Book Review — Bing West’s “One Million Steps : A Marine Platoon at War”

One Million StepsA new book went on sale today: Bing West’s One Million Steps: A Marine Platoon at War. I was fortunate enough to get a review copy and would like to share my impressions with you.

West, a Marine veteran who served in Vietnam, has now added a sixth book to his series about the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. In One Million Steps, he describes his experience when he was embedded with a Marine platoon in the Sangin distinct of Afghanistan during a six month period covering 2010 to 2011. As with all of West’s books, it is extremely well-written. West is a master of lyrical simplicity, something that fits very well with the way in which his book pulls us into the lives of the young Marines struggling to take back territory from the Taliban in the Sangin province of Afghanistan.

The Marines who fought these daily battles won’t be remembered in the same way as the Marines who fought at Iwo Jima or Guadalcanal.  This historical amnesia won’t arise because of any Marine failings, though.  As has been true for generations of Marines before them, the Marines in Battalion 3/5 sacrificed themselves mightily. Their battalion suffered the greatest losses of any unit in Afghanistan.  These sacrifices, however, will gain no traction in the public imagination because this is an unusual war.  While Marines fight to win, 21st century rules of engagement, combined with Obama’s political calculus, placed these Marines in an untenable situation, where winning was impossible.  Unlike previous wars, where even a lost battle, if fought with sufficient bravery, could imbue other fighters with the will to win, in Afghanistan victory was the true No Man’s Land.

As West ably explains, the Marines were ordered to an area of Afghanistan that Britain, which had previously tried to occupy it, had basically ceded to the Taliban. The British left the Americans a single fortified area surrounded by the Taliban; by farmers who were both victims of and collaborators with, the Taliban; and by thousands of IEDs buried in land that was an inhospitable combination of canals, marshes, primitive compounds, and small open fields surrounded by dense foliage. The correct way to have subdued this region, of course, would have to take every piece of modern land and air technology available and go in with guns blazing — perhaps preceded by Israeli-style warnings to non-combatants that they should vacate the land or prepare to die.

What happened instead were Sisyphean Rules of Engagement (“ROEs”) that prohibited Marines from firing offensively, instead limiting them to defensive fire after they’d already run the risk of casualties. Worse, if the Marines sought to engage in any more than a running skirmish in response to shots fired while they were out on patrol, a battalion, not of fellow warriors but of lawyers, had to review the proposed fight plan first to make sure that it didn’t violate the ROEs.  Even knowing about this bureaucratic, legalistic twist on warfare, reading about it in One Million Steps is still a shock.  It’s just mind-boggling that lawyers were calling the shots in a genuine ground war (as opposed to the lawyer’s usual field of battle — a courtroom). Wars are fluid, dynamic situations; lawyers are stolid, cautious, and risk-averse. To make fighters in the war dependent on lawyers is insane.

Even worse for the Marines in Sangin was that they were fighting under a Commander-in-Chief who was committed to defeat and retreat. That these young men willingly put themselves in the line of fire every day, day after day, under the most dreadful circumstances, all in service of a Commander who had already erased the word victory from his vocabulary, and who would soon spell out for the enemy the exact date and circumstances of the surrender is another mind-boggler.

Despite the adversity pressing down on them, the Marines in Battalion 3/5 never lost their commitment to the Marine ethos. Whatever the job demanded of them, no matter how pointless, quixotic, or dangerous, they would do their best to get the job done. Using a combination of brute strength, craftiness, and moral and physical courage, all under the umbrella of masterful leadership that encouraged both team playing and personal responsibility, they went out every single day through hostile Sangin territory and killed the Taliban in a perpetual game of whack-a-mole .  .  . only in this game, the mole was doing its best to whack back.

One of the strengths of West’s writing is his own service as a Marine forty-years before. West has a visceral understanding of what faces a grunt fighting an often chimerical enemy who observes no rules of war; who has the entire untouchable civilian community under his thumb; and who has had years to prepare the ground for war in the enemies’ favor. Although West’s language never becomes heated or bombastic, his descriptions of the Marines’ circumstances are vivid, realistic, and manifestly accurate. West is manifestly not a desk jockey suddenly playing with the big boys.

