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December 18, 2011

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It was immoral and the people responsible should be in prison. In theory democracies are supposed to hold their own war criminals accountable but in practice that virtually never happens except at the lower levels. So we'll probably do another unnecessary war like Iraq again, either sooner (in Iran) or later (if we're sensible and wait a generation so people forget how stupid this was).

We won't remember again

There's a point in arguing about it. That's the poly hope that people will ever learn. It was a war started by con artists and supported by warfever. At least Viet Nam initially was an honest mistake.

Everyone who got us into Iraq should be shot, frankly; they committed treason.

Everyone who cheered for the war should be ostracized by decent folk, and never allowed a say in national policy ever again.

Can someone explain to me why the Republican debate candidates -- always excepting Ron Paul -- have been rattling sabers as hard as they possibly can? Or, rather, why the audiences at their debates cheer at anything that smacks of "more war!"

Why are so many people absolutely determined *not* to learn from their military mistakes? And why are military officers over-represented in that group?

CaseyL:

Everyone who cheered for the war should be ostracized by decent folk, and never allowed a say in national policy ever again.

False premise. "Decent folk" clearly do not have a say in national policy. To be "decent" in your sense (with which I agree!) is to be "unserious" when it comes to policy. According to the Serious People, anyway.

Not so sure that military officers are so big in the never-learning group (at least these days compared to a hundred years ago). Maybe in the pure career types (military as a means to rise not as a way of life). At least in the recent past the main drummers for war seem to be as far from active military service as possible ('other priorities', 'anal cyst').
Personal opinion:
1.Iraq was a criminal war of aggression. I do not believe that the instigators themselves believed the WMD stories.
2.If the war had been limited to ousting Saddam and keeping the country from falling apart (uncontrolled at least), it might have been 'worth it'. I believe that was never the intention.
3.The US will not learn the lesson in the forseeable future. It would take a major catastrophe for it to happen (not mere bankruptcy).

I am usually in the ‘what russell said’ category but this post strikes me as simply inane. Its only imaginable point is to stir up some comment. Well, mission accomplished.

I mean “no opinion on whether it was ‘worth it’ or not” is just absurd. It was not ‘worth it’ and never will be and it is certainly not pointless to argue with anyone who thinks otherwise. And yes, “the dead are dead” indeed, hundreds of thousands of them, millions more displaced. Havoc and mayhem wreaked on a country that had not attacked us and was no threat to us. It was so unnecessary and there is no denying all those lives wasted and all those resources misspent, a monumental tragedy

I am glad that it is ‘over’ but I also wish that I had protested more, spoken out more fervently as we were lied into a war without reason, as our country ignored the UN inspectors because the Bush administration was hell bent on having their war while being backed by a virtually supine press, where Tom ‘Suck On This’ Friedman and all the other village idiots acted as cheerleaders.

My final thought is to nominate this as russell’s worst post ever.

Doctor Science: Or, rather, why the audiences at their debates cheer at anything that smacks of "more war!"

Not to go Godwin, but they're today's version of fascists.

Its only imaginable point is to stir up some comment.

Well, sort of.

It's a big milestone, it seemed to me that it deserved a post, from somebody. Nobody else had written one yet, so I did.

There are probably lots more things I could say about it than I have done here, but to be honest, I felt like I've said them already, many many times. Perhaps my comment should have been, I have nothing *new* to say.

That being so, perhaps I ought to have just SFTU. But I thought other folks might like to comment on it here, hence the post.

I mean “no opinion on whether it was ‘worth it’ or not” is just absurd.

I brought up the issue of "was it worth it" because that's how folks seem to be discussing it. To me, that's a weird question, or at least a wrong and inappropriate question.

How do you measure something like that? It just seems kind of obscene to me.

So, for "no opinion", perhaps a better statement would be, "I can't get my head around it".

I also wish that I had protested more, spoken out more fervently

I doubt you're alone. So, a good thing to remember for next time. I'm sure there will be a next time, on that topic please see CCDG's comment upthread.

My final thought is to nominate this as russell’s worst post ever.

No, I've probably done worse work than this. :)

I have, basically, no opinion on whether it was 'worth it' or not. I don't even know how you measure stuff like that. To me, you go to war if you have to, if you have no other choice.

I have an opinion and I am one of those who, per the thrust of this thread, should either be shot, imprisoned or forever excluded from public debate.

It wasn't worth it.

And, I think a lot of people who don't consider the war to have been criminal or the product of a campaign of outright lies will have second thoughts re: future use of force.

I can't account for Republican saber rattling, other than they are playing to a portion of the base that likes that kind of BS. Not unlike the unilateral disarmament/no nukes segment of the left. Neither is practical or a good idea, but the base is what drives the primaries, so you get this foolishness.

We haven't seen the last of war. It comes whether we want it or not. WWII, Korea, Gulf War I, 9-11 were all surprise attacks.

Even "good wars" have bad consequences. WWII produced nukes, the Cold War, Containment, Viet Nam and a whole host of other sequelae. It also liberated part of Europe and produced the beginning of the end of colonialism.

Last point: while I think the war in Iraq was not worth the price paid by anyone, in the out years it could be that the pluses outweigh the minuses or vice versa. It's hard to say, indirect cause and effect being damned difficult to predict or even to realize until a lot of time has gone by.

...in the out years it could be that the pluses outweigh the minuses or vice versa. It's hard to say, indirect cause and effect being damned difficult to predict or even to realize until a lot of time has gone by.

Well, I'd say the pluses and the minuses (pli and mini, if you will) of starting a war would be relative to not doing so. Once a lot of time has gone by, it becomes impossible to guess how counterfactuals would have played out. If you can't say by now that it was worth it, you can only assume that it wasn't, unless you're trying really hard to find justification without regard to logic, IMVHO.

"I can't account for Republican saber rattling, other than they are playing to a portion of the base that likes that kind of BS. Not unlike the unilateral disarmament/no nukes segment of the left."

Please name the Democratic candidates who you think have played to the base by advocating for unilateral disarmament/no nukes.

"While the war in Iraq was not worth the price paid by anyone, in the out years it could be that the pluses outweigh the minuses or vice versa."

A lot of work being done by that "could."

To borrow from T.S. Eliot....

This is the way the war ends
This is the way the war ends
Not with a sigh, not even with a whimper.

Spent.

Re: russell's worst post ever, I'd say none of us is immune to resignation.

I find thinking about this war exhausting, because of its inescapable and overwhelming badness, if that's even a good enough word. (I'm too tired of it to come up with something better.) But resignation from russell may be especially disappointing for someone usually in the "what russell said" camp.

"It's finally over. I got nothin' else" is less than inspiring, but, if you got nothin' else, you got nothin' else. Life sucks that way sometimes, and the Iraq War was particularly sucky.

I'm not kidding at all in writing that I'm having a hard time even finishing this comment. I feel like I'm made of lead.

