Discussion of the problems created by tribalism in Afghanistan often provokes from our own compatriots such outraged responses as, “Hey, who are we Americans to talk? We have our share of tribes too!” There’s no arguing with that. Here at home we’ve got the Bible-thumping cracker tribe, the latte-sipping liberal tribe and dozens more, all of which have to be catered to by the political process. To me though, the most useful American parallel to Afghan tribalism goes back to 1491—before the first European sail appeared off these virgin shores. Tribal AmericaRead More
I was very interested last week to see what would happen, in terms of leadership succession among the Pakistani Taliban, after the reputed death of Baitullah Mahsud. According to scores of press reports as well as Pakistani and Taliban spokesmen, the immediate aftermath was a shootout involving two rival successors, Hakimullah Mahsud and Wali ur-Rehman, that resulted in the death of Hakimullah Mahsud. Within two days however, Hakimullah was phoning in, according to the Economic Times, declaring not only that he was still alive but that so was Baitullah–and that the world would be hearing from both very shortly. This…Read More
I’ve been lucky in my career in having a few really terrific mentors–just guys who’ve taught me stuff about writing and work. The best is Norman Stahl, the cosmically brilliant documentarian, novelist and military historian. Do you know people who’ve got a lot of bullshit? Norm has the least of anybody I’ve ever known. In fact I would say Norm has absolutely NO bullshit. Here’s one thing he told me:Read More
The following is a guest post from Michael Yon, which we’re really privileged to get and which I’m delighted to share. As I type this, Michael is reporting from Sangin, Helmand Province, Afghanistan. Check out Michael Yon Online Magazine to read his reports. Michael is a former Green Beret, who has reported from Iraq and Afghanistan since December 2004. No other reporter has spent as much time with combat troops in these two wars. It is also important to note that Michael is an independent combat journalist—unaffiliated with any other news organization—and among the best of this generation of reporters.Read More
[This is “Writing Wednesdays,” #3. Our winner–of a signed copy of The War of Art–is David Cutshall. Here’s the fave quote he sent in: “Our job in this lifetime is not to shape ourselves into some idea of what we imagine we ought to be, but to find out who we already are and become it.” Thanks, David! The following takes off from there.]Read More
Remember the Bizarro World, from Seinfeld and Superman comics? Everything is its opposite in the Bizarro World. Up is down, black is white, in is out. Students of Counterinsurgency (COIN) and Tribal Engagement tell us it’s the same in their field. Who would have thought, for example, that killing bad guys would be a no-no? Or that a good old-fashioned grease-the-palm payoff would prove as effective as “winning hearts and minds?”Read More
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