Courtesy of DoctrineMan!! Like Pearl Harbor…a day that changed all our lives and set the world on a new course…no doubt lots will bleat about about the super-hero imagery…but the US is still like Ghostbusters: when it all hits the fan, who ya gonna call…?

Also courtesy of DM, a sad note that actor Cliff Robertson passed away today, aged 88…veteran of greats like PT-109, 633 Squadron, Brainstorm,  and Too Late The Hero

One of my all time favourite movies and books – the first one anyway – maybe, after The Dambusters, Peter Jackson will remake this, especially now that it looks like we will have at least one flying Mossie down here soon…


OBL is Dead! Let Us Rejoice? — Not so fast. . .

OBL is Dead! Let Us Rejoice? — Not so fast. . .. I just thought that this post was so good that there is nothing meaningful I could add to it other than ‘have a read‘ and then ‘have a think‘…

Edit: this post (mine not Cecilia’s excellent piece) was just a little too minimalist (first time I have used ‘Press-It” so know for next time) so I have added a lead-in image with a  Reflections theme…

PDF: OBL is Dead! Let Us Rejoice_ — Not so fast. . . – Inspired Vision

Colour Me Devastated

…in regard to the closure of the file on the late and unlamented OBL…

Ronald Reagan warned bad guys that they could “…run but not hide…” and George W. Bush undertook that the perpetrators of 911 and those who supported them would be hunted down…no matter where they go or how long it takes…good on Uncle Sam for being true to his word…

I’m more concerned with the issues surrounding disposal of the body…without some irrefutable proof of death the legend of OBL will live on…how long will it be before the first reports of OBL and Elvis bare-backing riding the Loch Ness Monster…? But, either way, a clear message, a reminder, has been sent out, serving notice that bad guys are not untouchable and certainly not safe in their refuges…just the intel haul just from seized computer hardware will have hard drives spinning at Langley and Fort Meade for months…and what terrorists will not have an enhanced pucker factor (EPF) when helicopters fly overhead for the next few weeks..?

I was driving through the Volcanic Plateau when Radio Live stopped for the live feed of the President’s address. I was a bit miffed that I hadn’t any advance notice of the announcement as it was leaked on the net just as I left home – this detracted from the full effect of the news…reception was broken through Erua and I was reminded of, many years ago, being in the jungle trying to tune into BBC News on a little handheld transistor.

I had to pull off the road when I found a clear reception window to listen to the announcement…as the story unfolded, I had two mental images: one of the sirens on the destroyers as they steamed untouched through the Navarone Channel; and the other of the slow drum roll at the end of The Sands of Iwo Jima before the gentle strains of The Marine Hymn…sounds of quiet triumph, a job well done…

And, I have to say, I was happy that this chapter in the war was done the old-fashioned way, boots on the ground, and not with an anonymous JDAM through the bedroom window.

You can run but you can not hide…

Bad guys, take note…

Coming soon to a sanctuary near you…

In or at: that is the question

I recollected that her eye excelled in brightness, that of any other animal, and that she has no eye-lids—She may therefore be esteemed an emblem of vigilance.—She never begins an attack, nor, when once engaged, ever surrenders: She is therefore an emblem of magnanimity and true courage.—As if anxious to prevent all pretensions of quarreling with her, the weapons with which nature has furnished her, she conceals in the roof of her mouth, so that, to those who are unacquainted with her, she appears to be a most defenseless animal; and even when those weapons are shewn and extended for her defense, they appear weak and contemptible; but their wounds however small, are decisive and fatal:—Conscious of this, she never wounds till she has generously given notice, even to her enemy, and cautioned him against the danger of treading on her.—Was I wrong, Sir, in thinking this a strong picture of the temper and conduct of America? ~ Ben Franklin

Since returning to the work force on a semi-fulltime basis, I have been somewhat remiss in monitoring on those sites I’ve added to my blogroll over time…this morning, in response to an item on the Small Wars Journal Blog on 4GW/5GW, I wanted to link to the work that Peter had done his The Strategist blog on a Cohorts of War model that was considerably more robust than William Lind’s flawed 4GW construct. I knew that Peter had stopped contributing to The Strategist when he departed for Vanuatu a couple of month s ago but I was surprised to find that I couldn’t get into it at all this morning (hopefully a minor glitch relating more to the server firewall at this end and not to any issues with Peter’s old blog).

