RANGER AGAINST WAR: September 2014 <

Friday, September 26, 2014

A Movable Feast

That's all war does
is produce unintended consequences
--Dexter Filkins, on Fresh Air (25 Sept 14)

The discontent generated in backward countries
by their contact with Western civilization
is not primarily resentment against exploitation 
by domineering foreigners.
It is rather the result of a crumbling or weakening
of tribal solidarity and communal life
--The True Believer, Eric Hoffer

You get nothing! You lose!
Good day, sir!
--Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)

The Nusra Front "and other Syrian Rebels", Khorasan Group (sounds like an investment firm) and all the usual suspects darting in and out of the picture, donning or shedding uniforms and flags as the moment dictates -- it's a roller derby of viciousness, a hillbilly hootenanny, Eastern-style. Come aboard, one and all.

The U.S. press says the opposition to these "madmen" are "moderates", but moderates do not fight, nor do they win, civil wars. Winners are always extremist, de facto. Good guys do not win nasty wars.

So where will the defeated fighters end up? If ISIS is defeated -- which does not seem imminent -- their fighters will disperse and continue in the guise of terrorists or Low Intensity Conflict players. They are a Mobius strip of violence, the Wankel rotary engine of mayhem.

How or will the defeated fighters reintegrate into any society? Will they be thrown into Gitmo Gulags? Will they have their Masada? Unlikely, for as Mr. Filkins said in today's NPR interview, those chimerical rebel fighters the U.S. is supposedly supporting are incapable of -- anything, really. His book title says it all: The Forever War.

Moreover, as Filkins says, the Islamic State is not a direct threat to the U.S. or Europe. Oh, they might roll over Jordan, and/or Saudi Arabia or Lebanon, but not the West. The unbridled enthusiasm shared by the M.E. fighters is not ours; the U.S. has naught to gain by further intervention; they never did.

In a little ditty sent by RAW's South FLA associate and self-proclaimed bard Rick Spisak, he writes:

And in another five or ten years we'll attack our current "temporary" allies. Those we're currently arming and training as we depose this week's hated tyrants of convenience. 
Saddam, he's our guy, the Shah of Iran, he's our guy, Khadafy, he's ours, too. Assad, he's our guy, Maliki, he's our guy, Diem, he's our guy, Mubarak, he's our guy, and the bodies stack higher and higher. 

Whatever motivates the U.S. is surely not the same thing motivating the players in the Middle East.

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Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Latte Salute


Now, I get tired, but I keep on tryin'
Runnin' out of foolin', I ain't lyin'
Yes, respect, all I need is respect 
--Respect, Aretha Franklin

You're the sail of my love boat
You're the captain and crew
You'll always be my necessity
I'd be lost without you 
--Cream in My Coffee, 
Nat King Cole

I love coffee, I love tea
I love the java jive and it loves me
A cup, a cup, a cup, a cup, a cup! 
--Java Jive, The Ink Spots

Looking as though he couldn't be bothered, our President and Commander in Chief Barack Obama gave a token coffee salute in response to the proud young Marines who saluted him as he disembarked from an official helicopter yesterday.

C'mon, Mr. Obama. These military men are fighting your wars -- show some respect and a certain gravitas.

In another faux pas this past July, after Obama hung the most distinguished military award in the U.S. military, the Medal of Honor, around the neck of Sgt. Kyle J. White,  he referred to the Soldier as "Kyle". Kyle? Would Kyle call Mr. Obama, "Barack"? This is not a Beer Summit, Mr. President -- far from it. 

(Fr. AOL news): According to the Daily Caller, a U.S. Marine Corps manual titled 'Customs and Courtesies' states that the act of saluting officers is 'the most important of all military courtesies.' And CNN points out that it has become tradition for presidents to salute the military officers he encounters when boarding the official helicopter, a custom that is widely believed to have been begun by Ronald Reagan in 1981.

When President Franklin Delano Roosevelt addressed the new Deputy Chief of Staff General C. George Marshall as "George", the general corrected him (“Mr. President, don't call me George.”) Marshall said he "wasn't very enthusiastic over [FDR's] misrepresentation of our intimacy… I don't think he ever did it again.” The military man was to be called "General", and the President by his title, or "Sir". Some public and private conventions are worth maintaining in the name of respect, solemnity and rectitude.

