Coalition Task Force 145 has taken down some high value targets. Our old friend Bill Roggio is back on the scene, giving it to us straight about our "hunter-killer" teams.
I am told I have the bad habit, for a writer, of putting my point last, and the evidence -- in the form of long narratives -- first. The result, for those who read to the end, is that suddenly a long and apparently separate series of events comes together, and has a clear lesson. Unless you read to the end, though, you may never know what I was talking about at all.
For that reason, I'll state my intent clearly this time: "Gentleman" is a word that is not understood today. This must change.
The other day I ventured down to Gwinnett county, which is named for Button Gwinnett, signator of the Declaration of Independence. Gwinnett died in a duel with Lachlan McIntosh, a Continental officer who later became a Valley Forge veteran and general in George Washington's army. I encountered, while walking around, a posh store with very fancy appointments, declaring itself to be "for distinguished gentlemen."
Standing outside, wearing a Stetson hat and blue jeans, I realized that these fellows had a very different definition of "gentleman" from mine. I doubt they understand the concept at all.
"For distinguished gentlemen!" A Google search on the term yields botiques, perfumes, and escort services.
This is not right. A gentleman is defined, as noted in Blackstone's commentaries, as "one qui arma gerit."
That is, "one who bears arms."
The manners and grooming aspects are entirely -- entirely -- secondary. I will explain how they came to be associated with gentlemen in a moment. For now, I will note Major Leggett's objection to gentlemen focusing attention on fashion:
I think that any self-respecting individual should take the time to ensure that their grooming and apparel standards are up to snuff. Nevertheless, I categorically reject the idea that an obsessive concern with the latest fashion trends is the hallmark of gentlemen. That is the hallmark of a fop. Remember, the concept of the gentleman comes the tradition of chivalry, which was itself an ethical system for fighting men, not fashion models.Blackstone notes, as does the Oxford English Dictionary, that the "arms" in question are heraldic arms -- that is, symbolic ones. Those symbolic arms, however, were the later representation of what was earlier a very real right: the right to bear not only weapons, but armor onto the field. Heraldry describes the shield of a fighter. In the Middle Ages, the sort entitled to such a shield were those with the literal right to bear arms. It is only in these more decadent ages -- in more decadent countries -- that this right has become purely symbolic.
Why did the state recognize that right, in a time before the Declaration that Gwinnett signed? It did so because it depended on these fighters, knights and noblemen and squires, who later became the gentlemen. It needed them to defend itself. Before the Napoleonic era, wars were a matter of professional armies and levies raised by the fedual structure. The right to bear arms arose from the fact that you could be counted upon to defend your country and its civilization at need.
That is what it means today. Fine manners and courtesy pertain to the gentleman because he is, through their use, upholding what is fine about civilization. He defends it symbolically as he defends it practically.
In America, the right to bear arms is secured in the Constitution itself. If you wish to register heraldic arms, the link to the American College of Heraldry is on the right. If you wish to bear literal ones, you have the right to do so. Every American man can be a gentleman.
To do so, though, requires that you constitute yourself a defender of your country and its civilization. It is not enough to say, as did Dutch humanist Oscar van den Boogaard:
"I am not a warrior, but who is?" he shrugged. "I have never learned to fight for my freedom. I was only good at enjoying it."No, that is not a gentleman, though he wears the finest clothes and writes the finest novels, keeps the best society, and has the finest manners. He has only the accidents of a gentleman. He has nothing of its essence.
The essence is to bear arms, in defense of country and civilization. That is the real thing, the root of the tradition. The arms may be symbolic, or they may be actual. The defense must be devout.
That may sit ill with some, but there it is. Honi soit qui mal y pense, goes the motto of the greatest of England's knightly orders. For the rest of us, there lies the gage.
Over at The Geek w/a .45's, Charles is positing a set theory for political correctness:
It seems to me that when a bad act is discussed in academia, or the media, the offenders are described as part of whatever grouping includes both the offenders and white Christian American men. For example, Christian snake handlers or abortion clinic bombers are identified as Christian, while Muslim terrorists or Aztec human sacrificers are religious....I think he's got something there.
