The Totalitarians Among Us

Herschel Smith · 03 Mar 2014 · 15 Comments

Victor Davis Hanson observes: In short, Obama will always poll around 45 percent. That core support is his lasting legacy. In a mere five years, by the vast expansion of federal spending, by the demonizing rhetoric of his partisan bully pulpit, and by executive orders and bizarre appointments, Obama has so divided the nation that he has created a permanent constituency that will never care as much about what he does as it cares about what he says and represents. For elite rich liberals…… [read more]

The Politics of Weakness in Iraq

BY Herschel Smith
7 years, 5 months ago

ThreatsWatch has an interesting and carefully-reasoned commentary entitled “Iraq Coup Rumors, and Reality.”  Kirk Sowell’s analysis is more informative than is my “How Long Can a Hapless Maliki Hang On?“  After examining each of the major players on the Iraq political stage, Sowell concludes that there isn’t a person or a group that has the political or military capital to pull off a coup.

If this is true, then the lack of a new regime might be as unfortunate as the outcome of a potential coup.  As we discussed in “Land of Many Wars,” there are many small wars taking place in Iraq at the present.  Al-Sadr’s forces are warring in Kirkuk, probably over whether this city will be Shiite or Kurdish and the future of oil revenues.  The Shiite militias are warring against the Sunni for years of repression, and the Sunnis are warring back in order to protect themselves.  Al-Qaeda is warring against everyone who has not thrown in their hat with them, and as we write the war between competing Shiite militias is being reported.

Weak political leadership in Iraq will not be able to call the country back from the brink of disaster.  Iraq needs a strong central figure who does not depend upon political winds to stay in power.  However, as Time reported several weeks ago, the ugly and disheartening irony is that the U.S. may have forced a political system upon Iraq that prevents a political solution to the problem.

The few secular politicians with any name recognition, like Allawi, have become marginalized, their voices drowned by the sectarian din. In two general elections, Allawi has failed to get more than 14% of the vote, and the flight of middle-class Iraqis is eroding his natural constituency. He bemoans the growing power of sectarian forces but can only watch in despair. In private conversations even politicians with no pretensions of secularism occasionally wish for a unifying leader. Some months ago, Sunni leader Saleh al-Mutlak and I chatted about the kind of leadership it would take to pull Iraq back from the brink. We agreed that there were no giants on the political landscape, and he shook his head dolefully. “Not only that,” he said, sighing, “but the political system we have created makes it impossible for such a figure to emerge.” Politicians, he said, have discovered that the easiest way to win votes is to appeal to sectarian chauvinism; they have little incentive to take the higher, more difficult road.

If there are no chances of a coup, and there are no leaders on the horizon, then the political situation in Iraq might be intractable.  The Parliamentary system that has been set up in Iraq forces Maliki to depend upon the very militias he is supposed to reign in to stay in power.  Without them, he has no coalition.

The Reasons the U.S. Won’t “Clear” Ramadi

BY Herschel Smith
7 years, 5 months ago

It has been speculated that the U.S. will at some point “clear” Ramadi just as we did in Fallujah in 2004.  This is highly unlikely to happen for a number of reasons, but we will examine four in this analysis.

Political Landscape

The undulations in the political landscape make it difficult for the U.S. to heavily engage any area with large force projection.  Some on the political right would support more troops, but it is doubtful that this is a large enough percentage to effect foreign policy.  The political far left want to pull out completely.  I estimate this to be no larger percentage than those on the right who want to deploy more troops to Iraq.  The middle is the controlling factor, and they appear to want to persuade, or even force, the Iraqis to take responsibility for policing themselves (however naive this may or may not be).

There is a growing sense that while the U.S. may be present in the region for a protracted period of time, this presence will be in a different form (perhaps in the Kurdistan), and military operations, at least of the nature that we have recently seen, will fade from the picture in Iraq sooner rather than later.  To launch a major clearing operation in Ramadi would have political ramifications two or three orders of magnitude worse than for Israeli Prime Minister Olmer, who has been ridiculed for launching an operation right at the end of the Israel-Lebanon War in which 33 IDF soldiers died.  There has since been a growing chorus of calls for Olmert’s resignation.  Heavy losses of U.S. troops is not what the public is calling for when they say they want a “change in direction.”  And clearing operations in Ramadi similar to those in Fallujah in 2004 would cause significant losses.