West also conveys admirably the strong connection between the individual Marines, all of whom are stuck in the middle of nowhere, seeing their comrades fall in often fatal and always devastating welters of blood, and putting their lives on the line every day. While these young men’s peers are at college, or holding down jobs, or just slacking off, these men, all of whom are volunteers, are living by the rules their much-admired Sargeant Matt Abbate wrote on a piece of plywood that he then hammered onto a wall:

1) Young warriors die
2) You cannot change Rule #1
3) Someone must walk the point (where you are sure to die)
4) Nothing matters more than thy brethren . . . thou shalt protect no matter what
5) Going out in a hail of gunfire . . . pop dem nugs until they body runs dry of blood . . . AND LOOK HELLASICK

Another great virtue of West’s writing is that each of the young men he mentions, even if only briefly, is a real person. West is not a Marxist who sees soldiers as cogs, units, victims, representatives of their race or class, statistics, or any other socialist group designation. To him, each is an individual with a name and a story. Moreover, to the extent too many of these young men died, each is a person who deserves the dignity of being remembered once more as the person he was, someone with hopes, family, and plans for a future that was never realized.

One Million Steps often makes for painful reading because we are seeing a tragedy play out in real-time. At the national level, the Marines were contending with two administrations that were, and have continued to be, terrified of the prospect of fighting a full-blooded war.  Worse, the second of these two administrations was frightened even of the possibility of victory. Serving on the ground under this schizophrenic, neurotic, diffident, sclerotic bureaucracy were men who, for whatever reason (a thirst for adventure, a fear of boredom, a craving for the camaraderie that only military services brings), chose to fight in an army governed by fear, constrained by counter-productive rules, and opposed to victory. There is no way this could end well.

Nevertheless, uncomfortable reading or not, Bing West’s One Million Steps: A Marine Platoon at War is a book that deserves to be read. We need to read it to understand the nature of our enemy, even if our political class continues to turn a blind eye. We need to read it to appreciate that this country is still capable of producing men of high-caliber, discipline, commitment and bravery. And lastly, we need to read it because young men, tucked away in a forgotten corner of an unpopular war, deserve to be recognized for their courage and sacrifice.

Friday afternoon round-up and Open Thread

Victorian posy of pansiesThe Taliban has hit Marin County (indirectly).  Marin County is headquarters for Roots of Peace, an admirable charity that seeks to advance agricultural development in poverty-stricken areas.  It has an outpost in Afghanistan, where it seeks to enable the Afghani people to feed themselves.  The Taliban can’t have that kind of thing happening in its country.  It therefore sent off some foot soldiers to attack the Roots of Peace Kabul office, killing a child in the process.  If radical Islam had a cable-TV station, it’s motto would be “All war, all the time.”  One wonders if this will be a bit of reality that mugs that peaceniks who are so self-centered that they cannot envision cultures that have, as their core value, a desire for perpetual warfare.

***

David Clarke, Milwaukee’s Sheriff, made a splash when he encouraged Milwaukee’s beleaguered citizens to arm themselves:

Police chief get a gun

I think Clarke may have found a kindred spirit in Detroit Police Chief James Craig. During a press conference in which he discussed the rising numbers of homeowners (successfully) using arms to defend themselves, he had this to say:

Detroit Police Chief James Craig said at a press conference last week that in his 37-year career, he’s never seen as many homeowners defending themselves by shooting intruders. Craig told The News in January he felt the crime rate could be lowered if more “good Americans” were armed, because he said criminals would think twice about attacking.

“It does appear more and more Detroiters are becoming empowered,” Craig said. “More and more Detroiters are getting sick of the violence. I know of no other place where I’ve seen this number of justifiable homicides. It’s interesting that these incidents go across gender lines.”

We want more law enforcement like Clarke and Craig, and less like Marin’s Second Amendment-challenged sheriff.

***

I also want more of this:  An Ebony magazine editor went on a rant against conservative blacks; got called on it; claimed that the person calling her out was a white racist; when she learned that the person calling her out was black apologized for calling him white; and then doubled down on rants that were both anti-conservative black and anti-white.  (That’s not want I want to see more of.  It’s this next thing I like.)  Normally, Republicans would run away screaming from this type of confrontation, leaving the racist Leftist in control of the field.  This time, the RNC demanded an apology . . . and got it.

***

Speaking of the Left’s racial obsessions:  Any half-sentient being knows that Stephen Colbert’s shtick is that he created a faux-conservative character who is pathologically dumb, racist, sexist, etc., and that Colbert, a marginally-talented generic Leftist, uses this character to claim that all conservatives are pathologically dumb, racist, sexist, etc.  That’s why it’s hysterically funny that, when his show tried to  highlight (non-existent) Republican racism by having his character ostensibly tweet out a crude anti-Asian stereotype, the Asian community got riled and demanded that Colbert be fired for being an anti-Asian racist.  Asians should stop getting their knickers in a twist about stupid TV shows and should start looking at where their real politic interests lie.  (Hint:  It’s not the Democrat Party.)

