Monday, November 13, 2017

CRS Syndrome

Before he died, former LTC Hackworth used to rant occasionally about the U.S. Army's CRS problem. "CRS" stood for "Can't Remember Shit", and it was symbolic for the Army's predilection for forgetting the hard-earned lessons of previous wars. A perfect example that jumped out at me when I read about it was the troubles along the MSRs in Iraq and Afghanistan. It was almost as if the services had stuffed the hard lessons learned about convoys in Vietnam down the memory hole and had to re-learn the same lessons all over again, at the usual cost in blood and treasure.

Here's another lesson from Vietnam we seem to have forgotten; sending Americans to fight small dirty wars in small, corrupt places in the unpaved parts of the world don't result in those shitholes becoming less corrupt but, rather, in corrupting the Americans.

As Charlie Pierce points out, this CRS problem goes all the way back to the beginnings. In his hearings on the Vietnam War, SEN Fulbright said:
“Under our system, Congress, and especially the Senate, shares responsibility with the President for making our Nation's foreign policy. This war, however, started and continues as a Presidential war in which the Congress, since the fraudulent Gulf of Tonkin episode, has not played a significant role.

The purpose of these hearings is to develop the best advice and greater public understanding of the policy alternatives available and positive congressional action to end American participation in the war."
Given their recent enthusiasm in kiboshing any sort of limits on what they see as the open-ended 2001 AUMF the Trumpkins have neither interest in nor worries about not limiting this endless whack-a-muj game the U.S. has been playing for 16 years now.

Somewhere in a dingy bar in Valhalla Sun-tzu reminds Dave Hackworth what he said about the problems inherent in fighting long wars, and Hack replies that, no shit, Sherlock, it is for that exact reason that the dopeslap was invented, and that the only problem is that nobody in the U.S. government seems willing to use it on the dumb bastards than need it.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Da Nang

Lots of news focus on the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in Viet-Nam.  Most of it seems to be on Trump/Putin talking and what will come of that. 

I am more interested on any one-on-one meeting between Trần Đại Quang and Xi Jinping.  Will they bury the hatchet on what the Viets call Biển Đông (East Sea) and the Chinese call their South Sea?  Same for any meets between Xi and President Duterte, Prime Minister Najib of Malaysia, and the Sultan of Brunei.  And what is Trump's position on the Spratly and Paracel Islands?  Did he use his 'art of the deal' when he was in Peking to offer Xi something he could not refuse?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/APEC_Vietnam_2017#Attendees

But in any case I'm happy that Donnie finally made it to Viet-Nam.  I suppose his heel spurs have been cured.  Looks like they are staying here:

http://www.danang.intercontinental.com/

Better quarters than what we had 50 years ago at LZ Baldy or Charlie Ridge.




Sunday, October 22, 2017

Acting 1SG Lawes reads the morning formation announcements

Comp-ney, Atten-shun! At ease. Okay, listen up. Coupla things here.

First.

I've been hearing a bunch of you he-roes prancing around the dayroom talking smack about how y'all are "the best 1 percent this country produces".

I hear tell that y'all got that shit from some jarhead, and a jarhead general at that.

Now y'all know how I feel about jarheads. So hearing y'all woofing because one said something about how “We don’t look down upon those of you who that haven’t served. In fact, in a way we’re a little bit sorry because you’ll have never have experienced the wonderful joy you get in your heart when you do the kinds of things our servicemen and women do.” just means that the overpromoted bolo doesn't know about the kind of things our servicemen did down at the Flaming Mug last week and, yes, I'm looking at you, AT Platoon. I've got my eye on you, slickyboys.

So before you get all "Ooo-rah! We bad, we bad!" take a look to your left and right flanks. You know as well as I do what that guy next to you is capable of. We all went to high school with that guy. The dude that locked himself in the last stall in the boys' bathroom in the B-wing and had to get pulled out by the school cops?

That's him.

The joker that useta take polaroid dick pics and put them in the romance novels in the library?

That's him.

And don't get me started on surfing the fucking storm drains on their sleeping mats, am I right, Blackie?

The "best 1 percent" my rosy red ass.

