October 29, 2007

“A Sophisticated Deathtrap”

House to House: An Epic Memoir of War by Staff Sergeant David Bellavia is the most compulsively readable book yet published about the Battle of Fallujah.

I'm leaving for Fallujah myself in two weeks and will continue book-blogging this as a sort of prologue to my own dispatches to come. My work will need contrast. I don’t expect to be embroiled in fire fights every day, and it would be absurd to read my stories – whatever they turn out to be – as a complete picture of the American experience there.

This is the city where the anti-American Sunni insurgency was born. Its support ran the gamut from secular Baathists to radical Islamists and included disgruntled average Iraqis in between. The Marines mostly cleared Fallujah of insurgents in April, 2004, after a lynch mob strung up the mutilated bodies of Blackwater contracters from a bridge. But U.S. forces later withdrew, and Fallujah was taken over by the insurgents again. General Petraeus’s surge strategy of Clear, Hold, and Build wasn’t in place yet.

Fallujah degenerated into a totalitarian hole ruled by fanatics, and the Army and Marines had to go in and clear it again in November of the same year. The city had been emptied of civilians and was effectively a ghost town occupied by jihadists from all over the place.

Sometimes I worry that Iraq will turn into a California-sized Gaza, but the truth is that some parts have been in worse shape already.

House to House: An Epic Memoir of War
Click the image to order from Amazon.com

Here is Bellavia describing the city as he and his fellow "front-line bullet chewers," as he called them, are preparing to strike:
Fallujah is a city designed for siege warfare. From the studs to the minarets, every goddamned building is a fortress. The houses are minibunkers with ramparts and firing slits cut into every rooftop. The mosques are latter-day Persian castles with concrete walls three feet thick. Within those walls, the courtyards offer perfect ambush points from every window. Even the shops and the local markets are fortified. Block after block, Fallujah is a sophisticated deathtrap.

Architecture aside, the insurgents have had months to prepare for this battle. They've dug fighting positions, mined the streets, booby-trapped the houses, built bunkers, and cleared fields of fire. Every road into the city is strong-pointed, mined, and blocked with captured Texas barriers. Fallujah is shaping up to be the Verdun of the War on Terror. We face a battle of attrition fought within a maze of interlocking fortresses. Attrition is such a sterile word. We'll be trading our lives for theirs.

[Captain Sean] Sims makes it clear that our initial objectives will be heavily defended. The insurgents have deployed foreign fighters on the city's approaches. They form the outer crust of their defense-in-depth, so we will face them first. Intelligence reports tell us we'll face Syrians, Iranians, Saudis, Filipinos, even Italians and Chechnyans. They're well trained, ideologically motivated, and armed with ample ammunition and equipment. They've trained for years to kill us infidels. Some have cut their teeth in Chechnya, Afghanistan, and Somalia. They are veterans just like us – a regular Islamist all-star team.
Bellavia’s memoir reads like a zombie war novel at times:
The bad news continues as Captain Sims closes the laptop and turns to us. “We expect the insurgents have stockpiled drugs. We'll be facing fighters hopped up on dope again.”

I look over at [Staff Sergeant Colin] Fitts, and I know what he's thinking. If this is true, these guys are going to be hard to kill. In Muqdadiyah, my squad watched a drug-crazed Mahdi militiaman charge Cory Brown's Bradley. The gunner blasted him with coax machine-gun fire, shredding his legs. He tumbled off the Bradley and flopped face up onto the street. As we approached him, he started to laugh. The laughter grew into a hysteria-tinged cackle, then ended with a bone-chilling keen. That froze us cold. Watching us with wild eyes, he then pulled a bottle of pills out of a blood-soaked pocket and drained its contents into his mouth. Then he went for something under his jacket. Thinking he was about to detonate a bomb vest, three of us opened fire and riddled him with bullets. We shot and shot until he finally stopped moving.

Leaving my men behind, I went to investigate the corpse. His right arm was torn off. His legs were nothing but punctured meat. Most of his face was gone, and only a bloody lump remained of his nose. Both eyes had been shot out. I put a boot on his chest. The Mahdi militiaman didn't move. I kicked him. No movement. Given how many times he had been shot, I didn't expect anything else, but just to be sure, I shot him twice in the stomach. Then I marked him with a chem light so the body disposal teams could find him later that night.

A few minutes later, a Blackhawk landed and we started loading wounded insurgents into it. While we worked, two men carried the shattered husk of that Mahdi militiaman to the helicopter. To our astonishment, he was still alive. Blood bubbles burbled up through his mangled nose and mouth. Blind, in agony, he still managed to scream through broken teeth and punctured lungs. We loaded him on the helicopter and never saw him again.

We later discovered the Mahdi militia had gained access to American epinephrine -- pure adrenaline that will keep a heart pumping even after its owner has been exposed to nerve gas or chemical weapons. A dude with that in his system is almost superhuman. Short of being blown to pieces with our biggest guns, he'll keep fighting until his limbs are severed or he bleeds out.

Most of the military operations in Iraq are more like peace-keeping missions than war-fighting. Counter-insurgency doesn’t usually come with the bang-bang we’re used to from war movies.

Counter-insurgency, though, seems inadequate as a description of the Battle of Fallujah. This was full-throttled war:

Using our Brads as cover, we watch as our gunners prep our first objective area. Tracers streak from their barrels and disappear into the buildings ahead of us. I flip my night-vision goggles down over my left eye and study the buildings. Nothing looks familiar. In fact, the entire area bears no resemblance to the dismount point we've studied for the past several days. We've practically memorized our aerial recon photos, satellite imagery, and road maps. We know every building we need to assault, every corner we need to cover down on, and every street we must lay eyes on in our assigned area.

Yet none of this looks familiar. The pre-assault bombardment has turned this part of the city into a holocaust of twisted wreckage, mangled buildings, and broken vehicles. Houses have been cleaved in two, as if some sadistic giant has performed architectural vivisection on the entire neighborhood. Floors and rooms have been laid bare, exposed to the ravages of the night's shelling. Furniture is thrown haphazardly about. Smashed desks, burned-out sofas, faceless TVs lay in heaps within these demolished homes.

The insurgents may have been hopped up on epinephrine and hard to kill, but that didn’t make them good fighters. The Middle East produces extremists in abundance, but it won’t be known for the competence of its warriors any time soon.

Staff Sergeant Jim's voice comes over the radio, "I got a white van inbound!"

We're under orders to destroy every vehicle we encounter. Even if it is tucked away in a garage, we're supposed to treat it as a VBIED -- Vehicle Born IED. A van moving through the carnage and destruction to get at us is clearly a threat.

Jim's gunner, Sergeant Denny Taijeron, is [First Lieutenant Joaquin] Meno's cousin from Guam. They went to high school together and later attended Guam Community College, where they evidently both majored in wanton urban destruction. They joined the Army at the same time and came to Germany together. Taijeron doesn't hesitate a bit. The 120mm gun fires, bathing the street in a hellish light. The shell blows the van apart. Pieces spin off into the darkness. When the smoke clears, not even a tire remains.

A second later, an AK-47 barks and an insurgent heaves into view.

Over the radio, we hear Jim say, "Check this guy out."

The lone gunman stitches the tank with his bullets. He might as well have been an ant throwing grass seeds at a lawn mower.

"Are you fucking serious? Look at this fool."

Another tanker's voice replies, "Awww man, that guy is cute."

Jim's turret turns, the gun's elevation changes. Suddenly, the entire street lights up again. The insurgent is vaporized."

The insurgents are incompetent, to say the least, when they pick up a rifle. They almost always miss, as if they’re unrealistic Rambo movie villains whose only role is to be shot. Some of their tactics, though, are downright terrifying.

Sergeant Knapp is ordered to take a house because the platoon needs a better view of the municipal building.
Knapp now launches himself fully into the middle of the street. The man is all steel and guts. During a firefight in Muqdadiyah last August, he stoop atop a building and poured hot slugs into a group of about twenty insurgents. Bullets and RPGs flew all around, but he never even flinched. He stood and took it, and dealt out much worse.

He reaches the far side of the street. As he does, I urge the next group forward. Slapping helmets, I hiss, "Go! Go! Go!"

Fitt's squad follows us out of the courtyard. We dash across the street and into the compound of our target house. As I get close, I see Knapp frozen in the doorway.

What the fuck, Knapp? Get inside the fucking house!

The rest of the squad stacks up behind him, and though I try to stop, I careen into the men. We've got one big gaggle fuck right in the front courtyard, and we're vulnerable as hell.

"Get the fuck in!" I order.

Knapp immediately counters with, "No! Get the fuck out! Get out now!"

"Whaddaya got?" I demand, still trying to get untangled from the rest of the squad now backing off from the entrance.

He swings around and grabs my body armor. As the rest of the men back up indecisively, he drags me into the doorway.

"Knapp, what the fuck..."

"LOOK!" he roars.

The first thing I notice are the wires. Wires are common all over the ruins we've traversed so far, but they are always dirty, torn, and dull in color. The wires I see inside this house are crisp and clean and bundled neatly with zip ties.

That is not good.

"GO! GO! GO! Get the fuck outta here," I scream to my squad.

A cluster of wires funnel through one wall, then fan out all over the inside of one room just inside the door like green and orange ivy vines. I follow a few with my eyes and see they end in undersized bricks. This puzzles me for a split second, then I realize the bricks are chunks of C-4 plastic explosive.

Another group of wires runs to a pair of go-cart sized propane tanks stacked along the nearest wall. More explosives are scattered around them.

But the piece de resistance, the stroke of insurgent genius here, is the centerline aerial drop tank sitting in the middle of the room. Designed to give MiG fighter jets extended range, it's a fuel tank that looks like a misshapen teardrop. The insurgents have slipped garbage bags onto its tail fins. The nose has been removed. The wires disappear inside from there. Using jet fuel as a bomb is what caused the fireballs at the World Trade Center on 9/11. This tank makes one hell of a weapon.

We could lose the entire squad -- we could lose most of the platoon -- right here, right now.

I turn to Knapp, "Get back to the other house, now!"

He grabs the other men and everyone careens back across the street. I'm left alone in the driveway, staring at this enormous booby trap. I'm horrified by the thought of what almost happened to my platoon.

Fitts jogs to me, "What's going on?"

I'm so stunned, I can only point.

He peers inside the house and flips out. "What the fuck is this? Holy shit!"

"This is a BCIED, man." Building-contained IED. "Fucking...building bomb." I can't even talk in complete sentences.
You can buy the book from Amazon.com if you want to read the whole thing.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at October 29, 2007 11:52 PM

Comments

Jesus.

Posted by: Astroninja at October 30, 2007 02:02 AM

Mary and Joseph.

Posted by: fahs ibair at October 30, 2007 05:34 AM

The only problem with this book is at least part of it isn't true.

Any medical professionals here want to explain what "pure American epinephrine" does when it is ingested?

Posted by: Edgar at October 30, 2007 06:29 AM

This is a viscerally compelling book. I approached it thinking that I knew all I needed to about Fallujah. I was wrong.

I did tell Michael that if he read "House to House" he would choose to go to Fallujah instead of Afghanistan. Q.E.D.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at October 30, 2007 06:38 AM

Edgar,

Watching us with wild eyes, he then pulled a bottle of pills out of a blood-soaked pocket and drained its contents into his mouth.

The authors never stated that the bottle of pills was epinephrine. It probably was speed or painkillers that the terrorist was ingesting.

We later discovered the Mahdi militia had gained access to American epinephrine -- pure adrenaline that will keep a heart pumping even after its owner has been exposed to nerve gas or chemical weapons. A dude with that in his system is almost superhuman.

The passage above does not describe how the epi was administered.

I reread that the first time I saw it, it is an easy mistake to make.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at October 30, 2007 07:10 AM

Edgar,

Epinephrine as used in combat operations in Iraq is not ingested, rather auto-injected and if you are suggesting that atropine and epinephrine are not used by the enemy (in military grade) you don't know what you are talking about.

You realize that these drugs are used to combat Biologic and Chemical attack, right? Do you use atropine at your local ER?

What are the purposes of these two drugs? Obviously they are being abused and used in cocktail with other opiates and narcotics. All the things that are well documented in this book as well as scores of others.

