America’s military hits a defining moment: how they react to defeat

Summary: Slowly voices inside the US military speak out about its inability to respond to its manifest failures in Iraq and Afghanistan, despite the large price paid in blood and money for the lessons given. The military has proven unable to take the first step of admitting that they lost. Here Gregory A. Thiele (LtCol , USMC) puts our defeat in a historical context, explains what we did wrong, and gives recommendations. Let’s hope the Marines listen.
— See responses to this in the comments from several experts.

Source: Syed Zaid Zaman Hamid.

Our Jena-Auerstädt?
“Coming to grips with fourth-generation warfare.”

By  LtCol Gregory A. Thiele, USMC.
Marine Corps Gazette, November 2016.
Reposted with their generous permission.

Echoes of history.

In 1806, the Kingdom of Prussia went to war against France and Napoleon Bonaparte. Prussia suffered a crushing and humiliating defeat. In a pair of battles, Jena and Auerstädt, both fought on 14 October 1806, the Prussian Army was defeated, and the existence of the Prussian state was placed in jeopardy. Prussia survived and reformed its army — an army that later played a pivotal role in Napoleon’s final defeat.

The U.S. military in general — and the U.S. Marine Corps in particular — is at a similar crossroads today. Marines are faced with twin defeats in Iraq and Afghanistan. These failures are clear indications that the character of war has changed. The Marine Corps must adapt to meet the challenge of this new face of war. A closer look at Jena-Auerstädt may suggest some ways to do so.

In 1806, Napoleon was at the height of his power. Napoleon, and France, posed a threat to the long-established monarchies and order of Europe. In July 1806, Prussia allied with Russia against Napoleon.

In early October 1806, Prussian troops marched against Napoleon’s forces. They marched slowly in order to allow their Russian allies an opportunity to come to their support. Napoleon, wishing to defeat the Prussians before Russian troops could join them, moved rapidly. On 14 October, Napoleon’s army engaged the Prussians in two battles fought a dozen miles apart. At Jena, Napoleon routed a portion of the Prussian army while one of his marshals defeated a much larger Prussian force at Auerstädt.

The defeats were decisive, and the Prussian army disintegrated in the pursuit that followed. By the spring of 1807, the only unconquered territory left to Prussia was around the city of Memel on the Baltic coast. The Prussian King, Frederick William III, sought terms from Napoleon.

Read more


Are our foes returning to the battlefield after their release from Gitmo?

Summary: The War on Terror has brought forth many amazing things. Here we look at an example of the US government’s brazen lies, often debunked but still eagerly repeated by journalists. Our leaders rejoice, as a people so credulous are easily governed. Yet Gallup’s annual confidence in government — and similar surveys — show the foundation of the US political slowly eroding. This will not end well for us.

A general’s childlike justifications, clueless about law.

“We’re the good guys — they’re not. … We can quibble over what they were doing on the battlefield when we took them, but every one of them is a bad guy.” (From NPR.)
— John Kelly (General, USMC, retired). He ran Guantánamo Bay from 2012 to 2016.

No More Lies

We were told that the prisoners held indefinitely at Guantánamo Bay — with only kangaroo court justice — were taken “on the battlefield”. That’s the justification for treating them as “enemy combatants“, a term the Bush Jr. administration created, without even the minimal protections allowed “unlawful combatants” under the Geneva Conventions. It’s been debunked endlessly, to no effect. American’s prefer fun myths to dark truths about our actions past and present. We cannot admit our illegal imprisonment and torture, especially often on flimsy evidence.

As small numbers of prisoners are released from Guantánamo Bay, some of them (logically seeing us as foes) take action against us. The US government doubles down on its lies, describing them as “returning to the battlefield”. Many journalists eagerly repeat the lies, such as Fox News’ “More former Gitmo detainees suspected of returning to battlefield“.

The New York Post joins the chorus. The LA Times asks “who should hold militants taken on the battlefield“. (The NYT again shows its quality: the only story they run about “returning to the battlefield” is about Hajji Ghalib — unjustly imprisoned but returned to fight alongside America against the Taliban.)

There are many studies uncovering the truth of these events, easily done even using the US government’s own data. Here is one of the best.

Read more

A look at al Qaeda, the long war — and us

Summary: With the newest terror alert, it’s timely to review what we know about al Qaeda. What kind of organization is AQ? How are they fighting us? Here is a brief summary (quickly written), giving one perspective on these things. We are in war, a war of choice, a war we’re fighting in a mad fashion, a war that might have horrific effects (even more horrific effects) if we continue as we have since 9-11.

