Chuck Spinney: The Economist Backs Off on Climate Change

03 Environmental Degradation, IO Impotency
Chuck Spinney
Chuck Spinney

The below report in The Economist highlights the controversies overtaking the consensus position on human-induced global warming in climate science.

IMO, it is balanced; indeed, in many ways, it might even be construed as being slightly biased toward the consensus pro-warming position.  This report does not, for example, disucss the cosmic ray hypothesis of the Danish physicist, Hans Svensmark (explained here with a link to Svensmark’s very important paper), even though that hypothesis is gaining some experimental support; nor does this report address the well-known problems of instrumental temperature measurements (resulting in adjustments that have the analytically convenient effect of increasing the degree of warming over time) or the poorly understood reliabilities of proxies (e.g., tree rings, ice cores, etc) for measuring long term baselines.

What makes this report and its accompanying editorial (here) interesting is not only its balance but the fact that, to date, The Economist has leaned toward the “pro-warming” side of the climate science debate; so, this report indicates a shift to a more ambivalent position.

All in all, I think The Economist has introduced a sound dose of sanity to what has become a totured unscientific emotional debate, reminiscent of those I saw repeatedly in the Pentagon’s politically motivated uses of science to support weapons advocacy.

Chuck Spinney

The climate may be heating up less in response to greenhouse-gas emissions than was once thought. But that does not mean the problem is going away

Mar 30th 2013

OVER the past 15 years air temperatures at the Earth’s surface have been flat while greenhouse-gas emissions have continued to soar. The world added roughly 100 billion tonnes of carbon to the atmosphere between 2000 and 2010. That is about a quarter of all the CO₂ put there by humanity since 1750. And yet, as James Hansen, the head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, observes, “the five-year mean global temperature has been flat for a decade.”

Read full article.

Continue reading “Chuck Spinney: The Economist Backs Off on Climate Change”

Chuck Spinney: The Mind of the Decider — Ignorance Plus Arrogance — Disconnected from Reality While All Others Buried Their Integrity

08 Wild Cards, Corruption, Government, Idiocy, IO Deeds of War, Lessons, Military, Officers Call
Chuck Spinney
Chuck Spinney


Iraq Invasion Anniversary: Inside The Decider’s Head

By Chuck Spinney, March 22, 2013

[note: a shorter version of this essay also appeared in Counterpunch here]

In the summer of 2002, during the lead up to the Iraq War, a White House official expressed displeasure about with article written by journalist Ron Suskind in Esquire. He asserted people like Suskind were trapped “in what we call the reality-based community,” which the official defined as people who ”believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.”

President Bush announces the invasion of Iraq from the Oval Office, Mar. 19, 2003.
President Bush announces the invasion of Iraq from the Oval Office, Mar. 19, 2003.

Suskind murmured something about enlightenment principles grounded in scientific empiricism, but the official cut him off, saying,

We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.

This is a revealing statement about the mentality in the Bush White House prior to the Iraq War.

Think about it: in effect, the official is claiming the mind of a decider, who is tasked with making decisions to cope with the constraints of the real world, has the power to create a new reality over and over again. Therefore the decider need not be worried about matching his actions against those constraints, or even observing those constraints, before making his decisions.

Arrogant? To be sure.

Unusual inside the Beltway?  Not really, based on my experience in the Pentagon.

But this outlook also reflects an incredibly stupid and dangerous way to orient one’s decision cycle to events in the real world.

Continue reading “Chuck Spinney: The Mind of the Decider — Ignorance Plus Arrogance — Disconnected from Reality While All Others Buried Their Integrity”

Chuck Spinney: The Truth About the Cuban Missile Crisis

Corruption, Government, IO Impotency, Peace Intelligence
Chuck Spinney
Chuck Spinney

The below article, which appeared in the Atlantic last January, is a very important illustration of how domestic politics determine foreign policy.  Bear in mind, the behaviour described below occurred when there was (and still is) a consensus among the pol-mil intellectuals that domestic politics stops at the water’s edge and that foreign policy was and should be bi-partisan — the conclusion is a good analysis of where this kind of romantic intellectualization leads.

