11 September 2012

Forget me not...

Eleven years ago I sat in a conference room glued to a television as the
opening round in the West's war with extremism played out. At the time we
were hosting a conference near Norfolk, Virginia of a number of
international technicians who found themselves trapped in the Chesapeake bay
area. As the nation closed its airspace, people struggled to do what their
instincts told them to do, get home. A friend of mine, a Japanese national,
rented a U-Haul truck and drove from North Carolina to his home in Atlanta.
He was stopped by law enforcement at least three times enroute.

Watching the video remembrances of the event, it is sobering to realize just
how little we knew about what was going on at the time. Images of the White
House emptying out and Capitol Hill police officers warning off news crews
in anticipation of United flight 93 making it to its target in DC make for a
stark contrast to our present state.

It is important that we reflect on the state of the world and the progress
in the war against Al-Queada. In eleven years the nations of Iraq and
Afghanistan have been liberated (although our poorly executed departure from
Iraq, due to the current administration's inability to negotiate a proper
Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA)) has likely caused more damage to the
recovering government.

The nations of Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Morocco and Syria are in
various stages of the Arab Spring. So called in that they represent the
hope of an abandonment of oppressive regimes and an emergence into a period
of open, tolerant governance. Whether this is the final outcome remains to
be seen. Syria is ruthlessly clinging to its criminal form of government
and Egypt is struggling to avoid devolving into another Iran.

Iran is perched on the precipice of confrontation with the rest of the globe
over its relentless pursuit of nuclear weapons. Despite computer viruses,
magnetic assassin bombs and international condemnation, it seems clear that
Iran will achieve the development of nuclear capability. What transpires
after that is anyone's guess.

At the heart of this conflict is a fundamental disagreement about the role
of religion in governance. The forces of Al-Qaeda seek a return to the
Caliphate and law based upon Sharia. Their philosophy is regressive and
narrow. The rise of this philosophy has been aided by many of the
governments which have fallen in recent months. Their repressive approach
has reinforced the beliefs of adherents to an Islamo-centric mindset and
provided easy recruiting for new members. Nations which have more liberal
approaches to governance, Indonesia, have seen less of a rise of such
extremist factions.

The war continues, even today. There are few in the United States who truly
feel its effects of seem to grasp its implications. It is too soon to know
how the Arab Spring will affect its outcome or the ready availability of
domestic fuel via gas shale and other sources.

There is one thing certain, however, the outcome of this conflict will only
be determined by the adherents to the Islamist philosophy. It is they who
must decide if their obedience to a stagnant set of beliefs is worth
remaining outside the community of the planet and as pariahs in modern
society. We can only stand by with an open hand of welcome paired with a
gripped sword of defence.

23 August 2012

It's still the economy stupid...

Just as the GOP will use the non-issue of gun rights to inflame their base, the democrats are using the settled abortion issue to rev up their connection with women.  From the DNC’s view, the GOP will immediately drop burkhas over women and require them to be subject to arranged marriages and victimized by honor killings.  This is the same fantasy rhetoric the GOP uses in regards to the present administration’s supposed plan to confiscate firearms and subject citizens to twenty-four hour surveillance.  The sheer absurdity of these arguments ignores the fact the in Roe v Wade and Keller (in DC) these portions of law are largely settled and it is only the outlier states and municipalities which are holdouts against universal reproductive and gun rights.


The problem this causes is that it creates a film though which rational people must  battle in order to have any discussion about real issues.  These are issues over the size and role of government, the type and scope of fiscal policy and whether the USA will be a nation engaged with the world from a position of strength or an isolated country.  Personally, the social debate is absurd in my mind on its face.  No president has had any influence on social issues as these are almost always driven from the population and routed through the courts.


Good and intelligent friends of mine will wind themselves up over these issues with seeming amnesia over the actual impact over the past 20 years.  None of these rights has eroded, in fact they have expanded and become more established. 


The economy, however, is another matter entirely.


