Steven Pressfield Blog
SP: Chief Zazai, I’d love to get your take today on the subject of corruption, because so much has been written about it recently in the American press–that cleaning up the Karzai government has become a major priority of the new Obama plan, that benchmarks will now be enforced and so on. The Western media have reported that corruption is simply a part of Afghan life, that it can never be eradicated. What do you say to this? Is it true? Is there a tribal component to corruption?
True confessions: I’m 95% through a project I’ve been working on for two years, and I find myself suddenly wracked with self-doubt. All the negative thoughts that we’re all so familiar with are surfacing. Have I screwed the pooch? Have I lost my mojo? Do I really have anything worth saying? I know the tune. The question is: What do I do about it?
[Some of the smartest and most interesting input we’ve received on this blog has come from the Comments section. Alas, such contributions often go unnoticed, buried as they are in the “back pages.” In an attempt to rectify this, I’d like to present here on the front page a very insightful response to Maj. Jim Gant’s paper, “One Tribe At A Time,” from former infantry platoon leader and Brigade Intelligence Officer Jim Gourley–along with a reply-in-depth from Maj. Gant. This is long, but worth it. I’ve edited the piece lightly for acronyms and so forth.]
[The blog is taking Thanksgiving off; we’ll repost last week’s interview below. [On this day of gratitude, though, I want to offer a major thank-you to our weekly series contributors, Chief Ajmal Khan Zazai and Maj. Jim Gant; thanks to everyone who has logged onto the blog, circulated it and linked to it; and special thanks to all who have contributed to the Comments section. Many of the comments have been so insightful and so brilliantly-articulated (we’ve had input from troopers in the field, from veterans of all theaters and every war back to WWII; we’ve heard from officers who…
There’s a story in The War of Art about the afternoon when I finally, finally finished my first novel manuscript–after failing ignominiously in numerous attempts over the previous ten years. I was living in a little town in Northern California then; I trotted down the street to my friend and mentor Paul Rink and told him the triumphant news. “Good for you,” he said without looking up. “Start the next one tomorrow.” There’s big-time wisdom in what Paul said and here’s why:
[This is going to be a long post. What follows are just some of hundreds of e-mails received by Maj. Gant in response to his paper, “One Tribe At a Time.” The first is from Luke Murray, who lost his leg in an IED strike near Sarkhani, Afghanistan on 18 July 2003 as a member of Maj. Gant’s ODA 316. He gave permission to post his e-mail to the blog.] Jim,
I had been writing professionally for 30 years when I read Noah Lukeman’s The First Five Pages, a Writer’s Guide to Staying Out of the Rejection Pile–and I still learned a ton of valuable stuff. Get this book. If you’re an aspiring writer, it’ll save you from the agony of unnecessary rejection. (You may still get rejected, but at least it won’t be unnecessarily.) Even if you’re a grizzled pro, Mr. Lukeman’s short, smart book is worth reading just to re-bone on the basics.
If a Tribal Engagement Strategy (TES) were to be tried in Afghanistan, how exactly would it work? Last week, in the first part of this “Size Matters” post, we spoke with Maj. Jim Gant about the optimal size for a single U.S. Tribal Engagement Team (TET)—that is, the tactical unit that would be attached to a single Afghan tribe. Maj. Gant strongly advocated the position that smaller is better. Six to twelve men, no more.
I was making a long drive this week, across the desert from L.A. to Phoenix, and I got to thinking about the elements that comprise success-particularly for people like us, e.g. writers, artists and entrepreneurs, who work from the heart and on their own, without any imposed external structure. What are the skill-sets we need? Over a lifetime, what challenges do we need to master? In today’s post, I’m attaching a podcast of an interview I did with Jen Grisanti, who helms a Los Angeles-based consulting firm dedicated to helping talented writers break into the industry, shape their material, hone…
[Today we have a special follow-up interview with Maj. Jim Gant, on the subject of how big (or small) a Tribal Engagement Team should be—and what kind of large-scale support it would need. But first I want to say thanks to the many, many readers who have responded to Maj. Gant’s paper “One Tribe At A Time” and to all the members of the military, policy and journalism communities who have helped to circulate it. Special thanks to James Dao of the N.Y. Times (“Going Tribal in Afghanistan”), James Meek of the N.Y. Daily News (“Memo to Obama: Talk to Jim…
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