Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Current Crisis in US Counterinsurgency

Current Counterinsurgency Warfare or "COIN" has been going through something of a crisis recently, especially among its supporters. Zenpundit kicked off this period of Existenzangst with his post of 25 January, The Postcoin Era is Here, which initiated a whole series of responses, including this one which I think representative, The Zen of Coin.

To me the crisis reflects much deeper issues. Some of these have to do with the contradictions between the actual theory of Counterinsurgency Warfare as developed by David Galula, and the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan which are presented to the American people as counterinsurgencies (from our perspective) but are not. This confusion in strategic theory and strategy in turn feeds the political confusion on the US side. What is sorely missing is a honest disclosure of what our actual political purposes are and the best way seen to achieve them.

In 1964, a professional French Army officer named David Galula had published a short, but first-rate book on strategic theory entitled Counterinsurgency Warfare. Galula's conclusion based on his own experiences in Greece, Indochina, China and Algeria, was that to be successful against Revolutionary Warfare (read Maoist-influenced strategies of insurgency), the established state would have to adopt a specific form of warfare based on the realities of this type of conflict, or "counterinsurgency warfare". Galula's approach while very coherent and compatible with Clausewitz's general theory, is specific to a certain political context and thus limited in applicability since the strengths and weaknesses he ascribes to each side refer to this specific political context.

For instance, let us consider this extract from Galula's classic Counterinsurgency Warfare:

Primacy of the Political over the Military Power

That the political power is the undisputed boss is a matter of both principle and practicality. What is at stake is the country's political regime, and to defend it is a political affair. Even if this requires military action, the action is constantly directed towards a political goal. Essential though it is, the military action is secondary to the political one, its primary purpose being to afford the political power enough freedom to work safely with the population.

The armed forces are but one of the many instruments of the counterinsurgent, and what is better than the political power to harness the non-military instruments, to see the appropriations come at the right time to consolidate the military work, that political and social reforms follow through?

"A revolutionary war is 20% military action and 80% political" is a formula that reflects the truth. Giving the soldier authority over the civilian would thus contradict one of the major characteristics of this type of war. In practice, it would inevitably tend to reverse the relative importance of military versus political action and move the counterinsurgent's warfare closer to a conventional one. Were the armed forces the instrument of a party and their leaders high-ranking members of the party, controlled and assisted by political commissars having their own direct channel to the party's central direction, then giving complete authority to the military might work; however, this describes the general situation of the insurgent, not of his opponent.

It would also be self-defeating, for it would mean that the counterinsurgent government had acknowledged a signal defeat: Unable to cope with the insurgency through normal government structures, it would have abdicated in favor of the military, who, at once, become the prime and easy target of the insurgent propaganda. It would be a miracle if, under these circumstances, the insurgent did not succeed in divorcing the soldier from the nation.

The inescapable conclusion is that the over-all responsibility should stay with the civilian power at every possible level. If there is a shortage of trusted officials, nothing prevents filling the gap with military personnel serving in a civilian capacity. If worst comes to the worst, the fiction, at least, should be preserved.
pages 62-63

Galula of course is referring to the political leadership of the state under siege by the insurgency, not an outside power. His assumption is that the local government will enjoy initially (prior to the advent of the insurgency) a certain amount of legitimacy in the eyes of the people it supposedly represents. The insurgency will also not be part of the government, or a former government, but totally separate from it. We can see that putting the conduct of war, not in the hands of the local government, but in the hands of an occupying foreign military would be something that Galula would not consider as belonging to counterinsurgency warfare, but something else entirely. Having the military direct the entire process, and that military being a foreign occupation army, would be beyond even his warning of domestic military control of the counterinsurgency effort, which he describes as something "so dangerous to be resisted at all costs".

This brings us to the question as to whether Galula's theory is applicable to say the current struggle in Afghanistan and Pakistan at all. I would say it is, but not in anything like the way it is presented by or among supporters of that war or COIN.

Last month, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates visited India and Pakistan in an attempt to shore up support for US actions in Afghanistan. Juan Cole provides some interesting commentary and numerous links on the trip here: Gates Strikes Out . . .

Gates came under fire in Pakistan for seemingly admitting that Blackwater - now renamed "Xe" - is currently operating in Pakistan, as well as a series of other gaffs. The US is currently pursuing quite incompatible policy aims attempting both to bring India into the Afghan mix while assuming whole-hearted Pakistani support.

Seen from a strategic theory perspective and taking the interests of the two sides in consideration, it would seem that Pakistan and their ISI-supported Taliban allies are more the "counterinsurgents" in this conflict currently encompassing both Afghanistan and Pakistan, while the US/NATO are more the "insurgents", but with few of the strengths Galula would associate with the insurgency. Consider that the Taliban/ISI/Pakistani (T/I/P) side is leading with their political operations, limiting military action to the 20% that Galula suggests, whereas the US/NATO side is very much military heavy. Galula warns that the counterinsurgency should never attempt to negotiate except from a position of strength - which the T/I/P side is now doing, to include sending a Taliban delegation to the London Conference.

To reinforce this view, both Generals Petraeus and McCrystal spoke out in January, Petraeus saying, "The concept of reconciliation, of talks between senior Afghan officials and senior Taleban or other insurgent leaders, perhaps involving some Pakistani officials as well, is another possibility."

McCrystal told the Financial Times, "As a soldier, my personal feeling is that there's been enough fighting. What I think we do is try to shape conditions which allow people to come to a truly equitable solution to how the Afghan people are governed." Signaling weakness, war weariness and the willingness to negotiate from a position of weakness are all characteristics of an insurgency on the verge of collapse.

The Taliban response was predictable:

. . . They nurture this childish and ridiculous notion to subjugate the people of Afghanistan and impose on them the ideology of unbelief. This is because the invaders are not able to think and ponder sagaciously. They propose asylum for a person, whose order every honor-loving individual of the nation, obeys as a religious obligation. It is the cherished hope of every committed Afghan to be in the stronghold of martyrdom and sacrifice in order to comply with the order of the leader.

The fundamental solution of the tragedy of Afghanistan lies in withdrawal of the invading forces from Afghanistan. They should ponder over ways to save thousands from the strong resistance of the Mujahid people of Afghanistan rather than consider suggestions of asylum-seeking for the leaders of Jihad or participation in the puppet government.

The invading foreigners should pull out of the occupied Afghanistan immediately so that those who deserve, should receive their due rights. They should let the Afghans and their true leadership to live in an atmosphere of prosperity, security and fraternity, following establishment of an independent Islamic system in the country.

Following Galula, the counterinsurgent must shatter the political cohesion of the insurgency through a mixture of both political and military action, with the last stage of the counterinsurgency being step 8, "Win over or suppress the last insurgent remnants", page 56.

My purpose here is not so much to make a political point, or to describe the current US political/military confusion, but rather to use Galula's theory to perhaps shed some light on the current reality of the Afghan war.


  1. Seydlitz,
    Just a few personal cmts on your fine essay. I don't even remember the name Galula ever being mentioned in SFOC jan 70. We read Fall and Lauterguy fiction, but try as i might there is zero memory of Galula.And of course we read the limp wristed British crap also. The emphasis was search and destroy camoflauged as UW/GW with emphsasis on FID/IDAD/PRC. Of course Wars of Natnl Liberation were the buzz words of the day. As you point out. I've probably written 100 articles on COIN and have done so when my thoughts were heavily attacked and they simply covered thoughts that you mention in your essay.Bottom line is that COIN is smoke and mirrors and/or a shell game that diverts US citizens eyes from the real ball in play. We` are such suckers for a trick of the eye. FM 3-24 is so grossly general in nature that it's like the Bible-it's everything to all men, and actually meaningless to all. Ironically the old LIC Dept at Leavenworth was well read into all that you say back in the 80's but they have just been disappeared like a Terror suspect. They must be hiding somewhere in a secret location in Roumania. There is no reality to the Afgh War, hell it ain't even a war and it certainly ain't COIN. Hell-COIN ain't COIN.

  2. Interesting ideas. Couple of thoughts:

    1. Galula was very much a product of his times, times where the former colonial powers and/or their designated successor governments were fighting against anticolonialist revolutions. So while I would tend to agree that his fundamental ideas are correct (the balance of the effort needs to be led by the political goals and the political/civil nature of the effort needs to be emphasized - i.e. the rebel is a rebel, not an alternative government) his context is quite different, esp. in A-stan.

    2. Don't quite get your NATO = insurgent analogy. I'd like you to flesh that out a little. Are you suggesting that the original (pre-'02) Taliban regime is the "government" against which the US/NATO/Karzaites are in rebellion against? Not saying you're wrong, but that's a pretty radical assertion.

    As far as the whole COIN nutroll, well...the fundamental problem I see with what we're trying to do, as well as what this would mean in many of the places we're likely to propose doing it, is that Galula's main point is effectively moot.

    The Karzai goverment is in a nearly impossible position. It's seen as a creature of the foreigners, it's hopelessly corrupt and ineffcient, and it is, in effect, no more legitimate than the Talibs it replaced. We would - or will - face the same problems in places like Yemen, Somalia, the Sudan, the southern's hard to get effective rebellion suppression out of a bunch of people whose primary instinct is to loot the place and get out before the locals take their revenge.

    Look at the two biggest COIN success stories in the past 10 years: Sri Lanka and Peru. In both cases the rebels made serious mistakes. In both places the governments, while not popular or loved, were unquestionable "legitimate". In both places the government was secure enough, and the rebels' mistakes made them hated enough, that the government had the leeway to be both 1) inept and 2) brutal in crushing the rebellions.

    As foreign occupiers, NATO and the U.S. don't have this sort of leeway, so Galula's prescription doesn't really work, does it?

    The problem we've had in our past COINs is that by and large the "governments" we've supported have either lacked legitimacy (RVN, Afghanistan) or had a primary loyalty that conflicted with what we wanted from them (Iraq). The pre-1945 versions were either disasters (Guatemala, Honduras, Haiti) or poorly crafted messes that degenerated into dictatorships (Cuba, Philippines).

  3. Thanks for the kind words jim. I think that Galula's book was discovered more after the Vietnam war. He had died in 1967 so was unable to spread his message personally. John Nagl writes in his foreward to the latest edition, "Galula's primacy of place in the canon of irregular warfare is secured by his lucid instructions on how counterinsurgency forces can protect and hence gain support of the populace, acquire information on the identity and location of insurgents, and thereby defeat the insurgency."

