Archive for the 'War & Warfare' Category



Responses To Assessment Of Lone Survivor

BY Herschel Smith
9 months, 1 week ago

My son previously offered his assessment of Lone Survivor, and in the interest of showing that I don’t ignore contrary opinions, I’ll offer up a few.  I don’t always do this, and feel no requirement to do this, but in this case I’ll link three differing opinions.

The first comes from Max V.  I think Max gets a bit wrapped around the axle thinking that the point of Daniel’s critique was who could do the job better, Marines or SEALs.  Who has the better men – who would have used stealth better – who would have planned better?  I think Max might miss the point.

The main point of the post was that the SEALs were used out of their area of specialty of infantry.  Daniel has seen good infantry and bad infantry, and knows the difference.  The Marine Corps has some very good infantry – and some bad infantry.  No generalization on this point was intended in the original post, and Daniel conveyed none of that to me.

I’ll mention one final point on Max’s post.  It’s a bit condescending in that Max assumes that there is a “tactical misunderstanding” concerning what Daniel wrote (or what I wrote for Daniel).  We had a longer discussion than the post could convey, but there is no tactical misunderstanding.  Daniel understands exactly what the mission was and why they sent the team they did.  He just disagrees with it.  So that characterizes at least one part of Max’s objections, i.e., that they did what they did because that’s what they do when they do that!

But if we leave a bit condescending and reasoning in a circle with Max, we enter complete condescension and know-it-all jackassery with WeaponsMan.  Here is a taste: “Daniel’s bitches …” (I don’t allow Daniel to bitch at me, and I was the one discussing it with him very calmly), “This is the line soldier’s profound ignorance of two things speaking …,” “Daniel, in his personal experience, does not understand the difference between recon and long-range recon …,”Young Smith may be unaware of why Marine Scout Snipers are escorted to their hides …” (Marine Scout snipers are not always escorted to their hides as he alleges, and are not trained that way or necessarily to expect that this will occur – I know Scout Snipers), “A SAW weighs over 20 pounds and burns copious quantities of ammunition. Would it have saved this recon team? No …” (He doesn’t know any such thing), “This partly flows from Hollywood bullshit, but most of it is Marine bullshit, frankly …” (he only thinks that because he was never in the Marines and doesn’t know what the Marines do or why they do it the way they do).

On and on it goes, but it’s the same sort of thing that Max posted, it just took him thousands of words to say what Max did in just a few.  They didn’t do it like Daniel wanted because that’s not what they do when they do that … and oh by the way, Daniel is stupid because we say so.  I can be frank too, and frankly after reading WeaponsMan I wanted that fifteen minutes of my life back.  Also, I just chuckle and roll my eyes when they object to carrying a SAW because it weighs a lot.  Good grief.  Go back and read Dirty Micks list of things he carried as a Pathfinder.

That’s not what they do when they do that is called assuming the consequent (and it goes by other names in college logic courses).  It’s a fallacy, and my son’s objections went much deeper than why did they do that?  His objections went to the issue of they shouldn’t have done that!  Or if you will, doctrine as it touches on or informs tactics rather than tactics proper.  And the issue has mostly to do with the way they would have done things versus how the SEALs did it.  As for the notion that my commenters are Marines, Dirty Mick and Jean (both of whom commented on the original article) are active and retired Army, respectively.  Lastly, WeaponsMan states unequivocally that “We didn’t see the underestimation. Everybody knows that the lightly loaded Afghans can often outrun their American allies, or enemies, and believe me, everyone understands the physiology at work here.”  I do not believe that everyone understands, and I do not believe him.  And that’s not what the report portrays.

There isn’t any reason at all that a larger team, inserted at night, right at the outskirts of the town, couldn’t have performed room clearing and hunting for their intended target (with another team inserted for the sole purpose of preventing egress from the town) at dawn (with fire teams carrying SAWs) could not have worked.  Not a single reason.  All things considered, I’m quite unimpressed at the article.  I think his ego got in the way of making what could have been a contribution to the conversation beyond “I know everything and they did what they did because that’s what they do when they do that.”

Then leaving condescension we enter slightly odd from Sean Linnane.  He says “let me state this is at best a historical analysis and at worst Monday Morning Quarterbacking by a guy who was not there.”  It doesn’t matter whether he is talking about himself or Daniel.  This is odd.  Taking this position means that there can’t be any such thing as an AR 15-6, a post-Mortem, followup assessment, training, or any other review of actions taken in any given situation unless you were there.  Again, just odd.  I think Daniel’s assessment means something, and I wish Sean had weighed in a little more fully.

In conclusion, I’m disappointed in all of the responses to Daniel’s assessment thus far.

A Marine Corps View Of Tactics In Operation Red Wings

BY Herschel Smith
9 months, 3 weeks ago

This will be a little different than some articles, a throwback to my military blogging, and very frank.  It will likely offend some people, and since it comes straight from a former enlisted Marine, there is slight language warning.

I should say up front that I like for the comments to be free flowing where readers can disagree with my views (respectfully, of course).  But in this instance I would offer up the following guidelines.  First, stick to the point of the article.  The article isn’t about the justification or lack thereof for OEF, OIF, or any other campaign or operation.  The article isn’t about politics.  Second, there will be no disparaging comments about Navy SEALs, the U.S. Marine Corps, or my son Daniel (whose assessment this is).  I will spam all such comments.  Finally, if you make comments about the “military-industrial complex,” I will laugh at you as I spam your comment.

This article is about tactics, plain and simple.  Nothing more, nothing less.  It will be frank, open, and honest.  Nothing herein is construed to malign the bravery and exploits of anyone in any operation, anywhere, at any time.  It comes from a former enlisted Marine, so take it for what it’s worth – a former enlisted Marine’s view of Operation Red Wings.  With that said, I’ll now offer up my son Daniel’s comments regarding the movie Lone Survivor, knowing the story beforehand, but commenting to me after having seen the movie.

“This operation should never have come off the way it did.  The Marines don’t take chances.  I saw a room full of Navy SEALs sitting on their assess back at the FOB doing nothing but monitoring comms.  If you set four SEALs down by helicopter, you could have set an entire platoon down.  There was no reason to limit the recon team to four.”

“I was on a recon mission in Fallujah, and we had an entire platoon.  We were monitoring a mosque for anti-American messaging, and we were beside a building (abandoned school) that AQ was using to execute leaders of Fallujah.  We were watching the mosque and someone came over comms and said, “Um guys, there are dudes with masks on that just got out of cars with some other dude who had a hood on.”  We started watching them, and sure enough, they were AQ getting reading to execute another elder.  We laid waste to them because we had a platoon, not a four man fire team.  Even when doing recon, we have enough men.  We escorted snipers to their two- or three-day post, and then escorted them back.  We didn’t want our Scout Snipers getting killed on the way to or from their post.”

“Alternatively, since you knew comms was going to be bad on the other side of that mountain, you could have set down another team of four SEALs on top of the mountain or near it, who could have then relayed comms to the FOB from the recon team.  We did stuff like that all the time.  There was no excuse to have sent a team of four.  And there was no excuse to have poor comms when you knew you were going to have poor comms.”

“Another example showing that they didn’t think ahead and plan for the worst is …” (and at that point I interjected, “Why wasn’t anyone carrying …”) a SAW (Daniel said)?  ‘Yes’, I responded.  “The fact that they had suppressed, scoped weapons shows that they were not prepared to lay down suppressive fire.  They hadn’t planned for the worst.  Marines plan for the worst.”

“Furthermore, they were laying around when the goat herders stumbled up.  If it had been my fire team, I would have said “never stop moving, but if you do, then we’re going to dig in and act like we’re going to defend this terrain to the death.”  We would have dug in in such a manner that we had interlocking fields of fire, all built around a SAW where we could have done fire and maneuver.”

