Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Amerika Erwache!

I couldn't sit thru the whole thing, but between what I saw, the transcript, and the analyses I am a bit amazed at how blatantly fascist - as in "right in ol' Schicklgruber's wheelhouse" fascist - a big chunk of last night's State of the Union speech was.

Not the part about the Leader's iron will or fluffing the Party's program; that's just bog-standard political theater, which is all this silly speech ever is, really, and why I usually don't bother to watch or read much about it. It had more chest-beating than usual but, sheesh, Trump, so, yeah.

No, specifically it was the MS-13 horror stories, the part about how the herrnvolk are endangered by a hidden swarm of dusky, violent untermenschen - and nefarious Auslandische foreign powers - and that only the Leader, and the Party - and only by their being hard, hard as Krupp steel (but fair! Fair, mind you, so long as you're not one of the dusky traitors within!) - can save us from their evil.

The fluffing of the Party's program did have some extra GOP lies how they're not selling the country to their rich pals, but, whatever.

But the stuff about America Awake! to the danger of The Eternal Immigrant was such a pure, uncut Steven Miller hommage to the Fuhrer, vintage Adolf whine in a new orange bottle, that I wonder how many people missed that.

Perhaps we've gotten so used to these speeches promising fierce resistance to the Terrorist Foes that we didn't notice how this one slipped into genuine Silvershirt "domestic-enemies-abound!" territory. Another own-goal for the Phony War On Terror. Thanks loads, guys.

Whooda thunk that when it came fascism would neither be wrapped in a flag nor carrying a cross but in the form of a bloated orange real estate grifter, wrapped in a badly tailored but expensive suit and too-long tie, and carrying a Big Mac. Say what you will about the original Nazis, at least they were snappy dressers.

I'm not sure whether I'm more pissed off that the cousin-marryin' hillbillies foisted these downmarket fascists on me, or at how goddamn downmarket the fascists are. Steve Bannon? Seriously? Dude always looks like he's coming down off a three-day cheap-vodka-and-Red Bull bender. Hell, how embarrassing is it that even his Leader, our orange fuhrer, looks like a divorced car salesman shopping for laxative suppositories at WalMart?

Even our Nazis are low-rent.


Friday, January 26, 2018

Blind Man's Bluff

Fred Kaplan at Slate has a fairly decent summary of the problems facing the current U.S. administration's conduct of the legacy wars in the Middle East and southwest Asia. The tl:dr is that 1) for all his bluster about "dealmaking" Trump has no geopolitical knowledge or understanding, and 2) the flag officers that comprise his geopolitical team are deeply sunk in the sunk-cost views of those wars.

The black hole at the center of this mess is that the U.S. policy- and decision-making apparatus has been and remains exceptionally poor at analyzing strategic situations, teasing out what the U.S.'s actual "vital interests" are in them, and then formulating approaches to those situations that have a genuine potential for succeeding in advancing those vital interests.

Instead, that apparatus seems to latch onto whatever short-term enthusiasm dominates the U.S. domestic political scene. In the Middle East it started with enthusiasm for Israel in the Forties, graduated to suppression of what looked like local "Communist" impulses in the Fifties and Sixties (that led to steps like the Iran coup in 1953), then to support of local dictators like Saddam in the Seventies and Eighties to counter the "Iranian menace", then to a fixation on Saddam's Iraq in the 90's and Oughts. Since then, of course, it has been the "War on Terror" with the sort of nonsensical geopolitical decisions that a conflict based on "fighting" a tactic implies.

One thing I should note from the Kaplan piece is that when he asks " wonders what happened to the Donald Trump who decried the former war as a “total disaster” and bellowed over and over “It’s time to come home”—and who pledged to do nothing in the latter war but “bomb the shit out of ISIS.” Kaplan, like an unfortunately large group of other citizens, is taking the Tangerine Toddler's mouth noises seriously, which is always a mistake.

Remember, Trump remains what he always was; a real estate grifter and Ponzi schemer whose "brand" depended on distracting the rubes while he mulcted his cut out of whatever enterprise he was running into the ground. I mean, the guy went bankrupt running a fucking casino, a "business" where people give you their money. It takes a special breed of schmuck to do that.

