Juan is kind enough to write on this place and quote the SST article on Yemen. Since I am not doing well in recovering from the flu I will return the favor. When I was "out there" in the early 80s one of the best things about it was that people didn't take the place seriously unless they were actually stationed there. It was a bit like living in an Evelyn Waugh novel, "Black Mischief" and "Scoop" come to mind. There was the small diplomatic community which obsessed over dealing with each other. There was the altitude which made me ill from time to time. There was one big war and lots of little ones. We lived in big, dusty, masonry houses, whitewashed to a false purity. The Red Chinese intelligence boss from their embassy would come to my house once a week to tell me all about what the 2,000 odd Chinese construction workers had seen the Soviets doing the previouis week. It was an interesting place. pl
"Foreign Minister Abu Bakr al-Qirbi told the BBC that Yemen had the will and ability to deal with al-Qaeda, but was undermined by a lack of support.
He estimated that several hundred al-Qaeda members were operating in Yemen and could be planning more attacks.
A Yemen-based branch of the network has claimed it planned the failed attack.
Yemeni officials said Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, 23, the Nigerian man accused of trying to blow up the Detroit-bound jet on Christmas Day, was living in Yemen from August until the beginning of December, the official Saba news agency reported. " BBC
I was Defense and Army Attache in the US Embassy in Sana, North Yemen in 1981 and 1982. I have been back several times. most recently three or four years ago. The same man, Ali Abdullah Salih, is president of a united north and south Yemen. He was merely president in the north when I lived in Sana. There have been no "breaks" in his service.
The country is an example of tribalism run riot. Except for the coastal plains the terrain is a wilderness of dissected mountain ridges, each of which is topped by a very defensible village.
The tribal structure is very complex and divided into; confederations, tribes, clans, families, etc. In the north of the country live Zeidi (Fiver) Shia. Their type of Shiism is the closest to Sunni Islam. Their jurisprudence is actually based on Mu'tazilism. The rest of the country is largely inhabited by Sunni Shafa'i.
There is constant war in Yemen, war over women's honor, water rights, land, beasts or just for the fun of it. The government does not exercize any substatial control over most places outside the cities. The tribesmen are both in the army and out of it and a favorite political move is for some dissident officer to desert taking many of his men and such odds and ends as; small arms; artillery and tanks to his home district after proclaiming "come and get me." The tribesmen are heavily armed. An AK-47 is a standard accessory in personal fashion, and they DO shoot at each other a lot.
The Yemenis are crafty folk. In the Cold War they were adept at getting free money and weapons from the USSR, USA, Saudi Arabia, and East Germany. They hired the French, Taiwanese and Italians to do odd jobs for them using other peoples' money.
Salih is particularly good at that. He delights in "screwing" the big guys by playing on their fears.
"..in 2009, perhaps it is time for Congress to review their handiwork. Of course many outside the military establishment are enamored with the myth and romanticism of Special Operations. There are so many “groupies” among staffers and in academia that it is hard to see Special Operations for what it really is and what it has become. And within the military, Special Operations has been “hijacked” by a group of hyper-conventional Ranger types and other supporting elements that Special Operations and most important, its heart and soul – Special Forces - has lost its way. There are so many in and out of the military who claim ties to Special Operations that it is unlikely that there will ever be a critical look at USSOCOM and what it has become." SWJ
We have delved into this subject before. I think my views are well known I have had the flu for the last few days and am more grouchy than usual. My wife says that is arguable.
The amount of hostility between the two main groups shows through in the comments to the SWJ article. At the dawn of history when I was in Army SF that was also there, but, in those days the UW people were so firmly in control that there was no contest for emphasis in what we were doing. I think these two groups need to be "shorthanded" for title and I propose "Jedburghs" on the one hand and "Rangers" on the other. pl
"Senior Mexican officials have begun a sweeping review of the military's two-year occupation of this dangerous border city, concluding that the U.S.-backed deployment of thousands of soldiers against drug traffickers has failed to control the violence and crime, according to officials in both countries.
The multi-agency review, which has not been made public, represents a "serious reassessment" of President Felipe Calderón's anti-narcotics strategy and reflects growing alarm that Juarez, across from El Paso, has descended into lawlessness, U.S. officials familiar with the process said.
The war on Mexoco's powerful drug cartels has been the defining policy of Calderón's administration, involving unprecedented cooperation with American political and law enforcement authorities. Failure in a high-profile battleground such as Ciudad Juarez would represent a major defeat for Calderón and for U.S. officials determined to curb the multibillion dollar flow of drugs across the border.
