10 July 2013

The Textbook on Enduring Freedom

If Jake Tapper never does another significant thing in his life, he will go down in history as having done a great service to the United States Army for telling the story of the war in Afghanistan.

Listening to The Outpost during my long road trip across the western United States is an exercise for the range of emotions. Exhaustive in its depth and detail, Tapper's book is inspiring, funny, angering, and sad.

Lessons abound in the story of Combat Outpost Keating, which was nearly overrun in October 2009 and abandoned a few days later. They fit quite well the themes of this blog: the power of the All-Volunteer Force, the Army organization and bad-assery, and funny soldier stories.

For me, the main lesson was how little the American public knows about the War in Afghanistan, a symptom, I suppose, of how poorly the civilian and military authorities have articulated its rationale.

Tapper, ABC News's former White House Correspondent, does not avoid the politics of the war, but he certainly emphasizes the ordinary soldier. Trouble is, a place like COP Keating isn't home to ordinary soldiers. These guys were refined by fire. As angry as Tapper's account made me toward some military leaders (like those who insisted on building a COP in a "death pit") and the Afghan soldiers who routinely abandoned their positions, it made me immeasurably proud of the men and women who volunteer to fight.

Thank you Jake Tapper. And thanks, too, to all the Cav soldiers who manned that hell hole despite abundant evidence that it was among the most dangerous places on Earth.

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