Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Everybody Knows

--Pour féliciter 2016  
Marian Kemnsky (Slovakia)

If you make people think they're thinking,
they'll love you,
but if you really make them think,
they'll hate you
--Don Marquis

Everybody knows that the dice are loaded
Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed
Everybody knows the war is over
Everybody knows the good guys lost
Everybody knows the fight was fixed
The poor stay poor, the rich get rich 
--Everybody Knows,
Leonard Cohen

If life seems jolly rotten
There's something you've forgotten
And that's to laugh and smile and dance and sing
--Look on the Bright Side of Life,
Monty Python

Whether mass murders are committed by criminals, crazies or crusaders, all activities that can be conducted by terrorists can be predicted and countered; they all throw off indicators. Adequate Human Intelligence (HUMINT) should be keen to these tells, and it seems they are by the speed with which suspects are identified.

The above descriptive categories are not necessarily discrete and do not negate the humanity of the perpetrator, who has merely amplified his innate human qualities and tendencies to pathological levels. They are simply helpful labels to distinguish a potential "them" from an "us".

And yet, though the pathology and criminality can be predicted, detected and monitored, this failed to occur in Boston, Aurora, Newtown, Ft. Hood, University of West Virginia, San Bernadino or any of the other recent spree shootings that occur with sickening regularity. Why?

Why do our authorities not develop a protocol for response, as though each incident is de novo? We are no longer shocked -- only in the disingenuous sense of Casablanca's Captain Renault. What is shocking is our response to these hideous events.

Why didn’t the police barricade and contain the final scenario? Why no effort to capture the killers? If this was an example of terrorism, then capturing the suspects should have been a primary goal, as live intelligence sources are of vital importance.

Why are the identities of attackers with a tie-in to extremist Islam instantly released, yet they were not on anyone’s radar prior to the attacks? Suggestions of police racial profiling are avoided at all costs, yet immediately following these much-too-many attacks, racial profiling is the order of the day. If we know who the murderers are, why do we close the barn door after the horse is out?

Beyond this event, we should be mindful of what our responses hath wrought. Last year the U.S. movie-going public rose in admiration of Clint Eastwood's Hollywood fairy tale, "American Sniper", but to the people on the other side of the fence, neither he nor the country he represents are heroic. In fact, the response to such "heroism" has created the void into which Islamic State was birthed.

James Meek had a good piece recently on the bombing of Syria, in which he outlines the obvious, inevitable failures. As in all recent bombing campaigns, "[First] bombing, then ISIS franchise."

Bombing fails because it is reminiscent of any colonial approach:

"The country is present, but doesn’t have a voice. ... [A]ir attacks on Syria, before they are an attack on Islamic State, are an attack on Syria, a foreign country, whose citizens have no say in our affairs, and which has not attacked us, or our allies."


It doesn’t make sense for Cameron to argue that air attacks on Raqqa will help prevent IS attacks on London, when the recent attacks in Paris happened 14 months into an intensive series of air raids on and around IS-held areas, led by the world’s leading military power, which has spared no airborne military resources or technology to try to wipe IS from the earth. Russia’s recent experience, losing a passenger jet to an explosive device soon after it began bombing Syria, seems to confirm the intuitive assumption that bombing is more likely to provoke terrorism than to thwart it.
We have been here before, with al-Qaida and then with the Taliban: Western governments have mistaken a super-decentralised network, somewhere between a franchise and an ethos, for an agency with a postal address. The attacks in Paris certainly had IS links – some of the attackers had been to Syria or tried to get there – but most, if not all, were French or Belgian, who sought out IS because they had been radicalised at home, and who did most of their killing with Kalashnikovs from the former Yugoslavia.

It is useful for an IS aspirant to have a Raqqa to go to for training, for battle experience, for validation by a set of jihadi peers. But for a mobile terrorist franchise like IS or al-Qaida, Raqqa is a concept, not a place. Once Osama bin Laden’s Raqqa was in Sudan. Then it was in southern Afghanistan. It could be in Pakistan, in Somalia, in Yemen, in northern Nigeria, in the Russian Caucasus, or all these places at once.

On the bright side, San Bernadino does show that gun control laws are working, as the shooters had to obtain their weapons via an intermediary (a "straw purchase", which is a federal crime.)

The San Bernadino attack forefronts the fact that Islamic State lacks the ability to attack hard targets in the U.S., even when the attackers are willing to die during the execution phase, thus emphasizing their minimal and haphazard capabilities.

[cross-posted @ milpub.]

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Monday, December 28, 2015

Accidental Terrorist

Men are not a new sensation
I've done pretty well, I think
But this half-pint imitation
Put me on the blink 
--Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered, 
Lornz and Hart 

[You're ugly] and you're boring,
and you're totally ordinary 
--American Beauty (1999) 

 Leaders proclaim a government
To last forever,
Then walls collapse and refugees
Come pouring over
--Farmer Sowing,
 Adam Kirsch

Killings like the recent one in San Bernadino are often called “senseless”, “horrendous” and always, “terrorism” -- but is it so?

Even assuming that it was those things, was it “spectacular”? The San Bernadino attack feels like any of the other tawdry mass shootings conducted by criminally-insane, marginalized shooters. Sad to say, but as the character Ricky Fitts says in the film American Beauty, it was "totally ordinary," in the state of our new normal.