In the military, superiors are addressed as "Sir", and when they speak down the chain, they say "Soldier" or use the serviceman's rank and name. Nothing else is acceptable. When acting as the C in C, the President may not address soldiers by their first name (even IF he knew them from Adam.)

The President does not merely seem like a schlub when he knocks his temple with his Starbucks cup in his half-hearted salute, he is violating the customs and courtesies of the U.S. Armed Forces.

With all due respect, tighten up, Sir.

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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Isil Metrics

--Obama Strategy, Cardow (CAN) 

A glimmer of civilization in the
barbaric slaughterhouse we know as humanity 
--The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)

A man may die, nations may rise and fall,
but an idea lives on.
Ideas have endurance without death
--John F. Kennedy

--What's that?
--It's a copy of the Qu'ran, fourteeth century
--Are you a Muslim?
--No, I'm in television 
--V for Vendetta (2005)

In assessing the risk posed by the Islamic State (IS), the actors must be defined. History, rather than hysteria, provides the template.

IS can be seen as a terrorist group which is transitioning from criminality to organization, to the adoption of terror tactics; this is where most groups end their journey. The heinousness of their actions ends up alienating those whom they would seek to integrate into their movement. It remains to be seen whether terrorist groups originating in the Middle East will buck this tradition. After all East is East, and West is West.

The classic Euroterror groups of the 1970's and '80's never transitioned to warfare in the spectrum of conflict because they lacked the active and passive support of groups like IS to make it to the next level. Terror groups must kidnap for ransom, murder and collect new members to finance and keep the group viable. These activities allow the group to gain an identity while also fomenting a governmental overreaction, further cementing their facticity.

IS is not only participating in these foundational terrorist behaviors, it has captured large swaths of territory against minimal opposition. In most previous terror episodes, the home country (the site of the activity) is on-board with any counter-offense. This is not the case in the zones which IS is now controlling.

The only viable opposition comes again in the form of targeted aerial bombardment from the U.S. This is token violence which primarily serves to animate future recruits to the ISIL cause. The narrative is clear: the Big, Bad Wolf is bullying us again, but we in IS have cause and conviction. Who's afraid of the big bad wolf? Tra la la la la.

IS says, we will blame them for creating us ... and there is some truth, there. Not that brutality is ever justified, but the U.S. is a great scapegoat. They just need to show a bloodied baby in  swaddling cloth (possibly injured by their own); the U.S. stands with hands tied behind back by its Rules of Engagement.

It is not even a scratch: IS gains a millimeter of ground with each photo depicting blighted Arab people. Meanwhile, the U.S. stands riven, and continues to toss a few token military personnel into the fray to appear to do SOMETHING, because as Shrill Hill (Hillary Clinton) taunts, "doing nothing is not a plan".

IS is a terror organization which has accomplished all of the prerequisites to transition from criminal terror to established army. Terror organizations seldom engage in direct action against hard targets, nor do they jeopardize their senior operatives, rendering the application of traditional military actions spectacular failures. While the beheadings performed by IS are terror, the group has transitioned beyond being mere terrorists to a more conventional level. 

IS has fully transitioned, fighting armies like those of Syria and Iraq. Their defeat of Iraqi units indicate that counterinsurgency (COIN) and nation-building are not military fait accomplis. When a rag-tag army can defeat an army created by a world Superpower like the United States, it is clear that IS's recruitment, support and leadership are superior to those externally created.

Momentum and time is on their side, as IS is outpacing the U.S. ability to react, and the EU has failed to assume a role in countering them. It seems obvious that the only option is to let them run their course, or to encourage the EU to protect themselves while the villainy is playing out. The U.S. has an ocean and friendly borders on our side. Vigilence -- intelligence, police work / Interpol and the rule of law can do the rest, for us.

