Friday, June 27, 2014

Abbott and Afghanistan

Afghanistan.  Superpowers have marched these mountains and deserts since Alexander the Great. Flying over it a few times and looking down, I cannot for the life of me imagine what made anyone...ever...tie up his camel, look at his wife and say:  "Honey....we're here!  This is IT!"  

Fortunately for me, my mission this time is pretty much "inside the wire".  It is really difficult to conjure legal reasons to get outside the wire on a mission.  I am vaguely irritated by this.  

My wife is not.

I have battles of a different sort as we prepare to withdraw, downsize or "descope" in the popular military parlance of the moment.  After hundreds of billions of dollars, we are now parsing every nickel and need.  Because we are the Army, we created a bureaucracy to help. Bureaucratic entities working to reduce bureaucratic bureaucracy leads to exchanges such as this:  

Higher HQ: I need something, but I don't want to be seen asking for it.  I order YOU to ask me for the thing I want so that I don't have to ask me for it. 

Subordinate Unit: Um..Yes sir.....Sir?  I would very much like to have the thing you want so that I can give it to you.

Higher HQ: Nay, Nay! Your request is disapproved. Why would you ask me for such a thing? Now, come back later, ask me again and tell me WHY I want it.

Abbott and Costello couldn't have done it better themselves. If it weren't so wildly entertaining at times, it could drive you absolutely insane.  The problem is that if you went insane, it is unlikely that anyone would immediately notice.  But just as you're walking out of the meeting, shaking your head and wisecracking, you notice the flags.  They are now at half-staff. 

There is a real war going on "outside".  A fallen hero has arrived on base.  In a few hours, we will send him on his way home.

And there it is.  That's Afghanistan.  It takes you from humor to madness; frustration to sadness; grief to brotherhood; and from loss back to laughter..  

Time keeps moving.  The days are long, but the weeks are fast.  Before you know it, it will be time for someone to ask me to ask them if its time for me to go home.  They might say yes.