Friday, January 22, 2016


Hat tip to Svenn at Defense & Freedom for linking to a great article over at WOTR.  The article itself is primarily about going back to the proven method of interdiction instead of the theories of Douhet.  However the primary message I get from it regards the impotent strategy of trying to decapitate the enemy.
Cutting off the head of a snake may be an instinctive reaction, and it works because the head is where the venom and fangs are.   But it does not work against an entire nest of vipers.  And it does not work against a hydra despite the old Greek legend of Hercules and his nephew Iolaus.  Plus, they (Herc and Iolaus)  had advice and inspiration from the goddess Athena.  Decapitation certainly does not work against networks and probably would not work against most organizations.

We should of course target any enemy HQ or CP that are obvious.  But it seems reckless to me to devote resources specifically to hunting down and killing enemy leadership that regenerates itself so cheaply and easily. 

As far as interdiction, sure, the coalition against Daesh should use it tactically.  But for strategic interdiction against them, doesn't that belong more in the realm of diplomacy, intelligence, Interpol, and the criminal courts?

Glad to see it was an Air Force Officer who penned that article.  Perhaps he will be listened to and Air Combat Command will do some rethinking?  Or perhaps not.  This country needs some advice and inspiration.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

And why not recognize the contributions of Finance Clerks?

The "need" to find "appropriate" award recognition for drone operators continues.

How sad that drone operators cannot receive the Distinguished Flying Cross or Air Medal, as both require participation in areal flight, nor the Bronze Star, which became so abused by the USAF that in 2001 Congress had to legislate physical presence in the combat zone as a requirement.  Seems that during the Kosovo operation, the USAF awarded the BSM to some 246 individuals. All but 60 were awarded to officers, and only 16 of those awarded were actually in the combat zone. At least five were awarded to officers that never left Whiteman AFB in Missouri.

So now the idea of a special "combat award" for drone operators is again on the table, as well as for "cyberwafare operators".  I guess the MSM and AF Commendation Medal are not considered enough for a job well done.

In no way am I suggesting that exceptional performance by a drone operator go unrecognized.  What makes me cringe is that the military and much of the population are so seduced by the sexy technology operated by these "remote warriors", that there is a movement to create a new award for them.  There is no question that drone operators provide a valuable skillset to the battlefield.  But there is a huge difference between the personal risks involved in direct combat operations and remote combat operations.

Way back in 1966, as a Warrant Officer Candidate, we had CW-4 O'Brian as our senior instructor in "Warrant Officer Development".  Trust me, back then, CW-4s were almost as rare as 4 Star Generals, and a hell of a lot more revered.  He served in WWII in the Pacific with the Navy, and became a Master Hard Hat Diver after the War.  Got bored and enlisted in the USMC when Korea broke out, receiving the Navy Cross there.  Then he found out that the Army was training enlisted troopies to be Aviation WOs and signed up for that.  Served in RVN, receiving a couple of DFCs.  Also wore at least one Purple Heart from each of those wars.  In short, he wasn't an Office Pogue by any stretch.  One of the classes he taught was "Awards and Decorations", as the typical unit A&D Officer in Aviation units was a junior WO.  CW-4 O'Brian was quick to point out that for every "heroic Aviator" in the typical Aviation unit, there were 6 to 8 support troops feeding us, equipping us, getting us paid, keeping our aircraft flyable and so forth.  They may not be called upon to be "brave" or face the enemy to do an exceptional job, but if they didn't at least do a satisfactory job, we Aviators would be in a bind.  Therefore, he admonished us, never overlook exceptional performance by the guys back at base camp.  When they excel, pin a medal on them.

Are today's "Warriors" and "Remote Warriors" oblivious to the fact that they are part of a team?  What if the Finance Clerks failed to perform?  What would be the impact on deployed troopies to learn that Mama and Kiddos back home aren't receiving the paycheck?  What about the electronics and signal folks maintaining and operating the computers, comms and satellites that make the drones possible.  Or the supply folks that keep the parts pipeline going so the drones and their support gear is up and running?

There are already awards for meritorious service not involving personal presence on the battlefield.  Would it be so terrible to award a drone operator an MSM just as one would the aforementioned Finance, Maint or Supply Troopie?  The existing regs of all the services provide for this.

