How “We” Lost Yemen

How We Lost Yemen – By Gregory D. Johnsen | Foreign Policy.

yemen drone

Tonto used to say “We? White man..?” I haven’t seen the new version of The Lone Ranger so I’m not sure if Johnny Depp resists the temptation to weird this classic out…

The first thing that I like about this article is that it starts with “…drones, ships, and planes have all taken part in the bombardment...” and avoids the tendency of the uninformed to focus solely on the drone aspect of these attacks. Yes, for sure, we all know that ‘drone‘ isn’t the right word from a UAS geek perspective but as has been pointed out to me, the nice people at Merriam-Webster (the dictionary you use when you can’t afford real English!) still include as one of the definitions of drone “…an unmanned aircraft or ship guided by remote control…” Unfortunately, that definition is more apt than its other two definitions of drone as either “…a stingless male bee (as of the honeybee) that has the role of mating with the queen and does not gather nectar or pollen…” when we all know that the modern use can both collect and sting; or, and I had not seen this one before, “…one that lives on the labors of others…” although one might offer than a number of commentators on the so-called Drone Wars may be doing this.

The author asks why AQ continues to grow if this campaign has been so apparently successful – wasn’t it just not so long ago that victory in the war on terror was declared? Just as all the US and UK Embassy’s slammed the doors behind them as they knuckle down for yet another AQ-inspired assault? His answer? “…Faulty assumptions and a mistaken focus paired with a resilient, adaptive enemy…” I think that he is absolutely right and to these I would add reliance on resurgent but disproven ‘shock and awe‘ doctrine – we will so dazzle them with our technology that they can not fail to be overcome…yup…hasn’t worked for the last two decades and it’s not going to now…

Among the faulty assumptions are a demonstration of a total lack of grasp of military operations, culture and human factors – that, today, there are still people in power that believe that what work in one place will, without any supporting evidence work somewhere else: Yemen is not Pakistan is not Afghanistan is not Iraq. This is the same fundamental hubris error that the US made attempting to translate FM 3-24 from its successful implementation in Iraq to the total basket case that is Afghanistan (at any time).

Another is that there is some sort of subtle but vital distinction between launching strikes from an unmanned aircraft and launching them from a manned aircraft or a naval vessel or sharing the luff with a special operations team. Apart from avoiding the potential for inconvenient bodies to be displayed during News at 6, strikes from unmanned aircraft are really, as we all know deep down inside, just another form of national power employed in support of national objectives.

But…there’s always a but…might we assume that an inherent reluctance to be seen to put blood on the line by using drones further undermines national credibility especially in the absence of a declared or properly recognised or accepted conflict? Would the kinetic cross-border campaign against proponents of terror be more credible if it was conducted with manned resources i.e. to be specific, if human resources (a term I generally hate as aren’t resources things to be exploited?) aka nationals of the nation waging the campaign were actually doing the border crossing bit and not, as in the case of unmanned aircraft strikes, sitting back in the relative safety and comfort of an undisclosed top-secret location?

Although his model was flawed and needs further development, David Kilcullen was right – the accidental guerrilla not only exists but is created by precisely this sort of heavy-handed, poorly-formulated use of force. As the author of the article points out, the current campaign in Yemen is focusing on individuals and not on countering or neutralising the actual network in which they exist: control the water and the fish are yours for the taking…continue to play a short game and you are destined to play the short game forever – sort of like Happy Gilmore Hell…The article concludes:

The United States can do a lot of good in Yemen, but it can also do a lot of harm. And right now it is playing a dangerous game, firing missiles at targets in the hopes that it can kill enough men to keep AQAP from plotting, planning, and launching an attack from Yemen. After this terrorism alert that has sent America’s entire diplomatic and intelligence operatives in nearly two dozen countries scrambling, it may be time to rethink that approach in favor of a strategy that’s more sustainable — and more sensible too.

When you consider this statement – which I totally agree with – you might see the fundamental flaw (and irony) of a campaign strategy that employs shock and awe to conduct attrition warfare. As I recall, after the bloodbaths of WW1 and its sequel, we decided that we could do this war-fighting thing a lot smarter and developed concepts of manouevrism and asymmetry. It looks like the only ones that read all those books were the bad guys…


A DAMN good innings


Truly the end of an era…and covered very well in this article from the Foreign Policy Morning Brief email…

The first female prime minister in her country’s history, Thatcher came to embody a turn toward a free-market political program that sought to unleash economic dynamism through an aggressive program of privatizations and tax reductions. Thatcherism — as her political program became known to both her supporters and detractors — would throw off the heavy hand of the state and seek a Britain with greater vitality. Her perhaps defining moment came in 1984 when she broke a major strike launched by the miners union, a victory that consolidated her political power and represented a triumph over the country’s strike-prone unions.

