Saturday, April 28, 2007


Second Thoughts and Generalship

Four must reads sometime this week:
Retired LTC Yingling's article in Armed Forces Journal
Hugh Hewitt interview with Max Boot on Yingling’s article, via Instapundit
Greyhawk's reflections on Yingling's piece
Point of view contrary to Yingling from Neptunus Lex

Call it all some considerations of the second draft of history, all relating to how we have conducted our military efforts in Iraq, how we’ve adapted, and where we stand now.

The mainstream media (MSM) delight in stories like this. They move from darling to darling, from one convenient message to another, and find ways to highlight and stress those particular threads of military commentary and opinion that supports their own biases, or the partisan aims of those they seek to assist.

I don’t want to insult or call into question the integrity of LTC Yingling, or impute ulterior motives to the particular timing of his article. I think Yingling accurately captures a strain of thought within the officer corps, particular for younger officers a level or two below those who have achieved the political stature of elevated senior rank. I say political because for those not as familiar with the world of the military, it may not be apparent the degree to which Generals and aspiring Field Grade officers by necessity excel as political animals.

I will certainly grant that, in hindsight, it will always be possible to find oppositional voices in military senior command who take positions contrary to those which ultimately prevail, and after the fact can seem deep wisdom indeed. Hindsight, after all, can always be measured as 20/20. I would even go so far to admit that a certain degree of hubris, institutional prejudices, vanity and pride underlay much military decision-making immediately leading up to our invasion of Iraq, and decisions in the first 3 years of executing the various components of our plans.

All that said I still have several big objections to his argument.

Bad results don’t necessarily indicate bad plans, or even bad decisions. Poor results are more often a failure of adaptability, not necessarily foresight. You can generally foresee all manner of possibilities, but leadership is a matter of making decisions, of choosing courses of action (COA) among alternatives. After the fact, it will always be possible to point at outcomes, and say, well, clearly, you should have opted for COA #2, or #3, or so on, rather than the one chosen.

Yingling describes the failures of Generals making decisions during the Vietnam War as inadequately preparing their forces for counterinsurgency. That may or may not be a complete picture of all that went on, and certainly doesn’t accommodate evolving thinking about Vietnam, that we may have won militarily but lost politically by giving way on PR and pulling out on the verge of victory. Sure, the results were disastrous, but was the disaster the fault of military operations, or the political decision-making that pulled US forces out, and then cravenly abandoned our allies in South Vietnam?

We fought a very tough and prolonged fight against a Philipino insurgency at the turn of the 19th century, and won against them, and the military created doctrinal components that were informed by those experiences. I think it reasonable that the US military was justified thinking they would prevail in Vietnam. Certainly, tactics and strategy could have evolved more, but the great unanswered question is what would have happened if we had held on longer, maintained support of South Vietnam? Our North Vietnamese enemies candidly admit they were near complete defeat and surrender shortly after Tet.

Again, we might grant Yingling his premise that the military didn’t exhibit sufficient foresight as the war in Vietnam continued, or didn’t adapt, or ignored warning signs and alternative courses of action. I don’t think it supports his conclusion, in any case.

I thought at the time and I think now that arguments by Administration detractors and in-house military critics that 300,000 to 400,000 troops would be needed to prevail in Iraq was a recipe for guaranteed paralysis. Say we ponied up that kind of force. How long would that big a force be needed to accomplish a “pacification” of the country? How many more casualties would the US have sustained with two to three times as many targets for IEDs and other suicide attacks?

How on earth does anyone think the US could implement that in the politics of the time? We’d see even worse conflict and obstructionism, only louder, more, and sooner. No, those kinds of troops levels would ensure that we would, in fact, choose not to go to war. That was the overriding intent of these estimates, anyway. Prove me wrong, but I think that would be perfectly logical based on the cynical Powell Doctrine. (We fight ONLY when we are certain of complete victory, not on necessity, nor on principle.)

If there is one truism in modern warfare, it’s that we don’t always get time and opportunity to choose a fight that is brought on you unexpectedly. We can’t always support or sustain overwhelming force, and we can’t control every eventuality or eliminate terror as PR and media tactic. Careful “pragmatists” like Powell and Shinseki would, by their doctrines, ensure we only take on boutique wars against very minor adversaries. That was the intent of Shinseki and others on this side of the argument, an argument for inaction and status quo. And the fatal fallacy of these arguments, are they don’t in any way answer what we face in AQ and similar global terror affinity organizations.

The example Yingling cites of Valmy is grossly inapt for our situation in Iraq. Valmy led to Jena because the Prussians did not see Valmy as a warning for what the future might hold, or their own vulnerabilities. You can argue that Secretary Rumsfeld (and the President) didn’t take a sober enough look at the security situation in Iraq, or change strategy, or prompt adaptation in the military. But you surely can’t view the surge, the substantive and impressive changes in strategy and tactics, and the orchestration of the surge by GEN Petraeus as an inability to reassess, and adapt.

Lastly, I find it incomprehensible that a military leader of advanced rank, a Brigade Deputy Commander no less, could thoroughly inform himself of ground truth in Iraq, and then honestly or accurately describe us on the verge of defeat, in any sense. We have difficulties transferring authority to Iraqis, building up their security forces (more so the Iraqi police versus the Army), and no one is happy with security, but this is not a military defeat.

We and the Iraqi forces we support have been unable to fully secure important population centers, and there are significant populations of potential adversaries not pacified. Terrorists are not fully eliminated nor prevented from conducting harassing operations. But this can be said about many places in the world. If a steady stream of foreign ideological suicides, or vulnerable innocents (children, handicapped, subjects of blackmail) can be kept available, this could be kept up indefinitely, anywhere in the world. It just happens that Al Qaeda wants to continue to focus on Iraq, because they believe they can thereby turn Americans against the war, with the help of the Democrat opposition and western media.

Max Boot gives some great insight into the architects of the original plan for Iraq, GEN Abizaid and GEN Casey, and the positions of the principals as that plan was developed. He also zeroes in on precisely what the stakes are in Iraq, and how irresponsible are the Democrats in seeking to force a withdrawal on any timetable certain.

Hugh Hewitt underscores Boot’s assessment with his conclusion:
If you scroll through the interviews I have conducted this week, you will see that Democrats in the Senate and the House are willfully, even perversely, ignorant of --or willfully blind to-- the stakes and the conditions in Iraq. They seem to believe that this is a winning political strategy. I don't think so, not even in the short term and certainly not in the long term. Munich was very popular for a short time --from the signing of the agreement on September 29, 1938 until the invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939, or until Hitler's nature become unmistakable even to the most appeasement-oriented Chamberlain supporter. The consequences of the left's surrender sickness will be obvious sooner or later. It is only the costs that are obscure at this point.

Seventy years down the road, the actions of the Democrats these past few weeks will seem even more craven and inexplicable than those of Baldwin and Chamberlain in the '30s, for in that long ago age of appeasement, those men at least had the excuse that Great Britain was exhausted, broke, and unable to risk a confrontation with the growing evil for fear of a military defeat.
For additional background, you definitely want to read Greyhawk’s background piece on both Tom Ricks, the one-time Commander of the 3rd Armored Calvary Regiment (ACR) H.R. McMaster, and the author of the Armed Forces Journal article, Lt. Col. Paul Yingling, deputy commander of the 3rd ACR. It’s a little complicated, and I’m not sure what to make of it all, but it certainly opens up some doubts about motives, storylines, prejudices, and potential conflicts of interests within and behind the Yingling analysis.

