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December 10, 2004

Wahabism Delenda Est

Despite some pedagogic disagreement on the Latin, Wahabism Must Be Destroyed is a major sub-theme of the Armorer. As I have said earlier, unlike some of my more, well, intense, commenters, I'm not about the destruction of Islam, but I am about the destruction of the Wahabist strain of it. Just as one could be for the eradication of the Spanish Inquisition without being for the eradication of the Roman Catholic Church (though members of the Inquisition would disagree), so too is it possible to support the concept of Wahabism Delenda Est without wishing the extirpation of a whole concatenation of communities of faith.

So, what's a good Anti-Wahabism Crusader to do? Well, it helps to understand the problem. As I've noted before, one of the problems for westerners in looking at Islam is that it seems that there is no central structural map to examine to understand how it operates, and that's before you get into the cultural underpinnings that are even more outside our experience. At least for me, that's because the mental model I applied to it was that of a single church. Islam = Roman Catholic, or Islam = Presbyterian. Established organizations with traceable doctrine and dogma and organizational structures.

From a organization construct however, Islam really equates more to "Protestant." Not doctrinally, but structurally, where Protestant refers to all the various churches, sects, doctrines, dogmas, etc - all claiming to start from the same point, in this case the Bible. Some denominations coordinate, others are hostile to each other. All claim some form of legitimacy. Remember - I'm just talking structure, and nothing else, a mental model that helps me deconstruct the problem, the better to understand it - not that little old me is going to come up with the solution.

I work with people from all across the Christian spectrum, from church-going converts to Catholicism to virtual seminarians, to Christians of convenience, who see the inside of a Church once or twice a year - if it's a good year.

And those who wish to, can argue about the Book. And quote from it Chapter and Verse. And not share the same interpretation of the meaning. And be certain that they are correct.

So too with Islam. So too with the Koran. So too, there is a glimmer of hope that over time, we can deal with this. But I suspect in reality, we're talking generations. Just as the Christian Community of Faith has evolved over time, so too will Islam. The question is, how much can we influence it? Hell, I don't know - that's so far out of my realm I haven't a clue at this point.

But the Army War College has recently published a monograph intended to help policy makers better understand what they are dealing with - and it can probably be useful to you, too. As Jack at Random Fate likes to point out - we can't (and shouldn't) eradicate 'em all - we have to find some way to deal with them.

I offer this up as a start, for those of you who have an interest in the subject. These are the conclusions reached by the authors, LCDR Youssef H. Aboul-Enein, and Dr Sherifa Zuhur:

In a 1938 speech urging greater U.S. involvement against the Nazis, Winston Churchill pleaded: “We must arm. Britain must arm. America must arm . . . but arms . . . are not sufficient by themselves. We must add to them the power of ideas.”60 With this in mind, U.S. policymakers should:

1. Become more cognizant of the complexity of Islamic law and the debates among Muslims. This does not mean that policymakers should direct the process or outcome of these debates.

2. Be aware of the danger of simplistic characterizations of Islam as a “violent religion.” Such characterizations inflame the emotions of Muslims everywhere, heighten perceptions of Western hostility, and limit our own ability to understand the future of the war on terrorism.

3. Understand how jihadist groups manipulate, hide and deemphasize aspects of Islamic history, law, and Quranic verses. Jihadists and the madrasas and study groups they sponsor are not creating theologians who will contribute to the spiritual growth of Islam but suicide bombers and foot-soldiers involved in Islamic nihilism.

4. Recognize that what al-Qaeda and its franchises fear most are Islamic laws, histories, and principles that do not conform to their militant ideologies. Therefore, the struggle between liberal and radical interpretations of Islam is a key aspect of the global war on terror.

5. Acknowledge that a perfectly defined delineation between “mainstream” and extremist views is not evident. Al-Qaeda and other jihadists proselytize with interpretations such as those of Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab, Ibn Taymiyya, and Sayyid Qutb. But Wahhabism is at the core of today’s Saudi Arabia, and Saudis must decide how to best counter interpretations that lead toward extremism. Ibn Taymiyya’s and Sayyid Qutb’s notions of social justice, the necessary Islamic character of leadership, and the importance of the Quran are
highly palatable ideas to most Muslims, in contrast with other key jihadist notions in these theorists’ work. That mixture of palatable and offensive ideas compounds the difficulties of the Egyptian government in seeking to limit radical influence. We nonetheless must understand the implications of the measures our allies choose to adopt.

