20 July 2008

AQ and the SecDef and Acronyms

Ralph Peters makes the argument that, having largely lost Iraq, al-Qaeda is returning to a strategy of open confrontation in Afghanistan because that is the only place in the world where al-Qaeda can still gather enough force to fight without getting stepped on hard, because al-Qaeda is discredited in the rest of the Arab world. I certainly haven't had a chance to survey the mythical "Arab in the Street" in the rest of the Arab world. On the other hand, I am bored off my ass in al-Anbar, once the centerpiece of the Media's attempts to "prove" we were "losing" in Iraq, due in no small part to the support which AQI used to have here. So as far as I can see, he has a point.

Argghhh! makes the argument that this was an intended consequence of our invasion of Iraq. By forcing AQI to fight for Iraq, we managed to kill lots of them and discredit them pretty completely. Of course, we'll never really know until historians of my grandchildren's generation start digging through piles of unclassified records and most of us who were involved are on our last legs. Good history is rarely written before the participants are dead. But I digress. Whether it was intended or not, it worked.

My prediction: We keep seeing attempts to regain credibility, flashy violent attacks in Afghanistan. A certain amount of troops get shifted to Afghanistan, but not the numbers that Barak Obama wants you to believe he'll send. The problem, exceedingly ticklish in my opinion, has to do with Pakistan. Afghanistan we can fix with patience--although it will NEVER be like, say, Pennsylvania. Pakistan is a nuclear-armed state which has some common interests with the United States. On the other hand, Pakistan cares about things that the US doesn't, like avoiding having open armed rebellion in the Tribal Areas. Solution is not to invade Pakistan as Barak Hussein Obama keeps promising he'll do. That's about as dumb a concept as could be imagined, and while I do not think that Barak Hussein Obama is the recruiting director for al-Qaeda, he'd make a fine one if he actually were so stupid as to invade Pakistan and also withdraw from Iraq at the same time.

Solution is to make Afghanistan more stable and secure, to secure the border areas as best as we can, and to support and gently nudge the Pakistanis into doing the right thing. No one will make the tribal areas into neat suburban communities with white picket fences and sidewalks. The best thing to do is to ensure that they don't make trouble elsewhere and support internal elements that will be more cooperative. Which leads to my next point.

The Honorable Mr. Robert M. Gates, SecDef, has been quoted extensively as saying that the State Department needs to pull its head out of its ass and start realizing that the State Department has a bigger job than attending high tea in nations with flush toilets, and issuing visas. Actually, he's been making these noises for months. He wants State to get into Counterinsurgency. I'm in favor of that, shockingly. I don't like most government employees, because many of them are lazy bastards. But State has the ability to do stuff that we don't, aren't trained to do, and have questionable legal authority to do. A completely military counterinsurgency approach has the potential to be fairly one-sided, focusing on catching bad guys and the security situation. We're doing a LOT better than we were, say, four years ago. Part of this is the idea that counterinsurgency is just a form of "war" in the WWII sense, and that civilians need to 'get out of the way' and let the military handle it.

In the sense that politicians need to NOT Monday-Morning Quarterback tactical decision making processes and micromanage the war from the air-conditioned comfort of their videoteleconference room in Washington DC, they do need to butt the hell out. But in the sense of pushing people out to theater and getting involved in interagency action to approach the entire bundle of problems that support an insurgency, the civilians need to get more involved.

What do I know, I'm just a staff, right? Anyway, the problems I've seen in the historical instances have to do with unity of command. The State folks belong to the Ambassador who may or may not have a good working relationship with the military folks. Who outranks whom in this circumstance? If State gets more heavily into the fight, a framework to coordinate the military and civil chains of command sounds like a necessity to me.

All I know is that I'm NOT a diplomat, and my approach to problem-solving is pretty BFI. But I'm just bright enough to know that once the initial security situation starts to get under control, you need to start doing a little more than shooting people in the face. Besides, any history of Iraq (and much of the rest of the Third World) more complex than the Wikipedia article makes it abundantly clear that one of the main reasons for dictatorial government has been the high degree of politicization of Iraq's military. How can we tell them that civil control of the Armed Forces is a good thing, indeed a prerequisite for effective democracy, if the only leadership they see comes from green-suiters?

