AR-15 Ammunition And Barrel Twist Rate

Herschel Smith · 19 Feb 2017 · 6 Comments

There are a lot of articles and discussion forum threads on barrel twist rate for AR-15s.  So why am I writing one?  Well, some of the information on the web is very wrong.  Additionally, this closes out comment threads we've had here touching on this topic, EMail exchanges I've had with readers, and personal conversations I've had with shooters and friends about this subject.  It's natural to put this down in case anyone else can benefit from the information.  Or you may not benefit at…… [read more]

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

BY Glen Tschirgi
5 years, 4 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.

Losing The Border War

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 4 months ago

From The Fix:

An anonymous Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agent, speaking exclusively with The Fix, paints a stark picture of the drug war along the US-Mexico Border. The cartels’ traffickers are punching through our borders without fear, he confirms, supplying US streets with cocaine, marijuana, and heroin. But the administration seems more concerned with immigration than with drugs: “Border patrol is very adamant about stopping the illegal aliens,” he tells us. “But border patrol is not adamant about stopping the drugs and the cartels’ vehicles from coming across the border.”

Why does he believe this? He says the Department of Homeland Security doesn’t provide the border patrol with enough manpower to fight the drug war effectively. With around 2,000 miles of vast desert to protect and very little backup, agents find it nearly impossible to apprehend the traffickers. “Cartels transport their drugs across the desert in groups of two or three trucks,” he explains. “And they’re armed with automatic weapons.”

Cartel members know that even if one of the in-ground motion sensors picks up their movements, they still have the advantage. Each border patrol agent on the ground is responsible for a considerable area. And he is only one man with a gun. “Border patrol agents in the desert are often surrounded by the drug cartels or by Mexican military, who have been bribed to help the cartels,” he says, explaining that agents are frequently faced with a stark choice: they can fight the traffickers and die, or they can get out of the way and live. “At the end of the day, we all want to go home to our families alive.”

“We have cameras, and we have motion sensors in the ground,” summarizes our source. “We catch the cartels’ movements on camera. But do we have an agent out there close enough to respond? Do we have backup for that agent that can get out there quickly enough? If we don’t, guess what? We’re going to watch the drugs go through.”

So let’s divorce ourselves from the hotly contested issue of the so-called war on drugs for a moment.  A number of things jump out about this report.  First of all, the administration certainly isn’t serious about combating illegal immigration, any more than was the previous administration.

Second, while The Fix might be concerned about issues associated with illicit drugs, I’m not.  I am more concerned about the criminal insurgency and warlord-ism of the cartels (which only temporally uses drugs, and would and does use anything else to increase their power, such as human trafficking, kidnapping, extortion, gang violence and brutality, and so on).

But even more to the point, we are losing the war at the border.  We will lose the war at the border until we cease and desist treating it as a law enforcement endeavor, change the rules for the use of force (away from the SCOTUS decision in Tennessee versus Garner), and deploy the U.S. Marines to the border.

The National Guard isn’t the answer.  I have dealt with this many times before, considering whether training has been done, arming orders have been issued, and weapons and ammunition have been checked out of the armory.  But the National Guard isn’t doing anything at all to effect border security.

While I loath every word that comes out of the mouth of this president and cannot stand to listen to him, and would in fact blame the fire ants in my back yard on his administration if I could get away with it, removal of the National Guard from the border (as he has ordered) has nothing to do with anything.  We have a larger, societal problem.  We aren’t ready to fight the war at the border any more than we were or are ready to fight the campaign in Afghanistan.

Prior:

Threat Assessment: Transnational Jihadists and Mexican Cartels

Legalization of Drugs Won’t End The Border War

Border War

Texas Border Security: A Strategic Military Assessment

Withdraw From Afghanistan

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 4 months ago

Michael Yon has written a short note entitled Time To Leave Afghanistan.  I concur, but for somewhat different reasons, or at least, I will state my reasons somewhat differently.  I had been pondering going public with my counsel to withdraw from Afghanistan, and then I read possibly the most depressing entry on Afghanistan I have ever seen, from Tim Lynch.  Some of it is repeated below.

Ten years ago, Afghans were thrilled to see us and thought that finally they could live in peace and develop their country …

Five years ago they watched us flounder – we stayed on FOBs and shoveled cash by the billions into the hands of a corrupt central government that we insisted, despite clear evidence to the contrary, was a legitimate government – one that had to be supported at all costs. We raided their homes at night and shot up civilians who got too close to our convoys, we paid for roads that did not exist and, because of the “force protection” mentality, most Afghans thought our soldiers were cowards because they never came to the bazaar off duty and unarmored to buy stuff like the Russians did. In fact, every bite of food our soldiers consumed was flown into country at great expense, so in a land famous for its melons and grapes our troops ate crappy melon and tasteless grapes flown in by contractors from God knows where.

Now, they want to shoot us in the face. Except for the klepocratic elite who want us to give them billions more and then shoot us in the face.

There it is; Afghanistan is toast, and what the last 10 years has taught us is we cannot afford to deploy American ground forces.  Two billion dollars a week (that’s billion with a B) has bought what?  Every year we stay to “bring security to the people,” the security situation for the people gets worse and worse, deteriorating by orders of magnitude.  Now the boy genius has announced a “new strategy”.  A strategy that is identical to the “strategy” that resulted in a hollow ground force getting its ass kicked by North Korea in 1950; a mere five years after we had ascended to the most dominant military the world had ever known.