Finally, operations in Fallujah were carried out after the essential evacuation of the entire city.  The only people left in Fallujah were the insurgents.  Ramadi is roughly four times the size of Fallujah, and the human catastrophy associated with the Iraqis fleeing the city would be staggering.  As it stands, there are now more than half a million Iraqis who have fled to Syria.  This would double with heavy combat in Ramadi and the surrounding areas in al Anbar.

Changes in Tactics

We have discussed the earlier redeployment of U.S. troops to heavily gaurded basis in lieu of patrols and other offensive operations in and around Baghdad, and the strengthening of the enemy because of this strategy.  As opposed to this, Michael Fumento has documented a strategy that is working brilliantly (although slowly) to pacify Ramadi, called COPS, or Combat Operation Posts.  There has previously been a battle of Generals in the military to ascertain how to approach Operation Iraqi Freedom.  The Generals who believe that the approach used in Fallujah was too heavy-handed won the doctrinal struggle (I have stated my disagreement with them).  The Generals who want a “kinder and gentler soldier” seem to have been relegated to the offices where they write reports and can’t hurt anything.  The COIN doctrine currently under development seems to be focusing on correct force size, region pacification, political machinations, stability and proper planning.  While proper force projection would help in pacification of the hot regions of Iraq, it seems unlikely that troop deployment will increase much beyond the current levels.  If this is true, then the tactics that have been used successfully (i.e., COPS) will continue to be used as forces permit, but the progress will be slow.  The administration will accept slow progress in lieu of a strategy that is known not to be successful (such as redeploying to heavily guarded bases).

High Loss of U.S. Troops

The Marines who took Fallujah did so with MOUT tactics, and more specifically, they used “clearing” techniques.  These techniques are similar to those used by police SWAT teams, with one significant exception.  There is no attempt to ascertain friend from foe.  There never can be.  As one seasoned Marine NCO said recently, “clearing a room is something that a fire team can execute to perfection, and still die.”  The tactics used in Fallujah relied upon fragmentation grenades initially, but a Marine cannot carry enough to utilize these in each room that is cleared.  Therefore, the techniques taught to Marines in SOI rely upon fast and furious “stacks” that enter a room and kill all inhabitants within a second or two.  When the order is given to clear a room, the stack enters rapidly and immediately fires rounds at all inhabitants.  In Fallujah, this was necessary because there were many rooms where insurgents were lying in wait for U.S. troops to enter the room.  As one commenter said to a recent post, this is “nervewracking.”  Literally, the Marine or Soldier is running into a potential hail of bullets.  The cost for Fallujah was significant.  The cost of these operations in Ramadi would be breathtaking.  There was a time in 2004 when the U.S. could have forced the issue in Ramadi, immediately after Fallujah when al-Qaeda and the Baathist insurgents were on the run.  To our complete and utter dismay here at the Captain’s Journal, this time has come and gone.

Iraqi Civilian Casualties

Because it is impossible to distinguish friend from foe in “room-clearing” operations (what would the Marine do – storm into the room and ask questions while a potential insurgent shot at him from behind a child?), the very nature of the operations would cause significant Iraqi casualties.  Either this would come to pass or the citizens would flee, causing a human catastrophy.  Either way, the citizens are caught in the middle.  They die or they flee.

Postscript

As a postscript, take note of the immoral slander and inappopriate allegations that the Marines have suffered at the hands of the ignorant concerning these so-called “heavy-handed” techniques.  While being asked to “clear” rooms and cities by literally running into a potential storm of bullets (from insurgents hiding behind children in rooms) and IEDs, the Marines are then maligned for heavy handed techniques.  What would the ignorant have them do?

The Reasons the U.S. Won’t “Clear” Ramadi

BY Herschel Smith
7 years, 5 months ago

It has been speculated that the U.S. will at some point “clear” Ramadi just as we did in Fallujah in 2004.  This is highly unlikely to happen for a number of reasons, but we will examine four in this analysis.

Political Landscape

The undulations in the political landscape make it difficult for the U.S. to heavily engage any area with large force projection.  Some on the political right would support more troops, but it is doubtful that this is a large enough percentage to effect foreign policy.  The political far left want to pull out completely.  I estimate this to be no larger percentage than those on the right who want to deploy more troops to Iraq.  The middle is the controlling factor, and they appear to want to persuade, or even force, the Iraqis to take responsibility for policing themselves (however naive this may or may not be).

