John Henry

Mike Mulligan:

Here's a bit of a departure for you.

While visiting family over the weekend, my mother -- my son's grandmother, that is -- produced a copy of what she says was my favorite book as a boy. This was Mike and Mary Anne - Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, originally published in 1939. It is apparently eternally popular, and has never been out of print since that date.

It is the story of Mike and his steam shovel, Mary Anne, who worked on the Panama Canal together. As gasoline and diesel powered excavators come into the fore, Mike tries to find a place for himself and Mary Anne. He finally enters into a competition in which they dig out the basement for a City Hall, only they dig so fast that Mary Anne can't get back out again. So, a smart fellow turns her into the furnace for the new City Hall, and Mike gets a decent gov't job maintaining her. It is, in that way, the classic New Deal story.

But that isn't all it is.

I haven't thought of that book even once in my adult life. But sitting there, listening to my mother read it, I realized what it was: it's the legend of John Henry, with the steam engine as the hero.

John Henry said to his captain, "A man ain't nothin' but a man.
"But if you'll bring that steam drill round,
"I'll beat it fair and honest, I'll die with my hammer in my hand
" -- but I'll be laughing --
"'Cuz you can't replace a steel driv'n man."
Now ain't that something?

The Blogger's Tsunami Challenge | Loaded Mouth

Engagement Rings:

I see on checking the Blogger's Tsunami Challenge today that a brave young man has decided to take two gambles at once:

I just donated $1000 to the red cross, via amazon's one-click donate page, as a direct result of your challenge. To make it an interesting story, please consider it the "DeBeers Matching Fund"... I'm just about to buy my girlfriend an engagement ring, and I know she'd not mind me getting her a slightly(!) cheaper one, for the much greater benefit of the victims. She's pretty cool like that. I hearby challenge any future grooms with balls and money to do the same.
The mind boggles on several counts. Grim's fiancee was won with an engagement ring that cost US$12 -- a sterling silver ring done with Celtic knotwork that Grim himself wore once upon a time. The lady in question, now my wife of some years, wears the thing on a chain around her neck as it is far too big for her hand. We were grad students at the time, but she put aside any hope of financial prosperity and married me instead. Such women are too rare.

Love knows the victory, they say. Happy New Year to you all, and may Love find you, and abide with you, all the days of your life.

Lthrnk Chllng

Charity & Leathernecks:

I changed the "Leatherneck Tartan" button at the top right to point to the Tsunami Blogger Challenge, in case any of you should wish to keep track of it. I put it there to keep track of the Spirit of America "Friends of Iraq" Blogger Challenge.

Grim's Hall was never intended as a fundraising device, although from time to time I do like to post links to worthy charities. We don't do blog ads or tipjars here, though I see nothing wrong with either. I just think of this blog as a Hall, a gathering place for friends and warriors. We do things by the old code at Grim's Hall. This is my home, not a hotel: nobody will try to sell you anything, and nor will I accept payment in exchange for hospitality.

For that reason, I'm always a bit reluctant to post requests for reader charity. I do it anyway. The one part of the webpage that hasn't changed from the very beginning is the tagline: "A weblog on politics, ethics, mythology, history, and the heroic life." Charity is an important part of all of those things, and particularly the last.

I find as I get older that it's getting harder to live "the heroic life." There are two reasons for this. The first is the problem of age. It was easy as a youth to believe in "eating and drinking heroically." Now, I find that even at the greatest feast I eat moderately; and a grand bout of drinking only makes the head hurt, while one's thoughts turn to the long-term viability of the liver.

The second is the problem of experience. The more you learn and the older you get, the harder it is to believe that anything you do is heroic. Every day I read about, talk to, or exchange emails with men whose lives are far more heroic than mine has ever been. I have been brave. I can remember mornings hiking alone over the tops of snow-covered mountains, with all the trees sheathed in ice, so that at sunrise it was as if the world was made of gemstones. I have fought, and dared, and done much. But aside from the stories, what good has come from any of it?

There is so little that we can do for those half the world away. Even if my duties would let me go, I have no skills that would help anyone. Beyond first aid, I know no medicine. I can dig and fill, and lash things with rope, but I am not trained in electricity or plumbing.

But there are those who are, and many of them are rushing to the aid of the peoples injured in this disaster. It is a very small thing to offer them a parting gift, some small money to speed them on their way, or to purchase medicines to use when they arrive.

A small thing, but not nothing; and a thing done for people you have never met, and never will. Some would say it is still no more than duty; indeed, some would say it doesn't even meet the duties we owe. Some ethicists have raised high standards on such questions, although others have said otherwise.

Regardless of whether you consider it a duty or a glory, no one will make you do it. It is a free choice made for noble reasons. If you are choosing the heroic life, such choices are the stuff of it.

I will not say that anyone who does not give has failed his duty. I will, however, praise those that do.


Charity Challenge:

Blogger Tas has started a Tsunami Blogger Challenge, which has the modest goal of $5,000. The notion is that I should post some sort of challenge, which of course I will do. Anyone donating at least $50 may request that Grim compose a poem on a topic of their choice, except for such topics as honor forbids.

Since the terms of the challenge allow you to donate to the charity of your choice, send evidence of your donation to tas at loadedmouth dot com. He will apply it to the chart. Anyone who decides to donate because of reading this post, please drop me an email or leave a comment to let me know what you want your poem about.

Grim is not the best poet living today, but you can see a small sample of poems I've written by clicking on the links toward the bottom of the sidebar.


USPACOM Aids the Stricken:

There is finally an official press release from DOD on the forces deploying to aid those in the path of the tsunamis. Via the Sage I see that the USAF has its own story. One of InstaPundit's readers noted that the Air Force is going to be among the first on the ground with aid. I want to take a moment to recognize this fact and credit the airmen for what they do.

The first aid is often the most important in disasters like this: not only to provide drinking water, which is critical, but to prevent the outbreak of disease. A plague on top of a disaster is the natural course of human history, and can easily claim more lives than the initial blow. These deaths are largely preventable, and few are better at preventing them than the US military.


Revolution & Disaster:

The Associated Press carries a report of two hard-fought revolutions, interrupted by the recent quake:

Two of the world's longest-running civil wars are being fought on land devastated by Sunday's earthquake and tsunamis. In one conflict, the tragedy showed hopeful signs of bringing the two sides together; in the other, it appeared to be hardening the divisions.

Immediately after the quake struck, the warring sides in Indonesia's Aceh province agreed to put hostilities on hold, while government and rebel spokesmen in ethnically divided Sri Lanka accused each other of mishandling the response to the disaster.
What follows is a good analysis. I have little to add to the discussion of the Tamil Tigers or the Aceh rebels, but I would like to point out that there is a third revolution struck full-on by this event. The insurgency in southern Thailand will prove to be heavily influenced by the tsunamis, which made their landfall in the three southernmost, Muslim majority provinces of Thailand.

The government of Thailand has rushed aid to the region, using military helicopters to ferry it by air. The King of Thailand's grandson was killed; the king has donated 30 million baht (about $750,000, as I estimate it) from his own funds to the reconstruction. The latest news in English can be found at The Bangkok Post and The Nation. The former is a newspaper really aimed at the expat community in Thailand; the latter, a paper of the Thai upper class.

Much of the reports of the dead have focused on the resorts, where many Westerners seem to have been killed. The Swedes in particular had 1,500 of their citizens reportedly missing as of this writing. It appears -- stunningly -- that twice as many foreigners as natives may have died in Thailand.

The process of rebuilding offers many opportunities to address underlying ills. Since the economy has been swept away anyway, you might as well put it back the way you'd like it to be. Both the Thai and the US government seem to recognize the opportunity.

It seems, in one way, petty to think of political opportunities in the wake of disaster. It is anything but that. The opportunity here is not some small partisan advantage, but a hope of peace found amid the wrack. To turn a disaster into a revolution -- not of blood, but of hope -- is the highest act of man. It offers a glimpse, fleeting but true, of the luminous spirit within.


Charity & Goodwill:

There's more of the former than the latter, these days. In the event that you should wish to exercise some toward the survivors of the Great Christmas Quake, CareUSA has a setup. The Red Cross / Red Crescent has another. I imagine that those of you who attend religious services regularly probably have a way of your own to donate. Most likely you know others as well.

In addition, you are providing aid through the official government agencies. Australia's government is taking the lead in Indonesia, with USPACOM focusing on Sri Lanka and Thailand.