Or, if it means so much, create an RSCO (Remote Support of Combat Operations) device, much like the "V" for valor, to afix to existing awards for achievement or meritorious service that directly impacts on the battlefield.  I'm sure some talented graphic artist could come up with something "cool".  Just because remote operations reduce the opportunity for valor, should we create faux valor awards as a sop to those called upon to contribute to the team  from the rear?

Or, is this simply an attempt to add more glory to the drone pilots' image to fight the USAF's serious problems retaining them?

Prof Andrew Bacevich is so right.  War has become a spectator sport, and now DOD wants to make pseudo combatants of some of the spectators.

Saturday, January 2, 2016


Are Iraqis on a rollback against the caliphate? Not just Ramadi, but before that Gwer, Makhmur, Jalabja, al-Mansouryah, Tikrit, Baiji, Bashiqa, and Sinjar. Many by the Pesh, some by Hashd al-Shaabi, some by the Army.

I wish their country well. May the new year of 2016 bring them peace and prosperity. But I doubt very much that it will. Their constitution is a blueprint for a theocracy that also laid the groundwork for civil war aided by external agents.

Here is the Preamble to their Constitution from 2005:

"We the sons of Mesopotamia, land of the prophets, resting place of the holy imams, the leaders of civilization and the creators of the alphabet, the cradle of arithmetic; on our land, the first law put in place by mankind was written; in our nation, the most noble era of justice in the politics of nations was laid down; on our soil, the followers of the prophet and the saints prayed, the philosophers and the scientists theorized and poets created."

I get it about their pride in Iraqi history. They deserve it. Their land was a birthplace of civilization and a cradle of empires and monotheism when my ancestors tattooed their bodies blue, worshiped trees, and engaged in human sacrifice.

But with that phrase in the preamble: ”… resting place of the holy imams,…” they are advocating a single religious doctrine within what used to be a multicultural state (kind of like what the daesh caliphate is doing). The resting places they are talking about are of course six of what the Shia believe to be twelve divinely ordained and infallible leaders known as The Twelve Imams. Those six are resting in mosques in Karbala, Najaf, Samarra and Baghdad. Fundamentalist Sunnis consider those shrines an abomination. 

All of those mosques have been bombed, mortared or otherwise attacked multiple times since 2003.  The holiest of these to the Shia is the Imam Husayn Shrine in Karbala: 

From Wikipedia:

It was destroyed by Sunni Caliphs Harun al-Rashid and al-Mutawakkil in 787 and 850.

It was destroyed again in 886.

Wahabbis attacked it in 1801 and looted the sepulchre. 

Sadaam’s Republican Guard damaged it as a reprisal for the Shia uprising of March 1991. 

After Sadaam fled, at least 6 explosions occurred near it during the Ashura commemorations in March 2004, killing 178 people and wounding 500. 

A bomb detonated near the gate of the shrine in December 2004, killing at least 7 people and injuring 31 others. 

Suicide bombers at the shrine killed at least 60 people and injured more than 100 in January 2006.

A suicide attack 200 m from the shrine killed at least 36 people and injured more than 160 others in April 2007. 

In March 2008 a female suicide bomber detonated herself in the market near the shrine, killing at least 42 people and injured 58 others. 

In September 2008 a bomb was detonated 800 m from the shrine, killing one woman and injuring 12 others. 

In February 2009 a bomb blast killed 8 people and wounded more than 50 others during the commemoration of Arba‘een. 

In February 2010, again at Arba‘een, three bomb attacks were aimed at the shrine:
  - on 1 February a female suicide bomber detonated herself, killing 54 and injuring more than 100;
  - two days later on the 3rd a bomb blast killed at least 23 people and injured more than 147;
  - two days after that on the 5th a double bomb-blast or a combination of a bomb-blast and mortar attack killed at least 42 and left 150 injured.

That is 15 attacks on one of the holiest sites in Shia Islam. Ten of them occurred in a seven year time window from 2004 thru 2010. And they will surely be attacked again. Maybe Iraq should be a Shia theocracy, or maybe they already are? But how could that work considering that the Shia only represent about 61 or 62% of the Iraqi population? They appear to be mimicking Sadaam, doing to the Sunnis what Sadaam did to them. Maliki and the DAWA Party (which was bought and paid for by Iran) brought that on. 

