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May 26, 2010

Comments

Eric: I bet over 90 percent of voters approve of these operations. We believe in Jack Bauer, and that our adversaries deserve torture and death for their unmitigated gall in opposing us.
That's we keep losing these wars.

I have lost the game of cynicism to the commenters.

We are unburdened with the need to do actual substantive work when posting.

Presumably Obama has re-evaluated his earlier stated policy positions and as decided that they were wrong.

Perhaps you also should undertake such a re-evaluation.

Actually, no, it doesn't appear that he re-evaluated his earlier stated policy as much as he was always working at cross purposes to his stated policy behind the scenes.

Perhaps you should read more carefully.

Eric... Personally, after eight years of the Bush administration, I tend to agree with you.

I am more than a little skeptical of the Sekrit Squirrels and the whole He-Man-And-The-Masters-of-the-Universe war of cultures we find ourselves seemingly embroiled in...

But as a practical matter: If we are to have SOCOM forces doing arguably necessary things in places most Americans would rather not think about, doesn't that, by definition, include a certain opacity; not only in an operational capacity but in our overall strategic/policy sense as well?

I am trying to be reasonable in balancing our traditional notions of transparency and openness with a certain amount of military necessity...
[change gears]
Note, I say necessity... Personally, I believe a certain amount of accountability to civilian oversight is a necessity. But it should not begin and end with the soldiers in the field.

I was thinking yesterday of the case of Army Sgt. Ray Giroux(sp?) The squad leader in Iraq charged with ordering his men to shoot detainees in the back. Under oath, he testified that he had been dressed down by a superior for initially taking the men "into custody" instead of just toad-cranking them outright.

A captain and colonel also testified at his trial that their operational ROE for the mission was to "kill all men of military service age" like the Soviets used to do in Afghanistan.

Now, to me, just issuing that order would seem to violate not only the spirit and letter of just about any cognizable authority I can think of. But where did that order originate? That's the accountability I want to see!

mojo sends

But as a practical matter: If we are to have SOCOM forces doing arguably necessary things in places most Americans would rather not think about, doesn't that, by definition, include a certain opacity; not only in an operational capacity but in our overall strategic/policy sense as well?

Perhaps, however I think that the current levels of opacity provide too much risk for abuse of power (and the results have been disturbing in terms of that abuse). For example, is it necessary for SOCOM to be conducting nigh raids with seemingly reckless abandon (gunning down pregnant Afghan women and locking up, torturing and disappearing innocent Afghans?) No it is not - in fact, it hurts our COIN operations.

The rebuttal would be: sure, those are abuses, but they are acceptable costs in order to maintain the highly valuable opacity of SOCOM's other operations. To which I would reply: it seems that limited, classified briefings to upper level committees in Congress are not overly risky in terms of upending the secrecy of these missions. And if that baseline level of transparency helps to curtail the most extreme abuses, that is a good thing.

In other words, I'm not convinced of the "necessity" presumption that is the linchpin of your question.

The rebuttal would be: sure, those are abuses, but they are acceptable costs in order to maintain the highly valuable opacity of SOCOM's other operations.

I would never say that the indiscriminate slaying of civilians (or combatants outside of military action, for that matter) is an "acceptable cost" of doing business.

I don't think that anymore than I think you were honestly suggesting we should be printing SOCOM plans in the daily paper in order to hold a national referendum on military tactics...I was looking for balance.

Moreover, my point, I think, is more that our "accountability" to this point, seems to be limited to shaking our heads in sad reprobation at reports of things like kill crazy Marines in Haditha or Green Beenies getting loose on the villagers in Kandahar...

It reminds of this exchange from "Charlie Wilson's War":

Charlie: What is our policy on Afghanistan?

Gust: Technically we don't have one, but we're working on it...

Charlie: Who's we?

Gust: Me and three other guys...

Sorry... point being is that our South Asia policy has been all over the map, so to speak. I believe we don't have a real policy consensus -- either in government or amongst the population -- on what to do there, much less how to do it other than "you go come up with something; let me know how it works out..." and then we have the nerve to be all shocked and surprised when tragedies like the aforementioned happen.

If there is transparency and accountability to be had, it needs to start with what our actual policy is and what we will and won't do to accomplish it.

mojo sends

I agree with that.

Since we don't really know what's in the new orders and we don't know what the heck the secret soldiers are actually doing, we have to assume the President and his generals know what they are doing.

CAVEAT:
The last time I said this was in 2003 as the troops went into Iraq.

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It is interesting that Obama seemed quite sincere in his new beginning with the Muslim world, and now(?) takes a different tack.

My speculation is that the Iranians have been messing about in Saudi Arabia (as they do in Iraq) and the Saudis are calling for help from the US.
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The orders were given 8 months ago. This is plenty of time to screw up and get bad press. They haven't made news outside Afghanistan since then, to my knowledge.

point being is that our South Asia policy has been all over the map, so to speak. I believe we don't have a real policy consensus

Lack of consensus is a continuing problem. Is there a common policy between the coalition and the Afghan government? No. Is there a common policy within the coalition? No. Is there a common policy between the State Department, the CIA and the armed forces? No. Is there even, god help us, a common US Army command in Afghanistan? No. SOF are reporting direct to CENTCOM and playing their own game, cutting the commanders in Afghan out of the loop completely.

THIS IS A VERY BAD WAY TO RUN A WAR.

Since we don't really know what's in the new orders and we don't know what the heck the secret soldiers are actually doing, we have to assume the President and his generals know what they are doing.

As your caveat indicates, this should not necessarily be the default position. As I said in the post, this should be debated and assessed.

My speculation is that the Iranians have been messing about in Saudi Arabia (as they do in Iraq) and the Saudis are calling for help from the US.

Possible, but the authorization includes more than just Saudi Arabia (into North Africa, ie).

As an aside, and I do it too, it's kind of funny that Americans talk about Iranians interfering in Iraq when we have had over one hundred thousand troops in that country for over seven years.

But Iran is interfering.

So the answer is to pull out? Let the Taliban and all the rest have control? Try and control the borders? Na might piss off a Mexican. just let them come in and bomb as they wish.

I have been baptised,Lived in Japan and become a buddist,lived around catholics,and love to dance the jewish dances. The Koran is for people other than me. If it means Woman are subject to all the things i have read
All of the regelions have the same message . A person has saved us from sin if We believ in him. I have no problem with that.

Na must of been on the wrong page
You All have been trying so hard to say something better than the rest of the folks, you done forgot what you were saying. Its kind of easy. If they shoot at us shoot back. If ya think their in a house making plans to kill you blow the house up. If a car wont slow down at a check point waist it.

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