The Nature of the War

November 19, 2007

I started this post as a comment to HS’s post over at Captain’s Journal. I couldn’t really pare the comment down, so I expanded on it as a full post here.

Some dead German once wrote that the key to a successful campaign is to understand the nature of the war you are fighting.

It seems to me that the British and Americans both prove this.

It seems to me that HS’s contention is that large kinetic operations are generally required as a precursor to a successful counterinsurgency campaign. I’m not convinced of this (in all cases). I think that kinetics are required in cases where the population is violently resisting the government’s legitimate authority. And even then, kinetics aren’t always required everywhere in a region that is resisting authority. (I was stationed in Hit, Anbar, IZ. Hit, to my knowledge, never really had a large kinetic aspect. However, kinetic operations did take place in other parts of Anbar.)

It seems that kinetics are required not to destroy the enemy, but to demonstrate that the state is willing to exercise its monopoly of force. Since the object of kinetics isn’t to kill, but to demonstrate (create a psychological/social effect), such kinetic campaigns aren’t required everywhere in that is under insurrection. They are only required in areas where a principal group is undertaking violent insurgency. In Anbar the principal group would be certain Sunni tribes. A demonstration of violence was thus required against those groups, which is what Fallujah II and Operation Steel Curtain were all about. This is known as escalation.

If If the insurgency is not violent, security patrols combined with provision of government services and co-option of local leaders is key. This is known as de-escalation.

If you escalate when you should de-escalate, you will inflame the insurgency. If you de-escalate when you should escalate, you will be beaten politically. In either case, being wrong will sap legitimacy.

Now, on to Basra, and the meat of HS’s post.

It seems to me that the British completely misunderstood the nature of the fight they were in. They de-escalated when they should have escalated. When they retreated to their compounds, they showed they do not have the will to enforce the government’s position. They should have become very kinetic at that point.

Also, recall the Marines, in the wake of OIF I–the invasion, were assigned an occupation sector that corresponded with the more recent British area of responsibility. The Marines were highly de-escalatory in the wake of the hyper-kinetic invasion.

It ultimately comes down to knowing the nature of the fight you’re in. Are you fighting in a situation that requires violent escalation or not? If you’re wrong in either case, the result is the same: The loss of legitimacy. If you’re right, you can at least get some breathing space to start enforcing the government position.

To My Fellow Marines: Happy Birthday!

November 8, 2007

(Smitten Eagle’s Note: I offer this post a bit early, as the actual birthday is 10 November. However, my unit celebrated the birthday of my Corps on 3 November, and many units celebrate this hallowed and special time on days they are able and according to their circumstances.)

It’s been another year of history for my beloved Corps.

Through this year the Marine Corps has fought through deployment, training, and combat. It has been a year of marked success against the enemies in the Long War. Yet these engagements are merely the first steps in the marathon of this war. This war will tax our reserves of strength and endurance, and therefore we must allow ourselves a rest, once a year, as our situation will allow, to reflect, rededicate, and recommit.

This time of rest will be held in great banquet halls, and in combat outposts. It will be held in restaurants, and in fighting holes. It will be held with those present to our left and right, and in communion with the memory of those who have gone before us.

Our Birthday is a time to relax with our camerades, to reflect on the depth of our commitments, and to rededicate ourselves to the Constitution and to eachother.

Our Birthday is a time of great cheer. But it is also a time embittered with sadness as we remember of the sacrifices of those Marines who have died on the battlefields.

Our Birthday is a time to recommit to our families, be they spouses and children, or members of the same fire time. For on with their strength do we get the resolve to take another 30-inch step to the sound of the guns.

Our Birthday is a time to strengthen ourselves for the fights in the future, because this war will continue. No doubt, there will be Marines in contact with the enemy on night of 10 November, 2008, 2018, and possibly even in 2028. Victory is not located on the other side of the next hill, but many hills away.

And now General Conway‘s Birthday Message:

Semper Fidelis, My Brothers

May God bless you all!


November 4, 2007

On nostalgia of totalitarian ideas.

Based on this single piece, Horsefeathers seems to be almost as good a Paul Cella. Too bad Cella doesn’t write any longer.

I alluded to this in the earlier piece from today: The essence of patriotism, and I submit, conservatism, is appreciation for what is. It’s satisfaction with being. It is organic, local, tied to family and friends, home, and is intensely personal.

Utopias are anything but. They are disconnected from reality, artificial, global, and repellant of friends and family. They are disconnected from home, and instead are connected to some sort of future or past vision of glory: the Caliphate, the Thousand-Year Reich, the Dictatorship of the Proletariat, the Jueche Ideal, the Final Solution, the irredentist ideals of Aztlan, the belief that the Free Market is best for all. In each of these ideas, we see a divorce of ideal from reality, and in that space live the fanatics.

And it is those fanatics we should fear. Some strap bombs to their chest or the chests of others, some write propaganda, some organize, and some kill.

Enough for now. I shall now don my Dress Blue Alphas and take my wife to the Marine Corps Birthday Ball, where I will celebrate with my friends and family another year of life of my warrior brotherhood.

Semper Fidelis

Manly Decision

November 3, 2007

Another ninny of an “adult” who mourns for her son–her son, who makes a more adult-like decision than her own mother ever made.

My take on this article:

My first beef with this article is the title. “Portrait of a Son at War, Though a Mother’s Eyes.” The article certainly is not that. Rather, it’s self-absorbed sorrow that her son made a manly decision and didn’t buy into his mother’s narrative of events. We don’t hear anything of admiration for her son’s decision to support and defend. We instead see narcisistic laments of unfairness–that sons of other parents go to UCLA or Berkely, and her son’s lot in life is to merely soldier.

