Saturday, May 29, 2010

Brennan's Right: Jihad is a Legitimate Tenet of Islam...

John Brennan, a high-ranking member of President Obama’s national security team recently gave a speech about our enemies.  The problems was he could not describe them because political correctness has tied him and the administration up into such not they are left saying things like we can’t call them jihadists or Islamists because jihad is a legitimate tenet of Islam. Of course he’s right – jihad is a legitimate tenet of Islam, but the problem is Brennan perpetuated the apologist’s lie that jihad simply means striving in the name of Allah. This type of childish pandering might be excusable from an ivory tower intellectual, but it borders on criminal from a public official charged with keeping Americans safe. One of the first rules of war is to study your enemy, but for too long our intelligence agencies have been stymied by political correctness, otherwise known as lying to yourself. Anyone who know the first thing about the Koran, Muhammmad or Islamic history in general knows how absurd Brennan’s statement is, but group think and cultural illiteracy keeps the media from calling the administration on its lies.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Basic Training is Much Too Basic

Peace time armies have the luxury of putting a relatively small emphasis on nuts and bolts combat training on the assumption most soldiers, even most infantrymen will not face combat. This was the situation in the 1970’s 1980’s and most of the 1990’s.  This has not been the case since 9/11 as the military is about 1/3 smaller and deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan have stretched the military too thin. With almost a decade of warfare behind us and almost certainly years of it ahead of us it makes sense to reevaluate how our troops are trained.

            In short I am arguing for an end to “basic training” that spends too much time on things like making your bunk, keeping your foot locker, closer order drill and marching. Any time spent cleaning floors with toothbrushes could be better spent teaching hand to hand fighting, strength training or marksmanship. Whatever it is called the training should essentially be infantry training with the minimum amount of extras like how to wear the uniform, salute and recognize ranks etc.

The military pointed out that about ¾ of America’s youth cannot qualify for military training. This underscores the imperative that the military must make the most of the people they do get and ask more of them. If we are going to maintain only a minimum amount of ground troops even though we are fighting several land wars then every soldier must be an infantryman and every infantryman a special forces operator.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

M4 Report is Symptomatic of Systemic Failure

The new Army study detailing the lack of stopping power of the M4 carbine and its 5.56mm round only codifies what soldiers have been saying since being deployed to Afghanistan. The M16 and M4 are good weapons, but the Pentagon has never admitted their mistake of switching from the 7.62mm round to the 5.56mm. Common sense has been verified by the study: smaller, lighter rounds don’t have a lot of stopping power past short ranges. The valleys and mountains of Afghanistan sets up a lot of long range firing situations.

The report underscores the Pentagon’s inexcusable delays over the XM25 a weapon that fires standard rifle rounds and explosive rounds that has been heard about for about a decade. The weapon has been down graded, perhaps for budget reasons, from a replacement for the current rifles to a small unit weapon that fires only explosive rounds. So instead of replacing the decades old technology of M16s the Army has gotten itself a hi-tech grenade launcher. The Pentagon has given flight to the Osprey, Raptor and Reaper and launched a new class of littoral combat ships, but somehow a new rifle that incorporates the technological advances of the last twenty years is a bridge too far?

Friday, May 21, 2010

Warrior-Centric: Cutting Bayonet Training Will Dull Soldiers’ Edge

            Many soldiers and civilians in the Pentagon will tell us bayonets and bayonet training is a vestige of an old fashioned Army less useful than the pinky finger.  It is true that bayonet charges died a bloody death on the muddy fields of France almost a century ago, but until recently the Army believed there was intrinsic value in teaching this technique of last resort with an antiquated weapon.
            The increasingly point and click, casualty adverse military culture does not bode well for the success of future wars. War is still not a video game and so units get overrun, soldiers’ weapons jam so what then? Now that the Army has decided to stop bayonet training are U.S. soldiers going to find themselves without the tools or the training to defend themselves?
            Even if you argued these situations are so rare that they are not worth considering what about the intangible benefits of teaching our soldiers to be warriors – warriors whether they have missiles, rifles, knives or their bare hands? Do our military leaders really think this is less important than close order drill or sexual harassment training?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Book Review: "A Short History of the Long War: The Global Struggle Against Militant Islamism, by Michael Phelps