Some questions:

  • What role is Qatar and Saudi Arabia playing?  The Egyptians? Are the latter Janus-faced peace-brokers, supporting IS violence sub rosa
  • Is there cross-fertilization with Hamas?
  • Was the ballyhooed Arab Spring the birthplace of IS?
  • Why the official fiction that IS is a "Terror organization"? This creates a simplicity which does not exist. The story is, IS has crossed a line of horribleness beyond which even our good enemy -- al Qaeda -- would not cross.
  • What will the U.S. do when IS shoots down a U.S. aircraft and executes the pilot?
  • If the U.S. engages IS militarily, what does it do with the resultant prisoners? Do they receive Geneva Convention privileges as Prisoners of War? 

RAW guesses that fixating on IS is easier than dealing with our problems at home, which are far more complex than ideological blather.

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Thursday, September 18, 2014

Breaking Bad II

 So we beat on, boats against the current, 
borne back ceaselessly into the past   
--The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald 
{continuation of Breaking Bad}:
How and why does the fiction that the U.S. is fighting Terrorism continue? This "New American Century" does not demand a "New American Studies" or a "New American Society". What we face is nothing new. Our citizens were wearying of these senseless wars, but they have rallied following the recent Islamic State beheadings of Westerners, led by the pied pipers of the press to imagine they are viewing some new sort of maleficence.

Citizens of our country may think that relations between our religious sects are more pacific, but all that is gone is that The Crusades (and subsequent edicts) bled off their fervor. Islam, however, suffers from no such restrictions. It may be demode to state the fact that the U.S. finds itself in the middle of a millennial fight between religious groups, but there it is.

Let these Islamic nations drown in a sea of blood and sand, and let the U.S. cease its support of any nation not supporting liberal ideals. The U.S. cannot fight a war when it has no sure friends in the region to whom it may turn. 

Our efforts at war are hopelessly hamstrung. We went to "go get 'em", but we fight conventionally and they do not. We have not learned to fight guerrilla war, and perhaps never will, and we lack the stomach or legitimacy for a broader elimination of the threat. What is left if to staunch our national bleeding. 

The reality is, more terror attacks may occur, but by putting our full efforts into a protective posture we can hopefully stave them off. Every attack in the U.S. gave off signals: the Boston Marathon bombing and the base shootings by Nidal Hassan in Texas are examples. The Washington Navy Yard shooting, though not terrorist, was another example. The intelligence indicators are there, and there is where we should put our resources.

Using all government agencies to focus on the Homeland imparts legitimacy and more importantly, interior lines of defense. Our defense would become concentric and relevant to the reality of the threat. Intel would coordinate with State and Defense, and would become the outer defense. Homeland Security, FBI and Justice, along with local police and intel functions would be the inner defensive ring.

The goals now should be not having our servicemen serving as bullet magnets in some far-flung danger zone. The United States is the zone we should be protecting with all of our might.

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Breaking Bad

 We may be witnesses to a Biblical prophecy
come true --
And there shall be destruction and darkness
come upon creation, 
and the beasts shall reign over the earth. 
THEM! (1954) 

 Comes a time when the blind man takes your hand 
Says, "Don't you see? 
--Comes a Time, Grateful Dead

 When is someone going to get 18th century
on Islam's mediaeval ass? 
--Boris Johnson, Conservative (UK)

It is time for an inversion of U.S. policy, namely of the clarion call to the Phony War on Terror (PWOT ©), "We must fight them there rather than here!" 

"Over there" is a platitude that ignores the reality that the spectacular terror attacks carried out on 11 Sept 01 showed that they were already here, so the cry makes no sense. Doing one will not obviate the need of the other. 

Let the U.S. prepare in an honest and realistic fashion for the world in which it lives, and in which it has lived for many decades, albeit blithely and blindly. The time for hubris is over. Terrorists have struck London, Madrid, Tokyo, etc., so why not New York City or D.C.?

Fact: we should have fought them here (which is where they were), and we will need to continue to fight them here bringing all of the tools of our civil arsenal to bear -- that is, if "they" muster the ability for another attack on the Homeland.

It makes more sense to fight (=address) the low level threat of terrorism here at home rather than fighting the far threat "over there" as over there has proven to be a dismal ball of confusion, conflicting goals and unattainable policies. Success has been elusive, because it is not possible. 

After ten years, the Iraqi Shia government cannot be said to be preferable to any other leadership. Let the Iraqi state fall in defeat. The current government's homicidal policies towards its Sunni minority brands it a failure. Why would the U.S. support either them or the Kurds? Neither action is in the national interest of the U.S.

