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New Book: Warrior Diplomat by Michael G. Waltz

Monday, October 20th, 2014

[by Mark Safranski, a.k.a "zen"]

WARRIOR DIPLOMAT: A Green Beret’s Battles from Washington to Afghanistan by Michael G. Waltz

Just received a review copy of this yet-to-be-released memoir from Callie at Oettinger & Associates, which I have thumbed through ( formal review coming soon).

The author,  Michael G. Waltz has had a very interesting career arcGreen Beret officer, Commander of multiple SF and SOF teams, Afghan combat veteran with valor awards, DoD counter-narcotics policy adviser, counter-terrorism adviser to Vice-President Dick Cheney, Senior National Security scholar at the liberal New America Foundation, Co-founder of Askari Associates and President of Metis Solutions.

Waltz , it must also be noted, is donating 100% of the proceeds of this book to veterans charities.

An active commenter on FP and .mil affairs, Waltz most recently opined on ISIS here:

Ten Lessons from the Afghan War about how to fight ISIS 

….There were over 40 nations involved in the ISAF coalition, which caused numerous functional and strategic issues.  Even base terms such as “counterinsurgency” (COIN) were interpreted very differently by every partner.  For the French, COIN, invoked memories of their brutal campaign in Algeria; while for the Dutch, the military focus of COIN was to provide security for development projects.  These differences led to years of 40 countries going in as many different directions to little strategic effect.  In the ISIS campaign, the U.S. should start with ensuring all members of the coalition have the same understanding of the President’s stated goals of “degrade” and “destroy.”  These terms are more than just rhetoric in military circles and will have different meanings to each contributor. 

….Coalitions are difficult to assemble and even more difficult to maintain when the going gets tough.  Too often ISAF’s military failings would be swept under the rug in Washington and Brussels for the sake of preserving the political unity of the coalition.  It reflected the view of many in U.S. and European circles working the NATO portfolio that the war in Afghanistan was good for NATO; as it would force the alliance into shape rather than forcing NATO to confront its failings for the good of Afghanistan.  The coalition against ISIS must be good for winning the war effort against Islamist extremism, not the other way around.

Read the rest here.

Warrior Diplomat falls into the same military genre represented by American Spartan, About Face, A Bright Shining Lie and to a lesser extent, classics like Street Without Joy and Diplomat Among Warriors - books that integrated “the fight” with the political, bureaucratic, policy context in all of the latter’s monumental dysfunction. For example, writing of the Tagab District, where the Bagram air base is located, Waltz lamented:

….Though we had information about the HIG broadly as an organization and about some of their commanders in the area, I was bothered by our lack of knowledge about Tagab and the people of the valley. We knew little beyond the very basics of local government, the police, or the local economy. We also knew little to nothing about the tribal make-up of the area or which tribes had aligned with the HIG. most important, we had no idea why certain locals were supporting them. Was it ideological? Tribal rivalry? Abuse from local officials? I hoped our patrol would answer these questions, but I was astonished that we didn’t know more about an area so close to our main base in Afghanistan. Four years into the war, in 2005, we were going into the area partially blind because of our lack of meaningful intelligence

This passage would probably ring true with Major Jim Gant. Or with friend of ZP blog Pete Turner,  who spent so much time in Zabul. Or with most of the soldiers and Marines who went on patrol in Afghanistan any time in the past decade.

Warrior Diplomat is scheduled for release November 1, and I will try to have my formal, full review posted that week.

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The new AQ magazine: miracles from Khorasan

Monday, October 20th, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron -- there's a similar report from Oliver Cromwell's New Model Army, fwiw ]
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I have commented before on the use of miracle stories by Abdullah Azzam as quoted in Inspire magazine, and an African equivalent found in Gaidi Mtaani, the Shabaab magazine, to engage the devotion and loyalty of pious troops: Resurgence magazine continues the tradition.

Hasan Gul

Here for your edification from the new AQIS magazine Resurgence, are two examples, drawn from the life and martyrdom of Hasan Gul, known to the Washington Post, and likely many ZP readers, as Hassan Ghul.

The first as to do with the miraculous preservation of his life:

When Shaykh Khalid Habib, the military head of Al Qaida in Khurasan, was martyred, brother Hasan Gul was with him. The Shaykh (may Allah have mercy on him) was inside the car, while he was standing outside. He had just extended his hand to open the door of the car when a missile fired from a drone hit the car. Allah (swt) miraculously saved his life. He was thrown several feet away by the explosion. His shin bone was fractured as a result. Several days later, when I met him he showed me a coin that had been in the upper pocket of his shirt, just above his heart at the time of the drone attack. A small shrapnel of the missile had hit the coin, because of which the coin had been bent inwards. Allah (swt) prevented the shrapnel from piercing his heart with this small coin. Verily, when Allah (swt) decrees life for His slave, no one can give him death!

