Irrational Christian Bias Against Guns, Violence And Self Defense

Herschel Smith · 22 May 2016 · 34 Comments

Several examples of Christians opposing all violence and means of self defense have been in the news lately, and I can't deal with all such examples.  But three particular examples come to mind, and I first want to show you one example from Mr. Robert Schenck in a ridiculously titled article, Christ or a Glock. "Well, first of all you're making an immediate decision that if someone invades your home, they are going to die," Rev. Schenck replied. "So you are ready to kill another human being…… [read more]

Primer for Studying News Releases on the Japanese Reactor Accidents

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 10 months ago

There is a dearth of quality, technically correct information and commentary on the Japanese reactor accidents occurring at the Fukushima nuclear power plant.  In fact, some of it is downright wrong.  There is no hope of comprehensively reproducing a time line or of surveying all of the available news releases or reports.  I’ll link some very good sites shortly that will assist you in studying the future commentaries and reports.  Just to set the tone, if you are interested in one-and-a-half minute reading and tabloid hysteria, close this web page now.  Go to the tabloids – or most MSM sites – or so-called news television (with their “nuclear expert” du jour).  I won’t purvey hysteria or ignorant analysis.  I’ll begin with things that can’t happen, and phrases and terms to avoid in your reading and viewing.  We’ll move to a quick summary of what we know thus far about the accident(s), and close with an assessment of the consequences of this reactor accident for the future of Japan.

Perhaps the worst tabloid journalism thus far has come from Geraldo Rivera on Foxnews on Sunday evening.  Thousands of souls had been swept into the sea, and Geraldo was discussing how “radiation was like that voodoo stuff – you can’t see it, and that’s what makes it scary!”  The kind of hysteria extends to supposedly smart people like Charles Krauthammer, who said:

It’s a terrible potential. If you get a meltdown, of course, there is a catastrophe for the region.  But also every 20 years we say let’s try again with nuclear energy, it’s clean energy — it doesn’t put stuff into the atmosphere. [Now] if you get a “China Syndrome” as in 1979 … it could put the nuclear [industry] out of business for decades.

The Daily Mail reports that “As fuel rods melt, they form an extremely hot molten pool at the bottom of the reactor that can melt through even the toughest of containment barriers.”  To dispense with the myths, the China Syndrome was a movie.  What happens in the analytical models, and also in actual reactor accidents like Three Mile Island (TMI) Unit 2, is that the corium, that mixture of melted fuel, cladding and other internal reactor components like control rods and guide tubes, forms in some of the channels, further blocking fluid flow.  Eventually in an extreme reactor accident, much of the fuel shatters and becomes rubblized in the lower reactor vessel head.  This is in fact what happened at TMI in large measure, along with some core melting.

It doesn’t require melted fuel to release fission products.  Having written computer codes that model such releases, I can observe that much of the fission products are released in fuel heatup, and most releases occur prior to achieving fuel melt temperature, including most or all of the Noble Gases (Kr, Xe), much of the semi-volatiles (halogens) and some of the alkali metals (e.g., cesium).  Don’t forget this point.  This is important and I’ll come back to this later.

The corium isn’t modeled to melt through the lower vessel head except in the worst accidents where there is no coolant at all.  This isn’t the case for the Fukushima reactors.  Even in the event of complete breach of the lower vessel head, the corium doesn’t under any circumstances achieve melt-through of the lower basemat, which in some U.S. reactors is as much as 12 feet of concrete.  The corium disperses and cools from the dispersal.  There is no such thing as the China syndrome.  That’s just a dumb ass movie.  And reactors also don’t explode like nuclear weapons.  Nuclear radiation isn’t voodoo, and we know how to achieve protection against it.

Now to what we know about the accident.  When the tsunami occurred it disabled the offsite power to the plant.  Emergency diesel generators automatically started, and they functioned for approximately one hour until they shut down due to tsunami-induced damage to their fuel supply.  Power to the control valves in the reactor makeup operated until they lost battery backup.  DC power from batteries was consumed after about eight hours of operation.  The plant sustained a complete blackout (loss of all power), and it was at this point that fuel damage and Zirconium alloy (Zircalloy) – water interactions occurred, i.e., cladding oxidation.  This is an exothermic reaction and produced more heat, adding to the fuel fission product decay (or residual) heat to be removed by the cooling system.  It also produces hydrogen.

During some point in the past several days, hydrogen explosions occurred on Unit 1.  In an attempt to prevent the hydrogen concentration from being above the explosive limit, releases were made from Unit 3.  Ironically, it was likely a valve opening or some other electrical arc that caused the hydrogen explosion that occurred on Unit 3, further damaging not only Unit 3 but apparently also parts of Unit 2.  Any hydrogen explosion that looks like this has already degraded a lot of nuclear fuel.

In spite of Russian experts who wax eloquent about how the world learned from the Chernobyl accident and how we’re better able to handle reactor accidents because of the Russian experience, the Japanese reactor accidents aren’t like Chernobyl, and it isn’t because we learned from the Russian design.  I studied thousands of documents concerning Chernobyl and performed many calculations.  I trained the DOE safety analysis engineers on the nuclear design characteristics of the RBMK-1000 reactor (not as a DOE employee).

The RBMK reactor design was loosely neutronically coupled, and had an overall positive power coefficient.  That is, it was graphite-moderated, and since the water was a neutron poison rather than the moderator, the reactor was “over-moderated.”  This means that upon a loss of coolant, the reactor experienced a power excursion.  It had a positive void coefficient, leading to an increase in reactor power by a factor of 100 in less than 1 second.  Furthermore, its containment structure was little more than a sheet metal “Butler Building.”  The core was in flames and pouring fission products into the atmosphere.  More than 30 souls perished attempting to mitigate the accident, and many more contracted cancer from the releases of radioactivity.

Despite what some of the more “conservative,” pro-nuclear “experts” have said on national TV, the Chernobyl accident was a catastrophe.  I was in training with an engineer from Kiev not too many years ago, and he informed me that residents of Kiev still have to frisk their food with a GM detector and pancake probe prior to eating to ensure that they aren’t ingesting radioactivity.

So why was the RBMK reactor designed this way?  For the production of weapons-grade fissile material.  I have pictures of the Russians performing online refueling operations at the Chernobyl site to remove the weapons material.  The Russians tried to combine commercial nuclear power with weapons production.  The RBMK design is the result.  U.S. reactors are designed by federal code with a negative overall power coefficient (GDC 11), which shuts the reactor down in a loss of coolant or fuel heatup.

The Fukushima reactor accidents aren’t Chernobyl because they have a hard containment design and a negative power coefficient like U.S. reactors.  Unfortunately, that containment design is being breached periodically to release steam from the sea water that is flooding the core, and with the steam releases come radioactivity releases.  As I said before, much of the release of fission products to the containment has likely already occurred (meaning that while it’s important to cool the core, its also the case that sedimentation, washout, plateout and other removal mechanisms are acting on the fission products (including radioactive decay).

We in the U.S. had our core melt event; it was TMI.  There were essentially no releases of radioactivity and thus no health affects due to the hard containment design.  The Fukushima reactor accidents are worse than TMI given the breach of containment, but with the evacuation that has already occurred, the health affects will be minimized.

The main cost now to TEPCO will be the cleanup and decommissioning of the damaged reactors, which likely have rubblized cores sitting in the reactor vessel.  It will take a decade and tens of billions of dollars.  Just as with the Takaimura criticality accident, we will probably see senior company officers bowing before the nation and asking forgiveness.  This will probably spell the end of many careers, and the beginning of much soul searching over design and licensing basis seismic events, flood events and related design criteria.

There are many reports that have incorrect or incomplete information.  The reports on exposure to the 7th fleet is remarkable for its lack of technical detail.  We could perform a dose reconstitution with the available data, but we aren’t given any.  There are incorrect and inconsistent units of radiation being reported, and there are technical facts gotten wrong.  It’s best not to speculate on what we don’t know, and it’s best not to listen to the “experts” on television.

