Monday, March 31, 2014

The Weakest Link

When she was good,
She was very good indeed, 
But when she was bad she was horrid 
--There Was a Little Girl, 
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow 

What are little girls made of?
What are little girls made of?
Sugar and spice
And everything nice,
That's what little girls are made of 
--19th cen. nursery rhyme 

She may be weary, women do get weary,
wearing the same shabby dress
And when she's weary,
try a little tenderness.
--Try a Little Tenderness, 
Frank Sinatra

~I think ugly girls should be
shot at birth by their parents.
It's bad enough being born a girl...but ugly and clever...
~fancy you're clever, do you?
  ~I rather hope so. I'm done for if I'm not! 
--My Brilliant Career (1979)
Myth, media and reality: Tough Grrrls

The Marines recently pushed back the requirement that female recruits successfully accomplish 3 pull ups as more than 50% could not manage that feat, "delaying the prerequisite as it tries to integrate thousands of women into combat roles by 2016, the Associated Press reports."

The myths surrounding female vigor have shifted over time. There were the fabled Amazons who possessed physical prowess and goddesses who wielded the power to command others to do their killing. There was Boudica and Joan of Arc, and the rare women throughout history who went to war under cloak of male's clothing.

Patriarchy emphasized female reliance upon the male's brawn, and diminished her further through representations of the hysterical woman at once enslaved to her hormones and therefore a threat to the male's surety of his lineage, while at once ensuring the male's place as the satisfier of her wanton lusts.

Freud introduced us to the male's fear of engulfment and the vagina dentata, and the ever-receding possibility of sexual parity issuing not only from the inherent structural differences between the sexes but also our own particular neurosis and psychoses. It would seem the sexes would be forever consigned to opposite sides of the cave, cowering, glowering and licking their chops. The agreement allowing for one-on-one cohabitation was the marriage contract, a prospect based upon the distribution but not equalization of labor.

The 20th century ushered in film, actors, computer graphics and a social ethos which says, "Free to Be ... You and Me." In a generation we went from female cops like "Cagney and Lacey" -- of indeterminate sexual orientation -- to sexy killers like Ziva David on the popular television series NCIS. The boys can play with dolls, and girls can watch G. I. Jane and Lara Croft Tomb Raider. It's all good.

Fast forward 30 years and the new tough females are borderline or straight-out psychotic killing machines, like the female characters on the t.v. series Person of Interest. Forget bringing home the bacon and frying it up in a pan -- she does not care about making you feel like a man, because she's too busy co-opting your positions. Or so the media would have you believe.

The press hypes the new aggressive Alpha female and most accept the idea of women in combat and the death of the draft. But Ranger's position has remained steadfast: women should not be in the combat arms or maneuver or deployable units.

He does not hold this position because he is a misogynist or a dinosaur, but because the facts bear out his position. He is sorry to stomp on the parade of those who maintain the happy thoughts like "anyone can grow up to be President.

The Army teaches that a unit is as strong as its weakest link. Soldiers train hard to achieve a strong chain that can pull a heavy load. Individual training strengthens the individual, and these single units are integrated into unit training after which they become deployable assets. This is the basis of all combat effectiveness and unit cohesion.

Combat is neither glamorous nor does it have redemptive value. In training, men frequently lose weight and get beaten down hard. It is doubtful that women could perform on the brute physical level of men like Medal of Honor recipients Staff Sergeant Jon Caviani and SSG Roy Benavides, who killed enemy in close quarters combat with their fighting knives after having suffered grievous wounds (Caviani put his knife in a man's brain and was forced to leave it as it became bone welded and would not extract.)

SSG Fred Zabitowsky broke his back and ribs but managed to pull three men out of a downed helo and drag them to an extraction area. He was burned, broken and gunshot, yet he hefted soldiers onto his back. Like so many MOH recipients, Zabitowsky accepted the award on behalf of his fellows, whom he credited with operating at the same level of heroism. (We have written about Ranger associate Paul Longgrear, who led his men out of the Battle of Lang Vei with a broken ankle and head wound.)

