Archive for the 'Islamists' Category

Muslim Cleric: “Husbands, Beat Your Wives”

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 2 months ago

Beat your wives, so says a very important Muslim cleric:

Egyptian cleric Abd Al-Rahman recently explained on Al-Nas television how a man is permitted to beat his wife.

“A good woman, even if beaten by her husband, puts her hand in his and says: ‘I will not rest until you are pleased with me.’ This is how the Prophet Muhammad taught his women to be,” Al-Rahman said in comment aired in August, according to a translation provided by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI).

“Islam instructs a man to beat his wife as a last resort before divorce, so that she will mend her ways, treat him with kindness and respect, and know that her husband has a higher status than her,” he said.

“I say to every husband: Do not rush to beat her whenever a problem arises. O servant of Allah, Allah said: ‘Admonish those of them on whose part you fear disobedience, refuse to share their beds, and beat them.’ One should not beat out of anger.”

Just recently I remarked that I listened to a sermon where the pastor said, “Don’t you ever strike a woman and call yourself a Christian” (a statement with which I heartily agree).”  Yet we find that the DNC has reached out to Muslims, inviting them to hold an officially sanctioned two hour prayer service as part of the convention.

Don’t think for a moment that this is something unique to the Middle East.  With the proliferation of honor killings in the U.S., what Islamic clerics in the Middle East say is more important than most people know.  In fact, the very sect being represented is part of a separatist Islamic movement within the U.S. who wants to replace the constitution with the Qu’ran.

All of this coincides with the removal of the word “God” from the DNC platform.  As I’ve remarked before, it’s remarkable how illiberal liberals can be.

“Will The U.S. Attack Iran?” Having The Wrong Conversation

BY Glen Tschirgi
3 years, 2 months ago

Last week, Lee Smith published an article in Tablet that gave three, main reasons why the United States is not going to attack Iran now nor will it attack Iran under a President Romney, notwithstanding all the talk to the contrary.

This article got quite a bit of play in the Statist Media because, it was argued, the article seemingly showed that Mitt Romney is carrying on a charade of getting tough on Iran and that any criticisms of President Obama’s current Iran policy are hollow or hypocritical.

Lee Smith advances three, main arguments for why no Republican president would openly attack Iran:  1) Domestic politics;  2) History of Iran-U.S. relations, and;  3) the disguised reliance upon nuclear deterrence.

The article makes perfect sense at a certain level.   On domestic politics, Smith is correct, but for the wrong reasons.   While Smith points to the desire to avoid destabilizing economic effects of any attack, the real bar to Republican action is entirely political.   The Democrats established a clear precedent with George W. Bush that any military action abroad, even if a broad authorization is obtained from Congress in advance, will be subjected to the worst partisan attacks and scurrilous accusations.   Democrats will mobilize every resource to demonize a Republican president who dares to use force against America’s enemies.   Use of force is an exclusive, Democrat prerogative.

On the history of dealings with Iran, Smith also scores points:

No American president has ever drawn red lines for Tehran and enforced them by showing that transgressions are swiftly and severely punished.

It’s true that it was a Democrat, Jimmy Carter, who sat by idly when Ayatollah Khomeini and the founders of the Islamic Republic stormed the U.S. embassy and held Americans hostage for 444 days. But GOP hero Ronald Reagan provided the Iranians with arms—after the Islamic Republic’s Lebanese asset, Hezbollah, killed 241 U.S. Marines in the 1983 bombing of their barracks at the Beirut airport. When the FBI said Tehran was responsible for the 1996 bombing of Khobar Towers, Bill Clinton failed to respond or even name Iran, lest it derail the “dialogue of civilizations” promised by the newly elected reform-minded president Muhammad Khatami. And the last Republican in the White House was no more proactive in countering Iran’s actual attacks on Americans: The more than 100,000 American servicemen and -women that Bush had dispatched to Iraq were targeted by the IRGC and their local allies, a fact that U.S. officials tended to obscure and did little to change when they did acknowledge it.

As to a hidden reliance on nuclear deterrence, Smith is also likely correct:

If you can kill Americans without any consequences and the Americans will in fact collaborate in covering up your malfeasance, you can certainly build a nuclear weapons facility without too much concern that the Americans are really keeping “all options on the table”; the White House is not and almost surely never will—no matter who’s calling the shots. Short of an American city suffering thousands of casualties in a nuclear attack that the Iranians boast of publicly, it is difficult to know what would compel a U.S. president to take military action against Iran.

Maybe U.S. policymakers just believe, in spite of what they say publicly, that Iran really isn’t that big a deal. Remember that even today, a number of American officials, civilian and military, cut their teeth on Cold War strategy, an era when the United States faced off against a real superpower. Washington and Moscow fought proxy wars against each other on four continents with the fear of an eventual nuclear exchange leading to mutually assured destruction looming in the background. Perhaps, if seen in this context, for American policymakers Iran just doesn’t rise to a genuine threat level.

The problem with Smith’s analysis (and many others who have been endlessly debating the pros and cons of attacking Iran to stop its nuclear weapons development) is that it fundamentally is the wrong conversation.

The focus of the debate should not be about stopping a totalitarian, Islamist regime devoted to martyrdom from getting nuclear weapons.   The focus should be on removing the Regime itself.  The Iranian people have lived long enough under the hand of an oppressive theocracy to know that the next government must be anything but that.  The Green Movement that began with the phony elections of 2009 explicitly called for a true, secular, democratic government.  The Regime immediately recognized the counter-revolutionary nature of the Greens and put it down with absolute brutality.  The Regime knows that the people of Iran want normalized relations with the U.S. and the West in general.  Any change in government is going to be a sharp repudiation of the current leadership and the mullahs.

Fortunately for the U.S. and the West, the Regime is clinging on to power on a cliff’s edge of explosive public unrest and simmering revolution.   All that is needed to effect the removal of the Regime is a little… more… time.

This plays directly into the debate over Israel’s decision whether to attack Iran.

