Monday, April 19, 2010

Boss-i-cide: Killing Your Way Out of Chaos (2)

Last week, I shared a provocative piece that appeared in the New York Times on a certain Ugandan former-combatant-on-again-combatant (aka EX-ex-combatant) deployed with Ugandan and US soldiers to hunt down rebels in the wilds of Central Africa.

Boss-i-cide is actually more common than most people think. Reminds me of advice that an old boss once gave me:

"Only a truly loyal employee would kill himself for the good of his boss. Your boss will fondly remember you for at least a week, and you might even win employee of the month. Which is totally worth it."

This quote may be slightly off-piste, but killing yourself is a really strong possibility when you are 800 miles from home, armed to the teeth, and trying to catch jungle guerrillas on foot. If it's not for loyalty to the boss, then perhaps its out of hatred for the boss!

Maybe this whole business of turning the ex-combatant on his erstwhile rebel comrades has been misunderstood! The real buzz for these intrepid former-rebels is the opportunity of knocking off their boss. Admittedly this example is quite elaborate (i.e. helicopter gunships and so forth), but the principle is the same.

Gets you thinking doesn't it...

Friday, April 16, 2010

Why Are Cars Still Being Manufactured With Cassete Radios?

Why are cars still being manufactured with cassete radios?

Is it an admission that this simple old technology works? In spite of our iPODs with those infernal little radio transmitter thingies (that disconnect at the slightest bump). The cassette was simple, robust, and lasted. Yet no-one uses them anymore, and car manufacturers still install it as standard!

There's also the possibility that, like so many things that we buy, it's an add-on to validate our need for a certain amenity that is expected as of right. Even if it is useless. Sort of like showers in Africa, when there is no running water!

Which bring me to the incorrigibility of Hamid Karzai. Karzai is the political equivalent of a cassette radio.

He leads a government that cannot maintain its writ or territorial integrity, fails to provide social services without outside help, and he shamelessly depends almost entirely on outside help for everything. The pride of Afghanistan is an outstretched hand, palm-side up.

What he has that no cassette radio has is the gall to bite the hands that continue feeding him!
Afghanistan is a concept. An intoxicating concept of what should be, a dizzying liaison amidst a mess of destruction and misery.

The old cliche, 'who is the fool, the fool or the fool who follows him?' aptly describes Bush-then-Obama's excursions in Afghanistan.

Following Karzai down a rabbit hole and through the looking-glass. We have fancy names for it now - reconciliation, governance, counter-insurgency or 'COIN', and many colourful turns of phrase that omit the bare fact that Karzai and his government are a chimera.

Bush had his weekly phone confab with Karzai, the world's most powerful man indulging his sense of adventure, keeping it close-by, stroking it like a pet python. Then Obama enters the frame; no more phone convos - time for Tough Love.. Deploy 47,000 more troops, nab a Nobel, send in the best and brightest (Holbrooke, Farrow). Time for tough love is it?

Karzai is the dubious leader of an impecunious state that cannot pay its bills, is forever embroiled in bloodshed, and until recently had strategic importance until even al Qaida decided enough was enough. Farcical elections, a poppy-fuelled civil war, rampant fraud, and this mad hatter is still the doyen of international largesse. You either love him or hate him depending on whether you're Republican or Democrat. Whichever is the case, you still pick up the tab. While, I might add, the folks back home are getting retrenched and booted out of emergency!

Even when the enemy ups sticks and leaves the melee (al Qaida), US/NATO decides it may as well keep fighting the Taliban. Participating in a civil war in order to win hearts and minds is the new strategy, 'COIN' it's called (mind you, Karzai's understanding of 'coin' may be little less violent and a lot more mercantilist).

Karzai is an old warlord that no-one really needs, but he came with the purchase, so we keep thinking we need him. Like that cassette radio. He is utterly useless, except for those old tapes you insist on playing, hoping that the right time will come around when someone wants to listen to Neil Diamond. He belongs to the past, yet we keep him in there for the sake of verisimultude.

Again, why are cars still being manufactured with cassete radios?

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Killing Your Way Out of Chaos

My commiserations to those poor sods waiting for spiteful Double Negative commentary, here is a paltry belated offering from the New York Times :

Such are the dim bulbs calling the shots on reconciliation/reintegration and counterinsurgency in places like Afghanistan and Uganda; negatively reinforcing the trauma and violent tendencies of the very people who have taken the crucial step of walking away from the fight. By plunging them back into chaos, the strategic effect of such approaches is akin to a dog chasing its own tail. The utter confusion and violence of the fixers' will always have the unintended consequence of precipitating increasingly complex permutations of conflict and fracturing of civil society.

The message this sends out to all other active and demobilized combatants is that you can never get out, never get ahead.

As if crimson hues of the butcher's apron was the new black, Human Rights Watch reckons foreign troops and former rebels traipsing through the jungle in hot pusuit is a good thing.

Depressing stuff.