Wednesday, February 18, 2009

No Country For Young Americans

...or British, or Canadians, or Germans.Or Russians, as the Soviets learned to their endless sorrow back in the 1980's.

My battalion commander over at Ranger Against War has had a series of blisteringly deadly five- to seven-round bursts targeting the Obama Administration's apparently reflexive continuation of the loyal Bushies' drive to civilize and Christianize the heathern wilds of The Grave of Empires. We've seen the latest installment of the "We Can't Not Escalate Because Failure Would Lead To Failing" announced this week. Where we go from here seems to be up for grabs, and the apparent Revolt of the Generals doesn't seem to be helping us any.

Now I don't pretend to be a good tactician. As an NCO my tactics never took me above platoon level. And, besides, Jim pretty much has papered that grid square.Nope, even as a buck sergeant my interest in war outside my lane was at the strategic and political levels. And all my reading and studying on the conduct of this latest of American military affectations, counterinsurgency (or "COIN"), keeps leading me back to the same conclusions:

First, foreign armies don't beat native insurrections without massive, ruthless, overwhelming violence.

Which leads directly to:

Second, if you don't or can't apply this heinous level of savagery, either accept that you cannot win or find a reliable local proxy who can and will.

Where does this leave us in Afghanistan?

The piece of the Central Asian massif we dignify with the title "Afghanistan" has never been a particularly easy or worthwhile place to rule. The Mughals did it for a while, though they pretty much forgot about it once they had India (a much more desirable address), and Alexander kept the pot from boiling over by marrying one of the local royals and then grabbing a hat as soon as possible, although the effects of his conquest may well have been the most long-lasting of the various outsiders who have transited the place.Add to that the reality that the Afghan plateau is poor in resources, politically and socially so divided as to make the designation of the place as a Westphalian "country" risible, and a logistical and strategic nightmare to successfully attack, conquer and defend. It has little or no value as a geopolitical asset; indeed, it's only real value is denial - preventing it from becoming a center for regional mischief is more value than controlling it directly.

So, in effect, every dollar, every soldier, every element of military or economic wealth that is put into Afghanistan will produce, at best, a geopolitically neutral result; it might, if correctly employed, deny a potential enemy the use of the land and peoples of the Afghan region.

And, what's more, the employment of those elements of foreign power are likely to provoke a vicious backlash from a region known for its distrust of and resistance to outlanders.So 17,000 troopers (which, by the way, actually translates to less than 5,000 trigger-pullers, assuming the reports of this deployment as composed of two maneuver brigades is correct - figure six infantry battalions for a total of 2,400-3,000 marine and Army infantrymen plus the brigade DS artillery battalions for another 1,000 and the ash-and-trash aviation and mech elements) are being sent, at vast expense of time and steam, to slay Afridis where they run.

And what will this buy us if they succeed?

Well, we'll own that portion of Waziristan, or the Black Mountain, or Swat. As long as we can pay for and replace our soldiers there.


Waziristan provides us no treasure, unless we desire its opium or its goats. It yields us no strategic advantage, no jumping-off place for Asian conquest assuming we were mad enough to desire such a thing. It yields, if it yields anything, a stony wilderness populated by the most warlike peoples on Earth.

And why in the name of Eblis would we want that?

Well, these fellas here say that if we don't hold this place it will "allow al-Qaeda central, which intelligence agencies identify as the greatest national security threat to the United States, to operate with impunity under a resurgent Taliban."

So, in essence, we will be holding that the Bad People don't hold it. We'll be buying the flophouse with our blood and treasure not to renovate it and flip it (we can't bar an insane expense, since the foundations are rotten to nonexistent and the neighbors sullenly or violently hostile) but just to keep the gangsters and druggies and whores out.

Forever. Since there will ALWAYS be gangsters and druggies and whores...and Taliban...and al Qaeda. An American ground force. Forever. In Central Asia.

This is almost the definition of insanity.

Back in November we talked about this in this post over at RAW. It made a HELL of a lot of sense to me then and it makes even more sense now. We don't need to send three fucking maneuver brigades to fight an enemy and a war that, if it is ever to be "won", needs to be fought by Afghans. Any success we can win can and should be won by 5,000 Jedburgh teams, SF-type trainer/leaders organizing the so-called "Afghan National Army". The fact that this clusterfuck is less then three divisions is criminal. A former ambassador to Afghanistan points out:
"During the Korean War in the 1950s, the United States helped build a 700,000-man (ROK) army in a nation with a population only about two-thirds that of Afghanistan. In the Greek civil war in the 1940s, we helped build a Greek security force of 182,000 soldiers in two years. These armies were not as sophisticated as today’s forces, and they did not require new body armor, high-tech communications equipment and armored Humvees. But they were sufficient to overcome threats greater than those Afghanistan now faces."
Ambassador, let me let you in on a little secret: the Afghans don't require all that high-tech crap anyway. They did pretty damn fine against the Soviets armed with donkeys and a bunch of old Lee-Enfield bolt-action rifles. Lend 'em a couple of AK-47's and a Land-River or two and, if we've got 'em anywhere near where and what they want to fight for they'll do just fine...Because the alternative is...

