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 its 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, but their deaths in that time and at that place 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.

Nevertheless, 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 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 viewpoint, of course, 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, but 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, since he’d run on a platform claiming that Afghanistan was a good war. Of course, he probably didn’t believe that either. Both he and Hillary, after all, 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, and 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 Iraq death and wiped it of meaning. While they were once deaths 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, since 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 this travesty that the military’s last act with regard to Fallujah is 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.’

No surprise there, of course.  To Obama the narcissist, the men and women in the military are merely objects serving his ego. It’s therefore also no surprise 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.)

 

Democrats — sacrificing American lives for political expediency

Robert GatesThe last seven years of the Bush presidency had as their soundtrack “Bush lied, people died” or “No wars for oil.”  Democrats loved their troops so much that they couldn’t bear to see them die because a president had ulterior motives.  Bush left the White House and, magically, Democrats stopped caring about the troops.

Obama, however, did still care about the troops:  He cared that they functioned as political props to give him cover in his half-assed efforts to “be tough on terrorism.”  We know this because former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has written a book.  Sure, Gates could be lying in Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War, but one suspects he’s not — at least as to this point.  If Bob Woodward (who reviewed the book) is correct, what Gates reports is entirely consistent with Obama’s actions; his speeches about troops, terrorism, and Afghanistan; and his political record before becoming president:

In a new memoir, former defense secretary Robert Gates unleashes harsh judgments about President Obama’s leadership and his commitment to the Afghanistan war, writing that by early 2010 he had concluded the president “doesn’t believe in his own strategy, and doesn’t consider the war to be his. For him, it’s all about getting out.”  (Emphasis added.)

Assuming the above statement to be true (as I do), what Obama did was unconscionable.  Bush, who stood on Ground Zero right after 9/11, believed in the fight, even though he knew troops would die protecting America’s interests.  (And that statement is true whether one believes that Bush headed into war to keep America safe or headed into war to keep Big Oil safe.  I, of course, incline to the former view.)  Obama, however, believed only in himself and was willing to let people die to advance his political standing.  Ace spells it out:

Which is what is so galling. Men are being killed at three times the rate as they died under Bush’s leadership, and Obama is not even trying to win.

Those men remain there out of political cowardice. Men are dying for Obama’s political cowardice.

If he does not wish to fight the war– then he should save those men’s lives and bring them home.

It is one thing to sacrifice men’s lives for an important objective. The only objective sought by Obama is avoiding the “Weak on Terrorism” attack that would be lodged by the Right. And the attack that Obama claimed, in knocking the Iraq War constantly, that he would be tough as the Devil on Afghanistan.

So men are dying, to save Obama some short-term minor political pain.

Obama wasn’t the only Leftist politician who viewed America’s overseas wars against Islamic terrorism, not as matters of America’s existential survival, but as mere political props.  When Hillary found herself facing Obama in the 2008 election, she declared herself against the Iraq war, not for any principled reason, but simply because that was Obama’s position.  When Hillary saw which way the wind was blowing, that’s the direction she headed:

He [Gates] writes: “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.”

One wonders how long it will take the MSM to bury that inconvenient truth.  Both of these people are the execrable Francis Underwood, from House of Cards.  Their primary motivation, always, is the aggrandizement of self, and they do not care who suffers or dies during their brutal slog to the top.

The revelations in Gates’ book might cost Obama a point or two in his already sagging polls, but I doubt most people will care very much.  Those of us who had already figured out what was going on will feel vindicated, his acolytes won’t mind (they felt the same way, no doubt), and the troops will have been screwed, as usual.  This is just one more in a series of Obama insults to the men who shed blood for a war that Obama never saw as more than a campaign prop. (Here’s a satiric take on Obama’s loss of Fallujah, where so many Marines fought and died; and here’s a serious look at the sacrifices Obama threw away.)

There’s something a little more interesting going on when it comes to Hillary.  The quotation above reveals that Hillary didn’t arrive at her position on Iraq by looking at the situation on ground and making a calculation about the benefits or burdens to America in continuing to stay there, either to fight or to police that nation.  Instead, she mapped out a campaign strategy.  Pretty foul, right?  But in the paragraph immediately after the one I quoted above, Woodward makes this observation:

Earlier in the book, he [Gates] describes Hillary Clinton in the sort of glowing terms that might be used in a political endorsement. “I found her smart, idealistic but pragmatic, tough-minded, indefatigable, funny, a very valuable colleague, and a superb representative of the United States all over the world,” he wrote.

Woodward is saying that Gates praises Hillary extravagantly in the beginning of the book and then reams her in the end.  What’s with that?  My current guess is that Gates wanted to make his attack on Hillary credible.  If he’d spent the entire book lambasting her, readers might have doubted the veracity of his attack on her integrity.  By praising her to the skies, though, Gates positioned himself as a man without a bone to pick who was making a straightforward factual observation about the woman who would be president.

Any other theory about Gates’s extravagant praise and brutal revelation makes Gates’ praise for Hillary impossible to understand.  She didn’t do squat as Secretary of State except for amassing frequent flier miles.  The one time something happened (Benghazi), she failed in her responsibilities before and during the attack, and lied afterwards.  If Gates thinks she was wonderful, than he’s a fool, and everything else he’s written should be questioned.  If, however, he’s giving himself cover for his attack on Hillary, maybe he’s crazy like a fox.

The book is also garnering attention because of Gates’ sweeping Biden indictment (“wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades.”) and his description of Obama’s efforts to make decisions about war without bothering to speak with the Pentagon first (or at all).

