Sunday, September 13, 2009

Death by Bananastan

I keep finding further proof that our ever increasing but directionless escalation of the Bananastan* conflict is the maddest military misadventure in human history. A former colleague recently sent me information regarding the newly formed Pakistan Afghanistan Coordination Cell (PACC). From the looks of things, PACC intends to defeat the Taliban through the U.S. military’s most effective tactic: Death by PowerPoint.

Nobody in the Department of Defense writes particularly well or particularly likes to read. That in part is why the new counterinsurgency field manual General David Petraeus supposedly “wrote” is little more than a cobbling together of plagiarized passages from previous manuals. In the early nineties, shortly after Microsoft Windows hit the scene, all the illiterates became computer literate and discovered PowerPoint (which Bill Gates had plagiarized from the Aldus program “Persuasion”).

From then on, everybody could write because nobody had to know how to write a complete sentence; they could just write bullets that left out whatever parts of speech they didn’t understand. More importantly, nobody had to actually read the incomprehensible bullets because they were accompanied by indecipherable diagrams.

Neither the bullets nor the diagrams mattered though, because they were just something to stare at while somebody stood next to the projection screen and babbled incoherently. Eventually, the head of everyone in the audience imploded and nobody understood or remembered anything they’d seen and heard.

The advent of the worldwide web cut the talking head out of the process. PowerPoint presentations could be promulgated to every person on the planet, who could choose to view them or not. In either case, the results were that same as before. Nobody could understand or remember anything contained in a PowerPoint presentation.

Thus it is that the most significant product of PACC, which was established on 22 May 2009, is a PowerPoint presentation dated 27 August 2009. It is quite possibly the most beautiful piece of military humbuggery I have ever seen.

First and foremost, it’s a discombobulating confluence of acronyms. PACC was created to recruit the best available TTPs who understand COIN to support CDRUSCENTCOM and the COMISAF of AFPAK. Its core task is to form teams across DOD/IA. It’s a new construct that operates under authority of POTUS, SECDEF, CJCS, DJS and VDJS, and it coordinates with ISAF, COCOMs, SRAP, OSD, CIA, DOJ, DNI and OTHRS.

The key to PACC’s ability to provide all this omniscience is its “Afghan Hands Program.” AF/PAK Hands will be selected from throughout the government based on their ability to know everything about everything and communicate it perfectly to everyone all the time in Pashtu and Dari. (Linguists will be able to learn both of these languages in 16 weeks. When they do, they’ll become “leaders” who are “strategic game changers”).

AF/PAK Hands will be selected, focused, and experienced people who form enduring relationships and make repetitive rotations. Their organization will be networked, feature continuity and relationships, and connect with NATO/Coalition forces and interagency agencies. They will understand the problem, develop shared situational awareness and inform key decision makers. Most importantly, AF/PAK hands will spend most of their government careers in PACC and be guaranteed promotion paths in which they will not have to compete against anyone.

PACC has the look and feel of an idea cooked up by a bunch of REMFs (Reservists Evading Meaningful Function) who want to create a full time job for themselves and make bird colonel without having to work hard at it. The manner in the PACCers present themselves is laughable, and what they claim to be able to accomplish is impossible. Nonetheless, PACC enjoys the aegis of Joint Chiefs Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen, General David Petraeus of Central Command and General Stanley McChrystal, our man in Bananastan.

A Department of Defense press release says McChrystal is the one who came up with the PACC concept. The release states, “Three weeks after the PACC began standing up within the bowels of the Pentagon, cell members say they’re already seeing evidence that it’s making a difference.” It’s difficult to say what kind of difference it’s making considering the situation in Bananastan continues to deteriorate. Moreover, it’s telling that a press release would cite evidence of the PACC cell’s success to anonymous sources in the cell. A direct quote saying, “We can be the catalyst. We can be the accelerant,” is credited to “an official.”

Neocon thug Max Boot heartily approves of PACC. In a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed piece, her refers to it as part of “General McChrystal’s new way of war” and says that PACC “could wind up changing how the entire military does business.” PACC is actually military business as usual: form a committee, make a PowerPoint presentation about it, release propaganda about how it will fix everything that’s wrong, and sweep it under the carpet when it turns out to be a bust.