But this kind of aid is "stingy," according to U.N. Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Jan Egeland, who said that

[T]he United States and other Western nations were being "stingy" with relief funds, [and] there would be more available if taxes were raised.

"It is beyond me why are we so stingy, really," the Norwegian-born U.N. official told reporters. "Christmastime should remind many Western countries at least, [of] how rich we have become."

"There are several donors who are less generous than before in a growing world economy," he said, adding that politicians in the United States and Europe "believe that they are really burdening the taxpayers too much, and the taxpayers want to give less. It's not true. They want to give more."
I strongly suspect that almost none of you needed me to post the links to charitable organizations. From the recent Spirit of America fundraiser, Doc Russia and I learned how extraordinarily generous the readers of our blogs can be. Probably every one of you has taken time to find out how to give, and has already given what you can. You did so in spite of having just given to Spirit of America, and at the Yuletide, when disposable income is already earmarked for gifts for others.

It's no surprise that the U.N. feels we are being "stingy" by not turning over more of our wealth for them to control. In the end, it is far more likely that a dollar donated to Spirit of America will do good, than any dollar spent by any U.N. bureaucracy. You have reason to feel good about what you have done.



I went to bed too early last night.

It seemed quiet when I laid down my head. This morning I wake to find that my email has swelled to bursting. There are two events driving the majority of it. Both of them are earthquakes.

One was a physical earthquake.

Thousands of people are dead across the coasts of Asia, killed by monster waves set off by an underwater earthquake off the coast of Indonesia.

The quake sent massive waves, up to 10 metres high, across the Indian Ocean: west to the Maldives, north-west to India and Sri Lanka, north into the Andaman Islands and Thailand and east to Malaysia, leaving more than 5000 feared dead in seaside towns and villages.

It measured 8.9 on the Richter scale, making it the fifth most powerful since 1900, striking at 8am local time yesterday (midday in Melbourne).
The other earthquake was in China:
Up to 50,000 workers upset over mistreatment by local security guards clashed with police in a town in China's Guangdong province, throwing rocks and bricks and torching four police cars, a Hong Kong newspaper said on Sunday.

The unrest was the latest in a string of riots and clashes in rural China, all sparked by seemingly minor issues, that have highlighted discontent over rampant corruption and abuse of power and a growing rich-poor gap.
Christmas was peaceful, but the Feast of Stephen (as the song says) is turning out to be anything but. The first matter in particular is of concern, as the US Navy and Marines will mobilize across the Pacific Command to provide relief to the stricken. This won't get the kinds of headlines Iraq does (when did you read about the aid we've been providing to the Philippines this month, in the wake of their catastrophic floods?).

In spite of the disinterest of the elite -- and in the face of real danger from the perils that affect all places recently struck by storm and flood -- our sailors and Marines will be out there, doing good. When you are thinking of the deployed this holiday weekend, think of the ones out in the Pacific, too. Not many do, but they're as far from home as anyone.



Big arrest in Kashmir today. You can read about it here. As the article points out, it is extremely rare to capture one of these senior people alive. If he talks, he will be most valuable in getting a picture of the operations of Muslim militants at the top of the world.

A light moment from the story. The fellow is identified by the author:

Mohammed Shafi Dar, alias Abdullah...
Now, I can understand why a militant leader named Mohammed would want an alias. But Abdullah? That's just not making it any better.



I wish everyone a Merry Christmas, and a fine Yuletide. My thoughts go out to the deployed, who are not blessed as I am to share today with their families. Greyhawk is keeping a list of Milbloggers deployed this year. You might drop by, and wish them well.

Be well yourselves.



In spite of the holidays, no rest. That's fair: there's a lot going on out there, and most of the world doesn't take off for Christmas. More's the pity.

I'll be doing some travel over the next week, too; in fact, I leave at 0200. This being our last evening in town, we had a little celebration at Molly's pub tonight with Sovay as our guest. She brought gifts, and we had a little something for her too.

They say you never get what you really want for Christmas, but sometimes that's just because you didn't know you wanted it:

A catapult! Who knew they still made catapults?

I set it beside my Winchester 94 so you can appreciate the size. It's a working scale model. I spent part of the evening practicing siege warfare, using walnuts as ammunition. In case you should be interested in real mayhem, however, the package came with little lead balls you could hurl.

With a little practice, I think I will be able to knock on my neighbor's door from across the street. Or, you know, their yippy dog. Whatever.

SoldierTech: Military Gear and Gadgets

...In Shining Armor:

Now this is body armor. These kinds of stories always invoke two reactions in me: 1) How great that our fighters will have this tech! 2) What are we going to do if we should ever have to fight against it?

Keeping a lariat on this genie is not a small matter.



Military bloggers are surprisingly often poets, or take the time to host poets. Here are a few poems I've seen lately. Some of them are very good. Many of them speak to the sacrifices of the military life, which are felt most keenly during the holidays.

"On A Cold, Snow Night" treats a child, watching a sentry.

"A Military Christmas" shows the hardships of the military calling, even when all goes well.

"Freedom Isn't Free, It's Priceless" shows what it is like when things do not go well. It is by the mother of Lance Corporal Torrey Gray, killed this April in Iraq.

This isn't a poem, but it ought to be.

"A Soldier's Christmas" is written in the form of "The Night Before Christmas."

I'm sure there are others. If you've seen one you'd like added, email me or leave it in the comments.

UPDATE: Bill suggests "Merry Christmas, My Friend" or "A Soldier's Silent Night," available as a sound file, here.


Small Wars, II:

There has been some talk lately about how there are relatively few "conservatives" in academia. Some have suggested that academic culture is biased against conservatives; others, that conservatives by nature are anti-intellectual, or more interested in money than in "the life of the mind."

The real answer lies elsewhere. Read this passage from the new Small Wars Manual:

It is ironic that as our Western civilization becomes increasingly a digitized world, the surrounding geopolitical landscape is becoming progressively less "digital" and more "analog."

For purposes of this analogy, we combine several definitions to say that digital is a description of data that is stored or transmitted as a sequence of discrete symbols from a finite set. And, a discrete set is countable or countably infinite. We define analog as relating to, or being a device in which, data are represented by continuously variable, measurable, physical quantities. For example, the digital watch indicates the exact time and the analog watch, while indicating the time, requires you to add or subtract in order to state the exact time. And, while the digital watch's time is exact, the analog watch's face indicates time in general relation to the upcoming hour or half hour, and so on.

We are a digital culture. We expect our questions to be answered yes or no. We want our problems fixed now. We want our world neatly and discretely categorized into good and bad boxes. We do not always want to know how answers on one issue generally relate to another issue.

The U.S. military has not been exempt from this quest for precision answers with quantifiable facts that can be added or subtracted to give an exact, perfectly repeatable answer. This is clear from its increasingly heavy emphasis on operations research, modeling, and simulation. While these disciplines are of undeniable value, it is important that we not conveniently accept the neatly quantified "digital" (more rigorous) analysis over the less tangible, less quantifiable, common sense judgment call when dealing with systems and processes that are highly complex and often non-linear. Especially in a world of small wars, the palette is shades of gray and not the more categorical black or white—one or zero.

By their fundamental nature, small wars require an approach more art than science, more analog than digital.
World War II and the Gulf War in 1991 were both digital wars. We declared war; diplomacy took a back seat, and the military had the clear-cut objective of defeating the enemy armed forces—neat and discrete.

On the other hand, Beirut, Somalia, and Kosovo were analog wars. We were to "create conditions," "stop the suffering," and "prevent ethnic cleansing." Diplomacy continued to operate and military activities were shaped predominantly by political and diplomatic imperatives. The roles and missions of the military constantly varied given the dynamic interplay of political, diplomatic, and economic forces. Unlike World War II and the Gulf War, it was not easy to tell who the bad guy was. Indeed, the good guy one day could easily become the bad guy the next day because of changes, real or perceived, "on the street." Thus, the reduced size of the area or smaller number of belligerents does not necessarily simplify the warfighting tasks.

It is our digital culture that makes ours an impatient culture. We want clear results, and we want them now. Fast food and breaking news are our sustenance. Patience is not our cultural virtue, and working in an uncertain environment with fog and deception leads to our critical vulnerability in small wars: resolve. The greatest and most significant danger we have in entering a small war is the potential for an asymmetry of wills. We must decide before embarking upon any small war whether we can withstand the pressures of our own impatience.

