Death by Bananastan

by , September 15, 2009

I keep finding further proof that our ever increasing but directionless escalation of the Bananastan* conflict is the maddest military misadventure in human history. A former colleague recently sent me information regarding the newly formed Pakistan Afghanistan Coordination Cell (PACC). From the looks of things, PACC intends to defeat the Taliban through the U.S. military’s most effective tactic: Death by PowerPoint.

Nobody in the Department of Defense writes particularly well or particularly likes to read. That in part is why the new counterinsurgency field manual Gen. David Petraeus supposedly "wrote" is little more than a cobbling together of plagiarized passages from previous manuals. In the early Nineties, shortly after Microsoft Windows hit the scene, all the illiterates became computer literate and discovered PowerPoint (which Bill Gates had plagiarized from the Aldus program Persuasion).

From then on, everybody could write, because nobody had to know how to write a complete sentence; they could just write bullets that left out whatever parts of speech they didn’t understand. More importantly, nobody had to actually read the incomprehensible bullets because they were accompanied by indecipherable diagrams.

Neither the bullets nor the diagrams mattered, though, because they were just something to stare at while somebody stood next to the projection screen and babbled incoherently. Eventually, the head of everyone in the audience imploded and nobody understood or remembered anything they’d seen and heard.

The advent of the worldwide Web cut the talking head out of the process. PowerPoint presentations could be promulgated to every person on the planet, who could choose to view them or not. In either case, the results were the same as before. Nobody could understand or remember anything contained in a PowerPoint presentation.

Thus it is that the most significant product of PACC, which was established on May 22, 2009, is a PowerPoint presentation dated Aug. 27, 2009. It is quite possibly the most beautiful piece of military humbuggery I have ever seen.

First and foremost, it’s a discombobulating confluence of acronyms. PACC was created to recruit the best available TTPs who understand COIN to support CDRUSCENTCOM and the COMISAF of AFPAK. Its core task is to form teams across DOD/IA. It’s a new construct that operates under authority of POTUS, SECDEF, CJCS, DJS, and VDJS, and it coordinates with ISAF, COCOMs, SRAP, OSD, CIA, DOJ, DNI, and OTHRS.

The key to PACC’s ability to provide all this omniscience is its "Afghan Hands Program." AF/PAK Hands will be selected from throughout the government based on their ability to know everything about everything and communicate it perfectly to everyone all the time in Pashto and Dari. (Linguists will be able to learn both of these languages in 16 weeks. When they do, they’ll become "leaders" who are "strategic game changers.")

AF/PAK Hands will be selected, focused, and experienced people who form enduring relationships and make repetitive rotations. Their organization will be networked, feature continuity and relationships, and connect with NATO/Coalition forces and interagency agencies. They will understand the problem, develop shared situational awareness and inform key decision makers. Most importantly, AF/PAK hands will spend most of their government careers in PACC and be guaranteed promotion paths in which they will not have to compete against anyone.

PACC has the look and feel of an idea cooked up by a bunch of REMFs (Reservists Evading Meaningful Function) who want to create a full-time job for themselves and make bird colonel without having to work hard at it. The manner in which the PACCers present themselves is laughable, and what they claim to be able to accomplish is impossible. Nonetheless, PACC enjoys the aegis of Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen, Gen. David Petraeus of Central Command, and Gen. Stanley McChrystal, our man in Bananastan.

A Department of Defense press release says McChrystal is the one who came up with the PACC concept. The release states, "Three weeks after the PACC began standing up within the bowels of the Pentagon, cell members say they’re already seeing evidence that it’s making a difference." It’s difficult to say what kind of difference it’s making considering the situation in Bananastan continues to deteriorate. Moreover, it’s telling that a press release would cite evidence of the PACC cell’s success to anonymous sources in the cell. A direct quote saying "We can be the catalyst. We can be the accelerant" is credited to "an official."

Neocon thug Max Boot heartily approves of PACC. In a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed piece, he refers to it as part of "General McChrystal’s new way of war" and says that PACC "could wind up changing how the entire military does business." PACC is actually military business as usual: form a committee, make a PowerPoint presentation about it, release propaganda about how it will fix everything that’s wrong, and sweep it under the carpet when it turns out to be a bust.

PACC is frightening, however, in that the Pentagon expects to offer people 20-to-30-year careers as facilitators of the Bananastan conflict, on which the war mafia has hung its hope for a long war. It is just another example of how the Pentagon and its supporters (like Max Boot and the rest of the neocon punditry) are entrenching themselves as deeply into Bananastan as they are able while the country is distracted by the economy, health insurance reform, and the opening of the NFL’s regular season.

By the time the body politic wakes up to what the warmongery has done behind its back, the country will be hairline deep in Bananastan; so deep, the argument will go, that we need to keep digging until we come out on the other side of the planet because that’s the shorter exit strategy.

By then, the fact that we entangled ourselves foolishly will be moot. The only good reason (good-sounding, anyway) the Obamans have given us for escalating in Afghanistan is to "disrupt terror networks," and that argument is specious at best. McChrystal himself confesses that he sees no signs of a major al-Qaeda presence in the country.

Counterinsurgency guru David Kilcullen, a former adviser to Petraeus who is about to become an adviser to McChrystal, says that counterterrorism isn’t a particularly important reason to stay committed to the Bananastan conflict. He’s more interested in preserving NATO, a military alliance that, like the U.S. military, has been trawling for an excuse to justify its existence since the Berlin Wall came tumbling down 20 years ago. `

But as with Iraq, the Bananastan war cry will be that we have to honor our war dead by adding to their number, and that we can fix our past mistakes by making even more of them. I can’t wait to see the PowerPoint presentation that explains how that works.

*Pakistan and Afghanistan, our banana republic-style quagmires in Central Asia.

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