Monday, February 16, 2009


Afghanistan grows a lot of nuts
--commenter on Diane Rehm Show 1/16/09
(speaking of pistachios and pecans

Some roads bring renewal

Some roads hide and wait

Some roads promise everything

And steal your fuel away

--Loose Change, Neil Young

I know just how to fake it,

And I know just how to scheme;

And I don't know how you do it,

Making love out of nothing at all

--Out of Nothing at All, Air Supply

Nothing will come of nothing

--King Lear
, Shakespeare

Ranger likes to think tactically, That is what Rangers do -- we try to break things down into their components, thereby simplifying the planning process. Without planning, there can be no successful execution of operations. Ranger wonders why our leaders often fail to recognize this simple fact.

A unit can attack or defend. They can fall back
, retreat, prepare, move to contact, etc. -- but it boils down to attack or defend. Historically, wars are won through offensive action, and soldiers are imbued with the offensive attitude. Ranger was trained as an assault troop with a bayonet on his rifle. The spirit of the bayonet is still the spirit of the infantry.

Is the U.S. in 2009 attacking or defending? And what are we attacking, and what are we defending? Why do we want to do either, literally or figuratively?

The Bailouts are an example. Are these hundreds of billions a defensive or offensive gesture, and should we be attacking or defending?

Assuming it is offensive, what is the next objective? Surely the economic system will not be salvaged by a simple movement forward. What are the long range objectives of any of these economic moves?
What happens when the attacks bog down, as surely they must? What happens if they fail?

Attacks are only successful when made in-depth to achieve deep objectives. The bailouts are limited-objective operations. The action is reactive versus planned. Success is patterned upon success, while the Phony War on Terror (PWOT ©) and bailouts are based upon failures. Failure never forwards a national agenda, even when spun to sound like success.

Look at Hitler's wars: he overextended Germany with unrealistic objectives, requiring the economy and military to perform beyond their capabilities. Add in the psychotic nature of the enterprise and you get something that looks like America's PWOT and bailouts on crack.

Hitler and Napoleon showed you can invade countries, set up quisling governments and impose your ideology on the populace,
but they will never love or respect you. One can force compliance, but not respect. This is the first rule of COIN that is not in FM 3-24.

The U.S. is committing the same errors but is too distracted to notice the front is collapsing. Committing reserves to plug the gaps is not a national policy. A complete strategic reevaluation and new mission is required. The sanity of the moment will be shown to be insanity to history.

Neither a nation nor an Army can survive a hostile environment by making short-term, reactive fixes. The PWOT and the bailouts are reactive knee-jerk responses that promise no long-term benefit. Why do our leaders choose untenable objectives.

All of Ranger's military training boils down to this:
A commander at any level should never reinforce failure. Only success matters, a goal which should be extended to economic and diplomatic matters. Today's U.S. reinforces failure (Challenger license plate, anyone?)

The Surge in Iraq is a case in point. 30,000 more troops did not return magic. The momentary reduction in troop casualties was the result of tactical changes, as journalist
Tom Ricks explains here. Ultimately, the return will be a reinforcement of failure.

In Dec. 1944 Hitler gambled on a strategic offensive to recapture Antwerp resulting in the Battle of the Bulge, an offensive operation that even if successful would not have affected the outcome of the war. Offense is not always the correct maneuver.

In Korea 1950, United Nations forces arrived at the Yalu and the Chosen Reservoir following various successes and advances. But what had passed for offensive success was actually an over-extension of the front, leading to the isolation of forward engaged divisions which lacked depth and reeled when assaulted by Chicom forces.
What looks like success is often illusory.

After seven years of war in Afghanistan it is time to separate the illusion from the reality. The fiction is, continuing the battle in Afghanistan is critical to the safety of the U.S.

The bank bailouts are a logical extension of the PWOT. Hurry up, throw valuable resources into a money pit.

The PWOT is attempting to forge viable democratic states out of nothing and the bailouts are attempting to conjure capital out of bad paper.
You can't build something out of nothing.

This caveat should be the subtitle of FM 3-24.

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Blogger The Mad Celt said...


knots forming in my stomach
the demons are screaming
arms bleed in response
the goat's throat is cut
i am not reactive

the bomb is ticking in my head
bloodshed is the formation
i want to eviscerate and create such carnage
as to make even Hell shake in response
i am becoming reactive

the rods have been inserted
alarms are going off
bells whistle in my temples
the colors have all gone gray

heart is jumping
my throat is clenching
jaw and teeth chatter
in response

where are they taking me
why has IT turned on this
projection of darkness
the curtain is falling to the ground
this keyboard is wearing thin
i am finding it hard to think
my neck is stiff and i...
am reactive

-D.C. Massey

Jim and Lisa... Greetings and salutations! I thought this poem was apropos to the post. I hope all is well with you both. Peace and joy...Dale

Monday, February 16, 2009 at 9:19:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous Rob said...

I like your analogy between war planning, or the lack of it, and the bail-out fiasco. Some people say the government shouldn't get involved in central planning. But the bail-out is surely a case of central unplanning.

