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]

Eschatology and Counterterrorism Warfare

BY Herschel Smith
17 years, 5 months ago

Eschatology, or the study and philosophy of the last things, is key to the proper understanding of counterterrorism warfare, but not usually mentioned in the same breath. Theologians do not usually engage in discussions of military strategy, and infantry officers do not usually read books in religious philosophy. Yet, on a grand scale, the two are intimately connected, and eschatology is the determinative factor in the motivation of the terrorist, even if his view of the end only involves the fulfillment of secular goals such as the will to power.

The Baathists had threatened to retaliate should the “crime” of executing Saddam Hussein be committed, saying that “The Baath and the resistance are determined to retaliate, with all means and everywhere, to harm America and its interests if it commits this crime.” FNC had reported just prior to Saddam’s execution from they U.S. officers in contact with the tribal leaders supportive of anti-coalition efforts that these tribal chiefs were propositioning them to “release Saddam, and he and the U.S. would handle the Iran problem together.”

Even for those who rejected the religious eschatology of victory embraced by al Qaeda and Ansar al Sunnah, they were loyal to the end, and hopeful for a resurgent Sunni rule in Iraq led by Saddam. Those who sided with the terrorists (Saddam’s secret police and the Fedayeen) merely found expediency in objectives: the driving of the coalition forces from Iraq.

So determined are the anti-coalition forces that they are willing to pursue a “scorched earth” policy to achieve their objectives. It was reported on October 23, 2006, that 500 000 Iraqi citizens had fled Iraq (primarily from the Anbar Province) to Syria. As of December 3, 2006, it is reported that 700 000 Iraqi citizens are in Syria and another 700 000 in Jordan, for a total of 1.4 million displaced citizens. One anecdotal piece of evidence is given to us by an otherwise non-remarkable person in the Anbar Province:

The gunman stood at the foot of his bed. “Are you al-Jaboury?” he yelled. It was 2 o’clock on a stifling July morning, and al-Jaboury had been sound asleep next to his wife. After hearing his name, the young Iraqi police officer didn’t hesitate. Grabbing the gun he had been stashing under his pillow every night since he’d joined the police 18 months earlier, he shot the intruder in the throat. The gunman’s accomplices all fled.

But the danger wasn’t over. “I knew the insurgents would come back, and maybe they would blow up the whole house,” al-Jaboury says. “My wife blamed me for joining the police. She said that I am a Sunni and that I know that the insurgents don’t like this, and that I would get killed sooner or later.” The next day, al-Jaboury left his wife, his daughter, and his home in the troubled Diyala province and took off in a neighbor’s pickup truck, loaded with fruit, and headed for Syria. He had $300 in his pocket.

Literally splitting families apart, the insurgents are willing to destroy the population and infrastructure to effect their end. They are willing to do this for the same reason that the 50 million dollar bounty on the head of Bin Laden is meaningless to those with whom he lives. They believe that they will win.

Until they are no longer convinced that victory awaits them, U.S. government largesse means nothing to the insurgents. No amount of so-called “nonkinetic” operations on the part of U.S. forces will “win the hearts and minds of the people” when wives are concerned about their husbands siding with the police for fear of them getting killed by insurgents.

This problem is exacerbated and compounded when religious pre-commitments are involved. Secular eschatology doesn’t compare in strength to religious eschatology. The Baathists need to see tangible results in time and space. When final defeat becomes obvious, although not yet fulfilled, the remnant might be persuaded to stand down, or simply disappear from the scene. Those who have a religious commitment need not see tangible results in time and space, and so nothing can dissuade them from their deadly adventures.

Guerrilla warfare is not the unique development of the twentieth century. Francis Marion fought the forces of Cornwallis to a standstill in the swamps of South Carolina, with an eschatology that was at least in part based on religious commitment. Even in the twentieth century, Vietnam was not the first example of such tactics. In my studies of World War II many years ago, I was fascinated to learn about the existence of “Hitler’s Werewolves.” A brief description of their accomplishments follows.

What did the Werwolf do? They sniped. They mined roads. They poured sand into the gas tanks of jeeps. (Sugar was in short supply, no doubt.) They were especially feared for the “decapitation wires” they strung across roads. They poisoned food stocks and liquor. (The Russians had the biggest problem with this.) They committed arson, though perhaps less than they are credited with: every unexplained fire or explosion associated with a military installation tended to be blamed on the Werwolf. These activities slackened off within a few months of the capitulation on May 7, though incidents were reported as late as 1947.

