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03 June 2015


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Thank you for this. I suspect that the Atlantic (a Yankee institution) might be willing to publish this in some form, and that would be a good thing.



Ask them. pl



First the Northern states and their colonial predecessors spent about two centuries in conquest and 'ethnic cleansing' the region of the native American tribes, that was even before the War for Independence.

The Twisted Genius

I couldn’t agree more with Colonel Lang. The establishment never accepted the Green Berets, their mind set or their approach to war. JSOC and the operators (good name for a boy band) are America’s heroes. We’ve all suffered for that. Funny this was the gist of my first comment on SST back in 2008.

“As they say on NPR, I'm a long time listener (reader) and a first time caller (poster). Like Colonel Lang, I was an Army SF officer and never considered myself to be one of the "operators." When I passed through the JFK Center, I and my classmates knew we were training for unconventional warfare (UW) with the additional capability of direct action (DA) missions. Almost all our training was focused on training and advising a U.S. sponsored resistance movement, although we realized that the U.S. was not doing a lot of UW missions at the time. Those of us going to assignments in the 10th SFG(A) met the Group DCO shortly before graduation. One of my classmates asked if there were teams with DA missions rather than UW. He made it clear that he was not interested in UW. My comment was that he should have went to a Ranger battalion where he would get all the DA missions he wanted. That was my first hint that the "operators" were among us. In the latter half of my tour with 10th Group, I watched Colonel Potter move us towards more DA and special reconnaissance missions. At the same time, the SF branch was born. I chose to stay Infantry and have never regretted that decision. That's the real Army. I have been around the "operators" in other units for many years. They are magnificent soldiers and fine human beings. However, I am saddened by the atrophy of UW skills which, IMHO, began in the early 1980s. Learning the needed language and people skills to conduct UW is tough and not nearly as exciting as kicking doors. I think we would be better off in today's wars if the UW skills were not neglected at the expense of the DA skills. Winning hearts and minds on the team-village level on a far grander scale than what we've done so far may have been more successful than the countless capture-kill operations that our current SOF service has conducted. Regards, The Twisted Genius”

I saw the same mistake in our military clandestine intelligence. When I started in that field, you had to operate in the host country language. You had to recruit and handle a source in his native language or you couldn’t call yourself a case officer. When we were called to support NATO in the Balkans, all of us with Slavic language capability were pushed into intensive “turbo-Serbo” training before deployment.

Years later, DOD clandestine capabilities were heavily CONUS based and foreign language capability was much less emphasized. Our deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq were dependent on interpreters. Granted our ops tempo hardly allowed for widespread, intensive Arabic and Pashtun language training. But how was it done for Viet Nam? We also became more focused on supporting JSOC elements. I thought that was a mistake. We should have allied with the Gants of SF. I still think we should do that.

From what I can see, language training and area specialization are once again becoming more important in SF. I also think there is more emphasis on dealing with the underground and auxiliary as well as the guerrilla force in SF training and planning. I hope so. And DOD clan intel should be training, planning and working with them.

Farmer Don

I would say the South's greatest sin lay in accommodating the slavery of four million people prior to abolition, when other leading countries such as England had already stopped this injustice.


Farmer Don

Yes, you would say that from your post in the Canadian tundra. You are the man who told me that Claude Devereux should be changed to be a more moral person. England? England held hundreds of millions in colonial servitude until poverty induced by the world wars pried the hands of the English off peoples' throats. pl



From the article "Why Has America Stopped Winning Wars?” -“Since 1945, in terms of victory in a major war, the United States is one for five. The Gulf War in 1991 is the only success story. "

Could the author of that Atlantic article remind me when South Korea became communist? I would sure call preventing that success. As to the last war in Iraq, we one that. It was the destruction of the social order that lost the peace. The neocon strategy we have followed for two or more decades has resulted, to borrow a line from Babak, in making Iran, for the first time in 2,500 years, a power in the Mediterranean. Congratulations neocons.

“victory culture starts to look like wishful thinking, unhealthy braggadocio, and illusory triumphalism —… not good for handling reality.” That’s an apt description of our own secular fanatics in office, like Samantha Power at the UN, who are just as dangerous as the religious ones in ISIS.

Your insights are spot on Col.


Farmer Don,

What is truly sad is that Barrack's father's nation is still not a leading country.
#bringbackourgirls; how's that done to end slavery? I wonder what the people of that country were doing when all those yankee merchantmen were sailing back and forth across the Atlantic, you know before the great British achievement of 1833, excepting all the exceptions to that act in Parliament of course.

(Posted from my iMac, made by free people in the PRC who don't get that livable wage. But hey, Steve Job's made allot of extra dough because of that and his estate will do good deeds, some day, with all that money he didn't pay all those people.)


Thank you Colonel for your astute observations and insightful summary.