"There is an almost unanimous consensus in the city that the strategy hasn't worked," said Hugo Almada, a sociology professor at the Autonomous University of Juarez who earlier this month organized a peace march of more than 3,000 people.
"The most terrifying question that everyone asks is, 'If the army comes in and can't control the situation, what happens to us now?' " Almada said. " Washpost
This, of course, relates directly to my prior post on the possible use of US forces against the cartels. Yes. I know that if many Americans were not the sort of people who want to soak themselves in cocaine and heroin, then Mexico could be left to its own fate, but we are what we are and the large scale drugs trade is sapping the country's strength (ours). Targets? We should be primarily inerested in the "big" people to include corrupt officials and bankers. There will be some collateral damage (dead innocents). There always are. A border war against the drug lords is inevitable. We should get on with it and make sure that the damage that we inflict injures all the syndicates more or less equally. pl
"He grew up amid extraordinary privilege, a wealthy Nigerian banker's son who attended top international schools and had traveled to the United States. But sometime some time this year, according to relatives' accounts, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab became an enemy of the West.
As a college student living in London and Dubai, Abdulmutallab, 23, the Nigerian native had worried his family with his embrace of an increasingly radical view of Islam. Then, a few months ago, he renounced his wealthy lifestyle, broke all ties with his parents and disappeared. Family members suspected he had gone to Yemen, his mother's native country. " Washpost
Radicalized in the London mosque/coffee house scene, more or less trained in his mother's home country of Yemen, this child of extreme privilege epitomizes the vulnerability of Muslim youth to the siren call of preachers of violent jihad. I worked for a Muslim owned company for a number of years and observed first hand the process of peer recruitment of youthful fanatics in England.
The consensus (ijma') based nature of Muslim understanding of what consitutes Islam and,what does not, makes small groups of young people recruited initially by peers susceptible. Is this true of other religions as well? Yes, to some extent, but religions that are hierarchically "driven" in terms of acceptance of types of behavior are not so easily exploited by small group pressure.
This vulnerability to small group radicalization is a phenomenon that will persist. It is only made worse by the invasion and occupation of Muslim countries by Western forces. pl
"You can admit it now: Maybe in your teens, or in college, you experimented. Hiding in your dorm or your parents' basement, you took hit after hit. Your friends began wondering why you'd changed, but it was too late: Ayn Rand was in your bloodstream.
My own dealer was a libertarian teaching assistant who introduced me to "The Fountainhead" and "Atlas Shrugged" in graduate school; soon I was subscribing to Rand-inspired newsletters and quoting Howard Roark and John Galt -- Rand's two most famous creations -- on the virtues of selfishness and individualism. It took the better part of a year to get over it, but, like so many others, I eventually realized that architects shouldn't go around blowing up buildings and that, above all, you can't really divide all humans into capitalist geniuses and collectivist looters. " Washpost
Ayn Rand and Jean Jacques Rousseau have much to answer for.
Rousseau for his inspiration of the line of thought that lead inexorably to Lenin, etc.
Ayn Rand has inspired the flowering of an unbridled selfishness that corrupts endlessly.
Investment bankers, unashamed of their looting of the economy, they are the new heroes of popular imagination. "Greed is good," Gordon Gecko proclaimed. "We do the Lord's work here," the head of Goldman Sachs announced. Can anyone doubt that the endless corruption of US Congressmen in the lobbying trade is inspired by other than Ayn Rand's obsession with self above all else?
All those people who spend their lives in the service of others are thought to be "suckers" by the Ayn Rand crowd, suckers or those who not clever enough to be truly venal.
The country is largely served by people who are depised by the "objectivists." How long can that last? pl
"The NSC's strategic guidance, a classified document that outlines the president's new approach, was described by the senior administration official as limiting military operations "in scale and scope to the minimum required to achieve two goals -- to prevent al-Qaeda safe havens and to prevent the Taliban from toppling the government." The use of resource-intensive counterinsurgency tactics -- employing U.S. forces to protect Afghan civilians from the Taliban -- is supposed to be restricted to key cities and towns in southern and eastern parts of the country, the official said.
