Category Archive 'Strategy'
07 Sep 2017

What It Would Take to Win

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Lorenzo Barteloni, statue of Niccolò Macchiavelli, Uffizi Gallery, Florence.

What a shame it is that US presidents from George W. Bush on did not read, and deal with Islamic terrorism on the basis of the wisdom contained in, Angelo M. Codevilla’s 2001 essay.

Common sense does not mistake the difference between victory and defeat: the losers weep and cower, while the winners strut and rejoice. The losers have to change their ways, the winners feel more secure than ever in theirs. On September 12, retiring Texas Senator Phil Gramm encapsulated this common sense: “I don’t want to change the way I live. I want to change the way they live.” Common sense says that victory means living without worry that some foreigners might kill us on behalf of their causes, but also without having to bow to domestic bureaucrats and cops, especially useless ones. It means not changing the tradition by which the government of the United States treats citizens as its masters rather than as potential enemies. Victory requires killing our enemies, or making them live in debilitating fear.

A must-read.

17 Nov 2015

A Modest Proposal

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Joel Taylor quotes Dr. Robert Morey’s proposal:

The terrorists and terrorist nations such as Saudi Arabia only fear one thing: the destruction of the religion of Islam. There is nothing in this life that has greater value to them than Islam. They are willing to sacrifice and even die to promote Islam. This religious motivation is the engine that drives the Jihad against us.

The path to Paradise, according to the Five Pillars of Islam, involves the city of Mecca and its stone temple called the Kabah. Muslims pray toward Mecca five times a day. What if Mecca didn’t exist anymore?

They must make a pilgrimage to Mecca and engage in an elaborate set of rituals centered around the Kabah once they arrive. What if Mecca and the Kabah were only blackened holes in the ground?

What if Medina, the burial place of Muhammad was wiped off the face of the planet?

What if the Dome Mosque on the Temple site in Jerusalem was blown up?

The greatest weakness of Islam is that it is hopelessly tied to sacred cities and buildings. If these cities and buildings were destroyed, Islam would die within a generation as it would be apparent to all that its god could not protect the three holiest sites in Islam. …

The US government and its allies must agree that this is the final solution to the Muslim problem. We must tell all terrorist groups that the next time they destroy the lives and properties of Americans at home or abroad, we will destroy Mecca, Medina and Dome Mosque. They will be responsible for destroying the three most holy sites in Islam and bringing the religion to its knees.

We must tell all the Muslim countries that are presently supporting and harboring terrorists that if they do not cease and desist at once, we will destroy the heart of their religion.

Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Islamic world would, for the first time in their bloody history of oppression and tyranny, have to give civil rights and human rights to women and non-Islamic religions. They would have to allow their people to decide for themselves what religion, if any, they want in their lives. The “religious police” would be disbanded.

All Islamic laws would have to give way to the UN declaration on human rights, civil rights, women’s rights and freedom of religion. Once Muslim governments took their foot off the neck of their people, millions of Muslims would convert to Christianity as they have had enough of oppression and violence from their Imams and Mullahs.”

01 Sep 2015

Guardian Takes Down West Point Law Professor

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The hadj will now culminate at a glowing crater.

Last Saturday, the left-wing British Guardian launched a full-scale marginalizing and discrediting attack on William C. Bradford, an assistant law professor teaching at the US Military Academy at West Point.

The attack on Bradford was occasioned by his publication of an academic paper last April which made a couple of colorful and controversial proposals.

An assistant professor in the law department of the US military academy at West Point has argued that legal scholars critical of the war on terrorism represent a “treasonous” fifth column that should be attacked as enemy combatants.

In a lengthy academic paper, the professor, William C Bradford, proposes to threaten “Islamic holy sites” as part of a war against undifferentiated Islamic radicalism. That war ought to be prosecuted vigorously, he wrote, “even if it means great destruction, innumerable enemy casualties, and civilian collateral damage”.

Other “lawful targets” for the US military in its war on terrorism, Bradford argues, include “law school facilities, scholars’ home offices and media outlets where they give interviews” – all civilian areas, but places where a “causal connection between the content disseminated and Islamist crimes incited” exist.

