Monday, August 18, 2008

Hegemon Hijinks

On Friday August 15 the Bush administration sent Condoleezza Rice to meet with Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili as a "show of U.S. support." Yikes. They sent Condi? Talk about giving somebody the goodbye look. If this were a Marty Scorsese movie, Saakashvili would have been sleeping with the fishes come Saturday morning. You'd think Keystone Kondi would have lent sufficient slapstick to the Georgian situation, but no. Adding to the antics, John McCain announced on Friday August 15 that he would send along as his personal representatives Joe Lieberman and Lindsey Graham, the Bea Arthur and Betty White of neoconservatism. Then, to cap things off, McCain himself dropped the atomic punchline: "In the twenty-first century, nations don't invade other nations."

You could hear irony clawing at its coffin lid.

The bananastans are going bananas, Iran's down the can, al Qaeda is a more dangerous enemy than ever and our "victory" in Iraq has gone off in our faces like a joke shop cigar. Less than a decade into the New American Century, young Mr. Bush and the neoconservatives who promised us an empire have squandered everything our forefathers achieved in the America's first two and a quarter centuries as a nation. Yet, incredibly, bewilderingly, stupefyingly, a septuagenarian Senator who steals Christian prisoner stories from Alexander Solzhenitsyn and promises to protract the Bush foreign policy fumble-rama is a viable contender for the presidency of the United States.

We live in hysteric times.

Wasting America's Defenses

Russian President Dmitri A. Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin continued to hone their Bush/Cheney act, Medvedev's mouth moving while Putin puffs on a cigarette, the two of them promising to end their military operation and not doing so. Condi got ever so cross about that and demanded that Russian troops "must leave immediately." Condi's ultimatum came after U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he didn't see "any prospect for the use of military force by the United States" in the Georgia situation." So what was Rice planning to do if Russia didn't leave like she insisted, get more shrill with them?

The sad fact is that there really is no prospect of bringing U.S. military forces to play in the Georgia situation, largely because they're occupied in too many other places where they're unfortunately doing very little good.

Apparently impatient with the tactic of bombing Pakistani wedding parties with cruise missiles launched from nuclear submarines in attempts to bag terrorists, those ubiquitous top administration officials are twisting young Mr. Bush's arm to order U.S. ground forces in Afghanistan to be more aggressive in chasing terrorists into Pakistan. One has to suspect that all U.S. ground troops can accomplish in Pakistan that they couldn't do in Afghanistan is track the terrorists to Pakistani weddings and call in the submarine strike. Senior administration officials probably want to do things that way because the Authorization for Use of Military Forces that Congress gave Mr. Bush to conduct military operations in Afghanistan doesn't expressly sanction bombing weddings, but since Congress hasn't authorized war in Pakistan, it hasn't banned bombing weddings there either. See how that works?

The problem with this proposed cross-border strategy is that our man in Pakistan, President Pervez Musharraf, is about to earn a Purple Heart for the bruise he gets where the door hits him on the way out, and he's the guy who's been okay with us bombing his weddings. There's no real way of telling what the new regime's wedding bombing policy will be.

The security situation in Afghanistan has deteriorated to the point where non-government humanitarian aid is a high-risk endeavor. Irregular militant forces in Afghanistan aren't only conducting the types of hit and run terror operations like the one's we've become accustomed to seeing in Iraq: they're kicking the snot out of formal forces in straight up fights. Afghan security forces recently withdrew from the Ghazni district in central Afghanistan, abandoning the province to the Taliban. Don't think these kinds of bold offensives are only aimed at Afghan forces. In July, U.S. troops abandoned an outpost in eastern Afghanistan after insurgents killed nine of them in a direct assault.

