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Ralph Peters Finds the Deep End….and Keeps on Going

Tuesday, July 21st, 2009

It’s not every day I hear a military analyst hope for the execution of one of our own soldiers captured by the Taliban. Even the FOXnews anchor babe, psuedo-journalist looks like she’s trying to find her jaw on the floor when Peters finishes his rant.

Was Peters on crack during the taping of this segment? WTF?

Pushtunistan Rising?

Tuesday, May 19th, 2009

Steve Hynd at Newshoggers made the intriguing suggestion of an independent Pushtun state as a solution to the strategic problems of the Afghanistan-Pakistan region. The Pushtuns, like the Kurds are one of the world’s largest ethnic groups without a state:

The Punjabi and Sindh populations have always regarded the Pashtun as mountain wild men, bandits and reivers. The Pashtun have always regarded their neighbours as prey for their raids. It’s been that way since before the British arrived and shows no sign of abating anytime soon. The Pashtun were only forced at gunpoint into accepting the splitting of their traditional tribal ranges by the Durand Line in 1893. The situation is entirely analogous to the old border reiver clans of the English/Scottish border – another bunch of inter-related hill country wildmen who raided their neighbours irrespective of nationality for over 300 years before finally calming down and accepting imposed nationality. That territorial stramash was only solved by exiling the worst offenders to the American colonies.

….More, with the Pashtun in their own homeland free from outside overlords their reason for supporting the Taliban politically would disappear and the incompatibility between the Taliban’s extreme form of Islam and the Pashtun’s own traditional religious forms would put the two at odds more often than not.

Rather than insisting on fighting the Pashtun, the amswer in Af/Pak may lie in giving them back the independence they once had.

Read the rest here

Sort of like Ralph Peters famous re-drawing of the Mideast map a few years ago, Steve’s suggestion is provocative.The Kurds took decades to get beyond the Talabani-Barzani rivalry and seize the de facto independence that the U.S. invasion of Iraq made possible and “frontier agents”, whether British or from the ISI , have always succeeded in playing off one Pushtun group against another with only the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 creating even semi-unity among Pushtuns – and then temporarily. This is the stuff of Pakistani nightmares but a latent sense of Pushtun nationalism lurks in the shadows, with Afghanistan being thought of as a “Greater Pushtunistan”.

Mumbai Musings

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2008

Some heavy hitters reflect on the Mumbai Massacre:

John RobbURBAN TAKEDOWN: MUMBAI,  JOURNAL: More on Tactical Innovation, JOURNAL: Off the Shelf Leverage

Ralph PetersDevils in Mumbai ( Hat tip Morgan)

Thomas P.M. BarnettThis attack will work against them

DNIImplications of Mumbai

Robert KaganThe Sovereignty Dodge (Hat Tip NYKR in DC)

On a related note, here is Shlok Vaidya’s radio interview with John Batchelor.

Pakistan is a ramshackle state whose Punjabi military elite have a remarkable talent for brazenly playing with fire, given the fragility and artificiality of their country and their previous loss of Bangladesh (West Pakistan) through genocide and military incompetence. The Pushtuns are quasi-independent, the Baluchis would like to be and the Kashmiris are loose cannons. If any regime is vulnerable to the tactic of state sponsored terrorism and granular insurgency, it’s Islamabad.

Barnett on Peters analyzing Putin

Sunday, September 21st, 2008

Ralph Peters has written a remarkably restrained ( for Peters) overview-analysis of Russian Prime Minister/strongman Vladimir Putin:

Why Putin should scare us

Putin has a quality found in elite intelligence personnel: the ability to discard all preconceptions when scrutinizing a target. And when he decides to strike, he doesn’t look back. This is not good news for his opponents, foreign or domestic.

Among the many reasons we misjudge Putin is our insistence on seeing him as “like us.” He’s not. His stage-management of the Georgia invasion was a perfect example: Western intelligence agencies had been monitoring Russian activities in the Caucasus for years and fully expected a confrontation. Even so, our analysts assumed that Russia wouldn’t act during this summer’s Olympics, traditionally an interval of peace.

Putin had been conditioned to read the strategic cards differently: The world’s attention would be focused on the Games, and key world leaders would be in Beijing, far from their crisis-management staffs. Europe’s bureaucrats and senior NATO officials would be on their August vacations. The circumstances were ideal.

It has also become a truism that Putin’s foolish for relying on oil, gas and mineral revenue while failing to diversify his economy. But Russia’s strongman knows what he’s doing: He prefers a wealthy government to a wealthy society. Putin can control a handful of oligarchs whose fortunes flow from a narrow range of sources (once Russia’s richest man, Mikhail Khodorkovsky sits in prison for crossing the Kremlin), but a diversified economy would decentralize power.

Dr. Barnett, himself, like Peters, a former Cold War-era Sovietologist, critiqued Peters article:

Peters on Putin: nationalist and pragmatic, mystical and cold, and plays by own rules

I tend to underappreciate Peters’ gushy over-estimation of Putin’s “brilliance” (he just acts boldly in ways that excite this former intell officer), and note his lack of any mention regarding the economic price Moscow has so far paid over Georgia (mil analysts tend to downplay financial repercussions in general).