This is a serious reactor accident, one for the books.  Nuclear engineers will be studying this accident for decades to come, and it will affect reactor regulation in both Japan and the U.S.  But the Japanese worked remarkably efficiently to evacuate residents, and thus radiation exposure will be minimized.  This was yeoman’s work given the state of transportation after the tsunami.  The Japanese faced the perfect storm of problems, and they performed admirably.

But what this accident should not do is cause us to jettison the promising future of nuclear power because there might be some cesium uptake in Tuna in the Pacific.  When nuclear workers receive regular body burden analysis to assess the radioactive content in their body, the technician can tell if they are hunters.  “Do you hunt, sir?  Yes, I hunt deer.  Oh, that explains the Cs-137 spike I see.”  The Cs-137 doesn’t come from commercial nuclear reactors.  It comes from fallout from nuclear weapons testing during the 1950s and 1960s.  We’ve been there and done that.  It’s not a problem.

Only tabloid media could take a situation where thousands of souls were swept away in a tsunami and ignore that story for the real drama of a melted core (in which one soul has perished, and that from an industrial accident).  We need to maintain our perspective, and the proper perspective isn’t to have nightmares of melt-throughs to China.  We should leave that to the purveyors of hysteria.

Some good links (I will add to these later):

ANS Nuclear Cafe (for the best coverage and analysis of the Fukushima reactor accidents)

NUREG-1250, “Report on the Accident at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Station.”

EPRI, NSAC-127, “Multidimensional Analysis of the Chernobyl Accident” (if you’re really interested in Chernobyl).

To Act or Not to Act? Libya is the Question

BY Glen Tschirgi
5 years, 10 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.

Amelioration of Battle Space Weight and Women in Combat

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 10 months ago

Do you recall what Tim Lynch said about battle space weight?

Many of their Marines are suffering chronic stress fractures, low back problems as well as hip problems caused by carrying loads in excess of 130 pounds daily.  ”We’re fighting the Mothers of America” said one; if we lose a Marine and he was not wearing everything in the inventory to protect him that becomes the issue.  Trying to explain that we have removed the body armor to reduce the chances of being shot is a losers game because you can’t produce data quantifying the reduction in gun shot wounds for troops who remain alert and are able to move fast due to a lighter load.

Do you recall what I said?

This Marine is carrying his backpack filled with food, hydration system, clothing, etc., and is also carrying ammunition, weapon, body armor, and other equipment.  He is likely going “across the line” at 120 to 130 pounds.  He is suffering in heat and with heavy battle space weight.  For weight lifters like me, let’s put this in terms we can understand.  This is like putting three York 45 pound plates in a backpack and humping it for ten or fifteen miles in 100+ degree Fahrenheit weather.

Battle space weight is a recurring theme at The Captain’s Journal, and will remain so.  Money should be devoted to the weight reduction of SAPI plates in body armor and other low and even high hanging fruit.  The weight of water is decided by God and cannot be altered.

Another salient point bears down on us.  This is why women are not allowed in Marine infantry (or Army Special Forces), and why women suffered an inordinately high number of lower extremity injuries (leading to ineffective Russian units) when they deployed with the Russian Army in their losing campaign in Afghanistan.  Just like God decides the weight of water, He also decides the physiques of men and women.

And NPR weighs in.

Soldiers and Marines in Iraq and Afghanistan routinely carry between 60 and 100 pounds of gear including body armor, weapons and batteries.

The heavy loads shouldered over months of duty contribute to the chronic pain suffered by soldiers like Spc. Joseph Chroniger, who deployed to Iraq in 2007.

Twenty-five years old, he has debilitating pain from a form of degenerative arthritis and bone spurs. “I mean my neck hurts every day. Every day,” he says. “You can’t concentrate on anything but that because it hurts that bad.”

Like many soldiers and Marines, Chroniger shouldered 70 to 80 pounds of gear daily.

A 2001 Army Science Board study recommended that no soldier carry more than 50 pounds for any length of time.

“We were doing three, four, five missions a night sometimes,” Chroniger says. “You’re jumping out. You’re running. I mean it hurts — it hurts.”

Muscle strain is usually a short-term condition that has always been prevalent among soldiers.

But after a decade of war, the number of acute injuries that have progressed to the level of chronic pain has grown significantly.

According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who retired with musculoskeletal conditions grew tenfold between 2003 and 2009.

Col. Stephen Bolt, chief of anesthesia at Madigan Army Medical Center in Tacoma, Wash., says the Army has started deploying physical therapists to serve with some infantry brigades in combat areas.

“The faster you can address some of those issues at the clinic level, the less likely you are to see those injuries progress to a true chronic-pain state that’s going to require them to be evacuated from theater and replaced by someone else,” Bolt says.

But that’s a relatively new concept.

Col. Diane Flynn, chief of pain medicine at Madigan, says chronic pain is complex and challenging for the patient and the physician.

“Primary care providers who provide most of the pain management to patients have had very limited tools in their toolbox,” she says. “And it’s medications for the most part and maybe physical therapy — but very little to offer in addition to that.”

In an effort to provide more options for pain management and lessen the dependence on prescription drugs, the Army is starting to incorporate other forms of treatment including yoga, meditation and acupuncture.

Deploying physical therapists is a great idea.  But the best possible enhancement to warrior recovery hasn’t been floated, i.e., deployment of Chiropractors.  Reduction of battle space weight is one avenue of approach to maintain healthy skeletal and soft tissue systems, but immediate medical amelioration is possibly the best effect for the dollar that could be spent.  Chiropractors are our best bet.

On another front, we find repeated accounts of the duress that our warriors are under due to battle space weight, and this, interestingly enough, at the same time that we see silly and sophomoric advocacy for women in combat roles.  But Former Spook reminds us that:

Almost 20 years ago, columnist Fred Reed published results of an Army study, comparing fitness levels among male and female soldiers. The data reaffirms that most women simply lack the upper body strength and endurance required by an Army infantryman, a Marine rifleman, or most special forces MOS’s.

The average female Army recruit is 4.8 inches shorter, 31.7 pounds lighter, has 37.4 fewer pounds of muscle, and 5.7 more pounds of fat than the average male recruit. She has only 55 percent of the upper-body strength and 72 percent of the lower-body strength… An Army study of 124 men and 186 women done in 1988 found that women are more than twice as likely to suffer leg injuries and nearly five times as likely to suffer fractures as men.

The Commission heard an abundance of expert testimony about the physical differences between men and women that can be summarized as follows:

Women’s aerobic capacity is significantly lower, meaning they cannot carry as much as far as fast as men, and they are more susceptible to fatigue.

In terms of physical capability, the upper five percent of women are at the level of the male median. The average 20-to-30 year-old woman has the same aerobic capacity as a 50 year-old man.

The same report also cited a West Point study from the early 90s which discovered that, in terms of fitness, the upper quintile of female cadets achieved scores equal to the lowest quintile of their male counterparts (emphasis ours).

So, what’s a chief diversity officer supposed to do (don’t laugh–the commission recommends creation of that very post, reporting directly to the SecDef). Water down the standards so more women will qualify for combat service, removing that “barrier” to reaching the flag ranks? Or create some sort of double-standard, allowing females to punch their resumes in the right places and continue their climb to the stars.

Good data and perspective, but he equivocates by saying:

No one disputes the benefits of more flag officers who are women or members of minority groups. But the real emphasis should be on demanding excellence from all who aspire to flag rank, and promoting those who meet–and exceed–a very high bar. Some of the “remedies” outlined in the Lyles report seem closer to social engineering, particularly when you introduce the notions of “measurement” and “metrics.”

So that no one is confused and to ensure that I’m not misinterpreted, and just to make sure that we know that Former Spook is incorrect in this first assertion, let me state unequivocally and without reservation: I do dispute the benefits of more flag officers who are women or members of minority groups.

