Monday, August 22, 2016

Open Thread

My contributions:

I am not a fan of command rotation.  MacFarland seemed to be doing well.  Why change?

2]  August 24th is the 500th anniversary of the Battle of Dabiq Meadow, which led to the Ottoman annexation of Syria.  The battle was a masterpiece of deception by Selim the first.  It was infamous for the treachery of the Mamluk’s allies.  And the apparent stroke of the Mamluk Sultan in the middle of the battle is a acclamation for General George C Marshall’s insistence that combat commanders have youth and stamina.

3]  The Kurds and Assad’s forces have been fighting in Hasaka City.  Lots of conflicting accounts of what is going on there.  The Americans ’reportedly’ sent in F-22s to keep Assad’s Air Force from repeating their bombing of Kurdish areas.  The Russians ‘reportedly’ negotiated a cease fire between the YPG and Assad’s troops.  But the Kurds are ‘reportedly’ still taking over Syrian government positions.



    This is a worthy issue; my stance (as blogged on D&F) is that such hawkish (if not warmongering) activism is a problem. It's similar with NATO General Secretaries, who have been needlessly hawkish for quite some time, poorly befitting to a defensive alliance.

  2. I've always wondered about the value of airborne officers (and airborne troops) in COIN. OK, well, I;ve often wondered about "COIN", period. But ISTM that if you (the Western power) really do want some sort of political accomodation that employing someone whose entire military ethic is premised on sudden and violent action may not be the best idea.

    Not that ANY officer or military unit (as Sven points out) may be too "kinetic" for that particularly difficult and troublesome task. But airborne light infantry is, but its very nature, among the most aggressive and kinetic of military forces. Airborne troops and, by inference, airborne officers, don't and can't think in the "long term". Their missions tend to be of necessity short and characterized by rapid strategic movement, assault, and resolution (or they get waxed, which is another story entirely...)

    And I saw this Kurds-versus-SAA thing in the news and thought "Well, sod THAT for a game of soldiers!". What passes for US "policy" in Syria is based on first dealing with the jihadis and then turning to al-Assad. If the US proxies devolve into a three-way bunfight between Daesh and the regime then this entire shitburger gets even shittier.

    What a mess. WASF.

    1. The U.S State Department is failing in its job to cover diplomacy.

      (1) It's not shutting officers up by correcting the record and telling the public that officers have no say in policy or diplomacy. Every officer who plays diplomat or politician should be rebuffed as a loudmouth and indisciplined blabbermouth with no authority in the field.

      (2) It's not providing diplomats for low level diplomacy either. All bases on foreign soil have public relations / civ-mil officers who effectively do diplomacy with locals, including local officials. That should be done by actual diplomats. Add a consulate to all major bases, period. Low level diplomacy with 'village elders' as supposedly done so often in Iraq and AFG should be done by diplomats as well. They army should be limited to be their loyal escorts. It's ridiculous that 22 y.o. 2nd LTs did play diplomats with 50+ y.o. men who had seen war for a decade or more.
      No doubt there were occasionally bright guys among them, but they were rotated out after six months, and judging by my life experience 22 y.o. guys are not a good choice for the job.

    2. I think a big part of the problem, Sven, is that State has been systematically excluded from many of the places where DoD has gotten deeply stuck into local rebellions. AND a lot of the low-level State facilities have been closed due to "security" concerns and the State staff concentrated in the embassies in the local capitals where the staff have little ability to get out among the locals...

      And, sadly, because I think that there is a tendency among diplomats to be pragmatic (i.e. pessimistic) about the chance of a foreign power successfully involving itself in a local political, ethnic, religious, economic (or some combination of all the above) dispute. Soldiers, with their "salute and move out smartly" mindset and tradition, are a lot more lets-get-involved-in-the-West-Buttfuckistan-insurrection-friendly than most diplomatic types. Hence the preference for them amongst the policymakers...

    3. What I picked up about the problem rather indicates that Dept. of State personnel cannot simply be ordered into a warzone and out of a fortified location as soldiers can be ordered. They simply didn't find enough volunteers, and the mere four casualties in Libya were a significant chunk of the small volunteer base.

      It's similar with the German effort to train the ANP. Politicians draw up a grandiose plan, allocate budget - and then cannot find enough policemen to serve as trainers, and none can be forced to do it.

      So in the end the U.S. and Germany are using whatever personnel they can compel to do the job, and that's all too often inadequate for the job in quantity or quality.

      Besides, Dept. of State security ambitions are ridiculous. Even in Germany and the centre of Berlin in shouting distance to our federal parliament their new embassy's architecture is the closest thing to a new medieval-style fortress constructed in Germany for the past 140 years.

    4. I think that State CAN assign its people where it needs them. I think that State is, as you say, ridiculously obsessed with "security" (and I'd argue that some or much of that is a side-effect of the U.S. military's obsession with "force protection" at the expense of...well, just about everything else...) and has voluntarily closed or downsized its satellite facilities just when it could use them most.

      But whatever the reason I agree that the effect is to reduce the already-small pool of competent people to a level too small to be effective.

      Meanwhile the armed services, unconstrained by those difficulties, romp about the less-paved parts of the world. They are taught to use their hammers, so in the end all the problems look like nails...

  3. Sven - According to his Air Force bio, General Breedlove retired on 1 July, the same date as the Intercept article you linked to. I am assuming he was forced out by SecDef or the WH. They surely had advance notice on the article.

  4. Sven - I believe that some diplomats were embedded with the US Military Governor on Clayallee in West Berlin and they stayed even after a full Embassy was later established in Bonn. At least one of those foreign service guys was previously embedded with Ike's staff in North Africa and I'm sure in London. But you are right there should be more embedded at a lower level. Cost is a big issue as Congress has been restricting State's budget for years.

  5. Re: the YPG/Syrian Arab Army collision, another factor is Turkey; not likely to appreciate a strengthening of the Kurdish ministate in the Syrian NE. Given the recent rapprochment between Erdogan's government and Russia the potential for a messy three-way (U.S.-Russia-Turkey) furball in the air over the Hasaka area is not entirely unpossible..


    “It’s the perfect playbook for how not to deconstruct an insurgency,” Fair said.