The Virtues of Stubbornness: Mules at War

The Virtues of Stubbornness: Mules at War

Lance Cpl. Tyler Langford, anti-tank missileman, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, leads his pack mule during a hike at Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center Bridgeport, Calif., Oct. 13, 2012. Langford used skills he learned in the Animal Packers Course, taught four times a year at MCMWTC. The 16-day course teaches Marines how to use animals in the region they find themselves in as a logistical tool to transport weapons, ammunition, food, supplies or wounded Marines through terrain that tactical vehicles cannot reach. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Ali Azimi

Defense Media Network

Why DARPA has been working BigDog and other legged support robots, problem is that robots don’t eat grass, and can’t be grown on a farm.


Eisenhower National Historic Site

Ike and the Generals
By Evan Thomas Published December 16,

I like Ike more every time I read about him, I seems to me that he may well be the most under rated president of the modern era.  Many will say that he’s remembered for his glory in WWII and that this has covered up the fact that he was past it when it came time to be president and just yucked and golfed his way through eight years with no real threats.  And yet its was this period in the 50’s that was probably the most risky insofar as the chances of nuclear war went, because of Soviet Military Weakness and US Military Arrogance.  Evan Thomas’ argument is that Ike bluffed both sides into quiescence by essentially posing an all or nothing threat over everyone’s head.

Warning, my interpretation of what I’ve read in the above article and elsewhere:  Why would he have had to hold something over the head of his own generals?  Because they had developed their own power base (military industrial complex, remember) and were if not out of control, then out to control the narrative regarding the Red menace and the solution to said menace.  Ike realized that he did not have enough direct control over his generals to stop an accidental or ‘accidental’ escalation from taking place.  So he put forth a strategy of massive retaliation and pulled US forces back to positions where they were not in direct confrontation.  He then supported the technology that would give the president the best and most immediate information about the enemies capabilities and to some extent intentions (spy planes, spy satellites, the NSA etc) so he and future presidents would have the tools to keep the generals flights of fancy (missile gap, bomber gap, etc) in check.   He also started the process of professionalization of the nuclear triad that essentially created a grand strategy / strategic viewpoint that made it harder for high-octane hot heads like Le May etc to become threats to peace and human survival.

Ship to Shore Connector… Landing Craft Air Cushion, only the Gov’t could make something this cool boooring

 These are the final stage of the powerful conveyor that is the Navy’s Gator Fleet, the numerous, rather ugly, remarkably capable ships that carry the Marines to the far ends of the world and deliver them on the beach when needed.  While this fleet has been mainly a humanitarian instrument for many years now it is one of the principal reasons for the US Navy to be as big and capable as it is.  The US Navy has many tasks the most obvious ones are to keep the sea lanes open for merchant traffic.  While air freight is important these days it is the vast cargo ships carrying oil, ore, containers, and vehicles that really undergird the world merchant economy.  The US Navy also provides our most secure strategic weapon the strategic missile submarine.  The US Navy and the Marines hold at risk every trouble maker with a maritime coast, providing the implicit or explicit threat that major combat boots (and tracks) can be on their ground if they provide the right (or is that wrong) stimulus.

The North American XF-108 Rapier | Defense Media Network

NorthAmerican XF108 Rapier

It was going to be the biggest, fastest and most heavily armed fighter in the air. The North American F-108 Rapier, designed in response to a U.S. Air Force preliminary study of Oct.

via The North American XF-108 Rapier | Defense Media Network.

This aircraft like many others died as the threat the Soviet Union represented became better understood.  But the technology for this fighter went on, the missile and radar were the basis of the F14 Tomcat’s Phoenix fleet defense system, stil an amazing system even though the system, utterly compromised by the Iranian’s who had bought the system during the Shah’s reign, was rapidly retired as soon as the AMRAAM and newer airborn phased aray radars became available. 

