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.          

11 February 2011

Feature Film Friday

First, check out the latest flick from Doctrine Man (who just now registered a Twitter account)

Suffice to say, the US Army is filled with inspiring leadership. The fact that it usually just inspires me to make Xtranormal videos and drink to excess is completely irrelevant.

Critical Acclaim

If I ever write a book, I'm putting this review on the back cover.  From Ian Elliot of the Kingston Whig Standard (and Fark.com) on my latest piece for The Best Defense:
Your paper on integrrated retention of career soldiers was interesting, factual and suprisingly well done when looked at in the context of your educational continuum, but the conclusion fell flat and the romantic subplot felt tacked on, almost an afterthought, really. Characters as shallow as the donald duck paper you wrote this on.
And, of course, I got plenty love from my fellow O/Cs:
>Should a commissioned officer be using the word 'crunk' in a professional paper? Or is professional a little bit over the top?
>Oh, Tom Ricks addded the word 'crunk'. It's a hallmark of the aforementioned 'Great Satan's Girlfriend'. Check out her website, just not from your US Army computer. Might cause trouble with DOIM.
Great Satan's Girlfriend is like the Matrix; you can't really explain it. You just have to let people experience it for themselves.

09 February 2011

I got people skillz...

Don't miss my latest at Tom Ricks' "The Best Defense".  

I guess I'm officially part of The Best Defense's "Personnel Policy Bureau" now.  Sounds like an OER bullet to me...

08 February 2011

A Twitter Revolution: Who's in?

If you haven't been inspired by the cry for equality, justice, and dignity coming from Egypt, you should be.  Social networking has empowered common Egyptians--oppressed, frustrated, and disenchanted with the Mubarak regime--to rise up against their master and take charge of their own fate.

Indeed, social media appears to be doing the same throughout the Middle East.  In nations like Jordan, Yemen, even Saudi Arabia, ordinary men and women are rising up against the ancien regime.  

Who is to say that I can't do the same?

While the proletariat in Jordan and Saudia Arabia are rising up against their kings, I've committed myself to doing the same.  With Twitter, I can lead a revolt against another so-called "benevolent" dictator in my own corner of the world.

That's right, I'm starting a Twitter Revolution in Liechtenstein.  

It's time we settled this "Twitter Revolution" debate once and for all.  And it looks as if Liechtenstein is ripe for revolution.  Like Egypt and Tunisia, it has a high rate of Internet and cell phone penetration.  It also has a population that's ready to be rallied around a grievance.  After all, let's face it, Liechtenstein's soccer team does suck.  And it's not like wars haven't been fought over soccer matches, right?

You see, the problem with Neocon doctrine--well, aside from it being strategically inept, morally dubious, and atrociously managed--is that it proposes spreading democracy by force through some of the world's worst regions.  Why the hell can't we fight a war in a nation with one of the highest GDPs per capita? Ghost of Leo Strauss, I'm looking at you.  

Thus, I propose Tweeting ourselves into power in Liechtenstein.  We'll put Primoris Era on the throne, too.  (Her ancestors were part of the Russian royal family, so it's a good way for us Yanks to get back at the Bolsheviks.)

Anyone wishing to join me can be a high-ranking official in my new government, all for the price of being my crony.  Hey, we pay Hamid Karzai to do worse, right?

07 February 2011

A Twitter Revolution? Not so fast...

Twitter?  We don't need no stinkin' Twitter!

In days of yore, dissidents organized the Tiannanmen Square protest through fax machines.  And though much has been written about the Facebook-organized protests, some might even argue that by shutting off the Internet, Mubarak fueled the protests.  Lacking up-to-date coverage of events, Egyptian activists had little choice but to leave their homes to join the turmoil on the streets.

(I was going to entitle this, "The Primary Networks are Social, not Electronic", but someone apparently beat me to it.  Curse you, Danger Room!)

Warrior Transition Units don't do wounded vets justice? Who could have forseen this?

