"The ease with which a confrontation between two nuclear powers could escalate to a strategic exchange of MIRVed ballistic missiles carrying 3 to 10 hydrogen bombs each has been glossed over during the ongoing Ukraine Crisis. Western media has devolved into 24/7 propaganda. There has been no attempt to defuse the crisis. Indeed, it is escalating. This is probably because Washington DC cannot admit that it made a mistake in making a grab for dominanace in Ukraine. For some ungodly reason, NATO’s expansion and Chevron’s fracking of Ukraine’s shale gas is worth risking Armageddon. Unlike the defeats that began with the 1861 shelling of Fort Sumter, the 1914 Invasion of Belgium, or Barbarossa in 1941, a 21st century Ukraine War could destroy the Northern Hemisphere and make it uninhabitable. I just don’t understand why we would take this huge risk for a little more wealth and power. This must be the result of a combination of ignorance, greed, denial, and ideology in the second decade in which the Western Elites have been unleashed from any sense of rules and regulations in international relations." by Vietnam Vet
I agree completely. Bear baiting is a sport that should not be indulged in.
An additional worrisome factor in this emerging situation is the apparent effort to make tactical nuclear nuclear weapons "more usable." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/B61_nuclear_bomb
Nuclear weapons can not be used against another nuclear state without risking escalation to mutual annihilation and the use of such weapons against a non-nuclear state would simply be mass murder. The only justification for the possession of these true Weapons of Mass Destruction is as deterrent. pl
"In early 2011, the Army responded to these demands and sent some Vietnam-era recoilless rifles to Afghanistan. The troops were thrilled with the variety of ammunition available for these weapons, including a shell that scatters thousands of little metal darts called flechettes. In December 2011, Special Operations Command diverted some of its Carl Gustaf rifles and ammunition to the regular Army. American commandos have used the Swedish guns since the 1990s. Troops in Afghanistan got 58 rifles and 1,500 rounds of ammunition to try out. This included air-bursting high explosive rounds that are designed to hit enemies behind cover." medium.com
Having seen what the old 57 mm recoiless with flechette rounds did to infantry assaults I can only praise the wondrousness of this development. With the muzzle just above the terrrain mask or berm the 57 blew a hole 10 yards wide in an advancing infantry platoon. Flechettes are flexible steel darts. They will actually pin arms to ribs in a man who is hit.
When I was a kid lieutenant I ran a rifle company's weapons platoon for a while. This was in 2/2 Infantry Regiment. I had two jeep mounted 106mm recoiless guns in the platoon. these were anti-tank guns, but they, too, had a wealth of different types of ammunition that made them a source of great firepower against almost any kind of target. the 106 had a coaxially mounted 50 caliber spotter rifle. The 50 caliber fired tracer ammunition. The trigger was a disk on the side of the gun. If you pulled it toward you it fired the 50. If you pushed it in, it fired the 106. The whole thing was ridiculously easy. You looked through the scope on the big gun, put the cross hairs on the target, fired the 50 and watched where the tracer went. When you got a hit with the 50 you pushed the disk in and the 106 round went where the 50 bullet had struck This gun was very accurate at long ranges.
Important safety tip (Ghostbusters reference) Don't ever stand behind one. pl
RT reported Putin has asked the upper house of parliament for authority to use the armed forces to stabilize the situation in Ukraine. The request is for the entire Ukraine, not just Crimea. The Federation Council opened the parlimentary session to the Russian national anthem just hours ago. The session was televised live on RT with several speeches and a unanimous vote to support the decision. One senator suggested recalling the Russian ambassador in Washington in response to the inflammatory speech given by Obama yesterday. History in the making.
Sergei Aksenov, the new Crimean prime minister asked Putin for military assistance after revealing armed thugs from Kiev attempted to take over several Crimean state buildings last night. Local citizen self defense squads repelled the attacks. He placed all Ukrainian armed forces and police in Crimea under his personal command. This is after the events of two nights ago when unidentified, incredibly disciplined forces appeared at Simferopol apparently thwarting the arrival of Tartar "jihadists" and weapons from Turkey. This incident is well reported by the Saker and Moon of Alabama.
Klitschko in Kiev just called for Ukrainian mobilization to face an imminent Russian invasion. Do the upstarts in Kiev have any control over the Ukrainian armed forces? RT just reported a Ukrainian naval vessel steaming in the Black Sea lowered the Ukrainian flag, raised the Russian flag and headed for Sevastopol. Surely Russian officers have been talking with their Ukrainian counterparts to gauge their loyalty. Undoubtedly some of these Ukrainian forces will greet the Russian columns as liberators and assist in controlling airfields and maintaining order. GRU Spetznaz teams have undoubtedly been monitoring Ukrainian forces and are prepared to act at the right moment. They will certainly target the Maidan neonazi hooligans and their Western supporters with cold, lethal precision. The SVR is collecting most, if not all, activist communications to aid the impending military operations and to further expose the mounting evidence of Western perfidy. Long range reconnaissance troops will soon be clearing routes into the Ukrainian heartland. Any of us who trained to face the Soviet 3rd Shock Army across the Fulda Gap knows this was standard procedure decades ago.
Yes, the tanks will be rolling in a matter of days. Once they cross the border, I doubt they will stop until they are in Kiev and at the Polish border.
"While Russia has pledged not to intervene in Ukraine's domestic affairs, it has issued a flurry of statements voicing concern about the situation of Russian speakers in Ukraine, including in the Crimea. Some Russian officials accuse the West of being behind the revolt against its fugitive president, Viktor Yanukovych, who fled the capital last week. U.S. and European officials have denied such allegations. In addition to Putin ordering the military exercises, Russia's defense ministry said it would take steps to strengthen security at facilities of the Russian Black Sea Fleet in Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula, where there have been clashes between pro- and anti-Russian demonstrators. Pro-Russian protesters have spoken of secession, and a Russian lawmaker has stoked their passions by promising that Russia will protect them. Those steps have raised fears of possible Russian military intervention in Ukraine along the lines of its 2008 operation in Georgia, which led to the occupations of Abkhazia and South Ossetia and was roundly condemned by the United States and its European allies." Foxnews and the AP
I did not hear a "pledge" in what Lavrov said about this. What I heard was a statement of principle conditioned on a reasonable situation and behavior in Ukraine. That is quite a different thing. Western media, especially the carefully controlled US MSM are, of course, seeking to twist this to the policy needs of the Obama R2P government. This is analogous to the manner of the present silence concerning the recent shipment of mustard gas from Lattakia.
Today we learn that the deposed Ukrainian president has been given asylum in Moscow and that Russia considers him to be the legitimate president of the Ukraine. The policy gambit available to Russia is obvious.
We also have Russia conducting readiness exercizes in the Western and Central military districts. As TTG has commented such exercizes are necessary in order to "shake down" units which have been in garrison for a long time and to prepare them for action in the field. One can be sure that there are also command post exercizes underway to ready the chain of command. Is this a bluff? It may be but as I have said elsewhere the element of uncertainty produced by this activity is a useful thing from the Russian point of view.
"Mr. Hagel will take some first steps to deal with the controversial issue of pay and compensation, as the proposed budget would impose a one-year salary freeze for general and flag officers; basic pay for military personnel would rise by 1 percent. After the 2015 fiscal year, raises in pay will be similarly restrained, Pentagon officials say. The fiscal 2015 budget will also call for slowing the growth of tax-free housing allowances for military personnel and would reduce the $1.4 billion direct subsidy provided to military commissaries, which would most likely make goods purchased at those commissaries more expensive for soldiers. The budget also proposes an increase in health insurance deductibles and some co-pays for some military retirees and for some family members of active servicemen. But Mr. Hagel’s proposals do not include any changes to retirement benefits for those currently serving. Under Mr. Hagel’s proposals, the entire fleet of Air Force A-10 attack aircraft would be eliminated. The aircraft was designed to destroy Soviet tanks in case of an invasion of Western Europe, and the capabilities are deemed less relevant today. The budget plan does sustain money for the controversial F-35 warplane, which has been extremely expensive and has run into costly delays. In addition, the budget proposal calls for retiring the famed U-2 spy plane in favor of the remotely piloted Global Hawk." NY Times
I have insisted for several years that cuts of this kind are wise and justified. It is not clear how much the USMC will be cut. Their cuts should be proportional to those in the US Army. We should not fight any more large ground actions anywhere unless the defense of the territory of the United States is invloved. there is some question in my mind with regard to the A-10s. They have always been very useful and continue to be so for the mission of Close Air Support of ground troops. the USAF does not like that mission and prefers to fight the air superiority battle above all else, but, the A-10s are 40 odd years old and the argument was probably easy for the USAF to make. They might have been transferred to the Army, but, I guess that was not "in the cards."
Needless to say, this smaller forces structure should dictate a more modest foreign policy. Will it? pl
Non-Fiction Showcase: Prison Journey, A Memoir by Brigadier FB Ali
(includes chapter excerpts selected by the author)
Christmas Eve Radio Reading: Frederick Forsyth's "The Shepherd"
It is Pearl Harbor Day. All too often remembrance is confined to the attack on Pearl Harbor. That attack was immediately followed by a Japanese invasion of the Phillippine Islands, an American possession at that time. After months of heroic but futile resistance US and Filipino forces surrendered to the Japanese Army. There ensued three and a half years of unmitigated brutality and murder inflicted on American prisoners of war by Japanese soldiers.
One of those POWs was Chaplain John McDonnell who was captured on the Bataan Peninsula, survived the Death March and years of abuse only to die on board the Enoura Maru, a Japanese merchant vessel en route to Japan.
Chaplain McDonnell baptised me in the post chapel at Fort Devens, Massachusetts in 1940.
