Monday, April 30, 2007

Off the Cuff in Kansas City

I thought I would try to restart something I tried last year, "Off the Cuff in Kansas City" where I'll address whatever topics have been generally eating at me, but I don't have time to make full posts, research or really care to do either.

First up:

Avast Ye Vast Majority

Just who in hades is this "vast majority"? First they support the war, then, according to some these days, they don't support it. They want to win in Iraq, but they want to bring our troops home.

Excuse me if I think that the "vast majority" is full of fat heads. Let's be realistic, the "vast majority" is a lame label for the idiots who spend their time taking online polls. Of which, the "vast majority" has to know that it's fixed. How many times do the same people take the poll in order to rig a number one way or the other? Plenty. I just participated in an online vote to elect someone "Dr. Mc Dreamy". Whether he really was "Dr. McDreamy" didn't matter. We wanted him to win so we flooded the polling by alerting everybody on our list. He is currently in the lead. I guess that makes me an idiot since I took the poll. It was for a good cause.

Every time I see some politician, journalist or, even bloggers, say or write the words "vast majority" I immediate weigh their reporting/opinion with a ton of salt. Mainly because I know that this "vast majority" didn't even vote in the last elections. The polls said so.

If I want to know what the "vast majority" believes, I'll walk up and down my street and ask my neighbors. I'll probably get just about as accurate an opinion as any.

I think the term "vast majority" should start being treated like the word "Nazi". Any time anyone uses the term, right or left of the aisle, I will invoke "Godwin's Law" and start scrolling by.

Out in a Blaze of Glory

What is it with messed up people deciding that they have to take everyone out with them in order to make a statement? What happened to simply killing yourself and leaving all those around you wondering why? Now, some idiot gets a bug up his arse, has a fight with his wife, or thinks the boss is a jackass and they have to start shooting everybody.

They couldn't hang themselves quietly in their garage?

I know, that is unsympathetic and lacking empathy. Shoot me. If the poor soul had actually done that, I could whip up my sympathy to an appropriate degree since I have experience with and comprehend the damage that mental illness can do to the person and their family. I have a problem giving sympathy to anyone that goes to the local school, mall or post office and starts whacking everyone in site no matter how cracked up everyone starts saying they were.

Admitting Mistakes

Pardon me if I don't feel like adding some obligatory "mistakes were made" comment to any post, comment or spoken word regarding the war. I don't comprehend it at all. Particularly in a time of war. All those who claim to know what "mistakes were made" probably don't know crap about what they are talking about, including the president.

Time for review is here and now, but not in a public setting. If the war is so important, appoint new generals and figure it out. Mistakes are always made in war either because we're an idiot or the enemy is smarter. It doesn't mean that we announce them to the enemy so he knows what to do next time. That is my chief complaint about this whole thing. It is not about what I believe or what I don't believe. It is about what the enemy believes or does not believe.

Today, Al Qaeda and its affiliates must believe that Allah has reached down and blessed them with the holy sword.

You do not fight a war by announcing your stupidity. Your enemy already knows. That's why men are dead and land is lost. The question is, will he continue to believe you're an idiot and how do you use that to your advantage?

These days, Osama must think we are such big idiots that he can come out of his cave and sunbathe in a two piece without getting blown to smithereens. Hopefully, he will believe it so well that he does just that and we do blow him to smithereens. As much as things get said about "mistakes" and "losing" this war, you could almost believe that it WAS a disinformation campaign.

Until then, loose lips sink ships.

I think this is all some messed up bit of pop psychology that thinks we should all admit our sins, get forgiveness and move on. Nice theory if you are visiting the priest and you are not the president of a nation at war. This whole "confession" and "absolution" thing has gone too far.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Soldiers' Angels Welcomes Home 24th Marines

Check out Soldiers' Angels KC for details of the April 28th "Welcome Home" for Marine 24th.

Great pictures! Great company! Great Day!

Also see, Techography for pictures.

Friday, April 27, 2007

The Great Wall of Indifference

Combat Outpost Fort Apache, Azamiyah. The news of late has focused upon this Sunni district in northeast Baghdad, where materials for a 12-foot-high concrete barrier have been positioned along a main avenue. Of the dozens of barriers across the city being laid down—principally by U.S. military and contractors—Azamiyah was the one that caught international attention when the residents complained the government was "imprisioning and punishing them for the acts of a few" by forcing all cars to pass through check points. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, on a visit to Egypt, ordered the barrier halted, and the American ambassador agreed to comply.

On the surface, the episode is a triumph for the press in bringing to international attention an injustice, and for the prime minister in immediately responding and standing up for the rights of the Sunni minority.

On the ground, the episode is less inspiring. Here at Fort Apache in Azamiyah, Charlie Company is on the eighth month of a 15-month tour in a combat outpost along the Tigris. (It was the setting for the 2005 documentary Gunner Palace.) Six of the first 110 soldiers to patrol in Azamiyah, a stronghold for Sunni insurgents and al-Qaida operatives, have been killed.

Read the rest here

Information War: The Media as a Weapon

Michelle Malkin points to an article about the media in assymetrical warfare.

While the war between Israel and Hezbollah raged in Lebanon and Israel last summer, it became clear that media coverage had itself started to play an important role in determining the ultimate outcome of that war. It seemed clear that news coverage would affect the course of the conflict. And it quickly transpired that Hezbollah would become the beneficiary of the media's manipulation.

A close examination of the media's role during the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war in Lebanon comes now from Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, in an analysis of the war published in a paper whose subtitle should give pause to journalists covering international conflict: "The Israeli-Hezbollah War of 2006: The Media as a Weapon in Asymmetrical Conflict." Marvin Kalb, of Harvard's Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy, methodically traces the transformation of the media "from objective observer to fiery advocate." Kalb painstakingly details how Hezbollah exercised absolute control over how journalists portrayed its side of the conflict, while Israel became "victimized by its own openness."

There were a number of very significant points in this paper that did not lambast the media so much as chide it for pretending that it is objective and does not take part in the war. In many respects, it points out that the very nature of competitive media forces it to abandon it's journalistic integrity for sensationalism. It did abandon these ethics and routinely published historonic stories and faked images as a true representation of the war. And, once the images and stories were out, repairing the damage was practically impossible. Images might be replaced or withdrawn from the internet with a few words indicating the problem, but it was not publicized as a hoax to the extent that, had the Israelis perpetrated such a hoax, it would have been front page news for days.

Inexplicably, or not, Hezbollah is given a pass. Whether it is because it is considered the "underdog" and given huge allowances, because the press sympathizes with their cause, the press cycle moves so fast that the story is lost, the press is hesitant to advertise it's own mistakes since it would harm their image as "objective" purveyors of the "unvarnished truth" to the public (and, thus, damage their pocket books and careers) or, as this paper alleges, sensationalism sales, the press has contributed to their own weaponization.

However, the paper also points out that part of the issue is the difference between closed and open societies as well as their ability to control message[pg 6]:

If we are to collect lessons from this war, one of them would have to be that a closed society can control the image and the message that it wishes to convey to the rest of the world far more effectively than can an open society, especially one engaged in an existential struggle for survival. An open society becomes the victim of its own openness. During the war, no Hezbollah secrets were disclosed, but in Israel secrets were leaked, rumors spread like wildfire, leaders felt obliged to issue hortatory appeals often based on incomplete knowledge, and journalists were driven by the fire of competition to publish and broadcast unsubstantiated information. A closed society conveys the impression of order and discipline; an open society, buffeted by the crosswinds of reality and rumor, criticism and revelation, conveys the impression of disorder, chaos and uncertainty, but this impression can be misleading.