Regardless of what we call the event, it was a cold and calculated murder executed within the social circle of the shooters. It is possible it was an act of revenge by Syed Rizwan Farook against co-workers who criticized his Muslim religion. It was a terror-filled event, but Terrorism and terror are distinct terms. And since all terrorism is criminal activity, does it matter that these killers pledged allegiance to the Islamic State? If so, In what purview does it matter? Most assuredly, the killings were not an act of war.

There is a sense that this couple camouflaged their personal animosities and called it a “jihad”. This can be inferred because of the location they chose: instead of entering a federal building or a military compound, they attacked Farouk's co-workers at a Christmas party.

Contrast this action to the recent Paris attacks which were clear acts of terrorism as they affected an audience beyond the killing (i.e., the French government). Paris gained the Islamic State diplomatic recognition as an army, based on the reactions of the French government.

In comparison, there is no discernible evidence that the U.S. shooters were trained in soldierly skills or that they possessed any tradecraft or experience in the world of “sleeper agents”. Their bombs could not bomb (said in our best Inspector Clouseau.) Only unsophisticated bombers use pipe bombs, anyway. Only idiots would use metal, screw-on pipes.

Their home-made hand grenades were as bad as those of bombers manqué Reid and Abdulmutallab (the shoe and underwear bombers [not], respectively.) If they were tied in to the World Terror Network, their behavior violates the rule that Terror groups learn, cross-fertilize and don’t repeat the same stupid mistakes.

They used semi-auto rifles with 30-round magazines, with back-up pistols. When they entered the crime scene they had 60 rounds locked and loaded, yet achieved only 14 kills (my sympathy to those and their families) because they did not seal the avenues of approach. A professional would not have overlooked this fact.

Further, why did the shooters use M16 clones, versus AK47 semi automatics available in any gun shop in the United States? The AK47 is the terrorist weapon of choice in close quarters fighting, so the AK's absence would indicate that these two were not educated in a terrorist training camp.

Their escape route was not effective, either (echoing the mistake made by the Boston bombers.) During the final shootout they were reported to have had a large supply of rifle ammunition, but in the news photos, the ammo appeared in stripper clips, and not loaded into magazines. This is amateur behavior, as a trained fighter would have all ammo loaded into magazines, ready for the fight. (A soldier’s basic load is 140 rounds, in magazines.)

San Bernadino was another grotesque mass murder, of no consequence, committed by two bumbling idiots, two disturbed, vacuous and soulless individuals.

If this is the best that Islamic State can array against us, then they are of little consequence to the U.S. This is not a “bring it on” moment; this is a fact.

[cross-posted @ milpub.]

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Thursday, December 03, 2015


--Still Life with Three Puppies,
(they're probably innocent) 

It may be useful to remember 
that a peacetime political machine
is built essentially on patronage 
--Counterinsurgency Warfare: Theory and Practice,
David Galula 

 It seems so easy 
Oh so doggone easy
Yeah it seems so easy
--It Seems So Easy,
Buddy Holly and The Crickets 

Oh, it's a blue, sick world, Rip 
--Dead Reckoning (1947) 

Subtitle: Retour, or, "Payback is a Bitch".

We love the emotion behind easy statements of solidarity ("Je Suis Charlie") and the laying of stuffed animals, crosses and candles at murder sites. It is all very primitive, as befits an act of primal rage, like murder. It is behavior at the reptilian brain level.

However, beyond soothing ourselves with these rituals, it would be helpful to understand the origins of these rages. In the case of the recent French attacks, one may look at colonial and  neo-colonial actions to find some answers.

In the early 1920's the French partnered with the Spanish in using poison gas against Arabs in the Moroccan Rif war in an act of State-sponsored terror.

War can be seen as the breakdown of rational thought and civilized behavior, ditto terrorism, but the two are separate concepts. During World War II, the French Vichy government and their police collaborated actively with the occupying German forces to round up and send French Jews to their deaths in camps far to the East. Was this an act of war, or was it terror? Whatever we call it, we cannot accurately estimate the deaths caused by these collections and deportations.

In Algeria (1954-62) the French tortured, extrajudicially murdered and otherwise conducted themselves in an often barbaric manner. Earlier this year in the Central African Republic it was reported that French peacekeepers raped young African boys, criminal acts which certainly did not sit well with the Boku Haram branch of Islamic extremists.

But for those who know the history of the French colonial occupation of Vietnam, pederasty of the locals has a long and profane provenance for them. Compare these abuses with the most recent terror incident in Paris, and draw your own conclusions,

Violence is never the answer. Another reality is that none of us are innocent or untouched by the insanity and illogic of violence, whether it is visited in war, or terror, or our own domestic lives.

The recent terror in Paris was not warfare, but there is a cry for help somewhere in the equation. This is not to excuse it, but only to understand.

What makes any man or woman capable of butchery and killing devoid of any greater good?

