31 January 2011

Are Milblogs waning or just evolving?

Contrary to what Tom Ricks laments (and Automatic Ballpoint echoes), I don't think that milblogs are waning, per se. Sure, total posts have slowed down, but many milbloggers are turning to Twitter for day-to-day interaction, link sharing, and up-to-date coverage of fast-moving events, such as last year's "Rolling Stan" incident, or the recent demonstrations throughout the Middle East.

And while Twitter seems to have supplaned the shorter posts, many milbloggers have turned to guest-posting in larger publications. Speaking of which, I did have that post I was going to compile for Tom Ricks.

(Oh, and spending over a week on one marathon session of Civilization V probably cuts into my milblogging significantly.)

30 January 2011

European runners: Advice needed

I'm looking at doing a marathon in May or June of 2011.  Choices include Regensburg, Germany; Copenhagen, Demnark; Chamoix, France; Caen, France; Stockholm, Sweden; and Hamburg, Germany.  Altitude does matter (e.g., Copenhagen is preferable to Chamoix).  Thoughts?  Copenhagen does seem to be the fan favorite.

A Twitter Revolution? Let's wait and see.

Much has been written, said, and tweeted about the wave of demonstrations sweeping the Middle East. And while some may use the opportunity to advance partisan agendas (both Democrats and Republicans), many more have credited social networking sites for organizing January's revolts.

The community organizing features of Facebook and Twitter are well-known. In 2008, Colombians rallied over one million anti-FARC protesters in Bogotá alone via Facebook; and the phrase "Twitter Revolution" seems to have entered the popular lexicon during 2009's "Green Revolution" in Iran.

Certainly, social networking sites can better allow communities--linked through common ideals, rather than through geography--to organize and communicate more effectively than ever before. Nevertheless, communities have been organizing, demonstrating, and protesting for centuries. Neither the American nor French Revolutions needed Twitter or Facebook to succeed.  Nor did the Civil Rights movement nor the Eastern Bloc in 1989; nor even the Iranian Revolution of 1979.  Even Lawrence's Arab Revolt managed to spread across vast expanses of desert, among illiterate Bedouin tribesmen.  And today, with general  Internet access strangled by the Egyptian government, Egyptians are reportedly communicating through mediums such as HAM radio, IRC and dial-up 56k modems.  

Despite the prominent role Twitter and Facebook played during the Green Revolution, more than one analyst astutely noted that "Twitter cannot stop a bullet".  Indeed, the loyalty of the army, as evidenced in Iran, and ultimately, in Egypt, generally plays the decisive role in the success or failure of a revolt.  It's also worth noting that the same technologies which allows dissatisfied youths to organize can also be used by governments to track down and eliminate opposition leaders.

And while many Neocons might equate the January Revolutions with the anti-Communist uprisings of 1989, there are plenty of reasons to be skeptical.  After all, Lebanon's democratic 2005 "Cedar Revolution" has ultimately given rise to a Hezbollah-backed Prime Minister.  

So let's be careful what we wish for; we just might get it.

Further reading:
Beyond Twitter Revolutions and False Choices by Adam Elkus at the Huffington Post

Addendum:  It seems the Daily Show shares my somewhat nuanced view of the January Revolutions.  Note that popular stereotypes portray Twitter users with strange hats.  Clearly, this has no basis in fact.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
The Rule of the Nile
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogThe Daily Show on Facebook

29 January 2011

On Promotions

T.E. Lawrence, known to the world as "Lawrence of Arabia", entered the British Army in October 1914, and reached the rank of lieutenant colonel by the War's end.  Similarly, Dwight D. Eisenhower, despite holding the rank of major for sixteen years, enjoyed a meteoric rise through the ranks, donning five stars by the end of 1944.  Indeed, countless successful military officers have seen dramatic changes in fortune during times of war:  witness John J. Pershing's move captain to brigadier general, or Napoleon Bonaparte, who quickly advanced from a mere artillery captain to the commander of the Grande Armee.

Yet today, many complain that the US military, after nearly a decade of war, has still maintained its hierarchical peacetime personnel policies.  Unlike the private sector, or even the US State Department, which recently promoted 1998 Yale Alumnus Jake Sullivan the Director of Policy Planning, young outstanding performers cannot be promoted a la Lawrence or Napoleon.  According to one source, the US military is the only institution--outside of the Catholic Church--which still insists on such a rigid, hierarchical rise through the ranks.