“Next, about that conversation they had concerning the goat herders.  I would have ended it in a hurry.  I would have popped both goat herders and then popped all of the goats.  They could charge me later, but in the mean time the operation was compromised and it was time to leave.”  (Editorial note: Comments at this article dream up scenarios where they could have taken the “prisoners” with them and avoided all of the problems.  It’s all a day dream.  Attempting to take the goat herders to the top of the mountain would have slowed them and left them in the same situation, as well as told the goat herders that they were unwilling to shoot them, at which point the goat herders would have done the same thing, run down the mountain and tell the Taliban commanders).

He said that they badly underestimated the capabilities of the Afghan fighters.  Those folks were born there, and their lungs are acclimated to the thin air.  Given the weight of the kit they were hauling, it was foolish to think that they could have beaten indigenous men up to the top of the mountain when those men were wearing thin man-dresses and carrying nothing but an AK-47 and a couple of magazines.

I asked Daniel what the worst case was if an entire platoon of SEALs would have deployed instead of the four man recon team and the Taliban commander wasn’t in the village, and he said “So what?  Take some MREs with you, go into the village, drink chai with the elders, win a little hearts and minds, and get some intel.  Do counterinsurgency, something the SEALs think they’re too good to do.”

As for the loss of the QRF, Daniel was just livid.  The notion that the QRF lost its CAS to other missions or emergent problems is simply ridiculous.  Losing the Apache helicopters meant exactly one thing.  They lost the QRF.  Period.  If they weren’t dedicated resources, then they never really had a QRF to begin with.  And there was no reason that the C-130s shouldn’t have been refueled and circling above-head the entire time.  They dropped the four man team out there without the right support, without the right weapons (no area suppression weapon), without good comms, and finally, without applying classical infantry tactics.

“I’ve seen it before.  The CO didn’t want to hear about problems because they’re all playing the ‘my dick is bigger than your dick’ game.  They sent a SEAL team to do what they should have sent classical infantry to do.  They should have sent in a Marine Corps infantry platoon, or if you want to go all spec ops, send in Marine Force Recon.

“Or if you don’t want it to be a Marine Corps operation, send in the Rangers.  I understand that SEALs are pretty bad ass.  If you have complex HALO jumps and frogman operations, or hostage rescue, they are the guys to call.  But they don’t do classic infantry fire and maneuver, and that’s what was needed that day.  The Rangers are pretty bad ass too.  Send them in.  They know how to do fire and maneuver, set up interlocking fields of fire, develop enfilade fire, and so on.”

“I patrolled with SEALs once in Fallujah when they were looking for a HVT.  They have this attitude that ‘We’re SEALs.  We don’t need anyone or anything else.’  But that day they did.  They needed infantry, and command should have sent in enough men to prepare for the worst.  They took chances, and good men died as a result.”

Lone Survivor, The Movie: Go See It!

BY Herschel Smith
9 months, 3 weeks ago

 

Lone_Survivor

Since it isn’t my story, I won’t wax on about the story Marcus Luttrell wanted to tell about his brothers in Operation Red Wings.

But it is the most intense movie I have ever seen.  By the end of the movie I was left virtually breathless and teary eyed.  In an age of horrible movies from Hollywood, this one is well worth the money.

Two sidebar notes on the movie.  First, the cinematography is some of the best and most intense I have ever experienced.  You are quite literally there.  The initial five minutes or so of the close action scenes and rapid camera movement took some getting used to, but after that, it became obvious what the producers and directors were doing.

Second, the movie is very close to what Marcus intended and what he wrote in the book.  There is a bit of Hollywood drama introduced into the story, but not much, and not significant.

Review: I cannot tell the story – Marcus has to.  It is his to tell, and he does his brothers proud with this movie.  It will take its place alongside the best war movies, and perhaps it is the very best of all time.  Go see it.

U.S. Deploys Hideous Weapon of Mass Destruction in War Against Islamists

BY Glen Tschirgi
2 years, 1 month ago

TCJ readers, listen up.   We have had a major, strategic breakthrough in the War against Islamofascism.

It is so unexpected and so unconventional, so inadvertent that it can only be considered something of a Divine intervention.

America has stumbled upon the Ultimate Weapon of Mass Destruction against the Islamist foe:  cheezy, low-budget films with horrible production and grade-school dialogue launched via that irresistible weapons delivery system known as “YouTube.”

Yes, I am referring to that military masterpiece unleashed upon the unsuspecting Islamists called, The Innocence of Muslims.

Consider just this one example in al Jazeera of its destructive power:

At least one person has died as demonstrations against an anti-Islam video erupt across Pakistan, a day after protesters tried to storm the US embassy in the capital, Islamabad.

Angry demonstrators set fire to two cinemas in the northwestern city of Peshawar, police and witnesses said on Friday, as the country began a day of protests.

One protester was wounded when a cinema guard opened fire as crowds armed with clubs and bamboo poles converged on the Firdaus picture house, “smashing it up and setting furniture ablaze”, according to Gohar Ali, a police officer.

Witnesses said a separate rampaging crowd stormed the Shama cinema, notorious locally for showing films considered to be pornographic.

Tens of thousands of Pakistanis were expected to take to the streets across the country after the government called an impromptu public holiday to let people protest.

****

Friday was designated a “day of expression of love for the prophet” by the government, which called for peaceful protests against the Innocence of Muslims video produced in the US.

All the major political parties and religious groups announced protests, as did many trade and transport organisations.

Large crowds were expected to turn out after Friday prayers.

The previous day, the US embassy became the latest target of protesters angry at the YouTube video. The total number of protesters touched 5,000 with the arrival of protesters carrying the flags of anti-American Islamist groups.

At least 50 people were injured as police fired tear gas and live rounds towards the crowds.

This New Secret Weapon, according to the article, has the mysterious ability to induce widespread madness in the Islamist population, compelling them to irrational behaviors like attacking porno theaters and embassies that are merely obscene for their obsequious behavior.

What’s more, the U.S. government is augmenting the frightful power of this new weapon with a psychological campaign of such cruel calculation that it is almost a crime against humanity.   It’s true.  The Islamist will soon be begging for the merciful Drone Strikes before too long.  Consider this diabolical game of deception and denial waged by the Administration as quoted in the al Jazeera article:

Against this tense backdrop, the US has bought time on Pakistani television stations to run a series of ads in an effort to assuage Muslim feelings of hurt.

The US hopes the ad would show that the country had no involvement with the controversial internet video.

The US embassy in Islamabad spent about $70,000 to run the announcement, which features clips of Barack Obama, the US president, and Hillary Clinton, secretary of state, underscoring US respect for religion and declaring the US government had nothing to do with the video.

Obama is shown saying: “Since our founding, the United States has been a nation that respects all faiths. We reject all efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others.”

Clinton then says: “Let me state very clearly, the United States has absolutely nothing to do with this video. We absolutely reject its contents. America’s commitment to religious tolerance goes back to the very beginning of our nation.”

“In order to ensure we reached the largest number of Pakistanis, some 90 million as I understand it in this case with
these spots, it was the judgment that this was the best way to do it.”

Addressing a media briefing on the ad campaign, Victoria Nuland, state department spokeswoman, said the aim was “to make sure that the Pakistani people hear the president’s messages and the secretary’s messages”.

The announcement aired as the US asked its citizens to avoid non-essential travel to Pakistan.

Oh the savagery!  Oh the mental ruin this will visit upon the poor, helpless Islamists!

Imagine the Islamists, weary from the YouTube Bomb-induced fury against porn theaters and embassies, seeking some solace in their television re-runs of “Little Mosque on the Prairie,” only to be bombarded– yes! bombarded!– with relentless messages from Barack Hussein Obama that the U.S. loves and respects all faiths, especially ones that do not have a crucifix that can be plunged into urine or a virgin mother that can be smeared with elephant feces.

