Archive for October, 2011

As we continue to look at the 10th anniversary of our involvement in Afghanistan, we call on a reporter with long association in the Afghanistan, Pakistan and India area.

Our guest on Midrats today at 5pm Eastern U.S. will be Rone Tempest.

Mr. Tempest is a former Los Angeles Times national and foreign correspondent who served as the newspaper’s bureau chief in Houston, New Delhi, Paris, Beijing, Hong Kong and Sacramento from 1981 to 2007. In 2004 he was part of a team of reporters and photographers to win the Pulitzer Prize for coverage of massive wildfires in Southern California. A resident of Lander, Wyoming, he served as’s editor until November 2010.

During his stint with the LA Times, Mr. Tempest was one of the foreign reporters riding out of Afghanistan on Russian armor as the Russians withdrew, visited the country while the Taliban were in charge and was recalled to the area shortly after 9-11. One of his key takeaways from his experience is the importance of tribes both in Afghanistan and in Pakistan, as well as in other parts of Southwest Asia.

A graduate of the University of California at Berkeley, he also attended the American University in Beirut and colleges in Germany and France.

He also suffers the distinction of being my brother.

The general link to Midrats is here. UPDATE: A direct link to the archived show here.

A stark and inspiring reminder of the thankless work our Marines are doing day in, day out, in our defense.

Wed, 26 Oct 2011 16:31:13 -0500

Somalia: U.S. Citizen Kidnapped

Taken Question

Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
October 26, 2011


Question: What is the status of the American kidnapped in Somalia? Have we confirmed citizenship? Are we in touch with the family? What are we doing to assist?

Answer:  The Department of State can confirm that a U.S. citizen has been kidnapped in northern Somalia. We remain concerned about the individual’s safety and well-being. We are working with contacts in Kenya and Somalia to ascertain further information and have been in contact with the individual’s family to provide all appropriate consular assistance.

The United States condemns kidnappings of any kind, and we call for the immediate release of all of the victims involved. Due to the privacy laws, we have no further information at this time.



Wed, 26 Oct 2011 16:25:48 -0500

Taking Diplomatic Action Against Piracy

Fact Sheet

Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
October 26, 2011


Piracy off the coast of Somalia is a crime of growing global concern. Piracy has significant and direct implications for every nation, from rising danger to seafarers to impacts on humanitarian aid deliveries and global commerce. To address this shared security challenge, the United States is actively pursuing a broad, coordinated, and comprehensive multilateral approach to combating piracy focused on security, prevention, and deterrence.

The United States is proud to be a founding partner in the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia. Established in January 2009 pursuant to the UN Security Council Resolution 1851, the Contact Group is a voluntary ad hoc international forum of more than 70 countries, organizations, and industry groups with a common interest in bringing pirates, their financiers and facilitators, to justice.

Among its accomplishments to date, the Contact Group has:

  • Facilitated the operational coordination of an unprecedented international naval effort from more than 30 countries working together to protect transiting vessels.
  • Partnered with the shipping industry to improve and promote the full implementation of Best Management Practices that merchant ships and crews can take to avoid, deter, delay, and counter pirate attacks.
  • Worked to build the capacity of Somalia and other countries in the region to combat piracy, in particular by contributing to the UN Trust Fund Supporting Initiatives of States Countering Piracy off the Coast of Somalia; and
  • Launched a new Working Group aimed at disrupting the pirate enterprise ashore, including its associated financial networks, through approaches similar to those used to address other types of organized transnational crime networks.

When I think about the traits that embody a United States Marine, many words come to mind. This clip captures some of the most important, I think: a smart, straight-talking, hard working, beer drinking, no-nonsense professional with the ability to kill the Taliban hordes using nearly every T/O weapon organic to a rifle company (save perhaps a 60 MM mortar), all the while possessing an unrelenting spirit and sense of humor.

In this absolutely perfect segment on late night television Sgt Dakota Meyer made his forefathers proud by demonstrating to audiences across America the different sort of ethos that makes the Marine-tribe so special, in or out of active service…

Lace up your boots. Work hard. Meet the enemy. Do your job. Laugh when possible. If you’re lucky, come home. Be grateful. Remember your comrades. Laugh when possible. Lace up your boots. Work hard. Do your job. Laugh when possible. Work hard. Remember. Laugh. Work….ask the President of the United States to have a beer with you, and never forget to “grease your bobcat.”

I’m proud to see the Corps represented by Ambassador Meyer.


