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April 17, 2011
The One-Week War: Week FourBy Greyhawk
Ever wonder what the fourth week of a planned one week war looks like?
Wonder no more - it looks like this:
Less than a month into the Libyan conflict, NATO is running short of precision bombs, highlighting the limitations of Britain, France and other European countries in sustaining even a relatively small military action over an extended period of time, according to senior NATO and U.S. officials.
I predict they'll somehow scrounge some up somewhere for week five. And if they don't drop one of them on Qaddafi they'll need some for week six, too - because that story isn't going to convince him to give up.
In other week four re-cap, some folks are still living in week one:
That's not going to get Qaddafi shaking with anything but laughter, either.
Now, if that's the first time you've heard that some of the Libyan rebels might be al Qaeda you probably responded exactly the way you were expected to. If that's the case, take a break, clean yourself up, put on a fresh pair of underwear, and come back and read this calmly; if nothing else you'll learn something that will at least save you the cost of buying lots more Fruit of the Looms in the coming weeks.
From where we left off: "Bachmann, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, said she was speaking carefully so as not to betray any national security secrets and said she was referring to public testimony and news reports."
Good for her. I don't get invited to the sooper serkrit briefings Congress gets from the Executive Branch, so I can't tell you who shows up for them and whether or not they stay awake all the way through. But she's right on this - what we did was foolish. How foolish is yet to be determined. Right now it's situation: salvageable. But President Next - whoever she may be - will inherit much of the problem. We, the American public, will not get to to retire from our role as the American public. So I offer up the following because I really don't want the idiots who got us into this war replaced by idiots who have no idea "what's going on over there."
Same as I felt back in week one:
I answered that question, too. Now, you have to understand that I wrote that back when alarming talk about possible al Qaeda members in the rebel ranks had only just begun, and the real problem - the obvious problem, to any military professional, was worse - and being ignored. The answer to the question was "some of each" - but mostly the latter.
...no matter how many Libyans (freelance or under an al Qaeda banner) fought Americans (and Iraqis and Afghans) in Iraq or Afghanistan - and survived for a trip home ("1,000 trained men"?) - there aren't enough to defeat Qaddafi's army, even with American, French, and British air support.
I try to write for a non-professional military audience, but might have been wrong in believing that the many obvious conclusions that flow from that observation (I'll repeat it for emphasis: effectively, we're allied with a bunch of folks who have no combat experience at all) were obvious - like this example: we're going to need more precision munitions than some people think. (See also here.)
If I was wrong about all that lack of experience being important we'd have seen headlines like "Qaddafi Gone - Rebels celebrate in Tripoli." I'd have been happy to have been wrong. But real headlines last week read "Rebels in Disarray." (So. ready to surrender yet, Moammar?!?!?)
Of course, through week two we kept seeing headline after headline about whether there might be former al Qaeda members among the rebels - before the week was out even Rush Limbaugh had heard. Obviously those stories still keep cropping up - but somewhere around week three media reports that "golly - these rebels are a pretty damned ineffective fighting force" became more common. Shocker, right? At this rate, by early next month the people who are paid to "analyze" stuff like this for TV audiences are going to be telling you everything that was obvious last month to people who do stuff like this. (If she listens closely Michele Bachmann might even hear it in one of those triple-crypto top sekrit 007 intel briefings she gets from President Obama's people.)
Meanwhile, al Qaeda actually is interested in Libya - we'll get to what they've been up to in a moment. First - in hopes that this puts an end to cries about helping teh al kadies (and maybe even helps you decide who is and isn't getting your vote in the next presidential election) here's another item in the long list of items the Obama administration isn't going to tell you about this Libyan Civil War we jumped into last month. It's not a classified state secret either - it's just another bit of simple common sense that the White House is uncomfortable with. So calm down, take a deep breath, and get ready for the news: we actually want to turn al Qaeda fighters to our side. I know - another shocker, right?
Humor me a moment - one paragraph. Change "al Qaeda" to just "enemy" in the above. Okay - everybody loves Patton, right? I mean, there's a guy who knew how to fight a war... His first battles - America's first big battles - in World War Two were fought in a far away place called North Africa against the French. ("Buh buh but that's totally different..." okay - buh buh but humor me, read on.) Unlike in the George C. Scott movie those French troops didn't just fire a few shots over our heads, surrender, cheer, and run for our lines to kiss our cheeks and lead us to the huns. We actually fought for a while, and took casualties before that fine day came "when FDR met in Casablanca with 'local government' leaders" (hey, Ed forgot to mention they were French local leaders...) to plan the future. We had enough trouble going forward against the German Nazis (even with generals like Patton leading our boys - and allies like Stalin on "our side") who were the larger, more immediate threat, and it made a hell of a lot more sense to peel the French away and make them our allies than to kill our way through the French to get to the Germans.
Right then - that's not the big secret the Obama administration doesn't want you to know; just a reminder that what is isn't even anything new. (They couldn't take the time to explain that to anyone anyway because the only thing anyone in the Obama administration knows about World War Two is that their grandfathers fought in that glorious cause under George C. Scott, who went from North Africa to Berlin in something like two and a half hours. But I digress...)
