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October 25, 2009

How Extremely Inconveeeeeeeeeeeenient...

Remember, this is the guy the Obama administration thinks is legitimate:

Afghanistan's opposition candidate backed Gen. Stanley McChrystal's recommendations for more troops Sunday, saying "the future of the country is at risk" without a "dramatic increase" in troop levels.

...In both of his Sunday appearances, Abdullah was clear on his opinion that more U.S.-led NATO forces are needed on the ground in his country.

"There is a need for more troops," Abdullah said when asked about President Barack Obama's policy review on Fox. "There is no doubt about it.

"At the same time, when is the best time? Even if the decision is made today it doesn't mean tomorrow we will have troops on the ground."


Jumpin' Joe ("Constitution? What Constitution?") Biden was unavailable for comment.

This is one area where Biden's ideas clearly violate the Iraqi constitution: any attempt on the part of the US to identify “major factions” would be a top–down, externally imposed solution on a matter in which the Iraqis themselves have already designed bottom–up mechanisms. Biden does not seem to appreciate the fact that federalist pioneers among the Iraqis have always warned against federalism based on ethnicities: in their opinion, federalism based on geographical, non-sectarian criteria could conceivably serve as national “glue”; conversely, and with the exception of the Kurds and the Shiite faction that happens to be closest to Iran, Iraqi supporters of federalism have always condemned ethno-sectarian variants of federalism as a giant leap towards partition. Biden should be challenged to spell out very explicitly the modalities by which he expects the constitutional right to form small-scale non-sectarian regions to simply disappear, and how he thinks the holy number “three” is to be arrived at.

So, having publicly undermined the existing government of Afghanistan, the Obama administration now finds itself in the position of having the guy it wants to work with publicly say he needs more troops.

Some days, it just doesn't pay to get out of bed in the morning.

Posted by Cassandra at October 25, 2009 02:24 PM

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This strategy In Afghanistan is not going to work, more soldiers will not help, you can grease as many afghan as you want, in the end this will not work. Any strategy that does not include Islam will fail. Coin will fail.

"There are moderate muslims but there is no such thing as moderate Islam". When will these Park Avenue Generals, press etc learn you cannot impose your values onto them. As Marine Sgt. Maj. Jim Sauer wrote, that you can rent an Afghan but you can't buy him.

Unfortunately we will have to wait 30 + years to find out I was right.

"One day, a scorpion looked around at the mountain where he lived and decided that he wanted a change. So he set out on a journey through the forests and hills. He climbed over rocks and under vines and kept going until he reached a river.
The river was wide and swift, and the scorpion stopped to reconsider the situation. He couldn't see any way across. So he ran upriver and then checked downriver, all the while thinking that he might have to turn back.

Suddenly, he saw a frog sitting in the rushes by the bank of the stream on the other side of the river. He decided to ask the frog for help getting across the stream.

"Hellooo Mr. Frog!" called the scorpion across the water, "Would you be so kind as to give me a ride on your back across the river?"

"Well now, Mr. Scorpion! How do I know that if I try to help you, you wont try to kill me?" asked the frog hesitantly.

"Because," the scorpion replied, "If I try to kill you, then I would die too, for you see I cannot swim!"

Now this seemed to make sense to the frog. But he asked. "What about when I get close to the bank? You could still try to kill me and get back to the shore!"

"This is true," agreed the scorpion, "But then I wouldn't be able to get to the other side of the river!"

"Alright then...how do I know you wont just wait till we get to the other side and THEN kill me?" said the frog.

"Ahh...," crooned the scorpion, "Because you see, once you've taken me to the other side of this river, I will be so grateful for your help, that it would hardly be fair to reward you with death, now would it?!"

So the frog agreed to take the scorpion across the river. He swam over to the bank and settled himself near the mud to pick up his passenger. The scorpion crawled onto the frog's back, his sharp claws prickling into the frog's soft hide, and the frog slid into the river. The muddy water swirled around them, but the frog stayed near the surface so the scorpion would not drown. He kicked strongly through the first half of the stream, his flippers paddling wildly against the current.

Halfway across the river, the frog suddenly felt a sharp sting in his back and, out of the corner of his eye, saw the scorpion remove his stinger from the frog's back. A deadening numbness began to creep into his limbs.

"You fool!" croaked the frog, "Now we shall both die! Why on earth did you do that?"

The scorpion shrugged, and did a little jig on the drownings frog's back.

"I could not help myself. It is my nature."

Then they both sank into the muddy waters of the swiftly flowing river.

Self destruction - "Its my Nature", said the Scorpion..."

And so says Islam

Posted by: Saul at October 25, 2009 03:03 PM

You misunderstand COIN, Saul.

McChrystal was one of the proponents, but lacking additional troops to provide the security to start putting it into effect -- COIN neither rents nor buys the Afghans, but makes them equal partners with the intention of making them the sole proprietors.

Meanwhile, Team Won appears to be desperately shopping for anyone in the region who will announce that the solution is to pull out and hope for the best. Unfortunately for them, the only ones who hold that notion are the Taliban and al-Qaeda...

Posted by: BillT at October 25, 2009 03:20 PM

BTW, that was a Vietnamese folk tale, not an Islamic one...

Posted by: BillT at October 25, 2009 03:21 PM

There have been some phony arguments put forth for another “surge” in Afghanistan. We need not a surge of troops, we merely need to let our forces there do what needs to be done – kill the enemy.

There is this misconception of Afghanistan in particular (and Islam in general) that somehow we can bring Central Asia (and the rest of the Islamic world) kicking and screaming into the 21st Century through good will. This is simply not the case. There is no amount of money to spend, infrastructure to build, schools to provide, hospitals to heal, or good will that Americans can display toward the Afghan people that will produce a lasting effect. I was once told by an accomplished Afghan intelligence analyst that, “you can rent an Afghan, but you can’t buy him.”

The hard fact is that the “hearts and minds” of the Afghan “people” are not for sale! The descendants of “The Great Khan” and their tribal cousins have no interest in being Westernized in any way. And, the human sewers that serve as their political leadership can only be rented. Americans are interlopers in a land where interlopers generally have their heads lopped off.

Nobody read their Kipling. (I know, “who or what was Kipling?” Look it up.) Americans do not know their OWN history (except the spun trash that passes for “social studies” in our heavily socialistic high schools) much less the history of Afghanistan. And, this includes our political leadership! Ask an American on the street – or a congressman in the House – to point to Afghanistan on a map, and they will probably start with their finger cautiously orbiting somewhere over Rhode Island.

This writer spent thirty years listening to and deciphering military acronyms and idiotic jargon. The catch phrase today is “COIN” – Counterinsurgency doctrine. Our political and military leadership act like this is some sort of secret knowledge – Gnostic esoteric knowledge – that is now coming to light. That is crap. There is nothing new here.

Counterinsurgency predates Rome. In modern times, the first COIN doctrine called Small Wars Manual was written by the U.S. Marine Corps in 1935 with the final edition being published in 1940. The first few decades of the 20th Century saw Marines intervening as “State Department Troops” from Central America and Hispaniola to China and the Philippines. The Small Wars Manual is a compilation of information describing nation building, establishing “constabularies”, civil affairs, infrastructure repair, election management, donkey packing and inspiration, river crossing, intelligence gathering, psychology and ethnicity of native peoples, disarmament of the populace, force composition, supply and logistics chains, public image (both in the target nation and in the United States), and everything else it takes to drag a Third-World backwash into the current day and age. There is even a section on inspecting the feet of native troops for bunions, corns, and severe trichophytosis (athlete’s foot).

The manual is also full of contradictions. If one were to summarize in a sentence or two the center of conflicting mass, one might say, “Try to be nice, but if they don’t go along with the program manipulate them. If that doesn’t’ work, kill them – every one of them.” It reminds one of a quip from Vietnam that went, “Let us win your hearts and minds or we’ll burn your damn huts down.”

