Postmodern classic?

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Alternatives to the Surge

One thing I've tried to discuss among my friends is a counterintuitive version of 'The Surge'. The closest I've seen to it is the Westhawk plan, which is superb, but it still doesn't articulate exactly what I would want, based on my experiences in Iraq. Because back here, people seem to be rather ignorant of the stakes and what's actually going on outside of these narrow partisan sniping events. It's not really all their fault; one could look to the fact that the elite of our country, who make up the majority the journalist profession from whom we are relying on for information(even if less and less), are profoundly ignorant on most military and many international subjects due to certain cultural trends tracing back more than a generation. That could have something to do with it, if I'm right.

Basically, in regards to the situation in Iraq, I think the first step would be scaling back our objectives. Let's install a military dictatorship sympathetic to our aims and dependent on our training and materiel. If the Iraqi's choose to develop a democratic system, that must be done on their own volition. How to do that? Well, the first thing is to let the ISF take over! And they will mess it up, majorly. Like Fallujah at the moment, but that's another story. Change the damn ROE's so that the PFC's and 2LT's won't be looking over their back all the time.

Troop levels? We're not fighting attrition warfare and no general really needs the extra troops. Cut them in half or more. That's right- I'm for a 'strategic redeployment'. If you do it right and enforce an Iraqi solution (which might be a little short of international human rights standards even if it's more culturally 'sensititive') you will not need so many troops. To fight Iran, yeah, you'll need more. But numbers are the comfort of the weak and bureaucratic. If you only knew how much waste was going on... I am a die-hard military supporter, but I was frankly embarrassed by the PX's and just.... general state of unreality back in the FOB's, Camps and Forts. You don't need all those people! The guys who are actually making the difference don't need that shit. If someone does need all that crap, they are in the wrong line of business. War is for warriors. Anything more is just waste.

If I really wanted to express what I felt alongside the grunts, it would sound something like this Staff Sergeant from Afghanistan (via B5). I can't say it better, so I reproduced it in full below. It's blunt and equal opportunity, addressing the unique problems of our bureaucratic way of war alongside the political problems that are confronted on a daily basis. This is more than a soldiers rant; it's testimony to the obstacles confronted by the American way of war. Don't take it lightly.

Things that I am tired of in this war:

I am tired of Democrats saying they are patriotic and then insulting my commander in chief and the way he goes about his job.

I am tired of Democrats who tell me they support me, the soldier on the ground, and then tell me the best plan to win this war is with a “phased redeployment” (liberal-speak for retreat) out of the combat zone to someplace like Okinawa.

I am tired of the Democrats whining for months on T.V., in the New York Times, and in the House and Senate that we need more troops to win the war in Iraq, and then when my Commander in Chief plans to do just that, they say that is the wrong plan, it won’t work, and we need a “new direction.”

I am tired of every Battalion Sergeant Major and Command Sergeant Major I see over here being more concerned about whether or not I am wearing my uniform in the “spot on,” most garrison-like manner; instead of asking me whether or not I am getting the equipment I need to win the fight, the support I need from my chain of command, or if the chow tastes good.

I am tired of junior and senior officers continually doubting the technical expertise of junior enlisted soldiers who are trained far better to do the jobs they are trained for than these officers believe.

I am tired of senior officers and commanders who fight this war with more of an eye on the media than on the enemy, who desperately needs killing.

I am tired of the decisions of Sergeants and Privates made in the heat of battle being scrutinized by lawyers who were not there and will never really know the state of mind of the young soldiers who were there and what is asked of them in order to survive.

I am tired of CNN claiming that they are showing “news,” with videotape sent to them by terrorists, of my comrades being shot at by snipers, but refusing to show what happens when we build a school, pave a road, hand out food and water to children, or open a water treatment plant.

I am tired of following the enemy with drones that have cameras, and then dropping bombs that sometimes kill civilians; because we could do a better job of killing the right people by sending a man with a high powered rifle instead.

I am tired of the thousands of people in the rear who claim that they are working hard to support me when I see them with their mochas and their PX Bags walking down the street, in the middle of the day, nowhere near their workspaces.

I am tired of Code Pink, Daily Kos, Al-Jazzera, CNN, Reuters, the Associated Press, ABC, NBC, CBS, the ACLU, and CAIR thinking that they somehow get to have a vote in how we blast, shoot and kill these animals who would seek to subdue us and destroy us.