Tim goes on to say things about Iraq and national defense policy with which I don’t entirely agree.  My views on Iraq are complicated, as my readers know, and I will recapitulate (and summarize) them soon.  But if anyone would know that Afghanistan is toast, Tim Lynch would.

Listen well.  This is no anti-war cry.  I have argued virtually non-stop for increasing troop levels, staying the course, and increased (and different) lines of logistics for support of our troops.  But I have watched with dismay and even panic over the course of the last six years as we haven’t taken the campaign seriously, and good men have suffered and perished because of it.

I have watched as different members of NATO carried different strategies into the campaign without being united at the top level.  I have argued for recognizing the resurgence of the Taliban, while General Rodriguez argued against even the possibility of a spring offensive in 2008.  I watched as that same general micromanaged the Marines as they surged into the Helmand Province, issuing an order requiring that his operations center clear any airstrike that was on a housing compound in the area but not sought in self-defense.

We have seen General McChrystal issue awful and debilitating rules of engagement, along with personal stipulations that modified them to be even more restrictive.  “If you are in a situation where you are under fire from the enemy… if there is any chance of creating civilian casualties or if you don’t know whether you will create civilian casualties, if you can withdraw from that situation without firing, then you must do so,” said McChrystal.

Those disastrous rules and McChrystal’s disastrous management played a critical role in the shameful and immoral deaths of three Marines, a Navy Corpsman and a Soldier at Ganjgal, the firefight where Dakota Meyer earned his MoH.  Read the comments of the families of those warriors who perished at Ganjgal, and let the sentiments wash over you.

Study again my writing on Now Zad.  I was the only writer or blogger anywhere who was following the Marines at Now Zad – how they brought more trauma doctors with them than usual due to the massive loss of limbs and life that Marine command knew they would sustain, how they lived in so-called Hobbit holes in Now Zad, two or three Marines to a hole in distributed operations, hunting for Taliban fighters who had taken R&R in Now Zad because we didn’t have enough troops to prevent them from doing so.

While I was arguing for more Marines in Now Zad, I watched as a Battalion of infantrymen at Camp Lejeune (the class entering after my own son returned from his combat deployment in Iraq) entered the Marines expecting to go to Afghanistan or Iraq.  At that time we were heading for the exits in the Anbar Province of Iraq, and instead of focusing on Marines losing their legs and screaming for help in Now Zad, Afghanistan, that Battalion went on a wasteful MEU (Marine Expeditionary Unit).  No MEU has ever been used by a President for anything in the history of doing MEUs except for humanitarian missions.

So that Battalion didn’t deploy to Iraq, went on a MEU, and then weren’t on rotation for Afghanistan.  Instead of helping their brothers in Now Zad, the Marine Corps Commandant had them playing Iwo Jima, as if we’re ever going to launch a major, sea-based forcible entry again.  A full Battalion of infantry Marines with two wars going on – and no deployment to Iraq, and no deployment to Afghanistan in a four year enlistment.

I argued against night raids by the so-called “snake eaters,” with them flying back to the FOBs that night, totally absent from the locals to explain what happened and why.  In addition to pointing out the wrong way to do it, I pointed out the right way to do it in lieu of night time raids by snake eaters.  I have argued for following and killing every single Taliban fighter into the hinterlands of Afghanistan, while the strategists under General McChrystal withdrew to the population centers just like the Russians did.

I pointed out that withdrawal from the Pech River Valley would invite the return of of al qaeda, Haqqani and allied fighters, and that’s exactly what happened.  I have been in the thick of this with my advocacy for the campaign, but again and again, it has become clear that we aren’t going to take this campaign seriously.  I have advocated against nation building, and by now I think it has become clear that population-centric counterinsurgency and nation building won’t ever work in Afghanistan.  Staying long enough with enough troops to find and kill the enemy has its problems, of course, including the fact that we may have to go back in eight or ten years later and do it all over again.

But that’s the Marine way.  Do now what has to be done, do it quickly and violently, achieve the mission, and leave.  At least I have been consistent, while always acknowledging that we cannot possibly achieve anything permanent, and will probably have to return at some point.  As it is, it isn’t clear that we’ve achieved anything at all.

The Wise family from Arkansas has lost their second son in Afghanistan.  For all those warriors who have given their all, and those families still suffering today because of that, America isn’t worthy of their sacrifices.  To be sure, if we continue the campaign there will still be magnificent warriors who answer the call.  But it’s our duty to take seriously the war to which we’re calling them if we let them go.  We’re heading for the exits, releasing insurgents from prisons in Afghanistan, and instead of trying to develop better lines of logistics, we’re trying to figure out how to get all of our equipment out of Afghanistan.

Regardless of who calls for what, the President will ask the Joint Chiefs of Staff what can be done to withdraw.  They will ask the flag and staff officers, and the staff officers will ask the logistics officers.  Logistics will decide how and when we can withdraw from Afghanistan.  No one else.

But within that framework, I am calling for the full, immediate and comprehensive withdrawal of all troops from Afghanistan, and that we focus exclusively on force protection until that can be accomplished.  It’s time to come home.