This, my friends, is the ultimate in psychological whiplash!  A veritable jiu-jitsu of mental pain!  Surely, the Islamists will think, the President of the United States has the power to stop this horrible YouTube Bomb if he chooses.  But he does not!  Instead he claims respect for Islam while insulting its Prophet!  And, to add injury to insult, he allows the horrible Clinton woman– a woman of all things– to deliver the one-two punch:  the U.S. had nothing to do with the video (when it clearly did) and America believes in “religious tolerance” (when those very words are a red-hot poker in the Islamist soul).

But you may well be asking, How can we be sure that the normally spineless suck-ups in the Obama Administration and the Pentagon will find the courage to continue using a weapon of such fearsome, destructive power?  There is evidence of more bombs in the making.

The U.S. government cleverly brought in the filmmaker for “questioning” based upon “parole violations.” Uh huh.   Wink, wink.  Nudge, nudge.   That ought to throw the Islamists off the scent, eh?  No one suspects (but we know better) that this was a clever ruse for the government to plan and coordinate the next series of YouTube Bombs that will continue to drive the Islamists over the cliff.

Victory is at hand, friends!  All the U.S. need do now is just let the YouTube Bombs wreak their radioactive havoc upon the Islamists until their societies are so riven with mad self-destruction that they collapse in upon themselves like a laptop computer placed upon a wet, cardboard box.  Yes, we here in the U.S. may be called upon to make sacrifices: exposure to these YouTube Bombs has been known to cause fits of derisive laughter and mild nausea in infidels, but we must not shrink back from even these sufferings.

Instead, let us console ourselves with the magnificence of this new Wonder Weapon.   This is the evil genius of the United States of America at its finest.  Stand in awe and fearful amaze.

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

BY Glen Tschirgi
2 years, 10 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.

Advanced Hypersonic Weapons: Has a New Age of Remote Warfare Arrived?

BY Glen Tschirgi
2 years, 11 months ago

News out today that the U.S. Army successfully tested what is being called, “the Advanced Hypersonic Weapon.”   The reports are, at some points, conflicting, but the essence is captured by AFP in this report:

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon on Thursday held a successful test flight of a flying bomb that travels faster than the speed of sound and will give military planners the ability to strike targets anywhere in the world in less than a hour.

Launched by rocket from Hawaii at 1130 GMT, the “Advanced Hypersonic Weapon,” or AHW, glided through the upper atmosphere over the Pacific “at hypersonic speed” before hitting its target on the Kwajalein atoll in the Marshall Islands, a Pentagon statement said.

Kwajalein is about 2,500 miles (4,000 kilometers) southwest of Hawaii. The Pentagon did not say what top speeds were reached by the vehicle, which unlike a ballistic missile is maneuverable.

Scientists classify hypersonic speeds as those that exceed Mach 5 — or five times the speed of sound — 3,728 miles (6,000 kilometers) an hour.

The test aimed to gather data on “aerodynamics, navigation, guidance and control, and thermal protection technologies,” said Lieutenant Colonel Melinda Morgan, a Pentagon spokeswoman.

Wired has additional details:

For a test of a hypersonic weapon flying at eight times the speed of sound and nailing a target thousands of miles away, this was a relatively simple demonstration. But it worked, and now the military is a small step closer to its dream of hitting a target anywhere on Earth in less than an hour.

The last time the Pentagon test-fired a hypersonic missile, back in August, it live-tweeted the event — until the thing crashed into the Pacific Ocean. This time around, it kept the test relatively quiet. The results were much better.

To be fair, this was also an easier test to pass. Darpa’s Falcon Hypersonic Technology Vehicle 2 — the one that splashed unsuccessfully in the Pacific — was supposed to fly 4,100 miles. The Army’s Advanced Hypersonic Weapon went about 60 percent as far, 2,400 miles from Hawaii to its target by the Kwajalein Atoll in the South Pacific. Darpa’s hypersonic glider had a radical, wedge-like shape: a Mach 20 slice of deep dish pizza, basically. The Army’s vehicle relies on a decades-old, conventionally conical design. It’s designed to fly 6,100 miles per hour, or a mere eight times the speed of sound.

But even though the test might have been relatively easy, the Advanced Hypersonic Weapon effort could wind up playing a key role in the military’s so-called “Prompt Global Strike” effort to almost instantly whack targets half a world away. A glider like it would be strapped to a missile, and sent hurtling at rogue state’s nuclear silo or a terrorist’s biological weapon cache before it’s too late.

At first, the Prompt Global Strike involved retrofitting nuclear missiles with conventional warheads; the problem was, the new weapon could’ve easily been mistaken for a doomsday one. Which meant a Prompt Global Strike could’ve invited a nuclear retaliation. No wonder Congress refused to pay for the project.

So instead, the Pentagon focused on developing superfast weapons that would mostly scream through the air, instead of drop from space like a nuclear warhead. Those hypersonic gliders may cut down on the geopolitical difficulties, but introduced all sorts of technical ones. We don’t know much about the fluid dynamics involved when something shoots through the atmosphere at hypersonic speeds. And there really aren’t any wind tunnels capable of replicating those often-strange interactions.

And Digital Journal reports this interesting tidbit:

According to AP, Lt. Col. Melinda Morgan, Pentagon spokeswoman, said the missile was launched at about 11:30 a.m. from Hawaii. Daily Mail reports the weapon glided westwards through the upper atmosphere over the Pacific and reached Kwajalein Atoll in Marshall Islands, about 2,500 miles away, in less than half an hour. The test follows U.S. Air Force announcement that it has taken delivery of eight 15-ton bombs called Massive Ordnance Penetrator “buster bombs” that can blow 200ft of concrete.

(Emphasis mine).

(What was Digital Journal trying to say here?  That AHW’s could be used in conjunction with MOP’s to take out nuclear silos or, perhaps, Iranian nuclear research facilities?  Hmmmmm.)

This development should stir our thinking in possibly profound ways.

First, there is still quite a bit of mystery surrounding this subject.    It is not entirely clear just what the Army launched.   Was it a missile that boosted some other type of craft into the upper atmosphere?  Is an AHW more of a missile itself or more of drone or craft of some kind that can carry munitions and deliver them to the target at incredible speeds?   There is some confusion about the actual speed of the AHW.    At the very least it can travel more than Mach 5 or 3,728 miles per hour.  According to the article in Wired, the AHW can travel over 8 times the speed of sound or more than 6,000 miles per hour.   And the Air Force’s HVT-2 apparently achieved speeds of an unbelievable 20 times the speed of sound which is roughly equivalent to over 14,000 miles per hour.   It is not clear from the articles what, exactly this particular AHW looks like.   How does it achieve such fantastic speeds.  All questions that the Chinese are no doubt studying (and spying on) very intensely.

Still, it seems to be  a bit of a misnomer to call this a “weapon” or as AFP refers to it as a “flying bomb.”  This is a delivery vehicle.   To call it a “flying bomb” seems almost a deliberate obfuscation designed to disguise its potential effects.  And those effects may very well be game-changing.

The article talks about the aim of the Army’s Global Strike Program as being the delivery of “conventional weapons” to any place on the globe, but presumably there is no technical limitation to conventional weapons.   A nuclear payload could be substituted just as easily.    And there is the rub.  According to the article in Wired, the design of the hypersonic platform had to be altered, for geopolitical reasons, so as not to be mistaken for a nuclear missile.   But this seems to beg the question.  Hypersonic delivery systems tipped with nuclear weapons, regardless of the shape or shell, breed the ultimate insecurity.   They do not travel into space but rather glide along the upper atmosphere, so the ability to intercept in the long, slow, initial boost phase is eliminated.   Does this raise the possibility that a first-strike nuclear attack could be unstoppable and, therefore, successful?