Tomcat on patrol

Tomcat on patrol

The Tomcat is in my opinion one of the iconic fighters of the twentieth century along with the F4 Phantom, the F86 Sabre, P51 and Spitfire…and no I’ve never found the fighters of WWI or pre WWII particularly attractive…though the Beechcraft Staggerwing is probably the most beautiful aircraft ever built.

Beechcraft Staggerwing in Flight taken in 2005

Beechcraft Staggerwing in Flight taken in 2005

Things to Think About Before Israel Attacks Iran | Defense Media Network

An excelent piece by Larry Bond wargame Designer and author :

For several years, Israel has publicly and explicitly stated that if Iran attempts to develop a nuclear weapon, Israel will attack to prevent the program from succeeding or to destroy Iran’s nuclear capability. This is the most important security threat of the new century.

via Things to Think About Before Israel Attacks Iran | Defense Media Network.

Iran-3 tidbits and some commentary…

Iran, a troubling country, as Persia it dominated troublemaking for the Hellenes and the Romans, though Alexander the Great among other Hellenes ground it down a couple of times. That piece of the world has a long history and has a right to be proud and annoyed when abused which it has been but at the end of the day it is a small backwater that could and should be able to grow to regain much of its glory in the new world but as with most other islamic dominated countries it seems to be unable to slip the bonds of a mindset that is more focused on the past and in some ways on revenge, than on the future and finding ways to let the past lay.

An update on the loss of the Beast of Kandahar (RQ-170 Stealth Drone)

December 21, 2011: On December 8th Iran displayed what appeared to be an American RQ-170 jet powered UAV, which they claimed had landed intact in Iran two weeks earlier. Iran claimed they had hijacked the control signals for the RQ-170 and landed it themselves. This seemed highly unlikely but not impossible. Experts on Iranian military immediately suspected something else. First, the Iranians are constantly lying about their military exploits, especially when it comes to developing new weapons and technology. This is apparently done mainly for propaganda as satellite photos never show more than a few prototypes of these wonder-weapons. Then many Americans familiar with the RQ-170 carefully studied the pictures of the “captured” RQ-170 and immediately suspected something was off. For one thing, the RQ-170 shown was the right size and shape but the wrong color. Not just a different color from that seen on many photos of the RQ-170s in Afghanistan but also a color unknown in American military service. A closer examination of the Iranian RQ-170 photos indicated that the Iranians had reassembled an RQ-170 that had crashed and broken into three or more pieces. Then the Iranians apparently gave the UAV a new paint job (which was obvious to anyone seeing those photos.)

This is another piece about Iran, and its road to hell

Iran is turning into more of a military than a religious dictatorship. That was made clear when a government official revealed that half of government employees now belong to the Basij (the reservist organization of the Revolutionary Guard, the separate armed forces of the clerics running the government) . This was deliberate. Since the late 1990s the Basij has been establishing units in schools for children of all ages. Using games, toys, and popular children’s activities the kids are indoctrinated into Basij ideology (radical Islam, including the joys of being a suicide bomber). The Basij recruiters have found that their best prospects are from poor or broken families (including orphans). This was the Nazi and Soviet experience. The Romanian communist government did best at this with their secret police (the Securitati) forming much feared units of these orphans. Recruits were selected young and raised to be remorseless and savage operatives. Called “young wolves”, these operatives could be depended on to do anything for the cause. Iran is always looking for plain clothes agents who can terrorize reform minded students and civilians in general. In the last few years, more and more of these Basij operatives, now adults, have been leading the fight against reform minded Iranians, or overseas as agents of Quds. Since Basij is largely a part-time operation many members have a full time government job.

Obama Moves Toward War With Iran

In a recent interview with CBS news anchor Scott Pelley, Panetta said “the United States does not want Iran to develop a nuclear weapon. That’s a red line for us”. He continued: “We will take whatever steps are necessary to stop them”. A nuclear Iran is “unacceptable”.  When US secretaries talk about “whatever steps are necessary” they are not usually talking about holding one more meeting of the sanctions committee.  They are thinking shock and awe rather than cookies and tea.

