April 13, 2004

Its 2004, Welcome to 19th Century America

I guess its ironic that "conservatives" never hide the fact that they want to roll back the clock and return America to some imaginary past era. But the way Bush administration is pulling us back to the 19th century damn sure ain't funny, nor is it particularly spoken of.

Much has been made of the Bush adminstration's mastery of media tactics, but what's left unsaid is that that mastery is about the only skill that distinguishes this administration from a government of robber barons. Take a look at the industries represented in the government and the picture emerges. Oil is a big one obviously, and defense as well. Railroads, metals, banking. This is a system of power rooted in 1800's with a mentality to match.

Back when the US first invaded Afghanistan, I read a bit about the regional wargames played by Pentagon in the years previous. Unfortunately I didn't archive the article, and have yet to track it down, so you'll need to rely upon my word (and memory) as to what it entailed.

Faced with a diffuse terrorist organization, spread out guerilla style across the mountains of central asia. The war gamers playing "red" the enemy were able to run circles around the generals. The pentagon planners had the advantage of overwhelming force and the latest weapons, but they proved worthless in the face of warriors capable of vanishing into mountains and blending with the local population.

Now beating a ranking general in wargames in the a particularly good political tactic and apparently "red" got beat in quite an unconventional manner. The generals forced the game organizers to make the "red" troops mass up over in Uzbekistan or someplace and fight like retards a traditional army. Finally the generals could blow them away and feel satisfied with their victory.

What's scary is just how this war game tactic has been actualized over the past few years. The first time was a lucky break for the US. Faced with the amorphous foe of Al Qaeda Bush and company where able to invade an actual country instead, and given the ties between the Taliban and Al Qaeda they actually were somewhat justified.

Now the country of Afghanistan, in as much as it actually existed as a cohesive whole, was a pretty easy target and easily broken. Which of course did nothing at all to solve the real threat of terrorism.

And Condi Rice's recent testimony is making it clear that the administration has never quite been able to conceptually grasp what terrorism is. It doesn't quite map to their 19th century mindstate of force and minerals. Rice repeated the mantra that the problems were all structural like her job depended on it. And in doing so she let the world know just how mentally unequipped she is to deal with
with terrorism. Did she ever see the videos of the twin towers collapsing, destroyed by a weakness in their own structure?

The terrorism of Al Qaeda is the antithesis of structure. It swarms through the rigid constructions of westernism, searching for points of weakness. Points where the very tensions of structure can be deftly turned against themselves. It's no coincidence that Bin Laden, born into a family of engineers, was obsessed with the World Trade Center, attacking it once in 1993 and again in 2001. He saw the weakness in the structure and knew he could topple it. And knowing that what are we supposed to make of Rice relentlessly screaming for more structure?

Its clear that Bush and co, need structure to attack, they can't quite comprehend the way terrorism and guerilla war is conducted. Instead they insist on Daily Kos || personifying the enemy, and reducing reality down to soundbites. Rumsfeld talks of a test of will, and he's right, this is administration trying to will into existence a reality to match their unrealizable philosophies.

Rumsfeld himself is a former RAND director and he seems determined to realize the RAND/Air Force dream of virtual wars, run by satellites, robots and statistics,
free of those dirty, fuzzy, unpredictable humans. Bush focuses instead on isolated leaders, dreaming they might have the potent control of their people he so desperately dreams he has over his. And the National Security Advisor frantically tries to will into this world a scenario where she some how can be unaccountable for the tragedy of 9-11 that ran straight into her job description, making it clear to all just how poorly she did her job.

At the basest point this is an administration determined to maintain the 19th century belief that a small set of individuals can run the world based on raw power and minerals. And shockingly enough they've managed to take over America. Now as they blunder through Iraq, let Afghanistan fall to pieces and prepare for elections in the US we are about to learn just how much reality can retribute.

update: Finally found the article on the Afghanistan wargames referred to above, here is the juicy quote:

The army brass, Dr Johnson said, "were intent on fighting a variation of a war against large tank armies on the central plains of somewhere". At one point, the Pentagon officers involved became so frustrated with their elusive opponents that they asked for the game organisers to have a friendly government's armoured battalion defect to the other side. "They did it to give someone to blast," Dr Johnson said. "Everyone went away feeling viscerally satisfied."

As a result, they missed the point. The terror organisation still had most of its cells in place, and a functioning financial network.

Sound at all familiar?

Posted by Abe at April 13, 2004 05:39 PM

Comments

Though RAND _were_ the people who brought us those wonderful strategies for Indochina, they actually are thinking along the same lines you are about al-Qaeda et al. Check out _Networks and Netwars_, for instance, which is free online:
http://www.rand.org/publications/MR/MR1382/

True indeed Cosma, I'm actually being a bit unfair on RAND. In fact they may well have even been the first to come up with the ultradistributed internet style protocol. But the main trend within RAND tends towards the math, the game theory and the utter disconnect of the human from the war as explored in DeLanda's _War in the Age of Intelligent Machines_.

