Posts Tagged ‘war’

China Trade War

July 5, 2013

From a favorite blog: Humble Student of the Markets

A series of comments regarding China’s economic policy.

“Michael Pettis has a different take. He wrote a Foreign Policy article about the credit crunch related convulsions within the context of the transformation from an investment-led to a consumer-led economy and also urged caution by the West in their approach to China:”

“Last week is a reminder that Beijing is playing a difficult game. The rest of the world should try to understand the stakes, and accommodate China’s transition to a more sustainable growth model. As policymakers in China continue to try to restructure the economy away from reliance on massive, debt-fueling investment projects that create little value for the economy, the United States, Europe, and Japan must implement policies that reduce trade pressures. Any additional adverse trade conditions will further jeopardize the stability of China’s economy, especially as lower trade surpluses and decreased foreign investment slow money creation by China’s central bank. A trade war would clearly be devastating for Beijing’s attempt to rebalance its economy and have potentially critical implications for global markets.”

The comment above is stunning in its implications. I translate the comment into several variants. The first and most straightforward reads, “if the West doesn’t continue to buy China’s exports there will be a global recession.”

And, if that isn’t enough of a threat, “it is the responsibility of the West to raise the living standards of China’s peasants [by sacrificing its own workers standard of living].”

Last, and most fearsome, “the West must continue to build up a China that uses its economic might to intimidate its neighbors today and will use it to build a military force to intimidate the world tomorrow.”

China is a nation that has long tantalized the Western economies and political leaders by the sheer size of its population. The West drools over the prospect of being able to sell goods and services to the Chinese population. That drool blinds the West to the self-interest of the Chinese leadership. That is, China will only buy from the West until it either steals or copies technology that enables the Chinese to sell to their own people. The Chinese market is the proverbial carrot on a stick held in front of a Western donkey to entice the donkey to pull the Chinese cart. But the donkey never gets the carrot.

The Chinese leaders know full well that their own self interest is best served by providing for its own people. It must continue to control its population. Economic freedom begets political freedom. China will only buy from the West as long as it suits them. When it no longer does various rules, regulations, laws, partnership requirements, outright theft of trade secrets and technology, and any other useful methodology will be employed to deter and defer Western benefits. The West will forever remain outside the fence looking longingly at a market they will never conquer. For a preview examine the experience of Western companies in Russia under Putin. This too was a large market the West drooled over. It has proven to be a chimera.

Given the current Chinese weaponization of its economic might the West might well respond by ceasing to be a compliant sucker market for Chinese exports. A trade war is far preferable to a military war. A trade war with China is a weapon the West can use to bend China to the interests of the West and the global welfare. A trade war could be used to pressure China to crush the North Korean (and Iranian) nuclear threat once and for all. A trade war could be used to induce China to back off from its territorial ambitions in the China Sea. A trade war could be used to align China’s global interests with those of the West in regards to the Middle East (Syria, Iran); South America (Venezuela, Cuba) and even Africa. A self-sufficient, economically powerful China is a bull [tiger?] in a global China shop.



War Monger, not Isolationist

June 27, 2011


The GOP’s War Powers Opportunism

Republicans abandon principle in a rush to score political points on the president.


Ms. Strassel,

First, I admire, occasionally greatly so and often agree with your writings and your appearances on WSJ Reports. Unlike many of your professional brethren you seem to think as well as you write. Not so much this time. In taking shots at Republicans who now oppose the Afghan and Iraq actions you join the great punditocracy in demanding party loyalty over good sense. I am a life-long Republican who frequently re-evaluates my association with that party over the Democrats or being independent. No one who knows me would dare suggest however, that I am a moderate.

Quite the opposite. I am an ardent, non-religious, fiscal conservative, social libertarian, war mongering globalist to throw out a few bumper sticker labels. My point is that just being a “Republican” ought not to require that I stifle my good sense in favor of a party line that fits on a bumper sticker. Why do you favor knee jerk Republicanism aka party loyalty over good sense? In fact, were I to ever rise to elected office my good sense would be the only anchor in a sea of contradictory demands. You, and others, are entitled of course to dispute my claim of “good sense”.

What I want to relate to you (Charles Krauthammer and Steve Hayes as well) is the consequences of the demand for knee jerk Republicanism in opposition to what you claim is a new form of isolationism. “They’ve
highlighted their own divisions and given voters reason to question whether the party is throwing over principle in favor of political opportunism or, more worrisome, a new form of GOP isolationism.”
Is it high principle to favor an unjustly constricted military operation whose functional objective is merely the political delay of an enemy at the great cost of soldier’s lives and national treasure? Or is it high principle to oppose this failed political policy that masquerades as a military intervention? The United States holds claim as the world’s greatest military power. Yet in 10 years this great nation cannot defeat, militarily or politically, a two-bit near stone age group of rag tag fighters and corrupt leaders. Why not?

