Thursday, September 27, 2007

No Business Being There

I listened to a follow up report by a journalist returning to a village in Diyala province Iraq. Us troops had moved in to quell insurgent activity and secure a bridge across a canal. When she returned, the town was nearly deserted. The only two-story building in town faced the bridge and The soldiers had commandeered the as their headquarters. Although there had been attacks and a building had been rigged as an IED against the military force, insurgent activity had ebbed somewhat.

Unfortunately, because the road leading from the bridge crossed in front the headquarters, in the name of force protection the US officer would not let anyone cross the bridge. Business dried up and most of the town was leaving.

The journalist recorded a conversation that he commanding officer had with an Iraqi man who was packing his belongings to move away. This man made some statements about how the Americans had moved in and were thus responsible for security and how they were not living up to their responsibilities. Through an interpreter, the American starts to complain to the Iraqi man that the US can not do it for the Iraqis and that they need to take some responsibility for their own security. His frustration was extremely obvious. It seems every time I her the actual voice of a soldier on the ground, this edge is glaring.

I do not blame these officers. They have been put to a task that America has not built it's military to perform. It may even be an impossible task. I do not blame the Iraqis. I imagine their history has been such that individuals are not encouraged to take initiative on security issues - it is the job of the tribe, warlord or strongman.

The simple fact is that our men and women are not trained nor psychologically suited to a colonial or imperial enterprise. Americans do not have the patience or tolerance to operate in such an different culture. Yet another reason that our mission is likely doomed to failure. Pull 'em out. They can do no further good.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Drums of War - Jerusalem Edition

In some quarters Debka is considered a super-secret destination for real intelligence news. Their confidential sources in the much vaunted Israeli intelligence and defense establishment is hinted at as the source of their credibility.

Now, compare this
DEBKAfile Reports: Two US carrier-strike groups are bound for Persian Gulf region, bringing number back to three

September 18, 2007, 4:18 PM (GMT+02:00)
USS Truman Strike Group heading for Gulf

USS Truman Strike Group heading for Gulf

DEBKAfile’s military sources report that from the third week of July, the only American strike force- carrier in the Persian Gulf-Arabian Sea region was the USS Enterprise. By the end of September, it will be joined by the USS Nimitz and the USS Truman Strike Groups. Our sources note that with their arrival, three American naval, air and marine forces will again confront Iranian shores at a time of crisis in the military and civilian leadership of Iran - signaled by the abrupt change of Revolutionary Guards Corps commanders, rising Israel-Syrian tensions and a troubled situation in Lebanon.

The Nimitz left the region to take part in large-scale Malabar 2007 II exercise with five Asian nations, termed by Indian military observers “the first step towards establishing Asian NATO. Since the maneuver ended Friday, Sept. 7, the Nimitz has been on its way back to the Persian Gulf. The Truman group, made up of 12 warships and submarines, including a nuclear sub, with 7,600 sailors, air crew and marines aboard, has just completed a long series of training exercises and is preparing to set out for its new posting. It carries eight squadrons of fighters, bombers and spy planes.

The Truman force’s battle cry is: “Give ‘em hell”.

The combined naval strike groups include the Monterey-CG 61 guided missile cruiser, the USS Barry DDG 52 and USS Mason-DDG 87 guided missile destroyers, the USS Albuquerque-SSN 706 fast nuclear strike submarine and the combat logistical USNS Arctic T-AOE 8.

In the last week of August, the USS Kearsarge Expeditionary Strike Group took up position opposite the Lebanese coast amid trepidation over the September presidential election. Our military sources reported that aboard the group’s vessels are members of the 22nds Marine special operations-capable Expeditionary Unit, who are ready to execute landings on Lebanese beaches.

with this

Nimitz to return home Sunday
6:44 p.m. September 25, 2007

SAN DIEGO – The San Diego-based aircraft carrier Nimitz has left Hawaii for the final stage of a six-month deployment that will bring the ship, its air wing and its strike group home Sunday, Navy officials said.

The carrier left the island Monday. It is carrying more than 4,000 sailors, plus 1,295 of their friends and family members who climbed aboard at Pearl Harbor and will stay until the journey's end.

