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Strategy Illuminated

Tuesday, August 1st, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — a meander in praise of, variously, Piers at Penn, Alice in Wonderland, Caitlin Fitz Gerald, and Benjamin Wittes ]
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Strategic theology:

Compare Nigel Howard, in Confrontation Analysis: how to win operations other than war, writing:

the problem of defense in the modern world is the paradoxical one of finding ways for the strong to defeat the weak.

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Okay — Alice, in Wonderland, asks:

And what is the use of a book without pictures or conversation?

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By dint of sickness, I haven’t been able to purue my efforts to see Caitlin Fitx Gerald‘s fabulous Clausewitz for Kids make its brilliantly-deserving way into print:

That image is from Caitlin’s work, as praised by Benjamin Wittes of Lawfare blog — whom I know not because he’s become a go-to source on many things Trump / Comey

Suddenly, he was D.C. famous; the very next day, Collins and Wittes bumped into each other in the Morning Joe greenroom. “It used to be that what was going to be written on my tombstone was ‘Benjamin Wittes, former Washington Post editorial writer,’ or ‘Benjamin Wittes, who wasn’t even a lawyer,’?” he says. “Now it’s just, like, ‘Benjamin Wittes, who’s a friend of Jim Comey’s.’?”

— but way before that, because he knew Caitlin and her work:

The other day, Wells drew my attention to what could be the single most excellently eccentric national security-oriented project currently ongoing on the web: It is called Clausewitz for Kids. I am apparently not the first to discover it. Spencer Ackerman had this story about it last year. But I had missed it until the other day, and I suspect most Lawfare readers are unto this very day unaware that a woman named Caitlin Fitz Gerald is currently writing a comic book edition of Clausewitz’s On War–entitled The Children’s Illustrated Clausewitz–featuring lectures in a Prussian forest by a hare in a military uniform. To make matters all the more fun, she is blogging the process to boot.

Hey, “single most excellently eccentric national security-oriented project” is pretty damn high praise, eh?

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Benjamin Wittes and his tick, tick, as seen and summarized by Rachel Maddows:

Ben Wittes now runs a well-regarded blog that`s called Lawfare, which I think is kind of a pun on warfare, Lawfare, warfare. Anyway. Lawfareblog.com.

So, Ben Wittes. On May 16th .. Ben Wittes, he did this online, on Twitter, which is a weird thing, right? Nobody knew what was wrong with him. Nobody knew exactly what this was about.

You can see the time stamp there right beneath the tick, tick, tick, tick. He sent it at 3:18 p.m. on May 16th. Hey, Ben Wittes, what`s that about?

Well, then later, boom – literally the word boom. Two hours and eight minutes after that initial tweet, we now know in retrospect what that tick, tick, ticking was about. Ben Wittes tweeted “boom” and a link to that huge story that had just been posted at “The New York Times”.

Quote: Comey memo says Trump asked him to end Flynn investigation.

That was a huge story when it broke and apparently somehow Ben Wittes knew it was coming out because he tweeted, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, two hours before it came, and then boom once it landed. That was May 16th.

And then two days after that, Ben Wittes started ticking again.

[ read the rest.. ]

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Go Caitlin, go Wittes!

Go Clint Watts too, if you know what I mean!

Trump bites the hand that investigates him

Wednesday, May 10th, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — as i tweeted, if you fire the guy who’s investigating you, that’s ouroboric – it creates & instantly breaks the circle, too ]
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Okay, the Comey firing.

Shortly after President Trump‘s firing of FBI Director Comey today, Jim Hanson of Frank Gaffney‘s Center for Security Policy commented on Fox:

You know, this may be the first bipartisan thing Trump has done that both sides can get behind.

It was an extraordinary comment. That’s not how the Wall Street Journal saw things. Their headline and sub-head read:

Comey Dismissal Upends Probes of Trump Campaign Ties to Russia
Move adds impetus to calls for a special counsel to handle the case

Quite the opposite: I’ll show you nonpartisan:

Nonpartisan, right now, means disturbed by the firing, by its timing, by its implication for ongoing investigation into Team Trump’s ties with Russia..

And as John Schindler notes:

The optics of firing the FBI director investigating your Russia ties then meeting the Russian FM on THE VERY NEXT DAY defy easy description.

Or Blogs of War:

When you fire the guy who is investigating you on Tuesday and meet with your case officer on Wednesday..

Ahem: case officer..

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From my analytic point of view, alert for pattern and archetype, what leaps out here is another damned ouroboros — this whole place is getting to be quite a snake-pit.