Why?  Well, I'll try to examine it--at least in part--at The Best Defense next week.  That's right, commenting on the exploits of Thomas E. Lawrence at Thomas E. Ricks' blog.  I plan my puns well in advance, just so you know.

28 January 2011


After three days of compiling the daily Small Wars Journal link roundup, I'm beat.  I have no idea how Dave Dilegge does this day in and day out.  Perhaps Dave might actually be the oft-mentioned "super-empowered individual"?

If you view the daily roundup, and odds are that fans of this blog do, you should consider heading over to SWJ and throwing a few bucks towards the Small Wars Foundation.  It helps Dave and Bill keep bringing you the very best in defense talk.

27 January 2011

We cannot get out. The end comes...they are coming.

This, too.
The end times must be near, heralded by the impending arrival of the "Children's Illustrated Clausewitz" project.

25 January 2011


It seems the US Air Force made a slight overstatement regarding the "Gorgon Stare's" ability to "see everything".  David Axe and Noah Shachtman investigate:
Privately, military officials believe that top Air Force generals may have oversold the program a bit. For instance, Air Force intelligence chief Maj. Gen. James Poss recently told The Washington Post that, with Gorgon Stare, “we can see everything” across a city. Not exactly. You can’t see everything at the same time — and certainly not with the same fidelity you might get with a more focused lens.
“He really stuck his foot in his foot in his mouth with that one,” one military official says of Poss’ claim.
Military officials "oversold the program a bit"?  I find that hard to believe.

WOI Brief Hiatus

Don't expect to see any activity here until the weekend, as I'll be filling in at Small Wars Journal for a few days.  How Dave Dilegge manages to compile a massive news roundup each morning is beyond me.  I'm guessing he has superhuman abilities.   

At any rate, if anyone stumbles across a good news story, be sure to send it my way.

23 January 2011

On Assumptions

The latest Joint Forces Quarterly has an interesting article from retired Brigadier General Jeffery E. Marshall regarding "assumptions" in military planning models, always seemingly poised to thwart even the best-laid plans.

I've long argued that discussion of the Military Decision-Making Process (MDMP) ought to be balanced with a case study of the inner workings of the German and French general staffs in the run-up to the First World War.  Fortunately, Brig. Gen. Marshall briefly touches upon the German Schlieffen Plan (though not covering its counterpart in the French Army, Plan XVII).  According to Brig. Gen. Marshall:
History is replete with examples of assumptions that were neither tested and validated nor balanced with a branch plan to execute if the assumptions proved incorrect.  For example, in World War I, the German Schlieffen Plan assumed that the British would not intervene and that the French could be defeated in 6 weeks. The Germans were wrong on both counts. The British intervened, the French held on, and a bloodbath ensued.
An interesting example, but certainly not the most foolhardy assumption on the part of Moltke and the German general staff.  The entire Schlieffen plan hinged on the assumption that German troops could overrun France and force a surrender before the Russian Empire could mobilize and strike at Germany.  Expecting a swift victory, as in the Franco-Prussian War of nearly forty years earlier, Schlieffen and his successor, Moltke the Younger, planned to first defeat France, and then swiftly divert their massive armies to the Eastern front to halt the Russian offensive.  

Unfortunately, the Russians did mobilize more quickly than anticipated, forcing  Moltke to divert two corps from the Belgium to Prussia.  Though the move allowed the Germans to halt the Russian offensive at Tannenburg, in East Prussia, it was not without ultimate failure at the Marne (might the two corps have turned the tide?), and the expedient ruin of the Austrian-Hungarian army.

While properly examining this assumption might have averted failure on the part of the Germans during the First World War, the chaos brought about by the intricacies of international politics, especially during wartime, makes proper planning all but impossible at the strategic level.  Neither side could have envisioned the turn of events which led to the Ottoman Empire's involvement on the side of the Axis Powers, made possible by the escape of two German capital ships into the Dardanelles during the first few days of the war.

Planning paradigms such as the Military Decision Making Process may work well when a desired end-state is certain, and within a relatively closed system (such as a large exercise at a combat training center, or for a movement of equipment from one point to the next), but it's hardly applicable at the strategic to grand strategic level.  Learn from the master, General James Mattis:
Staffs have been seen to often apply these processes mechanistically; as if progressing through a sequence of planning steps would produce a solution.  I would expect this habit to be common particularly in organizations reacts to these processes rather than leads them.  "Over-proceduralization" inhibits the commander and staff's critical thinking and creativity, which are essential for finding a timely solution to complex problems...our current doctrinal approach to fostering clear, careful thinking and creativity, particularly early in design and planning, is insufficient and ineffective.      