Overall, Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War sounds like a worthwhile read, if only to try to figure out whether Gates is a fool who thinks Hillary was wonderful, barring her amoral approach to Iraq or if he’s a wily fox who seeks to discredit her but realizes that he can’t sound too hostile when he does so.  We’ll probably see a flurry of books now, most of them painting a picture of a White House with a self-involved, narcissistic, dishonest leader listening only to his core cadre of ideologues, none of whom care about America as she is (as opposed to the Leftist utopia they hope she will be), while assiduously avoiding any contrary voices.

Missing headlines: Obama’s Pentagon kills American troops

On November 7, 2011, the Army sent out a tweet.  It forgot to tell anyone that the Obama ROE's made this tweet a lie.

On November 7, 2011, the Army sent out this tweet. It forgot to tell anyone that the Obama ROE’s made this tweet a lie.

Do you remember how, during the Bush years, Democrats and Progressives wept every night for those poor American troops being killed in Iraq and Afghanistan? Those tears are dried now that Obama is in the White House, but the troops are still dying — and worse, they are dying in increasing numbers because the Obama Pentagon has put into place rules of engagement that ensure troop deaths:

[I]t is clear that the rules of engagement, which restrain troops from firing in order to spare civilian casualties, cut back on airstrikes and artillery strikes — the types of support that protect troops during raids and ambushes.

“In Afghanistan, the [rules of engagement] that were put in place in 2009 and 2010 have created hesitation and confusion for our war fighters,” said Wayne Simmons, a retired U.S. intelligence officer who worked in NATO headquarters in Kabul as the rules took effect, first under Army Gen. Stanley M. McChrystal, then Army Gen. David H. Petraeus.

“It is no accident nor a coincidence that from January 2009 to August of 2010, coinciding with the Obama/McChrystal radical change of the [rules of engagement], casualties more than doubled,” Mr. Simmons said. “The carnage will certainly continue as the already fragile and ineffective [rules] have been further weakened by the Obama administration as if they were playground rules.”

Read more here.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again:  I support the military, but Obama is hell bent on changing it into a military that is hard to support.  It’s becoming a metrosexual death trap, if you will.

Four articles that might interest you

I’m juggling family and work right now, so cannot blog at length (something that plagued me yesterday as well).  Still, I have four articles I think you might like to read.

One:  I’ve ruminated often here about the nature of heroism.  I’m not talking about the Leftist version of heroism, which is to stand up in a room full of Leftists and say “George Bush is stupid.”  I’m talking about real heroism, of the type displayed on the battlefield by Medal of Honor winners (and many who aren’t so honored), or in daily life, when one hears about the incredible risks people take to rescue strangers.  I’m physically cowardly, and I’m plagued by chronic analysis paralysis.  The Anchoress, who is not a coward, nevertheless writes about her moment with analysis paralysis.  I think she’s too hard on herself, since she was analyzing a possible threat, rather than dealing with a real one.  Even more interestingly, the Anchoress writes from a Christian perspective, which adds another layer to her ruminations.

Two:  All I can say is that this is one woman who must have a very peculiar sex life if her mind works this way.  (H/t:  Sadie)

Three:  It’s shocking that Dakota Meyer’s translator at the Battle of Ganjgal, in Afghanistan, cannot get a visa to the U.S.  Here’s a view from a Military Times blog, and here’s the write-up I did at Mr. Conservative.  As you read about this, you’ll probably think of the Pakistani doctor who helped us catch bin Laden, but who is languishing in a Pakistani prison.  The rule in America under Obama is that the American government (especially the State Department) will abandon you if you serve us with your life:  we’ll abandon you in Afghanistan, and in Pakistan, and in Benghazi.  There are no limits to how badly we will treat our friends.

Four:  I mentioned in an earlier post Dennis Prager’s article about the fact that several self-righteous Leftist publications have announced that, regardless of what the Redskins’ management, players, and fans want, these magazines will never again sully their paper or electronic pages with the evil “R” word.  I was especially struck by the way Prager, attacking The Atlantic’s explanation for supporting this stand, honed in on the perverse moralizing that characterizes the Left:

Argument Four is the key argument, offered by The Atlantic, in its support of Slate:

“Whether people ‘should’ be offended by it or not doesn’t matter; the fact that some people are offended by it does.”

Response: This is classic modern liberalism. It is why I have dubbed our age “The Age of Feelings.”

In a fashion typical of progressives, the Atlantic writer commits two important errors.

First, it does matter “whether people ‘should’ feel offended.” If we ceased using all arguments or descriptions because “some people” feel offended, we would cease using any arguments or descriptions. We should use the “reasonable person” test to determine what is offensive, not the “some people are offended” criterion.

[snip]

Teaching people to take offense is one of the Left’s black arts. Outside of sex and drugs, the Left is pretty much joyless and it kills joy constantly. The war on the “Redskins” name is just the latest example.

Second, it is the Left that specializes in offending: labeling the Tea Party racist, public cursing, displaying crucifixes in urine, and regularly calling Republicans evil (Paul Krugman, in his New York Times column last month, wrote that the Republican mindset “takes positive glee in inflicting further suffering on the already miserable.”) For such people to find the name “Redskins” offensive is a hoot.  (Emphasis mine.)

Please read the whole thing.

Friday’s “tame the inbox,” Part 2

I’m back with more.

Did you know that Afghanistan was declared a gun-free zone?  Well, if you didn’t, you’re right.  But this is a great satire anyway.

Have you heard of a site called Patriotic Voices?  (I do seem to be full of questions, don’t I?)  It’s a forum for conservatives.  It’s got very attractive formatting and interesting content.  If you look at the main page, there are new posts, although people don’t seem to be commenting. However, if you go to the forum page, it’s quite busy.  Check it out and, if you feel so inclined, come back here and let us know what you think.

Although blacks, sadly, suffer the greatest number of gun homicides, their voices are surprisingly quiet when it comes to the Second Amendment debate.  Digital Publius, however, did weigh in and I like what he had to say.

