Posts Tagged ‘diplomacy’

Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize

Follow-up to this article which was originally written when it was announced that Obama had won the peace prize.

It is safe to say the Nobel committee wishes it had never given the Nobel Peace Prize to Obama.
They were deservedly ridiculed worldwide for awarding it to a guy who did nothing to earn it.
He refused to participate in the various award ceremony activities that other winners traditionally have gratefully participated in namely,

  • dinner with the Norwegian Nobel committee
  • a press conference
  • a television interview
  • appearances at a children’s event promoting peace and a music concert, as well as
  • a visit to an exhibition in his honor at the Nobel peace center
  • lunch with the King of Norway

  • He used his speech to talk down to the Nobel committee as if they did not know that evil exists, diplomacy is not always enough, that their awarding him the prize did not have any effect on his willingness to surge the war in Afghanistan.

    Normally, such an aceptance speech would be interrupted by applause repeatedly. I believe Obama was only interrupted by applause once at the Nobel ceremony: when he reminded the audience of his pledge to close Guantanamo. He did not remind them that he reneged on that pledge. Gitmo was supposed to close 12/31/09. It will not. It is the best, newest American prison. The inmates themselves probbaly would prefer to be there than in any oter U.S. prison.

    That applause line also included condemnation of America for torture and patting himself on the back for ending it, but he did not mention continuing rendition or shipping prisoners to countries who have no qualms about torturing prisoners.

    In short, his response to being awarded the prize was to bite the hand that fed it to him and poke a stick in their eye. Explain to me again how this guy is a great politician. He has a gift, Harry, it’s a gift for pissing off his supporters while simultaneously keeping his opponens as pissed off at him a they always were.

    Should not have been a surprise

    In my book How to Manage Residential Property For Maximum Cash Flow and Resale Value, I talk at length about firing employees. One important point I made is that it should never come as a surprise to the person being fired.

    If they commit an egregious offense, that calls for one-strike-and-you’re-out firing, like being drunk on duty, the fact that such an offense was one-strike should have been made known to the employee when they were hired.

    If, on the other hand, they are being fired for an accumulation of substandard performances, they should have been warned privately that their performance needed to be improved or they were going to get fired. I had a salaried leasing agent once who never rented an apartment. My other leasing agent was leasing apartments. I warned that non-leaser than although she was not on commission, a zero batting average was unacceptable. She did not improve it and I fired her, which she deemed “unfair.”

    Nobel prizes should not come as surprises

    The same is true of Nobel prizes. The announcement of a winner should not surprise anyone who is reasonably well informed.

    The announcement that Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize did surprise everyone, including Obama himself.

    The reason it came as a surprise is that Obama did virtually nothing that would have caused anyone to speculate that he might get it.

    To his credit, Obama said he did not deserve the prize. I agree. Although, I could have done without the humility angle on the did-not-deserve comment. He did not deserve it because he did nothing to earn it, not because of his general unworthiness to be in the company of the other prior winners.

    The Nobel Committee seemed to say they awarded it to him because of his various speeches advocating world peace. So award it to the Miss America Pageant. Their contestants all advocate world peace (and ending hunger) every year.

    Nominated in February

    Obama was nominated for the prize on February 1, 2009. Obama was inaugurated on January 20, 2009.

    The implication is that he was nominated for the prize for his actions during an 11-day period right after inauguration. What? Announcing that he was going to close Guantanamo by the end of the year—a promise since withdrawn?

    Based in part on explanatory statements by the Nobel committee, they gave him the award to help him succeed in future peace efforts. So the Nobel Prize committee is like the U.S. media: in the tank for Obama and trying to propagandize the public to supporting their guy.

    Limbaugh also said they seem to be trying to influence him to run American foreign policy hereafter in accordance with the wishes of the leftist intellectuals who vote on the prize.

    Both explanations seem reasonable. He sure as heck did not get it for anything he has done which is the only proper criterion for such an award

    Past winners

    Nobel prizes awarded in the hard sciences have a well-deserved stellar reputation. However, the Nobel prizes awarded in soft subjects, like economics, peace, and so on, are subjective and political. Here are some other Nobel Peace Prize winners

    Peace Prize winner John T. Reed comment
    Al Gore and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
    Climate change is a fraud and in any event it is unrelated to peace; obviously just a political statement by leftist intellectuals
    U.N. and Kofi Anan
    The U.N. should either win it every year or never. Peace is their job description. Kofi Anan was thoroughly corrupt and no one can name anything he did related to peace that was extraordinary or effective. He was just another empty suit U.N. secretary general.
    Yasser Arafat
    For what? Most improved terrorist?
    Desmond Tutu
    Nice guy but they said it was for his work against Apartheid, that’s civil rights not peace
    Henry Kissinger and Le Duc Tho
    These guys were the U.S. and North Vietnam delegates to the peace talks on the Vietnam war; The Nixon Administration was trying to extricate itself from the war and not look too bad in the process; Tho was trying to win the war by military force and just using the peace talks as a ruse to accomplish that; Tho refused to accept the prize; the world was generally outraged that Kissinger was awarded and accepted it because he had been part of the escalations of the war previously

    Tighten the criteria

    I am not suggesting they abolish the Nobel Peace Prize. Rather, they need to tighten the criteria for awarding it. Some years, they have not awarded it to anyone. They need to do that more often. In 1906, they awarded it to Teddy Roosevelt who hosted the peace talks and drew up the peace agreement that ended the war between Russia and Japan. That was an appropriate award. Jimmy Carter, who is a horse’s ass in general, should have gotten it in 1978 for doing what Teddy did only between Egypt and Israel. Carter did get it later in 2002 as a sort of lifetime achievement award. My take on him is that he never got over losing the 1980 election to Reagan and has since spent his life trying to prove the American people were wrong to reject him. His greatest success while president was arguably the Egypt peace agreement, so he keeps trying to reprise that event like has-been actress Norma “All right, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up” Desmond in the 1950 movie Sunset Boulevard.

    We have elected a president of the United States who is a sociopath with narcissistic personality disorder. I fear he will get us into World War III either by weakness or by falling prey to a need to prove his manhood because of his total lack of military or foreign policy experience. Michelle Obama said her husband is overconfident. He seems to think he can schmooze and mediate all of the bad guys in the world into behaving. He can’t. He wasn’t even successful with a Harvard professor and a Cambridge cop. The Nobel Committee is encouraging him to continue believing that. The awarding of the Nobel Prize to him is not useful and is likely to encourage him in his dangerous delusions and encourage him to be biased against sometimes necessary military action in dealings with deadly enemies.

    General McChrystal’s new rules for Afghanistan

    General Stanley McChrystal was the main liar in the Pat Tillman cover-up. General William Wallace headed one of the five official inquiries into the death and subsequent cover-up. Wallace recommended that McChrystal be disciplined for for misleading and impeding investigators. McChrystal should also have been disciplined—more commonly called court martialed—for his authorship of the Tillman Silver Star citation and the cable to CentCom General Abizaid about the Tillman death and what the president might say about it.

    Instead of being disciplined, McChrystal was promoted—twice—from two stars to three then four. And he was given the most sought-after job in the Army: Commander in Afghanistan. I wrote an article titled “Is military integrity a contradiction in terms?” and said the answer was yes. The contrast between what the Army should have done to McChrystal an what they did do proves my point more eloquently than anything else I could have put in that article.

    Having reminded everyone of McChrystal’s lack of integrity and the lack of integrity of those who promoted him—Petraeus and Gates—I now move on to discuss two McChrystal policies.

