SECSTATE Antony Blinken Turns the Other Cheek and America gets Slapped

Sec State Antony Blinken in February  0f this year took the Houthies ( sometimes called the Ansarallah) off the terrorist list  and two days after this move the same State Department became “deeply troubled” by the attacks on Saudi  Arabia  launched by the same organization .  In fact the Houthies were so grateful to the Biden administration  for taking them off the terrorist list that this week they invaded the US embassy and took a number of local staff as captives.

Me in center with white collared shirt posing with South Yemeni students 1989

 

So who are the Houthies? Basically they are the people of the mountainous northern part of Yemen. The name comes from the dominant Houthi tribe that have been in opposition to the Yemeni “government” for decades with intermittent periods of peace. They are  Zai’idi  Shi’a, sometimes called the “fivers,” because they believe that the last Imam was Zaid Ibn Ali, grandson of Husayn Ibn Ali and son of the fourth Imam Ali Ibn Husain. The majority of the Shi’a in Iraq and Iran are called twelvers because they believe in the last Imam (the twelfth), Imam Al-Mahdi who lives in occultation and will return as the promised Mahdi. The twelvers constitute about 90% of all Shias world -wide. The Zaidis are about 25% of the Yemen population. The rest are Sunni of the Shafei school.

Saudis firing in support of the Hadi government. Pretty much a lost cause.

Intasar Hammadi, Yemen actress and model arrested by Houthies for whatever comes to mind.

First off to understand the situation one has to remember that the State of Yemen  has been  divided  the past 174 years- with the exception of a few years of unhappy  shotgun marriage –  into south and north entities. There have been innumerable coups, revolts, and two serious civil wars, presidential assassinations.ongoing tribal wars, primarily in the north. The British landed there in Aden in  1893 and  did not give it up-under fire- until 1967. Today Yemen is “officially” united under President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi.  While the temporary capitol is in Aden, he hangs out in Saudi where he feels much safer.

Mansur Hadi President of the Yemen that does not exist exist except in minds of Western diplomats. His temporary capitol is in Aden and he lives in Saudi Arabia.

The current situation is as shown on this map.  To explain further ; the Western “internationally recognized” Al Hadi government  controls the white area, The green area is controlled by the STC, group,a rebel group backed by the UAE, the brown by the Iranian supported Houthies, and parts of the Hadramaut are loosely controlled by various Islamist groups, Jihadis, E.G. Al Qaeda and the ISIS. In fact the Hadramaut was one of the early recruiting centers for Bin Laden and al Qaeda.

The so called government of the Hadi regime governs very little mostly desert

The Middle East “experts” always assumed that the interminable wars in Yemen were a result of political, ideological and tribal disputes, not religion.  They  wrote that  the fivers were the closest to the “mainstream” Sunni beliefs and thus disputes between the shi’a and Sunni were unlikely. Western analysts are always disinclined to attribute any violence to religious motives. It makes them uncomfortable.

However with the “resurgence of Islam,” which was in fact a Sunni resurgence of the more conservative and radical movements in Islam, Shi’a were seen as apostates. This drove the Shi’a in many parts of the Middle East to become more militant as a counter-reaction. So one can say that the forever war in Yemen does include ideology, politics, and  tribalism but also religion.

there million Yemenis are internally displaced more than 10% of total population.

The Islamic Shi’a regime of Iran  has made itself the savior of Shi’ism all over the world, including  the Houthi faction in the Yemeni civil war.   Western diplomats  frequently use the term “alleged ” supporter of the Houthies, which is convenient to avoid doing anything to annoy the Iranians in the pursuit  of the hopefully reconstituted JCPOA ( the Nuclear agreement).  This Iranian support of the Houthies is part of the  Iranian quest for a Neo-Persian empire as evidenced in Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq (The Fertile Crescent).  In this quest they concentrate on the Shi’a ( or groups Shi’a  related like the Alawis of Syria), and in some cases, Sunni entities that fit their plan , such as the Hamas of Gaza.

HISTORY
Yemen was one of the oldest centers of civilization in the Near East. Between the 12th century BC and the 6th century AD, it was part of the Minaean, Sabaean, and Himyarite kingdoms, which controlled the lucrative spice trade, and later came under Ethiopian and Persian rule. In the 7th century, Islamic caliphs began to exert control over the area. After this caliphate broke up, the former north Yemen came under control of Imams of various dynasties usually of the Zaidi sect, who established a theocratic political structure that survived until modern times. (Imam is a religious term. The Shi’ites apply it to the prophet Muhammad’s son-in-law Ali, his sons Hassan and Hussein, and subsequent lineal descendants, whom they consider to have been divinely ordained unclassified successors of the prophet.)

Egyptian Sunni caliphs occupied much of north Yemen throughout the 11th century. By the 16th century and again in the 19th century, north Yemen was part of the Ottoman Empire, and in some periods its Imams exerted control over south Yemen.

starvation in Yemen

 

 

Former North Yemen
Ottoman control was largely confined to cities with the Imam’s suzerainty over tribal areas formally recognized. Turkish forces withdrew in 1918, and Imam Yahya strengthened his control over north Yemen. Yemen became a member of the Arab league in 1945 and the United Nations in 1947.

Imam Yahya died during an unsuccessful coup attempt in 1948 and was succeeded by his son Ahmad, who ruled until his death in September 1962. Imam Ahmad’s reign was marked by growing repression, renewed friction with the United Kingdom over the British presence in the south, and growing pressures to support the Arab nationalist objectives of Egyptian President Gamal Abdul Nasser.  Shortly after assuming power in 1962, Ahmad’s son, Badr, was deposed by revolutionary forces, which took control of Sanaa and created the Yemen Arab Republic (YAR). The only included North Yemen as the Brtissh still controlled Aden and the Hadramut

The revolt  ( actually it was more of a coup d etat by the Army)  against the Imam and with Egyptian support installed Colonel Abdul al-Sallah as the new president. In fact Nasser with his Arab world  imperial aspirations  sent over 50,000 troops to Yemen to fight the Royalists as the Imam’s  supporters were called. The Zai’dies  constituted  the bulk  of the  royalists and  were supported by Saudi Arabia as the war by proxy between Egypt and Saudi Arabia heated up. The Egyptian  adventurism was a disaster for Egypt – often called Egypt’s Vietnam. The Egyptian peasant soldiers were lost in the very forbidding topography and culture of Yemen.  The royalists fought an insurgent type war against the Egyptian conventional forces.  See Edgar O’Ballance  The War in the Yemen.

 

An Arabic language instructor I had in Washington had served as an army psychiatrist with the  troops in Yemen and told me there were large numbers of Egyptian troops who could not cope with climate and mountains, and were sent home. Conflict continued periodically until 1967 when Egyptian troops were withdrawn. By 1968, following a final royalist siege of Sanaa, most of the opposing leaders reconciled; Saudi Arabia recognized the Republic in 1970. In 1990 the the  Yemen Arab Republic was formalized which, united north and South Yemen, however it was never and still is not a peaceful reunion.

Former South Yemen( A good book on this Tom Little ; South Arabia : Arena of Conflict)
British influence increased in the south and eastern portion of Yemen after the British captured the port of Aden in 1839. It was ruled as part of British India until 1937, when Aden was made a crown colony with the remaining land designated as east Aden and west Aden protectorates. By 1965, most of the tribal states within the protectorates and the Aden colony proper had joined to form the British-sponsored federation of south Arabia.

In 1965, two rival nationalist groups–the Front for the Liberation of Occupied South Yemen (FLOSY) and the National Liberation Front (NLF)–turned to terrorism in their struggle to control the country. In 1967, in the face of uncontrollable violence, British troops began withdrawing, federation rule collapsed, and NLF elements took control after eliminating their FLOSY rivals. South Arabia, including Aden, was declared independent on November 30, 1967, and was renamed the People’s Republic of South Yemen. In June 1969, a radical wing of the Marxist NLF gained power and changed the country’s name on December 1, 1970, to the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen (PDRY). In the PDRY, all political parties were amalgamated into the Yemeni Socialist Party (YSP), which became the only legal party. The PDRY established close ties with the Soviet Union, China, Cuba, and radical Palestinians. see Glen Balfour Paul  The End of the Empire in the Middle East;

Republic of Yemen ( United Yemen)
In 1972, the governments of the PDRY and the YAR declared that they approved a future union. However, little progress was made toward unification, and relations were often strained. In 1979, simmering tensions led to fighting, which was only resolved after Arab League mediation. The northern and southern heads of state reaffirmed the goal of unity during a summit meeting in Kuwait in March 1979. However, that same year the PDRY began sponsoring an insurgency against the YAR. In April 1980, PDRY President Abdul Fattah Ismail resigned and went into exile. His successor, Ali Nasir Muhammad, took a less interventionist stance toward both the YAR and neighboring Oman. On January 13, 1986, a violent struggle began in Aden between Ali Nasir Muhammad and the returned Abdul Fattah Ismail and their supporters. Fighting lasted for more than a month and resulted in thousands of casualties, Ali Nasir’s ouster, and Ismail’s death. Some 60,000 persons, including Ali Nasir and his supporters, fled to the YAR. ( North Yemen)

In May 1988, the YAR and PDRY governments came to an understanding that considerably reduced tensions including agreement to renew discussions concerning unification, to establish a joint oil exploration area along their undefined border, to demilitarize the border, and to allow Yemenis unrestricted border passage on the basis of only a national identification card. Basically however the north and south  Yemen were culturally far  apart. Aden had for 174 years  been a British possession and in the 20th century the  city was very  cosmopolitan and with a number of non Arab residents, including a large Indian population and 5000 Europeans.

In November 1989, the leaders of the YAR (Ali Abdullah Saleh) and the PDRY (Ali Salim Al-Bidh) agreed on a draft unity constitution originally drawn up in 1981. The Republic of Yemen (ROY) was declared on May 22, 1990. Ali Abdullah Saleh became President, and Ali Salim Al-Bidh became Vice President. Despite this, clashes intensified until civil war broke out in early May 1994. The war began when an Northern   armored brigade  and an a southern  armored brigade. on one another in a military motor pool.

Almost all of the actual fighting in the 1994 civil war occurred in the southern part of the country despite air and missile attacks against cities and major installations in the north. Southerners sought support from neighboring states and received billions of dollars of equipment and financial assistance. The United States strongly supported Yemeni unity, but repeatedly called for a cease-fire and a return to the negotiating table. Various attempts, including by a UN special envoy, were unsuccessful in bringing about a cease-fire.

