Tuesday, January 5, 2010

It's not copying if it comes with an acronym

Danger Room is really a best bet when it comes to news on the War on Terror. It's easy to read, can lean towards the funny, and although it can be a bit tech-y, they seem to have a good vibe on what's legit and what's not. But I think they missed the point on this post on what effective spying looks like in Afghanistan. Just because you can put "Your hands can't hit what your eyes can't see" to a beat doesn't make you Muhammad Ali:



The post is about a report from a Major General, through Center for a New American Security, about how intelligence on Afghanistan is missing. Sure, the closed-source stuff on individual insurgents and positions of various guys the USMil doesn't like is valuable. But Maj. Gen. Flynn notes that if you don't know the context, all you're doing is hoping folks run into bullets. That's not nation building.

This is very valuable. It's almost so intuitive that I can't imagine why it would be counter-intuitive. Of course individuals are only as important as their context. Of course killing a khan you don't like at a village may help you, but only if you leverage it by knowing the other sources of power and influence in that village, and how it interacts with other villages. This is called "Anthropology". It works well with sociology and history to give information on background of a country, region, or province. And let me tell you, it's fantastic.

So Flynn wants "Stability Operations Information Centers" because the HTTs apparently failed and one bureaucracy oughta overtake another. This makes no sense. It doesn't follow to take the failing parts of the HTT (military oversight, no implenting of a reason why gun-soldiers should listen to them) and turn them into something that takes away the good parts (local context, flexibility). There's a better idea: read. Read Danger Room, Radio Free Europe, some brilliant academics (I have one in mind, of course) and by all means, Registan! Reading is free, non-bureaucratic, and by all counts, effective. And even Lieutenants and Captains are literate, Mr. Major General. I think they can handle it.

There is a LOT of information out there on Afghanistan. It doesn't need to be disseminated through military bureaucracy that'll just obfuscate things and obscure data. Give some officers links. Let the CIA and State Dept. read them blogs. It'll be ok, I swear.

1 comment:

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