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31 July 2008


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Colonel and All,

Oh, I'm sure that Dana Perino will try and spin her way out of this one, thank you very much. Talk about your dead-enders...


But when we invade Iran and make its economy open-up to American oil companies, things will be better.

The AQI land-bridge from Afghanistan will be closed by our occupation.


These gentlemen were educated at Georgetown and Berkeley, not to be trusted as true Americans.


"increasing intelligence collection and partnerships with law enforcement agencies around the world"

It would I think really help if the next administration did not make enemies of those agencies and organisations that are both threatened by and REALLY able to help in countering the Al Qaedas of this world.

The Iranians, the Syrians, Hizballah, these groups all have both the capabilities, the regional street smarts, the contacts and most importantly the low likelyhood of collusion with the Wahabis that the likes of the US's current allies such as Saudi Arabia, Pakistan (esp. the security forces), the Afghan govt. and even Jordan have.

But of course since the first group are those that most threaten Israeli hegemony and since so many of Amerca's politicians put Israel before the United States.....

Cold War Zoomie

The report observes that "groups whose attacks on civilian targets outnumber attacks on military targets systematically fail to achieve their policy objectives, in part because they fail to communicate their policy objectives well."

Isn't this how AQ in Iraq blundered, and turned the local Sunnis against them?

While this type of thinking exists in America, what hope is there?...

What Bush & Batman Have in Common


The only caveat that I'd say exists with this is that I think we were perfectly right to demand that the Taliban/gov't of Afghanistan hand over bin Laden and then take it down when they didn't. And I think it's in our good interests too to be seen—in the arab world esp.—doing what we can to help Afghanistan further. We had no duty to do so whatsoever I think, and we've mucked it up a good deal both in a moral as well as in an operational sense by going into Iraq. But, still, us being seen as giving it a good try to help that country out instead of just bombing the hell out of it and walking away was and is a good thing I think. Not that there aren't limits to the degree that we try, big ones, but on the whole I think it's been a noble effort and in our interest.


Pvt. Keepout

Thanks for noting this RAND report. It would be surprising if it didn't confirm the beliefs, intuition or suspicions of most SST readers & commenters. However, the following element of your post was striking:

In the end the Iraq War has been won, not by the sheer muscle of of our force but by the indirect methods used in helping the awakening among the Sunni Arabs

This merits a dedicated, stand alone post. What's winning? Who won? Did returns exceed costs? Was all the carnage and wreckage necessary? Productive? Destructive? Are future wars seeded? Any blowback? Were alternative methods superior or inferior to invasion, occupation and repression?
Were deceit, corruption, predation and barbarity essential, superfluous, counterproductive or trivial to nonexistent?
Are our adversaries more fit, cohesive and politically served than we by the enterprise?

To paraphrase Douglas Lovelace (Dir.SSI/USAWC) will the success of military operations be ephemeral, and the problems they were designed to eliminate return or be replaced by new and more virulent difficulties?

A post expanding on the referenced assertion would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

Mike Martin, Yorktown, VA

Anyone know if Jones and Libicki still have their jobs after this heresy?


". . .focus on minimizing overt military action and increasing intelligence collection and partnerships with law enforcement agencies around the world."

I believe John Kerry was saying exactly these words four years ago. But he was liberal, effete, spoke French, and liked to wind-surf in his spare time.

To Mo: At least Obama has figured out how to talk the jingoistic talk ("take the fight to Afghanistan") just enough to (maybe) get elected.

But of course, a la Kerry, he is a liberal, presumptuous, arrogant, Britney Spears-like celebrity who is too inexperienced to be POTUS. Plus he's a black Muslim with a militant Christian pastor and an uppity wife who is probably the love child of Bobby Seal. Did I mention the Obama family hates America?

I hope RAND didn't spend too much money on this study. A whole bunch of people have been saying these things since 9/11/01 (and before).

