Monday, July 12, 2010

Know what you don't know

-"Yossarian? What the hell kind of name is Yossarian?"
-"It's Yossarian's name, sir."
I just finished reading Matt Gallagher's excellent Iraq War memoir Kaboom. Every book in this genre says that it's the next Catch 22 on the dust jacket. Of the ones I've read (Chasing Ghosts, Joker One, Kaboom, watched Generation Kill), Kaboom is the closest to actually fulfilling that prophecy. The absurdities of war and the mental toll it takes are on full display.

While I certainly recommend the book, the real reason for the post is something Gallagher wrote on the last page:

After dedicating myself to the counterinsurgency effort for a full fifteen months, I knew only enough to know that anyone who said he or she definitely knew the answer to the Iraqi impasse was full of shit.

When I'm writing depressingly pessimistic posts about Afghanistan, I try to come up with some alternative to offer, and I can't think of one. Nobody really has an answer to what to do about Afghanistan, and to a lesser extent, Iraq. All the options seem to suck. I happen to cautiously think that our current course sucks the least, but I'm far from certain about that. Gallagher's warning is certainly something to keep in mind whenever someone is advocating for a certain solution to our two counterinsurgencies.

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