Category Archives: iraq

President Takes Decisive Action in Iraq

In a stunning reversal of his previous equivocation regarding US involvement in the worsening security situation in Iraq, President Obama stated that the US is prepared to act with strength and decisiveness to help defeat the ISIS radical jihadist forces that have engulfed several major cities and killed many thousands of Iraqis.

MIchelle hashtag iraq

There.  That’ll show ‘em.  Worked like a charm with Boko Haram in Nigeria, too.   They certainly have mended their ways.    Administration officials speculate that the Islamic Extremist fighters that have invaded Iraq have little chance of resisting the pressure of tweets and re-tweets that show support for the Iraqi people, and will be forced to withdraw.  On the outside chance that somehow ISIS can withstand such an onslaught of social media, the President is prepared to conjure his best “I’m not kidding” expression and talk about “consequences”, possibly even “dire consequences”.   No word yet on whether or not Secretary of State Kerry will scold ISIS for “behaving in a 7th Century fashion”.   New White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest was quoted as saying, “The President is making the best of a situation left him by the previous Administration, which is responsible for declaring the war over and abandoning Iraq to its fate.  Wait, ….what?  That was us?  You sure?  No more questions!”

Gawd, we are so screwed.

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Filed under Afghanistan, Defense, girls, guns, history, Humor, Iran, iraq, islam, Libya, obama, Politics, stupid, Uncategorized, veterans, war, weapons

“Fighting Joe” Dunford is the Next Commandant of the Marine Corps

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Congratulations to General Joseph Dunford, nominated by Secretary of Defense Hagel to be the 36th Commandant of the Marine Corps.  Marine Corps Times has the story. 

I have known General Dunford a long time, since he was the MOI at Holy Cross in the late 80s.  I had the distinct honor to serve with then-Colonel Dunford in Al Anbar in 2004, when he was MajGen Mattis’ Chief of Staff.  BGen John Kelly was the ADC, and LtGen James Conway had the MEF (and the MEF SgtMaj was the incomparable Carlton Kent).  What a team!    Joe Dunford also skipped a pay grade.  He was nominated for his second star, and before he pinned on his new rank, picked up his third star!  Nearly unheard of in today’s day and age.

Lord knows, the Marine Corps needs a warrior, and an INFANTRY OFFICER at its helm.   The infantryman is the very soul of the Marine Corps, and the Commandant should be someone who knows him and his comrades intimately.   Besides, the Amos years have not been good.

Congratulations, General Joe Dunford.   Our Marine Corps is in your capable hands.  Right where it should be.   Godspeed.

(I am willing to overlook that he went to BC High.)

H/T to LTCOL P

 

 

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Filed under Afghanistan, Around the web, Defense, guns, history, infantry, iraq, marines, Personal, SIR!, Uncategorized, veterans, war

Fiddy

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Well, that day has finally come.  A bit of a strange sensation to leave your forties behind.  Especially when you’re the youngest, you always picture yourself as being young.  A childhood friend who lives in the area told me once that she still sort of thought of me as a little kid, because when she was ten years old, I was eight.  Which made me laugh.  Because I think I was 46 at the time.   Yep, that is me above.  First Grade, I believe.  I was a cute little kid, and am still not sure how I managed to evolve into this present hideous visage without some sort of tragic and disfiguring event.  But, here I am.

My “youthful outlook” consists largely of the sense of humor of 4th grader, who still giggles at cartoons, the Three Stooges, and bathroom humor.  (My mother used to warn that I was “confusing crudity with sophistication”.)  Anybody know where I can find re-runs of Beavis and Butthead?

I will say I do believe my 50th will be considerably less exciting than my 40th.  I spent that one in Ramadi, with the first order of business being told we are heading into the Governor’s Compound no matter what condition Route Michigan was (and it was invariably BLACK in May and June that year).   The operations staff sang Happy Birthday to me (thanks, Doc!), and we got mortared twice.

They say that 50 is the new 40.  Perhaps it is.  I am considerably “younger” than my parents were at the same age, as their generation did not get much exercise, and both of them smoked.  I still play basketball with guys half my age, and can hold my own in the weight room.  (I am not as strong at 50 as I was at 40, but I was stronger at 40 than 30.)  And my golf game is, believe it or not, improving.  But, running is really a chore these days, and has been since breaking my back in the early 90s.   And I don’t heal nearly as quickly.  But what the hell.  Never up, never in.

homer go getter

I just have to get used to the fact that I am no longer the “young go-getter in Sector 7G”.  Then again, I haven’t been for some time.

One cool fact about the day I was born is that it is 100 years to the day after the Battle of New Market.  Various friends who are VMI Alum commemorate that battle as New Market Day, where the VMI Corps of Cadets participated in the fight against Franz Sigel’s Federals.  Today is the 150th anniversary of the fight, one for which VMI should be justifiably proud.  Just the same, LTCOL P should mention that it is not only the 150th commemoration of New Market, but URR’s 50th birthday!  I am not asking for much, perhaps a stone monument somewhere….

 

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Filed under anthropology, history, iraq, marines, Personal, Uncategorized

The only thing that seems right are 2 words, “Thank you.”

I did attend the Pritzker Military Museum and Library’s exhibit opening of SEAL: The Unspoken Sacrifice.  Again the exhibit features photographs from Stephanie Freid-Perenchio’s book SEAL: The Unspoken Sacrifice.

The exhibit also featured artifacts from the Navy SEAL Museum. These ranged from patches to uniforms to equipment used by the Teams throughout it’s rich history.

The exhbit opening was one of the most well attended event I’ve been to. A lot of the Library’s members were in attendance. There were also quite a few active duty and retired SEAL Team members there who were kind enough to answer questions about the Teams.

Perhaps the most poignant part of the exhibit was the offical U.S. Navy photo exhibit of Team members killed in action of training since 9/11/01.

I spent time looking at the photos and noticied a woman taking photographs of a few of the photographs. I asked her if she knew them and she said yes. Her husband (who was in attendance) served with them. There really isn’t anything you can say. I’m an outsider and as they say “for those who know, no explantion is necessary. In moments like these you feel insignifcant and everything else falls away and is trite by comparison. The best you can do is attempt to live by their example:

I always remember the story about the guy in BUDs who died in the pool during an excerise and was resuscitated.

And they passed him, even though he’d failed the excersie, because he was willing to take it to the absolute limit.

They can train around failure – you can’t train that sort of devotion to cause.

The only thing that seems right are the 2 words, “Thank you.”

SEALs killed in action or training since 9/11/01 (as of today):

ABH1 Roberts Neil C 3/4/2002

HMC Bourgeois Matthew J. 3/28/2002

IC1 Retzer Thomas E. 6/26/2003

PH1 Tapper David M. 8/20/2003

BM1 Ouellette Brian J. 5/29/2004

SO1 Harris Joshua T. 8/30/2008

SOC Freiwald Jason R. 9/11/2008

SOCS Marcum John W. 9/11/2008

SOC Brown Adam L. 3/17/2010

SOC Thomas Collin T. 8/18/2010

SO1 Nelson Caleb A. 10/1/2011

SO2 Kantor Matthew G. 11/1/2012

SO1 Ebbert Kevin R. 11/24/2012

SO1 Checque Nicholas D. 12/8/2012

SO1 Leathers Matthew J. 2/19/2013

LT Murphy Michael P. 6/28/2005

STG2 Axelson Matthew G. 6/28/2005

GM2 Dietz Danny P. 6/28/2005

FCC Fontan Jacques J. 6/28/2005

ITCS Healy Daniel R. 6/28/2005

LCDR Kristensen Erik S. 6/28/2005

ET1 Lucas Jeffrey A. 6/28/2005

LT McGreevy Michael M., Jr. 6/28/2005

MM1 Patton Shane E. 6/28/2005

QM2 Suh James E. 6/28/2005

HM1 Taylor Jeffrey S. 6/28/2005

SO2 Smith Adam O. 9/21/2010

LT Looney Brendan J. 9/21/2010

SO3 Miranda Denis 9/21/2010

SO1 Benson Darrik C. 8/6/2011

SOC Bill Brian R. 8/6/2011

SOC Campbell Christopher G. 8/6/2011

SOC Faas John W. 8/6/2011

SOC Houston Kevin A. 8/6/2011

LCDR Kelsall Jonas B. 8/6/2011

SOCM Langlais Louis J. 8/6/2011

SOC Mason Matthew D. 8/6/2011

SOC Mills Stephen M. 8/6/2011

SO1 Pittman Jesse D. 8/6/2011

SOCS Ratzlaff Thomas A. 8/6/2011

SOC Reeves Robert J. 8/6/2011

SOCS Robinson Heath M. 8/6/2011

SO2 Spehar Nicholas P. 8/6/2011

SO1 Tumilson Jon T. 8/6/2011

SOC Vaughn Aaron C. 8/6/2011

SOC Workman Jason R. 8/6/2011

SO1 Feeks Patrick D. 8/16/2012

SO2 Warsen David J. 8/16/2012

AO2 Lee Marc A. 8/2/2006

MA2 Monsoor Michael A. 9/29/2006

SO2 Schwedler Joseph C. 4/6/2007

SO1 Lewis Jason D. 7/6/2007

SOC Carter Mark T. 12/11/2007

SOC Hardy Nathan H. 2/4/2008

SOC Koch Michael E. 2/4/2008

CDR Oswald Peter G. 8/27/2002

ENS Pope Jerry O., II 10/16/2002

IT2 Maestas Mario G. 7/3/2003

HMCS Fitzhenry Theodore D. 6/15/2004

SO2 Ghane Shapoor A., Jr. 1/30/2008

SOCS Valentine Thomas J. 2/13/2008

SOC Vaccaro Lance M. 3/6/2008

SOC Shellenberger Erik F. 5/7/2009

SO2 Job Ryan C. 9/24/2009

SO2 Woodle Ronald T. 2/16/2010

SOC Shadle Brett D. 3/28/2013

SO3 Kaloust Jonathan H. 5/15/2013

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U-T San Diego: Ramadi Remembered

