Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Commander's Intent II: Mumbai - When Clueless Dorks Attack

or, "Why little Richie Lowry Is and Always Will Be a Totally Clueless Douchebag".

So yesterday we talked about the idea of how part of any well-planned military operation is ensuring that something called the "commander's intent" gets communicated through to all the people involved. This is a military term, but the idea is really just common sense language, when you think about it. When FDR went on the radio to tell the American people about "the day that will live...in infamy" and rally them around the goal of victory over Japan,

when Churchill talked about how all he had to offer was blood, sweat, toil and tears in the long fight against Germany...all good leadership, in a sense, involves getting the people you're working with to understand and buy into your vision of where you're all going and how to get there.

And, conversely, nothing fails quite as spectacularly as when a "leader" lays out a vision and the led walk up to it, kick the tires, peek under the hood...and walk away. Remember poor Jimmy Carter in his cardigan, trying to rally the American people to "the moral equivalent of war?" Ouch.

Our current administration has been trying since 2001, God love 'em, to sell their "commander's intent" for something called "The Global War on Terror".Seven years ago the American people were told that we were at war with...somebody. A shadowy group of Islamic fundamentalists identified as "terrorists", although "terror", as a tactic, makes nonsense of the formula "War on Terror". It would be like calling World War Two "The War on Indirect Fire", since artillery was the big killer of the time. How do you make war on a tactic?

And, strictly speaking, it's not even accurate as such. The Irish Republic has been harboring a group that uses indiscriminate violence against civilians (if you wish to use that as a working definition of "terror") for over eighty years; the U.S. Air Force has yet to launch a single Predator drone over County Armaugh. The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam (LTTE)

has perhaps of the most savage records of terror violence in modern history, and yet not a single Abrams tank has rolled ashore in Sri Lanka. We even have a couple of pet terror groups of our own: the Cuban anti-Castro gangs in south Florida, the MEK in the Kurdish part of occupied Iraq...I'll even bet that somewhere in Modesto the former commandantes of the contra guerillas meet at Chevy's every third Friday to toast the Nicaraguans they killed at the urging of Ronnie Reagan with the weapons Ollie North bought with the money he got from our allies the Iranians.

So, so far we have no idea what the "War on Terror" means, where it's supposed to get us and how. Does it mean that the U.S. plans to banish the use of indiscriminate violence against civilians forever from the Earth? Does our lack of interest in groups like the PIRA, LTTE and the MEK mean that we're only going after people who use terror on us and places and people we like? Does this have something to do with Osama and Al Qaeda - and if so, does this mean that we have to keep "fighting" until the last Indonesian teenager takes off his Osama T-shirt?

And what is "fighting"? Does stuff like invading Iraq count, even though Osama publicly reviled Saddam and AQ was an enemy of the Iraqi state until we smashed the shit out of it and birthed "Al Qaeda in Iraq" and the other AQ franchises? Does it mean killing Talibanis and Sadrists until a Jeffersonian democracy breaks out in Kabul and Anbar? Or is just having "our sons-of-bitches" in Baghdad and Kabul and Karachi okay?

I'm a pretty smart, pretty well-informed guy and you can see the mess I'm in. Imagine how Joe and Mary Lunchpail feel, what with a complete lack of understanding of the intent of the national leadership about what our goals are and how to attain them.

Can you see how this is almost designed to go nowhere? And yet, spend a hell of a long time and a hell of a lot of money getting there? I have to say that one of the best observations on this idiocy is from Ranger Jim's blog "RangerAgainstWar". He just calls this stuff the "Phony War on Terror".


I went to work yesterday thinking about this post, the attacks in Mumbai last week, and when I open the World's Worst Newspaper there's little Richie Lowry, editor of the conservative journal National Review, intoning solemnly about the Mumbai Massacre and What It All Means. And he's being a totally clueless douchebag.

Okay, you say, no big surprise there. Richie's been a total clueless douchebag (or "TCD") about pretty much everything for the past ten years. Iraq?

TCD. Economics? TCD. Social issues from homosexuals to home ownership?


So Richie being a TCD on Mumbai ain't exactly man bites dog here, other than the irritating reminder that, having been a TCD on everything for a decade, the man still gets to air his totally clueless douchebaggery on the editorial page of TWWN one day out of seven. But I want to take a look at what he's saying, because I think it gives a valuable insight into what happens when you go into a fight without any idea of where you want to go and how to get there. AND that it's a look into the minds of little Richie's kind of people; Dubya, Darth Cheney, the Wolfies and Tricky Dick Pearles that have been providing whatever "direction" this Phony War on Terror has been getting.