07 February 2012

Kabul, we have a problem...

The United States engaged enemy forces in Afghanistan earlier than it did in Iraq.  Afghanistan was secured (militarily) with a modest, asymmetrical force compose dof special operations units, local nationals and traditional units.  The result was a relatively swift victory in a fractured, mostly rural / undeveloped and tribal nation.  Afghanistan has no seaport, no major infrastructure, no major exports (save opium) and no real central government.  It is a nation of divergent, tribal groups barely linked by the common religion of Islam.

Prior to 2001, it was the training haven for Al Qeada.  It afforded numerous secure locations to prepare for global jihad against the forces of the West and internal enemies of a future Caliphate.  Our success in Afghanistan hinges solely on our overwhelming ability to delivery lethal force to any part of the nation within minutes.  This ability, however, will not convert an eleventh century culture into a modern society.

We are now facing peace talks with the Taliban, as we inevtibaly must and a likely premature exit in 2013.  This will result in Afghanistan devolving back into sectarian violence and partitioning.  It will also mean our presence wil be limited to a base in Khandahar or one of the -Stans from where SOCOM units will act to kill any coalescing threat which may spread outside the borders of the nation.

Michael Yon has written extensively about our challenges and now we have an Army O5 reporting his frustration with the truth on the ground.  The truth on the ground in Afghanistan is the summary of his article.

Let's just hope we can maintain that ability to decisively deliver necessary force to preserve our own security.  I fear that the security for the Afghans will remain elusive.

19 January 2012

SOPA / PIPA slips...

January 18, 2012



Online Piracy Act Loses Support


After an unprecedented day of Internet-based lobbying, a proposal to clamp down on online piracy lost support Wednesday.


The Stop Online Piracy Act and a Senate companion, the Protect IP Act, were criticized by websites such as Wikipedia and Google as being written too broadly.


Hollywood took a different view, arguing the measure is necessary to stop online pirating of movies, TV shows and other copyrighted material.


But Silicon Valley appears to have won this round, with several lawmakers backing away from the bill.




Congressional Websites Go Dark

Lofgren's websiteIt wasn't just Wikipedia that went dark Wednesday.

At least four Members of Congress "blacked out" their offiical websites in solidarity with an Internet-wide protest by opponents of bills to crack down on online piracy of music and movies.


Reps. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), Earl Blumenaeur (D-Ore.), Mike Honda (D-Calif.) and Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) showed protest messages on their House.gov sites on the same day as link aggregator Reddit and online encylopedia Wikipedia.



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05 January 2012

Future Force Will be Smaller...

01/05/2012 12:43 PM CST


Obama: Future Force Will be Smaller, Agile, Ready

By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 5, 2012 - At a moment of national transition, the United States is reshaping defense priorities and its military force to sustain U.S. global leadership and respond to changing security and fiscal needs, President Barack Obama said this morning at the Pentagon.

Obama, the first president to address reporters in the Pentagon briefing room, joined Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to introduce a new military strategy that sets priorities for a 21st-century defense.

"The United States of America is the greatest force for freedom and security that the world has ever known," Obama said. "In no small measure, that's because we've built the best-trained, best-led, best-equipped military in history -- and as commander in chief, I'm going to keep it that way."

Even as the tide of war recedes and U.S. forces prevail in today's missions, he added, "we have the opportunity and the responsibility to look ahead to the force we need for the future."

Looking beyond the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and long-term nation-building with large military footprints, Obama said, the United States will be able to ensure its security with smaller conventional ground forces and by investing in capabilities that include intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance and the ability to operate in environments where adversaries try to deny access.

"Yes, our military will be leaner," he said, "but the world must know the United States is going to maintain our military superiority with armed forces that are agile, flexible and ready for the full range of contingencies and threats."

Panetta said the department would need to make a strategic shift regardless of the nation's fiscal situation.

"We are at that point in history," the secretary added. "That's the reality of the world we live in."

But he stressed that the U.S. military will remain capable across the spectrum.