“Shocking and extreme as this option might seem, [dissenting] scholars, and the law schools that employ them, are – at least in theory – targetable so long as attacks are proportional, distinguish noncombatants from combatants, employ nonprohibited weapons, and contribute to the defeat of Islamism,” Bradford wrote. …

[A] clique of about forty” scholars, Bradford writes, have “converted the US legal academy into a cohort whose vituperative pronouncements on the illegality of the US resort to force and subsequent conduct in the war against Islamism” represent a “super-weapon that supports Islamist military operations” aimed at “American political will” to fight. They are supported by “compliant journalists” marked by “defeatism, instinctive antipathy to war, and empathy for American adversaries”, but Bradford considers the lawyers a greater threat.

The offending legal scholars “effectively tilt the battlefield against US forces [and] contribute to timorousness and lethargy in US military commanders”, he writes. They are among several “useful idiots” who “separate Islam from Islamists by attributing to the former principles in common with the West, including ‘justice and progress’ and ‘the dignity of all human beings’”. …

The West Point faculty member urges the US to wage “total war” on “Islamism”, using “conventional and nuclear force and [psychological operations]”, in order to “leave them prepared to coexist with the West or be utterly eradicated”. He suggests in a footnote that “threatening Islamic holy sites might create deterrence, discredit Islamism, and falsify the assumption that decadence renders Western restraint inevitable”.

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Bradford’s paper: Trahison des Professeurs: The Critical Law of Armed Conflict Academy as an Islamist Fifth Column

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The Guardian’s hatchet job appeared on Saturday, and the next day Bradford was being bundled out the door of West Point, whose representatives were busily disavowing ever having known him.

Yesterday, the Guardian was gloating and finishing up a thorough job of carpet-bombing the heretic’s reputation.

‘Dr William Bradford resigned on Sunday,’ army lieutenant colonel Christopher Kasker, a West Point spokesman, told the Guardian on Monday. Bradford had taught five lessons for cadets in a common-core law course, from 17 to 27 August.

We are given to understand that Bradford is, naturally, some kind of complete crackpot and congenital liar. Bradford, you see, is alleged to have exaggerated his academical positions (never a problem in the case of University of Chicago Law Professor Barack Obama) and –with no actual proof– his military service.

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The Atlantic also piled on, noting that the National Security Law Journal had decided to denounce Bradford’s paper as an “egregious breach of professional decorum” unworthy of publication, to repudiate it, and to publish a four-page denunciation of the Bradford paper by Jeremy Rabkin.

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Rules for Radicals 13: “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.”

20 Apr 2015

“Osama Won”

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BinLadin

David Samuels, in an important essay, argues that Osama bin Laden out-strategized a series of dimbulb American administrations, astutely predicting precisely how they would respond.

judging from his last known private letter, dated April 25, 2011, Bin Laden died a happy man. “What we are witnessing these days of consecutive revolutions is a great and glorious event,” he mused, after watching the fall of the secular, Western-backed regimes in Tunisia and Egypt, which he watched on CNN, before the daring Navy SEAL raid on his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. “[T]hanks to Allah things are strongly heading toward the exit of Muslims from being under the control of America.”

Even at this late date, it seems difficult for American policymakers to grasp exactly how Bin Laden’s mastery of the inherently paradoxical logic of warfare—a logic very different than the linear cause-and-effect style of reasoning that governs normal life and electoral politics alike—allowed a man without a country, heavy weapons, or even broadband Internet access to reshape the world to his advantage. The clarity of Bin Laden’s strategic insight, which now seems obvious, also suggests that the dynamic that he deliberately set in motion is still unfolding, in ways that he foresaw before his death—ways that continue to roil the Middle East and will continue to pose a threat to the safety of Americans at home. …

Bin Laden was never shy about explaining what he was doing and why. His public statements about his strategic logic and goals in targeting “the far enemy” remained remarkably consistent, from his first fatwa against America until the last letter he wrote before his death. In his 1996 “Declaration of War Against the Americans Occupying the Land of the Two Holy Places,” published soon after the Khobar Towers bombings in Saudi Arabia, he explained that “it is essential to hit the main enemy who divided the Ummah”—the Muslim world—“into small and little countries and pushed it, for the last few decades, into a state of confusion.”

