Monday, April 30, 2012

My War

--h/t Deryle

"Quit smiling. What are you smiling for?
This is an arrest." This is your mug shot,

not your prom photo. I was smiling from happiness;
my government will not disappear me
--Peace Demonstration
Maxine Hong Kingston

Those who cannot remember the past
are condemned to repeat it
--George Santayana

Lt. Stanley McChrystal enters an army in the late 70's

that is broken, riddled with drugs and race problems.

The soldiers aren't very good:

a collection of drunks, dirtbags,

junkies and scammers.

--The Operators
, Hastings (171)

Ranger has noticed a dismissive attitude toward the United States Army that fought in Vietnam, particularly at the Bad Boy lad's sites. He is not sure the reason for the snitty attitudes, but it seems like the lads doth protest too much. Their attitude ranges from supercilious to dismissive, implying that the U.S. experience in Vietnam is passe, and today's ranks are far superior in technology, doctrine, etc.

This arrogance of dismissing the recent past as Old School and no longer relevant is short-sighted and dangerous. Wars are not fought
ex nihilo, and that certainly holds for today's supposed efforts at Counterinsurgency (COIN) or Counterterrorism (CT) .

Today's military can focus on Low-Intensity Conflict (LIC) and pretend that it is a real war, when it is actually (fill in the blank.) In fact, today's Army has slack that we did not have in the 1960's and 70's, despite the rhetoric of how the last decade's stress has been so professionally addressed.

The U.S. fought a war in the Republic of Vietnam while also being deployed to address the Warsaw Pact. My service in Vietnam was preceded by a line Infantry assignment facing this threat on the German border
-- these were real threats. Today, the U.S. faces no such opponent.

As for combat ability, today's Army (USMC) has not fought any battles against hardcore enemy Battalions, Regiments or Divisions. The RVN battles against enemy units with organic artillery and severe unit discipline are legend. Enemy supply columns actually rolled down the Ho Chi Minh Trail like rush hour traffic in downtown Baghdad.
The enemy had the "division slice" of support for their operations, to include timely and accurate intelligence on U.S. intentions and capabilities.

The enemy in Vietnam had the will, the capability and the intent to prepare the battlefield at higher echelons, something unheard of in the Phony War on Terror
(PWOT ©). The threat faced in Vietnam was real and vicious ... what equivalent did we see after the fall of Baghdad or the months following the invasion of Afghanistan? The Taliban has no Regimental or above combat capabilities.

Per U.S. forces, we had one echelon above Corps, meaning we had a real Theatre Army scenario, to include a Theatre Army Commander with Corps supporting. This means not only did we have Theatre - Corps - Division assets, but we also had the on-call abilities of the RVN forces including all of the usual suspects: Artillery, Aviation, Combat Support and Combat Service Support. We operated as an Army, not as door-kicking combat Brigades sans higher assets.

So what's the reason for the dismissive attitude toward my Army as being anything less than professional?
Where is the evidence that any draftee fought less professionally than did the forces in the PWOT? From whence this lack of fraternity?

The troops in the Vietnam War were largely draftees and they earned their battle streamers with the same valor as did troops in all previous U.S. wars. What battles in Afghanistan or Iraq demonstrated the level of violence experienced by the Infantry units in the Vietnam War?

Further, there is a logical fallacy built into the argument of the Old Army detractors who say the 60's and 70's Army was "amateurish". If that is so, then we must accept that the Warsaw Pact was neutralized by a bunch of quacks. The next illogical step is to believe that today's professional volunteer force is totally responsible for the defeat of al Qaeda, despite the fact that less than 200 al Qaeda operatives exist worldwide (per former Central Intelligence Agency Director Leon Panetta.)

Framing the argument qua the Andrew Exum crowd, a crowd of amateurs defended the U.S. against Warsaw Pact with thousands of tanks, artillery pieces and millions of soldiers, while we are now ably protected against a laughable threat by the New Warriors.

Taking their argument to its logical ends, one must also believe the military leadership during the 60's was also incompetent, though carrying experience from two wars before assuming leadership in Vietnam. Contrast that with the present day Professional Army which sports a dearth of combat experience at the highest levels. The depth of experience was greater in Ranger's time frame than it is today, contrary to the hype.

