“Inside every —— there is an American trying to get out …”

I wrote the other day about the responsible job that I thought Austin, Milley and McCkenzie did in their testimony before Congress.  I stand by that judgment but would like to expand my thought in that post.

Several times during the hearings the question arose of what went wrong, not in Biden misjudgments at the end, but rather in the overall conduct of the 20 year campaign.  Promises were made to do intense studies of the road to failure, and I am sure that the studies will be  made.  It is our way to study such things when they go wrong, but it is seldom true that the study produces valid answers, answers that are valid, accepted and/or implemented.  IMO this case will follow that pattern.

In the course of the two days of hearings the word “culture” was occasionally mentioned in passing.  The word was mentioned in what seemed to me to be a furtive, slightly embarrassed way.  This is typical of Americans, who are in my experience incapable of sustaining the notion in their collective minds that there are other world views that for other peoples are as valid and motivating as the “melting pot” hybrid that has emerged among us as something like a people.

I have dealt with that cultural blindness for all my rather lengthy life.  I have met it in both military and civil life.  I was a member of the executive board of a rather famous foundation that dealt with questions of war, peace, violence, that sort of thing.  Large amounts of money grants were bestowed on academics judged worthy.  After serving on this board for a number of years, it became clear that the professional staff who served the foundation were deeply opposed to grants that stressed study of “culture;” folkways, customs, group identity, etc., and most especially RELIGION as motivating the course of history.   No.  What was desired by the staff as members of the group-thinkery that is the academy were studies concerned with the “REAL” factors in any situation, in other words, the economic factors hidden beneath a smoke screen of all this “culture nonsense.”

With regard to the Taliban and other jihadi crazies, the question that the academy and its representatives want asked is ,”WHAT DO THEY REALLY WANT?”  Well, pilgrim turcopoles, that is the wrong question.  It leads nowhere but to defeat, defeat that will always be based on a misunderstanding of the “fish” and the sea in which they swim. Weber, Durkheim and their chums may have been great men, but their kind of thinking is a trap that leads to some poor fellows trying to ride the outside of a C-17 from Kabul to Doha.

The US Army is no better in its thinking in such matters.  The “mainstream” generals and their consultant civilians instinctively discount local “culture,” after giving it lip service and proceed to devise strategems designed to make the locals very like Europeans or the proverbial Iowans.

The US Army has almost accidentally produced a handful of people in; intelligence, Special Forces and in Area Studies specialization (FAO) who do understand what the locals are about and that they are really and actually different from us and do not want to be like us.  Wanting our standard of living is not the same as wanting to be like us.  The American soldiers who have achieved the knowledge of cultural difference are usually rewarded with suspicion and dismissal of their views,

What the “big brass” thinks is IMO reflective of the general attitude of the American people and for that reason the reaction to foreigners is unlikely to change.

Some years ago I was asked to speak at a university on the subject of the difficulties we were experiencing in far off and savage places.  I said a lot on the subject of “wog” reluctance to emerge into a “brave new world.”  At the luncheon thereafter the head of the Social Studies lash-up asked if I really believed that the majority of Pashtuns, Zulu, Apaches, etc. did not want to be like us.  When I replied that I did, he said that if he accepted that he would have to re-evaluate the value of our “culture.”

We should stay home and visit the far off and alien lands as tourists.  pl

This entry was posted in Afghanistan, Borg Wars, government, History, Iraq, Middle East, Religion, The Military Art. Bookmark the permalink.

44 Responses to “Inside every —— there is an American trying to get out …”

  1. Babeltuap says:

    American Indians never saw any value in our home construction methodology. I imagine when their tribal leaders would meet in our settlements they thought, “Interesting but nope. Not gonna work for us”.

  2. Laura Wilson says:

    Wanting our standard of living is not the same as wanting to be like us.

    These words should be posted over the door of every office in Washington…they apply domestically as well as internationally. I have often told my Texas friends who gloat that Californians are moving in but don’t want them to bring there politics with them that “Californians are moving for cheap real estate not to change their party affiliation.” (Read cultural orientation…)

    • Pat Lang says:

      Laura Wilson

      Texas will not be a salubrious place in which to try to practice California style wokie politics.

      • Tomonthebeach says:

        My instant reaction to that statement is “Yet.”