Consider, for example, that an AHW launched from Seoul, South Korea could travel the roughly 121 miles to Pyongyang, North Korea in a mere 108 seconds at Mach 5 and possibly as fast as 54 seconds at Mach 8.  At Mach 20, the strike time is virtually instantaneous.   There is simply no time for any defensive system to shoot down or intercept incoming AHW’s at these speeds.

What does a delivery system with this kind of fantastic speed and range portend?

One item to contemplate is the extent to which such a capability renders other weapon systems or platforms (or even branches) obsolete.  None of the various articles report the cost of a single AHW, but it appears that the platform is an unmanned drone of sorts that can be navigated remotely or pre-programmed to its target.   As such, assuming that the cost of an AHW is less than the various, manned bombers (and we must always include the cost of training, housing and paying the human pilots), is it possible that we are looking at the end (or at least the severe re-definition) of the U.S. Air Force?  Do we need a separate branch to preside over what seems at first blush to be the equivalent of hypersonic artillery?

There is no doubt that modern warfare is moving toward unmanned systems.   With the mass production of AHW’s, it is conceivable, at least, that entire bomber fleets and even missile systems could be discarded.   An AHW that can travel more than five times the speed of sound does not require any, expensive stealth technology.

Clearly one of the critical questions to be answered is whether there is any defense against attack by an AHW.   Are they traveling at such high speeds that there is simply too little time for either human or electronic systems to respond effectively?   If so, the entire concept of a Navy consisting of large ships of any kind becomes suspect.   Once the technology spreads to China, for instance, hypersonic weapons would seem to make an aircraft carrier a proverbial sitting duck.

Could it be that the Army and Navy (and, of course, Marines) simply have their own complement of AHW’s to use in lieu of piloted bombers?   If a Marine Captain in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, for instance, could call in his own, devastating barrage with pinpoint accuracy from the Marine base at Okinawa, Japan (a distance of 3,423 miles) with 10 minute delivery time, the need for expensive bombers with expensive pilots with expensive logistics with limited fuel to stay on station may be nonexistent.

And speaking of bases, does the rise of hypersonic platforms render much of the thinking on military basing obsolete?   With the exception of bases that are designed to put American ground forces in place, much of the strategy for basing rights involves the requirement to have naval and air assets close enough to trouble spots to quickly deliver ships and planes.   With a bristling arsenal of AHW’s, it would seem possible to have overwhelming firepower without risk to a human pilot delivered with pinpoint accuracy to any location on the globe in less than one hour.   And, with the example of North Korea, a devastating barrage could be delivered in seconds.

Perhaps the most troubling question to ponder is whether this new technology renders the U.S. defenseless.   Not in the immediate future, of course, but eventually this technology will spread to other nations.  What possible doctrines could be developed to counter the threat of hypersonic attack by near peers such as China or the Russians?   Even third-rate countries like Iran and North Korea pose substantial risks with single-shot EMP attacks.

Finally, does an AHW system allow the U.S. to construct a more potent military capability on the cheap?  Assuming that AHW’s can be successfully developed and adapted to a variety of tasks, could the U.S. dramatically scale back its spending on expensive naval forces and air forces and re-direct spending to enhancing ground units that carry with them the tremendous punch of AHW’s?  Perhaps we are seeing the sunset of the age of large armies, navies and air forces.   The art of war may be changing yet again and it may be our fiscal salvation to adapt to this new world sooner than later.

Stupid Evangelical Tricks

BY Herschel Smith
2 years, 11 months ago

The National Association of Evangelicals is calling for a reduction in the world’s nuclear weapons.

The group’s board of directors, which represents more than 45,000 local churches from over 40 different denominations, approved a resolution at its semiannual meeting in October encouraging the reductions as well as ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

The treaty, adopted by the United Nations in 1996, calls for a ban of all nuclear explosions though it has yet to be fully ratified.

Oh my.  We evangelicals do beclown ourselves, don’t we?  Actually, the policy statement is a thing to behold.  First off, its appeal to Ronald Reagan is disingenuous, and is similar to the gun control lobby’s appeal to Reagan.  It’s dishonest and never works.  Reagan supported gun rights, and Reagan ran the Soviet Union bankrupt with an arms buildup.  Peace through strength is not the same thing as trust through unilateral disarmament, and we all know it.  No one ever buys this approach, so it’s an enigma why anyone uses it.

Next, the appeal to “restraining evil” and “promoting peace and reconciliation” is simply absurd, and the Biblical data cited has nothing whatsoever to do with the policy statement or their position on nuclear weapons.  And to assume that a treaty would have any affect at all on rogue nations such as Iran is puerile (Iran’s intentions have to do with apocalyptic eschatology, and no treaty that the U.S. signs will have any affect at all on their quest to usher in the eschaton with violence).  The only nation(s) that would honor such a resolution or treaty would be the very nations that didn’t need the constraints of the treaty in the first place.  It’s rather like the arguments preached by gun control advocates.

Next, regarding pastoral concerns, they cite the promotion of trust on God, and cite Psalm 33:16-17 (I’ll use my favorite, the NASB).

The king is not saved by a mighty army;
A warrior is not delivered by great strength.

A horse is a false hope for victory;
Nor does it deliver anyone by its great strength.

And then they launch into gushing hand-wringing about cultivating love for our enemies and a concern for “dehumanizing” other people by targeting them with nuclear weapons.

Seriously.  You can’t make this up.  They use Biblical counsel regarding the state of the heart of individuals and their reliance on God as a justification for jettisoning nuclear weapons, obviously conflating that with the duty of governments to protect and secure the peace of its own people.

The authors of this tripe should have read Professor Darrell Cole’s paper on Good Wars, in which he uses Aquinas and Calvin to show how the Christian position on the state as the perpetrator of violence is not only not to be seen as an evil, or even a necessary evil, but a virtuous thing when done rightly.

The most noteworthy aspect of the moral approach to warfare in Aquinas and Calvin is that it teaches—contrary to today’s prevailing views—that a failure to engage in a just war is a failure of virtue, a failure to act well. An odd corollary of this conclusion is that it is a greater evil for Christians to fail to wage a just war than it is for unbelievers. When an unbeliever fails to go to war, the cause may be a lack of courage, prudence, or justice. He may be a coward or simply indifferent to evil. These are failures of natural moral virtue. When Christians (at least in the tradition of Aquinas and Calvin) fail to engage in just war, it may involve all of these natural failures as well, but it will also, and more significantly, involve a failure of charity. The Christian who fails to use force to aid his neighbor when prudence dictates that force is the best way to render that aid is an uncharitable Christian. Hence, Christians who willingly and knowingly refuse to engage in a just war do a vicious thing: they fail to show love toward their neighbor as well as toward God.

Sounds a bit different than the silly and shallow NAE position, no?  Then they drop this bit of insulting, moralistic hypocrisy into the policy statement.

The discovery of how to split the atom was a groundbreaking scientific and technological achievement involving large numbers of scientists, engineers and workers from many disciplines using their God-given talents. Today hundreds of thousands of Americans, both military and civilian, are directly or indirectly involved in the design, manufacture and deployment of nuclear weapons. Many of these people are members of our churches. They seek to use their gifts and skills to serve their nation.  Some are troubled by the ethical ambiguities of participation in an enterprise that involves producing weapons of mass destruction. Chaplains and pastors should avoid simplistic answers, but should rather guide their members in prayerful reflection, seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit as they wrestle with issues of profound moral consequence.

I doubt that the authors directly know even a single person who is involved with national laboratory work on nuclear weapons or even deploy them in the case of war.  But I do (on both accounts), and let me state that I know of no such “troubles” with “ethical ambiguities” with my friends.  And let me unequivocally state that the existence of nuclear weapons, far from promoting the diminution of world peace, is more responsible for world peace in the twentieth century than any other invention by mankind.  World War II was the last world war fought solely because of the existence of nuclear weapons.  And the authors of the policy have used the umbrella of peace that nuclear weapons have provided to craft their veiled and cowardly admonishments to nuclear workers and military servicemen.