It seems plausible that the same mercy was extended to one of Cromwell‘s soldiers in the English Civil War, if one may trust James Waylen’s 1880 The House of Cromwell and the Story of Dunkirk:

An account of the pocket-Bible printed by Cromwell’s order for distribution among his men was some time back published by Mr. George Livermore of Cambridge, Massachusets, who possesses one of the only two copies known to exist, the other being in the Brit. Mus. Library. .. That such a book was really in use, we learn from Richard Baxter who relates the story of a soldier receiving a shot near the heart, the fatal force of the bullet being arrested by its lodging in the Bible which he carried in his breast. And a very thin Bible it was too, being comprised in a sheet folded in 16mo. An entire Bible, even in the most compact form then known, would have been far too bulky and far too expensive.

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The second deals with the pleasant scent that Azzam had previously noted was a mark of the martyr — here’s the same motif as applied to Hasan Gul:

Last year in October, when he left his house on a motor bike, American drones assassinated him. His body was shredded to bits by a direct missile hit and his remains were scattered over a large area. When some Mujahid brothers reached the site of the attack, they faced the problem of searching for and gathering the bits and pieces of his body. However, Allah (swt) made this task easy for them. A large part of his body was easily found. An ethereal fragrance that was simply not of this world was coming from this dismembered part of his body. This extremely beautiful fragrance was smelt by all the brothers present at the scene. The brothers then decided to locate his body parts with the help of this scent. All the brothers had to do was to follow this fragrance to find a part of his body. All the parts of his body exuded this fragrance without any exception. Thus the fragrance of Hasan Gul’s blood led to the remains of his body. May Allah be pleased with him and grant him the company of the Prophets and the righteous. Ameen!

Again, I refer you to my post Of war and miracle: the poetics, spirituality and narratives of jihad for comments on similar reports in Catholic and Arthurian literatures.

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But let’s return briely to that Bible story — there’s really quite an extended history of these reports.

Consider the American Civil War veteran of the Fourth Iowa Cavalry Division, whose daughter wrote:

At another time a bullet hit the New Testament he was carrying in his shirt pocket and glanced off. This sweetheart, who later became his wife, had given him the New Testament when he entered the service.

Or the Army Cyclist Corps despatch rider whose life was saved by a still-extant “combined Bible, prayer book and hymnal” near Arras, France, in 1915:

bible-saved life

Or Pfc. Brendon Schweigart, who claims only that when a sniper’s bullet found the Bible in his shirt pocket in Iraq, it:

definitely prevented more serious injury, because if it wouldn’t have been there, it would have ricocheted off my bullet-proof plate and more than likely would have gone back into my chest, causing more damage.

Indeed, the “Bible stopped the bullet” tale has enough variants that Mythbusters once tested it with a 400-page Bible, albeit not one with a metal cover…

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Because, yes, metal-covered Bibles were given to GIs in World War II with the cover inscribed “May this keep you safe from harm” — no doubt with the hope and prayer that if need be, the metal covering would indeed prove a protective “breastplate of righteousness”:

Heart shield bible

In fact, the 1943 “Heart Shield Bible” depicted is on sale now on eBay, at a current asking price of $21.49.

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It’s no dcoubt a bit of a stretch, but I believe that when you “encourage” miracles by providing metallic holy pocket-books for protective use on the battleield, it’s an example of what Max Weber famously called the “routinization of charisma”.

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Three Books New and Three Books Used

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014

[by Mark Safranski, a.k.a. "zen"]

           

Diary of the Dark Years by Jean Guéhenno 

Augustus by Adrian Goldsworthy 

The Nixon Tapes edited by Douglas Brinkley & Luke Nichter 

Japanese Swordsmanship: Technique and Practice by Gordon Warner & Donn F. Draeger 

The French Secret Services by Douglas Porch

Russia, the Atom and the West by George F. Kennan 

I have numerous reviews to write on books already read, but I keep buying more, skimming them, and tossing them on the bookpile.

Diary of the Dark Years is a much quoted primary source about Paris under Nazi occupation.  It is the French equivalent to the diaries of Victor Klemperer and shows the agony of citizens of a once mighty great power, humbled by a conqueror and deeply divided in defeat. The Germans governed occupied France more leniently than nearly any other state except Denmark, until the end of the war when the urgent German need for manpower and the irritation of the French Resistance provoked draconian measures by the Gestapo and SS to provide slave labor and deport Jews to “the East”. Much of the dirty work was done by Vichy officials or the extreme Fascist French ultra-collaborators who were even further to the Right.