UPDATE: Many thanks to Glenn Reynolds for the attention.

UPDATE #2: Thanks to Michael Yon for the attention.

Free The Final Haditha Marine

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 4 months ago

There is disposition of the cases against all of the Haditha Marines, except for one.

The former Marine officer who gave Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich the order to “clear” an Iraqi house near the site of an explosion that had just killed a Marine testified Friday that he expected Wuterich and his squad to “kill or capture the enemy I thought was in that building.”

William Kallop, who was a lieutenant in 2005 and is now a stockbroker in New York, said he believed insurgents inside the house were firing on Marines and thus the house could be deemed “hostile.”

According to the rules of engagement, Wuterich and his Marines were justified in using any amount of firepower in assaulting a “hostile” structure without identifying whether the people inside were combatants, Kallop said.

Kallop’s testimony came at the court-martial of Wuterich on charges of manslaughter, assault and dereliction of duty in the killing of 24 Iraqis by Marines on Nov. 19, 2005, in the Euphrates River community of Haditha. Among the Iraqis killed were three women and seven children.

While Kallop, who was a platoon commander, was called as a prosecution witness, his testimony appears to support the defense contention that Wuterich followed both his orders and training in assaulting two houses after the explosion that killed Marine Cpl. Miguel Terrazas and injured two other Marines.

The jury comprises four officers and four senior enlisted personnel, all with combat experience in Iraq or Afghanistan or both, as well as experience in “clearing” houses.

A Marine lawyer, testifying after Kallop, gave a different interpretation of the rules of engagement. Maj. Kathryn Navin, who had lectured Marines before they deployed, said a house cannot be declared hostile unless the people inside are known to have “hostile intent” or have committed “hostile acts.”

But Kallop said that in training at Camp Pendleton and March Reserve Air Base, and at briefings delivered in Iraq, Marines were not told they needed to identify individual targets as threatening when assaulting a “hostile” structure.

He said that he ordered “Clear south” and Wuterich responded, “Roger that, Sir.” He did not tell Wuterich that the house was “hostile,” Kallop said.

But Wuterich, in gathering his squad for the assault, told one of the Marines that the house was hostile and that the Marines should shoot first and ask questions later, according to testimony from former Marine Stephen Tatum.

No insurgents or weapons were found in two houses “cleared” by Marines. Dozens of Jordanian passports and stacks of American hundred-dollar bills were found in another house, however, indicating the neighborhood may have been used by insurgents as a staging point for attacks, Marine intelligence officers testified at preliminary hearings.

Kallop testified that after the explosion that ripped apart a Humvee, Marines were under attack by “a few bursts of small-arms fire.” He said he ordered a Marine to fire a grenade at the house after seeing a “turkey-peeker,” military jargon for a military-age male sneaking a look at Marines in a suspicious manner.

Kallop said he expected Wuterich to lead the Marines in his squad “to conduct movement to contact and kill or capture the enemy I thought was in that building.”

Responding to a question from defense attorney Haytham Faraj, Kallop said Marines are not required to risk their lives by stopping to identify individual targets while assaulting a hostile structure.

This whole legal conversation is dancing on the head of a pin, with wrangling over wording, the specificity of orders in the middle of heated battle, and second thinking that could work to make their future more hazardous if they allowed it to become self-doubt.

We have covered this before, but it pays to revisit this now that Wuterich is finally at trial.  When my son entered the Marine Corps in January of 2006, he completed boot camp at Parris Island and School of Infantry at Camp Geiger, having been trained in both by recent veterans of Operation al Fajr.

When he entered the infantry as a fleet Marine, he was trained by men who were veterans of al Fajr or other similar combat.  It is impossible to overstate the influence and affect that al Fajr had on the Marine Corps infantry at that time, from culture to core beliefs about battle tactics, to necessary equipment, and finally to training.

Clearing tactics were taught to boot Marines by veterans of al Fajr, and the tactics taught were those employed in Fallujah in 2004.  So when my son deployed to Fallujah in April of 2007, he employed the same tactics and culture taught to him by veterans of combat from 2004 in Iraq.

When he and other Lance Corporals attempted to teach those same tactics and apply that same culture to their own boot Marines in 2008, they usually got into significant trouble with senior NCOs and officers.  The Marine Corps infantry culture and tactics had changed to the point that the veterans of Iraq found no home for what they knew, and most or all of them left the Marines.

If this was true of my son, who joined late in 2005, this was true in the superlative of Marines who were deployed in 2005.  Again, it is impossible to overestimate the affect of al Fajr on the Marines at that time.

The Haditha Marines were charged on the watch of General Mattis.  While Mattis has a storied history of his own in Iraq and elsewhere, I do now and have always held against him that he knew all of this and still allowed the prosecution to go ahead.  The careers of many fine Marines were ruined over this.

It is now time to put this whole ugly affair behind us.  No, not any ugliness associated with what the Marines did on that day.  The Marines didn’t wait to identify inhabitants.  In room clearing operations after Operation al Fajr, room inhabitants perished.  That’s what the Marines were taught to do.

I am talking about the ugliness of the self-hatred on display in these despicable, perverse and obscene show trials.  It’s time to free the last Haditha Marine.