So Richie starts out describing, in movie-thriller tones, "the days-long assault". He pictures "clean-shaven" terrorists "wearing Western T-shirts" coming to destroy the New and Improved (i.e. cleaner-smelling and with flush toilets, just like Alexandria, Virginia) India!!

I'll leave aside for now the intellectual vacuity and incoherence of the piece, which seems to exist more or less as a pure exercise in scare propaganda, and concentrate on the phrases that give away little Richie's mindset.

First, there's the contrast between the scary, beardie-wierdie terrorists and the Shiny New Wealthy Open Mumbai, home of People Who Like Rich People and Credit Card Call Centers. Dusky, strange-smelling, beards BAD, rich, latte-sipping, scraped chins GOOD. Then there's the little formula "global jihadist movement", creating fantastic images of Doctor Islamic Evil and his minions in their secret Alpine hideaway viewing satellite pictures of Bahraini training camps and Tennessee nuclear plants...

...of shadowy jihadist spies sipping coffee in Rio while eyeing the Israeli embassy across the street, of planes and trains and automobiles scurrying about the Earth in service of this vast and powerful shadow Caliphate. Instead of the reality; scruffy dirty men in little central Asian or Arab towns and villages field-stripping AKMs or chanting the Koran in broken-down Madrassis in Lahore.

This isn't sane foreign policy analysis; this is waaaayyyy too much Jolt Cola and Cheetos and sitting up late watching "The Bourne Identity". This is trying to turn this:into Double-Oh Allah, the Jihadi SuperSpy. This is utter nonsense.

And, of course, the obligatory oogga-booga scare story about how if these guys get "weapons of mass destruction" they'll use them. Which is like saying that if my cats get a hold of the can opener no cat food will be safe.

But, whatever.

The point here is, first, that Richie manages to get the entire core of the Mumbai story completely, utterly wrong, restating that he's a TCD while reminding us that this conservative warrior has never been closer to actual war than the Memorial Day "Combat!" marathon on Lifetime. He gives us the terrifying spectacle of "well-trained "fidayeen" shock troops methodically murdered their way through the city" like this was some sort of Bug Invasion out of Starship Troopers, a frighteningly complex and difficult operation demonstrating the technical and tactical brilliance of our scary Bad Enemies.

But, Richie, running into a building with automatic weaponry shouting "Yankee you die! Fuck Derek Jeter!!" doesn't exactly call for the precision skills of your Delta Force. Any dummy can be taught to do it. In fact, that's exactly what Gary Brecher who writes as "The War Nerd", thinks they were taught to do. Read the article - the guy flat-out nails it. Dumb, strong, fanatical Pakistani hicks aren't exactly rare in the Indus Valley, and the trick of any really well-trained soldier isn't killing people - that's cake, as long as you're willing to die in the process. It's doing it AND SURVIVING. These guys didn't. They ran in, shot up the place, killed unarmed civvies and the handful of local Five-Oh that made the mistake of wandering into their path. Here's the scene at the train station: "In the first wave of the attacks, two young gunmen armed with assault rifles blithely ignored more than 60 police officers patrolling the city's main train station and sprayed bullets into the crowd."That's not exactly right out of the Ranger Handbook. Look, these guys were mooks. From the news reports the counterattack was utter screwed up and slower than pond water, and yet the Paki gangstas don't seem to have managed to kill a single Indian troop. I have to go with the Fat Man from Fresno on this one. Mumbai doesn't make a case for our Islamic enemies as the most Cunning Terrorists in History; it reveals them as a bunch of opportunists with lots of low tech and expendable bodies and the will to expend both.Getting ourselves into a swivet over this is ridiculous. And what Richie and his pals want to do about it - send in the troops to kill jihadis one at a time in their home ground - is like sitting up all night in the kitchen with a slipper squooshing roaches. You're gonna get tired a LONG time before the roaches do.

History is also full of examples of groups and forces who use low-tech diversions to cause their richer, stronger, more powerful enemies to expend time and energy rushing about trying to stomp out what seem to be dangerous threats. One hallmark of a force that has no strategic guidance or coherent plan is the tendency to overreact, or react badly to these maskirovas. To try and be strong everywhere; to divert resources away from the main effort into what should be diversionary, subsidiary and economy-of-force missions. Osama himself has repeatedly stated that he knows full well that his creatures don't have the ability to overwhelm the West, but that if he can keep us, his enemies, racing about responding to every attack, worrying about every possibility, that he can help us overstretch our wealth and poorly distribute our assets. Eventually, he hopes, we will topple of our own poorly-balanced weight.

