Thursday, June 19, 2014

Bomb, bomb, bomb...bomb, bomb Iraq?

I'm going to throw this out as a topic for discussion.

What is the general opinion around this joint about the idea of using the USAF/USN to provide air support for the Iraqi Army?

What I'm talking about isn't some sort of shock-and-awe/bombs-over-Baghdad/Libyan bomb-for-peace sort of air campaign. The sort of thing I'm thinking about is something like Operation Deliberate Force in 1995 only with the Sunni ISIL/ISIS guys in the role of the Bosnian Serbs and the IA as the Croats.

No nonsense about using airpower for some sort of airy-fairy geopolitical sparkle pony magical appearance of happy rainbows and peace unicorns. Straightforward use of aerial munitions to kill people to enable a proxy army to achieve tactical objectives.

Would it solve the clusterfuck that is Iraq?


But these ISIS/ISIL guys seem to be genuine hardcases even by Middle Eastern standards; the precepts of the organization appear to be the need to have a religious war in the muslim world to eliminate the Shia heretics. These guys are, apparently, a sort of Sunni Inquisition only with technicals.

So preventing these guys from establishing any sort of power base in the Tigris region seems worth considering.

This might also enable the U.S. to begin a working relationship with Iran, something that is long overdue given that nation's position as regional power in the Gulf. We don't have to like them, but the present position of the U.S. in the Middle East as a sort of client state of Saudi Arabia seems highly counterproductive, so if air-ground cooperation with their military in Iraq means being able to work with them in the long run? That would seem like a positive side-effect.

I'm not saying this is a good idea. I'm not saying I think the U.S. should do it. I'm saying that I can think of some reasons it might not be a BAD idea and I'm looking for some of the readership to give me their take on it to help me figure out whether it would be on balance a useful tool in the Iraqi box.

Would it fulfill the Geopolitical Prime Directive, "Primum Non Nocere" (First, Do No Harm)? Other than the usual "bombing muslims makes the survivors mad at you" what other possible blowback might there be? Are there any real genuine positive outcomes it might facilitate?

Have at it, ladies and gentlemen.

Monday, June 16, 2014

I guess you really CAN'T go home again...

Well, between us mike and I can't get this place looking like it used to. The old header and format are back but I can't find the old template or anything like it, and of the "classic" templates the colors are all like this - simple and grim - or garish and idiotic. Either way I'm not sure that this is an improvement on the new "magazine"-type look, as busy as that is.

I guess my thought is that this isn't really a good solution. If there's any real strong objections or a good alternative idea we'll back off and try a third approach. But unless there is I'm leaning towards going back to the old-"new" magazine format and just carry on from there. How about that, folks? Thoughts?

Friday, June 13, 2014

Tings Bruk Down

In an utterly shocking, completely-unforeseeable development, the shambolic "government" that United States animated in Iraq, its rent-a-goon Army, and its paramiliary police force are washing away like sand before the incoming tide of angry Sunnis.

What the hell is there to say, really? Other than what I've said over and over again?
"...that sucker was shot in the head eight years ago, when a clown-car full of rage-drunk idiots and cynical thieves tried to sneak into a foreign land and steal it on the cheap, justifying their theft with lies and evasions, muffing the thievery with ignorance and arrogance, and then taking years and years to accept that they couldn't change thousands of years of human history and hundreds of years of poverty, misgovernment, sectarian hatred, and Ottoman incompetence by their pure will alone. The entire mess was doomed from the start, it just took eight years for the fantasists in D.C. to recognize it was walking dead, and the only beneficiaries of its zombie progress since then have been the various outfits that have made millions looting the Occupation and the Malikist strain of Iraqi Shia who now stand to consolidate their kleptocracy with the help of the pals to the northeast.

It's not "over" for the ordinary Iraqi, mind you. The mess that Dubya and Dick created when they knocked over the Baathist toybox in the valley of the Tigris and Euphrates won't be "over" for years, or decades. The social, economic, and political disaster that the idiots who truly believed that they "made their own reality" will haunt the poor bastards that live in that haunted land for generations."
One thing that the usual idiots and the reliable-liars-of-the-Right are saying that makes my jaw drop is that it's time to get our war back on to go shovel this water, again, like somehow it's going to work out any better than it did the last time.

To which I have no better reply than to quote the section of Zee Edgell's work Beka Lamb that pretty much sums up in 131 words what happens to those who have tried to hustle the Valley of the Tigris and Euphrates since the Fall of the Abbasid Caliphate in 1258:

"I know. But nothin' lasts here, Beka. Tings bruk down."

Her Gran leaned the fork carefully against the frying pan, pushed the window over the back stairs and propped it open with a long pole. Then she said:

"I don't know why, Beka. But one time, when I was a young girl like you, a circus come to town. I can't remember where it was from and don't ask me what happened to it afta. The circus had a fluffy polar bear - a ting Belize people never see befo'. It died up at Barracks Green, Beka. The ice factory broke down the second day the circus was here."

Beka's Granny Ivy was crying. Her apron tail was over her face, and she said again and again,

"It died, Beka. It died."

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

A Matter of Appearances

The "new look" MilPub has been in place now for several weeks; I'd like to sound out the readership - what do you think of it?