The woman who came to be known as the Iron Lady matched her pioneering domestic agenda with a muscular foreign policy that saw Britain come to blows with Argentina over the Falkland Islands. And just as she refused to cede British sovereignty in the South Atlantic, she remained deeply skeptical toward the European project and laid the groundwork for Britain’s taciturn relationship with the European Union and its decision not to adopt the euro. Together with Ronald Reagan, a man who would become a close friend, she emerged as a canny leader in the Cold War, recognizing early on that Mikhail Gorbachev’s reforms presented an opportunity for the West.

But to her detractors, Thatcher’s free-wheeling market ideology came to embody an uncaring political philosophy, one willing to sacrifice at the altar of economic dynamism a state apparatus directed toward the common good.

Regardless, she is likely to go down in history as Britain’s greatest post-war prime minister.


…and a couple of apt comments from Dan Drezner’s article on her influence

James011I didn’t respect all of her policies; but one thing I will say for Thatcher: she knew how to lead. No dithering, no faltering and she had a sometimes terrifying steely resolve. She was one of the last politicians you could look at and know exactly what she stood for. I can’t imagine any other politician, even during this recession who would make a statement like “The problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money”. She spoke her mind and did what she promised to do when she was elected- I respect that and very few politicians do the same.

sasss31People can say a whole lot about Margaret Thatcher but no sensible person can deny her intelligence, wit, and influence. The fact is that she was Prime Minister for 11-years as a woman in the years of 1979-1990. She stood up to totalitarianism and was a force one did not want to reckon with. She was truly a transformative and vital leader of our time. Like her or hate her, the Iron Lady has her place cemented in the history books.

NorK posturing aside, in these times we forget sometimes – or never know for those under 35 – just what her time was like…the Cold War was in full force and there was a very real expectation that it might actually happen; wars were wars and lots of people died; terrorism was alive and active across Europe and in Great Britain; and unions ruled OK with little real concern for the rights or well-being of their members.

If she did nothing else, Margaret Thatcher created huge change by simply standing firm and she should be remembered for that. It is quite a sad thing really that she has been depicted as a doddering fool in the poor movie The Iron Lady, and that so many have seized the opportunity of her passing to leap on their own insignificant little soap boxes to belabour their own narrow opinions…


And this from a Facebook post…

Tonight I shall go and have a drink for Margaret Thatcher’s death. I shall raise my glass to the night sky, and THANK HER, and celebrate her life. People on this seem to have a very strange view of history. So here are a few little nuggets with how and more specifically WHY a lot of industries were destroyed by her, and what’s more, destroyed with the MANDATE OF THE BRITISH PEOPLE.

The seventies were blighted by the trade unions waiting for winter and then coming out on strike at it’s heart. Holding the country to ransom for ANNUAL pay rises of up to 36% ABOVE inflation. This was the likes of Scargill and co. And they bled us dry. We were bankrupted by them. And then the Winter of Discontent happened. And they ALL came out. Miners, power workers, transport workers; even funeral directors, everything tied into the TGWU came out. My own grandparents lay on a slab for 2 months waiting to be buried. The entire country was a ruin. Rubbish not collected for months, rats everywhere. And the unions laughed, and brought down Callaghan’s Labour Government.

And Thatcher stood up at the General Election and made ONE SIMPLE PROMISE. Elect me. And THIS WILL NEVER HAPPEN AGAIN. ELECT ME AND I WILL DESTROY THEM. She won a landslide. On that promise.And she became the last elected Prime Minister to actually hold true to her election promise. She did exactly what she said. She utterly destroyed the unions. Obliterated them. The cost was those industries. We knew that would be the price. But we would not allow them to hold us to ransom again. What she did, she did with our BLESSING. The socialists and people who backed those strikes have only themselves to blame for what happened. Baroness Thatcher didn’t destroy those industries and communities for fun or as part of a class war. She did it to stop them holding the country to ransom again. And then she held the purse strings tight and re-built the economy and the country and Britain again stood tall and thrived. And we won back the global respect we had lost while the left wing ruled.

In the Falklands we were thankful for her being in office. Those of us who went ‘south’ in ’82 did so knowing we had a leader who would not – and did not- interfere. She sent the military and allowed us to do our job. Gave us the money, the equipment and most of all THE FREEDOM to get the job done. Our lands had been invaded. We had a gun up our nose. SHE led us. Frankly Thatcher took a very broken Britain by the hand like a strict old fashioned Matron and LED THE COUNTRY BACK TO WHERE IT HAD ONCE BEEN. We were the worlds 3rd major power in ALL respects. And as for the world, it has NEVER been safer than when Thatcher was in Downing Street, Reagan was in the White House and Gorbachev was in the Kremlin as the three spoke DAILY. They laid the ground for the fall of the Berlin Wall. The Russians were TERRIFIED of her. And the world again feared Britain.

And lets not forget that she gave people the full right to buy their own council property. Her vision was that the TENANT and the tenant alone could buy that property.As soon as her party stabbed her in the back the feeding frenzy began as under her the famous Tory grandee greed was held in check. So they stabbed her, led by the Europro traitor ponce Heseltine – who didn’t have the guts to face her openly and alone – they arranged her removal. And we have been a broken patsy for Europe ever since.

