CTX Journal Vol. 3, No. 3 - August 2013
From the Editor
"Learn from your mistakes." "Adversity makes us stronger." "There are no obstacles, only challenges." We all know the clichés, right? And, probably more often than we want to admit, we feel a twinge of annoyance every time we hear them.
And yet, the whole purpose of this journal is to provide you, the CT professional, with a forum where you can share lessons learned or, perhaps, ponder the aftermath of lessons unlearned or never learned. Throughout the warfare that has been such a large part of human history, whether we like it or not, very often it's what we messed up that teaches us what we need to know.
This issue of CTX looks at what went wrong, or at least not as right as it should have gone, on some very diverse battlefields. COL Imre Porkoláb launches the discussion with a detailed look at Operation Anaconda in Afghanistan in 2002. As envisioned by the command HQ several hundred miles away, this operation should have been a simple matter of 'coptering in and taking a valley called Shah-i-Khot from a few scattered remnants of the enemy. As many of you know, that's not what happened. Porkoláb uses the near-disaster of Anaconda to highlight one unconventional officer's courageous leadership, and suggests that role models like him are vital for future SOF training.
MAJ Greg Merkl leads us through the math of societal breakdown caused by floods of well-meaning development money, sent into dusty rural hamlets from another culture a universe away. Those of you who have seen the ways in which Afghanistan has changed—and not changed—over the past decade will appreciate the author's ironic sense of humor.
The Estonian Forest Brothers' resistance movement defied Soviet occupation during and immediately after WWII, only to succumb to Soviet infiltration as its weak organizational structure, initially a strength, became a liability. In two articles covering two major periods of the Forest Brothers' activity, CPT Olavi Punga and COL Martin Herem take advantage of newly accessible Soviet archives to analyze the lessons this little known piece of history offers for CT professionals who face a similarly decentralized enemy.
Alongside the development money described by MAJ Merkl, there's another flood of money going into Afghanistan, this one directly into the hands of the Taliban. What the world gets in exchange, thanks to a network of PKK smugglers, is several tons of cheap, high-grade heroin every year. LTC Kashif Khan and Chief Inspector Olcay Er take us on a tour of this terrorist financing pipeline, from the farms of Afghanistan through the processing labs located near porous borders, and onto the street corners of Europe.
Human rights are central to any discussion of insurgency. From many years' experience combating the Colombian insurgent group know as the FARC, LTC Jorge Galindo Cardenas opens his readers' eyes to the ways in which even those who champion the cause of human rights can become unwitting pawns in the insurgents' efforts to gain political legitimacy.
This issue's CTAP interview has LTC Kashif Khan speaking with LTC (and MD) Ramey Wilson about Wilson's training and experiences in the U.S. Army medical corps. Wilson shares his thoughts on how U.S. medical teams are adapting their strategy to the requirements of remote, austere, and hostile territories. He also discusses ways in which the United States can and should assist other countries to develop their medical capabilities and make the best use of limited resources under combat and post-combat conditions. When you send people to risk their lives in far-away places, he emphasizes, they have to know that the resources are in place to take care of them when they get hurt.
George Lober returns to the Ethics and Insights column with a thoughtful exploration of the responsibilities individuals bear to maintain a personal code of ethics, even when subordinated to an organization that demands conformity and obedience. If you surrender your rights to life and liberty when you "sign on the dotted line" of a military career, do you also give up the right to pass moral judgment on orders and missions that violate your personal code of honor?
We have no movie or book reviews from our readers this time. C'mon, folks, send 'em in! Here is a relatively painless, and actually pretty fun, way to get your name and opinions in print. Have you seen a great World War II movie? Tell the rest of us, so we can watch it, too! Have you wasted your time on a good-sounding book that missed the mark? Help your fellow CT professionals avoid the same fate by describing where it went wrong. Without your contributions we wouldn't have a journal, so keep writing, and when you have something you like, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
We also want to hear from you about the journal itself. Do you like what you're reading? Do you know how we could do better? Is there an article or column that really got you thinking or talking? We welcome all your feedback, positive and negative. Write a letter to the editor at email@example.com.
Have a great summer.