William R. Cumming

Can you fight suicide bombers? My guess is the RAND underneath its analytic framework for this report realizes that conventional millitary approaches just don't cut it given a world where technology has empowered individuals who wish to be a destructive force. We know that law enforcement as represented by the failed FBI reorganization to switch from investigation to intelligence has miserably failed and little in the way of guidance and sharing has occurred domestically on terrorism issues, despite the high-praise (Spin?) given on the Terrorism Fusion Centers, and the same given the National Counterterrorism Center with multiple federal agencies in attendance. So given those failures the RAND report could be viewed as essentially condemning the major approaches taken domestically (which I have a better feel for as an individual) as opposed to internationally. But I think it also condemns the international approach taken by the US since 9/11. So how do we calibrate if we believe this report is sound? An always remember RAND was originally funded by the brand new USAF to justify creation and maintenance of a large bomber force. Guess why, pilots long ruled the USAF since the split off from the US Army under the National Security Act of 1947. I mention this because the pilots are still looking for a part in the GWOT. Also a new history of RAND has just been published. Not sure if authorized history or not.


The Iraq war has been won? Well, maybe.

But who has won what in Iraq?


Otherwise the Rand study is correct and many international governments have pointed out the issue before. Bush/Cheney also knew that it is true.

But the Bush/Cheney gang needed some pretext to attack Iraq and the War of Terror construct was a perfect propaganda theme for that.


"In the end the Iraq War has been won....." - PL

Do you not mean "the war against Al Qaeda in Iraq has been won"? Certainly, the awakening among the Sunni Arabs has seen the AQ terrorists suppressed and an uneasy alliance established between the Sunni and the Americans. But the Iraq war was surely fought as more than just an effort to defeat a few thousand - or perhaps merely a few hundred - non Iraqis who themselves had infiltrated the central provinces of Mesopotamia. The war was fought to overthrow the Baathist regime as well. Victory there, indisputably. But in the South and in Baghdad, the Sadrists are undefeated; the Iraqi government put in place by the Coalition seems still to have little power to actually govern the country. In Northern Ireland, after a couple of years of intense and murderous violence in which the British military were unable to control the province, there was a long period of low level violence during which effectively the province was under the control of the British government. The IRA was never defeated, merely controlled. A situation in which a sullen population is held unwillingly under control by an occupying force subject to the annoyance of seemingly endless sporadic violence would surely be called a stalemate. And nobody could claim that the final peace settlement was in any way a victory for the UK or the IRA. Stalemate only. Likewise, in Iraq, the US military have won many battles, but they arguably have not won the war, which perhaps is unwinnable for either side, a true stalemate.


Col. Lang:

Of course it's not hard to make the case but who's going to listen?

My sense is that this country is disaster not common sense driven.

9/11 clearly didn't do it as we didn't have leaders who had been raised in a common-sense problem solving tradition.

I had hoped that the economic crisis might be different but the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) just postponed at the request of the effected financial institutions a regulation forcing banks to bring off-balance-sheet assets such as mortgages and credit-card receivables back onto their books until after November of 2009. Wow, we've got to wait another year to get transparency.

We just don't want to deal. And we'll be reminded of that again when the half trillion dollar fiscal '09 DOD budget comes up for review.

I first learned of the problem when I consulted to a NASA vendor at the Cape back in the early 70's. They drove us to the adminstration building via the local roads which were much in need of repair. I asked about that and was told that the repair budget was not spent on repairs but was used to augment R&D.

I wish I could be more positive for the sake of my seven grandchildren but I can't.

Duncan Kinder
This all sounds a bit "yellow peril-ish" or maybe like the crazed devotee of Kali in the '30s movie, "Gunga Din."

I, for one, am a bit puzzled that Sax Rohmer's Fu Manchu series has not received more attention.


This book introduces the characters and begins the course of events that sustain the first three novels of the series. Nayland Smith, Special Commisioner, having detected signs of organized insurgency in the Far East, surprises his good friend Dr. Petrie one quiet evening in London. He astounds the good doctor with tales of Eastern terrors and intrigue revolving around the figure of a mysterious Chinese doctor named Fu-Manchu, the evil genius at the center of a plot to subjugate the white races to oriental domination. As the plot unfolds, we, along with these two stout-hearted Englishmen, encounter many of Dr. Fu-Manchu's terrifying agents, including numerous representatives of mysterious Asiatic strangler cults, and frequent evidence of the Doctor's evil genius in the shape of the deadly drugs he has produced and the lethal bugs, apes and fungi he has bred. We also move in and out of opium dens, subterranean passageways, and loathsome dungeons in the very heart of the modern metropolis and in the peaceful bosom of the English countryside. The irresitibly seductive Egyptian slave girl Karamaneh, Fu-Manchu's most dangerous creature, completes the cast of characters. To reveal more, at this point, would be to spoil the pleasure and the surprise of the reader's first encounter with the thrilling and enchanting world of Dr. Fu-Manchu.
anonymous (economist)

If Col. Lang will indulge me, I am mentioning the link I gave to Barnett Rubin's in the previous post:

"Points on an Integrated Strategy for Afghanistan"

on icga.blogspot.com,


Rubin asks whether police/covert and military operations should be the focus in themselves, or should be integrated with other measures to persuade the population to move from the bad guys' sphere of influence over to the good guys' sphere of influence.