***

Leland Yee has been around forever as a fixture in Bay Area politics.  As his name implies, he’s Asian, he’s hard Left, and he represents San Francisco and parts of San Mateo in the California legislature.  Since Sandy Hook, Yee’s been very vocal about being anti-guns.  He also just got indicted for gun running, including trying to sell arms to Islamist groups.  The MSM has been trying hard to ignore his story, as it’s been trying hard to ignore a bunch of other stories about spectacularly corrupt Democrat figures.  Howie Carr therefore serves a useful public service when he calls out the media, the Democrat party, and the crooks.

***

Speaking of crooks, Harry Reid claims never to have called Republicans liars when it comes to Obamacare, despite footage of him calling Republicans liars because of Obamacare.  There’s some debate on the Right about whether Reid’s gone senile or is just trying out his version of The Big Lie.  My theory is that we’re seeing malignant narcissism in play.  As I’ve said a zillion times before in speaking about Obama, malignant narcissists never “lie” because their needs of the moment always dictate the truth of the moment.  That is, if they need to say it, it must be true.  (It’s nice to be your own God.)

***

Keith Koffler identifies the four roots of Obama’s disastrous foreign policy.  I agree with him, although I would add a fifth, which is that Obama desperately wants to see America knocked down to size as punishment for her myriad sins.  Perhaps Obama should read the DiploMad, as he explains why Russia, the country before which Obama is now weakly doing obeisance, has always been much worse than America could ever be, both as a protector and an enemy.

***

Adm. Jeremiah Denton, Jr. has died at 89.  The public learned about Denton during the Vietnam War when, during one of the forced confessions that the North Vietnamese liked to televise to the world, he blinked out a Morse code message — “T-O-R-T-U-R-E” — thereby providing the first proof America had that the Commies were torturing American POWs.  During the same interview, he bravely said he supported his country, a statement that led to more torture.  Denton was also America’s longest-held POW, spending almost 8 years in the Hell that was the Hanoi Hilton, and various related prisons.  During that entire time, he was brutally and repeatedly tortured and he spent four years in solitary confinement (where he was tortured).  My heart bleeds when I read what happened to him.  But Denton came home and he got on with a full, rich life, including six years in the U.S. Senate.  If anyone deserves to Rest In Peace, it is Adm. Denton.

***

I don’t think much of Stanford.  It’s nothing personal.  I think all the big universities (and most of the small ones) have become intellectually corrupt.  However, Prof. Michael McConnell, at Stanford Law School, has somewhat restored my faith in Stanford by writing one of the clearest analyses I’ve yet seen of the problems facing the government in the Hobby Lobby case.  Of course, law and logic will not sway Ginsberg, Kagan, Sotomayor, and Breyer, all of whom are activists much more concerned with making policy than with applying law.  As happens too often, Anthony Kennedy will cast the deciding vote — a reality that places way too much power in the hands of a man who seems too often to blow, not where the Constitution takes him, but wherever his fancy for the day alights.

***

And to end on a light note, two more ridiculously funny Kid Snippets, offering an inspired combination of kid wisdom lip synched by some remarkably talented adult actors:

 

Yes, the SEALS’ sacrifice during Operation Red Wings was a waste

Operation Red WingsBefore you start hammering away at me, let me explain what I mean about my claim that the sacrifice the SEALS and their rescuers made during Operation Red Wings was indeed a waste.  I am referring, of course, to Jake Tapper’s asking Marcus Luttrell whether  his comrades died in vain.  That was a foolish and tactless question to ask Luttrell, and Luttrell couldn’t and wouldn’t give the real answer in any event.  There is an answer, though, and Tapper was right.  Here’s why:

There are three types of wasted battle deaths, two of which are familiar to all, and one of which is a brand new one.

The most obvious wasted death is the one that occurs because of terrible command decisions.  One could argue that the entirety of WWI, with Brits throwing themselves into No Man’s Land for four years at their generals’ commands was that type of wasted death.  The British had appalling tactics and, rather than changing them to avoid a bloody stalemate, simply redoubled their failed approach.  Likewise, in the case of Operation Red Wings, the SEALS were fatally hampered by rules of engagement so restrictive that, after lengthy debate, they decided that they were safer releasing potential spies than they were killing or otherwise disabling them.

The men in Operation Red Wings might still have died in other places, at other times, during the war in Afghanistan.  Their deaths in that time and at that place, however, flowed directly from a foolish policy that gave (and still gives) greater respect to the enemy’s safety than to that of our own troops.

Still, despite a foul policy, when he answered Tapper’s question Luttrell spoke a greater truth, reflecting his understanding that no war is every perfectly carried out at either a strategic or tactical level.  As long as you’re still fighting, you can still win:

I don’t know what part of the film you were watching, but hopelessness really never came into it. I mean, where did you see that? Because there was never a point where we just felt like we were hopelessly lost or anything like that. We never gave up. We never felt like we were losing until we were actually dead.