"Not unlike the unilateral disarmament/no nukes segment of the left. Neither is practical or a good idea, but the base is what drives the primaries, so you get this foolishness.

Standard-issue false equivalency as a means of avoiding blame for this monstrous blunder.

"While the war in Iraq was not worth the price paid by anyone, in the out years it could be that the pluses outweigh the minuses or vice versa."

Yeah COULD.

So, if, as suggested above, the architects of the Iraq ware were dragged into court, a la Nurenburg, tried, convicted of war crimes, crimes against the peace, crimes against humanity, and PUBLICLY EXECUTED, then perhaps some good will come from the example.

Otherwise, not so much.

Can someone explain to me why the Republican debate candidates -- always excepting Ron Paul -- have been rattling sabers as hard as they possibly can? Or, rather, why the audiences at their debates cheer at anything that smacks of "more war!"

Sure. You're thinking about war and peace and saber rattling in terms of how they affect the real world, i.e., we go to war and this many people die, this many are maimed physically, this many are scarred psychologically. They don't see it that way.

They see in symbolic terms. For a lot of people, the fundamental problem of our age is that good people are unwilling to stand up and declare that evil things are evil. Military force is part of that. People believe that because America is the superior nation and because our armed forces are the greatest of us and because we have so much magical technology, our armed forces are even more awesome, so they can instantly change the world!

You remember how Reagen ended the Soviet Union using nothing but clear eyed moral resolve? You know, he called them an evil empire and they fell apart thereafter? In the popular imagination, that's how policy works: if you demonstrate enough clear eyed moral resolve, the forces of darkness disintegrate.

I can't account for Republican saber rattling, other than they are playing to a portion of the base that likes that kind of BS. Not unlike the unilateral disarmament/no nukes segment of the left. Neither is practical or a good idea, but the base is what drives the primaries, so you get this foolishness.

Thanks to the others for getting to this baloney false equivalence first. If any Democrat running for any Federal office next year has this as a plank in his/her platform, I will personally fly to Texas and deliver a $100 bill to McK.

Not only are all the Republicans running for the Presidency gunning for a hot war in Iran, so are The Usual Suspects at the major media who helped get us into Iraq in the first place.

I can't think of a single Democratic officeholder or media pundit who advocates "unilateral disarmament." Not one. And I bet McK can't either.

WWII, Korea, Gulf War I, 9-11 were all surprise attacks.

LOL what?

"For a lot of people, the fundamental problem of our age is that good people are unwilling to stand up and declare that evil things are evil."

Yup. An awful lot of people not willing to do that starting with people who continue to rationalize voting for Republican polliticians and Beltway courtiers who act as stenographers and say "both sides do it"...

The reason Republican politicians saber rattle is so their voters will be bambozzled into thinking the enemy is not the Republican politicians.

9 11 was only a surpirse attack becuase Bush, who had been warned repeatedly that Al Quaida was planning something major, wasn't stirred to action. Of course it was't exclusively Bush's fault; some of the responsiblity goes to his appoitees who also had their heads up their butts.

Bomb-bomb-bomb, bomb-bomb Iran...

[And there was of course already the excellent Libyan adventure]

I'm going to preseverate on a bit about the yearning for leaders who will go out and smite the evil enemy. Of course this is a simpleminded impulse but not necessarily a bad one. It is legitimate for a voter to want the politicians elected to do good by challenging whatever forces out there that are doing bad.

The cartoon/Walker Texas Ranger crap is a preversion of this legitimate desire. the perversion is that Republican politicians don't have any real interest in identifying real problems that threaten Americans and certainly have no interest in identifying the causes of the problems. And, as opponents of big government, they aren't iterested in solutios either. They are only interested in exploiting the baser emotions of the electorate for votes to further agendas that are either cynical self-promotions, highly ideological, or religous extremism.

The clown car of candidates are a very accurate representation of the Republican party: and elitist corportrate raider who has no position he will not gladly repudiate, two con artists who were only running so they could be the next Palin and exploit the base for money, two religious fanatics and an Ayn Rand fanatic. And Huntsman who isn't drawing any votes.

It wouldn't solve all of our problems if thesse sleazeballs and their intellectually and morally bankrupt party were soundly repudiated as our evil enemy but it sure would help. And I think they know it. Or at least the two con artists, the elitist and the Ayn Rand fanatic know it. Hence the importance of misrepresenting themsleves as the hero figure.

Why are so many people absolutely determined *not* to learn from their military mistakes? And why are military officers over-represented in that group?

I have a few reasons that might explain why:

(1) Military folk in general and the officer corps in particular have become substantially more conservative and more Republican over the last 3 decades.

(2) A surprisingly large number of people 'in the military' have no experience fighting wars in Iraq or Afghanistan as Tom Ricks explains here and here.

(3) There are lots of people in the military who believe that Iraq could have been a sterling success if only *their* favored strategy had been followed. So, if you're an Air Force officer who thinks that the key to winning wars is to just keep bombing the shit out of people until they surrender, then Iraq was stupid, but primarily because we didn't nuke the whole country. When we talk about Bush or Cheney or Rumsfeld being stupid, well, they were, but there are plenty of people in the country and in the military that are even dumber than they were.

So, if you're an Air Force officer who thinks that the key to winning wars is to just keep bombing the shit out of people until they surrender

How many of those have you ever encountered, Turbulence? I've met very few in active duty over the rank of Colonel; it'd be interesting to know what your sample looks like.

My sample is zero. I've never heard any USAF officer, at any rank level, say anything even remotely resembling that bombing the sh!t out of people until they surrender is a winning tactic in the context of current operations. I don't want to overstate my exposure to combat pilots, but I've been in a few different kinds of briefings and even reviewed some combat video with the pilots, and not one has ever said anything like that.

I'm not saying it's never happened. Just saying that I've worked with some of the people I'd think would be most likely to voice such an opinion, and not one of them ever has, in my hearing.

I have no doubt historians will make short shrift of the pathetic flopping about to justify their actions by those who did this.

It strikes me as a very 18th century use of a professional military -- to further the dynastic goals of ruling elite. Of course in this case it sucked in a large and tragic number of our part-time military (i.e. the National Guard) who didn't sign on for that kind of activity.

I agree with Slartibarfast (and Hartmut). Military officers have been much more sensible than civilians in the Republican party. There were many who didn't support the invasion of Iraq. They do have to follow orders and, once given a mission, they have to figure out how to execute it. It's not their job to protest; it's ours.

"I agree with Slartibarfast (and Hartmut). Military officers have been much more sensible than civilians in the Republican party. There were many who didn't support the invasion of Iraq. They do have to follow orders and, once given a mission, they have to figure out how to execute it. It's not their job to protest; it's ours."

This. My own sample, an N=6 of 4 acquaintances in the National Guard and 2 brothers who are career Navy officers, supports this assessment. A small sample, but my impression is that most of these folks tend toward a mildly conservative political viewpoint. Not Neocon.

Please name the Democratic candidates who you think have played to the base by advocating for unilateral disarmament/no nukes.