And now, below the fold, some wonderful WWII posters.  Looking at them is a reminder that part of why we were unable to come to a satisfying conclusion with the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq is the fact that our government never fought the war at home.  I’m certainly not saying it should have silenced the opposition, which would have made a travesty of what America is all about.  However, Bush’s government never advocated for the war either.  The Bush administration, which was afraid to speak the enemy’s name, never educated Americans about why we fought and never made Americans feels that they had a vested interest in see us win.

[Read more...]

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.

 

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.

Honoring our dead

Ever since Obama became president, the war dead have vanished.  During the Bush presidency, enemy deaths filled that papers as we were accused of mass slaughter; during the Obama presidency, I think our troops are just out there having nice cups of tea with the bad guys, because none of the latter seem to be dying.

Our own dead have also vanished from the media.  During the Bush presidency, the media relentlessly pressed numbers on us, proving that Bush was slaughtering, not only the bad guys, but our own guys.  During the Obama presidency, troop deaths have vanished from the front page, with the exception being that devastating loss to the SEALs a few months ago.

So I guess it shouldn’t come as any surprise that, when six U.S. Marines died in a helicopter crash, one that may or may not have been caused by enemy action, I had to read about it in the British press.  You guys know I don’t haunt the press for stories of American deaths so that I can gloat.  Instead, I feel strongly that, when our troops die, they should be remembered, not to score political points, but as a way of honoring their service and their sacrifice.

To the six who died:  Thank you for your service, and may you rest in peace.

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.

Forget all the dead bodies. Repeat after me: the Taliban is our friend.

Sadie played connect the dots for me:

Dots begin here . . . .

After 10 months of secret dialogue with Afghanistan’s Taliban insurgents, senior U.S. officials say the talks have reached a critical juncture and they will soon know whether a breakthrough is possible, leading to peace talks whose ultimate goal is to end the Afghan war.

As part of the accelerating, high-stakes diplomacy, Reuters has learned, the United States is considering the transfer of an unspecified number of Taliban prisoners from the Guantanamo Bay military prison into Afghan government custody.

Dots continue with Joe Biden . . . .

“Look, the Taliban per se is not our enemy. That’s critical. There is not a single statement that the president has ever made in any of our policy assertions that the Taliban is our enemy because it threatens U.S. interests. If, in fact, the Taliban is able to collapse the existing government, which is cooperating with us in keeping the bad guys from being able to do damage to us, then that becomes a problem for us.”

When you think about it, it’s impressive how much damage an administration can do in less than three years.

Michael Yon takes on Rolling Stone

Years ago, in another life, I dated a man who had worked for Rolling Stone and personally knew Jann Wenner.  (My ex-boyfriend claimed that a well-known Rolling Stone photographer was the one who introduced him to and got him hooked on cocaine.  I have no idea if he was telling the truth or not, but it made for a good story.)

My old boyfriend had cleaned up his act by the time I met him, and was decently reticent about his past, but it was pretty clear from the few stories he told that (a) Rolling Stone personnel, at least at one time, had embraced the drug culture with gusto and (b) that it was a sleazy, counter-culture magazine.  Today, all you need to do to know that it is still a sleazy, counter-culture (read:  anti-American) magazine is to buy a copy at the store — or, better yet, leaf through one and then abandon it without bothering to buy it.  As for the drug issues that were once a part of the magazine’s culture, perhaps the drugs’ legacy lives on and helps explain the shoddy, vicious journalism that routinely emanates from that saggy, flabby, 1960s era hangover.

Don’t believe me about shoddy, vicious journalism?  I understand that.  My old boyfriend’s stories about the magazine’s past are pure hearsay.  But right now, today, Michael Yon has actual percipient witness journalism on his side when it comes to challenging Rolling Stone’s most recent smear piece about our troops in Afghanistan.  Read Yon and your blood will boil.

Huge kudos to Yon, not only for his own journalism, but for his willingness to take on one of the old media’s sacred cows.

Jaws of victory

Will Democrats once again snatch defeat from the jaws of victory?

Here’s a very encouraging report about the latest NATO (mostly American forces) offensive in Helmand province, one of the last redoubts of the Taliban. I don’t know how much play this will get in the Mass Media, as they generally don’t like to talk about American victories.

http://us2.campaign-archive1.com/?u=e26ecf2ee26395baf808e9e46&id=dcfc142250&e=25d267a94d

I am still seething about the Vietnam War, which helped to define my generation. It was a war we won militarily at great sacrifice and lost politically, when we betrayed our treaty obligations to Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos.  I believe that the point at which the Vietnam war was lost was when CBS’s Walter Cronkite pronounced the Tet Offensive as an American defeat (it was quite the opposite).

So, here is my question: will the Democrats and MainStream Media repeat history and snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, or will they play this to a conclusive victory?

Just askin’

The official Bookworm statement on the whole McChrystal/Obama/Petraeus affair *UPDATED*

I feel I should say something, so I will.  Being me, of course, what I say will be discursive.

Re McChrystal:  An excellent general who didn’t hit it off with Obama from the git-go (blame lies, I believe, with Obama), and who failed utterly in the diplomatic discretion category — something that’s true whether you regard the revelations in Rolling Stone as big deals or little ones.  Was the latter a firing offense?  I don’t know.  It depends on how the Commander in Chief chooses to handle it.  Which leads me to Obama….

Re ObamaAs I noted earlier, Obama is either apathetic or agitated.  One of the things about which he’s never been sufficiently agitated is the war in Afghanistan.  Sure, he didn’t pull out immediately, but his initial decisions to announce a withdrawal time table and to refuse to meet with McChrystal until McChrystal was forced to use the media against Obama (something that probably created a bad precedent in terms of McChrystal’s ideas about using the military to achieve his goals) show that he never gave a flying whatsit about American troops trying to win against Muslim jihadists.