To paraphrase Rubin -In the west everyone talks about militant Islam in Afghanistan the ordinary people talk about getting enough money to live on. And, according to Rubin, there is an important intersection between the opium industry and the terrorism industry.

Farmers grow poppies and that puts bread on the table and that leads to allegiances and alliances and obligations with those who finance and support their farming operations.

The poppy trade is a highly developed, even though illegal, industry; the bigshots provide sophisticated and extensive financing, marketing, distribution and processing services to farmers.

The help and support offered by the "good guys" simply do not compare in any way, says Rubin. So in many areas the mass of people are simply lost to the other side in some very immportant spheres of life, even if they make the necessary temporary displays to us, when forced to, in order to avoid our sanctions.

So, as Machiavelli said, repeatedly, The Prince must have the people on his side, or he will fail.

Shouldn't police, covert operations, and military action be coordinated with, and in support other measures. If force is the primary focus, we may be asking it to do more than it can do. But force, whether police, or covert operations, or military, is all I hear in the media. It is as if they were talking about how to play a shoot 'em up computer game.

I am just talking about Afghanistan, and what needs to be done to win over the people where terrorists hide will differ in other places, of course.


As it happens, I've been reading "Rise of the Vulcans," a fairly decent history of how Bush foreign policy came about. No real suprises in it, but it does re-inforce the fact that the foreign policy mindset of the Bushies focused entirely on the utility military power -- experience in the Pentagon being the common factor for almost all of them. The bigger the military the better. Their view was very state-centric too. So smashing states to get at terrorism followed logically from that. When you're a hammer, all solutions look like nails, as the saying goes. Shifting to terrorism as primarily a law enforcement matter will come about as soon as they leave office.

We've won in Iraq as much we're going to, as much winning there actually means anything.



Even before Pearl Harbor started WWII, the US agreed that the Philippines would have its independence in 1946. Even after a successful colonial war, the costs and corruption of running a Colony were too great for America.

Focus group neo-leaders never grasped the lessons of the 20th Century. Victory is not women blowing themselves periodically up in the market place.

Advertisements imposing a black candidate over images white blond females, win elections in Tennessee and America. Fear wins elections. But, the never ending wars fought on the cheap only kill, maim and bankrupt us all.

Existential wars will be fought over resources. But, for now for far less blood and treasure, extremists of all religions can be contained by the rule of law, secure borders and energy independence. Just maybe, science and education will avoid the Endtime when air and water are privatized.

Farmer Don

"In the end the Iraq War has been won, not by the sheer muscle of of our force but by the indirect methods used in helping the awakening among the Sunni Arabs"

Won?,I think a little premature. The US may have more "control" of the country at this point. But how long will the control last? The US will have to leave in a couple years to repair the damage to it's economy and armed forces.
When you are investing money in some project, you have to look at "oportunity costs".
On the news is an article that Texas is going to make a super electric transmission grid needed for wind power. The Cost 4.9 billion $. The cost of the Iraq is about 10 billion/month! You can see what might have been accomplished if not for the war.
This war has no winner.


Col. Lang:

It might fun or, at least a change of pace to remind folks of Pohl and Kornbluth's Gladiator at Law (Ballentine 1955). Still available for under a dollar (used) at booksellers everywhere.

The more things change they more they stay the same.


mo: I have agreed with you for a long time on at least Hezb, and the need to engage Syria/Iran in a counter-intel op (miss you over at Abu M, btw) but dont you think that its come a bit to far right now? With all this rhetoric of the great Satan, a 180 degree turnabout seems a bit dreamy to me. As far as i can see, what is possible for Obama is to start a 1-2 year detente among all actors while A) Winding down the Iraq engagement and B) Concentrating on crushing the engine of the terror-networks, the opium/smuggling machine that is Afghanistan.