Houthie execution of prisoners…of whomever is considered to be an enemy of the Houhties on that particular day

Southern leaders declared secession and the establishment of the Democratic Republic of Yemen (DRY) on May 21, 1994, but the DRY was not recognized by the international community. Ali Nasir Muhammad supporters greatly assisted military operations against the secessionists and Aden was captured on July 7, 1994. Other resistance quickly collapsed and thousands of southern leaders and military went into exile.

The Importance of Yemen

Yemen sits astride the babel Mandeb which is the  gateway to the Suez Canal . It is a relatively narrow entrance and exit from Asia to Europe. It can w easily be closed or made so dangerous that oil transport companies cannot pay the insurance. The Sumed pipeline which runs from Egypt to the Mediterranean  is not an alternative because the tankers must still use the Bab el Mandeb passage.

Only About 10% of oil being shipped goes through Canal. Seems not a problem? wait to see what happens at the gas station when that happens!!!

Sumed pipeline Not an alternative to the canal.

The second reason Yemen is Important is also related to oil. The Houthies  now have a considerable inventory of long range drones and the expertise to use them…thanks to their Iranian instructors. In September 2019 the Houthies  launched  number of attacks on the ARAMCO oil systems in the Saudi Arabia on the Persian Gulf as a not so gentle reminder  of their capabilities– a signal from Iran to the Persian Gulf Arab oil producers. They have the capabilities to devastate the world oil market. In so far as the US is concerned with the Biden Administration hell bent on reducing oil  and coal supplies, with the  fanciful chimera of electrical power, we will be in  deep cloaca.

Iran Ian-Houthie attack on then Saudi oil fav cities in September 2019. There was no response by the US or Saudi Arabia.

Thirdly as we are now finding out Yemen is the perfect breeding ground  for terrorism. Extreme climate, terrain , remote, hostile to foreigners, and devoid of a natural environment to support invaders.

USS Cole suicide attack in 2000 by AQI

Fourthly Yemen is the most  needy country in the world in humanitarian needs. Ridden with corruption, tribal and sectarian warfare, 80% of the population requires humanitarian aid. Food, water, medical care, infrastructure, all  are urgently needed and little is arriving. Ninety percent of the food must be imported.  Ironically ninety percent  of the inadequate and diminishing water supply is used for agriculture which is primarily used to grow Qat.. a “mild” narcotic planet  which Yemenis spend hours chewing every day. It is a sort  of a stimulant which produces excitement, loss of appetite, and c short-lived euphoria. Coming down from their high the Yemenis become irritable and unapproachable .  At least that was my experience in my two trips to Yemen.

Qat party. they drink lots of strong coffee and smoke the watere pipes for hours, then go home and sleep it off.

 

Oh yes. We haven’t forgotten the local employees of the American Embassy languishing in Yemeni dungeons. The State department is “negotiating” for their release.

AQI attack on Aden

Forget about any military incursion. We should have  learned from  the French in Vietnam,  the British in Iraq, the Russians in Afghanistan, and the Egyptians in Yemen, as well the rescue of the American hostages in Iran. This happens when our enemies see us as weak.

 

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Conspiracy theories abound after assassination attempt on Iraqi PM

The  Iraqi Shi’a militias went wild after the  assassination attempt on PM Kadhimi….. or an incident assumed to be so……. in exclaiming their innocence.  The first assumption to understand is that most of the Shi’a  militia groups in the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) are beholden to and paid by their Iranian overseers. Nothing of this sort would be attempted without Iranian approval and promotion. On twitter many explanations  to exculpate the militias were offered. Among them were;  that the militia does not have drones. Of course the Iraqi army and security services are totally infiltrated  and saturated with Iranian Shi’a  supporters. Getting  drones from the army inventory would not be difficult. Another was that the antimissile systems located at the US Embassy would have shot them down. Of course the missiles were not targeted on the Embassy. Some Western “experts”  wondered why Kadhimi was targeted since he is so weak and pulled and pushed by militias in every direction anyway, and is not a threat to their objectives. In the Arab world the strong horse is admired, and the weak one brutalized. Kadhimi is seen as a sop to Western interests and hence a target to be punched about.

Qais Al Khazali leader of the Iranian surrogate and most violent of the PMU groups, Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq. He was instrumental in the murder of five US soldiers in 20 January 2007. Captured by the Brits in 2007. He was released in a captive exchange in 2010.

The theme promoted by the PMU propaganda outlets, which are well funded by the Iranians, is the it was a CIA engineered event to gain sympathy for Prime Minister  Kadhimi.   An excerpt of the propaganda indicated in one of the MEMRI reports below:

“One poster claimed that the drone attack on Al-Kadhimi’s home came “only one day” after clashes between Iraqi security forces and supporters of Iran-backed militias took place, describing the events as “crimes committed against peaceful civilian protesters in Tahrir Square, where Iraqi security forces fired live ammunition on protesters, killing four martyrs and wounding 125 others.” The posters also alleged that security forces “set fire to the [protesters’] tents.”

Supporters of the Iran-backed militias have been demonstrating for weeks near Baghdad’s Green Zone, voicing their rejection of the results of the recent parliamentary elections, in which some pro-Iran parties lost many seats.

The poster claimed that Al-Kahdimi had given the order to shoot the protesters, and that “there is an American desire to hide this crime” and save Al-Kadhimi by “portraying him as a victim.”

MEMRI is an exellent source of getting the news unfiltered, especially  from the Middle East.

Actually the proposition that the CIA would do something so bold and imaginative is beyond belief.  The CIA has been throughly reduced to wokism timidity.The thought that Robert Burns, currently   the CIA director, would approve an action  of this sort is ludicrous. He is one of the architects of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action ( JCPOA) , The nuc “deal” with Iran. Anyone who believes that an  agreement with the Iranian regime is worth more than the paper is written on should not be in a position of security for the United States. Why the Biden regime keeps pursuing this dead deal despite continued Iranian provocations  is bewildering and humiliating for this country. The idea that the folks at the top  have more information, and therefore us folks at the bottom of the totem pole should assume they know best should have been discarded long ago, after Vietnam, after Iraq, and after Afghanistan. See Dereliction of Duty by H.R. MacMaster

Director of the CIA, William Burns. a Long time State Department diplomat. a great fan of John Kerry, see his gushy hagiographic compliments heaped on the Vietnam traitor in his book, The Back Channel

 

Policy and ideology drives our strategies, not intelligence, even if it were good ( dubious). Many tragic examples are obvious.The public was told for years the  Vietnam victory was right around the corner  because that was the policy narrative. See George W. Allen, None So Blind. We departed Iraq, not because it was stable, but because Obama’s political  fortunes were best served by doing do. Afghanistan, like Vietnam, based on the strategies and tactics we used was a losing proposition.With  better strategy could we have done better?  Maybe….. or it might have just dragged the war on longer).  The generals for years,  from day one, claimed all was going well in Vietnam and Afghanistan. See B. Daniel Bolger,  “Why We Lost in Iraq and Afghanistan,”  an article in Harpers, September 2014. Some, no doubt, had reservations but most  did not speak  loud and clear publicly.  Were these optimistic announcements based on reality, on the ground assessments, or just toeing the politically correct line? Now belatedly we know the truth. As anyone been held accountable? No, McNamara has offered contrition for Vietnam but no one for Iraq or Afghanistan.    How I wish we had had a President Lincoln to weed out the losers, but  Bush, Obama, Trump or Biden has not  done so.

Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, whose portrait is being held aloft by his Shiite supporters.

In Iraq, as so often happens in. this world,  the oppressed became the oppressor. The disenfranchised  Shi’a community under Saddam has now become the oppressors, particularly of the once dominant Sunni community, but they are disunited as usual and have in no way succeeded in establishing cordial relations with the Kurds, 25% of the Iraqi population.  By no means do all the Shi’a support the The Shi’a militias. The cosmopolitan urban Shi’a  middle class and the educated young do not support them, nor do the many followers of Grand Ayatollah Al-Sistani, who commands wide respect among all Shi’a. But as always in the Arab world, the people  with the weapons control those who don’t. The Army is ineffective, shot through with militia sympathizers and members, and the Counter-Terrorism  Service, an excellent professional apolitical fighting force, once popularly known as the “Golden Division,” took heavy casualties in pushing the ISIS out of the north and has never been properly reconstituted.

 

The Iranians do not expect to be able to absorb Iraq into their empire but they do want to keep to keep it fragmented and weak. At times the Iranians have surreptitiously supported Sunni terror groups such as Al Qaeda , Iraqi Sunni aspirations, and the Kurds in Iraq. The primary  objective is to keep the sectarian pot boiling. As long as Iraqis are killing each other they  do not constitute a threat  to Iran.

This  attack in Iraq  is just one more acts of intimidation to anticipate and  humble any American moves to stymie Iranian ambitions in Iraq or elsewhere. So far this course of action has been successful.   Iranians can always hide behind their surrogates which,  makes it easier for the Biden team to avoid blaming the Iranians for their hostile acts and proceed with negotiations in the vain hope that somehow the American public consumed at present with domestic issues will applaud.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Intelligence Failure in Afghanistan; Precursor to the Military Failure

The Wall Street Journal published An article entitled “Agencies Missed Fast Fall of Kabul” (29 OCT 2021). William Burns the CIA director,( one of the primary operatives in the poorly conceived Iranian JCPOA, nuclear deal with Iran) tried to put a good face on it saying that, “There’s a very sobering picture picture we painted of some very  troubling trend lines.”  Strikes me as somewhat like saying American intelligence might have missed the attack on Pearl Harbor but they had warned concerning “troubling Japanese trend lines”

Proud architect of defunct deal with Iran on Nuclear weapons. Now head of CIA

All four intelligence agencies missed the collapse of the Afghanistan  military.  The CIA  reports warned of a Taliban takeover within 2 years after the American departure. The DIA gave the Afghan government 12 months,  The Office of the Director of National Intelligence and  the state Department’s intelligence Bureau similarly miscalculated the longevity of the Afghan government.

“Directionally they were all correct that things were going to deteriorate, ” said a senior administration official.  Well that’s comforting!

Army Colonel Thomas Spahr, in charge of the intelligence assets drawdown stated,” As you pull back troops you are not able to have intelligence collection forward.”  When you dissect that  statement a couple of thoughts came to mind. Do you mean that when the troops left province X, there were no covert collection assets remaining?  That the  prior intelligence before was mostly gathered by troop patrols, local gossip, and what the interpreter-translators told them?” That the intelligence assets of the Afghan Government were useless or nonexistent? If so who in the US Government  was in charge of assisting develop Afghan security and Intelligence? What were the issues?  Who actually, if anyone , was following the morale, and fighting spirit of the Afghans as our units departed. There are so many questions ……and no answers with any credibility.

see https://www.sigar.mil/pdf/lessonslearned/SIGAR-19-39-LL.pdf for a fairly good review of the  Afghanistan  failure but not enough on the military advisory mission which in my opinion was poorly thought out,  and with no disrespect  intended to the advisers who their  best in an impossible environment, was a total flop.

