Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Saturday, August 22, 2009
Friday, August 21, 2009
via Fox News
Thursday, August 20, 2009
It's been f'n hot the last couple of days. Blast furnace heat that makes seeking shade just a switch from "broil" to "bake." We had a break for a couple of days, and I thought maybe summer was thinking about tapping out. Apparently not. It's pant-like-a-dog hot; could be worse, though. We could be in Kuwait.
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Monday, August 17, 2009
Michael J. Totten has dug up some pertinent facts about the report's author:
the gist is that the author of a recent Human Rights Watch report about Israeli soldiers in Gaza supported the infamous massacre of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics by terrorists in the Palestinian Liberation Organization. And that's just for starters.
Yeah, this guy can be relied on to author a "just the facts, ma'am" report. Read the whole thing.
Islamic schools favor rote memorization, especially of scripture. Most Islamic scholars are hostile to the concept of interpreting the Koran (considered the word of God as given to His prophet Mohammed). This has resulted in looking down on Western troops that will look something up that they don't know. Arabs prefer to fake it, and pretend it's all in their head. Improvisation and innovation is generally discouraged. Arab armies go by the book, Western armies rewrite the book and thus usually win. Despite years of American advice on this matter, many Iraqi police and military personnel stick with the old, less effective, traditions.Me: This seems pretty accurate. We've found a decent success rate with pre-loading our counterparts with books/manuals, although we'll usually simplify products to the subject at hand down to just a checklist or handout, and distribute and carry ourselves checklists in both English and Arabic. We then, over time, condition our counterparts that on any given topic, they will see the same checklist over and over again. Initially, exposing them to any form to which they will have to commit an answer or fact (in ink, for the love of God!) on paper generates a great deal of stress. After a while though, they get into their comfort zone and can be reasonably relied upon to generate the information required or follow the established checklist sequence--especially if the form/checklist has enabled them to be perceived as "successful" before.
There is no real NCO corps. Officers and enlisted troops are treated like two different social castes and there is no effort to bridge the gap using career NCOs. Enlisted personnel are treated harshly. Training accidents that would end the careers of US officers are commonplace in Arab armies, and nobody cares. This is slowly changing, with the steady growth of a proper NCO corps and better officer attitudes towards their troops. But the old ways often return, with disastrous effects on troop morale and effectiveness.
Me: There is an NCO corps in the IFP, and some of our NCO shurta are actually pretty good. However, the NCOs get paid the same as the privates, so one of our biggest obstacles is getting shurta NCOs to stand up and take charge (and inherit all the headaches inherent in leadership) when there is no remuneration for doing so. When the chips are down, though, the enlisted leadership--both formal and informal--will usually step up and take charge, often on the basis of "because I'm bigger and stronger and I say so." Also, while the unit gets deplorable support from higher, unit leadership evinces strong, genuine concern for the shurtas' health and welfare. This has resulted, at least in the Knights' Raid Brigade, in relatively high unit identification and morale.
Officers are despised by their troops, and this does not bother the officers much at all. Many Arab officers simply cannot understand how treating the troops decently will make them better soldiers. This is another old tradition that dies hard.Me: While the officers definitely have a different relationship to the troops than anything we're used to, I've got to say that my guys understand and value the role of the officer as leader. The Brigade Commander hails from a tribe with strong Beduin roots, so his idea of "leadership" definitely reflects the desert raider mentality (in line with the brigade's name, which literally translated is "the Raid of the Knights"). His leadership style (and expectations of his subordinates) is akin to that of a medieval warlord, who treats his men well but expects absolute loyalty in return. Rather than being "despised by his troops", he has established within the unit a cult of personality--which of course presents its own problems.
Americans are taught leadership and technology; Arab officers are taught only technology. Leadership is given little attention as officers are assumed to know this by virtue of their social status as officers. The new generation of Iraqi officers and NCOs have been taught leadership, but for too many of them, this is an alien concept that they do not understand or really know what to do with.
While American officers thrive on competition among themselves, Arab officers avoid this as the loser would be humiliated. Better for everyone to fail together than for competition to be allowed, even if it eventually benefits everyone. Still a factor.
