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[ 0 ] November 15, 2005 |

At the risk of being declared an insensitive elitist, let me say that this would result in death, or an F, or at least a great deal of ill will.

More Oil Spots

[ 0 ] November 15, 2005 |

Praktike points to this:

All three towns had become strongholds of the insurgency, military officials said, as well as key command centers for the guerrilla-smuggling pipeline from Syria. Marines carried out an offensive in the Ubaydi area last May, only to see insurgents filter back in once American forces had left.

This time, the Marines intend to leave a permanent presence of American and Iraqi troops in the town, military officials say.

The sweeps of Husayba and Karabila ended on Saturday. In contrast to most other American military operations in Anbar, the Marines remained in both towns following the offensive and immediately set about building permanent garrisons there.

Each will be manned by at least two battalions, with at least one from the Iraqi Army, officials said. Joint American-Iraqi squads have already begun to patrol the streets. Residents, most of whom abandoned the towns in advance of the assault, began to return to their homes over the weekend.

It sounds hopeful. I’ve given my reasons for skepticism, but this really does seem to imply that the Marines are serious about maintaining a presence in cleared areas. The use of American forces in holding operations in conjunction with Iraqi forces is a very good idea. I wonder how much the Army has been willing to commit itself to this kind of operation.

In other news, Mickey Kaus actually has an interesting thought:

There’s one thing I don’t understand about the growing support for an “oil spot” strategy–which would have the U.S. military in Iraq “focus less on trying to secure the whole country and more on shoring up protection of major population centers.” That might make great sense if all we were trying to do was pacify Iraq. But how does it make sense if there are terrorists running around the Iraqi hinterlands using them as a base from which they can attack lots of other countries, including possibly our own? Are we supposed to cede Zarqawi the territory outside the “major population centers”?

It’s worth thinking about. The Iraqi insurgency is different in tactics and composition than other insurgencies. That’s not terribly shocking, since all insurgencies have their own characterisitics. However, the Iraqi insurgents seem much more willing to use low cost/high yield terrorist attacks (a few suicide bombers with bombs that can kill a lot of people) than most other insurgencies. This suggests that their overhead may be a bit lower than that, say, of the Viet Cong or Sendero Luminoso. In other words, the insurgency might be able to survive and cause damage with a fainter heartbeat than some other insurgencies. Another difference is that some portion of the Iraqi insurgency is made up of genuine terrorists who aren’t particularly interested in stability, amnesty, democracy, economic opportunity, and the other things that can induce insurgents to give up. Even if we manage to defeat the “negotiable” portion of the Iraqi insurgency, there will be plenty of diehards and foreign fighters left to continue the fight (inside or outside of Iraq) at some level.

However, I don’t think this changes the strategy. It’s unfortunate, but the focus has to be on defeating and/or reconciling with the Sunni insurgency. Once that is accomplished, attacking the genuine terrorist groups will become much easier. Until then, at least, we and the Iraqis will have to endure increased terrorist activity.

Incidentally, I think that the above applies whether or not the United States remains in Iraq. If we withdraw tomorrow, the Iraqi government will have to defeat the insurgents and the terrorists. If we don’t, then we’ll have to fight them. The basic task remains the same.

Ooh, Wrath

[ 0 ] November 15, 2005 |

It appears that a vengeful deity is bent on destroying Lexington. In the absence of a tornado, wind gusts are expected to reach 65 mph.

In the event of my death, I grant the readers of this blog leave to pick through my meager possessions. To my creditors, I say “HA HA”. Losers.

If the tornado only destroys my neighbors, I promise to report on whether it really does sound like a freight train.

UPDATE: Watch the storm front approach Lexington.

Bobo on Hobbes

[ 0 ] November 15, 2005 |

From Slate:

David Brooks, columnist, the New York Times
This is going to sound awfully pompous (but hey, I went to the University of Chicago), but the two most important books I read in college were Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France and Hobbes’ Leviathan. I loathed both books at first reading, but they both explained how little we can rationally know about the world around us and how much we have to rely on habits, traditions, and intuition. I’ve been exemplifying our ignorance on a daily basis ever since.

I’m with him on Burke, but his interpretation of Hobbes seems a little, well, unusual.


[ 0 ] November 15, 2005 |

One of the critical moments at the opening of the Cold War was the replacement of British forces in Greece by American troops and advisors. A friendly Greek government was fighting an unfriendly (and fairly nasty) group of communist insurgents. The British, because of budget problems, could no longer continue the fight. The decision to use Americans in Greece (and the decision to justify such use through the Truman doctrine) was a turning point for US policy and a landmark moment in Cold War history.

Is this a similar moment in the history of the War on Terror?

Britain is attempting to build a coalition to pursue counter-insurgency combat operations against al-Qaida and Taliban fighters in southern Afghanistan after the withdrawal by the Bush administration of 4,000 US troops early next year.

