Tuesday, September 29, 2009

It is after all.....our fault

We are to blame more than the politicians. We rail against 'Washington' and Big Government' but we uniformly fail to elect anybody that honestly wants to change the current paradigm. We continue to send moneyed, beltway insiders.......or people backed by moneyed, beltway insiders [with very rare exception]...and then get upset when more power is stripped away from us and given to 'Washington' and 'Big Government'.

Americans by and large spout rhetoric about what our Republic is supposed to stand for without ever understanding what we do to kick the legs out from under the table of democracy. We perpetuate what we say we hate, because we don't educate ourselves.

I'm currently working with thermal theory in part of my job, and it strikes me that political theory is much the same as the electro-magnetic spectrum. We voluntarily confine ourselves to our comfort zone of politics and governance [visible light]. It's only when we expand our knowledge of how rights and sovereignty react on the polity [IR, Gamma, Micro, UV, Radio, etc...] that we can truly progress and evolve. Unfortunately, our 'visible light' comfort zone is controlled by our own trappings: lazy media, corruption, greed, self interest and fear. I firmly believe that anyone who has faith in the current system and our participation in it........simply doesn't understand it.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Why Escalate in Afghanistan?

All of the supporting arguments for maintaining nation building in Afghanistan fall rather flat when placed under the spotlight of logic.

- The Taliban did not attack us on 9/11. We would have reacted in the same manner under threat of extradition versus military force as the Taliban regime did. There is no compelling evidence that a coalition with Taliban or an outright Taliban regime return would engender a desire for them to allow Al Qaeda to return under state sanction. The situation since mid-2002 has been ISAF fighting far more Taliban elements than Al Qaeda. Killing a few Taliban joes here and there with multi-million dollar weaponry hasn't gotten us anywhere. The troops to task methodology for the first seven years merely expended our national treasure. This dynamic has changed for the better very recently, but it's too little, too late. And given the paradigm we're operating in, it will always be too little.

- Al Qaeda has largely moved into Pakistan or elsewhere. That's not saying that they won't return, but our presence is not preventing them from moving and proliferating elsewhere. Al Qaeda did not conduct primary planning and training in Afghanistan for the 9/11 attack. If we continue to escalate our military presence and further tie down resources, and Al Qaeda core cadre move into Mindanao, Yemen or Uganda....and another attack is committed on US soil, we still look as silly and impotent as if we withdraw from Afghanistan. The key difference is that we would be better positioned to conduct punitive actions and surgical strikes. There is no reason to believe that AQ cannot multitask and conduct simultaneous operations; our presence in Afghanistan is on no way going to stop a committed attack.

- Without a solid commitment from Pakistan [and notably, the ISI] our actions in Afghanistan are largely futile. Without a clear, regional security agreement with India, Pakistan is not going to commit to neutralizing AQ and Taliban elements within the FATA. Our efforts to that end, public anyway, have been near nonexistent.

- Comparisons with Iraq are not remotely comparable in my opinion. Iraq has an urban and urbane middle class, as well as some history of a central government, albeit totalitarian in nature. Iraq has urban areas that act as centers of gravity for bad guys and good guys alike. Iraq has infrastructure, industry and an economy based largely on oil, that allows it to maintain possibly necessary security forces to combat internal extremism and external threats. In Iraq, conventional formations were far more adept to applying COIN strategies than in Afghanistan, for the reasons listed above. In Afghanistan, if you're not bearded and speak the language, you're not going to get far in many cases. An LT with a good airborne haircut and Oakley's is almost universally not going to get a Pashtun villager who's lived his whole life in the same valley to dime out his cousin or fellow tribesman who moonlights as a rent-a-Taliban. Especially when conversed through a Terp.

Lastly, watch what you wish for. Based on my experience in Baghdad and seeing the rise of the Maliki regime, with it's inherent Shiite hegemony, do not expect that Iraq will be friendly to the US. Especially if a hard line is taken towards Iran. The religious and fraternal ties run too deep....and we may find ourselves facing another unfriendly regional security threat, this time in the form of a Pan-Shiite alliance.

