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.


  1. The Dieppe Raid was conducted mostly Canadians, the grunts anyways. It is a big deal up there because the fiasco was based on Limeys' faulty, non existent, massaged, withheld, intel. For a similar fiasco, see Arnhem of a bridge too far fame and general "Boy Browning," and his exploits.

    1. I know Canada has always had a particular grievance about Dieppe, FE, but I always assumed it had more to do with the result rather and the usual Commonwealth-vs-Brit griping.

  2. I think we'll be seeing more of these as El Presidente Bannon figures out how to military through his feeble left-tenant Pina heffe Trump.


    1. On this subject, sheerah, Bannon is actually the least of my worries. There's a frightening little piece over at Tomdispatch about the crusading fantasies of a bunch of the Trumpeters.

      Flynn, for example, says that America's enemies list includes: “...North Korea and China to Russia, Iran, Syria, Cuba, Bolivia, Venezuela, and, Hezbollah, ISIS, and countless other terrorist groups....the merging of narcotics traffickers, organized criminals, and terrorists.” (Flynn has claimed that “Mexican drug cartels” actually post signs at the U.S.-Mexican border -- in Arabic, no less -- marking “lanes of entry” for Islamic terrorists.)

      His top assistant is someone named K.T. McFarland. Here's her take on the world around us, that we face an: “apocalyptic death cult... the most virulent and lethal in history...radical Islam. If we do not destroy the scourge of radical Islam, it will ultimately destroy Western civilization... and the values we hold dear.”

      Pompeo, at the CIA, claims that we're already in a global war of Good versus Evil: we’re in a global religious war, “the kind of struggle this country has not faced since its great wars.” Part of the key to survival, as he sees it, is for “more politicians of faith to infuse the government with their beliefs and get the nation back on track, instead of bowing to secularism.” the answer to islamic theocracy is...Christian theocracy! Good call, Mike!

      Here's the rest of the article:,_now_who%27s_the_enemy

      So even if Bannon takes a weekend at Camp Kraft-durch-Freude all these other looney toons will surely be all over the Great War On Islam (and North Korea and Mexican drug cartels, oh my!).

      But thank heaven we don't have to worry about Killery and her e-mails!

  3. No comparison. The ground forces at Dieppe had 60% kia, wia or captured; well over 3300. And that does not count the 600 plus dead Sailors and Airmen.

    Agree that Mad Mike Flynn truly deserves his nickname. But maybe he will get the boot now that someone in the FBI dimed him on his phonecon with the Russkies.

    Don't know anything about McFarland. Does she mean all that or was she just job-hunting when she said it?

    Pompeo is IMHO just an opportunist. How else do you explain a Californian born and bred who goes to Kansas to et elected?

    I agree with sheerakahn though about El Presidente Bannon. He is the one that got Trump elected. He is the one who whispers in his ear. The Cardinal of the White House. The other three plus the Merc are Trumpettes.

    1. The comparison, mike, is that the Allies "lost" Dieppe. Had the London Times and Bevin and Cordell Hull and George Marshall and FDR had to bloviate about "who lost Dieppe" and go after each other like it was the Last Battle of the War...well, it might well have been.

      But it wasn't. The Allies had a clearly defined set of war aims. Dieppe was a setback, in 1942...that turned out to provide a number of lessons learned that made Normandy 1944 a success.

      But the peoples, leaders, and news organizations KNEW that; they knew that Dieppe was a setback, not a "win", but also not a disaster. There was a rational way to assess the relative damage that the failure did (as well as a way to move forward using the lessons of the failure.

      THAT's my point. We have no idea. Was this a SOE team grabbed by the Gestapo? A successful munitions train dynamited by the OSS? Was this Dieppe? Or was this actually Utah Beach, opening the way forward to whatever-the-fuck-the U.S.-strategic-objective-is-in-Yemen?

      And for that matter...what ARE our strategic objectives there? Do we have any? If we do, do they make military and/or geopolitical sense?

      ISTM we're arguing about whether the fucking appetizer is tasty or revolting while the restaurant may or may not be burning down around us.

    2. I've stood on the beaches of Dieppe and looked at the chateau on top of the cliff. It was a stupid disaster and very little was learned that could not be learned by thinking things over for, say, 30 seconds.
      Things like: Don't land in the smack in the middle of a defended port surrounded by fortifications on top of cliffs manned by angry Germans. If you do land in the middle of fortifications, maybe know where they are before they start shooting at you? Coordinate with the airforce before, during and after the landing. Don't land tanks on flint beaches. If you know you aren't staying, make sure you have a workable way to get folks back on the exiting landing craft.

      Mountbatten (who claimed that he wasn't like other men and had never made a mistake (including the partition of India)) needed a reason why it was not a mistake. So he came up with the "lessons learned" story. And yes, Normandy was done differently, but it was two years later and lots of stuff would have been differently without Dieppe.

