How To Use War Coverage As Cover.

by Daniel Russ on August 17, 2012

Airborne Infantry, Korengal Valley, Afghanistan

Airborne Infantry, Korengal Valley, Afghanistan

Last month indigenous insurgents from the Haqquani network staged a mini Tet Offensive in the Kabul area, hitting a couple dozen targets from embassies to airports, the insurgents struck and engaged defenders for hours. The defenders were Iraqi National Police trained and abetted by US troops close by. The story out of the area is that the Iraqis themselves flushed out the suicidal insurgents. Perhaps this is true and perhaps the US has a win here with successfully training an indigenous force to hold off sophisticated rebels. The attack itself was a disaster for the attackers, but a win of sorts for the Taliban. They are simply proving that the Iraqis, alongside the most powerful army in the world cannot stop them from staging well coordinated strikes at will.  Yesterday in Afghanistan, Taliban struck targets in Kandahar, the second largest city in Afghanistan. Again, while it did not stop the coalition operations in the area, it is in some ways exactly how the Colonials defeated the King’s army. They are simply outlasting us. This is the slow drip coffee of failed foreign policy. Yet the way the administration handles the slow steady failure of the Afghan venture is a lesson learned in Black Hawk Down. History vilipended the wholesale evacuation of forces from Somalia after the Battle of Mogadishu. It looked cowardly. And that my friends is the tack that adversaries of the left defend constantly. They argue that one cannot look weak and be a robust world leader. Inculcate fear and loathing, not compassion and sensible reasonable reactions in the hearts of enemies. And thus I believe this is why the media savvy members of the Obama Administration quietly shut down combat operations and withdraw forces and avoid panegyrizing the specific units or theatres, just the heroes in general. Of course the Pentagon sees the withdrawal from Korengal a way to embolden enemies and a reason to question US will. Most Americans couldn’t name this valley, or place it on a map or even tell you what happened here. Few Americans could mention that we entered the valley in 2005 grimly determined to force insurgents out and build roads.


This ham handed and transparent attempt to buy influence is a hallmark of a feckless, and unsophisticated way the US often goes to market when it goes to war.  Within five years, 40 Americans had died, hundreds more were wounded, some horribly, helicopters were shot down and equipment lost. The media long ago stopped spending more than a few minutes a day on the bad news.  The person who saves Obama’s derriere is Kim Kardashian derriere. A future shocked public s’ennuie ferme with the foreign, exotic, arcane places like Afghanistan and Iraq and a media designed not to inform, but instead to entertain.


From Wapo 4/15/2010


“For U.S. commanders, the Korengal Valley offers a hard lesson in the limits of American power and goodwill in Afghanistan. The valley’s extreme isolation, its axle-breaking terrain and its inhabitants’ suspicion of outsiders made it a perfect spot to wage an insurgency against a Western army.


U.S. troops arrived here in 2005 to flush out al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters. They stayed on the theory that their presence drew insurgents away from areas where the U.S. role is more tolerated and there is a greater desire for development. The troops were, in essence, bullet magnets.


In 2010, a new set of commanders concluded that the United States had blundered into a blood feud with fierce and clannish villagers who wanted, above all, to be left alone. By this logic, subduing the Korengal wasn’t worth the cost in American blood.”


In the meantime the sturm and drang of women’s contraceptive issues occupy more time on the airwaves that the slow drain of will and resources the Afghan venture has come to represent. More than ever, I realize that one of the best ways for a country to shed itself the bad PR for losing a war is to simply stop covering the war. And of course to distract people from the war.


Critics have started to pounce on the Obama Administration for using the death of Osama Bin laden to seed the narrative in the upcoming election. Republicans have nothing to say since Mission Accomplished, but that said, Republicans would be touting the kill if it were on their scorecard. They’d be waving that like a checkered NASCAR flag at the finish line. The Obama Administration definitely played the media well whilst negotiating the vicissitudes of an election. You have to give it to them though. Obama was handed a fait accompli in the occupation of the Korengal Valley. The national will to install a democracy upon the Afghanis has long since abated. The issue is not will we withdraw. But when. Here Obama is trying to survive.


Korengal was a blunder, Greg Jaffe wrote in the Washington Post. Evacuating it was humiliating and costly. Still the public never wants to admit that the majority of us we were just plain wrong about the causes of the conflict or the repercussions. So it’s time to get out of intercine clannish battles that characterize most of the fighting there but never quite cleave to the Good Democracy versus Evil Islamic Fundamentalism narrative. Like Foreign Services officer Matt Hoe said, Aghanis aren’t fighting for flags. They don’t even recognize our lines on maps.  They are fighting for the insular little culture of their valley. He called it “Valleyism”.


Having a lazy media can help a candidate. If the media stopped reporting the news during the Bush years I thought it was manipulated by government operatives.


I was wrong.


They really are lazy.




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