"And that's all I have to say about that..."

After reading this thread at Blackfive, I merely pose the following question:  If you were General McChrystal, would you rather have Michael Yon or Michael Hastings embedded with you?

(I know whom I'd pick.  Too bad General McChrystal's staff didn't agree.)

21 January 2011

The gauntlet has been thrown

Floating Clausewitz head
will be drinking with me
in spirit tonight.  
Tom Ricks and the gang at the Warlord Loop have challenged the blogosphere for a list of the best national security quotations.  Unfortunately, it looks as if most are gleaning quotations from the usual sources:  Mao Tse-Tung, Eisenhower, Sun-Tzu, Napoleon, and the like.  

I think I can one-up the great captains of history and devise some national security quotations of my own making, which I will post to Twitter as I imbibe alcohol tonight.  

Look for the #nsqs (national security quotations) hashtag on Twitter.  I'll have the ghosts of Clausewitz and Moltke the Elder in stitches by the nights end.  No small feat, too, as I bet those Prussians can really pound some fermented beverages.  And even if I don't out-quote Bonaparte, at least you'll be amused, right?

Hybrid War: Teaming up with the GSGF

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that I teamed up with the Great Satan's Girlfriend for a China-oriented guest-post at Thinking Strategically.  Featuring my research, and Courtney's unmistakable writing style (plus some original research of her own).

20 January 2011

Words ring true, fifty years later

This week, we've witnessed the fifty-year anniversary of the most prescient farewell address and the most inspiring inaugural address in American history.

Note to all aspiring speechwriters: John F. Kennedy's inaugural address is fourth-shortest inaugural address in US history, clocking in at just under fourteen minutes. Yet it, like the two-minute Gettysburg Address, is one of our country's most memorable orations. Speechwriters, keep this in mind.

18 January 2011

Army Aviation keeps getting better.

Be sure to check out the Association of the US Army's report on the upcoming "Full Spectrum Operations" aviation brigades.  Highlights include a few more medevac aircraft--good news for the infantry--and nearly a company and a half's worth of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), including the RQ-7 Shadow and the MQ-1C Grey Eagle.  The latter of the two, a relative of the venerable Predator, can carry four Hellfire missiles, and stay aloft for 36 hours, thus exceeding an aviator's crew rest cycle threefold.  Don't judge.    

17 January 2011

Economics, in perspective

According to this map, New Jersey makes as much money from hair gel, orange tan, and Snooki as Switzerland does from Rolex watches and bank accounts.  God help us all.

Why Social Media Matters

This exchange between an Army spouse (Identified as "Q") and President George W. Bush during a town hall meeting in West Virginia in March of 2006 will always stick in my mind.  Let's see if you can catch the one subtle sticking point.

Q This is my husband, who has returned from a 13-month tour in Tikrit.
THE PRESIDENT: Oh, yes. Thank you. Welcome back. (Applause.)
Q His job while serving was as a broadcast journalist. And he has brought back several DVDs full of wonderful footage of reconstruction, of medical things going on. And I ask you this from the bottom of my heart, for a solution to this, because it seems that our major media networks don't want to portray the good. They just want to focus -- (applause) --
THE PRESIDENT: Okay, hold on a second.
Q They just want to focus on another car bomb, or they just want to focus on some more bloodshed, or they just want to focus on how they don't agree with you and what you're doing, when they don't even probably know how you're doing what you're doing anyway. But what can we do to get that footage on CNN, on FOX, to get it on headline news, to get it on the local news? Because you can send it to the news people -- and I'm sorry, I'm rambling -- like I have --
THE PRESIDENT: So was I, though, for an hour. (Laughter.)
Q -- can you use this, and it will just end up in a drawer, because it's good, it portrays the good. And if people could see that, if the American people could see it, there would never be another negative word about this conflict.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I appreciate that. (Applause.) No, it -- that's why I come out and speak. I spoke in Cleveland, gave a press conference yesterday -- spoke in Cleveland Monday, press conference, here today. I'm going to continue doing what I'm doing to try to make sure people can hear there's -- why I make decisions, and as best as I can, explain why I'm optimistic we can succeed.
One of the things that we've got to value is the fact that we do have a media, free media, that's able to do what they want to do. And I'm not going to -- you're asking me to say something in front of all the cameras here. (Laughter.) Help over there, will you? (Laughter.)
I just got to keep talking. And one of the -- there's word of mouth, there's blogs, there's Internet, there's all kinds of ways to communicate which is literally changing the way people are getting their information. And so if you're concerned, I would suggest that you reach out to some of the groups that are supporting the troops, that have got Internet sites, and just keep the word -- keep the word moving. And that's one way to deal with an issue without suppressing a free press.

