Category Archives: Military

All leadership boils down to trust.

Last week, President Trump retweeted a meme about General Pershing, which according to military historians is not true:

Study what General Pershing of the United States did to terrorists when caught. There was no more Radical Islamic Terror for 35 years!

Alex Horton, a reporter at the Washington Post, writes:

“Brian M. Linn, a history professor at Texas A&M University, did just that nearly two decades ago when he published “Guardians of Empire,” a book on the U.S. military presence in Asia from 1902 to 1940.

His verdict on Trump’s claim?

“There is absolutely no evidence this occurred,” he told The Washington Post.

“It’s a made-up story. It doesn’t seem to matter how many times people say this isn’t true. No one can say where or when this occurred.”

But Trump’s claims, and the wider belief in a routinely debunked story, have far-reaching effects. Not only is the story untrue, but the convenient twist — of an insurgency defeated only with the use of brutal war tactics — points to precisely the opposite lessons Pershing and his troops learned in the Philippines campaign from 1899 to 1913, Linn said.

“The U.S. military learned escalating counterterrorism was not effective, and they took great steps, including Pershing, to de-escalate,” Linn said.”

Trump said to study General Pershing. Here’s what the president got wrong.

President Trump loves to sound “tough”, so it’s no surprise he’d latch onto this “committing war crimes to defeat terrorists” myth.   This myth is the distillation of his conviction that the US military should murder ISIS family members to scare ISIS terrorists into submission, his “become terrorists to defeat terrorists strategy”.

Atrocities do happen in most wars, I believe, and often when one side employs a brutal tactic or a newer weapon, the other side often decides to do the same.   In World War I, weapons of mass destruction entered the battlefield, first with tear gas, but escalated, as all major belligerents worked to develop more lethal and effective gases, despite being signatories to the agreements that use of these weapons was a war crime:

“The use of poison gas performed by all major belligerents throughout World War I constituted war crimes as its use violated the 1899 Hague Declaration Concerning Asphyxiating Gases and the 1907 Hague Convention on Land Warfare, which prohibited the use of “poison or poisoned weapons” in warfare.”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chemical_weapons_in_World_War_I

General Pershing deserves to be remembered as one of America’s finest generals, not as a war criminal.  He revolutionized the American military during WWI, when he commanded the American Expeditionary Forces.   He went to war without an army, because the American peacetime army had been reduced to a few scattered regiments.  His innovations and relentless pursuit of solutions to complex logistical and tactical problems should be required reading for American military officers.  He defied bureaucracy at every turn, always striving to tackle every obstacle. He dedicated his life to not only leading soldiers, but taking care of his soldiers.  And above all else, General Pershing believed in a stringent code of conduct for all soldiers to follow.  He was not a ruthless killer; he was an American soldier dedicated to serving and protecting America.

General John J. “Blackjack” Pershing is an American hero worth remembering.

I intend to write more about General Pershing in future posts, because we could all learn a great deal about what selfless service means, by studying his leadership example.

President Trump is not the only American to fall for internet myths, fake news, garbled history, fabrications, hoaxes and scams.  Almost everyone who consumes news and information online has fallen for information, that was not true.  For instance, I read news at the Conservative Treehouse, seeing it mentioned in a list of conservative blogs.  The site uses Breitbart wallpaper, imagery of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and Biblical quotes to lure people into believing it’s just a conservative site. I now believe it’s a Russian front operation.  I read some information there a few years ago and was fascinated trying to understand their crowdsourcing method for acquiring information.   Their two big topics were exposing the lies about black violence and Islamist terrorism.  I was banned from their site for trying to post a comment about the Islamic Golden Age, and countering some woman, who claimed I was aiding the enemy and touting Islamists. The historical fact is there really was an Islamic Golden Age and Islamic culture was far more advanced in the sciences than Europe, during that time.  My comment was blocked and I was banned, but they allowed and encouraged racist comments.  That site became Trump Polling Central during the 2016 campaign.

