Who Cares About Those Brown Skinned People?

by Joshua Foust on 5/14/2008

The Atlantic certainly doesn’t. An article this month picks up on the highways mean security meme currently circulating its way around the American media circuit. It noticeably misses the point: rather than roads serving as a security deterrent, their construction actually encourages additional attacks by “the Taliban,” whether they be actual Taliban groups or HiG or some other militant groups (the lack of precision in describing the militant groups is a constant irritant from lazy journalists). This is because roads tend to encourage the spread of central control, both political and military.

In this sense, the ease of travel a paved road provides carries enormous benefit, from helping truckers to allowing sparse military units to quickly move into a new area. But the argument that paved roads somehow prevent IED emplacement remains patently foolish, as the entire point rests on a mere assertion—”in part,” the reports say.

Again: there are many reasons to build roads. Making it harder to plant bombs is not one of them.

But what is with those numbers in The Atlantic piece? It measures security only in terms of “NATO and coalition forces.” That means military, and says nothing about civilians—the very people whose hearts and minds we are meant to be winning. Tracking the numbers of civilians killed during NATO and militant operations has been a glaring weakness of the success metrics trotted out during this war. In part it is because they are difficult to compile in an environment with imperfect information. But in part they are also hugely embarrassing to the U.S. and NATO—by all accounts, security incidents are peaking in 2008 well over the previous high from 2007. In 2007, many international media outlets did their own calculations and found NATO and coalition forces to be responsible for the majority of civilian casualties in Afghanistan, not the Taliban or associated militant groups. But NATO and coalition casualties are down, so boffo for them.

Until American reporters can bring themselves to document the very real impact Operation Enduring Freedom has on those we claim to protect, we will continue to be force fed this rubbish masquerading as journalism. Philip Smucker, the article’s author, is writing a book on “the battle of ideas in the Islamic world.” I wonder if those ideas include wonder at the American refusal to look at those they victimize. I wonder, too, if Smucker or any other journalist will ever maybe ask a non-Army source for information or analysis about one of their most treasured projects.

This refusal to look outside of official sources is quickly turning disgusting.


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This post was written by...

– author of 1848 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Joshua Foust is a Fellow at the American Security Project and the author of Afghanistan Journal: Selections from Registan.net. His research focuses primarily on Central and South Asia. Joshua is a correspondent for The Atlantic and a columnist for PBS Need to Know. Joshua appears regularly on the BBC World News, Aljazeera, and international public radio. Joshua's writing has appeared in the Columbia Journalism Review, Foreign Policy’s AfPak Channel, the New York Times, Reuters, and the Christian Science Monitor. Follow him on twitter: @joshuafoust

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