The Best Defense

Rebecca’s War Dog of the Week: Retirees Brit and Bubba begin brand new lives

By Rebecca Frankel

Best Defense Chief Canine Correspondent

Two career MWDs, both at the ripe old age of eight, recently traded in their military leashes for the comforts of civilian life. Brit, a German shepherd, was formerly a "patrol narcotics detection dog for a military police unit at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington." Bubba (pictured), a chocolate lab with one tour in Iraq and one in Afghanistan behind him, was a bomb-sniffing dog for the Army.

Bubba's last tour in Afghanistan was apparently cut short when the 80-pound dog took a bad tumble, falling through a canvas roof. But his new owners, the Van Fleets, report that Bubba's wounded leg doesn't keep him from enjoying his new home or from taking measures to keep his new family safe. The couple, who lives in Trumansburg, NY, say that Bubba "will case the perimeter" of their home whenever he's outside and "insists on inspecting whatever object in one's hands."

Brit on the other hand, is continuing to offer his services to those in the military but in a rather different capacity. Along with his new owners, the Russells of Fayetteville, NC, Brit is making the rounds at the Womack Army Medical Center at Fort Bragg as a therapy dog, having taken therapy-training classes in order to assist wounded veterans. He's only made a handful of visits so far, but his presence already seems to be making an impact.

"The boy is a traffic stop," [his owner, Russell, who accompanies Brit on these visits] says. "Everyone stops to say hello or give him a hug."... On several occasions, those soldiers have broken down in tears while hugging Brit and have thanked him for the service of military working dogs overseas...."They tell me 'When the dogs come, it makes our day.'"

Canine news of interest: The practical use of the canine nose seems without limits. This week I came across three very interesting articles about sniffer dogs being used to detect some pretty unexpected...things. In Britain dogs are helping authorities uncover counterfeit condoms, and in California dogs are being employed to track down fox droppings in an effort to preserve the endangered San Joaquin kit fox. They're also using dogs to sniff out fox dens in Queensland, Australia, though in this case it's to cull the population, not save it. Who knew?

Rebecca Frankel, on leave from her FP desk, is currently writing a book about military working dogs, to be published by Atria Books in August 2013.

The Best Defense

Simpson’s ‘War from the Ground Up’ (III): What he says about the Afghan war

Emile Simpson's core observation on the Afghan war is that when war is simply violent politics, one shouldn't expect it to end, because politics doesn't end. As he writes in his book, "The outcomes of contemporary conflicts are often better understood as constant evolutions of how power is configured." (P. 2)

Once you see the conflict in Afghanistan as political at its core, then just talking about the enemy as a unitary force makes no sense. For example, when in 2005 Helmand's provincial governor was ousted from office and so could not pay his followers, he sent them to work for the Taliban, which was hiring. "Akhundzada and his men did not ‘change sides'; they remained on their own side." (P. 44)

Seeing military action through a political lens, as he advocates throughout the book, also puts coalition operations in a different light. Wresting control of Kandahar city from the Taliban might seem to make military sense if it is the enemy's center of gravity, he notes. But think of it instead as a political problem. "In political terms, to have identified Kandahar city as the decisive point was a bold move; however, for a political consultant in a US presidential election, it would be like the Democratic Party investing massive resources in trying to win Texas." (P. 100)

He also warns that it is easy for the Taliban's leaders to negotiate, because it gives them legitimacy, but hard for them to reach any agreements, because then they would have to enforce them, and they can't. "If the leadership were to negotiate a political settlement only to have it ignored by the groups it claims to control, it would lost all credibility." (P. 78)

He thinks that official corruption is "a significantly more relevant issue than the insurgency" in terms of the future stability of the Afghan state. (P. 152)

Nobody has yet written an overall history of the Afghan War. I nominate Emile Simpson. (Who, by the way, was a captain, not a lieutenant, as I mistakenly said my first post about the book, on Tuesday.)

Louie Palu/ZUMA Press/New America Foundation