Greyhawk also links to a view contrary to Yingling’s over at Neptunus Lex, and it’s the must read response to Yingling. Lex effectively turns back Yingling’s assertion that Senior Officer careerism led to grave mistakes in Iraq, and softly rebukes what he describes as Yingling’s “tactical level” perspective on complexities faced by senior commanders:
To this [Yingling] attributes a combination of careerism - always a threat to a peacetime force - and the tendency of senior officers to groom subordinates for advancement who are “just like them.” The remedies for what he sees as this tendency towards monochromatic conformity in the upper ranks - where innovation and audacity might better serve - are 360-degree personnel evaluations combined with Congressional oversight of the 3 and 4-star selection process. That oversight should, in LTC Yingling’s view, demonstrate a favorable bias towards advanced degrees in the humanities and fluency in a foreign language. Like LTC Yingling has.

As a naval officer I speak under the risk of correction here, but it seems to me that the colonel is being a trifle hard on those who went before him, and who have faced complexities which are not always apparent to those operating at the tactical level. The “conventional” phases of OIF went brilliantly: The Ba’athist state was quickly dismantled, its legions routed from the field, Saddam sent impotent into a spider hole from which he was eventually rooted out and the threat of WMD - such as it was (and in any case, only one of 21 public reasons for the war) - affirmatively eliminated.

Stabilization and reconstruction has certainly not gone according to plan, nor is it at all clear that the post-hostilities plan was sufficiently robust. But any military operation has assumptions, and at each level in the chain of command a senior’s assumptions are to be treated by his subordinates as “truth.” The strategic assumption that 25 million people would be grateful to be unchained from 35 years of grinding tyranny did not take into account the de-humanizing effect that such a tyranny itself imposes. When those assumptions prove false - and this one certainly did with respect to a sufficient number of Sunni nationalists, Ba’athist rejectionists and irreconcilable jihadists - you get into what is known as “branch” planning. Branch planning can often look like an ad hoc, even chaotic process but it is one which - given time and adequate resources - generally stumbles on to a solution.

It has also become commonly accepted wisdom that US forces in Baghdad did not respond with sufficient vigor during the initial rioting that took place when the Ba’athist regime was decapitated, and that it was a mistake to disband the Iraqi Army. But front line combat troops dealing vigorously with rioting will appear much to the uneducated but all-seeing media eye as mere butchery, while preserving an institution like the old Iraqi Army - an institution that was used more than anything else as an instrument of state repression - could have been problematical for that majority of the civilian population inclined however skeptically to view our forces as liberators. Even if the old army hadn’t mostly changed into civilian slops and wandered off at the end of major combat operations.
I think Lex puts Yingling’s criticisms in an important (and more accurate) perspective. That’s not to take away the value of Yingling’s critique, merely to match it with the rest of the story, and highlight it’s potential limitations.

Lex also helpfully rejects the Washington Post’s assessment of Yingling’s article:
The WaPo got an advance look at LTC Yingling’s text and labels it a “blistering attack.” Is that the way it reads to you, or does it just sound cooler if you call it that?
And, as I started, more in keeping with the storyline to which the the media long ago committed.


Friday, April 27, 2007


A Phony Civil War

I mentioned my objection to considering the situation in Iraq as a "civil war" in a recent post.

There's no civil war in Iraq, contrary to the rock bottom assumption underlying the core proposition of Democrats wanting our troops out of Iraq. Michael Novak explains why in a concise but comprehensive post at NRO.

Here's how he starts:
Two false assertions are being made these days about the Sunnis and the Shiites in Iraq. The first is that they have been fighting one another for ages. The second is that they are currently waging civil war upon one another.
Novak refutes the first by pointing out something we experienced first hand in Iraq, that Sunni and Shia have lived together for many generations, which a good deal of intermarriage without controversy or conflict. He also rightly points out the supreme amount of statesmanship on the part of Shia leader Sistani, and the great restraint of Shia as a whole. He's quite right on both counts.

He also points out what is only too evident to those of us studying the dynamics of the various terror, tribal, and political factions involved: that Al Qaeda terrorists have been trying to foment a civil war, and have failed.

Here's how Novak ends:
Those who falsely call this a “civil war” in Iraq are conferring on al Qaeda a success that al Qaeda has not been able to bring about itself. They are puffing up a phony, contrived civil war far beyond the bounds of reality.
And of course, playing into the hands of our declared enemies, and helping them achieve in PR what they cannot achieve militarily, or through terror.

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Thursday, April 26, 2007


One Signature Away

Senator Barack Obama says that we are "one signature away from ending this war," making the remarkable statement in the first debate of democrats for the 2008 Presidential Election.

Not to be outdone in the visualize peace exercise, Senator Hillary Clinton repeated her promise, that "if George Bush doesn't end the war, as President, I will."

A central assumption of both of these naive positions is that the US fights "George Bush's war" in isolation. If we weren't there, nobody in Iraq would be blowing people up. If we weren't there, Iraqis would work out there differences. If we weren't there, terrorists would stop being terrorists, or at least, go on to unidentified other targets elsewhere in the world, but in places that we just don't need to worry about either.

You almost get the feeling this is all some made-up war, dreamed up on some ranch in Texas. Heck, the only reason Iraq has erupted in "civil war," to hear Surrender Democrats tell it, was out of spontaneous anger and hostility towards the US presence.

Readers of analysis that is actually informed by facts and reality, of course, know that both Iran and Al Qaeda have gone to extreme lengths to try to ignite a civil war between Sunnis and Shia in Iraq, but they have failed, in places, spectacularly, as we are seeing evidence of now. Sunni tribes and major leaders are turning against Al Qaeda. Shia have exercised amazing restraint in recent months, holding back from serious reprisals against Sunnis, not falling for the bait when terrorists attack Shia sites and neighborhoods. Al Qaeda has even taken to attacking former allies who now line up with the Iraqi Government, further alienating themselves from the Sunnis in Iraq.

People who really want to know what's happening in Iraq, read MILBLOGS, and consult experts like those at Strategy Page, or listen closely to what GEN Petraeus tells us. Not so Congressional Democrats, who skip out on briefings, grossly distort what he says, and declare that if the GEN shares any good news, he's lying.

So we watch Speaker Pelosi make all kinds of self-justifications, asking rhetorically whether this or that is ethical. What I found most interesting, as I do with most hypocrites, is the 180 degree departure from reality in most of her assertions of questionable ethics. Just two easy examples. Every major abuse or instance of wrong-doing in Iraq were identified by military members, investigated and punished by military officials. On the issue of personal and vehcile armor, the military had significant problems at the war's start with OIF I, but reacted quickly and subsequent rotations were adequately armored. So for Pelosi and Clinton to keep harping on armor is dishonest in the extreme -- unless they just want to manufacture scandals or revive old ones for political gain.

Likewise, their colleagues in Congress rehash 3-4 year old scandals, such as the 1 month delay in admitting that Pat Tillman was killed by friendly fire, or blaming the Pentagon for wildly inaccurate reports about PFC Lynch, rather than the media who hyped a story no one admits to creating.

Democrats have written a pathetic chapter in US history, refusing to confront terror with any seriousness, obstructing the President and military, facilitating advancement of the propaganda and strategic objectives of our enemies. And thereby, giving aid and comfort to these same enemies.

I know Democrats go crazy when pro-victory commentators say things like that, but if they could ever view the situation dispassionately, objectively, or consider as foremost the interests of the US, such obstructionist efforts would be viewed differently.

But sadly, George Bush and his Administration officials are more the Enemy to these people than the people who blow up children, slaughter innocents, and terrorize populations.

And that's always what this has been all about.

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Tuesday, April 24, 2007


Why I Stay Right

Novelist Andrew Klavan contrasts what it means to be a conservative and what passes today for progressivism in a fine essay up at City Journal, The Big White Lie. Klavan lays the groundwork for his thesis in his first paragraph:

The thing I like best about being a conservative is that I don’t have to lie. I don’t have to pretend that men and women are the same. I don’t have to declare that failed or oppressive cultures are as good as mine. I don’t have to say that everyone’s special or that the rich cause poverty or that all religions are a path to God. I don’t have to claim that a bad writer like Alice Walker is a good one or that a good writer like Toni Morrison is a great one. I don’t have to pretend that Islam means peace.