I spent a few years in the intelligence field  in the military and a couple of years as a CIA contractor. I know one famous quip was that if you wanted anybody to read  your article or report you had to classify it…and the higher the better. So I wonder who was reading the reports of the advisors at the lowest Afghan military  level?  They are generally not classified. Those done by advisors at a higher level are generally useless, being politicize  by the prevailing politically correct narrative at the  time. But having been in the advisory business also for a few years, there is a danger there as well. In fact several problems.

Advisor in Vietnam

 

The first one  and one I experienced was that , “field advisors( in Vietnam)  felt they were held accountable for their counterparts mistakes.. In their eyes , their superiors viewed South Vietnamese shortcomings as failures of the advisor to do hisJob properly.” “The burden of establishing a mutually agreeable working relationship was on the advisor in scavenging for supplies and equipment,  in minimizing everyday problems, and emphasizing even insignificant  improvements and success.” Jeffery Clarke: Advice and Support; The Final Years.  This problem was, of course, magnified by the American love of useless metrics good for briefings to VIPs. Thus even advisor reports were ( and are)apt to be skewed by the advisors need to provide happy news for the good of his own career.

In Egypt advisor in background as always

Secondly the American advisors did not for most part eat, sleep, and fight with his Afghan counterparts as opposed to the Vietnam advisor at battalion level who did so.  In the last five years of the Afghan  conflict they were not even at that level. At the higher levels of the advisory mission  there was too much emphasis put on harmony and collegial relations and  not enough on what was actually happening on  the battlefield.  Therefore information on how things were going in the Afghan fighting units was simply not coming from our people on the ground. Assessing the will to fight is not easy for a foreigner  to gauge and certainly not at a division or corps level. The assessment of the people down on the ground with the Afghans was the most important  aspect of determining the Afghan army will to fight.   They were not forthcoming. Our intelligence was based on guesses  (again) despite their determining the “trend lines.”

 

training Egyptians on HAWK air defense systems

 

In the vast overpopulated empires of our intelligence community was there not someone to raise a question and interject “what if the Afghan army collapses?.” One the required book on intelligence,  ( Knowing Ones Enemies, Editor Ernest May)  Intelligence professional  Ricg hard Betts argued that intelligence agencies should always anticipate surprises. In fact weeks prior to the Kabul debacle,  provincial capitols were being taken by the Taliban with minimal resistance, falling like dominoes …was this not a solid clue to the cumbersome Defense Department and  our excessively bemedaled generals  that they should  get out of domestic politics,  and start  concentrating on getting our people out?

Dean Acheson our very able Secretary of State,  ( 1949-1953) wrote, “I have long noticed that military recommendations are usually premised  upon meticulous statement of assumptions that often as not are quite contrary to the facts.” Dean Acheson,  Present at the Creation.

Did these people read anything from the Vietnam war?  Just one quote from a South Vietnamese General on the collapse of the RVN  army would have been salutatory.

“From an of  army of 170,000 equipped with obsolete weapons, the Republic of Vietnam armed forces emerged as a strong modernly equipped force with over a million men under arms, second to none in the non-communist Asian countries. It is equally true unfortunately, that in the process this impressive force became overly dependent on U.S. money and equipment for its own sustenance and on U.S. air power for moral support. There is no doubt that the South Vietnamese soldier could fight , and he did fight well! But in the years he had learned  to take things easy, taking it for granted that needed supplies would never cease to flow and if  he were in any kind of trouble  “Big Brother”  would always be there to bail him out. Such was the psychological conditioning that helped the armed forces of South Vietnam maintain morale and comforted the population.”

 

The author  goes on to ask how could the RVN, already stretched to the breaking point replace the 7 Divisions, 4 brigades  and innumerable support units the Americans  were pulling out of Vietnam? The belated “Vietnamization” program was introduced with a massive introduction of America   equipment, much of which the RVN army had no time to integrate into their army or learn to use. The Communists got it all.

As he wrote, “no amount off training, equipment, or political exhortation could fill the void or ease the feeling of insecurity that set in.” General Can Van Vien;( RVN) The Final Collapse.☀︎

General Can Van Vien accepting congrats from General Westmoreland

 

Any similarity to Afghanistan?  Of course many blamed  the defeat on RVN lack of will to fight, just as  today many  politicians looking for excuses for their incompetence, blame the Afghans. We set them up for defeat.

Unfortunately, unlike in President Lincoln’s time, incompetence generals and officials are never fired. They just retire and rotate to  big money storefront corporate  positions.

Lincoln to General McClellan after he failed to cross the Potomac to pursue General LEE. MacClellan claimed his horses were tired. “Will you pardon me for asking what the horses of your army have done since the battle of Antietam that fatigues anyone.” Again about McClellan. “He is an admirable engineer but he seems to have a special talent for a stationary engine.” He said repeatedly that the “army must be officered by fighting men. Tough hard fighting would win not by strategy.” The Union generals before Grant spent most of their time devising grand strategy which Lincoln saw as simply a way  to delay battle. T. Harry Williams. Lincoln and His Generals

☀︎I have found that the books and pamphlets  written by the Vietnamese, both north and south, are very informative in analyzing why we lost. How other see us is far more instructive than how we see ourselves. Hopefully we will see books written by Afghan officers  in the near future.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Israel; American Role in the Creation

 

the maze in the Creation of the state of Israel

 

 

Things were not going well for the British and French in the “Great War” in 1917. The Russian army had disintegrated thanks to the communists, the French army had mutinied in 1916 and was extremely war weary, the English were living on a caloric intake barely above starvation  level due to the German submarine warfare, the German units were streaming back from the Eastern front to  reinforce the German units on the Western front.     For the British getting the Americans in the war was the overriding  objective. But how to do so….. as President Wilson had promised his people that he would never become in involved in the European war? The British banked on a way to influence Wilson using the pro-Zionist ( Jewish nationalist) sympathies of trusted advisors to the President. The British establishment was generally anti-zionist and frankly Judaeophobic(1) with the exception of Lloyd George,  Winston Churchill, and Lord Balfour. However in their prejudice toward the Jews the British leadership  vastly overrated the power of world wide  Jewish community and  therefore believed they could influence Wilson through the Jewish connection.  “The Jews were thought  to dominate the Russian revolutionary movement and be among President Wilson’s most trusted advisors.” (Michael Cohen: The Arab Zionist Conflict.) 

Moreover there was a rumor that Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany was about to announce his support for Jewish aspirations in Palestine. Therefore, ipso facto, the way to get the Americans in the war was to favor a” home” for the Jews in Palestine. There were many, many other factors involved of course, but this was the American connection to the famous or (infamous) Balfour declaration, announcing  British support for “home”for the Jews in Palestine.(2) In this the British centered on two Jews in the Wilson circle of confidants,  Chief Justice Louis Brandeis, and Henry Morganthau. How much this contributed to the Americans entering the war is probably minimal because the Germans in their usual blockheaded nature, torpedoed the passenger ship Lusitania,  resulting in many American civilian deaths, and were accused of agitating the Mexicans to declare war against the United States in the Zimmerman Affair.

Israel since the creation of the state in 1948  Israel has been the center of Middle Eastern news. Almost every revolution, war, or terrorist event is somehow tied to Israel.  Not that the issues are related in reality, but for simplicity sake ( and propaganda in many instances) somehow Israel pops up.  Journalists, their editors, news source owners, know that their readers want it condensed and uncomplicated,  the devil in the details is left out.

Thousands of books and articles have been produced on the  “Palestine issue” many spilling over into vitriol and utter nonsense. Few are truly that informative. In this blog I intend to concentrate on the seemingly important but actually minor role the United States played in the formation and establishment of the Israeli  state, ironic in view of the fact that in the Muslim world, Israel and the United States are seemingly irrevocably intertwined, certainly in the propaganda mills of the Arab, Iranian and radical Islamist world.

So what was our part in the creation of Israel?  To begin with the United States ( with the exception of securing  shipping lanes) had almost no interest in the Middle East. Among the first were trading and navigation treaties with the state of Oman going back two hundred years. Oman was the first Arab nation to recognize the United States and sent an envoy to Washington. In fact in typical Arab generosity the Sultan of Oman. gave gifts of a two lions, horses and exquisite jewelry  to the president who could not accept them. The jewelry is in the Smithsonian museum in DC. There was also a attempted gift of black slaves which was graciously refused. ( Slavery in the Arab peninsula was legal until the 1920’s.)

Before that the US was involved in the first Barbary wars. It lasted on and off for four years. It ended in 1805 when the American Agent Willian Eaton and a detachment of Marines and native Berbers marched 500 miles from Egypt to overturn the Barbary States ruler. In 1812 at the encouragement  of the British, then at war with the US, the Barbary pirates resumed attacking American merchant ships but in a short three-day war were put out of action by an American fleet.

In the 1830’s the primary interest in the Middle East was by protestant missionaries who sought to convert the Muslim inhabitants to Christianity, primarily in Syria and  Lebanon. They were totally unsuccessful but did manage to woo some Maronites and  Greek Orthodox  Christians to Presbyterianism.  As time went on they began to establish  schools which evolved into totally secular institutions such as my post graduate alma matter , the American University of Beirut.

No Americans were among the list of early Middle East explorers and American  knowledge 0f the region was minimal indeed. However the books by the early European  explorers such as the Germans, Carsten Niebuhr, and the British, George Sandlier, Sir Richard Burton, William Palgrave ,  and Lady Ann Blunt did stimulate interest in the region.

The most well known  American traveler to the Middle East in the mid 1860’s was Mark Twain,  who evidenced a distinct aversion to most of what he saw in Syria and Palestine. In his book Innocents Abroad, he wrote “Magdala is not a beautiful place. It is thoroughly Syrian and that is to say it was thoroughly ugly, and cramped, squalid, uncomfortable and filthy.” Describing Jerusalem, he wrote, “Rags, wretchedness, poverty, and dirt, those signs, and symbols that indicate the presence of Muslim rule more surely than the Crescent flag abound.” He particularly used his sarcastic humors to ridicule thie earlier  European. travelers to the areas who had described it in romantic, enthused phrases of  admiration. Obviously the popularity of Mark Twain’s book  did not encourage American public interest in the region.It took oil to do that. But that comes a bit later.

