Whither Smart Power? The Afghanistan War and the Absence of Strategic Thinking

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Thumbnail image for aspen ideas festival twn.jpgYesterday at the Aspen Ideas Festival, cosponsored by the Aspen Institute and The Atlantic, I spoke on a panel focused on “Smart Power” with a heavy emphasis on the Afghanistan War.
My panel mates were Harvard scholar, former National Intelligence Council Chairman and JFK School of Goverment Dean Joseph Nye, former US Agency for International Development Administrator Henriette Fore, and Three Cups of Tea author and Afghan-embedded humanitarian Greg Mortenson. Congresswoman Jane Harman sat in the front row and participated significantly.
Booz Allen EVP Jack Mayer moderated the session — which I think was excellent.
Main points I emphasized were the huge opportunity and real costs of America’s Afghanistan engagement — and that Smart Power couldn’t exist in a strategic vacuum, which I think is the case today.
— Steve Clemons

Comments

35 comments on “Whither Smart Power? The Afghanistan War and the Absence of Strategic Thinking

  1. questions says:

    Beyond racism? Huh? Ever read any social stats? Wow.
    Did you know that the health of your grandmother, when she was pregnant with your mother, affects your health for your life?
    Think about that in terms of generations, what it takes to overcome poverty.
    Did you know that the education level of your parents has a direct impact on what you’re likely to be able to manage? So, as I’ve noted around here before, we have the issue of those 32 MILLION missing words, and the crossover of vocabulary size at the 3rd grade for a high SES kid, and adulthood for a low SES adult. Same size vocabulary.
    This stuff doesn’t go away at the tug of a polling booth lever or the touch of a screen.
    There are generational problems that leave legacies that take generations to push beyond.
    The structures have been in place in terms of wealth and health and education for forever in this country.
    I know you’re tired of it, Nadine. And Dan Kervick is tired of things too.
    Take a nap.
    Life is hard. Social life is harder. Political life sucks. We’re so stuck with each other on this planet that I recommend you take up jogging and/or yoga and relax a bit. There’s so much work to be done, so much yet to do. It’s not a great time to be fatigued by the intractable problems of being human.

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  2. nadine says:

    Oh, for crying out loud, questions. Here I thought electing Barack Obama was supposed to prove we had moved beyond racism. Instead, the race hustlers are working harder and harder to make more and more of less and less racism. By now they are doing more harm than good for minorities.
    They have even stooped to pure invention, such as Rep Clyburne’s claim he was called a “nigger” by Capitol Hill protesters. Thousands of videocams recorded the moment. Andrew Breitbart has offered $100K for recorded evidence of the slur. Nobody has come forward. But the NAACP condemned the Tea Party as racist based on fake claim.

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  3. questions says:

    Race in America.
    Please read.
    http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2010/7/12/883698/-Black-Powers-Gonna-Get-You-Sucka:-Right-Wing-Paranoia-and-the-Rhetoric-of-Modern-Racism
    What a powerful piece this is.
    Tim Wise has joined Greg Mortenson in my Amazon cart. (Even if Steve thinks Mortenson isn’t strategic enough, I think it’s the small things that make the strategy happen. The Taliban will simply be less effective when they can’t recruit and terrorize people because people have functioning villages.)

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  4. questions says:

    Since this is my own personal fiefdom down here….
    Scott Brown comes through again! The guy actually seems to want to keep his job, and so he’s sometimes going to be number 60 instead of number 41. The Senate is an amazing place. Party ID is a funny thing. Re-election is where it’s at.
    If he does well, maybe he’ll usher in some mellower Republican creatures and maybe they’ll all work together to settle the crazies on that side of the aisle. If it comes to be, I think Obama will deserve some serious credit for maintaining the bipartisan sensibility. That’s what lets Brown (and Snowe and Collins, maybe Grassley, too on this one) dump party ID.
    And the hole in the bottom of the sea may have been stopped up for now. If so, way to go engineers. I’m guessing you’ll finally get some well-deserved sleep.
    Serious clean up must start, assuming this is it. We will have a limit now on the damage and a better sense, perhaps, of what to do about it.
    And the cicadas are glorious this time of year. As are garlic scapes, though a different kind of glory.