By far the most serious problem facing our economy is the huge and growing foreign debt, and its threat to the dollar. The solution is to cut spending, slash our overseas military commitments and defend the value of the dollar by raising interest rates. But our economic central unplanners can't think passed the next quarterly earnings reports so we're doing just the opposite. We're lowering interest rates while deepening our commitment to Afghanistan and pouring more money into boondoggles like the F-22 and the F-35 which are designed to fight aircraft the Soviet Union never built.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009 at 2:25:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...


Greetings back at you! Your poem fairly crackles with intensity.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009 at 10:26:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

gentlemen, i am mighty tired of hearing you go about wondering what bobby lee is going to do, or go next. it's high time we made bobby lee wonder about what i'm going to do. it's easy. i'm going forward. when he stops me i will turn and go south. south. we will not retreat. we will fight it out along this line if it takes all year.

grant to his staff

there is a fine line between prudent and often neccessary agression, and stupidity. your example of inchon and chosin are very apt. we are still paying for the rapid incursion into the iraq. too far, too fast. much like the run-up to the war itself.

after insisting that he was a war president for seven years, bush's advisor rove last week was castigating the stimulus bill supporters for the largest peacetime spending bill in the nation's history.

he started a war, he kept that war going, not that he's out of power and a job, he talks of peace.

sometimes i can't wrap my head around the reality.

thank god i know a lot of john hurt songs.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009 at 11:11:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

I like your Grant quote but the PWOT is supposed to be COIN and not classic ground combat.I wrote a piece on the confusion of Air Land Battle and COIN. It'll be posted soon and is a continuation of todays thoughts.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009 at 12:18:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous sheerahkahn said...

"I like your analogy between war planning, or the lack of it, and the bail-out fiasco."

Go Rin No Sho
Book Of Five Rings.

The Japanese business model for the 80's was based on this book which was used to expand the Japanese business.
The way they saw business was this, "All business is war, and all war is business."
This mentality sat well with them till their entire economy collapsed into a heap...for...ten...very...long...years.

What I'm reading is that the only way our economy is going to correct itself is a nationalization of the banks.
Not everyone is going to like that, especially a select few ceo's and cfo's...boohoo, cry me a river.
However, there will be average joe people who will be taking it in the shorts as well.

Correcting a major, national..oh hell, who are we kidding...world wide cluster-f^^k of epic proportions is going to cause a lot of pain to a lot of people.

I think the best way to start that process is to stop the bleeding, and when you got a patient who is desanguinating in front of you the first thing to do is stop the point of egress.
For us as a nation, we're pissing away 80 billion a month to our overseas imperialism.
If you're doing the math, that's 960 billion a year, for five.very.long.years.
Rounding up, thats close to a five trillion dollars gone.
But that money has to come from somewhere.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009 at 1:19:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

grant was a competent, not brilliant commander. he could factor "the terrible arithmetic of war" and was able, in plain terms, to explain that to a civilian leader like lincoln.

grant understood that given his advantages in manpower and supply, he could prevail by sending unarmed troops into the teeth of confederate entrenchments until they simply ran out of ammunition. he almost pulled that one off at cold harbor, falling a few brigades short that bloody day.

COIN is a different beast. often, regular commanders can't grasp things like the way special ops units can utilize things like force multipliers, and instead waste their best capabilities to use them as shock troops or even bait.

some of my most effective operations involved little, or no, shooting. long, almost naked forays deep into enemy territory to put american eyes on potential targets. it took time, extensive planning, clear objectives, and more than a little dumbass luck most of the time. but, when it worked, it was beautiful. after something like that, helo troops weren't going in blind and finding little motherfuckers rising up from spider holes the minute they put boots on the ground. many times the infantry wasn't needed at all. with hidden caches of supplies and equipment pinpointed even the air force could hit those targets. that way those things wouldn't reach the enemy troops in our zone at all. most of the time though we ended up being used for the fourth or fifth stupid frontal assualt on a hill that was going to be abandoned almost as soon as it was listed as "taken."

i don't know what i would recommend to an iraq or afghanistan commander. beyond, "retire early, go to grad school or something."

one of the common problems we had in vietnam was that we simply were not understood by the regulars. most of the time we were not only misunderstood, we were mistrusted. part of that was from our being "lent out" to some pretty disgusting CIA ops, but a lot of it was our own arrogance and unwillingness to explain ourselves to stupid assholes with two or more stars on their epaulets.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009 at 1:24:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...


Staunch the bleeding first, and for this purpose, a tourniquet is better than shoving in gauze.

The analogies:

[1] We are throwing more money at the economy, as we throw more troops at Afghanistan.

[2] We are holding toxic assets in banks; ditto Afghan.

[3] We suffer a rush to judgment mentality both times.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009 at 3:09:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous sheerahkahn said...

"[3] We suffer a rush to judgment mentality both times."

Yep, very true Lisa, oh.so.painfully.true.
If it weren't for the fact that we, us, the American sheeple, are paying for this fiasco I would find it highly amusing.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009 at 11:19:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...


Buddha says we should laugh even in the midst of our travails. It is good you see the absurdity -- at least that.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009 at 1:27:00 PM GMT-5  

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