The American interest in the Middle East  and Palestine during and after WWI began to be focussed on Palestine due to President Wilson’s fourteen points. One of those points was that the the mandate powers must ascertain the wishes of their subjects. President Wilson insisted on a commission to go to Syria and Palestine and  get the peoples wishes. All the other main countries involved, Great Britain, France, Italy, and the Jewish Nationalists ( Zionists) opposed creating one. President Wilson, in addition to being an idealist was also an intractable man and sometimes guilty of megalomania. The commission ( Harry N. Howard: The King -Crane Commission) was  created, which became known as the King-Crane Commission.  Dr. Henry  King was a professor at Oberlin college, and Charles  Crane was a wealthy businessman. Neither knew much about the Arab world, however they had assigned to them Captain William Yale U.S. Army, who became far more important than his rank indicated. He spoke Arabic, had spent time as the American liaison officer with the famous Field Marshal the Viscount Allenby commanding the army that swept the Turks out of the Levant.  Coming from a wealthy New York elite establishment family he hobnobbed with the best and brightest, including Lawrence of Arabia, wrote letters to high officials, diplomats and academics, including Elizabeth Monroe  (Britain’s Moment in the Middle East; 1914-1956).  He was very perceptive, an excellent analyst, and  also an Arabophile.  In the end the  Commission’s report was generally anti-French, anti-British, and anti-zionist.  Captain Yale found that almost every Arab, Christian or Muslim was against further Jewish immigration to Palestine and most wanted a greater Syria, encompassing Palestine. Yale  also observed that there was no such thing as Palestinian nationalism. The report was buried but  since resurrection has become an  edifice in the Palestinian  argument in the eternal conflict….whose land is Palestine.  (Read James Parkes: Whose Land? and opposite somewhat polemical view, James Barr: Setting the Desert on Fire.

To digress a bit from the main subject here perhaps a quote from Elie Kedouri would get to the heart of the matter.  “Islam has generally looked upon the Jews as a subject commodity docile and unwarlike, to be treated with contemptuous tolerance, and whom it is quite unthinkable to consider as political equals.”   And as for  the Zionists, “they knew little about  the indigenous inhabitants inhabitants of Palestine, and looked down on them as backward, primitive and incompetent.” As Kedouri wrote, it was a matter of “mutual contempt.” It still is. ( Elie Kedouri: Arabic Political Memoirs).

Between the wars , the significant factor for American interest became oil. An American engineer, Karl Twitchell,  working for the same Charles Crane of the famous King- Crane Commission, looking for water found oil, first in Bahrain and then Eastern Arabia. With the help of St John Philby,(3) famous British orientalist, and big friend of King Abdul Aziz bin Saud of Saudi Arabia, parlayed the find into what was to become The Arabian-American Oil Company ( ARAMCO) now know as Saudi Arabian Oil Company. The American fascination with automobiles led to a near total dependance on Saudi oil, better grade, and cheaper to produce and refine. This became accentuated with  the entrance of the United States into WWII. (H. StJ. B. Philby: Arabian Jubilee).   With the war the renewed significance of sea lane choke points became critical. As the massive American supply of war materials to the Soviet Union began, the Persian corridor to the Soviets became the safest and most expeditious manner of supply. “Once fully operational the Persian Gulf trans-Iranian. route delivered more aid to the Soviet Union than the better known arctic route.” (Ashley Jackson: Persian Gulf  Command).  It may be remembered that the arctic route to Murmansk was a killing zone for German aircraft and many American merchant mariners died to deliver war materiel to the unappreciative Soviets.

The importance of Palestine to American interests in oil and the Persian corridor were the growing importance of Pan Arabism and Pan-Islamism. Both were inflamed by adroit German propaganda and exploits of a number of German “Lawrences”  who stirred up the Middle Eastern nationalists exploiting Islamic animosity toward Jews. The Palestinian issue was often central to this theme.  The Grand Mufti of Palestine, Haj Husseini, “fused Islamist Jew-hatred with the modern conspiracy theories of Nazi and European anti-Semitism.”  (Youssef Aboul -Enein and Basil Aboul -Enein: The Secret War for the Middle East.) The Mufti’s influence was paramount in the “Golden Square”  Iraqi army revolt against the British in Iraq.  Nazi influence was strong in Iran as well. The Shah of Iran was forced to abdicate because of alleged pro-German sympathies.

The result of the above was that the allies in order maintain the continued flow of oil and keep the sea lanes open became less amenable to Zionist aspirations.  This was true of the American policy makers as well.  King Abdul Aziz Ibn Saud was courted by President Roosevelt and Colonel William Eddy, USMC( retired) a became a close confidant of the King.(4)The British and American Middle East scholars and experts constantly bewailed   the problem  of Palestine  as working against the Allied war effort.  Writing of a report she was  sending to the British government  the famous explorer and Arabist, Freya Stark, wrote “…..I feel I must add the usual wail to my report-namely the Palestine question lies at the root of all our problems.” (Freya Stark: Dust in the Lions Paw)

During the war, many in the American government were adamantly against the creation of a Jewish state, foremost among these were Edward R. Stettinius,a businessman of considerable talent rising to become a close confidant of Roosevelt, and James Forestall the Secretary of War. Stettinius become secretary of  State in December 1944. In his memoirs he recalls the strong support of Jewish congressmen and senators to establish a national state for the Jews. Fearful of disruption of oil supplies and another Arab-Jewish war Roosevelt  convinced the congressman to temporarily shelve the idea. Later in his memoirs he felt that Roosevelt believed that Palestine should be for the  Jews and not Arabs. Fed with a steady diet of dire warnings from his people in the state department and the intelligence community, Stettinius  was adamantly anti-zionist. James Forrestal our first secretary of defense was even more adamant in his rejection of Zionism. Forrestal wrote, ” America has lost prestige in the Arab world by our attitude on Israel.” James Fortestal: The Forrestal Dairies.One Arab source claimed that his lack of influence in the matter led to his suicide. That was not likely however. He had a history of depression and the Washington political war games was alien to his nature.  (Edward Stettinius Jr: The Diaries of Edward Stettnius Jr. 1943-1946.) The eminence grise  of the American  Foreign Service,  George F. Kennan  was even more emphatic about the Zionist state.  He wrote in his memoirs that this country’s greatest follies were, ” involving ourselves with Israel and tolerating the  nationalization of the oil fields…” George F. Kennan: The Kennan Diaries.

The final denouement of this  saga belongs to President Harry Truman.  He was besieged  and irritated by constant  Zionist  pressures to recognize the state of Israel, and on the other hand, dreadful warnings of catastrophe from the intelligence community, State Department, and military leadership, should he do so. Truman gave instructions he did not want to talk to anymore zionist leaders, especially Chaim Weizmann, who had been circling the  globe since world war I to build international support  for a Jewish state.  Truman had spoken to him previously and recognized his persuasive talents. Weizmann asked for another appointment but Truman ignored it. Into this picture steps Eddie Jacobson, a old friend of Trumans from his haberdashery days in Missouri requesting a talk.  Jacobson was a Jew but not a zionist. In the guise of just a friendly talk Truman  said ok.  Using Truman’s hagiographic  view of Andrew Jackson, and  pointing to a small statue of Jackson in the office, Jacobson maneuvered the discussion to get Truman to agree to another interview with Weizmann.   After the interview with Weizmann, Truman  was apparently convinced and told the American representative  to the UN to announce American favored an Israeli state.  The state department’s patricians were aghast. To quote Truman. “I was told that to some of the career men of the State Department  this announcement came as a surprise. It would not  have been if these men had faithfully supported my policy.” As he wrote, “The Department of State’s Near East  specialists  were, almost without exception, unfriendly to the idea of a Jewish State.”  ( The deep state is not new!!!) In a manner I would hope our presidents of this era would do he wrote, “…I wanted to make it plain that the president of United States makes foreign policy, and not some second or third echelon in the State Department. “(Memoirs of Harry S. Truman 1946-1952.)

Perhaps a quote from Sir Ronald Storrs on the problems of writing about the Palestinian Issue is appropriate here. “Being neither Jew ( British or foreign) nor Arab, but English, I am not wholly for either but for both. Two hours of  Arab grievances drive me into the Synagogue, while after an intensive course of Zionist propaganda I am prepared to embrace Islam.” However,  he, like every one connected to the Arab Bureau in Cairo, was generally anti Zionist. However it was later blamed for the all the problems besetting the British in the Middle East…probably unfairly.  Sir Ronald Storrs: The Memoirs of Sir Ronald Storrs. 

 

  1. Reading the Edwardian novels and memoirs of the era, anti-semitism was deeply embedded in the English gentry. They were tolerated and sometimes found in the government but alway looked upon with askance. Many of the Jews of England were strongly anti- Zionist fearing that if an Israel came about they would be deported to this desolate land.
  2.  Almost anything written about the creation of Israel will be refuted by someone. Lord Balfour later wrote that enticing the American  leaders by way of appealing to the American Jews ( Balfour declaration) was false.  He maybe right but there was no doubt others had that view.
  3. He was the father of the infamous Soviet spy Kim Philby
  4. Colonel Eddy was sent to Saudi Arabia as special envoy to King Abdul Aziz . He was born of missionary parents in Lebanon and grew up speaking Arabic. His knowledge of the Arab world was a rare commodity in the U.S. at that time and he was instrumental in the cordial relations between President Roosevelt and the Saudi King acting as the interpreter when the U.S. President  met the king on board the U.S. Quincy He was also instrumental in the formation of the CIA.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Middle East redux?

There was a time when I eagerly looked for new books on the Middle East and followed the programs on the regions, trying to keep up with the twists and turns of Middle Eastern politics but those days are gone. As Martin Kramer,  in a recent blog wrote, If I wrote a book on the Middle East who would read it? Quite true. I cannot think of a recent book on the region which captured my attention or from which I learned something new. I have reviewed a few…most of which I would echo Malcolm Muggeridge’s quote that it is easier to review a book than read it. Most of them today are formulaic in context and poorly written…often in this post-modernist gobbledygook manner that defies comprehension. If I have  forgotten one I apologize, but while writing this I cannot think of one that seized my attention. Bernard Lewis and Fouad Ajami have departed the scene and so have most of the great scholars of Islam and the Arab world.  William Muir, David Mangolioth, Philip Hitti, Albert Hourani, Edward W. Lane,….Even the last couple of books by Bernard Lewis were quick rehashes of earlier more weighty studies.

Edward lane Nothing can compare with his Manners and Customs of the Modern Egyptians ( 1836)

 

Who still has interest in the middle east.?  With a few exceptions the Middle East scholarly community of this country has never been particularly high in learning or teaching, usually more involved in political and or ideological campaigns, particularly those of the Left, with the Arab-Israeli drama always getting the major share attention. This is in spite of the fact that it has never been one of the major issues which have afflicted the region prior to the establishment of the Jewish state.

