What the Heck Do You Do?

I’ve been asked a number of times since the start of the blog; what do you do?

Here is what I do and how it applies to the greater missions in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
I study the people. Mainly the I examine the local populace and I attempt to determine where they are within a spectrum. That spectrum is more of a scatter chart than a left or right bearing, but for the purposes of this blog, left and right suffice.

So let’s use the left as lovers of all things we like. They are pro-govt, they are pro US involvement. These folks require nothing special for them to like us. 

The population residing on the right end–these are the Mountain Dew drinkers within the populace, they are extremists. They do not like us, or their governement. It does not matter why.  No amount of talking will move these people off of their position. There usually aren’t many extremeists, but they do have the greatest impact on “our” mission.

Please understand, the people on the extremist side are just people in terms of how I operate.  I’m not making any value judgements (though it’d be warranted, but we’re not discussing that for now).  Frankly, since I can’t change those guys….and since the military is already focused on them, I ignore them for the most part. 

I working the middle of the crowd.  If i can “give” the commander access to influence the rest of the population–obviously in a way that we think is positive–I consider that success.
This is tricky delicate work that requires quite a bit of experience, dedication, intuition and a mix of skills that isn’t common amongst military folks. 

Frustratingly, within my field, people disagree on how to approach these problems.  Do we study the impact of human trafficking?  Or find ways to get people to beleive in their own government?  Do we study crop rotations and the advantage of water management programs?  Or do we not only train but legitimize the police within the community’s well of influence. Then somone says…it’s all robots.  (BTW, I didn’t make that up…robots).

As a nation we spend billions on aid.  We spent hundreds of million in Haiti before their quake…and yet…it sucked then and sucks now…My job hopefully, is to help increase our bang for the buck.

The Army and State Dept (and other players) have programs and aid systems designed to create a favorable growth environment for crappy places.  Afghanistan is one of those places.  If the program is say?  Free chickens to farmers…don’t you want the farmers to know about and see value in the program?  So do I…you’d be amazed at what doesn’t happen.  I go out and say….”what programs are available to farmers to help you?”

We’d like to hear…”Oh, I talked to the mayor…he told me about several programs that are perfect for me.”  Sadly, usualy the response is…”We hate the mayor, we want the US to take over the country.  We know you guys will do the right things.” 

Ugh, smack face…close notebook…get back on patrol.

8 thoughts on “What the Heck Do You Do?

  1. Geez, kinda like me teaching that 4th period California history class to a bunch of low achievers who only care about the noon bell ringing for lunch…you have a difficult task, and even if you move that boulder an inch or two up that hill you are succeeding in your quest…thanks for persevering…

  2. Wow, making a difference, halfway around the world. That’s fantastic! As I always told my daughter, ” you will persevere ” . Hang tough, Pete.

  3. Pete, GREAT job of discribing the work done there and else where. What you are doing is important so keep up the wonderful job. Most of you are making a difference and the others who only care about what they can get from it can go to, well you know where. If you need anything from me just write and I will do my best to accomplish the mission for you. Chat with you again soon and keep up the great blog.

    Rich

  4. “we know you’ll do the right thing”… is that enough? I think so. Maybe not in the short term because like Sir Pete stated – you’re not going to change those (the radicals) minds. I have nothing but respect for our military but question our (or anyone’s) ability to change the heart of man.. There’s value to the mission taking into account our goals – stablize the area, somewhat, hurt al’queda stuff like that BUT, I’m starting to wonder if we’re accomplishing that mission simply by BEING America. The word’s out! Look, you can have running water… hot, even… sewage… schools… twinkees!!!!! I’m not saying “Bring Pete home now!!!”…let’s say…. Do we underestimate our influence on the rest of the world simply by being the totally awesome people that we Americans are. I’m not sure how much of me buys into any approach, food for thought I guess…. Keep making friends P… May Stew watch over our friend.

  5. Yeah, I have to second what Galvan’s saying to a point….there are always folks out there that want the easiest line, who don’t want to think or even try to get “the bigger picture” –they don’t want to learn how to fish, to farm, to understand history or the ideas of the Enlightenment thinkers….they just want to find the chicken in their pot ready to be served. Well, sorry for them, cause in most cases it ain’t gonna happen! I’ve got a couple of kids like that just today. It’s the end of the grading period and this one kid is like….huh, I’ve gotta to do some work to turn in some work to get a grade to pass???? Yeah, well, DUH????? What part of being hungry do you not understand. Fortunately there are many who get the idea of hunger, competition both within and from abroad and self-determination to actually GET it that they have to do something to get that chicken in the pot!!!! Hopefully, you will find more like that who can lead and succeed and teach the others through their example…..I know the feeling, it’s like beating your head against the wall…only in your case the bad guys have bullets….It’s tough trying to bring change to a system that has been so entrenched and so stifled for so long…you all are working for what you believe; there’s a lot to be said for that!

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