Trump has in fact bitten off the hand that was investigating him. Or to put that into Politico’s prose:

The extraordinary dismissal of the FBI director by a president whose own campaign is the focus of an ongoing FBI investigation is sure to produce a torrent of criticism that Trump is interfering with the independence of law enforcement.

There’s even a sub-ouroboros, given that Trump cited a letter from AG Sessions as contributing to his decision — as Sen. Schumer noted in his press conference:

Attorney General Sessions, who had recused himself from the Russian investigation, played a role in firing the man leading it.

Maybe we could call that “recusal of the recusal”?

A quick ouroboros caught on the fly

Sunday, March 5th, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — Benjamin Wittes twice, also a pointer to Clint Watts ]
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Benjamin Wittes and Quinta Jurecic at the Lawfare blog have an above-my-unpaid-grade examination of the Presidential oath of office — and what happens when, in the case of a given President, it falls into widespread disrepute: What Happens When We Don’t Believe the President’s Oath? Just the fact that this question is being raised is remarkable. For my purposes, though, it’s the mention of leaks about leaking — a serpent bites tail concept, and hence a signal of potential significance — that I want to capture in passing:

All this culminated rather comically in a recent State Department memo by acting legal advisor Richard Visek condemning leaks and advocating that department employees instead make use of State’s internal dissent channel—a memo which itself promptly leaked to the press. Similarly, when press secretary Sean Spicer demanded to examine the phones of White House staffers to check for leaking and ordered staffers not to speak to the press about the meeting, Politico quickly got hold of the story.

I’d been meaning to find a suitable leak about leaking serpent for a while now, and Wittes’ article affords me this opportunity.

Once again, the self-reflexive form is, as Doug Hofstadter showed us in Gödel, Escher, Bach, a signal of likely special interest. In this regard it resembles such other forms as chiasmus (mirroring, eg “By the word of the LORD were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth”).

O happy day, here’s a chiasmus from Aeschylus, entirely apt to Wittes’ post:

It is not the oath that makes us believe the man, but the man the oath.

Wittes has a follow-up post, Ten Questions for President Trump, today. Also of note, Clint Watts‘ tweet-streak today beginning here:

Guest Post: Why the United States cannot put Boots on the Ground to Fight ISIS

Saturday, June 18th, 2016

[Mark Safranski / “zen“]

Today, I’m pleased to offer a guest post by LtCol. Bob Weimann, USMC (ret.) .  Weimann is the former Commanding Officer, Kilo Co., 3/1 and Weapons Company 3/1. He also served as a Marine Security Force Company commanding officer, an infantry battalion Operations Officer and the Executive Officer of 1/6 during Desert Storm. A frequent presenter at the Boyd & Beyond Conferences, Bob is on the Board of Directors of UAP (United American Patriots) and a contributing editor to www.defendourmarines.com . UAP is a non-profit charity that aids military service members to help defray expenses for an adequate and fair legal defense. See What UAP Believes here: http://www.unitedpatriots.org/ .

Why the United States Cannot Put Boots on the Ground to Fight ISIS

By Bob Weimann

The expression “boots on the ground” has an extended military-jargon history…The term is used to convey the belief that military success can only be achieved through the direct physical presence of troops in a conflict area … The term is particularly applied currently (2010) to counter-insurgency operations.[1]

The expression “boots on the ground” basically means we need to send in ground troops, grunts, warriors, dog-faces, jarheads, combatants…those shifty eyed fowl mouth two fisted go for broke Soldiers and Marines that close with and destroy the enemy by fire and maneuver in order to kill the enemy. These are the folks that must place the front site of their rifle on an enemy and pull the trigger. These are warriors brave enough to step through the doorway of an enemy occupied house, detect and disarmed an IED, engage a treacherous enemy that does not take prisoners and an enemy that does not hesitate to torturer and murder innocents. Our warriors are the sons, daughters, sisters, brothers, fathers, mothers, neighbors, and acquaintances from every community, town, city and state across this country and one of the greatest representative cross sections of patriotic American citizens in existence.

Our warriors are a different generation but they possess the same spirt America’s warriors have establish and exhibited since the Revolutionary War. For over 240 years these folks have never let us down and have volunteer for the nasty, dirty, immoral, brutalizing effects of combat. You can say we lost in Viet Nam, Somali, Iraq and Afghanistan but the scary truth is we lost those wars strategically after we won them tactically. The unfortunate reality is that the strategic always trumps the tactical. Tactical is all about the troops; strategy is all about the generals.

The other scary fact is that since 2003, we have seen an unprecedented number of courts martial that the media labels “war crimes” … more “war crime” legal cases since 2003 than in all the battle history of all the United States war’s combined. How can this be possible when we have fielded to today’s battles the best trained, best equipped, smartest warriors in this country’s history?

