Small Wars Journal

13 November SWJ Odds and Ends

While not all inclusive, here are some of the items that caught my eye and interest so far this week...

More on Dave and Bill's most excellent Washington Post adventure here -- the session lasted a little over an hour and was very enjoyable. All the questions are there along with our (plus Small Wars Council members') answers. We experimented here a bit -- trying to include what we have learned from our Council members and bloggers. If by chance we get asked back we should have a much smoother process in place. Special thanks to the Council members who jumped into the fray!

Here is Bill's opening remark:

Dave and I are here today just as ourselves, but we're lucky to be part of something much bigger. We certainly have our own opinions, and we are frequently reminded that in the extremely complex adaptive systems of war and politics, there are many fundamental truths but rarely one simple "right" answer.

We started Small Wars Journal not to have our own soap box to stand on, but because we felt Small Wars are important and the niche needed an open and inclusive professional community to complement the various cloistered and limited collaboration venues that are out there. We're very happy that so many others feel the same way and have used the site to express their opinions, share their experience, and engage with others in serious discussion. Not to be right, but to be more informed and be better.

While we're doing the chat here today, I'll be feeding some of the questions back to the Small Wars Council. We've set up a special forum where our Council Members can weigh in on the questions you're posing to us. To the degree that my mouse and keyboard allow, I'll port some replies back into this chat (clearly marked as such). We're normally less real time over there, but we'll see how this goes. And I wouldn't be surprised if some of your questions grew their own legs over there and became active threads in the Small Wars Council, so check back in a bit. Anyone can view most forums. With a simple and free registration, you can post and you can see a few extra forums. The forums afford an added dimension of time that enables reflection and thoughtfulness, allowing chats to evolve into deeper discussions.

And my opening remark:

It's my pleasure to be here today with my Small Wars Journal partner Bill Nagle and the good folks at the Washington Post. To open, I'll be up front by saying there are no "true experts" on counterinsurgency operations in Iraq -- to help us understand the real issues Bill and I rely heavily on the wide-ranging expertise of our bloggers and members of our Small Wars Council discussion board. I am ready to get started.

Four documents in today, three via e-mail and the other by way of the Small Wars Council.

1. Counterinsurgency for U.S. Government Policy Makers -- A Work in Progress

U.S. State Department interim guide produced by the Interagency Counterinsurgency Initiative and is described as one of several complementary efforts to develop whole-of-government approaches to complex operations.

The Small Wars Council is discussing the COIN guide here.

2. Center for a New American Security Fact Sheet: The State of the U.S. Army

The only Army brigade combat teams (BCTs) that are considered ready are those already deployed or about to deploy.

The Army has no strategic reserve ready to protect U.S. interests should other contingencies arise, increasing the level of strategic risk to the nation.

Active duty Army BCTs currently deploy for 15 months and have 12 months (or less) at home between deployments.

As the surge in Iraq ends, the Army plans to transition to a rotation cycle of 12 months at home for every 12 months deployed. But senior leaders acknowledge that the Army will not be able to meet its goal of two years at home for every one deployed for some time.

If the surge were to be sustained beyond the Spring, either deployments would have to be extended from 15 to 18 months, or Guard and Reserve units would have to be remobilized.

Limited dwell time at home has compressed training substantially, giving units too little time to train for the full range of missions for which they must be prepared...

3. Divining Victory: Airpower in the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah War by William Arkin, posted by Air University.

Air warfare is inherently a difficult to imagine activity, and images of urban devastation, carpet bombing, and mass civilian casualties dominate public discourse. With the emergence of 24/7 television and the Internet in the 1990s—a period that also coincided with the maturation of precision weapons and airpower as the dominant component of strategic warfare—the challenge of "seeing" airpower ironically magnified even more. Air warfare "statistics" and gun camera video accumulated, but they communicated video game heartlessness and suggested perfection while emphasizing the almost industrial nature of the air warfare enterprise (airmen even spoke of the "production" of sorties). Habitual operational security and the sensitiviity of operating from foreign bases, together with the internal challenges of jointness, further constrained the telling of the airpower story.