- We must be watchful for two very shallow yet enkindling public-political phenomena. The first being 'defeatism'. This affects the military by disallowing soldiers to have a just and noble cause in which they are suffering for, and their brothers are dying and being wounded for. Nobody in the military wants to fight and die for an endeavor that we don't see through to a final victory, that goes against our nature. This defeatism affects the public by denting the spirit of patriotism and American exceptionalism. Both are intangible and largely irrelevant to a final outcome, but wildly proliferated in the media and by politicians. The problem lies in the fact that using this sentiment, there is never a stopping point. Spilling more blood leads to spilling even more blood to make the spilling of blood seem worthwhile.....lather, rinse and repeat.

The second is propaganda. Make no mistake, if/when we withdraw Al Qaeda will proclaim it as a massive victory over the infidel empire. This propaganda will translate into a spike in recruiting and fund raising....but it will be short term. The continued [and in the eyes of many Afghan's, permanent] presence of foreign military formations provides a sustaining and enduring propaganda front, recruiting tool and monetary impetus for Al Qaeda to profit from. I have said from the beginning, that Osama bin Laden's ultimate goal was to draw the US into a near perpetual military engagement in the gulf region. This saps our economy, stretches our military to a near breaking point, weakens our defense posture and ultimately causes tension between us and our allies. While I'm not sure OBL could have prognosticated winning the terrorist lottery with our misadventure into Iraq, we have played by Al Qaeda's script line by line. We didn't come close to destroying AQ by invading Afghanistan; their use of that quasi-nation was never intended to be permanent. It was intended to give us a point to attack and become drawn in, while the cadre scoots out the back door, leaving some foot soldiers to keep our attention.

- I need not rehash the tribal nature of the various Afghan ethnicities, and the poor economic condition which leads to far more $50 Taliban than ISAF forces.

The Obama Administration has shown great maturity in the wake of the McChrystal Report, after the naive 'good war' proclamation of the campaign. But in the end, I fear that they will cow to the perception that if a troop request and escalation are not granted, the Democrats will validate the stereotype that they are weak on national defense and terrorism...and thus the cycle will continue. I hope I am wrong.

The key to breaking the cycle, is to refrain from relying on the same team who pressed for the Iraq war....the Kagan's, AEI, etc...and start including Sageman, Barnett, Fick, etc....

Wishful thinking perhaps......

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Ducks over Cal 42-3!!!!!!!!

I got to watch it with 3 football buddies....2 blonde and 1 furry.

Good day for Duck fans......

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The McChrystal Report

The tide of public and political opinion [minus recent polls] still remains behind the effort in Afghanistan being just and essential to our national security. I completely disagree with the latter. Obama cannot politically reverse course, even in the face of inevitable failure. The saddest part of that sentiment is that more Americans will die before that realization reaches the White House.

The whole line of 'emboldening our enemies' and 'showing weakness' is empty rhetoric. Foreign policy is driven by measurable actions and responses....by metrics. Pundits and politicians put stock into visions such as these, but policy is not driven by them, that is when that policy hits the ground and affects the people in question.

Combatant Commanders do not dictate foreign policy or national security. The motive for Petraeus and McChrystal is to try to win the conflict they are involved in. They will never state that they cannot accomplish the mission. They will always portray a light at the end of tunnel, because their careers and their legacies depend on it.

Our foreign policy must take into account the entirety of the threats and dynamics facing us, not just the microcosm of Afghanistan. Thoughtful and reasoned analysis is called for......not pouring more men and material down the same hole to satisfy the Commanders Intent.

We at last have a CinC who at least looks analytically at the situation as a whole.....weighing the likelihood of a success [as currently defined by metrics] against an overall weakening of our defense posture, and the ability to react militarily in another theater.

The Combatant Commanders are finally getting clear guidance and refined metrics from the administration. Fresh change wouldn't you say? The next step [which is ongoing as we speak] is to balance those metrics versus the likelihood of success. Since the overriding dynamic of a safe haven is largely a myth, continued occupation of Afghanistan prevents us from reacting in force when and when the opportunity arises.