Talks with Australia, Canada, New Zealand and several other countries are being held before a Nato meeting in Brussels on December 7. They follow the refusal of European allies, such as France and Germany, to allow their troops to become involved in counter-insurgency.

The discussions are among preparations for the deployment of 2,000 crack British troops backed by Apache attack helicopters to lawless Helmand province at the head of an expanded, British-led Nato force next spring. An additional 2,000 British troops are expected to be sent to Afghanistan next year bringing the total number to somewhere around 4,800. The British mission in the south represents a significant escalation of its overall involvement in Afghanistan. Military sources said it was potentially more hazardous – and could last longer – than Britain’s postwar involvement in Iraq.

“The debate is not whether, but to what extent these troops will get into counter-insurgency and counter-narcotics,” a military source said. “We are not talking war fighting. But there is potential for armed conflict in some areas. The reality is that there are warlords, drug traffickers, al-Qaida, al-Qaida wannabes and Taliban.”

Regardless of what Glenn Reynolds and the boys might want to think, the situation in Afghanistan has not quieted down. 2005 saw the highest casualty totals, both dead and wounded, for the US in Afghanistan since 2001. The war there is not over.

And in a related question, how much longer are the British going to endure Tony Blair? It is one thing to elect a fool as your President and watch him drag your country into an unwise war. It is something else altogether to elect a fool as your Prime Minister and watch as he follows the foolish President of some other country into an unwise war.

Via Duck.

Shouldn’t Have Been that Close

[ 0 ] November 14, 2005 |

A-Rod wins the MVP award. While they got it right, I nevertheless find it troubling that a excellent defensive third basemen having a clearly superior offensive season barely defeated a poor fielding DH (to the extent that such a thing is possible).

I find this map fascinating. I’m not surprised by the general support for Ortiz around the country, but it’s very odd that A-Rod won Missouri, of all places.

Briscoe and Logan vs. George W. Bush

[ 1 ] November 14, 2005 |


Extraordinary Mallorca

[ 0 ] November 14, 2005 |

Hey, I’ve been there. I don’t remember seeing any extraordinary renditions

The National Court has received a prosecutor’s report on allegations that the CIA used an airport on the Spanish island of Mallorca for a program of covert transfers of terror suspects, court officials said Monday.

The chief prosecutor for the Balearic Islands, which include Mallorca, submitted the 114-page report to the court in July, after a four-month investigation prompted by articles in a Mallorca newspaper, the court officials said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because court rules bar them from giving their names.

The newspaper, Diario de Mallorca, said Spanish police have identified three planes used by the CIA at the airport in Palma, the capital of the Mediterranean island, in its ”extraordinary rendition” program, in which terror suspects were transferred to third countries without court approval, subjecting them to possible ill-treatment.

The office of the prosecutor, Bartomeu Barcelo, declined to comment on the report on Monday, as did police in Mallorca.

I think it’s great that we don’t even tell our allies about the people we’re moving through their territory in order to torture. It’s wonderful when we can present them with little surprises like this.

Clear and Hold

[ 0 ] November 13, 2005 |

Interesting article in Friday’s Washington Post on what may be some developments in US counter-insurgency tactics in Iraq. Some in Congress have taken this article by Andrew Krepinevich seriously, and are pressing the Army to modify its practices. My thoughts on Krepinevich’s plan are here.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) added his voice to those calling for a new focus. He said the emphasis up to now on rooting out insurgent strongholds through widespread, short-duration raids — what he termed “sweeping and leaving” — is not working.

“Rather than focusing on killing and capturing insurgents, we should emphasize protecting the local population, creating secure areas where insurgents find it difficult to operate,” the senator said in a speech at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank. He added that such an approach would require more troops and resources, arguing against the idea of reducing U.S. forces in Iraq next year.

The persistent ability of enemy groups to move fighters around the country — eluding raids or replenishing their ranks after taking casualties — has put pressure on the Pentagon to demonstrate that U.S. tactics are effective. U.S. commanders have acknowledged a measure of frustration at needing to send forces back to some cities and towns where insurgents had returned after being chased out months earlier. But they insist progress is being made.

They also say they already are pursuing a version of the strategy advocated by McCain and other critics. Indeed, for months now, senior officers at the U.S. military command in Baghdad have been using the term “clear and hold” as a shorthand description of their counterinsurgency strategy. The same term was applied by Gen. Creighton W. Abrams Jr. to his Vietnam pacification strategy in the late 1960s and early 1970s, which followed the “search and destroy” campaign of his predecessor, Gen. William C. Westmoreland.

It’s all well and good that the Army is making some changes, but I remain skeptical. For example, this

But in practice, critics say, U.S. forces have tended to place more emphasis on clearing than holding. And senior officers and administration officials conceded in interviews this week that the holding aspect has received less attention, in large part because of a shortage of available troops.