You mean this, right?
http://www.guardian.co.uk/Iraq/Story/0,2763,787017,00.html

Van Riper spanked 'em pretty hard. The trouble is - depending on who you're rooting for - Van Riper's tactics are consonant with what is generally called the "Revolution in Military Affairs," or RMA. RMA is what Donald Rumsfeld, he of the unstoppable fighting technique, has nailed his reputation to, and it's the RMA approach that looks like it's failing/-ed in Iraq right now.

When I was in USASOC I used to think the RMA was a no-brainer. Now...

On rereading my comments, I realize I need to clarify something I said. IIRC, Van Riper's were classic guerrilla tactics: decentralized, opportunistic, low-tech operations straight out of Mao and Che (and indeed "The Art of War").

The RMA is (ostensibly, anyway) about restructuring the US military, leveraging technology to produce a "small-footprint-forward," decentralized, mobile force of high lethality. Part of this, as I always understood it, was liberating units in the field to fight the way guerrillas always had. From our perspective, the whole Army was going to become more like us in Special Operations.

I think Van Riper (and others) felt it was all a bunch of buzzwords and PowerPoints. I myself never believed that: I still believe that, if you're going to fight 21st century wars, you better have 21st century doctrine. The wrinkle is that force projection and occupation, like we see in Iraq, are pure 19th century operations.

On the war games, that's not the one, the article I read was specifically about Afghanistan wargames.

On RMA, the truth is, much as I'd rather not admit it, that last year's war did a decent job proving it right. The problem is that as Adam points out the political goals require a very different sort of operation. Rumsfeld need to prove his doctrine overroad any attempt to address the reality of the situation. America is currently attempting to reinstall a disciplinary society in Iraq, which requires mass manpower.

Had we just toppled Saddam, kept his army on payroll, minus some judicious purging of the foulest elements, set up a reconstruction that involved mainly US funds and Iraqi contractors and the pulled out, RMA would look pretty damn good. In fact Bush probably would look ok on at least that one area. And with some highly competent (if evil) administration some society of control could possibly have been established. But Bush (or the powers behind) don't want that, they want to dominate. A whole other story...

Yes, conservatives would like to take us back to a certain 19th century model of society. It is based on southern plantations. The people who run it are rich and white. They are Bible Christians. For an exploration of the conservative agenda please consult http://www.powerskeptic.net/cons.htm

Yes, conservatives would like to take us back to a certain 19th century model of society. It is based on southern plantations. The people who run it are rich and white. They are Bible Christians. For an exploration of the conservative agenda please consult http://www.powerskeptic.net/cons.htm

First off, Id like to say that this is not defined as an absence of war. It is the presence of liberty, stability, and prosperity. In the face of the enemy. Don't buy into the pessimism and apathy that says, "It's hopeless," "They hate us too much," "That part of the men and women serving here in Iraq the enemy wherever you are.

You are a mighty force for good, because truth is on your side. Together we will ultimately fail. That is why I am asking for your support. Become a voice of truth in your community. Wherever you are fight the lies of the men and women serving here in Iraq the enemy wherever you are.

You are the soldiers at home fighting the war of perception with the media and American people. Our enemy has learned that the people in the highest regard. We love to criticize ourselves almost to an endless degree, because we care what others think.

Our enemies see this as a weakness and are trying to exploit it. When we ask ourselves questions like, "Why do the Japanese hate us so much?" or "How can we change ourselves so that they won't do that again?"

Here in Iraq would be a goldmine. When our so-called "trusted" American media takes a quote from an Iraqi doctor as the gospel truth over that of the horrendous tyranny of the world will let us!

If the American Revolution was all about. Have we forgotten? Freedom is not peace. The peace that so-called "peace advocates" support can only be brought to Iraq through the military. And we are making the whole world safer.

Your efforts at home and abroad. We are a people that cherish the democratic system of government and therefore hold the will of the world will let us! If the American people believe we are playing into our enemies' hands. Our natural tendency to question ourselves is being used against us to undermine our effort to do good in the world. How far would we have to remember is that peace is not peace.

The peace that so-called "peace advocates" support can only be brought to Iraq through the military. And we are doing a tremendous amount of good. Spread the word. No one is poised to make such an amazing contribution to the detriment of our brave heroes fighting for liberty and peace.

What we have to remember is that peace is not free and "peace" without principle is not peace. The peace that so-called "peace advocates" support can only be brought to Iraq through the military.

*And we are failing, even if we are making the whole world safer. Your efforts at home and abroad.*

We are a people that cherish the democratic system of government and therefore hold the will of the enemy is trying very hard to portray our efforts over here, you can refute them by knowing that we are failing, even if we are making the whole world safer.

Your efforts at home are directly tied to our success. You are the soldiers at home and abroad.

We are a people that cherish the democratic system of government and therefore hold the will of the people back home will lose the will of the enemy.

Don't buy into the *pessimism and apathy* that says, "It's hopeless," "They hate us so much?" or

"How can we change ourselves so that they won't do that again?"

Semper Fi - Credo Elvem ipsum etiam vivere!

1st Lt. Mark V. Shaney USMC
Baghdad, Iraq

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