Not making a difference since 2006. Blog motto: Always be sincere whether you mean it or not.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Answering a reader and coming out of the closet

In a recent post titled Jihad Ain't What It Used To Be a reader left a comment taking issue with a statement by Clark Stooksbury that I quoted,

"Once you get past aircraft carriers, B-52 bombers and Cruise Missiles, our power is rather ordinary and we have racked up numerous failures to prove it."

The reader, commenting as anonymous, left this,

"Stooksbury is either joking or ignorant. The limiting factor on our power for the last 50 years has been political, not military. A lot has changed since you wore a uniform."

I asked him to be more specific and he was kind enough to answer,

"I'll see what I can do. No, I don't think putting Iraq in same class as Carthage is the answer; it's awfully tempting when considering the "Sunni Triangle" but isn't the answer. That is a broad topic beyond the scope of a comment system, so I'll return to my point.

My first issue with Stooksbury's statement is that it's rather farcical. You might as well say, "Apart from his singing career, Sinatra wasn't much of an entertainer." True, but intellectually dishonest. But even excepting the "big sticks" I don't see a strong case for his statement. Is our Army and Marine Corps second-rate? That’s laughable. That muddle of rejects and dopeheads reformed itself quite thoroughly after 1973 and has plenty of successes to show for it.

By way of demonstrating that I occasionally have moments of insight, I'll consider other ways of looking at the statement. Perhaps he meant, "because we are unwilling to sink to the sort of slaughter which our enemies respect" or a similar statement regarding asymmetric warfare. This is true overall, but is a matter of intentions, not capability.

There are other possibilities. Perhaps we're not very good at interfering with the affairs of other nations. I present recent events in Somalia in answer to this point, where the Ethiopians are having a ball. Would that more of our wars were fought in that matter.

But I think his point is that our power-projection is hampered by lack of political will. This returns to the matter of capabilities and intentions, and perhaps there I can find some common ground with the man. Our leadership has failed to engage the national will, but we've also shown that we're inclined to "cut and run" in the way Bin Laden thought we were.

Lastly, when I referred previously to political limits I had Korea and Vietnam in mind. An old campaigner like yourself is no doubt familiar with those cans of worms. For the record I consider Korea less than a failure and ‘Nam a mistake best laid at LBJ’s feet. But they’re not Iraq.”

To say the least, I disagree. I shall take issue first with the term Political Will.

Anonymous states, “But I think his point is that our power-projection is hampered by lack of political will.” I think I read Mr. Stooksbury enough to believe he does not mean that, but I shall address it anyway.

It is bad taste, of course, to quote myself, but I think my feelings on the idea of “Political Will” are recyclable,

"During a rare moment of lucidity while pretending to be a college student, I remember a professor talking about Helmuth von Moltke. This Prussian general had come to the United States to observe the American Civil War. The lecturer mentioned how von Moltke had observed the railroads in America and went home to invest and make a killing in German trains. Von Moltke also had another observation. He contradicted any idea that the spread of democracy would lead to a more peaceful world. Rather, democracy would lead to mass armies as the whole nation needed to be involved in the war effort and the people propagandized for the national crusade."

Thus the elite (or wannabe elite, the neocons) will progagandize the country to get their way. Of course, the people, not proselytized would never say, “Hey, we gotta show them Persians not to screw with us.”

I take issue with the idea that it is only political will we lack and our military is up to the benefial hegemony thing. If that were so, we would be cutting the length of deployments instead of stretching them to fifteen months.

The last part to address is this,

“I present recent events in Somalia in answer to this point, where the Ethiopians are having a ball. Would that more of our wars were fought in that matter.”

I have read that the Ethiops are buying arms from North Korea with our blessing. As Ethiopia is not known for its treasury, I expect that we are in some roundabout way, paying for said arms. We are a country with a bizzare foreign policy.

Whatever regular readers I have probably understand that I am not a fan of current US foreign policy. It is time for me to come out of the closet. No I’m not gay. Well, I like to think I am happy enough to consider myself gay, but you know what I mean, and I digress.

My disagreement with our foreign policy is near absolute. The Wilsonian experiment is a disaster. I am not however an isolationist. I dislike the term as it is more an epithet than a description. I consider myself a neutralist.

I thus invite readers to look at my other blog, The Neutralist. I have been cross posting articles that touch on foreign policy over there as well.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The Ministry of Comic Relief

In the Monty Python sketch the Piranha Brothers, One of their victims is being interviewed and defends Dinsey as not really wanting to nail his head to the floor, but he had to do it. His last comment is,

“You gotta remember about ol' dinsey, 'e was cruel, but,'e was fair”

A number of years later, on British TV they were interviewing the recruiter of a mercenary force commanded by a certain ex Brit officer named Colonel Callan, notorious for shooting some of his own men in an encourager les autres situation. The ensuing uproar made it necessary for someone to go on the telly and defend the indefensible. The last comment of the recruiter was made with the exact intonation of Dinsey Piranha's defender,

“You gotta understand, Colonel Callan is a maniac. But, 'e's a brilliant officer.”

