• The Ryan C. Crocker Expeditionary Blog

    July 7, 2012 // 7 Comments »

    This blog just loves Ryan Crocker, America’s ambassador to everything. The Crock is always firing off wacky statements from wherever he is ambassadoring from, be it Iraq or Afghanistan. It is what he does.

    The other thing Crock likes to do is have things named after him, like droppings at each post he leads. The State Department even offers an in-house award called the Ryan C. Crocker Award for Outstanding Leadership in Expeditionary Diplomacy.

    Crock’s latest North Korean-like leadership example is what appears to be a makeshift hut in Kabul that is now known as the The Ryan C. Crocker Expeditionary Production Studio, for making the teevee things that will win our war. Both Diplopundit and El Snarkistani have much more to say about all this.

    For me, however, this time I want to be on the team. Thus, I am officially renaming this blog “The Ryan C. Crocker Expeditionary Blog.”

    Actually, nothing will change. This is partially because changing the graphics for this blog is a hassle, and partially because in a few weeks no one will care what was named after Crocker as it was just some short-term suck up move on the part of his staff anyway.



    Related Articles:




    Copyright © 2019. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity.

    Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedin

    Posted in Afghanistan, Embassy/State

    Ryan Crocker Slips Quietly Away, Again

    June 3, 2012 // 4 Comments »

    Antiwar.com’s Kelley B. Vlahos uncorks an excellent essay on the never-ending leadership transition in Afghanistan:

    Washington’s foreign policy elite loves to mock the overuse of the cliché “graveyard of empires,” but it seems as though the last decade of our increasingly failed bid in Afghanistan is littered with lackluster epitaphs for American generals, envoys and diplomats.

    The latest, of course, is Ambassador Ryan Crocker, who is leaving his post as early as July. Gen. John Allen, current commander of U.S. and ISAF in Afghanistan, will also be leaving, as well as Cameron Munter, U.S. ambassador to Pakistan. All three leave records of little renown (complete with shifting goal posts and neon question marks) and earlier than expected. Crocker exits after only one year on the job, Munter less than two and Allen, perhaps a record, announced his departure after only eight months on the job.

    Referring to the similarly short reigns of Gens. David McKiernan, David Petraeus and Stanley McChrystal, Spencer Ackerman of Wired’s Danger Room noted wryly of Allen’s early promotion to head the U.S. European Command, which will take him far away from the battlefield: “Afghanistan war commanders have tenures as long as Spinal Tap drummers.”


    The Crock has been an Administration favorite all through the years, and was well-loved by both Bush and Obama. Indeed, after Crocker as Ambassador to Iraq won that war personally, he was lauded as a “modern day Lawrence of Arabia.”

    Crocker’s tenure in America’s wars of choice in Iran and Afghanistan has been the subject of frequent fodder for this blog and others, as the guy just can’t stop himself from saying dumb things. It suggest perhaps Afghanistan might be better known in this century as the graveyard of assholes, as well as empires. But don’t listen to me, listen to Antiwar.com again:

    Turns out Crocker was just one in a line of diplomats who were put into a mission that was designed to fail, where professional legacies and even personal stamina appeared to wither over time against the perfidious Hamid Karzai, the labyrinth of Kabul’s corruption and always having to take the child’s seat at the military’s table.

    Read the entire piece on Antiwar.com. The Crock would want you to.



    Related Articles:




    Copyright © 2019. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity.

    Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedin

    Posted in Afghanistan, Embassy/State

    Does Public Diplomacy in Afghanistan Work? Go Tell the Marines

    May 9, 2012 // 2 Comments »

    In my interview with John Brown about Public Diplomacy and social media at the State Department, reprinted here by the American Security Project and also on HuffPo and this blog, we talked about the need to measure in some way the impact of public diplomacy efforts.

    The Security Project wrote:

    On metrics, Van Buren argues that they are needed to help determine is a goal is being achieved. Furthermore, he perceives that the State Department has been using volume, not results, as a primary metric for success. Creating volumes of messages and projects is an ineffective metric, and new methods for actually measuring the achievement of goals must be developed to ensure effectiveness.


    Metrics

    The old saying, any road will get you there if you don’t know where you’re going, applies here. If I was to ask a question of someone important in Public Affairs, I’d ask this: why isn’t your whole “PD” strategy built around sending out messages in bottles dropped into the ocean? Now of course the analogy only goes so far, but just as the message in the bottle strategy can be dismissed with a quick thought experiment (who knows who reads what, and what they do after the read it), can anyone really make a different claim for the State Department’s current efforts?