Just two days ago we talked about the JASON panel, named after Jason and the Argonauts of Ancient Greek legend, and its piece on information war. This month we also saw the passage of the Defense Science Board's Strategic Communications paper into the clear. At the end of November, there was this article on the "Cambrian Project," whereby DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) intends to use evolutionary theory and state of the art computer systems to project threats and responses.

These three groups are part of a parallel structure for the "life of the mind," one directed pointedly at the preservation of America and the furthering of our national aspiration of a world based on human liberty. JASON overlaps with academia, but DARPA and the DSB are largely independent of it. Add to those the DIA (Defense Intelligence Agency), far larger and more successfully secretive than the better-known CIA; the military services' intelligence agencies (AIA, MCIA, etc.); the NSA (National Security Agency); the military academies, the War College, and a host of lesser-known players.

The life of the mind is alive and well on the right. It is simply differently directed.
Small Wars:

Reader Tom sends a link to a draft version of the new USMC Small Wars Manual. Unlike many USMC manuals, it states that it does not intend to supersede the previous verison -- in this case, a version last compiled in the 1940s.

This is wise. The 1940 Small Wars Manual was the product of a very different Marine Corps. The 1940 manual was a voice for the accumulated knowledge of two generations of Marines who had never seen a year without an expedition to fight a small war somewhere. Every Marine should read it.

On the other hand, a supplement is needed. The Marine Corps of 1940 had very little concept of "air support," for example, as the Second World War had not yet begun for America. Integrated air-land force is now fundamental to USMC operations. The information revolution is likewise producing major changes in how we fight, changes that are ongoing as we speak.

You may wish to read both, if you haven't seen them before.

BLACKFIVE: Want to Send a Marine A Letter?

Seasons Greetings:

BlackFive has a piece today entitled "Want to Send a Marine a Letter?" HQMC has apparently instituted a new system to get supportive letters from home out to the troops, in time for the holiday season. These are physical letters, so the Marine has something to hold and carry with him into battle if need be.

If you know a specific Marine, you can send to him; if you do not, there is a system for sending messages to express your support for the Marines generally.

Thanks, B-5, for helping to publicize this. I had not heard of it myself, and am glad to see it.

Spirit of America

SOA Wrapup:

The Spirit of America "Friends of Iraq Blogger Challenge" has ended. You can see the results at that link.

The result that really matters is the final total: $90,116 raised by bloggers to help the people of Iraq, to uplift the poor, and to aid the cause of friendship between our peoples. That kind of cash will go a long way out there.

Thanks again to everyone who helped out the Leatherneck Bloggers, and our eventual teammates with the Pajamahdeen. But thanks especially for helping out the greater cause. The competition was all in fun, but the real cause is a very serious matter. All of you who gave have reason to be proud.


Just In Time For...

Drill Sgt. Rob at AnAmericanSoldier has composed a Christmas list for the deploying soldier, sailor, airman, or Marine. I don't have anything to add except to second his recommendation of the Applegate-Fairbairn folder. I also carry one everywhere, these last couple of years, and it's an excellent choice.

Yahoo! News - Ala. Judge Wears Ten Commandments on Robe

Oh, My:

Now this is something you don't see every day:

A judge refused to delay a trial Tuesday when an attorney objected to his wearing a judicial robe with the Ten Commandments embroidered on the front in gold.

Circuit Judge Ashley McKathan showed up Monday at his Covington County courtroom in southern Alabama wearing the robe. Attorneys who try cases at the courthouse said they had not seen him wearing it before. The commandments were described as being big enough to read by anyone near the judge.

Attorney Riley Powell, defending a client charged with DUI, filed a motion objecting to the robe and asking that the case be continued. He said McKathan denied both motions.

"I feel this creates a distraction that affects my client," Powell said.

Yeah, I bet. While the ten commandments don't actually say anything specific about DUI, which was the offense in question, there are certain parts of Deuteronomy that would make me nervous if I were the defendent in this case. "What does it mean, 'And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die'?"


Information-Based Warfighting:

We've all read about the extraordinary impact of information flow on the new, American model of war. In spite of all that has been accomplished, there is much left to be done to optimize our success.

One of the chief problems is the system of information classification. This has been the subject of a new report called HORIZONTAL INTEGRATION: Broader Access Models for Realizing Information Dominance. The authors identify a key problem:

Information flow to the warfighter is perceived by many to be -- and we concur in this judgment -- excessively constricted.
This is because the old system, of secrets and top secrets, doesn't reflect the reality of today's information needs.
These soldiers have high expectations for warfighting technologies in general, and information technologies in particular. The consumer of intelligence is no longer an O4 "behind the green door." She is an E4 behind the (camo-) green door of a humvee -- and it is moving.
One of the interesting results of this impasse is that soldiers are refusing to classify documents at all. Data from Predator overflights, for example, is unclassified -- the soldiers protect it with an ad hoc system they've developed. A tremendous amount of intelligence both in the military and otherwise is now "sensitive, but unclassified," a designation that has no particular meaning. No one knows exactly what kind of material belongs in this category.

A new system is needed, one that reflects our current reality. The authors of this report lay out three principles, which are revolutionary:

1) Sort out what the risk of intelligence getting out would be.
When risk factors can’t be measured directly, they can often be plausibly estimated
("guessed"); and subsequent experience can then be used to derive increasingly
better estimates.
2) Decide how many lost secrets we can afford.
As a nation we can afford to lose X secret and Y top secret documents per year. We can afford a Z probability that a particular technical capability or HUMINT source is compromised. If we set X,Y,Z, . . . all to exactly zero, then all operations stop, because all operations entail some nonzero risk. What, then, are acceptable ranges of values for X, Y,Z and a long list of similar parameters?
3) Design a system that can be expected to result in exactly that much lost secrecy, but no more.

The idea is radical: to accept and justify a system of classification that reliably fails to protect secrets. The trade off, which the authors think is more than worth the loss in secrecy, is better availability of information to the warfighter.
Ensure that information is distributed all the way up to the acceptable risk level. This is a very fundamental point. We have been living with systems that try to minimize risk. That is the wrong metric! We actually want to maximize information flow, subject to the overall constraint of not exceeding the acceptable risk levels set according to principle number 2, above. This means that instead of minimizing risk, we actually want to ensure that it is increased to its tolerable maximum (but no higher).
Emphasis in original.

They have a specific proposal as well as these general principles, but it is the principles themselves that are the most interesting. This is a model for information-based warfighting that is as bold as the fighters themselves. It is worthy of them.

UPDATE: A commenter points out that Secrecy News ran an article on this same thing yesterday. You can compare their take to mine; by and large, they were impressed by the same parts of the report.

Viral Freedom

Viral Freedom:

The Spirit of America contests is in its last hours! The Leatherneck Bloggers have merged with Team Pajamahdeen in an effort to overtake those goldbricks at the Fighting Fusileers for Freedom(!).

If you can't kick in to help out freedom and democracy, at least you can help us put the hurt on our fellow Milbloggers. The gap is closing!

SoAGrim's Hall


Thanks to everyone who has donated to the Leatherneck Bloggers today. I don't know if it's just one of you, or a whole bunch of you, but our "score" has pretty much doubled in the last three hours.

Whoever you are, your generosity will make a difference. LtCol Couvillon is right: the Spirit of America project is a "silver bullet." It builds goodwill, as well as providing the foundations for prosperity and success in the new Iraqi republic. The projects they are on run the gamut from the simple to the majestic: from sewing machines for Ramadi women who need an income, to supporting Seabee and Marine efforts to train and equip tradesmen, to the "Viral Freedom" project we've talked about.

Whatever else happens in Iraq, these are families that will remember what we did for them. If you support our mission in Iraq, this is one of the best ways to ensure that the things our Marines, sailors, soliders and airmen are fighting for come into reality. If you don't support the mission, you can still surely wish a long-suffering people a better life. Either way, Spirit of America is a direct road to making it happen.

Thanks to everyone who has given. I wish I knew your names, so I could thank you directly. I'm proud that our humble team has done so well. We are one of the smallest teams, but we're in the top four for overall donations. Like the Marine Corps itself, we're doing more with less. That's owed to all of you, and I appreciate it.