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Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Fantasy Terrorism: It's Only a Game

They're still fighting
With their tanks and their bombs
And their bombs and their guns
In your head in your head they are dying
The Cranberries

Sleigh bells ring, are you listening
In the lane, snow is glistening
A beautiful sight, we're happy tonight
Walking in a winter wonderland
--Winter Wonderland,
Dean Martin 

This world's divided into two kinds of people:
the hunter and the hunted.
Luckily I'm the hunter. Nothing can change that
--The Most Dangerous Game (1932) 


We have passed into Turkey Time, which means entering the twilight of the gridiron heroics and, for those who want too much of a good thing, the Fantasy Football Leagues. It occurred to Ranger while considering his Affordable Terrorism Act (ATA ©) that the United State's anti-terrorism plan looks a lot like fantasy football.

Imagine Fantasy Terrorism as a new American pastime: we can give $50 million to the person or group who kills Osama bin Laden, or $25 million to the 50 people who kill the Number 2 man in charge of al Qaeda (as we have done numerous times in the last 12 years.)

We can shift terrorists from one group to another and even allow them to change group designators and locations before putting a bomb strike out on them.

We can grant bonuses to the fantasy anti-terror team members that make the more spectacular kills in cafes and restaurants, with the highest fees going to those who can breach the terrorist's home and kill him in his jammies, preferably with a wife standing by.

Bonuses given for innovative torture sessions and successful kidnappings. (Unofficial bonus: a book contract and movie licensing fees.)

The Phony War on Terror (PWOT ©) is a game that anyone lacking previous subject matter knowledge can play. The ending is a foregone conclusion: the players are designated losers, because the terrorists control the tempo of operations. Therefore, they have the initiative, putting us on the defense.

And everyone knows that defense does not win wars.

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Tuesday, December 01, 2015

How Did That Feel for You?


The #1 movie in America was called "Ass."
And that's all it was for 90 minutes.
It won eight Oscars that year, including best screenplay 
--Idiocracy (2006)

--How do you account for the fact that the bombing campaign
has been going on for thirteen years?
--Beginners' luck. 
--Brazil (1985)

Yesterday was busy, so I allowed myself a few minutes of National Public Radio news at around 5:15 PM. Accustomed to NPR programs like Fresh Air, I presumed the same level of expertise with their evening news cast -- not so!

Tuning in at the end of a feature on the recent Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood shooter Mr Dear, the commentator asked, "So what's next for Mr. Dear?", casual-like. And I'm thinking, "Well, maybe they were expecting to hear, 'a career in stage and screen'"? Perhaps his own farm-to-table featuring nothing but aged beef?

No! Of course, what's next for Mr. Dear is a trial by law; that is how our system works when someone is convicted of killing someone else (provided they are proved mentally competent to stand trial.) Have we become so estranged from the Constitution that we have forgotten that we have a system of jurisprudence in place to handle such matters?

The following question to the hapless reporter on the scene  concerned the citizens of the town: "How do they feel about it?" 

How do they feel? Have we learned nothing in eons of populating this planet? Imagine, if you will, a primitive Anderson Cooper (in loincloth) interviewing a tribesman about his recent loss: "And how did you feel, Unk, when the dingoes ate your baby?"

UNK: "Unk feels bad." That is about the size of it, right? What sensible Colorado Springs resident would say that the shooting made them feel like snowboarding followed by a peppermint hot toddy? Na ga da. Just that.

Later,  an OB-GYN who practices abortion services in Kansas is asked how she feels. Can you guess? It's not good, right?

Do these seemingly inane questions following each new publicized episode of public violence serve a purpose? "What was it like for you in (Paris, Boston, etc.)?" asks the fatuous reporter. "It was a bloody shrieking mess, yeah?" Are we moving to the point where we will one day become so inured to the events that the spectator will perform as an Olympic judge? --

"Well, Frank, I'd give it an "8" for effectiveness, but a "3" for execution; it was sloppy, and many escaped unscathed. He also loses points for style and creativity."

Has our level of discourse so eroded that we share no level of commonality besides the basest emotions?

The very next story featured the Courageous Conservative darling Ted Cruz, a "good Christian man" (according to a whistle-stop attendee) who is "moving up on frontrunner Donald Trump." (Donald Trump is the frontrunner? For President of the United States of America?) Mr. Cruz, loaded for bear, is featured quoting from his favorite movie -- The Princess Bride -- to his avid band of followers who are presumably voting adults somewhere in the hinterlands.

These men are considered Presidential material by their cohort, your fellow Americans.

Having not tuned in to the evening news for decades (I started viewing as a babe) after tiring of the "SAD- BAD-MAD-GLAD" tetraptych that parades as the evening news, I was disappointed to find more of the same on NPR.

What are we thinking? Are we thinking?

[cross-posted @ milpub.]

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Monday, November 30, 2015

Affordable Terrorism Act

 The truth is incontrovertible. 
Malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, 
but in the end, there it is 
--Winston Churchill

It is reported this month that the cost of the Phony War on Terror (PWOT ©) is approaching $4 trillion. It is a number hard to conceptualize. Few federal programs are funded to this figure (over a 12-year span). 

Moreover, we do not know what we are buying, or for or from whom. The expense is buried in secret budgets, state and local costs and the expenditures of the Departments of Defense and State. We cannot evaluate either the intent or capabilities of the terrorists, yet we throw mega dollars at the concept. 

The benchmark of a viable project is that it defines the problem and the subject (population), and from this it formulates an approach. We have fallen short in the PWOT.