"The strategy has fundamentally changed. This is not a COIN strategy," Vice President Biden said on MSNBC last week, using the military's shorthand for counterinsurgency. "This is not 'go out and occupy the whole country.' " " Washpost
It appears that the Afghan policy war is not over. Chandrasekaran is a good reporter but not good enough to get this unaided. Sooo, someone(s) at the NSC briefed him so that the message would be delivered to the "other team" that their behavior is being watched closely and that the NSC team is prepared to use the public media as a weapon if need be.
The reporter then went to the Defense Department where he was told their side of the story. Secretary Gates appears to have become the leader of the pentagon faction
Petraeus is interestingly absent from this nearly open struggle. He will wait to see what the outcome may be.
A major confrontation over policy and presidential authority is coming. The policy review scheduled for July 2010 may well precipitate it. pl
The Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) is a subordinate command of Special Operations Command. The confusion in naming ought to be straightened out. JSOC commands the counter-terrorist commando forces. The Delta force, Navy SEAL Team Six, etc. There are aviation assets, intellligence collection and fused analysis centers, et. This is a very specialized group of forces. JSOC exists for one reason only. That is to kill or capture purely terrorist enemies of the United States. Imagine a SWAT team on a global basis. JSOC has little relevance to warfare of any other kind. The people in it do not like to be called "soldiers." They like to be called "operators. That's fine with me. Over the last seven years these very specialized "operators" have killed or captured their way through most of the high value Islamic terrorist targets in Iraq and Afghanistan. What is left is warfare against semi-Islamist tribals or politicians and their militias. Those are suitable targets for conventional forces, COIN enthusiasts or Green Berets like I once was. You, know, people who like foreigners as something other than targets.
JSOC appears to be running out of "high value targets," in the places where they have been used so successfully. They can continue in places like Yemen and Somalia but they should be given something really useful to fo.
I suggest that they should be unleashed on the Mexican drug cartels. Kill or capture. Kill or capture. Those should be the instructions. The legal niceties could be "cleaned up" through arrest or execution warrants. On the other hand, maybe that is not necessary if recent history is a guide.
I suggest a special federal court for this purpose.
This is not irony. These druggies deserve that we should send them "the very best." pl
I idly watched a two hour television production last night entitled "Two weeks in Hell." It was about the two week pre-selection period at Ft. Bragg in which the Army now decides if volunteers have what it takes to even start training to be a Special Forces soldier.
The first week seems to be intended to separate the boys from the men and the second week to see if the men who are left can work together under extreme stress. There is no doubt that it is a very tough process. The "candidates" as they are called carry around immense rucksacks all the time. They are systematically deprived of sleep and other rest, are placed in a seemingly unending series of unexpected and nearly insoluble problem situations and run through some of the nastiest obstacle courses I have ever seen, and I have seen some beauties.
I have some doubts about what results.
I went through the SF Officer Course in 1964. the Army Special Forces Regiment was 11 years old by my calculation from the date of establishment of the 77th SF Group. The enlisted guys were trained in what was then called the SF Training Group. I never saw what happened over there. I know they received what was called "branch training," and then occupational specialty training somewhere else before they went to a unit. The specialties were; weapons, (light and heavy) demolitions, commmunications and medical. The medical course was a year long and had a long practicum in a hospital. The officer course was four or five months long. SF was a "branch immaterial" assignment in those days. So, the officers were of any Army branch except JAG. We were organized in student detachments like an "ODA." There were a lot of foreign officers; Vietnamese, French, British, Greek, Italian, Canadian are the ones I remember from my course. There was a PT test at the beginning and then a lot of forced marches and running, but it was simply assumed that you could do whatever was expected of you. There was a tremendous amount of work out in the woods; patrols ususally parachute delivered at night and into an obstacle like a swamp, major exercizes in which you linked up with local mountaineers in western North Carolina who "played" guerrillas for you to train and guide. There was a lot of specific technical training on all the things the enlisted guys were learning as career specialties. There was a lot of "weeding out." The wash-out rate was high. For officers that is a career killer.
There was no harassment. None at all. "The Quiet Professionals." You were told over and over again that if you have to yell at someone, then you have lost that man, probably forever. Guerrillas are civilians. They will kill you for shaming them. Persuasion, charm, understanding of where HE is coming from, courage in adversity. Those were the things that were taught. You have to have a certain grade of material as students to be able to teach lessons like that.
