Saturday, April 11, 2009
There have been some rumblings and discussion about the NYTimes article which describes Gen. David McKiernan's meeting with Afghan tribal leaders.
The offending part of the article seems to be the quote in which McKiernan is reported as saying '''I'm reading a very good book now about this part of the world. It's written in English, but it's all about you -- it's the Quran,' McKiernan said to applause. Moments later an Afghan man stood up and gave McKiernan a bright purple, red and green cloth in which to wrap the translated version of holy book."
Critics are comparing this to Obama's bow to the Saudi king, for example, or his passive response to North Korea's missile launch, or his basic non-response on the pirate issue. Critics are drawing comparisons between Obama's seeming weakness and McKiernan's appeal to Afghan tribal leaders.
I don't actually see it this way, believe it or not. The difference, it seems to me, is that McKiernan is actually dealing with locals in a specific area in which we are at war. He knows better than anybody right now what needs to be done there. I don't see anything wrong with him trying to gain the respect and attention of those people that could most help him with troublesome leaders and issues and to foster a bit of good will. It is still their country, after all. And at some point we're going to have to leave it to them.
I don't doubt or question McKiernan's concern for his troops and for their safety. I don't doubt his commitment to the mission and I think it is probably presumptuous of us here in the safety of our homes to question his motives.
This is a strategy that worked for us to some degree in Iraq and while Afghanistan is not Iraq, I think that to question McKiernan on this is unfair.
Brandon Friedman, a veteran who served in Afghanistan, says "...those who've served on the ground in both Iraq and Afghanistan understand that U.S. troops will never end an insurgency through the use of firepower and rigidity. And those who would suggest otherwise are uninformed, inexperienced, and dangerous. If we're ever going to leave Afghanistan in a relative peace, this type of approach is what it's going to take."
Also, at Infidels Are Cool, Jeff Emanuel weighs in with Infidelesto on the topic, saying, "A chief way to gain a man’s trust is by acknowledging his religion; trust me, I can tell you this from field experience. Gen McKiernan isn’t an idiot, and he certainly isn’t a “pansy,” as one commenter here referred to him. Further, the general looking over McKiernan’s shoulder — a fella by the name of David Petraeus — isn’t a pansy, either, and has done a bit of this whole defeating-terrorists and employing-counterinsurgency thing before."
There is enough for us to criticize without this one. I'm much more concerned with Obama's channeling Jimmy Carter with regard to the pirate situation and with North Korea's missiles, with Iran's nuclear presence, than with McKiernan addressing locals.