Pretend for a moment that the United States took no military action following the attacks of 9-11-01, as we did following the attacks in Beirut (1983) and Iran (1979). Let us say we realized that that war is not the correct response to a low-level terrorist attack.

Now fast-forward to 2015: Can we say with any certainty that the lavish expenditures of the PWOT minimized future attacks on the homeland? 

It was Ranger’s position following the attacks that there would be no follow-on scenarios because the group lacked the capabilities to do so. The opposing camp says that it was the ensuing expensive military campaign which has thwarted any such potential events. In making a judgment, it is important to consider the quality of the piddling, pathetic efforts made by the sad sack terrorists manqué here at home, i.e., Jose Padilla, Richard Reid (the “shoe bomber”); Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab (the "underwear bomber"), the Ohio bridge bombers, et al.

We need an Affordable Terrorism Act (ATA). But to agree to such a thing, we would have to believe in ourselves and in an observable world order.

We would have to accept that:

  • The Taliban were and are not a threat to our internal security
  • The Iraqi government of Saddam Hussein was not a threat to the U.S.
  • Islamic State is not a high-level threat. However, if they are we must acknowledge that their existence is due to our actions in their country of origin. We must accept that we have no Arab friends, and that calling any Arab nation an ally is a lie
  • The threat facing Europe is not the same threat facing the U.S.

If we accepted these things, Ranger’s suggestions would include:

  • Eliminate the NSA focus on collection of data from U.S. citizens. Have them focus instead upon foreign threats, per their charter.
  • Put the Central Intelligence Agency back into the CIA business
  • Put the Defense Intelligence Agency back into the DIA business 
  • Cease world-wide drone strikes. Focus on international and police and intelligence interplay. 
  • Reinstate the Federal Bureau of Investigation as the sole counter-intelligence terrorist agency in the continental U.S. 
  • Let the DoD concentrate on war-fighting, rather than police-oriented efforts
  • Respect the sovereignty of all nations, to include Syria

We cannot afford an open-ended war of such extravagant spending when our social welfare system struggles to provide services to needy Americans.
We can ill-afford this ongoing distraction.

When 40 million Americans got to bed hungry each night it seems superfluous to say terrorism is a threat to our way of life.

[cross-posted @ MilPub.]

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Friday, November 20, 2015

Aux Armes, Citoyennes!

I can't believe we're just gonna casually
watch someone get murdered.
What is this, Detroit? 
--The Final Girls (2015)

Money talks very loudly
You'd be surprised the friends you can buy
with small change 
--Money Talks,
J. J. Cale

 He was a man who had read everything,
and understood nothing 
--John Cleese 

The media are calling the recent Paris attacks an act of war. French President Hollande says the nation's response will be "pitiless". 

Unfortunately, these killings were simply another primitive terror incident carried out by non-state players, with simple explosives and individual weapons. It was a terror attack because the perpetrators did not have more sophisticated assets. If they did they would have used them.

Terror is the tool of the weak in a world of militarily powerful nation states. 

Terrorism is not warfare. It is criminal activity. If it were warfare, then the players would be covered as legitimate combatants under the Geneva Conventions; they are not. They are consistently misrepresented as "militia" along with all the other related emotion-laden appellations. 

Yet the fact remains: they are simple criminals unworthy of the title "combatant". Terrorism is not warfare, nor is warfare, terrorism. Just because we call terrorism "an act of war" does not make it so. We are not Captain Jean-Luc Picard.

[Cross-posted @ MilPub.]

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Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The Slippery Slope: Ranger Class, 2015

--G. I. Jane (1997)

I'm strictly a female female
And my future I hope will be
In the home of a brave and free male
Who'll enjoy being a guy
having a girl...like... me 
--I Enjoy Being a Girl,
Flower Drum Song 

I feel dizzy
I feel sunny
I feel fizzy and funny and fine
And so pretty
Miss America can just resign 
--I Feel Pretty, 
West Side Story

 Hey, little girl, comb your hair,
fix your make-up, soon he will open the door,
Don't think because there's a ring on your finger,
you needn't try any more 
--Wives and Lovers,
Burt Bacharach

When we were kids, "Your mother wears Army boots" was about the worst insult we could muster.  Now, it's just another day in the office for female military members.

In the march to equality (androgyny?), this year saw the first three female graduates from Ranger school. Ranger agrees with those who feel that the admission of females will lower the standards of Infantry combat training as well as the effectiveness of combat units But he also believes Ranger training was being degraded long before women entered the school.

Ranger's Ranger experience (referred to henceforth as "RR") was a far cry from today's climate-controlled living experience. Barracks were uninsulated and unheated in the depth of winter; windows were nailed open.

Ranger School had no niceties. RR's candidates were allowed five minutes in the mess hall, so a meal consisted mainly of  what you could stuff in your field jacket pockets, like Hoffman's grubby "Ratso Rizzo" in Midnight Cowboy. That is probably not the case today, as the candidates all looked clean and rested when Ranger had an opportunity to view the camp several years ago. The men from RR's looked like extreme reality show escapees.

They traveled to Mountain Ranger Camp (MRC) in 2 1/2 ton truck with canvas top, freezing in the wind chill of a North Georgia winter. They lived in primitive huts. The showers were cold, and there was a central latrine. They seldom slept more than four hours, and usually that was in the field with only a sleeping bag cover allowed. Rations were C-type.

