Cynical Synapse

Tue, 13 Dec 2011

Nation’s Oldest Military Services Celebrates 375 Years

Filed under: Government, History, Military, National security, Patriotism, People — cynicalsynapse @ 5:49 am

The National Guard of the United States traces its roots back to the Massachusetts Bay Colony, long before the United States existed or even declared its independence. On 13 December 1636, the Massachusetts General Court established a militia, which makes today’s Guard our nation’s oldest military service. The General Court’s declaration is the only colonial era government-issued proclamation authorizing a militia like that stipulated in the US Constitution.

In the spring of 1637, militia regiments mustered at Salem Common to drill in the interests of defending the colony and not just Salem. Massachusetts Congressman John Tierney (D-MA-6) introduced legislation designating Salem the birthplace of the National Guard, a measure supported by the entire Massachusetts delegation. Tierney described it this way:

Among its rich history, Salem was the site where our country’s earliest military regiment met, organized and conducted drills in preparation for defending the local community.

Guard UH-60 helicopter drops water on a forest fire

After consideration, the House included the designation of Salem as birthplace of the National Guard in H.R. 1540, National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012, which the House passed 322-96 (with 13 not voting) in May. Of Michigan’s representatives, only Justin Amash (R-3), Hansen Clarke (D-13), and John Conyers (D-14) voted against the measure. As of 7 December, the Senate-approved bill is in conference to incorporate Senate modifications.

Just as in 1637, the Guard of today consists of Citizen-Soldiers. They live, work, and go to school in the same communities as their fellow citizens. In every state and 4 territories (District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, and US Virgin Islands), the Guard is just hours away when disasters or other state emergencies strike. At least since the early 1980s, Guard Soldiers and Airmen have had to meet the same training and qualification requirements as their active duty counterparts. Guard members drill 39 days a year, unless preparing for mobilization. While no one advocates eliminating the standing Army or Air Force, the Guard’s cost-effectiveness and community ties are its strengths. As Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) noted the Guard is a great value for the country. While the Reserves of all the services are also a good value, only the Guard has a dual mission in the states and in support of the national military strategy.

Our National Guard and Reserve forces have taken on a major role in our combat missions abroad, while continuing to take the lead on the front lines during disasters here at home. This nation’s increased reliance on the National Guard has earned them a seat at the table along with our active duty forces.


 

Wed, 07 Dec 2011

Lest We Forget: Pearl Harbor 70th Anniversary

Filed under: Heroes, Military, National security, Patriotism — cynicalsynapse @ 5:06 am

Wreath-laying from the USS Massachusetts, 7 December 2010

Just a couple months ago, we marked the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of 9/11 on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. Almost 60 years before that dreadful day, our nation suffered an earlier, just as deadly and despicable, sneak attack. It was the attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941, a “date which will live in infamy”, declared President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Seventy years later, we’ve been at war for a decade, yet the evils are, amazingly, not so different.

The attack on Pearl Harbor in 2,403 US deaths, both civilian and military, compared to 2,977 killed on 9/11. The Japanese, however, sought to destroy military targets, sinking or severely damaging 18 ships and destroying some 160 aircraft. Pearl Harbor was the catalyst for US entry into World War II, ultimately putting over 16 million in uniform. Nearly 300,000 gave their lives in the name of freedom and democracy.

Pearl Harbor 70th Anniversary

Most of us remember 9/11 and what we were doing at the exact moments of the attacks on the twin towers, the Pentagon, and the downing of the fourth plane in a Pennsylvania field on 9/11. There are not so many who remember Pearl Harbor left.

According to the Bureau of Veterans Affairs, as of this May, approximately 2 million World War II vets were still with us. But we are losing them at the rate of around 850 a day. In February 2009, their median age was 86. In a few years, it will be over 90. In another decade, the survivors will be counted in the thousands. Their children will follow in 20 or 30 years. Who then will remind us of Pear Harbor, the Bataan Death March, Guadalcanal, Midway, Normandy, the Bulge and the U.S.S. Missouri anchored in Tokyo Bay?

The deficit in historical knowledge is at least as ominous as the national debt. Sheep have no memory—individual or collective. They are creatures to be sheared and, ultimately, consumed.