    Notice that Nagl's emphasis here is on intelligence gathering to aid in targetting, whereas Galula's emphasis is on political operations with the intelligence being simply a byproduct of that.

  4. FDChief-

    Good points.

    Yes, let me expand on this comparison a bit. I don't really think Galula's strategy of counterinsurgency applicable for us in Afghanistan: The advisarial relationships are all quite different than he would have assumed for a counterinsurgency.

    More or less reversing the roles is not a political statement for me, but an application of Galula's theory, which like all strategic theory of this type should be "flexible" enough to do this. We simply go to a higher level of abstraction.

    So, first from a theory perspective, think of the two sides: Insurgency and Counterinsurgency - their relative strengths and weaknesses and especially the power relationships and the political/policy character of each side.

    Now consider the complexity of the Afghan war. I'm making several assumptions here. First, that the AfPak border is simply an imaginary line on the ground, with little if any influence on the political/military forces operating there. Second, that the Pakistani government wishes to dominate Afghanistan through the Taliban as they did in the past and avoid an Indian presence in Afghanistan at all costs. That the character of the Taliban movement itself is complex consisting of both elements that are essentially controlled by the ISI and elements wishing to impose a theocratic state in Pakistan itself. I would imagine there is a bit of blending between these two groups.

    So, the first task from a strategic theory perspective would be to identify the "two sides", meaning those actually opposed . . .

    Comments? More to come . . .

  5. I think my point here is that AfPak is more typical of the "post-post-colonial" rebellions we're seeing in the late 20th and 21st Century than the "post-colonial" insurgencies that Galula was in places like Greece and Algeria.

    So Galula was able to divide his actors into "government" and "insurgent", and work from the assumption that the first would begin with political legitimacy, and that the struggle would be to regain or preserve it, while the second would devote its efforts into seizing legitimacy from the first.

    But the problem here - much as the problem was in Puntland, or in places like Rwanda (or much of central Africa, for that matter) - is that you have a multifocal conflict involving various levels of organization and "legitimacy". And the group that we have chosen to concentrate our support around is just one of the many.

    The Durand Line, notional as it is, is only important in that it represents part of the only thing that makes up a Westphalian state called "Pakistan". But how much of the Pashtun portions of the mountains of southcentral Asia "Pakistan"? For that matter, how much of the vale of Kashmir is "Pakistan"? Again, we're running into the difference between Galula's European notions of two factions fighting for control of a European-style state and what we have here; multiple actors, some of whom want to rule a "state", while others have no such interest, and still others want no "state" at all.

    And then you layer onto this the U.S. as the world's oddest "imperial" power, one with no skin in the local game. At least the old colonial powers got something in return for their blood and treasure. We're getting...what? Not even really an assurance that the "government" we leave behind will act in ways that benefit us regionally. Certainly the current government of Iraq is unlikely to do much for us once it no longer needs our janissaries to kill Sunnis for them. And the "government" in Kabul..?

    So my objection would be that if the COINdinistas are trying to use Galula as part of the intellectual foundation for their formulation of their plans for southcentral Asia they're trying to stretch him pretty damn far. His ideas were based on very different circumstances than we're seeing today, and therefore his projected end-state may very well be unobtainable for this region given the methods he prescribes.

  6. Chief and Sedlitz,
    I have no objections to either of you cmts.
    My break with EVERYBODIES concept of COIN, esp Nagl and his disciples is that COIN as practised by the US is undemocratic in nature and flies in the face of our liberal philosophy.
    Bottom line.

  7. Jim: Counterinsurgency is pretty much just plain old rebellion-suppression. There's lots of ways to do it - "our" way isn't exactly pretty but it sure is more humane than, say, the Roman way or the medieval Catholic/Crusader way.

    I think the problem is and has been that we've chosen some pretty shitty "allies" to help suppress their internal dissent and/or rebellions. The government of the RVN was no prize (though the North Viets were worse; problem was that until they took over there was no real way to be sure of that); our clients in Honduras, Guatemala, Cuba, the PI and Haiti were real stinkers. Iraq's Shiite majority are better than Saddam's Tikriti mafia but are still unlikely to be our "friends" - they owe more to the Iranians than they do to us. And Karzai's mob isn't a theocratic as the Mullah Omar Talibs but appear to be a hell of a lot more corrupt - dealer's choice, sort of.

    So the one huge part of the issue is picking our friends more carefully.

    But the other is the very notion that going into a foreign country and "helping" them suppress a rebellion is doable in a realistic time-and-materials sense. If Galula is right, then if we get the politics "right" (or rather, if our internal client does and we help by providing the muscle) than the thing is winnable in some way.

    But - if he's wrong, and the COIN wars he saw fought are not the rebellions/internal collapses we're seeing today...than what we're going to be doing is applying phlogiston chemistry principles to designing a solid fuel rocket. At best the things will just sit there, an expensive dud. But at worst...

  8. FDChief,
    The thing that you skirted a few cmts ago is-what do we get out of these dirty little wars??
    We don't even own a horse in the race ,and as you pointed out, if the horse wins we won't win a thing.
    Stupid is.....

  9. FDChief-

    Well yes, that is the outlook at present. I don't disagree with that, but it doesn't get us very far since we still have no theoretical yardstick with which to compare reality with . . . and we still won't if we don't give Galula's theory a try.

    That's all I'm asking here . . . I haven't even really got started yet . . .

    Consider that the real political distinction is not between "state" and other political organizations, but between "empire", "state" and other political organizations. The Afghan war is ripe with competing Nation-State interests and would have been solved long ago had the various regional powers been able to reach an agreement, but too many dreams with too many spoilers ruined any chance . . .

    Since Galula's theory is compatible with Clausewitz's general theory, we can assume that in ways Galula is in addition an expansion of the general theory, we need only uncover the various elements using the general theory as our guide. This expansion would be concerning asymmetrical warfare or unconventional warfare . . but of course within a larger Clausewitzian framework.

    In other words I think Galula was able to model something timeless about revolutionary warfare . . . something close to the moral element.

    The two sides? As I stated before the US/Nation/Karzai versus Taliban/ISI/Pakistan . . . and we're losing.

  10. Hmmm...

    I think you're eliding a couple of things here.

    1. The problem with applying Galula's theory in Afghanistan do you "let the political lead" when, without the foreign bayonets there would BE no Afghan "government"?

    So who takes control?

    The US/NATO? Possible, but one of those "the simplest things are extremely difficult" deals. You've got the problem of a region that hates and resists foreign occupiers it feels cannot utterly destroy them. You've got the problem of what appears to be an extremely poor sense, even after eight years in-country, of who's who and doing what. You've got the problem of non-governmental goals (more of which below). You've got the problem of very conflicting influences from over the border.

    I agree with you that Galula has a good point. If there WAS a genuine Afghan government it might even be able to apply them - the stuff ain't rocket science. Like I say, it worked in El Salvador, Peru and Sri Lanka, and those places aren't going to make anyone's "great governance" lists.

    But there isn't right now - at least, not in large parts of the "country". So I don't think you can START by applying Galula's ideas.

    2. And I think part of the problem is that we're trying to make this thing into "two sides". But it's probably more like:

    1. The U.S. - still working through the whole "GWOT" nonsense. Sees its purpose as entirely defense-driven and through the lens of national security.

    2. NATO - various motivations, from a similar anti-terrorist or anti-instability mindset as the U.S., to merely honoring treaty obligations, to the more venal objectives of cultivating local ties and currying favor with the U.S.

    3. The titular Afghan government and military - although this may and likely does include more than one internal faction. Main preoccupation is with survival, which at the moment hinges on Western military and economic aid. Will work for whoever gives it the best chance of survival and enrichment.

    4. The original (Afghan) Taliban - struggling to survive, wants revenge, desires to retake Kabul. Probably also factional.

    5. Pakistani Taliban - wants to seize power in Karachi, will help Afghan Talibs only so far is it helps destabilize current Paki regime.

    6. Various independent tribes, subtribes, clans - want to maximize their power and wealth, will fight for whoever can get it for them. Probably don't want to much authority in Kabul, so turmoil suits them just fine.

    7. Criminal syndicates, lawless tribal elements = purely feeding off chaos for gain. Have no interest in helping either faction if it diminishes their freedom of action (i.e. establishes rule of law)

    8. ISI - who the fuck knows? Playing deep game, probably interested in winning anticipated war with India and reestablishing military control over Karachi. Will help whatever faction that helps accomplish this.

    9. India - wants Afghanistan as pro-Indian counterweight to rear of Pakistan. More worried about Pakistani militants and Kashmir than Afghanistan. Worries about Islamic takeover in Karachi.

    10. Karachi government - Wants to suppress Pakistan Taliban. Doesn't like Afghan Talibs but would probably accept them before allowing Karzai government to cozy up to India. Wants Kashmir more than it cares about Afghanistan.

    11. Russia - ???? Doesn't like Islamic militants on southern border but doesn't want U.S. client there, either, probably neutral but probably willing to settle for decades of unrest rather than allow Karzai/U.S. ally to settle onto throne in Kabul.

    12. China - wants counterweight to India. Prefers Taliban in Kabul associated with Pakistan rather than U.S./India-friendly government?

    And those are just those I can think of off the top of my head.


  11. (con't from above)

    So I think that part of the problem here is when you look at the big picture you realize how unlikely it is that ANYone is going to "win" at this point, shy of a truly horrific level of violence, a truly Tamurlane-esque performance. So I don't think we're "losing". I think that we're just realizing that the place is essentially ungovernable in its present condition. There's just too many sides, and too many of them have aims that aren't truly opposing...they're more like "entropic". The combination just serves to pull the place apart...

    If we had any sense we'd find a truly savage warlord, arm him to the teeth and leave, slamming the door firmly behind us.

  12. "Consider that the real political distinction is not between "state" and other political organizations, but between "empire", "state" and other political organizations."

    I have to go with John Robb on this one: the big difference is between "state" based power - call it empire, nation, province, city-state, whatever - and entities that have no interest in functioning as a "state"; narcotraficantes, tribes, warlords. If this were a simple "Red Chinese versus Nationalists" we could separate the Red guerillas from the sea by killing the sea or something similar - or by just hoping that the guerillas made brutal and foolish mistakes like the LTTE so that they can be destroyed by force. But I'm not so sure it's that simple.

    One things seems sure; without a true national leader in Kabul - with a Karzai, in other words, not am Afghan Ataturk - this will be neither easy nor quick.

