Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Mulling Over

She said, my! my! my!
Don't tell lies!

Keep fidelity in your head!

My! my! my! don't tell lies!

--Spider & the Fly, The Rolling Stones

And now, here to tell you everything

about anything is Mr. Know-It-All.

--The Bullwinkle Show


Ranger recently received a response from a smart and savvy reader to the effect that he had changed his thinking regarding the Center for a New American Security [CNAS] -- the "go-to site for counterinsurgency thinking" -- and some of the lackies associated with this center as a result of dialog here at RAW.

We are glad for the impassioned debate which ensued, but want to be clear that we are not here to indoctrinate anyone. Truth has a squishy quality, and Ranger rarely does anything but nibble around the edges. Too big a bite can be fatal, unless one has reached immunity, and Ranger had only received a flu shot.

Our goal is simply to present alternate perspectives, and the reader can pick up the ball on the bounce. Ranger apologizes if he appears dogmatic at times, but he does believe that we must all think for ourselves, and it is only via reasoned dialog that we can arrive at truths. That is what happened in this case.

Sadly, this skill set often goes lacking in our education and our lives. Let's take COIN for example.

CNAS member Andrew Exum's blog, Abu Muquwama, is one of the latest hotties in the COIN online pantheon. But through Ranger's cataractic eyes, it seems that to them this COIN stuff is just a big joke, a maypole around which to party down.

Ignore all the fancy words and circumambulations: The first thing one sees on the marquis of the site is a plastic Playskool-type figurine with a stylized AK-47. From the get-go, one is welcomed in on the little joke: We will be playing here with big guns and other cool stuff. Oh, and drinking Bushmills every opportunity we get, because this is like, a boy's club for the homies.

We at Ranger may enlist
Boris Badenov and Natasha Fatale in a highly ironic way, but we are not an institute trying to get the ear of President Obama or pretending that COIN is anything near a joke.

Contrast Abu Muquwama with the site of Colonel Pat Lang, Sic Semper Tyrannis. Lang is serious and totally adult and professional in his presentation. While both Lang and AM present cogent arguments supporting COIN, each strikes a different tenor.
But where do policy makers go to find a dissenting, authoritative and loyal opposition to the use of COIN? Answer: Nowhere.

A successful democracy is based upon balancing the extremes to reach a central, viable course of action. This moderate view is missing in the U.S., whether on the economic, medical reform or COIN /LIC/ small wars front.
Should COIN considerations outweigh domestic realities? Being from the Johnson City area in a state like Tennessee, surely Andrew Exum is aware of the dire straits in which many of his fellows live. Where is the trade-off?

The problem is that soldiers, or should we say, former soldiers, or should we say retired soldiers, to include young and old, are acting like high school cheerleaders for phony wars that are leading the nation to destruction.
Editorializing in our top newspapers now poses as reportage.

Are the children of America less worthy than the Islamic offspring of Afghan and Iraq? As reader FDChief noted in a comment to the post, Rube Golberg's COIN, "
If we want to rule a chaotic, tribal, drug-riddled, Late Iron Age shithole there's always Detroit."


Only six voting days left!

Make your voice heard -- vote RangerAgainstWar for Best Writers of the year in the Florida Democratic Party's Netroots election. Vote here.

The Rules:
RangerAgainstWar is selection #10, but you must also make a selection for selections #1, 2 and 21. Someone else will benefit from your largesse, but we will be really stoked if you choose #10. Really.

Labels: , , , , ,


Blogger Serving Patriot said...

The problem is that soldiers, or should we say, former soldiers, or should we say retired soldiers, to include young and old, are acting like high school cheerleaders for phony wars that area leading the nation to destruction. Editorializing in our top newspapers now poses as reportage.

That about sez it all about 1) how we got here, and 2) why we can't leave here.

Throw in the all the former/retired soldiers who trade in their stars for the easy (they would say, earned) life of corporate cushiness and you'll understand why the Navy cannot simply buy a new warship or why the USAF is left to fly 20-yr old tacair (don't get me started on the age of airlift!).


PS-- happily voting away!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009 at 7:52:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Ghost Dansing said...

where next willl the Mau Mau strike?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009 at 8:04:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous Andy said...

Dissenting voices are important. That's why I read you, AM, Lang, Ricks, Jason Sigger, Milpub, SWJ and a host of others.

You're spot-on IMO about reaching the center and a lack of moderate views. The sad reality, IMO, is that the freedom the internet provides makes it easy for people to insulate themselves from viewpoints they may not like, leading to a cycle of reinforced confirmation bias.

Nothing wrong at all with passionate viewpoints as long as they're not dogmatic. I think you are passionate without being dogmatic, which is a good thing in my book.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009 at 10:14:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Terrible said...