It was hardly an accident that Hezbollah, in this circumstance, projected a very special narrative for the world beyond its ken—a narrative that depicted a selfless movement touched by God and blessed by a religious fervor and determination to resist the enemy, the infidel, and ultimately achieve a “divine victory,” no matter the cost in life and treasure. The narrative contained no mention of Hezbollah’s dependence upon Iran and Syria for a steady flow of arms and financial resources.

Another point that the paper makes is our (and essentially the media) refusal to accept that this is a propaganda war and that we need to fight it. We insist that an open society is inherently stronger than a closed society, can survive better and, ultimately, win the day with this "honesty". In some ways, this concept is correct. Yet, our refusal to embrace the media and all forms of information communication fully, leaves us doing a poor job, some where between concealing and releasing information. Many have advocated that the military and the government move faster on releasing information instead of slowing down or trying to enforce some aspect of information control.

Like Hamas and al-Qaeda, it appreciated the central importance of the communications revolution sweeping through the region. These three radical groups believe, according to Steve Fondacaro, an American military expert, that it is on the “information battlefield” that the historic struggle between Western modernity and Islamic fundamentalism will ultimately be resolved. “The new element of power that has emerged in the last thirty to forty years and has subsumed the rest is information,” he said. “A revolution happened without us knowing or paying attention. Perception truly now is reality, and our enemies know it.”3

The paper points out that the unbridled flow of information and rumor gives the appearance of chaos while the controlled information flow gives the appearance of control. This free flow of information has overtaken a key military strategy of secrecy and obsfucation. Yet, if information flow was so quick, the media might be unable to form a good picture and the enemy equally confused as to what is reality or on what to form an opinion. Or, in essence, the more information that is put out, the more likely we could control the message.

The paper, however, focuses on the media's changing role.

A key consequence of this new warfare is that the role of the journalist in many parts of the world has been dramatically transformed—from a quest for objectivity and fairness to an acceptance of advocacy as a tool of the craft.

It is not actually a new concept, it is just more prevalent and obvious. Journalists used their podium to push for civil rights, for women's rights and any number of other concepts deemed important. Still, many considered themselves "fair" and objective. Today, the populations of the world, including many Americans, consider journalists and many media outlets to be just what this paper alleges, advocates for one side or the other. The people recognizing or labeling journalists before journalists have recognized it or accepted it themselves.

It may still be that the media does this subconciously or that, in fighting this idea, they may yet recover. They will have to become even more vigilant and responsible for the information they release. Possibly, in future wars, they may actually have to decide whether they support a cause or not and act on that, open and obvious to all. Or, they may yet have to become even more "self-editing".

Read more about the media as a weapon.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

From Thunder Run: Stokely Family Continues to Give

He was named Bubba at an early age by his younger brother who couldn't say "brother". When she first talked, she shortened it even more to Bubs. He was 23 and she was soon to be 13 as she watched her oldest brother march to war.

Three months later, she sat front row in the Georgia State Capitol Rotunda as local and national media snapped her picture during the Governor's Prayer Vigil for the State's recent heavy losses of its National Guard soldiers. Her brother, a Georgia National Guard member, had just been killed two days earlier by a road side bomb. Then, less than a week later, with media again looking on, she sat on the stage of her county's new Performing Arts Center as her brother was honored in a Memorial Service attended by 900 even before his body returned home from Iraq.

A few days later, as her brother's flag draped casket arrived home, she rode in the family SUV, at times standing through the sun roof waving an American Flag as thousands lined the highway to welcome her brother home. As if that wasn't enough, the next day she stood tall and poised as she greeted nearly a thousand guests at the funeral home visitation. Her brother was the first family member she would bury as she wept bitterly as a 21 gun salute volleyed, the mournful sound of TAPS played, and the Honor Guard folded the flag that had draped his casket.

Her life was now changed forever, for the brother who was to teach her how to drive, chase away her first boyfriend, be there to cheer at her graduation, and be an uncle to her children had given his life for the country and family he loved so very much. Being a teenage girl emerging to a young lady is hard on a good day. But with such, she had to do all this while being thrust into a public spotlight.

Then, just four months after her brother's death, tragedy struck as she almost lost her own life and in that same instant thought her dad had died as well when a car ran a stop sign, T-boned them in her door, sheering it off and they rolled and flipped end over end. Momentarily unconscious, she awoke and screamed out "Dad, are you all right" as severe pain racked her body. EMTs quickly strapped her to a back board and rushed her to a trauma center with head, neck and back injuries. Even at that, she called out continually "dad, are you o.k., is that really my dad up there - is he o.k." Fortunately, the hospital stay was brief for the concussion that she suffered but it took a year for her to make it back 95% from the neck and back injuries.

Her activities were limited - she had danced competitively since she was three, and now that was gone due to her injuries. She couldn't do the simple physical task of even carrying her own book bag and had to sit in awkward positions and in constant pain, yet she never let her academics slip. On weekends she remained at home for what fun is it to sit in the corner racked with pain and unable to do the slightest physical stress that goes with the typical fun activities at her teenage girlfriends' parties.

As if this were not enough, her life was to change again, for the beloved pit bull, Patches, one of her fallen brother's two dogs, died. She had adopted Patches even as Mike was leaving for Iraq and promised him to faithfully care for her. But, her best care, even that of the Vet, was no match for the cancer that took Patches. She had come to love Patches so, and the love was mutual, as Patches slept in her room and ever watching this sister's every move. When Patches died, this sister's words of good bye were simple, "she wasn't just my brother's dog, she was my best friend and I loved her."

All this in a span of nine months.

Then High School began as she entered the ninth grade. A welcome turn in her life, a good change for this sister, now 14. Further along in her recovery, the doctor allowed her to swim. She swam in the family's small backyard pool, and a nearby larger public pool that had lanes for swimming exercise and therapy. As winter set in, she would go to a heated pool. She progressed enough that the doctor let her try out for the high school swim team, even though she labored with pain from the accident. But, even in the pain, a smile had returned to her face.

Tonight, April 23, 2007 - nearly two years after her brother marched to war, she stood on the very same stage where she had sat at his Memorial Service 88 weeks before and presented the Mike Stokely Foundation Scholarship to a deserving high school senior. This fallen soldier's sister was poised and comfortable as she spoke to a crowd of 500 plus, including close family friends Cindy and Rodney B. This was not her first time speaking in front of a crowd as she had given the family remarks at the dedication of a roadway in her brother's honor last October 6 as hundreds, including State political figures and a US Congressman, looked on.

Tonight, as then, this fallen soldier's sister spoke proudly of his service and what he stood for as she presented a scholarship to a senior who had once been an honor student until a car wreck had caused optic nerve damage that led to the student losing enough academic ground that she fell out of the running for academic scholarships. To say the least, this student is the type person this sister's fallen brother, SGT Mike Stokely, would have wanted to reach out and help go to college. So, in his honor and stead, she proudly did it for him. In the weeks to come, she will give out three more scholarships, including one at her brother's high school in Loganville Georgia.

It has been 89 weeks since SGT Mike Stokely died, and he would be ever so proud of his sister. No doubt, I am as well. But, I am left with but one question - what did I ever possibly do to deserve the blessing of three such fine children in my life? If ever you needed proof of God's kindness and unconditional love, then here you have it.