… Goebbels especially grasped the possibility that guerrilla war could be a political process as well as a military strategy. It was largely through his influence that the Werwolf assumed something of the aspect of a terrorist organization. Where it could, it tried to prevent individuals and communities from surrendering, and it assassinated civil officials who cooperated with the Allies. Few Germans welcomed these activities, but something else that Goebbels grasped was that terror might serve where popularity was absent. By his estimate, only 10% to 15% of the German population were potential supporters for a truly revolutionary movement. His goal was to use the Werwolf to activate that potential. With the help of the radical elite, the occupiers could be provoked into savage reprisals that would win over the mass of the people to Neo-Nazism, a term that came into use in April 1945.

And from an article on Minutemen of the Third Reich.(history of the Nazi Werewolf guerilla movement) The Werewolves specialised in ambushes and sniping, and took the lives of many Allied and Soviet soldiers and officers — perhaps even that of the first Soviet commandant of Berlin, General N.E. Berzarin, who was rumoured to have been waylaid in Charlottenburg during an incident in June 1945. Buildings housing Allied and Soviet staffs were favourite targets for Werewolf bombings; an explosion in the Bremen police headquarters, also in June 1945, killed five Americans and thirty-nine Germans. Techniques for harassing the occupiers were given widespread publicity through Werewolf leaflets and radio propaganda, and long after May 1945 the sabotage methods promoted by the Werewolves were still being used against the occupying powers. Although the Werewolves originally limited themselves to guerrilla warfare with the invading armies, they soon began to undertake scorched-earth measures and vigilante actions against German `collaborators’ or `defeatists’. They damaged Germany’s economic infrastructure, already battered by Allied bombing and ground fighting, and tried to prevent anything of value from falling into enemy hands. Attempts to blow up factories, power plants or waterworks occasionally provoked melees between Werewolves and desperate German workers trying to save the physical basis of their employment, particularly in the Ruhr and Upper Silesia.

In the end, the “Werewolves” were merely Hitler youth, lacked moorings and leadership, and lacked a cogent world view, and within a year or so they were finished. This is instructive. They saw that they had no chance to succeed, and vanished into the landscape in short order, lacking a vision for victory.

In this time of post-Saddam Iraq, we now have the knowledge that we have destroyed the only true enemy of Iran. Does the vision for the GWOT include considerations for the future of U.S. forces in the region to impede Iran’s pursuit of a nuclear weapon? Does victory in Iraq include the notion of the creation of an ally in the GWOT? Does victory in Iraq mean that the Iraqis are able to stand on their own immediately, or is the lesser goal adequate – that of the U.S. providing security now so that some day this might take effect? And if we bring security, how would we do this? The casualty rate in December of 2006 rivals the casualties in the first and second battles for Fallujah.

It has been said to me recently by one serviceman that “since we were battling Saddam’s forces, defeat of the remaining Sunni insurgency in Anbar means victory.” This is true, given a minimalist definition of victory. But when the generals themselves cannot define an eschatology of victory, the servicemen are left to devise their own. With nuances, there will be as many definitions as are there are servicemen.

Merry Christmas

BY Herschel Smith
17 years, 5 months ago

I would like to take this opportunity to wish my readers a very merry Christmas.  Remember to say a prayer for our troops this season, and also remember that the resurrected and living Christ is the answer to the travails of the world.  But it is His birth, his coming to earth, the incarnation, that we celebrate this Christmas.

“For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6) … “And she will bear a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for it is He who will save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21b).

Pray for peace.

Haditha Events Coming to a Head

BY Herschel Smith
17 years, 5 months ago


CNN is reporting that the events of Haditha are coming to a head.

SAN DIEGO, California (AP) — As many as eight Marines could be charged in the biggest U.S. criminal case to emerge from the war in Iraq in terms of Iraqis killed.

Camp Pendleton officials scheduled a briefing Thursday to announce charges in the shooting deaths of 24 civilians on November 19, 2005, in the Iraqi town of Haditha.

It is unclear how many troops will be named. Lawyers for two Marines have said they expect their clients will be charged. It is believed up to six others could join them.

The case focuses on motive. What is unclear is whether the civilians were victims of wanton killing by troops angered by the death of a comrade, or people caught in a hellish battle and killed as the Marines attempted to defend themselves from a perceived threat.

The shootings occurred after a roadside bomb killed one Marine from a squad on patrol. In the aftermath of the blast, five Iraqi men were shot as they approached the scene in a taxi and others — including women and children — died as Marines opened fire on a cluster of houses in the area.

[ … ]

No statements were given by the Marines following the Haditha killings, which were investigated months later, after a Time magazine story picked holes in the Marine Corps’ account that 15 Iraqis died in a roadside bomb blast and Marines killed eight insurgents in an ensuing firefight. Later reports put the number of dead Iraqis at 24.

[ … ]

Puckett said all the Marines involved in the incident agree that the killings were a highly unfortunate result of a lawful response to a perceived threat.