The Real Cuban Missile Crisis


By Benjamin Schwarz, The Atlantic, 11 January 1913


On that very first day of the ExComm meetings, McNamara provided a wider perspective on the missiles’ significance: “I’ll be quite frank. I don’t think there is a military problem here … This is a domestic, political problem.” In a 1987 interview, McNamara explained: “You have to remember that, right from the beginning, it was President Kennedy who said that it was politically unacceptable for us to leave those missile sites alone. He didn’t say militarily, he said politically.” What largely made the missiles politically unacceptable was Kennedy’s conspicuous and fervent hostility toward the Castro regime—a stance, Kennedy admitted at an ExComm meeting, that America’s European allies thought was “a fixation” and “slightly demented.”

Read full article.


Chuck Spinny: Turkey Says Zionism is Fascism

06 Genocide, 07 Other Atrocities, 08 Proliferation, Cultural Intelligence
Chuck Spinney
Chuck Spinney

My experience in Turkey based on two years there is entirely consistent with Giraldi’s point of view.

Talking Turkey About Zionism

by, March 07, 2013

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is in trouble again with Washington and Tel Aviv because he dared to equate Zionism with fascism and anti-Semitism as an ideology or political movement that has brought oppression. Erdogan was speaking at a United Nations sponsored Alliance of Civilizations conference in Vienna dealing with instilling tolerance. He spoke in Turkish, but his words as translated into English were, “It is necessary that we must consider – just like Zionism or anti-Semitism or fascism – Islamophobia is a crime against humanity.” Erdogan was immediately pounced upon by the usual suspects and new American Secretary of State John Kerry was also quick to pull the trigger by saying, “We not only disagree with it. We found it objectionable.” He also stated that the comments did not help the Israel-Palestine peace process. That there is no peace process due to Israel’s unwillingness to countenance an actual Palestinian state with genuine sovereignty is apparently irrelevant, but then again it has been irrelevant to American policymakers ever since 1967, when the Israelis first occupied the remaining land that they had not already taken in the aftermath of the 1947 partition of Palestine.

Continue reading “Chuck Spinny: Turkey Says Zionism is Fascism”

Chuck Spinney: Treason Thy Name is F-35A aka “Acquisition Malpractice”

Commerce, Corruption, Government, Military
Chuck Spinney
Chuck Spinney

Below is more insight into the disgraceful state of affairs of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the largest program in DoD’s history.  This commentary by Winslow Wheeler, Director of the Strauss Military Reform Project, is based on the information in yet another official Pentagon DOT&E report.  Read it and weep … I especially uge that doubters, deniers, and non-believers take the time to peruse the entire official DOT&E report at this link, also referenced in Winslow’s the first paragraph.

It is important to understand F-35’s deplorable state of affairs is  a typical albeit extreme example of where concurrency leads — higher costs, decreased performance, stretched-out and/or truncated production runs, culminating in aging, shrinking inventories and rising costs of maintaining even low rates of readiness of combat forces.  And the concurrency horrors of the F-35 are by no means unique, think F-111, C-5, V-22F-22, and F-18E/F.  To be sure, concurrency is not the sole cause of these aforementioned trends, but it is a major contributor.
But in the case of the F-35, even some parts of the Pentagon are starting to gag on the monster they have unleashed.  In February 2012, no less an authority than Frank Kendall, the Pentagon’s acting acquisition chief charactered the F-35’s grossly excessive concurrency as “acquisition malpractice.”  (Congressional Research Report (RL30563), F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) Program, see page 7).
Of course, Kendall’s statement smacked of the pot calling the kettle black.  Where was the concern by him or his predecessors when they could have done something about what is now a $1.4 trillion* problem?   It is not as if the general nature, if not the specifics, of the inevitable F-35 mess was hard for acquisition managers to foresee — if you doubt that, read my essay, JSF: One More Card in the House, published over 12 years ago in the August 2000 issue of the Proceedings of the Naval Institute.
* Estimated  (as of 2011) life cycle cost for developing, buying, and operating 2443 F-35s for 30 years, assuming total production run, assuming no more unexpected problems, schedule slippages, and a full production run [source]. 
Chuck Spinney