        I got my PhD at TCU in Cowtown Fort Worth, taught 3 years at UT’s SW Med School in Dallas. Less than a decade later I spent an additional 7 years managing a federal lab in Oklahoma City. The bulk of my worklife was spent in DC. Over the decades I have watched as the DFW and OKC metro areas have begun to look and act more like Chicago and LA. I suspect that in another 10 years, Wokies might politically dominate those areas just as we have seen happening in Atlanta.

    • Oilman2 says:

      Many Cali transplants are already looking for another spot – our constitutional carry law has freaked many of them out, and things are not as cheap in Austin as the rest of the state. Once you leave the Cali enclaves of Austin, Houston and DFW, the rest of the state is decidedly pro-max freedom. Further, the prices in these same enclaves are skyrocketing. My burb home outside of Houston has gone from $280k to $400k in less than 18 months.

      Wokism will die eventually, as it eats itself – same as the far left is doing today. Cancel culture is great until your faction de jeure hits the menu.

      • Fred says:


        I hope you follow what Janet Yellen want to do to that unrealized capital gain you have on that house.

    • JerseyJeffersonian says:

      Laura Wilson,

      Some months ago, as soon as I saw what kind of unhinged anarcho-tyranny Dear Leader Joe (or the cabal that tells him what to think, anyway) would be loosed upon the nation, I posted my belief that Texas would be well-advised to move toward renewal of their original status as an independent republic, with borders that they could enforce, and immigration policies that would comport with their culture and economy.

      Subsequent events have only affirmed the probity of that sentiment: 1) the absolute chaos at the Texas border with Mexico is only being formalized as the “new normal” by that radical ideologue, Mayorkas; 2) more Blue Tick morons from Califoria are making a break toward Texas to escape – and now with the failure of Californians to remove Governor Hair Gel, who remains in place only to exacerbate – the well-established anarcho-tyranny in California. Well, here they come, Texas, without a doubt bringing their toxic load of leftist crap to try and foist upon Texas, and doing their not inconsiderable best to flip Texas blue.

      This early wave of Blue Tick California hypocrites are running away from all of those leftist policies, with its accompanying tidal wave of human refuse, that they supposedly favored, and absenting themselves as quickly as possible before their flight, coupled with the aforementioned exacerbation of anarcho-tyranny, tanks the real estate values in the Peoples’ Progressive Soviet of California (that is, if the Biden regime’s policies don’t destroy the US economy and currency first).

      • different clue says:

        I remember reading once that when Texas was admitted into the Union, it was with the provision that Texas would retain the unilateral right to secede any time it wanted to, in perpetuity. And re-become an independent Republic again.

        If that is so, then Texas could very well do that at any time, and the rest of the US would not have any legal objection to make. The experiment may well be run at some point.

  3. scott s. says:

    My sister is an anthropologist. At one point she applied to the Foreign Service and got as far as the interview. During the interview she was asked something about culture, and launched into an explanation from cultural anthropology viewpoint. But it turned out the interviewer was interested in things like music and art. She didn’t get accepted and decided it was just as well as she didn’t think it would be a good fit.

    • Barbara Ann says:

      Is not the Foreign Service’s institutional core mission to free the inner American in every poor benighted foreigner? When Pride Month is celebrated at the Kabul embassy it is clear the Foreign Service is no place for an anthropologist.

    • TTG says:

      Anthropologists, especially those who do extended field work, have a greater incidence of “going native” than us SF types. My undergrad advisor did his field work among the Chipewyan of Lac la Loche, Saskatchewan. You could always tell he was in his office when you smelled his smoke tanned, moose hide coat.

      • Questa Nota says:

        Those Foreign Office or State Department mandarins would say Tsk, Tsk, Old Boy’s gone native, time to ship him home. Send out a new recruit fresh out of OxbridgeIvy.

        Thus was any cultural knowledge capital continually recycled, er, wasted.

      • Steve+G says:

        Agreed on going native. My cousin’s daughter followed
        Mom to state department postings. Third deployment
        Married Abdi from India. Nice enough chap as they say.
        New post Phnom Penh Cambodia. Who knows!

