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07 July 2015


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The Moar You Know

What are we doing? I do believe this current stratagem, taken from the ancient and noble game of football, is called "running out the clock". It's probably the best idea for now. Everything else they've tried hasn't ended well.

I'm my company's IT manager. In my line of work, you don't do anything unless you know exactly what the results of that action will be. If you don't know or are not sure, you do nothing save for research the issue and test your ideas. Most people find this a very difficult concept. Quite a few just can't help themselves when the SHTF and listen to the hordes screaming at them to "do something" and they...do something. We call those people "former IT managers".

The United States keeps listening to the hordes and "doing something" without any idea of the possible results and sometimes without any actual idea of what is being done. A good beginning to resolving this mess would be to stop doing that.

There's a next logical step, but it can't be undertaken until you take that all-important first step and stop "doing something".

William R. Cumming

Whatever the merits of the President's strategy the US continues to undermine the nation-state system and helps promote globalized violence against innocents.

IMO of course.

And P.L. IMO your post correlates with my position.

FB Ali

While this farce goes on, the neocons happily pursue their own mad goals. The latest folly: using Chechen jihadi units along with the neo-Nazi ones to fight in Ukraine, as the NYT reports ( http://tinyurl.com/pc53kq6 ).

These hardened jihadis may be fighting "the Russians" today, but are equally likely to turn against the West tomorrow. Many of them are already in the IS and other jihadi outfits fighting the West.

Babak Makkinejad

In IT, one can always go through the proverbial "re-boot"; not so in human affairs.

But I agree that he is running out the clock.


If there are no good alternatives, what else to do but try to muddle through? The US voter would certainly never support mass military invasion and occupation by US troops. It may take 50 - 100 years for the ethnic and religious differences to work themselves out, with a substantial number of dead and wounded, not sure if there is any way to shortcut that. So try to erect a cordon sanitaire and contain the damage.

Richard Armstrong

This all reminds me so very much of Vietnam. It was obvious when the French pulled out that the Vietnamese were not going to stop until they achieved their goal of a single unified Vietnam.

IS isn't going to stop for the same reason. They take territory and we drop little bombs on them. From their point of view they are winning.

There are even parallels on the battlefields. How many times have we heard that we never lost a battle but we did lose the war. Well we sure killed a lot of jihadis in Fallujah, surrounded them with an immensely superior military force then gave everyone 24 hours to get out of Dodge then entered the city and proceeded to kill anybody who dared raise their head.

Apparently we didn't kill enough of them although I'm sure somebody got a medal for the body count.

Because of the American body count and the graphic images shown on the nightly news public opinion eventually turned against the war. The military learned that lesson well. There is no independent reporting from the global war on terror. All Americans see, if they see it at all, are antiseptic grainy black and white images taken from 10,000 feet of a mud brick house or Toyota pick up being destroyed because this weeks Al Qaeda number three was there.

As long as all we are risking is the loss of a few UAVs the American public won't raise a single flag in protest.

There are only two options. The first is to accept the fact that there will be a caliphate and to hope that like Vietnam it would like to be a member of the community of nations. (And by the way if you haven't seen what the Vietnam airways pilot did with his Boeing 787 during practices for the Paris air show you really happy to see it on YouTube to believe it.)

The other is to fight total war, shell Vicksburg to rubble, march to the sea burning Atlanta and anything that can sustain the Islamists. Perhaps even toss a few tactical nukes around for effect. Airstrikes CAN make a difference-we're just not using the right ordinance.

I am currently reading "CALIPHATE" by Tom Kratman. It's not fine literature, it's more along the lines of an "alternative future" - kind of the opposite of a Harry Turtledove novel. Set in the early 22nd century the caliphate again exists and stretches from southern Europe across most of Africa and into Southeast Asia. It is interesting.

1. Stop screwing with IS, or

2. Define them as an enemy driven by religion to seek world domination. Then protect the West from that existential threat by waging total war.

Plinking mud houses and Toyota technicals and killing Al Qaeda number three isn't going to get it done.

Richard Armstrong

All - I present to you the 21st century version of the Friday Follies...



As someone once said: "The problem is not that simple; it is simpler." Look at the man behind the big desk in the Oval Office.

The Twisted Genius


I think an alternative to U.S. sponsored COIN is developing organically in northern Syria with the YPG/YPJ. NATO is reportedly providing 24/7 air support including AC-130 gunships. That's obviously key to their success against ISIS over the past year. On the ground, the YPG/YPJ forces are lightly armed, hardly trained other than OJT. They do have the heart to stand and fight against ISIS fighters. They also have a substantial number of international volunteers. These volunteers bring some military experience, but unlike in Iraq, our methods and penchant for reorganization are not imposed on the YPG/YPJ. The locals are in charge and take or leave what they want. This may not result in a force that measures up to our standards, but it is producing a local force under local control consistent with local culture and conditions.

Here's an interesting interview with a U.S. volunteer who worked with the YPG for the last year. This guy had one year in the Army back in 2006-2007. I have no idea why he got out after only one year. The Army was loathe to let anybody go back then.




Meanwhile... Russia is geostrategically focusing on the arctic... http://pre06.deviantart.net/f331/th/pre/f/2013/227/b/f/fire_and_ice_by_therisingsoul-d6i9qdl.jpg

US Coast Guard chief: We are 'not even in the same league as Russia' in the Arctic http://www.businessinsider.com/us-not-even-in-the-same-league-as-russia-in-arctic-2015-7#ixzz3fAkpwdqz
The US has only two heavy diesel icebreakers and one medium icebreaker, among the main measures of Arctic capability. While not a direct military tool, these vessels play a multifaceted role in any nation's Arctic strategy. The vessels allow a range of other merchant, survey, and military vessels to ply through the Arctic ice safely and in a year-round manner.In comparison, Russia has six nuclear-powered icebreakers already in service. The Russians also have at least a dozen other diesel icebreakers in service. In 2017, Moscow is expecting the delivery of another new nuclear-powered vessel.