(Photo courtesy  US Army Public Affairs on Flickr)
Carl Prine has compiled extensive--and damning--research on the Army's Warrior Transition Units (WTUs).  According to Prine, these organizations, instituted in the wake of the Walter Reed scandal, have merely given rise to over thirty mini-Walter Reeds, in which drug addicts, malingerers and "slicksleeves" outnumber Purple Heart recipients.  In a related article, Prine explains that the Army's lax recruiting standards have only compounded the WTU's woes.

(But don't just take Carl's word for it.  A certain someone's been saying this for a while.)  

Shame on us.  We can do better.

06 February 2011

100 Years of the Gipper

Busy writing a piece for Tom Ricks' The Best Defense, so posting will be light. I'd be remiss, however, if I didn't at least acknowledge Ronald Reagan's centennial.

03 February 2011

First the Bloodninja, now this?

Years ago, I was falsely--I dare say maliciously--accused of being the notorious "Bloodninja".  Today, I was accused of something far worse.  

You see, gentle reader, I like to post cartoons from the legendary "Doctrine Man" all over my meager cubicle.  And when I say "all over", I really do mean just that:

Truly, this must look like a cry for help from the Army's mental health services.
Upon seeing the menagerie of warped humor adorning my work space, another soldier remarked, "That 'Doctrine Man' guy is hilarious.  Did you ever see the video about the FRAGO?"

"Check this out.  You'd like this", he said, typing a few words into Google.

My stomach turned as the video loaded.  Like Poe's veritable telltale heart, my Youtube username pulsed and blinked at the bottom left hand corner of the screen.

"Hey, uh, this guy has the same name as you.  And he says 'FML', just like you."

My pallor intensified.

"Sir, are you the Doctrine Man?"

"I just make Doctrine Man fan films!  I'm no more the Doctrine Man than the Star Wars Kid is Mark Hamill.  Deal with it!"

Author's note:  For the record, I am not the Doctrine Man.  I...just have issues.  

02 February 2011

In defense of realpolitik...

I had a number of issues with Dr. Robert J. Bunker's latest piece in Small Wars Journal, in which he proposes that the United States abandon its realpolitik policies, and unequivocally advocate democratic revolution.  I won't recount all of my concerns--that's what the SWJ message board is for--but I was somewhat dismayed by Dr. Bunker's misuse of historical anecdote:
Support of the despotic status quo in the Islamic World is not only morally unacceptable but, more importantly for many of the Small Wars Journal readership, no longer rational from the perspective of realpolitik and purely selfish U.S. interests at home and abroad...
...If nascent and fledgling democracies attempt to arise and, rather than giving them our helping hand, we turn our back on them or worse crush their efforts by backing the corrupt despots they seek to replace, it would set a dangerous precedent for the future. Those democracies will owe us nothing, potentially harbor very strong feelings of animosity, and ultimately may turn their back upon us in our future times of need. Just deeds often reap future dividends—as an American Army officer serving in France during World War I imparted in his utterance, “La Fayette, we are here!”
An interesting story, but grossly misleading. France did not assist the fledgling colonies during the American Revolution out of shared democratic ideals--the French Revolution was still a few decades away. Rather, the French aided one of the greatest democratic revolutions in history as a result of precisely the very realpolitik Dr. Bunker decries. By fueling a large-scale guerrilla war far from the British mainland, as well as by judiciously allying herself with Britain's strategic rivals, France was able to tie up tens of thousands of troops in the American colonies for over a decade.  Thus, a fortune was siphoned off from the British treasury, eventually resulting in the humiliating loss of the American colonies.  One can hardly call Louis XVI a champion of democracy.

Post-Traumatic Stress, Then and Now

One poster at Tom Ricks' Best Defense asks why it seems that the current generation of soldiers seems to experience Post-Traumatic Stress more than their predecessors.  Might the current generation of soldiers come from a more sheltered lifestyle, he muses?