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Ramadi remembered

Iraq battle began 10 years ago on April 6, exacting heavy Marine toll

“The Battle of Ramadi was pivotal for coalition operations in the province,” the 1st Marine Division announced. Marines and soldiers killed an estimated 250 rebels from April 6 to April 10, and “the fighting shattered the insurgent offensive.”

U-T San Diego has the story.

One hell of a price was paid by the Marines and Soldiers in that battle and in the subsequent months. Paul Kennedy’s 2nd Bn 4th Marines, the “Magnificent Bastards” were magnificent once again. 1st Bn 16th Infantry was, too. As was every other unit that contributed to the fight and to holding the line until the Awakening turned the tables a couple years later.  The bravery, skill, and determination daily displayed in Ramadi and in Fallujah that April of 2004 is difficult to put into words.

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It was the honor of a lifetime to serve under LtGen Conway, CG I MEF, and MajGen Mattis, CG 1st MarDiv.  The Division ADC was John Kelly, and the Chief of Staff was Joe Dunford.  The MEF SgtMaj was the incomparable Carlton Kent.  Marines could never ask to be led by better.  And, of course the friendships forged in such a place will last the rest of our days.

O, do not wish one more!
Rather proclaim it, Westmoreland, through my host,
That he which hath no stomach to this fight,
Let him depart; his passport shall be made,
And crowns for convoy put into his purse;
We would not die in that man’s company
That fears his fellowship to die with us.
This day is call’d the feast of Crispian.
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam’d,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say ‘To-morrow is Saint Crispian.’
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
And say ‘These wounds I had on Crispian’s day.’
Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
But he’ll remember, with advantages,
What feats he did that day. Then shall our names,
Familiar in his mouth as household words-
Harry the King, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester-
Be in their flowing cups freshly rememb’red.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.

Semper Fidelis, Marines.

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Disastrously Delusional- Kerry on “Meet the Press”

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The events of this week in the Ukraine, particularly Russia’s de facto occupation of the Crimea, have highlighted the shambles that is US foreign policy.  Aside from revealing the complete impotence of NATO, the situation which has evolved in the last 72 hours has brought to the fore the contrast between the Machiavellian power-broker realism of Putin/Lavrov and the naive and feckless bumbling of Obama and SecState John Kerry.

To the list of foreign policy disasters that include the Cairo speech, the West Point speech, cut and run in Iraq, a stunted “surge” in AFG, the “Arab Spring” debacle, leading “from behind” in Libya, the Benghazi attack and cover-up, supporting Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, being caught bluffing with the “red line” nonsense in Syria, selling out our Israeli allies to make a deal virtually guaranteeing a nuclear Iran, we have the crowning fiasco, and likely the most dangerous in long-term impact for the United States and the world.

Kerry’s appearance on “Meet the Press” today reveals just how misguided and dangerously naive the arrogant amateur buffoons are who are careening our ship of state onto the shoals at flank speed.

This is an act of aggression that is completely trumped up in terms of its pretext. It’s really 19th-century behavior in the 21st century, and there’s no way to start with that if Russia persists in this, that the G8 countries are going to reassemble in Sochi. That’s a starter. But there’s much more than that.

Is he kidding?  Power politics was centuries old when Machiavelli defined it in his works in the 1530s.  Power politics has dominated every century since, including the 20th.  In fact, there is virtually no reason to suddenly embrace some notion of “21st Century” statecraft that is any different from that of the previous five centuries, since the emergence of modern nation-states.  That Kerry and Obama think otherwise, and think the rest of the world behaves accordingly, is the height of hubris.  Treating the world as you wish it to be rather than how it exists is simply bankrupt intellectual foolishness.  But there’s more.

And we hope, President Obama hopes that President Putin will turn in the direction that is available to him to work with all of us in a way that creates stability in Ukraine. This does not have to be, and should not be, an East/West struggle.

There is no excuse whatever, other than a willful ignorance of history, to utter such a decidedly stupid and ill-informed comment publicly.  The central theme to the existence of European Russia is an eight-century long existential struggle between East and West.  The tragicomic foolishness of Hillary Clinton’s “reset button”, so contemptuously ridiculed by Foreign Minister Lavrov, was indicative of just how amateurish and incompetent the Obama Administration’s foreign policy and national security players were, and just how precious little they understood the art of statecraft.  Statements like the above reveal how little those players know about the history of the nations and peoples with which that statecraft requires them to interact.

There is worse to come later in the interview with David Gregory.   These two positively head-scratching pronouncements can rightfully make one wonder how tenuous this Administration’s grip on reality truly is:

David, the last thing anybody wants is a military option in this kind of a situation. We want a peaceful resolution through the normal processes of international relations.

President Putin is not operating from a place of strength here. Yanukovych was his supported president… President Putin is using force in a completely inappropriate manner that will invite the opprobrium of the world.

Such a bizarre pair of assertions is difficult to explain.  The several thousand Russian forces, which include mechanized infantry, attack aviation, and self-propelled artillery certainly seem to point to the notion that Vladimir Putin believed some semblance of a military solution was desired to ensure Russia maintained a friendly buffer between what Putin believes is a hostile West.   A buffer that incidentally includes the strategically vital naval base for Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, and has a population demographic of approximately 60% ethnic Russians.

As for understanding a position of strength, one might also wonder just how Kerry would go about defining strength.  There is virtually nothing NATO can do militarily, should they even be willing; the United States, with shrinking defense budgets, is in the midst of gutting its military to pre-World War II levels.   The leverage the EU has over Russia is limited, despite Russia’s very significant economic problems.   Any “opprobrium”, or threats by the US, France, Canada, and the UK to suspend the G-8 Summit, is positively pittance to the Russians in comparison to the security of their strategically essential western neighbors, regions that have countless times stood between Russia and destruction at the hands of a conquering West. Russia has acted virtually unchallenged, presenting a fait accompli to the West that, despite assertions to the contrary, will not be undone.  If ever there was a position of power, Russia holds it right now in the Crimea, and will be asserting it anywhere and everywhere in the “near abroad” that Putin has long promised to secure.

The United States never has had all that much leverage to prevent Russia and a talented autocrat like Putin from leaning on their western border states, despite the fitful attempts by the US to draw some of those states into the Western sphere.  The invasions of Georgia and South Ossetia in 2008 proved that beyond a doubt.  But what is most disturbing about the current crisis is watching the US Secretary of State and the US President misread, misstep, and attempt to bluster their way through another confrontation with a geopolitical rival that is acting without restraint and without regard for the empty rhetoric from the Obama Administration.   The most fundamental lesson of statecraft is that of understanding power.  To that end, we have another object lesson in the use of that power.  There is no such thing as hard power, soft power, or “smart” power.  There is just power.  As it has since antiquity, power consists of the capability to enforce one’s will upon an adversary mixed with the willingness to use that capability.

Putin and Lavrov know that lesson well.  They are hard-bitten professionals who act as they believe necessary to promote Russian interests and improve economic and physical security.  Obama and Kerry are rank amateurs, blinded by an ideology that begets a naive and woefully unrealistic understanding of how the world works.  They have been outfoxed and outplayed yet again, seemingly willingly forfeiting US influence and credibility in pursuit of a badly-flawed world view in which influence is based upon hollow threats and ill-conceived public statements.  Any doubts regarding that assertion should be erased when one listens to the cognitive dissonance emanating from our Secretary of State as he describes the Crimean crisis in terms which have little to do with reality.   It is to weep.

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Ten Years Ago Today

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We flew in to Habbaniyah on a C-130 out of Kuwait, and the pilot juked on the way in, just in case.   Once on the deck, we were dispatched into an Army-Marine Corps convoy headed to Ramadi.  On the way out the gate of the laager, a VBIED detonated next to one of the lead security vehicles, killing two soldiers.  It would be an interesting eight months in Iraq.   The First Marine Division, led by MajGen James N. Mattis, whose ADC was John Kelly and Chief of Staff Colonel Joe Dunford, was one hell of a team (that included the Army’s excellent 1-16th Infantry).

