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21 May 2008

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J

Colonel,

looks like mr. killcullen is might proud of his own mug. am curious as to why did state employ mr australian killcullen instead of born-bred american socom personnel?

Cieran

Think he got enough pictures of himself in there? Maybe if he used even smaller fonts he could squeeze in some more self-portraits.

But Killcullen's Powerpoint skills are much better than Kagan's (whose Surge presentation you linked to awhile back). Kagan's presentation was infantile, where Killcullen's demonstrates at least a junior-high-school grasp of computer skills.

Paul

Bernard Fall wrote full-length books to describe discrete events; "Hell in a Very Small Place", for example. There was always a "story behind the story" theme to Fall's books.

Power Point is rubbish because it only appeals to those with a 5th Grade reading level. That's why he is so loved in Washington.

No amount of posturing will defeat insurgents who wish (and have the means) to remove an occupier from their land.

He aint no Bernard Fall.

Walrus

Tactics, not strategy, and good tactics according to my very limited knowledge.


But if the strategy on top is flawed......as it is....?

Twit

I think as a German Nietzsche would have appreciated the sheer efficiency of powerpoint for 'clumsy spectating and familiar curiosity.'

Walrus

P.S......But then that is the Australian weakness....superlative tactics in support of a sub optimal strategy with no consideration of the political dimension because this has always been decided for us by Britain or America.

Gallipoli anyone?

Sidney O. Smith III

As a back row civilian, I’d like to ask a few questions. Unfortunately I don’t have handy a copy of Bernard Fall’s book, Street Without Joy, as I write from afar.

But I have a very distinct memory that in Fall’s chapter, “The Future of Revolutionary Warfare”, Fall emphasized an aspect of counterinsurgency that I determined was the most important of all. This principle seemed so important that it broke the barriers of time, meaning that it was the first rule that one applied when trying to create a “counterinsurgency” template. By that, I mean that it is a threshold principle that must always be addressed and considered. If it is not, odds increase that counterinsurgency efforts will fail.

And at least from what I can tell, I am yet to see this principle highlighted.

Based on my recollection, the principle goes something like this: to win at counterinsurgency, a nation must give up aspects of a strategy that are not essential to its own national security, particularly aspects that offer ideological legitimacy to a nation’s enemy. Inherent in such an idea is an obligation that a nation take affirmative steps to give up aspects of a strategy that pose a national security risk.

The historical example offered in Fall’s work was the counter-insurgency efforts of the British in Malaysia from 48-60, a time called the “Malayan emergency”. If I understood the historical interpretation correctly, the British succeeded because they decided that granting independence to Malaysia would not effect British national security interests, plus such a decision would take the ideological winds out of the sails of the Malayan communists.

If I may, when I did a quick reading of Petraus’ manual on COIN, I concluded he did not emphasize this aspect of Fall’s work. Maybe I am wrong, but, as a civilian, I questioned his interpretation of the British efforts in Malaysia.

So to cut to the chase, Fall’s analysis would seem to suggest that the US in the Middle East should give up the aspects of its strategy that does not effect national security interests, particularly such aspects that give the enemy the ideological weapons to win the hearts and minds.

So my questions to Killcullin would have been along these lines: what aspects of a Middle East strategy should the US shed, if any? Assuming the New Historians of Israel are correct, should the USM publicly stated that it rejects a legacy of ethnic cleansing and all military tactics that seek such an aim? Is ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians vital for US national security interests? Would shedding this aspect of a strategic policy help US national security interests and help win over the hearts and minds of Arabs and Muslims worldwide, including those in Iraq?

mike

"cheek"??? Maybe, but then on the same slide he does admit to using Fall's methodology.

But he is not above a little brown-nosing. Note his statement that one of the key factors was the "Quality of senior leadership (Petraeus, Crocker, Odierno)".

And not to get anal, but my pet peeve is with the Aussie-isms such as "Coy" as the abbreviation for Company.

I was amazed to see him quote Laszlo Almaszy as a close advisor to Rommel as I understood that Almaszy's role was as a spy rather than an adviser. I will have to see if I can find an old biography in the used bookstores. I know that Pressfield uses him in his latest work, but I would prefer a non-fiction account.

I would also like to learn more about the Archer Teams and Taji Academy that he praises on slide 50.

ked

I think the ppt needed a few more slides of himself in action.

rick

Seemed like a bunch of facile nonsense and buzzwords to me.

The most interesting thing I saw was the pictures of major attacks, the collapsed bridge pic most notably, that seem to have occured recently but which i do not remember hearing about on the news. So it was good for something...

