December 31, 2006

Ellicia Stanley, R.I.P.

Filed under: — Chap @ 11:38 pm

A milblogger has lost his wife to cancer. The blogosphere helped out when hospice care was needed and not covered by the government; now there are three little kids without a mom, and an Army specialist who’s starting a new year much more alone in the world.

If you like, condolences are in the comments. He and his family have recently moved stateside from Germany, and living in Ft. Eustis; if you are in the area, you may want to meet a milblogger.

(h/t Malkin)

Shotgun Shacks

Filed under: — Chap @ 11:02 pm

An impressive piece of writing from FOD that folds into a previous post.

My only comments:

–to win a war, one has to fight with an advantage. We’ve got to do the equivalent of firing that shotgun before the riders assemble.

–This is why the NRA was founded. It is harder to terrorize an armed man.

Euston Manifesto Catching A Toehold

Filed under: — Chap @ 3:47 pm

Almost a year ago I mentioned the Euston Manifesto, a call from people of the Left not infected by derangement syndrome to adhere to classical liberal values in the war on terror. Norm Geras wrote an op-ed reporting the reaction: “good idea, but lost cause”.

Maybe it isn’t such a lost cause. Enrevanche catches a New York Times editorial praising the manifesto.

My bias is simple and clear: I would like to avoid having to die in a war, but more importantly I’d like to not lose my family–and I would not like to lose Houston. We’re in a war. People who disagree about some things need to work together on the things they agree on in order to get that agreed thing accomplished. It’s all about the execution, the completion, the implementation. To that end the Euston Manifesto is a call to work towards a common goal. Leftism under the thrall of Communism killed tens of millions of human beings. Leftism doesn’t have to be that way, and it was not always that way in the Cold War, either.

Common cause is important when achieving a goal. This Ryan Sager comment on a Dick Armey postmortem on why the Rs lost is useful: unless you hold true to your principles, you lose.

I’d rather not lose.

Kilcullen, McFate, Barton, and Information War

Filed under: — Chap @ 2:24 pm

I had seen this guy mentioned a couple of places and had only skimmed this New Yorker article when Carrie from Pencil Roving prodded me to read it again. Here are some excerpts from a long (15 printed pages) article, which sound like what I’ve been saying for a while but have not been able to do anything about.

Last year, in an influential article in the Journal of Strategic Studies, Kilcullen redefined the war on terror as a “global counterinsurgency.” The change in terminology has large implications.

But the Taliban seem to be waging a different war, driven entirely by information operations. “They’re essentially armed propaganda organizations,” Kilcullen said. “They switch between guerrilla activity and terrorist activity as they need to, in order to maintain the political momentum, and it’s all about an information operation that generates the perception of an unstoppable, growing insurgency.”

Kilcullen met senior European officers with the NATO force in Afghanistan who seemed to be applying “a development model to counterinsurgency,” hoping that gratitude for good work would bring the Afghans over to their side. He told me, “In a counterinsurgency, the gratitude effect will last until the sun goes down and the insurgents show up and say, ‘You’re on our side, aren’t you? Otherwise, we’re going to kill you.’ If one side is willing to apply lethal force to bring the population to its side and the other side isn’t, ultimately you’re going to find yourself losing.”

The bill’s biggest supporter was the military, which frequently finds itself forced to do tasks overseas for which civilians are better prepared, such as training police or rebuilding sewers. But Colin Powell, then the Secretary of State, and other Administration officials refused to give it strong backing. Then, in the summer of 2004, the Administration reversed course by announcing the creation, in the State Department, of the Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization; the office was given the imprimatur of National Security Presidential Directive 44. At the September conference in Washington, Kilcullen held up the office as a model for how to bring civilians into counterinsurgency: “True enough, the words ‘insurgency,’ ‘insurgent,’ and ‘counterinsurgency’ do not appear in N.S.P.D. 44, but it clearly envisages the need to deploy integrated whole-of-government capabilities in hostile environments.”

But the new office was virtually orphaned at birth. Congress provided only seven million of the hundred million dollars requested by the Administration, which never made the office a top Presidential priority. The State Department has contributed fifteen officials who can manage overseas operations, but other agencies have offered nothing. The office thus has no ability to coördinate operations, such as mobilizing police trainers, even as Iraq and Afghanistan deteriorate and new emergencies loom in places like Darfur and Pakistan. It has become insiders’ favorite example of bureaucratic inertia in the face of glaring need.