Good words, for certain, but President Bush missed the mark on one subtle point.  He was indeed correct to note that, while Iraq wracked by horrific violence in 2006, countless US troops were working to bring some decency to the people of Iraq, despite the abhorrent conditions.  He was also correct in mentioning that a free press is a paramount value in our society.  Moreover, the President should also be credited for mentioning the value of blogs.

Yet, it's in the mention of blogs and the Internet that Mr. Bush missed a beat.  Undoubtedly, there were hundreds, if not thousands, of service members with such pictures and videos.  Unfortunately, even a broadcast journalist, depicted in the town hall meeting above, was unable to disseminate videos of reconstruction efforts to an larger audience.  Why?  Because the DoD had essentially shot itself in the foot, as the DoD's draconian anti-blogging policies virtually ensured that these images would never see the light of day.  Milbloggers such as Captain Matthew Gallagher, author of "Kaboom:  A Soldier's War Journal", were ordered to shut down their blogs, resulting in twenty-five Congressional inquiries.  (Shameless plug:  buy Matt's book, based on his blog)

Lt. General William Caldwell, then one of the military's top spokesmen in Iraq, was introduced to social media sites, such as Facebook and Youtube, by his younger staffers.  Circumventing the Defense Department's IT bureaucracy, Lt. Gen. Caldwell and his staff created one of the most popular Youtube channels in the world at the time, showcasing successful missions, and highlighting development and reconstruction projects.

It took bold, senior-level pioneers to make the medium work, helping to dispel the belief that "weak leaders" might use the DoD's anti-blogging policy to crush dissent.  Admiral James Stavridis was one of the first senior military officers to provide periodic dispatches during his travels about South and Central America, while serving as the Commander of US Southern Command.  General Martin Dempsey, tapped to be the next Army Chief of Staff, has also posted at Small Wars Journal extensively, soliciting ideas and advice from from SWJ's brilliant, albeit somewhat eclectic audience.  

Today, the military relies heavily on social media to tell its story.  Its pervasive presence on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and Youtube conveys the candor, bravery, and dedication of the US military and its allies to audiences all over the world.  And we owe it to the efforts of these senior-level officers, as well as the dozens of "boots-on-ground" milbloggers who defied the DoD's policies and turned this medium into a mainstream occurance.  Sure, there's going to be some guffaws, and maybe some Gaga, but it's a small price to pay for ensuring that our side of the story makes it to the public domain.

Addendum:  As one of the godfathers of military blogging, Greyhawk, is fond of saying, "When Milblogs are outlawed, only outlaws will have Milblogs".  Thank God for outlaws.      

16 January 2011

For your viewing pleasure

Lest anyone think I've been slacking, here's the latest fan tribute to Doctrine Man, entitled "Doctrine Man and the AKO Password", a satirical take on a very serious information security issue.  

And in other news, the next Army Chief of Staff appears to have some impressive skills. As Dave Dilegge says, if you can make it at TRADOC, you can make it anywhere.

12 January 2011

WaPo, J-20, and Snow

Short of another international crisis or general internet hilarity, I'll be spending the next few days woking on a post for Aaron Ellis of Thinking Strategically regarding China's new military developments; namely, the new J-20 stealth fighter prototype, their upcoming aircraft carrier (or carriers), and the new DF-21D anti-ship ballistic missile. In doing so, I've enlisted the help of a certain Great Satan's Girlfriend. Could the world get any more awesome?

In other news, I got a mention in the Washington Post this past weekend, though I was confused for the caped crusader, Doctrine Man. Believe it or not, I actually got an e-mail or two asking if I was, in fact, Doctrine Man's alter ego. Unfortunately, much like Star Wars geeks, I only make Doctrine Man fan films. I disappointed many inquiring minds by, sadly, admitting that I'm only one of Doctrine Man's helpers, not the real Doctrine Man.