So Trump's blather about "coming home" and those wars being "total disasters" were the distraction, simply his usual bullying towards his Democratic opponents and especially Obama and Clinton whom he loathed personally. He had no particular geopolitical conviction on the subject; he just wanted to mulct domestic political advantage by convincing the rubes he did. How could he? He barely knew enough to find the places on a map. He believed that thousands of Muslims had danced on rooftops as the Twin Towers fell. He hated and feared all foreigners outside of nice white Norwegians as he is supposed to hate and fear sharks and germs. He was, and remains, a bloviating fool.

So on the subject of Middle Eastern wars he is a toddler, being fed and diapered by the same sort of people who ran with the Bushies when they went into Iraq thinking that they could create their own reality. Trump, for all his bluster, is monstrously ignorant of the world outside his Twitter feed. His mind, as we have seen over the past year, is rutted into a handful of vindictive, white-nationalist, egotistical tracks that make it nearly impossible for him to gain the sort of knowledge, let alone the wisdom, that would allow him to climb out of those tracks and assist in remaking the U.S. foreign policy apparatus into something less shortsighted.

How can a blind man teach blind men to see?

These mess-o-potamias are not of Trump's making. But it is long past the time to abandon the idea that somehow Trump will "tell it like it is", will "shake things up".

He can no more see his way out of these disasters than a child blind since birth. In this sting he's not just the con man; he's the mark. He's conning us as he's getting conned by both his generals and his enemies. He's hustling us while he's being hustled, by the East and by his own people.

So, nope. Unless We the People stop kidding ourselves about electing these sorts of people - and by that I mean not just Trump but the sorts of people who think that fighting a "war on terror" is an actual good idea - we will remain as we are now; so, so, so, SO fucked.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

What's Kurdish for "under the bus"?

The Turkish Army appears to be preparing to throw some additional complexity into the already-eleventh-dimension-chess-game that is post-IS Syria by threatening portions of northwest Syria currently controlled by the Kurdish PYD Party "People's Protection Units" (YPG) armed forces.

The Erdogan government, much like the governments preceding it, sees the YPG as functionally indistinguishable from the Kurdistan Worker's Party, or PKK, and clearly now that the Islamic State is off the table and the endgame for Syria appears to be closing has decided to take action against the perennial bogeymen of the states of the Anatolian and the Fertile Crescent, the Kurds. Or, at least, one faction of that beleaguered people.

The YPG was central to the US drive to reduce the physical "state" of the Islamic State, providing the only really effective infantry for that campaign. On Tuesday a spokesperson for the "US-led anti-ISIS coalition" tossed the YPG in the Afrin region under the Turkish bus, noting that the YPG in northwest Syria were not within the coalition AO.

I'm not sure how this will work, given that the same article linked above claims that the Trump Administration's cunning Syria plan includes supporting some 30,000 "Syrian Democratic Forces" along the Iraq-Syria border, ostensibly to continue to hunt IS fugitives but strategically to interdict Iraqi and Iranian support for proxies inside Syria such as Hizbullah.

The SDF, however, is pretty much the YPG with ash-and-trash. The YPG fielded something like 50,000 troops, while the Arab portions of the SDF consist of two main groups, the Jaysh al-Thuwar that includes some Turkmen and Kurds but seldom put together more than 2-3,000 fighters, and the Jaysh al-Sanadid militia of the Shammar tribe centered in northeastern Syria and Anbar province in western Iraq. The Shammar could assemble 8-10,000 troops. If the YPG decide to grab their A-bags and beat cheeks there won't be enough "SDF" to provide an interior guard on a porta-potty.

And this is beside the whole "The Kurds get screwed again" meme which seems to be a Middle Eastern thing and one in which the U.S. plays it's own shameful part.

Leaving the YPG units in the northwest to be smashed by Turkish tanks after coopting them to help fight for U.S. political objectives would be in the great tradition of American expeditionary war; maybe the Kurds can find some surviving Vietnamese mountain tribe Mike Force guys who can teach them the Nung term for "buddyfucker".

Once again we're reminded, not so much of Trump Administration incompetence (although that certainly plays a role here), but of the fact that describing the United States' Middle Eastern policy as an actual "policy" - that is, as something developed with a thoughtful consideration of regional realities and American national interests - remains somewhere between risible and tragic.

Friday, January 12, 2018

At ease, disease

So. Here's the thing.

I've spent some time in the sort of less-paved parts of the world we're talking about today.
And I'll be straight-up with you; the term I used to describe them was, typically, "Third World shitholes".


At that time I was a paratroop sergeant, NOT Chief Executive of the world's largest superpower.

If you can't see the critical distinction there, you're a goddamn moron.

