Tag Archives: Military

AMERICAN TRUTH & INEPTITUDE

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.com

America’s War for the Greater Middle East: A Military History

Written by: Andrew J. Bacevich

Narrated by: Rob Shapiro, Andrew J. Bacevich

ANDREW BACEVICH (AMERICAN HISTORIAN, SERVED IN VIETNAM AND GULF WAR)

To put it mildly, this is a difficult audio book to listen to.  It rings with historic truth while revealing American ineptitude.  Written by a military historian who retired as a Colonel, served in Vietnam and the Persian Gulf and, tragically, lost a son in Iraq in 2007. Bacevich implies that America’s wars, since WWII, have been failures.  (Though he does not mention Korea, one presumes a temporary peace at the 38th parallel is included.)

Bacevich’s latest book focuses on war in the Middle East; a war of attrition and guerrilla warfare that reminds one of Vietnam.  America clearly did not win in Vietnam and is facing a similar loss in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and Syria.

MIDDLE EAST (America clearly did not win in Vietnam and is facing a similar loss in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and Syria.)

To Bacevich, post WWII’ wars are the result of failures of diplomacy, military strategy, and military/civilian intelligence.  Bacevich suggests America is in a “no-win” position in the Middle East because of misunderstanding of real-politic and fundamentalist beliefs that fracture nation-state comity.

SADDAM HUSSEIN (1937-2006, FIFTH PRESIDENT OF IRAQ)
BASHAR al-ASSAD (SYRIA, PRESIDENT)

Bacevich argues that failures of diplomacy come from a belief that removing a nation’s leader will change the nature of governments and the people they lead.  He suggests Middle East, history shows that removing leaders only creates chaos and more resistance to American objectives.  (In Vietnam, America tries to overcome the chaos of war with puppet government leaders who focused on self-aggrandizement more than public good.)

AMERICAN INVASION OF IRAQ 2003 (As a military strategy, America enters the Middle East by using overwhelming force to defeat the Iraq army; to apprehend or kill Saddam Hussein, and remove weapons of mass destruction. )

As a military strategy, America enters the Middle East by using overwhelming force to defeat the Iraq army; to apprehend or kill Saddam Hussein, and remove weapons of mass destruction.

HAMID KARZAI (PRESIDENT OF AFGHANISTAN 2004-2014)

In Afghanistan, the military strategy is to remove the Taliban and encourage the election of a government that would interrupt any terrorist organizations that would disrupt American interests.

MUAMMAR MOHAMMED ABU MINYAR QADDAFI (FORMER PRIME MINISTER OF LIBYA)

In Libya, the military strategy is to bomb forces of Muammar Gaddafi; weaken his control, and allow opposition forces to dethrone or try Gaddafi for crimes against humanity.

BASHAR al-ASSAD (SYRIA, PRESIDENT)

In Syria, the military strategy is to bomb ISIS and arm factions opposed to Bashar al-Assad with a goal of Assad’s abdication.  Bacevich suggests these strategies are a waste of American blood and treasure because there is no “end-game”.

ABU BAKR al-BAGHDADI (al-QAEDA LEADER SINCE 2003, ISIS LEADER SINCE MAY 2010)

Removing leaders changes nothing.  Military actions are focused on removing leaders as opposed to addressing native cultural imperatives.  A new leader will rise based on the culture of the country; not the interests of America or some other foreign combatant.

The use of drones may reduce American casualties but remote killing hardens the enemy and compromises military strategy with collateral damage that kills innocents as well as insurgents.  The hardening of the enemy results in more recruits opposing American forces. For these and other reasons (psychological as well as physical), killing by drone is a strategic military and civilian mistake.

AMERICAN DRONE ATTACKS IN PAKISTAN (NOT ONLY TALIBAN ARE KILLED, The use of drones may reduce American casualties but remote killing hardens the enemy and compromises military strategy with collateral damage that kills innocents as well as insurgents. )
NATIONALIZATION OF OIL IN IRAN (MARCH 1951, America wants oil and that oil must come from diplomacy and negotiation, not Middle Eastern regime change. )

What is over-looked is the real-politic of America’s needs and the Middle East’s cultural imperatives.  Middle Easterners want their country to be what they want it to be.  America wants oil and that oil must come from diplomacy and negotiation, not Middle Eastern regime change. Wars founded on military strategic objectives will ultimately fail.

