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Wednesday, November 20, 2019

How the West was Lost

Silverfiddle Rant!

"Matthew is a highly decorated Green Beret who is being tried for killing a Taliban bomb maker," the president wrote. "We train our boys to be killing machines, then prosecute them when they kill!"
-- President Trump

From Fox News:
President Trump has granted clemency to two Army officers accused or convicted of war crimes and restored Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher to the rank of chief petty officer after he was docked a pay grade after being convicted of posing for a photo with a dead Islamic State (ISIS) fighter, the White House announced Friday.
Our military must be a professional fighting force, not a marauding band of undisciplined Mongols, and our training at every level hammers that home.  For this reason, we have Geneva Convention and Law of Armed Conflict training, and severe punishment for violations.

Having said that, are our Rules of Engagement too strict? Have Western Powers improperly injected too much liberal humanitarianism into the norms of waging war?

Is our government's concept of war outdated?
Military victory in Iraq or Afghanistan was never, in fact, a real possibility. The very nature of war has changed so much in recent decades that military victory as we tend to imagine it, with winners and losers emerging after a fight with an unambiguous end, is utterly obsolete.” (The Myth of Victory)
For whatever hidden motives, our government consciously decides to jump into unwinnable wars, and will never provide the materiel and manpower to even try to win those wars. This sets up a sick dynamic with the military services, because most military people, by their nature, thrill to the prospect of doing the impossible against all odds. 

I could end with fill-in-the-blank platitudes, but I've already bored everyone with them over the years, so I'll end instead with a question:

Can We The People do anything about this, and if so, what?


  1. There is no justification to kill unarmed, suspected combatants or detainees. Ever. Those puffed up couch commandos who would bray otherwise aren’t the ones dealing with the effects of a hostile populace and an already shaky host nation partner.

    Nor are they typically the ones charged with upholding the honor bought dearly by those who came before them.

    1. Agree that is non-negotiable.

      Given that, are our rules too strict? Do they tie our hands in any way?

    2. Broadly speaking, yes. But the examples of the recently pardoned service-members doesn't fall under ROE. They fall under the UCMJ.

      Beyond that, it's worth mentioning that the CENTCOM ROE is classified, so public arguments to that effect will naturally only center on what the public knows. As well, a component of the ROE debate, are the rules of Escalation of Force....or "the practical way of putting into place safeguards and measures to ensure that combat forces comply with international law and minimize the infliction of collateral damage"; and should be considered when discussing ROE...IMO.

      The current ROE [which has remained in effect during both the Obama and Trump years] is too restrictive when it comes to targeting in my assessment, though there are timely mechanisms for waiving certain parameters. Since we're now almost fully partnered with host nation forces when even close to ground operations, they get a vote in the matter too.

      Bottom line is that our armed forces have solid ground to respond to and repel the enemy when attacked, in every situation. Force protection is a constant.

    3. CI said... "There is no justification to kill unarmed, suspected combatants or detainees. Ever."

      And yet, there are plenty of people who are hailing the pardons issues by Pres Trump as good news.

      Perhaps as Silver asks, our ROE are too restrictive. But that should not be used as an excuse for the kinds of acts these three mens participated in. Their behavior had the potential to bring shame, disrespect and lack of trust on the great majority of our soldiers who are incredible men and women.

    4. @ Dave

      Our country has consistently turned a blind eye to creative assassination; if we didn’t employ someone to pull the trigger, we accomplished it through the use of surrogates —such as turning a jihadi over to the Saudis, who promptly gave the man a fair trial and then beheaded him. The topic is nebulous, however, and we can argue about it until the cows come home. What we can say for sure is that the bomb-maker won’t blow up any more American soldiers or innocent civilians.

    5. Dave, part of the reaction to the pardons is the theme of unbridled military adulation, that has had an apologetic effect on these types of situations since the first Gulf War.

  2. The military is infested with lawyer culture. Yes we should aspire to standards even in wartime. That being said the imbalance appears to be decidedly against our soldiers.

    Lawyer culture is why our training is so watered down as to be useless. We cant discuss innocuous topics like there is no such thing as gaydar. Even discussing actual cultural issues is hampered. We did have a name structure course killed by a lawsuit in training. The overly litigious culture is a parasitic function of the left.