An American ground force. Forever. In Central Asia.

And we would want that...


Update 2/22: Here's John Robb over at Global Guerillas making essentially the same point. One thing he stresses which I don't think is being hit on hard enough is the recent CW that the "success" in Iraq is a result of the "new" COIN methods employed in 2007-2008 (i.e. "the surge"). Coincidence isn't consequence, guys, and the notion that we've "won" and that somehow suggests we do anything but organize a bug-out as expeditiously as possible is fucking nuts. And the parallel notion that we can duplicate the lower level of chaos in Iraq in the 'Stan using the same methods?

Complete fucking nuts.

And check out this particular bit of creative insanity from Tom Ricks, who compares the occupation of Iraq to...wait for it...the Reconstruction of the South after the civil war and demands, although he points out that after six years of occupation that Iraq is essentially politically nonfunctional and the Iraqi Army, the only real "institution" we've spent any time "building" is both dangerously sectarian, unsable and fundamentally undemocratic, that we keep tens of thousands of troop maneuver units there because the haven't fought their civil war yet! Because...being a foreign soldier on the ground thousands of miles from your base of logistics in the middle of a multi-sided foreign civil war in a traditionally treacherous and unstable land is...a Good Thing!


Charles Gittings said...

Ya, well this is a natural consequence of keeping Gates and Petraeus around, which was just an awful mistake. Obama is going to have to learn the hard way, just like Lincoln had to with McClellan.

It rates to be a harsh lesson.

mike said...

Are those 76mm in photo one?? I thought that those were all given to the third world 50 years ago, or perhaps put on parade grounds as monuments to the Great Patriotic War. I am assuming the cannon-cockers shown are Soviet and not their Marxist Afghan allies. Maybe they are 85mm??

FDChief said...

Charles: I have to agree with you; sadly, I thought my service was bigger than this. But Petraeus has chosen to put career and Army ahead of country. He must go, and soon.

Mike: I think those are the good old Soviet 76mm M1937...the photo caption said they were Soviet artillerymen in Afghanistan. I should really check, being a redleg and all

FDChief said...

mike: After further review, I believe the first picture to be a Soviet artillery unit firing T-12A 100mm AT cannon; противотанковая пушка Т-12A. The Wiki entry says that by the 1980's these were used as conventional arty firing mostly HE...

The gunshield does have the old school curvy look I associate with the old WW2 artillery piece, tho.

basilbeast said...

I still say economics will force us out of that area.

Typical scenario of "declare victory" and go home.

What can justify pounding Afghan sand and dirt with billions, watching our billions of dollars equipment burned and looted in mountain passes, the Taliban growing ever stronger and letting the US economy continue to drain?

I saw Zbigniew on Maddow earlier tonight, saying the military won't win it for us. Get some Taliban support, hey maybe some Iranian I say, to keep a lid on al Qaeda.

Hey Charles, I hope your health is better.

Is so?


rangeragainstwar said...

The mission statement is a lie therefore the war is a false construct.

sheerahkahn said...

"The mission statement is a lie therefore the war is a false construct."

Could you break this down for me, Jim?

I'm reading our reason for being there in the first place is a lie, which before I commment, I want to make sure this is, or is not your statement.

Ael said...

I have a modest proposal for dealing with the problems in Afghanistan.

Figure out the daily incremental cost of the war in Afghanistan.
Every day fill up a B-52 full of $10 bills (to the equivalent amount of money we are spending). Fly it at 50,000 feet over some part of Afghanistan, open the bomb bays and scatter the money.

In places where people are doing stuff that we like, we drop the money there more frequently, but everyone gets some cash, sometimes.

Since the money is scattered everywhere, it will take a lot of time and energy to find it. (And a $10 bill is quite a prize for a poor Afghan kid)

I suggest that this will, overnight, change the dynamics of the conflict. I also suggest that this will do wonders for the economy as a $10 bill is just a piece of paper, you have to be able to spend it on something for it to become useful.

Charles Gittings said...

Check this out -- Basilbeast posted the first link on Buggieboy, got the other two from Google...

AttAckerman --

February 19, 2009
by Spencer Ackerman

Washington Independent --

February 19, 2009
By Spencer Ackerman

Foreign Policy --

February 19, 2009
by Laura Rozen

Lisa said...

Indeed my contention is that the mission statement is a lie.
In fact the reasons morph and have changed over the years.
It's clear to me that AL Q Afgh is not an effective force that can export a threat to America -so why are we there?

rangeragainstwar said...


My google searches indicate NO clear mission statements for afgh.In fact, they indicate that the WH will be issuing a new mission statement "soon."

Wonderful -- 7 years into the war, and we'll be publishing a new mission statement. You may note: mission statements are issued by petraues, vs. the National Command Authority. This is the tail wagging the dog.