U.S. commanders have avoided seeking more American forces for such defensive missions, waiting instead for additional Iraqi military and police forces to emerge from training. With those personnel now exceeding 211,000, the shortage is easing, officials said.

“The difference now is, we have Iraqi forces that can do the holding,” said a senior administration official involved in policymaking on Iraq. “We didn’t want to use U.S. forces to do a lot of the holding because it gave the impression of occupation.”

reveals a basic misunderstanding of the relationship between clear and hold operations. I’m not surprised that the Army prefers to do the clearing and leave the holding to Iraqi forces, but that’s really not how it’s supposed to work. Holding is critical to being able to clear, because holding creates stable areas and friendly locals who supply counter-insurgent forces with intelligence. In other words, the forces that do the holding will have the greatest capabilities for clearing. A situation in which clearing and holding are the responsibilities of separate units are likely to be a lot less efficient. Also, part of the point of an oil spot strategy is not so much to destroy enemy insurgents in their hideouts as to force them to attack friendly targets at bad odds.

Finally, the focus of the Army on clearing doesn’t really get to the main problem with current US doctrine, which is that it just doesn’t have a good sense of how important holding is. It still wants to hand that operation off to someone, anyone, who can do it. The excuse that “we don’t want to make this look like an occupation” is absurd and embarrassing. Also, given the focus on the Syrian border, I’m still unconvinced that the Army is prepared to accept that the centers of supply and support for the Iraqi insurgency are inside Iraq, just as the center of gravity for the Viet Cong was its supply network in South Vietnam rather than the Ho Chi Minh Trail. In fairness to the Army, the politics of the Iraqi occupation make an internal focus difficult; the Administration seems committed to the notion that whatever problems exist are the result of foreign fighters and Syrian influence.

All that said, this is probably a positive development. Counter-insurgency wars can be won, even by foreign occupiers. I’m skeptical about this one, but, if the battle is going to continue into the forseeable future (and I suspect that it will), we might as well use the best tactics available.

Courtesy of OPFOR.

Sunday Battleship Blogging: RN Giulio Cesare

[ 1 ] November 13, 2005 |

Giulio Cesare (Julius Caesar) was the third battleship commissioned by the Italian Navy. When built she was a respectably armed unit, 24000 tons, 13 12″ guns in three triple and two twin turrets, and could make 22 knots. Like most Italian battleships, Giulio Cesare had relatively light armor.

The job of the Italian Navy in World War I was to counter the Austrian Navy. The Regina Maria did this job very well; the Austrian Navy left port once, and lost a battleship in its brief foray. The job of watching a fleet that never leaves port is not an exciting one, however, and Giulio Cesare had an uneventful war. Her sister, Leonardo Da Vinci, was blown up by Austrian frogmen in 1916. Her sole mission before World War II was to bombard the Greek island of Corfu during a diplomatic dispute.

The Washington Naval Treaty prevented most of the great powers from building new battleships during the interwar period. So, instead of new construction, most countries rebuilt old ships. In some cases the changes were minor; most US battleships lost their cage masts, for example. The Japanese, never quite satisfied, reconstructed many of their battleships twice. The British put off the reconstruction too long, and went into the war with several ships (such as the battlecruiser Hood) unmodified from their original form.

Giulio Cesare went through a process that was less reconstruction than full transformation. After a four year modernization process, she emerged as a 29000 ton unit, carrying 10 13″ guns in two twin and two triple turrets, and capable of making 28 knots. The speed increase in particularly turned Giulio Cesare into a useful and dangerous unit, although her light armor continued to make confrontations with enemy battleships a dangerous proposition.

The problem of the Italian Navy in World War II had less to do with the ships than with the management. Whereas the Italians ought to have challenged the Royal Navy for control of the Mediterranean (especially given the British commitments in the Atlantic and the Pacific), the fleet rarely left port, a fact that the Royal Navy took advantage of on November 11, 1940, when the aircraft of a single light carrier devastated the Italian naval anchorage at Taranto. Giulio Cesare escaped damage, but her sister Cavour was sunk, and several other ships were damaged.

Giulio Cesare ran convoy escort missions until 1942, when the Italian Navy withdrew her from active operations because of increasing Allied dominance in the Mediterranean. Again, this was a poor decision, as greater pressure on the Allies in the Med could have helped the Axis war effort in other areas. Following the Italian surrender in September of 1943, Giulio Cesare and several other battleships surrendered to the Royal Navy at Malta, where the ships remained until the end of the war.