Robert Stokely
proud dad Abbey Stokely
Wesly Stokely and
SGT Mike Stokely KIA 16 Aug 05 near Yusufiyah US Army E 108 CAV 48 BDE GAARNG

H/T Thunder Run

Monday, April 23, 2007

Sympathy for the Devil

Sympathy for the Devil
-K E Henry

You look at me with amazement in your eyes
You don't understand why I can't sympathize
You ask, cajole and, finally, demand
That I forgive, if not forget, at least understand

That men can sometimes be driven to the brink
Beyond the confines of order or ability to think
My idealism you condemn, you call it a sin
There is no virtue, only absolution

You prosletyze and preach that all men of reason
Should make room at the table for every kind of human
While you watch them gnaw on the bones of their victims
With death in their eyes and blood on their hands

The irony of your logic you completely miss
You embrace the murderer, but his victims dismiss
The murderer's grievances become their crimes
They are the sinners, you become deaf to their cries

Because I will not accept your logic as wisdom
You fear me more than you ever feared him
You call me the mirror to the evil we see
I am the same, his twin, you decree

I AM his reflection,
His direct opposition
His dark to my light
His black to my white

The more you try to decipher the abyss
The more I feel compelled to resist
Your demand that I give the devil my sympathy
Just chalk it up to the devil in me.


End the War Right Message, Sent to Wrong address

Friday, April 20, 2007

Harry Reid, Spokesman for the Islamic State in Iraq: War is Lost

Wednesday, April 18, 2007, al Qaeda in Iraq, under the nom de guer Islamic State of Iraq, pulled off four suicide bombings in one day, killing 200 Iraqis, after being silent for almost five days after the suicide bombing in Parliament. Right on cue, al Qaeda's spokesman in the United States, gave a statement stating that the bombings were proof that the United States had lost the war and should withdraw:

Reid said he told President Bush on Wednesday he thought the war could not be won through military force, although he said the U.S. could still pursue political, economic and diplomatic means to bring peace to Iraq.

"I believe myself that the secretary of state, secretary of defense and — you have to make your own decisions as to what the president knows — (know) this war is lost and the surge is not accomplishing anything as indicated by the extreme violence in Iraq yesterday," said Reid, D-Nev.

Information War: Mass Murder and the Media

An interesting thing happened on Monday, April 16, Iraq, Afghanistan, suicide bombings and terrorists disappeared from the headlines for two days in the wake of a national tragedy. On Friday, April 12, Islamic terrorists managed to set off a small suicide bomb inside the parliament killing eight people and wounding many others. In the scheme of death and destruction usually perpetrated in Iraq by the terrorists, it was only remarkable due to the location.

The weekend news cycle played this event over and over. Friday "announcements" have two purposes in politics.

    1) To make the "statement" irrefutable for two days while all principal opposing actors would be going home or doing something else for the weekend.
    2) Make the story THE story for the weekend as weekend news is notorious for doing "soft pieces" and simply repeating a summary of the weekly news for consumption, thus insuring continuous play that would also be the opening statement for the next week.

To put out a message at the end of the week when many are heading home, such as politicians and Pentagon spokesmen who might answer back forefully and continuously any impression of such an "announcement" by the terrorists. If it was at the beginning of the week, many interviews could be given throughout the week refuting any claims of a larger meaning to the attacks. It would also have seen the Iraqi Parliament back in session at full force for several days before the week was out, further weakening the impression that the bombing interrupted any significant activities of the Iraq government. By making the bombing on Friday, it would be understood that this story would be replayed through the weekend as the last image of the war.

Yet, weekend news consumption is notoriously low among most of the target audience, thus, important messages are often lost in the weekend frenzy.

On Monday, April 16, the incident, al Qaeda and Iraq were pushed completely off the front page by a mass murder at Virginia Tech. For two days, the internal tragedy took precedence.

In a war where one of the principle players states, "half the battle is in the media", that lack of coverage had to be a minor shock. They could easily be replaced by a lone gunman in Virginia.

Yet, Al Qaeda in Iraq (the Islamic State of Iraq) understands its target implicity. In order to insure coverage would win back the battle space from the tragedy, the terrorists would have to plan and come back with a much larger attack and body account. After what must have been several days of planning, the deaths of 200 innocent people again swept Iraq and Al Qaeda to the headlines.

Greyhawk notes that it was also timed with the return of Congress from their spring break.

It may be that the bombings and damage were simply coincidental or it could be that the time between the previous attack on Parliament and this latest massacre was used to plan and execute the attacks. However, it is not unusual for al Qaeda operatives to plan events or "announcements around important dates or events.

Whatever the facts, it did result in pushing the VT tragedy from the front page of the news cycle.

This is how Al Qaeda fights its wars.

On cue, Reid pronounces the war is lost.

In a further attempt to maximize its media exposure and attempt to paint the insurgency as "legitimate", the Islamic State of Iraq appoints "ministers" for everything from "war" to "agriculture and health". The entire purpose is to indicate that, far from a weak and hidden group of skulkers and criminals in limited areas, they actually have control of an area and are able to govern it, complete with concern for the people and the area's economics.

Unfortunately for the Islamic State of Iraq, it's borders are unknown, its ministers wear masks and will not be giving an interview on CNN or even al Jazeera anytime soon.

MSNBC provides an excellent analysis of ISI's hopes from the announcement:

The announcement unveiling an “Islamic Cabinet” for Iraq appeared to have multiple aims. One was to present the Islamic State of Iraq coalition as a “legitimate” alternative to the U.S.-backed, Shiite-led administration of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki — and to demonstrate that it was growing in power despite the U.S. military push against insurgents.

It also likely sought to establish the coalition’s dominance among insurgents after an embarrassing public dispute with other Iraqi Sunni militants. [snip]

The video came on the heels of a rare public dispute between the coalition and other insurgent groups.

In past week, another Sunni insurgent group, the Islamic Army in Iraq, has issued statements accusing al-Qaida of killing its members and trying to force others to join its ranks. Al-Baghdadi tried to patch up the dispute by issuing a Web audiotape this week calling for unity and promising to punish any of his group’s members who kill other insurgents.

Al Qaeda aims and lands another dead on target.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

New Land Warrior System: Response from Soldiers "Eh"

The Army's New Land Warrior Gear: Why Soldiers Don't Like It

There's a half-billion dollars invested in the gear hanging off the heads, chests and backs of the soldiers of Alpha company. Digital maps displayed on helmet-mounted eyepieces show the position of all the men in the unit as they surround a block of concrete buildings and launch their attacks. Instead of relying on the hand signals and shouted orders that most infantrymen use, Alpha company communicates via advanced, encrypted radio transmissions with a range of up to a kilometer. It's more information than any soldiers have ever had about their comrades and their surroundings.

But as Alpha kicks in doors, rounds up terror suspects and peals off automatic fire in deafening six-shot bursts, not one of the soldiers bothers to check his radio or look into the eyepiece to find his buddies on the electronic maps. "It's just a bunch of stuff we don't use, taking the place of useful stuff like guns," says Sgt. James Young, who leads a team of four M-240 machine-gunners perched on a balcony during this training exercise at Fort Lewis, Wash. "It makes you a slower, heavier target."

Body Armor Part III: Contours and Weight
Body Armor Part II: Distribution
Body Armor Part I: Re-Inventing the Wheel

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The Middle Ground: On Total War II

Following up yesterday's post regarding Total War in Iraq, Small Wars Journal posts a response from Col. David Kilcullen, currently serving on Gen. Petraeus's staff in Iraq, to an article in Harper's Weekly- Dead End: Counterinsurgency as Military Malpractice.

Col. Kilcullen necessarily and briefly focuses on the complaints Luttwick has regarding the newest counter-insrugency manual, FM 3-24, refuting several by pointing out that Luttwick was reading the "draft" version and several of his complaints had already been addressed.

In reading Luttwak's piece, the first issue is that Luttwak, who has many things to his credit, but fighting an insurgency is not one of them, tends to state things in a very affirmative manner. One such statement:

But while they are willing to wear the uniforms and accept training up to a point, Sunni Arabs are naturally disinclined to help capture or kill insurgents who are fighting to restore the Sunni Arab ascendancy over Iraq. Besides, their families would be in deadly peril if they were suspected of loyalty to their government, and by extension to the Americans. Some of those policemen and soldiers know much about the insurgents and where exactly they might be found, but are still of no help in finding them, precisely because they are insurgents themselves.

