Saturday, December 18, 2010

Afghanistan: the three words, the measures they imply, and the understanding of journalists.

The American program in Afghanistan to "clear, hold, and build" was given a poor progress rating by an American journalist based on the observation that most of the country there is in the "clear" stage, and it was her feeling that this was a sign of no progress.

I disagree on high order grounds. The three words were, to my mind, selected to permit a concise organization of efforts, and it would be expected that at the outset of use of the three words a preponderance of "clear" conditions puts them on a track to the "build" conditions, along the lines of development intended to do so, rather than delegating them to the branding capacity of either default or lack of signs of change. The three words are effective, it appears to me, in the mind of those who know the measures standing behind them, and to see that effectiveness one needs to know the measures, a more extensive structure than the three words, and therefore their understanding a more demanding task than simply chewing on them as journalists like to do with news from the front. If the journalists can find an approach to understanding the measures intended to move territory into the "build" condition, then we can all share in assessment of the war and prove the value of our open society where generals let journalists know the kernel of what they are thinking and leave them draw their own conclusions which wind up in our hands as news consumers.