Mumbai, then, is a classic economy-of-force maskirova; the expenditure of throwaway elements designed to stress an enemy and force it into foolish responses. And, sure enough, here is Rich Lowry, a fool and ripe for the fooling. For years we have listened to and followed foolish TCDs like him to our own poverty and failure, to a point where we are doing just what Osama wants, just what the Mumbai plowboys hoped for - throwing good money and lives after bad, trying to make geopolitical bricks, not only without straw but without a notion of what the bricks are for or how to make them cost-effectively and successfully. Nation-building where there are no nations. Trying quick fixes for problems decades or centuries old, problems we have no real stake in or answer for.Let's try and take a step back and think real hard about this. Just because little Richie and his ilk are being a douche doesn't mean we have to be.

Next up: How not to be a TCD.


Lisa said...

You have encompassed the situation. Ten guys vs. a very ill-equipped police force.

"Assaf Hefetz, a former Israeli police commissioner who created the country's police anti-terror unit three decades ago, watched the slow-motion operation in disbelief" as the poor response.

What is most frightening is the willingness of Americans citizens to be whipped into a froth over something far shy of cataclysmic. When did "we have nothing to fear but fear itself" become passe?

Ael said...

Not that it changes the validity of your argument, but I thought that the Deccan Plateau was south central India. Hence, not a lot of Pakistanis there.

srv said...

Man on Fire!

sheerahkahn said...

Well, as it turns out, these guys were Pak's which is turning into a PR nightmare for the new Pak regime.
They got the American's in Afghanistan taking liberties with the international border, and now they got an outraged Indian neighbor.
I suspect things couldn't go more wrong for the Paki's than right now...their mud-hut jihadi's with little education in things that would produce a meaningful life, and far too much testosterone stroking their epeen in the form of an AK have just taken it upon themselves to reshape national policy.
It seems to me that if I were Paki gov official right now...well..I'd heave-ho my assholish countrymen, abscond with what little is in the national treasury, and bust out for the retirement home in Seychelles.
But thats just me.

Lisa said...

P.S.--love the Blofeld character; now there's a nemesis.

FDChief said...

Lisa: I, too, marvel at the way that the 27 percenters seem to go into a panty-peeing sqawk at this stuff. Sad.

Ael: You're right, I got that wrong, and I have corrected the reference. Good catch.

Sheerah: Pakistan has always been God's abortion of a "country". I hate to think of how it could be MORE f-ed up than it already is. And yet...

Ael said...

Good thing the Pakistani's don't have nuclear weapons.

oh, wait ..

FDChief said...

Ael: I honestly don't think that this was a "Pakistani" operation. There was probably some low-level ISI assistance - you wouldn't need much, these were all very well-known, public places, they didn't have an actual tactical "plan" other than "shoot everything in sight until you die" - and the bodies were all Paki. But I don't really think that says anything scary about the possibility of a nuclear Pakistan going rogue any more than the number of Saudis involved in 9-11 says anything about a possible jihadist Saudi Arabia.

That's kind of where I'm trying to go with this. As splashy and ugly as it is, it's not really all that sophisticated and it's not really all that important. It's a pinprick commando raid that worked well for it's objective. It doesn't "win" or "lose" the larger face-off between the jihadi neocons and the West - it doesn't even imply anything larger about the conflict or the state of play between the sides - any more than the Dieppe or Dolittle raids "won" or "lost" WW2.

It drives me crazy to watch the American Right flap and honk about this stuff. They're either being TCDs or, worse, they're being ruthlessly cynical assholes (RCAs) and using this to frighten the dumb proles. I think I'm giving them the benefit of the doubt by assuming douchbaggery rather than assholery.

Ael said...

I would agree that this attack was primarily done by non-state actors.
However, I am very worried about where India and Pakistan end up.

I am particularly worried about the ability of Pakistan's national institutions to deal with these problems. At a time when you need adult supervision, I worry about their ability to keep the nuclear sword in its sheath.

rangeragainstwar said...

