Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Possibly the Trumpiest thing yet.

His Fraudulency wants to throw money at the Pentagon by hoovering out the bank accounts at State, the EPA, and other non-kinetic federal agencies.

And when I say "throw" I mean THROW; this projected budget is almost 10% higher than the final Obama Defense budget. We had an increase that big in the early Reagan years, and I might remind you that there was this thing called the "Cold War" back then and we needed to protect ourselves from the bear in the woods, as the kidz say nowadays. The most recent big DoD hikes were back in the early Bush era, when Dubya and Dick wanted new guns to overawe the heathen Afghans and Iraqis and, again, in their last year when they needed to spend some of that money they saved by not rescuing black people in New Orleans or something.

But setting aside OTHER numbnuts Republicans...that's a big sweet slug for the Military-Industrial-Congressional Complex.

Setting aside the ridiculous notion that what the U.S. really needs now is a bigger armed force the really Trumpy piece of this that that the proposed increase - about 50 billion - has no ground in actual delineated military need. There's no "plan" here outside "let's throw cash at the DoD" and we all know how well that works...

Let me throw something near to my heart out as an example.
The field artillery branch of the U.S. Army currently employs two primary 155mm gun systems; the M109 "Paladin" series self-propelled howitzer and the M777 towed howitzer. The M777 is a relatively recent design, but the M109 is on the last of a series of upgrades of a system that was designed in the 1960's. While neither is an exceptional design (and by that I mean neither exceptionally good nor bad; they're both fairly middle-of-the-road FA systems) it's worth noting this statistic:

M109A7 maximum range - conventional projo 18km, RAP (rocket-assisted) projo 30km
M777 maximum range - conventional projo 24km, base-bleed projo 30km, "Excalibur" (guided/enhanced range) projo 40km
G5 (South Africa towed cannon system) maximum range - conventional projo 30km, base-bleed projo 39km, V-LAP projo 50km
G6 (SA - SP cannon) maximum range - conventional projo 30km, Base bleed 39km, V-LAP: 52.5km, M9703A1: 67km

The G5 and G6 gun systems were designed in the Seventies...but they still outrange the most recent U.S. FA systems in all categories of projectiles.
This is not to say that the Army FA is some sort of Third World shitshow. But...the mech and armored divisions have been waiting for a new SP system since the Crusader (XM2001) was cancelled in the early Oughts. So if you wanted to throw some money at the Army the notion that the U.S. might spend some money on upgrading the SP FA system to at least the ability to shoot out as far as an almost-fifty-year-old South African system seems like a not-unreasonable idea.

But...will that happen?

Who the fuck knows?

After all...this is Trump. The guy seems to make decisions based on who licks him the most like a triple-scoop of butter-brickle. IMO it's entirely likely that some conman shrewder than he is will slip in and sell him on some Ronco potato-gun contraption that works about as well as the infamous "Sergeant York" antiaircraft system...

So it's not just a question of "do we really need to throw more money at guns?" although that's really a good question. The problem with THIS throw-money-at-guns gimmick is that it's no more well-thought-out than the goofy Muslim ban. It seems designed after the way the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq usta threw money at stuff; just fly in pallets of dollars and start spreading 'em around.

After all; what could go wrong?

And, worse...to pull this cash from State? Hell, Trump's own SecDef explained the arithmetic of that little transaction to the Congresscritters thusly:
"When Mattis was a four-star Marine general in charge of U.S. Central Command, he told a congressional committee, “If you cut the State Department’s budget, then you need to buy me more bullets.”

More and more it seems like every time these gomers do something it seems like - assuming that they've put any thought into it at all - they've studied the issue and cudgeled their brains as hard as possible to find the answer to the question "How would I do this if I were a fucking moron?"


Sunday, February 26, 2017

Lt. General Snowden and Iwo Jima

 --General Snowden, before a plaque signed
 and presented to him by the last Japanese Emperor
 of the Empire of Japan (Hirohito)

Strangers on this road, we are all
We are not two, we are one
--Strangers, Golden Smog


[NOTE: An officer and a gentleman died this week in our town. The date was 18 February 2017, one day before the start of the Battle of Iwo Jima, in which Lt. General Snowden led his men with great honor. We are running this re-post so that his memory may not be in vain.]

