Monthly Archives: August 2007

Why We Attempt Dangerous Rescues

The national drama about the trapped mine workers is still ongoing. With the accident today that killed 3 and injured more rescue workers many will ask themselves if the cost of the rescue operation is worth the payoff if the trapped men are recovered. This question is often asked in the military when the number of soldiers lost in a rescue or recovery attempt exceeds the number of captured or missing. As a soldier who has been involved in a few recovery operations, my personal views are automatic: no matter the cost, trying is worth it. There are limits to what you can safely attempt, as with every operation, but the attempt itself has a high value of its own.

Why would I say this? Why is it worth it to risk my entire team (generally about 8 – 12 men), the air support personnel (usually between 4 – 8) and any local nationals working with me (usually the same or more numerous than my force) to rescue just one person? I am willing without hesitation to engage in rescue operations where a failed mission may result in more casualties, and so is every other solider I work with. The purpose of the mission is not strictly to recover human assets as one would seek to recover lost machinery or resources.

A person is still a person in the eyes of other people while that same person is an asset in the eyes of an organization. We have to be careful about words we use in which contexts and not get our terms mixed up. When I say “Joe is a great asset” I mean he is an asset to the team, which is an organization. That’s very different from saying “Joe is a great guy” because here I mean to me he’s a great guy — he could hold his weapon like dildo and trip over himself every two steps and I might still think he’s a great guy. There is a connection between the organizational view and the personal view, however, and that’s through the motivation of the person in question. Joe will work harder to holder his weapons like a trained killer and not trip over his feet because he wants to be valued by the organization and the people in it.

In our minds the attempt is almost as valuable as the recovery. Part of this is because I am absolutely confident that every reasonable effort will be made to recover me if I am captured. I know this because I have been involved in the planning, preparation and execution of rescue operations and now know the discussions, dilemmas and decision-making process behind such operations. Nowhere in this process is there ever a fleeting thought of not even trying to go after someone, regardless what the conditions are or how bad the situation is. Not trying is simply not an option.

A person removed from such events but iteratively fed permutations of the same story in the media hour after hour feels very informed about such things. Many people view commercial (or military) organizations as cold, self-interested bodies that count people as expendable assets as opposed to a group of human beings who have faced similar threats and challenges the captured are now facing. Organizations are not people, but they are made up of people. That motivating connection I mentioned above makes it better for the organizations and all the individuals in it to work together to work hard and risk much in the effort to save one of its members.

This kind of adversity brings out the best in people, and its an amazing thing to see. In particular it tends to bring out the best in Americans*. Even the most selfish and career-minded military officer or company manager or director, perhaps universally reviled by his inferiors, can be seen to devote an enormous amount of himself when a crisis such as this arises and. This creates a social ripple that can be felt all the way down to the lowest level of the organizational structure. It is (thankfully) rare that any leader will ever be found to truly identify his subordinates as a lesser form of humanity or in true disdain. Leaders such as that are quickly replaced and are offered no quarter by their former subordinates or superiors.

Even though some losses may have been sustained in the search for these lost men, the search is probably viewed as well worth it and there is definitely no lack of volunteers in the mining community willing to descend in search next, no matter what happens.

“Every reasonable effort” is a powerful charge, and that phrase is interpreted differently by the public who may doubt the value of a risky rescue operation than by those who are deeply involved in the situation and will face the risks of such a rescue themselves.

[*I’m not trying to be uber-patriot here, but I have seen people of other cultures leave their own behind, not as a matter of policy or even practicality, but merely because they don’t seem to value one another and so don’t consider a rescue as an option (blows my mind) if it might be an inconvenience (let alone dangerous).]

Trashy Media and Trashy News

I couldn’t help but notice this book cover… I’ve never seen such an outstanding example of a meaningless title before. The amazing thing is not that the title and the subtitle are in direct opposition to one another, rather that this is the sort of thing that not only sells well but is expected in political discourse today. Further, its not just tabloid trash — this kind of crap is taken seriously.

At any rate, its hilarious.

In other news… New York is worried not about centrally controlled groups, but about Middle Eastern immigrants who will project their personal problems on the society they now live in in a violent way. Wrap that in a little Islam and you have a terrorist, true. Nobody has dared to actually say this before, though, because it sounds too much like profiling.