When I got to my first SF unit, I found that the men were better soldiers than the officers. They really did not need us, but, the army has to have officers. This need is in the bloodstream. Our soldiers were an interesting collection; old paratroop sergeants from the 82nd and the 101st, some of them still around from WW2 and Korea. Some of these guys had been sergeants before there had been such a thing as SF. There were many New Americans; Wehrmacht veterans, French and Spanish Foreign Legion, Finnish Ski Hunt Commandos, former Royal Marines. You name it, we had it. These men were something out of the Iliad. To say that a 25 year old kid like me was their leader was a bit comic, but they didn't seem to feel that way. They simply took charge of the "college boy" officer replacements continuing training and looked pleased when you did something right.
Needless to say, they had not been selected in anything like the brutal, searing way that I watched last night. They had selected themselves. There was nothing that they did not know about soldiering. After a while, when you saw that they accepted you, there was no greater privilege than to be their "boss."
SF work is a thinking soldier's work. You have to be tough physically, but, it is equally important that you be smart. I wonder how many thinking soldiers are excluded from the regiment by what I saw last night, by an insistence on physicality before all else. I wonder how many of the old timers could have passed that test. pl
"The US government has known about the flaw since the US campaign in Bosnia in the 1990s, current and former officials said. But the Pentagon assumed local adversaries wouldn't know how to exploit it, the officials said." CSM
"That final sentence is a bit worrying, and reflects a common pitfall within the US and many other "sophisticated" armed forces: Officers and war-planners often make the mistake of assuming their enemies are dumb, and not particularly adaptable. " WSJ
Not a big deal? Maybe not except that a look at what your opponent is watching is ALWAYS useful. You may also discover that what you are doing is more visible than you thought.
The question remains why this downlink was not encrypted to begin with. I think that the CSM has it right in attributing this failure to what I would call the "Raghead" factor. This is the tendency among Americans to assume that people who are culturally different from them are also primitive. This frequently shows up as a factor in our foreign affairs and we never seem to learn. We spent several billion dollars in Iraq trying to beat the ever shifting and evolving IED challenge and found that as fast as we devloped technical counter-measures or more sophisticated surveillance platforms, the insurgents developed new IEDs. They often bought parts for their new designs on the internet electronics market, disassembling larger gadgets if necessary to get the boards, etc., that they wanted.
This blind spot seems odd in a culture (ours) that is obsessed with levelling and the rejection of the idea of elites. I suppose that the level that is sought is one that represents the lowest common denominator of US society?
We actually DO have elites. To see them, all you have to do is tune in "Morning Joe" in the AM on MSNBC to watch the elites of left and right preening in their splendid plumage.
Nothing will change. We are sure that we are smarter, more virtuous, more ingenious, have better health care, etc., than anyone else. pl
I was busy doing something in the wargame business for the government the last couple of days. It was depressing as usual and unmentionable.
A Catholic prelate friend who once taught "The Novel" has been reading my books. His point of view is of necessity different from that of the rest of us...
He says that one of my "unforgivable" sins in these books is that I have detached "faith and flag" from each other in a way that has become incomprehensible for many since the second world war.
In other words, my books are predicated on the idea that people on both sides of that war were good or bad depending on their actions rather than their adherence to one side or the other.
As soon as he said that to me I recognized the truth of his statement. I often meet people who when exposed to my books say to me, "but, Lee was a traitor." My usual response is, "a traitor to what?" They look baffled, but mny question is intended to elicit an answer as to what Lee's position should have been. pl
Some time ago I was asked to encapsulate my views on the afghan policy situation. The resulting summary is quoted below. Since policy has clearly gone in a different direction I feel free to state my view for the record. pl
"Bernard Fall was one of the most significant theoreticians and practitioner of Counterinsurgency (COIN) in the 20th Century. He was the expert most listened to at the SpecialWarfareCenter at Ft. Bragg when LTG William Yarborough commanded the school there in the Kennedy and Johnson eras.