Anyway, since the intention was there to revisit members of the blog roll, I continued to do so…Neptunus Lex has an interesting item on the symbolism of flags, It’s Been A Long Time, in which he describes the history of the First Jack, the first flag under which the US Navy fought in the War of Independence and one which was reinstated post-911.  He recounts Benjamin Franklin’s word on the reason behind the snake on the flag, Don’t Tread On Me, was an apt banner under which to go to war…and he concludes with the thought that “…It’s been a long time, but we are still at war. Outside my house the Jack is still flying...”

Lex’s statement “…we are still at war…” is interesting. I don’t think there is any doubt that most Americans see their nation as at war and when you’re at war, you behave a certain way. I still remember the day of 911, of waking for breakfast in the Mess at Waiouru to learn of a terrorist attack in America and not thinking too much of it until I turned on the TV just in time to see the first tower come down. The school I was working at had an instructor who’d just completed the staff course at Ft Leavenworth…he spoke of how this was another Pearl Harbor Day, where the America that was so concerned about casualties in peace support/OOTW like Bosnia and Somali and of being perceived as playing by international rules, would shift to a war-fighting stance and leave no stone unturned in its hunt for those responsible and those who supported or abetted them. Thus, then, an America at war will bear the  ‘blood and treasure’ cost of that war and stay the course to see it through to a conclusion.

What then of those nations that might only be in a war…this is a question that came up when I was lecturing at Massey University a couple of weeks ago and led into an interesting discussion…the bottom line was that a nation in war can opt out at any stage when it convinces itself that its national objectives have been met, are no longer being achieved or even when it simply can’t remember why it got involved in the first place. On the other hand, a nation at war has a greater commitment to seeing matters through to a conclusion, regardless of cost – or certainly where the cost is a lesser concern than resolution of the issue.

But in 21st Century informal war, even resolution of the issue becomes blurred – once upon a time, a war was ‘resolved’ when the opponent was defeated and the victors occupied their territory – how now (brown cow?) do we define victory when our opponents don’t actually occupy any ground worth seizing and the nation’s capital is already occupied by our (apparent) friends and allies. The phrase that always comes to my mind when I think of this is from that great military theorist, Princess Leia Organa “When you broke in here, did you have a plane for getting out?” Defining the conditions for victory can be tricky: Phase One of WW2 was all about restoring Polish sovereignty but, despite occupying Berlin in 1945 we didn’t actually achieve this until 1989 – and then without occupying Moscow…In Iraq (version 2 anyway), it was a relatively simple task to define, although somewhat bloodier and more expensive to achieve, but then Iraq had been a centrally-governed society before March 20 2003.

Afghanistan is a whole different ball game and we now see the coalition start to wobble as some nations simply pack their bags and leave, although doing it to the tune of The Animals’ We’ve Got To get Out Of This Place instead of Het Wilhelmus was probably a bit tacky….while others discover that amazingly, they are now actually closer to achieving their in-theatre endstates that they had realised and thus can commence transition to a steady state Afghan-led structure…and recently we have seen the resurgence of statistics ‘proving’ how well that transition programme is going, especially the training of the Afghan National Police and Army but numbers aren’t everything. In fact, in this arena, they may be meaningless, certainly without some form of qualitative measures to accompany them…some interesting viewpoints on endstates here:


Tomgram: Body Count Nation

The other enemy

What does the Military Endstate in Bamiyan look like?

One of the things that those who might only be in war should remember, and one which may drive those at war, is that by opting to intervene or interfere in someone else’s country, they accept a certain responsibility for their actions. As those in war nations slowly slip away, they should remember that the people of those countries have no such option to just walk away and that the last helicopter off the Embassy roof always leaves someone behind…

In other news

John Birmingham seeks new ideas to develop the America-less post-Wave environment…the way things are developing in the latest thread on this topic, the rest of the world will write itself off in petty score-settling and an almost vacant America will reassert itself by default…

The Lite version of the UK’s Joint CombatOperations Virtual Environment (JCOVE) simulation based on Bohemia’s uber-successful Virtual Battlefield System 2 is availbale for download (and has been for some time but I only just found it) through the JCOVE Lite forum – yes, you do have to register and then you do have to post a welcome post to a thread before the download link activates but it is well worth it…VBS2 is the de facto standard simulation across the Anglospheric nations, well, the land forces anyway and is a superior tool for SOP and TTP development, AO familiarisation and mission rehearsal and well worth a look from anyone in the training or capability development arena….