Obama’s Recess Appointments: Living in a Post-Constitutional Era

BY Glen Tschirgi
5 years, 4 months ago

Hat tip to Powerline and its post concerning the illegal and un-Constitutional recess appointments made by Presidente (as in Banana Republic) Obama, quoting an article by former Judge Michael McConnell:

On January 10, I published an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal stating that I could see no plausible legal argument to support President Obama’s recent recess appointments to the Consumer Financial Protection Board and the National Labor Relations Board. I noted that the Administration had not relied on any opinion from the Office of Legal Counsel, and inferred that it must not have obtained such an opinion. http://www.advancingafreesociety.org/2012/01/10/democrats-and-executive-outreach/

Today, January 12, 2012, the Administration released an Office of Legal Counsel opinion, dated January 6, opining that the recess appointments were constitutional. The Opinion concludes that the pro forma sessions of the Senate conducted every three days during the December and January holiday are not sufficiently substantive to interrupt a Senate recess, meaning that the Senate was in recess from December 17 well into January.

I compliment the Administration for releasing the opinion, while still wondering what was their reason was for delay. It is reassuring that in this instance the Administration followed proper legal channels before taking a controversial constitutional position at odds with recent precedent (precedent established in 2007 by Senate Democrats, including then-Senator Obama).

I have not had time to give careful study to the 23-page OLC Opinion, but my preliminary reaction is not to be convinced. The Opinion makes arguments that are not frivolous, but it seems to me the counterarguments are more powerful.

Please read the full article concerning the merits of the OLC Opinion and McConnell’s counter-arguments.   My take on this, however, is that McConnell gives El Presidente too much credit when he concludes that the Administration “followed proper legal channels before taking a controversial constitutional position at odds with recent precedent…”   It is quite clear that this Administration has no compunction whatsoever about hiding documents from Congressional inquiry, lying to Congress, ignoring the Constitution and violating existing law.   Why should they bother to follow “proper legal channels” now?   It is far more likely that the public outrage about the appointments caught El Presidente by surprise and then some DOJ attorney was given a post haste assignment to cobble together a 23 page justification, back dating it for good measure.

More disturbing, however, is the fact that some commenters are pointing to these recess appointments as an indication that Obama is trying to subvert the foundation of America as a nation of laws, not men.

I must point out to the contrary that, sadly, we ceased being a nation of laws quite some time ago, the precise moment being up for an interesting but largely academic debate.   Presidente Obama does not get credit for transforming America into a nation run by fiat, he has merely taken advantage of the many opportunities presented to him by the long erosion of Constitutional limitations.

It does not take, for example, a Ron Paul to point out that when the Commerce Clause can be re-written to mean whatever Congress and the President want it to mean, the Constitution ceases to be an effective brake on power.  When whole privacy rights are invented out of thin air and “penumbras” the Supreme Court ceases to function in its Constitutional role.

We have been living in an era for quite a few generations now that does not take the Constitution seriously.  To those with power and ambition, it is a quaint relic that can be safely ignored or re-engineered.   To those standing in the way of such abuse, the Constitution is an aging, impotent parent that lacks any means of restraining the nefarious acts of its children.   The Tea Party Movement has been a sort of cry of frustration from the younger siblings, an appeal to somehow revitalize the Constitution, but just as a parent, once pushed aside and mocked, cannot return to authority, so, too, the Constitution is beyond recall absent some miraculous Reawakening.

It is tempting to take comfort by imagining a day when a Republican is in the White House and Senate Democrats will be victims of the same, illegal “recess” appointments.  This is illusory.   For one, Republican presidents, by and large, lack the kind of insolence and audacity to make such, obviously illegal appointments.   Call it a weakness or a virtue, either way it won’t happen.   Second, even if a Republican president might take such a step, there is no, real comfort in seeing the country plunge further into the swamp of lawlessness.

In times such as these, the only course is to try to limit the pace of lawlessness while preparing for the consequences sure to come.

Ron Paul on the Taliban

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 4 months ago

I just heard Ron Paul in the S.C. GOP debate say that we mustn’t mix the Taliban and al Qaeda – the Taliban were our allies in the war to evict the Soviet Union from Afghanistan, and are only concerned with ensuring that there are no foreign troops in Afghanistan.

Just to cover again what we’ve previously discussed concerning the Pakistani Taliban:

… they have evolved into a much more radical organization than the original Taliban bent on global engagement, what Nicholas Schmidle calls the Next-Gen Taliban. The TTP shout to passersby in Khyber “We are Taliban! We are mujahedin! “We are al-Qaida!”  There is no distinction.  A Pakistan interior ministry official has even said that the TTP and al Qaeda are one and the same.

Nick Schmidle – who is also a genuinely good guy and a scholar – gave us a learned warning shot over the bow.  It was reiterated by David Rohde who was in captivity by the Taliban.

“Living side by side with the Haqqanis’ followers, I learned that the goal of the hard-line Taliban was far more ambitious. Contact with foreign militants in the tribal areas appeared to have deeply affected many young Taliban fighters. They wanted to create a fundamentalist Islamic emirate with Al Qaeda that spanned the Muslim world.”

As for the Quetta Shura, Mohammed Omar’s group, to whom the Pakistani Taliban have pledged fealty, we’ll let Omar speak for himself from a BBC interview – never officially released – done just after 9/11.