In the interest of time, I'll pick this one as typical: I didn't say that Democratic candidates stand for unilateral disarmament and no nukes. I said there is a segment of the left's base that stands for this, or, had I gone into more detail, the functional equivalent of these two extremes. That segment wants to hear a candidate pledge to cut the hell out of defense, to be 'the peace candidate', to end the war in Iraq by a date certain etc.

Who has made a strong anti-defense spending pitch in their time? McCarthy, McGovern, Ted Kennedy, Dennis Kucinich, Jerry Brown, Howard Dean, John Kerry, Barak Obama, among others.

Well, I'd say the pluses and the minuses (pli and mini, if you will) of starting a war would be relative to not doing so. Once a lot of time has gone by, it becomes impossible to guess how counterfactuals would have played out. If you can't say by now that it was worth it, you can only assume that it wasn't, unless you're trying really hard to find justification without regard to logic, IMVHO.

Well, not really, or at least, not what I meant. Saddam is off the board as is what passed for his foreign policy. Events continue to unfold in Iran. The optimal outcome is a power shift away from the current regime and to one that will drop the nuclear weapons program. A conventionally armed, non-expanionist Iran and a dis-armed, pretty much neutered Iraq make for a much more stable region than, say, Saddam in power and resurgent and Iran armed with nukes.

As for Iraq being a criminal war, where do Libya, the Balkans and Gulf War I fall into this moral calculus?

Saddam is off the board as is what passed for his foreign policy.

And that happened in the only way possible? And that was a really big deal for the United States why, exactly?

Events continue to unfold in Iran.

Events continue to unfold everywhere, no matter what. We effectively made Iran far more influential with Iraq redux.

On the rest, Iraq was pretty much neutered before we got there, making Saddam's being in power not so relevant. I don't know how the proposed ideal scenario in Iran, which hasn't happened and isn't any more likely as a result of Iraq redux, is convincing of anything.

Of course it's not just Republicans who supported or endorsed the war--Leon Panetta did so on Saturday when he said it was worth i.

< a href="http://www.salon.com/2011/12/19/panetta_iraq_war_was_worth_it/singleton/">Glenn Greenwald link

the horse's mouth

That's what is so inspiring about America--so much bipartisanship on just the issues where all the Serious People are at their worst.

The link to the DOD webpage worked in my comment above, but Greenwald's didn't.

Glenn

Who has made a strong anti-defense spending pitch in their time? McCarthy, McGovern, Ted Kennedy, Dennis Kucinich, Jerry Brown, Howard Dean, John Kerry, Barak Obama, among others.

I guess this is Democratic dog whistle for "unilateral disarmament/no nukes."

Also, it's Barack.

Because any moderation of our massively bloated defense spending is clearly unilateral disarmament.

Which is all especially funny when one considers that, when asked about any other Federal government budget item, McK is certainly somewhere between 99% and 99.9% in favor of spending less money on it. But I guess advocating lower defense spending is "playing to the unilateral disarmament base" only if one is a Democrat. If one is a Republican, it's sound fiscal policy. Or something.

That ('the left's')segment wants to hear a candidate pledge to cut the hell out of defense, to be 'the peace candidate', to end the war in Iraq by a date certain etc.

Ah, yes. Note the deft switcheroo' here. "The left's" demands (1), (2),....and then name a few Democratic politicians who have advocated, at one time or another, some kind of saner defense policy (more, but most generally less).

But wait, what yonder lark calls? It is the Tex, and what he actually, really, wrote. To wit: Not unlike the unilateral disarmament/no nukes segment of the left.

Yes indeedy. Not unlike! Why, I'd say that's logically the same as, well, calling them "the same".

I would be pleased if this thread went on long enough to get to Godwin's Law. The foundation has been laid with this drivel.

As for Iraq being a criminal war, where do Libya, the Balkans and Gulf War I fall into this moral calculus?

My google-free version:

Libya - legal b/c of UN sanction.
Gulf War - ditto.
Balkans - not sure what you're referring to. If Kosovo, seems to lack the indicia of wars of conquest/aggression, but need more detail.

My lack of googling may mean a significant risk of error.

Iraq was a U.S. (with UK assist) project, for no good reason. A criminal disaster of the first order, with horrible consequences to come for decades.

I should add that Libya and (perhaps, depending) the Balkans, were likely not legal under US law, but since the context suggests "war criminal" that's what I was addressing in my 4:41. I.e., I don't think violating the War Powers Act subjects the President to the death penalty and/or makes him a "war criminal."

How many of those have you ever encountered, Turbulence?

My sample size is also zero. Obviously, you don't see USAF generals going around boasting of their desire to exterminate as many civilians as possible. That's far too gauche. But they've been very vocal in their opposition to COIN primarily because COIN discourages the use of aerial attacks. See the back and forth here for example. The COIN folks say, 'bombing from the sky tends to kill the wrong people and enrages the populace, turning them against us', while the USAF generals respond, well they respond incoherently as best as I can tell.

I mean, when Maj Gen Dunlap rails against "boots on the ground zealots", what exactly do you think his vision for a better Iraq war entails? He wants way fewer boots on the ground, and he also wants fewer Arabic-speaking linguists and translators. So how exactly did Dunlap plan to kill the enemy? With even fewer boots on the ground talking to people and developing intelligence, we must, by necessity, have worse intelligence. Which means we'd continue bombing people from the sky...but we'd be even less likely to get it right.

See also the title of Dunlap's NYT editorial here.

I would add to Ugh's points that there might be a difference between the war being a) legal b) morally justified c) morally 'engineered' d) properly and morally conducted.
To just take the first American-Iraq war (I would count that as Gulf War 2 and Saddam's US-supported war with Iran as #1), there has been serious discussion, whether Saddam believed that he had a green light from Washington for his invaion of Kuwait and whether it may have been a US-laid trap. The actual conduct of the war looks pretty decent compared to the SOP in the past*. Inciting the Shiites afterwards and having them crushed by Saddam raises similar questions to the one about the Kuwait invasion (washington incompetence, vacillation, malice?). Not to 'go to Baghdad' was the proper choice at the time, definitely from the legal and imo also from the moral standpoint.

*of course there were mistakes and some questionable slaughter but not as the primary means of war as in the past

From Turb's Dunlap link--

"And, of course, bombs will go awry. Allegations will be made (as they are currently against the Israelis) of targeting civilians and so forth. But the nature of the air weapon is such that an Abu Ghraib or Hadithah simply cannot occur. The relative sterility of air power — which the boots-on-the-ground types oddly find distressing as somehow unmartial — nevertheless provides greater opportunity for the discreet application of force largely under the control of well-educated, commissioned officer combatants. Not a total insurance policy against atrocity, but a far more risk-controlled situation."

This isn't a guy who sounds very concerned about "collateral damage". Mostly the article reads like a surgical strike against the lower classes in the other branches of the military. It's kind of amusing if read that way.

