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01 October 2012


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Do you think he knows not to seal rifle cartridges with lard or tallow?


When I was in the Marine Corps in the late 50s, the career NCO and Officers always referred to Asians as "gooks" and "slopes." Then i heard about the policy of winning the "hearts and minds" in Vietnam in the 60s.. A policy of winning the "hearts and minds" of "gooks" and "slopes" seemed to me to pose internal policy contradictions. I guess the contradictions are still around.


A great question as to why the Army and USMC spend a great deal of effort, time and resources to train FAOs and then don't employ them when and where they would be most useful.
With all the money we spend on training, it is criminal that we don't cover - as well as we should- the cultural and historical aspects of places we to into. Too often, this is shunted aside in favor of 'real training'.



"The Army and USMC have spent decades and much effort to produce officers who are career specialists in Islamic and Arab affairs."

Could you say something more as to why these mission competent people have been most noticeable by their absence from command positions in Iraq and Afghanistan.



The services are allowed to more or less self select people for command. Generalists prefer other generalists. They think such specialists are "weird" ans "gone native." pl

bob randolph

Col. Lang,

Have you read Wallace Breem's "The Leopard and the Cliff". The British were much better at going native, but still had to leave, ultimately.


Col: "Gone native" is a just a blunt way of saying that we are not at the End of History.



If there were competent knowledgeable persons in charge of the USA, we would not have invaded two Muslim countries to “kick some ass”, openly assist revolts in Libya and Syria, or target drone assassinations throughout the Middle East. Dwight David Eisenhower is an example of a competent leader who is really missed today. He wouldn’t be fighting wars that cannot be won.

You’d really like to think that there are competent knowledgeable persons in charge also in Brussels and Berlin. Instead, the European Elite are intent on pushing Fiscal Austerity even at the risk of their heads rolling in the streets.

Instead of the rule of law and government by and for the people, the sole goal today is to get it while you can.


PL, since Afghan army is composed mainly of Hazaras, can we blame Iran?

mbrenner, if I may respectfully add:

generalist = command

specialist = support

it is known


I see they didnt pay much attention in military history class, but your would have thought the TE Lawrence lessons would have sunk in if nothing else.


I could not go more than a few moments in that interview with Lara Logan. I remarked than and am still amazed that this very interview has been repeated every single year since 2002. Besides Logan, and Karzai(!!!), the questions, the answers and the message - only the commanding general has changed. I think the last one with any integrity was Eikenberry but they have all still come and gone. And our forces still remain.

It was time to end that farce back in 2002 when the Rummy & Co sent all the wasta towards Iraq. Heck, we did not care then and we really don't care now. So why stay and have to see stories like this?





The expliicit reference to "command" was misleading. It seems that the more important question concerns arrangements to ensure that senior commanders are 'informed' by culture awareness in making policy and implementing it. MacArthur personally probably knew little about Japan but, as I recall, the entire occupation was suffused with a conscious appreciation of what it would take to succeed there. I suppose that at the time civilian leaders as well as military leaders (Marshall?) were directly involved in taking steps to ensure that sensitivity to Japanese circumstance "informed' what we did.

Oddly, in the relatively insular and parochial America of WW II, we took for granted the need to prepare those little blue books on every country where we had personnel (including Iraq which was very well done). In today's sophisticated and worldy America, we nt.



Hazaras+Tajiks+Uzbeks = Afghan Army, not just Hazaras. (irony alert) The Pushtuns really love us. Right? "Command Specialists" Well, that's what the generalists tell each other when justifying how to keep specialists down. Give me a citation from US Army or USMC pubs that specifies that generalists are "command specialists." Iranians influence causes green on Blue attacks? You will have to do better than that. pl



In one important repect you are incorrect. Macarthur knew a great deal about Japan because he took pains to inform himself. His attitude was pervasive in his command of the occupation because he would tolerate nothing else. In the military unlike business or other civilian occupations, the commander is all. If he is a cultured, well informed human then his command will reflect his values. If not, then the same will be true. you can have a dozen Foreign Area Officers on the staff of a dumb brute and they will have no effect at all. The right people have to be in command. pl



