Friday, February 5, 2010

"Progress" in Afghanistan

The New York Times reported today that General McCrystal reports that there has been "progress" made in Afghanistan. Of course that is what he thinks because all he gets from his subordinates are "progress reports." What would one expect to get from "progress reports" other than reports of progress? And, of course, those subordinates know that their promotions hinge on them making progress so what else would you expect to report? A lack of progress? Not likely.

Seriously, though, this is the same general that told Congress just a short time ago that Afghanistan was in danger of being "lost." Although it is unclear to me how it could get lost when we know where it is, the president responded by sending more troops to Afghanistan. So here is another reason why reports of "progress" are entirely expected: Did anyone think that after the general got his requested troops, he would report a lack of progress? Don't think so.....

But the real question is: What is the relationship between "progress" and success? Everyone assumes that making progress brings success closer, brings victory closer. But it only takes a few seconds thought to see that this is not necessarily the case. One can make progress, over and over, without necessarily coming any closer to success or victory. A student can make progress toward an "A" and yet never receive or earn an "A" grade. U.S. forces made "progress" continually in Vietnam but still were defeated. The same could be happening in Afghanistan. In fact, I suspect it probably is.

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