America’s response to an attack would be to get sucked into a war, he predicted—and when the going got tough, the United States would cut and run. Responding to then-U.S. Defense Sec. William Perry, who had called the Khobar bombers cowards and had sworn not to give in, Bin Laden asked, “Where was this false courage of yours when the explosion in Beirut took place on 1983 AD (1403 A.H). You were turned into scattered pits and pieces at that time; 241 Marine soldiers were killed.” …

In public and private following the Sept. 11 attacks, he returned to the same themes, over and over again, in at least three-quarters of his public statements and in private letters to other jihadists that were seized from his compound in Abbotabad and later made public. “The goal is to weaken America until it can no longer interfere in Muslims affairs,” he explained, in a letter whose contents were entirely typical of his communications. “Once the American enemy has been defeated, our next step would be targeting the region’s leaders who had been the pillars of support for that American hegemony.”

It is proof of Bin Laden’s mastery of the unexpected logic that animates strategic thought, and of the glaring inability of America’s political leaders to think strategically, that not one but two American presidents have faithfully acted their roles in his geo-political script: George W. Bush, the hawk, with his open-ended and heavy-handed occupation of Iraq; and Barack Obama, the dove, with his precipitous and wholesale withdrawal of American military forces and influence from the Middle East. Both men—and their many advisers—should have known better.

Read the whole thing. It’s depressing reading and hard to argue with.

Hat tip to Claire Berlinski.

10 Jan 2015

Ralph Peters on How to Defeat Islamic Terrorism

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11 Aug 2014

China’s Strategic Goal: “All Under Heaven”

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Tianxia
Tianxia (天下) “All Under Heaven”.

Edward Luttwak, in a very learned essay on “The Cycles—or Stages—of Chinese History,” published by the Hoover Institution, describes the Chinese version of “Balance of Power” theory.

Tianxia (whose logographs 天下…). Literally “under heaven,” short for “all under heaven” or more meaningfully, “the rule of all humans,” it defines an ideal national and international system of ever-expanding concentric circles centered on a globally benevolent emperor, now Xi Jinping or more correctly perhaps, the seven-headed standing committee of the Politburo.

The innermost circle of the Tianxia is formed by the rest of the Politburo and top Beijing officialdom, while its outermost circle comprises the Solomon Islands along with the twenty or so other utterly benighted “outer barbarian” countries that still do not recognize Beijing, preferring Taipei. In between, all other Chinese from officials and tycoons to ordinary subjects and overseas Chinese fit in their own circles, further and further from the imperial coreas do foreign states both large and small, both near and far, both already respectful (too few) and those still arrogantly vainglorious. It is the long-range task of China’s external policy to bring each and every state into a proper relationship with the emperor—that is, a tributary relationship, in which they deliver goods and services if only as tokens of fealty, in exchange for security and prosperity, but even more for the privilege of proximity to the globally benevolent emperor1. All this is of course nothing more than an exceptionally elaborate rendition of universal ambitions that are merely grander for the greater—the Byzantine ranking of foreign potentates by their proximity to the emperor was only slightly less elaborate.

Nor is there anything peculiarly Chinese about the desire to bring other states into a tributary relationship—often better than a full incorporation, which may be unwanted for any number of reasons, and obviously superior to an alliance however close and secure but between equals, whereby there must be reciprocity, a quid for every quo, usually costly or irksome in some way. Hence from time immemorial, stronger clans, tribes, potentates, and entire nations have done their best to impose tributary relations on weaker clans, tribes, potentates and nations, obtaining goods and services for their forbearance and perhaps protection, or at least tokens of respectful subordination. Chinese emperors wanted no more than that, and unlike most recipients, not infrequently gave gifts more valuable than the tribute they received (as did many Byzantine emperors, by the way).

What is peculiar to China’s political culture, and of very great contemporary relevance is the centrality within it of a very specific doctrine on how to bring powerful foreigners—indeed foreigners initially more powerful than the empire—into a tributary relationship.

Be sure to read on in order to find out how it would be applied to us.

04 Mar 2014

How Ukraine Can Defend Herself

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Ukraine lacks a modern mechanized and air-supported military capable of taking on Russia but, as Dr. Waller notes, Ukraine does not necessarily have to do that. Russia’s economy and influence over Europe depends on energy sales to European countries. That energy is delivered by Russian pipelines crossing Ukraine.

Here’s what Ukraine should do:

1. Send loyalist forces and pipeline engineers to occupy all Gazprom pipeline compressor stations, valve stations, and regulator stations.