Fall defined COIN clearly. He said that: Counterinsurgency = political reform + economic development + counter guerrilla operations
This theory of warfare was developed by the colonial powers as a “cure” for the wave on “wars of national liberation” that swept through their overseas possessions after World War Two. Because of these revolts against authority most of the European powers found themselves faced with colonized populations engaged in extended attempts to obtain independence from the metropole. Such rebellions were usually based on ethnic and racial differences with the colonizers and were often led by vanguard Left parties with communist connections. That connection caused an eventual American policy commitment to the COIN struggle. That commitment sometimes occurred as a partner of the colonial power (Vietnam in the late ‘40s and ‘50s) and sometimes as a successor to the colonial power after at least partial independence had bee achieved. (Vietnam after the French)
"In his 27 November 2009 post, COL (ret) Lang concludes by arguing that if President Obama is going to accede to the wishes of his generals for more troops now and most likely in the future, then the draft should be revived and plans put in place for recruiting a large body of qualified advisors. COL (ret) Lang’s assertions about how to provide future personnel are startling in light of recent reporting that should President Obama, as has been leaked, resource approximately 30,000 more troops for Operation Enduring Freedom there will be almost no reserve of available combat brigades left in case of any needs in the immediate future. As many of the military and civilian analysts and advisors have argued that we are fighting a generational long war that is, and will continue to be, a protracted series of conventional and asymmetrical operations often following counterinsurgency principles and doctrine, and that the lack of institutional resources at the Department of State, where they have about 6,500 foreign service officers (not quite two brigades) as compared to the Department of Defense, means that these operations will fall disproportionately on US military personnel. And these are not just combat operations or counterinsurgency, it also means that unless the forty year decline in resourcing the State Department is reversed than the brunt of development, stabilization, and reconstruction is going to fall on the US military." Adam Silverman
Jeff Shields, Stonewall Jackson's 2nd Corps headquarters officers mess steward. He is wearing his UCV convention uniform in this picture. He was a slave during the war. His colleague, Jim Lewis, (mentioned in "The Butcher's Cleaver") was not. I have a large collection of photographs of African-American Confederate veterans. pl
Dr. Silverman has sent me these Venn diagrams that encapsulate his mental ordering of different sets of people and groups in Afgjhanistan. I find them fascinating and I offer them to you here as a point of departure for a new thread on Afghanistan' pl
I will be at Preston Library at VMI in Lexington, Virginia on Friday the 11th. I am going to talk about my two novels, the process of writing them, levels of focus within the books, etc. If you are in the area I am sure that the library would be glad to have you attend. 6:30 PM. I'll bring a few books with me.
I guess the picture is from the '30s, the "Brother Rat" era. The statue is one of the several extant copies of the Houdon "Washington." pl
"Writing about the Argentine media during the Falklands War, Rodolfo Braceli recalled, “The majority of the media and many notable journalists, more than being submissive and saving their skin, had a good time. They were not victims. Nor were they innocents. To say they were not innocents is the gentlest of ways of saying that they were, also, particularly culpable. … And there is more to reexamine: submission out of fear is one thing, and quite another is the genuflection, sugar-coated and gleeful, of complicity. Of the latter there was too much.”
We are not much better today. Reporter Ashley Banfield described coverage of the Iraq War by embedded reporters: “It was a glorious, wonderful picture that had a lot of people watching and a lot of advertisers excited about cable news. But it wasn’t journalism, because I’m not so sure that we in America are hesitant to do this again, to fight another war, because it looked like a glorious and courageous and so successful, terrific endeavor.” " Ximena Ortiz
That is Porfirio Diaz in the picture. He was president of Mexico for a long time. If our generals wear a few more rows of ribbons and badges they will start to look a lot like this. You remember him in the movie "Viva Zapata," right? Oh, that's right. Most of you don't have time for things like that.
Diaz famously said "Pobre Mexico, tan lejos de Dios y tan cerca a los Estados Unidos." As Ximena Ortiz suggests there is no longer enough difference between the two countries for him to have fretted over. Their narco-state is connected to us by an umbilical of money, illegal trade, cheap labor and our besotted desire for drugs.
Americans now seem to be largely ruled by passion and ignorance. Most of the public does not read anything of value. Television shows like "24" constitute their image of foreign affairs. The Republican Party, the party of Lincoln and Dwight Eisenhower is enraptured by a politician who could not recall what she reads to be informed.
I find myself continually involved in conversations with people who really do not understand that we have "done" COIN many times. We have been there, done that and it was too hard, too long and too expensive. I write fiction set in the Civil War. Let's see, the North were the good guys, and...
An emerging third world country can not continue to fight wars that it does not understand in places it can only vaguely imagine. pl
- Tiger Woods. To quote Craig Ferguson, "Isn't he a man who hits a little ball with a stick?" That's it.
- 103 (at least) killed in coordinated attacks across Baghdad today. This is the revival in AQ related operations that I wrote of before. The SoA are signalling their displeasure with their "abandonment" by the US by allowing this. Measure for measure is the way they see it. The Middle East is a tough place. Turn the money back on and this will end. It doesn't have to be our money.