And this is why we need poppy eradication programs in Afghanistan (though the Bushmills tap will always flow.)

Friday, April 27, 2012

Arlo Guthrie

I went to see Arlo last night for a couple of hours and a bit of intermission.

He did this song and I thought I'd share it with you all.

Next July 14, Woody turns 100 and in the same month Arlo turns 65.

Enjoy!  :)


Friday, April 20, 2012


Let me apologize preemptively to all the other barkeeps; the latest "improvement" in Blogger is like an electric fan; if you look at it one way, it sucks. But if you look at it the other way, it blows. For one thing, I cannot get the damn thing to recognize a hard return - that's why all the little RPVs in the preceding post - it was the only way to separate my paragraphs!

Aha! I think I've found it - you need to go over to the right side of the page, pull open the "Options" tab, and tell the stupid bastard to "Press "Enter" for line breaks". Cunning plan, Blogger! Who the fuck doesn't use a carriage return for, y'know, a fucking "carriage return"?

Oh, and good luck posting centered pictures and left-justified text! The pics will pull your text over and center-justify it. Slick, eh?

Oh, and I like the little "location" feature - you wanna "share" your location, just in case your ex-wife, a process server, stalker, random psycho, armed troll, or some whacko who just hates your opinion on Krispy Kreme Honeybuns can find you? That's a fine idea, Blogger!

Hopefully Blogger will get its head out of its fourth point of contact soon, or we may need to discuss moving to another platform.

We shall see.

Once an Eagle

It's said that in history events repeat themselves; the first time as tragedy, the second as farce.
So I have absolutely no fucking idea what else to call this; this is the "Welcome Message" from the bipartisan "Unmanned Systems Caucus".,
The wonderful thing about this is all the RightSpeak we're seeing here; "We are this industry's voice on Capitol Hill" (After all, constituents are last week...), and - my personal favorite - "This is an exciting and existing technology that will...improve our lives as public acceptance progresses."
Now don't get me wrong; I've been where I wanted me some CAS, and RPVs, UAVs, drones - call 'em what you will - are a hell of a cheap, affordable way to put airframes overhead most quick smart. I'll never say a bad word about 'em...
EXCEPT where a bunch of damn Congresscritters turn on their knees to become industry shills, for a technology that is, no matter how much ancillary use people like Mapquest and the U.S. Forest Service Service get out of it, highly susceptible to misuse as a surveillance device and a way of waging aerial war on everyone from muj to Mexicans. Eisenhower once warned us about the unholy axis of military and industry - but he was warned not to include in his text the most crucial and venal axle in that "complex" - the damn Congress. And yet, here it is, in it's most ugly form. Sweet Jesus.
But as public acceptance progresses...meaning that as we get more and more accustomed to people watching us - whether from aerial platforms or from everywhere else - and we become more comfortable with a "security state"...will we care? Or will we simply be too cautious to care out loud, lest something overhead overhear us..?
So in the Libyan fable it is told That once an eagle, stricken with a dart, Said, when he saw the fashion of the shaft, "With our own feathers, not by others' hands, Are we now smitten." ~ Aeschylus

Saturday, April 7, 2012

"Technology and War" - The View from 1939

I'm currently reading a book entitled The Failure of Technology, written by Friedrich Georg Jünger. It was written during the summer of 1939, but then only published after the war in 1946, since the publisher didn't wish to risk government disapproval, which would have been obvious. An English translation came out in 1947. Friedrich Georg was a brother of the writer Ernst Jünger.

Below is the chapter on technology and war. Notice that there is mention of Clausewitz and a short analysis. Jünger has some interesting things to say about technology and its social effects. I'm working on a post on strategy within a disintegrating society and provide this post/chapter as context for my own upcoming post. This chapter brings up some disturbing questions. One which comes to mind is how would we define "total war" today? Jünger most likely picked up the concept from the writings of Erich Ludendorff.



IT IS AN axiom of the natural sciences that the laws of nature are stable, unchangeable, and of perman­ent mechanical validity. Faith in scientific progress strangely enough presupposes the existence of laws which are completely exempt from any kind of prog­ress. These laws are indispensable to the natural sciences as rigid and dependable substrata. The law of causality, for instance, states that the same causes must always produce the same effects.

