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18 August 2009


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PLEASE stop posting such insipid Powerpoint presentations!

Kagan's "surge" presentation was bad enough, but this "Long War" version was so completely inept, I had do quit half-way through just to keep from doing permanent damage to my IQ. I think that my brain wants to take a shower now. Aarrgh!

Do decision-makers at DOD actually make policy based on this kind of faux "analysis"? The presentation is little more than a collection of hopelessly strained analogies and scary bad graphics. You'd think that audiences would figure out that once the ghost of Neville Chamberlain shows up on a slide, they're about to be asked to do something stupid!

I did enjoy the "U.S. Strategy" page, tho -- it was good for a belly laugh. Three elements, none of which were supported by much else of import in the presentation content. Element #1: Protect and defend the Homeland... well, duh! Maybe we could handle that by insisting that our CIC carefully read the briefings with pithy titles like "Bin Laden determined to strike within U.S."? Think that might help?

And how on earth does that particular "strategic element" map to invading and nation-building plumb over on the other side of the globe? Doesn't anybody at the Pentagon have a map of the world handy? Isn't geography still a required course for admirals?

Heaven help us if this is what is being used to form national defense policy. The only silver lining I can see is that now that I've had a chance to read this brand of fatuous nonsense, I can begin to appreciate why my days in the national security apparatus periodically involved having to deal with directives that were patently insane.

Those probably arrived in my corner of the security universe courtesy of some fool in DC, armed with Powerpoint and with way too much time on his hands.


The other day a friend and I were watching the "American Experience" on PBS. It was about Jimmy Carter's presidency. The narrator said something like...inflation after a war. That war would have been Vietnam, which had been over a while by the time of Carter. Is that why we are getting out of Iraq, but staying in Afghanistan? Ecomonically, it could be worse if we got out of the war business all together? Just curious?
Thank you.


“War is alien to the peaceful nature and desires of our nation” Ha, ha, ha, ha…… What planet does the Admiral live on?

A quote from Ayatollah Komeni from 1942? When he was a lecturer at either Najaf or Qum. I wonder what that other “Time Magazine Man of the Year’ Newt Gingrich (1995, Komeni 1979) was doing as a lecturer at that bastion of knowledge, the University of West Georgia? (I couldn’t resist as Newt was a history professor and this dog and pony slide show date’s to ’06 or prior.)

“If their economy is destroyed, they will be busy with their own affairs rather than enslaving the weak peoples. It is very important to concentrate on hitting the US economy through all possible means.” - Usama bin Laden …. My God he’s hiding on Wall Street! Which hedge fund is he running, certainly not the one paying out $100 million to Andrew Hall?

Just as “the state militia, convalescents, old boys and a few officers who happened to be there, managed to frighten Butler into pulling back…” Too bad so many were frightened by a PowerPoint presentation and guilt over failing to defend America on 9-11 even though repeatedly warned of possible attacks.
How easy to change slide 6, just replace ‘Muslim’ with Christian and Islam with ‘Christianity’ and you have a different group of fundamentalists. "The road of Providence is uneven and unpredictable—yet we know where it leads: It leads to Freedom." George W. Bush, second inaugural.
“ When Franklin Roosevelt stood before the Congress in his 1941 State of the Union Address he spoke of four essential freedoms we should fight for: Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Worship, Freedom from Want and Freedom from Fear.” (quoted for convenience http://www.house.gov/mcdermott/issues_socsec.shtmlence from Congressman Jim McDermott’s speech on Social Security in 2005.) Those trying to exercise freedom of speech were thrown out of Bush’s town hall meetings, now others carry automatic weapons to Obama’s. Yet it is still terrorist condition yellow in every square inch of America; I would say we have a long way to go for Freedom from Fear; and to think that once upon a time ,when we had a liberal Democrat in a wheelchair as president, all we had to fear, was fear itself.