- According to Walter Pincus in the WP today, Hillary Clinton spoke up at the Congress to say that the administration of American government money in Afghanistan is so loose and so much contractor run that the situation is unhealthy. The level of corruption must be high, very high. At the same time she mentioned that the length of our overland supply lines from Karachi to delivery points in Afghanistan is such that inevitable some of this runs through terrirtory subject to interdiction by the "Taliban." To overcome this the Afghan transportation contractors are paying off hostiles to get their convoys through. This is just stupid. It is one thing to use various kinds of suasion (including, but not exclusively, money) to split off neutrals or wavering enemies from the mass, but to allow the Afghans to pay off active enemies in this way is just self destructive.
- Finally, CJCS Admiral Mullen was on the Newshour last night. Jim Lehrer served him up a lot of soft balls. It is interesting to contrast this with the grilling that Mullen got on al-Jazeera a few days ago. pl
"When I tuned in to Obama's speech, I was hoping for a plan that did not solely resemble a conventional counterinsurgency strategy, like McChrystal's, with its traditional aims to "clear, hold and build" ground and undertake the complicated task of nation-building. While this strategy has worked in degrees in Iraq, it was preceded by a more nuanced, complex strategy of working with and through local Iraqis, principally in Anbar province. There, men such as retired Army Special Forces Master Sgt. Andy Marchal, who had fought in Afghanistan in 2001 with the first team to enter the country, instigated social change and tamped down violence by creating jobs and working with tribesmen who had decided to stop fighting alongside al-Qaeda. " Doug Stanton
"This model works tribe by tribe and village by village. It considers violence, unemployment and unrest as part of the same cloth. Special Forces soldiers may arm and train militias to defend themselves, as well as help build water systems and provide jobs and medical care. It can be slower, nuanced work, and it relies on building rapport with citizens, which is why Special Forces soldiers receive language training and believe awareness of local customs and mores is critical. Think of soldiers engaged in such efforts as Peace Corps members -- only they can shoot back.
This model can be far less bloody and far less costly than deploying tens of thousands of conventional Army troops, and there are signs that a "tribal-centric" approach is gaining traction with some strategists. One signal is the buzz created by an informal paper called "Tribe by Tribe," by Special Forces Maj. Jim Gant. "When we gain the respect of one tribe," Gant writes, "there will be a domino effect throughout the region and beyond. One tribe will eventually become 25 or even 50 tribes." " Doug Stanton
"The debate about what to do in Afghanistan has often seemed a simple, binary discussion: all in, or all out. Do we flood the zone with thousands of troops and risk appearing to be imperialist occupiers? Or do we take a light-footprint approach, as in 2001, avoiding the "occupier" label but risking a longer march with the Afghans toward a peaceful society? As Obama pointed out in his speech, there is no simple right and wrong. But some answers are better than others.
One better answer is to revisit the lessons from the Special Forces campaign immediately after Sept. 11, 2001. This may not be easy. Within the military, there is resistance to this kind of warfare. The conventional Army, one Special Forces officer told me, was uncomfortable with the decentralized nature of the war effort in 2001 and with how cheap it was.
He recounted how he was once stopped by a senior officer from the conventional Army who told him, "You must be proud of what you did in Afghanistan." The Special Forces officer said he was.
"Good," replied the other, "because you'll never get the chance to do it again." " Doug Stanton
The long standing animosity of the "big army" conventional generals for US Army Special Forces is still there. The "SOF" community is full of it. Special Forces soldiers reading this know that I do not exagerate. COIN is a fad, the "flavor of the year." It is accepted wisdom at this point. Unfortunately for that fad, it is not really possible to use conventional troops to do real COIN work. The infantry fights. That is their role in life. They have no real taste for integrating their lives with those of tribesmen and villagers. A senior person in Rumsfeld's Defense Department once told me that their goal was to make the infantry more like Special Forces. He waved off my observation that Special Forces soldiers and infantrymen are two quite different breeds.
Training, helping and leading the locals as a way of life has never appealed to the big army. Stanton offers an interesting explanation for that. The Green Beret approach to war is inherently decentralized, inherently cheaper in money and an inherent threat to the need for giant budgets and massive equipment programs.