Compare Ranger school's 2015 three-hour, 12-mile forced march component (the same standard that a non-elite group like female MP basic trainees had to meet 30 years ago) to RR's 19-mile forced march off 1968 with rucksacks and all normally carried TO&E equipment.

The forced march requirement now is only 60% of the 1968 standard. (Note: RR's 1968 training was a degradation still from that of basic line unit training in WWII, when the 2/506/101 performed a 56-mile forced march from Toccoa, GA to Atlanta.) RR's required five-mile run and all p.t. was done in 2-lb boots, not sneakers. His medics gave the men Darvon 600's so they could numb themselves during the day. 

Why the degradation in training? Is it because today's All Volunteer Army does not need to be as tough?

The female Ranger graduates were recycled more than once (having not passed previous classes.) Though recycling was not uncommon in Ranger's experience, only one attempt at recycling was allowed, and it was never at Camp Darby, the patrolling component (as it was with these females) 

Why did they all the women fail at Darby? When RR's arrived they were branch-qualified and knew patrolling and how to use all TO&E equipment and weaponry. Darby was simply a polishing endeavor. There were no recycles at Darby because it was too early to identify the need for remediation.

Ranger school training has been degraded, and now women (with a little help from their friends) will be passing through. And though they will be assigned to units, it is doubtful that will ever be used as combat multipliers in actual Infantry combat scenarios.

These female Ranger's were raised with tough and buff movie characters like Lara Croft and G.I. Jane. Our all-inclusive society is allowing them to realize their dreams, but at what cost will this EOE effort come?

[Cross-posted @ MilPub.]

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Thursday, November 05, 2015

Burning Down the House

 All I want is to be left alone
in my average home;
But why do I always feel
like I'm in the Twilight Zone? 
--Somebody's Watching Me,

Confidential information
It's in a diary
This is my investigation 
It's not a public inquiry 
--Private Investigations,
Dire Straits

The United States Embassy in Benghazi, Libya, was destroyed on 11 September 2012. U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other were killed in the attack. The alleged leader of the attack, Ahmed Abu Khatalluh, was captured by a squad of U.S. commmados, law enforcement and intelligence agents on 17 June 2014.

Khatalluh was taken to an undisclosed location, and then-Attorney General Eric Holder assured us that the prisoner would be tried in federal court. November 5 -- 16 months hence -- and no trial has come of this capture.

So what is happening at the highest levels of U.S. Justice to bring Khatalluh to the open courts of the U.S. federal justice system, as we have been promised? On 3 August 2015, the Associated Press reported that Khatallah's defense team petitioned the court to have the case dismissed; no further motions on the case have been reported.

The U.S. spends billions of dollars on intel and covert operations, going halfway 'round the world to capture those deemed to be terrorists, and then what happens? One thing we do no do is to bring them to justice.

If Khatalluh is responsible for these U.S. deaths, then bring him to trial, as required by law. Why do we not have the satisfaction of seeing high level threats like Katalluh neutralized in transparent federal court trials? Why is everything a secret?

Murder is a capital offense. Do we no longer believe in the efficacy of the federal court system to mete out justice after a crime has been committed?

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Monday, November 02, 2015

War Criminals

 He didn't belong in the Army
or in civilian life either
--George Kaufman (on Harold Ross) 

Don't come a-hangin' around my door
Don't wanna see your face no more
I don't need your war machines
I don't need your ghetto scenes 
--American Woman, 
The Guess Who 

Oh I was born six-gun in my hand
Behind a gun I'll make my final stand 
--Bad Company,
Bad Company

War criminals and terrorists are different creatures and the terms are not interchangeable. So why has everything that obstructs United State's foreign ventures been labelled, "terrorism"?

Surely the Army's  Chief of Staff, the senior Army adviser to the President, should have a firm handle on this topic, yet he goes along to get along with the collective, simplistic delusion. The taxpayers do not know to ask for clarification.

Islamic State presents more than meets the eye. They are fighting Syrian, Iraqi, Iranian and Kurdish forces on the ground, to include the militias arrayed against them. They are enduring U.S. air strikes. This is not what terrorists do.

Simply, their organization has evolved along the spectrum of conflict. Maoist theory predicts this morphology beginning with a group's small actions all the way to Army status.

As we waffle on the topic of confronting IS, what we never do confront is the simple question: 

"What would we do, as the forces of freedom and democracy, IF we should defeat or capture the entire force structure of IS? Is there an answer? Why do we continue to partake in a losing scenario? Does the U.S. taxpayer benefit from any warfare with IS?

The answer does not lie in fighting IS, but determining that for which we fight.

IS has clearly defined its goals and priorities; it is time that the U.S. does the same.

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Tuesday, October 27, 2015

A Pocketful of Mumbles

 I have squandered my resistance
For a pocketful of mumbles,
Such are promises
All lies and jest
Still, a man hears what he wants to hear
And disregards the rest 
--The Boxer, 
Simon and Garfunkel

 See, in my line of work you
got to keep repeating things over and over
and over again for the truth to sink in,
to kind of catapult the propaganda
--President George W. Bush

Why do we never get an answer
When we're knocking at the door
With a thousand million questions
About hate and death and war 
The Moody Blues   

The OCT 2015 -  JAN 2016 Army Echoes, the quarterly newsletter sent to over a million retired soldiers and families, has set for itself the modest proposal of keeping its readers in thrall to Them Terrorists, 24/7 ("Sustaining Antiterrorism awareness -- always ready, always alert," p.5.) Just in case you fail to subject yourself to the ample media sources which should have already brought you to this paralyzed state.