     Reviewed by Marianne Salvatore

         Every American needs to read this book!  Mr. Phelps has definitely hit the mark.  This book is a tour de force; both well researched and comprehensive.  It covers how Militant Islamism began, what it stands for, and how its negative extremist values impact not only the United States, but the world at large.  Each of the fourteen chapters focuses on a particular aspect of the war.  For example, the Transformation chapter describes how the United States Military must be proactive, flexible, and ready to change and improvise in order to defeat this enemy in the long run. 
         Other chapters describe the history, ideology and goals of al-Qaeda, the Taliban and the Iranian terrorist group Hezbollah. Mr. Phelps’s book is not written for the professional historian or political class, but for the buffs and concerned citizens who are bombarded by our information culture and want to gain a clear insight into the Global War on Terror.  It is an even toned and easy to read narrative that provides a wide range of historical information and interesting details. This book methodically covers all sides of the issues and leaves no stoned unturned.  It enables reader s to soak up a manageable volume that has distilled disparate events, concepts and personalities then allows them to draw their own conclusions. This is a must read!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Armed Forces Day

Today is Armed Forces Day.  President Truman consolidated the various days that celebrated the separate services into one day in 1949.  Take a moment to reflect on what all the troops do for us even as fighting continues in Afghanistan, Iraq and places not mentioned on the evening news.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Warrior-Centric: An Introduction

The Pentagon has been at the epicenter of the war against militant Islamism since the morning of September 11, 2001.  It also finds itself in the middle of an ongoing and evolving “transformation.”  Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld opened the Office of Force Transformation at the Pentagon in October 2001.  However, as the first term of the Bush administration began to take shape in early 2001 the Pentagon thought it would have years of relative peace and quiet to implement its long-term plans for transforming the U.S. military.  Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom and smaller operations around the world have both interrupted and instigated various aspects of the ongoing program. 
The transformation program can be broken down into three major divisions: bureaucratic reform, technological improvements and evolutions in doctrine, strategy and tactics.  The biggest obstacle that stands in the way of a truly transformed military is not the war on terror or funding shortfalls but the mindset of many of the Pentagon’s leaders.  We can call this bureaucratic, institutionalized and sometimes narrow way of thinking “Pentagonism.”  Just one small example of this is the infighting between the Army and Air Force over allocation and operational control of the limited number of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs.)  The competition for these platforms underscores another problem within the Pentagon culture that has trickled down to some extent at least into the officer corps and enlisted ranks. 
Technology is widely seen as a, if not the indispensable factor that separates us from our enemies and ensures victory over their less sophisticated ways.  You see this mentality in the constant requests for more UAVs, more close air support of ground units, more stand off munitions and more networked computer systems.  The UAVs are a wonderful piece of technology that have saved many American lives and ended many enemy lives, but the constant clamor for more and better ones could serve to undermine the overall tactical savvy of combat units on the ground.  An over reliance on them could evoke a mindset and then a doctrine that says we need UAV support to conduct our mission.  This position would be self-limiting and ultimately self-defeating.  American soldiers in World War Two were well aware that their Sherman tanks were grossly inferior to the German Panzers, but superior numbers of Sherman’s and old-fashioned perseverance carried the day.  The U.S. military should not put itself in the position of relying on superior technology in inferior numbers as the Nazi’s did.
In the end technology or more generally raw military power is ultimately not the way the U.S. military will defeat militant Islamism.  It will have to be done by brave, tough and well-trained warriors.  Americans have not successfully confronted this issue since it was the overwhelming underdog in the Revolutionary War more than 230 years ago.  Since its war with British Empire it has tended to rely on overwhelming firepower to win, but as the Vietnam War demonstrated, this was not always a successful doctrine.  It is one of the founding principles of the Army Special Forces that people are more valuable than technology. This core truth must be instilled in the military's culture and specifically how it fits into the counterinsurgency and counterterrorism operations of the Global War on Terror.  
There is no doubt that the U.S. military has proven itself to be the best in the world, but to be as effective as possible in the 21st century it needs to truly transform itself. America does not have a choice: it has to win the Global War on Terror while accomplishing its core mission of maintaining dominance over all potential adversaries.