2. Close the valves of one or more major pipelines, to demonstrate capability.

3. Issue orders to shut down entire pipelines by closing the valves and disabling them if necessary.

4. Plant demolition charges along the pipelines in remote areas, to detonate in the event it is necessary to destroy them.

The results will be catastrophic for both Europe and Russia.

For Russia, it would show that Ukraine effectively controls the single largest source of Russia’s hard currency inflows.

When Putin sent forces into Ukraine, he caused Gazprom’s market value to tank $15 billion in just one day.

Think, then, of how powerful the mere suggestion of a Ukrainian cutoff of gas would be on Gazprom, the Russian state, and the oligarchs who own the most shares of the company.

The results would also cause Europe to pay Ukraine some of the respect that was lost when Kyiv surrendered its nuclear weapons back to Moscow more than two decades ago. Ukraine could finally show that it isn’t just Moscow that controls Europe’s natural gas supply.

Ukraine can safeguard what’s left of its natural integrity – and even force Putin to remove Russian forces from the country completely – by building the easy capability to destroy the pipelines completely, should Putin remain the aggressor. Meanwhile, Ukraine can show its restraint as a responsible actor in the midst of a severe national crisis, earning more serious attention to the increasingly finlandized Europe. (Keep in mind that senior political figures, such as former German socialist chancellor Gerhard Schröder, is on the Gazprom payroll.)

By showing that it can – and will – shut down or wreck Gazprom’s gas lines crisscrossing its territory, Ukraine will be defeating the enemy without fighting him at all.

29 Jun 2012

Roberts Opinion: Not So Much a Surrender As a Kind of Diabolical Strategy

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Paul Rahe makes a very interesting argument that John Roberts only appeared to cave. That, in reality, the Chief Justice was playing a diabolically clever long game strategy which involved permanently gutting Congressional illegitimate exploitation of the Commerce Clause while only apparently surrendering on Obamacare. Roberts, he contends, vastly enhanced the authority and immunity to liberal attacks of the Court, while dealing a deadly blow to the regulatory administrative state, and yet, hidden in the Tax Powers interpretation, astute commentators are able to identify aspects of the opinion boding very, very ill for Obamacare.

Most conservatives … suspect that John Roberts did not have the stomach to confront the President and his party. See, for example, Joel Pollak’s post Did Roberts Give in to Obama’s Bullying? Moreover, there is evidence that the opinion authored by Justice Scalia was originally a majority opinion. Roberts was forced to back off. His was an act of judicial cowardice. …

Or was it merely a recognition of the weakness of the judicial branch? … Roberts is very much concerned with sustaining the legitimacy and influence of the Court, and Obama and the Democrats have made it clear that they would regard a decision overturning Obamacare as a declaration of war.

There is, I am confident, more to it than this. In his opinion, the Chief Justice affirmed the principle asserted by Justices Kennedy, Alito, Scalia, and Thomas. He made it clear that the commerce clause does not give Congress authority over economic activity that we do not engage in. He also made it clear that the necessary and proper clause cannot be applied to achieve this end. In short, he joined these four Justices in setting a clear limit to the commerce clause, and he paved the way for future challenges to extensions of the regulatory state.

At the same time, he dodged the political firestorm, and nearly all of the liberals who have commented on the matter – a slow-thinking lot, in my opinion – have applauded what they take to be cowardice on his part as “judiciousness.” Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit was among the first to recognize that Roberts might be playing an elaborate game. … Reynolds pointed to one crucial fact: [Emphasis added] Senate rules do not allow a filibuster when the bill under consideration has to do with imposing or repealing a tax. If the Republicans take the Senate and the Presidency, they can now repeal the individual mandate. They will not need sixty votes.

[Another crucial detail] The version of Obamacare that became law originated in the Senate. The Constitution stipulates that all tax bills must originate in the House. [It is possible to] file another suit arguing that the mandate is unconstitutional because the Senate cannot originate tax bills.

05 Oct 2010

We Should Boil the Sea that Terrorism Swims in

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Stratfor’s George Friedman discusses the purpose and significance of the October 3rd alert warning of possible terrorist attacks in Europe and contemplates the broader problem.