Lastly, I'd like to afford all 10th Mountain Division veterans the opportunity to laugh at their counterparts in the 82nd Airborne Division:

Courtesy of PowerPoint Ranger

11 January 2011

In which I accuse George Clooney of being a closet Network-Centric Warfare theorist

Once again, Laurenist, one of the legendary Panda Hat Twins, has drawn the ire of a well-intentioned albeit somewhat misguided celebrity; this time, George Clooney, a long-time activist for the Save Darfur movement.

Recently, the former "ER" star has advocated an "anti-genocide paparazzi service", leasing satellite imagery services and enlisting the aid of an army of volunteers to monitor the border between northern and southern Sudan. In doing so, Clooney has joined the ranks of Network-Centric Warfare (NCW) fetishists, which have, mercifully, largely faded into obscurity following America's two wars in the Middle East, as well as the Israeli incursion into Lebanon.

Simply put, NCW advocates are characterized by a misplaced confidence in the abilities of Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconaissance (ISR) assets to give commanders a better understanding of the situation on the ground. Such NCW champions include General Tommy Franks, who felt that satellite imagery, unmanned aerial vehicles, and networked computer systems would give commanders an "Olympian view of the battlefield". Yet, despite this vast network of sensors, General Franks and his staff failed to "detect" a growing Sunni insurgency, which arose a few short weeks after the fall of Baghdad. This hubris extends even into the present day, when proponents of the military's new "Gorgon Stare" claim that the system, which incorporates multiple cameras attached to UAVs, allows commanders to "see everything". Indeed, this sentiment also permeated the Israeli Defense Force in the years preceding the 2006 Lebanon War. Yet, Israeli paratroopers captured a video which depicted Hezbollah operatives slipping across the Israeli border, and casually pointing and mentioning an Israeli UAV orbiting nearby. Their speech implied that they had slipped across the border several times before, without being captured, despite extensive surveillance coverage. Even the US government, armed with the most sophisticated ISR sensors on the planet, has been hunting for a six-foot tall Arab and a one-eyed Pashtun in the FATA region of Pakistan for nearly ten years, with little to show for its efforts. Yet, George Clooney feels that he can do better with a group of volunteers, armed with low-resolution still-photo satellite imagery? Quite frankly, the idea is about as ill-conceived as, well, Bat-nipples.

You won't catch Doctrine Man wearing bat-nipples. Though, let's face it, you won't catch Doctrine Man wearing much of anything these days.

The problem with satellite imagery is, of course, that everyone believes they are an imagery analyst. After all, it's all there in the picture, right?

Well, not quite. To begin with, the satellites employed by Clooney and the "Enough Project" are of rather poor quality. Moreover, satellites only capture still photos, not video feeds, as one might see in a UAV or from other forms of aerial surveillance. Imagery also doesn't give the viewer a clear sense of what or whom they're really watching.

Although the conflict in Darfur is nominally being waged between ethnically Arab guerrillas and the Sudanese military, the latter of the which relies heavily on militia forces to do its work. Thus, the war is being fought between two largely irregular forces. Can you tell, from a satellite photo, the difference between a friendly militia and an enemy militia? Consider the case of the infamous "Collateral Murder" video from last April, in which an Apache helicopter mistakenly gunned down two Reuters journalists. Though the pilots had high-quality full-motion video--leaps and bounds above what Clooney and his crew will have access to--they still mistook cameras with telephoto lenses, slung across their shoulders much like weapons, for rocket-propelled grenades. And though the armed figures in the video turned out to be insurgents, militias fighting on the side of the US, clad in civilian clothes, were not uncommon in Baghdad at the time of the video.

David Kilcullen notes, in The Accidental Guerrilla, that despite nearly constant coverage from UAVs, surveillance blimps, and satellites, American planners could still not answer basic questions about the state of affairs in Iraq. The problem, of course, is that imagery is useless unless it's corroborated with substantial human intelligence. As Noah Shachtman of Wired Magazine astutely notes, when fighting insurgencies, the best networks are social, not electronic.

The hunt for high-value insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan certainly isn't accomplished with surveillance drones alone. After all, an insurgent's greatest strength is that he can blend in to the local population when needed. Yet, through a combination of, say, informants, captured documents, and surveillance, planners can gain a much clearer view into the true state of affairs in an insurgency. Using human intelligence to determine where to look and what to look for is far more effective than simply flying drones around in circles all day.

