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Tuesday, October 31, 2006

It's Official. Iraq is another Viet Nam
We shamefully taken orders again from our enemy in Iraq, the Iranian-backed Shia government when they told us to leave our blockades of militias.

John Kerry is slinging his anti-American, anti-military rhetoric again.

America has given up. It's time to leave, if we're not going to win. We should just give up and let the Arabs control the world and convert us all to Islam because we don't have the moral fiber to stop murderers.


Thursday, October 26, 2006

We Need to Ask for More Troops
One of the baffling things to me that came to mind in writing about why we're losing the war, is why military commanders have been so loathe to ask for more troops. It's been obvious since about May of 2003 that we're in for an insurgent war across the entire nation, not only because we were seeing it, but because we learned from captured documents that the Iraqis had planned on waging an insurgent war from the beginning.

As I noted in my last rant, our Marine Corps is still 10% smaller than it was until 1992-1993 when they started a major reduction in force. Yet before that time, the Marines were the backwater of the military, struggling hard to not be forgotten in the budget fights, and without a very significant role in the war plans against the soviet bloc.

Now the Marines are in the forefront of the war, with a large portion of the mission. We have battalions spread extremely thin, at times major transportation corridors ignored and entire cities have been left to themselves, quickly becoming victim of enemy presence.

Everyone knew, from lance corporals and up, that there was no way to be effective when you can barely keep your own camp secure, let alone project power. So why did no one ask for more people?

It's a good question, with lots of answers, but none of them are very good.
First, there's the military tendency to not complain to superiors. This is basic human nature, made more effective by the spartan discipline of the military. No one wants to say they can't do their job.

Second, technically the job can get done because the job gets defined down to a level that the command can accomplish. That is, my battalion was responsible for several small and large cities spread mostly across 100 miles of the Euphrates River, and one of our line companies was detached to another command and another line company was frequently sent off to operations at the Syrian border. At half strength we could not control the people in our area.

But that wasn't our job. Our job was mostly to maintain route security. We didn't have to keep the area safe and secure, we just had to protect convoys as they traversed the area. So if our commander were so inclined to complain that we didn't have enough people (and it wasn't my place to know if he did or not), the response would be that we had enough to do what we were asked to do.

Of course, the obvious point is that what we were asked to do was not enough to be effective in winning a war, it was only enough to wait until later when we could win the war. At the time, the theory was that someday the Iraqi Army would be coming and help us fight the war. The theory was flawed but is it a battalion commander's place to question the entire war plan of the commander in chief? No.

So the same was true of the Regimental commander. His job was to slowly squeeze insurgents out of an area the size of South Carolina with just his regiment. It's a virtually impossible task, but he was formally tasked with only incrementally doing the job. If there were three or four regiments there would have been a much more effective effort, but at what cost? No commander ever has as many troops as he wants, and no commander wants to be seen as whining that he needs more.

Well, not "no commander." The greats are exceptions to that rule. They are the ones that have big impacts on the conduct of war, the ones that suck up troops into their control and take aggressive actions with them. They are generally only at the highest levels.

So who is at that level in this war? The guys with three or more stars, starting with General Casey. I don't know the man, I don't know what he's doing every day, but I do know that he is ignoring basics of war fighting and allowing his army to be used to not win a war. He is not screaming for more people, which every commander should be doing in every war. He should ask for more until he is told no, then he should scream for more until he is told no. Then he should demand more again. There are never enough people to fight a war, but no war should ever be fought that doesn't have an impact on our society. He should ask for more until the American people start saying, "Enough!" He hasn't asked for more at any time I am aware of.

What is the consequence of this supine failure to want to fight and win the war he is charged with fighting? We're losing the war. But he gets to keep his job, and do whatever else four star generals like to do instead of retire. He is acting as a tool of politicians instead of fighting for America.

Our president, who gets his spinelessness honestly from his father, has announced on innumerable occasions that our generals don't ask for more people. I have no respect for someone who hears public statements like that, analyzes the war in Iraq, and doesn't come back and demand at least a doubling of the number of his troops and see what happens. If the answer is that we can't afford it, then at least we're going to have an honest debate about how badly we want to fight a war. As it is, we're floating through the war as though it will somehow end itself and everyone will hold hands and smile at each other.