Me: My guys are not real big on failure. Instead of "all failing together," they will marginalize weak or incompetent leaders, and while continuing to pay full deference to their rank, keep them out of the decision making/mission execution cycle. There is definitely a preference for "all winning together" over "all failing together." For example, in the operations shop, I have one O6 (full colonel) whose sole job is to take written orders from the "current operations" stack and, upon completion of the mission, bind them into notebooks for historical record keeping. Meanwhile, a young and extremely competent lieutenant colonel runs operations. Because of his proven history of success, he has the latitude to make and implement decisions far above what any O6 in the unit has. Within well-defined limits, of course.
Initiative is considered a dangerous trait. So subordinates prefer to fail rather than make an independent decision. Battles are micromanaged by senior generals, who prefer to suffer defeat rather than lose control of their subordinates. Even worse, an Arab officer will not tell a US ally why he cannot make the decision (or even that he cannot make it), leaving US officers angry and frustrated because the Arabs won't make a decision. The Arab officers simply will not admit that they do not have that authority. The new generation of army commanders and staff officers have been sent to Western staff and command schools, but there's still not a lot of enthusiasm for initiative (which is seen as a decadent and dangerous Western import.)Me: Absolutely. I have seen division- and corps-level commanders huddled over a map, deciding where each individual vehicle will go in the cordon of a search operation. One of the values of the US Combat Advisory chain of command is that we can often reach up, through US advisors, and influence a more senior Iraqi commander to make a necessary decision and push it down before demanding an answer from a subordinate makes the top of his head explode followed by spontaneous combustion. We've discovered that, for example, if 1st Platoon is searching streets A through F, but has only received orders to search A&B, he will not move until ordered to do so. Even if the platoon leader knows he is going to eventually have to move to C,D,E, and F, he is rooted at the Street B limit of advance until he is ordered forward. This can be ameliorated through comprehensive discussions during rehearsals, but too many branches and sequels (still comprising a pretty basic set of instructions) will lead to confusion, doubt, and ultimately the same inaction we were trying to preclude. The key is knowing the partner unit well enough to know who is capable of making what level of decisions, and ensuring that you know how to reach that guy. It is better to leave a junior leader in place and spend 20 minutes to an hour hunting down the "right guy" for a decision than to try to berate, cajole, or threaten a junior leader into doing his job. If the guy is lower than battalion commander, the less you make him think, the better.
Lack of initiative makes it difficult for Arab armies to maintain modern weapons. Complex modern weapons require on the spot maintenance, and that means delegating authority, information, and tools. Arab armies avoid doing this and prefer to use easier to control central repair shops. This makes the timely maintenance of weapons difficult. Still a problem in Iraq, and throughout the Middle East.Me: Uh, Federal Police don't have complicated weapons systems. Kalashnikov series weapons are about as high speed as they get (barring ad hoc weapons). Where we bump into maintenance issues is primarily with vehicles. Especially the Humvees. Especially the Humvees that we told them not to buy. Especially the Humvees that we told them not to buy because they don't have the parts on hand or logistics to maintain them. However, the Humvees considerably increase the survivability of the average shurta, so I can understand their ardour for the vehicles. Still, since they don't have the system to maintain their vehicles, but we do, then obviously we could square them away if we wanted to (when in fact, we would go to jail). When we don't square them away--i.e., increase their chances of living through the operation--even though we could "if we wanted to," this generates some real resentment. I think they would maintain their fleet better if they had the systems in place to do so, but the question is academic since their logistics apparatus is totally--what's the word? oh yeah--fucked.
There are some good points I didn't touch on in the article. While my experiences here and now are a little different, the article does a great job of describing the difficulties involved in trying to midwife a modern security capability in the Middle East. And just think, the Iraqis are waaaay more modern and sophisticated than the Afghans...
Take a Soviet-made ZSU 23-4 anti-aircraft gun. Split off one of the four 23mm guns, mount it on the back of a Dodge pick-up, and you've got a "technical" that is a Somali warlord's wet dream. Contrary to what I initially thought, when the boys test-fired this thing 1) all the windows didn't blow out, 2) the pintle and mounting pylon stayed secure, and 3) the truck didn't flip over. While the whole set-up is ingenious, I have nightmares about what'll happen if my guys ever let rip inside the city with this thing...