Great Britain could not hold the American colonies because foreign wars were too expensive.  Just as in America’s actions and presumptions in the Middle East, Great Britain fails to address or appreciate colonist’s cultural concerns.

(BOOK WRITTEN BY FORMER NSA AND CIA DIRECTOR, MICHAEL V. HAYDEN)

America’s civilian and military intelligence fails our government leaders.  An obvious military intelligence failure is NSA’s insistence, and the CIA’s concurrence, that there were WMD in Iraq.  Less obvious is America’s failure to recognize every nation in the world wishes to be sovereign; wishes to follow their own traditions, and wishes to grow into their own identity.

AMERICAN CIVIL WAR (America fought its own war to become a democratic republic.  It is not perfect, but most Americans want to live in their own country.)

It may be dis-proportionally unjust for other governments to be other than democratic but who are we to judge or dictate to another sovereign country?  America fought its own war to become a democratic republic.  It is not perfect, but most Americans want to live in their own country.  Diplomacy is Bacevich’s implied solution.  One presumes Bacevich is not implying America should become isolationist.  He suggests America needs diplomacy, founded on cultural understanding of other nations; not war, to get what the U.S.  needs to prosper.

As countries mature, the common needs of humankind will become more evident.  Like a child growing up, countries grow into adulthood.  Some will die in the process; many mistakes will be made, but most will grow into maturity based on their own traditions and adopted foreign influences.

Democracy works for America.  American democracy does not work for everyone.  Countries need to work with each other based on maturity; not infant tantrum.  As nations mature, rages will continue to occur because of internal strife.  However, Bacevich infers international diplomacy is a better alternative to war for survival of the species.

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THIS IS PARADISE

Travel
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.com

Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Slovenia, and Montenegro: Nations at a CrossroadCROATIA

Written by: Chet Yarbrough

VIEW FROM THE HOTEL KOMPAS IN DUBROVNIK
VIEW FROM THE HOTEL KOMPAS IN DUBROVNIK
AEGEAN SEA PORT OF DUBROVNIK
ADRIATIC SEA PORT OF DUBROVNIK

Flying into Dubrovnik, staying at a luxurious hotel, walking the ramparts of a walled city, one surmises–“this is paradise”.  And it is–for a tourist, but history tells a different story.

Croatia, Montenegro, Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina were, for nearly 40 years, parts of one nation-state.  From 1945 to 1980, these countries; along with Serbia, and Macedonia were one nation called Yugoslavia. The leader of this former nation was Josip Broz Tito (see below), a Croatian born socialist (some say communist) who ruled with an iron fist and demanded independence from all warring nations during WWII.  Tito led a partisan army to battle German insurgents, resist Russian influence, and deny western co-optation of Yugoslavia, a crossroad-to-Europe along the Adriatic Sea.

FORMER YUGOSLAVIA
FORMER YUGOSLAVIA

Croatia, Montenegro, Bosnia_4728Walking through the gates of Dubrovnik’s fortified old town, one realizes Croatia has been a desired prize to many nations wishing for access to the Mediterranean.  Formerly known as Ragusa (an ancient city-state), Dubrovnik struggles to be a prosperous city in an independent nation.  However, history shows this Balkan paradise was frequently dominated by other nations.  First there was the Roman Empire, then Hungary, then Venice, then the Hapsburg Monarchy, the Ottoman Empire, and finally Yugoslavia under the dictatorship of Josip Tito.

