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I saw active service in conventional, clandestine and covert units of the South African Defence Force. I was the founder of the Private Military Company (PMC) Executive Outcomes in 1989 and its chairman until I left in 1997. Until its closure in 1998, EO operated primarily in Africa helping African governments that had been abandoned by the West and were facing threats from insurgencies, terrorism and organised crime. EO also operated in South America and the Far East. I believe that only Africans (Black and White) can truly solve Africa’s problems. I was appointed Chairman of STTEP International in 2009 and also lecture at military colleges and universities in Africa on defence, intelligence and security issues. Prior to the STTEP International appointment, I served as an independent politico-military advisor to several African governments. I am a contributor to The Counter Terrorist magazine. All comments in line with the topics on this blog are welcome. As I consider this to be a serious look at military and security matters, foul language and political or religious debates will not be entertained on this blog.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

“COURAGEOUS CONSTRAINT” – WHAT ON EARTH ARE WE DOING??

Having read an article about the sheer lunacy of an instruction to exercise “courageous constraint”, I have to ask myself what on earth are we doing?

Going to war is a political decision.

Making war is the military’s responsibility.

Making war and in the process minimizing collateral damage is something all soldiers accept as necessary. However, there will seldom be a situation where an enemy action provokes an own forces retaliation with zero collateral damage – unless the enemy acts away from population concentrations. Sadly, this is something the modern-day enemy does not do.

To order troops not to fire on the enemy as it risks waking up the local population is going several steps too far. By having to get permission to open fire on an armed and identified enemy laying IEDs – or face murder charges if that order is violated - is nothing other than surrender without honour.

Playing politically correct games with the enemy at the expense of the lives of the very people the politicians sent there must surely border on treason. Given the deaths that have already occurred due to this stupidity, those who formulated and applied it should be tried for manslaughter – as that is what it is. Better still, they should be forced to show soldiers how to apply this new principle when under a looming threat.

It is even more shocking that military commanders seem to go along with this treasonous order. It seems to me that they are no longer soldiers but wannabe politicians posing as soldiers, more concerned about their media profiles and political futures than the lives of the men they supposedly command and their mission.

To add credence to this stupidity, the next thing will probably be a medal to those who were able to exercise this “courageous constraint”. In fact, cowardice under fire can now be ascribed to acting with "courageous constraint".

Whereas it is seemingly fashionable to be politically correct, it is this correctness that will lead to the deaths of many good soldiers – and has already led to the deaths of soldiers.

As it now appears that the politicians and senior commanders have lost the stomach to follow through on their decisions, perhaps the Principles of War ought should be whittled down to 2 basic principles in order to appease them.

Principle #1: Do not fire at the enemy.

Principle #2: If you observe the enemy, either run away or surrender.

When senior military commanders simply accept such orders, they are, in my opinion, not fit to command. If they lack the moral courage to stand up for their men, they ought not to be in uniform at all. If they are so lacking in moral fibre as to bend and buckle with the political whims of the politicians who drafted their mission, then they may save more lives by simply surrendering to the enemy and then disbanding the armed forces and going home.

It is time the real military commanders stood up for their men, accepted their mission and brushed aside the stupidity generated by politicians whilst doing the job the politicians sent them there to do.

Unless, of course, there never was an intention of ending the war....

52 comments:

John said...

Good Morning Eeben,

Another great post in this very long conflict - you have nailed PC where it is, sheer lunacy. PC is "Newspeak" from 1984 and unfortunately commanders in the field are following this insanity. Following this precept is nothing but treason - once the decision to go to armed conflict has been made (the political arm of a country having thus failed to do their work to win victory for their country without violence) it has to be finished by the people who know how to fight. History is rife with politicians screwing things up in the field (Laos/Cambodia/Vietnam in the US experience) - and generally in the peace to follow as well. They are concerned mainly with their polling numbers (an old Russian history prof of mine called this "Supple Backbone").

Of course I don't discount your final statement as well, the UN model of peacekeeping in full effect. And I believe there is a medal for "restraint" now...have to go find it.

Regards,
John

P.S. Any chance of linking us to the article (?) containing this ROE?