6. Realize that the majority of Muslims do not speak Arabic. This means that Islamic teachings can be manipulated, as evidenced by the varying English translations of the Quran ranging from the moderate to the radical. To the non-Arabic speaking masses in Afghanistan, Pakistan, or Indonesia, Arabic is a sacred language. Therefore, a radical cleric preaching and lacing his speech with
Arabic and Quranic words takes on an air of holiness, even though the sentiments he expresses reflect jihadic opinion.

7. U.S. forces, particularly those involved in psychological operations, need to be educated in aspects of Islamic history, law, and culture. As Islamic militants quote and violently interpret verses from the Quran and hadith, U.S. and allied forces should not plead ignorance, but achieve a higher level of familiarity with religious and other aspects of Muslim culture. U.S. and allied forces may better comprehend the specific dilemmas of our Muslim allies if they are familiar with the messages of jihadist and moderate Islam. Alternatively, they should consult experts who are well-versed in these matters.

8. Recognize the simultaneous impracticality of armistices and reconciliation with Islamist militants, and the Islamic rationale for attempting such solutions. Such efforts were attempted in both Saudi Arabia and Iraq, but, in fact, those already passionately committed to the jihadist worldview will not be won over, and only those less committed might waver. We might therefore conclude more
pessimistically.

9. Factor in the possibility of failure in the battle against jihadist sentiment, while working as assiduously as possible for a different outcome. That Islamism consists of moderate as well as radical, extremist groups operating in a politically unstable environment may rather point to a protracted struggle and period of reformulation. Knowledge of Islamic discourses will still be helpful and necessary in determining our responses to such a situation.

The whole thing is a 51 page .pdf, of which 31 pages cover the topic, with the remainder being sources, notes, and a useful glossary of Muslim terminology.

It strikes me as a useful primer (d-uh, why else would I have spent the time on the post, eh?) for someone trying to get their head into the game.

It's available here.

by John on Dec 10, 2004 | Global War on Terror (GWOT)
» Random Fate links with: Wahabism Delenda Est
» Random Fate links with: Wahabism Delenda Est

December 09, 2004

Remember your Drill Sergeant telling you not to bring a knife to a gunfight?

Don't bring a rifle to a tank fight. (Not work safe for 'sensitive' office environments - will go over well in military offices). Hat tip Frank B. via Mike L.

Armored Hummers...My Perspective

My mind is spinning from the massive case of deja vu I'm getting after watching the faux feeding frenzy over the kid busting Rummy's chops over armored Hummers.

First, I think this exchange reflects great credit on the military.

Really.

Where else can a junior enlisted man ask a pointed question to the second-most influential civilian in the chain of command after the President and not get hammered for it? I honestly don't think there were any repurcussions for the kid, for at least two reasons.
One: it was an honest bitch about a real problem...and I know of few GOOD commanders who would react negatively to it. Even if they wanted to (let's say the guy was a habitual squeaky wheel whose normal complaints were lame at best), ANY evidence of a smackdown would put the kabosh on future feedback that good commanders rely on to keep themselves honest, informed and in pursuit of the right things to protect, prepare and effectively support their troops.
Two: Rumsfeld is man enough to stand there in front of God (the media--who else did you think I was referring to?) and everybody and expose himself to this kind of no-notice clipping penalty (sort of). His boss did the same thing in the election, in contrast to his opponent, whose unscripted news question/answer periods I think I could count on one hand. That's why the latter won (among other reasons) and the former is still SecDef (among other reasons).

Anyway, if this kid thinks things are bad in the Army, he should try the TACP community in the Air Force. (NOTE: Before someone blows a Service parochialism gasket...THE ARMY AND MARINES NEED 'EM WORSE THAN ANYBODY...I KNOW THAT...OK?...OK).

Let's rewind a bit to Operation ALLIED FORCE...the airwar over Serbia. We (the Army and my Air Force brethren attached to them) were monitoring things from outside Kosovo when Slobodan's boys (Arkan's Tigers...a Serb SOF/bandit outfit) thought it would be really cool to try to snatch a few US soldiers for propoganda purposes during that Clintonesque campaign (run by Wes Clark...remember him?).