On the other side of the scale, the things that do agitate Obama include the Joos; attempts to stop potential new Democratic party voters from sneaky in over the border and sparking crime waves; and offenses to his dignity.  McChrystal committed the latter crime.  Obama could have glossed the whole thing over, downplaying McChrystal’s errors (as he’s done with every one of his other appointees) or he could have done what he did, which is to fire McChrystal for having hurt his feelings.  The only way to come out smelling like a rose from letting his ego lead was for Obama to have appointed someone better than McChrystal.  Which leads me to Petraeus….

Re Petraeus:  When Obama was a Senator, he denigrated Petraeus’ task and, by his behavior, Petraeus himself.  Petraeus, however, is the real deal when it comes to counterinsurgency, and I can’t think of a better person to try his hand at Afghanistan.  Peter Wehner spells out Petraeus’ virtues:

General Petraeus is the man who, more than any other single individual, turned around the war in Iraq. It was a nation on the brink of civil war when he was named commanding general there — and today it is a nation on the mend. That is the result of many hands and many hearts — but no single individual is more responsible for what happened in Iraq than Petraeus. In addition, General Petraeus literally wrote the book on counterinsurgency, having authored the Army’s manual on the subject. Petraeus, then, is both the intellectual architect of our COIN strategy and its best practitioner.

Beyond that, Petraeus — like McChrystal before him — has the confidence of President Karzai, which U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry and National Security Adviser Jim Jones (among others) do not. He understands, unlike others in the Obama White House, that the way to deal with someone like Karzai is to support him in public and make demands of him in private. Nouri al-Maliki was no walk on the beach, either; but Petraeus, along with Ambassador Ryan Crocker, dealt with him extremely skillfully, holding him close while moving him along the right path.

What is also significant is that Petraeus has the confidence of our troops because of what he has achieved. He is not only a respected figure; he is very nearly legendary among them. The troops in Afghanistan will treat him as college basketball players would treat Mike Krzyzewski, if he took over another basketball program. There is instant trust, instant credibility, and instant confidence. And that matters.

I wish Petraeus every bit of luck available to him.  Combine that luck with his skills and intellect, apply all those to the best military in the world, and there might be a good outcome here (including Obama being able to back down from his withdrawal timetable while still saving face).

Conclusion:  Obama first seeded the lemons, starting with his long-ago refusal to take either General McChrystal or the Afghanistan war serious.  He harvested the lemons when he elected to let his ego lead in what could have been a down-played, and therefore negligible, situation.  And he managed to create lemonade by replace McChrystal with only the best general out there.  Let’s hope the best general chews up Afghanistan, rather than vice versa.

(Just FYI, The Anchoress has a stellar round-up of responses to the whole saga.)

UPDATE:  Bruce Kesler, who understands more about what’s going on than I ever could, is pleased okay with Petraeus’ appointment, but would have preferred General Mattis.  Blackfive thinks the timing of this whole thing is more than a little suspicious.  (The first story will make you happy sanguine; the second, angry.)

UPDATE II:  Was Obama just trying to keep Petraeus out of the 2012 race?  I doubt it.  For one thing, that’s two years ahead, and a lot can change between now and then.  For another thing, I have it on good authority that Petraeus is saying right now, with a straight face, that he’s not running.  If this is preemptive action, it’s really preemptive.  Sometimes a cigar is just a smoke.

My sense is that Petraeus genuinely doesn’t want to run.  It’s a lousy job, and Petraeus isn’t an egotist.  He is, however, a patriot.  If he feels that America truly needs his unique skills, Afghanistan will be the smallest part of the U.S.’s problems, and he’ll run regardless.

Memorial Day Post: The Warriors Among Us

[I'll keep this at the top through Memorial Day.  Scroll down for lots of new posts.]

Several years ago, as part of a 9/11 commemoration, I wrote the following words as part of a post I did about Lt. Brian Ahearn, one of the New York fire fighters who perished on that day:

My son, who is seven, is obsessed with superheroes. His current favorite is Superman. After all, when you’re a little boy, battling your way through the world, what could be more exciting than the possibility of being “faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.” I’m bombarded daily with questions about Superman’s ability to withstand extreme temperatures, his flying speeds, his ballistic capabilities and, most importantly, his bravery. It’s here that my son and I run into a conceptual problem. My son thinks Superman is brave because he gets involved in situations that involve guns, and flames, and bad guys. I argue — and how can you argue this with a seven year old? — that the fictional Superman, while good, is not brave, because he takes no risks. Superman’s indestructibility means that his heart never speeds up, his gut never clenches, and he never pauses for even a moment to question whether the potential benefit from acting is worth the risk. In other words, if facing a gun is as easy as sniffing a rose, there is no bravery involved.

The truly brave person is the one who knows the real risks in a situation, but still moves forward to save people, to fight a good battle or to remedy an intolerable situation. The attacks against America on September 11, 2001, revealed the true superheroes among us — those New York firefighters who pushed themselves past those second thoughts, those all-too-human hesitations, and sacrificed themselves in the hopes of saving others. Lt. Brian G. Ahearn was one of those superheroes.

I’ve been thinking today about that moment of insight I had about courage and heroism, because I’m finally reading Marcus Luttrell’s Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10.  I say “finally,” because the book came out in 2007, and it took me three years to gather my own courage just to read it — and I did so only because of the possibility that I may soon meet the mother of one of those “lost heroes.”  Considering what her son did for my country, forcing myself to read a book about great heroism seemed like the least I could do.

Funnily enough, the book isn’t as painful as I thought it would be.  This is partly because Luttrell, with novelist Patrick Robinson’s able assistance, has a wonderful voice.  His is not a ponderous tome but is, instead, a human story of an East Texas boy who, buoyed up by patriotism and sheer grit, made his way through the insanity of SEAL training, and then found himself in Afghanistan, working to protect American interests and freedoms.

