Small Wars Journal

Blog Posts

SWJ Blog is a multi-author blog publishing news and commentary on the various goings on across the broad community of practice.  We gladly accept guest posts from serious voices in the community.

by SWJ Editors | Sat, 06/05/2010 - 6:42pm | 1 comment

Small Wars Journal has kicked off our

first fundraising campaign.  During June 2010, or more precisely through the 4th of July, we have a goal of raising $50,000 for Small Wars Foundation,

the 501(c)(3) that operates Small Wars Journal. While we dearly appreciate the donations so far - our community of interest and practice needs to do more here to help us keep the lights on - seriously. For many this site has been a free ride, for others a serious investment in time and money that can no longer sustain itself with pats on the back.

 

When we reflect back on where we are now, damn, we're thankful. We are

where we are now, first and foremost, because of the quality of thought and writing

by our content contributors (all volunteers), the substantive participation of commenters

on the Journal and SWJ Blog, and the richness of discussion in the Small Wars Council. 

We have benefitted immensely from the early endorsement and continued participation

of some of the greats in the field.  We have received some individual contributions

and we have efforts underway enabled by some generous grants. We are humbled by

the way the community has embraced Small Wars Journal.

Even more humbling is the amount of work we need to do to keep up with your interest

and continue to be worthy of the value you seem to place in us.  We have a

criminal backlog of good content submissions that we need to be able to work through

faster, since timeliness in so important to our dialog. We have a lot to do to update

and expand the site's other content, particularly to exploit the potential of an

upcoming platform and usability upgrade made possible by a grant. We are doing a

lot, we can do a lot more, and we need some resources help to close the gap. Call

it capacity building.

So to better serve you, the small wars community of interest, we are in the unpleasant

but necessary position of coming to you, hat in hand, in an NPR-like scenario. We

are counting on your contributions, coupled with support from grants and foundations,

collateral income (advertising and referrals), and volunteer contributions of effort

and content, to help us do more of what you seem to value and want us to do.

Please see our Support

pages for more ways you can help.  Here are the most blunt ones:

Give a one-time

donation:

Set-up a monthly

donation:

$

for

months.

Mail checks payable to:

Small Wars Foundation

4938 Hampden Ln, #560

Bethesda, MD 20814

Track the

campaign's progress here.

by SWJ Editors | Sat, 06/05/2010 - 5:07pm | 20 comments
While these pages have seen more than a fair share of debate concerning the future of the US Army, little attention has been given concerning their "ground force" brethren in arms - the US Marine Corps.

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has challenged the Marine Corps to define its future - and this is especially important as the Corps' Commandant, General James Conway, is nearing retirement.

Gates has been quoted as unsure just where Marines would be asked to storm a beach in the future - especially as "potential foes continue fielding more and more advanced weapons". He has also been critical of the Marine's Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (EFV) stating the need "to take a hard look" at the practicality of such expensive acquisition efforts.

But Gates said that America "will always have a Marine Corps," and "we will need some amount of amphibious capability."

What say you?

The Marine Corps answered yesterday by conducting the largest amphibious landing exercise 1st Marine Expeditionary Force and the Navy's 3rd Fleet have staged since before 11 September 2001.

by SWJ Editors | Fri, 06/04/2010 - 11:18pm | 2 comments

See Cartoons by Cartoon by Joe Heller - Courtesy of Politicalcartoons.com - Email this Cartoon

by SWJ Editors | Fri, 06/04/2010 - 9:34pm | 1 comment
The Big Squeeze - Gary Schmitt and Thomas Donnelly, Weekly Standard opinion.

On the 65th anniversary of the Allied victory in Europe in early May, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates spoke at the Eisenhower Library in Abilene, Kansas. His speech was not about America's unprecedented, massive marshalling of resources, men, and materiel to defeat the forces of fascism that threatened to overwhelm the West. Instead, its underlying message was ultimately one of strategic retreat—signaling his and the Obama administration's view that the richest country in the world can no longer afford to sustain the military's current force structure and capabilities.

Channeling his inner President Eisenhower, Gates sought to make this message sound not only reasonable but morally justified by belittling Washington, the town where he has spent most of his career. Pandering to those on the left who always see defense spending as dangerous, he raised anew Eisenhower's overwrought concern about the creation of a "garrison state" and a "military-industrial complex." Pandering to those on the right who see the Pentagon as a gigantic sink hole for tax dollars, he dredged up the old saw about the Pentagon being a "Puzzle Palace" and stated that "the attacks of September 11, 2001, opened a gusher of defense spending."