I was once a volunteer soldier, a combat medic in Vietnam (173rd Airborne Brigade Oct 68-69). I served with pride, as much courage as I could muster yet often in considerable fear. But I felt a great desire to serve my country. For six months I was a proud soldier though I knew the sound of bullets whistling past my ear and the sight of blood on a comrades chest. During this time my unit was patrolling the Central Highlands, “Two Corp” it was called. We were in a “free fire zone” meaning, basically shoot first ask questions later. My captain developed a successful tactic that enabled us, at some cost, to kill a number of our enemy with few casualties on our side. This was war. Boring, unpleasant, with surprising camaraderie and sense of pride amongst fear, death and despair.

Then we were shifted to a populated coastal region. This is the birthplace of my anger. This was the model for contemporary military (in)action. This is why I am part of that Republican wing now in opposition not only to Afghanistan but Iraq, Libya and anywhere else in the world that politicians crave to send our troops for mere political posturing. In that populated costal area we were essentially ordered not to hurt anyone unless they were literally about to kill us. We could not call in air strikes, no napalm, no helicopter gunships, no C-130 war ships, no artillery. The most powerful military nation on earth tied its soldiers hands and ordered them to die. We went from a “free fire zone” to a “free to die zone”.

And why? So the media wouldn’t be able to display pictures of dead women and children. That is a good thing isn’t it? Does any soldier want to kill women and children? Except for the occasional psychopath no they most decidedly do not. I had to counsel one soldier who happened upon two women on a trail. They ran from him. He shouted at them to stop, they ran, he shot, they died. He was genuinely upset. I told him he did the right thing. Trust me Ms. Strassel, a woman can put a trigger, throw a hand grenade or set a booby trap just as easily as a man. She can also carry supplies, dress wounds and gather intelligence just as a man.

And, for the record, so can a child. While in this “free to die zone” I witnessed a child, a young boy maybe 12 or 13 walk across a rice paddy heading directly towards a small clump of Palm trees. I was on a hill across a road looking at the paddy. The boy entered that clump. Given the isolated location of those Palm trees in the paddy it was clear the boy intentionally entered the clump. I still remember thinking he must have wanted to go to the bathroom and was merely looking for a private place to do so. But that was curious since they normally just used the rice paddy as their toilet. Then the clump of trees exploded. The boy was killed as the booby trap exploded in his hands. In one instant I understood more clearly than any instruction could provide that women and children are as much the enemy as a soldier in uniform. I believe that booby trap was destined for my unit and would have been placed on one of our regular patrol routes.

Yet that is not the most extreme instance of political cowardice that I suffered. It was mid-April 1969 when we were ordered to go look for what military intelligence described as a “large force of NVA” (North Vietnamese Army). The captain, the same man with the successful tactics in the Central Highlands called the company together to give us our orders. With the strained look of suppressed anger he ordered us, that is the right word, a direct order, not to return fire unless we could see the individual firing at us. I actually could not believe this order was accurate and I asked a follow up question. “Captain, what if someone who is in a hutch pops up in a window, fires off a few rounds and ducks back down? Can we fire into the hutch then?”. His answer was singularly blunt: “NO”. We were ordered not to return fire unless we can literally see the person shooting at us.

And we went on that late afternoon patrol looking for a “large force of NVA”. If we found them we would engage them in battle. Sort of. If we could see the person shooting at us. We were not permitted to call in Air Strikes even if we spotted this large force. No artillery either. Might hurt someone. Maybe the AP would take a picture. No mortars either of course. So off we went. Shots rang out. Sniper. Everyone hits the dirt, waits for a further attack. Nothing happens. The captain leads us off in the direction of the sniper. More shots. More dirt. No one can return fire of course. Get up, move out. Chase the bastards they must be a small patrol from that NVA force. Still again more shots. It’s getting dark now. Can’t see anyone even if they are shooting at us. Could see the muzzle blast. Does that count? Get up, go after them.

BOOM! One of our 155mm artillery shells had been set as a booby trap. The snipers knew we were on patrol for a NVA force. They fired at us to get us to chase them. They lead us right into the booby trap. It was dark. The trip wire had been placed from the middle of the trail across to one side. They hoped (and were right) that the first few soldiers might miss the wire. Eventually someone would go on the deadly side and it worked. For them. Six South Vietnamese soldiers who were working with us died immediately. Another six or so US soldiers also died immediately. In the dark, with one booby trap already exploded and having been shot at all evening I had a job to do.