Patrick Lang

Cieran et al

No. That is what they are feeding themselves. You need to know that. pl

Patrick Lang


You still dom't get it. This was all about Israel. pl

Patrick Lang


Wanting means nothing. pl

William R. Cumming

Okay diversion from the forthcoming "Siege of DC by Islamic Forces' updating the "Siege of Vienna" and let's focus on Taliban forces capability. I understand significant upgrades have occurred in Taliban Weaponary and Tactics in last 18 months and wonder what readers of blog have heard or know? What is Taliban night-fighting capability?



I'll take a crack at it. Of course oil, and economics were, and are omnipresent factors. But they have been there a long time, and we did not seek to invade Iraq when we had great chance to do. Or, more succinctly, occupy Iraq. There was a line drawn in the sand, in the Gulf War, that the US would not cross. Oil was industrialized world's life blood back then. But our leaders, oil barons they be, too, Bush from Texas, Baker from Texas, Cheney, et al, lovers of oil and big finance they all, held back.

So something had to change to push us (them?)'over the line'.

I would put my money on the following: Utopian religious fervor, End-Timers, Apocalyptic believers, combined with secular Neo-liberals who wanted to bring 'democracy' to all the world. This latter group bring as much secular fervor as the religious group. The Neo-liberals, drunk on believing that history is a teleological process. And the 'end destination', Francis Fukyama's 'end of history', was liberal democracy for all. Everywhere.

This wacko bunch came together under Bush. Not conspiratorially, but just a 'perfect storm', albeit lacking a trigger to set it all off. 9/11 was that trigger.

Patrick Lang


This particular PPT has been used over and over again since '05.

There have been many more such briefings since then. The themes of the "Caliphate" and the "Existential Struggle" against militant Islam is very wide spread in the government.

WRC's reference to the Islamic "Siege of DC" is apt. Unfortunately, most of those being briefed are unaware that the Ottomans twice besieged Vienna so the humor in the remark would be lost on them. pl

Patrick Lang


All of that is true but the desire of the Israeli Right and its American friends to put paid to the imagined Iraqi nuclear program underlay everything. pl


Great post Pat. Did you see Cordesmann's latest? As far as I can make out he wants us to give up on building the "central govermnent" and "institution" build local parliaments and parallel government structures all across the afghan countryside. What fun



That is what they are feeding themselves. You need to know that.

Then they are dining very much, but being nourished very little.

I think you should start using a rating system for any Powerpoint presentations you post here. That one could be a "PG-13", meaning that "Presentation Guaranteed to insult the intelligence of anyone over the age of 13"

David Habakkuk


'This wacko bunch came together under Bush. Not conspiratorially, but just a 'perfect storm', albeit lacking a trigger to set it all off. 9/11 was that trigger.'

Absolutely. But some of us had hoped that the disappointment of the absurd hopes associated with the project of 'regime change' in Iraq would lead to a sobering up, at least among parts of the 'wacko bunch'. Some sobering up there clearly has been. But increasingly it looks insufficient to prevent the Obama Administration heading in disastrous directions in relation to Afghanistan -- and, I very much fear, Iran as well.

William P. Fitzgerald III

Pat Lang and others,

First, John H. on the "Marxist theory" bit. I've observed that whenever oil is mentioned in conjunction with reasons for invading Iraq, Lang brings up Marxist theory or Marxist professors as the probable source. This happened to me a few weeks ago and I've been awaiting a chance to rebut. Pat, I've never met an actual Marxist professor, though I've heard that there are such.

As with (apparently) John H. I have a difficult time with reconciling the high-priced and highly educated help in Washington with the notion that "wackos", religious fanatics, neo-conservative enthusiasts and the like were the sole, or even primary, cause for the (2nd) Iraq War. This leads to the belief that, surely, there must be pragmatic geo-political reasons for the whole thing. Perhaps oil or perhaps the theories of Halford Mackinder, who, in the 19th century, wrote : "Who controls the heartland controls the world island, who controls the world island controls the world." So, are our policies the result of sober and rational calculation of our national interest? The answer seems to be No. I agree with Habbakkuk's analogy of a perfect storm of ideologues, political hacks, economic interests,and religious fanatics all coming together at he right time and under the right president. And, I agree with Lang that Israel's interests, working through the ever-persistent lobby are the motivating force and catalyst. Is that a correct statement of your view?