This was something we need to take notice of. It wasn't an instance of American G.I.s getting kiboshed by car or suicide bombers or roadside explosives or random mortar rounds lobbed into their entrenchments or some other sort of asymmetric sucker punch. This was a case where a groups of cave dwellers with less formal education than Rush Limbaugh went toe to toe with a unit of the best trained, best equipped military in and forced it to abandon a defended position. Please don't anybody think we'll wrap things up in Afghanistan up with a pretty pink bow just by sending a few more troops there.

And disaffect yourself of any notion you may have that our puppet government in Afghanistan is any more stable than our puppet government in Pakistan. Musharraf's enemies pressured him out of office. The foes of Afghan President Hamid Karzai are trying to pressure him into the next life, and what's more, the people trying to assassinate him may be our buddies in the Pakastani intelligence service. Of course, the people saying that are our buddies in Karzai's Afghan intelligence service. The only people we have to sort out who's telling the truth are the American intelligence services, so we'll never learn what's really going on.

Our puppet in Iraq, on the other hand, doesn’t seem terribly worried about losing his job or his life. Prime Minister Nuri al Maliki is so confident in his position, in fact, that he's told us to present him with a detailed plan of how and when we'll pack sand and vacate his premises.

Journalist and historian Gareth Porter relays an anecdote that says Bush told Maliki "If the negotiations for a force presence agreement] crash and burn, I will be forced to pull out all U.S. troops by Jan. 1."

Hence, gathering every iota of statesmanship at his command, young Mr. Bush told Maliki that if we can't stay in his country, we'll leave. When Maliki tells Bush to go spit in his shoe, Bush will doubtless blame Iran for not talking Maliki into playing ball.

Is it any wonder, given the strategic wasteland that is America's security policy, that almost seven years into our woebegone war on terror, a study by the Rand Corporation has concluded that al Qaeda remains a "strong and competent" organization?

America spends as much on defense as rest of the world combined, yet our military failed to defend the homeland from an air raid conducted by four commercial jets armed with box cutters, we cannot control the military behavior of Russia, whose defense budget is roughly 10 percent the size of ours, the administration says that the nation that presents our greatest challenge is Iran, whose defense budget is less that one percent of ours, and we've failed to diminish al Qaeda, the terrorist organization that attacked us on September 11, 2001, and whose defense budget is zero percent of ours.

Fellow citizens, I say let's vote McCain in and give the neocons another chance to get it right. In for a penny, in for an Armageddon, that's my motto.

Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes at Pen and Sword . Jeff's novel Bathtub Admirals (Kunati Books), a lampoon on America's rise to global dominance, is on sale now. Also catch Russ Wellen's interview with Jeff at The Huffington Post and Scholars and Rogues.


  1. Since Americans or the spineless Congress won't check the Bush Regime, I'm happy Putin is. What with the "West" once again threatening Russia it should come as no surprise that Russians will take all steps to squash any threat. Just like the Vietmanese, Iraqis and Iranians, Russians have every right to Defend themselves.

    We have had decades of multiple oppurtunities to cut out our dependence on foreign oil. In addition the huge window the fall of "Communist" Regimes gave America has been blown.

    Just keep Americans Fearful and the Racketeers will keep on dominating the agenda.

    If the only thing that can check the Bush Regime and the Zionists is Putin, then we should all be thankful. This gives us Americans another oppurtunity to set things right. It most likely will be the last chance.

    Maybe a Government for and by the People would work?

  2. Human,

    Now that's an intriguing idea for a separate piece titled "Pal Putin."

  3. "Russian President Dmitri A. Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin continued to hone their Bush/Cheney act, Medvedev's mouth moving while Putin puffs on a cigarette"

    That's classic! (Though I'm not a member of the Charlie McCarthy generation, but the Paul Winchell generation.)

  4. I'm not commenting on any of this.

    I'm in my Cone of Silence.

    Reading the Wikipedia and Solzhenitsyn. I may need some quotes.

    "America - Love it or Fix It."

    (Commander, it's bad when you can only hope the Russians have cooler heads than sumblebum.)