It seems our current crop of political and military geniuses think that COIN can be conducted in a sanitary manner. This belief is insane. The “small wars” of the 20th Century were every bit as dirty and brutal as any conventional war ever fought.

Legendary Marine Corps hero and two time Medal of Honor recipient Major General Smedley Butler wrote of his “COIN” experience a short tome titled “War is a Racket”. It spelled out the misuse of American forces and the waste of American lives during the first three decades of the 20th Century. General Butler was an unlikely critic of the use of military force – the more reason to heed his caveats.

Though published in 1940, the intervening years of conventional war (World War II and Korea) saw the Small Wars Manual fade into disuse.

The formation of the U.S. Army Special Forces in the 1960s led to an attempt to bring COIN doctrine to Vietnam. While this effort met with some success against the Viet Cong, the introduction of North Vietnamese Army (NVA) forces diminished the strategic effectiveness of the Special Forces effort. Further, as the NVA entered the fray and the war progressed, the Viet Cong themselves, although diminished by the Special Forces effort, became more sophisticated with regard to their remaining cell structures, logistics, and weapons employment.

There are several things to consider:

1. With the exception of Malaysia, there have historically been very few – if any – real, long lasting counterinsurgency success stories.
2. Wars are like fingerprints and snowflakes – no two are alike
3. The sophistication of the insurgency with respect to tactics, weapons, as well as ethnic loyalties to and from the populace, can negate COIN efforts.
4. The subtleties and grace of Tae KwonDo are nice, but there’s nothing like a good punch in the mouth. COIN may be a legitimate strategy in a limited sense when the “insurgents” are seen as outsiders – or at least trouble makers with a foreign ideology – by the native population in a fixed geographic region. However, the insurgency we face is not limited to Afghanistan. It is a global movement. Civilian casualties must be avoided whenever possible – not at all costs. There is no excuse for the wanton slaughter of innocents. However, if a COIN strategy is to succeed, our political and military leadership must demonstrate the willingness to adjust the tactics used in the battlespace in order to allow our troops to kill the enemy.

When The Great Khan rode through Central Asia in the early 13th Century, he did not take into consideration public opinion. He had lands to conquer, people to rule, and resources to exploit. He spread fear and misery across Persia and into Europe. Whether an Afghan is Pashtun, Tajik, Hazara, Uzbek, or Turkmen, some – the real Afghan warriors – still have the spirit of the Mongol Horde in their blood.

That having been said, their blood has been thinned by time and centuries of misery. The current crop of Afghanistan’s “Warriors” is almost exclusive to the opposition. The true believers are fighters – cowards too, but fighters nonetheless. By contrast, the bulk of the Afghan National Army (ANA) and Afghan National Police (ANP) are not fighters, nor are they “true believers”. They are simply cowards – frauds – corrupt to the core by any standard and an apostate to their own faith. They are slovenly, drug-addicted, dimwitted, and totally unreliable at any level. Like the Taliban, they are brutal to their own countrymen. They thrive on their petty powers and refuse to shoulder any burden or responsibility. Does this sound too harsh? Not for the Marines and Soldiers who have been killed by the treachery of ANA and ANP who have purposely led them into ambush.

According to the great military minds of our time, these ANA/ANP forces can be trained and formed to fight their own war. At what cost? How many American lives? How many taxpayer dollars? It would take decades if it were simply a matter of sophistication and military training. However, the obstacle is the way and philosophy of life in the Islamic world.

Iraq is a case study in deception. You have been told by the media and our politicians that the Iraqi Army is now capable of maintaining order in Iraq with limited U.S. support. Well, read the news. Iraq is still in chaos. As we withdraw it will become worse; Sunni v. Shitte, Kurd v. Sunni and/or Shitte. Arabs are as brutal as Central Asians. However, they are even worse soldiers, and bring new meaning to the term cowardly. An American colonel who tried to train an Iraqi brigade regularly quips that his greatest accomplishment in twelve months was to get the Iraqis to use the toilets. He was not exaggerating. Americans have no idea how screwed up the world is east of Greece. Iraq is not yet a success story. The insurgency is just laying low. The Muslim mind thinks in terms of years, decades, and centuries – not election cycles. You will hear optimistic talking heads speak otherwise. They will tell you of the great success in Iraq. You will even hear this occasionally from Soldiers, Marines, and “Operators” who have had good experiences with the Iraqi forces. However, their experience is the exception.

