Small Wars Journal

End of an Embed, Beginning of a Storm

Michael Yon's recent post on his

Facebook page regarding


end to his embed is causing a stir in the milblog community: McChrystal's

crew has declared an information war on me. No complaints here. McChrystal's attention

is welcome. It indicates that my posts have hit steel further underlines that McChrystal

is over his head...



Yon Wake Up Call, Uncle Jimbo at Blackfive writes:  There comes a time

when you have to look in the mirror and accept responsibility. It is not a collection

of incompetent public affairs officers or some conspiracy to silence truth telling,

it is his own fault. He has broken the rules time and time again and then when that

bit him in the ass, he bit back.

Herschel at the Captain's Journal is inserting into the fray on the other side,

In Defense of Michael Yon: An Open Letter to Milbloggers.  He notes the

strength of Michael's past work (some of which we have been privileged to feature

here), and states: 

Michael will continue in my estimation to be the


Pyle [link added] of our generation and this incident will pass. 

It's also my estimation that these open letters to Michael are a lot of sound and

fury signifying nothing.  We Milbloggers have better ways to spend our time

than cannibalize our own.

We have no privileged source in this instance and will not weigh in here. 

Thanks to the authors for their balance in providing the good and the bad as they

see it and voice their opinions.  Both are worth the read, as are the many

links they provide to more commentary on this item.  This, too, shall pass.


Jules Crittenden at Forward Movement has more in his post Yon Flap. What makes this different is that it is not just another dumb blogosphere flap, but apparently involves some serious issues potentially compromising a vital asset for anyone trying to understand these wars of ours.


Jimbo (not verified)

Tue, 04/20/2010 - 5:01pm

First: Full disclosure. I know Diana West, and I admire her. Her arguments on Israels dilemma, on Islam and on the military are convincing and well reasoned. However, it is probably an understatement that her recent columns on Generals Petraeus, McChrystal and Casey are at odds with the thinking of many persons on the conservative side of the political spectrum while they also raise hackles among the politically correct and anti-war left. That is what we can call truly bipartisan. With that in mind, I have posed several simple and objective questions which come to mind from reading her myriad, syndicated Washington Examiner columns, blog posts at, and her book "The Death of the Grown-Up."

RK: Are you from military family?

DW: No, I'm not. My father and father-in-law served in World War II and during Korea respectively, and my husband and brother were born too late to be drafted for Vietnam. I don't come to analysis of our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan through personal or family military experience, but rather through my focus on culture, or, rather, multiculturalism, and its role in the spread of Islam -- and with it, Islamic law (sharia) -- into the West. I see in our conduct of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan the same "politically correct," culturally relativistic accommodations, or submission, that the West is making to Islam elsewhere. What is so horrifying is that on these real-life battlefields, the PC mentality, the mentality that fails to acknowledge irreconcilable cultural differences between the West and Islam, exacts a price that is measured in the lives and limbs and well-being of our best young people, young men, mostly, not to mention unthinkably large sums of money.

To a striking degree, these wars have become a giant distraction, like a magicians deft act of misdirection, from the true threat to our way of life: the ongoing spread of and entrenchment of sharia in the West.

That said, I would note that through my continuing analysis of the wars, I have assembled what you might call a military advisory group, an extremely informal one, whose members include an assortment of veterans (including retired generals), currently and recently deployed troops, former special forces, professors at war colleges, intelligence officers, and family members of troops now serving, killed in action, or (unjustly) in military prison. They offer an invaluable sounding board, a way to get a sense of how my analysis checks out in a military context.

RK: You have written on the rules of engagement. Can you comment?

DW: I have written extensively about the rules of engagement (ROEs) in columns and at my blog, coming to understand them as the natural extension of "counterinsurgency" doctrine (COIN), which currently holds sway over (bewitches) the military. If you are appalled at rules that restrict our troops ability to defend themselves, to call in air or artillery support, etc., you should be similarly appalled by COIN.

The main point of COIN is not to "win" military objectives, but to win the local populations "hearts and minds." This phrase may have unfortunate connotations of Vietnam, but it was nonetheless resurrected by Gen. David Petraeus, who as commander in Northern Iraq posted signs in every barracks asking US troops, "What Have You Done to Win Iraqi Hearts and Minds Today?"

In Afghanistan, this same doctrine has now turned the US military into a contestant vying for the All-Afghan Miss Popularity Award against the rival Taliban. The fact that after seven years in Afghanistan (eight, unofficially) we still havent won the crown should tell us something: that infidels cant fight for the soul of an Islamic country and win it. Given that our leadership closes its eyes to all things Islamic, this notion doesnt enter its collective mind. Instead, our leaders continue to believe that if only we do more - build more bridges, wells, schools, mosques, offer more payola, make more efforts to reduce civilian casualties to zero regardless of US cost, show more respect for Islamic and tribal culture -- we will "win."