The only tribes I can see possible to actually hire are the Chechens and the various smaller tribes of Afghanistan itself, like the nomads (Kusch?) and the Nuristanis. Now a chechen legion, approved by Russia and fighting in exchange for a new homeland a la Israel, that would be something, mr. bin Ladens head would propably appear within 60 days. but its dreamtime-thinking, unfortunately, possible 5-6 years ago but not now I think.


Oh, and Tom B: The moral failure when seen in Afghanistan context only doesnt rest solely on Iraq. Bangram prison and Dostum and the blatant doubledealing of Karzai with regards to the opium/smuggling/ business is a stab in the back for any sensible COIN tactic. Becoming the Vaering-guard of the new regimeof murdering warlords while building schools and nice things is a schizophrenic approach to nationbuilding. "yes, you got to hold out being tortured and raped for just 20 more years, then it will all get better." For every man that looses bloodkin in Afghan 10 rises from the south, people who never been *that* religious but are dutybound. I think a lot of us can empathise, if someone bombed my sisters wedding while I was off doing bad things in Tajikistan I would indeed go home and head for the hills. And think.


The whole point of the Rand commentary is false. Al-Qa'ida as an organisation no longer exists - perhaps one or two, or maybe 10 or 20 individuals hiding in caves in Pushtunistan, or living comfortably on the Pakistan side of the border. Al-Qa'ida in Iraq never had more than a spiritual relationship with the original.

What survives is the spirit, the inspiration, and that is very widespread in the Islamic world.

Putting up that as a major world danger, which has to be tackled militarily, is absurd. It's a political problem, not a military one. You should say so, PL.

Farmer Don

Col. Lang,

Sorry for two posts in one day, but the 'Win" in Iraq was on my mind all afternoon.

First I know this war affects you more then me. It's your Country, your institution, your friends and peers that are directly involved. I'm just sitting in the peanut gallery.

Now, have you ever seen a bunch of poor working bums locked out of their jobs? There they are on the street with their pathetic signs "Locked out", "Management Unfair!".
You know they don't have a snowballs chance in Hell of ever winning, why even fight? Why don't they just give up and try to find some new, probably lower paying work. But no, they show up every day walking the line with their poor haircuts and cheap clothes. And a year goes by, Winter shows up, and some are still walking the line keeping the business closed. At this point, the business has lost a pile, but it's not going to give up now. And if you can believe it, some "dead enders" keep marching up and down the street for Five years! There's some vandalism. Then the last finally quit. They're broke, and bitter, and probably going home to live on welfare. Now Management says "We Won!, We Won!".

But hey, fighting the lockout took way more money than expected, and management now has a lot of debt and a factory that's falling apart.

And the three other businesses that management ran aren't doing so well either. They have a bank, a construction company, and a chain of espresso outlets. While the top brass was trying to break the lockout, the Bank manager started giving cheap loans to any one who could fog a mirror, then the people building houses and selling espresso bought more houses and coffee with the cheap money. (we all know how this will end).

This is the kind of "Win" there is in Iraq.


The underlying purpose of this war was not to solve the problem of terrorism, it was to demonise America in the minds of every muslim, with a view to ensuring that America had only one friend it could count on in the Middle East - Israel.

Ever since 911, the tactics and strategy employed has been spectacularly wrong, and that has been obvious even to a simple idiot like me.

I refuse to believe Americans can have been so willfully and obviously stupid as to:

1. Invade Iraq.

2. Destroy America's leading position as a beacon of human rights.

But I guess doing #2 means that America can now never pull up Israel in it's treatment of the Palestinians.

The only thing left to work out is if Bush will attack Iran and complete Israel's final mission.

Patrick Lang


In re "winning the war." I am not interested in settling Iraq's internal or even external problems. They must do that if they have any hope of being an independent state.

The US declared war aim in invading was to remove SH's government and the threat to the US of his supposed WMD. We did that.

When the Sunni insurgency developed the US(Bush) declared that defeating the insurgency and leaving behind a sovereign government was the goal. The insurgencies have been defeated by the means I described. Iraqi political problems are their problems, not US problems.

Al-Qa'ida still exists, and can mount suicide attacks. Unfortunate but not our problem. IQ has no chance whatever of taking over the Iraqi government.

Analogously, Hamas exists and could conduct suicide attacks in Israel if they wanted to. That is not a US problem either. It is an Israeli and Palestinian problem.

Did the US really invade Iraq to make the world safer for Israel? Of course we did, but I am not in favor of staying in Iraq until the world is safe for Israel. pl

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