On rare, notable occasions, the literary giants of the ages will capture and express timeless and compelling insight into the human condition. Words that, because of their power, become part of the accepted lexicon which describes a resonant theme or defines the ethos of a distinct group. For those of us who have served in a uniform, and for those especially who have “seen the elephant”, the body of work that resonates with us is somewhat shorter. Nevertheless, it exists, and should be something we all take time to experience, for simply reading is not enough. Rudyard Kipling’s works, written largely in the vernacular of the late 19th-century British Redcoat, are as pertinent today as they were in the Victorian age in which they were penned. Tennyson’s image of the Light Brigade at Balaclava in the Crimea, the War Poets of the Great War, the Russian-language writers of the Great Patriotic War, all should be included.

Another of those works is Shakespeare’s iconic St. Crispin’s Day speech, given by a young King Henry V, in response to an expressed desire of his cousin Westmoreland for more men to face the armor-laden French noblemen that awaited them on the field of battle at Agincourt.

WESTMORELAND. O that we now had here
But one ten thousand of those men in England
That do no work to-day!

KING. What’s he that wishes so?
My cousin Westmoreland? No, my fair cousin;
If we are mark’d to die, we are enow
To do our country loss; and if to live,
The fewer men, the greater share of honour.
God’s will! I pray thee, wish not one man more.
By Jove, I am not covetous for gold,
Nor care I who doth feed upon my cost;
It yearns me not if men my garments wear;
Such outward things dwell not in my desires.
But if it be a sin to covet honour,
I am the most offending soul alive.
No, faith, my coz, wish not a man from England.
God’s peace! I would not lose so great an honour
As one man more methinks would share from me
For the best hope I have. O, do not wish one more!
Rather proclaim it, Westmoreland, through my host,
That he which hath no stomach to this fight,
Let him depart; his passport shall be made,
And crowns for convoy put into his purse;
We would not die in that man’s company
That fears his fellowship to die with us.
This day is call’d the feast of Crispian.
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam’d,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say ‘To-morrow is Saint Crispian.’
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
And say ‘These wounds I had on Crispian’s day.’
Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
But he’ll remember, with advantages,
What feats he did that day. Then shall our names,
Familiar in his mouth as household words-
Harry the King, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester-
Be in their flowing cups freshly rememb’red.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.

Today is the 25th of October, St. Crispin’s Day (in the pre-Vatican II Roman Catholic calendar). It was, at Agincourt in 1415, the day of battle for Henry’s army, and a victorious one. The words that Shakespeare puts in King Henry’s mouth should not fail to move those of us who chose the Profession of Arms.

“We few, we happy few, we band of brothers”. With a new generation of Veterans coming home from our nation’s wars, may we keep them “freshly rememb’red”. And may “the good man still teach his son” of the bravery and sacrifice of this generation. They deserve no less.

Amid the elation inside Libya, and much self-congratulations in the United States and NATO, news of the overthrow and execution of Muammar Qaddafi by Libyan rebels has overshadowed events that are far less promising and welcome.

The Telegraph is reporting that, on the heels of Libya’s “liberation” at the death last Thursday of Qaddafi, an event that finished for good his four decades of despotic oppression, the leader of the Transitional Council has announced a much more stringent adherence to Sharia Law. The implications of this are far-reaching, and the move appears to be much more than a symbolic nod to Islam as the country’s dominant religion. It is an indication that the “revolution” in Libya has had heavy Islamist involvement, including Al Qaeda, Hezbollah, and The Muslim Brotherhood, something many have suspected since the beginning of the unrest. It is also an indication that Libya will be marching backward, away from the international community:

Mr Abdul-Jalil went further, specifically lifting immediately, by decree, one law from Col. Gaddafi’s era that he said was in conflict with Sharia – that banning polygamy.

In a blow to those who hoped to see Libya’s economy integrate further into the western world, he announced that in future bank regulations would ban the charging of interest, in line with Sharia. “Interest creates disease and hatred among people,” he said.

The Telegraph article concludes:

Mr Abdul-Jalil’s decision – made in advance of the introduction of any democratic process – will please the Islamists who have played a strong role in opposition to Col Gaddafi’s rule and in the uprising but worry the many young liberal Libyans who, while usually observant Muslims, take their political cues from the West.

It isn’t hard to imagine just what the “democratic process” will look like under Islamists’ enforcing Sharia law. The Libyans’ 42-year nightmare may be over. Perhaps only to be replaced by another that may last much longer.

There are myriad lessons to be taken from Libya’s situation and her apparent regressive path.