The current debate suffers from the same mistake.   Critics endlessly point out that even if Israel could muster the nerve and assets to attack Iranian facilities any such attack would “only” delay the Iranian nuclear program, not end it.   If any attack could end Iran’s nuclear program that would certainly be preferable.   But that is, of course, highly unlikely.   Delaying the program, however, is the very point.   Delaying the program is more than a sufficient goal because it gives more time to change the leadership of Iran.

Obama has been doing everything in its power to subvert and forestall an attack by Israel against Iran’s nuclear facilities.   This is directly contrary to U.S. interests in bringing down the Iranian Regime.  An attack by Israel, even if incomplete, would undeniably set back the Iranian nuclear program by some years according to most estimates.   This additional time could be the crucial difference in allowing the U.S. to work, covertly, toward bringing down the Regime.

In the end, the U.S. must realize that it is not the possession of nuclear weapons in and of itself that should be feared.   It is the government that possesses such weapons.   Simply seeking to keep nuclear technology out of the hands of totalitarian regimes is, ultimately futile.  As North Korea demonstrated, with enough determination and sacrifice, even a poverty-stricken country can get nuclear weapons.  The goal must always be to eliminate any regime that evidences any intention to go nuclear.   It is a red line that cannot be crossed.

How and when we go about doing that is the conversation we should be having.

The Ugly Future for Afghanistan: Civil War and Militias

BY Glen Tschirgi
3 years, 4 months ago

This lengthy and well-written piece by Dexter Filkins in The New Yorker is must reading.

Filkins attempts to give an overall assessment of Afghanistan’s future as American forces shrink and the country must increasingly rely upon the Afghan National Army for its security.   By all means, read the entire article, but the gist of Filkins’ assessment can be succinctly summarized as, “bleak.”

Filkins explores the question of whether Afghanistan is destined to return to a state of civil war as American combat troops leave.   While he makes no firm conclusions, the answer is an inescapable “yes.”   While American policymakers and military leaders boldly talk up the prospects for turning over security responsibilities to the ANA while hoping to garner a power-sharing deal with the Taliban, it is clear from the article that a debacle of enormous proportions is looming in 2014 (if not before) when American force levels are expected to drop to just fifteen thousand from an expected sixty-eight thousand after the September 2012 draw-down.

Some Western and Afghan experts say that fifteen thousand American troops would not be enough to secure Afghanistan, particularly when it comes to the use of airpower. The Afghan Air Force is far less advanced than the Soviet-trained force was at a similar moment. American officers told me that air strikes—bombs and rockets—are usually restricted to units in which Americans direct the fire. A force of fifteen thousand Americans would probably not be large enough to spread trainers and air controllers throughout the Afghan Army (and not throughout the police, who are at tiny checkpoints scattered around the country). “If they go below thirty thousand, it will be difficult for them to do any serious mentoring, and without the mentors they won’t call in airpower,” Giustozzi, the Italian researcher, said.

American officers have another concern. Currently, Afghan units are stationed where the Americans are, in hundreds of small bases, mostly in populated areas. Some American officers say that the Afghans will find it difficult to disperse themselves as fully, because of problems with supplies and communications. Once the coalition forces leave, those officers say, the Afghans are likely to consolidate their units on bigger and fewer bases. If that happens, the Afghans could end up ceding large tracts of territory to the Taliban—much as the Afghan Army did after 1989.

Filkins interviews several Afghans in and outside of the Afghan government who all candidly admit that each of the rival factions that fought each other prior to the 2001 American invasion are actively preparing for the resumption of civil war when U.S. forces leave.

Afghan and American officials believe that some precipitating event could prompt the country’s ethnic minorities to fall back into their enclaves in northern Afghanistan, taking large chunks of the Army and police forces with them. Another concern is that Jamiat officers within the Afghan Army could indeed try to mount a coup against Karzai or a successor. The most likely trigger for a coup, these officials say, would be a peace deal with the Taliban that would bring them into the government or even into the Army itself. Tajiks and other ethnic minorities would find this intolerable. Another scenario would most likely unfold after 2014: a series of dramatic military advances by the Taliban after the American pullout.

“A coup is one of the big possibilities—a coup or civil war,” a former American official who was based in Kabul and has since left the country told me. “It’s clear that the main factions assume that civil war is a possibility and they are hedging their bets. And, of course, once people assume that civil war is going to happen then that can sometimes be a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

One Afghan, Abdul Nasir, made this point quite clear:

These days, Nasir said, the nineties are very much on his mind. The announced departure of American and NATO combat troops has convinced him and his friends that the civil war, suspended but never settled, is on the verge of resuming. “Everyone is preparing,” he said. “It will be bloodier and longer than before, street to street. This time, everyone has more guns, more to lose. It will be the same groups, the same commanders.” Hezb-e-Wahdat and Jamiat-e-Islami and Hezb-e-Islami and Junbish—all now political parties—are rearming. The Afghan Army is unlikely to be able to restore order as it did in the time of Najibullah. “It’s a joke,” Nasir said. “I’ve worked with the Afghan Army. They get tired making TV commercials!”

A few weeks ago, Nasir returned to Deh Afghanan. The Taliban were back, practically ignored by U.S. forces in the area. “The Americans have a big base there, and they never go out,” he said. “And, only four kilometres from the front gate, the Taliban control everything. You can see them carrying their weapons.” On a drive to Jalrez, a town a little farther west, Nasir was stopped at ten Taliban checkpoints. “How can you expect me to be optimistic?” he said. “Everyone is getting ready for 2014.”

In the process of his interviews, however, Filkins did discover one, unsettling truth:  the most effective force against the Taliban so far have been local militias.

The most effective weapon against the Taliban were people like Mohammad Omar, the commander of a local militia. In late 2008, Omar was asked by agents with the National Directorate of Security (N.D.S.)—the Afghan intelligence agency––if he could raise a militia. It wasn’t hard to do. Omar’s brother Habibullah had been a lieutenant for Abdul Rasul Sayyaf, one of the leading commanders in the war against the Soviets, and a warlord who helped destroy Kabul during the civil war. The Taliban had killed Habibullah in 1999, and Omar jumped at the opportunity to take revenge. Using his brother’s old contacts, he raised an army of volunteers from around Khanabad and began attacking the Taliban. He set up forces in a string of villages on the southern bank of the Khanabad River. “We pushed all the Taliban out,” he told me.