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  5. questions says:

    And an actual Pew poll on the Arizona immigration policy.
    http://www.politicsdaily.com/2010/05/12/poll-finds-broad-support-for-arizona-immigration-law/
    I don’t see a breakdown for a question like, “If you were likely to be stopped by police routinely, forced to carry documents with you, subject to arrest if you didn’t have the right documents, or if your immigration status were ambiguous, would you still support the law.”
    That is, when people don’t think the law will apply to them, they hold different views from when they think the law will apply. Look at how different homelessness and food pantries are viewed now that a decent-sized chunk of white middle class America is unemployed and foreclosed upon…..
    So, yes, the AZ law has some popularity, especially among Republicans. But Republicans seem to like things like this, and maybe there are some demographic and informational causes that have nothing to do with sound public policy.

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  6. questions says:

    Can’t resist a bit more of this. Really fascinating. And scary.
    “In 1996, Princeton University

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  7. questions says:

    And once again, never let the facts get in the way of a good narrative!
    http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/ideas/articles/2010/07/11/how_facts_backfire/?page=1
    “In the end, truth will out. Won

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  8. PissedOffAmerican says:

    DON’T EVER LET THE FACTS GET IN THE WAY!!!!!
    http://world-news.newsvine.com/_question/2010/05/12/4274124-do-you-support-arizonas-tough-new-law-on-illegal-immigration
    Poll result????
    95.9% in favor of Arizona’s law, with close to three million votes.
    4.1% opposed to Arizona’s law, with slightly over 120,000 votes.
    And this is an MSNBC poll, that has a viewership that leans overwhelmingly to the left.
    So what does the piece of shit Obama, and his personal factotum Holder do??? They sue Arizona. Never mind the KNOWN crimes of the Bush Administration that they refuse to investigate and prosecute. Never mind the war crimes outlined in the Goldstone Report that are ignored while Obama gets on his cowardly quaking knees in the Oval Office so that Netanyahu can ream him while the entire world watches. Never mind this arrogant little prick Tony Hayward telling the American public to go fuck themselves and eat shit.
    Nope, none of this matters to this embarrasment soiling the rugs in the Oval Office. Yep, he’s gonna sue Arizona for actually trying to respect the people’s will and do the work the Federal Government refuses to do. What a sack of shit this guy Obama is. Why the fuck do we even bother to vote anymore?

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  9. questions says:

    David, thanks for the kind words of late….
    DON’T EVER LET THE FACTS GET IN THE WAY!!!!!
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/07/09/AR2010070902342.html?hpid=opinionsbox1
    Dana Milbank, WaPo:
    (on Brewer’s claim of some number of headless bodies’ having shown up in the desert — “buried or just lying out there”)
    “The Arizona Guardian Web site checked with medical examiners in Arizona’s border counties, and the coroners said they had never seen an immigration-related beheading. I called and e-mailed Brewer’s press office requesting documentation of decapitation; no reply.
    “Yet there is McCain — second only to Brewer in wrecking Arizona tourism — telling NBC, ABC and CNN that Phoenix is the “No. 2 kidnapping capital of the world,” behind only Mexico City. “False,” judged Politifact, tracing McCain’s claim to a dubious report by ABC News in February 2009. Law-enforcement agencies generally don’t track foreign kidnapping statistics, but experts said rates are far higher in various Central American, African and Asian countries. Reports of kidnapping in Phoenix, meanwhile, are declining.
    “Next, there’s Brewer’s claim that “the majority” of people immigrating illegally “are coming here and they’re bringing drugs, and they’re doing drop houses and they’re extorting people and they’re terrorizing the families. That is the truth.” No, it isn’t. The Border Patrol’s Tucson Sector has apprehended more than 170,000 undocumented immigrants since Oct. 1, but only about 1,100 drug prosecutions have been filed in Arizona in that time.
    “The claim that illegal immigrants are behind most killings of law-enforcement personnel is also bunk. Arizona state Sen. Sylvia Allen claimed that “in the last few years 80 percent of our law enforcement that have been killed or wounded have been by an illegal.” A Phoenix police spokesman told the Arizona Republic’s E.J. Montini that the real figure for such killings is less than 25 percent, and that there are no statistics on the wounding of officers. ”
    ***************
    Does anyone think that the Republicans are doing anything aside from rhetorical positioning at this point?
    Read up on Jindal. Kos has a piece up noting that Jindal has signed a nullification law that simultaneously notes that it doesn’t actually nullify fed HCR….
    What do these people have left, and why do they even want to be back in power given what happens when they are?!
    And why is there a core of the voting public that buys in to the lies, the fears, the nonsense that emanates from this corner of the world?
    Please, Republicans out there, hire a fact checker, limit the rhetoric, don’t paint yourselves into a corner. You will be forced to govern through your rhetorical stances. Do you really want to create such a monster?