In the “Libya model”, allying oneself with unknown entities of unknown allegiance against a dictator’s regime, and then fighting by proxy through those entities, even superpowers relinquish control of events. Without significant friendly presence on the ground, the goals and objectives of those unknown entities trump your goals, whether you intended them or not, which can lead to potentially severe unintended consequences that make the cure worse than the disease. There are practical matters as well, the location and possession of some 20,000 SA-24 MANPADS, and stockpiles of HD (sulphur mustard) munitions being among them. Revenge against regime supporters, persecution of religious and ethnic minorities, perpetrated by the people we aided in bringing to power, undoubtedly will be the order of the day.

As events follow their unwelcome course in Libya, and we find ourselves with virtually no means to influence them other than with proclamations, it is time to face the somewhat unwelcome truth that this revolution looks far closer to Teheran in 1979 than we care to admit. And worse, this time we helped drive those events without any means of control. When the final bill comes due for Libya, the cost may astound us.


Al Qaeda flag flies over courthouse in Libya

Several Al Qaeda flags among Benghazi protesters

Nope, nothing to see here, folks.


Seems events in post-Qaddafi Libya have run quite close to prediction. Violence and revenge in the wake of civil war on the part of the “good guys” against any known or suspected regime members. Or black migrant laborers, rival villages, tribes, militias, property holders, take your pick. This from The Independent:

The winning anti-Gaddafi militia are not proving merciful. Often they have had relatives killed in the fighting or imprisoned by the old regime who they want to avenge. Sometimes they come from tribes and towns traditionally hostile to neighbouring tribes and towns. Gaddafi supporters are being hunted down. According to one person in Gaddafi’s home town of Sirte, they are facing a “continuing reign of terror”.

“There is a deep and spreading frenzy, particularly among some of the youth militia and the Islamists, to hunt down anyone associated with the former regime,” the source said.

And just to show that the violence isn’t all religious or ideological, this:

The purge of Gaddafi supporters is made more dangerous by the infighting between the militias, and between them and the politicians. Association with the old regime can be used to discredit an opponent. There may also be self-interest since death squads are reported to be taking their property.

Not quite what we had in mind when we decided to go to the window to back a horse in this race. Unintended consequences. Predictable, sadly, but unintended.

From Defense News we have two important articles related to budget. First, it’s suddenly QDR season.

The Pentagon has stood up a team that will rapidly update the document that serves as the foundation of the U.S. military’s strategy and priorities, the Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR).

Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has tapped Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Robert Schmidle, the deputy commander of U.S. Cyber Command, to lead the so-called Strategic Choices Working Group, according to Col. David Lapan, Dempsey’s spokesman.

The panel will update the 2010 QDR, a document that sets long-term Pentagon goals and assesses national security threats. The intent of the QDR is to prepare the military for future conflicts. Traditionally, the QDR is updated every four years.

Schmidle played a key role in the Marine Corps contribution to the 2006 QDR and served as the Marine Corps lead to the 2010 QDR.

The group will update the QDR in 30 days, according to sources.

What should we make of the idea that the DoD will rapidly adjust the QDR on the fly, even though the QDR – which is normally produced every four years – often takes about a full year to develop and publish? Is this a sign of flexibility, or is this a red flag? My sense is that if the QDR process is broken, this probably didn’t fix it.


This week, Panetta directed Carter to work with Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Adm. James Winnefeld, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to “set in place am architecture to govern decision-making on defense strategy and budget options,” the memo states.

“This should incorporate the analyses of the comprehensive strategic review, military compensation reform discussions and the ongoing strategic discussions with the president,” the memo states.

Panetta endorsed the creation of the Strategic Choices Group and the “restructuring” of the Deputy’s Working Advisory Group (DAWG) into the Deputy’s Management Action Group, which will help accomplish these objectives.”

Dempsey has tapped Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Robert Schmidle, the deputy commander of U.S. Cyber Command, to lead the Strategic Choices Group, which is conducting a rapid upgrade of the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review, the bedrock of U.S. military strategy and priorities.

The reviews are expected to inform the reductions in planned spending.

So not only will the DoD rewrite the QDR at a NASCAR pace, but the DoD is also creating a new office to develop architecture to govern decision-making on defense strategy and budget options. How big is the Department of Defense? Apparently not very big, because it only took two SECDEF memos to significantly impact the processes by which the United States spends half a trillion dollars every budget year.

These are very significant changes for the Department of Defense, and making these changes is a public admission by the Secretary of Defense that the current system that connects defense strategy and budget is broken. We all knew this of course, but no one ever thought we would ever actually see proof.

