Thursday, May 27, 2010

North Korea: Do Crazy People Know They're Crazy?

You don't have to be an area expert to know that the guy running North Korea is a nutcase.  It is conventional wisdom that the 'Dear Leader' Kim Jong Il is a few tacos short of a value pack.  He wears the glasses and generalissimo outfit that is the uniform of wacko, egomaniacal despots everywhere.  Everyone held their breath a couple months back when he made a trip to the hospital after a stroke, praying he would or wouldn't come out alright.

And now the North torpedoes a South Korean military vessel.  The results are in and it's pretty clear cut: they did it.  So, what happened?  I can imagine a scenario in which an ill- or mis-informed North Korean vessel was under the impression or was told that a South Korean vessel had passed into their waters.  Maybe it had, maybe it hadn't.  It may be that the order came all the way from the 'Dear Leader' or was given by the vessel's commander alone.  The point is this: we'll never know.  Just like in the Tonkin Gulf that triggered a huge escalation of the Vietnam War over four decades ago.

If you're a crackpot dictator you aren't going to say a mistake was made.  You're going to say that it was planned, that we meant to do it, and we're feeling great about it.  Case in point: Saddam Hussein.  When asked by his FBI interrogator after his capture why didn't he just say they didn't have WMD's and comply, Saddam said that he couldn't.  He had to let America and Iran think he had them.  He could have saved Iraq and himself a lot of problems, but hey, he's a crackpot dictator.  He thought we were bluffing.  (By the way, in case you didn't know, they never had WMD's after the first Gulf War.)  You cannot count on North Korea acting reasonably in any way, shape, or form to step back from the brink of a civil war with the South that will suck America in as well.  Even now that it seems China may step in to wag it's finger at the North, don't expect any sort of public back down from the North.

To be clear, we would defeat North Korea if it came to military action.  There should be no doubt about that.  The North's soldiers outnumber all soldiers in the South, ours and South Korea's, by something like three to one.  However, our first advantage, as always, is that we have superior soldiers.  The South's military is no pushover either.  We also, as usual, possess the technological advantage.  The biggest difference between us and them: our troops are not starving and actually still believe in their country.  If we were to go to war with North Korea, we would win because North Koreans will stop fighting once it becomes clear the regime has no control over them anymore.  But it would still be an extremely deadly, dirty fight.

The question is: should we?  The answer is no.  If we give North Korea the space, the opportunity to back down without admitting they screwed up and saving face they'll take it and we can avoid a third war in Asia.  As a former soldier, I'm not afraid of a fight, but it has to be worth the lives of many young men and women. Perhaps a time will come to go to war with North Korea: this isn't it.  The 'Dear Leader' will suffer from another stroke or some other health problem soon.  No man lives forever.  We shouldn't sacrifice the lives of our troops or our South Korean allies at the whim of a crackpot dictator.  If we give them a way to stand down, they will take it.  We should only go to war when it is legitimate, necessary, and justified.  Now is not such a time.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

'Don't Ask, Don't Tell': Opposition Argument is an Insult

The debate on the repeal of 'Don't ask, Don't Tell' has reached such heights of ridiculousness that I have come to the point that I feel I have to comment on it here.  I have watched with great interest the hearing in Congress regarding the issue.  Opponents of repeal continue to beat the drum that homosexuality among the troops is a 'readiness' issue.  I have heard it time and time again.  For the uninitiated, 'readiness' includes anything that may prevent an individual servicemember or an entire unit from being prepared to deploy within its timetable to anyplace in the world.  This may include medical issues, lack of required training, equipment or supply shortages of all types, or even the lack of a guardian for children of single soldiers.

The opposition argument holds that open homosexuality in the military will cause our troops to spend more time worrying about if the guy or girl next to them wants to have sex with them instead of focusing on their mission.  As someone who spent almost a decade in military service, including multiple such deployments and two tours in Iraq, this argument is completely without merit and is an absolute insult to our military.

As a soldier, one spends every day training for the possibility of war in any possilble condition in any type of environment.  You spend every day either training yourself for combat or preparing your equipment for combat.  That is what a soldier does: hope for peace, but prepare for war.  Soldiers train to do their jobs in the most austere of conditions under the most stressful of circumstances.  To say that anything will distract an American soldier from their job in combat after they have trained for it for years is an absolute insult to them.  The troops I know will spend all night at the hospital with a shot up buddy and be ready to roll out on patrol again the next morning without being a step off of their game.

I served with guys I knew were homosexuals.  I served with guys I was pretty sure were homosexuals.  I am sure I served with others I had no idea were homosexuals.  The point is this, and I hope that the homosexuals I know will excuse the use of the slanderous words that follow:

        Any man or woman who served this country in the uniform of its military has purchased a share in it which they have paid for in blood, sweat, and tears.  Though homosexuality may make many uncomfortable, someone who has fought alongside their bretheren in combat and shared in their losses and sorrows and even made the ultimate sacrifice has earned the right to continue to wear the uniform of this country.  It is especially unfit for those who have never worn the uniform or fought to tell these brave young men and women that they cannot.  Any man or woman, gay, straight, or otherwise, who served is entitled to do whatever they want because they have earned that right through taking action when others did not.