Americans have been conditioned and have become accustomed to tiptoeing about, fearing to offend anyone – even those who are offensive to the bulk of humanity. Thus, there is not an American politician or a media guru who will speak the truth clearly.

Although this writer has read extracts from the Koran, there is no claim from this quarter to any real Islamic theological scholarship. My understanding from Muslim acquaintances is that a true Muslim understands the Koran as literally as an Evangelical Protestant understands the Bible. Those who do not are apostates. Relying on the New Testament we believe that “By their fruits ye shall know them.” This is how we know them:

· Dismemberment of American soldiers in Somalia while Somali Muslims danced in glee – October 1993. · The celebrations in “The Arab Streets” (include all of Islam from Gaza to Indonesia) after the bombings of the Twin Towers, the Pentagon, and the downing of United Flight 93, animating Muslims throughout the world to joy and celebration – September 11, 2001 and the weeks following. · Dismemberment of Americans from Blackwater in Fallujah complete with the hanging of burned bodies from a bridge to the delight of the Muslim crowd – March 31, 2004. · Decapitations of Nick Berg, Daniel Pearl, Kenneth Bigley, and others at various times and places. Lest we think that this barbarism is reserved for Westerners, Islam promotes:

· Honor killings of girls and women not only in Islamic nations, but right here in the good ‘ol USA.

· Child brides. · Conversion killings of anyone even thinking about leaving the Islamic faith. · Child abuse and indoctrination via children’s cartoons (Muppets no less!) that make sport of killing Americans and Jews and portray us as pigs and dogs. (You can find them on YouTube!) · Punishing children for petty theft by having their arms broken beneath the wheel of a truck. (You can find this gem on YouTube as well!) · Slavery in all its glory. Both for labor and sexual purposes. This is rampant in the Islamic world particularly among our Saudi “allies”. Victims are Indonesian, Sri Lankan, Filipino, Indian, and from any country where one could be lured with the promise of an escape from poverty. Some victims are from the West. · Cruelty in all its forms to one and all. Having spent the best part of five years in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Israel (Gaza/West Bank), I can tell you that I have personally seen an adult man take off his shoe and beat a toddler around the head and shoulders with its heel. The little boy was wearing only a dust soaked shirt that came up above his belly. Yet, not a tear fell on his dirt-smudged cherubic face. He fell down breaking his fall with his tiny hands, but would not – or could not cry. I have seen an adult man suddenly and repeatedly strike a burka-wearing woman with a stick when she tried to exit a compound through a gate without a male escort. I have seen a man beat a donkey on the legs and back with a club until the panicked, pleading, and bleeding animal fell to the ground.

Kabul has astounding traffic tie-ups. Road rage is limited because one never knows if the other guy may have a flamethrower in his vehicle, but the cursing and honking is legendary. In the spring of 2007, during a massive, two-hour traffic jam on Jalalabad Road, I watched as an Afghan driver and his assistant got out of their flat bed truck in an attempt to beat the heat by lying down in the shade under the tires. The truck was hauling two large containers of medical supplies marked with a Red Cross. The driver apparently forgot to put out the tire chalks, and the truck rolled over both men crushing their heads like peas. Nobody – nobody – lifted a finger to help them. Their bodies were simply pulled to the side and the honking and shouting went on as usual. Life means nothing.

Apologists will bring up the crimes of the West – especially the Crusades. The fact is that the Crusades were waged to counter the Seljuk advance on Byzantium and the atrocities inflicted on Christians and Jews in the Holy Land. The Crusades were waged during a period of time when life in general – not to mention war – was totally barbaric. That degree of barbarism is unimaginable to modern Western sensibilities, but still considered absolutely reasonable by Muslims. Had the Crusades not been waged; had the Habsburg Monarchy not turned back the Ottoman tide at the end of the 17th Century; had Isabel of Castile not driven the Moors from Grenada, you would not be reading this diatribe. You would be illiterate, ruled by a tyrant, and squatting on the dirt floor of a mud-brick shack picking your nose.