Finally, I for one am very hopeful seeing that Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Robert (Rooster!) Schmidle is being tapped to be the main guy managing budget cuts. By any measurement, Schmidle is a credible choice for this incredibly important task, and all of this news may represent a legitimate turning point towards credible strategic guidance informing decisions forced on the DoD by budget cuts.

With some of the budget reduction POM options coming to the front over the last couple of weeks, everyone’s Fleet-number waterfall graph just shifted to the left a few years. A quick note to those blandly blinking at the PPT; this is not a drill.

It is time to leave behind the sway-back, hidebound arguments and talking points of the Lost Decade; FRP, Optimal Manning, Transformation, exquisite systems, Network-Centric Unicorn Theory – that is in the past. The future, if you will, that never was.

They have either been measured and found wanting, abandoned, unaffordable, or perpetually shifted to the right waiting for quantum theory and pixie dust to make them operational. It is time to move forward.

One underlying fact that has finally reached the 51% tipping point in the minds of most decision makers in the last 18-months is this; in time of financial crisis the military budget will be hit harder than other parts of the budget if for no other reason than it is structurally easier for politicians to do so. With our new “Super Committee” process – even more so.

Relax; there is no need to panic. No need to wear sack cloth and ashes, bound with your full-leg metal cilices as you walk off the Blue Line, through Pentagon Station to your desk. No; it is time to straighten your gig-line, lean forward, walk with purpose to get your next cup of coffee, put a smile on your face, and get to work.

Look at what has been done by our predecessors in a time of stress; naval developments in the 1920s and 1930s in carrier and cruisers; even the 1970s, more or less, brought us the F-16, TLAM, Aegis and others.

This is a time to focus. We can come out of this period – be it 10 years or 20, in a good position if we start now to look; look not just at platforms, but what those platforms carry. Sensors, weapons, leaders, Sailors, and ideas. That is what is critical. Don’t get me wrong – numbers matter for a dual-ocean, maritime, mercantile republic with global responsibilities – but what is on those platforms is more important than just numbers.

To do this right though, we need vision and leadership grounded in fact, modesty, honesty, and respect for risk. Not just that, but in our age it needs to be public vision and public leadership. The time is now to look back for a firm grip on something firm, solid, and reliable – and then reach forward.

A great worry however, is that we won’t benchmark the successful responses to stress in the past clearly founded on solid programs and viable short-cycle evolutionary progresses, but instead will follow the intellectually moribund and disgraced habits of the other past as defined by a future-imperfect PPT deep and an efficiency plan as thoughtful as, “Everyone grab your spoon and take two scoops our of your rice bowl.”

Simple reductions of what we have without vision and an understanding of a strategy to support it is not a plan, it is a reaction. It is drift; drift in rapidly shoaling water.


Ten Years in Afghanistan

October 2011


I had just turned twelve years old. When I saw the planes hit the towers, I never thought I might one day deploy to the country harboring those terrorists. Now, ten years later, we are still fighting in Afghanistan.

The war has now been overseen by two Presidents, three Secretaries of Defense, four Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and five CENTCOM commanders, and yet only one civilian leader of Afghanistan. We fought a relatively traditional war our first two years in Afghanistan, with one Taliban-controlled city after another falling to coalition forces. Like a football team up by four touchdowns at halftime who lets their opponent tie the game, we gave up our momentum in Afghanistan and are still trying to gain it back.

To regain the momentum, the “Counterinsurgency Field Manual” instructs military personnel to win over hearts and minds. To win hearts and minds, you have to understand the Afghan’s perspective- but the perspective of an Afghan Pashtun is very different from that of a Hazara, which is very different from that of a Tajik, which is very different…

Considering the complex tribal relationship and its importance to the war-effort, I expected the Naval Academy midshipmen to study the war in depth. Thus, when I entered the Academy in 2008, I was surprised at the lack of emphasis placed on learning about counterinsurgency doctrine in Afghanistan. We have mandatory, year-long courses in English, history, and physics, but not a single required course about the current war. Only recently did USNA start an Afghan Studies club and Arabic language courses; a handful of political science electives specifically study Afghanistan. Studying about the current war in-depth is possible, as the Academy regularly brings experienced officers and civilian leaders to discuss the war. But with the other time commitments, this optional learning takes a back seat to the paper due tomorrow.