There is a growing sense that while the U.S. may be present in the region for a protracted period of time, this presence will be in a different form (perhaps in the Kurdistan), and military operations, at least of the nature that we have recently seen, will fade from the picture in Iraq sooner rather than later.  To launch a major clearing operation in Ramadi would have political ramifications two or three orders of magnitude worse than for Israeli Prime Minister Olmer, who has been ridiculed for launching an operation right at the end of the Israel-Lebanon War in which 33 IDF soldiers died.  There has since been a growing chorus of calls for Olmert’s resignation.  Heavy losses of U.S. troops is not what the public is calling for when they say they want a “change in direction.”  And clearing operations in Ramadi similar to those in Fallujah in 2004 would cause significant losses.

Finally, operations in Fallujah were carried out after the essential evacuation of the entire city.  The only people left in Fallujah were the insurgents.  Ramadi is roughly four times the size of Fallujah, and the human catastrophy associated with the Iraqis fleeing the city would be staggering.  As it stands, there are now more than half a million Iraqis who have fled to Syria.  This would double with heavy combat in Ramadi and the surrounding areas in al Anbar.

Changes in Tactics

We have discussed the earlier redeployment of U.S. troops to heavily gaurded basis in lieu of patrols and other offensive operations in and around Baghdad, and the strengthening of the enemy because of this strategy.  As opposed to this, Michael Fumento has documented a strategy that is working brilliantly (although slowly) to pacify Ramadi, called COPS, or Combat Operation Posts.  There has previously been a battle of Generals in the military to ascertain how to approach Operation Iraqi Freedom.  The Generals who believe that the approach used in Fallujah was too heavy-handed won the doctrinal struggle (I have stated my disagreement with them).  The Generals who want a “kinder and gentler soldier” seem to have been relegated to the offices where they write reports and can’t hurt anything.  The COIN doctrine currently under development seems to be focusing on correct force size, region pacification, political machinations, stability and proper planning.  While proper force projection would help in pacification of the hot regions of Iraq, it seems unlikely that troop deployment will increase much beyond the current levels.  If this is true, then the tactics that have been used successfully (i.e., COPS) will continue to be used as forces permit, but the progress will be slow.  The administration will accept slow progress in lieu of a strategy that is known not to be successful (such as redeploying to heavily guarded bases).

High Loss of U.S. Troops

The Marines who took Fallujah did so with MOUT tactics, and more specifically, they used “clearing” techniques.  These techniques are similar to those used by police SWAT teams, with one significant exception.  There is no attempt to ascertain friend from foe.  There never can be.  As one seasoned Marine NCO said recently, “clearing a room is something that a fire team can execute to perfection, and still die.”  The tactics used in Fallujah relied upon fragmentation grenades initially, but a Marine cannot carry enough to utilize these in each room that is cleared.  Therefore, the techniques taught to Marines in SOI rely upon fast and furious “stacks” that enter a room and kill all inhabitants within a second or two.  When the order is given to clear a room, the stack enters rapidly and immediately fires rounds at all inhabitants.  In Fallujah, this was necessary because there were many rooms where insurgents were lying in wait for U.S. troops to enter the room.  As one commenter said to a recent post, this is “nervewracking.”  Literally, the Marine or Soldier is running into a potential hail of bullets.  The cost for Fallujah was significant.  The cost of these operations in Ramadi would be breathtaking.  There was a time in 2004 when the U.S. could have forced the issue in Ramadi, immediately after Fallujah when al-Qaeda and the Baathist insurgents were on the run.  To our complete and utter dismay here at the Captain’s Journal, this time has come and gone.

Iraqi Civilian Casualties

Because it is impossible to distinguish friend from foe in “room-clearing” operations (what would the Marine do – storm into the room and ask questions while a potential insurgent shot at him from behind a child?), the very nature of the operations would cause significant Iraqi casualties.  Either this would come to pass or the citizens would flee, causing a human catastrophy.  Either way, the citizens are caught in the middle.  They die or they flee.

Postscript

As a postscript, take note of the immoral slander and inappopriate allegations that the Marines have suffered at the hands of the ignorant concerning these so-called “heavy-handed” techniques.  While being asked to “clear” rooms and cities by literally running into a potential storm of bullets (from insurgents hiding behind children in rooms) and IEDs, the Marines are then maligned for heavy handed techniques.  What would the ignorant have them do?