These guests will get to watch demonstrations of air and sea operations, take tours of the ship and join in a shipboard talent show.

The Nimitz left San Diego on April 2 along with Carrier Air Wing 11, the cruiser Princeton and the destroyers John Paul Jones, Higgins and Chafee.

This contingent traveled to the Persian Gulf and operated alongside the John C. Stennis carrier strike group. Their joint presence, double the usual number of carrier groups in the region, reflected the United States' heightened tension with Iran at the time.
It's going to be hard to fool those sailors' families into believing that their fathers and daughters are finally home safe in California when they are really in the Persian Gulf.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Is Glory Cheap?

We have shed our blood in the glorious cause in which we are engaged; we are ready to shed the last drop in its defense. Nothing is above our courage, except only (with shame I speak it) the courage to TAX ourselves.

--James Madison, 1782

How much more satisfying to sacrifice one's life (or the lives of others) on the field of battle than to sacrifice one's comfort and excess at home. No draft. No war bonds. Just keep on shopping.

Friday, September 14, 2007

You're No Eisenhower

Well, well, well. It comes out now that our unbiased military opinion is really the positioning of a presidential hopeful: Gen Petreus harbors in his heart the dream of occupying the Oval Office some day, an Eisenhower for the 21st century, as it were. This explains his inappropriate op-ed six weeks before the 2004 election, claiming that Iraq was going swimmingly and helping to cement George W Bush's second, if ill-fated, term.

Well buddy, we knew the General Eisenhower and you are no General Eisenhower.

Try to imagine David Petreus uttering these words:
"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. [...] This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the clouds of war, it is humanity hanging on a cross of iron."

Crazy Like a Fox

From Paul Krugman, excerpted here:
Here’s how I see it: At this point, Mr. Bush is looking forward to replaying the political aftermath of Vietnam, in which the right wing eventually achieved a rewriting of history that would have made George Orwell proud, convincing millions of Americans that our soldiers had victory in their grasp but were stabbed in the back by the peaceniks back home.

I have always had the sense that the NeoCons were re-fighting Vietnam. Now they are preparing to complete the cycle. Pray that these men will live out their days and a new generation will not rise up to replace them, bitter and self-righteous, in 40 years.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Chicken Shit

I have come to respect the work Gareth Porter but it took a few minutes to digest the reality of this exchange:
[Chief of the Central Command , Admiral] Fallon told Petraeus that he considered him to be "an ass-kissing little chickenshit"

Read the whole thing. Adm Fallon is the man who turned the planned third Persian Gulf aircraft carrier deployment into a brief cruise in the Pacific to blunt the administration's saber rattling toward Iran. he has been quoted as saying, re war with Iran, "Not on my watch."

One interesting angle is the light it shone upon the differences between Army and Navy culture, the former recently reported to breed Yes Men and the later apparently much more cut throat and confrontational. The swashbuckling spirit lives on!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Be afraid?

Nurses in California marched on the capitol Monday, and prompted Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to call a special session of the Legislature in order to pass legislation that would expand health care coverage in the state.

From here.

Exactly as I have been saying all these years: "Don't mess with nurses." Even the Terminator is scared of 'em.

War, Psychology and Time

By George Friedman, Strategic Forecasting, Inc

There are moments in history when everything comes together. Today is the sixth anniversary of the al Qaeda attack against the United States. This is the week Gen. David Petraeus is reporting to Congress on the status of the war in Iraq. It also is the week Osama bin Laden made one of his rare video appearances. The world will not change this week, but the convergence of these strands makes it necessary to pause and take stock.

To do this, we must begin at the beginning. We do not mean Sept. 11, 2001, but the moment when bin Laden decided to stage the attack -- and the reasoning behind it. By understanding his motives, we can begin to measure his success. His motive was not, we believe, simply to kill Americans. That was a means to an end. Rather, as we and others have said before, it was to seize what he saw as a rare opportunity to begin the process of recreating a vast Islamic empire.

The rare opportunity was the fall of the Soviet Union. Until then, the Islamic world had been divided between Soviet and American spheres of influence. Indeed, the border of the Soviet Union ran through the Islamic world. The Cold War between the United States and Soviet Union created a tense paralysis in that world, with movement and change being measured in decades and inches. Suddenly, everything that was once certain became uncertain. One half of the power equation was gone, and the other half, the United States, was at a loss as to what it meant. Bin Laden looked at the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan and saw a historical opening.