"...like, next week, if we want them."
I'd say that was clear enough. So is this, the purest example of an exception swallowing a rule that I've ever seen:
Aso reiterated his belief that the constitution's pacifist clause does not prevent Japan from having nuclear bombs for the purpose of defense.So, the clause permitting "minimal" arms now permits the most dangerous weapons ever developed.
The constitution's Article 9 bars Japan from the use of force to settle international disputes.
"Possession of minimum level of arms for defense is not prohibited under the Article 9 of the Constitution," Aso said. "Even nuclear weapons, if there are any that fall within that limit, they are not prohibited."
I've got no problem with Japan developing nukes -- and, as Aso notes, it doesn't matter if I do have a problem with it. I'd just like to point out that that's the healthiest Living Constitution I ever saw.
The Bush Administration in the past has rightly decried the leaking of classified information from intelligence sources whose motives may or may not have been largely partisan in nature. But the deliberate leak yesterday of a classified analysis of Iraqi's embattled Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki by National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley should be seen in the context of statecraft and not necessarily the typical Washington bureaucratic game of "gotchya" - a difference that may be lost on some but is telling nonetheless.The distinction isn't lost on me. Certainly this allows Bush to frame the meeting with Maliki along very honest lines -- perhaps more honest ones than the forms of diplomacy would usually allow. The memo is good, I think: insightful, direct, and focused on suggestions for actual steps that can be taken to improve the situation.
Surely the summit will be improved by an open and direct statement of where the White House's internal deliberations are.
I disagree, though, that the memo targets "an audience of one," Maliki himself. I think it is meant to give an impression to the People of the United States. It shows a willingness to ask hard questions, demand firm answers, and suggest positive steps for change. That can only be meant to shore up support for the administration's approach on Iraq, which has been criticized for being apparently unwilling to do any of those things.
Insofar as that is the case, let me go on record as saying: I appreciate being 'let in on' the deliberations, and indeed it does do something to shore up my confidence.
I would, however, have had my confidence shorn up far more by a President who had the guts to put this out officially, with his own approval clearly stated. Where's that cowboy diplomacy? A cowboy is meant to speak his mind, when he speaks at all.
It's a mistake to appear to legitimize the culture of oathbreaking by making use of its forms. If you wanted to declassify this, declassify it!
The New York Times reports today that Hezbollah is training the Mahdi Army, according to a 'senior American intelligence official.'
Well, we've had rumors in the media mill about Hezbollah acting in Iraq all along. Michael Ledeen had this back in 2003:
Anyone who has worked on terrorism for the past 20 years will recognize the murderous techniques employed in the most-recent monster bombings at the Jordanian embassy, the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad, and the shrine of Ali in Najaf. They all bear the imprint of Hezbollah's infamous chief of operations, Imad Mughniyah, the same man who organized the terrible mass murders at the U.S. Marine barracks....Was it true then? Probably? Not at all? How about in 2004?
Mughniyah — who has changed his face, his fingerprints, and his eye color, since he knows he's one of the most-hunted men on earth — has been in Iraq for several weeks....
[T]here are many Hezbollahs, one of which is now growing in Iraq, under the leadership of the young Sheikh Muqtada al-Sadr, who was named chief of Iraqi Hezbollah by Iran's strongman Mohammed Hashemi Rafsanjani several months ago. And, as luck would have it, the young sheikh just happened to be absent from Friday prayers at the shrine of Ali when the car bombs went off.
Although American officials have called attention to the presence of about a hundred Hezbollah members in Iraq, few believe that they are organizing violent resistance. Every Hezbollah official I spoke to vehemently denied such reports, some indicating that they would welcome diplomatic relations with the United States.The source there is Adam Shatz, writing in the New York Review of Books.
So, was Hezbollah in Iraq or not? Are they working with our enemies, bringing their advanced lessons on guerrilla warfare -- or just doing social welfare work? Did they have to do with the 2003 bombing at the Shrine of Ali mosque, or not? Are they even there now, or not?
Consider the take from Talking Points Memo.