    Avoiding hurting civilians top priority

    McChrystal has issued a policy that “orders U.S. and NATO forces [henceforth] to break away from fights with militants hiding in Afghan houses so the battles do not kill civilians.”

    This just in: Taliban and al Qaeda fighters have just ordered their fighters to only fight Americans from houses with civilians in them. Henceforth, all Taliban and al Qaeda IED and small arms squads will include two civilians who will carry, and erect where needed, a portable house.

    Civilian death history

    You need a little history of civilian casualties in war to understand where we now are and how we got here. Prior to World War II, civilian casualties were avoided by the civilians getting out of the way. Civilians doing that were called refugees.

    As militaries became more efficient at killing and wounding people, nations became more concerned about the deaths of civilians during wars. For example, 45 million Allied civilians and 4 million Axis civilians died during World War II (compared to 16 million Allied civilian personnel and 8 million Axis military personnel).

    In the 19th and 20th centuries, the world was horrified an the civilian deaths and some rules were adopted to prevent a recurrence of unnecessary civilian war deaths.

    The Nuremburg Charter defined war crimes as follows:

    War crimes: violations of the laws and customs of war. A list follows with, inter alia, murder, ill-treatment or deportation into slave labour or for any other purpose of the civilian population of or in occupied territory, murder or ill-treatment of prisoners of war or persons on the seas, the killing of hostages, the plunder of public or private property, the wanton destruction of cities, towns or villages, or devastation not justified by military necessity. [Emphasis added]

    The Fourth Geneva Convention says,

    Article 3 states that even where there is not a conflict of international character the parties must as a minimum adhere to minimal protections described as: noncombatants, members of armed forces who have laid down their arms, and combatants who are hors de combat (out of the fight) due to wounds, detention, or any other cause shall in all circumstances be treated humanely, with the following prohibitions:

    (a) violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation
    , cruel treatment and torture;
    [Emphasis added] (Note: the Geneva Convention only applies when both the occupying military force and the occupied country are signatories to the Fourth Geneva Convention)

    International law and the laws of war are murky and not generally agreed upon by all nations. But the general tone is thou shallt not hurt civilians unnecessarily.

    Military forces have generally also obeyed another rule: thou shallt return fire when fired upon. American military have usually tried to avoid civilians dying in resulting crossfires. In some cases, U.S. personnel have risked or lost their lives trying to save civilians. I read of one incident, apparently one of many similar incidents, where an Iraqi child, presumably 9 or 10 years old, deliberately walked into the American position during a firefight and began hand-signaling to the Iraqi fighters the number and locations of the American soldiers. The Americans took no action because of his age. I would have shot him dead, or at least I would hope I would have done that.

    I think there needs to be a third rule: civilians will do everything in their power to flee the area of a firefight.

    Military priorities

    The U.S. military has long has these two priorities:

    1. Accomplishment of the mission

    2. welfare of the men

    In that order.

    The rule about avoiding civilian casualties would be third. McChrystal’s new rule seems to make avoiding civilian casualties the first priority.

    I am well aware of the current prevailing wisdom that protecting the civilian populace is paramount in counterinsurgency. But I think that still comes third after accomplishment of the mission and welfare of the American troops.

    Not a military mission

    If McChrystal’s policy is the right one, then we need to remove almost all U.S. military personnel from Afghanistan. If making protection of the civilian population is paramount, it is a role for local police, not U.S. military. Local police are the ones who back off in hostage situations.

    The U.S. military has been used as an all-purpose workforce in Iraq and Afghanistan engaging in nation building, diplomacy, construction, propaganda, local police work, and occasionally, true military actions.

    Many have noted recently that the number of bandsmen (guys who play musical instruments) in the U.S. military exceeds the total worldwide staff of the U.S. State Department. I have two reactions to that: get rid of the bandsmen except for the two ceremonial units at West Point and the Old Guard and hire more State Department people. Put them in Iraq. Let them withdraw from areas where they get shot at by Afghan civilians in houses.

    Ordering U.S. military to withdraw whenever the enemy manages to pick firing position in a house is absurd. It guarantees increased U.S. dead and wounded and makes it impossible to win the war.

    Taliban who escaped dressed as women

    After McChrystal announced his new policy, a group of Taliban were cornered in a house that also had civilians. The Marines let the women leave then went in to get the Taliban. There was no one there. They had departed earlier dressed as women.

    Is this McChrystal’s fault? I suspect it might not have happened before his new policy. He said to be biased against civilian casualties. The enemy took advantage of that precisely as I predicted.

    But the main issue is the Marine officer in command of the operation on the scene. He’s a @#$%^&* idiot. I predict his name will never be released and although he may lose his job for a while, if he manages to avoid another episode of public stupidity, he will have a long career in the Marines.

    During the Korean War, a bunch of Americans were captured by the North Koreans. Two saw an opportunity to escape. They turned off the trail the other POWs were on but continued to walk at the same pace because they were visible in sparsely vegetated terrain and did not want to attract attention. They were about to reach a spot where they could hide on the other side of a hill when another American officer spoted them and yelled, “Hey guys! We’re going this way!” The North Koreans then spotted the would-be escapees and beat the crap out of them. After the war, one of the Americans who got beaten was reunited with the dumbest captain in earth. After being released at the end of the Korean War, he had stayed in the Army for a career and was then a colonel.

    It’s not just a job, it’s an adventure—and made more so by the profound stupidity of many U.S. military officers.

    Officers who specialize in Afghanistan

    I have also seen a media report that McChrystal wants to have many, many officers specialize in Afghanistan so they will be more effective there. They would even be working on Afghanistan when they were in the U.S.

    Well, duh. That’s only about a century overdue.

    At many of my Web articles about the military, I have criticized the military’s practice of reassigning officers to a new location and job every one to three years. I said it belies their claim to be “professionals” by making them nomadic, intercontinental temps who are jacks of various bureaucratic chores but masters of none. It is also a horrific thing to do to the families of the military personnel in question. Here is a list of those articles

    Selfless warriors

    Is there any such thing as military expertise?

    John T. Reed’s review of I love a Man in Uniform

    John T. Reed’s review of Question Of Loyalty by Douglas Waller

    Should you go to, or stay at, West Point by John T. Reed

    The military has been so in love with this nonsense for so long that they have regarded it as more important than winning wars since the Korean War. The prior approach during war time was that military personnel go “over there” and the “don’t come back until it’s over over there.” When we did that, we won all our wars. Since we started trying to rotate during wars as we did in peacetime, we have lost all our wars. Duh!

    I wonder, though, if McChrystal is not exceeding his authority. What he proposes would radically change the way the Army operates.

    The Afghan officers would be hitching their career wagon to McChrystal’s star. I can see where that would help McChrystal, but it would be a big gamble for all concerned. And what do the non-Afghanistan officers do? Become Iraq specialists? OK. But don’t we need some expertise in Bosnia, Europe, Asia, and Latin America, too? And what happens to those guys careerwise? Who gets picked for chief of staff and other top Pentagon positions in the future? Does a guy who devoted his career to Afghanistan get to be NATO commander? Would promising guys who got assigned to the Afghan beat leave the Army when we withdraw from Afghanistan?

    Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s a good idea. It might also include moving families to a safe place near Afghanistan so they could visit more often.