So yes, tonight I will celebrate the death of Baroness Thatcher, with thanks, with respect, and with sadness, because she allowed me to know what we could be, what we could achieve, what it meant to be BRITISH.

~ Credit to Steve Chiverton for this piece of writing


And in response to this insect…


…You worry about what someone calling himself ‘citizen bomber’ says or thinks…? She will be laughing over a brandy with Churchill at how all the insects have had to wait til she passed before feeling brave enough to launch their soap box flotillas of jealousy…

…The British Government is making arrangements for all such left-wing insects to be emigrated to Albania where they will be happy. In an unintentional twist of irony, they will be transported on the aircraft carrier Iron Lady….

You do have to admit that HMS Iron Lady has a nice ring to it…


Opinion: Training for war is not a precise science

…and Josh wrote another op-ed piece…


Training for war is not a precise science.  By its very nature war is imprecise and unpredictable.  To make matters worse there tends to be an opponent who, in the words of American General George Patton, is trying his hardest to make you die for your country rather than him. Training therefore has to be relevant, intensive and invariably adaptive.

War since 9/11 has become increasingly characterised as being irregular in nature. Modern war has become less about the battles between states and their armies and more about defeating violent non-state groups. Terms and descriptions like peacekeeping missions or stability operations are often an attempt to re-categorise what are actually wars.

As military philosopher Carl von Clausewitz noted,  “The first, the supreme, most far-reaching act of judgment that the statesman and the commander have to make is to establish the kind of war on which they are embarking, neither mistaking it for, nor trying to turn it into, something that is alien to its true nature.”

While the term war may sit uncomfortably with many citizens, the fact is when bullets and bombs start to fly your way those on the front line have more regard for their survival than concerns for what their mission has been labelled.

The recent media reports about the training and the attitude of New Zealand forces deploying to Afghanistan raises a number of important issues. The fact that a soldier has raised concerns while observing the training of a contingent is actually a good thing. That is exactly the purpose of observing and making expert judgment on training for the contemporary warfare environment.

No doubt there have been training concerns in the past and there will be more in the future. Some may have missed the point that such observations are designed to make the team better, not worse. The response so far has been to put the comments into a wider context of training for Afghanistan, and rightfully so. What will be interesting however, is to see if any follow up by the Defence Force focuses on the message or the messenger.

Training in the military is a system. Those who present themselves for deployment are at the pinnacle of that system. The full suite of training courses and on the job experience they have previously undertaken is ultimately designed for them to deploy and succeed on operations. If things manifest as problems during the final training for operations it is sometimes difficult to recognise or even isolate where in the total system it may have gone astray. 

Attitude is acknowledged as affecting performance. A positive attitude tends to increase performance while a negative attitude can reduce it. Inextricably linked to attitude is confidence. Preparing for a military deployment requires confidence in those being deployed, confidence in the leadership of those deploying, confidence in those charged with providing the training and confidence in the training system itself.

Accepting that war is imprecise, and more irregular these days, it is hardly surprising that the training and attitude for today’s military forces is under immense and constant pressure. Ideally, the force will depart for their mission confident that they are well prepared. To assume that they are ready for anything however, discounts the actuality of unpredictability. There is always a very fine line between sureness and an hubristic approach. 

Having a winning, positive attitude, and implicit trust and conviction in your comrades and the training you have received are what define the profession of arms. While it is good to hear that the training is going well, it is not always a bad thing to hear that it is not. 

Josh Wineera is a teaching fellow at Massey University’s Centre for Defence and Security Studies and is planning to teach a new 200-level paper “Irregular Warfare”in the second semester.

Indicative of the articles referred to above are these:

Training for Army fighters blasted

Officer was ‘too aggressive’

Unfortunately, today’s media has of course selected deliberately inflammatory headlines without either considering or even probably understanding the core underlying issues…

Bad boys, bad boys…

…whatcha gonna do, whatcha gonna do when they come for you…? 

Ready or not, here we come...

Ready or not, here we come…

Dear Unit 61398

How do you hack the guidance on a ‘dumb’ Mk.84 low drag bomb once it (and its friends) are spiralling down towards you?


The Hacked (Off)

In this era of informal conflict i.e. one in which one or more or even all of the actors are the regular formed units or formations that we remember from the good old days of the Fulda Gap, this becomes a valid question.

In the good old days (GOD for short), if someone actively and physically attacked or took some form of physical action against a nation’s physical infrastructure or commercial structures, there would be options under the DIME construct (more D, M or E than I perhaps) through which one might register one’s national concerns about such activities and encourage the perpetrators to cease and desist.