The 1st Marine Division (not including Army casualties) suffered 118 killed and more than 1,400 wounded in those eight months in places like Fallujah and Ramadi, Haditah, and a lot of other dusty villages and towns nobody could find on a map except the men who fought there.   A high price was paid to hold the line in Anbar, to hold elections, and cultivate conditions for the Awakening.   For the Marines and soldiers who did so, recent events with AQ flying flags in Anbar’s cities and towns are particularly maddening.  It was clear that the “cut and run” philosophy of the White House was an exceedingly poor one, and subsequent events show that the so-called “zero option” is as descriptive of the President’s credibility as force levels in Iraq.  And we are set, with the same litany of excuses, to do it again in Afghanistan.

I wondered then what all this would be like, ten years on, should I be fortunate enough to survive.  Some things remain very vivid, the sights and smells, and the faces of comrades.  Others I am sure I would have to be reminded of.  And a few memories, thankfully few, are seared into the memory for the rest of my time on this earth.

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Going Hollow: The Hagel Preview of the FY2015 Defense Budget

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Anthony Cordesman, the Arleigh Burke Chair at CSIS, provides a very cogent summary of the weakness of our Defense Department leadership and its inability or unwillingness to discuss the 2015 DoD budget meaningfully.

At the simplest level of budgetary planning, the Secretary’s budget statements ignore the fact that the Congressional Budget Office projects that the Department’s failure to manage the real-world crises in personnel, modernization, and readiness costs will have as negative an overall budget impact over time as Sequestration will. Ignoring the Department’s long history of undercosting its budget, its cost overruns, and the resulting cuts in forces, modernization, and readiness means one more year of failing to cope with reality.  Presenting an unaffordable plan is as bad as failing to budget enough money.

Cordesman gets to the real meat of our failure of strategic (dare I say “national strategic”?) thinking, as well.

He talks about cuts in personnel, equipment, and force strength in case-specific terms, but does not address readiness and does not address any plan or provide any serious details as to what the United States is seeking in in terms of changes in its alliances and partnerships,  and its specific goals in force levels, deployments, modernization, personnel, and readiness.

He holds nothing back in his contempt for the process of the Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), either.

Worse, we are going to leave these issues to be addressed in the future by another mindless waste of time like the Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR). All the past QDRs have been set so far in the future to be practical or relevant. Each successive QDR has proved to be one more colostomy bag after another of half-digested concepts and vague strategic priorities filled with noise and futility and signifying nothing.

Cordesman saves his best for last, however.

Like all of his recent predecessors, Secretary Hagel has failed dismally to show the U.S. has any real plans for the future and to provide any meaningful sense of direction and real justification for defense spending. The best that can be said of his speech on the FY2015 defense budget is that U.S. strategy and forces will go hollow in a kinder and gentler manner than simply enforcing sequestration.

We do need to avoid cutting our forces, military capabilities, and defense spending to the levels called for in sequestration. But this is no substitute for the total lack of any clear goals for the future, for showing that the Department of Defense has serious plans to shape a viable mix of alliances and partnerships, force levels, deployments, modernization, personnel, and readiness over the coming Future Year Defense Plan.

I don’t always agree with Cordesman’s assertions, but he is just about always a thoughtful if provocative commenter on Defense and National Security issues, and his analysis of SECDEF Hagel’s remarks are spot-on.  We are headed for a hollow force, despite its smaller size, as many of us have feared all along.  This, despite all the promises and admonitions of this Administration and our Pentagon leadership.  Go have a read.

 

 

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Seduced By Success; An Army Leadership Untrained for True War?

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Our friend at Op-For, the urbane and erudite sophisticate LTCOL P (supplying some cogent comments of his own), points us to a superb article in AFJ by Daniel L. Davis outlining the very real possibility that our immense advantages over our foes in the last two-plus decades has left many of our middle and senior leadership untested and overconfident in our warfighting capabilities.

Imagine one of today’s division commanders finding himself at the line of departure against a capable enemy with combined-arms formation. He spent his time as a lieutenant in Bosnia conducting “presence patrols” and other peacekeeping activities. He may have commanded a company in a peacetime, garrison environment. Then he commanded a battalion in the early years of Afghanistan when little of tactical movement took place. He commanded a brigade in the later stages of Iraq, sending units on patrols, night raids, and cordon-and-search operations; and training Iraq policemen or soldiers.

Not once in his career did an enemy formation threaten his flank. He never, even in training, hunkered in a dugout while enemy artillery destroyed one-quarter of his combat vehicles, and emerged to execute a hasty defense against the enemy assault force pouring over the hill.

Spot-on.  Such sentiment applies to ALL SERVICES.  Even in the midst of some pretty interesting days in Ramadi and Fallujah, I never bought into the idea that was being bandied about so casually that “there is no more complex decision-making paradigm for a combat leader than counterinsurgency operations”.   It was utter nonsense.  The decisions to be made, as the author points out, above the troops-in-contact level, were seldom risking success or failure either in their urgency or content.  We had in Iraq and in AFG the ability to largely intervene with air or ground fires as we desired, to engage and disengage almost at will, against an enemy that could never have the capability of truly seizing tactical initiative.  Defeat, from a standpoint of force survival, was never a possibility.  To borrow Belloc’s observations of Omdurman, “Whatever happens, we have got, close air support, and they have not”.

Having a brigade of BMP-laden infantry rolling up behind the fires of a Divisional Artillery Group, supported by MI-24s and SU-25s, which stand a very real chance of defeating (and destroying) not just your unit but all the adjacent ones, is infinitely more challenging than even our rather intense fights (April and November 2004) for Fallujah.  The speed and tactical acumen of the decision makers will be the difference between holding or breaking, winning and losing, living or dying.   The author points out some significant shortcomings in our current training paradigm, and brings us back to some fundamentals of how we train (or used to, at any rate) decision-makers to operate in the fog and uncertainty of combat.  Training and exercises, designed to stress and challenge:

At some of the Combat Maneuver Training Centers, Army forces do some good training. Some of the products and suggestions from Army Training and Doctrine Command are good on paper. For example, we often tout the “world class” opposing force that fights against U.S. formations, and features a thinking and free-fighting enemy. But I have seen many of these engagements, both in the field and in simulation, where the many good words are belied by the exercise. For example, in 2008 I took part in a simulation exercise in which the opposing forces were claimed to be representative of real world forces, yet the battalion-level forces were commanded by an inexperienced captain, and the computer constraints limited the enemy’s ability to engage.

Many may remember the famed “Millennium Challenge 2002” held just before Operation Iraqi Freedom. Retired Marine general Paul Van Riper, appointed to serve as opposing force commander, quit because the exercise was rigged. ”We were directed…to move air defenses so that the army and marine units could successfully land,” he said. ”We were simply directed to turn [air defense systems] off or move them… So it was scripted to be whatever the control group wanted it to be.” For the U.S. Army to be successful in battle against competent opponents, changes are necessary.

Field training exercises can be designed to replicate capable conventional forces that have the ability to inflict defeats on U.S. elements. Such training should require leaders at all levels to face simulated life and death situations, where traditional solutions don’t work, in much more trying environments than is currently the case. They should periodically be stressed to levels well above what we have actually faced in the past several decades. Scenarios, for example, at company and battalion level where a superior enemy force inflicts a mortal blow on some elements, requiring leaders and soldiers to improvise with whatever is at hand, in the presence of hardship and emotional stress.Simulation training for commanders and staffs up to Corps level should combine computer and physical exercises that subject the leaders to situations where the enemy does the unexpected, where key leaders or capabilities are suddenly lost (owing to enemy fire or efforts), yet they still have to function; where they face the unexpected loss of key communications equipment, yet still be forced to continue the operation.

Such exercises should not all be done in nicely compartmentalized training segments with tidy start and end times, and “reset” to prepare for the next sequence. Instead, some exercises should be held where there is a beginning time “in the box” and no pre-set start or end times until the end of a rotation two weeks or more later. In short, the training rotation should replicate the physical and emotional stress of actual combat operations in which there is no “pause” to rest and think about what happened.

I couldn’t agree more.  However, in a budget-crunch environment where significant funding is going toward advancing political and social agendas even within DoD, I am not at all sanguine about such training occurring.  Worse, rather than having leaders champion the need for it and constantly fight for training dollars, I fear that such a requirement will be dismissed as less than necessary, since we already have “the most professional, the best educated, the most capable force this country has ever sent into battle.”  While our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines are indeed superb, and honed at the small unit level, our senior leadership is much less so.  What’s worse is that leaders who have no experience in battlefield command against a near-peer force have begun to assert that technological innovation makes such training superfluous.  That the nature of war has changed, and we are now in an era of “real-time strategy” and “global awareness”.   To steal a line from The Departed, there is deception, and there is self-deception.

Anyway, the Armed Forces Journal article is a thought-provoking read.

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Locklear: US Pacific Dominance “Diminishing”? You don’t say, Admiral!