Note that this is from someone who would vote for a certain black man for president of the U.S. before any white man I know (and my co-blogger agrees).  I see no need to recruit the presumed “brightest” from Ivy League schools, and no one has offered me a compelling reason to believe that the principles of war and strategy and tactics in warfare are a function of race or gender, any more than, say, the sciences or engineering could benefit from a white, black, male or female presence.  Anyone who believes something like that doesn’t understand the sciences or engineering (or warfare).  That kind of thought is reserved for onlookers who want to do social engineering.  It’s for the land of make-believe, the domain of people who spent too much time and money learning from effeminate professors in college classrooms.

And so too the notion that women can handle loads of 120 pounds on ten miles humps when male bodies are breaking down doing it.  Long gone are the notions of winning hearts and minds by driving to the front in vehicles and drinking tea as a means to combat the insurgency.  This is an infantryman’s war, and it means fighting.

Finally, just to make sure that you know the stakes, let me make one thing clear.  If you claim that combat “roles” should be opened up to women but don’t clearly delineated that you mean infantryman (for the Marines that MOS 0311), you are hedging and not being honest.  At least be honest with what you say.  And finally, if you claim that the infantryman MOS should be opened up to women but exclude special operations forces, you are a liar.

Let me make it clear again.  If you want to open the infantryman billet to women but exclude SOF (SEAL, Ranger, Green Beret, Army Combat Diver, Marine Scout Sniper, Force Recon), you are a liar.  You are being disingenuous and dishonest, and it’s not even worth debating you.  You don’t really even believe what you are saying.  You want to believe that infantry is now only part of so-called “general purpose” forces, that they serve only as policemen in our new nation-building paradigm.  Leave it to SOF to do the kinetics.  But you know that this won’t last.  Your paradigm is a pipe dream, and Afghanistan and Iraq have shown that.

So if you care to debate the issue I am open to such a debate.  But let’s be clear that it doesn’t begin at opening “combat roles” to women (whatever combat roles means).  The debate will be an honest one, which means that in order to be consistent and honest, you must advocate that all billets, including SOF, be opened to women.  Otherwise, don’t even bother with the debate.

When Mullahs Misbehave: Iran Smuggles Rockets, U.S. Winks

BY Glen Tschirgi
5 years, 10 months ago

The Telegraph has the story.

British Special Forces in Afghanistan have seized a convoy of powerful Iranian rockets destined for Taliban fighters.

The haul is the strongest evidence yet of a significant escalation in Tehran’s support for the Taliban, military officials said.

The consignment of 48 rockets hidden in three trucks was intercepted last month after a fierce fire fight which left several insurgents dead in the remote southern province of Nimroz, bordering Iran.

Foreign Secretary William Hague said the British ambassador has raised the matter with officials in Tehran.

“I am extremely concerned by the latest evidence that Iran continues to supply the Taliban with weaponry – weapons clearly intended to provide the Taleban with the capability to kill Afghan and ISAF soldiers from significant range,” he said.

“It is not the behaviour of a responsible neighbour. It is at odds with Iran’s claim to the international community and to its own people that it supports stability and security in Afghanistan.”

The 122mm rockets have twice the range and twice the blast radius of the Taliban’s more commonly used 107mm missiles and have not been seen in action against Nato forces for the past four years.

The 48 weapons had been deliberately disguised to appear manufactured elsewhere, but tests by weapons experts had determined they were from an Iranian factory.

So let me make sure that I understand this.  British SAS nab a convoy of three trucks shortly after they cross into Afghanistan from Iran carrying a load of potent rockets for use against U.S. and allied forces.  Last time I checked, Iran does not have wide open borders where any sympathetic, Iranian, Taliban-lover could decide to truck in a load of 122mm rockets on a whim.   The rockets came from the mullahs and their henchmen, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.  No two ways about it.   Yet the article phrases this as, “the strongest evidence yet of a significant escalation in Tehran’s support for the Taliban…”  This is not “evidence” of anything.   It is the proverbial smoking gun.   It is both hands in the cookie jar, crumbs all over the face, cookie sticking out of the mouth.   And, so far, the most strident statement comes from the British Foreign Secretary, to wit: good neighbors do not send 122mm rockets across the border.

Here is an account published in Yahoo News! of the same incident which provides additional details:

The shipment is seen as a serious escalation in Iran’s state support of the Taliban insurgency, according to NATO officials and described in detail by an international intelligence official.

It’s also an escalation in the proxy war Western officials say Iran is waging against U.S. and other Western forces in Afghanistan, as Washington continues to lobby for tougher international sanctions against Tehran to dissuade it from its alleged goal of building nuclear weapons.

Fascinating.  This is a “serious escalation” of Iran’s “proxy war…against U.S. and other Western forces…”  Yes, indeed.  It seems to be accepted that Iran is waging a proxy war against us.  Afterall, the U.S. is not blameless.   We are hurting Iran, lobbying “for tougher international sanctions” that do nothing to stop their nuke program but, on the other hand, no doubt hurt their feelings very much.

The article goes on to note that the Taliban are not happy with the common weapons and ammunition being provided by the mullahs:

In a separate development, the intelligence official said a high-level Afghan Taliban leader had travelled to Iran in the past two weeks to meet with a top Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s Quds Force leader to ask for more powerful weapons to attack Afghan and NATO troops in the spring and summer fighting season.

***

In the alleged meeting with the Quds Force, the Taliban leader is believed to have asked the Iranians to provide more shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missile systems, such as the two Iran provided in 2007, which were used against one British and one U.S. Chinook helicopter, the official said. But Iran has not provided such weapons since, sticking to the smaller 107-millimeter rockets, C4 plastic explosives that have been used in some improvised explosive devices here, rocket-propelled grenades, and small arms like AK47 assault rifles, the official said.

Good to know that the IRG has some limits on what types of weaponry they will and will not furnish for the express purpose of killing Americans.  Of course, we assume that the IRG has not “provided such weapons since…”  How can we know for sure?   Maybe the IRG sent our Afghan commanders a small note:  sorry about those AA missiles, guys.  Just kidding around with you!

What sort of response has this “escalation” earned the regime in Tehran?  (A regime, mind you, that is incomparably more brutal and bloodthirsty than the Libyan regime that Obama recently said had lost its right to rule).

Nothing.

If one our readers can provide a link or quote to an official White House or State Department response to this latest outrage, I will gladly update this post.   I have yet to find one.   This is perfectly consistent with an Administration that, over and over again, is voting “present” on every, major foreign policy issue.

Iranian uprising in 2009?  Sorry, can’t meddle.  Don’t want to be seen intruding on the internal affairs of the bloodthirsty tyrants in Tehran.

Overthrow of autocracy in Tunisia?  Missed that one.  Sorry.  Busy getting a Slurpee or something.

Riots in Egypt?  Well, um, some of us think Mubarak is a swell guy and others think he has to go, but not yet, eventually, maybe, and probably soon if it looks like the protesters are actually going to succeed.

Revolt in Libya?  We’re thinking….long and hard.  Yes, Qaddafi should step down, but we are not prepared to help in any meaningful way, regardless of the slaughter.

Pathetic.

And here we have the latest outrage from the Dictators in Tehran, caught red-handed providing rockets to the Taliban (and entertaining Taliban officials with weapons shopping lists) and the Administration has no response.

But cheer up.  Our recently-demoted to second-class-ally-status Brits are going to have a word with the Iranian ambassador.  Terrific.

How much lower can we sink?

The Difficulty of Afghanistan

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 10 months ago

C. J. Chivers gives us a rundown of the current state of affairs in Afghanistan, and the money quotes follow.

Officially, Mr. Obama’s Afghan buildup shows signs of success, demonstrating both American military capabilities and the revival of a campaign that had been neglected for years. But in the rank and file, there has been little triumphalism as the administration’s plan has crested.