Abadi is supposedly better. Here Abadi is seen greeting Sunni militiamen near Ramadi. But Abadi is also from the DAWA Party. So is the smile genuine or is he smiling while contemplating 'revenge-served-cold' after the Americans leave for good? And Maliki, although no longer Prime Minister is still in Government as Vice President. 

What are their options to keep the peace: forced conversion? forced expulsion? ethnic cleansing (or its religious equivalent)? partition? 

And because of oil in the Sunni and Kurdish areas does anyone see them ever agreeing to partition? Wouldn't their big brother to the east back them up on rebuffing partition, especially for the Kurds? After Daesh is defeated will the Iraqi government go to war with the Kurds over Kurdish occupation of Kirkuk and its oil? Already there has been shooting between the Shia militias and Peshmerga in Kirkuk.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Everybody Knows

--Pour féliciter 2016
Marian Kemnsky (Slovakia)

If you make people think they're thinking,
they'll love you,
but if you really make them think,
they'll hate you
--Don Marquis

Everybody knows that the dice are loaded
Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed
Everybody knows the war is over
Everybody knows the good guys lost
Everybody knows the fight was fixed
The poor stay poor, the rich get rich 
--Everybody Knows,
Leonard Cohen

If life seems jolly rotten
There's something you've forgotten
And that's to laugh and smile and dance and sing
--Look on the Bright Side of Life,
Monty Python

"Everybody Knows", or "Accidental Terrorist, II":

Whether mass murders are committed by criminals, crazies or crusaders, all activities that can be conducted by terrorists can be predicted and countered; they all throw off indicators. Adequate Human Intelligence (HUMINT) should be keen to these tells, and it seems they are by the speed with which suspects are identified.

The above descriptive categories are not necessarily discrete and do not negate the humanity of the perpetrator, who has merely amplified his innate human qualities and tendencies to pathological levels. They are simply helpful labels to distinguish a potential "them" from an "us".

And yet, though the pathology and criminality can be predicted, detected and monitored, this failed to occur in Boston, Aurora, Newtown, Ft. Hood, University of West Virginia, San Bernadino or any of the other recent spree shootings that occur with sickening regularity. Why?

Why do our authorities not develop a protocol for response, as though each incident is de novo? We are no longer shocked -- only in the disingenuous sense of Casablanca's Captain Renault. What is shocking is our response to these hideous events.

Why didn’t the police barricade and contain the final scenario? Why no effort to capture the killers? If this was an example of terrorism, then capturing the suspects should have been a primary goal, as live intelligence sources are of vital importance.

Why are the identities of attackers with a tie-in to extremist Islam instantly released, yet they were not on anyone’s radar prior to the attacks? Suggestions of police racial profiling are avoided at all costs, yet immediately following these much-too-many attacks, racial profiling is the order of the day. If we know who the murderers are, why do we close the barn door after the horse is out? 

Beyond this event, we should be mindful of what our responses hath wrought. Last year the U.S. movie-going public rose in admiration of Clint Eastwood's Hollywood fairy tale, "American Sniper", but to the people on the other side of the fence, neither he nor the country he represents are heroic. In fact, the response to such "heroism" has created the void into which Islamic State was birthed.

James Meek had a good piece recently on the bombing of Syria, in which he outlines the obvious, inevitable failures. As in all recent bombing campaigns, "[First] bombing, then IS franchise."

Bombing fails because it is reminiscent of any colonial approach: 

"The country is present, but doesn’t have a voice. ... [A]ir attacks on Syria, before they are an attack on Islamic State, are an attack on Syria, a foreign country, whose citizens have no say in our affairs, and which has not attacked us, or our allies."


It doesn’t make sense for Cameron to argue that air attacks on Raqqa will help prevent IS attacks on London, when the recent attacks in Paris happened 14 months into an intensive series of air raids on and around IS-held areas, led by the world’s leading military power, which has spared no airborne military resources or technology to try to wipe IS from the earth. Russia’s recent experience, losing a passenger jet to an explosive device soon after it began bombing Syria, seems to confirm the intuitive assumption that bombing is more likely to provoke terrorism than to thwart it.
We have been here before, with al-Qaida and then with the Taliban: Western governments have mistaken a super-decentralised network, somewhere between a franchise and an ethos, for an agency with a postal address. The attacks in Paris certainly had IS links – some of the attackers had been to Syria or tried to get there – but most, if not all, were French or Belgian, who sought out IS because they had been radicalised at home, and who did most of their killing with Kalashnikovs from the former Yugoslavia.