Sunday, August 16, 2009
Friday, August 14, 2009
They were forced to strip off their clothes and told to perform sexual acts when the male victim, described as a physically fit member of the military in his mid-30s, wrestled the gun away.
"He beat him until the stock broke over his head and then continued to beat him until he thought he had him incapacitated,"
Thursday, August 13, 2009
The 5.56 mm round comes off rather well. I'm not so sure, for all the reasons listed in the article. I'm not a huge fan of the 5.56.
One comment that piqued my interest was
Much experimentation has taken place to develop the "perfect bullet" and at present it appears to be something between 6mm and 7mm.
Word on the street from Huggy Bear is that USSOCOM is fielding new upper receivers for the M4 that chamber a 6.68 mm round. Would love to hear the feedback on those.
One important point on round development is that, in this blogger's humble opinion, you cannot discuss the "goodness" of various calibers in combat without acknowledging the revolution in optics that the military provides its servicemen. Most sights now are "aiming dot" type optics, in which the aiming point is the focus of a parabolic lens. Used to be, soldiers had to line up the iron sights of the weapon, and had to have the correct "sight picture" in order to actually hit the target. In fact, "sight picture" was one of the three fundamentals of shooting (the other two being breath control and trigger squeeze). So, the soldier's eye, the rear sight aperture, and the front sight post all had to be in line for the soldier to hit the target. And the soldier had to do it the exact same way every time, with his head in the exact same position in relation to the sights of the weapon. Now, when the troop puts the aiming dot on the target, that is where the round will strike (given that he doesn't hork up breathing or trigger squeeze) no matter what the relief of his eye to the sight is. This makes potentially problematic rounds, like the 5.56 mm, extremely more effective, since round placement on the target (nice word for "bad guy") is going to be consistently better.
-groundfighting on a hard surface is significantly different than doing so on a mat.
-groundfighting against multiple opponents (especially if some of them haven't hit the ground yet) is a lost cause.
-groundfighting strategies reduce mobility to unacceptable levels.
-in a real fight, reducing one's opponent and while remaining on one's feet is a winning fight strategy.
All of these are good points. And Lord knows, I've groused about the shortfalls of strictly BJJ or even MMA skills in a real fight. But--
-I don't plan on getting in a real fight. I've got pretty good people skills (okay, I've been well-trained in de-escalating a potentially violent situation, how's that?), a well-managed temper, and nothing to prove to anybody. So why would I ever get in a fight?
-If I do get into a fight, I definitely do not plan on being unarmed, whether I'm carrying a firearm, a knife, or any of a wide range of less-than-lethal tools that I own and with which I have extensive training.
-If the planets align for that once in a lifetime kismet induced situation where I do get into a fight and I am unarmed, I certainly do not plan to "go to the ground." I do plan on 50% of the participants in the fight going to the ground (ballistically), but not me.
So, if all of that has gone wrong, and I'm in a fight mano a mano (heaven forfend), why would I assume that I'm not going end up on the ground?
A lot went wrong if I'm in a fight.
A lot went wrong if I'm unarmed.
A lot went wrong if I'm on the ground.
At that point, how important is it that I can acquit myself well?
"Ah," says the gimlet-eyed skeptic,"but you have created a slippery slope coursing down which one can rack up all kinds of training requirements, and at the end of the day you don't have enough time to train every skill you'll need to defend yourself through the gamut of worst-case scenarios."
This is true. But I don't need as much time on the rifle and pistol ranges to build proficiency as I do on the mats. Bullets are wonderful things, and there's no training to "counter" a bullet. The first rule I learned for knife-fighting was KISS; again less training time required. Striking and throwing skills are more training/technique intensive, so yes, I dedicate the appropriate percentage of training time to them.
The survivability training paradigm I'm trying to articulate is: firearms, a couple of hours per month (I know, it should be more, and has to be for real pistolero status, but I'm talking survival, here). Blades (and kinetic/ballistic non-lethals), a couple of hours per week. Unarmed, a couple of hours per day (of which groundfighting is a significant percentage).
Thing is, while I spend more time on the unarmed (least likely/desireable) scenario, it is my considered opinion that a significant portion of the efficacy of those hours translates up, and helps with the other skill sets.
