Saturday, March 28, 2009

The More Things Change

Vid comparing combatives techniques of today with those of yesteryear--and finding that they're pretty much the same. Interesting that the ancient texts are all European. Since I'm doing about zero MA training, I guess I may as well post vids about it.
h/t to James Rummel at Hell in a Handbasket, who h/t'd someone else and so on.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Inappropriate Humor

This is potentially tragic for the scientist involved, and isn't funny at all. Still, scenes from the old cartoon "The Far Side" came to mind as soon as I read it.

It's a nightmare scenario worthy of a sci-fi movie script: A scientist accidentally pricks her finger with a needle used to inject the deadly Ebola virus into lab mice.
Want to stay up late at night feeding your ulcer? Read Preston's The Hot Zone.

The Joys of Parenting

I don't know if I'd kick his ass, or laugh my own off.

I'd probably come down right in the middle and do both.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Urban Combat: Do it Fast, First, and Dirty

The Strategy Page looks at urban combat through shared US and Israeli TTP. Good article, although the author is pretty much looking at just the high-intensity phase. A lot of the TTP mentioned don't stand up too well once the fight segues into a COIN fight. One constant, though, is intelligence:

Intelligence gathering, using UAVs and electronic eavesdropping are not new technologies. The difference is that there are now more UAVs and more powerful sensors available. These enable the attacker to get an idea of what the defender is doing in terms of preparations. Israel also used a lot of HUMINT (human intelligence) using Arab speaking agents and local informers. Getting HUMINT is a lot harder for most other armies, like the American troops in Iraq. But even here, you will find Iraqis who will help you because they hate the violence more than an invading army. Intelligence always pays off if you collect all the information you can. The more you know, the less you bleed. This is a simple rule that is always broken by armies that take a lot of casualties. Your information about the enemy controls everything else you do, so go get all you can, anyway you can, before you send your troops in.

Once again, huzzahs for President Uribe

I wrote a couple of posts ago about the Mongo theory of super-escalation, and how in the long run it reduces violence by engendering respect. Alvero Uribe gets it, uses it, and proves the point. Maybe I should start calling it the Uribe principle of super-escalation.

I gotta stop lauding Uribe in my posts; people are gonna start thinking I got a man-crush on him. It's just rare and refreshing to find un politico con cojones, is all.

Well, Kiss My Big, White...

Just got pinged via official e-mail to participate in one of the interminable surveys various DOD funded research groups are always sending out. The impetus of the survey, though, is not directed at me:
The survey hopes to capture officer perceptions of their deployment(s) in support of OIF, and particularly non-MiTT, conventional experiences in Divisions and BCTs. The survey will be used in conjunction with other data from Iraq to facilitate a comprehensive analysis so that our Army can continue to learn and adapt.

Oh, so what am I? Chopped liver? There was no POC listed for me send a more personalized, piquant respnse. Dammit.

Not Only Are We Facing an Economic Downfall...

...but soccer is ruining America. I've long had my suspicions; they are now confirmed.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Badass, Inc.

Cracked has a list up of five badass soldiers who've distinguished themselves for administering copious amounts of ass-kickery. Good read, but anyone who hasn't been shot 19 times while killing 127 bad guys with a set of dog tags and a P38 can-opener might experience a little...shrinkage.

Nominations to add to the list? MSG Brendan O'Conner and ODA 765.

Brendan O'Conner; sounds like a nice Polish boy...

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

So, You Want to Talk to Iran...

