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24 January 2015


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If we were to look at the Army War College curricula right now, how many courses on Africa would there be? If you spend a whole decade trying to create a new command, and finally get one, how deep is that staff's bench?


Right on. Our plans are upset - indeed, rendered useless -because another states makes its own judgment about what to do about security threats on its own territory? Just the way we might do?

As to Mali, Algeria will help us in Mali when it deems that to serve its own interests - not because some kind of trust has been established by Hillary's visit to Algiers and some confabs. There is no logic in saying that those calculations have now or will change.

I recall the Colonel used the word "childish" yesterday in reference to the Hollywood fable on OBL. That seems to be a common affliction.


Francois Hollande said that Algerian forces attacking the kidnappers was the best option to be taken: "les réponses les plus adaptées" (most suited response).

I think that's also the most suitable diplomatic response. The Washington Post headline says that killing these terrorists "spoils the strategy", but the article really doesn't explain what the strategy is and how this spoils things. Goofy.

The Twisted Genius

The extent of our pomposity is truly astounding. If Algeria continues to allow French overflights, we should be thankful. If they continue to go after the Islamist fighters on their own territory, we should be doubly thankful.

I am reminded of a time when my heavy weapons leader and I were sharing a poncho hooch in a cold rain. He opened a can of beans and asked if I wanted any. Of course I said sure. He then asked me, "How's it feel to want, mutha fucka?" We had a good laugh over that. That's pretty much what Algeria and a hell of a lot of other countries will be telling us if we continue to try to dictate what they should and shouldn't do. We better get used to it.


I would have thought "the art of war" would be mandatory reading for those dealing in military and foreign relations.

Sun Tzu had much to say about the proper mindset to think about these things. But like sociopaths everywhere our self anointed betters feel they are smarter then everyone else. Ergo if you disagree you are wrong and never to be heard from again. That works until it doesn't.

This is how the more perceptive underlings must have felt at Versailles.



Americans are addicted to optimism. Maybe that is why we can't understand the rest of the world. pl



The problem is not so much one of a lack of specific knowledge as it is an attitude that denies the reality of actual diversity in the workf as opposed to the PC silliness that we call diversity in the US. pl


Colonel Lang and friends' calls for American intervention in Libya helped to bring about alot of these troubles in Mali and Algeria. At the time, they spoke about how Libya was "doable", quite like Wolfowitz and company in regards to Iraq.

Lang and company's advice have proved disastrous regarding North Africa. Apologies to all dissenters would be appropriate.


No. Libya was indeed quite doable and I consider the aftermath to have been a cost worth paying to get rid of Qathafi. The Islamists running around in north and central Africa make good targets. BTW, thanks for the boost. I had no idea that we were that influential. With regard to your comparison between the decision to invade and occupy Iraq and the American indirect intervention in Libya, I have a difficult time with the idea of a symmetry in those costs. pl

Bill H

I would say it's not so much an addiction to optimism as that Americans are totally unwilling to look at anything which is frightening or discouraging.


The French consider this to be a mental disorder, and they are correct.

Clifford Kiracofe

Absolutely, it's the Pogo theory again.

"We know better" and thus we do not learn lessons.

"We" meaning our Establishment foreign policy elite and those in high places who have the ear of the powers that be.

There are plenty of serious analysts who could provide advice but "We" has no interest in realistic thought and advice. "We" prefers fantasy and magical thinking because that is what is politically correct and leads to contracts, jobs at think tanks, and favorable press.

"We" has a problem relating to foreign cultures and trying to understand what makes them tick and all the rest. They are just "wogs" that "We" who know better can tell what to do and..."manage".

The Algerian people, and their leaders, are thoroughly familiar with Islamist jihadis having had to deal with their terror operations/"civil war" for over a decade and the loss of many tens of thousands as a result. Now they have fallen under a new phase with AQIM etal.

According to press reports this morning, the incident seems to have been resolved over the past 24 hours and all the terrorists involved suppressed.

I found in interesting that reports are indicating the jihadi terrorists were from Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya among other locations.

r whitman

The USA is always about the future, never about the past. Its what sets us apart from the rest of the world. Its what we are "gonna do". This is why people all over the would immigrate to the USA. They want to be the future and its here.