    "The Afghan war is ripe with competing Nation-State interests and would have been solved long ago had the various regional powers been able to reach an agreement..."

    We - who used this to frustrate the Soviets there twenty years ago - should have been the first to realize this going in. Of COURSE the regional and local Great Powers stuck their oars in. As it was and ever shall be...

  13. I think there is an advantage in seeing this as two-sided for a number of reasons.

    First, it gets us beyond the assumption that everyone except the Taliban is on our side. The NATO secretary was calling on the various sides to allow NATO to become a "global forum" on working together towards a stable Afghanistan, this including India, Pakistan and China. Obviously a "stable Afghanistan" is quite different for all three.

    Second, it emphasizes what makes the current Afghan war different from those of the past, namely direct US and NATO involvment, that is adding a completely different set of players to the mix. The US side also has the material resources to remain in the game even after having strategically lost the fight (as is the case at present).

    Third, it separates the real opposition from the spoilers. Russia is not going to aid us in our quest, nor are they going to actively supply the Taliban. Neither will Iran, although it would have been easy to have gained their support in 2002.

    I also think that Afghanistan shows the limits of John Robb's whole approach. It is state entities, that is POLITICS, which dicate the Afghan condition, not drug lords or global guerrillas whatever they are. Consider the distinction between the Afghan resistance to the USSR circa 1987 and the Taliban resistance to the US/NATO today. The resistance were knocking Soviet planes out of the sky making their continued military presence questionable, whereas the current Taliban resistance have no such capability. Why? Because it is not in the interest of the Pakistani/ISI element to openly confront the US/NATO, but rather only through their Taliban auxillaries operating at a very low intensity, since they know that they can outlast the "insurrection" or Galula's "easy to hard" approach to counterinsurgency. Their goals however have remained the same in both instances.

    Finally, "US/NATO/Karzai" as the insurgency indicates our weakness, since our necessary "dynamic cause" is dynamic for us (freedom, education for women, a "operative government"), but not necessarily for the Afghans who simply want peace and order. The Taliban and their supporters are essentially fighting for a return to the pre-2001 status quo ante.

  14. Seydlitz, Chief,
    How did NATO get a horse in this race?
    Is Nato a strike arm of US foreign policy? Or of US military policy.?
    Did Afgh atk the US or any Nato country?
    We were atkd by non state entities and this is not a Nato issue.

  15. "State" versus "Empire" is the key distinction I think at least in regards to US involvement. The empire has certain characteristics - a mission, unrestricted boundries ("spheres of influence")and sovereignty, emphasis on expansion - that are counter the interests and even sometimes the existence of the state.

    Non-state entities may wish to exercise power and domination, taking advantage of a "new war economy" that has been allowed to develop (to use Herfried Muenkler's term), but this assumes that the subject population will no revolt, that in effect politics has "died" in regards to the common people. Far from being a new phenomenon, this would instead be a return political realations as they were for centuries, both inside and outside Europe - the "nobles" riding roughshod over the "serfs".

  16. jim-

    NATO involvement in Bush's Afghan experiment was his use of all the political capital we had after 9/11 . . . squandering what could have been used much more effectively elsewhere . . .

    As with the pressure for Ukrainian and Georgian admission to NATO, the Afghan mission is just another of Bush's poison gifts to the alliance. An alliance which seemingly has long out-lived its usefulness.

  17. I think we've pretty much talked this one out. My final observation would be that "Following Galula, the counterinsurgent must shatter the political cohesion of the insurgency through a mixture of both political and military action, with the last stage of the counterinsurgency being step 8, "Win over or suppress the last insurgent remnants" implies that political cohesion is critical to the operation of the rebellion.

    But what if a large part of the rebellion is driven by non-political goals; religious intolerance/hatred, rejection of the foreigner, criminality, need for anarchy?

    I tend to side with Jim on this one - first, I'm not sure there is a "win" here, at least not one we can live with in terms of cost and time. And second, I suspect that nothing we achieve will be anything but ephemeral, making the whole game not worth the candle.

    But I don't get a say, so I have no doubt we will be fiddle-fucking around in south central Asia by the time my son is old enough to enlist...

  18. Trying to figure a rational way to win the Afghan civil war without intending to own Afghanistan at the end is a pointless exercise.

    That the USA is actually trying to do this tells you that the motivation for the war has nothing to do with Afghanistan and everything to do with the great game being fought in Washington. Look at the cost of the war versus the Afghan GDP.

    The causes and solutions to this conflict lie much closer to home than Helmand.

  19. To all,
    The 1st premise of COIN is a lie.We are not there to benefit the afgh people.
    I am a voice that will clearly state as i have since day 1-I DON'T CARE if the govt of IRAQ is better or worse than Saddams , nor do i care IF AFGH people are out from under the Taliban. None of this is my concern. Screw a bubch of Iraqis and Afghans, and throw in a whole bunch of Pakis to fill the cup.
    Why do we even pretend that we care? Why do we care? Really?
    I say the same for Haiti. None of this is pertinent to international policy-humanitarianism is not policy.
    The time has come to look at the needs and wants of middle America. When we use Predator missiles to kill individual riflemen then all our talk of humanitarianism is a joke. Surely this is evident to others.
    Our values are purely rhetoric that won't stand the light of inspection. Simply stated-i don't care who runs the shithole called AFGH.
    There, now i feel better.

  20. Thanks for taking this on, Seydlitz. Excellent job as always, but I fear neither Clausewitz nor Galula will provide a path forward.

    It's my sense that in Afghanistan and in Iraq, the US, the wanna-be hegemon, has just flat showed its ass. Adopting or even thinking about Clausewitz and Galula would evidence rational thought. Unfortunately, I'm hard pressed to find anything approaching rational thought in anything our wanna-be hegemon has done. I recall once about five years ago when my cousin the engineer asked me—viewed in the family as all-knowing in matters of national security—what we could hope to gain from the Iraqi invasion and the continued goat fuck in Afghanistan. He said, "Hey, if we're going in for oil, that's rational, but I see nothing rational here." Me: "You got it, buddy. Welcome to bizarro-land. Nothing rational here."

    So there's your problem. Don't look to the past; look to the present. Understand just how lacking our nation is in anything approaching strategic thought. There is no there there. Everything is being made up as they go along.

    Ael's got this one nailed: "That the USA is actually trying to do this tells you that the motivation for the war has nothing to do with Afghanistan and everything to do with the great game being fought in Washington. Look at the cost of the war versus the Afghan GDP."

    It's all masturbation. And I'm so resentful you can't believe it.

    I've always viewed these Bushian clusterfucks—now willingly inherited by Obama—as failing two prime tests. First, from a military standpoint, they fail the test of efficacy. They were probably always doomed to fail no matter what, but the antics of our politicians and our military geniuses have sealed the deal. We have just been wasting our time, our soldiers and our money since 2001. Trillions of dollars and thousands of lives, all squandered.

    Secondly, and here is where I line up firmly in my friend the Ranger's camp, we've shown ourselves to be totally unethical and immoral as a nation. Despite the promise of us as a nation—the city on the hill and all of that—we are asking our young people to engage in indefensible actions in support of criminals, all for the purpose of...what?

    The stupidity is astounding and the immorality of it all is breathtaking.

  21. What annoys me is that Obama messed up. He was given the premier general officer to fight a counter terrorism fight in Afghanistan, but I bet he let the COIN King, GEN P, talk him into using a COIN strategy instead. I could just imagine how excited GEN P was when McCrystal was assigned to him, all those years of JSOC stepping all over GEN P's commands over the years. Now he gets to tell Stan how things are going to be.

  22. The shorter version of the problem with attempting to come up with a "intellectual" military solution to Afghanistan:

  23. Thanks for all the comments, especially to FDChief for keeping me on the narrow path of what this thread was about . . . apply strategic theory to the current war in order to better understand the power relationships, which would be the first step in devising a workable policy. Strategic theory from this perspective never offers a "way forward", but rather provides a framework of what to see as important and what can be left aside, at least initially. It is a way of deciding on the strategic line of operations and how they can support a feasible policy. But as always the policy has to be based on reality on the ground and concern the actual power relationships, not on abstract principles blindly applied (with is in effect what COIN is doing now btw).

    So I'm very much in agreement with what Publius, FDChief and jim have posted in this regard, we haven't seen anything approaching a military strategy since 9/11 and there is currently little indication we will in the future. Our current situation reminds one mostly of 17th Century Spain lurching towards collapse, a hollow giant with a debased and decedent ruling class.

    That said and given the fact that David Galula's theory has been used more for domestic propaganda purposes and as the usual bait and switch to give some sense of rationality to what was otherwise simply remaining in theater operationally in support of what has been since at least 2003 a failed strategy. Perhaps there was a small window of opportunity to "reform" the Taliban during 2001-3, but that chance was pissed away long ago.

    My last point is that strategic theory remains applicable and Clausewitzian theory remains the best one we have developed so far. We are very much into fads and faddism, but this has done little to remove our widespread confusion which is based mostly imo on our willful inability to confront the political changes that have been forced on the country since 2001 (although the roots of these reach back much further). As long as we refuse to face the basic political questions concerning US foreign policies operating today we will never be able to turn the country away from the abyss which lies ahead . . .

    I've got a bit more to post on Galula including something for our Vietnam War Veteran friends which they may find interesting . . . a bit more to come.

  24. bg-

    Yes, that struck me as odd as well.

    Under his section on "Adaption of Minds", Galula talks about the slow pace of counterinsurgency warfare, "Reflexes and decisions that would be considered appropriate for the soldier in conventional [and JSOC-style?] warfare and for the civil servent in normal times are not necessarily the right ones in counterinsurgency situations."

    Not to mention the practical politics being played out at all levels in counterinsurgency, as compared to the hard-edged operational or strategic effect in support of national policy of special operations . . . like a different universe.

    How do you read both General P's and M's press interviews (both UK press and well-timed to be released during the London conference) and the willingness to negociate from a position of weakness, or is it that they expect a military triumph in Helmand province to turn everything around before the actual negotiations begin? But then reliance on military-defined "victories" is not what Galula has in mind, but rather military action providing the base for political operations at the local level. Especially not for openning negotiations with the enemy . . . which as I've said, in his view would most resemble an insurgency on the ropes.

    Could it be that the Obama administration - as well as the military - have read the writing on the wall and know that the Afghan war is unwinable for the US/NATO? Domestic politics being what they are, this cannot be stated openly of course . . .