Well, they did it, collaring three kids who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. The Tigers shot the living s**t out of the Hummer these guys were in. Fortunately for them, it was an armored one they could hunker down in while getting sprayed with AK-47 rounds. The bad guys put so many bullets into the thing that the engine caught fire as oil and gas flowed out of the 7.62mm orifi that had just been punched in the engine block. The soldiers, however, were unscathed. Of course, the Serbs beat the s**t out of them later, but I digress...

Now comes the good news (sort of)...about 5 km due west of these guys were a couple of USAF TACP types in an UNarmored Hummer. Why unarmored? Ask the Air Force.

Basically, ground vehicles ain't exactly on the top of the recapitalization hit parade in the blue world. And cosmic vehicles for a career field that is, in essence, microscopic in the grand Air Force scheme of things, was, shall we say, um, rather low in the priority list. In an era of limited military budgets, roughly from 1776 to 2004 with a few good years on occasion for higher OPTEMPO (Civil War, WW I, WW II), Services like to save their money for equipment they use the most (Army...tanks; Navy...ships; Air Force...airplanes; Marines...anything they can get after the navy buys ships, etc., etc.). Note the Air Force priority..."vehicle" means "airplane." I think the last time I asked, the recapitalization (replacement/upgrade) rate for--OK, lets call by their civilian name, "cars"--was about 5% per fiscal year.

Now, let's review the bidding on USAF missions requiring Hummers. Take two...

Cops, until very recently, pretty much remained inside the perimeter of a base to protect it and the assets thereon. This is good...and their job sucks...and they do it well...and I like them a lot...and please don't slash my tires.

ETACs (Enlisted Tactical Air Controllers), on the other hand, go forward with the Army maneuver units to find and schwack enemy targets with close air support fighters. If you know me, by now you know where I'm going with this...who gets the up-armored Hummers? Yeah.

OK. Why was this? To be frank, many in the officer corps of many years ago in the TACP community--how shall I put this?--well, let me just say they didn't do as well as they could have in promoting the needs of their charges. (ANOTHER NOTE: I AM GENERALIZING HERE...THERE WERE GOOD ONES BUT THE GOOD ONES KNOW I'M RIGHT) And, to be fair, the powers that be in the Air Force, for the most part, didn't listen anyway. Proximity helps, too. When a Wing Commander looks out his window, he usually sees a Security Policeman. If he sees an ETAC, his base is probably about to be overrun.

Fast forward a little bit back to Kosovo. The shoot-'em-up got some attention in USAFE. Better yet, a man named Jumper was the commander at the time and liked us. So, things started to "move" and armored Hummers became a topic of discussion. When I was there we still didn't have any but the check was in the mail, as it were.

Now, what isn't mentioned in the discussion (at least not very much) today is that an uparmored vehicle is a horse of a different color, design-wise, weight-wise, suspension-wise and (I think) power-wise. It takes awhile to get 'em fielded. Of course, that's not an excuse and it probably will take not one, but several, "pointed moments" with high rollers to keep things moving. I know the manufacturer in Florida says he can crank 'em out at a higher rate and shame on us for not having done that sooner. BUT...things ARE getting better...

So, do we have a problem? Yup. Do people care? Yup. (Yeah, c'mon guys, you know thay do). Could things be going faster? Yup. Are we as broke-d**k as the media thinks we are? Ask the mujiis in Falluja.

This is a very self-critical military. It ain't perfect and I can, literally, personally relate to this particular issue. But, if there's any fighting force an this planet whose top civilian leader will take this little faux pas to heart, it's ours. We shouldn't be proud of the shortfall but we can be proud of a society and a system that is not afraid to expose it and is, I think, committed to fixing it.

Of course, that's my opinion and I could be wrong.

Instapilot

A soldier's last request.

Blackfive has a letter you should read, and asks you to do something else, too. No, it won't cost you a dime, just a phone call or email.

Please.

I really really miss this office.

It was a fun place to work.

Army Spc. Frank Guerra prepares to fire rounds from a M109A6 Paladin artillery vehicle as part of a counter fire mission against insurgents near the town of Falluja, Iraq, on Nov. 5, 2004. Guerra is assigned to Alpha 382nd, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry. DoD photo by Senior Airman Christopher A. Marasky, U.S. Air Force.