The Small Wars Journal has an interesting article on the subject, do go download and read!

Regarding acronyms: I do run on the assumption that this blog is read by a fairly small readership (what, four or five folks) most of whom are at least passingly familiar with many if not most acronyms.

MRAP: Mine Resistant, Ambush Protected. This is a fun new buzzword which refers to several families of vehicles, the Buffalo, the 'jerv' (I think that one's JEERV), the Cougar, Husky, Meerket, the RG-31, the RG-33, etc. All of them are of South African origin and are trucks with a v-shaped hull that ride fairly high on large tires. Their armor is effective against small arms fire, IEDs, and RPGs to a certain extent. They do have a high center of gravity, however.

IRAM: Improvised Rocket-Assisted Mortar. Not sure the origins of this term, but it was applied to IEDs made from propane tanks with rocket motors attached. The rocket motors were intended to launch 3 lb warheads thousands of meters, and hence can only chuck an 80 pound warhead on a high trajectory that has a few hundred meters of range.

BFI: Brute Force and Ignorance. Shooting people in the face, for instance.

19 July 2008


I'm sitting here on REDACTED in the midst of a nonstory. At least, checking on the major news organs, there is little to say about REDACTED Province. There's been some sketchy and inaccurate reportage of an incident in Karmah where some Marines died for complacency. The continued efforts of Marines and Soldiers which have made this province dull and boring (as compared to the 'excitement' of my last tour) are not newsworthy.

Few things in Iraq are newsworthy, or so it seems.

CNN decided to creatively arrange facts in order to create a story that fits the narrative of failure they are increasingly desperate to portray. The news story claimed there was a problem maintaining MRAPs and many of them in-country are broken down -- "one in five" according to their story. The story has been refuted--MRAPs consistently maintain 90% or better OR rates. Now, if you look at the wording of their story, it's interesting "one in five has been out of commission." Now that makes it sound like if a unit has 10 MRAPs, only 8 of them work. What is means (if the statistic is not merely invented from a CNN editor's fertile imagination) is that 2 of them have been listed on a deadline report at some time. Not that they have been broken down at the same time, nor is there any implication about how long they stayed on the deadline report. Now, an MRAP is supposed to go out of commission from time to time--the way they work is to sacrifice tires and suspension parts but preserve the crew compartment and the Soldiers inside. They are designed to be fairly easy to fix, so that after losing pieces to an IED it can be back on the road in short order--I've seen them roll out in 24 to 48 hours after being hauled back to base on a flatbed truck.

Or witness the flurry of hysteria regarding IRAMs, said to be a "deadly" threat, never mind that they had killed all of 2 people. Now, I got a chance to look at some pictures and reports on IRAMs, and I'm not impressed. Clever little toys, but there are a half-dozen weaknesses that are easily exploitable. And further, the pattern of attacks clearly indicated they were the work of a relatively small group. Sure enough, after a failed attack yielded an intact launcher for full study, they announced the capture of the cell committing the attacks. And I haven't heard anything on the subject since.

One wonders why they don't run stories on good stuff--like the trend for home-brewed explosives to show up in IEDs rather than military ordnance, or the increase in our found-and-cleared rate, or trends showing both attacks and effective attacks dropping consistently. One wonders.

04 July 2008

4th of July

Delaware George ReadCaesar Rodney

Thomas McKean

Pennsylvania George ClymerBenjamin Franklin

Robert MorrisJohn Morton

Benjamin RushGeorge Ross

James SmithJames Wilson

George Taylor

Massachusetts John AdamsSamuel Adams

John HancockRobert Treat Paine

Elbridge Gerry

New Hampshire Josiah BartlettWilliam Whipple

Matthew Thornton

Rhode Island Stephen HopkinsWilliam Ellery

New York Lewis MorrisPhilip Livingston

Francis LewisWilliam Floyd

Georgia Button GwinnettLyman Hall

George Walton

Virginia Richard Henry LeeFrancis Lightfoot Lee

Carter BraxtonBenjamin Harrison

Thomas JeffersonGeorge Wythe

Thomas Nelson, Jr.

North Carolina William HooperJohn Penn

Joseph Hewes

South Carolina Edward RutledgeArthur Middleton

Thomas Lynch, Jr.Thomas Heyward, Jr.

