Monday, June 20, 2011

NATO Nonsense

--Free Ride, Paresh Nath (UAE)

Make yourself a mule,

and someone will ride you

--Carl Sandberg


U.S. Department of Defense Secretary Robert Gates accused NATO of "collective military irrelevance" in a recent speech in Brussels, a long-time stance of RangerAgainstWar.

NATO has been superannuated since the fall of the Soviet Union, and was irrelevant in the 1970's and 80's -- it has always been a legerdemain foisted upon the American taxpayer.

From The Week's "Putting NATO in its Place"

"(fr. Madrid's El Mundo): The European countries (who else would be in Nato?) have slashed their defense budgets, with the result that, while the U.S. used to count for half of Nato's funding, it now makes up 75%. ... Only 4 of Nato's other 27 members spend 2% of their GDP on defense, as required by the treaty." [Pablo Pardo's report can be read @ "The UN, NATO and Nuclear Weapons".]

George Will recently wrote that the Libya imbroglio
"is igniting a reassessment of NATO, a Potemkin alliance whose primary use these days is perverse: It provides a patina of multilateralism to U.S. military interventions on which Europe is essentially a free rider" (Libya and the Potemkin Alliance). Will suggests that some legislators are awakening to their job, in the face of Obama's disingenuous assertion that the U.S.'s involvement in Libya does not constitute a war. Fellow WaPo columnist Eugene Robinson asked poignantly in "Obama's Novel Definition of "Hostilities":

"The advent of robotic drone aircraft makes it easier to wage war without suffering casualties. But without risk, can military action even be called war? Or is it really just slaughter?"

This is a question that demands an answer.

There is no discernable military threat to the European conglomerate, so WHY is there still a NATO structure sans a threat? From Saudi Arabia's Arab News ("End of NATO?"):

"What will it take for the West to face the reality that the Cold War is over and the NATO is long past its sell-by date? It might have had its uses and played its role in checking communism. But it’s time to give it a decent burial. If the world needs an international peace keeping force to deal with trouble spots like Libya, it should exist under the UN command. "

In addition, NATO's activities should be clearly defined. For instance, it is spurious to label NATO's actions in Libya Peacekeeping (PKO) since PKO's are supposed to be neutral and humanitarian in nature. The Libyan venture is an undeclared war of aggression, plain and simple.

Now, after a NATO airstrike killed 9 civilians this weekend, Moammer Gaddafi now calls for Global Jihad against the U.S. and the West.
Twenty years of grooming "the madman", down the drain. Faint traces of another fouled up "intervention" termed success waft by . . .

"Heckuva job, Brownie."

[cross-posted @RangerAgainstWar.]

Thought for discussion

I wanted to slip in the side door for a moment to toss out a possible topic for discussion based on these two articles: Richie Lowry's plea to stay the course in Afghanistan versus this survey article from Al Jazeera pointing up the almost insane level of difficulty for achieving much of anything there.My personal favorite graf is from the AJE piece; "US foreign assistance to Afghanistan currently constitutes an astounding 97 per cent of that country's gross domestic product; when it declines, as it inevitably will, an economic depression is likely to result."



Monday, June 13, 2011

The End of days

Hmm, what to discuss.
Well, there is always the economy which teeters on teeth gnashing and face-palming that begs the patience of the hoi-polloi and why they haven’t tarred and feathered a few Wall Street miscreants, or we could mentally masturbate to the idea of Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmaan becoming a risible ticket for the Republican Party which would supply endless piles of material for political satire along with evidence of the demise of education in America.
But in all seriousness, I think I would like to discuss, underscore, nay, highlight one aspect of American society that actually exposes one of our nastier sides of our subconscious, and in fact, since it affected a lot of people world-wide, the inevitable failure of our species left to its own devices.
Of course, I speak of Howard Camping and his preposterous claims of doom.
Now, for those of you who hadn’t heard, Mr. Camping, a.k.a. the prophet of doom, claimed that May 21 would be the end of days, and of course, May 21 came and went like any other day except for quite a few people who spent their entire life savings on the belief that May 21 would be the end of days.
Now, I’m setting aside my own personal opinion about the particular actions because really, what they did was pretty typical for the suicide cults, but what I want us to discuss is this...

1: How does a person willingly fall for this kind of nonsense when all they had to do was actually read the bible that they claim to believe in and tells them, "no one knows the day or the hour"?


2: And is that person any different from the person who willingly voted for George W. Bush in November of 2004 when the it was quite clear that Mr. Bush was lying through his teeth, and made no attempt to hide his complete and utter disdain for the rule of Law?

What are your thoughts?

New Blood?