The issue is not the troops, the issue here is the senior military leadership, the general officers that have forgotten they are warriors and exhibit the traits and leadership characteristics of politicians. Today’s general officers understand careerism but do not understand the Laws of War that should be their stock and trade.  They hid behind lawyers and Rule of Law equivocations that cannot co-exist on a battlefield.

For this reason, we cannot put combat boots on the ground because the troops are being used as political cannon fodder. Over and over again we see American combatants thrown under the bus for the sake of justifying a policy objective of executing a bad military strategy.  Names like Lt Ilario Pantano, Sgt Larry Hutchins, SSgt Frank Wuterich, Sgt Michael Williams, Sgt Jose Nazario, 1Sgt John Hatley, Sgt Derrick Miller, Capt Roger Hill, Lt Michael Behenna, Major Fred Galvin, Major Matt Goldsteyn, PFC Corey Clayett, GySgt Timothy Hogan, SPC Franklin Dunn, SSgt Osee Fagan, SPC Michael Wagnon, and Lt Clint Lorance are the more notable cases. You can be certain that the list will continue to grow not only with the recent Afghanistan Kunduz Hospital Airstrike[2] but also any combat actions against the terrorist in Iraq and Syria.

Military campaigns are always based on a “kill or capture” strategy, however, our leadership does not believe in a kill strategy nor do they believe in a capture strategy. Our military leadership believes that our Soldiers and Marines are in combat to die for the “greater good”.[3] Instead of capture, we have a “catch and release” program that continually frees known enemy combatants and terrorist to again kill, not only our service members, but also civilians. “Catch and release” is nothing more than a treachery award program for the enemy. Our generals believe that our combatants have no right to self-defense on the battlefield.[4] The idea that our warriors are there to make the enemy die for their cause is a lost priority in our general officer’s politically correct minds.

We cannot put boots on the ground because our generals do not trust our Soldiers and Marines to show the initiative necessary for successful combat operations. The generals have forgotten how to fight and win. They have forgotten how to support our warriors by setting the correct strategic policies to allow them to fight. We no longer have combat commanders. The Washington DC political cronies continue to dedicate failed policies that undermine and kill our warriors in order to acquire political curry and favoritism.

War is not a moral exercise. There is no morality that can justify the slaughter of war. War is the ultimate competition that is won by killing the bad guys and bringing our warriors home alive. Collateral damage is an unescapable reality. Yes, collateral damage considerations are important but collateral damage must be weighed against military necessity. The Laws of War principle of military necessity allows for a rigorous war; a rigorous war is a short war; and a short war minimizes civilian casualties. Mixed into military necessity is the idea that field commanders have a responsibility to bring home alive as many of our warriors as possible. Sending them to Leavenworth is not part of the “bringing them home” equation.

 

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boots_on_the_Ground

[2]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kunduz_hospital_airstrike

[3] http://www.wnd.com/2012/03/sacrifice-marines-for-the-greater-good/

[4] http://newsok.com/article/3690397

Orlando & Charleston: Lawfare raising questions

Friday, June 17th, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — “Orlando Thoughts Towards a Better Taxonomy of Mass Violence” and “White Hate but Islamic Terror?” ]
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Recommended readings:

Two pieces from the Lawfare blog offer us plenty to chew on regarding our categorization of violent acts, triggered by Orlando and Charleston, Thomas Mair and Dylann Roof.

Benjamin Wittes
, Orlando Thoughts Towards a Better Taxonomy of Mass Violence:

I have been struck, however, by the range of people who have seen confirmation of their particular worldviews in this horrific event, some plausibly in my view, some not:

  • To the LGBT community, understandably enough, it’s about violence against gays.
  • For many Latinos, a salient fact is that the victims were overwhelmingly Latino, many of them Puerto Rican.
  • To those who believe our society is too heavily armed, this latest mass shooting proves they were right about gun availability.
  • For those who believe our society is insufficiently armed, this latest mass shooting proves they were right about more good guys needing guns.
  • For those who are anxious about foreign terrorism, the shooter’s claimed allegiance to ISIS places this on the long list of attacks and attempted attacks by ISIS and Al Qaeda and those they inspire.
  • To the Trumpists and others who don’t like Muslims, it’s all about Islam more generally.
  • To those who have a problem with immigration, well, the shooter is the child of immigrants from Afghanistan.
  • Apparently it’s also about the surveillance debate.
  • I even saw one tweet—the logic of which I admit I could not follow—blaming the incident on white supremacy.
  • I’m pretty sure that the shooter’s aim was not to validate anyone’s preexisting political stance.

    and:

    To be sure, sometimes legal path dependencies do arise out of our categories. Most importantly, the criminal laws on material support for terrorist groups don’t apply to domestic terrorist organizations, only designated foreign terrorist organizations. And the law presumptively treats as terrorism those crimes committed with bombs, but does not do the same with crimes committed by domestic individuals or groups with guns. (For an excellent explication of these points, see this piece by Jane Chong.)