Ron Paul is wrong.

Concerning Marines Urinating On Dead Taliban

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 4 months ago

Most of the DoD establishment is outraged over the recently divulged incident of Marines urinating on dead Taliban fighters.  Much of it is faux outrage, but these Marines won’t be very happy with the outcome of the inquiry.  Ever the one to point out the different standards for different people because of different political needs, I’ll mention that there is no way – no way – to square the burial of Bin Laden at sea with Islamic law (not that it really matters to me whether we followed Islamic laws concerning his burial; we could have treated him like they did Mussolini as far as I’m concerned — either way, he’s in hell.).  Additionally, the public display of Zarqawi’s bloodied and bloated body caused an outrage among Muslims across the world.  It’s okay to desecrate the dead as long as the DoD sanctions it.  It’s not okay to do it if you’re a Marine under fire in the Helmand Province.  Come back to me when you get some consistency.  Until then, I think I’ll turn my attention to other, more important things.

Speaking of Marines under fire, we should mention some recent heroics.

The secretary of the Navy next week will present the Navy Cross to the family of a Marine from Camp Pendleton killed while saving the life of other Marines in Afghanistan, officials announced Tuesday.

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus is set to present the medal Jan. 17 to the family of Lance Cpl. Donald Hogan in a ceremony at Camp Pendleton. The Navy Cross is second only to the Medal of Honor for combat bravery by Marines or sailors.

Hogan, 20, assigned to the 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, was killed Aug. 26, 2009, by a buried explosive device after pushing a Marine to safety and yelling warnings to other Marines. Hogan was on a walking patrol in Helmand province, long a Taliban stronghold.

According to the Navy Cross citation, Hogan spotted a trigger wire for a buried bomb and hurled himself into the body of the nearest Marine to push him away from the imminent blast.

Hogan then “turned in the direction of the Improvised Explosive Device and placed himself in the road so that he could effectively yell verbal warnings to the rest of his squad-mates. This desperate effort to warn the rest of the patrol bought the remaining Marines valuable seconds to begin moving away,” the citation reads.

And some recent heartbreak.

A Wilmington Marine has been seriously injured in Afghanistan.

According to a report from the Wilmington News Journal, Cpl. Josh Sams, 27, was on routine patrol Wednesday when he stepped on an improvised explosive device (IED). He was taken to a hospital in Afghanistan where both legs were amputated above the knee.

Sams’ mother, Barbara Regan, told the Journal that Sams was serving his third and final deployment and scheduled to come home for good on Feb. 7.

Sams is currently at a hospital in Germany also suffering from a broken pelvis and arm. He is in stable condition and will hopefully return stateside by Tuesday at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Maryland.

He serves with the 1st Battalion, 6th Marines, H&S Company, Scout Sniper Platoon.

Sams is married to his wife, Lindsey, who lives in Jacksonville, N.C., where Sams is stationed.

Sams’ younger brother, Logan, died in an ATV accident in 2008.

Our men are still at war people.  Take a deep breath and recalibrate your perspective.

“Stoopid” Talk About Cutting Defense Spending

BY Glen Tschirgi
5 years, 4 months ago

In Herschel Smith’s recent post, “What Defense Cuts Can and Can’t Accomplish,” he noted in response to President Obama’s announced cuts to Defense that such cuts were cover to make room for ruinous entitlements spending and ensured a future military that will not be prepared to meet America’s defense needs.

To tag team on that post somewhat, I would like to address two, typical fallacies indulged in by those calling for cuts to Defense spending.   The first is the idea that the Pentagon budget is so massive and so stuffed with waste and fraud that any budget increase would almost be immoral.   The second notion is that Defense spending is indistinguishable from any, other Federal spending and, so, sacrifices must be made.   I offer this in the context of the ongoing Republican nomination season where an amazing number of candidates are espousing the same kind of cuts.   Furthermore, I am amazed as I travel the internet and read comments by alleged conservatives that call for deep-sixing much of the Pentagon budget.  So, to all those would-be candidates and fellow conservatives who are tempted by the low-hanging Pentagon budget, I say, “No good can come of it.”

And here’s why:

No Federal function will ever be free of waste, fraud, abuse and mismanagement.   Live with it.

Conservatives must take it as almost axiomatic that the military, being part of the federal government, is inherently inefficient, wasteful, bass-ackwards, and prone to all the wrong priorities.   Herschel’s post detailing the problems with various weapon systems is on point.

That said, the U.S. military is, nonetheless, widely recognized the world over as the best-functioning part of the national government we have.  It is, in many cases, the only thing that does, actually work even half the time.  When any, significant natural disaster occurs anywhere on the planet and rapid response is required to prevent massive loss of life, who is the one doing the heavy lifting in terms of humanitarian relief?  The U.S. military which has the advantage of being everywhere on the planet (or at least within carrier distance) and organized to deliver critical logistics in short order.  For all its many, many faults, the U.S. military still gets the job done in far less time and in far better fashion than any, other alternative known to mankind at this point.

