March 30, 2006

I Nominate Phibian For Acquisitions Professional

Filed under: — Chap @ 7:43 pm

Wouldn’t that be a hoot? We could put him as program executive officer for, say, an LCS module to start.


Seems the good Commander Salamander is casting a gimlet eye upon the latest announcement with regard to SC21

March 29, 2006

Time, Gentlemen!

Filed under: — Chap @ 11:35 pm

I just learned of the FLAPEX going on involving a submariner milblogger.

My two cents:

— — —

Penny the first: It sure seems to me that conflicts in a military social environment must be resolved at the lowest competent level. Someone with the training to know how conflicts should be resolved is not necessarily doing a proper job by going high order early afer a single email exchange, or going public publishing an accusation rather than making an issue known in a less blatantly public manner. IGs are for important things. People could get their lives and careers squashed with an investigation; it causes the leadership on the ship to scramble, and the over-reaction that can occur correcting one error can result in much larger errors (see USS Chicago COB, USS Los Angeles 1996 hazing suicide). We need to get smart quick and cut that out because it’s unprofessional. The XO on both of those examples could have made a difference. So can you.

I worked for a man who had IGs done on him because someone didn’t like the direction he was going. Not because the man was doing anything illegal/immoral/fattening, but because someone didn’t like his policies. The anonymous JAG investigation can be used at times as a tool of harassment; I’ve seen it, and it is a powerful chilling effect.

When you’re senior, you have the responsibility to not accidentally squash the junior folks–and maybe it would be worth mentioning that avoiding high order responses all the time is an effective method of maintaining good order and discipline, making a better, tighter ship. Sometimes the senior man is way out of line.

My advice? Think about this situation now, because it will come up again. Work through your responses. Have some sensitivity to how you can be the most effective in the short and long term, and be aware of the wide range of acceptable discourse. Are you doing right by the nation? If so, are you doing it with the nicest sense of personal honor?

— — —

Penny the second: The guy who got the dime dropped–this time–is in a good situation. First, he’s doing fine on his blog, as far as I can tell–no OPSEC issues, and the opinion issues are in the weeds at best. Secondly, he’s got support. Thirdly, it sounds like he’s not trouble on the boat and the ‘halo effect’ will help him.

Now consider the next time this happens to somebody–say, someone not on active duty doesn’t like an active milblogger, or there’s a nasty divorce, or an argument blown up, or someone of one political persuasion beset upon by those of another. What are we Navy people going to do to keep us from having the same stupidity that happened with guys in the Army who got busted or violated OPSEC, partially due to their own stupidity, partially because they didn’t get mentoring, partially because they didn’t get the most supportive chain of command? Right now there are people out there searching for ways to get people they don’t like into trouble.

I feel I have an obligation to support the beleaguered active milblogger as a shipmate. This does not mean turning a blind eye to a failure on someone’s part, it means being a shipmate.

— — —

Most importantly, I would like to remind everyone of the written direction of SOPA NAVMILBLOG, and Colonel (ret.) Sensing’s Rule Six.

Deep Thoughts

Filed under: — Chap @ 12:28 am

One of the more, uh, incisive discussions of Middle East geopolitics I’ve seen in a while. Involves scratch lottery tickets and the subway.

March 28, 2006

Better Questions Get Better Answers

Filed under: — Chap @ 11:36 pm

I’ve noticed, pace Jason van Steenwyk, that reporters don’t tend to know much about the subject they’re reporting. In the case of military reporting, you can see it pretty clearly. (When a reporter does have experience with military affairs, they can get shunted aside no matter how good they are at their job.)

When someone who actually knows something askes the questions, look out–you actually get different information that you would by asking the same ‘gotcha’ question eleventeen times.

Check out this Q&A from the SecDef going to Carlisle (Army War College). Here’s just one question; the press reports on this speech and Q&A (at least five in today’s Early Bird) badly cover this exchange by pretty much only mentioning the first sentence Rumsfeld says here.

QUESTION: [Inaudible]. My question has to do with the war on terror as a war of ideology. The National Defense Strategy, QDR (Quadrennial Defense Review), talks about the war on terror having a significant component as a war of ideology. What do you think we’re doing well with respect to the war of ideology, and what do you think we could do better?

