02 March 2011


Wings Over Iraq is closing up shop at Blogger.  Continue the fun over at www.wingsoveriraq.com.  Update your bookmarks and your RSS feeds.

25 February 2011

Still hard at work...

Should have the new site up and running by next week.  Includes several years' worth of posts, for your viewing pleasure. (Which means I need to start sanitizing some old stuff)

22 February 2011

Upcoming Changes

In the next few days, I'll be making some big changes here at Wings Over Iraq,including a Tumblr account, migration to Wordpress, and my very own .com domain, http://www.wingsoveriraq.com/.  Gotta keep with the times, baby!

Not to mention, there's talk of yet another issue of Future Foreign Policy, courtesy of the Great Satan's Girlfriend.  I can hardly wait. 

20 February 2011

Meanwhile, at Fort Drum...in April.

From PowerPoint Ranger:

Viva la Revolucion de Twitter!

We need to give this guy a position.
My Twitter Revolution has succeeded!  After tireless hours of tweeting--during which I was gravely wounded with Blackberry thumb--I have finally achieved a breakthrough with the government of Liechtenstein.  

My friends, we can now rent the entire nation of Liechtenstein for a day (or more), should we desire.  For a small fee, we can declare ourselves rulers, establish a dictatorship, and wear funny hats.  Liechtenstein's "rent-a-nation" program is managed by Xnet AG, which has sponsored similar "rent-a-village" programs in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland.

But I don't think the program goes far enough.  Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) organizations on local military bases throughout Germany are perennially short on money, and always seem to be taking part in some fund raiser or another.  Thus, I propose a "rent-a-military-base" program throughout all of US Army Europe.  Should I raise enough money to run a base for a day, I would ban reflective belts and institute autobahn speeds across the entire garrison.  I would announce the change in policy through signs at the access gates, which would read, "All your base are belong to us".

For great justice.

19 February 2011


For those of you who don't feel like reading Ralph Peters' latest article in full, here's the summary:  Liberals, "elitist" academics, atheists, and most of all, the bike helmet generation are behind America's current strategic stalemate in Afghanistan.  Sadly, a Small Wars Council discussion thread from 2007 could just as easily apply to Peters' most recent missive.

Bonus:  If you love Godwin's Law, you'll love this article; chock-full of more unnecessary allusions to the Third Reich than an episode of Glenn Beck!

Ex reports from Cairo

Andrew Exum, better known as "Abu Muqawama", just posted a dispatch from Cairo.  From what I gather, Cairo post-Mubarak must look something like this:

18 February 2011

Send up the PowerPoint signal: PowerPoint Rangers, rally on me!

From today's Doctrine Man:

Doctrine Man asks:  "Do you blame the tool (PowerPoint) or the tool behind the tool"?
I decidedly blame the tool behind the tool.  Those who blame PowerPoint for poor communication might as well blame Outlook for Nigerian e-mail spammers.  

There is, of course, a better way to use PowerPoint.  And Dave Karle of Microsoft is here to help.

Dave's been collecting feedback from the field for quite some time, documenting some of PowerPoint's most notorious transgressions.  (Note the infamous "PowerPoint Karaoke", wonderfully parodied by the gang at On Violence)  

The "Modern Presentation Method" is looking for PowerPoint Rangers far and wide to help stop the madness.  Let Dave know about your worst PowerPoint transgressions; but don't forget to share some of your best PowerPoint "TTPs", as we call them in Pentagon-ese.  (Personally, my favorite "best practice" is the late Captain Travis Patraquin's "How to Win in Anbar") 

17 February 2011

Did you ever know that you're my hero?

I've made a new Twitter friend.  

My new friend might actually be my soul mate, if said friend were a female.  Sadly, my new friend is not a female.  Nor is it really a male, either.  

It's a drunken Predator drone.  A bona-fide Unmanned Alcoholic Vehicle, baby.

My, what a large bottle of Jack Daniels you have there.

I can't tell if I've met the most awesome person in the entire universe (besides me), or if I got drunk one night and accidentally registered another Twitter account.  Either way, this new account should make up for the recent lack of amusement on Twitter.  Sadly, ever since the revolts in Egypt, Twitter's gone legit:  more social unrest and fewer panda hats.  Le sigh.

16 February 2011

Didn't get your DOD FLIPs this month? There's an app for that.

I've often complained about the Army's Electronic Data Manager (EDM), a digital "kneeboard" the size of a brick.  Running on Windows XP and featuring a 133 mHz processor, the device is heavy, slow, counter-intuitive, and must stay tethered to the aircraft to receive GPS data.

I've often argued that an iPad could outperform the EDM, which is based on technology some ten years old.  That's why I was pleased to learn that Jeppesen, the world's leading manufacturer of aeronautical charts, has created a flight information application which includes approach diagrams, maps, departure procedures, and airfield diagrams.  And unlike those that rely on paper charts, there's no need to purchase new maps and approach diagrams every few weeks.

I'm going to give the free trial a test over the next week or so.  More to follow.

14 February 2011

13 February 2011

Public Relations Tip

You shouldn't act surprised if a critical article seems "one-sided".  Especially if you declined to answer questions to begin with. 

A Captain Saying "I Have an Idea"...

The Good Idea Fairy struck me with her wand today.  I'm looking at doing a piece on micromanagement.

