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.