    1. We are rapidly getting to the point where every rifle squad will have a permanently assigned attorney to advise the squad leader on whether he should return enemy fire. It makes one wonder if we should send platoons of military lawyers to implement flawed counter-insurgency policies. Our society can only benefit from a high casualty rate among “combat lawyers.”

  3. I served in the Navy, in submarines for six years, but not in combat. No one of us should sit in judgement unless we have been subjected to the same chaos and stress being under enemy fire. Those who have placed their precious lives between us and the forces which would destroy us should be given every benefit of doubt.

    1. Well Jayhawk, in the cases Silver cited, those three men were in fact sitting in judgement as people who had experienced the "chaos and stress of being under enemy fire" and they felt those three men were guilty.

      These men were not convicted by a civilian court, rather they were tried under UCMJ military rules.

    2. Dave,

      A minor quibble with your comment. Only a minority of everyone in the military has experienced "chaos and stress of being under enemy fire."

      Odds are, the court martial panel and jury has people on it who have never experienced combat.

      Its a common mistake. A very small minority of people deployed actually engage in combat.

  4. Excellent post, Silver.

    The answer to your first question is self-evident. Are the ROE’s too strict? Yes.

    Is the US’ concept of war outdated? I think the answer to this question is a bit more complex. We are instructed, for example, that, “War is the realm of uncertainty; three quarters of the factors on which action is based are wrapped in a fog of greater or lesser uncertainty.” It is certainly true, but the complexity of warfare now extends from the field to the Presidential war room. This is unfortunate, and an evolution that has lasted for far too many years. Its effect is that our senior military leaders have become politicized to the point of atrophy. No senior military or naval officer has the courage to invite the NSC Staff to butt out of field operations.

    My conclusion (to widen the discussion) is that the fog of war now permeates our entire government and that the whole apparatus has become inundated with people who seek, not the interests of the nation as much as their own personal interests as owners of one piece of a complex series of the big picture. There are too many fingers in the pie, so to speak—and none of this benefits the soldier who must execute a flawed “national” interest.

    I simply do not comprehend a situation in which a field commander, who is mere minutes away from signaling the commencement of combat operations, is placed on hold waiting for presidential approval “to go” while NSC staffers (who haven’t a clue) argue about how the battle might unfold in the evening news.

    Warfare has changed, of course. It has transitioned from uniformed actors to non-sanctioned war fighters who dress in civilian attire (and sometimes, in women’s clothing) to conceal their lethal intent. These people pose an extreme threat to the soldier on patrol, who is a recipient of confusing instructions about winning the hearts and minds of the population —people who, for the most part, hates the soldier’s guts and would delight in his (and his comrade’s) violent demise. Counter-insurgency today is not the same thing that it was in South America in the 1920s. We have to ask, is it time to rethink counter-insurgency operations?

    Perhaps we’ve forgotten that the mission of the basic infantry unit is to locate, close with, and destroy the enemy by fire and maneuver. There is no mention in this essential mission statement of tucking anyone into bed with a glass of warm milk.

    So I will conclude by saying that the essential purpose of having a combat force is not outdated, but our justification for sending men (and now women) into harm’s way is stupid and irresponsible. Mr. Black is absolutely correct to say, “Military victory in Iraq or Afghanistan was never, in fact, a real possibility.” Winning hearts and minds is not an appropriate function of combat troops who are trained to destroy an enemy of the United States. More to the point, as to our current application of countering an insurgency, it is damned arrogant to imagine that US ground forces are able to change a 3,000 year old culture. It didn’t work in earlier conflicts, and there is no reason to believe that it would work (or has) in the more recent ones. If I was president, I would have a very difficult time accepting, at face value, anything a four-star officer told me.

    I apologize for the length of this comment.

    1. I don't think an apology is in order...this is a weighty subject and clear headed reasoning is in order, which you provided. That doesn't come about well in drive-by posts.

    2. I apologize for the length in advance....

      Sun Tzu was a Chinese general who is thought to have lived between 722 and 481 B.C.

      The period was a time of conflict between seven nations seeking to control all of China. It is said that Ho Lu, the King of Wu, tested Sun Tzu’s skills in military tactics by commanding him to train 180 concubines into soldiers.

      Perfect discipline and clarity of communication was the key to Sun Tzu’s success; as you can tell from recorded history.