    Metrics start with a clear goal, an end state to use the military term, and work backwards from there. One of the core problems with the State Department, and the one that most significantly contributes to the Department’s increasing irrelevance in foreign policy, is that State seems just content to “be,” to create conditions of its own continued existence. What if instead the organization had more concrete goals? Then we could measure back from them. I’ll not trouble readers with my own list of foreign policy goals, but if the best you can come up with is something so broad as “engage the public” then you are pretty close to having no real goal at all. Best to throw notes into the ocean and hope for the best.

    Several Public Diplomacists at State wrote in, claiming that they were “sure they were effective” but said that there was no way for them to measure their effectiveness, apparently apart from some gut instinct they acquired in training.

    Yeah, right. Go tell that to the Marines.

    The Marines Man Up

    The Marine Corps decided their own public diplomacy strategy in Afghanistan (though they call it psyops, and other refer to it as propaganda) needed to be evaluated by a third party. They hired the Rand Corporation to review their programs, and then freaking published the results, good and bad, for the world to see. Some takeaways:


    — An assessment of the effectiveness of various themes in prior U.S. military psychological operations revealed that certain messages were never effective, and other messages were effective for only a limited amount of time.

    — Likewise, the methods used to disseminate these messages, as well as an understanding of the diversity and culture of target audiences, played a significant role in the reach and outcome of messaging campaigns.
    There Have Been Both Notable Successes and Notable Weaknesses in the U.S. Military’s Messaging Campaigns in Afghanistan

    — The most-notable shortcoming has been in countering the Taliban’s propaganda campaign against U.S. and coalition activity, which has focused on civilian casualties and has found a broad national and international audience.

    — While the success of Taliban propaganda efforts has not translated into widespread support for the movement, it may have weakened support for the U.S. and coalition presence and activities in the region.
    The biggest successes have been in the area of face-to-face communication and meetings with key communicators, such as local councils of elders, local leaders, and members of the Afghan media.


    Warts and All

    Now of course someone can bark that a third party consultant isn’t a proper metric, or that the report was biased or should have been written in Klingon, but the point here is that unlike the State Department, which conspicuously left even John Brown’s interview about metrics out of its daily media summary, the Marines were willing to seek an assessment, and then published that assessment, warts and all, on the internet. Sure, this is not perfect. But the assessment does include recommendations, and so now anyone concerned, including the entire Corps, is aware of the good and bad, and knows the way forward. One team, one voice kind of thing.

    It is of course more likely that I will awake tomorrow with a third nipple than that the State Department would seek such an assessment of its efforts in Afghanistan and then go on to announce the results publicly.

    In fact, with a great sigh of relief from the State Department, the US Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy was shut down in December 2011, closing off even that modest portal of review.

    Want $10 Million Dollars?

    Meanwhile, the American Embassy in Kabul is moving ahead, offering grants of up to $10 million a project for things as vague and broad as “Strengthen people-to-people ties to deepen the partnership between communities within Afghanistan and between Afghanistan and the United States.” You can also get multi-million dollar grants to teach English to Afghans, a worthy goal considering the Government Accountability Office cited lack of language skills as one of the problems dogging State’s efforts in Afghanistan.

    Assessment? How about this self-assessment from a Public Diplomacy practioner in Afghanistan, headlined “NATO can win the war in Afghanistan with Pubic Diplomacy” (her typo in the headline, not mine, check the link yourself):

    This is a Facebook post from a young Afghan who just graduated from Kabul University. “Today was a beautiful day. Dancing, happiness, laughter and exchanging jokes, recording sweet memories, forgetting worries, and celebrating graduation from college… Life could some times be so beautiful and wonderful. What a feeling!!!!

    You will NEVER see such sentiments about Afghans in any of the major news networks or read it in the international papers. You will only read or watch the road side bombing and how everything is falling into pieces in Afghanistan. But in reality there is progress in Afghanistan and young Afghans are the future of their country.


    The Twitter Tells All

    And finally, no discussion of Public Diplomacy at State is complete with a word on social media, the newest flavor of Kool Aid at Foggy Bottom. Winning hearts and minds? Maybe not. Here’s some messages from today’s American Embassy Kabul Twitter feed, following Obama’s victory lap into Kabul announcing a new dawn or whatever:





    Related Articles:




    Copyright © 2019. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity.

    Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedin

    Posted in Afghanistan, Embassy/State

    Crocker to Taliban: Youse Guys are Wimps

    April 16, 2012 // 6 Comments »

    Ryan Crocker (seen dropping some killa ninja hand gestures on ‘ya at left), America’s Ambassador to Afghanistan is a dude, dude. He don’t take no sh*t from nobody. Check this smackdown:

    The Taliban, see, launched a wave of assaults on Kabul and three other provinces Sunday. Fighting in the Kabul district that houses allied embassies lasted into Sunday night. Bombs, suicide vests, AKs, the whole MFer.

    So what does America’s bad boy Ambassador have to say to ‘dem Taliban bitches: “The Taliban are very good at issuing statements, less good at fighting.”

    Da Man Crocker, is not the first time he lay smack on the Taliban. Following the all-day Taliban assault on the American Embassy in Kabul last September, Crocker said “If this is the best they can do, I find both their lack of ability and capacity and the ability of Afghan forces to respond to it actually encouraging in this whole transition process.”

    Crock’s bad-ass statements sound tough and cool, like a real manly diplomat should. Freakin’ Taliban, can’t do nothing right. But wait, gee, what’s it been for our war in Afghanistan, heading into ELEVEN FREAKING YEARS Ryan? After eleven years of fighting, trillions of dollars, thousands of lives and umpteen training missions for the Afghans, the Taliban can still stage a coordinated attack in central Kabul? That does not seem like a lack of ability or capability. The victories over the Taliban seem to be taking place closer and closer to home somehow. And how many more Americans have died in Afghanistan in between Crocker’s childish posturing?

    How well did grunting “Bring ‘em on!” work out when George Bush said it regarding Iraq? When he said it, only 23 Americans had died in Iraq. 4479 dead Americans and nine years later, he is still eating those words.

    What is lacking here is credibility. Lacking also is humility. Ryan Crocker, please just shut the freak up.



    (America, please note that my previous blog posting of some seven months ago about Ryan Crocker’s macho posturing was singled out by the State Department’s Diplomatic Security agents as a further example of my “poor judgement” and included in the Report of Investigation filed against me. Boy oh boy, seven more months from now am I gonna be in trouble when the next investigation uncovers this blog posting.)




    Related Articles:




    Copyright © 2019. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity.

    Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedin

    Posted in Afghanistan, Embassy/State

    Why We Lost in Afghanistan

    March 14, 2012 // Comments Off on Why We Lost in Afghanistan

    From the US perspective, a soldier in uniform, representing the United States to the people he encounters in Afghanistan, murders sixteen people including nine children and it is called an unfortunate, isolated incident. When the US accidentally blows up sixteen Afghan civilians with a 500 pound bomb, to the US it is just another day at the office, “collateral damage.”

    Meanwhile, only 36 hours after the murder of those Afghan children, the US Embassy in Kabul sends out this chirpy Tweet:



    It is obvious that inside the Embassy, as witnessed by their most public of faces, that the incident is already old news.

    Speaking to her collected Ambassadors, SecState Hillary Clinton said the same day without irony “Only America has the reach, resources & relationships to anchor a more peaceful and prosperous world.”

    Each time one of these horrors occurs in Afghanistan, the US response is that it is an isolated incident. How many isolated incidents must accrue before we acknowledge we have a collective problem?

    It is obvious to everyone in Afghanistan that the US really could care less about burning Korans, pissing on Afghan dead or even the murder of children, except perhaps as a PR issue to be managed.

    That is why we lost in Afghanistan. Time, now, after twelve years of war, to call it quits.



    Related Articles:




    Copyright © 2019. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity.

    Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedin

    Posted in Afghanistan, Embassy/State

    Wanna Bet? Murder = Terror, Murder =Apology in Afghanistan

    March 11, 2012 // 7 Comments »

    Following the brutal murder by an American soldier of nine Afghan children and several Afghan women and children, the US Embassy in Kabul issued a cautionary message, stating:

    There is a risk of anti-American feelings and protests in coming days.


    I am willing to offer a bet with anyone willing to take it that no US Government official will characterize this cold blooded murder as “terrorism.” I am willing also to bet that had an Afghan killed American children and women, US Government officials would immediately characterize that cold blooded murder as “terrorism.”

