RANGER AGAINST WAR: Mission Impossible <

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Mission Impossible

 --The bloom's off the rose 

 His stop-loss odyssey 
went Kabul, morphine, 
   Ramstein, Stateside, 
and back—round-robin   
desert wrestling,
tag out, tag in 
--Welcome Home, Troops! 
 Amit Majmudar

 Cause I gonna make you see 
There's nobody else here 
No one like me
 I'm special, so special
--Brass in Pocket,
The Pretenders

One step forward and two steps back
 Nobody gets too far like that
 One step forward and two steps back 
This kind of dance can never last 
--One Step Forward, 
The Desert Rose Band    

Let us do a check-in on the Phony War on Terror (PWOT ©) at lucky year 13, as President Obama sends more advisers to Syria in what looks very much like JFK's adviser gambit in the early years of the Vietnam War, the poster child counterinsurgency (COIN) failure.

First, a review: After the initial conventional invasion stage, the PWOT© became a COIN war, for lack of a better term. General Petraeus and his post-Vietnam thesis guided our participation, as if this time, we would really nation-build and win hearts and minds.

Hearts and minds, as if Vietnam could be redeemed and made into something of worth. COIN theory redux would modernize Galula, make what they tried to bury count, make it relevant for a new day.

But then the New COIN started looking like its own danse macbre. We forgot that it wasn't a war, and we were fighting the very people we came to democratize. COIN  really isn't a very good way for the U.S. to win a war, or to help a people.

You cannot both fight people and nation build concurrently. Probably, we still do not realize that it is possible to nation build and to fight insurgents, but the process must occur consecutively. It is impossible to fight, kill and destroy while also attempting to build; the concepts are mutually exclusive.

The luster fell away from the erstwhile Golden Boy, General Petraeus, and his vaunted COIN theory has been folded and put back under the trundle bed, like an old Mission Impossible VHS tape. So where does that leave hearts and minds and nation building, as the United States trudges on in the quagmire that is the Not-Arab Spring?

The mask of nation-building has fallen away, as the U.S. realizes that was merely pretense for our frenzied occupation of places in which the U.S. had no legitimate reason to be. "Asymmetrical warfare" has also died a protracted death on the trash heap of a failed policy.

The U.S. is currently yoked to a slug-fest that makes less sense than did the tarted-up, new-and-improved COIN of once-wonder boy, Vietnam vet-manque, Mr. Petraeus.

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I see 4 options. 1. fart around with COIN and achieve nothing 2. Stop worrying about collateral damage and go all Roman 3. Build Trump's "wall" and build it high 4. Do nothing at all and accept that some level of casualties will result here and there from T actions and live with the risk with the potential of a truly massive T attack with associated loss of life, economic impact and damage to the national psyche.

I like #3, but then I'm just a "hater". Of course the options are not mutually exclusive. So #3 and #2 are a possible combination - a two pronged strategy.

#1 seems least productive and is a fig leaf to pretend we haven't already silently agreed to #4.


Friday, April 29, 2016 at 1:45:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

i don't believe any of the "bad guys' have the training, or weapons to do maasive T atks here or any where else.
Every thing that they've done to date, including 911 was not catastrohic to a great nation.
Sole super powers must expect such activity.
BTW last night i had a dream about TRUMP towers and they were large guard towers on a wall separating us from Mexico.NY'er mag had a great play on this-god had a wall built around heaven and he said to St. Pete-AND HELL PAID FOR IT.

Saturday, April 30, 2016 at 10:51:00 AM GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Basically, I'm with you Jim. The "wall" I refer to is metaphoric. I think perimeter security is extremely lax. Ditto immigration screening. Tighten it up!

The only major problem I have with your outlook is that you discount too much the impact of a 9/11 size attack on the national psyche. The erosion of morale and national cohesion in the aftermath means something. Agreed though, we should prepare citizens to understand that, as a super power, these things will happen from time to time.

I am surprised that no further large scale attacks have occurred. This does indicate a lack of capability. Actually, the fact that only a few piddly attacks by loose associates have occurred speaks further to the paltry nature of ISIS resources outside of MENA and Europe. Could change any day though. A nuclear weapon in their hands should be cause for a serious consideration of going all Roman.


Saturday, April 30, 2016 at 4:09:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous David Vogt said...

Ranger -

Interesting thoughts as always. As someone without military experience my thinking always goes to the civilian leadership side and I have to wonder whether there is just an absurd naivete about how easy nation-building is at the root of a lot of this silliness. The notion that we can build a better Syria on the cheap while simultaneously opposing both ISIL and the Syrian regime would have been comical if not for the cost of that foolishness in lives and money.

Re your comment above - I think it comes down to your definition of "massive." Surely for a non-state actor commandeering several aircraft midflight inside the superpower's borders, destroying two very high-value targets and doing some damage to a third, counts for something. It is simply that even a very large non-state actor based in a Third World country is simply not a plausible threat to the survival or prosperity of a major state power, which I think we all would have understood instinctively back during, say, the Cold War.

Not that terrorism should be brushed off, just that there seems to be a complete lack of perspective nowadays.

Saturday, April 30, 2016 at 11:56:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

DV & Avedis.
A-the near threat is not the far threat.
When have we been successful at nation building? Especially when a shooting war is going on simultaneously.
You must also surely acknowledge that the Iraqi and Afgh invasions had nothing to do with anything except theater of the absurd and unjust.
I'm all in favor of militay action if a military result can be achieved.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016 at 8:01:00 AM GMT-5  
Anonymous David Vogt said...

Maybe it's just my idealism or my stupidity or something but I tend to think that when the Bush administration went into Iraq and Afghanistan a lot of them genuinely did think that they would probably be building new democratic countries and that they probably would find some WMD in Iraq, somewhere, eventually. Absurdity and injustice aside, my concern is with the complete mismatch between political objectives and our current capabilities. I don't know of a successful example of deliberate nation-building through military occupation, which is why I think that it should not be attempted, no matter how much of a good idea it might seem to be to some people.

I've never served, so I can't speak to that from experience, but it seems to me that there has to be a difference mentally between joining an established professional military that you know has been serving the country long before you came along, and will still be serving long after you are gone, and joining a new army whipped together by foreigners who might or might not be leaving you in the lurch tomorrow once their government decides to call it a day. It also seems to me that it doesn't really matter how many toys you leave that new army.

And all that is irrelevant anyways because our current strategy in Syria is to support anti-government groups like the Kurds anyways. You can't build a new state simply by giving more guns to people who want to tear the present state apart.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016 at 11:30:00 AM GMT-5  

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