Secretary Rumsfeld and the Specialist.

I was going to do a relatively lengthy bit on what happened with the SECDEF and his group grope, and how the media spun it. But - I find it's been covered elsewhere, by active duty troops, who are closer to it in several ways. I have little useful to add to it - as I agree with what they say, so I'll just point you to them.

This para from 2Slick's piece encapsulates my take nicely:


The only thing unusual about this particular "town hall meeting" was the fact that the press was invited. My coworkers and I wondered aloud about the wisdom of this decision, and I still can't really see the logic there. The only thing I can think of is that the SECDEF intended to show that he has nothing to hide- sort of like a "full public disclosure" kind of thing. The problem with this is obvious. When the cameras are rolling and a soldier stands up and asks why the military isn't doing anything to properly equip him for war, guess what happens? That's right- the media machine immediately establishes a new "truth"- in this case it's that the military is not equipping the force. Absolutely no effort is made to fact-check the soldier- his word is taken as pure gospel. Politicians on Capitol Hill start ranting and raving, the pundits weigh in, and the opposition party gleefully waves the "I told you so" banner. All because of one question from a hard-working well-meaning lower enlisted soldier.

That said - what you see here is one of those things that distinguishes the US Military from many others - our troops won't hesitate to ask hard questions and aren't afraid to. And, most of the time, when they ask seemingly stupid questions regarding policy - it's the chain-of-command that has failed to keep the troops informed, of failed to maintain the trust of the troops when they do keep them informed. It's always a challenge. And, some troops are just, well, clueless, too. But I'd rather serve in an Army where they feel they can ask the question than one where they are afraid to.

2Slick
Froggy Ruminations
SGT Missick - who was there.

Update: Apparently the Secretary agrees.

Updated Update: How not to get yourself invited to another meeting.

Question: When the journalist inserts himself into the story... can we call him biased?

by John on Dec 09, 2004 | Observations on things Military
» The Politburo Diktat links with: Thunderbolts and Humvees

December 08, 2004

Sometimes, things just come together...

Such as these two unrelated bits of information.

First - as we know, Asimov hasn't won the fight yet regarding robotics. This is a robot that does not follow the First Law. Of course, there are some who feel the Three Laws of Robotics are unfair to robots and therefore unethical.

ORLANDO, Fla., Dec. 6, 2004 – Soldiers may have armed robots as battle buddies by early next year, according to industry and military officials attending the biennial Army Science Conference.

The Special Weapons Observation Reconnaissance Detection System, or SWORDS, will be joining Stryker Brigade soldiers in Iraq when it finishes final testing, said Staff Sgt. Santiago Tordillos, a bomb disposal test and evaluation noncommissioned officer in charge with the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technology Directorate of the Army’s Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center at Picatinny Arsenal, N.J.

The full article is here.

Kinda cool. Armed robot to go into dangerous places. I know I'd much rather send in a robot than kick down a door myself. Despite what the 'fair fight' whiners might have to say on the subject. I suspect that this little gizmo isn't going to be quite as good as expected, depending on how the sensor package works and how that feedback is perceived and acted on by the operator. But that will improve quickly under the influence of operations. However, that thought leads us to the "Things that make ya go, hmmmmm." confluence.

Today, CAPT H sent along this little article from CNN.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- Four people were able to control a computer using their thoughts and an electrode-studded "thinking cap", U.S. researchers reported Monday.

They said their set-up could someday be adapted to help disabled people operate a motorized wheelchair or artificial limb.

While experiments have allowed a monkey to control a computer with its thoughts, electrodes were implanted into the animal's brain. This experiment, reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, required no surgery and no implants.

All that's missing here is a direct feedback loop from the sensors. In terms of the robot, I mean. For the subjects in the 'thinking cap' experiment, there was a direct feedback loop with the sensors - the sensors were their eyes.

I'm talking about direct feeds of multiple sensor data (presumably enhanced over normal human parameters) back to the robot operator, with their responses being automatic.

Stuff of science fiction, eh? And closer than we think, I suspect, though not 'just around the corner.'

But Bolo's are getting closer.

The whole CNN article is here, until 21 December 04.