This totally ignores current trends in al-Anbar and the surging "Awakening" or "Salvation Council" who have certainly have been fighting al-Qaida. But, more profoundly, he tends to label all he surveys as thus: "Sunni Arabs are naturally disinclined to help capture or kill insurgents who are fighting to restore the Sunni Arab ascendancy over Iraq".

I believe this premis is exactly what leads Luttwak to his conclusions that, since ALL are insurgents, why fight a "counter-insurgency"? Why not simply declare them all the enemy and fight the war in that manner?

In short, he is advocating the same tactics as this previous author, but under a different guise:

The simple starting point is that insurgents are not the only ones who can intimidate or terrorize civilians. For instance, whenever insurgents are believed to be present in a village, small town, or distinct city district—a very common occurrence in Iraq at present, as in other insurgency situations—the local notables can be compelled to surrender them to the authorities, under the threat of escalating punishments, all the way to mass executions. That is how the Ottoman Empire could control entire provinces with a few feared janissaries and a squadron or two of cavalry. The Turks were simply too few to hunt down hidden rebels, but they did not have to: they went to the village chiefs and town notables instead, to demand their surrender, or else. A massacre once in a while remained an effective warning for decades

Apparently, the only successful counterinsurgencies that Luttwak has found were those committed by the most brutal oppressors simply because they were brutal and did not care about public opinion. In fact, he starts out with the successors of Ghengis Khan who equally used "terror" (40,000 heads at the gates of the city) in order to instill fear and quail the population, often before he even arrived.

He goes on to talk about the Romans and their use of "sticks and carrots", but largely focuses on the "sticks". He completely misses, or breezes by, a central point, even in discussing Ottoman rule: the people who don't resist are not necessarily cowed by all the violence, but may, indeed, have eventually accepted the rule of these two empires because there was a political or economic advantage. Or, at the very least, did not significantly change their way of life. For instance, he touches on religion and its influence over people, uniting them for war. There is a historical precedent for Rome trying to inflict its religion on the masses it had conquered, particularly in later years, worshipping Caesar as a god. However, provincial governors were notorious for paying this concept lip service and allowing the masses to practice their religion largely unmolested.

A good example of this is actually written in the bible in the story of Pontius Pilate, the Pharisees and Jesus. While some see Pontius Pilate as having abdicated his responsibilities as a just adjudicator and allowing a wrongly accused Jesus to be crucified, his symbolic "washing" of his hands, interpreted as washing away his guilt by modern Christians, was in fact persuing the usual provincial practic of staying well out of the religious affairs of the subjects. As long as the ruling religious party was satisfied and rebellion turned away. Historically, Pontius Pilate went back to Rome, if not exactly disgraced, hardly a distinguished governor covered in glory and wealth. His governance was plagued by many little uprisings which he put down alternately with political cajoling and, as Luttwick notes, some harsh punishments.

But, the most important aspects of Roman rule were not actually its relying on harsh punishments. It was because these provinces benefited from their interaction with Rome through security and economic development. Traders of silks and spices from the far east would not have seen the small Roman outposts along the infamous Silk Road as an oppressive presence, but a source of security that allowed them to trade and flourish. Roman ships going in and out of ports in the Mediteranean, such as Constantinople and Alexandria, bought and sold goods that fueled local economies.

That is not to say that every subject was happy under the yoke of Rome, but it is quite fantastic to believe that it was simply the fear of reprisals that kept many of the subject nations deferential to the empire. Particularly, as Luttwick notes, since Rome had, in all actually, few legionnaires in comparison to modern armies, covering a very large territory. If, in fact, it was simply reprisals that kept the populace cowed from insurgency, the Romans would have needed a much larger force.

One other problem that Luttwick necessarily breezes over in order to make his point is that, while Rome itself might have had a bare 300,000 legionnaires, the local populace actually formed its own constabulary and local auxillary forces, not inlcuding the legions that were raised out of these subject nations. Many of whom joined for the exact reasons that Luttwick disdains: the benefits of pay and citizenship.

Rome, nor the Ottoman Empire, could exist for hundreds of years simply on the prospects of putting down insurgencies over their entire empires with only exemplifying punishments.

That is not to say that crucifying 6,600 slaves along the Apian way was not an effective deterent to future insurgencies. However, not many years after Pompey ended the last dregs of the insurgency, Gaius Julius Caesar returned from battle, fought a civil war and, during its years, literally bought off many would be resisters. Including an attempt to abolish the use of slaves in businesses in order to provide work for common Roman citizens. He understood the idea that Romans may be attached to their republican ideas and ancient ways, but could be brought to his side by succombing to its benefits. This order was later rescinded, of course, because his wealthy supporters bulked, but the attempt at socio-economic engineering to purchase support should not be ignored. Neither should his rather astute reversal. One could even call it a "political solution".

Again, Luttiwak dismisses this important aspect of "counterinsurgency" in ancient empires in order to make his central point: insurgencies are won or "countered" by equal amounts of "terror", "reprisals" or "collective punishment". The fact that we are politically and ideologically undesiring and incapable of enacting such "terror" on the populace is seen as ceding the entire populace space to the insurgents:

Needless to say, this is not a political limitation that Americans would ever want their armed forces to overcome, but it does leave the insurgents in control of the population, the real “terrain” of any insurgency. Of course, the ordinary administrative functions of government can also be employed against the insurgents, less compellingly perhaps but without need of violence.

He says there is a way to obtain information on insurgents through natural association with citizens and the government, but he believes this is also ceded because, unlike post World War II Germany and Japan, we did not institute a military governance and take over the day to day activities that would place us in control of those spaces and information. Again, he dismisses the entire purpose of having "joint security stations" or "combat outposts" or "civil affairs patrols and projects" without nary a mention of the increased contact, control and security for the population which necessarily leads to this "intelligence" being shared.

Again, all to get to his central thesis:

All its best methods, all its clever tactics, all the treasure and blood that the United States has been willing to expend, cannot overcome the crippling ambivalence of occupiers who refuse to govern, and their principled and inevitable refusal to out-terrorize the insurgents, the necessary and sufficient condition of a tranquil occupation.

In otherwords, because we are unwilling to kill hundreds of thousands and then press home this advantage over a subjugated nation through tough military governance, Luttwick is declaring counterinsurgency as a complete and utter waste of time and people.

The big "loss".

One point Luttwak makes which has some basis in fact is that, regardless of the political ideology that is being implemented, people can and will fight against what others may see as their "own best interest". It would seem that democracy and freedom are by far more beneficial than living under a tyrant such as Saddam. Yet, as Luttwak points out, the removal of Saddam did not benefit the "Sunni", but tossed them from power. He also points to their co-religious status with the "foreigners" to indicate that this is a stronger bond than any idea on freedom or democracy.

However, I believe that this is a failed evaluation of the Iraq insurgency as well. Not taking in all the permutations of the "insurgency", he fails to comprehend the things that make people fight and the things that, ultimately, separate them from other groups or members of the insurgency as well as provides the wedge by which they can be and are being split from each other politically, materially and militarily. He also fails to recognize that, regardless of how strong an ideology is perceived to be in the general populace, the same things that would make the citizens and government of the occupying country give up the fight, are at work on the insrugent supporting populace of the occupied: casualties, exhaustian, severe economic depression and political in fighting.