I was there. I saw the same things. Love guys who stand on their soap box and call out others and have ZERO idea of what is going on in the world.

Posted by: doug at October 30, 2007 07:11 AM

And as I've pointed out for the past several years, their drug cocktail is quite similar to the one purportedly used by Hassan I Sabbah when recruiting the Hashashin.

It appears that he used a mixture of Opium, Hash and Atropine from Belladonna or some other member of the Atropa family.

The more we think that things change...

Posted by: Ratatosk at October 30, 2007 07:38 AM

Ratatosk,

Where exactly did Hassan I Sabah score his methamphetamines, cocaine, and epinepherine?

My understanding is that those drugs were not available until the middle of the 19th century at the earliest. Pharmacy grade better dying through chemistry is new, even if the technique is not original. The portability and ubiquity are also new, and an important part of the story. Just because somebody has done things like this before doesn't mean that the solutions are the same, which I feel is implied by your comment.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at October 30, 2007 08:09 AM

Yikes.

Posted by: lindsey at October 30, 2007 09:11 AM

Yikes.

Posted by: lindsey at October 30, 2007 09:11 AM

Seems like the only sure way to stop someone doped that heavily would be to blow out the hindbrain, just above the spinal cord. Stops ALL vital funtions: heart, breathing, etc., and paralyses the whole body. Much more efficient than putting holes in the meat.

Posted by: Brian H at October 30, 2007 09:56 AM

Seems like the only sure way to stop someone doped that heavily would be to blow out the hindbrain, just above the spinal cord.

Dashedly unsporting of the insurgents not to stand still and allow precision targeting of that relatively small area.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at October 30, 2007 10:26 AM

Bellavia’s memoir reads like a zombie war novel at times

Yeah, it's not as much of a compliment as you might think. I think there's a choice to be made between educating people and titillating them.

Posted by: glasnost at October 30, 2007 10:49 AM

Michael-

Hair raising reality. War is a bad experience in hell! God bless our troops for their dedication and courage in standing up for the rest of us.

www.greensrealworld.blogspot.com

Posted by: James Halm at October 30, 2007 10:52 AM

glasnost,

Yeah, it's not as much of a compliment as you might think. I think there's a choice to be made between educating people and titillating them.

Why is it that the anti-war advocates so often back titillating frauds for their accounts of the war.

After reading Bellavia's book, it seems to me that a more accurate description of his account would be "gripping" rather than "titillating". There are passages in the book that are horrific, but that is because the experiences they are describing were horrific.

You've raised some good points here, glasnost, but this isn't one of them.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at October 30, 2007 11:05 AM

Why is it that the anti-war advocates so often back titillating frauds for their accounts of the war.

Huh?

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at October 30, 2007 11:10 AM

Yeah, it's not as much of a compliment as you might think. I think there's a choice to be made between educating people and titillating them.

Glasnost. Yeah. Rewriting the book into a dry, boring read would be better because it would be more "educational." With your comment I'm convinced that all you want to do is bitch.

Since my new buddy Jimmy Harris hasn't been posting lately I'll be donating $1 to Michael's tip jar for every Glasnost comment Michael has to suffer reading.

Posted by: markytom at October 30, 2007 11:26 AM

DPU,

Scott Beauchamp's trilogy of atrocity fantasies. Jessie McBeth's silliness. The Winter Soldier tall tales competition. There is a certain strain of the anti-war movement that revels in this kind sensationalistic fraud. They put forth titillating liars and hold their accounts to be true.

It irritated me that we have a legitimate war account being dismissed as titillation. The man was awarded the Silver Star for his exceptional bravery in combat, he should not have to make apologies if his account of the action is lucid and stirring.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at October 30, 2007 11:27 AM

Markytom: Since my new buddy Jimmy Harris hasn't been posting lately I'll be donating $1 to Michael's tip jar for every Glasnost comment Michael has to suffer reading.

I appreciate the thought, but that isn't necessary. Glasnost is not a troll, though he is wrong about this book.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 30, 2007 11:31 AM

I appreciate the thought, but that isn't necessary. Glasnost is not a troll, though he is wrong about this book.

Glasnost's condescension and constant, whiny attitude annoys me - and it makes me feel better when I do something positive after being irritated from reading his crap. So I will continue to donate $1 for each of his comments (I won't advertise it anymore though).

Posted by: markytom at October 30, 2007 12:13 PM

I got my hands on this book last night and read it for about 5 hours. It was near impossible to put down. There are things mentioned in this book that will stay with me forever.

Thanks for bringing it to my attention. I will learn from this.

Posted by: Michael at October 30, 2007 12:18 PM

Scott Beauchamp's trilogy of atrocity fantasies.

Running over a dog is an atrocity now?

I wish the pro-invasion contingent had displayed this much energy and fury over Abu Ghraib rather than three relatively minor (and credible) misdemeanors reported by a single soldier.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at October 30, 2007 12:45 PM

And by the way, Patrick, the anti-war left did not make an issue of Beauchamps article. It was a single and relatively insignificant piece on personal psychological observations of one guy that was published in a periodical that supported the war that would have been completely unnoticed if the debunkosphere hadn't elevated it.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at October 30, 2007 12:54 PM

Patrick,

Where exactly did Hassan I Sabah score his methamphetamines, cocaine, and epinepherine?

As I stated in my post, Sabbah, supposedly used Opium, Hashish and atropine/scopolamine (both are tropane akaloids). Marco Pollo also claimed that they used other drugs, but doesn't go into detail as to which drugs or how they were made.

Beyond just the chemicals Sabbah also was said to have used some serious brainwashing techniques. His followers believed that they would get their virgins if they followed Sabbah's directions explicitly. These Hashishin (where we get the word hash and assassin) were trained to fit in with a given society, then when ordered... carry out high profile murders, suicide missions more often than not. They terrorized Sunni Muslims and more 'secular' muslims. They terrorized Christian Crusaders (but at times allied with them against Sunnis). They even used a poisoned dagger on one of the Kings of England... (Edward? Charles? I don't remember)

Anecdotal evidence, (I think recorded by Marco Pollo) indicates that the drug mixture was used as part of the brainwashing ritual. Others claim it was used before a mission. Having experimented personally with combinations of those chemicals, I can say that it would probably be a very good tool for brainwashing and would make pain, even extreme pain difficult to notice. From a portability perspective, Sabbah's men were reported to have strings of caves from Alamut (in Iran) through Afghanistan where they kept lots of stores/supplies and could hide out for long periods of time from various upset parties.

Just because somebody has done things like this before doesn't mean that the solutions are the same, which I feel is implied by your comment.

I think the solution is the same. One of the Kahns brought a Mongol army into Persia, laid siege to Castle Alamut and destroyed it utterly. Most other factions of the extremist cult were wiped out within a short period of time.... Maybe not a Mongol army this time, but the same general idea seems to fit.

The only reason that they lasted for the centuries that they did... was because they were competent at terrorizing their enemies into passive fear, rather than active confrontation. One anecdotal story stated that representatives from a few western governments went to the group to pursue a sort of truce. Sabbah (or one of the people that ran the gang after Hassan's death) met the representatives on the roof of Castle Alamut. He listened politely and then called two of his men, told them to jump from the roof (which they did... and died). He then turned to the westerners and said "What do I have to fear from you?"

The story may not be true, so much of Medieval history is questionable at best (and the Mongols destroyed whatever written records the Assassins themselves kept)... but I find the parallels fascinating.

This bit of history (or historical bullshit as the case may be) is exactly why I supported our invasion of Afghanistan. It's also why I think we'd be better off continuing what we started, rather than getting sidetracked (but that's blood and water under the bridge at this point).

Posted by: Ratatosk at October 30, 2007 01:48 PM

Patrick, re: your comment,

"Where exactly did Hassan I Sabah score his methamphetamines, cocaine, and epinepherine?

My understanding is that those drugs were not available until the middle of the 19th century at the earliest."

I guess you missed Ratatosk's comment,

"It appears that he used a mixture of Opium, Hash and Atropine from Belladonna or some other member of the Atropa family."

Those natural pre-pharmaceutical forms of the drugs have been available for centuries. And nobody said anything about cocaine.

Posted by: Kenneth at October 30, 2007 01:53 PM

doug: You realize that these drugs are used to combat Biologic and Chemical attack, right?

Yes, I do. But the author implies that the jihadis are using "adrenaline" to improve their combat performance. In reality, injecting--or taking pills of, I suppose--adrenaline would have the opposite effect.

Maybe the insurgents are taking painkiller/speed cocktails, but if so it's an idiotic thing to do. They'll move slower, talk a lot faster, not be able to sleep and become increasingly paranoid and delusional.

Great idea.

Posted by: Edgar at October 30, 2007 02:02 PM

Glasnost. Yeah. Rewriting the book into a dry, boring read would be better because it would be more "educational." With your comment I'm convinced that all you want to do is bitch.--markytom

What he said. I have been trying to put my finger on precisely the serious issue I was having with Glasnost's snide little jabs at this book, and then I found the perfect little phrase in my travels.

We Exhort ; You Deride.

Now I agree that in some situations 'superior' derision might not be a 'bad' thing. But when referring to the ACTUAL experiences of someone who was 'on the wall' when the zombies really showed up --- not a big winner in my book.

I have the utmost respect for Mr Bellavia and all his fellows who had to wade through the nightmare of Falluja. If it 'feels' hellish on the dry page, it must have felt otherworldly in reality.

'It's just a flesh wound' now takes on a whole new meaning.

Posted by: dougf at October 30, 2007 02:18 PM

Ratatosk,

I'm fresh out of mongol hordes, and I understand that the side effects of this cure are excessively unpleasant, anyway.

DPU,

The milbloggers jumped on TNR with alacrity and a fair bit of fervor. That happened because of the lessons they have learned from decades of this kind of garbage getting floated as fact by the anti-war movement.

Minutes of honest fact checking would have dispelled that whole line of fantasy, if they would have had a veteran on staff. Even if they had just mustered the courage to ask CENTCOM about this, TNR would still be a viable publication.

Troops using armored fighting vehicles to deliberately run over dogs is an atrocity; except that in reality, this is just the fantasy of an atrocity. The point was to disparage the conduct of our troops, even if the creator of the fantasy was one of the troops.

If somebody in your city bragged about how many dogs he ran over with his truck, he would get arrested for cruelty to animals. Writing that our troops are engaging in intentionally cruel and criminal behavior is not the act of someone in favor of the war. Making the story up out of whole cloth is despicable, and doing so badly enough to be immediately caught is moronic. Publishing that crap was simply incompetent. Failing to acknowledge the mistake in just incomprehensible.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at October 30, 2007 02:41 PM

Troops using armored fighting vehicles to deliberately run over dogs is an atrocity; except that in reality, this is just the fantasy of an atrocity. The point was to disparage the conduct of our troops, even if the creator of the fantasy was one of the troops.

Let me get this straight -- US soldiers never run over dogs? Or, if they do, they are guilty of an atrocity? Or if someone, even a soldier, reports that they do, then their point is to disparage the troops?

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at October 30, 2007 03:19 PM

Or if someone, even a soldier, reports that they do, then their point is to disparage the troops?

you weren't following that whole controversy. A soldier in Iraq made up disparaging stories about his fellow soldiers and sold them to the New Republic. His wife works there. the stories were debunked by outsiders. TNR is still dancing around about it. The guy's blog/diary entrees show that he only joined the army to get material for his writing career.

yes, I think making up stories about your fellow soldiers and printing such stories without fact-checking because you want to believe them - is intentionally disparaging the troops. Even more, it is malicious slander.

Posted by: Yehudit at October 30, 2007 03:43 PM

I'm fresh out of mongol hordes, and I understand that the side effects of this cure are excessively unpleasant, anyway.

Well, my point was that our American Troops were playing that role near enough, when they went into Afghanistan after Bin Laden. And as far as I can remember, the side effects weren't all that bad considering...

It's interesting that the Shia and Sunni conflict has lasted that long and played out in the same sort of way for so many centuries.

Posted by: Ratatosk at October 30, 2007 03:45 PM

the guy described how a soldier would use a tank to run over dogs, in a way that is physically impossible and even if possible, would be severely censured by officers for endangering the safety of the troops. among many other examples.