Defense lawyers have said that under military rules of engagement, it can be allowable for Marines to clear houses with fragmentation grenades and machine guns if they believe the occupants are threatening their lives.

If we can back off of this giddy and hyperventilating CNN account for a moment, I would like to mention some things we don’t yet know, some things we believe that we know, and some things that are an absolute certainty.

I have tracked the Haditha case since its inception.  There is still a dearth of clear information in the public domain concerning this case.  The lawyers for Wuterich and the others have yet to begin a defense, and the Marines who might be charged have yet to speak.

In my post Iraq: Land of Lies and Deceipt, I quoted a contractor in Iraq who made the following important observation:

I’ve been in Iraq for about 18 months now performing construction management. It is simply not possible for me to exaggerate the massive amounts of lies we wade through every single day. There is no way – absolutely none – to determine facts from bulls*** ….

It is not even considered lying to them; it is more akin to being clever – like keeping your cards close to your chest. And they don’t just lie to westerners. They believe that appearances–saving face–are of paramount importance. They lie to each other all the time about anything in order to leverage others on a deal or manipulate an outcome of some sort or cover up some major or minor embarrassment. It’s just how they do things, period.

I’m not trying to disparage them here. I get along great with a lot of them. But even among those that I like, if something happens (on the job) I’ll get 50 wildly different stories, every time. There’s no comparison to it in any other part of the world where I’ve worked. The lying is ubiquitous and constant.

It would not surprise me if there were multiple “witnesses” to “atrocities” concerning this event.  There might have been a atrocity, but we won’t necessarily know it based on the testimony of the Iraqis involved in the event.

The full story must come out, including the testimony of the Marines involved that day.  What we believe we know based on the reports is that room clearing operations were conducted that day directed at rooms from which enemy fire came.  The last paragraphs of the CNN story are important, and this will form the crux of the defense.

The one who led the stack into the room that day had previously been engaged in the battle for Fallujah.  The protocol was to toss in a fragmentation grenade, and follow with a stack of four Marines (a “fire team”), one whose billet it is to carry the SAW (Squad Automatic Weapon).  This day, the SAW gunner happened to be the one experienced from Fallujah, and who led the stack.

As I have pointed out before, this protocol does not distinguish between friend and foe.  There is no capability with this tactic to delineate a combatant from a potential noncombatant.  There can never be.  It happens far too quickly.  If our rules of engagement involve Marines and Soldiers hesitating to attempt to ascertain combatants from potential noncombatants, the insurgents will learn this and use it to their advantage.  Marines and Soldiers died in Fallujah as a result of room clearing operations, and many more would have died had this been the protocol.

There is another option if there are known noncombatants in a room.  The decision can be made not to engage in room clearing operations against that target.  Simply drive or walk away.  But if the decision is made that enemy fire is coming from a room and the room must be cleared, the sad truth is that, using these necessary tactics, the occupants of the room will die.  The answer to issues such as this in the future is not to change the rules of engagement resulting in more danger for U.S. troops.  The answer is to not engage in the operations to begin with.

Now to what we know with certainty.  Again, I have followed to story, and the assertion that the Time magazine article “picked holes in the Marine Corps’ account” is flatly wrong and just plain silly.  The Time magazine article, like most of the ones since then that have discussed the Haditha event, was pathetic.

Another thing we know with certainty is this.  Just the act of bringing the Marines up on formal charges will cast a pall over other Marines currently in Iraq and make them question their their actions.  Conviction of these Marines will make it worse.  This is true no matter what the Marines did or didn’t do and no matter what happened that day.

**** UPDATE #1 ****

Fox News is reporting that Wuterich has been charged with thirteen counts of murder, for saying to his squad, “shoot first and ask questions later.”

I do not believe that he meant that his squad should fire on noncombatants.  Nor do I believe that his men thought that he meant that.  The words pertain to the tactic called “room clearing,” as discussed above.  In order words, they weren’t knocking on doors.  They were engaged in a military operation.

I predict that if Wuterich is convicted in this case, the tactic of “room clearing” will disappear from Marine training and operations, and they will be left with a scarcity of tactics for MOUT.

Prior: Haditha Roundup category.

**** UPDATE #2 ****

Eight Marines are charged, four with murder, the other four with dereliction of duty.

Lance Cpl. Sanick Dela Cruz, who was written about in the Marine Corps News as an unsung hero of an August 2004 battle with the forces of Muqtada al Sadr, is one of the Marines being charged with murder.

Just to be absolutely clear, these eight Marines, with the room clearing tactics utilized that day, were entirely consistent with the same tactics and techniques taught to this very day in SOI (School of Infantry) at Camps Lejeune and Pendleton, and at the training facility at Mohave Viper.  There are no other room clearing tactics taught at these locations for one simple reason; there are no other military room clearing tactics in existence.