The secretary—along with the Obama administration—wants Americans to believe there is no choice but to cut the defense budget given economic and fiscal realities. Just as there is no crying in baseball, however, there are no inevitabilities in politics. The administration is indeed squeezing defense spending more and more tightly, but that is a product of decisions made and policies chosen. They can and should be revisited...

More at The Weekly Standard.

by SWJ Editors | Fri, 06/04/2010 - 11:29am | 0 comments
America's Skewed National Security Priorities - Andrew J. Bacevich, Boston Globe opinion.

When requirements are great and resources limited, setting the right priorities becomes essential. Yet events in recent years - the ineffective government response to the BP oil spill being the latest - have made it clear that US national security priorities are badly out of whack. Last week, President Obama designated the oil spill his "top priority.'' No doubt the president spoke from the heart. For the national security establishment over which he presides, however, pacifying Kandahar continues to take precedence over protecting Louisiana's Grand Isle...

From one administration to the next, the US government has failed to anticipate the threats actually endangering the well-being of the American people. Worse, when those threats materialize - here at home, not in Central Asia or the Persian Gulf - authorities respond belatedly and ineffectually. Even as Washington has fixated on distant wars of dubious necessity, Americans have lost their savings, lost their jobs, and lost their homes. Some have lost their lives, others have lost their livelihood.

A century ago, Americans paid considerable attention to their "near abroad.'' Today they all but ignore it. Compare US policy toward Afghanistan, located on the other side of the world, with US policy toward our neighbor, Mexico. To assist Afghans, Washington will seemingly spare no expense. When it comes to Mexico, Washington builds a chain-link fence. Yet whether the issue is trade, drugs, or security, Mexico's importance to the United States outranks Afghanistan's by orders of magnitude...

More at The Boston Globe.

by SWJ Editors | Fri, 06/04/2010 - 9:52am | 3 comments
Hat Tip to Phil Carter and Stu Herrington for bringing this U.S. Government Printing Office (Government Book Talk) book review to our attention.

Interrogation: World War II, Vietnam, and Iraq is an absolutely fascinating read. This book from the National Defense Intelligence College takes both an historical and policy-oriented view of prisoner of war interrogations in three wars. The World War II section examines the Army's use of Japanese Americans -- Nisei -- as interrogators in the Pacific, along with incisive discussions of why Japanese soldiers seldom were taken prisoners, why a relatively high percentage of such POWs cooperated with their interrogators, and why they furnished such a significant amount of intelligence to their captors (the Japanese military hierarchy assumed that their men would not become prisoners and so did not indoctrinate them about the importance of not giving up information if they were.) This part of the book also analyzes the strengths and weaknesses of the Army and Navy Japanese language training both services provided during the war.

The Vietnam section focuses on profiles of the most able interrogators in World War II (the wonderfully named R.W. G. "Tin Eye" Stephens for the British and Hans Scharff for the Germans) and a number of successful American officers during the Vietnam conflict. Throughout the book, the authors make the point that linguistic ability, a deep understanding of the captives' culture and worldview, and a perception that torture or other violent methods were useless in soliciting information of value are the hallmarks of a successful interrogator of prisoners. This part of the book also describes these individuals' occasional conflicts with the military bureaucracy, such as Sedgwick Tourison's experience in reporting more information about the Tonkin Gulf incident than his superiors wanted to hear.

The final section, on Iraq, focuses on policy issues -- specifically, whether Army doctrine should permit Special Operations personnel to interrogate prisoners. Again, real-world examples from personal experience provide a study that is both gripping and insightful.

Interrogation: World War II, Vietnam, and Iraq is a thoughtful and provocative analysis of what any army confronts in war -- the need to gather intelligence from prisoners, the most effective way to do that, and the ineffectiveness of "harsh methods" in delivering useful information.

You can read the book here or get a copy from GPO here.

by SWJ Editors | Fri, 06/04/2010 - 3:29am | 0 comments
U.S. 'Secret War' Expands Globally as SOF Take Larger Role - Karen DeYoung and Greg Jaffe, Washington Post.

Beneath its commitment to soft-spoken diplomacy and beyond the combat zones of Afghanistan and Iraq, the Obama administration has significantly expanded a largely secret U.S. war against al-Qaeda and other radical groups, according to senior military and administration officials. Special Operations forces have grown both in number and budget, and are deployed in 75 countries, compared with about 60 at the beginning of last year. In addition to units that have spent years in the Philippines and Colombia, teams are operating in Yemen and elsewhere in the Middle East, Africa and Central Asia.