Here’s another ridiculous tragedy in the making. If this guy killed his wife first, then his son, then the estate will pass to his surviving children. If he killed the son and then the wife, the mother-in-law will be entitled to part of the estate. How is she entitled to the estate when all she did was push her daughter off on a steroid-freak wrestler who later murdered her? So we’re giving her fabulous cash prizes for being negligent and raising her daughter to hang around dangerous, unstable men? This seems completely ridiculous. Also rather callous of her to fight some children over an estate to which she shares no blood relation. Nice going, Inheritance Law.

In other worthless news we have more empty gestures from people wealthy enough to engage in such self-therapy. Where was she when the crisis was actually still going on I wonder? I could research this and find some way that her apathy in the 1990’s somehow assisted the genocide in occurring, but why waste my time?

In somewhat worth-while news… This is an amazing turn of events, if it works out and doesn’t get exploded by some nutbag Palestinian… Japan has decided to support a special economic zone in the West Bank that is for Israelis and Palestinians both. Israel has done this many times and my recollections of living and working in Israel in the late 90’s and early 2000 was that there were no problems and the Palestinian peace party was all supported by Palestinian businessmen who understood that peace and hard work bring prosperity and eventual true democracy. They also understood that Israelis are outstanding technical achievers and impeccable businessmen and the benefits of working and investing with them instead of against them far outweigh the personal disgust they may have been educated to feel when dealing with Jews.

Economic progress is not something you can give someone, though. It is also something that you can’t really teach. Its like giving a car to a tribal society that in all their years never invented the wheel on their own. You can’t expect that car to run or be well maintained a year later. So this might work out, if the timing is right, but on the other hand, there have been numerous business parks in the West Bank since the late 1990’s, and they were all bombed into oblivion by the anti-Israeli Palestinians who know that if economic progress really takes hold and there is peace, they will be out of a job. The freedom-fighting industry tends to shrivel up and go away when you have real freedom, and then you have to get a serious 9-5. Its far more fun to call yourself a freedom fighter and run around the hills with guns taking what you want and oppressing your own people (in the name of freedom!) than buckling down, managing a family and a business and exiting this world in a quiet and far less spectacular way than self detonation.

Politics, Media, Synthetic Experiences

I mentioned earlier that this would be good news for the Democrats and the media types who have staked their careers on a failure in Iraq, and in fact, they are playing it up. Weirdly there’s not a lot of space to expand this story to sound worse than it is because its a fairly unambiguous event and it happened too close to Syria to be completely blamed on a “failing policy in Iraq” or on Bush himself.

The bombing news will likely fade away soon since it involves Kurds and ethnic cleansing, and people do not like to talk about that right now, as it might indicate that we’re doing the right thing by being there. This leaves the anti-Warrists with a choice between two unpleasant alternatives in media focus: they can focus on the bombing event which looks bad on first look, but upon deeper inspection reveals some serious and strong motives for actually being in Iraq as opposed to abandoning it to mass slaughter; or they can focus on the troop reduction plan Petraeus is working on now.

Which type of media event an anti-Warrist will focus on reveals which type of anti-Warrist he is. There are those who genuinely do not accept war as a policy (which in practice every society accepts war, or they soon cease to exist and are quickly stricken from the record of human history), and there are those who wish to be seen as original and free thinkers who are bravely rebellious antiestablishmentarians.

The vast majority of anti-Warrists are of the latter category. It will be easier for them to focus on the bomb news but not deeply explore the issues that go with it than to focus on the troop reduction plan. This type of political thinker will recognize that without a war to stand resolutely against they will be out of a job and require a new thing to stand resolutely against in order to maintain their perceived relevance. The focus on the scary aspects of the bombing and ignorance of the underlying issues it raises that are potentially pro-War is made easier by the contemporary media consumer’s lack of interest in complete stories. Very few make it to the end of a serious in-depth piece even on TV today. There are so many other things to do now that are more entertaining than understanding the real world. WoW, pr0nz, drinking, pr0nz, football, pr0nz… man, the day just fills up with synthetic experiences so fast.

The political media today is usually little more than entertainment anyway — just another synthetic experience. My words here are written just for me, read for the reader and in any event have no impact on what happens in Iraq or anywhere else. It is completely plausible for me to enrage a reader and start an online posting war back and forth over issues that are completely removed from us in space and time but we both simply feel very strongly about. Our realities are defined by our perceptions, and with that in mind, I restate that the news media is largely about entertainment value and not the faithful relay of current human events.