Gen. McChrystal will never say that federal democracy cannot be sustained in Afghanistan; that the Afghan economy will never be able to sustain a national army to keep the Taliban at bay, etc.....

In light of that, requests for more men and material have to be measured against that "I cannot be seen to fail" mindset of military commanders. To not do so, hinders and retards our defense posture and our foreign policy courses of action. There can be no threat of deterrence or reaction to North Korea or Iran, because we have an arm tied behind our back.......and they know it.

"Although considerable effort and sacrifice have resulted in some progress, many indicators suggest the overall effort is deteriorating," McChrystal said of the war's progress

In Commander-speak, that is stating that we are losing....and badly. But he can't and won't state that explicitly. So what I'm getting at is it does no justice to the overall foreign policy effort to simply 'send more troops if they ask'. Of course they're going to ask, because that is their only course of action. Prolong the defeat and hope for the best. Meanwhile, our entire defense apparatus [minus strategic nuclear assets, etc..] is orientated towards sinking further into this inevitable defeat, while preventing us from responding to another crisis.

Right about now is the time to expect Venezuela to attack Columbia; Abu Sayyaf to commit a string of extraordinary attacks from the Philippines; or other such actions that may require or request an American military response. The safe haven theory is a myth, and we have allowed ourselves to be sucked into a corner, which requires supreme momentum to extricate from.

Our foreign policy as it pertains to military force and deterrence must be robust, flexible and responsive. At this time it is not. That is dangerous.

The set of options available has to include withdrawal. That is a given. For us to stay and to escalate, the risk has to be outweighed by the return. As of this point in time, there does not appear to be the desire nor the capability for the Afghan people to participate in federal democracy. There is absolutely no question that the Afghan economy cannot sustain a national military required to achieve our metrics, either prior to or after a withdrawal by ISAF. The Pakistani's are not going to engage in a major commitment in Afghanistan for two reasons; Pakistani public sentiment and the Indian threat.

Ignoring or papering over the above issues translates into a multi-decade engagement of American money and lives for a slight chance of stability. Since, once again, the safe haven theory is not a viable reason for occupation, Obama has to ask: how well can the US military respond to another terrorist attack or low intensity conflict [not to mention conventional HIC) while the primary effort is in Afghanistan?

If we have a hope to defeat terrorist groups, we cannot allow the overwhelming effort of our military and national defense focus to be concentrated with occupying and nation-building. The failed state is a never ending problem that we cannot solve in terms of proactive foreign policy.

Monday, September 21, 2009

A Guy Who Gets It

I've been back for about 5 months now and a lot of the guys I deployed with are beginning to have that five month I want to pull my guts out feeling. They have been asking me a lot about how I deal/get by on a day to day basis. I guess they think I know some magical secret because I've gone and come back so much.
Well first let's dive deeper into what I'm talking about. For many of you who have deployed know the time frame of redeployment I speak of. It's about five months after returning to home station. When you redeploy you are full of wonderful feelings. You are surrounded by friends, Family, Friends family, and everybody in-between. Words like "hero" are used .They shower you with affection and you feel like this is the greatest time in your life. That warm bath feeling on a cold day, a first embrace of a love and Holding your newborn all wrapped into one. Euphoric.
Month's role by. The combat stress of returning home has begun to set in. You start getting the feeling like somebody threw a toaster in your warm bath; your love is cheating, and your newborn just shit in your cereal. The walls close in and the silence and calm becomes so evident that it claws at your soul. You get angry and agitated for no reason. This.....is.....bad.
The worst situations come at his time. It can be triggered by just about anything, and nothing. As poignant as infidelity of your spouse while you were gone or as small as forgetting where you left your keys. Anger turns to rage, rage to violence or the worst case scenario........Suicide. You start to wonder if you are only comfortable when people are trying to kill you.
The real problem is that you now have time to think. You go over all the good and bad of your deployments. Things you did or should have done. Things you did or didn't accomplish. Grief from lost friends or questions of morality in some things you may have done to others. Was I right to do what I did? The thoughts of how close you came to facing death.
So they ask me.... "Sergeant how do I make it stop?" "Sergeant what do you do?". The truth is that there is no magic cure. No pill you can take. No counselor will understand. The best thing we can do is find something to occupy our minds. Nothing will let you reach that adrenaline induced high that combat provides. You just take it one foot in front of the other. Take the dreams and nightmares one at a time. Deal with your anger and understand what it really is. It's you. Your own mind is playing tricks on you. Get away from the idea that you want to get "better". You are not sick. This is you. This is who you are from now on.
It all gets easier as you learn to cope. Don't get hung up in answers to questions that don't need to be answered or even asked. It is what it is. WAR.
Hang in there my friends, Brothers and sisters. Remember I've got your back.
- Chris LeJeune
http://www.vetvoice.com/