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Commander of US Pacific Command Admiral Sam Locklear seems to not have much of a knack for strategic thought.  Last March it was Locklear whom, in the face of a sabre-rattling North Korea and an intransigent and increasingly hostile China, defined his biggest strategic threat to be……  climate change. 

Recently, at the Surface Navy Association, Locklear again puts a round in the wood with his convoluted and childishly naïve assessment of The People’s Republic of China, after finally having the long-overdue epiphany that China actually represents a threat to US interests in the Pacific and elsewhere.

“China is going to rise, we all know that,” Adm. Locklear said, as reported by Defense News, which included several quotes from his speech at the annual Surface Navy Association meeting.

“[But] how are they behaving? That is really the question,” the admiral said, adding that the Pacific Command’s goal is for China “to be a net provider of security, not a net user of security.”

Not that Locklear is alone in his Pollyanna take on the PRC.  More than a few times, in wargames, and in discussions of events in the Pacific, I have heard senior officers discuss “co-opting” China as a “partner” to help “find a solution” to the problem, when the problem was very intentionally created by China and Chinese actions, because a change in status quo was in China’s best interests.   But Locklear has PACOM.   The People’s Republic of China is in his AOR.    Locklear’s bizarre assertions have gotten notice, finally.

“The problem with this formulation is, for whom does Adm. Locklear think China will be providing security?” said Dean Cheng, an analyst at the Heritage Foundation. “The implicit answer is ‘to everyone,’ because the assumption is that we can somehow mold China into being ourselves — that China will see its interests as somehow congruent and coincident with those of the United States, and therefore China will assume the mantle of regional provider of public goods.

“But this is a remarkable assumption, especially in light of recent Chinese behavior. China is not interested in providing security for everyone and, frankly, not even for anyone other than itself.”

A couple of news flashes for Sam Locklear.  China is not in a position to rise.  They ARE rising, and have been for some years.  The epiphany you had about China ending US dominance?   A little late.  By almost a decade.  China has been an unabashed supporter of DPRK bellicosity and intransigence, and has materially aided them in both weapons development and network exploitation capabilities.  They have undermined and eroded the Iran sanctions.  China has been long involved in penetration of US networks and theft of national and industrial secrets, as well as many tens of billions of dollars of intellectual property.  China has also made her intentions brutally clear on several occasions, in myriad ways.   Unfortunately, political being that he is, Sam Locklear is deaf to the sounds of a regional adversary playing power politics when his civilian masters deny that power politics even exist (except domestically, to get elected).
China as a force to be reckoned with has been something past Administrations have had to deal with, for sure.  Not all of them (Loral?) have done so prudently.  The continued shrinking of the US Navy under George W. Bush prevented a major US maritime presence in the Western Pacific while two wars unfolded in the Middle East.   But what has happened since January 2009 has been an emboldened China seeing a reluctant and amateurish Unites States foreign policy that lacks resolve and is determined to cut the very capabilities which would be most useful in deterring Chinese expansion in WESTPAC at the expense of our allies.   China smells blood (and opportunity), has greatly accelerated its efforts to establish complete regional hegemony, and has met with next to no opposition from the United States.   The US acquiescence to the Chinese ADIZ is a case in point.  Which is why you see Japan, and the Republic of Korea, India, and even the Philippines scrambling to build sufficient naval and military power to oppose China .  Those nations, all of the US allies, see a vacillating and irresolute America befuddled by the rules at the grown-up table.  American response to China’s increased aggression has been decidedly muted, while China’s proclamations of sovereignty over vast areas of the Pacific, and its military and diplomatic measures to cement that sovereignty have gone largely unchallenged.   The US, it is perceived, lacks the will to stand up to China.  Few indicators make that as clear as appointing someone like Sam Locklear to command PACOM.   Patrick Cronan at CNAS verbalizes it well.

Patrick Cronin, senior director of the Asia-Pacific Security Program at the Center for a New American Security in Washington, recently told The Washington Times that the U.S. is facing “a long game” when it comes to China.

Developments such as Beijing’s air defense zone may be “small tactical gambits,” Mr. Cronin said. But if the U.S. does not “respond and we don’t remain strong, then China will unilaterally redefine the region in a way that we do not recognize.”

President Obama’s promise that Defense cuts will not compromise US presence in the Pacific is being seen by both allies and enemies as largely disingenuous (and false) rhetoric more suited for the campaign trail than in diplomatic policy discussions.  The US position vis á vis China has been deteriorating for some time, and we are in danger of the bottom positively falling out.  Our Pacific allies sense that their ability to choose between Washington and Beijing may be nearing an end.   Sam Locklear seems to just be getting it.  Like the old woman who peeks out the front door of her house while the upstairs is engulfed in flames to ask the fireman rushing in, “Is there a problem?”

So when Admiral Locklear says “Our historic dominance that most of us in this room have enjoyed is diminishing, no question”, the first response that comes to mind would be that of my Senior Drill Instructor.  “NO SH*T, Sherlock!  What was your first clue?”   But this isn’t Marine OCS, and Locklear isn’t working a squad tactical problem.    Unfortunately, clueless as he is, he is a symptom of the disease, which permeates Foggy Bottom and the Pentagon.  I do hope the illness is not fatal.

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“If you wanted to make some money in Washington, you would have to toe the line that the Muslim Brotherhood was not a threat.”

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Author and Middle East expert Barry Rubin gives an unvarnished appraisal of the Obama Administration’s embracing of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Faustian deal with Iran.

There was a secret debate happening in the Defense Department and the CIA in which some people thought that all Muslims were a problem, some believed that only al-Qa’ida was a problem, and still others thought the Muslim Brotherhood was a problem.
The main problem, however, was that all Islamism was a political threat, but it was the second position that eventually won over the Obama administration. Take note of this, since 2009, if you wanted to build your career and win policy debates, only al-Qa’ida was a problem. The Muslim Brotherhood was not a threat; after all, it did not participate in September 11. This view was well known in policy circles, but it was easy to mistake this growing hegemony as temporary.
The importance of moral courage in the senior uniformed and civilian leadership cannot be overemphasized.  Nor, unfortunately, can the glaring lack of that courage in the actions and words of blatant political sycophants like Ray Mabus, Mike Mullen, George Casey, Marty Dempsey, Sam Locklear, be minimized.  The indicators of their pliability to political masters, and their willingness to compromise their oaths and integrity, are symptoms of a much more damaging disease.
Some high-ranking defense department officials–for example, one on the secretary of defense’s level–were pressured to fire anti-Muslim Brotherhood people. I know of at least five such incidences.
Oh good.  After all, the Brotherhood is “largely secular”, or so we are told.    We must pay no attention to Brotherhood’s motto, or the words of their founder.   To point those out, it would seem, is to jeopardize one’s livelihood.
Al Banna:  “It is the nature of Islam to dominate, not to be dominated, to impose its law on all nations and to extend its power to the entire planet.”
Brotherhood motto:  “Allah is our objective. The Prophet is our leader. Qur’an is our law. Jihad is our way. Dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope.”
The quashing of dissenting voices has to start with the subjugation of those who hold influential positions, and are ostensibly to supply meaningful advice and counsel.   The Obama Administration has become a notorious echo chamber, and has become so along ideological lines.   Worse, the opinions and views which prevail are from those with no discernible qualifications or talents.   Quite the contrary, the people who hold sway in our Defense and State Departments, and in National Security posts, are and have been mediocre, talentless ideological fops, remarkable only for their arrogance and demonstrated lack of acumen in international affairs.  Figures like Tom Donilon, Hillary Clinton, Susan Rice, Samantha Power, Jim Clapper, and John Kerry have aided in the non-stop catastrophes that have characterized US foreign policy during the Obama Administration, from the Cairo Apology speech to the Munich-esque Iran deal.
Egyptians protest Obama as Osama
Sandwiched in that dreary record of abject failure is the forcing of a Muslim Brotherhood government on the people of Egypt.  When Egyptians rose up by the MILLIONS in the streets this past July, and ousted Muhammed Morsi’s brutal theocracy, the Obama Administration turned its back on Egypt, asserting that a “democratic regime” had been overthrown by military coup against the will of the people.   Ignored, of course, was that the Morsi/Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt was guilty of brutal repression of its citizens, and was openly and systematically murdering and driving Egypt’s millenia-old Coptic Christian community out of the country.   Also ignored was Morsi’s immediate renouncing of the peace treaty with Israel, and tacit support for Islamist infiltration into the Sinai.  Without US support, Egypt has turned to the new power broker in the Middle East, Putin’s Russia.   Yes, the same Russia who has propped up Assad in Syria, and who is a long-time benefactor of post-1979 Iran.   THAT Russia.
Rubin’s missive is worth the read in its entirety.   It highlights how our President and his Administration has come to turn its back on its allies, negotiate away US interested and influence, and sought to treat America’s sworn ideological enemies as allies.   And why any voice raised in objection to such a course is decidedly unwelcome.
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The result of such ideological pactum servae is the imbecilic notion that the Muslim Brotherhood is “largely secular”, and that an alliance with “moderate Islamists” in Syria is something to strive for.    The Muslim Brotherhood is, as it has always been, the most Islamist of factions.  To behave as if they are otherwise is either foolhardy or deliberately subversive.   And finding a “moderate Islamist” is somewhat akin to finding a tall midget.
H/t to FranD

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The Company Landing Team

The USMC has been mulling this around for a while.  Here is an article from the Marine Gazette from Vince Goulding in 2009.   Note that the CoLT concept includes a platoon of M777 155mm howitzers, and a very robust ISR capability.   And lots of comms for calling in supporting fires should it come to that.