Chuck Spinney: Good, Bizarre, and Ugly

04 Inter-State Conflict, 05 Civil War, 07 Other Atrocities, 08 Wild Cards, 10 Security, 11 Society, Articles & Chapters, Corruption, DoD, Government, IO Deeds of War, Military, Officers Call, Peace Intelligence
Chuck Spinney


The Good, the Bizarre and the Ugly

AF-PAK Sitrep

by FRANKLIN C. SPINNEY, Counterpunch

It is becoming increasingly clear that the AF-PAK war will end in yet another grand strategic defeat for the United States.  To date, President Obama, has been able to distract attention from this issue, but given the stakes in 2012, that dodge is unlikely to last. Get ready for an ugly debate over “who lost the Afghan War.”

To those readers who disagree with my opening line, I urge you to study Anthony Cordersman’s most recent situation report on the AF-PAK War, THE AFGHANISTAN- PAKISTAN WAR AT THE END OF 2011: Strategic Failure? Talk Without Hope? Tactical Success? Spend Not Build (And Then Stop Spending)?  It was issued by the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington on November 15.  Reading the report is heavy slogging but I urge readers to download and examine it — at the very least, take a few minutes  to read the executive summary.

Now compare Cordesman’s systematic, detailed, and workmanlike analysis to the bizarre obscurantism peddled one week later, on 22 November, co-authored by Michael O’Hanlon (Brookings Institution) and former Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz (American Enterprise Institute) in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, entitled Defining Victory in Afghanistan.

O’Hanlon and Wolfowitz posit the bizarre thesis that the admittedly less than successful outcome against the FARC guerrillas in Columbia is a favorable model for justifying continuing business as usual in Afghanistan. Viewed through the refractions of their Columbian lens, O’Hanlon and Wolfowitz conclude, “Our current exit strategy of reducing American troops to 68,000 by the end of next summer and transferring full security responsibility to Afghan forces by 2014 is working. In a war where the U.S. has demonstrated remarkable strategic patience, we need to stay patient and resolute.”

Are O’Hanlon and Wolfowitz living on the same planet as Cordesman or do they live in some kind of parallel universe?

I submit it is latter. Here’s why –

Read full analysis.

C-SPAN Hour on The Pentagon Labyrinth

Budgets & Funding, Corruption, Cultural Intelligence, Government, Military, Movies

The Pentagon Labyrinth on C-SPAN

Mar 11, 2011

Stewart R. Mott Charitable Trust | Mott House

Three former, high-level Pentagon insiders take a critical look at how the Defense Department operates and where the money it receives goes. The three- Thomas Christie, Franklin Spinney and Pierre Sprey – are contributors to the book, The Pentagon Labyrinth. Danielle Brian, executive director .. Read More

Three former, high-level Pentagon insiders take a critical look at how the Defense Department operates and where the money it receives goes. The three- Thomas Christie, Franklin Spinney and Pierre Sprey – are contributors to the book, The Pentagon Labyrinth. Danielle Brian, executive director of the Project On Government Oversight (POGO), acts as moderator for the discussion.