For example, shooting: proper breathing is of paramount importance--make that "proper breathing under extreme duress" is of paramount importance. I can guarantee that regular, quality groundfight training will improve the breath-control dimension of one's shooting game. Knife fighting: kinesthetic awareness is extremely important; you have to know--without necessarily being able to see--what your opponent is doing at his extremities, and what he is capable of doing given the relationship of his body to yours. Striking and throwing: same deal, plus one has to remember that economy of force and economy of effort is key if the fight is going to last more than 17 seconds (remember, you started your day believing there was no way you'd get in a fight, period). Pepper spray: okay, I'd have to think for a while to come up with a crosswalk from jiujits to pepper spray, but you get the picture.
Seems like there might be a little more going on than just Iraq and Afghanistan, is all I'm sayin'.
Hate to say it, but on US domestic reporting they are as (or more) impartial and well-reasoned as any of the US mainstream media. So, I give them as much credence as the rest of the mainstream media on most of its reporting.
Granted, that isn't much.
Seems to me, the guy is either innocent--in which case you absolve him and set him free with damages paid--or his conviction stands, and his ass rots in prison (pun intended).
If he is indeed a mass murderer (or conspirator to mass murder) releasing him on compassionate grounds due to his terminal prostate cancer is ridiculous.
Hmm, Human Rights Watch. Hey, wasn't that the outfit that accused the Israelis of war crimes in the "massacre" of Palestinians in the Jenin refugee camp in 2002? Why yes, I believe it was, and that accusation was thoroughly discredited. In fact, the Israelis did more to protect Palestinian innocents than the Palestinians did themselves:
Dr. David Zangen, chief medical officer of the Israeli paratroop unit that fought in Jenin, has reported (and his report was confirmed) that not only did the Israelis not perpetrate a massacre, they worked to keep the hospital in Jenin open. They even offered blood to the wounded Palestinians.(9)
The Palestinians refused the blood because it was Jewish.In response, the Israelis flew in 2,000 units of blood from Jordan by helicopter. They also made sure that additional units of blood reached hospitals in Ramallah and Tulkarem, and they facilitated the delivery of 1,800 units of anti-coagulants brought in from Morocco.(9)
Yuh. Okay, these sound like the guys looking for a chance to gun down women and kids waving white flags.
-Beef Jerky business cards, it's a beautiful thing...
H/t AoS newsbar
Monday, August 10, 2009
Hugo doesn't have the stones to do it, though, because he knows what would happen.
I remember after the Colombians smoked FARC-ster Raul Reyes on the Ecuadoran side of the border reading that Hugo had ordered "21 tank battalions to move to the border." Unless a tank battalion in Venezuela consists of two up-armored golf carts, he was blowing smoke.
The Colombian Army has been gaining expertise through the expenditure of blood, sweat, and tears fighting the FARC, the ELN, and to some extent the AUC. While none of these are conventional opponents, the resultant capability would mean that Hugo would get to reap what he's sown. Oh, and throw in the fact that Prez Uribe doesn't back up at all, ever.
The shark that jumped into the boat is a bull shark; they are the most aggressive and are responsible for more attacks on humans than any other shark.
"U.S. efforts to rebuild the [Iraqi security forces] have focused on much needed training and equipment, but have neglected the greatest challenge facing the forces' ability to maintain security upon U.S. withdrawal: an ISF politicized by ethno-sectarian parties," he wrote.
"These ties pose the largest obstacle to the ISF in its quest to become genuinely professional and truly national in character. A professional military force holds the best prospect of gaining and keeping the trust of the people, but a force riven with destructive sectarian and ethnic loyalties is a recipe for civil war."