Doing the Business

Neptunus Lex has a great link today to a story covering the work of pararescue crews in Afghanistan – take the time to read it and perhaps just reflect for a moment on the work that these people do…That Others May Live is their motto…one really does wonder what greater protection a Red Cross offers over a minigun when operating against an adversary that has made it crystal-clear that it does not and will not respect those laws and rules by which most of the rest of the planet lives…the journalist author has a Facebook page that I think will be worth following while he is in-theatre.

Also on Lex is an item entitled Overload on the growing mass of video data from UAV operations, currently at about 23 YEARS worth of continuous viewing and growing by the minute – the follow-on discussion on how to deal with this from an analysis point of view is worth thinking about. I, for one, am not a proponent of the belief that all analysis must be done by trained analysts especially those in a centralised reachback system because a. it takes too long and b. they are too removed from the situation on the ground. I once heard an experienced and well-thought-of operator get lambasted by the intel weenies at a conference when he said that all he wanted was to be able to review past and current imagery of a route himself before he conducted a patrol. Apparently HE didn’t understand what it was all about and why all imagery analysis had to be undertaken by specialists before the product got to him (in a few days).

Try him or just shoot him?

On Coming Anarchy, discussion rages over the fate of the Undie Bomber. Should he be treated by a criminal and tried according to due process, or simply squeezed dry of any information he may or may not have and discarded? From a domestic point of view, is there any difference between a criminal and a terrorist? The Brits would say no, and I guess that we would as well based on our experience with French terrorists in the mid-80s – eight years after 911, the US still doesn’t seem able to make up its mind.

On Influence

Still working on some comment re the Mackay/Tatham paper – my problem is not the paper per se but that I keep getting more and more information support the shift of emphasis from kinetics to Influence. I am able to say that I don’t think that Gian Gentile has ‘got it’ in his rebuttal to  Behavioural Conflict – From General to Strategic Corporal: Complexity, Adaptation and Influence when he says “War is about killing and destruction, it is not armed social science“. In fact, reading his comments yet again, I wonder if COL Gentile actually read the UK paper any further than the cover page? Perhaps it is fitting that he is currently teaching history at West Point because he seems somewhat stuck in the past, maybe has a nice little (sandbagged) cottage near the Fulda Gap, and appears blissfully unaware that the world has moved on from the kinetics of the Cold War – perhaps he lives in a far happy place than that which the rest of us are stuck with. The world we are in now requires decision-making and other responsibilities to be devolved far lower down the hierarchical food chain than every before in a further evolution of the strategic corporal and conversely an exponential increase in the level of detailed awareness at the other end of the chain, in the development of tactical general. The US Army’s own future capstone document (note to self – this still links to the draft – must chase down later to release version) identifies this as the key enabler for developing and maintaining credible and relevant land capabilities out to 2028.

To implement this fundamental shift, US TRADOC released the new version of FM 7-15 Army Universal Task List. It did so because there was a clearly identified need for change: not so much change in what armies do but a change in the emphasis of what they do. This change was reinforced in the new FM 7-0 Training for Full Spectrum Operations and the updating of the Soldier Manuals of Common Tasks (levels 1-5). I understand that the new version of FM 7-1 Battle Focussed Training is due out soon as well to further reinforce this doctrine.

Desperately Seeking Mayberry


Mayberry is the utopian township in which the Andy Griffiths Show was set a long long time ago; you know, where Ron Howard was born (and where Gomer Pyle hails from as well…Gaaw-aawl-ly, Surprise, surprise, surprise!) …Neptunus Lex has a nostalgic item today entitled The Itch in which he talks about seeking the ideal home town with a

…local hardware store that has the same breadth of inventory as Walmart, at the same low prices but who knows you by your name. With a coffee shop that serves the routinely excellent quality of a Starbucks or Peets, but which lacks all of that big city franchise homogeneity. A house with a porch that runs around the front and an acre (at least) of land, and friendly neighbors who know you well enough to stop by uninvited and yet be welcome for all of that. Where all of the kids are above average….“,

…someplace where…

…it’s somehow all tied together, the airplane I’ll own and make my own, the little town I’ll fly it out of. With the airstrip by the river, the trout kissing the pool tops, the elk bugling, the bird dog slumbering by the fire, my girlfriend by my side. The kids all grown up and successful, leading happy, productive, satisfying lives. Nothing left to worry on...”