So, we slog on to transform the hostility or non-cooperation of the locals into support for our policies as a strategy to defeat enemy forces - without ever, ever taking into account the Islamic culture that is the main source of said hostility and non-cooperation. And I cant emphasize that last point enough. Just think: Gen. Stanley McChrystals famous 66-page Afghanistan strategy didnt mention Islam once except to declare that the Taliban were in "flagrant contravention of the principles of the Koran." Such a statement betrays a complete and harrowing ignorance of the Islamic institution of jihad, a foundational principle of the Koran. As al Qaeda imam Abu Qatada once said in similar context about George W. Bushs misreading of Islam as a "religion of peace": "I am astonished by President Bush when he claims there is nothing in the Koran that justifies jihad or violence in the name of Islam. Is he some kind of Islamic scholar? Has he ever actually read the Koran?" We would do well to substitute the names of the proponents of COIN and ask the same questions.

RK: Recently your criticism of General Petraeus has elicited some pretty strong rebuttals. Could you elaborate?

DW:I just went back and reread all of the blog posts and syndicated columns I've written since March 15 on the Petraeus-Israel controversy, which, of course, erupted in tandem with last month's Jerusalem "housing crisis" that Obama used to castigate and humiliate Netanyahu on his recent Washington visit. (Interested readers may catch up on the Petraeus details here.

Writing at National Review Online on April 8, Andrew C. McCarthy ultimately summed up Petraeus' Arabist attitudes as "Petraeus' Israel Problem."

As the initial furor cools, what remains of at least equal interest is what I call the Conservatives' Petraeus Problem. This is something that came into a harsh focus that just hasn't faded, particularly now as Petraeus heads into a spring whirl of gala conservative dinners where he will be the honored guest, both at the Irving Kristol Lecture at AEI in Washington, and at Commentary magazine in New York. If Petraeus is just another Zbig Brzezinski-Jim Jones Arabist who sees the world from the Arab-Islamic perspective that Israel is the axis on which all problems turn, that's one thing. But if he is just another Arabist who is also the hero of Iraq and more to conservatives who support Israel, or, at least, who have traditionally supported Israel, that is something else again.

The impulse on the Right has been to deny, downplay or just ignore the implications of Petraeus' Arab-Israeli comments. Amazingly, at two weeks into the controversy, Petraeus' Senate testimony still hadn't received any coverage at NRO or The Corner, (Andy McCarthy's piece came later), had been whitewashed in brief at the Weekly Standard's blog, whitewashed at the American Spectator, and ignored in columns (John Bolton, Linda Chavez) on Israel's abuse at the hands of the Obama administration (predicated on the mindset, sensationally enough, shared by Petraeus) or further whitewashed (Brett Stephens). A particularly virulent (and even slanderous to me) Petraeus defense was mounted at Commentary's blog Contentions summed up first and then here.

Dick Morris was the first conservative that I know of to "come out" and, in effect, join me in noting Petraeus' hostility to Israel. He wrote: "Gen. Petraeus told the Senate Armed Services Committee that `Arab anger over the Palestinian question limits the strength and depth of U.S. partnerships with governments and peoples [in the region] ... Enduring hostilites between Israel and some of its neighbors present distinct challenges to our ability to advance our interests in the area of responsibility.' In other words, blame Israel." It's that simple.

Caroline Glick has recently examined the evidence and come to a similar conclusion.

That leaves the other 99 percent of the Right. (The Left and the Arab world have, meanwhile, been positively jubilant over Petraeus' position.)

Why the reticence? I think I know the answer. I've already mentioned some of my thoughts above on counterinsurgency doctrine. Well, Petraeus wrote the book on COIN -- literally. He is the lead author on the COIN manual that has guided the Pentagon in the execution of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, with Iraq in particular being a war that most conservatives and certainly all neoconservatives take immense pride in as a victory for the ages -- another delusional fantasy, in my view (see three part series on whether the "surge" was a success in Iraq here). Some of them have even acted as consultants or architects of this same, again, in my view, utterly disastrous war policy. What I think is impossible for them to face is 1) the possibility that their policy has achieved nothing of lasting value for the United States, and 2) the policy has instead done much to reorient our foreign policy around Arab-Islamic objectives in the COIN pursuit of Arab-Islamic hearts and minds. For what else is the effort, for example, to assuage the "Arab anger over the Palestinian question" as Gen. Petraeus put it to to the US Senate, than the effort to win Arab(-Islamic) hearts and minds?

RK: Is there a new book in the offing?

DW: There is. I am currently delving deep into this mindset as it evolved over the past century in my next book for St Martins Press. It's called The Hollow Center, and this episode, I do think, will be part of it.

RK: I look forward to reading it Diana and thank you for your prompt responses. Contributing Editor Ruth S. King is a freelance writer who writes a monthly column in OUTPOST, the publication of Americans for a Safe Israel.

da kine (not verified)

Tue, 04/20/2010 - 4:37pm

I have followed Michael Yon for a long time, donated money to him, and bought several copies of his book to send to family and friends. That having been said, he has gone off the rails lately. His Facebook and Twitter pages have gotten more catty, personal, and vainglorious every update for the past several months. I stopped following him last month because I couldn't stand watching such a promising author turn strangely strident and unprofessional.