Ranger will deconstruct the money graph, to wit:

"Terrorists can attack anywhere, anytime – the threat is real. Over the recent months the continued threats on social media from the Islamic State of Iraq and The Levant (ISIL; also commonly referred to as ISIS) and their influence on domestic extremists demonstrates the lengths that terrorist groups take to threaten our nation and our military communities. ISIL has also expanded their tactics to include cyber-attacks and attempts to exploit private and sensitive information of our military personnel and their families. These risks pertain directly to Retired Soldiers, just as they do the entire Army community."

A sophomore creative writing undergrad would recognize the weakness presented here as fact, courtesy the United States Army. The breakdown begins with opening statement: "Terrorists can attack anywhere, anytime."

Is that true? Can you think of somewhere they could not? How about a nuclear (surety) weapons storage area, the protection of which is the job of the Army, after all. So, no -- not anywhere; check one.

Next: "(T)he continued threats on social media from the Islamic State of Iraq and The Levant (ISIL; also commonly referred to as ISIS) . . . demonstrates the lengths that terrorist groups take to threaten our nation and our military communities." OK -- "social media threats" -- certainly is not a nice thing to do. We call such people "trolls", and what they do is BULLYING. When they act on their threats, they become criminals. 

Bullying certainly has its own corrosive quality, but do WE need to be "always ready, always alert"? Maybe we could just farm out that set of feelings over to the people paid to monitor such transmissions on a daily basis. That IS what they are paid for, after all, and it would cut down on our psychotherapy bills and Unisom consumption, something that would be good for an overworked, over-stressed population, no? 

Aren't Terrorists a Level One threat? If they are out "to exploit private and sensitive information of our military personnel and their families," and "(T)hese risks pertain directly to Retired Soldiers, just as they do the entire Army community," tell us what these tactics entail so that we might be proactive about it. Instead we are fed a vague miasma of fear, riding on the tails of the aura created around terror groups.

Further: the piece is predicated on a falsehood: ISIL is not a terror organization. IS has a military chain of command, their members wear uniforms, carry weapons and attack military targets. They do not conform to the international laws of war.

The last fact does not render them terrorists, but rather War Criminals. Possibly they could be convicted under "crimes against humanity", but the evidence favors war criminal prosecution. A paragraph full of lies and half-truths, courtesy your U.S. Army.

You can sleep well, tonight, despite the fact that rough men stand ready to scare you witless.

[Cross-posted @ milpub.]

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Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Reverie at Reveille

 Follow me;
and let the dead bury their dead
--Matthew 8:22 

 Holding back the years
Thinking of the fear I've had so long,
When somebody hears
Listen to the fear that's gone 
--Holding Back the Years ,
Simply Red 

 It takes very little to govern good people.
Very little. And bad people can't be governed at all.
Or if they could I never heard of it
 -- Cormac Mccarthy

A couple of weeks ago we attended the Black Hat Instructors reunion in Columbus, Ga, home of the Infantry School and Ranger's former stomping grounds. Present past and future collided.

The young soldiers have a startled-deer gaze in their eyes; that is the present. The film American Sniper played on t.v. that night, and we watched it for the first time; this depicted a version of the present. Lord help us if military service has devolved into the triteness displayed in the film. (We knew that Hollywood was already there because it sells to an audience that rejects challenge.)

As an Army-trained sniper, Ranger understands the reality of military killing. "American Sniper" made a harsh reality into a comic book-style graphic novel, laden with melodrama. The eponymous sniper was mad and mean, and shown as determined to deliver his holy vengeance upon the enemy.

Four young men were in the next motel room, and would begin Ranger training the following morning; this is the future. That day was the reunion, and thus, the past. "American Sniper" was the recent past, flowing into the future.

We are all slowly marching into the past, despite our current roles and their iterations, despite our perception of the speed of that movement. Rather than talk Old Soldier stuff, our thoughts go to humanity and military service writ large.

Ranger has known many hard, tough men, starting with those of his youth in the coal towns of Southeastern Pennsylvania. He has also known many mean men, and some mean and tough men.

As a company commander he endeavored to run a company devoid of mean-spirited leadership, focused instead on the hardness of our service. Life and service is not as depicted in the thin reality of these melodramatic films. Unlike the sentiments expressed by the sniper character Chris Kyle, meanness has no place in the military or in life.

Disappointingly, this movie, like so many others of its ilk, imparts a mean-spiritedness to American actions, as though that meanness is a natural response to being attacked, and as though that response will save us.

We hope that the young men going off to Ranger training on that day are trained to be tough, without the need to be mean. The years will be mean enough without our actions adding to the burden.

Forty-seven years from now, we wonder how they will remember those that have fallen by the wayside. With equanimity?

We hope it will not be through a callow mean lens like that through which most tough guys are depicted for us today.