Malleable Media

More charming words from a foreign in England. How sweet, they are trying so hard to share their culture.

In other news, this girl is ready to make herself famous! Nice going, Arab Educators, your Kung Fu is definitely stronger than the Korean hate-instilling version. I’m fairly certain that while growing up in Texas if I were to have drawn similar pictures with Mexico, Canada, American Indians, Nazis, black people or even the good old fashioned fun-to-hate Jews as the subject, I would have been suspended at a minimum (and likely gotten my ass kicked at home by my father for being a hate-spouting retard). If American children did this today with Muslim terrorists as the subject, they would be disciplined harshly. Of course, that does not work both ways. If you are a Muslim living in the non-Muslim West that you must destroy, you can file what amounts to an EO complaint and be taken seriously.

But then again, there is no money for Americans, Japanese or Europeans if they write hate literature, develop victim cultures or teach their children to hate. They’re already on top of the world and have proven in the no-holds-barred arenas of science, commerce and war that their cultures are simply more efficient and worth working within and for, living within and for and dying for… though at the rate of roughly 700,000 Muslims to 3,600 Americans so far, the inefficient societies are showing just how drastically more inefficient they are already. That is not sustainable, regardless how many media stunts are attempted to the contrary.

On the subject of media stunts, it still amazes me that Middle Eastern media releases will base an emotionally rousing statement on a completely facetious event. It is even more amazing to me that Western media will take such releases seriously without investigating, despite the inevitable retraction (I suppose that on the balance breathtaking stories are worth more than the slight sting of a retraction, so long as the retractions aren’t too public or too frequent). In this case, the proposed attacks on holy sites is something they pulled straight out of their ass, but the strong-sounding, resolute and unifying commitment to a harsh retribution is what they wish the public to see. Of course they expect, and rightly so, the majority of their target audience to not read the entire article or realize that even the falsely stated threat is not from the United States, but by absence of knowledge the local Middle Eastern media consumer and likely most of the Western media consumers as well will fill in the blank in their mind with the United States or Israel.

[Note on edit: It seems they have already filled in the blank completely, taken down the old story, – which is already now a dead link, unsurprisingly, as it didn’t mention the US 2 hours ago – and the new reality has been woven to include specifically anti-US rhetoric. Its history-changing in action! Amazing. And you saw it here first! Or second… or whatever… this has been going on for quite some time, I’d imagine… Its weird to actually watch it happening, though. I wish I could stay up for a few more hours and watch the story of the story unfold and chronicle it… I should have screenshotted these changes to post them. Damn… missed opportunity.]

Humans never cease to amaze.

Situation Normal: European Muslims Angry

Interesting idea above. Like the image posted earlier today, this is probably a surprise if your media perspective is specifically that of a typical self-loathing American or British anti-patriot. The lesson he is referring to is that you must lay down to the power of Islam absolutely or get stung for it. There are no compromises allowable under Islam. All non-believers are absolute enemies of God and there can be no peace until there are no more enemies. That’s a mighty big lesson for the entire successful world to swallow at once. I don’t think the entire world is interested in complying. (Even the Muslim world isn’t interested in complying!)

 

The Bloody Pendulum Continues its Swing in Europe

The Muslims figured it out: Europe is the cancer, Islam is the answer. Or at least Islam predicts this conclusion anyway… but not just about Europe (apparently Buddhists are bad too… now that’s crazy…). Coming from an American perspective, the sign this guy’s holding might not make sense — many Americans aren’t aware just how bad the Muslim situation in Europe is (or often that there is a Muslim situation in Europe at all). There have been many, many problems in and around Europe.

Unfortunately for Muslims (especially the ones in Europe) the Europeans don’t have any historical precedent for taking a balanced approach when it comes to dealing with social upheaval of the sort the Muslims are threatening. European societies go through phases, swinging much like a pendulum. For decades a whole set of countries may engage in art and poetry and sexual artistry and hard sciences without a care in the world because life is exactly as beautiful as they can make it — until the illusion of universal love breaks down. Then they holocaust entire societies.

