Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Afghan conundrum

I’ve written before about this very complex country and even more complex situation we find ourselves in.

It is bad enough for our young men (have not heard of any U.S. women being killed in Afghanistan) to be killed in this fight for … what?

That’s my problem right now … “So it’s one, two, three. What are we fighting for? Don’t ask me, I don’t give a …” (all you hippies from the 60s know the next few lines)

Not sure what the next stop is but it still could have more similarities to Vietnam than we care to admit.

In this case it is General McChrystal to the unemployment line. Regardless of what he thinks, he should have known better. I’ve not been in the military but I’ve heard they have a real respect for chain-of-command. He also works at the pleasure of the President in this case I guess. I’m sure he will take his lumps.

For me though the bigger issue is not what, where or how he said it.

Today Tom Friedman has a good column (I’ve grown tired of reading so many of his climate change rants) on the war. The most interesting things he said (read it for yourself here) is that we are trying to train the Afghans to take over their own army. Many of the soldiers can’t even read. We expect them to step up and make their country safe.

Yet Friedman points out (as the Russians learned all too well) Afghanis know how to fight. Especially the Taliban. Are they recruiting and training soldiers from someplace else? Why are their’s so able to fight us to a stand-off (one can argue we are fighting with one hand tied behind our backs)?

This is my simplistic answer to some of the above. I think the average Afghani would just like their country back - from everybody.

Another viewpoint I heard this week is that we long since stopped being in Afghanistan because of Al Qaeda or Osama. We aren’t there because of the Taliban. We are there because of Pakistan. It was said the U.S. could not afford to let Afghanistan fall because then Pakistan would fall soon after.

Can you spell D-O-M-I-N-O?

The fear is not about Afghanistan. What do they have but a huge pile of rocks, an unforgiving landscape and climate. Pakistan has nukes. They sit on the most contentious border (save perhaps those surrounding Israel) in the world. Google maps may be able to tell you exactly where Pakistan ends and India begins, but I don’t think folks on either side of that border agree. And this fight has been going on since the late 1940s. And some would say were it not for the partition of British India in 1947, who knows if the current state of Israel would have been created one year later. But that is another way more complex story.

So if we let the Taliban win, we lose: face, we lose Afghanistan, we lose a protracted war and hundreds of American lives, we lose one large battle in the war on terror (maybe, I’m not too sure anymore) and in the bigger picture we might lose Pakistan or India – neither of whom is ours to win or lose but … But if we win, what will we win and what will that look like exactly?

So while McChrystal was wrong to voice his ideas and concerns in the Rolling Stone (due out tomorrow), you have to ask, if the top commander has questions about what we are doing (Disclosure – I’ve not read the article yet and we all may be surprised by what is actually published), maybe others should be answering some of the those very serious questions.

POST SCRIPT: This just in (12:30 CDT): “Gen. Stanley McChrystal Is Relieved of Command in Afghanistan, White House Official Says.” So at least one burning question has been answered.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Yea or nay

Passed by a local work truck today and their slogan read: “Under promise – over deliver.”

I get the sentiment but if you take that at face value it is saying don’t promise to do a great job – just enough to get the job and then blow them away with what you end up doing.

But isn’t that misleading? Shouldn’t we tell everybody we are going to do the absolute very best we can? And then if in the process of our doing we end up doing somewhat or even way better – we can toot our horn and the customer ends up with a better deal.

It was either Mr. Miyagi or Yoda who said “there is no try, only do.”

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

cafezinho and the World Cup

Radio sports news (of which I listen to very little) is dominated right now by the World Cup. I'm no soccer fan (don't get the game) but I have my own little trivial soccer story to tell.

In 1978 I went to Brazil on a business trip with my boss. My two memories of this trip are soccer and cafezinho. (OK a third later)

Cafezinho is a really strong coffee Brazilians use almost as a greeting. Go anywhere for a meeting and every office will have this nice silver pot and a bunch of itty bitty cups. Before you do anything you must drink some cafezinho. I think a phonetic spelling of this is - caf-ay-zeen-yo. I was always amazed at how much sugar will fit into one of those little cups. As I recall the taste is strong and bitter - even with what seems like spoon after spoon of sugar. Another favorite Brazilian drink is Guarana. When I think of how much of both of these caffeine loaded drinks I had during my short stays in the country, it is a wonder I ever slept.