 

The debacle of Afghanistan has been erased from public view by a public that is always anxious to move on to the next celebrity event and a state media adroitly circling their wagons to protect the ruling elite establishment.

Moreover, as is usual, most people are caught up in the currents of everyday day life, which is characteristic of Americans, with the added anxiety of the Wuhan virus and inflation, especially those of us on fixed incomes. Many like myself are far more worried about the precipitous decline of America as a nation under the woefully weak leadership in Washington than to worry very much about the Middle East.

 

The usual factors always presented to describe the importance of the Middle East have been the following;

 

1.Access to oil at a reasonable price.  For a number of years this has not been an issue to get attention.  Only about 10% of our oil is from the Persian Gulf and a negligible amount from elsewhere in the Middle East. However, many of our friendly states (difficult to write allies these days) do need Persian Gulf oil.

 

2.Strategic routes i.e. The Suez Canal, Bab Al Mandab, The Red Sea, the Gulf of Oman, The Persian Gulf and the Hormuz straits. And to Israel the Gulf of Aqaba.

 

It is also argued that being in the Middle between Asia and Europe the Middle East has importance in terms of air traffic.   Here we are talking about the theories of A.T. Mahan, and H.J. Mackinder. Certainly, this had considerable bearing on the strategy of Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. This bottleneck in resupply of various goods to the U.S reawakens the importance of sea-lanes to the economy of the U.S.  resupply to Israel ion time of war has always been an issue.

BIRMINGHAM, UNITED KINGDOM – FEBRUARY 02: The minaret and dome of the Birmingham Central Mosque dominate the skyline as Muslims arrive for friday prayers on 2 February, 2007, Birmingham, England. Around 3,500 attended prayers where religous leaders called for calm in the wake of the nine arrests during anti-terror raids across the city. Detectives are continuing to question nine men in an alleged attempt to conduct an “Iraqi” style kidnap of a British soldier. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

  1. The birthplace of the three great religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. But in the West, especially Europe, Christianity is a mostly a hollow shell and has little importance. In the US we are following suit. For decades if not centuries, persecution and eviction of Middle Eastern Christian communities has taken place, and with few exceptions, (since the crusades) Western “Christendom” has taken no notice. In fact I have seen in my time in the Middle East, Western correspondents have usually sided with the Islamists. This was particularly true in the Lebanese civil war. It was an earlier manifestation of wokism.For example, most have heard of the massacre of Palestinians at the Shatila and Sabra camps in Lebanon by Christian militia, but how many know of the massacre of Lebanese Christians in the city of Damour by Palestinians and their allies? Or how many know that the bloodier massacre of Sunni Palestinians at Shatila and Sabra camps was perpetrated by Lebanese Shi’a militia during the Civil war phrase known as the “War of the Camps?”

    Kibizing with my buddy Arafat at the London wax museum. As much as one person can he began the destruction of Lebanon

 

Judaism lives precariously in tiny Israel, surrounded by enemies, and Judaism in the West seems to have lost its appeal with many of the younger Jewish elite. In the U.S. they are frequently on the leading edge of every left wing fashionable woke cause , including boycotting Israel. The current weak leadership in Tel Aviv gives no sense of confidence that Israel, without US support, can maintain its leading edge in military prowess.  That support is very unlikely from the Biden administration. The Biden. Administration has been pressuring the Israelis to grant unreciprocated benefits to the Palestinians, for reasons that can only be attributed to the influence of the anti-Semitic “progressive” element of the Democratic party. In France and other European countries, Jews walk the streets in trepidation as the increasing numbers of hostile Muslims and domestic neo fascists look for opportunities to attack them.

What to do? what to do? if only Israel would disappear. Such a headache.

 

 

The Islamists have, in  Western nations, teamed with left-wing militants to keep Western countries roiling with discontent. This is particularly true in the US. It is ironic that the first heads to roll would be that of the leftists under Islamist rule.  A good book to read in this connection is Unveiled: How Western Liberals empower Radical Islam. By Yasmine Mohammed.

Linda Sarsour leading women’s march. Activist and Islamic mole

 

 

In my day as a student of Middle East history, the professors were older learned gentlemen, Hanna Batatu, Walid Khalidi, Zeine N. Zeine,  Joe Malone,  people who knew their subject  and expected students to learn.

Dr Joseph Malone My mentor at the American University of Beirut. The ideas expressed here are wholly mine

From that time and going to innumerable Middle East conferences over the past 30 years, my picture of many  neo Middle East “scholars” is a youngish fellow in skinny jeans,  wearing sandals with an open necked shirt, blue blazer covered with dandruff on both shoulders, and a 4 day growth of facial hair that he spends hours each day carefully cultivating. A sort of Hunter Biden look. He talks and acts like one of the students. His students go off to jobs in the State Department and DOD, thinking that colonialism, imperialism and Zionism are main problems in the Middle East. He thinks that the best book to read is Edward Said’s Orientalism, which has over the years, created of a cult of ideologically driven know-nothings.

Edward Said, Theatre Critic and founder of the Said Middle East scholarly cult “if it’s bad the Zionists did it.”

 

I was think of this the other day reminiscing about my early interest in the Middle East, beginning a cadet at  West Point. I was not in the top of my class so I had few chances for electives but one I chose was Middle Eastern History study taught by a Captain, whose I name I cannot recall. I was fascinated by the class and could not wait to get into the Foreign Area Specialist program.  After some years at battery level artillery assignments I did and I enjoyed my years in the Arab world immensely, even the language study in Beirut.  Unfortunately, the language study in the commercial school I attended in Washington   D.C. was a bad joke. I never learned the language as well as I should have. As I wrote in a previous blog, I had to endure the malignant personality of my Iraqi Ba’athi instructor. In Beirut I think I was enjoying myself too much in the Lebanese lifestyle, but I pride myself on being better than most working within the nuances of the complicated culture.

Beirut as it use to be destroyed by Islamist warlords and greedy politicians

I think now how the Middle East of my day has become just another wasteland of fanaticism and ignorance, a playground for power hungry clerics and incompetent equally power-hungry politicians with their vanities fed by the Western politicians who bow and scape to their threats and condescension. Another good book to read how the Middle East fell into the cesspit, read Kim Ghattas , book , Black Wave. It details the destructive momentum of the Iranian revolution and the rise of Islamist fanaticism in Saudi Arabia.  Westernization has destroyed any of the pillars of the traditional Islamic society introducing uncontrolled consumerism, presenting nothing acceptable to the inhabitants. Basically one can say that the only aspect of Western intrusion into the governance that has been accepted, are the more advanced methods of population manipulation and security measures.

 

Nevertheless, we cannot take or eyes off the region. There are two major factors that are of vital importance:

  1. The combustible elements of the Middle Eastern society cannot be contained within the Middle East. Islamism (political Islam) itself is an imperialistic doctrine, and as the philosopher and thinker, Roger Scruton (The West and the Rest) wrotefor some someone like Khomeini, human rights and secular government display the decadence of the Western civilization, which has failed to arm itself against those who intend to destroy it and hopes to appease them instead.” There are many waiting in the wings to take Khomeini’s place.
  2. The tide of migration of Muslims, the vast majority good decent people, continues, and one sympathizes with their plight but many will be potentially amenable to Islamist siren calls of Islamic triumphalism (especially when they realize that their safe haven is also an alien civilization, and the streets are not paved with gold.). A point to keep in mind is that these immigrants are not coming to the West because they yearn to become part of Western civilization and assimilate into the Western democratic secular culture. They are fleeing the hell hole the Middle East has become.   It is not that the Western lifestyle is more attractive. It is that their homelands have become uninhabitable. They are bringing their tribal and religious prejudices with them. In large numbers they neither assimilate nor integrate. Their pervasive cultural imprinting by morays of a Middle Eastern society is a barrier to accept a secular polity based on civil law rather than religious doctrine.

 

They come into a decaying Western civilization in which patriotism and religious beliefs have become objects of ridicule. The increasing balkanization of this country can hardly welcome another dividing element.

 

Spinoza wrote that a nation survives not because of good leadership but rather because it can endure poor leadership.

Let us pray he is right.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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War is Over? Unilateral Declarations of Peace means Surrender

President Biden  at the United Nations declared that the the Afghanistan  was over.  This is idiocy. Normally  for a war to be settled, both warring factions should agree. The Taliban did not, nor have our many enemies in the Middle East, declared an end to hostilities. The subtle political warfare punctuated by terrorist acts and threats in which the  Iranians have proven themselves masters continues unabated.  They understand we have shown ourselves vulnerable to this type warfare.

The debacle of the US evacuation from Afghanistan has empowered our enemies, primarily in the moral and psychological sense. The idea that insurgencies always win… a very popular idea in the 60’s particularly in the middle East  has been proven wrong by the continual failures of insurgencies to win…in Palestine, Syria, Iraq,  but the  idea was prevalent in the 60’s in which the terrorists exalted in random and spectacularly cruel  tactics  to  gain public  attention, whether  adverse  or  not.   This  strategy  ultimately  failed,  but  the  glamour  and  notoriety  continues to appeal  to the individuals depicted by Eric Hoffer in his book the True Believer, an extraordinary book  of   knowledge about  the  psychology  of  terrorism.Lest we forget because the cancel culture of Islamist attacks are usually covered up by mental issues, workplace violence,  and unknown maladies.

We need to keep our eye on the ball. see below.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Islamist_terrorist_attacks

Hoffer writes that these terrorists are like actors on a stage and the world is their audience. They live in an unreal world, fashioned in their own minds.”they are made to feel that they are not their real selves but actors playing a role , and their doings a performance rather than the real thing. Dying too they see as a gesture, an act of make-believe.”

Eric Hoffer The True Believer

 

From my experience and many years being involved with Middle Eastern culture, the sense of theatrical  martyrdom done in a spectacular manner has great fascination, especially in the name of Islam. The images of the Kabul fiasco  has elevated their sense of ultimate power,  in which patience and determination will always prevail against their  implacable  enemy, the West. We remain in the house of war and the House of peace (Islam) subdues the House of war, there can be no peace.

The  war on the West, particularly this country, has been re-energized, and ennobled  by the Afghan mess. Radicals of all stripes cheered the visuals of an America in total disarray and military leaders apparently clueless.  Fuel has been added to the  slow burning embers of a forever war. The truth is that maintaining a democratic republic does require a near endless war and if the people of the democracies are not up to the challenge their democracy will perish.

The House of war and peace as  defined by Bernard Lewis:

The world is divided into the House of Islam and the House of War, the Dar al-Islam and the Dar al-harb. The Dar al-Islam is all those lands in which a Muslim government rules and the Holy Law of Islam prevails. Non-Muslims may live there on Muslim sufferance. The outside world, which has not yet been subjugated, is called the “House of War,” and strictly speaking a perpetual state of jihad, of holy war, is imposed by the law. The law also provided that the jihad might be interrupted by truces as and when appropriate. In fact, the periods of peace and war were not vastly different from those which existed between the Christian states of Europe for most of European history.

