He knows his Marines fought with honor and tried their best to perform incredibly difficult tasks in an austere and dangerous land — instructing Iraqi security forces, securing supply routes, keeping a tenuous peace among Sunnis and Shiites. Smith said it was a privilege for him to serve with such courageous men.
But Smith doesn't blunt his criticism of politicians and military planners who invaded Iraq and kept American troops there for more than six years.
"If someone says we were fighting a war, I'll break out the military manuals and challenge that," said Smith, 48. "We engaged in combat operations, but under the tenets of warfare we were not fighting a war, therefore we were lacking a mission objective. Then you have to ask what was the criteria for mission success? No one could tell me then, and they can't tell me now."
11 March 2014
A Marine reserve colonel has some excellent straight talk about whether or not Iraq was "worth it".
Posted by Brant at 10:48
10 March 2014
With small expansions in US forces in Africa the question is balance.
"Most of the countries we're dealing with don't want a large U.S. presence," said Army Lt. Col. Robert E. Lee Magee, the commander of a 130-soldier "crisis response" unit stationed in Djibouti, a tiny former French colony in the Horn of Africa, where the U.S. maintains its only major military base on the continent. National Security Advisor Susan Rice is scheduled to visit the base this weekend.
Known as the East Africa Response Force, Magee's unit was formed after the September 2012 attacks on a U.S. diplomatic compound and nearby CIA base in Benghazi, Libya. Africa Command was unable to send troops in time to help CIA and State Department security personnel fend off militants who stormed the compounds and left four Americans dead, including Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens.
If a U.S. diplomatic post in East Africa comes under attack or U.S. citizens need to be quickly evacuated, Magee said, his unit can deploy within 18 hours and up to 1,500 miles from Djibouti.
Another new quick reaction force of 550 Marines, stationed at an air base in Moron, Spain, is charged with responding to crises in North and West Africa, officials say. The force has six V-22 Ospreys, tilt-rotor aircraft that take off and land like helicopters, as well as two refueling tankers. They give the Marines the capability to fly thousands of miles to remote locations in Africa, said Col. Scott Benedict, the commander.
The Pentagon said Friday that the Spanish government had approved an expansion of the force to 850 Marines in April, with the number of aircraft increasing to 16.
Both units were sent to South Sudan in December to help evacuate Americans and guard the U.S. Embassy after fierce fighting broke out between rival armed factions.
Posted by Brant at 11:09
08 March 2014
The Economist has an interesting take on who is to blame for Ukraine.
Those convinced that a weak Mr Obama has emboldened foes are concentrating on the wrong bit of his foreign policy. Managing a thug like Mr Putin, who would distrust any American president, was never going to be easy. More thoughtful critiques consider how Mr Obama relates to allies.
Mr Putin is not deterred by even the toughest Western rhetoric when he sees a chance to advance national interests, says Fiona Hill of the Brookings Institution, a think-tank, who led government intelligence analysis of Russia during the Georgian crisis. The only way now to slow his march into Ukraine, she suggests, is for America to work in lockstep with Europe, preventing Mr Putin from exploiting Western divisions.
Kurt Volker, a former American ambassador to NATO, wishes that America had worked with Europe years ago to make Ukraine’s oligarch-infested energy sector more transparent. Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, the senior Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, wants co-ordination with Europe on economic aid for Ukraine. Senator Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, argues for opening up American gas exports to the region, to weaken Russia’s grip as an energy supplier.
Posted by Brant at 12:53
Are the Russians backing out of yet another treaty?
Russian news agencies says Moscow is considering a freeze of U.S. military inspections under arms control treaties in retaliation to Washington's decision to halt military cooperation with Russia.
Agencies on Saturday carried a statement by an unidentified Defense Ministry official saying that Moscow sees the U.S. move as a reason to suspend U.S. inspections in Russia in line with the New START nuclear arms reduction treaty and the 2011 Vienna agreement between Russia and NATO on confidence-building measures.
Posted by Brant at 12:35
07 March 2014
The Army is opening virtually all field artillery officer jobs to women
Virtually all Regular Army, National Guard and Army Reserve positions coded for field artillery officers have been opened to women under a directive issued by Army Secretary John McHugh.
The March 4 directive opens to women approximately 1,900 area-of-concentration 13A Field Artillery officer positions in the active component, and 1,700 in the Guard and Reserve.