"Military history class?" I guess you have never been in the US military. I went throught the whole schools system from the Basic Infantry Officer Course to the Army War College. I never saw any history taught that was not a joke. pl


bob randolph

bob, bob, you are still so filled with a desire for self justification. The British were in India for 200 years before they "left." We will be leaving Afghanistan next year having done little of note. Ah, I see, you would rather have ignoramuses do the business of the United states. pl


When I was sent to Mosul in 2006, we were told on a daily basis that everyday was going to be a firefight, that we were going to 'butcher some terrorists' and that everyone was an enemy, etc etc. That was the mindset we went over there with.

Well, we get there ready for blood, and next thing you know its all hearts and minds and COIN and handing out toys to the locals. Not quite the GEN Mathis policy of going on patrols sans body armor cause we didn't want to offend the locals, but close.

I was always annoyed with the other idiot enlisted who thought it was great fun to hit puddles in Strykers to nail street vendors with dirty water, or scream sexual comments at young female Iraqis walking down the street. Where were the NCOs? Probably trying to hold together their personal lives back in the US or getting while the getting is good.

The job of the Special Forces is not something you can 'shake and bake' into a person, but the Army never seemed to accept that, and the results are self evident.


There are no citations. but is it known. Gen. Abizaid, Olmsted Scholar to Jordan and MA from The Center for Middle East Studies at Harvard, had to go into general lines to make General. Sad, but true.

You will have to do better than that. pl

Watch the Neocons make the connection, it is also known...lol



Actually a number of FAOs have made general. they were in rhe China and Soviet programs. Abizeid was never a FAO. He just happened to take his Olmsted to Jordan because of his ancestry. In general though you are correct about FAOs. You do see that as a defect of judgment on the part of the army do you not? Don't ever think these things are written in stone. Before Congress befriended Special Ops there were no Special forces generals. Neither Bank nor Simons was promoted to BG. Now there have been a whole "clutch" of them, including one CJCS. pl



"You will have to do better than that. pl Watch the Neocons make the connection, it is also known...lol"

I don't know what any of that means. I am funny? pl




We are in a cultural dead zone at the moment. We have yet to confront the achilles heel of secular humanism - the falsity that every problem is amenable to rational analysis and computation.

That has been compounded by the belief that new technologies have devalued old fashioned experience - in fact a complete renunciation of the idea that failure and the opportunity it provides for reflection and learning are a necessary part of the gettting of wisdom.

This reaches full flower in the belief that anyone, suitably trained, can manage anything. The final flower of that thinking being the MBA cult. The ascending arc of straight A's leading from school to university, to the consulting company and finally the corner office. Failure is not an option. American life is a one act play(Gore Vidal?). Where are the career detours and backtracks that actually teach you anything of value?

Let me ask the question:

Today, would not Ulysses S. Grant have been identified as a problem drinker, referred to a detoxification centre and then been perhaps quietly discharged?

Would Patton have been sent to anger management classes?

We seem to want teflon skinned managers who produce solutions like McDonalds hamburgers.

Where are the crusty, experienced, slightly unstable, frayed, flawed, damaged but deeply insightful and wise military, let alone civil, leaders we need today?

Al Spafford

NATO Sec Gen states pressure on to withdraw faster, options studied:



The range of anecdotes that one hears about Iraq indicates that there was no general policy on the"cultural" factor. Let me add one from an Army intelligence officer who also was in Mosul - but right after the occupation. That was the period of active "breaking-and-entering" based on flimsy intelligence. She, all 96 pounds of her, insisted on going along for several of the raids.

Q: did they teach you any Arabic before you went over?
A: no

Q: what did you say when broke down the door?
A: get you godamn f...ing asses on the floor!!


Al Spafford

IMO we will have our non intel, non SOF forces out by the end of 2013. pl

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