My brother-in-arms Starbuck has no problems with our President's unilateral and unsolicited open message to Iran, and thinks it is just common sense that we talk to Iran. I beg to differ. I'd like to think that President Obama's message was sent in order to achieve some level of strategic surprise before we start an Iranian thump-a-thon, but I'm certain that's not the case. Starbuck states that, back in the bad old days of the Cold War, we talked to the USSR and China, didn't we? Yes, but each Presidential engagement was initiated only after countless minions and fuctionaries had scuttled back and forth; giving a "competitor" regime access to an American President occurred only after certain milestones were met. I think that AMB John Bolton makes a pretty good case of why we should be a little leary of having our Number One dude talk to the Iranians.
In addition:
President Obama is, I think, viewing the US population, the rest of the world, and Iran as a monolithic audience. What it makes sense to say to one, it makes sense to say to all. Any reply that the Iranians craft will be made to exert various levels of influence on four audiences that the Iranians will view as very disparate: the Iranian people, the Middle Eastern people (and governments), the rest of the world--particularly those that don't mind seeing the US taken down a few notches, and finally the US. I don't think that this portends well for our country.
The assumption is that we want to avert the worst case, war with Iran. The fact of the matter is that we are already at war with Iran, we just refuse to acknowledge it.
Case in Point: I'm an American advisor, training and advising the Iraqi Security Forces and providing them with (woefully little) material support. I am a combatant. Open source references demonstrate that Iranian military and intelligence professionals are in Iraq, training and advising and providing material support to insurgents. They are combatants--even if they have diplomatic cover. We ignored the gnat bites Al Qaeda put on our ass for years, and the result was 9/11. Superimpose that recent history onto a nuclear Iran, and we ignore the threat at our own peril.
The fact is that we have offered the Iranians the opportunity to inflate their perceived importance and influence in the region by swatting down and rebuffing the US President. They've already done it twice, once after campaign remarks by then-Senator Obama, and once after they published (and ridiculed) his "secret" letter to them. Our foriegn policy apparatus has a hard time acknowledging that the Iranians actually mean what they say, probably because what they say sounds so irrational. Let's see with which audience Iran decides to maximize its message.
The current attempt to talk to Iran--with whom we are already at war--demonstrates an ongoing cognitive flaw in our foreign policy. If war is politics by other means, it correlates that politics is war by other means. We always forget that countries that insist on fomenting an adversarial relationship with us are not necessarily desirous of coming to any terms other than their own. Diplomatic "win-win" situations are few and far between. Where's the happy medium when Iran has goals like these?
I go back to the lessons taught to me years ago by Sister Mary Joseph when she used a devilish combination of rewards and punishments to inculcate me with the Catholic Act of Contrition: "I detest all my sins because I dread the loss of heaven and the pains of hell, but most of all because they offend you, my God, who are all good and deserving of all my love." So while we should strive to resolve our conflicts through mutual understanding and enlightenment, we should damn sure guarantee that our enemies dread the loss of heaven and the pains of hell.
Our foreign policy is exactly backward: first we should send in the guys like Mongo and Starbuck and all the Mungadai, then we send in the tie-wearing State guy in his Gucci loafers who says,"look, either we work something out or they're coming back."
Winston Churchill was exactly right when he said that "jaw jaw is better than war war." But, there's no point jawing when you're already at war.
When we abjure the use of arms for any but the absolutely last option, we often matriculate that very option. As a peace-loving child who grew up mostly overseas, and mostly in places where I was the only American or white or "rich"(i.e., possessing such luxuries as food, water, and electricity) kid in the neighborhood, I learned to minimize the fighting I had to do by developing the rule of super-escalation. Mongo's rule of super-escalation states that, once an adversary crosses certain pre-established trigger lines, you hit him so hard and so fast with such a disproportionately strong response that he winds up lying on the floor, choking on blood and spitting teeth thinking,"man, that was fucked up." I learned that from Pops Mongo, a certified SOB whose three rules of fighting are do it first, do it fast, and do it dirty.
As an intellectual exercise, after Russia's Georgian incursion, do you think the Iranians would be a little more pliable if Mother Russia came out and stated that Iranian nukes would be unacceptable and would result in "the strongest possible response?"
I posit that had we obliterated a militarily significant target for every US serviceman in Iraq whose death we felt was caused by Iranian meddling, President Obama's message would be much better received. The President issued his one-way message on the Iranian holiday of Norwuz.
I wonder, do they use pinatas on that holiday?