In the case of Unit 61398, despite its mundane designation (F-117 sounded mundane until 17 January 1991), we have an identified military unit conducting, with guns more smoking than Saddam’s WMDs, offensive actions against national and commercial infrastructure around the world but especially targeting the US. If Unit 61398 was an active service unit, regular or irregular, operating within the borders of any western, and most if not all other, nations, it could reasonably be expected to be hunted down and neutralised physically. Similarly, if  it was as openly offensive as Saddam’s SAMs during the decade of no fly zones, or Iran’s Boghammers during the Tanker War, something loud and bad would probably happen to them.

But (yes,yes, I know, never start a sentence with ‘but’) in the convolutions of informality the smoking gun justifications are not as clear regardless of provocation. Just as US- and UK-based UAS operators blithely commute between domestic homes and respective UAS remote operating bases with a strong sense of security and little of risk of threat (in the UK, the IRA must be rolling in its unmarked grave after the security awareness it forced upon the UK military in its heyday of terror), members of Unit 61398 probably cycle home with a similar sense of blithe innocence…

So will it be that one day,maybe one day soon, and in true Dale Brown style, the stars at 65,000 feet will ripple as payback soars over Shanghai and releases some unhackable cease and desist notices (Lucasfilm lawyers eat your hearts out!!)…?

Note: Lucasfilms/LucasArts are the people who not only brought you the three worst science fiction movies of all time (certainly when viewed sequentially) but who also have a rep for being the Galactic Empire of the known legal cease and desist notice universe…

My Little Life: I Wasn’t Going to Say Anything.

My Little Life: I Wasn’t Going to Say Anything...

…and neither was I but I think that Mama M hits the nail fair on the head in this post…

Muzzle the media. They add no value to tragedies like this other than feeding of it for their own benefit and gain. Like suicide, and regardless of whether or not the perpetrator dies in commission of the act, this is a ‘look at me’ act. We need to take all the value from such ‘look at me’ acts.

Deal with the problems not the symptoms. Banning guns will not stop this type of senseless act – it will just change the tools. Let’s not forget that New Zealand’s most deadly but most overlooked mass killer DIDN’T use a firearm, and neither did many of the all-time high scoring serial killers.

Accept that the information genie is out of the bottle. It is so easy now not just for people to self-publish their own manifestos (no matter how loony-toon) and but also to locate the information that not only enables but that almost encourages them to commit such acts of destruction. I followed a thread over the weekend in a remote-control aircraft forum that pretty much detailed how an R/C or light general aviation aircraft might be used in a terror attack – ironically to prove how ineffetcive it might be (debatable) to protect the ‘rights’ of R/C enthusiasts.

People look after people. over the last couple of decades, governments across the western world have decided that it is cost-beneficial to close down the places where people with social issues could be cared for and watched over. Placing them back into the community was meant to be a good thing and, once upon a time, it may have been – back in the day where care staff would physically visit them, and the ‘bobbie on the beat’ had a fairly good idea who on his or her patch needed special watching – and that’s just not the criminal element.

Put the machine back in its box. One of the reasons that it appears so cost-beneficial to let these people out in the community is because we get to save money through needing less people for monitoring, caring and supervision and we think we can get away with email and other digital monitoring. It doesn’t work, not the same as good old regular face-to-face contact. It is all too easy not for the socially dysfunctional to avoid the human contact that might offer indications that someone is gearing up to elevate their social status from ‘just a bit odd’: banking, shopping, mail can all be done now from behind the ‘safety’ and anonymity of a screen.

I’m not a big supporter of the NRA nor do I have any intention of being drawn into any arguments over the right to keep and bear arms…that’s just a big red herring…guns are the tool of choice in America: in other parts of the world, high explosive, sharp instruments and clubs fill the same gruesome role…we need to focus less on the tool and more on the problem of identifying and intercepting these people before they get anywhere near their selected ground zero…


Reversing the Oil-spot

Possibly winding off the Thursday/Friday War for 2012, a short item from Josh Wineera wondering what the reverse side of the popular COIN theory of the inkspot might look like in 2014…

Reversing the Oil-spot:How does the concept apply when leaving Afghanistan?

Josh Wineera

November 2012


For professional military planners, and even armchair strategist, the oil-spot concept for responding to an insurgency appears to be well understood. The counter insurgent objective of extending the security environment to establish and entrench a sustainable economic and political situation has been a particular feature of the latter stages of the War in Afghanistan. Conceived some 100 years ago by French Army Generals, Gallieni and Lyautey, the modern oil-spot concept is expressed in the form of a ‘Clear, Hold and Build’ strategy. Clear, Hold and Build has been the mainstay of ISAF coalition operations since the release of the 2006 US Army field manual, FM 3-24 Counterinsurgency Operations.

Afghanistan experts have fiercely debated the merits of fighting the enemy, aka the Taliban, verses focusing on protecting the population. Recent ISAF commanders, such as Generals McChrystal, Petraeus and Allen, all recognised the necessity to engage in both. Kill-capture missions sit aside missions such as training and mentoring Afghan security forces – such is the nature of contemporary counterinsurgency operations.

