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June 2009

Col. Ed McMahon Dies

I know you probably knew him better as Johnny Carson's side kick, but Ed McMahon, who died today at the age of 86 was a proud former Marine.

 He enlisted in the Marines for WWII and became a fighter pilot and served as an instructor pilot and test pilot. In 1946 he left active duty for the reserves and went to college. After college he returned to active duty and in 1953 he went to Korea where he flew 85 tactical air control and artillery spotting missions in an unarmed O-1E Bird Dog. After Korea he remained in the reserves retiring as a Col.in the Marine reserves in 1966.

 In an interview in 1999, McMahon was asked what he would like to be remembered for. His answer?

"Two things. That I was a good broadcaster and a great Marine."

Semper Fi, Col McMahon and God Speed.


Maybe I was wrong about Dubya.

You know, maybe I was wrong.  Or weak.  I supported Bush in his decision to invade Iraq but over time decided that it had been a mistake.  I didn't think it would be as difficult or costly as it has turned out to be six years later.  The neocon agenda of using hard and soft US power to spread liberal democracy, while noble, wasn't enough of a justification for my brother to be over there, and in any case there was little evidence indicating that it was succeeding.

Until Neda.

So I guess what I'm saying here is, after looking at Iran, a country for which I am crossing my fingers and arms and legs -- what if this is a vindication of neocon strategy and George Bush?  Furthermore, what if the reason Obama has been slow to get behind the protests in Iran is that ultimately, he won't be able to take credit for it?  Be curious to hear your thoughts.

-- Uber Pig

Suffocation v. Killing

JD Johannes weighs in on the new ROE coming down from Gen. McChrystal and his team for Afghanistan.

At first blush it may sound like the rule is to retreat.  I'll save final judgement until I see the full order from the General McChrystal.  I'm wagering that it will have plenty of wiggle room for commander discretion.

But the key point of the change in the use of force is to move away from killing to suffocation.

As Marine General Mark Gurganus told me, "you can't kill your way out of an insurgency."

McQ on the topic

UJ as well.

A democratic Iraq effect on Iran?

Michael Ledeen notes some excellent and striking analysis bt Steve Schippert at Threatswatch.

–Fifth, that there are cracks in the regime’s edifice, ranging from declarations of small groups of Revolutionary Guards calling on their brothers to defect to “the people,” to a phenomenon that is just beginning to be discussed here and there, mostly on the Net but originally in an Arab newspaper.  Steve Schippert posted on it and did a first-class analysis.  Steve starts with a report from al Arabiya that says senior ayatollahs have been meeting secretly in Qom to discuss significant changes in the structure of the Iranian state.  In addition to the Iranian clerics, there was a foreigner:  Jawad al-Shahristani, the supreme representative of Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the foremost Shiite leader in Iraq.

If this is true, it is, as Steve says, huge.  Because it means that senior religious leaders in Iran are talking to the representative of an Iraqi Imam who believes, as most Shi’ites did before Khomeini’s heresy, that the proper role of religious leaders is to guide their people from the mosque, not from the political capital.  In other words, they are talking about the most serious form of regime change.

More from Steve

My ears first perked up when word made it through the grapevines over the weekend that Rafsanjani had been meeting with other Ayatollahs and clerics in Qom, and had among them a representative of Iraq's Ayatollah Ali Sistani.

Why? Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in 2007 made two very critical statements: that "I am a servant of all Iraqis, there is no difference between a Sunni, a Shiite or a Kurd or a Christian," and that Islam can exist within a democracy without theological conflict. You will never hear such words slip past the lips of Iran's Ayatollah Khamenei. Ever.


In November 2007 at National Review Online, I wrote about this aspect of Ayatollah Ali Sistani, including a reference to another analysis I had written earlier in the spring.

In fact, what exists is a deep rivalry between the revolutionary Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khameini and the traditionalist Grand Ayatollah Sistani, both claiming authority over the Shi'a faith. While the Khomeinist revolutionary Khameini clearly believes in Shi'a theocracy, the Iraqi Ayatollah Sistani believes that the faith can exist within a democracy without theological conflict. And while the Iranians work to spin the growing Sunni tribal rejection of al-Qaeda as Americans "negotiating with terrorists," Sistani himself has always had open channels of communication with American forces and the Iraqi government.

Why does this matter for Iran and Iranians? Pay close attention here, for Iraq's Sistani carries great weight among the Iranian Shi'a faithful.