Transcript of official record follows. pl
SUPREME COMMANDER FOR
THE ALLIED POWERS
25 Feb. 1947
File No. 014.13
Informational Summary No. 510
vs Junsaburo TOSHINO, Shusuke WADA, Kazutane AIHARA, Shin KAJIYAMA, Suketoshi
TANQUE, Jiro UEDA, Hisao YOSHIDA
On 9 January in mid-morning, during the completion of the morning meal, anti-aircraft fire was heard on the Enoura Maru and all ships in the harbor. Soon the drone of planes was heard and almost simultaneously the whistle of bombs was heard. The Enoura Maru rocked violently from a near miss, causing a flail of bomb fragments and steel fragments from the sides of the ship which killed about 300 outright and injured a considerable number. After the bombing such first aid as could be rendered to men was made available by the Prisoner of War doctors and corpsmen aboard. This aid consisted of collecting dirtytowels, undershirts, or anything that could be used for bandages that the other prisoners would contribute. Outside of a few first aid kits which the doctors and corpsmen may have had, there were no medicines made available by the Japanese. In fact, no aid was rendered until 11 January when two Japanese enlisted hospital corpsmen announced they would treat those with minor injuries or wounds only. Treatment consisted of dabbing injuries with mercurochrome. The dead bodies in the holds were stacked in the center of the hatch area like stacks of cord wood. They remained there until the 12th of January. During this time, a majority of the men who were wounded and who soonthereafter died from those wounds could have been saved with proper medical attention, but with lack of bandages and medicines it was impossible for thedoctors to do much for them. Finally in mid-morning of 12 January, permission was granted to remove the dead bodies from the ship. The bodies were removed by placing them into cargo slings and lowering over the side of the ship into barges. Some of the dead were removed individually by tying ropes around the legs or arms and hauling them up onto the deck, then lowering them into the barges. The scene in the holds was like a page from Dante’s Inferno—dark, but one could see the wraithlike figures wandering dazedly through a maze of stacked corpses.
This is a re-enactment drill team from the "Regiment Saintonge." This was one of the seven French infantry regiments who fought at Yorktown and without whose service and courage Cornwallis would never have surrendered. The Continentals and these men captured two strong redoubts in noght bayonet attacks. There are a whole lot of those fellows out in the woods at Yorktown in their military cemetery. These were the French king's soldiers and their units passed into history at their own revolution. Among the men were people from all over France, Rhinelanders from Zweibrucken (Deux Ponts), Irish of course, Poles and a scattering of European professionals of one kind or another. Are their graves decorated on the 4th of July? I hope so. Here is a list of their dead buried in Virginia's soil. They are listed by regiment.
" ... part of an Army effort to redirect its resources and money to areas where it wants to broaden its recruiting, including major cities. To underwrite the transformation, the Army chose to close R.O.T.C. programs at 13 universities, more than half of them in the South. Tennessee alone will lose R.O.T.C. offerings at three of its public universities, the most of any state. The Army selected the universities after a review found that the programs were typically yielding fewer than 15 commissioned officers annually, although the military acknowledged it granted exceptions to dozens of schools because they met other standards. The Army Cadet Command, which oversees R.O.T.C. and its approximately 33,000 aspiring soldiers, said that by shuttering the 13 lagging programs, it will be able to shift resources to 56 other markets, including Los Angeles, New York and Chicago. In many instances, existing programs will grow. " NY Times
This works for me. I was an ROTC product, sort of. VMI commissions some US Army officers every year by way of its participation in the "Senior Military Colleges" division of Army ROTC. Air force, navy and marine officers are also produced there although a lot of graduating cadets choose not to be officers in spite of the life they have lived for four long years. BTW, I think the name "Reserve Officers Training Corps" should be changed. The usage is long obsolete and derives from a time when the production of reserve officers was the primary purpose of the program. For a long time now the services' ROTC programs have produced many, many Regular officers. The name should be aligned with reality.
ROTC is a highly efficient way to find junior officers. It is much cheaper than the national military service academies like USMA, USNA, etc. West Pointers don't like to hear that after four years on active duty as officers the products of West Point, ROTC and Officer Candidate School are indistinguishable, but that is the truth.
The service academies will not disappear. American public sentiment would oppose that and the cadre of alumni of the service academies is still too powerful for that to happen. The public thinks of the service academies as paths to lives of accomplishment open to talent and that is a strong protection for those schools.
A benefit of the widespread distribution of ROTC programs is the resulting diversity of regional, educational, and cultural background in the officer corps. In addition to that, ROTC in recent decades has given many partial or full scholarships to students. This has enabled many to attain a college degree. Former enlisted soldiers now return to the army as officers after the ROTC experience. That infusion of real world experience can only be a benefit. Having had the experience of watching newly "minted" "college boy" second lieutenants just emerged from West Point or ROTC try to command a lot of adults, I can only say that experience helps. One of my senior sergeants once laughed and told me that watching this process was a bit like seeing a monkey try to f---k a football.
I have a certain sympathy for what US Army Cadet Command is trying to do. In addition to dropping programs that do not produce enough officers, they are trying to balance the geographical and quality of education issues that have arisen since the expulsion of many ROTC programs from big city campuses during the Vietnam War. The Army officer corps is now, in my opinion, too heavily weighted with people who are in origin; rural, Southern and enrolled at universities that are not particualry distinguished. This may seem odd given my obvious affection for the rural South, but I think the country needs forces commanded by people who are more representative of the country as a whole and its educational diversity.
BTW, the service academies are not as regionally diverse in the origins of their students as they might be thought. There are a number of ways to become a student at the service academies and they do not all orginate in the nomination of a member of Congress.
This discussion may seem irrelevant to foreigners, but it should not. At some point in the future your countrymen may well meet troops commanded by men and women who have merged from the ROTC program. pl
"William D. Swenson is a former captain in the United States Army who was awarded the Medal of Honor on 15 October 2013. He was the first United States Army officer to receive the Medal of Honor since the Vietnam War, as well as the sixth living recipient in the War on Terror." wiki on Swenson
A brave fellow. The media people keep referring to this man as being "retired" from the army. He is not. He is a FORMER OFFICER. He resigned from the army and now is seeking to be taken back in again. They will do so even though he had the temerity to criticize the idiotic judgment of his superiors in setting soldiers and marines to defending in that far off valley with completely inadequate resources. The appallingly incompetent planning and actions of many army and marine seniors in the Afghanistan War has been evident.
"Retired" service members are still members of their respective services. They have ID cards that say so. They are subject to recall to active duty until dead. They have access to military facilities on the same basis as active duty members. Some years ago I gave some lectures at a navy service school. My civilian contractor host spoke to me at length about how difficult it would be at the gate because of security concerns, I said nothing and next day surprised ad "spooked" him by simply driving up to the gate with my host in the passenger seat of my rental car. I handed my ID card to the retired marine who was gate guard. He saluted and said " Good morning, colonel." I drove to the academic building and parked. My host said, "just like that? I can't believe it. I struggle to get people in here." He was clearly annoyed. "You people really are a club, aren't you," he said.
Yes, we surely are.
I find the inability of the press to master things like the difference between "retired," and "former" to be annoying and indicative of their lack of seriousness in approaching their work. pl
Good strategy requires the identification of an achievable objective that can be obtained at a reasonable cost. President Obama and his senior officials have done exactly that with respect to Iran. President Obama has repeatedly said that America’s overriding strategic objective is to “prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.” This is a clear strategic objective that with honest effort on both sides is reasonably attainable through diplomatic means.
President Obama in his recent address to the United Nations reiterated his strategic goal of prevention, endorsed Iran’s right to a civilian nuclear program, and sought to reassure Iranian leaders that regime change was not the goal of U.S. policy. Meanwhile, recently elected Iranian President Rouhani has pledged to provide additional transparency in order to reassure the international community that Iranian nuclear programs and technologies are indeed purely civilian in nature. In these public statements both leaders have thus sketched the broad outlines of a mutually acceptable deal. Iran secures international acceptance of a limited civilian nuclear program in exchange for enhanced inspections that ensure these activities are not diverted to military purposes. Formulating a detailed step-by-step plan for easing sanctions tied to specific Iranian actions is the next critical step in filling out this strategic diplomatic option.
"We can suppose that Syria learned from Iraqi and Libyan experience and obtained a sufficient amount of GPS jamming devices from Russia. Hundreds or thousands of these devices can easily cover a large area around Damascus and other important areas, so that cruise missiles would fly off course by hundreds of kilometers. The GPS jamming zone can start over water, where TERCOM and DSMAC guidance surely do not work. With the use of small boats, a jamming zone can be extended hundreds kilometers from the shore. An additional restriction is that the presence of advanced anti-ship missiles supplied by Russia does not allow American ships to come close to Syrian shores for the attack, so missiles have to fly long distances over water, likely without a GPS signal, and this will lead to difficulties in resuming TERCOM navigation when overland." Asia Times
This author claims that the US was simply unable to achieve a desired level of destruction in Syria because of technical reasons and for that reason Obama yielded to public pressure and went to Congress for approval of air action where he knew he would loose.
I don't believe that is what happened but I leave it to the air techno boffins to deal with this argument. pl
"Winnefeld said the nation would probably not need an Army sized to do any large-scale, long-duration ground operations. The admiral did not only downplay the possibility of prolonged counterinsurgencies like Afghanistan, Iraq, or Vietnam, although he certainly emphasized the decline of COIN: He raised doubt about long wars of any kind. “We’ve seen very recently that the American people are very wary of getting into an extended war of any type,” Winnefeld said, in a veiled reference to Syria. “We should take to heart three principles that [Maj. Gen.] Fox Conner imparted to Eisenhower and Marshall when they were both young officers: never fight unless you have to, never fight alone, and never fight for long.”" Freedberg
Well, well, well. At last we have some rational thought expressed with regard to the future of US arms.
This is a death sentence for the very flawed COIN doctrine. That will go down hard with a lot of the hard heads who have spent the last ten years trying to absorb COIN as a new and wonderful thought. About five years ago I ran a conference on tribalism as a factor in warfare in the modern age. Among the guests was a young army brigadier general who had a staff job in which he was responsible for thinking great thoughts about the future. He was rebuked by several attendees for the slowness of army adaptation to counter-guerrilla operations in Iraq. He replied that "they" had been working on this problem from a doctrinal point of view for six years and that they could not be expected to proceed more rapidly than that. Most successful army officers are by nature not good at the "vision thing." They are intelligent but not able by temperament to deal with futures that they have not seen. They will have a hard time giving up all the silliness contained on the Army/Marine Corps manual on COIN. You know that book. It is the Petraeus masterpiece. Ten years hence they will have settled into some other corpus of received wisdom but the transition will be painful. It will be something like the long, sad, farewell to the horse.
The R2P folks and the neocons will try to fight this change but history and money are forces that will block their efforts. pl
"Rebel control over large sections of the region of Aleppo provides it with a strategic rear and interior lines of communication from southern Turkey. The disruption of rebel held areas of the northern Aleppo governorate, particularly its logistics route north-to-south from the Turkish border through the contested areas around Nubul and al-Zahraa’ to the front-lines of Aleppo, would be a significant blow to the armed opposition." Terrorism Monitor
This is rather elementary military "strategery." Actually, it is more like grand tactics. If you succeed in cutting your opponents' supplyroute deep in his rear area, this ordinarily forces him to turn and fight you on ground of your choice. This is called a "turning maneuver." In contrast. a tight envelopment on one or both flanks results in a kessel battle.
