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Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Accidental Guerrilla

Full Title: The Accidental Guerrilla: Fighting Small Wars In The Midst Of A Big One.
Author: David Kilcullen
Publisher/ Location/ Date: Oxford University Press; New York, NY; 2009
Date of Review: August 11, 2009
Number of Pages: 306
Overall Letter Grade of Book: A+ Read this book if you really want to learn about COIN. Kilcullen book will be required reading for military officers for decades. You just think you know about how to defeat an insurgency, unless you have read this book.

1. P. XV, RE: the differences between CT and COIN. “Counter-terrorism, a discipline dating back from the early 1970’s, focuses on the enemy: the individual terrorist and the network of terrorist operatives…it is ‘enemy-centric’. On the other hand, classical counter-insurgency, a discipline that emerged in the 1950’s but has much older roots in imperial policing and colonial small wars, is ‘population-centric’ It focuses on the population, seeking to protect it from harm by—or interaction with— the insurgent, competing with the insurgent for influence and control at the grass roots level.”

2. P. XIX; RE: Takfiri. “The doctrine of Takfir disobeys the Qur’anic injunction against compulsion in religion (Sûrah al-Baqarah: 256) and instead holds that Muslims whose beliefs differ from the takfiris are infidels who must be killed. Takfirism is heresy within Islam: it was outlawed in the 2005 Amman Message, an initiative if King Abdullah II of Jordan, which brought together over 500 ‘ulema (Islamic scholars) and Muslim political leaders from the Organization of the Islamic Conference and the Arab League in an unprecedented consensus agreement. The term Salafi or Salafist refer to the belief that true Muslims should live like the first four generations of Muslims, the ‘pious ancestors’ (as-salaf-as-salih) Most extremists are salafi, but few salafi believers are takfiri, and even fewer are terrorists…”

3. P.2 RE: The Chinese book Chao Xian Zhan (Unrestricted Warfare) published by two senior colonels in the Chinese People’s Liberation Army. The key argument of the book is that Western countries, particularly the United States, had created a trap for themselves by their very dominance of conventional warfare. Confronting the United States in direct conventional combat would indeed be folly, but rather than eschewing conflict, other countries or even nonstate actors could defeat the superpower by …the “principle of addition”: combining direct combat with electronic, diplomatic, cyber, terrorist, proxy, economic, political, and propaganda systems.”

4. P. 15 RE: the U.S. role in helping to bring an end to the Israeli-Palestinian Crisis. “This cannot be “spin” : it demands genuine attempts to address legitimate grievances with regards to Israel/Palestine, Kashmir, Chechnya, Afghanistan and Iraq “Fundamental to counterinsurgency is an ability to undercut the insurgents’ appeal by discrediting their propaganda, exposing their motives, and convincing at-risk populations to voluntarily reject insurgent co-option and intimidation.”

5. P.21 “In some cases we have fought enemies we had no need to fight, and have chosen to fight simultaneously enemies we could have fought in sequence. We have, in other words signally failed to follow Frederick Hartmann’s strategic principle of “conservation of enemies”, which states that although enmity is a permanent feature in international relations, successful powers must avoid making, or simultaneously engaging, more enemies than absolutely necessary.

6. “For example, the 9/11 Commission estimated that the 9/11 attacks cost AQ between $400,000 and $ 500,000, plus the cost of training the 19 hijackers in the United States before the attack. This would make the 9/11 attacks the most expensive terrorist attack in history but when one considers that the attacks inflicted a direct cost of $27.2 billion on the United States, and that subsequent operation in the “War on Terrorism” have cost about $700 billion to mid-2008, it is clear that that the cost of the attack to America has vastly outweighed its cost to AQ.”

7. P. 40 RE: a battle of Army Special Forces vs. Taliban on May 19, 2006 in Uruzgan Afghanistan which highlights the “Accidental Guerrilla” phenomenon. “The most intriguing thing about this battle was not the Taliban, though; it was the behavior of the local people. One reason the patrol was so cut off was that its retreat, back down the only road along the valley floor, was cut off by a group of farmers who had been working in the fields and seeing the ambush begin, rushed home to fetch their weapons and join in. Three nearby villages participated, with people coming from as far away as 5 kilometers away; spontaneously marching to the sound of the gun. There is no evidence that the locals cooperated directly with the Taliban; indeed, it seems they had no direct political reason to get involved in the fight (several, questioned afterward, said they had no love for the Taliban and were generally well-disposed towards the Americans in the area). But, they said, when the battle was right there in front of them how could they not join in? Did we understand just how boring it was to be a teenager in a valley in central Afghanistan? This was the most exciting thing that had happened in their valley in years. It would have shamed them to stand by and wait it out, they said.”

8. P 52. … “A classical Maoist protracted warfare strategy. A Maoist approach seeks victory through a displacement strategy of building what classical counterinsurgency theorists call ‘parallel hierarchies’— a competitive system of control tantamount to a guerrilla counter-state in permanently liberated area— which then spread across the country and seek to defeat the government in, eventually, a relatively conventional war of maneuver. Rather, the Taliban appears to be applying an exhaustion strategy of sapping the energy, resources, and support if the Afghan government…”

9. P. 54 RE: Taliban organization: “a main force of full-time guerrillas who travel from valley to valley, and a part-time network of villagers who cooperate with the main force when it is in their area…Thus we need to induce local tribal and community leaders who have the respect and tribal loyalty of part-time elements to ‘wean’ them away from loyalty to the main force Taliban.” “Clearly, the weakest motivational links within the Taliban confederation are those that are based on the accidental guerrilla syndrome…and draw local part-time fighters to fight alongside the main force when it is in their area. Local security measures such as neighborhood watch groups and auxiliary police units, creation of alternative organizations and life-pathways (including jobs and social networks) for young men, protection from Taliban intimidation, and alternative economic activities are potential approaches to detaching these individuals from main force influence.”

10. P 59. Regarding propaganda, the Taliban have shown skill in using word of mouth and rumor, and in ‘pitching’ local officials using a combination of coercion and persuasion. These skills equate to what is classically known as ‘armed propaganda’. One good example of this is the use of ‘night letters’ (shabnamah). Taliban leaders have pressured local farmers in several provinces (Helmand, Uruzgan, Kandahar, and elsewhere) to grow poppy instead of other crops, using night-time threats and intimidation to punish those who resist and to convince waverers to convert.”

11. P. 60. “Fighting will be necessary, and cannot be avoided: counterinsurgency is not peacekeeping, and there is no known method of conducting it without using armed force to kill or capture insurgents. But as the classical counterinsurgency theorist Bernard B. Fall pointed out, a government that is losing to an insurgency is not being outfought, it is being out governed.

12. P. 64. “The same approach has been suggested by the Senlis Council, an NGO that has argued for the legalization of opium cultivation in Afghanistan. After examining this proposal in detail, I believe the money paid to farmers would still find its way (through landowners and creditors, extortion and intimidation) to the Taliban, thus this approach would probably be ineffective, on balance, in a counterinsurgency sense. The Taliban would still get their funding, but from us…In any case, since the value of the crop as paid to farmers is $800 million, purchasing the crop every year would be an extremely expensive proposition, potentially unsustainable over the long run.”

13. “It is extremely important, in analyzing an insurgency, to be able to put oneself in the shoes of local community leaders. In insurgencies and other forms of civil war, community leaders and tribal elders find themselves in a situation of terrifying uncertainty, with multiple armed actors,—insurgents, militias, warlords, the police and military, terrorist cells-competing for their loyalty and threatening with violence unless they comply. They tend to seek what we might call “survival through certainty” attempting to identify consistent rules they can follow in order to keep their people safe…Thus the natural tendency of the Afghan people is to triangulate between the government and the Taliban— phenomena known in civil war literature as attentisme, free riding, or simply ‘fence-sitting’.”

14. P. 69. “The equivalent of ‘exploitation’ in counterinsurgency is rapid follow-up with humanitarian and economic assistance, and rapid establishment of long- term security measures to protect the population and to confirm them in their decision to support the government.”

15. P.71. RE: the full-spectrum strategy of road-building in Kunar. “—an approach I call ‘political maneuver’—to separate insurgents from the people, win local allies, connect the population with the government, build local governance capacity, modify and improve government behavior, swing tribes that had supported the insurgency to the government’s side, and thereby generate progress across the four principal dimensions of counterinsurgency (security, governance, development, information). The road itself matters less than the construction process, which helps focus and organize a broader security strategy.”