What Luttrell left unsaid at the time was that his team still believed in the fight.  More importantly, so did America’s then-Commander in Chief, President George W. Bush.  Bush never doubted the righteousness of trying to destroy al Qaeda and the Taliban in their Afghani stronghold.  As far as all who were then concerned believed, Afghanistan was an important war that would benefit America.  In that regard, therefore, when troops die in a righteous (and, one hopes, victorious) war, their deaths have meaning regardless of the success or failure of any single engagement.

Which brings us to the second type of wasted death in war:  deaths that occur because the war’s supporters fail to understand that they are supporting a bad or lost cause.  In every case where a country’s military is the aggressor, only to lose dramatically to a better prepared, more ferocious fighting force, many on the losing side are going to have to ask “Why the heck did we start this?  What a waste of lives and resources.”  Even if you have the best cause in the world, if there’s no way you can possibly win, those who die have wasted their lives.

The caveat to this view is that one only realizes after the fact that a war was a waste.  During the American Revolution, many might have said that the revolutionaries’ stand against the most powerful military in the world was bound to be a waste . . . except that it wasn’t.

Obama-salutingThe above examples of wasted deaths in war are familiar to any history student.  Barack Obama has added an entirely new category to “wasted war deaths,” one that I don’t think has ever before occurred in recorded history:  Deaths that are a waste because the Commander-in-Chief couldn’t care less about victory or the troops.  Instead, merely wants to give the appearance of fighting for short-term domestic political advantage.

Per Robert Gates:

“As I sat there, I thought: The president doesn’t trust his commander, can’t stand Karzai, doesn’t believe in his own strategy and doesn’t consider the war to be his,” Mr. Gates writes. “For him, it’s all about getting out.”

Except that Obama didn’t get out of Afghanistan, because it would have looked bad politically given his campaign claim that Afghanistan was a good war. (He probably didn’t believe that either.) Both he and Hillary agreed in Gates’ presence that they were determinedly opposed to the Iraq War merely out of political expediency, without any regard for America’s best interests:

“Hillary told the president that her opposition to the [2007] surge in Iraq had been political because she was facing him in the Iowa primary. . . . The president conceded vaguely that opposition to the Iraq surge had been political. To hear the two of them making these admissions, and in front of me, was as surprising as it was dismaying.”

Given this cavalier attitude, it’s no surprise that the President did nothing to secure Iraq.  To the contrary:  he sat (and has long been sitting) idly by as al Qaeda has retaken city after city in which American men fought and died. By deliberately turning victory into defeat, Obama has taken every single American death in Iraq and wiped it of meaning. While our troops once died in a just cause to bring democracy to a benighted land —  thereby decreasing the risk of devastating terror attacks against America — now those same deaths have become pointless.  Obama didn’t just allow the status quo to reappear, he fomented an even worse situation than before. (Saddam Hussein was bad; al Qaeda is worse.) Somehow it’s perfectly symbolic of Obama’s “man-created” travesty that the military’s last act with regard to Fallujah has been to persecute Marines.

Not only was Obama uninterested in our nation’s security or our military victories, he was singularly uninterested in the troops:

One quality I missed in Obama was passion, especially when it came to the two wars,’ Gates wrote.

‘In my presence, Bush — very unlike his father — was pretty unsentimental. But he was passionate about the war in Iraq; on occasion, at a Medal of Honor ceremony or the like, I would see his eyes well up.

‘I worked for Obama longer than Bush, and I never saw his eyes well up.’

Again, no surprise there.  To Obama the narcissist, the men and women in the military are merely objects serving his ego. For that reason, it’s also unsurprising that the only subject regarding the military that excited him was getting gays into it, a passion with interesting Freudian implications:

Gates wrote that ‘the only military matter, apart from leaks, about which I ever sensed deep passion on his part was ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’

Just as disturbing as Obama’s warped values is his complete disinterest in even a simulacrum of competence:

President Obama is “chronically incapable” of military strategy and falls far short of his predecessor George W. Bush, according to one of Britain’s most senior military advisors.

[snip]

[Sir Hew] Strachan, a current member of the Chief of the Defense Staff’s Strategic Advisory Panel, cited the “crazy” handling of the Syrian crisis as the most egregious example of a fundamental collapse in military planning that began in the aftermath of 9/11. “If anything it’s gone backwards instead of forwards, Obama seems to be almost chronically incapable of doing this. Bush may have had totally fanciful political objectives in terms of trying to fight a global War on Terror, which was inherently astrategic, but at least he had a clear sense of what he wanted to do in the world. Obama has no sense of what he wants to do in the world,” he said.