The world is awash in intelligence about terrorism. Most of it is meaningless speculation, a conversation intercepted between two Arabs about how they’d love to blow up London Bridge. The problem, of course, is how to distinguish between idle chatter and actual attack planning. There is no science involved in this, but there are obvious guidelines. Are the people known to be associated with radical Islamists? Do they have the intent and capability to conduct such an attack? Were any specific details mentioned in the conversation that can be vetted? Is there other intelligence to support the plot discussed in the conversation?

The problem is that what appears quite obvious in the telling is much more ambiguous in reality. At any given point, the government could reasonably raise the alert level if it wished. That it doesn’t raise it more frequently is tied to three things. First, the intelligence is frequently too ambiguous to act on. Second, raising the alert level warns people without really giving them any sense of what to do about it. Third, it can compromise the sources of its intelligence.

The current warning is a perfect example of the problem. We do not know what intelligence the U.S. government received that prompted the warning, and I suspect that the public descriptions of the intelligence do not reveal everything that the government knows. We do know that a German citizen was arrested in Afghanistan in July and has allegedly provided information regarding this threat, but there are likely other sources contributing to the warning, since the U.S. government considered the intelligence sufficient to cause concern. The Obama administration leaked on Saturday that it might issue the warning, and indeed it did.

The government did not recommend that Americans not travel to Europe. That would have affected the economy and infuriated Europeans. Leaving tourism aside, since tourism season is largely over, a lot of business is transacted by Americans in Europe. The government simply suggested vigilance. Short of barring travel, there was nothing effective the government could do. So it shifted the burden to travelers. If no attack occurs, nothing is lost. If an attack occurs, the government can point to the warning and the advice. Those hurt or killed would not have been vigilant.

I do not mean to belittle the U.S. government on this. Having picked up the intelligence it can warn the public or not. The public has a right to know, and the government is bound by law and executive order to provide threat information. But the reason that its advice is so vague is that there is no better advice to give. The government is not so much washing its hands of the situation as acknowledging that there is not much that anyone can do aside from the security measures travelers should already be practicing.

The alert serves another purpose beyond alerting the public. It communicates to the attackers that their attack has been detected if not penetrated, and that the risks of the attack have pyramided. Since these are most likely suicide attackers not expecting to live through the attack, the danger is not in death. It is that the Americans or the Europeans might have sufficient intelligence available to thwart the attack. From the terrorist point of view, losing attackers to death or capture while failing to inflict damage is the worst of all possible scenarios. Trained operatives are scarce, and like any strategic weapon they must be husbanded and, when used, cause maximum damage. When the attackers do not know what Western intelligence knows, their risk of failure is increased along with the incentive to cancel the attack. A government warning, therefore, can prevent an attack. …

the warning might well have served a purpose, but the purpose was not necessarily to empower citizens to protect themselves from terrorists. Indeed, there might have been two purposes. One might have been to disrupt the attack and the attackers. The other might have been to cover the government if an attack came.

In either case, it has to be recognized that this sort of warning breeds cynicism among the public. If the warning is intended to empower citizens, it engenders a sense of helplessness, and if no attack occurs, it can also lead to alert fatigue. What the government is saying to its citizenry is that, in the end, it cannot guarantee that there won’t be an attack and therefore its citizens are on their own. The problem with that statement is not that the government isn’t doing its job but that the job cannot be done. The government can reduce the threat of terrorism. It cannot eliminate it.

This brings us to the strategic point. The defeat of jihadist terror cells cannot be accomplished defensively. Homeland security can mitigate the threat, but it can never eliminate it. The only way to eliminate it is to destroy all jihadist cells and prevent the formation of new cells by other movements or by individuals forming new movements, and this requires not just destroying existing organizations but also the radical ideology that underlies them. To achieve this, the United States and its allies would have to completely penetrate a population of about 1.3 billion people and detect every meeting of four or five people planning to create a terrorist cell. And this impossible task would not even address the problem of lone-wolf terrorists. It is simply impossible to completely dominate and police the entire world, and any effort to do so would undoubtedly induce even more people to turn to terrorism in opposition to the global police state.

Will Rogers was asked what he might do to deal with the German U-boat threat in World War I. He said he would boil away the Atlantic, revealing the location of the U-boats that could then be destroyed. Asked how he would do this, he answered that that was a technical question and he was a policymaker.

Read the whole thing.

