Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Wednesday Readings

One of the pithier (and I think correct) statements:  

Foreigners fighting = Failure in counterinsurgency.

I guess Fabius Maximus' basic thesis is it is all about the Benjamins.

And from the "For More Information" section below:

A major discovery! It could change the course of US geopolitical strategy, if we’d only see it.  — Andrew Exum (aka Abu Muqawama) points us to the doctoral dissertation of Erin Marie Simpson in Political Science from Harvard.  She examines the present and past analysis of  counter-insurgency.  This could change the course of American foreign policy, if we pay attention

A lesson about counterinsurgency that could change America’s future.

I have always liked this story since I heard it 20 years ago.  But this excerpt is useful on many levels:

Commonly held core beliefs are almost impossible to change rapidly. The Green Beret knows that sometimes, working within a belief system is more powerful than attacking it. This is fraught with peril, for if your witchcraft is found wanting, you could just as easily end up in front of the mob as any other witch.
Everybody holds a few irrational views. People have told each other witch stories around fires since prehistoric times. Green Berets know that sometimes, you need a good witch to fight a bad witch, and nobody likes werewolves. Find your strengths and use them for good.

Think Like a Green Beret: Be a Witch

From Adam Elkus on his "Rethinking Security" Blog.

"Congress Isn’t Good At Foreign Policy."

Hard to believe the ODNI is 10 years old.


For those of you keeping score at home, CIA now joins DIA, and NGA in reorganizing itself within the last 18 months!

ODNI at Ten, Reorgs, and Lone Wolves

The ROK needs to conduct the full range of unification planning by all the various scenarios including post conflict and post-regime collapse, critics be damned.  I hate to beat a dead horse but I have described this requirement here (to include US support to the ROK).

We cannot let fears of provoking the north prevent proper planning. We cannot let the critics control the debate (let them contribute of course but do not let them hinder or block responsible preparation and planning)  Of course we all want the ideal path to reunification built on respect,  reconciliation, reform, rebuilding, and reunification (R5).  But as the saying goes north Korea has a vote.  But that does not mean that the ROK should not try to engage and work all the various paths while being ready for the worst cases of war or collapse.

Unification panel sparks controversy

The AFP is getting very aggressive more so than I have seen them in years probably not since 2005 when they really engaged the MILF that led to the cease fire.

Philippine Military Says 23 Muslim Rebels Killed in Clashes

MANILA, Philippines — Mar 11, 2015, 8:12 AM ET

I know there are some professionally embarrassed US advisers in Iraq who are unable to effectively advise and do what the Canadians and Iranians are able to do.  Not that I want anyone in harm's way unnecessarily but if you give the advisers the mission they should have the flexibility and authority to do it the way that makes sense and that accomplishes the mission and supports achievement of our policy goals (unless that policy goal is simply to make it look like we are doing something without really doing anything that puts people or the political leadership at risk).  That said if the way they are doing it is based on their thorough and expert assessment then I will not second guess them.  But if they have their hands tied behind their backs by political leaders in DC they we should really be rethinking is we are capable of executing these missions.

The best comment I heard on a broadcast was from an Iraqi military leader comparing the Iranians to the Americans who said something to the effect that "four advisers with this troops in the front is worth more than dozens of troops back in the safety of the green zone."  But I am fully aware of our risk averse mind set and of course the administration mantra of "no boots on the ground" that guides strategy and campaign plan execution and that trumps effectiveness.


There are about 2,840 U.S. forces in Iraq, participating in Operation Inherent Resolve. Of those, 450 are trainers who are instructing Iraqi units in five secure locations around the country. Twelve advisory teams, comprising 200 troops of 15-20 per team, move around the country working with Iraqi brigades and headquarters units, and about 800 others are providing security for the U.S. presence. The rest are providing other support, including intelligence, surveillance and logistics.
U.S. officials, however, say that the American forces are operating farther from the front lines and none has taken fire. The bulk of the U.S and coalition effort has been through airstrikes. Since last August, the U.S. has launched strikes on Islamic State militants or facilities at nearly 1,000 locations in Iraq, while coalition members have conducted about 540.
The 12 U.S. military teams travel around the country to advise Iraqi brigades and higher headquarters. The U.S. troops are not authorized to go out on the front lines with smaller units. When the advise-and-assist teams go out, they have to get permission from senior leaders and there has to be a reasonable assurance that they will not come in contact with the enemy. Other nations largely follow those guidelines, but Canadian leaders, for example, have said their special operations forces have traded fire with militants on the front lines.
According to U.S. officials, there are more defined front lines in this fight in Iraq, as Islamic State militants dig in to protect the ground they have claimed, than in previous Iraq or Afghanistan conflicts involving U.S. troops. Those conflicts more often involved counter-insurgency warfare, where the battle lines are blurred.
I have heard rumors that the permission required comes from DC and not even the in country chain of command.  Imagine how agile are our advisory teams.

