Monday, November 20, 2017

Not doing it.

I thought I'd revisit this post from a year ago, in which I noted that:
"...the GOP in it's present incarnation really offers only two policy "things":

1. Working for open oligarchy, and
2. Comfort for white nationalism, Christian theocracy, and fear of the "others" (whether those others are gay, or brown, or Muslim)

I know that sounds harsh, but...that's really it, isn't it? It's all tax cuts and privatize and deregulate and unshackle Wall Street and shove the homos back in the closet and no abortion and open carry everywhere. "Small government"? Sure...unless you count the DoD. Or the NSA.

There's no GOP vision of a future United States that doesn't really come down to a return to the Gilded Age, is there?"
For which I was castigated as "...unpersuasive and mean spirited."


Well.

Now that we've had a year of open corruption on a scale that would have made U.S. Grant pale with disbelief and Warren Harding green with envy, a year of fire and fury, blowhard tweets and idiotic name-calling, a year of selling off the national patrimony to crony capitalists, of trying to yank medical insurance away from poor people, a year that included a tax measure that prohibits you from deducting your home mortgage, medical expenses, state taxes, and what your kid's teacher spends on crayons but lets me deduct the cost of my private jet, a year dominated by a federal government run by people who seem to have carefully watched the vile doings of every cartoon villain ever scripted and then turned to Skeletor and announced "Here. Hold my beer."

Is there really anyone who still thinks I was "unpersuasive and meanspirited"?

Jesus wept. Yeah, in one sense I WAS unpersuasive. I honestly didn't think these people could be this appalling. Yep. I didn't see that coming. I didn't think that it was possible for a grown human with a functioning hindbrain to WANT to act like a fucking cartoon movie villain.

And here's the thing.

It's pretty damn easy to destroy a social contract. And that's what's going on right now.

For about fifty years we lived with the social contract hammered out by the New Deal. The wealthy would give up a little of their wealth, the middle class a little less, and in return we'd get labor and social peace. Since the old and sick didn't have to fear dying penniless they could stop fighting the ownership class' greed. So our country still had very few rich and many poor, it just wasn't quite so vicious about it. The sort of riots and strikes and radicalism that tore the country in the 1880s and 1890s and Teens and Twenties. The sort of thing that produced the Russian Revolution and then Italian fascism and then the Spanish Republicans.

And that's going away now, folks, if the people who run things in D.C. have any say about it.

You and I are going back to the future, to a New Gilded Age where the rich do what they can and the poor suffer what they must.

And you know what's so infuriating about that?

It's that that's not even good for the idiot plutocrats that are pushing it.

You think "regulations" are the problem? Try going back to the time before the Clean Air and Water Acts, when you could dump anything and everything into the air and water and not give a shit who it poisoned.

You think financial regulations are a problem? Try going back to financial "panics" every other decade, as used to slam the nation in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries.

I'm here to warn you. I'm here to be MORE unpersuasive and meanspirited. Dammit, people, this isn't just a political disagreement. The Trumpkins and their allies have turned out to be far worse than anyone every thought they could be. They are demolishing the very society built on the social contract of the New Deal. They're doing the goddamn best to return the U.S. to the social, economic, and political environment of 1890.

And if that happens, assuming that rising seas and violent storms don't do the job first, we're going back to a time that almost none of us can conceive and no living American remembers.

But for those of us not in the two-yacht family I can tell you - it was NOT a good time for us.

I wish I had faith that We the People would recognize this and band together to defeat and destroy it. But then I see that damn near two-fifths of my "fellow citizens" think that the Tangerine Toddler, Crock-o-bile Dumm-ee, is doing a heckuva job and I despair.

As we used to say about Dubya's Great Mess-o-Potamia:

Unless We the People, unless you and me and him and her get together and kick these damn Trumpkins dead square in the ass, we are all so, so, SO fucked.

Monday, November 13, 2017

CRS Syndrome

Before he died, former LTC Hackworth used to rant occasionally about the U.S. Army's CRS problem. "CRS" stood for "Can't Remember Shit", and it was symbolic for the Army's predilection for forgetting the hard-earned lessons of previous wars. A perfect example that jumped out at me when I read about it was the troubles along the MSRs in Iraq and Afghanistan. It was almost as if the services had stuffed the hard lessons learned about convoys in Vietnam down the memory hole and had to re-learn the same lessons all over again, at the usual cost in blood and treasure.

Here's another lesson from Vietnam we seem to have forgotten; sending Americans to fight small dirty wars in small, corrupt places in the unpaved parts of the world don't result in those shitholes becoming less corrupt but, rather, in corrupting the Americans.

As Charlie Pierce points out, this CRS problem goes all the way back to the beginnings. In his hearings on the Vietnam War, SEN Fulbright said:
“Under our system, Congress, and especially the Senate, shares responsibility with the President for making our Nation's foreign policy. This war, however, started and continues as a Presidential war in which the Congress, since the fraudulent Gulf of Tonkin episode, has not played a significant role.