The Taliban are gone from Khanabad now, but Omar and his fighters are not. Indeed, Omar’s militia appears to be the only effective government on the south side of the Khanabad River. “Without Omar, we could never defeat the Taliban,” a local police chief, Mohammad Sharif, said. “I’ve got two hundred men. Omar has four thousand.”

The N.D.S. and American Special Forces have set up armed neighborhood groups like Omar’s across Afghanistan. Some groups, like the Afghanistan Local Police, have official supervision, but others, like Omar’s, are on their own. Omar insists that he and his men are not being paid by either the Americans or the Afghan government, but he appears to enjoy the support of both. His stack of business cards includes that of Brigadier General Edward Reeder, an American in charge of Special Forces in Afghanistan in 2009, when the Americans began counterattacking in Kunduz.

This is a strange twist in U.S. strategy.  While the State Department, the White House and U.S. commanders in Afghanistan all blather about the progress of the ANA and the expected success of the transition to Afghan security forces, the American Special Forces seem to be busy setting up militias all over Afghanistan, perhaps in the grim realization that these militias are the only native force capable of actually eradicating the Taliban.

This would be welcome news indeed, if it is true, because it finally faces the truth that Afghanistan today simply cannot function as a modern, centrally governed nation state.   This is not to say that it never has in the past (clearly it has) nor that it will never function as one in the future, but only that the combination of religious fanaticism, the interference of Pakistan (and Iran to some extent), the ethnic divisions and the drug trade militate in favor of local control.    And this seems to be the main trade-off where militias effectively keep out the Taliban but bring their own set of problems:

Kunduz Province is divided into fiefdoms, each controlled by one of the new militias. In Khanabad district alone, I counted nine armed groups. Omar’s is among the biggest; another is led by a rival, on the northern bank of the Khanabad River, named Mir Alam. Like Omar, Alam was a commander during the civil war. He was a member of Jamiat-e-Islami. Alam and his men, who declined to speak to me, are said to be paid by the Afghan government.

As in the nineties, the militias around Kunduz have begun fighting each other for territory. They also steal, tax, and rape. “I have to give ten per cent of my crops to Mir Alam’s men,” a villager named Mohammad Omar said. (He is unrelated to the militia commander.) “That is the only tax I pay. The government is not strong enough to collect taxes.” When I accompanied the warlord Omar to Jannat Bagh, one of the villages under his control, his fighters told me that Mir Alam’s men were just a few hundred yards away. “We fight them whenever they try to move into our village,” one of Omar’s men said.

U.S. policy in Afghanistan, then, must take a hard look  at our national interests.   The primary, national interest for the United States in Afghanistan is to ensure that international terrorists do not find safe havens from which to plot and launch attacks against U.S. interests.   If militias will ensure that their territory will not be used for Islamist terror activities, that is enough.   We may be able to exercise some leverage over warlords and militias by doling out more arms and money to those who refrain from humanitarian abuses, but it is not in our national interest to force-feed an entire nation on Western morality and values as we have done for the last 11 years.

In fact, some Afghans appear to be leaning in the direction of a decentralized approach:

One political change that might prevent civil war, some opposition leaders say, would be the imposition of a federal system in which power would devolve to the provinces. Such a move could essentially cede dominion to the Taliban in the south and the east but protect the rest of the country. In 2004, when the new Afghan constitution was ratified, under American supervision, the central government, in Kabul, was given extraordinary powers, including the right to appoint local officials. The hope then was that a strong central government would unite the country.

If a federal system were to be adopted, some Afghan leaders say, it might matter less to the Tajiks and other minorities if the Taliban were allowed to govern Pashtun provinces in the south and the east. (How it would matter to the Pashtuns, and particularly to Pashtun women, isn’t much discussed.) As it is, many of the most prominent leaders of Afghanistan’s minority groups appear to be preparing for civil war.

While I disagree that the U.S. needs to “cede dominion to the Taliban in the south and the east” (there is no reason to think that Pashtun militias could not be set up in these regions as in other areas), the fact remains that Afghanistan is headed for division one way or another.  Current U.S. policy is wishful thinking and a criminal waste of American lives and treasure.

As a parting thought, it is even possible that by empowering local militias and tribes in this fashion, the U.S. may be able to deal a severe if not fatal blow to the Islamists across the border in Pakistan.  It is axiomatic that insurgencies work in both directions.   If Pakistan can support, for example, the Haqqanis in infiltrating into Afghanistan, so, too, can the U.S. support Pashtun militias on the Afghan side of the border to infiltrate and take away territory from Islamists in the FATA.   This provides U.S. policymakers with a unique lever in the tense relations with Pakistan.   This approach also allows a dramatically smaller footprint for U.S. forces in Afghanistan, enough one would expect, to deprive Pakistan of its logistical choke-hold.

If there is a new Administration in 2013, a new approach in Afghanistan is at least possible.

Savage Religious Beliefs: The Abuse Of Women

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 4 months ago

Fresh from a sermon today where the pastor said, “Don’t you ever strike a woman and call yourself a Christian” (a statement with which I heartily agree), we read this:

A shot rings out, but the burqa-clad woman sitting on the rocky ground does not respond.

The man pointing a rifle at her from a few feet away lets loose another round, but still there is no reaction.

He fires a third shot, and finally the woman slumps backwards.

But the man fires another shot.

And another. And another.

Nine shots in all.

Around him, dozens of men on a hillside cheer: “God is great!”

Officials in Afghanistan, where the amateur video was filmed, believe the woman was executed because two Taliban commanders had a dispute over her, according to the governor of the province where the killing took place.

Both apparently had some kind of relationship with the woman, said Parwan province governor Abdul Basir Salangi.

“In order to save face,” they accused her of adultery, Salangi said.

Then they “faked a court to decide about the fate of this woman and in one hour, they executed the woman,” he added.