We recently had the pleasure of meeting a hometown hero, Lt. General Lawrence "Larry" Snowden (R) who, at 93, is the senior survivor of the protracted and bloody World War II Battle of Iwo Jima, a climatic event of WW II in the Pacific lasting from 19 Feb 1945 to 26 Mar 45.

The General was wounded twice in the battle, leaving the hospital against medical advice and hopping a mail flight in order to get back to the island to command his men. He participated in eleven campaigns over the course of a career in which he saw action in three wars (WWII, Korea and Vietnam).

But Gen. Snowden is neither your typical military man nor retiree in a conservative part of the country.

Mr. Snowden traveled to Iwo Jima again last month, as he has every year for the last 15 years, to lead a "Reunion of Honor" with both his fellow survivors from the U.S. Marines well as the Japanese soldiers whom they fought. His mission is a solemn one of reconciliation with men who were once his mortal enemies but, as the widow of the Japanese commanding general said to him, "Once enemies, now friends."

As Snowden told a local journalist last year, "Those men didn't want to be here any more than we did. They were doing their duty. You don't hate anybody for that" (After 68 Years, the Battle of Iwo Jima Stays Fresh.)

When we asked how he reached this enlightened state, he smiled and gave his mother credit. He recalls being a pugilistic young man engaging in "fisticuffs" with his fellows and going on about "hating" someone. She told him that he didn't "know enough about anyone else to allow [him] to feel hatred," and that he could find another way of dealing with his anger. He got the idea then that the head could rule the emotions.

With recent attention to the concept of "moral injury" amongst soldiers, the idea of recognition, understanding and forgiveness between fighting men seems an essential move towards healing.

Snowden has commanded every level of combat unit from Rifle Company to Regiment. As a General Officer he served as Chief of Staff HQ, USMC. His route to reconciliation began during the Korean War when he worked alongside his former Japanese adversaries while coordinating logistical efforts flowing through Japan destined for the Korean peninsular effort. It was his first recognition that men need not retain hostilities, and that life had an ebb and flow.

He next bumped up against the idea of reconciliation when  he returned to Japan in 1972 as Chief of Staff, U.S. Forces, Japan (a Joint Services Command.) During that three-year posting he liaised with the Japanese government, becoming familiar with and appreciative of Japanese society. He left Japan for Washington D.C. in the final posting of his 37-year military career, serving as Chief of Staff HQ, USMC.

Upon retirement he returned to Japan as a civilian representative for Hughes Aircraft, focusing on production and economic matters while living in Tokyo for the next ten years. He also served as the head of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Japan.

This is the backdrop to the genesis in 1985, the 40th Anniversary of Iwo Jima, of the idea for the Reunion of Honor, and the General has been involved in the annual event since that time. Notice there is nothing about warriorhood or grand patriotic celebration surrounding the event. It is simply a somber recognition of men who did the heavy lifting for their respective nations.

A Buddhist priest who survived the fighting and the widow of the Japanese Commanding General, along with the General's son, deliver a solemn presentation. Following this, Mr. Snowden and his fellow survivors ascend Mount Suribachi; they then come down and the Japanese survivors then go up.

"I make the same speech three times: in Los Angeles, in Honolulu and Guam. I tell everybody there will be no T-shirts, no hollering and victory celebration. From the very beginning we have pledged that we would not ever, ever crow over our victory there. And we've never had any problems with that." So much for the Toby Kieth brand of patriotism.

  --This painting is a retirement gift commissioned for General Snowden
by one of the riflemen he commanded on Iwo Jima

Ranger asked the General if he had seen the film, "American Sniper". He looked down and said his friends were always after him to see the latest war film, but that he usually demurred. 

"I have seen everything they could possibly put into one of those films, and I have no desire to see it ever again."

Semper Fi, Lt. Gen. Snowden.