The purpose of these hearings is to develop the best advice and greater public understanding of the policy alternatives available and positive congressional action to end American participation in the war."
Given their recent enthusiasm in kiboshing any sort of limits on what they see as the open-ended 2001 AUMF the Trumpkins have neither interest in nor worries about not limiting this endless whack-a-muj game the U.S. has been playing for 16 years now.

Somewhere in a dingy bar in Valhalla Sun-tzu reminds Dave Hackworth what he said about the problems inherent in fighting long wars, and Hack replies that, no shit, Sherlock, it is for that exact reason that the dopeslap was invented, and that the only problem is that nobody in the U.S. government seems willing to use it on the dumb bastards than need it.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Da Nang

Lots of news focus on the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in Viet-Nam.  Most of it seems to be on Trump/Putin talking and what will come of that. 

I am more interested on any one-on-one meeting between Trần Đại Quang and Xi Jinping.  Will they bury the hatchet on what the Viets call Biển Đông (East Sea) and the Chinese call their South Sea?  Same for any meets between Xi and President Duterte, Prime Minister Najib of Malaysia, and the Sultan of Brunei.  And what is Trump's position on the Spratly and Paracel Islands?  Did he use his 'art of the deal' when he was in Peking to offer Xi something he could not refuse?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/APEC_Vietnam_2017#Attendees

But in any case I'm happy that Donnie finally made it to Viet-Nam.  I suppose his heel spurs have been cured.  Looks like they are staying here:

http://www.danang.intercontinental.com/

Better quarters than what we had 50 years ago at LZ Baldy or Charlie Ridge.




Sunday, October 22, 2017

Acting 1SG Lawes reads the morning formation announcements

Comp-ney, Atten-shun! At ease. Okay, listen up. Coupla things here.

First.

I've been hearing a bunch of you he-roes prancing around the dayroom talking smack about how y'all are "the best 1 percent this country produces".

I hear tell that y'all got that shit from some jarhead, and a jarhead general at that.

Now y'all know how I feel about jarheads. So hearing y'all woofing because one said something about how “We don’t look down upon those of you who that haven’t served. In fact, in a way we’re a little bit sorry because you’ll have never have experienced the wonderful joy you get in your heart when you do the kinds of things our servicemen and women do.” just means that the overpromoted bolo doesn't know about the kind of things our servicemen did down at the Flaming Mug last week and, yes, I'm looking at you, AT Platoon. I've got my eye on you, slickyboys.

So before you get all "Ooo-rah! We bad, we bad!" take a look to your left and right flanks. You know as well as I do what that guy next to you is capable of. We all went to high school with that guy. The dude that locked himself in the last stall in the boys' bathroom in the B-wing and had to get pulled out by the school cops?

That's him.

The joker that useta take polaroid dick pics and put them in the romance novels in the library?

That's him.

And don't get me started on surfing the fucking storm drains on their sleeping mats, am I right, Blackie?

The "best 1 percent" my rosy red ass.

The civilians are too fucking busy shoving their tongues up your collective fourth-point-of-contact to remember this, but y'all, at least, should know that y'all are the same jocks, nerds, stoners, wierdos, brainiacs, goofballs, and just regular American dipwads they went to high school with only now y'all wear the same colored clothes. Raisin' your right hand didn't suddenly make any of y'all smarter, braver, more honest, or less likely to fuck up a wet dream and yes, I mean you, night bakers. I saw your fuckin' mess hall this morning and we gonna have a little come-to-Jesus chat right after this formation.

Y'all are good troops, and that's what you're supposed to be. But don't let that make you think that you're some sort of national gold standard. That's how good troops end up getting waxed in combat.

Y'all get free food and clothes, y'all get to get all-expenses-paid vacations to the shitty parts of the world to fuck up things there. Don't let that make you kid yourselves about what a bunch of special fuckin' snowflakes you are just because some goddamn gyrene general who probably hasn't actually seen one of y'all in his natural environment since he was a itty-bitty lieutenant. Those fuckin' star-warriors run around in a little general-officer bubble and they have no more idea of what y'all are really doing out here than a cow knows about the fuckin' Council of Trent.

So. Get over yourselves, people. Like I tol' ya last week; thinking you're all better than civilians is a straight-up dick move, and I won't tolerate that shit in my company, regardless of what the Old Man tells you about how awesome you are.

OK.

Second.

Rumor has it that the Brigade Sergeant Major is gonna be in the company AO this Friday. Y'all know that dick as well as I do, so I highly recommend that you ensure that those "extra" toolkits find their way to SSG Reye's garage, Commo, and Medics? The quarter-ton y'all keep "forgetting" to turn in? That sumbitch needs to go live in the woods starting Thursday night.

