Hit Me Back, Stan

In his opening statement at his seven second confirmation hearing, General David H. Petraeus first paid his respects to some fine and upstanding citizens: John McCain, former Klu Kluxer Byrd, and loose cannon “Stan” McChrystal

Anyways, i hope you get this man, hit me back,

Just to chat, truly yours, your biggest fan

This is stan

As we take stock of the situation in Afghanistan, it is important to remember why we are there…

Because, to be completely honest, I keep forgetting myself.

Petraeus gave his assessment of where we’ve come from, and where we’re going. In short, a brief history of the long Afghan war. Pretty standard and expected stuff coming from the once and future man in charge. But then this curious interlude, a real head scratcher:

In the face of the tough fighting, however, we must remember that progress is possible in Afghanistan because we have already seen a fair amount of it in a variety of different forms beyond the recent security gains. For example, nearly seven million Afghan children are now in school (as opposed to less than one million a decade ago). Immunization rates for children are now in the 70 to 90 percent range nationwide. Cell phones are ubiquitous in a country that had virtually none during the Taliban days, though the Taliban does force the shut down of some towers at night. Kabul is a bustling, busy city, as are Herat, Mazar-e-Sharif, and Jalabad. Roads and bridges and other infrastructure have been built. Commerce is returning to those parts of Helmand where ISAF and Afghan forces are present. Even in places where governance remains weak, innovative efforts like the Afghan government’s National Solidarity Program, supported by American and international civilians as well as by our troopers, have helped enable local shura councils to choose their own development priorities and receive modest cash grants to pursue them.

I get the ‘children in school’ mandate. If we’ve learned one thing (albeit slowly) from other parts of the muslim world, it is that it is better to indoctrinate the kids ourselves than to have the mullahs do it. Those immunization rates are comparable to what we have in our own country, by the way. But I’m a little curious about the cell phone ethos. Do we take cell phone use as a particularly American, or Western, marker? If so, I think we’re kidding ourselves. Cell phone use is a double-edged sword, and is a weapon that could very well be turned against us.

Cell phone use is “ubiquitous” in our own urban kill zones, so as an advance and as a democratizing influence, its utility would seem somewhat suspect. The cell phone became a standard tool of the corner drug trade. Maybe poppy farmers could make similar use of them. But, you know. Call me. We can discuss. Or as Stan said: hit me back, just to chat.

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