Commanders are developing plans for increasing the use of such forces in Somalia, where a Special Operations raid last year killed the alleged head of al-Qaeda in East Africa. Plans exist for preemptive or retaliatory strikes in numerous places around the world, meant to be put into action when a plot has been identified, or after an attack linked to a specific group. The surge in Special Operations deployments, along with intensified CIA drone attacks in western Pakistan, is the other side of the national security doctrine of global engagement and domestic values President Obama released last week...

More at The Washington Post.

Pentagon Told to Save Billions for Use in War - Thom Shanker, New York Times.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has ordered the military and the Pentagon's civilian bureaucracy to find tens of billions of dollars in annual savings to pay for war-fighting operations, senior officials said Thursday. His goal is $7 billion in spending cuts and efficiencies for 2012, growing to $37 billion annually by 2016.

Every modern defense secretary has declared war on Pentagon waste and redundancy. And there have been notable, but relatively narrow successes, in closing and consolidating military bases or in canceling a handful of weapons systems. But if Mr. Gates's sweeping plan is fully enacted, none of the armed services or Pentagon civilian agencies and directorates would be immune from the pain of annual cost-cutting, which would become institutionalized across the Defense Department...

More at The New York Times.

by SWJ Editors | Thu, 06/03/2010 - 3:54pm | 1 comment
Africa's Irregular Security Threats: Challenges for U.S. Engagement - Dr. Andre LeSage, Institute for National Security Studies at National Defense University. Key points follow:

The United States has a growing strategic interest in Africa at a time when the security landscape there is dominated by a wide range of irregular, nonstate threats. Militia factions and armed gangs are ubiquitous in the conti¬nent's civil wars, fighting both for and against African governments. Other security challenges include terrorism, drug trafficking, maritime threats such as piracy in the Indian Ocean, and oil bunkering in the Gulf of Guinea. Organized criminal activities, particularly kidnapping, human smuggling and trafficking in persons, weapons smuggling, and environmental and financial crimes, are increasingly brazen and destructive. These are not isolated phenomena. Rather, they create a vicious circle: Africa's irregular threat dynamics sustain black markets directly linked to state corruption, divert atten¬tion from democratization efforts, generate or fuel civil wars, drive state collapse, and create safe havens that allow terrorists and more criminals to operate.

International consensus is growing on the best way forward. African governments and their international partners must craft more appropriately structured and better resourced security sectors to address emerging threats. This means balancing emphasis on professionalizing Africa's military forces with an equally serious and long-term commit¬ment to modernizing law enforcement, civilian intelligence, and border security agencies. It also means enhancing African governments' legal capabilities to monitor and regulate finan¬cial and commodity flows across their borders, and to prosecute those who transgress the law. National coordination and regional coopera¬tion are needed to overcome "stovepiped" responses, share information, and address threats that are multidimensional and transna¬tional in nature. Finally, there is agreement that much more needs to be done to address the root causes of these threats by reducing poverty, building peace in conflict-ridden societies, and curtailing the general sense of alienation many Africans feel toward their governments.

Engaging African states as reliable part¬ners to confront irregular security challenges will be a complex process requiring a three-pronged strategy. First, there must be substan¬tial, sustained, and continent-wide investment in capacity-building for intelligence, law enforcement, military, prosecutorial, judicial, and penal systems, not to mention their par¬liamentary, media, and civil society counter¬parts. Second, until such African capabilities come online and are properly utilized by polit¬ical leaders, the United States and other for¬eign partners will need to deploy more of their own intelligence, law enforcement, and spe¬cial operations personnel to Africa to address terrorist and criminal dynamics that pose a direct and immediate threat to U.S. strategic interests. Third, further efforts are required to harden the political will of African leaders to actually deploy their maturing security sec¬tor capabilities in an aggressive manner that abides by the rule of law.

Full article at the Institute for National Security Studies.

by SWJ Editors | Thu, 06/03/2010 - 2:23pm | 4 comments
Has Afghanistan Aid 'Failed'? - Sydney J. Freedberg Jr., National Journal.

An article in the latest issue of the Army War College's official journal, Parameters, fires a shot across the bow of the current U.S. strategy in Afghanistan with its call for "Counterinsurgency 3.0." Authors James Gavrilis, a retired lieutenant colonel, and Peter Charles Coharis, an international consultant, bluntly state that "massive international development assistance" to Afghanistan -- over $225 billion from the U.S. alone since 9/11 -- has "failed" to win hearts and minds because "policy-makers have incorrectly assumed that international development aid is inherently beneficial... and invariably leads to a grateful populace." Instead, the article argues, "aid is inherently disruptive and potentially destabilizing, and development does not necessarily translate into pro-American or pro-Afghan government sentiments." ...