I mentioned my concerns about Drudge in previous posts.   Like millions of other political junkies, I started following Drudge during the Clinton impeachment scandal.  In recent years, Drudge started mainstreaming loon, Alex Jones, by featuring Jones’ stories.  Drudge also sensationalized conspiracy stories, like linking Ted Cruz’ father to JFK’s assassination, to destroy Ted Cruz.   Numerous times he headlined unflattering photos of Trump’s opponents.  On one occasion he headlined photos of Hillary, casting her as decrepit or another occasion, he ran photos of her casting her as a drunk.  The oddest thing I noticed on Drudge during the 2016 election was he removed his link to RedState, which went NeverTrump, from his list of links, and replaced it with Zero Hedge.  I’ve seen numerous articles alleging Zero Hedge is a Russian front operation, that recycles Russia Today propaganda.

The scope of Russian front operations online, their troll armies in comment sections to attack and silence anyone not on the Trump train, melded with Trump’s American sleaze operators, like Roger Stone, Peck at the National Enquirer, Richard Mercer’s Trump data operation, and Trump’s largest agitation propaganda front, Rupert Murdoch’s FOX News.

I know I have fallen for things online that turned out to be untrue, believed sites were reliable news and weren’t, but I am not making critical national security decisions, like President Trump.  I’m a homemaker, who writes a blog.

To improve the quality of the information that the president sees, General Kelly is working to institute policies that assure the president sees only vetted information:

“Confronted with a West Wing that treated policymaking as a free-for-all, President Donald Trump’s chief of staff John Kelly is instituting a system used by previous administrations to limit internal competition —and to make himself the last word on the material that crosses the president’s desk.

It’s a quiet effort to make Trump conform to White House decision-making norms he’s flouted without making him feel shackled or out of the loop. In a conference call last week, Kelly initiated a new policymaking process in which just he and one other aide — White House staff secretary Rob Porter, a little-known but highly regarded Rhodes Scholar who overlapped with Jared Kushner as an undergraduate at Harvard — will review all documents that cross the Resolute Desk.”
Kelly moves to control the information Trump sees

President Trump has shown a preference for relying on word-of-mouth information from his friends and sycophants. General Kelly is trying to provide President Trump with fully vetted information, to aid in the president’s decision-making.  Whether he succeeds at weaning Trump off his penchant for trusting in unvetted internet stories remains to be seen. President Trump believes the American intelligence community, who vets that intelligence information, can’t be trusted, .  It’s worth remembering that several months ago President Trump cited Russian reports as factual to back up his assertions about Russian collusion.  He relied on Russian reports, but believes the American intelligence community is the nefarious “Deep State” out to get him.

Valerie Plame, the former CIA agent, whose identity was leaked several years ago, has initiated a crowdsourcing effort to raise money to buy Twitter and kick President Trump off of Twitter.  This is a ridiculous and pointless effort.  He has the bully pulpit  of the presidency and has endless ways to get his message across.  Beyond that, although I believe it would be better for the country if President Trump got off of Twitter, he is free to make that decision himself.  He obviously believes that his tweet war against the media is helping him “win”.  He deliberately tweets to incite the media and his political enemies, who without fail, rush into a spinning frenzy of moral outrage and retweeting rushed stories, many which fall apart quickly.  This aids him in convincing his followers that he is a victim of a vast conspiracy.

Every time he gets the media and his political enemies to overreact, he feels that is a win. Contrary to President Trump’s assertion that he likes to get the facts, he goes on instinct rather than a careful study of facts and he is very sloppy at presenting detailed information.  None of that matters, because Roger Stone and the other sleazy political strategists behind President Trump came up with his strategy to win in 2016 and they are behind this MAGA 2.0 strategy.  Trump doesn’t understand the details, but he is masterful at the stagecraft and acting the part of a populist flamethrower.

There will be plenty more scorched earth attacks on Trump’s enemies – the media, Republicans, Democrats, or anyone who gets in the way of the Trump train agitation propaganda blitzkrieg.  Roger Stone is back to issuing veiled threats of violence and blood in the streets, to intimidate Republicans into submission again:

“But if the president is impeached, Stone says, there could be disastrous repercussions.

“You will have a spasm of violence in this country, an insurrection like you’ve never seen!” Stone warned. “Both sides are heavily armed.”