Lori said...

Well said. They want to lose; it is the only explanation. Otherwise it is like slaughtering a cow, only to be humane, you use a dull knife and saw very slowly across it's neck.......

reflexivefire.com said...

You went all the way with this article Eeben, as usual, putting my own opinions to words better than I could have done myself.

The risk aversion and the obsession with safety is the most dangerous threat that soldiers currently face and sadly, it comes from within our own ranks rather than from the enemy.

Please consider including this as an appendix in your new book.

-Jack Murphy

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I hope that commanders will finally stand up against all of this PC nonsense, John.

I find it astonishing that people can give orders like that to the military – and the military actually tries to follow them. Truly, there are no tablets for stupidity.

Supple backbone, indeed. This spinelessness ought to end sooner rather than later – or else, face the consequences. Whereas only soldiers know the true horror of war, the fools that think out these PC actions ought to take their places on the line. Maybe that will slow down the PC brigade a bit.

Of the UN, I do not even wish to speak.

Rgds,

Eeben

PS: It was on the UK’s Daily Mail – will try to find it.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Here is one link, John. I will look for the others. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2015944/Soldiers-ordered-shoot-Taliban-planters---WAKES-UP-locals.html

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I always thought innocent casualties are prevented by training, command and control, discipline and fire discipline, Lori.

It seems I am wrong.

My heart bleeds for the soldiers who are supposed to follow this rubbish. Next they will probably want to issue the fighting men with blanks.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I was so angry when I read about this “courageous constraint” nonsense Jack but then again, perhaps it is purposely done to ensure that the politicians have this wonderful, humane approach to war and conflict in the media. It will probably give them a lot of brownie points with those who believe one should always turn the other cheek.

If I was given an order like that as a soldier, and it was placing my men in harm’s way, I would have refused to carry it out.

Time is my enemy when it comes to my book but I will get there. I have a chapter on RoE and I will definitely include another one – maybe title it “how to lose a war quickly”.

Rgds,

Eeben

matt said...

I remember finding and posting this article on Facebook, and the reactions were all the same. Shock. I couldn't believe it myself, and I am in totally agreement with everything said here. I just wonder how many civilians or soldiers were killed by the actions of IED teams, that were simply 'let go'.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

It just goes to show how behind the times I am, Matt. However, with all the travelling I seem to have missed quite a bit.

Thanks for pointing us all back to your blog (www.feraljundi.com) where I am sure visitors will find even more on this remarkable “surrender without a fight” attitude.

Rgds,

Eeben

Gatvol said...

Sounds like we are talking about the U.S. Military. We would rather kill our own than the enemy.

michael b said...

Courageous constraint? That is an oxymoron. Thats like saying you are screwing for virginity! These poor youngsters that are going into hell holes are taught not to fear the enemy but to fear punishment from their own convoluted legal system. Obviously the politicians arent in the hot zones and have no clue what they are saying. They are safely living the cushy politicians life back in the united states of disneyland completely oblivious of what transpires in the real world. Watching CNN reports on war zones doesnt qualify as hands on experience. The yanks and the west in general are losing the plot and invariably the war. War does not keep time it doesnt have work hours or rules other than the adversary must be dealt a bloody nose. What the hell has war become? Political wrangling for votes and approval at the cost of own forces? Holy kamoly! The last thing they want is to wake the locals while terrorists lay their wares. Its pathetic. I'd rather go into war with the salvation army than the new world types! Mike.Courageous constraint? That is an oxymoron. Thats like saying you are screwing for virginity! These poor youngsters that are going into hell holes are taught not to fear the enemy but to fear punishment from their own convoluted legal system. Obviously the politicians arent in the hot zones and have no clue what they are saying. They are safely living the cushy politicians life back in the united states of disneyland completely oblivious of what transpires in the real world. Watching CNN reports on war zones doesnt qualify as hands on experience. The yanks and the west in general are losing the plot and invariably the war. War does not keep time it doesnt have work hours or rules other than the adversary must be dealt a bloody nose. What the hell has war become? Political wrangling for votes and approval at the cost of own forces? Holy kamoly! The last thing they want is to wake the locals while terrorists lay their wares. Its pathetic. I'd rather go into war with the salvation army than the new world types! Mike.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

A cause for great concern, Gatvol. The enemy must be laughing their heads off.