    But the more important impact of our taxonomical confusion, in my view, is intellectual, not legal: We just don’t know what to call an incident of (a) mass murder (b) by means of a gun (c) in which motive is unclear or mixed but involves clear elements of (d) bigotry, (e) mental illness, and (f) expressions of affiliation with a foreign terrorist group. And because we don’t know how to describe it, we also don’t know what aspects of it to prioritize in responding and preventing future such events.

    One interesting question is why we care? It’s a crime; it’s a tragedy; it’s big. Why do we fight over what to call it?

    There’s more, naturally, and I recommend the whole piece.

    **

    Wittes also links specifically to another, earlier Lawfare post..

    Jane Chong, White Hate but Islamic Terror? Charleston, Hate Crimes and Terrorism Per Quod:

    Netizens have taken particular interest in contrasting the immediate reaction to Charleston with the immediate reaction to the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings. Presumably these two attacks have emerged as fertile subjects for comparison partly because of the early dearth of evidence that either alleged perpetrator had official ties to or an operational role in a designated terrorist organization.

    South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham is among those who have been singled out for his disparate treatment of Charleston and Boston. Commenting on what the Charleston shooting might signify for his home state, Senator Graham described Roof as “one of these wacked out kids” and stated, “I don’t think it’s anything broader than that.”

    This presents a sharp contrast with the views Graham espoused back in 2013 on the appropriate treatment of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev: “This man, in my view, should be designated as a potential enemy combatant and we should be allowed to question him for intelligence gathering purposes to find out about future attacks and terrorist organizations that may exist that he has knowledge of, and that evidence cannot be used against him in trial. That evidence is used to protect us as a nation.”

    Judd Legum of Think Progress cited the Senator’s statements as a glaring example of our collective insistence on seeing violence motivated by Islamic extremism as a systemic threat while minimizing right-wing supremacist violence as the work of individual madmen. As Charles Kurzman and David Schanzer noted in a New York Times op-ed the day before the Charleston attack, such bias is particularly indefensible given the data: Attacks carried out by Muslim Americans account for 50 fatalities in the thirteen and a half years since 9/11, while plots by right-wing extremists have resulted in 254 fatalities between 9/11 and 2012.

    The conflation of terrorism with Islamic extremism is an undeniable error. But distinguishing Boston and Charleston need not unequivocally boil down to bias of this particular kind.

    Chong continues:

    Consider President Obama’s reactions shortly after each attack—reactions that, if read in isolation, might seem to reflect this bias. On April 16, 2013, the day after the Boston bombings, President Obama delivered a speech in which he stated the following:

    [G]iven what we now know about what took place, the FBI is investigating it as an act of terrorism. Any time bombs are used to target innocent civilians it is an act of terror. What we don’t yet know, however, is who carried out this attack, or why; whether it was planned and executed by a terrorist organization, foreign or domestic, or was the act of a malevolent individual. That’s what we don’t yet know.

    Now contrast this with President Obama’s speech last Thursday, one day after the attacks in Charleston, which nowhere made mention of terrorism:

    The FBI is now on the scene with local police, and more of the Bureau’s best are on the way to join them. The Attorney General has announced plans for the FBI to open a hate crime investigation. We understand that the suspect is in custody. And I’ll let the best of law enforcement do its work to make sure that justice is served.

    Superficially speaking, there are at least two ways to read the administration’s initial decision to investigate one attack as a terrorist act and the other as a hate crime. A critic might contend that President Obama, like Senator Graham, appears to have untenably reserved the terrorist designation for Muslim extremists. Alternatively, we could take President Obama’s words at face value and recognize the weapon of choice as a critical factor in how a massacre tends to be classified when facts remain sparse and the evidence is still forthcoming. Those words again: “Any time bombs are used to target innocent civilians it is an act of terror.”

    And so our inquiry evolves. Is Dylann Roof being widely portrayed as a hater and not a terrorist because, based on the available evidence, he is a white supremacist and not a Muslim extremist? Or is it because his weapon of choice was a gun and not a bomb?

    Again, I’d encourage you to read the whole piece.

    **

    As an addendum, if you want some thoughtful consideration of Thomas Mair, the (alleged) killer of the British MP Jo Cox, you way want to read Barth’s Notes on the topic:

    Richard Bartholomew, Some Notes on Claims about Thomas Mair


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