Klavan contrasts this bedrock value of the conservative ethos, with something very different a work in Leftist theology:

This is leftism’s great strength: it’s all white lies. That’s its only advantage, as far as I can tell. None of its programs actually works, after all. From statism and income redistribution to liberalized criminal laws and multiculturalism, from its assault on religion to its redefinition of family, leftist policies have made the common life worse wherever they’re installed. But because it depends on—indeed is defined by—describing the human condition inaccurately, leftism is nothing if not polite. With its tortuous attempts to rename unpleasant facts out of existence—he’s not crippled, dear, he’s handicapped; it’s not a slum, it’s an inner city; it’s not surrender, it’s redeployment—leftism has outlived its own failure by hiding itself within the most labyrinthine construct of social delicacy since Victoria was queen.

Leftists are the new ideological Puritans. Yet in one of life’s ironies, progressives are highly successful in characterizing conservatives as those who are ignorant, intolerant, closed-minded, and repressive. Klavan laments that public opprobrium weighs so heavily against those who would speak against liberal orthodoxy and political correctness, even to the point of silence. As a conservative living in Southern California, Klavan feels the intolerance and hostility of the Left first hand. He too-often violates the “Left’s increasingly elaborate sensitivities.”

LaShawn Barber amplifies Klavan’s remarks in a post Speak No Truth.

Barber knows the hostility of the Left firsthand as well, as a Conservative Christian blogger, who happens to be a female African-American. Though I’m sure she doesn’t like thinking about or categorizing people on the basis of race, she’s run afoul of some real racists -- those who expect or demand that she adopt racial or political litmus tests for her opinions.

Barber is a first rate intellect and essayist, who has obviously spent considerable reflection on matters of race and culture, politics and patriotism. She confesses religious faith. Hers is a serious voice, attentive to matters of real import, national security, and the survival of civilization. (No, really, she’s a must read.)

Barber extends Klavan’s thesis into issues of critical importance to all of us, as Americans:

As Klavan acknowledges, it is politically incorrect to tell the truth. To call abortion murder is to be an extremist who wants to send women back to the Victorian era. Personal responsibility, accountability, and a desire to speak out for and protect the unborn limit a woman’s “rights,” I guess. For anyone to say that out-of-control black crime and illegitimacy rates are destroying the black community and that the responsibility falls squarely on the shoulders of those committing the crimes and having babies by different men is to be self-hating if you’re black and a racist if you’re white.


As this country has become more racially and culturally diverse, telling the truth about racial and cultural differences has become off-limits. At the same time, liberals want to apply separate standards to these diverse groups based on those differences. For example, you can’t talk about personal responsibility in the context of underachievement among black students, or you’re a racist. Yet, so-called affirmative action — a government-mandated racial classification system — exists to compensate for those differences (and not to combat racism, as some people believe). But to be PC is to pretend racial disparities like underachievement or high crime rates are caused by white racism instead of by individuals and something lacking within the subculture itself, and to say otherwise is taboo.

Barber sees this willful self-deception at work within the context of the challenges for the black community. Generations of African-Americans have paid the highest price for the fallacies of Leftist Theology. Yet many of their prominent spokespeople (as in, foremost in the public eye) remain enthralled to the misguided doctrines that continue to enslave their constituents. Ideologues and demagogues like Sharpton and Jackson may find profit in maintaining the old dogmas, but it’s abundantly clear they too believe in what they peddle.

I suppose that’s always the way with the fervent among us. Especially so for those who have invested so much time, energy, ethic, self-respect and prestige in sustaining all those not so little white lies.

I think we could extend Klavan’s thesis into every avenue and byway of progressive ideology. After all, the “reality-based community” desperately seeks to sustain the undue influence and predominance of progressive ideals among the world’s elites and governments.

Surely we see this dynamic at work within the abortion debate, as Barber alludes. So called “pro-choice” supporters of reproductive rights intentionally (and violently) block out images and actual medical facts regarding the “medical procedures” they demand remain legal, with or without public support. Practicing abortionists are medical practitioners “devoted” to the medical care of their patients, rather than ideologues willing to sacrifice one life for the preferences or convenience of another. Those who consider “choosing” abortion as the solution for their “problem pregnancy” must never be confronted with the consequences of their behavior: in promiscuity, in saying no to birth control, in elevating personal convenience over the sanctity of human life, or surely not in the grisly realities of how an abortion is actually accomplished.

I hear the same dynamic at work in the fevered denouncements of globalism, free trade, and capitalism. I listened to an Indian commentator bemoaning some ill or another in India. He cataloged a litany of disaster in India, related to the appropriation of agricultural land, the demise of agrarian economy, and the flight of rural poor into urban concentrations. He described the rapaciousness of corporations and financial interests. He railed against major Western Corporations like Coca Cola, who exploited Third World populations. Not once did he mention the Indian Government or its actions, good or bad. He then made a comparison to the US, in which he said the same corporate interests had garnered huge agricultural subsidies and destroyed family farming in America.

This last made me laugh out loud.

Now I lament the passing of the American family farm as anyone – my uncle and his family had one, and I have fond memories. But to frame the US transition from an agricultural society to an industrial, and now, increasingly, a service economy as all about corporate greed is just, well, Marxist. And stupid, given that the increases in average standard of living associated with that transition are several orders of magnitude.

Just a guess, if you want to know what may be the actual sources of Indian problems, you might take a look at various aspects of socialist central planning and endemic corruption. Just as in the US, if you want to find fault with the abuse of agricultural subsidies, look first at those who benefited first, and most – and that would be the politicians with their hands out election time for contributions, rather than the corporate interests who figured out how to make money at their game.

Leftist Theology strives to shield rightful consequences, and impose unjustified others. Everyone’s a victim of something, unless that someone can somehow be found liable, and compelled to foot the bill for all manner of reparations or correction.

And of course, eventually there are too many victims and not enough perpetrators to pay the growing bills that come due. But that will always be for a later generation, when Leftist ideologues can find some other bogeyman to blame for the failures of their doctrines.

(Via, also noted by Scott Johnson at Powerline)


Friday, April 20, 2007


Conduct Unbecoming

Thanks to Greyhawk at MILBLOGS, who passed along an appeal from Michelle Malkin (here and here so far), to get some soldier responses to Senator Harry Reid’s public declaration  that the “this war [in Iraq] is lost.”

Here’s my contribution to the effort, sent along to Michelle:

Senator Reid,

It is difficult to write this letter with any civility, but I think enough people will scream so much, with enough cursing and invective, that I will not need to add any more for you to get the point, that you infuriate those Americans who serve in the military with your careless, ignorant, mean-spirited, and frankly, dangerous remarks.

You, sir, are not any average, private citizen. You are a Senator of the United States of America, and whatever your political views or allegiances may be, you must first show loyalty to and serve with honor your country. Yet, you do not do so, and you have disgraced whatever nobility or honor you might have earned serving your constituency.

Even if our efforts in Iraq were an absolute failure, which they are surely not, you abuse your position and the Nation’s trust by declaring that the war is lost. Can you not comprehend how wrong it is for you to make such a statement?! Regardless of your partisan views, which seem to me awfully petty indeed when compared to the national security of our country or the lives of our soldiers, you must have enough sense of decency or patriotism that, at the least, to know that you don’t damage or hurt your nation and the public servants with the most on the line?!

You embolden our enemies, you discourage our allies, you demoralize the troops who serve, and you denigrate those Iraqis who have turned to the US as their hope for freedom, after decades of living under the tyranny and violence of a war criminal and a brutal oppression.

You are a disgrace. Made worse by the fact that you’re wrong.