I'm with Charles: If I were Obama, I'd relieve Odierno and Petraeus, as they are playing politician rather than soldier.

Mike: Where in the hell are the aiming stakes for these Russian guns?

FDC and Mike, re. American gunners: I see no personal weapons there for personal or gun security. Is this SOP in artillery units. In 4.2 Platoon, we always had our personal weapons when we serviced guns. Always within arm's reach.

rangeragainstwar said...

Blogger Lisa said...

Indeed my contention is that the mission statement is a lie. In fact the reasons morph and have changed over the years.

It's clear to me that AL Q Afgh is not an effective force that can export a threat to America -so why are we there/


rangeragainstwar said...

I've been thinking about this without your input.
What I'm actually saying is that the mission may not be a lie -since it's never clearly defined.What is the actual lie is that we have a mission.
This PWOT is like a garden hose that is laying on the ground-it wets everything without a pattern or plan.

mike said...


Chief will have to answer your question on personal weapons as I was never an artilleryman. Although as I recall up in I Corps at the remote FSBs, that the 105 lanyard pullers did have their rifles within grabbing distance even during fire missions.

mike said...

Phil is a good choice for that DASD slot. I wish him the best. He is goung to need some encouragement, the Bushies are going to trash him.

FDChief said...

Jim, mike: In battery the tactical defense is provided by the guns themselves; the flank guns are tasked with a direct fire ("killer junior", the successor to the beehive round) mission to the flanks, the #2 gun to the frint, #3 to the rear (or, is usually the case, the FDC and the battery CP pull security to the rear with personal and crew-served weapons.

Typically the crew builds a weapons rack out of cammie net pols and spreaders within a couple of meters of the howitzer, where the gunner, AG and #1 man can rack their weapons during fire missions.

In march order everyone has their weapon either in their hands or in the vehicle rack within arm's length.

My guess is that these guys are either not meeting the standard (which doesn't surprise me for Soviets in the 'Stan) or there are troops we can't see providing security.

FDChief said...

In terms of a "mission statement" for the 'Stan, I always thought that the original mission was "Rout AQ and destroy the Taliban government that sheltered them".

Well, we bought the Northern Alliance and used them to run off AQ. They still hold Kabul and are the notional government of the "country". ISTM that effectively constitutes "mission accomplished".

Now, OTOH, we're trying to make the Afghans love their own "government", which ranks up there with pushing water uphill. Only the Kabul government can accomplish this mission. Every minute and every troop we spend in country works against this. Think about it: lots of people hate GWB for what he and his cronies did. But how would it make our government look if a Taliban expeditionary force was to be turned loose in Crawford, bombing, shooting and detaining people at the "invitation" of the Obama Administration?

The current war in Afghanistan - inasmuch as it involves substantial foreign maneuver units - is not so much a crime as a mistake.

Ael said...

Using AT guns as conventional artillery seems vaguely wrong.
In rugged country like Afghanistan, the low trajectory could cause all sorts of fun.

I suspect that it belongs to the "when all you have is a hammer" school of better gunnery. I remember seeing pictures of Sherman tanks in Korea, which had been parked on a steep ramp and were being used as conventional artillery.

Also, the is *one* strategic wet dream, where a pacified Afghanistan could be useful. It's the ole "pipeline from central asia that does not go through Russia or the Straits of Hormuz.

rangeragainstwar said...

The American arty shown would have a hard time shooting direct fire with all those barriers to their front.What's their all around security?
I'll assume there are rings of security around them.
This breeds laxity.

mike said...


My nephew says those HESCO barriers are evrywhere in IQ and AF, surrounding not just artillery batteries but also around FOBs and infantry units. Great stuff for protection against mortar and rocket attacks. But you need a skip loader or some type of heavy equipment to fill them with sand. I am assuming the modern GI does not know what an E-Tool is.

rangeragainstwar said...

I would think that overhead cover would be more appropriate for mortar/indirect fire.Also these barriers appear to be cement which would turn into deadly chunks if hit properly.

FDChief said...

mike, jim: Typically a US FA battery conducting this sort of what looks like a preplanned fire mission in a static/COIN type tactical environment would be doing it from a dug-in position (what you old timers would call a firebase). Based on the look of the ground my guess is that it was too rocky to dig without engineer support, so the Soviet gunners dropped a ring of jersey barriers around their firing position to act as cover against direct fire.

It's not really pretty and it's not really that effective, but I get the feeling that the Sovs were a fairly sad act, and that their field expedients would have gotten a no-go from a US FA battery commander with the lowest OER in the entire branch.

Typically a dug-in FA position will have head-high earth berms around 4800-6000 mils of the howitzer, leaving a waist-high berm over the sector of direct fire to the front. The six guns will be dug in a pinwheel with an outer berm around the entire position with fighting positions for the crew-served and individual weapons of both the gun crews and the battery HQ elements.

mike said...

Chief - OK, I am lost. I thought we were talking about the second photo in your posting, which if I am to believe the link to it, is a Marine gun crew, not Soviet like the first photo.

