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07 May 2015


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Ishmael Zechariah

Colonel Lang,

Per the incomparable Yogi: "Prediction is very hard, especially about the future".

I'll go on a limb and say that, since the Zeidis seem to be taking the fight to their enemy, they might also start asymmetric operations within SA against high value targets. That might get/focus some folks' attention.

My money is still on the irregulars.

Ishmael Zechariah


There is something to be said for the antics of the current Saudi leadership: they provide reassuring evidence that stupidity is not an American monopoly - despite the vigorous efforts of Obama-Kerry-Rice et al to
uphold that conceit. This is at once bad news and good news. It is bad in the sense that stupidity can lead to dangerous actions which imperil peace, stability and American national interests. It is good insofar as it suggests that even our opponents and rivals are prone to gaffes. Foibles are common to all homo sapiens. At present the greatest threat is from an outfit, ISIL, that has not as yet shown its stupid side. The people best able to resist them, the Iranians, fortunately showing their own aversion (at least for the time being) to doing stupid things. Indeed, they have been quite clever.

Therefore, an intelligent move on our part would be to engage the Iranians, by one means or other, as partners in addressing a formidable non-stupid enemy. Sadly, our trio of champions have so tied themselves up in knots, that they no longer can recognize what is up and what is down. Mr. Kerry's jaunt to Somalia (where he proclaimed yet another victory between bomb blasts) indicates that the moment of epiphany has not yet arrived. Somehow, we must survive a state of affairs wherein those in whose hands rests the well-being of the Republic are so dense that light bends around them.



In reference to SA, it is as though the Azanian dynasty of Seth I lasted for a century carrying on with such reforms as the "Imperial Society for Cruelty to Animals." I rejoiced in the entry of General Connolly's(?) tribal army of Wunduks and allies into the Azanian capital. There they were, the avatars of my many friends trotting along behind coming down out of the mountains as Connolly rode at their head smoking a cheap cigar. His consort and future empress ran along beside his mule her bare feet slapping in the dust. This could be Aden today. As for the US Kerry is so much like the British and French consuls in Azania as to be painful. pl


If ISIL has a reliable pipeline of truly suicidal soldiers, they will be very tough to defeat indeed. I cannot claim to understand their mindset -- almost no human will volunteer to carry explosive material and blow themselves up on command, much less take to the front lines as "cannon fodder" -- but if so, what they've got is better than an army of robots. Worse, you can't even wipe them out with instruments of mass destruction, because even more would be on the way. I really hope the number of available suicide soldiers is being exaggerated; if not, how do you stomp them out?



Mine as well. If in a previous comment you meant the Ottomans by "us," I should say that the only evidence of Ottoman presence in
North Yemen that I recall was the Army Barracks in Sanaa and it was fortified. Repeating rifles, Maxim machine guns and breech loading artillery, none of that had conquered the Zeidis. pl



No. You are wrong. Such men are a common feature of the human experience. Britt Hume the main Foxnews egotist once asked me at the beginning of all this how many suicide bombers there could be. I replied "millions." He asked if there was any precedent in history for that. I asked if had heard of the Japanese or the Iranian massed Pasdaran or Besiij attacks of the Iran-Iraq War. He felt silent. pl


Col. speculative questions.

First what is the possibility of Turkey and Saudi Arabia both agreeing to push respectively south using surrogates? A brief alliance of convenience.

Second, what if Iran/Syria/Hezbollah are simply out of cash and with trade routes cut by regional conflicts in Syria/Iraq, simply are financially exhausted?

Third, what is the possibility that IS is so financially strapped that they have to seize Baiji's refinery at any cost for gasoline and cash? And doesn't a aggressive IS posture in Baiji absolutely preempt any Mosul strategy?

Fourth would IS' mass hostage raids in Syria be linked to harvest season?


I will take your word for it, Sir -- the "Kamikazi" mind-set is outside of my realm of experience or comprehension. The issue in war, it seems, is numbers: the Japanese may well have won their realm if they had many thousands of men willing to blow themselves up in planes; the problem there, possibly, was the number of available planes. In the middle east, comparatively, there are plenty of old cars. The prospect of millions of such bombers is mind-boggling to me.