There are many ways to view our efforts in Iraq. While a private citizen may well believe, and interpret events to indicate, that we have somehow “lost the war in Iraq,” that’s based more on ignorance and media hype than on actual, ground truth. Citizens will only be as informed, well or ill, by the sources of news to which they choose to listen. We live in a free society. But thanks to dishonest and in my view, disloyal Americans such as you, and the media who abet you, a majority of Americans have been misled about what we do in Iraq and what is really going on.

I am an Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) III Vet, mobilized with the National Guard, and deployed to Iraq from January to November 2005. I served as a First Sergeant for 160 guard soldiers. We served in Tikrit, and every one of our soldiers came back without injury. Sure, we didn’t see a lot, just our own slice of Iraq, but we were regularly exposed to mortars and rockets on base, and the threat of IEDs on supply convoys several times a week.

I think you could make a good case that we won the war in a few weeks in 2003: the war against Saddam Hussein’s Army, which collapsed in a spectacular liberation of Iraq. I am shamed to think you probably viewed this event with dismay, for purely partisan reasons.

I think you could make another excellent case that we won the war to establish democracy in Iraq, helping the Iraqis hold three hugely successful elections with huge Iraqi participation (greatly in excess of any modern US elections). I am shamed to think you probably viewed these elections with dismay, for purely partisan reasons.

I think you could make a plausible case that we have defeated the Sunni Baathist based “insurgency,” with the destruction and de facto surrender of so many holdouts among the former regime. I likewise think you could make the same case about Al Qaeda in Iraq, the presence of which you and your supporters adamantly denied for a very long time. They are on the run, they are defeated at every turn, their own intercepted communications say admit that very fact. I am shamed to think you probably viewed these events with dismay, for purely partisan reasons.

Now, as we help the Iraqis grow in strength in defending their own democracy, you say the “war” is lost. Which one? I can’t but help to think that what you really mean, is the defensive war this Administration has been fighting against you and your party colleagues since we invaded Iraq.

If the current surge can be successful at fully securing, once and for all, the security of the Iraqi democracy, this will prove you and your allies wrong. As an American, I recognize what a truly magnificent accomplishment that would represent, for Iraq, and for the Coalition who made that possible.

I am shamed, appalled, and heartsick to think, you would certainly view these events with dismay, for purely partisan reasons.

1SG Jeff Nuding

642 MI BN

42nd ID “Rainbow”

“Rainbow….Never Forget!”

I am. I’m ashamed and appalled that opponents of the war have gone way beyond what we can tolerate as a Nation. It’s one thing for the lunatics like Rosie and Robbins and Ma Sheehan to assail their own country’s foreign policy. Sure, they give aid and comfort to our enemies, too, but not as their intent. (Okay, call me a fool, but I really don’t think they think of our enemies as enemies at all). But Harry Reid is a Senator. What in the world does he think this does, even if he really believes it?

Is he that worried about maybe, just maybe we might be successful in Iraq, that he so desperately wants to help it fall apart?

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A Test of Faith

Spring, and with it, a new post at Gladmanly...Here's the introduction:
Our family recently suffered a double loss, in the unexpected death of Mrs. Manly’s Mom in November, and the very sudden death of her sister Donna in February. This has been a very trying time for all of us. We now know at a very deep and personal level what people mean when they talk about experiencing a test of faith. We have been thoroughly tested, for sure. We walk together, closer now, and by faith, and sometimes faith alone.

Easter arrived. The observance of both the “passing of Jesus” on the cross, and His Resurrection that forms the absolute foundation of the Christian faith, clearly prompts us to think about the ways we recover from tragedy. How God brings good from bad, how He can help us find victory in the midst of defeat, how He can lead us to peace, even joy, after a season of despair.

Spring also arrives in the Northeast, finally, after several false starts. I think the Punxsutawney Phil has been, for several weeks now, on the Ten Most Wanted List in Upstate NY. But warmer weather and sunshine suddenly melts away the hard resolve of a stubborn winter. Outside, we look for signs of what we already feel, inside.

Hope reborn, in a cycle even older than man and woman.
Read more over at Gladmanly.


Thursday, April 19, 2007


Hi-Tech Soldiering

Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit linked to a story by Noah Shachtman, writing in Popular Mechanics, about the Army’s new Land Warrior gear. Here’s how the PM piece is introduced:

After spending 15 years on R & D, the Pentagon is outfitting soldiers for a high-tech battlefield network designed to cut through the fog of war. Popular Mechanics tests out the high-tech package and discovers why America's wireless warriors think it will slow them down in Iraq.

You have to wonder how the unhinged would respond to this report in PM. You know, the same crazies, expansively represented by those like Rosie O’Donnell or Michael Moore, who answered PM’s definitive refutation of 9/11 Conspiracy Mythmaking by calling them Neocon toadies. (In case you missed these, see here and here.)

So much for being toadies. Shachtman writes an insightful story, faithfully capturing the very legitimate objections soldiers have to the overly hi-tech equipment.

I’ve seen several versions of Army 2000, Army 2010, Army 2020, or whatever these fanciful designs keep getting called. Some of it sounds promising, honestly, but other parts, well, queue the SCIFI music and Rod Serling.

While sweating my butt off in day-after-day of 130 degrees Fahrenheit for many months in Iraq, I really liked the one I saw about climate control uniforms, water and oxygen fed, like some kind of spacesuit, only in Kevlar. I think most of us would go for that, provided the thing would let us move.

Much like the ever growing Ideal Body Armor, there are always trade-offs to any form of cover, whether in facilities, vehicles, or personal protection. (I’m talking individual body armor or IBA now, thanks to the Doc and a monogamous marriage before God, I don’t have to worry about the other kind.)

Shachtman covers the issue quite well, describing the test runs with the Army’s Land Warrior System. He starts with context, and the premise for Land Warrior:

Since the late 1990s, the U.S. military has pushed hard to link every vehicle, every sensor and every soldier in a sprawling intranet for combat. The objective of this network-centric warfare: Boost battlefield communication and situational awareness — making troops smarter, quicker and deadlier. Today, a big chunk of the combat vehicles and command posts have been wired up. But most soldiers on the ground still don't even have a radio.
Alpha's electronics package, known as the Land Warrior System, is designed to finally plug the infantryman into the battlefield network.

That’s Alpha Company, 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment, who plan on taking Land Warrior along on their deployment to Iraq, despite some reservations. But then, these Alpha soldiers sound like they’re doing Beta testing, and uncovering what some consider some pretty basic design flaws. More on that later.

Here are some design specifics, again courtesy of Shachtman:

The Land Warrior System marks the first time that a soldier has been able to keep tabs on his buddies without monitoring them on the radio or keeping them in visual range. "We can track each other without saying a word," says Staff Sgt. Michael Wyatt as we squeeze into a Stryker fighting vehicle. The slender 5-ft. 3-in. Virginian ran convoy missions in Iraq for a year before joining Alpha company. Before that he spent seven years with the Marines. "All guys bitch and moan for a while about new gear," Wyatt says. "They'll get used to it."
If Land Warrior troops want to communicate verbally, they can use the radio headsets and noise-canceling, over-the-ear headphones that fit into every Kevlar helmet. A transmitter for a wireless network is on the soldier's body armor, broadcasting encrypted signals for up to a kilometer. There's also a lithium-ion battery pack, a GPS transponder and a paperback-size 400-MHz computer to run the whole system. The soldier operates the gear with a controller on his chest that's shaped like a gun grip or via buttons on his M-4 rifle.
It's not the only change to the weapon. Mounted on the rifle and connected to the rest of the system is a digital sight that lets a soldier, in effect, see around corners; all he has to do is stick his gun out — not his neck. The sight also serves as a long-range zoom, with 12x magnification. "It makes every rifleman a marksman," says Col. Richard Hansen, Land Warrior's project manager. Night vision and laser targeting, which once required clunky binoculars or attachments to the weapon, are now built in.