Watch Video: 1 hour, 2 minutes

See Also + Pierre Sprey’s “Seven Rules”:

Continue reading “C-SPAN Hour on The Pentagon Labyrinth”

Reference: The Pentagon Labyrinth

6 Star Top 10%, Banks, Fed, Money, & Concentrated Wealth, Budget Process & Politics, Capitalism (Good & Bad), Complexity & Catastrophe, Congress (Failure, Reform), Corruption, Crime (Corporate), Crime (Government), Culture, Research, DoD, Economics, Empire, Sorrows, Hubris, Blowback, Executive (Partisan Failure, Reform), Force Structure (Military), Historic Contributions, Impeachment & Treason, Intelligence (Public), Justice (Failure, Reform), Media, Military, Military & Pentagon Power, Misinformation & Propaganda, Monographs, Peace, Poverty, & Middle Class, Politics, Power (Pathologies & Utilization), Priorities, Public Administration, Science & Politics of Science, Secrecy & Politics of Secrecy, Security (Including Immigration), Threats (Emerging & Perennial), True Cost & Toxicity, Voices Lost (Indigenous, Gender, Poor, Marginalized), War & Face of Battle

The Pentagon Labyrinth

It is my pleasure to announce the publication of The Pentagon Labyrinth: 10 Short Essays to Help You Through It. This is a short pamphlet of less than 150 pages and is available at no cost in E-Book PDF format, as well as in hard copy from links on this page as well as here and here.  Included in the menu below are download links for a wide variety of supplemental/supporting information (much previously unavailable on the web) describing how notions of combat effectiveness relate to the basic building blocks of people, ideas, and hardware/technology; the nature of strategy; and the dysfunctional character of the Pentagon’s decision making procedures and the supporting role of its  accounting shambles.

Chuck Spinney
The Blaster

This pamphlet aims to help both newcomers and seasoned observers learn how to grapple with the problems of national defense.  Intended for readers who are frustrated with the superficial nature of the debate on national security, this handbook takes advantage of the insights of ten unique professionals, each with decades of experience in the armed services, the Pentagon bureaucracy, Congress, the intelligence community, military history, journalism and other disciplines.  The short but provocative essays will help you to:

  • identify the decay – moral, mental and physical – in America’s defenses,
  • understand the various “tribes” that run bureaucratic life in the Pentagon,
  • appreciate what too many defense journalists are not doing, but should,
  • conduct first rate national security oversight instead of second rate theater,
  • separate careerists from ethical professionals in senior military and civilian ranks,
  • learn to critique strategies, distinguishing the useful from the agenda-driven,
  • recognize the pervasive influence of money in defense decision-making,
  • unravel the budget games the Pentagon and Congress love to play,
  • understand how to sort good weapons from bad – and avoid high cost failures, and
  • reform the failed defense procurement system without changing a single law.

The handbook ends with lists of contacts, readings and Web sites carefully selected to facilitate further understanding of the above, and more.

Continue reading “Reference: The Pentagon Labyrinth”

Journal: Pentagon Lies, NYT Sells Out, Obama Fiddles

08 Wild Cards, 10 Transnational Crime, Corruption, Geospatial, Government, History of Opposition, Intelligence (government), Misinformation & Propaganda, Policy, Power Behind-the-Scenes/Special Interests, Secrecy & Politics of Secrecy, True Cost

Chuck Spinney Sends

Rotting Oder of Pentagon Info Op Signals Effort to Shore Up its Great Game in the Hindu Kush

On 13 June, James Risen of the New York Times conveniently (at least for the Pentagon and the war party) reported that the “United States has discovered $1 trillion in untapped mineral deposits in Afghanistan [also attached below for your convenience].  I say convenient, because time is running out for the Pentagon in Afghanistan, and this report introduces a ‘new’ reason for occupying Afghanistan.  The timing of this report was noticed very quickly by several skeptical commentators ( e.g., here and here). 

But there is more.  The NYT report has the rotting odor of yet another Pentagon misinformation operation to lather up the masses using the willing offices of the tired old Gray Lady of journalism.  The oder is intense, because Risen’s Pentagon-inspired geological report coincides with the growing disenchantment with Afghan adventure.  And more people are coming to appreciate the disconnect between (1) a spate of credible reports (e.g., here)  describing the lack of progress in Afghanistan, particularly the failure of the showcase Marja COIN strategy to deliver its predicted result and (2) the requirement imposed by President Obama to show progress by the end of this summer.  Bear in mind, Obama’s ‘requirement’ was imposed on the Pentagon when he improved the flawed McChrystal/Petraeus surge plan and sold it to the American people last fall.  The military and spokesmen for the Obama administration began immediately  to back away from the deadline shortly after its inception, and it has already been stretched to coincide with the mid-term elections in November — which goes to show that domestic politics do not end at the water’s edge?