CoLT pg 1

CoLT pg 2

CoLT pg 3

The pages are JPEGs, so you can click on them to make them a bit easier to read.   I think we will be working with this concept for Expeditionary Warrior coming up in February.

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Acta Non Verba

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We take care of our veterans.  We take care of your families.  Not just by saluting you on one day, once a year, but by fighting for you and your families every day of every year.

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The White House and the Department of the Interior rejected a request from Rep. Steven Palazzo’s office to have World War II veterans visit the World War II memorial in Washington, the Mississippi Republican told The Daily Caller Tuesday.

 

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Red Sox in the World Series Again

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Last night the Boston Red Sox defeated the Detroit Tigers 5-2 in last night’s Game 6 of the ALCS, winning the series four games to two.   Boston will face the storied St Louis Cardinals in the Fall Classic, a rematch of the 2004 World Series when the Sox swept the Cards and broke 86 years of heartbreak to win their first title since 1918.  Last night Victorino hit a grand slam in the seventh off Jose Veras, on a hanging curveball down the middle on an 0-2 count.

That 2004 Series was a surreal event, to be sure.  I had just returned from Iraq, where, as the Sox made a charge to the AL East title (and traded their star shortstop in the middle of the season), then-Colonel Joe Dunford and I would prognosticate, half jokingly, that “this was the year”.  Colonel Dunford, a Boston native, had as a kid delivered newspapers to Jerry Adair of the storied 1967 Sox team.  Also with us at Blue Diamond was Major McNamara, the son of the Red Sox manager (John McNamara) of the 1986 team that lost to the Mets.  Mike was less a Sox fan than we, as his old man was all but run out of town the next season.  (Boston is a tough place to manage baseball!)   After the crushing disappointment of 1986 (I couldn’t watch anything to do with that series until after the Sox won in 2004, for fear I would kick my television set in), and 1978, and 1975, and 1974, grasping that they finally had won a World Series in 2004 took a while.  “What now?” was the overwhelming thought once the euphoria faded.  And more than a few of us started looking around for other signs of the Apocalypse.

Boston had also matched up against St Louis in 1967, when the “Impossible Dream” Sox won the AL Pennant as 100:1 long shots, and in 1946, which was Ted Williams’ only Series appearance.  In 1967 and in 1946, the Cardinals won in seven games.  In 2004, Boston won 4-0.  Now they are facing off again with St Louis.  I love that.  The Cards have a rich tradition of excellence.  The Gas House Gang.  Dean.  Musial.  Gibson.  Brock.  The Sox, of course, do, too.  Ruth, Williams.  Doerr.  Pesky.  Joe Wood.  Yaz and Rice.  Fisk.  Yes, Clemens.  And now Ortiz and Pedroia and Ellsbury.    Should be a good and exciting series.

A couple of things I do lament about how the game is played today…  This infatuation with “pitch counts” and “match-ups” is a very new thing.  Time was a good pitcher could go nine innings more than half the time, and had pitches he could throw the third and fourth time through the line-up.   Now, these pitchers are treated as fragile things, limited to 100 or 110 pitches while in their prime.  Throw 200 innings, and you are a “work-horse”.  Pitch into the seventh inning and it is a good start.  Not long ago, pitchers threw 250-300 innings a year routinely.  Nolan Ryan and Tom Seaver and Don Sutton routinely exceeded 300 innings a year, with no effect on their arms or longevity.  Even Roger Clemens, and Pedro Martinez threw 280-plus most years, and they retired only a few years ago.  I remember watching Louis Tiant, at age 37 (supposedly), throw 168 pitches in a single game in the 1975 series.   Managers should tell pitchers to be in shape for nine innings every time out, and the ones that can’t, don’t stay.  And pitchers should be able to get out right-handed and left-handed hitters.  This idea of “specialists” taking up a roster spot would have caused Earl Weaver’s head to explode.  Either you can pitch in the majors or you can’t.

While I am bitching, I have just one more thing.  Can someone invent a Tim McCarver mute button?

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6 October 1973, The Beginning of the Yom Kippur War

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Tomorrow is the Fortieth Anniversary of the beginning of the “Fourth Arab-Israeli War”, known for its auspicious holiday beginning as the Yom Kippur War, or Ramadan War.

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In the weeks leading up to the war, Egypt’s President Sadat had made overtures of warmer relations with the United States, to include the expulsion of nearly 22,000 Soviet “advisors”.  In addition, Egyptian military commanders carefully hid preparations for the offensive from Israeli observation.   Israel had made a planning assumption that any future conflict with Egypt would give the IDF 24-48 hours of warning, time to mobilize reserves and reposition forces for effective defense and counterattack.   As it happened, Israel would get fewer than 12 hours’ warning, and this through espionage/diplomatic channels, in the early morning hours of 6 October 1973.

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The Egyptian forces began to move against the east bank of the Suez canal at 1400 on the same day.  Breaching the sand wall with fire hoses, the lead elements of the Egyptian forces established bridgeheads within a few hours.  This was Operation Badr, which would last for the first five days of the war.   Operation Badr is worth reading about in detail, as the use of integrated fire support and anti-mechanized capabilities by the Egyptian Army nearly spelled disaster for Israel.

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Initially, the Bar Lev line, the western Israeli defenses of the Suez Canal, was lightly held by fewer than a thousand IDF soldiers and a handful of tanks, supported by a few 105mm, 155mm, and 175mm artillery batteries, and two forward airfields.   The opening preparation fires, a combination of direct fire, massed 152 and 130mm artillery, and ground attack fixed-wing air support, was brilliantly executed.  The Israeli airfields were put out of action, and the artillery batteries neutralized.  In addition, several air search and ground radars were destroyed, blinding the IDF to the movements of Egyptian ground and air units.  The Egyptians had also studied their foe, and had rightly guessed that the IDF would react with powerful air interdiction and armored counterattacks.

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In the preceding years, Egypt had invested heavily in air defense and anti-armor capabilities for the Army, increasing its air defense forces fourfold since 1967.  Now, that investment would pay massive dividends.  With a brilliantly-executed combined arms strike that had neutralized Israeli artillery and air defense systems, the Egyptian Second and Third Armies were able to move the SA-2, SA-3, and SA-6 missile systems forward to establish a layered air defense system over their forward ground units.  It was this integrated air defense which took a frightful toll of the Israeli Air Force, especially in the beginning days of the war.

IDF tank

On the ground, Egyptian tank killer teams roamed about setting ambushes for Israeli armor, employing AT-3 Sagger man-portable antitank missiles, where those teams destroyed more than 300 Israeli tanks and armored vehicles.   The IAF strikes and IDF armored counterattacks, staples of Israeli doctrine to defeat their Egyptian enemies, could only be executed at considerable risk and with expectations of heavy losses.

By 10 October, with losses far higher than their opponents, Israel was forced entirely to the defensive in the Sinai.  In the Golan Heights, a strike on 7 October by three Syrian armored brigades, supported by an Iraqi brigade, required a diversion of forces to counter the new threat.   In the Golan, Israeli fortunes were better.  Despite being badly outnumbered by the Syrian forces, and the bravery and skill exhibited by the Syrians, Israeli armored and mechanized units held, and in the Valley of Tears, all but destroyed Syrian offensive capability.   A great little book was written about the Golan fighting by the Commander of the 77th Battalion of the 7th Armored Brigade,  LtCol Avigdor Kahalani.   The Heights of Courage should be a read for all company and field grade officers.

A cease-fire was brokered on October 25th, 1973.  In the end, Israeli forces pushed the Egyptians back across most of the Sinai, and inflicted heavy losses.  But the IDF was only able to do so because of a massive influx of US aid, including mothballed F-4 Phantom fighters from Davis-Monthan  AFB, M-48 and M-60 tanks, and great quantities of munitions and logistical support.

Israel lost almost 3,000 killed and 11,000 wounded and captured in the 19 days of the Yom Kippur War.  The IDF had been ill-prepared for the Egyptian attack, both in its dispositions and its warfighting doctrine.  Since 1967, Israel had invested disproportionately in its vaunted Air Force and elite armored units, and had neglected infantry and artillery capabilities.   Israel had also committed the grave mistake of leaving planning assumptions about enemy capabilities and intent unquestioned, a mistake they would never make again.

