RANGER AGAINST WAR: December 2011 <

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Dog Day Afternoon

Time wounds all heels
--Dorothy Parke

Cruelty is an infectious disease

and one must strictly guard oneself against it

The kookaburras,

pressed against the edge of their cage,

asked me to open the door.

Years later I remember how I didn't do it,

how instead I walked away.

They had the brown eyes of soft-hearted dogs.

They didn't want to do anything so extraordinary,

only to fly home to their river.

--The Kookaburras
, Mary Oliver

The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,

Moves on: nor all your Piety nor Wit

Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,

Nor all your Tears wash out a Word of it

--Rubaiyat, Omar Khayyam


There was a tragedy at a truck stop this Wednesday.

I witnessed it while on my way to watch dogs at a friend's house in the country and seek some solitude. Choosing not to endure the gehenna of my destination's marketplace,
the truck stop ten miles out is the only option for petrol.

A family had placed their dog, or a dog, outside of their car. As they made to enter Highway 90, the dog gave chase and fiercely barked and bit at the driver's door, tail high, with intent. What was he thinking? "Are you joshing with me?" "Hey, I'm out here, what's wrong . . . don't you see me?"

It was an average-sized dog of dark golden hue, indiscriminate breed -- a dog, in cared-for condition, agitated and confused as you might have been given his situation. 50 yards ahead was the I-10 exchange; surely this was a bad place to leave a dog.

Who would do such a thing? Were they mad because the dog had conducted some mischief? Did they think this was an opportune moment to divest themselves of their responsibility? Did they imagine a truck stop would be a good place for a dog to find a new home?

Are they the sorts who leave their kid somewhere and drive around the block as a practical joke, to "teach him a lesson"? Will they have fond memories of Christmas season 2011 when they divested themselves of 50 pounds of bother alongside the road somewhere in Florida?

Me, I had been indulging in some Buddhist-New Age fusion about coping before coming upon the scene. Ideas about acceptance and non-attachment were being employed to salve myself,
"Resistance causes pain; resistance is futile." But then the dog.

Dogs are nothing if not devoted and singular-minded in this way, much worse than any love-blinded human. The dog could not enjoy my ruminations on how to lessen the stings dealt by one's fellows. His existence was being shattered in real time, and he had no tools to reason with this state of affairs. The owners may have been brutes, but they were his owners. Would they leave and turn back around on Hwy. 90 to pick him up? There aren't many places on Hwy. 90 for U-turns, so that seemed an unlikely prospect.

Leaving the lot, I watched as the people sat at the edge where the parking lot met the road, beeping their horn at the dog, cars going around them -- a scene of chaos. Was this to be the end of a life for this animal? Surely it looked like the end of one life.

My intentions for the next two days were humble ones: To seek a quiet retreat, to enjoy the company of two good dogs. More unhappy surprises involving dogs awaited me upon arrival.
It was not a propitious beginning to my self-styled yoga retreat, but it made the need of it that much more pressing. I do not like humans, at times.

It is now New Year's Eve day; my retreat is over. Cruelty, whether intentional or through lack of compassion or simply the indifference of fate, seems a part of the human condition. We talk a lot here about situations that have already occurred, or are spooling out remote from our control. That can leave one feeling like railing out against one's perceived impotence.

While being informed and making critical assessments is a part of being a good citizen, you can do something even better. Resolve to not be indifferent when some being sincerely implores you. If we could really see ourselves in the other, much cruelty would stop. When you sit in the pews, that's a big part of the message.

Could you elevate even the mundane just a half-notch, and imagine that as you pass through your day even the smile you give might be just what someone needed to carry on? How you conduct yourself happens to matter, and you might never know when you have impacted someone else's life.

To all who stop by RangerAgainstWar, we wish you a healthy and prosperous 2012. Thank you for sharing your light with us, and with all who may have benefit of reading your thoughts. May you be kept warm by the light of those who love you, and whom you love.


Labels: , , , ,

Friday, December 30, 2011

Big Green Machine

--P. Nicholson, The Australian

So we sailed on to the sun,

Till we found the sea green,

And we lived beneath the waves,

In our yellow submarine

--Yellow Submarine
, The Beatles

TV news and camera,

there's choppers in the sky

Marines, police, reporters

ask where, for and why

--How Bizarre

The New Hampshire is a $3 Billion top-secret attack submarine, over 375 feet long. The vessel is powered by an ultra-modern, 40,000 horsepower reactor that motors the ship at speeds up to 50 m.p.h. No other sub is as fast, expensive, quiet or deadly (ideasanddiscoveries.com).