Walrus

J:

"looks like mr. killcullen is might proud of his own mug. am curious as to why did state employ mr australian killcullen instead of born-bred american socom personnel?"

I suspect he was employed because he appears to be an expert in a field (counterinsugency) that born-bred American personnel have been studiously ignoring for the last twenty years.

As for the mug shots, I suspect he has a very high narcissistic drive. The question is whether he has that under control and can thus forge good relationships between those above and, more importantly, those below him.

If that is lacking, then what we have seen in the presentation is probably too good to be true, but if it is true, then Mr. Kilcullen is going to write a heck of a good book one day, and I hope I'm around to buy a copy when he does.

FB Ali

Most politicians and generals have limited education (and, often, limited intelligence). Nothing like a slick PP show with fancy diagrams and graphs, and lots of big words, to bamboozle them into believing something profound is being presented. There are always clever people who know this, and exploit it. Kilcullen seems to be one of these.

The hollowness of his show is well illustrated by his use of the Rommel/Almaszy example. Rommel never fought a counterinsurgency campaign. Almaszy was never his COIN adviser.

The man is clever trickster.

Will

Sidney Smith restates the obvious in a scholarly way.

The driving force of US foreign policy since its capture by the ZionCons post Eisenhower is to facilitate a greater Israel and its growth into the West Bank and Gaza at the expense of the indigenous population both Muslim and Christian. It goes without saying, if the Palestinians were 100% Christian instead of 20% Christian: 80% Muslim, this could not have been sold to the U.S. and British Publics.

But by stirring hatred against Muslims and Arabs this project has been sold these past years to the detriment of the National Security of the West, our treasure and our young men's blood limbs.

How else can one explain the destruction of a secular Irak by canceling the last phase of the CENTCOM war plans, recalling the Dream Team of Generals and leaving the most junior lieutenant general of the Army, to wit: Sanchez, in charge of the country.

(hint, Wolfwitz, No. 2 at Pentagon, Feith, No. 3, Scooter Libby, chief of staff for Pumphead Cheney)

Grimgrin

One thing Mr. Killcullen makes one statement in his presentation is simply wrong. Namely that COIN work is governed by "tyranny of rising expectations". This is, in a word, bullshit.

The political expectations set at the start of this war was that the US was going to march in, kick over Saddam as easy as knocking over a sandcastle, and six months later march out having left behind a stable, democratic, US friendly, Israel freindly, Exxon/Mobil friendly Arab state in the heart of the middle east.

What's the political expectation for Iraq today?
That a government comprised of militias friendly to (or bought off by) will one day be able to play host to US bases without too many American casualties a month?

I'd guess that the line about 'rising expectations', like most official bullshit, serves a purpose. In this case it's to explain why COIN operations seem to so often fail to produce satisfactory results. It's not the fault of our methods, it's because fault the goalposts keep getting changed.

On a more general note, I've seen a few of these powerpoints and they all keep screaming the same thing at me. "How do you actually do this?" How do you turn your neat little feedback cycle into real action? How do you translate these slides into orders, policies, methods that prove effective? In a sense they remind me of Kurt's pamphlet from "Heart of Darkness"

"This was the unbounded power of eloquence -- of words -- of burning noble words. There were no practical hints to interrupt the magic current of phrases..."

Although I admit it's a stretch to call power point slides eloquent, I think there's a parallel there.

SubKommander Dred

What total crap! I couldn't make it past the 4th slide without wanting to take a hammer to my computer monitor. "Gated Communities?" So, we are going to install golf courses and tennis courts in Baghdad, patrolled by donut eating rent-a-cops? This guy Killcullen is a total wanker.

SubKommander Dred

SubKommander Dred

Gated Communities...What was I thinking? We already have one! It's called "The Green Zone."

SubKommander Dred

J

Colonel,

looks like mr. australian killkullan has an affinity for 'gated communities' that protect his keester with a gate guard in a pretty uniform without a weapon most probably hired from a nation where their citizens are desperate for jobs and will put themselves in harms way smack dab in the middle of a klll box just to be 'employed', even if it's as an unarmed gated community guard so they can send what little money they get for their dangerous job to send back home to their relatives.

soooo sad.

William R. Cumming

Power Point has given to the briefer class (those who brief but don't always think) new power. Often Pentagon briefers get promoted for example. Problem is that briefing is only one of many skills and those with it may be lacking in decision-making skills. Because COIN needs good decisionmakers not briefers as its basic skill always worrisome to see a briefer book become established as "Gospel." Certainly Bernard Fall's writings and Francis Fitzgerald's "Fire In The Lake" should be bookends on Vietnam which reminds me what has been translated into English from Vietnamese about that war or wars? And what has been translated from English to Vietnamese? Doesn't understanding start from knowledge?