Of the US' two heavy icebreakers, only one, the Polar Star, is in functional condition, according to NPR. Its sister vessel, the Polar Sea, has been languishing at port for years after a major breakdown. The Coast Guard also has a medium icebreaker, the USCG Healy, but the service branch is petitioning to acquire more assets for its fleet. …

In addition the disparity in icebreaker strength, Moscow has undertaken a construction blitz across the Arctic to establish military superiority in the region. Russia is constructing 10 Arctic search-and-rescue stations, 16 deepwater ports, 13 airfields, and 10 air-defense radar stations across its Arctic coast.

This article, which is linked in the above article is longer and focuses more on oil and oil drilling issues. Also it counts the Russian icebreakers differently, but however you count it, the US looks pretty clueless in it's arctic strategy as well.

In the Race to Control the Arctic, the U.S. Lags Behind http://www.newsweek.com/2015/07/17/cold-cold-war-349973.html
The U.S. has only two, both old and “there’s no money for new icebreakers,” reports Fran Ulmer, chair of the U.S. Arctic Research Commission. Ulmer says an icebreaker can cost up to a billion dollars, and “it takes years to get one built.” Russia operates 27 icebreakers, and China, which is not an Arctic nation but has aspirations in the area, will have two by next year.


Richard Armstrong

"It was obvious when the French pulled out that the Vietnamese were not going to stop until they achieved their goal of a single unified Vietnam." So, the anti-communist VNese do not exist for you. pl


Exactly my thought when I read Pat's question. Kicking the can down the road, again and again. It's just another form of Western insanity.


mbrenner -

I know it's pretty popular to bash Obama around here, but I'm not sure I've seen a reasonable proposal to do things differently in the Mideast. Sometimes things are too f*cked to unf*ck them.


Perhaps someone is betting that in 10 years, there will be no polar ice to break?


Babak, respectfully all of BSHO policies in MENA are a series of reboots and refusal to acknowledge the failure of the previous policies.


How long till ISIS makes a move on Egypt?

The Moar You Know

Actually (and this is the reason for the IT metaphor) most times a reboot will perhaps fix insignificant problems. There are many far more serious scenarios (data corruption, hardware failure to cite only two) where a reboot may leave you with a blank screen, machine that is now an excellent doorstop, and a date with the unemployment office.

Mark Logan


IMO temporary Presidents should bear in mind how their actions might limit the options the next guy has so for short-timers "running out the clock" isn't necessarily a bad thing to do. I'm not quite ready to damn him for that.

My guess, in the event they are just playing PR with this, is they are clinging to the hope some of the region's powers will change their minds and even if they don't it's in our interest to seek containment, especially if it can be achieved for a reasonable price. Withdraw all support from the Kurds? Not ready to do that. Seek to drum up public will for a Desert Storm style invasion? Heavy lift for a president as despised as Obama is, even if it were wise. Try to drum up support for a long term occupation? Lotsa luck.


Now wonder this will be a "generational struggle." Only 50 opposition fighters have so far been trained by the United States. Secretary Carter and General Dempsey testified that the objective of training 5,400 fighters had failed because of strict vetting standards.


Babak Makkinejad

YPG/YPJ has no rear, no industrial capacity and no surplus.

It has no heavy weapons, no ability to use them and certainly no way of executing combined-arms tactics; no matter how much air support US gives them.

It is not even a para-state or a proto-state.

It cannot defeat ISIS - it is like its counter-part in the East; barely holding Kirkuk and Irbil.

Yes it can harass ISIS but for how long; 5 years, ten years, 20 years?


Richard Armstrong and Don Johnson

This is a private blog run by a retired American soldier, a member of a family of American soldiers reaching back to early colonial times. It is unacceptable to me to provide a platform for anyone who celebrates the defeat of the United States and its forces, in this case the defeat of the 7th Cavalry Regiment with great loss at the Little Big Horn. If that happens again I will ban the offending party. I understand fully the motivations of the Indian fighters in resisting the growth of the US, but this is a blog that has a side and it is not the Indian side. As for Johnson's unwillingness to meet Sidney Smith's argument half way and the insistence that the Southern "elites" are a criminal class, that is both unproductive and simply a symptom of someone who can see no good in an "enemy." pl



Yes, but the Marxist Kurds are fighting their own lonely battle without real coordination with the US. IMO the YPG are following the right policy, which is to fight it out with IS as a conventional force. Unfortunately the US is so committed to the COIN BS that we do not embrace that except for a modicum of air support. pl



I will write a follow on piece about alternative policy. pl

FB Ali

Not really an alternative. The Kurds only fight for their own areas and their own interests. They are not going to take on IS (or anyone else) for the US.


Hah! If only they were that cunning.

Babelfish, I've been meaning to ask you (or any other navy guys or submariners here) your opinion of the new Russian submarines...

Why Russian-Made Submarines Are Set to Dominate Asian Waters - Asian nations are expanding their submarine fleets at breakneck speed, coinciding with a major comeback by Russia’s undersea boats http://russia-insider.com/en/military/why-russian-submarines-are-making-waves-asia/ri8411

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