SECRETARY RUMSFELD: If I were rating, I would say we probably deserve a D or D+ as a country as how well we’re doing in the battle of ideas that’s taking place. I’m not going to suggest that it’s easy, but we have not found the formula as a country.

It’s basically a struggle not between the West and Muslims. It’s a struggle within the Muslim faith. There are a relatively small number of violent extremists and a very large number of moderates who do not believe in violent extremism in that faith. We’re going to have to find ways that we can encourage and support those moderate voices because they’re the ones who are in the struggle.

In the 20th century when I went to Washington fresh out of the Navy in 1957 and we had something called the United States Information Agency. It wasn’t perfect, but it had libraries around the world, made movies, had various seminars and opportunities for people to learn more about the United States. I don’t know what the 21st century version of that is, but we need it badly and we haven’t got it.

When I was in Congress I remember President Kennedy was president. The USIA made a film about the Kennedy family going to India. It was very promotional and favorable to them. It was played back in the United States and Congress got all excited because taxpayers’ dollars were being used to propagandize the American people. So the USIA was highly criticized and eventually it was abolished for all practical purposes.

We had various other things at Voice of America, Radio Free Europe, and other activities that we engaged in. But this is a wonderful country, the United States of America. The American people are enormously generous. And we are tolerant as a country. We accept diversity and differences. We’re far from perfect. But the image that the United States has in the world as a result of the characterizations by others is unfortunate. And when people are leaning toward you, as you all know, things are easy. When people are leaning away from you, things are much more difficult.

We’re conducting a war today that for the first time in the history of the world, in the 21st century, where with all of these new realities — video cameras and digital cameras and 24 hour talk shows and bloggers and the internet and e-mails and all of these things that have changed how people communicate. And as a result, everything anyone says goes to multiple audiences. Every time the United States tries to do anything that would communicate something positive about what we’re doing in the world we’re criticized in the press and in the Congress, and we have a reappraisal and say oh, my goodness, is that something we should be doing? How do we do it in a way that is considered acceptable in our society?

Right now we have this issue about some folks out in Iraq working for General Casey hired a contractor and they wanted to get some truth out — true stories, not inaccurate stories, not disinformation, but true stories and the contractor wanted to get those placed in some papers and they wouldn’t take them, and he paid, apparently paid, the report hasn’t come to me yet but as I understand it, the contractor apparently paid some newspapers to run, without putting the word advertisement on it. It was the truth. They were not lies that were being put in the paper. They were accurate. But the fuss and the concern in the country has just been a frenzy over it, so we’re having an investigation. General Casey ran an investigation of it. He’s now going to send it back and I’ll look at it and we’ll have to figure out whether that’s something we ought to do.

If you put yourself in the shoes of the people in the theater, and they’re out doing decent, good things frequently day after day, and the press is just reporting bad things about you in the Iraqi press, the neighborhood press for example, and they want to get something good about the fact that they did build a hospital, or they did put a generator in the school, or they did something else because their patrols are going out and they want the population to have a balanced view of what the troops are doing. So they worked with a local newspaper to try to get those stories in because they felt it would save lives if the community understood what it is we were doing completely and not just negative things that were being said through al-Jazeera or one of the networks that tend to be negative on the coalition forces.

You can understand their desire to do that. Then you look at the reaction.

So we’re going to have to find better ways to do it and thus far we haven’t as a government. The government’s not well organized to do it. I worry, frankly, about people because of the fact that we do need the ability to communicate more effectively as a country, and people in the military have to be willing to do that. If every time anyone in the military sticks their head up they get penalized for having touched the third rail, namely done something with the media, that’s not a great incentive for you folks. Right? But it’s critically important that each of you have the ability to communicate, to deal with the press, and to understand where the red lines are and where the lanes are that we have to stay in because in our society we have to find them. The problem is that we’ve not yet adapted to all of these new realities that exist and we’re going to have to do a much better job of it.

I also should note that these transcripts are fairly unique in that instead of [Laughter] or [Applause] the comment of [Hooahs] appears.