She snides, “This was definately not the way things were supposed to work out.”

The Twin Towers weren’t supposed to fall. The bombing of Pearl Harbor wasn’t supposed to have happened, nor the Bolshevik Revolution, nor the Iron Curtain, nor Hitler’s attack on Poland or gobbling of Czechoslovakia. Nor the bombing of the USS Cole, nor the Iranian Islamic Revolution, nor the Beirut Barracks Bombing. Shit happens, and sometimes men have to make decisions to volunteer to right to wrongs. Some men have outs–medical, religous, or even knowing the guy on the local draft board. But at the end of the day, it takes men who sacrifice their freedom or their lives for the sake of others. Freedom will be manifest not because of Berkley or UCLA, or UW Madison, or Harvard. Freedom will be manifest because a 19-year-old man with a rifle stands a post.

She continues…

“When I tell people that Evan has joined the Army, their reactions are almost always the same: their faces freeze, they pause way too long, and then they say, “I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry for you.” I hang my head and look mournful, accepting their sympathy for the worry that lives in me. But as it dawns on them that Evan wasn’t drafted, as Vietnam still clings to my generation, their expressions become quizzical, then disbelieving. I know what they’re thinking: Why in the world would any kid in his right mind choose to enlist when we’re in the middle of a war? I begin telling them the story, desperate to assure them it wasn’t arrogant patriotism or murderous blood lust that convinced him to join. What finally hooked him was a recruiter’s comment that if he thought the country’s role in Iraq was so screwed up, he should try to fix it.”

What kind of Americans are these, who feel sorry that others volunteer on their behalf?

Arrogant patriotism? I don’t know anything of the sort? Patriotism is sublime. It is a connection we have to what is. It’s between realization that what we have is worth living with, and consequently, worth dying for. It’s not just apple pie–it’s apple pie as you remember it, or the pure enjoyment of coffee on a brisk fall morning. It’s fellowship at Thanksgiving. Above all, patriotism is intensely personal, and yet communal. How is it boastful? Do tell!

Murderous blood lust? This comment is undeserving of response.

She continues:

“And on a deeper, personal level, he signed up hoping that after, somehow the Army would help him find what young men these days often try to fill with alcohol, drugs and video games: a sense of purpose.”

Isn’t that the job of parents? Though discipline, ethics, and morals can be learned from the military, I think this statement says more of the state of society and the state of parenting than anything else.

“A teenager when his father and I divorced, he’d never had anyone to teach him what it meant to be a man, he told him when he explained his decision to join the Army. He couldn’t concentrate on college courses, he was resisting promotion at his job, and he not only wanted but needed challenge and discipline, he said. The only way to get it, he’d decided, was to pit himself against drill sergeants, armed insurgents and Improvised Explosive Devices. If he could do it, he told me, he’d have the self-assurance he hadn’t found in his old life.”

There you have it: A boy with no male role models actually looks for them. How sad.

As though drill sergeants, insurgents, and enemy ambushes are the worst things in the world. Trust me–there is worse: A selfish sense that the burdens of freedom and life should be carried by others, and when I mean others, I mean kids, probably Republicans, who don’t go to UCLA.

“Evan volunteered for this, I remind myself. He’s promised to defend his country at all costs. My son may hesitate before he pulls the trigger, but he’s trained to shoot to kill. He’s donned the uniform, so whatever happens – ambush, rocket-fire, mortar attack, IED, an insurgent’s sword-he must face the consequences. Now I must accept that the son I raised to be a gentle, caring soul is somewhere in the Iraq desert, a loaded M3 in his arms. At this very moment, he could be exalting with his buddies that he killed the enemy, ending the life of another mother’s son. If, God forbid, another mother’s son kills Evan, will I share the same empathy “he was only doing his job” that I’m willing to extend to my own flesh and blood?”

It’s an M-4 or M-16, not an M3.

To the mothers of the world: Why don’t you get together and have some nice chai with that Syrian woman whose son is about to die because he picked the wrong convoy to attack. Think about how you’re repudiating your son’s actions as he allows you the freedom to think such thoughts.

She finishes the article saying that we raise children to leave us. Indeed. Thank God that we do. Were it not for the sons who lived by the sword, and died by the sword, there wouldn’t be men today. Some of those men of yore stood posts, carrying a pike, sword, or sling. Some carried a longbow, a musket, a Lee-Enfield, or a 1903 Springfield. Some had a BAR. Others carried an M-16, M-4, or an M-9. One generation passes the torch to the next, and in passing of the torch, they pass responsibility to protect the free.

Even is one of those men who protects, and we are indebted.

Suggested Further Study:
AWOL, by Shaeffer and Roth-Douquet
Carnage and Culture, by Hanson.
The Soldier and the State, by Huntington
Constitution of the United States
Violence Without Context: No True Glory


November 2, 2007

I’ve earned my MCMAP Grey Belt. Good stuff.

I think MCMAP is a pretty good program. It increases the confidence of Marines, knowing that they disarm or kill people, and also tries to imbue values, ethics, morals, and ultimately, judgement to know when to kill, when to disarm, and when to allow life. It also increases assertiveness and aggressiveness.

For it to be successful, it needs to be made a priority for commanders–i.e. making it required for promotion, etc. But wider implemention would be a good thing.

Also, my Marine Corps Birthday post will be posted a bit early this year, as my unit is celebrating my second-favorite holiday on the 3rd of November, vice the 10th.

Unrelated: Frankfurt School.

Unrelated: Jihadist Media Campaign.