Conferences, Security and Propaganda: Maliki and Ansar Al-Sunnah

BY Herschel Smith
17 years, 5 months ago

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki initiated and led a national reconciliation conference on Saturday, November 16, that was praised by the Bush administration.  “We firmly believe that national reconciliation is the only guaranteed path toward security, stability and prosperity. The alternative, God forbid, is death and destruction and the loss of Iraq,” Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said in his opening remarks.  But some media reports are saying the conference was sunk by no-shows.  Al-Sadr’s bloc said it was boycotting the two-day meeting, as did two major Sunni groups and former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, a secular Shiite.  “There is no point in holding these conferences … because the situation is getting worse,” said Al-Sadr’s spokesman, Firas al-Mitairi.

The army of Ansar al-Sunnah was dealt a significant military blow by the capture of eleven senior level military leaders of AAS around the end of November, and AAS apparently responded by issuing eight communiqués between Tuesday, November 28, 2006, and Thursday, November 30, claiming responsibility for attacks targeting American forces.  AAS has specifically responded to the claims by the coalition that its leaders had been arrested by issuing another press release on December 7 denying these reports.  In this same press release AAS finds that the Baker-Hamilton report recommendations will be “unsuccessful.”

In response to Maliki’s reconciliation conference, AAS issued a press release on December 18 that ridiculed Maliki’s conferences as “desperate.”

The group reminds of Maliki’s appearances in meetings and discussion broadcast by satellite media channels, stating that he made a “mockery

Watching Anbar

BY Herschel Smith
17 years, 6 months ago

The object lesson may be that the axiomatic irreducible, or presupposition upon which all stratagem rests, is that nonkinetic operations may succeed in the suppression of recurring guerrilla activity only after it has been dealt a hard blow, not as the primary offensive tactic upon which our hope rests. 

I have been watching the al Anbar Province for most of the Iraq war, and I beg to differ with the U.S. generals.  I believe that however Anbar goes, so goes the war.  The key to Iraq is the Anbar Province.  While Anbar remains unpacified, insurgent groups (al Qaeda in Iraq, Ansar al-Sunna, etc.) can continue to split the tribal loyalties in the region with some tribes siding with the insurgents and others siding with the government in Baghdad.  This is done not only by propaganda, but by intimidation of the tribal leaders and violence perpetrated on their people.

This is a clever way to effect force multiplication.  The insurgents not only have their own military and personnel assets with which to conduct guerrilla operations, they coax and cajole others to join them in the fight.  This way, tribes fight tribes in internecine war throughout the Anbar Province, ensuring that the insurgents are free to continue their geurrilla operations against coalition forces.  This tactic was successfully used by the Viet Cong in the war in Vietnam.

Being freed to continue guerrilla operations, in addition to attacks against coalition forces, the insurgents can conduct death raids against Shi’ite elements, ensuring a response by Shia militia, which ensures a counter-response by more insurgents (including some tribal elements), and so the cycle goes.  Pulling troops from the Anbar province to pacify Baghdad may have been a huge mistake.  The far preferable solution might have been troop level increases resourced by extended tours of duty, further callups of reserve and national gaurd, or other means.

Anbar remains a very dangerous place to be.  Today another soldier and marine died in combat operations in Anbar, and the total U.S. killed so far in December is 54, even as an al Qaeda leader is arrested in Fallujah.  December is on track to be a very deadly month, rivaling even the first and second battles for Fallujah, with 135 and 137 killed in action, respectively.

The Multi-National Force web site has issued a press release concerning the killing of insurgents emplacing IEDs.

An estimated four insurgents were killed by aviation fires after precision munitions were employed to destroy a bongo truck used to transport improvised explosive devices Friday south of Fallujah.

Marines assigned to Regimental Combat Team 5 observed insurgents excavating IED-making material from the side of a road and loading it into a bongo truck. The truck then proceeded to another location where the insurgents began emplacing the IEDs.

The Marines established positive identification of the insurgents, ensured no civilians were in the vicinity and destroyed the truck with precision munitions.  The insurgents were killed by direct fire.

This press release raises an interesting question.  The U.S. forces observed insurgents excavating IED-making material.  Yet they didn’t engage at that time.  The Marines apparently followed the insurgents to another location where IED emplacement began.  Only after they observed this and “established positive identification” did they engage the enemy.

We don’t want to read too much into the report.  The Marines might have wanted to see if the insurgents departing the area would lead them to other insurgents or IED-making material.  But they might have lost them, or worse yet, stumbled into an ambush or sniper fire.  One hopes that rules of engagement didn’t prohibit their engaging of the enemy because they were “excavating” rather than “emplacing” IED-making material.

