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September 2011

For the Warrior Who Wants to Study

Recently a college professor in Texas, near Ft. Hood, published an article that said she was giving up teaching US military history because of students coming to her out of the wars.  She writes that what the students "needed was personal catharsis, but I am not a trained psychologist. What these students craved was the opportunity to express their anger or pain, but my class was not the place to do it."

Socrates was a veteran of Delium; Leonardo da Vinci made war machines.  If your experiences have called you to try to understand, good.  The first line of Aristotle's Metaphysics is, "All men by nature desire to know."  By answering that call, you are doing something in accord with the best and highest part of your nature.

What might be useful to you is some advice on how to structure your studies so that you can achieve that goal.  

Continue reading "For the Warrior Who Wants to Study" »

Praising the Obama team on drone strike justification

There has been considerable discussion recently about the expansion of drone strikes in Pakistan and even to the Horn of Africa. Many of the arguments repeat the inaccurate claim that we kill mostly innocents in these attacks. Al Qaeda does not shelter or meet in areas filled with "innocents"; they hide in safe havens. The name itself ought to be explanation enough, but just to be clear; safe havens are inhabited by supporters of those who are offered sanctuary.

There is a more important development in this form of counterterrorism, however, and I want to give strong praise to the Obama administration for it. They have advanced the most intelligent and proper rationale and legal justification for the drone program I have heard publicly. It mirrors an argument that has been made by a number of legal and security experts for a considerable while. We have the right to kill those who are planning to kill us. Period. Doesn't matter where, when or how. If you plot to kill Americans, you have earned yourself a heaping, helping of Hellfire.

John Brennan, Obama's counterterror guru, has said some truly boneheaded things, but his recent speech at Harvard is a shining example of the right way to look at the war we are in.

An area in which there is some disagreement is the geographic scope of the conflict.  The United States does not view our authority to use military force against al-Qa’ida as being restricted solely to “hot” battlefields like Afghanistan.  Because we are engaged in an armed conflict with al-Qa’ida, the United States takes the legal position that —in accordance with international law—we have the authority to take action against al-Qa’ida and its associated forces without doing a separate self-defense analysis each time.  And as President Obama has stated on numerous occasions, we reserve the right to take unilateral action if or when other governments are unwilling or unable to take the necessary actions themselves. That does not mean we can use military force whenever we want, wherever we want. International legal principles, including respect for a state’s sovereignty and the laws of war, impose important constraints on our ability to act unilaterally—and on the way in which we can use force—in foreign territories.

Others in the international community—including some of our closest allies and partners—take a different view of the geographic scope of the conflict, limiting it only to the “hot” battlefields.  As such, they argue that, outside of these two active theatres, the United States can only act in self-defense against al-Qa’ida when they are planning, engaging in, or threatening an armed attack against U.S. interests if it amounts to an “imminent” threat.

In practice, the U.S. approach to targeting in the conflict with al-Qa’ida is far more aligned with our allies’ approach than many assume.  This Administration’s counterterrorism efforts outside of Afghanistan and Iraq are focused on those individuals who are a threat to the United States, whose removal would cause a significant – even if only temporary – disruption of the plans and capabilities of al-Qa’ida and its associated forces. Practically speaking, then, the question turns principally on how you define “imminence.”

That is some of the clearest thinking about our inherent and legal right to defend ourselves against those who plan and conduct terror attacks. It was a breath of fresh air to hear this bold assertion of our sovereign rights as a nation from the trans-nationalist-leaning Obama administration. Let's hope they maintain this in the face of the certain outrage and pushback from the left.

Post-Modern War

Sean Linnane, who I know from 1st Group, has an excellent piece exploring the new way we fight.

Our enemies in this war are global, they hold no capital cities - beyond some worthless real estate in Somalia they hold NO cities and it's debatable whether they hold one even there. Our enemies have no uniform, no flags, no tanks, no artillery, no airplanes, and no fleet of warships. They once had an air force for a very short period of time - the morning of 9/11 - and they kamikazied them all in.

If our enemies ever assembled on a single battlefield we could crush them at once - which of course is the point why they operate the way they do. We - the Free World - have achieved such overwhelming military superiority that no enemy on Earth can prevail against us on a conventional battlefield, not even the Chinese; never mind the Iranians and the North Koreans.

What Not To Say

I've heard some good one's lately, like the female who empathized with the widow of a fallen service member by telling her that she had lost her dog the month before, but this bit of guidance needs to be spread far and wide:

What Not To Say To Someone With PTSD

It is a real issue, with real problems, and Hollyweird ain't helping (along with others).  I've seen some jackass responses even within my own local community to something that happened because of PTSD.  Thankfully, local leaders have a brain and use it on the issue...

Please read, share, and be a part of the solution rather than the problem.  If you know someone with PTSD, be there for them, help them get help, and do what you can.  If you have it, talk to others who have been there and get help when and where you can.  If you are thinking of checking out, check out this out and keep this number handy: 1-800-273-8255. Call it. 


Congratulations TAH!