Ranger - I think those barriers are not concrete. I think they are HESCO barriers or a similar prefabricated gabion type barrier made by a competitor. See

They ar filled with sand, and the troops call them "instant fortresses". As I mentioned in an earlier , my nephew who has served in both places says they are ubiquitous at American posts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

It has always been my understanding that overhead protection for artillery is extremely hard to do unless you are using them as direct fire weapons with limited traverse, like Giap did at Dien Bien Phu and what his subordinates tried to do later at Khe Sanh.

mike said...

PS - I will gladly stand corrected if I am wide of the mark. Perhaps a younger vet than I should address the issue.

FDChief said...

mike: Sorry I misunderstood your reference.

The weapon in the second photo is a USMC 155mm M198. Given the range and the mission of this battery they are unlikely to be in a position exposed to direct fire. As you mentioned, they are forted up behind the prefab HESCO barriers in a fixed position - note the 0800 mil aiming stake mark to the left of the howitzer - these guys are living the fixed installation life, yo.

I have never seen a howitzer with overhead cover. It is completely impractical, and in US FA practice our defense against indirect fire is to be first with steel on target. Since the RVN we've never faced a peer foe with similar systems (particularly fire direction systems) so we may never know how well out doctrine works.

Publius said...

Charly, check your email.

For the rest of you, I'm going to forgo slobbering over artillery pieces and limit myself to agreeing with those who say it's time to put a fork in Afghanistan. No mission statement, indeed. No coherent approach whatsoever. The politicians will always be stupid and will always posture, but it'd be nice to think that military leaders have learned something from the past. Apparently not.

One gets the distinct impression that our leaders believe "Santayana" is another word for warmed-over Mexican food.

If we're lucky, Basil will be proven right.

FDChief said...

Publius: I wish I thought that you and basil had the trick of it, but my reading of history is that empires never really understand when they've passed the bingo point. "Victory disease takes over. The scruffy heathens can't be allowed to humiliate the Great Power. They will keep throwing good money after bad until they are surprised when they suddenly experience - how do the airline safety crash bulletins describe it? - a "controlled flight into terrain".

I'm hopeful that we can avoid that. But not THAT hopeful...

sheerahkahn said...

Sorry I haven't replied sooner, Jim and Chief, but as this thread has progressed I felt it wiser to keep my fingers off the keyboard and read carefully the opinions of those who happen to be better informed than moi.
I think I can say is that I'm convinced...Afghanistan is a cluster-f~~k of a nightmare, and unassing it yesterday is now to late.

rangeragainstwar said...

FDChief, I meant that the overhead cover would be for the gunners .That is individual type overhead or sqd protection.

FDChief said...

Jim: Check. You're right: there should be covered positions within a two-second rush distance of the howitzer. Not sure whether they're there or not from the camera angles.

What there REALLY needs to be is a standard 18-inch-overhead-cover emplacement for the projos and (in teh case of the 155) the powder bags. Airbursts killing gunners would be bad - airbursts setting off a massive secondary explosion would REALLY suck.

mike said...

Chief -

Sorry to be off topic of your post all the time. I did not mean to divert from your thesis. I too agree that a counterinsurgency in Afghanistan is doomed to end up as the monkey/football fornication syndrome. My reasons are perhaps different than yours. I do not write off counterinsurgency. But it can never work when the insurgents have safe havens just over the entire western and southern borders in the Northest Frontier and Baluchi Provinces of Pakistan as well as the Pakistani Federally Administered Tribal Areas. We can launch another 10 million Predator strikes across that border but they will not do any good to quell the insurgency in Afghanistan, only inflame it. And we cannot afford to send several divisions into those areas of Pakistan, both in terms of our national treasury and in terms of alienating what little influence we have now in SW Asia. The only answer I believe is withdraw the troops. Go after al-Quaeda by flooding Pakistan and Afghanistan with spies and psys. Continue to support the Northern Alliance, Hazara, Afghani Shiites or any other anti-Taliban groups.

But one last off-topic question: Regarding the flash to the high left of the 155 - I assume those are the unused increments of the powder bags - Is that correct?

FDChief said...

mike: Good question on the flare-looking effect to the left of the muzzle. Now that I've looked at it I'm a little baffled. Reflection of something? Muzzle flash from the left-hand cannon? Not sure - I never served with 155s, which doesn't help.

One thing I'm fairly sure of is that it's not flared-off propellant. Anyone caught burning off spare charges on the line of steel would be jacked up so hard by the Smoke that he'd be able to drive a Subaru between his legs.

Re: COIN. I have a real problem with the current Army thinking about COIN. I don't think it's backed up by any real empirical evidence; it's a lot of wishful thinking, smoke and mirrors.

Modern COIN really starts in about 1940; before that the old ways of mass detention and murder and the destruction of entire populations made COIN a do-able prospect. So we could win the PI in the Gay Nineties by just rounding up the population of Luzon and killing anyone we found outside our "protected hamlets". The Brits could beat the Boers the same way in South Africa in the Oughts.