The responses are excellent.  Suffice to say that few realize that PTSD has been observed as far back as Herodotus, and that a whopping 98% of World War Two veterans experienced some sign of psychological disturbance after thirty-five days of constant combat.  Nor is PTSD a solely military phenomenon:  rescue workers have been known to experience it, as well as victims of sexual trauma, and even railway accidents.

Without further ado, some great message board comments.

Gold Star Father:
[PTSD has always been] there and in numbers reflecting the volume of veterans from any war.
I have researched the deaths of veterans in my area from 1945 to 1950. The number of shattered lives and families, crimes committed, and deaths by alcohol and auto amazed me. I think we hear about it currently, beacause it is talked about so much. "Post Traumatic Stress Disorder", as an affliction with that title, has been 'in the system' but for less than 30 years.
Iron Captain:
PTSD has always existed. Vietnam Vets had it. WWII vets had it. Civil War vets had it. War sucks. It is traumatic. It effects the people involved. Some get better. Some do not.
PTSD was not well understood until behavioral health specialists started studying it after Vietnam. The creation (and politization) of the term came about in the early eighties and the creation of what became the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The "PTSD story" is often a hook in news stories, because it ties one person's problem with our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. There might be slightly more PTSD today than in Vietnam because of the All Volunteer Force and a small slice of troops who have deployed too often without enough down time (or dwell time) but I doubt the rates are much different.
Vietnam, Korea, and WWII vets had problems when they returned. They drank. They got in fights. They beat their wives. We now understand that some of those behaviors might have been related to problems with PTSD. Or they might have just been people given to such behavior regardless. Some people get better. Some people do not.
The reason the military talks about such things and that it is discussed so often in the press and among ourselves is that we are trying to deal with this. We are understand PTSD much better now than we did in previous eras. The Marine Corps was teaching its Infantry Officers about PTSD in its "Killology" class years before September 11th. The other services are catching up and everyone understands it better now, but we are still learning. The system is getting better, with counseling and leadership that understands the problem more. But the system is imperfect.
I don't think that the guys who fought in Fallujah or the Korengal are any less tough than the guys who fought in the Argon or Chosin. I would not dare to make a comparisonout of respect for the vets of any era. We all did our bit and did the best we could to move on with our lives afterwards. Some of us had it rougher than others. Some of us adjusted better than others.
There is not more PTSD, just more PTSD coverage.

IRR Soldier:
You raise some interesting points. I don't have the answers per se, but let me contribute the limited reaserch I've done on this issue.
While your father-in-law (and my own great uncle) may have been in the ETO for nearly 4 years, they were not in sustained combat during all of that time. Right off the bat, that was one huge difference between then and today's 1:1 deployment cycle. The WWII Division with the most days of cumulative combat time was the 32nd ID - 654 days. It is worth noting that this time adds up to well less than 2, 1 year deployments to OIF/OEF. So, while the intensity of combat today may be less than WWII, initial first term soldiers are frequently seeing cumulative combat exposure that exceeds the time endured by the most exposed division in WWII. There is no rear area, there is no (legal) outlet for sexuality and there is no beer.
As early as 1943 we knew that prolonged tours had a devastating impact on the morale and neuropsychiatric health of infantrymen. Post war research showed that based on ETO casualty rates, 180 days of cumulative combat exposure represented the "burn out" point for front-line troops. In WWII, soldiers with >180 days of cumulative combat exposure had psychiatric casualty rates higher than new replacements.
The individual replacement system (seen in Korea and Vietnam) was designed in the wake of WWII as a means of decreasing psychiatric casulaties. Despite its mixed record in Vietnam, as late as 1988 articles in Army professional journals expressed doubt that we would ever return to a unit based rotation system.
Well, it's 2011 and we are stuck with a unit based rotation system. This system puts the well being of the unit over the individual soldier. The unit based system relies on things like stop-loss, the redeployment of soldiers with less than a year back stateside and the multiple deployment of first term soldiers and Marines.
In Vietnam, a first termer never had to go back unless they reupped or volunteered to. Not so today. Also, the transition to the AVF ushered in the era of the 4 year enlistment contract as the "norm" (up from a 2 year draftee contract and the 3 year RA volunteer). This ensures that first term soldiers and Marines can deploy multiple times before getting the chance to say "no more." This is important. A first term 11B in 1968 just had to survive 365 in Vietnam before getting a chance to exercise his informed decision to "stay" or "go." Today in the 101st or 10th Mountain, you survive your 365 days and all you have is another 365 days to look forward to before you can ETS. This really messes with the head. The light at the end of the tunnel is a looong way off.
Also worth noting is the change in 1984 that increased the total Military Service obligation (MSO) for all personnel from 6 to 8 years. This means that kids who did 2 combat tours in their initial 4 year hitch aare almost guaranteed to be recalled during their 4 year IRR time to go back again.
These are just a few, random data points that I wanted to share.