The scientist who voices a doubt in the validity of the law of causality is obviously attacking the foundation on which the whole Babylonian tower of scientific knowledge rests. He who raises the question whether all this knowledge is worth know­ing likewise attacks these foundations. This very question is outside the scientific field, for we are breaking through the sacred precincts of science if we are not content with its obvious and wonderful results. We undermine these foundations if we ask what insights really are gained by scientific dis­ coveries, what good they do us, and where mankind will be once science has achieved its goal.

Here we approach the ultimate illusion which attaches to scientific progress. Obviously the strive­ing for rationalization must come to an end at some time . Obviously it attains its end once that state of perfection has been reached for which it is striv­ing so untiringly. For the idea of unending progress is absurd and inane, because the infinite motion that rapIdity and forcefulness of technical rationalization it presupposes is contradictory. It is exactly the rapidity and forcefulness of technological rationalization which indicate that we are approaching a finale, an ultImate stage of technology where everything tech­nical attains the same degree of perfection long since achieved in the tools of handicrafts. Perhaps the moment when this will come about is not far off,
but it would be idle to speculate on this.

In any case, this is the great moment which is the main theme of the utopists, the moment upon which they concentrate their hopes. We often meet with the idea that all of mankind's sufferings, all the sacrifices that must be endured for the sake of tech­ nical progress will be compensated for at the end. Such theories of reward, however, while quite right and proper to homo religiosus, have nothing to do with technology. It is not the beginning but the end that has to bear the burden. It would be more fitting to see in these sacrifices and sufferings, the price of man's thirst for power.

The absolute notions of harmony with a state of technical perfection or to suppose a political and social idyll where it can never be found is sheer pipe­ dreaming. Those dreams of leisure, freedom, and wealth created by technical progress are utopian, and so are the ideas of peace, well-being and happiness in future times. They are utopian because they combine what cannot be combined. The ma­chine is not a godhead lavishing cornucopias of happiness, and an era of the machine does not lead to a peaceful and charming idyll. At all times the power proffered by technology has exacted, and for­ever will exact, a high price; the price of the blood and sinew of human hecatombs who in one way or another get caught in the cogs and wheels of that vast engine. The price is being paid by the leaden monotony of factory and business life that is now reaching its peak; by mechanical work for one's living; by the operator's dependence upon the auto­matic tool. The price is paid by the devastation of spiritual life which grows in step with mechanization. We would do well, indeed, to say good-bye to all illusions about the blessings forthcoming from technology, but most of all to that illusion of peaceful happiness it is supposed to bring. Technology has not the wherewithal to bring back Eden.

Indeed, the shape of things to come is vastly different. Since technology is based upon the mining of resources and since its progress spells the progressive pillage of the earth, it is obvious that in a state of perfection it will practice the most complete and the most intensive exploitation on a planetary scale, a mining of all its resources in the most ra­tional manner. This sapping and mining is bound to produce losses which must become increasingly unbearable. The devastations of this pillage are not limited to the exhaustion of mines, of oil wells and other resources. Neither this nor the reckless exhaustion of the topsoil which spreads erosion and the sinking of water tables will be decisive in them­selves, although - in America, for instance - these warning signals are already looming big.

What will spell the end is rather the total char­ acter of these losses which include the human beings within the technical organizations. It becomes con­ stantly more evident that the sum total of the tech­nological efforts and investments overtaxes human capacities, that the sheer weight of the mechanical burden is getting too heavy, that once technology has reached perfection, it will not be long before modem man collapses. Symptoms of this over­burdening are already evident in the mental and the physical spasms of this day and age, the contortions of which betray the high pressure under which we live. Everywhere in the world we see forced, over­ taxing efforts. They are bound to be followed by the reaction that invariably comes after excesses of will power and nervous overstrain: exhaustion,­ apathy, and dull depression.

In this overstraining we also find the key to an understanding of the ideas and plans for total mo­bilization and total war. Whatever their opponents may object, these ideas make perfectly good sense, inasmuch as they outline with precision the situation in which we find ourselves. For this reason they deserve an attention and a respect demanded by any momentous thoughts which do not shrink from logi­cal consequences no matter how grave they may be. The objections raised against total mobilization and total war significantly fail to hit at the crux of the matter.