So, yes, Operation Red Wings was a waste, not at the time, but in retrospect — and this is so because we have a president who views war solely in terms of his own self-aggrandizement and political objectives, without any regard for America’s national security or strategic interests, or for the troops who have served and are currently serving in our American military.  Obama has managed to negate any good the troops did before he became President and, since he became president, they are merely objects on his own personal chessboard.  Like some spoiled potentate, he moves them around for his pleasure and views their deaths with clinical dispassion.

(See also this article, from Foreign Policy.)

 

It’s not smart for the Army to call its own troops stupid — but nobody seems smart in Obama’s America

The rule of war used to be that you hated your enemy. That made it easy to fight your enemy. Then, starting with the first Gulf War, the new rule was that you felt sorry for your enemy. By the Iraq War, the rule had become, you’ve got to like and respect your enemy.

These new rules baffled my father, a WWII vet, who kept saying “You can’t kill an enemy unless you hate him.”  I’m glad that Daddy’s not alive today to see the proposed Army Handbook coming out of the politically correct Obama Pentagon.  The proposed new rule is that, if you serve in America’s military, you must hate yourself because you’re incompetent and ill-informed (the link is behind a paywall; I’ve limited the quotation below to fair use):

The proposed Army handbook suggests that Western ignorance of Afghan culture, not Taliban infiltration, has helped drive the recent spike in deadly attacks by Afghan soldiers against the coalition forces.

“Many of the confrontations occur because of [coalition] ignorance of, or lack of empathy for, Muslim and/or Afghan cultural norms, resulting in a violent reaction from the [Afghan security force] member,” according to the draft handbook prepared by Army researchers.

There you have it: if you get killed in Afghanistan, it’s all your fault.

With that rule in mind, why don’t we just surrender now and save everyone a lot of time and money? I’m sure that the short-term benefits, in the form of national politically-correct self-respect, will more than offset the increase in targeted American killings at home and abroad.

Incidentally, there’s absolutely nothing wrong for an occupying force to deal intelligently with both the active enemy and the more neutral local people. It’s smart to mandate that troops behave in ways that will maximize gaining the local population’s good-will, while minimizing accidentally giving cultural offense.  A sidebar to the WSJ article that quotes the handbook’s specific rules, shows that the Army can be that smart:

Green-on-blue incidents provoke a crisis of confidence and trust among [coalition forces] working with [Afghan troops]. As a means of illuminating this insider threat, those [coalition] personnel working on Security Force Assistance Teams during 2012 that live alongside and mentor [Afghan security forces] have about 200 times the risk of being murdered by an [Afghan security force] member than a U.S. police officer has of being murdered in the line of duty by a perpetrator.

* * *

Preventive tools:

  • Understand that they may have poor conflict resolution skills and that insults cause irrational escalation of force.
  • Do not discuss religion

* * *

Cultural Awareness:

Flashpoints/Grievances Some U.S. Troops Have Reported Regarding Afghanistan National Security Forces:

To better prepare [coalition forces] for the psychologically challenging conditions in Afghanistan, familiarize yourself with the following stressors some U.S. troops have reported concerning [Afghan security forces] behavior during previous deployments. Bear in mind that not all [coalition] troops have reported such experiences or beliefs.

  • Some ANSF are profoundly dishonest and have no personal integrity
  • ANSF do not buy-into war effort; far too many are gutless in combat
  • Incompetent, ignorant and basically stupid

Bottom line: Troops may experience social-cultural shock and/or discomfort when interacting with [Afghan security forces]. Better situational awareness/understanding of Afghan culture will help better prepare [coalition forces] to more effectively partner and to avoid cultural conflict that can lead towards green-on-blue violence.

* * *

Etiquette Violations Best Avoided by [coalition forces] Taboo conversation topics include:

  • Anything related to Islam
  • Mention of any other religion and/or spirituality
  • Debating the war
  • Making derogatory comments about the Taliban
  • Advocating women’s rights and equality
  • Directing any criticism towards Afghans
  • Mentioning homosexuality and homosexual conduct

Bottom line: Try to avoid highly charged and emotional issues.

What’s dumb is a handbook that, at least in its first draft, appears in its introduction (which sets the tone for the rest of the handbook) to blame American troops for problems with Afghanis.  Sad to say, that’s what the introduction to the handbook (if I understand the WSJ article correctly) appears to do:

“Many of the confrontations occur because of [coalition] ignorance of, or lack of empathy for, Muslim and/or Afghan cultural norms, resulting in a violent reaction from the [Afghan security force] member,” according to the draft handbook prepared by Army researchers.