Breaking through arctic ice? No problem. It has 12 vertical Cruise missile launching tubes to deter any "potential enemies", and with a lifespan of 30 years and the capacity to maintain its crew underwater for three months, the
New Hampshire truly is a super sub.

Now, with the encomiums out of the way, Ranger has two comments:

  • The U.S. frets over Iranian efforts to get a nuclear weapon, for what reason?
  • The Chevy Volt has been recalled, and all have been bought back by General Motors due to technical problems. So, we can build machines of death and mass destruction, yet we cannot get a handle on a simple people-moving green machine for the streets of America.

But, you know, the Office of Naval Research says the killer sub is trying an initiative "to replace noisy fluorescent bunk lights with LEDs" -- yeah, at least that. So that makes you feel a little better, that if the trolling sub must unleash its deadly wrath, it will be led into battle under greener lights.

How bizarre!

Labels: , , ,

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Goodwill Hunting, III

Do I dare

Disturb the universe?

In a minute there is time

For decisions and revisions

which a minute will reverse

--The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock
T.S. Eliot

I thought when I was a young man
That I would conquer the world with truth.
I thought I would lead an Army greater than

Alexander ever dreamed of,

not to conquer nations but to liberate mankind.

With truth. With the golden sound of the word.

But only a few of then heard.

Only a few of you understood

--How Green was My Valley

We are turning into a nation

of whimpering slaves to Fear—

fear of war, fear of poverty,

fear of random terrorism,

fear of getting down-sized

or fired because of the plunging economy,

fear of getting evicted for bad debts

or suddenly getting locked up in a military detention camp

on vague charges of being a terrorist sympathizer

--Hunter Thompson

Do we think beyond the buzz words and the emotional, feel-good rhetoric of false logic and weak-kneed patriotism? These are further thoughts on the bogus military mission of "goodwill".

It is as if we are trapped in the lyrics of a cheap country western song espousing uber-patriotic themes. We may be able to wrap ourselves in the flag and award magnificent medals for the expenditure of lives, but this does not justify the tableau.

Where in the Principles of War is that of Goodwill? Doesn't a forced U.S. entry into an Afghan valley simply reinforce their militancy and further disconnect them from our goals and the ephemeral hold of their make-believe government? This not about us, and their definition of Goodwill might sound a lot like the statement, "Stay our of my valley!"

The question seems, "How does one dare disturb this universe created by a warrior mentality (ours) that bumps head-on with another entrenched warrior society (theirs)?" It is clear that we can back off, but they have too much skin in the game to do so.

A clean, sterile award ceremony in the White House cannot relieve the stench of death surrounding our leaders. This stench belongs to them, and not men like Medal of Honor recipients Meyer, Miller or Murphy.

Labels: , , , ,

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Leaving Las Vegas

Sometimes you're the windshield
Sometimes you're the bug

Sometimes it all comes together baby

Sometimes you're just a fool in love

-The Bug, Mary Chapin Carpenter

I move around a lot,

not because I'm looking for anything really,

but 'cause I'm getting away from things

that get bad if I stay

--Five Easy Pieces (1970)

Everybody knows

this is nowhere.

Everybody, everybody knows

Everybody knows

--(Everybody Knows) This is Nowhere
Neil Young


This is about a movie and an entry from my life. It was called The Vietnam War, and our exit from Iraq has been gut-wrenching for me.

The Vietnam War could have been subtitled, "How to Lose a War in Ten Easy Years". Change the Republic of Vietnam to Iraq and my movie is the same as the one that just played out in Baghdad. Try as I may, there is no way to make sense of it, either then or now.
And we now have a sequel in which only the name of the country is different.

On March 2, 1971, the 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) left RVN and became one of the first major units to exit the war. We left that war much as we started it -- gradually. It was an inexorable build up followed by the inexorable denouement.

The 5th re-deployment was the first time that an entire Special Forces group redeployed from a war zone. This must have been a practice movement foreshadowing the Baghdad embarrassment. The U.S. left Saigon under enemy pressure, the last visuals being U.S. helicopters beating a hasty exit from the North Vietnamese conquerors. The last photo was of a U.S. employee punching a small Vietnamese dude in the face to get a seat out.