Coda: As we were leaving, Gen. Snowden received a call from the Florida Veterans Hall of Fame; he would be nominated as their newest inductee.

Has has Ranger's Army vote.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

¡Fuera de acá!

I hate to even admit this.


I'm not TOTALLY hating on the totally-expected roundup-the-wetbacks directive from the new Administration.

Yeah, yeah, I'm a Trumpkin. I want to Make America Great Again. Ugh. I know.

Bear with me for a moment, though.

Now. Don't get me wrong. This thing will suck for millions of people whose crime is trying to get a piece of the American Dream for themselves and their families. I hate that on a purely personal, I-don't-like-to-make-things-suck-for-innocent-people level. As a person, I hate it.

As a citizen, as someone who thinks about politics and governing...well, let's start with this; to be a stateless person, a non-citizen, in a foreign nation is not a good thing.

It's not good for the person, who has no civil rights, who is outside the protection of the civil law, and who is, therefore, hideously vulnerable to all sorts of malefactors.

And it's not good for the nation, that has this indigestible mass of non-citizens within it prey to crime and violence, exploited by employers and living in fear of taking part in the civil life of the community.

So. The bottom line really is; if you are a citizen of Mexico, or Ireland, or Bali...you belong in Mexico, Ireland, or Bali unless you are a legal resident or visitor of where-ever-it-is-you-are; in this case, the United States.

(In case you're interested, I wrote a loooooong post over at my other joint three years ago where I discussed what I see as the vast, almost insoluble complexity of this problem, which concluded with the following:
"The real issue - the one Which Dare Not Speak Its Name - is that the institutional poverty, misgovernance, and social maladjustment of most Latin American countries is so profound and so destructive that to address it would take every penny that the U.S. has spent on poorly planned foreign adventures and more. Much more.

So instead we get this idiotic argument that all we need to do is fence these little heatherns out and everything will be Good. God will once again be White and in His Heaven, the food will magically get harvested, processed, cooked and served by "Real Amurikans" (that is, legal citizens) who will suddenly, magically, want to work for the pittance we want to pay for these jobs to prevent our food, clothing and service costs from reflecting what it would cost to pay humans actually living wages to do these things."
But this post isn't about those things; it's about the Trump-promising-to-deport-the-beaners-and-going-ahead-and-doing-it.)

As opposed to the ban-the-raghead rule, which really was poorly thought out and complete geopolitical foolery, the idea that the United States should police its borders and return those who have entered the country illegally to their homelands is not, on its face, as freakishly boneheaded as most Trump stuff.


(...and you KNEW there'd be a but, here, right, because, well...Trump.)

Here's the problems I DO have with this.

First, I can see a gajillion ways that this is going to be a fucking total shitshow. American citizens will be grabbed up and deported by mistake. Sweeps will result in a seething mob of people shoved into FEMA trailers without any sort of organization or preparation. Screening will be a disaster. The optics - "jackbooted ICE agents handcuff adorable tiny Latino kiddies" - will make the Land of the Free look like the Land of the Assholes. People will get stranded in Mexico City airport with nowhere to go and no hope of relief.

I can see about a dozen ways this will be a smoking crater - it's Trump, for one thing, who seems to have a gift for employing people who couldn't run a child's birthday party - that will make the Iraq War look like VE Day.

Second, I can also see how this could turn into something far nastier and far worse, along the lines of the Japanese internment of 1942. There's always been a hell of a strong strain of race hate and xenophobia in America (as there is in about...well, pretty much everywhere humans live...) that could take this from a calmly conducted law enforcement process into a screaming ratissage against every person or group of people that every whacko wingnut hates and freaks out over (Hello? Alex Jones? Hello?).

And, finally, I think that, even if this isn't a dumpster fire, that the results will be at best underwhelming. The promised Day of Alien-Free Jubilee will turn out to be a quiet monotone of unpicked crops, uncleaned hotel rooms, unwiped asses, and uncooked meals.

The result of all this huge slug of spending - surely paid for by a tax hike, right? - will be, outside of personal hardship for those involved, a vast expanse of...very little.