These acts are those of the fighting male operating full bore. Unlike Title IX in women's sports, the battlefield may not be arrayed so that women fight only their physical peers. The fact is, most men who qualify for military participation can physically dominate most women in a fight scenario. This is why most Olympics sports are segregated by gender -- it is not to give them the disadvantage, but rather to offer them parity in competition. This "separate but equal" is fair.

Ranger anticipates objections that these are extreme scenarios, but this is what the military's "chain" concept is all about. 

Twenty-four Medals of Honor were recently belatedly awarded to men who had been denied their awards due to racial or religious prejudice. Ranger challenges anyone to read these MOH citations and image a female performing the same deeds. It does not come down to bravery or patriotism alone, it comes down to sheer physical capabilities.

So what's the solution? Put women on 155, 8 inch, 4.2 mortars? Will they pull motor stables with the mechanized and Armor? Will they carry a Barrett 50 or a GPMG? Will women hump ammo as assistant gunners? Can they throw a grenade and fight with men in close quarters combat? Endure the filth and privations of the battlefield?

Ranger does not believe combat effectiveness should be compromised in the name of raising the glass ceiling.

[cross-posted @ RangerAgainstWar.]

Friday, March 21, 2014

Same Sh#t, Different Day

Seems that the proliferation of camo uniforms amongst the services and the attendant costs has Congress asking questions.

Probably the most confusing part of transferring from the Corps to the Army in 1966 was the notion of "dressy" fatigues.  In the Corps, as far as Utilities were concerned, enlisted folks had dull black collar insignia of rank, and officers wore their metal rank insignia - in garrison.  In "the field", it was common practice to remove all rank insignia, especially officer type.  Made the identification of "high value targets" a bit harder for the bad guys.

In the Army, on the other hand, the uniform worn in combat had a nice white name tag, bright gold sleeve insignia for enlisted, silver/gold collar insignia for officers, silver skill badges and lovely, multi-color shoulder sleeve unit patches.  So much for camouflage, cover and concealment.

However, by 1967, USARV had realized that the fatigue uniform was far too colorful, and locally authorized "subdued" insignia, while Stateside, "technicolor" was all that was authorized.  The old "Quartermaster Uniform Store" could not sell subdued insignia, but laundry shops off base could get you a supply before you shipped out. Vietnamese shops also catered to the quasi-legal subdued insignia trade if you needed some.

The standing joke was that we had "dress fatigues" and "combat fatigues".

Fast forward to the 21st Century, and the promotion of off base wear of combat uniform by all "Warriors" by the Bushies.  Well, surely the USAF and USN did not want their folks running around town looking like "pogues" in less than exotic fighting attire.  They had to have their "Warriors" dressed like "Warriors", but of course they did not want them to be confused with Army or Marine "Warriors", so they came up with their own blue camo designs.  Not sure what blue blends in with, but it sure can't be confused with the Army or the Corps.

God bless our Beloved Corps, but it does appear that they did the only proper job in developing a useful camo Utility Uniform back in 2002, and at a bargain price - $319K in development costs.  But then, they had a long, long tradition of understanding the difference between "dress" and "combat" uniforms.  They were even able to discretely incorporate the Eagle, Globe and Anchor into their very effective "pixilated" design.  Meanwhile, the Army and USAF each spent over $3 million in developing their answer to the Marine uniform, and still did not produce a satisfactory item.

Also brings to mind the Army's refusal to adopt the one piece, flame retardant, Nomex flight suit, but rather developing a two piece, Nomex, fatigue uniform looking affair.  It took forever to field it successfully in Viet Nam, because of the multitude of size combinations involved in a two piece uniform.  Fortunately, our Group commander authorized the wear of "government issue fire retardant flight uniforms as available" as preferred to jungle fatigues, specifically to allow us access to Nomex from other services.  Thus, we would scrounge Nomex flight suits from the other services while awaiting our Army two piece uniform.