16. P. 75. “Akbar Ahmed, the famous anthropologist, diplomat, and former political agent of Waziristan, described the key institutions of Pashtun ideal-type behavior (known as Pashtunwali, ‘acting like a true Pashtun’) as courage (tora), revenge(badal), hospitality (melmastia), generosity to a defeated enemy (nanawati), and heeding the voice of the jirga, the tribal assembly. He also considers taboorwali (cousin or agnatic rivalry) and tor (literally ‘black’) the protection of women’s honor, a concept roughly equivalent to that ‘ird in Arab society) as key additional institutions.” “… (a hallmark characteristic of tribes as distinct from peasants) through violent resistance rather than withdrawal: desert tribes run, mountain tribes fight.”

17. P. 86. “Unlike Maoist protracted warfare, however, Taliban fighters tend to adopt the ‘focoist’ strategy popularized by Ché Guevara and later Régis Debray, according to which the presence of a roving armed band is supposed to arouse opposition to the government and ultimately instigate a popular uprising or revolution through inspirational violence.”

18. P.92 RE: The road building projects in Kunar. “ The PRT operates a ’10-kilometer rule’ which stipulates that 80 percent of unskilled labor on any project has to come from within 10 kilometers of it—this helps build community jobs and ownership over projects, and gives the people a stake in defending them against the enemy…”

19. P.93 “General John ‘Mick’ Nicholson…based his strategy on the delivery of four key operational effects: securing the people, separating them from the enemy, helping them to choose their own local leaders, and connecting them to the government via those leaders.”

20. P.94 RE: LTC Chris Cavoli, battalion commander of 1-32 Infantry in the Kunar valley 2005-2006 idea of persistent-presence. “The U.S. isn’t going away tonight and leaving the [village] elders to cope with the Taliban on their own. This forces the enemy’s hand. He cannot abide that much contact between the government and the people while he has almost none—staying out of towns while we’re in them would render him irrelevant to the people, a fate worse than death for insurgents. Therefore, he has to dislodge us; therefore, he comes to us to fight; but now when he gets there, the whole fight is constructed physically, visually, rhetorically to put him at a military and informational disadvantage.

21. P.112 “…if we can brush the enemy out of the way, marginalize them politically, root out insurgent infrastructure, and make local communities self-defending, we can inoculate the Afghan population against the Taliban and prevent their return.”

22. P. 152. “In a sense, U.S. secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld was partially correct in 2003 when, during press conferences on the Iraq War he denied that the enemy was an insurgency and rejected the media’s comparison of the campaign with Vietnam.” Iraq differed from Vietnam because of a host of several traumatic events all happening simultaneously…trying to defeat the Viet Cong (insurgency)… rebuilding Germany (nation-building following war and dictatorship) keeping peace in the Balkans (communal and sectarian conflict) and defeating the IRA (domestic terrorism)”

23. P. 181 RE: How many troops does it take to quell an insurgency? “And as Robert Thompson pointed out more than 40 years ago, force ration in counterinsurgency is an indicator of progress, mot a prerequisite for it. You know things are starting to go your way when local people start joining your side against the enemy, thus indicating a growth of popular support, and changing the force ratio as a result. Merely adding additional foreign troops cannot compensate for a lack of popular support— the British lost the Cyprus campaign with a force ratio of 110 to 1 in their favor, while in the same decade the Indonesians defeated Dar’ ul Islam with a force ratio that never exceeded 3 to 1, by building partnerships with communities and employing them as village neighborhood watch groups, in cordon tasks, and on support functions.

24. RE: what is a weakness in the Army’s approach to COIN. “First Army operations have been enemy-focused, aimed at hunting down and killing or capturing key enemy personnel (high value targets; HVTs) and attacking armed insurgents in the field…Protecting and winning over the population are strictly secondary to the aim of destroying the insurgents. This is contrary to best-practice counterinsurgency, which is to focus on the population—an approach that, counter intuitively, has been shown to produce quicker, more effective results than targeting insurgents directly.

Friday, August 7, 2009

U.S. Squandering Opportunities in Afghanistan

Why the Defense and State Department’s Recent Decision to Turn a Blind Eye Toward Opium Production is a Bad Move.
Last month after members of the Associated Press asked Richard Holbrooke, the U.S. Special envoy to Afghanistan, about his thoughts regarding the Bush-era policies of destroying opium fields, he responded bluntly, “Eradication is a waste of money.” It is hard to find a more courageously candid diplomat than our current man in Afghanistan, and although I agree with Holbrooke’s eye-opening assessment, I believe we can do better than his current policy of ignoring the opium problem and channeling all of our energy toward fighting the Taliban and al-Qaeda forces. Instead of simply looking the other way, the U.S. should pursue a bold counter-drug strategy directly; one which would isolate the insurgency and reap a whirlwind of additional benefit back here at home.
Under the Bush-era regime, the U.S. Defense Department spent an estimated $45 million dollars annually destroying the Afghan opium crop. That strategy proved largely ineffective at reducing the overall revenue the Taliban garnered from converting the raw opium paste into fine powdered heroin, whereupon they sold the refined product to other criminal organizations who then moved it through central Asia and onto destinations in Russia, Europe and the Americas. In fact, according to the 2009 World Drug Report, issued by the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime, Afghan opium production has actually increased by approximately one thousand metric tons each year since the U.S. invasion in 2001, from roughly 3,000 MT in 2002 to almost 8,000 MT last year.
Further compounding the problem of our futile effort to stanch the flow of the illegal drug, the process of destroying the opium fields has driven a wedge between the local Afghan population and their own nascent government because much of the land belongs to impoverished farmers who earn four times as much money cultivating opium than wheat. The resulting distrust and dislike that the Afghans feel towards their elected officials reduces the ability of those leaders to govern effectively after we eventually pull our troops out of the country. In addition to upsetting the farmers, the crop eradication program also alienated many other small businesses such as truck drivers, and merchants who rely on the subsidiary industry which supports the opium trade. Ironically, during the early days of the war against the Taliban and al-Qaeda forces, the U.S. military courted many of those same people as our potential allies; people who knew the terrain well and helped us to identify key enemy targets. Unfortunately, during the crop-eradication program of the last administration we turned our back on those people in our zeal to destroy their opium crop. That shortsighted policy only served to fuel more anti-American sentiment throughout the four main opium producing provinces of Southeast Afghanistan —the same contested areas where the majority of U.S. and NATO personnel have been killed.
Today, the U.S. has a rare opportunity to reverse all of those previous blunders and simultaneously drive a stake through the heart of the heroin trade; a pernicious and destructive social force which has devastated our inner cities and proven impossible to eliminate. According to the UNODC, Afghanistan is the world’s leading source if opium, cultivating 93 percent of the world’s entire supply of the heroin producing crop. It is hard to imagine a commodity that has fewer sources, even rare minerals such as gold or diamonds can be found in various regions throughout the world. The limited area of production of opium should make it easy for the U.S. to corner the market in opium. Yes, that’s right; I’m suggesting that the United States get into the business of buying drugs. As radical as that sounds initially, there are actually some very sound reasons for this audacious plan. 1) The cost of buying the opium at its source (and subsequently destroying it in situ) is still much less expensive than attempting to interdict it coming into the U.S. once it has left Afghanistan. We could purchase the entire 2009 Opium crop, predicted to be over 8,000 MT, for about $90 million dollars, or roughly less than one third the cost of an F-22 fighter aircraft. 2) Once we recover the 2009 crop, we could then convert portions of the raw opium into pharmaceutical grade pain killers, which are often some of the most expensive medicines available, and distribute those products free of costs to patients at U.S. hospitals. 3) By purchasing the entire 2009 opium crop the U.S. would therefore deprive the Taliban of their main source of revenue, an estimated $50- $70 million dollars annually. That is money that would not be available for them to finance the killing of our warfighters in Afghanistan, or used to fund other acts of terrorism around the world. 4) The opium straw, all portions of the plant except the poppy, could also be converted into bio-fuel diesel, potentially creating other jobs and further reducing the cost of our military operations throughout the region. 5) Despite the tremendous benefits of all of these ideas, perhaps the best reason to pursue this course of action is because it would reduce the amount of U.S. citizens addicted to one of the most dangerous narcotics known to man.
The road ahead for American foreign policy in Afghanistan is not an easy one; it is fraught with unforeseen perils and other hidden expenses. As long as we retain a fighting force in that country the U.S. is certain to lose more blood and treasure in the process of establishing a better government for the people of Afghanistan. Now is the time to minimize those loses by implementing a grand strategy to reduce opium, isolate our enemy, and bring some of the benefits of our noble sacrifices back home.