With the spring thaw approaching, officers and enlisted troops alike say they anticipate another bloody year. And as so-called surge units complete their tours, to be replaced by fresh battalions, many soldiers, now seasoned with Afghan experience, express doubts about the prospects of the larger campaign.

The United States military has the manpower and, thus far, the money to occupy the ground that its commanders order it to hold. But common questions in the field include these: Now what? How does the Pentagon translate presence into lasting success?

The answers reveal uncertainty. “You can keep trying all different kinds of tactics,” said one American colonel outside of this province. “We know how to do that. But if the strategic level isn’t working, you do end up wondering: How much does it matter? And how does this end?”

The strategic vision, roughly, is that American units are trying to diminish the Taliban’s sway over important areas while expanding and coaching Afghan government forces, to which these areas will be turned over in time.

But the colonel, a commander who asked that his name be withheld to protect him from retaliation, referred to “the great disconnect,” the gulf between the intense efforts of American small units at the tactical level and larger strategic trends.

The Taliban and the groups it collaborates with remain deeply rooted; the Afghan military and police remain lackluster and given to widespread drug use; the country’s borders remain porous; Kabul Bank, which processes government salaries, is wormy with fraud, and President Hamid Karzai’s government, by almost all accounts, remains weak, corrupt and erratically led.

And the Pakistani frontier remains a Taliban safe haven.

I agree with Chivers’ assessment that the U.S. has the troops to hold the ground that the commanders order it to hold.  But as Chivers points out earlier in the article:

In and near places like this village in Ghazni Province, American units have pushed their counterinsurgency doctrine and rules for waging war into freshly contested areas of rural Afghanistan  — even as their senior officers have decided to back out of other remote areas, like the Pech, Korangal and Nuristan valleys, once deemed priorities. In doing so, American infantry units have expanded a military footprint over lightly populated terrain from the Helmand and Arghandab River basins to the borders of the former Soviet Union, where the Taliban had been weak.

As readers will recall, abandoning the Pech Valley is problematic, and thus I have observed:

Here is a tip for future reading, study and, well, let’s be frank – wading through the misdirects that both the MSM and military PR sends your way.  When you hear the reflexive, tired, worn out mantra that we are having difficulty defeating the Taliban and those forces aligned with AQ because Pakistan simply won’t go into their safe havens and root them out, this is a nothing but a magic trick, a sleight of hand, a smoke screen, a ruse.  The issue is fake.  It’s a well-designed farce.

Oh, to be sure, the U.S. would indeed like for the Pakistanis to go kill all of the Taliban, Tehrik-i-Taliban and AQ affiliated groups so that we don’t have to deal with them in Afghanistan.  But we have the ideal chance to address the problem head on in the Pech Valley and other areas near the AfPak border – that Durand line that exists only as a figment of our imaginations.  Essentially, much of the Hindu Kush is available for us to do the same thing we want Pakistan to do …

Note Chivers’ observation that the borders remain porous and that the Taliban still have safe haven.  Thus, while U.S. troops can clear areas and hold them, commanders note that the Taliban are beginning to return to Sangin.  The U.S. has enough troops to hold Sangin, but not enough to press the insurgency into their safe havens, find them and kill them.  We have intentionally and knowingly opted out of chasing them into their safe havens.  So the U.S. doesn’t have enough troops to do anything except play “whack-a-mole” counterinsurgency.

While U.S. troops maintain their tactical superiority over the insurgency, that’s not the same thing as a strategically cogent and compelling plan.  We are holding terrain, some terrain – some physical terrain and some human terrain – and relinquishing other terrain.  The insurgency is being squeezed from one place to another.

Recall that someone else discussed this as well?  Take a few minutes and listen again to this interview of Lt. Col. Allen West (Ret) as he discusses the various options and why holding terrain won’t work.  Tactical superiority and strategic malaise.  Same as it’s always been in Afghanistan.  And finally, our campaign is a model of the one conceived in Army Field Manual FM 3-24.  This is expensive, long term, protracted duration nation-building by-the-book in the most logistically unsustainable and overall worst place on earth.

Can it succeed?

Connecting the Dots: The Muslim Brotherhood And Middle East Unrest

BY Glen Tschirgi
5 years, 10 months ago

A TCJ reader, “Dave,” wrote an excellent comment to a post not too long ago on the unrest in Egypt and the lack of response by the U.S.   He links to an article by Barry Rubin of the Global Research in International Affairs Center (aka GLORIA Center) that was first published on October 9, 2010.

This comment is so striking and important that I believe it needs to be highlighted as a separate post.  When you consider that Rubin’s article was written months before any of the arab uprisings, it sounds almost prophetic and deserves to be quoted at considerable length.  Reporting on a sermon delivered on September 30, 2010 by the supreme leader of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) in Egypt, Rubin states:

This is one of those obscure  Middle East events of the utmost significance that is ignored by the Western mass media, especially because they happen in Arabic, not English; by Western governments, because they don’t fit their policies; and by experts, because they don’t mesh with their preconceptions.

This explicit formulation of a revolutionary program makes it a game-changer. It should be read by every Western decision maker and have a direct effect on policy because this development may affect people’s lives in every Western country.

OK, cnough of a build-up? Well, it isn’t exaggerated. So don’t think the next sentence is an anticlimax. Here we go: The leader of the Muslim Brotherhood has endorsed (Arabic) (English translation by MEMRI) anti-American Jihad and pretty much every element in the al-Qaida ideology book. Since the Brotherhood is the main opposition force in Egypt and Jordan as well as the most powerful group, both politically and religiously, in the Muslim communities of Europe and North America this is pretty serious stuff.

By the way, no one can argue that he merely represents old, tired policies of the distant past because the supreme guide who said these things was elected just a few months ago. His position reflects current thinking.

Does that mean the Egyptian, Jordanian, and all the camouflaged Muslim Brotherhood fronts in Europe and North America are going to launch terrorism as one of their affiliates, Hamas, has long done? No.

But it does mean that something awaited for decades has happened: the Muslim Brotherhood is ready to move from the era of propaganda and base-building to one of revolutionary action. At least, its hundreds of thousands of followers are being given that signal. Some of them will engage in terrorist violence as individuals or forming splinter groups; others will redouble their efforts to seize control of their countries and turn them into safe areas for terrorists and instruments for war on the West.

When the extreme and arguably marginal British Muslim cleric Anjem Choudary says that Islam will conquer the West and raise its flag over the White House, that can be treated as wild rhetoric. His remark is getting lots of attention because he said it in English in an interview with CNN. Who cares what he says?

But when the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood says the same thing in Arabic, that’s a program for action, a call to arms for hundreds of thousands of people, and a national security threat to every Western country.

The Brotherhood is the group that often dominates Muslim communities in the West and runs mosques. Its cadre control front groups that are often recognized by Western democratic governments and media as authoritative. Government officials in many countries meet with these groups, ask them to be advisers for counter-terrorist strategies and national policies, and even fund them.

President Barack Obama speaks about a conflict limited solely to al-Qaida. And if one is talking about the current military battle in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Yemen that point makes sense. Yet there is a far bigger and wider battle going on in which revolutionary Islamists seek to overthrow their own rulers and wage long-term, full-scale struggle against the West. If it doesn’t involve violence right now it will when they get strong enough or gain power.

More than three years ago, I warned about this development, in a detailed analysis explaining, “The banner of the Islamist revolution in the Middle East today has largely passed to groups sponsored by or derived from the Muslim Brotherhood.” I pointed out the differences-especially of tactical importance-between the Brotherhood groups and al-Qaida or Hizballah, but also discussed the similarities. This exposure so upset the Brotherhood that it put a detailed response on its official website to deny my analysis.

Yet now here is the Brotherhood’s new supreme guide, Muhammad Badi giving a sermon entitled, “How Islam Confronts the Oppression and Tyranny,” translated by MEMRI. Incidentally, everything Badi says is in tune with the stances and holy books of normative Islam. It is not the only possible interpretation but it is a completely legitimate interpretation. Every Muslim knows, even if he disagrees with the Brotherhood’s position, that this isn’t heresy or hijacking or misunderstanding.