I will admit to finding the new "magazine" style a little busy; it isn't quite as simple to scroll down to older posts. As a graphic I think it's quite eye-catching, tho. But that's just me?

How's it working for you all?

Friday, June 6, 2014

Over the shore

Seventy years ago today - as I'm sure you and everybody else within sight or hearing of some sort of broadcast implement knows - about 150,000 Allied troops landed on the north coast of the Normandy peninsula and reopened the Western Front of World War 2.

By dawn that morning my old unit, the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, had already had a hell of a shitty day. The unit was badly scattered - note the little black dots on the map to the left each representing a C-47-load of paratroops - and many of the troopers had landed in the swampy fringes of the River Merderet invisible in the dark fields below and had been drowned by their equipment without firing a shot.

Worse, the Third Battalion of the regiment had been dropped directly on the small town of St. Mere Eglise whose garrison were out of their fartsacks already, what with all those C-47s flying around overhead and all, and tore apart the guys as the descended. For the young men of the 505th, and a hell of a lot of other guys 6 JUN 1944 really was a long day full of suck.

But...they hung on, and by nightfall the Western Allies had a toehold on the European continent they never relinquished. Before another June would arrive those armies would be along the Elbe and the war in Europe would be over.

That is a peculiarly American myopia to see D-Day as - in the words of LTC Bateman - "...on this day, this morning, 70 years ago...the world began to change."

That's not to say that D-Day wasn't a major event in World War 2, or a major historical event. That's not to say that the men - and women - who came ashore didn't play an important role in defeating the Axis.
But it was less than three weeks later that the Soviet Army opened up Oперация Багратион (Operatsiya Bagration). Operation Bagration destroyed an entire German Army Group and unhinged the Eastern Front. In that operation, lasting from June to July 1944 Armeegruppe Mitte...
"lost about a quarter of its Eastern Front manpower, similar to the percentage of loss at Stalingrad (about 17 full divisions)...included many experienced soldiers, NCOs and other officers, which at this stage of the war the Wehrmacht could not replace. An indication of the completeness of the Soviet victory is that 31 of the 47 German divisional or corps commanders involved were killed or captured. Exact German losses are unknown, but newer research indicates around 400,000 overall casualties. Soviet losses were also substantial, with 180,040 killed and missing, 590,848 wounded and sick, together with 2,957 tanks, 2,447 artillery pieces, and 822 aircraft also lost." (Wiki 2014)
I don't think we, that is, the people of the United States, have ever come to terms with the fact that the "Greatest Generation" of World War 2 was, very likely, the Soviet subjects born in the Teens and Twenties who fought, and died in millions to roll back the Nazi invasions. What destroyed the fighting strength of Germany was, largely, the Soviet Union. So when you read all the veneration of this day in the Western popular press, it's well to pause and consider that.


My father's generation, and the Western world they helped create, was shaped by days like this day seventy years ago. The importance of D-Day to them, and thus to us, is hard to elide...although we, at this remove, might do well to listen carefully past the speeches and paeans to the invasion beaches for the distant thunder of the guns in Ukraine and Belorussia. Those caught in the firestorm can't afford to spend time looking at the horizon; it is for those of us with space and time to be thoughtful and mindful that for all that what happens to us is the Most Important Thing in the World it is often our own viewpoint that distorts the size and shape of events, and that viewpoint is often skewed by hate, or fear, or lust, or simple ignorance.

As for my father and his cohort...this year is probably their last big anniversary; ten years from now I doubt more than a handful will remain. In twenty, the Longest Day and their war will be just a history story, different only in proximity from Verdun, or Shiloh, or Hohenlinden, or Cannae.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

"Reimagining" the Army

An interesting article from Foreign Policy Magazine.  Seems like GEN Odierno has this vision of the Army being out there as it's own foreign policy operation, via the training and deployment of "Regionally Aligned Forces".  As the article states:

The idea underlying RAF (pronounced "raff") is that more culturally attuned soldiers will be better equipped to identify brewing conflicts before they get out of hand, enabling more timely and effective "shaping" -- that is, activities to make conditions favorable for U.S. military success. Such efforts can include influencing local populations, establishing friendly relations with local leaders, strengthening military-to-military cooperation, and the like. If conflict does break out, more culturally sophisticated soldiers will better understand the enemy and work more effectively with the host population. 

What troubles me:

1.  His so called "shaping" is a military decision, not a political one.
2.  He seems oblivious to how this would be perceived by the peoples he targets for US "military success".  IMHO, there is a vast difference between "host nations" and "host governments", with the latter being quite subject to changes in who they wish to entertain as "guests".
3.  The generally imperialistic approach he his proposing, in his drive to "shape" throughout the globe.
4.  The unsupported theory that we can actually field a force of "culturally sophisticated soldiers".
5.  He seems to be over-intellectualizing the nuts and bolts of what the bulk of our troops really need to be, no less are, able to do.

But then, Old Ray does have a problem - keeping the Army relevant in the post Iraq/Afghanistan roles and missions resourcing scramble.  However, there is a significant difference between seeing the Army as an instrument of national policy so that the nation will survive, and "shaping" national policy primarily for the Army to survive at levels pleasing to the Army leadership.