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Media Cagematch

Normally my opinion that American cable media is inept and an enabler of Democracy by Dictatorship, but every once in awhile a reporter shows some stones CNN's Rick Sanchez takes it to the mouth breathers at Fox:


video

Fox News caught inciting crowds as they actively promote a 'news' event:


video

I'm taking down my Don't Tread on Me flag today. I cannot bear to be confused with people who claim a love of liberty as it concerns one political party.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Obama, Teabaggers and Racism

Just as there were remarks about blacks voting for Obama simply because he was black....it is reasonable to say that are quite likely people who oppose Obama strictly because he's black.

The race card has throughout the latter half of the 20th century been a political football. I'm not sure if it is unique now, but an interesting paradigm has emerged....either by design or happenstance. During the recent round of 'tea parties' and rallies, there have been racist signs and comments, both overt and covert. Not enough to be labeled a Klan rally by any means, but it's been there for all to see. So naturally, the Administration's supporters have made public note of this undercurrent of racism [however large or small it really is]. The Right has now brilliantly turned this around and has been claiming that any opposition to Obama is being called racist by the Left.

Brilliant I tell you. Disingenuous for certain, but brilliant. Playing the race card while accusing the other side of playing the race card. And another chapter in the book of why I hate both idiot parties.

My Football Buddy


Watching Oregon and Utah battle it out.

Oregon beats Utah 31-24. My heart can't take too many games like this.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Some Gave All........




For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty:

Staff Sergeant Jared C. Monti distinguished himself by acts of gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty while serving as a team leader with Headquarters and Headquarters troop, 3rd Squadron, 71st Calvary Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, in connection with combat operations against an enemy in Nuristan Province, Afghanistan, on June 21st, 2006.

While Staff Sergeant Monti was leading a mission aimed at gathering intelligence and directing fire against the enemy, his 16-man patrol was attacked by as many as 50 enemy fighters. On the verge of being overrun, Staff Sergeant Monti quickly directed his men to set up a defensive position behind a rock formation. He then called for indirect fire support, accurately targeting the rounds upon the enemy who had closed to within 50 meters of his position. While still directing fire, Staff Sergeant Monti personally engaged the enemy with his rifle and a grenade, successfully disrupting an attempt to flank his patrol. Staff Sergeant Monti then realized that one on his soldier was lying wounding in the open ground between the advancing enemy and the patrol's position.

With complete disregard for his own safety, Staff Sergeant Monti twice attempted to move from behind the cover of the rocks into the face of relentless enemy fire to rescue his fallen comrade. Determined not to leave his soldier, Staff Sergeant Monti made a third attempt to cross open terrain through intense enemy fire. On this final attempt, he was mortally wounded, sacrificing his own life in an effort to save his fellow soldier.

Staff Sergeant Monti's selfless acts of heroism inspired his patrol to fight off the larger enemy force. Staff Sergeant Monti's immeasurable courage and uncommon valor are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself, Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 3rd Squadron, 71st Calvary Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, and the United States Army.


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Libertarian Musings

Libertarian principles uphold the right of equality for all law abiding citizens. Being different does not represent the lowest common denominator, being stupid does. But unfortunately, we can't seem to develop of cure for stupidity or bigotry.