    What I am skeptical of is the vast Army bureaucracy becoming less process oriented and more results oriented. Career Army personnel, for all their talk about being “warrior”s and war planning, actually want the sinecure of the peacetime Army. At my article about whether one should go to West Point, I tell about the use of the phrase “the real Army,” as in when someone complains about their current military assignment in the Army, some career guy in the conversation always protests, “But this isn’t the real Army. This is the airborne, or Panama, or whatever. Once, I heard a lifer say, “But this isn’t the real army. This is war time.”


    Also, when I analyzed West Point graduates getting out of the Army within five to ten years rather than staying for a 20 or more year career, I saw that the pattern was that West Pointers got out more in war time than in peace time.

    Huh!? again.

    What the Army needs to some real warriors who join during war time then get the hell out during peace time, like, uh, World War II, which we won in less than four years.

    If you’re wondering how the Army could be “professional” doing that, I conclude you must not have read the above article. How’s about we lose words like “professional” and “warrior” and start using words like “results” and “victory?”

    I appreciate informed, well-thought-out constructive criticism and suggestions. If there are any errors or omissions in my facts or logic, please tell me about them. If you are correct, I will fix the item in question. If you wish, I will give you credit. Where appropriate, I will apologize for the error. To date, I have been surprised at how few such corrections I have had to make.

    Book review: The Gamble, by Tom Ricks

    The book The Gamble by Tom Ricks is about the conception, selling, planning, and execution of the so-called “Surge” and related aspects of American military tactics in Iraq in 2006, 2007, and 2008.

    Basically, The Surge, which actually involved much more than just increasing the number of troops in Iraq, worked tactically.

    In my military Web pages, I have criticized the following, among other things:

    lack of moral courage in the U.S. military officers corps

    lack of military expertise in the U.S. military officer corps

    the way in which generals are chosen

    the process rather than results orientation of U.S. military officers

    the morality of obeying stupid orders

    The Gamble did not generally disprove what I said in those articles. Indeed, the author repeatedly reported that the heroes of The Surge constantly had to overcome the sorts of things my articles complained about.

    It did reveal, to my surprise, that in the last several years, there has been a small but courageous and persistent group of active-duty and retired Army officers. They conceived the various new tactics that worked well in the 2006-8 period. They sold them to President Bush, in spite of resistance from their military superiors and Congress. And they executed the plan, including recognizing where it needed modification, and hanging in there when it did not initially seem to be succeeding. They also changed the way America’s generals are chosen.

    On page 16, Ricks says,

    The hard part for Petraeus would be to impose his vision on the U.S. Army, one of the largest and most tradition-bound organizations in the country.

    Thank you for that vast understatement.

    In my article about moral courage, I said the U.S. military officer corps was all but devoid of moral courage, naming such ancient officers as Billy Mitchell and Hugh Thompson (chopper pilot who stopped the My Lai Massacre) as the last I knew of who had exhibited moral courage. I stand corrected. According to The Gamble, the following active-duty heroes of that effort did exhibit moral courage:

    Active-duty military exhibitors of moral courage:

    Centcom Commander General David Petraeus

    Iraq Commander Ray Odierno

    Lt. Col. David Kilcullen (Australian Army)

    Major General David Fastabend

    Ltc. John Nagl

    Ltc. Jan Horvath

    Colonel Pete Mansoor

    Major General Paul Eaton

    Lt. Col Sean MacFarland

    Col. H.R. McMaster

    Lt. Col. Dale Alford

    Lt. Col Paul Yingling

    Colonel Tom Greenwood

    Lt. General James Dubik

    Col. Bill Rapp

    Current civilian leaders exhibitors of moral courage:

    Defense Secretary Robert Gates

    Ambassador Ryan Crocker

    Professor Eliot Cohen

    Andrew Krepinevich

    Army historian Conrad Crane

    Michael Vickers

    Fred Kagan

    Robert Kaplan

    Stephen Biddle

    American Enterprise Institute generally

    The following were the ones who fought against changing tactics in Iraq:

    Active-duty military:

    Chief of Staff of the Army General George Casey, Jr. (apparently the main villain in The Gamble)

    Centcom Commander
    John Abizaid

    Admiral William Fallon

    Rear Admiral James Winnefeld, Jr.

    Iraq Commander General Ricardo Sanchez

    Vice-Admiral James Stavridis

    Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Marine General Peter Pace

    Lieutenant General Peter Chiarelli

    The U.S. Air Force generally

    The U.S. Navy generally

    Retired officers who argued against the Surge:

    General Barry McCaffrey

    General Wayne Downing

    Former civilian leaders:

    Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld

    L. Paul Bremer, III

    Lawrence Di Rita

    The following retired officers were instrumental in persuading President Bush to adopt new tactics in Iraq:

    General Jack Keane

    Ricks expresses deep astonishment that a retired officer like Keane effectively became the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs during the prelude to the Surge. I am less surprised. Active-duty officers are eager to get promoted or keep their jobs. They have to be moral cowards to get that job so you would not expect them to suddenly turn morally courageous after using the exact opposite approach to get to the top over a 40-year career. Retired officers have no such considerations. They are sort of the equivalent of tenured professors. Before I awarded a guy like Keane the Presidential Medal of Freedom, I would comment to him about his active-duty military career and retired military activism,

    Better late than freaking never.

    By that I refer to all the O.P.U.M. and O.V.U.M. Keane had to go along with to get to be a retired general. I would like him to allocute to that before he accepts his Freedom Medal. In case you’re wondering, Keane is a graduate of Fordham University, not West Point.

    Ricks describes Keane as “independent and a clear thinker.” Any such independence would also fall under the better-late-than-never label. He sure as hell did not get to be a four-star general by revealing much independent thinking when he was on active duty.

    Ricks quotes Retired Army Colonel Bob Killebrew thus,

    Why did the American military establishment so fail to come up with a war-winning strategy that it was up to a retired general and a civilian think tank, AEI, to do their job? This is a stunning indictment of the American military’s top leadership.

    Yeah, it is. It is also what I have been saying for months or years at this Web site in articles like:

    Is military integrity a contradiction in terms?

    Is there really any such thing as military expertise?

    The 30-year, marathon, single-elimination, suck-up tournament or How America chooses its generals

    the process rather than results orientation of U.S. military officers

    the morality of obeying stupid orders

    Only tactical success

    Ricks is careful to only attribute tactical success to The Surge. I agree. The main idea behind it was that it would buy time for the three main groups of Iraqis—Kurds, Sunni, and Shia—to reconcile with each other and establish working government institutions. That did not happen. Indeed, there is some evidence to indicate that the Iraqi politicians actually moved in the opposite direction as a result of the success of The Surge.

    Basically, Petraeus’ approach is local police work, not military tactics, combined with paying huge amounts of protection money to those who previously killed Americans for slightly less money. They work for the highest bidder. Paying protection money is not a best practice military tactic. On the contrary, it is an admission of military impotence.

    I have been saying at this Web site for months or years that the mission in Iraq and Afghanistan is primarily one for local police, who speak the language and know the people, not a foreign military force. If you do a search within my Web domain,, you find 13 different articles I wrote about counterinsurgency that contain the word “police.” The Gamble makes much of Petraeus’ program of making solider’s and Marines walk a beat and live in urban Iraq neighborhoods rather than the prior practices of living in isolated Americans-only base camps in the boondocks and patrolling only inside armored or fast-moving vehicles (called “periodic presence patrols”).

    The U.S. military is neither equipped nor trained nor capable of being a local police force in third-world countries and never will be because of lack of language, cultural, and local experience.