 

Sun, 23 Oct 2011

Changing Landscapes of the Arab World

Arabian desert

Much is and has been changing in the Middle East. Syria is a holdout against the Arab Spring, but, in the first free, democratic elections in decades, Tunisians are voting today. Of course, one problem is we—the US—may not like the outcome of the election.

Second to depose its despot, former President Hosni Mubarak, Egypt has not made any substantial progress toward elections. Libya became the third Arab state to win its freedom with the killing of Muammar Gaddafi a few days ago. In a bizarre twist, Amnesty International and the United Nations Human Rights Office called for inquiries into the manner of Gaddafi’s death.

Presidents Obama and Mubarak

Despite public diplomacy in support of the Arab Spring uprisings, the US gained substantial benefits from close ties with authoritarian regimes in the Middle East. In Bahraini ports, the US has headquarters for its Fifth Fleet. Last month’s killing of Anwar al-Awlaki had Yemeni complicity, if not outright support. Despite these cozy relationships, Pres. Obama warned the oppressers their time was short:

Across the Arab world, citizens have stood up to claim their rights. Youth are delivering a powerful rebuke to dictatorship, and those leaders that try to deny their dignity will not succeed.

Yesterday, Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Sultan Abdul Aziz al Saud, 83, died at a New York hospital. Al Saud served as his country’s First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense and Aviation. He was Saudi King Abdullah’s half-brother. While Saudi Arabia will likely remain a close US ally in the region, uncertainty of Saudi succession and other key governmental changes leave the future at least somewhat unpredictable. On top of that, on Friday Pres. Obama announced all but a couple hundred US troops will leave Iraq by year’s end. Those remaining will provide security and other diplomatic-related services as US missions, a common practice around the world.

New Year’s 2012 will usher in a Middle East vastly different from what the US is accustomed to. That’s new, and unpredictable, territory for the presidential candidates.
 


 

Fri, 07 Oct 2011

Global War on Terror 10 Years Later

US 10th Mountain Div. Soldiers in Afghanistan

Today marks the 10th anniversary since US forces began fighting in Afghanistan. It marks the start of the Global War on Terror and was a direct result of Taliban refusal to turn over Osama bin Laden, an issue that predated the 9/11 attacks. Al Qaeda’s leader was already wanted by the international community for embassy bombings in Africa and other terrorist acts.

I was glad I had not voted for Al Gore in the 2000 Presidential elections. There’s no doubt he wouldn’t have responded as decisively as George W. Bush, who started off right. (Concerning the distraction that became Operation Iraqi Freedom—which I was no in favor of—that’s for another post.) In Afghanistan, US forces, along with those from North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies, completely ousted the Taliban from power within 2 months. The hunt for bin Laden was on and efforts to build a stable Afghan government began.

Pres. Karzai opens session of Afghan Parliament

What do we have to show after 10 years at war?

Is our national security better off? The verdict is still out, and it’s a subject for much debate. From my view, we’re about even. China’s rise as a world power and the Arab Spring have certainly changed the geopolitical landscape, on which Russia is still a somewhat contrary power not to be discounted. We have less to fear from international terrorists and terror organizations, but a growing trend in so-called homegrown radicals means we must stay vigilant. To counter international and domestic threats, we have willingly surrendered freedoms in exchanged for a perception of security.
 


 

Sat, 01 Oct 2011

Hey, Due Processers: Here’s the Smoking Underwear Bomb

remnants of underwear bomb

Almost before the smoke cleared after Friday’s Predator drone attack on US-Yemeni cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, there’s been a popular uprising questioning the legality of killing the jihadist cleric. Republican presidential hopeful Ron Paul blasted Obama for violating al-Awlaki’s Constitutional right to due process. With just 8% support in a recent Florida poll, Paul was joined by 1%-er Gary Johnson in crying fowl in “assassinating” al-Awlaki. Gag me with a spoon. Al-Awlaki was an enemy combatant, pure and simple. Citizenship is not part of the equation.

Since that’s clearly not sufficient for the “due processers”, consider Ibrahim al-Asiri was also killed in the Predator airstrike. Al-Asiri, then, was in the same motorcade with al-Awlaki, so there is a definite connection. And the FBI pulled al-Asiri’s fingerprint of the underwear bomb remnants. How can there be any question about al-Awlaki’s active engagement in jihad against the US, which clearly makes him an enemy combatant?

al-Asiri's cargo bomb threat

The killing of al-Awlaki, Samir Khan (also a US citizen), and al-Asiri, all members of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), is both lawful and justified. They were enemy combatants engaged in the fight against our way of life.