More at The National Journal.

by SWJ Editors | Thu, 06/03/2010 - 9:12am | 3 comments

Gene Simmons Military Tribute

by SWJ Editors | Thu, 06/03/2010 - 8:06am | 2 comments
Inside the Ring - Bill Gertz, Washington Times.

U.S. intelligence agencies have obtained a Chinese military book that will provide new insights into the Chinese military's information-warfare plans. The book is being translated, but Inside the Ring obtained its table of contents, which reveals Beijing's priorities for high-technology warfare using computers and electronic-warfare weapons. The 322-page book, "Information Warfare Theory," was published in May 2007 and written by Wang Zhengde, president of the People's Liberation Army Information Engineering University.

Like other military and Communist Party writings, such books are not often made public, and when they are, they provide U.S. intelligence and military specialist with valuable clues to the military thinking and plans of China's secretive military. The book states that information warfare is the "core" of China's high-tech military-reform efforts, which are referred to as "informationized" warfare - what the U.S. military has called the "revolution in military affairs." It involves integrating various weapons and intelligence with advanced command-and-control systems and mobile, combined-arms forces...

More at The Washington Times.

by SWJ Editors | Wed, 06/02/2010 - 2:35pm | 9 comments
Some wonderful Real Politik analysis by Tony Cordesman over at CSIS in Israel as a Strategic Liability? that we received in their Web Flash mailing.

Israel should be sensitive to the fact that its actions directly affect U.S. strategic interests in the Arab and Muslim worlds, and it must be as sensitive to U.S. strategic concerns as the United States is to those of Israel.

and

...Israel should show enough discretion to reflect the fact that it is a tertiary U.S. strategic interest in a complex and demanding world.

A quick read here and well worth it. I am confident we have folks deeply entrenched in both extreme camps. Does this reflect the pragmatic middle ground?

by SWJ Editors | Wed, 06/02/2010 - 1:35pm | 4 comments
Two must reads that we have neglected to visit (and link to) as often as we should; Kings of War (King's College) and The Interpreter (Lowy Institute).
by SWJ Editors | Wed, 06/02/2010 - 7:44am | 6 comments
America's Strategic Poker Face - Michael Gerson, Washington Post opinion.

... It is commonplace to assert that there are economic foundations of national power. It is shameless to use a national security document to advance a debatable domestic agenda that shows scant understanding of how economies actually grow stronger. And it is doubly shameless - naked-on-a-downtown-bus shameless - for this administration to assert "responsible management of our federal budget" as a national security priority.

In most areas, the 2010 NSS expresses unobjectionable continuity. America frowns on nuclear proliferation. America likes democracy. America will act along with its allies -- except when it needs to act alone. Portions of the document are admirable, especially its emphasis on the promotion of development and global health as instruments of national influence. But it is not surprising that nearly everyone can find something to like in the NSS, since it reads like a State of the Union without space constraints. "The United States is an Arctic nation," we are informed, "with broad and fundamental interests in the Arctic region."

Much that is old in the NSS is obvious. Much that is new is not actually new. The contention that health entitlements, infrastructure construction and education spending are really national security priorities is a repolished version of an argument made for decades on the isolationist left. "How many schools could we build for the price of an aircraft carrier?" has become the claim that domestic spending is the national security equivalent of building an aircraft carrier...

More at The Washington Post.

National Security Strategy - White House Web Page

by SWJ Editors | Wed, 06/02/2010 - 4:23am | 0 comments
Counterinsurgency 3.0 - Peter Charles Choharis and James A. Gavrilis, Parameters.

After eight years of war, more than 907 Americans dead and 4,400 wounded, and $227 billion in aid from the United States alone, Afghanistan was "deteriorating" badly, according to the NATO International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) commander, General Stanley McChrystal, in an August 2009 report to the Secretary of Defense. Although General McChrystal has been more optimistic of late, the fact remains that the Taliban's reach is more extensive now than at any time since being expelled from Kabul eight years ago. They have shadow governors in every province except Kabul. People turn to Taliban courts rather than state courts for justice in many parts of Afghanistan. And many Afghans prefer the Taliban's austerity over the Karzai government's corruption and incompetence. Why?