  4. Deap says:

    By way of example, the French made assumptions too when they were out and about in foreign territory .When the French left Dijbouti in the 1970’s, they duty bound left behind enhanced infrastructure like an international standard airport and multiple new housing units for this primarily nomadic local population – those haunting very tall, slender African peoples who would rest on one long stick as their lines of camels dotted the horizons. This was their gift after their long occupation to nudge the locals into the 20th century.

    While touring around the capitol with a soon to be departing French military officer he pointed out none of the locals wanted to live in those newly built houses. The local Shaman declared them to be unhealthy so they sat abandoned in this wretched burned, earthquake prone land. And locals continued their nomadic ways out under the stars.

    That was then, who knows maybe the Dijbouti is now full of skyscrapers and condos. But my lasting memory was the surprise of the occupying French learning the locals did not want to be like the French either, living in tidy little row houses with garden courtyards.

  5. Harlan Easley says:


    How can they be so stupid? Does a General ever read a history book? Do they really believe Religion is a non-factor?

    My view is most of these Generals rise to the top sucking up to their Masters. Woke Masters. And are Block-Jaw idiots for the most part. Any intelligent man like yourself Colonel is stopped at Colonel.

    At least the Civil war produced Good Generals on both sides. The North took a little longer to produce their cream. Appears the same in WWII to me. Korea, the Generals fought the Goliath China to a stalemate. Admirable, considering they were a country of 520 million in 1950 and next door to the battlefield.

    Vietnam, we never lost a battle. Maybe we should have invaded North Vietnam. I don’t know. COIN was started here according to you Colonel. Not by Petraeus. So they obviously can’t learn from their mistakes.

    Where did it go so wrong? 1991 Gulf War was a rout. But in 2021, it seems it would be National Suicide to take on a Near Peer rival such as Russia or China with this current crop of Woke Dunces.

    • chris moffatt says:

      Read a book? I believe there are a number of books on a general’s reading list, after all they want to give an impression of erudition. But maybe not the right books at the right time. Perhaps if the generals of the time had read, for example, Pirey’s “Operation Gachis” the conduct of the war in Viet Nam might have been different. But then it was by a foreigner, a frenchman even who had fought in VN. What could he possibly know?

  6. Babeltuap says:

    From the first day I was flying over Afghanistan I could see the mud houses, no “modern” glass windows. At that point I knew my mission was just to survive.

    My 1SG said wow, these people are like over 1,000 years behind civilization. I didn’t say anything. I knew it was doomed before we even landed. At that point I decided to focus on bringing everyone back alive. They hated me for it but I did it. No getting out of the MRAP’s and being ambushed. NO. Bring empty water bottles and piss in them inside the MRAPs. They wanted me dead but months later, after we all returned alive they knew. One SSG finally sucked up his pride and thanked me. I’m no Patton that’s for damn sure but I know there is no winning against people like that.

  7. dsrcwt says:

    I think the problem is that most of these people in the Borg don’t really believe in anything at all. There might be things they are willing to kill for, but I’d bet they’d be hard pressed to find something they’d be willing to die for.

  8. TTG says:

    Western man or maybe just modern man has centered his life and society around the accumulation and distribution of stuff. Both communism and capitalism are both about stuff. The American way is largely about stuff and prosperity christianity is all about stuff. No wonder we have a hard time grasping the concept of a society built around relationships with nature, with god(s) and with each other. That includes living relationships with ancestors and progeny.

    • Pat Lang says:

      How is Christianity all about “stuff?”

      • Phillip Allen says:

        Please note, sir, that TTG wrote “*prosperity* Christianity is all about stuff.” This does not necessarily imply that all Christianity is about stuff. TTG may believe that, but it is not in their statement. I think it would take some remarkable twists of logic to argue that ‘Prosperity Gospel’ adherents aren’t, in fact, obsessed with stuff, for all they believe that their getting and possessing of said stuff is evidence of their god’s grace.

      • Questa Nota says:

        That is part of the beauty, or deviousness depending on the point of view, of the marketing campaign. Prosperity gospel can make for obedient consumers, with the spirituality, observance and memory crowded out by marketing jingles and click-bait advertising.

        • Pat Lang says:

          I was unfamiliar with the term “prosperity christianity.” As an undergraduate in English I became very familiar with Puritan literature which reflected the belief that prosperity displayed God’s judgment upon an individual and that you could know the ultimate pre-destined fate from that. I find the idea repulsive.