The Assad government should have managed this on their own without Hizbullah assistance, but I suppose the presence of the authentic Shia in Hizbullah makes the acquisition of village support easier. Hey! that would work for me if I were running this. Contrary to the crap in the MSM the Alawis are not Shia. IMO, they are not even Muslims. Muslims do not worship a tri-partite god. pl
No. I don't pretend to know what makes all rebels, terrorists, bombers, school shooters and beltway snipers do what they do. I do think there is a common thread that ties the actions of these people together. This morning I found the writings of an MIT political science professor that intrigued me. Roger Peterson's first work focused on Lithuanian resistance to Soviet occupation. That's what caught my eye. The MIT faculty page describes his research as follows:
"Petersen's earlier work (Resistance and Rebellion: Lessons from Eastern Europe) concentrated on violent networks. A second strand of research studied motivations and emotions behind ethnic violence and culminated in Understanding Ethnic Violence: Fear, Hatred, and Resentment in Twentieth Century Eastern Europe. Petersen's more recent major research, culminating in a book entitled Western Intervention in the Balkans: The Strategic Use of Emotion in Conflict, again deals with emotions but with a different focus. Here, the goal is to understand how political entrepreneurs strategically use group emotions within the contours and constraints of conflict. Most recently, Petersen has begun another major set of research working with practitioners returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. The primary goal is to identify which social science theories apply to 21st Century insurgency."
Peterson believes that most academic analysis tends to focus on rational theories that are too straightforward and simple to explain why people turn to violence to address real or perceived wrongs. His research led him to suggest that the emotions of fear, hatred, resentment and rage can provide a deeper understanding of why individuals turn to violent resistance and rebellion. (Actually those four emotions describe the state of political discourse in America pretty well.) Of course Peterson's theory is more nuanced and developed than what I just described. I have yet to read and digest what I have found. The first twenty pages of his first book are available here. A review of his first two works in Lituanus, the Lithuanian Quarterly Journal of Arts and Sciences is here. An interview with Peterson addressing the Iraqi resistance is available here. Peterson made an interesting point in the conclusion of a Naval War College case study on the Iraqi insurgency. It's the same point that I and Colonel Lang have made many times.
"Our study also leads to some speculation. Given the uncertainties and high costs of other strategies, we anticipate that the robust decapitation capability embodied in JSOC will be an enduring institutional legacy of this war for the U.S. military. The killing of Osama Bin Laden further enhances its prestige. Its effectiveness, including potential counterproductive aspects, remains hard to evaluate given its secrecy and unknown interaction with conventional COIN. Its similarity to network-centric warfare enhances its attractiveness for many in the U.S. military. However, it risks putting the tactical problems of targeting ahead of resolution of the local and regional political issues. A potential major risk is that SOCOM will continue to under-invest in "non-kinetic" SOF who specialize in foreign internal defense and unconventional warfare missions because of the prestige and wealth accruing to JSOC flavor of direct action. These might be just the sort of low profile, intelligence intensive, relationship building forces you want to engage with +/-2s, especially during the period of waiting for interests to align."
I want to end this post on a more personal note. It is a story of the only mass murderer that I have personally known. Perhaps Roger Peterson's theory will shed some light on this incident.
Prior to the Newtown tragedy, the worst mass murder in Connecticut happened in my hometown in 1977. Lorne Acquin, a Canadian indian, (I can't remember the tribe) killed his foster brother's wife, her seven children and another visiting child with a tire iron. He then set the house on fire. It was a time of great sorrow in Prospect. The funeral mass for Cheryl Beaudoin and her children was held at Saint Anthony's church and was attended by a large part of the town, both Catholic and Congregationalist. The Old Prospect Cemetery Association donated burial plots beneath a towering old maple tree for the family. They are surrounded by the graves of veterans of the French and Indian and Revolutionary Wars… as well as the graves of my mother and little sister. I was already in Hawaii at the time, but I bet the walking procession of eight caskets to the old cemetery across the road from the church probably looked like something from another century. Everything I heard from those events spoke of compassion. I did not hear a cry for vengeance against "Uncle Lorne." There were more questions about what could have driven him to committing this horrible act and what could we have done to prevent it.
I knew Lorne Acquin. I knew him more as a dark protector of his younger brother. He was the subject of some of my first schoolyard fights. He was a "troublemaker" but only a few degrees more so than myself. His world and his mind broke. He is now in prison for the rest of his life. There was no death penalty in Connecticut back then. I have no idea what goes through his mind today.
"On Saturday, March 2, at noon, Chadian armed forces operating in northern Mali completely destroyed a terrorist base ... The toll included several dead terrorists, including their leader Mokhtar Belmokhtar," Chad's armed forces said in a statement read on national television. Belmokhtar claimed responsibility for the seizure of dozens of foreign hostages at the In Amenas gas plant in Algeria in January in which more than 60 people were killed. The French military, which is leading the offensive in northern Mali, has so far said it cannot confirm the information.
The purported death of Belmoktar comes a day after Chad's president said their troops killed Abou Zeid, the other main al-Qaeda commander in the region, a claim the French also said they could not confirm. Algeria's El Khabar newspaper said on Saturday that Algerian security services, who were the first to report Abou Zeid's death, had found his personal weapon and examined a body believed to be his. "Confirmation of Abou Zeid's death remains linked to the results of DNA tests done on Thursday by Algeria on two members of his family," it said. Analysts said the death of the two commanders would mark a significant blow to the rebellion in Mali. "Both men have extensive knowledge of northern Mali and parts of the broader Sahel and deep social and other connections in northern Mali, and the death of both in such a short amount of time will likely have an impact on militant operations," Andrew Lebovich, a Dakar-based analyst who follows al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), told Reuters.
If the reports prove true, that's two key jihadist leaders in two days. Of course we've seen how many times some Taliban leaders were reported to be killed. At least in this case there are troops on the scene rather than drones in the air to help verify the identities.
What I find most significant is that it was Chadian forces that did the deed. Africans solving an African problem. The French are there to plan, direct and support. They are also using the Tuaregs of MNLA for intelligence, reconnaissance and guides for the Chadian and French forces. We should be studying this campaign in our military schools.
IMO the next big step in UCAV development has to be in-flight refueling. This should be a fairly easy "fix." With that done, these droning beasties could wander the world for a long, long time just hanging around waiting for the flight suited techno wimps depicted in "The Bourne Legacy" to send the machines to their appointment with destiny. You can imagine one of these heros saying to another that with just a few more "missions" in the bag he will qualify for the drone pilot medal.
An occasional maintenance stop for engine checks, computer upgrades and ordnance replenishment would be the rest of the picture.
Few really are unhappy with surveillance drones. It is the killer drones that are worrisome. If John Torquemada Brennan, known to his friends as "torky," has his way, a systematised targeting package loaded with logic and rules will serve up lists of candidates for designation to civil servants and rear echelon military types who will narrow the lists for approval by their political bosses.
A nod will then suffice for upload of that list to the flying circus. Was Dorner really under surveillance by drones? That would be a first step in CONUS.
Think judicial review folks. Think judicial review.
Hmm! What's that buzzing noise? pl
Watch the video. It looks like the drop may have been marshaled and launched from a French airfield. pl
The business of the ground forces; infantry, armor, Special Forces, attack aviation, and light tube artillery is killing people and destroying things. Nothing should be allowed to obscure that fact. There are many other functions in the Army and USMC that are not directly involved in killing except in self defense. These include the more rarified national level kinds of intelligence work, logistics, medical services and of course all the senior staff work in the Pentagon and other headquarters that so many prefer to grubbing around in the mud and sand.
DoD's new policy of opening all combat arms specialties to women will enable some few future women officers to be four star generals. Women are already three star generals within the existing policy. The price of that fourth star will be incalculable in terms of units that may or may not be as effective, women pushed into roles for which they may not be suitable, physical and mental damage that is not necessary to maintain the capabilities of the force All this is to be done evidently without serious experimentation, "trial runs' on mixed combat units, etc.
Many men now in the combat arms are merely "dressed for the part" and are "carried" by those who are, for good or ill, better able to endure the physical and psychological burden of an occupation that involves killing other human beings en masse, and at the same time existing in the field under conditions of hardship, isolation and filth that often last for long periods of time. Infantrymen only incidentally kill in self defense as police are trained to do. In the infantry and these other direct combat specialties you kill and destroy as your principle function. Are women really suited for such a role?
I have been a combat arms soldier and I have been a combat support soldier. These are very different things. Anyone who thinks that technology or the "evolution of warfare" has changed the essential ugliness of war is just kidding himself. The FOB based warfare against guerrillas of the last decade is not a forecast of what war will be in the future. The only thing that can be known about these future wars is that the combat arms will continue to be what they are.
Obama pursues his dream of a "more perfect union." I hope we do not pay too high a price so that women can be four star generals. pl
Système D is a French term for the ability to think fast, adapt, and improvise in order to get a job done. It refers to the word "démerder" or to get of the shit. At least that's what a couple of French Foreign Legionnaires told me many years ago. I would argue that France's direct military intervention in Mali, Operation Cerval, is a beautiful example of système D.
Last week began with a renewed offensive by fighters from Ansar Dine and and the Islamist Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MOJWA). On Monday, 7 January, Islamist fighters captured at least twelve government soldiers along with their vehicle and equipment during a government patrol outside the town of Konna. Earlier that day, government soldiers fired on Ansar Dine fighters in an area 35 miles east of Mopti, a strategically important town on the frontier between rebel-held and government-held territories. Mopti hosts a key Malian military airstrip, actually at Severe, which would be vital for any future missions into the north of the country. Two days later, the battle for Konna began between government forces and MOJWA fighters. On Thursday, the Islamists captured the town after fierce fighting. That same day about 1,200 Ansar Dine and MOJWA fighters in 200 technicals moved to within twelve miles of Mopti. The situation looked dire to say the least.
Why did the Islamists resume their offensive now? They had the motive. They never had any intention of stopping at the border of the once and future land of Azawad. MOJWA is a black African led Islamic group that broke off from the mostly Algerian led AQIM. Their goal is to spread their brand of Salafism to most, if not all, of West Africa. They do not share the Tuareg dream of an independent Azawad espoused by the MNLA. Ansar Dine also wants to extend Sharia in all of Mali and not just to Azawad.