Demonstrations, Violence and Preparations in al Anbar Province

BY Herschel Smith
7 years, 5 months ago

It has been reported that dozens of al-Qaeda linked gunmen took to the streets in Ramadi on Wednesday to announce that the city was joining a new Sunni Islamic state.  The gunmen are purported to be part of the Mujahideen Shura Council.  This al-Qaeda led group is comprised of Mujahideed fighters loyal to Saddam.  The gunmen also announced that all Sunni provinces would be part of the Islamic state.  In what might be an exaggeration of the story above, Aljazeera is reporting that there were hundreds of fighters rather than dozens of fighters.  Continuing with the Aljazeera report:

Abu Harith said the state would be headed by Amir Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, a little-known militant, and would include the Sunni areas of Baghdad, the provinces of Anbar, Diyala, Kirkuk, Salah al-Din, Nineveh and parts of Babil and Wasit.

Following these demonstrations, Friday saw similar demonstrations in the al Anbar towns of Bani, Daher, Rwah, Haditha and Haqlaniyah.  In these last two cities, the demonstrations were held within one kilometer of U.S. military bases.

It might be tempting to see these reports as an indication of the weakness of the Sunni insurgents in al Anbar.  After all, dozens of fighters is barely a group of criminals in a city the size of Ramadi.  But this view would be a mistake.  Some tribes in the so-called Sunni triangle have vowed to oppose al-Qaeda and the Shura Council, but we have pointed out that there isn’t unanimity among the al Anbar tribes to fight al-Qaeda.  Moreover, the chieftans of the tribes who have agreed to fight al-Qaeda are the heads of small tribes, and some of the chiefs reside outside of Iraq for fear of assasination.  Al-Qaeda is strong enough not only to wreak havoc and violence, but to cause fear among the larger population in al Anbar.  But the demonstration was not about either al Qaeda or the Sunni insurgents driving the U.S. out of al Anbar, although they want to use that as a means to an end.

The Washington Post article cited above stated the reason for the demonstrations:

” … to protect our religion and our people, to prevent strife and so that the blood and sacrifices of your martyrs are not lost.”

Don’t mistake this protection as being primarily from the U.S.  Rather, it is from the Shia.  Stratfor is also reporting that “this is a response to the Shiite-controlled parliament’s decision to pass a law that allows provinces to form federal regions because the law weakens Sunnis.”  In the face of al Sadr’s death squads taking revenge on the Sunnis who have repressed the Shia for years, along with the potential loss of wealth of the Sunni provinces, they are fighting back against what they see as the potential repression of the Sunnis.

To be sure, for al-Qaeda and the Council to embark upon their plan to turn the Sunni triangle into an Islamic stronghold for their “holy fighters,” the U.S. will have to be gone.  But right now the U.S. is yet another tribe in a region where tribes have cut deals, aligned themselves for and against al Qaeda, and are defending themselves daily against Shia death squads.  The 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, is reporting that the area they find themselves in is not safe.  But it is “safer than when the Marines had arrived.”

Without the presence of U.S. troops to fight with, there was plenty of animosity to drive the violence due to Shia – Sunni tensions.  The demonstrations, the violence and the politics are all preparatory for when the U.S. presence is not determinative in the direction al Anbar takes.  Sooner or later, they apparently feel, the stronger tribe will be gone.  The recent Makkah pact forbids Shiite-Sunni killings, and the hope is apparently that this will provide some ideological underpinnings for stability.

In the mean time, the bravery of the Marines and Soldiers in al Anbar speaks to their character, as Ramadi and the surrounding and adjacent cities are still the most dangerous places in Iraq, and perhaps the world.

How Long Can a Hapless Maliki Hang On?

BY Herschel Smith
7 years, 6 months ago

Prime Minister Maliki today said that the execution of Saddam would help to undermine the insurgency.  Maliki’s statement should not be seen in the aggregate, as a position statement disconnected from the balance of events in Iraq.  President Bush’s insistence that he would not pull the troops out before the terrorists are defeated stands juxtaposed with the growing chorus of voices calling for change in Iraq, sooner rather than later.