Why have the Taliban and their al Qaeda allies, who just a few years ago were reviled by the vast majority of Afghans for their brutality and fanaticism, grown in strength and popularity during nearly a decade of US and international assistance? More broadly, why has massive international development assistance in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere failed to defeat the grip of extremist ideologies among many people who have benefited from billions of dollars worth of aid? Is it even possible for international development aid to help defeat radical Islam and other ideologies hostile to the West and, if so, how?

The conflict in Iraq taught the US military many valuable lessons about how to gain the trust and cooperation of the local populace in the fight against radical Islamic insurgents, demonstrated in the new counterinsurgency (COIN) strategy implemented during the 2007 "surge." First, the Anbar Awakening established a successful precedent of the US military partnering with local tribes against insurgents, a tactical approach that could be consid¬ered "COIN 1.0." Next, COIN theorists led by General David Petraeus described the Clear-Hold-Build strategy to transition and expand tribal security alliances into long-term governance arrangements, a strategic advance that can be termed "COIN 2.0." General McChrystal and ISAF forces are applying many of these lessons in their current COIN operations in Afghanistan. There remains, however, a substantial doctrinal need to move from tactical methods that cultivate and develop tribal alliances to the strategic use of international aid to defeat insurgencies broadly and decisively. The authors term this new strategic approach to providing development aid in conflict areas "COIN 3.0." ...

Much more at Parameters.

Also in the latest issue of Parameters:

Integrating Civilian and Military Activities - Richard A. Lacquement, Jr.

Combating a Combat Legacy - Chad Serena

The Issue of Attrition - J. Boone Bartholomees, Jr.

The Strategic Failures of al Qaeda - Thomas R. Mccabe

Growing Strategic Leaders for Future Conflict - Barak A. Salmoni, Jessica Hart, Renny Mcpherson, and Aidan Kirby Winn

Clausewitz and the "New Wars" Scholars - Bart Schuurman

Our Visual Persuasion Gap - Martin Gurri, Craig Denny, and Aaron Harms

by SWJ Editors | Tue, 06/01/2010 - 4:29pm | 0 comments
Michael Yon's War - D.B. Grady, The Atlantic.

It began with a bridge. On the morning of March 1, a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device detonated on Tarnak River Bridge near Kandahar, Afghanistan, killing multiple civilians and one American soldier. While the destruction of a single bridge might ordinarily pose a mere inconvenience to the U.S. war machine, in the oppressive terrain of Afghanistan it became a logistical chokepoint, halting ground-based operations for days.

War correspondent Michael Yon sought the answer to an uncomfortable question: who was responsible for the security of that bridge?

Yon is no ordinary reporter. A former Green Beret with U.S. Army Special Forces, he has spent more time embedded in Iraq and Afghanistan than any other journalist. His dispatches have produced some of the most memorable combat narratives of the war, and a large share of its most iconic images. Make no mistake; Michael Yon is not a dispassionate observer of the Columbia J-School variety. When writing about U.S. forces, he says "we." When writing about insurgents, he calls them terrorists or Taliban. And when reporting failures in the war effort, he names names. This has earned him both the respect and ire of senior military staff. In the case of the Tarnak River Bridge, the name most repeatedly mentioned as responsible for its security was Daniel Menard, the Canadian brigadier general in charge of Task Force Kandahar. Yon went public with this information...

More at The Atlantic.

by SWJ Editors | Tue, 06/01/2010 - 8:36am | 4 comments
To go beyond MSM reporting on the IDF's boarding of Gaza flotilla vessels see Information Dissemination, CDR Salamander, FP Passport, Politico, The Interpreter, Schmedlap, Abu Muqawama, Zenpundit, and Fabius Maximus.

Add others we missed to comments below.

by SWJ Editors | Tue, 06/01/2010 - 8:19am | 0 comments
Shoot at American Patrol. Get Shot. Ditch Rifle. Ask Patrol for Bandage. Repeat? - C.J. Chivers, New York Times.

... This is the bizarre world of Afghan war, where both sides know the rules and fight according to them. For one side, the rules can resemble constraints. For the other, they can mean opportunity.

NATO's rules of engagement govern when, where and how force can be used, and in what forms, from a pistol shot to an airstrike. They also guide decisions on when and how Afghan homes can be entered. Rules of eligibility help shape when an Afghan can be given access to the military's medical system. Other rules determine when an Afghan can be detained, and by whom, and for how long, and where, and under what conditions. Over the years, the rules have shifted repeatedly. No doubt they will continue to change. And whenever a change is made, soldiers and Marines often joke that it seems that the Afghans they fight know the new rules as surely as American troops do, and adjust to them immediately.