The law thus divides unbelievers theologically into those who have a book and profess what Islam recognizes as a divine religion and those who do not; politically into dhimmis, those who have accepted the supremacy of the Muslim state and the primacy of the Muslims, and harbis, the denizens of the Dar al-harb, the House of War, who remain outside the Islamic frontier, and with whom therefore there is in principle, a canonically obligatory perpetual state of war until the whole world is either converted or subjugated.

Bin Laden in a quotable quote. “People always prefer the stronger horse”

Do most Muslims subscribe to this? No they do not; certainly not any of the   high-minded Muslims I know.  Many who do believe it see it coming to pass peacefully through the innate superiority of Islam. However those termed islamists  do  believe it requires war  and they often are the ones who are most eloquent and  control the mosques.  The apologists for Islamism, who control much of Western Middle East scholarship in academia,  preach the peaceful definition of Jihad, the struggle against evil  within each individual.  The Western apologists conflate attacks on Islamism,  (The political ideology based on a particular interpretation of the Islamic doctrine) to attacks on Islam as a religion. We see this tactic has been very effective in that Islam and terrorism in the same sentence has been erased from the US bureaucratic lexicon.  However it must be understood that the Islamists  (jihadists) buy into the belief that the house of war ( (the West) must be subdued by violence.  Their numbers are small but the Muslim communities tolerate them and too many are often sympathetic to them.

Maj, Nidal Hasan US army (Islamist)killed 13 at Ft Hood Texas. Obama said it was “workplace violence. “Many associates noted his Islamist proclivities but were afraid to report him because they would be labeled “Islamophobic”

The experts indicate that the likelihood of a 9/11 type attack is low. But the likelihood of lone wolf attacks are greater. But in fact my analysis leads me to believe that our security and intelligence is no better than in 2001. Many of the so-called improvements are more cosmetic than real. For instance at a recent congressional hearing the head of the National Counterterrorism Center, Christine Abizaid, told then committee that the US is safer than it has been for 20 years, while at the same hearing,  the head of the FBI, Christopher Wray  told the committee that  agency is investigating over 2000 cases of suspected terrorist  activity,  double that of a year earlier. It would seem that there is a wide divergence in analysis.

George Kennan Famous Ambassador who finally broke through the cancel culture  barrier of the Roosevelt  era to depict the terrorist state of Stalinist Russia.

With the influx of unvetted Afghans from one of the most fundamentalist Islamic countries in the world it probable  that Islamist terrorism inside this country will erupt once again. The idea that these people fled from the terrorist Taliban regime is not evidence of anti-Islamist beliefs. The profusion of terror organizations and warring tribes from Afghanistan means that many were simply fleeing from rival Islamist or tribal groups opposed to Taliban rule. The attacks by the ISIS on Taliban targets is proof of this fact. One should be aware of the history of the Algerians who fought for France in the Algerian civil war. When the French departed these ” harkies” as they were called, were being slaughtered by the revolutionaries. The  French  brought them and their families to France and their descendants are one of  main perpetrators of the Islamist  terror attacks in France.

George Kennan, the great American Diplomat and thinker  writing of the third world and our aid to them  wrote, “favors and kindnesses will be normally hailed as evidence of our weakness, our dependance, and our ignominy, and exploited as proof of the cleverness of those who succeeded in extorting all beneficence out of silly Americans.” ,he also wrote in his diary “one of the great American delusions has been, and is, that these  values  (Judaic /Christian) are readily communicable  to others who did not inherit them–and that all you had to do was bring these others to our shores, plunge them into the midst of our civilization, and they would instantly be penetrated by this political ethos and responsive to it in their behavior.

In fact the politically correct censorship of Islamist terrorism discussion and analysis has much further made us vulnerable to attack.  As I have made the point many times, Islam is a religion but it contains elements within its doctrine that lend it to violence and a sense of triumphalism. It is of note that many Nazi figures though highly of Islam  as a more  muscular soldierly  religion, particularly Heinrich Himmler  ( although they considered the Arabs as a decidedly inferior people. The “Aryan” Iranians were more acceptable.)1

As history has shown again and again, when totalitarian movements are contained they tend to implode. The radical Islamist worldview is a totalitarian movement and has the same type appeal as communism and fascism, and also the same weaknesses. It is primarily ideological. Its decline and ultimate demise will not be the result of some hearts and minds campaign or a more balanced Palestinian policy  in the Middle East. It will be brought about by a steadfast United States with a tough policy that does not bend to intimidation, nor allow the facilitators of violence in the Western intelligentsia to minimize Islamist outrages and endemic brutality. These are the same sort of intellectuals who believed the totalitarianism of fascism and communism would bring about the ideal society in which they would (supposedly) enjoy an elitist status, isolated from the brutish realities outside their centers of learning and university campuses. Most important, it is incumbent upon a world Muslim community to recognize the immense harm the Islamist movement has brought to them. Unfortunately  Islam, contrary to conventional views, is a very intricate and complicated belief system and the room for very wide variations in traditions and doctrine can be interpreted in many divergent ways, from the Jihadists to the peaceful sufis.

The fact that few can read the Qur’an and even fewer understand the context in which it was written  leaves the field open to the local imams, many with little religious education, self-promoters, and others who, with a distorted or very narrow under- standing of the essence of Islam, impart their political and ideological half-baked versions of Islam on their local following. In other words, the understanding of Islam for most Muslims depends on what they hear from their local religious authorities, including those who  are interested in power and adulation than  maintaining the spiritual health of their followers.

A final quote from George Kennan . Let us not deceive ourselves into believing that the fanatic local chauvinisms of the Middle East represent a force that can be made friendly or dependable from our point of view, or one to which would have any right to engage ourselves in the moral sense.

  1. Hitler himself  was enthused  about the “Mussulman” religion telling to attendees at his table talks that while Islam promises virgins and streams of wine to soldiers killed in battle, “Christianity offers nothing  but hallelujahs.” Of course the enmity toward Jews evident in the Qur’an was appealing factor to the Nazi regime.
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The Kabul Debacle. Systematic Issues or Leadership Malfeasance?

It is striking that  officially no one  really expected the Afghan  Ahmad Karsai’s regime to survive the pull out of US forces, and with an evacuation date for the US forces firmly set,  it seems inconceivable that one year  later the debacle of Kabul occurred in front  of all the world’s cameras.

The three paragraphs below taken from Anthony Cordesman’s  ( John Hopkins Center for Strategic and International Studies) analysis of the Afghan Military as perceived from the unclassified annual report on Afghanistan, This report is from July 2020.

From the article.

“Here, it is striking that the Department of Defense 1225 report on Enhancing Security and Stability In Afghanistan – issued in June 2020 – makes it clear that the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) are not ready to stand on their own after U.S. and allied withdrawal – an issue in ways that no U.S. official discussion of the peace process has yet addressed. The Afghan government, the NATO command, and the United States have all steadily classified more and more of the data on Afghan force strength, readiness, and combat capability – but the 1225 Report still makes the limits to the ANDSF all too clear:”

“The full history of the efforts to create effective Afghan forces has yet to be written, but the efforts to build Afghan forces began slowly, were badly underfunded, and were constantly revised. Even the ANA did not have adequate trainers at even the basic training level until 2009-2010, and most were on short one-year tours.

“Many of the U.S. and allied trainers assigned to training had no previous experience in the job until 2009-2010, and for several years, the system reported trainers as being active even if the donor country had only pledged them. Too much emphasis was put on basic and rear area training, and too little focus was put on “train and advise” at the combat unit level.”

How will we ever know the truth of the massive failure of every aspect and competence of our military, foreign service and National command authorities.? There are hints of several minority party congressional probes planned but little can be expected from them as the administration will be in full cover-up status with all the wagons circled and much of the media prepared  to play their parts  as defenders of their chosen political ideology. The political game plan is fairly obvious….delay, divert, obfuscate. The Wuhan virus, the infrastructure circus,  and the every day political turmoil,   are ready made diversions.

What we need and must have is a full fledged and empowered commission  similar to that the 911 commission to dig into this disaster and ascertain the systemic  and personal omissions, sloth, malfeasance, and hubris which allowed this to happen.  It should have subpoena powers and upon conclusion refer culpable individuals for criminal prosecution if warranted. I know this is unlikely. The 911 commission had surfaced many systemic errors but insofar as I know no one  in the intelligence or law enforcement  community   lost their job.  The lack of coordination between law enforcement and the intelligence community was one of the primary reasons for the disaster  but despite all kinds of new bureaucratic “fixes” little has been accomplished.

One of the more intractable problems is the inability to identify  the enemy.  In the 911 Report, after lamenting the low favorable views of the United States, the  Report stated, ” “Many of these views are at  best uninformed about the United States, and at worst, informed by by  cartoonish stereotypes, the coarse expression of a fashionable “occidentalism” among  intellectuals who caricature U.S.  values and policies.” This problems has become much worse, as the word “muslim”  in connection with “terrorism” has  become one of those woke forbidden words.

In watching the dawn to midnight TV  network remembrance of the 911 mass murder, people not around at the time must wonder who were these people who perpetrated this massacre and for what reason.

What is needed is something similar  to the Agranat commission that examined the reasons for the “near thing” ( Israeli unpreparedness for the 1973 war). This report which is examined in some detail in the book The Watchman Fell Asleep by Uri Bar-Joseph. . did  a result in some high officials  losing their jobs, both intelligence and operational leaders.    Roberta Wohlstetter’s analysis (Pearl Harbor: Warning and Decision)  of the Pearl Harbor fiasco in which she blamed  human systemic problems writing that  inherent pathologies of the intelligence community adversely “affect honest, dedicated, and intelligent men.” 2 This may be true but there are a host of other issues that never seem to be addressed. They cry out for the light of day.

Somehow the systemic approach does not resonate with me on the Kabul debacle. There are just too many unanswered questions that center around lack of leadership, inertia, sloth, and just plain ignorance. To be sure these after action  reports of disasters are seldom popular among politicians.

Churchill refused to commission a study of the Dunkirk disaster,  believing quite wisely that with a German invasion of the British isles being likely at that point, that the British people could not afford any more bad news. Nor with the Singapore mass surrender. But he was at least honest. saying in a speech to the people, ” thankfulness  at the escape of our army, and so many men. …..must not blind us to the fact that what happened in France and Belgium is a  colossal military disaster.”

