Monday, May 18, 2009

Dear Ranger

Gray skies are gonna clear up,

Put on a happy face;

Brush off the clouds and cheer up,

Put on a happy face

--Put on a Happy Face
, Bye, Bye Birdie

Ranger recently
received a lengthy letter from a serviceman in response to recent Wanat articles, mostly echoing the institutional party line, while agreeing with Ranger on a point or two. In the name of anonymity, we will call him "Paul".

Paul specifically agreed with Ranger that he did not care about
Iraq or Afghanistan, and yet he felt it was imperative that the U.S. "win the war" and go whole hog with counterinsurgency (CI).

Unfortunately, this misses the entire point of CI: You cannot say you want to win a COIN operation, because the only people who would win would be the indigenous, and you have stated you do not care about them. You then come around to my position: The war is a lie. It is not about COIN, it is about

The two possible missions are non-parallel -- there is the "Win" mission (for oil, or whatever it is we win), or the COIN mission. It is disingenuous to claim for both.

Though Paul seemed upset that Ranger was engaging in "armchair quarterbacking," four typed pages of letter belied his same concerns.
He wrote --

"Security is high on the hierarchy of needs. These Combat Outposts (COPs) are typically co-located with local national COPs and are eventually turned over to local forces when an area is deemed secure enough. Loyalty to the government, local, provincial, or otherwise, is complex at times because of tribal and religious affiliations, but generally occurs when an area is secure enough for the government to meet and function effectively. This was proven in the “restive” Diyala Province, Iraq. "Prior to Feb 2008, no legislation could be passed because there was no quorum in the Provincial Counsel (Baqubah, the former capital of the “Islamic State of Iraq,” was not safe for the Counsel members. Since then, the counsel has executed about ½ of 3 annual budgets and they did it inside of a 9 month period. At this point, it’s probably all been committed and work, real capacity building work that improves people’s lives, is now underway. It is worth noting that we, in the US, struggle with executing 1 year’s worth of budget most years… without the threat of car bombs and assassination."

Only time will tell if this is true. Even if it does play out, what benefit has accrued to the U.S. taxpayer who shouldered this burden? Improving lives in Baghdad is not purpose or reason for the existence of the U.S. Army. This is an Iraqi concern.

If improving lives is a U.S. military mission, then let them work their magic in Cleveland or Detroit.

He said, "While the locals are no doubt not happy with a US presence in their neighborhood, they’re likely no more or less thrilled with the Taliban or Al Qaeda, either,"
but where is the proof of an al-Qaeda presence in Wanat?

"TOWs would be attached to deal with VBIEDs, as insurgents have been known to “Up Armor” them, dump trucks in particular, and then drive at speed into friendly formations causing a lot of damage and casualties. 50 CALs have failed to stop a fair number of these in the past. Further, many of the areas that what we would formerly have called “the Mujahedeen” occupied in the mountains during their late unpleasantness with the Soviets were fortified with concrete and construction equipment provided by none other than Osama Bin Laden and his family’s construction company (…this was a major contribution of his to the war effort…). That reason, coupled with tasks such as clearing caves, are two more possible reasons for having this capability along."

What was the maximum range for the TOW employment at Wanat? Would AT4's served defensively for this position? Couldn't the engineers crater the road for protection, if necessary? Since no overlays or topo maps are available, what were the high-speed avenues of approach into the village?

Since the mission was initially defensive, it is doubtful that the Combat Outpost would be attacked by a cave. This leaves up-armored VBIED's, which aren't exactly tactical vehicles. If a .50 cal with Ap and API will not stop them, then why not employ AT4's?

Also, what about mortars to stop vehicles? This is a standard mortar technique. Where were these vehicles parked, and were they arrayed tactically?

He mentions the 24 attached Afghan troops: Was the Afghan element under the command and control of the Platoon leader, or were they in a separate chain of command? What was the rank of the two USMC advisers, and
why have we not heard any comments from these individuals?

Of the 24 Afghan paratroopers he says,

"I’d suggest one likely possibility is that they didn’t patrol. I think that this may be a function of uneasiness with their situation in terms of force protection, as you seem to indicate, but also because of a desire to keep their combat power massed together. This would have allowed them to finish their work on the foothold they were clearly seeking to establish in relative security, with operations beginning in earnest after the site was completed. I’m not saying this is what happened, I’m saying this is a possibility based on the fact that counterinsurgency is a slow growth enterprise and that leadership was probably taking a longer view of their operation… for better or for worse."

This indicates that Brigade and Battalion did not have a thorough, well thought out plan. If they did, more assets would have been assigned during the key period of establishing a perimeter defense. He is confusing COIN with conventional Platoon in the defense doctrine; the two are not the same.

Finally, Paul says
, "[Y]ou seem as though you’re treating the men and women who actually fight this war like they are idiots… they are most certainly not that." Ranger thinks all the fights he has commented on were idiotic. Any Platoon Leader executing suicidal orders and losing nine men KIA is not a brain surgeon.

The upshot is, the U.S. will abandon the Aghanis and Iraqis that have fought on our side now as readily as we did our Vietnamese Montagnard allies in the Vietnam war. Though you say, "America practically invented modern insurgency/counterinsurgency warfare," we left their hearts and minds behind when we hooked up.