Aren't there more important issues to address, no less higher priorities for available funds, that having "dress fatigues"?

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Something I've always wondered

Not sure if I'm alone in this, but I know that while in there were a number of words that were used on a regular basis that I have never ever known the actual proper spelling or origin.

Figured I'd ask if anyone had any knowledge, especially some of you Vietnam vets.  Not sure if the terms pre-date the war there or what.

Pog/Poege/Poge - pronounced: POE-GUH - anyone who's in a non-combat MOS or someone who is but who does not do that job, or literally anyone who you think isn't carrying his load.
I've heard that it's origin is 'Persons Other than Grunts', but that seems significantly more complicated than I'd expect.  It sounds like something someone thought of after using the term.
The other explanation was that it comes from either Vietnamese or Tagalog term for pussy, 'poegee,' and is a bastardization from that term.
(There was also a claim that poegee bait comes from the idea of something to lure in pussy)

Stand 2/Stand too/Stand to - pronounced like it looks - 100% manning at the dusk and dawn hours.
Never heard a really good explanation why it's called this.  The only thing I've heard is that it's a shortened version of Stand to Arms and so it'd be written 'Stand to' but this seems somewhat hollow to me.

Anyone have any insight?

Any other terms that are interesting/confusing?

Saturday, March 8, 2014

The gunners have this plan, sir, but...

From a 1530ish manual on military ordnance; rocket cats.

The work is by one Franz Helm of Cologne, who was an artillerist and ordnance specialist during the early gunpowder warfare period. And Franz had some ideas that seem to be some pretty outside-the-box thinking.
"Helm explained how animals could be used to deliver incendiary devices: "Create a small sack like a fire-arrow . if you would like to get at a town or castle, seek to obtain a cat from that place. And bind the sack to the back of the cat, ignite it, let it glow well and thereafter let the cat go, so it runs to the nearest castle or town, and out of fear it thinks to hide itself where it ends up in barn hay or straw it will be ignited."

In other words, capture a cat from enemy territory, attach a bomb to its back, light the fuse and then hope it runs back home and starts a raging fire."
So far as I know there is no actual evidence that Helm, or anyone else, actually tried this.

Probably not a good idea whenb you think about it, given that a flaming cat, or crow or pigeon, is just as likely to flee in panic towards the nearest cover - the nearest probably being your own mess tent.

Still. Just goes to show that the whole "bizarrely useless defense contractor gimmick" wasn't invented by Raytheon.

(Big h/t to TPM and Lawyers, Guns & Money for finding this bizarre piece of semi-military historical trivia...)