Belmont Club


Wretchard's got one for you today. Here's something to ponder:

"The genius of the founding fathers," European Commission President Romano Prodi commented in a speech at the Institute d'Etudes Politiques in Paris (May 29, 2001), 'lay in translating extremely high political ambitions . . . into a series of more specific, almost technical decisions. This indirect approach made further action possible. Rapprochement took place gradually. From confrontation we moved to willingness to cooperate in the economic sphere and then on to integration."
Yeah? It all makes sense, if you remember that your founding fathers were George S. Patton and Winston Churchill.

If you've got some reason to pretend that isn't so, it all falls apart.

The New Yorker: Fact

"The Picture Problem"

The New Yorker recently ran an article which provides more insight into the problems of intelligence. In this case, it's a kind of intelligence that seems quite solid -- pictures, which you can see with your own eyes.

You can build a high-tech camera, capable of taking pictures in the middle of the night, in other words, but the system works only if the camera is pointed in the right place, and even then the pictures are not self-explanatory. They need to be interpreted, and the human task of interpretation is often a bigger obstacle than the technical task of picture-taking. This was the lesson of the Scud hunt: pictures promise to clarify but often confuse.
In exploring just how that can be true, the author casts a wide net: USAF hunting in the "Scud Box" during the Gulf war, the trouble with mammograms, the tremendous sacrifice and utter failure of WWII bombing runs on German ball-bearing factories, and the reasons why Colin Powell's UN presentation on Iraqi WMD went wrong.

Take a few minutes to read it. You'll find it fascinating, and be better informed as to some of the problems of intelligence too.

Asia Times - Asia's most trusted news source

The Asia Times on CIA Reform:

This article treats a perceived collapse of the Central Intelligence Agency, and the hope for its recovery under Porter Goss. They are "shading to cautiously optimistic" on his prospects.

What do Goss and his new DDO Jose Rodriguez aim to do to fix the clandestine service? "More stars on the wall," said a DO officer, referring to the stars placed on the wall of the lobby in CIA headquarters at Langley for every CIA officer killed in the line of duty. What must change, according to Goss, is the agency's "culture of risk aversion". He wants the DO to "launch a more aggressive campaign to use undercover officers to penetrate terrorist groups and hostile governments" - a high-risk strategy to increase drastically the number and use of non-official cover (NOC) officers instead of the current practice of deploying the majority of DO officers as diplomats assigned to US embassies with the benefit of diplomatic immunity as they attempt to recruit and gather intelligence from foreigners.
That is what we need the CIA's Directorate of Operations to do. The rest of the article outlines how the culture of risk aversion came into place, and why.

It is not hard to understand. Those nameless stars represent a sacrifice as final and terrible as the one represented by the Tomb of the Unknowns. Yet these risks must be run, if the agency is to provide us with the intelligence we need to make right decisions and correct assessments.

From the Halls to the Shores

A Rifleman:

Mike is enjoying some well-earned gloating. That's a good looking range report.

BLACKFIVE: Global Voices

BlackFive at Harvard?

So he says. I always thought he was pretty smart... for someone who wasn't in the Marines, of course.

You'll enjoy meeting the brothers, B-5. They are an inspiration.

Grim's Hall

On Spirit of America, and Iraq:

As mentioned, I went last night to the Spirit of America gathering at the Cosmos Club in D.C. I met and greatly enjoyed a short conversation with the Major and his Lady. The highlight of the evening, I am sure they will not mind my saying, was meeting and listening to Omar and Mohammed from IRAQ THE MODEL.

But first, a story.

I had never heard of the Cosmos Club. The email invitation I got mentioned the address of the place, and the name, but nothing more about it. Emailed invitations are particularly informal; this one came from a US Marine, for a time after business hours; and it was at a place called a "club." So, naturally I assumed it was a bar of some sort.

It happened that I had another engagement in town that required semiformal dress, so I figured I'd take a bit of ribbing. Still, I had no way to change, so I planned to go in my suit. It's charcoal grey, in a traditional cut. I wore it with my black Ariat boots, my black Stetson hat, and a bolo tie.

The Cosmos Club turns out not to be a bar at all. It turns out to be... well, this. This is the place where the National Geographic Society was founded, in the 19th century. It is contained in a mansion with Second Empire architecture. The interior is as rich as the exterior, and includes numerous treasures of great value, brought back from the corners of the earth and donated by the members.

Well, I'm a gambler from way back, so I simply put on my best poker face and walked right in. The doorman bowed as I entered, and I went upstairs to the gathering.

After a few minutes, a gentleman came up to me and shook my hand. He introduced himself as LtCol Couvillon, United States Marines, and former military governor of Wasit province.

"I had to shake the hand of any man," he said, "who could get in here wearing cowboy boots and a bolo tie."

Turns out the past president of the Cosmos Club is a former officer of Marines, which is why we got to use the place. It was a remarkable evening. Listening to the Colonel gave insight into the state of Iraq, outside the river-regions where the insurgents have managed to operate. He said that he had requested red, white and blue soccer jerseys from Spirit of America during his time there, to distribute to Iraqis. He'd wanted them because the number one request he got was for American flags. Under the rules of engagement, however, Marines weren't to display the flag, so he had none to offer.

He spoke about the elections they held in Wasit province, where turnout of adults was so close to one hundred percent that he couldn't calculate the difference. He talked about the opening of art galleries, inaugural ceremonies for Iraq's first elected officials in more than thirty years, and the friendships his Marines and sailors developed with the populace.

Omar and Mohammed spoke later in the evening. I quote from memory and without notes, for what it is worth, but they impressed me deeply and I do not thing I will depart very far from the words they actually spoke. They had just come from a meeting with President Bush, with whom they were quite impressed. It showed that America was a place where anything could happen, Omar said: 'Yesterday I came to your country. Today, I met the President.'

Spirit of America is helping them to do great things in Iraq. One of the things they're doing is putting out newspapers at Iraq's universities, where support for the democracy is running high. Iraq, like many similar nations, has a more formal class structure than we have. Apparently, among the educated classes, there is a lot of hope for the future.

Another thing Spirit of America is funding is an Arabic-language blogging tool. This is to help these young, educated Iraqis gather and communicate online, and to help them build communities of like-minded men across the nation. It will be a way for them to speak directly, to have their voice heard rather than filtered through our media -- the only Western institution for which they had hard words.

But that is not all the tool will do. It will also allow the voices of tens of thousands of pro-democracy students to get out on the Internet, so that the young Arabs of surrounding nations can hear them, listen to them talking about taking control of their futures and the building of their country. This is what Jim Hake, the founder of Spirit of America, calls "viral freedom."

Omar in particular was adamant about the elections. He is sure Iraq will surprise us. 'Iraqis want to take their place among the nations,' he said. 'We want to help you fight this war against the terrorists.

'The Iraqi people will never disappoint you.'

He means, of course, the ones who have not chosen to join the insurgents. But he is dismissive of them, in spite of all they do. What we don't understand, he said, is that the kind of terror they can create is nothing to the people of Iraq. Under Saddam, terror was systemic. It was daily. It meant every night, listening for the police at the door.

'Compared to that, these insurgents are nothing.'

I knew Spirit of America was a good cause, but I didn't realize just how good. "Viral freedom." If you can spare anything to help spread it, click the tartan at the top right of the page.

Spirit of America

Spirit of America:

I want to thank everyone who has been donating to the Leatherneck Bloggers. We're up to $350, which isn't much compared to the big teams -- but given the overlap of this blog's readership with one of those bigger teams (the FFF), I'm very pleased.

I've been invited to attend the Spirit of America's D.C. event tomorrow night, where I'll get to meet some of the folks behind Iraq The Model, an Iraqi blog. Some of the Marines behind the SoA efforts will also be there. It will be my pleasure to represent you. I don't know if there will be a question and answer period, or any opportunity similar to that, but if any of you have questions you'd like asked, I'll be glad to entertain them. Drop them in the comments.

For those of you who haven't donated, but would like to do so, I'll say two things more. First, donations are anonymous, so I don't know who gave or what they gave (except for myself and what I've given, naturally). Second, any amount is accepted. If you want to kick in a buck or two, or ten, that's fine. I won't know whether you were the one who gave a buck, or the one who tossed in a C-note. You'll have my thanks either way.

Winds of Change.NET: Milstuff for Dummies: Force Structure

MILSCI Project:

Winds of Change has posted a very useful look at American military force structure. It is designed for the layman, and treats only the recent history for the most part. Nevertheless, it answers several questions of current interest (e.g., "Do we have enough troops for Iraq?").