“This is not 1974,” Stone explained. “The people will not stand for impeachment.” This, of course, refers to Richard Nixon‘s resignation after the Watergate scandal. Stone worked in the Nixon administration in the Office of Economic Opportunity.

Stone didn’t just predict violence among the public. He said that those in Washington who would support impeachment would be placing themselves at risk.

“A politician who votes for it would be endangering their own life,” he said.

“I’m not advocating violence,” he clarified, “but I’m predicting it.””

https://lawnewz.com/video/roger-stone-anyone-who-votes-for-impeachment-would-be-endangering-their-own-life/

These Trump train thugs, like Stone, want more violence, they especially want the crazies on the left  and right to get more violent.  Most of all they want to intimidate, by using fear.  President Trump will be out there stirring up his base, along with his FOX News army of propagandists, telling Americans that Trump will not put up with violence and he will be tough on crime.

The best defense against Trump train intimidation and fear mongering is to not be afraid.  Don’t back down from threats of violence.  Unite in encouraging civil debate, calm, respect for all Americans and most of all respect for the rule of law.

We should all work tirelessly to pull all Americans away from the partisan extremes.

In the end America’s future does not rest on General Kelly’s ability to rein in Trump, or the media reporting, or getting Trump off of Twitter; it will rest on who the American people choose to trust and follow.

All leadership boils down to trust.

10 Comments

Filed under American Character, American History, Culture Wars, General Interest, Military, Politics, The Media

No Good Options

An army of asses led by a lion is vastly superior to an army of lions led by an ass

– Fake quote attributed to George Washington

Somehow in this era where President Trump and the media each point fingers at each other, screaming, “Fake News!”, this misattributed quote, according to http://www.mountvernon.org,  speaks the truth.

The Mount Vernon website states:

The rough quote “an army of sheep led by a lion is vastly superior to an army of lions led by a wolf” is apocryphally attributed to Alexander the Great.  The Washington quote seems to have developed at some point among the faculty or Corps of Cadets at the United States Military Academy at some point.

http://www.mountvernon.org/digital-encyclopedia/article/spurious-quotations/

President Trump is an extremely toxic leader.  He will never be a great president and he will never be an effective leader.  That is what I believe.

He will continue to foment endless chaos.

However, he was duly elected and, unless and until, there is evidence of high crimes and misdemeanors, to convince Congress to impeach him, he remains our president.  This should go without saying, but in the wake of more Trump-being-Trump threats against North Korea and now Venezuela too, some on the Left are back to their pre-inauguration hysteria, wanting the generals to stop Trump.

Once again, Trump killed his own good PR.  Last weekend was a big diplomatic win at the UN for President Trump and he has completely buried it with his incendiary threats.

There are serious foreign policy people out there still selling President Trump and urging Americans to get behind the president on North Korea, but President Trump’s North Korea policy is like all his other policies.  Whatever sound policies his administration comes up with are subject to be thrown out the window or completely undermined by President Trump and his reckless tweeting or boasting.  He makes any policy effort harder for his administration to pursue.

He is the problem, not his enemies, not fake news, not those who speak out against him.

John Bolton and others keep harping on the bad options President Trump is left with, because of the failures of the Bushes, Clinton and Obama.  Bolton keeps repeating that they all kicked the can down the road rather than dealing with North Korea.  Okay, but when you want to be a leader, LEAD!   Quit blaming other people and dig in.

President Trump is lazy about doing the job of president.  He loves the attention, but he does not concern himself with the substance or the dirty-work of studying policy.   Frankly, President Trump’s complete laziness and refusal to study policy or stay on message destroyed any hope of a unified approach to pressure North Korea.  He made it harder to deal with North Korea and he, once again, alienated people from supporting him, because of HIM.  He sounds crazier than Kim Jong Un – that is the truth.

This PR disaster  is just another repeat of Trump’s war crimes as serious policy , where his ISIS plan was to order the U.S. military to murder ISIS family members, to scare ISIS terrorists into submission.  He doubled down on that in a primary debate.  Just like with his building the wall, or deporting 11 million illegal immigrants, his ISIS plan existed only in sound bites.  There never was a comprehensive policy.

