Friday, September 11, 2015

Ranger Rule of Order

Today's entry is in the "Oldies but Goldies" category, re-titled,

"Not that he's a Cassandra ... "

Ranger nailed this one two years ago to the day: 



Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Ranger's Rule of Order

  Blessed are the peacemakers:
for they shall be called the children of God 
--Matthew 5:9 

I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ,
think it possible that you may be mistaken
--Oliver Cromwell

The run-up to the bombing of Syria has been full of the usual bloviation justifying the use of violence as the American Way of problem-solving. But if and when we bomb Syria it will not be war, because the United States has lost the ability and skills to fight  a real war with all attendant features.

If we contravene the efforts of the world community to stave off our brinkmanship -- if we drop bombs on Syria -- this will be violence without purpose. Do not mistake the application of violence as war; it is not war. It is simply a flash and bang simulacrum of war.

Ranger's Rule of Order #1:
Adding violence to an already violent situation will not ensure a peaceful outcome.

Corrolary: The result will be de facto a continuation of the violence. For civilians, this act is akin to adding salt to an overly salty soup; potatoes would be a more sensible addition if the goal is to ratchet down the saltiness.

Dropping bombs is not peacekeeping.

In war, violence is added to achieve goals, but in peacekeeping violence is SUBTRACTED to reach the goal. At least, that's how it should be.

Even for a Ranger who prides himself in his simplicity, this is embarrassingly simple to have to state.

[cross-posted @ RangerAgainstWar.]


  1. Well, Jim, that assumes that the actual intent of the application of force was in fact the same as the stated intent. I suspect that was never the case.

    Since 1917 the open admission of purely vengeful or politically cynical force has been taboo for US pols. We have to be killing people for peace, or freedom, or adorable puppies, or some such guff. Admitting we were killing Syrians as part of a cynical piece of Great Power geopolitics would have been, well, cynical. UnAmerican (as if the calculated use of military force wasn't all Apple pie...).

    My issue isn't with the cynicism but the stupidity. The violence was ridiculously inadequate to crushing one side or the other in the Syrian civil war. If we were going to use violence, let us use it for what it does; crushing people the user wants crushed.

    But we really had no idea how to get what we wanted and still don't. So, sadly, this was seen as "doing something"...

  2. There's an anecdote about one of Reagan's valuable learning moments:
    TWhen the druze sect had blown up Marines in Beirut with suicide bombers, he came to the conclusion that the people in the Near East are too crazy to deal with and decided to withdraw (he did it by playing strong man in public, bombing Lebanon and claiming not to back down, only afterwards did he quit).

    Too bad the rest of the Republican party didn't get the memo. What they remember was the bombing.
    U! S! A! U! S! A! U! S! A!

  3. Or Shi'ite, whatever.
    The antagonists to the U.S. "peacekeepers" in Lebanon were Druze and Shi'ites at the time.

  4. I'm aware of the Druze participation in the Lebanese Civil War. But to my admittedly limited knowledge, the Druze have not participated in suicide attacks. I would be interested in any info you have that differs.

    A Shiite splinter group called Islamic Jihad claimed credit. And Iran has built a monument to the martyrs that perpetrated the attack.

    Returning to present I also think we should support the Syrian Druze who are being forced to convert by al Nusra and ISIS. But we won't as they generally support Assad's regime.

  5. My understanding is that the weight of evidence is that the operations were an Iranian retaliation for US support of Iraq in the First Gulf War, with assistance from local Shia who had been antagonized by US and French actions in the Shuf and the Bekaa Valley.

    I'm sure the Druze weren't happy about getting shelled, but the bombing was an Iranian-local-Shiite op.

    And I'd disagree the Reagan's crew disengaged from the ME. Their meddling in the Gulf War ended up with Iran-Contra, a disgrace whose lack of prosecutions we're still paying for. He did "declare victory and beat cheeks" in Lebanon, tho, so you're right there...

    1. Iran-Contra was diplomacy, and the USN's help for the aggressor Iraq in breaking the legitimate naval blockade of the victim of aggression Iran wasn't on the ground. Reagan didn't return with boots on the ground to the Near or Mid East.
      Bush sen. did so with many Arabs on his team thanks to Baker's efforts and against a secular foe - he later refused to help the Kurds and Shi'ites on the ground.
      Slice by slice the U.S. did re-engage on the ground, especially due to the stupidest people on earth, but Reagan's gut reaction was nevertheless helpful.