Is it true? Is Hezbollah training the Mahdi Army? I have no idea. And regrettably, under current management, the fact that senior intelligence officials or senior administration officials say it, really doesn't mean much one way or another.That is factually correct. If we -- and by "we" I mean both sides of the political divide in America -- have learned anything in the last few years, it's that leaks from unnamed sources in the government can't be trusted. For that matter, plain statements from the government can't be trusted to be reliable: from the CIA's "slam dunk" leadership to Colin Powell's presentation before the UN, the details of which appear to have been earnestly believed and largely wrong.
Intelligence work means getting things wrong sometimes, because you're playing the odds. It's a form of gambling, in which you never have the complete picture -- like with poker, where you know the content of your own hand but not the content of others'. Even in stud poker, where you have partial information about the latter, you end up having to gamble because some information is hidden. Sometimes, even the wisest gamble will result in a loss.
But this culture of leaks, this culture of oathbreaking by officials who have sworn to keep our nation's secrets, has left us with a complete failure of trust. TPM thinks it knows the source of this leak -- Dick Cheney -- but it's just guessing. It knows no more about that for certain than it knows if Hezbollah is in Iraq. Or, if it is, what it's doing there.
Our agencies' official statements are at once undercut by internal leaks from people with agendas. Their ability to consider possibilities in a confidential manner is undercut by leaks of those documents. Intelligence is sometimes going to be wrong, but we are left wondering if it is ever right. Worse, we are left with a picture of intelligence services internally at war with themselves. How can we place confidence in even their official statements -- to say nothing of these leaks in the press?
TPM goes on to say -- I can only assume tongue-in-cheek:
Everybody's enemy's enemy is a friend. We do know the Israelis are knee-deep in Iraqi Kurdistan, right?That's another one of the persistant rumors of the Iraq war, with Sy Hersh recycling it over and over. His sources always seem to track back to Turkey, where the government has an interest in spreading among Muslims the notion that independent Kurdistan is an Israeli puppet. But it might be true, even so -- right?
The media isn't doing better than the intelligence services seem to be. Consider Flopping Aces, which has demonstrated that a whole series of reports alleging serious atrocities in Iraq were invented in whole cloth.
The 'fog of war' is the phrase Clausewitz used to refer to the uncertainty that arises in battle. We have reached the stage at which that uncertainty has encompassed the entire war. In spite of the presence of massively-funded intelligence services, and a press that may be covering this war more intensely than any other in history, we know nothing for certain about what is going on.
A great revealation is made by a senior intelligence official in the New York Times, alleging Hezbollah is fighting alongside our enemies in Iraq. On both sides of the American divide, the response is: "Why should we believe anything you say? You, the media, or you, the leak -- or even the agencies in which the leakers serve, when even their senior officials so regularly keep no loyalty to their oaths, but forever try to undermine each other?"
If we are to succeed, in this or any war, we must address these problems. War is a test of wills. Will requires confidence. And we have no confidence, nor any cause for confidence, in the institutions that are charged with informing us. The intelligence services and the media have both failed us.
Captain Ed reports some details about the six imams removed from a US Airways flight. Apparently, the men switched seats without authorization from the airline, seizing positions in the front row of first class, the exit rows, and the rear. This was a technique used by the 9/11 hijackers:
That would normally be enough to get any flight delayed while the seating arrangements got straightened out, especially if passengers deliberately take seats other than those assigned to them. However, the men kept interfering with the boarding process by going back and forth to talk amongst each other. Their seating pattern -- again, not that assigned by the airline -- positioned them at every egress point from the aircraft.Seat belt extenders can, of course, be used as a weapon of sorts. Given the rigorousness with which the other passengers are disarmed by our own government before boarding the aircraft, real harm could be done by someone with such a strap who has trained in using it as a field-expedient weapon.
And those seat-belt extenders? Once they received them from the flight attendants, the imams put them under their seats, and not on the seat belts that purportedly would not fit them. Anyone who saw that would understandably wonder why the imams requested them in the first place, especially the flight crew, which has primary responsibility for flight security.
Small wonder, then, that US Air kicked them off the flight. Two pilots from other airlines confirmed that they would have done the same thing under the same circumstances. One pilot indicated that the repositioning of the group within the plane has been identified as a terrorist probe technique.