They had the means. The Salafist military forces were never stronger. Since their victories earlier last year, they worked feverishly to improve their military capabilities. They had the resources to do so through their kidnapping and smuggling enterprises and whatever funding their Gulf supporters provide. An unnamed Elysee Palace official quoted by Agence France-Presse said on Sunday that French armed forces were surprised by the fighting quality and the equipment of the militants they were up against. "At the start, we thought they would be just a load of guys with guns driving about in their pick-ups, but the reality is that they are well-trained, well-equipped, and well-armed," the official said. "From Libya they have got hold of a lot of up-to-date, sophisticated equipment which is much more robust and effective than we could have imagined."
Those who had issues with French involvement in the Libyan Revolution, will have the same issues with French intervention in Mali. In my opinion, the French could not have reacted better. They saw that the Islamists were within days, if not hours, of taking the military base and airfield at Severe which would make the planned September ECOWAS deployment and counteroffensive all but impossible. If nothing was done the Islamists could very well have occupied all of Mali and declared an Islamic republic. The French reacted with what they had in the area. Several hundred troops were deployed to Bamako from N'Djamena, Chad (1,400 miles) and Senegal (500 miles). Ostensibly this was to protect the 6,000 French nationals in Mali. I believe the purpose of this force was to stabilize the political situation in Bamako. They did not want to run the risk of another military coup d'etat and the further international paralysis that would follow. Fighter bombers flew from N'Djamena with the help of tankers to attack the Islamist forces threatening Mopti. Gazelle helicopters armed with 20mm cannon and HOT missiles flew from Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso (225 miles). These Gazelles were part of the 4th Special Forces Helicopter Regiment, a unit equivalent to our 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment.
This did the trick. The Islamist offensive was stopped and the dilly-dallying over the deployment of the ECOWAS force has ended. The Malian forces have finally tasted a victory and have received a much needed morale boost. The task is far from over. The French discovered that the Islamist forces are far more formidable than they first thought. I believe that's why they have expanded their air attacks. They know the Salafist Islamist forces must be degraded if there is any chance of them being defeated by ECOWAS and Malian forces.
There is one thing that I am convinced must happen if the Salafist Islamist forces are to be defeated in Mali. The Tuaregs must be accepted as full partners. Azawad autonomy in some form must be accepted and the Tuaregs, including the MNLA, must be allowed to take the lead in administering and securing their own lands. I would advise the Malian government to ask the Tuaregs to administer and defend any part of Azawad that is liberated be it Timbuktu, Gao or both. That would be the ultimate expression of système D.
Like any man, he had his strengths and weaknesses, his triumphs and failures. Over the next few days all this will be examined for noble and decent purposes as well as for petty and vindictive ones. Such is the nature of our society. I never knew the man or worked for him, but he was the speaker at my MOTC graduation dinner in 1988. I didn't hear a word he said. I was "all likkered up" and far too cynical at the time to pay attention. I didn't even remember he was there until someone reminded me several years later.
However, one particular incident in his career is enough to show me he was an honorable man and an officer worthy of those he commanded and the nation he served. This occurred in 1970 while serving as a battalion commander during his second tour in Viet Nam.
"One of the most remarkable incidents in a distinguished career happened on this tour. When Colonel Schwarzkopf received word that men under his command had encountered a minefield, he rushed to the scene in his helicopter. He found several soldiers still trapped in the minefield. Schwarzkopf urged them to retrace their steps slowly. Still, one man tripped a mine and was severely injured but remained conscious. As the wounded man flailed in agony, the soldiers around him feared that he would set off another mine. Schwarzkopf, also injured by the explosion, crawled across the minefield to the wounded man and held him down so another could splint his shattered leg. One soldier stepped away to break a branch from a nearby tree to make the splint. In doing so, he too hit a mine, killing himself and the two men closest to him, and blowing the leg off of Schwarzkopf's liaison officer. Eventually, Colonel Schwarzkopf led his surviving men to safety. He was awarded the Silver Star for his bravery but, more importantly to Norman Schwarzkopf, he cemented his reputation as an officer who would risk anything for the soldiers under his command." (Academy of Achievement)
"Despite official U.S. assessments that al Qaeda leadership has been “decimated,” some experts are insisting that the U.S. maintain a heavy military footprint in Afghanistan — a strategy that will cost billions of dollars each year. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta recently addressed the success of U.S. efforts against al Qaeda, saying “al-Qaeda has been significantly weakened in Afghanistan, and Pakistan. Its most effective leaders are gone. Its command, and control have been degraded, and its safe haven is shrinking….we have decimated core al-Qaeda.” The U.S. must still “finish the job” in Afghanistan, Secretary Panetta added, calling for continued commitment on both military and diplomatic fronts. " Afghanistan Study Group
This is all nonsense. The Afghans are not going to agree to a SOFA that gives US forces legal immunity in their country and that will be the end of it. The Pentagon should start preparing for that event. pl
William Hague has said today Britain will back the Palestinian bid for United Nations observer status if they agree to peace talks with Israel. The UK will abstain from debating the issue at the UN General Assembly as there are no guarantees Palestine president Mahmoud Abbas will negotiate. Express.coDespite official U.S. assessments that al Qaeda leadership has been “decimated,” some experts are insisting that the U.S. maintain a heavy military footprint in Afghanistan — a strategy that will cost billions
So, the US and Israel will vote against non-member 0bserver status for the PA? Why does the US continue with the farce of pretending to be an "honest broker" in this dispute? The soon to be disunited Britain will abstain unless the Palestinians give up a right to press charges against Israel in the international courts? The Palestinians will win the vote in the General assembly and then prefer charges against such as Natanyahu, Barak and Avigdor Lieberman. This will expose these Israelis to extradition action by various member states. Then Israel can be a prison for them in much the same way that Gaza is for the Palestinians. pl
"Fresh clashes broke out in Cairo on Wednesday near Tahrir Square, as riot police fired tear gas and charged at Egyptian protesters angry about a move by President Mohamed Morsy to extend his powers." CNN International
Egypt is on fire again. There were 100,000 anti-Mursi demonstrators in Tahrir square yesterday. The US media is obviously avoiding the subject of the imposition of a tyranny in Egypt. It seems that the revelation of their own naivete two years ago is too much for them to cope with. And then there are the naifs and neocons in the governmenr who still cling to their hopes. pl
"About 14 percent of the 1.4 million troops in the active-duty military are women. About 280,000 women were deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan. About 150 women died in those two conflicts. Although there may be growing support in the military to opening some jobs in combat units to women, there remains stiff opposition from the infantry, where the physical demands — like walking long distances carrying heavy loads and handling bulky weapons — are most demanding. In a widely circulated article, a female Marine Corps captain who served in Iraq and Afghanistan wrote in the Marine Corps Gazette this year that seven months in Afghanistan left her physically broken, with muscle atrophy in her leg and an ovarian condition that left her infertile. “I am confident that should the Marine Corps attempt to fully integrate women into the infantry, we as an institution are going to experience a colossal increase in crippling and career-ending medical conditions for females,” the article’s author, Capt. Katie Petronio, wrote. " NY Times
If I recall correctly there is a provision in law aganst womens' service in certain combat specialties in the infantry, armor and SF. If that is so, then congressional repeal of that provision would also be necessary, but since the Congress can be expected to do anything "catchy" that appears popular, well... I think that since these women see this as a civil rights jobs program issue they should be given the chance to "try it on." My only hope about this is that physical standards are not lowered to make this easier. War is an equal opportunity employer. It would be most unfortunate if some of these job seekers literally have to be carried. pl
For much of this year, Sgt. Maj. Raymond F. Chandler III, the Army’s top enlisted soldier, has traveled to bases around the world with a simple message: “We’ve allowed ourselves to get out of control.” His solution has been a raft of new regulations governing tattoos, the length of soldiers’ sideburns and the color of the backpacks they are allowed to carry while in uniform. The tighter standards are intended to improve discipline in a force that is recovering from an exhausting decade of war. But some of his fellow troops viewed the new regulations as one piece of a larger, more worrisome trend in the Army as it confronts an uncertain future. Instead of embracing change, some officers worry that the service is reverting to a more comfortable, rigid and predictable past.
“We are at a crossroads right now, and I don’t get the sense that we know what we are doing,” said Maj. Fernando Lujan, a Special Forces soldier who has served multiple combat tours. “I am worried about the Army.” (Wash Post)
So says Greg Jaffe in today's Washington Post. The Army may be at a crossroads, but I do not share the apparent trepidation over the Sergeant Major of the Army's raft of new regulations and tighter standards. Nor am I as worried about the Army as Major Lujan is.
The world is changing, belts will tighten and the Army will change. That is inevitable. SMA Chandler is doing what he can to manage this change. He wants a disciplined force capable of handling whatever comes its way. For more than a decade I've seen Army enlisted personnel and officers wearing every combination of uniform imaginable in the Military District of Washington. It bothered me. At times, it embarrassed me. I grew up with Army Summer and Army Winter. Our uniforms were… uniform. I'd say we're about due for some tighter regulations.
However this is not the focus of the story. What will the Army do with less resources and a changing defense strategy. We've been through this before. I began my career in the days of the hollow Army. We were undermanned and under equipped, supposedly suffering from a post Viet Nam syndrome or something. My twenty-five man rifle platoon was full of pot smokers and wise guys. They were a pain in the ass in garrison, but they were a fighting force to be proud of in the field. Their godfather was Command Sergeant Major Snead. The soldier in the picture. He would take each soldier arriving in the battalion on a tour of the hall of honor explaining the regimental history and pointing out each battle trophy. It was a chilling experience hearing him call out each battle streamer as he held it over his head before clipping it on the battalion colors during our organization day parades. To this day I can only refer to him as Command Sergeant Major Snead. This is the kind of intangible thing that glues the Army together during rough times.
We made do with what we had. When the battalion had no fuel for training, we walked to the training areas with the mortars and 90mm recoilless rifles. We trained heavily in strongpoint defense, withdrawal under pressure and breakout from encirclement. We also trained to meet every other ARTEP task. Knowing the basics, we would adapt to all else. We were prepared to deploy anywhere in the Pacific, SWA or even Europe. Ambiguity was a way of life. The Army emerged from this period as a strong disciplined fighting force. We will do so again this time.