Bruce Hoffman, of Georgetown University, a former RAND Corporation analyst who began to use the term “global counterinsurgency” around the same time as Kilcullen, pointed to two Cold War projects: RAND’s study of the motivation and morale of the Vietcong in the mid-sixties, based on extensive interviews with prisoners and former insurgents, which led some analysts to conclude that the war was unwinnable; and a survey by Radio Free Europe of two hundred thousand émigrés from the East Bloc in the eighties, which used the findings to shape broadcasts. “We haven’t done anything like that in this struggle,” Hoffman said, and he cited the thousands of detainees in Iraq. “Instead of turning the prisons into insurgent universities, you could have a systematic process that would be based on scientific surveys designed to elicit certain information on how people joined, who their leaders were, how leadership was exercised, how group cohesion was maintained.” In other words, America would get to know its enemy.

There’s some president-bashing (safely-unnamed American diplomats slamming Bush in print–what a surprise), but the general tone is of a lumbering organization trying to adapt, too slowly. We were lucky at the end of World War Two in that George Kennan was at a newly-invented institution where many of the later generals, admirals and ambassadors learned about war; he was in an effective incubator for the famous Foreign Affairs “X” memo. We weren’t so lucky after World War I in that we were too exhausted and war-weary to support the White Russians in our ill-fated expedition against the Communists in Russia–arguably after World War Two in Asia when one ambassador quashed two countries’ efforts at conciliation with us, maybe for good, maybe for bad. Sometimes we’re set up for potential success, sometimes not. Our curent situation is in between. We’ve gotten lucky in that some of us are waking up in time–but will it be enough?

Some sources–there are lots, but this is a taste:

  1. A COIN article from Kilcullen
  2. The Small Wars Journal, on the blogroll to the right
  3. The Journal of Information Warfare, an Australian publication that has been rocking my world for a while
  4. An excellent read: The Savage Wars of Peace, Max Boot
  5. A Military Review issue with some COIN articles
  6. Another Kilcullen PDF
  7. Richard Fernandez thinking about blogs and information war.

Update: I was thinking about this last night–the closest thing I can think of in the American experience for what a person has to go through against this kind of enemy is what black Americans (and, quite frankly, their supporters) went through after Reconstruction to the end of the Civil Rights Movement. There has got to be a way to take that knowledge and use it–how do we keep courageous equivalents to Medgar Evers, or the college students, alive and thriving? How do we kill the equivalent (why else is David Duke so welcome in Iran?) of the KKK? Where is this different from the Northern Ireland experience?

December 30, 2006

An Embarassment Of Riches

Filed under: — Chap @ 11:37 pm

If I could stand reading books on my cell phone, this would be a spectacular resource–and free.

Free Cory Maye

Filed under: — Chap @ 8:18 pm

This does not sound like justice.

Sic Semper Tyrannis

Filed under: — Chap @ 7:36 pm

A friend I’ve never met in person, Mahmood, says:

The especially poignant question remains to the “leaders” of our Arab world: Who’s next?


Mahmood also has a picture of Samir, who pulled the murderer out of his spider hole.

December 29, 2006

Filed under: — Chap @ 10:58 pm

Scott Ott of Scrappleface gets all serious on us.

Two Sailors Killed On USS Minneapolis-St. Paul

Filed under: — Chap @ 6:09 pm

The WVEC report may get Farked but here’s the link. The British police saved two lives after four guys got washed overboard outside the breakwater, according to the report.

Authorities received a request for help just before 1 p.m., near the large concrete breakwater barrier which rings Plymouth harbor. The British coast guards dispatched a search and rescue helicopter and a lifeboat to the scene, but police had already plucked them from the water.

Sean Brooks, a coast guard officer, said that rescuers initially only saw two sailors tied to the vessel’s hull with ropes.

“Because of the violent weather, they were frequently plunged below the waves,” he said. “It then transpired that there were already two other guys in the water.”

The two men were given CPR as they were carried ashore, but it was not enough to save them.

The Devon and Cornwall police are investigating the deaths together with the military.

More details at the BBC. Sounds as though the accident may be similar to the Dubai incident with USS Olympia in ~’01.

My deepest condolences to the crew and the families of those lost.

Update: The Sub Report, as usual, is on top of the reporting.

December 28, 2006


Filed under: — Chap @ 7:12 pm

So, a pair of former DoD senior types have an op-ed in the Washington Times saying essentially “let SOCOM run GWOT”. Sorta.