I remember shortly after 9/11 someone suggested that we just issue all airline passengers a Louisville Slugger. That would, at least, remove the chance of someone using a seat belt extension (or a box cutter) to hijack a plane. It would probably also cut down on "probes" like this one.
However, for now that concept is not in the cards. Too many people still think that we can best achieve security by disarming. In fact, security requires that we be capable of upholding the peace.
Doc Russia wrote to ask an opinion on Dwight C. McLemore's Fighting Tomahawk, which is a followup to his Bowie and Big Knife Fighting System. I've talked about McLemore's first book here occasionally -- I liked the thing -- but I haven't read his other two books. Here's the exchange between myself and Doc, with Doc first:
I was chatting with Moriarty, and he alerted me to the existence of a particular book. This came about while discussing what close quarters weapons might suit my little sister in Iraq, and the idea of the tomahawk came up. I had not known of this particular book before, and I had considered the tomahawk an interesting, but perhaps less than ideal weapon. Anyway, as the discussion flowed, it occured to me that not only may I be wrong, but that it might be worthwhile to look into learning how to use the bowie/long knife and tomahawk weapon set. Neither Moriarty nor myself are very well versed in edged weapons fighting (if you twist my arm, I will admit to learning some stuff related to brazilian saca tripa, but that is another matter). With that in mind, and considering that I had not corresponded with you in quite some time, I thought it an excellent opportunity to pick your brain, and find out what your thoughts on the matter are. It might also make for some good blog fodder, should you see fit. Anyway, please share with me your insight, and I would appreciate it very much. There is no rush on this, and take your leisure in answering.It's fun having a doctor as a friend, because you get letters telling you in clinical detail all the bad things that almost happened to you. :) Anyway:
I do hope this finds you and yours in good health, especially after the horse fall. I used to think that horseback riding was nothing but fun. Then one day, I had a patient whose horse fell back on top of him and the pommel basically impaled him. His pancreas was sheared, and he lost a fair section of bowels, ribs, and spleen before he was back together again.
Best regards to you and to yours.
I'll ask Jimbo and Froggy about the claim that current US Special Operations Forces are using the tomahawk (as opposed to, say, a camp hatchet). I'm not familiar with the claim.The confrontation with Robert the Bruce I was remembering happened this way:
McLemore is a good writer with a strong background in historical European fighting styles, so the book is probably worth a look. I used to teach the Scottish and Viking battle-axes, which is similar but larger and heavier. Most people are familiar with axes primarily as a wood-chopping tool, but it is also possible to use it as a short polearm -- you can grapple, slash, and stab with the points, as well as bash with the haft or the reverse of the blade.
It was the favored weapon of Robert the Bruce, who could kill an armored knight with one blow using his. It looks like McLemore is considering a big-knife and tomahawk pairing, which would require some training -- but having some experience in two weapon fighting, I can see how it would be an excellent choice for traditional European combat, in which your opponent will also be armed. The tomahawk is a good weapon for capturing or controlling an enemy weapon, which makes it a good off-hand choice. That would leave you with the long knife to take advantage of openings in the enemy's guard that you could create with the tomahawk.
That is to say, the tomahawk would be serving as a sort-of main gauche to the long-knife's rapier, except that with short edged weapons you get less thrusting and more circular slashing and driving. It would be used primarily against the enemy weapon, to create opportunities for employing the knife as the killing device. However, if an opening came for the tomahawk, well -- it's quite capable, even if it isn't a Scottish or Viking battle axe.