Jaffe mentions the Army plan to "regionalize" combat units. Brigades and divisions will focus their training on specific deployment plans. They will conduct training missions and joint exercises with friendly forces in the region. This is nothing new. We did this in the hollow Army, too. However the added emphasis on cultural and language training is new. Jaffe probably learned this from Major Lujan. This is how Special Forces have always trained and always will train. I like this idea for combat units as long as the basic tasks of combat are not forgotten. Do not try to make the conventional Army into a Special Forces light. It won't work.
The Army will downsize. I hope they will start by replacing the vast majority of contractors with active duty personnel. We need mess halls and mess teams, not dining facilities run by DynCorp. Then dump half the generals. There will still be plenty. At some point the defense strategy must change. It should happen before the Army starts adapting to the new reality, but I'm not holding my breath. No matter what happens, the Army will emerge just fine and remain true to its motto… This we'll defend.
"We will bear the heavy burden of the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan for years. U.S. soldiers will continue to serve in the region, assisting Afghan (and sometimes Pakistani) security forces against threats to the stability of both nations, conducting raids on insurgents and terrorists and preventing a broader war in South Asia. This is what success looks like in such wars." John Nagl
This book was Nagl's dissertation paper. It appeared in print just at the moment that "the generals" were seeking an explanation for their own ignorance of anything other than conventional warfare. He was lucky and has been riding that "hobbyhorse" ever since. Nagl's fate as something other than a minor professor at a minor college or a minor headmaster at a private day school hangs in the balance dependent on the judgment of history on the COIN (nation building) doctrine that he has counseled for over a decade. He cites VN as an example of the failure that follows upon a failure of will. There is a certain truth to that. The US concluded a phased withdrawal from VN in 1973. A ceasefire was in place and remained in place for two years. All that remained of the US presence in VN were a mere two thousand advisers to the RVN forces. They were assigned to the Defense Attache Office. After two years the Congress of the United States passed a decree that forbade any further assistance to the RVN under any circumstances. This decree reflected American public opinion in an atmosphere in which a soldier could not walk down an American street in uniform without seeing people turn away. The Communist Vietnamese "took the hint" and attacked into a morale vacuum created at least in part by Congress's action. The United States was not "driven from VN." There were no American non embassy people there to drive out. Does Nagl know better?" Or is he simply so desparate to be justified that he would deliberately deceive? He cites Germany, Japan, South Korea and Bosnia as examples of countries that have required a virtually eternal American presence for strategic reasons. He expects us to accept these examples in comparisons made with Afghanistan. He (and his neocon friends) made the same argument with regard to Iraq until the Maliki government "disinvited" us. His Cold War and Balkan examples fall flat. The US never fought in Bosnia except for a few air strikes. There has not been war in the other places for fifty or sixty years. The American presence there was decided upon in conditions of peace. The neocons like to claim that Germany was in a state of resistance during the Allied Occupation. Nonsense! Germany in those days was as quiet as a church. I lived there as a child at the time and wandered the streets of Bremen and Frankfurt with my German and American friends. In contrast, there is war, probably eternal war, in Afghanistan. War is what the Afghans do best. They are in the process of rejecting our (NATO's) presence as an alien "protein." To "win" and transform Afghanistan into a simulacrum of the US would be a work of ages. Nagl evidently thinks that would be a good idea. pl
**********************"In 2009, when the White House approved plans to build a combined Afghan force of more than 300,000, the principal concern in Washington was the cost to sustain it once most U.S. troops depart, not the ability to assemble it. The sustainment cost is now projected at $4.1 billion a year, more than twice the Afghan government’s overall annual revenue. Much of that price tag will have to be borne by the United States, which already has spent almost $50 billion over the past decade to build the force. U.S. and NATO commanders say the Afghan army and police are progressing well despite an array of challenges that include Taliban intimidation, the lack of an existing officer corps, and rampant illiteracy, which makes it difficult to train soldiers in specialty skills." Washpost
What collection of idiots decided that it was a good idea to build a force bigger than Afghanistan could ever possibly afford without US money? Ah! Nagl's idiots. pl
Mali's main Tuareg rebel group said on Sunday [7 October 2012] it was no longer seeking to carve out a sovereign desert homeland, softening its stance as it seeks Western support to rout Islamists that have taken over the region.
In April the MNLA had declared an independent state in Mali's north called Azawad, days after a coup in Mali's southern capital Bamako, but Al Qaeda-linked Islamists later hijacked the rebellion and took control of the vast territory.
Western and regional powers are now mulling military intervention to retake the zone amid fears an Islamist safe haven could destabilize the region, and MNLA is aggressively seeking backing for a role in the effort.
"We declare a right to self-determination, but that doesn't mean secession," said Ibrahim Ag Assaleh, an MNLA official, following a meeting with regional mediator and Burkinabe President Blaise Compaore in Ouagadougou. (reported by Mathieu Bonkongou for Reuters in Ouagadougou)
This is a smart move by the MNLA. It provides an opening for the still amorphous interim government in Bamako to cooperate with the Tuaregs to take on the Salafists of Ansar Dine and AQIM. Without this concession by the MNLA, cooperation would be impossible. No Malian government has acquiesced to the succession of Azawad. Not the present interim government. Not the coup's National Committee for the Restoration of Democracy and State (CNRDR). Nor did any of the governments preceding the coup. I seriously doubt acceptance of Azawad independence could be voiced by any faction in Bamako with aspirations to eventually lead the country.
During the late 90s, the Malian government of Dr. Alpha Oumar Konaré made a decision to hitch his country's wagon to the American star. Working with Dr. Konaré's DGSE, Soumeylou Boubeye Maiga, we (DIA) formed a closer intelligence relationship with Mali. Separate from this effort, 10th Special Forces Group conducted several MTTs (military training teams) to Mali over the last decade. Maiga later became Mali's foreign minister under President Amadou Toumani Touré. He was one of the ministers arrested during the coup. I have no idea what happened to Maiga since then. I wish the gentleman well. Interestingly, the leader of the coup, Captain Amadou Sanogo, was a participant in our IMET (International Military Education and Training) program. He studied English at Lackland Air Force Base and took courses at Fort Huachuca, Fort Benning and Quantico.
With the opening provided by the MNLA and our history with the Malian military, I think this is an opportune time for us to do something positive in the region. We do have a vital interest there. The Salafist jihadists are well on the way to establishing a vast base in the area and they are out gunning every other force in the region. Is this an existential threat? Not by a long shot, but if ignored I believe it will eventually bite us in the butt. We should support whatever ECOWAS manages to cobble together to confront AQIM along with any other regional efforts. And we should stop our insane insistence on the election of a new government in Bamako before we do anything. Even Captain Sanogo thinks that is unrealistic given the current dire situation. If we wait, AQIM and Ansar Dine may end up in Bamako and no one will ever see a "free and fair" election. On the diplomatic front we should push the interim government in Bamako and the MNLA into an agreement to at least set aside their differences and cooperate to take on AQIM.
The Malian army is in tatters and the Tuaregs of the MNLA have been knocked back on their heels. However, the Tuaregs are probably still the most capable force opposing AQIM. AQIM's imposition of sharia law in Azawad is grating on the populace. They are wearing out their welcome , so to speak, and are creating the conditions fro a Tuareg backlash. I would like to see a Special Forces Battalion, perhaps 1/10 based in Stuttgart, get the long term mission to reorganize, train and advise both the Malian and Tuareg forces. Probably a third of the battalion would be on the ground at any one time. Don't recreate a Camp Lemonnier or CJTF-HOA. And for god's sake don't try to recreate a modern army where there never was one. Think of forming a hybrid insurgent - national army rather than a neatly organized series of combat brigades. Use the arms and equipment on hand. Fill the holes as needed. Provide maintenance and ammunition. Teach shooting. Teach combat leadership. Much of the Malian army still uses the SKS. No problem. Von Lettow-Vorbeck's askaris were largely equipped with the 1871 Mauser firing 11mm black powder cartridges and they did quite well in East Africa.
Basilisk suggests that this old article of mine has relevance to the present discussion on the importance of expertise as opposed to a generalist managerial background. This was written before the intelligence community re-organization that created the DNI. pl
Great books need not be written here. They would be useless now. Literature is dead in America, killed by generations of children not trained to enjoy the written word and language for its own sake, killed by "journalism" that reduced argument and description to "sound bites," and given the coup de grace by the reduction of the American population to cretins who think that the glories and pain of life can be expressed by telegraphic messaging sent and received in tortured little snippets.
No more will we see the likes of Melville, Hawthorne, Faulkner and all the rest of the storied writers' "gang" of old. Why? Simply put, there is no reading market for such beautifully polished expressions of the human spirit. Margaret Mitchell today would not be able to find a publisher. Remember her?
Books are still published, but they are not real literature. The books that sell well today are; utilitarian "manuals" on things like cooking, gardening, and computer science. Then, there are "wonk books," (fodder for the hyper-ambitious so that they know what to agree with at meetings), celebrity biography, social theorizing and labored exposition for journalists' "insights" on history.
The human soul has been "growed" as a collective organic network in which the collected experience of humanity was recorded and expressed in the form of literary fiction by such masters as Hemingway and Conrad. In their works the human experience found both narrative and emotional expression as truth deeper than any textbook could hope to achieve. This kind of teaching is nearly gone in America. What is left is to be found in screen plays. Let us hope that works such as "Inception," "Game of Thrones" or the "Zen" series will carry forward such shreds of human culture as may be needed. Many universities and colleges that were once centers of learning are changing the emphasis in their English Departments to rhetoric rather than literature. They believe that reading, writing and learning to do power point are more important than Mark Twain.
As a result of such starvation, the collective American mind is dying. It is now reduced to subsistence on a diet of supposedly objective volumes of scholarly self admiration thinly disguised as "scientific" works. Ask anyone you know who is under thirty to recount the history of the United States in broad terms. Ask the same sort of person to describe in general terms what rough course (direction) an Israeli strike on Natanz would fly and what the appoximate distance might be. Ask if there are US air bases in Iraq. Ask. Ask who were the first five presidents of the United States. Ask who Dante Alleghieri might have been. Ask.
The US Army is now trying to prepare itself for some other war in which understanding the locals might be important. Their major thought on the subject revolves around neurology and psychology.
Foreigners! Save yourselves. It's over here. pl
We have technology. The Taliban guerrillas don't have technology. They have the ability to think creatively "outside the box." This base is in Helmand Province where the marines fought their private war for a year to make the province safe for the central government.