There exists various impressions by most Americans concerning why Libertarians want the legalization of drugs. This liberty is supported by the LP for fundamental reasons: The freedom to treat your body as your property, not that of the state. If they're counter is that drugs are harmful......that's not logically compatible with the fact that there are numerous 'legal' substances and activities that people engage in that are just as, if not more harmful than recreational drug use. Once again it boils down to the morals or icky feelings many people have. They simply put no thought into the lack of logic or sense of their argument.

There are already mind altering and perception reducing substances that are entirely legal. Tendering fears of someone being 'high as a kite' on the job is no different than someone being 'drunk as a skunk' on the job. They haven't called for criminalization of alcohol, or other harmful substances such as tobacco and fatty foods......why not?

Merely acknowledging logical contradictions is a crutch that keeps liberty at bay. The individual doesn't always have to be part of society, but when no harm is committed toward the society.....there is no imperative to limit the right of the individual exercise over his or her body.

The laws that criminalize victimless crimes are rooted in bigotry and superstition. Granting such sovereignty is not an all or nothing paradigm....it is a logical paradigm.

The disdain for a viable third party comes at the expense of choices for people like me. I never understand why a citizen would voluntarily limit themselves to two major parties.....parties that quibble over hot button wedge issues, but are realistically not much different from each other. Why not simplify the issue even more and combine the Democratic and Republican parties? We would still be just as screwed, but there would be a lot less bickering and partisanship.

When we are always forced to choose between two candidates, we surrender our principles at every turn, and fall into deciding either who is the lesser of two evils, or always voting just to keep the other guy out.

I subscribe to the Libertarian principles over the Libertarian Party, so I would be just as satisfied if either party would lean towards freedom, liberty and sovereignty of the individual. But sadly, they do not. Even subscribing towards a pure Socialist model would have its benefit for the citizen, if you could neutralize greed, special interests and partisanship, but we cannot. Thus at the very least, if viable third parties such as the LP or the Greens can install a fear of hemorrhaging voters, forcing them to place the principle over the party, then I can endorse that as a partial victory.

To even remotely claim that the Libertarian Party platform is not mainstream, is stating that personal liberty is not mainstream. The equilibrium is tilted, possibly beyond redemption. The status quo endorses bureaucratic theft of the citizens property and freedoms, paying mere lip service to the uneducated.

Strategies should be analyzed and explored....but make no mistake, the status quo is not interested in compromise. I still believe that other issues need to be headlined to gain voters, but there comes a time when we have to tackle the problem where citizens are just as lobotomized as they believe the LP is.

How do we overcome stupid? How do we cure the country of Glenn Beck? The mouth breathers use symbols of liberty while denying that they are smothering it. Sometimes a mature dialogue is the preferred method, sometimes it's a slap in the face.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Republican Party Can Kiss my Ass

The Republicans have sealed the deal when it comes to the question of 'will I ever vote Republican again?'

Watching the coverage and seeing pictures of several of the placards carried in Washington DC today...for their Take Back America/Tea Bagging/Anti-Obama rally...I'm disgusted beyond words at the level of undisguised and unbridled ignorance of these people.

These slack-jawed mouth breathing oxygen thieves actually have me defending the Democrats by virtue of their blatant lies and comparisons to terrorism/Socialism/Marxism/Hitler. The mental midgets carrying these signs couldn't tell you the first tenet of the ideologies they accuse Obama of, and they can't be concerned to back up their claims of appeasing terrorism. But they certainly can take a buzzword and run with it; they certainly can take a catchphrase and turn it into a meme; and they take marching orders from Fox News, Beck, Limbaugh and DeMint like the most obedient little brown-shirts.

Did somebody activate the chip in their brain? Was their water extra fluoridated? Did they eat paint chips as a kid? I joke about the impending zombie apocalypse....but by god I think it's already here. These intellectually stunted goose-steppers give fascism a bad name.

Worse, they are co-opting the symbols and tag-lines of patriots and liberty lovers. I'm sickened at the level and tone of political dialogue in my country. My fallback plan of escaping to Costa Rica is looking more appealing as each day passes.