I am tired of people like Meredith Vieria from NBC asking oxygen thieves like Senator Chuck Hagel questions like “Senator, at this point, do you think we are fighting and dying for nothing?” Meredith might not get it, but soldiers do know the difference between fighting and dying for something and fighting and dying for nothing.

I am tired of hearing multiple stories from both combat theaters about snipers begging to do their jobs while commanders worry about how the media might portray the possible casualties and what might happen to their career.

I am tired of hearing that the Battalion Tactical Operations Center got a new plasma screen monitor for daily briefings, but rifle scope rings for sniper rifles, extra magazines, and necessary field gear were disapproved by the unit supply system.

I am tired of out of touch general officers, senators, congressmen and defense officials who think that giving me some more heavy body armor to wear is helping me stay alive. Speed is life in combat and wearing 55 to 90 pounds of gear for 12 to 20 hours a day puts me at a great tactical disadvantage to the idiot, mindless terrorist who is wearing no armor at all and carrying an AK-47 and a pistol.

I am tired of soldiers who are stationed in places like Kuwait and who are well away from any actual combat getting Hostile Fire/Imminent Danger Pay and the Combat Zone Tax Exclusion when they live on a base that has a McDonald’s, a Pizza Hut, a Subway, a Baskin Robbins, an internet café, 2 coffee shops and street lights.

I am tired of senior officers and commanders who take it out and "measure" every time they want to have a piece of the action with their helicopters or their artillery; instead of putting their egos aside and using their equipment to support the grunt on the ground.

I am tired of senior officers and commanders who are too afraid for their careers to tell the truth about what they need to win this war to their bosses so that the soldiers can get on with kicking the ass of these animals.

I am tired of Rules of Engagement being made by JAG lawyers and not Combat Commanders. We are not playing Hopscotch over here. There is no 2nd place trophy either. I think that if the enemy knew some rough treatment and some deprivation was at hand for them, instead of prayer rugs, special diets and free Korans; this might help get their terrorist minds “right.”

I am tired of seeing Active Duty Army and Marine units being extended past their original redeployment dates, when there are National Guard Units that have yet to deploy to a combat zone in the last 40 years.

I am tired of hearing soldiers who are stationed in safe places talk about how hard their life is.

I am tired of seeing Infantry Soldiers conducting what amounts to “SWAT” raids and performing the US Army’s version of “CSI Iraq” and doing things like filling out forms for evidence when they could be better used to hunt and kill the enemy.

I am tired of senior officers and commanders who look first in their planning for how many casualties we might take, instead of how many enemy casualties we might inflict.

I am tired of begging to be turned loose so that this war can be over.

Those of us who fight this war want to win it and go home to their families. Prolonging it with attempts to do things like collect “evidence” or present whiz bang briefings on a new plasma screen TV is wasteful and ultimately, dulls the edge of our Infantry soldiers who are trained to kill people and break things, not necessarily in that order.

We are not in Iraq and Afghanistan to build nations. We are there to kill our enemies. We make the work of the State Department easier by the results we achieve.

It is only possible to defeat an enemy who kills indiscriminately by utterly destroying him. He cannot be made to yield or surrender. He will fight to the death by the hundreds to kill only one or two of us.

And so far, all of our “games” have been “away games,” and I don’t know about the ignorant, treasonous Democrats and the completely insane radical leftists and their thoughts on the matter, but I would like to keep our road game schedule.

So let’s get it done. Until the fight is won and there is no more fight left.


Monday, January 29, 2007

Internet media contributions

Both of these courtesy of LGF. Behold the Duck of Peace!

Saturday, January 27, 2007

January 2007 links

Mozilla tabs overflowing: time to post, even if just to list links.

