Agunda Vataeva (LJ user agunya) was a 13-year-old girl about to begin her ninth-grade studies on Sept. 1, 2004, the day when she, her mother and more than 1,100 others were taken hostage at School #1 in the North Ossetian town of Beslan. She survived the three-day siege. Her mother, a teacher, didn't. Of the 334 hostages who lost their lives six years ago, 186 were children.-
Agunda is a 19-year-old college student now. In the past three days, she has posted three installments of her recollections (RUS) of Sept. 1-3, 2004, on her LiveJournal and Radio Echo of Moscow blogs.
Going into Lebanon and then later Gaza in force to root out the problems at their source, and then stopping and withdrawing in the face of the usual international reaction. Their international reputation would have hardly been worse if they had finished the job. Anyone who supported the initial policy in each case has to be disapointed by the ultimate lack of fortitude to follow through with it (which was predictable to me as both these campaigns started, though I hoped I was wrong), and anyone who opposed Israel in these cases is quietly thanking their good fortune.
Yet as I said, the each unfolded predictably, every time, exactly as I have foreseen, because at bottom even - especially - the Israelis want to not only do the right thing, but what is actually worse be *seen* and *perceived* as doing the right thing. So when they go to cut the knot, they saw half way through and when the International Community's Greek Chorus shouts them down, they stop and back off, letting it regrow and metastasize, letting it feel it has the momentum, feel a sense of victory, and that the Winds of Change are on their side.
This inevitably leaves them with the worst of both worlds. Surely WRM knows Napoleon's saying that if you set out to take Vienna, TAKE VIENNA.
Probably the best strategic move Israel could do now is rename itself "North Korea" (while not adopting that nation's political ideology). Then they could do whatever they want, sink any ship, threaten and kill anyone they needed to, and the ever-so caring International Community wouldn't care one whit - except to urge "Caution" and "don't over-react" and "nobody should escalate the situation."
Anyhow, it's really all over now; as my mother said the other day about this, it's like a dying person connected to a respirator. Everyone knows what is to come, but no one knows when.
Or, in one of my favorite quotes, tragic in this context, "The non-inevitability of events we nevertheless know are bound to come."
It is non-inevitable: Something could change, in us, the broad us, the so-called civilized world. But do you think it will? In time? Since it hasn't yet, despite many wuss-slaps to the face by reality, when and under what circumstances do you think it will? Again: In time. In this case, in time for the Israelis, who one would think have sacrificed enough and been sacrificed enough to other's self-regard.
T.S. Eliot: "Half of the harm that is done in this world Is due to people who want to feel important. They don't mean to do harm. But the harm does not interest them. Or they do not see it, or they justify it because they are absorbed in the endless struggle to think well of themselves."
These days it most, more than half, of the forces for evil in this world would be readily checked if it wasn't for these two sorts of people. But we let them hold the reins.
Well those "other factors" are actually quite important - in fact, they are likely the dominant reasons why violence decreased in Iraq during 2007 and 2008 (and Andrew leaves out a critical one; the sectarian cleansing and subsequent ethnic enclaving that took place in Baghdad in 2007 and 2008, which contributed mightily to the fall in civilian casualties). In other words there were very specific factors that allowed the surge to "succeed" in decreasing sectarian violence in Iraq.and
Of course we've had the debate many times - but we need to keep having it over and over again; because the debate over the "success" of the surge is, in my view, the single most important foreign policy debate in this country. I make this argument for two reasons.What are his reasons?
But that notwithstanding, the implications of the pro-surge narrative is far more dangerous because it presupposes that the US "gets" counter-insurgency; that it can be fought in a manner that minimizes civilian casualties (which didn't happen in Iraq); and above all the US military has the capability to successfully wage counter-insurgencies and that this core competency can be replicated elsewhere . . like Afghanistan.