Sistani's appeal does not end at the Iraqi border, as Iranians increasingly observe his leadership with interest and fondness. Some are "intrigued by the more freewheeling experiment in Shi'ite empowerment taking place across the border in Iraq," which is fundamentally different in approach than the Iranian theocratic brand of dictated observance and obedience. The Boston Globe's Anne Barnard reports that within Tehran's own central bazaar, "an increasing number of merchants are sending their religious donations, a 20 percent tithe expected from all who can spare it, to Iraq's most senior Shi'ite cleric."

Go read all of the piece, but the pure flavor is that Iraqi liberal democracy is compatible with Islam and the Iranian people are noticining how much better that is. Are we seeing the first examples of vindication of George W Bush? Maybe, time will tell, but the signs Steve mentions are clear and telling evidence especially alongside the actions of the people willing to die to live free.

Layers of Editors

Just what about the professional big media outlets makes them useful any more? I am the last person on earth who should probably point out editing mistakes, but then I don't have an editor. These guys are supposed to, so four errors in four paragraphs is striking. Well done AP.

The rush-hour crashed (crash) sent more than 70 people to area hospitals and killed at least seven people. The three-decades-old Metro system shuttled (shuttles) tourists and local commuters from Washington to Maryland and Virginia suburbs.

There was conflicting information about the number of fatalities.

Mayor Adrian Fenty announced Tuesday that seven had died in the crash along a part of Metro system track that carries passengers from the District of Columbia into suburban Maryland. The District of Columbia Fire Department Web site announced early Tuesday morning that three bodies had been found in addition to the six fatalities reported earlier.

Fenty said two victims were hospitalized in critical condition.

Hersman said investigators expect to recover recorders from the train (that) was struck, providing valuable information that might help determine why the crash occurred. However, the train (that) triggered the collision was part of an old “thousand-series” fleet that was not equipped with the devices, she said at a news conference.

Horrible writing and editing about a horrifying crash. I rode two other Metro lines yesterday.


They just announced that the new Spielberg/Hanks mini-series is due out March 2010, and the first trailer is out.

If this is any indication of how it may go, PLEASE send me the DVD's now- I can't wait.  Band of Brothers is something I could watch an episode of every day.  The BEST part, however, are the interviews with the men of the 506th at the end.  I HOPE they do the same with this series.

I can't see how they could make this end up sucking...  enjoy!


Gen. McChrystal has not lost his mind

This announcement about changes to the Rules of Engagement (ROE) for Afghanistan has caused a lot of consternation

The top U.S. general in Afghanistan will soon formally order U.S. and NATO forces to break away from fights with militants hiding in Afghan houses so the battles do not kill civilians, a U.S. official said Monday.


 McChrystal will issue orders within days saying troops may attack insurgents hiding in Afghan houses if the U.S. or NATO forces are in imminent danger and must return fire, said U.S. military spokesman Rear Adm. Greg Smith

including our own McQ.

Certainly I can understand the problems created by unintentional civilian casualties, especially in a tribal culture like Afghanistan. What I don't understand, however, is an order which all but outlines the new tactics of the enemy.

I mean, you tell me, where, if possible, would you initiate all of your contact from now on if you're the Taliban?

I assume there will be additional tactical changes to deny them what seems on the surface a big advantage, and this is not simply retreat but re-tooling. Since we know that the Talibs and AQ take people hostage and then attack us from their houses, maybe flattening the house with a 2,000 pounder and wiping out a family that wished they were anywhere else isn't the most cunning plan. That coming from the King of Dead Tangos, I know. But walk with me on this one.

We have killed many tangos there, scads even and yet they train more across the border and we kill more. The madrassas are full and the extremists keep coming. McChrystal has made a couple of things clear, first he is taking a long war view. We will see if the administration and the Congress support that, but he is planning for a long haul. He has said he wants to create a system where cadres learn an area and stay to exploit the knowledge, but more importantly the relationships they build. That is the key. They may rotate back for some R&R, but then they return to the same place and the same people.

He is also working the clear, hold and build concept. Local knowledge coupled with shared suffering and danger equals rapport and trust of the populace. Dead civilians destroys this.

Now will this change to ROE about bringing scunion powder down on houses we are attacked from get some more of our troops killed? Yes it will, in the short run. But if we ever want to stop the cycle of violence (I Know) we have to advance to the type of neighborhood-based strategy we used in Iraq. Every village we manage to co-inhabit is another where the Talibs can't attack us from the houses. Will it be more complicated and difficult to gain ground using less kinetic action? Yes again, but it is the only path I see to an end to endless iterations of the fighting season.