December 07, 2004

63 Years Ago...

These men took the first steps of the Greatest Generation's March to Greatness, just as their grandchildren make their own march today.

At 7:55AM, Pearl Harbor went from this...

To this...

To this...

To this...

To this.

Finally, those men and millions of men and women like them, forced this:

The representatives of the Emperor of Japan surrendering on the deck of the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay.

This generation will do no less, as long as we let them!


So today, we honor the veterans and the fallen of Pearl Harbor.

Sailors man the rail of the USS Hopper (DDG 70) as it parades by the USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on Dec. 7, 2000. The Arleigh Burke class destroyer is taking part in the ceremonies commemorating the 59th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. DoD photo by Staff Sgt. Paul Holcomb, U.S. Air Force.

More Pearl Harbor Blogging:

Random Fate
Silent Running
Instapunk
Michelle Malkin
Florida Cracker
Mamamontezz
Rooftop Report
Poliblog
Backcountry Conservative
Flynn Files
Shot in the Dark
Power Line
Outside the Beltway
The Commissar
Val Prieto
Laughing Wolf
Transterrestrial Musings
Mallard Fillmore
SGT Hook
Brainshavings
Drink This
Airborne Combat Engineer
Cowboy Blob
I Love Jet Noise
Intermittent Stream
Blackfive
Texas Bug

by John on Dec 07, 2004 | Historical Stuff
» TacJammer links with: Pearl Harbor, and a Lesson - 2004 Edition
» The Laughing Wolf links with: It Was A Quiet Morning
» Intermittent Stream links with: Infamy Today
» Sgt Hook - This We'll Defend links with: Infamy
» Random Fate links with: John of Argghhh! has a
» Backcountry Conservative links with: Remembering Pearl Harbor
» INCITE links with: Pearl Harbor Day
» TexasBug links with: Dec 7th, 1941, 0753 Hours - Attack Erupts at Pearl
» BLACKFIVE links with: December 7th - Pearl, the 'stan, and Iraq
» Cinomed's Tower links with: Before 9/11 there was 12/7
» CDR Salamander links with: Pearl Harbor Day

News from the Front.

The other front, Afghanistan, which you don't hear about much.

Anyone catch the fact that Afghanistan has a new President?

Well, one of the reasons Afghanistan has a new President is because of guys like SFC X, a Special Forces soldier operating in the 'Stan.

There's still a war going on over there, folks. Check it out. Classic SF stuff, working with the local forces to help the local forces improve their tactical proficiency, gain/maintain control and momentum, allied with intel gathering and dissemination.

Got this one from two sources. Names and dates have been edited just because I thought it was a good idea to do so.

December 06, 2004

Re: How Fast Can You Fly Backward? Or Why Helicopter Pilots are Superior

*Sigh* …another example of aviation penis envy.

Whenever someone starts slamming others, especially other pilots about their jets, look out. To paraphrase Shreck, sounds like he’s trying to compensate for something.

Anyway…I like helicopters. I think they’re kinda cool and would love trying to fly one. But, in the end, I like the idea of carrying enough killing power to equal a modern-day American artillery unit. Me. Alone. By myself.

As far as “operating by the numbers” is concerned, the fixed wing community does that because it must. To not do so puts you and the people around and underneath you at risk. (Vtoss, by the way is not something fixed-wingers have to worry about…try Vmc, Vxse, Vyse, and Vsse, but I digress…). Every airplane, fixed wing or rotor, has limits. How about an 80-knot crosswind? 100 knots? Do you guys fly in tornados? It’s not how slow you can land, it’s what going on around you when you do that matters. Ask any Navy VERTREP guy…landing on a pitching deck is predicated on what the boat’s doing, what the winds are doing (among other things), not how much forward speed he’s got…although I’m sure that factors into the equation somewhere.

As far as operating environments go, ever heard of Texas Lake? See: A-10s, Nellis, Red Flag, austere operating environments. Heh. Want a spot landing? See: United States Marine Corps, Harrier pilot, standard, one each. As for flying VFR, that would be what most of the fighter guys do on most of their sorties (OK, the air-to-mudders…Hogs and Vipers more’n likely).

As far as flying in busy airspace goes and with cosmic cockpits…cool. And, therefore…what?