Luttrell’s upbringing, so different from my girly, urban, intellectual childhood is a story in itself.  As for his descriptions of what men push themselves to do to become SEALS — well, I’d heard about it academically, but I’d never understood it viscerally.

To be completely honest, I still don’t understand it.  As a card-carrying wuss, as someone who has always respected her personal comfort zones, and avoided challenging herself, I really don’t “get” what would drive young men, men in their 20s and 30s, to push themselves as hard as these men do.  And the rewarded isn’t a glamorous job, a la Hollywood or Manhattan, with fame, wealth and women.  Being a SEAL is the toughest job in the world, because SEALs end up doing the most dangerous jobs in the world, under the worst, scariest circumstances imaginable.

If you lack physical and mental will, not to mention the overwhelming training SEALs receive, you’re simply a statistic waiting to happen.  But if you do have that stamina, one that resides as much in the mind as it does in the body (perhaps even more in the mind than the body), and if you have this amazing commitment to your team and your country, you can move mountains.

Or sometimes, as SEAL Team 10 so sadly demonstrated, the mountains turn on you.  I am not giving away anything about the book, of course, when I tell you that Luttrell was the sole survivor of a firefight in the Afghan mountain ranges that ended up being the single deadliest day in SEAL history.  Reading about the fight and the deaths of Luttrell’s team member, not to mention his own story of survival, is harrowing.  I don’t want to say I cried, but I’ll admit that my eyes were leaking prodigiously.  Knowing that this would be my inevitable reaction is part of why I avoided Luttrell’s book for so long.  (To excuse myself a little bit, I also wasn’t sure I wanted to get too close to understanding what my father experienced during WWII, as he fought in some of the worst battles around the Mediterranean, including Crete and el Alamein.  Sometimes, empathy can be too painful.)

But really, I shouldn’t have avoided the book.  Yes, the deaths of LT Michael P. Murphy, Matthew Axelson, and Danny Dietz, as well as 16 SEALs and Nightstalkers, whose helicopter was shot down during the rescue mission, is heart wrenching, but the overall tone of the book is still uplifting.  Luttrell’s deep patriotism, his belief in the mission (not any specific mission, but the SEALs’ overarching mission to protect and defend), his abiding love for the SEALs, and the message that there are those who are willing to protect us, often from ourselves, ranks right up there with the most cheerful “feel good” book you can find.

So many people live pointless lives and die meaningless deaths.  One of the tragedies of the 6 million is that they were herded to death like cattle in an abattoir.  I don’t blame them.  They were ordinary people, living ordinary lives, when suddenly they were ripped out of normalcy, and without warning or preparation, sent straight to Hell on earth. Had I had the misfortune to be a Jew in Poland in 1942, instead of a Jew in America at the end of the 20th and beginning of the 21st centuries, that would have been me.  Not just a short life that made no difference, but one that ended with a death that didn’t make a dent in the hide of my murderers.

Some people, however, seem to have bred in the bone and the heart the belief that they will not be ordinary in life or in death.  Mercifully, these are people who don’t need the tawdry fame of Hollywood.  They don’t need the quick fixes of drink and drugs.  They don’t need to become bullies who control others, whether their control is exercised over a country or an office.  Instead, they prepare themselves to serve causes greater than their own egos.  Their lives have purpose and their deaths are never pointless.

Because the genesis of my post is Luttrell’s book, I’ve written this as an homage to the SEALs.  Everything I’ve said though, can be applied equally to the men and women who have fought and, sometimes, died for America, beginning back in 1774.  The fact that they didn’t do it at the level of pain and training one sees in the SEALs does nothing to minimize their courage, their patriotism and their sacrifices.  They are the backbone of our country, the defenders of our freedom:  “The truly brave person is the one who knows the real risks in a situation, but still moves forward to save people, to fight a good battle or to remedy an intolerable situation.”

(Luttrell, the sole survivor of the SEALS pictured here, is third from the right.)

Other Memorial Day posts:

Flopping Aces

Blackfive

Blackfive (yes, again)

American Digest

Kim Priestap

Michelle Malkin

Mudville Gazette

Florence American Military Cemetery (slow-loading, so don’t worry if nothing happens right away)

Noisy Room

NewsBusters

Hot Air

JoshuaPundit

Radio Patriot

“Simplistic” and “primitive” *UPDATED*

As I’ve mentioned just a few times, I just read, and was very moved by, Marcus Luttrell’s Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10.  A liberal I know flipped through the book’s first few pages and had a very different reaction.  The following passages bugged the liberal:

My name is Marcus.  Marcus Luttrell.  I’m a United States Navy SEAL, Team Leader, SDV Team 1, Alfa Platoon.  Like every other SEAL, I’m trained in weapons, demolition, and unarmed combat.  I’m a sniper, and I’m the platoon medic.  But most of all, I’m an American.  And when the bell sounds, I will come out fighting for my country and for my teammates.  If necessary, to the death.

And that’s not just because the SEALs trained me to do so; it’s because I’m willing to do so.  I’m a patriot, and I fight with the Lone Star of Texas on my right arm and another Texas flag over my heart.  For me, defeat is unthinkable.  (pp. 6-7)

[snip]

[As they're taking off from Bahrain to Afghanistan:] There were no other passengers on board, just the flight crew and, in the rear, us, headed out to do God’s work on behalf of the U.S. government and our commander in chief, President George W. Bush.  (p. 12.)

[snip]

[Of the Taliban/Al Qaeda enemy in Afghanistan:]  This was where bin Laden’s fighters found a home training base.  Let’s face it, al Qaeda means “the base,” and in return for the Saudi fanatic bin Laden’s money, the Taliban made it all possible.  right now these very same guys, the remnants of the Taliban and the last few tribal warriors of al Qaeda, were preparing to start over, trying to fight their way through the mountain passes, intent on setting up new training camps and military headquarters and, eventually, their own government in place of the democratically elected one.