As the exit date rapidly approaches for coalition governments to withdraw their forces, plaudits for the successful application of the oil-spot approach still proliferate. Manifestly the surge of an additional 30,000 troops in early 2010 provided better force ratios and counterinsurgent density to implement the expansion in to previously held Taliban-strongholds. At this time however, with transition and withdrawal leading every major conversation about Afghanistan, a natural question arises.

Having applied the concept, moving forward has any thought been given to what happens when the oil-spot concept ceases, or rather the ISAF forces contract and concentrate to leave? Granted, a critical precondition to leaving has to be the successful training of the Afghan Army and Police forces to take full responsibility for their own community’s internal security. They after all, are the most important counter insurgent force in Afghanistan – a point often missed. Regardless, the degree of their success is still open for debate. One measure has been the quantity of Afghan security forces being trained. As to the quality, plainly numbers do not convey the whole story. Recent insider attacks, known colloquially as a ‘green on blue’ incident, have placed immense pressure on the trust and confidence within those partnered ISAF and Afghan units. It would be unfair to generalise these extreme tensions across the whole country. In many places, such as the Arghandab River Valley in the Kandahar Province, conditions are in place to enable the Afghans to take the lead. Certainly in his address to the US Army Irregular Warfare Centre last month, former ISAF battalion commander Lieutenant Colonel Michael Simmering explained the rational for his unit’s achievements.

Having expanded the security environment, in many cases literally being the outlier force, ISAF strategists and even regionally based planners must surely be conceiving a plan to reverse the oil-spot concept? Ideally, the full extent of ISAF control of the environment is manageable for the Afghan forces but common sense would suggest they are in for a very tough time. The absence of ISAF will almost certainly be a cue for prospective power brokers to demonstrate their credentials for control. In some provinces this demonstration has already begun.

Drawing back to a concentration area, or a central hub, for departure might seem like a logical method to reduce the ISAF footprint in the provinces. For this to be achieved an assumption would need to be made in terms of the previously held (by ISAF) security zone remaining intact. That is an assumption that will hold up in some provinces, for others it will remain questionable – certainly a major risk consideration. Possibly some ISAF contingents might contemplate holding the outer security areas in place and hollowing out the main force from the rear first. The last element to withdraw would be the outer security forces having provided a ‘shield’. Military proponents would recognise these two options as merely tactical methods of withdrawing from a main defensive position, and so they are. Could they however, become the basis to start conceptualising and visualising what ISAFs oil spots could look like in reverse?

For those ISAF soldiers still patrolling their area of operations, the time for theoretical conceptions matters little. Familiar tactical tasks, such as the options to withdraw or allowing the Afghan security forces to relive them in place, may not be considered particularly elegant or intellectually innovative. But they, in some way, will feature in every planning consideration. So might a new metaphor be coined to explain reversing the oil-spot? In an age where anything can be rebranded and often is, where the old can be made new age again, the likelihood is high.


Major Josh Wineera is a serving military officer on secondment to the Centre for Defence and Security Studies,Massey University. He can be contacted at

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the position of the Centre for Defence and Security Studies or the New Zealand Defence Force.

An Ear To The Ground

Like many people, I opted not to comment on the 911 anniversary yesterday (it’s already six hours into September 12 here), although as one adversary pointed out, the date remains significant anyway as it marks the airing of the last ever Get Smart episode in 1970. The same pundit also reminded me that there are other such anniversaries that we do not remember so much…

It started to snow last night – finally, the first snow of the season and it’s spring already – and I got up early to check on things, well, really to see how heavy it was to determine if I could have a longer sleep-in this morning because the roads are closed…not such luck and it looks as thought the bulk of it missed us…

Anyway, now being awake, I couldn’t get back to sleep and so logged in to check emails etc before heading away for the day. Sitting there was an email from Ben Ianotta with whom I had done some work while he was editor of C4ISR Journal promoting a new venture, Deep Diver Intelligence. Always keen to check out new ventures and ideas, I had a look and hit the article on the renewal (or not) of the US Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) first…[access is free til 17 September, then I’m not sure so will post a PDF of the article if it drops offline] It’s a good article and worth reading and thing about…

It’s an interesting issue and I think that the key point that may be overlooked in all the Big Brother paranoia is that this type of data collection is happening already in the commercial/corporate arena. Google now quite openly ‘reads’ our emails in order to customise the advertisements that it subjects us – under its ‘do no harm’ philosophy, would/should Google withhold potentially useful information of a national security nature if it stumbles across it?

The genie is already out of the bottle and we need to look at how we deal with it not cry into our milk about how we can’t put it back in. At least the FISA discussions encourage that discussion. We live in an information age now and we need to accept that things will change in respect to our ‘rights’. This is nothing new and simply a fact of civilization’s evolution: the rights that we have now are nothing like those of two centuries ago when our nations were settled and explored…things change, we need to get used to that idea.