Workload. Well, I have fueled my own jet, loaded my own bombs…OK, they were BDUs, but gimme a few hours of checkout and I’ll help on the big stuff. Now let’s talk mission workload: 100’ AGL, three wingmen, radar threats, weapons, fuel, and mission management, based on what the FAC and ground commanders want/need. Serious helmet fires abound in this environment, but it’s when you’re most alive. And, assuming you don’t get assholed by an SA-whatever, 57mm AAA, small arms fire, or run into the friggin’ ground, it’s the ultimate high. Doing it well, even though it taxes you to the max, is THE rush…so bring on the workload.

Fisking time:

“But wait, like the Ginsu knife, "there's more!" The rotor-head does it all. He does all the pre-flight planning, submits the flight plan, prepares all the paperwork…”

In the Air Force, that’s called being a “rated pilot.”

“…loads and briefs the passengers…”

Mine don’t care and don’t talk…they just go “boom.”

This part is my favorite:

“Finally, the all important question, "What about control touch?" I want to shut up all the hotshot fighter pilots. I've been in their aircraft and they have been in mine... I could fly theirs but they were all over the sky in mine! So then, Mr Starch Winger; when you see a Hughes 500 or Bell 206 pilot hold one skid on a 5000' knife edge ridge that is only two feet wide so passengers can step out onto the ridge, while the other skid is suspended in space... when you watch a Skycrane, Vertol, S61, 212, or 214B pilot place a hook, that's on a cable 200 feet below the aircraft, in the hand of a ground crewman... when you see a Lama, AStar, or Bell 206L land in a space in the trees that's scarcely bigger than the helicopter... and if you ever watch a BK 117, 105, or A109 pilot land in a vacant lot next to a busy freeway surrounded by power lines -at night... Well then, you'll have some idea who is the master manipulator of aviation equipment.”

Oh, please.

Yes, it’s easier to fly a real airplane for the first time if: you didn’t do the takeoff, don’t do the landing, don’t go to the range, don’t fly fingertip (three feet from your jet to his at cruise speeds, varying g-loads and bank angles) and basically do all the important shite you do as a fully qualified fixed-wing combat aviator. This is not to belittle the helo aviator’s skill, but it helps to put it in perspective.

Could I hover on my first try? Probably not very well…but if I had a competent IP, I could probably figure out the basics in a short time. I have never been in a helo as a person with hands on the controls, but, figuring the cyclic let me go forward/back and left/right and the collective gives me up/down (and power), I’d pick a visual reference on the ground and fly the airplane by keeping it in the same position relative to that point using those three controls (plus a little pedal action to keep the nose/tail aligned). Would that be a start? …and I’ll take all the techniques you’re willing to offer.

For “bird-like control touch,” see: USAF/USN/USMC fighter/attack pilots, all, in fingertip formation, 90-degrees of bank, 2-3 g’s, plus “Thunderbirds” and “Blue Angels” (for same in cool uniforms and surrounded by babes after landing). And that’s just one example.

“The bottom line is; if all you want is to get into the air, find a Cessna, Beech, F-16, or 757. However, if you want to truly fly, to be an artisan in aviation and develop a bird-like control touch; then, you want to be a helicopter pilot. After all, a rock would probably fly if you made it go 180 knots. The real question for our fixed wing brethren should be, ‘How fast can you fly backward?’”

No.

The bottom line is, if you want to fly, get in an airplane. It can be fixed- or rotary-wing. They all have their uses, their peculiarities, their plusses and their minuses…but they’re ALL airplanes and they’re ALL fun. The real question to our rotary-wing brethren should be, “When was the last time you did a loop?”

Fly safe, dude.

by Dusty on Dec 06, 2004 | Testosterone Alert
» uruloki's lair links with: Braindump

Good order and discipline.

Two related stories in the papers today. Soldiers suing over the "Stop Loss" policy, and the results of the disciplinary actions against the platoon that refused to conduct the convoy mission. They aren't directly connected, but they they both go to the core of what the services term "Good Order and Discipline" an essential component of unit effectiveness and cohesiveness.