    Ultimately, without the Iraqi politicians reconciling, the tactical successes of Petraeus et al are of little significance in Iraq. Ditto the sacrifices in blood and treasure of the American people in Iraq. Any benefits to the U.S. from The Surge involve only such things as:

    • discovering best practices for counterinsurgencies in countries like Iraq

    • ending the rewarding of failure and the ignoring of success in the U.S. Army officer corps

    • giving at least one example of an insurgency within the U.S. military officer corps that succeeded rather than destroying the careers of the officers in question

    • restoring at least some of the honest, well-earned pride U.S. military personnel had during World War II

    Similarly, Afghanistan’s government is a corrupt narco-state. Again, with that weak link, our soldiers will not ultimately succeed no matter how well they do their jobs or how well they are led. If and when the Iraq and/or Afghan governments collapse into that which we were trying to prevent, the sacrifices of our soldiers and Marines in those countries will have been for nothing. That blood is on the hands of U.S. military and civilian leaders who paid too little attention to the low probability that our occupations of those countries would have the desired effect: a democratic, peaceful nation in which minority rights, like those of women and infidels, are respected.

    ‘Driving around waiting to get blown up’

    Commenting on the pre-2006 U.S. Army in Iraq, Specialist Tim Ivey said,

    It sucks. Honestly, it feels like we’re driving around waiting to get blown up.

    In my Reed Doctrine article on how to fight insurgencies, the first item I recommended was to stop driving around waiting to get blown up.

    I also complained about letting the enemy successfully use IEDs to kill Americans in my review of the book In a Time of War. That book’s account of the IED death of West Point Class of 2002 member Todd Bryant brought me to tears—and rage against his superiors. I also mentioned a stupid order regarding another IED in my article about the morality of obeying stupid orders.

    Here’s another comment from page 35 of The Gamble:

    It is like we are on a combat patrol and what we see are all the indicators of an ambush—and yet we continue forward as if we had not been trained to detect, avoid, or take preemptive measures,” said one Army colonel in Iraq who was versed in counterinsurgency theory.

    On Page 89, Ricks says Retired General Jack Keane told Rumsfeld that the…

    U.S. Army needed to stop conducting mindless Humvee patrols out of big bases and instead start living among the people and patrolling small areas on foot.

    On page 10, Ricks echoes what Lt. Col. Nate Sassaman, who served in Iraq before the Surge, said in his book Warrior King, with this comment from Iraq war U.S. Marine Captain Zachary Martin:

    Some in the military suspected that commanders were just trying to get through their tours in Iraq without making waves, so they could get on with their lives and careers. “The truth is that many commands in Iraq are no longer focused on winning and instead are focused on CYA.”

    “…a commander who takes no risks and thus keeps his casualties low can be reasonably assured of a Bronze Star with a combat ‘V,’ an article in the [Marine Corps] Gazette relating how well his battalion performed under his firm and dynamic leadership and, with combat command ticket punched, a decent shot at promotion.”

    Martin also said that many U.S. commanders in Iraq seemed more concerned with “force protection” than winning. “Force protection” means avoiding contact with the enemy in order to avoid casualties. Obviously, if that’s what American commanders are trying to do, they and their units should have stayed in the U.S.

    With regard to that Bronze Star with a V device, the V stands for valor. You don’t get it just for being in a combat zone. You have to do something specific. See my article on whether U.S. military personnel truly earned all the medals they have been awarded.

    I was never in Iraq, but I did a tour in Vietnam and I never saw any behavior on the part of my superiors other than trying to acquire career-enhancing “feathers in their caps” and avoiding career-harming “black eyes,” to use the phrases from the book Catch 22. I never saw or heard any officer in Vietnam show the slightest interest in winning the Vietnam war. That was apparently the case as well in Iraq before The Surge.

    As with Vietnam when I was there (1969-70), the politicians in Washington had decided that we needed to turn the war aver to the locals. In Vietnam, it was called Vietnamization and it was to proceed as if it were working whether it was working or not. In Vietnam, it was not. In Iraq, Iraqization is also more or less the current Washington policy, but the commanders on the ground in Iraq indicate that they do not trust the various groups in Iraq to behave after the U.S. forces leave. That being the case, we should not have bothered with the occupation, thereby saving about 5,000 American lives and about $500 billion. And we ought to leave immediately. Ricks book seems to draw that conclusion without saying it. It apparently is too painful for Ricks to say it explicitly after being so close to the men and women who have been trying so hard to win the war.

    On page 54, Center for Strategic and International Studies Anthony Cordesman is quoted as saying about the pre-surge approach in Iraq,

    It was based on a grossly exaggerated estimate of political success, an almost deliberately false exaggeration of the success of the economic aid effort and progress in deploying the ISF.

    On that same page, Frances Bing West an ex-Marine said,

    The strategy was a hope posing as a plan.

    That is what I saw in Vietnam as well. Vietnamization was not working. The Vietnamese were not up to it or not interested. But the politicians in the states and the military officers in Vietnam who knew what was good for them simply stated Vietnamization was working because that was what the American people wanted to hear and it would put a fig leaf of respectability on the elegant bug out we were trying to pull off.

    Simply put, the U.S. is going to have to stay there for decades more, with casualties and big bucks all along, and there is no guarantee that Iraq will be better off as a result of our occupation. Indeed, there are indications that Iraq may be worse off in the future than if we had left Saddam Hussein in charge. That being the case, it seems to me that the U.S. needs to leave yesterday. Fundamentally, the Middle East is a tar baby, including Israel. The people who live in the area from Lebanon to Pakistan and in North Africa are a bunch of dysfunctional, belligerent nut cakes and have been since Roman times. We are merely the latest in a long line of Western powers to try futilely to get the residents of the region to behave.

    Civilian Iraq expert Eliot Cohen observed, correctly,

    Haziness about ends and means, about what to do and how to do it, is a mark of strategic ineptitude; in war its gets people killed.

    The sad truth is that most of the American military who have died in Iraq will probably turn out to have died for no good cause, just like my fellow soldiers in Vietnam. The mere fact that one dies in a U.S. military uniform in action against a foreigner does not necessarily prove that the deceased was involved in a worthwhile activity. He was, most likely, simply following orders. The contribution of the death to preserving the nation’s noblest values is entirely dependent on the competence and wisdom of the person who gave the orders. In Iraq, there appears to have been very little competence and wisdom in our military tactics before The Surge and in our strategy throughout the entire occupation.

    On page 15, Ricks quotes an unnamed “senior Pentagon official” as saying,

    If you look at the promises behind the war, they were: It will be quick, it will be easy, it will be cheap, it will be catalytic.

    I wrote an article about General Petraeus’ testimony before Congress. I was critical of Petraeus and I stand by that criticism, notwithstanding my giving him credit in this article for his performance in The Surge. One point I made was that he did not get to be a four-star general by being the independent thinker he is now regarded as. Ricks puts it thus,

    David Lloyd George, the British prime minister for much of World War I, observed after that conflict that for officers in the British army, “to be a good average is safer than to be gifted above your fellows.” This also tends to be true in the U.S. Army. Given that conformist inclination, the most surprising fact about Gen. Petraeus may be that he is a general at all.

    Correct. I expressed skepticism about his adherence to the virtues of independent thinking when he was a company grade and field grade officer. I believe, based on my experience in the Army, that he must have gone along to get along when he was lower in rank like a sleeper cell in al Qaeda to use the most ironic analogy.

