The Paradox and Absurdities of Carbon-Fretting and Rewilding

Herschel Smith · 28 Jan 2024 · 4 Comments

The Bureau of Land Management is planning a truly boneheaded move, angering some conservationists over the affects to herd populations and migration routes.  From Field & Stream. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) recently released a draft plan outlining potential solar energy development in the West. The proposal is an update of the BLM’s 2012 Western Solar Plan. It adds five new states—Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington, and Wyoming—to a list of 11 western states already earmarked…… [read more]

U.S. Places a High Stakes Bet: CENTCOM Moves to Qatar

BY Herschel Smith
17 years, 6 months ago

Central Command (CENTCOM), responsible for operations in the Middle East, East Africa and Central Asia, is currently located in Tampa, Florida.  In what I see as a high stakes gambling move, the U.S. is moving CENTCOM to Qatar.

The United States will shift the headquarters of the Army’s Central Command to a new and expanded facility in Qatar, the US ambassador said here on Tuesday.

“Qatar and the US are cooperating towards building a new headquarters for the US Central Command. Camp Al Sayliyya has been the temporary base for several years. The two countries will expand the facilities at the Al Udeid airbase,” Chase Untermeyer told a press conference.

[ … ]

“In fact there are plans to build more infrastructure at the Al Udeid airbase not just by the US, but also by the Government of Qatar … Now the Qatari Air Force operates out of the civil airport and at some point, in one or two years, they will operate from Al Udeid airbase, which means construction of extra facilities,” Untermeyer said.

Without going into detail on US troops in Qatar and the long-term objectives, the US envoy said: “We have a very strong military relationship with Qatar, but we are guests here, so I would not define how permanent our presence is.”

He said the bases do not host combat troops, but provide logistical support to the US Air Force and used as transit points for the military.

This move parallels the construction of the gigantic U.S. embassy in Baghdad, a mammoth $592 million facility.  Despite protestations to the contrary from all sides, the U.S. will have a presence in the Middle East for years to come.  Moreover, it is likely that the U.S. will not deploy forces completely out of Iraq or the Middle East for decades.

Just in case you object, the U.S. adminstration says, “you want to bet?”

New Roles and Responsibilities for U.S. Troops

BY Herschel Smith
17 years, 6 months ago

In Options for Iraq, I cited the Stratfor position that the most likely change in strategy in Iraq involves a redeployment of troops, while still remaining in Iraq, but without the responsibility for day-to-day security operations.

There now appears to be growing consensus among Republicans and Democrats to shift U.S. troop involvement from a combat to an advisory role.  Evolution to an advisory role is far short of the prediction by Stratfor – and far short of what the Iraqis need – which involves responsibility for border security, militarily assisting the Iraqis, and generally keeping Iran and Syria in their respective places.  A shift of U.S. troop responsibility to advisors is not likely to happen, but this consensus does show that neither party is willing to entertain a continuation of the current strategy.

It appears as if the Iraqi administration recognizes the seismic change in U.S. politics and is attempting to accomodate it, while still retaining the services of U.S. troops in more than merely an advisory role to the Iraqi troops.  Muwaffaq Al-Rubaie, Iraq’s national security adviser, recognizes the necessary shift away from security operations by U.S. troops.

One of the most important changes “is to reduce the manifest presence of the foreign forces in the streets of Iraq’s cities. The departure of the foreign forces from inside the cities, in particular Baghdad, is important and will boost the security situation” in Iraq. He added that it is also important “to give more responsibilities and authorities to the Iraqi security forces to carry out military operations alone or with the foreign forces in the way of training and preparation.” He said: “We want acceleration in equipping, training, preparing, and arming the Iraqi security forces instead of waiting for a long time. What they are talking about achieving in years can be achieved in months.”

John Robb at Global Guerrillas is also suggesting that this redeployment of U.S. troops to bases in Iraq is a likely outcome of the recent U.S. elections.  John goes on to say that the effects in Iraq will be disastrous, while not phasing the U.S. electorate:

The US will withdraw to bases in Iraq (a completion of a trend that began last year to limit casualties) and many (perhaps half) of the US forces in Iraq will be withdrawn over the next year. This will likely be the only policy change that all decision makers can agree on. As a result, violence in Iraq will spike as unsupervised Iraqi troops are unleashed on civilians and guerrillas decimate isolated Iraqi units. It won’t matter to most of the people in the US as long as US troops aren’t involved.