Kudos to Republican candidate Rick Perry’s praise for Pres. Obama’s commitment to hunting down terrorists. That’s a radical, and welcome, departure from Paul, Johnson, and those who thought Obama would be soft on terrorism.
 

After seeing the video, I hope the disconnect between Paul’s call for due process in al-Awladi’s case, but no need for same for 9/11 accused becomes apparent. And, forgive me, but every time I hear of Ron Paul, I can’t help but think of Ru Paul.

Update:

03 Oct 2011

It almost seemed too good to be true when I first heard al-Asiri was killed in the Predator strike on al-Awlaki and Khan. Alas, it seems it was more than we should hope for. Yemeni officials said AQAP bombmaker al-Asiri was not killed with al-Awlaki in Friday’s aerial targeting of the terrorist cleric’s motorcade. While there may no longer be a smoking underwear link, the fact remains al-Awlaki served AQAP and was at war with his native country.

Al-Awlaki’s value to AQAP was his knowledge of US culture and his ability at radicalizing, enabling, and recruiting to the jihadist cause homegrown extremists like MAJ Nidal Hassan and the Times Square bomber. Ironically, if he’d stayed in the US, he’d be a criminal (can you say conspiracy?), but since he moved in with AQAP in Yemen, he was an enemy combatant.
 

Fri, 30 Sep 2011

Al-Awlaki Killed in Predator Strike—All’s Fair in Love and War

Filed under: Arab states, Global War on Terror, National security, Politics, Terrorism — cynicalsynapse @ 3:44 pm

MQ-1 Predator with Hellfire missile

SEAL Team 6, the same special operations group that killed Osama bin Laden in May of this year, killed Anwar al-Awlaki, the jihadist recruiter for al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). The airstrike was carried out by an unmanned Predator drone; it fired a Hellfire missile at the car al-Awlaki was riding in. Also killed in the attack was Samir Khan, the media jihadist who published Inspire, AQAP’s webzine.

It’s not easy being a terrorist leader affiliated with al Qaeda these days. More than a half-dozen high-profile terrorist leaders have been killed or captured this year. Hunting and eliminating al Qaeda’s leadership has often been likened to a game of whack-a-mole. Granted, there’s always another one popping up, but the deaths of bin Laden and al-Awlaki are serious blows. Both were charismatic. Bin Laden was the soul, the ideology that was al Qaeda. Al-Awlaki was the jihadist recruiter able to radicalize via the Internet.

Samir Khan, Anwar al-AWlaki

Al-Awlaki was a US-born Yemeni cleric and key propagandist for AQAP. Prior to siding with al Qaeda, he visited and preached in the US as well as Yemen. His front man, Khan, was also born, raised, and educated in the US. He went to Yemen two or three years ago and “pledged to wage jihad for the rest of our lives.” So, because of their citizenship, there’s a hue and cry al-Awlaki and Khan had their rights violated. They were assassinated rather than brought to justice, denied due process. Seriously?

Besides being AQAP’s chief recruiter, al-Awlaki exchanged emails with MAJ Nidal Hassan, who shot and killed 13 at Fort Hood. He sent the Undie-bomber on his groin-burning failed attempt to bring down an airliner over Detroit. He attempted to ship explosives in cargo planes to the US. What part of al-Awaki was an enemy combatant do you not get? Both he and Khan were traitors, materially aiding and abetting AQAP in its efforts to attack their country and innocent civilians, including children.

They got the due process they deserved.
 


 

Sun, 25 Sep 2011

Surprise, Surprise, Surprise! Pakistan Denies Haqqani Ties

Filed under: Allies, Global War on Terror, Government, National security, Pakistan, Politics — cynicalsynapse @ 11:04 am

Pakistani military officers and prime minister

Pakistan is decidedly not happy with Adm. Mike Mullen’s testimony to Congress that Pakistani intelligence supported the Haqqani terrorists. Mullen, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Agency (ISI) “supported [the] Kabul [US] embassy attack” on 15 September. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Mullen testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday.