"We will continue to conduct a complex set of missions ranging from counterterrorism, ranging from countering weapons of mass destruction to maintaining a safe, secure and effective nuclear deterrent," Panetta said, adding that the department will be "fully prepared to protect our interests, defend our homeland and support civil authorities."

The Defense Strategic Guidance document released today says the future force will be led by the world's finest, best cared for and battle-tested all-volunteer military -- one that will be smaller, but that also will be flexible, agile and ready.

The force will be leaner, further reducing the cost of doing business and finding efficiencies in overhead, business practices and other support activities, according to the guidance. It also will be technologically superior, the document adds, and networked across the services as well as with diplomatic, development and intelligence agencies, allies and partners. The strategy also outlines a force that will be able to regenerate and mobilize for an unpredictable future, preserving the U.S. industrial base.

"As a global force, our military will never be doing only one thing," Panetta said. "It will be responsible for a range of missions and activities across the globe of varying scope, duration and strategic priority. This will place a premium on flexible and adaptable forces that can respond quickly and effectively to a variety of contingencies and potential adversaries."

With the end of U.S. military commitments in Iraq and the drawdown under way in Afghanistan, the secretary said, the Army and Marine Corps will no longer need to be sized to support the kind of large-scale, long-term stability operations that have dominated military priorities and force generation over the past decade.

Continuing investments in special operations forces, in new technologies such as ISR and unmanned systems and in space and especially cyberspace capabilities will help the force "retain and continue to refine and institutionalize the expertise and capabilities that have been gained at such great cost over the last decade," Panetta said.

Most importantly, the secretary added, "we will structure and pace reductions in the nation's ground forces in such a way that they can surge, regenerate and mobilize capabilities needed for any contingency."

Building in reversibility and the ability to quickly mobilize will be critical, he said.

"That means re-examining the mix of elements in the active and reserve components," Panetta said. "It means maintaining a strong National Guard and Reserve. It means retaining a healthy cadre of experienced [noncommissioned officers] and midgrade officers, and preserving the health and viability of the nation's defense industrial base."

The strategy, Dempsey said, is sound.

"It ensures we remain the pre-eminent military in the world," the chairman told reporters, "it preserves the talent of the all-volunteer force, it takes into account the lessons of the last 10 years of war, [and] it acknowledges the imperative of a global, networked and full-spectrum joint force."

The strategy calls for innovation -- new ways of operating and partnering, Dempsey said, adding that it rebalances the defense focus by region and mission and makes important investments in emerging and proven capabilities such as cyber and special operations.

"Fundamentally," the chairman said, "our strategy has always been about our ability to respond to global contingencies wherever and whenever they happen. This does not change. We will always provide a range of options for our nation. We can and will always be able to do more than one thing at a time. More importantly, wherever we are confronted and in whatever sequence, we will win."

All strategies accept some risk, he acknowledged.

"Because we will be somewhat smaller, these risks will be measured in time and capacity," the general said. "However, we have to be honest -- we could face even greater risks if we did not change from our current approach."

The outcome is not perfect, the chairman said, but "it gives us what we need -- in this world and within this budget -- to provide the best possible defense for our nation at a time of great transitions. It prepares us for what we anticipate needing in 2020."

The nation faces a difficult fiscal situation and in many ways is at a crisis point, Panetta said.

"But I believe that in every crisis there is opportunity," he added. "Out of this crisis, we have the opportunity to end the old ways of doing business and to build a modern force for the 21st century that can win today's wars and successfully confront any enemy and respond to any threat and any challenge of the future.

"Our responsibility -- my responsibility as secretary of defense -- is to protect the nation's security and to keep America safe," he continued. "With this joint force, I am confident that we can effectively defend the United States of America."

Leon E. Panetta
Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey

Related Sites:
Defense Strategic Guidance

Related Articles:
Obama: Defense Strategy Will Maintain U.S. Military Pre-eminence

Updates from the U.S. Department of Defense