One of the 2 builders of 21st C America
One of the 2 leading builders of 21st C America



  1. Forms of al Qaeda
  2. What is al Qaeda?
  3. Fighting al Qaeda
  4. For More Information

This post is a summary of conclusions drawn in the dozen-plus posts about al Qaeda listed at the end. See those for the details of analysis and evidence. These are my guesses based on the available scraps of public information.

(1) Forms of al Qaeda

We are told of two versions of al Qaeda:

  • a powerful global organization like SPECTRE, THRUSH, & COBRA
  • a powerful system of a central unit plus national franchises

These are conflicting stories; neither has much supporting public evidence. The first is fiction, a useful creation of US propaganda after 9/11 to gain support for the Patriot Act and foreign wars. Based on the public information, AQ might no longer exist in any effective form. Just as a shattered remnant issuing PR materials — bolstered by the US government, for whom it’s a useful boogeyman.

The second version is equally questionable. There are effective national organizations using the AQ brand name (eg, AQ in Iraq). These have some things in common with other organizations using the AQ name and AQ “central” — belief in some form of jihadist theology, opposition to Western culture, etc. But they are not “franchises” in any meaningful fashion.

Franchises are licenses from a central organization to operate under its umbrella, usually with some degree of control by the center. Like McDonalds, perhaps the paradigmatic example. See this Bloomberg article about life as a McDonald’s franchisee, under the thumb of the parent. There is little evidence that’s how AQ operates, that the AQ HQ has such control over others using the AQ name, or that AQ “central” can provide meaningful support to the national AQs. AQ “central” does not even control the most basic element of a franchise: control over the name.

Read more

Did we just surrender in the War on Terror?

Summary:  The United States cannot fight a war against radical Islamism and win.  That’s obvious, but we’re doing it anyway.  Here Chet Richards looks at our Grand Strategy as described by George Friedman of Stratfor.



There are those who will tell you that if you can’t sit in on meetings of our national security apparatus, the best alternative is to read George Friedman. So his most recent column in Stratfor, “Avoiding Wars that Never End“, might be taken as a trial balloon for a less intrusive policy for dealing with the treat posed by radical Islam. Friedman proposes returning to the strategy that proved successful in the two great wars of the twentieth century:

The United States cannot fight a war against radical Islamism and win … But the United States has the option of following U.S. strategy in the two world wars. The United States was patient, accepted risks and shifted the burden to others, and when it acted, it acted out of necessity, with clearly defined goals matched by capabilities. Waiting until there is no choice but to go to war is not isolationism. Allowing others to carry the primary risk is not disengagement. Waging wars that are finite is not irresponsible.

Read the article. Although it seems like a welcome, if belated, exercise in 21st century realpolitik, if you read carefully, you find the same failed grand strategy that got us into our present condition: We will still be fighting an “ism,” primarily with military force.

As Friedman himself notes, this was not our original goal:

That goal was not to deny al Qaeda the ability to operate in Afghanistan, an objective that would achieve nothing. Rather, the goal was to engage al Qaeda and disrupt its command-and-control structure as a way to degrade the group’s ability to plan and execute additional attacks.

Read more

News You Can Use to understand the New America

Summary:  The news media saturate us with news, which can make understand more difficult — not less.  At the FM website we help you sort through that flow to see the patterns important to you as a citizen.  Today we show two examples, illustrations of powerful trends shaping America about which we warned for the past 5 years.

(1)  In America “equal before the law” no longer applies

Power creates privilege in America.  As see by Americans mocking the War on Terror by illegally supporting organizations designated as terrorists, yet the government does not prosecute them:  “Washington’s high-powered terrorist supporters“, Glenn Greenwald, 12 March 2012 — Opening:

We now have an extraordinary situation that reveals the impunity with which political elites commit the most egregious crimes, as well as the special privileges to which they explicitly believe they — and they alone — are entitled. That a large bipartisan cast of Washington officials got caught being paid substantial sums of money by an Iranian dissident group that is legally designated by the U.S. Government as a Terrorist organization, and then meeting with and advocating on behalf of that Terrorist group, is very significant for several reasons. New developments over the last week make it all the more telling. Just behold the truly amazing set of facts that have arisen:

(2)  Inequality does not just happen — it results from public policy decisions

Increasing inequality of wealth and income undermines the foundations of our Republic.  It results from deliberate public policy changes that undo the policies of the New Deal and post-WWII era designed to build a strong middle class.

Read more

Uncle Sam, Global Gangster

Summary:  Americans increasingly live in a world bordered by our amnesia.  Our past lost, replaced by myths.  Our recent history largely forgotten, replaced by a vague jumble of half-remembered events.  To tell the story of our past decade requires someone with a clear understanding of geopolitical dynamics, able to place each step in our wars in a larger context.  It requires Andrew Bacevich (Colonel, US Army, retired).