Panetta said the Iranians could have a bomb in a year or less; we’ve heard this before. The point is, Washington doesn’t believe the mullahs have stopped building. Unless that changes, the Obama administration is headed toward war with Iran, quite possibly before November of 2012.

OK, I don’t know if I agree with Dr. Meade, I’ve argued more from impression than anything else that there is no appetite in the world for an Iranian war.   But in fact the Saudi’s and the other Gulf Arabs want the suckers taken down before they get nukes.  There is also a lot to be said for the fact that until Iran is put back on a reasonable path Iraq is unlikely to remain stable.  Also the Iranians are the backers of the main troublemakers in Syria and around Israel.  An argument could be made that Iran was always a worse problem that Iraq but that taking out Iraq was easier and it was hoped would make Iran behave itself.  Taking Iraq also took down a potential flanking enemy.  Now with major forces in Afghanistan on one side of Iran and our naval forces on the other there is at least some military realism to taking Iran down.

  • Israel has nukes
  • Pakistan has nukes and is perhaps as likely to proliferate as Iran
  • NK has nukes and is a worse proliferator than anyone else
  • Syria tried to get nukes
  • Libia tried to get nukes
  • Any marginally competent state with an industrial sector can ‘do nukes’ if they get the materials.
  • Would going in and blowing up the Iranian Nuclear program solve anything? ( And I do mean going in, I do not see any way of avoiding putting troops, probably a lot, on the ground to make sure those facilities are blown to dust.) Does this stop proliferation in its tracks or is it a slippery slope? 
  • Pakistan, NK, Iran, Isreal, Syria, Lybia….Each case utterly different and circumstances do matter, hard lines in the sand are rarely possible to draw and live with. 
  • But will others see the take down of Iran (if it happened) as a sign not to go nuclear or as a sign that they should press forward as quickly and quietly as possible.
  • We would have to establish the Obama Doctrine, “we will take down anyone who is going for nuclear weapons”   Could we make it stick?

Then of course there all the mysterious ‘accidents’ occurring in Iran, is there a covert war going on already?  I am not convinced but I have to say that it seems highly possible.  If so the Iranians aren’t doing well.  The thing that stops me being convinced is that the Iranians aren’t squealing about it and or going all out for retaliatory strikes (see the article above on militarization of Iranian gov’t.) Now its possible that with the tracking tools we have now and in some ways a fairly fine mesh filter for folks coming out of that part of the world we have been able to stop anything, and maybe I hope that’s true.  

To be honest I would almost rather its just the Iranian’s paying the price for turning away from technical competency for some (invisible to me) religious gain, our spooks being that efficient puts one in mind of all sorts of conspiracy theories.


DoD Buzz | The Iran problem

DoD Buzz | The Iran problem.

The problem with Iran is that there is nothing we can do about it as the article below points out.  Short of all out war we are not going to make the situation any better proliferation wise and almost any other option at least leaves open the opportunity for long termsolutions.

The article points to a think tank paper arguing (rightly I think) that Deterrence like that used vs. the USSR is the most realistic option but it requires constant vigilance and a very credible threat on our side.  Maintaining such a credible threat is not cheap, has to be part of the grand strategy and force structure of the US.  The issue is, is the current administration up to the job of planning that grand strategy? Is the US up to sustaining another deterrent axis and the costs associated,  the article highlights the (largely artificial) stresses even the limited missile shield for Europe is causing with Russia.

One interesting thing about this is that all the Wests attempts to halt proliferation have in the end come to nought, the worst of the worst are going to get the nuc’s, unless we provide an almost blanket assurance that we will avenge any first use then at least one more tier of nuc powers will emerge.

It’s also of some ironic interest that it was the US’s perfection of smart weapons and limited war tactics that could be seen as driving this nuc arms race.  We should remember that at one time or another we saw nucs as the cheap counter weapon to the Russian horde .  These smallish countries now see nuc’s as the cheap counter to folks with deep pockets and smarter magazines.