It probably wasn't clear, but I agree with Turb's reading of the implications of Dunlap's article. He thinks the Air Force can win wars all by itself, and there's not even any point in going through the motions of winning hearts and minds because people in those countries aren't ready and they are just going to blame us no matter how pure our intentions are. We're blameless, so we might as well just bomb them. And of course our bombs are so great and our commissioned officers so classy nothing could possibly go wrong.

Doctor Science: "Can someone explain to me why the Republican debate candidates -- always excepting Ron Paul -- have been rattling sabers as hard as they possibly can?"

No.

But they've been very vocal in their opposition to COIN primarily because COIN discourages the use of aerial attacks. See the back and forth here for example.

If you read the article you linked to, there's not opposition to COIN so much as objection to the understating of the role of air power. Clearly there has been a need, particularly in the timeframe of the linked article, for CAS in the Anbar province. I'd guess it's given short shrift in Petraeus' COIN manual because it's on an on-demand basis. Petraeus' COIN manual does mention airpower quite emphatically IMO, but possibly not in a way that gives USAF a leadership role. Which is probably a tough pill for them to swallow, but they don't get paid to like it.

But nowhere in that article is there anything resembling bombing the sh!t out of the populace until they surrender. Not even paraphrased. You're indulging in some excess, I think.

what exactly do you think his vision for a better Iraq war entails?

It entails this:

Today it is more than just bombing with impunity that imposes demoralization; it is reconnoitering with impunity. This is more than just the pervasiveness of Air Force-generated satellites. It also includes hundreds of unmanned aerial vehicles that are probing the landscape in Iraq and Afghanistan. They provide the kind of reliable intelligence that permits the careful application of force so advantageous in insurgency and counterterrorism situations. The insurgents are incapable of determining where or when the U.S. employs surveillance assets and, therefore, are forced to assume they are watched everywhere and always. The mere existence of the ever-present eyes in the sky no doubt inflicts its own kind of stress and friction on enemy forces.

In short, what real asymmetrical advantage the U.S. enjoys in countering insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan relates to a dimension of air power. Strike, reconnaissance, strategic or tactical lift have all performed phenomenally well. It is no exaggeration to observe that almost every improvement in the military situation in Iraq and Afghanistan is attributable to air power in some form; virtually every setback, and especially the strategically catastrophic allegations of war crimes, is traceable to the land forces.

While it will be seldom feasible for America to effectively employ any sort of boots-on-the-ground strategy in current or future counterinsurgency situations, the need may arise to destroy an adversary’s capability to inflict harm on U.S. interests.

I think he's wrong to understate the role of ground forces, but he's entirely correct to emphasize that the air force is not only your heavy-weapons-delivery platform available at relatively short notice, it's also your recon asset and your resupply asset.

I think he's overstating the utility of precision targeting in an urban environment. But Dunlap doesn't speak for the Pentagon in the matter of tactics; he's a (now retired) Deputy JAG.

See also the title of Dunlap's NYT editorial here.

Your point in linking to that article is what? That USAF (particularly ground attack fighters and precision bombers) has no role in any present or future endeavor?

Petraeus' COIN manual does mention airpower quite emphatically IMO, but possibly not in a way that gives USAF a leadership role.

Let's look at what he has to say in the matter:

Airpower provides a significant asymmetric advantage to the counterinsurgent. If the insurgents field a force to engage U.S., multinational, or HN forces, air assets can respond quickly with precision firepower. In a sudden crisis, air mobility can shift troops immediately to threatened points or to surround insurgent elements. The vital supporting role played by airpower has been demonstrated in numerous COIN operations. In many cases airpower has been a key element in COIN strategy and tactics. In Malaya (1948-1960) and El Salvador (1980-1992), as well as more recently in Colombia and Afghanistan, the ability to airlift U.S. Army and police units to remote locations has proven exceptionally important in tracking down and eliminating insurgent groups. Airpower enables U.S., multinational, and government forces to operate in rough and remote terrain, areas that traditionally were havens for insurgents.

There's quite a bit more. What probably sparked ire on the part of USAF officers is this is buried way down in Appendix F, and so removed from the limelight. But it's unclear to me that Petraeus has written a COIN manual that does away with the need for airpower to even a small degree.

Is there any reason to have the USAF as a separate branch of the US armed forces, instead of being part of the Army?

We could just combine USAF and USN and USMC under one command, sure.

I mean, is there a reason to have a separate Navy with its own separate-separate land-warfare force, in addition to its own separate-separate Air Force?

And of course we could talk about why Army gets rotary-wing aircraft while USAF gets pretty much everything else.

I think he's wrong to understate the role of ground forces, but he's entirely correct to emphasize that the air force is not only your heavy-weapons-delivery platform available at relatively short notice, it's also your recon asset and your resupply asset.

No one is questioning that the USAF can provide some recon and resupply. No one at all. So why the hell would anyone bother to write an NYT oped or AFJ article on it? Do you think that Petreus has ever said, 'oh no USAF! please stop giving me useful intelligence!'? Seriously?

I really don't understand this...do you think the USAF went to the trouble to write their own counterinsurgancy manual because they believed that the Army was unwilling to use USAF intelligence or resupply? Really?

But Dunlap doesn't speak for the Pentagon in the matter of tactics; he's a (now retired) Deputy JAG.

I never claimed that Dunlap spoke for the Pentagon.

I claimed that he represents a certain class of officer that believes the military's embrace of COIN was a bad idea due to COIN's express limits on bombing.

Is there any reason to have the USAF as a separate branch of the US armed forces, instead of being part of the Army?

Robert Farley says no.

I really don't understand this...do you think the USAF went to the trouble to write their own counterinsurgancy manual because they believed that the Army was unwilling to use USAF intelligence or resupply? Really?

I don't understand the question. Have we discussed a USAF counterinsurgency manual in this thread, you and I? If not, I am utterly at a loss for how this question is relevant.

I claimed that he represents a certain class of officer that believes the military's embrace of COIN was a bad idea due to COIN's express limits on bombing.

You have a list of people who agree with him, and are influential (i.e. in a position to influence doctrine), and are (unlike him) in command of combat pilots? If not, I'm not sure of where you are going with this. There are all kinds of opinions floating about. Maybe it would be better to look where the opinions you're concerned about matter.

You have a list of people who agree with him, and are influential (i.e. in a position to influence doctrine), and are (unlike him) in command of combat pilots?

I don't think I need it because USAF displeasure with COIN is pretty obvious, Noah Schectman explains:

A sizeable chunk of the Air Force community was pissed, when the Army’s new counterinsurgency field manual came out.

Now, you can't see the contents of the AFA link that Shectman was reading because the AFA is too stupid to maintain a website, but you can find it on the wayback machine here.">http://www.afa.org/magazine/march2007/0307watch.asp">here.