      • TTG says:


        The more common term is prosperity gospel or prosperity theology. It’s the Christianity of Oral Roberts, Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker and Joel Osteen. And yes, it does harken back to the Puritan belief in predestination and worldly wealth as a symbol of being one of God’s chosen. I also find those ideas repulsive, both in the Puritans and the modern preachers of prosperity gospel.

        The contrast between prosperity gospel and real Christianity is well illustrated by the contrast in the actions of Joel Osteen and Jim “Mattress Mack” McInvale, who opened his stores for weeks to the many victims of Hurricane Harvey in 2017 while Osteen kept his massive house of worship shuttered. He didn’t want all those suddenly homeless, his neighbors and congregants, soiling his new carpets.

        • Aletheia in Athens says:

          I was just reading yesterday night the passage on The Great Inquisitor, from The Karamazov Brothers, recommended as very useful to help understand this moment in time by a great historian and journalist currently exiled in Miami…

          • smoke says:

            “The Grand Inquisitor”, a brilliant chapter. I remember reading it first in mid-teens. Surely, that can’t be so, I thought. Not in this time, not in this country. Still the scene lingered unforgettable, disturbing. Decades later, the more I see of the human world, the more Dostoevsky’s dark vision of human nature seems inspired.

        • Barbara Ann says:

          What are these Puritans’ teachings on Matthew 19:24?

          • Pat Lang says:

            Barbara Ann

            Am not one although have many ancestors who were. I do not not know.

          • TTG says:

            I don’t know either, Barbara Ann. Maybe they just ignored that one. Picking and choosing what one wants from the old and new testaments is a tradition among all kinds of Christians. The lessons of the sermon on the mount are dismissed as the woke rantings of a trouble maker by many.

        • different clue says:

          I remember having heard that in our own day Prosperity Gospel was invented just long enough ago to now be recognized as a thing.



          I read somewhere recently that the branch of Protestantism which some Latin Americans of various countries are converting to is the Prosperity Gospel and Evangelical and Pentacostal and other related groups.
          Not Methodism or Lutheranism or Presbyterianism and certainly not Episcopalianism.

  9. John says:

    You might want to think about Matthew 7:20. IMO Christians have been about “stuff” since cutting the deal with Constsntine in the 3rd Century. In hoc signo vinces.

    • Pat Lang says:


      Are you a believer in pre-destination? “By their fruits you will know them.” In my version of Christianity the reference is not to acquisition of worldly wealth. Matt 19:24 “‘And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” King James Version

  10. Degringolade says:

    Might be your best one yet.

  11. Joe100 says:

    To provide a good example of deep cultural awareness, see this quite recent piece on Pashtuns by Pepe Escobar, who has spent much time in that part of the world for many decades: https://thesaker.is/the-pashtun-will-outlast-all-empires-but-can-they-hold-afghanistans-center/

    If we had people with this kind of insight involved in key US decision making, we might actually make some correct choices..

  12. Bob Blake says:

    Interesting book regarding an American soldier immersed in a Pashtun culture.
    American Spartan
    Reminds me of my fascination at age 14 of T.E, Lawrence when I found his writings Seven Pillars of Wisdom in a used book store way back when my hair was brown and crew cut.
    Also reminds me of the scene in movie “Lawrence of Arabia” where the well is everything and “that” is nothing.

  13. VietnamVet says:


    If the generals and military contractors could see the reality that is Afghanistan, they would not have gotten their cut of the $2.3 trillion dollars spent to keep the Taliban out of Kabul for 20 years.

  14. guidoamm says:

    A bit tangential but…. does anyone know what happened to that Green Beret that was court martialled and was going to be discharged dishonourably because he stopped an Afghan police officer from buggering an Afghan child?

    If memory serves, the sentence stated something to the effect that we are not in Afghanistan to change the culture.