When one has no personal price to pay it's easy to ignore the futility of the conflict. And when one has imagined personal gain it's easy to glorify the hyped false necessity of it.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009 at 10:42:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger FDChief said...

Much as I despise the fraudulent way these moronic little wars have been sold, Jim, I doubt whether they are really the cause of our national slump towards The Big Stupid.

Rather, I would call them symptoms of a nation mortgaged (if you'll excuse the term) to an inbred oligarchy of wealth and privilege, whose primary interest (unlike their spiritual forebears the European aristos) is in winning the petty slapfights inside the Beltway. They just don't see how by giving in to the bread of birtherism, gimme-gimme, and shortsighted single-issue politics - and the circuses of silly, pointless foreign adventuring - they are losing sight of the real long-term problems that need to be addressed to prevent our nation from desuetude: the failing of the national infrastructure from highways to power grids to education, the feckless devolution of public services to private profits, the defenestration of the middle class to stagnating wages, rising costs and the relentless cramdown from low-cost offshore competition, the hardening of the political arteries and the coarsening and moronizing of political discourse.

On the grand scale, the blood and treasure we're spending on these silly ventures is a pittance. But the degree to which they take our eyes off "the ball" - the state of our nation - is the real damage they are doing to us. They're not big enough to be our "Dutch Wars". But they may prove an effective feint that keeps us from taking actions to stave off social disintegration and the failure of neighboring states such as Mexico that will prove the REAL danger in the long run.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009 at 12:46:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

I award you the best use of adjectives prize. You fit more into a sentence than anybody I read and the surprise is that you are NOT wordy.
I view the wars as little straws being added to the camels back.
Since Grenada we keep upping the ante and the taxpayers/voters swallow the bait. Here's the progression-Beirut-Grenada-Panama-Desert Storm-Bosnia then shit heel AFGH and on to IRQ. Let's throw in Nicarauga somewhere in there.
It was incremental and subtle but ever getting larger and lacking less in reason.We've established a national MO as regime changers . Not good, where does it stop?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009 at 12:56:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...


I so agree about your "feint" theo.

Our infrastructure is in dire need of upgrade. Those who are innovating for alternative energy sources like more efficient solar cells cannot even get their ideas off the drawing board in the U.S. They must go abroad for production and implementation. That is a great shame.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009 at 1:37:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...


The Mau-Maus?! You always manage to be more irreverent and yet more concise than yours truly. I shall have to ramp up my efforts :)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009 at 1:38:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

it's so very, very, fucking strange to me.

don't get me wrong. i'm nobody's pacifist. there are times when armed conflict is simply the only solution to a problem.

two romans, gaius marius, and gnaeus pompei magnus (although i prefer sulla's sobriquiet for pompei, carnifax juvenalis, "kid butcher" which was a double pun, pompei's father was pompei carnifax for his brutal style of COIN. sulla felt that pompei not only slaughtered the enemy, he got too many of his own legionaries slaughtered in the process) both fought very succesful COIN ops.

marius was in spain, which was a vital province for rome. it supplied the steel that armed and amoured the legions, and it was a prime source of silver. spanish mercenary troops were also prized. arriving on scene marius assessed the first and most vital problem of counter insurgency which is, "why are these motherfuckers fighting us?"

his assessment showed that the roman governors were a rapacious and corrupt lot. they were looting the joint. marius nationalized the silver mines and the steel foundries. he started making sure that the guys who forged the steel into swords and armour were being paid a living wage. he stopped the system of "tax farming" where governors who couldn't be bothered with the scut work of governance would subcontract the taxation of a province. he correctly surmised that a for-profit tax collector might go a wee bit overboard.

marius mainly used the "clear, build, and hold" strategy. thing was, when he was clearing, he cleared out the romans who were part of the problem along with the insurgents. when the spanish saw that they were going to be able to work, and harvest fairly the fruits of their labors, they weren't pissed off going to work every day.

pompei's problem was piracy. he was given a super-consulur imperium to clear the mediterranian of pirates who were stifling all commerce. his imperium reached 150 miles from every coast. he started with three divisions of navy and marines. the first division sealed off the straight of gibralter, cutting off the northern african and western spanish pirates from any markets to sell their loot. then the first division worked their way east. another division worked out of venice. clearing the sea between greece and italy.

the main thrust, under pompei's personal command, based out of syracuse. they started with the libyan and egyptian coasts. both of those were vital to rome, both as trading partners and as sources of grain.