The author, Joel Z. Williams writes frequently about topics related to counter-insurgency and warfare. Mr. Williams is a 2006 graduate of Missouri State University and currently works for the Springfield-Greene County Library District.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Book Review of Jesus Interrupted

Book Highlights and Notes

Book’s Full Title: Jesus Interrupted: Revealing Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (and Why We Don’t Know about Them).

Author: Bart D. Ehrman, Professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. PhD from Princeton, MA from Moody Bible College.

Publisher/ Location/ Date: Harper One—New York, NY.—2009.

Date of Review: July 26, 2009

Number of Pages: 292

Overall Letter Grade of Book: B+; the best thing about this book is that it is easy to read and written in a very conversational tone. The author is extremely knowledgeable about the subject matter, yet he manages to convey the central ideas without being didactic. However, the book lacked precision and organization; for example, many of the same ideas were repeated several times, (especially the idea about when the Gospels were actually written).

1. P.9 “The creation account in Genesis 1 is very different from the account in Genesis 2. Not only is the wording and writing style different, as is very obvious when you read the text in Hebrew, but they use two different names to refer to God.” Other differences are: “Are plants created before humans or afterwards? Are animals created before humans, as in chapter 1, or after, as in chapter 2? Is man the first living thing to be created or the last? Is woman created at the same time as man or separately?” “When Noah takes the animals on the ark, does he take seven pairs of all the “clean” animals as Genesis 7:2 states, or just two pairs, as Genesis 7:9-10 indicates?”

2. RE: the barbarity of the Old Testament. “There are places where the text seems to embrace a view that seems unworthy of God or his people. Are we really to think of God as someone who orders the wholesale massacre of an entire city? In Joshua 6, God orders the soldiers of Israel to attack the city of Jericho and to slaughter every man, woman and child in the city. I suppose that it makes sense that God would not want bad influences in his people—but does he really think murdering all if the toddlers and infants is necessary to that end? What do they have to do with wickedness?” “Or what is one to make of Psalm 137, one of the most beautiful Psalms, which starts out with the memorable lines ‘By the rivers of Babylon—there we sat down and there we wept, when we remembered Zion.’ “Here is a powerful reflection by a faithful Israelite who longs to return to Jerusalem, which had been destroyed by the Babylonians. But his praise of God, and his holy city takes a vicious turn at the end, when he plots his revenge on God’s enemies: ‘Happy shall they be who take your [Babylonian] little ones, and dash them against the rock.’ Knocking the brains out of the Babylonian babies in retaliation for what their father-soldiers did? Is this in the Bible?”

3. P. 20 “Whereas the New Testament, consisting of twenty-seven books, was written by maybe sixteen or seventeen authors over a period of seventy years, the Old Testament, the Jewish Scriptures, consists of thirty-nine books written by dozens of authors over at least six hundred years.”

4. P.20 “Why is it that casual, and even avid readers of the Bible, never detect these discrepancies, some of which may seem obvious once they are pointed out?… because they are reading the Bible “vertically” from the beginning of one chapter to the end of it, as opposed to reading “horizontally” that is to say, they are not comparing the similarities and disparities between the books side-by side.”

5. P. 22 RE: the differences in the story of Jesus’ cleansing of the temple. “In Mark 11 it happens a week before Jesus dies,[whereas] in John 2 it is the first public event of his three year ministry.”

6. P. 25 “Mark was probably the first Gospel to be written. Scholars have long thought that it was produced about thirty-five or forty years after Jesus’ death, possibly around 65 or 70 CE.”

7. P. 26 RE: irreconcilable differences in the Passover stories of the Gospels. “Noon? On the Day of Preparation for the Passover? How can that be? In Mark’s Gospel Jesus lived through that day, had his disciples prepare the Passover meal, and ate it with them before being arrested, taken to jail for the night, tried the next morning, and executed at nine-o’clock A.M. on the Passover day. But not in John, Jesus dies a day earlier, on the Day of Preparation for the Passover, sometime after noon.”

8. P. 35 RE: Why the Gospel authors “made” Jesus be born in Bethlehem as opposed to Nazareth. “What historical critics have long said about these Gospel accounts is that they both are trying to the same two points: that Jesus’ mother was a virgin and that he was born in Bethlehem. And why did he have to be born in Bethlehem? Matthew hits the nail on the head: there is a prophecy in the Old Testament book of Micah that a savior would come from Bethlehem…home of King David, royal ancestor of the Messiah.”

9. P. 36 If Jesus’ mother is a virgin, Joseph is not Jesus’ father. But that creates an obvious problem. If Jesus is not a blood-relation to Joseph, why is it that Matthew and Luke trace Jesus’ bloodline precisely through Joseph, and not Mary, as she is obviously more related to him by blood?

10. P. 48 “In one aspect of the resurrection narratives there is little debate: it appears that the final twelve verses of Mark’s Gospel are not original to Mark’s Gospel but were added by a scribe in a later generation. Mark ended his Gospel at what is now 16:8, with the women fleeing the tomb and not telling anyone what they had seen. In my discussion, I accept the scholarly consensus that verses 16:9-21 were a later addition to the Gospel. Most modern Bible translations put them in brackets with the footnote that they are not the original ending. [They are not found in the oldest and best manuscripts. The writing style and vocabulary are unlike anything found elsewhere, and the transition from verse 8-9 does not make sense when read in the Greek.]”

11. P. 136 “ A large number of books written in the early church were written by authors who falsely claimed to be apostles in order to deceive their readers into accepting their books and the views they represented. This view that the New Testament contains books written under false names is taught at virtually all the major institutions of higher learning except strongly evangelical schools throughout the Western world…why is it that the person in the pew-not to mention the person on the street-knows nothing about this? Your guess is as good as mine.”

12. P. 145 Re: when was the Bible written? “It appears that the Gospel writers know about certain historical events, such as the destruction of Jerusalem in the year 70 CE (possibly Mark, in 13:1; almost certainly Luke, on 21:20-22). That implies that these Gospels were probably written after the year 70.” (Or at least 40 years after Jesus’ death if he died when he was 30)

13. P 148 “What do Greek and Roman sources have to say about Jesus?...the answer is breathtaking. They have absolutely nothing to say about him. He is never discussed, challenged, attacked, maligned, or talked about in any way in any surviving pagan source of the period…and we have a lot of Greek and Roman sources from this period: religious scholars, historians, philosophers, poets, natural scientists; we have thousands of private letters; we have inscriptions placed on buildings in public places. In no first-century Greek or Roman (pagan) source is Jesus mentioned.”

14. P. 172 Re: the likelihood of syncretism of other contemporary stories into the myth of Jesus. “In Jesus’ day there were lots of people who allegedly performed miracles. There were Jewish holy men such as Hanina ben Dosa and Honi the circle drawer. There were pagan holy men such as Apollonius of Tyana, a philosopher who could allegedly heal the sick, cast out demons, and raise the dead. He was allegedly supernaturally born and at the end of his life, he allegedly ascended to heaven. Sound familiar?”

15. Re: The Letter of Barnabas, often attributed to a close apostle of Paul but actually is a virulently and unashamedly anti-Jewish treatise written by an anonymous author about seventy years after both Paul and Barnabas died…It is found in our earliest complete manuscript of the New Testament, known as the Codex Sinaiticus, dating from the middle of the fourth century…Its overarching theme is that Jews are not the people of God because they rejected the covenant that God made with Moses on mount Sinai, for down below they were making and worshipping the golden calf, As a result, God rejected them. The laws he gave Moses were misinterpreted by the Jewish people, who were not the covenantal people at all. And they are still misinterpreted by them since they think the laws given to Moses were meant to be taken literally. They were actually symbolic laws meant to direct people how to live. For example, the prohibition on eating pork did not mean that one could not eat pork; it really meant not to live like pigs. Moreover, according to Barnabas these laws look forward to Jesus, whose followers are the true people of God.”