Nice way to end a war. 58,000 of us died and 300,000+ were wounded, and the last image is one of our citizens punching a local in the face; what a cosmic joke!
December 18, 2011, the U.S. left behind a Trillion+ dollar war, and this time we got the punch (Last U.S. Troops Leave Iraq). As one trooper wryly observed, they'll be having one hell of a yard sale over our left behind materiel.

For this and more we would like to tell Mr. Bush et. al -- Heckuva job, Georgie! How can we retain as nation any dignity following episodes like this?

It is a sad day when one is embarrassed to call himself an American.

Labels: , , , ,

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

It Takes a Village

I regard the death and mangling

of a couple thousand men

as a small affair, a kind of morning dash --

and it may be well that we become so hardened

--General William Tecumseh Sherman

War on the cheap

is always a rotten policy

--William Rees-Mogg


More thoughts on Dakota Meyer's Medal of Honor scenario:

The back story is a subtle slap in the Army's face. It is repeatedly stressed that the fire support was denied by the Army, and 10th Mountain officers were relieved after this incident. This is the reverse of the Battle at Lang Vei in Vietnam in which the Marines failed to provide fire and artillery support to the Special Forces under siege. Instead after that battle, Marine Commander Colonel Lowndes was rewarded for his grave inaction and received the Navy Cross; he was never reprimanded.

Simple questions regarding the personnel at the fight:

  1. Why was United States Marine Corps 05 in the fight? How did he fit in the command structure?
  2. If there were 140 friendlies, then how did they all get to the Objective Rally Point (ORP)? Did they use a tour bus? What did their approach march look like? How long did they occupy the ORP?
  3. If there were 140, then why was a reserve element not designated?
  4. How many vehicles were at the ORP?

The fact that Meyers found the four U.S. dead and the ANA member in a bunch indicates that the U.S. members were desperate -- soldiers are trained to maintain distance and proper dispersion in training and combat. Bunching up indicates instinct is overriding training, a desperate position.

Huddled dead are indicative of every historical U.S. military defeat. The image of Myles Keogh at Little Big Horn and his clustered dead at the ravine come to mind. The groups may be larger or smaller, but it feels like we are walking a Mobius strip of repetitive disasters.

The fact that the bodies were stripped of all their equipment indicates the hostiles completely dominated and controlled the battle space. Not only did they dominate the field by placing effective fire on the friendlies, they had the freedom to maneuver and move with obvious impunity. This is a gross invalidation of the entire goodwill mission.

We were selling goodwill, but they were not buying. Instead, they copped at least $100,000 worth of U.S. combat paraphernalia. How can any commander intellectualize having ordered such a mission? The facts indicate that perhaps this war is just another unmanageable boondoggle of no military merit.

This was designated a "goodwill mission" to rebuild/repair the local mosque (McClatchey). This is a perplexing military mission. Does having the military rebuild a mosque violate separation of church and state? Does the U.S. military or government build or repair churches in the U.S.?

Does it make sense to combat "Islamic Extremism" in a Phony War on Terror (
PWOT ©) while encouraging fundamentalism via actions such as mosque repair? Why fight them and then encourage their religious beliefs? This looks a lot like creating another Islamic fundamentalist state at U.S. taxpayer's expense. If so, why?

Since the enemy fighters were not on board with the "goodwill" of the mission, we should ask militarily, societally and as a course of national policy why it is a U.S. policy to kill people in the confines of isolated villages and valleys far from any Walmart, and to try and portray the action as one of goodwill?

An Army that fights people on their home turf under the flimsy guise of goodwill is performing an exercise in futility, expending lives for naught. Is destroying a village to save it a goodwill mission? Do the locals see it that way?
Goodwill is not something carried on the backs of 140 heavily-armed and dangerous soldiers.

The kids in this valley probably did not receive any USMC Toys for Tots this Christmas.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Monday, December 26, 2011

Tread on Me

But the law, Judah.
Without the law, it's all darkness

--Crimes and Misdemeanors

Remember all of the purple thumbs which were part of the constructed pastiche that said, "We're winning?" Well, voting is not the sign of either freedom or democracy.

The sign of democracy is being allowed to vote on key issues and having politicians who will then fulfill our mandate. That is freedom and democracy marching hand in hand. When we in the U.S. vote for President, is our intent to elect a warrior king ? An assassin? A jailer? Do we expect him to uphold The Constitution, or to view it as a buffet for the choosing?