That’s some pretty hi-tech gadgetry, and calls to mind modern video game components. PM even includes reference to the game Ghost Recon 2, and even compares the game with the Land Warrior System in a companion article.

For techno-geeks, you better just read the whole thing.

From a strategic point of view, we’re talking a desperate attempt to salvage a high cost, low utility project that’s already racked up a cost of $500 million after 15 years of work. By the end of the 1990’s, as Shachtman reports, “Costs skyrocketed past $85,000 per soldier for a 40-pound, turtle-shell collection of gear that would barely let an infantryman drop and roll.”

Lots of rework, program redesign, and a new contractor allowed the project to slim down to 16 pounds at a $30,000 per soldier cost.

I have never used the system, but Shachtman has. His first-hand report does not offer promise for the long range health of the project. Still too cumbersome, and forget real time updates from its advanced intelligence gadgetry. Components appear to continue to lag behind technological advances. Reading Shachtman’s account, I kept thinking that combat soldiers and their commanders would do better getting themselves off-the-shelf spy and commando gear themselves, and patching something together more effectively.

Given the lukewarm and even negative response to Land Warrior from many soldier testers, the Program Managers are scaling back on their goal of “wiring every soldier”:

For now, the game plan among Land Warrior managers is to have only commanders carry the load. Just 230 of the 440 systems used at Fort Lewis will be brought to Iraq. After all, lieutenants, captains and senior sergeants are the ones who really need to know where all the troops are. Let them have the digital mapping gear and give privates and corporals simple beacons that broadcast their positions to higher-ups. "We may not have to belabor every rifleman with the full system," Hansen says.

Same goes for the radios. Land Warrior's wireless network makes it easy for a commander to plan missions on the run. But maybe the leaders of Alpha company's 11-man squads are the only ones who need to be on the receiving end of those transmissions; maybe they can, in turn, tell their soldiers what to do the old-fashioned way — with hand signals and shouted orders. That would suit Starks just fine. "There are a lot of things I'd never use in my position," he says. "It seems like a lot of excessive stuff."

Evidently. But that hasn’t stopped the 4-9th from going ahead with Land Warrior:

Nevertheless, the 4-9th is pressing on with plans to go into battle wearing Land Warrior. The systems are already bought and paid for, and there is money in this year's budget to maintain the gear.

If they’ve trained on it, and worked through the advantages and disadvantages, and still want to carry the equipment into combat, all power to them, Godspeed.

But I think this present experiment in network-centric soldiering will need to take a couple of steps to the rear. The fact that they’re limiting this system to Commanders and Senior NCOs tells me they’re on the right track, although I’m not sure they fully grasp why.

That’s not to slam or fault the intent or objective, just to suggest that we don’t have all of the necessary components of such a system. For one, we don’t have the human being capable of fully exploiting the technology in play.

More information can be counterproductive to the close-in fight, just like more data doesn’t improve the quality of analysis. Initially, both degrade the resulting product. There’s too much information. Has anyone enamored of these videogame systems ever watch a kid play them? They twitch and jump, and fiddle and tap, and their attention is constantly darting between too many controls, too many views, too many targets, in short, too much information.

They are stressed to the max. Isn’t combat stressful enough, without adding a couple of technological layers to make it even more stressful? Heck, it strikes me that, rather than improve performance, better battlefield sensors might reduce combat effectiveness on the single most valuable weapon we have: our soldier.

Why do I say that? Think of all the crazy, certain death combat situations where soldiers accomplished the unthinkable. The charge against impregnable defenses, holding out in defense against vastly superior forces, the impossible to comprehend twists of circumstance, that bump a force up against a need so great, that a leader has to think so far outside the box that he or she thinks himself deranged.

How many of those situations would be improved by knowing with greater certainty how doomed those soldiers were?

I think it’s analogous to the situation with Intelligence gathering, analysis and reporting. Technological advances create vast amounts of unrelated information, and we are drowning in too much information without sufficient, effective tools to screen, sift, piece together, and otherwise build the puzzles we confront.

Decision-makers make the classic mistake all the time. To avoid unwanted errors, they strive for ever more information. In situations where information will never be complete, not even close, decisions are improved most of all by increasing the effectiveness of intangibles in the decision making process, not more data. What do we really need? What are the few really important questions that, if we knew the answers, would give us the best shot at the right decision?

I don’t know all the answers, but I do know that more information always means more questions and by extrapolation, fewer answers, not more.

Now it may be that the data screening and scrubbing systems, the automation of the Land Warrior system will eventually evolve to simplify the data and sensory picture presented to the soldier, so that the soldier isn’t burdened by the technology, but made more effective. That will require an orders of magnitude improvement in artificial intelligence, for certain.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2007


Iran and the Taliban

Andy McCarthy at NRO tips us off to a NY Times article, reporting a recent seizure of an Iranian arms shipment to the Taliban in Afghanistan.

In further commentary, McCarthy highlights a Thomas Joscelyn piece from a year ago that explored earlier evidence of Iranian cooperation with the Taliban:

Tom Joscelyn wrote this Weekly Standard piece a year ago about a high-ranking Taliban detainee at Gitmo who has acknowledged providing security for a meeting between Taliban leaders and Iranian officials in the weeks after 9/11, during which Iran pledged to help the Taliban in its war against the U.S.  As Tom details, there is great reason to believe Iran has made good on this pledge — including by letting Taliban and Qaeda fighters escape into Iran after the U.S. invaded Afghanistan in October 2001.

Conventional wisdom from foreign affairs analysts and intelligence community types, of course, is that Iran despises the Taliban and, consequently, is likely to be “even more” helpful to us in Afghanistan than the Iraq Study Group farcically assumes it could be in Iraq.  Maybe we should reassess, no?

Needless to say, these kinds of analytic prejudices gravely degrade the quality of the analysis of these same “foreign affairs analysts and intelligence community types.” Oddly, said same prejudices are mandatory requirements for employment as a foreign policy advisor for the Democratic Party. (“Madame Speaker, your prejudice is showing.”)

Michael Gordon begins the Times report by revealing that Iranian Arms were seized, that they were bound for the Taliban, but the Pentagon’s top General remains reluctant to accuse the Government of Iran for official military support of the Taliban:

It was the first time that a senior American official had asserted that Iranian-made weapons were being supplied to the Taliban. But Gen. Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said it was not clear if the Iranian government had authorized the shipment.

“We have intercepted weapons in Afghanistan headed for the Taliban that were made in Iran,” General Pace told reporters. “It’s not as clear in Afghanistan which Iranian entity is responsible.”

The shipment involved mortars and plastic explosives and was seized within the past month near the southern Afghan city of Kandahar. Markings on the plastic explosive material indicated that it was produced in Iran, General Pace said.

Some experts will want to share GEN Pace’s reluctance to blame the Iranian Government directly, rather than non-state or internal miscreants. After all, as Gordon notes, Iran supported the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance, and backed the choice of President Hamid Karzai. But times have changed since the fall of the Taliban, and Iranian interests have as well. Gordon captures two perspectives on the probable change in Iran’s intentions:

But as relations between Iran and the United States have become more confrontational, some intelligence reports have indicated that the Revolutionary Guards might arm the Taliban in order to weaken and tie down the American military in Afghanistan.

Bush administration officials have repeatedly argued that Iran has been seeking to become the dominant power in the Middle East. Some experts, however, assert that the Iranian strategy may be defensive.

“The overall Iranian role has been to work closely with us to bring Karzai into power,” said Barnett Rubin, an expert on Afghanistan at New York University. “However, the Iranians believe the No. 1 threat is an American attack to overthrow their government. They may do anything it takes to make the United States and its allies uncomfortable there.”

Gordon presents an interesting contrast of views. Whether one argues that Iran takes offensive steps against the US and coalition allies, or defensive steps to preclude US “aggression,” one can hardly argue that Iran seeks a peaceful outcome in either Afghanistan or Iraq. They mean to have their way in the region, and the US remains the primary obstacle to Iranian dreams of supremacy.

