Friday, April 13, 2007

Things to Read, Watch or Listen to: What's going on "Over there"

A unique book I haven't read yet, but, from the review, seems like a very witty and emotional composite of what it's like to live and work in Afghanistan. Deb Rodriquez writing about her experience in micro-economics and (non-existent) women's liberation in a country she calls, "Manistan".

Kabul Beauty School” is the rollicking story of one of the strangest foreign-aid projects ever conceived, the creation of an academy to train Afghan beauticians. A surprisingly successful venture, it gives Afghan women practical training convertible into cold cash and personal power, a radical idea in a country where women have the approximate status of dirt.

“I knew from my own experience as a hairdresser back home that a salon is a good business for a woman— especially if she has a bad husband,” Ms. Rodriguez writes.[snip]

Teaching beauty techniques turns out to be tough sledding. For some reason, the students cannot understand the concept of the color wheel, essential for doing a professional dye job and correcting the contributing pigment that underlies a person’s primary hair color. At the end of her tether, Ms. Rodriguez reaches for a religious analogy: Think of contributing pigment as Satan. “It’s this evil thing in the hair that you have to fight,” she says. “You have to use the opposite color to keep it from taking over.” The light goes on.

When a woman from a government ministry comes in for a haircut, Ms. Rodriguez pulls out a hand-held blow-dryer to finish the job. The woman gasps. “She had never seen a blow-dryer before and had no idea why I was pointing it at her head,” Ms. Rodriguez writes. “When I turned it on, and hot air blasted out, she screamed and jumped out of the chair.”

If you want to know what's going on in al Anbar, ask the marines.

Plenty to read AND watch in videos straight from the horses' mouths. I recommend these:

2 Marines, 1 Corpsman and 40 Iraqis (movie)

Changing Ramadi: Trash Pickup keeps things safe (reading)

To understand the real importance to this trash pickup, besides taking away the places that IEDs (improvised explosive devices) hide, read this little snippet on Broken Windows Theory, Crime and Small Wars

Broken Windows Theory says that, in order to insure security in a neighborhood, not only must "major crime" (in this case, terrorist attacks, murders, etc) be combatted, but you knock major crime down by prosecuting every small crime, by cleaning up the graffiti, by fixing the "broken windows" (figuratively and literally) that it gives the impression that the neighborhood is "good", has eyes on it (thus criminals or terrorists don't want to hang around where they are watched) AND by getting the neighborhood involved, not just in pointing out the bad guys, but in cleaning up and maintaining the neighborhood, it makes them invested in its prosperity and security.

Suggested reading Tipping Points by Malcolm Gladwell. Then you will understand the strategy of "surge" beyond "more troops".

British Forces at War: by Michael Yon (embedded in Basra with British Army) (hat tip: Mudville Gazette)

Dutch and Afghan soldiers duke it out with the Taliban

Humanitarian Mission in Afghanistan (pictures)

Tech. Sgt. John Asselin carries bags of supplies for flood victims in front of the Afghan Olympic Stadium April 10 in Kabul, Afghanistan. Kabul was ravaged by the first flood in 15 years. The Training Assistance Group from Camp Alamo coordinated food distribution efforts to supply flood victims in Kabul. They provided 100 pounds of rice, beans, wheat, flour ,tea, cooking oil, shovels, sand bags, tarps and more to approximately 100 families. Hundreds of families lost their homes, belongings and supplies to the flood.

- May no soldier go unloved
Soldiers' Angels