And, finally, from Hunter:
PTSD or shell shock or battle fatigue existed in much greater numbers than people realize in all those earlier wars you cited. But the guys who survived it and were functional didn't talk about it, and those who survived it but weren't functional probably aren't in the circles we all travel in. They're part of the dysfunctional populace in homeless shelters and VA hospitals.
Second easy one is that like politics all wars are local. In other words it doesn't matter how many guys died in WWII or Vietnam, the stressors that soldiers experience in combat are all local in nature and relevant. In Iraq and Afghanistan it doesn't matter that only (only?) 5000+ people have died...esp. if every day you or your buddy is getting blown up by IEDs. It's scary, it's day to day, and it doesn't go away. And then you go home, redeploy and do it all over again.
Things start to get dicey after that. Your father-in-law may have done 4 years in Europe but he didn't do 4 years straight in combat. They tended to rotate units off the line back then and they recognized that 90 days was about what they could do before they were psychological casualties. The warfighters today tend to have more stop and go than that but they also probably have more 'threat' time in total. (This is dicey because it gets really hard to draw comparisons).
As for the amenities our soldiers have (which I've advocated against here before), there is a cost benefit to that too. The first obvious, but somewhat incongruent, one is that instant communication back home isn't all good. Soldiers don't get to get away from their problems at home, they are waiting for them on the Skype when they get back from patrol. They get a whole set of different stressors - like the bills that can't be paid or the problems with Johnny Jr. As late as '96 in Bosnia it still took me 30 days to get mail and hear about my girlfriend's issues, now you get that immediately. They also tend to rely on going to the computer instead of talking to their mates about what happened that day - which may be one of the most important factors in preventing this problem. History (and Dave Grossman) tell us that campfire stories and the lack of night fighting in earlier wars were inherent to the idea that soldiers decompressed after each day's fight. They shared their concerns, and realized (most importantly) that they were ALL undergoing the SAME thing.
Because we are more insulated and isolated as a society, because our soldiers retreat to the phone banks or Skype, they may not be getting the decompression they need. It's great to talk to the wife, but the fact is you won't generally share what happened with them because a) they don't understand b) you don't want to scare/worry them. So Johnny is marching alone. Because you are alone there is stigma associated with asking for help too.
Another factor in this decompression was travel times. In WWII your FIL probably took a month on a boat to get back to the U.S. That's a long time to decompress and come to grips with your demons. And you did that trip in the company of your squad mates. Now it's 24 hrs to a warzone by plane and we don't do an adequate job of forcing decompression back stateside - the last place you want to be is on post, you want to be drinking and sexing (sorry it is what it is). Or you want to be with family, anywhere but with the guys you spent the last year with.
Finally I'll say that technology and medical science has done us some questionable favors along the way. Soldiers in body armor, or who receive rapid medical care are surviving wounds they probably shouldn't. That's obviously in God's hands but it's clear with more survivors of more grevious wounds that commensurate mental health problems will come along with it.
I could go on and on offering ideas on why PTSD seems more prevalent, but my summary is a) it probably is no more prevalent just more recognizable and diagnosed b) if it is more prevalent it is because a myriad of social factors, which I don't think include "toughness." These wars are different than those preceded. Not harder, not easier, just different.
In the end as I stated in a previous post, PTS is a normal thing, it is how we react individually and collectively that sets the conditions for PTSD. There's alot more attention to things now, and greater understanding but we don't have all the answers by any means.