Both Taliban commanders were subsequently killed by a third Taliban commander, Salangi said.

“We went there to investigate and we are still looking for people who were involved in this brutal act,” he said.

It is not clear from the video when it was filmed.

The killing took place in the village of Qimchok, not far north of the capital Kabul.

Just as troubling is the fact that this occurred not far from the so-called capital of Afghanistan.  And was it ever really in doubt what would happen if we failed to kill the enemy before withdrawing from Afghanistan?

Losing the Forest for the Trees: Drone Strike Kills al-Libi

BY Glen Tschirgi
3 years, 5 months ago

Hat tip to Hot Air.

The New York Times as well as other media outlets are now confirming, along with the Obama Administration, that Al Qaeda’s second-in-command, Abu Yahya al-Libi, has been killed by a drone strike in a remote, Pakistani village last week:

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — A Central Intelligence Agency drone strike in Pakistan’s tribal belt killed Al Qaeda’s deputy leader, Abu Yahya al-Libi, American officials said on Tuesday, dealing another blow to the group in a lawless area that has long been considered the global headquarters of international terrorism but the importance of which may now be slipping.


The White House spokesman, Jay Carney, said that as a result of Mr. Libi’s death, “there is no clear successor to take on the breadth of his responsibility, and that puts additional pressure” on Al Qaeda, “bringing it closer to its ultimate demise than ever.”


If his death is borne out this time, it would be a milestone in a covert eight-year airstrike campaign that has infuriated Pakistani officials but that has remained one of the United States’ most effective tools in combating militancy.


One American official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, described Mr. Libi as one of Al Qaeda’s “most experienced and versatile leaders,” and said he had “played a critical role in the group’s planning against the West, providing oversight of the external operations efforts.”

As damaging as these “decapitation operations” may be to Al Qaeda, we seem to be losing the forest for the trees.

While the U.S. focuses on sending missiles through the windows of every, significant Al Qaeda leader that remains (and each, new one that sprouts up), the war against Militant Islam has long since moved on to other, more threatening venues.  Iran, for example, is a declared enemy of the United States, bent on developing nuclear weapons, but U.S. policy has never reflected anywhere near the seriousness accorded to Al Qaeda, despite the fact that Iran poses a threat that is orders of magnitude greater than Al Qaeda.  Islamists appear poised to take absolute control of the most populous Arab state in Egypt and are actively taking advantage of the civil war in Syria where U.S. intransigence has created a vacuum among the rebel forces.  Turkey is moving doggedly toward an Islamist state that will seek to dominate the region in direct conflict with U.S. national interests.   Pakistan seems to be increasingly in the grip of Islamists who occupy key positions in its military and intelligence services.   More ominously, Europe is increasingly subject to the influence and intimidation of Islamist immigrants who regularly resort to violence to undermine traditional, Western values.   In the U.S., any talk of Islamists or their ideology is forbidden throughout the federal government.

For all that George W. Bush may have gotten wrong during his eight years in office, and in particular with his war planning, he did understand that the United States (and the West at large) was not fighting only or even primarily against Al Qaeda, but against a broader ideology– islamofascism, if you will– that motivated not only Al Qaeda but an entire movement of muslims determined to impose fundamentalist Islam upon the world.

As a last, side note on the al-Libi assassination, we should be careful what we wish for.  The U.S. may succeed in debilitating Al Qaeda’s operation capabilities to such an extent that they will change tactics and resort to the sort of “lone wolf” terror tactics that traumatized Israeli society in the intifada days of a decade ago.  Anyone who lived as I did in the Washington, D.C. area in the Fall of 2002 well remembers how just two persons, acting on their own in seemingly random fashion, could seriously disrupt an entire region.  It is a wonder that the Islamists have not resorted to this tactic in any concerted way.  Let’s hope that they don’t.   But, considering how little strategic thinking seems to be going on in D.C., “hope” may be the only thing left.

Does the U.S. Have A Moral Duty to Fix Afghanistan (or anywhere else)?

BY Glen Tschirgi
3 years, 6 months ago

In an article for National Review Online, Patrick Brennan illuminates the thinking of General David McKiernan, commander of ISAF in Afghanistan from 2008 to 2009.

To the extent that Brennan accurately reflects McKiernan’s thinking and, more importantly, that McKiernan is at all representative of widely-held views in the U.S. military,  it goes a long way to explaining the seeming paralysis of U.S. force projection in Afghanistan and globally.

Fundamentally, Gen. McKiernan is a true believer in what seems to be called the Pottery Barn Rule of U.S. power projection:

In my conversation with him in his Boston office, General McKiernan demonstrates a vast knowledge of the problems of Afghanistan, as well as a keen concern for the fate of the country and NATO’s mission there. “In my experience with many different operations in the military over the years, when you intervene on the ground in a country, ‘breaking the china’ in that country and changing the regional status quo, you then own the problem,” he says. The U.S. is therefore obligated, at the very least, to live up to the commitments it has made to Afghanistan’s civil and military leaders, including fulfilling the new strategic partnership by allocating sufficient funds, which will become a year-to-year concern. A military intervention such as the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 inevitably means the obliteration of a country’s existing political order, as chaotic or oppressive as that might be. Without a continuing commitment to restore some semblance of order and stability to Afghanistan, McKiernan argues, we will fail in our moral duty and abandon our strategic interests.

At the conclusion of the article, Brennan sums up Gen. McKiernan’s thinking:

The U.S. was right to invade Afghanistan in order to exact revenge against al-Qaeda and eliminate the region’s terrorist havens. But McKiernan has seen the catastrophic side effects of that invasion, and they represent something of a geopolitical sin. With a more targeted, locally nuanced, and efficient strategy as penance, the United States can help the Afghan government construct and enforce some degree of order, General McKiernan believes. If we do not do so, we abandon our moral commitment to repair Afghanistan, and we will leave a gapingly insecure region that would remain fertile ground for international terrorism.