Since none of you have asked any questions about Warfighting, I'll propose one. "Maneuver warfare is a warfighting philosophy that seeks to shatter the enemy's cohesion through a variety of rapid, focused, and unexpected actions which create a turbulent and rapidly deteriorating situation with which the enemy cannot cope." How can this concept be brought to bear against a distributed enemy force, such as the Iraqi insurgency?

The Jawa Report: (Shock) Dropping Paper 'Peace Birds' on Terrorists Fail to Bring Peace

Peace Doves Can't Fly:

Maybe we should go back to "Death from Above" after all.

The New York Times > International > Middle East > INTELLIGENCE: 2 C.I.A. Reports Offer Warnings on Iraq's Path

Flash News:

The CIA is releasing classified memos again:

But over all, the officials described the station chief's cable in particular as an unvarnished assessment of the difficulties ahead in Iraq. They said it warned that the security situation was likely to get worse, including more violence and sectarian clashes, unless there were marked improvements soon on the part of the Iraqi government, in terms of its ability to assert authority and to build the economy.
"The situation is going to get worse, unless it gets better." Thanks for that, Poindexter.

American Cowboy Magazine. Should there be a National Cowboy Day?


Should there be a National Cowboy Day?

Times change. The cowboy doesn't. While our culture might sell out; the cowboy stays true to his values (and his horse). Rock stars, rap stars, movie stars come and go--loudly. The cowboy remains--quietly. When our children watch the Twin Towers crumble on CNN, they worry for our security, our future, our very foundation. The cowboy represents that foundation, that self-reliance, survival instinct, and integrity. We know that he'll ride out of that dusty ruin and survive, and with the grace of God he'll get the cattle to Amarillo. There's a little bit of him in every American. That's why we need him.

John Fusco, Screenwriter; Hidalgo

My father liked to watch Westerns when I was a boy. He was a big television watcher when he was home, which was only on the weekends. His job had him up and gone before the sun rose, and the only time of the year you'd see him before sunset was the summer -- because the day was longer in the summertime. On the weekend, though, he'd be at home, working at home and car repair, and serving as a volunteer fireman, instead of doing his regular job.

He would usually find some time on Sunday afternoon to watch some television. The TV was always on when he was home, and it would usually show one of three things: a football game, a NASCAR race, or a Western movie. These were dependable features.

I had no time for Westerns -- I very much preferred Star Wars movies, more progressive, not mired in the past. We lived out on the edge of civilization, it seemed, although I knew that there was more civilization if you just kept going: run far enough from Atlanta and you'll hit Chattanooga. But there was a large swath of country that lay out beyond the uttermost suburb where you'd find cattle country and timberland. North Georgia ground isn't very good, so other forms of farming don't work well. But you can raise cattle, and you can raise short needle pine for pulpwood. This all felt very far from the action, to a boy; I recognized Luke Skywalker's complaint about being on the planet farthest from the bright center of things, and greatly admired Han Solo.

So, I would usually leave my father to his Westerns. I still spent a fair amount of time with him when he was home, though, helping him work on the cars and with other tasks around the property. He spent a lot of that time telling stories, one right after another. Almost all of them were about growing up with my grandfather, who had run a body shop and service station for long haul truckers on I-75. In the imagination of youth, it sounded a great deal like Mos Eisley: there was a cantina filled with dangerous, armed men where my young father sometimes had to go to get and carry back family friends, and which produced occasional fights and drawn guns. Hot rods as finely tuned as any starfighters had occupied my father's free time as a young man. Freightliners paused there to gas up, seeming like smugglers, hauling over their limit, often running on amphetamines as much as gasoline. High stakes poker games ran in the back, while mechanics fixed up the rigs in the bays.

In the center of it all was my grandfather, a great and heroic figure, always armed with his revolver, so fearsome that none of the dangerous men who occupied the fringes of the story ever dared to trouble him. This part of the story I knew to be perfectly realistic, for I'd met the man myself. He had no exact Star Wars comparison. Star Wars would have been a different movie with "Jack T." in it. He was big, and strong, and fearless, hard-drinking but not controlled by the whisky, dangerous but kindhearted to the weak. He took care of his family and his friends, kept the peace among those who were passing through, and ran off the ones who wouldn't abide by his rules.

I always wanted to grow up to be just like him. He was the best man I'd ever heard of or met, so I thought as a boy.

Of course you've realized by now what kind of movie features a man like that.

You never know, with stories, exactly how much is an expression of the great archetypes. A lot has been written about Star Wars archetypes: Han Solo the pirate, Obi-Wan the Wizard, Luke as the Young Hero. The most resonant fiction is built on these archetypes, which speak to the depths of the human heart.

It happens with true stories too, though. Jack T. was the Sheriff, or the Marshall; but the Sheriff in the Western is also the King. Like all of these archetypes, he can be good or bad. The Bad King is a tyrant. The Good King keeps order in the world, upholds and cares for the weak, looks out for the poor, drives off the vicious. He has the power to punish and to pardon, which is seen in every Western: the bandit is run off or killed, but the harmless town drunk is endlessly forgiven and helped in his times of particular adversity.

The world can be violent and cruel, filled both with lawful and the lawbreakers. But the stories tell us that it can also be a good place, a happy place, if there is a good King. If this is the story of the Western, it is also the story of the Beowulf, whose time as king is peaceful in spite even of the existence of dragons. His death brings wild mourning, and the folk expect both death and slavery to follow, even though the dragon was slain.

Americans don't want Kings, but we still need the man even if we don't want the office. We want a free-born man, chosen by his equals rather than by his birth -- and in this, it happens that we are following precisely in the footsteps of the Geats, whose kings were elected by the folk.

I inherited my grandfather's Stetson after he died. I wear it often, when I don't wear my own. I carry a revolver, legally and licensed in several states. I find, when I have time that I don't have to spend working, that there's little I want more than to settle in with a good Western. In this, I am just like many Americans, apparently including Doc. We are seeing in our own way the same, ancient things:
It was decidedly cool for Houston, a harbinger for the frost that would set in that night. Anyway, I was walking along in the cool of the evening with a Justin cowboy hat on my head, and Alice on my hip, when I looked up and I saw a most amazing sunset. It was all gold and burning over the rooftops. Little broad streaks of copper and gold clouds fixed high above in a sea of ultramarine blue, while I was drowned beneath in a cool breeze. It was just gorgeous. I paused from my errand for a minute, awed by a beauty that must have awed man in discrete moments throughout the ages, from ancient Greece to a greek eatery in modern Texas.
In the end, I suppose I did turn out to be just like my grandfather. I'm old enough now to know that he wasn't exactly the man who was painted for me. Having become him, I can see only too clearly some of the flaws he must have borne, which now I bear.

Also, I realize -- not quite too late -- that Jack T. was not the best man I've ever known. My father is. I wanted to be like his father not because his father was better than him, but because his father was the man he most respected and admired in the world. All I wanted was for him to respect and admire me just like that.

If the stories proved not to be completely accurate, they were nevertheless perfectly true. I may not always succeed at being a good man, but I know how. I know how to be a good man because my father told me. He told me about his father. Now I have a son, and I have to tell him. Nothing can capture the value of this gift, or the weight of this duty. I have heard only too often the laments of those who did not receive what I was given, who do not know how to pass on what I must.

The Western is our national epic. It is the way in which Americans, the ones who still remember how, pass on the eternal truths to the next generation.

Grim's Hall

Bad Man Blues:

I have quite a few things I'd like to blog about, but it will not be tonight, as it wasn't last night or the night before. These things pass, and I will be back to myself shortly.

Grim's Hall

MILSCI: Warfighting:

Tonight is the end point for the reading of Warfighting. Any discussion you'd like to have, or questions raised, post here. We'll start with what interests you. Posts will follow over the next two days on topics that interest me. :)

The Politburo Diktat: How Many Wounded?

There'd Better Be A Good Explanation:

The Commisar has an important report on discrepencies in DOD reporting on Iraq wounded.

I am as loyal a friend to the DOD as anyone is apt to find. I believe in the men, and I believe in the mission.

But they'd better have a good explanation for this.

Keep watch.

Spirit of America

Spirit of America: Friends of Iraq Blogger Challenge

The Challenge starts at Midnight! I began a team called The Leatherneck Bloggers. You can get to it by that link, or by clicking on the "Leatherneck Tartan" at the top right of the page.