A Reluctant Admiration

I'm not a big fan of bullfighting. Like most Americans, I find myself rooting for the bull. Plus, the deck is stacked against the bull. A whole cast of people (cuadrilla) wear him down with wounds and exhaustion before the matador ever steps into the ring. The two I've seen, the bull was already huffing a nasty foam of blood and sputum when the matador took his cape and swords into the arena.
Still, this video of a picador and his horse (Merlin), is simply amazing. I am always inspired by peak performance under duress, and this man and beast meld perfectly in their playing of the bull. I think, too, the rider probably gets short shrift, as it is the horse that catches the eye, looking like an NFL running back juking a tackle.
Once again, brazenly lifted from tgace.

No More Contracts, No More Blackwater...or not

Hmm, I thought that Blackwater had been driven from the realm of lucrative government contracts, never to be heard from again. Apparently not. Gee, funny how everyone bitches about "outsourcing" a traditionally military capability--right up to the point that the realization dawns that it's not only world-class service, it's world-class service that is designed to save your ass. All of a sudden, price doesn't seem so high, does it?

MDMP in a Tailspin

It's a long-standing Mongo tradition that after each long and arduous deployment, I buy myself a new firearm. My inclination is that I'm going to get the Springfield Armory XD. WRT pistols, I can shoot, but I'm not a shooter. However some paisans of mine that are true pistoleros highly endorse the XD.
But, I'm conflicted; I just read that Taurus has a fine new pistol out. You be the judge.

It's a Mongo rule: all good things come from Brazil.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Pentathletes vs Boxers vs Judoka

Quick scan through the news leaves me with nothing I feel strongly enough to post about. Waiting to hear whether our latest rounds of incoming generated any casualties (sounded like it hit over at the airfield; unfortunately, there are some pretty populated areas in that direction). Not seeing anything at my usual news haunts, I figured I'd pound once again on CPT Burke, just cause he sounds like the type of guy who needs it now and again to keep him calibrated. I noticed Starbuck over at Wings Over Iraq bringing up Burke's article on the requirement to create officers who are Pentathletes. I understand the analogy; we are no longer offered the luxury of growing one-dimensional officers. But I think there is a more apt analogy out there (those who know me and read this post's title are already rolling their eyes).
First I need to define terms: I used Judoka in the title because JiuJitsuka is a little unwieldy and sounds like a German dive bomber. I'm going to commit a heresy here that really, really deserves its own post, if not its own treatise: Judo and Jiu-Jitsu are the same martial art, but they are two different sports. Many of the parochial arguments about which "system" is better lose their relevance once the venue moves from the mats to the street; for the purposes of this post, Judo and Jiu-Jitsu are interchangeable.
The legacy training regimen for our officers resembles training a boxer. I am not denigrating boxing; it is a fundamental skill for anyone who wants to fight effectively. But boxing is one-dimensional. Whether a pugilist pursues Cassius Clay's "float like a butterfly, sting like a bee", Sonny Liston's ponderous pounding, Mike Tyson's sledgehammer strikes, or Sugar Ray Leonard's fancy footwork, the objective is to hit your opponent until he falls unconscious to the floor. Barring that, the point system is pretty simple: hit the other guy more times than he hits you and you win. If boxing were barbaric brutality, it would never have been deemed "the sweet science." But the strictures of boxing are immutable. The defeat of your opponent will only ever be achieved through the delivery system of your fists.
JiuJitsu opens a myriad of options. The ultimate goal is, unlike boxing, not to render your opponent insensate (although that will happen, if he's inexperienced or stubborn or some combination thereof) but to convince him to submit to your will. The analogy between the grappling arts and warfare is comprehensive and enduring enough that Clausewitz (military readers, pause to genuflect) opens up On War with it.