There’s a great article (subscription link) in this month’s American Interest that describes some of what Rumsfeld mentions in terms of cultural exchange, with jazz musician Dave Brubeck discussing a pretty heavy deployment of his quartet. Brubeck mentions the work his band had to do, going into Iraq and leaving right before the Ba’athist coup killed off everyone in his hotel, pushing civil rights forward with an integrated band, and the strong influence of jazz on oppressed peoples reduced to recording illegal radio shows on X-ray film. According to Brubeck, everyone in Eastern Europe who spoke English wound up with an accent like Willis Conover (who ran a Voice of America jazz show heard in the Warsaw Pact countries).

I haven’t seen a reporter choose to bring up questions that would cause Rumsfeld to opine about soft power. That’s too bad, really.

Al-Qaeda Syria Ops Summary

Filed under: — Chap @ 7:33 am

This post summarizes my impressions of a document identified by Austin Bay as part of his series of pointers to the Harmony database of declassified and occasionally translated documents that we’ve captured from Al Qaeda. The document itself is about forty-five pages and not a fast read.

I think this “lessons learned” is a worthwhile read. An organization with these lessons learned for a failed operation would have improved in a manner that fits the Al Qaeda of 2001-2. The document also helps remove the mystique of the unseen terrorist; these people are human and think about warfare in terms that are understandable by a student of warfare. Learning from them like this will help us kill or neutralize them more effectively.


  1. The document is truly a captured AQ doc
  2. The doc accurately summarizes the views of an AQ member
  3. The doc information is as accurate as a single staffer writing a lessons learned can be.

Background — what I knew before reading the doc

In 2002 I poked a classmate of mine hard about her dealings with Syria. Why not push harder for things you clearly believe? Why not take the stand now?

Her response was “Hamat”. Also called Hama or Hamah, it’s a little town near the middle of the country. In the late seventies and early ’80’s the Middle East was dealing with the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood by typical tyrannical means–Qutb tortured and imprisoned, Hadeed tortured and later assassinated, repression in Egypt and Syria, et cetera. Hama had an uprising in 1982, and the Syrian government did as the Russians did in Chechnya a decade back–go in with guns and block all information coming out of the region while the operation was in progress.

According to my Syrian friend, the ‘operation’ was to perform a massacre. Nobody knows how many men, women and children were killed, but tens of thousands seems to be the order of magnitude. The operation was brutal on a scale to rival atrocities in World War Two, as far as anyone can tell.

My earlier understanding was that the uprising was Kurdish in nature. The document has other things to say about it.

Document Summary

The AQ operation started as early as 1976; the massacre happened in 1982. These operations are long term deals. The hirabist side (heh) was a mix of AQ, MB and locals like Attalieaa; the other side was the Syrian government.

Operational security was key to the failure of the campaign. Key captures by the Syrian government related to a MB coup attempt gave the Syrian government the information that caused them to massacre Hama.

The document has several sections. The first section describes the situation and structure of the players affiliated with AQ.

  1. A description of the players (as AQ sees them, and after the debacle).
  2. A short background from about 1970 onward.
  3. Critique of the overall character of the operation,
  4. Critique focusing on the Attalieaa (Syrian internal jihadi group) structure and what worked and didn’t,
  5. Critique focusing on Muslim Brotherhood structure,
  6. Lessons learned from survivors in the field.

The next chapter is “Lessons learned from the obstacles facing military jihad.” The numbering can get confusing, but the doc structure is: AQ, Attalieaa, MB. Sort of.

The lessons identified seem to be points that AQ took on board. Changing the cell structure to improve OPSEC, focusing more on political and information war aspects, and changing the sustainability of the fighting units all seem to be things AQ is strong at in 2002 that they complain here is what caused failure in Syria. The “franchise model” of terrorism didn’t spring fully formed from here, but you can see its beginnings. The military organization recommended has three branches: “known”, meaning fighters that are out there, “unknown”, guys with fewer skills and more covert but enablers and fighters of opportunity like the doctor in Iraq that was killing police secretly, and “abroad”, loggies and intel guys that might make one look at CAIR with a more jaundiced eye.