Wouldn’t we all, I hear you sigh…yes, absolutely but the most telling part of this item is the last couple of lines “…it’s cleansing, but ultimately meaningless, to try and escape. If we want to live in Mayberry, it’s useless trying to find it on a map. We have to create it…” And therein, folks, lies the lessons…like Sarah Connor always used to say before she made it big on the small screen “…we have no fate but what we make…” So whatever your ideal is out there, the first person you have to motivate to create it is yourself – as I type this, it strikes me that our adversaries in the War on Terror are currently singularly better at this than we are…

And speaking of our adversaries, Coming Anarchy has a interview with a guy called Christopher Hitchens – I’d never heard of him either but now that I have, I think he probably needs some serious adjustments to his medication. But anyway, I would like to comment just a little on one of the lines he spouts in this interview “… Islamophobia is vague and linguistically clumsy. A phobia is an irrational fear. My fear of Islamic terrorism is not irrational…” Islam terrorism just like Christianity crusadism and Rugby World Cup Year All Blacks Victory…enough said…

Part of the fallout from the Christmas Day Undies Bomber is yet another series of calls for better interoperability and information sharing between agencies…without hopping on my soapbox on this one again (not this morning anyway), maybe we need to be looking at some things that already exist and ramping some horsepower in behind them…I mean things like:

  • The Coalition Interoperability Warrior Demonstration aka CWID – it’s been running since the mid-90s previously as the Joint Interoperability Warrior Demonstration aka JWID but regardless of the clumsy names, the key word is INTEROPERABILITY – since 911, this DoD-led annual event has been focussing more and more upon information sharing and interoperability issues, not just between the services, or between major allies, but extending these links right down into the nitty-gritty of interaction with and between other government agencies and the myriad of first response agencies in the US, and by implication, for any that might be interested, in other participating nations. Every year, dozens of emerging and developing technologies are thrashed throughout the month of June in connected sites around the world. However, IMHO, one of the biggest payoff for CWID participants comes from the three major week-long planning activities that occur prior to each execution phase where operators, developers and geeks have their respective expectations and perceptions hauled over the coals towards a shared reality.
  • The ABCA Coalition Lessons Analysis Workshop aka CLAW, lead by the ABCA Program Office in the Pentagon, that every one or two years assembles an international team of lessons learned professionals and subject matter experts to review and analyse the raw Observations, Issues and Lessons (OIL – yes, it really is all about OIL!!) from the preceding 12-18 months of operations and training within the five member nations and distil these into findings and recommendations. Following an inaugural ABCA lessons conference in Ft Leavonworth in 2004, CLAWs have been conducted in 2005 (Salisbury, UK), 2006 (Kingston, Canada – what a beautiful location!!), 2007 (Hobart, Autsralia) and 2009 (Shrivenham, UK). The CLAW process is exportable and applicable to OILs from any source not just military activities…There is also a link between CWID and the CLAW: analysis to date finds that around 60% of the issues uncovered in the CLAWs are further investigated or resolved on CWID…

My point here is that, rather than angst about what’s not working, there are already some usable processes and forums and systems that can at least be talked about and looked at as potential stepping stones towards long term systemic solutions (why is it that only problems are systemic?)…Like Neptunus Lex said, “…we have to create it…


A ‘jack’ is someone who makes sure that they are OK over anyone else. I believe the linkage originally comes from the 1959 Peter Sellers movie “I’m All Right, Jack“. This is one example of a jack:

Kirk the Jack 003

This is big dog Kirk. There are two bean bags because there are two dogs. Our other big dog, Lulu, likes to rest on a bean bag because she has a sore hip (hopefully not the dreaded displasia!!). Kirk knows this. Does he care? No, he’s alright. Kirk is a jack big dog.