By WW2 the only way to suppress a guerilla insurgency was still the old way: kill 'em all and let God recognize his own. The Germans used it in the USSR and to an extent in France and it worked; the Japanese had less success in China against the Reds. But we're still talking somre pretty bestial tactics.

So the case for Western COIN success pretty much has to come from the post-WW2 "Wars of Liberation". And when you look at those little spats you pretty much come up against a run of total failure. The "success" case depends on a handful of what I consider VERY special cases:

1. Malaya 1948-1960. The British and Malay proto-government defeats the MRLA. This is the most-often cited "test case" for COIN, and what I consider the biggest strawman. First, the British won by "losing" - announcing upfront that they were freeing their Malayan colony. Since that was what most Malays were fighting for the simple political acceptance of the "loss" of Malaya pretty much ensured that only the biggest dumbfucks would continue fighting. And the MLRA was a collection of pretty dumb fucks. They fought about as piss-poor an insurgency as you can imagine outside AQ-in-Iraq, killing Malays, isolating themselves from the people, etc. We can't count on our enemies being as stupid as the MLRA was and shouldn't found an entire concept of warfare on that, either.

So could we "win" in Afghanistan by announcing that every swinging dick would be on the last freedom bird by August 1, 2009? Sure! But what's the point of making a fetish of COIN, then?

I should add that the same Brits who "won" in Malaya lost and lost badly in Palestine, Cyprus, Kenya and Aden.

2. COORDS in Vietnam 1968-1972. I will agree with any critic who claims that the VC/NLF was essentially beaten by 1972 - Pat Lang over at "Sic Semper Tyrannis" is particularly vehement about this. But I'd argue that it ignores the fact that the VC was decimated by their losses in Tet in '68. My understanding is that after '68 the "VC" was mostly fake Southeners from the North playing at being Mister Charles. We can't count on our enemies being as stupid as the North was in '68, and we shouldn't base our notions of "COIN" on that, either.

3. Algeria 1954-1958 I will also agree that the French Army had effectively won the guerilla war by 1958. But look at what they had to do:
- commit half of their entire land forces
- effectively destroy Algerian society
- torture, murder and assassinate both their real and suspected enemies.

So in many ways the Algerian War wasn't really an example of the "new" COIN, it was the bad old COIN where you just went in and drained the sea by killing every drop of water...

So I don't think that 17,000 or 170,000 soldiers is going to make Afghanistan a Western democracy. We can bribe 'em, we can nuke 'em or we can leave 'em alone to kill each other. Those are our only real options, IMO.

mike said...

We agree on Afghanistan. And although you present some powerful arguments against COIN in general, you have not won me over. There are a small number COIN successes - although I admit they are few and far between.

I note that although you cited the Phillipines at the turn of the 20th century, you did not mention the Huk defeat by Magsaysay. And although you are correct about our brutality in the Phillipines back a hundred years ago, I do not agree with your assertion that we had a free fire zone outside of "protected hamlets" - source please.

I am ignorant on the Brit experience in Cyprus, but I note that there are still several thousand Brit military stationed there. So I am not sure what that says about what you call "losing badly in Cyprus". Also Kenya, my understanding is that the Mau Mau were thoroughly defeated, although perhaps that failed uprising did help to speed up Kenyan independence. Northern Ireland seems peaceful today also, although who knows how long that will last.

All of those are characterized by political reformation which seems to be a key along with lots of time (38 years in Northern Ireland). Give the insurgents an opportunity to say to themselves: "if we cannot lick them, then let us join them".

But then maybe the above examples make your point - find local proxies. Magsaysay did not have a huge American Army to beat the Huks, he mostly had just American advisors and training cadre. And in Northern Ireland, the Brits never had a huge presence. Even the British Army stated that they had failed to defeat the IRA but had made it impossible for the IRA to win through the use of violence. And in Kenya, loyalist African troops were the key, not the British Army.

So maybe we are not to far apart after all.

mike said...

not too far apart

damn spell checkers should read my mind.

FDChief said...

mike: my point on the Brits losing badly wasn't meant militarily, it was that the political mess they left behind them usualy doomed the polities they had f'ed up. Cyprus was dysfunctional and that led to Turkish invasion. We all know the Palestine story. Aden (Yemen) has been a mess for years and still is. Kenya was another of the African divide-and-rule tribal disasters that have given us Uganda, Rwanda and Sudan. The French managed to fuck up Algeria the same way, and Vietnam...

So even when you "win" the COIN fight, you often do such immense damage to the society you fight over as to make it nonviable or weak for generations.

That's a "win" we can avoid, I think.

Charles Gittings said...


I have to agree with FDC.


What exactly?

The benefits of COIN are?


rangeragainstwar said...