It’s time to alter U.S. strategy by putting USSOCOM generals and admirals truly in command of the global war. And in Iraq, conventional forces could best serve by providing ground, air and sea support to USSOCOM and Iraqi security forces and sealing Iraq’s porous borders with hostile and/or dubious neighbors in Iran, Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia to prevent foreign jihadists, arms and sophisticated munitions from entering the country.

I’ve got some problems with that. First off, SOCOM does have the ball for that–but there’s no way we’re going to instantly turn DoD into a giant SOF unit. That’s why there are the four SOF Truths:

  1. Humans are more important than hardware.
  2. Quality is more important than quantity.
  3. SOF cannot be mass produced.
  4. Competent SOF cannot be created after the emergency arises.

Here’s an older example of a framework for using SOF. If the idea is to make the regular folks more effectively in support of SOF, we’ve done a lot of changing to do that; check this discussion from one of the Marines trying to successfully adapt into a world that uses SOF a little differently by standing up MARSOC. I could also point out that the four star brought back from retirement to run the Army is a snake eater, and used to run SOCOM; he groks SOF and as a service chief will be sympathetic to the concerns of SOCOM.

So that can’t be the issue. Perhaps what the Washington Times op-ed is pushing is support of the directive to let SOCOM run the GWOT at the flag/general officer level. This makes more sense, but still has some severe problems associated with it that are going to take more than a generally focused op-ed to address.

  • There now are several geographic combatant commanders, four star officers with responsibility over an area of operations. CENTCOM? That’s one of them. There may be one more coming down the pike. Check out how they used to be arranged in this older map:

    204 UCP AOR

  • There are also commands with four stars and no geographic area, but functional resonsibilities. STRATCOM, for instance, owns a box of “odds and ends” of things that need watched over all over the globe, such as space (the old SPACECOM was folded into STRAT) and the old nuclear triad. SOCOM is a slightly different beast than the others because after being ignored for a decade or so by the rest of DoD Congress gave SOCOM purchasing authority–and money is power. The difficulties all the functional combatant commanders have to deal with involve using assets that may be under the operational command of a geographic COCOM, making messes in that COCOM’s AOR to get cleaned up, and performing actions that the geographic COCOM might not necessarily want to happen.
  • There are also service chiefs, the people living in the Pentagon that organize, train, and equip those forces. A COCOM gets a Navy asset that was bought through the bucket of money assigned to the Navy, trained prior to deployment by Navy, and returns to the Navy–even though there’s a COCOM also assigned that asset when it’s back from deployment and home.
  • Unless you control the asset, or the money, you don’t get much control of what happens with that asset. Only one guy can successfully be responsible at any given time.
  • It’s not as though SOCOM is going to be better than a conventional fighter at controlling conventional forces, for the same reason that the Washington Times op-ed wants the SOCOM guys in charge: you get expert at the things you study and practice. A shift isn’t easily done without training staff.
  • DoD is working through these issues. I’ve seen most organizations, with one glaring example, work hard to collaborate and coordinate as much as possible. SOCOM’s working through some hard issues to get done what they want–and the other COCOMs are also doing the same. The real problem, however, is Leviathan versus SysAdmin–we need interagency badly, and there’s not a Gramm-Rudman to join all aspects of the executive branch together like we did with joint. Gripe all you wish, but we’re now joint. The mistakes that killed people in Grenada and Desert One don’t happen any more; we make new mistakes instead.
  • We likely won’t address the failure to work interagency until we get an equivalent to Desert One and Grenada, where we finally get congressional impetus to make it easier for a DoD guy, for instance, to work well with a DoS guy who needs help from the Department of Agriculture for a SysAdmin job in the Horn of Africa.

The problem isn’t that we need a snake eater to run things. The problem is that our structures are complex and not sewed together easily, that the different departments need integration of some kind like we had to do inside DoD, and that this is a war where the enemy knows our seams and capitalizes on them. Maybe a SOF commander is the right guy–but if so, there will be problems just as thorny to get through.

December 27, 2006

Filed under: — Chap @ 11:51 pm

Blackfive takes a break from being on the radio to hep us to Chuck Ziegenfuss still leading from the front.

Filed under: — Chap @ 11:49 pm

Michael Yon’s in Kuwait with the guys for Christmas.