      Too bad Reagan idolation doesn't follow the real Reagan , a man who had some learning moments and an ability to change course pragmatically.

    2. "Iran-Contra was diplomacy" in the same sense that von Seeckt's dealings with the Soviets were "diplomacy"; both were attempts to subvert what the connivers thought were onerous and punitive rules that hampered them getting what they wanted - in the Reaganites' case was assistance for their dirty war in Central America and to free hostages in Lebanon despite the legal prohibitions against selling arms to the mullahs. The contempt for legal "niceties" and the idea that dirty deeds done dirt cheap were a solid foundation for foreign (and domestic) policy were thereby bred into the bone of guys like Cheney and Ledeen who continued to be influential in GOP foreign policy "thinking" into the Dubya years.

      Reagan's only disengagement was in the form of direct application of ground force which, as we've seen, is fairly common for U.S. Middle East policy, and the degree to which Reagan himself "learned" is difficult to guess, given that he appears to have been showing signs of Alzheimers early on in his second term.

      I'm not a reflexive Reagan-basher, but the Middle East was not his best subject.

  6. Syria is a proxy war to anyone who isn't Syrian. Application of violence in Syria in all of its forms (air strikes is the highly visible example, but not the sole application) is not intended to achieve an end to the violence. That would imply that we have a policy that articulates and envisions what a post-violence Syria looks like. We don't. We are applying violence to buy down risk and manage strategic relationships.

    Unfortunately, this administration views the application of violence the same way as LBJ, as a means of messaging. Targeted air strikes has limited tactical impact in most cases and negligible operational impact in almost all cases (the recent strike against Jenaid Hussein being an exception). The true purpose of the air strikes is to send a message that we are "doing something." The audience is the American people, Congress, partner nations and even enemies.

    Once you view military action in terms of the communications cycle versus an application of military force as a form of warfare, it is easier to understand the calculus of the policy makers. It doesn't make it easier to agree with them though. To truly evaluate the effectiveness of our application of violence, instead of using the traditional measures of effectiveness of warfare and statecraft, we have to instead look at the communications model. Is the intended audience receiving the message that we are intending to send? That is where we often fail in this method of application of force.... we often fail to transmit a message that has the intended effect on the intended audience. And we fail to anticipate how unintended audiences will interpret and react to the message (as well as fail to effectively measure the response to our messages among all audiences, intended and unintended).

  7. The primary effect of the air strikes was likely to hamper IS mil operations.
    They weren't able to use convoys of 100 Toyota pickups any more, nor use small marshalling areas for staging attacks.
    The surveillance from the air also gave their enemies early warning of attacks through liaison agents.

    It's not always about destruction and killin'.

  8. BG,
    If one accepts your view of military action in terms of a commo cycle as a form of warfare then things are rather screwed.
    What principle of war covers this thought process?
    How does killing their leaders change the equation?
    What is the commo conveying other than our violence is better than their violence?
    break/ break.
    Since you are on the line here , maybe you can clarify a point that bothers me.
    Here it is.
    Where do the wounded IS field soldiers get their medical care when severely wounded?
    Clearly some country is providing safe haven? Any comment?
    Same question for rations and all the other ash and trash stuff of a maneuver force.
    Nice to hear from you.
    You talk of hampering IS milops. Does this mean that they are a military organization, or are they terrorists , as we claim?
    It's my training that all actions are supposed to facilitate future ops,so what would these look like?
    jim hruska

    1. I considered IS as a civil war faction from the beginning, and honestly, German media present them as a brutal civil war faction - albeit calling them "Terrormiliz" (terror militia) often - but IIRC the genocidal anti-blacks militias in Southern Sudan were called quite the same.

      IS/ISIL/ISIS/d'aesh is a proto-state, so its armed wing can at most be a "paramilitary", not a "military force" AFAIK. Their actions are about warfare, though - and thus my use of a warfare-ish vocabulary.

      "Where do the wounded IS field soldiers get their medical care when severely wounded?"

      Local MDs and apothecaries (obvious), Turkish hospitals (been reported repeatedly) and I suppose they keep at least some men (or hostages) with medical training as organic CSS. I think I remember some report about such hostages (forced nurses, trained and untrained) as well.