Maliki’s government appears to be too weak to continue without the support of the current level of U.S. troop deployment, and even perhaps a larger deployment given that the U.S. has been forced to admit that its strategic plan to reduce the level of violence in Baghdad has failed.  The installation of a so-called ‘strong-man’ to regain control of Iraq has been floated in hushed circles, but it has been reported that the calls for a change at the top of the political landscape in Iraq are beginning to be heard in Washington.  David Ignatius, of the Washington Post, reported on the currently deteriorating situation in Iraq and the relation to the calls for a new regime:

The situation is deteriorating so fast that even radical militia leaders are said to be complaining about the anarchy. Moqtada al-Sadr, a Shiite firebrand who heads the militia known as the Mahdi Army, recently told a top official of the Iraqi intelligence service that “an increasing number of Shia death squads, operating under the name of his Mahdi Army, are Iranian pasdaran [Revolutionary Guards] staff officers and Hezbollah fighters, who are executing operational activities that he is not aware of, nor can he control,” according to one U.S. source.

Bush administration officials have been puzzling over why the coup rumors have become so widespread in Baghdad. One reason is that Iraqis remember the country’s history of coups, including the 1958 putsch that overthrew the monarchy and the one in 1968 that brought the Baath Party to power. Another explanation is America’s increasingly vocal frustration with Maliki and the perception in Iraq that he has been given a deadline to crack down on militias, or else. Finally, the rumors may reflect ongoing U.S. efforts to reach out to former Baath Party leaders and insurgents in an effort to stabilize the country.

An [unsourced] former CIA officer is reported to have said that there is Washington ‘buzz’ of a coup:

It’s being talked about in Washington. One scenario is, the Iraqis do it themselves, some Iraqi colonel who’s fed up with the whole thing, who takes over the country. And it would take the United States forty-eight hours to figure out how to respond, and meanwhile he’s taken over everything. The other side of the coin is, we do it ourselves. Find some general up in Ramadi or somewhere, and help him take over. And he’d declare a state of emergency and crack down. And he’d ask us to leave – that would be our exit strategy. It’s a distinct possibility. I’ve raised this with a number of foreign service and intelligence people, and most of them – remembering the days of the coups d’etat in the Middle East – say, “Hear, hear!”

Whether the threat of a coup is real or not, with such ‘buzz’ in Washington, the increasing violence in Iraq, out-of-control militias, and increasing pressure from the Bush administration, Maliki cannot appear to be a strong leader.

Adopting a Peacetime Approach Too Early

BY Herschel Smith
7 years, 6 months ago

NATO military leadership is weighing in on U.S. strategy in Afghanistan.  But before we get to their position, we’ll rehearse our own.

In our post Unintended Consequences: U.S. Strengthens Iran, we said of the Iraq war:

The U.S. troops too quickly transitioned from conventional operations to counterinsurgency …

Concerning Iraq, in our post Observations on Timeliness from the Small Wars Manual, we said:

No matter what tactics were employed, if the strategy had included defeat of the known enemy with dispatch, the U.S. forces could have focused more on COIN operations for smaller groups of poorly-trained and poorly-led insurgents.

In our post Afghanistan’s Lessons for Iraq: What Strategy?, we said:

If Afghanistan is the model for contemporary counterinsurgency operations, then the U.S. ought to rethink its strategy.  There is a role for both special operators and regulars in today’s warfare.  Cessation of regular operations too soon is counterproductive.

In our post Ramadi: Marines Own the Night, 3.5 Years into Iraq War, we said:

… there is simply no substitute for killing the enemy in war. Purposely circumventing urban regions in our push towards Baghdad leaving significant enemy left behind to fight another day, ignoring the al Anbar province to fester for 3.5 years, and simultaneously invoking COIN strategy, is not really COIN. It is premature cessation of conventional operations. It isn’t the failure of COIN that is to blame. It is the timing … a timing that is too connected to political altercations stateside.

NATO (British) General David Richards weighed in on our strategy early in the campaign of Afghanistan with Pentagon reporters:

The U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan failed to follow through as it should have after ousting the government in 2001, said the NATO commander in the country.

The mistake — adopting “a peacetime approach? too early — set the stage for this year’s deadly Taliban resurgence, British Gen. David Richards told Pentagon reporters Tuesday.

He said the international community has six months to correct the problem before losing Afghan support.

“The Taliban were defeated. …. And it looked all pretty hunky-dory,? Richard said of the environment at the end of 2001. “We thought it was all done … and didn’t treat it as aggressively as … with the benefit of hindsight, we should have done.?

To be sure, conventional operations had its complications in Afghanistan late in the campaign.  Because of the bungled operation at Tora Bora, the enemy found sanctuary in a semi-stable nuclear state that was (properly) worrisome to the administration.  Because of the nature of MOUT, the enemy in Iraq found sanctuary among the people.