The aftermath of the Yom Kippur War has been profound.  Egypt, once Israel’s most grave threat, reached a peace treaty in 1978, with Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin signing the Camp David Accords.  Egypt, with a brief pause for a Muslim Brotherhood-led government, has remained on relatively good terms with Israel, and has (with a current brief pause AFTER the overthrow of the MB by the Egyptian Army) maintained a close relationship with the United States.    Operation Badr, significantly, represented the first Arab victory over Israeli forces on any scale since Israel’s founding in 1948.  It represents also the birth of the modern Egyptian Army, which remains a capable and well-equipped force, especially in comparison to its Middle Eastern neighbors.

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Just six years removed from the swift and devastating victories of the 1967 Six Day War, the Yom Kippur War was a profound shock to Israel.   Nobody will ever know for sure how close Israel came to being destroyed, or whether Golda Meir would have been willing to use the nuclear weapons in her possession to prevent that destruction.   We never had to find out, thankfully.   But it all began in earnest forty years ago tomorrow.

Update-XBradTC: URR writes: Israel had also committed the grave mistake of leaving planning assumptions about enemy capabilities and intent unquestioned, a mistake they would never make again.  

I’d argue that is incorrect. Israel badly misunderstood Hezbollah’s capabilities and tactics in the 2006 war. Israel’s incursion into Lebanon was not nearly as successful as hoped, and casualties were far higher than anticipated. The Israeli Army had planned and equipped and trained for a war of maneuver against an armored force, and found itself in an urban fight against a dug in irregular force in urban areas.

As a historical matter, the Yom Kippur War had enormous impact on US Army doctrine. I highly recommend to my readers King of the Killing Zone, the story of the development of the M1 Abrams tank, which also has an outstanding thumbnail sketch of the development of the Army’s AirLand Battle Doctrine. Our Army intensely studied the 1973 war, sifting for lessons learned on how to fight against a larger enemy, especially when strategically surprised. One of the real surprises the operational analysis of this and several other wars was that the smaller army in a war more often than not wins. The question became, “Why?” The answer was agility. Far more than the mere physical agility, the ability to move forces, smaller forces often have the mental agility to operate faster. AirLand Battle doctrine’s focus on operational agility predated, and foreshadowed, Boyd’s OODA Loop theory.

Update Update-URR:

I almost included a blurb about the 2006 Lebanon incursion.   Hezbollah tactics may have surprised the senior Israeli leadership, but did not surprise ground commanders.  I had the privilege of an extended conversation with Israeli BG Shimon Neveh, whose study of the 2006 fighting is absolutely superb.  His take was one that should ring familiar.  This from an interview with Matt Matthews:

Now, the other idea was to really assault by about 90 company-sized columns from all directions. Some elements airborne, some coming from the sea and others infiltrating almost without armor. The idea was to move in small teams and identify, feed the intelligence
circles, exploit our advantage in the air in remotely piloted vehicles (RPVs), unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), fixed-wing and helicopters. When we introduced this idea, after certain experiments in CENTCOM in 2003, I remember it was a special meeting of the General Staff, presided by Chief Ya’alon, and I didn’t say much then because the whole idea to develop was presented by the Northern Command (NORTHCOM) commander at that time, Beni Ganz, who was against it then – and of course he was against it now. So when Gal Hirsch tells him to mobilize, let’s review the plans and see what our options are because we’ve been running out of time, he totally brushed this aside. “Halutz, we don’t need that. It’s a waste of time.”

BG Neveh believed strongly that the IDF operational commanders knew what awaited them, and the reasons for the “asymmetry” were political rather than doctrinal.  Including, as he told me with no little disdain, the idea of using military force to prompt a political decision rather than for the destruction of the enemy.

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Syria’s Chemical Weapons Stockpile: Iraqi Fingerprints

I have made the assertion before, but here is another excellent article outlining the migration of Saddam Hussein’s remaining chemical weapons stockpile into Syria, where it is now at the center of the world stage.  Take it away, policymic:

The earliest account of Hussein having hidden his WMDs in Syria came in January of 2004. Nizar Nayouf, an award-winning Syrian journalist who was granted political asylum in France, said in a letter to Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf not only that he knew Iraq’s WMDs were being hidden inside Syria, but that he could pinpoint precisely where they were being kept. According to Nayouf’s witness, described as a senior source inside Syrian military intelligence he had known for two years, Iraq’s WMDs were in tunnels dug under the town of al-Baida near the city of Hama in northern Syria, in the village of Tal Snan, north of the town of Salamija, and in the city of Sjinsjar on the Syrian border with the Lebanon, south of the city of Homs. Nayouf claimed that the transfer of Iraqi WMDs to Syria was organized by the commanders of Hussein’s Iraqi Republican Guard with the help of General Dhu al-Himma Shalish and Assef Shawkat, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s cousin and brother-in-law, respectively.

We know for a fact that Shalish had a working relationship with Hussein long before the war in Iraq. The Syrian government awarded Shalish and his company, SES International Corporation, exclusive rights on

contracts to supply the Iraqi market with goods from construction materials to detergent. According to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Shalish and SES helped the former Ba’athist regime access weapons systems by issuing false end-user certificates to foreign suppliers that listed Syria as the final country of destination.

But wait, there is more.   Not just a Syrian journalist.  And not just General Sada.  But also that of the Iraq Survey Group, and Israeli intelligence.

When two sources from the Iraq Survey Group (ISG) — a 1,400-member team organized by the Pentagon and CIA — spoke with the Washington Times in August 2004, they reported that Hussein periodically removed guards on the Syrian border and replaced them with his own intelligence agents who supervised the movement of banned materials between the two countries. The shift was followed by the movement of trucks in and out of Syria suspected of carrying materials banned by UN sanctions. Once the shipments were made, the agents would leave and the regular border guards would resume their posts.

A similar claim was made by Lieutenant General Moshe Ya’alon in December of 2005, a former Israeli military officer who served as chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces from July 2002 to June 2005. “(Hussein) transferred the chemical agents from Iraq to Syria” six weeks before Operation Iraqi Freedom started, according to Ya’alon. “No one went to Syria to find it.”

General Sada’s claim of numerous truck convoys crossing the border in the months leading up to the US invasion also squares with countless eyewitness accounts from Iraqis living in Al Anbar Province.    In addition, the words of General al-Tikriti ring much more sensibly than those who claim that Saddam was merely bluffing, and possessed no chemical stockpile, but instead allowed his government to be toppled and his own death to result from playing out of that bluff.

After Saddam denied he had such weapons why would he use them or leave them readily available to be found?

The author is correct, in that absolute proof will be difficult.   You can bet the farm that any Iraqi complicity, and Russian complicity for that matter, in supplying Syria and the Assad Regime with chemical weapons, particularly VX, is being wiped clean as you read this.

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Once Again, Deafening Silence

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Seems State Department Spokeswoman Jen Psaki issued a statement on Saturday condemning the series of bombings in Baghdad last week that killed more than 70.   The release, in part, contained the following:

The United States condemns in the strongest possible terms the cowardly attacks today in Baghdad. These attacks were aimed at families celebrating the Eid al-Fitr holiday that marks the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. The terrorists who committed these acts are enemies of Islam and a shared enemy of the United States, Iraq, and the international community.

While the sentiment is admirable, I cannot help wondering at the deafening silence from State in regards to the uncounted hundreds of Coptic Christians who have been targeted and killed by Islamists, including the Muslim Brotherhood, since these new waves of murders began in January of 2011.

Since the pro-Morsi Brotherhood and Jemaah Islamiyah groups have taken to the streets in armed mobs, the killing of Christians and burning of their houses of worship have begun anew.  Yet, there has not been a peep from our State Department, no declaration condemning the “enemies of Christianity”, no solidarity with the international Christian community.  Nothing but thunderous, telling, shameful silence.

Oh, there WAS DNI James Clapper telling us that the Muslim Brotherhood is a largely secular organization.    Apparently our Director of National Intelligence is not very competent.  But hey.  This Administration seems pretty good at surveillance of the true threat, the American people.

H/T PJ Media

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GPS Hacking

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Our military leadership at all levels seemingly has a very difficult time understanding the ramifications of intrusions into our critical information networks.   What the nature of those intrusions will be, how and whether they can be detected, what effects they will have (if any), and the interconnection of vulnerabilities that come with the 21st Century lapis philosophorum of being “networked”.

By feeding counterfeit radio signals to the yacht, the UT team was able to drive the ship far off course, steer it left and right, potentially take it into treacherous waters, even put it on a collision course with another ship. All the time, the ship’s GPS system reported the vessel was calmly moving in a straight line, along its intended course. No alarms, no indication that anything was amiss.

Military leaders lack a nuanced understanding of what they so clumsily label the “cyber domain”.  Discussions almost always center around denial or disruption of service.  Very rarely do they address what is a far more serious, more difficult to detect, and potentially much more paralyzing in effect; the compromise of trusted information sources and networks.   When such issues come to the fore in the exercises and wargames of which I am a part, I do try to let people know that being “shut down” at an inconvenient time is serious, but in the pantheon of bad stuff our enemies can do to us, it is relatively low on the list.  And that we should be bracing for far more difficult and widespread problems from those intrusions.