Money will be wasted by the federal government just as a teenager will blow at least some part of that $20 bill you give them on a Big Mac and fries.  There is simply no way around it.  Yes, fraud/waste/abuse must be rooted out as far as possible and contracting must be improved blah blah blah, but there is no way this side of Paradise to put as many people in the field, all around the globe with as many types of weapons/units/vehicles et al without substantial waste.  I am sick of Obama or any GOP candidate who puffs and preens about reducing waste at the Pentagon as if that is going to solve our national spending addiction.  All of the waste and fraud at the Pentagon in a year is still a pittance compared to the entire, federal budget.   The problem is in the very budgeting and spending process.   Raging about government waste is performance art.   Worse, when it comes to government and waste, the two are too often synonymous.

Perhaps a better way of viewing Defense spending is to liken it to a huge pipeline.   The U.S. government is like a huge pipe with lots of spigots and also a bunch of holes, leaks and cracks: water is going to leak out all over the place.   Amazingly enough, however, due to the sheer volume and force, enough water will still manages to get through.   Tightening down the spigot called the U.S. military does not save any, actual water.   That water will just flow to other spigots like welfare, “green energy,” public employee unions, TSA harpies, bridges to nowhere and genius programs like “Fast and Furious.”   To actually save water in this illustration, the entire plumbing system has to be re-engineered.

Some Federal functions are more legitimate than others.  Prioritizing is key.

President Obama and the other Defense cutters act as if every federal undertaking is on an equal footing much as a family may decide to spend less on expensive orange juice and shift those dollars to cereal instead.   For those of us who continue to believe that we live in a constitutional republic, however, the U.S. military in one of the very few legitimate functions that the federal government performs under the U.S. Constitution.  Rather than starting the discussion about budget cuts with the one department that is actually in the U.S. Constitution, how about talking first about real, immediate cuts to the plethora of departments, agencies, programs and funding that are completely outside of any Constitutional mandate.  Entitlements are the place to start, not the military.

Like Obama, John Huntsman is particularly annoying in this regard.   Worse yet, to hear Huntsman talk about Defense spending, the U.S. can treat it like putting off a leaky roof:  we can put off needed spending for some period of time, hoping that the roof will not collapse, and someday get the repairs done.   As Herschel’s post pointed out, this has been done with shocking frequency since the 1930’s and has always ended in disaster and tragic losses of life.  As night follows day you can rest assured that a major violent international event will follow our budget cuts to defense.  That’s not scaremongering, it is just history.  Sure, we can try ramping up like we did all those other times, but history may be less forgiving this time around.

As this Heritage Foundation paper aptly states, quoting Secretary of Defense Robert Gates:

After each war-driven boom, the defense budget has experienced an extended period of decline. In May 2007, U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates explained:

Five s to times over the past 90 years—after the First and Second World Wars, Korea, Vietnam and most recently after the Cold War— the United States has slashed defense spending or disarmed outright in the mistaken belief that the nature of man or the behavior of nations had changed with the end of each of the wars, or that somehow we would not face threatour homeland or would not need to take a leadership role abroad.[6]

Time and again, policymakers have tended to neglect defense absent immediate, manifest threats to U.S. interests, and Americans and their military personnel have repeatedly paid the price of being less prepared.

Common sense dictates that the Pentagon should take advantage of peacetime lulls to replace damaged or destroyed equipment, to modernize legacy systems, and to purchase next-generation replacements to avoid predictable shortfalls in future force structure. Yet most Administrations have failed to do so.

The Heritage Foundation paper is well worth reading in its entirety and provides valuable citations and data that emphasize the follies of U.S. Defense spending practices for the past 90 years.   The papers leads to the conclusion that the combat forces of the U.S. military are increasingly being hollowed out by decades of short-sighted cuts, binge spending and misallocations, with increasing shares of the budget going toward entitlement-like benefits and mushrooming bureaucracies.

Conclusion

The United States is playing not only with fire but a can of gasoline nearby.  Any one of a dozen international hot spots could ignite in the next years and the combat arms of the military are increasingly made to get by with aging equipment and insufficient numbers of soldiers and marines.   In a bitterly comic twist, Democrats like Obama, who only 3 short years ago were complaining that President Bush was wearing out the U.S. military, are now cutting funds needed to re-build it.   More shocking is that this defense-cutting contagion seems to have spread to conservatives.  We seem to be watching our leaders flinging lighted matches at the gas can with little, apparent alarm.

Gun Ownership Declining in America

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 4 months ago

That’s what Josh Horwitz would have you believe.  Actually, the Huffington Post can’t get their narrative straight.  Five days before publishing Horwitz’ piece they published the narrative that background checks of firearms spiked in 2011 and especially towards the end of the year.  But let’s note that consistency isn’t the stock and trade of the Huffington Post and move on.

While noting that background checks for firearms had increased, Josh points out that “Thousands of background checks each year result in denials” … “Background checks are performed under a number of circumstances that do not involve gun sales, for example, when an individual pawns a weapon and later redeems it” … “In some states, a concealed handgun permit exempts permit holders from having to undergo additional background checks when they purchase new firearms,” and so on the explanation goes.

That these same exceptions and caveats existed prior to 2011 and also effected data from the previous years (assumed to the same extent unless and until proven otherwise) is irrelevant to Josh.  What matters is selling the narrative.  But Josh must have missed the memoranda, and presumably there isn’t really any better witness than firearms dealers.  A sampling (albeit anecdotal) follows.

