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09 February 2018


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Apparently, according to the last US ambassador to Syria Mr. Ford, from 2014-17 US has spent 12 Billion on Regime change in Syria. IMO, combinedly Iran and Russia so far, have spent far less in Syria than 12 billion by US alone, not considering the rest of her so called coalition. This is a war of attrition, and US operations in wars, are usually far more expensive and longer than anybody else's.

“The United States spent at least $12 billion in Syria-related military and civilian expenses in the four years from 2014 through 2017, according to the former U.S. ambassador to the country.
This $12 billion is in addition to the billions more spent to pursue regime change in Syria in the previous three years, after war broke out in 2011.” https://goo.gl/8pj5cD


Colonel, TTG, PT,

FYI regarding Syria



It may "demand" it - but does it get it? Soldiers are just as human as everyone else.

I'm reminded of the staff sergeant with the sagging beer belly who informed me, "Stand up straight and look like a soldier..." Or the First Sergeant who was so hung over one morning at inspection that he couldn't remember which direction he was going down the hall to the next room to be inspected. I'm sure you have your own stories of less than competence.

It's a question of intelligence and imagination. And frankly, I don't see the military in any country receiving the "best and brightest" of that country's population, by definition. The fact that someone is patriotic enough to enter the military over a civilian occupation doesn't make them more intelligent or imaginative than the people who decided on the civilian occupation.

Granted, if you fail at accounting, you don't usually die. Death tends to focus the mind, as they say. Nonetheless, we're not talking about the grunts at the level who actually die, still less the relatively limited number of Special Forces. We're talking about the officers and staff at the levels who don't usually die in war - except maybe at their defeat - i.e., most officers over the level of captain.

One can hardly look at this officer crowd in the Pentagon and CENTCOM and say that their personal death concentrates their mind. They are in virtually no danger of that. Only career death faces them - with a nice transition to the board of General Dynamics at ten times the salary.

All in all, I'd have to agree that the military isn't much better at being competent - at many levels above the obvious group of hyper-trained Special Forces - any more than any other profession.


Colonel, TTG, PT,

Related to the escalating D.C. screw-up in Syria, D.C. (Mattis and crew) seem to forget the 800lb gorilla in the wood-pile, an 800lb gorilla when awakened that could really ruin Mattis and crew's day before Mattis and company even know what hit them.


Russia doesn't appreciate it when their personnel are killed, which is understandable

The head of the Russian staff is pissed, really pissed.

Now back to the crux of the situation --

The Military Doctrine of the Russian Federation,

Article 24. The Russian Federation shall regard an armed attack against a member state of the Union State [of Russia and Belarus] or any actions involving the use of military force against that state as an act of aggression against the Union State and shall take retaliatory measures.

Article 26. Within the framework of strategic deterrence measures of a forceful nature the use of high-precision weapons is envisaged by the Russian Federation.

Article 27. The Russian Federation shall reserve the right to use nuclear weapons in response to the use of nuclear and other types of weapons of mass destruction against it and/or its allies, as well as in the event of aggression against the Russian Federation with the use of conventional weapons when the very existence of the state is in jeopardy.

The D.C. screw-ups (Mattis and company) are walking on egg-shells with their Syria debacle and don't even know it.


It was a Russian S400 system that the Syrians used to down the Israeli F16.

The Israelis think they are modern day Davids, NOT. They are an ant in a woodpile that could fall on them because they tugged on the wrong piece of wood.


Let's see if the collective thinking by the brass is going to be guided by the zionized US deciders towards the WWII or whether the patriotism and sanity prevail: "Israel Carries Out "Large Scale Attack" On Syria After Israeli F-16 Shot Down" https://www.zerohedge.com/news/2018-02-10/israel-carries-out-large-scale-attack-syria-after-israeli-f-16-shot-down
"It must be remembered that the Israeli Air Force has acknowledged striking targets inside Syria at least 100 times over the past few years of the conflict, with the last attack prior to today's events happening just earlier this week. Syria has frequently taken its case before the U.N., calling for official condemnation of the unprovoked attacks, but has been just as frequently rebuffed.
In its now 'open secret' of a years-long pursuit of regime change in Syria, Israel has given covert support to al-Qaeda linked groups in Syria's south - near the vicinity of today's F-16 shoot down - which has involved weapons transfers and treatment of wounded jihadists in Israeli hospitals, according to The Wall Street Journal."

Mark Logan

Peter AU said...
"They are not stupid at all but they are a collective of narrow thinkers."

I've often pondered that concept. Notice how many of radical extremist leaders were doctors, engineers and such? Narrow and deep. STEM is enormously useful to us but seems to be a risky when implanted in shallow earth.