It is useful for an IS aspirant to have a Raqqa to go to for training, for battle experience, for validation by a set of jihadi peers. But for a mobile terrorist franchise like IS or al-Qaida, Raqqa is a concept, not a place. Once Osama bin Laden’s Raqqa was in Sudan. Then it was in southern Afghanistan. It could be in Pakistan, in Somalia, in Yemen, in northern Nigeria, in the Russian Caucasus, or all these places at once.

On the bright side, San Bernadino does show that gun control laws are working, as the shooters had to obtain their weapons via an intermediary (a "straw purchase", which is a federal crime.)

The San Bernadino attack forefronts the fact that Islamic State lacks the ability to attack hard targets in the U.S., even when the attackers are willing to die during the execution phase, thus emphasizing their minimal and haphazard capabilities.

[cross-posted @]

Monday, December 28, 2015

The Accidental Terrorist

Men are not a new sensation
I've done pretty well, I think
But this half-pint imitation
Put me on the blink 
--Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered, 
Lornz and Hart 

[You're ugly] and you're boring,
and you're totally ordinary 
--American Beauty (1999) 

 Leaders proclaim a government
To last forever,
Then walls collapse and refugees
Come pouring over
--Farmer Sowing,
 Adam Kirsch

Killings like the recent one in San Bernadino are often called “senseless”, “horrendous” and always, “terrorism” -- but is it so?

Even assuming that it was those things, was it “spectacular”? The San Bernadino attack feels like any of the other tawdry mass shootings conducted by criminally-insane, marginalized shooters. Sad to say, but as the character Ricky Fitts says in the film American Beauty, it was "totally ordinary," in the state of our new normal.

Regardless of what we call the event, it was a cold and calculated murder executed within the social circle of the shooters. It is possible it was an act of revenge by Syed Rizwan Farook against co-workers who criticized his Muslim religion. It was a terror-filled event, but Terrorism and terror are distinct terms. And since all terrorism is criminal activity, does it matter that these killers pledged allegiance to the Islamic State? If so, In what purview does it matter? Most assuredly, the killings were not an act of war.

There is a sense that this couple camouflaged their personal animosities and called it a “jihad”. This can be inferred because of the location they chose: instead of entering a federal building or a military compound, they attacked Farouk's co-workers at a Christmas party.

Contrast this action to the recent Paris attacks which were clear acts of terrorism as they affected an audience beyond the killing (i.e., the French government). Paris gained the Islamic State diplomatic recognition as an army, based on the reactions of the French government.

In comparison, there is no discernible evidence that the U.S. shooters were trained in soldierly skills or that they possessed any tradecraft or experience in the world of “sleeper agents”. Their bombs could not bomb (said in our best Inspector Clouseau.) Only unsophisticated bombers use pipe bombs, anyway. Only idiots would use metal, screw-on pipes.

Their home-made hand grenades were as bad as those of bombers manqué Reid and Abdulmutallab (the shoe and underwear bombers [not], respectively.) If they were tied in to the World Terror Network, their behavior violates the rule that Terror groups learn, cross-fertilize and don’t repeat the same stupid mistakes.

They used semi-auto rifles with 30-round magazines, with back-up pistols. When they entered the crime scene they had 60 rounds locked and loaded, yet achieved only 14 kills (my sympathy to those and their families) because they did not seal the avenues of approach. A professional would not have overlooked this fact.

Further, why did the shooters use M16 clones, versus AK47 semi automatics available in any gun shop in the United States? The AK47 is the terrorist weapon of choice in close quarters fighting, so the AK's absence would indicate that these two were not educated in a terrorist training camp.

Their escape route was not effective, either (echoing the mistake made by the Boston bombers.) During the final shootout they were reported to have had a large supply of rifle ammunition, but in the news photos, the ammo appeared in stripper clips, and not loaded into magazines. This is amateur behavior, as a trained fighter would have all ammo loaded into magazines, ready for the fight. (A soldier’s basic load is 140 rounds, in magazines.)