Posted by: Yehudit at October 30, 2007 03:45 PM

the guy described how a soldier would use a tank to run over dogs,...</i.

An APC, not a tank. You see, I have been following the story.

And, FWIW, conservative blogger John Cole used to drive a Bradley in the service, and says that it's possible to intentionally run over dogs with it, even with the hatch closed.

So, to get back to the point, why would Beauchamp reporting this be a lie, why would the incident not be credible, and why all the effort to debunk a minor misdemeanor?

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at October 30, 2007 03:56 PM

Oops, make that AFV, not APC, although it does serve as an APC.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at October 30, 2007 04:00 PM

Dashedly unsporting of the insurgents not to stand still and allow precision targeting of that relatively small area.
-double-plus-ungood

The notion that warfare should be treated as some kind of sporting event is disgusting. The objective is to win, preferably with as little loss of life as possible.

Posted by: rosignol at October 30, 2007 04:04 PM

Further, conservative milblogger G'Kar posting at Obsidian Wings reports that a few days ago in Iraq he was being transported in a military vehicle that intentionally ran over a dog, that there was a debate between the driver and guner as to whether he got credit for the kill, and the vehicle commander didn't sem to care about the incident.

Should we assume that G'Kar is lying as well? or that his intent is to disparage the troops?

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at October 30, 2007 04:04 PM

The notion that warfare should be treated as some kind of sporting event is disgusting.

You might need to reread the exchange, rosignol, but use a sarcastic upper class British accent when you read my comment.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at October 30, 2007 04:13 PM

DPU,

I just spent a long and fairly tiring day on base with my military unit. Let me tell you that as an NCO with a lot of experience, if I ever catch junior enlisted risking government equipment and my ass screwing around trying to kill dogs, somebody's going to envy the fate of the dog. I like dogs and I like not getting killed because morons are screwing around risking the convoy.

Scott Beauchamp's story rang false because the maneuvers he described seemed likely to disrupt convoy operations and extremely likely to throw a tread.

While it is possible that there are junior personnel out there who stupid enough to do things like that, their folly is of limited duration. It seemed significantly unlikely that any AFV crew had run up a significant enough score by deliberately risking their vehicles without the wrath of God in NCO form coming down upon them. I'm pretty sure that the first time the wrecker came to tow the AFV away and they saw dog in the treads, the smiles would leave the faces of the junior idiots for a very long time. It is possible that junior enlisted do things that are stupid enough to find them breaking track in hostile territory and high temperatures; it is not likely that they announce their intention to do so very long.

G'Kar may be telling the truth. He may also be days away from earning a General Court Martial for endangering fellow troops. What rang so false with Scott Beauchamp's stories was the blithe assertion that despicable behavior was conducted without concern for repercussions.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at October 30, 2007 04:53 PM

G'Kar may be telling the truth. He may also be days away from earning a General Court Martial for endangering fellow troops.

Sorry, how is G'Kar at fault here?

While it is possible that there are junior personnel out there who stupid enough to do things like that, their folly is of limited duration.

I'm not sure how this reflects on whether it happened or not. We have reports from an experienced tanker that it is possible, and we have a report from someone currently in Iraq that this practice exists. We know that young men ido dumb things on occasion. On the other hand, we have a bunch of bloggers with a chip on their shoulders who have, a various times, said that this guy didn't exist (he does), that he wasn't in the military (he is), that he wasn't in Iraq (he is), that his unit did not excavate graves (they did), and that it wasn't possible to run over dogs in a Bradley (it is).

Quite the fuss over some fairly small incidents, in my view.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at October 30, 2007 05:26 PM

If you think war really is h*ll, don't glorify it.
We like to have this both ways, call it a grim and dirty business one minute and then high-five later on. I accept that from people in the moment, but after the moment, they're best served to pause and reflect on their message - unless they don't, in fact, believe that war is h*ll.

I have no doubt whatsoever that the battle for Fallujah involved intense urban combat events much like the ones described here. And I don't begrudge people the right to write about that.

In this specific example, I think the tone of the book is sensationalist. Regardless of whether these things have to be done in the first place, which is a completely separate argument, they are best done without being hung on the wall for kids to go "Woah. Cool!"

I wasn't the one who came up with how much this book sounds like a B Hollywood zombie flick. Even if that's what it felt like, it doesn't have to be written with that kind of unserious undertone. I'm only hearing a few passages, so who knows what the rest of the book is like, but a good book is not a collection of the most extreme anecdotes.

So, that's me, expressing my opinion on a book. In the comment section of the blog talking about the book. Some people might agree that this is, in fact, the point of the comments section.

I don't feel the need to respond to people taking issue with me. It's your nickel.

Except for you, marty. The irony of you calling me out for whining while in the process of whining about my "condescending tone" falling with harshness and punishment on your fragile retinas is a little too rich. Blow it out your a**.

Posted by: glasnost at October 30, 2007 06:37 PM

I don't know if Beauchamp's stories are true, but I do know:

a) TNR says they checked on it, and there's no reason to disbelieve their attempt to check, regardless of one's opinions on its sufficiency, which is hard to have an opinion on anyway, given how little is known

b) most of the talking points from the right-wing media claiming to have disproved the story amount to circumstantial mumbo-jumbo at best

c) this kind of stuff, without a doubt, happens out there, whether it's published or not. Heck, the kind of stuff in the Beauchamp story probably happens in the US.

People are out to get TNR for negative reporting, period. If they serve the cause of truth in the process, it'll be a happy accident.

Posted by: glasnost at October 30, 2007 06:42 PM

People are out to get TNR for negative reporting, period. If they serve the cause of truth in the process, it'll be a happy accident.

It's somewhat ironic that the right is eating its own, too. Many liberals seem to detest TNR.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at October 30, 2007 06:46 PM

Glasnost, you're the only one who seems to think these horrific battles are "cool." Bellavia sure as hell didn't they think were cool.

Jesus, Mary, Joseph, and Yikes, are what other people are saying. (Re-read the thread from the top.)

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 30, 2007 07:04 PM

I pretty tired from doing real military things so I could use some help dealing with the people imagining military things.

Could somebody else kick DPU and glasnost around tonight?

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at October 30, 2007 07:16 PM

Could somebody else kick DPU and glasnost around tonight?--P.L.

No can do.

I have to rush right off to catch up on those arch 'conservative' outlets that I had previously missed. Namely, John Cole and The New Republic. And without DPU's help I would never have known that they were 'my folks'. Just goes to show you.

And without glasnost I would not have been aware that "a good book is not a collection of the most extreme anecdotes." I had thought that if the book (non-fiction) truthfully tells a personal story as experienced by that person, and tells it in a compelling and 'highly readable' manner, so that the reader is drawn into the world described by the author and experiences that world through the pages he reads, that it might indeed be a 'good book'. Perhaps even an 'epic' book. Foolishly, I had previously thought that 'receiving' the honest gut feelings directly from the source was the only purpose of such a book and all else was pc-generated artifice. Silly me.
But now I understand the TRUTH. Namely that "this book sounds like a B Hollywood zombie flick (and) even if that's what it felt like, it doesn't have to be written with that kind of un-serious undertone." So there.

"Even if that's what it felt like", for the sake of the children and all humanity, DON'T TELL ANYONE THAT. How could this soldier-type guy be so gauche and barbaric. War is HELL !!

And don't you forget it.

As if the guys who were there and saw those things personally don't understand that fact, and needed reminding by the NNON of their 'social' duties.

So sorry Patrick I just can't help you out on this one. As you can plainly see I have some serious catching up to do.

Posted by: dougf at October 30, 2007 08:31 PM

Glasnost - If you think war really is h*ll, don't glorify it.

One of my favorite Simpsons endings is where Bart gives a lecture about war saying something to effect that no war is good, except the Revolutionary War, World War II, and the Star Wars Trilogy. Glorifying war seems to be programmed into us, and has been for millennia - maybe it's in our DNA as well.

Glasnost - Blow it out your a**.

Thinking about it I guess my issue with you is your seeming ingratitude toward Michael. Michael provides us all with a great service giving us a unique window into the Middle East that we would never see otherwise. That's why I donate to his blog. You only seem to want to throw bricks at him, directly or indirectly, regardless of what he posts. Learn from DPU - you can disagree without being derisive.

Posted by: markytom at October 30, 2007 08:33 PM

Glasnost - If you think war really is h*ll, don't glorify it.

Who's glorifying it? Not Bellavia, that's for damn sure.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 30, 2007 08:44 PM

The only reason that they lasted for the centuries that they did... was because they were competent at terrorizing their enemies into passive fear, rather than active confrontation.

So we know that we're fighting an enemy that can't shoot straight; an enemy that, collectively, has fewer weapons and less skill than any military force we've fought since the country was founded.

In this war more than most, FDR was right. The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.

Posted by: mary at October 30, 2007 08:57 PM

After defeating the Taliban (the allegedly "fierce Afghan warriors"), General Wesley Clark said on CNN that they were the most incompetent enemies Americans faced since the Barbary Pirates.

The Barbary Pirates were Arabs.

Still, do not underestimate them. They can't shoot straight, but they have seized and all but destroyed entire cities. Having seen their handiwork myself in Ramadi (not to mention New York), I can't not take them seriously.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 30, 2007 09:22 PM

Michael here is something I’d like to know from an Iraqi’s perspective:

Why did some people follow Osama even though he abandoned his forces so he could hide from George Bush? Mohammad was said to have stayed with his troops in battle crying out and weeping over their losses. Osama Bin Laden, however, hides in a cave and sends email notes to people who die for him. George Bush came to Iraq, to be among his own troops in the middle of Al Quada's territory, even in Fallujah, but he wasn't scared. Yet Osama hides from George Bush. George Washington, our national hero, was a wealthy plantation owner who gave up everything to inspire and walk among his insurgency as America beat the British with our tiny army in the revolutionary war.

Why were Iraqis, a brave and proud people, fooled or inspired by a coward who would rather let them die than lead them?

How do they process that? What do they see in that? That’s my question.

Posted by: Turner at October 30, 2007 09:52 PM

You only seem to want to throw bricks at him, directly or indirectly, regardless of what he posts. Learn from DPU - you can disagree without being derisive.

This more civil approach will work better, M.

I don't have a fundamental problem with Mike - although I reserve the right to do so. And to show up on anyone's blog who has public comments, have a fundamental problem with their work, and, depending on the response, be a complete a**hole about it until if/when they kick me out.

That's life in the public sphere, and I'm not here to make friends. Really.

However, in my opinion, a**hole is not what I do here. I do, however, provide a lot of criticism. I try not to include any more attitude than is necessary to get the point across, but I'm sure you can catch me not meeting your idea of that standard.

That's what I do here: provide criticism. That's my purpose. If I ever meet Mike in Portland, I'll chat and be friendly, but Mike doesn't need me - or anyone else on this board - to flatter him. This is at least one of his sources for information and feedback on his work - with its attached mission of reporting as accurate a picture on the events he covers as possible. I'm here to make sure he upholds that mission, as 1/10000'th of his collective boss - his readers.

I'm a citizen of the USA. This is my civic activism. Mike's in the public sphere. I have opinions re good or bad journalism - journalism that helps or hinders public understanding - and I'm here to see my standards upheld.

This is how it's done on comment boards. And letters to the editor before them. Mike doesn't need my help with his self-esteem. Or your help, however well-meaning. Sorry to say, but true.

Posted by: glasnost at October 30, 2007 11:05 PM

I have occasionally complimented Mike. I don't have a policy against it. :-D
But generally, compliments are not my bag. 80% of my comments are critical even on blogs I "like". (although, maybe, less frequent) (and not that I dislike this blog).
The points of dispute are the ones that matter.

Posted by: glasnost at October 30, 2007 11:10 PM

I need fair and honest critics like Glasnost. Believe it or not, I listen to critics him and take them seriously.

Naturally I won't agree with all of Glasnost's criticisms, but that's beside the point.

The likes of Jim Harris and - worse - Alphie and "Hezbollah Lover," aren't up to the job.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 30, 2007 11:16 PM

dougf,

I'll try to bear up. Maybe when you get caught up?