I grabbed my emergency kit and … turned on my flashlight. Nothing like being a bright target on a dark night to focus the mind. But there were another 6-8 soldiers wounded, including my captain. I gave morphine to the friend who was writhing in agony from two badly broken legs and moved towards the front of the line. I stepped on a log and shined my light on it so as to make sure it wasn’t another booby trap. Nope, it was the chest of a friend that I had chatted with just before the patrol started. His chest had a basketball sized hole. I moved forward again. I called out to see if anyone was alive. The man on point (in the lead) was still alive and had only a minor wound. He stayed put to be on guard. A brave man. The dozen behind him were dead and the half dozen behind them badly wounded.

I checked the bodies looking for anyone still alive. I found one! A young man-boy about 18. His right leg was blown off above the knee. Odd, it wasn’t bleeding much. Must be the blast cauterized the wound. His face was so pocked with sand from the blast it looked like a beach version of black face. As I put the tourniquet on what was left of his leg and tried to find a vein for an IV he sat up bold and brash. Instinctively I shined my light on his face, highlighting the whites of his eyes against the sand embedded on his face. Then only inches from my face he screamed, “I’m gonna die, I’m gonna die”! And he laid back down and died.

Please think all this through for a moment. If you were a soldier would you stick you head up when the enemy is shooting so that you could see them shooting and thus return fire? Not likely. Or, if you did you might only be able to do it once. What this episode did was crystallize my understanding of what it meant to be Cannon Fodder. It highlighted the political motivations behind wasteful military operations. In short, I knew then that my government did not care about my life. It wasn’t that I might die in war that would be understandable. It was here, in this populated coastal region that my country became far more concerned about its media image than about my life and the lives of my comrades. My country preferred that I die rather than some child of the enemy.

And that Ms. Strassel is why I now oppose Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and other hypocritical political operations hiding behind soldiers. Our military is not permitted to fight the enemy. Do not ever assume our enemy is unaware of our political puppet masters motivations. They count on them. They manipulate the media and the punditocracy. You have, perhaps unwittingly perhaps not played into their hands. You accuse Republicans of isolationism when their motivations may be a refusal to sacrifice soldiers for domestic political posturing in front of an anti-military media. If you instead took up the journalistic cudgel to take off the handcuffs of our military you would be reviled by many of your peers but you would be right. I am confident that our soldiers can destroy the enemy. Yes and a fair number of women and children as well. Tough. War is hell. Get over it.

If we are not going to permit our soldiers to fight then don’t send them into battle. This is my anger. This is my rationale for opposing the continued political abuse of soldiers. If you call this isolationism you could not be more wrong. I favored invading Afghanistan and Iraq. I favor destroying Iran and its nuclear program. Let us go after and kill Khadafy – and 10,000 men, women and children if necessary. I am a war monger. I am not an isolationist. But in good conscience I cannot any longer support the waste of our soldiers lives and our national treasure for the benefit of a group of miscreants running bumper sticker bi-annual political campaigns.

Went the day well?

May 30, 2011

I read a review of an old British war movie titled, “Went the day well?”. The review was good so we watched the film from Netflix. The title was taken from a John Maxwell Edmonds piece. The film was worth watching as an old British war flick and as warning for our times today to be vigilant against treachery from within and threats from without.

Went the day well?
We died and never knew.
But, well or ill,
Freedom, we died for you.
Went the day well?

From Wikipedia: The epitaph is by the classical scholar John Maxwell Edmonds, and originally appeared  in The Times dated February 6th 1918, page 7, under a short section headed Four Epitaphs. It is the second of four epitaphs composed for graves and memorials to those fallen in battle – each covering different situations of death.

For some reason the title, “Went the day well?” strikes a chord for me. [I was a combat medic in Vietnam 68-69; 173rd Airborne Brigade.] I can picture fallen comrades asking me that question. Out of the ethos the
query hangs over like a branch on a tree. It is in one sense an admonition to live one’s life well. After all, the fallen comrade cannot and gave their life in exchange for my freedom. It is now my duty to live my life well, on their behalf and mine.

Went the day well? I shall do my best.

Do Ask, Do Tell

March 24, 2011

Repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) on the premise of Gay Rights is a false step on a left footed march to utopia. Advocates for the repeal of DADT are only considering homosexual or Gay Rights. The rights of heterosexuals or Straights are simply ignored in a conspiracy of silence. Such silence needs to be challenged. The intent of the DADT repeal is not simply to end one policy, it is to create a wholly new policy of: “Do Ask, Do Tell” (DoADoT). Repeal of DADT now means homosexuals have a constitutional right to openly and freely participate in the military. It also means that they are now free to openly and actively seek and engage sex partners within the minimal limits conditioned by military policy. Even so, they can now “ask” and “tell” with constitutional protections.

The political expectation is that military training and discipline should be sufficient to cure all social ills. Yet most often those who demand that military discipline restrain the hormonal instincts of young people are anti-military forces in pursuit of a political agenda. Pregnancies of military women by military men while both are on duty testify to the limits of such discipline. Not to mention the volume of sexually transmitted diseases (STD’s) by military men and women. The greatest military discipline at issue under DoADoT it will be how to keep homosexuals from widespread sexual activity and the concomitant spread of HIV and other STD’s throughout a unit. Good luck with that. But the discipline issue is a mere distraction, not the key issue at hand. Individual rights – for straights and gays – are the key issue. Straight Rights deserve and must have equal constitutional protections as any presumed Gay Rights.