01 February 2011

Flip-out Flash-back: Su-47, Su-35

China's new J-20 "Black Dragon" has kicked the fear-industrial complex into afterburner.  Yet, the hype surrounding the PRC's new 5th Generation stealth fighter should give pause to aviation enthusiasts who have been paying attention to high-profile Russian prototype fighters of the last two decades.

We'll call these amazing prototypes "wunderwaffen", just as the Third Reich did during its final days.  Although certainly impressive, wunderwaffen often fall short in the pragmatic conditions of modern conflict, and are often too expensive to produce in large numbers.  Thus, the term is perfectly applicable to the latest batch of Russian jet fighter prototypes.  Since the end of the Cold War, the same Russia which can barely keep its submarines afloat, fields a paltry five combat-ready battalions, and whose military has one-sixth the budget of the US Department of Defense, often touts the potential of such fantastic wunderwaffen, only to see them peter out in final production.

But that certainly doesn't stop the Internet fanboys for singing their praises.  Come, let's take a look at the Rogue's Gallery:

The Su-47 "Berkut"

Look, up in the sky!  It's a bird!  It's a plane!  It's a...backwards plane.
The Su-47, first flown in 1997, incorporates a revolutionary forward-swept wing (FSW) design.  Well, revolutionary for everyone except Nazi engineers from end of the War.

Junkers Ju-287

And, of course, for DARPA engineers about a decade and a half prior.

Grumman X-29
As it turns out, the United States experimented with forward-swept wing technology in the early 1980s with the Grumman X-29, having been inspired by Nazi Germany's Ju-287 plans.  Though the X-29 proved to be a remarkable aircraft, capable of angles of attack measuring 67 degrees, the development of thrust-vectoring and reliable medium-range air-to-air missiles largely turned the fighter community away from FSW aircraft.  (Though commercial gliders do, however, incorporate FSW designs)

But don't tell that to the Internet fanboys.  While Sukhoi has only built one Su-47, Internet fandom would have one believe that the fighter is in full production, and, despite no stealthy features, a match for the F-22.  Don't believe me?  Let's take at that most reliable of sources, Youtube comments:
Even though Su-47 beats F-22. F-22 IS PIECE OF CRAP!!!
I noticed USA planes resemble the russian ones. And btw, what usa plane does this resemble? You americans are so egoistic and brainwashed that you cant admit someone has more or equaly advanced tech as you do.
There you have it. However, the internet jackassery pales in comparison to Russia's newest top-of-the-line fighter, the Su-35.

The Su-35 "Flanker-E"

The Sukhoi Su-35 Flanker-E, a heavily-upgraded Su-27, first entered service with the Russian Air Force within the past decade.  The Su-35 is characterized as a 4.5-Generation stealth fighter, a half-generation behind the US Air Force's F-22.  More importantly, despite being the best fighter jet Mother Russia has to offer, it only numbers about 15 strong, compared with over ten times as many F-22s in the US Air Force, with many more stealthy F-35s on the way.  

It's worth noting that the cost and complexity of modern fighter aircraft might preclude China from fielding its new J-20 in large enough numbers to compete with the US Air Force.  Of course, don't let such logic detract from the Internet fanboys:

Yeah.. but sukoi has another plane that owns the F-22 in thrust vectoring.. its called the SU-37.. also can track a stealth aircraft from 60 kilometers away and non stealthed aircraft from 4000KM away.

Yes, that's right, XTREME! over-the-horizon radar capabilities.  

So let's keep the recent history of Russian wunderwaffen in mind when we discuss the J-20.  Cause for alarm?  Maybe.  I know that won't satisfy those who earn their living in the fear-industrial complex, but it's the best advice for dealing with China's new 5th-Generation fighter.