I want to make one final point concerning the state of Christian scholarship and warfare.  I have thought more about war and warfare than 99.9999% of other Christians over the past five or so years, and I can honestly say that so-called just war theory is worthless in today’s world.

It was developed for a world that communicated by horse riders and signet rings, and archers lining up in fields against opposing lines from other countries, with border battles to see who would control nation-states.  It wasn’t developed for transnational insurgencies, large effect standoff weapons, terrorist bombings, fighters living and fighting among and from within their own people, real time intelligence, and targeted hits by UAVs.

In my 5+ years spent military blogging I have not referred to a single quote, citation, or word of any Christian scholar concerning just warfare – and it’s not because of the lack of trying.  It’s high time that the Christian community gathered serious scholars to tackle warfare in the twenty first century.  This NAE paper is neither serious nor scholarly.

And don’t come back with some claptrap about a pacifist Jesus.  Just go spend your time singing verses of John Lennon’s Imagine during your next worship service.  It would be ideologically similar to the paper, and artistically better than studying the policy statement.

UPDATE: The NAE’s Policy statement puts them squarely in line with Fidel Castro, who also believes that no country should have nuclear weapons.

Prior:

An Aging Nuclear Weapons Stockpile

Sounding the Nuclear Alarm

Civilizational War 10 Years After 9-11: Can the West Recover?

BY Glen Tschirgi
3 years, 1 month ago

It is appropriate to consider, ten years after the attacks of September 11, 2001, what has transpired and where we find ourselves.

A number of excellent writers have undertaken to do this, so I will not re-invent the wheel.  At the same time, however, there are a few points that seem to be missing from the analysis.

So, for example, Barry Rubin over at Pajamas Media has an article titled, “Ten Years After September 11: Who’s Really Winning The War On Terrorism?”  Rubin has an excellent summary of the Al Qaeda strategy and its place in the larger context of Islamic militancy:

Let’s be clear. Al-Qaeda attacked the World Trade Center and Pentagon to achieve several goals:

–To become the leader in a worldwide jihad.

–To persuade Muslims that America is weak and can be defeated.

–To stir far more Muslims to jihad, that is a Holy War that today can be defined as an Islamist revolution.

–To mobilize forces in order to challenge and eventually to overthrow all of the existing regimes in the Sunni Muslim areas, replacing Arab nationalism in many of those countries with Islamism as the main ideological force.

I would suggest that al-Qaeda’s September 11 attacks largely succeeded in three of those four goals. Only in the first did it fail, and for a very good reason. Precisely because it carried out the attacks, al-Qaeda became the main target for U.S. efforts and repression by leaders in Muslim-majority countries. Consequently, it has suffered greatly from losses.

By the same token, however, other Islamist forces have largely been left alone by the West or faced far less pressure. Such groups include the Muslim Brotherhood groups, Hamas, Hizballah, and the pro-Islamist regimes in Syria and Iran. In fact, Islamist groups and Islamism as an ideology have advanced impressively, especially in the last few years.

I would differ with Rubin that Al Qaeda did not succeed in becoming the leader in worldwide jihad.  Clearly, in the immediate aftermath of 9-11, Al Qaeda was easily the most visible terror group and most heralded in the Islamist world.  The fact that Al Qaeda has suffered a disproportionate number of decapitation operations by the U.S. does not mean that it did not accomplish its goal of jihadi leadership. In fact, it could be argued that Al Qaeda has succeeded brilliantly in this regard to the extent that the U.S. has been distracted from fighting other no-less dangerous groups which share the wider goals of Islamist domination of the West.

Indeed, Rubin alludes to this as the very problem afflicting U.S. policy:

Where is terrorism weaker? Other than Algeria, where it was defeated in a bloody civil war, it is hard to find any such examples, though in other places  like Morocco and Saudi Arabia — terrorism has not made gains.

In many places in Europe, the Brotherhood and even more radical groups have made important strides in gaining hegemony in neighborhoods and over Muslim communities. Governments have not combatted this and even have encouraged it, arguing that the organizations are not presently using terrorism. But with growing radical Islamist ideas, the level of terrorism and intimidation also increases.

A key factor is the failure of the U.S. government, which basically defines anything that isn’t al-Qaeda as not being a threat. Within the United States, a major terrorist attack has been averted, though luck seems to play a role here (underpants bomber; Times Square bomber). At the same time there have been many more small-scale attacks. One way the U.S. government achieves positive statistics is to redefine specific events — a shooting at the El Al counter in Los Angeles, an attack on a Jewish community center in the Pacific Northwest, the murder of a military recruiter in Arkansas, and even the Ft. Hood killer — as non-terrorist, non-Islamist criminal acts.

So are things much better a decade after the September 11 attacks? Aside from the very important aspect of avoiding a huge successful terror attack on the United States, the answer is “no.”

Another PJM article by Raymond Ibrahim emphasizes this point as well.

The unfortunate fact is that, even if al-Qaeda were totally eradicated tomorrow, the terror threat to the West would hardly recede, since al-Qaeda has never been the source of the threat, but simply one of its manifestations. The AP report obliquely reflects this: “Senior al-Qaeda figures have been killed before, only to be replaced,” even as the Obama administration is optimistic that “victory” is at hand.

To get a better perspective on the overall significance of the latest killing of an al-Qaeda member, consider how at the turn of the 20th century, the Islamic world was rushing to emulate the victorious and confident West — best exemplified by the Ottoman empire itself, the preserver and enforcer of Islam, rejecting its Muslim past and embracing secularism under Ataturk. Today, 100 years later, the Muslim world has largely rejected secularism and is reclaiming its Islamic — including jihadist — heritage, lashing out in a manifold of ways. Consider how many Islamist leaders, organizations, and terrorists have come and gone in the 20th century alone — many killed like bin Laden — only for the conflict between Islam and the West to continue growing by the day.

This is the essence of where we stand today.  By and large, the Obama Administration and its supporters on the Left refuse to face the fundamental nature of the conflict.   While it is true that Al Qaeda carried out the attacks of September 11, 2001, those attacks were merely a manifestation of what has been a perpetual civilizational conflict between Islam and the West since the militant spread of Islam after 632 A.D.  The militant strain of Islam has always sought to expand and dominate non-muslim peoples and it always will.

Historian Victor Davis Hanson writes in Carnage and Culture:

In the century between [the death of Muhammad and the critical battle of Poitiers, France in 732 A.D. which stopped the incursion of Islam into Southern Europe], a small and rather impotent Arab people arose to conquer the Sassanid Persian Empire, wrest the entire Middle East and much of Asia Minor from the Byzantines, and establish a theocratic rule across North Africa…. [B]y the mid-eighth century, the suddenly ascendant kingdom of the Arabs controlled three continents and an area larger than the old Roman Empire itself.

The Arab conquests were a result of two phenomena: prior contact with Byzantines, from whom they borrowed, looted, and then adapted arms, armor, and some of their military organization; and the weakness of the [Persian Empire and remnants of barbarian conquests of Asia and North Africa].

***

[The conquests by early Islamic militants goes beyond adopted technologies and weak adversaries]. There was to be a novel connection between war and faith, creating a divine culture that might reward with paradise the slaying of the infidel and the looting of Christian cities.  Killing and pillaging were now in the proper context, acts of piety.

***

For the rest of the ninth through tenth centuries, the war between [Islam and the West] would break out in northern Spain, southern Italy, Sicily, and the other larger islands of the Mediterranean [which] became the new line of battle between the two entirely antithetical cultures.

(pages 146-149).

