I was sitting in my cubicle mid-day when an email with an odd subject line tumbled into my inbox: “JBMDL Afghan.” It was from a bona fide sender, so I opened it and took a look. It turned out to be an email from the director of financial services at a major hospital system, making reference to a new medical services “payor,” as we spell it in the trade. It was, in other words, the Joint Base McGuire Fort Dix Lakehurst Afghan payor, i.e., the payor of medical services for Afghan refugees housed at McGuire Air Force Base/Fort Dix Army facility in Lakehurst, New Jersey. Otherwise known as the US military.Continue reading
Frederick Kagan in The New York Times, on the fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban:
Reasonable people can disagree about the wisdom of keeping American military forces in Afghanistan indefinitely, even at very low numbers. I and others have argued that the investment, including the risk to American personnel, is worth it to prevent militant groups from once again overrunning the country.
Maybe, after Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya, it’s time to ask what it means when people say “it’s worth it” to fight wars. What’s worth what, to whom, how and why? Anyone who wants to go and fight for Kabul or Kandahar is free to go and give it another 20 years of their life, on the model of the Lincoln Brigades in the Spanish Civil War. But that doesn’t mean it’s worth another 20 years of ours.Continue reading
I’m not a Satanist, but I do believe in fairness, so I don’t mind giving the Devil his due. The Devil in this case is Donald Trump, and his achievement is getting us out of Afghanistan. Or, well: signing a deal that if adhered-to, and if all goes well, will someday get us out of Afghanistan. I ended my 2008 review of Sarah Chayes’s The Punishment of Virtue: Inside Afghanistan After the Taliban like this:
To ‘keep trying’ to occupy and rebuild Afghanistan is to sacrifice lives and money on an ill-defined, increasingly pointless, and probably Sisyphean venture. A thousand lives and billions of dollars into that quest, we’re no closer to its completion than we were when we first started. That is as much a ‘punishment of virtue’ as anything Chayes describes. We’re entitled to ask when it will end.
We now have a better sense than we did a few days ago of “when it will end.” The answer is: some day. To paraphrase Metallica, the good news is that the light at the end of the tunnel may not be a freight train coming our way. Continue reading
From George Orwell’s 1984, “Appendix: The Principles of Newspeak”:
The B vocabulary. The vocabulary consisted of words which had been deliberately constructed for political purposes: words, that is to say, which not only had in every case a political implication, but were intended to impose a desirable mental attitude upon the person using them. Without a full understanding of the principles of Ingsoc it was difficult to use these words correctly. In some cases, they could be translated into Oldspeak, or even into words taken from the A vocabulary, but this usually demanded a long paraphrase and always involved the loss of certain overtones. The B words were a sort of verbal shorthand, often packing whole ranges of ideas into a few syllables, and at the same time more accurate and forcible than ordinary language. …
Some of the B words had highly subtilized meanings, barely intelligible to anyone who had not mastered the language as a whole. (pp. 249, 250).