Babak Makkinejad


In regards to Afghanistan and her importance to the Silk Road etc. you are inaccurate.

dilbert dogbert

Col. Lang,
Please a bit of warning when you post a link like that. I had to wash my brain out with soap after viewing a couple of slides.

Patrick Lang


I guess you never worked in government anywhere near the top. We are governed by ignorant, self serving, poorly educated blockheads who serve a variety of special interests. You clearly do not want to believe that and I can't seem to convince you. Nevertheless, they are perfectly capable of believing trash like the stuff in that PPT presentation, AND DO!!!

"marxist" analysis implies a devotion to analysis of all problems in terms of economic determinism. It does NOT necessarily imply that this person is a "Marxist" in the political sense.

Did we invade Oraq for the oil? No!! No!! We invaded Iraq because our "ignorant, self serving, poorly educated blockheads" managed to convince our people that a lot of nonsense was true. Why did they do it? I give up. believe whatever you want. "Sound geo-politica reasons..." My god, do you really think that decisions on policy are made for "sound geopolitical reasons?" you can't be that naive.

You don't know any "Marxist" professors? Remarkable. pl


I'm glad the Colonel clarified what he believes were the motivations for invading Iraq. He is definitely not alone. And I would agree that Israel was a key factor, serving at minimum as an important enabler via the neocons.

Jonst posed an interesting point when he said: what changed in 2001? My answer: the realization that oil supplies were getting tight. Cheney had made a speech in 1998 noting declining discoveries and the critical role of ME oil to future supplies. (Cheney was immediately put in charge of the "energy security" task force in Feb. 2001. This was an obvious signal of Bush's priorities.)

During the election of 2000, oil prices were rising, and Bush promised to convince OPEC to "open their spigots." HOW he intended to open the spigots was unclear until the invasion of Iraq...

These are facts that clearly suggest an economic motivation to the Iraq War, if not to supply America, then to control the future allocation of a precious and diminishing resource to friend not foe.

William P. Fitzgerald III

Pat Lang,

You're right on a couple of counts. I've never served anywhere near the top in government and I'm not that naive about the origins of policy. I do suffer from an irrestible urge to attempt to be facetious from time to time. It doesn't always work. I truly have never met a "marxist professor", but am positive that they do exist.

I'm being summoned to dinner, but would inquire as to whether the motive to acquire access to natural resources constitutes economic determinism in the Marxist sense.

This is a marvelous discussion.


G Hazeltine

I would like a proponent of the oil theory to explain to me how it is that you 'control' the oil, as a foreign occupying force.

Saddam was the perfect client. He did 'control' the oil and was very happy to sell it to very large companies who were very happy to buy it from him.

At the height of the Iraq conflict, which is to say any time the 'insurgents' chose to attack it, we could not 'control' the most important road in the country - the few miles from Baghdad to the airport.

How then to 'control' the thousands of miles of pipeline in Iraq?

The Irgun understood pipelines, and shut them down at will, notwithstanding a hundred thousand or British troops in a much smaller place. And when they decided to send a clearer message they set the Haifa refinery on fire - which burned for weeks.

You 'control oil' through proxies. That we did what we did suggests that oil could not have been a motive.

Serving Patriot


I'd like to point out Rory Stewart's recent article in the London Review of Books - The Irresistible Illusion.

It's an article the nicely doves with the futility of going down the AfPak strategy outlined here. And its filled with more clarity, more common sense that you can ever read in the most thoughtful journals in the US. For example:

This [AfPak] policy rests on misleading ideas about moral obligation, our capacity, the strength of our adversaries, the threat posed by Afghanistan, the relations between our different objectives, and the value of a state. Even if the invasion was justified, that does not justify all our subsequent actions. If 9/11 had been planned in training camps in Iraq, we might have felt the war in Iraq was more justified, but our actions would have been no less of a disaster for Iraqis or for ourselves. The power of the US and its allies, and our commitment, knowledge and will, are limited. It is unlikely that we will be able to defeat the Taliban. The ingredients of successful counter-insurgency campaigns in places like Malaya – control of the borders, large numbers of troops in relation to the population, strong support from the majority ethnic groups, a long-term commitment and a credible local government – are lacking in Afghanistan.