Monday, March 3, 2014

The Ukrainian Crisis, Some Questions from a Clausewitzian Perspective

Over the last week, I have been contemplating a post on the the crisis in Ukraine. Recent events have brought up the possibility of Russian military intervention in the Crimea and elsewhere in Ukraine, so perhaps it is time to take a step back from it all for a moment and attempt to see the entire complexus of political relations regarding Ukraine and Eastern Europe and even beyond as an interlocking "system". In that way I hope to formulate some questions which may lead to a better appreciation of the situation from a Clausewitzian strategic theory perspective.
Let's consider a couple of quotes from On War and another from Alexandre Svechin's Strategy which in my view provide a good place to start. All On War extracts are from the Jolles translation.
Clausewitz writes in Chapter 3 of Book III:
the moral qualities are among the most important subjects in war. They are the spirits which permeate the whole sphere of war. They attach themselves sooner or later with greater affinity to the will which sets in motion the guides the whole mass of forces, and they unite so to speak with it in one whole, because it is itself a moral quantity. Unfortunately, they seek to withdraw from all book knowledge, for they can neither be measured in figures nor grouped into classes, and require to be both seen and felt. . The spirit and other moral qualities of an army, a general or a government, public opinion in provinces in which the war is proceeding, the moral effect of a victory or of a defeat - these are things which in themselves very greatly in their nature, and which, according as they stand with regard to our object and our circumstances, may also have a very different kind of influence.
Included in these moral qualities would be pre-modern and modern moral cohesion as well as material cohesion connected to the state. Consider that it is in terms of theory these three forces that allow political communities to develop which of course assumes that a state would provide the administrative apparatus of a single political community. In practice however there exist states whose territories are comprised of more than one political community and/or where the political community lacks the shared identity of a political community (higher levels of pre-modern moral cohesion, but low levels of modern moral and material cohesion). Here we can imagine situations where a state lacks even the cohesion necessary to keep it from falling apart, dividing up into separate political entities which may or may not be viable as states. Consider the case of Yugoslavia during 1991-99 in this regard. "Will" here regards the political purpose of the trinity of each political community or communities in question to defend or expand their interests vis a vis other political communities. Consider this first quote as regarding the internal dynamics of the state/political community in question. For the external dynamics, let us consider this On War quote from Book VI, Chapter 6:
we speak of those essentially interested in maintaining a country's integrity. If, for instance, we look at the various states composing Europe at the present time, we find - without speaking of a systematically regulated balance of power and interests such as does not exist and therefore is often with justice disputed - that still unquestionably the interests, great and small, of states and nations are interwoven with one another in a most complicated and changeable manner. Each point at which they cross forms a strengthening knot, for in it the tendency of the one counterbalances the tendency of the other. By means of all these knots, therefore, a more or less close inter-connection of the whole is created and for any change to take place this inter-connection must be partially overcome. In this way the sum total of the relations of all states to one another serves rather to maintain the status quo of the whole than to introduce changes in it, that is to say, that in general the course of events tends to the maintenance of the status quo. Thus, we believe, must the idea of a balance of power be conceived, and in this sense such a balance will always spontaneously arise wherever several civilized states have many points of contact. How effective the tendency of these collective interests toward the maintenance of the existing condition may be is another question. We can, indeed, conceive changes in the relations of individual states to one another which promote this effectiveness of the whole, and others which obstruct it. In the former case they are efforts to strengthen the political balance, and as these have the same tendency as the collective interests, they will also have the majority of these interests on their side. In the latter case, however, they are abnormalities, excessive activity of individual parts, real diseases. That these should occur in a whole so feebly bound together as the multitude of greater and smaller states is not to be wondered at. After all, they occur in the marvelously ordered organic whole of all living nature. If therefore, we are reminded of the cases in history in which single states have been able to effect important changes solely for their own advantage, without even so much as an attempt having been made by the whole to prevent them, and, indeed, of cases in which a single state has been in the position to raise itself so much above the rest as to become the almost absolute arbiter of the whole, our answer is that these cases in no way prove that the tendency of the collective interests to the maintenance of the status quo does not exist, but only that their effectiveness at the moment was inadequate. Effort toward an object is not the same thing as motion toward it. But it is by no means a nullity on that account, a truth of which the dynamics of the