Tigerhawk came across this letter to the editor in 'The New Republic' which really articulates my complaints about the mainstream media coverage of Iraq and American engagement overseas (military or otherwise). So I'll reproduce it here before I get to the rest of my links.
Reading the Iraq issue provided a sense of what is going on there. It also provided a sense of the notions held by a few upper-middle-class people who earn their living thinking and writing in comfortable neighborhoods in Washington, D.C.; Princeton; Cambridge; Palo Alto; and other non-war zones in the United States where water, food, rule of law, and utilities are taken for granted. What one wonders after reading the issue is, of the 16 views published, why the editors chose not to publish any perspectives by a) Iraqis -- Sunni, Shia, or Kurd; b) American military personnel who served in Iraq; or c) anybody who lives and works in the neighboring countries. Wouldn't Iraqis and American military personnel be in a position to test the viability of the ideas expressed in The New Republic by writers who have negligible direct experience with the realities of this war? What your magazine does is publish articles by people with fine academic credentials who believe in the superiority of their thoughts and who do not realize how limited they are by the combination of their privileged experiences, their inadequate knowledge of the region and circumstances, and the influence of the safe cities in which they reside. The ability of author after author to reference the terminology of the region is impressive. Yet this capability amounts to a faux authority -- kind of like someone who can weave into his language references to musical terms but cannot play a melody. By publishing this issue, the editors conveyed the message that the only important views are those of people who are like the editors in professional background, temperament, and geographical comfort. Next time, dare to try the unconventional tack of asking Iraqis, American military personnel, and other affected people what they think should be done.

Moreover, it is striking that, in all the essays published, no author wrote a single sentence exploring why none of the recommendations expressed have been put into action. What is the point of holding a dinner party in which you serve dishes to which the guests are allergic? Finally, it is interesting to see the editors apologize for their espousal of the war, because this apology gives rise to the question: If reason alone (in contrast to reason coupled with the experience of people who are confronting the realities directly) led the editors to a wrong conclusion, what basis is there to believe that, this time around, reason alone -- from people far removed from the realities of the war -- will lead to the right conclusion?
It's always sad when an American serviceman dies in a conflict overseas. 2LT Mark Daily recently passed in Iraq, and Hugh Hewitt reproduced some of his last words. It's a testament to his resolve how he articulated the reasoning behind his actions, even with their fatal consequences. Contemplation of death is a part of any service members day-to-day life.

Nick Cohen wrote a very interesting two part (1, 2) piece on the intellectual conflict between left and right and what the present conflict in Iraq means to otherwise ethical protesters. Christopher Hitchens echoes that schizophrenic aspect of the current intellectual contradictions in his review of Mark Steyn's 'America Alone'.

Speaking of those protesters, especially the 'Grassroots'- Mudville Gazette does a little investigating to see why 65 people 'Appealing for Redress' and their complaints over the Iraq War are somehow more important than the hundreds of thousands who've served honorably and are proud of their service.

I couldn't force myself to watch the SOTU this past week. Tired of listening to politicians speak I'm afraid, even if I'm told Bush did a decent job. Nonetheless, Jim 'Copperhead' Webb would've been interesting. Here is an interesting look at one of his writings in the mid-90's that shows why he can be such a compelling figure, especially in regard to the anti-Vietnam War protesters, whom the people in DC today apparently hope to emulate with such 'luminaries' as Jane Fonda (spit) and Susan Sarandon.

Discontent with contemporary politics leads me to question the current batch of politicos and their posturing. My ambivalence over the surge is shared by others as giving in to this sort of popular perception that it's window dressing rather than an effort to change the reality on the ground. But if that's what it takes to get people behind it, or at least get the enemies to stop hiding behind vague rhetoric- hey, drive on.

I ran across this article on gun rights the other day, and it really shows the lack of engagement with a substantial portion of our population on gun control issues- or at least should be grounds for reasonable debate. That 2nd amendment didn't come from anywhere, and there are solid principles behind it.

And always end with humor. The Onions 'American Voices' is always humorous- here's the news on Hilary Clinton entering the run for presidential nomination of the Democratic Party, What do you think? Or Greg Gutfeld of the Huffington Post discussing 'Patriotic Terrorism', haha...

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Supervillain personality quiz

I love these things! Leave your results in the comments. Found on The Mad Pigeon.

Your results:
You are Apocalypse

Dr. Doom
Dark Phoenix
Mr. Freeze
Lex Luthor
The Joker
Poison Ivy
Green Goblin
You believe in survival of the fittest and you believe that you are the fittest.

Click here to take the Supervillain Personality Quiz

The 'Hollow Military'

'Military experts' are like... use your imagination. Don't get me wrong, knuckle-dragging grunts like me (even though I'm no longer among that hallowed company I still bear the imprint) should be taken with a grain of salt too. What would I give to take a few of these so-called experts and beat them with the 'common sense' stick a couple times. But, as we all know, the problem with common sense is that it's not so common... and so all these unproven theories abound.