There have been a string of these Trump self-immolation PR disasters, where he sets his own policy on fire by his careless comments.  We can expect, that for as long as his presidency lasts, there will be endless chaos.

Big Trump supporters keep ranting about the dastardly Left and their efforts to undermine President Trump.  Some of their efforts are dastardly too.  However, here’s the truth – President Trump really is a loose cannon, who likes to shoot off his mouth and he is a one-man show, who makes any undertaking harder.  He undercuts his own staff and would be a terrible leader in any military endeavor (see his transgender policy change for an example – military leaders were not apprised before his statement and there was no policy in writing  from the White House- just Trump shooting off his mouth).

President Trump does not pay attention to or study policy details.  Military success requires paying close attention to details.

By his own actions this week, President Trump made, even our allies, uneasy and the truth is there are no one-off military actions in dealing with North Korea.  Even, the option of taking out their missile sites could provoke military responses and those would likely directly impact the security of the other players in the region.  They have a larger stake in the outcome, with North Korea being in their neighborhood.   We need ramped up diplomatic efforts, so there are no misunderstandings or confusion about our position and any actions we undertake.

Clarity of purpose is crucial.

In regards to North Korea, there were never any good options.  Taking out the regime or even taking out their missile sites are both acts of war.  There are other big powers right next-door to North Korea and they have complicated, competing motives and interests.  The North Korean path of isolation, leading to their current state, has been centuries in the making.

Watching President Trump snatch defeat from the jaws of diplomatic victory at the UN last weekend convinced me that no matter what action he takes in regards to North Korea, he will be the biggest threat to its success.

He is unfit to be commander-in-chief, but he is what we have.

Talk about no good options…

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Foreign Policy, General Interest, Military, Politics, Uncategorized

Tough talk is not strategy

President Trump used more of his “tough talk” on Tuesday and this time instead of the target being TV pundits or fellow Republicans, North Korea was his target.  Rather than argue the merits of Trump’s rhetoric, here’s what I’ve been thinking about in regards to U.S. strategy to deal with North Korea.

One of the most extreme options gleefully tossed about by saber-rattlers, many of whom are blathering bimbos and know nothing about military strategy, history or much else, besides cheering on “Trump being Trump”, is advocating a preemptive strike on North Korea’s missile sites.

Let’s be clear, despite semantical tap dancing, a preemptive strike is an act of war.

Unemotionally evaluating options is how I approach strategic-thinking, so in coming up with options, we need to understand the terms and what they mean in terms of military force.  While some pundit experts advocate using the preemptive strike option to curtail North Korea’s nuclear capability and couch it in terms of being almost a risk-free effort that will prevent war in general, nuclear holocaust in specific, and be a version of “deterrence”, let me repeat:

A preemptive strike is an act of war.

It’s an option, but so often with U.S. military strategy dealing with cultures that are very different than American and western culture, our strategists end up completely taken by surprise when their well-intentioned, competently executed strategies end up mired in many unforeseen and complicated consequences. For a primer in this outcome just sit back and take apart the evolving U.S. “war on terror”, or however you want to describe our military actions since 9/11.

Our leaders still regale us with the #1, #2, even #3 top Islamist leaders killed, but as John McCreary and other strategic experts have pointed out – decapitation strategy does not defeat Islamist terrorist groups.  They quickly find a new leader, often rebrand under a new name and the trend is the new version is more violent and difficult to deal with than the previous.  You would think that all military strategists worth their salt would have put this in their “lessons learned” file, but nope, many still tout this as a selling point for their “kill them all” strategic offerings.

Just as with Islamist terrorists groups, with North Korea, the United States doesn’t have good strategic options.  The countries that can impact North Korean behavior, China and Russia, are adversarial to the United States and would prefer that our strategies fall flat.  Beyond the big picture geopolitics, there are plenty of other factors that impact how China and Russia view the North Korean situation.  Even something like China looking at a potential North Korean refugee crisis on their doorstep, if the North Korean regime collapses, influences how China deals with North Korea.

After listening to punditry experts from the Trump tough talkers to the Clinton apologists, to the Obama leading-from-behind crowd, since Tuesday, I was thinking of Waco of all things.  How the Clinton administration handled Waco still bothers me and not because I have any sympathy for David Koresh or dislike of the ATF, but because there were children caught in the middle of an armed confrontation.