The tribes in Afghanistan have extraordiarily long memories and we have to be on the right side of the tally list of beefs. Every dead civilian counts exponentially. In the same way one "Aw Shit" erases a hundred "Attaboys" we can't have collateral damage if we can avoid it. Take the whole strategy together and it could work in 3-5 years In sh' allah.

Nukes, Missile Defense & EMP

I attended a luncheon at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies on the topic of the danger posed to our infrastructure by an Electro-Magnetic Pulse (EMP) nuclear detonation in the air over our country. It was a back to the future feeling as this was a serious concern during the Cold War, but it is a major concern now for a couple of reasons. First is the increasing dependence of our society on high tech circuitry to run vital infrastructure and basically everything, and second because of proliferation in countries like North Korea, and Iran.

Cliff May. who was last seen squashing Jon Stewart like a bug, hosted author William Fortschen to discuss his book One Second After his book about the aftermath of an EMP attack. Mr. Fortschen noted two tests of the EMP effect, the Soviet Test 184 and the US Starfish Prime as background on the subject and you can watch what EMP does to a Ford Taurus here.

An EMP attack would take place with a high altitude detonation of a relatively small nuclear device, close to the size the North Koreans are testing. It would generate gamma radiation that would likely take out the power grids and pretty much anything with integrated circuitry. It could literally takes us back to the 1800's in a few seconds. None of the systems that run our country i.e. power, water, hospitals, mass transit, are hardened in a way that would let them survive such an attack. There is currently a bunch of stimulus dollars marked for upgrading the power grid and a call was made to use that to include hardening to the upgrade.

A nuke is not the only type of pulse that could wreak havoc on our systems, the sun could take us out as well.

"Even a below-average cycle is capable of producing severe space weather," points out Biesecker. "The great geomagnetic storm of 1859, for instance, occurred during a solar cycle of about the same size we’re predicting for 2013."

There is lots of good cause to make sure our systems are not vulnerable. There were also calls for continued missile defense development to ensure our enemies can't just lob a missile up over the center of the country and shut us down. The problem is that Iran is already testing their ability to shoot missiles vertically off of cargo ships which just about no missile defense system would shoot down. All in all it was a group of problems that we haven't had to deal with for a while, but that we ignore at our peril.

Obama Signs Landmark Anti-Smoking Bill ohhh and TSP changes

Altough this bill is focused and tittled the “Tobacco Bill” something that servicemembers should know is that the second half of the bill regulates TSP for servicemembers.  It describes how the Gov will not match what you earn etc. Clever stuffing it under the “Tobacco Bill”…Brilliant! I think I will have a cigar as I read it again...Semper


How Do You Win A War With Tactics Like This?

I'm certainly having some difficulty figuring it out:

The top U.S. general in Afghanistan will soon formally order U.S. and NATO forces to break away from fights with militants hiding in Afghan houses so the battles do not kill civilians, a U.S. official said Monday.


 McChrystal will issue orders within days saying troops may attack insurgents hiding in Afghan houses if the U.S. or NATO forces are in imminent danger and must return fire, said U.S. military spokesman Rear Adm. Greg Smith.

"But if there is a compound they're taking fire from and they can remove themselves from the area safely, without any undue danger to the forces, then that's the option they should take," Smith said. "Because in these compounds we know there are often civilians kept captive by the Taliban."

Certainly I can understand the problems created by unintentional civilian casualties, especially in a tribal culture like Afghanistan. What I don't understand, however, is an order which all but outlines the new tactics of the enemy.

I mean, you tell me, where, if possible, would you initiate all of your contact from now on if you're the Taliban?

And yes, I understand that the order says they don't have to withhold fire if they are in "imminent danger and must return fire". But I also know how our military works and you'd better be able to defend your decision should any subsequent civilian casualties be discovered after your unit returns fire at your command. It's called "you bet your bars (or stripes)".

Anyone think that may cause a little hesitation among some of our units?

And hesitation in combat is often fatal to those doing the hesitating.

Good grief, the next thing you know there'll be "no-fire" and "check-fire" zones in which any return fire has to be cleared through the local provincial authorities. That worked exceedingly well in Viet Nam. If the order is as written in the article, I'd suggest it needs to be seriously reconsidered.

Understand the intent, but think the order, as conveyed, sucks.

Oh, and this:

Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who took command of international forces in Afghanistan this month, has said his measure of effectiveness will be the "number of Afghans shielded from violence," and not the number of militants killed.

Really? The measure of "effectiveness" will not be the number of militants killed but instead the number of Afghans shielded from violence?

I sure as hell hope that measure of "effectiveness" doesn't end up trading American lives for "shielded Afghans".