Sunday, September 11, 2011

Pech Valley Revisited

Journalism still thrives here and there. It does so in The Christian Science Monitor. In its most recent issue (September 5, 2011, Volume 103, Issue 41), I read a story yesterday titled “Soldiers’ tale of an epic battle” by Anna Mulrine. One has to go beyond the mainstream media to get genuine reporting. Over the years I’ve found stories that give real insight in such magazines as the CSM, Harper’s, Atlantic, and even more obscure places. The story I point to here is on the web (link), but in fairness to the CSM, why not buy a copy? One has to penetrate beneath the canned, sanitized, propaganda to get a visceral (read human) understanding of how things really are.

This story visits the same Pech River Valley in Afghanistan I’ve pointed to before in two earlier posts (one, two), each time to make the point that we’re massively engaged in what is a pointless pursuit, a vast over-reaction. What it means in human terms is here rendered in old-fashioned journalistic style by Mulrine.

The story also highlights the valor of our fighting forces as they engage in actions that make as little sense to them as they do to us. I’ve served my time as a professional soldier myself, albeit in peaceful times. I understand and honor that world. But the merits of that profession do not transfer automatically to those who send troops into pointless battles.

1 comment:

  1. We read Sun Tzu as a metaphor for everything, but we do not read him dealing with war, especially long, drawn out engagements:

    When the army engages in protracted campaigns, the resources of the state will not suffice.
    [Chang Yu [comments:] ...the campaigns of the emperor Wu of the Han dragged on with no result, and after the treasury was emptied, he issued a mournful edict.]

    When weapons are dulled and ardor damped, your strength exhausted and treasure spent, neighboring rulers will take advantage of your distress to act. And even though you have wise counsellors, none will be able to lay good plans for the future.

    For there has never been a protracted war from which a country has benefited.
    [Li Ch'uan [comments:] The Spring and Autumn Annals say: 'War is like unto fire; those who will not put aside weapons are themselves consumed by them.]

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