Obviously, I've got a limited view from my perch hear in Mosul, but this sounds about right. My counterparts in the Iraqi Federal Police (until very recently known as the Iraqi National Police) have a vehement, visceral distrust of the Iraqi Army. The IA, far more robust in its training and logistics systems to date, have a multitude of capabilities that the IFP don't. American commanders constantly defer lending a hand with US capabilities to help my guys out, stating that we need to "coordinate" with the IA and have them come on over and help out. Here's the deal: my counterpart would rather tear an eye from his face than ask for or recieve help from the IA. To the point that a couple of weeks ago, after the IFP had a fruitful day of harvesting IEDs, which they--gulp--happily brought back into their own headquarters, US forces refused to send EOD out to take control of and reduce the IEDs. Instead, I was told, tell them to get the IA to do it, natch. My counterpart's response to my entreaties to use the IA EOD was that he'd rather keep them for "later." So the explosives got to sit there for an extra day while we figured out an alternative means by which to dispose of the ordnance. There have been more than a couple of times that I thought the IA and IFP might go all "Hatfield-McCoy" on us. Thankfully, we've managed to calm those situations and have yet to have an incident that is both serious and sustained. Still, internecine security force hostility is always simmering just below the surface. Even within the IA there are fault lines:
The majority of these divisions are under the patronage of a political party," he writes. "For example, the 8th [Iraqi army] division in Kut and Diwaniyah is heavily influenced by the Dawa Party [of Shi'ite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki]; the 4th IA division in Salahuddin is influenced by President Jalal Talabani's Patriotic Union of Kurdistan; the 7th IA division in Anbar is influenced by the [Sunni] Iraqi Awakening Party, and the 5th IA division in Diyala is heavily influenced by the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, a Shi'ite political party with some ties to Iran.
As I've posted previously, most of the ISF and civilians I speak to think that when the US pulls out, there will be a bloodletting, but then things will settle down and people will live the "Iraqi way." As bad as that sounds, almost unanimously the Iraqis I speak to say that they will never again suffer a despot. Most will point to their satellite dishes and cell phones and say, "because of these, we have learned to say no."
I thought that this article was more up Starbuck's lane to comment on, but figured I'd have a go at it. To wit, it seems as though the Air Force, which blocks its members from using social networking sites, also monitors these same sites to guage public opinion and then advise the supported Commander how best to "craft his message" in response (or maybe even proactively). I think that this is a viable technique, and that this sort of information mining cell could someday be more accurate and reliable than public opinion polling. In this particular instance, the monitors were deployed to observe, assess, report, and make recommendations to counter the negative publicity of this spring's Air Force 1 flyover of Manhattan. The consolidated conclusion of this crack cell of cyberslueths was "No positive spin is possible."
[Gee, do ya think? Maybe I should pitch some military department to set me up with a cush job guaging the public perception of future events with my incredible ESP.
-We are going to make an unannounced flyover of Manhattan Island with a jumbo jet and a couple of fighter jets, what do you think will happen, O Amazing Mongo?
-the public will have a raging case of the ass and you are retarded. Next question.]
I'm not real big on web-based social networking, probably because I'm not real big on social networking, probably because I'm not real social.
Personally, I have no issues with educating soldiers on "do's" and "don'ts" of social networking and then letting them have at it. But the debate over social networking, which is sort of a collateral information operation, kind of misses the point, in my opinion.
The point is that we suck at information operations.
Because The Brass is 1) making "perfect" the enemy of "good enough to accomplish the mission," 2) afraid to piss off anybody, anywhere with impolitic language or viewpoints, and 3) distrustful of their subordinates' ability to articulate the command approved message (or at least not torpedo it), we get our asses kicked worldwide when it comes to disseminating information in such a manner as to forward the national interest.
Twitter, Facebook, and MySpace are, if you will, tactical media that will be replaced by or evolved into something totally different in a few short years. The military departments will either adapt to the proliferation of social media and personal information technologies or not, but I sincerely doubt that they will adapt to the point that they can successfully leverage and exploit them; that's just the nature of bureaucracies. Even if there are some titanium stovepipes of excellence built--such as the Combat Information Cell at Tyndall-- that can leverage networking media to great effect, the capability will be diffused by the bureaucracy.
As I said, though, these media are tactical. What we truly lack is not only an information strategy, but an even higher ordinate set of organizing principles for information operations, information management, and information exploitation (doctrinally, you could probably roll all these into "Information Operations," but like our IO execution, our IO doctrine sucks).
While we fritter over Twitter, we are losing sight of the requirement to forward a national strategic message--and to influence those of our competitors and thwart those of our enemies.
A couple of posts down, I spent some time articulating my gratitude for the aviators that cover our asses every time we go out. Our air cover performs two vital functions: close air support--i.e., firepower, which is pretty much what everyone thinks of when they think of air cover, but more frequently and as importantly, they provide invaluable Situational Awareness. I often can't see two or three blocks away. The air guys tell me what's going on around me, whether we have any "squirters" trying to escape if we hit a building, suspicious vehicles approaching our formation, groups of military aged males congregating in our general vicinity, and even where our counterparts went if they haul ass and leave us to lumber behind (this frequently happens on night operations). And, they give us the heads up on trains. From today:
-Mungadai 6, this is BlackJack 5.