The most ignorant and ugly form of the argument is that 'hey, I don't want any fags here.'  My answer to this is anyone who will go out and fight, and die, and kill, and sacrifice, and spill their own guts for this country is no 'fag.'  That may not be politically correct but there it is.  If you run into a homosexual who served in the military, you'd better not call him 'fag': you better just call him 'Sir'.  And to the gay and lesbian soldiers I served with, keep on: this country needs you.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

How We Think of Terrorism

What does a terrorist or insurgent look like? When asked, most people will respond with a variant of one of the following: 1) the old 'They're Arabs, Muslims' or 2) the politically correct 'They can be anyone of any color of any religion of any sex', etc, etc. Both answers are wrong. We know that not all terrorists are Arabs or Muslims. Even people who make this statement know it is incorrect. However, the politically correct version that 'it can be anyone' is equally, if not more false.

A major but oft-overlooked cause of Terrorism is idleness and unemployment in third world countries where the majority of the population is under thirty years old. That is a severe oversimplification, but a good starting point. If the United States were to descend to the level of a third world country, the young (and some not-so-young) people in our neighborhoods could easily become insurgents or terrorists. Think of a lot of uneducated, unemployed, idle youth and add to it something which they can line up or unite against, such as a foreign invader that supposedly seeks to destroy their way of life. There are many people in this country today who are easily convinced of the same thing already.

Think if you were a young man, had less than a high school diploma, and were un- or underemployed. What would happen if a well-spoken, educated, older man came to you and convinced you America was to blame for these woes and spoke of friendship, brotherhood, equality, justice, revenge, and a little adventure. It would be a chance to make a mark on the world and to gain respect. The only recruting conditions this man needs are disaffected youth, an enemy to rail against, and a program to indoctrinate. This is how much of terrorist activity begins.

Terrorism in our minds these days is inseparably connected with Islam. This is misleading. While the many terror attacks against America and its allies in the last decade have been perpetrated by Muslims, Islam is simply the tool used by a hierarchy of political Islamists to indocrinate the disaffected youth in their countries with the hope of placing them or keeping them and their ideas in power. These political Islamists use a hardline version of the religion to draw a line between themselves as 'true' believers and others as non-believers, a strong argument in the muslim world. Islam is not the reason terrorists exist; it is a tool used to create them. The religion itself could be replaced by some other idea just as powerful. If the same socio-economic conditions existed in America or Europe today, Christianity could be used to the same effect.

Muslims see each other as brothers and find it difficult to work against a fellow Muslim, even if they were born in the U.S. or live or were educated in the west and even where they believe themselves that terrorism is wrong and hurts other Muslims. This is why the West has such troubles finding Arabic speakers willing to work in the military and intelligence communities. Islam is not a religion that preaches terrorism; it is a religion that preaches brotherhood within a community of believers. This fact is turned against the community of believers by Political Islamists using it to keep decent Muslims quiet and turn disaffected youth into a tool to put or keep them in power. There is not a 'clash of civilisations', but simply politicians using rhetoric, suspicion, youth, and anger for political gain. It kind of sounds familiar in the end, doesn't it?

Friday, May 7, 2010

Mission Statement

I, like millions of other American men and women, am a veteran of the war in Iraq. I am a Purple Heart recipient for wounds received in 2003/04 from a suicide car bombing attack, among multiple other combat medals. I have served, travelled, lived, and worked for over four years in the Middle East and for another four years in western Europe. I am a progressive Modern National Security Professional and it is my job to advise on how best to secure America's position in the world and improve and further the progress of American society and values. In keeping with this belief, I will offer here from time to time my thoughts on how best to do this.

There are others that write with the same claim and same goals in mind. What makes what I have to say worth reading is that my advice is based not only upon acedemic learning and conversations with people who have 'been there', but also 'boots on the ground' experience in dealing with the subject of National Security on the frontlines as a participant, not just an observer. I am an expert through experience, not just acedemics. Unlike many 'experts', I do things, don't just talk about them. I have experienced and seen first-hand the benefits of good policy and the sad results of bad policy.

Today, we suffer from a frightened, single-sided view of National Security that fails to consider and address the causes of what creates threats to America, acts often irrationally but predictably to such threats, fosters an environment of fear and paranoia around them at home and abroad, and in the end creates instability, defeating their very purpose.

My goal is to change the way we act and think regarding National Security. We must get to the root cause of security threats and minimise or eliminate them. We have to dare to think and act differently as those who are on the side of right do, in a legitimate manner that builds coalitions and strengthens our allies. A nation that will not make a stand stands for nothing and will not stand at all.

We must return to behaving as a nation that is the legitimate leader of a free world, not a scared, suspicious, and angry country. We must stop re-acting to what happens to us and return to acting as the nation that we truly are: one that is based on liberty, freedom, and justice and has the strength and audacity to see that these values are upheld.