    Domino theory was not fulfilled’

    One error I spotted in The Gamble was the Vietnam “domino theory,” that if South Vietnam fell to the Communists, the other countries in the region, namely Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, and Maylaya would also fall. On page 76, Ricks says,

    The domino theory…was not fulfilled [when Vietnam fell]

    That’s bullshit! Laos and Cambodia did fall to the Communists after Vietnam fell, with horrific loss of life in Cambodia’s killing fields. Cambodia has since improved, but Laos is still a screwed-up basket case. I saw a TV documentary about American Vietnam vets who served in Laos and Cambodia going back on a nostalgia trip. They had to get the hell out of Laos because the Pathet Lao Communists were still there and no less friendly to Americans than they had been 35 years before.

    Thailand proved to be made of stronger stuff. The Malay Peninsula seemed unaffected by the horrors in Cambodia being buffered by Thailand. The domino theory had four dominoes. In fact, two of them fell. Two did not.

    Surprising criticism of civilians

    One surprising criticism, on page 99, was that in both Vietnam and Iraq, civilian leaders did not dig deep enough into the military officers corps to discover that there were disputes about strategy and tactics. Makes sense to me. Military officers below the top military officer are afraid to reveal disagreements with anyone above them, but if the President or other top civilian leaders drag it out of them and indicate they will not be punished for disagreement with superiors, they officers will give their honest feelings. 500,000 military heads are better than one, even when the one is the Chief of Staff, especially when the one is the Chief of Staff. In the case of the Surge, the dissidents persisted and wangled an audience with the president and were persuasive.

    One of the complaints the above-named morally courageous men made to the president was that no general had been relieved as a result of lack of success in the Iraq war. I would add that they were actually promoted in spite of lack of success, most notably Casey, just like Westmoreland and Abrams were in Vietnam. They also complained that officers who had success in Iraq were not promoted for that.

    Bush asked whom he should promote. “Petraeus,” said Biddle, citing British military historian’s comment,

    …all armies get it wrong at the beginning”the question is who adapts fastest.

    Biddle said Petraeus was the officer who adapted the best and fastest among U.S. generals.

    General Ray Odierno

    In his prior book, Fiasco, about the lousy performance of the U.S. military in 2003-2005, Ricks made Ray Odierno the main villain. He depicted Odierno as a man who thought being the biggest bully on the block—compared to al Qaeda—was the best way to win. The Sassaman incident occurred under Odierno’s command and macho rules of operating.

    In The Gamble, Odierno gets a second act, and emerges as one of the main heroes and embracers of the new approach: namely that protecting the Iraqi citizens being job one. Odierno is Ricks’ most improved player of the Iraq war. Again, better late than never and credit to Odierno for admitting he was wrong. I would also add that Odierno did not dream up his first tour “toughest mother in the valley” act on his own. The doctrine and training of U.S. Army personnel has long been biased in favor of macho violence. That was appropriate in the Korean War and before, but it has been pretty evident that a different approach was needed in the new asymmetric wars like Vietnam and the Middle East. Odierno may have been a bit more extreme than his peers first time around, but the whole Army was trained to be more or less that macho.

    Also, as I have often said in my Web articles about the military, the missions in Vietnam and the Middle East are not primarily military in nature. They are mainly local police missions requiring much diplomacy, intelligence, investigation, and civics class teachers. The military’s role in such conflicts is akin to a SWAT team in urban police work. That is, they get called when the enemy configures itself such that shoot-on-sight rules of engagement and heavy duty military weapons can be used. As a police force, Odierno’s 4th Infantry Division behaved like a police brutality force during his first tour.

    Odierno’s son’s wound

    Odierno’s son, a 1st Cavalry lieutenant, lost an arm in Iraq. I have a problem with that. Odierno, like myself, was ignorant enough of the Army and combat to volunteer for it by going to West Point. But my three sons know better. I taught them to join the military only if and when they were drafted by lottery in a nationwide mobilization in a real war and never to volunteer for anything once they entered the military. Why didn’t his son know that? Apparently, he urged his son to follow in his footsteps. Why? Ray Odierno’s ego?

    Odierno is not dumb enough to fail to see that the military is a SNAFU bureaucracy. Indeed, he was the main dissident within the military about the need for new tactics and more troops. Was his son injured because of being required to use the old tactics or because our pre-Surge troops were spread too thin? Why would anyone urge his child to also enter a SNAFU bureaucracy, especially one that gets its members killed or maimed regularly, often through friendly fire or accidents not involving the enemy? (Odieno’s son’s arm was shot off by an enemy RPG that killed the guy standing next to him.)

    The usual answer is a speech about patriotism and the honorable profession of arms and freedom and the long line of Odierno’s who served and all that. In fact, the U.S. military is a bloody clusterfuck, far more so in wartime. How anyone could recommend it to his child is beyond my comprehension. Urging, or even letting, a child enter the U.S. military in the dangerous branches like the infantry and armor and Apache helicopters is akin to urging or letting your son play Russian Roulette with a revolver. The probability of dying in Russian Roulette is 1/6. The probability of dying or being severely maimed in the infantry, armor, or Apache helicopters nowadays in the U.S. Army or Marines may not be 1/6 per se, but it’s in that vicinity. It’s sure as hell orders of magnitude higher than alternatives like studying mechanical engineering in graduate school or going to work for the FDIC or becoming a high school English teacher.

    I recently had an argument with the father of a college junior who is going to Marine OCS. He kept saying, “It’s his decision.” I kept arguing that applies to which college he attends or whom he picks as his wife or whether he orders chocolate or vanilla ice cream. It does NOT apply to the young man possibly making a life-or-death decision that he lacks the experience and knowledge to make in an informed way. Indeed, if you choose to volunteer for combat as an infantryman, tanker, or Apache helicopter pilot, you, by definition must not realize what you are doing because if you did realize, you would not do it. It’s a reverse Catch-22. If you volunteer for combat, you are either insane or criminally ignorant of what you are choosing.

    The book A Rumor of War by Philip Caputo, a Marine combat veteran of Vietnam, starts with a quote from 4th century Roman historian Flavius Vegetius Renatus along the lines of,

    They who are most eager for battle are most ignorant of it.

    Odierno’s son should not have been ignorant of the true nature of battle given who his father was. You only go into battle because it is a duty that fell to you by some random, fair selection process, like my father and uncles who were drafted into World War II and went. One uncle was machine gunned by the Germans and handicapped for life as a result. But he did not spend any time feeling foolish for having volunteered for anything.

    Volunteering for combat makes about as much sense as volunteering to be a crash dummy in a 100-mile-an-hour car crash test. If you want to know what combat is like, stop going to war movies and get a job at a funeral home in a metro area that contributes disproportionate numbers of young men to the military. If you still want to climb into that body bag, your next stop should be a psychiatrist’s office. The phrase “out of sight, out of mind” must have been coined by a combat veteran watching young men eagerly volunteer for combat.

    The other phrase that comes to my mind is, “Protect them father for they know not what they do.” Those who have done a combat tour have a duty to try to get prospective soldiers and marines to realize what it really means to get caught in a fire fight. If we could succeed at that, there would be no such volunteers and our current and future wars would end until such time as the American people were willing to reinstitute the draft.


    Unbelievably to me and the Surge advocates, the top brass in the Army including Chief of Staff Casey thought maintaining “readiness” was a higher priority than winning the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. What is readiness? The ability to fight World War II in Europe again.

