Cyrenaica / Libya
I am looking for people familiar with conditions in eastern Libya, in the region known as Cyrenacia (or Barqa). If any of you, or one of your contacts, is such a person please let me know:
grimbeornr "at" yahoo "dot" com
Against Joining the War in Syria
It is good that the President has asked Congress to consider authorizing military force in Syria, rather than acting on his own. This is the proper course under the Constitution, and a wise feature of it. In a democratic form of government, as the Athenians discovered ages ago, continuing political support for a war is a necessary condition to winning it. The Constitution's framers hoped that the legislature, especially the Representatives who must face re-election every two years, would serve to ensure that the nation widely supported any war it undertook.
With that in mind, I urge you not to support the current proposal to join the war in Syria. I would ask you to contact your representatives and let them know your feelings on the matter.
There are several reasons to oppose the action.
1) We have no hope of victory. This is not because we are not stronger than the existing combatants. It is because we know, before committing forces, that we have no intention of staying the course through the kind of pain and cost that any victory would entail. You cannot win if you do not intend to win. Anyone we kill in this war will have been killed without hope of their death bringing about some good. It is immoral to fight a war on these terms.
2) We have no plan for victory. Even in Libya we had a plan, even if it was somewhat reckless: gamble on the rebels. Here we do not intend to replace the government. We do not have any idea with whom or with what we would want to replace it anyway.
3) The war is based on a false expectation that we can control our involvement once engaged. The Secretary of State is at least clear that this expectation is far from guaranteed to prove true. The President is apparently less clear on the point, believing that we can have a short strike of a 'limited duration' and then walk away. Wars once engaged can rarely be controlled or kept in their place. History demonstrates that clearly, and it is a bedrock principle of military science.
4) There is no national interest, which is also why there is no strategy for anything beyond the 'statement' we want to make. We have nothing to achieve in Syria.
5) That there is no exit strategy is a point occasionally mentioned, but I dissent that exit strategies are as important as they are often said to be. Commitment to victory is often the best exit strategy. The problem with this war is not that there is no exit strategy, but that the plan is only an exit strategy.
For these reasons alone, the war should be opposed by Congress. Let us not engage in war without hope of victory, a plan for victory, or a clear understanding of the nature of war. It is immoral, and it is mad.
A Logical Syllogism
1) Good order and discipline is destroyed by giving in to special pleaders.
2) Discipline is the soul of the army. (George Washington)
Therefore, &*(% this guy.
If there's one person on earth who ought to feel like the Army has treated him with unmerited mercy and gentleness today, it's Private I'll-Be-Out-In-Eight-Years.
Or, as he prefers to be known now that he is starting his prison sentence, "Chelsea."
For those on Facebook
Being A Moron Is Apparently a Defense
I just have one comment about the verdict today. The defense moved to throw out the count of aiding the enemy recently, and the judge disallowed the motion. The reason the defense thought the motion was reasonable is striking.
The judge heard a request from the defense on Monday to drop the charge. David E. Coombs, the lead defense lawyer, argued that Private Manning did not have “actual knowledge” that by leaking the documents to WikiLeaks he was aiding the enemy.
In the past, the government had argued that through his extensive training, Private Manning should have known that the information could end up with groups that wanted to harm American military personnel. But the government acknowledged Monday that “should have known” was not enough to define “actual knowledge.”
A hundred thousand OPSEC briefings later, only an absolute moron would not realize that publishing classified documents on the Internet would mean that the enemy would have access to them.
The judge refused to drop the charge, but apparently was convinced by the argument. Being a moron is apparently a positive defense here, justifying an actual acquittal of the charge of aiding the enemy. No doubt this precedent will improve the standards of good order and discipline in the US Army.
"How To Lose A War"
ZenPundit has composed a piece that is a thoroughgoing sketch of what has been done wrong in Afghanistan and, to a lesser degree, was done wrong in Iraq. I suspect all of you will find much to agree with in his commentary, and most of you will find at least one or two things to object to as well.
