Aug 29, 2006

Get Smart At High Noon - Time To Kick Some Kook Ass Out Of Dodge

It’s time for Americans to recognize that the enterprise that some neoconservatives refer to as World War IV is unwinnable in a strictly military sense. Indeed, it’s past time to re-examine the post-Cold War assumption that military power provides the preferred antidote to any and all complaints that we have with the world beyond our borders.

In Iraq, the world’s only superpower finds itself mired in a conflict that it cannot win. History’s mightiest military has been unable to defeat an enemy force of perhaps 20,000 to 30,000 insurgents equipped with post-World War II vintage assault rifles and anti-tank weapons.

In Gaza and southern Lebanon, the Middle East’s mightiest military also finds itself locked in combat with adversaries that it cannot defeat. Despite weeks of bitter fighting, the IDF’s Merkava tanks, F-16 fighter-bombers, and missile-launching unmanned aerial vehicles failed to suppress, much less eliminate, the armed resistance of Hamas and Hezbollah.

What are we to make of this? How is it that the seemingly weak and primitive are able to frustrate modern armies only recently viewed as all but invincible? What do the parallel tribulations—and embarrassments—of the United States and Israel have to tell us about war and politics in the 21st century? In short, what’s going on here?

The answer to that question is dismayingly simple: the sun has set on the age of unquestioned Western military dominance. Bluntly, the East has solved the riddle of the Western Way of War. In Baghdad and in Anbar Province as at various points on Israel’s troubled perimeter, the message is clear: methods that once could be counted on to deliver swift decision no longer work.

What was it that made the IDF in its heyday look so good? According to the punch line of an old joke: because they always fought Arabs. In 1991, the Americans finally had their own chance to fight Arabs, and they too looked good, making mincemeat of Saddam Hussein’s legions in Operation Desert Storm. In the spring of 2003, the Americans looked good once again, dispatching the remnant of Saddam’s army in a short and seemingly decisive campaign. In Washington many concluded that an unstoppable U.S. military machine could provide the leverage necessary to transform the entire region.

The truth is that U.S. forces and the IDF looked good fighting Arabs only as long as Arab political leaders insisted on fighting on Western terms. As long as they persisted in pitting tank against tank or fighter plane against fighter plane, Arabs were never going to get the better of either the Americans or the Israelis. His stupidity perhaps matched only by his ruthlessness, Saddam may well have been the last Arab leader to figure this out.

So it turns out that Arabs—or more broadly Muslims—can fight after all.

We may surmise that they now realize that fighting effectively requires that they do so on their own terms rather than mimicking the West. They don’t need and don’t want tanks and fighter-bombers.

What many Westerners dismiss as “terrorism,” whether directed against Israelis, Americans, or others in the West, ought to be seen as a panoply of techniques employed to undercut the apparent advantages of high-tech conventional forces. The methods em-ployed do include terrorism—violence targeting civilians for purposes of intimidation—but they also incorporate propaganda, subversion, popular agitation, economic warfare, and hit-and-run attacks on regular forces, either to induce an overreaction or to wear them down. The common theme of those techniques, none of which are new, is this: avoid the enemy’s strengths; exploit enemy vulnerabilities.

What are the implications of this new Islamic Way of War? While substantial, they fall well short of being apocalyptic. As Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has correctly—if perhaps a trifle defensively—observed, “Our enemy knows they cannot defeat us in battle.” Neither the Muslim world nor certainly the Arab world poses what some like to refer to as “an existential threat” to the United States.

Despite overheated claims that the so-called Islamic fascists pose a danger greater than Hitler ever did, the United States is not going to be overrun, even should the forces of al-Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah, Iraqi insurgents, and Shi’ite militias along with Syria and Iran all combine into a unified anti-Crusader coalition. Although Israelis for historical reasons are inclined to believe otherwise, the proximate threat to Israel itself is only marginally greater. Although neither Israel nor the United States can guarantee its citizens “perfect security”—what nation can?—both enjoy ample capabilities for self-defense.

What the Islamic Way of War does mean to both Israel and to the United States is this: the Arabs now possess—and know that they possess—the capacity to deny us victory, especially in any altercation that occurs on their own turf and among their own people. To put it another way, neither Israel nor the United States today possesses anything like the military muscle needed to impose its will on the various governments, nation-states, factions, and political movements that comprise our list of enemies. For politicians in Jerusalem or Washington to persist in pretending otherwise is the sheerest folly.

It’s time for Americans to recognize that the enterprise that some neoconservatives refer to as World War IV is unwinnable in a strictly military sense. Indeed, it’s past time to re-examine the post-Cold War assumption that military power provides the preferred antidote to any and all complaints that we have with the world beyond our borders.

