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.
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.