Maybe it is just coincidence and it may be an over-estimation of the MB’s reach and influence to view the spate of uprisings in the Middle East as a carefully calculated stratagem, but it takes no imagination whatsoever to see that:  1) the MB felt sufficiently confident by October 2010 in plainly and openly stating their call for war against the West and any muslim regime that cooperated with the West, and;  2)  consistent with that declaration, the MB has quickly and effectively pounced upon the enormous opportunities afforded by the unrest and is systematically seeking to turn that unrest to their advantage.

One evidence of this is brought to light in another article by Barry Rubin on the MB’s campaign, post-Mubarak, to take over the clerical leadership in Egypt.

This is of gigantic importance (see if anyone else covers it). MEMRI has pointed out the opening of a Muslim Brotherhood campaign to replace Egypt’s current clerical hierarchy with its own people. If that happens…you can imagine. Once Islamists are in place making the “official” decisions on what constitutes proper Islam, an Islamist state cannot be far away.

Let me explain the background briefly. Knowing that control over Islam was vital to maintaining control of the country, the Egyptian regime (like nationalist regimes elsewhere) set out to build a systematic structure for doing so. The head of the al-Azhar Islamic university, the chief qadi, the clerics of different mosques, are government-appointed. Sermons are government-approved. A ministry in charge of awqaf (religious foundations) and religion supervises all of this and hands out the money. And the government also decides which clerics appear on television and radio, or even have their own programs.

Over the last decade or so, the “official” clerics have been radicalized, and they support terrorism against Israel. Yet there is still a huge gap between those who accepted the rule by Mubarak’s regime and those who demand an Islamist regime. They hate the Brotherhood and the Brotherhood hates them.

Now, if all of these official clerics are declared to be corrupt instruments of the old regime and are thrown out of office, the Brotherhood will control “Islam” in Egypt. Equally important, they will control a vast amount of patronage and money. Every cleric will have to get along with them or be unemployed. They could authorize which mosques could open. They would control religious education.

The MB-affiliated cleric, Muhammad Zoghbi, is quoted in the MEMRI translation of his February 15, 2011 television appearance as calling on the leaders of Al-Azhar University as well as the mufti of Egypt to resign.

Al-Azhar was subjected to a dangerous scheme, which was intended to shatter it and bring it down. This scheme consisted of three aspects: First, the politicization of the positions of the sheikh of Al-Azhar and the mufti of Egypt, as well as the position of the minister of religious endowments. These positions must be filled through elections. By no means should these officials be appointed by the president. Why? Because this politicization has led the people to lose their trust in Al-Azhar and its sheiks. […]

“Therefore I say to the ‘sons’ of Al-Azhar: Let us all join the campaign, led by Sheik Khaled Al-Gindi, until we liberate Al-Azhar, just like Egypt was liberated. The liberation of Al-Azhar is even better than the liberation of Egypt, because while Egypt is the mother of the Arab region, Al-Azhar is the mother of all the Muslims on planet Earth. If Al-Azhar gets back on its feet, the entire nation will be back on its feet, and if Al-Azhar is back on track, the entire nation will be back on track. The president of Egypt must be subordinate to Al-Azhar and respect it. […]

This has the eerie feeling that we have been here before.   1979 in Iran, perhaps?  This is the very same pattern:  de-legitimize the current religious leadership as being too connected and tainted by the old regime, then call for the appointment of new leadership subject to your own choosing.  Finally, make it clear that the political leadership, “must be subordinate to Al-Azhar and respect it.”  As Rubin notes, the real levers of power in Egypt can then transfer to the religious clerics.   If the Muslim Brotherhood can control these levers then they will be in position to dictate the shape and make-up of power in Egypt just as the mad mullahs did in Iran.

What about Libya?   The infamous cleric, Sheikh Qaradawi, has reportedly issued a fatwa that Gaddafi be killed.  The MB has been present in Libya since at least the 1950’s, at first openly and later, under Gaddafi, as a banned group operating covertly.  It stands to reason that the fall of Gaddafi would present a huge opportunity for the MB to expand its influence there.

What lessons can we draw here?

Surely one is that the U.S. cannot play defense in its foreign policy, by merely propping up friendly authoritarians.  When we line up on the side of dictators and thugs, we are sending a very clear message to people oppressed with our support that the U.S. talk of human rights and freedom is only so much hot air.  This, in turn, gives ample ammunition to groups like the MB who can effectively argue that their version of Islam is the only, true solution.  The U.S. has effectively ceded the playing field, so to speak, to the enemy.  Not only that but the U.S. has effectively given up– to continue the sports metaphor– developing any kind of farm system where we can have influence in developing future leaders who can puncture the lies of the Islamists.   We find ourselves with no, real options in Egypt for the precise reason that we never seriously and strategically pursued democratic formation in these countries.  We have, shamefully, left the Egyptian people with no one to turn to except the MB.

Another lesson is the importance of long-term, strategic thinking.   Note the striking difference between how the MB plays the game and how the U.S. has played it.   The MB was founded in 1928 with a clear purpose and objective to take power in Egypt and, from there, to re-establish theocratic Islamic states throughout the Middle East.   The MB has shown incredible patience and cunning, adopting conciliatory postures when they were weak or faced overwhelming opposition, but taking advantage of opportunities when available.  For over 75 years, the MB has been building its organization and extending its tentacles in Egypt.  And not only Egypt but throughout the Middle East by providing the ideological support (and perhaps logistical support) for groups like Hamas and opposition groups in Lebanon, Jordan and Syria.   The U.S., by contrast, has no, obvious, long-term strategy in the region.   In fact, our policy, to the extent that we have one is neglect (at best) and, as practiced by the Obama Administration, a positive refusal to “interfere” in the affairs of any Middle East nation, even the worst such as Iran and Syria.   No, we go out of our way to extend a hand to them.   Surely the Islamofascists must be laughing their turbans off in amazement.

In fact, there is a clear note of triumphalism in Badi’s September 30, 2010 sermon (as translated by MEMRI):

Resistance is the only solution…. The United States cannot impose an agreement upon the Palestinians, despite all the means and power at its disposal. [Today] it is withdrawing from Iraq, defeated and wounded, and it is also on the verge of withdrawing from Afghanistan. [All] its warplanes, missiles and modern military technology were defeated by the will of the peoples, as long as [these peoples] insisted on resistance – and the wars of Lebanon and Gaza, which were not so long ago, [are proof of this].

The Administration’s conciliatory gestures and haste to exit Iraq and Afghanistan simply embolden the enemies of freedom and convince them to redouble their efforts.  Worse, there is every indication that the Administration has no clue what it is doing and simply bounces around from event to event, reacting and recalculating its position with every new day and every news cycle.

Everyone should be closely watching events in Egypt, Libya and elsewhere in the Middle East for signs that the Muslim Brotherhood is actively instigation or, at least, co-opting the unrest to its advantage.  One pattern that may be emerging is that the protests seem to be fiercest in those countries that have governments which cooperate to some degree with the war on terror.   Egypt, Jordan, Bahrain, Yemen.   All of these states have cooperated to one degree or another with the West in the war against Islamic terrorism or have not actively encouraged jihad against the West.   In the case of Libya, it may be a case of sheer luck for the MB which they are now seeking to fully exploit.   In any case, Qaddafi has been no friend to the MB.  Watch for Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states to be hit with “spontaneous” unrest in the next weeks or months.

Conversely, we have not seen the same sort of protests in Syria which is as autocratic as any Arab state.   The MB has a significant, if low profile, presence there as well.  But the Syrian regime fully supports the aims and methods of the MB, so any uprisings there, if my theory holds true, would be short-lived and anemic.

If the Brotherhood can seize power in any of these nations, the Long War is going to get very ugly, very quickly.