Although Hanson is commenting upon distant history, it is remarkable how applicable these observations remain today and how little the nature of Islam has changed in 1300 years.   Militant Islam in the 21st century still maintains the “novel connection between war and faith” and a “divine culture that might reward with paradise the slaying of the infidel.”   True, militant Islam has traded in the scimitar for  suicide bomber vests and I.E.D.s, but the subjugation of unbelievers remains the same.

We seem to be making a fundamental mistake in the West when we fail to see the broader context of the struggle.   September 11, 2001 was not a “tragedy” but an act of war.  A tactical strike by militant Islam at the financial, military and (it was hoped) political heart of the West.   And it was not the first such strike.  Militant Islam has been on the march in modern times since at least 1979 with the founding of the theocratic state of Iran.  As Mr. Ibrahim writes in his article, the muslim world is quickly turning (or, more exactly, re-turning) to militant Islam as a means of forcing an expansion of power, in the Middle East in the short term and in Europe and even North America in the long term.  This is not some new phenomenon to any student of history but a continuation of a struggle between two civilizations: one based upon Greek and Roman thoughts of law and liberty with Christian overlays (Western democracy) and one based upon the all-encompassing rule of the Koran which sublimates the individual in every aspect of life.   The two cultures are thoroughly incompatible and the history of the world has shown that peace has only, ever reigned between the two when Islam was too weak to force its will upon the West.

This, then, should be the take-away from 9-11:  we are in a desperate struggle for civilizational survival that is being fought on the battlefield, certainly, but also in the courtroom, in the media, in politically correct driven government policy and think tanks, and in the very essence of our culture— how we view our basic freedoms and the means we are willing to employ to cherish and defend them.

Sadly, I see little evidence, ten years after the attacks of 9-11, that America’s leaders are at all willing to face this larger context.  It is too frightening.  The risk of being called xenophobic, or Islamophobic or chauvinistic is too intimidating.   So we will fight where we find it convenient to fight.  Drone attacks that take out an Al Qaeda leader but leave in peace Iranian leaders  who have killed far more Americans than Al Qaeda or the Taliban.   We will look for the first opportunity to declare victory, as when Osama Bin Laden was killed, but ignore the mortal threats to peace and economic security posed by a nuclear Iran or a growing Hezbollah or Hamas.   We will sacrifice precious blood and treasure gaining great victories in Iraq and Afghanistan only to throw it away in hasty withdrawals under the smokescreen of “transition.”

Can the West recover in time?

Mark Steyn and the Perfect Summary of 21st Century American Frustration

BY Glen Tschirgi
3 years, 4 months ago

For anyone who is not acquainted with the work of Mark Steyn, you have an awful lot of catching up to do on a treasure trove of witty, insightful and provocative reading.

I have been a huge fan of Steyn for years but this piece, originally appearing in National Review, is, perhaps, his best, at least in regards to the current predicament of America in the 21st Century.

What predicament?

For any American who is knowledgeable about the extraordinary capabilities of the U.S. military, it is a constant source of frustration to contemplate the consistently mediocre results we get from employing those forces.   It is a classic case of underpeformance.   It is like, well, the Miami Heat:  stocked with arguably the NBA’s best talent, they cannot manage to roll over the Dallas Mavericks in the recent NBA championship series.    This was the team that was supposed to dominate like the Chicago Bulls of the Michael Jordan era.

But, to be fair to the Miami Heat, this is a poor analogy.   A more accurate one would be to imagine the College Football National Champion Auburn Tigers going up against the Rec League, Ellicott City Patriots B-Team.  Comprised of 11-year olds.   That’s how stark the difference is between the U.S. military and the kind of adversaries we have been going up against since the end of World War II.  When the Auburn Tigers can’t seem to put away the Patriots’ B-Team and it is dragging into overtime and a possible tie-game, the Auburn fans are understandably frustrated.

Or as Steyn puts it:

Why can’t America win wars? It’s been two-thirds of a century since we saw (as President Obama vividly put it) “Emperor Hirohito coming down and signing a surrender to MacArthur.” And, if that’s not quite how you remember it, forget the formal guest list, forget the long-form surrender certificate, and try to think of “winning” in a more basic sense.

After summarizing Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, he remarks:

According to partisan taste, one can blame the trio of current morasses on Bush or Obama, but in the bigger picture they’re part of a pattern of behavior that predates either man, stretching back through non-victories great and small — Somalia, Gulf War One, Vietnam, Korea. On the more conclusive side of the ledger, we have . . . well, lemme see: Grenada, 1983. And, given that that was a bit of post-colonial housekeeping Britain should have taken care of but declined to, one could argue that even that lone bright spot supports a broader narrative of Western enfeeblement. At any rate, America’s only unambiguous military triumph since 1945 is a small Caribbean island with Queen Elizabeth II as head of state. For 43 percent of global military expenditure, that’s not much bang for the buck.

Inconclusive interventionism has consequences. Korea led to Norks with nukes. The downed helicopters in the Iranian desert led to mullahs with nukes. Gulf War One led to Gulf War Two. Somalia led to 9/11. Vietnam led to everything, in the sense that its trauma penetrated so deep into the American psyche that it corroded the ability to think clearly about war as a tool of national purpose.

Steyn exactly identifies the source of the problem.   It is not that our military is incapable of decisive victory, the problem lies with our national leadership.  To return to the sports analogy, it is as if the Auburn coaches decided that it would not look good to grind those 11-year olds into the dirt, so the Tigers go to unbelievable lengths to not win but not lose either. That may be fine when it is simply a game of  football, but when it involves a deadly contest where Americans are being killed or maimed, handicapping yourself in such a way is criminal.   Or as Steyn puts it:

But in the nuclear age, all-out war — war with real nations, with serious militaries — was too terrible to contemplate, so even in proxy squabbles in Third World backwaters the overriding concern was to tamp things down, even at the price of victory. And, by the time the Cold War ended, such thinking had become ingrained. A U.S.–Soviet nuclear standoff of mutual deterrence decayed into a unipolar world of U.S. auto-deterrence. Were it not for the brave passengers of Flight 93 and the vagaries of the Oval Office social calendar, the fourth plane on 9/11 might have succeeded in hitting the White House, decapitating the regime, leaving a smoking ruin in the heart of the capital and delivering the republic unto a Robert C. Byrd administration or some other whimsy of presidential succession. Yet, in allowing his toxic backwater to be used as the launch pad for the deadliest foreign assault on the U.S. mainland in two centuries, Mullah Omar either discounted the possibility of total devastating destruction against his country, or didn’t care.

If it was the former, he was surely right. After the battle of Omdurman, Hilaire Belloc offered a pithy summation of technological advantage:

Whatever happens
We have got
The Maxim gun
And they have not.

But suppose they know you’ll never use the Maxim gun? At a certain level, credible deterrence depends on a credible enemy. The Soviet Union disintegrated, but the surviving superpower’s instinct to de-escalate intensified: In Kirkuk as in Kandahar, every Lilliputian warlord quickly grasped that you could provoke the infidel Gulliver with relative impunity. Mutually Assured Destruction had curdled into Massively Applied Desultoriness.

Here I part company somewhat from my National Review colleagues who are concerned about inevitable cuts to the defense budget. Clearly, if one nation is responsible for near half the world’s military budget, a lot of others aren’t pulling their weight. The Pentagon outspends the Chinese, British, French, Russian, Japanese, German, Saudi, Indian, Italian, South Korean, Brazilian, Canadian, Australian, Spanish, Turkish, and Israeli militaries combined. So why doesn’t it feel like that?