he started with a policy of executing any pirates who were captured, and selling their families off to the parthians. (the parthians always loved them a good roman campaign, the slave markets were lucratrive)

as the campaign progressed though, pompei decided to begin addressing the root problem that marius addressed in spain (pompei was a young subaltern on marius' staff)

again, he asked, "why did these motherfuckers turn pirate?" as he was wrapping up his campaign, he began to hire pirates who used his amnesty program to find and hunt down the remaining pirates. he paid for the rebuilding of rhodes from his own pocket and instead of a den of thieves, it became a jewel in the crown of roman commerce.

until our COIN geniuses begin to address the harsh questions that marius and pompei faced, and those questions are eternal in insurgencies, we will be stuck with fighting stupid, shitty little wars in stupid, shitty little places.

the answer to the question of "why are the motherfuckers shooting at us?" in afghanistan might be as bog simple as the exchange between a union officer and a confederate POW after one of the battles in virginia. the POW was asked "why are you fighting us?" the reply was eloquent and simple "because ya'll are down here."

in the end, with afghanistan and iraq, we won't be failing because of what we did, or didn't do. we will fail because they are who they are, and we are who we are.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009 at 1:41:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger FDChief said...

Jim: Where it stops is where it stopped for Spain in the 17th Century and Britain in the 20th - when we can no longer cover the check we write with our big national mouth with the national ass of our economic and military power.

Both of the former empires kept mortgaging their economic strength to maintain their overseas possessions long after those possessions returned them anything of value. The hubris of the governing elites, and the failures of the systems set in place to provide checks on those elites, helped set them on the downward spirals that left them where they are today.

Mind you, where they are today isn't so bad: Spain and Great Britain circa 2009 are pretty decent nations. It is only the whiny titty-babies of privilege that cry for the vanished empires and the loss of their hopes to rule distant possessions full of dusky yet compliant maidens and kneeling native servants

Wednesday, September 23, 2009 at 2:08:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...


Thank you for sharing your knowledge of the ancients. I always learn so much, and your analogies to modern day seem so painfully accurate.

In a world which forgets last year (or last month) it may be too much to hope for the integration of such wisdom. I would like to think the military colleges are teaching this, but I wonder the lessons they draw.

And on a totally other front: What an excellent potential name for Hip-Hop artist: carnifax juvenalis, "kid butcher".

Wednesday, September 23, 2009 at 2:09:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...


Right -- it (and the nation) stops when the bill comes due. And it must come due, right?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009 at 2:11:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger FDChief said...

MB: And the immense difference between the Roman way and our way is summed up in Sulla's knickname for his old rival Pompey. There's one sure way to win a counterinsurgency: "Solitudenem facient et pacem appellant". You make a wasteland and call it peace. You kill most of the men, sell the survivors, the women and kids into slavery, and the deed is done. It's butcher's work, and you need a thrifty and efficient butcher to do it.

There's no way - I hope there's no way - that a 21st America could replicate this. One would hope that lining Interstate 95 with crosses would be too much even for the hardest of the hard-core Glenn Beck or Mike Savage fans. But...

And at the same remove would ever be the hope that our hypothetical GEN Butcher would go the length of hanging the Blackwaters and KBRs and Karzais up there with the rebels.

Nope. We're too stupid to solve this the clever way and too soft to solve it the hard way, but also too damn greedy and stupid to figure that out and walk away. And by "we" I mean the imperial we, the "we" that matter inside the Beltway.

We'll just keep fiddle-fucking away in central Asia until the next shiny-pretty or scary-freaky thing diverts our national attention...or until the power brokers decide that there's no profit in it.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009 at 3:47:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous RangerHazen said...

Two Wars

700 Military Bases Overseas

1 trillion spent annually to fund these bases with some of the largest in countries we have not fought since WWII

A annual Military Budget that outspends the other top 20 Countries Military Budgets [i]combined[i/]

And don't get me started about COIN...600 Special Operations Troops most of them Army Special Forces ROUTED THE TALIBAN out of AFGHANISTAN in just a few months...

8 Years Later...

The Holy Church of the Military Industrial Corporate Political Management Structure of our Sisters of Tax Payer Funded Perpetual Employment treats COIN no differently than any other "organizational opportunity"; and uses such excuses to justify long term corporate welfare for retired Field Grade Officers... So they may forever wax on and on about how to herd those pesky uncooperative natives into (the MacDonald's) line...

Where's Rudyard Kipling when you need him? Perhaps Micheal Moore's next documentary will shine a light on these cockroaches? :)

Let me spend a few minutes at the next board meeting! :D

Thursday, September 24, 2009 at 2:43:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...

Ranger Hazen,

Eloquent summary.

Thursday, September 24, 2009 at 10:53:00 AM GMT-5  

Post a Comment

<< Home