This seemed to be the case on May 29 - when, if the soldiers had it right, two Afghans fighting the Americans took a break when they got shot, tossed aside their rifles or machine guns, and chose the wounded civilian option to hitch a ride from their enemy to their enemy's top-shelf gunshot-trauma care...

More at The New York Times.

by SWJ Editors | Tue, 06/01/2010 - 8:17am | 0 comments
America is Still the Best Guarantor of Freedom and Prosperity - Max Boot, Los Angeles Times opinion.

The U.S. still possesses unprecedented power projection capabilities, and just as important, it is armed with the goodwill of countless countries that know the U.S. offers protection from bullies.

Much nonsense has been written in recent years about the prospects of American decline and the inevitable rise of China. But it was not a declining power that I saw in recent weeks as I jetted from the Middle East to the Far East through two of America's pivotal geographic commands - Central Command and Pacific Command.

The very fact that the entire world is divided up into American military commands is significant. There is no French, Indian or Brazilian equivalent - not yet even a Chinese counterpart. It is simply assumed without much comment that American soldiers will be central players in the affairs of the entire world. It is also taken for granted that a vast network of American bases will stretch from Germany to Japan - more than 700 in all, depending on how you count...

More at The Los Angeles Times.

by SWJ Editors | Mon, 05/31/2010 - 4:00pm | 0 comments

It's Memorial Day -- time to look back and reflect on what so many have given

to get us to where we are.  In practice, it's also the unofficial start of

summer and the time to look forward to all that brings. With no disrespect intended

to this solemn day, it is also time for us to kick off our first fundraising campaign. 

During June 2010, or more precisely through the 4th of July, we have

a goal of raising $50,000 for Small Wars Foundation, the 501(c)(3) that operates

Small Wars Journal.

When we reflect back on where we are now, damn, we're thankful. We are

where we are now, first and foremost, because of the quality of thought and writing

by our content contributors (all volunteers), the substantive participation of commenters

on the Journal and SWJ Blog, and the richness of discussion in

the Small Wars Council.  We have benefitted immensely from the early endorsement

and continued participation of some of the greats in the field.  We have received

some individual contributions and we have efforts underway enabled by some generous

grants. We are humbled by the way the community has embraced Small Wars Journal.

Even more humbling is the amount of work we need to do to keep up with your interest

and continue to be worthy of the value you seem to place in us.  We have a

criminal backlog of good content submissions that we need to be able to work through

faster, since timeliness in so important to our dialog. We have a lot to do to update

and expand the site's other content, particularly to exploit the potential of an

upcoming platform and usability upgrade made possible by a grant. We are doing a

lot, we can do a lot more, and we need some resources help to close the gap. Call

it capacity building.

So to better serve you, the small wars community of interest, we are in the unpleasant

but necessary position of coming to you, hat in hand, in an NPR-like scenario. We

are counting on your contributions, coupled with support from grants and foundations,

collateral income (advertising and referrals), and volunteer contributions of effort

and content, to help us do more of what you seem to value and want us to do.

Please see our Support

pages for more ways you can help.  Here are the most blunt ones:

Give a one-time

donation:

Set-up a monthly

donation:

$

for

months.

Mail checks payable to:

Small Wars Foundation

4938 Hampden Ln, #560

Bethesda, MD 20814

Track the

campaign's progress here.

by SWJ Editors | Mon, 05/31/2010 - 8:09am | 1 comment
Memorial Day, for a Father Whose Son was Killed in Iraq - Andrew J. Bacevich, Los Angeles Times.

Where I grew up in the Midwest during the 1950s and early '60s, Memorial Day was no more about remembering the nation's war dead than Labor Day was about honoring working stiffs. It was a "free day." Falling on a Monday, Memorial Day made possible that great innovation, "the long weekend." As a family, we gathered in backyards for barbecues and to celebrate the informal beginning of summer. We did not gather in cemeteries to pay homage.

During my years as a serving soldier, Memorial Day connoted something quite different: It meant no scheduled training. It no longer implied a "free day," however. In the outfits where I served, holidays were the days we officers wore civvies to work, trying to catch up on everything left undone (usually paperwork) during the duty week. In retrospect it seems odd and more than a little embarrassing: Girding ourselves to fight the Red hordes, we Cold Warriors could spare no time to contemplate the sacrifices made by the real warriors who had preceded us.