Our commander in chief has adopted a failed strategy from Rumsfeld and Cheney, and our generals have not objected to this failed strategy.

I'm wondering what the hell good we're getting out of the Army War College that our generals are so strategically inept.

15 Reasons We're Losing the War
And it's all Bush's totally unecessary fault. In no particular order . . .

1. We invaded Iraq without a plan for what we would do when we finished the invasion. Rumsfeldian and Cheneyesque philosophies of using minimal force are the opposite of traditional Republican ideas on how to fight a war. We have waged a massive war and tried to do it on the cheap.

2 We squandered the United State's people's good will by not being decisive. Americans will support any military action, so long as we're perceived as winning.

3. We mistook democracy for freedom. Decades of claiming that our nation is a democracy has led us to forsake our traditional understanding of the bedrock of freedom and we allowed the Iraqis and the Afghans to vote against freedom of religion. In a war with Islam, we helped create two more Islamic nations. We invaded them, overthrew their governments, and then allowed their people to coerce their own populations to be subject to relgious ideology.
4. We supported a charade of Iraqi elections, pretending that the Iraqi government has power when they don't. Wishing doesn't grant power. We continue to play this charade and hamstring our own power by pretending to give them some.

5. We allowed massive corruption in the elected Iraqi government to restrict our tactical warfighting, and channel money to our enemy. We looked the other way when ministries paid cronies for Iraqi National Guard forces that didn't exist or were the enemy. The ING finally collapsed because US field commands could not live with the charade any longer. One of the longest hold outs was in my battalion's area of Hit, and they frequently used their position to counter us or hurt us.

6. We still have failed to identify the nature of our enemy. Our enemy is radical Islam. We can never win until we take that first step of identifying them.

7. We allow the enemy to operate with impunity in mosques and through religious leaders.

8. We fail to recognize the enemy's greatest strength, it's public disinformation and propaganda campaign, as a legitimate war target. From Al Jazeera, the BBC, and CNN, we have failed to recognize that these enemies are where the real war is being fought.

9. Bush has failed to sell the war to the American people. Like his father, he thinks that the people should support him without him working for it. Keeping a free people focused on a long term war takes a lot of work. American support can never be taken for granted.

10. We have failed to understand that Iraq is not the objective in the war. The fate of the Iraqi people is of little consequence and until they square their own civilization away, they can only be a drain on our efforts. Iraq has merit only as an example of we will do if a nation opposes us in ways we think are vital to our national interests, and as a staging ground we can use against other potential enemies in the region. The Iraqi people do not need to be happy for these purposes to succeed. Making them happy and safe is a nice thing to do, but not our primary job. We've gotten the equation backwards.

11. We have failed to use Iraq as a base of operations against our other enemies in the area. Instead of threatening them, they threaten us by keeping us tied down. They have no fear of us anymore when they should be quaking in their boots with us seen as an imminent threat to their lives.

12. We failed to understand that we are at war, and this is a time to increase the size of the military. We have increased the size of the military, but only above the post-cold war lows. The US Marine Corps is still 10% understrength compared to the mid 1980's. We weren't in a shooting war back then, and the Marines were the least useful in the Fulda Gap war plans. Now the USMC is one of the primary players in this war and we're still substantially smaller when people are dying.

13. We failed to increase the size of the military deployed in Iraq to decisively squash lawlessness. When I was overseas my regiment covered an area the size of South Carolina. You cannot be decisive while that spread out, it's impossible. US commanders decided that being decisive was not necessary and chose to fight a long protracted insurgency, which democratic governments are very prone to give up on. Commanders at all levels knew this, knew we had insufficient people to win and only enough to hang on, yet all ignored reality and fed Rumsfeld what he wanted to hear. We learned nothing from Viet Nam.

14. Bush has been making statements that he was going to try a new tactic in the war, and then promptly apologized to the powerless president of Iraq that he's sorry for not coordinating with him on our latest raid, knowing that the President of Iraq has a vested interest in insuring that the targets of our raids are warned of our coming. His new direction is not stronger action, it is more appeasement to the insurgents.