[Next: Breaking Bad, II]

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Friday, September 12, 2014

Song of David

--Salome with Head of John the Baptist, 

 Well, they'll stone you when you walk all alone
They'll stone you when you are walkin' home
They'll stone you and then say they all are brave
They'll stone you when you're set down in your grave 
--Rainy Day Woman, Bod Dylan

The Greek's Trojan horse is often considered to be the first example of special operations warfare, but the biblical story of David and Goliath predates the Trojan experience by several thousand years.

David was a simple shepherd who qualified annually with his sling. His projectile was a stone, and though he had no training equipment or experience at soldiering, he received a personal pre-ops briefing by Saul, his kingly lord and master. This was the beginning fo the Special Operations Forces concept that the man on the ground, regardless of rank, makes the tactical calls.

Fast-forwarding to current events unfolding in the newly forming Islamic State (IS) caliphate one can see the similarity to events played out since time immemorial. David's first act after killing Goliath was to cut off his head and triumphantly display his achievement to all comers. To witness was to verify and perhaps validate the killing.

IS is doing what men have been doing since honing cutting edges on tools. The head is a vulnerable wobbly basketball-sized thing on a thin stalk. "Off with her head!" is the ultimate action of a despot in power. Broadswords took some heaving, and the Guillotine was heralded as a humane form of killing, but the head has long been recognized as the thing to separate from the body to guarantee death.

--A woman without mercy:
Judith offing Holoferes head

Salome requested the head of John the Baptist, and act resulting in a Feast Day, and Judith beheaded Holofernes, showing the Israelites were fond of the practice, too. So to say IS is behaving medievally is incorrect; in fact, they are behaving Biblically.

We can say human behavior has changed somewhat since David's time. Now the Israelites must show restraint when dealing with attacks from Gaza. But if the situation were left up to Joshua of Jericho, Hamas, their followers and all bystanders, with the possible exceptions of breeding-age females, would be put to the sword. Literally.

Why the feigned horror today at behavior which is solidly within the monotheistic tradition? Beheading is a human behavior. Ugly, shocking, but nonetheless, human behavior.

The IS locals routinely behead their fellows; this is not unusual. Why not consider the possibility that the two recently decapitated American journalists were Central Intelligence Agency assets, and it was in fact this affiliation which led to their deaths. This is not to justify murder, but IS-type groups routinely view journalists as covers for participation in spying activities. Watching (spying) is what journalists do, even in their unaffiliated form.

What if David had been a nebbish and missed his target, or picked a more frangible projectile? Would we be worshiping a different God? Would our reactions be any more or less hypocritical?

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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Menage a Trois

--Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi,
ISIS leader
 Everything becomes and recurs eternally - escape is impossible!
Supposing we could judge value, what follows?
The idea of recurrence as a selective principle,
in the service of strength (and barbarism!!)
--F. Nietzche

(T)he power to cause pain is the only power that matters,
the power to kill and destroy,
because if you can't kill then you are always subject
to those who can, and nothing and no one
will ever save you 
--Ender's Game, Orson Scott Card 

Why the Egyptian, Arabic, Abyssinian, Choctaw?
Well, what tongue does the wind talk?
 What nationality is a storm?
What country do rains come from?
What color is lightning?
Where does thunder go when it dies?” 

 *   *   * 

You can't act if you don't know.
Acting without knowing takes you right off the cliff.
 --Something Wicked This Way Comes, 
Ray Bradbury 

President Barack Obama is expected to ask Congress tonight to authorize $500 billion to bolster the moderate militants fighting the Syrian government. These supposed moderates will then be used to fight the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). At least that's the plan. 

But how does one gauge "moderation" in a civil war? Beyond the difficulty of deciding who to support, for the first time in United State's history, the nation is proposing a strategy based upon opposing both sides in a war.

For some reason, the U.S. is dedicated to the destruction of the Syrian dictator, Bashar al-Assad, while also opposing his major opponent, ISIS. This strategy ignores what happened the last three times the U.S. deposed dictators. The supposed unholy trinity of Libya, Iraq and Egypt are examples of this folly. Realpolitik would suggest the U.S. is better dealing with the devils it knows rather than those it does not. 