Pardon the gag reflex.  There is much else in the article that is deserving of comment and it is worth reading.  For example, Gen. McKiernan seems to recognize that Afghanistan is not a nation state in any true sense of the word but is, instead, a collection of different tribes, ethnicities and sects.   His takeaway from this fact, however, is to double down on the formation and training of a national army and police force that can someday, somehow hold the centrifugal differences of the country together.   As illogical as this seems, it is necessitated by the “you break it, you own it” philosophy embraced by McKiernan and others.

So this seems to me to be the fundamental debate for American foreign policy, not only for Afghanistan but for the next ten to twenty years as we face no lack of failing or failed states that become incubators for Militant Islam: what, if any, obligation does the U.S. have to another country or people when the U.S. uses military force in exercise of its national interests?

First let’s clarify some of General McKiernan’s muddled thinking.

According to his moral universe, when a nation “breaks the china” by intervening with force of arms to somehow change the status quo of another nation or region then the intervenor “own[s] the problem” and incurs a “moral duty” to “restore some semblance of order and stability…”   In the case of Afghanistan, this is nonsense.   The status quo of Afghanistan’s “political order” in September 2001 was, as the General himself describes, “chaotic” and “oppressive.”  By his own theory, then, the U.S. need only ensure that Afghanistan ends up no more chaotic or oppressive than it was pre-invasion.  The 2001 invasion alone made a vast improvement upon the existing political order by eliminating a pariah regime that gladly hosted international terrorists and imposed a cruel authoritarianism on its population.   If the U.S. had walked out of Afghanistan in January 2002, the situation in Afghanistan would have been vastly improved with the Northern Alliance in control of most of the country.

In fact, it is arguable that the U.S. only started to destroy the status quo of Afghanistan when it began meddling in its internal, political affairs with arrogant notions of 21st Century democracy and centralized government.  The problem, then, is not that the U.S. created a mess in Afghanistan by toppling the Taliban in October 2001, but that the U.S. stayed after toppling the Taliban in order to somehow save the Afghans from their own backward and stunted culture.   This was the “geopolitical sin” if Gen. McKiernan must find one.

What of General McKiernan’s larger premise, that the U.S. cannot intervene militarily without incurring a “moral commitment to repair” that nation?

This is a fundamentally flawed and mistaken view of U.S. power projection.  Originally espoused by General Colin Powell in 2002, Powell claims to have advised President Bush that any invasion of Iraq would be akin to breaking a dish and thereby taking ownership.  The so-called Pottery Barn school of  thought to which McKiernan subscribes assumes the existence of an unbroken Dish prior to U.S. involvement.  This is simply a fiction and a dangerous one at that.

Iraq was already in pieces under Saddam Hussein when the U.S. invaded in March 2003.   Once the Dictator and his police state were dismembered, the “dish” was already in infinitely better shape than its pre-invasion condition.   The U.S. would have been perfectly justified from a moral point of view in packing up and heading home at that point.   So, too, with Afghanistan: the “dish” was in far better shape after the removal of Al Qaeda bases and the Taliban than it was pre-invasion.

The Pottery Barn doctrine simply does not pertain to the exercise of U.S. military intervention at any point in U.S. history.   I cannot think of a single instance where the metaphorical dish was not already broken when the U.S. intervened.  If someone wants to argue about Nazi intervention in Poland, Czechoslovakia, Austria and France, that is a different matter.   The U.S. is not an imperial power that topples healthy, functioning nation states and the application of the Pottery Barn doctrine to the U.S. may say far more about how people like Colin Powell and David McKiernan view U.S. power projection than it does about the actual world as we have it now.

American leadership needs to forcefully and decisively reject this wrong-headed notion of moral commitments to fix other nations.  It is not and has never been about moral commitments.  It is ever, only about the U.S. national interest.  That is the only way to rationally debate both the decision to intervene militarily and the decision, once intervention occurs, of how and when to leave.  This is not to say that our national interest does not align with notions of morality.  Very often it does and morality certainly forms a part of defining what the “national interest” is in the first place.   But evaluating policies, tactics and strategy from a moral viewpoint rather than the national interest leads to all kinds of fuzzy thinking and misguided efforts.   Afghanistan is, perhaps, the textbook example of these hazards.

To give but a few examples:  what is the U.S. national interest in pouring hundreds of billions of dollars into road, school, hospital and other construction in Afghanistan?  It certainly is a nice thing to do, a moral thing to do.  But how, precisely, does this make America more secure?  In a predominating culture that is so alien (indeed hostile one could say) to American values, the idea of changing that culture with billions in aid money can only be driven by a moralistic– an almost missionary– zeal that simply has no place in American foreign policy.   The national interest is solely concerned with ensuring that Afghanistan does not become a threat to American security again.   That was the only reason we invaded in 2001 (contrary to Gen. McKiernan’s idea of “revenge”).  There are many ways that this fundamental, U.S. interest could be achieved without any resort whatsoever to changing Afghan culture.

To look at another example briefly, consider Syria.

From the moralistic, Pottery Barn approach, intervening in Syria is a case of balancing the suffering of the Syrian people under the Dictator Assad with the unavoidable suffering of the people after a military intervention (whether that is invasion, air strikes, covert support for rebels, etc…).   This is why the Obama Administration and much of U.S. punditry is tied up in knots over Syria: there is no, clear way to evaluate human suffering in this manner.   (Anyone who doubts this need only look at Libya where, again, the scales of suffering seemed to tilt in favor of ousting Qaddafi only to find, now, that the increasing lawlessness and rise of Militant Islamists is beginning to make Qaddafi look rather tame by comparison).

Instead of playing these sorts of moral games, U.S. leadership should be looking at Syria from our own interests.   This clarifies things immediately.   Syria under Assad is an enemy of the U.S. and moves in lockstep with arch-enemy Iran.   This is a very, very broken dish (to use their parlance).  Toppling Assad by itself does not worsen the dish and is certainly in the U.S. national interest as it enhances our security immensely.