After seven years of refinement, the policy seems so buoyed by illusions, caulked in ambiguous language and encrusted with moral claims, analogies and political theories that it can seem futile to present an alternative. It is particularly difficult to argue not for a total withdrawal but for a more cautious approach. The best Afghan policy would be to reduce the number of foreign troops from the current level of 90,000 to far fewer – perhaps 20,000. In that case, two distinct objectives would remain for the international community: development and counter-terrorism. Neither would amount to the building of an Afghan state. If the West believed it essential to exclude al-Qaida from Afghanistan, then they could do it with special forces. (They have done it successfully since 2001 and could continue indefinitely, though the result has only been to move bin Laden across the border.) At the same time the West should provide generous development assistance – not only to keep consent for the counter-terrorism operations, but as an end in itself.

Stewart was on Tom Ashbrook's show today. An illuminating conversation and Q&A.



G Hazeltine said, "I would like a proponent of the oil theory to explain to me how it is that you 'control' the oil, as a foreign occupying force."

Ah, the lessons the blockheads (Cheney, Bush) should have learned: you can put a gun to an oil producers head, but you can't make him produce. And it seemed like such a good idea at the time!

Back in 2005 or so the US Energy Administration noted that the Iraq war caused the 3rd greatest disruption in the world oil supply, exceeded only by the Arab oil embargo and the Iranian revolution. I don't know if the disruption ranked #1 by 2008 or not.

And to believe that lots of our fearless leaders in Washington want to repeat the experience in Iran.

Blockheads all!!!


Pat... a correction is in order:

Hagel and Hamilton were interviewed last Sunday, August on Face The Nation, not MTP as previously stated.

Here's a link:




The comment that I corrected at 8:01 AM apparently got lost in transmission... so here's an attempt to reconstruct it:

1) The best retort that I've heard to the idea that Iraq and Afghanistan are all about oil was this: stating that the two Iraq Wars were all about oil is the same as stating that the novel Moby Dick is just about a whale or that the movie Jaws is just about a shark...

2) I am at pains to embrace your suggestion that (1) is just about Israel, as though a cabal of CNAC NeoCons in the 90's concocted a scheme that would draw the US into the region militarily and politically while not interfering with an incremental land grab in the West Bank and the radicalization of Hamas in Gaza through humiliation and isolation (including the unilateral withdrawal, I might add)... though the greatest pain in it all is that you might be proven correct, if that was in fact your intent, as events continue to unfold... and that this pains me all the more when attempting to discuss these matters with family and friends on both sides of the argument.

3) I think I also suggested that I hoped (and still believe, though with less confidence) that Obama sees the PPT and other grossly oversimplifying and misguided visions with almost as much distain as you and most of your readers (myself included) but that he's stuck because the alternatives are equally difficult to formulate. I believe I indicated that I had heard the Rory Stewart interview on NPR and was wondering whether you agreed that his alternative - a smaller international force of about 20,000 (mainly SF) w/ a modest but sustained civilian development component... but without excessive social or political engineering - was viable or whether it was wishful thinking between "all in" and "get out".

Finally, and as a postscript, I wondered whether you or your readers had seen the interview of Chuck Hagel and Lee Hamilton on the Sunday talk circuit (I mistook CBS for NBC in my original version...). I thought it was somber, thoughtful, and (not?) surprisingly ignored by the rest of the media. On the other hand, I think McCain's endorsement of more forces may be countered by Kerry when he makes his trip independently after the election... or at least I hope it will be.

Bill Wade, NH

Could it be that beefing up our forces in Afghanistan is really meant to cause further destabilization in Pakistan? India fears Pakistan's nukes as do the Israelis. That's my guess.

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