American society has never gone that route — either because the influences of the melting pot concept of American society, or perhaps just because the US isn’t an old enough country to have experienced its Hitlers yet. I’m not saying that what happened to the Native Americans was nice or that slavery was a beautiful thing, but they were both one time affairs and pale in comparison toiterative atrocities you’ll find littering the pages of European history. There is a huge difference between the two.

European nations all have a long history of efficiently planned and executed population extermination and forced relocations. Unfortunately it is a little scary. But then again, so are most the things Eric Arthur Blair (AKA George Orwell) and Winston Churchill had to say before WWII kicked off, though that did not make them wrong. (I find this piece funny, though…) People at that time thought the world was going to shit in a permanent way with a civil war already on in Spain, a horribly bloody, backstabby revolution going on in Eastern Europe and Russia, and no clear picture for how the future of colonial Africa was to turn out. But most folks simply refused to see WWII coming and even refused to see the rise of Hitler as a threat, despite his numerous and quite explicit declaration of intentions. Funny that we’re there all over again, and its Europe again.

Conveying Observations About Iraq and Other Garden Spots

I’ve been speaking today with several members of my battalion who recently returned from a rotation in Iraq about their feelings on which direction the country may be headed, what is working and what isn’t, and why we are where we are.

Understand that their views (and mine) are generally pro-invade-Iraq, but keep in mind that in Special Forces we work at a different level than most military units do and interact much more closely (and live with) with our Iraqi counterparts (or whatever our counterparts happen to be — Iraq isn’t the only thing going on, of course). We actively seek to understand our counterparts’ viewpoints and over time tend to absorb and adopt some of their views. While we understand where they believe themselves to be coming from, this does not necessarily extend to sympathizing with them in every respect (or sometimes any respect). One of the reasons that understanding doesn’t extend to sympathy is that, quite frankly, what many Iraqis (and Americans, for that matter) believe is reality is often not quite true — well, in the case of Middle Easterners very often much of what they believe is completely fabricated. As much as I bash the Western media the fact we have a free press does actually prevent us from going too far any one direction — and its easy to forget the vital function a free press serves until you spend some time in a place that lacks one (whether because government controls it or because local thugs violently enforce a specific view — and sometimes there’s not much difference between the two).

Understanding how a person’s values were enculturated, what experiences they’ve had and other things they have been exposed to does not mean that you must agree with them. You can understand all the why’s and still hold judgmental views on their society (as a culture or even a foreign subculture), how its run, or have very strong feelings against the way they do things. Understanding situation, motive, etc. doesn’t mean you agree with a Muslim teenager holding an RPG any more than it means you agree with a serial killer who keeps body part trophies in his fridge.

I’d like to explore things I’ve come to realize about places like Iraq if I ever get the time. Part of the problem is thinking hard enough and completely enough about the subject to organize the thoughts into something coherent enough for consumption outside of my own mind or my own little community of SF guys who all approach things from a background of similar experience. This may lead to a few essays over time that I’ll post elsewhere.

…unless I never write them. I’ve got a horrible backlog of essays I want to write and some that others want me to write… enough that a few folks have actually complained. Which is weird, since I thought nobody ever read this blog.

The Iraq issue in particular so strongly influences discourse in our society today and will frame political discourse across the world for decades that I feel compelled to explain the views I and most of the SF community have developed over a period of involvement with terrorism and Second and Third World problems that is much, much longer than this particular event we call the Global War on Terror.

The Surge and Politics

It seems that the much vaunted Surge is working in Iraq. I’ve been pretty slow to say anything of the sort, as I was not sure how to rate the “success” I keep hearing in the media. Weren’t the media types almost uniformly calling Iraq a huge waste of life, waste of time, America’s Vietnam, etc. for the longest time?

And now it seems that good news in Iraq is going to be very bad news to Left-wing Democrats who have based their entire last 7 years of political life on talking smack about the Iraq war, how bad it is and how everything bad, ever, is George Bush’s fault… (in honesty, the last 7 links were satire sites, here’s the opposite view… in a very schoolboyish, whiny tone…)

The biggest problem in Iraq is the absolute lack of leadership there. None of the Iraqis wants to make a decision, no matter what level of government they work in (or out of). The cultural concept of a “leader” in the Middle East (outside of Israel and maybe Jordan) is about defining someone whom the people serve, whereas the West views a leader as someone who serves the people. Very different views.