Peck was concerned about the doctrine’s tendency to low-rate the value of force applied from the air. He said FM 3-24 does “probably a bit too much hand-wringing over the potential for collateral damage,” because the Air Force exercises great care in selecting targets and uses the minimum explosive power possible to achieve the desired effect...However, Peck said The notion that the Air Force applies “indiscriminate” power is obsolete and wrong.

Who is this Peck guy? Maj. Gen. Allen G. Peck, commander of the Air Force Doctrine Center at Maxwell AFB, Ala. Does he command combat pilots? No. Not really. But he might be in a position to influence doctrine. Possibly. I'm not sure.

So, to review, we've got the USAF Maj Gen in charge of the USAF Doctrine Center explaining that the big problem with Army COIN doctrine is that it "low-rates the value of force applied from the air". But my suggestion that there exist some USAF officers who think the Iraq War might have gone better if only they had been given a freer hand in bombing (sorry, I mean, forced to suffer less "hand wringing over the potential for collateral damage") is obviously madness.

So, to review, we've got the USAF Maj Gen in charge of the USAF Doctrine Center explaining that the big problem with Army COIN doctrine is that it "low-rates the value of force applied from the air". But my suggestion that there exist some USAF officers who think the Iraq War might have gone better if only they had been given a freer hand in bombing (sorry, I mean, forced to suffer less "hand wringing over the potential for collateral damage") is obviously madness.

Madness? Your word, pasted upon yourself. Wear it with pride, as you will.

Turbulence, your point of view is only possible by donning blinders that exclude things like "The notion that the Air Force applies “indiscriminate” power is obsolete and wrong.". I mean, you blockquoted that, but you disregarded it in favor of hand wringing over the potential for collateral damage. Your point can only be made by disregarding things said by the same guy that contradict it.

Nothing but the best cherries, here.

Your point can only be made by disregarding things said by the same guy that contradict it.

Perhaps you could explain the contradiction?

I see no contradiction between 'the Army foolishly doesn't let us apply as much force as we'd like to' and 'we don't wish to completely annihilate whole cities'.

Well, then, I'm lost.

Perhaps it'd be a good idea for you to restate your main point, stripped of sarcasm and other rhetorical excess, because I'm having a hard time seeing it. Because as I see it, there's an enormous amount of ground between we'd like to have a bit more latitude in selecting our targets and we'd like to bomb the sh!t out of people until they surrender.

It should come as no surprise at all to anyone who's been paying attention that the Army and USAF have disagreements as to who gets to make targeting decisions. If that's your point, we're in absolute agreement. But that's not the way it was stated.

My point is very simple. There exist some USAF officers who believe that the Iraq war would have gone better if only the Army COIN faction had given them a freer hand at bombing. These officers criticized COIN strategy for specifically for placing limits on bombing. Among these critics is Maj Gen Peck, commander of the Air Force Doctrine Center at Maxwell AFB.

Thanks for restating, Turbulence. That's a completely different point than I initially thought you were making.

I think that the USAF is trying very hard to reinvent themselves around drones and tactical bombers at the moment, and when they talk about a freer hand they are talking about 'smart' weaponry rather than old school strategic bombing a la Vietnam.

I'm pretty sure that everyone here is assuming this picture when they talk about collateral damage as well, but I'm not sure that this point is clear to everyone reading so I wanted to make it explicit.

Feel free to correct me, Turb, if I'm mischaracterizing your point or if you have something more from the USAF that points to more indiscriminate means of bombing.

(And, yes, I am aware that 'smart' bombs are not nearly as surgical as the US military led people to believe they were back in Gulf I, nor am I defending Peck's position.)

when they talk about a freer hand they are talking about 'smart' weaponry

Perhaps oddly, IMVHO the sophistication and sheer overwhelming technical superiority of our gear is part of what gets us in trouble.

See here.

When what you have is not just a hammer, but the best, most perfect hammer ever, the temptation is for it all to look like nails.

when they talk about a freer hand they are talking about 'smart' weaponry rather than old school strategic bombing a la Vietnam.

Sure, I bet that's true.

I think the USAF's view that more tactical bombing in an urban counterinsurgancy campaign would be better is just nuts though. Besides the bit about having bombs kill people other than the ones you targeted, there's also the problem that we're generally too stupid to correctly pick out who should get bombed to begin with. All the USAF's magical surveillance technology can't understand a word of Arabic or Pashto.

the sophistication and sheer overwhelming technical superiority of our gear is part of what gets us in trouble.

Farley quotes this bit from a review that I think is on-point:

The culprits are the false prophets of air power. An air campaign starts with a target set, which might be informed by adequate intelligence and consists of targets, which are related to the casus belli and susceptible to accurate targeting. The promise of so-called surgical strikes against legitimate targets makes the use of force acceptable to policy-makers and opinion-formers on the left and the right of politics.

However, as the air campaign progresses the intelligence becomes poorer and the targeting more challenging, even for precision weapons. Therefore, inevitably there is ‘collateral’ damage. At the same time the intelligence becomes less reliable and the targets become more and more remote from the original set. Eventually the campaign ceases altogether to be intelligence-led and becomes capability-led: Rather than search out those targets which contribute to the campaign, the planners seek desperately for the targets which are susceptible to their available technology.


If the assumption is that the Army, because it's on the ground, kills all of the appropriate "targets," and the Air Force sometimes "overkills,", I think that assumption is incorrect. See, for example, Pat Tillman. There is much error and collateral damage in Army operations.

When wars are fought, people get killed. I believe that most military people try to get a mission done most effectively within the bounds of the law, etc.. Part of today's mission is to "win hearts and minds" so that adds incentive not to kill civilians. Meanwhile, it's always good not to get people in our own armed forces killed and injured. A protracted conflict might inflict more casualties over time (and cause other strategic problems), while a fiercer battle might inflict more casualties at once, but result in a more decisive, more short-term resolution. Although the Air Force and Army have their own biases, it seems to me that the effectiveness of a certain type of offensive depends on the circumstances. Considering how long the Afghan war has gone on, the total casualties is way lower than in most other wars. This is because of the intelligent use of technology. Obviously, best that no civilian be killed. Better if we could resolve conflict peacefully. But drones, etc., aren't any more evil than anything else, and arguably fewer people have been killed because of their use. (Not sure that the families of people killed by mines, suicide bombers, roadside bombs, etc. would be so certain of the humane effect of ground wars.)

Turb -- agree with you on the intelligence issue. A lot of this is fighting for position over where the cuts come from if congress can't get its act together on deficit reduction and we have across the board cuts. The high tech side of the US mil was sitting pretty during the Rumsfeld years with his support of the RMA but it got dinged hard by Iraq and Afghanistan and as recent as 2007 Wired was claiming that the RMA was discredited and COIN was the future.

But since Iraq has wound down and Afghanistan is mostly Special Forces and drones, the guys with the high tech footprint are scrambling to retake the territory they lost before the cuts set in.