Rgds,

Eeben

John said...

Good evening Eeben,

Thank You for the link. Unfortunately I am not shocked, disgusted but not shocked.

It is truly sick that we are concerned more with the feelings of those who aid and abet those who would kill our soldiers and contractors at the drop of a hat instead of just getting the darn job done. What have we done to our officer corp....

It is good to have your insight back out with all of us. Now, more than ever, men such as yourself are required to help right the course of history. We all can comment and commit to pass on the right message and get these wrongs corrected. That is our duty to future generations.

Regards,
John

P.S. Very good to hear you are doggedly working on your next book. I hope recent events can bring it out into the light (without completely destroying your returning sense of humor).

matt said...

"Thanks for pointing us all back to your blog (www.feraljundi.com) where I am sure visitors will find even more on this remarkable “surrender without a fight” attitude."
------------

I just posted it on Facebook, and did not put it on my blog. What is interesting is that I am finding myself posting way more links to stories on the Feral Jundi facebook page, just because that is where the readership is. Actually, a few of the commentators here have Facebook pages, and they are active at that site. So it is a good place to hang out and collect information.

It is also a great place to get feedback and to see any instant reactions to stories. I have used FB as a place to throw around ideas, and anything that gets heavy interest from the crowd, will often make it onto the blog.

An example is that Marine story who posed the question to Mila Kunis to go the Marine Ball. That post had it's beginnings on Facebook.

The other reason why I go to FB to share ideas, is that most people who are short on time, will often spend that little bit of time on FB. They use the email and chat features, and find out their news that is important to their networks. I imagine a lot of people found out about the Usama Bin Laden raid through FB or Twitter, just because that is where they spend their much of their precious time.

This interaction on FB also drives traffic back to the blog and promotes the brand called Feral Jundi. I also share links to your blog posts on Facebook, and I am sure you have seen some of that traffic come in. It has been very useful.

Not to mention all of the FB groups that have numerous folks talking about all sorts of industry specific things. Especially the maritime security stuff. For me, Facebook is feedback and information gold. Linkedin is similar, but FB is a lot more informal and most people end up hanging there anyways.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

It is also “cowardice with honour” as far as I am concerned, albeit prescribed cowardice, Mike.

I recall the day when the army had to “find, fix and destroy” the enemy. Now it seems it must find, observe and give the enemy room to manoeuvre in order to kill us or inflict casualties and damage to us.

This is however not only a US or UK thing. It is becoming rather prevalent in western armies as they must apparently safeguard the interests and human rights of the enemy and ensure the enemy gets their beauty sleep.

Sick indeed.

Rgds,

Eeben

jon said...

Eeben...

I have no words, as I am truly, truly glad that you were able to find and dedicate some time to such an important, determining issue!

I can, and I will, say this, because that's how I see it, and I say it as I see it: The world, Mate, needs Executive Outcomes.
The name you chose for your former Outfit states it all! As the issue here is: Outcomes!

I meant to cut this short, for what else could be added to what you and the others have justly observed? But, if you'll allow me...
What has happened to us, the West, a culture which finds its roots to a Warrior Lineage that goes back a few thousands of years...? A Warrior tradition that drove men to choose Self Sacrifice in order to oppose, delay, fight, and eventually stop an onslaught of several hundred thousands foreign invaders?

For crying out loud, the West would most probably be speaking, say, Farsi, had a Political Leader, a Warrior King, not chosen to carry out a suicide mission with a handful of select few, with the stated intent to delay and stop the invasion. And stop it they did, for History is quite clear on it.

A Fighting Monarch (just like our politicians...), leading his men in the front lines, engaging in CQC, xiphos and hoplons, knowing, Knowing all of it was being done for the preservation of Greek culture and system of values... A Leader whose extent of PC was to respond to the Emperor's demand to Lay Down Their Arms, as follows: "Come and Get'em!"

For those who are skeptical about this, I'm sure Herodotus would greatly help!

