Saturday, December 28, 2013

Lebanon, Syria, Iraq...It's All One Big Mess

I've written multiple times about how the conflict/civil war in Syria has been spilling over into Iraq. But what about Lebanon? Things aren't going so swimmingly there either.

Now I fully realize that Lebanon hasn't exactly been the most stable of countries. Hezbollah, Israeli invasions, sectarian violence, etc, etc. I'm also not very knowledgeable on Lebanon and all its quirks. But when bombs kill anti-Asad leaders it becomes fairly clear that Syria is spilling over into Lebanon.

The leader who was killed was a former minister in the Lebanese government and had opposed Syrian President Asad as well as Hezbollah. Who is suspected to be behind the attack? Hezbollah.

Hezbollah also happens to be supported by Iran, who also supports the Asad regime. A targeted hit ordered by Tehran or a target chosen by Hezbollah themselves?

Part of me, the part of me that deployed multiple times with the US Army and knows how exhausted the organization is, wants to steer clear of any involvement with the Syria conflict and let the various players sort it out for themselves. However, the other part of me, the part that doesn't want an Islamic fundamentalist government in Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon...and the part that relies on the military industrial complex for a job...thinks it may be time to consider some kind of US/NATO involvement.

This problem is not going away any time in the near future and it's only going to get worse.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

My Attempt To Understand Afghanistan

I've written a few posts in the past discussing certain books I have read, almost always after a deployment and looooong after I should have read them. I did not want to make the same mistake again and deploy to Afghanistan without at least reading a few books that would give me a general sense of the country and the current situation. I also wanted to spend my down time in Afghanistan reading some things that would broaden my knowledge.

My deployments to Iraq while in the Army had caused me to know enough about that country to get by but had led to a complete failure in my understanding of Afghanistan. Why read about Afghanistan when I was going to continuously deploy to Iraq? I was ignorant about Afghanistan, but at least I knew it.

Before I deployed I read The Looming Tower and Ghost Wars. I believe there were a couple of others, but it's been over a year and I don't remember. These books helped give me a general overview of Al Qaida, the rise of the Taliban, and the recent history of Afghanistan. They were a good start.

While deployed there were four more books that I read. The first was Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil, and Fundamentalism in Central Asia. A great overview of the aftermath of the Soviet withdrawal and how the Taliban came to be.

The next two were The Bear Went Over the Mountain and The Other Side of the Mountain. Essentially a series of after action reviews, the former discussed Soviet tactics during their occupation of Afghanistan. The latter was a follow on book that discussed mujahedeen tactics against the Russians. Both were a bit dry and repetitive but I would recommend both for anyone heading to the country to occupy it. They both also show that history repeats itself and that the Taliban are fighting ISAF much the same way they fought the Soviets and that ISAF is repeating many of the Soviets' mistakes.

The last book worth mentioning was Caravans, which is a fictional story set in Afghanistan shortly after World War II. It was published in 1963 but does an excellent job of painting a picture of the country and the culture of the people. I'm also convinced the author had a crystal ball. Here's a quote:

"Do you know what I expect...seriously? When a thousand men like me have rebuilt Kabul and made it as great as The City once was, either the Russians or the Americans will come with their airplanes and bomb it to rubble."

In the near future I'll probably do a post for each of these books with quotes like the one above that I found particularly interesting or noteworthy. Stay tuned!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Do I Get To Go Back Soon?

Take a look below at this map of Iraq that I blatantly stole  borrowed from Reuters through Business Insider. It shows the areas that Al Qaeda in Iraq/Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant either control or have a presence:

Yeah, I purposely made this HUUUUUUGE

Iraq didn't want US soldiers occupying their country anymore, fair enough. But then Iraq pulled its own military out of population centers and shifted from counter insurgency tactics to counter terrorism in an attempt to return to some sort of normalcy.

This has backfired on Iraq. The decrease in security forces gave insurgents some breathing space that enabled them to reconstitute and increase the number of attacks conducted. Then Syria fell apart.

The territory that AQI has presence is primarily in Sunni areas that border Syria. Look at all that war spill-over. Oh, and look at that northwest to southeast line of control that is marked "Hamrin Mountains". Where does that culminate? Could that possibly be Lake Hamrin and 1-14 Cav's old stomping grounds? Why indeed it is! Damn Kurwi tribe. Apparently the As Sadiyah, Jalula, Qara Tapa triangle is still causing trouble.

But what's up with the area south of Baghdad? As far as I know that's primarily Shia (the map also confirms this). What has led to AQI to control chunks of Shia dominated land?

How long before Iraq begs the US to send combat troops back into the country? Will the US agree? Will our allies follow? How long does the world sit and watch the chaos in Syria spread?

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

An Old Vet Speaks Of Today's Vets

Interesting article I just read, written by retired Marine lieutenant general Bernard E. Trainor. In the article LTG (R) Trainor discusses his memories of World War II veterans coming home as well as his own thoughts coming home from both the Korean and Vietnam wars.

Some quotes that jump out at me:

"When we went to Korea, all ties with home were cut except for mail, which we usually received weeks after it had been posted. We lacked...the Internet, Skype or telephone contact with loved ones."

"...there was nothing to distract us from the job at hand. What happened at home was history by the time we learned of it."

"Most troops of the Greatest Generation and Korea came home by ship. The long voyage home allowed all hands to talk with one another and decompress."

"Today’s all-­volunteer soldier is alone; very few of his peers have served in the military, much less gone to war. He is largely isolated, with only his iPhone as a comrade."

The veteran of today's wars is unlike the veteran of previous wars. He has deployed often and frequently. He knows exactly what he is missing thanks to the internet. He has been forced to put his life on pause while everyone he knows continues on with theirs, and he gets to watch it in real time, stuck in a sort of suspended animation purgatory. Then when he comes home he has to pretend that everything is normal.

He yearns to go back.

Hat tip to Tom Ricks.