The airwaves were filled with experts selling everything, from blow up the compound to using tanks, to playing loud music as psychological warfare, and nothing got Koresh to surrender.

I don’t remember the academic’s name, but I saw him on a TV news show talking about apocalyptic cults and movements in history and he described the psychology of apocalyptic leaders.  I told my mother in a phone conversation that all they’re doing is feeding his apocalyptic delusions and he will die rather than surrender.

So, after almost two decades of dealing with a larger apocalyptic movement, with leaders who revere those who die for the cause, why are many of our strategic thinkers perplexed by the regeneration of these groups, no matter how many times we kill their top leaders?

For Christians and Jews, this concept that persecution feeds the faith should be easy to recognize.  The early Christian church fortified its faithful with heroic tales of those individuals, who stood strong against overwhelming force.  With apocalyptic movements, dying for the cause feeds the cause and in the case of  Islamists, they have the Islamic religious teachings that ground their actions.  They have a much larger pool of potential followers than a lone kook like David Koresh.

I’m not a psychologist and I sure am not an expert on North Korea, but after listening to so much tough talk in the past couple days, I think that we need a careful study of the possible outcomes from any U.S. policy courses we could follow, from appeasement up to taking out the regime.  We need to study the various U.S. and other countries actions in regards to North Korea, in recent decades, and carefully study what the North Korean reactions were.  We need to consult experts on paranoid delusion, because North Korea is not only a totalitarian, Stalinist regime, it has so oppressed its people, that there are millions of North Koreans steeped in a life controlled by ruthless propaganda, fear and intimidation.  They are thoroughly indoctrinated.  These people aren’t going to rise up and embrace liberators.  Just like when the U.S defeated the Taliban or when Saddam was removed, the initial euphoria quickly evaporated and what we faced were people who distrusted us and who were used to being controlled.  Many found more affinity with Islamist resistance groups than with U.S. troops occupying their countries.

And the other thing I was thinking is that we need to talk with the people who will be most impacted by any actions we take in regards to North Korea – South Korea, Japan, China, and Russia.  This is not a time for reckless rhetoric; it’s a time for careful, serious strategic planning.  It’s also a time for robust diplomacy.

A miscalculation on how we think North Korea will react could be way more catastrophic than the Clinton administration miscalculation on how David Koresh would react.  We have tens of thousands of U.S. troops in the line of fire and Seoul is less than 200 miles from North Korea.  Things could escalate quickly and President Trump doesn’t concern himself with “details”.  Any missteps or hiccups in decision-making could cost a lot of lives, very quickly.

The thing that President Clinton did that infuriated me the most was before he made decisions, he put his finger to the wind, to test how it would reflect on his popularity in the polls.  This morning on Twitter I saw Todd Starnes had a poll:  “Should the United States launch a first strike against North Korea?”  It infuriated me, because the question of a first strike isn’t about looking “tough” – it’s WAR.  Assuredly, it is NOT a decision to be made based on opinion polls!

I was 19 years old, assigned to a Pershing missile unit in Germany in 1980.  I knew nothing about the Army, U.S nuclear strategy or war.  A very good 1st sergeant taught me the single most important lesson on all three.

He told me, “Kid, war is serious business!”

I realized that I knew nothing about war, so I started signing books out at the post library and reading.  I’ve spent a lot of time reading about military strategy since then. I realized long ago, there’s always more to learn and new perspectives to think about.

Perhaps, at the very least our president could take time out from golfing and watching “the shows” on TV to do some serious studying U.S. strategy, because he is the commander-in-chief.   President Trump is responsible for making these decisions, not the generals surrounding him.

The decisions he makes could cost thousands of American lives and the lives of hundreds of thousands children.

Time to quit with the petty posturing, buckle down, study policy, read some history and LEAD, Mr. President.