It’s clear that tyrannies, which are focused on regime survival no matter which group is trying to overthrow them, are very good at suppressing dissent using tools we can’t use. The extended family of a AQ fighter was at risk in a way they aren’t against the Americans, for instance.

The Best Insult I’ve Heard In A While

From a discussion of the capabilities of one of the last leaders left on the ground:

I do not doubt Adnan Akla’s loyalty and integrity as a leader, nor do I doubt his courage. I also have not doubt that he lacks the wisdom to benefit from those two characteristics.

Links Of Note Between Organizations

  1. Jordan’s intel was helping Syria’s intel.
  2. Iraq trained AQ. Iraq trained Attalieaa. Iraq provided tons of weapons to AQ. AQ was not happy that MB linked closely to secular Iraq and consulted with them. Iraq ran radio stations for MB pointed at Syria. AQ believes Attalieaa was overly dependent on Iraq for support. Cadres moved to Iraq. Iraq security services spied on AQ efforts after aid was terminated in 1980. MB members got documents forged for them in Iraq. There were military training camps in Iraq where families lived. AQ blames MB for selling their operations down the river and convincing Iraq to withdraw support.
  3. MB and AQ relations were severely damaged by this debacle. A schism in 1989 weakened MB. (I would like more schisms, please.)

Humanizing The Enemy

This is a good read in terms of recognizing that there are human beings we’re fighting, not shadowy IED planters with no weaknesses we can exploit.

That’s about all I can add. Any campaign planners out there want to show me what I’m missing?

Slap Fight!

Filed under: — Chap @ 5:34 am

Cleanup on Aisle Twelve. Someone got Krauthammer riled up….

You Know…

Filed under: — Chap @ 5:08 am

The post below is going to have some people scratching their heads and wondering what the heck I’m talking about…

So That’s Why SINS Went Down All The Time

Filed under: — Chap @ 5:07 am

I just thought it was because the SINS units were thirty thousand dollars apiece and some company’s kids needed new expensive shoes.

Via my go-to science connection, Ace, comes a story that someone discovered cold fusion gravity creation through movement of mass. The paper’s authors think they have an increase in detected mass proportional to the applied angular acceleration of a superconducting ring. (Press release here.)

“We ran more than 250 experiments, improved the facility over 3 years and discussed the validity of the results for 8 months before making this announcement. Now we are confident about the measurement,” says Tajmar, who performed the experiments and hopes that other physicists will conduct their own versions of the experiment in order to verify the findings and rule out a facility induced effect.

Well, the guy does have a fancy personal page.

This has some really interesting implications if true. I wonder if all those Higgs boson hunters are all upset now…

The Afghani With The Other Green Book

Filed under: — Chap @ 4:51 am

Several interesting reactions to the story of Abdul Rahman, who was in the middle of a child custody dispute when his family decided to have him arrested for apostasy.

Dean Esmay has a perspective I hadn’t thought about before, and it’s cause for optimism.

Instead, while we may not approve of putting someone on trial for his religious beliefs, at least this guy got judged by a real court, in full public scrutiny, with a defense attorney, AND, the elected government of Afghanistan felt that it should answer to not just its nearby theocratic neighbors, but, also to its fellow democratic nations, including governments from places like France, Germany, Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom.

Think on it: President Karzai of Afghanistan actually felt the need to take phone calls on this matter from the Canadian Prime Minister. And the American Secretary of State. And the German Prime Minster. And the leaders of many other democratic nations. And he felt the need to take their concerns seriously. And he felt the need to assure them all that this man would not be executed. All of which actually happened within the last 72 hours.

Read that all as an indictment of the eville moooslims if you like. I read it as a country that is emerging at astonishing speed from the 12th century into the 21st.

It’s a good point.

Mark Steyn has an incisive column with this money quote:

In a more culturally confident age, the British in India were faced with the practice of “suttee” — the tradition of burning widows on the funeral pyres of their husbands. General Sir Charles Napier was impeccably multicultural:

”You say that it is your custom to burn widows. Very well. We also have a custom: When men burn a woman alive, we tie a rope around their necks and we hang them. Build your funeral pyre; beside it, my carpenters will build a gallows.You may follow your custom. And then we will follow ours.”