In the Middle East and more broadly in our relations with the Islamic world, we face difficult and dangerous problems, more than a few of them problems to which we ourselves have contributed. Those problems will become more daunting still, for us and for Israel, should a nation like Iran succeed in acquiring nuclear weapons. But as events in Iraq and now in southern Lebanon make clear, reliance on the sword alone will not provide a solution to those problems. We must be strong and we must be vigilant. But we also need to be smart, and getting smart means ending our infatuation with war and rediscovering the possibilities of politics.
Excerpt Of An Article By Andrew J. Bacevich, The American Conservative


Andrew J. Bacevich is professor of history and international relations at Boston University. His most recent book, The New American Militarism, is just out in paperback from Oxford University Press.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

One important point missed that needs to be made and that is organizations learn. DoD, however slowly some might feel, learns new things. Case in point - what small groups of SOF, working with an indigenous population and air, did to the Taliban. This was a lesson the US started learning in Vietnam and continued to perfect in one form or another until today. Not a viable solution for Iraq though as it is an urban warfare setting and requires a different strategy. Unfortunately for the US that's a puzzle (urban warfare) it hasn't quite cracked yet but if history is a teacher the US will learn how to fight in an urban setting. Of course the enemy will also adapt too and that's been the real difficult part of warfare throughout the ages hasn't it?
The point about Islamists not invading the US so therefore they aren't a threat is invalid because they don't have to invade to disrupt the western way of life. 9-11 and the resulting restrictions on air travel that persists today is a case in point. The Islamists hate the US way of life and they hate your kids. I am not a proponent for the "kill, kill, kill" mantra espoused by some people in the US but I also don't want any kids killed by an Islamist because he hates what the west stands for. They have proven themselves unwilling to negotiate (who even knows what they'd want anyway?). No, I think I'd rather he be killed close to his home by a US bomb than close to mine by a Japanese policeman.

Anonymous said...

gomen nasai about the first post - I forgot one part:
"The Islamists hate the US way of life and they hate your kids for what they represent".
I hope this makes it more understandable.

Anonymous said...

SMB1, gomen again. How about more psyop information. It is very interesting. Thank you.

Meatball One said...

許される

Many interesting comments, all deserving considered response. For once I'm completely beat before the sun has set and I must sleep. But I will be right back at ya tomorrow.

おやすみなさいおよび神は賛美する

Meatball One said...

Anon wrote: ...One important point missed that needs to be made and that is organizations learn. DoD, however slowly some might feel, learns new things...

Somewhat pertaining to the above: http://tinyurl.com/juvxr

Islamists...will someone please explain to me what that is? You can start - perhaps by outlining what you mean yourself in the context of your comment. I used to be a nerdy national debating champ (Im still a nerd, just a drunk one) so definitions are still somewhat important to me.

The Psyop stuff....yes, that is my residual interest from the professional passions of younger years. Without ever having outlined as much before - if ever, the flimsy SMC approach/formula to presenting psyop info has been the following:

1. Establish the backdrop, ie what's the bottom line beyond spin, wishful thinking, propaganda, and agendas. Without knowing the bottom line, it is difficult to detect discrepancies between the claimed and the actual and it is in this zone between desired perception and reality that psyops are cultivated.

For that reason, we often post pieces that come pretty close to hinting at where reality lies. We adamantly feel that portraying things as they are is not the same as endorsing that state of affairs per se. Furthermore, we feel that pointing out discrepancies between reality and official claims does not necessarily entail that we do not support official policy or goals; ie pointing out BS and psyops churned to further policies doesn't mean we are against those policies - we're just trying to point them out. Quite a few folks just don't get the nuance of that.
I could perhaps be all for the OVP's policies and actions but I'm still gonna point out the difference between what is claimed and what in fact is going on. Perhaps that makes a traitor out of me - but I doubt it. Bush...err hmm, well certainly Cheney, knows exactly what's going on. He knows the diff between his BS public portayals of reality and reality. I know that...Ive met these cowboys in informal settings and heard the chit chat. The best I can say is that near nothing of what is said for public consumption lines up with what they're up to. And many a time I agree with what they are actually up to. It's just funny when layman take their sales pitches seriously and cascade onwards to use what are but sales pitches to defend policies and actions based on completely other considerations. Cheney doesn't use these sales pitch sound bites himself when making agendas. He'd be laughed out any room where there was juice present.

Now it's obviously given that in many a case, we believe the Bush admin promotes policies and strategies that are completely dissociated from the realm of reality and deep historical experience. But that's great since psyops and media management become that much more important for their survival - and that makes cherry picking easy for us - or difficult as BS abounds so as to completely overwhelm one with choice and the demands of delineation.

There are a good number of conservative commentators that can distinguish between what's actually going on and the narratives being spun to further agendas they themselves support. Christian Science Monitor an the Armed Forces Journal are 2 of many interesting sources to that effect. We often find these folks in the military or in academia, almost never on television. Otherwise, it does appear that lefties are best at describing reality in opposition to narratives. That doesn't mean that they are necessarily best in offering alternatives. But critical review need not always be paired up with demands for alternative policies. Maybe that's why analysts with a training in Marxist theory are well represented both on Wall Street and in the CIA. I dont think we have ever suggested alternative policies to those we hint at being in existence. (OK I admit, we dont dig torture and we dont dig targetting (sloppiness or deliberate) of civilians and their infrastructure, and we dont dig apartheid regimes, and we dont dig the stoning of adultresses or execution of retarded teenagers or election rigging...but other than that....)