What is the meaning of total mobilization and total conduct of war? How does total war differ from other wars? Clausewitz, the leading war theorist of the nineteenth century, never described such a war. True, in his definition of war he remarks that there is a tendency toward the extreme use of force and that there are no inherent limits to such use. He mentions specifically three reciprocal elements in war as conducive to extremes. But in the same breath he also speaks of the forces which modify and moderate the extreme and absolute concepts of war; the human relations, for instance, which actually continue between the belligerents even in war. His ideas of war, in other words, show plainly that they belong to a time which could have no clear concepts of the colossal growth of technical organization. The Napoleonic wars could still give no hint of this potential. What Clausewitz assumes as basic in waging war is the use of limited means for limited ends. But total war presupposes total technical organization. By its very concept, total war rejects all limitations of means and purposes. Its total not only in its preparation, its strategic and tactical means and ends; it is total above aU in its mentality of ruthless extermination which no longer recognizes any barriers.This destructive mentality is the counterpart of technological progress. It develops in the exact proportion in which technology itself breaks down all barriers of space and develops a destructive potential which is unJimited.

Even total war, however, has its modifications; even its inherent trend toward the extremes of vio­lence is subjected to limitations and restraints. One such limitation lies in the fact that a war which is waged by every means must lead also to the exhaus­tion of every resource, provided that a certain bal­ance of strength exists between the opponents. By definition, total mobilization or total war abolishes all and every reserve since no reserve remains un­touched. There are neither stores nor funds that remain intact or inviolate, nothing immobile even that does not get mobilized, no inalienable owner­ship that does not get disowned.

For proper understanding of these developments, we must consider the over-all situation of modem man. What characterizes the situation in the mechanized war of the industrial worker or the soldier who is, in fact, a worker, as is everybody who lives in a state of advanced industrialization?

The situation of the worker is signalized by his dependence on machinery and organization. It is signalized by the absence of reserves on which he could fall back. He is reduced to the sale of his bare working capacity, and he must sell it unceas­ingly and unstintingly if he wants to live. He has no funds to guarantee him peace of mind, leisure, or even an extended vacation. This already existing pattern of so-called normal, civilian life, simply gets incorporated into the pattern of total war. In it all human and material resources are drafted, mobilized, and brought into action. Plainly, there is a reverse side to this process, namely, the total consumption caused by total war. Such a war is by no means a spontaneous, voluntary mass uprising where enthusiasm makes up for primitive technical equipment. It is a struggle between technically highly developed organizations which show all the mechanical, automatic features characteristic of an advanced stage of technology. That is why the most important goal of modern war is to smash the technical potential of the opponent.

Technical progress and conduct of war today are merging. We have reached a state of affairs where the technical potential of a state is the determining factor in the event of war. Superior technology means victory, inferior technology means defeat; that is the briefest possible formula to which a definite phase of technical progress can be reduced. This equation forces all modem states, with relent­lessly increasing mechanical compulsion, to support, to speed up, and to push to the utmost the drive for technical perfection. For its own self-preservation, the modern state has to promote, and subject every­thing possible to, technical automatism . Since the technical potential is decisive in war, it is actually a form of armament. Technical progress now drops the economic mask it had been wearing in the early days of technical organization. Technically organized work becomes preparation for war; its connection with war becomes constantly more unmistakable.

Nothing can prevent this. It is conceivable that war can be prevented in a specific case. But it is inconceivable that, in the event of war, the state would refrain from using to the full its technical potential. The incessant pointing to this potential, the propagandist efforts to make it look formidable and terrifying, are parts of modern political tactics even in so-called peace. It also becomes clear why states depart more and more from the old law of nations which requested a formal declaration of war. The stigma of being termed "aggressor" is outweighed too far by the advantage of high preparedness coupled with surprise attack made possible by the technical potential.

Just as a technically organized economy becomes more and more a war economy, so technology de­velops more and more into a war technology; it reveals ever more clearly its armament character. In our dynamic age, technology steps up its pillage of world resources; but while it devours material for war preparation, it reduces at the same time our living standards. It shakes off all fetters of economic laws and finances its organization by methods which constantly increase the burdens on the workers.