However, among the lessons of both wars, high on the list of pointers for future small wars is certainly the following:

  1. The enemy must be defeated with dispatch.  Premature cessation of military operations is counterproductive, with unintended consequences that are worse than the consequences of completing the military effort early.
  2. Denial of sanctuary for the enemy must be a consideration in our tactics.  Means of egress from the battlefield, whether urban or rural, must be cut off in order to complete the campaign.  Otherwise, the enemy escapes, heals, recruits, trains, redeploys and fights another day.
  3. Urban areas must not be bypassed, even though MOUT can be more costly than rural battle.
  4. Force size must be adequate to effect these measures.

Finally, stabilization and security may be far more important to a populace than democracy.  The healing powers that were thought to be there with democracy are not only absent; as it turns out, democracy may actually be harmful without the religious, philosophical and theoretical framework to support it.  Western democracy doesn’t exist in a vacuum and without context.

Violence, Politics and Positioning in Iraq

BY Herschel Smith
7 years, 6 months ago

In continuing violence in Iraq, the U.S. has announced the deaths of nine more U.S. troops.  The U.S. is keeping up the pressure on al Sadr’s militia, arresting a senior militia leader; the al Sadr loyalists have threatened massive demonstrations and even violence if he is not released, and so a test has been set up for Prime Minister Maliki.  It appears, however, that Maliki and al Sadr ostensibly agree on one thing: the Iraqi people should and will decide on the issue of federalism in Iraq.

Thus the politics, some of it mixed with violence, ensues for power in post-war Iraq.  It appears that Iraq is headed towards what is being called a “dramatic change,” or a course correction.  There are even speculations that an overthrow of Maliki’s regime is in the works, with Maliki to be replaced by a ‘strongman’ who would use the power of the military to regain control of Iraq.

James Baker correctly see the problem as stabilization, at least initially.

His group’s main concepts seem to be “stability first” and “redeploy and contain”, as they are called. The first would concentrate less on democracy and more on stabilisation, especially in Baghdad, and on trying to bring in nationalist (ie not al-Qaeda jihadist) insurgents into political life and even consulting Iran and Syria. New anti-guerrilla tactics might be devised.

This could tie in with thinking in Washington that there is merit in the idea of a government of “national salvation” in Iraq.

The second would be more radical. It foresees a possible major, phased withdrawal of US forces, perhaps even to bases in the region from which they could support the Iraqi government if necessary.

We have discussed the issue of incorporation of the Sunni Baathists into the Iraqi political scene with amnesty, including the difficulty of accepting peace with those who have killed U.S. troops.  Maliki is claiming once again that there will be no amnesty for those who have killed U.S. troops.

Just two days after announcing his national reconciliation plan, Maliki reported that several insurgent groups have contacted his office or other government ministries to open a dialogue. Speaking on state television, Maliki stuck to the position he carved out Monday, that the amnesty offer will not apply to insurgents who have taken lives in the violence.

But this is surely just politics.  Unless Maliki is proposing amnesty for only those inept fighters and poor shots who have failed at every attempt to perpetrate violence on U.S. or Iraqi troops (which leaves no need for amnesty in the first place), then the deal will include at least some who have perpetrated violence.  We may speculate that a few of the notorious will be handed over, but until this plays out, perhaps only Maliki knows exactly what he means.  The NPR story continues:

Some insurgent groups have already rejected the amnesty offer. Ansar al Sunna, a group reportedly linked to al-Qaida, put out a statement on an Islamist Web site saying it will never compromise. It also urged all insurgent groups to remain united against the government.

Al Qaeda and those who have thrown in their hat with them will likely contest the al Anbar Province until the bitter end.  In all of this, speed, efficiency and effectiveness is of the essence in the defeat of al Qaeda and defeat or disarming of the Shia militia.  There are still signs that al Sadr has lost control of many of his prior loyalists, with them splintering into radicalized cells.

The Navy’s Chaplain Trouble

BY Herschel Smith
7 years, 6 months ago

The Department of the Navy provides corpsmen and other medical support to the Marines, and similarly, Chaplains are provided to both the Navy and Marines from the Department of the Navy.  When the Department of the Navy has problems, it can effect two branches of the military.