Fallujah remains a dangerous place, even after the first and second battles for Fallujah.  The Christian Science Monitor reports that the impact of Marine efforts to rebuild sometimes have the opposite effect.

While their weapons were ready, this was a mission about charity. The US Marines weren’t entering a hospital in downtown Fallujah to root out insurgents, they were going there simply to help.  But any interaction with American forces can prove deadly for Iraqis, and these marines received an uneasy welcome.
Death threats – and increasingly murder – are common against anyone seen to be cooperating with the US. And already, the presence of a Marine observation post, built adjacent to hospital grounds just days before the mission, had cut the number of patients coming to the hospital from 35 a day to just five.

U.S. forces are almost frantically attempting to pour largesse into the Anbar province, but with mixed results.

In a bid to convince the majority to side with coalition troops – as well as the fledgling local government and Iraqi Army and police units in the city – the US military has committed $200 million through more than 60 reconstruction projects.

This small civil-affairs team is on the sharp end of buying security, of finding those projects, paying the cash, and checking up on the work. The dangerous city has claimed 10 marines’ lives in a month from snipers and roadside bombs.

“Reconstruction provides a way of influencing the population, of shaping the battlespace nonkinetically, so you don’t have to put bullets down range,” says Captain Brezler, a reservist from the Bronx whose usual job is New York firefighter.

The Captain has no doubt been trained in the most recent COIN doctrine, as has the still young Marine Major interviewed by Oliver North on FNC, who said that they were employing both “kinetic and nonkinetic operations to defeat the insurgency.”  The word kinetic pertains to motion, and is closely related to the engineering word kinematics.  They mean kinetic operations to be understood as related to offensive operations to include patrols, whether the enemy is engaged or not.  Nonkinetic operations are the reconstruction projects intended to “win the hearts and minds of the people.”

Yet the casualty rate mocks the nonkinetic efforts to defeat the insurgency.  For answers, I turn to Victor Davis Hanson, who two years ago said the following prophetic words:

A year ago, we waged a brilliant three-week campaign, then mysteriously forgot the source of our success. Military audacity, lethality, unpredictability, imperviousness to cheap criticism, and iron resolve, coupled with the message of freedom, convinced neutrals to join us and enemies not yet conquered to remain in the shadows. But our failure to shoot looters, to arrest early insurrectionists like Sadr, and to subdue cities like Tikrit or Falluja only earned us contempt—and not just from those who would kill us, but from others who would have joined us as well.

The misplaced restraint of the past year is not true morality, but a sort of weird immorality that seeks to avoid ethical censure in the short term—the ever-present, 24-hour pulpit of global television that inflates a half-dozen inadvertent civilian casualties into Dresden and Hiroshima. But, in the long term, such complacency has left more moderate Iraqis to be targeted by ever more emboldened murderers. For their part, American troops have discovered that they are safer on the assault when they can fire first and kill killers, rather than simply patrol and react, hoping their newly armored Humvees and fortified flak vests will deflect projectiles.

There is certainly robust debate over COIN doctrine and whether to pursue this strategy or that one the most fervently.  In the end, the object lesson may be that the axiomatic irredicible, or presupposition upon which all stratagem rests, is that nonkinetic operations may succeed in the suppression of recurring guerrilla activity only after it has been dealt a hard blow, not as the primary offensive tactic upon which our hope rests.

Attack Syria

BY Herschel Smith
17 years, 6 months ago

Thanks to Politics Central (Pajamas Media), we learn that Iraqi insurgents have successfully launched a 24-hour propaganda television station, located in Syria, and with the help of Egypt.

Broadcasting from a secret location in Syria, Al-Qaeda and its allies now have their own 24-hour television station, Pajamas Media has learned. Known as Al-Zawraa, Arabic for “first channel,

Rules of Engagement: Part III

BY Herschel Smith
17 years, 6 months ago

Our friend Mike at Cop the Truth points out a Day by Day cartoon that falls right in line with the discussion here over the last few days (The NCOs Speak on Rules of Engagement).  Folks … please … don’t get puckered and start technical-speak on ROE.  Just enjoy the humor.  I wonder where they got the idea for the subject today?


Day by Day ROE


Jackass of the Year

BY Herschel Smith
17 years, 6 months ago

I have noted, with some lack of embarrassment (I know, it embarrasses me that I am not embarrassed), my utter jealousy of Michael Fumento’s hate mail category (although Mike Adams has a good one too, but not nearly as admirable as Michael’s). So it is with proud anticipation that the Captain’s Journal announces the “Jackass of the Year” award. It goes to one SSG Kevin Gorman, who writes to us (continually, we might add) from a military network domain:

IP Address =>

And his e-mail address is:

I actually know the location from which he is writing, but I will let the army figure than one out. It should be easy for them.