The issue, indeed even the very concept of Straight Rights has been willfully ignored out of political cowardice. As DoADoT becomes policy male and female homosexuals will be granted superior constitutional rights to male and female heterosexuals. For Straights to have the same constitutional value as Gay Rights, heterosexual men and women must not and cannot be segregated simply because of gender. This new DoADoT policy should require that males and females not only work together but live together in an unrestricted environment. After all, if such physical differences as skin color, height, weight, hair color, and sexual orientation are immaterial then why are mere physical differences in genitalia of any importance?

Clearly there are obvious differences in genitalia within gender as well as between genders. What ought to be equally obvious is that such differences pale in comparison with sexual attraction as a valid rationale for gender segregation. Males and females have not been segregated merely because of physical differences. They have historically been segregated due to presumed sexual attraction. Yet the DoADoT policy explicitly eliminates sexual attraction as a valid basis for gender segregation.

Under DoADoT homosexuals are entitled to openly and actively live with and among that gender to which they are sexually attracted. By what constitutional doctrine or legal logic are heterosexuals to be denied those same rights? Yet, what member of Congress or military policy maker will require male and female military personnel to live together in a wholly unrestricted environment? Will the military chiefs fulfill the constitutional requirement that men and women now must use the same showers together, toilet together, use the same sinks side by side and of course dress and sleep in the same room or barracks? Will Congress stipulate that there cannot be any segregation based on gender? Will the President, Congress or the military chiefs acknowledge that under DoADoT all gender segregation will in fact be constitutionally prohibited?

Presuming that gays are somehow immune to sexual attraction towards straights is utterly laughable. Are straight males immune to sexual attraction towards females, homosexual or not? And since a DoADoT policy enables gays to openly ask and tell if any sexual attraction is mutual it follows that sexual solicitation and activity will follow. And because gays will be living with and among that gender to which they are sexually attracted they will be able to ask gays and straights alike. Homosexual “Gaydar” is no more effective than anyone else’s. But straights will not be able to “ask” and “tell” until living arrangements within the military are modified to remove all gender segregation. Under DoADoT there will no longer be any constitutional doctrine or legal logic to preclude such modifications. Indeed, one can presume that removing gender segregation is not merely permitted, it is mandated as equal protection.

Ultimately DoADoT  means females (homosexual and heterosexual) will be subject to sexual solicitations from heterosexual males while both are showering, toileting or dressing. Males will be equally subject to such solicitations. Under the DoADoT policy there cannot be any gender segregation, everyone is free to “ask and tell” and everyone will be subject to sexual solicitation. Will females freely submit to such a policy? What about homosexual males? It can only be imagined what impact such a constitutional right may have on the military enlistment rates of females (heterosexual or homosexual). It is unlikely to raise them. Nor is any of this likely to improve military readiness or morale.

But the DoADoT  policy rises well beyond the military. If the military must follow a constitutionally mandated social policy of DoADoT, then by what constitutional doctrine or legal logic will civilians be excluded from such a policy? And under a DoADoT constitutionally mandated social policy all gender segregation will henceforth be prohibited. That means bathrooms, locker rooms, and dorm rooms, for elementary, middle and high schools as well as all colleges and universities will be gender neutral. No gender segregation period. This policy will apply to adults as well whether in business or government although one can assume Congress will (as usual) exempt itself. Repeal of DADT is not a trivial exercise to provide one thin segment of society with a presumed “right”. It will result in a massive cynical overthrow of the most intimate human social policy for mere political gain.

Afghanistan, Iraq and Vietnam: A Grunt’s View

October 26, 2009

During my tour of Vietnam, which was decidedly non-tourist, the term “grunt” referred to an army infantry soldier. It may also include marines as well although I don’t know that from firsthand experience. My tour lasted from October 1968 to October 1969. I served, proudly, as a combat medic with the 173rd Airborne Brigade. My experience was not at all unique or special with respect to that of other military personnel. Frankly, I was just one more non-heroic soldier who was ultimately very happy to depart ‘Nam for “The World” (the U.S.).

I was one of 23 grunts who joined the same combat unit on the same day in October 1968. One year later there were just 7 of us who returned home on schedule. Regrettably those are typical odds for combat units. Some large measure of those odds I lay at the feet of the politicians, the media and yes, the generals. My view, a grunt’s view, is that none of them have learned any of the relevant lessons of Vietnam or Korea before. When President Obama tells the world that he needs to study the situation before making a decision and agonizes publicly over the choices I know nothing has really changed. When General McChrystal submitted his report requesting more troops I heard echoes of General William Westmoreland doing the same. There must be a light at the end of the tunnel somewhere.