Although the several commentators expressed their justifiable skepticism about the timing of the NYT report, to the best of my knowledge, none have addressed the substance of the mineral estimate.  Shortly after it was published, my good friend and colleague Pierre Sprey, who has been called a vampire because he does his best work in the dark after midnight, got to the heart of the latter question and put the entire story together in an elegantly brief email that he distributed in the dark early hours of 14 June. 

Attached for your reading pleasure is Pierre’s incisive critique:

Pierre Sprey

U.S. Identifies Vast Riches of Minerals in Afghanistan
Pierre Sprey  14 June 2010

The timing of this release of ancient mining news–especially when floated with Petraeus’ name plastered all over it in a tried-and-true government propaganda outlet like the N.Y. Times–smells to me like a last ditch attempt to invent an economic justification for hanging on many more years in the hopeless Afghani morass.

Note that the now sacrosanct 1980s Russian mineral survey was “stumbled on” six years ago in 2004 by an American reconstruction team foraging in the Afghan Geological Survey Library. Then, according to the Times’ (read Petraeus and DoD) spin, nothing happened until two years later when the U.S. Geological Survey launched a 2006 aerial mineral survey followed by another in 2007, supposedly yielding all-new evidence of astonishing mineral wealth (iron, gold, copper, lithium, supposedly a trillion dollar’s worth)  just waiting to be tapped. Supposedly, this astonishing new evidence was then ignored by all until a Pentagon business development task force “rediscovered” the ignored USGS mineral data in 2009.

This spin is quite untrue: in 2005, the Afghan government, quite aware of their mineral resources, opened bidding on copper mining leases in Logar Province, bidding that was won by the Chinese in 2007. As for the reliability of the USGS data, note that they report 1.8 billion tons of potential lithium deposits (lithium is very trendy with the greens these days) but only a puny 111 million tons in proven or probable deposits.
But none of this purportedly astonishing USGS aerial survey data has raised much dust in the international mining world, despite the fact that the entire current New York Times scoop was thoroughly covered by Reuters and Mining Exploration News a year ago in April of 2009.

So what turned the ho-hum Reuters news of April, 2009 into a hot Times scoop in June of 2010? Is there any connection with the desperate need of McChrystal, Petraeus and Gates for a life jacket, now that the Afghan surge they floated is sinking so rapidly?

Sheep in Wolf's Clothing

Here it is….

U.S. Identifies Vast Mineral Riches in Afghanistan

By JAMES RISEN  New York Times, 13 June 2010

WASHINGTON — The United States has discovered nearly $1 trillion in untapped mineral deposits in Afghanistan, far beyond any previously known reserves and enough to fundamentally alter the Afghan economy and perhaps the Afghan war itself, according to senior American government officials.

The previously unknown deposits — including huge veins of iron, copper, cobalt, gold and critical industrial metals like lithium — are so big and include so many minerals that are essential to modern industry that Afghanistan could eventually be transformed into one of the most important mining centers in the world, the United States officials believe.

An internal Pentagon memo, for example, states that Afghanistan could become the “Saudi Arabia of lithium,” a key raw material in the manufacture of batteries for laptops and BlackBerrys.

And so on….read the full deception.

See Also:

Chapter 20, “21st Century Counterintelligence: Evaluating the Health of the Nation,” especially Dereliction of Duty (Defense); Disinformation, Other Information Pathologies, & Repression; Emprire as a Cancer including Betrayal & Deceit; Impeacahable Offenses (Modern); Institutionalized  Ineptitude; and Intelligence (Lack Of), all in the online hyperlinked version of INTELLIGENCE for Earth: Clarity, Diversity, Integrity, & Sustainability (pages 179-205, in Part III.

