Weekend Mashup July 24 to 26
Announced this morning: Sgt. 1st Class Jared Monti will be awarded the Medal of Honor.
Sgt. 1st Class Jared Monti, a fire support specialist who was killed June 21, 2006, in Afghanistan, will receive the Medal of Honor for his actions in combat.
The announcement was made by the White House in a news release Friday morning. The award will be presented to Monti’s parents in a Sept. 17 ceremony at the White House. . . .
He will become the sixth service member to receive the Medal of Honor during operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and the first soldier to receive the nation’s highest award for valor in Afghanistan. Navy Lt. Michael Murphy is the only other service member to have received the award for actions in Afghanistan.
All of the awards have been given posthumously.
Does anyone know why it took three years to make this announcement? A long time for families to wait . . .
Earlier this month, the Denver Post’s Captured photoblog ran a post titled Marines Pour into Afghanistan. I saw it for the first time this past week. Amazing. Please check out these images. And while you are there, you should look at some of the other entries, such as 40th Anniversary of Apollo 11 Moon Landing, which ran last week. There’s an older post, titled Five Years of War, too.
Now for some Rap and Foreign Policy . . .
Some of the greatest minds in national security have turned their attention to a classic problem: When there is one dominant power, the rest of the world tries to challenge it. That’s what happened to Britain in the 19th century and to the United States today. The same thing is happening in the world of rap.
“The way that rappers compete with each other — this is soft power,” says Marc Lynch, author of a recent article for Foreign Policy.com comparing world politics to rap feuds.
“This is the way you try and make a reputation, try and get what you want, and you have to do it through this very intricate series of alliances.”
This wasn’t the only pop culture reference of the week.
Peaceful elements within the Taliban should be given a chance to cooperate with the government, EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana said on Monday.
Negotiating with non-hard core Taliban elements seems like a good idea–so long as it doesn’t involve ceding large swaths of territory that are subjected to brutal Sharia law–and I’m surprised we haven’t seen more progress on that front. “Taliban,” after all, can mean a lot of different things–including young men who are little more than bored mercenaries. If one thing has defined warfare in Afghanistan these past 30 years, it flexible allegiances.
War in Afghanistan often seemed like a game of pickup basketball, a contest among friends, a tournament where you never knew which team you’d be on when the next game got under way. Shirts today, skins tomorrow. On Tuesday, you might be part of a fearsome Taliban regiment, running into a minefield. And on Wednesday you might be manning a checkpoint for some gang of the Northern Alliance. By Thursday you could be back with the Talibs again, holding up your Kalashnikov and promising to wage jihad forever. War was serious in Afghanistan, but not that serious. It was part of everyday life. It was a job. Only the civilians seemed to lose.
“Afghanistan women outraged at proposed family planning law,” is the name of an article by Janine di Giovanni, which ran in The Guardian:
The Shia Family Planning law was signed last March by President Hamid Karzai in an attempt, many believe, to appease powerful mullahs. The Afghan constitution allows Shias to have a separate family law from the Sunni majority based on traditional Shia jurisprudence, and some think the law is linked to the August elections and the Shia electorate who would have to abide by it (they could form up to 20% of the electorate).
Among other things, the law sanctions “marital rape and brought back Taliban-era restrictions on women. . .”
Following international outrage, Karzai backtracked and said the law would be reviewed. This month it was amended and re-signed by the president, but has not yet been ratified by parliament. Human rights groups say it is unclear how much the amendments have done to improve the law. And the law has already achieved its aim – instilling fear and insecurity among an already traumatised female population. . . .
Ruling by fear… Janine di Giovanni also notes:
Technically, women received the right to vote in the early 1960s, and everyone talks about Kabul in the 1970s, when women wore miniskirts and were the smartest ones in the medical schools. But Afghanistan is scarred by decades of war and occupation. The fact that a law like the family planning law could even be conceived in 2009 – even if it did come through Iranian-influenced radical mullahs as many believe – is surprising to most Afghans.
From mini-skirts and medical schools to madness . . .
A few of you have asked what books I’m reading. Most recently, @macengr at Twitter asked about the books I read while doing research for The Afghan Campaign.
Arrian: History of Alexander, Volumes 1 and 2 from the Loeb Library, Harvard University Press.
Quintus Curtius: History of Alexander, Volumes 1 and 2, also from the Loeb Library.
Of modern texts, the ones that really delivered paydirt were Robin Lane Fox‘s Alexander the Great, J.F.C. Fuller‘s The Generalship of Alexander the Great, N.G.L. Hammond‘s Alexander the Great and The Genius of Alexander the Great.
My fave, just because it’s the geekiest, is a really obscure one–Donald W. Engels’ Alexander the Great and Logistics of the Macedonian Army. He gets into excruciating detail about how much weight a single mule could carry, how much barley could be harvested in April in Mesopotamia, etc. I love that stuff (and you’ll see a lot of it in The Afghan Campaign.)
What am I reading now? Just finished (for the second time) Sean Naylor‘s Not A Good Day to Die. He is without a doubt the most under-rated military/historical writer today. I believe absolutely that, if he writes what he’s capable of writing, he’ll be the best military historian of his generation–and beyond that if he wants to go for it.
Speaking of writing. . . Started “Writing Wednesdays” this week. Thank you for your comments. More to come!
Please send me your comments for next week’s Mashup.
As I was about to close out this one, I saw a comment from “membrain.” The suggestion? Check out the blog Afghan Quest, “formerly Bill and Bob’s Excellent Afghan Adventure.” Thank you for pointing this out. I’ve seen “Bill and Bob’s” listed on a few blogrolls. The links never worked. Now I know why.
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