It’s a bit difficult to know what the most ridiculous thing the US military told Rajiv Chandrasekaran as he was worked on this piece about America’s increasing use of tanks in Afghanistan. The ironic invocation of shock and awe sets the table nicely:
“The tanks bring awe, shock and firepower,” the officer said. “It’s pretty significant.”
But for my money, what brings the piece home is this novel rationale for blowing things up:
“Why do you have to blow up so many of our fields and homes?” a farmer from the Arghandab district asked a top NATO general at a recent community meeting.
Although military officials are apologetic in public, they maintain privately that the tactic has a benefit beyond the elimination of insurgent bombs. By making people travel to the district governor’s office to submit a claim for damaged property, “in effect, you’re connecting the government to the people,” the senior officer said.
That’s the deepest into the black humor, at least. But what really leaves me scratching my head is what Spencer Ackerman points to here, where General David Petraeus seems to endorse bizarre ideas about his own magical powers:
Chandrasekaran reports that Petraeus feels his reputation as a counterinsurgency guru can overcome the optics of a heavily armored force rolling through Afghanistan’s south, reminiscent of the Soviet occupation. But any reporter who spends time in Afghanistan will hear stories from surprised U.S. officers about how many Afghans don’t know the Soviets ever actually left. And chances are the Army/Marine Counterinsurgency Field Manual isn’t required reading in Kandahar or Marja.
It continually seems to me that the biggest problem with our strategy in Afganistan is that to much too great extent it’s really a problem about internal conflicts within the military whose real targets are in Washington DC. The counterinsurgency faction badly wants something called a “win” achieved through something called “counterinsurgency” and I think is losing sight of the real interests of the people in America and Afghanistan alike.