One could suspect after that, that Monty Python was not parody.

Now let me go out on a limb and suggest the possibility that Mr. Michael Palin, one of the Monty Python crew, has some sinecure in 'er Majesty's government as he is completely in tune with its outlook. Below from,

Blair’s Britain Beyond Parody

Wednesday, April 4th, 2007 in News by Matt Barganier|

A few days ago, Terry Jones of Monty Python fame penned a funny and insightful piece about the UK-Iran “crisis.” It began as follows:

I share the outrage expressed in the British press over the treatment of our naval personnel accused by Iran of illegally entering their waters. It is a disgrace. We would never dream of treating captives like this - allowing them to smoke cigarettes, for example, even though it has been proven that smoking kills.

The same day Jones’ piece appeared in the Guardian, the following appeared in the UK’s Telegraph:

“It was deplorable,” pronounced our tight-lipped Health Secretary, “that the woman hostage should be shown smoking. This sends completely the wrong message to our young people.”

Well, the hostages are home from their suck up fest in Iran and have changed their tune. What a hell it must have been. It appears they were put in time outs. Picture Steve McQueen in the cooler for.......hours. They have changed their syncophantic tune and are now screaming about the hell they endured and hoping to cadge a few bob out of Fleet Street for their trouble. Hey they are only following
Fewtril#179, one of the maxims of Deogolwulf , the modern La Rochefoucauld,

Rather than simply shirk one’s duty, it appears much more decent to make a principle out of one’s disinclination to perform it.

It may not be the homage of vice to virtue but as Deputy Minister Palin might say, “Close enough for Government work.”

Being from the People's Republic of Massachusetts, I have to put up with a lot of comments about Teddy and Barney and the constant pressure to be politically correct. It is a comfort to know there is a goofier realm and there will always be an England.

This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this very large open air insane asylum

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Jihad Ain't What It Used To Be

I am glad the Brits got home safely. It was all theater and the Iranians got the Tonys as far as I'm concerned. We don't have TV so other than a few breathless spots on radio, all I know is what I've gotten from the net. I promise that will never stop me from shooting from the hip.

One interesting article from Spiked Online. It seems media outlets in our mummy country were reporting wild Persian mobs calling for blood. The mob turned out to be eleven orderly lads outside the foreign ministry in Teheran.

I did see a picture of angry people calling for something on the Drudge site. What they were calling for, I can't say as it was a still photo. I guess they were Iranian because the caption said so. Just looking at that photo, I could tell that crowd was on something. My guess is Geritol. Maybe they have multiple dependencies and are popping Centrum Silver as well. Clearly the Iranian Revolution as a popular force is spent.

There may be only one thing and one man that can unite that country. A bombing campaign by George Bush. Maybe that is why the mullahs have not backed down. No matter what we threaten they seem to be defiantly yelling back at us, "Yeah, you and what army?" Maybe they think our land forces are so thin now that they can deal with an invasion. I don't think they are fearing a bombing campaign. Surely they have dispersed what needs to be dispersed by now. A lot of bombs constantly falling for a few weeks or months on what? Watever old armament they possess is probably more valuable to a scrap metal dealer than on a battlefield. No, the stuff they need to keep is the stuff that could turn Iran into one big Sunni triangle, except they are Shia.

Clark Stooksbury says it best, "Once you get past aircraft carriers, B-52 bombers and Cruise Missiles, our power is rather ordinary and we have racked up numerous failures to prove it."


When you're wounded and left on Afghanistan's plains,
And the women come out to cut up what remains,
Jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains
An' go to your Gawd like a soldier.

Kipling, The Young British Soldier

the voice of humility is going out on a limb and speculating that Faye Turney's recruiter never recited Kipling's verse as the proper attitude of the British serviceman or woman facing capture. We speculate the subject of capture never came up at all. Now as Yanks, it is possible that we have the Queen's forces all wrong and the selling point is the danger. Thirty years or so ago, it was different, but some got the wrong impression.

Colonel Come in, what do you want?

Private Watkins enters and salutes.

Watkins I'd like to leave the army please, sir.

Colonel Good heavens man, why?

Watkins It's dangerous.

Colonel What?

Watkins There are people with guns out there, sir.

Colonel What?

Watkins Real guns, sir. Not toy ones, sir. Proper ones, sir. They've all got 'em. All of 'em, sir. And some of 'em have got tanks.

Colonel Watkins, they are on our side.

Watkins And grenades, sir. And machine guns, sir. So I'd like to leave, sir, before I get killed, please.

Colonel Watkins, you've only been in the army a day.