  25. To all,
    Hope i'm OT.
    There cannot be any military or political victories in AFGH.
    Militarily there can only be the illusion of victory since this is the nature of insurgent warfare.I cringe calling it such.
    What kind of political victory can ever come from dealing with scum?
    It also jerks my ass hard when soldiers believe that we are fighting Terrorism in AFGH in 2010.
    How can anyone accept such hogwash.?

  26. Seydlitz, along with you, I suspect the Obama administration and even the generals are coming to the realization that Afghanistan can't be won militarily. Interesting to see McChrystal now talking openly about "dialogs," etc., and also telegraphing punches. Note he also isn't whining about insufficient manpower.

    IMO, the question isn't if we're going to abandon our absurd infatuation with COIN, it's when. Watch Biden. He's Obama's stalking horse. What's going to be interesting is watching to see if the political weenies can do any better than the military weenies. I think so, if for no other reason than that our military geniuses have set the bar so low.

    "It also jerks my ass hard when soldiers believe that we are fighting Terrorism in AFGH in 2010.
    How can anyone accept such hogwash.?"

    Jerks my ass, too, Ranger. One of the things that's saddened me greatly has been the corruption of a generation of officers and soldiers. Not corruption in the usual sense, but corruption in the sense that, as an institution, the US military is becoming bereft of values and seldom thinks, meaning it is accordingly fertile ground for the machinations of right-wingers who need merely shout "national security" to gain the love of people the taxpayers pay to think.

    You know, this whole COIN business would have been made easier for the military and the nation if the generals and the CIA chieftains gave a shit about intelligence collection. Although I doubt it, it might even have worked. But because of the "kill a commie for Christ" mentality prevalent within military and other national security circles, old-fashioned clandestine collection was viewed as not fitting for "real men." Naw, "real men" do para-military stuff and launch drones.

    Check the "tradecraft" employed by CIA and you'll no longer wonder how eight of their folks were greased. Think about that and the state of Army and USMC intel when you read Flynn's whining.

    Absent intel, COIN can't work. So our "leaders" invest all in COIN, but forget about doing intel the old-fashioned way. Talk to old-timers. Our intelligence system is totally on its ass, another casualty of 9/11.

  27. Publius-

    Agree. Intelligence since 9/11 has been imo all about giving the executive the powerpoint slides necessary to convince the Congress (along with lots of winks and nods) and the American public to do what they are already decided to do. A sad state of affairs.

    Of course we should also include the actions of Sec of Def Dick Cheney back in the early 1990s when he gutted military intelligence's Humint capability. As you know shotgun figured that after Gulf War I and the end of the Cold War "intelligence" was only going to come out of some big expensive high-tech gizmo . . . How well that vision as served us.

    Why not do a post on the current state of US Intelligence . . . ?

  28. Along with the pure problem of intel collection is the question of analysis. We've seen consistently since 2001 that a hell of a lot of the raw intel has been cooked, suppressed, inflated and otherwise warped to meet the needs of the people running this fucking bake sale.

    So merely reestablishing intel collection and HUMINT capability - assuming that this was practical in geologic time - might not help any with the prosecution of these filibusters.

  29. FDChief-

    Agree, both analysis and collection have been hopelessly corrupted . . .

  30. "The curious inability of policymakers to view Afghanistan in its own context – choosing to see it as it is, rather than what they wish it to be – reveals a worrying artifact of American policy. The political and military leadership of the war have eschewed a difficult, complex view of the country (despite always proclaiming that they understand its complexity), and seem intent on relying on assumptions and quick fixes instead. Until that mindset changes, until there is an appreciation for the unique features of Afghanistan’s social fabric, we can expect the war to continue to unravel before our eyes."

    This is what I was talking about:

    Worth reading the entire article

  31. Seydlitz,

    "How do you read both General P's and M's press interview"

    I am afraid I don't have any insight on this one. I am about as far removed from this problem set (AFG) as I could be and still be on Active Duty. I've been reading about the ongoing "assault", said to be the biggest offensive in the war. At first glance, it sounds kind of silly, but it reminds me a lot of Fallujah. Say what you want, the Marines did an excellent job in Fallujah, no COIN there, that was classic street fighting and was executed beautifully with tactical deception and solid TTPs. And it did make a difference in the fight in the Western desert. It was a turning point and IMO eventually led to setting the conditions that allowed the politicians to claim victory and leave. So perhaps this little battle for a reported key logistics node will be just that, the pyrrhic victory needed to give the politicians the excuse to leave "without tucking tail".

    I greatly respect LTG McCrystal, and despite some strong disagreements, I do respect GEN P. I fully believe that they are executing based on guidance given to them, and I believe that guidance is "get the hell out without making it look like we are running away." I stand by my previous statement, this "Surge" will be a success, no matter what, and the 2011 Presidential campaign will include a platform of bringing all the troops home from both theaters.


    "Jerks my ass, too, Ranger. One of the things that's saddened me greatly has been the corruption of a generation of officers and soldiers."

    Don't give up on us yet. There are plenty who eat this stuff up with a spoon and ask for more, but there are a great deal who see right through it. When I was one of them, eating it up with a spoon, I used to think I was in the vast majority. But after a few years, I've come to learn I was only in the loud minority. The question in my mind, is not what percentage of this generation will learn what, it is which group will ultimately succeed in obtaining the top leadership positions that will influence our Army's next generation.

  32. All,

    Been busy, so am late to this thread. I don't really have any comment on your post Seydlitz other than to say I thought it was excellent. I'm currently taking a graduate course on intelligence support and covert action in "small wars" so I've been reading a lot on this topic and am a bit burned out.

    I agree with bg that soldiers who drink the "we are fighting terrorists" koolaid are a minority. Typically they are junior folks who haven't deployed in my experience. Just last month while on orders I spent some time mentoring a young airmen after he gave an intel brief using "terrorists" in place of the Taliban, HIQ, etc. That is very rare though.

  33. Zenpundit's picked up on this . . . a nice plug for MilPub . . .

  34. To all,
    Calling Fallujah anything but bullshit is fantasy.
    So we go in and destroy a town, deny care to wounded, close hospitals and kill the hell out of a bunch of people that don't want us in their country, and especially in their town.
    Just like Grenada it proves that a whole bunch of Americans can kick ass on a little guy any day of the week
    This was not HUE.
    Having a large offensive in AFGH will be as productive as tits on a bull frog.

  35. Jim,

    If winning a largely publicized, pyrrihic victory in Fallujah or AFG gives politicians a way to save face and pull out, you wouldn't consider that productive if the end result is American withdrawal and an end to the Bull Shit?

  36. Jim: While I cede to no one my belief that the Iraq foolishness will yield no lasting benefit to the western hemisphere, in terms of purely tactical success Fallujah was in retrospect pretty much both the start and the finish of the first round of the Sunni rebellion.

    Let's not forget that Fallujah was where my homeboys in the 82nd kicked things off by shooting down civvies in the Bloody Sunday of the sunni provinces back in '03, AND where the fuckin' nimrods from Blackwater amped things up by getting their dumb asses killed, cooked and hung from bridges.

    But the SECOND battle of Fallujah - give blame where blame is due, the first round was fucked up like a football bat - drove home the hopelessness of open armed rebellion to the Sunnis. They realized that the USMC and USA were the fully bought-and-paid-for militia of the Shia government, who would not have a problem if they laid waste to every goddam Sunni stronghold. The muj had no answer for that except to hope to peel the U.S. off the Shia a bit. Hence the "Sons of Iraq" or whatever the fuck we're calling them nowadays.

    This in turn - and bg points out - has let us "declare victory and get out".

    I would be willing to bet that if the Talibs had any sense they'd let something similar happen in the south, let the Yankees strut and preen, leave a "stable" government in Kabul, and then two years down the road...endgame.

    We here in the live-for-the-moment West seem to forget this is Asia, where the "short-term" plan is seen in generations...

  37. To all, The only pull out that would've worked in IRQ was if it had been done by GHWB. Same AFGH. The battles in US cities are the only ones of significance to this old coot. Fuck a bunch of politicians and fuck a larger group of soldiers that think they are politicians. We sure have evolved our way of applying logic and it is a embarrassment. I'm sure this thinking really rings the bells of Mothers/Fathers/Wives/Husbands of those soldiers whacked in thies battles. On both sides.Do lifers ever consider this?Are lives now political capital?

  38. Jim: If as soldiers we don't realize that our lives and those of the guys to our left, right and rear are so many coins to rattle for the various factions we're kidding ourselves.

    Perhaps when the enlisted ranks are full of draftees...maybe. But now? Hell, we might as well bring back Marius' 25-year enlistment.

    One of my issues with a small professional Army is that it encourages republics to act like empires. What is the substantive difference between our socially segregated, politically and intellectually isolated Army and the guys who policed the frontiers of Imperial Britain for a century?

  39. Chief,

    "What is the substantive difference between our socially segregated, politically and intellectually isolated Army and the guys who policed the frontiers of Imperial Britain for a century?"

    I think there are many differences.

    1. In the imperial armies of pre WWI, a soldier spent the vast majority of their career abroad policing the empire, and only brief stints at home (the opposite of today). That would naturally isolate the imperial soldiers as you suggest, but I don't think today's soldiers are as isolated. They are the vast minority, but not isolated. And this reversal of time home vs. forward also has many implications on how the soldiers interacted with the culture (for good and bad discussed below).

    2. I am not sure what you mean by politically isolated. Back in the intel dump days, I remember a discussion about how the Army times revealed the perception that the vast majority of volunteer army were Republicans, or at least conservative, but the polls showed that it was closer to 35/35 with 30% independent, a near perfect mirror of the rest of society. I find more correlation with duty position and political affiliation/orientation than anything else, but I wouldn't say that anyone is isolated.

    3. I think a BIG professional army encourages republics to act like empires, small ones can't do it. That is why until WWII our country always tended to keep a small standing arm, am I wrong?

    4. I would be interested to see a comparative psychological profile between the two (the imperial army service members and our AVF). I bet we would see a difference.

    5. The very fact that the imperial armies lived in the countries they occupied and raised their families there completely changes the dynamics of their attitude towards policies in the country and the people as compared to the AVF that shows up for a year or less and goes home regardless of any changes that took place. This can be good and bad, the imperial armies could actually take time to learn the culture and language but, for each who tried to simply assimilate into the culture, there were probably three more who was intent upon changing the local culture to match theirs (i.e., introduce cricket, my God why would anyone watch that game).