Which brings me to my point. I don't necessarily have an issue with a crowd-sourced satellite imagery campaign, per se. After all, Clooney and company are only spending their own money. However, we simply need to be realistic about its merits, and rightfully skeptical of any analysis which comes from grainy, still photos.

10 January 2011

In case you missed it: Major Dick Winters, of legendary "Band of Brothers", dies at 92.

Sadly, instead of uniting a nation in sorrow and compelling us to overlook our differences, Saturday's tragedy in Tucson served as little more than a springboard for the fringes of the political debate to hurl accusatory remarks at one another with renewed vigor. Few have taken the reasonable course of action and placed blame on the shooter, Jared Lee Loughner, save for Ross Douthat of the New York Times and Jamie McIntyre of the Line of Departure.

Though the suffering in Tucson is real, the veritable media frenzy created by this most despicable act has pushed another, sorrowful, story to the wayside. As of late last night, a few media outlets had reported that Major Dick Winters, the commander of the 101st Airborne Division's Easy Company, 1st Battalion-506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, passed away on January 2nd, just short of his 93rd birthday.

No words of mine can do justice to Major Winters. The Washington Post aired the obituary of the "biggest brother" in the legendary "Band of Brothers" late last night.

Dick Winters, a decorated Army officer whose World War II service was recounted in the best-selling book and HBO mini-series "Band of Brothers," died Jan. 2. News reports listed his age at 92.

Based on the 1992 book by historian Stephen E. Ambrose, the HBO mini-series came out in 2001 and was produced by Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg.

The story follows the tragedies and triumphs of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 2nd Battalion, E Company.

To Mr. Winters, these citizen-soldiers came to be known as the men of Easy Company -- paratroopers who jumped into combat on June 6, 1944 above Normandy, France.

According to Ambrose's account, Easy Company suffered 150 percent casualties throughout the war.

One of the soldiers who served in Easy Company, David Webster, once wrote that among his colleagues the Purple Heart "was not a decoration but a badge of office."

Mr. Winters, who separated from the Army at the rank of major, and his men fought together through D-Day and the Battle of the Bulge and later occupied Adolf Hitler's mountainside retreat, the Eagle's Nest, near Berchtesgaden.

A charismatic officer who led by example, Mr. Winters received the Distinguished Service Cross, the country's second highest decoration for valor, while conducting combat operations on D-Day.

Mr. Winters led a small group of men on a raid of German cannon emplacements near Utah beach on Normandy's coastline.

While taking out the heavily fortified bunker, Mr. Winters and his men killed 15 German soldiers and [captured twelve more], helping to save countless American lives from the withering cannon fire.

Later in the war, one of Mr. Winters's soldiers, Floyd Talbert, wrote a letter to the officer from a hospital in Indiana expressing gratitude for his loyalty and leadership.

"You are loved and will never be forgotten by any soldier that ever served under you," Talbert wrote to Mr. Winters in 1945. "I would follow you into hell."

For Mr. Winters, his soldiers were his Band of Brothers and their experiences together in the war "created a bond between the men of E company that will last forever."

09 January 2011

Catching up

I'm sitting in my hotel in Sierra Vista, Arizona, about to partake in a one-week UAV course. As such, I've spent over twenty-four hours in transit from Munich, and subsequently missed many of the details regarding yesterday's tragic shooting incident which killed six people and wounded an additional twelve in Tucson, Arizona. Among the dead are a Federal Judge, the Honorable John McCarthy Roll; and a nine-year old girl, Christina Taylor Green, who was recently elected to her student council at Mesa Verde Elementary School. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, the intended target, was shot through the head, and was recently listed in critical condition.

Thus, I've spent the morning catching up on the details. Strangely enough, I first heard about the incident last night in O'Hare airport from Jeff Schogol at Stars and Stripes, who did some excellent research (what else would you expect from the Rumor Doctor) and determined that the shooter had not been a veteran of Afghanistan, as had been initially reported. According to Army sources, Jared Lee Loughner had attempted to enlist, but his application was denied. In accordance with the Privacy Act, the Army was not able to disclose its reasons for rejecting Loughner's application.

Subsequent media coverage has begun to focus on the fear-mongering and vitriolic rhetoric which seems to have gripped America's political discourse as of late. If only there were someone who could rally Americans to bring sanity and reason back to the national debate...

07 January 2011

Here's an even bigger problem...

