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September 2014

The Passing of a Giant

Love him, hate him, but most had considerable respect for Mike Harari.  A legend in the intel community, and probably the best known member of Mossad, has passed away at age 87.  He was instrumental in Operation Wrath of God and the Raid on Entebbe.  It was the former that saw him indicted by Norway, after bad intel led to the killing of a waiter in that country mistaken for one of the architects of the Munich Massacre.  Mike submitted his resignation over the incident, but Golda declined to accept it.  Godspeed.  

World Report- A General Revolt

Trying out a new format for videos. It is supposed to look like the Daily Show and will be serious and mockerational depending on the purpose. This one is mostly serious with some solid and well-deserved shots at our President. Some of these from me, but many from the Generals whose advice he refuses to take. 

Book Review - "Blind Spot" - a Robert B. Parker novel by Reed Farrel Coleman

The following book review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper.  You can read all of our book reviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar.

9780698155626_p0_v1_s260x420Blind Spot, a Robert B. Parker novel, currently written by Reed Farrel Coleman is a spell binding mystery.  Coleman, who has been commissioned for the next three novels, after Parker’s death in 2010, is now authoring the Jesse Stone series.  Having never read Parker it is impossible to comment on how much Blind Spot followed Parker’s works.  However, this latest novel is very fast-paced, exciting, interesting, and can stand on its own merits.

 With many of the top-notch mystery/thriller authors having passed away, the recent trend is to hire replacement authors.  For fans of Flynn, Clancy, and Parker these new installments allow for the characters to continue to live on in the fictional world.  Having set the bar high with great character development writers like Coleman successfully faced the challenge. He skillfully keeps to what Parker was known for, his format of short chapters, character’s personality, and snappy banter among the characters. 

Coleman commented to blackfive.net , “When I was first offered this gig it was for a one-book deal.  That happened after I did a fifty-page audition for the estate.  I then had to sit down and discuss the plot with the editor.  By the time I finished writing Blind Spot I had a four-book contract.  I guessed I pleased who I had to please.  I tried really hard to be true to the nature of the characters as set forth by Bob Parker.  Fortunately, I had previously read several of the novels in the Jesse Stone series.  After being chosen I re-read many of these novels to get a sense of the tone.  With any series there is discovery, editing, figuring stuff out, putting new stuff in, while all the time creating a world.  The pressure comes from knowing that there are millions of fans out there with expectations of what should be in a Jesse Stone novel.  I hope I wrote the best book I could while following Parker’s form although not necessarily his style. Parker had laid out the groundwork for me since he masterfully built Jesse Stone in three dimensions.  Having written several of my own series characters I understood the mechanics and the pitfalls of a long story arc.  I came to the challenge with a great deal of respect for Mr. Parker and a love for the character Jesse Stone.”

Jesse Stone, the Police Chief of a small town in Massachusetts, is considered a very complicated figure with the over riding theme of regret affecting his life. This includes being one step away from becoming the starting shortstop for the Los Angeles Dodgers to being estranged from the love of his life.  Coleman also powerfully delves into Stone’s drinking problem and his struggles to not let it overtake his life. 

Baseball plays into the story through the fact that Jesse had his dream shattered.

Coleman believes, “It is having something you really want, come close, and then something happens to shatter that dream.  I also wanted to make baseball allegorical for something. I hope the readers see the simile with the quote, ‘Baseball was a game of subtleties and opposites.  At bat, the greatest players failed seventy percent of the time.  In the field, if you were anything short of near perfection, you were considered a failure.  Homicide investigation could be like that too, like fielding.’ A great homicide investigator must be like a fielder, not a hitter.  If you want to stick around as a detective you better be more successful than one-third of the time.”

Besides utilizing the characters created by Parker, Coleman introduced some of his own.  Dee, the FBI agent, who matches Stone step for step is written as independent, sexy, tough, smart, and loyal.  Kayla, is Jesse’s former girl friend who was also once in love with him, and is now going through a mid-life crisis as she questions past decisions in her life. 

With the backstory on Jesse and these new characters, Coleman writes a potent crime story that has Stone personally connected to the murders.  After being invited to a baseball reunion by a former minor league teammate, Vic Prado, who happens to be married to Kayla, Jesse is informed about a young girl’s murder in his small town of Paradise.  Through the investigative process it becomes clear that Prado is connected to the murder. It is up to Jesse and his squadron to find the killer and bring justice to those killed. 

The author gave a heads up about his next books. “I am writing a new series that should be out next summer.  The main character is a retired Suffolk County Long Island cop, Gus, who is very satisfied with his life.  But when a family tragedy strikes, his world explodes and his life is thrown into disarray.  The first novel, Where It Hurts, tells the story of his re-emergence and how he helps an ex-con find the people who murdered his son.  It is through solving the case that Gus finds some unexpected answers about himself, the nature of tragedy, and gaining control. 

The next Jesse Stone book will be out next fall and is called The Devil Wins. The plot involves an old crime that happened in Paradise before Jesse was police chief.  It is a story of a crime that happens when Molly was a teenager. The book will focus on Molly who is a tough Irish Catholic mom and a very good cop, no matter what locale she works in.  She has good cop instincts and sees the world for what it is as she tells it like it is. Her relationship with Jesse is complex since it can considered either one of friendship, just employee and boss, or will it turn into something beyond friendship.”

Coleman hopes to keep the themes of all the Parker books as payback, redemption, and regrets.  Although Coleman embraced the Stone character he did not imitate Parker’s writing style.  Instead, through his detailed characters and settings he brought life back into this series and into the Jesse Stone character.  Fans and new comers alike will get hooked on Blind Spot, and should look forward to the next Jesse Stone book by Reed Coleman.