heavens afford the best illustration. When we say that the tendency of equilibrium is the maintenance of the existing condition, we certainly assume that in this condition rest, that is, equilibrium, existed. For where this has already been disturbed and a tension already introduced, the tendency of equilibrium may also, certainly, be directed toward a change. But if we regard the nature of the thing, this change can never affect more than a few single states, and never, therefore, the majority of them. It is certain then that this majority sees its maintenance always represented and assured by the collective interests of all, certain also that each single state, which is not in the position of finding itself already in tension against it in defending itself. Whoever laughs at these reflections as utopian dreams does so at the expense of philosophical truth. Although the latter teaches us to recognize the relations in which the essential component parts of things stand to one another, it would certainly be rash to expect to deduce from them any accidental disturbing influences. But when a person, in the words of a great writer, 'never rises above anecdote', built all history on it, begins always with the most individual points, with the climaxes of events; when he never goes deeper that just so far as he has cause, and thus never reachers the deepest foundation of existing general relations - such a person's opinion will never have value beyond a single case, and for him, certainly what philosophy settles for the generality of cases will only appear a dream.
Emphasis is original to Clausewitz. We see here the cycle of rest, tension and movement that characterize all political relations (see Clausewitz's dynamic law of war in Book III, Chapter 18). Since political relations are power relations a certain amount of tension within/among/between political communities is unavoidable. Much of the work of day to day international relations is dealing with this element of normal tension between states and/or political communities. When tension reaches a certain point and a policy decision follows or politics itself forces a decision to apply military force we have a period of movement which culminates at the point where the momentum achieved/released has reached its culmination point and a new state of balance is the result. Part of this state of balance is the status quo of existing political relationships between states/political communities. Say a state is in crisis and its future existence within the currently recognized borders comes into question. Say that one neighbor is causing much of this tension with the aim of gaining territory at the expense of the state in crisis. The other neighboring states would see it more in their interest that the status quo remain instead of the aggressing state becoming more powerful. In effect these other states become "allies" of the state defending with their eventual responses (if any) unknown to the aggressor.
There are a few other points which need to mentioned here. First, a hegemonic state is more the nature of an anomaly, a state that enjoys such a level of power that it can effectively dictate to all others is probably a very disrupting and even dangerous state and this "hyperactivity" can be seen as a social malady, or "disease". Having peer states to the most powerful is thus a stabilizing element to international relations. Second, while theory provides us with a starting point we need to delve in deeply to the history of the political relations between the states in question. Far too often commentators are blinded by their own political community's interests or assumed interests as well as seeing one side as "good" and the other as "evil". Both labels are inevitably heavily influenced by culture and interest. Third and finally, looks can be deceiving and sometimes it takes a bit of digging to understand the actual nature of the conflict in question. Is a decision for military action the result of aggressive or preventive action? That is, it is very important to understand the underlying causes of the tension since only in this way is an effective resolution possible. This of course assumes that the interest of the international community is stability and not a continuous state of instability.
The final quote I will list is from the Russian Clausewitzian strategic theorist Alexandre Svechin who imo is the greatest Clausewitzian theorist of the first half of the 20th Century. His theoretical approach spans the whole strategic spectrum from grand strategy to tactics and his development of the theoretical underpinnings of operational art and the broad nature of attritional warfare are fundamental to understanding Russian Soviet strategy during World War II. Svechin did not live to think through the actual operational requirements, but his concept of the operational level itself provided the conceptual framework for what followed. This extract deals with negative/positive purpose and exception to the rule of status quo stability (which Clausewitz had also mentioned elsewhere):