Oh, and I will be doing a walkthrough tomorrow at fourteen hundred hours and if I find more pogie bait in your walllockers I will go medieval on your ass. Are we clear on that?

I thought so.

Comp-ney, Atten-shun!

Platoon sergeants, take charge.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

What's the English for "freikorps"?

Out old Intel Dump pal Phillip Carter has a piece up at Slate discussing the presser put on by the White House Chief-of-Staff, former GEN Kelly.

Carter says all the usual things that are being said elsewhere about the Kelly presser - that it pretty much told anyone who doesn't have a DD214 that their only role in military affairs is to "support the troops" and STFU - but one line from the Carter piece really struck me.

It was this:
"The burden of our post-9/11 wars has been heavy but not widely shouldered nor shared. The result, echoed in opinion surveys of veterans and military personnel, has been a mixture of pride, nostalgia, and resentment."
Yeah, well, there was another group of veterans and military personnel who held strong feelings of pride and nostalgia about their recent wartime service and deep resentment towards the civilians and political leaders of their nation they held responsible for their failure.

They were the guys from the Kaiserlich Deutsches Heer, the Imperial German Army, after 1918.

And by the 1920s they had given up pretending even notional submission to the civilian government of Weimar and went out into the streets to fight, helping to contribute to the chaos and social unrest that eventually enabled totalitarian rule come to power in Germany.

In the bitterest of ironies, the supposed true German nationalists they helped to power considered them a danger to the fascist state. Many of the ex-freikorps were murdered or disappeared in 1934 when the true believers consolidated power.

Are the situations of interwar Germany and post-modern America very different?

Yes.

Is it good to have a small, self-selecting group within a popular democracy with a monopoly on the use and understanding of armed force and the attitude that that monopoly makes them politically superior to those without it?

No.

You can argue about the iniquities of a draft and I won't argue back. But the Founders of this nation had some strong opinions about the danger to a republic from praetorian treason.

I will suggest that former GEN Kelly's remarks should make you nervous about listening for the sound of the dagger leaving its sheath.
There is more than one way to get stabbed in the back.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

There Was A Young Lady From Niger

The latest outrage by, about, and surrounding the Tangerine Toddler seems to concern what he may have said, or not said, to the mother of a U.S. Special Forces sergeant killed along with three other NCOs in what I presume was his training/advising team in the northern African country of Niger.

While I yield to no one in my contempt for Five-Deferment Donnie as a wanna-be großer Feldherr, this is ridiculous.

Trump, idiotic as he is, didn't put these people there. AFRICOM, and the elements of the 3rd Special Forces Group that were operating with the unit of the FAN, the Forces Armees Nigerinnes or Nigerien Army, have been in-country for some time. A large multinational exercise, Flintlock 2017, involved the FAN as well as US, Belgian, Australian, and Canadian regulars back in February to early March of this year.

The real question in my mind has nothing to do with short-fingered vulgarians. It has to do with what the fuck are the United States' "national interests" in Niger?

From the descriptions I've read the place looks like a goddamn dumpster fire politically, economically, socially, and environmentally. It's grossly under-resourced and overpopulated. Desertification is pressuring an already fissured multi-tribal society that - crucially bad for social cohesion - is divided into semi-nomadic pastoralists and subsistence farmers. The war between nomads and settled peoples is older than Sumer and anyone, particularly a foreign Great Power, that intends to do anything but deal with the survivors through a slot in a locked and heavily armored door is a complete and utter fool.

The neighboring countries are largely also impoverished, socially chaotic, politically unstable shitholes (Mali? Seriously? Mali is like Mad Max's Thunderdome only with more fucking mayhem. If your neighbors are Mali I suggest you start getting to know them by sowing a thick belt of mines along your spite fence...)

The "government" of Niger seems to be the usual collection of shady African types, and the FAN tends to liven things up by coup-ing every so often (the last one was just back in 2010).

Taken altogether the joint makes Honduras look like Switzerland.

So it appears that the official justification for USAFRICOM involvement, and the patrolling mission that got these SF troopers killed, was, as always...wait for it...waaaaait for it...

"terrorism!".

Yep. The usual suspects, of course; Al Qaeda, the Islamic State, local franchisees like Boko Haram...you know, your basic Scary Dark People.

Mind you...nobody seems to be asking just exactly who these jokers are.

Because my guess would be "local tribesmen who are pissed off at some other local tribesmen" or "young men without a job looking to make something out of an AK-47 and the willingness to use it" with a side order of "The usual assholes who think that shooting someone is easier than working for a living".

And, of course, the explanation for how teaching one of these bunches of Chaos Warriors to kill the others because Surely That Will Solve The Problem of "Terrorism" is...