In the first case, 8 soldiers, one by name, the other anonymously, as they fear retribution, are suing the Army over "Stop Loss". Stop loss is authority granted to the Secretary of Defense to order that certain types of soldiers will not be allowed to leave the service upon the expiration of their enlistment contracts. Just what mix of specialties and grades (ranks) are affected are determined by the situation any particular service is facing. I should note that 'stop loss' has been applied in peacetime, as well, not just in wartime, when for whatever reason, a shortage of a critical military specialty looms, and the services need to bridge a gap. It has usually been short.

The war is a different matter. The soldiers in question are suing over the implementation of the policy that if you are in a deploying unit, stop loss applies while that unit is deployed, for all personnel in the unit. The suing soldiers want the Army to honor their contracts and let them leave. The purpose of the stop-loss for deployed units is simple. We don't want to do in Iraq and Afghanistan what we did in Vietnam - where units were deployed but then continually refilled with individual replacements, who were usually not well integrated into the units for some time - which is not good for combat efficiency. Combat units rely on teamwork as their greatest combat multiplier. We did the same thing with leg infantry divisions in WWII. Read any of the memoirs of replacement soldiers in those divisions. We didn't do that with the Airborne and Armored divisions in WWII, mainly because they were used as strike forces, and not to hold ground.

It doesn't bother me (it may well others) that these soldiers (with differing motivations) are suing. Let 'em have their due process on this. The courts have shown deference to military necessity before in issues like this, and I don't expect the suit will prevail. The Services can make a compelling case for the policy. There is plenty of precedent supporting the services, and while it's been a long time since I saw my enlistment contract, it was clear to me that wartime trumped all other clauses, but perhaps the wording has changed. Anyone?

The whole story on that is here, in the New York Times - which opines that:

These soldiers' public objections are only the latest signs of rising tension within the ranks. In October, members of an Army Reserve unit refused a mission, saying it was too dangerous. And in recent months, some members of the Individual Ready Reserve, many of whom say they thought they had finished their military careers, have objected to being called back to war and requested exemptions.

Rising tension, heh. Only people with little to no real knowledge of the services and the history of WWII and Korea, heck, even the Civil War, would put it like that. Anyone remember what Joshua Chamberlain was dealing with just prior to Gettysburg? But that leads us to the next bit, about the famous platoon of the 343rd Quartermaster Company, that refused to conduct their convoy.

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - The U.S. military in Iraq has disciplined 18 soldiers who refused to go out on a transport convoy they thought was too dangerous, but the reservists will not face court-martial, a military spokesman said Monday.

Lieutenant Colonel Steve Boylan said a further five would also face "non-judicial" punishment under Article 15 of the U.S. military justice code, making 23 troops disciplined in this way.

Pretty much went as I thought it would (much, I'm sure, to the disgust of those who were arguing for firing squads at dawn, even if mostly in jest). I thought that it would be shown that there was more to the story than simple refusal to obey orders (based on an assumption of cowardice, or at least, excessive angst). While I don't know the whole story - the unit was apparently very badly led. The Company Commander was relieved over the refusal incident (I've heard it reported that she requested relief - if she had to ask, the battalion commander needs looking at) and it became clear in what little I could glean from my meager sources that the unit was badly run and in marginal shape as a unit. In other words, as it is in almost any case like this - it was a failure of the chain of command. That doesn't relieve the soldiers of their responsibility to obey lawful orders - but the fact that this issue was handled with Article 15 proceedings (and that none of the involved soldiers demanded Courts Martial, as is their right) indicates to me that there was enough blame to spread around that at least some of the soldier's grievances had substance, if their chosen method of dealing with them was ill-advised. I suspect justice was served in this case - others of you may well disagree.

That whole story is here. Anyone want to argue it? Cogently, I mean - not just a 'They shoulda hung the bastards!' kind of way?

Dusty, you got an opinion here? You were a full-Colonel level commander, whattaya you think?

December 05, 2004

Gratuitous Gun Pic

Maine National Guard... firing their M198's at Canadian Forces Base Gagetown.

Howitzers are shrouded in their own smoke during an early August fire mission at the Canadian Force’s Camp Gagetown in New Brunswick. Maine’s 1st Battalion, 152nd Field Artillery was conducting its two weeks of annual training at the post as it has for most summers beginning in 1971. US Army photo by Master Sgt. Bob Haskell August 18, 2003.
by John on Dec 05, 2004 | Artillery
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