So when many people say the surge worked in Iraq (and I'm excluding Andrew here); they are implicitly arguing that counter-insurgency worked in Iraq and the policy outcome is that COIN is seen as a feasible means of waging war by the United States. But if in fact Iraq's emerging political stability was the result of a multitude of indigenous and exogenous factors of which the United States only played one role among many - then one would draw very different conclusions about not only the surge, but also the US military's effectiveness in waging counter-insurgency. That is a pretty important debate to be having.So, as I take Cohen's core point, the Surge can't have worked in Iraq...because if it did, we'll think that we can actually fight and win these small wars, and so we're likely to be too bellicose.
Each of these debates, in their own unique way, has informed the conduct and direction of US military and security policy. Indeed, if there is one lesson to be derived from these "lessons" it is that the historical interpretation of past conflicts can have an enormous impact on future wars. Indeed, if you need any more evidence look to Afghanistan where the COINdinistas "lessons" from Iraq are being used to support military escalation and a dubious political/military strategy. So yeah, debating the surge matters and all of us who care about national security policy need to keep engaging in this conversation.You know, I've got a lot of issues with what we're doing in Afghanistan.
In the video I did with Uncle Jimbo, I said (starting about 2:50 in) "...to be honest, if you're not a heroin addict in New York City, I'm not sure what America's strategic interest in Afghanistan as a country really would be." And I meant that, and mean it today.And I really do think we're flunking Harry Summers' basic test - the reason he gives for our failure in Vietnam:
If my son is fighting only to bring civil society to the 34 provinces of Afghanistan, eff it - bring him home tomorrow. Bring all of our sons and daughters home tomorrow.
I need to hear some kind of broader explanation of what we're doing there and what we hope to accomplish through our efforts there - not only in Afghanistan itself, but in the region and in the rest of the world.
Craig Mullaney had the beginnings of some answers when I got to talk with him.
In Vietnam we also did what we knew. As was said in the introduction to this book, in "logistics and in tactics . . . we succeeded in everything we set out to do." But, as we have seen, our failure in strategy made these skills irrelevant. This is the lesson we must keep in mind as we look to the future. While we will still need "deeds of valor" and proficiency in logistics and tactics, we must insure that these skills are applied in pursuit of a sound strategy.Now I'm guessing that Cohen and I will disagree pretty strongly on what that 'sound strategy' ought to be. I'm willing to have the debate.
Operations in Afghanistan frequently require United States ground forces to engage and destroy the enemy at ranges beyond 300 meters. These operations occur in rugged terrain and in situations where traditional supporting fires are limited due to range or risk of collateral damage. With these limitations, the infantry in Afghanistan require a precise, lethal fire capability that exists only in a properly trained and equipped infantryman. While the infantryman is ideally suited for combat in Afghanistan, his current weapons, doctrine, and marksmanship training do not provide a precise, lethal fire capability to 500 meters and are therefore inappropriate.
Comments from returning non-commissioned officers and officers reveal that about fifty percent of engagements occur past 300 meters. The enemy tactics are to engage United States forces from high ground with medium and heavy weapons, often including mortars, knowing that we are restricted by our equipment limitations and the inability of our overburdened soldiers to maneuver at elevations exceeding 6000 feet. Current equipment, training, and doctrine are optimized for engagements under 300 meters and on level terrain.The introduction goes on:
There are several ways to extend the lethality of the infantry. A more effective 5.56-mm bullet can be designed which provides enhanced terminal performance out to 500 meters. A better option to increase incapacitation is to adopt a larger caliber cartridge, which will function using components of the M16/M4. The 2006 study by the Joint Service Wound Ballistics - Integrated Product Team discovered that the ideal caliber seems to be between 6.5 and 7-mm. This was also the general conclusion of all military ballistics studies since the end of World War I.
The reorganization of the infantry squad in 1960 eliminated the M1D sniper rifle and resulted in the loss of the precision mid-range capability of the infantry squad. The modern solution to this problem is the squad designated marksman. The concept of the squad designated marksman is that a soldier receives the training necessary to engage targets beyond the 300-meter range limitation of current marksmanship programs, but below the 600 meter capability of actual snipers. As of June 2009, the equipment and training of the squad designated marksman has yet to be standardized. In field manual 3-22.9 there are only fourteen pages dedicated to training the squad designated marksman.