  5. Russ,

    Actually, I was thinking of Shari Lewis and Lambchop. No, seriously, I was thinking of Bergen and McCarthy.


    Thanks for reminding me to insert something about the "Onward Christian Prisoner" plagiarism.


  6. Anonymous7:37 PM

    Monday has brought another of your great posts and kicked me another notch down the stairs toward depression. Please do your fans a favor and do us a post featuring your wit and humor. Just to interrupt the near constant trainload of bad news our government supplies. . .

  7. This evening, on the way home from work in a bus, I met a young soldier just back from his first tour in Iraq. In addition to his description of fire fights and explosives, he described something terribly ironic. Toward the end of his tour, an officer from echelons-above-reality was addressing a large group of soldiers and was remarking that we'd be winning this war if only we'd taken a lot fewer casualties.

    The soldier's rejoinder was extremely profane, but amounted to saying something like "a day late and a dollar short." The rank-and-file understand this war in a manner their leaders seem utterly unwilling to come to grasp with.

  8. Sounds like the guy giving this lecture was the political officer.

  9. From what I read in the "paper of record" (the NYT.) Pakistan is at present being governed by a "committee of the less and more corrupt." Wonder which one of the committee has the nuke codes?

    Also, according to some reports, KKKKondi, has issued a warning --- to the Russians --- of course, about patrols somewhere around Alaska.

    Maybe I don't recall my geography exactly, but didn't people used to walk from points in Alaska, across to Siberia? --- Which last I heard was not a breakaway from the USSR.
    It's been a lot of years since I was in school, so maybe -- what with global warming and all that, all that territory up there has moved around a lot.

    Are we getting to the point where we are picking nits with the Russians?

    Malaki is kicking us out, so we have to have somebody to be afraid of.

    My vote would go to the guy who runs a thing called the Saddleback Church -- but what do I know?

  10. Anonymous8:55 AM

    Hi Jeff,

    My comment is multi-faceted, but let me say first, yet another "enjoyable" bummer of a post. ;-)

    In Afghanistan today, I'm sure we've all heard about the casualties the French suffered. I'm also sure we'll start hearing all the jokes about French military prowess, which is beyond stupid. Anywho...

    Sometimes I get a sense you are more sanguine about Grampa Simpson becoming President. Am I misreading? I don't have my personal evacuation plans finalized yet.

    I just recently started having trouble with the Comment feature when I use Firefox at home. However, using IE, it's fine. In other words, I can only comment from work.

    That's it for now... :-)

  11. EL,

    Yes, we're picking nits with the Russians, and not a moment too soon. Everybody was about to catch on that Iran isn't a threat to our security.


    Almost every morning I walk my dog along Chesapeake beach and look out on the site of the Battle of the Chesapeake, the naval battle in which Rear Admiral the Comte de Grasse shoved Rear Admiral Sir Robert Grave's powdered wig up his Royal Keyster for him and set up George Washington's victory at Yorktown over Lord Cornwallis that won the American Revolution.

    Centuries later, I flew with French Mirage fighters enforcing the no-fly zone over Iraq.

    So you won't find me bad-mouthing French military prowess. Not when the best equipped, best trained, best funded military in history is losing, by my count, at least four wars at present.


  12. Anonymous10:37 AM

    Ah, I didn't mean to infer that YOU would bad mouth the French Jeff. I was thinking of the Usual Suspects, you know, the ones who love wars that they never fight.

  13. Ah, the neocon sissies who like the call the French a bunch of sissies.



  14. Anonymous12:36 PM


    One of the comments in a post at Pat Lang's blog the other day included a link to the BBC's account of the Ghazni story. Only in their version, it was "100 to 150 US troops" who withdrew from the district of Nawa after repeated attacks.

    Google turns up a couple stories from "Firebase Nawa" in Ghazni from earlier in the year. I hope those guys had either already moved camp, or else got out okay.

    The VOA and BBC seem to be the only ones running the story. Makes it kinda hard to know what's going on.