What politician will cease being a reactor and fulfill the role of statesman, instead being an actor for the betterment of his nation? As long as any man sits in prison sans trial, none of us is a free man.
Rights are not rights if they can be abrogated by arbitrary Presidential fiat. Discretionary rights are as bogus as discretionary war.

How can we tell our troops that they are fighting for our rights, when one of them (Bradley Manning) sits in jail without any rights at all? Do we and they not see this? The actions of Presidents George Bush and Obama to assassinate citizens and incarcerate people without trial embodies the Constitutional concept of high crimes and misdemeanors.

The Republican candidates are stepping up to the plate, but no one asks them, "Would you free, try, or just let Manning continue to rot in prison?" Instead we focus on their sex lives and other meaningless drivel. We should ask, "Do you support the assassination of U.S. citizens sans benefit of trial?", but we do not, because we know the answer. Both political parties support the truncation of citizen's rights in this not-so Brave New World.

It is strange that the U.S. would try and impeach a president for sexual dalliances with an intern, while gladly accepting the assassinations and jailings without a whimper.

Don't Tread on Me
has left the building.

Labels: , ,

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Baby Jesus

Next time, try Manger.com
for your lodging needs
--RangerAgainstWar ©

But the wisdom that is from above
is first pure, then peaceable, gentle,

and easy to be entreated, full of mercy

and good fruits, without partiality,

and without hypocrisy

--James 3:17

A lot of Christians wear crosses.

Do you think if Jesus comes back

he ever wants to see a fucking cross?

It’s kind of like going up to Jackie Onassis

wearing a sniper-rifle pendant.

“Hey Jackie, just thinking of John.

We loved him.”

--Bill Hicks

Dear Lord baby Jesus,

we thank you so much for this
bountiful harvest
of Dominos,
KFC, and the always delicious
Taco Bell

--Talladega Nights,

The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (2006)


What does Christmas mean? Here's Ranger's take.

The whole idea was the dawn of a new consciousness:
The old God of wrath was superseded by the birth of a new idea in the form of the Baby Jesus. Saith He, Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God what is God's.

But the Baby Jesus morphed into the supporter of temporal power even while serving God and country, an odd couple if ever there was one. To Caesar and his Praetorian governor was ceded the power to beat, torture and condemn men to the cross.
But it all works out well because the clergy will help speed you on your way out of this vale of tears.

In that lineage, today we have a President with more power than 100 megatons of Caesars who can nail a citizen cleric like al-Awlaki to a modern cross -- a Hellfire missile. That same President can put a troublesome lad like Bradley Manning in prison sans trial. Manning -- neither a terrorist nor a spy, but a disaffected and disillusioned young man.

The power to arbitrarily slap an individual in prison may not be as dramatic as nailing a young Jew on a cross, but the end game may be the same. Why celebrate Christmas if Jesus just brought us back 'round to a vengeful, wrathful God, a God whose judgments are meted out by his secular representatives. Our national policies have resurrected the God of old.

Hypocrisy reigns when our Secretary of State Clinton hails Chinese dissidents and Arabs yelling in the streets, and visits Myanmar dissidents, while our country places Bradley Manning in solitary confinement.
Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven (Matthew 7:21) Hard to know what that will is today, since we are told everything changed after 9-11-01. Have we transvalued all of our N.T. values and fallen back into perpetual battle? Lacrimae rerum.

The advent of Jesus was for naught because we are still Old Testament.
Save when it comes to justification for some old fashioned greed and consumption. Ho, ho, ho.

Labels: , , ,

Friday, December 23, 2011

O Sole Mio

But she goes not abroad,
in search of monsters to destroy

She is the champion and vindicator

only of her own.

She is the well-wisher to

the freedom and independence of all

--John Quincy Adams

You can't do Right


and you can't do Wrong,


--seen in American Craft Magazine

(Dec/Jan 2012)


Terrorism is often called "War on the Cheap", and one must wonder if that is true of the Phony War on Terror (PWOT ©), also.

We say the U.S. is the lone Superpower, and that We Support the Troops, but sometimes things aren't as hoped for. In the Waygul battle, and in the three Medal of Honor scenarios (Murphy, Miller and Meyer), the troops received sketchy support -- conduct not meet for the world's sole Superpower.