Another historical, let us call it, incompleteness, is his reference to Joseph Bonaparte's rule of Spain and the ensuing insurgency:

The very word “guerrilla,” which now refers only to a tactic, was first used to describe the ferocious insurgency of the illiterate Spanish poor against their would-be liberators, under the leadership of their traditional oppressors. On July 6, 1808, King Joseph of Spain presented a draft constitution that for the first time in Spain’s history offered an independent judiciary, freedom of the press, and the abolition of the remaining feudal privileges of the aristocracy and of the Church. At that time, abbeys, monasteries, and bishops still owned every building and every piece of land in 3,148 towns and villages, which were inhabited by some of Europe’s most wretched tenants. Despite the fact that the new constitution would have liberated them and let them keep their harvests for themselves, the Spanish peasantry failed to rise up in its support.

He goes on to say that this was because the church used the central thesis that Bonaparte and the French were out to destroy the Catholic religion and, of course, because the occupier of the throne and alleged "liberator" was not Spanish. A central reason why Bonaparte could not rouse the peasants to overthrow their traditional leadership in favor of this grand republicanism. While Catholicism and nationality may have been over-arching ideologies that tied the insurgency together, Luttiwick takes in the "grand scheme" and totally dismisses the reality of an occupying French Napoleon army.

This army did not come into towns and immediately set up provincial, indigenous governments or institute elections. Its first actions, being a foraging army, was to literally steal or demand food, clothing, wine, horses, transportation, etc from the local populace. It raped and pillaged (not quite in the medieval manner, but attrocious none the less) its way through Spain. There was no economic benefit to the occupation and certainly no direct or local presence or shift in ideological governing, thus, no immediate benefit to the local populace.

What good was freedom of the press if the French Army drove by and took all your recently harvested produce and livestock? What good was an independent judiciary if you could not feed your family?

These are the basics at work in Iraq. It is not only survival against the potential murderous actions of the insurgents, but a deep instinct of personal survival against the deprevation of basic needs. One might also add that, had the Spanish Catholic Church instituted the second Inquisition against its own followers in the middle of a rebellion, it would be suffering the same fate as Al Qaida as it kills "apostates", "heretics" and "spies": feared and reviled.

There in lies the truth about insurgencies. For all the ideological ties that bind, a population can and will determine when remaining with the insurgency is no longer beneficial.

In short, incomplete or inaccurate history does not a failed counterinsurgency make.

I'll let Kilcullen reference the Field Manual issues Luttwak degrades.

H/T Mudville

Cross referenced at the Castle

Monday, April 16, 2007

The Middle Ground: On Total War

Following the footsteps of Clausewitz, Mao and a few others who wrote "on war", we begin our series of discussions with this piece:

America, Iraq and The Question of Total War

I'll start with the end:

Perhaps the message to Mr. Bush, Congress, and the American people should be: If this fight is worth doing, if America truly has an unquestionable moral imperative to win, then wage it with everything you've got. Otherwise, why is America there?

I have a question for Mr. Dillin: Where and who should we start carpet bombing first?

Should we lay waste to Baghdad at such a late date, having instituted the government, spent billions in "reconstruction" and other programs?

Having insisted that we are "liberating" the Iraqi people from a totalitarian, murderous government, are we to become the murderers?

As much as our Liberal, Democratic Congress people and like minded citizens have wailed about our standing in the world having been damaged, what would the world opinion be then?

Is Mr. Dillin suggesting that we should ignore this when the very idea of combatting "global" guerilla terrorism means that everything we do in Iraq reflects on the greater global strategy?

While Republicans of all stripes have decreed world opinion as a fickle b-tch, not worthy of our consideration, they have blatantly ignored the fact that "limited war" was directly planned and executed, not just because Donald Rumsfeld wanted to make war "on the cheap" (as both Democrats and Republicans have insisted), but because the war plans DID take into consideration "global opinion". Anyone who thinks otherwise is out of touch with such things as "flyover rights", "national waters" and the sheer nervous twitching that takes place whenever massive forces are within striking distance of any nation that could be directly or indirectly affected by that war.

I've had a long discussion (several times) with my friend the Armorer regarding whether we should have done "total war" on Iraq at the invasion. While the author of this piece goes back to Sherman's march to the sea for his earliest "total war" reference, total war has in fact been practiced for centuries. Ask the Saxon's in 1066 and shortly thereafter as the Norman's rolled up lingering existence, particularly in York, where they laid such total waste to the population and surrounding countryside, it took over 60 years for the area to recover economically and in population. In Medieval times, that's at least 4 to 5 generations.

Or, think Carthage and sowing the fields with salt. That is not a short term, immediate military objective. It is a method to insure that the nation you are at war with does not have the material or economic means to wage war. In fact, by its very nature, depriving the citizens of basic sustenance, it would be the ancient method of making war on the civilians, to insure they no longer had the means or will to committ war.

Looking around in Baghdad via images, emails and news coverage, one could be forgiven for wondering what exactly should we have laid waste to? The people have little or no income. Their homes are largely mud brick and hay. There is a large swath of society who are and were already well below the conditions of "subsistance". Thus, beyond the final concept of simply destroying millions of human lives, what would we have waged war on and destroyed so completely it would have made a difference and NOT destroy us politically?

Read the whole thing to understand the questions.

Since the author is giving historical references, from my perspective, he is not really asking for a "Dresden" type bombing campaign against a nation and a people that has declared war, but his asking to consider bombing Paris into obliteration because the Nazis were "there".

H/T Powerline

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Broken Windows Theory: Crime, Small Wars and Trash

I discussed Crime and Small Wars previously. It is important to understand how this works in guerilla warfare (small wars).

Crime fuels the insurgency. It provides it cover. It provides it money. It gives the illusion, along with the over all bombs and firefights (that do not represent the whole of Iraq) of insecurity. In reality, common crimes are as egregious as any acts of terrorism for these same reasons.

If we do not combat the crime, then we cannot combat the insurgency. Insurgents and terrorists are self-sustaining through these acts.

Watch this video on the Battle for Baghdad

Jeff Burris, Times Baghdad Bureau Chief, discusses how the Ba'athists left Baghdad with over $2 billion in stolen money from the Iraq Central bank. Since then, it subsidizes its activities through kidnapping, smuggling, theft, counterfeiting, stealing directly from oil pipelines and gasoline refinery to resale at profit and corruption.

The insurgency cannot be stopped simply by combatting insurgents or even the political process. It must become a losing proposition financially. That means that every crime in Iraq, no matter how small, must be addressed through "policing". This entails picking up people for petty theft, going after kidnappers aggressively (regardless of who they kidnap), painting over graffiti, cracking down on corruption and breaking the blackmarket (largely by providing legitimate means of income for non-terrorist related groups).

Second, real broken windows theory requires more from neighborhoods than turning on the insurgents. In order for people to feel invested in their neighborhood, responsible for its security and hopeful for its prosperity, more than "security" must take place. More than "political reconciliation" must take place. The residents must feel like they are responsible and have ownership.

MNF-Iraq - Muqdadiya: A neighborhood watch program has begun to show signs of success since its formation March 5. The program, which includes 15 villages
throughout the Muqdadiya district, hires local villagers to protect their village and
encourages the population to contact their security forces on criminal or terrorist
activity. “The idea is - to protect the village and to clear it from the armed people and insurgents,” said Dr. Abdulla al Jubouri, the former governor of Diyala and founder of the program.

Since the program began, Jubouri said there have been several signs of success
to include roads free from improvised explosive devices, fighting stopped between
what used to be rival villages, schools are re-opened, electric and water services have been repaired.

In broken windows theory, appearances are actually a very large part of the battle. Visual perception, like first impressions, can change the psychology and, thus, the behavior of a person, even whole communities and those they interact with, including would be criminals and terrorists.