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Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The Destroyer

You can kill a man,
but you can't detsroy an idea
--Medgar Evans

Load up on guns, bring your friends
It's fun to lose and to pretend 
--Smells Like Teen Spirit, 

Beneath this mask there is an idea,
Mr. Creedy, and ideas are bulletproof 
--V for Vendetta (2005)

 The Big Stick talk on the United States' Executive, State and Department of Defense street is about destroying Islamic State (IS) / ISIL / ISIS/ Daesh, forever and ever, amen. President Obama has stated this objective clearly on the White House web page ("We will degrade, and ultimately destroy, ISIL.")

But this idea should be examined in a realistic manner, devoid of the feminine dithering of our leaders.

Fact: the destruction of IS is not going to happen anytime soon. Following 12+ years of hostilities , Al Qaeda (the original Bad Boys on the block) has not been destroyed, so what makes us think IS can be destroyed? The best that we have achieved with Al Qaeda is to have killed numbers one through three in their hierarchy; wash - rinse - repeat.

However, these attempts to disorder the group did not destroy the organization. It seems they have the military idea of "slotting" down better than we could imagine. We can kill people with explosives, but we cannot destroy their ideas as handily.

The Islamic State is not the problem in the ME. IS did not destabilize the region. IS simply exploited the now existing power vacuums. IS is not an aberration but rather the apotheosis of a prevailing Middle Easernt mindset. This is why their iteration has been so successful.

Through our efforts at destabilization, we handed the thugs a present. The force that animates and populates IS was already there, simmering and roiling beneath the surface. We simply unleashed it.

To focus on the destruction of IS would simply be to remove a symptom, not to address the disease

News flash: The United States military forces have never destroyed an enemy army. We may have defeated them, but the vanquished forces may live to fight another day, or to morph into something new and try again.

Moreover, calling for the destruction of any entity is philosophically as barbaric as the destructive actions of IS. If destruction is the best the U.S. can conjure as a realistic course of action, then we have lost the finesse that makes democracy unique among governmental systems.

How does destroying an entire army (IS) express the values of a civilized Western  military tradition? Are we deserting our laws of land warfare and reverting to Old Testament standards of conduct?

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Thursday, October 08, 2015

The Troubles Reignite

The problem isn't that Johnny can't read. 
The problem isn't even that Johnny can't think.
The problem is that Johnny doesn't know
what thinking is;
he confuses it with feeling
--Thomas Sowell 

The problem with leaderless uprisings taking over 
is that you don't always know what you get 
at the other end. 
 If you are not careful you could 
replace a bad government with one much worse! 

*   *   *  

The only thing we have learnt from experience
is that we learn nothing from experience
--Chinua Achebe
Subtitle: Read the Problem.

Sometimes it s necessary to step back from a problem and to evaluate what is actually happening, rather than reacting to what you think is happening. This is doubly important when the assumptions diverge from observable reality. In order to reify our behavior we need to look clearly and interpret the flow of events, from origin (cause and effect) to the present.

As we walk down the lane in the Middle East, it is clear that the center is not holding. It is not even clear if there is a center. The situation is reminiscent of the acrobatic plate spinners of yore: each hand spins the plate around his own center, and there a lot of plates spinning in the air at the same time. Eventually, the motion of all will stop.

The quagmire in the Middle East as we are told will be solved when a power-sharing accord can be reached, but this concept is easier said than done. Terrorism is the bee in the bonnet, but this it is far from exclusively a Mid-East tactic. Let us look at the recent flame-up of the revanchist sentiment in Ireland.

While they have their moments of detente, the internecine violence British in Northern Ireland and Irish Republican Army has resurged recently; the1998 Good Friday Agreement did not hold.

These entities have not achieved a lasting truce in Northern Ireland because the quiet times are actually consolidation and reorganization periods, time to retrain and establish networks. In light of this ongoing and intractable conflict, what are the implications for the Middle East?

If two Christian entities cannot peaceably  resolve their differences, then how much less likely is it for the Sunnis  and Shiites to do so? The Northern Ireland conflict between two civilized societies (Ireland is often seen as the savior of civilization for its monastic academic efforts in the Dark Ages) is centuries old, reaching back to the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. The end game is elusive.

Ranger Simple Question of the Day:

Why think that the Islamists can achieve a peace that still eludes Christian players?

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Tuesday, September 29, 2015

An American Tragedy


It is a capital mistake
to theorize before one's data 
--Scandal in Bohemia,
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle 

Come fly with me, let's fly, let's fly away
If you can use some exotic booze
There's a bar in far Bombay
Come fly with me, let's fly, let's fly away 
--Come Fly with Me,  
Frank Sinatra 

Here they come again,
Catch us if you can,
Time to get a move on,
We will yell with all of our might 
--Catch Us If You Can, 
The Dave Clark Five

It was all going to be so easy, all so simple and clear back in March 2003. America was going to remove the evil of Saddam from the chessboard of the Middle East. The United States had to discharge its collective angst at feeling like just another country vulnerable to terrorism.

A military strike was just the thing, but it could not be against the nation serving as the proving grounds for the terrorists, our best frenemy, Saudi Arabia. No, it was a token strike for a token war.

The simplicity has long disappeared, and instead of safety we have bought daily news feeds of increasing grotesqueries, brutal and pathetic sights we thought we had left behind at some point following the Inquisitions.

Now, like the good liberals we have been guilted into being, we are saying "bring it on" to a new tragedy, the open arms given to the pell-mell self-evacuees of Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, etc.