Q&A: US Troop Positions in Iraq Keep Them off Front Lines

WASHINGTON — Mar 11, 2015, 3:23 AM ET
By LOLITA C. BALDOR Associated Press


Intelligence failure can be broadly defined as “a misunderstanding of the situation that leads a government (or its military forces) to take actions that are inappropriate and counterproductive to its own interests.” Intelligence failures are inevitable because there are limits to what intelligence can accomplish. Its proponents are guilty of overselling its capabilities and its consumers and observers are guilty of misunderstanding them. To understand what intelligence failure is it is necessary to understand the different sources of it, identify where failures occur in the “intelligence cycle”, their causes, and other factors affecting it. Understanding the complex process of transforming information into intelligence also means understanding that it would be more shocking not to have intelligence failures. They are inevitable because intelligence is there to reduce the occurrence or effect of unanticipated events, not wholly eliminate them as a possibility.

‘Intelligence Failures’ Are Inevitable. Get Over it

March 11, 2015 at 5:00 am  •  0 Comments

Jason does not pull any punches in this introductory explanation of the Iranian regime.

The Iranian state is engaged in an existential conflict for the future of the ruling government, Shia Islam, and its status as a regional hegemonic power. Strategically postured against three powerful adversaries to include the United States, Israel, and Saudi Arabia, Iran perceives itself as the underdog in a protracted conflict where it is outmanned, outgunned, militarily surrounded, and diplomatically isolated. To Iran’s further detriment, the Islamic Regime is accused, rightly or wrongly, by the United Nations (UN) Security Council of seeking the means to develop a nuclear weapon, which has resulted in devastating sanctions against the Iranian economy and has placed Iran on the precipice of war with a superior United States military force stationed throughout the Persian Gulf and an aggressive, war-hardened, and technologically superior Israeli military force to the West. Given these disadvantages, Iran’s security posture is, if nothing else, precarious and seemingly uncertain.
The above pessimistic characterization of the Iranian security posture is a rudimentary introduction to the Iranian problem set, yet serves to demonstrate how the regime may perceive their future survival objectives and accordingly construct their strategic calculus. In response to these perceived threats, Iran has historically relied on asymmetric strategies to include less costly (yet threatening) military deterrents such as their theater ballistic missile (TBM) program, a robust information operations campaign directed at both internal and external audiences, and support to key non-state actors in order to extend the regime’s capacity to influence politics and population centers throughout the Southwest Asia region. The latter of these asymmetric strategies is potentially the most critical to Iran’s future security posture as it provides the regime the necessary strategic depth to achieve its prime objectives – maintaining the continuity of its government, promoting Shia Islam, and becoming a regional hegemon.

Iran’s Involvement in Bahrain

by Jason Rivera

Journal Article | March 11, 2015 - 7:35am

Some might say non-violent combat is an oxymoron (I could not resist saying that).  But good to see reference to Gene Sharp in this piece.

A New Way of Warfare: The Strategic Logic of Harnessing Non-Violent Combat

by Arnel David

Journal Article | March 11, 2015 - 9:37am


The report, “Rethinking the U.S. Approach to Boko Haram,” was released by CNA Corp., a Washington-area think tank, on Tuesday. It was requested by U.S. Naval Forces Africa as it developed a supporting plan to U.S. Africa Command’s regional vision for the Gulf of Guinea and West Africa, CNA officials said.

U.S. needs to shake up 

military approach to Boko 

Haram, new study says

Improving the Military with a Little 


Some very candid comments.  I wonder how much longer they will be around and if we will ever hear such comments from them again?  They sound like candidates for some re-education.  Then again could this be a deliberate and sanctioned message being sent to achieve some effect?

“Everybody in society knows that in the PLA … you need to pay to join the party. Promotions to become leaders at platoon, company, regiment and division levels all have their own price tags,” said retired PLA Major General Yang Chunchang, who is a former department deputy head of China’s Academy of Military Sciences.

“It has affected the security of the army. It’s too horrible, as bribes are in the scale of several tens of million [yuan],” he said in the TV interview.
Retired Major General Jiang Chunliang, a former researcher at the Academy of Military Sciences, said cronyism and corruption took the front seat in deciding important appointments.
Favouritism is shown to some “people’s sons, son-in-laws, secretaries, those who are closer to the senior officers, or those willing to bribe officers-in-charge. Incompetent candidates are thus picked for important leading roles,” Jiang said.
Retired Major General Luo Yuan said in the TV interview that while he thought corruption in the military had “yet to be widespread”, he warned graft would erode the morale of the troops.
“Which soldier will be willing to sacrifice for a corrupt officer, or to fight a battle for a corrupt officer? That corrupt officer has his own private coffer; how will he risk his own life for the country?” Luo asked.

Retired generals point to ‘horrible’ graft in PLA

Money, connections and personal bonds decide promotions, and the culture of confidentiality makes exposing wrong-doers difficult, former top brass says

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