If this was sponsored by Pak then it was the mil/intel side and not the civilian leaders. The mil/intel complex also control the nucs.If nucs are popped it may be without orders from the civilian leadership.
Indeed this is a fine mess.The scary part is that the US is at the periphery and as such could be further drawn in.Remember that the US is in a Nuc Treaty that allows nuc materials to be passed from US to India.When this was happening RAW opposed the action which can have unintended consequences.This seems to be the hallmark of us policy.
I find it interesting that the US spends billions for defense against these Mumbai scenario type attacks and these are not even remotely possible in the CONUS. jim

sheerahkahn said...

I'm in agreement with Chief...unless more information comes out that contravenes the current evidence, this seems less of a Gov. sanctioned spoiler raid, and more of a deadly Paki frat boy screwing with the other frats.
No significant damage done to the Indian infrastructure, and really in the grand scheme of things this only makes the Paki's look more like country hicks...in terms of business...the Paki's as a whole are coming out of this one the worse.
So, for me, if I'm a Terr. Planner, and I know my enemy is a preening, self-absorbed twit who turns other's pain into his own gnawing fear...hell, I don't have to do anything to him...they do it to themselves.
All I have to do is feed their fear.

And guess what...that is exactly what is happening..."American hotel managers worry about lax security."
What next in the news?
Ma and Pa Kettle drumming their fingers on their lips, pissing themselves with fear in upstate New York because they're afraid of "wild eyed terr's" coming off lake Ontario "ravaging da good woman folk, and scattering da men-folk!?!"

I wonder about us.

Publius said...

You've really outdone yourself in this "Commander's Intent" series. The only real problem I have is in finding anything to say that might be considered value added. So I won't.

Excellent work. Keep it coming.

FDChief said...

Sheerah: "ravaging da good woman folk, and scattering da men-folk!?!"


"Look, Sven, I think that's one o' those A-rab terists! Hide, quick, he may want to ravage me!"

"Anyone wants ravage you, Marta, is too crazy to get work as a terist."

"Well, so you say, you old coot! Humph! Maybe I SHOULD find a nice young terist to ravish me some! Oh, Mister Ter-risstttt...!!!"

basilbeast said...

when clueless dorks fall in love


Rich Lowry was the guy that popped his cork at Palin's first wink.

Look what happened to Chambliss' constituents!



I kinda wish Saxby would explode.

In a Sugar factory, no less.


Mil-Tech Bard said...

This post below is from an Indian contributor to the http://www.tank-net.org/ military forum.

It is the best description I have found of what happened, when, and by who in Mumbai from a person well informed in Indian military affairs. The contributor responded to several bad observations based on BBC, CNN & other media reports in what I clipped below.

From what I gathered below, the Indian security forces -- other than the locals cops -- did very well at Mumbai given that the terrorists had totally prepared for the battle space in question while the Indian Police, Security Services and Army went in blind.

I urge you and anyone else who is interested to read through the complete thread there. It is far better coverage than you gotten from the main stream electronic and print media.

This is the exact link to that thread from the military current affairs part of the tank-net.org site:

QUOTE(swerve @ Fri 28 Nov 2008 1518)
The TV footage, reports from those in charge, & accounts of survivors have convinced me that I'd be better off rescued by the SAS, GSG, or just about anyone else.

nitin>>It helps to actually watch this unfolding in real time Swerve, before making those sort of
comments. You might actually ask the persons rescued about the professionalism of the NSG and Marcos instead.

In no particular order -
1. Confusion. How many times has each building been reported cleared?


nitin>>This is purely the creation of the media. I watched this today in real time and it was the media, including the idiots at CNN who kept saying, is it over, is it over.

The NSG chief actually lashed out a journo who asked this saying, its OVER when we SAY this is over. The next question was, "is this the final assault"? They have been saying that since a night back.

2. "Spray & pray" clearly visible, as in your picture.

nitin>>Oh come on.

You guys see one pic and jump to conclusions. See the entire vid of the incident and way they have acted then comment.

In every case I have seen till now, the NSG and Marcos & support units have actually made sure that they are either providing covering fire as requested by the people inside (fire at XXX window , fire in the air to distract) while the strike team has attacked via stun grenades and door breaching. Even external retaliatory firing has not been done.

Despite having had access to Carl Gustafs and Shipons, they were not used because the entire rooms were covered with blood & there was risk of hostages. So the Marcos and NSG - they have fought for 40 hours straight BTW, did recce by fire, room by room, floor by floor.

Each time, they covered a floor. The media would start yelling its OVER. Yes media management is a problem but do realize, this is a first for India, nobody anticipated this.