There are now more than 500,000 Iraqis, mostly Sunnis, who have fled to Syria.  The Strategy Page observes that “Despite a lot of bravado on the Internet, the Sunni Arabs are losing. Not just in body count, but in terms of sharply decreasing Sunni Arab population. The Shia Arab death squads are killing more Sunni Arabs than the terrorist bombs are killing Shia Arabs … Meanwhile, parts of Anbar province, where some pro-Saddam tribes continue to offer bases for terrorists, look like a combat zone. Towns have a bombed out, shot-up and abandoned look. Anbar is being abandoned, as Sunni Arabs flee the country from both Anbar and Baghdad. While some Sunni Arab towns and neighborhoods can organize private guard forces, even these are helpless against police or soldiers moonlighting as Shia death squads … For the Iraqi Shia Arabs, the departure of the Americans won’t change anything. It was nice having them, their money, and their deadly soldiers around. But the Shia Arabs have enough guns, and people trained to use them, to deal with the Iraqi Sunni Arabs. The Americans have served their purpose, and it’s time for them to go.”

Since Iraq is at the present a Land of Many Wars, U.S. military actions against sects in Iraq necessarily have had unintended consequences.  Warring against the Shia alienates them and reminds them that the U.S. could not be trusted in the first Iraq war when we left them to be slaughtered by Saddam’s forces.  Warring against the Sunnis reminds them that it was their religious sect that was in power before the war.  The Sunnis want the U.S. to put an end to the death squads, and the Shia want the U.S. to kill the Saddam loyalists.

The salient question at the present is exactly whether the U.S. has a dog in this sectarian fight?  It is also important whether al-Qaeda will continue to remain in the Anbar Province if the U.S. forces redeploy to Kurdistan.  Without U.S. forces to fight, who will they war against?  And if the answer is the Iraqi army, then since they are dominated by Shi’ites, the questions is raised once again “does the U.S. have a dog in this sectarian fight?”

As we have discussed, a rapid increase in U.S. force projection and relentless offensive operations against the insurgents can to some extent bring stability to the region.  But in the absence of this, since the trend slope of U.S. casualties in Iraq is positive, and since the insurgents are seeing marked success against U.S. troops as snipers, the only viable option left for the U.S. is to redeploy north and restrict the power of Syria and Iran.

Options for Iraq

BY Herschel Smith
17 years, 6 months ago

In a recent post entitled Political Dog Wags the Military Tail, I covered the issue of Iraqi politics and how it has undermined the U.S. war effort.  Two core political problems face us in Iraq at the present.  First, the system of government that has been set up is not conducive to stability.  Prime Minister Maliki is just that – a Prime Minister, and member of parliament (or a so-called “special member of parliament”).  The parliamentary model is designed to be held together by a coalition in a multi-party system, and Maliki is beholden to the power of the Shia, and in particular the more radical elements such as that led by Muqtada al-Sadr.  This dependence on al-Sadr prevents the Iraqi army or police from cracking down on the Shi’ite militias.

Stratfor recently released an analysis of the situation that closely follows this line of thinking:

Essentially, U.S. strategy in Iraq is to create an effective coalition government, consisting of all the major ethnic and sectarian groups. In order to do that, the United States has to create a security environment in which the government can function. Once this has been achieved, the Iraqi government would take over responsibility for security. The problem, however, is twofold. First, U.S. forces have not been able to create a sufficiently secure environment for the government to function. Second, there are significant elements within the coalition that the United States is trying to create who either do not want such a government to work — and are allied with insurgents to bring about its failure — or who want to improve their position within the coalition, using the insurgency as leverage. In other words, U.S. forces are trying to create a secure environment for a coalition whose members are actively working to undermine the effort.

The core issue is that no consensus exists among Iraqi factions as to what kind of country they want. This is not only a disagreement among Sunnis, Shia and Kurds, but also deep disagreements within these separate groups as to what a national government (or even a regional government, should Iraq be divided) should look like. It is not that the Iraqi government in Baghdad is not doing a good job, or that it is corrupt, or that it is not motivated. The problem is that there is no Iraqi government as we normally define the term: The “government” is an arena for political maneuvering by mutually incompatible groups.