March 26, 2006

“We Could Deal With The Old Man, But The Kid…”

Filed under: — Chap @ 1:21 am

Tom Barnett says

Beijing will continue to get screwed by Pyongyang until it [China–c.] grows up on the subject and begins to realize that what Kim costs them financially is not outweighed by what tidbits he may offer them diplomatically.

If a country wants something, it should use all elements of national power in a coherent effort toward the goal. That’s not some elements, that’s all elements. The United States, with its remarkably chaotic and occasionally random foreign policy (over the decades, not so much day-to-day), has particular trouble doing that sometimes. We want North Korea to be other than a juche-laden tyrannical hellhole with weapons, set to go off at unpredictable conditions, pointed at us and our friends.

In this case maybe we are able to influence in a different way from usual. More at the link.

March 25, 2006

Habbaniyah Casualties

Filed under: — Chap @ 1:09 am

I’ve clicked on those “DOD News” casualty reports too many times in the last few years.

Two men died 23 March in Habbaniyah; from what I can gather in open source it involved an IED and a firefight. Might have been two separate events.

I note this because this is a unit manned by one of the fellows who has commented here in some contentious posts before deploying. He and I do not share the same worldview, but I am here in cushy world while he is doing the hard job. I wish I could share the risk now; I will do so later but this knowledge does not ease the fact that I am not the man in the arena, my commenter is.

I have offered my condolences, and any assistance we could provide to the families.

March 24, 2006

Once A Chief, Always A Chief

Filed under: — Chap @ 12:59 pm

….and a fine tradition it is.

Mudville Gazette’s Dawn Patrol linked to a Livejournal entry by a junior Army pup. The young fellow is at a tough spot in a deployment–we’ve all been there–and the master chief responds with some fatherly mentoring.

They just don’t know. Their world is tiny compared to yours now.

As for wives… the good ones become your rock. Your base of operations. The one you come home to after a long deployment. The one whose love gets you through it. (I can remember few things I thought sadder than the guys who got off the plane and went home to an empty apartment.) She’s the one who understands (even if she really doesn’t). You’ll find that with life in the service there are few mediocre marriages. They either break up under the pressure, or like a diamond, are hardened and made more precious by it.

God willing, you’ll learn this on your own. You’re different now. You’re a sheepdog. That doesn’t mean the sheep are lesser beings. They’re just….well… sheep. Accept it. Take pride in it.

The whole post is worth reading.

My two cents?

Master Chief’s on target. I’d add that someone at home doing their little life has no idea what your life is now, and those who have done Great Things (even though they involve latrines) are apart from those who have not. People grow, sometimes together, sometimes apart. Folks in the real world figure this out all of a sudden about ten years down the road when the “old gang never gets together any more”. Our junior fellow learns it quicker than anyone else, and this will show up again when you try to share your experiences with someone who has never been in that situation. Heinlein’s Starship Troopers has a good scene where the guy goes home and finds out he can’t go home and be who he was; we all do at some point.

I’ve heard it said…

The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face in marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

Cold comfort, at times. But comfort it is.

This too shall pass.

March 23, 2006

There Are Worse Jobs Out There For A Lieutenant Getting Out

Filed under: — Chap @ 10:24 pm

So I get told that a friend of a friend got out of the Nav and does this for a living. Family lives aboard when they deploy, and a chance to Make A Difference.

(Oh, and off topic, check this thing out for charity grading. I did not know they did such things, but it makes sense.)


Filed under: — Chap @ 9:37 am

Gerard Vanderleun finds undiscovered Ansel Adams photos. Well worth a look.

Which Reminds Me

Filed under: — Chap @ 9:34 am

So they managed to get the rest of the human shields organization Christian Peacemaker Teams rescued.

(Peace of the dead, apparently.)

Anyhow. We rescued those loathsome people. And it reminds me of this exchange.