    That’s why Casey was ignored in the Surge debate. Why he and the other readiness boys have not been fired is another mystery to me. He is still the highest ranking soldier in the Army. There’s also the question of why hasn’t Casey resigned. He has been ignored. His subordinates go around him direct to the Secretary of Defense and to the President and everybody knows it. Any self-respecting person would resign in the face of such behavior by his subordinates and superiors. Apparently Casey is clinging to his position as Chief of Staff to impress those so ignorant of national affairs that they are unaware he is a discredited figurehead.

    The Army has been making this mistake since Vietnam. They think asymmetric wars don’t count. In fact, now that we are the only remaining Superpower, asymmetric wars are the only kind we are going to get to fight. But World War II in Europe was the U.S. Army’s “Greatest Hit.” Ever since, the Army has been like aging actress “Norma Desmond” in the 1950 film Sunset Boulevard. She used to be a big star and spends all her days pretending she still is and living in the past. Here is a Wikipedia comment about her famous lines.

    Several of Desmond’s lines, such as, "All right Mr. De Mille, I’m ready for my close-up," and "I am big. It’s the pictures that got small!" are widely remembered and quoted.

    Only for the U.S. Army, it’s,

    We are big. It’s the wars that got small!

    What would Saddam do?

    On page 119, Ricks reveals that Odierno would ask, “What would Saddam do?” as a way to figure out the best tactics. I’m impressed. That’s smart and it shows a lack of a dangerous character flaw, the “not invented here” syndrome, by which decision makers refuse to use anyone’s ideas but their own even when the idea in question is a good one. One such Saddam idea was to station troops on the outskirts of Baghdad to prevent bad guys from moving freely in and out of the city.

    ‘Blood pact’

    Page 133 has a strong statement about what Petraeus and his allies in The Surge claimed to be about. According to Lt. General Dubik, Petraeus made a blood pact with his Iraq generals which Dubik quoted thus,

    We’re gonna do this or we’re gonna go down trying. But we’re not going o do this so the next generation of Americans are going to have to go to war to finish this thing. And we’re going to have our integrity when we’re done. Act like this is your last tour of duty, and don’t worry about what comes next for you.

    I love the sentiment. And it appears they lived up to it. But I have to note that “we’re going to have our integrity when we’re done” should be more accurately be stated as “We’re going to get back our integrity before we’re done.” If the Surge generals had integrity they would not have made captain or major earlier in their careers, let alone general. When the Army was run by careerist scum, they saluted and “played the game,” including signing whatever false documents had to be signed and kissing whatever asses had to be kissed. See my articles “Is military integrity a contradiction in terms?”, O.V.U.M., and “The 30-year, marathon, single-elimination suck-up tournament or How America chooses its generals.”

    Once again with regard to the moral courage of the active-duty and retired military heroes of The Surge, better late than freaking never.


    On page 134, Ricks says,

    After years of inclining toward anodyne [capable of relieving pain or distress] pronouncements about steady progress, which always begged the question of whether there was enough progress…the new team could be refreshingly blunt. “We have done some stupid shit,” Major Dave Fastabend [said]…

    Here is what I said on that topic in my review of Ltc. John Nagl’s book Learning to Eat Soup With a Knife,

    He was asked if General Petraeus was the first Iraq commander to do what needs to be done. Nagl said that General Casey, Petraeus’ predecessor had also “advanced the ball.”

    “Advanced the ball?”

    How about winning the game?

    This choice of phraseology manifests the extreme difficulty of making any changes in the military. Even the most glacial progress is celebrated by military personnel because any kind of progress is so rare.

    The problem is America cannot wait for a glacier to defend the nation and the free world. Wars are too important to be left to a body of people who can only make glacial progress toward doing the right thing.

    Here are some other comments I made about career military officers and “progress” in my article “Process orientation versus results orientation.”

    Time and materials

    One of the first things I learned when I went into real estate investment is that you never agree to “time and materials” contracts with a contractor. Always get a fixed bid. Time and materials means the contractor just does the work and bills you for how much time it takes and for the materials he has to buy. The problem with agreeing to this is contractors, being human, then take forever and the job costs far more than normal.

    Our first Commander in Chief, George Washington, magnanimously told the Continental Congress that he would work without a salary. He asked the Congress to just reimburse his out-of-pocket expenses. They agreed. He then submitted expense vouchers that stunned the Congress. When he became president, he again offered to work without salary. Having been burned once by that arrangement, Congress said words to the effect of “Hell no!” paid him a salary, and and made him pay his own darned personal expenses. Washington was the richest man in America at the time.

    However, the U.S. military as a whole has always been on time and materials and when you take away “for the duration,” the U.S. military is far worse than any contractor about taking forever. “For the duration of the war” was the amount of time U.S. military draftees were to be in the military during the Civil War and World Wars I and II. That gives them a sense of urgency about winning it that the lifers do not have.

    In March of 2008, I heard former CentCom commander John Abizaid speak. He spoke with pride and satisfaction of the languid progress that has been made in Iraq. In fact, the American people are unhappy about the cost of the Iraq war in lives and money and with how long it is taking—far longer than the U.S. Civil War or World Wars I or II.

    That’s because the U.S. military is a bunch of process-oriented bureaucrats working on time and materials. Adopt a draft and tell the military it will go “over there” and “won’t come back til it’s over over there” and they damned well will wrap it up in a couple of years. [You can hear the World War I George M. Cohan song Over There at]

    One of Petraeus’s guys, Col. H.R. McMaster, said of the pre-Surge conduct of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan on page 136,

    A short-term approach to long-term problems generated multiple short-term plans that often confused activity with progress.

    Often? Claiming activity is success is almost the definition of career U.S. military people. That’s what my “process versus results” article is all about.


    I am not a Bush supporter. I voted for the Libertarian candidates when he ran. He gets almost no credit for anything he ever did. One thing I give him credit for, although I am not saying he made the right decision, is he made some decisions based on what he thought was right.

    No focus group or poll told Bush to invade Iraq. He did it anyway. The same is true of the change in tactics and leaders in Iraq from 2006 to 2008. There was no consensus or political support for The Surge. He did it anyway. The invasion of Iraq was successful to an extent. The initial occupation was not. The Surge and its accompanying changes in tactics was successful militarily. Page 150 of The Gamble discusses Bush’s willingness to make such a radical change in spite of weak political support for him in general and almost no political support for The Surge in particular.

    Petraeus’ job to be optimistic

    Petraeus is described on page 153 as the apotheosis of “can-do-ism.” He said it is part of the role of a commander to stay publicly optimistic.

    This is a slippery slope of ends-justify-the-means dishonesty. I discussed that in my article asking whether there really is any such thing as military expertise.

    Having a “can do” attitude when, in fact, you can’t do, is a criminal lie in the context of life-and-death decisions.

    I think the more accurate description of a commander’s role is to be honest behind the scenes and if he does not believe the plan decided on will work, rather than dishonestly try to fool his subordinates, a commander who does believe in the plan in question should instead command the operation in question.

    Thousands of men under Petraeus’ command have died. I think his role as a commander was to accomplish his mission and take care of the welfare of his men. It appears likely that he should have said, “I think we can tactically get the situation under control, but without reconciliation by the various tribes and sects, it won’t matter.” Then, we would have either had another Petraeus put in charge of getting the civilian Iraqi government to get their act together, or we would have gone home and saved those thousands of lives.

    Petraeus and the other officers who presided over those deaths can’t hide behind the political side being “above my pay grade.” That’s a bureaucrat’s rationalization for sinning by silence when he should have protested.