Memory #2 is a World Cup one. That year it was played in Argentina which for you geo buffs, is west of Brazil. Of course both countries were in the World Cup. To say that they were rivals is an understatement. The day Brazil played while we were there - everything came to a standstill. A ghost town on the streets. Argentina went on to win that year and Brazil finished 3rd.

One final memory of this trip - June in South American is more like our December, the beginning of winter - albeit milder. But it is cooler and less sunny. After a few days in Sao Paolo we flew to Rio to catch our plane back to the states. For some reason we had a really long - almost a full day - layover. My boss decided we should rent a car with a driver and go to see Corcovado. This is the mountain with the huge statue of Jesus on top.

If you can tell from this picture, the road to the top in very windy - curvy - nothing to do with wind. It was early evening, starting to get dark by the time we got there. To say the fast drive to the top in the fog was harrowing is putting it mildly. All the way up my boss is saying "faster, faster" and the driver is talking about hoping we might see something but he can't promise anything because of the fog. I don't think you can drive all the way to the top - I'm sure we had to climb some stairs to get the rest of the way. This was more than 30 years ago so my memory is "foggy".

We get to the top and in a miracle-like fashion, the fog cleared and you could see the humongous statue of Jesus with his arms outstretched. I think we just stood there for a few minutes and then headed back down. This time our hurry was to make our flight.

I didn't know at the time that Corcovado is one of the Seven modern Wonders of the World and one of two I have seen in person. The other being the Coliseum in Rome. Maybe I should put the others on my bucket list.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Hellhound on his Trail

Just finished this one up as an audiobook about the hunt for Martin Luther King’s killer in 1968. Very interesting book. Only two small quibbles later.

The book takes you back to a very important year in our country’s history.

Johnson decided not to run for re-election. That rarely happens with a sitting President. Of course as the book notes, King was assassinated. Within a few months, so was Bobby Kennedy. George Wallace mounted a credible campaign as a 3rd party candidate for President (and we made fun of Ross Perot?!) – don’t get me wrong, Wallace was an awful segregationist and I’m surprised he did as well as he did. Just a seminal year in our history that he could even run for office and garner as much support as he did.

I was 16 years old in 1968 and should have been paying more attention. This book helped remind me of a lot.

It is fascinating to read that the FBI was able to do so much without our taken-for-granted-CSI-on-TV-type technology. Also amazed overall that James Earl Ray was finally caught (twice!)

Maybe some of this plays into all sorts of conspiracy theories.

Wish someone else had narrated. Normally I like it when authors voice their own works – they know where they intend emphasis etc. and for me add something to the read but in Sides case – whenever he tries to affect a particular accent or other speech pattern – it draws attention to that and takes me away from the content for a moment.

2nd nit-pick. He mentions in 1968 that the FBI went on a plane in Memphis carrying James Earl Ray and used a videocamera to record that. There were certainly videocameras in use by 1968 but mostly inside TV stations and at live sporting events. Most recording (as far as I can tell) was still handled by film cameras. Like I said, a nit-pick.

Worth a read or listen. I think the paperback version is out now.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Blake, The Dixie Girls and Dierks

Stumbled across two CDs at the library – both of which I’m glad I didn’t buy.

Blake Shelton’s newest. Maybe one or two decent songs but overall not a memorable recording. Miranda’s music seems to have improved since they got together. While I like Blake’s voice, his music, lately not so much. I did get to meet him once though when he had long hair. My daughters were impressed to find this out.

The Dixie Chicks minus Natalie play as the Court Yard Hounds. I really liked the first song but after that … one song reminded me of Norah Jones but it wasn’t her. Another made me think of Shawn Colvin but it wasn’t her. While I don’t like Ms. Maines personally all that much (but we haven’t met yet), she may be the musical and vocal glue that holds the group together.

Finally Mr. Bentley. Imus was playing cuts off his new project today; Up On the Ridge. Say what you will about his curly locks – this one sounds interesting. Very rootsy and non-pop-country. Lots of great musicians and the style is not main-stream which is good. I’ll listen some more and this might be a purchase.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

I'm Just askin'

In all the hub-bub about the muffed call last night, where's Cleveland Indians’ baserunner Jason Donald? I've read several articles and comments but nothing about him. Why him you ask?

How often do players go absolutely ballistic when they think they've been on the bad end of a bad call? If the play at first wasn't all that close - as some have said, what did Donald think? Surely he had some idea of whether he was safe or out. I realize his statement couldn't change anything but ...

I know this probably goes against everything in baseball tradition (and competition in general) but what if, just what if, Donald had stopped and said "You know, I was out."