Airpower's inherent quality and these constraints have made destruction the most accessible and visible element of the en¬terprise. Airpower and its targets have become intrinsically subject to greater review and audit because of the very economy of effort and the triumph of discrimination. The airpower story then, located almost always in "enemy" territory, has naturally become one-dimensional. The friendly briefing and public relations function has largely been reduced to one of incident man¬agement of the occasional, though highly magnified, mistake (i.e., industrial accident).

Israel faced all of these problems and more in 2006...

4. Marine Corps Center for Lessons Learned November 2007 Newsletter

Observations and lessons learned from Marine majors and captains who have served as commanders of ground and logistics combat element companies in Iraq between 2004 and early 2007. Their comments have been organized into a pocket guide, as well as a standard MCCLL topical paper.

The results of a MCCLL analysis of potential issues associated with the standard issue M-16 magazine.

An update on available biometrics resources, together with ongoing efforts to provide future enhanced biometrics capabilities.

A report on a lessons learned collection effort with the 3D Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward).

The results of an online survey to solicit comments from Marines of all ranks on the Marine Corps Professional Reading Program.

While on the subject of reading lists, Abu Muqawama has posted its latest installment of the COIN Book Club

Last week's first installment of the Counterinsurgency Book Club introduced David Galula, arguably the most important counterinsurgency theorist of the 20th Century. This week, Abu Muqawama wants to spend a little bit more time on the French experience in Algeria by highlighting not just one but two books -- and even a film -- that you should check out from the local library if you have not already.

The first book is Roger Trinquier's Modern Warfare: A French View of Counterinsurgency...

When a former commander of Abu Muqawama took over an airborne infantry battalion in Italy, he went to the post library and checked out Jean Larteguy's The Centurions...

MountainRunner gets his dander up concerning Strategic Communications in Doing Strategic Communications in Iraq, or not. His comments were fueled by a DoD Bloggers Roundtable he participated in today...

... I followed up with a question asking whether there's a strategic communications plan for Iraq like the one recently released for Afghanistan. Apparently there is one and I missed it. Does anybody have it or can point me to it?

More on anthropology and the military over at Strategy and National Security Policy -- AntoniusBlock leaves the sugar coating behind in The Repulsive Immorality of the American Anthropological Association.

... what is frightening is that such purveyors of repulsive immorality and grotesque ignorance of the nature of evil are allowed to educate the nation's children. Luckily, there are a few anthropologists with a moral compass who understand the need to ignore such nonsense.

Want some real scoop about who's who and what's what in Pakistan? Check out Shaan Akbar's The Insider Brief

And while we are on Pakistan, SWJ friend ZenPundit offers this up:

Pakistanis, it must be said, are not universally outraged by dictatorship per se. The wily and ruthless General Zia ul- Haq was a fairly popular figure in his day. Wild-eyed deobandi fanatics, opposed to Musharraf's regime, long for a Sharia-state tyranny that would be far more brutal and incompetent than is the current government in Islamabad. Nor is the growing corruption of the army in Pakistan the central problem; Benazir Bhutto's party, the democratic faction, once looted government coffers with gusto while wrecking the economy. Her father, once Prime Minister but later executed by Zia, was a notable menace to the concept of good governance.

Pakistan's central problem is a crisis of legitimacy. Nationalism is a waning force these days and even anti-Indian feeling is sustained by a marriage of nationalism with Islamist radicalism. Once, a Pakistani leader could declare that Pakistani's " would eat grass" to make their country the nuclear equal of Hindu India. No more. Musharraf's fear of "national suicide" did not rouse his countrymen to his side and there are some, even in the army, who would hold up jihad above the nation. Well above.

Without nationalism or state competence, people fall back on primary loyalties. Pakistan has no intrinsic reason to exist unless it can be welded together in men's minds.

All for now.