The second core political problem that we face concerns where the U.S. stands in Iraqi politics.  The Small Wars Journal has an important discussion thread entitled Iraq: Strategic and Diplomatic Options.  Part of this discussion thread includes a link to a Newsweek commentary by Fareed Zakaria.  These insightful nuggets have been posted in the discussion thread:

Here is the tough question: What are America’s objectives in Iraq and how can we achieve them? More bluntly, what is to be done with the roughly 140,000 U.S. troops stationed there? What is their mission? If they have new goals, do these require more Americans or fewer? Not to tackle this issue is to present a doughnut document—all sides and no center.

In answering this question, we need to keep three factors in mind:

This is not our chessboard. The Iraqi government has authority over all the political issues in the country. We may have excellent ideas about federalism, revenue-sharing and amnesty, but the ruling coalition has to agree and then actually implement them. So far, despite our many efforts, they have refused. There is a desperate neoconservative plea for more troops to try one more time in Iraq. But a new military strategy, even with adequate forces, cannot work without political moves that reinforce it. The opposite is happening today. American military efforts are actually being undermined by Iraq’s government. The stark truth is, we do not have an Iraqi partner willing to make the hard decisions. Wishing otherwise is, well, wishful thinking.

Time is not on America’s side. Month by month, U.S. influence in Iraq is waning. Deals that we could have imposed on Iraq’s rival factions in 2003 are now impossible. A year ago, America’s ambassador to Iraq had real influence. Today he is being marginalized. Thus any new policy that requires new approaches to the neighbors and lengthy negotiations carries the cost associated with waiting.

America’s only real leverage is the threat of withdrawal. Many outsiders fail to grasp how much political power the United States has handed over in Iraq. The Americans could not partition Iraq or distribute its revenues even if Bush decided to. But Washington can warn the ruling coalition that unless certain conditions are met, U.S. troops will begin a substantial drawdown, quit providing basic security on the streets of Iraq and instead take on a narrower role, akin to the Special Forces mission in Afghanistan.

And one last thing: for such a threat to be meaningful, we must be prepared to carry it out.

It might come as a surprise to some, but the U.S. is under what is called by the U.N. Security Council a “security partnership” with the Iraqi government.  This means that the poitical will necessary by the U.S. administration to bring about security and stability in Iraq is enormous.  In order to accomplish this mission, the U.S. would essentially have to retake ownership of military operations without regard to the wishes of the Iraqi government or the U.N..  This would render the Iraqi government not just marginalized, but essentially impotent and an artifact of the past.  It isn’t likely to happen.  Even at this late date, with the right force projection (in the range of 400,000 troops), the war can be completely won, security brought to Iraq, and hostilities ended.  To do this would require clearing operations in the Sunni triangle similar to Fallujah, and the disarming of the Shi’ite militias.

Such a large commitment of troops doesn’t appear to be in the works, and so we are essentially left with only one option.  Stratfor appears to have landed on this option with their assessment:

We do believe that the ISG will recommend a fundamental shift in the way U.S. forces are used. The troops currently are absorbing casualties without moving closer to their goal, and it is not clear that they can attain it. If U.S. forces remain in Iraq — which will be recommended — there will be a shift in their primary mission. Rather than trying to create a secure environment for the Iraqi government, their mission will shift to guaranteeing that Iran, and to a lesser extent Syria, do not gain further power and influence in Iraq. Nothing can be done about the influence they wield among Iraqi Shia, but the United States will oppose anything that would allow them to move from a covert to an overt presence in Iraq. U.S. forces will remain in-country but shift their focus to deterring overt foreign intrusion. That means a redeployment and a change in day-to-day responsibility. U.S. forces will be present in Iraq but not conducting continual security operations.

