Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Shiver Me Neocons

by Jeff Huber

It was only a matter of time before Long Bill Kristol and his scurvy dogs of war used piracy as an excuse to goad young Mr. Bush into invading one last country before the door hits him. In the latest gurgitation of the Weekly Standard, Bill suggests that the best thing young Mr. Bush can do in his final days as commander in chief is send the Marines into Somalia to deep six those pesky buccaneers. Now: if we can't identify and capture pirates while they're plundering ships on the bounding main, I'd like to know how the yo-ho-ho Bill thinks the Marines can tell the pirates from the rest of the poor starving Somalis once they go ashore.

Bill also remarks how Bush can do the nation a service "by reminding Americans of our successes fighting the war on terror." One wonders if Bill is no fooling unaware that terrorists are on the verge of a sparking war between two nuclear powers, or that a congressionally mandated task force has reported that "it is more likely than not that a weapon of mass destruction will be used in a terrorist attack somewhere in the world by the end of 2013," or that, according to the respected analysts at the Rand Corporation, Mr. Bush's pursuit of a military-centric counter-terror strategy "has not undermined al Qaeda" and that the terrorist group "has remained a strong and competent organization."

One would hope that given the enormous influence he wields, Bill is at least partially cognizant of the world around him, that he just talks that way because he's a master of Socratic dialectic* who recites gibberish until people agree with him so he shuts up.

But then, if you've ever seen him talk on John Stewart's show, you've probably concluded that Bill is dumber than a quarry. The only thing he has going for him as a spokesmodel of the neocon agenda is that his looks don't break TV cameras. If the mongers sent somebody like surge architect Fred Kagan on The Daily Show, the kids in Stewart's audience might vomit (Eugh, gross!) or maybe even cry (Please don't let him sit on us!).

Unnamed officials assure me that the cadets used to react that way whenever Fred gave lectures at West Point.

War and B'gar

Seemingly aware of his limitations, Long Bill normally delegates the hardcore humbuggery required of any given subject to one of his more gifted mateys, and the pirate issue is no exception. Seth Cropsey's "To the Shores of Tripoli…" is a standard neocon compendium of fuzzy premises and fear and loathing and the sort of logic that insists ear is to hearing as nose is to face.

The first thing that struck me about the piece was Cropsey's apparent alarm over the estimated $30 million ransom money the Somali pirates raked in this year. Cropsey must have shared a cryogenic chamber with Dr. Evil. We're chaffing $10 freaking billion into Iraq every month, which isn't a pismire compared to the $7 freaking trillion we're going to spend trying to fix the freaking economy, and Cropsey wants to send the Marines ashore for $30 measly million that didn't even belong to us?

Only slightly less ludicrous is Cropsey's admonition that "Americans ought to know the limits of relying on naval power alone to stop piracy as a result of the nation's experience in the Barbary Coast wars." Comparing the present Somali pirate situation to our Barbary Coast wars of the early nineteenth century is as tidy an apples-to-elephants analogy as you'll ever find. Thomas Jefferson's America hadn't expanded much beyond the eastern seaboard, it didn't have the world's largest economy, it hadn't won two hot world wars and a cold one, or lost any dirty little third world wars in Asia; it didn't spend more on defense than the rest of the world combined, or have a nuclear arsenal that could destroy the planet between lunch and happy hour, etc., etc., etc.

Thomas Jefferson's America also didn't possess a couple fistfuls of fixed wing aircraft carrier strike groups, two of which, with their E-2 Hawkeye surveillance aircraft and the rest of their air wings, could turn the whole Indian Ocean into a no-pirate zone faster than you can say "Avast." Yeah, at first blush it's overkill to use more than $10 billion worth of carrier and air wing and escorts to stop a few measly millions worth of piracy, but what else do the carrier groups have to do right now: bomb Muslim weddings in the Bananastans? Heck, the Navy's got cruise missile equipped nuclear submarines to bomb Muslim weddings with.

And if it ever happens that the nuclear submarines can't bomb Muslim weddings any more because, oh, what…because they run out of fuel when the Iranians go and gobble up the whole world's supply of uranium, say, well we have a whole separate service branch that pick up the Muslim wedding bombing slack. It's called the Air Force, which has these really, really expensive things called, oddly enough, bombers.

Cropsey doesn't mention anything about that in his article. He was deputy undersecretary of the Navy in the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations, so there's an excellent chance he knows nothing whatsoever about naval warfare or U.S. naval capabilities. Then again, he could be protecting the phony baloney defense budget. If he came right out and said the Navy hasn't been doing what it should because its been doing what the Air Force should be doing but isn't, people might start to ask why the hell we have either one of them.

Plus, if the Navy can solve the pirate problem, there's no need to get our land forces tangled up in another pointless quagmire, which Cropsey admits a Somali invasion would be. "Somalia's descent into turmoil began almost two decades ago," he writes, and is "unlikely to be reversed" by military intervention.

But that doesn't matter, Cropsey admonishes. We should rely on the Marines and not the Navy to tackle the pirate challenge because "The reference in the Marine hymn is to 'the shores of Tripoli,' not to its bays or littoral or coastal estuaries."

And as if the article weren't already sufficiently stunning, Cropsey closes with the neocons' favorite propaganda ploy, the taunt. Failing to hit the beaches of North Africa "will increase the jihadists' contempt for us." Psst. Ahmed over there just called you a booger nose. What are you going to do about it??