We can applaud the last minute mass evacuation of so many Afghans and most Americans  as a well done operation, keeping in mind that the enemy allowed it to happen and could have still stopped the entire  operation with a few mortar rounds. As Churchill observed, “wars  are not won by evacuations.”

The irrefutable fact is that we invaded Afghanistan  to destroy the terrorist Al Qaeda group and those that harbor them, the Taliban. So said president Bush. We failed.

Our military leadership deserves, in fact demands, a close scrutiny, not only of this failure but the general decline of our military prowess, especially in the ethos of martial spirit. We cannot contest other world powers with a military that lacks confidence,  discipline,  and a will to win, something most of which us old soldiers  see or hear evidence of  every day. We must eliminate all vestiges of social engineering and get back to basics.

Finally this commission should analyze how we plan to resettle the thousands of Afghan refugees, keeping in the mind the sad story of the Algerian  refugees from the Algerian war, in which thousands of Algerians ( Harkies) had fought against  their own countrymen   to preserve French rule in Algeria. They  fled to France to avoid slaughter at the hands of the revolutionaries.2 Today the grand sons of these Algerians enforce Jihadi controlled no go zones in a number of French cities. The human condition does not allow gratitude to go very far. We must understand that.

1 However in a later book by  Henry Clausen who did a report on Pearl Harbor for Sec of War , Henry Stimson, (Pearl Harbor: Final Judgement , ) he did indict a number of high officers for negligence in carrying out their duties, including Lt Gen. Walter Short, Admiral Husband Kimmel,  Rear admiral Richmond Turner,  BG Leonard Gerow and a number of 0-6 intelligence types.

2. The Algerians fought bravely in  two world wars  ( in WWII often  better than the French themselves) and IndoChina  for the French empire.

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Afghanistan 2021 and Singapore 1942 Calamities Not to be Forgotten

As things in Kabul limp toward some denouement of the Afghanistan tragedy…at least the race to evacuate as many American citizens, and presumably some percentage of the Afghans who aided in our nation building efforts (or were simply enticed into a Western life style) as possible. The odds that will happen are 50/50 for American citizens as the Taliban seems amenable to the propaganda usefulness of allowing Americans to get to the Airport. For the Afghans, SIVs) the odds are very low . How many of the Afghans departing  were truly on our side or simply tribal or cultural enemies of the Taliban is simply beyond the US ability to determine. At present the Biden administration is simply counting numbers, as if the world will be in awe of our ability to convey masses of people by air.

I heard Kamala Harris was in Singapore, probably to get her away from Washington and  avoid her toxic appearances which add gasoline to the many fires, the Administration has allowed to get out of control, such as our Southern border. I am a book worm, especially on WWII, and the part played by our allies…and the saga of the humiliation inflicted on the British by the Japanese at Singapore, thanks to Kamala, came to mind. Churchill called it the worst capitulation in history of British forces,. It was probably the most bitter defeat Churchill ever had to tell his people about. But unlike Biden he was forthright.

Not to worry. Its under control

Leadership is everything

As he told his people.”I speak to you all under the shadow of a heavy band far reaching military defeat. Singapore as fallen…..this, therefore is one of the moments when the British race and nation can show their quality and genius. This is one of those moments when it can draw from the heart of misfortune the vital  impulses of victory.”

In Less than two months  the Japanese battle harden troops moving through the dense jungle of the Malay Peninsula, a feat the British considered impossible, drove ( biking mostly, one of their primary means of transportation was bicycles) south toward Singapore, considered an impregnable fortress by the British military leadership.,  The British troops  were not prepared for war in the jungle,  were  soft from years of garrison life, quickly demoralized, and most of all, afflicted with deplorable military and civilian leadership. Moreover the defense of Singapore was based on defending against a seaward attack , not from the land.  On 15 Feb 1942,General  Percival, the British Commander, surrendered  16,000 British, 14,000 Australian, and 32,oo0 Indian troops, about half of whom joined the Indian National Army, a Japanese puppet unit. They were of no value of the battlefield but a very important asset to the Japanese in their “Asia for Asian” propaganda campaign. Another 30,000 British and colonial troops had surrendered earlier in the Malay jungle war.

In many ways it was a different situation. The collapse was that of the British army and  not  Western trained Afghans. But the impact was the same. The reverberations  of the disaster spread across the world; the far flung British empire ruling a billion people,  held together by a modicum of troops, principally on the deep rooted belief by both the British and their subject peoples that they were they were superior in every respect. In the book  Forgotten Armies by Christopher Bayly and Tim Harper, the full horror of the British disaster from Singapore is recounted. The Asians who were as anxious to leave as the Europeans were denied passage on British evacuation ships and had to fend for themselves, much as most Afghans are today. A full chapter of the book his devoted to the perfidy of the leadership and the absolute chaos of the  people of Singapore, most overcome by fear and apathy.

What will be remembered is not that we lost then war but the way we exited the war and the people we betrayed

In The Hinge of Fate, Churchill ultimately took responsibility for the lack of permanent fortifications: “I do not write this in any way to excuse myself. I ought to have known. My advisers ought to have known and I ought to have been told, and I ought to have asked. The reason I had not asked about this matter, amid the thousands of questions I put, was that the possibility of Singapore having no landward defences no more entered into my mind than that of a battleship being launched without a bottom.”

General Percival surrenders his forces, more than twice the size of the invading Japanese forces under General Yamashita.

Churchill continued: “I am aware of the various reasons that have been given for this failure: the preoccupation of the troops in training and in building defence works in Northern Malaya; the shortage of civilian labour; pre-war financial limitations and centralized War Office control; the fact that the Army’s role was to protect the naval base, situated on the north shore of the island, and that it was therefore their duty to fight in front of that shore and not along it. I do not consider these reasons valid. Defences should have been built.”

T o Churchill’s shock, among those taken prisoner were 16,000 British, 14,000 Australian, and 32,000 Indian soldiers. About 30,000 had already surrendered in Malaya from December 1941 to February 1942. Churchill called the shameful fall of Singapore to the Japanese the “worst disaster” and “largest capitulation” in British military history.

He did not whine about it in public,  blame his predecessors, which he could have very easily done….. in  fact many have pointed out the fact that Singapore was doomed decades prior to its capitulation. It was deemed indefensible by later historians.

That day, Churchill broadcast the tragic news about Singapore to the British people and the world. The Prime Minister said in part: “I speak to you all under the shadow of a heavy and far-reaching military defeat. It is a British and Imperial defeat. Singapore has fallen….This, therefore, is one of those moments when the British race and nation can show their quality and their genius. This is one of those moments when it can draw from the heart of misfortune the vital impulses of victory. We must remember that we are no longer alone.”

Churchill went on to urge fortitude: “Here is the moment to display the calm and poise combined with grim determination which not so long ago brought us out of the very jaws of death. Here is another occasion to show—as so often in our long history—that we can meet reverses with dignity and renewed accessions of strength.”1 Yet Churchill was inconsolable about Singapore.

Lord Moran, Churchill’s physician, wrote: “The fall of Singapore on February 15 stupefied the Prime Minister.” In particular, the surrender of the British troops bewildered him. “How came 100,000 men (half of them of our own race) to hold up their hands to inferior numbers of Japanese? Though his mind had been gradually prepared for its fall, the surrender of the fortress stunned him,” wrote Moran. “He felt it was a disgrace. It left a scar on his mind. One evening, months later, when he was sitting in his bathroom enveloped in a towel, he stopped drying himself and gloomily surveyed the floor: ‘I cannot get over Singapore,’ he said sadly.”

To me, and many like me, the scar of this disgraceful epoch will last a lifetime.Like Churchill I say there can be no excuse, however adroit the word smithing may be. Perhaps then deeper issue is that probably about 50% of our  population  feel nothing, and continue to live in a bubble of ignorance.

History would consider the capture of the Malayan Peninsula and Singapore among the Japanese Army’s greatest wartime achievements. For Churchill it was among Britain’s worst Far Eastern defeats. Without a doubt, the tragic loss of Singapore in 1942 remained in Churchill’s memory for years to come.

Moreover there can be little doubt that the disgraceful loss of Singapore was the end of the British empire. The lost their nerve, and ability to hold their empire toggle. The Japanese and Asians, and in fact people all over the world, looked upon then British capitulation with distain and contempt, and for many many, a great sadness.  The great white memsahibs had feet of clay.

“There was a sense in which the fall of Singapore , seen as the glittering outpost of European civilization, had challenged  its universality. This sense was shared by those who acquiesced in Japanese rule and also be those who fought against it.” quote from  Forgotten Armies.

The evacuation of Singapore was as chaotic as the one from the Airport in Kabul. Australian army deserters forced their way on to departing ships load with civilians  and of some 90 small ships gathered to evacuate the remaining European civilians of Singapore, most were sunk by the Japanese and the survivors machine-gunned in the water. British nurses who treated land were driven to the beach and murdered by machine-gun fire.

The Japanese were just as barbaric as the Taliban…and in fact far worse because they prided themselves on their great civilization. Beheadings, bayonetting soldiers and civilians, who as recounted by the Japanese , simply sat pathetically waiting to be killed.

I, and many others who look to history for lessons in the future, see the debacle in Kabul as a watershed in the history of the American empire. If we had a Winston Churchill waiting in the wings to take over there might be hope, but with the total lack of leadership so obvious in the U.S. today, not only in politics but in every aspect of our culture, there is precious little reason for hope.

But as someone very prescient once wrote, people get the leadership they deserve.

NOTE: another excellent book with a great chapter on  Singapore is The Inferno; The World at War 1939-1945, by Max Hastings. or Winston Churchill , the Hinge Of Fate Chapter 6, ( part of his World war series.)

 

 

 

 


 

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National Disgrace. The Botched Evacuation from Afghanistan

All of those of you still alive and breathing have probably seen the wild stampede and chaos attending the United States military and civilian evacuation from Afghanistan. It rivals and in some ways surpasses the humiliating evacuation from Saigon 30 April 1975.

All presidents from Bush to Biden share responsibility for the ultimate defeat in Afghanistan but only Biden and his incompetent military and intelligence officials can be held responsible for the chaotic and disgraceful  evacuation. Generals Meany, Austin along with Sec State Tony Blinkin and CIA chief William Burns  should resign or be fired.

This disaster includes an extreme failure of the intelligence community. Why did they not know the fragility of the Afghan regime and their armed forces? Were they depending on the assessments by the  US military leadership that kept on repeating the malicious lies that the Afghan forces were improving, and with just a few more years of US occupation all would be well. At some point-and I do not know if it still exists- there was a contracted company doing” sensitivity” assessments of the Afghan people. How did we not know with the thousands of intelligence sources available with contractors, agents, diplomatic circles, military advisors, etc. not know that the Afghan army was a joke…a bad tragic joke?