The Kennan book, a very slim volume of 116 pages, is derived from Kennan’s Reith Lectures, given past the apex of his diplomatic career when Kennan’s policy influence was waning but his fame and reputation were still rising with the general public. I’ve read several chapter already. Classic Kennan in the certitude of his assumptions, which included deep skepticism about the capacity for effective response, much less a forceful “rollback” of Soviet power, on the part of the West.

One of the authors of Japanese Swordsmanship, an early pioneer of American judo and Western study of Eastern martial arts, Donn Draeger, was most likely murdered by poison while visiting the restive tribes of Aceh in Indonesia during the early years of the insurgency.

What are you reading or buying?

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Some very welcome news: JM Berger & Jessica Stern

Wednesday, September 17th, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron -- forthcoming book announced ]
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JM Berger at Intelwire frames it like this:

ISIS: THE STATE OF TERROR

Jessica Stern and J.M. Berger co-author the forthcoming book, “ISIS: The State of Terror,” from Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollins. The book, which will debut in early 2015, will examine the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, how it is transforming the nature of extremist movements, and how we should evaluate the threat it presents.

Jessica Stern is a Harvard lecturer on terrorism and the author of the seminal text Terror in the Name of God: Why Religious Militants Kill. J.M. Berger is author of the definitive book on American jihadists, Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam, a frequent contributor to Foreign Policy, and editor of Intelwire.com.

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JM also tweeted:

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For another angle on Berger & Stern’s thinking, see their recent joint contribution to a round table at Politico:

A counterterrorism mission—and then some.
By J.M. Berger and Jessica Stern

When the Obama administration sends mixed messages about whether its campaign against the Islamic State insurgent group is war or counterterrorism, there is a reason, if not a good one. As explained by President Obama last week, the United States plans to employ counterterrorism tactics against a standing army currently preoccupied with waging war.

In many ways, our confrontation with the Islamic State is the culmination of 13 years of degraded definitions. Our enemies have evolved considerably since Sept. 11, 2001, and none more than ISIL, which has shed both the name and the sympathies of al Qaeda. The Islamic State excels at communication, and it has succeeded in establishing itself as a uniquely visible avatar of evil that demands a response. But on 9/11, we began a “war on terrorism” that has proven every bit as expansive and ambiguous as the phrase itself implies. It is a symptom of our broken political system that we require the frame of terrorism and the tone of apocalyptic crisis to take even limited action as a government.

Ultimately, it’s hard to escape the feeling that our policies still come from the gut, rather than the head. And ISIL knows exactly how to deliver a punch to the gut, as evidenced by its gruesome hostage beheadings and countless other atrocities. Its brutality and open taunts represent an invitation to war, and many sober strategists now speak of “destroying” the organization.

Bin Laden once said, “All that we have to do is to send two mujahideen to the furthest point east to raise a piece of cloth on which is written al Qaeda, in order to make the generals race there.” Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the emir of ISIL, may be counting on just that response, and for the same reason—to draw the United States into a war of supreme costs, political, economic and human.

A limited counterterrorism campaign may insulate us from those costs, but it is not likely to be sufficient to accomplish the goals laid out by the president. ISIL is a different enemy from al Qaeda. It has not earned statehood, but it is an army and a culture, and more than a traditional terrorist organization. Limited measures are unlikely to destroy it and might not be enough to end its genocidal ambitions. Our stated goals do not match our intended methods. Something has to give — and it’s probably the goals.

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I reviewed JM’s previous book for Zenpundit, and mentioned Jessica Stern‘s work, which I greatly admire, in my post here, Book Review: JM Berger’s Jihad Joe. Their upcoming collaboration promises us an insightful, foundational, and must-readable analysis — richly nuanced, clearly presented, and avoiding the pitfalls of panicky sensationalism to which so much current reportage is prone.

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The ghost at all our feasts: three lectures by Adam Tooze

Wednesday, September 10th, 2014

[linked by Lynn C. Rees]

One of Mark’s most influential book recommendations for me was The Wages of Destruction: The Making and Breaking of the Nazi Economy by Adam ToozeWages of Destruction made most other books on the Nazi complicated run German economy of 1920-1945 look infantile. I read Tooze’s newest book The Deluge: The Great War and the Remaking of Global Order 1916-1931 over July. A review is in the works. While you stay up nights waiting for that, Tooze gave three lectures at Stanford University’s Europe Center worth absorbing based on The Deluge:

  1. Making Peace in Europe 1917-1919: Brest-Litovsk and Versailles
  2. Hegemony: Europe, America and the problem of financial reconstruction, 1916-1933
  3. Unsettled Lands: the interwar crisis of agrarian Europe

The rise of the American empire 1849-1922 is the great question of our time.

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