    Great blog. Thank you for doing this.

  15. Jeff,
    From your entry - "This was a case where a groups of cave dwellers with less formal education than Rush Limbaugh went toe to toe with a unit of the best trained, best equipped military in and forced it to abandon a defended position."

    This was over a month ago...not recent news. And calling it an outpost might be a stretch. When you stop your convoy for an over nighter is it an outpost, FOB, Base???? Nah.

    This however, paints a little different story...

    or here:

    or here if you'd rather have a NATO touch:

    Please excuse the lack of link conversion, not my strong suit.
    Keep plugging away bro.
    Very entertaininig.

  16. DS,

    I see you've reached to The Long War Journal and a couple of big command PAO sites to bring us the good news from Afghanistan.

    As per bit's link, over 100 U.S.troops were driven from a district. That's defeat in the field, DS.

  17. by the way, this is how the article I linked described your "overnight" convoy stop.

    "The July 13 attack by some 200 militants armed with machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades and mortars was the deadliest for the U.S. military in Afghanistan in three years. Rebels fought their way into the newly established base, wounding another 15 Americans and suffering heavy casualties of their own, before the defenders and warplanes could drive them back."

    A base, not a stop. And I don't care how newly it was established. I rather assumed when I first heard this story that the American G.I.s has recently arrived and weren't really ready to fight, but guess what: not being ready to fight in a war zone is the number one cause of getting your ass kicked.

    DS, you're not helping your country by distorting the truth to reflect the reality you want to see.


  18. Hey J,
    Yeah my mistake, I was thinking of Wanat Prov "FOB-Outpost-Base" that everyone got their panties in a wad over. My apologies.

    As for your "distorting" comment, if it were willful and intentional I might buy into your view. However, "the truth" is only known by those who're there. None of us outside that AO can accurately judge "the truth".

  19. Jeff,
    Your readers may not be aware of the differences in structural size of bases, FOBs, COPs, etc... In most cases it's pretty significant. Bases are the highest in priority and largest in size, lots of defensible avenues of approach (fields of fire), layers of tee walls. FOBs may be large (battalion - 400 to 700ish) or small (company - 80 to 100ish), usually tee walls in the upscale ones or hesco barriers in the low rent ones. No Beau Geste fortifications here. Pretty spartan. COPs mainly use whatever structure that is present, maybe with some hescos for minimum force protection - real spartan. (usually platoon size or less)

    Actions vary in intensity and tactical or strategic value. Being attacked is, in some places a daily norm. Deciding when to pull back to a more defensible position comes from higher and is usually a prelude to a bigger action or different response...not sure I'd characterize it as a "defeat in the field" in this case. We'll see how the province holds up, lots of moving parts right now.

    That whole NATO thing? Yeah, that ain't working out so well. Caveats and such place far too many restrictions on success. Of course, I'd say the French have changed their focus and are now stepping up their game. We'll see who else joins them.

    You plan on doing an embed trip to Pakistan?

  20. To paraphrase a famous dead Republican, "There you go again, Sailor." The vast majority of the people "over there" only know what's going on in front of their faces, and given their exhaustion, fear, etc., even that "knowledge" is tenuous. The vast majority of what we hear from "over there" is from folks on the payroll of the Big Brother Broadcast.

    It is, in fact, possible to draw a reasonably accurate map of a given reality without witnessing it firsthand, but that takes a lot of study, experience, patience, research and the eye of a world-class skeptic. There are many places one can find pieces of the truth, but The Long War Journal isn't one of them, nor is just about any official PAO source you can name.

    So the statement "None of us outside that AO can accurately judge 'the truth'" is a remarkable falsehood. As to me doing an imbed, do you think your pals at Black Five would foot the bill? And will King David give me a 100 man security detail so I can go shopping at an outdoor market?