What the hell happened to us... What have the brutal sacrifices of Our Warrior Traditions achieved... when I think of what's going on with our political and military "Leaders"...?

Those chaps would be turning in their graves if they knew what has become of the world the cultural principles of which they fought so greatly to preserve! I know I would, had I been them...

The world needs Executive Outcomes.

Until later Eeben.

michael b said...

this COURAGEOUS CONSTRAINT thing has me all worked up. i see this spilling over into PMC`s working for example doing maritime anti piracy details. people are hired to protect and repel pirates but may fall under some dilly UN maritime mandate that will get the sub contractors in hot water legally if they shoot marauding pirates or end up in the pirates stock pot in hot water! its a lose , lose situation. when will this political correct wrangling stop and anti terrorist operations kick into gear. the more time and quarter you afford the bad guys, the more brazen, cruel and organised they get. imagine for a moment that this wally of COURAGEOUS CONSTRAINT was practiced during world war 2? hell, we`d all be speaking german and goose stepping to the trumpet calls hailing the the 3rd reich. times are becoming complicated and people are dying while politicians wave their fingers and make empty promices.
mike

Herbert said...

Mr. Barlow,

I read the Daily Mail article. Such an engagement rule is just downright ignominious. Your comments and passion are on target in my eyes, with one addition: The problem probably is with the senior military officers more than the politicians. Now I am not defending politicians; however, I suspect that the political guidance was to be more sensitive to the local populace, and senior military officers took it to this ridiculous point. In any case, we have lost our compass.

Rgds
Herbert

michael b said...

i wonder if the norwegians feel like practicing courageous constraint after a tragic tragedy that they are currently experiencing. terrorism in any guise is the cowards code. maybe the military commanders should rethink the term and call it courteous restraint and "turn the other cheek". as soon as the bad guys out there find out about "CC" they will definately take massive advatage of flacid politicking.
mike.

Orlando Wilson, Risks Incorporated said...

Very well said, but what can we expect from those senior ranks supposedly fighting a war on terror or Narcos when they thrive in environments where it’s encouraged for men to be more sensitive and feminine and women to be more masculine… They must be confused… Being honest, speaking your mind and having backbone are not looked upon as being positive traits these days…

michael b said...

i now think i may know why you feel so strongly about this whole naf courageous constraint debacle. i saw the memorial on google earth in senekal free state. EO is definately in a totally different league to other PMC`s and military groups. you cared about your staffers and it now shows just what makes a good leader. i have said before that i was proud to have worked for Executive Outcomes but i can now say it was the best company i have yet had the good fortune to work for. once again thank you Eeben. michael(bk nr32). ps: is the memorial on private land? is the memorial open to the public?

Blokeo said...

This is a great example of what we really should be asking our politicians when they run for election: "Are you really going to protect our army?"
"Will you remove all these RoE constraints?"
And then, we need to harshly query the Press every time that they attribute a civilian death to the UK servicemen.
"Hearts and Soul" and "Shock and Awe" will always include civilians, especially as the enemy hides amongst them and uses them for support and logistics.
Stop blaming the soldiers for the mortal acts/effects of war. Start supporting their legal ways and really immerse Ourselves in the blame for sending these soldiers to war in the first place (for Democracy implies that We, the People, are the war "lords").
(I know I go a tad poetic on that last statement, but it is for emphasis.)

bushcraftercz said...

Forcing own troops to follow ocasionally really stupid rules when enemy can do whatever he wants, and still is protected as a combatant - it´s all hypocritic. As a deployed soldier who see this crap every day, I do not believe we can win a war this way. Maybe cricket match, but not a war. But as you said Sir, it makes one wonder, if killing the enemy is really the goal.
PS: sorry for my english

simon said...

One has to wonder if this is just a propoganda move by the public relations to curry favor with the arab world and prove that we are not cold blooded killers. Its a duplicitous effort thats going on. Perhaps on one end they are trying not to allow the typical inexperienced soldier from popping people by mistake. Probably not. But on the flip side, the fact is the intensity of killings by the US by drone and by nightly raids against taliban strongholds has increased far beyone what GW Bush has done. This liberal president seems to be trying to walk a line between his liberal base and then looking the other way on things because he knows they have to be done. Both of the US's wars have become and always have been political. It started in Korea, ballooned in Vietnam and now we are in a situation that no one seems to know what the endgame is.