3. The plethora of different forces, & apparent failure of them to co-ordinate. In addition to the local police, the army, navy commandos, & at least three paramilitary forces were visible on TV at the same sites.

nitin>>The plethora of different forces is because of the time constraints. The fight started with the Police. The next to arrive were the initial CRPF (Paramils) & Police antiterror squads. All these guys are basically armed with Ishapores & Sterlings because what they normally face are run of the will gangsters, which is what this event was.

In the night, the call went out to INS Abhimanyu, from where the Marcos rushed to the scene at Trident AND Taj. The Marcos were told there were explosives, so they divided their team into two groups - one explosive disposal unit and a strike team, and the other, a strike team. Both went in with zero prep time because reports were coming in of hostage executions and the like, and came under fire. They only fired back in a limited manner to push the gunmen out so that they could begin extracting people trapped in the building. After that, the Marcos were joined by the Army's 18th Grenadiers who were rushed from Pune iirc & they stormed more floors.

When the NSG arrived, they were immediately given precedence & led the teams with Marcos in support and the Army manning the perimeter with ATS and CRPF and Mumbai Police regular.

Every bit of manpower was required. There were concerns that there would be more attacks all over Mumbai.

4. Failure to cordon off buildings.

nitin>>After the Army arrived, the buildings were cordoned off. The Mumbai Police were clearly unprepared for the scale of the attack.

5. Unsystematic clearing of buildings, & failure to block off cleared areas within them.

nitin>>The NSG went floor by floor, 800 odd rooms. In each room, with a master key, and a Taj Employee + employee list, they queried, checked the occupants (if any) and escorted them to a centrally
secure location and outside. It was methodical, it was deliberate and planned.

6. Why were blokes with Dragunov sniper rifles going in with the building clearing squads, while outside, covering windows, there were crowds of men with AK-47s & even shorter-range, more compact, weapons? Clearly seen on TV . . .

nitin>>Every man, every gun available was pressed to service. I don't think you guys even understand how big the Taj is. Even inside, there are areas where a sniper can be deployed for over watch
of floor by floor.

The Army uses Dragunovs. If you saw them, that is the first in, 18th Grenadiers.

The NSG uses the PSG-1 and SIG-550.

Then we have to factor in what happened at the start. Reports from the main station (Victoria when I was there - I forget the current name) suggest that the police arrived 30 minutes after
the first shootings there, arriving long after the terrorists had moved on, & the ambulances arrived.

nitin>>The police were told there was a gang shootout & sent an encounter team which was ambushed and shot.

QUOTE I'm an ignorant amateur, & I wouldn't dare even think of planning an operation to deal with such a crisis, because I have some idea of how little I know, but even I could see cock-ups in action, all over the place. India is full of talented people. When I spent a few months traveling around the country, I was frequently impressed by people I met. Where are they?

nitin>>Sorry but you clearly are underestimating the scale of the operation & how it actually unfolded.

nitin: Fri 28 Nov 2008 1819

Another post by nitin, this is how to tell the India security forces players apart by the equipment they carry:

The Army - uses the INSAS Battle rifle, Dragunov

The NSG - HRT/CRT unit - uses the MP5, PSG-1

The Marine Commandos - Navy MARCOS - use the MP5, AK-47, PSG-1, INSAS et al.

The latter three took the lead once they arrived. Unfortunately, thanks to a pusillanimous Indian Govt, Indian anti terror laws and equipment for regular police forces remain pathetic.

Only state which is an exception is Andhra Pradesh, which has an anti terror squad called the Greyhounds which is decently equipped and well trained.


Necessary Indian security acronyms and weapon names:

ATS -- Anti Terrorism Squad (Think local police SWAT team)

Carl Gustafs -- 84m recoiless rifle

CRPF -- Central Reserve Police Force, A paramilitary security agency/force functioning under the aegis of Indian Ministry of Home Affairs

Dragunov -- Russian 7.62mm semi-automatic sniper sniper rifle

INSAS -- Indian National Small Arms System, a modular 5.56x45mm NATO caliber assault rifle based on the AK-47

Ishapore -- 7.62x51 NATO calibre Ishapore 2A/2A1, Indian version of Lee-Enfield bolt-action rifle

MARCOS -- Marine Commandos

NGS -- National Security Guard

PSG1 -- H&K 7.62mm semi-automatic sniper rifle

Shipon -- Israeli made shoulder launched infantry anti-tank rocket

SIG550 -- H&K 7.62mm semi-automatic sniper rifle

Sterling -- 1950's vintage British designed 9mm submachine gun

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