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at October 30, 2007 11:20 PM

I really don't want to turn this into a CareBearfest, but I have to admit, something good about Mike - better than some other places - is his willingness to consider it acceptable that people disagree with him.

Eventually I'll get him to mellow out even further and extend that tolerance even to rude people.

Ok. That's probably enough mutual high-fiving for.. 2007 or so. :-D. Don't want to get too friendly.

Posted by: glasnost at October 30, 2007 11:33 PM

Glasnost: Eventually I'll get him to mellow out even further and extend that tolerance even to rude people.

I will not. I've seen what happens to blog comment sections where the hosts are tolerant of rudeness. The whole place goes to hell because reasonable people are driven away.

Intolerance of rudeness sometimes encourages moderately rude people to chill out and stick around. I prefer that.

Some people who still comment here were once banned, but they apologized and mellowed out, so it's cool. They are welcome.

I want reasonable critics to feel welcome. One reason I rarely comment on other blogs (especially when I don't agree with the mainstream of the community) is because I know I will be treated terribly just by showing up, no matter how polite I am, and it just isn't worth it.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 30, 2007 11:47 PM

DougF: I have to rush right off to catch up on those arch 'conservative' outlets that I had previously missed. Namely, John Cole and The New Republic. And without DPU's help I would never have known that they were 'my folks'. Just goes to show you.

I missed where I said anything about TNR being conservative. Could you point it out for me, Doug?

Regarding John Cole - what about him isn't conservative? He's pro-business, pro-individual rights, against government spending, against high taxes, and anti-welfare state. I can't imagine why you would think him not conservative.

Wait. Could it have anything to do with his changed position on the Iraq war?

Ah, the fickle world of the Iraq-war obsessed, where one's political ideology is completely determined by a single foreign policy issue. Where one could be to the right of Thatcher and Reagan, but still be called a screaming leftist if they aren't toeing the party line on the Iraq War.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at October 31, 2007 06:47 AM

Glasnost said:

"Except for you, marty. ... Blow it out your a**."

Your beef is with Markytom, not me. I haven't even posted in this thread before now.

MJT-

Be safe. You're traveling to a place of hope that has broken many lives, where the alleyways hold many dark secrets, the women wear strange getups, and you don't know who around you to trust. I hope you come back from Vegas unscarred.

Posted by: MartyH at October 31, 2007 07:02 AM

Michael:

Regarding injecting epinephrine, I remember one case where a guy getting a vaccine fainted and a new medic thinking it was a case of anaphylaxic instead of neurogenic shock got excited and ended up giving him a double dose of epinephrine. In wasn't anaphylaxic, and as they say, the guy went up and then went right back down. Drugs can act in completely different ways in different situations and combinations so who knows; however, it seem that Ratatosk's observation is a good one concerning the traditional cocktail mixture. He also makes a point which is very logical but which for whatever reason is never played up in the press; that being that Osama deliberately adopted the personae of the Old Man of the Mountain. I guess if the MSM admitted that they'd have to admit his is not a Holy war but simply the actions of another deranged egomaniacal murderer just like the others before him. *(I just noticed Turner's comment asking why people would follow Osama; this might be part of the answer.)

There is another related item here that I wish some one would take the time to investigate, which is the long held complaint against the stopping power of the M4. In vietnam if you shot someone with a M16 it would turn the muscle to jelly and if it hit a bone in an extremity the limb would be pretty much ripped off. One to two hits in the body would put anyone down and they would stay down as the internal organs would be pretty much pureed. That is not happening now. Besides the problems of shortening the barrel length of the M4, it seems that the design of the round has been modified. I read somewhere that during the Clinton admin they change the metal composition of the slug and it would seem they also changed its aerodynamics to eliminate the tumbling effect when it hits. The latter characteristic was what made the round so effect against personnel. In flight it was slightly unstable and when it hit it would tumble, thus liberating its kinetic energy in a fairly effective manner. That effect was the only thing the M16, and its kind, had going for it, as it is really a poorly designed weapon. For the long distance engagements such as in the mountains of Afghanistan, stopping vehicles, urban house to house battles, as related in this book, and other needs the troops need a heavier caliber, more reliable shoulder weapon.

Posted by: H. Short at October 31, 2007 07:11 AM

Still, do not underestimate them. They can't shoot straight, but they have seized and all but destroyed entire cities. Having seen their handiwork myself in Ramadi (not to mention New York), I can't not take them seriously.

I agree, and the soldiers and journalists in the field who have actually encountered these "warriors" appear to be making reasonable evaluations of their strengths and weaknesses.

But politicians, pundits and media types regularly over-estimate their strength. In the media world, these drug-addled jihadis are an unbeatable weapon of war; they're on a mission from God, they're more powerful than a locomotive. According to the common wisdom of magazines like Newsweek, we can't fight them so we shouldn't even try.

In the media, the UN, in Europe and in the state department, "passive fear, rather than active confrontation" is policy.

Posted by: mary at October 31, 2007 07:35 AM

Heh, Las Vegas may be more hazardous than Iraq.

H.Short, the study of 5.56 vs 7.62 has raged for many a year. There is much more to the issue than the caliber itself; you could spend months doing nothing but reading reports, tests and analysis' on the topic. The topic becomes rather emotional for many people, for whatever reason.

Not sure there is AN answer, rather, which one is the least suboptimal choice for its intended application.

I always thought the 20mm HE was a good round and one we rather enjoyed loading onto various delivery vehicles. Kind of hard for a GI to carry many of them though :).

Posted by: Ron Snyder at October 31, 2007 08:03 AM

Michael Totten wrote: I will not. I've seen what happens to blog comment sections where the hosts are tolerant of rudeness. The whole place goes to hell because reasonable people are driven away.

Most moderators don't understand that simple logic and you see the results of this almost everywhere. There was an excellent discussion on this topic over at Groklaw awhile back, with the conclusion that public forums only work when there are clear and consistent rules of conduct which are fairly and unfailingly enforced. Michael has stated the rules at this forum clearly and has been rigorous in enforcing them in a fair manner, which is part of the reason why I take the time to stop by and read not only his articles but the comments as well.

If anything I think he is too generous to some, as I find judgmental and insulting comments from those who completely lack even the most rudimentary first hand experience regarding the subject matter at the least simply annoying. They also always seem exactly the ones to waste the most space with ignorant self-important prattle the intention of which seems merely to gain attention for themselves and limit any serious discussions others might attempt. They might not be full fledged trolls but its a close thing.

Take care, Michael; and keep up the good work.

Posted by: H. Short at October 31, 2007 08:03 AM

Ron Synder wrote: "... the study of 5.56 vs 7.62 has raged for many a year."

Sure, I know what you mean, but I wasn't trying to resurrect the caliber debates. What I was pointing out is that ever since we've had people fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan there have been numerous substantiated reports from troops and private security personnel of the sub-par performance of not just the M4 but the M16 as well. Besides issuing what is basically a M16 with a sawed off barrel and not making any other adjustments in the weapon or round for the reduced barrel length, and changing the composition of the slug, were deliberate changes made in the aerodynamics of the round to decrease its previous ability to transfer its kinetic energy to the target? If the answer to that is in the affirmative, I think the troops and the American people are entitled to know who made that decision and the reason for it.

As far as emotional involvement, it is a rather emotional thing at a personal level to find you are forced to use a sub-standard weapon in place of one that formerly met your needs with the subsequent needless increase in risk to your life, happiness, and general welfare. Of course I am referring here to the 1911. Take care.

Posted by: H. Short at October 31, 2007 08:49 AM

People are out to get TNR for negative reporting, period. If they serve the cause of truth in the process, it'll be a happy accident.-----
It's somewhat ironic that the right is eating its own, too. Many liberals seem to detest TNR.
---dpu

I missed where I said anything about TNR being conservative. Could you point it out for me, Doug?---dpu

I'm ever so sorry that I might have misconstrued your position on TNR. Now I took your comment as quoted above, to mean (and not just imply) that the 'right'(conservative) was attacking one of its own in bad-mouthing TNR which you viewed as not liberal. Again I do apologize. I failed to realize that you were currently attending the Clinton school of 'parsing'. Perhaps you could help me out here by explaining in what other sense I should have taken your comments. Because I am having difficulty with seeing it. And I am always interested in learning new thingys.

I refuse to get into a 'Cole' discussion. Been there; done that. Life is far too short. We disagree on this. All you have to do is read almost any thread to catch the drift of the value systems involved. And frankly I don't care what he might discuss here and there. You are known by the company you keep, and his guests are NOT conservative. In fact conservatives DON'T GO THERE except to complain about HIM.

PS-- I just visited Cole's wasteland and realized that dpu was indeed correct.

Cole's ONLY choices for President in 2008 are --- Obama, Clinton, and Edwards. All of them 'conservative' to the very core. And further all the Republican candidates are seemingly just 'ridiculous'.

Ooops, my bad.

Posted by: dougf at October 31, 2007 08:58 AM

When did he stop being conservative in your eyes, Doug? Was it around the time he started being critical of the Iraq war?

Did the same thing happen with Sullivan?

How long before people like William Buckley are being describes as liberals because they aren't PC enough on the war?

What is really illuminating that you aren't able to express why he is not conservative other than perceived alliances. That speaks volumes.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at October 31, 2007 09:23 AM
Regarding Patrick's points about disciplinary reprecussions due to the dog incidents -- OCSteve, a right-wing commenter at Obsidian Wings, says this in the comments to G'Kar's post:
My argument as to why this was important is that I could not envision officers, NCOs, vehicle commanders etc. allowing/ignoring the kind of behavior described in the various incidents. So if the incidents were true that would represent a breakdown of basic discipline in the unit. That kind of discipline breakdown is what can lead to much worse things occurring. In that light the incidents were well worth investigating.

So yeah, G'Kar’s post surprised and dismayed me, especially as given the source I believe every word without question. The total casualness of the incident with a stranger on board speaks volumes I think. I take it as a sign that the Army is even more broken than I thought.

I don't know how accurate that assessment mught be, but worth reading, I thought. Posted by: double-plus-ungood at October 31, 2007 09:30 AM

DPU: Ah, the fickle world of the Iraq-war obsessed, where one's political ideology is completely determined by a single foreign policy issue. Where one could be to the right of Thatcher and Reagan, but still be called a screaming leftist if they aren't toeing the party line on the Iraq War.

The reverse is true, too.

I've even seen Marc Cooper called a right-winger, and he's against the Iraq war, always has been, and wants to withdraw now. He just isn't quite enthusiastic enough about his anti-war views, and he sometimes criticizes the activists.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 31, 2007 10:04 AM

Michael,

I've been reading your work for only a couple months now. You put a face on the people involoved in this war, both our soldiers and the Iraqi's. This is something I've never gotten elsewhere.

I bought "House to House" yesterday and finished it this morning. Contrary to those who feel it glorifies combat, I came away feeling that I had glimpsed a shadow of the horrors our soldiers face. I cannot thank them enough for the sacrifices they and their families make for us.

Thanks for all you do to help the rest of us see and understand the people and events you cover.

-MR

Posted by: MichaelR at October 31, 2007 10:48 AM

Just finished the book and it left me shaken.

Glorified comic book warfare? Not so much.

Appalling, as in death, wounds, filth and fanatic death-cult enemies everywhere is more like it.

OT. It looks like the US (and the bad guys for that matter) are going to reap a generation of combat hardened urban fighters and new tactics out of this conflict. Given the fact that asymmetric warfare is likely in the near future, this is a good thing that comes with a VERY high price tag.

Posted by: Melkor at October 31, 2007 12:26 PM

One of the nice things about Michael's site is the clear and simple rule. Now I'm paraphrasing: "Behave or I'll pull over the car..." Simple but direct. I for one like it, even if I think some of the comments are outlandish to my way of thinking, cuz I know my thoughts are viewed in the same way. Keep up the good work Michael.

Posted by: Kevin Schurig at October 31, 2007 12:44 PM

5.56 vs. 7.62

I may be talking out my ass here, but I am under the impression that the 5.56 was switched to at the time that it became the standard NATO round.
Why this was the round chosen by NATO, and if we switched to it just for that purpose or if it was for other purposes, are questions that I don't know the answer to.
But I remember reading from the likes of Black Hawk Down and other testimonies from Somalia about emptying entire clips of ammo into enemies because the 5.56's made small and (relatively) neat holes straight through instead of causing wider damage.

