Archive for the ‘Military’ Category

Quoted over at Sully‘s:

On everything from civilian trials to Gitmo to torture, we have two distinct groups — GOP leaders, the Cheneys, Limbaugh, and conservative activists on one side; President Obama, Gen. Petraeus, Secretary Gates, Colin Powell, Adm. Mullen, Adm. Blair, and Gen. Jones on the other…McConnell and his Republicans cohorts are reluctant to admit it, and political insiders have been slow to acknowledge it, but what we’re witnessing is exceedingly rare — the Republican establishment openly rejecting the judgment of the military establishment.

This is called believing your own bullshit. Both Republicans and Democrats know that the military “establishment,” on the whole, is extremely political and goes with the flow.  This is why Rumsfeld gets to hear what he wants on troop levels in Iraq and Lynnie England gets to guard hardened Iraqi terrorists. It’s true there is actually some debate on “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” and probably a greater percentage of liberal views being held among officers, but these guys yapping are either speaking a minority view or saying what they think will get them promoted.   If you poll a bunch of random E-5s, I should imagine some different, less p.c. views would prevail.

The guys with stars tend to have friends in high places; their organizational chart changes with administration; and, they know how to say what the political leadership wants to hear no matter who is in power.  The scurrilous remarks on diversity from General Casey after Maj. Nidal Hasan’s murderous rampage were prefigured by the platitudes on women-in-combat mouthed by the cowed survivors of the Tailhook reckoning in the Clinton years.  Gone are the days when generals resigned in protest.  The last we probably had of that Old Breed was Shinseki, or possibly van Ryper, both of whom were proved right in spades regarding troop levels in Iraq.

Note too from Sullivan the contradiction, the “one way ratchet” on civilian control of the military.  We’re told the military needs to accede to civilian directives, and that it is often mindlessly against change to its rules or culture. This much is generally true.  But then we’re told not to listen to those civilians when they happen to say something illiberal, that is when they speak for the the military’s rank and file who cannot speak without being hammered by Pentagon commissars.

The problem with the “military voice” on political and even military matters is their complete lack of independence.  Soldiers and officers work for the government.  The President is their commander in chief.  They can be cashiered or down-graded or otherwise made miserable if they make too much of a fuss about anything.  For a long time, America’s military dealt with this constraint through a well-cultivated political independence.  They avoided interfering in politics, and politicians generally did not interfere with the folkways of their very distinct and undemocratic corner of American society.  Post-Vietnam, the military itself became seen as a problem.  Its regimentation and very warlike essence was seen as the root of social evils within (My Lai) and outside (Kent State) combat.  Politicians responded.  The draft ended.  Training was made easier.  And this political pressure to soften things up tended to drive career military men towards a distinct political conservatism.  This politicization of the military, however, had as much to do with the anti-military changes to the once-patriotic Democratic party as anything else.

Incidentally, as a practical matter, I don’t think allowing gays to serve openly will change much or destroy the military’s culture all by itself.  Times have changed somewhat since the early 90s.  With few exceptions, flamboyant or disruptive types (gay or otherwise) have avoided the service and tend to conform once they are in on a great many matters.  Most will keep their lives discrete if they judge it will be a problem within a particular unit.  But don’t ask don’t tell allowed all of this; it simply required discretion both up and down the chain of command.

The new policy will allow open service by gays.  This will be a big change, but, more important, this will usher in a whole host of related and very negative changes.  Judging by the umpteenth sexual harassment seminar our forces endure on a biweekly basis, open service will probably lead to demands for changing the military’s “homophobic” culture through indoctrination of one kind or another.  Those uncomfortable will leave.  They will be ostracized and eventually punished for the very cultural conservatism that leads them to join the military. Those who remain will be those who lack the courage of their convictions, if they have any convictions at all.

Beginning with the post-Tailhook approach to women in combat, to affirmative action, to enforced religious tolerance of anti-American Muslims, and now this, the military, which was once a bastion of competence and an Old World veneration of character, has slowly become a reflection of the dishonest, flabby, egalitarian, and leftist spirit of the 1960s–a spirit defined in great part by its hostility to the warrior and his ethos.

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The US Army has started fielding Multicam (and a version of its own uniform with brown mixed in) in Afghanistan as part of an experiment on whether to switch (again) its uniforms.  The Army adopted its blue-grey ACU pattern in 2003 under the orders of General Schoomaker, which decision ignored tests that the Natick Labs had conducted showing the superiority of several other patterns.  It’s dubious to have a single world-wide camo in any case, but if there is to be such, the ACU (sometimes called UCP) is not it.  A crummy camo is bad for esprit de corps and will get our soldiers killed. There is literally no reason other than inertia to keep this crap camo that was adopted contrary to all of Natick’s testing.

Consider, would you rather be wearing this

Or this

Interestingly, and in a story I did not see much run-up to this decision, but the British have adopted Multicam as well for all of their forces in Afghanistan.  We meanwhile have spent a ton of money to outfit our troops with a camo pattern that failed in tests, is much worse than the woodland/desert combination of uniforms that it replaced, defies common sense (are woods blue?), costs lives, and hurts army morale.