16. P. 215 Re: Walter Bauer’s landmark 1934 book, Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earliest Christianity. “But Bauer’s basic portrayal of Christianity’s earliest centuries appears to be correct. There were lots of early Christian groups. They all claimed to be right. They all had books to back up their claims, books allegedly written by the apostles and therefore representing the views of Jesus and his first disciples. The group that [ultimately] won out did not represent the teachings of Jesus or his apostles. For example, none of the apostles claimed that God was ‘fully God and fully man’, or that he was ‘begotten and not made, of one substance with the Father’ as the fourth century Nicene Creed maintained. The victorious group called itself orthodox. (from Greek ortho-right and doxa-method) But it was not the original form of Christianity, and it its victory only after many hard-fought battles.”

17. P. 281 “I have a young friend whose evangelical parents were upset because she wanted to get a tattoo, since the Bible, after all, condemns tattoos. In the same book, Leviticus, the bible also condemns wearing clothing of two different kinds of fabric and eating pork. And it indicates that children that disobey their parents are to be stoned to death. Why insist on the biblical teaching about tattoos but not about dress shirts, pork chops, and stoning?”

Monday, July 20, 2009

Book Review and Highlights of Descent into Chaos

Book’s Full Title: Descent Into Chaos: The United States and the Failure of Nation Building in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Central Asia.
Author: Ahmed Rashidi
Publisher/ Location/ Date: Viking, New York, NY; 2008
Date of Review: July 18, 2009
Number of Pages: 404 pages.
Overall Letter Grade of Book: A+ This book is sui generis (constituting a class of its own)

1. P. XL “With a population of 175 million, Pakistan is the fifth largest country in the world…separatist movements in the provinces of Balochistan and Sindh…could divide the nation, just as ethnic nationalism did in 1971, when East Pakistan became Bangladesh.”

2. P LII “When General Musharraf carried out his coup in 1999, he did not bother to get in touch with the U.S. ambassador in Islamabad, but instead telephoned Gen. Anthony Zinni, the CENTCOM chief at the time.”

3. P. 125 “In the spring of 2002, some forty American U.S. Special Operations Forces and CIA agents were ensconced in a huge, white-domed marble palace perched on a hill overlooking the city of Heart, in Western Afghanistan. The palace had been lent to them by the warlord Ishmael Khan. At the bottom of the hill was the Iranian consulate and farther along were the offices of the paramilitary Sipah-e-Pasadran, or Army of God, extremists who were loyal to Iran’s fundamentalist supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, and who tended to ignore the moderate government of President Mohammad Khatami. The team on the hill was concerned about al Qaeda leaders escaping to Iran through Herat.”

4. P. 125 “Iran had gone from being a “good and helpful interlocutor during the Bonn talks” to being demonized and labeled as a member of the “Axis of Evil” along with North Korea and Iraq by President Bush in his infamous January 2002 State if the Union speech.”

5. P. 127 Re: U.S. cooperation with Afghani drug warlord Ismael Khan. “Khan’s source of income made him especially important. He earned between three and five million dollars every month in customs revenue from the crossing point at Islam Qila, on the Iran-Afghanistan border. Here every day hundreds of trucks arrived loaded with Japanese tires, Iranian fuel, secondhand European cars, cooking gas cylinders from Turkmenistan, and consumer goods from the Arabian Gulf. Khan refused to share any of his income, let alone hand it over to the central government. The most powerful and richest warlords commanded border posts with Pakistan, Iran, or Central Asia, where they could gather customs duties, but none earned as much as Ismael Khan.”

6. P.127 Re: the rise of the Taliban due to the excesses of the warlords who came into power during the civil war of the 1990’s and subsequently divided the country (Afghanistan) into fiefdoms. “Often rapacious, corrupt and ruthless, they (the warlords) hired large militias that terrorized the population but also kept a kind of peace…Afghans hated them most because , invariably, they were the cat’s paw for neighboring countries. In fact, the Taliban’s initial popularity with the Afghan people had come from the group’s hatred of the warlords.”

7. P. 128 Re: Who had let Bin Laden escape from Tora Bora? “In the east, Abdul Qadir, the governor of Nangarhar province, and the brother of slain commander Abdul Haq, had received lavish CIA funding during the war to mobilize thousands of Pashtun fighters against the Taliban. Yet he failed even to clear the strategic road between Jalalabad and Kabul of bandits…Qadir’s control of four eastern provinces—Nangarhar, Laghman, Nuristan and Kunar—was fiercely contested by Hazrat Ali, thirty-eight, a small-time tribal leader directly recruited by the CIA and now elevated to warlord. Hazrat Ali belonged to the Pashai ethnic minority, whom the Pashtuns considered an underclass, so inadvertently he became the symbol of Pashai assertion. Barley able to write his own name he was given so much money by the CIA that he quickly created an eighteen-thousand-strong militia. At Tora Bora his men had allowed bin Laden to escape.”

8. P. 131 Re: the daunting tasks faced by the new transitional government. “Afghanistan’s first Human Development Report, compiled in 2004, showed the extent of public suffering. The country ranked 172nd out of the 178 countries on the UN Development Programme’s Human Development Index, effectively tying for last place with several African countries. Easily preventable epidemics such as measles, flu, and even diarrhea were killing thousands of people every month, while fifteen thousand women died every year from pregnancy related illnesses. The country had the highest infant mortality in the world with 165 infants out of 1,000 dying at birth, while 250, or a quarter, died before they reached the age of five. Life expectancy for women was just forty-four years, one less than for men. As a result, Afghanistan had the youngest population in the world, with 57 percent under age eighteen. Multiple generations of adults had not had any education and had known only war.”

9. P. 130 “in March 2002, Robert Finn was appointed as the first U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan since 1992. Finn had spent the last ten years in war zones and spoke fifteen different languages, including all the Central Asian tongues. He belonged to the school of diplomacy were expertise, knowledge and intellectual interest in the countries were you worked were considered vital, as compared to the neoconservatives who considered the CIA and intelligence gathering the epitome of success in nation building.”

10. P 137 Re: Bush’s reversal on nation building. “Then on April 17, in a speech given at the Virginia Military Institute, where Gen. George Marshall once trained, Bush surprised everyone by calling for a “Marshall Plan” for Afghanistan…this sudden U-turn, a result of the State Department and Colin Powell trying to regain a grip on policy, caused immense excitement in Kabul.”

11. P. 317 Re: how the Taliban justified opium production. “In the summer of 1997, Abdul Rashid, the head of the Taliban’s so-called counter-narcotics force in Kandahar, patiently explained to me his unique job—banning farmers from growing hashish while allowing them to grow and produce opium, even though the Koran forbids Muslims to take any intoxicants. Rashid explained the dichotomy succinctly: ‘Opium is permissible because it is consumed by kafirs [unbelievers] in the West and not by Afghans, but hashish is consumed by Afghans and Muslims,’ he said with a self- satisfied smile…yet there was a more practical reason why opium was cultivated. ‘There would be an uprising against the Taliban if we forced farmers to stop poppy cultivation’.”

12. P. 318 Re: Heroin.“From cabbage-like plants with a bright red flower…which takes only four months to mature and requires little water and care… the raw opium would be slapped into a cake and kept wet in plastic bags until the local drug dealer arrived. It would then be sent to makeshift laboratories in the mountains where, with the help of a few readily available precursor chemicals, the dark brown paste would be turned into a fine white powder— heroin. Ten kilograms of opium paste produces one kilogram of heroin. For Khan it was the cheapest and fastest cash crop to grow, giving a good return, and could be stored for several years if the price dropped.

13. P. 321 Re: the difficulties in stopping farmers from growing such a lucrative cash crop as opium. Numbers and facts are from an interview the author conducted with Bernard Frahi at the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime UNODC, regional chief in Islamabad. For an article in the author’s paper-The Daily Telegraph entitled “Flood of Afghan Heroin Expected” September 26, 2001. “Britain became the lead nation in developing a counter-narcotics strategy. It had a vested interest because 98 percent of the Heroin on London streets came from Afghanistan. Its intelligence service MI6 suggested buying the entire 2002 opium harvest from farmers. The Foreign Office objected and the plan was dropped in favor of compensating farmers for destroying their crop—a plan that was disastrous when implemented. Farmers were paid cash for eradicating their crop at the rate of $1,250 to $1,500 per hectare. MI6 and British commandos handed over cash to governors and police chiefs in the provinces to pay the farmers. The program which cost more than $80 million, was mired in massive corruption as Afghan officials distributed the money to their tribes or clans, who took the cash but failed to eradicate the crop. Other farmers used the money to increase cultivation, while thousands of others who did eradicate their crop received nothing. A huge piece of the money ended up in the war chests of the warlords. The opium harvest for 2002 had leaped to $3,400 tons, from 185 tons the previous year. Farmers earned an estimated $13,000 from a hectare of land under poppy cultivation versus $400 from a hectare under wheat.”