    One separate comment on the term "professional". I know in this context, professional probably means someone who does something for a career. One thing that has always bothered me about the "professional" army is that very few are actually "professionals". I blame that on our professional education system, it is total bull shit. Every mandatory professional education course is dumbed down to the lowest denominator and fails to challenge anyone except the weakest of the bunch. Sorry for the tangent rant.

  40. Chief,
    Sorry about my run on cmt but that was the machine and not me.
    My only cmt is that what we call victories in the PWOT are nothing but pissing up a rope. None of our combat efforts affect the security of my hometown one iota.
    NAPOLEON said that an Army travels on it's stomach and Hruska says it runs on Awards and Decorations.That seems to roll the train these days.
    I thought Marius started the stop loss program.

  41. Gee guys, I don't know how anyone can watch this idiotic nonsense and think it's anything but idiotic nonsense. Petraeus and McChrystal are the best friends Al Qaeda has. I've said it before and I'll say it again: keeping Robert Gates at DoD was a terrible mistake. I'm actually starting to think that it would have been better to elect Hillary Clinton president simply because she would surely have appointed a democrat as SecDef.

    But I'm in a bad mood because the S. Ct. ordered a new round of briefs in the Kiyemba case yesterday. They did so because the Swiss agreed to take in the one remaining Uighur detainee who had not received an offer from any country (because he has developed severe mental problems during his eight years of unlawful detention by US war criminals) and his brother, who refused to leave Gitmo without him. That leaves five more detainees who have offers from Palau, a tiny little backward island in the South Pacific, which some of the other accepted, but these five don't want to go.

    So this morning I found myself thinking about a military scenario that might be an interesting change of pace here, so I guess I'll send my notes to FDC and see if he thinks it might be fodder for a guest post.

  42. Charles,
    During the VN war there was a myth of the Black Clap and an island where they sent you IF you contracted same.
    Why don't we just pretend all these detainees have the Black Clap and detain them for medical purposes?
    This makes as much sense as all our changing /unchanging policies to date.

  43. Charly, looking forward to the post.

    I disagree with your characterization of GEN P and McCrystal. You are right in stating that the problem is at the National Command level, they are the guys who are telling the Generals where to fight and for what objectives (in theory). While I do at times question GEN P's motives in regards to personal glory, I don't blame the generals because I fully believe that the vast majority of their decisions are based on doing the best they can with what they got. It is the career politicians and bureaucrats who direct policy that is feeding AQ, and their motives is what I question. I suppose the Generals could walk away, but if they do someone else will just step into their place and follow through with the plan (i.e. when Shinseki left).

    Which Dem do you have in mind to replace Gates? And would that Dem set politics aside and do what is right? Correct me if I am wrong, but didn't Obama select a Dem as the Attorney General, and when he tried to try GITMO detainees in the US as a law enforcement issue, didn't politics get in the way and force him away from that course of action? If a Dem was put in as the SecDef and he/she tried to make a bold move and just pull all troops out, don't you feel that politics would have thwarted that plan similar to what happened with the Attorney General, or am I not reading the situation correctly?

  44. FDChief,
    I've been thinking about your cmts on imperial armies etc.and the interplay with USA.
    I'm not sure that i agree with your take at all.
    It really doesn't seem to matter in the US experience whether we are drafted or tricked into AVF bullshit. You know-the few,the proud,the unemployed.
    It doesn't matter if it's the pre ww2 regular army. All of these in the US playbook will do exactly as directed b/c they believe the bullshit and have true believer staus from the NCO/O corps.That's why we have West Point.
    Look at Korea,Dom Rep,Berlin Airlift,Cuban missile crisis,VN. All of these share 1 element-the military lock stepped and saluted smartly and then ran around in little circles.
    It doesn't matter what kind of military we have as long as the propaganda is red ,white and blue.Just thinking about it makes me want to polish my helmet.

  45. Well we've had this conversation before bg. I don't just think that they are war criminals who are are a disgrace to everything this nation is supposed to stand for, I think they are worthless, incompetent fools who are a disgrace to the profession of arms.

    As for Holder, he is (or was) nominally in charge of the (count them) three detainee policy reviews, but in reality, each of the three committees is a joint DOJ-DoD enterprise and DoD is by far the dominant partner because it's even more saturated with with neo-con holdovers than DOJ is. That was Obama's second big mistake: not firing every subversive in both departments who was hired by the Bush gang over the eight years they were in office.

    What Democrat would I appoint? Joe Lieberman, just to get him out of the Senate. Then I'd fire him as soon as it was convenient and appoint someone decent. As for doing what's right, I know what I think is right: the total evacuation of all US forces except the Navy from the Middle East, and I do mean total. I would not even want embassies in Iraq or Afghanistan. I might even go so far as to disband the US Army entirely, but I'd start by firing most of the generals and shrinking it by 50% or so.

    What do you think is right?

    These idiotic phony 'wars' are pure suicidal insanity, and a complete waste of time, money, and lives, aside from the fact that they are also criminal enterprises in the same sense that the mafia is. The only significant differences are that the mafia makes money and doesn't murder nearly as many people as the army and air force do.

  46. Charly, you can always send whatever you'd like to post to me. I'd be more than happy to assist you. FWIW, I'm not so sure I'd go so far as to characterize Petraeus and McChrystal as war criminals—you know my feelings in this area—but I do agree they are worthless and incompetent. In fairness to Bg, he's on active duty and some of what we discuss is a vast leap for him. Don't be too hard on him. I think his heart is in the right place.

    Bg: this is for you. ConLaw, probably at the 3-400 level. Interesting thing is that Holder actually MUST try KSM and the Detroit Nigerian in the US—in a civilian court—and that they actually do have to get all constitutional protections. No one who's been picked up in the US can go to the military commissions, no matter their citizenship or origin. This is settled case law, going back more than 100 years. Furthermore, the Supremes have already ruled that Gitmo detainees get habeus and all of the rest of the goodies.

    The military commissions themselves are suspect for any number of reasons, but no matter how much the mayor of New York may whine, KSM must be tried in New York, certainly if the death penalty is in play. Holder doesn't have all of the leeway you might think. This isn't just a political issue; as constitutional officers, Holder and Obama are bound to do certain things. This is kind of refreshing actually, to think that a president and attorney general might think that the Constitutional applies to their actions.

    Would that all of us constitutional officers think the same, eh?

  47. Charly,

    "What do you think is right? "

    I agree totally with your recommendation to downsize the military by 50% (but it has to be down smartly and slowly), and the Army can probably take the biggest hit (and this is coming from an Active Duty Army Officer) leaving Navy and AF for force projection and humanitarian relief (no other US Govt department could have done what DoD did in Haiti). And most of the generals do need to go, we have more generals today than we did in WWII (so the urban myth goes, haven't been able to verify it but I believe it).

    But before you do that, we have to leave Iraq and Afg. I wouldn't go to zero manning. I wouldn't abandon the embassies. To me, that is what we have done in Cuba and Iran, and I don't think that cutting political ties is the way to go (I would ask both countries to return and invite them to return to the US). I would bring 95% of the troops home in the shortest time possible (logistics is a bitch) and would leave a small force of advisors, trainers and counter terrorism (SOF) similar to Colombia (if requested by host nation), and I would place the countries back to Title 50 (DoS / CIA run) with DoD in a supporting effort. The objectives of the remaining forces? Support to intelligence collection (there are still bad guys) and military training and advising if requested by the host government. And if military forces are requested for that purpose, that nation will partially pay for the cost if they can (Iraq can).

  48. Publius,
    Mc C is an assassin and P unleashed him with the approval of the NCA.
    Killing is what soldiers do in combat-assasination is what criminals do.
    Like bg i must bring you along slowly. We are both alike in the sense that we want it not to be true ,but it is.

  49. You misunderstand me bg. I wouldn't cut off diplomatic relations with Iraq or Afghanistan, I just wouldn't want any US personnel in either country until well after they get their civil wars resolved without any further interference from us. I don't want any US advisors, trainers, etc. They can train themselves a lot better than we have over the last eight years. We can handle consular relations through the Swiss or another third party.

    As for Cuba and Iraq, it's idiotic that we don't have normal relations with both right now. I don't even care if Iran develops nukes -- Pakistan and Israel having nukes is what worries me.


    Here's some fresh insight on the situation of Eric Holder...

    February 15, 2010
    by Scott Horton

  50. bg: Based on my experience, I can't see how a GI in Fayetteville or Kileen is all that much more isolated from the modern reality of the U.S., 2010, than an officer of the 5th Gurka Rifles in Quetta in 1890. At least in Quetta he could get 4-months old copies of the London Times from which he would get a less skewed view of the world than the GI gets from the FOX News which is always on in the food court at the PX.

    The problem with our present situation is that we have 1) an Army with a now sixty-year history of expeditionary warfare that is 2) too large to be defeated and too small and too expensive to be worth throwing at these shitty little imperial wars. The Brits and French managed their empires by direct rule and by doing most of the policing with locals officered by imperials - look at my post last month on Isandlwana; we think of it as a bunch of white soldiers slaughtered by African troops, but the bulk of the column was African levies with white officers. The problem the Brits had was their local levies were shit (Afghan Police, anyone?), not that they were somehow undermanned with imperial soldiers.

    I'd go with you and Charles - we need to start getting it into our heads that unless we want to rule the place, sending our maneuver elements is foolish and insanely expensive. And it becomes all that AND pointless when we try this stuff in places where there is no effective local governance. Silly and self-defeating.

    And I'm seriously baffled about what to do about our senior officer situation. We seem to have managed to perfect the process of weeding out most of Clausewitz's other three categories of officer at the GO level and left ourselves with either the energetic and stupid or the (subset of this type) shrewd and shortsighted (shrewdness being the one-dimensional aspect of intelligence). I don't think that Petraeus or McChrystal are either nefarious or criminal; I think they're the worst kind of slippery careerist who will do anything but put their honor and career on the line when it comes to nut-cutting time and the truth needs to be told.

  51. And re: the isolation of the modern U.S. Army, we used to have this discussion at the old Dump and one of the commentors - I wish I could remember who (was it the guy who went by "almostdrafted"?) - used to rail all the time about the closure of military posts, ROTC programs and USAR/ARNG positions in and near the major cities and the effective relocation of the Army to the rural South?

    Man has a point. Think about it - outside of FLWA and FDNY, is there a major post north of the Mason Dixon line?