New Jersey Abraham ClarkJohn Hart

Francis HopkinsonRichard Stockton

John Witherspoon

Connecticut Samuel HuntingtonRoger Sherman

William WilliamsOliver Wolcott

Maryland Charles CarrollSamuel Chase

Thomas StoneWilliam Paca

From here.

03 July 2008

Re: Harden the fuck up

I should point out that this video was first shown to us by our Royal Australian Navy NCOIC as an "introduction to Australian culture."

It's now a running joke in our team.

One 'good on ya' and One 'harden the fuck up'

Good on ya - Columbian armed forces, who managed to rescue a hostage taken six years ago by infiltrating the group holding her captive, telling the boss they were taking her to visit the leader of the FARC, and putting her on a helicopter piloted by military pilots wearing Che Guevera t-shirts.

They also bagged four foreign hostages (including three Americans) and 11 other Columbian prisoners.

"We're the national army," said one of the crewmen. "You're free."

The helicopter crew were soldiers in disguise. Cesar and the other guerrilla aboard had been persuaded to hand over their pistols, then overpowered.

That's frickin' cool.

Harden the Fuck Up, Anthony Weiner.

Weiner (I'm sure it's not pronounced "whiner") is whining about the price "All New Yorkers" have paid in the War on Terror.

See, New York continues to pay differential for its employees who are Reserve Component Soldiers who get called up for active duty. This is a voluntary thing, some employers do it, some don't. The reasons employers do it vary, from patriotism to an incentive to hang on to high-quality employees. But regardless of why, New York does it.

The way this works is that if Reservist A makes, say, $45,000 a year and he gets activated as a Staff Sergeant, he gets nothing over and above his military pay. But if Reservist B makes, say, $75,000 a year, he'd get paid by the NYC government the difference between his military pay and his civilian pay. Even though he isn't doing a damn thing for the NYC government, and is doing the exact same job as Reservist A.

Weiner (not 'whiner') wants the Federal Government to take this over. Personally, I think that's asinine. For one thing, 75% of Reserve Component Soldiers make more in a combat zone than they do at their day job. Face it, when you factor in the taxes, being a beat cop just doesn't pay as well as being a line doggie. Before combat bonuses, I take home about $3,900 a month. Now add almost $700, and make it all tax free once the combat pay kicks in. It takes a New York cop nearly six years to catch up to me, and he's paying taxes (Federal AND State income) on the whole thing (even in the US, about $1400 of mine is tax free). And my benefits are better.

For another thing, if the Federal Government were to officially say, "Some Reservists are worth more than others, and all of them are potentially worth more than Active Duty Soldiers" then that's a huge pile of shit dumped on the idea of the Total Army, where we treat the Reserve Components (once activated) equally with the Regulars. I wouldn't re-enlist. If a Reservist has a deal with his boss to pay him while he's deployed so that he can make the Mercedes payments, that's his personal business. I don't know or care. But once the Federal Government takes over, it's everyone's business.

Reservists enlist knowing that they are going to be called up these days. Their employers know this too--or they wouldn't be offering pay differential as an enticement! If they couldn't afford to serve on Active Duty status from time to time (the WHOLE POINT of having Reserve Components) then they shouldn't have accepted the enlistment bonuses, or the college loan repayments, or the tuition assistance, or what ever else the Army gave them for signing on the dotted line.

Weiner (perhaps weeee-ner?) also whines about the hardship of having First Responders activated.

Well, no shit, Sherlock!

The sort of people who are going to be heading to the sound of the guns are often the sort of people who aren't going to be satisfied with a day job shuffling paper from one side of a desk to another. That's not surprising--most cops I've met have been former military.

That's life in a country at war. Hire new ones--it's not like the NYPD can't use the help. Kick some desk-sitters out back onto the streets, there's a novel concept.

One wonders what Weener would think if New York had to cough up the kind of commitment it did in WWII--its entire National Guard and Army Reserve for six years. Plus most of the military-aged healthy males not required for farm labor or defense industry.

Here's the meat of the argument, though. This isn't about Soldiers, or New York not having cops, it's about Weenie making a statement about the war.

"Rep. Weiner said, 'Dozens of New York families have lost loved ones in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But all New Yorkers have paid in economic price for this foreign policy folly.'"

Harden the Fuck up, Weiner!