    The dead soldiers and marines are permanently dead. The situation may be ambiguous, but their deaths are not. Although Petraeus et al were not the political, diplomatic bureaucrats, by dint of their closeness to the Iraqi people during The Surge, they were in a position to see the political situation better than anyone else. They had a duty to say what I said above: “We think we can do the military part, but it appears it won’t matter because the political side is not happening.”

    The military careers of Petraeus and the others who supported his new approach prospered when they won their gamble. But those thousands of soldiers and marines are still dead. Those thousands of soldiers and marines lost Petraeus’ and Bush’s gamble.

    I don’t want to misrepresent Petraeus’ accomplishment. He completely turned the situation around and achieved about as much military victory as was possible. My addition to the superficial news reports is:

    1. In part, this was achieved by paying protection money to or hiring our former enemies

    2. The tactic that worked was essentially having the U.S. military behave like New York City beat cops living in the neighborhood in question and walking, not riding, around the neighborhood making friends with locals, in other words, military commander Petraeus did not have much tactical success until he ordered his soldiers and marines to behave like police, not military. The lesson is if we are going to go ino the business of policing foreign countries, we need a new force of expeditionary policemen and women. We should not be using the U.S. military as local foreign police.

    3. The military is only part of the issue. If there is no corresponding political victory creating a central government that can replace us, we have wasted our treasure and blood on these two countries.

    In short, however smart and pracitcal and all that what Petraeus did was, it was not a military role. God bless him and his subordinates for pulling off this paying off our enemies and acting like Iraqi policemen ought to act with military personnel untrained for such a mission, but don’t do it again. The proper big picture policy is what George W. Bush said during his 2000 campaign.

    Bush is far more tentative about committing American troops and rules out their use for what he dismisses as nation building. “There may be some moments when we use our troops as peacekeepers, but not often,” he said in the final presidential debate. In the second debate he suggested a broader philosophical disagreement with Mr. Gore: “I’m not so sure the role of the United States is to go around the world and say, ‘This is the way it’s got to be.’”

    Gore, on the other hand, has repeatedly portrayed himself as a man who has come to believe in vigorous American intervention abroad

    Source: David Sanger, NY Times Oct 30, 2000

    Bush was right the first time and if he had stuck with that, 5,000 Americans would still be alive, $600 billion would have been spent here rather than there, and we would probably have a more bipartisan Congress/White House today. We would be better off having those 5,000 Americans alive and Saddam Hussein still in power.

    ‘I’m supposed to send my sons to die for that?’

    In the margin of page 164, I wrote the above comment. Here is the passage that triggered it.

    The goal was no longer the grandiose one that somewhat murkily grew out of the 9/11 attacks and was meant to transform Iraq and the Middle East…Instead, the quietly retated U.S. goal was to achieve a modicum of stability, to keep Iraq together, and to prevent the war from metastasizing into a regional bloodbath. That meant finding what one official calld “a tolerable level of violence” and learning to live with it.

    If my sons had died there, do we put this shit on their tombstones at Arlington Cemetery?

    Lt. Reed


    Effort to Achieve a

    Modicum of Stability

    in Iraq 2005

    Sgt. Reed

    Died of Wounds

    To Keep Iraq Together 2004

    Lance Corporal Reed

    Killed In Action

    by the Tolerabe Level of Violence in Iraq 2006

    Petraeus started saying, “We are willing to accept less than a Jeffersonian democracy.” Well that’s goddamn easy for him to say. His kid’s not in a body bag. As far as I’m concerned, he can’t take my kid’s life even for a Jeffersonian democracy unless it’s a Jeffersonian democracy in the U.S.A.

    The 4/10/09 Wall Street Journal had an Op-Ed by Frederick Kagan and Kimperly Kagan. It says adequate political progress is being made, contrary to the picture painted in the less recently published book The Gamble. I would not know, by Frederick Kagan is one of the civilian moral courage heroes named above.

    To be continued

    I appreciate informed, well-thought-out constructive criticism and suggestions. If there are any errors or omissions in my facts or logic, please tell me about them. If you are correct, I will fix the item in question. If you wish, I will give you credit. Where appropriate, I will apologize for the error. To date, I have been surprised at how few such corrections I have had to make.

    RAND Corp.: ‘How Terrorist Groups End…’

    On 7/29/08, RAND Corp. released a 200-page study titled How Terrorist Groups End: Lessons for Countering al-Qaida. It says the “War on Terror” should be ended because it is not even close to the right approach.

    Military has a minor role

    It says much the same as I do, namely that reducing terrorism requires a combination of police, intelligence, finance, diplomacy, politics, and military force. Furthermore, it agrees with me that military force probably plays a minor role akin to that of civilian police SWAT teams. That is, when the terrorists behave militarily—massive into significant size groups using heavy weapons or simply where we have located them—the military is needed to attack them.

    Modern history of terrorism

    The RAND study looks at the history of terrorist groups between 1968 and 2006. Those that went out of business did so mainly because of police and intelligence work, not military action. In one of my Web articles, I said that terrorism is a publicity stunt. Sending the military after them and declaring “war” on them gives them more publicity.

    Politics is also a factor that I have mentioned but not emphasized. RAND found that terrorist groups with narrow political goals often switched to normal political means to achieve their goals. Terrorist groups that want to take over the world, like al-Qaida, cannot be satisfied by any political accommodation. Religious terrorists take longer to defeat than secular.

    10% of terrorist groups took over a country. 7% were defeated primarily by military force. The rest generally splintered, fell apart, were defeated by normal anti-criminal police and undercover work, or still exist.

    As I have said in my articles, terrorism is rarely a military problem therefore the military is only rarely the solution. Using the military to solve a non-military problem costs zillions of dollars, alienates friend and neutral alike, and exposes our troops to death and injury by hit-and-run or accident in ways that they would not be exposed if they stayed out of areas where terrorism is prevalent.

    Credit and blame

    Our military deserves great credit for trying to accomplish these missions in spite of inadequate personnel, training, equipment, and resources, but our military leaders, including the civilian ones, should be punished for their failure to recognize and admit the problem is beyond the military’s ability to solve.

    Progress, without regard to speed, is not enough

    Progress is not victory. Neither the patience nor the pocketbook of the American people is infinite. Obama’s position, to withdraw from Iraq, is probably correct, but for the wrong reasons. His policy of sending more troops to Afghanistan is essentially the same as Bush’s policy, which is probably just as wrong in Iraq as it is in Afghanistan. Both wars fall under the RAND study’s scope and relevance. All three major political figures—Bush, McCain, and Obama—are wrong on the wars. They treat them as a symbol of various political postures. In fact, they should be treated as dirty jobs and addressed with the most cost-effective means, not with means that work well in a political speech and allow the politicians to wrap themselves in the flag.

    If Barack Obama interviewed for a job

    Youth basketball head coach

    If Barack Obama, the former high school basketball bench warmer, were not famous and wanted to coach youth basketball:

    League president: So you played hoops?

    Obama: Yes, in high school and pickup games.

    LP: And what coaching job are you looking for here?

    O: Head coach of a team.

    LP: Have you coached before?

    O: No.

    LP: Not even assistant?

    O: No.

    LP: Did you play in college?

    O: No.

    LP: Well, Barry,We…

    O: It’s Barack.

    LP: Buh Rock? What kinda name is that?

    O: Kenyan. My father was from Kenya. Do you have a problem with my name?

    LP: Nope. Maybe if it was Saddam Hussein or something like that? (laughing)

    O: What about Barack Hussein?

    LP: You got a good sense of humor. Kids like that.

    LP: You don’t discriminate against blacks do you?