The only two viable options for the U.S. in Iraq are to (a) increased troop levels and go on offensive operations against the enemy, with the enemy being defined as everything from the Shi’ite militias to the Saddam Fedayeen and al-Qaeda, or (b) withdraw forces to the north in Kurdistan, supporting the Iraqi army and police in offensive operations on an as-need basis.  This support would not include regular or routine “security” patrols, since these patrols are not bringing security to Iraq.  This presence in Kurdistan would have the side benefits of ensuring that Turkey and Kurdistan remain at peace and limiting the influence of Iran and Syria in Iraq.  In addition to assisting the Iraqi forces, the U.S. forces could then ensure security along the porous borders with Iran and Syria. 

The Shia want the U.S. in Iraq to destroy its enemy, the Sunni.  The Sunni want the U.S. in Iraq to destroy the Shia.  Our new strategy must oblige neither.  Bush has said that he is open to ideas from the Iraq study group led by James Baker, but has also indicated that he is skeptical of troop reductions.  Even the Iraqi administration knows that the immediate departure of U.S. troops from Iraq would have disastrous consequences.  It is unlikely that troops will be withdrawn, but an option is needed other than the continuation of “security patrols.”

As I have pointed out, the trend line slope for U.S. casualties is positive under the current strategy.  These casualties are occurring with regularity on security patrols.  Whatever strategy is pursued, Iraq must take responsibility for street security.  If we are going to war, then let’s war.  If we are going to re-deploy from Iraq, then let’s re-deploy.  What is not a viable option is to continue with the current strategy.

Statistical Evaluation of Casualties in Iraq

BY Herschel Smith
17 years, 6 months ago

A graphical depiction of the casualties in Iraq is shown below.  Included on the graph are:

  1. U.S. killed in action since the start of the war.
  2. U.S. wounded in action since the start of the war.
  3. Total (sum of U.S. killed and wounded since the start of the war).
  4. Linear trend line using EXCEL function (“Add Trendline”).

Casualties_in_Iraq.bmp

Upon first glance it may seem that the data is rather random, but a more protracted analysis yields significant and useful fruit.

The trend for U.S. killed in action, while representing something profoundly tragic, statistically speaking, doesn’t tell the story of what is happening in Iraq.  The total of killed and wounded both closely tracks and is dominated by wounded.

Examination of the total shows that the first two months, i.e., the months of the invasion, were months of relatively low casualties compared to what we see today.  For the month of May 2003, after the regime was toppled, casualties were extremely low at 91 total killed and wounded.  But by September of 2003, the total killed and wounded at 278 was higher than any at other time preceeding it, including the invasion.

Major terrorism soon began, and the two spikes in the data for April and November 2004 represent the first and second battles for Fallujah.  If the second battle for Fallujah and the ostensibly huge victory the U.S. won were assumed to be the means to the end of the terrorism, then the month of May 2005 with a total killed and wounded of 648 should have been the final wakeup call to the administration and Pentagon that force projection was inadequate and troops needed to be added, and quickly.

At this point, no matter how administratively difficult it might have been to re-deploy troops from Japan and Europe to Iraq, it should have been obvious that the healing powers the U.S. believed to be there with democracy were merely a phantom.  It should have been obvious that al Sadr had to be taken out, the Sunnis were not going to go lightly from the scene of control over Iraq, and global terrorists were pouring into Iraq.

At Ramadan, beginning near the end of September and going though the end of October, there has always been a spike in the violence.

Finally, the trend line added in by EXCEL shows that there has been a general trend of increasing violence since the inception of the war.  It has a low correlation coefficient, but smoothing of the Fallujah data increases the correlation of the trend to the data.  There is no mistaking the fact that the adminstration and Pentagon have watched over three and a half years as violence has increased, and yet the force projection has either remained the same, decreased or barely increased.

Boasting in Our Technology

BY Herschel Smith
17 years, 6 months ago

In Why Rumsfeld Had to Go, we discussed the grand new approach to warfare, enabled and spurred by the use of technology, proxy fighters, political pressure, and financial persuasion.  Here is an eerie reminder of the overprediction of the power and usefulness of our technological advantage, from just before the Iraq war:

WASHINGTON — As the nation prepares for war with Iraq, military officials say space-based assets in Earth orbit are ready to give U.S. troops and their allies a significant edge over the enemy.