But the greatest advantage of the officer/judoka analogy is the employment of means and ends in both endeavors. Jiu-Jitsu is playing chess with your body. The jiujitsuka has to evaluate his opponent's strengths and weaknesses, formulate a plan to neutralize his strengths and exploit his weaknesses, and then lure him into following your plan, fighting your fight (hello, OODA loop, anyone?), until he submits--all while under physical and mental duress. The opponent's submission can be contrived by a choke, a joint-lock, a strike (Atemi-waza, for you "it's all about grappling and throws" fanatics), or by simply just exhausting him.
The similarity with an officer invested in the COIN fight is that the judoka has to choose the appropriate tactics and techniques, the appropriate amounts of force (blunt trauma), and the condition of the opponent at the endstate (dead, maimed, injured, or merely chastened).
The "Ju" in Jiu Jitsu and Judo means gentle, and this definition is often misinterpreted because a fundamental aspect of the art is "mutual respect and benefit," which leads outsiders to mistakenly believe that the term means "to be gentle with one's opponent." Right. One gets a better sense of the term if one equates "gentle" with "efficient." The judoka employs the precise amount of force required to matriculate the exact technique that will generate the desired effect on the opponent. It takes a lifetime to achieve a true ability to do this, and each hard won gain in proficiency seems to always move mastery that much further away.
So, how do we train our judoka officers? First one realizes that it will take an entire career to get a black belt. But the development of a judoka comes in three stages. The first is fundamentals; teach the principles and basics. Often the "right thing to do" is counterintuitive. It takes time to internalize the fundamentals, and to develop enough of an understanding about the principles to be able to analyze one's own courses of action to achieve a sound and reliable capability. Next is the technique phase, where one learns myriad applications of each principle to dominate the opponent. Finally, there's the freestyle phase, where knowledge, physiology, and kinesthetics fuse, and the fighter is free to employ his fight without thinking about it.
While our Army institutions are comfortable training officers who are boxers, they seem to be flummoxed at how to develop a more versatile jiujitsuka. The many shortcomings of our system are addressed by Burke in his article, and I agree with most of them. The first problem to solve is that of the "cookie cutter" career. Pretty much everyone knows the path to professional success. Based on performance, officers have a pretty linear progression through the "right" jobs and schools. Every now and again, Human Resources Command will proclaim that the mold has been broken and that now, finally, less orthodox career paths can be successful. That proclamation is always met with extreme skepticism from the officers in the field, and their doubts are usually justified. So, using CPT Burke's article as both a foil and a springboard, here are some recommendations on how to break out of the cookie cutter, and to try to develop Judoka officers:

-MDMP: I think the CPT confuses the product with the production line; MDMP is a great template for intellectually engaging a problem set (with a 17-step Mission Analysis process, how can one go wrong?). But I think many young officers are disillusioned with the MDMP. First, they don't like it because it's applied across the board, even when it is not the optimum template. Young company commanders are told to "apply the MDMP" in situations where the Troop Leading Procedure would be far more appropriate. The MDMP offers a template that is meant to maximize the capabilities, managed by a huge cohort of staff officers, of elements that are Brigade-sized or larger, or maybe a better descriptor is "Brigade-complex or worse." Stepping it down to a lower level, "simpler" unit without consciously abrogating those portions of the process that become N/A leads to confusion and generates more staff friction. Also, many officers are less than impressed with the MDMP because the staffs they encounter are, quite frankly, so bad at it. When the process becomes a drill in generating products and "checking the block," instead of determining the best method of arraying capabilities against a problem set in order to generate a desired endstate, then the results are usually less than spectacular.
Having spent a great deal of time working with both the inter-agency community and the private sector, I think that the MDMP is a fundamental asset to military officers. First, it allows them to organize, prioritize, and delegate almost immediately upon identifying a requirement. Second, it does provide a template, an organizing principle if you will, for analyzing and developing solutions for any problem. The value of this cannot be overemphasized. Most of the other bureaucracies in the interagency environment have no such template. Functionaries learn their craft either through OJT or through training that address problem-specific solutions but does not provide an umbrella architecture for problem solving. I've seen numerous times, in USG and NGO working groups, the incalculable advantage that an officer, bringing his knowledge of the MDMP with him, adds to a group assembled to determine or execute policy. If the officer is a Judoka, then his facility with the MDMP is his ability to execute tsukuri (fitting or entering) against a problem set.

