Listen to this anti-war protester. He has a point. Now he should get back in the fight.
It’s easy to dismiss the Washington Post‘s breathless, over-the-fold, front-page story that a “US official” had resigned in protest of Afghan war policy. The prominently placed headline implied that a senior figure in the Obama administration had quit. In reality, the official was a very low-level operational person on the ground who had been with the State Department for barely a year.
Anyone who remembers Post correspondent Karen DeYoung’s shamefully biased reporting from Central America during the 1980s could hardly be blamed for disregarding her story about the resignation of Marine-turned-diplomat Matthew Hoh.
But they would be mistaken this time. Hoh has many valid concerns. Many of the most knowledgeable people are low-level operators on the ground. Hoh is a very well regarded public servant. He’s no peacenik. He’s worked in one of the most troubled parts of Afghanistan. If his resignation can do any good, it will be to highlight problems in Afghanistan and help us win the war.
As with many Post articles, the real meat of the story is buried deep within the text. In this case, it’s in the next-to-last paragraph, which reads,
“[Hoh] also would suggest providing more support for Pakistan, better U.S. communication and propaganda skills to match those of al-Qaeda, and more pressure on Afghan President Hamid Karzai to clean up government corruption — all options being discussed in White House deliberations.”(Emphasis added.)
Excellent ideas! This is where Hoh can still make his contribution to the war effort. Rather than withdraw from the fight completely, he should use his newfound fame to hammer away at the continued US inability to counter enemy propaganda – tactically, operationally and strategically.
General McChrystal and the White House are revising the Afghan strategy. They need the insights of operators like Hoh. (See the text of his resignation letter: Download Hoh letter)
I know what it’s like to be on the ground helping a war effort, getting demoralized at how it’s being carried out, getting extremely frustrated with the bureaucrats and the process and with less-than-stellar allies, and being worn down by lose-the-war reporting from journalists like Karen DeYoung – who, in the 1980s, was biased heavily in favor of the communist enemy. But we didn’t quit. We stuck with the fight in one way or another. And our counterinsurgency effort in El Salvador succeeded, along with our support for the democratic insurgency against the Sandinistas in Nicaragua.
Hoh’s frustration is understandable. I don’t agree with all his points. But he’s right on the matter of how to deal with local Afghans and on our nation’s dysfunctional counterpropaganda capabilities. He should be helping with the new strategy instead of sniping out of the Washington Post‘s turret.
[Photo: U.S Army Spc. Zackery Cely, of Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment provides security for an air assault mission, after being dropped off, above Tacome Valley, in Zabul province, Afghanistan, Oct. 13, 2009. U.S. Soldiers, from 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, U.S. Army Europe (USAEUR) are deployed throughout southern Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Tia P. Sokimson/Released)]