14. P131 Helmand province, the center of the drug trade, roughly the size of Wales with a population of about one million. In the 1960s, USAID hired Morrison-Knudsen, the same engineering firm that built the Hoover Dam in the U.S. to dam the Helmand River and to construct over 300 miles of irrigation canals to provide the water essential for agriculture in the Helmand Valley. The project was hugely successful and created 250,000 acres of arable land out of the desert.

15. P. 331 “The five Central Asian republics provide a major gateway for Afghan opium to Russia and Europe. All five states are weak, undermined by dictatorship and underdevelopment, and heroin has become an important means for the small, corrupt ruling elites there to enrich themselves. Meanwhile, intravenous drug use in the region is fueling some of the fastest-growing HIV/AIDS rates in the world.”

16. P. 398 Re: the Taliban and al Qaeda’s stepped-up pressure to influence popular opinion. “The Taliban also seemed to be winning the propaganda war. Tens of thousands of tapes and DVDs produced by the media outlets Omat [Nation] Productions and Manbaul-Jihad (Source of Jihad) were sold for a few pennies in the bazaars of Pakistan and Afghanistan. Al Qaeda’s own production company, al-Sahab, issued eighty-nine messages in 2007, one every three days, or double the rate it had issued them in 2006.”

17. P. 399 Re: the problem of endemic corruption in Afghanistan. “Corruption alone was creating enormous misgivings among the people and making Karzai hugely unpopular. ‘If nothing is done about corruption, Afghanistan’s development prospects will be severely threatened and undermined,’ warned William Byrd of the World Bank. ‘Corruption is profoundly inimical to state building.’ Moreover, in 2008 the World Bank estimated that up to 30 percent of all aid was being wasted by the donors.” (See Anthony Cordesman, “The Missing Metrics of Progress in Afghanistan and Pakistan”, Center for Strategic and International Studies, CSIS).

18. P. 400 Re: Afghanistan’s natural resources. “The U.S. Geological Survey showed that Afghans were sitting on a gold mine of natural resources, with huge deposits of copper, iron, gold, coal, gemstones, gas, and oil. Undiscovered petroleum reserves in Northern Afghanistan range from 3.6 to 36.5 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, whole estimates of oil range from 0.4 to 3.6 billion barrels.” (According to an August 3, 2006, report entitled “Afghanistan’s Energy Future” written by analyst Stephen Blank at EurasiaNet.org).

Thursday, June 18, 2009

More German Club Pics From Harlow's Bar in Downtown Springfield MO

The German Club at Harlow's in Springfield MO

The author Joel Z. Williams (with hat), Kelli, Diane (in black), and Professor Steven Trobisch at Harlow's in central Springfield MO.

Prof Trobisch is an expert in Modern and Classical Languages which he teaches at the nearby Missouri State University (My alma mater). On Thursday nights for the last ten years, Prof Trobisch has convined a ragtag assemblage of students, local barflys and other people to discuss politics, tell tasteless jokes and other fun stuff over pitchers of beer. (or Dr. Pepper for us non-drinkers)

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Flamingo

Here is a picture I took June 7, 2009 in Chicago's Federal Plaza of the artist Alexander Calder's 1973 piece (which weighs 50 tons). The color of this beautiful masterpiece is officially called vermillion, but orange-red is close enough.
This piece is absolutely stunning when standing underneath its expansive flukes!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Ripples of Battle Summary Crib Notes

Book Title: Ripples of Battle: How Wars of the Past Still Determine How we Fight, How we Live, and how we Think.
Author: Victor Davis Hanson
Publisher: Doubleday
Year: 2003
Date Reviewed: May 25, 2009
Overall Grade: A+ This is a great book, and Hanso is a gifted writer. If you can only read one book about warfare this year, make it this one.

1. April 1 through July 2, 1945 Approximately 4 months or 120 days.

2. Hanson is a Professor of Classics at UC Fresno. He is also a conservative hawk who fervently supported the invasion of Iraq.

3. P. 38. Hanson argues that the real lessons of the Japanese kamikaze attacks of WWII ( October 25, 1944-April 1945) as well as the terrorist hijackings of 9/11 is not that a military backward and technologically inferior foe could inflict damage to a vulnerable Western society. But that the introduction of suicidal warfare has the opposite effect on American society… instead of frightening the West into submission, the cadres of suicidal warriors “unshackled” the average American from their natural ethical and moral restraints and allowed them to consider using the most terrifying weaponry to defeat a foe that had crossed the line into barbarity.

4. P.45 although the Japanese kikusui (floating chrysanthemums) kamikaze wave attacks sunk scores of American warships, not a single capital ship (fleet carrier or battleship) was sunk. The kamikaze’s real effect (as well as the fanatic Japanese troops fighting on Okinawa) was to have consequences on the way the American military dealt with Asians in Korea, and Vietnam.

5. P.45. the sacrifice of the 3,913 American-documented kamikaze attacks was in vain. Much like the destruction left by the 9/11 hijackers the actual damage they caused was then visited on their host nations many times over. If anything, they just exacerbated the situation. “But again, what those who crash airplanes in the past and present alike failed to grasp was also the deadly repercussions that arose from their explosions. Suicide bombings strike at the very psyche of the Western mind that is repelled by religious fanaticism and the authoritarianism, or perhaps the despair, of such enemies—confirming that wars are not just misunderstandings over policy or the reckless actions of a deranged leader, but accurate reflections of fundamental differences in culture and society. In precisely the same way as kamikazes off Okinawa lead to A-bombs, so too jumbo jets exploding at the World Trade Center were the logical pre-cursors to daisy-cutters, bunker-busters, and thermobaric bombs in Afghanistan—as an unleashed America resounded with a terrible fury not seen or anticipated since 1945.”

6. P. 45-46. “The Western world publicly objected to the Israeli plunge into the Jenin refugee camp in April 2002 and its purported destruction of the civilian infrastructure—but much of it also privately sighed, ‘Such are the wages for suicide –murderers who blow up children in Tel Aviv.’ “If it is true that moral pretensions at restraint are the ultimate brakes on the murderous Western way of war, it is also accurate to suggest that such ethical restrictions erode considerably when the enemy employs suicide bombers.”

7. Only 7,000 Japanese surrendered out of an original 110,000 combatants on Okinawa. There is little doubt that such a low number (7 percent) was because many tens of thousands of Japanese chose to either commit suicide or held on tenaciously until killed by the Americans who often found them hiding in caves or strapped to trees. Both of the two commanding Japanese generals, Cho and Ushijima committed seppuku on June 18, 1945 rather than give up.

8. P. 51. Up until Okinawa, the invading Americans had fought in two general scenarios—either on islands like Iwo Jima, were there were essentially no civilians, or in places like the Philippines, where the local inhabitants were clearly friendly and welcomed liberation. After Okinawa , no one had any allusions about a third and more difficult situation to come on the mainland itself—where rumor had it that 30 million Japanese elderly, women, and children were arming themselves with guns, spears, and explosives to join in the resistance alongside both regular troops and militias.

9. P. 54. Okinawa is curiously underrepresented in history books, although it is the most powerful amphibious assault in history and, indeed the single most deadly campaign in the history of the United States’ Navy. Some attribute this to the April and May end of the third Reich—and no opportunities for swashbuckling Pattonesque Armor.

10. P. 57. The dropping of the A-bombs on Japan probably actually saved lives. “…the always deadly inventive General Curtis LeMay was ready on his own to use airpower in radically new ways to avoid American casualties. In response to the horrific losses on Okinawa, he was carefully assembling a monstrous fleet of B-29’s—perhaps eventually 5,000 in number—to be augmented by over 5,000 B-24’s and B-17’s transferred from the European theater, with the possibility that over a thousand British Lancaster bombers and their seasoned crews would join the armada as well! That rain of napalm to come from a nightmarish fleet of 10,000 or more bombers on short missions from Okinawa would have made both atomic bombs seem child’s play in comparison. The fire raids on March 11, 1945 alone killed more than died at Hiroshima, and were followed by far more destruction—perhaps 500,000 incinerated in all by the subsequent bombing—than occurred at Nagasaki.