It should make for a good discussion.
The Fortress of Wolf
Now, some of you may be wondering what it is like with BLACKFIVE authors who get together for a good time. Allow me to explain.
That is a screen for a projection TV, old school style. We watched Kung Fu movies on it the first night.
A Grim Reading of the Recent Intelligence Scandals
What was the worst thing you learned about American intelligence this week? Here's the worst thing for me.
Not the top-level finding, that the CIA's analysis didn't always give specific categories to the people killed in allegedly-CIA-led drone strikes. Nor the secondary claim, that the CIA is lying about the number of civilians killed.
No, the worst news was that the CIA couldn't just ask.
For a decade, these tribal regions where these drone strikes have been conducted have been one of the very top priorities for US intelligence collection. The most rudimentary of human intelligence networks could have come up with a definitive list of who was killed. Almost no risks would have been run in collecting on this topic, as it would have been the subject of common conversation among everyone in the area -- everyone whose family members might have been killed, for example. No one would have thought it was odd to ask who died in yesterday's drone strike. You could collect on this kind of thing without breaking a sweat, if you had a HUMINT network at all.
What this means is that the CIA has completely failed at its main function, in one of its highest-priority areas, for more than a decade. The reason we're turning to all this fancy "collect-everyting-anyone-says-anywhere-at-any-time" technology is that we've failed at traditional tradecraft. The bueraucracy isn't doing its job.
As the CIA case shows, there are a lot of disadvantages to relying on SIGINT. It's simply nowhere near as reliable as human intelligence. You can't ask questions: you have to infer from what you are told, or what you can happen to see in the signal. The reason we don't know isn't that we aren't collecting everything SIGINT can show us: as we see here, Pakistan was one of the NSA's most intensely-collected states.
I personally would like to see a lot of this SIGINT capacity dismantled, on the theory that we ought to be as secure in our electronic communications as in those we write on paper and seal in a thin envelope. But whether you agree with that or not, the fact is that it's less reliable than the traditional capacities we no longer develop. That failure -- a failure, I believe, of will -- is driving these scandals. Because these SIGINT techniques are less effective, that failure is also putting America at risk.
A Legitimate Criticism of the Military in the Washington Post
It doesn't happen much, but this one is pretty much straight up. It's about camoflauge. Many of you may remember that we used to have pretty much two patterns: BDUs and DCUs. They were pretty good. Then... well, things changed.
Today, there is one camouflage pattern just for Marines in the desert. There is another just for Navy personnel in the desert. The Army has its own “universal” camouflage pattern, which is designed to work anywhere. It also has another one just for Afghanistan, where the first one doesn’t work.
Even the Air Force has its own unique camouflage, used in a new Airman Battle Uniform. But it has flaws. So in Afghanistan, airmen are told not to wear it in battle....
The Navy spent more than $435,000 on three new designs. One was a blue-and-gray pattern, to be worn aboard ships. Pattern No. 8.
Sailors worried that it would hide them at the one time they would want to be found.
“You fall in the damn water and you’re wearing water-colored camouflage. What the hell is that?” said one active-duty petty officer. He asked that his name be withheld because he was criticizing a decision by the brass. “It’s not logical. It’s not logical at all to have water-colored uniforms.”
Yeah, that last one especially has had a bunch of us head-scratching for a while now.
General Odierno Defends The Honor of His Command
Congressman Duncan Hunter is a former Marine officer and the son of a veteran of the 75th Rangers during the Vietnam era, so nobody thinks he's a bad guy. But Congress can tell on even the best man, and recently he made the mistake of trying to set up General Odierno's staff to look either hapless or unconcerned about the fate of troops in the field. It provoked one of the most intense responses I've ever seen from a military officer testifying before Congress.
See for yourself. The issue at stake is the Distributed Common Ground System-Army (DCGS-A), which Rep. Hunter would like to derail in favor of a product produced by Palantir.