There’s only one way to read that: “You Americans soldiers are crude, rude, vulgar, uninformed ugly Americans. Shape up or die.”

Every parent knows that it’s one thing to demand good, smart behavior from your child because your child is a good and smart person.  It’s another thing entirely to tell your child that he’s a stupid, incompetent failure whose every negative interaction with third parties is his own fault (whether or not that’s true).  The first approach creates responsible people who set high moral and practical standards for themselves.  The second approach creates embittered, insecure people who refuse to examine and improve their own behavior because it’s too painful to do so.  One would think that the high muckety-mucks in the Army would be savvy enough to understand this elemental human psychology.

As BlackFive says, writing from the perspective of someone who knows what it means to be on the front lines:

Cultural sensitivity is one thing.  But.  How any American soldier can avoid criticism (especially witnessing that behavior) of how they treat women and children is beyond me.  This is almost a parallel to how we began fighting communism in central America in the 70s/80s.  Look the other way.  Don’t get involved.  Don’t fight, just advise (and if they don’t listen, no big deal).  It was when we were allowed to make moral and ethical decisions/actions that we succeeded there.  It was when we stopped the avoidance nonsense that changes began to happen.

 

Dead enemies mean we’re losing; dead Americans mean we’re winning

In war, it’s entirely possible to have battle causalities increase despite the fact that you’re winning.  This is because, as with the Surge in Iraq, you are aggressively engaging the enemy.  Yes, you are defeating the enemy, decimating his numbers, and driving him back, but the very fact of engagement is necessarily going to result in more losses on your own side too.

Then there’s the mirror image situation, the one that sees your enemy having the Surge — perhaps because your own Commander in Chief announced a year ago that he was giving up on the war and had already set a date for pulling the troops out.  Your troops aren’t engaging more, but the enemy troops are, and they’re very successfully killing you and destroying your weapons:

International Security Assistance Force officials are providing additional details about the Sept. 14 attack on Camp Bastion in Afghanistan’s Helmand province in which two coalition service members were killed when insurgents attacked the base’s airfield.

Because it is still early in the investigation of this attack, information is subject to change as new details become available, officials said.

The attack commenced just after 10 p.m., officials said, when approximately 15 insurgents executed a well-coordinated attack against the airfield on Camp Bastion. The insurgents, organized into three teams, penetrated at one point of the base’s perimeter fence, officials said.

The insurgents appeared to be well-equipped, trained and rehearsed, officials said. Dressed in U.S. Army uniforms and armed with automatic rifles, rocket-propelled grenade launchers and suicide vests, the insurgents attacked coalition fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft parked on the flight line, aircraft hangars and other buildings, officials said.

Six coalition AV-8B Harrier jets were destroyed and two were significantly damaged, said officials, noting three coalition refueling stations were destroyed. Six soft-skin aircraft hangars were damaged to some degree.

Coalition forces engaged the insurgents, killing 14 and wounding one who was taken into custody, officials said.

In addition to the two coalition service members that were killed, nine coalition personnel — eight military and one civilian contractor — were wounded in the attack, officials said. None of their injuries are considered life-threatening.

The administration is spinning this as proof that Americans are winning.  Although Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is “concerned” about the attacks (doesn’t anyone in the administration ever get upset when Americans die?), “he sees the insider attacks as the ‘last gasp’ of a Taliban insurgency that has not been able to regain lost ground.”  Me?  I see this as Americans being on the wrong side of someone else’s Surge.  Or, as a friend of mine says,  “after Vietnam we decided the enemy body count did not mean we were winning but nowadays we equate our own body count to a sign of our certain victory.”

In other words, the Left is always completely consistent:  dead enemies mean we’re losing; dead Americans mean we’re winning.  But please, don’t question their patriotism.

Afghan troops kill because of Ramazan induced PMS

In the last two weeks, Afghan forces under American mentorship have killed ten NATO troops.  Now, you and I might think this is because we are at war with Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan, and these enemy forces have had their agents infiltrate the ostensibly American-friendly Afghan forces.  In other words, our guys have been killed by secret agents for their guys, a nasty tactic completely consistent with traditional warfare.

You are just so naive if you think that.  You seem to have forgotten that, in Obama’s America, it’s always our fault.  You see, we just haven’t been sensitive enough to the Afghan troops’ monthly needs.  It’s kind of like their suffering from a massive, cultural PMS attack (emphasis mine):

General John Allen, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, said he still doesn’t know why at least 10 NATO troops have died in the last two weeks at the hands of the Afghan forces they mentor. He suspects it may have something to do with asking those Afghans to perform dangerous operations during the recent Muslim holy month. Maybe.