    I am willing to offer a bet with anyone willing to take it that US Government officials will apologize, as if that apology ends the issue (see Koran burning, peeing on Afghan dead, etc.). I am willing also to bet that had an Afghan killed American children and women US Government officials would not consider an apology the end of the issue. We’d bomb the shit out of someone in an act of vengeance.

    I am willing to offer a bet with anyone willing to take it that had these Afghan children and women been killed “accidentally” by a 500 pound bomb dropped from a US warplane thousands of feet above them we would not hear much of an apology at all.

    I am willing to offer a bet with anyone willing to take it that US Government officials will announce an investigation into the soldier who did the shooting, and that his ultimate punishment, if any (see Haditha) will be less than the punishment Bradley Manning will receive for his alleged Wikileaks disclosures.

    Any takers on these bets, hit me up in the Comments section below.




    Related Articles:




    Copyright © 2019. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity.

    Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedin

    Posted in Afghanistan, Embassy/State

    American Embassy Kabul Uses The Twitter

    January 19, 2012 // Comments Off on American Embassy Kabul Uses The Twitter

    Social media is all the rage now at the State Department (for some old timers, this is all hilariously reminiscent of the late 1990’s when State suddenly discovered that the internet existed and set out to conquer what was then called e-Diplomacy by created some new-fangled “home pages”).

    But Geocities this ain’t Tweeps. Here, as an example of how “with it” the social media boffins at the American Embassy in Kabul are, is one of today’s Tweets:



    So that’s it– we just needed to clarify that for the Taliban, with the RT from the American Embassy Finland because, well, nothing says bureaucratic safety like following someone else, courageously.

    What do you think? Maybe needs more animated gifs? 🙂





    Related Articles:




    Copyright © 2019. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity.

    Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedin

    Posted in Afghanistan, Embassy/State

    US Embassy Kabul Features Las Vegas to its Muslim Audience

    October 10, 2011 // 1 Comment »




    Who says the Embassy in Kabul is out of touch?

    On its Facebook page, the US Embassy in Kabul has run a feature on Las Vegas, noting that the place known to most Americans as Sin City is “synonymous with entertainment.” Entertainment here being synonymous with gambling, drinking and whoring.

    What could possibly appeal more to a Muslim audience?

    It gets better.

    When a commenter named “Smock” on Embassy Kabul’s Facebook page raised these same issues, some drone in the Embassy’s Public Diplomacy section actually wrote this:

    Dear Smock, Las Vegas is one of fifty-two cities being featured this year on Embassy Kabul’s Facebook. We appreciate your comments and feedback as to which future cities you would like to see featured.



    We’re winning! Viva Las Kabul!


    (I first learned of this piece of moral high ground from an excellent blog on US reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan called Hamsters on the Titanic, well worth a look. Be sure to check out the regular focus on absurdity column, called “Today’s Helping of Bacon Wrapped Pork Chop”)



    Related Articles:




    Copyright © 2019. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity.

    Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedin

    Posted in Afghanistan, Embassy/State

    The Whole Reconstruction Mess in Two Paragraphs

    May 3, 2011 // Comments Off on The Whole Reconstruction Mess in Two Paragraphs

    death or glory The Washington Post’s Rajiv Chandrasekaran (who wrote one of the better books about the early days in Iraq, Imperial Life in the Emerald City, summed up the ongoing failure of reconstruction in Afghanistan in two simple paragraphs:

    US commanders and diplomats had hoped that the new programs would assist in cementing recent military gains against the Taliban, which have come at a significant cost of American lives. They believe that if Afghans have expanded access to jobs and can rely on local governments for basic services, many will renounce the insurgency.

    A development specialist who recently completed a year-long assignment at USAID’s mission in Kabul blamed the delays on a staff turnover rate of more than 85 percent a year, shifting priorities among senior officials responsible for setting policy, and an ongoing conflict within the agency between short-term programs and longer-range development work.

    If you really don’t want to read my book, or anything else ever about the failures of reconstruction in Iraq, Afghanistan or soon, maybe Libya or Yemen, just re-read those two paragraphs and you’ll have most of the sad story.



    Related Articles:




    Copyright © 2019. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity.

    Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedin

    Posted in Afghanistan, Embassy/State