Three years ago this month, my son was killed while serving in Iraq. His death changed many things, among them my own hitherto casual attitude toward Memorial Day.

Here in New England, where we now make our home, deejays and local news anchors still proclaim Memorial Day weekend the unofficial start of summer, as if unearthing some fresh discovery. Folks with cottages to open up take to the highways, pushing through traffic toward seashore or mountains. Our trek will be considerably shorter and simpler: We will make the five-minute drive to our son's gravesite...

More at The Los Angeles Times.

by SWJ Editors | Sun, 05/30/2010 - 6:08pm | 0 comments

HEADQUARTERS GRAND ARMY OF THE REPUBLIC

General Orders No.11, WASHINGTON, D.C., May 5, 1868

I. The 30th day of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet church-yard in the land. In this observance no form of ceremony is prescribed, but posts and comrades will in their own way arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit.

We are organized, comrades, as our regulations tell us, for the purpose among other things, "of preserving and strengthening those kind and fraternal feelings which have bound together the soldiers, sailors, and marines who united to suppress the late rebellion." What can aid more to assure this result than cherishing tenderly the memory of our heroic dead, who made their breasts a barricade between our country and its foes? Their soldier lives were the reveille of freedom to a race in chains, and their deaths the tattoo of rebellious tyranny in arms. We should guard their graves with sacred vigilance. All that the consecrated wealth and taste of the nation can add to their adornment and security is but a fitting tribute to the memory of her slain defenders. Let no wanton foot tread rudely on such hallowed grounds. Let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and fond mourners. Let no vandalism of avarice or neglect, no ravages of time testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic.

If our eyes grow dull, other hands slack, and other hearts cold in the solemn trust, ours shall keep it well as long as the light and warmth of life remain to us.

Let us, then, at the time appointed gather around their sacred remains and garland the passionless mounds above them with the choicest flowers of spring-time; let us raise above them the dear old flag they saved from dishonor; let us in this solemn presence renew our pledges to aid and assist those whom they have left among us a sacred charge upon a nation's gratitude, the soldier's and sailor's widow and orphan.

II. It is the purpose of the Commander-in-Chief to inaugurate this observance with the hope that it will be kept up from year to year, while a survivor of the war remains to honor the memory of his departed comrades. He earnestly desires the public press to lend its friendly aid in bringing to the notice of comrades in all parts of the country in time for simultaneous compliance therewith.

III. Department commanders will use efforts to make this order effective.

By order of

JOHN A. LOGAN,

Commander-in-Chief

N.P. CHIPMAN,

Adjutant General

Official:

WM. T. COLLINS, A.A.G.

-----

On the morning of August 16, 2005, as my wife Retta and I sat with Wes and Abbey just after breaking the news to them of Mikes death earler that morning, then 13 year old Abbey buried her head into my shoulder, sobbing these words: "he was supposed to chase away my first boyfriend, he was supposed to cheer at my graduation from high school, he was supposed to be an uncle to my children..." These words seared my heart, broken as it was. I shall never forget them. She lost her oldest brother that day, her "Bubs" which she called him short for his nickname, Bubba.

-- Mudville Gazette

General Orders No. 11 - Washington Times

20,000 Flags - Forward Movement

Remembering Mark - Kerplunk

Graduation Night: Moon Over Yusufiyah - Mudville Gazette

Four-Day Weekend - Wings Over Iraq

Coming Home - Mudville Gazette

A Way To Honor A Fallen Hero Today - Blackfive

Memorial Day - Prairie Pundit

Memorial Day: Fitting Memorials and Passing of Torches - Blackfive

National Memorial Day Parade - Blackfive

What We Remember on Memorial Day - Los Angeles Times

Remember Who? - Paragould Daily Press

Take a Moment to Reflect on Memorial Day - Chillicothe Gazette

Memorial Day Has Relevance - Odessa American

Remember Vets; Celebrate Freedoms - Bluefield Daily Telegraph

Is the Traditional Memorial Day Celebration Still Relevant? - Delmarva Daily Times

A Special Monday - Battle Creek Enquirer

Memorial Day's First Blossoms - Louisville Courier-Journal

Memorial Day About More Than Barbecues, Sales - Rio Rancho Observer

A Day to Honor, Not Celebrate - Duluth News Tribune

Don't Forget the 'Memory' in Memorial Day - New Haven Register

Memorial Day - Southeast Missourian

Honoring the Fallen - Covington News

Remember the Reason for Memorial Day - Mount Airy News

We Wish We Didn't Need Tomorrow But, Sadly, We Do - Leader Vindicator

Memorial Day Used to be May 30, Still Should Be - Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

