Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Turtle Dreams

Turtle netsuke

On the far-away island of Sala-ma-Sond,

Yertle the Turtle was king of the pond.

A nice little pond. It was clean. It was neat.

The water was warm. There was plenty to eat.

The turtles had everything turtles might need.

And they were all happy. Quite happy indeed.

They were... until Yertle, the king of them all,

Decided the kingdom he ruled was too small.

"I'm ruler", said Yertle, "of all that I see.

But I don't see enough. That's the trouble with me.

--Yertle the Turtle
, Dr. Seuss

Oh, can't anybody see,

We've got a war to fight,

Never found our way,

Regardless of what they say

--The Road
, Portishead

Why do turtles cross roads? This often pops into mind when swerving to avoid one in transit. Why cross the road? How is one side different from the other?

It then came to mind that U.S. policy in Afghanistan is just like a little turtle crossing a busy road here in the Deep South. To wit:

  • Putting more turtles on point and flank security will not ensure a successful crossing
  • Speeding up will not help, nor will slowing down
  • Pulling in the head under the shell will not ensure a successful crossing
  • Once in the road, going back or forward is exactly the same movement
  • The turtle should ask, "Is the risk of getting squashed worth the trip?"
  • Growing a thicker shell will not facilitate not getting squashed

Turtles cannot solve their little problem with can-do positive attitudes and assertiveness, and studies and review groups. If one is a turtle, it is best to stay off the road.


Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

there you go again. talking sense.

you'd think you'd have learned by now ranger.

remember your von clausewitz when he talks about "wars of emotion" and "honor."

i think it's also very telling that thucydides, sun tsu, and von clausewitz all put a five year limit to wars. that's all even the richest society can bear....

nah, this is about america standing tall and shit. fight them over there and all that hooplah.

my head hurts. i need to go practice my guitar.

p.s. the arizona guard, and my friend sgt major larry just got extended four months. they were due to come home in november, now, instead of home by christmas it's home by easter, maybe.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009 at 4:46:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Joe said...

I wish our "leaders" in Washington would decide whether or not they support the war. As always they decide to play both sides and support it, but only partially. How can you expect to win anything by giving half effort?

Going all in or not at all really should be the only options in war. That is of course if the goal is to finish the war victorious...

Tuesday, October 13, 2009 at 6:55:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger FDChief said...

Joe: The idea that war is "all or nothing" is comforting to those who stand to lose nothing. But the reality?

Nations and people have been doing little and limited and "cabinet" wars since the first Sumerian satrap send a gaggle of his expendable young studs off to the next kingdom to conquer (fine, more loot for me) or die (also fine; fewer of the horny little bastards making babies and raising the number of poor and untaxables...).

The bottom line for us in central Asia is that the whole "all or nothing" mantra is the WORST two options we could take.

What's going on in Afghanistan?

A civil war, basically, between one group of Afghans we don't like (the Talibs, plus various assorted Islamic and/or Maoist and/or who the fuck knows groups plus tribal bands and outright mercenaries, probably) and a group that we can "work with" (the "Northern Alliance", pretty much a perennial band of also-rans and never-weres, Tajiks, Hazaras, etc., who typically got ass-raped by the Pashtun tribes in that traditional Afghan sport/home entertainment "Double-cross your enemies and take their stuff".

Anyone but a fool could figure out that shoving 20,000 (or 40, or 60,000) foreign troops into the middle of a civil war would be dicey. You risk getting dry-gulched if you're not Roman enough and getting stuck with a dysfunctional ally unable to rule his own country without you if you're too Roman. Add to that the honest history of this voodoo warfare we've taken to calling "counterinsurgency", which has two tracks:

1. The "native" track, where the local hard boys murder, rape and burn out their insurgents until the latter are all dead or wish they were, and at that point (as George W. Bush would say) "let freedom reign"!

2. The "foreign" track, where a Western invader tries to do the same thing.

The native version of COIN can work pretty well lately. It succeeded in Sri Lanka, in several Latin South American nations and shows no signs of wearing badly. The foreign version worked pretty well up until 1945, when the land mine, the automatic weapon and the mass media effectively prevented the Westerners from doing it the Roman way - making a desert and calling it peace.


Tuesday, October 13, 2009 at 11:28:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger FDChief said...

So if we were looking at this rationally, we'd figure out that:

1. The only way we can "win" a conventional military fight is if we depopulate much of the country, which we cannot and will not do.

2. BUT...assuming that we have a national interest in who rules Afghanistan (which presumes that 9/11 was an outgrowth of that rule, since we had absolutely no interest in that polity from 1781 to 1980 and from 1988 to 2001, and that preventing future attacks on our country depend on ensuring that the world is entirely populated by nations that either love us, fear us or defer to us) then the commonsense solution would be to...find a "native" partner, arm it to the teeth, and then step back and let it do a Sri Lanka and the Talibs get to be the Tamil Tigers.

In the big picture, the amount of blood and treasure we're spending in central Asia is pretty tiny - it pales, for example, next to the truly silly amounts we spend on "Star Wars" antimissile crap, designed to foil the next invaders for Mars or something.

No, I'd opine that the only real damage is to ourselves (and the dusky heathen we kill, burn out and otherwise fuck over), in that to really do COIN right you have to assume that you know better than the locals what is good for them.

That's the attitude of an imperial power. And since our nation is supposed to be about liberty and justice, to let ourselves become an imperium would be to betray our very selves.

Hopefully, though, the coming rise of the corporatocracy will end all this foolishness about the Tree of Liberty. I, for one, welcome our new Corporate and Oligarch Masters! At least they'll act in THEIR own best interests!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009 at 11:37:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Roger said...

Here in Missouri I have always noticed the little box turtles crossing in June. I have always assumed that they were males and were crossing the road in search of a mate. They can not help themselves, and apparently neither can our leaders.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009 at 10:44:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...


So you're saying crossing the road might get you screwed (?)

And why is it always the males who have to cross the road?. . .

Thursday, October 15, 2009 at 4:18:00 PM GMT-5  

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