Much of my combat experience consisted of long days of physical exhaustion, boredom, and deprivation interspersed with brief episodes of intense fear and an adrenalin rush. It was during one of those periods of boredom that I spoke with our company interpreter. I recall it being an evening and I was drinking my usual pre-dark cup of hot chocolate. The interpreter was nearby but otherwise we were pretty much alone. Standing on a hill looking out over the countryside I asked the interpreter what the local people wanted. His reply was concise, enigmatic and insightful. He responded, “They just want to grow their rice and make their babies.” In the forty years since, I have often observed that this is what most of humanity wants as well. Likely most of the people of Afghanistan and Iraq just want the same.

This is not the only similarity between Afghanistan, Iraq and Vietnam. Most troubling to me is that the strategies, tactics, speeches, media reports and failures are all of a piece. Today we want to win the “hearts and minds” of the Afghan people. Yesterday it was Iraqis’. Forty odd years ago it was the Vietnamese. Not sure if that was ever tried in Korea. Supposedly this will be the magic that calms the winds of war and lets the people grow their rice and make their babies. Lewis Sorley, in a recent Wall Street Journal article, has noted that in 1972 this strategy was just getting under way in Vietnam when the politicians pulled the plug and the U.S. vacated the premises.

Hell, I’d heard that phrase in 68-69 when I was beating bush. I even held daily medical services for the local villagers as part of that game. It didn’t seem to help them very much. Perhaps because every evening you could hear the local VC (Viet Cong) walking through the village threatening the people over a loudspeaker. As if to buttress those threats there were the two young boys, maybe 10 or 12, who a week apart were seriously burned by boiling water that mysteriously “spilled” while their families cooked rice. You can’t win the hearts and minds of people who are scared for their lives.

From my point of view, a grunt’s point of view, there are three major systemic errors being repeated today. Three lessons that should have been learned from Vietnam and Korea that today are still being intentionally ignored. An unholy combination of political cowardice, military malfeasance and an amoral main stream media is directly responsible for the fruitless deaths of our military personnel.

  • fight the entire enemy not just the combatants
  • let the military fight and kill the enemy without restriction
  • use every weapon and tactic available

To the first point: fight the entire enemy not just the combatants   It was painfully obvious that China, with some help from Russia was the major supplier and supporter of the North Vietnamese. It was also quite clear that neither the Chinese nor the North Vietnamese would honor any borders in their effort to ship troops and materials to the south. As such there are two groups to fight: combatants and the enemy. The combatants were the Viet Cong (VC) and North Vietnamese Army regulars (NVA). But the enemy included China and possibly Russia. The military fought the combatants and could have destroyed them. In fact, during the 1968 Tet Offensive we nearly did destroy them. But our political leaders refused to take advantage and permit the final blows.

The entire enemy force includes not only the actual combatants – air, ground and water – but also those nations and states that provide money, materials and, in some cases troops. When political leaders are too afraid, timid and feckless to attack the entire enemy then our military defeat is foreshadowed and becomes simply a question of time. This can be seen from the other side in the Russian defeat in Afghanistan. The U.S. supplied money and materials. The Russians did not disrupt that supply chain and were ultimately defeated. Alternately, the Russians invaded Georgia; the U.S. did not provide significant money or material (a token support at best) and the Russians “won”. True the Russians ceased the fighting but only on their terms and still today recognize two Georgian states as “Russian”. Meaning that if Georgia attempts to recover its own territory Russia will likely invade again. It is a stalemate held at the convenience of the Russians. For further study see: Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan (Russia), Iraq (1), Iraq (2), and today, Afghanistan (US).

The great fear of course is that fighting the entire enemy would have thrust us into a world war with China and perhaps even Russia as well. Certainly that is a risk. Not challenging them is also a risk. Consider though that our objective in Vietnam was in fact to prevent the Chinese Communists from establishing hegemony over the whole of Southeast Asia. Since we were there to fight the Chinese, albeit via the proxy enemies of the NVA and VC, why not take the battle right to the Chinese? At a minimum that would certainly have surprised them. And it might not have been necessary to actually invade China proper or at least not on a large scale. Rather an invasion of North Vietnam with massive force and a demonstrable political and military will to win likely would cause the Chinese to reconsider their hegemony plans.

Unlike the U.S. the Chinese learned valuable lessons from the Korean War. From their point of view the Chinese learned that they could successfully attack the U.S. in particular and the Western world in general using proxy enemies. Most importantly they learned that the U.S. and the West would not take the battle directly to the Chinese but would unilaterally pull back from the brink. As Sun Tzu has noted, knowing your enemy is key to success.