Labels: , , ,


Anonymous sheerahkahn said...

With all due respect to Paul, there comes a time when it becomes necessary to re-evaluate ones objectives if one keeps having to go back and "re-secure" that objective.

Ranger has been very even handed with the situation, and in fact I'm the one specifically calling out our Officer staff as being the idiots.
My apologies to the rare few who use their brain pan for something other than CYOA.

Also, I think Ranger has done a thorough job of keeping his observations dispassionate, I on the other hand, am not burdened by that self-restraint.
I pay for Paul's salary, I pay for his superior's salary, and forgive me if I demand superior performance when leading men whose salary I'm paying for.
Right now, all I'm seeing is this: "Well, dam, that didn't work, lets try...[fill in the blank]"
The learning curve of our Officer corps is getting quite expensive, and I'm quite unhappy about it.

But overall, even though I thought Afghanistan was a righteous slap down, Ranger has convinced me otherwise.
I would urge you to listen, and consider what Jim has to say...he has a lot of knowledge to impart, and the only obstacle to that is the listener's unwillingness to hear what he has to say.
Give him some consideration, you won't regret it.

Monday, May 18, 2009 at 9:31:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...


thank you for your service. keep your head on a swivel, your weapons clean, and remember, when the going gets tough, the tough fire cyclic.

Monday, May 18, 2009 at 9:46:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

Please remember that a clean weapon can sometimes ruin your zero!
My best advice is always -stay low and shoot low.

Thanks for the endorsement. I do try to keep disconnected from the fray even when commenting on it.
I have observations and questions but seldom feel that i have any answers- my cmts are for consideration only. If i were in charge i seriously would leave the region in a double quik march. NO BULLSHIT.


Monday, May 18, 2009 at 9:56:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

Sheer and Paul
There's a little point that i'd like to add to this discussion and that's the concept of Afghan army paratroopers. Isn't this a hoot!! This country doesn't have a viable road system or even an Air Force to speak of but we in our infinite wisdom and military clarity have given them Paratroopers.Pls excuse me as i roll on the floor laughing.

Monday, May 18, 2009 at 10:23:00 AM GMT-5  
Anonymous Publius said...

"America practically invented modern insurgency/counterinsurgency warfare..."

And an awful lot of good it's done Paul's the nation to which Paul is supposed to owe allegiance. That's the problem with all of the expertise cited by our newly minted COIN "experts": They strut about as if they're the military equivalents of Johnny Unitas or Joe Montana. One is tempted to ask just how many championships they've won.

The real problem with our modern military—and this is not a knock on the individual troop—is that it's become a money pit; it's accordingly become more and more difficult to find that "value added" we'd all like to see.

I second Sheer's comments and am with Ranger all of the way here. But I am also very disturbed about the cognitive dissonance all too evident in members of our armed forces, especially the more junior ones.

Rather than assuming the role of cynic that's characterized U.S. military personnel since our founding (See Mauldin), today's military actually believes its own BS and that being peddled by its political superiors. Members of today's military are actually true believers. That's not good for the nation. And so long as we continue to engage in these foolish colonial wars, we will continue to degrade our military to the point where there will come a day when we will no longer be able to trust it. The day that happens, the move to banana republic status will be made official.


Monday, May 18, 2009 at 8:25:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

Several old quotes come to mind after reading your reply
-old soldier ,old shit;young soldier all shit. regt sgt maj cliff snider/ww2/canadian army
-i can believe your bs and it's ok and you can believe mine and it's ok BUT when you believe your own bs you're in big trouble.Cpt Edgar Lampkin 1971/3rd Ranger Co.

The disconnect here is that the Reserve forces have also become careerists and in the past they added reality to the mix. It's really clever how Reserve forces have become hip pocket armies and NOBODY even squeeks.This is specially significant since LBJ decided not to use these units in RVN since he felt it would increase opposition to the war. Now we ride em hard and put em up wet and bingo we have a war on the cheap.Good stuff.!! Except it ain't cheap it's merely an illusion of cheapness.
But my point is that nobody cares what happens to the troops or even national security as long as we can stay fat/dumb /and happy. It's all a word game.

Monday, May 18, 2009 at 8:47:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous Allison Williams said...

Hello Jim,

I met you and your wife at a hotel in Canton, Georgia quite some time ago. You and your wife handed me your card and asked that I visit your website and comment. We had a healthy conversation about politics and the need if necessary to forcefully defend our nation. I have unsuccessfully attempted to reach the area of your site that is open to discussion. Please advise as to whether this is still an active website.

Thank you,

Allison Williams

Friday, August 30, 2019 at 8:37:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...

Hi Allison,

Thanks for dropping by. I remember you well. Unfortunately, we are not currently writing. Sadly, a perceived division in politics has stopped our collaboration. Civil discussion is no longer possible -- this from the most disinterested couple you could imagine (at least, IMHO).

Pity that so many people feel this election was some sort of existential end. It is not, tho' it is a bellwether of things to come. That is what bears civil discussion.

Be well,


Saturday, August 31, 2019 at 3:00:00 PM GMT-5  

Post a Comment

<< Home