We have played it very, very safe in dealing with Iranian interference in both Iraq and Afghanistan. GEN Pace strives mightily, as quoted by Gordon, to maintain some semblance of military focus while avoiding what would seem to the rest of us as clear provocations by Iran:

 “I think we should continue to be aggressive inside of Iraq, and aggressive inside of Afghanistan, in attacking any element that’s attacking U.S. and coalition forces, regardless of where they come from,” General Pace said. He also said that the United States and other nations should use diplomacy with the Iranian government “to address Iranian interference.”

The notion that someone in Iran, or working with Iran, attempts to supply the Taliban without Iranian Government knowledge and approval is risible. To suggest the same about their interference in Iraq is outrageous. From Gordon’s sources:

According to American intelligence officials, the support to militant groups in Iraq is so systematic that it could not be carried out without the knowledge of some senior Iranian officials. “Based on our understanding of the Iranian system and the history of I.R.G.C. operations, the intelligence community assesses that activity this extensive on the part of the Quds Force would not be conducted without approval from top leaders in Iran,” a senior intelligence official said this year. The Quds Force is an elite unit of the Revolutionary Guards.

Earlier I mentioned a piece from last year by Thomas Joscelyn, mentioned by McCarthy. It’s quite the read, though somewhat hard to follow.

This looks like as good an excerpt as any:

Importantly, the government's allegations and the detainee's corroborating testimony are at odds with the intelligence community's conventional wisdom regarding Iran's relationship with the Taliban. After years of mutual animosity, it was assumed prior to the war in Afghanistan that the Iranian regime would celebrate the fall of the Taliban. Each government had supported the other's opposition and diplomatic tensions flared repeatedly throughout the last several years of the Taliban's reign.

But the recently released transcript corroborates earlier reporting on Iran's cooperation with the Taliban, as well as al Qaeda. Afghani opposition sources reported in early 2002 that the Iranians helped Taliban and al Qaeda members escape approaching U.S. forces through the Herat province.


The importance of this allegation goes beyond understanding Iran's past behavior. Currently, some analysts assume that fear of U.S. retribution limits Iranian interference in Iraq and support for al Qaeda. But if Iran's leadership agreed to set aside its differences with the Taliban in order to stymie American operations against al Qaeda, then such assumptions are clearly no longer valid.

No longer valid, these assumptions, but retained by such luminaries as the authors of the Iraq Study Group. As I stated earlier, these kinds of analytic prejudices gravely degrade the quality of any analysis that follows.

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Theater of the Absurd

Jonah Goldberg calls for a national dialog on, well, dialog, writing at NRO in response to the “Kabuki Theater” of Political Correctness (PC).

I like that alliteration to describe the hypocrisy, totalitarian impulses, and general unfairness of much of what passes for PC enforcement: Kabuki Theater.

For those not familiar with the term, here’s a quote from Wikipedia:

Kabuki is a form of traditional Japanese theatre. Kabuki theatre is known for the stylization of its drama and for the elaborate make-up worn by its performers. (Snip) The word kabuki is believed to derive from the verb kabuku, meaning to lean or to be out of the ordinary, so kabuki can be interpreted to mean avant-garde or bizarre theatre.

I remember one of the precursors to today’s Performance Art, Theater of the Absurd. Same kind of thing, I think.

You immediately recognize a Kabuki performance by the make-up, generally all white with accentuated features for lips and eyes. The performances themselves are highly stylized, and follow very specific and prescribed patterns and traditions, nearly 400 years old.

The Kabuki performance Goldberg alludes to is that acted out in highly stylized fashion by those calling for “national dialog” in response to the Imus affair. Goldberg’s point is that we should all be very familiar with how these performances will play out. But I like the other allusions “Kabuki Theater” provides for the illogic, rigidity, and extreme stylizations that PC imposes on our society. They make for “Bizarre Theater,” indeed.

I know Goldberg resents, as do I, the double standard inherent in calls for rapprochement and even reconciliation between Left and Right America:

People have been calling for national dialogues and conversations for decades. It usually works something like this: Liberals say we need a frank discussion about race (or class or gender) in this country, and then they proceed to bludgeon any conservative stupid enough to take them up on their offer.

Consider a recent non-Imus example: Newt Gingrich said last month that bilingual education keeps some people in the “ghetto.” Within hours, the same “let’s have a frank dialogue” crowd denounced the former House speaker, insisting that he apologize for being so frank. And Gingrich promptly complied.

That’s how the political-correctness Kabuki theater works. There’s a reason so many were quick to point out that Imus’ “shocking” shtick is museum-lecture dull compared to what black rappers spew on a regular basis. Too often, political correctness is a fixed fight where white guys get beat up for things others are allowed. The selective enforcement of P.C. shibboleths undermines the credibility of liberal do-gooders. For example, when campus administrators turn a blind eye to goons burning conservative newspapers or shouting down right-wing speakers, it makes it hard to take them seriously when they bleat about free speech.

It is nighttime in America for the Left, who bewail imagined losses of civil liberties everywhere they look -- but only when they look at actions by the Right, and not the depredations by their friends on the Left.

I must abide Alan Chartock on my local NPR affiliate, and listening to him, you’d think he’d been sentenced to a few stints in the Bush Fascist jails. In some kind of local variation of the Gore effect, every time I hear him ranting about the loss of civil liberties (reliably at Fund Drive time), the very fact of his complaint seems good evidence to refute his claims. And yet, I hear nary a peep out of Constitutional Champion Chartock when it comes to NYS deciding to retain fingerprints from job applicants indefinitely, or consideration of civil confinement laws for sex offenders who complete their prison sentences.

Helpfully, Goldberg received some email from a reader that illustrates the Leftist (adj., as in oriented towards the Left, rather than n., defining a personality type) mindset perfectly:

"But when traditionalists talk the language of decency and morality, the Left hears bigotry and theocracy. And when liberals talk about sensitivity and white privilege, the Right hears something totalitarian. The result is that the two sides hold separate conversations. And when they do talk to each other, each side is listening for hidden agendas."
You're 100% right!
Except that the Left hears bigotry and theocracy because there really is such an undercurrent, as history demonstrates and as an occasional slip-up on the Right confirms (e.g., Trent Lott's comments about Strom Thurmond, Pat Robertson's comments about the true cause of 9/11).  On the other hand, the Right is just hearing things.  "Totalitarian"?  Surely not Stalin's footsteps.  That would be ludicrous.  Indecency and amorality, certainly, but that's all the Left is spewing — there's no hidden agenda.

Before I elaborate my reaction to this Kabuki character, here’s Goldberg’s response:

I don't think something has to be Stalinist to be totalitarian. It seems to me, for example, that any system whereby you are sent to psychological reeducation — or "sensitivity training" — for a slip of the tongue or unpopular statement is a form of totalitarianism.  And that is the sort of thing the true PC crusaders push for all the time on college campuses.

Exactly. The Leftist who advocates speech codes on Campus defends the weakest among us, a class of victims and unfortunates “to be protected.” The Rightist who denounces the coarsening of America and immoral behavior is a Racist, or Fascist, or probably both.

Lots of public institutions and celebrity personalities play at Kabuki Theater.

The latest controversy regarding allegations of censorship by PBS come to mind, whereby a PBS apparatchik asks a producer, “Don't you check into the politics of the people you work with?”

Those on the Left see threats to Democracy everywhere, except where terrorist violence is the method of assault. When they speak of “undercurrents” of bigotry and theocracy, they imagine any single, isolated instance of a tendency to either, as a massive inner flow of innate belief, shared by every member of Republican or Conservative organizations.

Rather than “slips” that reveal this hidden and secret and never to be acknowledged inner thought life of hate, rational people realize there are nuts enough on the fringes of both sides. Racists and Bigots and would-be Theocrats represent nobody but themselves, and perhaps a few fellow travelers in conspiracy theory and prejudice.

