World Series prevailing 5 games to 3, best of seven, but must win by two??
Workout: 60 mins on elliptical (5 miles); sit ups, stretching
Breakfast: Protein Shake, oatmeal w mixed berry yogurt, coffee
Lunch: Turkey bacon wrap, fruit salad, V-8, diet pepsi
Supper: NY Strip (6 oz), Fried Scallops, broccoli, grapes, Navy Birthday Cake! Iced Tea
Helped Amanda Pete with Threat Finance Brief today.

14 Oct 09
Bible Reading: I Kings 11-12; Pay heed to the lesson of Rehoboam who forsook the counsel of the wise elders for that of young whippersnappers.
TAPA 1644, William Penn, founder of Pennsylvania, is born in London.
1947, Air Force test pilot Chuck Yeager becomes the first person to fly faster than the speed of sound. He liked Beamon’s chewing gum. At least that’s what I remember from “The Right Stuff.”
Workout: 60 mins on elliptical (5 miles); sit ups, stretching
Breakfast: Protein Shake, oatmeal w mixed berry yogurt, coffee
Lunch: Chicken wrap, Shrimp salad, V-8, diet pepsi
Supper: Fried chicken, peas/mushrooms, sweet potatoes, ice cream w strawberries, V-8, diet coke, chicken machado, squid Filipino, rice
Maj Andy Knight lost his 9mm pistol today.

15 Oct 09
Bible Reading: I Kings 13-14
TAPA 1860, Grace Bedell of Westfield, NY writes Abraham Lincoln, urging him to grow a beard. He did. And, on his way to the White House the next year, he stopped in Westfield, gave Grace a kiss, and thanked her for her advice.
Workout: 60 mins on elliptical (5 miles); sit ups, stretching
Breakfast: Protein Shake, oatmeal w mixed berry yogurt, coffee
Lunch: Turkey, dressing, corn, peas, V-8, diet coke
Got a couple nice letters from mom and a really nice one from Lora!
Supper: Chicken Parmesan, mixed veggies, garlic toast, V-8, diet coke, pecan pie!
SSG James and I had a meeting of the minds tonight. We butted heads, but I prevailed upon him the importance of the work I wanted him to do.

16 Oct 09
Bible Reading: I Kings 15-17
TAPA 1758, Lexicographer Noah Webster is born in West Hartford, CT. Oh, if you don’t know what ‘lexicographer’ means, look it up.
Workout: 60 mins on elliptical (5 miles); sit ups, stretching
Breakfast: Protein Shake, oatmeal w mixed berry yogurt, coffee
Lunch: I don’t remember
Supper: Steak, scallops, green beans, salad, triple strawberry ice cream, V-8, Cranberry juice

17 Oct 09
Bible Reading: I Kings 18-20
TAPA 1916, The USS Arizona is commissioned at the New York Naval Shipyard.
Breakfast: oatmeal w peaches & honey, coffee
Lunch: chicken machado and afghan flatbread, chicken enchilada, salad, V-8, diet coke
Met with CZ minister of finance/foreign affairs representative today. Discussed projects and corruption.
Supper: Pasta night! Grapes. V-8, cranberry juice
Texas beats OU in the ugliest game I’ve ever not actually watched – I got the play-by-play from Lora, Gary and Jesse via Skype/web cam hook up.

18 Oct 09
Bible Reading: I Kings 21-22a; Note in I Kings 21:27 how God saw Ahab humble himself and repent, even after all the evil Ahab and his wife Jezebel had done, and God relented from punishing Ahab at that time. Gives us all hope that all we need to do is humbly ask forgiveness, no matter what we have done, and God will hear us.
TAPA 1767, Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon complete their survey of the boundary between Pennsylvania and Maryland, the Mason-Dixon line.
1867, the United States takes possession of Alaska from Russia.
Chapel Service: 1Lt Paul Walker gave his first sermon today. Quite a heart-felt message based in I John 1.
Breakfast: three egg omelet (jalapenos, cheese, bell pepper), biscuit w gravy, honeydew melon, coffee, juice
Lunch: Chicken saute, tuna casserole, carrots, broccoli, jello, V-8, Snapple
Supper: TBD

Remembering Afghanistan’s Golden Age

NYT 18 Oct 09

WASHINGTON — From presidential confidants in the White House Situation Room to anchors on cable television to ruminators at the city’s think tanks, the view has settled in: Afghanistan is an ungovernable collection of tribes that has confounded every conqueror since Alexander the Great. Like a lot of received wisdom, it may well be correct.

But as President Obama debates whether to send more American troops to Afghanistan, and whether, more pointedly, he might be sending them down a black hole of civic hopelessness, American and Afghan scholars and diplomats say it is worth recalling four decades in the country’s recent history, from the 1930s to the 1970s, when there was a semblance of a national government and Kabul was known as “the Paris of Central Asia.”