A few minutes later Ogletree turned to George M. Connell, a Marine colonel in full uniform, jaw muscles flexing in anger, with stress on each word, Connell looked at the TV stars and said, “I feel utter . . . contempt. ” Two days after this hypothetical episode, said Connell, Jennings or Wallace might be back with the American forces–and could be wounded by stray fire, as combat journalists often had been before. The instant that happened he said, they wouldn’t be “just journalists” any more. Then they would drag them back, rather than leaving them to bleed to death on the battlefield. “We’ll do it!” Connell said. “And that is what makes me so contemptuous of them. Marines will die going to get … a couple of journalists.”

The last few words dripped with disgust.

I feel utter contempt for those people. I’m sorry that our people worked for months to rescue them, but understand we had to do it, because that’s what we do–the right thing, even when it’s hard.

Words To Live By

Filed under: — Chap @ 12:58 am

Just finished ghostwriting a paper that shouldn’t come out under my name because the dust I’m stirring up needs a little more top cover. So I’ve been neglecting my, uh, duties here at the ol’ blog.

Or it could just be ennui.

Anyhow. You may have seen the latest kerfuffle over at Protein Wisdom. Moral of the story: If you want lots of traffic and comments, go cheese off Jeff Goldstein enough for him to get creative enough to have to offer pie to everybody when he’s done. One of the participants in the dustup comments in his own blog with the following aphorism:

One of the reasons that this blog doesn’t have a particularly large readership is because I do my best to alienate and deride the commenters I find objectionable.

Or, you could just alienate and deride everybody…that works pretty well, too.

Hey, did anyone else see Achewood this week? Is Ray going to fight the dad after he whomps up on the Jeeps or what?

Apparently The [Sarcasm] Tag Does Not Work In Some Browsers And Indication That I’ll Keep Reading Goldstein Unless He Turns Into Andrew Sullivan (Maybe Because That Wasn’t A Red Pill Behind The Sofa Cushions) Update: Because of the PIE!!!11!

March 20, 2006

Hemingway The Spy

Filed under: — Chap @ 6:41 pm

Or, perhaps, why you shouldn’t use a novelist for your secrets….


Filed under: — Chap @ 1:43 pm

It’s starting up.

They still have the KGB over there, you know. As well as Big Soviet Faktory and misery and information control. I’ve been following reports for about six months; it sucks to be in Minsk and thinking freely.

They’re going the color revolution route. I hope it works.

If it doesn’t it will get bloody, quickly.

March 19, 2006

Tear Gas In The Mall

Filed under: — Chap @ 12:30 am

You know, this can’t be good.

There is basically a pitched battle currently taking place near Dana Mall (in Bahrain –c.). I was there about a half hour ago (8pm) and there were masses of riot police on one side firing what I assume is tear gas and rubber bullets. While on the other side in Sanabis housing were some youths who were responding with I believe rocks and had blocked one of the roads with burning tyres and rubbish. Someone emailed me this link to a video of the skirmish from earlier in the day. And some photos of the demonstration that took place in the morning can be found here.

It started out in the afternoon as another demonstration outside Dana Mall to demand the release of the men who were jailed because of the Dec 25 airport clash. According to the people I spoke to, the riot police were soon on the scene and the protesters refused to leave so the cops attacked them (with tear gas and possibly violence). Several of the demonstrators took refuge in Dana Mall so the police sealed it off and I’m not sure what else. And since then skirmishes between the riot police and other youths have been taking place in the space opposite the mall. I’ve been told that at least twenty people were injured, nine seriously requiring hospitalization. Many of the injured were trapped inside the mall and unable to get medical attention until people very very high up (i.e. the interior minister) and got involved and secured their release. And there have also been several arrests. Bear in mind that all of this is based on what people have told me and not anything that I saw myself, so it may be wrong or missing details.

Nothing in the Bahrain Tribune, apparently.

March 18, 2006

“Cynicism is the smoke that rises from the ashes of burned out dreams.”

Filed under: — Chap @ 7:54 pm

Neptunus Lex has some quotes you need to read. One of his quotes is available at the TQL Marketplace that is Despair Dot Com:

No pic?  Just clic!

I am sad to report that the Lt Col in EUCOM is not only correct, we know where the closet is.

And I think I’ve found our mission statement:

“Much work remains to be done before we can announce our total failure to make any progress.”

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