Here’s another example of a jack: LIND ON 4GW AND THE FORT HOOD KILLINGS. I mean, it’s nice that William Lind shares with us on his visits to this planet but this time he really just needs to get a grip! The reason that I posted a link to John Birmingham’s commentary on the Ft Hood shootings, and probably the reason that JB’s commentary quoted in full the earlier commentary by Stephen Murphy, (sorry if that’s a bit cumbersome), is that the Murphy commentary is as insightful a one that you will find on this tragedy – AND that it cuts directly to the chase on the core issue.

MAJ Nidal Malik Hasan was simply an individual struggling within himself. An individual no different really than any of those other individuals who faced similar struggles and ultimately directed their frustrations on those around them. I don’t know if there is a single nation on this Earth that has not had at least one such incident. Even here in quiet little New Zealand, we have had at least five in the past twenty years : Aramoana, Masterton, Pukekohe, Raurimu and Dunedin. It is something that happens, regardless of the best or the worst mental health, intelligence and law enforcement systems. Any system so efficient as to keep such people at risk off our streets would be so draconian as to sacrifice the freedoms our societies hold dear.

The reason that Mr Lind is a jack is that he is making sure that HE is alright by capitalising on the Ft Hood tragedy so further justify and validate his own 4th (would $th be more accurate perhaps?) Generation Warfare, aka 4GW, model. Mr Lind would have us believe that what happened in Ft Hood was a result of 4GW and the harbinger of waves of similar attacks across the US, and that the only way to prevent such attacks is for America to shed its ‘Give us your poor, your tired, your huddled masses longing to be free…’ heritage in favour of becoming a WASP state living by the moral minority’s own sharia law…

Not so, Mr Lind, not so, at all…if there is one thing we HAVE learned since 911, it is that our adversaries, individually and collectively,  in this war are very bit as intelligent, as skilled and as capable as we are: a gaping hole in the New York City skyline, hundreds of casualties in Madrid and Bali,  and 4000 flag-draped coffins out of Iraq are proof of that. Only in the UK have these forces been stymied to date – the one nation with decades of experience successfully facing a dedicated, vicious and evolving internal adversary. If MAJ Hasan’s attack in (not on) Ft Hood was what Mr Lind paints it as:

  • Would his tradecraft been so loose as to already be on the FBI’s and the military risk radar?
  • Would he really be overtly trying to contact known Al-Qaeda supporters?
  • Might he not have made better use of his access to Ft Hood to employ more lethal forces than a couple of pistols?
  • Would there not have been at least one simultaneous event somewhere else in the US, even one frustrated by circumstance or law enforcement?

Think about these things before blindly calling for the restriction or even expulsion of those with different belief structures. Remember what ‘Give us your poor, your tired, your huddled masses longing to be free…” once meant. Do not under-estimate an enemy who is smarter than this. Be a leader, not a follower.

Because if we follow jacks like Mr Lind and his cronies, we become no better than those who preach a litany of hate from the safety of their religious status….

The COIN drops…

…or is it just a penny…?

Previously in The World According To Me: “Over time some insurgents will tire of the constant harassment in the face of growing public confidence in government forces and disdain for the insurgents… encouraging THEM one by one to consider coming to the talking table…”

barracuda 945I picked this up on my way through Singapore last month, thinking that with Admiral Sandy Woodward of Falklands War fame as an advisor, it would be pretty good. Not only is it not, but I could also see why other commanders in the fleet were worried that Woodward, with limited aviation or amphibious experience, be the wrong guy for the job:  once the plot puts to sea the whole premise is based on the ‘fact’ that the US Navy is the only service in the US DoD which helps the story along by skipping gayly around inconveniences like AWACs…I also think that the three unnamed Special Forces officers who allegedly advised on the story need to hand back any beers they received for ‘advice’ as the SF side is pretty weak as well. So the connection with COIN is…?

Without spoiling what story there is, a key assumption in the book is that the way to win an insurgency is to out-exasperate the opposition, i.e. harass them to the point of just giving up and going home…at the time of reading the book, these seemed like a great recipe for success for insurgents and difficult to beat from a COIN perspective – until I I reread the piece on the Information Militia this afternoon…could initiatives like Crimestoppers in a COIN/Stability campaign actually be the start of the Death of 1000 Cuts for an insurgency? Turning The War of the Flea on its head and subjecting the insurgents to an endless series of pinpricks and mossie bites until they have just had enough and start to consider their options…?