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  10. David says:

    I think he is likely one of the good guys at this point, as Walter Jones from North Carolina clearly is. This was gutsy. Pity the majority of Republicans in his district who voted are politically mean-spirited and essentially ignorant.

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  11. questions says:

    Here’s someone to invite into the fold:
    http://www.dailykos.com/story/2010/7/9/882907/-GOP-congressman:-GOP-is-led-by-demagogues
    I will admit, I know nothing of Inglis aside from what’s in the diary, so maybe there are some really bad votes or positions, or maybe he’s one of the good guys at this point…..

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  12. nadine says:

    Michael Barone gave Steve Clemons a shout-out:
    “I attended a session last night on foreign policy where almost all of the panelists painted a gloomy picture of the state of world affairs (James Fallows was a little upbeat about China’s apparent concessions on Iran sanctions and its own currency) and had little good to say about Obama administration policy. There were even occasional notes of nostalgia for George W. Bush: Charlayne Hunter-Gault noted that Africans appreciated his anti-AIDS program and Elisabeth Bumiller said that her editors at The New York Times could not believe that people in India were big Bush fans. The most stinging attacks came from Mort Zuckerman, who said the Obama policies were dangerously weak, and Steve Clemons of the New America Foundation, hardly an Obama basher in the past.”

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  13. nadine says:

    Oh yeah, the OAS is super-independent of Chavez. They would be the first to criticize him. After all, Chavez has no history of aggression. He wouldn’t say, support the FARC or other guerillas against neighboring states, now would he?
    JohnH, you are your fellow travelers spout old-fashioned agitprop. Confess, Stalin is your hero, isn’t he?

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  14. Warren Metzler says:

    Lovely program. I highly recommend Three Cups of Tea. I’m surprised Nadine has not vanished, given her ignorance is so repeatedly demonstrated.
    Steve, your comments were quite insightful. How do you maintain access telling idiots and incompetents they are idiots and incompetent? It must be because you don’t name names. And they are so stupid, they don’t realize they are being described.
    I have one major objection, power. I learned a long time ago, that you only have power to direct those who personally decided to serve you (for their own personal agendas). So we need to eliminate the idea of power: smart, hard, soft, whatever.
    The US people have to learn that government can only competently do what free enterprise won’t do well: post office, air traffic control, customs, embassies, when there is an actual enemy fight a war, and so forth. Until we eliminate the idea that foreign policy is a rational concept, and get out of the control the world mind-set, we will only attract government leaders (who make the actual decisions) who are self-centered, sell all of their souls to people who write big checks, and have major moral allergies to all ideas that work.
    Finally, Jane Harmon may give great sound bites at conferences. But no one is more of a prostitute, more egotistical, more lacking in a single moral fiber than her. She is my congresswoman, and in my 13 years of living in her district, not once have I received a mailing from her that made any sense. I’ve only received a few from her, none in the past 2 years, and all that came were campaign pitches. She is part of the problem, definitely not part of the solution, and prime example of her joke “maybe congress and think is an oxymoron”.

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  15. JohnH says:

    The 2004 Chavez recall was monitored not just by the Carter Center, but also by the Organization of American States. Neither found evidence of fraud.
    http://ipsnews.net/interna.asp?idnews=25095
    Here’s the Carter Center’s response to allegations of fraud, which is detailed and convincing.
    http://venezuelanalysis.com/analysis/684
    Nadine’s charges of fraud are merely a regurgitation of the conventional beltway wisdom that her handlers are paying her to spew.

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  16. nadine says:

    “Also, Chavez’ elections have been conducted under observation by various international organizations including the Carter Center and the EU”
    Bwhahahahahahahhahahaha! There doesn’t exist a socialist dictator anywhere that ole Jimmah isn’t glad to whitewash. Arafat, Fidel, he looooves them all.
    But he really outdid himself for Hugo Chavez. He stole the 2004 recall election for him! Chavez would have been forced out but for Jimmy Carter:
    “Venezuela’s opposition party finally forced a recall election, with opinion polls showing that voters favored his recall by a margin of more than 2 to 1.
    When there were questions about possible vote tampering by the Chavez side, the opposition called for election monitors. Chavez agreed to let Jimmy Carter oversee the election, and the Carter Center headed for Caracas.
    Under Jimmy Carter’s watchful eye, Hugo Chavez defeated the recall attempt by a wide margin — reflecting almost a mirror-image of the opinion polls.
    While two out of three Venzuelans polled before the election wanted Chavez out, when the ballots were counted, Chavez was declared the winner by an almost exact opposite margin. “About 58 percent said ‘no’ to a recall, while 42 percent said ‘yes,'” wrote the Washington Post.
    Carter ignored a press release from the polling firm Penn, Schoen & Berland Assoc. that reported, “Exit Poll Results Show Major Defeat for Chavez.” The release, dated 7:30 p.m. on election day, said, “With Venezuela’s voting set to end at 8 p.m. EST according to election officials, final exit poll results from Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates, an independent New York-based polling firm, show a major victory for the ‘Yes’ movement, defeating Chavez in the Venezuela presidential recall referendum.”
    One of the most effective ways to monitor the fairness of an election is to employ the use of exit polls. In a nutshell, here’s how exit polls work. After somebody has finished voting, a pollster will ask them how they voted. In emerging democracies, about 90% of voters participate.
    By contrast, in America, where exit polls are widely used to call elections before the votes are all counted, less than 40% of voters participate.
    Statistically, exit polls should mirror the actual vote, within a relatively thin margin of error.
    The margin of error between Carter’s certified fair-and-square ballots and the independent exit poll results constituted a swing of almost forty points — a statistical impossibility. Chavez counted on Carter leaning his way — Carter’s history of promoting anti-American dictators is no secret.

    Once Chavez had stolen the election and Jimmy Carter certified the results, certain American critics (pretty much anybody with a brain) started questioning whether or not Jimmy Carter had just sold American interests down the river — again.
    Carter hit back in a Wall Street Journal Opinion piece, writing;
    “We are familiar with potential fraudulent techniques and how to obtain a close approximation to the actual results to assure accuracy.”
    Having established that Jimmy Carter is far too savvy to be conned by a mere thug like Chavez, Carter then dismissed the results of the exit polls, writing;
    “During the voting day, opposition leaders claimed to have exit-poll data showing the government losing by 20 percentage points, and this erroneous information was distributed widely.”
    Well, that’s that! The New York pollsters ‘widely distributed erroneous information’ — Hugo Chavez won fair and square. Jimmy Carter says so.
    Penn Schoen evidently must have cheated, although it is a reputable New York polling firm with a 20 year track record, including working for Bill Clinton in 1996, Hillary Rodham Clinton in 2001, Michael Bloomberg in 2001 and many other national political campaigns.
    Why would it risk its hard-won professional reputation over an election in Venezuela? Carter doesn’t explain.”
    http://vcrisis.com/index.php?content=letters/200408310659

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  17. JohnH says:

    Nadine, your ignorance is astounding. Venezuela has a public, instantaneous election auditing system that makes sham elections impossible. You should check it out. (Voters in the US can’t even imagine such a system.)
    Also, Chavez’ elections have been conducted under observation by various international organizations including the Carter Center and the EU. http://venezuelanalysis.com/news/4219
    Chavez has never used brute force to put down anything. In fact, it was the Chamber of Commerce who spearheaded the 2002 coup, which was overturned when the people of Venezuela occupied the expressways of Caracas, demanding Chavez return.
    Finally, opinion polls by a Chilean firm repeatedly show that Venezuelans rank second only to Uruguayans in terms of satisfaction with the democracy. A worldwide poll a few years ago, showed Venezuelans’ satisfaction with their democracy ranked fifth in the world (the US in first place).
    You really need to educate yourself before you simply mouth whatever beltway wisdom your handlers are paying you to spew.

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  18. nadine says:

    “Also interesting is that Venezuela under Hugo Chavez did exactly what Mortenson did–he educated people. And Chavez did a lot of other things to empower ordinary Venezuelans as well. The Iranian regime has done exactly the same. Yet do they get any kudos? Of course not. They put the interests of their nations’ people first.” (JohnH)
    That’s not what their people think! Both have put down near revolutions by brute force and have stopped running anything but sham elections. Both are ruining their economies and have lasted this long only because they have oil. Venezuala is going down the tubes anyway, as Chavez runs around ‘nationalizing’ one business after another to keep paying off supporters.
    You love dictatorships, don’t you? Especially those that claim to be doing it ‘for the people’. Your ultimate hero must be Joe Stalin.