THE FORTIFIED CITY OF DUBROVNIK
THE FORTIFIED CITY OF DUBROVNIK
JOSIP BROZ TITO (1892-1980, A YOUGOSLAV REVOLUTIONARY AND STATESMAN FROM 1943-1980)
JOSIP BROZ TITO (1892-1980, A YUGOSLAV REVOLUTIONARY AND STATESMAN FROM 1943-1980)
SLOBODAN MILOSEVIC (1941-2006-3RD-PRESIDENT-OF-YUGOSLAVIA-BECAME-1ST-PRESIDENT-OF-SERBIA-1991)
SLOBODAN MILOSEVIC (1941-2006-3RD-PRESIDENT-OF-YUGOSLAVIA-BECAME-1ST-PRESIDENT-OF-SERBIA)

Tito creates Yugoslavia out of the tragedy of WWII.  As a hero of the resistance, Tito consolidates several Balkan countries under the rule of a Serbian Army.  Toward the end of Tito’s life, his second in command is Slobodan Milošević, a Serbian Yugoslavian politician.  Milošević becomes leader of the Socialist Party of Serbia in 1990. With the help of the Serbian Army, Milošević attempts to recreate a semblance of the former Yugoslavia.  It is to be called Greater Serbia.  That attempt manifests in the war of 1991-95.

In the process of the attempt to create a Greater Serbia, Milošević manipulates the history of ethnic differences to foment a war.  Milošević is charged by the International Criminal Tribunal with war crimes; including genocide and crimes against humanity.  Technically, Milošević is found not guilty of genocide but is convicted for breaching the Genocide Convention by failing to prevent genocide (of Muslims) from occurring in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Milošević, after a five year trial, dies in his prison cell.

SARAJEVO'S SNIPER ALLEY DURING THE 1992-95 WAR
SARAJEVO’S SNIPER ALLEY DURING THE 1992-95 WAR
SARAJEVO MURDER 1992-95 (A MONUMENT TO THE 1500 CHILDREN KILLED IN BOSNIA AND HERZOGOVINA)
SARAJEVO MURDER 1992-95 (A MONUMENT TO THE 1500 CHILDREN KILLED IN BOSNIA AND HERZOGOVINA)

The main street of Sarajevo in Bosnia and Herzegovina is called “sniper alley” because of snipers who shot anyone on the street; many of which were running to get water and food for their family.

MUSLIM GRAVE YARD IN SARAJEVO (BOSNIA & HERZEGOVINA) WITH MANY 1996 HEAD STONES
MUSLIM GRAVE YARD  (BOSNIA & HERZEGOVINA) WITH MANY 1996 HEAD STONES

What one senses in a visit to Croatia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina is that economic collapse and/or revolution are a possibility.   There seems an economic struggle in three of the four independent countries of Croatia, Montenegro, and Bosnia–Herzegovina. Slovenia appears to be an exception.

There is a  drive for self-sufficiency, and independence for each country but Slovenia seems more economically stable.  The diverse industrial development of Slovenia and its partnership in the European Union suggest self-sufficient independence is being achieved.  Questions remain about the other three.

MUSLIM FAMILY VISITED IN BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA (MOTHER FEELS LIFE WAS BETTER WITH TITO, DAUGHTER IS HAPPY TO BE PURSUING A CAREER AS A BODY BUILDER.

An older generation in Croatia, Montenegro, and Bosnia–Herzegovina pine for the strong hand of a leader like Tito that assures security and independence; even at the cost of liberty.  The young seem to enjoy the liberty that is available; but they appear to live only for today.  The war and its aftermath leaves a younger generation (particularly those who lived through the war as children) with a belief that the future is an illusion.  What is important for the young is living in the moment. If another war begins, many young people may leave rather than fight.

Living for today is based on the largess of tourism.  Some Croatians have a foreboding for the future.  A secure future to some seems un-realizable because of government corruption and/or ineptitude.  Little industrialization is seen in Dubrovnik.  In part, this may be due to technological change but it is troubling to see that most, if not all, Dubrovnik’s prosperity is dependent on tourism.

THE FAMOUS BRIDGE AT MOSTAR THAT CONNECTS TWO PARTS OF THE CITY WAS DESTROYED IN 1993 BY CROATS IN THE WAR. IT WAS REBUILT IN 2004.
THE FAMOUS BRIDGE AT MOSTAR, IN BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA THAT CONNECTS TWO PARTS OF THE CITY WAS DESTROYED IN 1993 BY CROATS IN THE WAR. IT WAS REBUILT IN 2004.