[snip]

During the past several weeks, Afghan forces have turned their guns on the U.S. troops that mentor them with increasing frequency. The Afghan troops have killed at least 40 U.S. and allied forces this year, the most since the war began, and Karzai’s government insists the blame lies with Pakistani infiltrators, not Afghans themselves. Allen diplomatically said he was “looking forward to the Afghans providing us with the intelligence” they’re using to reach that conclusion.

But beyond that, Allen said his staff was still studying why the attacks have increased. One possible contributing factor: the holy month of Ramazan, which most of the Muslim world calls Ramadan. Although Ramazan is an annual event, it doesn’t occur at the same time annually on the western calendar, and this year it fell during the summer fighting season. The “daily pressures” of war and the “sacrifices associated with fasting,” especially with a larger and newer force of Afghan recruits, may have contributed to some Afghan forces snapping.

I hope that the General is playing a deep game, one that involves publicly placating our nominal Afghan allies while, behind the scenes, going Hell for leather after the bad guys.  If he’s not, I think we may as well leave Afghanistan immediately, before we accidentally hurt any more Afghani feelings.  If this is truly the attitude coming from the top echelons of America’s military, our troops are being turned into shameful sacrifices to political correctness.  After all, you can’t fight an enemy if you’re too scared, ignorant, or politically whipped to name that enemy.

 

 

 

Wanted: Help finding missing brain (either mine or the President’s, I’m not quite sure which)

Somewhere between yesterday and today, my brain went AWOL.  I had a wonderful idea for a short and sweet post yesterday but never got the chance to write it down.  Today, I have the chance, but absolutely no ideas, neither short and sweet ideas, nor long and boring ones.  I’ve been reading the news, and find it redundant.  The genius in the White House has flat-lined.  The news today is the same as it was yesterday and the day before.  Obama has completed  his re-volution on gay marriage (“I was for it before I was against it before I was for it, but it’s none of my business anyway, because it’s a state ‘thang'”); he’s stood by helplessly as Europe, in thrall to the same economic ideas he espouses, is going into an economic death spiral; Islamists, easily recognizing a weak horse when they see one, are on the move in one place and biding their time in another (point randomly to a map and you’ll get moving Islamists or biding Islamists somewhere in the world); and the economy at home is finally being recognized as a Depression, rather than a series of interconnected recessions.

I mean, really, what insight can I offer at this point?  What can I say about this president that hasn’t been said before?  Yes, he’s an amateur, but he’s also been very effective at transforming America from a first rate capitalist country (or, at least semi-first rate); into a second rate wanna be socialist disaster.  Regarding his amateurism, he reminds me of the dojo dictum:  always spar with the black belt, not the white, because the former is much less likely to hurt you than the latter.  A good fighter is as adept at not harming a friend as he (or she) is at inflicting maximum damage on an enemy.  Regardless of Obama’s motives (anti-colonialism, socialism, hostility to whites, etc.), he’s managed to muck things up but good.

One of the muckier mucks, of course, is Afghanistan.  At the Watcher of Weasels website, some of the Council members (moi aussi) have weighed in with their opinions about that debacle — one that tragically, involves the spilling of American blood in the pursuit, not of an honorable victory, but rather a craven, unfocused, purposeless withdrawal.

What!?  Me gloomy?  Nah, I’m always happy on Mondays.  In Obama’s America, this is what happiness looks like.

Obama’s use of special forces: not just bad strategy, but a terrible way to thin out an already thin (and very elite) herd

BUDS trainees during Hell Week

Special troops are, by definition, small in number.  If everyone could do what they do, they would be special.  They are made up of men with unusual mental and physical strength.  Again, by definition this is a subset of all men.  (No disrespect meant to the majority of men who aren’t unusual in both their mental and physical strength.)  Once these men are selected, they are subject to rigorous training, training that would be impossible to give to large groups.  Special forces go beyond “the few, the proud.”  They also fall into the class of “rare and few in number.”

Given their numeric limitations, it makes sense to use special forces sparingly.  Once lost (God forbid), each member of a special forces team is very, very hard to replace.  Someone needs to tell that to the President, who, flush with SEAL Team Six’s exquisite raid on Osama (a raid that subsequently resulted in the vengeance-driven loss of many members of that same team), is tasking those guys with responsibility for Afghanistan — all of Afghanistan.  As Max Boot says:

The kinds of direct-action strikes that these units carry out are an integral part of any comprehensive counterinsurgency strategy–but they cannot substitute for the absence of such a strategy. That was the mistake we made in Iraq from 2003 to 2007 and in Afghanistan from 2001 to 2009. Now it seems Obama is making that mistake again, to judge from news reports the White House is planning to lean heavily on the Special Operations Forces as they withdraw regular troops from Afghanistan. This is not a way to defeat the Taliban, the Haqqanis, and other dangerous terrorists on the cheap–it is a way to lose the war while pretending you are doing something to win it.