To clarify: We ARE RangerAgainstWar. We are not conservative thinkers, not by a long chork (to borrow from Beckett.) It's just we don't address conservative thought because they're on another plane of existence. We hope for better from liberal thinkers, but to take our on advice on hope, its just something at the bottom of Pandora's Box;  most people don't reach that deeply.

As Rocco Gianluca, Western Balkans coordinator for the International Organization for Migration said recently,“There is no real system. We don’t know who all these people are."

As with the discretionary wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, we are incapable of defining the problem, rendering the chimerical problem insoluble. A problem which cannot be defined has no solution; there is no "there", there.

And since there is no definition of the problem, then an immediate stop-gap measure is needed. The question of concern is, "Why should any Western nation welcome unvetted Middle East Muslims into its population?"

Forget paranoia, good liberals refuse to even ask the question. A recent Friday News Roundup on NPR ended with one of the uber-hip commentators tut-tutting the possibility that there could be any bad guys among the immigrants. Saith he, "Can you even imagine someone waiting at a train terminal or a dock to whisk one of these people off to an apartment?"

Well, uh, yeah - that would be within the realm of possibility, no?

If the Phony War on Terror (PWOT ©) is a real thing, then accepting millions of military-aged men into Europe is a suicidal endeavor. If  radicalized "lone wolf" terrorists area threat, then isn't it logical to imagine that 100's of thousands of unknown immigrants would enhance that threat?

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Monday, September 21, 2015

Manufactured Humanitarian Crisis

--Germany and Refugees,
Arend van Dam

Sufficient to have stood,
though free to fall    
--Paradise Lost, John Milton 

This isn't right.
It's not even wrong.
--Wolfgang Pauli

 Subtitle: Duckspeak on the Prolefeed.

Ranger and I are growing tired of the Duckspeak on the Prolefeed (thank you, Mr. Orwell), specifically surrounding the latest immigration crisis. The wailing, the babies, the fences. We should all shed crocodile tears and open up the borders, yes? No, not really.

Why has the number of refugees the U.S has agreed to accept tripled in the ten days since 10 September? And why  is the United States so enthusiastically encouraging the Europeans to open the floodgates?

The majority of these people are not political refugees fleeing for their lives. They are instead, Discretionary Émigrés seeking to illegally force their entree into cowed Western nations for economic and educational benefit. Discretionary emigrés following a discretionary war.

The photographs in the news show well-fed and well-dressed people vociferously demanding entrance, circumventing the legal protocol which all previous asylum-seekers have had to pursue. We would not honor this mass exodus to those from persecuted African nations; in fact, Greece, Italy and the others ship them back.

So why the carte blanche to the Syrians, the Iraqis, et al.? Could it have something to do with the fact that their skin color is more in line with ours?

Sure, the U.S. has had a major hand in fomenting this madness by unleashing the roiling secularism which strongmen like Iraq's Saddam Hussein and Libya's Muammer Qadaffi had held under wraps, but that does not mean it or any other nation is responsible for setting these nations aright and instilling 21st century modes of behavior. Yes it was fatuous to imagine a garden of democracy would spring up in the desert wasteland, but our job, poorly-executed as it may have been, is done.

Perhaps the only people leaving their home countries who deserve the title "refugee" would be the Syrian and Iraqi Christians. Much as Syria obliterated its Jewish population in the decades before, so now is it attempting to purge this next group of undesirables. 

The remaining refugees are largely Sunni or Shiite Muslims, and their internecine warfare is their own gift that keeps on giving. The U.S. removed the strongmen of the Middle East (Assad is still hanging on) as a gift to the peoples of those nations (said with some sarcasm), with the thought was that the residents would now carve out their new heaven. That is what a people must do in their homeland, so why are these people leaving, and why is it our responsibility to house them?

No case has yet been made that the Islamic State (IS) is composed of dead-enders who are out of step with the population, and we straddle the fence. Either the populations of these countries don't like this form of "radical" Islam, or they are fine with it. If it is the former, they do not seem able or willing to step up to the plate (with massive U.S. aid) to confront their "nemesis".

Do we now recognize the IS as a new nation, a caliphate? If so, who will be defined as undesirables in that state? This is the undefined moment for those who will not fight to exploit the guilt-laden Western nations, so the non-fighters are bolting -- and maybe some of the fighters, too.

Notice the appearance of most refugees: Besides being well-fed and dressed, and the women all wear the Hijab, Niqab or burkha. These are not people renouncing their ways or clamoring for Western-style humanitarianism; if it were so, they would have had it at home.

But they all want to get beyond the Eastern European hard-scrabble lives which would await them in Serbia, Croatia and Hungary -- nations who do not want them, anyway -- to get to Germany and Scandinavia. They're not fools.

Are the emigres majority Sunni? Are they Shiite? Will they carry their long-standing racial and ethnic animus in to their new lands? For those who settle in the U.S., will they carry their resentments against the Great Satan? This is surely some kind of insane Mobius strip which, as we endeavor to rout out radical Islam in our midst, folds back upon itself and opens the floodgates to unvetted Muslims.

It's a nice day for Middle Easterners hedging their bets, and for having your cake and eating it, too.

[cross-posted @ milpub]

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