If only people were aware of my theory! It explains everything- buy my book since I'm so smart! Our loyal and selfless heroic troops (even if they're poor manipulated victims unable to adapt on their own, without my sage advice) are being betrayed by the current leadership which is leaving them without xxx item! Or so says the recent issue of AEI, in an article a new book on the 'Hollow Military' (found on Prof Bainbridge's site). One of my favorites (not really), Fred Kagan, is evidently a supporting author for one of the essays in this book.

Oh the hubris! A better example of a hollow military would be the years following Vietnam, when there were rampant drug use and other major institutional problems that wouldn't be effectively dealt with until the volunteer military had been fully integrated. Was that a hollow military? I don't think we're having those kind of problems now. In fact my experience suggests the opposite, that we have the best military we've ever had. This selection at Mike Yons site suggests similar thinking among those currently deployed:

I’ve heard senior Command Sergeant Majors and officers saying throughout 2005, and now in 2006 and into 2007, that this younger group of soldiers is far superior to the previous generation of American soldiers. The senior combat leaders tend to comprise an odd mixture between warriors and grandparents (truly, grandparents with grandchildren back home). Many have children who are older than these young soldiers who are fighting their hearts out and often being shredded before their leaders’ own eyes. There may be some cold and callous souls out here, but our senior combat leaders truly tend to be combat-hardened people who also know how to change diapers.

The people enlisting and reenlisting in the military do so with the full knowledge that they will be deployed to combat zones overseas, most likely Iraq and Afghanistan. This means that they know full well they will be exposed to mortal risks in defense of their country, before they sign up. This was not the case with conscription, which as we should remember, was the source of much motivation for the antiwar crowd, which surprisingly enough seemed to evaporate when that policy ended... but our military experts tell us the Army is 'hollowing out', and therefore morale must be bad.

One of the fundamental truths of Special Operations is that humans are more important than hardware. Take that as a leadership lesson, the ultimate conclusion of military science; the best equipment anywhere will fail before a better organized and committed unit. Functional and reliable military equipment is a great asset, but most critical is the human element.

Is this so hard to figure out? Evidently. Just look at our monstrous defense budget. I dare anyone to slog through that behemoth and tell me just what good are these massive inefficiencies. A $20 million dollar fighter jet that can be taken out by a $10,000 missile? The hundreds of billions of infrastructure required to maintain that and similar programs that might be spent on something else? Let me do the math on that... Super precision weapons that fail in bad climate? Dependence on electrical and satellite systems vulnerable to electro-magnetic pulses? Micro-managing bureaucracy based in Washington, DC? Check, check and check...

I don't want the military to do 'bake sales for B-2 bombers', to echo the old anti-war slogan. We need a healthy defense industrial infrastructure and development. We need a staff to manage that, working closely with the civilian leadership. But the state of things in Washington leads cynics like myself begin (?) to think that the art and management of actual warfighting going on in places like Iraq is more of an annoying distraction, rather than an opportunity to work and validate our existing doctrine, for the staff and associated bureaucrats of our defense community.

That might be a broader swipe than I intend. We need many people to serve in a variety of different capacities. However, this is another opportunity to look at some of the numbers these people should be crunching. Most important in my mind is the 'tooth-to-tail' ratio, measuring the proportion of combat soldiers to support. During WW2, it took about 3 people to support one infantryman. Now it's about 10. If this is the price for all our precision warfare and logistical excess, then we need to think that one through again.

While all soldiers and Marines can think of gear and kit that could be helpful, the fact remains that there is no silver bullet that solves all problems. What they need is support and the abstract, ill-defined but critical quality of 'leadership'.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Onion humor

Doing a bunch of admin, updating my RSS feeds and all that kind of thing. Couldn't find this column, one of my favorites, but did a search and found it in text form. Preserved here in it's full cynical glory (via the Onion):

December 20, 2000

Darling, will you spend the next six to ten years with me?
By John McNally, The Onion Web site

Darling. We've known each other for more than a year now. During that time,
we've shared so much--our hopes, our dreams, our fears. I know when I met
you I wasn't thinking of starting up a serious relationship, but my
admiration and respect for you quickly blossomed into love. You're my best
friend and my confidant, and I can't imagine spending the better part of the
next decade without you.

I know I've been vague about taking "the next step," but all that has
changed. Your patience, loyalty, and love have made me see the world in an
entirely new light. It's a place where true love can exist. So I ask you,
Julie Bramhall... Will you spend the next six to ten years with me?