  52. "On the eve of embarking on a major effort, the counterinsurgent faces what is probably the most difficult problem of the war: He has to arm himself with a competing cause. Let us eliminate the easy cases - easy as analytical problems - brielfly described as follows:
    1. The insurgent has really no cause at all; he is exploiting the counterinsurgent's weakness and mistakes. Such seems to be the situation in South Vietnam today. The Vietcong cannot clamor for land, which is plentiful in South Vietnam; nor raise the banner of anticolonialism, for South Vietnam is no longer a colony; nor offer Communism, which does not appear to be very popular with the North Vietnamese population. The insurgent's program is simply: "Throw the rascals out." If the "rascals" (whoever is in power in Saigon) amend their ways, the insurgent would lose his cause."

    Counterinsurgency Warfare, p. 71

    It would seem that in Galula's perspective, the US by entering the war in Vietnam actually provided the North Vietnamese with a cause, not only to use against the South, but to solidify support at home.


    bg's comment on Fallujha has got me thinking . . . will post something new soon.

  53. Chief,

    "how a GI in Fayetteville or Kileen is all that much more isolated from the modern reality of the U.S...GI gets from the FOX News which is always on in the food court at the PX"

    A soldier in Bagram or Baghdad has every form of communication with home as you do sitting in your home office (which is a huge difference from the deployed imperial soldiers). Whether home or deployed, soldiers today are very much in touch with the world at home (at least, as much as the average American, but in my experience, more than the average American due to their own experiences abroad). regarding Fox news, this used to be true, but today, a large majority of soldiers consider it Fox entertainment news. The most common channel we kept in our TOC was Al Jazeera English. You will see more US soldiers interviewed on AJE daily than you will on all American networks combined in a week.

    I know you guys all like to lump GEN Mc with GEN P, as a slick careerist, etc. Easy to say when you don't know them, hell, I bet none of you even heard of GEN McCrystal before he got appointed to Afghanistan. Where I agree with your comments, in general, regarding senior leaders, GEN Mc is not in that category. Jim in right, he is an assassin, that is what he is paid to do. That is what we do. No delusions here. But he is not a bad officer, he is among the most solid senior leaders I've met in my career.

    It was IRRSoldier (something like that) who used to talk all the time about recruiting, reserves, etc. He did always have some very interesting and well informed things to say. Regarding post locations, not sure if this was intentional, but at this site we tend to be so Army heavy in all discussions. You forgot Ft Carson, but what about Air Force? There are a number of AF and even a couple Navy bases in the north. I guess Alaska doesn't count, but that is two more Army posts plus AF. According to wiki, there are only two states in the union with no military posts (RI, NH). I think military posts are where they need to be to meet the mission of the unit that is there, no other reasons.

  54. "Like bg i must bring you along slowly. We are both alike in the sense that we want it not to be true ,but it is."

    Ranger: Give it your best shot, but I warn you, I'm a tough sell. I'm very well aware of McChrystal's background and role in the scheme of things. Our laws, which specifically call out "war crimes," do not support your thesis. I'm not aware of any war crimes committed by McChrystal or Petraeus. Although McChrystals's previous assignments may suggest he's been involved in activities that are abhorrent to some, it's also the case that such activities are perfectly legal under our laws. In fact, I'm sure he's got medals to show for his work.

    Think of this way, Ranger. Take a clandestine intelligence officer, doing his bit for God and country. And it can be one of any number of countries because a lot of them employ such people. Our hypothetical case officer may routinely violate the laws of other countries, and also be rewarded by his own country. Crazy? Maybe, but until we get to that nirvana called one-world government, we're going to be tribal and we're going to do "bad" things to others in the name of our own tribe.

    McChrystal strikes me as being a glory dog who who's quite adept at cultivating our mediocre and lazy media—I love those adoring one meal a day, four hours sleep stories—but a criminal? Nah.

    Bg: "I think military posts are where they need to be to meet the mission of the unit that is there, no other reasons."

    Actually, Bg, I think you're being a little naive here. The majority of bases/posts are in the south for good reason. First, land is usually cheaper. Additionally, the populace is friendlier. And let's not forget that Southern congress critters are usually there for life, which means they amass power inordinate to their state's ranking in population, etc. Taking care of Senator-for-life Hoof and Mouth with a robust military presence—meaning local jobs and a boost to local economies—can make a friend for life. That's important during budget crises and in politicking for acquisition of the newest wonder weapon.

    Base presence or the lack thereof can be used as either carrot or stick. During the early BRAC rounds back in the 80s and 90s, the departure of the Navy from the SF Area was known as the "Admirals' Revenge," referring to the less-than-kind welcome accorded service personnel returning from Vietnam.

    Yeah, it was IRRSoldier who had the skinny about the recruiting and ROTC game. He wouldn't agree with you about "posts being where they need to be to meet the mission of the unit that is there, no other reasons." He'd tell you ROTC is concentrated in southern states and in less-than-elite institutions because aspirants tend to ask fewer penetrating questions. He'd also mention some things about race and privilege.

  55. IMT CHARTER (1945)

    Article 6. [...]

    The following acts, or any of them, are crimes coming within the jurisdiction of the Tribunal for which there shall be individual responsibility:

    (a) CRIMES AGAINST PEACE: namely, planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression, or a war in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances, or participation in a common plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of any of the foregoing;

    (b) WAR CRIMES: namely, violations of the laws or customs of war. Such violations shall include, but not be limited to, murder, ill-treatment or deportation to slave labor or for any other purpose of civilian population of or in occupied territory, murder or ill-treatment of prisoners of war or persons on the seas, killing of hostages, plunder of public or private property, wanton destruction of cities, towns or villages, or devastation not justified by military necessity;

    (c)CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY: namely, murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation, and other inhumane acts committed against any civilian population, before or during the war; or persecutions on political, racial or religious grounds in execution of or in connection with any crime within the jurisdiction of the Tribunal, whether or not in violation of the domestic law of the country where perpetrated.

    Leaders, organizers, instigators and accomplices participating in the formulation or execution of a common plan or conspiracy to commit any of the foregoing crimes are responsible for all acts performed by any persons in execution of such plan.

    Article 7.

    The official position of defendants, whether as Heads of State or responsible officials in Government Departments, shall not be considered as freeing them from responsibility or mitigating punishment.

    Article 8.

    The fact that the Defendant acted pursuant to order of his Government or of a superior shall not free him from responsibility, but may be considered in mitigation of punishment if the Tribunal determines that justice so requires.


    There isn't any doubt that both have been feeding detainees into the unlawful detention / torture mill, but it's the indiscriminate attacks on civilians (both in Iraq and Afghanistan) that really pisses me off.

  56. Chief:

    You speak of "IRR Soldier?"
    How bout "IRR Soulja?"

    The man who disdained the JohnnyRebification of the Armed Forces, and who oft pissed of MSR. Many a time and oft did I Sig Heil his missives. In the near future, I shall toast his memory with a glass of Claret....and think, as well, of the fallen at Isandlwana.....,"Bwana!"
    As I'm sure does 'is Lordship Chelmsford, in what passes for 'is Raj in the skye.

  57. Publius,
    Yes,i know ,you are a hard sell, but i'm not on commission so f..k it.
    The point is that your hypothetical intel ofcr is only breaking laws of the host nation,and i'll assume that this does not include assassination.No problemo.
    The secret society that we've built around the secret society of SPECOPS has effectively blocked all oversight of their actions to include many violations of international law.We accept black ops as legitimate when in fact they are designed to skirt legality.
    We still don't know how many secret prisoners may be/or not held in AFGH. McC is the CDR so he's responsible.
    Contrary to what is said by Active duty bullshit assassination is NOT a military term.
    Killing on the battlafield is an entirely different ball of wax. I've done an essay on this at RAW to be pubbed this week re Khadr. In effect we are saying that we can kill the hell out of them in their own country, but when they kill one of us on the battlefield then they are murderers,this is emotional thinking.Pls remember that always listed as a Terrorist tactic
    It's weak mindedness that thinks assassination is a legal tool. Nobody ever were prosecuted for Phoenix Program even though it was a criminal activity. US soldiers and agents CANNOT legally whack citizens of another country whatever the reason.Being a Commie/terrorist is not an automatic death sentence to be inflicted at the discretion of a CIA agent or military commander.
    We have crossed into some dangerous terrain and we fail to acknowledge this fact.OPSEC and security classifications were not designed to hide criminality, unless we have adopted 3rd Reich protocols.
    This is a touch much for a non lawyer to attempt to analyze.

  58. Charlie,my man,get a grip.
    Gen McC just yesterday apologized for the killing of the 12 civilians in the glorious battle presently raging in AFGH.
    This makes it alright.

  59. Publius,

    Points well taken, IRR wouldn't agree with me. That was meant to be written as "he makes great points, but here I disagree." You are right though, bases are throughout the US, but Army bases that have endured and grown have been in the south for reasons you list (cheap land and good weather, IMO, being important reasons, along with the Life long senators as we saw in Hawaii where military posts remained everywhere despite high land prices).

    But I stand by my point that as a group, in this blog site we tend to be very Army heavy in our assertions and discussions and tend to ignore DoD as a whole, we very very rarely discuss Marines, AF or Navy. Not sure if that is because we use the term "Army" and "soldiers" as a catch all phrase for military. But as everyone on this site knows, the branches are very distinct each with their own culture, set of problems, etc.

  60. Charly,

    "There isn't any doubt that both have been feeding detainees into the unlawful detention / torture mill, but it's the indiscriminate attacks on civilians (both in Iraq and Afghanistan) that really pisses me off."

    I know we've talked about this before, but it still isn't sinking in, so please bear with me.

    No doubt that we have been feeding this system with detainees. No doubt, I have a role in this process. And I agree, based on the evidence you've provided, the legality of the way these detainees are being treated after capture is very much an issue.

    But...if you are part of the machine, and you have what appear to be legal orders, as per your own lawyers, to kill/capture individuals identified by the national command authority, should each soldier from the top down, be reasonably expected to go against what is being described to them as legal orders based upon their own layman's understanding of the law? Is there is a reasonable expectation for them to do it? As simple and black and white as you lay it out, surely it is hard for the average person to feel reasonably justified in believing their understanding of the law is more accurate than trained legal professionals (especially to the point where their objection risks their career).