15. We've allowed militias to operate with impunity, partly because we haven't got enough soldiers and Marines to fight them all, but mostly because we don't want to upset anyone. You cannot win a war by being afraid to anger your enemy.

I can keep going all day, but I will stop here. I'm disgusted enough. And I've not even gone into what the enemy is doing. We've done enough to lose this on our own without considering their strategy.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Judicial Philosophy
Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has given the best judicial philosophy its most succinct expression on 21 October, 2006.
"It so happens that everything that is stupid is not unconstitutional."

Friday, October 20, 2006

Why are We Afraid of Islam?
I heard on the news today that the Shiite Mehdi "militia" has taken over the city of Ammara today in Iraq. The British army is responsible for security in the area, "but was not involved in the fighting." Well, why the hell weren't they?

I'm not picking on the Brits. The US military has had similar attitudes. A year after my battalion fought to occupy and pacify the city of Hit, the battalion that took over that area started making statements to the press that if the US just left that city, no one there would mortar us there anymore. But even that is not an attitude that sprang out of nowhere. It comes from our fear of Islam.
From the beginning of this war, we have paid a fearful deference to religious people. There is no cause for this deference, it is a religious war, the strength of the enemy comes solely from their religion. They ignore the bounds of the "laws" of war by fighting from Mosques, using them to store weapons, broadcast propaganda, and use minarets as signaling towers. The mosques are legitimate military targets, but we're not allowed to touch them without approval from the highest levels. That approval comes sometimes, but very rarely. In the meantime, the enemy uses them all for their puposes.

The Shiites have been especially free to wage war. From the earliest days, the Iranian backed Mehdi "militia" has operated with impunity. Like a bunch of morons, we have refused to deal harshly with them, and on the rare occasion where we have been forced to fight them, we have been pulled back just before their entire destruction. That seems to be the trend in wars fought by the Bushes. They know how to start wars, but not how to win them.

We will get nowhere if we do not start learning the importance of winning. We are too caught up in ivory tower theory on how to make people love us, and are ignoring that just like with our personal lives, you can't make people love you, and begging for love only breeds contempt.

But most of all, how can we expect the Iraqi people to live by the rule of law if there is no incentive to do so? When we allow "militias" and tribes to have power, why would they submit to law?

Coalition forces need to go in and destroy these shiite thugs. Until that happens, the sunni thugs will continue to recruit into their militias. And the killings in Baghdad will continue. The enemy have finally learned how to win this war. Killing Americans in Al Anbar was ineffective because the American press wasn't there. The American press is all in their safe little zones in Baghdad and the American press isn't that sympathetic to military deaths. By killing civilians, and doing it close to the American press, they have found a winning combination.

We need to stop being afraid of Islam. That is our enemy, and our refusal to recognize them only gives them strength and allows them to survive any military actions that they suffer.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Thugs at Gallaudet
Down tools! Unite! Usually these are the slogans of workers striking against their employers. The power to disrupt private enterprise through collective bargaining has been protected by law and is generally recognized as serving society by preventing poor working conditions and low wages. That workers unions have rarely actually served that purpose is an unfortunate result, but at least there are lofty claims when businesses are threatened with bankruptcy, and at times violence.

But what is going on at Gallaudet University? Here we have a heavily subsidized school, grades Kindergarten through doctoral studies, solely dedicated to educating deaf and hard of hearing people, and the students are striking.

What's it all about? Nothing. They are causing chaos and stopping kindergarteners from attending classes because they don't "like" the new president. At first they said she wasn't "deaf enough," now they just say that she "doesn't show enough concern for the students."
I've been scouring the news reports about this strike, trying to find some evidence of corruption by the new president, a scandal, a time when she mistreated someone. Nope, there is no such incident and no one even claims it.

So does she have an agenda that goes against the best interests of the deaf and hard of hearing? Nope. She's a big advocate of helping them, she is in fact deaf herself.

Does she support policies that have been discredited, such as a return to teaching other languages instead of American Sign Language? Nope. She seems to be perfectly responsible and in line with the best developments in the field of deaf education.

So what the heck are these students at Gallaudet doing?