In response to my post The NCOs Speak on Rules of Engagement, dear Kevin began dropping cantankerous comments that quickly devolved into spam (name calling) that Spam Karma II caught (many, many of them). I love Spam Karma II. It keeps all information from the sender, and stops the spammed comments automatically based on the settings that I give it. So I get to see what Kevin has said, and from where he has said it.

Kevin has been quite the author over the last couple days. One wonders exactly what he has been doing with his time? A little background. I had received a comment from Major Joel Leggett, currently in Iraq, stating to me that his unit “always resolves any reasonable doubt in favor of the individual marine on the ground.” I responded to Maj. Leggett that I was glad to see that this was so, while also continuing my polite questioning of the ROE under which we operate.

Now. I responded this way for reasons known only to me. It could have been the viability of U.S. warfighting capabilities, or it could have been the safety of the unit my son deploys with (2/6), or it could have been related exclusively to my son and any future engagement he might have with the enemy when he deploys. The reader doesn’t know. This is key. I digress for a moment. Anyone who has actually been through the pain of watching, nay, participating in, proceedings that were conducted by Robert’s Rules of Order, knows that one huge no-no is ascribing motive to someone. You know what they say, but you do not know what they think (by the way, this is one thing that causes so many problems with interpreting congressional legislation after the fact).

But Kevin claimed to know what I thought, when he wrote back to me the following words: “Ya, I’ll bet. Better to keep your son alive than to win the war.”

Congratulations, Kevin! You have won it! The “Jackass of the Year” award. You win it, and in the superlative degree. No one else was close in the running.

Though … I still wonder how you have the time to send me all of those spams when you have … um … a military job.

Force Projection or Force Protection?

BY Herschel Smith
17 years, 6 months ago

I have argued for increased force size on many occassions, and in my article Consequences of Inadequate Force Projection, I pointed out that lack of adequate force projection (along with lack of timeliness and speed with which the war has been conducted) has had debilitating consequences to the war effort.

There is currently debate over whether to increase, decrease or leave as is the force size in Iraq.  But what would these forces do if we did increase them?  In fact, what will the current forces do if we leave them there?  Taken literally, the Baker report implies that they will be protecting themselves.  Right in the executive summary are these words: “By the first quarter of 2008, subject to unexpected developments in the security situation on the ground, all combat brigades not necessary for force protection could be out of Iraq.”

Consider the logical contortions of this statement for a moment.  Rewind:

“All combat brigades not necessary for force protection …”

The Department of Defense concept of “force protection” brings together all the security disciplines in a broader program to protect service members, civilian employees, family members, facilities and equipment.  Basically, “force protection” is a defensive posture.  If U.S. troops were going to be engaged in the sole duty of self-preservation on cloistered bases, why would they be deployed to Iraq at all?

Since Baker’s team obviously suffers under the delusion that Iran and Syria might just be willing to help us out with Iraq, the presence of U.S. forces would not be there as a detering presence.  So if not for Iran or Syria, then what?  Why would U.S. forces be present in the region at all after security had been achieved?  And if Baker would respond “to embed with Iraqi forces,” then the logical retort would be that this isn’t force protection as defined by the DoD.

The formal logical fallacy should not be overlooked here, because it is merely a symptom of the larger and more serious sickness of the study.  This is actually a point so important and fundamental that a middle-schooler should have been able to ascertain the problem prior to releasing the report.  The Baker commission has no mission for the troops after “security has been achieved,” but yet has them located in the region for a strategy that they do not define, engaged in “force protection.”  Were the Baker vision to reign, presumably we would have U.S. troops deployed to huge bases in Iraq, protecting each other, doing PTs in the morning, watching movies at night, and getting fat on the excessive food.

I have given a chance for Sun Tzu to speak to James Baker, but I have not yet weighed in.  Pitiful.  Just pitiful.  The congress should demand a refund.  The words of Macbeth come to mind: “A tale, told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing,” The Tragedy of Macbeth, Act 5, Scene 5.

The NCOs Speak on Rules of Engagement

BY Herschel Smith
17 years, 6 months ago

Three Non-commissioned officers queue up to dispel the myths, respond to the critics, end the rumors, and weigh in on rules of engagement for U.S. troops in Iraq. 

On December 6, I published Politically Correct Rules of Engagement Endanger Troops.  This article touched quite the raw nerve, and since the time of publication I have received many communications from various interested parties, some of them with direct knowledge of the things discussed in the article.  I stated in the comments to the article that I would update the discussion with future posts, and this is my second installment on the subject of rules of engagement.  Some of the communications I received from members of the military were literally stunning, and I will focus on two such communications in this article, specifically, from NCOs who were in Iraq and who are familiar with rules of engagement and the affect they have on U.S. troops.