They wore our uniforms and drove through the gate to the airfield as though this were an episode of "Hogan's Heroes." One would expect that a Pushtun version of Richard Burton in one of this commando roles would have led the expedition. There was one survivor in the attacking party and he was captured wounded. If he lives he will one day be a hero to his people.
The United States is pulling itself inside out over four KIA in Benghazi. Hey! Look over here! Look what happened at Camp Bastion! These "ragged assed jihadis" dressed in our uniforms destroyed six Harrier jump jets.
At the same time, Afghan policeman are killing NATO soldiers at an ever increasing pace. 2014? Are you kidding? Get out of Afghanistan in 2013 or settle in for another 50 years. Pacification will take that long. pl
"In an interview describing his defense strategy, Panetta said he has helped craft an approach that hedges bets against a range of potential enemies. “It really does provide maximum flexibility,” he said. “The military is going to be smaller, but it is going to be more agile, more flexible and more deployable so that it moves fast and stays on the cutting edge of technology.” Panetta’s vision is notable for some of the big questions left unanswered. A highly touted promise to shift the military’s focus to Asia has produced little in the way of major new deployments. Nine months after it was unveiled, there is scant evidence of how it will be implemented." Washpost
Jaffe, the author of this article seems to believe the popular drivel about a "new era" in warfare. In this gospel, there are are "generations" of warfare and "evolution." Rubbish. Tevhnology changes. War does not. War is a social process reflecting the ambitions of leaders and peoples. There has always been guerrilla warfare. There has always been land mass warfare involving force on force combat between main forces. There has always been naval warfare. It was important before Mahan wrote his book and it continues to be. Is air power new? No. Airplanes project into the third demension capabilities that have always been extent in artillery, catapults, and other forms of missile throwing.
It is impossible to closely predict the exact nature of future warfare. Very few people have really clear crystal balls and those who do are too smart to attempt that kind of prediction. Pompous prognosticators like Eliot Cohen want to run the armed forces in place of the flag offciers. Their conceit is that they think that surely the professoriat know better than the "blockheads" in uniform. Based on that conceit the professors want to have the lead in re-designing the armed services, services they never served in and know only from books and libraries.
Panetta seeks a smaller, more flexible ground force (US Army and USMC). Does Panetta intend to have massively effective naval and forces? Thats a good idea. I applaud his "humility." pl
"Nagl, once called the Johnny Appleseed of COIN, who reveled in his role as face man, tutoring reporters with practiced bookish charm on the “the new way of war,” and burnishing his personal story to convince everyone that he was a counter-insurgent before his time — a modern T.E. Lawrence — is packing up for good. Turns out that despite all the high hopes, the COINdinistas hit the brass ceiling with a smack, especially once it became clear that the magic they sold was a bag of beans. Among them is Michele Flournoy, who in 2007 founded The Center for a New American Security, the COIN-inspired, Democratically-charged think-tank which would become a feeder of the Obama administration. Flournoy was appointed Under Secretary for Defense Policy and the highest-ranking woman at the Pentagon in 2009. But not long after Obama appointed Leon Panetta — a career politician and bureaucrat, not a COINdinista — to Secretary of Defense, she left, citing family reasons. Her anticipated rise to Defense Secretary was thwarted as counterinsurgency efforts in Afghanistan, thanks to Commander Petraeus and COIN disciple Gen. Stanley McChrystal, became a huge albatross around the President’s neck." American Conservative
I debated this guy on the prospect of COIN success in Afghanistan. That was three years ago in NY City. This was a creepy "debate" in the IQ2 series. IMO the audience was stacked, the moderator understood the desired outcome and our side (Steve Clemons, Ralph Peters and I) lost by a small margin. The transcript is on the blog somewhere. I recommend that you read the unedited transcript.
After the debate I told Nagl over a drink that I was a practitioner of COIN in the 20th Century with a lot more resources than he would ever get. The efforts then pretty much failed as he would fail and he should get off the boat before it sank. He waved me off. Now he is done, finished. Good.
COIN was/is a colonial doctrine for putting down revolts in countries or colonies that one OWNS. The inputs in time, money and blood are too high to be borne on any other basis. pl
"A MONTH after rebel forces launched a blazing attempt to capture Aleppo, Syria’s second city, they are starting to wilt. The regime claims to have routed them from their main stronghold in the Salaheddin district. Clashes continue in the southwest of the city and around the airport, but the best that rebel commanders can now hope to achieve is to draw the regime into a quagmire. Whole streets have been reduced to rubble in the country’s commercial hub of 2.5m people. This is hardly the outcome the rebels were looking for, but it is not surprising either. Commanders have long acknowledged that they find it difficult to hold cities. With the recapture in February of the Baba Amr district in Homs, Syria’s third city, the regime showed it has no qualms over using heavy weapons to kill as many as necessary to regain control. At the end of July, with the battle in Aleppo under way, it brought out fighter jets for the first time. With little more than harsh words to fear from the outside world, the regime keeps using ever more powerful weaponry. A bombing from the air in Azaz, north of Aleppo, on August 15th left scores dead. America tried to put an end to the escalation of force when President Barack Obama declared on August 20th that use of chemical weapons could trigger an American military intervention, not least to keep them out of the hands of third parties, including Islamist terror groups." Economist
Looks like the economist can still think and analyze. The decision to engage decisively in cities was fatal. Insurgencies begin in the coutryside. The insurgents should have read their "Mao, Giap, Lawrence and Guevara." Lesson 1 for the insurgents. First control the rural population, then 2- using the "sea" of the people cut the communications between towns, 3- Isolate the government land and air forces in the bases. 4- Then seek battle with larger and larger government forces based on an experience of success. Oh well, better luck next time. pl
"Dear friends of the Festival au Désert, as all of you know very well, Mali is facing a very difficult period. While the North of Mali is actually in the hands of the islamist fighters, the South is still engaged in a political turmoil. In these conditions, it is impossible to organize our annual festival in the desert of Timbuktu."
This announcement appears on the website for the Festival au Désert, an international music festival held annually near Timbuktu in Mali since 2001. It succinctly sums up the current situation.
What is happening in that country is a shame. Mali is West African and Saharan in both geography and culture. It had a reputation for embracing, or at least managing, this diversity. However, Mali has never been a "Rousseauian" peaceable kingdom. The Tuaregs of the north have been seeking self determination for a century and have been fighting an insurgency on and off since at least 1962. As Qathafi was nearing his final fate, many of his Tuareg fighters emptied out arms depots and made their way to Mali. These heavily armed, well organized and trained forces joined the former Tuareg insurgents in northern Mali to form a reinvigorated National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA). And so began the Tuareg Rebellion of 2012.
At the same time, another group formed and began fighting the Malian government in the north. This group, Ansar Dine, is Salafist in orientation and is aligned with Al Qaeda in the Maghreb (AQIM). Ansar Dine seeks to overthrow the government and establish an Islamic state in all of Mali.
"The Free Syrian Army (FSA) has confirmed it has retreated from Salah al-Din, a densely packed area of narrow streets on the south-west side of Aleppo, where rebel fighters had been heavily dug in. State media had reported the army was in full control of the district, saying it had inflicted heavy losses on hundreds of "terrorist mercenaries". "We have staged a tactical withdrawal from Salah al-Din," rebel commander Hossam Abu Mohammed of the Dara al-Shahbaa Brigade in Aleppo told the AFP news agency by phone. "The district is completely empty of rebel fighters. Regime forces are now advancing into Salah al-Din."" BBC
The Beeb seems like a good source on this. A lack of ammunition re-supply and exhaustion seem the most likely problems for the FSA.
IMO the government will proceed to clear one district after another. In Damascus they then went house to house looking for their adversaries.
If they follow traditional patterns in a kesselschlacht like this, they will either make a tight cordon around the city to try to intercept fighters leaving the city or leave a corridor through which the enemy can run a "gauntlet of fire" trying to escape. This latter course of action is always tricky since the enemy may escape in large numbers if the corridor is too wide. the US Army learned that lesson in 1944 when the Falaise Pocket was insufficiently closed off. pl
If you wanted to to teach a baby a lesson, would you cut its head off?
Why . . . no, sir!'
Of course not. You'd paddle it. There can be circumstances when it's just as foolish to hit an enemy with an H-Bomb as it would be to spank a baby with an ax. War is not violence and killing, pure and simple; war is controlled violence, for a purpose. The purpose of war is to support your government's decisions by force. The purpose is never to kill the enemy just to be killing him . . . but to make him do what you want him to do. Not killing . . . but controlled and purposeful violence.
Robert Heinlein, Starship Troopers
Death from Above was the motto of the Starship Troopers. It is said that Heinlein was influenced by the feats of the Fallshirmjaegerkorps in the Invasion of Crete and by the largescale airborne operations in Normandy, Market Garden, and in the Phillipines. By 1959 when he wrote the book it was not such a great stretch. Space travel, yes, still in the future, but Sputnik was in orbit. The "bounce" was still a future capability but the mini-nukes were already in the inventory or at least designed, remember SADM, MADM, Davy Crockett?
Death from above, of course, is not limited to airborne forces. The war in Vietnam spurred the development of air-delivered weapons far beyond the tactical nuclear weapon. As Heinlein implied, somtimes wholesale destruction is not desirable. In April and May 1972 the 8TFW flying out of Ubon, Thailand, essentially destroyed the famous Thanh Hoa bridge in North Vietnam with less than 25 sorties carrying laser-guided bombs.
Predictably, some learned analyst from the RAND Corporation quickly pronounced that the very nature of war was changed forever by the advent of guided weapons. PAVEWAY was not the first guided weapon, nor did the nature of war really change, but we have certainly continued the development of almost incredible capabilities.
We quickly proceeded to "dumb airplanes" with "smart bombs," and we're currently at the stage of "smart airplanes" with "smart bombs." Bombs need targets, so in the intelligence world we proceeded rather quickly from choosing DMPIs (desired mean point of impact) for multi-ship attacks, to "which window do you want me to put it in?"
With the current capabilities of the armed Predator and the MQ-9 Reaper, Heinlein's troopers would probably feel outgunned. In Waziristan these days there's no place where it's safe to have a meeting if you are a certain kind of individual. Some people scoff at the capabilities of the tactical UAVs, and it's true they are not very stealhy to radar, but if you don't have a radar they are not all that easy to detect.
