Afghanistan is getting more attention now than it did in the 20 years prior. Last year it got a 5 full minutes combined from all the major news outlets. There’s an old saying I learned in the Army. The doer does what the checker checks. Without the press checking in on Afghanistan and keeping it in the public conscience it became ripe for stupid decisions and illogical behavior… and that happened quickly after we got there.
One of my other favorite quotes is tell me how you measure me, and I’ll tell you how I behave. Measure me illogically… and do not complain about illogical behavior.
It’s hard to watch what’s happening on the news as an Afghan veteran. It was also hard to be there without a clear answer as to why. My immediate leadership had a hollow answer—because we were ordered to. The leadership above us said something that translated to nation building (which we’d never been good at) and by the time you get to the congressional layer where the decision should have been made you get crickets. Heck, I remember being deployed when the Pentagon’s top leaders announced that their #1 priority wasn’t what we were doing in Afghanistan, but rather it was defeating sexual assault and sexual harassment.
We all sort of looked at each other and thought… Well, if that’s our #1 priority we don’t need to be here to accomplish it.
One of the things that helped while I was there was drinking in the knowledge that came from some of the books I read. Authors make great mentors. I discovered Thomas Sowell and devoured several of his writings. I also discovered Matt Welch and Nick Gillespie’s The Declaration of Indepenents.
Matt and Nick are both contributors to Reason.com a libertarian news site that works hard to be deliberately transparent about their bias towards free minds and free markets. The book takes the long view of how influential those who declare their independence really are in our society. It takes a look at examples inside and outside of government. It celebrates those who not only carved out their own niches, but create entire industries in the process. It celebrates the independent individuals and the collective independent influence.
I have never read a more positive book discussing American politics in our modern era than this book.
The authors are unashamed to give credit and criticism to members of team red and team blue. The book takes a principled view throughout and there’s no sleight of hand to persuade the reader that any party is the advocate for change. Instead you see the principles of independent actions push through the most daunting opposition.
At the end the reader has something to be proud of in American political discourse. At the end the reader gets to walk away with hope.
When I was in Afghanistan I needed the mentorship this book provided. I needed to understand that our broken political system that sent me there wasn’t completely useless. I could see how it gets around to making the right choices and I could see hope for the future.
Authors make great mentors and while Nick and Matt weren’t available to visit me in Afghanistan in person they were able to package a message that did more good than they realize.