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I thought this piece on the Afghanistan decision-making was truly excellent:

We have known for a while that the administration’s Afghanistan deliberations were taking too long. Now we know why, and the explanation is not pretty.

First, it was a month until Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, Obama’s commander in the Afghan theater and author of the plan being considered by the administration, was brought into the discussions. McChrystal presented his plan in August and the White House began its deliberations during the second week of September. Yet, McChrystal was not consulted until Oct. 8.

Second, when the White House war planners finally talked to McChrystal, they discovered he was not on the same page as the administration. McChrystal said his plan was designed to “defeat the Taliban and secure the population.” But key members of the White House team insisted that the mission should be to “degrade,” not defeat the Taliban.

McChrystal responded that defeating the Taliban was the mission he had been given in March. Obama agreed, but decided that the mission should be redefined, and the general’s plan adjusted accordingly.

In short, the decision on a plan of action was delayed because the White House waited a month before bringing McChrystal into the loop and, when the general finally was consulted, the White House decided it did not like the mission it had given him.

There’s a word for this — incompetence.

Speaking of flawed decision-making, however, Mr. Mirengoff ignores the assumptions of the Bush administration, namely, that the tribal and primitive Afghan people would respond positively to a decade-long American presence and an alien form of government. Obama and Bush both ignore the civilizational differences of the West and the Muslim world, as well as ignoring the ways Islam itself sustains the hopes and hates of our Islamic terrorist enemies.

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Pretty amazing revelation that when the White House started discussing McChrystal’s proposal, that there seemed to be no awareness of the details of the March strategy by Obama or that it expressed a goal of defeating the Taliban:

In June, McChrystal noted, he had arrived in Afghanistan and set about fulfilling his assignment. His lean face, hovering on the screen at the end of the table, was replaced by a mission statement on a PowerPoint slide: “Defeat the Taliban. Secure the Population.”

“Is that really what you think your mission is?” one of the participants asked.

In the first place, it was impossible — the Taliban were part of the fabric of the Pashtun belt of southern Afghanistan, culturally if not ideologically supported by a major part of the population. “We don’t need to do that,” Gates said, according to one participant. “That’s an open-ended, forever commitment.”

But that was precisely his mission, McChrystal responded, enshrined in the Strategic Implementation Plan — the execution orders for the March strategy, written by the NSC staff. . . .

“It was clear that Stan took a very literal interpretation of the intent” of the NSC document, said [Former USMC General and NSA advisor] Jones, who had signed the orders himself. “I’m not sure that in his position I wouldn’t have done the same thing, as a military commander.”

My God. If generals have to “read the boss’s mind” in Afghanistan when his orders go through many layers of review and calibration, we are totally screwed. I mean this is as bad as the kind of stuff you see at a Kinko’s or a law firm. Oh, when I said send so and so that letter I really mean to check with me before you sent it, because I was having a conference call before that. Didn’t you check with my calendar? Uh, no, I was doing what you said.

Generals at the top echelons, like Jones, are pretty unimpressive and highly political creatures. For most of them, honor goes out the window after they pin on a star. The Van Ripers of the world are rare. More often you get the half-nonsensical and half-destructive Joneses and Wesley Clarks.

Obama is a huge moron in plain English. Either that or he’s totally callous. Or both, which is most likely.

It should have been obvious in March when he said what to do in Afghanistan was to continue to fight the Taliban and al Qaeda and build up Afghan forces that he was, in effect, calling for a surge. Why? He was calling for recommitment of resources, we just had a surge that was perceived as successful in Iraq, and one of the aspects of the COIN Manual that Petraeus and company produced is the importance of security and training, both of which take lots of troops.

Obama’s half-serious campaign stance of “the ‘good war’ in Afghanistan” is catching up with him. It would all be kind of funny if his zombie-like pursuit of this war would not needlessly cost a few hundred, possibly several thousand, bright young American lives.

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Not much to say. It seemed like he was channeling George Bush’s invocation of 9/11 coupled with a few bones to his buddies in POKEESTAN. I especially laughed at his “direct address” to the “Afghan people.” I’m sure they’ll get the executive summary by smoke signal within a fortnight. Otherwise, it was just more of the same: nation-building, a surge. Not much “Rah Rah” inspiring talk about turning these bastard al Qaeda into a pink mist. Winston Churchill, he is not.

His speeches are making me weary. They don’t inspire. They lack any appeal to the emotions. The only proto-emotions he displays are vague self-worshiping references to “hope” and a very abstract celebration of America’s late 20th Century “global cop” role. He has trouble connecting with ordinary Americans and their concerns. We don’t care about torture or GITMO or that the UN approved the attack on Afghanistan. Only the hardcore anti-American Left cares about such things. We don’t think our moral right to self-defense hinges on how we treat KSM and company. We believe in our right not to be mass murdered, that’s enough. We hate these people and want a leader who hates them too. They killed our people; we want their people killed in turn.