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  19. JohnH says:

    Greg Mortenson’s approach is excellent. The only problem is that empowerment is the enemy of empire.
    “Smart power,” the buzz word du jour, is all about America’s getting what it wants. Education empowers people to get what they want. The two are fundamentally incompatible.
    What Mortenson is proposing has been around forever. JKF started the Peace Corps as a response to a book called “Ugly American,” written about the time VP Nixon’s motorcade got stoned in Caracas.
    It would be interesting to compare what the Peace Corps has accomplished in the last 50 years in terms of development and good will to what the military has accomplished. Since the military has been singularly unsuccessful at exporting democracy, human rights, and the rule of law, my guess is that the Peace Corps wins hands down, despite a trivial budget. (The Peace Corps annual budget equals 1.5 days of US military spending in Afghanistan.)
    Also interesting is that Venezuela under Hugo Chavez did exactly what Mortenson did–he educated people. And Chavez did a lot of other things to empower ordinary Venezuelans as well. The Iranian regime has done exactly the same. Yet do they get any kudos? Of course not. They put the interests of their nations’ people first.
    Fact is, America doesn’t want empowered foreigners. They might act in their own self interest, not in the best interest of the United States (whatever those interests are.)

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  20. Don Bacon says:

    I agree. But that’s the last time. 😉

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  21. nadine says:

    “Of course The Best and the Brightest got the USA into Vietnam, a tragedy of the first order. They had the wisdom but not the experience, and brilliance without relevance is wasted.” (Don Bacon)
    I would say rather, they had the overconfidence of brightness without the experience.
    “Wisdom” implies foresightedness and is born of experience. It is the opposite of thinking you can do anything because everybody around you tells you what a genius you are.

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  22. ... says:

    ot – Octavia Nasr’s firing and what the liberal media allows
    http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/glenn_greenwald/2010/07/08/media/index.html

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  23. Don Bacon says:

    I can’t watch videos with my clunky web access but I’d love to hear more about “the huge opportunity . . . of America’s Afghanistan engagement.” I’m familiar with the huge downside of the US involvement but I have no knowledge of any tremendous advantages.

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  24. The Pessimist says:

    Effective self-correction requires objective self-reflection.
    When will someone of sufficient stature make this statement during one of these feel-good, circle jerk elitist gatherings?
    The arrogance of the American political and corporate class is staggering.

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  25. Sand says:

    Worth watching — recommended.

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  26. Don Bacon says:

    The main US problem is that it looks at everything through a military lens, when its struggle to transform Afghanistan should be a social/political effort. But when the Pentagon and its NATO allies run the show, that’s what you get.
    from ISAF, KABUL, Afghanistan (July 7):
    . . .German Army Brig. Gen. Josef Blotz, ISAF spokesman, went on to explain that ISAF and ANSF reached a milestone this week to improve the security in the South denying the insurgents the ability to use Kandahar as a safe haven.

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  27. Don Bacon says:

    I can’t help but remember a line from Halberstam’s “The Best and the Brightest”: Halberstam later wrote that his favorite passage in his book was the one where Johnson, after his first Kennedy cabinet meeting, raved to his mentor, the speaker of the House, Sam Rayburn, about all the president

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  28. questions says:

    Don Bacon, the problem with the “white man’s burden” view of things is that it actually can take some outside support to make institution building work a little better.
    Let’s face it, we in the US have been helped by thousands of years of thinkers and makers and doers. We don’t do it alone, we listen to other voices. It’s not some kind of white man’s burden when you take the lead from the communities you’re working WITH and you work WITH them. It’s actually something like helping.
    That’s why Mortenson (Mortensen?) is such a good person to listen to. He takes the lead of the people he’s working with and lets them take over with no goal other than the autonomy of the people he’s working with.
    The problem with some versions of development theory is that the theory typically aims at developing THEM to be like US so that we have one less IR problem to deal with. The instrumental case is the problem, not the helping out side of things.
    But if we’re going to be imperialist, which is the better way to do it? Bombs or schools? I guess you could say “bombs” because at least the imperialism is obvious and the enemy is clearly marked. But maybe the people who get bombed would prefer something a little different…..

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  29. Don Bacon says:

    Good point — the drivers are domestic politics and profits not any kind of strategy. Thanks very much, Afghans, and GI’s, for dying to help our pols and their corporate friends.
    I bet nobody mentioned THAT in Aspen.