    As far as indiscriminate attacks, please define indiscriminate. I want to use the definition: haphazard, random, without regard. Do you feel that the military, specifically these leaders are haphazardly or randomly dropping bombs or pulling triggers without regard for civilians? Do you feel that these leaders look at a target and say, "Civilians, I don't care, bomb it!" Do you really feel that indiscriminate is the right word? Dead is dead, regardless of whether it was indiscriminate or accidental/unintended, but the words you choose have a connotation which seem unfair. (I would say your words are indiscriminate, but I know you are using them purposefully). I really want to understand you view and your reason for feeling these attacks "indiscriminate". Would "discriminate" attacks that result in killing civilians be any better? No, of course not, so why say "indiscriminate" unless you intend to defame someone's efforts especially when you have no evidence of "discriminate" vs. "indiscriminate".

  61. bg,

    The air-strike on al-Zarqawi in Iraq is a classic example. The air-strike on those two gas tankers stranded in the river a month or two ago is another.

    They murdered twelve more yesterday in the current idiotic offensive. They claim they "missed," but based on eight years of endless lying BS and excuses I can't imagine why anyone would believe anything the US Army says about anything.

    And as we discussed recently, there simply are no legitimate military objectives in Afghanistan, just as there are none in Iraq. Both of these idiotic, phony wars are simply crimes against peace at this point. Worse, they are both an utterly pointless waste of time as was proved BARD years ago. If this is the best our military can do, we'd be better off with no military at all. As it stands, the US military is on a moral par with Nazi Germany.

    As for orders, read what the IMT Charter says about that. Equally, it is a breach of military duty to either issue or obey an unlawful order, and a breach of military discipline to act on an order which you do not understand.

    I appreciate the dilemma, but after eight years it's simply preposterously credulous to suppose there is a dilemma. Idiocy and criminality just don't get any more clear than this.

  62. Charlie,
    I think the that the military mind just doesn't get what you are saying b/c we are a nuclear power that can blow away the entire world if we so desired.
    So who can sweat the small stuff? What me worry?
    We ended the cold war which was based on the premise that we would light up Europe like a Christmas tree simply to defend it from the nasty commies.
    We destroy villages to protect them, and of course some asshole Officer then tells us that the Taliban forced this action b/c they used the civilians as shields. And this makes everything good,forget the dead bodies just littering the landscape.Oops-xin loi.
    In Nuclear Weapons Employment Training in the 70's it was OFFICIAL POLICY that we accepted 35% civilian casualties as the starting point for our planning.Now just think about Europe and what that meant,and we didn't have a clue why the Euros didn't want our nucs in their countries.
    Now we get our shorts in a wad over nucs that Iran doesn't even possess.
    We lack the ability to think about what it all means.
    Hope this helps you to understand the blockheadedness that you fight so stubbornly.

  63. Charly,

    From an ethical perspective, or a rules of warfare perspective, is there a difference between bombing Zarqawi and killing his closest associates (I suppose since none of them were uniformed, they were all civilians, Zarqawi included) and between an attempt to assassinate Hitler which might have resulted in Eva Braun and house staff getting killed? Please, I know that Zarqawi is hardly Hitler, he was a bad guy that we created so that we could have a "face" on our enemy, but without getting hung up on that piece of the analogy, what do you say?

    I guess the reason I often believe what is put in the press by the Army is because in my experience, I've never seen anything put out in the press that was absolutely untrue that wasn't revealed as a lie by a whistle blower. I heard about Abu Gurayb in Oct 03, and was warned to stay away from there because bad stuff was happening. A few months later, it broke in the news. One fact I don't think you can dispute is that the military tends to receive very idealistic people. You many have 95% who salute and drive on regardless of what happens, but in just about every situation, you will find someone who will do what they consider right, regardless of the consequences. And that includes leaking classified information and whistle blowing. I've seen it many times, and for that reason I know that covering up bad things doesn't work. Well, we have a saying, "bad news doesn't get better over time, it just smells worse."

    As far as the dilemma, I know you understand it. I fully understand legal vs. illegal orders, and my duties when I receive and illegal order. But, the dilemma remains, should we reasonably expect a military member, senior leader or junior soldier, to question an order that is considered "legal" by the highest levels of our government, and every lawyer in between the POTUS and your local JAG?

  64. bg,

    My understanding is that his wife and 8-year old daughter were killed. It is also my understanding that we had adequate forces on hand to completely surround the location and take him prisoner or at least allow the civilians an opportunity to get out.

  65. bg,

    As for the military, I never been in myself but I've been studying military history seriously since age nine. I think military people are just like every body else. Most perform within the limits of basic competence and try to do their job without getting themselves or their buddies or their subordinates killed. Some are fools or cowards who have no business being responsible for anything, and some are psychopaths or martinets who are a danger to everyone around them. T'was ever thus -- the Greeks and Romans were just the same.

    But organizations and cultures go through cycles, and we are clearly in a down-swing that got massively worse under the subversion of the Bush-Cheney gang. THERE IS NO EXCUSE FOR BEHAVING LIKE NAZIS, AND THERE IS NO EXCUSE FOR GOING ALONG WITH SUCH PEOPLE.

    And I'd suggest you read the JUDGMENT of the Nuremberg Tribunal from start to finish.

  66. Charly, re: Zarqawi, no, we did not have adequate forces to surround the area. We had a small handful of troops in hide sites with "eyes on key enablers", the rest of the force was miles away in helicopters/trucks. Believe it or not, surrounding a farm in Iraq is actually very hard to do, partly because your cordon forces are spotted so early there is lots of time to escape. Hard to explain it to you fully, but often times we don't actually see him, but we know he is there. Once you upset the situation with ground troops, they scatter and you no longer know where (or who) your target is. Sorry for being cryptic, trust me, if it was as simple as a capture, it would have been done, we tried. A capture is worth a lot more than a kill due to intelligence value. When you bomb a house, not only do you kill the people, but often you incinerate much of the evidence against them and the valuable intelligence. And bombing also comes at great risk from a public relations stand point, so it is NEVER the preferred option.

    But again, from an ethical perspective, is killing Zarqawi's wife and child any different from killing Hitler's family and house staff in an assassination attempt? If we define the difference as a war vs. a law enforcement issue, I agree. But Iraq wasn't treated as an LE, despite what the fact that we really believe it should have been.

    I want to comment on the Judgement later, thanks for the link.

  67. bg,

    I can believe that you sincerely believe what you're saying, but the fact remains:

    I don't believe you, and I don't believe the US Army because I've heard them lie too many times about crap like this, Pat Tillman for example.

    You say it couldn't be done, yet you describe a situation where it's completely obvious that it could have been done, except somebody decided doing his job was too difficult or risky, ergo, time for some CYA. It's just so easy to kill them all and let god sort them. If you asked me to authorize that air-strike, what you'd get is an order to unload your weapons, fix bayonets, and either take the place by assault without firing a shot or die trying.

    And it *IS* a law enforcement situation to whatever extent you might have a colorable claim to be doing anything legitimate, but you really can't claim any such thing. The bottom line for me is simple: NOTHING the US has done in Iraq from start to current lingering fiasco is worth the life of that one little girl. We are war criminals; she is one of the countless innocent victims of our crimes. The same is true of Afghanistan since the success / failure of the initial invasion.

    Military operations are supposed to have a rational, lawful purpose. Ours don't, as we have discussed previously. Afghanistan and Iraq are purely for political expedience, both are a disgraceful waste of resources, and both have accomplished nothing but make a bad situation worse.

    And see my last comment on Seylitz' recent thread: the lives of the children in Iraq and Afghanistan are more important than your career. Worse, if what we're doing in those places is legitimate, then 911 was also legitimate -- and a whole lot more effective. Do you really suppose these people don't have a right to defend themselves from our endless aggression and interference?

    Omar Khadr is a perfect example of the hypocrisy of all this idiocy. The kid is fifteen years old, and he's in a house that's hit with an air-strike. Our troops then enter the house shooting the wounded as they go, Omar being shot twice in the back. And now we're charging him with murder for a grenade attack that he was obviously in no shape to make, and which would only be an act of self-defense even if he did make it. Fraticide seems a much more likely explanation to me.

  68. But Charly, the Pat Tillman lie came out, just like they all do. Don't assume that the DoD or the US government can keep a secret about bad things or conspiracies, those secrets are never kept, never. They always come out eventually.

    You can believe me about the Zarqawi thing because it isn't the Army telling you this, it is me. I was not there, but many of my close friends were directly involved and I know the full, unreleased story from those who executed the op, and based upon my three tours in Iraq, everything they said made perfect sense. But, that is just one instance, not worth arguing about. I still feel that Zarqawi was a bad guy we created and of no real value except what we placed on him.

    But, I believe and agree with you on all other comments. I don't consider 911 attackers or plotters monsters or evil. In my mind, they did what they thought was right. Just as I have always done what I thought was right. As unacceptable as it all is, I chalk it all up to human fallacy and accept it as a reality in the world. What I respect about you so much is your ability to reject this reality. Perhaps one day I will be in a position where it is feasible for me to do the same.

    Charly, have you studied a language? I don't want to make a big deal of this point, but I just want to remind you that nothing is "perfectly obvious" to a casual observer. I again respect the fact that you have studied the military all your life, but surely you recognize that academic studying and knowledge will never make one fluent, just like a language. You can study books all the time and know the semantics and vocab of a language, but unless you are immersed in the language, and more importantly, the living culture of that language, your assumptions will always be suspect and skewed. I see this all the time with my linguists, they are as good as non native speakers get through academic study and some immersion, but they make wrong transcriptions because they base it on their academic knowledge, and a native who has lived the culture points out the error.

  69. bg,

    Oh man. Have I studied language?

    Not in the exact sense you mean. Oh, I took a semester of Spanish in high school and one of French in college, but wasn't interested in either and dropped both.

    But I've been studying logic one way or another almost as long as I've studied military history, and as Wittgenstein said, "The world is everything that is the case," meaning the sum of all propositions which are demonstrably true. Everything else is speculation, fallacy, or nonsense.

    I began with ancient Greek and Chinese philosophy. Then I decided to be a Chess-player when I was 16 and spent a couple of years at it. Then I switched to Bridge, which is a game that has an algorithmic aspect like Chess, but also has a strong linguistic aspect in the form of bidding systems, which are used to exchange information about your cards with your partner during the auction in order to decide what contract to play, and also defensive card signals, which are used to exchange information during the play of the hand. The a friend got me an opportunity to learn computer programming, and it turned out that being an expert Chess player and a master Bridge player was pretty much the equivalent of masters in computer science. Systems analysis doesn't just involve computer languages, it also includes the rules and regulations that govern the use of the system by the users. My philosophical studies since 1987 have included extensive study of Kant, Wittgenstein, and modern linguistics, etc.