11. P.64- VDH talks about the unique capacity for destruction in the Western war of warfare. “Romantics may have remembered the kamikazes; realist recalled how they were dealt with. Quite simply, there has never arisen a military culture quite like the West, in its terrifying ability to draw on innate values such as secular rationalism, free inquiry, and consensual government to create frightening weapons of destruction and the protocols and disciplined soldiers to use them to deadly effect—a firepower and materiel onslaught that can overwhelm the most fanatical and deadly of warriors, whether they be Apaches, kamikazes, or al-Qaeda terrorists.

Shiloh’s Ghosts April 6-7, 1862
12. P.111,VDH argues that the Confederate loss at Shiloh, after squandering a huge initial advantage lead to the persistent myth that many southerners still feel today known as “The Lost Opportunity”. The LO is based on the assumption that the much admired Confederate general Albert Sidney Johnston may have been able to turn Grant’s left flank and push him backwards to the Tennessee River and destroyed Grant’s army had he not been killed in a heroic charge at the Hornet’s nest. VDH also says that the “The Lost Cause” or the way much of the South viewed their Confederate Army as noble warriors fighting a futile effort against better supplied yet less honorable men, was a direct result of battles like Shiloh where, in their eyes, it had always been some random, unfortunate catastrophe that caused their defeat. The South was more apt to attribute the defeats of their Confederate army more toward arbitrary circumstances rather than place the responsibility of those losses squarely on the incompetence or the inexperience of their courageous and heroic Southern soldiers.

13. P. 116 The tragedy of Albert Sydney Johnston dying “at the moment of victory” at Shiloh established a dangerous precedent, and was soon followed by the corollary of Stonewall Jackson being accidentally shot at the climax of Chancellorsville, thereby robbing Lee of his “right arm” in the weeks ahead at Gettysburg and allowing a dilatory Longstreet to “lose the war” on Gettysburg’s second day. VDH argues that it was the south’s obsession with these “what ifs” and “if only” scenarios that made it difficult for them to accept the verdict of the Civil War, and directly contributed to the rise of Nathan Bedford Forest’s KKK.

The Culture of Delium November 424 B.C.
14. P.193 “In theory the right wing of a Greek army was the place of honor. It was usually occupied by those troops with the greatest military prestige (or in case of armies on the defense) by local militias whose native ground was the scene of the engagement and warranted then preference.”

15. P. 237 “Yet the flamethrower at Delium predated Philip’s catapults by nearly a century and would much later be emulated by the infamous Greek fire that first emerged at Byzantium somewhere around A.D. 675. Although the exact ingredients and their ratios of mixtures remain unknown this day, the torrent of flame that was shot out of Byzantine galleys was apparently a potent fusion of naphtha, sulfur, petroleum, and quicklime that could not be extinguished with water—a nearly unquenchable toxic spume that could incinerate enemy shops in seconds.”

Monday, June 1, 2009

Joel Z. Williams' Interview with a World War II Veteran of Okinawa

Personal Interview Record
Interviewee: James (Jimmy) Kane-Age 85
Title/ Position: Coxswain-(Boatswain -3rd class) U.S. Navy Veteran of WWII Battle of Okinawa
Location: Strafford, Missouri
Phone Number: 417-736-2371
Interviewer: Joel Z. Williams
Time and Date of Interview: 3:10 pm May 29, 2009
Length of Interview: 1hour, 23 minutes
Date of Record: May 30, 2009
Additional Info: a 26 minute supplementary video and several still photographs of the subject (taken by the interviewer) also accompany this interview.

1. The U.S. Navy drafted Mr. Kane and subsequently inducted him into service at 1:00pm on December 22, 1943 in St. Louis, Missouri. The Navy then discharged Mr. Kane from his duties as an enlisted sailor at the same location, at precisely 2:00 pm on December 22, 1945; making the overall length of Mr. Kane’s military service just short of two years, by exactly one hour.

2. Following his induction into the Navy at St. Louis, Missouri, Mr. Kane travelled to Farragut, Idaho where he participated in an eight-week Basic Military Training course. After completing Basic Training, the Navy sent Mr. Kane to Bremerton Naval Station located in Seattle, Washington, where he stayed for several weeks before shipping out to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

3. At the same time Mr Kane’s ship arrived in Hawaii (Pearl Harbor), the Navy was testing a battery of 16 inch shore guns, which had not fired in years. The concussive force created by the blast of those massive guns startled Mr. Kane, as well as other sailors aboard the incoming vessel. The shock waves from the shelling sent tables full of dishes, cups and bowls, stacked to the ceiling within the ship’s galley, hurtling to the deck where they shattered in a cacophonous rain of porcelain. “Welcome to the war, gentlemen.”

4. Mr. Kane stated that he and the other men attached to tank landing ship, number 353 (LST 353) trained at various jobs and practiced several surface exercises between the Hawaiian islands of Oahu and Maui for several weeks prior to departing for Taiwan. During his time in Hawaii, the Navy was experimenting with using radar to detect approaching enemy aircraft and vessels. They assigned Mr. Kane to operate the new radar system recently installed on LST 353 after giving him approximately one week of training on how to operate the apparatus. The ship’s captain, eager to see just what the radar could do, ordered Mr. Kane to demonstrate its effectiveness. Radar technology was still cutting edge at the time and the radar return signatures on the monitor were inconclusive, at best. The captain was extremely dismayed by the results of Mr Kane’s radar demonstration and so he ordered a ship’s electrician, a man who had been trained by the manufacturer to service the equipment, to take over the radar. Despite his best efforts, the electrician also met with equally disappointing results with the radar. Frustrated with the poor radar data, the officer-in-charge immediately ordered the equipment secured and the men went back to using binoculars and monitoring radio traffic for the detection and early warning of approaching enemy ships and aircraft. Mr. Kane recalled that the officer who made that decision was a “mustang” or a naval officer who had worked his way up through the ranks as an enlisted man. The “mustang” officers Mr. Kane encountered skeptical of newer technology and therefore more prone to eschew newer tactics and devices and instead they relied more on time proven methods.

5. Mr. Kane was aboard LST 353 on May 21, 1944, in West Loch; Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, when a terrible explosion occurred aboard the ship which ultimately resulted in the deaths of 163 sailors and 396 wounded. LST 353 was tethered, side by side, along with six other ships as the group of vessels processed the loading of supplies and equipment intended for the Pacific island-hopping campaign. Mr Kane recalled that he and another sailor were relaxing inside the loading dock area after they had just completed their work shift of M.A. duty (master at arms, general cleaning and work detail). The two men were hanging around and casually observing the unloading of 105 mm mortar shells from an Army truck, which had just backed into the loading ramp, when the explosion occurred. The concussive force of the blast instantly ruptured Mr. Kane’s ear drums (causing permanent hearing damage), and sent him sailing through the air before it left him dangling from a railing on the side of the ship. Disoriented from the blast, deaf, and very much afraid, Mr. Kane’s arms eventually grew tired and he lost his grip on the ship’s railing. He then dropped several stories into the cold water below, narrowly missing hitting a metal beam by less than three feet. Once in the water, Mr Kane regained his wits, and swam around to the other side of the ship where the loading ramp was situated. Near the ramp, Mr. Kane discovered an Ensign (the lowest rank of a Naval officer) foundering in the water, apparently unable to swim. Mr. Kane grabbed hold of the drowning man and dogpaddled with him until he found something floating nearby to hang onto. Mr. Kane remembered looking up into the gaping maw of the LST’s two massive open doors and saw the entire loading bay of the ship totally engulfed in flames. The flames and billowing smoke were so thick that Mr Kane recalled that he was even unable to see the truck that had just backed into the stall immediately prior to the blast. Mr. Kane recalled that the bodies of six men, nearest the epicenter of the detonation, were never found, their remains apparently completely vaporized by the force of the blast. Of the seven ships that had been tethered together, only one survived destruction by the fire which spread quickly from ship to ship. Mr Kane remembered hearing the story of one decisive ship’s captain, who after realizing the inferno would eventually engulf his vessel as well made a fateful decision which ultimately saved his crew and spared the contents of the ship from the fire. The captain of the lone surviving ship ordered his crew to cut the tether lines and give the helm flank power. The ship’s engines generated enough power to speed the vessel free of the docking area and amazingly forced the ship all the way up onto the beach, leaving just a bit of its keel still submerged in the water.