Unfortunately, due to a coding error the team didn't work right the first time, so those of you who joined it are not actually joined to it, and all of our donations didn't get credited to the new team -- $21 stayed in the general fund. That and, of course, these guys got started. I was with them last time, and would have been this time if they'd gotten their act together in time. ;)

Still, it's a good cause. Donate if you'd like to. If you're a blogger with a USMC background, or Marines in the family, join my team! I'd be glad to have you.

From the Foreign Press: Will Thaksin heed the King and Queen?

A Kinder, Gentler World:

More from Thailand's counterinsurgency efforts:

One suggestion [Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra] has embraced is a plan to mobilise the nation to fold 62 million origami paper 'peace' doves that will be dropped on the south by military aircraft on Dec, 5, the King's birthday.
Response has been so enthusiastic among the Thai people that there are, in fact, 81 million "peace doves" to drop on the south.

I've heard of leaflets, of course. But whatever happened to "Death From Above"?

homepagestudio - filemanager

My New Sign:

I bought this sign today at the Tractor Supply Company, where I'm doing all my Christmas shopping.

I hung it up in my office. Be nice if it works.


Warfighting in the Age of Information:

The most important report I've seen, from any government agency, is the Defense Science Board's report on Strategic Communications. It's being cited in a few places because the New York Times used it for yet another attack piece on the administration and its view of the world.

Leave the politics aside, though, and read through it. It demonstrates the need for a fundamental shift in the way we talk to each other, and the world.

Some of this will not be news to bloggers, especially after Rathergate:

New information
technologies often separate information from the sender’s identity and the social frames that provide credibility and meaning. Social context on the Internet, for example, is not self-evident. Nor is the identity of those who generate information. Terrorists use websites in ways that mask their agendas. Their web-based narratives usually do not celebrate violence so as to elicit sympathy and resonate with supporters. Information saturation means attention, not information, becomes a scarce resource.

Power flows to credible messengers. Asymmetrical credibility matters. What's around information is critical. Reputations count. Brands are important. Editors, filters, and cue givers are influential. Fifty years ago political struggles were about the ability to control and transmit scarce information. Today, political struggles are about the creation and destruction of credibility.
I read a lot of government reports, and I haven't seen that much insight crammed into that few sentences in ages. We've all been wondering if the government was paying attention to the changes we've been seeing.

They have. Read the rest. It's long, but settle in for it.

Those of you in the Military Science class: when you're done, read this. Now take the problems of the DSB report, the issues that Armed Liberal raises, and compare them to the issues of will and morale we were discussing last week. This is where the war will be won or lost: not in the hearts and minds of the enemy, nor even of the general run of Muslim populations, but in our own.


Another One:

This time, Thailand got lucky.

A Muslim militant with a price on his head was killed in a gunfight with police while he was moving a cache of weapons and explosives in violence-plagued southern Thailand on Monday, police said.

The man, for whom the government had offered a 500,000-baht ($12,700) reward, sped away in a pickup truck from a poice checkpoint in Pattani province and was chased by police cars, they said.

The police caught up with Muktar Gureng and killed him in a firefight. A companion escaped into a rubber plantation.

Eight automatic rifles, more than 800 bullets and explosives were found in the pickup truck, police said.
And it's Christmas in Thailand, too -- Buddhists or no Buddhists.

The militants in question, calling themselves The Pattani United Liberation Organization, have responded by posting bounties of their own for assassinating Thai officials. Pattani is one of three Muslim-majority provinces in the South of Thailand. The insurgency has been ongoing in all three, but Pattani has been the focus of their efforts ever since the publication of a little book called Jihad for the Liberation of Pattani, urging Muslims to do just that through the use of Koranic verses mixed with political writings.

Although the "spiritual leader" of Muslims in Thailand denounced the book as unIslamic, the insurgency has been growing. It is probable that the leader is a leader in name only (thus my use of scare quotes): the office of Chularajamontri is not an Islamic office per se, but rather an appointment from Thailand's King, a Buddhist. The job of the Chularajamontri is to provide counsel to the King on questions relating to Islam.

But the fact of occupying such an office degrades you in the eyes of the enemy, whose ideology cannot accept Muslims taking an inferior position to an infidel -- not even a Christian or a Jew, to say nothing of a Buddhist, whose faith was not among those 'given books.' Thai Muslims were until recently not prone to Islamism, but rather were upset due to the eternal concerns of recognizable minorities: relative poverty, a certain amount of discrimination, and an alienation from their nation's political culture, whose symbols and celebrations are not their own. "Relative poverty" means one thing in Detroit or Los Angeles, but in Asia it means a kind of poverty that Americans cannot easily imagine.

But it is the alienation that has proven most deadly. Since Jihad for the Liberation of Pattani, Islamist thinking has spread quickly. It offers a critique and a vision that makes their struggle something very different from a civil rights movement; more than five hundred innocents have been killed since the Jihad began. Beheadings followed attacks against Buddhist monks and nuns, the killing of government officials, and especially teachers. It has entered the popular mindset of the young men, who make up the fighters in any insurgency. The speed and depth of the the conversion to radicalism has shocked everyone.
When the Su So village football team won the local league championship last Sunday, the players were the pride of the small community in Songkhla's Saba Yoi district.

But just three days later, the villagers' joy was shattered when 19 of the players, dressed in black camouflage shirts and red bandannas, attacked a police post. They were gunned down and killed.

'It seemed like they wanted to die,' a police officer said. 'I don't understand why they did not surrender.'

The community is now grappling with the reality that the attackers, who were aged 19 to 26 and armed with guns and knives, led secret lives.

The motivation for attacking a police unit equipped with automatic weapons was beyond the parents of the 19 men educated in Islamic pondok schools in neighbouring districts.

'My nephew was a good man, he did not even smoke,' said Mr Adul Lo-sae, his face showing stunned disbelief.

'I was shocked,' said the football team's coach Pittaya Maephrommi, whose brother was among those killed.

'I couldn't believe it when the police told me my boys attacked them with guns and machetes. They spent hours training with me. I don't understand when and where they went wrong.'
The Thai government seems also to have been caught totally unprepared, and still has not settled on whether it wants to pursue a political solution (the Prime Minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, has undertaken several economic projects to resolve poverty in the south of Thailand -- but this is a thirty-year project at best), a cultural solution, or a military solution.

The effect of this confusion has been depressing to observe. So, this is good news -- but it is a bright spot on a dark sea. A solution in Southern Thailand is still a long way off. I suspect that it passes the power of the Thai government, acting alone. Thaksin has been creative, and possesses the native salesmanship that made him a filthy-rich businessman before he entered politics. The alienation is too deep for him to bridge, in spite of the support from the Thai "spiritual leadership." Someone trusted by the people of the south must do what Thailand's own leadership cannot: show the way back from the abyss.

Malaysia, concerned about the dangers posed by a growing insurgency just across the border, has begun to try. Whether their efforts will be fruitful, we will learn in the fullness of time.


More Good News From PACOM:

Nothing brings a smile to the face like the words "Muslim Extremist Leader Dies In Shootout":

Government troops killed a leader of the notorious Muslim extremist group Abu Sayyaf in a shootout in the southern Philippines, officials said Sunday.

Munap Manialah, also known as Commander Munap, was shot dead late Saturday in a firefight with Philippine army and navy troops in southern Basilan island's Isabela city... Bacarro said Manialah is wanted for murder and the Philippine government has offered a $6,241 bounty for his capture.
Doubtless the pay for soldiers and sailors in the Philippines is not better than it is for our own fighters. Good news all around! And just in time for Christmas.

Abu Sayyaf is a vicious and criminal organization even by the standards of al Qaeda. Their butchery and hostage taking is not even driven by real religious fervor, but by a desire for power and profit; and far from opposing the sins of the West, as we are told al Qaeda does, Abu Sayyaf funds its enterprises by trading in methamphetamines.

War is a horrible thing, but every now and then, it brings around something that everyone ought to feel good about.

Nepalnews. com Mercantile Communications Pvt. Ltd.

Good News from Nepal:

There have been several military reverses for the Nepalese Maoists in the last few weeks. I suspect that this will count for more than all of those, although to some degree the reverses are why this is possible:

For the first time since the insurgency started in these mountains of mid-western Nepal nine years ago, a women-led anti-Maoist uprising has spread across Dailekh in the past week.