      I personally think it was a SOP to Stalin because there was no second front and Stalingrad was looming, so they needed to make some noise and the Canadians were eager for action (poor fools).

  4. Operation Biting (Bruneval Raid) is the proper analogy, I suppose:

  5. AEL -

    Mountbatten certainly presided over the disastrous plan at Dieppe. He was probably only given the job as Chief of COH because of his links to the British throne, and perhaps for his actions at Crete and Norway as a destroyer flotilla commander. IMHO he never should have gotten that job, at least not without an experienced minder.

    But many think that he took the blame for Churchill. And also for the RAF who devised the plan in the first place in order to lure the Luftwaffe into another "Battle of Britain", but this time over the French coast. Prior to late summer of 42 the Luftwaffe fighter squadrons had played coy and only engaged RAF fighters when they were low on fuel an far in the French interior. So the bright boys at RAF Fighter Command thought that a major raid on the coast would give them an opportunity to seriously attrit Luftwaffe forces in northern France. But instead their Spitfires got handled badly by the new Focke-Wulf 190s. They claimed a tactical victory in the air but lost twice as many aircaft as the Luftwaffe, and provided little or no close air support to their troops on the ground.

    In the long run, by 1945, that two lost for every one Luftwaffe aircraft shot down worked. But only because of the superior productivity of US/Canadian/Brit aircraft industry.

    As for partition: Vishnu, Mohammed, and JC himself could not have prevented that bloodbath. But we can probably fairly blame Mountbatten for the Kashmir mess still going on 70 years later. He thought Kashmir should go to India temporarily until a referendum election of the residents could be held. He got sucked in on that one.

  6. It's20-20 hindsight to argue that attacking a fortified port was a mistake. Remember that in '42 the over-the-shore landing craft and Mulberry jetties were still in the draft stages. Conventional wisdom insisted a conventional port had to be seized by D+2 or so to supply the landings. We know better now, but I think you're being too hard on the planners of '42. I do agree that the timing had a lot to do w placating Stalin. point here isn't to refight Dieppe, but to point out that talking about "losing" or "winning" Yakla is as senseless as debating "losing" at Dieppe. Yes, Dieppe WAS a "loss"...on the way to winning the larger war. It makes no more sense to get hung up on whether Yakla was a "winning mission" than it would have to have had the screaming fantods about "losing" at Dieppe.

    The huge difference is that in '42 we knew what the endstate that would be a "win" in Europe would be. I argue that we have no such idea - or have a realistic way of getting one - what "winning" in Yemen would look like so there's no way to assess the cost, or benefit, of this raid...

    1. FDChief -

      Understand your point about Yakla. I for one hope not to get drawn into senseless debates with Donald the Drama Queen and his cheerleaders. Tomorrow will be another circle jerk.

      Disagree about over-the-shore-landing-craft still being in the 'draft stages' in '42. Although there probably were not enough available at that time. They unfortunately had a low production priority.

    2. Agree on the landing craft, and my understanding is that Dieppe (as well as the island campaigns in the Pacific) is one of the big reasons that they got bumped way up in priority.

      Off-topic, what I think is kind of interesting is that while the Army never really went beyond the basic LCI/LCM/LST sorts of landing craft in the ETO the Marines reeeeeally like having a landing vehicle that could crawl up out of the surf and the result - the LVT series of vehicles - has effectively replaced the barge-hull landing craft for over-the-shore assaults...

    3. Sorry Chief,

      I'm a little sensitive over Dieppe.
      I knew people who fought and were abandoned there.

    4. FDChief -

      The LVTs originaly known as Amphibious Tractors or AMTRACs were developed for breaching both coral reefs and swampland. Prior to and just after WW1 a young visionary Marine intelligence officer by the name of Earl Ellis anticipated a war in the Pacific. In 1921 he detailed many of the tactical, technical, and logistical problems to be overcome for military operations in Micronesia. The AMTRACs originally came out of that, he did not design them but he laid out the need.

      Ellis's foresight, and some say genius, had a dark side. He was a heavy drinker and ended up dying possibly of alcoholism in the Palau Islands in 1923. There was originally some suspicion that he was the victim of assassination by the Japanese military. But he had a history of the DTs and depression and may have died of cirrhosis. He was only 43.

      Not long later at the Marine base in Quantico VA, a local commander sponsored the 'Gallipolli Lectures & Studies' to determine what went wrong with the British amphibious campaign at Gallipoli and why did it go wrong. Many recommendations were made that eventually went into Marine Corps amphibious planning & doctrine, which much later was adopted by the Army. But one item that again influenced the development of the AMTRAC was the realization that a swimming tracked vehicle could deliver men and supplies well past the high-tide line or even inland. Therefore avoiding the congested nightmare at the waterline that characterized the Gallipoli disaster. That became another requirement for the AMTRAC. The Army developed the DUKW out of that idea, but my understanding was that the DUKW was never seaworthy in heavy swells and high surf and had no protection against small arms fire.