It really doesn't seem like it's been five years, but it has.  Today, This Ain't Hell turns five. I've found some of the most honest and frank discussions of issues facing the military there, along with the outing of phonies (like this dou-che and this dancing dou-che) and some very good humor.  Keep up the good work Jonn, and maybe you can even get TSO to start posting again... 



I know, I know, we are all STUNNED that the Pakistanis are exporting violence into AfghanistanStunned, I tell you!

...In his final congressional testimony before retiring next week, Navy Adm. Mike Mullen said success in Afghanistan is threatened by the Pakistani government's support for the Haqqani network of militants, which he called a "veritable arm" of Pakistan's intelligence agency.
Testifying alongside Mullen, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta also decried Pakistani support for the Haqqani network, and he said Pakistani authorities have been told that the U.S. will not tolerate a continuation of the group's cross-border attacks. Panetta said the message was delivered recently by new CIA Director David Petraeus in a meeting with the head of the Pakistani intelligence agency, the ISI...

It is believed that the Haqqanis were behind the attacks on the U.S. Embassy in Kabul.

And the ISI has always been behind the Taliban...

Here is a backgrounder on the ISI, Pakistan and Afghanistan at the Council on Foreign Relations.

More on Pakistan at the Long War Journal.

Peaceful assassinations in Afghanistan

It is exceedingly and increasingly difficult to see a positive future for Afghanistan. Our efforts there have essentially ended in any meaningful way. Gen Allen has stated that our mission is now transition, but the question remains.....to who?

Well it won't be this guy.

The Taliban have claimed credit for today's suicide attack in Kabul that killed Burhanuddin Rabbani, the chief of the Afghan High Peace Council and former president of Afghanistan. The suicide bomber killed Rabbani in his home and seriously wounded Masoom Stanekzai, the peace council's secretary, after detonating an explosive device that was hidden in his turban.

"A Taliban member who went to Rabbani's house for peace talks detonated a bomb hidden in his turban," a statement released by the Kabul police chief's office said, according to Reuters. The suicide bomber had not been searched by security forces prior to entering Rabbani's home, as a sign of trust.

Mohammed-cartoon Yeah how did that whole trust thing work out for you? I have argued for years now that it was possible to create a somewhat stable situation there, but that was prefaced on certain conditions. The biggest of which was kicking the crap out of the Taliban so they were suing for peace. Sadly we have gone the other way and are now begging them to come to the table. Rats don't change their spots, so it should surprise no one that one came dressed as Mohammed Bomb Head.

We spent far too long marking time in Afghanistan hoping that a fantasy national government would emerge to take control. Then we threw away our last chance to do what was necessary when our Campaigner in Chief announced his political faux surge complete w/ withdrawal date. Shockingly the Taliban just waited us out and now the insurgents are resurgent and we are packing our bags. We did not make the effort and commitments necessary to have any real chance of achieving stability, let alone peace. Afghanistan is exceptional only because it is the hell hole where a small collection of medieval obscurantists plotted their greatest victory against the civilized world. So be it. There are a few left there, mostly hiding out and hanging out with our allies in Pah-kee-stahn. But all in all, there just isn't enough reason for us to keep half-stepping our way around the Hindu Kush and assorted other rocky wastelands.

It is time to go.

Men of Valor

An Air Force Combat Controller will be awarded the Air Force Cross - the service's second-highest decoration for valor - for actions during a 2009 firefight in Afghanistan.

Taliban fighters had ambushed TSgt Robert Gutierrez and a team of Army Special Forces soldiers from 7th Special Forces Group, pinning them down in a building with no escape route. Gutierrez had been shot, had a collapsed lung, and broken ribs. Despite his injuries, he refused to set down his M4 rifle or stop using his radio to call in deadly air strikes against the enemy - even while the team's medic was treating his injuries.

Gutierrez called for three A-10s strafing runs on the Taliban, directing the deadly fire as close as 30 feet from the Americans.

Gutierrez' air support destroyed the Taliban fighters and allowed the unit to get out alive.

"It never is about oneself; it is always about the others first, then you last," said Gutierrez, who at the time was assigned to Pope Air Force Base's 21st Special Tactics Squadron. "I had a second to think about not making it. After that, I told myself that I was going to get up and fight. I had an unborn child to see and my wife and family to come home to."

And military.com reports that another veteran of the Battle of Ganjgal, Capt. William Swenson, has been nominated for the Medal of Honor. Former Marine Dakota Meyer also participated in the battle and was awarded the Medal of Honor this month at the White House and his citation can be read here.

It was rumored that Swenson would not be considered for the Medal due to his criticism of the rules of engagement that played a role in denying artillery support from the ambushed unit. Five American troops, eight Afghan soldiers, and their interpreter were killed in the fighting, and 20 were wounded.

Meyer says it is "ridiculous" that Swenson hasn't been recognized yet: “I’ll put it this way,” Meyer said in an interview. “If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be alive today.”

Two other Marines were awarded the Navy Cross for their role in the engagement.

Read more about the Battle of Ganjgal here.