  15. John+Merryman says:

    The best book I ever read on explaining Western culture and Christianity was, The Five Stages of Greek Religion, by Gilbert Murray; https://www.gutenberg.org/files/30250/30250-h/30250-h.htm
    One of the various points he makes, in this and other books, is that to the Ancients, gods were more like how they conceptualized ideas, ideals, memes, etc. Basically the intellectual tradition has to be understood from the ground up. Society and culture predate our modern categories and intense focus on detail, so it was much more instinctive to consider ideas holistically and elementally, not just as effects of their parts. Forests, not just bunches of trees.
    So in a political sense, monotheism equated with monoculture. One people, one rule, one god.
    Democracy and republicanism originated in pantheistic cultures, as manifestations of multicultural societies and political realities.
    Building on these points, it should be noted that Rome co-opted gnostic Christianity to be the Catholic Church, as the Empire solidified and remnants of the Republic has faded. Effectively the political reality was branding itself as a cultural entity. Leading to the Holy Roman Empire and its offspring, of the monarchies of Europe. Vestiges of pantheism remained in the Trinity, which came from the Greek year god tradition of regeneration and couldn’t be erased, as it was the basis of the original influence of Christianity. The son reborn, of the sky father and earth mother. Though the premise of regeneration had to be buried, given the infallibility and immortality of the Church.
    When the West went back to less centralized political systems, it required the separation of church and state, culture and civics.
    With Islam, the roles are reversed, as the power of a common creed arose first, providing the possibilities of a larger Islamic caliphate.
    The problem of the Americas and the US in particular, is that our culture is deeply rooted in several hundred years of geographic and population growth, along with the technological and industrial explosion occurring at the same time. Which allows the possibility of every individual some degrees of personal space and freedom, within the group, as opposed to having to break away from it, that had never occurred before. “Go west, young man.” had settled into “The American Dream.”
    Now that we have reached the edge of the petri dish and the possibility of colonizing space is only a fevered dream, we are reaching a point where so many of our cultural assumptions will be put to the test.

    • John+Merryman says:

      I would add that in the broader the context being considered, the more basic the denominators have to be, so when it is millions and billions of people, it’s not really culture, or politics, or morality, so much as it’s about biology and physics.
      The two most primordial dynamics are synchronization and harmonization. An idea that’s been churning around in my mind recently is that what seems to be overlooked, even apparently by the physics community, is that synchronization is centripetal, while harmonization is centrifugal. Consequently organisms and ecosystems. Abstracted as nodes and networks, particles and fields.
      So a culture has to generate some level of synchronization among members, then effectively compete with other cultures. So the short term dynamic is to concentrate on some central totem. Yet over time this reaches the point that those different cultures willing to work across their various differences can prove more effective than those only concentrated on their own singular deity/currency/geographic center, because this broader network/harmonization can become much larger than any of its members.
      I could expand on how this feedback loop works in the current situation, but others might find it interesting as a template to apply to their own observations.
      Though the one example coming to my mind is how the current Asian situation, between Russia, China and Iran is an example of a harmonic response to the western globalism put forth by the US, with England and Israel as foundational political and religious reference points, with most of the rest caught in their wake, but potentially attracted to the alternative.
      Not to say this is a perfect or stable description, but given the countries in Asia have several millennia of cultural roots and relations to ground this dynamic, while the essentially financially driven forces of the west are taking on characteristics of a metastatic growth, that’s more interested in consuming the host organisms, than how to foster them, it seems neither will concede willingly.

      • DonaldGaner says:

        Western globalism seems to be just a continuation of the colonization that began following Columbus in the 15th Century. The roots of the dominant U.S. culture are about a millimeter deep and based almost completely on fear and materialism, which have, thus far been effective in synchronizing needed populations in support of the dominant elite ruling class. But the U.S. has never had need nor desire for harmonious relations, either internally or externally, and has not a clue how to do anything other than make demands that it has been eager to enforce. Now that harmony is needed, the dominant elites in the U.S. are as if completely deaf; and all they have are (1) a gigantic cache of nuclear and other very expensive weapon (and the means to use them), and (2) the economic power that comes from the U.S. dollar’s place as world reserve currency. So, they will likely try, once again, to raise the specter of war; but this will not work as harmony spreads across Europe and Asia. They will then lose what little leverage remains, as those groups will then work in harmony to replace the U.S. dollar as reserve currency. Then, over the following century or so, perhaps the people of the U.S. will have opportunity to learn somethng of the value of harmony; both for internal and external relations.

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