-Expanding career options is another recommendation to better enable our officers to operate in ambiguous situations; I agree with this. But expanding career options won't work until the development of officers with a wide degree of experiences and capabilities (i.e., officers developed outside of the cookie cutter operations career path) becomes an organizationally managed system. Not only does the Army need to encourage its officers gaining unique experience and expertise, but then it needs to be able to track and exploit individuals with those unique skill sets.
Here's an example of how insidious the cookie cutter is: during the 90's I had a Battalion Commander who was, at the time, the only serving BC in the Army with a Phd. He'd gotten his PhD on some aspect of Balkan country X. He'd served in Balkan country X for a number of years as a Foriegn Area Officer, and spoke the language there fluently. His wife, a medical professional, had established a clinic in Balkan country X that was the most modern and most capable in the country, winning an enduring gratitude and appreciation from Country X's national leadership. Soon after this officer changed command, and was basically between jobs, Balkan country X's cooperation with the United States became critical to both our efforts in the region and to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe. The now-former Battalion Commander offered his services to both DoD and the State Department to try to help influence Balkan country X to make some critical decisions in our favor. He was told, basically, to "shut up and color" and that it "wasn't his turn." Unfortunately, this vignette is emblematic of the incredible misuse of talent that is common in the Army. The system of giving a guy a "utilization tour" after is a facile and flawed answer to exploiting the niche brilliance often found in the ranks of the Army. I always loved those old "Our Man Flint" movies where they'd feed all the data of a problem set (punched into cards, heh) into the computer and it'd huff and puff for a couple seconds before "bing!" a card pops out at the other end of the room declaring that Flint is the only guy qualified to save the free world. Would that we had such a system in the Army.

One solution that Burke offers is to allow and encourage officers to pursue advanced degrees. As I've stated before, I'm less than enamored of the utility, either for the Army or the individual, of using advanced academic studies as venue for building a broad range of experience and expertise within the Army. A data point for my doubts: I'm sure that all the business knuckleheads who landed our country in it's current economic crisis had MBAs or JDs from "all the best schools." How's that working out? Also, Burke (rightfully) disparages Robert McNamara and his "whiz kids" basically for thinking that they were smarter than Mother Warfare, but what were their percieved qualifications to be in the positions they were in? Their degrees from "all the best schools" were a definite component of their selection, if not a source of their hubris.

Instead, I'd posit that the Army needs to send out officers to work for two or three years at a time with various members of the interagency and even NGOs. [I realize that there would often be an incredible amount of resistance to this from said entities, but I think it could be done--especially once these entitiies see how much value-added an officer, well versed in MDMP and other organzational skills, would be. I think salting the USG with journeymen officers would benefit both the military and the IA, but first we'd have to overcome the knee-jerk accusations that the DoD was trying to take over the world] The IA community is beginning to realize some of the value of military education and experience brings to the table. At a recent (within the last year or so) meeting with an Ambassador on a certain IA project, the Ambassador (a graduate of one of our Senier Staff Colleges) announced "We need a TPFDD (pronounced "Tipfid") to manage this." He then turned to me and said,"I just blew your mind, didn't I, Mongo?"

One other contributing factor making me chary of advanced civil schooling: when I went to the Staff College for a year, I got the distinct impression that those pursuing civilian master's degrees on their own time (a vast percentage of the student population) were doing so in order to increase their own marketability when they got out of the Army; any benefit the Army would get out of these studies was purely incidental. My own chauvinistic reaction to my fellow students' pursuit? Fuck you. The purpose of an advanced degree should be to make one a better officer who is better able to serve his country and the Army, anything else is waste, fraud, and abuse.