Posted by: Joe at October 31, 2007 12:53 PM

Cole's ONLY choices for President in 2008 are --- Obama, Clinton, and Edwards. All of them 'conservative' to the very core. And further all the Republican candidates are seemingly just 'ridiculous'.

Well, good heavens, I just checked Cole's site this morning, and Doug is right -- he's left the Republican party. To whit:
Long story short, I got up there to register as an independent, said “Fuck it,” and now I am a Democrat. I certainly don’t agree with all their positions, but they are not bat-shit crazy like the GOP. That has to count for something. Additionally, I no longer have to read posts by the 24% crowd calling me a “true conservative” with quotes o’sarcasm (you know who they are). Not any more, bitches. I repudiate you, your party, and whatever the fuck it is you are currently pretending is “conservatism.” It isn’t.

Now send me my check from Soros and the 40 virgins.

Hmm. I suspect that as more former Republicans do this, the Democratic Party will move to the right. Cole is, actually, a conservative, and like some other conservatives is pissed that the Republican Party is no longer representing the conservative ideology.

Interesting situation.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at October 31, 2007 01:11 PM

Well, good heavens, I just checked Cole's site this morning, and Doug is right---dpu

Damn skippy I was right.

Additionally, I no longer have to read posts by the 24% crowd calling me a “true conservative” with quotes o’sarcasm. --- The 'true' conservative.

If I recall the percentage of people identifying themselves as Republican is now somewhere around 30% give or take. So by Cole's own figures, at least 80% of 'conservatives' believe him to be a non-conservative 'tool'. How right they are.

Majority rules. In this case a SUPER-DUPER MAJORITY. Theory is theory ; real is real.

May I say John --- welcome to the asylum. You finally 'fit'. I wish you well. Sign on to Move-on.clueless now and be happy. You will have 'arrived'. No more annoyances from that 24% crowd. LOL.

And dpu if you think Cole is the 'true conservative', and will be followed by many others to the bear-pit that is the current Democrat Party, good luck with that one. The Democrats will 'move right' when they PURGE in its entirety the barking mad wing of the Party and not a moment before. And since the moon-bats-r-them --- not gonna happen. If it was likely to be 'moving right', then the panderess-in-charge would be having a Sister Soljah moment with the usual suspects instead of fawning over them at every opportunity. Cole is a perfect fit for them. His 'style' will slide into its new place almost seamlessly.

ps --- I was 'right' about the TNR thingy as well. Since you are in a confessional mood and all.

Posted by: dougf at October 31, 2007 01:52 PM

Yes, Cole is interesting. He's kind of a mirror image of myself, as is Andrew Sullivan.

One difference between me and Cole is that I'm not going to switch parties over my irritation with those I used to affiliate with (on the left). The middle suits me better than the left or the right. I doubt I'll have to repudiate the middle as a bunch of extremist nutjobs and feel betrayed by them unless I become an extremist nutjob myself -- a rather unlikely event at this point in my life.

If the political center is against me, I find it a bit humbling rather than infuriating. I won't necessarily change my mind because of it, but I will refrain from shrieking against the majority. It's unseemly outside the context of a country going the way of Nazi Germany where the majority really does go off the rails.

No matter who wins the next presidential election, it is extraordinarily unlikely that I will join whichever "hater" camp inevitably erupts.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 31, 2007 02:03 PM

Michael,

Bought House to House yesterday. Read it in one sitting. Sat for about two hours in complete silence. Seriously, thank you for bringing this to my attention. Great read. I can't believe there is not more media about this story.

Hand to hand fighting in 2004? This is insanity.

This book is right up there with Black Hawk Down and I would say better. This is certainly not a PRO WAR book.

I read a ton. This is the best book on urban warfare ever written.

Posted by: bryan columbo at October 31, 2007 02:11 PM

The middle suits me better than the left or the right..

If the political center is against me, I find it a bit humbling rather than infuriating. I won't necessarily change my mind because of it, but I will refrain from shrieking against the majority. It's unseemly outside the context of a country going the way of Nazi Germany where the majority really does go off the rails.--mjt

Could not agree more. Lunacy is remarkably unattractive no matter whose loons are ascendant.

As DPU said (this time correctly) I am a strict one issue( WOT) person at this moment, and everything defines itself from that. In everything else I define myself as 'pragmatic' or 'utilitarian'. Whatever works best for the most for the least cost is okey-dokey by me. Left-right. Conservative-liberal. Couldn't really care less. They are all pretty meaningless now anyway except as a short-hand for the WAR. Everyone pretty much does the exact same things, they just
'talk' about them differently.

Frankly were it not for the WOT, I wouldn't even bother about 'politics'. Waste of time and inevitably dispiriting.

Posted by: dougf at October 31, 2007 02:20 PM

Bryan Columbo,

This is certainly not a PRO WAR book.

In the sense that David Bellavia is three orders of magnitude more complex than any character Chuck Norris attempted to play, you are correct. That no Hollywood script writer has ever conveyed such deep levels of internal conflict as Bellavia included in each chapter, you are correct. In that nobody has conveyed such humility while describing his own incredible courage, you are correct.

However, SSG Bellavia's tremendous commitment to service with honor and the leadership of his command is distinctly at odds with any anti-war work I have ever read. I would recommend this book to anybody interested in serving in the infantry (Army or Marines). Not because it would scare them off, but because it would better prepare them mentally for the commitment.

House to House is not about glory, but it certainly is about honor.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at October 31, 2007 03:13 PM

You might need to reread the exchange, rosignol, but use a sarcastic upper class British accent when you read my comment.
-DPU

That's how most of your posts come across. Sarcasm mixed with condescension.

Is it deliberate?

-----

Still, do not underestimate them. They can't shoot straight, but they have seized and all but destroyed entire cities. Having seen their handiwork myself in Ramadi (not to mention New York), I can't not take them seriously.
-MJT

Ruthlessness and a willingness to employ suicidal tactics counts for a lot on the battlefield, at least in the short term. In the long term, it tends to be self-defeating. See WW2, Pacific Theater for a non-middle-eastern example of how it played out...

I will not. I've seen what happens to blog comment sections where the hosts are tolerant of rudeness. The whole place goes to hell because reasonable people are driven away.
-MJT

This approach is directly responsible for the quality of the comments here. The jerks (usually) get run off fairly quickly.

-----

In vietnam if you shot someone with a M16 it would turn the muscle to jelly and if it hit a bone in an extremity the limb would be pretty much ripped off. One to two hits in the body would put anyone down and they would stay down as the internal organs would be pretty much pureed. That is not happening now.
- H. Short

I'm not sure that was the usual result. What usually happened was that the round would fragment and little bits of metal would make holes in lots of places, which meant the target usually had a lot of internal bleeding, and passed out fairly quickly- the effect is similar to the frangible handgun rounds like glazers or magsafes.

I read somewhere that during the Clinton admin they change the metal composition of the slug and it would seem they also changed its aerodynamics to eliminate the tumbling effect when it hits.
- H. Short

Yeah, the military is switching from copper-jacketed lead to tungsten, supposedly for environmental reasons. I am skeptical of this rationale. Back in the '90s were a great many efforts by gun control groups to shut down shooting ranges (to prevent lead contamination in groundwater, etc), and I am inclined to think Clinton was just throwing a group of supporters a bone via executive order.

I wouldn't be at all surprised if the tungsten rounds had less fragmentation, an object composed of two different materials is more likely to separate under stress than one homogeneous object, but I do not think that was the intent behind the switch.

I don't think there were any changes to the shape of the round.

-----

I always thought the 20mm HE was a good round and one we rather enjoyed loading onto various delivery vehicles. Kind of hard for a GI to carry many of them though :).
-Ron Snyder

I'm kinda partial to the 1600 caliber rounds the Navy used to use. They're not exactly suited to precision marksmanship, tho, and I have yet to see an infantryman who could carry one. The Mk.82 is also good, but has a similar problem re precision and portability. ; )

-----

re "I refuse to get into a 'Cole' discussion."
-dougf

John Cole is most emphatically not the same person as Juan Cole. One is worth reading, the other is a waste of time, various people will have varying opinions as to which is which. All I suggest is reading carefully enough to be sure which Cole is being discussed.

-----

OT. It looks like the US (and the bad guys for that matter) are going to reap a generation of combat hardened urban fighters and new tactics out of this conflict. Given the fact that asymmetric warfare is likely in the near future, this is a good thing that comes with a VERY high price tag.
-Melkor

I expect the long-term result to be the US military gaining as much of a reputation for effectiveness at urban warfare and counterinsurgency as it has in conventional conflicts.

I think this will ultimately be a good thing, as those inclined to oppose the US by force will be left with no appealing military options, and will hopefully decide to use diplomatic means of opposing the US instead of force.

-----

I may be talking out my ass here, but I am under the impression that the 5.56 was switched to at the time that it became the standard NATO round.
-Joe

It's much messier than that.

Originally, the US was using the M14, which was an evolution of the M1 Garand, which was the standard infantry rifle used in WW2. The M14 fired 7.62 NATO, and to simplify logistical considerations, the US basically told everyone else in NATO to pick a 7.62 rifle because that's what kind of ammo the US would be supplying if the cold war went hot. So they did, and for a little while, everything was peachy.

The British protested that a smaller intermediate cartridge would be a better idea, as infantrymen would be able to carry more rounds and it would be more controllable when fired full-auto.... but the Pentagon had made up it's mind, and that was that. Our NATO allies decided less-than-ideal rounds you could get in vast quantities would be better than ideal rounds you didn't have, so 7.62 it was.

Time passed, and the Pentagon decided to switch from the M14 to the M16, chambered in 5.56.... a smaller, intermediate cartridge that was more controllable than 7.62 when fired full-auto.

Our NATO allies (especially the British) were unhappy about this decision, to put it mildly... you'd think the British would be happy that the Pentagon had eventually seen the light and decided they were correct after all, but noooo... ; D

Many NATO members eventually decided to switch to 5.56 rifles, but some stuck with 7.62 rifles... just another example of why NATO should stand for "Not Able To Organize".

Posted by: rosignol at October 31, 2007 03:40 PM

DougF: And dpu if you think Cole is the 'true conservative', and will be followed by many others to the bear-pit that is the current Democrat Party, good luck with that one.

Please define "conservatism", Doug, without reference to foreign policy.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at October 31, 2007 04:17 PM
That's how most of your posts come across. Sarcasm mixed with condescension.

Is it deliberate?

No more deliberate than your snideness, I think.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at October 31, 2007 04:19 PM

rosignol,

The M-14 also had some considerable production quality problems that reduced the desirability of the weapon. The original plan was to make it a light machine gun as well as a battle rifle, but 12 pound LMGs firing full powered 7.62×51mm rounds are not accurate when produced in quantity. (Some aftermarket M-14E's are reported to be very accurate, but I strongly suspect that is the result of decades of superior gunsmithing overcoming feature creep.)

Anyway, on full auto fire, M-14's were found to be about as accurate as the much lighter and cheaper M-3 "grease gun" SMG at 100 yards. It was also found that the proof ammunition was insufficiently accurate, so the match-grade weapons couldn't qualify when test fired. Then came the hilarity when Senator Byrd (I'm pretty sure it was the Kleagle.) tried to get a contract for M-14s to be built in a factory that was actually a vacant lot. Eventually, so much trouble arose out of the development and fielding of the weapon that they just scrapped it.

Fortunately, some really clever gunsmiths in the Marine Corps knew that with a little fixing, they could produce a hell of a rifle out of the M-14, and they made the M-21. This accurized M-14 was heavier, more expensive, and deadly as hell. The Special Forces and Sniper communities kept them around and eventually they have proved their worth again.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at October 31, 2007 06:31 PM

Please keep reading and policing your comments, Michael -- your own consistency keeps them readable yet not a choir.

Since almost everything you've been serious about writing has seemed good to great to me, I haven't been able to constructively criticize as much as might be good for your improvement -- but most anti-war leftist criticism here seems pretty factually weak, if much less rude.