Unless we all totally give up access to electronic information and opt to live in a cave in the hills somewhere, the simple fact is that information is being collected on us all the time. When you really get down to it, a lot of that information has been collected for a long long time: what has changed is that we now have technologies that allow us to merge much of the information. It’s still largely aspirational that this merging will enable us to join the dots a la Person of Interest – in fact, that is one reason I don’t like this series: because it does present  such an omnipotent perspective that the story just becomes boring – much like the old Star Trek ‘get out of jail free’ cards of time travel or fiddling the transporter cache – but my point is that this data collection is really nothing new.

“You are being watched. The government has a secret system: a machine that spies on you every hour of every day. I know because I built it. I designed the machine to detect acts of terror, but it sees everything. Violent crimes involving ordinary people, people like you. Crimes the government considered irrelevant. They wouldn’t act, so I decided I would. But I needed a partner, someone with the skills to intervene. Hunted by the authorities, we work in secret. You’ll never find us, but victim or perpetrator, if your number’s up…we’ll find you.” ~ Person of Interest voiceover.

A theme through the article, reflective of more the attitudes of intelligence agencies than the author, in my opinion, is that FISA has failed because it has not been able to directly identify and interdict a major adversary action. A couple of thoughts on this…

First up, we seem to be thinking/hoping that major adversary actions will be in a forms that we recognise i.e. think the Arizona, the Twin Towers, or the invasion of Kuwait. One might ask who really manipulated who in the Arab Spring which resulted in the demise of a number of stability-promoting regional strong men; or why we expect the worst of ISAF forces in Afghanistan but so desperately seek the faintest glimmer of anything remotely redeemable in our adversaries there; or whether last year’s Notting Hill rampage was really just a spontaneous boil-over?

Second, we seem to have forgotten that, in the contemporary environment as opposed to the Fulda Gap, it may be impossible to winnow out from all the noise, the key information that points to an impending action. This is what I call ‘intelitis’: the overpowering desire of many intel analysts to be able to jab a finger at the map, preferably in front of their boss’ boss, and state that Third Shock or Eight Guards Army will do X at X time on X day. Uh-huh…whatever…where were you guys for the end of the Cold War, Fiji Coups 1-57 or the Falklands War…? Huh? More likely, in the contemporary environment, that accumulated data may serve as a foundation for a rapid and precise response (do people get the distinction between ‘response’ and ‘reaction’?) in much the same way as CRIMINT rarely predicts which dairy/bank/service station is going to get knocked over next but is able to quickly narrow down the likely candidates…

A bigger concern than FISA might be the continuance of the post-Cold War trend for private industry to be leaps and bounds ahead of public technology and to be now quite happily exploiting this data for its own commercial ends. In other words, repealing FISA and like legislation is much like opting to fly everywhere to counter an IED threat – all you are really doing is ceding a whole chunk of your operating environment to someone else. Just because contemporary adversaries don’t want to play by the rules we like, doesn’t mean that they are not going to invite us to their next conflict: the information environment is now as much an operating environment as air, land, sea or space – the key difference is that it is the one environment where we are being walked all over.

So, anyway, take the time if you have an intel bent to have a look at Deep Dive…interested in your thoughts…

My Little Life: Idiocy

My Little Life: Idiocy.

Mama M has a very angry (and quite rightly so!!) post on the idiocy of those who persist in driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI).

Down here, it’s more commonly known as Drunk In Charge, or DIC and there is similarly self-righteousness being displayed by the dope-smoking community at the apparent invasion of their rights as NZ Police step up their campaign against those that drive under the influence of drugs other than alcohol.

Apparently we don’t actually have specific legislation that makes being in charge of a firearm while under the influence a specific offence but maybe if we did it might help some people join the dots between being under the influence for whatever cause or reason and being in charge of a lethal weapon.

Living rurally as we do, taking DIC/DUI seriously can be a bit of a social damper as there’s not really the option of catching a taxi and picking up the car in the morning if we go out and have a couple too many – we limit ourselves to one or none drinks if we are going to drive with none generally being the preferred option – and have realised that there is something to be said for having teenagers living at home (once they have attained a full drivers license). So we rarely go out and drink unless we have accommodation in location – and that doesn’t mean that instead we just have big benders at home either – not just from some concept of social responsibility but because we have both seen the human cost of those who flaunt common sense and decide that it does not apply to them. Personally, I have no problem with those who drive under the influence and only take themselves out  – I’m a big advocate of preemptive natural selection – but those is so rarely the case and it is the other occupants of the vehicles, other road users and pedestrians who so often pay the price for one driver’s blatant selfishness and irresponsibility…

COIN Questionnaire Part 1

Randomly-selected COIN-themed pic

This image was drawn from a plug for Japanese Counterinsurgency, WW2 – from the text, the author has some issues with the contemporary approach to COIN and I’m not altogether convinced that he is 100% in the wrong:

Few students of history realize that the brutally effective Japanese Army of World War 2, also fought many campaigns that may be described as Japanese Counterinsurgency, WW2. The methods of Japanese Counterinsurgency in WW2 were unhindered by any of the guilt, lack of confidence, and/or confused thinking so apparent in the American-Marxist approach to counterinsurgency. In its own way, the Japanese Army was pure, and its distilled ferocity was unburdened by the treasonous misgivings of melting pot citizens harboring heterogeneous values and treasonous notions. Japanese Counterinsurgency, WW2 was carried out to obtain victory. The clear-minded Japanese Army did not bother to invent false rules of war or self-defeating rules of engagement crafted by non-warriors trying to work off their own poisoned karmic debt. Neither did they subscribe to such insanely defeatist rules as those of the Geneva Conference. The Japanese Army knew that if they were defeated, Japanese survivors would be murdered by the same fair-play hypocrites who advocated “rules of war”. The Japanese Army was not hypocritical and the methods described in the e-book, Japanese Counterinsurgency, WW2, provide important lessons for those uncorrupted by treasonous war rules, which favor enemy victory. Expose yourself to a different type of anti-partisan warfare, one which was always victorious and was feared as Japanese Counterinsurgency, WW2.

 Excerpt from Japanese Counterinsurgency, WW2
“The Japanese commander in the Philippines called for a minimum of 24 infantry battalions to secure his rear areas against guerrilla action and seven divisions to break up the regular invasion effort.”‘ This would mean a ratio of approximately three front-line troops for every one soldier tied down in rear-area security. In China, where guerrilla action was more fully developed, the requirements for rear-area security were greater and the number of troops so engaged at times actually exceeded those forces engaged in front-line action.
Strong Points
The Japanese made extensive use of strong points to ensure greater security in the occupied areas. Most of these were located in commanding positions, along railroad lines, near bridges, and adjacent to key industrial installations.In China alone an estimated 30,000 strong points were constructed. Of this number approximately 10,000, or one-third, were destroyed in the course of the struggle against the guerrillas.”
  Anyway, moving right along…the FM 3-24 Revision project started with public release of a questionnaire seeking information on specific aspects of the publication’s content…I converted it to a Word document and broke some of the larger questions into smaller sub-questions – it’s quite long so I’ll work through my thoughts on the questions in a series of posts…the few couple of questions are administrative and so I’ve left left them out…

3.  Are the current definitions of insurgency and counterinsurgency in FM 3-24, and updated by JP 3-24 (2009) adequate? If not, how would you change them and why?

See comment on IP1 – Definitions.

PART 1:  History, Theory, Principles, and Fundamentals

4.  Current US policy and attitudes, along with the contemporary media environment, make difficult the adoption of techniques such as massive resettlement of the population and the application of overwhelming firepower. Considering those limitations, what historical counterinsurgency case studies do you believe have the greatest benefit to determining the most successful counterinsurgent principles? 

These limitations are false in terms of the study of counterinsurgency and the determination of enduring principles; while they may affect specific campaign planning, they should not be allowed to affect determination of the principles of counterinsurgency/irregular warfare. It would be assumed that any competent commander and staff would be able to determine during planning what courses of action may be untenable due to cultural issues nationally, globally and/or within the host nation.

The following case studies are recommended for study:

The American War of Independence from the perspectives of the American insurgents, British counterinsurgents, Hessian ‘contractors’ and French intervention forces.

The New Zealand Wars 1840-85 and the campaigns against the Native Americans in the US. It could be argued that both these insurgencies actually sought to maintain as opposed to overthrow the status quo which while possibly placing them outside the recommended definition of insurgency, does not detract from the fact that the principles of counterinsurgency still applied – possibly another indicator that Irregular Warfare might be a more suitable title for this publication. If one opts for the legitimacy path to COIN, it should be noted that the underlying causes of both these series of campaigns can be found in a series of legitimate treaties that were breached by those who became the counterinsurgents.

The French and Yugoslav resistance movements during WW2, both of which are also examples of majority insurgent movements.

The Malayan Emergency must be included if for no other reason than to ‘myth-bust’ the counterinsurgency truisms that have arisen from this campaign.

Both the French and US experiences in Vietnam must be included. The French campaign is an example of a militarily-focussed approach coupled with a failure to realise that the ways and means of the 19th Century no longer applied in the mid-20th Century. The US campaign in Vietnam illustrates the true nature of counterinsurgency without the artificial constraints of the Malayan scenario and the potential ‘three block war’ nature of irregular warfare/counterinsurgency. The Vietnam study can include the diplomatic and domestic fronts as part of the ‘comprehensive’ approach to the conflict by both sides, the high-end air war fought over North Vietnam, the high intensity infantry conflict fought within South Vietnam, the special operations campaigns fought not in South Vietnam but Cambodia, Laos and North Vietnam as well, and finally the OGA/NGO aspects of the conflict. Vietnam is one of the few conflicts that draws all these threads into a single narrative.

Mention must be made of Soviet approaches (see note 1) to counterinsurgency in Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Afghanistan and Chechnya; and Chinese approaches in places like Tibet, with mention of what worked for them and what did not.