    And I've spent the last eight years investigating the United States government for war crimes, using linguistic analysis of their public statements and documents as my primary investigative technique, starting with the PMO on 2001.11.13. That includes more time studying law than it takes to get through law school, all of it focused on the specific issues of the investigation. You can read much of my analysis right here:

    And it's all pretty much in plain English. So much for my education. I have more to say, but need to take a break.

  70. bg,

    So back to cases. First, the facts about Pat Tillman came out because he was Pat Tillman. We have no way of knowing how many lies haven't come out or have been buried under layers of cover-ups and classifications. All I know is that I've seen enough from the unlawful detentions, torture scandals, the phony justifications for these two criminal "wars", and all the fraudulent legal memos cooked up to provide CYA for those criminal enterprises, to know that it's all nothing BUT lies -- and that of all the liars involved, DoD lies more than most.

    And here you're lying to me just by stating your honest view of the facts, because you've been indoctrinated into a false paradigm: you're like Alice in Wonderland, stuck in an endless array of tautologies and nonsense.

    So you weren't there yourself, yet you know enough from your friends (which you can't tell me about because it's all classified for precisely the reason that the brass doesn't want any public scrutiny) to assure me that it really was necessary to drop that GBU on an eight year-old girl and her mom in order to kill her daddy. And while I'm perfectly willing to accept that the facts are as you say, there is still a fatal flaw in your reasoning -- there simply isn't ANY set of facts that would justify dropping a GBU on an eight-year-old girl.

    The problem here isn't the facts, it's the paradigm. You think this idiotic crime spree is a "war", and I know it's just an illegal, pointless occupation of a country too weak to defend itself from our wanton, murderous aggression. The war -- which was nothing but a crime against peace based on false pretenses from the start -- ended after 34 days, remember?

    This is an occupation, and the only legitimate function the US occupation forces have is essentially law enforcement. This idiotic "war" is no more a real war than the war on drugs or a Mafia gang war -- and the most murderous gang of criminals in this particular gang war is the US military. Do we drop GBU's on criminal suspects in New York or Los Angeles?

    No, we don't. Fortunately, for the time being at least, our police departments don't consider the lives of American children to be disposable in the way the US Army regards the lives of Iraqi and Afghan children. To claim such a thing was necessary is plainly fallacious.

    Just yesterday, DOJ finally released the report of its Office of Professional Responsibility re the drafting of the torture memos by Yoo and Bybee et al. It's nothing but an elaborate cover-up, and indeed, an overt criminal act intended to aid and abet war crimes in and of itself. Words cannot adequately describe my contempt for criminals like Dick Cheney, David Addington, John Yoo, Jim Haynes, Jay Bybee, Donald Rumsfeld, and Michael Mukasey, etc. We need to prosecute and convict ALL of them.

    See, e.g.:

    Newsweek --

    February 20, 2010
    by Michael Isikoff

  71. Good points, it is hard to argue for the justification for part of an operation when the entire operation isn't justified. It weakens what arguments I try to make. The best I can do is try to help you understand my perspective (so you can better tear it apart, I suppose, but that is why I am here, so go at it).

    I really wish I took more logic and philosophy in college. I went about college all wrong, it was just another stepping stone on the path of life for me, just another part of my advancement. I went to a large local college because it was economical and close to home, I really wish I went to a smaller, better school. I really miss the academic environment, and when I return one day, I look forward to taking the classics such as philosophy and logic, two things that as a brash 21 year old I thought were completely irrelevant subjects. If my discussions with you and others on this site have taught me anything, it is the value of such academic pursuits. One day I will have time, but until then, this is as close to school as I get.

    Comments about the accidental killing of a civilian: Is the decision maker aware of the presence of the little girl? Not likely, our intel is not perfect, although for what it is worth, observed children is a "no go" criteria for kinetic ops (bombings). Not an excuse, just a fact. And no, we don't bomb criminals in the US, but occasionally they do fight back. One of the deciding factors in bombing a target is the expectation of a fight. With Zarqawi, and many others, we fully expect that if we try to take them alive with ground/police forces, there will be a firefight that will very likely result in the death of the target and a high risk of a death to the friendly forces. I was involved in a firefight in Ramadi back in Sep 2003 when we tried to detain two suspected AQ fighters from Egypt and Chechnya. Our team rolled up in their vehicles, approached the front door with the intent to detain them (called a "cordon and knock"), and the resulting fire fight (which the other guys initiated) resulted in 2 of our guys killed, several wounded, and both suspects were killed as we defended ourselves. (This was the first time anyone from my own unit, someone who I knew, was killed, thus this event had an impact on my thinking). As our intel suggested, they were international jihadists with plane tickets in their pants from Tbilisi, Georgia (which likely means they came from Chechnya), among other evidence.

    Over the years, we've lost of a lot of good people going onto objectives with bad guys that we had a great deal of evidence against, and when we arrived to detain them, the suspects chose fighting over being captured.

    I have no delusions, it is likely our treatment of detainees and the lack of a justice system that led to the fact that the suspects preferred to fight than be captured. But that is outside of our control. In Iraq, after Abu Gurayb, firefights during detentions went down significantly because Iraqis had a greater expectation that they would be "caught and released" which was often the case. However, the really, really bad guys who wanted to be martyred, well, they always fought back. Therefore, when a fight is expected, and there are no visible civilians on the objective, dropping a bomb is preferred. Not trying to rationalize it, but just explaining to you the thought process so you can further understand the dilemma from my perspective.

  72. Interesting in the article about Yoo, no mention of DoD lawyers. Although DoD enabled actions by DoJ and CIA, DoD never allowed such actions to be conducted by DoD members. This helps to explain the disconnect between what I experienced in regards to detentions and interrogations and what other agencies are being accused of doing. Often when you and others talked about this crimes, I was dumbstruck because I couldn't imagine them happening based on the DoD rules.

    Have there ever been official responses to any of your articles? Has there ever been any interest from investigative media?

  73. bg,

    Well the focus of the story is on DOJ, but DoD had a prominent role in the big picture.

    David Addington has been working with / for Dick Cheney since Cheney was in Congress. During the Bush I administration and the first Iraq War, Cheney was SecDef and Addington was the DoD General Counsel. In the Bush II administration Addington was Counsel to the VP, and after Scooter Libby was convicted, Cheney's Chief of Staff. Starting right after 911 Addington headed a working group that included Yoo, Jim Haynes (the DoD General Counsel, and a friend of Addington's), and John Rizzo from CIA.

    Addington was running legal policy for Cheney from start to finish. Yoo wrote the memos at OLC until he left DOJ, Haynes and Rizzo operationalized things at their respective agencies. Addington's style is to keep and ultra low profile and work in the shadows.

  74. bg,

    Every year a number of police officers are killed in the line of duty too...

    But we still don't drop GBU's on criminal suspects. No one in Iraq or Afghanistan would be shooting at US soldiers if there weren't any US soldiers there to shoot at, and both operations are all costs and no benefits -- do the math.

  75. Ok, agreed, we won't drop GBU's on criminal suspects in the US. Your logic is sound, if there were no US troops in Iraq/AFG, they wouldn't get shot at. But the reality is there are troops there, for right or for wrong. The commander's don't make that decision. The decision they make is whether or not to carry out orders and capture bad guys. And when they decided to do that, they must then decide how to capture the bad guys. When you do the numbers, let's compare the probability of a criminal in the US setting up an ambush with the "Suicide by cop" intent compared to the probability of the same in Iraq/Afg. A total SWAG, but I bet the percentage of US criminals fighting back with deadly weapons to be in the less the 1% category, while in Iraq in Afg it is probably closer to 25%. In risk management, that is the probability of the hazard, and the overall risk is based on the combination of the probability and the severity of the hazard. A typical criminal in the US might have a pistol and little training or preparation for a full SWAT assault. In Iraq/Afg, the criminal has machine guns, explosives and are highly experienced and trained. We aren't comparing apples to apples.

    And let's look at what the US law enforcement does do when they confront a high probability of attack scenario. David Koresh ring any bells? It wasn't a bombing, but it wasn't exactly surgical either. Makes you wonder if LE would use more helicopter gunships if they had them. Law enforcement agencies in Colombia who do have access to gunships and bombers use them frequently, not saying that is right, but we often see that when someone has a capability, they use it. I will bet you the farm if US LE had that capability and authority, they would use it at one point if they did the same math as the military does and encounters a similar situation.

    Again, don't get me wrong, I personally feel that 98% of the time, dropping a JDAM is the wrong thing to do. But, there are cases when it can be justified. As you say, it becomes a risk vs. gain , cost vs benefit argument. If we can agree that there are cases where it is justified, than I think we can come up decision criteria. I feel like you are taking a black and white stand, and I have a hard time accepting black and white arguments. My study of philosophy and ethics is seriously lacking, but am I wrong in saying that right and wrong is relative and therefore clearly defined right and wrong in black and white terms is not always possible or feasible?

  76. Charly, just want to add, thanks for taking the time and entertaining my questions/comments. Your patience and time is greatly appreciated.

  77. Charlie,
    Back in the 80's the Philadelphia Police did lower an explosive charge into a house to blow out the perps ,and this did not play well in Peoria OR anyplace else,BUT we're allowed to do it in sandbox scenarios with no sweat.
    It's no good in conus,but ok in AFGH.

  78. Jim,

    I remember that. As I recall, they wound up burning down an entire city block and caught holy hell for it.

  79. bg,

    I think we've pretty much covered things, but I'll say this...

    Some things are black and white, including murdering civilians and waging war for no rational purpose.

    Criminals are just criminals. The Iraqis and Afghans are fighting against foreign invaders who have no business being in their nations and are murdering their people. We're the criminals, not them. There is no excuse for this nonsense.


    And I've enjoyed the discussion too.

  80. Charlie,
    That's correct ,there was a whole lotta collateral damage, and without the Constitution that could happen with impunity.
    It must've seemed like a good idea to somebody OR it would not have happened.

  81. A story of interest both on this thread, and perhaps as fodder for a new thread...

    Washington Post --

    February 28, 2010
    by Greg Jaffe

  82. This is a great post. I just had one of the ‘Doh!’ moments and ran back to correct my own site before publishing my comment. You see my own comment form did not match what I’m about to advice. I get less comment than you, so never noticed any problem. I’ve changed it now anyway so here goes.

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