One resident of Croatia suggests that power resides in the capital of Zagreb.  Towns outside of Zagreb depend on the support of government bureaucrats that seem more inclined to benefit themselves than the interests of the nation.

Industrial and commercial investment is limited to the wealthy who walk the halls of parliament in Zagreb.  It is believed by some that government leaders get inside information on the next investment in the country and use that information to benefit themselves rather than the nation. (The most powerful leader in the Croatian government is the Prime Minister who just resigned.) It is not too surprising to hear ambivalent feelings expressed about Tito.  Some residents feel the treasures of Croatia are being stolen by the wealthy; abetted by corrupt politicians.

THE PARLIAMENT BUILDING IN ZAGREB, CROATIA
THE PARLIAMENT BUILDING IN ZAGREB, CROATIA

The war of 1991-95 played on ethnic differences that exist in the former Yugoslavian countries.  It is undoubtedly true that religion and ethnicity separates the Balkan’s indigenous population.  There are Roman Catholics, Orthodox Catholics, Muslims, and Jews who maintain their own cultures within the former Yugoslavian countries.  But those ethnic differences are tools of the power-hungry; not essential causes of war.  As a tourist, ethnic conclaves are evident and, in fact, appreciated because of their differences.  From an outsider’s observation today, each ethnicity seems to have a “live and let live” attitude.

There seems little animosity between ethnic groups but there is a common underlying disgust with government among some citizens.  Desire for money, power, and/or prestige appear to be the proximate causes for war; not religion or ethnicity.  Religion and ethnicity seem to be tools used by aggressors to acquire power, money, and prestige.

A MUSLIM ARTISAN IN BOSNIA AND HERZAGOVINA
A MUSLIM ARTISAN IN BOSNIA AND HERZAGOVINA

Many former Yugoslavian countries are at a crossroad.  There is the crossroad of freedom and totalitarianism.  There is the crossroad of tourism and modernization.  There is the crossroad of capitalism and socialism.  There is the crossroad of representative and privileged government leaders.  There is the crossroad of the European union and balkanization.  Croatia is struggling to become a part of the European Union but seems hamstrung by ineffective government that seems to have lost the confidence of its people.

SLOVENIAN INDUSTRY--A HOPE FOR THE FUTURE AS EVIDENCED BY CLEAN ENERGY PRODUCTION THAT IS EXPORTED TO OTHER COUNTRIES.
SLOVENIAN INDUSTRY–A HOPE FOR THE FUTURE IS EVIDENCED BY CLEAN ENERGY PRODUCTION THAT IS EXPORTED TO OTHER COUNTRIES. SLOVENIA IS A JEWEL IN THE CROWN OF ENVIRONMENTAL SENSITIVITY WITH THE BULK OF ITS ENERGY FROM NON-POLLUTING HYDROELECTRIC AND RENEWABLE ENERGY SOURCES.

One presumes, without truly representative government, modernization, and commercial/industrial prosperity, the European Union will see little benefit in adding Croatia, Montenegro, or Bosnia and Herzegovina to the partnership.  In contrast, Slovenia became part of the European Union in May of 1992.

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INDIA AND WWII

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.com

Farthest Field: An Indian Story of the Second World WarFarthest Field

 Written by: Raghu Karnad

Narration by:  Kahlil Joseph

RAGHU KARNAD (AUTHOR)
RAGHU KARNAD (AUTHOR)

India’s contribution during WWII is poorly served by this audio book version of “Farthest Field”.  Raghu Karnad notes many important Indian issues when writing about the lives of three Indian volunteers, but their bravery, tenacity, and valor are diminished by Kahlil Joseph’s unemotional, monotonous, and seemingly unrehearsed narration.  As a writer, Karnad fails to endear his characters to reader/listeners by painting too large a picture for what could have been a more character driven history.  Karnad offers a fine conclusion to his book but the names of many of his characters are not memorable enough to elicit emotion or recollection by the listener.