I believe that if we are to fight then let us fight at a time and place of our choice. Had we done so world history would have been vastly different and, I submit, vastly better. Millions of dead and enslaved Vietnamese would likely agree. Those who oppose fighting the entire enemy do so based on the presumption the enemy, the Chinese in this case, would have committed to a large scale war that they would in all likelihood have lost. At that time, in the mid to late 1960’s I suggest the Chinese would have thought better of an all out war against a committed US. While their ultimate desire was hegemony over all of South East Asia they would likely have accepted, under duress of course, holding their existing borders as a fallback position.

Move now to Iraq and Afghanistan. Are we fighting the enemy or just the combatants? Who is the enemy? Hint, it isn’t just Al Qaeda or the Taliban or the local warlords. They are the combatants. The entire enemy includes Iran and Syria along with portions of Pakistan. It in a broad scope it includes the financial supporters such as Saudi Arabia, and other Mid East nations as well. Possibly even North Korea. Why? These nations, states and individuals therein provide the necessary money and materials for the local combatants to continue to fight. It cannot be reasonably argued that Al Qaeda and the Taliban are self-supporting military organizations. They survive only by support from other nations.

The U.S. has been fighting in Afghanistan for over eight years with no real end in sight. During that time, in eight years of fighting a 12 year old boy has now become a 20 year old experienced fighter. Tell me again why children are “innocents”? And why does this fight continue? The fight continues because we have not yet attacked the entire enemy. We have only attacked the low level combatants. One option, to attack the behind the scene enemy is a direct military attack on Iran as well as Syria. They are the most likely enemies Iraq and Afghanistan. We could link such attacks to actions in Afghanistan and/or Iraq. For example, the recent double car bombing in Baghdad should provoke a U.S. missile attack into an Iranian governmental building – without prior warning. That attack could be followed by an announcement that further terrorist attacks will bring further retaliation against Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia and the like. Oh, to be sure, the whole of the UN will be outraged and the world will denounce us. But carried to a forthright conclusion the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will end more quickly than if we simply continue the present course. Of course we will be severely tested during this process but that is happening anyway.

The second point: let the military fight and kill the enemy without restriction   My combat epiphany was in April, 1969. My company had been moved from the central highlands to a coastal village area. In the central highlands we had a so-called, “free fire zone”. At any time and for any reason we could fire our weapons, call in artillery and/or request air strikes. Anyone in the area was considered a combatant and could be killed. Moving to the coastal village area was to enter a Combat Twilight Zone. Well, actually, it is even difficult to call it combat. Instead of a “free fire zone” we had a “free to die zone”. Hence my epiphany as I soon realized that I was nothing more than cannon fodder for the political leaders and their military lackeys’ much to the glee of the media.

U.S. political leaders, wilting under pressure from an amoral main stream media, refused to permit the military to take the appropriate actions to disrupt or destroy the enemy supply chain, the enemy combatants or the broad scope enemy at large. The mainstream media in turn was supported and fomented by large numbers of collegiate age anti-war protesters whose main goals were to party in the streets, avoid military service and generally poke a finger in the eye of what passed for political and academic leadership. They were joined in this parade by small numbers of seemingly regular citizens with diverse anti-military / anti-government motives. As a direct consequence the U.S. government restricted military action by limiting where it could bomb, where it could attack and how it could fight.

Late one afternoon my company was assembled and told that we were to embark on a patrol through the coastal village area to look for and engage a large NVA force that was rumored to be in the area. But first we had some marching orders that the Captain was under great pains to explain. The most significant order concerned the new “rules of engagement” which I now understand to be how one side agrees to die for no good reason. Our rules that evening were, “You are not to return fire unless you can see the person firing at you”. I kid you not. I was dumb and naïve so I asked the Captain, “What if the enemy stands up in the window of a hooch (a hut), pops off some rounds and ducks back down. Can we fire into the hooch?” The answer was “No, you are not to return fire unless you can see the person firing at you”. I was totally dumbstruck as were most of my fellow soldiers. We were being sent on a late evening patrol looking for a large enemy force. If we found them we were to engage them in battle. But we were not allowed to initiate fire and not allowed to return fire unless we could actually see the person firing at us. We were free to die for no good reason.

Still orders are orders so we set off across the rice paddies and through the forested fields. As if the enemy knew our rules of engagement – and I am convinced they did – we came under sniper fire. Of course we could not return fire since they popped off a few rounds and hid. Can’t see them can’t fire. Needless to say we couldn’t call in artillery or air strikes either. Feel free to die though! But every time we came under fire the entire company hit the dirt and waited for the attack that never came. After a few minutes we would saddle up and move in the direction of the fire! Again, I am convinced that the enemy that night not only knew our rules of engagement but knew our mission as well. We came under fire, assumed it was the enemy we were looking for and went after them. Perhaps our military intelligence had been fed false information? Boy, I’d just be shocked, shocked if that happened.