Your use of the IRA No Ire as a Coin opn is open to inspection.The Brits countered the IRA as criminals and not as insurgents or political prisoners.The IRA Catholics could not and would not and still don't want to be ruled by external protestant proxy governments.The violence in NI was just as much British as it was IRA.
The Brits tortured/beat/held people on suspicion alone for years/assasinated/kidnapped/bore false witness/lied in court/violated habeas corpus/and generally acted as a rogue element. The IRA were violent also but were only 1/2 of the equation.
If that's a formula for COIN then we're seriously screwed since we've followed the same basic template.
FDChief, As for the cmt that the NLF by 70 was defeated ignores the fact that they may have voluntarily gone underground to train/reorg/reequip/consolodate. Just b/c a organisation is inactive doesn't mean it's dead.Think IRA.The old soldiers that served in RVN just can't stand the truth that our efforts were for naught..
As a closing thought- if memory serves-didn't Uruguay defeat the TUPAC? Try reading how they did it. It makes Algeria look like a school picnic.

Fasteddiez said...

Ranger, Chief, Mike, et al.

"Think IRA.The old soldiers that served in RVN just can't stand the truth that our efforts were for naught.."

Boy, that is the killer line....condensed/distilled, like fine Likker in a still. Too many folks had their IDs invested in that conflict, and as such, bein' manly men and all, had to have fairy tale boogiemen to blame for the Murrican denouement.

As for the Kid, I suffered no such delusions, for it was clear that the whole enterprise was a penis extending duel between the dems an repugs; Kibuki theater, if you will, and it was resourced as such.

On a previous rant (in another cyber locale), I went on about how Ole' Walt Rostow (he was thought to be brilliant and nuts at the same time) and the joint chiefs conjured up a scheme to stop NVA infiltration in the DMZ/Lao border
areas. LBJ blanched and spiked the idea since the gens wanted 250,000 troops and violation of Lao soil. From the mouth of the Cua Viet River all the way to Tchepone (main toll booth R&R center on the Uncle Ho Expressway...route 9 into VN = Exit 0.

So, they did not do that early and the consequence was much bloodletting and gnashing of teeth, taking hills only to abandon them (it's funny when key terrain isn't when you don't have the Troopies to sit on them). So in 1971, a half assed plan was baked up (Abrams ? Thieu ?) to have Marvins take Tchepone....Air assault no less. We know how that ended

The same can be said of the action at exit 1 (Ashau Valley approaches, next stop, Hue and Phu Bai) same action same results, since the area was not properly resourced until very late in the game. and as for the Marvins, they received from the local Bo Dois, a time limited offer to debug from their two camps, which they promptly did, to facilitate the SF camp being Overrun.

Senior Officer Hubris is the common culprit between that and all of the goings on in our Wog theaters now. Guys like Petraeus want this shit to go on so they don't become the next "Westhiface."

Shheeesh, good luck with that. When the Lang Vei SF camp (down the holler from Khe Sanh) and outlying posts, some royal Lao soldiery (survivors of their own CP being overrun) told the head shed that the Bo Dois were-a-comin' and that they had tanks. They were disbelieved. How would tanks possibly get here? Duhh, they would drive down route 9, like all of their trucks, unmolested, since there were no humanoid resources to stop them. You just have to wonder sometimes.

My 'Umble submission is a recent
Rant from Bill Lind which ties nicely into our woebegone situation, not to mention the woebegone dilemna of our troopies in Wogistan.

rangeragainstwar said...

Fast Eddy,
It's nice to meet you.I've followed your cmts for a while.
If VN was a penis extending event then I've got a refund coming.
As for tanks in country-I actually saw old intel reports in SOG that showed tracks and were photod by 10 Recon tms.The US cmd knew that they had tracked vehicles but the intel was not disseminated, or so it appears.I know Paul Longgrear from LV and he never mentioned that the 2 ever briefed a tracked vehicle threat. If they had Paul was a fine soldier and would've planned accordingly.,not to mention Shugel/Hoadly /Willoughby.
They were sitting ducks, but thats no surprise since SFers were always thrown to the wind.
When tanks hit An Loc in 72 the VN and US advisors were more or less ready for them;TOW gunships were sent tdy to cover the attack.
After RVN i became a young believer of not fighting for something that i wouldn't accept if you tried to give it to me.If it's not worth a fuck then why fight for it?

mike said...


I have been anti-Brit since 1776, but that had nothing to do with Northern Ireland. As far as I am concerned the bombings of civilian targets were criminal acts and the perpetrators deserved to be treated as such. That goes for both the hardline IRA factions and and their Unionist protestant counterparts.

I do not condone torture by us or any other nationality. So if some IRA guys were tortured in British prisons, then the torturers should be brought to justice. None of that torture helped get the belligerents to sign up to the Belfast Agreement. What did work was 38 years of occupation and the realization on all sides that it was a stalemate between all three sides and that the Brit Army was not going home.

Please do not mistake my post above. I am not advocating a COIN solution to Afghanistan - in fact I stated above that it would definitely NOT work in Afghanistan. Nor would it work anywhere else by us right now as we do not have the treasure and the national will to sink into such a long term endeavor. I am not advocating its use by America anywhere in the world. But do not tell me it does not work ever. That is BS. There is no need to rewrite history because it does not agree with our perceptions.