On September 24th, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the United Nations General Assembly. He basically put the world on notice. Israel will not tolerate any more nonsense from the Islamic world. In contrast to the incoherent rambling of Gadhafi, the rancorous rants of Ahmandinejad, and the lame political oration given by President Obama, Netanyahu made his points with force, conviction, and clarity. Speaking of Islam he stated:

“In the past thirty years, this fanaticism has swept the globe with a murderous violence and cold-blooded impartiality in its choice of victims. It has callously slaughtered Moslems and Christians, Jews and Hindus, and many others. Though it is comprised of different offshoots, the adherents of this unforgiving creed seek to return humanity to medieval times. Wherever they can, they impose a backward regimented society where women, minorities, gays or anyone not deemed to be a true believer is brutally subjugated. The struggle against this fanaticism does not pit faith against faith nor civilization against civilization. It pits civilization against barbarism, the 21st century against the 9th century, those who sanctify life against those who glorify death.”

President Obama and General McCrystal need to review their history. When you treat the Afghans with kid gloves, they will bite off your hand.

Jim Sauer is a retired Marine Corps Sergeant Major and combat veteran with over thirty years of service. Since retiring he has worked in support of U.S. Government efforts in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Israel.

Posted by: Saul at October 25, 2009 04:32 PM

Billt, have you read Andrew McCarthy?


Posted by: Saul at October 25, 2009 04:40 PM

We've all read McCarthy.

First, he's a former DA, not a COIN or military expert or even a foreign policy expert. So his opinions, while often worth reading, are interesting but hardly dispositive.

Secondly, he doesn't like the Bush Doctrine. OK... that's his opinion. He doesn't believe we have a legitimate national security interest in democracy promotion in the ME. In that, he is in total agreement with Obama (he of the "the Surge was a miserable failure" wisdom) and Biden (Mr. "let's ignore the Iraqi Congress and partition Iraq along sectarian lines" -- something NO ONE wanted).

Not impressive company to be in on this issue.

Posted by: Cassandra at October 25, 2009 05:06 PM

Oops :p

I meant federal prosecutor, not DA. Senior moment.

Posted by: Cassandra at October 25, 2009 05:11 PM

It does pain me that I reach the same conclusion as Obama, however for different reasons. I am a Republican.

On another note Great Blog.

Posted by: Saul at October 25, 2009 05:41 PM

Hey, that's OK. It would be a boring world if we all saw things the same way :)

Posted by: Cassandra at October 25, 2009 05:43 PM

Iraq is a case study in deception. You have been told by the media and our politicians that the Iraqi Army is now capable of maintaining order in Iraq with limited U.S. support. Well, read the news. Iraq is still in chaos.

How 'bout if I actually went to Iraq and saw for myself? Say, for each of the last three years, including more than half of this year?

It's not in chaos. Some attacks still occur, and will continue to occur on occasion for the forseeable future. The ISF are uneven in quality, but some of their units are actually quite good -- the 17th IA, for example, really was ready to take over security in its zone when the 30th of June rolled around.

Posted by: Grim at October 25, 2009 06:03 PM

Hmmm... it was not in chaos last time my spouse was there either :p

But what do the two of you know?

Posted by: Cassandra at October 25, 2009 06:40 PM

Nothing much, I guess, but I can be slow about some things. I still haven't figured out how "the media" is lying to me about Iraq, but I should "read the news" to find out the truth.

Posted by: Grim at October 25, 2009 07:40 PM

That's a good idea, reading the news.

I can't hope to refute all the quotes and the essay by Saul in a few lines, but I would only add that I do know a few expatriate Iraqis, and from their observation, not every Iraqi is all that enthusiastic about Islam and all its tenets.