The question of just what is gained by total war is, not limited to specialists. That question is raised by the consideration that the total consumption demanded by a total war may well consume whatever gains result even from the winning of the war. What must be anticipated is a condition where there is neither victor nor vanquished, but only general exhaustion. Are we still in a position where we can hope for a gain? Or is the call for total war proof in itself that the fight for sheer survival has begun? In other words: Has technical progress reached a stage where its consumption has grown so tremendous that of necessity it must radically change the territorial and political organization of all states?

Friedrich Georg Jünger, Spring 1939

Monday, April 2, 2012

We Are Zimmerman

The “difference … between man and other forms of life”
is that man has invented what he calls

“morality’ and ‘reason’ to justify what he is doing. …”

--Patriotic Gore
, Edmund Wilson

If you have the facts, argue the facts;
If you have the law, argue the law;
If you have neither, pound the table really loudly
--old lawyer's adage

The range of what we think and do
is limited by what we fail to notice.
And because we fail to notice
that we fail to notice,
there is little we can do to change;
until we notice how failing to notice
shapes our thoughts and deeds
--R.D. Laing

War is the spectacular and bloody projection
of our everyday life, is it not?
War is merely an outward expression
of our inward state,
an enlargement of our daily action
--The Causes of War, J. Krishnamurti

The U.S. serves as the neighborhood watchman of the world, proudly and without apology. We figure we are the Good Guys for trying to keep order and teach the heathens a better way. Unfortunately, since they often behave in ways antithetical to our neatly arrayed protocol and are full of tribal enmity and such, they get killed sometimes.

This neighborhood watchism of the U.S. is related to the outsized news coverage of a discrete tragic event which occurred in late February in a small town in Central Florida, a story which has quickly fired up most of the blogosphere.

We are outraged as a nation over the death of a single young black American shot by a supposedly self-appointed "neighborhood watchman." We know nothing beyond this fact, and the loud and persistent calls to bring Zimmerman to justice hinge on the following claims:

  • Trayvon Martin (TM) ™ did not present a mortal threat, therefore the killing was a criminal act
  • TM ™ was just a convenient target for Zimmerman's (Z) fantasy of being an American Super Hero
  • Firearms are too readily used in our society

All of these are clearly articulated presumptions of a civilized society and a liberal democracy -- all life is valuable, to include that of the most heinous criminals and low-life serial killers. The U.S. is a nation of law, and no individual transcends these precepts.

If TM ™ was not a threat to Z or to anyone's life, then his shooting was not justifiable and not in accordance with our societal values. However, into the simplicity of the legality of the issue creeps the fact that we are NOT a post-racial society
, and we are a violent one pretending to be otherwise.

Returning to our neighborhood watchman analogy, If TM ™ was killed illegally, then so too every Afghan, Iraqi and Pakistani whom we killed simply for being Afghan, Iraqi or Pakistani, for we just as assuredly racially-profiled them, too. It's quite simple on that level: We are hypocrites because get morally outraged over one act of supposedly inappropriate violence while supporting a national policy of inappropriate violence.

Yet we project our collective moral outrage and guilt upon Z for his willingness to apply deadly force in what we interpret as an illegal use of violence while we as a nation habitually murder the moral equivalent of
TM ™ every day of the week in the Phony War on Terror (PWOT ©), and do so without any self-mortification. And without the slightest irony, we figure if we stamp him (Z) out, we can gain some sort of vindication and atone for our transgressions. We love our martyrs, and if that were to happen, we would get a two-fer in the TM ™ saga.

The U.S. was on board with invading Afghanistan and Iraq and 10 years later is still killing people who posed no lethal threat to our national or personal well-being. Yet surely the Iraqis were simply trying to buy some Skittles and iced tea (biscuits and kaffir?) with rags and not hoodies on their heads, and we killed them as frivolously as Z. supposedly did an unarmed young man.

While the Afghanis never entered
the sanctum sanctorum of our protected personal lives -- the sacred gated community -- they did enter the symbolic sanctuary of our sacred financial and business lives when their supposed charges attacked the Twin Towers in 9-11-01. As a result of that violation and intrusion, our taxes and lack of outrage have allowed the U.S. to "go Zimmerman" on tens of thousands of hadjis.

We are all Zimmerman.