Waygul (503rd) featured a U.S. Platoon with an inexperienced platoon leader, non-existent engineer support and an inadequate supply of water (Ranger bets the insurgents had adequate water sources). The Platoon could not be reinforced by road or air cover, to include drones -- a dodgy force protection posture, at best. Yet this did not spur anyone in the chain of command to review the mission statement.

The troops soldiered on until nine were Killed in Action and 16 Wounded in Action, causing one to question the logic of utilizing far-flung command outposts that lack proper support, mutual support or adequate logistical support. Is this how Superpowers support their troops in the face of the enemy? Ranger tabs and jump wings will not stop a bullet, contrary to popular belief.

There is a systemic infection across the spectrum of these actions, and this is a weakness in planning and execution. With Lt. Murphy we have three men killed and "one lone survivor", and award a MOH based upon one live witness. The other witnesses were on the other end of a radio link.

Staff Sergeant Miller's MOH was foreshadowed by Lt. Murphy's three years earlier, and was a precursor to Meyer's fight. RangerAgainstWar has discussed each of these engagements per available open-source material, but all leave uncomfortable, unanswered questions.

And the rest of the leading quotation is below. Our esteemed leaders might take some guidance from a not-so-distant luminary in America's intellectual and political arsenal:

She well knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy, and ambition, which assume the colors and usurp the standard of freedom.

--John Quincy Adams, On U.S. Foreign Policy (1821)

Labels: , , , , ,

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Goodwill Hunting, II

--Self conqueror wall mural taken by reader
"Enrico" in Thailand

"My good fool," said a learned bystander,
"Your operations are mad."
"You are too candid," cried the candid man,
And when his stick left the head of the learned bystander
It was two sticks
--War is Kind and Other Lines,
Stephen Crane

I got so much to give
I want to give it
I want to get some, too
--I Love the Nightlife,
Alicia Bridges

Pt. II -- Goodwill Hunting:

So is it any wonder the ostensible goodwill mission turned into a slugfest? The surprise is that the Command did not worst case plan this escapade, and the troops paid the price.

Do we care that the citation was embellished, or that five brave and good Americans died that day for a Goodwill Mission? Is Goodwill Hunting a new mission for a Rifle Platoon or Company? Following are a few rhetorical observations:

McClatchey reports in Dancing Goat II: "The Americans and an Afghan soldier were later found in a trench to which they had retreated." Retreated is not the correct term for what First Lt. Michael E. Johnson, Gunnery Sergeant Edwin W. Johnson, Petty Officer 3rd Class James R. Layton (medic) and Staff Sergeant Aaron M. Kenefick did that day. Retreating indicates an attempt to evacuate the battle area after having cashed it in.

Instead, these men were employing the cover that was available. They were in contact with a superior force and they were falling back under enemy pressure. They did not turn their backs, and this describes their deaths more accurately than calling it a retreat. They died in military order.

Ditto the paper's description of the MOH "winners". The medal of Honor is not won, it is conferred; they are "recipients". The implication of the word winner emanates from a sport culture divided into winners and losers, but the battlefield is not such a game. It could be said that even when one "wins", one has lost on some profound level.

But these are small points. The real point is that we have a President and a USMC Commandant that do not ask the correct questions. Both focus on the actions at the objective to the detriment and exclusion of questions that should be and need to be discussed. Those questions concern command actions which should have been considered before the unit was task organized and launched.

Casting aspersions upon Meyer's actions obscures the fact that good men died needlessly because of poor planning, which leads inevitable to faulty execution. The negative superlatives must fall upon the chain of command to include a Commander in Chief who continues such a senseless war.

The USMC was determined to produce a live MOH recipient and institutionally set out to do so. Controversy resulted, and an MOH recipient who left the Corps as soon as he could put on his hat.

We will close with a comment by then-Lance Cpl. Meyer:

"When somebody calls me a hero, I almost feel sick to my stomach. I'm getting recognized for what I did, but this medal is not about me. It's about the men and women serving right now, and those who will be serving afterward. They're the true heroes" (Man of Honor).

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Goodwill Hunting

Nobody does it better

Makes me feel sad for the rest

Nobody does it half as good as you

Baby, you're the best

--Nobody Does it Better
Carly Simon

99% of us are in the top 1%

--Old quip on Officer Efficiency Reports


Hyperbole and superlatives have always been the military way.

Everything is "Outstanding" or "Excellent". We speak about "Can do", "Drive on" and "Hooah!" (or, OohRah, for the Marines), and we are surprised that Corporal Meyer's Medal of Honor citation narrative had exaggerations? This is no surprise to anyone who ever wore combat boots or carried a rifle.