I think most conservatives avoid the f* word, tho not as much as everybody has to now avoid the n* word. Funny how "free speech" objections to obscenity restraint don't count in relation to racism restraint.

What has been "the heavy cost" of the Iraqi war?
Really. Some 4000 US soldier deaths in Iraq -- how many armed forces personnel died under Pres. Clinton, 1993-1997? Only if it was less than 500 or so, an ORDER OF MAGNITUDE, would I agree that the US has suffered such a heavy cost.

The 2500 murdered civilians of 9/11 was a much higher cost of the failed Clinton intelligence "wall", as well as a huge anti-freedom success. Not every anti-freedom success is really a pro-freedom failure.

It's sad, but no big surprise, that few are willing to quantify in death counts what big success, small success, small failure, or big failure look like. Fuzzy definitions for most allows them to choose the adjective of the day, of their mood, of their whim.

I really hope anti-war, true conservative small gov't Ron Paul does well with Reps, and starts attacking the anti-war Dems as secretly pro-war hypocrites for supporting pro-war Hillary. Even tho I've been very much pro-Op Iraqi Freedom.

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad at October 31, 2007 08:09 PM

I read Bellavia's House to House in hardcover a month ago on two consecutive nights sitting in a Borders' Books. It is a gripping work on more than one level, as others have suggested above. Patrick Laswell's 3:13 comments on the manner in which it can be interpreted as a pro-war book seem to me the best so far in this comment string.

Instead of spouting off about a book he hasn't even read, DPU ought to simply pick it up. If money is the issue, I read it for free in a Borders'. DPU, we can certainly survive without your commentary for a few days if you want to actually take the time and read Bellavia's book. Informing yourself might, in fact, improve your comments here.

By the way, I saw Bellavia on C-Span over the weekend.

*

Posted by: Jeffrey -- New York at October 31, 2007 10:31 PM

Rosignol wrote: "What usually happened was that the round would fragment and little bits of metal would make holes in lots of places... the military is switching from copper-jacketed lead to tungsten, supposedly for environmental reasons."

Actually it fragmented or deformed tremendously because it tumbled upon impact, expending its kinetic energy quite suddenly and liberally. Exit wounds were not neat punctures, but large holes. You're right that tungsten is being substituted for lead. Lots of problems here, in that tungsten, besides being lighter doesn't have the deformational nor fragmentation characteristics of lead. All that might affect the tumbling effect, but it doesn't seem very likely. It seems more likely considering the 'concern for the environment over the welfare of the troops' mind set of the Clinton administration that orders were given to 'de-tumble' the round to make it more 'humane'...

"It's much messier than that... infantrymen would be able to carry more rounds and it would be more controllable when fired full-auto.."

All of which are irrelevant issues and which since WWII have lead to the sorriest designs for military rifles imaginable - the ultimate expression of which that I know of was the XM-29. In short the holy grail of post WWII military rifle designers has been to eliminate muzzle climb so weapons can be fired full auto, all the while ignoring basic ergonomics and common sense.

In the pursuit of this idiocy pistol grips became standard ala the AK-47, so that the barrel and shoulder stock could communicate in a straight line from muzzle to shoulder. Because of this the iron sights had to be elevated to eye level and before anyone knew it military rifles mutated an absolutely worthless carrying handle over the breech that only those later caught dead ever used.

The full pistol grip on a rifle is an utter abomination. There is an excellent reason it is called a pistol grip - it's designed for pistols which don't have shoulder stocks. A rifle is supposed to be designed so it becomes an extension of your arm, held at semi-port as you walk, with your wrists and hands in a natural position, from which it will flow to the shoulder smoothly and effortlessly. Or it can be carried easily with one hand and thrown into position quickly and naturally. Pistol grips force you to carry the rifle in completely unnatural positions: the rifle titled on its side in a semi-port position or the arm encircling the stock both of which cause the wrist to bend at a unnatural and uncomfortable angle, or with the barrel pointed straight ahead and down with the butt above the shoulder. In no case can a rifle with a pistol grip be brought into play as fast as one with a modified pistol grip such as found on the M1 carbine; and trying to carry one with one hand is a joke. There are very straight forward reasons nobody makes hunting rifles or shotguns with pistol grips.

And after fifty years of all this nonsense there is no modern light weight military rifle which can be fired on full auto from the shoulder or hip and kept on target - although John Browning's nearly 20 pound BAR of almost a hundred years ago could do it through a whole 30 round clip. And guess what? There is no, and never has been any reason to do so. Twenty and thirty round clips in rifles operating at 600 rounds per minute on full auto don't last long. Rifles only need a single shot and a three round burst capability - if you want suppressive fire use a machine gun. Rifles are for accurately reaching out and killing other soldiers one at a time, and at close quarters they need to be brought into play quickly without thought or effort. Carrying handles, pistol grips, and all this other hog wash simply screws up the ergonomics and cost men their lives.

Posted by: H. Short at October 31, 2007 11:00 PM

Okay, I found the C-Span link to the video of Bellavia's talk from last weekend.

Talk given by David Bellavia and recorded by C-Span.

*

Posted by: Jeffrey -- New York at October 31, 2007 11:19 PM

"I'm a citizen of the USA. This is my civic activism. Mike's in the public sphere. I have opinions re good or bad journalism - journalism that helps or hinders public understanding - and I'm here to see my standards upheld."

Eeeeew! How can people talk like this about themselves?!

It used to be that people may have privately thought of themselves in such preening, smug, self-important terms, but they didn't go around farting it out in public.

Now, people are so crude they proudly say things like this out loud.

It's depressing how degraded our discourse has become.

Posted by: Tom W. at November 1, 2007 12:14 AM

"Blow it out your a**."

Glad to see your coming around, glasnost. This is perhaps the most cogent, thoughtful and insightful thing you have yet posted.

Posted by: Gary Rosen at November 1, 2007 12:41 AM

your = you're

Posted by: Gary Rosen at November 1, 2007 12:42 AM

Tom W.:

glasnost is just trying to uphold his standards:
"Blow it out your a**".

Posted by: Gary Rosen at November 1, 2007 12:44 AM

Hmmm, must be the Halloween influence.

The WWII vets I've spoken with were quite pleased with the M1; I cannot remember hearing a complaint about a lack of kinetic energy from the M1 (or the M14 for that matter). My father liked the M1, though he favored a machine gun for house-to-house fighting while he walked from France to Germany.

What a tangled web we weave.

Posted by: Ron Snyder at November 1, 2007 05:25 AM

mary: "So we know that we're fighting an enemy that can't shoot straight; an enemy that, collectively, has fewer weapons and less skill than any military force we've fought since the country was founded. In this war more than most, FDR was right. The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."

That wasn't the way it worked on Sep 11. Even though the skyjackers were only marginally competent and armed only with box cutters, there was more to fear than simply fear itself. Their incompetence and weakness is why they are terrorists. Terrorism is a strategy of the weak and incompetent.

Al Qaeda and the Baathist insurgents are not so different than other people we have fought. They remind me a lot of the Apaches in that they avoid pitched battles, prefer ambushes, and employ gruesome terror against their opponents and passers by. We have also fought many an opponent who was equally incompetent in the small wars the Marines fought in Central America in the 1920s and 1930s.

Of course we can beat them, but not if we dismiss their threat.

Posted by: Tantor at November 1, 2007 06:31 AM

Of course we can beat them, but not if we dismiss their threat.

I don't think we should dismiss them, but we should try to reasonably evaluate their strengths and weaknesses without being distracted by smoke, frightwigs and mirrors.

Posted by: mary at November 1, 2007 08:01 AM

It's on the way. this excerpt makes me even more eager to read it. I look forward to reading any book Michael Totten puts out as well.

Posted by: Matthew Murphy at November 1, 2007 08:43 AM

mary,

Smoke, mirrors, and fright wigs are the bread, butter, and jam of terrorist activities. The definition of terrorism is the use of asymmetric force to make up for lack of organizational and material strength. (Anybody who has written the movement orders for a company strength deployment is welcome to tell me that AQ has stronger organization, if they can do so with a straight face. )

Please keep in mind that organizational strength is a massive force multiplier. The German High Command (OKW) outfought anybody they faced in WWII by about a 5 to 1 margin. The Germans fielded much better Captains, much better Sargeants, and tremendously better staff officers. I do not want to confuse the reader with the political structure they were fighting for because they probably would have fought about that well in the cause of liberal democracy; probably better if their political leader wasn't a flatulent hypochondriac with delusions of godhood.

With that in mind, US troops today would beat their German WWII counterparts like a drum, even if armed comparably. Our training, organizational, and leadership doctrines are incredibly good. In case AQ did not know that before, they certainly know it now. After Fallujah, Baqubah, and Ramadi they must be aware they cannot win a stand up fight with our troops.

All AQ has left is smoke, mirrors, and fright wigs. IEDs are not effective tools in controlling territory. (Neither was retreating to the FOBs, but we've fixed that.) Because they are so organizationally weak, individual elements do not know how badly AQ is losing, so we will continue to see activity. But they are not going to hold dirt or drive their stated goals in Iraq. So they will roll out every illusion of power they can create in the coming months.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at November 1, 2007 09:17 AM

The German High Command (OKW) outfought anybody they faced in WWII by about a 5 to 1 margin.

As measured by casualties? Or how?

After Fallujah, Baqubah, and Ramadi they must be aware they cannot win a stand up fight with our troops.

I would think was well known long before these conflicts. The War of the Flea has been a fairly well-known formal strategy for fighting large conventional forces for at least a century.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at November 1, 2007 09:59 AM

Our training, organizational, and leadership doctrines are incredibly good. In case AQ did not know that before, they certainly know it now. After Fallujah, Baqubah, and Ramadi they must be aware they cannot win a stand up fight with our troops.

That's true, but al Qaeda in Iraq is only a small part of the larger terrorist infrastructure. This infrastructure is not organized in the same way that the Axis powers were organized, but it does exist and it is still at war with many nations around the world.

Smoke and mirrors allows terrorism's military and political structure to control the press - how many American media outlets published the Danish cartoons? How many movies have been made that are critical of existing terrorist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood, or of the Saudi allies who paid for 9/11?

Smoke and mirrors allows those same allies to avoid prosecution for their criminal activities. How many Saudis have been arrested and convicted for their involvement in 9/11? How many bankers have been arrested for financing terrorism worldwide?

How many media outlets are willing to acknowledge that our Gulf state allies are more responsible for terrorism in Iraq than Iran is?

We're only letting our very capable military forces attack a tiny percentage of the total enemy out there. If we destroy AQ in Iraq, they'll just pack their bags and move back to Pakistan.

We won't attack AQ, the Muslim Brotherhood or their supporters in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Europe, Asia, Egypt or America, even though we're more than capable of destroying them, with or without the use of overwhelming force. More passive reaction to their smoke and mirrors.

Posted by: mary at November 1, 2007 10:01 AM

I am no gun expert, and what I am about to say comes from the mouth of my brother an 18 year Army veteran, who served most of his career in the 82nd and is now in the 1st CAV, presently serving his third tour in Iraq.

My brother entered the Army as an E-1, and is presently an O-3, and has served as an sniper on LRRP teams and has fired the M-16, M-4, M-60, SAW, Remington 700, Colt 45, 9mm, and the Barret 50 during his service. He hates the M-16, M-4, and 9mm because they don't pack enough "punch".

During combat he fires 1 to three round bursts but mostly single shots. He hates that the target he shoots does not drop on impact. He has explained to me that it makes him question his marksmanship, if only for a second, when upon later inspection of the fallen enemy it is clear that he has indeed hit his target on several occasions.

My father, a former police officer, has made similer comments about firearms.

It seems to me that if we will be engaged in urban warfare for the forseeable future our troops should have a weapon similer to the GI's of WWII. The Colt .45 as a side arm, and a modern machine gun like the Thompson, for urban street sweeping, in combination with the standard infantry assault rifle for marksmanship at 300 meters.

I know the logistics guys in the military prefer not to have too many different types of rounds to supply but why not use a 7.62 and the .45 rather than the .223 and 9mm we use today?