Question for the experts in Napoleonic warfare:  Are there any good references regarding Napoleon's decentralized leadership style during his early years, versus his centralized control methods later in his career?

12 February 2011

Lamebook: US Defense Policy Edition

This would be a great entry on Lamebook.  Alas, few people get defense policy humor.

Viva la COIN?

Mark "Zenpundit" Safranski muses on the recent dearth of counterinsurgency writing in major journals, as well as General Petraeus' recent heavy-handed tactics in Afghanistan:
[Is COIN dead?] By that, I mean contemporary, mid-2000’s ”pop-centric” COIN theory as expressed in FM 3-24 - is it de facto dead as USG policy or is COIN theory formally evolved to officially embrace strong elements of CT, targeted assassinations, FID, “open-source counterinsurgency” and even bare-knuckled conventional warfare tactics?
Mind you, I have nothing against pragmatic flexibility and think that, for example, moves to arm more Afghan villagers for self-defense are realistic efforts to deal with the Taliban insurgency, and I prefer USG officials speaking frankly about military conditions as they actually exist. Doctrinal concepts should not be used to create a ”paint-by-numbers” military strategy - it is a starting point that should be expected to evolve to fit conditions. 
But having evolved operations and policy as far as the USG military and USG national security agencies have, with the current draconian budgetary restraints looming - are we still “doing COIN”? Or is it dead?
It's a question asked by counterinsurgency experts such as Dr. David Ucko.  Even Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and other DOD insiders seem hesitant to partake in future counterinsurgency endeavors.  There's merit to their case.  Simply having a counterinsurgency doctrine doesn't mean that we should be eager to rush off and implement it in the far-flung corners of the globe.  As events in Iraq and Afghanistan have shown us, counterinsurgency is time-consuming, expensive, and subject to powers far beyond the counterinsurgent's control.

But while nations should attempt to avoid such conflicts when possible, even the greatest strategists stumble upon rebellions, insurrections, and insurgencies.  In fact, the word guerrilla--of Spanish origin--reminds us that no less a genius than Napoleon Bonaparte inadvertently found himself embroiled in an insurgency during the Peninsular War.

Yet, the world of counterinsurgency has grown quiet as of late.  What accounts for its seeming decline?  I've come up with a few factors.  
  • Time.  Counterinsurgency is a long-term endeavor.  According to a recent RAND study, successful campaigns in the post-Cold War era last around a decade.  Unfortunately, time is running out in Afghanistan:  despite years of neglect, the NATO-led coalition is expected to hand over responsibility to the Afghan government by July, with a full withdrawal by 2014.  The compressed timeline doesn't allow for the "full-blown" counterinsurgency campaign many generals advocated in the summer of 2009.  
  • The Karzai Government.  Most COIN literature, such as the US military's Counterinsurgency Field Manual, stresses the importance of host-nation legitimacy.  Yet, Hamid Karzai remains in power only after a massively fraudulent election, and runs a government sometimes referred to as a "kleptocracy".  Tell me how this ends?  
  • The Role of "Our Valuable Ally".  Not even a fiction writer could have conceived of the ridiculous "Catch-22" surrounding Pakistan's role in the Afghanistan War.  Our "valuable ally" permits the US to hunt Taliban and al-Qaeda figures with Predator drones, and controls many of the key logistical supply routes into Afghanistan.  Yet, the role of Pakistan's ISI in supporting the Taliban insurgency is painfully evident time and time again.  The US sends billions of dollars in humanitarian and military aid to the Pakistani government, only to see it used against itself.  Okay, to be fair, a good chunk of that money doesn't get used against us.  Rather, it's simply imbezzled by corrupt Pakistani officials.    
  • The Taliban Insurgency vs. Al-Qaeda.  You might remember that the War in Afghanistan was originally designed to root out elements of al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, then harbored by the Taliban.  However, after the Battle of Tora Bora, the core leadership of both al Qaeda and the Taliban escaped into Pakistan, where they are presumed to remain to this day.  In the past decade, however, both groups have mutated.  Many believe there is little to no correlation or collaboration between al-Qaeda, an international movement, primarily Arab; and the Taliban, a Pashtun movement with more localized goals.  Moreover, al-Qaeda acts through "franchise" movements in Yemen, Africa, and Somalia, though these groups tend to have more localized ideologies as well.  Counterinsurgency's inability to deal with the al-Qaeda problem blights its reputation.  
  • Operational vs. Strategic.  Counterinsurgency was a "bottom-up", tactical and operational innovation, designed to compensate for strategic ambivalence, particularly in Iraq.  However, counterinsurgency is but a means to an end.  Counterinsurgency is useless if it does not coincide with larger strategic objectives.
  • A Focus on Democracy.  The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were conceived within the rubric of neoconservative rhetoric, which placed a premium on democracy-building.  Yet, democracy tends to take hold only after certain economic, social, and cultural benchmarks are met:  benchmarks largely absent in Afghanistan.  With massive ethnic strife, and little history of a strong, central government in Kabul, America's attempts at installing its own style of democracy are a Herculean task.  Would counterinsurgency work better if a dictatorship enjoyed more legitimacy?
  • The Underdog Syndrome.  Being a COINdinista was fun when it was a "fringe" activity.  Now that it's "in" (and misapplied at that) it's lost a lot of its allure.  Hey, it's not hip being a square.