Before driving on, let us get straight on Meyer: On his chest he wears a Navy Commendation with "V" device (valor). Like MOH recipient Staff Sergeant Miller before him, who had two Army Commendation medals with "V", Meyer had proven his valor and devotion to duty previous to his MOH encounter. Both men displayed the highest level of valor, and it is not their fault if their citations were inflated.

It is common to "gild the lily" in such reports, knowing that higher
HQ's will usually downgrade an award IF it is not properly superlative in nature. This is an institutional bias and independent of the recipients.

With Meyer, as always the questions asked are the wrong ones. We should not question the valor of men like Murphy, Miller and Meyer, but rather ask, "Why were their actions were so desperate?" Why were they thrown into situations that required men to die needlessly for a questionable mission? Soldiers die, but their deaths should have meaning beyond shallow patriotism.

Going on open source material (sans Operations Order [OPORD] or After-Action Report [AAR]),
the planned action is too sordid and questionable even before the first round is fired. The questions devolve to questions about the command responsibility of higher Headquarters.

McClatchey describes Meyer's action as a "savage gunfight in East Afghanistan" (14 Dec 11); in Meyer's
Maxim interview (12 Dec 11), "Meyers and Chavez provide security at the Objective Rally Point (ORP) while the members . . . enter the Ganjgal village on foot."

Since this was an assigned mission and had an Objective Rally Point (ORP), we know that the team was executing an approach march to make contact, or to enter the village. We also know or trust that the team knew there would be contact at some level of engagement. It is safe to assume that their movement to contact was not an Easter egg hunt, and that they utilized appropriate Infantry tactics.

These tactics include point element, dispersion, over-watch, cover and concealment (as possible), team integrity and patrol HQ controlling the movement. This could not be an ambush -- as some have indicated -- because the unit knew that they were in a danger zone before the shooting began.

If you accept this, than what follows must be true based upon 220 years of U.S. Army patrolling skills which have translated into accepted Infantry rules and practice. There are no news flashes here; Rogers' Rules for Rangers outlined conduct for such situations, as did Carlson's Raiders of World War II USMC fame. Contrary to the line we are fed that fighting in Afghanistan and the Phony War on Terror (PWOT
©) is a new form of warfare, there is nothing new under the sun.

All actions are like an old M1 rifle and composed of three parts: The Front, The Middle and The Back. When pre-planning a mission we use backward planning steps and follow standard troop leading procedure.
All of these actions should be in the OPORD and are SOP in most units. Here is the breakdown:

Front: Actions before mission
Middle: Actions during mission
Back: Actions after mission

Actions before include command responsibility for:

  • Arranging fire support
  • Weighting the action for success
  • Medical and communication
  • Actions of Adjacent or friendly units in supporting distance
  • Quick Reaction Force (QRF) considerations
  • Beans and Bullets (=all logistical functions)
  • Air assets
  • Photo and satellite imagery
  • Agent reports
  • Enemy order of battle. What should the patrol expect during the execution phase? What should the soldiers expect to await them?

Instead, failure occurred on several accounts. From the reports,

  • Fire support was non-responsive and not pre-planned. Fire planning is not something done "on the fly". It is too late to pre-plan after decisive engagement; it is an oxymoron.
  • Gunships were not pre-planned. Guns and fire support were an afterthought.
  • Medical support was sketchy. Only one medic can be identified, and he was Killed in Action. Where is the best place to situate the medic -- with the assault element or at the ORP? Were the team members certified as Combat Lifesavers and if so, how could they perform this function if they were operating their rifles and required to fight for the life of the team?
  • Was there a readily available escape route? Since the ORP was identified, why was there no provision for the team to fall back and assemble on the ORP? This, after all, is the function of this location.
  • Did the U.S. troops, the Marines and the Afghan National Army (ANA) members have any operational planning or training operating as a joint force prior to this mission?
  • What was the mission? What was this team to accomplish with the assets at hand? Was it realistic?

McClatchey states that the action "began as a goodwill mission by Afghan troops and American trainers", yet conspicuously absent were any civilian Afghan representatives. Further, how can a force of "About 20 Marines, 50 Army troops, 70 ANA soldiers and border police" possible be construed as a "goodwill mission"?