Journal: Correction To Spinney Piece Makes It Stronger

08 Wild Cards
Chuck Spinney Sends

All … Please be advised, a reader from Toronto correctly informed me that I made a serious error of fact in my last piece in Counterpunch, “Obama as Moral Dupe: Will Erdogan Blink?”

I stated that the threat to sink any Gaza aid ship or escorting warship carrying Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan was made by Deputy of Staff Uzi Dayan. In fact, Dayan is not the currrent Deputy Chief of Staff of the Army, but a former DCS. He is now a member of Likud Party in the Knesset. He is not a member of the Netanyahu government, however.

Therefore, the threat to sink any ship carrying Erdogan was not technically made by the Netanyahu government. However, given the fact that Dayan is a member in good standing of the Israeli generals club; the fact that being Moshe Dayan’s nephew, he is a prominent member of the Israeli military aristocracy; and the facts that the Jerusalem Post and Army Radio are known mouthpieces for the Israeli Government, I suspect this threat was an exercise in “strategic ambiguity” to hype tensions in the hope of deterring the Erdogan government, while leaving the door open for the Netanyahu government to distance itself from the remarks, should that become necessary. It is also possible Dayan had domestic political reasons for making this statement. And, of course, he may have been a loose cannon.

Whatever the case, imagine a prominent US senator saying the US must take a military action that could kill the prime minister of a rival country, and the President taking no action to disavow those remarks. I have searched the internet to find a statement disavowing Dayan’s comments by the Netanyahu government and found none to date.

I should have included wording to this effect — and paradoxically, I think a correction these lines would have made my argument stronger, because it is more illustrative of the kind of psychology at work in a march to a folly reminiscent of that in 1914.

Also, apropos the question of Erdogan blinking, the Turks do not seem deterred and on the contrary appear to be ratcheting up the pressure, if the following quotes attributed to Turkish President Gul in this Ha’aretz report are accurate.

“On Friday Turkish President Abdullah Gul told the French daily Le Monde that Israel must make amends to be forgiven for a commando assault on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla, including apologizing for the attack and paying compensation.

Gul added that if Israel made no move to heal the rift, then Turkey could even decide to break diplomatic relations.

In an interview published on Friday, Gul said the Israeli attack at the end of May, which killed nine activists, was a “crime” which might have been carried out by the likes of al-Qaida rather than a sovereign state.

“It seems impossible to me to forgive or forget, unless there are some initiatives which could change the situation,” Gul was quoted as saying by Le Monde.

Asked what these might be, he said: “Firstly, to ask pardon and to establish some sort of compensation.” He added that he also wanted to see an independent inquiry into the botched raid and a discussion on lifting Israel’s blockade of Gaza.”

In my opinion, statements like Dayan’s and Gul’s illustrate how this crisis could evolve in to a more serious crisis than the Cuban Missile Crisis. I say more serious, because in the Cuban crisis, both sides had militaries armed with nuclear weapons that we now know were controlled by rational civilian leaders, whereas in this crisis is inherently more unstable, because only one side has nuclear weapons, and that side’s politics are dominated by the military, its political and military leaders have a belligerent history preemptive wars, and it has a national outlook that is governed by an increasingly disconnected sense of self-righteous victimhood that has, in Henry Siegman’s words, lost its moral imagination. An the other side is equally stubborn and it senses it has the moral high ground. And the US is in this up to its neck, because it has tight connections to both sides of the quarrel.