    LP: For a basketball job? There’s that sense of humor again. No, but we have more guys who want to be head coaches than we have teams. Most of them have head coach or at least assistant coach experience in this league. Do you have any management experience at all in any field?

    O: No.

    LP: You’re gonna need to pay your dues, wait your turn. Take an assistant job.

    O: How long will that take?

    LP: Usually first-time head coaches have two or three years experience in this league. Fill out this application.

    O: What do you need that for?

    LP: We check every new coach out. Gotta make sure you’re not a pedophile, convicted criminal, drug user, stuff like that.

    O: Uh, I’ll get back to you.

    Army second lieutenant job

    If Barack Obama were not famous and wanted to become a second lieutenant—the lowest officer rank—in the Army:

    Army: You want to enlist?

    O: I want to become an officer.

    Army: No problem. They’re always looking for minority officers. You are black aren’t you?

    O: Half. My father was African.

    Army: Close enough. Did you complete ROTC?

    O: No, the colleges I went to did not have it.

    Army: Then you have to enlist and apply for Officer Candidate School after basic training.

    O: How long does that take?

    Army: First, we have to see if we can let you enlist. You have to pass a physical and a background check.

    O: A background check?

    Army: Yes. We have to make sure you are not a drug user, convicted criminal, terrorist, that kind of stuff.

    O: Then what?

    Army: Then you go through basic training like any other person in the Army. You have to pass a marksmanship test, pass a physical fitness test, learn military customs, regulations, and basic skills.

    O: How long does this take?

    Army: Nine weeks.

    O: Then I become an officer?

    Army: No. No. You still have to pass a written test and get recommended by your basic training superiors.

    O: How long is OCS?

    Army: 12 weeks

    O: Then I’m an officer?

    Army: Yes, if you pass the course and pass another background check to make sure you qualify for a “secret” security clearance. They make sure you don’t associate with convicted felons, terrorists, do drugs. Don’t worry if you got caught with some marijuana. They only look for hard drug use.

    O: Like what?

    Army: Cocaine, heroin.

    O: Suppose instead of being the lowest ranking officer in the Army, I want to be the highest?

    Army: That would be a four-star general chief of Staff of the Army.

    O: What would that take?

    Army: About 35 to 40 years of unblemished, highly-rated, active-duty service.

    O: How about if I want to be Commander in Chief of the entire United States military? Would I need to pass this background check and get a secret clearance?

    Army: If you get 270 electoral votes, you automatically have the highest security clearance in the world. You are the only one who can see “Eyes Only POTUS” documents. You’re cleared for “secret,” “top secret,” “destroy before reading,” you name it—everything. You’ll know more secrets than anyone else in the world—literally.

    O: POTUS?

    Army: President of the United States.

    O: And they do no background check about felons and terrorists?

    Army: Correct. They only do that check if you want to be on active duty. To be Commander in Chief of the entire U.S. military, there is no background check whatsoever.

    O: Do I have to pass a physical to be President of the United States?

    Army: Nah. There’s some old guy who couldn’t pass a physical to be night manager at McDonald’s running for president right now.

    O: Is there a nine or twelve-week training program to be Commander in Chief?

    Army: Nope. No training at all. You don’t even need to read a brochure.

    O: No tests to pass?

    Army: None.

    O: Do I need any military experience?

    Army: Nope. Almost all past presidents did have some military experience but Clinton was a draft dodger and he had two full terms.

    O: So how do I get to be Commander in Chief?

    Army: Just go around the country making speeches in which you use these three words as many times as possible.

    O: “Hope. Change. Future?”

    Army: You got it!

    Night manager at McDonalds

    If Barack Obama were not famous and wanted to be the night manager at your local McDonalds:

    Owner: Do you have any experience in the food-service industry?

    O: I buy arugula and other trendy fruits and vegetables at Whole Foods.

    Owner: Getting rid of trans fats is about as trendy as we get. Can you go slumming and chop our iceberg lettuce?

    O: Well, I want to be the manager. I wasn’t planning on actually touching any food. I’m an Ivy Leaguer.

    Owner: Do you have experience managing people?

    O: I was a community organizer?

    Owner: Like Al Sharpton?

    O: Yes.

    Owner: I don’t see how that would relate to managing our store. Did you ever work for a company of any sort that was trying to make a profit?

    O: A law firm.

    Owner: What kind of law?

    O: Black voting civil rights cases.

    Owner: Did your firm make a profit from the fees paid by your clients?

    O: No. We got contributions.

    Owner: What race do you consider yourself to be?

    O: Black.

    Owner: Can you relate to white people?

    O: My grandmother was a typical white person.

    Owner: I don’t think whites would care for that sort of stereotype phraseology. I think we would have to keep you in the back. At the cash register, you would have to relate to “typical white persons” and they would sense that patronizing attitude. We can’t make you a manager until we get to know you because of your lack of experience at either managing people or even working in a for-profit organization. You can either get over your aversion to touching food and start in the kitchen or you can be the most important non-manager on our staff.

    O: That sounds good. What would that involve?

    Owner: Keeping the floors, tables, and bathrooms as pristine as ANWAR. Here, fill out this background-check form. You haven’t used drugs or been convicted of a crime or anything have you?

    President of the United States

    Suppose that the most important job in the world—President of the United States—were awarded like almost all other important jobs: by an executive search committee. They would post the help-wanted ad nationwide and receive resumes and cover letters. Here is how I expect they would respond to Barack Obama’s application.

    Dear Senator Obama,

    Thank you for applying for the job of President of the United States of America for the period January 20, 2009 to January 20, 2013. As you know, this is the most important and most difficult job in the world and we have received many applications.

    As you may recall, our ad specified that the job entails:

    • global military strategy and execution of military operations on behalf of the nation, NATO, the U.N. at times, and the Free World

    • global diplomacy with the other 194 nations of Planet Earth

    • energy policy for the nation

    • economic policy for the nation

    • enforcement of the Constitution of the U.S. and all other federal laws

    • supervision of the millions of persons who are employed by the federal government in both civilian and military positions

    • recruiting and obtaining Senate approval of federal judges

    • approving or vetoing new federal legislation

    We were impressed to note that you obtained a law degree from Harvard and that you taught one course in Constitutional law at a university in Chicago. While there have been three law school graduates to take the position of President in the past 80 years, two of them were impeached and the other only achieved the position as a result of one of the impeachments. So at present, we are not considering law school graduate applicants for this position.

    Furthermore, we were unable to find any indication in your resume or cover letter than you have any training or experience in any of the following:

    • military

    • international relations

    • energy production or conservation

    • economic or business matters

    • practice of criminal law or any laws other than state and federal voting rights laws

    • supervision of other human beings

    • recruiting judicial personnel

    In view of the fact that the holder of this job will have the fate of 300,000,000 Americans directly in his hands and the fate of the rest of the world, indirectly to a large extent, we simply cannot consider you for the position of President or any position appointed by the President.

    We suggest you apply for an entry-level federal government position that requires a college education or a position where a law degree is the, or one of several, prerequisites like FBI special agent. At present, however, it would appear that you are not qualified for any position higher than GS-10. These positions have a starting pay of $43,824 plus you may be eligible for additional amounts if you work in a metropolitan area with a high cost of living.

    Good luck in your quest for non-elective federal employment,

    Presidential Search Committee

    Note from the author of this Web page: My first job was paper boy. Since Obama’s so-called jobs were really just paid campaigning, his first real job would be President of the United States of America.

    John T. Reed