  21. Fair enough Jeff, I think you're really describing perspective rather than "truth".

    So if Long War Journal, Small Wars Journal, Early Bird, multiple blogs, some official, most personal, and Google's random headline generator don't give an accurate snapshot of truth for the day. Where should one go? Not trying to monopolize your posts, but I am curious as what you perceive as "the good sources of truth".

  22. Sailor,

    I'd give you a quick primer on truth and perception and reality and so on but I just don't have any more time for you this summer.

  23. Anonymous9:57 AM


    Lots of experts and "experts" have been theorizing who "won" in Georgia and all, with the most obvious being the Russians, especially now that there isn't much indication they will be heading home and the West was pretty much unable to do anything.

    However, Poland went for the missile shield deal almost immediately, and then Russia started their bully boy act again, so I don't think we can say Russia really did win in Georgia.

    I guess this is more me thinking out loud then asking a question or anything.

    Is there a law that says only morons are allowed to lead nations? Or rather, that all voters must therefore be morons.

    Sometimes I think obsessing over Britney might not be that bad a thing.

  24. WKMaier has an interesting post.

    I'm thinking the "dumbing down" of America began after the Eisenhower administration. Everybody tried to warn us, if we took federal money for our schools, the federal government would control them. And, they have.

    The "dumbing down" is further evidenced by the fact we elected a Hollywood actor as president, for two terms.

    Maybe it's just as simple as: Morons elect morons.

    (Thinking gives some people a headache.)

    Perpetuated in a large measure by allowing a few corporations to control a large part of the news media. Accountable not to the public (which still owns the air waves) but to their stock holders, and to the bottom line, and the dividend.)

    We may not have a choice but to obsess over Britney. Or maybe Michael Phelps.

    Especially since Condi thinks she has a "successor proof" deal in place in Poland. Ahhhhh me.

    That does give me a headache.

  25. el,

    I'll have something up on the Poland business later today or tomorrow morning.


  26. Have we ever had a Commander in Clown before?

  27. We may be on the way to having another one. We got a guy running for president who doesn't know how many houses he owns, or where they are.

    I lose my car keys. Maybe misplace the postage stamps. Sometimes I have to hunt for my reading glasses.

    But, I damned sure know where my houses are.

    There isn't enough Tylenol, Advil, Ibuprofen, Motrin, you name it -- in the world -- to get me through four more years of another Clown in Chief.

  28. Anonymous3:23 PM

    Perhaps desert sailor can find a camel, aka ship of the desert, to befriend.

  29. Anonymous4:57 PM

    For whatever reason, I quit reading Fourth Rail about the time it became LWJ, so I can't say much about the new version. But I'll give credit where it's due: the reporting Roggio did on the tribal areas of Pakistan around '05-'06ish was top notch. Highly informative. I wasn't aware of anyone else paying much attention to it at the time.

  30. We could call him President Pratfall!

    For everyone's edification, the "Roggio" bit referred to is an information operative, as, I'm 98 percent convinced, is Desert Sailor.


  31. Anonymous2:13 PM

    Maybe he is, maybe he isn't.

    I was surprised that he was able to fund his embed from reader donations via PayPal, but then it did take him a while. And he claims that the invitation came because he had readers/fans in the Marine stationed in Anbar, who asked him to embed with them.

    But whatever. None of that has anything to do with what I said.

    At a time when the administration and their supporters were insisting that Iraq was the 'central front' in the WoT, Roggio was almost alone in pointing out that the real bad guys were hunkered down in Pakistan, whose gov't was at least aware of, if not active in, peace deals being signed between Taleban and local tribes.

    So the administration's hypothetical worst-case scenario of abandoning Iraq was actually already in progress in Pakistan, and they didn't seem to care.

    That was the truth, wasn't it?

  32. Bit, if you really think Roggio was almost alone in pointing out the real bad guys were in Pakistan, you're as well read as our friend Desert Sailor seems to be.

    Please make a real point when you post here.

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