Boots on the Ground

While much of America sighs in relief, if  skepticism,  as the President continues to declare that no “boots” will be on the ground in our struggle with ISIL, it’s not that simple.

Keeping combat boots off the ground in Iraq and Syria will lengthen the fight, even assuming ISIL can be destroyed, as the president claims.

Why so? Because lack of on-the-scene combatants hinders destroying ISIL. It means that ISIL can shift its mode as well as its location of operations. It can hide, morph, or move. As we think we’ve destroyed it. Think: Whac-a-Mole.

It also means that American ships, planes and personnel must be at risk to carry out the operations. Navy aircraft and cruise missiles are launched from ships, which must operate in the Persian Gulf or Mediterranean Sea. In either puddle, they’re targets. That’s why the Navy sends self-defending carrier strike groups. Air Force aircraft (both bombers and drones) have to operate from somewhere. Turkey? Qatar? Kyrgyzstan? Kazakhstan? (What’s the common denominator of those countries?)

At risk longer. Carrier groups must patrol in potential hostile waters. Forward American air bases are surrounded by Moslem populations. As military operations lengthen, they tend to fall into routines. Hostile agents can detect and exploit those routines to plot action.

The cost—money, people, consumables, capital equipment—goes up the longer the operation. That gets into “ops tempo” and “logistics tails,” topics for other days.


With Liberty and Justice for All?

While the world obsesses over the World Cup, Putin continues his absorption of Ukraine. It’s easy to get distracted with the IRS cover-up, kidnapped teens in Israel, crumbling of Iraq, Thailand teetering near anarchy, and Anthrax loose at the CDC.

The liberals were right, you can’t force democracy on anyone. It may be a good system, but as John Adams told us, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

In college forty-plus years ago I studied whether non-Christian religions could accept Christianity. My conclusion was that some could (those who admit the worth of individuals) and (through interviews with Buddhists, Hindus and Shintoists–no Moslems, I was in Hawaii in the 60s) I found varying degrees of enthusiasm and cynicism over the democratic prospect. Just like among Christians. Democracy can “take” in any soil, but it’s most likely to thrive where people respect one another.

Most of the world doesn’t qualify. For many of them an election is just a means of legitimizing a would-be dictator. Civil rights are a smokescreen for discrimination. Bureaucrats are the foot soldiers of repression. (As we’re seeing here.)

Trust building takes generations. Those ignorant of American history do not realize that partisan infighting during the first fifty years of our republic was brutal, culminating with a civil war which killed a generation (almost 2% of the total population).

Democracy is not for the weak. It’s not that it’s the best possible form of government; it’s the best considering how corrupt we are. Even so, it takes a forbearance and civility which most of the world lacks.

Some suggests we lack it too. Let’s prove them wrong.


Chickens Coming to Roost in Iraq

Could the ISIS embroil Syria, Iraq and Iran in decades of sectarian warfare, decimating the radical population of all three states? We can hope. Sadly, even that best-case scenario endangers millions of innocents.

Of course, if George H. W. Bush hadn’t gone wobbly in 1990, we wouldn’t be having these troubles. (He, not his son, is responsible for the mess there.) Saddam Hussein would have been removed then, and the country likely split in three … and we’d have a whole different set of problems.

Be careful what you wish for.

No Wonder No One Trusts America.

For the last fifty years, America’s allies have learned that we aren’t dependable. We abandoned the Shah of Iran, after we engineered the coup which brought him to power. We declared victory in Southeast Asia and abandoned South Vietnam.

Russian tanks are showing up in Ukraine. Tanks. You know, those really big military things. Things which your neighborhood revolutionary—even in Europe—is not apt Continue reading