To which I would add that it’s also a war to squander a special breed by placing them at unreasonable risk, so that they might no longer be there when we really need them.

New NATO tactic: pretend the enemy doesn’t really exist

My post caption is not a joke:  According to USA Today, the newest NATO tactic in Afghanistan is, in essence, to pretend there is no enemy:

Military commanders in Afghanistan have stopped making public the number of allied troops killed by Afghan soldiers and police, a measure of the trustworthiness of a force that is to take over security from U.S.-led forces.

The change in policy comes after at least three allied troops have been killed by the Afghan troops they trained in the past month and follows what appears to be the deadliest year of the war for NATO trainers at the hands of their Afghan counterparts.

[snip]

Since 2005, more than 50 troops had been killed and 48 wounded by Afghan troops, according to data released before the policy changed and USA TODAY research. In 2011, Afghan troops killed at least 13 ISAF troops.

Anthony Cordesman, a military analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said information about the killing of U.S. troops by Afghan troops or police is important because it shows whether the U.S. withdrawal plan is realistic. “It’s not just a matter of the number of ISAF or U.S. troops getting attacked. The real question is will this force be loyal to the government?” he said. “The constant question has to be, ‘Did you rush out to set impossible levels of quantity without addressing the quality of Afghan security forces?’ “

I know I’m nothing but an armchair warrior, but I have to ask, can one really fight a war this way?

 

It seems to me that you either fight the enemy or you don’t.  You don’t just wish the enemy away.  I have visions of the guys at NATO waving their little fairy wands around, convinced that that’s the way to win the battle.  For me, it’s upsetting.  For our troops, it’s a life and death matter.  And of course, if the NATO fairies don’t show up, we’re all going to be front line and in very deep doo-doo.

There’s something wrong with a war where we pretend the enemy isn’t doing us any harm, while we make a cause célèbre of four battle-weary Marines who engaged in behavior both antithetical to our military’s ethos and inconsistent with the way in which, 99.99999% of the time, our military conducts what the smart people recognize is an existential war.

Why can’t we fight to the finish this time, so we’ll never have to do it again?

A friend sent me a link to an editorial bemoaning the fact that, by abruptly pulling out from Iraq and, soon, Afghanistan, the Obama administration is ensuring that we’re leaving a job undone — something that invariably means one has to do it again.  If history is going to keep repeating itself, why can’t we just repeat the good parts?

World War I ended with a definitive American victory, but a dangerous, un-managed peace, one that pretty much made World War II inevitable.  By 1942, my favorite songwriter, Irving Berlin, pretty much summed up the WWII mindset, which was “do it right this time.”

[Verse:]
‘Twas not so long ago we sailed to meet the foe
And thought our fighting days were done
We thought ’twas over then but now we’re in again
To win the war that wasn’t won

[Refrain:]
This time, we will all make certain
That this time is the last time

This time, we will not say “Curtain”
Till we ring it down in their own home town

For this time, we are out to finish
The job we started then

Clean it up for all time this time
So we won’t have to do it again

Dressed up to win
We’re dressed up to win
Dressed up for victory
We are just beginning
And we won’t stop winning
Till the world is free

[Coda:]
We’ll fight to the finish this time
And we’ll never have to do it again

Trust old Irving to hit the nail on the head. And, in fact, that’s what the Allies did.  First, they destroyed entirely the totalitarian states in Germany, Japan and Italy.  Then, in those regions over which they had control (as to those the Soviets held), the Americans carefully rebuilt the nations into democratic allies.  It was a tough, long-haul job, but it prevented post-war massacres and ensured that (so far) we haven’t had to “do it again” with Germany, Italy or Japan.

Clearly, we’re a whole lot dumber now than we were in the mid-20th century. In 1991 we snatched defeat from the jaws of victory in Iraq (which is one of the reasons I’ve never liked Colin Powell, whom I’ve always blamed, fairly or not, for being the architect of that foolish retreat). Now, with Obama’s help, we’re doing it all over again, only worse. Does any nation get a third chance to remedy its chronic stupidity? I doubt we will, especially because Obama is also choosing to repeat the disarmament mistakes of the 20s and 30s. Ain’t those fancy Ivy League educations grand? They go in smart and come out stupid.

I’m an armchair warrior (aka a chicken hawk) and I’m disgusted and frustrated. I can only imagine how the troops — the ones who sweated and bled — feel as they watch their Commander in Chief dismantling all of their good work.