PACC is frightening, however, in the aspect that the Pentagon expects to offer people 20 to 30-year careers as facilitators of the Bananastan conflict, on which the war mafia has hung its hope for a long war. It is just another example of how the Pentagon and its supporters (like Max Boot and the rest of the neocon punditry) are entrenching themselves as deeply into Bananastan as they are able while the country is distracted by the economy, health insurance reform and the opening of the NFL’s regular season.

By the time the body politic wakes up to what the warmongery has done behind its back, the country will be hairline deep in Bananastan; so deep, the argument will go, that we need to keep digging until we come out on the other side of the planet be because that’s the shorter exit strategy.

By then, the fact that we entangled ourselves foolishly will be moot. The only good reason (good sounding, anyway) the Obaman’s have given us for escalating in Afghanistan is to “disrupt terror networks,” and that argument is specious at best. McChrystal himself confesses that he sees no signs of a major al-Qaida presence in the country.

Counterinsurgency guru David Kilcullen, a former adviser to Petraeus who is about to become an adviser to McChrystal, says that counterterrorism isn’t a particularly important reason to stay committed to the Bananastan conflict. He’s more interested in preserving NATO, a military alliance that, like the U.S. military, has been trawling for an excuse to justify its existence since the Berlin Wall came tumbling down 20 years ago. `

But as with Iraq, the Bananastan war cry will be that we have to honor our war dead by adding to their number, and that we can fix our past mistakes by making even more of them. I can’t wait to see the PowerPoint presentation that explains how that works.

*Pakistan and Afghanistan, our banana republic-style quagmires in Central Asia.

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.


  1. One of my nieces just told me that she is considering a post-Navy career with the CIA (an alka-seltzer moment if there ever was one). She's thinking that would be a natural progression from working in cryptography. After reading your piece, I'm thinking that she'll need all her cryptographic skills just to understand what her bosses are saying.

    I should probably turn those two on to your stuff, along with the other antiwar agitprop I've collected over the years. I was going to leave it alone, since there didn't seem to be much point in closing the barn door now that the horses have enlisted (needless to say, I would have tried like hell to propagandize them in the other direction if I'd known this was coming). If nothing else, they may get some idea of the fundamental insanity of the world they're about to be thrown into.

  2. IntelVet8:58 AM

    Great template for how dumb morons have leveraged themselves into top places in government.

    I'm looking at a small group from Charleston AB.

  3. Oh My Gawd!

    The Whole Damned Military has morphed into The War College on The Brazos --- from whence came Bob Gates.

    You now know what "Texas Education" is all about.

    I feel so sad for the country.

  4. " AF/PAK Hands will be selected from throughout the government based on their ability to know everything about everything and communicate it perfectly to everyone all the time in Pashtu and Dari."

    Hey - they lifted that line straight our of my resumé. How did they know?

    Speaking of digging ourselves out of this, the opposite point on the earth to Afghanistan is in the South Pacific, about a third of the way between Peru and New Zealand.

    Sounds like paradise to me.

    The 130th Canadian soldier died in Afghanistan yesterday. It wouldn't surprise me if the Canadian government and its military/NATO contingent had something similar up their sleeve for the neverending war there. The official end date of 2011 is a smokescreen. There's already talk of training personnel (soldiers and police, mostly RCMP) and civilian reconstruction teams.


  5. " First and foremost, it’s a discombobulating confluence of acronyms.... alphabet soup... more alphabet soup"

    roflamo.. lol... gasp... lol, ok, I promise I'll read the rest.

  6. Jeff,

    Thanks for your outrage. Mine's all drained out right now but your magnificent run of posts make up for it. Keep it up. You've been spot on this year, the best on the Web.

  7. Many thanks for the kind words, John. Nunya, take a deep breath! ;-)

  8. Anonymous7:09 PM

    I am following Rick Atkinson's books on WW II.

    Here is a WW II observation to apply here: FUMTU:

    F'ed Up More Than Usual!!!!

    Every descriptive, no.


  9. That jargon is deadly, too bad we can't get the bad guys to read it.
    Thanks for reminding me to write to the White House some more. I saw Andrew Bacevich say that when he met Obama, he said that he had read his book. Maybe he should read it again.

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