Thanks for the info, Crops. Oh, did Ahmed tell you your fly is open?

It's well and good to have a good laugh at Kristol's unholy crew of blobs, buffoons and bull feather merchants. They not only deserve ridicule, they demand it. It is vital to the continued health of our nation that we lay bare the absurdities inherent in the neoconservative philosophy early and often and forever.

But it's also imperative to remember that this collection of ideological sideshow amusements steered our ship of state and dictated the fates of nations for eight years, and that some of the people in Barack Obama's national security team still take them seriously.

Scary, huh Jim Boy?

*In Book VII of Republic, Plato's Socrates describes "the hymn of dialectic" as "the discovery of the absolute by light of reason only, and without any assistance of sense," i.e., superior logic is thinking that's totally divorced from reality. Now you know why some folks call Plato "the first neocon."

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 Scott Horton's interview with Jeff at Antiwar Radio.


  1. Anonymous2:18 AM

    It may bear repeating that the Somali pirates owe their existence to the neocons, who saw to it that Somalis efforts to set up a functioning government (with things like a coast guard) was torpedoed, because of their rigid and unthinking hostility towards all things Muslim. We may think that stoning adulterers and the like is inhumane, but as far as I am concerned, what adults want to do in and with their country is their business until they bother other countries.

    When the Poles wanted to have a functioning government in the 1980s, they turned to their historical faith; the Somalis wanted to do the same, the problem was that they had a different religion.

    Perhaps we could send the neocons the bill for the cleanup.

  2. Heh. The neocons can't even pay the bill for their website.


  3. Anonymous9:15 AM

    Lets see if I've got this right.
    Problem: Pirates/ships plus water
    Solution: Naval action not Marines/ships plus land.

    Hummmm. Kinda makes sense. So it'll never fly with the Pentagon.

    P.S. But the Marines can so recognize pirates - pirates 'most all wear a red do-rag thingy, have a large gold ear ring, and say Aarrrrr often. The boss pirates wear black coats, have bigger shinier swords, and have a green bird on one shoulder that yells naughty words. Simple, huh!

  4. So the Marines should look for pirates in LA? ;-)


  5. The Reality Kid2:31 PM

    Is there a problem extant that Bill Kristol thinks can't be solved by other people's children dressed in military uniforms?

  6. wkmaier3:00 PM

    All is well Jeff.

    Blackwater is now in the anti-pirate business.


  7. RK,

    I doubt it.


    Shiver me mercenaries!


  8. milton12:27 PM

    Lumberg stole Frederick Kagan's stapler.

  9. just shoot them12:29 PM

    I'm an Army puke -- former Army puke, praise Allah -- so I don't know the nature of the task. Why can't our bazillion-ship U.S. Navy kick ass on these pirates? Is it harder than it looks? What are the operational challenges?

  10. Heh, Milton.


    A big issue in any naval action is the real time, large scale tactical picture and the relatively slow reaction speeds of ships.

    That's why I say if they want to get serious about the pirates, they need to sick the carriers on them.


  11. wkmaier2:21 PM


    Words fail.


    The lawsuit also accuses KBR of shipping ice in mortuary trucks that “still had traces of body fluids and putrefied remains in them when they were loaded with ice. This ice was served to U.S. forces.”

    I mean, what the hell?

  12. Yes, what the hell?

    Thanks for the link.


  13. Anonymous7:48 PM

    Perhaps the owners of the ships which work in that area could station mercenaries equipped with some modern firepower aboard. Methinks that a few rounds of .50 cal. would cause the pirates to stop and contemplate the folly of their actions!

  14. Oh, yeah. I just wonder how many of these merchant ships want their crews to have access to weapons on a regular basis.


  15. Anonymous9:11 PM

    Good point Cdr., however I was thinking of hired mercenaries and removable equipment. I just read where some are actually doing just as I proposed. Also, Blackwater has outfitted a 'ship-for-hire" to combat piracy. The US did send Coast Guard ships to the Persian Gulf; think they could send to other 'coasts'?

  16. I'm thinking that would be a pretty cushy mercenary job. It doesn't appear to me like the pirates much dig meeting resistance. I'm thinking that's why there hasn't been a run on a cruise liner since 2005.


  17. Ok all you Navy types.

    If a monument size cruise ship can out run these guys ----

    How is that other ships can't?

    Something does not compute here.

    Maybe we should just let Carnival Cruise Lines deal with this?

    BTW - on the KBR stuff. Now we know why they moved their headquarters to Dubai

  18. EL,

    It sounds like the security team (two guys) on the cruise ship fought back. I'm pretty sure that's why there hasn't been another pirate assault on a cruise ship.

    And I'd guess KBR is getting ready to rent out similar two-man security teams to the merchant lines.


  19. EL,

    My very bad, I referred to a different incident. I just heard about the one you're talking about on Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me.

    If I heard right, the cruise liner ran away at 23 knots. I think most freight merchants are still single screw diesel ship designed to cruise at 13 knots, and their flank bell isn't a whole lot faster.

    The newer cruise ships have these fantastic state of the art power plants. The main engines are just big generators and everything else runs on electric motors. The efficiency of connecting everything with wires instead of mechanical links alone is downright revolutionary.

    Anyway those liners can probably answer a bell for 23 knots pronto and keep it up for a long time.


  20. bill kristol, a founding member of the fighting 101st keyboarders?

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