Filed under: — Chap @ 10:09 pm

General Mattis has a revealing interview with a small newspaper. Iraq is mentioned.

Mattis: I was talking to a lieutenant in Haditha, he told me that because they are now all connected nowadays in their FOBs, he could read stories about Haditha. He said, ‘I guarantee you there has not been a reporter in Haditha in my last two and a half months here.’

We’re seeing, I think, an unwitting passing of the enemy’s message, uncritical, unwitting passing of the enemy’s message because the enemy has successfully denied the Western media access to the battlefields.

I’m not sure what Lloyds of London is charging now, I think it’s over $5,000 a month insurance for a reporter or photographer to go in. But the murder, the kidnapping, the intimidation means that, in many cases, we have media folks who are relying on stringers who are Iraqi.

Now you can have any kind of (complaint) about the American media or Western media you want, but there is at least a nod, an effort toward objectivity. The stringers who are being brought in, who are bringing in these stories, are not bringing that same degree of objectivity.

So on the one hand, our enemy is denying our media access to the battlefield, where anything perhaps that I say as a general is subject to any number of interpretations, challenges, questions, but the enemy’s story basically gets there without that because our media is unable to challenge them. It’s unwitting, but at the same time, it can promote the enemy’s agenda, simply because there is an apparent attempt at objectivity.

Filed under: — Chap @ 1:04 pm

Good status report via Cliff May, of Iraq ops. A little more info than I’d like put out in one place, but it’s also in open source already.

Update: May clarifies. Yeah, it’s an older viral. Yeah, it still matches what I’m hearing from other sources. Yeah, TPM is attempting to read a different message into it.

Oh, and by the way in an unrelated post here May postulates a complexity to foreign policy that makes an individual strike even harder than some think…

Update: More fool me; I knew this sounded familiar.

December 25, 2006

The Second Strategic Surprise

Filed under: — Chap @ 10:29 pm

On a previous post I asserted that we had suffered two strategic surprises since 9/11, the first one being the attack itself. O-Skippy asks a good question:

9-11 was the first suprise. What was the second?

That the alliance of Islamist fighters, Iranian and Syrian agitators, and Ba’athist insurgent holdouts had planned a countering action of melting away and then fighting a dedicated terror and information warfare campaign dedicated to destroying the American and coalition center of gravity of public support for the war while shifting the center of operations to a new regional base if necessary.

A few weeks after the invasion I visited Massachusetts to visit my latest alma mater. One of my classmates, whom I had enjoyed vigorously discussing the issues of the day, came up to me and asked me about the WMDs–which surprised the heck out of me. WMDs didn’t register on the radar among the subjects we had been arguing about during the World’s Longest Rush To War, and as a group our class had been arguing long and loudly about everything possible related to it.

I mention this story, not to endlessly reargue the decision to go to war, but to recall the sheer surprise I felt when my friend went with this narrative. We’d discussed this subject ad infinitum and WMDs weren’t the key issue–or so I thought, looking at the whole litany prior to the invasion. Turns out there were more surprises to come, and those other surprises are linked to a pretty effective strategy against American power. These guys had read the literature, and learned from other asymmetric wars how to fight when the other side has JDAMS and you have fodder and money.

I’ve attached my published notes in the links below. I was a staffer with “cheap seats” access to lots of C and B grade high up mucketymucks in D.C. between 2001 and the invasion of Iraq; I also had carte blanche to visit think tanks and symposia in pursuit of tasking goals, and I did so as often as I could get away from the desk. I was also in a school program that required nonstop vigorous discussion between several dozen folks from as many countries, and they all came with their own country’s or organization’s viewpoints. So I think I have a pretty good basis in saying that I know of nobody who was saying “the fighters will disappear in front of you and then you’ll be fighting a counterinsurgency funded by Iran, its proxies, and the Sunni umma combined with the Ba’athists, with dedicated information warfare the primary component and terror the secondary component”. Some said we needed “more troops”, but the closest anyone came to explaining what those troops would be for was Michael O’Hanlon and he wasn’t 100% in his prescience either. (Turns out Shinseki had lost credibility when he put the marker down for hundreds of thousands of troops for Afghanistan, although I didn’t know this until recently.)