Susanna Irish part 1

video


video

Emelie in Swan Lake

video

Emelie is the 4th from the right.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Health Care and Liberty

I haven't invested myself in too much of the recent health care debates, as most of it has been simple partisan rhetoric, but an article today got me thinking.

It seems that there is talk of mandating the purchase of health care insurance by all citizens, in much the same way that we are required to purchase auto insurance to legally drive on the public roadways. The difference of course being, if you couldn't or didn't wish to purchase insurance, you simply wouldn't drive [legally at least]. With a mandatory health care purchase requirement, there is no out. Hell, suicide is considered against the law in many places.

Americans would be fined up to $3,800 for failing to buy health insurance under a plan that circulated in Congress on Tuesday as divisions among Democrats undercut President Barack Obama's effort to regain traction on his health care overhaul.

The fast-moving developments put Obama in a box. As a candidate, he opposed fines to force individuals to buy health insurance, and he supported setting up a public insurance plan. On Tuesday, fellow Democrats publicly begged to differ on both ideas.

ust as auto coverage is now mandatory in nearly all states, Baucus would require that all Americans get health insurance once the system is overhauled. Penalties for failing to do so would start at $750 a year for individuals and $1,500 for families. Households making more than three times the federal poverty level — about $66,000 for a family of four — would face the maximum fines. For families, it would be $3,800, and for individuals, $950.

Yahoo

Some questions that come to mind in the midst of these debate.....questions that are at the very heart of our concepts of freedom and liberty, but questions that do not get asked.

Is it legal for our government to mandate the purchase of health care insurance, and fine us if we refuse [or simply can't pay]?

What is the motivation behind the desire for public officials to hold sway over nearly every choice we citizens have over our own bodies?

Should our personal choices regarding our health be inviolate from the law, as long as we don't pose a threat to public safety?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

BBQ Rules

We are about to enter the BBQ season. Therefore it is important to refresh your memory on the etiquette of this sublime outdoor cooking activity. When a man volunteers to do the BBQ the following chain of events are put into motion:

(1) The woman buys the food.
(2) The woman makes the salad, prepares the vegetables, and makes dessert.
(3) The woman prepares the meat for cooking, places it on a tray along with the necessary cooking utensils and sauces, and takes it to the man who is lounging beside the grill - beer in hand.
(4) The woman remains outside the compulsory three meter exclusion zone where the exuberance of testosterone and other manly bonding activities can take place without the interference of the woman.

Here comes the important part:

(5) THE MAN PLACES THE MEAT ON THE GRILL.

(6) The woman goes inside to organize the plates and cutlery.
(7) The woman comes out to tell the man that the meat is looking great. He thanks her and asks if she will bring another beer while he flips the meat
Important again:

(8) THE MAN TAKES THE MEAT OFF THE GRILL AND HANDS IT TO THE WOMAN.

(9) The woman prepares the plates, salad, bread, utensils, napkins, sauces, and brings them to the table.
(10) After eating, the woman clears the table and does the dishes...
And most important of all:
(11) Everyone PRAISES the MAN and THANKS HIM for his cooking efforts.
(12) The man asks the woman how she enjoyed 'her night off' and, upon seeing her annoyed reaction, concludes that there's just no pleasing women.

reposted from  http://bigpicture.posterous.com/?page=8                                                                                                                                                     

More Good War goodness

We are attempting to install a federal system into a tribal culture and the results have not been, and will not be pretty.

I still want to know, from ardent supporters of this conflict.....why the fight in Afghanistan [and the subsequent nation building] is paramount to our national security; and how [without the vague party line] 'victory' can be achieved?

The ever erudite Abu Muqawama literally nails it, though himself a COIN-dinista and not favoring withdrawal:

In the next few days, I will post some thoughts on how the United States and its allies might adjust their strategy for Afghanistan based on the outcome of the Afghan elections. But as I have written, this really is the worst-case scenario: a small margin of victory for Karzai amidst widespread allegations of fraud. Prior to the election, this was considered to be the worst outcome for Afghanistan, the legitimacy of the Afghan government, and the international community.