And the Department of the Navy is having Chaplain problems.  The problems with Chaplains have not been restricted to the Navy.  And to be more specific, the problems are not per se with the Chaplains, but with societal changes (and to some degree political correctness) that have made their way into policy, policy that effects the way Chaplains do business, e.g., the freedom to evangelize, to pray in the name of Christ, to preach sermons publicly that are exclusive (‘this’ is true and ‘that’ is false).  The Air Force recently attempted to regulate such things by issuing the Air Force Interim Guidelines on the Free Exercise of Religion.  The Presbyterian and Reformed Joint Commission on Chaplains and Military Personnel responded with a stinging ‘knock-down’ critique of the guidelines (other parties responded as well).  The Air Force subsequently issued Revised Interim Guidelines.  As a result, further responses ensued, and it appears that the Air Force guidelines have been permanently rescinded.  But this action was taken only after major legal battles were conducted by one Gordon James Klingenschmitt, who literally waged a one-man war to retain previously recognized rights.

But the problems don’t end with the Navy (and Air Force) waging internecine warfare against the religious among them.  There are forty one “evangelicals” who are involved in a class action law suit against the Navy for things related to the oversight, promotion and freedom of Navy Chaplains.  The charges include things such as favoritism of so-called ‘liturgical’ Chaplains over evangelicals, illegal quotas, blackballing, prejudice, etc.  To the best of our knowledge, this law suit has not run its course.

But reminiscent of the keystone cops, the Navy is not finished.  In the next volley, Strategy Page is reporting that Navy Chaplains are being reprogrammed.

October 18, 2006: The U.S. Navy is sending its chaplains back to school. The navy believes that new chaplains, sent to a ship, and serving with that ship for many years, get out of touch with the rest of the Chaplains Corps (over 800 clergy, from dozens of different faiths). To make the training program possible, about fifty chaplains will be withdrawn from serving on  ships. This will leave some smaller ships without a chaplain. And this has caused some chaplains, and sailors, to complain that the training program would mean that chaplains, coming out of the training, would be assigned to a different ship than they had come from. This would break continuity. Chaplains often serve with the same ship for many years, and thus get to know the officers, crew and families very well. Thus it is believed that all the reassignments required to carry out this training program will destroy this continuity. The navy won’t back down, especially since there have been lawsuits of late by groups of chaplains (usually from the same faith), protesting real, or imagined, injustices. The training program is meant to make sure all the chaplains are at least on the same page with what they are supposed to be doing for the navy.

The Navy just keeps blowing it.  The Navy does ships right, and Chaplains poorly.  The Navy might benefit from a common understanding of what the Chaplain is supposed to be doing.  It is not the job of the Chaplain to stay in touch with other faiths, or to do anything, per se, for the Navy.  The service of the Chaplain is directly to the Sailor, whether enlisted or officer.  It is the people whom the Chaplain serves, not the Navy or the U.S. government.  Until the Navy learns this, the internecine warfare will continue, and the real loser will be the Sailor and Marine.

The Navy’s Chaplain Trouble

BY Herschel Smith
7 years, 6 months ago

The Department of the Navy provides corpsmen and other medical support to the Marines, and similarly, Chaplains are provided to both the Navy and Marines from the Department of the Navy.  When the Department of the Navy has problems, it can effect two branches of the military.

And the Department of the Navy is having Chaplain problems.  The problems with Chaplains have not been restricted to the Navy.  And to be more specific, the problems are not per se with the Chaplains, but with societal changes (and to some degree political correctness) that have made their way into policy, policy that effects the way Chaplains do business, e.g., the freedom to evangelize, to pray in the name of Christ, to preach sermons publicly that are exclusive (‘this’ is true and ‘that’ is false).  The Air Force recently attempted to regulate such things by issuing the Air Force Interim Guidelines on the Free Exercise of Religion.  The Presbyterian and Reformed Joint Commission on Chaplains and Military Personnel responded with a stinging ‘knock-down’ critique of the guidelines (other parties responded as well).  The Air Force subsequently issued Revised Interim Guidelines.  As a result, further responses ensued, and it appears that the Air Force guidelines have been permanently rescinded.  But this action was taken only after major legal battles were conducted by one Gordon James Klingenschmitt, who literally waged a one-man war to retain previously recognized rights.

But the problems don’t end with the Navy (and Air Force) waging internecine warfare against the religious among them.  There are forty one “evangelicals” who are involved in a class action law suit against the Navy for things related to the oversight, promotion and freedom of Navy Chaplains.  The charges include things such as favoritism of so-called ‘liturgical’ Chaplains over evangelicals, illegal quotas, blackballing, prejudice, etc.  To the best of our knowledge, this law suit has not run its course.