I thought his alibi about the delay on the troop augmentation was weak, and his talk of limiting the commitment of troops because of the national debt was utterly tone-deaf. If this is an essential war to prevent mass terrorism, it’s worth nearly any expense, correct? If McChrystal says time is running out, six months of delay is kind of serious right? And, along these lines, there was a bit too much emphasis on the end-date for the U.S. commitment. But what if things aren’t better in two years? What if it costs a lot but it’s an absolutely vital expense?

This speech is not a game changer. The troop surge won’t be either. And for a guy running $1T stimulus packages, his grave concern over $30B a month–pocket change in comparison–is quaint. Insulting, really.

I still think this is the wrong strategy (as I wrote last June), even if the people we’re engaging deserve to be whacked. Why? Because we won’t be able to do much to reform Afghanistan’s military. The Afghan security forces don’t operate in a vacuum. They serve a state to which many people are lukewarm. The Afghanistan’s government and traditions are the problem, and over those we have had and will continue to have little influence. Second, Pakistan is still highly divided internally over who the bad guys are, and the gravy train for their government depends upon dragging this out. Pretending they’re this great “partner” glosses over more than a little. Finally, the end state we’ve achieved in Iraq is nothing to write home about. Saddam’s gone. Good thing. But that was true five years ago. They still have a guerrilla insurgency and daily terrorist attacks and a not-terribly-pro-US foreign policy. Plus various anti-American terrorist organizations still roam its streets. If this is the success we’ve achieved some two years after Bush’s surge, we’d be in little worse shape if we had quickly left then.

Our comparative advantage is to engage enemy nation-states when they harbor terrorists overseas and to be more careful about whom we let in domestically. These tasks we can accomplish effectively with far less cost, far less loss of American life, and far more success than we’ll have in the quixotic Afghan nation-building campaign among a gaggle of violent subsistence farmers.

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I am not terribly annoyed that Obama would give military policy a deliberate review. War is serious stuff, and too often bad ideas carried forward through inertia. It’s appropriate he changes policy in certain particulars. In fact, my own preference is for something like Biden’s plan or even more radically off-shoring the whole thing, treating Afghanistan not so differently from Pakistan with the occasional Predator or SF raid and a threat of massive conventional retaliation without mercy for whatever government inhabits the rubble that might harbo terrorists. Nation-building is for the birds, and if the “success” we’ve had in Iraq is the end-game, I’d say it’s not worth the trouble.

But Obama is revisiting his policy on the basis of an entirely predictable statement by his hand-picked commander that more resources were needed to fight the traditional counterinsurgency Obama chose to fight. Was Obama not paying attention in super-recent-history class regarding the Iraq Surge, which has become the U.S. military’ model for such operations? He’s obviously backing away because he lacks the guts to follow through on this or much of anything that might require him to act like the leader of a nation at war.

The stuff about the “Real War is in Afghanistan” we heard from so many for the last six years turns out to be a thinly held debater’s point; and this was fairly obvious, because Obama and the Left in general lack the visceral faith in their country and hatred of the enemy needed to win any war. And this demerit applies even if this strategy were a good one, which in fact it is not. It was also obviously not a good strategy earlier this year and during the campaign when it was embraced by the Democratic Party. It was the Iraq “surge” strategy translated into Pashto.

The reason I’m extremely pissed off the more I think about this is that our troops are not in the locker room suited up for the big game. They’re in the field, executing Obama’s strategy as we speak. Some young American will die there this week and the next and the next in order to “build up Afghanistan” and its army and its government. I don’t mean to be maudlin. These are professional soldiers and volunteers. If it’s worth it to defend the country, then their sacrifices are a cause for honor and remembrance, not weak-kneed irresolution. They’re certainly mostly killing bad people that deserve little sympathy. The question is whether a defensive strategy off-shored and focused on surgical strikes is superior. In either case, it is utterly unconscionable to commit to a war, announce a new strategy with much fanfare, and then deny the troops the resources to win only two or three months thereafter.

Obama is dithering as if the world were on hold while he takes his time. This is not a faculty meeting. The issue can’t be tabled. It’s a real war, with real blood and death, and Obama’s increasing the mission requirements while cutting troops and the Pentagon budget. A foreign conqueror could do little worse.

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As usual, the folks at DNI are making sense on the Afghanistan Campaign and the General McCrystal Report

Politically, the report is bold, in that it acknowledges the enemy has the initiative and we have been fighting the war – for eight years – in counterproductive ways. But intellectually, both as analysis and as prescription, it is five pounds of substance in a 50 pound bag.

The report’s message can be summarized in one sentence: we need to start doing classic counterinsurgency, and to do so, we need more “resources,” i.e. troops. In a narrow, technical sense, that statement is valid. Classic counterinsurgency doctrine says we need hundreds of thousands more troops in Afghanistan.

Past that syllogism, the report’s validity becomes questionable. Defects begin with the study’s failure to address Fourth Generation war’s first and most important question: Is there a state in Afghanistan? At times, the report appears to assume a state; elsewhere, it speaks of the Afghan state’s weaknesses. It never addresses the main fact, namely that at present there is no state, and under the current Afghan government there is no prospect of creating one.

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