If you choose to hide inside a potent, highly integrated air defense environment it's no guarantee of invulnerabiltiy either. There are such things as the Advanced Cruise Missile launched from the redoubtable B-52, the ubquitous Tomahawk Cruise Missile from submarine and surface platforms, and, of course, if push comes to shove, the F-22 is not merely a long range fighter. It is a highly capable immensely stealthy platform capable of supersonic cruise, and capable of carrying the JDAM and the GBU-53 Small Diameter Bomb. Both are guided weapons with impresive accuracy.
It is not hard to imagine a single-ship mission deep into the heart of enemy territory to strike a single immensely valuable target. The nature of war has not changed, but the capability for "controlled, purposeful violence" has never been higher.--Basilisk
This study has not yet been released to the public. I don't subscribe to "Time" so I can't give you a link to that. The study is leaking everywhere and I will later give a fuller opinion.
I watched the "Morning Joe" idiocy linked to. Yes, you are right. I sacrifice myself so that you do not have to watch this 1%er Manhattan spectacle. This show should really be on local TV in NY City. It is something like the two women from the Bronx on SNL who have a skit of such a show.
None of the civilians present had the slightest comprehension of the nature of military life. There wasa lot of whining and phony weepiness about not knowing any soldiers and, of course, alienation. Hammerhead Joe at least had the sense to admit that he knew nothing. Colonel Jack Jacobs was on the program. He tried to explain, but they all "mooed" at him restively.
As Jacobs said at the end in the "What have we learned today" moment, the salient feature of this report seems to be that 52% of the successful suicides in the last few years are by people who have never deployed overseas.
Ground combat veterans who "off" themselves are sympathetic figures. I have know only one VN vet who did this and it was many years later. His hand shook at the end and he made a mess of it. An M 1911A1 can only make up for so much for a bad aiming point. Why combat vets who do this are so driven is a mystery to me but I respect the personal decision.
That leaves the 52%. In the study interviews. the unsuccessful seemed to say that they couldn't handle the stress of military life. Well, I was an enlisted man and I was an officer in a much less considerate time in the peacetime Army as well as in combat. It was not all that difficult. There was a lot of physical stuff, running up and down, doing PT and walking long distances carrying a lot of weight. People were and are required to live by rules not their own (at least at first). They are required to work when they are told, clean their quarters, dress as they are told and not talk back.
I suspect that this is the kind of stress that kills a lot of the 52%. I see a lot of young people who have not been "grown" to handle such a life. They are the kinds of kids who will sit on their a---s while their mother cleans their room and who will not carry the groceries for her unless they are bribed. Of course, she deserves this treatment for letting them behave this way.
I will read more of the study when it is available. pl
Border Patrol agents in Arizona are blasting their bosses for telling them, along with all other Department of Homeland Security employees, to run and hide if they encounter an "active shooter."
It's one thing to tell civilian employees to cower under a desk if a gunman starts spraying fire in a confined area, say members of Tucson Local 2544/National Border Patrol Council, but to give armed law enforcement professionals the same advice is downright insulting. The instructions from DHS come in the form of pamphlets and a mandatory computer tutorial.
“We are now taught in an ‘Active Shooter’ course that if we encounter a shooter in a public place we are to ‘run away’ and ‘hide’" union leader Brandon Judd wrote on the website of 3,300-member union local. “If we are cornered by such a shooter we are to (only as a last resort) become ‘aggressive’ and ‘throw things’ at him or her. We are then advised to ‘call law enforcement’ and wait for their arrival (presumably, while more innocent victims are slaughtered)."
I found this report disturbing, but not the least bit surprising. It's typical of a half baked edict put out by bureaucrats in a far away headquarters who don't have a clue what is happening on the front line. Border Patrol Local 2544 feels the same. This blanket guidance to armed law enforcement officers does not make sense. Is it an over reaction to civilian casualties, or the fear of civilian casualties, in a police shootout? Possibly. Intended or not, it is surely a slap in the face to a dedicated group of law enforcement officers tasked with the impossible mission of actually defending our borders.
Several times I have commented on how I think we should guard our borders. Take a sizeable chunk of resources out of the DoD and apply it to this mission. There are two ways this could be done. The first way is to deploy something like twelve (just a SWAG on my part) infantry combat brigade teams to the border and defend the border as a military mission. This way is fraught with problems... legal problems, coordination problems and public perception problems. A better way is to create a twelve brigade size Border Patrol force to augment the existing Border Patrol. This way the Border Patrol can guard the borders rather than just patrol the borders.
I would create brigades consisting of three to six squadrons loosely based on the Army's RSTA squadron concept. They should be called surveillance, search and rescue (SSR) squadrons to emphasize their law enforcement function and identity rather than being pure military organizations. The brigade should also have an aviation squadron with one or more transport helicopter troops and a mix of manned and unmanned arial surveillance assets. The brigade would also have a headquarters and support squadron to provide supply, maintenance, transportation and intelligence support for the SSR squadrons.
Each SSR squadron would have a mix of troops. Some on foot, some mounted on light patrol vehicles and even a horse mounted troop or two. Each troop needs enough organic support to conduct extended field operations out in the boonies. Something similar to what a light infantry company might have. I would definitely like to see a mess team with each troop. It's an unbelievably effective morale booster in the field.
To support Border Patrol operations along coastal areas and in ports, one or more SSB squadrons need to be organized as maritime squadrons equipped with appropriate harbor patrol and coastal patrol craft. The entire force needs to be supported by a training brigade perhaps based on a part of Fort Hood deeded to the Border Patrol.
What say the members of this committee of correspondence?
Tal Afar was nothing like Mosul. We had been moved up from Mosul after our battalion commander, in a bid to get to ‘where the fighting was’, handed over our sectors to the Iraqi Police and Army and declared ‘Mission Accomplished’. He was bucking for a chance to go to Ramadi, where the marines were limited to moving around at night and the fighting was thick and furious. I reckoned that the ploy was transparent (I found out years after the fact that the CG in charge of Northern Iraq didn’t think much of our Colonel) in its attempt to get some serious war ink on his record and in all likelihood a lot of us killed. The 172nd Stryker Brigade was not what I would call the most ‘elite’ of organizations. I had come from the 1/501st PIR, and served a tour of duty on the eastern border of Afghanistan, so I had a frame of reference that many of the ‘captains’ who had promoted from second lieutenant to captain were lacking. Mainly that there was no need to go looking for fights in a hostile country, because sooner or later they find you.
Hillary Clinton just boasted about using black propaganda against jihadist web forums at a conference with Admiral McRaven at USSOCOM headquarters. Kind of defeats the purpose of using black propaganda. This news is now posted on sites all around the world. No doubt it's already on the jihadist sites as well.
There is now a lot more information available about Hilary's announcement. It's a significantly different story from what Kimberly Dozier from AP described in her article. This wasn't black propaganda or hacking. It was the work of the Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications, a group composed of military and civilian specialists that uses the web and social media to track and undermine Al Qaeda's efforts to recruit new members. They openly bought ad space on the jihadist forum and inserted ads challenging jihadist propaganda.
Bravo! The IC, DOD and DOS working together and working smartly. This is what smart power is all about. And it's a hell of a lot cheaper in blood and treasure than a shooting war. Hillary was right to crow about this. More info at these links at newsfeedresearcher and lawfareblog.
An article in Wired's Danger Room blog caught my eye. Entitled "Pentagon Wants Spy Troops Posing as Businessmen," the article's main point of DoD wanting to use commercial cover in its clandestine activities seemed woefully out of date... by decades. However, a shocking notion was buried further down in the Wired article:
"There’s another change the proposal would make — one that seems boring and bureaucratic, but explains a great deal. Authority for overseeing the Defense Department’s human spying lies with the Defense Intelligence Agency. The proposal would give it instead to the Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence"
Wired's original source for this information is an article from Inside Defense. I found one version of that article available to the public. A second article on the same subject is behind a paywall. The Inside Defense article is less dramatic, but still intriguing:
"The Defense Department is seeking new authority from Congress that would let DOD personnel work undercover in industry to conduct clandestine military operations abroad against terrorists and their sponsors. The Pentagon's request, submitted to lawmakers last week in a package of legislative proposals, is designed to significantly broaden DOD's existing authority -- first enacted in 1992 -- to use commercial cover in support of intelligence-collection activities.
The proposal would also delete from existing law the requirement that the Defense Intelligence Agency oversee DOD's use of commercial cover. The current statute was enacted before the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks led Congress to establish the under secretary of defense for intelligence -- dubbed USD(I), for short -- to direct and oversee all intelligence, intelligence-related, and security programs of the department, DOD writes. Michael Vickers, the third person to hold the post since it was created in 2003, has served in that capacity for more than a year. The Secretary has directed that the USD(I) oversee these commercial activities," the proposal adds. "These developments have made the current statutory mandate for an oversight office in DIA an unwarranted limitation on the discretion of the Secretary and the Under Secretary in managing and overseeing the commercial activities program."
I have no idea why DoD would need to see more authorities to use commercial cover in its clandestine activities, even revenue generating commercial activities. Read Emerson's "Secret Warriors" for examples of special mission units and intelligence units using commercial cover. Regulations and directives for doing such activities have been around for ages. They are hard and expensive to initiate and maintain. They require tremendous discipline. The payoff is never immediate and there may never be a payoff. That's why they are so seldom undertaken. I've conducted commercial cover operations for near twenty years in both intelligence and special mission units, so I know about these things.
The Wired article says USD(I) will assume oversight of human spying (clandestine HUMINT) from DIA. That would mean Michael Vickers, as current USD(I), would become the DoD HUMINT Manager rather than LTG Michael Flynn, the incoming DIA Director. If true, that would be a significant change. The Defense News article only talks about USD(I) assuming oversight of the commercial activities program from DIA. Even that would be a big change.
Michael Vickers has a long history with special operations from his time in Special Forces, CIA and as ASD/SOLIC. He has a long history with both McRaven and Flynn. JSOC and special mission units are still in ascendency. Perhaps this is the sound of crockery breaking as Flynn moves into DIA.
Two minutes into this interview on the Newshour Colonel (Ret.) Killibrew of CNAS chooses to denigrate what he calls "intelligence soldiers" as opposed to "direct combat soldiers" (sic) in the matter of the Afghan photos of troops and Afghan police palying with the remains of Taliban fighters who accidentally blew themselves up while installing roadside bombs. Bomb installers do this with some frequency. The IRA were particularly prone to this accident. I remember one fellow who did himself in while mixing fertiliser and other "goodies" with a steel shovel on a concrete garage floor. Special Branch and MI-5 had a good chuckle over that.