Introduction and Background

Necessarily preliminary to this discussion is an understanding of why it is acceptable to discuss such things in the open.  Does detail on this topic not constitute an OPSEC (operational security) violation?  This question has been posed to me on other articles I have written.  More specifically, regarding my article Snipers Having Tragic Success Against U.S. Troops, it was stated to me by one reader that the free flow of information concerning the military may be likened to the Roman roads.  The same roads the Roman armies used to build the Roman empire were used by invading armies to end it.  And as a result of the seed article to this one (on ROE), it was said to me that while it may not have been intentional, the affect of my article on rules of engagement was like the affect Jane Fonda had during her visit to North Vietnam.  I had broken the “loose lips sinks ships” rule, and it had a detrimental affect on our ability to wage war.  I must confess, I have never been compared to Jane Fonda before.

In the two articles cited above, I used only MSM reports, and tried to weave a cohesive story together from the several reports that had been filed.  One of the virtues of blogging is that a vast array of reports and other information is available to the self-initiated analyst to observe trends and other characteristics of the reports.  This fairly accurately describes the two aforementioned articles.  Nothing original existed in them.  If this information is available to me, then it is most certainly available to the enemy.  More to the point, the only way, for instance, for the MSM to be able to write that the enemy knows the ROE of U.S. troops is to get the story directly from U.S. troops.  The story is there with U.S. troops because they see it and live it daily.  The U.S. troops get the story from the enemy.  Hence, the enemy already knows the information.

To assert that a blogger with third hand knowledge of the enemy interactions with U.S. troops (e.g., dropping their weapons just prior to engagement, and then walking away when the ROE prohibits U.S. troops from engaging), packaging them up coherently, and commenting on them for several hundred people to read constitutes “loose lips” is akin to suggesting that your family accountant is responsible for the latest Congressional vote to raise taxes.  Put simply, “that dog won’t hunt.”

Additionally, there is a difference between written ROE (most of which the grunt is not allowed to read), and the implementation in the field.  Commercial jet airliners have manuals, but reading them, no matter how studiously, doesn’t qualify a person to pilot the aircraft.  The two parties most qualified to understand how ROE affects U.S. troops are U.S. troops themselves and the enemy.  The enemy sees them.  The enemy fights them.  They see the actual ROE in the field, and the claim that somehow a blog can affect what the enemy is watching on the ground is not compelling.

What honest, open and serious debate can do is make the general public aware of things that they would otherwise not have time to research for themselves.  Finally, a post like this can serve to open and continue dialogue and debate within the military ranks on a subject that involves many raw nerves and, based on the reports below, causes an impediment to achieving the mission objectives.

I hope that this post serves as a catalyst to those ends.  Concerning the two NCOs I cite below, I have done my investigative homework to verify that they are who they say they are; e-mail from *.mil network domains, independent verification from MSM accounts and other sources that the units they said that they were part of were indeed deployed to the locations and at the times that they claimed.  Finally, one word is redacted from the first account for sensibilities, and per agreement with one of the NCOs, the dates, unit designations and locations are redacted from the second account (for reasons that will not be disclosed here).  The language is “crusty,” and so the reader has been warned.

I would like to express my personal gratitude and sincere humility that these respected NCOs felt that they could share their experiences with me.  I am honored beyond what I can express here in words.

The NCOs Speak

From an NCO who was deployed in the Kirkuk area for approximately one year.

Our ROE was simple. The right to self defense was never denied. The ROE was based on a method of determining a life threatening scenario from a non-life threatening one. We called this the “Escalation Of Force.” Show, Shout, Shove, and Shoot. It’s pretty self explanatory and easy to follow in a perfect world. The problem is that the world isn’t perfect.

Scenario: You’re a gunner on an M2 .50 caliber machine gun mounted atop a M1114 Up-Armored HMMWV. You are the last vehicle and you are pulling rear security. A vehicle in the distance is swerving through traffic on a mission from God and closing on your convoy quickly. You wave your arms to get the driver’s attention to no avail. You yell obscenities at the crazy Iraqi while drawing down on the vehicle with your large caliber, fully automatic, machine gun. Hell, you even throw your water bottle hoping to get the hood on a bounce. Nothing. You notice a male driver who appears to be gripping the wheel a little too tight and who has beads of sweat forming on his brow. You realize that this could be trouble. But… to complicate the matter, there is a woman (presumably his wife) and 4 children in the car as well. The vehicle is fast approaching… and you have a mere second to react. Your buddy’s, nay, family’s lives are on the line behind you. They trust you to make the right decision. What do you do?