Here is the Broken Windows Theory in Action in Ramadi

RAMADI, Iraq – Improving conditions in Ramadi’s Malaab, or “stadium district,” means shops are opening, schools are teaching and the garbage is piling up on the roadsides. Coalition forces have been largely successful in breaking the stranglehold terrorists held on the neck of this formerly affluent community, but the question has remained: Who’s going to take out the trash?[snip]

Even before the vehicle ban, regular trash pickups were intermittent, threatened with the ever present risk of improvised explosive devices. This, coupled with the travel restrictions, has led to heaps of rubble, garbage and other debris littering the streets. Cosmetic concerns aside, the litter posed a more serious concern for occupying forces and residents alike, improvised explosive devices. [snip]

The formula seemed logical. Cleaning the trash would cut down on hiding places for IEDs, making the area for service members and locals alike. Only now, with a diminished insurgent presence, is this cleanup possible.

“We just finished a large clearance operation, so a lot of people are able to come out now,” Lively said. “There’s a little more security now from the enemy activity, and now today, the civilians have asked us to come out and help them.”

The major catalyst for the cleanup has turned out to be the neighborhood residents themselves. Under the protection of Coalition troops, citizens came out in force eager to clean up their community. Wielding shovels, brooms and rakes, adults and children alike tackled the mounds of refuse with a will. Backhoes and garbage trucks operated by Iraqi police and soldiers cruised the streets, bringing towering heaps of trash to an impromptu landfill.

Appearance makes a huge difference, not only to the residents, but to those who would act criminally or be a terrorist in the area. Prosperous appearances not only give hope to the residents, but take it away from the crimnals and terrorists. Prosperity means that the community cares, is active and is watching. Watched communities are less susceptible to crime, thus, terrorism. Visible police and other security apparatus adds to the over all perception along with not letting any crime be considered "acceptable".

Third and finally, is economics. Jobs must be available. It does not have to be a large manufacturer. Micro-economics can move a communities economic status into that next level, one that is, if not making the people wealthy or even "middle class", providing a sustainable, stable and steady income.

One example of micro-economics can be seen in this book about Beauty Salons in Kabul, Afghanistan.

In Iraqs current climate, this must be a cash business, portable and/or appropriate for Iraq. Should be small businesses that require little cash to start up. This is where NGOs and other charitable organizations would be usefull.

It could include such things as basic services, including trash clean up, for the community. The important aspects is to make crime expensive and honest work lucrative. It has to take the young men off the streets and out of the potential hands of the insurgents.

This is on a micro level. The problem that we continue to have has been the "big" projects, like electric grids, that never could and will not in the near future, provide effective supply to Iraq for years due to its size and condition (however slowly it may be improving, it can't keep up with the demand, even in relatively peaceful and prosperous Kurdistan). It may need to be done, but what people needed was a way to survive immediately and that survivability is not only security, but money. The way they get the money is the question.

Plant an IED? Or, make shoes? Smuggle blackmarket items or manufacture bottled water? (a must in Iraq considering its sewage and water treatment problems).

Run a local five and dime? Or, kidnapping?

That is Broken Windows Theory in a nutshell.

Firefight in Afghanistan: Dutch and Afghans duke it out with Taliban

Firefight in Afghanistan: Dutch and Afghans duke it out with Taliban (video)

Taliban are apparently very bad shots. Something we've heard before.

Local Military News: Kansas and Missouri

Missouri honored it's veterans on Tuesday, April 10th. A rally supporting the troops was held after the event to honor 50 veterans and 77 Missourians who have died since 2003.

“Supporting Troops - Past, Present and Future” echoed throughout Tuesday's events at the Missouri State Capitol.

The ninth Support Your Troops event wrapped up the day with a somber show of appreciation, including the Boone County Pipes and Drums echoing through the Capitol Rotunda, for the 77 Missouri soldiers who have paid the ultimate sacrifice in the War on Terror. [snip]

A ceremony in the House Chambers presented more than 50 servicemen from all eras, military branches and components with House Resolution 768 recognizing their service.

And the Missouri Veterans Stories Project was unveiled in the Rotunda.

Past commission leadership, Patriot Guard riders, veterans of all backgrounds, state elected officials and friends and family of lost service members gathered for the various recognition events.

More on the Rally

Fifty-seven veterans, whose service stretched from World War II to the Iraq war, were individually announced and presented with a state proclamation detailing their service during a ceremony in the House chamber. Several House members, including Speaker Rod Jetton, are veterans, and two lawmakers who have served in Iraq received official recognition.

Later Tuesday, the ceremonies continued with a drill performance and an evening rally with speeches by several military and political leaders.

Bercina Garstang, who was standing with a small American flag outside the Capitol on Tuesday, said she had come, in part, to honor her son who is on his third deployment in Iraq.

Garstang said her 21-year-old son enlisted in the Marines out of high school and has been injured several times and has not been home in more than two years.

Veterans "have done so much for our country - we owe them a lot for us having our peace of mind here," she said. "We need to stand behind them."

Garstang, from Chamois, said that since her son went to war, ceremonies to thank veterans have a new meaning.[snip]

Retired Lt. Col. Les Spangler said the recognition in the morning ceremony was a long time in coming for many of the state's veterans, whose service in Korea and Vietnam has only been recognized in recent years.

"It grabs you right by the heart to think the state would stop and give recognition and appreciation," he said.

Spangler, enlisted in 1952 and graduated from officer candidate school in 1954. He served in Europe, Korea and Vietnam with the 82nd Airborne division.

He said that the current environment and controversy surrounding the Iraq war makes it especially important to thank military forces to ensure troops do not think their efforts are being ignored.

"I know what happened to me in Vietnam. When I saw that the government didn't want the war, the media wasn't all that supportive of Vietnam, it trickled down to the people, and I don't want to see that happen," Spangler said.

Wounded soldier among Tuesday's honored veterans

Robert “Weston” Schubert clutched an engagement ring in his right hand as Erica entered his room at Walter Reed Medical Center.

He held it out to slide on her ring finger.

No words needed to be spoken in that solidifying moment between the 23 year olds who have been best friends since age 9 - they couldn't have been spoken.

U.S. Army Spc. Schubert was recovering from an Iraqi sniper's fire, which went through his neck and out his mouth. But he was relieved that Erica and his family were still by his side.[snip]

On convalescence leave, Schubert was able to accept a proclamation at the Capitol on Tuesday as part of the celebration of the Missouri Veterans Commission's 75th anniversary.

Noticeably thin - he has lost 40 pounds since December - and with apparent facial injuries, Schubert's peers of the past and present gave him a round of applause as a record of his service was read aloud.

Yet, Schubert - a recipient of two Purple Hearts - noted it was the older veterans, those who were applauding him, that he admired.

“When they read that a World War II veteran was in the infantry in the German theater, that tells me he's gone through a lot,” Schubert said.

“People look at me like a hero, that's fine. But I look to them as my heroes.”

Generations of Missourians Serve

Families like the Dayringers have shared a military heritage that spans generations and branches.

Joe, Paula, their two sons, his father and his uncle all were honored Tuesday as part of the “A Grateful Nation Remembers” veterans recognition ceremony in the Missouri House Chambers.

The Dayringers were among more than 50 veterans from across the state honored as part of the 75th anniversary celebration of the Missouri Veterans Commission.

Listen to the Lessons of World War I

Ninety years ago this month, another generation of young Americans answered the call to war.

They went willingly, infused with a sense of purpose in a just cause. But they were naïve and enthusiastic and unmindful of the nature of war. Grand adventure awaited them.

The grinding horrors they experienced on the battlefields of France would soon disabuse them of those notions.

But the hard lessons learned by the generation that fought “The war to end all wars” have faded away along with the lives of those who experienced it.

