Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Dissertation: Dhofar Rebellion Part 9

So, I had a "come to Jesus moment" with my dissertation last week.

My plan has always been an ambitious one: to discuss the entire history of the Dhofar Rebellion, and contrast it with just how badly some things got gooned up in Afghanistan and Iraq. The original plan was to do that in a total of six chapters, which would have consisted of an introduction, a chapter specifically on Oman, a chapter on human terrain, a chapter on physical terrain, a chapter on what I'm calling "integrating factors", and a conclusion. I had decided to write whatever I damn well pleased, and then pull one or two of those best chapters from the end in order to get it under the word count.

Last Thursday, I came to another conclusion: focus on Dhofar. The sheer scope of what I wanted to talk about was getting way out of hand, and while the ambition is good, and while I will write the entire thing, the format needs to change. As I enter the home stretch of dissertation season, I've decided that I'll attack it with a slightly modified approach. First, I'll leave my existing introduction intact - and that may even wind up being edited, or chopped up to make an introduction and part of a conclusion. Second, I'll have a chapter on just how backward Oman was prior to 1970, and just how great it's been since 1976. Third, I'll take all of that content that would have compared the Dhofar Rebellion with the Afghan and Iraq Wars, remove the bits about Afghanistan and Iraq, and focus on the specific lessons from Dhofar. Finally, I'll write a conclusion. My one concern in all of this is that many of my sources revolve around the comparisons with Afghanistan and Iraq, but I think that I'll have a sufficient volume of sources even under the new paradigm. I also have a bit of time to adjust if need be.

As I've noted previously, one of my favorite independent journalists is Michael Yon. Yon is controversial, but I've found his dispatches from Afghanistan and Iraq (particularly Afghanistan) to be invaluable. Yon is a former green beret himself, and has embedded as an independent journalist throughout the world, particularly in Afghanistan and Iraq. I no longer link to his site because it's been subject to some very aggressive virus attacks in recent months, but here are some of the quotes that will eventually make it into one form of my paper or another.
Many Gurkhas can speak Hindi, and so do many Afghans. I’ve been to many dozens of villages from which the Gurkhas are recruited and although their culture is very different from Afghans, the economic and development status are similar. Afghans and Gurkhas can communicate on social levels that transcend language.
- Michael Yon, "Gurkha"

* * *

Gurkhas serving in the British Army have been rotating through Afghanistan. They can converse with many Afghans, at least on a basic level, by speaking Hindi. The Gurkhas also look like many Afghans (especially Hazaras), and in fact many Filipinos, Thais, Nepalese and Hazaras look very similar. As British soldiers, Gurkhas travel the world and see many things and they also live for years in the United Kingdom and Brunei. They travel to Africa, Central America, Europe and often America. Add to this fact that these men tend to come from remote, rugged villages where the terrain will match or possibly even exceed any of the severe difficulties found in Afghanistan, and the insight created from this confluence of experience can be invaluable.
- Michael Yon, "Common Scenes & Common Thoughts"

* * *

We ask Afghans for help in defeating the enemies, yet the Afghans expect us to abandon them. Importantly, Mr. Filkins pointed out that Afghans don’t like to see Americans living in tents. Tents mean nomads. It would be foolish for Afghans in 'Talibanastan' to cooperate with nomadic Americans only to be eviscerated by the Taliban when the nomads pack up. (How many times did we see this happen in Iraq?) The Afghans want to see us living in real buildings as a sign of permanency. The British at Sangin and associated bases live in temporary structures as is true with American bases in many places. Our signals are clear. 'If you are coming to stay,' Afghans have told me in various ways, 'build a real house.' 'Build a real office.' 'Don’t live in tents.' We saw nearly the opposite in Iraq where pressure evolved to look semi-permanent. The Dr. Jekyll–Mr. Hyde situation in Iraq seemed to seriously catch hold by 2006 or 2007, by which time Iraqis realized we were not going to steal oil and might decide to pull out while leaving them ablaze in civil war.

A great many Iraqis wanted to know that we would stay long enough to help them stand, but were not planning on making Iraq part of an American empire. It became important to convey semi-permanence, signaling, 'Yes we will stay and yes we will leave.' Conversely, Afghans down in the south, in places like Helmand, tend to have fond memories of Americans who came mid last century, and those Afghans seem apt to cooperate. That much is clear. But Afghans need to sense our long-term commitment. They need to see houses made of stone, not tents and 'Hesco-habs.'
- Michael Yon "Adopt-a-stan"
* * *

On the afternoon of the 19th, before our election-day mission on the 20th, “Snowy” meticulously cleaned every speck of dust off his weapon. He disassembled the magazines, cleaned the springs, and individually cleaned each bullet.

Snowy then counted every last bullet—twice—and I joked that if his weapon failed the next day, cleaning would not be the issue. The weapon was ready, it seemed.


There’s Snowy, who had cleaned his weapon with surgical care. He had wiped down every bullet and every millimeter of the magazines. His weapon was working just fine. For now.


Meanwhile behind me, Snowy’s weapon began to malfunction.
- Michael Yon, "Precision Voting"
I've frequently been pleased with how well my reading and education over the last ten or fifteen years, and various things I've studied in the past year, have come into play in writing this paper.

More to come.

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