Agora

Tribes in Afghanistan: A Guest Post from Michael Yon

By Steven Pressfield |

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.

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The Bizarro World of COIN in a Tribal Setting

By Steven Pressfield |

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?”

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The Learning Curve

By Steven Pressfield |

By Mark Safranski—aka “Zenpundit” Steven Pressfield invited me to do a guest post here at “Tribes” and give my assessment of the vigorous debate that greeted the entry of “It’s the Tribes, Stupid: War & Reality in Afghanistan” into the blogosphere. Or, at least the corner of the blogosphere that is concerned with COIN, military affairs, foreign policy, terrorism, Afghanistan and Iraq. The following opinion is my own and does not necessarily reflect that of Mr. Pressfield.

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Horse Sense, or What We Can Learn from a British Cavalry Officer of the 1830s

By Steven Pressfield |

One of my favorite writers, Patrick Devenny, wrote an article recently for Foreign Policy that’s not only fascinating and fun, but also has much to teach us about, in Mr. Devenny’s words, “one of the most complicated problems in Afghanistan today: the training and oversight of local defense forces.”  

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Part Two: The Tribesman in All of Us

By Steven Pressfield |

One of the acts that tribes frequently practice is ritual scarification. Tattoos, circumcision, mutilation of the flesh. The purpose is to draw a line between who’s a member of the tribe and who isn’t. This is Us … this is Not Us. Non-hereditary tribes–criminal organizations, elite military units, certain religious or social orders–often have initiations. The candidate undergoes an ordeal. Sometimes he’s obligated to break the law or commit some act that severs him permanently from the larger society. The initiation says, “The line has been crossed, there’s no going back.” Again the purpose is to define who is One…

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The Tribesman In All Of Us

By Steven Pressfield |

I was in Frankfurt a couple of summers ago and there was a young man at the hotel named Kaitet Olla Kishau. He was a Masai from Kenya. Kaitet is a big, tall, good-looking guy; he speaks English and German; he’s married to a European lady; he’s a writer and filmmaker. He also goes home to Masai Land two or three times a year, or whenever his father gets word to him that he’s needed. Kaitet dons the robes, tends the cattle, lives the full-on Masai life. He says he feels sorry for his European friends, who don’t have the…

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Lawrence of Arabia on Tribes

By Steven Pressfield |

I like very much Gen. McChrystal’s idea for a new Pakistan Afghanistan Coordination Cell (cited in Max Boot’s article yesterday in the Wall Street Journal). This entity would be an ongoing “corps of roughly 400 officers who will spend years working on Afghanistan,” even when they are not actually in-country.

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Summing Up: Our First Week and What We’ve Been Talking About

By Steven Pressfield |

This blog has been up now for a little more than a week. Many thanks to all who have contributed comments–and to all who will do so in the coming weeks. Now seems as good a time as any to pause for breath and ask, “What have we been trying to say here? What exactly is the thesis of these videos?”

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“How to Win”: Further Thoughts on Video #5

By Steven Pressfield |

Today marks the release of the final video in the “It’s the Tribes, Stupid” series.  Believe me, I’m aware of the presumption of titling any discourse, “How to Win in Afghanistan. ”  Even Alexander the Great would balk at treading that ground.  So, as I say in the video, the thoughts therein are offered not with presumption but, as Rod Serling used to say on the old Twilight Zone show, “submitted for your approval.” That said, I’d like to stick a toe into those waters by touching on a recent (last week) excellent white paper from the Center for a…

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Ronfeldt Redux

By Steven Pressfield | Comments Off on Ronfeldt Redux

I blew it on Wednesday, posting this extremely interesting article by David Ronfeldt of the Rand Corporation so late in the day that it was only “onscreen” for a few hours before being shuffled downpage into the archives.  So here’s a re-post that I’ll leave up in the featured position all weekend.  The piece ran originally as an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times on December 12, 2004.  It’s terrific. On Monday I want to share a brand-new (June ’09) White Paper from the Center For A New American Security titled, “Triage: The Next Twelve Months in Afghanistan and Pakistan.”…

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