Green Berets are a self aware elite. Other soldiers, including generals, see that self awareness in the eyes of the "Greenies, the Snake Eaters." They understand that men who are not afraid to do this kind of isolated, self motivated duty judge everyone by their own standards. Perhaps that is part of the problem. pl
On the left we have Colonel Aaron Bank, the father of US Army Special Forces. On the right we have Colonel Arthur "Bull" Simons, probably the greatest leader of irregular troops in the history of the US Army. In the middle is the regimental color of the 10th Group, 1st Special Forces Regiment. I had the honor of serving on Simons' staff in South America in the mid '60s.
Below we have the eloquent and much needed wisdom of our friend Sidney Smith. pl
"As God is my witness…or at least according to Wiki…Ms. Kim Kagan heads something called the Institute for the Study of War. You cannot make this stuff up. If it were fiction, no one would believe it. And by just looking at the photo, it is obvious we are entering a new act in the great theatre of the absurd played out on the world stage. The strategic goals of the neoconservatives are at complete odds with the tactics described in Gant’s essay. The two are mutual exclusive. No overlap. Yet Fred and Kim -- who, in the photo, look like they are walking to their sailboat docked at Marina Del Rey -- are the ones who advised McCrystal. The neoconservative goal is to exploit the traditional language of COIN to justify deploying as many US soldiers as possible to Muslim land. Moreover, neoconservatives believe that it is extremely important that the Muslim world view neo-COIN as an occupation, much in the same vein as the IDF. Western occupation of Muslim land writ large. As Bibi said after 9-11, “We are all Israelis now”. That is the neoconservative goal. It is stated, admitted, and on the record. Once Israel launches a pre-emptive strike against Iran (with or without the USM, doesn't matter), then those US soldiers deployed in Muslim lands will act as a buffer to Israel actions, as Iran will strike out against the USM in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. Then the USG will carry out the goal of Likud Zionism, which is the inverse of the title of Gant’s article. The goal of Likud Zionism is to destroy one tribe at a time, under a Jacobin approach. How can such analysis be wrong? Yet, no one at the Pentagon will say one word and, God forbid, certainly not under their own name. Why not? Why is the Pentagon standing up for Fred and Kim and not Gant? Yeah, we know the answer. It just whispers in the mind. Hate to say it, but the same whispers occurred in the early 1970’s, among the Scot Irish, African Americans and others. I saw it firsthand, at least in the South. And I am not talking about the Jane Fonda crowd, because they hated her too. Petraeus and the other generals do not understand. They are too isolated from the real world, just like Jeffery Goldberg, James Woolsey, and others. I think the brainier neoconservative Jacobins do understand, and they will successfully exploit to their advantage the rising anger of Americans that will occur in the chaos after an attack on Iran. They will justify using weapons of mass destruction (Sherman’s march through Georgia -- 21st century application) to end "the war" quickly. Kagan’s greatest threat is from someone like Gant. Why? Because as God is my witness…or at least according to Wiki -- Fred Kagan looks like a walking example of the negative aspects of the “Puer aeternus”(speaks volumes about the wife as well…just look at the photo). But, more than that, the last thing the neoconservatives want to see is Gant and his crowd winning over tribes, one at time. Ultimately the Gant approach threatens Likud Zionism to its very core, as the post 67 goal of Likud Zionism is to destroy the Muslim world one tribe at a time (invoking Lincoln and Sherman to justify the destruction of a civilization). In the Kagan -- and therefore Pentagon -- mindset, Gant’s way of thinking must be repressed. If not repressed, then eliminated.
This Al-Jazeera interview with Admiral Mullen is a revelation for all. The convoluted process of ideology driven advocacy and domestic politics behind "strategic" decision making is laid bare. Does anyone understand this nonsense? And then there is the LA Times piece below. "Max Leverage?" A military planning point in an internal document has been made into a public statement of intent? This is more like the "Gong Show" than national planning.
I am fed up with it. I just want to go sit in the bazaar somewhere and haggle over rugs. I want some tea and lots of pistachios. This is crazy. pl
"Israel Aerospace Industries was once called Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI), a company launched by the legendary flight engineer and entrepreneur Adolph "Al" Schwimmer. Schwimmer was a key man in the vast underground Haganah smuggling (PDF) effort across the US trafficking in surplus WWII arms, supplies and veteran manpower for war in Palestine. He purchased heavily discounted surplus US military aircraft from the War Assets Administration but violated laws prohibiting their export use in armed conflict by creating a fake Panamanian shell corporation and flying the transport wing to Palestine to battle for the creation of Israel in 1948. None of the key American financial backers of the effort went to jail, though a handful of small operators such as Nathan Liff did eventually appear in criminal court. They received lenient sentences pleading they were only giving guns to "young Jewish boys who went to the door of Hitler’s ovens to bring Holocaust survivors to a Jewish homeland." Schwimmer, a convicted felon who served no prison time, left the US to become managing director of IAI with the backing of David Ben-Gurion and Shimon Peres."