Also, I remember the old argument that it is better to wound the enemy than to kill them in order to cause the enemy to use resources to care for their wonded. But this argument only works if the enemy cares about their wounded. I dont think these suicidal jihadis care about wounded, so we're better off just killing them quickly in combat without further risk to our troops.

Shouldnt we ditch the small calibur rounds? Just a thought.

Posted by: Stephen at November 1, 2007 10:19 AM

Patrick, would like to see your source on the 5:1 ratio. I would buy it in say, the beginning of US troops in combat at the Kasserine Pass, but sure as hell that ratio was not true later in the war on either the Western or Eastern Front.

Offense vs Defense? Terrain? New troops vs combat vets?

Throwing out that kind of statement without qualifying it is very misleading.

Posted by: Ron Snyder at November 1, 2007 10:56 AM

DPU and Ron Snyder,

A Genius for War: The German Army and General Staff, 1807-1945 by R. Ernest Dupuy (Author), Trevor N. Dupuy (Author)
http://www.amazon.com/Genius-War-German-General-1807-1945/dp/0963869213/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1/103-4390927-5315008?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1193940208&sr=8-1

From the Publisher
Since the Prussian armies of Frederick the Great achieved their amazing victories in the mid-18th century, the Prussian and German armies have established the standard of military excellence against which the performance of all other armies has been measured. This widely acclaimed book explores the reasons behind th e excellence of German fighting forces, and attributes much of this skill to the Prussian and German General Staffs. The author 's hypotheses are substantiated in brilliant analyses of German performance in victory and defeat.

Upon review, I have to restate my original claim. The German General Staff out-generaled everybody they fought 5 to 1. With our advantages in air superiority and material we were able to cut their overall advantage to only a 30% on every fight recorded.

Think about that, when outnumbered, under-supplied, with enigma code broken, under constant air attack, and a flatulent nutbar on cocaine in charge, the Germans were outfighting us every time. This may not be exactly 5 to 1, but it is a considerable margin that deserves consideration.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at November 1, 2007 11:18 AM

Patrick, that answered Ron's question, but not mine. When you say outfought by a ratio, a ratio of what? Tactical victories? Casualties?

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at November 1, 2007 11:30 AM

DPU,

The German General Staff was roughly five times as effective in its duties than anyone they faced. Putting this into perspective, Rommel's staff was outperforming Montgomery's staff five to one. This is according to mathmatical analysis of the effectiveness of the forces.

Even though we outproduced the Germans tremendously, broken their codes starting in 1940, had naval supremacy by 1943, air supremacy by 1944, and much better civilian leadership throughout, they still outfought us by 30%. They put more troops in the right places with the right equipment, clear mission, and available supplies faster than we did, consistently throughout the war.

This disparity is why we kept a large professional military after the war. We simply could not afford to yield that leadership advantage again. The platonic ideal of citizen soldiers does not work to help field mechanized brigades. The skill set is too particular.

You might better understand this point if you read David Bellavia's book. He has some important thoughts on leadership and concrete examples of its application.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at November 1, 2007 12:15 PM

The M16 was introduced to combat Marines at Khe Sanh. There previous rifle became preferred because Marines were found dead cleaning their M16s in a combat situation. As opposed to the AK-47, they didn't fire dirty. The M16 round would tumble and deliver a more destructive wound. This fit with our combat doctrine of shooting for mid chest, that is over aorta near the heart. A near miss was likely to be effective. The AK-47 round made a cleaner wound. Communist doctrine in VN was to make a single head shot between the eyes. That could take out the medulla. Much of a miss and you've got nothing. Maybe against the targets we're facing we should, in part, adopt the AK-47 and doctrine. If Mikhail Kalishnokov won't take a 'patent' fee, maybe we could leave it in trust for his descendants. I understand that soldiers learn the sound of rifles; this might create a problem of telling friend from foe in maneuver.

Posted by: michael at November 1, 2007 12:22 PM

You might better understand this point if you read David Bellavia's book.

I'm mostly curious about how the measurement of effectiveness was performed. It seems like an impossibly complex (or incredibly subjective) task. An obvious criteria would be number of casualties vs number of committed troops, but that's simplistic, and ignores a host of other factors.

It's unlikely that I'll get an opportunity to read the book in the near future, but I'll add it to my backlog list.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at November 1, 2007 12:47 PM

"The likes of Jim Harris and - worse - Alphie and "Hezbollah Lover," aren't up to the job." Proffesor Michael J Totten

So you still remember me?

Just to say something before I go. This book seems like a very nice read. I bought it and am waiting for it to be delivered. Also, I left you a 5pounds (I dont know how many dollars that makes right now - something like 8.50 or 9?) donation, but left it annonymous.

Finally, the part about incompetent fighters in the Midle East etc, I totally agree. The only thing you forgot to mention is the exception - Hezbollah.

You have to admire their skills in combat, will-power, organisation, level of training and power.

The most powerful guerilla group the world has ever seen and the very first to be comfortable in its comfort and ability to fight a conventional war with both guerilla and conventional tactics.

Anyways, byezz.

Posted by: Hezbollah Lover at November 1, 2007 01:30 PM

Hezbollah: the finest dogs Persia ever bought.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at November 1, 2007 02:42 PM

Just to say something before I go. This book seems like a very nice read. I bought it and am waiting for it to be delivered.--Hez

You have to admire their skills in combat, will-power, organization, level of training and power.--Hez

Hey I don't agree with much of Mr Lover's worldview but even I have to admit two things here.

He seems to have better taste in books than some ( cough, cough -- glasnost-- cough ,cough ), and is willing to read something written even by the 'enemy' if it looks good. And like it or not Hezbollah is a damn effective fighting force. I regret that but I'm sure not going to deny it. It's also a fascist-like POS, but that takes nothing away from its military effectiveness.

All in all this was one of Mr.Lover's better postings.

Posted by: dougf at November 1, 2007 03:23 PM

dougf,

Hezbollah has, with extravagant external support, managed to hold minor amounts of extensively prepared ground against indecisive action. They have not done well on deployment, and their ability to achieve stable end state is non-existent. Hezbollah is exceptional rabble fighting on prepared ground.

We have not seen them interoperate with allied forces or even their own units in coordinated action. We have not seen them effectively interdict enemy supply lines, even with tens of thousands of bombardment rockets. We have not seen them defend effectively from unexpected direction of march. We have not seen them take and hold opposed ground.

I expect that Hezbollah would hold firm for no more than two weeks against a reinforced MEU if proper air support was provided. Most of that time would be spent in mine clearence. After that, they would be ground round.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at November 1, 2007 03:55 PM

Patrick:

And you don't think the tens of thousands of air raids, shelling and 40,000 IDF troops attacking dozens of villages spontaneously - with some being dropped behind Hezbollah lines (remember, trying to reach the Litany river stage?) - Hezbollah still held the IDF out of Maroon Al Ras, Bint Jbeil and Aita Al-Sha'b for 34 days of fighting - even though all three are no more than a few kilometres from the Israeli border.

If you ever studied the placements of Israeli soldiers - especially after their final 72-hour push north - you would find they were never on the strategic placements and villages such as hilltops or in village centres, but rather in empty spaces where no villages, population or strategic placements are available. They held land where resistance would never have existed due to Hezbollahs combat style.

Also, sometimes to win a battle or war, some posts need to be abandoned to lure the opposing army towards a much more fortified and mobilised (militantly) area, centre or village.

Anyways, Hezbollah could eventually be beaten by the IDF in the conventional fighting manner. But then they would have to face a pre-2000 guerilla war of attrition - the type of wars Israel can not handle.

Posted by: Hezbollah Lover at November 1, 2007 05:39 PM

Guerilla wars depend upon a supporting population. Without Persian money, Hezbollah has no supporting population. The populace they claim as their own has insufficient resources to draw from to support 1/10th of force Hezbollah fields. Hezbollah is a war whore, they have no visible means of support except violence. There is no discernible functional difference between Hezbollah and brigands.

Brigands traditionally survive because it is too difficult to squash them until it becomes a requirement to destroy them. Now that AQI is on the run like the dogs they are, how long do you suppose Hezbollah has? Unlike AQ, Hezbollah is not in Central Asia with mountains to fall back into.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at November 1, 2007 08:35 PM

Hezbollah can last a long time as long as the Iranian money keeps coming in. Around 70 percent of Lebanon's Shias support them, in large part because of their patronage system.

They're nasty, but nowhere near as bad as the militias in Iraq. Remmember, I've been in their headquarters. They were rude to me (to put it mildly), but I won't be showing up at AQI headquarters, ever, if such a thing even exists.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at November 1, 2007 09:09 PM

AQI command post:

Take one 4 door sedan, in it put one person on a cell, one loading magazines, one riding shotgun, and one driver wishing he had slept in.lol

On a serious note, just finished the book today. SSGT Bellavia did a wonderful job of capturing the qualities of small unit leadership and overall brotherhood of soldiers. For me, the most poignant moment came in the epilogue. I won't spoil it for those who have yet to read the book or finish it, but I did get choked up.

Patrick:
Did the book touch on the supply issue, i.e. the Germans had smaller lines compared to the allies. I just have a hard time wrapping my mind around the idea that the German commanders were just that much superior considering the only thing stopping the Allied advance through France were re-supply issues, not German tactics.

Posted by: Kevin Schurig at November 1, 2007 09:58 PM

Kevin Schurig,

The Germans were using horse transport from rail lines for much of WWII. Even with mid-19th century tactical supply lines, they were routinely outperforming mid-20th century supplied armies. Their staff officer methodology was that much better.

Think about it in different terms, the British Army shredded most of their mid-level officer corps in trenches 20 year previously. The US Army mustered fewer than 175,000 men in 1939, so probably 17-18K officers, including pilots. In 1944 they probably mustered more than 6,000,000 troops. They lacked staff cohesion in any measurable quantity.

We won WWII because we didn't quit, we outproduced everybody else including our allies , and we fought as westerners. We also only faced 25 divisions of Germans during WWII. If the Russians hadn't been soaking 3/4ths of the German army, our task would have been much more tedious.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at November 1, 2007 10:59 PM

"If Mikhail Kalishnokov won't take a 'patent' fee, maybe we could leave it in trust for his descendants."

I think Kalashnikov's patent never belonged to Kalashnikov. He got paid by state once and that was it. He might have gotten few non-monetary extras from state, though.

Posted by: leo at November 2, 2007 05:41 AM

I am not ready to compare HA to AQ just yet.

While both are guerilla forces HA is also people's militia while AQ is not. It makes world of difference to me.

Accusing HA of accepting Iranian money is irrelevant. Israel is not exactly self-sufficient either.

"Hezbollah: the finest dogs Persia ever bought."

This is what might finally do them in.

As long as they are capable of convincing Lebanese that they are fighting for Lebanon they are safe. Once it is gone so will they.

Posted by: leo at November 2, 2007 06:34 AM

Accusing HA of accepting Iranian money is irrelevant. Israel is not exactly self-sufficient either.

Indeed. And how much money has Saudi Arabia pumped into their own proxy parties in Lebanon?

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at November 2, 2007 09:29 AM

"Around 70 percent of Lebanon's Shias support them"

What? Every single poll I have ever seen, whether its asking about the politics, policies, economics or military of Hezbollah, at least 90-93% of the Shia had a favourable view towards Hezbollah.

Posted by: Hezbollah Lover at November 2, 2007 11:16 AM

DPU,

While I certainly do not approve of Saudi Arabia's extension of the Wahabi world view, their money going towards Lebanon does not arrive in the form of land mines and katyusha rockets. Moral equivalence only goes so far, and while we can all despise fundamentalist madrassas, they are meaningfully less evil than actual explosive terror weapons.

As much as we (justifiably) decry the intolerant world view spreading from Mecca while in Saudi hands, the Wahabi's are singularly ineffective in taking and holding ground. The fundamentalist Shia are investing their blood money in direct action, and that matters more.

If you are calling on the people of the West to invest serious coin in countering Wahabi religious colonialism, I support you right up to the point where you start taking money away from ongoing operations against Shia military colonialism.

Honestly, what do you think about developing free internet kiosks for rural islamic areas as a method of combatting fundamentalism?