There is, of course, the question of what sort of government will replace Assad.   Here again the moralists and national interest part ways.   The moralists would say that the U.S. would “own” all of Syria’s problems if it intervened which means, presumably, another 10 or 20 year program of building schools, hospitals roads and civic institutions.   The national interest, at a bare minimum, however, doesn’t really care so much what comes after Assad so long as it is not worse than Assad.  We do not care, for example, if Syria falls into civil war so long as Syria cannot be the cat’s paw for Iran.   It is certainly in the national interest to back rebels that are sympathetic to U.S. values and goals, but if they are at least hostile to Iran and global jihad, that is enough.

In essence then, to the extent that U.S. policies and strategies are guided by the approach espoused by General McKiernan, we will find ourselves a vulnerable paralytic Power unable to intervene in the world where critical U.S. interests are at stake because to do so would automatically obligate us to an endless commitment of fixing the “broken dish.”   In such a world, we leave it to hostile powers all around us to shape things to their liking, one that will be little to our own.

U.S. Outsources Syrian Policy to Islamists

BY Glen Tschirgi
3 years, 7 months ago

One month ago I advocated here that arming selected groups of Syrian rebels would best serve the U.S. national interests in the Middle East.

According to this report, however, it appears that the Obama Administration is on the verge of outsourcing this important task to Islamist countries such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar.  (Hat Tip Drudge Report)

The US and its allies have warned president Bashar al-Assad that unless he halts his attacks on the Syrian population and implements a UN-backed peace plan, the rebels fighting him will be given more weapons,[sic]

The move, made at an Istanbul conference of the Friends of Syria, a grouping of more than 70 countries, in effect gives Washington’s blessing to a Saudi Arabian bid to arm the opposition.

It contrasts with the administration’s previous stance that arming the rebels could drag Syria deeper into civil war and increase the risk of innocent people being killed.

US officials made clear there was no prospect of Washington itself providing the rebels with weapons, not least because of a UN arms embargo on Syria. Countries such as the UK and Turkey also rule out arming the opposition themselves.

But all three signalled [sic] on Sunday that they could welcome Saudi and Qatari efforts to give weapons to the rebel Free Syrian Army.

If this report is at all accurate, it serves as further proof that this Administration cannot find its own rear end when it comes to U.S. interests.

First, arming the Syrian rebels only makes sense to the extent that the rebels serve U.S. interests to some extent in exchange for weapons and other support.   As pointed out in my prior post, there are many groups of fighters in Syria vying for dominance in the struggle to overthrow the Assad Regime.   The U.S. has important national interests in ensuring that the Regime is not replaced with an Islamist one.   Now is the time to identify and nurture any rebel groups in Syria that oppose an Islamist takeover.  Second, if we are not going to step on the scales in favor of rebels friendly to U.S. interests, we certainly should not be supporting efforts to arm rebels who are hostile to the U.S.

All of this is elementary stuff.   It should be crystal clear to the White House that the last people to entrust with arming the Syrian rebels are the Saudis and Qataris, some of the biggest Islamists on the planet.

It is, perhaps, understandable that the U.S. may want to filter military aid through another country to preserve at least a shred of plausible deniability.   But the Saudis and Qataris?  For God’s sake, there must be someone less noxious who would be willing to funnel weapons to the rebels than these extremist countries.

It is almost as though the Obama Administration had no clue that U.S. interests do not align with those of Saudi Arabia and Qatar (and Turkey, for that matter).  We can only hope that this sort of bad policy is the result of clownish incompetence and not deliberate.

Lessons Learned in the War With Militant Islam, Part Two: Disproportionate Response

BY Glen Tschirgi
3 years, 10 months ago

This is the second installment of a little series I have started on TCJ which attempts to summarize some of the important lessons that America should have learned in its ongoing war with Militant Islam.

Part One of the series, “Naming the Enemy,” is here for those getting in late.

Lesson Two

Respond to asymmetrical attacks with overwhelming firepower and force, Proportional Response Doctrine Notwithstanding.

Hopefully we have learned that the American military is at its best when it is unleashed to do its worst.   When U.S. forces are allowed to employ the full range of firepower against the enemy, the results are not only devastating but a true blow on behalf of peace and freedom.

Recall the infamous Highway of Death leading out of Kuwait in 1991.  U.S. air assets created a literal hell on earth for the fleeing Iraqi military, blasting apart everything that tried to move along the highway out of Kuwait.  Because of the demonstration of air power and lethal force, the Iraqi resistance completely collapsed.   You can be sure that the memory of that torment was alive and real in the minds of Iraqi soldiers when the U.S. military came rolling into Iraq in 2003.   And many, many lives were spared as a result.   The Iraqis knew what the American military was capable of doing to them and wisely chose to disband rather than to undergo a similar baptism of fire.

This was the exact lesson drawn by General William T. Sherman in the American Civil War and by George S. Patton in World War II.  War is the worst experience of the fallen, human condition.   The horror of war, therefore, must be brought home to the enemy in sufficient measure so that any illusions about continuing the fight are forever banished.   General Sherman to this very day is hated by many in the South simply by virtue of his ruinous campaign of 1864-1865, the infamous, March to the Sea.   But Sherman’s devastation of large parts of Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina brought the war home to the Confederacy in a way nothing else could have and helped prevent a Confederate guerrilla war after Lee surrendered at Appomattox.

Patton, too, believed that the surest way of saving lives and ending war most quickly involved brutal, relentless, wholesale envelopment and destruction of the enemy armies en masse.   Patton was a fierce critic of Eisenhower’s plodding tactic of attrition which Patton considered cruel and contrary to the very nature of the American fighting man.   The strategy of head-on attack in the face of a fortified enemy caused thousands of needless deaths of American soldiers.   It has been suggested by historian Victor Davis Hanson that Patton could have saved the lives of millions of Holocaust victims if he had been supplied and allowed to push his attack across the Rhine in 1944.  Similarly, the U.S. bombing campaigns against Germany and Japan in World War II were brutal but considered necessary to disrupt industry and break German morale.