For me, I am reminded of the 1958 novel and later 1963 movie, “The Ugly American.” As you know, it caused quite a sensation in its time, describing the US diplomatic corps’ “insensitivity to local language and customs.”

It seems we are forever repeating our mistakes. When will we ever learn?


Le Crac des Chevaliers: Though wealth be thine and wisdom and beauty given, pride alone, if it goes with them, mars them all.

Farmer Don

"England held hundreds of millions in colonial servitude until poverty induced by the world wars pried the hands of the English off peoples' throats"

Yes Col. perfectly true.

But, you were speaking of the "South's greatest sin".
Not England"s
or Germany's
or China's
or Turkey's
or Russia's
or Japan's
or Isreal's
or South Africa's
(I'm sure you can add thirty more with out w/o thinking too hard)
Every Country with the opportunity/or perceived need, has done it's share


Farmer Don

Ah, I see, the word "sin" set off a religious response. Faulkner would have been pleased. He saw it that way as well, but, then, he drank himself to death, more or less. I should have used the word "offense" as in the greatest offense of the South was to be un-northern. This is much as in the greatest offense of French-Canadians was in not accepting Anglo-ness in Canada. Please don't try to tell me that Anglo Canadians did not treat the French like the dogs they considered them to be. pl


FWIW, I got more out of this post and comments -- particularly this one -- than I gleaned from the Atlantic article. And from the post:

All these sorts of new model enemies are simply not available for steamrolling no matter what people like Lindsay Graham might “think.” Something more subtle is required, something that we , as a country, are probably not capable of.

I have the queasy feeling that ISIS will make short shrift of Puritans and Social Justice Warriors, neither of whom will know what hit them because their ideological blinders make them impervious to reality. The costs are chilling to contemplate.

Which leaves us with the equivalent of today's 'Indian Scouts'; if the bureaucratic pressures don't destroy them first, against the kinds of opponents Col Lang describes, they're our only realistic hope. Whether our political system can support the time, effort, and expense required to develop this type of professional remains to be seen.



American Wars can be divided into either existential or of choice. The Revolution, Civil War and WWII decided if the United States was formed and if it continued to exist or not. The Indian Wars were existential to the Native Americans. The 1812, Mexican, WWI, Korean, Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq Wars were voluntary. The problem is that the current crop of deciders in DC cannot tell the difference between the two. The drive to get rich and to be right is getting America into existential wars with the Russian Federation and a billion and half Sunni Muslims. These neo-wars could kill us all.

Patrick Bahzad


I'm very much in agreement with your description and it's in line with what I have observed in the field as well between 1986 and 2012, which is a period during which things and approaches have changed drastically in the areas you're describing.
Today, when I talk to some of our guys who are still "out there", most of them confuse SF with SOCOM-units right away... That's when you see there's has been a paradigm shift.
I appreciate the value of groups having the ability to conduct night-raids and kinetic action on a static targets (what a paradox !), but in terms in "combat and manoeuver" capabilities on company level, I think it would be interesting to war game with any of the SOCOM groups against an experienced Light Infantry or Marines unit.
Anyway, I think we have reached the end of an era, it's thankfully over with the undisputed reign of the McRaven and Mullen "operators", and hopefully back to basics of combat and maneuver, which in my view is a good thing, especially as far as the threats of tomorrow are concerned.
Shame is that in the meantime, the skills SF had in terms of UW have gone missing. There might be a comeback with new thinking about notions like "regional alignment" and "modularity" of combat troops, but the skill set and the personnel which had it doesn't seem the be there anymore, which is exemplified among other things in the "sub-contracting" of certain intel and UW missions to either so-called allies, or even private companies.
As I said, it's a trend that is common to most Western forces engaged in overseas operations. In France, things have been quite similar, on a much smaller scale, but we have been able to retain some language and cultural skills, for reasons linked mostly to colonial past, and also - that's important - having a potential pool of people in our general population that might fit the bill for long time assignments in various countries or groups.

Patrick Bahzad

Corea qualifies as a draw at best. It was basically return to Status Quo Ante. Given the objectives of that war, qualifying it as success just shows you rather have reality fit your narrative, instead of looking at things the way they are. Go and ask the guys who were on the Yalu River if they think, victory was achieved !
As for Iraq, what was won there in 2003 ? I would like to know what positive results were achieved there, meaning results that lasted longer than a couple of months !
No need to blame the "do gooders" and R2P proponents like Rice, Powers and Co. for failures that date back to a time they were not in office. The US disbanded Saddam's army in 2003. Congratulations, that was about the only thing that should have been kept (together with the police), bare the top echelon leaders.
I don't call that a victory, I call it stupidity. Grow up !

Ursa Maior


was not most of the Wikileaks emails about the same issue?