White House Press Brief- Gen. Dempsey says "Boots on the Ground"

Oh No, Gen. Dempsey said the forbidden words during his Senate testimony. He admitted the blisteringly obvious fact that if the wish and a prayer plan of airstrikes and arming "moderate" rebels, US combat troops are the only thing that will work. That set off the White House Emergency Spin machine with America's Spokesperson (me) and both John Kerry and Obama being extra clear about no combat. Between us we got the General back in the boat.

Iran may end up the winner in Iraq

I read thru the statement that President Obama made last night regarding his plan to address ISIS (which he kept calling ISIL) and I'd like to address some of the problems we will face with this.

As someone who's actually developed the plans to address problems in Iraq and Syria, and had to brief them to senior leaders, I have a hard time understanding why it has taken so long for him to address this, and why he's picking the 'strategy' that he has.  I have agreed, up to now, with the cautious approach- that 'picking sides' in Syria is fraught with huge problems.  NONE of the groups fighting in Syria are in any way trustworthy- it would be like trying to pick one Mafia family in NY to help clean up crime problems.  No one you work with would benefit you in the end.  And ultimately, you may end up with a result you still don't like.

Syria plans had an especially troubling problem- we had ZERO guidance from above on exactly what the end state was to be- we ended up having to develop multiple plans based on assumptions that no senior leader had given guidance on.  No, the CENTCOM commander wasn't the problem- HE wasn't getting guidance either.  Neither Mattis nor Austin either one knew what we really wanted to end up with.  So, we built plans based on minimal intervention all the way thru full-on ops.  From humanitarian assistance missions thru 'BOG' ops.  From containment thru air power only, to SOF-only training assistance.  And then we went back and re-did them.  Several times.   We had no choice- we could only assume, based on our collective experience, on what the end state could be.  We used Bosnia, Iraq, AFG, DS-1, and a few others as 'models'.  Plus, we considered different types of UN missions that may be used as approaches, in case we had to support only those.

What we also had to contend with was the fact that, at the time, Iraq was in NO WAY to be a part of the mission set.  We had zero troops there; we had no presence, and even tho our own intel told us that the border area of Iraq and Syria was the real 'hot zone' developing, we could not address any activity there.  All of our effort was to 'contain' within the borders of Syria, and try to prevent further refugee problems into Lebannon and Jordan.  Especially Jordan.  Pay SPECIAL attention to the Jordanian issue should we start hitting Syria hard- there are going to be real problems along that border as people flee areas of Syria and Iraq.  AQ and ISIS may use that as a 'distraction' to force our hand there, and really end up with problems we haven't prepared for.  Remember, there are hundreds of thousands of refugees along the border, and its a complete powder keg readly to go up in flames at the slightest provocation.  

Now that Iraq territory has to be worked into the mix, at least we will have areas of 'safe zones' working with the Kurds that allow us some help.  Erbil airport is a good backup location, and I'm assuming they will use that as a potential staging area.  It's new, it's got a HUGE runway, and it's close-by.  Fueling will be the most logical, if we can secure it further.  

As someone who worked ops in Yemen and SOM and other areas, using these as 'models' for what we intend to do in Iraq is fraught with enormous issues- these are missions that are very very different than what is needed to address ISIS (if you want a very good rundown of this, go to Bill Roggio's column here.)  We have 'advisors' deep into these missions, and the end-states are very very different.  In fact, end-states in Syria and Iraq are completely different- so addressing ISIS across them is NOT going to be simple.  Air power alone isn't going to do it, and you are not going to get Kurds or Iraqi's to chase ISIS into Syria to combat them- and that's exactly what ISIS is going to do.  

The one issue that remains to be seen is how ISIS-supporting factions take on Baghdad; this is the nightmare scenario that could very well develop as a counter to US-centered actions.  The fact that Baghdad becomes a focus is a very real fear; it would force the Iraqi gov't and forces to abandon northern Iraq to concentrate on securing that area alone, leaving the Kurds as the only support we'd have up north.  And that ain't enough.

Another problem we could not solve internally was this issue of 'sharing intel' with anyone.  How the HELL do we share intel with these guys?  We can't even legally brief the mayor of NYC (deBlasio) because he doesn't have a clearance; there is NO such thing as 'REL YEMEN' or 'REL IRAQ' or 'REL SYRIA' for classified, useful intel info.  So we'd be breaking the law to even attempt it.  And we've been working with the Yems for years.

The only winner that comes out of this in the short-term is Iran.  Shiite factions get defended in Iraq, Iran basically gets a free pass, and we (the west) end up doing the dirty work.  How is this beneficial to us?

Let me ask all of you this- and leave your estimates in the comments- how big of a force do you think this is going to take to support?  PBO said 475 additional will be sent; that's basically a company, and that ain't gonna do it.  If we use air power alone, how many do you THINK that will take?  I'll look at your estimates and let you know in a few days how close you are.


Former VP Dick Cheney at the American Enterprise Institute

If anyone wants to see what leadership actually looks like without the excessive use of the phrase "let me be clear" or "And Osama Bin Laden knows I am serious" or any words like "bamboozled" and "Flim-Flam" you should watch this video.

I know that there will be many who will take issue with the last administration on a range of issues, and some just never got over the election in 2000, so they will never be happy.  One thing I never took issue with the Bush Administration was the premise that in order to have discussions about any political issues and achieve consensus or compromise; we couldn't have airplanes being flown into skyscrapers and Americans killed by Islamists bent on watching the world burn.

Have a gander, and if you want to; you can do a little longing for the days when the grownups were in charge.