Peter Lucier faithfully and honorably occupied the lowest echelons of the grunt hierarchy from 2008-2013, first as a FAST Marine and then an LAR scout. At Montana State University Lucier relentlessly pursues a degree in political science, focusing on using mathematical models to quantify exactly how much Forest Gump sucks. He also serves as RTB Media's Editorial Director; his views are his own. Follow Peter on Twitter.
emory believes before knowing remembers. Believes longer than recollects, longer than knowing even wonders.” - W. Faulkner, Light in August
Lots of people know a lot more about Afghanistan than I do. There are academics with incredibly detailed knowledge of the country’s history, customs, and politics. There are military officers and civilian strategists who have a lifetime of experience in counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism. I'm not ignorant, but I am a dilettante among professionals. I don't know as much about Afghanistan as almost any public person who partakes in the discussion, and I certainly am not the only one who has been there. But I do remember Afghanistan. And my memory believes.
I'm passionate about fixing the military, from the bottom up. I want us to be more physically fit. I want us to pick, promote, and retain better officers. I want us to formulate strong, clear, cohesive, coherent, strategy, or what one observer called “picking better horses.” I want us to succeed. I want us to achieve objectives, from the tactical to the policy.
But for all the knowledge, and expertise, and good intentions of experts and policy makers, we failed. And the failure runs deep. Ben Anderson's excellent document was called "This is what Winning Looks Like." I think the story of the enlisted man in Afghanistan is called, "This is what Failure Feels Like." It feels like bait patrols, waiting to get shot at. It feels like Bn Commanders "jumping" around the battle space, looking for that Combat Action Ribbon to make their jacket look better, ‘cause they are on a fast track to GO.
It feels like Sgt's and village elders speaking past each other through baby faced 16 year old interpreters, because the Sgt can't offer anything, and the elder is planning for the time when Americans in MARPAT aren't going to be living next door.
It feels like ANSF forces getting high before a dangerous patrol, and watching the one with an RPG to make sure he doesn't shoot it when you are in the back-blast.
It feels like shooting at enemies you can't hit from 600m, and knowing they have easy egress, and will get away to fight you another day. It feels like RC commanders and SgtMaj's giving disconnected speeches about winning, and taking the fight to the enemy, and improving lives of the locals.
It feels like the chaplain struggling to tie the death of a friend into some kind of larger narrative about the war, that doesn't exist, because there isn't a plan, there isn't a strategy, just confusion, and waiting for the deployment to end, and hoping everyone gets home safe.
It feels like a hundred speeches and stories, from politicians, officers, near-do-well foreign policy followers saying we ought to do this or that, or we should have done this or that.
All the knowledge and wisdom in the world, all the education I have received, all the research I have conducted since my short time “over there” , haven't changed what my memory believes, what my memory has believed long before I knew what I know now. It's Snowden's (Catch-22) secret, spilled all over the back of the plane. It's Macbeth. To me, just a black chevron, sleeves twice cuffed, boots unbloused, low reg, lance coolie, Afghanistan was a tale, told by COIN-dinistas and detractors, politicians and generals, the Departments of State and Commerce and Defense, wonks, journalists, religious nuts and coolly calculating foreign policy realists, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.
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