  1. Introduction by Tom Englehardt
  2. Scoring the Global War on Terror – From Liberation to Assassination in Three Quick Rounds
  3. About the author
  4. For more information: other posts about our special ops assassins

(1)  Introduction by Tom Englehardt

If all goes as planned, it will be the happiest of wartimes in the  U.S.A.  Only the best of news, the killing of the baddest of the  evildoers, will ever filter back to our world.

After all, American war is heading for the “shadows” in a big way.  As news articles have recently made clear, the tip of the Obama administration’s global spear will increasingly be shaped from the ever-growing ranks of U.S. special operations forces.  They are so secretive that  they don’t like their operatives to be named, so covert that they  instruct their members, as Spencer Ackerman of Wired’s Danger Room blog notes,  “not to write down important information, lest it be vulnerable to  disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act.”  By now, they are also  a force that, in any meaningful sense, is unaccountable for its  actions.

Although the special ops crew (66,000 people in all) exist on our tax  dollars, we’re really not supposed to know anything about what they’re  doing — unless, of course, they choose the publicity venue themselves,  whether in Pakistan knocking off Osama bin Laden or parachuting onto Hollywood’s Sunset Boulevard to promote Act of ValorIn  case you somehow missed the ads, that’s the new film about “real  terrorist threats based on true stories starring actual Navy SEALs.” (No  names in the credits please!)

Of course, those elite SEAL teams are johnnies-come-lately when  compared to their no less secretive “teammates” in places like  Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Somalia — our ever increasing armada of  drones.  Those robotic warriors of the air (or at least their fantasy  doppelgangers) were, of course, pre-celebrated — after a fashion — in  the Terminator movies.  In Washington’s global battle zones, what’s called our “traditional combat role” — think big invasions, occupations,  counterinsurgency — is going, going, gone with the wind, even evidently  in Afghanistan by 2013.  War American-style is instead being inherited  by secretive teams of men and machines, both hunter-killers who  specialize in assassination operations, and both of whom, as presented  to Americans, just couldn’t be sexier.

Read more

The US government sponsored jihadist menace

Summary:  Much of our home-grown terrorism results from the government’s careful nurturing, clearly seen in the many cases since 9-11.  Not “stings” using “informants, but incitement (or even entrapment) by agents provocateur.  It’s yielded a full harvest:  a fearful and tame public.  Here are some of the stories; the pattern tells the tale.

Domestic jihadist terrorists since 9-11 comes in several forms.  Most of these examples are from the Congressional Research Services report “American Jihadist Terrorism: Combating a Complex Threat” (20 September 2010).

  1. Trained terrorists working for jihadist groups (e.g., David Headley and the Mumbai attack, Bryant Neal Vinas)
  2. Trained terrorists not directly working for terrorists, such as Nidal Malik Hasan (Major, US Army).
  3. Poorly trained and equipped people working for jihadist groups (e.g., Najibullah Zari, Richard Reid, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab).
  4. Loner or small groups, usually incompetent losers, such as Faisal Shahzad (using inert fertilizer) Tarek MehannaMichael Finton, and Abulhakim Muhammad.
  5. Jihadists planning to leave the US to fight elsewhere (e.g., Daniel Patrick Boyd, Jehad Mostafa, Shaker Masri, Zachary Chesser, 14 Minnesotans), or apprehended abroad (e.g., 5 Virginians in Pakistan, Daniel Maldonado in Keyna).  Somalia is the most common target.
  6. Individuals or small groups aided by agents of the US government; some combination of encouragement, funding and providing munitions.  Such as the Newburgh Four, the JFK International bomb plot, Raja Lahrasib Khan, the Fort Dix attack plot, Derrick Shareef, Raja Lahrasib Khan, the Liberty City Seven, Hosam Maher Husein Smadi, and Mohamed Osman Mohamud.

Most (not all) of these are small scale terrorism, less than that endemic in US history.  Such as the South’s post-Reconstruction insurgency, oppressing Blacks for the century following the Civil War.  The use of armed forces to break unions, commonplace until the New Deal.  The anarchistsRace riots.  Violence by groups on the left and right (continuing today by the greens and anti-abortion groups).

Looking at the numbers in each category, many are jihadists seeking to fight elsewhere (illegal but not likely significant; most often in Somalia) or small scale fund-raising — neither terrorism in the usual sense (for decades the US turned a blind eye to the IRA’s fund raising activities in the US).

Some of the jihadist prosecutions are old-fashioned attempts to railroad convictions, such as the Detroit terrorists — overturned after disclosure of widespread government misconduct (see articles here and here).

Read more