The instance of GPS hacking, as reported by Fox News, is a peek into how serious things can be.  Anything that is remotely accessed and controlled is vulnerable to intrusion.   Often, there is not a Human in the Loop (HITL) until well downstream of any such intrusion.   SCADA systems remain notoriously vulnerable, and attribution nearly impossible.   In addition, many of the exploits to be leveraged by our enemies are likely already IN our networks.  Small bits of code that allow for override of authentication, turn off IDS, firewall permissions, domain name server settings, any and all of the security measures on which our critical infrastructure relies so heavily.

Our understanding at all levels of war needs to be reflected in realistic and demanding training for conducting operations without our massive technological advantage, or with many of those systems compromised or suspect.  We did so for many years in the Cold War, where the Soviets could potentially mount a significant challenge in the electronic spectrum.  And we need to learn anew to do it again, and to be disciplined in doing so.  The acronyms MIJI (meaconing, intrusion, jamming, and interference) and PACE (primary, alternate, contingency, emergency) used to be common to everyone in leadership from the tactical level on up.   The first was the adversary threat to our operations, the second, the methodology by which we could communicate and operate with loss of capability due to those threats.

The longer we talk about the “cyber domain”, the longer we display a simplistic and unimaginative understanding of the threat, the less time we will have and more difficult will be the task of understanding how we can fight and win wars when our enemies can deny us a spectrum we have dominated for decades.

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COINage- Or Broncos and Mohawks, Oh my!

We’ve written a few times about the Air Force program to develop a Light Attack/Armed Reconnaissance Aircraft (LAARA), primarily to arm nations such as Afghanistan and Iraq; allies that cannot afford, nor need, to operate high performance jets. These LAARA aircraft would normally operate in a permissive air defense environment over the host nation’s territory, and not have to cope with a sophisticated Integrated Air Defense System of radars and radar guided missiles. At worst, they would face the occasional MANPADS shoulder launched missile. The Air Force would likely own a small batch of any such production run primarily to serve as a training base for foreign users. The two prime candidate aircraft have pretty much always been the AT-6B Texan II from Beechcraft, and the A-29 SuperTucano from EMBRAER.

Given the rather stupendous costs of operating fast jets, in terms of cost per flight hour, we’re rather amazed how lukewarm the Air Force has been about the program. Fielding a wing or two of small, inexpensive aircraft would cost relatively little. It would also tend to show the Army that the Air Force was serious about meeting the needs of the Army, rather than maintaining its reputation for jealously guarding its independence. I’m not the only one who feels this way.

Unfortunately, what I wrote in that last link seems to be rather spot on:

At this point, I’m not really concerned with which platform they choose, just that they choose one.

But I’ve got unfailing insight into the future. Let me tell you what will happen. The fighter mafia, not wanting to get stuck with unsexy airplanes, have been dragging their feet on this, and will continue to do so. As US involvement in Afghanistan is trimmed back, the push to buy these LAARA birds will diminish somewhat, and then the fighter mafia will use the looming $400bn in defense cuts to argue that we can’t afford to buy and operate a new airplane.

LAARA is a good idea, long overdue (I mean, we’ve only been fighting in Afghanistan for 9 whole years!) and will almost certainly never reach operational status.

LAARA isn’t a dead program yet, but I haven’t seen it twitch much lately, much less move forward. Part of that is institutional foot dragging. And then there’s the political side, with various blocs in Congress pulling for one or the other of the two bidders. Beechcraft has been rather irritating in its insistence that the program be rewritten and recompeted time and again to give them a chance, never mind the EMBRAER product has been ready off-the-shelf almost since day one.

The Air Force’s argument is that to a great extent, it’s armed MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper drones provide the capability for long endurance Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) and Light Attack that the ground units need. To a certain extent they do, but they lack the responsiveness that Army commanders want. Unfortunately, Army commanders don’t get to dictate what the Air Force buys.

But there is another constituency that really wants a manned ISR/Light Attack capability, and while they can’t force the Air Force to buy stuff, they can lobby their own service to provide a niche capability. Navy Special Warfare, primarily the SEALs, has long wanted to have a LAARA type aircraft available to support some of their operations. Big Navy may not want to see the world revolve around NavSpecWar, but they do want to see them succeed. And so the SEALs brothers in NavAir started poking around to find a way to field about four airplanes to support them.

Under a program name of Imminent Fury, NavAir in early 2009 leased a SuperTucano, and tested it extensively. But when the Navy looked to move to Phase II, sending a detachment of four planes to Afghanistan, Congress slapped them down, hard. Imminent Fury had been run outside the normal procurement channels. That’s a pretty fair sized sin, in and off itself. But worse, the Navy was seen as giving EMBRAER the inside track on the Air Force LAARA program itself. NavAir was told in no uncertain terms that not only could they not lease four SuperTucanos, nor send them to Afghanistan, they couldn’t lease a single one, even stateside.

But Naval Aviators are wiley warriors, and a little thing like losing their airplane wasn’t going to ground them. They simply started looking around for another airplane. What they wanted was a light turboprop airplane, seating for two, capability to carry a fair ordnance load, and the ability to carry a sophisticated sensor system. Oh, and they had to be free.  And as it turn out, they had a pretty good idea where to find a couple. After all, the Navy (as well as the Marines and Air Force) had operated just such a plane once. The OV-10 Bronco. The Marines had modernized their fleet in the 1980s. When they’d retired them shortly after Desert Storm, they’d put some in the boneyard, given some to friendly nations, and  given a couple to NASA, who are always in the market for cheap aircraft to support various test programs.

And so, under a program called Combat Dragon II, the Navy is quietly operating those two NASA Broncos, updated and designated as the OV-10G+.

And it appears that whatever modifications the Navy wanted done were completed in-house at Patuxet River, MD, as now the aircraft, with Black Pony insignia as a nod to the heritage of VAL-4, are out west at Nellis AFB supporting various exercises to demonstrate their capabilities.

OV-10G+ at Nellis AFB

OV-10G+ at Nellis AFB

Click to greatly embiggenfy.

And the Bronco isn’t the only Cold War era COIN aircraft in the news.

There just may be a market for its uglier Army cousin, the OV-1 Mohawk.

Where the Bronco started as an attack aircraft with some reconnaissance capability, the Mohawk was a reconnaissance aircraft with some attack capability. But other than some very brief use early in the Vietnam War, its attack capability has languished.

But there is a market for quite a few nations that face internal instability, such as in South America, for an airplane or two (rather than a squadron) to support ground operations. And maybe the Bronco would be an ideal fit for them. But most of the Bronco fleet is worn out from hard use. But there are a goodly number of OV-1Ds sitting in the desert with a decent amount of fatigue life remaining.

And so, ATK, with other industry partners, is quietly getting into the business of updating, and arming, Mohawks for overseas users.

The latest version of the OV-1D Mohawk Armed with a 30 MM chain gun

Obvious changes from a stock OV-1D include the sensor turret under the nose, the rocket launchers on pylons outboard of the standard external fuel tanks, and most intriguingly of all, the 30mm M230 Chain Gun under the centerline. Presumably it is articulated in a manner similar to its use on the AH-64 Apache.

All this retro aviation stuff has me looking for some bell bottom jeans and a Nehru jacket.

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James Gandolfini, “Sopranos” Star and Maker of “Alive Day Memories” Dies at 51

Paul Morigi

We know him as Tony Soprano, the somewhat neurotic patriarch of the New Jersey crime family, whose own mother once put out a hit on him.  James Gandolfini had been in a bunch of other films, his first memorable role being hit-man Virgil in True Romance.

News has come that he has died at 51, of an apparent heart attack, while vacationing in Italy.

Among the other projects Gandolfini was known for was HBO’s Alive Day Memories, a film of touching and inspirational interviews with US service members severely wounded in Iraq.   Unlike a goodly portion of the Hollywood crowd, Gandolfini was by all accounts a decent guy, and his interaction with the Veterans he interviewed for the HBO special was eminently genuine.  I viewed the film not long after its release, at a VA Scholars conference, and an attendee that was a part of making the film said Mr. Gandolfini was often in tears, and expressed unbound admiration for the Wounded Warriors he interviewed, both on and off camera.

A shame.  Far too young, and, it seems, one of the good guys.

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New National Security Adviser is Susan Rice

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Waaaay back in 2009, when Barack Obama was first elected President, he appointed my old Division Commander, General James Jones, USMC (Ret.) to the post of National Security Adviser.    Within a group perceived largely as ideological rather than practical thinkers, a group sorely lacking in foreign policy experience, Jones was considered “adult supervision”.

Jones lasted fewer than 24 months, and his dislike of the Obama team, Axelrod, Emanuel, and his Deputy NSA Tom Donilon was well known.   Donilon was perceived almost universally by uniformed leadership as an amateur incompetent, a political animal in way over his head in matters of national security.   Jones’ opinion of Donilon was similarly low,  and the Administration’s dismissiveness of Jones’ views and embracing of Donilon’s led Jones to the door well short of the two years promised when he was appointed.

Indeed, US foreign policy during Donilon’s tenure has been a catastrophe.   US reaction to the “Arab Spring”, to a resurgent Russia, the precipitous withdrawal from Iraq, the Benghazi fiasco, and DPRK sabre-rattling, can only be described as befuddled and reactive.   Our “Pacific Pivot” has thus far been purely symbolic, as Chinese influence and power continues to grow while America’s recedes.  The National Security Council has been adrift, knocked loose of its “smart power” and “reset button” ideological pinnings by a head-on collision with power politics by expert practitioners of the craft.   To make matters worse, Donilon is strongly suspected of leaking classified information, the very kind which endangers US servicemen and women and diplomatic personnel, for the Administration’s political gain.

So now, after thirty months, Donilon is out as National Security Adviser.   His replacement is UN Ambassador Susan Rice.   Rice’s resumė includes time on the periphery of national security affairs, but little by way of actual decision-making and meaningful policy formulation.  And where she has, as Assistant Secretary of State for Africa, her decisions have been highly questionable.  Such was the case with the Sudan during the Clinton Administration, when the US had an opportunity to glean intelligence on Osama bin Laden, but Rice declined to do so.

Rice’s visible dislike of the late Richard Holbrooke, the veteran diplomat whose foreign service began before Rice was born, typifies the arrogance and hubris so often found in those in key posts of the Obama Administration.  For Holbrooke’s part, his opinion of Susan Rice was that she was incompetent lightweight who refused counsel from an experienced hand.   Rice was considered for the National Security Adviser position in 2009, but that went to Jones.  Rice was made Ambassador to the United Nations.  She was mentioned again recently to replace Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, but John Kerry was selected instead.

Now, Rice is to be NSA after all.   Her less than impressive track record before 2012 has now been immeasurably darkened by her demonstrated lack of integrity.  Quite simply, Susan Rice knowingly lied to the American people regarding the self-inflicted diplomatic calamity that was the Benghazi incident and the murder of a US Ambassador and three other Americans.   Rice went before the television cameras many days after learning the truth about the nature and target of the terrorist attack against the US Benghazi Consulate, and perpetuated the falsehood that the attack was the result of a spontaneous demonstration against a youtube video turned violent.   Susan Rice lacks both integrity and judgment.  Not at all a combination to inspire confidence.  The most that can be said for her replacing Donilon as National Security Adviser is that the move may be a step sideways for a scandal-ridden Administration whose foreign policy team has shown itself naive, inexperienced, and amateurish in the extreme.

The round of musical chairs being played by the Obama Administration offers little real promise to improve the effectiveness of US foreign affairs since 2009.  Recycling the same tainted and ill-qualified ideologues who not only do not understand power politics, but seemingly refuse to recognize that such a concept even exists, will further erode America’s ability to defend its interests and influence both our enemies and our allies.   This is not a student union protest.  This Administration needs to grow up.  It takes an adult to deal with the Putins of the world.   Susan Rice, as National Security Adviser, hardly qualifies.

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A Clear Mission Statement

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There is nothing quite like a USMC Master Gunnery Sergeant.   An E-9, but not a Sgt Major, with no place to go but sideways, a Master Guns can be ever so useful by bringing a capability to say what he thinks, and know of what he speaks.   This is particularly true in some of our collective ruminations on plans for providing that ever-popular hybrid of security/humanitarian assistance to some third world hell hole where the people hate us and everything that came after the Eleventh Century, about which such discussions can be fraught with self-deception.

While listening to a brief from a COCOM staff regarding a West African nation, I had remarked that they were telling us things we already knew.  The Master Guns reminded me of one of the immutable facts of life.

“The mission of a J-shop is to state the obvious.”

Well, Goldwater-Nichols was sposta clarify roles and missions.  I guess it did.

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VX in Syria; A Vexing Question

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The Telegraph reports, in an article on the fight for the Al-Safirah chemical facility:

The Syrian regime’s chemical warchest is indeed vast – the biggest in the Middle East, and the fourth largest in the world. Started in the 1970s ranks with help from Syria’s Cold War sponsor, Russia, today its programme includes facilities for making mustard gas, sarin and another nerve agent, VX, which stays lethal for much longer after dispersal.

Of course, this is not the first revelation that Assad’s chemical inventory contained VX.  Former Syrian Army Chemical Officer MajGen Adnan Sillou discussed the matter in a December 2012 interview:

He listed mustard gas along with the sarin, VX and tabun nerve agents as the main elements in Syria’s chemical arsenal, whose existence Syria doesn’t even acknowledge.

Despite the anguished cries of the Bush-haters, the question of VX in Syria is a vexing one for the “no chemical weapons in Iraq” crowd.   Only four countries have ever been known to produce VX; Great Britain, where it was discovered/invented, the United States, the Soviet Union, and Iraq.

So, how did VX end up in Basher Al-Assad’s arsenal?  One of two ways, it would seem, or some combination thereof.  It was either provided by what the Telegraph calls Syria’s “Cold War sponsor” (the Soviet Union, not Russia), or it came from Syria’s southeastern neighbor, Saddam’s Iraq.   Or both.

Methinks that the VX stockpiles have MAKSIM‘s fingerprints all over them.  The presence of a KGB General in Iraq in the months leading up to the US invasion cannot plausibly be explained by casting him as an “adviser”.    Primakov had intimate knowledge of Iraq’s chemical capabilties, and would have been in an ideal position to help remove Saddam’s remaining stockpile, along with evidence of Soviet/Russian culpability.

Another alternative is the possibility that the Soviet Union (or Russia post-1991) provided Syria with VX directly.    Were that the case, the likelihood that the Soviets/Russians did the same with Iraq (or provided technical assistance to manufacture) increases dramatically.

Perhaps this is one of the reasons that Putin’s Russia has remained in the protector role of Assad in Syria, far and above that which would logically attend a regime on such shaky ground internally.   And would explain Primakov’s presence in Iraq in the months leading up to the US invasion.

In either case, those who refuse to acknowledge Syria’s possession of VX, the most lethal of nerve agents, and by far the most difficult to produce, have to do some soul searching.   It might serve them well to search all the way back to 2003.

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Obama’s Syria Intervention Talk: An Echo of Bush

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“I think that in many ways a line’s been crossed when we see tens of thousands of innocent people killed by a regime, but the use of chemical weapons and the danger that is poses to the international community, to neighbors of Syria, the potential of chemical weapons to get into the hands of terrorists, all of those things add increased urgency to what is already a significant security problem and humanitarian problem in the region,” Obama told reporters.

So the hundreds of thousands of innocent people being killed by a regime, the use of chemical weapons, the potential for chemical weapons to get in the hands of terrorists, ARE considerations for military intervention?    Could we say as a counter, perhaps, that Bashar al-Assad poses no imminent and direct threat to the United States, or to his neighbors…and that in concert with the international community he can be contained until, in the way of all petty dictators, he falls away into the dustbin of history?

Yes, indeed we could.  I am not advocating for or against intervention in Syria, though I would be curious to know whom we believe we would ally with, and whom against, and just what we could accomplish given the active opposition of Putin’s Russia (not least because of the possibility of Russian fingerprints on Syria’s chemical stockpile, and on a chemical stockpile of Iraqi origin).

It seems that President Obama’s “student union view” of the world and how it works has once again collided head-on with reality.    The “game-changer” bandied about so often of late has already happened.   The world, our allies, and our adversaries, will see what comes next.    Will we see the Obama who condemned his predecessor for Iraq?  Or the Obama whose tough talk regarding Syria is a virtual echo of that predecessor?  Has he the statesmanship and foreign policy acumen to act decisively and effectively?   Considering the string of diplomatic failures punctuated by the Benghazi catastrophe and the ineffectual confrontation with the DPRK, I am not terribly hopeful.

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This ain’t Hell, but you can see it from here » Blog Archive » The Iraq Medal of Commitment: Still in “5-Sided Asylum” Limbo

Many of you may remember an article Jonn did some time ago on the proposal by the government of Iraq to award a an “Iraq Medal of Commitment“. The new medal would go to those who served in Iraq between Mar 2003 and Dec 2011.

via This ain’t Hell, but you can see it from here » Blog Archive » The Iraq Medal of Commitment: Still in “5-Sided Asylum” Limbo.

I’m a little surprised this hasn’t come to pass yet. Though, if I recall correctly, it took years for the foreign awards from Desert Storm to come through.

I received two awards for the Liberation of Kuwait, one from the Saudi Government (and it was a rather splendiferous bauble) and a rather more restrained medal from the government of Kuwait. I think it took until almost the mid-1990s for the Kuwaiti version to be approved.

As one of the commenters at This Ain’t Hell notes, it’s not the end of the world if he doesn’t get one. But given the sacrifice made by so many Americans, it would be nice to receive some recognition from the Iraqis. I’m sure there’s a reasonable explanation for the delay, but I just don’t see how hard it is to gin up a medal, and get it approved. But then, I’ve never had a Pentagon tour.

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