San Bernadino was another grotesque mass murder, of no consequence, committed by two bumbling idiots, two disturbed, vacuous and soulless individuals.

If this is the best that Islamic State can array against us, then they are of little consequence to the U.S. This is not a “bring it on” moment; this is a fact.

[cross-posted @ RangerAgainstWar.]

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Merry Christmas!

Opened our presents Christmas Eve.  The youngest granddaughter did not believe she could possibly sleep without opening a few.  I am a happy camper with my gelt.  I scored a new book:  'John le Carre, the Biography' by Adam Sisman and a new flannel shirt to replace my raggedy one.  And now we are watching Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed in Capra's classic Christmas film.  Although the little one just cannot seem to understand what happened to the color on our TV set.

Speaking of black and white pictures:

Bob Hope always put on great Christmas shows - jokes and girls were what the troops needed and he always provided. Raquel Welch was my main fantasy back then. But unfortunately I missed her live shows and only saw it much later on video. I did see Ms Margaret and Heatherton, I think it was 1969(?) but was so far back in the crowd that both they and Mr Hope looked like ant people. It was good regardless.  Although with that crowd one rocket or mortar round could maybe have inflicted mass casualties.

Here is Christmas in Vietnam today:

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Affordable Terrorism Act

The truth is incontrovertible.
Malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it,
but in the end, there it is
--Winston Churchill 

It is reported this month that the cost of the Phony War on Terror (PWOT ©) is approaching $4 trillion. It is a number hard to conceptualize. Few federal programs are funded to this figure (over a 12-year span). 

Moreover, we do not know what we are buying, or for or from whom. The expense is buried in secret budgets, state and local costs and the expenditures of the Departments of Defense and State. We cannot evaluate either the intent or capabilities of the terrorists, yet we throw mega dollars at the concept. 

The benchmark of a viable project is that it defines the problem and the subject (population), and from this it formulates an approach. We have fallen short in the PWOT.

Pretend for a moment that the United States took no military action following the attacks of 9-11-01, as we did following the attacks in Beirut (1983) and Iran (1979). Let us say we realized that that war is not the correct response to a low-level terrorist attack.

Now fast-forward to 2015: Can we say with any certainty that the lavish expenditures of the PWOT minimized future attacks on the homeland? 

It was Ranger’s position following the attacks that there would be no follow-on scenarios because the group lacked the capabilities to do so. The opposing camp says that it was the ensuing expensive military campaign which has thwarted any such potential events. In making a judgment, it is important to consider the quality of the piddling, pathetic efforts made by the sad sack terrorists manqué here at home, i.e., Jose Padilla, Richard Reid (the “shoe bomber”); Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab (the "underwear bomber"), the Ohio bridge bombers, et al.

We need an Affordable Terrorism Act (ATA). But to agree to such a thing, we would have to believe in ourselves and in an observable world order.

We would have to accept that:

  • The Taliban were and are not a threat to our internal security
  • The Iraqi government of Saddam Hussein was not a threat to the U.S.
  • Islamic State is not a high-level threat. However, if they are we must acknowledge that their existence is due to our actions in their country of origin. 
  • We must accept that we have no Arab friends, and that calling any Arab nation an ally is a lie
  • The threat facing Europe is not the same threat facing the U.S.

If we accepted these things, Ranger’s suggestions would include:

  • Eliminate the NSA focus on collection of data from U.S. citizens. Have them focus instead upon foreign threats, per their charter.
  • Put the Central Intelligence Agency back into the CIA business
  • Put the Defense Intelligence Agency back into the DIA business
  • Cease world-wide drone strikes. Focus on international and police and intelligence interplay.
  • Reinstate the Federal Bureau of Investigation as the sole counter-intelligence terrorist agency in the continental U.S.
  • Let the DoD concentrate on war-fighting, rather than police-oriented efforts
  • Respect the sovereignty of all nations, to include Syria

We cannot afford an open-ended war of such extravagant spending when our social welfare system struggles to provide services to needy Americans. We can ill-afford this ongoing distraction.

When 40 million Americans got to bed hungry each night it seems superfluous to say terrorism is a threat to our way of life.

[cross-posted @ RangerAgainstWar.]