His problem was that contrary to what has been discussed about terrorist organizations, they cannot create an empire. What they can do is seize a nation-state and utilize its power to begin shaping an empire. Bin Laden had Afghanistan, but he understood that its location and intrinsic power were insufficient for his needs. He could not hope to recreate the Islamic empire from Kabul or Kandahar. For bin Laden's strategy to work, he had to topple an important Muslim state and replace it with a true Islamist regime. There were several that would have done, but we suspect his eye was on Egypt. When Egypt moves, the Islamic world trembles. But that is a guess. A number of other regimes would have served the purpose.

In bin Laden's analysis, the strength of these regimes also was their weakness. They were all dependent on the United States for their survival. This fit in with bin Laden's broader analysis. The reason for Muslim weakness was that the Christian world -- the Crusaders, as he referred to them -- had imposed a series of regimes on Muslims and thereby divided and controlled them. Until these puppet regimes were overthrown, Muslims would be helpless in the face of Christians, in particular the current leading Christian power, the United States.

The root problem, as bin Laden saw it, was psychological. Muslims suffered from a psychology of defeat. They expected to be weaker than Christians and so they were. In spite of the defeat of the atheist Soviets in Afghanistan and the collapse of their regime, Muslims still did not understand two things -- that the Christians were inherently weak and corrupt, and that the United States was simply another Crusader nation and their enemy.

The 9/11 attack, as well as earlier attacks, was designed to do two things. First, by striking targets that were well-known among the Muslim masses, the attack was meant to demonstrate that the United States could be attacked and badly hurt. Second, it was designed to get a U.S. reaction -- and this is what bin Laden saw as the beauty of his plan: If Washington reacted by doing nothing effective, then he could argue that the United States was profoundly weak and indecisive. This would increase contempt for the United States. If, on the other hand, the United States staged a series of campaigns in the Islamic world, he would be able to say that this demonstrated that the United States was the true Crusader state and the enemy of Muslims everywhere. Bin Laden was looking for an intemperate move -- either the continued impotent responses to al Qaeda attacks in the 1990s or a drastic assault against Islam. Either one would have done.

For the American side, 9/11 did exactly what it was intended to do: generate terror. In our view, this was a wholly rational feeling. Anyone who was not frightened of what was coming next was out of touch with reality. Indeed, we are always amused when encountering friends who feel the United States vastly exaggerated the implications of four simultaneous plane hijacks that resulted in the world's worst terrorist attack and cost thousands of lives and billions in damage. Yet, six years on, the overwhelming and reasonable fear on the night of Sept. 11 has been erased and replaced by a strange sense that it was all an overreaction.

Al Qaeda was a global -- but sparse -- network. That meant that it could be anywhere and everywhere, and that searching for it was like looking for a needle in a haystack. But there was something else that disoriented the United States even more. Whether due to disruption by U.S. efforts or a lack of follow-on plans, al Qaeda never attacked the United States again after 9/11. Had it periodically attacked the United States, the ongoing sense of crisis would not have dissipated. But no attack has occurred, and over the years, actions and policies that appeared reasonable and proportionate in 2001 began to appear paranoid and excessive. A sense began to develop that the United States had overreacted to 9/11, or even that the Bush administration used 9/11 as an excuse for oppressive behavior.

Regardless of whether he was a one-trick pony or he did intend, but failed, to stage follow-on attacks, the lack of strikes since 9/11 has turned out to be less damaging to bin Laden than to the Bush administration.

Years of vigilance without an indisputable attack have led to a slow but systematic meltdown in the American consensus that was forged white hot on Sept. 11. On that day, it was generally conceded that defeating al Qaeda took precedence over all other considerations. It was agreed that this would be an extended covert war in which the use of any number of aggressive and unpleasant means would be necessary. It was believed that the next attack could come at any moment, and that preventing it was paramount.