The change applies to cannon battalions down to platoon level.
The change does not include field artillery positions in special operations units, which are now closed, or positions with “male only” skill identifiers.
The female component of the field artillery officer corps is small, but growing, with only 112 women holding the 13A designation and wearing the crossed cannon insignia of the career branch
Posted by Brant at 14:31
06 March 2014
Putinism is an odd thing, especially through the lens of the Russian media. Then there's this chestnut from the article.
I've been saying for years that Kosovo would come back to bite us in the ass.
Putin’s latest press conference—his first after days of silence—showcased the paradoxes underlying the new Russian worldview. He told reporters that he sympathized with the Ukrainian protesters who brought down Viktor Yanukovych, then hazarded the claim that the killings of demonstrators had been arranged by the protesters themselves as a provocation. He insisted that Yanukovych is still the legitimate leader of Ukraine, then went on to describe him as a man with “no political future.” He refused to acknowledge that the Russian soldiers besieging Ukrainian military bases in Crimea are acting on Russian orders, doggedly maintaining the transparent fiction that the only forces acting in Moscow’s interest on the peninsula are remarkably well-organized local “self-defense committees.” And he cited the independence of Kosovo as a precedent for the establishment of a Russian-dominated republic in Crimea—even though Russia spent years stubbornly rejecting Kosovo’s claims for statehood as a violation of Yugoslavia’s sovereignty.
I've been saying for years that Kosovo would come back to bite us in the ass.
Posted by Brant at 19:58
Michael Peck takes Orange Crush for a test drive.
Orange Crush imagines a scenario which seemed unlikely then, but today seems eerily familiar: A bitterly-contested election lead Ukraine to erupt in political violence. The country's president orders the military to halt the fighting, but two army brigades revolt, asking Russia to intervene. Moscow obliges, sending in "peacekeepers" that advance on Kiev, but the fleeing Ukrainian government begs from assistance from NATO, which dispatches a force from Poland. NATO troops run into Russian forces racing to the border to head them off. War ensues.
Spooky, right? With Russian troops occupying Crimea, President Barack Obama warning Vladimir Putin of "costs" to come, and the army of the Kremlin busy sablya-rattling just across the Ukrainian-Russian border, now seemed an opportune time to give Orange Crush a spin, to see what insights it might yield about how a real NATO-Russia clash would play out.
Orange Crush portrays a fight between armies that are shadows of their Cold War selves. This is war on the cheap: No herds of armor thundering across the Fulda Gap, no gigantic armies sweeping across the north German plain. The battlefield is a slice of western Ukraine near the Polish border. The ragtag NATO force that Guillory envisions consists of a single British mechanized brigade supported by Special Air Service commandos, Canadian light infantry, Polish motorized infantry and helicopters, and Danish combat engineers. This isn't the British Army of the Rhine here; it's the odds and ends of whatever is left in the post-Cold War NATO armory. (Guillory assumed in 2007 that U.S. troops would be busy in Iraq and Afghanistan, and that NATO forces entering Ukraine would be whatever the alliance could scrape together on the spot.)
Posted by Brant at 18:50
Wow. Maybe the Chinese are going to take this whole "power projection" thing seriously after all.
China is reportedly scheming to set up a military airbase in Zimbabwe's controversial Marange diamond fields of Manicaland province, as Beijing and Harare ratchet up military cooperation and closer than before foreign relations, The Telescope News has heard.
China has no known military bases in Africa, and insists on it's non-interference of internal politics stance of her allies on the continent, thus raising eyebrows as to whether Beijing could finally be making a paradigm shift in it's foreign military policy, in response to the Asian giants growing economic interests here.
The only one point, where it was thought China would finally start setting up military bases in Africa, was in 2011 in Seychelles. China had to weigh up, whether to open an Indian Ocean naval base, following an offer from the Seychelles government to establish a port to supply its anti-piracy patrols in the Gulf of Aden.
At the time Beijing's Defence Ministry, according to the British press had confirmed the development, only meeting stiff resistence and concern from India, whose former intelligence chief Vikram Sood said he was surprised the Seychelles government, had made the offer after being traditionally close to New Delhi citing the threats to his country posed by China's growing influence.
Posted by Brant at 18:01