Why is the U.S. opposed to Syria, anyway? What threat originates there that would endanger the U.S. homeland? While ISIS is a dangerous organization, what proof exists beyond emotion and hyperbole that this group is a danger to the U.S.? 

The proposed new strategy lacks a clear objective (beyond smashing people and things from the sky), violating the Principles of War in a big way. The destruction of a government or a group is not a strategy, but at best, Phase #1 of a strategy. 

The key point is: what is the purpose and objective to destroying Syria and ISIS? The U.S. strategy lacks a definable end game.

Meanwhile, a half gallon of milk has risen 20% in one week here in Florida. People are now audibly questioning the steep jack in their grocery bill. Most often heard: "Maybe they don't want us to eat."
But they will manage to find money for flyboys to kill more Arabs; hopefully, they will kill the right ones. But there is the rub -- WHO are the right ones, and by whose metric?

Ranger is more consumed with food prices in his hometown than with the mistaken notion of stopping violence and hatred on the far side of the moon.  

Somewhere, General David Petraeus is asking with a wry smile, "So tell me: How does this end?"

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Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Pretty Dead Things

--ISIS and Iraq, 
Arend Van Dam

The image is re-presentation,
which is to say ultimately resurrection, and, as we know,
the intelligible is reputed antipathetic to lived experience
*   *   *

 The type of consciousness the photograph involves
is indeed truly unprecedented,
since it establishes not a consciousness
of the being-there of the thing…
but an awareness of its having-been-there.
What we have is a new space-time category:
spatial immediacy and temporal anteriority,
the photograph being an illogical conjunction
between the here-now and the there-then. 
--Rhetoric of the Image, Roland Barthes

  Expose thyself to feel what wretches feel,
That thou mayst shake the superflux to them,
And show the heavens more just 
--King Lear, Shakespeare  

Wars and elections are both too big and too small
to matter in the long run.
The daily work - that goes on, it adds up
 --Animal Dreams, 
Barbara Kingsolver

ISIS is looking like a one-trick pony, with its latest journo beheading. But sometimes, one good move is all you need. The Afghan national game is Buzkashi, after all, in which a beheaded and be-hooved goat is dragged roughly around the field of play, so it seems playing with dead things can be fun.

The West continues its fascinated horror at these actions, committed even -- especially -- in the face of pathetic begging on behalf of the murdered and their families. Why pretend to care? When the rubber meets the road, the question for most is, "What of me and mine?" and IS is not threatening Kansas, after all.

This is reasonable, as we are neither giants nor martyrs. A martyr would leave his actual family in a lurch, in the name of pursuing the salvation of the universal Family -- the prerogative of very few.

In his book, War, Sebastian Junger mentions the chimpanzees who do not seek to aid their fellows in the face of a threat, but invariably run away from danger in order to save themselves. This self-preservation behavior comports with evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins' theory of the "Selfish Gene", that lives on to fight another day.

For those peoples not burdened by a martyrish savior, the concept of being one's brother's keeper may not have much relevance in the race for survival. But what about those people who do understand the concept of service and martyrdom?

In China recently, members of a forbidden proto-Christian sect bludgeoned a 38-year-old woman to death in a McDonald's restaurant for refusing to give them her contact information. The more remarkable thing, however, is that the murder occurred before the watching eyes of others in the establishment, who were too busy documenting the event on their smartphones to intervene. For those who uploaded their photos to the cloud, it must have been a stellar "capture".

Similarly, the murderous members of the Islamic State (IS) members are mastering the art of social networking, being sure to publicize their gory work on the various platforms, disseminating their handiwork in real time.

A recent NYT piece ("Losing Our Touch") asks if we have entered an age of “excarnation,” where we focus on the body in increasingly disembodied ways "For if incarnation is the image become flesh, excarnation is flesh become image. Incarnation invests flesh; excarnation divests it." And what if, through reliance on the intermediary of the transmitted image, we do lose our sense of touch? Does that equate with losing our compassion?

What is the effect of instantaneous documentation on our tolerance reaction? Will witnessing and documenting preempt the impulse to act?

Chimpanzees, smartphones and brutality ... do you see any nexus here?

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