Or Donald Trump.
But I repeat myself.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Pearl Harbor Survivor

We went to a memorial Saturday for a World War 2 Veteran who recently died at 92 years old. He was with the 25th Infantry Division at Schofield Barracks on Oahu on 7 December 1941.  He had always said it was not the worst place to be on Hawaii that day - as the 24th and 25th Divisions combined suffered just three killed and 26 wounded compared to the 2000 plus sailors killed and 1000 plus wounded.  The attack on Schofield happened just after 25 Val dive bombers from the Zuikaku and 14 Zeros from the Soryu and Hiryu attacked the adjacent Wheeler Field.  There they completely destroyed forty P-40 and six P-36 arrayed in a row like a carnival shooting gallery and not behind the revetments that were built for them.  Plus they damaged approximately 50 additional aircraft and inflicted 36 killed and 74 wounded on Army Air Corps soldiers.

After Wheeler the Japanese aircraft flew over Schofield Barracks at low altitude strafing the engineer, infantry, and artillery quadrangles, officer quarters, and the post hospital.  The redlegs at the artillery quad suffered the majority of the casualties.  A bomb hit a corner of the engineer quad and one hit the parade ground (or were they wayward Navy anti-aircraft shells?).  But neither caused casualties which were all due to strafing.  I have to wonder whether our vet had ever met James Jones, author of 'From Here to Eternity'.  I saw the movie version a few years after it came out in the 1950s.  But as a savvy teenager
even I knew that the scene with Burt Lancaster as 1st Sergeant Milt Warden on the roof cradling an M1919 Browning in his arms was complete BS.  His left palm would have cooked off like a well done steak – blackened Cajun style.  But apparently a Technical Sergeant William O. Gower, 27th Infantry Regiment was decorated by the Division Commander for a similar act.  Gower "took a machine gun and ammunition to the roof of the 27th Infantry quad and engaged strafing aircraft, at first cradling it in his left arm, then mounting it on a tripod. He remained on the roof throughout the
attack."   The 27th was also James Jones’ regiment, so he at the least probably attended the award ceremony for Gower if he did not know him personally.  During the attack two Japanese aircraft crashed into the nearby hills of Wahiawa.  It is believed that at least one and possibly both were brought down by small arms fire from Schofield.  Is that true?  Who knows, but those strafing runs were low, slow, and straight with no maneuvering, so perhaps?

The vet we memorialized Saturday was born in 1925 so was only 16 at the time.  A Washington State boy, he was brought up in Yakima and Wapato before enlisting.  When he finally returned stateside in 1944 on rotation furlough he was suffering from his sixth bout of malaria.  And he was wearing four battle stars aka campaign stars - one for Pearl Harbor, another for Guadalcanal, a third for Munda, and the fourth for Vella Lavella.  The 25th earned its nickname 'Tropic Lightning' and the lightning bolt in their unit patch at Guadalcanal.  It is also where their commander
'Lightning Joe' Collins earned his nickname.  Some claim it was Collins who first innovated with the TOT or 'Time-on-Target' technique at Galloping Horse hill on Guadalcanal with the initial rounds of six field artillery battalions landing simultaneously.  Maybe so for the US Army, but the Brits did it earlier in North Africa with all batteries syncing their time to BBC signals.  And I can't believe that concept or something like it was not experimented with 25 years earlier in France by Brits or Germans or French.  Besides, Collins was infantry branch so if he used the idea there it was probably from listening to a smart Division Artillery Officer (who probably got it from one of his even smarter junior officers or perhaps from an Aussie who had served earlier in the 8th Army).

His recollection of Munda was hunger,  He and the men in his squad lived on a single can of C-rations a day for 19 days.

I do not recall him ever saying much about Vella Lavella other than 'spider holes'.  After capture, the SeaBees turned Vella Lavella into a key airfield for degradation of the important IJN base at Rabaul and allowed Rabaul to be bypassed.  But Vella Lavella itself was the first leap in the island hopping leapfrogging strategy.  By going to Vella Lavella they jumped over the 10,000 man Japanese garrison on Kolombangara Island and rendered them useless.  That strategy was developed 32 years earlier in 1911 by Admiral Raymond Perry Rogers at the Naval War College - that despite MacArthur's Trump-like claim that he had invented the theory.  The Japanese themselves had also used it in their earlier drive to Southeast Asia.  Probably the Athenians used it 2500 years ago in their Aegean domination?