I mean civilized people dont talk like this about other people even among themselves, even with their family/friends! With "f@#k the EU" Nuland on top of it.

US is losing soft power at an accelerating pace. Noone likes a rude Empire.


Well, Babak, i think I like this comment. ;)

What would be the equivalent of "knuckle draggers" in that context?


Hope you aren't watching Morning Joe while eating your breakfast. 'Fighting Joe" was extoling Petraeus and suggesting that he be "put in uniform and sent to Iraq to sort things out". He criticized the Administration for not listening to Petraeus, who according to Joe, had done such an excellent job in Iraq. Joe was out of control this morning...



(irony alert) Well, why not. Petraeus can show how it is supposed to be done. pl


Patrick Bahzad

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Nations_Security_Council_Resolution_82 This resolution was the legal authority for UN action in Korea. It clearly states that what is authorized is restoration of the 38th Parallel as the de facto border. I served with a lot of men who were in the Korean War. I don't remember any of them talking about the political boundaries of the campaign.

David Habakkuk

Ursa Maior,

From a piece published by Graham Allison and Dimitri K. Simes in the 'National Interest' last month, under the title 'Russia and America: Stumbling to War'.

'No one in the capital enjoys attempting to humiliate Putin more than President Barack Obama, who repeatedly includes Russia in his list of current scourges alongside the Islamic State and Ebola.'

(See http://tinyurl.com/osw85bz .)

The opening of an article published by Fred Weir in the 'Christian Science Monitor' a few days ago, under the title 'Spurred by Western criticism, Russians experience something new: patriotism'.

'The snapping point came for Pavel Melikhov, he says, when he heard President Obama compare Russia to a disease.

'In a speech to the UN last September, the president listed the top threats to global security, with Ebola coming first, "Russian aggression in Europe" second, and the Islamic State group in third place. Mr. Melikhov, a middle-aged Moscow-area businessman, says that moment crystallized his way of thinking about his country and its place in the world...

'"It wasn't just me. All my co-workers were stunned," he says. "The leader of the US put our country on a blacklist with a virus and a terrorist organization. That says it all. The masks are off. The US is not a friend; it's 'us' and 'them' now. I have finally and completely understood that."'

(See http://tinyurl.com/nz74u2a .)


" It is based on a misunderstanding that you underlined: the US of old was winning wars against second or third rate enemies, never against a major military power and never on its own."

He doesn't quite say that. He seems to distinguish between the good old days of glory: the "golden age" or wars of States versus States and the "dark age", or wars against non-state actors post 1945.

And on first sight, his central idea seems to be to prepare for these new types of war. Where he suggests a simple strategy - surge, talk, leave.


I wonder how the Roman's mistake in the Teutoburg Forest and/or Varus against Arminus surfaces in the later narrative, which surfaces in the available passages. But my suspicion is that it may be based on the solid assumption of US empire, which in turn has to learn from the military mistakes of earlier empires. Thus it may be interesting how he deals with ethics or changes in ethics over the last 2000 years.

What I missed most in his essay, and he seems to quote freely from his publication, is the failure to mention that the Iraq war wasn't quite legal. Strictly, never mind my dislike for the Taliban, even the Afghanistan war was borderline. He cites a 2013 poll in which only 17 percent of Americans still accept the war in Afghanistan, although his text tells us nothing about the time at which this poll was conducted. Maybe that's, what my I wonder if he could be an "empire-ist". It could be all about, how could we deal both with future theaters while also handling US public consent. Or maybe less expenditures are meant to deal with that?

I found no review of the whole book, not even in Google scholar, apart from his resume, trying to get rid of the mainly ad related links Google Google offers, including "reviews" that may well be ads. But Google books offers a link to a lady that apparently had the pleasure to study the book before it was published. And her first link reminded me of this missing bit in his article:


But couldn't this possibly make a huge difference concerning resistance on the ground?

"That legacy of misunderstanding has merged with the lessons taken away from these wars into what Emmanuel Todd - who is in no way a military expert - very aptly called the military culture of the "Indian wars" : the enemy has to be annihilated or there can't be any victory."

Can you tell me why and in what context Emmanuel Todd suggests this as some type of paradigm? A specifically US paradigm? Still relevant today?



"the destruction of the social order that lost the peace." was my comment; that was my point about disbanding Saddam's army. It was essentially the only functioning national institution in Iraq. The neocon ideology was the driving factor in disbanding that army. Rice, Power and Co are simply further adherents to that ideology and they are carrying out the same type of actions in our current foreign policy.

Status Quo Ante was the political objective in Korea. I think the failure for that war predates WW2 when we supported Chiang_Kai-shek rather than anyone else. As the Col. points out the "puritan “city on a hill” mentality" is in our blood.


@Farmer Don

As I recall, the world's first abolition organization was founded in Philadelphia, not London.

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