JL Campos

My view is metaphysical, therefore useless, I know, but while the USA prefers a multiplication within its own species, the good requires a multiplication of species, that is a variety of everything.
The basic thought belongs to Aquinas ST 1 Q50 Art 5.


r. whitman

Thanks for a concise statement of what is wrong with American thinking in general and about our relationship to the rest of the world in particular. You remind me of the college professor (poly. sci.) who told me that if it were true that foreigners did not want to be like us (as I had said) then he wold have to "re-think the value of our culture." pl


The USA is 'the' future and everyone wants to immigrate here? Where are we ever going to put 5 billion people? Does that mean I can buy some nice beach front in the South of France since they're all leaving? No? Perhaps if we got off our high horses we'd realize 'everybody' doesn't want to be like us, other perhaps, than that instinct of our to mind our neighbors business.


A few noteworthy nuggets from this affair.

The legal scholar Leon Panetta explains the slow American response to French requests for frones, airlift, etc by saying that Pentagon lawyers have raised several serious questions about the legality of such actions. As in Somalia, Yemen and Pakistan? As with the the always toe-the-line legal staff of the DoD and DoJ?

The White House reportedly is reluctant to be an accessory to the operation, and preferrred waiting for the Africans to get their act together, out of a fear that the situation 'could get out of control." Too, they do not want to inflame jihadi elements in the region who may attack American interests.

Heavy thinking in the White House gord on.



Do not discount the effect of lawyers in the government. I have seen any number of operations paralysed by their pettyfogging. On some occasions that is good but not always. there is a similar effect to be found in the blather of comptrollers. pl

Medicine Man

So let me get this straight: if you're not the envy of the world and the clearly superior society (by metrics never examined in detail, naturally) then your culture has less meaning. My head spins. No wonder you don't much care for sociologists and poly sci types.

Reminds me of all the times an American has asked me, honestly, why I would want to live in Canada. No details given as to why this would be a bad choice, of course, just that the choice was baffling. The last one to give me grief was from New Jersey of all places.

r whitman

I think you misunderstood me. I do not think there is anything wrong about being future oriented I think it is one of our more admirable traits.(Why else read science fiction). With respect to our relationships with the rest of the world, we generally screw them up for one reason or the other, but there are millions of individual foreigners wholike what we do domestically and want to immigrate here.


Such thinking is part of the problem, but you are joking, right?


Mr. Whitman, with respect, what people are trying to tell you is that, yes indeed, America has indeed "Generally screwed up" its relationships with the rest of the world as you so dismissively put it, but NOT "for one reason or another". The same mistake is made time and again and there is a complete refusal to learn that the people of the world are NOT the same and if you scratch them they aren't Americans underneath.

Furthermore, while there was a time when America was indeed the light on the hill - a beacon of freedom and liberty, those days are long over. Of course there are people in Third world countries who would like migrate, but those same folk are drowning by the boatload to get anywhere - Australia, Europe not just America.

I could go on about the metrics - life expectancy, general health, standard of living, quality of life, economic freedom, etc. and by all of them America is going backward and is far from the top of the list,

Of course the sensible thing to do in such circumstances, as in business, is to benchmark yourself against your competitors, learn from them, and copy what works better, but as America is fast approaching a British - like insularity, the country has failed to do this and will continue to decline as a result, which is a tragedy.

Maybe the penny will drop when Americans suddenly discover that China has become the destination of choice for budding entrepreneurs and the best academics. It hasn't happened just yet, but you can see it coming.


Two things I tried to teach my students at Robin Sage...

1) Things are what they are, not what you want or wish them to be.

2) Manage expectations.

Our NCA consistently fails at both.


JM Gavin

I am so old that it was called "Cherokee Trail" when I went through it in 1964. pl


Reading these comments reminds me of the old saw that there are two types of people in the world--optimists and pessimists. Optimists, such as Voltaire's Dr. Pangloss and countless others (primarily but not exclusively Americans) believe that this is the best of all possiblle worlds. Then there are pessimists, such as me and many others, who think that the optimists are right, i.e., this is as good as it gets.

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