When people look back on the Afghanistan war, this might be the moment when historians will judge we should have cut the cord on the Afghan government. If we believe Generals McChrystal and Petraeus, and we believe a counterinsurgency campaign to represent our best chance of success in Afghanistan, then we have a big problem. Because if we believe what we ourselves have learned about counterinsurgency campaigns, we understand that we cannot be successful in one if the host nation government is seen as increasingly illegitimate -- and that's what the Karzai government is.

CNAS

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Good War?

Given the resurgent debate in the media, I've got plenty of thoughts about our policy in Afghanistan....

Foremost, nobody can define victory. Politicians, pundits and armchair commandos can make sweeping generalizations about the desired endstate, but nobody can outline the barest of steps needed to attain it. We played into Al Qaeda's hand in 2001. AQ is a cell based organization that can operate in nearly any nation, as they have. AQ purposely and publicly staged it's 'Headquarters' in Afghanistan during the planning of 9/11, based on the assumption that the US would retaliate militarily after the attacks. This retaliation would be conventional and enduring, as it's our modus operandi. The Taliban regime was expendable to AQ in the broader pursuit of it's goals; and our involvement in Afghanistan has brought forth dynamics that were on AQ's wishlist, but probably never dreamed possible.

Policy makers can't define what metrics are suitable for defining victory. Is it a democratic government? Not with the massive vote fraud in the recent election. The US however, will continue to support Karzai....to the detriment of many Afghan citizens.

Is it killing the enemy? This is the worst metric to use in a COIN environment. There is virtually no way to compete with what are called "$50 Taliban", Afghan civilians who will willingly aid Taliban, AQ and other insurgent groups for profit....as has been their way for centuries.

Is it 'winning the hearts and minds'? In a grand scheme yes; but only at the platoon level are we truly understanding the tribal dynamics in a given area, and unfortunately those dynamics are completely different the next valley over. Relentlessly killing Afghan civilians in punitive airstrikes is not helping matters either. In any COIN environment, and in this one in particular, the enemy has the decisive upper hand in information operations; they control the message because we and the Karzai Government are outsiders to nearly everyone outside of Kabul.

As NYT journalist Dexter Filkins writes:

The situation on the battlefield is difficult on its own. But it is, of course, inevitably bound up with the political stalemate in Kabul. As American commanders and diplomats have said repeatedly here, no amount of troops can substitute for a lack of political consensus among ordinary Afghans.

There is no strategic rationale for continuing the war in Afghanistan. The realities of continuing the fight have far more to do with domestic politics here in the US than strategic ramifications in the fight against AQ. Terror groups are not going to be the downfall of this nation...this nations self-detrimental actions will be. There is no strategic focus and no definable endstate. It would take at least as many years and more money than we've spent to date to prop up a shaky pseudo-democracy that will surely fail when we leave, due to the cultural and social desires of the Afghan people, and the fact that an Afghan military strong enough to secure the patchwork nation, cannot ever be supported by the Afghan economy.

These are very real issues that are being swept aside in the 'good war' defense of the supporters of this perpetual war. For some good analytical dialogue about COIN and Afghanistan, I recommend Abu Muqawama.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Duck Season

Make no mistake...I am a Duck fan. I will always be a Duck fan.

But Thursday night I was disgusted and embarassed. Eagerly anticipating the start of the 2009-2010 College Football season with my team playing on the Smurf Turf at Boise State...I was treated to a team that couldn't beat my high school squad. Lethargic, unmotivated and incoherent....the University of Oregon resembled turkeys rather than ducks.

Where was the ground game? Where was Masoli? The Boise State QB couldn't miss when he drilled the ball to his receiver; Oregon several times almost couldn't get the requisite number of players on the field. If not for many egregious missteps on behalf of the Bronco's, this could have been an utter blowout.

Blount torpedoed his NFL career. Good. He wrote checks with his mouth that his ass couldn't cash...and then threw a tantrum after playing like a community college athlete.

I will be there for the Ducks this season....but will they be there for me?