The fact remains that the Quetta Shura [Taliban] and the Haqqani Network operate from Pakistan with impunity. Extremist organizations serving as proxies of the government of Pakistan are attacking Afghan troops and civilians as well as US soldiers.

Senior military officials in Pakistan wasted no time before blasting the allegations. Yousuf Raza Gilani, Pakistan’s Prime Minister, is also outraged and called the blame game self-defeating. In a policy statement, Gilani said:

We strongly reject assertions of complicity with the Haqqanis or of proxy war. … Pakistan’s credentials and sacrifices in the counter-terrorism campaign are impeccable and unquestionable.

stop drone attacks

To be sure, Pakistani-US relations have resembled a marriage on the rocks almost since the beginning. As much as they dislike and distrust each other, however, the simple truth is they need each other. Journalist Eric Margolis told RT:

The US is sort of handcuffed to Pakistan, unhappily, and the other way around even more.

Here’s the deal. Mullen must have had good reason for making his statement before the Senate panel. The US needs the use of Pakistani infrastructure to keep NATO forces in Afghanistan supplied. And the US does make use of ISI intelligence leads. For its part, Pakistan gets money, training, and plenty of opportunities to call the US arrogance for what it really is. No one else gets to do that like Pakistan. And, so, the dance goes on.
 


 

Mon, 29 Aug 2011

Cold War vs. Cyber War—China Has Already Crossed the Virtual Fulda Gap

Filed under: China, Deceit, Government, Legal, Military, National security — cynicalsynapse @ 6:19 am

11th Cav watching the Fulda Gap

I miss the Soviets. While we didn’t think so then, they pretty much followed the rules and believed in mutually-assured destruction, just like us. While we were concerned the Soviets would come pouring through the Fulda Gap in great armored hordes, it turns out their state-planned and state-controlled economy could not have supported such an imperial expedition. Alas, the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, ending the bipolar balance of world affairs that had been in place for 46 years.

Post-Cold War, Russia still seeks to be a first-world power. While Russia has much potential, and much in its corner, it’s an even more distant second place than was the Soviet Union. More importantly, as the attacks on 9/11 showed, threats to our national security don’t even need to be nation states.

US 'cyber warriors'

During my studies in the Command and General Staff Officer’s Course (2000-2002), there was a lot of discussion about information technology being the next revolution in military affairs. Proponents believed this to be a strength, while I questioned the soundness of the validity of information as revolutionary. Even ten years ago, I thought connectivity was too subject to interruption.

Today, personnel systems, pay, and logistics are all managed by web-based applications in the US military. Even artillery fire depends on the connectivity of radars with fire direction centers to firing batteries. The problem, as I have always seen it, is the tenuousness of this connection.

China's BluFor

The real threat comes from China. While China is building conventional capability, the real threat is in the cyber realm. China tipped their hand in this regard about a week ago when a Chinese propoganda piece unintentionally showed cyber attack software screen shots.

Intentionally, or not, China substantiated it’s involvment in cyber warfare. If you ask me, this definitely appears to be the “smoking cursor”.
 

Previously on China:

Sat, 13 Aug 2011

China’s Aircraft Carrier is a Threat No Matter How You Paint It

Filed under: Allies, China, Engineering, Military, National security — cynicalsynapse @ 10:18 am

Chinese military marching

I should know better, but it used to be I considered China’s military capabilities as behind the former Soviet, today’s Russians, the biggest threat being the sheer numbers the Chinese could field. The Chinese have no capability to directly threaten the United States. China is clearly a rising star (no pun intended) on the world stage, growing in prestige, consumption, and military might. It’s somewhat amusing to me the politically correct saw fit to change the Red Dawn remake invaders from Chinese to North Koreans. While the North Koreans are certainly pursuing a more aggressive, in your face, approach to their “national security”, they certainly have far less capability than China.

Meanwhile, China has been quietly improving its military capabilities, just as it has modified its economy. Significantly, China is leapfrogging, technologically, not increasing the size of its military substantially. While China claims its national security strategy is defensive, an international political expert at Peking University said:

At a time when China’s interests span the globe, it does not fit China’s national interests to have a naval defense strategy restricted to its territorial waters. It needs aircraft carriers to expand its sphere of operation throughout the world.