They may not have been the precise same guys who planned 9/11.  But they were most certainly their descendants, their heirs, their followers.  They were part of the same crowd who knocked down the North and South Towers in the Big Apple on the infamous Tuesday morning in 2001.  And our coming task was to stop them, right there in those mountains, by whatever means necessary.  (pp. 13-14)

The liberal felt that the above passages showed that the writer was simplistic and primitive in his thinking.  The whole notion of simple patriotism offended the liberal, who also thought it was just plain stupid to seek revenge against guys who weren’t actually the ones who plotted 9/11.  My less than clever riposte was, “so I guess you would only kill Nazis who actually worked in the gas chambers?”  Frankly, given the differences in our world views, I’m not sure there is a clever comeback or, which would be more helpful, a comeback that actually causes the liberal to reexamine those liberal principles.

UPDATE:  Here’s an apt quotation, written by John Stuart Mill, in 1862, as a comment upon the American Civil War:

A man who has nothing which he is willing to fight for, nothing which he cares more about than he does about his personal safety, is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.

Congratulations to the Marines and their Afghan allies for the Marjah victory

I meant to post this yesterday, but time got away from me:  many, many, many congratulations to the Marines and their Afghan allies for the Marjah victory.  I never doubted that they would win, but I certainly understood that each Marine and Afghan soldier faced the risk that he would make the ultimate sacrifice for that victory.

Naturally, the Times, rather than celebrating a great military feat, is already trying to set up new (and in Times-land, almost certainly insurmountable) hurdles for our troops.  I have no doubt that our troops will do just fine.

For a reminder about what out-of-control, murderous troops really look like, read this story of the way in which Soviet soldiers raped the women who found themselves in the soldiers’ path during WWII.  There are no, and I mean no, stories like that about our American troops, whether one is looking at WWI, WWII, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the First Gulf War, the war in Iraq or the war in Afghanistan.  (Indeed, I bet I could say the same for American troops going back to the Revolutionary War.)  Sure, there are always renegade men who go off and do bad things, but these same men appear periodically in our cities and towns too.  Bad guys exist, but American troops have proven definitively that they are part of a good institution, one that does not use rape as a weapon.

Drifting a little further afield, the fact that American men are not rapists even when they have the power of the military behind them, is also a useful reminder about what a misanthropic religion Islam is.  (And no, I didn’t get confused and substitute misanthropic for misogynistic.)  While it’s certainly true that one of Islam’s most glaring deficiencies is its desperate desire to subjugate women out of fear of their sexuality, it’s quite obvious that the Islamists hide from feminine sexuality because they believe men to be inherently weak.  In the Islamic world, the theory goes, any man, upon seeing a woman, will be incapable of refraining from raping her.  That is a scathing indictment of men.

In stark contrast, American men are civilized creatures.  Sure, they might leave the toilet seats up, scratch their crotches in public, and belch at inappropriate times, but when push comes to shove, they are models of self-control.

So, in thinking it through, congratulations are due to our Marines, not only for being great warriors, but also for being great human beings.

Cross-posted at Right Wing News

That wacky Pashtun culture

I don’t have a comment here.  I just think this story is interesting:

An unclassified study from a military research unit in southern Afghanistan details how homosexual behavior is unusually common among men in the large ethnic group known as Pashtuns — though they seem to be in complete denial about it.

[snip]

In one instance, a group of local male interpreters had contracted gonorrhea anally but refused to believe they could have contracted it sexually — “because they were not homosexuals.”

Apparently, according to the report, Pashtun men interpret the Islamic prohibition on homosexuality to mean they cannot “love” another man — but that doesn’t mean they can’t use men for “sexual gratification.”

[snip]

The U.S. army medic also told members of the research unit that she and her colleagues had to explain to a local man how to get his wife pregnant.

The report said: “When it was explained to him what was necessary, he reacted with disgust and asked, ‘How could one feel desire to be with a woman, who God has made unclean, when one could be with a man, who is clean? Surely this must be wrong.’”

Hat tip:  Neptunus Lex

Even Obama couldn’t placate his extreme base

Despite giving the generals almost 75% fewer troops than the 80,000 they really wanted (and even significantly less than the 40,000 they sort of wanted), and despite telling the Taliban and Al Qaeda exactly when the field is theirs, and despite dwelling morbidly on death in front of the men and women at West Point who will be going to the field of battle, Obama still couldn’t placate everyone on his side of the political spectrum.  A couple of hundred gathered in S.F. to make their protests known — and Protest Shooter was there to capture them on film (or on digital images, I guess).

Excerpts of Obama’s speech indicate he will do the right thing for the wrong reasons *UPDATED*

As I write this, Obama hasn’t spoken yet, but he has released excerpts from his speech.  These are my first thoughts on his words:

“The 30,000 additional troops that I am announcing tonight will deploy in the first part of 2010 – the fastest pace possible – so that they can target the insurgency and secure key population centers. They will increase our ability to train competent Afghan Security Forces, and to partner with them so that more Afghans can get into the fight. And they will help create the conditions for the United States to transfer responsibility to the Afghans.” [This is good.  This is what Obama needed to do.  It's one thing as a candidate to demand that the sitting president lose the war.  It's another thing entirely for the former-candidate, now-president to preside over another 1975.  Having spent ten, agonizing, demoralizing months trying to figure this one out, Obama is finally doing the right thing.]