“Whether it’s Iraq or any other enemy of the United States and its allies, I would tell you that we’re so dominant in space that I would pity a country that would come up against us,” said Air Force Maj. Gen. Franklin J. “Judd” Blaisdell, director of space operations and integration.

“The synergy with air, land and sea forces and our ability to control the battle space and seize the high ground is devastating,” Blaisdell said March 12 during a Pentagon briefing for reporters. “I don’t believe that many of them understand how powerful we are.”

Unfortunately, structures, systems and components in space cannot kill guerrillas.  Group-think is a dangerous thing in any profession, but in the superlative degree as it regards war.

Why Rumsfeld Had to Go

BY Herschel Smith
17 years, 6 months ago

Ever since the publication of Unrestricted Warfare by two Chinese military strategists, the Chinese have been interested in the utilization of all assets – military, financial, communication, technological – to wage war.  It has been said that the Chinese admired, and were even jealous of, the the U.S. war strategy in Afghanistan.  Ostensibly, the use of proxy fighters (i.e, the Northern Alliance), technology (bombs guided to their targets by Air Force special forces operators), and political pressure were key ingredients to successful military operations in the twenty first century.

But if the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq haven’t taught us anything else, we have learned that “force transformation” with a few more special forces operators carrying gizmos and gadgets and electronic toys simply cannot replace a military.  In an insightful critique of Rumsfelf’s bold new vision, Opfor has this to say:

To some, his leadership was inspirational. To others, he was the guy who was single handedly dismantling a force that had barely survived eight years of Clinton-era defense cuts. The name for the pain was Transformation, Rumsfeld’s baby. The Pentagon’s “bridge to the 21st century.” And before September 11, it sounded and felt pretty slick. A lighter force, with emphasis on flexibility, technology, and force multiplication. Maximum effect, minimum loss cheered supporters.

In Afghanistan, Transformation was looking pretty good. A couple of hundred SPECOP warriors exploited our new, network-centric approach to warfighting and accomplished what the much-feared Soviet juggernaut could not. Who needs tanks? Who needs divisions? One foward air controller with a horse, a laptop, and a MILSTAR uplink to a B-52 could now do the heavy-lifting of an entire mechanized brigade.

And that’s when Transformation blasted off. The Air Force started delivering Raptors and Global Hawks while BRAC cut our fighter force by 20%. Money poured into the Army’s Future Combat Systems, the Marine led V-22 procurement, and the Navy’s new Littoral Combat Ships. New tankers for the Air Force, new EELV heavy lift rockets to facilitate our budding space weapons program, a new class of aircraft carrier and a new class attack sub. All very useful weapon systems, but all very expensive weapon systems.

Operation Iraqi Freedom was supposed to get the Transformation concept over that final, sizable high-cost hurdle. Afghanistan was mostly asymmetric, fought almost exclusively at the platoon and company level. OIF was Transformation’s real test. State v. State conflict, a real army -albeit ill-equipped and poorly trained- to prove the mettle of the new force. And again, Transformation worked. Less troops, higher tech did the job. Mission accomplished.

And like a Shakespearean tragedy, Rumsfeld’s bold new vision for a brave new military collasped at the height of its success. The insurgency dug-in, and with each IED blast another hole was punched in the Transformation concept. Billion-dollar B2s flew helpless overhead as suicide bombers and roadside bombs took the lives of troops who lacked armor on their Humvess and on their bodies. 100 dollar bombs killed 100,000 dollar weapon systems. The highly touted, highly financed UAV force could only watch as car bombers exploded Iraqi marketplaces. What we needed was more troops. What we got was more gizmos.

Rumsfeld’s bold new vision for the military created a cultural milieu in which it was possible to envision remarkable military successes with what we now know to be inadequate force projection.  Like sycophants, the strategists around him wrote doctrine that created the theoretical framework to support this culture, and so the stage was set – as if a tragic theatrical production – for the situation we now face in both Afghanistan and Iraq.

We cannot shirk our responsibilities and hide the ugly truth.  The top military brass were complicit in this affair, at least some of them, but it all starts at the top.  And Rumsfeld was at the top.  Things now public began in secret some time ago in war gaming conducted by Marine General Anthony Zinni called “Desert Crossing.”  Zinni’s group came back with remarkably different recommendations than what ended up being put into place for the Iraq campaign:

The former CENTCOM commander noted that his plan had called for a force of 400,000 for the invasion — 240,000 more than what Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld approved. “We were concerned about the ability to get in there right away, to flood the towns and villages,” USA Today quoted Zinni as saying in July 2003. “We knew the initial problem would be security.”