Afghan Prison An Insurgent Breeding Ground

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 10 months ago

From The Washington Post:

For six years, the Afghan government has held Abdul Jabar behind bars, separated from his father, a former Taliban judge, and his seven brothers, all Taliban fighters.

Being locked up for kidnapping, however, has not dulled Jabar’s love for the insurgents or hatred of the Afghan government. With so many Taliban supporters in Afghanistan’s largest prison, Jabar feels right at home.

“All of the prisoners support the Taliban. I also support the Taliban,” the 28-year-old said in a jailhouse interview inside Pol-e-Charki prison, on the outskirts of Kabul. “They will win the war in Afghanistan.”

The problems at Pol-e-Charki, with its 5,000 prisoners, point to a weakness in the American approach to detention in Afghanistan. Among those housed in Pol-e-Charki are hundreds of suspected insurgents captured by the United States and transferred to Afghan authority because an American-run prison, with a capacity of 1,350, has long been filled to capacity.

Support for the Taliban is almost universal in Pol-e-Charki prison, the largest in Afghanistan, inmates said in interviews. Inmates and Afghan officials describe the prison as a breeding ground for the insurgency, with prisoners maintaining close and regular contact with comrades outside. Last week, Afghan intelligence officials said that a 45-year-old prisoner, Talib Jan, had orchestrated the deadly bombing of a Kabul grocery store from his prison cell.

American military officials say they want to keep in custody the inmates deemed most dangerous and those who are thought to possess valuable intelligence. To address the problem, the United States is nearing completion of a project that will double to about 2,600 the number of beds at the American-run Parwan Detention Center, formerly known as Bagram prison.

But with U.S. Special Operations Forces capturing scores of prisoners each week in aggressive nighttime raids, the United States for now must choose between releasing many prisoners after a few hours and handing over others to Afghan authorities, despite what current and former Afghan officials say are real reasons for concern about the security and effectiveness of Pol-e-Charki.

Of the 3,000 people detained by the coalition between August and January, 32 percent were transferred to Afghan authorities for detention in facilities including Pol-e-Charki, and 4 percent went to the U.S.-run prison. More than half were released in the initial screening period.

“We are not de-Talibanizing them,” Afghanistan’s former intelligence chief, Amrullah Saleh, said in a recent interview about Pol-e-Charki. “We are further radicalizing them. We are giving them control of the prison.”

U.S. officials acknowledged the problems at Pol-e-Charki but said the facility used to be worse. Earlier in the war, the prison had a wing “completely controlled” by the Taliban, where guards could not enter and left food at the door, said a U.S. official in Kabul who works on prison issues. Inside, the Taliban trained and ran a madrassa.

As we have discussed before, to believe that imprisonment is assisting in the fight against the insurgency one must believe that prisons perform a rehabilitative role, and not only is there really no prima facie reason to propose such an idea, I see no evidence of it in the history of insurgencies and counterinsurgency operations.

For my doubters.  Name me one insurgency which was defeated or even weakened by imprisonment (and no, don’t include the only example that comes to mind for you, Iraq, until you study previous posts on this issue).  In your mind, travel the world from Malaya to Algeria.  Why did this RAND study not include the word “prison” even once in 311 pages?  Same for most other studies on the Algerian insurgency.

Not only are prisons not performing a rehabilitative role in Afghanistan, they are making the problem worse.  I had previously observed that the 96-hour-catch-and-release program means that insurgents get back home before the week is out, making “detainment” irrelevant except to piss off the persons who have been detained.

Kill them or let them go (and preferably, kill them), but sending them to a catch-and-release program, or to be further radicalized, is counterproductive and wasteful of military resources.  And it keeps special operations forces troopers busy rounding up folks to be radicalized and released.  It doesn’t work to cut the head off of the insurgency.  Followers will always find leaders if they want to be led.  It must be marginalized from the bottom up by military operations.  It must be costly enough that the no one wants to follow the Taliban leaders anymore.  When leaders don’t have followers, the insurgency is over.

I have said it before, and will say it again.  Prisons … do … not … work … in … counterinsurgency.  In my daily digest of information, when I see entries like “Six Taliban fighters killed in Sangin,” or “Four Taliban killed in Pech Valley,” that’s meaningful.  When I see entries that contain the words “Taliban fighters detained …,” I summarily ignore them.  Not only does it not add anything to the campaign, it detracts from it and obfuscates what’s really important.  This simple rule helps me to avoid reading most of the ISAF entries on military operations in Afghanistan.

Prior:

Prisons Do Not Work In Counterinsurgency

Hamid Kzrzai: Defeater of the High Value Target Program

The Ineffectiveness of Prisons in Counterinsurgency

Jirgas and the Release of Taliban Prisoners

Prisons in Afghanistan

Prisons in Counterinsurgency

Population-Centric Counterinsurgency: Abandoning the Pech Valley Part III

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 10 months ago

The ISAF has released a statement on “repositioning” troops from the Pech Valley:

Coalition forces are repositioning from the Pech Valley to locations along Highway 7 to block insurgent infiltration along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

“Afghan forces will take the lead in the Pech Valley,” said German Army Gen. Josef Blotz, spokesman, International Security Assistance Force Headquarters, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, during a weekly update.

Repositioning forces is a normal task for military operations as new strategies and counter-strategies are enacted to win the war. The repositioning of coalition forces also shows an increase in the abilities of Afghan National Security Forces.

“Afghan Security Forces are able to take responsibility of Pech Valley,” Blotz continued. “This is testimony to our confidence.” Blotz highlighted that while the numbers of ANSF have increased, their skill and abilities have also improved.

C. J. Chivers also discusses this at The New York Times.

After years of fighting for control of a prominent valley in the rugged mountains of eastern Afghanistan, the United States military has begun to pull back most of its forces from ground it once insisted was central to the campaign against the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

The withdrawal from the Pech Valley, a remote region in Kunar Province, formally began on Feb. 15. The military projects that it will last about two months, part of a shift of Western forces to the province’s more populated areas. Afghan units will remain in the valley, a test of their military readiness.

While American officials say the withdrawal matches the latest counterinsurgency doctrine’s emphasis on protecting Afghan civilians, Afghan officials worry that the shift of troops amounts to an abandonment of territory where multiple insurgent groups are well established, an area that Afghans fear they may not be ready to defend on their own.

And it is an emotional issue for American troops, who fear that their service and sacrifices could be squandered. At least 103 American soldiers have died in or near the valley’s maze of steep gullies and soaring peaks, according to a count by The New York Times, and many times more have been wounded, often severely.

Military officials say they are sensitive to those perceptions. “People say, ‘You are coming out of the Pech’; I prefer to look at it as realigning to provide better security for the Afghan people,” said Maj. Gen. John F. Campbell, the commander for eastern Afghanistan. “I don’t want the impression we’re abandoning the Pech.”

Abandoning the Pech?  Who said anything about abandoning the Pech?  This is just a “repositioning” of assets.  But wait.  The ANSF, despite the high praise from the ISAF, doubts their ability to hold the Pech.  They don’t appear too keen on the idea of going it alone in the Pech River Valley, and they shouldn’t be after watching the Taliban go after the outposts in Eastern Afghanistan such as at Wanat and Kamdesh.

They probably know that as soon as they are alone in the Pech, the Haqqani network will mass forces up to 200 or 300 fighters to go against the ANSF, and while the U.S. troops weren’t overrun at Wanat and Kamdesh, the ANSF will be in short order.  After all, we have seen what they do when left alone in large scale, high stakes, high profile operations.

And then there will be the investigations, maybe beginning something like this:

Flag officer A: So did we abandon the Pech Valley?

Flag Officer B: No sir, we repositioned to large population centers so that our operations comport with the doctrines of population-centric COIN.

Flag Officer A: So there isn’t any population in the Pech Valley?

Flag Officer B: Not nearly like in Kandahar, Jalalabad or Kabul.