“Because this is an international effort, I have asked that our commitment be joined by contributions from our allies. Some have already provided additional troops, and we are confident that there will be further contributions in the days and weeks ahead. Our friends have fought and bled and died alongside us in Afghanistan. Now, we must come together to end this war successfully. For what’s at stake is not simply a test of NATO’s credibility – what’s at stake is the security of our Allies, and the common security of the world.”  [Is it just me, or did Obama completely avoid that old-fashioned word "victory" or that nice little phrase "win the war"?  Obama is such a Leftist he really cannot contemplate the possibility of a "we win, you lose" scenario.  To him, success is manifestly a way out, victory or not (and see the next paragraph to get what I mean).  Also, unless Obama expands upon it in his speech tonight, he's said nothing about the nature of the threat against us.  To say that "security" is "at stake" is meaningless without explaining who the enemy is, and what an enemy victory means.  Given the Islamists' willingness to spell out in words of one syllable their plans regarding the West, Obama should be able to articulate the danger they pose.  Again, he simply can't seem to make himself say certain words:  "The Taliban, a fundamentalist branch of Islam that sheltered and trained the terrorists who killed more than 3,000 Americans on 9/11, is resurgent and spreading.  It must be cut out, root and branch, in order to ensure that its members' willingness to attack us directly, and indirectly (by taking over our allies, such as Pakistan), is destroyed."  See?  It's simple -- but not for Obama.]

“Taken together, these additional American and international troops will allow us to accelerate handing over responsibility to Afghan forces, and allow us to begin the transfer of our forces out of Afghanistan in July of 2011. Just as we have done in Iraq, we will execute this transition responsibly, taking into account conditions on the ground. We will continue to advise and assist Afghanistan’s Security Forces to ensure that they can succeed over the long haul. But it will be clear to the Afghan government – and, more importantly, to the Afghan people – that they will ultimately be responsible for their own country.”  [Here's the kicker to the two preceding paragraphs.  Obama is not in this for victory against a determined and violent enemy that has already attacked America and Europe and that continues to threaten to West's security.  Instead, he's adding troops as a predicate to an orderly retreat.  He doesn't want to win.  He wants to escape.  Obama has also done something incredibly stupid by announcing his date of departure.  If I were the Taliban, I'd simply retreat into caves for a couple of years, wait for Americans to withdraw, and then return to the field.  Obama should announce that U.S. and allied forces will depart when the war against the Taliban has achieved certain milestones, not when a specific date hits on the calendar.]

Bottom line: Obama’s doing the right thing (thank God), but for the wrong reasons. The question is whether our strong and determined American military can achieve victory when the Commander in Chief (a) refuses to name the enemy and is afraid of the “V” word and (b) has given the enemy a specific time line, after which they are free to pursue their theocratic totalitarian goals?

UPDATE:  Well, the speech is over and done now.  I gather that Obama did spell out more clearly what the threat actually is, but for the most part that he tracked along the excerpts I discussed above.  I also gather that I, although unversed in military strategy, pretty much caught onto the myriad flaws in the approach.  Otherwise, how could I have tracked so closely with Steve Schippert’s informed analysis?

The incoherence emanating from the White House *UPDATE*

One of the best things George Bush did during his presidency was to appoint the late, great Tony Snow as his press secretary.  Snow was a dream press secretary, straight out of central casting:  handsome, intelligent, erudite, informed, charming and witty.  Even the savagely anti-Bush press appeared to enjoy his statements and, once he was up there at the podium, they had a much harder time attacking George Bush’s policy initiatives.

Barack Obama, who is making a presidential career out of being the un-Bush, has also done a 180 when it comes to his press secretary.  Robert Gibbs is the Bizarro World version of Snow.  In place of Snow’s many virtues, Gibbs is visually unappealing, which would be meaningless if it wasn’t accompanied by an uninformed boorishness that permeates his every utterance.  The White House press has been giving him a pass because he’s the front person for their idol, but any objective listener would have to conclude that the man is a fool — or, which might be even worse, he plays a fool in order to obfuscate entirely what his employer is doing.

Gibbs’ primary problem (or, if you incline to the obfuscatory theory, his primary virtue) is that he is unintelligible.  Today, he gave a perfect example of a ten cent man using three dollar words (emphasis mine):

TAPPER:  When more troops are sent into a country, inevitably it results in more casualties, when the military presence and fighting is increased. Is the president going to — is that going to be part of the president’s message tomorrow, to prepare the American people for the fact that, while an exit strategy exists, the next year or two is going to be perhaps bloodier than even the last six months?

GIBBS:  Well, I — and we’ve discussed this before. I think the amount of sacrifice that we’ve seen from the men and women that we have there already is something that I know the president is assured by each and every day. I think — you know, he signs letters of condolence.  He meets with the families of those that have been killed.  Obviously, the trip to Dover is something that I doubt you ever truly forget.  I think the president will reiterate the importance of why we’re there, but also, by all means, very early on, acknowledge the tremendous cost and sacrifice to our men and women in uniform.  I don’t think there’s any doubt that we are all in awe of — of the commitment from our military and our civilian side in order to get this right.

What in the world does the above mean?  The question is whether the president is going to prepare the American people for the fact that, with more troops, there’s more fighting; and with more fighting, we can anticipate more casualties.  It’s a good question, because we saw precisely that result with the Iraq Surge.  At the time, the press  immediately fell into a hysterical dizzy about body counts, until it became obvious to them, and to the rest of the world, that, on the battle field as on the surgery table, a quick cauterization sees some significant initial trauma, but then completely stops the flow of blood.  A smart president would help the American people understand this fact, so that they could support this mini-surge without panic.

Given the sensible question, Gibbs could easily have returned with a sensible answer. Instead, Gibbs tells us that Obama is “assured” by those troops who have already fought, been wounded and died on Afghani soil.  Hey!  He’s even written condolence letters.  This talk isn’t merely non-responsive, it’s nonsense.  What does the fact that the president finds American deaths “assuring,” and that he signs off on letters, have to do with the pragmatic issue of preparing Americans for the short-term hits and long-term benefits of a Surge?