This is what they don't want to talk about: allying with former al Qaeda allies - getting them to fight on our side (or demonstrating to them that we were on their side, if you prefer) was a big part of how we began turning things around in Iraq in 2006. The surge sped things up the following year - in part because that "awakening" effort was adopted as theater-wide policy. I was there. And any of the current Libyan rebels who were also there learned (among other things) that no matter what you hear in your mosque or on TV, it's not all that great an idea to fight the US military. (In weeks to come they'll learn what it's like to have us on their side - more on that shortly.) Candidate Obama was more than happy to credit the awakening over the surge (the surge will fail...) for improvements in 2008, but he can't talk about it now because back in 2006 and 2007 he (and everyone else in his party) was squawking about how Iraq was really a civil war, (in fact, there were no foreign fighters in Iraq!!!) and the United States had no business in someone else's civil war.
End history "lesson." Now here we are in the Libyan Civil War. In short: right now the former al Qaeda members among the Libyan rebels we've decided to bet the future on are the least of our concerns. The best explanation of that is above - but for purely political (and absurd - but that might be redundant) reasons that actual explanation can't be the administration response. But to make matters even worse, the substitute administration response was given back in week one, also - some form of "our intel indicates very few al Qaeda types among the rebels."
That news prompted more squawking about "al Qaeda members among the rebels" - but in the meantime other reporters asked the real question that that response made obvious, but that so many missed: Wait, we have intel guys on the ground? Again, the best answer would have been a simple explanation of some of the many reasons why turning enemies into allies is a good idea, instead we got (shhhh... off the record, of course - and not in these words) "oh stop worrying - this has been a CIA op from the get-go. The boss authorized it before the first bomb fell." (Um, shhhh... that sounds totally sooper kewl - but saying it was a really a super bad idea.)
Of course, another explanation for not explaining the obviously simple fact about enemies and allies and how we want fewer of one and more of the other is that the Obama administration wants to reserve the right to bail out on Libya without getting into any messy discussions about what comes next for those folks who thought we were their allies - whether they used to be friends of al Qaeda or not. Obviously there are a lot of things for Americans to complain about (or at least ask questions about) in this Libyan adventure we've waded into, and "sum of teh rebelz mite B teh al kadie terrarists" is not high among them. (Week one trivia question: who was the first person to start squawking about possible al Qaeda members among the rebels? Hint: there are 470 ways to spell his name in English, and they all rhyme with "Mowamar Kuhdoffy.")
For those actually interested in what al Qaeda's up to these days, this brings us to what al Qaeda is doing while civil war rages in Libya. One: according to many unconfirmed reports - most from leaders of neighboring countries (and every leader's enemies are al Qaeda these days - quick America, send money!) they've taken advantage of the situation to raid various unattended weapons depots in Libya, picking up surface to air missiles and other cool toys and spiriting them away for use elsewhere. If that sounds vaguely familiar, it's because empty weapons depots in Iraq were a big last-minute presidential campaign issue for John Kerry in 2004, and a big story. These days, not so much a story, in part because some of the rebels might be al Qaeda!
Two (and this one's certain): If some of the rebels might be al Qaeda is your biggest concern, you'll be delighted to learn you share it not only with Moammar Qaddafi, but with al Qaeda, too. From the beginning they've been reaching out to those rebels, warning them not to put their trust in western "allies" who don't really give a damn what happens to them - and would in fact dump them in a heartbeat. While they, too, see a few of the rebels as possible "lost members" of their tribe, they also see the much larger group as a huge potential talent pool - especially if the Obama administration acts as they expect/hope they will based on what the Obama administration says. Because for their part, the Obama administration was busy assuring anyone who would listen that Libya was just a
time-limited, scope-limited kinetic military didly-doo
... and a sideshow, to boot. (Americans had fun with that quote, too - but the slight emphasis added above highlights the way Qaddafi, the rebels, and al Qaeda heard it. See also Afghanistan, our "real central front and number one national security issue" - from where we have to begin drawing down troops in July. Big tests are coming for this new tactic of announcing to the enemy we're only giving them a set amount of time to surrender before we quit.)
In the latest message from al Qaeda:
In the hour-plus long video, al-Zawahiri orders Muslims in Egypt to create an Islamic state there and calls for the Arab armies of the Middle East to intervene in Libya to oust dictator Moammar Gadhafi before "Western aid... turns into invasions."
What they'll do if the "Arab armies" decline is unsaid. Al Qaeda might gain something from a rebel victory that they endorse and support - but they most definitely benefit from a Qaddafi win.
Either way, our response is nah nah na boo-boo: "Al Qaeda must be pretty damn frustrated these days," one unnamed US government official told ABC News in response - "They've been on the wrong side of history -- and humanity -- for years." (I'm glad there's someone in the government who knows about history. Or is it talking points? Wait - Egypt? What's Egypt got to do with it?)