George Friedman is clever and cynical as always, but I think he’s wrong about the United States and her Western allies being unable to boil the Islamic sea.

Terrorism is really war by another name, and war is labor intensive and consequently costly. Terrorism exists because funding, weapons, material support, and ultimately safe havens are made available by the only entities capable of providing the necessary scale of support: governments.

We are in denial about the collusion of hostile states like Iran and supposedly friendly states. A major debate occurred some years ago in foreign policy and intelligence circles on the possibility of the existence of non-state actors operating in complete isolation from any state or government. The liberal side of the debate was articulated most prominently by Paul Pilar, chief of analysis at the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center, and expressed most completely in his book Terrorism and U.S. Foreign Policy.

Pilar’s position, that unicorns exist and spontaneously generate, has become the Intelligence Community’s orthodoxy and it is nonsense. The Taliban have been able to pay their fighters more than than the Afghan government pays members of its security forces. The Taliban have an estimated 20,000-30,000 fighters. $300 a month times 20,000-30,000 men is $6,000,000-$9,000,000 or $72,000,000-$108,000,000 in minimum base salaries alone per annum before adding in higher compensation for officers and ncos, arms and ammunition, clothing, rations, and medical supplies.

We have a multi-hundred million dollar per year enterprise underway in the Afghan mountains and other insurgencies operating in Iraq, in the Arabian Peninsula, in Africa, and to some extent in Europe and the United States. A certain amount of all this activity is self-funded by kidnapping, robbery, and extortion, but it must be obvious that enormous amounts of monetary and material support are coming from somewhere.

It is also obvious that what makes the expenditure on NGO terrorism possible for governments, groups, and wealthy citizens of the Islamic world is the vast transfer of wealth from the civilized and developed world exchanged for oil at artificially high prices created by the manipulation of prices and supplies by the OPEC oil cartel.

To boil the sea that terrorism swims in, the US government merely needs to destroy OPEC, return petroleum to prices to the mercies of the real world market, and thereby reduce the economic surplus that flatters Islamic egos and enables Islamic extravagances.

The first step, of course, would be to defeat the liberal security orthodoxy that protects state supporters of terrorist surrogates and immunizes them by enabling deniability.

17 Sep 2009

Cat and Tiger Strategy

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The Washington Independent admiringly quotes a good line from Harvard’s Rory Stewart aptly summing up the approach of both the current and previous adminstrations on Afghanistan.

Rory Stewart, the Afghanistan-war skeptic who heads the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard, has one advantage over his fellow witnesses at this Senate panel: he’s better with quips. Stewart compares the Obama administration’s twinning of Afghanistan and Pakistan policy to a policy of dealing with “an angry cat and a tiger,” after Brookings’ Steve Biddle reiterated his argument that the U.S.’s interests in Afghanistan are primarily about Pakistan.

“We’re beating the cat,” Stewart said, “and when you say, ‘Why are you beating the cat?’ you say, ‘It’s a cat-tiger strategy.’ But you’re beating the cat because you don’t know what to do about the tiger.”

19 Aug 2009

Greater Attrition Needed

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Francis J. “Bing” West, former Marine captain and assistant secretary of defense in the Reagan Administration, writing in Small Wars Journal, criticizes the current strategic emphasis on non-combat “nation-building” activities in Afghanistan, arguing that unless the Taliban’s leadership, supply, and manpower are physically reduced by combat, the insurgency is not simply going to go away.

I came back from my latest month in the field in Afghanistan disquieted about our basic military mission. Is the military mission to engage, push back and dismantle the Talbian networks, with population protection being a tactic to gain tips and local militia, or is the military mission to build a nation by US soldiers protecting the widespread population, with engagements against the Taliban as a byproduct?

It appears our strategy is nation-building, with fighting and dismantling of the Taliban a secondary consideration. Thus, the number of enemy killed will not be counted, let alone used as a metric. This non-kinetic theory of counterinsurgency has persuaded the liberal community in America to support or at least not to vociferously oppose the war. But we have to maintain a balance between messages that gain domestic support and messages that direct battlefield operations.