One thing I did like about Barracuda 945 is that the ending is not the righteous vengeance that one might have been expecting. Instead it presents a very left-field scenario which strikes at a core issue and not just a symptom – does that sound like something that might be drawn from FM 3-24 – even if the story does use major elements of national power to achieve the effect…?

I’ve commented a lot, as have many other commentators, on the apparent lack of strategic objectives for the war in Afghanistan. This summary came off one of the distribution lists I’m subscribed to; it states pretty clearly that al-Qaeda is still the primary raison d’etre for the war from a US point of view but one wonders how logical that really is…some things to think about:

  • The Taliban are not AQ; they may have supported and hosted them prior to 9/11 but are now probably not that impressed with all the attention that has drawn.
  • AQ are probably well-established in many other locations are the globe – where next after Afghanistan for the GWOT?
  • If there is any lesson to be learned by insurgents (as opposed to simple terrorists) from 9/11 and the London Tube bombings it is that such actions are more counter-productive for the ’cause’ – as Yamamoto feared, once you wake the sleeping dragon, it is damn difficult to put it back to bed…so AQ cells around the world are probably more discreet than to parade themselves openly in training camps as once was their wont.

These things being the case, then perhaps we need to reread FM 3-24 and ensure that such fundamentals remain in the 2010 version, and start to focus the campaign on ending the insurgency…if the aim is an AQ-free Afghanistan, then maybe we need to be casting off the dream of democracy for all and realistically start to look at ways of bring the Taliban to the table…carrot and stick…turn the war of the flea back on them…out-exasperate them until talking becomes the way better option to fighting. It is unlikely that we will be able to bring the Taliban (or any other significant Afghan group) to the table by force – didn’t work for Alexander, didn’t work for Victoria, didn’t work for Mikhail, and it wouldn’t have worked for Napoleon either if he had strayed in this direction….

Could we live with a stable Taliban in Afghanistan if that meant an al-Qaeda-free Afghanistan?

The rules murdering their troops…

A top article from the NY Post on the COIN Center blog – most definitely stimulating for the grey matter and really makes you wonder what’s it all about. The day of 911, I was working with a guy who had just come back from a US college and I clearly remember his words that this was Pearl Harbor all over and from this point on, America would consider itself at war. The implications of this were that the gloves would come off and any pretence of being a team player would vanish if it got in the way of the main effort…

Somewhere along the way, the ‘war’ seems to have been lost out of the whole ‘war amongst the people’ model – the key part is that, unlike peace support and reconstruction and peacekeeping and all the nice safe sounding words (like offshore and deployment and operations…) is that war is war and there not very much nice about it – certainly it is not about trying to be nicer to the bad guys or potential bad guys than to your own troops, or hobbling them with rules to prevent anything bad happening (apparently except to them)…this is a war.

Bad things happen in wars. Sometimes people get caught in the middle and get hurt. That’s war but we accept these risks because there are bigger things at stake…Any non-combatant death is bad but the key is whether there was an intent to kill, either directly or passively by failing to apply a reasonable duty of care (key word: REASONABLE!!) War is and always has been (possibly always will be so long as people are involved) messy, untidy, dangerous and indiscriminate…we should not be kidding ourselves that we can write a book and toss in some technology and all of a sudden make it squeaky clean and politically palatable.

However, this article and FM 3-24 both skirt around or possibly even overlook the key point: the keys to successful COIN are probably endurance and habit forming – the foe that can stick it out the longest AND ensure that the habits it desires are embedded over a couple of generations (Note: speed is not a characteristic of COIN!!) will most likely be declared the winner. While the Malaysian Emergency may have been declared ‘over’ (won?) in 1960, the last CT did not surrender til 1988. Similarly, and they are probably halfway there, it will still be another ten or so years before anyone can confidently state that the troubles in Ireland are truly over. You want to be out of Afghanistan in ten years? You’re dreaming – you might as well pull the pin and bail out right now…

Wars are wars and you can not fight (definitely not win) them with a sterile ‘big arrows, little maps’ approach…forget the non-lessons of DESERT STORM and get down and dirty…