I grew up in a micro-environment where the relevance of every message was to be found in the subtext. That sensitized me to bullshit and spin, akin to spiderman getting superpowers from a spider's bite. I turned that handicap into an asset and spent many a year working with subtextuals on a professional level - moulding public perceptions/opinions on behalf of a nation. Those days are passed but the interest (or handicap) persists, albeit in less intense and operational form.

So there, now perhaps you better understand the hopscotchy nature of this blog, although it doesnt explain the cretinous syntax...that's another matter related to style, laziness, and steganography. I would like to leave a quote from a post written by some other blogger. He churned it out in the wake of the Jesse McBeth psyop that suckered many a player on both sides of the fence to act in a prognosticated manner. It was beautiful. We pointed this out and the shamed wrath of a particular blogger rained down upon us. It was hilarious, anecdotes about which can be left to later. Ive marked in bold print a particular cognizant statement by Dunne. It's the reason why perhaps I dont bring up particular psyops so oft anymore...everything is BS these days. Borders are blurred as never before. But Im with you, I shall get back on the ball. It's what is most entertaining.
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http://www.dunneiv.org/?p=392

Ah yes, well placed “info-ops” as Meatball One puts it.

I caught the Jesse MacBeth testimony the night it apparently broke by following a link from one of the clearinghouses collected by the new uber-clearinghouse popurls.com. I forget which. Here’s Dahr Jamail’s retraction (for instance) about posting a link to it himself — apparently the actual video itself is now gone from a proper Internet home, probably living on as a p2p file everywhere near you. Point being, is this 20 minute video which promised to “change your life” spread like dry tinder wildfire upon its birth and was immediately doused by all forms of latent skepticism all about the North American interweb — left and right alike. Yet the point missed upon so many, is the now scrubbed comment, albeit exceptionally cryptic for the black/white red/blue set, that Meatball One left on a right-wing weblog which he now shares for posterity on his site Swedish Meatballs Confidential:

This video is definitely a must see as Goldstein’s entertaining post and its trailing comments are a must read.

The MacBeth Op’s been run like a classic info-op, setting up a strawman with which to mine against the return to areas of inquiry harbouring legitimate claims and grievances. It’s 101 stuff right out of one of my skullduggerous freshman textbooks.

Most of the responses here prove my point and are the very reactions sought after per operational design. It’s successes like this, as demonstrated by your unrestrained glee of solving the puzzle, that makes info-ops like this so entertainingly rewarding to work with. Your very exposé, and its limited depth of comprehension, comprises the actual honeytrap.

Those that take unbridled pride in the inevitable expostion of an enigma designed for easy elucidation, and draw far reaching and boistrous conclusions about the validity of everything else critical, are in fact the honetrapped - not the reasonably gullible that originally clung to MacBeth’s revelatory promise.

Judging by the blog’s post and the ensuing comments I dare say that most everyone here now has sticky feet.

Thanks for making this line of work so easy for my successors.


I thought of posting a link to the 20 minute MacBeth “testimony” myself when I discovered it on Sunday night, but thought otherwise at the last moment. It frankly didn’t pass the smell/laff/potential “info-op” test in my gut. I would have just as soon wished it to go away from where it came, the same with the goddamn “war” it apparently was meant to inform the seditious “anti-war movement” with, with its inarticulate and juicy, salacious tales of wanton brutality perpetrated by our good fighting men in uniform. But to me, deep in my ready to believe any story of a warcrime palate, this one just didn’t satisfy. Whether it be MacBeth’s pitiable ability to speak without his distracting stutter or just his Groucho Marx eyebrows that seemed to signal something else, I couldn’t quite buy nor put my finger on why, I knew there was something missing and wrong. And namely, that was what I perceived to be a lack of remorse, even though he seemed to be admitting the inadmissable, the unspeakable — the reason better men would have long ago taken their own lives over.

For a man who has murdered in cold blood countless innocent civilians and then thought better of it, himself and “what his country’s supposed to be about”, he certainly bore none of the behaviorial marks of empathic distress one would expect to see in someone who was simultaneously “telling all” in order to “come clean”. In a word, like Meatball One, I saw bullshit all over it too.

But I ask now, what indeed is a “psy-op” or “info-op” or just plain bullshit anymore these days? In this age where the doors to psychological manipulation have been swung open as wide as can be, where anyone with the money, know-how or impetus can learn the techniques honed down to the level of the very sheen of what it looks like to have a soul and be able to prick it and make whatever is left of the soul bleed — who is fooling who? Or is the fooling simply another feature of the vortex which is what an intentional global conflagration of crime looks like? The official government “ops-men” thus being nothing more than another player at the table. Let the dead bury the dead and all that.

When fair is foul and foul fair, what more is there for a centralized psy-op firm to do besides reap the bounty of what it hath sown?