My answer would be to allow officers to take three, four, or even five year "sabbaticals" to serve as Enabling Officers within the IA (and, if possible, NGOs). Afterward, they would be tagged as SMEs within their realm of expertise and experience. This presents a whole range of problems for the bureaucracy to handle as far as personnel management, but I think it would be worth it for the Army. Let's say that Captain Lowbrow wants to take a two year assignment as an Enabling Officer working with USAID in Mauritania. He gets his tour, at his current pay plus a modest stipend. Assume that CPT Lowbrow is Year Group '03. He does his two years EO time, and then comes back to the fold--as a YG '05 officer. He has lost no opportunities in the Army and his years gaining unique and valuable experience as an EO aren't a loss for the Army. Major bureaucratic hurdles would be determining: pay, retirement, personnel QC, and force management. You can't expect a guy to take a two, three, or up to five year pay freeze in his anticipated promotion gates. The Army could get past this by initiating a "step" program like it has for civilian GS employees. While an EO's time should count toward retirement, it shouldn't be on a one-for-one basis, as this would wind up being "lost time" to the Army at the far end, but having EO time count at a fraction of operational time would be equitable, as well as discourage those merely looking to pad their resumes so that they could more profitably jump ship at 20. There would also have to be some sort of evaluative element to the assignment to keep substandard or mediocre performers from hiding out in the EO program (these quality control measures could then be exported to those areas where malingerers hang out now). Force management considerations necessitate some stratification to prevent unforecasted surges or shortages in YG numbers. Also, on reflection, some of our law dogs would have to put in some extra hours ensuring we got posse comitatus right, as I think EO time with various Law Enforcement agencies would be absolutely critical. As an Iraqi National Police advisor, I can state unequivocally that having a larger population of officers with an in-depth understanding of LE best practices is absolutely critical in a COIN environment. Most of my "enforcement" experience is of the "blow the door and shoot 'em in the face" caliber (no pun intended). At that fuzzy Venn diagram military/LE overlap found in COIN--or FID, or any other irregular or less than full-fledged warfare, this would prove invaluable.

-Creative Violence: One danger of exposing military officers to the rest of the IA is that it would feminize them, but of course we run that risk now with those that we send to the Ivy League. Send a guy to Yale (or the State Department) for two years and they come back spouting pap like "the commander who resorts to violence has already lost." Hey, moron, try actually reading all of your Sun Tzu. The purpose of the EO program would be to provide an officer that had a wide enough range of experience and expertise to choose an appropriate course of action to protect the nation and fulfill the Commander's intent. If that can be done peacefully, outstanding. If not, then we want a guy that can choose the right type and amount of violence and apply it at the appropriate place and time, kind of like...a jiujitsuka.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Southern Approaches

Great GWOT article at NR by Mario Loyola: All Along the Watchtower.
At home, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan seem far away and, now that the sine wave of the ardor of our political season is at its nadir, are really only followed by those with a direct interest in what's happening in our theaters of war (i.e., family members and friends). But if you really want to keep yourself up at night, look to our southern border (to include our southern littoral approaches).
Loyola does a great thumbnail sketch of the metastasizing threat to the south.
Couple of points on the article and situation:

-Building partner nation capability is, as the author notes, our most viable chance for success in the region. Latin America is pretty sensitive about its sovereignty when it comes to the US--with good reason. I've had a couple of Colombians point out to me that they're still kind of sore about the fact that Panama used to be a part of Colombia, until the US split it off in order to enhance Yankee influence over the isthmus. My scholarly gringo response: Huh? Once, in a pretty intensive seminar with officers from 14 Latin American countries, I was let in on a joke that was new to me but an old saw to them:
Know why there's never been a coup in the US?
'Cause there isn't a US Embassy there.
So, no matter how dire the threat, we can go unilaterally kinetic maybe once in Latin America before all kinds of welcome mats are rolled up and we suffer huge political consequences (and, as is the nature in COIN & the GWOT, our perceived over-reaction to a provocation prevents access to all kinds of hearts and minds). Not to put too fine a point on it, we need Colombian forces killing FARCsters, Guatemalan Kaibil killing Guatemalan drug runners, and the Compañía de Comandos 601 needs to kill the next Hezbullah operative that decides to plant a bomb in Argentina.