Let's go back in history a bit. The current president was put into his position in 1988 when the students protested another presidential appointment. At that time, the person tagged to become president was a hearing man, as were all previous presidents. The students rose up and protested, demanding that the president of the university be deaf. Personally, I think this was a foolish requirement to impose, it limits the pool of candidates and potentially excludes brilliant people who happen to be hearing. It's a form of reverse discrimination. But, at least it is understandable that the deaf would find it in their interests to have one of their own leading them.

When their protests succeeded in getting I. King Jordan, a deaf man, appointed as president, the students crowed in triumph, adding a new word to the deaf lexicon, "Pah!" Pah, means "finally!" As in "Pah! We've finally shown that the deaf are competent to run their own schools."

But this precedent has made current students, perhaps influenced by former graduates from the first strike, into believing that a strike is necessary when selecting a new president, even when the selection is a deaf person who is well qualified and isn't accused of corruption or incompetence.

These strikers don't bother saying why they oppose her, except to say that they don't think she shows enough concern for them.

Heck, I wouldn't show much concern for people like them, either. They are behaving like brats. They are showing the world, wrongly, that deaf people are incapable of operating in civil society and abiding by the laws. They are, frankly, perpetuating a stereotype that deaf people can't be trusted to understand simple concepts.

So what is this really all about? I couldn't say for sure. All I know is that people of this nation have charitably supported this school to help deaf and hard of hearing people get educated at all levels and these thugs are preventing 5 and 6 year old children from going to school, they are preventing young men and women who worked hard to go to college and want to become educated so that they can someday get good jobs and support their families.

It's hard to be deaf and compete in a hearing world. Gallaudet needs to act decisively to expel these protesters, without exception, and fire any teachers involved because they have been acting without reason to prevent deaf people from learning. People go to Gallaudet to learn and become more competitive in the job market and the arena of ideas, not to learn how to be thugs.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Building a Fence?
Not only is building a fence along the border with Mexico a dumb idea that will cost a lot of money and have no effect on illegal immigration, it will never be built. Why? They will never get it past the required environmental impact statement. Migrating animals will be stopped. They've already started pulling out evidence of Jaguars coming into New Mexico, soon they'll be finding some kind of lizard or rat that has to move back and forth freely or the world will collapse.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

To Win the Long War
The Washington Times published a column yesterday (10 October, 2006) that compared the army and Marine Corps' recently published Manual 3-24 (somehow, this seems like an incorrect publication number) to the brilliant and influential works of Mahan, Douhet, von Seeckt and DuPuy.

I'm not much familiar with von Seeckt or DuPuy, but I can say this: He's right, this publication is very much like Mahan and Douhet. Because despite their influence, they're all equally wrong. I'm not sure why the columnist left out Jomini, because he was equally wrong.

Of course, all of these men had elements of truth and, excepting Douhet, brilliance. But they were all flawed, and generally for similar reasons.
Let's start with Jomini. It's been a while, but I remember him as a devotee of Napoleon. He was influential in the conduct of the US War Between the States. He had a lot of good points but today is mostly remembered for misinterpreting how Napolen was so successful. Of course, the premise is flawed and Napoleon ultimately failed. Jomini believed that wars were won by finally culminating in one big war-winning battle. Perhaps even Napoleon himself bought into this theory, which may be why he decided to fight at Waterloo. The belief was that this battle was so big that it would decide the outcome of the war and it should be fought for the reason that nothing else will so decisively determine a victor. In a sense, this is correct. Napoleon lost at Waterloo and was unable to continue as a political power much longer.

This mentality about seeking the big battle influenced militaries through to at least the first world war. Dominated by the heirs of Napoleon as the Strategic thinkers, the allies stubbornly tried to fight bigger and bigger equally futile battles, hoping to finally get to that one battle that was big enough and successful enough to finally convince the enemy to quit. Millions of men died. The war instead became a tactically brainless slaughter field, and German lost from attrition, not because of any one battle. If the allied generals understood the importance of attrition better, they could have changed their tactics and strategy and saved untold lives. But they stubbornly stuck to the Jominian ideology of seeking the grand decisive battle.