Montag

T.E. Lawrence described a bayonet as a weapon "with a fool at each end." Much the same could be said of a Power Point Presentation. Isn't that how we were seduced into Iraq, by reducing the NIE down to the intellectual standards of an article in the Sunday Supplement of a newspaper?

Paul

The Washington Post of 23-May-08 features and article and video of Apache helicopters firing Hellfire missiles inside Sadr City. Senior military officials state that the tactic is “useful” because it protects American soldiers. It may also be true that the tactic might be “useful” to those who resent the occupation of their country.

The young pilot shown in the video seems thrilled that he has bagged a few “bad guys”. Apparently they are seeking people who have “hostile intent”. They will, to be sure, uncover those who set up mortars or other weapons, but what about other activities. Does he fire at someone who gives him a finger wave? Since when does a young kid decide who has, and does not have, “hostile intent”?

Video games have been brought to the battlefield. Is this in the realm of COIN warfare? Like the games themselves, these tactics seem mindless and coarse. What happened to honor?

The article identifies civilian casualties but nothing is said about damage to personal property or homes. One can only image the collateral damage inflicted by a Hellfire missile in a crowded space. A helicopter firing missiles in my neighborhood or near my home would invite profound anger and eventual retaliation.

What were they thinking when they dreamed up this scheme. The Israelis have been using F-16s to quell neighborhoods for years and look what it has reaped.

Nothing will solve the Iraq problem but a massive ground presence. Since the Army and MarCor are worn-out it is only a matter of time before we walk out or are kicked out.

Cold War Zoomie

My view is that his diagnosis is insufficient since he only concentrates on one "violence loop." And if your diagnosis is wrong, you've got big problems.

He needs to show multiple intersecting, dynamic violence loops and add far more accelerants to his list, including the presence of a foreign occupying force!

What really bothers me about these types of presentations is that they reduce human beings down to statistics and graphs. There are real and living people on all sides of the conflict with multiple motivations. Heaven forbid we should try to put ourselves in each of their shoes. I get absolutely no sense that he really cares about the people involved - everyone's just reduced to a data point in some huge science experiment.

Ugh. There is no victory in any of this mess - all we can hope to do is to soften the landing a little.

J

CWZ,

notice how mr. australian killcullen makes sure his 'profile' is just sooo sooo before the shutter clicks on the camera. you can see such by looking at his eyes. oh vanity of vanities. makes one wonder if killcullen has a makeup powder box in his hip pocket to make sure that his 'oily spots' don't show up on film. he's gotta look great for the rice crowd, doesn't he? appears that mr. killcullen's ppp is all about 'looks' with little substance. hmmm........

Andy

The problem with powerpoint slides is they only paint half the picture. Without seeing the actual presentation or without some kind of transcript or equivalent, important context and additional content goes missing. Without that extra content and context it's all too easy to misinterpret a presentation or portions thereof. I've seen such misinterpretations occur many times myself which is one reason I always try to add explanation and context on the notes pages of each slide in presentations I create, though time constraints don't always allow it. I'm also reminded of Edward Tufte's book on the subject and his analysis of powerpoint's role in the Columbia disaster.

Secondly, the slide with Almazsy does not say he was a COIN advisor - rather it says "Commanding Generals have a long history of employing specialist advisers" and provides several examples of advisor-General relationships, including Almazsy. The implication, of course, is that Killcullen is such a specialist advisor and one of equivalent historic importance and stature to the examples he provides. Such a self-comparison carries a certain amount of ego to be sure. Whether it is deserved or not, I'll personally leave that to history to decide.

Eliot

Pentagon Power Point Tips

1 - Drop Shadow

2 - Maps

Use of official jargon helps as well. This comes from my friend the contractor.

Cold War Zoomie

Andy-

You bring up a good point about PP presentations. After posting my comment I thought about Kilcullen out there in the field among the "players" and think my assessment that he doesn't give a damn about the people involved is probably way too harsh. (I have a teeny-tiny history of posting-before-thinking syndrome here at SST!) It just makes my blood boil when I see war reduced to line graphs and data points.

Eliot...perhaps you missed my favorite website a few months ago...

Jim Placke's Site

And this still cracks me up no matter how many times I've seen it:

Jim Placke's Powerpoint Presentation

You've got to play the presentation to enjoy it. Who knows how many times it's made its way around DoD.

I wear my PowerPoint Ranger tab with pride!

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