-The commercial plane route from Tehran to Caracas actually flies Tehran-Damascus-Caracas and back. What could possibly go wrong there? I'm sure Hugo Chavez will cooperate fully with the US in stopping anyone landing in Caracas with evil designs on the States. Shyuh.

-How many tons of contraband narcotics enter through our southern border every year? How many illegal aliens? The south-to-north running smuggling routes through the Americas are the most sophisticated in the world (the Afghan opium runners our press is always lamenting about are pikers in comparison). How hard would it be to coopt a pre-existing route to transport a WMD/E? Not too hard, I'm thinking.

-While Loyola does a great job laying down the threat, he leaves out one significant component of that threat: the matas, or gangs. Of these, MS 13, or Mara Salvatrucha, is the most well-known in the States, but South and especially Central America are rife with matas. Want to know who would supply the mules for the nightmare scenario in the paragraph above? There you go. Also, by definition these gangs consist of violent, uneducated young men with no real moral compass. Recruiting potential for Hezbullah, whom the author says has deeply penetrated Central America?

-Mexico is on the verge of becoming either a failed or narco state. I've talked to some DEA agents who have worked the Mexican problem set, and the average American cannot comprehend the levels of brutality and viciousness Mexican narcos are ready, willing, and unfortunately able to employ. Even battle hardened US Soldiers who've dealt with AQI et al in Iraq would be shocked and sickened by these guys tactics, techniques and procedures. And because of their limitless funding stream, these guys are exceedingly well equipped and well trained.

-Once again, kudos to Colombia's Alvero Uribe.

-The author mentions that Hezbullah, not so much AQ, is the primary Islamist threat emanating from Latin America. Hezbullah, as an unacknowledged organ the Iranian state, is probably much more dangerous than AQ, especially as they'll work hard to establish enough deniability to try to prevent us from going all "Afghanistan" on Iran. Whether we would or not doesn't matter, if they assess that they can mitigate our response, we are that much more vulnerable.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Sunday, March 15, 2009

"It is because I am what I am, objectionable though that appears to my critics, that I win battles."

I've mentioned, on this blog, a couple of my favorite unconventional warriors: COL David Smiley and TE Lawrence. But no one stands at the confluence of personal eccentricity and military genius like Orde Wingate.
Chaim Herzog, Israel's first Prime Minister, described him as "my favorite madman." As a British Intelligence Officer in Palestine in the late 1930's, he organized and led the Haganah Night Squads on deep strike missions against the fedayeen, adopting and adapting the Arab raiders' own tactics to use against them.
In Ethiopia (Abyssinia, at the time), Wingate formed the Gideon Force and led Ethiopian troops to their victory over the Italians in the early '40s. He put Haile Selassie (Ras Tafari, to you Bob Marley fans) back on the thrown. Having routed the Italians, he was ordered to stop short of entering Addis Abbaba with his indig forces; apparently British High Command was worried that his dusky warriors would celebrate their victory by raping all the white women in the ville. Wingate knew the symbolic importance of Salassie's taking the city and getting back on the thrown himself, so he asked his counterpart for his word that he wouldn't molest the ladies, it was granted, and Haile Selassie victoriously re-took Addis Abbaba.
Not long after his Italian campaign, Wingate had a total nervous breakdown and was institutionalized. He made a nominal recovery, and began trying to market an irregular warfare strategy for blocking the Japanese from reaching India with an unconventional combined force. Winston Churchill liked Wingate and his ideas and took him to meet Roosevelt on one of their secret rendezvous. Roosevelt saw the value of Wingate's plans and the two titular heads of the Western Allies turned him loose on Burma. Wingate organized and trained the Chindit force, and died in Burma.
"Wingate saw himself as a boot up the backside of Man. The fact that most of his ideas ran directly against those of his superiors did not worry him in the slightest."
(Arthur Swinson)