Imagine yourself an Afghan in a remote valley and 140 heavily-armed and dangerous men are approaching your village. Googling "Goodwill" will not fetch this image.

Pt II, Goodwill Hunting

Labels: , , ,

Occupy Wall Street Lego Set

Santa cutie, and fill my stocking with a duplex,
And checks.

Sign your 'X' on the line,

Santa cutie, and hurry down the chimney tonight

--Santa Baby
, Eartha Kitt


What to buy the kids for Christmas, as a politically-aware caretaker?

How about Occupy Wall Street -- The Lego Set? (an idea from Slate). You control both the protest and the police response, but "only use tear gas under adult supervision". Someone's gotta be the adult.

It's not all skittles and beer, y'know?

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Dancing in the Dark

Stay on the streets of this town
and they'll be carving you up alright

They say you gotta stay hungry

hey baby I'm just about starving tonight

--Dancing in the Dark
, Bruce Springsteen

Look, there is one statement that bothers me

more than anything else, and that's the idea

that when the troops are in combat

everybody has to shut up.

Imagine if we put troops in combat

with a faulty rifle, and that rifle was malfunctioning

and troops were dying as a result.

I can't think anyone would allow that to happen,

that would not speak up.

Well, what's the difference between a faulty plan

and strategy that's getting just as many troops killed?

--General Anthony Zinni (USMC, ret'd, former

CENTCOM Commander in Chief)

You are a fear prisoner.

Yes, you are a product of fear

--Donnie Darko (2001)


Recent discussion of Waygul and the Medal of Honor actions in Afghanistan returned the lessons of a distant classroom to mind.

Once upon a time the Army had a doctrine that Captains fight battles, and Colonels and Generals get them there. They also arrange for the ash-and-trash items needed to fulfill the mission. Waygul and Murphy, Miller and Meyer's battles should have been fought by Captains committing their forces to destroy the enemy. All of the units did this to the best of human capacity, but that was not enough.

This led me to ponder the history of the U.S. Civil War (since surely that is what the current wars will devolve into for their own respective peoples). Until Gettysburg, the Army of the Potomac was kicked around every battlefield by General Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. The Union Army was never out-fought or out-soldiered, but they were always out-Generaled, until Gettysburg.

Gettysburg was the first battle in which Union Generals actually generaled their Army and allowed the Captains and enlisted soldiers to fight the enemy on their own terms. The fights in Afghanistan are similar as our soldiers always fight properly, but the Colonels and Generals are not holding up their end.

The soldiers arrive at the battlefield, but they do not get a level playing field because the battlefield is never properly prepared: Items like fire support, medical evacuation, maneuver plans and follow-on forces and reserves are conspicuously missing. Pressure is not maintained on the enemy, and he is allowed to break contact after inflicting predictable casualties upon U.S. soldiers.

The U.S. Army in Afghanistan resembles Lee at Gettysburg without his cavalry screening his Army. Without this screen, Lee had no idea what forces he was facing until he developed the situation, which is what he did, at a disadvantage.
U.S. forces in Afghanistan have that same feel of desperately trying to develop the situation, which must be the reason for the lopsided fights that we are seeing.

Meanwhile, what are the Colonels and Generals contributing to the effort? It is strange that the mighty U.S. forces are being out-generaled by folks fighting in shower shoes. This would not make Generals Lee or Meade very happy.

Like Lee at Gettysburg, the U.S. is fighting in the dark.

Labels: , , , , ,

Monday, December 19, 2011

Hot Mess

Now it's up to you,
can we make a secret rendezvous?

Oh, before we do,

you'll have to get away from you know who

--Hot Blooded
, Foreigner

[America's soldiers] are being treated

... like toys a rich kid got for Christmas

--Kurt Vonnegut

It's my party, and I'll cry if I want to

Cry if I want to, cry if I want to

You would cry too if it happened to you

--It's My Party
, Leslie Gore


And so it goes, the U.S. leaves Iraq under cover of night, afraid to announce the shindig celebrating our departure for fear the
locals insurgents might get whiff and crash the party.

Putting a bit of a damper on festivities was the conspicuous absence of both Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and President Jalal Talabani, their name tags sitting on the empty chairs the Americans were hopeful they would fill;
"The only prominent Iraqis to attend were a former defense minister and three generals."

It almost seems a little . . . ungrateful, after all the U.S. has done for them. But it wasn't simply a snub, as Nuri was hatching a plan: Today he ordered the arrest of Tareq al-Hashemi, "his respected Sunni vice president, on terrorism charges" (Iraq in Fresh Turmoil).