      Sun Tzu divided the concubines into two companies and placed one of the King’s favorites at the head of each. He then bade them all take spears in their hands and addressed them thus:

      “I presume you know the difference between front and back, right hand and left hand?”

      The concubines replied: “Yes.” Sun Tzu went on:

      “When I say ‘Eyes front,’ you must look straight ahead. When I say ‘Left turn,’ you must face towards your left hand. When I say ‘Right turn,’ you must face towards your right hand. When I say ‘About turn,’ you must face right round towards your back.”

      Again the concubines assented. The words of command having been thus explained, he set up the halberds and battle-axes in order to begin the drill. Then, to the sound of drums, he gave the order “Right turn.” But they only burst out laughing. Sun Tzu said:

      “If words of command are not clear and distinct, if orders are not thoroughly understood, then the general is to blame.”

      So he started drilling them again, and this time gave the order “Left turn,” whereupon the concubines once more burst into fits of laughter. Once again Sun Tzu said:

      “If words of command are not clear and distinct, if orders are not thoroughly understood, the general is to blame. But if his orders are clear, and the soldiers nevertheless disobey, then it is the fault of their officers.”

      So after saying this, he ordered the leaders of the two groups be beheaded.

      Now the king of Wu was watching the scene from the top of a raised pavilion and when he saw that his favorite concubines were about to be executed, he was greatly alarmed and hurriedly sent down the message that he was satisfied with Sun Tzu’s command abilities. He went on to note that the execution of the two concubines would displease him. Sun Tzu replied:

      “Having once received His Majesty’s commission to be the general of his forces, there are certain commands of His Majesty which, acting in that capacity, I am unable to accept.”

      Accordingly, he had the two leaders beheaded and immediately installed the pair next in order as leaders in their place. When this had been done, the drum was sounded for the drill once more. The concubines then went through all the evolutions, turning to the right or to the left, marching ahead or wheeling back, kneeling or standing, with perfect accuracy and precision, not venturing to utter a sound. Then Sun Tzu sent a messenger to the King saying:

      “Your soldiers, Sire, are now properly drilled and disciplined, and ready for your majesty’s inspection. They can be put to any use that their sovereign may desire; bid them go through fire and water, and they will not disobey.”

      But the King replied that Sun Tzu should cease drilling and return to camp. The king said he had no wish to come down and inspect the troops. Thereupon Sun Tzu said:

      “The King is only fond of words and cannot translate them into deeds.”

      After that, King Ho Lu saw that Sun Tzu was one who knew how to handle an army and appointed him general.

    3. The "operative" point being: “Having once received His Majesty’s commission to be the general of his forces, there are certain commands of His Majesty which, acting in that capacity, I am unable to accept.”

    4. You now face a new world, a world of change. The thrust into outer space of the satellite, spheres and missiles marked the beginning of another epoch in the long story of mankind - the chapter of the space age. In the five or more billions of years the scientists tell us it has taken to form the earth, in the three or more billion years of development of the human race, there has never been a greater, a more abrupt or staggering evolution. We deal now not with things of this world alone, but with the illimitable distances and as yet unfathomed mysteries of the universe. We are reaching out for a new and boundless frontier. We speak in strange terms: of harnessing the cosmic energy; of making winds and tides work for us; of creating unheard synthetic materials to supplement or even replace our old standard basics; of purifying sea water for our drink; of mining ocean floors for new fields of wealth and food; of disease preventatives to expand life into the hundred of years; of controlling the weather for a more equitable distribution of heat and cold, of rain and shine; of space ships to the moon; of the primary target in war, no longer limited to the armed forces of an enemy, but instead to include his civil populations; of ultimate conflict between a united human race and the sinister forces of some other planetary galaxy; of such dreams and fantasies as to make life the most exciting of all time.

      And through all this welter of change and development your mission remains fixed, determined, inviolable. It is to win our wars. Everything else in your professional career is but corollary to this vital dedication. All other public purpose, all other public projects, all other public needs, great or small, will find others for their accomplishments; but you are the ones who are trained to fight.

      Yours is the profession of arms, the will to win, the sure knowledge that in war there is no substitute for victory, that if you lose, the Nation will be destroyed, that the very obsession of your public service must be Duty, Honor, Country.

      -Douglas MacArthur, May 12, 1962 @ West Point

    5. @Mustan - My drive by comment on your last post... Excellent, well reasoned, and spot on.