Mark Logan

These narrow "but deep" thinkers were unable to grasp the nature of the Iraq War for the first couple of years. They thought of it as a rear area security problem, a combat in cities problem, anything but a popular rebellion based on xenophobia and anti-colonialism The IED problem? They spent several billion dollars on trying to find a technology fix and never succeeded. I know because they kept asking me to explain the war to them and then could not understand the answers which were outside their narrow thought. pl



War College selectees, the national board selected creme de la creme test out as 50% SJs (conformists lacking vision)in Myers-Briggs terms and about 15% NTs (intellectuals). to survive and move upward in a system dominated by SJs, the NTs must pretend to be what they are not. A few succeed. I do not think Mattis is an intellectual merely because he has read a lot. pl


Long ago when I was a professor, I advised my students that "the law is like a pencil sharpener, it sharpens the mind by narrowing it."
I tried to encourage them to "think backwards". My favorite example was a Japanese fisherman who recovered valuable ancient Chinese pottery. Everyone knew where an ancient ship had sunk, but the water was too deep to dive down to the wreck. And everyone knew the cargo included these valuable vases. And the fisherman was the first to figure out how to recover them. He attached a line to an octopus, and lowered it in the area, waited awhile, and pulled it up. Low and behold, the octopus had hidden in an ancient Chinese vase. The fisherman was familiar with trapping octopuses, by lowering a ceramic pot (called "takosubo") into the ocean, waiting awhile, then raising the vase with octopus inside. His brilliance was to think backwards, and use an octopus to catch a vase.



By your calculation people like Joe Stilwell and George Patton should not have existed. pl



the original GBS were recruited in the 50s to serve in the OSS role with foreign guerrillas behind Soviet lines in th event of war in Europe. Aaron Bank, the founder, recruited several hundred experienced foreign soldiers from the likely countries who wanted to become American. By the time we were in VN these men were a small fraction of GBs but important for their expertise and professionalism. pl

Babak Makkinejad

What do Americans mean by professionalism?


Look on the bright side -- Government by AI rather than elected representative could function with far less cost and corruption.

Can AI pray?

Pray for the people of Syria.


Col, I think it might help people to think of “the Borg” - as you have defined & applied it - in a broader context. It struck me particularly as you ID’d the launching of our modern military group-think / careerism behavior coming from the watershed of industrialized scale & processes that came out of WWII. We note parallel themes in all significant sectors of our civilization. The ever-expanding security state, the many men in Gray Flannel Suits that inhabit corporate culture, Finance & Banking & Big Health scaling ever larger - all processes aimed to slice the salami thinner & quicker, to the point where meat is moot ... and so it goes.
I note many Borgs... Borgism if you will. An organizational behavior that has emerged out of human nature having difficulty adapting to rapidly accelerating complexity that is just too hard to apprehend in a few generations. If (as many commenters on STT seem to...) one wishes to view this in an ideological or spiritual framework only, they may overlook an important truth - that what we are experiencing is a Battle Among Borgs for control over their own space & domination over the other Borgs. How else would we expect any competitive, powerful interest group to act?
In gov & industry these days, we observe some pretty wild outliers... attached to some wild outcomes. Thus the boring behavior of our political industries bringing forth Trump, our promethean technology sector yielding a Musk (& yes, a Zuckerberg).
I find it hard to take very seriously analysts that define their perspective based primarily upon their superior ideals & opposition to others. Isn’t every person, every tribe, team or enterprise a borglet-in-becoming? Everybody Wants to Rule the World ... & Everybody Must Get Stoned... messages about how we are grappling with complexity in our times. I just finished reading Command & Control (about nuclear weapons policy, systems design & accidents). I am amazed we’ve made it this far. Unfortunately, I would not be amazed if reckless, feckless leaders changed the status quo. I was particularly alarmed hearing Trump in his projection mode; "I would love to be able to bring back our country into a great form of unity, without a major event where people pull together, that's hard to do. But I would like to do it without that major event because usually that major event is not a good thing." It strikes me that he could be exceptionally willing to risk a Major Event if he felt a form of unity, or self-preservation, was in the offing. I pray (& I do not pray often or easily) that the Generals you have described have enough heart & guts to honor their oath at its most profound level in the event of an Event.



As a time traveler from another age, I can only say that for me it means devotion to a set of mores peculiar to a particular profession as opposed to an occupation. pl

Account Deleted

Great example outthere.

Another springs to mind: James Lovelock (of Gaia hypothesis fame) was once part of the NASA team building the first probe to go to Mars to look for signs of life. Lovelock didn't make any friends when he told NASA they were wasting their time, there was none. When asked how he could be so sure, he explained that the composition of the Martian atmosphere made it impossible. "But Martian life may be able to survive under different conditions" was the retort. Lovelock then went on to explain his view that the evolution of microbial life determined the atmospheric composition on Earth, so should be expected to do the same if life had evolved on Mars. Brilliant backwards thinking which ought to have earned him the Nobel prize IMHO (for Gaia). Lovelock, a classic cross-disciplinary scientist, can't be rewarded with such a box-categorized honor, as his idea doesn't fit well into any one.

Another example of cross-disciplinary brilliance was Bitcoin, which has as much to do with its creator's deep knowledge of Anthropology (why people invented & use money) as his expertise in both Economics and Computer Science.

This is they key to creative thinking in my view - familiarity with different fields yields deeper insights.