Terrorism will be the new omnibus reason for arrest in the dictator's handbook. They may smile like the cat that ate the canary, and all the U.S. may do is grimace, for they have taught the lesson well: Fascists may vogue all the vapid insipidity of a Nancy Reagan with her "Just Say NO!" anti-sex campaign -- but this time, to Terrorists, and a Terrorist is whoever you deem to be one. Should there be a call to transparency, recourse to State Secrets will do nicely for an answer.

Well, at least someone wasn't being a Debbie Downer:
"In Falluja . . . several thousand Iraqis celebrated the withdrawal on Wednesday, some burning U.S. flags and waving pictures of dead relatives (Iraq War: U.S. Military Formally Ends War).

But where was George W. Bush? Texans love shindigs. Why was Cheney not present, and what about Mssrs. Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz? Wasn't this a confetti-and-champagne moment for that crew? After all, it was they who ushered in this world historical moment of elective generational wars. Andrew Bacevich nailed it:

Central to that legacy has been Washington's decisive and seemingly irrevocable abandonment of any semblance of self-restraint regarding the use of violence as an instrument of statecraft. With all remaining prudential, normative, and constitutional barriers to the use of force having now been set aside, war has become a normal condition, something that the great majority of Americans accept without complaint. War is U.S. (After Iraq, War is U.S.)

Ranger's recent "2 1/2 Wars" recognized "this tremendous continual drain on our resources, [which we] accept as a required national
status quo.
" It's just another day at the office for people whom most never know, and who they feel have chosen that job. However, prior to Mr. Bush's presidency, being in the military did not imply serial deployments to war zones.

But hey, that's one down. If Mr. Bacevich and Ranger are correct, that simply implies a slot has opened op for a new front. Let's hope not, but hope doesn't seem to hold a lot of truck today.

And so it goes.

Labels: ,

Meeting Engagements

"Was it worth it? I am sure it was.
When we first came in here, the Iraqi people

seemed like they were happy to see us
Sgt 1st Class Lon Bennish, 3-tour Iraqi veteran

Relying on luck, however,

does not constitute a policy

--Counterinsurgency Warfare: Theory and Practice,

David Galula


A basic rule of combat operations is not to move or place any unit anywhere unless it has mutual support -- visual, fire or both. The actions at Waygul and Miller, Murphy and now Meyer's Medals of Honor all violated that rule.

It is usual to have eye contact between units and that eyeball space is always covered by obstacles and fires, both direct and indirect. When visual contact is lost, so too, is the battle. Classic examples of this failure include Custer's Little Big Horn and The Battle of the Bulge, when units were too separated by distance to plug the gaps. Have we forgotten our hard-won ground combat sense?

Meeting engagements (or, "approach marches") are characterized by uncertainty and are difficult to manage UNLESS the friendly unit forward is part of a tactical movement with combat power in-depth, to include vertically. Space must be considered multi-dimensionally.

When and if we fight these engagements as a one-on-one fight, we are always going to be the designated loser because insurgents and guerrillas will not engage unless they have already prepared the battle area.
Insurgents do not fight unless it is to their projected benefit -- the logistics of asymmetrical warfare dictate this theoretical given in unconventional and guerrilla warfare (UW/GW).

The fights we have read about in Afghanistan lack depth and do not qualify as battlefields. They are simply desperate men fighting for their lives, to no tactical advantage or gain.

The goal of all classic ground combat is to make contact (usually through a movement to make contact) and then fix and destroy or defeat the enemy through fire and maneuver. The War in Afghanistan is all fire, with no apparent successful maneuver.

Meeting engagements are always riskier and more difficult to manage than planned operations.
The meeting engagement requires flexibility, maneuver and tactical proficiency in developing rapidly changing scenarios. In classic ground combat, major units -- such as Armored Cavalry and Reconnaissance units -- specialize in these types of actions. Both examples feature highly mobile forces with exceptional dedicated to the maneuver element.

Additionally, meeting engagements often result in fixing the enemy and then bypassing to attack deeper and more productive targets.
Deep targets are always a priority, yet in Afghanistan we rarely see this type of action. This indicates that our operations lack depth and purpose beyond contact.

We will close by pointing out that Custer's fight was a meeting engagement. We know how that turned out.

Another fine mess.

Labels: ,