Bruce, whilst surveying the English army, wore his crown and this sparked an idea in the mind of one young English knight. With Bruce so easy for him to identify, the young Sir Henry de Bohun realised that if he killed him the Scots would suffer a most crushing blow, and that he himself would gain unrivalled admiration from his English king. The next thing Bruce knew, de Bohun was charging towards him with his 12 foot long lance ready for action. Bruce was on his Highland pony, and saw the attack coming. He waited until the last possible moment, then violently wrenched his pony to one side. The keen de Bohen went speeding past, and Bruce swung his battle-axe, crushing the armour worn by de Bohun and splitting open his skull. The eager de Bohun fell dead on the spot with the one mighty blow, which broke the shaft of the axe wielded by Bruce. His army saw their king and his act of courage, and their hearts were filled with admiration and inspiration. If any of his men had doubted his courage, surely their fears were now at rest. Bruce had shown that he was indeed a warrior king. When his commanders reflected on the risk that Bruce took, the king of the Scots pointed out that he was more dismayed that he had broken the shaft of his axe!That's pretty good, given the height difference for sitting on a Highland pony versus a proper destrier. However, some of the virtue of that has to do with Robert the Bruce himself -- as medieval armor improved, axes were often permitted to be used in tournaments without restriction, as the broad cutting surface made it unlikely to penetrate heavy armor (unlike a dagger, lance, or thrusting sword).
One thing to be considered if thinking about this for a situation like Iraq is the unlikelihood of running into old-style combat of the sort McLemore is examining. In modern combat, you don't expect to be wielding your weapons against an opponent who is similarly armed. Your knife and/or tomahawk has to be fielded against a gun, or a guy who has a knife but who has probably not studied deeply how to use it, or a baseball bat, or perhaps multiple attackers.
McLemore says he deals with that latter circumstance. However, I think that the modern edged-weaponeer needs to worry less about how to assume a defensive posture and defend his space, and more about how to close with, control, and destroy his enemy. Standing off a man until you can open his guard is fine for people who are fighting you symmetrically, but as we know that isn't how things are done these days. You need to learn to adapt the system away from being focused on defense of space, and toward focusing on seizure of the initiative, so that you can close with and eliminate opponents.*
As always with close combat, remember the three steps:
A successful modern edged-weapon fighter has to advance into the initial attack, while evading it, so that he can control the foe. This part, at least, is similar to the old part: you want to use your free hand, or your weapon, or your body placement, or the terrain, to open a space in which you are free to attack and your enemy is not. Control need not be perfect or long lasting, it just needs to exist long enough to let you focus on the attack for a moment without having to continue evasion.
An example of control would be to grab the foe's wrist and yank it, thus pulling him off balance for a moment. For that moment, you're in charge of where he goes instead of him being in charge of it. You thus have an instant's control in which you can deliver an attack.
Step three is self-explanatory. Modern defensive close combat, because it is asymmetrical, needs to be fatal.** When you create your opening, use it to eliminate the foe. Especially in cases when he may be better armed, or in company with multiple attackers, you need to take advantage of each moment of control to eliminate the foe you have controlled.
* This assumes you are intending to defeat your foes instead of merely creating an opportunity to flee from them. A civilian may, in some circumstances, be justified in doing the latter. A soldier is usually not permitted to flee without orders, but is expected to hold his position or advance, depending on his mission.
Even civilians may not always have the opportunity to flee; or it may be that they are defending a third party, perhaps family or some innocent, in which flight will not achieve the purpose. For example, former Marine Thomas Autry was cornered in a parking lot by a gang of foes. On occasions like this, a response like his is the one that makes success and survival likely. He advanced into the attack while evading it, controlled by kicking away the shotgun, and then stabbed.
This "preference" for fatal fighting is not a moral preference, but a practical one-- it is created by the reality of combat. It does not imply bloody-mindedness, as demonstrated again by Autry, who apologized for having killed his attacker. He was genuinely sorry to have had to do what he did -- but he really did have to do it.
** Police readers face different challenges, and this advice is not meant for them. It is meant for readers like Doc's sister, or civilians who are primarily charged with defending themselves, their families, the common peace and lawful order. Soldiers who come into close combat do so in the context of warfighting, against foes who mean not only to kill them but to eliminate their unit, and to harm the civilization they defend. If civilians are set upon at all, it will be asymmetrically by foes who will have advantages over them, and have chosen to attack for that reason. Both soldiers and civilians have to fight with all seriousness of purpose.
Policemen, who may use close combat as a less-lethal alternative to their service pistols, sometimes are called upon to use force against people who are not actually trying to do serious harm to them or anyone else. I recommend this discussion by Armed Liberal on the subject of police use of force.