The Victors.

This intelligence failure rivals and is worse than the well known  Iranian National Intelligence Estimate that saw the Shah of Iran in no danger from Islamist revolutionaries.  For twenty years our intelligence apparatus had the opportunity to mesh inside the Afghan institutions to understand and anticipate the collapse of the regime.What  were they doing? Did the intel community foresee  this collapse and their assessments were ignored By whom?

Did our military leadership  simply go along with rosy assessments of the situation? Did they make provisions for a worst case scenario? Were their ever any exit plans- other than get on a plane in the dark of night and steal away? If so why were they not executed?

Being involved  for a number or years in training troops of allied nations I know how the system works. The battalion advisor submits his report of progress of his unit, usually a bit doctored because after all he has been with the unit for a year and has grown to like many of his trainees, and in his less than impartial eye he sees “problems but improvement” and good things happening. Were he to submit a negative report, his superior is likely to respond, “so what the hell have you been doing for a year?’  So his report, already a bit more rosy than reality  would  suggest will be made rosier as it progresses up the chain.

Vietnam redux

So it was with the Afghan army. The old mantra is still there…. “There are challenges but constant improvement.”  Some Pentagon major  whiz kid probably devised  a digital display that will electronically display Afghan units as combat ready,  ( Green), needs some training ( yellow), and  those not ready( red). He will sell it to his general and voila it will give the briefers charts to show visiting pubahs and you can be sure that this years charts will be better the last and there will be lots of “green” units. The criteria that goes into assessing the readiness will be murky at best.

Bottom line... there must be a special prosecutor appointed acceptable to both side of the aisle to investigate this situation and like the Israeli Agranat  commission after the 1973 war, produce a no holds barred truthful report.

 

 

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The Futility of Nation or State Building in the Middle East

First a couple of definitions. Simplifying  the academic definition of Nation building, my definition is a process by which all the people within the boundaries of a nation feel they are citizens of that nation; e.g., all the people of Iraq believe they are  first of all Iraqis not Kurds , Shi’a, or Sunnis. This process can entail, propaganda, information, industrialization, , and military conscription, etc. For instance Egypt has long used military conscription as a nationalization process for peasant Egyptian youth who had little loyalty to anything or anyone outside their village. On the other hand State -Building entails basically building a viable infrastructure for a modern state; roads, power, water distribution, etc. It appears the United States has hoped to use state-building to create a type of nation-building, i.e., a nation in the political image 0f the United States, ostensibly a democratic nation of free individuals with protection of minority interests. 

For the most part we failed in Iraq and now it appears our failure is even more obvious in Afghanistan. Our troops have departed and the Taliban take more territory every day. There are voices among the  world elite cosmopolitans decrying the fate of the exceedingly thin layer of westernized Afghans who will be at the mercy of medieval barbarians who are poised to take over the rest of the country. We can sympathize with the fate of educated women, who will be relegated back to the conditions of the era of the Prophet and educated young Afghan  men hoping for a better future, but there is little we can do for them. Twenty years  we spent there. The Russians spent nine years there  attempting to set up   some type of Middle eastern version of a communist state. The Russian investment was much less in monetary terms so  but they lost 15000 men as we lost  over 23oo.  As the happy Russian soldiers crossed back into Russia there were many snide articles about the Russians running from Afghanistan with their tails trailing behind them. I assume they are enjoying great deal of schadenfreude at this time.

Russian troops in Afghanistan.

I do not not have a number of lissome lady research assistants gathering stats for me so Im not sure how many billions we wasted on Iraq but in 2018 at a conference in Kuwait the Iraqis asked for another 88.2 $ billion. Of course few countries have officials stupid enough to offer anything near that. One estimate is that we have spent 100$ billion . Nearly all of it wasted.  For those interested in details you can go to the web site of the Office of the Inspector General for Iraqi Reconstruction.  (OIGIR). Waste and corruption was, and is, pervasive and endemic among the Iraqis and yes…among the tidal wave of American contractors  as well.  Has Iraq made some progress? Yes but for the money very little…some glittering shopping  malls and new government buildings, but overall, as an Iraqi  friend of mine observed on her visit to Baghdad,  it is as dirty and corrupt as it always was. As one might guess the OIGIR recommended the usual remedy that bureaucrats love…. creating an overall agency to coordinate the reconstruction efforts of the DOD, DOS, and the USAID; i.e.,  Hundreds more bureaucrats pulling down good salaries pushing papers across desks, and DOD, DOS, and USAID officials fighting to maintain their piece of the money pie.

Sunni Arabs in Baghdad

I am among the very few  who still maintain we did the right and courageous thing to invade Afghanistan  and destroy the Sunni  Arab – led  al Qaeda and its leadership. It was also the right thing to do  to invade Iraq and destroy the tyrannical Ba’athi regime and their nuclear capabilities. And yes, had we not invaded, the Iraqis would have nuclear capabilities by now. If it makes one  feel safer  that both Iraq and Iran would have nuclear capabilities –  as a number of  pundits seem to suggest…well I can’t argue with that type of hazy convoluted thinking.

The mistake we made in both countries was one usually made by Westerners involving themselves in the Middle East….. we stayed too  long.We were never welcome by the majority of the population in either country, even by those we were saving from slaughter. Of course the knives are out among pundits, experts, and ideologues excoriating their favorite targets, dissecting the reasons for our failures. They have plenty to work with. One group  that has escaped much  of the criticism- but definitely warrants it- has been our military leadership. One article, although it is a bit harsh… because we have some excellent flag officers –but unfortunately not at the top– pretty well exemplifies my thoughts about this.   excerpt  below. found at https://thefederalist.com/2021/08/06/americas-generals-lied-lost-wars-and-looted-the-people-they-pledged-to-serve/

The first King of Iraq, Feisel 1. He was only grudgingly accepted even by his Sunni Arab compatriot. As he bitterly  wrote toward the end of his life. “In Iraq, and I say this with a heavy heart full of sorrow.there is no Iraqi people but unimaginable masses of human beings, devoid of any patriotic idea, imbued with religious tradition and absurdities, connected by no  tie, giving ear to evil, prone to anarchy, and perpetually ready to rise against any government whatever.”

 

For too long, America’s generals have relied on a “stab in the back” thesis to justify their failure on the battlefield. The narrative set in after Vietnam and has calcified today. Former national security adviser and Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster tweeted on July 8 in regards to the sweeping march of the Taliban that the “US media is finally reporting on the transformation of Afghanistan after their disinterest and defeatism helped set conditions for capitulation and a humanitarian catastrophe.”

McMaster’s attempt to deflect blame for military failure on an insufficiently obsequious media is unacceptable. He and his fellow generals knew full well that Afghanistan was unstable and that our strategy wasn’t working. Instead of speaking up, they lied to the public and then jumped into the private sector to reap the reward of misbegotten trust.”

 

 

It is particularly ironic that H.R. McMaster in his  excellent book Dereliction of Duty  scathingly criticized the Johnson Administration for repeatedly lying to the public and media during the Vietnam war. Lesson learned: If  you continue to write be consistent or penitent if facts force an opinion change..

So what overall wisdom can be learned  from the multitude of recommendations, suggestions, lessons learned ( a misnomer if ever there was one)?

When you’re wounded and left on Afghanistan’s plains, and the women come out to cut up what remains, jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains and go to your gawd like a soldier. Rudyard Kipling

 

As the bureaucrats and experts were flying to Iraq to join in the Bremer team to build the new Iraq, one journalist reported seeing  them reading books on the reconstruction of Germany and and Japan after world war II.  He doubted they would be of much help. He was correct. Japan  and Germany are nations, cohesive, patriotic, unified.The Germans and Japanese did much of their own reconstruction. Yes we helped with the Marshall plan, in Europe and with about  $182 b. for 16 nations and$ 2.2  b. for Japan. but essentially they cleaned their own messes up.

 

Iraq and Afghanistan are not nations. They are, as one writer termed it ,”Tribes with flags.” The fact that the  old tribal system has largely faded away has in no way changed the culture of the Middle eastern society.  Blood, kinship, and the concentric circles of clan and family still rule. The development of a civil society has not occurred.   Just as Saddam diverted water and power from the Shi’a areas to his “people,” the Sunni Arabs of the north, the Persian ruling Shi’a of Iran divert water and power from the Arab areas to the Persian heartland. Nepotism, the infamous wasta still rules education and employment opportunities.

The Return of Islam,” as Bernard Lewis termed it,  has rigidified the structure of society. The failure of western ideologies, particularly fascism and communism has caused a retreat to the comfortable and  understandable…. the mysteries and solidity of Islamic faith.  On the other hand true democracy has never been sincerely tried. The major pillars of a democratic society are largely counter-cultural to Islam and the vagaries of Middle Eastern culture.  It is unlikely to find a Middle Eastern  home in this century.   There are many reasons. The fact is that few can read and even fewer  understand the scriptures of the Qur’an, in its classical Arabic,  or the multitude of Hadiths( sayings of the Prophet Mohammad) with its varying interpretations. This  ignorance  enables despots in clerical garb,  to have an inordinate influence within the society..    “Westoxidation,” or the adoption or imitation  of Western tenets of civilization  are seen as  great evil and a threat to the religious clerics who exert great power even  beneath the facade of military rule.

Their belief in the triumphalism and superiority of their faith impedes their ability to fully assimilate into a Western civilization or accept its basic tenets. The anguish of Jehan Sadat  went through after the assassination of Sadat reveals the extent of anti-Westernism and hatred for those Middle Easterners accused of associating themselves with  it.  Among her “crimes” according to a leading cleric was “refusing to stay in the sanctuary of her home, cleaning and cooking as the wives of the prophet did.” Finding a home in the West fleeing persecution and starvation of their home countries they tend to settle in ghettoes and insist on living by the same rules of their society from which they fled.The example of the Harkies (Algerians who sided with their  French occupiers  in the civil war) and fled to France to avoid massacre are now a major problem in France as they and their descendants have created little Algerias and challenge French secular rule.

Harkies. Algerians who had fought all vower the world for the French and fought against the Algerian revolutionaries. They were being systematically killed by the revolutionaries when the French departed. Same narrative as Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

 

While the ability of the Middle Eastern Islamist are quick and amazingly  innovative in their ability to use Western gimmicks and technology,  they are a people who have learned the dance steps but have yet to hear the music.  Advantages of one segment of society are not to be shared but kept locked up for the benefit of those who possess it. Information is power.

So if (a big if) we must go into another Middle Eastern country…go in  and kill those who need to be killed, destroy the war infrastructure, including their military or armed forces organization, provide some limited humanitarian aid and depart  forthwith and without further delay.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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