Somehow the U.S. attitude has evolved into a nonsensical “kinder and gentler” way of war.  Perhaps this is the result of the doctrine of “Proportional Response” that is embedded in the additional protocols to the Geneva Conventions in 1977 (protocols to which the U.S. is not a signatory).   This doctrine aims to limit both the resort to armed force and the type of actions undertaken once armed force has been initiated.   Proportional Response, however, took its modern form in the aftermath of total war in World War II.   The limitations attempt to spare civilian populations from the horrors of war, particularly where no, legitimate military advantage can be gained.

Unfortunately, warfare in the 21st Century has side-stepped the best intentions of the Geneva protocols.   And, I would argue, this is actually a deliberate development by asymmetric enemies such as Militant Islam that shrewdly recognize the weakness of States which feel bound to the protocols even where the Islamists do not.  So, for example, it has become routine practice for Al Qaeda to insinuate itself in the midst of civilian populations for the deliberate purpose of using the population as a shield against attacks by U.S. forces.   The Taliban practice this as well to devastating effect, forcing U.S. commanders to let enemy combatants go free or risk being brought up on charges like the Haditha Marines.

In Afghanistan we see the insidious effect of these ever more rigid and paralyzing rules of engagement, including restrictions on the use of artillery and close air support that result in higher U.S. casualties and more enemies who live to fight another day.   In Iraq, we failed to crush Al Sadr and his Iranian-sponsored militia on several occasions, leaving them intact to terrorize and intimidate legitimate political opposition groups.  Iraq to this very day is paying a heavy price for the survival of Sadr.

Such self-restraint, in the final tally, gains the U.S. nothing.   Such restraint has not garnered us any respect or appreciation from our Militant Islamic enemies nor even from the Middle Eastern population at large.  They view restraint as weakness.    The enemy has taken every advantage of this restraint with perhaps the best example being the Taliban who fire at U.S. forces and then promptly drop their weapons because they know the ROE’s prevent return fire on “unarmed civilians.”   The U.S. is thus held in contempt.   The result of such contempt can only be an incitement to the enemy to multiply plans for attacks against the U.S.

Surely a clear lesson in all of this is that the U.S. must employ overwhelming force in the face of asymmetric attacks.  The alternative of investing tens of thousands of ground forces to conduct anti-insurgent operations with one hand tied behind the back must never be repeated.

Lessons Learned In The War with Militant Islam, Part One: Naming the Enemy

BY Glen Tschirgi
3 years, 11 months ago

December in Western Culture is always an appropriate time of year for reflection– remembering that all-important point in history when God invaded our world in human form.   This particular December, however, is especially appropriate for reflection on what has variously been termed “The Long War” or, “World War IV,” or, by this Administration as, “Overseas Contingency Operations” as the President has unilaterally declared that the Iraq War is over and the books are closed.

It is my intention, then, to offer up over the next weeks what I consider to be the lessons we have learned in the 30-plus years since the re-birth and rise of Militant Islam in 1979.   I wish I could preface this series with optimism and confidence of victory.   I wish I could write that the West is winning, however slowly, the great struggle against this latest fascist incarnation, but reality will not permit.

It is time to face this awful situation squarely, not with fatalism or despair but with determination.   It is impossible to ignore the steady drumbeat of politically correct programs that hamstrings our efforts, or another miserable candidate who garners applause with 1920’s style isolationist rhetoric.  American leaders seem all too adept at snatching defeat from the jaws of victory and mistaking our friends and enemies.

Barring the advent of national leadership which is nowhere evident, or a miracle of some kind– of which history is not replete— we must bravely conclude that, for now, the American public at large will not rouse itself to effective action.   We are caught in yet another national whirlpool of apathy, denial, distraction and delusion— just as we were in the 1930’s and the 1990’s– from which the only escape is a national trauma on the scale of a Pearl Harbor or September 11th calamity.  We have pushed our luck far too many times and refuse to get serious about taking the fight to the enemy– indeed, a president is applauded when he promises to “bring the troops home” without regard for consequences.   Ear-pleasing platitudes are what the Public demands, so it is no wonder that the politicians serve it up by the plateful.

If there is any ground for optimism in this Long War, it may be found in the capacity of our enemy to bouts of incredible stupidity.  To be sure, the U.S. is no less prone to such lapses, so in this respect the Long War is like a game of football in which the side committing the fewer mistakes will win.   I take from this a grim hope that the inevitable attack against the U.S. by the Islamists will be limited to a similar scope and scale of the 9-11 attacks.   Is it too ironic to pray that the Islamists be so stupid again?

As terrible as such an attack would be, American history suggests that we are only roused to great and decisive action by such, limited attacks.    If the Japanese had not attacked Pearl Harbor, it is difficult to say when the U.S. would have openly entered World War II against the Nazis.   Without an American entry in December 1941, it is doubtful that Normandy is invaded in 1944.    Without an invasion of Normandy in 1944, it is possible that Hitler’s scientists finish development of an atomic bomb.

To reference more recent history, it is clear that the U.S. would not have invaded Afghanistan nor deposed Saddam Hussein without the September 11 attacks.  It is perhaps a sign of our timidity and half-hearted approach that we have failed to achieve any, definitive victory in the War even 10 years later.   Nonetheless, it is clear that the September 11th attacks stirred America to a unity of action and purpose (albeit squandered and now cooled) that has not been seen since 1945.

To be clear: I do not wish any, such attack against the homeland.   I do believe, however, that such an attack is increasingly inevitable.   It is only right, therefore, that we consider all of the lessons learned in the 10-plus years since September 11, 2001 in the hopes that we not repeat those mistakes.   With the frightening prospect of an attack lingering on the horizon, I offer the first of at least nine lessons from this Long War:

Lesson #1:  Clearly identify those responsible and what they represent.

Regular readers will know that I detest the moniker, “War on Terror.”

As many pundits and writers have pointed out, “terror” is a tactic.   It is not something we can fight and defeat.   And to the extent that we refuse or avoid recognizing the Enemy and calling it by the proper name, we splinter our efforts, lessening the odds of prevailing.   In this season of presidential campaigns, Americans should insist that the Republican candidates at the very least make a clean break from political correctness and honestly name the enemy.   Militant Islam, Radical Islam, Islamofascism.   The point is that all Americans and the world must understand that these attacks originate from an ideology and not simply from a criminal enterprise or a fringe group of shadowy “terrorists.”