Did I mention I agreed it was foolish? (Oh yes, right up there after the part about running out of smart bombs...) Foolish or not, here we are.
Lastly, for those interested in a tactical update for the beginning of week five: Qaddafi's forces continue pressing the rebel-held cities of Ajdabiya and Misrata... New York Times headline: "Rebels Flee Key Libyan Town." (British version over the story here makes an interesting contrast: "Libyan families flee Gaddafi forces in Ajdabiya as civilian death toll rises.")
And end of week four. What headlines will week five bring? "Qaddafi Gone" would be nice, but based only on the previous four this seems more likely: Some of the rebels might be al Qaeda!
Posted by Greyhawk / April 17, 2011 8:29 AM | Permalink
- wrap 'em in plastic and they'll never touch ground:The armed forces, numbering no more than 1,000, would be deployed to secure the delivery of aid supplies, would not be engaged in a combat role but would be authorised to fight if they or their human... Read More
November 26, 2010
I think anyone who's ever pondered the "comment" option - once only available on blogs and bulletin boards, now ubiquitous on almost any web site - will appreciate this:
The so-called faculty of writing is not so much a faculty of writing as it is a faculty of thinking. When a man says, "I have an idea but I can't express it"; that man hasn't an idea but merely a vague feeling. If a man has a feeling of that kind, and will sit down for a half an hour and persistently try to put into writing what he feels, the probabilities are at least 90 percent that he will either be able to record it, or else realize that he has no idea at all. In either case, he will do himself a benefit.
That's wisdom from the past, captured for posterity at the US Naval Institute, shared via the web on the institute's 137th anniversary.
From their about page:
"The Naval Institute has three core activities," among them, History and Preservation:
The Naval Institute also has recently introduced Americans at War, a living history of Americans at war in their own words and from their own experiences. These 90-second vignettes convey powerful stories of inspiration, pride, and patriotism.
Take a look at the collection, and you'll see it's not limited to accounts from those who served on ships at sea, members of the other branches are well-represented.
I'm fortunate to have met USNI's Mary Ripley, she's responsible for the institute's oral history program (and she's the daughter of the late John Ripley, whose story is told here). She also deserves much credit for their blog. ("We're not the Navy nor any government agency. Blog and comment freely.") We met at a milblog conference - Mary knew (and I would come to realize) that milbloggers are the 21st-century version of exactly what the US Naval Institute is all about. Once that light bulb came on in my head, I mentioned a vague idea for a project to her - milblogs as the 21st century oral history that they are.
"Put that in writing," she said (of course - see first paragraph above!) - and here's part of the result.
Shortly after the first tent was pitched by the American military in Iraq a wire was connected to a computer therein, and the internet was available to a generation of Americans at war - many of whom had grown up online. From that point on, at any given moment, somewhere in Iraq a Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine was at a keyboard sharing the events of his or her day with the folks back home. While most would simply fire off an email, others took advantage of the (then) relatively new online blogging platforms to post their thoughts and experiences for the entire world to see. The milblog was born - and from that moment to this stories detailing everything from the most mundane aspects of camp life to intense combat action (often described within hours of the event) have been available on the web...
And et cetera - but since you're reading this on a milblog, you probably knew that. And you know that milblogs aren't just blogs written by troops at war, that many friends, family members, and supporters likewise documented their story of America at war online in near-real time, as those stories developed.
The diversity in membership of that group is broad, the one thing we all have in common is the impulse to make sense of the seemingly senseless, and communicate the tale - for each of us that impulse was strong enough to overcome whatever barriers prevent the vast majority of people from doing the same. Everyone at some point has some vague idea they believe should be shared - we were the people who, from some combination of internal and external urging, found and spent those many half hours persistently trying to write it down.
But where will all that be in another 137 years? Or five or ten, for that matter. That's something I've asked myself since at least 2004 - when I wrote this:
Membership in the ghost battalion has grown in the years since, and an ever growing majority of those abandoned-but-still-standing sites are vanishing. Have you checked out Lt Smash's site lately? How about Sgt Hook's? If you're a long-time milblog reader you know the first widely-read milblog from Operation Iraq Freedom and the first widely-read milblog from Afghanistan are both gone from the web. If you're a relative newcomer to this world you may never even have heard of them - or the dozens upon dozens of others who carried forth the standard they set down.
If you have a vague notion that something should be done about that, (a notion I've heard expressed more than once...) then you and I and the good folks at the US Naval Institute are in agreement. Preserving the history documented by the milbloggers is just one of the goals of the milblog project, the once-vague idea that we're now making real.
And it's a big idea, if I say so myself - too big to explain in one simple blog post, so stand by for more. Likewise, it's too big a task to be accomplished by just one person. So if you're a milblogger (and exactly what is a milblogger? is a topic for much further discussion on its own) I'm asking for your help. All I'll really need is just a little bit (maybe just one or two of those half hours...) of your time, and your willingness to tell the tale.
We've already made history, it's time to save it.
(More to follow...)
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