There has been an increase in both the sale of firearms and in concealed handgun permit requests in Gaston County, North Carolina, in 2011.

In Kernersville, North Carolina, firearms sales were up as much as 15% over the previous year.

At Adventure Outdoors  in the Atlanta suburb of Smyrna, twice as many firearms were sold last month as they did in December of 2010.

In Elkhart, Indiana, Midwest Gun Exchange is seeing a lot of first time families and women becoming involved in the shooting sports and self defense.

In Tucson, Arizona, there are record-setting sales for firearms to women.

At Second Amendment Sports in Bakersfield, California, firearms sales were up 25% from the previous year.

In and around Cleveland, Ohio, local firearms dealers say their sales have been up from anywhere between 20 and 40 percent. A large part of the surge in gun sales has been by women who want to learn how to shoot and defend themselves.

In Fort Worth, Texas, sales of firearms to women have been “through the roof” according to dealers.

In Yakima, Washington, firearms sales climbed by a quarter over the holidays compared to last year.

The Gun Center in Frederick, Maryland, had its best December in 25 years in business — “and not by a little,” owner Bill Kelley said.

At Sharpshooters in Lubbock, Texas, they have seen their handgun sales increase by 10 to 15 percent over the past year.

Sales of firearms to women in Permian Basin, Texas, have doubled.

You see, Josh Horwitz relied on data supplied by the highly biased Violence Policy Center for his analysis.  But he is using the data to attempt to dispute a tidal wave of evidence that the second amendment is alive and well with American citizens.

It isn’t clear what Horwitz is attempting to do with his analysis.  Perhaps he intends to substantiate the constant assertions by his organization and the Brady Campaign that the NRA “owns” the Congress, and always uses scare tactics to convince people to give more and more of their money to the NRA in order to protect the second amendment – that the real threat isn’t gun control advocates, and in fact, there are fewer gun owners in America.  The real threat is the NRA.  Perhaps that’s his aim, although it’s an odd, forced, stilted and uncompelling argument.

Then there are those like me who believe that until recently (in American Rifleman magazine), Wayne LaPierre and Chris Cox have undersold and soft pedaled the message.  They seem to have just recently hit their stride, but this just goes to show that not all of us propagate NRA conspiracy theories or fall prey to them.  Many of us are out ahead of them waiting for them to catch up.  If the NRA is Horwitz’ target, his analysis fails miserably.  If not, then no one knows why he wrote the analysis in the first place.  Besides, if there are fewer and fewer gun owners in America, then there is far less need for gun control laws, another unintended consequence of Horwitz’ argument.

What Defense Cuts Can and Can’t Accomplish

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 4 months ago

Obama has rolled out his plan for defense cuts.  He appeared at the Pentagon with such notables as Generals Odierno and Amos.  This is extremely bad form, and this tactic was used to make it appear that the military agrees with or is setting national defense policy, specifically, the Obama administration policy.  It isn’t the business of the military to agree or disagree with its civilian leadership on national defense policy.

To the point, the revised policy includes things such as a so-called rebalancing towards the Asia-Pacific region.  It also will place higher emphasis on drones and cyberwarfare, and will markedly decrease the size of the Army and Marine Corps.  This shift in policy is supposed to align with an increased concern over saber-rattling by China and increased growth of its military.

There has also been a large amount of posturing over the wasteful spending at the Pentagon.  At Foreign Affairs Lawrence Korb has penned an article entitled Why Panetta’s Pentagon Cuts Are Easier Than You Think.  Any review of my advocacy will show that I have opposed ridiculous programs as well.  I’ve called for the end of the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle and counseled the Marine Corps to focus its energies on forcible entry based on more rapid and aggressive airborne assault (such as with helicopters and V-22 Ospreys).  I have advocated the end of the highly wasteful F-35 program, as well as more F-16s and F-22s (both of which outperform the F-35).  I have advocated against the Army Future Combat Systems, and other wasteful programs.

Furthermore, my own advocacy for the far east has been to cut Japan loose from our umbrella of nuclear protection, as well as for South Korea.  Nothing would slow China’s military advances more than having to worry over a nuclear Japan.  But my advocacy has also been for staying the course in both Iraq and Afghanistan, for strengthening our infantry, both Army and Marines, and for replacing and upgrading infantry equipment.  An entirely new armory of rifles and automatic arms will be needed to replace the aging actions of older firearms in order to keep our infantry well-supplied.  Future policy has also pointed towards a reduction in the number of aircraft carrier groups, while I have argued for steady or increasing carrier availability as one of the most effective elements of force projection.

But this – the current Obama administration actions – is more than re-apportionment and redistribution of resources to ensure wiser spending.  Make no mistake about it.  Approximately one and a half years ago, the CATO institute produced a study entitled Sustainable Defense Task Force, and it wasn’t the only such study.  The unspoken presupposition of these efforts was the need to find money for entitlement spending.  They saw it coming, and they prepared the think tank papers and studies to show that it was necessary.

But Glen Tschirgi has pointed out that entitlements will consume all tax revenues by the year 2049.  Defense cuts won’t do the job.  Mark Steyn has argued that Ron Paul suffers from the same illusion that grips the left.