The civilians are too fucking busy shoving their tongues up your collective fourth-point-of-contact to remember this, but y'all, at least, should know that y'all are the same jocks, nerds, stoners, wierdos, brainiacs, goofballs, and just regular American dipwads they went to high school with only now y'all wear the same colored clothes. Raisin' your right hand didn't suddenly make any of y'all smarter, braver, more honest, or less likely to fuck up a wet dream and yes, I mean you, night bakers. I saw your fuckin' mess hall this morning and we gonna have a little come-to-Jesus chat right after this formation.

Y'all are good troops, and that's what you're supposed to be. But don't let that make you think that you're some sort of national gold standard. That's how good troops end up getting waxed in combat.

Y'all get free food and clothes, y'all get to get all-expenses-paid vacations to the shitty parts of the world to fuck up things there. Don't let that make you kid yourselves about what a bunch of special fuckin' snowflakes you are just because some goddamn gyrene general who probably hasn't actually seen one of y'all in his natural environment since he was a itty-bitty lieutenant. Those fuckin' star-warriors run around in a little general-officer bubble and they have no more idea of what y'all are really doing out here than a cow knows about the fuckin' Council of Trent.

So. Get over yourselves, people. Like I tol' ya last week; thinking you're all better than civilians is a straight-up dick move, and I won't tolerate that shit in my company, regardless of what the Old Man tells you about how awesome you are.

OK.

Second.

Rumor has it that the Brigade Sergeant Major is gonna be in the company AO this Friday. Y'all know that dick as well as I do, so I highly recommend that you ensure that those "extra" toolkits find their way to SSG Reye's garage, Commo, and Medics? The quarter-ton y'all keep "forgetting" to turn in? That sumbitch needs to go live in the woods starting Thursday night.

Oh, and I will be doing a walkthrough tomorrow at fourteen hundred hours and if I find more pogie bait in your walllockers I will go medieval on your ass. Are we clear on that?

I thought so.

Comp-ney, Atten-shun!

Platoon sergeants, take charge.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

What's the English for "freikorps"?

Out old Intel Dump pal Phillip Carter has a piece up at Slate discussing the presser put on by the White House Chief-of-Staff, former GEN Kelly.

Carter says all the usual things that are being said elsewhere about the Kelly presser - that it pretty much told anyone who doesn't have a DD214 that their only role in military affairs is to "support the troops" and STFU - but one line from the Carter piece really struck me.

It was this:
"The burden of our post-9/11 wars has been heavy but not widely shouldered nor shared. The result, echoed in opinion surveys of veterans and military personnel, has been a mixture of pride, nostalgia, and resentment."
Yeah, well, there was another group of veterans and military personnel who held strong feelings of pride and nostalgia about their recent wartime service and deep resentment towards the civilians and political leaders of their nation they held responsible for their failure.

They were the guys from the Kaiserlich Deutsches Heer, the Imperial German Army, after 1918.

And by the 1920s they had given up pretending even notional submission to the civilian government of Weimar and went out into the streets to fight, helping to contribute to the chaos and social unrest that eventually enabled totalitarian rule come to power in Germany.

In the bitterest of ironies, the supposed true German nationalists they helped to power considered them a danger to the fascist state. Many of the ex-freikorps were murdered or disappeared in 1934 when the true believers consolidated power.

Are the situations of interwar Germany and post-modern America very different?

Yes.

Is it good to have a small, self-selecting group within a popular democracy with a monopoly on the use and understanding of armed force and the attitude that that monopoly makes them politically superior to those without it?

No.

You can argue about the iniquities of a draft and I won't argue back. But the Founders of this nation had some strong opinions about the danger to a republic from praetorian treason.

I will suggest that former GEN Kelly's remarks should make you nervous about listening for the sound of the dagger leaving its sheath.
There is more than one way to get stabbed in the back.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

There Was A Young Lady From Niger

The latest outrage by, about, and surrounding the Tangerine Toddler seems to concern what he may have said, or not said, to the mother of a U.S. Special Forces sergeant killed along with three other NCOs in what I presume was his training/advising team in the northern African country of Niger.

While I yield to no one in my contempt for Five-Deferment Donnie as a wanna-be großer Feldherr, this is ridiculous.

Trump, idiotic as he is, didn't put these people there. AFRICOM, and the elements of the 3rd Special Forces Group that were operating with the unit of the FAN, the Forces Armees Nigerinnes or Nigerien Army, have been in-country for some time. A large multinational exercise, Flintlock 2017, involved the FAN as well as US, Belgian, Australian, and Canadian regulars back in February to early March of this year.

