On a nearby desk the magazine PRISM, a publication of the Center for Complex Operations at the National Defense University, captured my attention for its numerous Afghanistan-related stories. One article from the December 2011 edition, “War Comes to Bala Morghab: A Tragedy of Policy and Action in Three Acts,” depicted ISAF as Keystone Cops when trying to influence Bala Morghab District in 2008-2009. The problem? ISAF completely ignored the ‘shaping’ aspect of the COIN strategy. Ultimately, they may have won a battle but lost a war.
In a second story, the magazine ‘shapes’ reader optimism via the finest of details. Representative of our struggles in Afghanistan is the caption–yes, the caption–to the feature “Negotiating Afghanistan” (likely a fascinating story but as yet unread). Below is the photo with caption as depicted in the print version of the magazine:
Nothing could more succinctly illustrate the beast created in Afghanistan. “Don’t let them fail” has been the battle cry; whether in training, equipping, personnel accountability, logistics, or operations, we have created a painful dependency.
For our best and brightest military thinkers, overlooking the details isn’t nearly as painful as it is revealing.