Im not into conspiracies but I am becoming more and more sceptical of anything the goverment puts out about our military. They use it as a social engineering experiment. It does appear though that the Tier one operators are kicking doors and eliminating the 'center of gravity' and key players in afghanistan. Bute even then, who knows the real story. BTW, anybody interested in WW2 stuff, Im using my blog to post bundles of links from the net on a wide variety of subjects. Just a few at a time.

Trying to get my links on PMC's and GWOT research links as well. yours included.

sir 47 said...

hello sir Barlow
I have just bought stiff peter's book.He does not speak about Athol Visser,You were in the region 5 of the CCB.Knew you athol says ivan the terrible?is he real?Thank you for answering me if it does not disturb you.If you do not want to post the comment I leave you my address msn:karanset@hotmail.fr
sorry for my english
respect sir Barlow

Dylan Knapp said...

Sir --

I'm prior US Army (2001-2006) and worked as a SIGINT analyst for CENTCOM once I rejoined the civilian world. I figured that at CENTCOM I'd finally reached the spot where the decision makers knew what they were doing with our two wars. Unfortunately I discovered that the conflicts are sustained by a bizarre kind of bureaucratic momentum, and that nobody at CENTCOM sees any kind of formula for victory. Everything is a PowerPoint presentation or an Excel Spreadsheet.

This latest post of yours really sums up what I saw at CENTCOM -- armchair generalship and strange, political priorities, resulting in success for the enemy and death/maiming/mental destruction for our young men. I'm not sure if you heard, but this month is perhaps the most deadly month for our troops, thanks to the loss of 30 men in one stroke in Afghanistan.

I know that your primary concern is Africa, but I'd be thrilled to read a real, hard-nosed assessment of what we (the US) are doing wrong, especially from someone outside, someone who doesn't have a multi-billion dollar defense contract to protect or a President's poll numbers to worry about.

Ever since David Hackworth passed away no one has risen to take his place. He never shied away from the chance to take our military to task for the strange, UN-style, PhD. driven, not-quite-warfare we've taught our men and women to fight. We've got nobody to say, "Hey, what the #$@# are you idiots doing?"

At this point I'm not even sure what I'm asking you...I've lost friends, seen so much incompetent bull#### since 2001, that I lose perspective.

I guess I'd like to know what the heck is wrong with us as a people. Why are we are more concerned with the enemy's quality of life than the quantity of his dead?

How can a nation that thinks this way succeed against its enemies? What's missing from our character? Do you see any solutions? What would you do if you were our Secretary of Defense?

Thanks for writing this blog, you've got another reader. And feel free to ignore the questions...I have a feeling that there isn't an answer.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

It is truly disgusting, John.

Sadly, if someone somewhere does not pull his socks up, we may not leave much of a future to the next generation as the armed forces and other security services will be totally toothless and more concerned at upholding the human rights of the bad guys.

We do have a duty to the next generation but I am afraid that where I sit, I cannot do much re the bigger picture. I see, I comment and that is about it.

My sense of humour is improving – albeit very slowly!

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

My mistake, Matt – apologies. Thanks for pointing it out to me.

I have purposely stayed off Facebook. I am scared it will consume too much time and I don’t always have the luxury of time.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Executive Outcomes was a thorn in the side of some Western nations, Jon. Chaos was chosen above order – something many want to see in Africa. Why do you think some governments put pressure on the SA government to stop EO? EO, despite many problems, was never involved in arms trafficking, child prostitution, drug smuggling and other crimes, unlike some other PMCs who continually get contracts – and do nothing to honour their contracts.

I have come across several foreign PMCs that have been gold-plate awarded their contracts and their knowledge of the country they are working in extends little further than a few minutes on Google. A sad state of affairs indeed. Fortunately, the governments that are blackmailed into using these PMCs know exactly what is going on.