6. The Navy had originally planned to send Mr. Kane’s task force to invade Taiwan, but other developments in the Pacific such as the battles at Leyte Gulf and Iwo Jima forced the military leadership to divert the massive flotilla group to Okinawa. Mr Kane recalls that it took the fleet of vessels, men and equipment more than six weeks to arrive at Okinawa. The fleet of ships intentionally delayed steaming straight toward the island for several weeks, and instead the group cruised around Saipan and the Philippine Islands, as they awaited the assemblage of the entire 10th Army task force before embarking on the invasion.

7. Mr. Kane vividly recalled his first impression of the island of Okinawa, remarking that, “It’s shaped like a fiddle, big on both ends and narrow in the middle.”

8. Mr Kane said that the U.S. Army made their initial invasion on the northern end of the island while the Marine Corps invaded at the southern end. “The Japs took off from the north and then went immediately to the south, and the Army took off after them… they got right on their tail. The Japs had orders to sneak around to the south side of the island at night on little boats.” Once the Army and Marines had pushed the Japanese resistance to the southern end of the islands Mr Kane recalled, “That’s where the fighting really took off…the Americans just hit a brick wall at that point.”

9. Mr. Kane recalled that his worst day of the battle came after he had lost his ship, due to an explosion and fire, and the Navy re-assigned him to a beach-master unit which consisted of 4 officers, one chief petty officer, and fifteen enlisted sailors, (the group’s alpha- numeric designation was B4D4). As part of this group, Mr. Kane said the worst day of the war for him was when B4D4 made their initial beach landing. Although most of the fighting had already moved south, Mr Kane remembered that it drizzled rain all day long as the group labored from before sunrise until well into the evening, setting up their beach markers and tents. The efforts of the men on that day were so exhausting that they eventually gave up on setting up their sleeping cots and simply laid down a sheet of canvas and went to sleep on the ground.

10. B4D4 used rods and canvas signs to demarcate the offloading zones for incoming transport ships. The signs typically read: AMMO, MEDIC, WATER, GAS, RATIONS and etcetera. As the beach-master group, B4D4 also had a group of African-American soldiers attached to their unit as laborers. Just a low, chain-link fence was all that separated the black and white sailors from each other, and they often traded cigarettes with each other. Mr. Kane recalled an incident where a black sailor was wounded fairly significantly, receiving a deep gash on his leg. Instead of simply hoisting the wounded black sailor over the fence and carrying him to an aide station less than 100 yards away the Navy leadership decided to place the injured black sailor in an amphibious tracked vehicle (duck) and float him about a mile or more around the entire staging area to get him to medical treatment.

11. Mr. Kane recalled a Japanese pilot the small band of Americans nicknamed, “Washboard Charlie”, due to the sound of his aircraft, who would buzz their area each day right around dusk. The plane never shot at them, nor dropped any bombs, but provided a source of harassment for the men.

12. Upon being asked whether he agreed if the United States should have dropped the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, Mr. Kane remarked, “We had to do something drastic…the Japanese people had been so indoctrinated with the idea of not giving up that we had to do something big to convince them.”

13. One day, during some down time, Mr. Kane and a smaller group of men made an impromptu scouting incursion into the Okinawa countryside where they encountered an elderly Okinawan civilian who was starving. One member of the group of Americans, a Navy Seabee construction worker, wanted to shoot and kill the unarmed man, but Mr. Kane and the others, “would hear none of that”. The small band of soldiers took the man along with them as they continued to forage for war souvenirs and scouted a location in which to shoot their brand new Thompson 45. Caliber sub-machine guns.

14. Mr Kane showed off several items he picked up from the battlefield of Okinawa including a hand crafted abacus (used for calculating numbers) a Japanese mortar (approximately 60mm) a Japanese heavy machine gun round (approximately 20mm) and a Japanese hand grenade. It remains unclear if these items are safe or inert.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Gamble: General David Petraeus and the American Military Adventure in Iraq, 2006-2008. Crib Notes

Book Review & Notes
Book Title: The Gamble: General David Petraeus and the American Military Adventure in Iraq, 2006-2008.
Author: Thomas E. Ricks
Publisher: The Penguin Press
Year: 2009
Date Reviewed: May 20, 2009

1. Abu-Ghraib Spring 2004

2. Australian counterinsurgency expert David Kilcullen-the way to win at counterinsurgency is not to attack the enemy but instead protect and win over the people. Destroy the enemy, but not by killing him but by isolating him and making him irrelevant. The best insurgent is not a dead one, who might leave behind a relative seeking revenge, but one who is ignored by the population and perhaps is contemplating changing sides, bringing with him invaluable information.p.6

3. Haditha- 7:15 AM Saturday November 19, 2005. Kilo company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment. 24 Iraqi civilians, many of them women and children, KIA after a roadside bomb killed 1 Marine and wounded 2 others.

4. June 7, 2006 Abu Musab al-Zarqawi KIA at Hibhib, 35 miles north of Baghdad, by two 500 lbs bombs from an F-16. Arabic copy of Newsweek magazine found in rubble.

5. P.51 David Kilcullen describes the “Kiss of Death” in regards to the American failure to hold territory once it had gained it. “ Then…insurgents kill those who cooperated with us.”

6. P.160 . It is axiomatic that good tactics cannot fix a bad strategy, but that a good strategy tends to fix bad tactics, because the inappropriateness of those actions becomes self-evident when seen against the larger scheme. For example, in a mission where the top priority explicitly is protecting the people, there would be no excuse for an incident like Haditha.

7. Colonel H.R. McMaster , 3rd Armored Calvary Regiment– Rugby player with Ph.D. in History. Clear-Hold and Build. Tall Afar- Northwest Iraq. 2005. A city of 250,000 with smuggling routes to Syria pacified and exemplary of good COIN. First successful large scale Coin-op of the Iraq war.“Every time you treat an Iraqi disrespectfully, you are working for the insurgency.” Cut off the city from supply routes and then established 29 outposts in neighborhoods. COL Sean McMaster did the same in Ramadi in 2006-7.

8. The American Enterprise Institute. Right wing think-tank is the mecca for neo-cons. Birthplace of the Iraq invasion plan. Boxy building across the street from National Geographic Society’s headquarters in Washington D.C. also houses the Weekly Standard and the project for the new American Century (an advocacy group for an aggressive interventionist foreign policy).

9. P.168 Lt. Tim Gross, “Protect the innocent, punish the deserving.”

10. The Golden Dome Mosque in Samarra, 65 miles north of Baghdad. 6:44 AM; February 22, 2006. One of the most holy sites in Shia Islam destroyed by AQI. Not the spark for civil war (already occurring since March 2005) but like gasoline on a fire. Leads to mass exodus of Iraqi elite, sectarian violence and silences any American argument that enough troops are already on the ground. Considered by many as the tipping point for Rumsfeld’s flawed strategy.

11. P. 197. An old military aphorism holds that, “Amateurs talk tactics, but professionals talk logistics. In fact, real military insiders often focus on larger personnel issues—raising, training, and equipping the force—because that is the key to long-term, sustainable success.

12. P198. It is axiomatic that it is indigenous forces that finally put down insurgencies, not foreign militaries.”

13. P.215 LTC Jeffrey Kulmayer…all told the Americans arrived at local cease-fires with 779 local militias…Summer 2007-2008…some as small as 10 men, some as big as 800 armed fighters. We were imitating Saddam Hussein WWSD?

14. P.215. COL Gian Gentile asserts that “we did not fail”… “In my opinion, we succeeded.” Regarding the perception of pre-surge commanders being on a losing trajectory. Argued with COL Peter Mansoor on Small Wars Journal, and asserted that the real successes of the surge beginning in summer 2007 were due to the cease-fires with the Sunni insurgents and the Sadrists militias who then turned on AQI, plus al-Sadr’s decision to stand down.