It’s just the conclusion that I find clearly overwrought: Putin is possibly problem #1 for the next prez.

In sum, a very traditional analysis of a guy who exploits tradition nicely at home but also indicates he “gets” the current world fairly accurately and takes advantage only where we let him through our choices. No clear analysis of how our strategic interests are actually harmed, but no matter. A quick comparison (favorable) to Osama, but at least he skipped the usual Hitler one. No sense of Russia’s poor long-term economic trajectory.

I think Tom largely pegged it. Peters overshot on “mysticism” and “brilliance” but did a pretty good analysis, minus the blindness toward economic factors that represent the long-term definers of strategic, though not tactical, options for Russia.  The chances of Putin being even culturally influenced by traditional Orthodoxy are approximately zero, though Putin the shrewd politician probably appreciates the the mystical and romantically sentimental streak in Russia’s national psyche where affronts to Mother Russia are concerned. Putin’s nationalistic gestures are keyed to the Russian equivalent of Nixon’s “Silent Majority”. Putin is always “going to the people” with his foreign policy or domestic law and order crackdowns.

One departure for me from Peters and from Tom ( at least in the sense that he did not mention it) is that I do not see Putin as consumed by anger or temper in his moves against Saakashvili, though Putin may very well have a temper. Instead, I see a ruthless calculator who decided, some time ago, that Saakashvili was too intransigent and too egomaniacal to ever cut any kind of a deal with Russia, in open or secret. More or less the way the United States viewed Saddam Hussein, that the man had to go once and for all – not that Saakashvili is morally akin to Saddam in any way, just intolerable from Moscow’s perspective. 

Putin is driven to “win”, IMHO, because racking up those kinds of wins teaches good geopolitical lessons. That said, Putin did not know when to quit while he was ahead. After making the point by humiliating Georgia and Saakashvili militarily and the EU and the Bush administration diplomatically, Putin only gained great hostlility for Russia by dragging out troop withdrawal and by using belligerent rhetoric. A prompt departure would have retained the sense of awe and confidence that Russia’s military campaign had projected. So much for infallible “brilliance”.

Putin puts his pants on like the rest of us and makes mistakes. The difference between him and other statesmen is that Putin more often than not is thinking strategically when he makes a move.

Battles of Military Doctrine

Sunday, September 7th, 2008

 I am behind the news curve on this one but here’s a good article from InsideDefense.com ( Hat tip Chris Castelli) on the controversey over the call by USMC General James Mattis to banish “EBO” (Effects-Based Operations) and “Systems” terminology from military doctrine. Unsurprisingly, the U.S. Air Force is less than pleased:

Mattis Sparks Vigorous Debate

….How Mattis’ guidance will be implemented remains unclear, but the memo signals a sea change in the way JFCOM will address EBO.

By declaring that JFCOM will no longer use, sponsor or export the terms and concepts related to EBO, ONA and SoSA in its training, doctrine development and support of military education, Mattis tees up a major opportunity for EBO critics to curtail the use of these terms and ideas in American military discourse. Some EBO proponents see this as a threat, while other EBO advocates see an opportunity to hone the concept and discard unhelpful baggage.

Mattis explicitly calls for refining two joint doctrine publications that dictate how military officials use effects in joint operations in terms of desired outcomes.

….Before Deptula provided comments on the missive to ITP, Air Force headquarters referred questions on the topic to retired officers like McInerney, who unloaded heaps of criticism.

“Even though I am no longer on active duty I am embarrassed for a combatant commander to publish such a document,” McInerney says. “I am a fan of Mattis but this is too much.”

McInerney even encouraged combatant commanders to “ignore” what he sees as a shocking memo.In an e-mail to ITP, McInerney calls JFCOM’s missive the “most parochial, un-joint, biased, one-sided document launched against a concept that was key in the transformation of warfare — and proven in the most successful U.S. military conflicts of the past 20 years (Desert Storm and Allied Force).”

He belittles the two-page memo as a “tantrum” and the accompanying five-page guidance as “puerile” and “totally unbecoming” of a JFCOM commander.Mattis should be “encouraging multiple perspectives for the enhancement of joint operations — not trashing them,” McInerney asserts. The JFCOM memo is “intellectually bankrupt” and the policy’s conclusions are “profoundly out of touch with reality,” he adds.”The rationale ignores any notion of strategic art much less operational art, and instead relies on centuries’ old, discredited ‘commander’s intuition’ to design, plan and execute campaigns rather than offering a demonstrated better alternative,” he insists.

All strategic theories as they percolate through a massive bureaucracy tend to become distorted, misunderstood, inflated, stretched to cover pre-existing agendas, get advanced in tandem with career interests and be misapplied to situations for which they were never intended. EBO is no exception but “banning” concepts wholesale from discussion is less healthy for the long term intellectual good of an organization than is simply subjecting them to warranted criticism.

Those interested in a USAF practitioner’s counterpoint might look at a series from the now defunct FX-Based blog where Sonny was responding to an op-ed by  Ralph Peters, one of the more colorful EBO critics:

In Defense of EBO

In Defense of EBO, Part II.

In Defense of EBO, Part III.

In Defense of EBO, Part IV.

Extensive discussion of the Mattis pronunciamento can be found ( and engaged in) at The Small Wars Council.

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