Babak Makkinejad

Thank you.

So, akin to the idea of "A Calling"?



Yes. pl

Mark Logan


They just wanted to know what kind of hammer and what size nails. I recall the absurd concept of "Government in a box". McChystal's book, IIRC. I suppose the solution had to be, for them, a checklist...it simply HAD to be.

I suspect General Stan began to grasp the true scope, but far too late, and he knew it was too late. The net result was allowing himself to resign on the excuse of a minor scandal.

The Twisted Genius


I'd like to add to Colonel Lang's words on professionalism, especially military professionalism. For many years, I felt I had a calling to be a Maryknoll missionary priest. Among us Catholics, this is also called a vocation. Rather than pursue these priestly vows, I took the oath as a commissioned officer in the Army and eventually entered the brotherhood of Special Forces. The devotion to something far beyond oneself and the dedication of one's life, mind and soul to that devotion is the same in both.

Babak Makkinejad

I think that the Vikings did discover life on Mars.


REinforcing Groupthink: Seems to me that anyone looking for insights and understanding of the behaviors and thinking of the US military as a Great Joint Institution could benefit from just reading the DoD’s own “Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms,” http://www.jcs.mil/Portals/36/Documents/Doctrine/pubs/dictionary.pdf This ongoing lexical project, which costs billions to create, update and promulgate, no doubt helps significantly in force-fitting conformity to the world view and preferences of those who control the content.

Here’s how the hierarchy views this project:

2. Terminology Categorization (Policy and Joint Doctrine)

a. Military Terminology. Standardized military and associated terminology forms the foundation of joint doctrine. It enables the joint force to organize, plan, train, and execute operations with a common language that is clearly articulated and universally understood. Since 1948, military terms have been codified in the DOD Dictionary. Although different in purpose, policy documents also require standardized terminology. While some policy terms are included in the DOD Dictionary, the bulk are codified in the Terminology Repository of DOD (OSD/JS) Issuances. Policy terms may form the basis of doctrinal terms, further describe doctrinal concepts, or temporarily fill gaps in joint doctrine until adopted as extant practice. If included in the DOD Dictionary, policy terms should conform to the CJCSI 5705.01 and standing operating procedure guidelines.

b. Policy and Joint Doctrine. Policy directs and assigns tasks, prescribes desired capabilities, and provides guidance for ensuring the Armed Forces of the United States are prepared to perform their assigned roles. Implicitly, policy can create new roles and requirements for new capabilities. Joint doctrine enhances the operational effectiveness of the Armed Forces by providing authoritative guidance and standardized terminology on topics relevant to the employment of military forces. Although joint doctrine is neither policy nor strategy, it serves to make United States policy and strategy effective in the application of United States military power. Terminology developed within policy and joint doctrine serves different purposes. The terminology required to support the employment of forces (doctrinal terms) may not be optimal for policy developers, whose purpose may be to illuminate resource or requirement documents. Terminology developed for DOD policy is not limited by the constraints imposed on doctrine terminology. Policy definitions may provide the basis for the doctrinal terms. Doctrinal terms cannot be in conflict with the law, regulation, or policy.

The definitions change over time to reflect changes in doctrine and elevation of particular salient in policy and such. I do find it interesting that by the definitions given in several iterations of the collection, the US actions in the current state of play fit pretty neatly within the definition of “insurgency,” which is supposed to be a “bad thing:”

insurgency — The organized use of subversion and violence to seize, nullify, or challenge political control of a region. Insurgency can also refer to the group itself. (JP 3-24)

And of course something like this lexicon has to exist, to try to tie together all the often conflicting pieces of the “joint structure” (characterization aimed at papering over what used to be called “inter- and intramural-service rivalries?”). One recalls the story of the Tower of Babel...

But I note that the document does not contain definitions of “war,” “victory,” “success,” and a lot of other salient terms one might think are germane to a notion of the institution as an effective “extension of diplomacy by other means.”



It costs billions to do this dictionary? Really" How about hundreds of billions, or perhaps trillions? Any evidence for the number or is that an editorial opinion? pl


Colonel, I can’t find the version of the dictionary or the article that I recall included info on costs as part of its covering pages, And you are right to challenge the “billions,” I should have typed “millions.” But how much does it cost, do you wonder, and maybe you have some experience that might inform this point, how much does it cost to continually do all the stuff that is lined out in this “Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Instruction” on how the dictionary and orthodoxy are to be maintained? http://www.jcs.mil/Portals/36/Documents/Doctrine/dictionary/repository/5705_01f.pdf?ver=2018-01-02-103913-257 That’s a process that has been in place over generations, now, since the 1980s at least.

There are the raw (also unauditable?) dollar costs of updating and publication and compliance, and then there are the kinds of costs your post highlights that result from the institutional processes of making and reinforcing a box that all the smart people fit themselves into. In the context of the military thing being what it is, a long way from a Sun Tzu appreciation of “The Art of War.” America is not at all like the wonderful place I learned about in K-12 civics and history classes. Seems to me that Maj. Gen. Smedley Butler had it right.

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