As for Tupac that you mention (in Uruguay??), I thought that was in Peru. They, along with the Shining Path were defeated by the Peruvian Army and the Rondas Campesinas. But they used the old Roman method that FDChief mentioned as some 70,000 civilians were killed during that conflict.

If you want a real example of the Roman method check out the Hama Massacre in Syria in the 1980s. Assad decided it was better to kill too many than not enough in order to make an example. Achieved total destruction of a city of 40,000 and every man, woman, and child in that city. Turned the city into a parking lot. Did it openly and bragged about the "necessary" cruelty of it to the press to make sure that as many people as possible know of it. Never apologized. Never made excuses about collateral damage. Never expressed regret. Never promised investigations. Made sure that everyone understood that he would do it again.

Fasteddiez said...


The only thing I disagree with you on the Irish "troubles," is that the
Bobby Sands and the Hunger Strikers bought, with their lives, a belated reprieve, for the IRA's claim that they were political prisoners rather than criminals.

That brought a huge propaganda coup for the IRA, worldwide sympathy, and needed funding, especially from America.

Fasteddiez said...


I have been Lurking here and there for a while, not wishing to get embroiled. The large COINdinista site and others like them do attract (at least in my estimation) DoD Information Ops personnel as well as AIPAC sponsored stooges who perform the same service. I just read somewhere that retired Katsas are used in this country: first, to ensure plausible deniability; and second, to prevent any active duty Katsa from being PNG'ed (persona non grata) from the country.
Publius: do you get the same vibes when you visit certain sites? you are certainly more qualified than I (since I relied on my antiquated Bullshitometer, and my disdain for most of the human race, to get my HUMINT work done).

Jim: What you said about the LV boss Longgrear makes sense; information is power, you never give it away. The "real" Army's bubbas did not want to alarm anyone; heck they turned out to be PT-76's... would-be tanks in the best of times. Although, they were able to pierce wire barriers, and were impermeable to those LAAWS's (which we were told were the latest and greatest in anti-armor penetration).

I have alway maintained that Westy's cardinal sin was squelching all source Intel that made him frown, and that could possibly cloud the rosy scenarios he painted for the NCA.

Hell, we at the lowest, and I mean lowest levels were never made aware of our own Recon personnel's findings. I once had to find out the name of the Operation we were participating in from an attached sniper, who was flown in at the last minute.

FDChief said...

mike, Fasteddiez, Jim: I have to agree with Jim on his take on the modern Troubles. The Brits, while not exactly Good Guys (I can't think of anyone who gets to wear the white hat while fighting G's) did their best not to completely militarize them. So while the local beat cop might have had a whole squad of Royals behind him, there still WAS a beat cop.

The Brits took exactly the opposite approach during the Rising in 1916 and for their pains essentially lost the "war" - by 1920 they couldn't justify holding on to Eire any longer.

And, when you think about it, the modern Troubles owe as much as anything to the mistaken Brit deployment of paratroops as "peacekeepers". I'm not an expert, but I know that many writers date the real serious "Troubles" to Bloody Sunday, 1972. So what price the "military solution" then, eh?

And the Shining Path were another bone-stupid guerilla group. Fuckhead university Maoists led by a professor - how more cocked up do you want it? Their Maoist nonsense made even the poor campesinos hate them...and it still required over a decade and the deaths of tens of thousands of Peruvians at the hands of their own government to break the back of the Sendero.

So I stand by my original thesis: viable native governments can win insurgencies, in the same way that our own government broke the Whiskey Rebellion and defeated the traitors who fought for slavery. But imagine what would have happened if we'd called on Rochambau's troops to suppress the Rebellion, or had called in German mercenaries to fight Lee's Army o Northern Virginia?

When you put it that way it looks pretty hopelessly stupid, doesn't it?

rangeragainstwar said...

I too am anti Brit.
The Brits were well advised to use the criminal approach which I believe is the best method IF HUMAN RIGHTS ARE OBSERVED.The German/French and Italians did a great job with this approach.
I am not a IRA apologist but the Brits were dirty in this mess.
I understand and accept your points.

I'm definitely getting old. My reference was to Uruguay and the Tupamaros. my mind jumbled this with the tupac....It's been 20 years since I've done this stuff, so pls accept my apologies for trusting my memory. I"ve always been more oriented to Euroterrorism. I'll research my replies for clarity in the future. I guess the memory is the first thing that goes.

Publius said...

Fasteddiez: "Publius: do you get the same vibes when you visit certain sites? you are certainly more qualified than I (since I relied on my antiquated Bullshitometer, and my disdain for most of the human race, to get my HUMINT work done)."

Damn, Eddie, you've been gone a long time, and now I see you popping up all over the place. Good to see you back in business.

