What is state failure? See my conceptualisation of state failure on the right flank below.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

On poppy eradication and the Steve Irwin phenomenon

MStFB Uruzgan Series update
I only wanted to come up with a video + commentary sort of post today, but then I was honoured to discover a comment by someone whose conclusions I discussed yesterday with the sort of academic vitriol that you only see unleashed between paper-givers and discussants e.g. at conferences on International Relations Theory. It's a comment worth reading because it contains several important and insightful points about the situation in southern Afghanistan.
Now, how am I going to connect all this to that video then? Well, reading the comment you may see a point about the ill-explained Western presence in Afghanistan. That's something where I can pick this up. I mentioned yesterday how key members of the ISAF coalition would prefer not to have a role at all in poppy eradication. That's something very much connected to that topic, isn't it? Especially because willing to stay away from eradication doesn't mean it's always possible really. I have written on this site before of how the Dutch military only grudgingly cooperated, but nevertheless was forced to cooperate, with an AEF/DynCorp eradication team that went to Uruzgan in the spring, based on a lengthy article in the New Yorker. And later I have noted that the incident, although no date was given for it in the New Yorker, probably occurred on April 29 (I had spent a reasonably limited amount of time torturing Google's search engine over this back then). So thanks to a reader here's a link to a video now about that incident on April 29 (which, as I said, likely but not entirely surely is the one the New Yorker had covered, too) - I have established that the video is from April 29 based on this article, and on the fact that Bud Wichers is mentioned as having been there, and the footage comes from him. (I'd love to embed the video, but embedding was disabled by request.)
At the end you'll see there's an interesting little scene then, that I can't really put into context, other than that I see it as yet again an interesting example of the Steve Irwin phenomenon. (The people visible there make funny references to staying out there with "very-very dangerous species" in the dark.) The late Steve Irwin, in case you wonder, was everyone's favourite wildlife expert who used to audaciously befriend the meanest crocodiles in the world in his series "The Crocodile Hunter." He died in 2006, having been stabbed in the chest by a stingray.
This, as I said, is not the first time I see reference to him among soldiers. The most notable one is probably this video, "The IED Hunter", a video by Marines in Ramadi, Iraq, an astonishingly good, and, well, "astonishingly astonishing" piece of work that is best described as flattering parody. It was made before Steve Irwin died in that fatal accident I mentioned, and the makers of the film were obviously huge fans of his.
Picture: Steve Irwin befriends a crocodile, in an improvised and explosive manner (see photo licensing conditions)
So Steve Irwin may well indeed epitomise something that all soldiers, e.g. combat engineers you could point out, wish to internalise once they are deployed to a place like Iraq or Afghanistan, I guess. A casual attitude to danger, bordering on insanity but only in a cool and in fact controlled manner etc. Probably no statue ever raised in respectful commemoration of Steve Irwin's work would express better how amazing his courage was, may he rest in peace.

No comments: