How I Lost at Patriotism – And How We All Lose

Still feeling mixed feelings after another Memorial Day. Feelings about my own service, the loss of Brothers; the direction of our Republic and the fractious society within. Posting snippets of an article from The Angry Staff Officer:

Back again to the soft May sun of the Ohio day. The birds chirp in the background and now the veteran’s voice is rising, in strident tones, and I am shifting uncomfortably in my seat because his talk smacks of nationalism and jingoism. But the audience loves it. They love being told that there is a divide between true patriots and the rest of the country. They love hearing that this is the greatest nation in the world that can do no wrong. They love being able to heap admiration and praise onto the 1% of those who’ve served without having to take the time to deeply analyze why those young men were bleeding in Vietnam in the first place. Because this version is simple. Because this definition of patriotism is black and white, or, I suppose, red, white, and blue. They know where the lines are, and they can say that they support the true patriots.

It is a very seductive way of thinking, as I know, since I once viewed service and conflict along those same lines.

Patriotism and love of country are noble things. They inspire civic virtue, that which our Republic requires to survive. But love of country does not mean accepting the United States at face value; it means always working towards making the country match its ideals of freedom, justice, and equality. Sometimes that means standing up and saying that things are wrong or disordered, which can be unpopular.

Source: How I Lost at Patriotism – And How We All Lose

And the money shot: In the end, “patriot” becomes yet another label we use to define our world view, which cheapens both the word and its meaning.

Words Matter, Mr. President

Leaving aside the inane use of adjectives and qualifiers [both verbally and tweet based], one would think that by now, POTUS would either have a grasp or keep somebody close at hand, to avoid making empty, false or confusing statements.

Donald Trump said he has given the military “total authorization.” That may sound great, but “total authorization” has no meaning. The military’s dictionary, (yes, it has its very own) includes “diplomatic authorization” and “letters of authorization,” but does not include “total authorization.” Perhaps Mr. Trump chose a non-existent term when he actually meant to say that he, as the commander in chief, had issued an order giving the military specific authorization to conduct operations limited in time and space.

Alternatively, perhaps Mr. Trump simply wanted Americans to know that he will exercise less oversight and control of the U.S. military as compared to his predecessors. Without clarification, we cannot be sure. There are at least fifteen different types of orders that the President, Secretary of Defense and military commanders can issue to those under their charge. They cannot, however, issue “total authorization.”

In the same vein, Mr. Trump’s characterization of recent military operations as “so successful” reveals that he has little idea what military success looks like. Trump’s crowing over a single missile strike against Syria or the use of the “Mother of All Bombs” in Afghanistan suggests that he equates action and aggression with success. As history has made clear, nothing could be further from the truth.

President Trump owes the nation – and the world – more careful language. Trump’s empty words may thrill his supporters, but they will not defeat the Islamic State or bring peace to a troubled region. If the American public is to trust him and intelligently support his foreign policies, especially with lives on the line, he must communicate coherently. The president should weigh his words before he speaks, provide clear explanations for his actions and measured assessments of progress. In short, Trump’s words need to mean exactly what they seem to mean.

Why Trump’s Words Matter, RealClear Defense – http://www.realcleardefense.com/articles/2017/04/20/why_trumps_words_matter_111211.html

The CNN-Trump Doctrine

The eminent Max Boot has weighed in on the Clintonian missile strike by our current POTUS, highlighting not only the limp ineffectiveness of the action, but also the rank hypocrisy of the ‘decider’.

The Trump Doctrine Was Written By CNN

Of all the reactions to President Donald Trump’s cruise missile strike on Thursday, the least convincing was the impulse by supporters such as Sen. Marco Rubio and John Bolton to label this a “decisive” act. Hardly. In fact, Trump’s strike was reminiscent of the kind of low-risk cruise missile attacks that Bill Clinton favored against Sudan, Iraq, and Afghanistan — and that Republicans mocked for their symbolic, ineffectual nature. After 9/11, you’ll recall, President George W. Bush vowed, in a swipe at his predecessor, “When I take action, I’m not going to fire a $2 million missile at a $10 empty tent and hit a camel in the butt. It’s going to be decisive.”

Looks like we’re back to killing camels. Far from decisive, Trump’s decision to fire 59 cruise missiles against a single air base in Syria was considerably smaller than the action that President Barack Obama was considering to enforce his “red line” in 2013 before he lost his nerve. Obama was on the verge of approving an air campaign to destroy Bashar al-Assad’s air defenses and air force — what Secretary of State John Kerry described at the time as an “unbelievably small, limited kind of effort.” Trump, by contrast, merely took one air base out of operation for less than a day.

This is hardly the only reversal evident in this cruise missile strike — in fact, the psychological impact of this attack was greatly heightened because it was so unexpected. It was ordered, after all, by the same man who tweeted back in 2013: “AGAIN, TO OUR VERY FOOLISH LEADER, DO NOT ATTACK SYRIA – IF YOU DO MANY VERY BAD THINGS WILL HAPPEN & FROM THAT FIGHT THE U.S. GETS NOTHING!” And the same man who, as recently as last October, warned that Hillary Clinton’s plans for greater involvement in Syria would “lead to World War III.” And the same man who has shown so little interest in the suffering of the Syrian people that he has attempted to issue an executive order ending all refugee admissions from that country. And the same man who ran on a quasi-isolationist, “America First” platform that disdained the use of military force for anything but the defense of American interests, narrowly defined.

The Myth of the Iraqi Surge

We are enduring the fallout today, of the myth that the Iraqi “Surge” was successful…along with the myths surrounding the withdrawal of US forces. These events, lived by the men and women on the ground….have become political memes, myths and talking points…without substance or experience from those who employ them. Having served 15 months in Baghdad during the Surge, I can attest to the sentiments of the author of this article…as well as the whitewashing that continues to this day.

CFR’s three guests — retired Gen. Raymond Odierno, former commander of Multinational Forces in Iraq and now a senior adviser to JPMorgan Chase; Meghan O’Sullivan, former deputy national security adviser under president George W. Bush; and Christopher Kojm, former senior adviser to the Iraq Study Group — had remarkably similar views.

No dissenting voices were included. All three had been enthusiastic promoters of the surge in 2006–2007 and continue to market the myth of its success. While recognizing the unmistakable failure of the post-surge American effort in Iraq, each still firmly believes in the inherent validity of that “strategy.”

I listened for more than an hour waiting for a single dissenting thought. The silence was deafening.

………………………….

In an orgy of killing in Baghdad and many other cities, the two main sects ethnically cleansed neighborhoods, expelling each other into a series of highly segregated enclaves. The capital, for instance, essentially became a Shiite city. In a sense, the civil war had, momentarily at least, run its course.

In addition, the U.S. military had successfully, though again only temporarily, convinced many previously rebellious Sunni tribes to switch sides in exchange for money, support and help in getting rid of the overly fundamentalist and brutal terror outfit, Al Qaeda in Iraq.

For the time being, AQI seemed to the tribal leaders like a bigger threat than the Shiites in Baghdad. For this, the Sunnis briefly bet on the United States without ever fully trusting or accepting Shiite-Baghdad’s suzerainty. Think of this as a tactical pause — not that the surge’s architects and supporters saw it that way.

America’s man in Baghdad, Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki, was already in the process of becoming a sectarian strongman, hell-bent on alienating the country’s Sunni and Kurdish minorities. Even 60,000 or 90,000 more American troops couldn’t have solved that problem because the surge was incapable of addressing, and barely pretended to face, the true conundrum of the invasion and occupation — any American-directed version of Iraqi “democracy” would invariably usher in Shia-majority dominance over a largely synthetic state.

The real question no surge cheerleaders publicly asked, or ask to this day, was whether an invading foreign entity was even capable of imposing an inclusive political settlement there. To assume that the United States could have done so smacks of a faith-based as opposed to reality-based worldview — another version of a deep and abiding belief in American exceptionalism.

From MAJ Danny Sjursen  at War is Boring

 

The End of an Era

As a former Army Pathfinder, this hits close to home…I’m sad to see the capability and tradition officially case it’s colors.

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Capt. Steven J. Orbon, the commander of F Company, 2nd Assault Helicopter Battalion, 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade, and Herbst, the company first sergeant, cased the unit guidon as a final act for the 82nd Airborne Division’s pathfinder company.

“For many, today is a sad one,” Orbon said to an audience that included family, friends and veteran pathfinders whose service dated to 1957.

The deactivation was part of a larger Army transformation that saw other pathfinder units shutter last year and also marked the end of other small and specialized units known as long-range surveillance companies. But it won’t end the pathfinder story, the captain said.

“It is simply the closing of a chapter,” Orbon said.

The company included paratroopers as well as rangers, jumpmasters and experts in fast-rope insertions and extractions, he said. Among their ranks they counted expert rappellers, climbers, scuba divers, medics, snipers, switchblade operators and the 82nd Airborne combatives champion.

Read the rest here….

This is just plain cool

At least if you’re  military/history nerd like I am.

The last surviving photographs of the veterans who formed part of Napoleon Bonaparteís famous Grande Armée and fought in the Napoleonic wars have been revealed in full remastered colour.

The expertly colourised historic images inject exciting new life into the 159-year-old monochrome originals, transforming them from a dreary black and white into a vibrant work of art which shows off every intricate detail of the men’s uniforms, from their medals, swords right down to their shoes. 

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See the rest here.

Memorial Day and returning to the “Fertile Crescent”

OK….having been there before, the “Crescent” is long past it’s sell-by date for “fertility”. It’s a steaming, fetid morass of faux-humanity.

But nonetheless, I’m returning to Iraq in a few short days. The place that has spawned my nightmares, given birth to my unnatural paranoia, and changed my very soul….will again be my home for six months, this time as a Contractor. I’ll be literally a few miles from the spot I lost my friend, Jim Doster.