Giulio Cesare was returned to Italy following the war. The Allied terms were relatively merciful. The Soviets, however, were less interested in accomodation. In 1948, Giulio Cesare was transferred, as war reparations, to the Soviet Union. In a few short months she went from being the obsolete relic of a defeated second rate navy to being the flagship of the Soviet Black Sea fleet. Giulio Cesare became Novorossiysk, the most powerful Russian ship in the Black Sea since World War I. Imagine the delight of her new captain, who likely previously served either on a small cruiser or on one of the antiquated and largely non-functional battleships of the Baltic fleet, upon taking command of Novorossiysk and bringing her to speed at the head of the (modest) Black Sea fleet. I suspect that he may have imagined bringing her into battle with the only other major naval unit located in the Black Sea, the Turkish battlecruiser Yavuz.

In late October 1955, Novorossiysk exploded and sank at anchor in Sevastopol. The cause remains unclear. Most likely, a magnetic mine dropped by Germany during World War II attached itself to the bottom of her hull and exploded. 608 Russian crewmen died, largely because of the ineptitude of the Soviet captain who thought that she would settle on the bottom rather than capsize. Other theories of Novorossiysk’s end persist, however. One suggests that an Italian special forces team attached explosives to the ship and blew it up out of revenge. It is rumored that several Italian frogmen received high decorations for mysterious reasons in the lat 1950s. Another theory suggests that the Italians planted explosives in the ship upon the transfer, although why they would set the timer for seven years escapes me. Finally, one theory suggests that Soviet intelligence blew the ship up with the purpose of blaming Turkey for the tragedy and sparking a war. The the sinking was concealed from the world puts this explanation into question, of course.

Concentrated Stupidity

[ 0 ] November 12, 2005 |

Is it more evident among our political pundits or our sports pundits? How many times have we heard this since the beginning of the BCS system?

Team X and Team Y are undefeated and stand atop the BCS standings, but Team Z is also undefeated. How can you say that X and Y are deserving to play in the championship game but not Z? Here are reasons A,B, and C for why Team Z should be playing for the title, regardless of what those durned (computers/strength of schedule evaluators/AP voters/USA Today voters) say. If a team from this conference is once again denied a spot in the big game, then the representatives of the (SEC/Pac-10/Big-10/Big-12) are going to storm the barricades in the offseason.


There is only one way to determine a genuine national champion in college football, and that is a playoff. Everyone knows it. Everyone knows that any scheme designed to produce a single legitimate champion through the bowl system is going to leave some teams unhappy. It doesn’t matter how much you fiddle with the BCS formula. It doesn’t matter, really, even if you include a “+1″ game, although that would help a bit. A playoff is the only thing that solves the problem. I-AA does it, Division II does it, Division III does it, and the NAIA does it.

This is hardly the most critical question facing the Republic, and I sympathize with the guys at ESPN who have to hold off an angry mob of Alabama fans by declaring that hey, maybe Alabama really IS better than USC, and who in any case have to fill up many hours of programming. But let’s not dance around the question when any four year old could identify the problem and the solution.

The MacGyver Paradigm

[ 0 ] November 11, 2005 |

A few years ago Anthony Cordesman coined the phrase “Buffy Paradigm“. The Buffy paradigm is a way of approaching foreign policy and national security problems that mirrors the environment faced by Buffy and the Scoobies in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The Buffy paradigm refers to a situation in which we can expect that our expertise, preparation, and areas of competence will NOT accurately reflect that threats that we face. This places a premium on flexibility in action and preparation.

In the context of this interview, my Defense Statecraft students and I have begun thinking about the “MacGyver Paradigm”. The MacGyver paradigm refers to a military posture and training program that emphasizes flexibility, low level initiative, inventiveness, and minimal reliance on technology. MacGyver, as all thinking people know, could build a Formula One racecar out of tape, gum, and bits of wire. The MacGyver paradigm is about military organizations that rely very heavily on the human/intellectual capital side of the effectiveness equation, such that individual soldiers and units are flexible and capable enough to accomplish any number of different tasks, often with minimal support.

What sort of organizations pursue the MacGyver paradigm? Well, I think that the MacGyver paradigm more or less covers what Major General Grosvenor was trying to get at in his discussion of flexibility in the British Army. The United Kingdom is one of the few countries that can actually afford to pursue the reforms associated with the Revolution in Military Affairs. The British Army, however, has been reluctant to adopt technological fixes to problems because it believes that increasing technology, even communications technology, cuts down on the flexibility of forces and the initiative of officers and men. We might appropriately term such beliefs “MacGyver-esque”.

With the possible exception of Special Forces units, the United States military has pursued and continues to pursue policies at odds with the MacGyver Paradigm. It has been persuasively argued that RMA reforms will have the result of placing more tactical and operational responsibility in the hands of senior officers and of reducing the ability of junior officers to react to new situations. In this sense, the closer we get to Future Combat Systems,
the farther we get away from MacGyver. I suspect, given the threats that the Army is likely to deal with in the near to medium future, that this will be a bad thing.

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