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at November 2, 2007 11:23 AM

Say what?

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at November 2, 2007 12:12 PM

I'm not sure what that comment was about, Patrick. Fundamentalist madrassas? Free internet kiosks? Religious colonialism?

I was pointing out that Iran is not the only regional power pumping money into Lebanese politics and militias. Was that wrong?

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at November 2, 2007 12:16 PM

DPU,

1. The character of the money matters. Saudi money is not coming as terror weapons.
2. If you want to spend money countering Saudi fundamentalism, I'm game. But we shouldn't short money going to stop Shia murderers so we can stop Sunni clerics who aren't all that effective in generating murderers.
3. From left field, do you think free internet access would help in rural Islamic areas to counter fundamentalism?

Does that help?

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at November 2, 2007 12:23 PM

1. The character of the money matters. Saudi money is not coming as terror weapons.

Last time I checked, land mines and rockets are not terror weapons unless you think that every army on the face of the earth is using terror weapons. The way that Hezbollah used their rockets on Israel can be considered a war crime, but again, unguided rockets are used in this manner by many of the world's armies. And if they were using more precise weapons to on purely military targets, would they then not be considered to be using terror weapons?

How much of Iranian money is being spent on weaponry vs. Hezbollah's civic works, which they have certainly used to built their political support? And how much money have the Saudi royals brought into the country to influence the politics there? How much of that goes to militias?

2. If you want to spend money countering Saudi fundamentalism, I'm game.

Huh? Not that I'm opposed to that, but where on earth did that come from? The point was that more than just the Iranians are putting money into Lebanon to influence politics. What does that have to do with fundamentalism?

3. From left field, do you think free internet access would help in rural Islamic areas to counter fundamentalism?

I have no idea what this has to do with anything, or even what it means.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at November 2, 2007 12:41 PM

DPU,

Land mines are used by the US as barriers in places where terrain provide insufficient defense. This is substantially different from Hezbollah, which uses landmines as ambush and terror devices. Marked minefields, good. Sudden eruptions of the roadbed, bad.

The US Army MLRS has a circular error of probability (CEP) is measured in meters. Hezbollah's range maximized Katyusha's have a CEP measured in kilometers. The firing of an MLRS rocket into combat is a reasonable moral choice, since it is very unlikely to hit unintended targets. Hezbollah frequently hit their own people and villages in 2006. Your moral equivalence is more elastic than Mr. Fantastic.

As a reference, last summer Michael was noticeably safer from Katyusha bombardment when he was close to the Israeli Army than when he was in an Israeli civilian town. Use of a weapon in a terrorist attack makes it a terrorist weapon. Since Iran is providing the same kinds of weapons to Hezbollah, it appears that they are happy with the terrorist doctrine.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at November 2, 2007 02:48 PM

Marked minefields, good. Sudden eruptions of the roadbed, bad.

As a supporter of a complete ban on all land mines, I agree. But are you implying that the intent of Hezbollah mines are to blow up Lebanese civilians? Or are invading Israeli forces the target? If the former, then yes, they are terrorist weapons. If the latter, then they are not.

Hezbollah frequently hit their own people and villages in 2006. Your moral equivalence is more elastic than Mr. Fantastic.

From past experience, I've noted that you often skim posts quickly. In addition, you seem to have a loud internal dialog that seems to interfere with what you are actually reading. So I suppose that you must be forgiven the fact that you missed where I called their use on Israel a war crime.

Since Iran is providing the same kinds of weapons to Hezbollah, it appears that they are happy with the terrorist doctrine.

If they are able in the future to acquire more precision-guided missiles of the type we saw used on an Israeli ship, and are able to accurately target the Israeli military instead of their shotgun approach of 2006, will we be able to assume the opposite?

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at November 2, 2007 03:41 PM

DPU,

When you fight without uniforms or markings, your actions never rise to the level of war crimes. War Crimes imply jurisdiction and penalties available to a sovereign state. It might seem like splitting hairs to differentiate between legitimate forces who are party to treaties committing infractions of agreed upon codes and unlawful combatants acting without any state sanction to perpetrate atrocity. The difference is important, and I hope you will stop elevating Hezbollah's actions beyond their moral scope. International law is mostly imaginary at the best of times, but it functions to keep the barbarians in check. The lack of meaningful punishment of Hezbollah for their actions by the international community makes their actions more pernicious than war crimes.

The lack of state sanction means that Hezbollah's unmarked minefields are dependent on the survival of the local command structure for removal. Unmarked mines are a greater and more imminent threat to mankind than global warming.

Calling for a ban against mines is ludicrous because the underlying technology is so readily obtainable. It is slightly harder to make undetectable mines than it is to make methamphetamines, but only slightly. The only people an outright ban will hurt will be legitimate state entities. The rogue states won't care, they'll just stop printing serial numbers on their mines. The terrorist groups might find it easier to get unmarked mines because the rogue states will be making more of them.

We would be better served by putting some actual teeth behind punishments against indiscriminate use of mines and the nations that facilitate that atrocity.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at November 2, 2007 05:27 PM

He seems to have better taste in books than some [...] and is willing to read something written even by the 'enemy' if it looks good.

He's going to read it because he thinks there is a real chance of facing Americans in battle at some point in the future. He wants to know how we fight so Hizbullah can fight us (or, more likely, people we've trained) more effectively.

Whatever else he and the organization he works for may be, they are not stupid.

Posted by: rosignol at November 2, 2007 07:11 PM

"... at least 90-93% of the Shia had a favourable view towards Hezbollah."

Hezbollah Lover must have been polling Ahmedinejad and his boyfriends. I guess we should take his handle literally.

Posted by: Gary Rosen at November 2, 2007 10:45 PM

DPU, would you be so kind as to educate me as to what material, e.g. mines, are defined as terror weapons?

Thanks,

Posted by: Ron Snyder at November 3, 2007 04:44 AM

What the hell is a 'terror weapon'? Is it a weapon that kills civilians? Or a weapon used by 'terrorists'.

In both cases, most western and alot of Eastern Armies have mastered - and produce - the most terrifying of weapons. A landmine kills one, or maybe two people at any given time. Whereas the 12,000 or so nukes America has, kills hundreds of thousands of people.

America vapourised 300,000 people in Japan, and maimed people in their millions for generations. The British carpet bombed Berlin killing tens of thousands, and in one case hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians.

On the other hand, we have a guy planting a mine to defend his country from invading armies. I have never seen a Hezbollah guy planting a mine to kill another Lebanese civilian. Thats just crazy. Those mines are in Lebanon placed in strategic areas deemed very likely to be crossed by an invading Israeli Army.

If an Israeli soldier is killed by one, that tells you alot about why and how he got killed i.e. the 800kilogram tank mine that blew up the first Merkava to cross into Lebanese lands after the capture of the 2 soldiers. That was a legitimate mine destroying a legitimate target.

So you tell me, which weapon is more 'terrorist'. A katyusha which randomly hits people and military bases (Kfar Giladi, Nahariyya artillery battery, Haifa airbase storage etc) - in which Hezbollah killed 44 civilians with. OR a precision guided nuke that is designed to cause destruction i.e. kill civilians and destroy cities, on a mass scale killing and maiming hundreds of thousands of innocent people per missile?

Now, if you tell me they are strategic weapons there to scare a country's enemies. But, when they are actually used, they are used as a deterrent to enemy moral. They cause high casualties which in turn causes an uproar in the countrys general public etc etc Then my reply is that Hezbollah did the exact same, and Nasrallah said it. He said that Hezbollah does not want nor seek weapons that cause high ammounts of damage or casualties or whatever - even though Hezbollah could most likely get their hands on such weapons considering they have a stockpile of C-802 land-to-sea radar-guided missiles.

Hezbollah uses the Katyusha not as a destructive force, but as a deterrent. This makes the Israelis feel insecure on their own turf. If it gets worse the more their army is bombing in Lebanon, the less satisfied they are with the war, hence public pressure to stop the war. And it worked last time.

Posted by: Hezbollah at November 3, 2007 08:50 AM

The term "terrorist" is becoming so overused that it's almost equivalent to "bogyman" these days.

Unmarked mines are a greater and more imminent threat to mankind than global warming.

Wow. Unmarked mine fields have the potential to displace or kill billions of people? I had no idea the problem was that bad.

However, that does not make them a terrorist weapon. Terrorists are those that use random spectacular attacks on a civilian population in order to cause general terror that serves their political ends. I'm not sure how a minefield, marked or unmarked, aimed at a foreign army fits into that definition.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at November 3, 2007 10:34 AM

Thanks for the book recommendation, MJT. I'm looking forward to reading it.

To all of you, thanks for your comments on the weaponry, the drugs used, etc. I learned a lot.

"Wow. Unmarked mine fields have the potential to displace or kill billions of people? I had no idea the problem was that bad."

It isn't. The mines are, in fact, much worse than Global Warming. More

Posted by: Greg at November 3, 2007 10:57 PM

"What? Every single poll I have ever seen, whether its asking about the politics, policies, economics or military of Hezbollah, at least 90-93% of the Shia had a favourable view towards Hezbollah."

Hezbollah Lover,

I wouldn't be so ego to emphasize these numbers regardless whether they are true or not.

Assigning status of rogue militia to HA is an attempt by Israel not to hold whole of Lebanon responsible for their shenanigans.

I wonder what Israel's behavior would be if they considered HA an extension of LAF.

Posted by: leo at November 5, 2007 05:17 AM

DPU, agree with the overuse of the term "terrorist"; should be Islamic Fanatic, or Muslim Extremist, or Islamic Jihaddist, or... Put lipstick on a pig, it is still a pig (oh wait, that analogy might offend Muslims).

As long as the Muslim Extremists do not get their hands on effective WMD, and we keep fighting them overseas, and there is a continuing effort on the part of mainstream Muslims to clean their own house, the security situation should get better.

Clerics that issue fatwahs condoning terrorist acts should be, umm, severely discriminated againgst. Deported, put in prison, or more severe sanctions.

Dearborn, MI was a place to aspire living in when I lived in that area. Not so much now. Dearbon then (thirty years ago) was in many respects like Cary, NC is now (where I currently live).

Posted by: Ron Snyder at November 7, 2007 03:30 AM

HI all,

A couple of quick comments on various posts.

H.Short said something about "Carrying handles, pistol grips, and all this other hog wash simply screws up the ergonomics and cost men their lives."

The M-4 is not just a "sawed off" M-16.

The barrel twist has been changed to increase the spin on th bullet resulting in almost parallel accuracy to the M-16A4.

The M-4 has eliminated the carrying handle and uses a modular rail system to incorporate various sight systems, be they open optic"point shoot" setups or real scopes, night vision etc...

And while true rifle stocks might be nice for "precision shooting" they are next to useless in close combat where a soldier needs the ability to continue to fight with his weapon in one hand while doing something else with the other, ie.. preparing a fresh mag, talking on the radio etc..

Try clearing a house with tight corners with an M-14 or even standard M-16, and you'll quickly come to appreciate the M-4.

We still teach 500m rifle marksmanship as standard in the Marine Corps, but it don't mean crap in a city. The ability to put lots of rounds down range in a hurry, and re-load quick means your opponent can't get his head up long enough to shoot you with an aimed shot.

The idea behind the M-16 originally is that very few individual riflemen ever kill bad-guys with their weapons. They use volume of fire to keep heads down, then advance and kill them with grenades, or call in air or arty. That or they get them with the heavier weapons (LMG etc..)

The M-4 rocks, and beats the pants off the AK's. I've shot both in bad places, and while I wouldn't hesitate to pick up an AL if I needed to, I'd choose an M-4, even without goodies (sights etc.) any day.

Also the new rounds are heavier to be more stable. They are more accurate as well. The old rounds were never designed to "tumble". This is an urban myth. They sometimes did, and sometimes didn't. Some guys would get hit and drop quick. My dad emptied a magazine into a guy in 'Nam at 20 meters and he still crawled off. Pot luck.

And the guys in Somalia had even less luck with the armor piercing saboted 7.62 rounds for the Mk3 M-60's than they did with the standard 5.56 for the M-243's (SAW's).

Posted by: BenC at November 8, 2007 09:27 AM
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