Recently, the blogosphere has been ablaze about the Army's "Soldier Fitness Tracker" (SFT), a computerized mental health assessment program.  The SFT's questionnaire rates soldiers' mental "fitness" in four separate categories:  emotional, social, family, and spiritual.  According to bloggers, Atheists, who might answer "no" to questions such as "I attend regular religious services", or "In difficult times, I pray or meditate", are generally assessed as being mentally unhealthy in the "spiritual" category (see picture left).   

While issues regarding the separation of Church and State are, of course, a very relevant issue, there's something even more scandalous afoot.  Let's say a soldier did score in the "red" on a particular mental health category; would anyone care?  While statistics may be tracked, with personally identifying data removed, at the Department of the Army, failing every single aspect of the SFT won't result in a soldier being taken away to the nearest counselor in a straightjacket.  In fact, Atheists who "fail" the spiritual portion of the SFT might be less likely to see a mental health professional, as they might, understandably, scoff at the results.  

Throwing money, endless surveys, and mandatory classes aren't curbing suicides.  However, I have a sneaking suspicion that suicides will begin to subside in 2015, when the Army won't be feeling the stress of two large wars, and won't be struggling to bring in an additional 27,000 troops, regardless of qualifications.  

Now get back to work!

What happens when you mix the softer side of war with the softer sex?  Hilarity.  Apparently, all work in the defense community ceased around 9 AM Eastern Standard Time, due to a Twitter hashtag labeled "#CosmoCOIN".  Witness some of the best entries:

06 January 2011

Fantasy Defense League

General Martin Dempsey
Secretary Robert Gates has just recommended General Martin Dempsey, the current commander of the US Army's Training and Doctrine Command, and occasional poster at Small Wars Journal, as the next Army Chief of Staff.  (Though, despite my prescience in that post, I seem to have linked to a picture that's no longer valid.  I do have my flaws)  Of course, I called this one months ago. With Admiral Mullen's term as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff coming to an end, I'd put money on General Petraeus as his successor.  After a pseudo-"demotion", he certainly deserves it.  

And, in other news, Secretary Gates also announced that US forces in Europe would be cut, and that over one hundred general officers would be given their pink slips.  AAFES Command, look out.  

04 January 2011

Miscellany on Miscellaneous Miscellany

After a trans-Atlantic flight last weekend, it looks like I'll be doing the same this next weekend as well, flying from Munich to Arizona.  Fortunately, the Munich airport serves beer pretty much all day long.  Thus, I can dull the pain in the unfortunate event of a travel debacle

What does this mean for my readers?  Well, expect to see some guest posts in other blogs in the near future.  I'll be taking on China's new "aircraft carrier" and 5th-generation "stealth fighter" at Aaron Ellis' Thinking Strategically.  Not to mention, if everyone asks nicely, I might continue my series of epic Xtranormal videos.

In other news, I'm still switching to Gmail for all my work needs.  But I'm glad to see that the Army's new "GTSY" network might be improving on AKO, an e-mail program about as effective as my Geocities account, circa 1997.  

Finally, I'm glad that Admiral James Stavridis is being a good sport about being labeled as one of the "worst military tweeters" by Spencer Ackerman.  Keep tweeting, Sir!

On Logistics

Fort Drum, New York in May.
While the art of supplying, sustaining, raising, clothing, paying, and fielding an army has been underexplored in military history, I'm not certain if I want to continue reading Martin Van Creveld's "Supplying War:  Logistics from Wallenstein to Patton".

True, Van Creveld takes considerable pleasure in breaking down popular historical myths.  This is always welcome.  Still, in dissecting Napoleon's disastrous incursion into Russia, Van Creveld makes the assertion that the Emperor's infamous logistical failures weren't as bad as most historians are apt to believe.  After all, according to Van Creveld, Le Petit Corporal did plan his logistics in excruciating detail, as he did during most of his campaigns, most notably, during the War of the Third Coalition.  I guess the reader is expected to overlook minor details, such as the fact that the Grande Armee's logistical plans--no matter how immaculate--still failed spectacularly during the War of 1812.

01 January 2011


Fitting for January--named for Janus, the two-faced Roman god who symbolized looking both forward and back--we have an excellent end-of-year wrap-up from Noah Shachtman at Wired.com and a preview of 2011 from the Great Satan's Girlfriend.

Strangely, GSGF's preview of 2011 is somewhat incomplete, as I do believe she'll be celebrating a very important birthday this year.