Flag Officer A: So why did we leave the ANSF there if the population isn’t there?

Flag Officer B: Well, we thought it might be important to consider the fact that the insurgency would have safe haven in Pech and all along the Hindu Kush if we didn’t have troops there, and so we decided to …

Flag Officer A, interrupting: What do you mean insurgency and safe haven?  I thought you said the doctrines of population-centric counterinsurgency informed your judgment?  What difference does it make about the fighters if we protect the population?  Isn’t that our doctrine now?

Flag Officer B: Well, yes sir, but … um … you see, we thought that, um …

And I would love to be a fly on the wall for the rest of that conversation.  Can we put it on YouTube?

Prior:

Korengal Abandoned, Pech River Valley Still Problematic

Abandoning the Pech Valley

Abandoning the Pech Valley Part II

Obama’s Thin Foreign Policy Gruel: The Taste of Ron Paul Isolationism?

BY Glen Tschirgi
5 years, 10 months ago

A good opinion piece by Rick Richman in Commentary lays out the abysmal performance of the Obama Administration in foreign policy.

Richman criticizes Obama for, essentially, taking a passive approach to foreign policy, particularly events in the Middle East of late:

In one sense, Barack Obama is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. Famous for his eloquence, he has nothing to say about world historical events, emerging after a week in the latest one to announce he instructed his administration to provide “options.”  Elected as a clarion for change, he issues a let-me-be-clear statement that the United States has had nothing to do with change sweeping the Middle East. A prior Democratic president wanted every nation to know we would bear any burden to assure the success of liberty in the world; the current president can hardly bear the burden of speaking up about it.

It is a portrait of a president who wants nothing to do with foreign affairs if he can help it. He will stay silent unless forced to say something and do only what the world agrees to do with “one voice.” He appeases adversaries (giving China a pass on human rights, Russia a reset, Iran an outstretched hand, and Syria an ambassador) in the hope the world will leave him alone while he concentrates on domestic affairs, where his real enthusiasms lie.

In this sense, Obama is not a mystery but the logical extension of George McGovern’s “Come home, America” theme in his 1972 presidential campaign and John Kerry’s “Let America Be America Again” one in 2004. They sought to throw off wars in Vietnam and Iraq to concentrate on domestic issues, asserting that using American power to advance freedom abroad was a mistake.

An opinion piece in The New York Post by Michael A. Walsh looks back, after more than two years, at the famous campaign ad by Hillary Clinton about taking the 3 a.m. phone call in the White House.   Walsh sums up the dangers of a foreign policy adrift in an ocean of neglect and incompetence:

Once again, President “Present” has signally failed to lead, preferring instead to hide behind a fog of “consultations with allies.” True, on Saturday he finally — in a phone call to German Chancellor Angela Merkel – called for Khadafy to step down, and also took diplomatic action against the beleaguered regime, issuing an executive order that blocks property and other transactions.

Insiders say that Obama hesitated to take a public stand against the doomed dictator for fear that US diplomats might be taken hostage. But a great power can’t conduct a robust foreign policy in fear; that way lies the path of Jimmy Carter, whom Obama is coming more and more to resemble. As Christopher Hitchens pointed out recently, America is starting to look like Switzerland in its international irrelevance. Is that what Obama meant by “fundamental change”?

There are only two explanations. Either the White House, Langley and Foggy Bottom really are staffed by blithering incompetents, hopelessly out of their depth and unable to deal with the rapid pace of developments, or Obama is doing exactly what he wants to do — which is basically nothing.

So now we know where Obama is at 3 a.m. A pretty speech here, a basketball game there, another round of golf, another costly vacation and the endless whirl of White House parties take a lot out of a guy.

The easy thing to do here would be to add a few lines about what a miserable and dangerous presidency we are enduring.  Even the usual media lapdogs for Obama are having a hard time spinning his latest antics.

Does this remind you of anyone?

The more troublesome aspect of all this is not what it says about Obama–  he is by now a known quantity.  The real concern is that these policies by Obama and his Administration seem to be eerily similar to the neo-isolationism brewing in the conservative movement.  To take but one example of this, here is Ron Paul, in his own words, in a piece he penned at Foreign Policy.Com on August 27, 2010:

As many frustrated Americans who have joined the Tea Party realize, we cannot stand against big government at home while supporting it abroad. We cannot talk about fiscal responsibility while spending trillions on occupying and bullying the rest of the world. We cannot talk about the budget deficit and spiraling domestic spending without looking at the costs of maintaining an American empire of more than 700 military bases in more than 120 foreign countries. We cannot pat ourselves on the back for cutting a few thousand dollars from a nature preserve or an inner-city swimming pool at home while turning a blind eye to a Pentagon budget that nearly equals those of the rest of the world combined.

Our foreign policy is based on an illusion: that we are actually paying for it. What we are doing is borrowing and printing money to maintain our presence overseas. Americans are seeing the cost of this irresponsible approach as their own communities crumble and our economic decline continues.

I see tremendous opportunities for movements like the Tea Party to prosper by capitalizing on the Democrats’ broken promises to overturn the George W. Bush administration’s civil liberties abuses and end the disastrous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. A return to the traditional U.S. foreign policy of active private engagement but government noninterventionism is the only alternative that can restore our moral and fiscal health. I am optimistic, and our numbers are increasing!

Note that this is almost the entire piece.  Leave aside its disjointed and somewhat illogical style.  What is Paul essentially saying? The U.S. is “occupying and bullying the rest of the world” and “maintaining an American empire.”   He decries a military budget that “nearly equals those of the rest of the world combined.”   He makes the absurd claim that all of the money that goes toward the military is borrowed money that could be better spent to keep our communities from “crumb[ling].”  Iraq and Afghanistan have been “disastrous” (though he fails to state how or why) and, lastly, he advocates a “return to the traditional foreign policy of active private engagement but government nonintervention…”

This is not just the view of Ron Paul, but the view of other, so-called conservatives like Pat Buchanan and others.

These statements reek of the kind of anti-Americanism that sees our involvement overseas as unmitigated evil; ignore the very real dangers posed to these United States by China, Russia, Iran and a host of non-state terror groups, and; see disaster everywhere we step foot outside of our borders.

In short, this is the very type of thinking that Obama wholeheartedly embraces.

Conservatives need to give careful thought here.  However attractive it may be to espouse a philosophy that seeks to return to the 18th century and withdraw into our own, self-satisfied cocoon, it is no different than the temptation to just stay in bed all day and believe that the bills will nevertheless get paid, the house kept up, the kids fed and the job done.  It is a fantasy and one that American cannot afford to indulge.   As the pieces by Richman and Walsh point out, we have witnessed over two years of foreign policy gaffes, blunders, miscalculations, betrayals and wishful thinking.   We are reaping the bitter fruit of seeds sown in those two years and will continue to reap, I fear, for many years to come.

If any conservative finds the foreign policy of Obama to be repugnant and dangerous they should know with a certainty that it is no different than the kind prescribed by neo-isolationists like Ron Paul.  Lest anyone think that neo-isoloationism is a fringe of conservatism, consider that Ron Paul was given a prominent speaking role at the Tea Party rally in Washington, D.C.  on April 15, 2010.   I was there for that.   He also spoke at CPAC just a few weeks ago to the delight of ardent supporters.

This childish view of foreign policy must be dispensed with.  It will be no less disastrous in the hands of a Republican president (should we be so fortunate) than it has been with Obama.  Worse yet, if the neo-isolationists  persist in this thinking there is every chance that the conservative vote will be split badly in 2012, ensuring Obama’s re-election.

America cannot afford Obama in 2012 and she cannot afford neo-isolationist thinking under any, other banner.