The 9-11 attackers were trained and motivated, at the very least, by an interpretation of the Koran and Islam that joyfully and obediently embraces a violent and decisive confrontation with anyone, muslim or not, who does not adhere to their doctrine.  It is a seething belief that the entire world must be conquered and subdued to the will of their god, Allah.  It is not an ideology that can be appeased or reasoned with any more than other, authoritarian doctrines.    The West should have learned from its experiences with the Nazis and Communists that an ideology embraced with religious fanaticism cannot be appeased or mollified but must be defeated and discredited.

Militant Islam may very well prove to be the most virulent of the authoritarian ideologies to manifest itself since the rise of the Ottoman Empire.   We are fighting against a body of believers numbered in the tens of millions, even if they only consist of a minority of muslims.  This is not a fringe group.  Islamists are spread across continents and ethnicities.   Compounding this danger is the apparent surge of power and influence of Islamists like the Muslim Brotherhood throughout the Middle East.

Since 9-11, the U.S. has been rightly pursuing the militants, not only in Afghanistan but literally across the globe.   But while the U.S. military has worked wonders in places like Fallujah, Ramadi, Marjah and the Philippines, the larger U.S. government has acted like an adolescent who cannot walk and chew gum at the same time.  Too often the focus on military operations has resulted in a complete failure to engage in the larger war of ideas in places that are not hot zones but are no less critical.   Worse still, the U.S. State Department has often worked at cross-purposes with the military.

Consider Lebanon.  The U.S. invasion of Iraq, despite all the hand-wringing and wailing of the Left Wing Media, created a powerful opportunity for the rise of a non-Islamist coalition.  We forget that the Cedar Revolution in Lebanon came on the heels of the capture of Saddam Hussein and even anti-U.S. figures such as Walid Jumblatt were reluctantly praising the elections in Iraq:

The January 2005 vote in Iraq also appeared to play a role since it supported the notion that Arabs craved democracy. (Lebanese Druze chieftain Walid Jumblatt gave credence to the importance of these developments when he said, “It’s strange for me to say it, but this process of change has started because of the American invasion of Iraq. . . . When I saw the Iraqi people voting three weeks ago, eight million of them, it was the start of a new Arab world.”)

But the U.S. simply could not summon the will to support democratic groups in any, meaningful fashion.  The U.S. foreign policy establishment preferred to coddle and reach out to thugs like Bashir Assad in Syria.   And so Lebanon has slipped ever more deeply into the control of Hezbollah, funded and controlled by Iran through Syria.

Recently we have seen Egypt, Tunisia and Libya sliding into the Islamists’ camp.   The U.S. seems not only oblivious to this developing disaster but actively supportive.  Whether this folly is generated by a fear of offending muslim sensibilities or an arrogance that the U.S. can co-opt or mold the Islamists once they are in power, the net result is the same.   Ironically, the Obama Administration does not want to be seen as meddling in the internal affairs of Egypt or Iran, but has no such qualms with interfering with formerly pro-American allies like Honduras and Colombia.

This refusal to acknowledge the enemy will forever cripple our war efforts and will enable the enemy.   A muslim who does not subscribe to the Wahhabist version and rejects militant Islam should be no more offended when we target the Islamists than a 1940’s German would be offended by our targeting of Nazis.   In fact, our refusal to clearly identify the enemy in this case creates a dangerous confusion in the minds of non-muslims and muslims alike.   Muslims need to clearly and unequivocally choose sides in this War.   Are they with us or with the Islamists?

The current taboo allows and encourages a shadowy world where loyalties remain unknown and ambiguous.  It is no interference with freedom of religion to ask whether a mosque is preaching Militant Islam.   No one has ever asserted that freedom of religion includes a right to advocate for the subversion and overthrow of our Constitution and nation.   It is incumbent on members of any congregation, muslim, christian, jewish, or mormon, to report and, if necessary, testify against leadership that advocates violence against others in society.   Personal knowledge of violent plots combined with a refusal to report them constitutes at least passive participation in a criminal conspiracy.    In time of war, however, the failure to expose the efforts of the enemy to recruit for and advance attacks is treasonous.

For some mysterious reason, however, no Administration has ever dared to clearly identify militant Islam as the enemy.  Instead, we have tried to fight Islamists as a criminal enterprise  (Reagan, Bush I and Clinton); as nameless, religionless “terrorists” (Bush II); and now as a “specific network” consisting only of Al-Qaeda (Obama).  We cannot defeat an enemy we dare not name.

Iran Trumps Up Charges Against Youcef Nadarkhani

BY Herschel Smith
4 years, 1 month ago

From CNN:

Christian Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani will be put to death for several charges of rape and extortion, charges that differ greatly from his original sentence of apostasy, Iran’s semi-official Fars News agency reported Friday.

Gholomali Rezvani, the deputy governor of Gilan province, where Nadarkhani was tried and convicted, accused Western media of twisting the real story, referring to him as a “rapist.” A previous report from the news agency claimed he had committed several violent crimes, including repeated rape and extortion.

“His crime is not, as some claim, converting others to Christianity,” Rezvani told Fars. “He is guilty of security-related crimes.”

In a translated Iranian Supreme Court brief from 2010, however, the charge of apostasy is the only charge leveled against Nadarkhani.

“Mr. Youcef Nadarkhani, son of Byrom, 32-years old, married, born in Rasht in the state of Gilan is convicted of turning his back on Islam, the greatest religion the prophesy of Mohammad at the age of 19,” reads the brief.

Of course that’s the way the brief reads.  The Iranians are lying.  The reason, by the way, that Islam requires Muslims to execute those who “apostatize” from Islam is that Islam is epistemologically vapid and vacuous, and logically uncompelling.   When your belief system lacks an intellectual edifice, you have to militarize its expansion and ability to retain “adherents.”  This is what puts incidents like the forced “conversion” of Steve Cenntani in context.  Those who are confident in their faith don’t require the use of weapons for influence.

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