Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Reality Bites

This photo is in black and white not for effect, but to tone it down. I make light of things on this blog, but there really is a war going on. I wish it were a clean one. As clean as war could be, that is. There haven't ever really been wars in history that involve only the people who want to fight them.

I don't believe that this war will be won with guns. The trite phrase of "winning the hearts and minds" while cliche garbage comes closer to the truth of this war than any other. War is the ultimate expression of politics - persuassion at the end of a gun or the last word in any argument.

This is a war of Information. A war trying to establish the supremecy of ideas and ideology. The gun fire is just for effect. Effect upon the minds of the populace, of the press, of the politicians.

Maybe most wars are fought this way in "modern" times. But with the media of today it is so much more potent and pervasive.

So when President Karzai makes inflamatory remarks against the "West," it is that much more serious. When the NY Times prints an article discussing the supposed hopelessness of our presence here it is an attack against our "cause." And when the USA Today prints an article about the ineffectiveness of the Afghan Government for entertainment purposes and "eyeballs" on their paper, they are playing on the side of the "bad guys."

If it's about ideas and ideology, any support for the "other side's" position or any comment criticizing "our side" no matter how deserved is an attack.

This isn't a call for censorship or a demand for us to develop a propaganda machine. But it is a call to recognize that words are weapons. Today's battlefront may take lives with guns, but the war will be won by one idea proving superior to another. By enough people choosing one idea over another. It may take a gun to protect that idea, but the idea is the thing. Not the gun.

The AK-47 variant, the Chinese Type 56-1 in this picture is an example of an idea - the Russians invented it. The Chinese copied it. An Afghan insurgent got it. Then died with his brains all over it. His idea proved insufficient to the task.


  1. Wow! Very powerful and true. I believe that it is the Afghan people who, in the end, will determine who wins this war. What, or should I say who, are the influencers? As you said, the press and the politicians. If we do not provide a united front we are fighting against each other and risk losing what really matters, the hearts and minds of the Afghan people.

  2. Concur with above. "Winning the peace" is often as daunting was winning the war.

  3. This blog is very interesting - and I'm glad I stumbled onto it. I stayed up to read every post and I've never seen one like this. I work with ATF folks in the US and I hear some mumbling here and there about the old Chinese weapons they are using over there, so it's right up my alley b/c I'm always interested to read about firearms...this really does interest me very much. Thanks for posting.

    I'd be VERY interested in a post on what the level of crimes are and what happens to confiscated firearms recovered from the Taiban. Is the Army recovering many guns from the insurgents? I'm presuming that the insurgents have their own method of gun-running unlike anything we've ever seen in the Western hemisphere.

    Is there much movement of illegal firearms between the Afghan Security Forces that are passed off to the insurgents?

    As far as this particular post - words mean A LOT! so I am in full agreement. You guys have a tough job over there, it doesn't help when perception and media interfere with any mission.

    Good luck! Hope to hear more about the guns.

    Sorry this comment is so long - but maybe we can catch up when our deployment ends!

  4. Al,
    If you have access to CIDNE or the reports that the Joint Expeditionary Forensics Force (JEFF) or the Law Enforcement Professionalization Program (LEPP) guys produce, they have the best info on types and numbers of weapons, caches, explosives, etc.

    My job is really to look at the Afhgan National Security Forces (ANSF). The End Use Monitoring we do has us stumbling upon an amazing amount of captured, legacy, and "retrograde" weapons.

    We see Lee Enfields, Russian PPSH-41 machine guns, US M3 submachine guns, every brand of shotgun, AK variant, and pistol you can imagine. Some of it provided by the Nazis to give the Brits a hard time, some bought by the US to give the Russians a hard time, now much bought from Pakistan to give US a hard time! The drug side of it is almost peripheral except as the main cash crop of this country. None of the money seems to stay here. It all seems to go to Bahrain or Qatar.

  5. We're just now starting to get the type of info you're talking about from Iraq. But really Iraq looks simple compared to anything from Afghanistan, that's the Mil's domain. And that country has a very "disconnected" G (if you can go so far as to imply that there is any type of functioning Centralized Government). So there's a lot out there that is not available to LE in your "world" b/c of the complexities of weapons trafficking in Afghanistan. And the Military and Afghan mindset is very dissimilar to LE. But I guess the best way for me to grasp this concept is to compare it to what we call "Time to Crime" (TTC). When a crime gun is recovered in the US ballistics and the gun center can trace when that firearm was used in the commission of a crime; if it was trafficked in or purchased by a straw buyer; if it was stolen or obtained legally from an FFL and resold. The EUM is very important bc some crime guns are indeed originating from LE issues (not many though). So TTC in LE would be the best equivalent for me to try and gauge what you mean as far as weapons provided by Nazis,'s just that too much time has gone by and they've changed hands too many times to trace the weapons movements. You're talking about some serious heavy metal that we don't see in LE (a little with the stuff Project Gunrunner finds in Latin America) But we hardly even get stats ad data on the stuff that FARC and ELN's so complicated. And as far as Afghanistan...we're trying to disenfranchise an entire nation's economy so I don't expect any of this to be crystal clear or simplified to anybody.

    Some folks in Complex Financial Investigations have spoken at conferences about the money winding up in Bahrain and Qatar. Also Iran and Lebanon to fund AQ, Hamas, Hezbollah and other Islamists trafficking drugs in through South America (Peru, Paraguay, Brazil, etc...)

    The vastness of the drug trade is always interconnected to guns. The big "hot topic" now is defining the difference between a crime group and a narco terror group.

    I don't have access to enough data - I'm not sure if anyone does - the Int'l gun trafficking.

    eTrace is my favorite thing in the world right now! We're using it in Mexico, Iraq, Caribbean...even Belgium if you can believe that!

    This is also very frustrating b/c as far as strategic forecasting there is no end to this...and it will likely propel me into the hands of a therapist one of these days.