"War is a matter of numbers? That is what Robert McNamara thought as well. The Vietnamese Communists were unimpressed with his argument. The willingness of people to die for something outside themselves is often incomprehensible to people who have no vocation to be soldiers. IMO no number of suicide airplanes would have saved imperial Japan. We would just have killed more of them and pressed on. You seem to be ignorant of military history. Hundreds of thousands of Japanese soldiers died fighting us, 300,000 in the Philippines alone. Perhaps you should watch Shark Tank less and the History Channel more. pl



Turkey into Syria and SA into Yemen? Turkey might well experience a revolution against Erdogan. Kemalism runs deep. SA might fall apart from the strain on its eggshell fantasy of a state. Syria/Iran/Hizbullah are NOY broke and neither is IS. pl


DC, RE: Japanese Kamakazi: they also ran out of gasoline. Our subs had all but wiped out their tankers. However, had we invaded their main islands, we would have seen many more such attacks, from boats, planes and in mass wave attacks as well.


Respectfully, I have never watched "shark tank" as I am more interested in sources of information like your blog. Though I admit not to being a military man. If I am to take you seriously, you are drawing an equivalence between the nature of the deaths of 300,000 Japanese servicemen in the Philippines and some number of ISIL fighters who are choosing to blow themselves up in Syria. I tend to believe there is a difference in the mindset between those sets of soldiers you are referencing, but I respect your knowledge and could be wrong to distinguish them. Could it be you are choosing to ignore that the religious motivation behind ISIL suiciders as significantly different than the nationalistic motivation of the majority of Japanese soldiers in WW II? Are the ISIL fighters/fanatics truly representative of the mindset of soldiers throughout human history? Again, I am inclined to believe there is something unusual (though not by any means unique to the mindset of fanatics) about these characters.

Babak Makkinejad

Kemalism might run deep but Erdogan, as a Muslim politician, is a colossal failure; he brought war to other Muslims and ruined countries and lives.

That would be his damnable epitaph.

Babak Makkinejad

In case of the Kamikaze pilots, my friends & I in high-school had no difficulty understanding their motivations - we understood "Patriotism" - even extreme form of it like those pilots.

Once could respect them without agreeing with them; one does not need to dismiss their actions as incomprehensible.

FB Ali


Re what you call the "Kamikaze" mindset. There's nothing mysterious about it. When people believe in something as possessing a value greater than their lives, they will willingly sacrifice themselves in the cause of protecting or advancing that 'something'.

I agree it is difficult for people in the West to get their heads around such a concept. For a lot of them nothing has greater value than themselves or their own lives. But you still hear of persons sacrificing themselves to save their families, or the soldier who does that to save a buddy. It is the same mindset as that of the 'suicide bomber'. He is not some strange, exotic, fearsome monster.


Saudi Arabia is playing the only weapon they have - money. The goal as always is to keep the warring factions out of the kingdom by providing other areas of conflict. They do this by throwing money on the warring factions be it afghans-russians, iraq-iran, lebanese factions etc... Go ahead and fight anywhere but in SA
SA involvement in Yemen is to bolster the status quo of the fighting factions, equilibrium of power between the factions will keep them occupied with each other and away from the southern border.
The reported SA desertions are actually the standing military personnel taking their 'leave & R&R' at home to attend to their families & affairs. The cancellation of all leave/R&R threw many of the 'troops' financial/home affairs into chaos. They went home to sort it out and will be back to claim their paychecks.

Hezbollah is now going over a complete retooling of it's defences and battle lines. They were arrayed against Israel and now find their rear & flank extremely vulnerable. They will retrench with a stable border with Israel to the south, the sea to their backs and new active enemies to their East & North. The southern facing rocket arsenal will be swung around to face north.

Turkey is in a holding pattern, the islamic house of cards will collapse when the warring factions are done in Syria/Mesopotamia and turn north, the turkish military will engage, the repercussion will be a military takeover and return to Attaturk values.

Isil will continue to thrive but not overwhelm as they exploit the (willing) enormous youth population in the arab world. What better thrill is available to a 15-25 yr old than running around with a gun in their hand in the euphoric comeraderie of militant Islam. That is a tough 'high' to beat.