15. P.231. 1986 Goldwater-Nichols Act Military reorganization which made the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs the principal military advisor to the president and the SecDef. Cut the service chiefs out of military operations. Also created the “combatant commanders” the powerful princes of the military: Central com-European com-Southern com- Pacific com-and two specialized HQs: SOCOM and Strategic com (for nuclear weapons)

16. P.249 On the Democrats pointing out that Petraeus’s goal to reduce troop levels down to 130,000 after 10 months only brought the numbers essentially back to pre-surge status. One Centcom officer gleefully summarized: “It was like doing a fifty percent mark-up, and then offering a half-off sale.”

17. P.283. One of the harshest lessons of the Iraq war, as well as earlier ones such as Vietnam, has been that a military victory doesn’t necessarily translate into a political gain—which is one reason that military operation can’t be judged in tactical terms.

Hiroshima: The world's bomb

Book Review & Notes
Book Title: Hiroshima: The World’s Bomb
Author: Andrew J. Rotter
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Year: 2008
Date Reviewed: May 18, 2009
Overall Score: B

1. P. 187. “Think of the kids who won’t get killed”, Truman wrote to his wife Bess on 18 July 1945 having heard about the Trinity test and having got Stalin’s agreement to enter the war.

2. LTC Paul W. Tibbets 29 year-old commander of the 393rd Bombardment Squadron, the business end of the 509th Composite group. Told about the Manhattan Project (MP) and given the best B-29’s and the best pilots.

3. The notorious Japanese Unit 731 operating in Manchuria (chemical / biological)

4. The Japanese launched over 9,000 balloon bombs from Honshu into the Pacific Northwest in late 1944 and early 1945 bearing antipersonnel and incendiary bombs which caused several casualties.

5. Japan planned on defending the mainland with “Ketsu-go” or the big push. An estimated 30 million Japanese would defend the island with tokkō weapons. Such as: the ōka (Cherry Blossoms) “flying bombs”, the shinyō, plywood motorboats with high explosives strapped to their hulls, the fukuryō, or “Crouching Dragons”, frogmen who stayed submerged and holding mines at the ends of long wooden poles would ram U.S. landing craft in the shallows off Kyushu. 5000 Kamikaze would also strike at the beginning of ‘Olympic’.

6. P.190 Mission No. 13. General Curtiss Lemay ordered the bombing of Hiroshima from the 509th HQ on Guam. At 8:15 AM, the bomb detonated over Hiroshima roughly 1,850 feet AGL. Little Boy (Uranium core) blew 43 seconds after leaving the B-29 Enola Gay. Approximate power equivalent to 20,000 tons of TNT.

7. P.193 Leslie Groves described Hiroshima as ‘an important Army base’. That was true, as far as it went. Hiroshima was HQ to the Japanese 2nd Army and Chogoka Regional Army, and it had been a major transit point for soldiers and supplies bound for war…the city’s ammunition depot was one of the country’s largest. There were also between 24,000 and 40,000 soldiers in Hiroshima that day.

8. P. 194 “There were approximately a quarter of a million people in Hiroshima on August 6, 1945.

9. The Japanese called the bomb: pika-don, or ‘flash-boom’

10. Everything is obliterated within 2.5 miles of Ground zero of the bomb aka: the hypocenter.

11. P.213 the Japanese Supreme War Council (the Big Six) debated over whether to accept the
Potsdam Declaration of complete surrender to America. They were torn over four major points or conditions: A.) the Kokutai, or the “right of the emperor to rule as determined by the Gods of antiquity”. B) Japan would be able to select which of their military commanders would go to trial for war crimes. C.) Japan would enforce its own disarmament. And D.) Japan would not be occupied by a foreign nation. We eventually agreed only to one condition, a modified version of Kokutai, wherein the Emperor was basically stripped of all of his power and humiliated in newspapers featuring the American General Douglas MacArthur seated above Hirohito at his palace.

12. P.216 At 10:00 AM in August 14th, 1945 the Emperor convened his 2nd imperial conference in five days…Hirohito spoke, his voice breaking… Continuing the war, he said, offered ‘nothing but additional destruction’. The American reply to the Japanese proposal he deemed ‘acceptable’ …for his part the emperor would broadcast a message over the radio to the Japanese people explaining to them why the end had come, why it was necessary to lay down arms. He recorded the message in his formal Japanese onto a phonograph record. Thereafter the ‘tears flowed incessantly’.

13. Among the circles of academics that discuss and debate the issue of the American use Atomic weapons against Japan the term “revisionists” refers to those considering whether the U.S. acceded to the Japanese surrender only after Stalin invaded Manchuria because they feared Russia would also snatch Japan. This group wonders if it was ever really necessary to drop the bomb on Japan or was the bomb primarily a warning to our primary future cold war nemesis and a demonstration of American power, a concept known as “atomic diplomacy”. Whereas, “Post-revisionism” regarding the bombing of Japan explores the morality and ethics of unleashing such a devastating weapon against a largely beaten foe.

14. P. 210 Fat Man bore messages written in chalk for the Japanese including this Haiku verse scrawled in the inside of the bomb’s tail-cone by engineer Harlow Russ: Sappy Jappy started scrappy, Bombed Pearl Harbor, Pretty Crappy. Jappy have reached end of scrappy, Bomb will knock Japan slappy happy.

15. P. 171 A poll conducted three days after Pearl Harbor claimed that 2/3 rds of Americans supported the indiscriminant bombing of cities in Japan, a sentiment sustained throughout the war.

16. Curtis Lemay’s XXI Bomb Group killed over 500,000 people with conventional incendiary attacks on and near Tokyo between March 9-10. Compared to the loss of life due to both Hiroshima and Nagasaki (approximately 300,000) one questions why the Japanese waited until after the A-bombs were dropped before deciding to surrender.

17. P.205 “Returning in early September to Hiroshima for the first time since she had been wounded by the bomb, Toshiko Sasaki, ‘horrified and amazed’, by the extent of the devastation , also saw something that ‘gave her the creeps’: Hiroshima was becoming verdant with new growth. ‘Over everything—up through the wreckage of the city, in gutters, along the riverbanks, tangled among tiles and tin roofing, climbing on charred tree trunks—was a blanket of fresh, vivid, lush, optimistic green.’ She saw ‘bluets and Spanish bayonets, goosefoot, morning glories and day lilies, the hairy-fruited bean, purslane and clotblur and sesame and panic grass and feverfew’. In less than two years, those that returned to Hiroshima were able to grow grains and vegetables on a scale that dwarfed production in nearby villages.

18. Mokusatsu (黙殺) is a Japanese word formed from two Chinese characters: "silence" (moku, 黙) and "kill" (satsu, 殺) and means the act of keeping a contemptuous silence. Some argue that the word was misinterpreted by the United States when the government of Japan used it as a response to American demands for unconditional surrender in World War II, which may have influenced President Harry S. Truman's decision to use the atomic bomb against Hiroshima and Nagasaki.[1]Premier Suzuki Kantaro used mokusatsu to dismiss the Allies' Potsdam Declaration in 1945, during World War II. The word was employed in the morning edition of the Asahi Shinbun during World War II on July 28, 1945 to designate the attitude assumed by the government to the Potsdam Declaration. Later that day in a press conference, it was used by the Premier Suzuki Kantaro to dismiss the Potsdam Declarations as a mere rehash of earlier rejected Allied proposals, and therefore, being of no value, would be killed off by silent contempt (mokusatsu). Suzuki's choice of the term was dictated perhaps more by the need to appease the military, which was hostile to the idea of "unconditional surrender", than to signal anything to the Allies.[1]

19. The Potsdam Declaration or the Proclamation Defining Terms for Japanese Surrender was a statement issued on July 26, 1945 for the surrender of Japan. The PD was issued by U.S .President Harry S. Truman, U.K. PM Winston Churchill, and President of the Republic of China Chiang Kai-shek that outlined the terms of surrender for the empire of Japan as agreed upon at the Potsdam Conference. This ultimatum stated that if Japan did not surrender, it would face, “prompt and utter destruction”. Japan’s initial rejection of the ultimatum, by promulgating the condition that they be allowed to keep their emperor (Kokutai), and the impending Russian entry into the war, led directly to Truman’s decision to drop the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 6 and 9,1945. Whether the ultimatum was intended to be acceptable without recourse to use nuclear weapons has been subject to considerable debate.