    2. Ranger, not sure about the medical piece. I am willing to bet their survival from wounds rate is low. Most of our airstrikes result in KIA, not WIA. ROE doesn't requires us to stop shooting just because they "look" wounded from 10K feet. "Squirters" have a very low survival rate.

      They have an entire population to pull doctors from (occupied territory in Iraq and Syria). I don't suspect they are getting much support from any nation states.

      Fact is, they have more fighters coming in than we are killing. So their losses from our strikes, while disruptive and serving tactical purposes, is not attriting them.

      If you are viewing this (or any) administration's military decision making process based on principles of war or centers of gravity, than you misunderstand the civilian leadership. LBJ attempted to send "messages" to Hanoi through bombing raids, LBJ was trying to break the will of the NV leadership to fight, convince them that if we really wanted to, we could make the cost too high for them. He failed to understand that his "messages" were not being received as intended and were instead strengthening resolve.

      Today we know we can not influence jihadi leaders to not fight us, so we just kill them. They are not our target audience (pun totally intending, from an messaging perspective). The audience are partner nations (Saudis, UAE, Israel, Jordan, Russia, Iran, etc) and our own people (congress, political opposition, hawks). We are messaging to our target audiences that we are "doing something." That is our entire policy and strategy, don't do stupid stuff, and do just enough to create the perception that we are doing all that is prudent. It isn't about ending violence or the civil war, it isn't about reaching some end state, it is about not being perceived as not doing anything.

      It can also be argued that we are attempting to buy space and time for an Arab army to be raised to fight ISIL. We are doing that, as part of our operational plan. But this still fails the "strategy" test because we don't really know what we are buying space and time for...

    3. You sound as if that was a conflict wbetween IS and U.S.. There are MULTIPLE "Arab armies fighting ISIL". They're merely not good at or suitable for operational manoeuvre due to logistics, leadership structures and general lack of mobile reserves.

      The U.S. is on the sidelines, stabbing one party a little from a safe distance. The real battle is on the ground, and other countries bomb quite a bit as well.

    4. Exactly S O, that is my point. What is the utility of our force? What is our role in the larger effort? It's minimal, it certainly isn't intended to end the violence or the civil war. It is almost symbolic... I argue it is messaging. Just enough to make a point to our domestic audience and allies.

    5. I began looking at this as outcomes of (armed) bureaucracies' self interest years ago.
      In this case the USAF gets the attention while the army atrophies without substantial overseas ops in the medium term, and the bombing campaign will be used as a 'justification' for development and procurement of munitions and sensors at least.

      Obama appears to be gullible/naive/unable to learn enough to fall for top brass' exaggerations even after Petraeus' wrong promise about the Afghanistan 'surge'.

      Thus armed services top bureaucrats pursuing armed service self-interest by promoting warfare + politicians without anti-war principles believing them for want of understanding of war = yet another military mission that's not going to be a success.

      Same thing as with the anti-piracy patrols of dozens of navies: Every competent admiral knows since Pompey the Great's rapid purge of Mediterranean piracy that you defeat piracy by going after their bases. Patrolling is for idiots or for when the pirates have safe havens (pirates with "letter de marque") only.
      Patrolling they did...for years.

    6. BG,
      I was always taught,in DOD schools, that symbolic violence was the definition of terrorism.
      jim hruska

    7. That definition wouldn't be worth much.
      A countr with 0% chance to defend itself against an invasion will still want its army to fire a few shots for a day in order to make the statement that the invasionw as opposed. That would be symbolic as well.

      Other forms of violence which were no doubt terrorism were for example the kidnapping of the Lufthansa airliner "Landshut" (stormed in Mogadishu by GSG9). That act of violence (killing of a crewmember) wasn't symbolic at all.

      A better definition would be like
      + striving for much greater moral and political than physical damage
      + detached from warfare (bombing of Hanoi yes, interdiction by Stukas with Jericho sirens no)

  9. SO,
    Maybe the militarization of police started with GSG9/Mog.
    You say they stormed the the airliner. Doesn't this mean then that they are storm troopers?
    Isn't GSG9 a non-military police entity?
    I stand by my belief that terrorism is symbolic violence.,
    jim hruska

    1. GSG was and is federal. It was part of the uniformed border police, which was a paramilitary force that would have been combatants in the event of war.
      The BSG has since been transformed intoa federal police and absorbed the former federal railway police force.

      "stormtroopers" existed in Star Wars and back in WWI only (literally, it would be "thrust troops").