Afghans and Americans alike describe the country in those days as a poor nation, but one that built national roads, stood up an army and defended its borders. As a monarchy and then a constitutional monarchy, there was relative stability and by the 1960s a brief era of modernity and democratic reform. Afghan women not only attended Kabul University, they did so in miniskirts. Visitors — tourists, hippies, Indians, Pakistanis, adventurers — were stunned by the beauty of the city’s gardens and the snow-capped mountains that surround the capital.
“I lived in Afghanistan when it was very governable, from 1964 to 1974,” said Thomas E. Gouttierre, director of the Center for Afghanistan Studies at the University of Nebraska, Omaha, who met recently in Kabul with Gen.Stanley A. McChrystal, the top NATO commander in Afghanistan. Mr. Gouttierre, who spent his decade in the country as a Peace Corps volunteer, a Fulbright scholar and the national basketball team’s coach, said, “I’ve always thought it was one of the most beautiful places in the world.”

Afghans today say that the view of their country as an ungovernable “graveyard of empires” is condescending and uninformed. “Unfortunately, we have a lot of overnight experts on Afghanistan right now,” said Said Tayeb Jawad, the Afghan ambassador to Washington. “You turn to any TV channel and they are experts on Afghan ethnicities, tribal issues and history without having been to Afghanistan or read one or two books.”

“Afghanistan,” Mr. Jawad asserted, “is less tribal than New York.”

Zalmay Khalilzad, an Afghan-American and the former American ambassador to Afghanistan who grew up in Kabul and the northern Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif, said that calling a country ungovernable was a standard reaction when Americans do not want to engage in a conflict, like Iraq or the Balkans. The response, he said, is articulated as, “We were wrong to have the objectives that we had because this place is unhelpable, they’ve been at war for a thousand years, who the hell do we think we are that we can solve this problem?”

Mr. Khalilzad would be the first to acknowledge that Afghanistan was always fractious politically, and that there were assassinations and coups even during the era of relative peace. But the current downward spiral did not begin until 1978, when the prime minister, Sardar Mohammad Daoud Khan, was killed in a Communist coup, setting off three decades of conflict.

In 1979, the Soviets invaded, occupied Afghanistan for the next decade and were finally driven out by American-backed mujahedeen fighters, some of whom went on to form theTaliban, an Islamic student militia, which took control in Kabul in 1996. The Taliban in turn were toppled by the Americans in 2001, but fighting continued.

And by the end of the 1970s, many of the educated elite had fled and resettled across Europe, Asia and the United States. Gone with them was the promise of those earlier decades, when Kabul solicited foreign aid from both Washington and Moscow that brought in electricity, dams and irrigation, and when a young Parliament was trying out a fledgling democracy.

“There was definitely what was developing to be a newer tradition of a more open society and trained people” in those earlier years, said Paula Newberg, director of Georgetown University’s Institute for the Study of Diplomacy, who was an adviser to President Hamid Karzai’s government in Afghanistan from 2002 to 2004.

J. Alexander Thier, an expert on Afghanistan at the United States Institute of Peace who lived in the country during the takeover by the Taliban in the 1990s, said that some Afghans returned to the country after 2002, but that many still lived abroad. He said he was not “incredibly optimistic” about Afghanistan after eight years of the current war, but that he supported robust reconstruction aid and American help to bolster regional governments throughout the country. “I lived in Afghanistan in the absolute darkest days, when if Afghanistan was ever going to break apart into separate states, it would have happened,” he said. Now, he said, “the alternatives are so much more bleak and dangerous for us that we do need to keep trying.”

Frederick W. Kagan, a military expert at the American Enterprise Institute, made a related point: “Our enemies,” he said, “believe that Afghanistan is governable in its current state, because that’s what they’re trying to do.”

For now, administration officials say that much of the debate in the Situation Room is centered on whether the United States should focus less on the weak central Afghan government or put more money and effort into the provinces, where warlords have traditionally ruled. “We shouldn’t worry so much about Karzai, we should worry about empowering the governors and getting better district chiefs and police chiefs,” said a senior State Department official.

“I think Afghanistan is governable,” the official said, “but the question is at what level?”
For argument’s sake, let’s suppose NYC is actually more “tribal” than Afghanistan and that by extrapolation, the US is more tribal than NYC, as the honorable AFG AMB says. If I remember my math, if A is greater than B and B is greater than C, then A is greater than C by association, correct? So, if you accept that the US is more tribal than NYC and NYC is more tribal than AFG, then, US must be more tribal than AFG, correct?

So, why can’t the AFG government rule effectively outside Kabul if the US, being more tribal than AFG, and much larger geographically, can do so? AFG has been around for thousands of years. US – a couple hundred and some change.

I have some questions for the honorable Ambassador from AFG to the US:

What are your proposed solutions for the governance of your country?
What are your proposed solutions for the education of your people?
What are your proposed solutions to deal with the enemies of your country?
What are your proposed solutions to improve the infrastructure of your country?
What are your proposed solutions to deal with corruption at all levels within your country?
What are your proposed solutions to create a sense of nationalism within your country?

I quite agree with the senior State Department official quoted at the end of the Times’ article. I will add a caveat to his last question, though: AFG is governable, but at what level and what form will that government take?

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