A modern study of counterinsurgency must include Iraq post-2003 as this would ‘prove’ or validate the principles derived from the previous case studies in a contemporary context. Until the Afghan campaign is actually concluded, it will remain unclear whether it will stand as an example of how-to or how not to conduct a campaign.

Some thought may also be given to the 2011 campaign in Libya as means of countering an insurgency, in this case the one that was developing against the Gadhafi regime with scope to further destabilise the region if not addressed one way or another. The point derived from this, possibly as an adjunct to discussion on ‘colonial counterinsurgency’, is that the effects of an insurgency may be mitigated by actually supporting it. In terms of counterinsurgency/irregular warfare principles, this would support the principle of each and every potential campaign being examined against its own merits i.e. to avoid the cookie-cutter approach.

I considered the 2010 Rand study, Victory Has a Thousand Fathers, for  this list but I have concerns about its veracity noting the limited period selected to review and the limited campaigns examined. It’s really a shame because the idea was sound – just let done by a flawed execution, ironically, just like many COIN campaigns…

 A key takeaway from this is to decide what you really want out of your COIN, or more accurately, your Countering Irregular Activity campaign – ultimately stability will be of greater importance than niceties like legitimacy and governance…realpolitik is such a bitch…
Note 1. This approach I started to refer to as the coercive approach when Josh and I were developing the Irregular Warfare paper for Massey in 2013. (added August 2017)

They’re reading my stuff there…

Colleague Josh Wineera is off on his travels again after being selector as the sole Kiwi to attend a US STAe Dept-sponsored Programme in the US. Details from Massey University

Massey University lecturer and soldier Major Josh Wineera has been invited by the United States State Department to participate in a high-profile study programme examining US national security policy and current threats facing the United States.

Major Wineera was chosen by the United States Embassy in Wellington as the sole New Zealand nomination from a very competitive national pool. He went on to be selected by the State Department in Washington from a range of worldwide candidates whose areas of expertise included foreign affairs and international relations. 

The intensive post-graduate level programme begins later this month in Amherst, Massachusetts, and brings together around 20 international participants. It includes study sessions at Harvard University as well as study tours to the University of California in San Diego and Washington D.C. 

The six-week programme will examine such issues as energy policy, economic stability, cyber-security, chemical and biological weapons, nuclear weapons and infectious diseases. The United States Government will meet all costs of the programme. 

Major Wineera says he feels humbled to be representing New Zealand, the Defence Force, and Massey University’s Centre for Defence and Security Studies. 

“This will be an excellent opportunity to deepen our understanding of the way the US formulates its national security policy,” he says. “I think this is especially relevant for us in New Zealand given the recent announcement by President Barack Obama that America will renew its focus in the Asia Pacific region.”

In addition to lecturing at Massey University, Major Wineera speaks to many Defence Force contingents preparing for overseas deployments, particularly to Afghanistan. His extensive operational experience includes missions to Bosnia, Bougainville, East Timor and more recently Iraq. He is also a member of the New Zealand forum of the Council for Security Cooperation in the Asia Pacific.

“2012 will be a big year for me,” Major Wineera says. “I start with this incredible invitation to deepen my understanding of US national security policy and it will continue as I embark on a PhD. By total coincidence my doctorate will examine New Zealand’s approach to international security and will compare it to other nations, including the US.”

And also covered in the Manawatu Standard.

Good luck to Josh on his latest excursion – a real coup for a local lad and for Massey’s Centre for Defence Studies – expect to see a new face on the domestic commentator scene on his return to New Zealand…

Josh and I attended the Irregular Warfare Summit is Washington last year to come up to speed on contemporary thinking on the irregular environment. It was a long way to go from the quiet (but windy) Manawatu and we weren’t too sure what we were getting ourselves into. I think that many of the other participants probably felt the same but once the ice was broken, engagement at all levels was frank and honest. There weren’t any great epiphanies for either of us and the main lesson that we brought home was probably that everyone is facing the same essential problems and that no one has the monopoly of solutions for the way ahead.

Lunch was provided for the main days of the Summit. The first day was funny: there was no seating plan (probably part of the mix and mingle ice-breaking strategy) and so people just sat where they could find a seat. As the Kiwi delegation (all both of us) approached a table, we could see two guys on the other side eyeing us up with some quite animated conversation. Uh-oh, maybe we shouldn’t have taken the last of the coffee from the urn! One says “Are you THE Josh Wineera?” Josh looks at me, turns back “Well, the only one I know…” “The one who briefed at the COIN Centre a couple of years ago? Wow, we’re using some of your stuff in out school…!” Turns out these guys are contractors providing training on the COE to the US Army. Just like Steinlager: They’re drinking our beer reading my stuff there…

Josh with Colonel Dan Roper

....and with Dr Rich Kiper...

Col Roper (who had just retired as Director of the COIN Center at Fort Leavenworth, KS) and Rich (who’s on the staff at the Centre) were staying at the Marriott as well – While they weren’t in Kansas any more, these guys were great hosts to two Kiwis a long way from home and we had some significant post-dinner networking sessions…