It was just at dark when the explosion rocked the area. A booby trap had exploded. Everyone was scared to move in case there was a second or third. As the company medic I had to move as did my fellow platoon medics. Up we went to the front of the line. Dead and wounded littered the area. By this time it was fully dark. Cries and a few screams sounded in the night. My medics and I are moving around in the dark with flashlights trying to find and help the wounded when just minutes before we had been under sniper fire. Not fun being a lit up target on a dark night.

I had to tell two badly wounded soldiers to be patient; I had to check if anyone was more seriously wounded before I could help them. I moved farther on up to the front of the line. With my flashlight I was looking for any soldier still alive. Along the way I stepped on a log, or so I thought. I looked down, and as the flashlight lit up the ground the log turned out to be the chest of a friend. I had been talking to him about his new shotgun just two hours earlier. He had a softball sized hole in his chest.

Miraculously the guy on point (first in line) was alive and only had a minor wound. He was staying put keeping guard. Gutsy guy.  The nearly two dozen behind him were dead or badly wounded. One young kid I found was still alive although one leg was blown off. I put a tourniquet around the stump but it wasn’t bleeding. His face was peppered with sand that pitted his skin like a macabre black face. He sat up as I was trying to get an IV in – he had no veins left though. Too much blood loss I suspect. But he sat up, looked right at me, eyes wide with fear and grotesquely outlined with sand. Then he screamed, “I’m going to die, I’m going to die”. And he lay back down and died.

Right after the explosion I asked the lieutenant to call for two medevac choppers to handle all the wounded. It turned out that we didn’t need them both. All the wounded had been loaded on one chopper. The rest were dead. The captain had a shrapnel wound in his leg but he refused to leave until the morning. I still respect his courage and stamina. After a while the second medevac pilot asked if we still needed him. I said “no, but thanks for being there”. He responded, “Just doing my job”.

The next day the captain was airlifted out by medevac along with some body parts. One man’s boot was found. His foot was still inside. The dead were collected and transported to the rear. In the end at least six Americans were killed instantly along with another six South Vietnamese working with us. Another group of six to eight Americans were wounded most quite seriously. One with a stomach wound died later. Another with both legs broken in multiple places ended up with one leg shorter than the other. I don’t know what happened to the captain. I know he felt great responsibility for the loss.

And why were these men grievously wounded? Why did so many die? Why did we fight nice and not try to hurt anybody? The political leaders were more afraid of a malevolent media broadcasting images of dead women and children than they were about dead soldiers coming home in body bags. The enemy knew our rules of engagement. The enemy knew we wouldn’t call in artillery or air support. They knew how to take full advantage of our self-induced weakness. We were free to die and the enemy obliged.

And what happens today in Iraq and Afghanistan? More “rules of engagement”. Can’t fire into a mosque. So the enemy hides in the mosques. Soldiers can’t call in artillery or air strikes in certain areas so the enemy hides in those areas. If we don’t see the enemy plant the IED we can’t do anything yet the people living in the area where IED’s are planted know full well the bombs are there. Start taking out the people who know about the IED’s. If we don’t stop being nice about it we’re going to sacrifice good young American men and women just so some Iraqi’s and Afghanis won’t die.

If we want to win these wars we need to allow the enemy to die. That means our soldiers kill people. Sometimes, maybe even a lot of times, so-called innocents will die. But a child can pull a trigger, throw a grenade, or plant an IED. So can women. Both women and children do in fact act as soldiers. There are far fewer innocents in a war than the politicians and the public want to believe. I would leave it up to the soldier at the scene to make the determination. Not some fat assed politician fearful of missing a lobbyist dinner and losing the next election. Enough with the rules and restrictions. Take the gloves off. War is brutal and it should remain so. The worse it gets the less we’ll have of it. We have to decide if we’re fighting a war or simply conducting a criminal investigation and police action. If it’s the latter then bring the military home and send in the Capitol Hill Police.

Third point: use every weapon and tactic available   In Vietnam the military was restricted on bombing sites in the North, limited to fighting south of the DMZ, and unable to utilize the Navy to embargo harbors. For the most part they were precluded from following the enemy into Cambodia and Laos. Yes, there were some incursions but it was a limited and restricted effort. As a consequence, so were the results. The Chinese were encouraged by the U.S.’s self-imposed restrictions to continue supplying the North using neighboring countries at will as supply routes. Helpless to deny the supply routes, unable to invade the North and limited in the weapons the U.S. military personnel fought doggedly but were denied victory by political leaders.

 How different would the war have transpired if early on the US heavily bombed the North, embargoed their harbors, invaded the cities north of the DMZ and generally carried the battle to the North? If the U.S. military had free rein to fight the combatants and the politicians had fought the enemy (with the backing of the military) the outcome would likely have been a victory in short order. Instead with a heavily restricted military the US was defeated in a 10 year wasted effort.