This view those who disagree with them as not just deranged or stupid, but evil. No doubt, some on the Right view those on the Left the same way, but I prefer to hope that what adults there are, on both sides, can talk to each other.

But see what Goldberg’s commenter says? The Left has good reason to know the Right to be evil, but when those on the Right criticize the policies of the Left as wrong, misguided, the first slide to some loss of rights or liberty, we are imagining things. No hidden agendas, no desire to impose their morality on a grudging or hostile public, no pretenses, no tendency towards Communist (or even Socialist) excesses.

The myopic Leftist critics of the Right caricature themselves. Paranoid, conspiracy minded, and suffering from Bush Derangement Syndrome, possibly, but under no circumstances, are they even remotely Totalitarian. They just know what’s wrong with America (lots), they know what they’re going to do about it, whether the majority of Americans agree with them or not.

And the Kabuki continues. Sushi, anyone?



Guard Equipment Shortfalls

The Chief of the National Guard Bureau (NGB), Lt. Gen. H Steven Blum, urges Congressional appropriators to increase Guard funding to close equipment shortfalls, as reported at

While LGEN Blum acknowledges that Guard soldiers deployed overseas are “superbly equipped and superbly trained ... and we want for nothing,” Guard units confront serious equipment shortages back home. From

"The National Guard today, I am sad to say, is not a fully ready force," the general said. "Unresourced shortfalls still exist that approach $40 billion to provide the equipment and the training that I personally feel your Army and Air National Guard are expected to have to be able to respond to the citizens of the United States."

Some war opponents and chronic adversaries of the Bush Administration will no doubt want to exploit LGEN Blum’s concerns. I have heard some glancing rhetoric of late, decrying the strain on Guard and Reserve Forces, conflated along with the usual criticisms of “lack of body armor,” “hillbilly armored vehicles,” and “backdoor drafts.”

I doubt any readers here will need any primer in the basis for these criticisms, but just in case. When we first invaded Iraq in 2003, there were certainly units (in isolated cases) that had to convoy into Iraq whose unit vehicles were inadequately armored. (In many more cases, unit commanders and motor maintenance performed aggressive vehicle retrofits to enhance their defensive capabilities against improvised explosive devices (IED). No doubt, many were unsuccessful or less conscientious, but that can be attributed to a lack of command attention and diligence in preparing for their mission.

I know, because our Motor Mechanics up-armored over twenty vehicles, which allowed our Battalion to execute a “Ground Assault Convoy” (GAC) the 600 odd miles from Kuwait to our base in Tikrit. Units prepare for their duty in Iraq in staging areas in Kuwait, and motor pool advisors and support units in Kuwait supplied units with specially designed kits to up-armor their vehicles. Hence the disparaging nickname, “hillbilly armor.”

I’m not going to argue – here – about the wisdom of ground-convoying a Military Intelligence (MI) unit into Tikrit. Admittedly, our up-armored HUMVEES were not as well-protected as the factory-armored HUMVEES we fell on (left behind by the 1st ID unit we replaced, who themselves inherited said vehicles from the 4th ID). But they were good enough, and would have significantly decreased casualties from an IED.

As far a body armor, we deployed to Kuwait and then Iraq in January 2005. By then, the Guard units deploying to Iraq were “plused up” as part of a formal pre-deployment process. We received the latest body armor, Kevlar helmets, and all manner of other uniform and equipment items as part of Rapid Fielding Initiatives (RFI). While true for some of the very first units into Iraq (and I believe possibly more so for Marines), the notion that Guard and Reserve soldiers or their families having to buy their own body armor is a canard.

As usual with such criticisms-of-the-day, the partisans who will latch on to this issue don’t care a whit about the Guard and Reserves, but rather, seek any advantage in their vendetta war against the President.

And the shortage of equipment in the Guard? That stems from a willful decision on the part of military planners, with what had to be the knowing consent of State Governors and State Guard officials. As each Guard unit prepared to redeploy from Iraq back to the States, deployment officials and the unit commanders involved would determine which equipment would remain in country for the replacing unit to fall in on, and which equipment could go home. Factory armored HUMVEES stayed, as did many kit up-armored trucks. Many more items, not wanted by gaining units, were redirected from staging areas in Kuwait as unit equipment awaited transport back to the US.

In our case, I think we got our non-up-armored vehicles back (those we only used for on-the-FOB transport) and maybe a couple of Duece-and-a-halfs.

As a Senior Enlisted soldier, not in Army Logistics, I am not privy to the agreements and understandings that are reached between Big Army and State Guard authorities when it comes to Logistics. But several (most) of our best mechanics worked in Central Issue Facility (CIF) or MATES (I forget the expansion) back home, and I’m quite certain the understanding was, we’d get all new equipment after we got home. That’s how all of us understood the why of giving up equipment we knew we’d need. We’d get all new, the latest and greatest. This seemed an improvement over what has historically been a chronic lag of modernization, between Active Duty and Guard unit equipment issue.

Well, time to pay the piper. You’d think that the costs of replenishing the Guard equipment for generously left behind in Iraq – and in some cases handed over to the Iraqis – would have been figured in to ongoing military appropriations for the already significant costs of our efforts in Iraq.

But I think that’s what LGEN Blum’s effort now is all about. How bad? Here’s more from LGEN Blum, as reported at

Lt. Gen. Blum said the problem has reached epidemic levels, particularly in the Army. Most of the units in the Army and Air National Guard are underequipped for the jobs and the missions they have to perform with no notice here at home," he said. "Can we do the job? Yes, we can. But the lack of equipment makes it take longer to do that job, and lost time translates into lost lives, and those lost lives are American lives."

He urged Congress to address these shortfalls, noting the defense bargain the National Guard represents. The Army Guard makes up almost 40 percent of the Army's combat, combat support and combat service support structure, but costs just 11 percent of the Army's budget, he said. Similarly, the Air Guard provides more than one-third of the Air Force capability, at just 6 percent of the Air Force's budget.

"Plus, your Army and Air National Guard are the only Department of Defense forces that can be called upon by the governors with no notice to do what is necessary right here in the zip codes where your constituents reside," he said.

That’s the most important reason for honoring the Federal commitment to the Guard, at a time when the Guard has been called to make extraordinary sacrifice in the fight against terrorists [not to be called the Global War on Terror].

There’s a way you can help. offers an easy-to-use Legislative Center, where you can send a letter to your Senators and Representatives.

It’s long past time we move to a more proactive than reactive stance in response to long-term (generational) national security challenges. Having a fully equipped (and modernized) Guard seems a prerequisite.

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Tuesday, April 17, 2007


Where's Andi?

Looks like one of our favorite MILBLOGGERS made an appearance at the White House!

Can you guess which one?

You go girl!

(Courtesy of Castle Argghhh!)

Saturday, April 14, 2007


The Emperor's Tailor

The newly ascended Democrat majority in Congress have obviously decided to make their fabled “cooked intelligence” trope the centerpiece of their legislative legacy. Senator Carl Levin plays Brother Grimm in their myth-making in the Senate, and shows no sign of having any interest in truth (or full disclosure).

Thomas Joscelyn, writing at Weekly Standard, summarizes the facts, long-in-evidence, that refutes Levin’s untruthful crusade against “pre-war intelligence.”

This will of course make no difference to the willfully or constitutionally ignorant. Levin, oddly, can’t really be numbered among these, since he knew the factual basis for Intelligence behind our decision to invade Iraq, back when we did so, and has only changed his tune for political opportunity since.