Combat in Afghanistan has shown several trends. The enemy takes advantage of the terrain and engages patrols or convoys from high ground. He also combines this advantage with heavy weapons systems and mortars from a distance, typically beyond 300 meters.6 From the infantryman's perspective, he attempts to fix the enemy, since his equipment limits his ability to maneuver, and attempts to kill the enemy through close air support (CAS), close combat attack, (CCA) or indirect fire.If what the author suggests is accurate - that these issues and combat scenarios are prevalent in Afghanistan - this is a significant and immediate issue.
The infantryman's ability to fix or kill the enemy with organic weapon systems at distances beyond 200 meters is limited by his equipment and training. The incapacitation mechanism of small caliber bullets, such as the 5.56-mm, comes primarily from bullet fragmentation.7 Bullet fragmentation occurs only at a sufficiently high velocity. All 5.56-mm weapons are most effective when employed within 200 meters due to velocity limitations. Once contact is made, the fight is limited to machine gunners, mortars and designated marksmen. In the table of organization for a light infantry company8 only the six -M240B 7.62-mm machine guns, two- 60-mm mortars and nine designated marksman armed with either 7.62-mm M14 rifles or accurized 5.56-mm M16A4's rifles are able to effectively engage the enemy. These weapons systems represent 19 percent of the company's firepower. This means that 81 percent of the company has little effect on the fight. This is unacceptable.
The armed forces of today have almost abandoned the idea of serious riflecraft. There are many reasons for this, not the least of which is that rifle mastery is a demanding discipline and thus not really applicable to mass armies.When Biggest Guy deployed, his platoon had one soldier with a M14 with a variable high-power scope (note that that soldier also had a M4 with a grenade launcher).
The most immediate and cost effective improvements can be made through training and education. Soldiers and leaders need to understand the capabilities and limitations of their organic weapons. They need to understand what is required to maintain their weapons and keep them operational in all environments. This process begins in either basic training, or the basic officer leader course, and should continue through unit marksmanship programs. Equipment and organization need to be modernized.The other to equipment. He suggests that the military decide on and procure an 'intermediate' cartridge - the 6.5mm Grendel or 6.8mm SPC - and a supply up upper receivers and magazines to accommodate them, as well as improved optics - Trijicon ACOGs or Aimpoint with auxiliary magnification.
The current 5.56-mm cartridge has limited application in open or mountainous terrain and should be improved, augmented, or replaced. A move to an intermediate caliber weapon or replacement upper receiver will increase the organic capability of the infantry squad and not substantially increase the soldiers load. By adopting an arms room concept, commanders will be able to choose the right equipment for the type of mission and terrain they face.9 Finally, doctrine should be reviewed and re-written to incorporate the capability to engage targets out to 500 meters. This doctrine should also include an updated qualification course, which more accurately simulates combat conditions and rewards shot placement. This type of course will give better feedback to the soldier and commander.
So, COIN still reigns supreme, albeit with trimmed sails?
We are forgetting something important about the ascendancy of COIN. It was not accepted by a reluctant Pentagon and the Bush administration because COIN is a very effective operational tool in the right strategic context - although that is certainly true. Nor was it because the advocates of COIN were brilliant policy architects and advocates - though most of them are. COIN became the order of the day for three reasons:He's making the (very real) point that our strategies have to match our means, and that those means are going to look pretty sketchy for the next few years (sadly for me, who is supposed to be bankrolling my retirement during that term...).
1) The "Big Army, fire the artillery, fly B-52's and Search & Destroy=counterinsurgency" approach proved to be tactically and strategically bankrupt in Iraq. It failed in Mesopotamia as it failed in the Mekong Delta under Westmoreland - except worse and faster. Period.
2) The loudest other alternative to COIN at the time, the antiwar demand, mostly from Leftwing extremists, of immediately bugging-out of Iraq, damn the consequences, was not politically palatable even for moderately liberal Democrats, to say nothing of Republicans.
3) The 2006 election results were a political earthquake that forced the Bush administration to change policy in Iraq for its' own sheer political survival. COIN was accepted only because it represented a life preserver for the Bush administration.