    6. We were discussing last week as to why Korea was the Forgotten War.
      It was not WW2, it was somewhere nobody could find on a map.
      Walter Cronkite was not showing video of it nightly on television.

    7. from the link above:

      NASSIM NICHOLAS TALEB: Let me take you back to the “Black Swan” and an idea I continued. In the “Black Swan,” I asked myself, “There are experts who are experts, and experts who aren’t. What marker is there? How would we know? We know very well that a pilot, a plane pilot, is an expert. Why, because there’s skin in the game, there’s some kind of contact with reality. A dentist is an expert. Your tailor is an expert. But you can never tell if an employee of the Federal Reserve Bank of the United States is an expert. As a matter of fact, I’m certain that they’re not experts. Economic forecasters, [but] they are not experts. So, they are what I call the “faux experts.”

      We know where they are. It’s very simply someone who makes a decision that doesn’t have visible consequences for the person to be affected. And that’s what I call the no-skin-in-the-game expert.

      PAUL SOLMAN: And it’s to the reaction against those experts that you attribute to Brexit and Donald Trump?

      NASSIM NICHOLAS TALEB: Yes, of that rise of the class of pseudo experts running our affairs.

      PAUL SOLMAN: My initial question was, “What black swans do you see now?” You said, ‘Hey, too many people with not enough skin in the game, is setting us up for…’ What?

      NASSIM NICHOLAS TALEB: For a riot, because people understand. They have the Web, they have Twitter, they have access.

      PAUL SOLMAN: What are they going to do?

      NASSIM NICHOLAS TALEB: They are rioting. They elected Trump, they are electing all these governments… There’s a riot against the class of over-educated, Harvard, Ivy-league, Cambridge, Oxford, Ecole Normale in France, this whole class of people is no longer going to be able to run our affairs… The system laden with debt and with pseudo experts will collapse eventually.

      PAUL SOLMAN: So, that’s the black swan, a collapse.

    8. ...or some REMF sitting in the White House Situation Room.

    9. Now where did I put my climate models...

    10. +++


      Thank you for this timely and excellent contribution.

  5. Can We The People do anything about this, and if so, what?

    No. We The People have been fooled into believing that ours is a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. In reality, the only purpose of “the people” is to cast their ballots every two years and remain silent in the interval. We have no influence on the executive branch, any member of congress except those for whom we vote, and/or no appointee or bureaucrat under whose thumb we thrive. We might have some influence over how our children are educated, (as opposed to how they are brainwashed) but so far, this hasn’t worked out to the benefit of our public education system —which is an oxymoron.

    There is probably no better argument for not joining the military services than the manner in which our government seeks to persecute soldiers for doing what they were trained and paid to do. Mere seconds does not leave a lot of room for "considered judgment."

    1. We train our forces to kill combatants....not unarmed detainees. That action is the hallmark of dishonorable coward who stain the uniform they wear.

    2. Learn to distinguish experts from pseudo-experts. Only believe those experts who have IMMINENT skin in the game. Ridicule/challenge those who don't.

      That goes double for judges sitting in Court Martial hearings.

    3. Truman may have relieved MacArthur of his command, but that doesn't mean that Truman was "right" in anything other than application of the Chain of Command. And any "disgrace" placed upon MacArthur upon being relieved would be "misplaced". He followed both his better military judgment AND orders from his superior.

    4. Truman's judgment wasn't restricted to a tactical or strategic military victory, as MacArthur's was.

    5. In other words, Cincinnatus returned/ retired to his farm.

    6. The Left see's Trump's attacks on the Intelligence Community as an assault on ALL experts... not an assault on the Deep State pseudo-experts who believe themselves (and only themselves) "qualified" to run America's business.

  6. Play stupid games, win stupid prizes. It's not our fault the enemy disguises suicide bomber guidance system factories as daycares.

  7. SCHIFF!

    Nothing but SCHIFF –– Piled High, –– Spread Wide, –– Knee-Deep, –– and STINKING.

    Brainwashed minions of the P-C Mentalty are certain to bring about our undoing with their imperious, stiff-necked, essentially-mindless self-righteous, posturing..

    SCHIFF on them – ALL of them.

    May they end their wretched arrogant lives BURIED in SCHIFF.


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