“Down with Maoism,” the demonstrators shouted at a big rally in Dullu on Monday, “Down with Prachanda.” Most demonstrators were surprised at their own audacity, wondering where they got the courage to be so defiant.

The protests were started by women, the men joined in and some came from as far as a day’s walk away. They were protesting rebel demands for money and food. Krishna Shahi, 42, says she and others in her village had complied fearing they would be killed: “When they said every family had to give one son, that is when I lost all my fear. We told them, kill us but you can’t take our sons. We had nothing left to give them, we couldn’t take it any longer.”

Indeed, the rebel threat to take away young sons and daughters appear to have been the main reason the women spearheaded protests in Dullu, Salleri and other towns in northeastern Dailekh.
When you've turned the mothers of the countryside against you, you've usually lost your insurgency. Guerrillas need the populace as 'the ocean in which the fish swims,' to paraphrase Mao. Mothers in traditional cultures are the ones at home, who know what and who passes in their village. They raise the children, from whom the guerrillas must raise their next generation. If they aren't telling their children the tales you want told, you will not have recruits.

Guardian Unlimited | Life | Natural defences

Intellectual Diversity:

Alive and well in America... at least in the Department of Defense:

It all started last year when the US assistant secretary for defence and other senior officials within the Pentagon read In the Blink of an Eye, a book I wrote on the Cambrian explosion. It triggered a series of meetings in Washington and Britain, involving all manner of political and military figureheads, as well as defence analysts, computer programmers, tacticians and statisticians. Their hope was to see what a knowledge of evolution could do for national security. They emerged with a plan to create an extraordinary piece of software. Dubbed the 'Cambrian program', it will take perhaps the broadest overview of the world's social and defence systems, and use evolutionary theory to predict possible threats and outcomes. I and a team of experts at the [British Ministry of Defence]'s defence science and technology laboratory have already begun work on the program in Britain, and a similar consortium is planned at the Pentagon under Tony Tether of the Defence advanced research projects agency (Darpa).
If DARPA is involved, we can expect a brilliant but extremely complicated and expensive computer system to show up somewhere... ah, here it is:
At the heart will be a neural network, itself a piece of software, that must first be trained to handle the disparate information it will be fed. This is where the Cambrian explosion comes in particularly handy. The fossil record of the event documents how major advances, like eyes, and myriad minor changes in creatures, put pressure on other animals to evolve responses, be they new defences or different attack strategies. To train the Cambrian program's neural network, it will be fed data from the fossil and genetic record of life just before the explosion. It will then be given data from the very end of the explosion. As the program runs, the neural network will look at both sets of data and work out what connections lead from life before the great arms race to life afterwards. Once it has achieved this, the program can be fed hypothetical new data, for example the early emergence of an electrical sting as a weapon, to see what impact it might have on other creatures.
The notion seems to be that, by first plotting and then tracking how life evolved to deal with particular threats, we can predict probable routes for humans faced with similar threats. That can both be useful for defensive purposes (given a weapon using chemical X, what kinds of natural defenses can be employed?) and offensive ones (if we design a weapon using electrical bursts, what kinds of defenses can we expect to be raised against it that we'll need to overcome?).

Part of this sounds like a resurrection of the TIA program:
It would very likely be able to suggest obvious responses to the threat, but might also spot links between factors that humans might not have noticed and alert defence experts to weaknesses in their planned countermeasures.

The inquiry into the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the US showed that a breakdown in communication was largely to blame, there was no single chief who could make decisions using all of the data collected by various disparate security organisations. The Cambrian program, on the other hand, could manage all the data it is fed and provide constant updates on the size of the threat from different areas. That would allow officials to continuously modify their defence strategy.
Success depends, the author says, on information dominance: "[T]he system is dependent on receiving all the relevant data needed to reach a decision, and at the moment, we simply do not know what the data are. But we will get there."

That is a scientist's answer, confident about accomplishing the technical task, but dismissive of the ethical issues. Still, there are evolutionary pressures here too. The advent of processor capacity allowing this level of data mining means that someone is going to be doing this kind of thing. If it isn't the American and British governments, it will be someone else. Even a moment's reflection is enough to realize what will happen to the "little fish" if the next evolution is mastered by a predator state, instead of a sheepdog.

The Adventures of Chester


The Adventures of Chester today posts President Washington's proclamation of Thanksgiving Day:

Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor--and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me "to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:

'Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the Beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquillity, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted; for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us.

'And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplication to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations, and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our national government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a government of wise, just and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shown kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally, to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.

'Given under my hand, at the city of New York, the 3d day of October, AD 1789.'
The George Washington Papers project has a section on the history of this proclamation, as well as an image file of the handwritten original.

The Commissar has posted Lincoln's proclamation:

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God.

In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consiousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.

It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the Unites States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln
And here is President Bush's, for this year:
All across America, we gather this week with the people we love, to give thanks to God for the blessings in our lives. We are grateful for our freedom, grateful for our families and friends, and grateful for the many gifts of America.

On Thanksgiving Day, we acknowledge that all of these things, and life itself, come from the Almighty God. Almost four centuries ago, the Pilgrims celebrated a harvest feast to thank God after suffering through a brutal winter.

President George Washington proclaimed the first National Day of Thanksgiving in 1789, and President Lincoln revived the tradition during the Civil War, asking Americans to give thanks with "one heart and one voice."

Since then, in times of war and in times of peace, Americans have gathered with family and friends and given thanks to God for our blessings. Thanksgiving is also a time to share our blessings with those who are less fortunate.

Americans this week will gather food and clothing for neighbors in need. Many young people will give part of their holiday to volunteer at homeless shelters and food pantries.

On Thanksgiving, we remember that the true strength of America lies in the hearts and souls of the American people. By seeking out those who are hurting and by lending a hand, Americans touch the lives of their fellow citizens and help make our nation and the world a better place.

This Thanksgiving, we express our gratitude to our dedicated firefighters and police officers who help keep our homeland safe. We are grateful to the homeland security and intelligence personnel who spend long hours on faithful watch.

And we give thanks for the Americans in our armed forces who are serving around the world to secure our country and advance the cause of freedom. These brave men and women make our entire nation proud, and we thank them and their families for their sacrifice. On this Thanksgiving Day, we thank God for His blessings and ask Him to continue to guide and watch over our nation.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, GEORGE W. BUSH, president of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim Thursday, Nov. 25, 2004, as a National Day of Thanksgiving. I encourage all Americans to gather together in their homes and places of worship to reinforce the ties of family and community and to express gratitude for the many blessings we enjoy.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twenty-third day of November, in the year of our Lord two thousand four, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and twenty-ninth.

Happy Thanksgiving, America. Waes Hael! Drinc Hael!

Spirit of America

The Leatherneck Bloggers:

Down at the Spirit of America blogger challenge, I've started a team for bloggers with a USMC background. It's called the Leatherneck bloggers. Doc Russia and Deuddersun have agreed to participate. I've extended other invites as well.

Any of you who would like to donate to SoA, which supports Marines and other deployed combat forces in the field, you might consider tossing our team the cash you're planning to send. We won't beat the big boys, but the "smallest service" ought to make a respectable showing.

Of course, as I said, I know some of you have divided loyalties. I won't take it personally if you give to Roger L. Simon instead. On the other hand, he won't notice, and I will.

Happy Thanksgiving. Semper Fi, Ooh-rah, out.

Funds for Atomic Bomb Research Cut From Spending Bill (

Cutting the PLYWD:

Apparently the debate on developing the Precision Low Yield Weapons Design is over. Congress has cut the funding in a sufficiently bipartisan fashion that there is little chance that next year's increased Republican majorities will revive it.

I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, earth penetration weapons are going to be needed in the future. On the other hand, nukes may not be the best way to go about it. There were two sets of concerns about the nukes from a technical side: they might not work (i.e., it wasn't clear that they would be able to achieve the necessary penetration) and they might kick up so much particulate material as to be very damaging to the environment.

An alternative mechanism would be the high-altitude version of the concrete bomb. Improved accuracy means that you can get by with much less firepower than in ages past. The concrete bomb is accurate enough to reliably hit a particular building, so they can take out the explosives and replace it with concrete. Simple physics does the work, with no chemistry necessary.