Sapient -- agree that no one has a 'cleaner' version of war. It's all an unfortunate, if occasionally necessary, mess. Low coalition casualties in Afghanistan are a good thing. Getting out and not adding our own part to the civilian casualties would be even better. I thing we are still trying to do good there, but I don't believe we are accomplishing anything more than dragging out our inevitable withdrawal to try to maintain a measure of dignity.

Is there any reason to have the USAF as a separate branch of the US armed forces, instead of being part of the Army?

In the way olden days it was http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Air_Force> The US Army Air Force. With the acquisition of nuclear capability and getting too big for its britches, it became a separate military service in 1947 at the same time the War Department was renamed the National Military Establishment. Recoiling in horror, the moniker Department of Defense followed shortly thereafter (1949).

Slarti: "Rotary-wing aircraft?" Thank god our pilots no longer have to fly those!

Wait....helicopters? Ah.

bobbyp -- The V-22 Osprey is only confusing matters more ;)

Strong drink. Dividing by 0. Next thing you know I only envision "rotary wings" spinning on a horizontal axis. Dizzying.

Thank goodness the USAF, apparently as a sop, also flies helicopters:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bell_UH-1_Iroquois

At times the hubristic extremism of the USAF boldly leaps http://nuclear-news.net/2011/09/09/some-usa-extreme-christians-look-forward-to-nuclear-war/ > all bounds of rational thought. LeMay lives!

On a more mundane and institutional level, it is understandable that they overvalue air power. They always have (see studies of the effectiveness of the WWII mass civilian bombing strategy). They always will.

"I think that the USAF is trying very hard to reinvent themselves around drones and tactical bombers at the moment, and when they talk about a freer hand they are talking about 'smart' weaponry rather than old school strategic bombing a la Vietnam."

Not so I've noticed. For good or ill, USAF is still run by guys who like to sit in airplanes. From my point of view, most of USAF is busily turning itself into precision strike platforms, including B-1 and B-52. Even A-10 has acquired precision strike capability. Also, exactly zero of the couple of dozen pilots I've had contact with think that there's much overlap between precision strike and urban counterinsurgency. Even concrete bombs keep falling after they've taken out the 4th floor target.

Part of today's mission is to "win hearts and minds"

Off the top of your head, what percentage of the Afghan population do you think has a favorable opinion of the US, today?

I actually don't know the answer to this. I doubt anyone reading this does. But I agree that "winning hearts and minds" is pretty important.

What looks like the best, cleanest, most righteous surgical strike to us, looks like a f**king thunderbolt of death from above to some guy who was just going about his business right before the missile struck.

People don't forget stuff like that.

And I don't think the Army is better about any of this than the USAF. The advantage the air force has is that they are marginally more hands-off. The guy driving the drone is sitting in an air-conditioned office in Creech. Even a close air support pilot is many steps removed from direct, personal, physical risk as compared to somebody on foot.

So, from our point of view, better, or at last preferable.

Nothing against the air force guys, or the Army guys for that matter. But I think Turb's quote from Farley is on the money.

Why was Iraq a more attractive theater than Afghanistan? It was a much more target-rich environment for air strikes.

When wars are fought, people get killed.

No shit.

Look, the technical sophistication of our military is not in question. I would, personally, also say that the professionalism and good intentions of our military are not in question, not in any significant way.

What's in question, to my mind, is whether we are achieving anything that is of use to us, or anyone else.

It's not all nails out there. Even the most beautiful hammer won't drive a screw, or thread a needle. Or win a heart or mind.

Given Rumsfeld's original ideas about Iraq, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giulio_Douhet>Douhet is not yet fully dead. To me it looked like attempts to have the effects of a nuke without the radiation. Wiping Baghdad off the map in a single day by cruise missile saturation would shock the survivors enough to go for unconditional surrender within 24 hours. Iirc a draft got leaked and the Pentagon instantly denied to have ever even considered anything like that.
I also wanted to mention the 'Iraq has more targets' madness but Russell got to that before me.
---
Slightly off-topic. I see a lot of Cain-bashing in the media for his remarks about Iran being a more difficult environment. I think he could have worded it better but it looked to me like one of the rare occasions where he was actually right. The bashers seem to assume that Afghanistan would be the proof that he spoke nonsense but a) Iran may be a wee bit more capable than that sparsely populated backwater riven by war for decades b) ask any soldier serving in Afghanistan, whether he would not prefer a flatter environment with a well-educated population to the mountains with their people that seem to have stayed mentally in the Middle Ages (while using nasty modern weapons).

What's in question, to my mind, is whether we are achieving anything that is of use to us, or anyone else..

Obviously that's the question. That's the first thing to ask (as I mentioned). When the answer is that war will achieve something, then one asks how do we do that with least casualties. Nothing I said had anything to do with whether we are achieving our goals in Afghanistan. What I was addressing was the apparent belief that control of air power (as opposed to COIN strategy) somehow diminishes people's regard for human life.

russell, maybe I'm misinterpreting, but it often seems to come up in these discussions that you are particularly repulsed by drones because people who are in "air conditioned" places don't get hurt (although maybe you missed the recent article about PTSD among drone pilots). I simply take issue with that. I don't think war gets any better or more just or more reasonable just because a lot more people on our side die or lose body parts.

As to people remembering drone attacks, In the Civil War people remembered guns. In WWI they remembered mustard gas. I'm sure plenty of people remember machine guns. It's all unspeakably horrible. Whether the use of weapons of war helps anything else to happen in Afghanistan (or somewhere else) is a different conversation from whether air power makes a war less humane.

sapient: When wars are fought, people get killed.

It's like the weather.

sapient: I don't think war gets any better or more just or more reasonable just because a lot more people on our side die or lose body parts.

russell can speak for himself of course, but I believe his point is that war becomes more likely if it's costless (or relatively costless) to one side. Thus, the threshold for "going to war" falls lower and lower, because, well, it's not going to be "that bad" for one side.

For example, the only person I've ever interacted with that died in either Iraq or Afghanistan was Andy Olmsted, and that was only on this blog and other places he posted. In fact, I don't think I know anyone who has even had a close relative die in either war (that I know of).

So what have these wars directly cost me? Essentially nothing. So why should I care if we start bombing Kerplakistan?

Slarti -- For good or ill, USAF is still run by guys who like to sit in airplanes. From my point of view, most of USAF is busily turning itself into precision strike platforms, including B-1 and B-52. Even A-10 has acquired precision strike capability. Also, exactly zero of the couple of dozen pilots I've had contact with think that there's much overlap between precision strike and urban counterinsurgency. Even concrete bombs keep falling after they've taken out the 4th floor target.

We mostly agree here. I don't think the AF brass want to reinvent themselves. I do think, however, that they want to rebrand themselves as much as they can to avoid cuts. Side note...have you noticed how much the AF recruitment side trots out satellites and science fiction rather than planes? Part of this is that they have the planes part well established, but they also have an eye on their future and I think they see a much smaller role for themselves as missiles seem more and more an artifact of the Cold War.