Killibrew's insult is reminiscent of all the snide remarks I have heard in the US Army over the last half century about intelligence soldiers. In memory of my old comrades I must say that I have seen intelligence soldiers fight as hard as any infantry and I have never known them to murder civilians in their beds.
From what I can learn, that whole brigade (4/82 Div.) behaved poorly during that deployment. The were unhappy to have been ordered into the "mentoring" mode and that showed in their performance. pl
Adam L. Silverman, PhD*
As a result of several comments regarding the recent events in Afghanistan, COL Lang asked me if I would be willing to do up a post about what the Army is doing in regard to culture in its professional military education (PME). While I have some idea of what the Marines and Air Force do, I am really not able to speak in depth about their programs and will stick to the Army's, which is what I know best.
The US Army formulated the Army Culture and Foreign Language Strategy (ACFLS) a little over three years ago in order to address the recognized shortfall of cultural capabilities within the general purpose force of the Army for its ongoing operations; not only for Iraq and Afghanistan, but also the Philippines and for potential future operations as well. The ACFLS designated the Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) as the proponent and ordered it to establish an office to begin implementation - currently known as the Army Culture and Foreign Language Directorate. This included staffing of culture and foreign language advisors (CFLAs) and establishing a way forward for culture in Army PME.
What is really going on in Syria? There are no shortages of hysterical opinions. Rebel spokesmen claim that Assad is being aided by IRGC and Hezbollah forces. Assad's spokesmen claim the rebels are no more than armed bandits and thugs aided by western intelligence agencies and al Qaeda terrorists. The truth is certainly a lot more muddled than any of these opinions. As General Dempsey said, "… I would challenge anyone to clearly identify for me the opposition movement in Syria at this point." In my last stab at describing the Syrian insurgents, I noted the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and the Syrian National Council (SNC) who laid claim to representing and leading the armed insurgency, in the case of the FSA, and the protest movement in the case of the SNC. Both these groups are operating in Turkey. Recently a third group surfaced when a former FSA spokesman announced the formation of the Higher Military Council. This lack of unity and outright rivalry sounds like the Libyans' present dilemma where local militias remain independent and largely unresponsive to any central authority. Luckily, at least in my opinion, all the competing entities claiming they speak for the insurgents and protesters inside Syria are not in Syria.
The clearest answer I have found to the question of who are the rebels is in the writings of Nir Rosen who spent two months in Syria late last summer. The armed insurgents refer to themselves as muqawama or resistance. They are young and organized at the local level. Rosen describes them as using classic insurgent techniques of providing services to the population much as Hamas and Hezbollah do. We often hear of them protecting demonstrators from regime intelligence and security forces. There are not that many defectors among these local armed insurgent groups. In addition to the armed resistance there is a much wider protest movement organized and led on a local level. The leaders of these protest movements are older, wiser and stay in the shadows. They do coordinate actions with their counterparts in neighboring towns. These local movements generally support the SNC, but the SNC does not direct the local protest movements. There is no central or unified leadership for the armed revolution.
As I alluded to earlier, reports of al Qaeda fighters and foreign intelligence agencies operating with the Syrian insurgents are greatly exaggerated. Some inconsequential number of foreigners may have joined the protesters and insurgents, but the reports are largely regime propaganda and conspiracy theories. Foreign contact in the form of political, logistical and military support is probably limited to the FSA and SNC based outside Syria. However, foreign interest in supporting either regime change or regime survival is real. This situation is bound to change as all outside interests figure out what they are willing to pay to get what they want.
Should we arm the rebels? General Dempsey recently stated that, "it's premature to take a decision to arm the opposition movement in Syria." I agree. We should be identifying and contacting the local protest movements and their leaders inside Syria… groups such as the Homs Revolutionary Council. This is the preparation and initial contact phases I described in my post on UW. At some point, I believe soon, we should move to advise and support the resistance inside Syria. Help the rebels create safe havens for the protest movement. A military stalemate may be a better solution at this time. Let's not call for a direct violent overthrow of the Assad regime. I'm sure Assad and those around him have visions of ending up displayed in their local grocer's freezer section with knives up their arses and bullets in their brains if they don't prevail over the rebels. They will naturally do all in their power to avoid that fate. A military stalemate and continued outside pressure, coupled with encouragement, on the regime may allow the protest movement and the regime to yet find a political solution… if one is still possible.
Forward basing to support particular operations is always a problem. The farther you are from home, the biggerthe problem. They should do a few more of these so that land basing for small ops and heaquarters is not so needed in littoral operations. pl
"Advocates of the president’s strategy say that we do not need that human capital or expertise in ground operations because we will never again fight wars that put large numbers of our soldiers at risk. Technology, they say, will make future wars precise, rapid and decisive. We have heard this argument many times since the Cold War ended, from George W. Bush as enthusiastically as Bill Clinton. Yet every U.S. president since Ronald Reagan has ordered tens of thousands of troops into ground combat. Obama himself sent 70,000 additional troops to Afghanistan. Tens of thousands of U.S. troops have been deployed abroad to wars or peacekeeping operations for 38 of the past 70 years — and nearly continuously since 1989. The argument that next time will be different is unpersuasive." Fred Kagan
Fred Kagan wants a foreign policy of aggressive overseas deployments and COIN wars like the ones he favored in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In his oped piece cited here he uses absurd terms like "never again." No one makes that claim. The ral question has to do with "when" and "how big." As for Obama's decision to send a lot more troops to Afghanistan, Kagan was a direct influence in that mistaken decision.
National strategy dictates foreign policy which dictates military strategy which dictates programming and budgeting. Obama's newly announced military strategy is reflective of a new foreign policy, one that implictly rejects massive pacification projects (COIN wars) involving the large ground forces needed to hold the subject population down while COIN works its magic over some decades.
In the new strategy COIN is not dicarded. It is merely reduced to a technique useful in small conflicts at reduced cost.
The other large purpose for big ground forces would be the prospect of conventional ground wars against big, capable armies. Where are the enemies of this type that are likely to be adversaries for the United States. Where? Europe? Asia? Africa? This seems implausible.
Kagan says he wants us to have large ground forces that will serve as "incubators" for leadership for the big ground wars that we are unlikely to have. His paradigm implies a continuing commitment to large scale combat situations. His own logic rejects the idea that peacetime experience "grows" the kind of leadership that he wants to see.
Small ground acions are likely to continue around the peripheries of the oceans or in SOF situations but big ground wars are, for the US, a matter of choice, not necessity.
Kagan and his neocon "brothers" and their familiars are unhappy with the new strategy because it represent a foreign policy that rejects the neocon vision. pl
"... administration officials speaking before the roll-out of the strategy on Thursday said Army and Marine Corps personnel numbers would be cut by 10 percent to 15 percent in the next decade, a figure that translates into tens of thousands of troops.
The strategy underscores the United States' "enduring interests" in Europe and the importance of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization but says the force posture in Europe must "evolve" with the changing times.
Administration officials have said the United States is likely to further reduce the number of ground forces in Europe by another combat brigade, a unit of 3,000 to 4,000 people depending on its composition.
The strategy document underscores a U.S. interest in maintaining stability in the Middle East while responding to the aspirations of the people as expressed in the Arab Awakening last year. It also says the United States will continue working to halt nuclear programs in Iran and North Korea.
"U.S. policy will emphasize Gulf security, in collaboration with the Gulf Cooperation Council countries when appropriate, to prevent Iran's development of a nuclear weapon capability and counter its destabilizing policies," the strategy document says." Reuters
It is always pleasant to hear confirmation of policy change that one has favored. This is just the beginning. We will have much smaller conventional ground forces. This refelcts a decision to accept the notion that we will not fight land wars overseas that involve massive numbers of grounf troops. IMO, the US Army will take the biggest "hit" in this since it is far easier in such a national strategy to justify marine forces that will operate as part of naval task forces. The USAF is an obvious beneficiary of such strategy alhough the future for human pilots is beginning to dim. SOF forces for Libya type involvement and CT work will clearly be maintained or reinforced.
Those who seek to advance Israel's interests through America's strength should take little comfort from this announcement. The shift in attention to the Pacific cannot be viewed favorably in those quarters.
We will have a lot to say about these changes as developements and documents appear. pl
Came across an interesting article in my local newspaper. Not sure why the Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star picked up this AP piece, but I'm glad it did. Kimberly Dozier describes how MG Bennet Sacolick, the current commandant of the JFK Special Warfare Center, is bringing HUMINT and tradecraft training to Special Forces training. This is not a new concept. The Center has been training SF soldiers in conducting low level source operations (LLSO) for at least a decade. MG Sacolick served as an SFODA commander and has commanded Delta before serving a tour with the CIA in their Counterterrorism Center (CTC). In spite of his long association with the special operators of Delta and the "capture, kill" operators of CTC, he seems to have retained his SF character.
HUMINT and clandestine tradecraft are natural extensions of Special Forces capabilities. These skills apply not just to intelligence operations, but also to insurgencies. How do you think the rebels in Tripoli prepared fro Operation Mermaid Dawn? In the early 80s, my ODA taught a one week course in guerrilla operations in urbanized terrain to other ODAs in 10th Group. We touched upon the use of clandestine tradecraft, cover, cellular operations, sabotage and other dark arts. 10th Group ODAs would conduct advanced training in Berlin in these subjects. I hope MG Sacolick includes all this and more in future Special Forces training. TTG
"...some in Congress it raises this question: Does a nation drowning in debt really need two armies? Gen. James F. Amos, the Marine Corps commandant, says that misses the real point. He argues that the Marines, while willing and able to operate from dug-in positions on land, are uniquely equipped and trained to do much more -- to get to any crisis, on land, at sea or in the air, on a moment's notice."
What a crock! In fact we DO have two armies. If Amos thinks that going on "float" more , getting rid of a few infantry battalions and having more unaccompanied rotations to places like Okinawa and Australia will obscure that fact, then IMO he is mistaken. Let's have one ground force. Call it whatever you want. If you want to call it the "Super Duper Marine Army," go for it! The economies that would result from amalgamation of the two armies would be large. I am sure that it is not a great surprise for people if I say that making amphibious landings from barracks ships is not really "rocket science." You like the uniforms, keep'em. You are in better physical condition? BS! Look around you at today's soldiers. You have better generals? Well then, they will end by running the whole thing.
BTW, weren't the marines on 7 month unit rotations in both these wars?
Give America a break. Let's have one army. pl