Now that President Obama has opted for a renewed commitment to a massive COIN effort in Aghanistan, it becomes imperative to replace the present ambassador with someone who believes in and who supported the Surge thinking of the Kagans, retired General Jack Keane, etc.
General McChrystal deserves the opportunity to form his own team made up of like minded true believers. He triumphed over the arguments of the present ambassador, and to keep the two of them there together would only lead to dissonance in the message of success that is bound to radiate from Kabul between now and July, 2011.
With Fred Kagan and Kimberly there at his side Stanley McChrystal would continue to receive the kind of advice that he appreciates. Some job can be created for Keane as well.
With the team in place, they should all be kept there until the "end state" that they are seeking is reached. pl
92 days of "deliberations" followed by a masterfully stage managed speech delivered in Eisenhower Hall at West Point before a captive audience of members of the US Corps of Cadets, a scattering of faculty and staff officers in blue, cabinet members, etc.
And what was said?
- 30,000 more US troops plus whatever number the NATO allies can be persuaded to contribute.
- A vast number of new Afghan Army and police to be trained.
- The additional US forces to deploy into Afghanistan by July, 2010
- Withdrawal of US ground combat units to begin a year later in the summer of 2011. This withdrawal to be contingent on conditions on the ground.
- US Civilian advisory efforts to be greatly increased to match the military build up. This increased advisory effort to continue after withdrawal of US and NATO combat units.
I was reassured to see that the cadets did not look overly impressed. There were quite a few gone away into the arms of Morpheus. The cadets with a couple of rows of actual medal ribbons or a Combat Infantry Badge from prior enlisted service in the Army looked the least interested to me.
This morning Admiral Mullen (CJCS), and Secretaries Gates and Clinton went to the senate to amplify Prsident Obama's position before the Armed Services Committee. Under questioning by Senator McCain, they said that any withdrawals from Afghanistan will be on the basis of the same sort of process that produced last night's announcement. In other words, they don't expect there to be any withdrawals before the next presidential election.
On MSNBC this morning Richard Engel reporting from Kabul said that McChrystal gave a briefing in the aftermath of the night's entertainment in which he said that the program was going to be all COIN all the way, all the way, and that the job would take four or five years at least.
Petraeus, McChrystal and Mullen must be very pleased with themselves today. This generation of flag officers has now reached a level of power in which they completely dominated this policy decision making process and got everything that they wanted.
The numbers? The Army general staff is already "fudging" the numbers. It is easy to hold people in various "paper" categories in which they seem to not be "in country" but really are there. There will be a lot more of that. In the end the actual number of Army soldiers in Afghanistan will come close to McChrystal's original request.
The withdrawal? The generals reckon that they can "manage" that decision as they did this one.
Basically, the generals and their allies "rolled" Obama on this one. They reckon that they can do it again, because he is weak willed and they are not.
The generals also reckon that they can manage public opinion over time. I doubt it
The generals do not seem to understand just how bad the economic situation of the United States really is. That is strange since so many of them end up in corporate board rooms after retirement.
The situation continues to be dominated by the phony "world war" atmosphere that has been generated on the basis of the "existential threat" posed by the onrushing juggernaut of the wold wide threat of the re-establishment of a CALIPHATE!!! (That was irony.) In fact, the actual annoying threat of the takfiri jihadis should be dealt with on the basis of police, intelligence and and SOF efforts.
The situation begins to seem a lot like Milo Minderbinder's "airline" in the novel, "Catch 22." In the book, Minderbinder shipped produce and other goods that were in short supply around the Mediterranean theater of war using military aircraft. Even the enemy participated in the scheme and everyone "got well." There is now so much money flowing into Afghanistan that everyone who touches it risks corruption, not just the Afghans. The generals are enjoying more significance, power and perquisites than most of them will ever know again. We are paying off the Taliban to keep our lines of supply open.
This has become a self-licking ice cream cone. War without end, amen.
Obama? He will have to be the camel that walks through the eye of the needle. Hillary Clinton? Her devotion to team membership is excessive. pl