Ditto the Afghans.

It's convenient and expeditious to protect oneself by using Islam as a shield against persecution when you live in a Muslim majority country. But the day may come when this too shall pass.

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at October 25, 2009 10:16 PM

Billt, have you read Andrew McCarthy?

Nup, but I've been kicking around Asia -- Southeast and Southwest -- for a while. I *have* read Sun-Tzu, Mao, the Small Wars Manual, the Center for Army Lessons Learned reports, and the COIN Manual, and participated in my share of counter-guerrilla ops, so I have a pretty fair idea of what works and what's just PC eyewash.

Iraq isn't a complete success story if you measure success by Western standards, but it isn't as bad overall as your vignettes paint it. The Kurds and Arabs are still extremely wary of one another, but these days, they're settling their disputes using words, not firefights.

Posted by: BillT at October 26, 2009 06:04 AM

Iraq is still in chaos.

In other news, the US has announced plans to pull out of the quagmire known as Chicago. With a higher murder rate than the entire NATION of Iraq, no end to the bloodshed in sight, and no plan to reverse this growing trend the President has announced a complete pullout of the largest city in Illinois.

Seriously people, when you're safer living in Iraq than in Chicago, can we drop the pretense of "chaos"?

Posted by: MikeD at October 26, 2009 10:12 AM

Saul does have a point about Afghanistan (even if he does go on a bit long about it). One of the reasons the Bush team chose Iraq for the beginning of the Westernization-of-Arabia project is that they knew that it would be one of the easier parts of the Middle East to sell Western ideas in. It's possible to rally Iraqis around the concept of a nation rather than a tribe.

In Afghanistan, that's not so easy. Nation-izing Afghanistan is going to be a looooooong-term project. Probably several generations. And Saul is right in that simply trying to explain the logic of democracy and assuming they'll get it isn't going to work, at least not in the short term. Although I disagree with it, I can sort of understand McChrystal's idea about concentrating troops in a few urban areas and trying to bring them to, if not the 21st century, at least the 19th.

There aren't any easy answers in Afghanistan, and my big fear is that the one thing that Obama is really looking for is an easy answer. I really think that he assumed that simply getting Bush out of office would make the Afghanis (and the Pakistanis too) instantly receptive to our leadership. And no doubt there are plenty of people in Afghanistan who are happy to feed that delusion. Meanwhile, al-Queda is drawing up plans to reconstitute its bases there, even as the White House searches for a magic wand to make the whole problem disappear.

Posted by: Cousin Dave at October 26, 2009 02:38 PM

Obama & co:



Weeeeee Don' Heeed No Steeeeeenkin' Constitutions!!

Already did that skit once in Central America, what makes you think they wouldn't do it again on Another World Tour?

Posted by: Obloodyhell at October 27, 2009 12:49 PM

Another idea I'd like to see less of is "[ethnicity X] are not ready for the concept of democracy". I'd seen this first trotted out by the left about Vietnam (remember, "the Vietnamese don't have a word for 'Freedom'"?). As if somehow they were sub-humans who didn't understand the 'advanced' concept of 'living under something other than tyranny'. Then I saw it again about the Iraqis. That the Iraqi people couldn't "handle" democracy. "After all," the argument went, "they've never lived under any form of democratic government and never had a tradition of it."

Last I checked, prior to 1945, neither had the Japanese. And the Germans' sole dalliance with the concept prior to 1945 was an utter failure. And yet somehow, we don't hear about them. So which is it? Is democracy something only "enlightened" cultures can practice? I reject that as racist nonsense.

Afghanis are people, just like the Iraqis, just like the Germans, just like the Japanese... just like us. We do not have some kind of monopoly on appreciation of liberty. We are not even a 'race'. Americans are the mutts of the world. There is no ethnicity we don't encompass. And yet, we have successfully practiced a republican form of democracy for over 275 years now. We just have more experience with it than anyone else. That does not mean no one else is capable of doing it.

Posted by: MikeD at October 27, 2009 01:38 PM