MY TWO CENTS |
November 02, 2007
MY TWO CENTS
Name: Doug Templeton
Posting date: 11/2/07
Returned from: Afghanistan
Hometown: Kansas City, MO
Why would I want to read Doonesbury.com’s The Sandbox? Not because I have a couple posts in it, not because I have my ugly mug on the back jacket, but because it tells the human story. Contained in its pages are gems of knowledge about what it is like to be there, and how to bridge the gap between cultures, and proof positive that the world can be a better place.
I often read the news stories detailing what is going on in the Middle East. They thoroughly cover the political side of the conflict, and the intricacies of how high ranking officials are attempting to make change in the nuances of the emerging governments, and how money is spent financing the programs. In some cases the cost of doing that business is paid for in the loss of American soldiers -- as well as the human toll being paid by the people of these countries. All this is extremely important and needs to be talked about, but through the eyes of someone who has been there.
What continues to be overlooked and, in my opinion, is the real key to this situation, are the people who are rarely asked for their two cents when it comes to how to move forward. That is the soldier on the ground, the one who interacts with the local population every day and knows the real situation on the streets. That person has the wealth of knowledge I want to leverage. Why are we not asking the soldier the important questions? If you want to know how to milk a cow, would you not ask a farmer? If you want to know how to build a house, would you not ask a carpenter? So why are we not going to the source to ask questions about how to move forward?
During my year in Afghanistan I worked every day with the Afghans, and I had no illusions as to where they were in their development. In the whole time I was there no one ever asked what I thought, other than those who worked with me. We were not only building a military, we were building a country -- and we used our ability to do just that by interacting and developing trust with our Afghan counterparts. We embraced our differences and learned to work together to head toward a common goal.
We are the human story, complete with all our flaws, our highs, our lows, and our experience, a treasure trove of ideas that we employed to make the mission happen. Like all treasures, we tend to be hidden from view and can be lost to time. If I were king for a day, I think I would round up as many of these people as I could and get their ideas about the road ahead. We are the tactical “think tank”, and the best source of what does and does not work. We know the personalities of the various countries' troops, what motivates them to go forward and pull their own country from the brink of danger. We should tap this well before it evaporates.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think we are floundering in our effort. I just think we could do it better if we could see the forest through the trees. Remember, no country was ever built by government. Countries are built by the people.