Since I can't get an amen for breaking public laws and half the readership insists I'm being mean to the troops...and the rest of the news seems too obvious to even discuss (what can you say about a country that is worried about deficits in the middle of the worst economy in three decades and seems to find no end of reasons to meddle in foreigners business despite all that bad evil deficity..?) I've gotta admit - I've got nuthin'.

I'm fresh out of fresh ideas, and seydlitz is off fighting with the IWW against the evil Pinkertons, and between the two of us we've put up 5 of the 6 posts this month. (Interesting, I looked back and realized that we did 12 of 15 last month, 6 of 14 in April, and a whopping 17 of 25 in March. I think it's time I shut the hell up, anyway)

So I'm asking for some new ideas; anyone? Let's see if we can spark some real old-fashioned Intel-Dump knockdowns around here. I promise to try and work on my inner Diogenes just to see whose skirt I can blow up.

Have at it!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Go to Mars

The time is right, and climb onboard before Monday June 13.

So long and Thanks for all the Fish!


Thursday, June 9, 2011

Are We?

I usually try and keep out of the tactical minutia of our present Glorious Little Wars. But this just caught my eye whilst I was tooling around the blogosphere.It's from a post entitled "We're Still At War" over at Mother Jones. It's a snapshot taken of a PRT somewhere in Afghanistan.

But I've gotta say; nothing in this photo makes me think of "war". It looks, if anything, like a couple of GIs goofing around on some low-importance field problem. All we're missing is the blank adapters.

I mean, I know that this is a low-threat environment. But what is that poor bastard on the logs going to do if someone decides to bust a cap on his ass?

And his buddy behind him - what's he doing? He sure as hell isn't overwatching the far bank, based on where he's looking and where his rifle is pointing. Where's he going to go if things suddenly get hairy?

I mean, what this looks like to me is two guys sauntering through what we used to call a "linear danger area". Hopefully there's already someone on the far bank pulling far security as well as someone out of the picture on the near side with a 240B providing overwatch for the entire mess.

I hate to nitpick this stuff. But, honestly - isn't the whole point of COIN/counterinsurgency that there IS no "rear area"? That anytime you go outside the wire, you're moving like you anticipate contact? Didn't we learn this the hard way in the RVN, that "Charlie is waiting for you to relax"?

I know this is trivial stuff, but, really...aren't we supposed to have been fighting muj in central Asia for ten years now, rather than the one-year-twelve-times way we did the last one? Why don't I get a better feeling from these snapshots?

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Rule of Law, Revisited?

The plot thickens.
"On Wednesday, 74 days after U.S. forces joined the military operation in Libya, President Obama seemed to run out of goodwill on Capitol Hill. A group of both liberals and conservatives — defying the leaders of both parties — threw their support behind a bill to pull the U.S. military out of the Libya operation. That prospect led GOP leaders to shelve the bill before it came to a vote."
Before everyone gets all sweaty, I already assume that the usual Washington Rules - that is to say, that if the President (or Congress, or other "real" people inside the Beltway as opposed to the stinky unwashed masses in the hustings) does it, it's not illegal - will apply in the end, however.

But it's interesting to note that even in the Escurial, if you do a half-assed job of explaining why your nation needs to get involved in other people's civil wars, you might just get a sharp lecture from the other hidalgos before getting back to business as usual.

Mind you, I have full faith and confidence that the Powers that Are Along the Potomac will prevent this outbreak of lawfulness from interfering in the smooth, water-off-a-cat's-ass business of meddling abroad whilst fiddling at home, enriching those who deserve riches and empowering those who deserve power, and, besides, this nonsense is distracting us from finding out more about Tony Weiner's dick.

Greenwald has more.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Off to the Races

Unfortunately - and I think this a sign of the times - I am being unexpectedly distracted by work issues . . . collective bargaining and the sort. I have emerged as a possible center of power within our collective, or rather forming collective, which is currently hopelessly outmatched by management. I've played both sides over the course of my working life - more on the management side to be honest - so am pretty open minded, but what we are currently experiencing is something entirely new.

Honestly, I am bewildered by management's current stance; their attempts to use any trick to divide us. How many of you have experienced that before over the last say, 10 years?

Too many probably.

I had hoped to finish this thread and do a new one on Hew Strachan's article on the distinction between operations/operational art and strategy, bringing in Rupert Smith which would have been something new. Tom Ricks is way off the mark imo btw. Sadly due to these new commitments, I no longer have the time, unfortunately for all - especially me - I think.

So, I'm off to the races . . . It will be "fun" . . . Wish me luck . . .

See ya'll in August.