Army General Thomas “Tommy” Franks adjusted the concept when he assumed command of CENTCOM upon Zinni’s retirement. Yet even his initial version of OPLAN 1003-98 envisioned a need for 385,000 troops, according to the book, COBRA II, — before Rumsfeld insisted that the number be sharply reduced.

The plan called for 400,000 troops, Rumsfeld approved a fraction of 0.4 of that, for a total of 160,000 troops.  So in spite of all of the bluster about giving the generals all the troops that had been requested, we now know that this was a subterfuge.  It was all smoke and mirrors.

With its strict deference to rank, the military is “hard wired” to be impervious to peer review.  Yet this is exactly what is called for by war planners.  The civilian world does this every day.  Lawyers review the work of other lawyers, engineers review other engineers, and so forth.  In the very best reviews, rank and seniority mean nothing.  The good, bad and the ugly get heard, and the dissenting voices are encouraged and given a stage on which to speak.

But it all starts at the top, and Rumsfeld was unwilling to listen to his subordinates.  This obstinance, this unwillingness to bend and adapt and adjust and modify, limited the successfulness of an otherwise brilliant man.  But it did much more than that.  It placed our boys in harm’s way without what they needed to effect the mission and win the victory.

And thus has America’s experiment with “unrestricted warfare” ended.  I don’t really care whether China learns from this example.  But the U.S. must.

Snipers Having Tragic Success Against U.S. Troops

BY Herschel Smith
17 years, 6 months ago

Sun Tzu, “The Art of War,” III.26: “He who understands how to use both large and small forces will be victorious.”  Tu Yu comments, “There are circumstances in war when many cannot attack few, and others when the weak can master the strong.”

Courtesy of New York Times: Sgt. Jesse E. Leach of the Marines assisted Lance Cpl. Juan Valdez-Castillo, who was shot by a sniper in the town of Karma.  He survived.

Courtesy of New York Times: Sgt. Jesse E. Leach of the Marines assisted Lance Cpl. Juan Valdez-Castillo, who was shot by a sniper in the town of Karma. He survived.

Background

The insurgents in Iraq for some time had relied on stand-off weapons to do their warfare (i.e., IEDs).  With the influx of the more well-trained al-Qaeda fighters across the Syrian and Jordanian borders, these tactics have given way to guerrilla tactics.  Every stand-up battle in which the insurgents engage the U.S. troops involves a loss for the insurgents, sometimes significant.  It has taken time for the evolution to occur, but the change to asymmetric warfare seems to be about complete.

On June 21, 2006, Marine Lance Cpl. Nicholas Whyte died from sniper fire in the streets of Ramadi.  On September 26, 2006, Marine PFC Christopher T. Riviere died in the Anbar Province from sniper fire while wearing full body armor.  On October 8, 2006, Marine Captain Robert Secher died from sniper fire.  On October 22, 2006, Specialists Nathaniel Aguirre and Matthew Creed, US Army, died from sniper fire while on foot patrol in Baghdad (see also a North County Times article on Creed).  There is no shortage of personal stories on fatalities from sniper fire, but stepping back from the personal to the statistical, there is no question that sniper attacks have increased in both frequency and lethality.

Sniper attacks on U.S. troops have risen dramatically as more Americans have been pulled into the capital to patrol on foot and in lightly armored vehicles amid raging religious violence.  Sniper attacks, generally defined as one or two well-aimed shots from a distance, have totaled 36 so far this month in Baghdad, according to U.S. military statistics.

That’s up from 23 such attacks in September and 11 in January.

The figures were confirmed by Lt. Gen. Peter Chiarelli, the No. 2 commander of U.S. forces in Iraq. “The total numbers are elevated, and the effectiveness has been greater,” he said.

At least eight of the 36 sniper attacks in Baghdad in October have been fatal, according to accounts by hometown newspapers reporting on the deaths of individual soldiers and Marines. Snipers have also killed four U.S. servicemembers in Anbar province this month.

Assessment

The picture above visually conveys the story of the sniper attack that wounded Lance Cpl. Juan Valdez-Castillo.

The bullet passed through Lance Cpl. Juan Valdez-Castillo as his Marine patrol moved down a muddy urban lane. It was a single shot. The lance corporal fell against a wall, tried to stand and fell again.

His squad leader, Sgt. Jesse E. Leach, faced where the shot had come from, raised his rifle and grenade launcher and quickly stepped between the sniper and the bloodied marine. He walked backward, scanning, ready to fire.

Shielding the marine with his own thick body, he grabbed the corporal by a strap and dragged him across a muddy road to a line of tall reeds, where they were concealed. He put down his weapon, shouted orders and cut open the lance corporal’s uniform, exposing a bubbling wound.

Lance Corporal Valdez-Castillo, shot through the right arm and torso, was saved. But the patrol was temporarily stuck. The marines were engaged in the task of calling for a casualty evacuation while staring down their barrels at dozens of windows that faced them, as if waiting for a ghost’s next move.

This sequence on Tuesday here in Anbar Province captured in a matter of seconds an expanding threat in the war in Iraq. In recent months, military officers and enlisted marines say, the insurgents have been using snipers more frequently and with greater effect, disrupting the military’s operations and fueling a climate of frustration and quiet rage.

The New York Times article goes on to say that “across Iraq, the threat has become serious enough that in late October the military held an internal conference about it, sharing the experiences of combat troops and discussing tactics to counter it. There has been no ready fix.  The battalion commander of Sergeant Leach’s unit — the Second Battalion, Eighth Marines — recalled eight sniper hits on his marines in three months and said there had been other possible incidents as well. Two of the battalion’s five fatalities have come from snipers, he said, and one marine is in a coma. Another marine gravely wounded by a sniper has suffered a stroke.”

I have covered the weaknesses in the Interceptor body armor system with its gaps in protection along the lateral torso.  The insurgent snipers have become quite sophisticated in their tactics.  They have become disciplined shots, as this chilling quote by elements of the Second Battalion, Eighth Marines indicates: “Most of the time, the marines said, the snipers aim for their heads, necks and armpits, displaying knowledge of gaps in their protective gear.

Snipers and Body Armor

BY Herschel Smith
17 years, 6 months ago

In “Old and New Body Armor for Marines,” I discussed the existing Interceptor body armor system and its replacement, the Modular Tactical Vest (MTV) by Protective Products International.  Stars and Stripes has given us a glimpse of the MTV.

MTV Back View, Courtesy of Stars and Stripes

MTV Side View, Courtesy of Stars and Stripes

In addition to more efficient weight distribution, the MTV claims better protection to the lateral torso, with less exposed area on the side and under the arms.  This is an example of the United States Marine Corps being just about as far ahead of the curve as is possible.  The Army is lagging behind, and for the Marines, the MTV is scheduled to go into service early 2007.

The MTV could not be issued soon enough.  The New York Times had an article on November 3, 2006, entitled “Sniper Attacks Adding to Peril of U.S. Troops,” in which the following nugget of gold may be found: “Most of the time, the marines said, the snipers aim for their heads, necks and armpits, displaying knowledge of gaps in their protective gear.”  The Interceptor has gaps on the side torso that the MTV promises to remedy.

I will be publishing a commentary soon on enemy sniper activity in Iraq (including recommendations on responsive tactics by the U.S.), which in my estimation will constitute the most significant threat of mortality for U.S. troops throughout the balance of deployment in Iraq.  Until then, it should be noted that the sooner the MTV can make its way into the field, the better.

Truth and Forthrightness in War Reporting

BY Herschel Smith
17 years, 6 months ago

On November 2, 2006, I published “Missing Weapons and Iraq’s Open Border Policy.”  In this post I argued that Iraq’s borders were essentially open, with inadequate border personnel or U.S. troop force levels to effect good border security.  I showed that the borders were replete with traffic to the point that the border guards could only log information on passports rather than inspect them for forgery.  We showed that the weapons necessary to wage jihad were already in Iraq, and that the requirements to war against the U.S. forces were twofold: cash and a fake passport.