I wouldn't necessarily say I know any more about HUMINT than you do; besides, I'm old now and I get more forgetful every day. It's been a while since anybody accused me of manipulating them. To answer your question about the COIN folks, my general approach to them has been to strive to be the proverbial turd in the punchbowl. I don't think some of them like me very much.

And here's why: It's my considered opinion that COIN does not, cannot, and will not work, at least as it will ever be practiced by the U.S. military. We're hearing now that Iraq is a success. Well, if I were the bad guys, I'd just cool it until the U.S. pulls out. Then I'd get serious with the local government. Same way with Afghanistan. The problem with our approach to COIN is we make it OUR fight. FDChief is right: absent a local government that really wants to do it, all of this COIN shit is just pissing in the wind.

IMO, traditional troop formations just don't cut it. U.S. soldiers and marines aren't trained to do it, nor do they have any aptitude for it. Our special forces (not SOF) have traditionally been pretty good and we've had some intel folks who could do it. The key is that the U.S. COIN guy has to be willing to immerse himself in the local environment and forgo the comforts usually associated with our large troop footprints. If you can't get into the skin of the locals, you're not going to get COIN. Last year, a nephew who's a naval reserve officer spent six months in Kabul with the NATO contingent. Sitting at a computer in a control room. When I asked how many locals other than bar girls and liaison types he ever met, he was stumped for a reply. But he knows COIN. Sure.

I agree that Northern Ireland was a police matter and deserves no place in any COIN discussion. And actually, virtually any actions governments wish to take in the PWOT (credit: RAW) should be viewed as law enforcement vice military actions.

Nice discussions of VN, Eddie and RAW. Yeah, there were track vehicles. And, yeah, intel was, shall we say, not used properly or effectively.

Very good thread here. If I didn't have an early tee time, I'd say more.

mike said...

Ranger -

You were probably more correct than either one of us imagined. Looking up Tupumaro, I see that the name was derived from Tupac Amura who fathered an uprising in Spanish colonial Sud America in the late 18th century about the same time we were rebelling against King George. So I guess his fame extended to Uruguay as well as Peru. And he was more renowned than Bolivar in many areas.

Aviator47 said...

Oh, how to address this Afghanistan issue. The major source of income is opium. The population is tribal. Probably, most folks simply want to be left to live their lives in relative obscurity.

And we want to deliver Western Democratic national government? There isn't even a nation there to begin with.

Kind of like debating the best ways of helping a man have a baby.

Those poor folks deserve better than what the West has done to them.

Monty Python was so spot on!


rangeragainstwar said...

I don't have a t time(whatever that is so i'll comment.)
Yes SF was traditionally a great tool for COIN until it became a career field full of Ranger mentality types looking for stars. Lately my observation of SF is that they are direct action troops that just came over from the Rangers.Direct action is a misuse of the tool.
I just read TEN MEN DEAD by David Beresford cy1987 and it's a good depiction of the troubles from the hunger strikers perspective.One line stood out-....the contest on our side is not one of rivalry or vengeance, but of endurance.It is not those who can inflict the most,but those that can suffer the most who will conquer...,...This is a fine line to ponder when thinking of COIN.

Aviator47 said...


Back in the 60's SF professionals described themselves as "mostly school teacher". Too many Steven Segal movies later that has changed.

I do think that promotion fever helped this change along.


rangeragainstwar said...

The old SF saying was-TRAVEL LIGHT FREEZE AT NIGHT.Do they do that anymore?
In early 70 our SFOC final graduation exercise was UW/GW and had very little direct action, unless it was leading the Guerilla force.The 82nd Abn agressed against us as conventional forces.

FDChief said...

Jim: They were still teaching the UW/GW skills in the early 80's when I was in Ph1...but the direct action camel's nose was under the tent - you heard guys talking about running raids and similar combat patrols in Nicaragua and El Sal and against the drug cartels in Columbia and Bolivia. As SF teams, not leading indig troops (since many of the locals were bought and paid for by the coca lords, I assume).

Plus SF was about to become it's own branch, with all the dog-and-pony crap that entails.

Sad, especially when we need the "old school" SF so much more now.

rangeragainstwar said...

I'm getting slow in my old age. It just hit me that the 155/US shown is towed arty.Why are we using towed guns? Is this Airborne To&e?

rangeragainstwar said...

I'm getting slow in my old age. It just hit me that the 155/US shown is towed arty.Why are we using towed guns? Is this Airborne To&e?

Fasteddiez said...


No that is the Marine's old 155mm blunderbuss the M-198, firing. It is Heavy, (top heavy too, so much that a few have been lost on muddy mountain roads, ass over tea kettle down the cliff, some with truck maybe?) For all the heft it's range is no great shakes, not like that famous South African gun G-5.

The Corps is transitioning to
This Puppy, a Brit lightweight variant. I was hoping the US was going to purchase a French mobile automated 120mm mortar system, but it seems foreign mil purchases are allowed for Angloids only.

This is one of the reasons our foot soldiers, with small high speed exceptions, are still fielding the varmint round Matty Mattel....and no, it's not fucking swell!