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  30. JohnH says:

    Since strategic thinking is not driving the Occupation of Afghanistan, it would be interesting for these foreign policy “experts” to have a go at what is driving American foreign policy.
    But foreign policy realists tend to be curiously silent on America’s motives and ambitions and the rich, powerful interests driving the strategy. As for neo-con-men, well, we already know their disingenuous schtick…

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  31. Don Bacon says:

    It’s always interesting, in a perverse sort of way, to see westerners sitting around discussing what’s best for an Asian country in a sort of white-man’s-burden format.
    Barbara Tuchman in the conclusion of “Stilwell and the American Experience in China”:
    “Would the fate of China have been different if [General Joseph] Stilwell had been allowed to reform the [Nationalist Chinese] army and create and effective combat force of 90 divisions? ‘I myself firmly believe,’ wrote General William R. Peters, who as a colonel had served as chief of the OSS guerilla unit in Burma, ‘that had Stilwell

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  32. Don Bacon says:

    I’m currently reading about the “Foxfire Approach”, produced by the Foxfire people in Georgia, which is a participatory student/teacher program of exploration and learning based a lot on John Dewey’s work as well as experience in Appalachia. Powerful stuff.

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  33. Jackie says:

    Questions,
    You should enjoy “Three Cups of Tea”. I’ve read it a couple of times. Mortensen also wrote another book that came out late last year or early this year, it is “Stones into Schools”. I liked it also. I certainly agree with his methods and they seem to work better than what the military does.
    Jackie

    Reply

  34. questions says:

    What an interesting hour!
    I haven’t read Mortenson, but Three Cups of Tea is in my Amazon cart now. I’ve been told by several people it’s worth the read.
    The current issue of American Prospect (July/August 2010) has several pieces on the US educational system, the race gap, and what we know about what we need to do. One of the contributors is Steve’s colleague at the NAF, Lisa Guernsey.
    The most startling education-related statistic I have come across is that a low income ADULT has a vocabulary about the same size as a privileged THIRD GRADER. If we’re getting the lines crossing at age 8 or 9 and age 30, we have some serious problems in terms of education. A related number that comes up in the magazine runs as follows: “By the time an average child whose parents are on welfare reaches age 4, she has heard 32 million fewer words than a child of professional parents, according to a seminal study published in 1995 by University of Kansas researchers.”
    Somewhere in the issue is the use of the phrase “soft skills” and I suppose that’s in opposition to “hard skills”. Hard is decoding, soft is knowing a bunch of random stuff so that when you read a text, you’re already familiar with the material enough that you can synthesize it, relate it to other topics, dance in and around it and make it yours.
    What does this have to do with Afghanistan? Welllll….
    It seems that if we’re to turn low income kids into middle class-style students, they need to know a whole bunch of stuff that has nothing to do with decoding, standardized testing, measurements, or sitting perfectly still and repeating what the teacher says.
    Indeed, they need to hear 32 million words and they need to engage in pretend play and they need to move around.
    To turn Afghanistan into a stable society in which people flourish, the people need appropriate, bottom up, relational, supported skill sets that fit in with what they already are, but that also give them something to build with.
    So my “big idea” is to set up a combined institute-within-an-institute where you get Lisa Guernsey and Steve Clemons and Greg Mortenson and Joseph Nye and whoever else to sit around and design smurf programs (soft plus messy plus urf!) and maybe somewhere in there will be the sense that not only can you not beat the shit out of a classroom of kids to get them to test well, not only can you not fire every teacher in the school, not only can you not reduce education to decoding a tedious text, but you also cannot make a country be what it isn’t, transform people without know their forms in the first place, tell an entire nation what to do.
    As Mortenson says, EM-power. And I kind of think the best education researchers are some of the people with the best ideas for empowering students and parents and communities. The ones who figured out that you have to provide buses so that kids don’t get beaten up on the way home, the ones who know that a relationship with one teacher can make all the difference, the ones who know that if you spend time in the classroom on wildly creative and disconnected projects, eventually the kids develop problem-solving skills and the kids end up exposed to a bunch of stuff that makes reading easier and more joyful.
    Not a super specific policy, but maybe a place to look for ways to do things on the ground.
    The goal is clear — autonomy on US terms (ha ha). The means we’ve been using don’t work. We need to let people build what they need to build and we need to be there in the background with support and relationships. Greg Mortenson is one smart guy.
    And while we’re at it, go ahead and find Arne Duncan a better job!

    Reply

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