The only upside is that while I still get to lend my skills to keep the American Servicemember alive…..I have no command of Soldiers, and no direct burden of getting them home safely, as I did before.

I’m always burdened by what to teach my daughters about Memorial Day. Aside from ensuring they know it has no relation to the crass store sales, day off of work, and an excuse for a beer-infused barbecue……I don’t know whether to shelter them or expose them to the cold reality of this world.

What I do now, is that as each day passes, we lose the precious remaining few, of our generation that endured four long years of war on two fronts; war to protect the survival of our nation and our way of life. Their stories need to be told, not just on….but at least on Memorial Day. Ask your friends, kids or siblings to put down their smartphones, shelve Facebook for a few hours….and visit a cemetery, or a nursing home…a memorial or a museum. Say hi and thank you to the old fellow in the WWII Veteran ball cap at the mall. Learn and understand our history….and pass it down.

I’ve always been struck at how the following lines from the movie Memorial Day affect me every time I read them:

Dear Kylie, my old head can’t hold too much anymore but, today, a whole lot came flooding back into it. You might remember this afternoon as just another Saturday at Opa’s farmhouse. It wasn’t. I’ve never liked the word “souvenirs”, but I guess that’s what they are. Shards of memory, shrapnel. You take them to help you remember. What you don’t count on is they don’t let you forget. Pain. Happiness. Friendship. Death. Smells of diesel and dead animals. Eating meals within arm’s length of corpses. Men you laughed with a day before. People wonder if leaders are born or made. All I know is, you can see it in a man’s eyes. Problem is, leaders end up where they’re needed most. And eventually, that’s war. You’re special Kylie. I hope you know that. I always have. But I need you to stay strong. People look to guys like us to make decisions. If you do wear the uniform one day, remember something, when you put it on, you don’t get to choose the war or what happens when you get there. There’s no right or wrong in combat. There’s only what you did. You do your best, and you try to live with it. Some day they’ll take me off this porch for good. When that happens, what’s left that matters? Photographs, letters, empty clothes? No. It’s the stories behind them, those are what matter. Stories live forever, but only if you tell them. I may sound like I’ve known this a long time. I didn’t know it until today. I just wanted to say thank you for teaching me that. It was one hell of a souvenir. Love, Opa. 

Likewise, sage words from fellow veteran Tom McCuin:

Dear USA,

Monday is Memorial Day. It is the day we honor our war dead, those warriors who gave what Lincoln called, “the last full measure of devotion.” Enjoy your barbecues, your mattress sales, and your community pool openings, but remember you do so because those honored dead made it possible. Please do not offer your thanks to me or any other living veteran. It is not our day. We came home carrying our shields; they came home carried on theirs. Memorial Day the day we raise our glasses to absent comrades. Thank me and my living brothers-in-arms (and sisters, too) on Tuesday. But on Monday, turn your thoughts to the gardens of stone around the globe. See you at Section 60.

Not-so sage words from Constitutional Insurgent:

If I hear anyone say “Happy Memorial Day” this weekend….I’m ging to punch them in the throat.

The single best post on the Internet: 2015

Especially if you vote GOP. The post is long, but well worth the read. Some excerpts from Stonekettle Station:

National security, the term means something different to every candidate and to every voter – or non voter if we’re talking about the majority of Americans, which may be a national security matter in and of itself. But, again, I digress.

When CNN declared this debate about national security, none of us even started out on the same page. We didn’t define the terms. Wolf just sort of waved his grizzly white man-beard of freedom about and made some vague reference to “national security” and next thing you know we’re all running around whooping like lunatics, shooting our pistols in the air, and smashing bottles over each other’s heads like something out of a John Wayne movie. War face! War face! Aaaaaaaaaagh!

I waited a week.

I waited to see if the candidates themselves would provide some clarity.

None did. Surprise surprise.

———————

If Trump had dismounted by claiming he could see Russia from his house, he couldn’t have been more full of shit.

And if you think Rubio corrected Trump’s idiotic nonsense, or Hewitt’s, you haven’t been paying attention.

None of the people on the stage, not the candidates, not the moderators, knew what the hell they were talking about. Not at all. Not even in the most general of terms. And after a week of reading through various reactions, it’s fairly apparent most of America has no goddamned idea either.

It’s gibberish.

They’re all babbling idiots.

———————

Read the transcript for yourself. Go through it line by line, questions and answers.

It’s all gibberish.

It’s insanity.

It’s all war face aaaaaaaagh!

It’s people who have no clue whatsoever talking to people who have no idea whatsoever.

This isn’t even political theater. It’s the political equivalent of standing in line at the deli behind two dipshits arguing over who would win a fight between Boba Fett and the Gorn Captain.

It’s long past time to dispense with this nonsense – and I mean nonsense in the sense that it doesn’t make any sense. Non sense.

In 2016 don’t enable the insanity. Take a stand and vote against the status quo. Or quit your bitching.