EO is long dead and gone, and so it shall remain.

As for “Warrior Kings” – that is something of the past. No more will politicians lead or even follow the troops they commit to battle. Unfortunately, that same applies to many senior officers. But, we have ourselves to blame for this and no one else.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I am afraid political correctness is here to stay, Mike. The time is near that the West must chose survival over political correctness. It will be interesting to see what option they take.

But, we need to ask the question: Are they really serious about stopping piracy and terrorism – or is it all just a matter of talking?

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I deleted your comment due to language issues, Jon. Sorry about that but see my policy re language on the blog.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

You raise a good point, Herbert.

If this is due to senior officers trying to appease dangerous political guidance – and simply accepting it – they are a disgrace to the uniform they wear.

One can and should be extremely sensitive to the local population but not in such a manner that it endangers lives.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

That was indeed a very tragic incident, Mike.

One has to ask: What happened to intelligence gathering? Surely this person could not have planned all of this without so much as a whisper surfacing?

My sympathies go to all of those who lost loved ones as well as to the people of Norway as a whole.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Very true words, Orlando.

There seems to be some confusion as to what the aim of war really is. If governments and generals are not serious about what they are doing, or to bring about a positive result through armed intervention, they should rather do nothing. More soldiers’ lives will be saved that way.

However, I am afraid that this bumbling around will continue long after we are gone.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks for that, Mike.

I know the memorial is now safely kept on Nic vd Berg’s farm. I am sure that you will find him welcoming you if you wish to visit it.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

We should but do not ask those questions, Blokeo. We have so tied ourselves up with RoE, human rights, paying off the enemy and so forth, that we have lost sight of the ultimate objective of our actions.

I recall General Subianto (Indonesian Special Forces) saying to me that one day the West will learn that you cannot negotiate with terrorists over a cup of tea. He was so right.

The media loves to blame anyone and everyone who is against those they (the media) actually support. I note that blame is always attributed to the soldiers for civilian deaths but who shouted to the world that there should be a war in the first place? Not the armed forces.

When the enemy hides amongst the local population, the soldier’s task is even more difficult. Yes, sadly there will be collateral damage but then again, why did the civilians remain there knowing full well that an action was pending? I have yet to see the locals attack and evict the enemy from their homes or villages. And that is not because the enemy is armed – most civilians are also armed.

I appreciate you going poetic – I just get mad!

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Well said, bushcraftercz. It is incredibly stupid to say the least.

I doubt if one will win a cricket game in the same manner – you bat to score runs, not to lose them.

There is nothing wrong with your English – thanks for writing.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I doubt it is a propaganda ploy Simon, but propaganda or not, it certainly sends the wrong message to an enemy. Even inexperienced soldiers ought to have fire discipline.

The difference between a drone and a soldier is that the drone does not think – it responds to electronic instructions. The soldier on the other hand, ought to be able to indentify his enemy, think and react. Drones will always cause collateral damage and no matter how we package it, that remains a fact.

Whereas I cannot comment on your president, I do suspect that all is not well on many fronts.

I am sure many visitors are interested in WW2. Please send us your blog address again for those who do not have it.

Rgds,

Eeben

jon said...

Yes Eeben,

No worries. I read carefully the concerns outlined in the Blog's page before "commenting" on whatever issue.

As I've said: Over a Tall Cold One, talking shop...


Good you are back.

Until later,

Jon


PS Sorry about the spelling mistakes.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I did not know an Athol Visser, Sir47. Perhaps it is someone who spent time in Region 5 before I became its commander. Regardless, I had to start from scratch to build my networks and support structures.

As before, your English is fine – no need whatsoever to apologise.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

It certainly sounds as though you have had an interesting career, Dylan.

I have noted the misguided belief that “he who has the best PowerPoint presentation, wins”. Slightly off note, I recall once having to give a briefing to a Sector commander. A Special Forces captain and I were to brief the commander on operations within his sector, albeit in Angola. The captain stood up, opened maps, flip charts, stuck notes on the wall, and did a presentation that would have made School of Infantry proud. All the while, I was becoming increasingly worried as I had none of that with me – in fact, had never considered it.