Sapient -- russell, maybe I'm misinterpreting, but it often seems to come up in these discussions that you are particularly repulsed by drones because people who are in "air conditioned" places don't get hurt (although maybe you missed the recent article about PTSD among drone pilots).

I've been watching those PTSD stories a bit and while it is true that their jobs are stressful and involve long hours and I do not doubt that a few are suffering from PTSD, the mediating technology reduces the incidence of PTSD way below anything similar for combat troops working similar hours. The people with trauma are actually the exceptions that prove the rule. Not minimizing the stress and difficulty of their jobs, just noting the relative difference.

I don't think the Army is better about any of this than the USAF.

I think the Army and USMC are better than the USAF in this regard because:

(1) The Army (at least under COIN theories) has to live there. When the USAF blows up a house, that's it, that's the end of their involvement. But the Army should (theoretically) be meeting regularly with the community leaders, working their intelligence assets, foot patrolling the area, etc. If everyone is enraged, they're going to know about it, so that introduces some element of feedback that a USAF pilot who lands in Kuwait just doesn't get.

(2) Both historically and even now, guys on the ground seem to have a strong preference for Army/Marine and even Navy air support over USAF air support. Like the Marines said in Generation Kill, 'those are Air Force jets, they shoot marines'. To the extent that our own forces have internalized the notion that the USAF is more interested in flying high and fast (and safe) and inaccurate, I think that matters. Soldiers on the ground don't have the luxury that USAF pilots do regarding accuracy.

Note also that the USAF, as an institution, really doesn't like doing close air support. Army guys love A-10 support but the USAF has waged a long war to kill the program. Pilots do a very different job when they're flying a slow armored A-10 close to the ground rather than a very fast F-16 made out of tissue paper at higher altitude.

russell can speak for himself of course, but I believe his point is that war becomes more likely if it's costless (or relatively costless) to one side. Thus, the threshold for "going to war" falls lower and lower, because, well, it's not going to be "that bad" for one side..

That's a theory that seems to make sense until you look at history and the fact that people have fought war upon war even when casualty rates were horrific on both sides. See WWI followed very quickly by WWII. See the Yugoslav conflicts. See Rwanda. See Congo. If anything, the rate of casualties has gone down in recent years, maybe because of precision air power. See Libya. (And, yes, I'm aware that civilian casualty rates are higher than what NATO admitted. I'm not defending anyone here except making a general statement that I don't think military leaders, including Air Force officers, are interested in blindly killing loads of people.)

Turbulence, what I'd like to reiterate is that circumstances dictate whether ground operations or air strikes would more effective at bringing an end to the conflict. My guess is that a combination of efforts have always been and will be most useful. As to what the USAF as an institution prefers, I think it's important to be specific as to what operation it prefers in what region under what circumstances. It's my understanding that COIN presupposes a protracted involvement in a regional conflict. It's a dangerous assumption strategically that the United States would have any interest in remaining focused on a particular effort for long enough to make it work. You can argue about the Libya effort, but the fact that it ended pretty quickly means that we were able to meet our commitment within the term of one administration, even one Congressional term, so that there wouldn't be political pressures coming to bear on the strategy. That, in itself, is something to consider when engaging in a conflict - whether we can assist quickly with weapons.

I don't think war gets any better or more just or more reasonable just because a lot more people on our side die or lose body parts.

russell can speak for himself of course, but I believe his point is that war becomes more likely if it's costless (or relatively costless) to one side.

No need to speak for myself, you've stated my point of view perfectly.

Can someone explain to me why the Republican debate candidates -- always excepting Ron Paul -- have been rattling sabers as hard as they possibly can? Or, rather, why the audiences at their debates cheer at anything that smacks of "more war!"

This is kind of an interesting, recent development. Sounds kind of saber-rattley to me. Bonus: Iran is, per Leon Panetta, one year away from a working nuclear weapon.

"Side note...have you noticed how much the AF recruitment side trots out satellites and science fiction rather than planes? "

As a side note to the side note, recruitment ads in general seem sort of creepy to me. I'm not sure what the right way to do it would be--when one doubts the justice of the wars being fought perhaps there isn't a right way. But some seem to be aiming for groups that see war as a cool video game. A few years ago movie theaters carried a little clip showing a Marine using a sword to kill some huge monster, which might be appropriate if we're sending a commando team to accompany Bilbo and the dwarves as they try to reclaim the Arkenstone from Smaug.

If the assumption is that the Army, because it's on the ground, kills all of the appropriate "targets," and the Air Force sometimes "overkills,", I think that assumption is incorrect.

There is no one who assumes that, because it is breathtakingly stupid.


What I was addressing was the apparent belief that control of air power (as opposed to COIN strategy) somehow diminishes people's regard for human life.

In my experience talking to soldiers and the occasional marine, THEY believe that the USAF has less regard for their THEIR lives than, say, Marine CAS or Army Cobras. I think their feelings in that regard may be a useful proxy for those of civilians to a limited extent.

ugh, "So what have these wars directly cost me? Essentially nothing. So why should I care if we start bombing Kerplakistan?"

I think I understand that you are making a rhetorical point?

My son just returned home safe and sound, but his deployment caused my wife and I a lot of sleep.

If we were not a military family, there are others in our community and I would continue to be concerned for the safety of their serving children. Additionally, there is the strain that has been put on families resulting from multiple deployments.

Moreover, as an American, we should all feel the cost of our international legitimacy when we - our government who is for us and by us - go about starting imperial wars of choice. This is a moral issue as well as a geopolitical problem that has serious ramifications.

Then there is the financial cost. How many teachers could have hired? Bridges and roads repaired? How much healthcare services delivered to those in need for the cost of these wars?

The failure of the COIN doctrine is obvious to the world. What other group have learned that the US is a paper tiger when it comes to quelling popular insurgencies? That is a potential future cost.

What about Abu Graib and Gitmo and renditions and domestic wiretapping and other spying associated with these so called wars? That is a cost to the core of our national identity.

The costs of these senseless wars are immense and anyone not concerned is as much a traitor as the cabal of fools that got us into the wars in the first place.

As for Bush, Cheney and the neocon visiers. Try them in an international court and then execute them, publicly.

cost us a lot of sleep, not caused

Note also that the USAF, as an institution, really doesn't like doing close air support. Army guys love A-10 support but the USAF has waged a long war to kill the program. Pilots do a very different job when they're flying a slow armored A-10 close to the ground rather than a very fast F-16 made out of tissue paper at higher altitude.

Not disagreeing, in general, just supplying some otherly POV that is intended to neither refute or confirm what you said, here. Filling in, if you will.

USAF does tend to disdain the CAS role, but that doesn't mean they don't take this duty seriously. At the pilot level, it's a different story: CAS is taken VERY seriously, and the pilots are very, very serious about their jobs. Which is good news for the guys on the ground, I'd imagine. It should also be noted that pretty much every air combat platform has acquired a CAS capability these days, save possibly B-52s (which are just not really very agile, to understate the point). ANG F-16s tend to be used quite a lot more in the CAS role than USAF F-16s, and there several hundreds of ANG F-16 in inventory. I only know this because I've observed cockpit video, and asked questions prompted by different tactics exhibited by the pilots. I don't have anything like numbers (CAS role frequency vs ground attack) to support; just something for people to consider.

