Weekend Reading #3

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 7 months ago

TCJ was linked at Hannity, and it seems like every time a rules of engagement article is linked, some wise guy drops by and says something like “but this isn’t war, it is a counterinsurgency and in COIN we must prevent killing innocents and thus win the hearts and minds.”

Well now.  I just hadn’t figured it like that.  I hereby rescind everything I have ever written about ROE.  On second thought, nevermind.  Maybe we should consider this for a second.  No one wants to see noncombatants die, and everyone wants the cooperation of the locals.  It’s more complicated than that, leading such experienced hands as Ken White of the Small Wars Council to respond, upon hearing of McChrystal’s tactical directive, that “Aside from the impacts on own forces, the net result is most likely to be more, not fewer, civilian casualties …”

Even Pentagon officials have admitted that the new ROE has opened up space for the insurgents.  The problem is never the intent – it is the unintended consequences of our actions.  I would conclude by reminding us of the robust ROE in place in the Anbar Province, and … ahem … that the Marines’ campaign in Anbar was successful.

Next, The Captain’s Journal appreciates the link by Andrew McCarthy at NRO in Alinsky Does Afghanistan.  And Jules Crittenden has a remarkable find from a military historian named Richard F. Miller.  A short clip of his analysis:

The most important convention these sorts of speeches is first, simplicity of message (e.g., attack, retreat, hold) and next, consistency of message. The latter is key — time and attention spans are short. When a civilian commander, versus a NCO, gives such a speech, multiple audiences have to be accounted for — friends, allies, enemies, fence sitters, etc. This actually puts nuance at a severe discount — clarity is key. Battle speeches are not diplomacy. The same message must be received by all constituencies.

Given the foregoing, but not addressing the policy merits, Obama’s speech was a failure. It transgressed both simplicity and consistency with its call for a July 2011 terminus (since walked backwards and forwards by a variety of administration shills).

The speech was too long, and its length was spent badly. Where he might have outlined some basic tactics (a key according to SLA Marshall) he was silent about details — the numbers matter less than what one does with the troops. (Here both Bush and Petraeus excelled in defining broadly where and how new force would be applied.) Consistency also fell short because he reproached his predecessor, an gratuitous distraction from his message.

Consistency was also violated by the other boundaries that Obama set. For example, in  emphasizing, unnecessarily, in my view, that America’s war-making capacity was subject to economic limitations, should the Taliban to assume that American can be compelled to withdraw by, Heaven forbid, dynamiting the New York Stock Exchange? In general, a battle speech, or call to action is not the place to recite one’s limitations. One can imagine FDR calling for “the inevitable triumph” but “subject to the success of next war bond drive.”

Moreover, civilian commanders-in-chief have a special responsibility in their battle speeches from which their military counterparts are exempt — rallying the civilian population. Here, Obama failed miserably, save for the only segment of the civil population that seemed to matter to him — the Democrats’ left wing.

Good analysis.  Remember also that I analyzed Obama’s speech as a failure.  Make sure to take in Victor Davis Hanson at NRO who is at his best on resetting the reset button.

But didn’t Obama’s new Middle East outreach — stamped with Bush culpability, recognition of Islam’s brilliance, monotonous promises of friendship, and emphasis on Obama’s unique name, heritage, and patrimony — at least bring political dividends?

Hardly. Iran has announced an expansion, not the cessation, of its nuclear-enrichment program. We have achieved the paradoxical result of having polarized our democratic ally Israel without winning over the autocratic Palestinians. The Sunni Arab world assumes that a Shiite Persia will go nuclear, and in response the Arabs will probably seek their own deterrent. Obama’s cozying up to Syria has achieved nothing other than bolstering Damascus’s confidence about re-entering Lebanon and copycatting the Iranian model of nuclear acquisition.

In general, the Arab world is suspicious of those who trash their own. Its leaders interpret Obama’s apologies for his own country as being as much a character defect as proof of any new accommodation. And while Obama repents for America’s misdemeanors, most leaders in the Middle East have no intention of apologizing for their countries’ felonies.

From Foreign Policy, we have this.

When President Obama spoke to troops at Alaska’s Elmendorf Air Force Base last month, the unit there parked a shiny new F-22 fighter plane in the hangar. But according to multiple sources, White House aides demanded the plane be changed to an older F-15 fighter because they didn’t want Obama speaking in front of the F-22, a controversial program he fought hard to end.

“White House aides actually made them remove the F-22-said they would not allow POTUS to be pictured with the F-22 in any way, shape, or form,” one source close to the unit relayed.

It’s difficult to imagine a more un-serious, trivial, childish man for President of the U.S., surrounded by people who could be any more un-serious, trivial and childish than they are.

Last, try to take in Hannity tonight on TV, as our friend Michael Ledeen is on.  I just haven’t yet been able to find a point of disagreement with Michael.  If I could I would parade it around for Michael and you to see.


Weekend Reading #2

Weekend Reading #1

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This article is filed under the category(s) Recommended Reading and was published December 5th, 2009 by Herschel Smith.

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