But reminiscent of the keystone cops, the Navy is not finished.  In the next volley, Strategy Page is reporting that Navy Chaplains are being reprogrammed.

October 18, 2006: The U.S. Navy is sending its chaplains back to school. The navy believes that new chaplains, sent to a ship, and serving with that ship for many years, get out of touch with the rest of the Chaplains Corps (over 800 clergy, from dozens of different faiths). To make the training program possible, about fifty chaplains will be withdrawn from serving on  ships. This will leave some smaller ships without a chaplain. And this has caused some chaplains, and sailors, to complain that the training program would mean that chaplains, coming out of the training, would be assigned to a different ship than they had come from. This would break continuity. Chaplains often serve with the same ship for many years, and thus get to know the officers, crew and families very well. Thus it is believed that all the reassignments required to carry out this training program will destroy this continuity. The navy won’t back down, especially since there have been lawsuits of late by groups of chaplains (usually from the same faith), protesting real, or imagined, injustices. The training program is meant to make sure all the chaplains are at least on the same page with what they are supposed to be doing for the navy.

The Navy just keeps blowing it.  The Navy does ships right, and Chaplains poorly.  The Navy might benefit from a common understanding of what the Chaplain is supposed to be doing.  It is not the job of the Chaplain to stay in touch with other faiths, or to do anything, per se, for the Navy.  The service of the Chaplain is directly to the Sailor, whether enlisted or officer.  It is the people whom the Chaplain serves, not the Navy or the U.S. government.  Until the Navy learns this, the internecine warfare will continue, and the real loser will be the Sailor and Marine.

U.S. Presses for Amnesty for Insurgents

BY Herschel Smith
7 years, 6 months ago

In Baathists Make Overture to U.S.: Now What?, we mentioned that Ibrahim al-Shimmari of the Islamic Army of Iraq made an offer, via Al-Jazeera television, to negotiate with the U.S.  Specifically, he said:

“We are prepared for any negotiations, whether secret or public, on the condition only that they are sincere. We have no objection to mediators with international credentials, and it is possible to exchange letters.?

The Islamic Army of Iraq is believed to be comprised primarily of elements of Saddam Hussein’s Baath party, former intelligence services, and former Army officers.  They have been involved in the killing of both civilians and U.S. troops, the troops deaths being primarily in the al Anbar province.

We pointed out that any amnesty deal will be painful and emotional, involving the pardoning of men who have killed our sons.  But we raised the question, “how many more sons will we lose” if we do not grant amnesty?

The suggestion of amnesty had earlier raised a firestorm in the U.S., and thus Maliki backed down from earlier calls for a deal.  But it appears that the U.S. administration is now not only on board, but in fact urging a deal.

The Bush administration is pressing the Iraqi government of Nouri al-Maliki to issue a “broad” and “painful” amnesty for insurgents, despite intense opposition to the proposal from politicians both in Iraq and the US, according to a senior administration official.

Amid growing anxiety in Washington over Iraq’s escalating sectarian violence, the US is advocating more determined moves towards a national reconciliation with the Sunni community that dominates Iraq’s insurgency, as well as a tougher line on the Shia militias.

“You need the government to move forward with a programme – it should include an amnesty in a broad fashion, a comprehensive amnesty proposal,” said the senior US official, who asked not to be named.

The official was not explicit about the terms of the proposed amnesty, but he said “no successful amnesty is not painful or sweeping”, and that no distinction should be made between those who have attacked coalition troops and those who have killed Iraqis.

This is without question an attempt to quell the violence in al Anbar, and the hope appears to be that the tribes in al Anbar will root out al Qaeda (and other foreign elements), while a deal with the former Saddam loyalists will end the bloodshed associated with the insurgency.

But a deal will without doubt create many personal and emotional wounds with mothers and fathers of Soldiers, Airmen, Sailors and Marines who have died in Iraq fighting the insurgency.  There are still difficult times ahead.  Either these emotional wounds are created – probably never to heal – or the fight continues, with an uncertain end.

In an interesting editorial sidebar that might be related to the expected success of a deal and failure of al Qaeda in Iraq, the U.S. has shown an interest in keeping the terrorists inside Iraq.  For what reason?  In order to prevent the export of terrorism to other parts of the globe.  The desire is to kill them inside Iraq.


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