I realize it's sudden. We just moved in together three months ago, and I'm
still looking for a better-paying job. But when I look into your eyes, I see
all the things I never used to want. A big wedding. Kids. A house with a
white picket fence that I'll have to move out of in about seven years when
you discover I'm sleeping with my secretary. I never thought I'd say this to
anyone, but you're the only one I want to wake up next to for the rest of my

I remember telling you early in our relationship that I never wanted to get
married. But, sometimes, I stay awake after you've fallen asleep and just
look at you and stroke your hair. I can't believe what a lucky man I am.
When the moonlight hits your delicate features just right, I see an angel.
An angel who will turn cold and indifferent to me in five years because of
festering resentment over my drinking. But if I could only capture how you
look on film during those moments, I swear we could make a million dollars.
God, you're so beautiful at this stage of your life.

Did you know that most of my friends are amazed that a woman of your caliber
would even be going out with me, much less be interested in marrying me?
They're always talking about how smart, funny, and drop-dead gorgeous you
are. I have no choice but to agree. When I take a step back and look at
things, there's no reason someone so luminous should be interested in a guy
like me. Of course, I always point out to them that your looks will be
pretty well faded by 2008. But when I think how stunning you are now, I can
only shake my head in disbelief.

Marriage is a big step to make, I know. But when I think of all the memories
we've shared together, it makes me want a medium amount more. Do you
remember that time we stumbled onto the bridge in Georgia overlooking a
moonlit river, and we just held each other close, watching the waves gently
lap on the shore? What about all the Sundays we lay in bed together until
early afternoon? I cherish these memories, and I want to share more until
our relationship is reduced to screaming fights, endless hours of legal
battles, and an attempt on your part to stab me with a potato peeler.

If you asked me two years ago if I was ever going to want kids, I would have
looked at you like you were crazy. But sometimes, when I'm walking with you
hand in hand, I imagine us pushing a stroller. And I like that image. I see
us with two kids, a boy and a girl. That would be perfect. They could hold
each other up after I'm gone.

I really think you'd make an incredible mother, Julie. And I think you'll
eventually make a great single mother, too. You've got that inner strength.

You don't have to answer right away if you don't want to. It's a big
decision, and I wouldn't want you to take it lightly. Think it over. Talk to
your friends and family. I already asked your father for your hand in
marriage, and he gave his blessing. But before you answer, you should know
that I truly do love you and want to spend nearly a decade with you. Without
you, my life is incomplete. At least, until I meet our daughter's dance

So, please, Julie Bramhall... Say you'll grow early middle-aged with me.

© Copyright 2000 Onion, Inc., All rights reserved.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Quotes on civilian/military tension referencing management of modern-day COIN

Ran into this on American Future, quite an interesting quote from incoming GEN Petraeus and his 1987 doctoral thesis.

Very importantly, many in the military believe that the United States armed forces can win small wars if allowed to do so. Those who hold this view tend to believe that Vietnam was less an illustration of the limitations of American military power than an example of what happens if that power is limited and not used to best advantage. This feeling springs from conviction that the U.S. military in Vietnam were so hemmed in by restrictions that they could not accomplish their mission. The lesson for those of this persuasion, therefore, is that the military must be given a freer hand in future military operations. Even among the most fervent believers in this logic, however, there is a new recognition that the world is more intractable, and intervention with U.S. troops more problematic. . . .

The military also took from Vietnam (and the concomitant activities in the Pentagon) a heightened awareness that civilian officials are responsive to influences other than the objective conditions on the battlefield. A consequence has been an increase in the traditional military distrust of civilian political leaders. . . . While the military still accept emphatically the constitutional provision for civilian control of the armed forces, there remain from the Vietnam era nagging doubts about the abilities and motivations of politicians and those they appoint to key positions. Vietnam was a painful reminder for the military that they, not the transient occupants of high office, generally bear the heaviest burden during armed conflict.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

No news is... no news

If anyone doubts what is going on internationally is a serious threat, they should really spend some time in reflection, enjoying our lovely air transportation system (at least anal probes are still optional at this point). Spending a lot of time in airports these days.... an interesting side note, as it is. Ah well. My hope is that vigor for the blog will resume if I stay in the state more than a week at a time. That means not soon then, unfortunately.

I'm sorry to disappoint my loyal readers by not writing more recently. I started a few movie reviews, finished a few books worth noting, and of course recent developments on the War and the Surge which were of interest. All of these I have not posted. Partly 'cause I'm busy, but also it's just not time.

Best to all with the New Year-