Thursday, June 2, 2011


Interesting study here regarding the persistence and quality of the long-gone Habsburg bureaucracy in the governance of eastern and modern southeastern Europe.The present-day U.S. has developed a curious loathing for the notion that a well-run state is important to civil society. The people of mittelEuropa, fought over and beaten up by foreign invaders and local bullies alike, have no such delusion. And it seems that the crucial element inspiring local good government involves the probity and competence of the local chief administrative officer;
"Comparing individuals left and right of the long-gone Habsburg border, people living in locations that used to be territory of the Habsburg Empire have higher trust in courts and police. These trust differentials also transform into “real” differences in the extent to which bribes have to be paid for these local public services."
An unsurprising conclusion, one would think, but one that seems to be lost amid the current U.S. enthusiasm for replacing well-paid professional staffs at every level from the town council to the federal government with contract workers and minimum-wage temps.Whilst I suspect that no one has enjoyed bureaucracy since the first Australopithecene home builder was fined a basket of warra nuts and two monkey tails for failing to meet code standards for her wickiup, the honest and efficient regulation of the conduct of human business is both art and science. I think perhaps we've had it so good for so long in so much of the U.S. that we've forgotten that much of those places that didn't - like the ex-Ottoman and ex-Imperial Russian parts of eastern Europe - are a nasty welter of bribery, bullying, and personal politics.

While that makes for a delightfully colorful story, it makes for a tetchy and difficult way to live, and we Americans would do well to remember that.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Baby Steps?

One of the least analyzed, least publicly reported aspects of the U.S. expeditions into foreign internal defense (FID) has been the interaction between the U.S. military and the host country militaries and the U.S. military and the host country governments.

There's probably some thesis-level work for a War College student here, but I will go right to the crux of the biscuit and throw out a generalization here; the more troop units the U.S. throws into a foreign nation, the heavier the U.S. footprint on the ground, and the more the foreign military is fitted into a U.S.-style box, the more difficult, expensive, and time-consuming is the mission, and the less likely the probability of success, in both the short- and long-term. And we're not even calculating the post-U.S.-withdrawal blowback.

Here's a brief summary of a mostly-non-story from Afghanistan; the notional "Preident" of the notionally-sovereign "state" of Afghanistan is pretty pissed off that his notional foreign "allies" seem to occasionally bomb the living piss out of his non-notional wimmen and kiddies and demands that they knock it off. The reaction appears to be something along the lines of "Ha! That whacky Karzai! What a kidder!"
His call was viewed as mainly symbolic. Western military officials cited existing cooperation with Afghan authorities and pledged to continue consultations, but said privately that Karzai's presidential authority does not include veto power over specific targeting decisions made in the heat of battle.
So here's the thing; I understand why the ISAF C&C doesn't want to halt CAS and night raids. They work, in a "whack-a-muj" sort of way. And the fact that the left side of the politico-military aisle doesn't always like to admit is that if you kill enough of the Bad Guys you win. It's a vile, nasty, Battle-of-Algiers ugly sort of win, but it works. Ask the Tamil Tigers. Or the Shining Path. Oh, wait - you can't; they're either dead or in prison.'s the other thing. Look at the places that this "make-a-wasteland-and-call-it-peace" style of making friends and influencing people has worked.

All of them - or so close to "all of them" as to make no never mind - have NOT featured the presence of major U.S. maneuver units. And all of them have been very visibly run by the locals. From Peru to El Salvador to Sri Lanka, the local government has always had the Mandate of Heaven to rain death and destruction down on its own people. It isn't always wise and it isn't always successful - you could call up Hosni Mubarak or the ghost of Anastasio Somozoa to tell you that - but its a hell of a lot more successful than bringing in foreigners to take the lead in killing your people.

And, what's more, it usually has a bad effect on the local government to be seen, or to actually be, the sock-puppet for the foreigners. One important aspect of governance is the understanding of and the fitting to the local conditions of the rulers. No matter how long the foreigner spends in native robes and developing a taste for goat, he will never be a native. We seem to think we can solve this by making the natives more like us.

It can be done - look at the inhabitants of the Indian subcontinent - but it takes tens to hundreds of years, and an occupation and reconstruction far more invasive, more ruthless, and more intelligent than anything we have or can attempt in central Asia.

So the current situation seem to be that we don't care to let our supposed client state even pretend to be sovereign over our troop actions, which implies that they won't be, or not for a long, long, time. But we keep insisting that we're standing them up so we can stand down.

Doesn't make any sense to me; it's either one or the other - it can't be both. But perhaps because I'm not in Officer's Country I'm just not seeing the real Big Picture.