One brilliant part, although just a part, of the enemy strategy that surprised us was leveraging the weaknesses inside the American open system to get disproportionate effects. Some of those weaknesses were not fixed from the last time, and sometimes the same players. Abu Ghraib? Seymour Hersh, the same guy who “broke” My Lai. International A.N.S.W.E.R., organizer of all those protests? Worker’s World Party. C.A.I.R.? Looks a lot to me like the German-American Bund. “Baghdad Jim” McDermott, and this month’s junketfest of congressmen and senators going to countries forgetting that domestic politics ends at the water’s edge? Looks familiar, too. Similar reporters and organizations and politicians–and previous times our country erred on the side of freedom by not prosecuting clear acts of sedition and treason, making it harder in mindset and precedent to do so now–especially when the line is being very carefully walked. (Example: Code Pink gave tens of thousands of dollars to Saddam–why aren’t they in jail instead of protesting at Walter Reed?) Disagree with me if you wish, but I’ve seen some wars turn on such things.

The above paragraph, if my assertions are true, requires time to take effect. Public support for war wanes as time goes on, particularly without clear victories. This made it essential to prohibit those victories, and so the focus shifted: “wedding party bombings”, paid fake stringers, using the Geneva Conventions as an advantage, leveraging every possible information warfare tactic (I still remember the wailing of the Iraq museum curator on French TV after the “looting”, and how hard it was to find out that the museum didn’t actually lose what it said it did), the GI Joe “prisoner”, all-Abu all the time, a constant drumbeat of killed soldiers and “grim milestones”. One key component of a counterinsurgency is that realizing you’re in a COIN situation takes longer than desired. Another one is the Algerian one of “any reason will do”, and that rule has been used frequently by our enemy.

I welcome discussion about how my assertions may be wrong. With the exception that I will not re-argue the decision to invade, which seems to be the stable point of the blogosphere’s chaotic system.

Here are my own published notes and one link about 2002-era thinking in D.C. about what it was going to be like after any invasion of Iraq. There are other meetings I have not blogged, some out of laziness and some because this isn’t the circuit for that transmission. One meeting was with a group of Turkish senior folks who felt similarly to the below links (with the noted exception of their palpable happiness about the idea of a secular democracy to their southeast–must have been different people than the guys who blocked 4ID); another series of meetings had me pretty sure that we had a good shot at losing about 40,000 Americans in the invasion without a lot of luck–a calculation that colors my thinking now about the losses we sustain.

  • A U.S. Institute of Peace symposium that included people who I was going to read about later, such as Khalilzad, Pillar, Bremer, Berger, Armitage, et cetera.
  • A meeting of NGOs and government types, including O’Hanlon and the Garner Group and USIP officials, explaining what they thought would happen after an invasion. Note that the closest outlier was O’Hanlon, and he was still pretty far off.
  • A comment about General (ret.) Jay Garner, who left the first part of the occupation. I have some additional information now than I did before, but not on this circuit.
  • A lessons learned compendium that shows the progress of our learning early on.

We Are Not Afraid…?

Filed under: — Chap @ 9:47 pm

This guy and his website are getting some support–but he needed a little courage to get to that point.

File Under “Aargh”

Filed under: — Chap @ 9:44 pm

I accidentally found out about an object to buy from a John Scalzi blog post. A leather bound series of everything Heinlein wrote, in one place, not just the Gregg Press individual books out of print for decades and now selling for entirely ridiculous prices.

The new series, of course, is also going for ridiculous prices.

I used to have this kind of money in the ‘mad money’ account. Then our household income was more than halved and we acquired a kid. The ‘mad money’ account will buy gas and food for a day trip to Kansas City if we budget for it nowadays, which is nice to have the bills paid and no debt except the house but still.

I’d buy the set anyway–who needs retirement money, or save it up, or kill every other purchase for a long time–but the publisher’s apparently had a history of not doing things right. What a conundrum.

Scalzi, you are a mean, mean blogger.

I Guess You Had To Be There

Filed under: — Chap @ 9:42 pm

Musings about 1980’s North Carolina music. Although to really add the vibe you gotta add the beach music folks, the bluegrass/country scene and Tom the Jazz Man, this is about it right there, what you heard on late nights before ‘QDR went country…

December 24, 2006

Filed under: — Chap @ 4:43 pm

Apparently someone’s been listening to Enrevanche.

A Sonarman’s Christmas

Filed under: — Chap @ 3:58 pm

Take the mp3s on this page, multiply by about a hundred, add machinery noises and fish squeaks, and you’ve got yourself a merry Christmas on watch.

Here’s to those at sea and on watch this Christmas.

(noises h/t boingboing)

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