Well, for exactly that reason: If you outspend every serious rival combined, you’re obviously something other than the soldiery of a conventional nation state. But what exactly? In the Nineties, the French liked to complain that “globalization” was a euphemism for “Americanization.” But one can just as easily invert the formulation: “Americanization” is a euphemism for “globalization,” in which the geopolitical sugar daddy is so busy picking up the tab for the global order he loses all sense of national interest. Just as Hollywood now makes films for the world, so the Pentagon now makes war for the world. Readers will be wearily familiar with the tendency of long-established pop-culture icons to go all transnational on us: Only the other week Superman took to the podium of the U.N. to renounce his U.S. citizenship on the grounds that “truth, justice, and the American way” no longer does it for him. My favorite in recent years was the attempted reinvention of good ol’ G.I. Joe as a Brussels-based multilateral acronym — the Global Integrated Joint Operating Entity. I believe they’re running the Libyan operation.

This is it precisely.   The U.S. has, for whatever reason, decided that winning is unacceptable.  This is Barack Obama in the 2008 campaign stating that he does not like to use the word victory.   For all practical purposes, the U.S. has unilaterally disarmed.  Sure, we still have all those weapons and sophisticated arsenals of death lying around, and we may parade them about and fly them over the heads of Taliban fighters to try to put a good scare into them, but we have decided that actually using those weapons in the way that they were designed to be used, in the national interest of the U.S., is unacceptable.

Instead, Steyn points out, the U.S. has given in to what he terms, “Transnational do-gooding.”

Transnational do-gooding is political correctness on tour. It takes the relativist assumptions of the multiculti varsity and applies them geopolitically: The white man’s burden meets liberal guilt. No wealthy developed nation should have a national interest, because a national interest is a selfish interest. Afghanistan started out selfishly — a daringly original military campaign, brilliantly executed, to remove your enemies from power and kill as many of the bad guys as possible. Then America sobered up and gradually brought a freakish exception into compliance with the rule. In Libya as in Kosovo, war is legitimate only if you have no conceivable national interest in whatever conflict you’re fighting. The fact that you have no stake in it justifies your getting into it. The principal rationale is that there’s no rationale, and who could object to that? Applied globally, political correctness obliges us to forswear sovereignty. And, once you do that, then, as Country Joe and the Fish famously enquired, it’s one-two-three, what are we fighting for?

When you’re responsible for half the planet’s military spending, and 80 percent of its military R&D, certain things can be said with confidence: No one is going to get into a nuclear war with the United States, or a large-scale tank battle, or even a dogfight. You’re the Microsoft, the Standard Oil of conventional warfare: Were they interested in competing in this field, second-tier military powers would probably have filed an antitrust suit with the Department of Justice by now. When you’re the only guy in town with a tennis racket, don’t be surprised if no one wants to join you on center court — or that provocateurs look for other fields on which to play. In the early stages of this century’s wars, IEDs were detonated by cell phones and even garage-door openers. So the Pentagon jammed them. The enemy downgraded to more primitive detonators: You can’t jam string. Last year, it was reported that the Taliban had developed metal-free IEDs, which made them all but undetectable: Instead of two hacksaw blades and artillery shells, they began using graphite blades and ammonium nitrate. If you’ve got uniformed infantrymen and tanks and battleships and jet fighters, you’re too weak to take on the hyperpower. But, if you’ve got illiterate goatherds with string and hacksaws and fertilizer, you can tie him down for a decade. An IED is an “improvised” explosive device. Can we still improvise? Or does the planet’s most lavishly funded military assume it has the luxury of declining to adapt to the world it’s living in?

In the spring of 2003, on the deserted highway between the Jordanian border and the town of Rutba, I came across my first burnt-out Iraqi tank — a charred wreck shoved over to the shoulder. I parked, walked around it, and pondered the fate of the men inside. It seemed somehow pathetic that, facing invasion by the United States, these Iraqi conscripts had even bothered to climb in and point the thing to wherever they were heading when death rained down from the stars, or Diego Garcia, or Missouri. Yet even then I remembered the words of the great strategist of armored warfare, Basil Liddell Hart: “The destruction of the enemy’s armed forces is but a means — and not necessarily an inevitable or infallible one — to the attainment of the real objective.” The object of war, wrote Liddell Hart, is not to destroy the enemy’s tanks but to destroy his will.

Instead, America has fallen for the Thomas Friedman thesis, promulgated by the New York Times’ great thinker in January 2002: “For all the talk about the vaunted Afghan fighters, this was a war between the Jetsons and the Flintstones — and the Jetsons won and the Flintstones know it.”

But they didn’t. They didn’t know they were beaten. Because they weren’t. Because we hadn’t destroyed their will — as we did to the Germans and Japanese two-thirds of a century ago, and as we surely would not do if we were fighting World War II today. That’s not an argument for nuking or carpet bombing, so much as for cool clear-sightedness. Asked how he would react if the British army invaded Germany, Bismarck said he would dispatch the local police force to arrest them: a clever Teuton sneer at the modest size of Her Britannic Majesty’s forces. But that’s the point: The British accomplished much with little; at the height of empire, an insignificant number of Anglo-Celts controlled the entire Indian subcontinent. A confident culture can dominate far larger numbers of people, as England did for much of modern history. By contrast, in an era of Massively Applied Desultoriness, we spend a fortune going to war with one hand tied behind our back. The Forty-Three Percent Global Operating Industrial Military Complex isn’t too big to fail, but it is perhaps too big to win — as our enemies understand.

So on we stagger, with Cold War institutions, transnational sensibilities, politically correct solicitousness, fraudulent preening pseudo–nation building, expensive gizmos, little will, and no war aims . . . but real American lives. “These Colors Don’t Run,” says the T-shirt. But, bereft of national purpose, they bleed away to a grey blur on a distant horizon. Sixty-six years after V-J Day, the American way of war needs top-to-toe reinvention.

The worst news, however, is that we are such a divided nation in our sense of national purpose that I do not see any way that “the American way of war” will get anything like a “reinvention” as Steyn prescribes.   The American people are living in a fantasy world where we can continue to lavish entitlement spending on ourselves (and heap more on top of that with Obamacare) while contemplating a substantially reduced military, as if evil does not exist and America will never be threatened (and anyone who raises that specter is simply trying to scare the public for the benefit of the military-industrial complex).

But we know how these things end.    The Dot Com Bubble was created by the fantasy that internet companies with no revenues were, nonetheless, worth ridiculous share prices.   That Bubble burst.    The Housing Bubble grew from the fantasy that trillions of dollars could be lent to persons with bad credit and little prospect for repayment.   That Bubble burst.    The current fantasy about the nature of the world and America’s invulnerability will end, too.   And when it does we will finally regain the will to win.   I pray that we will still have the means.

To Act or Not to Act? Libya is the Question

BY Glen Tschirgi
3 years, 7 months ago

Ross Douthat sets forth a thin, but significant piece about the ongoing debate over military intervention in Libya.

First, he remarks that there is surprisingly little residual reluctance to take action in a Arab-muslim nation such as Libya after the U.S. experience in Iraq.

Five years ago, in the darkest days of insurgent violence and Sunni-Shia strife, it seemed as if the Iraq war would shadow American foreign policy for decades, frightening a generation’s worth of statesmen away from using military force. Where there had once been a “Vietnam syndrome,” now there would be an “Iraq syndrome,” inspiring harrowing flashbacks to Baghdad and Falluja in any American politician contemplating an intervention overseas.

But in today’s Washington, no such syndrome is in evidence. Indeed, it’s striking how quickly the bipartisan coalition that backed the Iraq invasion has reassembled itself to urge President Obama to use military force against Libya’s Muammar el-Qaddafi.

Next he cites the surprising diversity and number of people calling for some form of intervention in Libya.

Now a similar chorus is arguing that the United States should intervene directly in Libya’s civil war: with a no-flight zone, certainly, and perhaps with arms for the Libyan rebels and air strikes against Qaddafi’s military as well. As in 2002 and 2003, the case for intervention is being pushed by a broad cross-section of politicians and opinion-makers, from Bill Clinton to Bill Kristol, Fareed Zakaria to Newt Gingrich, John Kerry to Christopher Hitchens.