When my turn came, I got up and my entire presentation was as follows: “Sir, we are going to take the enemies tracks from here, implement relentless pursuit and kill every one of them – that’s my plan”. The commander leaned back in his chair, lit a cigarette, and looked at me long and hard and then said to the Special Forces captain: “Now that was a presentation – yours was a fairy tale”.

The loss of 30 men recently in Afghanistan was indeed a tragic loss. I am certainly very saddened to learn of the death of every soldier and I continue to wonder if this is not a war with a terribly flawed strategy.

I am in no position to really comment on what the strategy is or where it should be adjusted. Suffice to say, when I offered some services to the US forces, I was turned down. Yes, my primary concern remains Africa and I think we could have been a good ally. Unfortunately, we were not wanted.

There are always solutions. Even the most difficult problem can be solved. It just needs a sound appreciation (based on sound intelligence) and the desire to implement it as well as the necessary support to sustain it.

I understand your feelings. Losing friends is never easy.

All I can say is hold your head up, never give up and remember, every problem has a solution.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks Jon!

Rgds,

Eeben

Blokeo said...

Eeben,

This Blog post of yours has touched a nerve in all of us. (I never served, as my deafness precluded it, but I do feel that my brother serves at risk - though for now he stays in US.)
Even the best of us civilians (adventurers) are at undue risk due to these RoE, such that the enemy can use the rules to their advantage:
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1229654/A-Navy-vessel-just-50ft-away-pirates-kidnapped-British-yacht-couple-Why-didnt-sailors-stop-Human-rights-course-.html#ixzz0XU1OabRD

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I know several people who have lost their hearing Blokeo – or were born that way - and am often amazed at how stoical, resilient and hardworking they are. Yet, for some reason, the labels that are attached to people who are deaf are so stupid as their skills can be utilised very well.

The link you sent is shameful to say the least. I stand amazed that enforced cowardice is so readily accepted but packaged as something noble. I wonder when the leaders of the world will decide to rather surrender than make the token effort that is currently being made. That way, the enemy’s human rights will be protected and we will not have to pay them to attack us.

Makes me mad!

Rgds,

Eeben

jon said...

Hello Eeben,

Should you find time to kill, maybe you can kill it reading this ;-)


Another one of those hub hubs throughout which Mr Bushmills presides in Tall Order ;-)


I'm copying one of my replies to a friend who asked me about my take on Jeet Kune Do. Figure it's all tied in, so I figured I'd share ;-)


[...................................................]

My two cents on JKD, on B Lee's philosophy which eventually led to the codification of those concepts on which he would finally base JKD, and JKD as to ultimately signifying the business of war, got me thinking of the current state of international affairs.


War has always been the business of men, it will always remain the business of men.

It's that simple, it's that true.


The hypocrisy of men as they conduct the business of war underscores that business. When one recognizes, because one must, that war is the business conducted by men, which means governments, mandated by governments, one recognizes that war is the express will of that country's peoples. The people who define their governments because in effect they create government.
For, by, to the people. Blah blah.

Hence: War. Because war is business and business is money, and the people need money to conduct the business of life.

So, thirty plus US and NATO soldiers get killed in, say, Afghanistan. Own forces soldiers are heavily engaged, say, in combat missions in Iraq. Because the M East means oil and oil means business and business is money and governments need money so that their Country's people are able to conduct the business of living. Plain and true.

Aptly, the war is conducted in, let's say, the M East, because the M East is the home of the leaders and armies of your Country's enemies. Sure, how it must be, because when you don't fight them there, away from your own soil, you are bound to fight them somewhere else, including, arguably, in your home land. Why fight your enemy among your people when you can fight him away from your home? Besides, to fight him in his own country is to allow you to Divide et Impera, effectively, one day, occupying it.
Which means more wealth. For the people.


As the business of your people's government's war is conducted there, away from you, you go about the business of your daily living. Work, wife, kids, the fence, the dog, the pink house, the Flag, tall and snapping in the front lawn, school, groceries, blah blah, the American Dream.
And a dream it is, since hey, no one is dying here, in your backyard, fighting a war.