As much as I admire Mahan, he had a similar idea applied at sea. His understanding of how sea power is critical to national power is nothing short of brilliant. But he too believed that one big battle would bring the enemy fleet to submission and thus end the enemy's ability to wage and win war. As late as the first world war the navy fleets sought out the big battle, resulting in the battle of Jutland. In that battle, both fleets risked their ships in one big battle, hoping to thus win the war. Instead, half-way through the battle, both sides realized they had a lot to lose and withdrew to their own corners, the German fleet intact but unable to leave the vicinity of their harbors, the English fleet unwilling to bother them anymore. Neither side seemed interested in using naval power to chip away at the others' naval power, it was all or nothing.

Douhet came after these two, but had even more ridiculous ideas. He, with his acolyte Billy Mitchell, believed that air power was so powerful and unnerving that just the appearance of bombers over their adversary's airspace would cause such fear to make them immediately surrender. War was virtually impossible because of the invincibility of air power. He made this postulation when air power meant biplanes without even rudimentary bomb sights. It should go without say that Douhet couldn't have been more wrong, but still today he is idolized by the US Air Force and even the Secretary of Defense, who seemingly believes that a few special forces can call in air power and win a war. Douhet was proven wrong in the second world war, Korea, Viet Nam, with the USSR in Afghanistan, and Iraq today.

So what is this new publicaton and how is it like these famous military theorists? In a nutshell it explains how to fight a counter-insurgency war. As far as it goes, it's an excellent work. If you want to fight against guerillas, it has great advice, but this is hardly how to win a struggle with insurgents. It gives advice such as, be sure to get the population on your side by not over-reacting to guerrilla attacks, sometimes doing nothing is the best course of action.

I won't fault that advice for the limited use that it lends, but the main way to win the insurgency in Iraq is not through these methods. Winning hearts and minds didn't work in Viet Nam, and it isn't working in Iraq. What will work is depriving the enemy of its support.

What is the enemy's support? It has several sources and types of support. Financial support is probably coming from Iran, maybe Russia, maybe China or other places. You can't fight an insurgency without money. We need to destroy the ability of these other nation states to assist them. They are our enemy and it does us no good to ignore them as such.

The other main area of support is moral support. The insurgency gets it moral support from Islam. Our refusal to admit this is severely limiting our ability to win. If we continue to ignore the Imams' and clerics' power, their power will only get stronger. They are our enemies, and to win we must destroy their power.

Personally, I found it flabbergasting that we were forbidden to enter or bother any cleric or religious site such as cemetaries or mosques, yet everytime we went into a city the mosques blared incitements and instructions on how to fight us. The minarets not only broadcast military instructions, they also served as signal towers, armories, militia assembly points and headquarters. According to what the Washington Times calls a brilliant new way of fighting the war, we were not allowed to curb the power or strength of our enemy's strongpoints. They call this a new, insightful way of fighting war.

But they're wrong. There is nothing new about insurgencies. They've been around for millenia. They only succeed when the people are less afraid of the good guys than they are of the insurgents.

The equation for winning against insurgents is to be more brutal than the insurgents. It's not fair, it's not nice, but it works everytime and almost nothing else does. When terrorists come into a town and chop off peoples' heads unless the people help them, then we will not win unless we promise to kill anyone sympathetic to them. Abetting murderers is a crime and should be punished as such. Failure to fight murderers and terrorists guarantees that the terrorists will win.

Our current strategy is to bribe the people with money, good will, and happy thoughts. We put very few conditions on the gifts we give them, it becomes easy for them to get good things from us all the while they cooperate with terrorists so that their wives and children don't get tortured and killed.

This publicaton is not the answer to our overall problem. It's good for what it is, but it doesn't describe how to win the war, it only describes how to perpetuate the war without losing immediately.

The better military thinker that I think we should look to is Theodore Roosevelt, when he said, "Speak softly and carry a big stick." Fixing power stations and schools is speaking softly, but we also need the big stick, not just carrying safely in a scabbard, but wielding it on the heads of our enemy and his supporters and enablers.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Flags of our Fathers
I just want to go on record saying that I can't wait to see Clint Eastwood's new movie, "Flags of Our Fathers," based loosely on the book of the same name about the men who raised the flag on Iwo Jima in the second world war.

The trailers look excellent. Eastwood supposedly wrote the music for it. It was partially filmed in my one-time home of Iceland, for its black sand beaches.

It promises to be good.