We have just had another such political earthquake. The administration is now but one more electoral debacle away from having the president be chased in Benny Hill fashion all over the White House lawn by enraged Democratic officeholders scared out of their wits of losing their seats next November.
Republican Scott Brown, the winner in a stunning upset in Massachusetts' special election for Senator, certainly had no intention of undermining President Obama's commitment to Afghanistan. To the contrary, he is for it in a far more muscular manner than was his hapless Democratic opponent. But that's irrelevant. What matters is that in all the recent elections, Democrats have been clobbered by a "Revolt of the Moderates" - socially liberal, fiscally conservative, independent voters who came out in 2008 for Obama and are now shifting radically away from him. For the next year, politicians of both parties will be competing hard for this bloc which means "deficit hawks" will soar higher than defense hawks.
America's nine year drunken sailor spending spree is officially over.
A reader asks a very interesting question about the undie-bomber - why did he get back into his seat to detonate a bomb that had a ramshackle detonator and where he could be overcome by fellow travelers? Read the whole email:I keep hearing this even described as a failed terrorist attack on an airplane. But was it really? I keep hearing about how the system failed, but did it really? Think about it. First, what is the major goal of terrorism? It is not to bring down airplanes. It is not to destroy the West. It is, pure and simple, to create terror in people. Why? Because when people are afraid they overreact. And this includes most of us, yourself included.
If either of them had been paying attention, they would have noted that he had specifically requested and been seated in an overwing window seat - over the fuel tanks and the most important structural part of the plane.If the intent of al Qaeda in this latest instance was to bring down an airplane, then it failed. But if its intent was to create fear and overreaction, then it succeeded Personally, I think it was the latter. It is quite possible (in fact I think probable) that the people who planned this event, and used the young man from Nigeria as a tool, were aware that due to security measures in place, there was no way they could actually get a bomb through that would actually work. The detonation equipment needed would have been detected. The same applies, by the way, to the shoe bomber.
Again, think about it. If you wanted to blow up a plane, would you attempt it from your seat, where somebody could quite possibly stop you? No, you would go to the washroom where you could set off the bomb without disruption.
Of course he spoke to last week's events, particularly the noble actions of numerous soldiers at the scene, two in particular: A Captain who was grazed in the head by one bullet, then struck in the thigh by another, but even after these injuries used her body to shield that of a pregnant fellow soldier. She was struck once more, in the stomach, but is of good spirits, recovering in the hospital. Another soldier was struck twice in the waist and hip, but still helped guide many, many of his fellow soldiers to safety outside.
I personally hope that these soldiers are appropriately recognized with purple hearts and other awards appropriate to their bravery under fire, just as they would be in a combat zone. They displayed great personal courage in a situation where, lets face it, no one went there that day mentally preparing themselves, for something like this.
But I wasn't there. Someone who is close to an event is often granted extra credibility. Even if I strive not to imply it, people may infer it: "Porphy was there" or "Porphy knows people who Hasan treated, he knows that Major Hasan behaved inappropriately towards those under his care".
I don't really have any extra knowledge beyond that which you can get elsewhere. While it is often the case that people involved in an experience have greater knowledge of it, it is not always the case. Too often, I think, people trade on the credibility that is gained from being close to something, when they don't really know anything more (or less) than others can get.
Yes, blogging is often saying things other people are also saying. Few posts are truly unique, contain truly unique ideas or information, and I'm positive that in the future I'll babble about stuff that you could just as easily read elsewhere. In this particular case, though, I think I'll let others carry the water. A lot of things need to be said and thought about, and more power to those who are doing just that.
But I'm uncomfortable doing so, precisely because "I was there" without being there. I wasn't at the SRP site, and did not experience what those who were there experienced. I don't really have any additional information about Major Hasan and his behavior than is described elsewhere (I can say, though, that the experiences of the soldiers I'm acquainted with who were under his care, what little they told me supports rather than contradicts what you're hearing elsewhere. I guess I can go that far).
For me, a bit of reticence seems to be the responsible thing.