'Yes, We Thank You. Yes, We Remember You.' - Fort Wayne Journal Gazette

Honoring the Fallen - Catskill Daily Mail

Memorial Day is Time to Reflect Upon Sacrifices - Daily Republic

A Time to Remember Their Sacrifices - Hillsboro Times Gazette

Giving Their Last Full Measure - McCook Daily Gazette

They Gave Their Lives - Casper Star-Tribune

Memorial Day is Foremost a Day of Honor - Lexington Dispatch

Every Day is Memorial Day - Washington Times

Seeing a Fallen Soldier Home - Washington Times

Maintain Peace by Staying Strong - Washington Times

The Glory of War - Washington Times

by SWJ Editors | Sun, 05/30/2010 - 7:58am | 0 comments
Continue on for Small Wars Journal's Afghanistan and Pakistan update...
by SWJ Editors | Sun, 05/30/2010 - 6:26am | 0 comments
To Join the Army's Old Guard, Iraq War Veteran Learns to Sweat the Small Stuff - Christian Davenport, Washington Post.

That ceremonial, iconic role makes it essential for Old Guard leaders to choose their soldiers carefully. Members of the unit must be at least 5-foot-10, physically fit and able to stand for hours at a time without so much as flinching. They have to master choreographed steps and marches and put together a flawless uniform, all of which they learn during an intensive three-week Regimental Indoctrination Program, which, as Pata is discovering, is unlike anything else in the Army.

Here, a ruler is almost as important as a rifle. Everything must be in its place - medals half an inch above the breast pocket, U.S. insignia one inch from the lapel edge, buckle two inches from the belt loop. Nothing in the constellation of the many decorations on Pata's uniform may be outside a one-sixteenth-of-an-inch margin of error - two tiny tick marks on the inspector's ruler, about the width of this o. Anything more and Pata gets what the Old Guard calls a gig. Three gigs and you fail.

Inspection time looms. A fellow soldier helps Pata fix his belt tight, clips one last derelict thread, and then, like a designer prepping a model for the runway, checks the soldier's shoes, soles, hair, hat, rifle, belt, gloves, cuffs, medals...

More at The Washington Post.

by Robert Haddick | Fri, 05/28/2010 - 6:19pm | 0 comments
Here is the latest edition of my column at Foreign Policy:

Topics include:

1) Can't we already write the December Afghanistan strategy review?

2) The new War Plan Orange.

Can't we already write the December Afghanistan strategy review?

The "battle" for Kandahar is now underway. But don't call it a battle, says Gen. Stanley McChrystal, think of it as a "process." According to a recent gloomy assessment by the Washington Post's Karen DeYoung, administration officials view the Kandahar operation as the "go for broke" culminating effort of the war. McChrystal will commit 10,000 U.S. soldiers and 80 percent of USAID's budget for Afghanistan to the Kandahar offensive. In DeYoung's words, "The bet is that the Kandahar operation, backed by thousands of U.S. troops and billions of dollars, will break the mystique and morale of the insurgents, turn the tide of the war and validate the administration's Afghanistan strategy. There is no Plan B."

Are Barack Obama and McChrystal really gambling on achieving a clear and convincing victory in Kandahar? The battle against the Taliban insurgents is a battle for perceptions. And there are numerous audiences whose perceptions the administration and McChrystal must alter. These audiences include Kandahar's leaders and population, the U.S. public, and the rest of the world, which will render its judgment about U.S. strength and effectiveness.

How do U.S. officials define success in Kandahar? According to DeYoung, the definition is vague, relying on "atmospherics reporting," public opinion polling, and levels of street commerce. When defining success, U.S. officials are in a logical trap; they must keep their definitions secret in order to prevent the Taliban from targeting the measurements. But without stating their goals in advance, they will have a difficult time convincing the various audiences that they are achieving them.

According to DeYoung's article, the Kandahar operation will be the centerpiece of the Obama administration's December strategy review. That review will presumably result in a decision confirming the plan to begin a withdrawal the following summer.

Given that the administration is hiding the definition of success, Obama has repeated the July 2011 withdrawal pledge, and the U.S. 2012 electoral calendar will by then be in motion, couldn't the White House staff just write the December strategy review now?

The one factor that actually remains unknown is how the Taliban will respond to the Kandahar offensive.

Click through to read more ...