Watkins I know sir but people get killed, properly dead, sir, no barley cross fingers, sir. A bloke was telling me, if you're in the army and there's a war you have to go and fight.

Colonel That's true.

Watkins Well I mean, blimey, I mean if it was a big war somebody could be hurt.

Colonel Watkins why did you join the army?

Watkins For the water-skiing and for the travel, sir. And not for the killing, sir. I asked them to put it on my form, sir - no killing.

From Monty Python

Watkins just did not get it. How kind of his colonel to set him straight that death might occur. Now, no war stories here, but thirty five years ago in the US Army, I would not have seen the colonel. I would have been lucky to see the first sergeant who would have been happy to explain that someone might be killed and by the way, that latrine might need some attention. I have left out some of the nouns and adjectives that he would have flavored the discourse with.

Of course that was all a long time ago and the marine recruiter,who spoke to my high school graduating class in assembly did apprise us of the opportunities, “We lost twenty five men on a hill last night and we need some recruits to replace 'em.”. It was a brave show and we all laughed. I doubt any recruiter is doing that these days, if they even get into a school.

It appears the Brit captives faced overwhelming force and resistance would have been suicidal. You might think that the captured British personnel would have defiantly given only name, rank, serial number and date of birth. I don't know if any did but Faye Turney spoke on TV

“Obviously we trespassed into their waters,” British sailor Faye Turney said on the video broadcast by Al-Alam, an Arabic-language, Iranian state-run television station that is carried across the Middle East.
“They were very friendly and very hospitable, very thoughtful, nice people. They explained to us why we’ve been arrested, there was no harm, no aggression,” she said.
Turney, 26, was shown eating with sailors and marines. At another point, she was seen sitting in a room with a floral curtains, smoking a cigarette.
“My name is leading sailman Faye Turney. I come from England. I have served in Foxtrot 99. I’ve been in the navy for nine years,”

Now, Sailman Turney I am sure faced duress and may have made statements to mitigate treatment of the other crew members captured with her. Had you or I been there and faced mistreatment I suspect sooner or later we would give in.

This is a problem for us and our Anglo allies (probably soon enough to be our non allies). It looks like it will be more so as time goes on if we wish to fight more of these little foreign adventures. Somehow, a “mum”* writing to her babies won't do much for a government's polling numbers.

The US.Army uses a computer game to recruit. All high tech and antiseptic.My son is a nerd and I went with him to Wired's Next Fest at the Javits Center in Manhattan. We were a bit disappointed as it was mostly just gadgets, but the display by the Army's Natick lab was instructive. They were demonstrating the completely connected soldier. I asked the guy in charge the purpose. His reply was that if someone needed to takeover command it could be approved at higher headquarters and they could keep tabs on the battlefield. Yup, those of you who were worried that there was an impending shortage of bureacracy in your nation's forces, be at ease. Centralize upward. Scene a few years from now: “President Pelosi, Spec 4 Lars Vijayswarti here. ColonelMcSanchez was just killed along with everyone else in the Officers' Club Humvee and I am taking command. Over.” “Spec 4 whoever you are, President Pelosi here. Keep me informed and when you surrender, please observe protocol. You will be liable for any breach of courtesy to your captors. Over”

The Japanese were harsh on their own men in their fight to the death cause your dead if you are captured policy. I don't think it is preferable to honorable internment as a POW, but it beats being part of the Oprah show that went on in Iran.

Thanks to President Ahmadinejad the captives are going home. It was a bright move on his part, reminiscent of Paul Kruger's letting go of Jameson's buffoons. I suspect the Persians knew what they were doing. Brownie points on the world stage and they would not have to put up with whining self absorbed, entitled westerners.

* Text of purported letter from captured British Faye Turney to her family, including husband Adam and daughter Molly:
"We were out in the boats when we were arrested by Iranian forces as we had apparently gone into Iranian waters." "I wish we hadn't because then I would be home with you all right now." "I'm so sorry we did because I know we wouldn't be here now if we hadn't. I want you all to know that I am well and safe." "I am being well looked after, I am fed three meals a day and I'm in constant supply of fluids." "The people are friendly and hospitable, very compassionate and warm." "I have written a letter to the Iranian people to apologize for us entering into their waters." "Please don't worry about me. I'm staying strong. Hopefully it won't be long till I'm home to get ready for Molly's birthday party and with a present from the Iranian people." "Look after everyone for me, especially Adam and Molly, I love you all more than you will ever know."

Not wanting to be overly tough on Faye, but is that why are you spend a lot of time on a ship on the other side of the world when you love them more than they will ever know. Not wanting to sound sexist, well not caring all that much if I do, but she does not look like the type one would say, “Yer mother wears combat boot,” about. There was a reason why armies have men with tough guy personnae. Oh well, at least she had her constant supply of fluids.