By 1945, India provided the largest all-volunteer army of any country during WWII.  That is an incredible achievement in view of India’s colonial history with Great Britain.  Karnad implies that one of the reasons for such a high number is because many Indian citizens were starving to death before the war.  The army, largely led by British military officers, offered food.     Karnad notes that 36,000 volunteers from India die during the war.    Whatever reasons India citizens had for joining the Allied effort; Karnad illustrates how valorous these volunteers were.  (Though not mentioned by Karnad, Indian soldiers earned over 30 Victoria Crosses during the War.  The Victoria Cross is awarded for courage in the face of the enemy. It is the highest military decoration of the British Empire.)

INDIAN ARMY AT SINGAPORE, NOVEMBER 1941
INDIAN ARMY AT SINGAPORE, NOVEMBER 1941
SIR CLAUDE AUCHINLECK JULY 1941 (FIELD MARSHALL REPLACED FROM N. AFRICAN COMMAND AFTER DEFEAT AT TOBRUK BY ROMMEL)
SIR CLAUDE AUCHINLECK JULY 1941 (FIELD MARSHALL REPLACED FROM N. AFRICAN COMMAND AFTER DEFEAT AT TOBRUK BY ROMMEL)

Karnad explains that India fought in the Asian theatre, northern Europe, and east Africa.  Their principal action was against the Japanese in South East Asia but they also fought the Italian and German armies in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia.  Karnad notes that the Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Army, Field Marshal Claude Auchinleck, became a revered leader of the volunteer army.  Auchinleck had been relieved of command in Africa and was assigned to India in 1942.

MAHATMA GANDHI (1869-1948)
MAHATMA GANDHI (1869-1948)

Karnad helps one understand the context of the war by noting the antipathy felt by many Indian citizens toward British colonization.  Gandhi is famously against the war and is jailed, along with a number of India’s leaders, during the war.  This antipathy eventually leads to Indian independence after the war and a split of Indian culture into Hindu and Muslim factions.  That religious split eventually leads to the independent states of Pakistan and East Pakistan (now Bangladesh).

Karnad’s last chapter draws the title, “Farthest Field”, together by explaining how India fought far from home for a country (Great Britain) they resented.  But, India acquitted its resentment by bravely fighting and defeating the Japanese in Burma.  Karnad notes that history is written by the victors but India is largely left behind in WWII’s storied past.  After trudging through “Farthest Field”, a listener wishes a more coherent, emotive, and better–narrated story had been told.  Karnad barely cracks the door to India’s WWII history.

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REDEPLOYMENT

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.com

RedeploymentRedeployment

Written by: Phil Klay

Narration by:  Craig Klein

PHIL KLAY (AMERICAN WRITER, MARINE VETERAN WHO SERVED IN ANBAR IRAQ 1.2007-2.2008)
PHIL KLAY (AMERICAN WRITER, MARINE VETERAN WHO SERVED IN ANBAR IRAQ 1.2007-2.2008)

“Redeployment” is a work of fiction.  It is written by Phil Klay, a Marine officer who served in Iraq in 2007/2008.  (Klay is awarded the 2014 National Book Award for fiction.)  “Redeployment” is about joining, deployment, and redeployment in the military.  It is also about the ambiguity of combat, and the consequence of killing.

Joining the military, particularly when one is in their teens or early twenties, is often to escape.  It is to escape adolescence, poverty, or a rudderless life.  For a few, joining is an adventure, a career, an opportunity to get in shape or see the world.  For others, joining may be a family tradition, a romantic notion of defending one’s country, or a desire to impress parents, guardians, or friends.

One of Klay’s characters joins because of financial help offered by the service to pay for an education; another character joins because of family tradition, another because it impresses his father.  Klay’s stories offer insight by explaining most reasons for joining the military are not cheap and often too simple.  There is an unpaid price by a military recruit who goes into combat.  The price is high, unseen, and unknown until after it is experienced.  Those who first join have no idea what is in store for them when they are placed in a circumstance of killing or being killed.

Klay’s stories show that training for combat is not being in combat.  Military training creates a sense of team entitlement; i.e. of being tougher, more unified, more capable and important than others.  Training is meant to break-down individualism.  Military training masks the humanity of anyone that is not part of the team.