What do you think?

Monday, February 20, 2017

Credit where it's due

It's no secret that many of the appointments in the new Administration have ranged from risible to disastrous. But in appointing LTG H.R. McMaster to the post of National Security Advisor the new President lay just, possibly, have gotten one right.

McMaster is a genuine rarity among U.S. Army general officers; a leader who actually thinks about and studies his craft. His reputation among his peers was as something of an iconoclast dating back to the 1990s when he wrote a dissertation (and then publishing in book form) that broke with the Army's conceit that the Vietnam War was "lost" through civilian mismanagement and popular demoralization to point out that the then-leaders of the Army knew that their means and methods were not solving the problem that was the RVN's shambolic government. In the Oughts McMaster was part of a group of senior field-grade officers that made a similar point about the occupation of Iraq.

Obviously - since this is always the question about Trump - the real problem is that we don't know yet what the constraints on McMaster will be and how effective he can and will be in pounding geopolitical sense into the granny's attic that is the Tangerine Toddler's head. The candidate before him 86ed the offer because of too many strings Trump attached to the post, including, supposedly, retaining political oxygen-thieves like K.T. McFarland.

Trump's boast is that he's assembling the "best people" for his administration.

Betsy DeVos is a walking refutation to that nonsense.

Still. In tapping LTG McMaster for NSA even a skeptic like me has to admit; he has, indeed, got one of the best people for this job.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Hal Moore

Worth reading.  I won't quote from it.  But I do believe the man should have gotten much more than a 15-gun salute.


Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Ummm...well, gee, Dad, I wasn't...no, really...but...I...

I think the thing about this ridiculous Flynn Fiasco that gets me right in the giggy is that this joker was once the head of one of the United States' major intelligence agencies.

I mean, this guy isn't some Christopathic Amway chisler like DeVos or a greedy robosigning bankster like Mnuchin or even a neo-Nazi stooge like Bannon. Mike Flynn was not just boss of the DIA but "...commander of the Joint Functional Component Command for Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance, chair of the Military Intelligence Board, Assistant Director of National Intelligence, and the senior intelligence officer for the Joint Special Operations Command."

A noted nutbar conspiracy theory aficionado, too, but, nevermind. Point is, this guy's been in the snoop-and-spy game for donkey's years.

And yet, apparently, so fucking stupid it's pretty amazing that the gomer can walk and breathe at the same time.

I mean...think about how he got into this mess.

Guy calls the Russian Embassy. Chats with Ivan, good times, blah-blah-blah...hangs up and then proceeds to lie his little ass off about it like a teenager caught slipping into the house after midnight with his panties in his pocket when asked about what they said.

And never, not once, does he think "Gee...I bet the NSA has a recording of what we talked about because the NSA taps everybody's goddamn phone but double-secret-taps every Russian diplomatic phone 24/7 so lying at this point isn't just useless but is actively damaging to me and everybody else in the Fraudulency Administration that's gonna stand up for me..."


Maybe it's the old GI in me, but the thing that gets me about this - more than the lying, more than the playing-footsie-with-the-Russians, more than the probable-taking-emoluments-from-a-foreign-power - is the goddamn, stomp-down, pure-D, bone-stupid of it.

This guy, this guy who was so freaking stupid as not to think that the NSA was listening in on his dumb ass chatting with the Russian Ambassador, was for 24 days His Fraudulency's - a guy whose foreign policy knowledge can be summed up by the phrase "bag of hammers" - go-to guy for "national security".

Just sit and think about that for a moment.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Yakla. Arabic for Dieppe, or Normandy, or neither, or what..?

It will surprise no one here that my general opinion of the not-even-a-month-old reign of His Fraudulency is a mixture of disgust and contempt; disgust for the greedy, mulcting brutality of the Grifter-in-Chief and contempt for an "adiminstration" that is barely capable of incompetence, let alone anything approaching a grasp of the actual complexity and difficulty of running an immense industrial nation.