-Go ahead BlackJack 5.
-Be advised you've got a train headed your direction. Should be there in a minute or two.
-Thanks, BlackJack 5.
-Uh, Mungadai 6, that train is on the same set of tracks that you're traveling on.
-Roger. Stand by...
Hilarious hijinks ensue.
Sunday, August 9, 2009
I've got nothing against diversity, per se, but once a service academy starts prioritizing diversity over other indicators for military leadership potential, I think you are courting danger.
I'm sure some young Seaman is going to think "Well, the ship is going down in flames, and we're all going to die, but at least my Captain is (black/asian/hispanic/female/Pacific Islander) like me."
I would think that in selecting young men and women to be educated, trained and inspired to lead our nation's soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines in battle and bring them home again, the content of one's character would be more important than the color of one's skin.
This would usually set off my perennial Army chauvinism, and I'd make some remarks about how the Navy is suffering PC-induced lameness, but the same day I read the article the Army posted its own accolades to diversity. On to AKO, the Army portal through which we get our official e-mail and perform various and sundry administrative tasks, the Army usually posts a motivational, scene-from-the-force picture that you can look at for the ten minutes it takes to log on. These are usually topical and there is a rotation, so that you see a different picture from the same pool every time you log on. So in celebrating the new West Point class' graduation and matriculation into the Army, I saw a picture like this with the following caption:
U.S. Military Academy graduates toss their hats during commencement ceremonies at West Point, NY, May 23, 2009. Of the 970 cadets, 144 are women, 63 African Americans, 62 Asian/Pacific Islanders, 74 Hispanics and 15 Native Americans. The majority of the class, which also includes 17 foreign students, were commissioned second lieutenants.
So, this is the best the Army can do? The most noteworthy attribute of this cohort of great young Americans who volunteered to compete to undergo a physically, mentally, and emotionally grueling four years in order to better lead our soldiers in a global war on terror*, which currently has two hot theaters of operation is: look, we're diverse!
The Army does these young leaders, and its troopers everywhere, a disservice by hawking the diversity of this graduating class, instead of recognizing the talent, motivation, and tenacity they have all demonstrated to get where they are.
*yeah, I know, I'm not supposed to say that anymore. When I get the new, approved brand name for this goat-fuck, I'll go back and amend the post.
Saturday, August 8, 2009
And back home, as the health care debate heats up, we've got a report that:
A spokesman for North Carolina Rep. Brad Miller has told reporters that his boss won’t be holding town hall meetings this month after receiving a death threat.
Way to go, sir. Way to pay back your constituents and countrymen over here facing real danger to give you the right to cower in the corner. Schmuck.
(I took the guy's party affiliation out of the quote; gutless is gutless, I don't care what side of the aisle he's on)
"Alone and Unafraid" is the unofficial motto of the Transition Teams. The first part has never been more true since the retrograde of combat forces out of Iraqi cities. The second part is due, in large part, to the odds of looking up and seeing one's air support, as pictured here (you can click on the pic to enlarge). I make it a general practice to always give aviators a hard time--a habit that has stood me in good stead thus far. But, I gotta say, our ubiquitous, flexible, and always-accommodating aviation brethren not only let me sleep soundly at night (or day, whatever), but let me do so with a minimum of thumb-sucking and bed-wetting.
Friday, August 7, 2009
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
One mentionable from today: we hung out for a while near the, ah, domicile of a propane vendor. Because the power grid is notoriously unreliable, most Iraqis cook with propane. Vendors drive their motorized mules around town hawking their wares. Propane tanks also make great IED canisters. So you can imagine our joy (and the little spritz of adrenaline) every time one of these babies turns the corner and starts ambling toward you. Good stuff.
The vendor and his family pretty much just own the mule, the propane tanks they sell, and the clothes on their backs. That's it. Here you can see the wire mesh pallet on which the family sleeps. Note the outdoor cradle for junior (as always, you can click to enlarge the picture).