    5. What went wrong at Gallipolli was what went wrong with the American invasions at Anzio and Salerno. The mistake was again repeated in Normandy and Inchon, though with less consequences there:
      An insufficient exploitation on day one. Such landings were the equivalent of 1916's and 1917's offensives; few kilometres advance on the first day, then stuck the advance was too slow and hostile reserves were able to seal the breakthrough.

  7. Sven -

    Agree about "insufficient-exploitation-on-day-one". That was at the top of the discussion list back in the late 1920s/early 1930s at Quantico during those case studies. Every participant had been provided a copy of British BGen Aspinall-Oglander's official account of the military operations at Gallipoli. They went through it page by page and through constructive criticism established how better exploitation could have been achieved before D+1:
    - careful selection of landing beaches;
    - NGF and aerial attack of the beachhead area prior to and during the landing;
    - smarter loading of high priority cargo on ships;
    - better debarkation procedures;
    - guidance methods for ship to shore movement to avoid landing on the wrong beach or in the wrong sequence;
    - need for specialized equipment and boats;
    - training for surf & inshore currents by boat coxswains;
    - management of logistics at the beachline;
    - early on use of CAS;
    - well-aimed NGF called in by naval gunnery officer observers with the forward line of troops;
    - early landing of assault force artillery; etc.

    The Fifth Army at Salerno ignored some of these precepts, mostly upfront by trying to achieve surprise which turned out to be non-existent. Anzio (again the Fifth Army!) was a swampy basin surrounded by mountains and never should have been selected as a beachhead. Inchon was due to MacArthur’s insistence on landing at and capturing the port instead of going in at suitable landing beaches nearby. Plus these above precepts were never considered at Dieppe.

    And although Yakla was not an amphibious op I reckon they made some of the same mistakes Fifth Army did at Salerno. Most probably due to political reasons. But at least we are now free of Mad Mike Flynn. Maybe he can now get a job at a certain pizza house in Washington DC?

    By the way, those case studies back in the 20s and 30s were done during lunch hour or after hours in the base chapel or in quarters by young Turk officers to camouflage the effort from the base commander who was opposed to it. And especially to conceal it from General MacArthur who at the time as Army Chief of Staff was attempting to transfer the bulk of the Marine Corps into the Army and just leave them a small ragtag force for the security of Naval Bases. Their first draft of a ”Tentative Manual for Landing Operations 1934” was neither precisely written nor neatly printed, and the binding was reputed to be a bootlace. But it was quickly improved and after MacArthur left Washington it was adopted word-for-word by the Army. Too bad Fifth Army did not follow it in Italy.

    1. BTW, MacArthur gets too much credit for the invasion at Inchon.
      The Japanese did the very same decades earlier:

      The way to go on such an invasion is to land a few protected scout cars and a few trucks really soon and simply send off a couple platoons forward to sow confusion. Reports about paras landed 50 km inland don't have the same effect on a corps HQ as do reports about motorised columns already being 50 km inland. Those daring spearheads could have 90% CAS firepower, so they could take on much larger forces, particularly when exploiting surprise.

      I am still somewhat confused by the German breakout at Sedan 1940. The Germans had built a bridgehead and brought their already tired Panzerdivisionen across the pontoon bridge, but the French actually had multiple divisions in a ring around this bridgehead - their force density should have sufficed to prevent the breakout. So instead of getting embarrassed because of insufficient bridgehead expansion on day one they did cut through the hasty defensive positions like hot knife through butter. I've never seen a good explanation for it, and suspect there may be some interesting lesson buried.

  8. @Sven: "BTW, MacArthur gets too much credit for the invasion at Inchon."


    Re your scout car spearheads. At Inchon the Navy sent in a Lieutenant along with a few ROK officers two weeks prior to the invasion to sow panic with the KPA and collect intel. After Inchon they continued hopping up the coast to the Yalu causing panic which eventually kept Kim Il Sung and his government on the run.

    At Sedan I understood that Huntziger's 2nd Army had all substandard divisions filled with untrained reservists and obsolete weapons. Huntziger was a colonial general and had little experience outside of the mideast. Plus Gamelin, the French Army CinC, tried to use WW1 tactics.

  9. Late to the party but . . . Op Biting (as SO points out) may be a similar template to the raid in question, but I think it misses the point. Biting was a tactical raid that coherently fit into an overall strategy (very crudely, end: military defeat of Nazi Germany to permit political negotiation of peace in Europe; ways: achieve air superiority; means: exploit technological advantages).

    Yakla doesn't appear to fit into a coherent strategy. The ends are unknown, so ways and means have nothing to bind them together. Maybe the raid fit into a larger tactical picture, but that still isn't framed in any apparent strategy.

    Worse, it appears (based on reviewing open source info) that SOF keeps using the same template over and over again. Blackadder had a thing or two to say about using the same plan eighteen times in a row.