The earth-penetration option here is the mass driver. Scroll down on the PLYWD screen until you get to the section called "Long Rod Penetration." This explains both of the key objections to low yield nukes -- the physics suggest that it isn't possible with current materials and electronics to penetrate deeply enough to contain a nuclear explosion. Thus, they may not work, and you'll get a lot of particulate matter in any case.

But that matters only if you have to preserve the integrity of electronics or other internal structures. If you're just dropping a steel or titanium rod from orbit, you don't care about that. It can hit at a far higher velocity, and therefore can penetrate quite effectively. If you happen to know what you want to hit -- and neither a bunker nor a reactor is easy to move -- this should be quite sufficient without any explosive power. You can simply drop something heavy on it from high enough.

These same capabilities would be useful in other regards. Scroll down to "mitigation options."

A quintessential general by Victor Davis Hanson

U.S. Grant:

I've recently read Lodge's history of Grant's Vicksburg campaign, and I realize that I have been unjust to the man in accepting the common reading of historians. Grant was indeed the equal of any general of his age, at least.

Interestingly, there is a new biography of Grant by one of the gentleman soldiers of VMI. It's gotten a positive review by V. D. Hanson. Here's a piece of it that caught my eye, given our recent discussions:

What made him a great general? The campaigns to take Forts Henry and Donelson were inspired; the capture of Vicksburg was beyond the powers of any contemporary Northern general save Grant. But it was not just know-how that made Grant singular. As Bunting rightly notes, "Grant understood that his predecessors in command in the East had failed not because of inferior tactical brains but because they lacked, simply, will."


Hello everyone,

My name is Daniel and I've been asked to teach the Tactics portion of the Military Science project here in Grim's Hall. I'm a former Marine, infantry of course, who also went to a few advanced schools to develop Close Quarter Battle skills. The end of my tour saw me in a Heavy Weapon's Platoon as part of a CAAT (Combined Anti-Armor Team) unit ; essentially three heavy machine-gun vehicles and two TOW vehicles per squad, with 3 squads. My area of expertise is small unit actions.

Now, I'll sit back, shut-up... push the 'publish post' button... and hope this thing works.


Grim's Hall

MilSci #2

You may have missed KGC's early reactions to Warfighting, but I'd like to draw your attention to what he noticed:

I finished Chapter 1 this weekend, and here are the key phrases I underlined / took home with me.

Human will factors hugely into the author's descriptions of war.

"The object in war is to impose our will on our enemy."

"One essential means to overcome friction is the will; we prevail over friction through persistent strength of mind and spirit. ...we must attempt at the same time to raise our enemy's friction to a level that weakens his ability to fight."

He also points out the inherent chaos of war, and what little we can do to combat it (as well as noticing the "butterfly effect" of "small actions":

"The very nature of war makes certainty impossible; all actions in war will be based on incomplete, inaccurate, or even contradictory information."

"...we can never eliminate uncertainty, we must learn to fight effectively despite developing simple, flexible plans; planning for likely contingencies; developing standing operating procedures; and fostering initiative among subordinates."

"Outcomes of battles can hinge on the actions of a few individuals... ."

FLUIDITY, p9: "Since war is a fluid phenomenon, its conduct requires flexibility of thought."

He points out that war is an event somewhat like a symphony (my analogy) with rising and falling action:

p10: "The tempo of war will fluctuate from periods of intense combat to periods in which activity is limited... ."

"...we cannot think of today's battlefield in linear terms... ." "The natural result of dispersion is unoccupied areas, gaps, and exposed flanks which can and will be exploited..."

"...we must not only be able to fight effectively in the face of disorder, we should seek to generate disorder and use it as a weapon against our opponent."

This struck me as being an especially effective insurgency tactic.

COMPLEXITY, p12: "In reality, each belligerant is not a single, homogenous will guided by a single intelligence. ... War... emerges from the collective behavior of al the individual parts in the system interacting locally in response to local conditions and incomplete information." -- the obvious home-court advantage. "...Efforts to fully centralize millitary operations and to exert complete control by a single decisionmaker are inconsistent with the intrinsically complex and distributed nature of war."

PHYSICAL, MORAL, and MENTAL FORCES, p15: "Although material factors are more easily quantified, the moral and mental forces exert a greater influence on the nature and outcome of war."

The SCIENCE, ART and DYNAMIC of WAR: "Art includes the creative, situational application of scientific knowledge through judgment and experience, and so the art of war subsumes the science of war." "...the conduct of war is...human competition requiring...the knowledge of science and the creativity of art but driven ulimately by the power of human will."
I think this would be a good place to begin a discussion, for those who've had time to read this far. War is primarily about human will. Napoleon said "the morale is to the physical as three is to one."

One of the tasks of the enemy in warfighting, then, is to try to sap your will to fight. What are some ways to counter that? This is posed as a general question for discussion, not specific to the situation in Iraq, or to insurgency/counterinsurgency fighting. In all wars, it will be necessary to raise, boost, and maintain morale in the face of an enemy effort to break it. What kinds of things can you do in this regard?

NPR : A Marine Unit's Experience in Fallujah

"Lava Dog" & Devil Dogs

NPR has a report from Fallujah. The commentary is nearly worthless -- actually, in the mode of most of the reporting, it's of negative worth.

If you ignore most everything Anne Garrels says, however, you will get to hear several Marines allowed to speak for themselves. Set aside how she characterizes what they have to say, which she does at length before every clip in order that you won't come away thinking for yourself about what you've heard. Just listen to the men talk.

Hello the Hall.

Greetings, Everyone.

Those who haunt the comments will know of me already. Posting topics, (as opposed to commenting from the peanut gallery) is a new experience for me, so I'll thank you all in advance for your forebearance, and we'll see what happens next.

I look forward to it, and hope you all do too.


Slight Format Change:

Since this is now a group blog, I've changed the format slightly. The author's ID is now printed above the entry, so you'll know up front who is speaking. Carry on.

Fallujah, Iraq

Fallujah from Space:

The Federation of American Scientists has posted a new view of Fallujah, Iraq. Taken 14 November, it is the most up-to-date sat image on the web. You can see in the full-sized version the destruction in the southern sectors, where Blackjack had to operate.

The New York Times > Opinion > Op-Ed Columnist: Postcards From Iraq

A Good Day for the NYTimes:

Tom Friedman has the best day in living memory. The highlight:

Readers regularly ask me when I will throw in the towel on Iraq. I will be guided by the U.S. Army and Marine grunts on the ground. They see Iraq close up. Most of those you talk to are so uncynical - so convinced that we are doing good and doing right, even though they too are unsure it will work. When a majority of those grunts tell us that they are no longer willing to risk their lives to go out and fix the sewers in Sadr City or teach democracy at a local school, then you can stick a fork in this one. But so far, we ain't there yet. The troops are still pretty positive.

So let's thank God for what's in our drinking water, hope that maybe some of it washes over Iraq, and pay attention to the grunts. They'll tell us if it's time to go or stay.
There's an insight for the ages. But here's a better one, an insight ad astra:
We are trying to host the first attempt in the modern Arab world for the people of an Arab country to, on their own, forge a social contract with one another. Despite all the mistakes made, that is an incredibly noble thing.
That's the finest single thing I've seen written about the war in the NY Times. And, it is only the half of the truth.

The full truth is this: faced with extraordinary danger, and an enemy that was pledged to our destruction, the United States has chosen not to destroy him but to embrace him. We are spilling the blood of our own sons, not to raze the enemy that might destroy us; but, instead, to raise him. Out of poverty, out of tyranny, out of misery, and into hope.

We are faced every day by people who point to the problems and the difficulties that remain. The fact that those difficulties exist does not change the fact that the human spirit is greater than they. The enemy has power, power to destroy and to ruin, to slaughter and to oppress. Yet we have the greater power, which is to hope.

We have embarked upon a project like Shelley's Prometheus:
To defy Power, which seems omnipotent;
To Love, and bear; to hope till Hope creates
From its own wreck the thing it contemplates.
Faith is not a fool's project. The hopeless looks at the difficulty, and sees the power of the cruel, and wearies at the thought.

The faithful man walks in the morning of the world. Everything can be, and might be, through hope and sacrifice.

The Basic School

Reference Material:

Daniel, who will be joining us as a teacher of tactics in February, sends a link to the reference pages at The Basic School. TBS is in Quantico, VA, and is the USMC's school for newly minted officers. There are short, introductory papers to most topics of military science.

I'll review these and see which ones we might want to examine. In the meantime, if you'd like to look around yourself, feel free.