The Smokejumper versus the General
Imagine a nation threatened by the potential of a great fire. This is no small fire, rather one biblical in nature set off by a criminalist mind controlling a tiny ember. What happens when that ideology controlling the criminal mind sets an entire nation ablaze? What happens when winds push more tiny embers into the air, landing miles away? How can the fire eventually become extinguished? Unfortunately, the world around us has caught on fire, and generals need to begin paying closer attention to the smokejumpers.
Many tiny embers exist in this world. Too many vulnerable elements of fuel have consumed the heat from the ember. The heat sucked all the oxygen out of the air and the inferno is consuming everything in its path. It wasn't the ember rather it was the ideology of the arsonist who started this worldly inferno of geopolitical unrest.
Killing or even controlling an ideology is virtually impossible yet killing the fire is much more feasible. Smokejumpers are the premier professionals capable of extinguishing some of the world's most heinous infernos. They selflessly risk life and limb parachuting deep into the wild with limited tools prepared to defeat the blaze. They fight the fire but more impressive, they fight time.
The longer the fire continues, the more difficult it becomes to defeat. Smokejumpers quickly observe what unfolds, and then orient themselves with all available data needed to analyze the situation turning it into actionable intelligence. They move with extreme prejudice ensuring every action they take measures appropriately with the task at hand.
Jerry Daniels, one of America's most notable smokejumpers, who mysteriously died at the age of forty, was also the recipient of the CIA's second, third, and fourth highest medals of distinction for his actions in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War. Jerry was recruited by the CIA sometime in the early 1960's. This was a time when the United States observed many communist fires set ablaze in distant lands. Who better to defeat these geopolitical fires than smokejumpers?
According to 2003 accounts, written by Fred Donner, a fellow smokejumper turned government operative, Jerry Daniels lived by the motto "lead me, follow me, or get the hell out of the way." Obviously, Daniels wasn't politically correct. He was a job committed, anti- bureaucratic, task driven professional who saw the big picture willing to do whatever was needed to accomplish the mission. He had no time for endless diatribes of philosophical debate especially when atrocities were needed to be quelled.
Some persons close to Daniels believe he "threw away his career with the CIA." Based on several accounts of literature read, I partially disagree. Like many government operatives who "walk off the job," Daniels likely got fed up with the endless conundrum of bureaucratic nonsense found behind government closed doors. He was likely tired of the old concept of "screw up-move up," tired of the catch phrase syndrome espoused by wannabe government elitists, and simply tired of seeing government desk jockeys with no tactical ground experience calling all the shots. He was the epitome of a doer and not a sayer.
So, where is America's modern day Jerry Daniels? In the busy streets of DC, it is highly unlikely such an individual will be found. In the rat race of Kabul, America's modern day Jerry Daniels is also unlikely to be identified. America's modern day Jerry Daniels will likely be found somewhere in America's pristine heartland like Missoula, Montana, where Jerry began his career or somewhere deep inside the Hindu Kush pulling watch on some remote outpost.
Unfortunately, cold war operatives are no longer desired. Today, America seeks highly educated Masters and PhD recipients to lead the fight -- true academics. Since when did an academic enjoy the comforts of living in the elements of battle? Since when did some elitist general opt for bunking in the harsh terrain of the Hindu Kush or the jungles of Laos?
Counterinsurgency can arguably be construed as dead, that is, if it were ever truly alive. Elites like Petraeus, Keane, and the likes, even with their admirable military accomplishments, have been discredited with their modern war-fighting COIN philosophies. Unfortunately, with embers like Koran burnings and unexpected murderous rampages fueling the inferno of Afghanistan, America needs more smokejumpers and fewer generals executing operations in lands abroad.
Kerry Patton, a combat service disabled veteran, is a senior analyst for WIKISTRAT. He has worked in South America, Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and Europe, focusing on intelligence and security and interviewing current and former terrorists, including members of the Taliban. You can follow him on Facebook or at www.kerry-patton.com