On November 4, 2006, the Multi-National Force web site published an article entitled “Teams Build Relationships at Border.”  The story is about a joint Iraqi-U.S. border transition team, and it conveys the teamwork, mentoring, challenges and friendships associated with such a team.  It is quite a nice story, with the exception of the following assertion: “Observing this exchange, it becomes evident the border is not the only thing being secured in this remote area.”

The evidence I have marshalled in defense of my hypothesis includes, but is not limited to, the following:

  1. Michael Rubin’s work showing a heavy influx of Iranian intelligence assets, money, communications equipment and military materiel into Iraq just before the war began.
  2. The Washington Post reported that “Iranian personnel have established safe houses throughout southern Iraq. They monitor the movement of coalition forces, tend weapons caches, facilitate cross-border travel of clerics, smuggle munitions into Iraq and recruit individuals as intelligence sources.”
  3. Iraqi General Nazim Mohammed, chief of Iraq’s border police in Muntheria, stated in June of 2005 that Iranian personnel were responsible for leading operations against Iraq.  “We captured three men and there is proof they blew up oil pipelines near Nuft Khaneh under the orders of Iranian intelligence officers,

Radical Islam’s War on Education

BY Herschel Smith
17 years, 6 months ago

One common element we see in our war against radical, Islamic facism is schools and academics being caught in the cross hairs of the enemy.  The targeting of education by the enemy is not restricted to elementary schools, but extends itself to higher education.  In fact, it is fair to say that targeting education is a tactic being used by Islamic facism throughout the Middle East.

The Taliban have exacted a huge toll on schools and teachers for daring to operate in Afghanistan:

Now there is a concerted – armed – campaign to keep such children away from school. Education – particularly that of girls – is associated with the often-hated government and the occupying Western forces. Their opponents – including the Taliban – burn schools and attack teachers. The Ministry of Education said 267 schools had been forced to stop classes – a third of them in the south where five years after 9/11, fighting is intensifying as the Nato-led troops confront a resurgent opposition.

One reason proferred for this war on education is pragmatic, and has to do with potential future jihadist fighters.  According to Zuhoor Afghan, the top adviser to Afghanistan’s education minister, “Once they destroy a child’s chance for education, there is nothing else for the young generation to do and it becomes very easy to encourage them to join their forces.”

There is another pragmatic reason for the attacks on schools.  According to Ahmad Nader Nadery of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC), “the extremists want to show the people that the government and the international community cannot keep their promises.”

Directly east in Iran, February of this year saw the first consequences of the nationwide plan to purge university professors and other academics:

Advaar News, the news source from the office of Fostering Unity (Tahkim Vahdat) reported that a professor of Communications Sciences of Tehran’s Allaameh Tabatabaie University is the first to be terminated in the new nationwide plan to purge all professors and academics, specifically teaching Liberal Arts and Social Sciences in universities across Iran. It is also rumored that several other of the professors in other fields of study such as Political Science and Law, will also be terminated soon. It is important to mention that a while ago Dr. Mohammad Gorgani who was a faculty member of the School of Law at this very university was sentenced to 10 months in prison and before serving his prison term was flogged.

Further east in Iraq, true to form, the radical Islamic facists have targeted both elementary schools and higher education.  Regarding the ongoing battle for Saba’ al-Bour, the Iraqi government noted that teachers and their families had been expelled from the city, and promised to increase teacher salaries for returning.  And similar to the approach in Iran to higher education, at least 156 university professors have been killed since the war began, and possibly thousands more are believed to have fled to neighboring countries.

Surveying this redacted and abbreviated list of recent attacks on education, it seems that perhaps there is another reason for this tactic.  Without the presupposition that your world view cannot win in the marketplace of ideas, promulgating your world view by using force to attack education makes little sense.

Whether it is the ease of recruitment of jihadists, the embarrassment of a fragile regime, or the belief in the inherent theoretical weakness of Islamic facism, as we move forward into the future and consider strategy and the consequent tactics of our enemy, one thing is clear.  If history is any indication, we should expect war on education to be a point of doctrine with the jihadists.  This war on education will not be an internal jihad or a “striving” for anything.  History shows us that the jihad on education will be violent.


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