We must understand what our riflemen do in Afghanistan every day. The answer is they conduct combat patrols. That underlies all their other activities. They go out with rifles to engage and kill the enemy. That is how they protect the population. For our generals to stress that the war is 80% non-kinetic discounts the basic activity of our soldiers. Although crime isn’t eradicated by locking up criminals, we expect our police to make arrests to keep the streets safe. Similarly, our riflemen are trained to engage the enemy. That’s how they protect the population. If we’re not out in the countryside night and day – and we’re not – then the Taliban can move around as they please and intimidate or persuade the population.

I’m not arguing that we Americans can ever dominate the Taliban gangs. There’s a level of understanding and accommodation among Afghans in the countryside that culturally surpasses our understanding. During the May poppy harvest, the shooting stops on both sides and men from far and wide head to the fields to participate in the harvest. That’s an Afghan thing. Only the Afghans can figure out what sort of society and leaders they want.

That said, we should strive to do a better job of what we are doing for as long as we are there. I condensed several hours of firefights I filmed during various patrols into the 30-second clip… (Not a Tactical Hurdle). The purpose is to illustrate a tactical problem that is strategic in its dimensions. Simply put, our ground forces are not inflicting heavy losses on the enemy. However, the annual bill for the US military in Afghanistan exceeds $70 billion, with another four to six billion for development. We’ve already spent $38 billion on Afghan reconstruction. Congress may eventually balk at spending such sums year after year. The problem is we’re liable to be gradually pulled out while the Taliban is intact. Nation-building alone is not sufficient; the Taliban must be disrupted.

24 Jul 2009

A Substitute for Victory

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Barack Obama did not explain precisely why he believed that an acceptable alternative to victory existed, when he contradicted General Douglas MacArthur‘s famous dictum (War’s very object is victory, not prolonged indecision. In war there is no substitute for victory.), but he did contend that simply not being successfully attacked was good enough for him.

President Obama has put securing Afghanistan near the top of his foreign policy agenda, but “victory” in the war-torn country isn’t necessarily the United States’ goal, he said Thursday in a TV interview.

“I’m always worried about using the word ‘victory,’ because, you know, it invokes this notion of Emperor Hirohito coming down and signing a surrender to MacArthur,” Obama told ABC News.

The enemy facing U.S. and Afghan forces isn’t so clearly defined, he explained.

“We’re not dealing with nation states at this point. We’re concerned with Al Qaeda and the Taliban, Al Qaeda’s allies,” he said. “So when you have a non-state actor, a shadowy operation like Al Qaeda, our goal is to make sure they can’t attack the United States.”

Obama’s view on war objectives would never have sold in America in times gone by. Today… well, Barack Obama’s opinions and perspectives coincide perfectly with those of a very elite and influential American constituency.

07 Apr 2009

Obama and Europe

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Stratfor’s George Friedman observes that Barack Obama’s European summit negotiations had little hope of accomplishing anything.

The spin emerging from the meetings, echoed in most of the media, sought to portray the meetings as a success and as reflecting a re-emergence of trans-Atlantic unity.

The reality, however, is that the meetings ended in apparent unity because the United States accepted European unwillingness to compromise on key issues. U.S. President Barack Obama wanted the week to appear successful, and therefore backed off on key issues; the Europeans did the same. …

Two fundamental issues divided the United States and Germany. The first was whether Germany would match or come close to the U.S. stimulus package. The United States wanted Germany to stimulate its own domestic demand. Obama feared that if the United States put a stimulus plan into place, Germany would use increased demand in the U.S. market to expand its exports. The United States would wind up with massive deficits while the Germans took advantage of U.S. spending, thus letting Berlin enjoy the best of both worlds. Washington felt it had to stimulate its economy, and that this would inevitably benefit the rest of the world. But Washington wanted burden sharing. Berlin, quite rationally, did not. Even before the meetings, the United States dropped the demand — Germany was not going to cooperate.

The second issue was the financing of the bailout of the Central European banking system, heavily controlled by eurozone banks and part of the EU financial system. The Germans did not want an EU effort to bail out the banks. They wanted the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to bail out a substantial part of the EU financial system instead. The reason was simple: The IMF receives loans from the United States, as well as China and Japan, meaning the Europeans would be joined by others in underwriting the bailout. … The United States therefore essentially has agreed to the German position. …

The reason there was no bargaining was fairly simple: The Germans were not prepared to bargain. They came to the meetings with prepared positions, and the United States had no levers with which to move them. The only option was to withhold funding for the IMF, and that would have been a political disaster (not to mention economically rather unwise). The United States would have been seen as unwilling to participate in multilateral solutions rather than Germany being seen as trying to foist its economic problems on others. Obama has positioned himself as a multilateralist and can’t afford the political consequences of deviating from this perception.