Orders are orders.  Hierarchy of command is inviolable.  If a commander orders flattening of a town, soldiers are expected to act without thinking and to remember without conscience.  Soldiers are able to act by dehumanizing those outside of their team.  In Vietnam humans become gooks.  In Iraq humans become towel heads.  These are tricks of propaganda that allow short-term actions but often fail to leave soldiers’ consciences. Command says we do not shoot children but children are killed.  Long range artillery and drones mask the consequence of killing.

Klay tells the story of the soldier who wants to know how many are killed in a bombardment.  The soldier asks his commander if they are going to investigate.  The commander sees no reason to investigate.  The coordinates are precise, the order is given, the town has been bombarded.  The questioning soldier visits a behind-the-lines command post that cares for the dead to ask if a team will be sent to the site that has been bombarded.  The NCO asks if Americans were killed.  The soldier says no.  The NCO answers “no, we only concern ourselves with our own”.

Klay tells the story of the American financier that donates baseball equipment to have Marines teach Iraqi children how to play baseball.  The request goes up and down military channels despite the ludicrous misapprehension of what is really happening in Iraq.  A Marine officer is ordered to comply with the request to mollify the uniformed or ignorant financier’s request.  Another story is written about a civilian contractor hired to build a water power station for an Iraqi community.  The Marine assigned to oversee the utility installation is told by a local Iraqi that the pumping station being built will create too much pressure and blow-up the plumbing in the town.  The Marine explains the problem to the civilian contractor but it does not stop the project.  It is an assignment that is being paid for by the federal government whether it works or not.  All the contractor is concerned about is completing the job and being paid.  Blown up plumbing in town is someone else’s problem.  Klay offers more stories; i.e. equally appalling examples of wasted dollars and efforts-to rebuild Iraq.

Klay writes of misunderstandings that compound America’s mistakes in Iraq.  There is the story of the Egyptian American recruit that speaks Egyptian Arabic but does not know Iraqi Arabic and must learn the difference on his own because the military believes there is no difference.  The character Klay creates to oversee the water plant construction and the Iraqi baseball assignment is also responsible for producing Iraqi jobs.  This Marine’s civilian subcontractors are often ill-equipped to do what needs to be done.  One of the opportunities is farming but the civilian subcontractor assigned to help knows nothing about farming.  Another story is of an Iraqi who starts a women’s clinic to help women in Iraq who need medical assistance.  However, because her clinic is not creating enough jobs, there is little financial assistance to expand the service.  The patient numbers keep climbing but there are fewer funds being provided.  Klay implies Iraq is a “Bizarro World” where no one seems to communicate understandably, and most act without accomplishment.

Klay implies the experience of becoming a Marine saturates the being of some soldiers. Their experience in combat and comradeship of belonging compel re-enlistment and/or redeployment.  Being a civilian becomes too unstructured for some trained soldiers.  Klay suggests civilian life is sometimes threatening to a soldier with experience of combat.  Some redeployed soldiers become command officers that live in a world of only “us and them” with all of them as expendable sub-human beings.  (One thinks of Vietnam massacre at Mai Lai.)

In a final story, Klay writes of a Marine veteran horribly disfigured by an IED.  A Marine that joined and served in the same place and time as the disfigured veteran is a close friend.  The uninjured friend stays in touch with his fellow ex-Marine.  They recall old times.  They are close friends but the IED has so profoundly changed their relationship that the friendship has devolved into a friendship of un-equals.  Intimate civilian relationships, taken for granted by both before disfigurement, are now probabilistically experienced by only one of the friends.  Klay’s stories show that combat is a psychological, and sometimes physical, life changing experience.

Klay is a veteran.  He seems to be saying that it is important to understand what it means to become a soldier before signing up.  “Redeployment” is neither right nor wrong but it can be right and wrong.  A listener concludes the best civilians and soldiers can do in a war zone is communicate clearly, choose projects that are right for the circumstance, get it done, educate and train the indigenous, and leave what is done in the hands of the native population.

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