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Solutions for Afghanistan –

Over the last several days, I have been seeing information about the Iraq and Afghanistan history on the history channel and CNBC – on the news generally and elsewhere. It occurs to me that a very simple change of strategy might help in that region. And, not to be flippant about it – but why don’t our forces change the access of those regions to the rest of the world and modern life as a part of it? Run cable to every home and business in Kabul with the same things we are watching and it won’t be 15th century living with a mentality of isolation and ignorance anymore across vast portions of the population. Not only do our television shows offering a different view of life, they also have information being conveyed that is not commonly available without it. That is why the Taliban feared it enough to ban those things and to remove access to the internet and other electronic information resources. If everyone has a tv with cable running to it across two million people, not only would it be cheaper than some of the operations we are doing, it could serve to bring the information about the rest of the world into their views of it. They fit into a much greater world than they know and in a lot of cases, ignorance and isolation can be the tools of any enemy and its brutality. If 8 percent of the people in Afghanistan have access to the internet and cable or satellite television with programs from the rest of the world, then perhaps the Taliban could punish them for it – but if all of them have it – it changes the equation.

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Another idea that could be viable to change the equation would have to involve changing the clothing and equipment being used by our international teams of soldiers fighting there. Anywhere there is sand and sun and heat and difficult terrain, it is an alien environment compared to the places where our clothing and equipment was designed. There are UV protective clothing choices that are lightweight, easy to wear, rugged and allow air flow through the garments – shirts, pants, hats – all could be adapted for the military’s use. Why haven’t they done that? Why aren’t the packs that are being carried changed to different materials appropriate to the environment, including the use of lighter, stronger nano-fabrics for tents, sleeping gear, cloth for the packs or whatever else is being carried? In that environment, they are disadvantaged by the continued use of materials and equipment that was designed and made for world environments far removed from where they are now using them. With all the technology that has come from NASA and the EAD – why aren’t those things available to our people serving in these conflicts where the sun, the lack of water, the scrub of the environment and the difficult terrain are often defeating them before ever engaging the situation? Can we not design pocket condensers that make water from the air for every soldier to have? Can we not armor the vehicles to make them impenetrable? Can we not make their clothing more suitable and their equipment more appropriate to the environment and the tasks without them carrying 80 – 100 pounds on their backs across the desert?

That too, could change the equation because trained military personnel that can be protected from the environmental suffering are more capable of thinking about the tasks they were trained to do and effectively applying them. Together, across all the international, British and American forces there – it would change the dynamic of the situation significantly because the troops would no longer be fighting the desert and the terrain more than they are engaging the tools to defuse and destroy the enemy.

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And, one other thing – the drones are great. The night vision goggles and other night vision equipment is wonderful, no doubt. But, there are other tools and technologies we have from all sorts of different industries that could be placed into operation to keep our soldiers safe while doing their jobs, including things currently used in manufacturing processes. The little land rovers made for mars or for the moon are now being used (by design) for “sniffing” out explosive devices and that is just one of the many designs and technologies that are available. And, it makes sense – don’t put a soldier’s life in danger where technology, robotics, tools in place or information can actually serve to do that job. Where ignorance keeps the population serving the enemy as its master, change the level of ignorance and information available to that population. Where equipment isn’t make in a way that is standard enough to be interchangeable, universal, user-friendly or able to communicate across their operating systems – change it to do so. Where equipment, tools or weapons, clothing, tents, basics of survival, or soldiers’ physical requirements of safety are taking more effort than necessary or are literally hindering the training and efforts of those soldiers from being effective – change those things to be more field appropriate with more than simply making the camouflage colors in the sand tones. There are new materials available and new information that wasn’t the case 150 years ago when some of these things were designed for the field. And, even then they shouldn’t have put up with it for long but they passed it along and some of that stuff hasn’t been redesigned with the new needs of our soldiers or where they are fighting, being considered.

There is a nifty piece of equipment – a coat that is already “wired for sound” so to speak – it is used by skateboarders and snowboarders that want to hear their mp3 player, their cellphone, etc. while in route, in action – having a good time out in the middle of where ever – why don’t our troops have that?

There is bulletproof clothing that is lighter weight and more user-friendly now with a range of motion and airflow for the body that wasn’t available when much of our military equipment was designed. Why aren’t our troops using that technology and getting some of those designers to work for us?

There are cross-platform communications and user-friendly universality integration tools being used by everybody from hackers to self-taught computer gurus – why aren’t we getting those information rich designers to put their talent to work for integrating our equipment and technologies so they can interact universally with some little piece of hardware or software written specifically to do it?

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A while back, I wrote a thing about purchasing agents for the military needing to actually be using a different set of guidelines for some of their choices – it is simple –

* For shoes and clothing – If you can’t walk in it – don’t buy it.

* For any piece of equipment – If you can’t zip it up yourself – don’t buy it.

* If it wouldn’t withstand your three-year old playing with it – don’t buy it. The military is much harder on equipment than they are.

* If it won’t do the job it was intended to do in the environment where it is to be used – don’t buy it and I don’t care whose state, or what Senator wants it to be made by a factory already in existence – don’t buy it.

And, most of the other common sense and intelligence in application would fit as well. We have specially made, lightweight, flexible thermal knits that are appropriate for skiers to wear in sub-zero weather – and when our troops are in the desert and its 40 below zero, that is a good time for them to have those available to make their physical efforts there possible, but not when the temperature is 120 degrees in the shade. Maybe something could be designed to do both, but if you can’t walk in it – don’t buy it. If your range of motion in it makes you look like a stick doll – don’t order any of them to be made and don’t buy them – unless they are redesigned appropriately.

Some of it (involving equipment, clothing and environment) in a war zone or conflict area, has room for error. But, in extreme environments where troops are stationed and expected to perform, that room for error narrows to what becomes a fight against the equipment or against the environment for survival in it, rather than using those resources of time, energy, training, intelligence and talent in the fight against the real enemies that have brought our troops there in the first place. A lot of that can be fixed right now, effectively using some common sense to do it.

– cricketdiane, 09-01-09

**And on a quick note – trails of intelligence exist by virtue of specific needs involving those leaders in the Taliban or in Al-Qaeda that our troops are trying to find, whether it is the type of cigar they want to smoke, the filters they must have for a dialysis machine or the kinds of equipment / weapons that they are purchasing. That does not happen in a vacuum. It follows that a trail exists, knowing their habits, the foods they will try to find, the special addictions they enjoy or whatever else it is that they must reach out to buy or to find out or in getting funding for or that they must call to get. They aren’t manufacturing C-4 or grenade launchers out there in the desert. Not all the pieces are immediately available, even if they tried to design it there.

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