But wooing Turkey is key to competing with Russia for European influence.

Turkey is the key to all of this. If Ankara collaborates with Russia, Georgia’s position is precarious and Azerbaijan’s route to Europe is blocked. If it cooperates with the United States and also manages to reach a stable treaty with Armenia under U.S. auspices, the Russian position in the Caucasus is weakened and an alternative route for natural gas to Europe opens up, decreasing Russian leverage against Europe.

From the American point of view, Europe is a lost cause since internally it cannot find a common position and its heavyweights are bound by their relationship with Russia. It cannot agree on economic policy, nor do its economic interests coincide with those of the United States, at least insofar as Germany is concerned. As far as Russia is concerned, Germany and Europe are locked in by their dependence on Russian natural gas. The U.S.-European relationship thus is torn apart not by personalities, but by fundamental economic and military realities. No amount of talking will solve that problem.

The key to sustaining the U.S.-German alliance is reducing Germany’s dependence on Russian natural gas and putting Russia on the defensive rather than the offensive. The key to that now is Turkey, since it is one of the only routes energy from new sources can cross to get to Europe from the Middle East, Central Asia or the Caucasus. If Turkey — which has deep influence in the Caucasus, Central Asia, Ukraine, the Middle East and the Balkans — is prepared to ally with the United States, Russia is on the defensive and a long-term solution to Germany’s energy problem can be found. On the other hand, if Turkey decides to take a defensive position and moves to cooperate with Russia instead, Russia retains the initiative and Germany is locked into Russian-controlled energy for a generation.

Therefore, having sat through fruitless meetings with the Europeans, Obama chose not to cause a pointless confrontation with a Europe that is out of options. Instead, Obama completed his trip by going to Turkey to discuss what the treaty with Armenia means and to try to convince the Turks to play for high stakes by challenging Russia in the Caucasus, rather than playing Russia’s junior partner.

This is why Obama’s most important speech in Europe was his last one, following Turkey’s emergence as a major player in NATO’s political structure.

26 Feb 2009

Diagramming the Obamakreig

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Obama’s primary campaign left Hillary feeling like Poland, and Obama’s presidential campaign left John McCain feeling like France. The political blitzkreig combining media support, misdirection, and image continued on, right over the Congressional Republican minority, with the passage of the unread Stimulus bill.

Paul Schlichta, at American Thinker, suggests Republicans need to go back to staff college and start studying the Campaign of 2008 in order to figure out how to defeat his next offensive.

The audacity and speed with which Obama railroaded the stimulus bill through Congress took Republicans by surprise. It shouldn’t have; it was a logical extension of his campaign tactics.

Like the spear-carrying soldiers of Ethiopia, overwhelmed by Mussolini’s tanks and poison gas in 1936, the Republicans simply don’t know what hit them in last year’s election. Some felt that they had conducted an old-fashioned 20th century campaign while Obama mounted the first truly information-age 21st century political blitzkrieg. Others blame the blatant media bias, the race issue, or the unprecedented scale of fund raising and spending.

The first month of Obama’s regime has provoked a similar bewilderment. A dazed Congress hastily authorized a huge document, filled with hidden booby traps like RAT, that none of them had actually read, let alone comprehended. Republicans are now cowering in corners, wondering what atrocity will come next

Anyone hoping to launch a successful counterattack must first analyze Obama’s campaign and assess the factors that contributed to its success.

Mr. Schlichta fails to remark that General Recession has played a major role in panicking the civilian population into supporting “liberation” by Mr. Obama. Unreasoning fear caused voters to plump for an alternative, any alternative to Republicans who were inevitably tarred with responsibility for alarming economic developments during the final months of the lame duck Bush regime.

Personally, I think General Recession is already mightily indignant over the socialist measures recently adopted, and I believe that he and Marshall Inflation will before long turn on Mr. Obama, waging scorched earth war on his economy. The suffering public will inevitably assign responsibility where it belongs: to democrats, and the Emperor Obama’s Army of supporters will begin getting a whole lot smaller.

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