 Today, while claiming victory in Iraq I suggest the battle ground has merely shifted tactically and temporarily. Since the whole of the enemy has not been challenged much less attacked the victory cannot be considered secure and likely is illusory at best. In Afghanistan we are seeing a “do-over” from Iraq. Given similar strategies, tactics, and limitations, we will have similar arguments and similar outcomes that are all fairly preordained. The preference of our current crop of political leaders seemingly is to declare victory and leave or at a minimum just shout, “whatever” and get out.

 By demonstrating our willingness to attack the enemy – Iran being the most egregious – we can raise the cost of the war to Iran (and others) and cause them to reconsider their participation. By actually using all available weapons (yes, up to and including nuclear) we can again, raise the cost of continued participation in the war by the enemy nations. Certainly we have many weapons available short of nuclear. Military actions such as naval embargo, massive conventional bombs and missiles, interdicting their ships, destroying their defensive posts can all be done without going nuclear. Economic weapons are also available such as forging their currency to bankrupt the state, food and gasoline embargos, financial and covert support of opposition leaders. Other nations, bearing witness will rethink their participation just as Libya did after the US invaded Afghanistan. Is there a cost to this process? Yes, but there is a far greater cost not to follow this line.

What is most troubling is that our enemies learn while the U.S. repeats failed policies. The following quote by North Vietnamese General Vo Nguyen Giap confirms my understanding of the lessons our enemies have learned. What I want to know is when do we learn the lessons from our battles?

“We were not strong enough to drive out a half-million American troops, but that wasn’t our aim. Our intention was to break the will of the American government to continue the war.”

–North Vietnamese General Vo Nguyen Giap, in a 1990 interview with historian Stanley Karnow

From a Wall Street Journal feature article

“Washington Retreat”
Congress sends the wrong signal to the Iraqis.

Wall Street Journal Friday, November 18, 2005 12:01 A.M. EST


See also the recent article in the Wall Street Journal.

 “The Real Afghan Lessons From Vietnam”

Lewis Sorley

Wall Street Journal October 11, 2009

War Against AGW?

September 3, 2009

From an email sent July 2, 2009 

Recently (serendipity is swell) Paul Krugman had an article that blatantly accused those of us who “deny” anthropogenic global warming (AGW) with “…treason against the planet”. (

In a subsequent paragraph he stated what he believes is the outcome of AGW. It is my presumption that most AGW proponents (if not all) have a similar expectation hence their willingness to traumatize the US economy to reduce the US carbon emission levels.

Krugman:  “The fact is that the planet is changing faster than even pessimists expected: ice caps are shrinking, arid zones spreading, at a terrifying rate. And according to a number of recent studies, catastrophe — a rise in temperature so large as to be almost unthinkable — can no longer be considered a mere possibility. It is, instead, the most likely outcome if we continue along our present course.”

 It is my understanding that part of Japan’s logic in attacking the United States in 1941 was the US cutoff of energy – oil – which greatly threatened Japan. Japan of course was a major importer of raw materials. Their logic was that cutting off the supply of oil was an effective declaration of war. Whether this is totally accurate or not isn’t really my point. My point is that an economic sanction of one sort or another could be considered as an act of war.

 If Krugman and cohorts are correct then worldwide carbon emissions are the causative element of AGW, not just the US emissions. What happens if the US reduces its emissions as AGW proponents desire (we could include much of Europe as well) but the major developing countries (BRIC – Brazil, Russia, India, China) do not do so?

 It seems eminently reasonable to expect that so-called developing countries will not reduce their emissions. In fact, they are explicitly stating that they will not do so. This is their rationale for being excluded from the Kyoto treaty. Their position is that the first world developed countries created the carbon emission problem so they should shoulder the responsibility to fix it. At the same time these countries are demanding the right to use carbon based energy to develop their economies, presumably to first world status. So what happens to the planet if the Western and developed nations reduce emissions but the combined efforts of the remaining countries obviates that effort and total world-wide carbon emissions continue to grow?

 If the planet – not just the United States – is in peril from AGW and if developing nations are not curbing their carbon emissions doesn’t that give the US (and feckless Europe) the right – a self defense right – to use military force to curb carbon emissions in the offending countries? Yeah sure we can try moral suasion but that doesn’t seem to have as much impact as one might think. At least, it hasn’t so far in human history. And as for economic sanctions? See Japan above.

So, what rights does the US have if AGW is in fact a threat to the entire planet? A corollary is what steps are the proponents of AGW willing to take if they truly believe AGW is a global threat? Does the US have the self defense right to use military force to curb carbon emissions if the planet is at risk? And will AGW proponents have the political courage to execute such a war? This all assumes moral suasion fails of course.

Note to self – how long do we try moral suasion before we attack?