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Foreign Policy, General Interest, Military, Politics

Governing from one Tweet to the next

The President Trump Reality Show debuted a new character this week.  Anthony Scaramucci, a loud, flashy, fast-talking, vulgar financier, who seems almost a mini-me caricature of President Trump, stole the show, replacing the hapless, whiney Sean Spicer as White House communications director. Scaramucci’s expletive-filled conversation with a reporter, Ryan Lizza, at The New Yorker has a rather long title:  Anthony Scaramucci Called Me to Unload About White House Leakers, Reince Priebus, and Steve Bannon.  

Scaramucci appears to be even more of a loose cannon than President Trump, if that is possible.

I doubt Scaramucci will remain in the White House very long, not because he’s even more clueless about our constitutional system of government than his boss, but because Scaramucci’s flamboyant personality so completely dominated the White House stage this week, that he cast President Trump into the background.  Donald J. Trump will never tolerate, for very long, being upstaged by an underling.

In other news, chaos reigned supreme with President Trump announcing a major policy change in the U.S. Armed Forces, to ban transgender people to serve in the U.S. military.  President Trump announced this policy change in a tweet, without any formal policy change in writing or any consultation with the Secretary of Defense or JCS about the roll-out of this policy change.  The generals were caught off-guard.

Whether you agree or disagree with the ban on transgendered people serving in the military, the larger issue is President Trump’s use of Twitter, as his unfiltered means to talk directly to the American people, created unnecessary chaos in the U.S. military.  Trump’s tweet left the Pentagon leadership totally defenseless, not only defending this policy change, but even in explaining it to the troops.   Trump’s rash tweet, with no consultation with his staff and no policy in writing yet, assures that this, just like all his other policy initiatives, will end up mired in controversy.  No one at the Pentagon could explain the new policy, because President Trump didn’t bother to have a policy in writing before announcing it.  He governs by whims issued via his personal Twitter account.   He makes no distinction using his personal Twitter account for official government business.

“Loose cannon” doesn’t even begin to describe the gravity of having a reckless, commander-in-chief, who uses his personal Twitter to announce military policy changes, without even talking to the military leadership.

There is no staff shake-up that will establish order in this White House.

Just more lurching toward banana republic status on the world stage as Trump governs from one tweet to the next.

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under General Interest, Military, Twitter Tales

Soldiers and books

Today, being D-Day, I keep coming across interesting Army history links.  Among the many things I loved about living in an Army community, Army post libraries rank high on my list.  Books have always been near and dear to my heart.  Growing up in a rural PA village, with no public library, my first experience with an actual library was my elementary school library.

The interesting thing about growing up in a rural area, without a public library, is despite the lack of an actual library, books circulated informally among family and friends.  Along with these informal book exchanges, my childhood pastor and his wife, who lived across the road from my family, had acquired a nice-sized home library, which they freely shared with me.

One of the things I quickly noticed around the Army was books circulated in the same informal way as they did in my rural PA village, which was a part of the sense of  “community”, that made me feel at home around the Army.  An added bonus was Army posts, even small ones had post libraries.

Here’s a bit of Army library history:

“During World War I and World War II, camp libraries popped up everywhere at military bases in the United States and all over Europe, stretching as far east as Siberia. These camp libraries were originally established by the American Library Association (ALA), and at the end of World War I, ALA transferred control of them to the war department, which maintains them to this day. ALA worked with the YMCA, the Knights of Columbus, and the American Red Cross to provide library services to other organizations, such as hospitals and rehabilitation centers.

These libraries were nothing glamorous—usually a shed, shack, or a hut built of wood and other available materials. They were run by librarians who volunteered to travel overseas to care for the libraries. Responsibilities included circulating the collections, maintaining them, weeding out books, and acquiring new ones. More than 1,000 librarians volunteered during World War I, and that number only increased with World War II.”

How libraries served soldiers and civilians during WWI and WWII

Leave a comment

Filed under American History, General Interest, Military

D-Day Remembered

1 Comment

Filed under American Character, American History, General Interest, Military

Afghanistan questions

War On The Rocks has an interesting article by Stephen Tankel, laying out the strategic questions that need to be answered in regards to U.S. policy in Afghanistan:

BACK TO FIRST PRINCIPLES: FOUR FUNDAMENTAL QUESTIONS ABOUT AFGHANISTAN

Leave a comment

Filed under Foreign Policy, General Interest, Military