Wingate's critics found him objectionable not only because of his commando-centric opinions of the waging of war, but also because of his personal eccentricities. During the after action debriefs of his Night Raid detachment in Palestine, he could often be found sitting on a camp stool in the corner of the command tent, naked, reading a Bible and munching on a raw onion. Officers that interviewed with him to serve with the Chindits in Burma entered his tent to find him naked on a cot, grooming his body hair with a tooth brush. They also documented that for physical training, he made the entire unit practice yoga (the guy was obviously a deviant).
It was in Burma that Wingate perfected the tactic of having his light, mostly indigenous forces execute deep penetrations behind Japanese lines, and then used his Allied air power to drop in the heavy weapons he needed to defeat the Japanese. This tactic was copied with great success by the OSS' Detachment 101.
Wingate is the archetype for letting a possible goofball run rampant in a military organization. Studying his campaigns and the maturation of his concepts of unconventional warfare is about as much fun as a student of military history is going to get. I apologize if this post isn't as detailed as one dedicated to Wingate should be; I don't have my stash of Wingate references to hand. Most of what's written here is pulled from memory from a Wingate article in No End Save Victory (which by the way, is an eclectic compilaiton of essays from notable historians on their favorite aspects of and vignettes from WWII with a slight tilt towards favoring Special Operations; this is one of those books that makes you smarter)
Many thanks to Bubby, who took a time out from his arduous PhD studies to find me the link above to a decent Wingate site on the web.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Things Worth Believing In

Blatantly lifted from tgace over at the things worth believing in.
I had a great boss one time that declared our little slice of the profession of arms as "the last bastion of unreasonable men." It was because who, but an unreasonable man, would adhere to the code that mandates such belief?
So, here's to unreasonable men.

Synergy? or Attenuation?

Interesting stuff.

"Friendly competition" amongst our bureaucracies has such a great track record. Right?
Whether you admired his entrepreneurship or thought he was "bad for the sport," Charles "Mask" Lewis did a lot to promote MMA and helped carve a distinctive niche in our culture for fighters.
Mask was killed yesterday in a car accident in California.
Like a lot of Martial Artists, I was a little ambivalent about the Tapout line of clothing and work-out gear. The Tapout crew is loud, brash and often obnoxious. But, their clothes are frikkin' cool and there's something to be said about demonstrating excess in a sport that you love. Even though it wasn't for me, I ended up liking their attitude and refusal to tone down.
In a perfect coda, Lewis died speeding in his $300K Ferrari, with a hot chick at his side. (She survived, thankfully)


This article gets it about right. Mosul isn't a happy place.

Never Waste an R&R

As usual, Mungadai are exceeding the standard. 19KiloJoe is winning hearts and minds...sort of.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Deemed Acceptable

Okay, if you've just absolutely positively got to be a tree-hugging, placard carrying peacenik, at least you can be hot and do it nekkid.
Wish I had been there; I hear Asuncion is beautiful this time of year...

Small Victories

Great post by the World's Strongest Librarian, Josh Hanagarne. An object demonstration of how will and self-discipline can, over the long term and by small increments, work miracles.
I think more and more, our society is trending toward actually encouraging individuals to assume victim status, to give up, and to passively accept that they've been wronged, abused, or ignored by forces beyond their control.
Josh Hanagarne refused to surrender and fought his way through to a truly impressive set of accomplishments. Step by step, one small victory at a time.
Good for him.

And Speaking of Colombia

As I wrote about Colombia, and it's refusal to give quarter to the FARC over the years of in-earnest counterinsurgency, I should've mentioned last July's daring hostage rescue.
This is one that will go down in the Special Operations history books. It is a great exemplar of the type of will that President Uribe and the Colombian people have exerted in their efforts to maintain a free and democratic Colombia.