Best Defense

How come Tom hasn’t had much to say about the Mortenson ‘3 Cups’ scandal?

I’ve gotten several e-mails asking me to comment on the mess with Greg Mortenson. I haven’t written about him on this blog before, and I am not inclined to now. How come? First, I’ve never read his books, and haven’t been much drawn to doing so. Also, I think building schools is a profoundly political ...

aubergene/Flickr
aubergene/Flickr

I’ve gotten several e-mails asking me to comment on the mess with Greg Mortenson. I haven’t written about him on this blog before, and I am not inclined to now.

How come? First, I’ve never read his books, and haven’t been much drawn to doing so. Also, I think building schools is a profoundly political act, nearly as provocative to the Taliban as is building a police station-and so should not been seen as an alternate route to peace.

I think the Krakauer piece on Mortenson is stunning, and quite devastating. I especially liked the fact that so much of it is based on on-the-record quotes-that is, from named people. It is thorough to a fault.

Bottom line: I suspect that people who think the U.S. counterinsurgency approach rises and falls on Mortenson’s rep likely have never seen or understood how counterinsurgency is supposed to work. (For the curious, here is a good example of a counterinsurgency effort succeeding.) Did credible charges that Stephen Ambrose made stuff up about Eisenhower invalidate that general’s role in the allied victory in World War II?

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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