But...since this is supposed to be a blog about military affairs and geopolitics...let me concentrate on one specific issue involving one single episode in this farcical miniseries and what is says, not just about the Barely Sentient Administration but about the whole business we've been doing in the Middle East since 2001; the raid on the village of Yakla in Yemen.

And the issue is this: "winning"
Specifically, the new President seems to be furiously irked that anyone questions that this particular operation was a "win" for the Forces of Goodness and Peace (i.e., the United States, by definition the Good Guys, amirite..?)

"...a winning mission..." is the exact phrase that the Tangerine Toddler Twitterblurted out (attributing it to his SecDef, mind you).


As I noted in the preceding post, first, I have no idea what the actual objective(s) of this raid was or were, and, second, I have no idea whether that objective or objectives was or were achieved. And, indeed, if it was in intel-gathering operation we will probably NEVER know, and rightly so. Whatever intelligence was obtained will be hidden and used to guide future operations, as it should be.

If the intelligence desired was obtained, then, in the strictest sense even a raid that seems to have fallen apart tactically, cost over 100 million dollars as well as dozens of lives - innocent, friendly and enemy - and has provided cause for at least one of the "governments" of Yemen to first revoke and then to request a "review" of U.S. ground operations in their portion of that wretched land can be called a "success".


The entire farrago about this mission "winning" or "failing" just point out to me two problems.

First, and specific to this administration, that Five-Deferment Donnie has no more idea of how actual military operations, campaigns, and wars work than a fucking Jersey cow knows about the proceedings of the Council of Trent. The "winning" nonsense is that's just how a simpleminded derp thinks war works, and the orange Amway salesman has never been closer to combat than the concession line where American Sniper was playing, so that's just how he thinks.

But people like Mattis should know better, and tell him so. I suspect that he did, and that the joker didn't listen, or understand.

Second, and worse, generic to our nation and our foreign policy, that we're even debating about whether some piddly-ass little airmobile raid was a "win" or a "failure" points out the degree that ALL of us; the press, the public, the military and civil authorities in the United States have no real fucking clue what the fuck we are doing in the Middle East.

Because, quite simply, this Yakla raid is part of a much larger, much more complex...something. A "(Sort of) War on (Certain Kinds of People Who Use Certain Kinds of) Terror". A "clash of civilizations". A Great Power cabinet war gone out of control. A...well, I have no fucking idea, actually, and what pisses me off is that I'll bet you and Joe and Molly and Steve Fucking Bannon have no fucking idea, either.

The Yemen raid was something of a tactical mess. But, more importantly, we don't know what our actual goals are in Yemen and whether (or how much) this raid got us closer to them, or not.

In August of 1942 the Brits attacked the French Channel port of Dieppe. The raid was a fiasco, thousands of Allied troops were killed or captured, and the Nazi hierarchy exulted in their success. But the Allies learned a ton from Dieppe, so the next time they came ashore in France it opened the road all the way to the Elbe.

Is this raid Dieppe, or Normandy, or what?

We have no context. We can't possibly know.

And that's a huge problem. If you have no idea what your end-state is (or, worse, if your end-state is something utterly impossible, such as "the utter defeat of radical Islamic terrorism") then how the hell do you know when you've reached it. How do you know whether Operation Yemen Derp, or whatever, has gotten you closer, or further away, or sideways, or where the hell you are?
Update 2/28: Per the usually-unnamed "Pentagon officials" it appears that this raid did not manage to acquire any particularly valuable information.

If that is indeed the case, then - given the loss of life and material - it seems fairly reasonable to write this operation off. Whether or not that loss has significantly affected the U.S. interests in Yemen, or whether the U.S. should be considered to even have interests in Yemen, is still nearly impossible to tell given the overall level of secrecy surrounding this war in the shadows.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

March disorder

I'll just leave this here:
"The military convoy spotted on Sunday flying a Donald Trump flag near Louisville belonged to an East Coast-based SEAL unit, a Navy spokesperson told ABC News."

And I always thought that the SEALs were kinda lame only because they tended to get themselves killed uselessly at places like Punta Patilla and Grenada.