The real question in my mind has nothing to do with short-fingered vulgarians. It has to do with what the fuck are the United States' "national interests" in Niger?

From the descriptions I've read the place looks like a goddamn dumpster fire politically, economically, socially, and environmentally. It's grossly under-resourced and overpopulated. Desertification is pressuring an already fissured multi-tribal society that - crucially bad for social cohesion - is divided into semi-nomadic pastoralists and subsistence farmers. The war between nomads and settled peoples is older than Sumer and anyone, particularly a foreign Great Power, that intends to do anything but deal with the survivors through a slot in a locked and heavily armored door is a complete and utter fool.

The neighboring countries are largely also impoverished, socially chaotic, politically unstable shitholes (Mali? Seriously? Mali is like Mad Max's Thunderdome only with more fucking mayhem. If your neighbors are Mali I suggest you start getting to know them by sowing a thick belt of mines along your spite fence...)

The "government" of Niger seems to be the usual collection of shady African types, and the FAN tends to liven things up by coup-ing every so often (the last one was just back in 2010).

Taken altogether the joint makes Honduras look like Switzerland.

So it appears that the official justification for USAFRICOM involvement, and the patrolling mission that got these SF troopers killed, was, as always...wait for it...waaaaait for it...

"terrorism!".

Yep. The usual suspects, of course; Al Qaeda, the Islamic State, local franchisees like Boko Haram...you know, your basic Scary Dark People.

Mind you...nobody seems to be asking just exactly who these jokers are.

Because my guess would be "local tribesmen who are pissed off at some other local tribesmen" or "young men without a job looking to make something out of an AK-47 and the willingness to use it" with a side order of "The usual assholes who think that shooting someone is easier than working for a living".

And, of course, the explanation for how teaching one of these bunches of Chaos Warriors to kill the others because Surely That Will Solve The Problem of "Terrorism" is...

...well, kinda nothing. At least nothing sensible. The tribal grudges aren't going away. The political instability isn't, either. The desertification is, if anything, getting worse and so, inevitably, will the clashes between the herdspeople squabbling over shrinking grazing land with farmers whose cropland is becoming increasingly marginal.

The notion of sending U.S. troopers into this hot mess to do...something something defeat "terrorism" is beneath ridiculous.

There is nothing in Niger worth the bones of an Oregonian grenadier.

And there are no "terrorism" problems in Niger that a bullet will solve.

Unless the 3rd SFG(a) is willing to use every bullet ever cast, and more, and leave the land of Niger an empty waste, and call it "peace".
"Who smiled as she rode on a tiger.
They returned from the ride
With the lady inside.
And the smile on the face of the tiger."


Update 10/19: One thing that does kind of bug me (as a GI) about the Niger thing.

What I get from the reports is that four of the SF team were killed or DOW and one FAN trooper.

That suggests to me that either 1) the guerrillas had terrific intel and knew exactly where and when to initiate their ambush so as to target and kill the Americans quickly, or 2) the FAN unit fell apart under pressure and the SF guys had to (or tried to - it sounds like the FAN rabble was driven off the kill zone in disorder) rally the gomers and, as is often the case, ended up getting killed exposing themselves to enemy fire.

Which, in turn, makes me wonder; why the hell would any smart and experienced NCOs lead a shitshow like this FAN outfit in a patrol in an AO like the Mali border? We're talking the fucking wild, wild West here. The chances that a savvy group of local G's would have way better eyes and ears on the ground and way better knowledge of the ground and way better discipline than whatever this FAN gaggle had seem close to 100% (as it turned out).

Were the FAN officers overconfident? Did the SF team leaders try to talk them out of whatever the fuck they thought they were doing and fail (and have to tag along on this death-ride or lose face with the locals?) Or was the SF team the one that got their baby ducklings in troubled waters?

Either way, there seems to have been some sort of massive fail on a number of levels, including knowledge of the local conditions, assessment of the competence level of the FAN unit, and combat command and control.

Which - since, as I mentioned, the contact between US and FAN troopers is of some standing - makes me question, again, the effectiveness of the U.S. military assistance programs. We've already seen in Afghanistan and Iraq the general worthlessness of U.S. "training" and trainers. The local levies seem to emerge from the U.S. programs just as shit as before they went in (and if you can't get Afghans - some of the fightingest people on Earth - to fight you 're doing it wrong). In a sense I'm hoping that there was some element(s) involved beyond the straightforward reports I'm hearing.