McChrystal, SOF Raids and Now Zad

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 11 months ago

Tim Lynch weighs in on insurgent networks:

Nothing will sour the morale of combat troops faster then the realization that the commander at the top receives frequent visits from the Good Idea Fairy.   Which is a good start point for explaining why  General Stanley A McChrystal took to the pages of Foreign Policy last week to explain the unexplainable.  The story starts with McChrystal’s observation that the SF tier 1 guys found al Qaeda difficult to collect, fix and target because they were so decentralized.  So McChrystal made up his  own “network” and his centralized, vertically integrated, fixed chain of command network beat the AQI with their horizontally integrated decentralized chain of command.  I’m not buying that about Iraq but the focus of the article was how this genius system was implemented in Afghanistan by the regular military and what do you know the “mo better” network has since delivered us the current spate of good news about the Taliban getting tired of fighting.

The article linked above and all the other recent reports stress that the rift between the Taliban fighters and their leaders who are safely ensconced in Pakistan stems from the losses being inflicted on them in the Helmand and Kandahar Provinces.  The pressure being brought to bear on the fighting Taliban has very little (if anything) to do with the nighttime high speed low drag tier 1 special forces raids designed to “decapitate” Taliban leadership.  The whole decapitation strategy is suspect as numerous observers have noted over these many years of SOF raiding and I ask again if somehow a military adversary managed to “decapitate” our leadership would we be weaker or stronger? …

HVT raids do produce results but it seems to me that what has brought the fighting Taliban to their knees is hard fighting infantry who have moved in with the people and deprived the villains of maneuver room while killing ever increasing numbers of them using ROE completly different from the horseshit inflicted on them by McChrystal.

So let’s talk about this for a few minutes.  Just occasionally we are enriched by someone who has both location and smarts – or shall we say, good judgment.  Nir Rosen, who was always and remains a jerk, had location.  He was also embedded with the Taliban.  I wasn’t impressed, and said so.  I thought he was a jerk then, and I was proven right. Whether I have good judgment is up to my readers, but I certainly don’t have location.  Michael Yon now has location again, and he also has good judgment.  Tim Lynch has both as well.  If you really want to know not only what is going on in Afghanistan but how to interpret it, read Tim’s work.  It’s that good.  Really.  Read Michael Yon, then read Tim Lynch.  Between them you will usually find what you need to give clear perspective.

Tim expressed doubt that the tooth fairy ideas expounded by McChrystal worked in Iraq or Afghanistan like McChrystal claims.  Let me be more blunt.  He sees the world myopically.  So the insurgent and counterinsurgent can operate according to swarm theory.  They can engage in distributed operations where authority is pressed downward.  So what?  We already knew this.  McChrystal seems to advocate the idea that it was the HVT raids that won the campaign in Iraq.  How what he did with a few operators differed from what infantry did all over Iraq from 2004 – 2008 isn’t explained.  And I know something of the hell the boys of 2-6 went through in Fallujah in 2007, and they did it without SOF operators.  Didn’t need them, didn’t want them.  They would have been in the way.

[Here I should VERY BRIEFLY share a story.  My son was on post and a band of un-uniformed SOF troopers came through Fallujah on the way to Ramadi to pick up some bad guy, driving an unmarked vehicle, throwing dust as they drove, and they were stopped by my son.  He told them, “If you ever, ever come through my AO again un-uniformed, and in an unmarked vehicle, driving like a bat out of hell, I will light you up like a f***ing Christmas tree, and then laugh about it as they pick up the body parts.”  And the SOF troopers didn’t come through Fallujah again on 2-6’s watch.]

If my friend Gian Gentile casts doubt on the surge narrative, I cast doubt on the HVT narrative.  Neither won the campaign in Iraq.  Hard core infantry operations in the cities, villages and countryside of Iraq, along with all of the things discussed in McChrystal’s paper done by all of infantry and not just SOF, won the campaign.  And finally, yes, along with Tim, I think that the micromanagement by McChrystal’s staff was horseshit.  Plain and simple.

Tim goes on to discuss the tactics that won Iraq, and that will win in Afghanistan if we turn the troops loose.

A great example of this would be Naw Zad which is currently home to the headquarters of Charlie Company 1st Battalion 8th Marines.  The rest of the battalion is handling Musa Quala which, like Marjah, was infested with Taliban but is now safe enough for the battalion commander to walk around the bazaar without body armor and helmet.  The Captain at Naw Zad (and he’s there on his own because he’s that good) is surrounded by Taliban.  He has an area of influence which he is constantly expanding and he does this with aggressive patrolling.  He has the clearance to shoot 60mm mortars and run rotary wing CAS guns (Cobra or Apache gunships employing their guns only; rocket or Hellfires have to be cleared) without coordinating with his battalion COC.  He has no problems at all with the current rules of engagement and has never been denied fires when he has asked for them.

Tim goes on to discuss issues of weight for the Marines.

I was able to spend a lot of time talking with the officers and men currently serving in Naw Zad and here is what they bitch about:  They don’t like the weight they are forced to carry and strongly feel the use of  body armor should be determined by the mission and enemy.  Wearing it in blistering heat or while climbing the massive mountains is so physically debilitating that they have felt on several occasions that they were unable to defend themselves. Many of their Marines are suffering chronic stress fractures, low back problems as well as hip problems caused by carrying loads in excess of 130 pounds daily.  ”We’re fighting the Mothers of America” said one; if we lose a Marine and he was not wearing everything in the inventory to protect him that becomes the issue.  Trying to explain that we have removed the body armor to reduce the chances of being shot is a losers game because you can’t produce data quantifying the reduction in gun shot wounds for troops who remain alert and are able to move fast due to a lighter load.

I have mixed feelings on this, as my son’s life was saved by his ESAPI plate.  But as readers know, I have griped about battlefield weight as well.  Remember this Marine carrying a mortar plate along with the rest of his gear?

Whatever is done or can be done about battle space weight, Tim’s discussion about injuries is sure to be ignored by advocates of women in combat.  I have pointed out before the difference between the Army mentality (mechanized infantry) versus Marines (foot borne infantry), but even this breaks down in places like Korengal where those Soldiers may as well have been Marines.  But I have pointed out that the Russian campaign in Afghanistan was plagued by a huge number of lower extremity injuries to women, and if these injuries (including higher up into the whole body, i.e., hips) are happening to the most physically fit troops on earth right now in Afghanistan, does anyone really, seriously want to advocate the notion that women can do this with 130 pounds of gear?  Did God not design men and women differently, and would we not want to celebrate this diversity rather than try to expunge it?  What kind of man imagines gender-neutral physical features, and for what reason?

And speaking of Now Zad, make sure to catch Tim’s pictures documenting his time in Now Zad.  He observes:

Fox company 2nd Battalion 7th Marines (Fox 2/7) arrived in Naw Zad to reinforce the Brits in late 2008 and were able to expand the security bubble but not by much.  The Brits, Estonians and Marines fought side by side to expel the Taliban from this fertile valley but were hampered by restrictive ROE pushed down from on high by senior officers in Kabul who lacked common sense and experience at counterinsurgency warfare. The Marines and their allies lost a lot of men because they did not have the mass or firepower to do the job correctly.  Way back then there was a lone voice in the blogsphere pleading with all who would listen to free up the combat power and let the Marines in Naw Zad fight.  His name is Herschel Smith and his posts at the Captains Journal can be found here.  It is worth your time to read them all.

This statement by Tim is, quite honestly, very moving for me.  I’m a fairly rough and unemotional man, but I recall with significant emotion my time studying the boys in Now Zad, their living in what they termed hobbit holes, the multiple trauma doctors with them due to the massive loss of limbs and other traumas suffered by undermanned Marines, and so on, until I almost couldn’t take it any more.  Tim gives us a picture of the Dahaneh pass, and I know that my good friend John Bernard lost his son near Dahaneh: “KIA (Dahaneh 08/14/09) and who is now safe and resting in the arms of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I miss him!”  I know that you do John.  Many loved ones were lost near this AO while massive flotillas full of Marines were going from port to port as “force in readiness” for God only knows what.



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