Joscelyn finds startling the Post lead-in on the story:
"Captured Iraqi documents and intelligence interrogations of Saddam Hussein and two former aides 'all confirmed' that Hussein's regime was not directly cooperating with al-Qaeda before the U.S. invasion of Iraq."
Joscelyn rightly dismisses the notion that we should put any stock in denials by Hussein and his top aides that they had any truck with or cooperated in any way with Al Qaeda. Hussein also denied gassing Kurds and Iranians, draining the marshes, conducted ethnic cleansing throughout Iraq, or having any designs on acquiring or developing nuclear weapons. He also insisted Kuwait was rightfully part of Iraq. Surely Levin wouldn’t rather believe Saddam and his goons, than those legitimate voices of the Intelligence Community who believed (and still do) that links were significant?

If critics want to take that route, there’s no point in further discussions, at least if you want to keep them rational or logical.

But what of the documents that somehow “confirmed that Hussein’s regime was not directly cooperating with al-Qaeda before the U.S. invasion of Iraq"?

Here’s a summary of what just a few captured documents actually show, chronicled by Joscelyn:
1. Saddam's Terror Training Camps & Long-Standing Relationship With Ayman al-Zawahiri. As first reported in THE WEEKLY STANDARD, there is extensive evidence that Saddam used Iraqi soil to train terrorists from throughout the Middle East. Joe Klein, a columnist for Time magazine and an outspoken critic of the Bush administration, has confirmed the existence of Saddam's terrorist training camps. He also found that Iraqi intelligence documents demonstrated a long-standing relationship between Saddam and al Qaeda bigwig Ayman al-Zawahiri.

2. A 1992 IIS Document lists Osama bin Laden as an "asset." An Iraqi Intelligence memorandum dated March 28, 1992 and stamped "Top Secret" lists a number of assets. Osama bin Laden is listed on page 14 as having a "good relationship" with the Iraqi Intelligence Service's section in Syria.

3. A 1997 IIS document lists a number of meetings between Iraq, bin Laden and other al Qaeda associates. The memo recounts discussions of cooperating in attacks against American stationed in Saudi Arabia. The document summarizes a number of contacts between Iraqi Intelligence and Saudi oppositionist groups, including al Qaeda, during the mid 1990's. The document says that in early 1995 bin Laden requested Iraqi assistance in two ways. First, bin Laden wanted Iraqi television to carry al Qaeda's anti-Saudi propaganda. Saddam agreed. Second, bin Laden requested Iraqi assistance in performing "joint operations against the foreign forces in the land of Hijaz." That is, bin Laden wanted Iraq's assistance in attacking U.S. forces in Saudi Arabia.

4. A 1998 IIS document reveals that a representative of bin Laden visited Baghdad in March 1998 to meet with Saddam's regime. According to the memo, the IIS arranged a visit for bin Laden's "trusted confidant," who stayed in a regime-controlled hotel for more than two weeks. Interestingly, according to other evidence discovered by the U.S. intelligence community, Ayman al-Zawahiri was also in Baghdad the month before. He collected a check for $300,000 from the Iraqi regime. The 9-11 Commission confirmed that there were a series of meetings (perhaps set up by Zawahiri, who had "ties of his own" to the Iraq regime) in the following months as well.

5. Numerous IIS documents demonstrate that Saddam had made plans for a terrorist-style insurgency and coordinated the influx of foreign terrorists into Iraq. In My Year in Iraq, Ambassador Paul Bremer says a secret IIS document he had seen "showed that Saddam had made plans for an insurgency." Moreover, "the insurgency had forces to draw on from among several thousand hardened Baathists in two northern Republican Guard divisions that had joined forces with foreign jihadis."
Joscleyn points out Levin’s dishonesty, about opinions within the Intelligence Community, and even of the Senator himself:
The bottom line is that members of the CIA, including the Agency's director, certainly believed in 2002 that there was a relationship between the Iraqi regime and al Qaeda. And no matter what he says now, Senator Levin knows that. In a June 16, 2003 appearance on NewsHour, Senator Levin explained:

"We were told by the intelligence community that there was a very strong link between al-Qaida and Iraq, and there were real questions raised. And there are real questions raised about whether or not that link was such that the description by the intelligence community was accurate or whether or not they [note: "they" here refers to the intelligence community, not the Bush administration] stretched it."
Levin’s motive in “spinning intel” are clear. Less obvious are the reasons behind The Washington Post’s unwillingness to make clear the actual state of intelligence in 2002 and 2003, the quite substantial evidence for some kind of relationship between Al Qaeda and agents of Saddam Hussein, if not Hussein himself.

My guess is that the Washington Post, as the premier “in town” paper, is thoroughly enmeshed with CIA officials (AKA leakers). The political legitimacy and expert credentials of these career manipulators are most exposed by revelations that the Company misread the intelligence during the run up to 9/11.

The CIA was the Emperor’s tailor, who swore up and down that the boss was well dressed. We all should have realized how naked we stood by the afternoon of 9/11. But the Agency continued to deny reality for years – and still does, judged by the continued leaking in their ongoing battle against the Bush Administration. All to preserve their illusion of analytic purity. Note to Democrats and Media Accessories: May you enjoy the CIA you’ve created in your war against President Bush.

John Hinderaker, regularly of Powerline, asked whether the behavior of the Post (or Levin for that matter) constitutes malpractice or malice.

Hinderaker provides a little more of the context of Levin’s mythmaking, and the Post’s unwillingness to do anything but pass through allegations without any independent reporting:
Yesterday the Washington Post reported on the declassification of a report by the Inspector General of the Defense Department as though it were a scoop, in an article headlined "Hussein's Prewar Ties to Al-Qaeda Discounted."
As we noted a couple of months ago, the IG report was something of a joke. It criticized a Defense Department operation run by Undersecretary Douglas Feith for disagreeing with the CIA and the DIA on the significance of intelligence data on the connections between Saddam's Iraq and al Qaeda. Given what we know now about the CIA's performance in relation to Iraq, one would think that rethinking that agency's approach to such an important topic would be applauded. But no--the IG thought it was "improper" for a group within the Defense Department to dissent from the CIA's dogmatic interpretations of the evidence. To read [the Post report], one would think that the Post is actually reporting new information on this long-contentious subject. In fact, the IG's report contains no news on the subject at all, and the IG made no attempt to figure out who--the CIA or Feith's Defense Department group--was right. The statements in the IG's report that lead the Post's coverage come from a single footnote; worse, the Post didn't even report that footnote correctly. Here is what the footnote says:

Noteworthy is that post-war debriefs of Saddam Hussein, Tariq Aziz, al-Tikriti and al-Libi as well as document exploitation by DIA all confirmed that the Intelligence Community was correct: Iraq and al-Qaeda did not cooperate in all categories. The terms the Intelligence Community used to describe the relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda were validated, "no conclusive signs," and "direct cooperation...has not been established."

Put aside, for a moment, the fatuity of assuming that Saddam and his henchmen can be relied on to describe their regime's relationship with al Qaeda truthfully, and note how the Post misrepresented the content of the footnote. The footnote doesn't say that Iraq and al Qaeda were not cooperating before the U.S. invasion, as the Post erroneously reported; it says that "direct cooperation...has not been established," an entirely different proposition. Further, the IG's footnote says that al Qaeda and Iraq "did not cooperate in all categories." This refers to a slide in a presentation prepared by Feith's group which says that al Qaeda and Iraq cooperated across "all categories," of which ten were listed, e.g., training and financing. So, far from saying that there was no cooperation at all, the IG footnote said that the two entities didn't cooperate "in all [ten] categories."Further, by extracting (and misreporting) that single footnote, the Post misrepresents the overall tenor of prewar intelligence, as set forth in the IG's report. Far from flatly stating that al Qaeda and Iraq didn't collaborate, the CIA and DIA expressed doubt and agnosticism about the extent of such cooperation.
This, then, has been the basis of the Democrats dishonest allegations about “cooked intelligence,” lies that led to war, “cherry picking intelligence, and so forth. That this kind of analytic nitpicking gets amplified in the popular conspiracy mongering makes it all the more pathetic.

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