China's first aircraft carrier

The former Soviet varyag (Admiral Kuznetsovclass aircraft carrier) Chinese aircraft carrier began sea trials on 10 August 2011. While the carrier is most likely not state-of-the-art, it is one of many designs the Chinese have and are studying. Despite claims the as yet unnamed carrier is a research and training vessel, the Chinese implemented substantial security perimeters for the carrier as it departed on its sea trials.

One possible name for the Chinese carrier is Shi Lang, after the admiral who conquered Taiwan in 1681. That seems to give some credence to possible Chinese consideration to retake Taiwan by force or threat of force. As a result, Taiwan is very interested in China’s carrier program.

Chinese J-20 stealth fighter

China claims the carrier is for defensive purposes only. It will allow Chinese air power the ability to protect Chinese interests beyond the range of land-based aircraft. Having a carrier is also a matter of prestige for countries.

Nonetheless, northwest Asian countries are concerned about China’s carrier program. Japan and Vietnam have territorial disputes with China. And the Chinese plan more carriers according to a diplomatic source:

Based on the technological know-how gained from developing the Shi Lang, China will build two or three more conventional aircraft carriers and a nuclear-powered carrier.

Although not a significant threat to the US military, the Chinese buildup could threaten US interests and allies. China’s carrier is a game changer that bears close watching and strategic thinking.

Sun, 07 Aug 2011

Honoring the Warriors Shot Down by the Taliban

Filed under: Afghanistan, Allies, Global War on Terror, Heroes, History, Military, National security, Terrorism — cynicalsynapse @ 1:20 pm

Revs. Jackson and Sharpton

Yesterday, I had the priviledge of attending the 1225th CSSB’s homecoming ceremony at the Detroit Light Guard Armory. The Combat Sustainment Support Battalion was deployed in August 2010 to Afghanistan. These Soldiers set logistical support records and earned a Meritorious Unit Citation. More importantly, everyone came home without serious injury. I served many years in that Battalion and personally know several of the Soldiers in the unit. I’m proud of them!

I was truly saddened when I learned the Taliban shot down a Chinook helicopter, killing all 38 on board in eastern Afghanistan. Those killed were 30 US military personnel, including 20 Navy SEALs, 7 Afghan special forces, and a civilian interpreter, who is most likely also Afghan. These heroes paid the ultimate price in the service and defense of their countrymen. The Commander of International Security Assistance Forces (ISAF), Gen. John Allen summed it up best:

No words describe the sorrow we feel in the wake of this tragic loss. All of those killed in this operation were true heroes who had already given so much in the defense of freedom. Their sacrifice will not be forgotten. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families who are now waiting for their loved ones to return home. We will do everything in our power to support them in this time of need. We also mourn the loss of our heroic Afghan partners who fight with us shoulder to shoulder, every day.

Afghan National Policeman on guard

Far more Afghans than most people realize have taken the risk, for themselves and their families, to serve with the Afghan National Army and National Police. Do some have ulterior motives. Certainly, but so do some of our service members, such as Fort Hood shooter Maj. Nidal Hasan. Those who question Afghan resolve should talk with some of my comrade who have been there mentoring Afghan Army and Police, unanimously described to me as rewarding experiences.

We mistakenly assess things from our very ethnocentric perspective. Afghanistan is a poor country with minimal infrastructure, traditions of tribalism instead of a central government, and proud people whose culture includes very little of what comprises our culture. None of that is wrong; it’s just different.

Afghan National Army soldiers marching

Lest anyone forget, the Taliban harbored bin Laden and al Qaeda when they were in charge in Afghanistan. This sanctuary allowed al Qaeda to plan and conduct the attacks on 9/11.

If we do not ensure a stable Afghanistan, capable of preventing the Taliban from reasserting itself, we will end up recommiting US forces at some future point. It will cost less blood and treasure to finish the job now than it will to start over again.

Regarding the propaganda coup for the Taliban in killing these highly trained special operations warriors, I’m angry. If reports they were members of sEAL Team 6 are true, the Taliban gets twice the bragging rights. It, in no way, dimishes the sacrifice and patriotism of our warriors, however. And it will not even dent our progress toward success as long as we maintain our political resolve. Even thouh we now call it Overseas Contingency Operations, we are still fighting the Global War on Terror.
 

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