The people that Andrew Basevich calls “The Crusaders” and COL Gentile calls “True Believers,” the people who are committed to the concept that this war requires consummate counterinsurgency, are the geeks of the Army. The Army is an organization that has embraced an athletic form of elitism that has in many ways helped the organization to transform from the troubled post-Viet Nam Army of Carter to the capable and professional force of today. My whole career has been served under this transformation, from the early days of the revolution that Reagan demanded to the present day problems of embracing the geekery of COIN.

Make no mistake; the true COINdinistas are the major geeks of the Army and the supporting actors who operate with us. This is strange, because the Special Forces are the traditional home of the counterinsurgents in the Army. They are the ones who thrill to FID (Foreign Internal Defense… advising and mentoring) and those guys are never thought of as geeks. Snakeaters, voodoo practitioners, spooky types, perhaps; but not usually geeks. Those outside of the shadowy SF world who carry the sword and clown horn for COIN are geeks, though.

The geekiest of the geeks, the Nerd Mages, would have to be the Human Terrain Teams. “What,” you may ask, “are Human Terrain Teams?” You know, I’d explain it to you, but it’d probably make your eyes glaze over. “What,” you would ask, “do social scientists have to do with war?”

In the massive, conventional Desert Storm type warfare that our Army craves, not much. In a counterinsurgency on a complex human landscape like Afghanistan, they can help you plan your interactions and even missions and projects such as irrigation and electrical power. They help keep you from making the mistakes of the ugly American. They are civilians, very well educated, mostly all contractors. Most commanders see them as chicken bone readers and frequently ignore them. Many would rather consult a Ouji Board or an Eight Ball; but their information can be vital, and can save both blood and treasure. This is what is called an enabler. This information, shared down to the Soldier level, wields incredible power, becoming a combat multiplier.

That, of course, was an incredibly geeky thing to say.

Side note: have you ever read, The Ugly American? It makes a great impression… shows how smart people can screw up COIN from the get-go. It’s more from the USAID type perspective.

There is something horrible going on in Afghanistan. The Human Terrain Teams are being gutted by a massive change in the organization that is requiring many of these social scientists mapping out the complex social networks in local areas to take up to a 70% cut in pay, obviously as part of an economic stimulus package.

Or they can quit.

Many are quitting and going home. They can now find much safer work for more money and actually be appreciated.

Who was the mastermind behind this? Does GEN Petraeus know about this? Why is that mastermind someone not being suspended by the toenails, strung from rusty chains in a musty, dripping dungeon echoing with screams?

Why, just when we should be doing our best to embrace our inner geek or overcome our inner jock in order to master geekery in the name of duty, are we chasing away the Nerd Mages?

It’s almost like we are trying to screw this up.

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Categories: Afghanistan
Posted By: Old Blue
Last Edit: 13 Feb 2009 @ 12 45 PM

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