Time reshapes our memory and displaces our fears from ourselves to others. For many, the fevered response to 9/11 is no longer "our" response, but "their" response, the response of the administration -- or more precisely, the overreaction of the administration that used 9/11 as an excuse to wage an unnecessary global war. The fears of that day are viewed as irrational and the responsibility of others. Regardless of whether it was intentional, the failure of al Qaeda to mount another successful attack against the United States in six years has made it appear that the reaction to 9/11 was overblown.

The Bush administration, however, felt it could not decline combat. It surged into the Islamic world, adopting one of the strategies bin Laden hoped it would. There were many reasons for this, but part of it was psychological. Bin Laden wanted to show that the United States was weak. Bush wanted to demonstrate that the United States was strong. The secretary of defense at the time, Donald Rumsfeld, used the term "shock and awe." That was precisely the sense the United States wanted to deliver to the Islamic world. It wanted to call bin Laden's bet -- and raise it.

That was more than four years ago. The sense of shock and awe, if it was ever there, is long gone. Rather than showing the Islamic world the overwhelming power of the United States, the United States is now engaged in a debate over whether there is some hope for its strategy. No one is arguing that the war has been a slam dunk. Whatever the complex reasons for invading Iraq, and we have addressed those in detail, time has completely undermined the psychological dimension of the strategy. Four years into the war, no one is shocked and no one is awed. The same, it should be added, is true about Afghanistan.

Time has hammered the Bush administration in two ways. In the first instance -- and this might actually be the result of the administration's success in stopping al Qaeda -- there has been no further attack against the United States. The justification for the administration's measures to combat al Qaeda, therefore, is wearing thin. For many, a state of emergency without any action simply does not work after six years. It is not because al Qaeda and others aren't out there. It is because time wears down the imagination, until the threat becomes a phantom.

Time also has worn down the Bush administration's war in Iraq. The Islamic world is not impressed. The American public doesn't see the point or the end. What was supposed to be a stunning demonstration of American power has been a demonstration of the limits of that power.

The paradox is this: There has been no follow-on attack against the United States. The United States did dislodge Saddam Hussein and the Taliban, and while the war goes badly, the casualties are a small fraction of those lost in Vietnam. Most important, bin Laden's dream is gone. No Muslim state has been overthrown and replaced with a regime that bin Laden would find worthy. He has been marginalized by both the United States and by his rival Shiite radicals, who have picked up the mantle that he dropped. His own jihadist movement is no longer under his effective control.

Bin Laden has been as badly battered by time as Bush. Unable to achieve any of his political goals, unable to mount another attack, he reminds us of Che Guevara after his death in Bolivia. He is a symbol of rebellion for a generation that does not intend to rebel and that carefully ignores his massive failures.

Yet, in the end, Guevara and bin Laden could have become important only if their revolutions had succeeded. There is much talk and much enthusiasm. There is no revolution. Therefore, what time has done to bin Laden's hopes is interesting, but in the end, as a geopolitical force, he has not counted beyond his image since Sept. 11, 2001.

The effect on the United States is much more profound. The war, both in Iraq and against al Qaeda, has worn the United States down over time. The psychology of fear has been replaced by a psychology of cynicism. The psychology of confidence in war has been replaced by a psychology of helplessness. Exhaustion pervades all.

That is the single most important outcome of the war. What happens to bin Laden is, in the end, about as important as what happened to Guevara. Legends will be made of it -- not history. But when the world's leading power falls into the psychological abyss brought about by time and war, the entire world is changed by it. Every country rethinks its position and its actions. Everything changes.

That is what is important about the Petraeus report. He will ask for more time. Congress will give it to him. The president will take it. Time, however, has its price not only in war but also psychologically. And if the request for time leads to more failure and the American psychology is further battered, then that is simply more time that other powers, great and small, will have to take advantage of the situation. The United States has psychologically begun tearing itself apart over both the war on terrorism and the war in Iraq. Whatever your view of that, it is a fact -- a serious geopolitical fact.

The Petraeus report will not address that. It is out of the general's area of responsibility. But the pressing issue is this: If the United States continues the war and if it maintains its vigilance against attacks, how does the evolution of the American psyche play out?

This report may be distributed or republished with attribution to Strategic Forecasting, Inc. at For media requests, partnership opportunities, or commercial distribution or republication, please contact