Only after spewing the crude and painful nonsense does Gibbs make a stab at actually answering the question and, typically, he answers it wrong.  Instead, of making the point I made, which is that the military is willing to make a short term sacrifice to assure a long-term benefit, Gibbs waffled on about how troops are going to die — and how the White House really, really appreciates the fact that they’re going to make this sacrifice to “get this right.”  It’s unclear whether the “this” that the troops are supposed to die for in order to “get [it] right” is America’s national security, or Obama’s political stability.

Gibbs’ response is appalling at every level.  It’s stupid, unintelligible, insensitive, and strategically and politically wide of the mark.

Gibbs doesn’t improve when Tapper asks about long-term political goals in Afghanistan.  First, Gibbs has no idea what the issue is:

TAPPER:  And just in terms of defining our terms, where does making sure that we have a stable Afghan partner and — and nation- building begin?  What’s the line? Is it just — is it just a question of our responsibility, U.S. responsibility being training Afghan troops?  It’s just — that’s the safe and secure part, the safe and stable partner part? Because we’ve heard a lot about what the U.S. intends to do, and I know you don’t want to get ahead of the president’s speech, but just in terms — if you could define the terms a little for us.

GIBBS:  Well, I — I guess I would more ask you to — I don’t — I’m unclear as to what continuum you’re putting.  Are you asking me to — to put them on a certain…

I’ll concede that Tapper got a bit wordy there, but the question is clear: He’s asking Gibbs to explain how the Surge will assure a stable Afghanistan.  If Gibbs was at all intelligent, he’d seize the question and spout a party line:  “The president anticipates that there will be X number of months of harder fighting until the situation on the ground is stabilized.  Even as the Surge goes forward, however, we will be working with the Karzai government….”  Simple.  Anyone can do it, even someone who actually has no idea what the facts on the ground are.  Gibbs, however, struggles visibly to figure out what the heck the question means.

When Tapper clarifies, Gibbs goes from bad to worse, lapsing eventually into complete incoherency:

TAPPER:  Well, the president has said about the new strategy that it’s important that we have a secure, stable ally in the Afghan…

(CROSSTALK)

GIBBS:  Right. Well, and a partner that is — and a partner that understands, as the president directly told President Karzai in a telephone call in the Oval Office, that it is time to turn — it’s time for a new chapter in our relationship as it relates to corruption and improved governance in order to address the security situation not just through training and security force needs, but also — look, it’s hard for a civilian — it’s hard for civilians to go in and improve areas — it’s impossible — that aren’t secure.  So I would say this is all part of what has to be a partnership. And I think anybody would tell you that — that — and I’ve said this, and I think, quite frankly, you’ve seen this from Democrats and Republicans in Congress — without partners that are willing to do stuff in both Afghanistan and Pakistan, no number of American troops can solve all of those problems unless or until those steps are taken inside both of those countries where we see a change in the security situation.

Again, what in the world does Gibbs mean?  There’s not a single declarative sentence in there.  Let me translate what he said in simple English, so that you can see that he didn’t say anything:

Tapper question:  How will the Surge work to stabilize the Afghani political scene?

Gibb-erish answer:  A partner works with you.  Karzai is the man Obama talks to.  Obama talked to Karzai on the phone.  He actually called him from the Oval Office.  He said that Karzai needs to work on the corruption and governance thing, so that civilians can go places.  (Bookworm here:  It’s unclear whether Obama wants Karzai to do away with corruption or simply do it better.  If it was any president other than Obama, I’d assume the former.  Given our President’s background in Chicago politics and community organizing, though, I really am not prepared to assume what Gibb meant with this babble.)  We need a partner.  Everyone agrees we need a partner.  Even troops aren’t partners.  So, we need a partner.

Let me distill Gibbs’ puerile utterances even further.  Tapper asked how the Surge will link to the Afghani political scene, whether in the short or long term.  Gibb-erish responded by saying “we need a partner.”  Objection, your honor.  Nonresponsive.

During the campaign, Obama, holding tightly to his teleprompter and prepared speeches, seduced the audience with dreamy platitudes about the intangibles of hope and change, and with concrete lies about his actual political agenda.  Now that the campaign is over, Obama has no deal with real issues and real problems.  He’s had to fire Hopey and Changey, two dwarfs who have no place in actual governance, especially when the governance is trying hard to drag the country to a bankrupt Left.  In their place, if Obama had demonstrated any of the smarts his acolytes attribute to him, he would have delegated the job of communications to a smart guy like Doc.  Instead, he went for Dopey, with the obvious results.  As for me, this whole thing is making me Grumpy.

UPDATE:  In the first item in Monday’s Best of the Web Today, James Taranto suggests that Gibbs’ incoherence may originate with the boss.

Dastardly American troops interacting with indigenous kids in Afghanistan and Iran

Here’s our Commander in Chief speaking of the situation in Afghanistan while he was running for office:  “We’ve got to get the job done there and that requires us to have enough troops so that we’re not just air-raiding villages and killing civilians, which is causing enormous pressure over there.”

This post is not about the cognitive dissonance of a man who, now that he used that lie to become president, is refusing to act to send more troops to Afghanistan to take off that “enormous pressure.”  It’s about his jaundiced view of the troops he hoped then to, and now does, lead.

At Flopping Aces, WordSmith has a detailed photo essay about the troops of whom Barack Obama spoke.  It’s shocking.  If I were you, I’d get out a handkerchief, because the images there may bring tears to your eyes.  Also, after you’ve checked out Flopping Aces, you may feel compelled to go here and tell the troops exactly what you think of them.  I’ve already done so, and will do so again and again.  The feelings I have now deserve to be vented.