Some Iraqis seem to get it though, and it looks like there is finally some pressure building within their own socio-political structure to actually do something. Apparently the “civil war” in Iraq is more of an Al Qaeda ready-made media spin than a reality, and the calm permitted by the Surge is something at least a few Iraqi leaders want to take advantage of before its over. This is a golden opportunity for them to work together and actually settle their society a little, or at least unify against the looming Iranian threat (an Iran which has pretty scary plans for everyone in the region…). That said, the idea that the dusty bits of Iraq and the muddy bits of Iraq will suddenly see each other as part of a whole more than they see each other as proxy threats from Iran or Saudi is slim.

This new focus on civil leaders getting things done is probably thanks to the US Army’s new direction. While the media was busy characterizing the Surge as a combat technique, the real focus was always on providing enough troops not to beat up the enemy, but rather to have enough folks to leave behind in town once the ass-kicking was over with. The US Army has not lost any field engagements so far. This is often overlooked. The US Army focused on working with the Air Force and locals (generally lead by US Special Forces) to whip ass at an unprecedented rate. The enemy doesn’t stand a chance on the actual battlefield. If they did, they would have tried to invade the US a long time ago. That’s why the resort to terrorism, because they are not very difficult opponents in an open fight — it is interesting that enough of them are misguided to actually try fighting in the open, but that’s another subject.

The whole point of the Surge is to address local issues that make or break local societies. Fixing electric problems, getting shipments of food running like they are supposed to again, water services, sanitation, etc. All the things the Americans are spending so much money on trying to fix. We have plenty of troops to whip everyone’s ass in Iraq. America could, if it wished to, easily kill every single person in Iraq. But that’s never been the point, regardless what the hate-blinded over at The Guardian may think. The Surge gives us enough people to beat the terrorists out, keep them out for a time, and still have enough people to prod the local and national Iraqi leaders to actually do their jobs. Its sort of like having SF advisers for the political side of the nation, not just the military.

A note here on defining “terrorists” and how control works in Iraq: When we’re talking about Iraq today we’re not talking about 9/11 type terrorists (though some of these guys would love to volunteer for Wave 2), we’re talking about local, petty terrorists who act like unhinged mafia types. The game in Iraq is about local control and motivating local resources to make a drive at national control. Since no region is powerful enough to assert authority over the other two, Iraq is fundamentally unstable — so the next alternative is to look outside for assistance for your side. If you’re in the dusty bits that means Saudi, if you’re closer to the muddy bits then that means Iran, and if you’re a Kurd that means anybody else because you know you’re probably fucked if you can’t get an international energy deal going or convince the Russians to love you. So the “Surge” is providing some local stability but its not the thing that is really calming the violence — its the political interplay that the local stability is fostering so that the various factions can reassess their alignment with the US.

Negotiating with Terrorists

Korea Finds Escape from Its Real Issues,

Rewards Terrorists Again Instead

South Koreans can rest easier knowing that their government is following many an EU member’s lead and doing something a Taliban affiliated group likes. This sounds horrible when I stop the sentence there, of course, but South Korea is trying to do only enough to expedite the release of two of their unfortunate expat nationals being held hostage. Nevermind that the hostages have already demonstrated their fatal misinterpretation of reality by deciding to go there and spread the wacko Korean version of Jesus in Afghanistan; even if they are returned to South Korea what is to prevent them from getting killed another day when they try to kiss a speeding train for world peace or crash the party aboard Shoemaker-Levy?

So negotiating for worthless individuals. Negotiating is something terrorist groups like because it prolongs the public agony and enhances the effect of the kidnapping. The whole point of the kidnapping is either to gain publicity or get paid — or sometimes both. Government negotiations ensure publicity (which is all terrorism is, in a sense, when its not just business) and give the appearance of a fresh crisis daily simply by being on the news every day. The average media consumer doesn’t remember what he saw the last hour, much less what he saw the other day, so the more times the same story runs the more crisis situations there appear to be.

There are downsides to negotiating with terrorists, of course. Doing something a Taliban group likes means doing something that successful civilization has found to be detrimental to itself, which means doing things at odds with the philosophies that promote human progression. It demonstrates what misguided Koreans do when imbued with a warped sense of post-Puritan Christianity (or what some of their leaders do…). Then again, the Korean thought process is a bit baffling at times, their special brand of fervent Christianity aside.