I think the reason the Naval Academy failed to prepare for the long-term in Afghanistan is that the U.S. as a whole did not prepare for the long-term. This initial optimistic outlook is a recent trend. In 2003, General Shinseki, Chief of Staff of the Army, said that winning in Iraq would require “several hundred thousand soldiers” to rebuild Iraq and prevent sectarian violence. Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz responded that General Shinseki’s number was “wildly off the mark” as Iraq had no history of sectarian violence. We will debate whether we should have sent sending troops to Afghanistan and Iraq for the next fifty years. However, one fact is certain: our strategy cannot resemble the midshipman so concerned with the assignment due tomorrow that he fails to study the country he may deploy to next year.

According to the Center for New American Security’s latest report on Afghanistan, “The United States has vital national interests in South and Central Asia that will endure far beyond 2014.” Future officers should take note.

I first read of John Boyd in 2007, and quickly became enamored with the man’s ideas, his bigger-than-life persona, and the tales of his exploits in the Pentagon. Though, in mentioning his name to just about anyone would only result in blank stares and uneasy, one-sided conversations; most only knew of him as ‘the OODA-loop guy’. Because of this, I started to feel a certain sense of being alone in my ideas and interests.

Slowly, I’ve became aware of others who had as much a passion for the ideas of Boyd as I do. To make a long story short, finding these kindred souls has culminated in attending the Boyd and Beyond conference last weekend at Quantico.

One such soul, Scott Shipman (Retired FTBC) has written two good accounts of the conference here and here. So, I’ll forego recanting the actual events and presentations of the conference and offer instead my thoughts arising from the conference.

The conference spent a lot of time on the first half of the OODA-Loop, Observing and Orienting. At some point I became convinced that the type of Sailor we need is one that is a “situational autodidact”. Major Marcus Mainz, USMC, during his presentation made the brilliant comment that “training is for the known, education is for the unknown” in this sense, the spirit in which we must educate our Sailors must be towards making them capable of educating their self as needed when the unknown presents itself to them.

I’ve never been actively educated by the Navy in the sense of what the Major is talking about; I’ve always had to do that on my own. In doing so, I know that I am the exception rather than the rule on the deckplates. The Navy does not prepare their enlisted Sailors for the unknown directly, rather it trusts experience during the natural course of a Sailor’s career to do that. This makes sense, and indeed it is the best teacher there is. However, I believe the Navy could prepare its enlisted Sailors to take greater advantage of their experience.

For Sailors to take greater advantage of their experiences, they need to actively question their actions. By this, I mean that a person analyses a question more than they do a statement. But, it has been my experience that when someone recants an experience they had, it is a rare thing to hear someone say anything in terms of ‘why’ they did something. Much more often someone only tells the ‘what’ of their actions. Think of the Socratic Method, where Socrates would answer his students questions with another question. A Sailor who has internalized such a ‘Socratic process’ would be in a position to provide more cogent feedback as well as learn from their mistakes more often than we do today.

What I am saying is not that the training we offer Sailors falls short of its objectives as they stand today. But, that the spirit of the training is not where it needs to be—we focus our objectives too much on acting rather than orienting. The training our Sailors receive are based on concrete and testable objectives that can be measured, quantified and turned into metrics, that fit well into powerpoint. We do no help Sailors to become autodidactic—we are not training them to become students of their environment, but rather students of their school house.

We start to approach training Sailors to be autodidacts of their environment in the Operational Risk Management training we receive (One thing about ORM: It is Boyd’s OODA-Loop operationalized. The Navy has totally ripped off Boyd, and yet we never mention his name outside of the Warfare Universities—shame on us). We need more and deeper training on ORM and how this method applies to everything we do, whether we consciously realize it or not. In giving this deeper level or ORM, we should also find Sailors able to be more articulate of the process they’ve gone through. Thereby becoming able to better train others of their experiences.

In this, it is my hope that with an improvement in how articulate our Sailors are we also will improve the Navy’s ability to self-synchronize. This improvement in self-synchronization will then lessen our dependence on a hierarchical organization structure—flattening decision-making and decreasing the time it takes to move from orienting to acting, and culminating in giving us a decided advantage over any opponent.

Forgive me for not delving into this further. But, I have 15 minutes of battery life left and no outlet at the coffee shop here on Q street in DC to charge my computer. In talking about Boyd and Beyond and my thoughts, I wouldn’t be topical if I posted tomorrow, or later. Please, as I bleieve that such ideas are fleshed out via discourse, comment on this post, and as I have time I will respond and delve deeper regarding my thoughts here.

Lastly, I hope to see you all at the USNI Honors night on the 19th!

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