Now, as another April dawns, comes news that of an army of millions mustered in 1917 and 1918 to make the world safe for democracy, only three old men remain.

Who will be left to remember what they did when the last of them passes on?

Well, we in Kansas City have that opportunity thanks to the Liberty Memorial and our National World War I Museum. It’s a chance that we should embrace.

The museum is now being considered to host a commemoration ceremony when the last of the veterans is gone. And starting later this month, the museum is helping to host a series of forums and lectures by noted historians to discuss “The Legacy of the Great War: 90 Years On.”[snip]

Although it seems so long ago, so remote from our own time, we can’t afford to forget the World War I generation.

Jay Winter, one of the participants in the Kansas City presentations, has said you can’t understand our world today without knowing that its roots are firmly planted in the Great War.

From its ashes rose the Nazi movement, the greatest evil to ever blot human history. The Russian revolution and eventually the Cold War were its progeny. And so much of the strife in the Middle East today can be traced to decisions made during the war.

It has become a cliché to say that those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it, but in so many ways that’s true.

Since 1918, humankind has proved that again and again and again

Missouri Mystery from World War II is Cleared

More than 60 years after his disappearance, Staff Sgt. Norman L. Nell finally will be memorialized.

Nell, of Tarkio, Mo., was only 21 when he disappeared in April 1944 during a World War II mission over New Guinea. He was a U.S. Army crewman on a B-24 Liberator, and his plane was altering course in bad weather and disappeared without a trace — until the wreckage was found in 2001.

Remains of the 10 crewmen had never been identified.

Until now.

The U.S. Department of Defense recently announced that remains of the 10 crew members have finally been identified.[snip]

According to the Department of Defense, Nell’s crew had just bombed enemy targets near Hollandia (now called Jayapura) and was returning to the aerodrome at Nadzab, New Guinea. Bad weather forced the aircraft to alter its course, and the crew never returned to friendly lines.

In late 2001, the U.S. Embassy in Papua New Guinea notified the Department of Defense that wreckage of a World War II bomber had been found in Morobe province. That set in motion a chain of events that, over several years, led to this week’s formal identification.

Officials even found Nell’s high school class ring, which will be sent to Schreiner.

Man Posing as a Marine gets 2 Years Probation

A St. Louis man who posed as a Marine and wore military medals not awarded to him was sentenced Tuesday to two years of probation on a federal charge.

Michael Gerald Weilbacher, 48, will also serve 120 hours of community service at a military organization and pay a $3,000 fine. He pleaded guilty Feb. 1.

Weilbacher appeared at the U.S. Marine Corps Ball on Nov. 11 wearing several medals and decorations.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Crime, Small Wars and Broken Windows Theory

Reading an article Tuesday, I noted some comments that reminded me of a post I wrote in 2005 (right before Kilcullen wrote 28 Articles) that was, if not dead on, at least intuitive to the plan that was developed and is being implemented by Gen. Petraeus starting in January.

Marine General says: Anbar Getting Better

Still, on his visit Conway was told by numerous American commanders throughout Anbar that the tide had shifted against the extremist group al-Qaida in Iraq when Sunni tribal sheiks who previously opposed U.S. forces decided to start cooperating instead.

Some commanders said the extremists' key misstep was to interfere with the locals' black market trading, which al-Qaida co-opted in order to finance itself. Anbar stretches west from Baghdad to the borders with Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

The new cooperation has enabled U.S. forces in recent months to clear extremist elements from even the most violent areas, including Ramadi, and to put more Iraqi forces on the streets, Conway was told. Cooperation by the sheiks also has quickly created a Sunni police force in areas where none existed before.

I wrote in June 2005, Converging War and Tactics

Criminal Rings: These are either an amalgem of many groups or tribal activity with entire tribes participating in one manner or the other. These supply materials, smuggle people, money, information, etc over known smuggle routes. These largely participate based on the money factor and make money from all three of the above noted groups with the largest monetary gain from the Jihadists and Ba'athists. Have no real loyalty or ideological support of any of the first two, though may have more loyalty to tribal groups considering their interactive capabilities.

I wrote the ways to combat these situations:

If I was in the border areas near Iran, Saudi Arabia, Jordan or Syria, I would look at ways of infiltrating the smuggling gangs. These gangs work on money, just like drug, car thief and other gangs in the US. The same are in Iraq, but difficulties may arise because many of these gangs are tribal efforts and infiltrating a tribe would be difficult. Thus, to fight this aspect of the war, money, large quantities of money would have to be available to buy them off. Also, the possibility of making money "legitimately" by helping these smuggling groups develop business opportunities that would net them comparative or near to comparative profits.

An Iraqi blogger (blog gone) made the same complaint about crime and the insurgency at the same time- Iraq Criminals and the Insurgency:

Not just terrorist attacks that has been reduced but even regular crimes, as it seems that part of the operation is focusing on capturing regular criminals who are in addition to their usual criminal activities do form, in my mind, the right hand for the Ba'athists.[snip]

Back to operation lightning, a few days ago I witnessed one of these raids by the IP against some thugs in our neighborhood who were apparently part of a big gang specialized in kidnappings and selling arms.

I wrote a similar concern over at the Small Wars Journal in response to several of Kilcullen's posts on the Surge and the actual strategy that was being implemented (largely, a guerilla war version of "Broken Windows"):

One of the most frustrating parts of the iraq strategy and tactics has been watching the "crime" go unaddressed as if crimes such as theft, hijacking, black market, smuggling, car theft, etc. have little to do with terrorists, insurgents or militia. As in the US, these crimes are usually linked to much bigger crimes and criminal rings. It cannot go unknown that smugglers are likely bringing in money, weapons and even fighters to all three spheres that Kilcullen indicated.

It's also likely that these criminal rings selling blackmarket goods are using the money to fund all three of the spheres (insurgent, terrorist, sectarian violence) or being "shook down" for "protection money" that also goes towards larger acts.

Men and boys loitering on the streets, painting graffiti, etc are most likely to either a) be part of the local criminal/terrorist activity or b) susceptible to blandishments or money to participate in some small way including acting as look outs, transporting money, weapons and people, etc, etc.

All of this talk of crime and its effects might seem petty in regards to the "real shooting war" with the guerillas, but I assure you, it is a very important part of the "perception of security" as well as "battling insurgents".

Insurgents have to fund their activities like everyone else. There are only three ways to fund an army: a) pillaging resources and supplies from the local community (sometimes referred to as "foraging", but in this instance, more like "pillaging" as thought of during medeival warfare and movement of armies) or b) commerce (legitimate or otherwise) or c) underwriting by outside nations or actors. Or, in this case, a little of all three. Some more than others.

Illegitimate commerce is the most practical way for an insurgency to fund it's local activities through co-oping blackmarket activities. There are no taxes, they set the prices and their market is boundless in a depressed, war time economy. In the case that was noted above in the "Marine" article, these tribal gangs may be totally in the pocket of the insurgents (such as the six tribes that have not yet pledged to the Awakening Council) or, as noted, being pushed out once they had acquiesced to demands or agreements with the insurgents. In short, the insurgents have pushed out the "middle man".

In another Small Wars Journal article - Iraq's Real Civil War, Bing West wrote:

In Anbar, AQI became the occupier, shaking down truck drivers and extorting shop owners. In the young sheik's zone, AQI controlled the fuel market. Each month, 10 trucks with 80,000 gallons of heavily subsidized gasoline and five trucks with kerosene were due to arrive. Instead, AQI diverted most shipments to Jordan or Syria where prices were higher, netting $10,000 per shipment and antagonizing 30,000 shivering townspeople. No local cop dared to make an arrest. The tribal power structure, built over centuries, was shoved aside. Sheiks who objected were shot or blown up, while others fled.[snip]

Led by Sheik Abu Sittar, who has called this an "awakening," the tribes believed they were joining the winners.