Douthat, however, believes that American leadership has not learned the clear lessons of Iraq.   He explains:

In reality, there are lessons from our years of failure in Iraq that can be applied to an air war over Libya as easily as to a full-scale invasion or counterinsurgency. Indeed, they can be applied to any intervention — however limited its aims, multilateral its means, and competent its commanders.

One is that the United States shouldn’t go to war unless it has a plan not only for the initial military action, but also for the day afterward, and the day after that. Another is that the United States shouldn’t go to war without a detailed understanding of the country we’re entering, and the forces we’re likely to empower.

Moreover, even with the best-laid plans, warfare is always a uniquely high-risk enterprise — which means that the burden of proof should generally rest with hawks rather than with doves, and seven reasonable-sounding reasons for intervening may not add up to a single convincing case for war.

Are these really the lessons to be learned from the war in Iraq?

I don’t think so.

First, Douthat believes that no military action, no matter how small, should be undertaken unless there is detailed planning for every, possible contingency.  This is palpable nonsense.  Clearly there are occasions when military action can be taken– indeed must be taken at times– without volumes of risk assessment and contingency planning.   To harp on just one, the Somali piracy in the Gulf of Aden clearly does not require obsessive planning for each and every use of force.  As posted by the Captain before, the only planning needed for dealing with pirates is whether to use an additional drum of ammunition in dispatching them.

Advanced, detailed planning of the sort envisioned by Douthat is not needed in responding forcefully to clear, hostile provocations, such as the Iranian provocations in the Persian Gulf in the 1980′s.  Indeed, this obsessive, over-planning mentality is not only a hindrance to effective military action but a danger as it threatens to negate one of America’s greatest tactical military advantages:  the spirit of initiative and innovation of our military commanders and line units.

Moreover, even if it were possible to engage in this kind of obsessive pre-planning, what good would result?  It is axiomatic in war, Bismarck tells us, that no plan survives first contact with the enemy.   If Douthat wants a clear lesson from the Iraq war, surely Bismarck’s advice is one that is conveniently forgotten in the rush to blame and criticize the Iraq campaign.

Secondly, Douthat believes that no military action can be undertaken without “a detailed understanding of the country we’re entering, and the forces we’re likely to empower.”  Granted, as Sun Tzu said, it is best to know as much about your enemy as possible.  The problem is that Douthat’s fine-sounding advice is of little use outside of the faculty room or the halls of think tanks.   Yes, our nation needs to have an ongoing program that seeks to deepen our understanding of potential adversaries (not to mention allies).  This used to be the province of the C.I.A. and D.I.A.   Perhaps, in light of the sclerotic record, we should no longer take that for granted.  Nevertheless, this understanding must already exist and permeate the counsels of the President as a given when any military action is being considered.

It is not the kind of thing that exists in its own sphere.   To Douthat, it seems as an either-or proposition:  we either understand Libya, for example, or we do not.   In reality, we understand some things about Libya and its people and do not understand others (just as we understand some things about everything under the sun– with the possible exception of liberals who appear incomprehensible, even among themselves).   There is no point at which leaders can say, we understand everything about this nation.  There are gaps.   There are cultural blinders.  We must act within these parameters, not wait until we have achieved some mystical level of enlightenment.

Thirdly, Douthat argues for a rule that the “hawks” have the overwhelming “burden of proof” in any consideration for military action given the inherent risks and costs of war.

Certainly there is some sense in this.  Particularly as the scale of the action increases.  But Douthat’s rule here is more a reflection of his own predilections than an objective measure.   In other words, he argues that those advocating military intervention be forced to prove the merits of it, presumably beyond either a shadow of a doubt (the criminal standard of proof) or at least by a preponderance of the evidence (the civil legal standard).   But this is because, to Douthat, the costs and risks of acting far outweigh the costs and risks of inaction.  That is his preference (and likely that of most on the Left and in the Democrat party).   But a strong argument can be made that the costs and risks of inaction are no less than that of taking action and there is an abundance of historical examples too numerous to cite.

The Iraq war does not teach us that the so-called “hawks” should have been forced to prove their case beyond all doubt or debate.   Just the opposite.  Iraq is an example of action being taken where many of the risks were unknown and unknowable.   We can be fairly certain that inaction would have resulted in Saddam remaining in power, continuing to evade sanctions and increasing his capacity for mayhem, including WMDs. Thankfully, we took action and there is, at the very least, a struggling democracy with the hope of progress and of no threat to the U.S. or U.S. allies.

Applying Douthat’s rules to Libya is a foregone conclusion for inaction and timidity.  Here is Douthat’s conclusion:

Advocates of a Libyan intervention don’t seem to have internalized these lessons. They have rallied around a no-flight zone as their Plan A for toppling Qaddafi, but most military analysts seem to think that it will fail to do the job, and there’s no consensus on Plan B. Would we escalate to air strikes? Arm the rebels? Sit back and let Qaddafi claim to have outlasted us?

If we did supply the rebels, who exactly would be receiving our money and munitions? Libya’s internal politics are opaque, to put it mildly. But here’s one disquieting data point, courtesy of the Center for a New American Security’s Andrew Exum: Eastern Libya, the locus of the rebellion, sent more foreign fighters per capita to join the Iraqi insurgency than any other region in the Arab world.

And if the civil war dragged on, what then? Twice in the last two decades, in Iraq and the former Yugoslavia, the United States has helped impose a no-flight zone. In both cases, it was just a stepping-stone to further escalation: bombing campaigns, invasion, occupation and nation-building.

None of this means that an intervention is never the wisest course of action. But the strategic logic needs to be compelling, the threat to our national interest obvious, the case for war airtight.

“Airtight” ?  That is a standard that will never be met in the real world.

I do not advocate direct military intervention in Libya, necessarily.  But the arguments by Douthat are spurious ones, designed to throw impossible obstacles in the way of action while seeming to be reasonable and leaving open the possibility for the use of force.

What I do advocate, however, is an American foreign policy that pursues American interests first.  Not the E.U.  Not the U.N.   Not the cheese-eaters and wine-tasters of the D.C. Beltway or that nebulous “world opinion.”

When I look at Libya I see, first and foremost, a dictator that has been a constant enemy of America; someone who ordered the bombing of a civilian airliner over Lockerbie, Scotland and still has innocent American blood on his hands to account for; someone who has toyed with nukes in the past and funds all manner of terrorists abroad.   If an opportunity arises to rid the earth of such a person, then serious consideration must be given.

This need not mean land invasion or no-fly zone.  There was a time when the U.S. possessed covert resources that could tip the scales in our favor in time of need.   If the U.S. lacks those covert resources now, that is to our everlasting shame and cannot be tolerated.  At one time, if I recall, the mujaheddin in Afghanistan found themselves in possession of Stinger anti-air missiles that were crucial in negating Soviet air power, leading eventually to a humiliating retreat by the Soviets.  With our advanced electronics assets, is it impossible for us to track down Qaddafi’s whereabouts and put an anonymous J-DAM into his bathroom window?

The point being that there exist an array of options, short of outright ground troops or decades-long air patrols, that can be employed to take out the dictator.   What happens next is a job for our diplomatic corps and the contingent of spooks that can be sent in to help things along toward a favorable outcome.   But people like Douthat only want to deal in terms of extremes.  If we can’t invade, we can’t do anything.  Nonsense.  Douthat is doing nothing more than providing a fig leaf to Obama’s congenital indecisiveness.   The heat is on for Obama to do something and Douthat wants to give Obama some cover.   Nothing new there.

But as an argument, it does not stand up.   To be sure there are risks to taking action.  There may be unintended consequences.  But, if worse comes to worse and Libya, however improbably, sinks lower than Qaddafi’s vile government, there are always options.  Always.


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