...well, kinda nothing. At least nothing sensible. The tribal grudges aren't going away. The political instability isn't, either. The desertification is, if anything, getting worse and so, inevitably, will the clashes between the herdspeople squabbling over shrinking grazing land with farmers whose cropland is becoming increasingly marginal.

The notion of sending U.S. troopers into this hot mess to do...something something defeat "terrorism" is beneath ridiculous.

There is nothing in Niger worth the bones of an Oregonian grenadier.

And there are no "terrorism" problems in Niger that a bullet will solve.

Unless the 3rd SFG(a) is willing to use every bullet ever cast, and more, and leave the land of Niger an empty waste, and call it "peace".
"Who smiled as she rode on a tiger.
They returned from the ride
With the lady inside.
And the smile on the face of the tiger."


Update 10/19: One thing that does kind of bug me (as a GI) about the Niger thing.

What I get from the reports is that four of the SF team were killed or DOW and one FAN trooper.

That suggests to me that either 1) the guerrillas had terrific intel and knew exactly where and when to initiate their ambush so as to target and kill the Americans quickly, or 2) the FAN unit fell apart under pressure and the SF guys had to (or tried to - it sounds like the FAN rabble was driven off the kill zone in disorder) rally the gomers and, as is often the case, ended up getting killed exposing themselves to enemy fire.

Which, in turn, makes me wonder; why the hell would any smart and experienced NCOs lead a shitshow like this FAN outfit in a patrol in an AO like the Mali border? We're talking the fucking wild, wild West here. The chances that a savvy group of local G's would have way better eyes and ears on the ground and way better knowledge of the ground and way better discipline than whatever this FAN gaggle had seem close to 100% (as it turned out).

Were the FAN officers overconfident? Did the SF team leaders try to talk them out of whatever the fuck they thought they were doing and fail (and have to tag along on this death-ride or lose face with the locals?) Or was the SF team the one that got their baby ducklings in troubled waters?

Either way, there seems to have been some sort of massive fail on a number of levels, including knowledge of the local conditions, assessment of the competence level of the FAN unit, and combat command and control.

Which - since, as I mentioned, the contact between US and FAN troopers is of some standing - makes me question, again, the effectiveness of the U.S. military assistance programs. We've already seen in Afghanistan and Iraq the general worthlessness of U.S. "training" and trainers. The local levies seem to emerge from the U.S. programs just as shit as before they went in (and if you can't get Afghans - some of the fightingest people on Earth - to fight you 're doing it wrong). In a sense I'm hoping that there was some element(s) involved beyond the straightforward reports I'm hearing.

But in another, this just reminds me again what a generally piss-poor job that the U.S. Army seems to do with "training" foreign troops. And, again, the overall worthlessness of these military assistance missions. The most common product always seems to be a national army that's better at coups than anything else.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

And now, something different

I'm not familiar with a lot of historically tense situations that run the gamut from tragedy to thriller to comedy within the space of seconds, but the situation in Catalonia/Spain sure seems to fill it.

For those of you who missed the hilarity, the rogue leader of Catalonia, the man who orchestrated a guerrilla election that did surprisingly well given the complete opposition of the national government and the presence of tens of thousands of national police, the man who evaded arrest and brought Catalonia closest to independence it has been in a century, he gave a speech on Monday.
His speech was absurd.  His speech should be the definition of absurd double-speak.  It was a towering instance of ridiculousness.  In a single speech he declared independence but then delayed its implementation.  Confusion reigned.  Half of the press said that independence was declared, the other half said 'not independent.'  Wikipedia said that they had been independent for eight seconds. 

How confusing was the moment?  The Spanish government decided to give them EIGHT days to figure that shit out.  HO boy.  The national government that implied the Catalonians were threatening invasion and death has decided that they are so clueless that they get a week plus to think it through.

Imagine, if you will, that during the climactic scene in the Empire Strikes Back (spoilers), Darth Vader had stared at the son he had just disarmed and said, "I am your fath<cough>-far-<cough>-er"  Seconds pass.  Luke blinks, "you're my farter?"  He smiles because it is absurd.  The dramatic and thrilling culmination of dread and revelation are completely flubbed.  Even if Darth Vader gets it together and states his relationship clearly, it is too late.  He whiffed at the most critical moment.  That is cinematic equivalent of this moment.

How hilarious.  How pathetic.  How revealing.  Democratic government has limits.  We like to pretend that it does not, but it does.  And the ones with the guns and banks at the end trump those that do not.  Does anyone doubt that Spain would rather ruin Catalonia than see it leave?  That the EU wouldn't lift a finger against a Spanish crackdown?

But the true treat here is that the 'idealistic' crazies didn't get their heads cracked by police at the end or wave their flag at the end of the movie.  No, we got a treat.  The crazies went and slipped on a banana peel while the dramatic music soared. Hi-FUCKING-larious.