Politics in Baghdad have swirled around reinstating former Baathists to their prior jobs, thereby supposedly diminishing the insurgency. The central government, though, has given Anbar such paltry funds that jobs are scant, Baathist or not. In Anbar, reconciliation theories count far less than that eternal adage: Show me the money.

When the sheiks delivered thousands of police recruits, they consolidated their patrimonial power by providing jobs, plus pocketing a fee rumored at $400 paid by each recruit. The tribal police then provided security that permitted American civic action projects profitable to contractors connected, of course, to the sheiks.

You can read the rest of what I wrote in 2005 Converging War and Tactics, including thoughts on what is now called PiTTs (Police Transition Teams) and MiTTs (Military Transition Teams). I also suggest reading Tipping Points and this original post on Broken Windows Theory to understand parts of the strategy that must be implemented in order to "win".

A big part of this is going to be putting together the "connections" for the criminal and tribal rings, both inside and outside of Iraq. Another aspect would be to implement an organized crime team and system (computer or other) that tracked these connections and was accessible. I believe we have obviously done something of this nature in order to determine those tribes that would be most willing to work with us. It was a similar method that was used to capture Saddam. Basically, by identifying the people around Saddam and then making a simple organization chart. In fact, they had originally tried to find Saddam through using a complicated computer tracking system that took in thousands of pieces of information, but turned out to be unusable due to the amount and inability to correlate so many points.

It turned out that the simplest connections (tribe and family - like Occam's razor) were the correct answers.

In this case, I believe it would be appropriate to take the next step in undercutting the insurgents financial support by looking over the organized crime connections of the tribes and working to undermine or shut it down. That will require both "policing" and "economics".

Another important aspect that Bing mentions and has to be worked over is the committment and follow through of the Central government in Baghdad to the Sunni al Anbar tribes for reconstruction and money. The money and committment must come from Baghdad. If Baghdad does not make the committment, then there is no reason for the Sunni's to committ to the government. They need protection, both from Al Qaeda and from the Shia extremists who are "cleansing" the Sunni, blame the AQI attacks on the Sunni and who want to realize the total government control of Baghdad and Iraq. The Shia extremists, as portrayed by al Sadr, want to insure the Sunni are weak so that they do not ever have to fear their return to government and power over the Shia.

In "Broken Windows", when New York cleaned up its crime and criminals, it took six years. It took numerous forays into the same neighborhoods, over and over. It took committment. It rolled from neighborhood to neighborhood in slow motion. And many times, people despaired it would ever work. It required doing all of the "little things" and making them as important as the "big" if not more so.

In Iraq, it is not the things that you see on TV everyday. It is not the shootings or bombings, it is not the street to street, house to house battles or helicopters being shot down or shooting into buildings full of insurgents. though, as each neighborhood is taken or its control by insurgents challenged, battles will take place in Baghdad; the battles that we expected on April 10, 2003 are taking place April 10, 2007.

Read also some general comments by Malcolm Gladwell on "Tipping Points". Pay close attention to his comments on "memes as a virus". It paricularly reflects another posting at Small Wars regarding IEDs: Viral Targeting of IED Social Networks. Also, a brief discussion by Gladwell on "Yawns" and contagious diseases.

Really, if you haven't read Malcolm Gladwell's Tipping Points you are way behind the learning curve for this strategy.

Quick review of the Tipping Points reading guide.

18. The Power of context infers that epidemics are sensitive to the conditions and circumstances of the times and places in which they occur. Are certain individuals more sensitive to their environment than others? Think of examples of behavior as a function of social context. How often or to what extent does the environment dictate your behavior i.e. your conduct when at the opera versus being at a baseball game?
19. The Broken Windows Theory argues that crime is the inevitable result of disorder. It suggests that crime is contagious. Do you agree or do you think this risks excusing a criminal’s culpability?
20. Most conservative theories say that the criminal is a personality type whereas the Broken Windows theory and Power of Context suggest the opposite – the criminal is actually someone acutely sensitive to his environment and who is prompted to
commit crimes based on his perceptions of the world around him. Which theory do you believe?

Cross referenced at the Castle and Thunder Run

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Walking and Talking History

On April 7, 2007, Soldiers' Angels in Kansas City met with the American Legion Riders of Post 370 to finalize details for Operation Aces High: Poker Run for Our Wounded Troops (see updates to information including one of the prizes).

After the meeting was adjourned, Angel Julie O. and I had an opportunity to talk to two veterans and members of the American Legion about their service and some unique history.

On my previous visit to Post 370, I met Rosie the Riveter. Saturday, Julie and I were fortunate to meet Jerry Raymond, Yeoman, United States Navy (ret) and Bob Warner, Petty Officer, United States Navy (ret). Both of these gentlemen are former commanders of Post 370 in Overland Park, Kansas and Mr. Warner is the chairman of the House Committee that approves projects and programs for this American Legion post.

I hope you enjoy this Audio/Photo presentation: Walking, Talking History.

Ronda G provided Soldiers' Angel's Pins and Soldiers' Angel's Coins in appreciation for Mr. Raymond and Mr. Warner's time given for the interview and excellent service to our country.

Someday, our serving men and women will have stories of their own to tell about their time serving our nation in these days of peril. Please help us make Soldiers' Angels and the unwavering support of our nation a part of that story.

Soldier's Angels provides support through letters, care packages, First Response Back Packs for the wounded, Blankets of Hope, Project VALOUR IT and many other great programs for our men and women in the military as well as their families.

Adopt a soldier, sailor, airman or marine today or make a donation so our heroes know that their sacrifices have not gone unnoticed and we support them.

To learn more about the history Jerry and Bob shared with us, please visit these sites:

Korean War
USS Coral Sea
USS Coral Sea Association
SB2C Helldiver: Last of the Dive Bombers
World War II
USS DuPage
Battle of Okinawa
World War I: Best Websites
The 40 and 8

History of the Gratitude (Merci) Train
History of the "Merci" Box Car
Holly City, Florida Boxcar Memorial Park (Highly Recommended)

Writing from a Paris hospital, Louis Brunel, a 24 year old veteran, paralyzed by wounds, spoke for his countryman: "I feel the need to tell you what the French people want to express to your great country by this symbolic train."

To you Americans who have done so much, given so much to our children, the aged and the people of France, it is affectionate thanks, the sincere gratitude of my country. This train, made up of cars that your GI's know well, is a token of our affection, of our friendship to all of your 48 states. Each one of these cars.. will tell those of you who know us, that we do not forget. And to those of you who never come to our land, may it bring a message from the people of France to all the people of the U.S.A. In dawn of 1949, I see in this gesture of friendship more than an omen, more than a message, in it I see a pledge that men can love and understand each other when they silence their self interest and only listen to their hearts."

Boxcars Full of Gratitude
Oregan Train Restored and Relocated
Nevada Merci Boxcar Saved
Rhode Island Boxcar Restoration and History Project
Volunteers have added several other interactive exhibits to educate them about the wartime experience. One kiosk will include interviews with veterans from southern New England.

One, an Army man named Julien Mitchell, described what it was to ride in the "40 & 8" boxcar, so named because each could fit either 40 servicemen on a straw floor, or eight horses.

"The only way to sleep was head to foot in two lines across the car," he related. "Often, a heavy boot would be in your face."

Worse was when the soldiers rode in cars that had carried the horses. "The odor of their waste was still present, ground into the floor and walls," Mitchell recalled. "I always tried to be near a door or over a crack for fresh air."

Cross referenced at the Castle and Soldiers' Angels KC