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Posts Tagged ‘RIAA’

A few days ago, I wrote a post entitled “Will FM3-24 fight piracy (the RIAA kind, not the swashbuckling kind)?” in which I criticized the fact that policing music, movie, or software piracy was even on the COIN Center’s radar when it was unclear that the military was getting the basics of counterinsurgency right. Today, I came across a funny anecdote in Paula Broadwell’s All In.  During then-General Petraeus’s last weeks in Afghanistan, Senators McCain, Graham, and Lieberman were in Kabul for a Fourth of July dinner with Preident Karzai:

The senators and Petraeus had dinner that evening with Karzai. At one point, the Afghan leader mentioned that he loved a song that he thought was called “Down on the Bayou.” After dinner, Petraeus put his communications team on it. His aides quickly found the tune–“Born on the Bayou,” by Creedence Clearwater Revival. For Petraeus, it brought back memories of Cadet Hops at West Point in 1972. His team burned a CD of Creedence’s greatest hits, and Petraeus gave it to Karzai two days later. The president  beamed.

Petraeus’s aids could have bought all the songs on iTunes (or whatever service–I’m an Amazon guy myself), but there’s a part of me that hopes that these greatest hits were put together from various ill-gotten MP3s in staff member’s laptops.  Either way, I love that anecdote. I hope the Taliban are Creedance fans!

As for Broadwell’s book, I am almost all the way through it. Frankly, I’m underwhelmed. The narrative is pretty drab (olive?), and Broadwell has a talent for making the most intense fire fights tedious. However, I may be simply sick of reading about warrior-intellectuals and the f’-ups of Afghanistan. If you are truly interested in Petraeus’s education, The Fourth Star is a much more readable version of the same basic narrative of genius generals and counterinsurgency. There are some interesting ‘corrections’ and political ‘readjustments’ of that COIN narrative, though.  At any rate, I’ll take a more thoughtful poke at the book once I start articulating my thoughts in the dissertation.

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As part of the effort to revise FM3-24 Counterinsurgency, the U. S. Army COIN Center released a series of questionnaires in advance of the May revision conference. One thing I noticed has stuck in my craw since I first read the questionnaire in, well, question. Even though proponents and detractors of that American practice of war we call “COIN” agree that it constitutes a “wicked”–if not impossible–problem to perform as a foreign occupier, the U.S. Army at least considered taking on one more problem: music piracy.

How or should the manual address what the United States government considers to be criminal activity that is ignored, sanctioned, or unable to be countered by the host nation government (eg, growing poppies, pirating CDs)? [emphasis added]

That is question #15 in the revision questionnaire, falling under the heading of “Operational Environment/Threat.” Although I have attended the COIN Center webcasts discussing the progress, I did not attend the revision conference itself so this idea may have been squashed a long time ago. However, I do think it is telling that the Good Idea Fairy made even a fleeting appearance with this suggestion.

Think for a moment on the issue of piracy whether it is software, music, or movies. In the United States, piracy persists even though we do not have a flourishing insurgency, the government exerts robust control over its territory, and potential penalties are not unsubstantial. Yet, someone thinks it is a good idea to have warfighters police music piracy in a country where not only the host nation (let alone the village and tribal units) could care less. Do you want to drive some impoverished vender to the insurgency over someone else’s intellectual property? More importantly, do you really want Americans braving IEDs and ambushes to protect some tiny sliver of an entertainment company’s bottom line?  Let the host nation sort that out once they have a marginally functional state–and, frankly, whoever inherits the Afghan state, such that it is, will have their hands full not meeting the same grisly end as Mohammad Najibullah.

It has been far from proven that the United States military establishment can perform even the basics of counterinsurgency. It is not simply that the U.S. has bigger fish to fry; the U.S. has not learned to catch fish–much less filet and fry them. The more I read in terms of reportage like like Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s Little America the less confidence I have in leadership to engineer anything approximating a favorable outcome in Afghanistan.

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