Option 1: Warning shots. Sure. Can work. Collateral damage becomes an issue, and high ranking military personnel HATE such paperwork.

Option 2: Wait it out. This choice is putting the lives of a “civilian” before the lives of your military “family.”  I wholeheartedly disagree with this choice, but it keeps you out of Leavenworth.

Option 3: Stop the vehicle by any means necessary. Shoot ’em up and ensure the safety of your family who depends on you.

Now with any of these options you find out in the end that either… A) Vehicle drives right on by and through the convoy, apparently the wife was in labor and they were speeding to the hospital. B) Vehicle drives right by you and slams into middle vehicle as 5 155mm Mortar rounds detonate the vehicle killing 3, wounding 4 and truly screwing up your day.

So, you don’t know if a pregnant wife is being rushed to the hospital or a family of insane insurgents are preparing to destroy you.

That is a lot of responsibility to be put on an 18 year old private sitting behind an uber powerful machine gun. That’s why our armed forces are so wonderful. We have 18 year old kids who can and do make those decisions daily. What a wonderful country we were born in.

You make the wrong move and kill civilians though, you not only have to live with the mistake, but you will be ridiculed unmercifully by the media/big army. You will be buried in proceedings and paperwork the remainder of your deployment, and you will not be the same. Your buddies will be affected as well. Cpl. X will see how bad it could be to make the wrong decision, and will hesitate just a hair too long when there is a real threat… and more men will die. The fear of failure leads to hesitation, and hesitation in war is a lesser form of suicide.

That, in my opinion, is the problem. This is not a war. The enemy does not wear uniforms, and therefore the Geneva Convention is null and void instead of applicable.

My unit, as well as the thousands of other soldiers in our area dealt with these problems on a daily basis. The “details” of the ROE changed daily. Some examples… For a time, the gunners would bring buckets full of rocks into the turret with them to throw through the windshields of vehicles not adhering to our warnings to stay away (that ended quickly after command had to pay for numerous windshields). We put signs in Arabic/Kurdish/Turkish on the backs of the vehicles warning them to stay away. We fired warning shots. We did nothing. We drove in the center of the road and dominated our routes by running ignorant drivers right off the road. We drove with the flow of traffic and narrowly averted disaster numerous times.

From another NCO who was deployed in Ramadi for about a year.

The ROE is a politically based cover your ass piece of paper.  It has caused American deaths and really hurt our ability to actually DO anything …

The full ROE is classified, but soldiers are given a small 1 or so page excerpt.  It is stressed that the ROE is not do be divulged or given out to anyone not in uniform, but is more of an FOUO at our level (for official use only) … They [the grunts] are told they can always defend themselves, but then given warning of “overdefending” themselves. 

So yes, from the grunts on the field perspective … the ROE is vague and limiting.  And every time “violations” of the ROE came up it caused our soldiers and marines to question their actions and sometimes cause casualties. If you look up the case of the [unit redacted] Soldier from the [location redacted] region you will see an excellent example.  The [unit redacted] Soldiers started pulling back after that, and even though he eventually had the charges dropped it caused problems throughout the entire Battalion.

And without going into specifics if you look at [date redacted] incident when we lost two Marine pilots and an Army Lt north of [location redacted] you will see another example of how fear of ROE kept us from hitting an enemy until after he had fired at us (and led to a downed helo and an IEDed hummer).  And it was almost much worse.  We dropped two 500 lb bombs a little later and stopped the insurgents from a planned attack that might have led to even more deaths.  And we almost didn’t do that because of ROE.

Analysis and Commentary

These reports parallel the report documented in a recent article at Blackfive by another NCO:

Let me tell you a little something about ROE (Rules of Engagement). In Baghdad thousands of people are moving around all the time. Many houses, all of them, have guns. On a general scale, none of them are planning any wrongdoing at all. But they don’t think that Americans can accomplish anything, either, because they know we can’t search at will, can’t shoot at will, can’t detain at will.

If you wish to stop a car approaching a checkpoint, you must first post a sign a long way down the road, if it is ignored, you must verbally warn them, and use a green laser to get the drivers attention. If still ignored, you must fire a warning shot with an M4, then a M240, then, finally the kill shot. If at any time the car turns away, all you can do is TRY to pursue it, never shoot at it. Technically, similar rules exist for dismounted operations, and that puts more soldiers at risk than you can possibly imagine. I’m not sure Johnny on the street has this information, but Muhammed in the mosque sure does.

I can’t even tell you how pissed it makes me to hear a JAG officer suck in breath as he tries to think real hard how to explain the murky depths of our ROE. A system that used to be a way of allowing soldiers to avoid hurting civilians by using certain weapon systems at certain times has once again degenerated into a complex “Cover Your Ass

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