But in another, this just reminds me again what a generally piss-poor job that the U.S. Army seems to do with "training" foreign troops. And, again, the overall worthlessness of these military assistance missions. The most common product always seems to be a national army that's better at coups than anything else.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

And now, something different

I'm not familiar with a lot of historically tense situations that run the gamut from tragedy to thriller to comedy within the space of seconds, but the situation in Catalonia/Spain sure seems to fill it.

For those of you who missed the hilarity, the rogue leader of Catalonia, the man who orchestrated a guerrilla election that did surprisingly well given the complete opposition of the national government and the presence of tens of thousands of national police, the man who evaded arrest and brought Catalonia closest to independence it has been in a century, he gave a speech on Monday.
His speech was absurd.  His speech should be the definition of absurd double-speak.  It was a towering instance of ridiculousness.  In a single speech he declared independence but then delayed its implementation.  Confusion reigned.  Half of the press said that independence was declared, the other half said 'not independent.'  Wikipedia said that they had been independent for eight seconds. 

How confusing was the moment?  The Spanish government decided to give them EIGHT days to figure that shit out.  HO boy.  The national government that implied the Catalonians were threatening invasion and death has decided that they are so clueless that they get a week plus to think it through.

Imagine, if you will, that during the climactic scene in the Empire Strikes Back (spoilers), Darth Vader had stared at the son he had just disarmed and said, "I am your fath<cough>-far-<cough>-er"  Seconds pass.  Luke blinks, "you're my farter?"  He smiles because it is absurd.  The dramatic and thrilling culmination of dread and revelation are completely flubbed.  Even if Darth Vader gets it together and states his relationship clearly, it is too late.  He whiffed at the most critical moment.  That is cinematic equivalent of this moment.

How hilarious.  How pathetic.  How revealing.  Democratic government has limits.  We like to pretend that it does not, but it does.  And the ones with the guns and banks at the end trump those that do not.  Does anyone doubt that Spain would rather ruin Catalonia than see it leave?  That the EU wouldn't lift a finger against a Spanish crackdown?

But the true treat here is that the 'idealistic' crazies didn't get their heads cracked by police at the end or wave their flag at the end of the movie.  No, we got a treat.  The crazies went and slipped on a banana peel while the dramatic music soared. Hi-FUCKING-larious.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

The Third Gulf War and the Poison Gift that Keeps on Giving

As His Fraudulency thumps himself on the back for not completely goatscrewing relief efforts to Puerto Rico and farkles about tweeting about football players the poison tree that his GOP buddies and his fellow-idiot Dubya planted in Iraq back in 2003 continues to bear bitter, poison fruit.

The latest in sectarian strife there is ripening this week after the Kurdish minority voted overwhelmingly to secede and now the Shiite majority legislature in Baghdad is striking back with a measure to shut off air traffic to the landlocked Kurdish provinces.

The problem for Orange Foolius is that, due to the rank idiocy of Dubya's crew in knocking the secular Baath stopper off the Iraqi bottle, the sectarian genie is out, uncontrollable, and uncontainable. One of the favorite Republican "kwitcherbitchin'!" talking points back in the Oughts was to insist that Saddam is Evil and if you're against war in Iraq you are For Saddam and therefore For Evil.

The argument was transparently moronic then and looks even stupider now that the deposition of Saddam and the destruction of secular government has empowered every religious nut with an AK-47 to tear up what little bridgework allowed construction of the 20th Century over this already-bottomless post-Ottoman sinkhole. Evil?

Sheesh.

An administration headed by FDR and a military overseen by George Marshall would have a nearly impossible task trying to put this Iraqi Humpty Dumpty together again. The current passel of mouthbreathers, grifters, morons, reality-show carnies, egomaniac adolescents, and Trump (but I repeat myself) couldn't manage to do anything constructive with this mess if they had ten centuries, a magic 8-Ball, and a license to print money.

Oh, wait. They have the latter. They'd just sooner use it to fund Amway scamsters and give away cash to plutocrats.

I don't know if there's a point here, other than "Don't elect morons" and "WASF".