Which is the whole point of waging that war there, not here, in the first place.

The dream gets dreamier still because not only you are not living that war in your front yard, you are, as a tax-paying citizen, benefiting from the spoils of that war. A war being fought away from you. You go to the gas station, you bitch about the rising cost of gasoline, but you eventually appreciate that it could be a lot worse. You could be paying ten dollars instead of four dollars per gallon.
The only reason you are still paying four dollars is because your country's soldiers are fighting and dying there, not here. And as they fight and die there, they occupy. Occupying means control, which means monopoly, which means seizure of assets, which means wealth. Money.
For the people.

Effectively, for you.

You who just bitched about the rising cost at the pumps and who then came to the inevitable conclusion that it could be, in fact, a lot worse.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

A lot of validity in what you say, Jon.

As today marks 10 years since 9/11 one can but only hope that the powers that be will take a long hard look at what is happening across the globe and know that some very tough decisions need to be made.

Those that command the armed forces also need to make some tough decisions and not allow personalities and pettiness to put the soldiers into harm’s way.

My thoughts are with your country at this time of coming to terms with that terrible attack, the healing and growing stronger.

Indeed, rough men must stand ready to do battle.

Rgds,

Eeben

jon said...

Eeben,

It is not surprising you would factor in the current reality where the international arena is concerned, along with the notion that all that is undergoing world wide today is correlated to what that day ten years ago would go on to signify for us, as you go on reflecting on my two cents in regards to my latest correspondence to you.

Because that's exactly it: One must call a spade a spade when spade's the hand one's got.
It's as simple as that.

Quite on point, I still have friends, and I know I'm not the only one, heavily engaged overseas because they were, and still are, Men of Honor, who decided twenty years ago or so they would re-up and stay, and keep on doing what their Country and their personal mandates both ask of them.

These chaps are approaching retirement even as they fulfill their fourth, fifth, sixth operational tours in war zones.
There's a lot to be said in such regard where folks such as I are concerned.

At end of the day, those who choose to do what they do do make the difference. It's only that, as you nail it, "personalities and pettiness" compromise all that those folks define, for themselves and for the Country as a whole.

Yet still do they go on, relentlessly. As their own personal code requires of them.

Because I know, and I speak for myself and a few others I know, that I would do it all over again.
In spite of the BS orchestrated by political leaders and military commanders, I'd still, as those like me would, do what must be done.

It is not random that someone who would live the experiences of war up close and personally would etch for posterity:

"They sleep safely in their beds, for Rough Men stand ready in the night to visit violence upon those who would do them harm".

A spade's a spade and it's not something else. What must be done, must be done.
It's simply that.




Best regards,

Jon

Rothco Military said...

i really like your blog.Thanks for sharing all the discussion above.Thanks.....it is too good and helpful.

regards,
Rothco

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Given half the chance most of us would do it all over again despite what we know now, Jon. Being older and wiser does not detract from the call to arms to serve. I, like many others, have known what true friendship, camaraderie and hardship is like. Those who are so quick to point a finger give not a seconds thought to why they are free to do so.

The personalities and the pettiness are what have given the profession of arms a tarnished name. Then there are those that use this noble profession to further their own aims, further adding to the tarnishing.

The comment: "They sleep safely in their beds, for Rough Men stand ready in the night to visit violence upon those who would do them harm", seems to have no relevance to some in our modern society. Sad.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks Rothco – your ad has been placed.

Rgds,

Eeben

YEP, GEDDON! said...

You have to win "hearts and minds", that is why courageous constraint is crucial to the Afghan conflict. None the less, the war in Afghanistan is un-winnable, and this has been shown throughout history. It's just a shame these politicians refuse to read history books.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Hi Yep Geddon,

There is a vast difference between “courageous constraint” and disciplined fire control.

The former is what those who have no clue about warfare espouse, the latter what trained soldiers do.

Winning hearts and minds is a mantra many like to use but seem to apply it incorrectly. You win hearts and minds not by passive bribery but by active deeds. As for reading history – no one seems to read history and take note anymore. That includes not only politicians but military men as well.

Rgds,

Eeben