Like many chaps round these parts, my general line on Ron Paul was that, as much as I think he’s out of his gourd on Iran et al, he performs a useful role in the GOP line-up talking up the virtues of constitutional conservatism. But this Weekly Standard piece by John McCormack suggests Paul is a humbug even on his core domestic turf: The entitlement state is the single biggest deformation to the Founders’ republic, and it downgrades not only America’s finances but its citizenry. Yet Paul has no serious proposal for dealing with it, and indeed promises voters that we won’t have to as long as we cut “overseas spending”.

This is hooey. As I point out in my book, well before the end of this decade interest payments on the debt will consume more of the federal budget than military spending. So you could abolish the Pentagon, sell off the fleet to Beijing and the nukes to Tehran and Khartoum and anybody else who wants ‘em, and we’d still be heading off the cliff. If a candidate isn’t talking about entitlement transformation, he’s unserious.

And, before the Ronulans start jeering “Neocon!”, I part company with many friends on the right who argue that defense spending can’t be cut. I wrote a cover story for NR a couple of months back arguing that the military’s bloated size (and budget) is increasingly an impediment to its effectiveness: When you’re responsible for 43 per cent of global military expenditure, it’s hardly surprising that you start acting like the world’s most lavishly funded transnational-outreach non-profit rather than the sharp end of America’s national interest. In Afghanistan, the problem is not that we haven’t spent enough money but that so much of it has been utterly wasted – and mostly in predictable ways. I am in favor of a leaner, meaner military, with the emphasis on both adjectives.

But Ron Paul, with his breezy indifference to the entitlement question, is peddling the same illusion Obama sold a gullible electorate in 2008 – that, if only America retreats from “Bush’s wars”, life can go on, and we’ll be fat and happy with literally not a care in the world. Big Government parochialism is an appealing fantasy because it suggests America’s fortunes can be restored without pain. But they can’t – and when Ron Paul tells you otherwise he’s talking hogwash.

The illusion is that cuts to defense spending can save our economic system from collapse.  The administration talks of two wars ending, and the wars of the last decades “coming to an end.”  Coming to an end indeed.  While I have argued endlessly for better and smarter logistics, the difficulty facing the logisticians now is getting troops and materiel out of Afghanistan rather than into it.  And with waning political support for the campaign, it would be easy to argue for complete withdrawal, even immediately.  If the campaign won’t be taken seriously and run to its completion with an outcome that we can live with, I argue (herein) for such withdrawal.  America apparently isn’t prepared to encounter militant Islam on our own terms.  Very well.  Then we’ll do it on their terms, and it will be more painful.

The wars of the “last decade” won’t go away.  The enemy gets a vote on our fate fate as well.  And Robert Scales outlines the downside of defense cuts.

Harry Truman seeking to never repeat the costs of World War II reduced the Army from 8 million soldiers to fewer than half a million. Without the intervention of Congress, he would have eliminated the Marine Corps entirely. The result was the evisceration of both land services in Korea, a war Truman never intended to fight.

With Dwight Eisenhower came the “New Look” strategy that sought to reduce the Army and Marine Corps again to allow the creation of a nuclear delivery force built around the Strategic Air Command. Along came Vietnam, a war that Eisenhower, John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson never wanted to fight. But by 1970 our professional Army broke apart and was replaced by a body of amateurs. The result was defeat and 58,000 dead.

After Vietnam, the Nixon administration broke the Army again. I know. I was there to see the drug addiction, murders in the barracks and chronic indiscipline, caused mainly by a dispirited noncommissioned corps that voted with its feet and left. Then came Jimmy Carter’s unique form of neglect that led to the “hollow Army” of the late ’70s, an Army that failed so miserably in its attempt to rescue the American hostages in Iran.

The only exception to this very sad story was the Reagan years, when the land services received enough funding to equip and train themselves to fight so well in Operation Desert Storm. Then tragedy again as the Clinton administration reduced the ground services, intending to rely on “transformation,” a program that paid for more ships and planes by reducing the Army from 16 divisions to 10. In the George W. Bush administration, Donald Rumsfeld continued a policy that sought to exploit information technology to replace the human component in war. Had it not been for the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the Army would have gone down to fewer than eight divisions.

So, here we go again. The Obama administration will reduce its long-service, professional land force to pay for something called “Air Sea Battle,” a strategy that seeks to buy more ships and planes in order to confront China with technology rather than people. This strategy shows a degree of a-historicism that exceeds that of any post-World War II administration. So much for remembering “the lessons of the past.”

I’m in good company in my advocacy for good men and materiel.  Drones are slow and lumbering, and our national fascination with them will come to a timely end when they see service against states that can easily shoot them out of the air (such as recently with Iran).  They are no replacement for the Air Force flying manned fighters, GPS is no real replacement for the ability to read maps and use a compass, red dot optics is no replacement for knowing how to use iron sights, and heavy reliance on logistics is no replacement for training in the ability to use the land for survival.  The human element in warfare cannot be replaced by technology.

From Cato Institute

We will suffer some future hardships from lack of intelligent and wise funding of our military.  Defense cuts can exacerbate those hardships.  But what defense cuts cannot possibly do is be anything other than a very short-lived and dangerous bank account for survival until we deal with what will be the true root cause of our economic demise: the entitlement state.



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