In general, the pursuit of negative goals, that is, fighting for the complete or partial maintenance of the status quo, requires less expenditure of forces or resources than the pursuit of positive goals, namely fighting for conquest and forward movement. It is easier to keep what you have than to get something new. The weaker side will naturally go on the defensive. These principles are obvious in both politics and the art of war, but only on the condition that the sides have a certain amount of stability and defensive capability in the status quo. In the same way that ocean waves grind the rocks on the shore against one another, historical conflict rounds off amorphous political formations, erodes boundaries with are too sinuous and gives rise to the stability required for defensive capabilities. However, sometimes this condition is absent. The Treaty of Versailles has filled the map of Europe with historical oddities. The class struggle has created a layer cake of different interests and factions on this map. In these conditions the pursuit of the negative goal of maintaining the status quo may be the weakest rather than the strongest form of waging war: sometimes a superiority of forces will be required for a defensive rather than for an offensive, depriving the defensive of any meaning. This was the situation in the war of 1866 in the German theater of operations. Moltke considered this theater of war secondary to the Bohemian theater and left only three divisions there against middle German forces three times their size. The fragmentation of the German states and the open field system of the Prussian domains resulting form the peace treaties of Westphalia and Vienna made defense incomparably more difficult for the Prussians than offense. The Prussians were fully capable of going on the offense despite the superiority of the enemy's forces. The same conditions are often encountered in a civil war; civil war breaks out over a vast area and definite fronts form only gradually. But given the intensity of the class struggle, these definite fronts do not express the entire heart of the matter: in advancing from the Volga to the Urals the Red forces did not get separated from their base, which is usually a significant disadvantage of an offensive, but approached new and wealthier sources of food and class and economic energy. If the political situation is right, why even think of a defensive? To put down armed uprisings in one's rear? The downfall of the Paris Commune in 1871 can partially be explained by its failure to consider the need for an offensive in order to establish communications with the provinces; Paris alone against all of France was an indefensible position in any case. For centuries, since the time of Cardinal Richelieu, French diplomatic thinking has been nurtured on the idea of creating conditions of fragmentation, open fields, and weaknesses in Europe. As a result of the work of French policy, whose ideas are expressed in the Versailles 'Peace' Treaty, all of Central Europe - Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia and so forth - has been placed in a situation which completely rules out the possibility of defense and positional warfare. The French vassals have been skillfully placed in the position of a squirrel compelled to turn the treadmill of militarism. The art of French policy lies in the skillful creation of unstable situations. This is the reason for the impermanence of this creation. The idea behind the Treaty of Versailles, putting Germany in an indefensible position, has made it physically necessary for Germany to prepare for offensive operations. Poland will still have the opportunity to ponder how it should thank France for the gift of the Polish Corridor, which has put Poland first in line for a German attack. Strategy, pp 250-51, 1927
Two points here: First, the current state system may actually require force to maintain, that is the moral/material cohesion of the state in question may be so weak as to require outside force to keep the entity together within its current boundaries. Second, for the attacker, the attack might be the stronger form of warfare, unlike most situations where it is the defense that has this advantage. Simply put the political conditions are the dominating factor regarding the resort to force.
With these concepts in mind, I have produced a list of questions regarding the current Ukrainian crisis which I think require relatively clear answers in order to understand what is going on. The level of propaganda coming from all sides is at such a level, particularly in the West, must be taken into consideration as well.
The first question would be basically what has happened in Ukraine? Was it a coup against a democratically elected President? Was it a revolution? Or is it the beginning of the break-up of the country as a whole, something that could turn into a civil war?
Is Ukraine, as it was constituted prior to the crisis a viable state or a hollow shell? Is being Ukrainian distinct from being Russian and if so for how many of the people living in Ukraine?
This leads us to the next question, which is simply who are the various sides? Who are the revolutionaries if a revolution has in fact taken place? Why did they see the need for violence and the need to overthrow the former government?
Is there any coherent plan to deal with Ukraine's financial crisis, this seen as independent, but obviously closely linked with the political crisis.
What are Russia's goals here? The destruction of Ukraine as an independent state? Annexation of Russian populated areas and strategic points in Ukraine important to Russia (the Russian naval base as Sevastopol)? Or simply the protection of Russians in a deteriorating polity? Simply are the Russians orchestrating events or simply more reacting to them?
How do Ukraine's other neighbors see this crisis? Is it in the interests of Poland, Slovakia, Belarus, Moldova and Romania that Ukraine continue to exist within its current borders? How would they see a partition of Ukraine?
Did the actions of the European Community in November 2013 precipitate this crisis? Why were the Ukrainians presented with the stark choice of choosing either "Europe" or Russia? Why was Russia's proposal for a tripartite agreement instead rejected by the US/EU?
What were the actions of the US government and various agents of the US government (including contractors) during the crisis, that is after October 2013? Did the US spend $billions to ferment trouble for the Ukrainian government? Did the US assist in a coup overthrowing a legitimate Ukrainian government?
So here are my questions . . . should you have any answers, or simply wish to comment, then please do so.