The A-10's main weapon is just not required much these days. There just isn't any armor in use in our present theater that requires a nearly a pound of depleted uranium traveling at ~1 km/s to defeat. Which is not to say that it's not devastating when used. Probably they go loaded with HEI these days more than with the API loads.

One more thing: these days, most missions (CAS or no) are flown at or above 20kft AGL. I don't know what rules are in place and probably could not discuss them if I did; this is purely based on observation. There are loads of good reasons for this, but they pretty much all boil down to: no one likes to get hit, even if they're better armored. 20kft puts you out of reach of most MANPADS and pretty much all portable rifled weapons.

20kft is plenty low enough for modern targeting optics to get you a good look at what's going on, on the ground. It doesn't get you close enough to determine things like nationality, license plate numbers or the exact kind of rifle being carried. That's just another reason (out of many) why boots on the ground are pretty much indispensable: some kinds of things you need up-close eyes on target to confirm.

The degree to which pilots flying multirole aircraft must sacrifice e.g. CAS for air-superiority training would make for interesting discussion, but I really don't know.

Thanks Slarti, those are all good points.

In my experience talking to soldiers and the occasional marine, THEY believe that the USAF has less regard for their THEIR lives than, say, Marine CAS or Army Cobras.

Talking to people about whether their own fellow branch's members care about them more than other branches isn't very conclusive as to whether their beliefs are actually factual.

I don't know how much close air support the Army and Marines provide to each other, but if they each felt differently about each other's air support, concerning regard for the lives of each other's troops, than they did about the Air Force's, that would be telling, I think. I have no idea whether or not that is the case.

Army Cobras

The United States Army doesn't use those anymore, IIRC. Marines use the Cobra; Army uses Apache. And Kiowa Warriors, too, but they're a much smaller helicopter.

Well, just as a matter of course, I think that generalizing about tens of thousands of active duty personnel and making judgments about their respect for human life is extremely poor form. Not to mention "breathtakingly stupid," and arrogant. Just IMHO.

if they each felt differently about each other's air support, concerning regard for the lives of each other's troops, than they did about the Air Force's, that would be telling

In terms of the Vietnam experience, there is this bit from OPFOR (in an otherwise very interesting post):

I can remember COL Bill Plott telling me, that when he was an Air Controller in Vietnam that the Army and Marines would ask him to direct either USMC or USN close air in before calling on the Air Force. He understood their reason, for the USAF often did not deliver the ordnance on target because they came in high and fast, whereas the Navy and Marine pilots would come in low and slow if that what it took.

The Air Force has always looked down on the grunt, look down on the CAS mission, and has always believed that with enough planes and bombs they could win the war.

According to the internet, the Generation Kill line I was thinking of was

Those jets are goddamn Air Force. They shoot Marines.


Talking to people about whether their own fellow branch's members care about them more than other branches isn't very conclusive as to whether their beliefs are actually factual.

In my experience, people get their facts straight right quick when the
consequences for failing to do so are 'you die horribly'. At least, they're more likely to get their facts straight.

generalizing about tens of thousands of active duty personnel and making judgments about their respect for human life is extremely poor form...

What tens of thousands of active duty personnel? Air Force pilots? Of those, the ones who provide close air support? Tens of thousands?

And even if it is extremely poor form, why would Army and Marine personnel express such opinions?

Well, just as a matter of course, I think that generalizing about tens of thousands of active duty personnel and making judgments about their respect for human life is extremely poor form.

You realize that nothing I've written implies USAF pilots are at fault here right? To the extent that the USAF brass have structured a force that is far better at air combat against peer competitors than CAS, you can't blame the pilots if they don't have the tools and training to excel at CAS; it is not their decision and not their fault.

lines/channels of communication are critical with close air support (arty too) and the more direct the line of communication the better; esp. at company level op.s. Organic is best, but same branch is still better than cross branch.

Sounds kind of saber-rattley to me. Bonus: Iran is, per Leon Panetta, one year away from a working nuclear weapon.

Yes, it does. Also, pretty definitive. Anyone have a reaction from the administration link?

Organic is best, but same branch is still better than cross branch.

That's true and it helps explain why guys on the ground seem to like A-10 CAS much better than other USAF CAS. I think that A-10 squadrons were basically embedded in Army units and were much more tightly integrated than the USAF units that replaced them.

Bonus: Iran is, per Leon Panetta, one year away from a working nuclear weapon.

Meh. If I were POTUS, I'd surprise them with something along the lines of "Congratulations! Let's work toward reintegrating your country back into the international community! Our bad on the whole Shah and subsequent sanctions thing. In that regard, if you could apologize for the embassy thing and Ronald Reagan, bygones! Mahalo!"

I'd substitute terrorism support for Reagan, upon reflection.

it is not their decision and not their fault.

Thanks for the clarification.

Anyone have a reaction from the administration link?

Offhand, I'd say this represents a new assault by Panetta to make Congress direct more intelligence cash from CIA to DIA. Now that the Iraq war has ended (and given the current budgetary shortage), Panetta is probably looking for anything to keep his budget going and if he can give war-mongering Congressfolk something that the CIA won't give them (like claims that Iran is about to get the bomb for real this time), then he can leverage that into more cash.

In other words, I think it tells us a lot more about budget battles between CIA and DOD than it does about Iran per se. But I could be wrong.


Also, if I were POTUS, I'd do what Ugh would do.

That's a theory that seems to make sense until you look at history and the fact that people have fought war upon war even when casualty rates were horrific on both sides. See WWI followed very quickly by WWII. See the Yugoslav conflicts. See Rwanda. See Congo.

That's an objection that seems to make sense until you look at your examples and realize that you're citing civil wars, existential conflicts, and suchlike as a counterpoint to the promise of dramatically reduced/one-sided casualties lowering the bar of entry into wars of choice well outside the intervening military's national territory.

Is there anything particulary new in Panetta's comments other than the timeframe of one year? That Iran is seeking nuclear weapons has been asserted by him, Obama and Hillary Clinton at least as early as 2009.

In the past it was the artillery that was feared by the infantry. As an old German saying goes: Artillery does not know friend or foe, just promising targets (you may replace artillery with gunners/artillerymen).
And it is not just the USAF that has that bad rep with the infantry, if jokes circulating in the German armed forces are an indicator. Pilots seem to be seen as arrogant bastards that do not care for the mudcrawlers since WW1. I guess the only ones who fear their own air force even more are the guys in submarines. From what I read both British and American submariners did emergency dives when planes of their side appeared because they knew that those would attack any sub independent of origin and also would have some skill there (while German/Japanese planes would check first and also be less skilled in killing subs).

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