SAC Brat

There are many examples of American military people in combat deciding that this is the moment and protecting their people, USS Johnston DD-557 for example? We used to have a lot of folks ready to fly one way with nuclear weapons.

ex-PFC Chuck

Good choice of metaphor, Mr. Brenner. Stupidity as an instance of gravitational lensing.



For Japanese soldiers in WW2 there was no difference between nationalism and their religion. Ever heard of Shinto and Bushido? "Duty is the stern daughter of the voice of God." Wordsworth. FB Ali is mistaken in saying that we don't understand that in the West. It is what motivates our soldiers. Do you think we lay down our lives for the money? pl

FB Ali

Col Lang,

I don't believe that nobody in the West understands such a concept, or believes in such a value. I said, many people don't (just as many people don't in all societies). The examples I quoted of persons who do (including soldiers) referred to the US (and the West).

Ishmael Zechariah

Col. Lang,

Yes, I was referring to the Turkish soldiers who died under Ottoman command in the Yemen. They died carrying out a mission that made no sense. Just like our Third Army in Sarikamis against the Russians in 1914. Stupidity and hubris for flag rank officers seem to be timeless and universal.

I am somewhat surprised by some comments on this thread. Seems what I consider "patriotism" is no longer recognized as such.

Ishmael Zechariah


Thanks to you all for your thoughtful points -- I will consider that the motivation of the ISIL suiciders is effectively equivalent to the mindset of patriots throughout history who have knowingly gone on suicide missions for the sake of their own people. As others said, we do not have to agree to understand (and admittedly, I'm having difficulty..!). The implied philosophical point that religious fervor is similar in effect to nationalism is interesting but ultimately irrelevant to the question of how we defeat them. My earlier comment about numbers in war was not meant to be about the nature of war per se but rather how do we defeat this particular enemy: the prospect of millions of suicidal nationalists/devotees in service to a perceived greater good is truly daunting, perhaps unbeatable in a theater of war.

Bill H

Oh, snap. Well said.

Bill H

I would suggest that it is the western mindset which is anamolous, and that finding something wothe more than self is more common than not. The placing of self as supreme is, I suspect, a western conceit.


Re: sucide bombings - I wouldn't just put it your way, but in esence I agree. I found the work of Robert A. Pape instructive, in particular with regard to suicide bombings.


His thesis was that prime drivers are foreign occupation, religious difference and that they are more likely to be directed against democracies (he suggets that is so because they are more likely to fold under such attack than authoritarian ones).

Pape didn't forsee at the time ISIS' and the Taliban's extensive use of suicide bombers as siege artillery or smart bombs to attack point targets in military campaigns, but there the Kamikaze offer precedent.

Interestingly, Pape's model case was Sri Lanka's struggle with the Tamil Tigers - after all it was an instance of suicide bombers without involvement of Islam. As for the root causes of that conflict:

"he defining catastrophe of post-colonial Sri Lankan history was an act of man, a law, promulgated in 1956, when the island was still called Ceylon. The law established Sinhalese as the sole official language (a status previously reserved for English). Sri Lanka’s Sinhalese and Tamils both trace their origins to migrations from India, and, despite their different languages and religions, their coexistence had previously been untroubled by ethnic violence. The 1956 law, however, effectively transformed the parliamentary democracy into an instrument of Sinhalese nationalism and excluded Tamils and other minorities from careers in public service, access to many educational opportunities, and other rights and privileges to which citizenship supposedly entitled them."



That usually comes as a surprise to people who like to think that Buddhists are all nice peace loving, probably yoga flexing and vegan dudes like the Dalai Lama.

Tibetan Buddhism, if one looks at their statues, has a distinct streak of idolatry and latent violence, IMO. One of the weirdest instances of Buddhism running amok was the way Mongolian Buddists regarded the epic lunatic Baron Ungern Sternberg - a white russian officer, Last Khan of Mongolia, and a savage butcher of communists and Jews (all the same to him, really).

It was beause of him as a historical freak accident that Russia invaded Mongolia (going after his white russian formations operating from there into Siberia), and only as result later came to fight and decicively defeat Imperial Japan at Nomonhan, where Zhukov proved his mettle. That painful defeat prompted Japan to go South, since the Russians had proven too hard a nut to crack.


Who knows, perhaps without this crazy man, the Japanese would have gone north in the 1930s to fight Russia? Then there would not have been a Pearl Harbour.


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