A lot of people have made much of the fact that Palantir is a Silicone Valley startup, and Rep. Hunter is from California. But Palantir is free to lobby Congressmen from their state, and Rep. Hunter is free to support a system he thinks is better for a constituent. That's part of our system.
What is improper is for a Congressman to compel a general officer to sit silently while that Congressman suggests he or his command are insensitive to the needs of the men in the field. To raise the suggestion is not itself bad, because Congress has a duty to oversee the military on just that point. What Rep. Hunter intended was to make the accusation without permitting a response, as he admits:
HUNTER: If you don’t let me say anything, we can’t have a conversation.
ODIERNO: Well, you weren’t gonna let us say anything.
HUNTER: Well, you — you’re right, but I have that prerogative when I’m sittin’ up here.
Rep. Hunter questioned the honor of every man and woman in General Odierno's command, and expected him to sit silently for it. The general refused to let the slander stand without objection. Good for him.
"The most important OP-ED written in decades about SOF"
General Odierno Declares "The Greatest Threat to Our National Security" is Congress
“The Army has been in a state of continuous war for nearly 12 years, the longest in our nation’s history,” Odierno said, “but today, in my opinion, the greatest threat to our national security is the fiscal uncertainty resulting from the lack of predictability in the budget cycle.”
The United States Constitution, Article I, Section 8, Clause 12 establishes that Congress alone has the power "[t]o raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years." Clause 13 speaks to the Navy. The "lack of predictability in the budget cycle" is purely about Congress' determination of budgets.
Specifically, it is about the failure of Congress to determine a budget. Congress has not passed a budget in more than three years. The sole and only reason that there is uncertainty of the type General Odierno describes is that Congress has not done its duty.
That may be a first in American history. The Chief of Staff of the US Army publicly stated that the effects of Congress' actions are the largest national security threat to our country.
He put it very politely, even obliquely, as the UCMJ severely restricts servicemembers' criticisms of elected officials. Nevertheless, there is simply no other way to read his remarks.
The DHS Ammo Purchases
There are a couple of interesting questions about the Federal government's robust purchase of ammunition at a time when "a decade of war is ending." Here are two from Investors Business Daily:
1) Other Federal agencies have offered some sort of explanation about their purchases, but DHS has bought 1.6 billion rounds without explaining why it needs that kind of stock. That's enough ammunition to cover the Iraq War outlays for 25 years (although not the right types: these are mostly handgun cartridges, and presumably not FMJ as there is no Geneva Conventions protecting civilians from expanding bullets).
2) Why did DHS illegally redact information from its purchasing orders of ammunition?
Here's one more question, from me: Currently the US Navy is slashing ship maintenance, and delaying the departure of the carrier group scheduled to support operations in Afghanistan. The US Army says that 78% of its brigades will be unsat for combat due to anticipated training cutbacks. Both services are engaged in fighting an actual war.
Is it too much to ask that we prioritize Naval ship maintenance and the training of Brigade Combat Teams over these ammunition purchases? We're actually going to use the brigades and the ships. Rarely does the TSA find itself called to shoot anyone, and the Border Patrol gets in trouble every time it discharges a weapon. Presumably most of these rounds are to be used, then, in training of law enforcement rather than for actual combat. If anyone needs to cut back on training dollars right now, why not let the BCTs train and have Homelands Security stand down?
I know the answer to this question, of course. It's because Congress is incompetent to pass a budget and has been for years, while the President is so far out to sea that his last budget didn't get even a single vote in the House.
In a positive sign for Joe Biden's hopes for a negotiated solution to Iranian proliferation issues, the President of Iran made a missile-related proposal that the United States should have no problem endorsing.
Maybe there's hope for the administration's containment policy after all!
Wisdom of General Mattis
H. Thomas Hayden has compiled some of General Mattis' best sayings. It's worth remembering how well educated and well read the general is. He's also a hard charger, not just in the field but in holding his planners to account at Central Command. He isn't afraid to push the lessons learned higher, and give honest advice to the civilian leadership.
America will miss his leadership, his intellect, and his character.