Sorry for any confusion caused by my mistake.
Chuck Spinney

Journal: Dropping COIN–McChrystal Returns to His Roots

03 Economy, 04 Inter-State Conflict, 05 Civil War, 07 Other Atrocities, 08 Wild Cards, 10 Security, Ethics, Military, Peace Intelligence
Chuck Spinney Recommends

By FRANKLIN C. SPINNEY, Counterpunch, 27 May 2010


For the past several years Americans have been inundated by reams of journalistic puff pieces extolling the virtues of the new US Counterinsurgency (COIN) Strategy documented by General Petraeus in his much ballyhooed COIN manual — which for the most part was a merely regurgitation of the failed thinking of French Marshal Lyautey’s ink spot strategy (that counterinsurgent forces should aim to secure an ever expanding geographic zone of security with each new area secured providing a basis for further spreading, and so on.)
It is becoming clear, however, the showpiece of this new strategy, the Marjah operation, has failed to deliver on the promised security improvements to the people, and in the words of the theater commander, General Stanley McChrystal, has become a “bleeding ulcer.” 
Coupled with the deadlines imposed by President President Obama, when he approved McChrystal’s ill-thought out plan last Fall, notwithstanding the cogent misgivings expressed by Ambassador Eikenberry, it is now clear that McChrystal is under mounting pressure to deliver some progress by the end of the year. 

Indeed, hair may be on fire at McChrystal’s Bagram headquarters.  Rumors are circulating in military circles of backbiting and finger pointing, as well as complaints that MacChrystal is being set up as a fall guy, while his boss, General Petraeus, skates to a Republican presidential nomination in 2012.

Continue reading “Journal: Dropping COIN–McChrystal Returns to His Roots”

Journal: Bound to Fail–The Inevitable Collapse of McChrystal’s Afghan War Plan

02 Diplomacy, 03 Economy, 08 Wild Cards, 10 Security

The Inevitable Collapse of McChrystal’s Afghan War Plan

Bound to Fail


Nisos Kos, Greece

In the 11 May issue of CounterPunch, apparently based on White House and Pentagon sources, Gareth Porter, one of the most able journalists covering the Afghan debacle, reported that General McChrystal’s war plan is in the early stages of unravelling. To appreciate why this was entirely predictable, consider please, the following:

On January 2, during an interview with Drew Brown of Stars and Stripes, McChrystal described his plan to create an ‘arc of security’ in the most densely populated regions of Southern Afghanistan. The green shaded area in the following map of Afghanistan overlays McChystal’s arc on the distribution of population densities. I constructed it from the information contained in Brown’s interview. As you can see, McChrystal plan opens his biggest military campaign to date by invading a region that has seen many invasions and much fighting during the last two thousand years, including operations by Alexander the Great (also shown on the chart), both of the 19th Century Anglo-Afghan Wars, and the Soviet-Afghan War of the 1980s.

Original Story at CounterPunch


Historically minded tribal cultures, like the Pashtun, have had plenty of time to learn and remember the strengths and weaknesses of this terrain by resisting these invaders using the timeless arts of guerrilla war. Note, for example, the stunning similarity of Alexander the Great’s invasion route in the figure to that of the Soviet’s shown here.

McChrystal’s first move in implementing his pacification strategy was to invade Marjah (which is in the western part of the shaded area) in mid February. The aim of this operation was a variation of Marshall Lyautey’s ink spot theory: namely to clear the Taliban out of Marjah, secure the area, and prevent the return of the Taliban. Success in this operation would set the stage spreading the area of pacification by clearing the Taliban out of the more populated city of Qandahar. And so, moving from west to east along Alexander’s (and the Soviet’s) route, the ink spot would spread to Qandahar in the eastern part of the arc.

Without being critical, I note that neither Porter nor his sources mention the role of Afghan army and police forces in the unravelling of McChrystal’s plan. Porter is certainly aware of these limitations, having written several important reports on this subject. Nevertheless, the implication of the Taliban re-infiltration of the Marjah region is clear: the Afghan security forces in the region are either insufficient or ineffective (or both) to perform their job of protecting the people by permanently cleansing the area of Taliban.

The inability to spread the “ink spot” McChrystal tried to insert with the Marjah offensive has its roots in the central flaw highlighted last September in my critique of McChrystal’s escalation plan, which was submitted to President Obama last summer. This inability also means that US forces will be needed to provide security to the Marjah region, if McChrystal sticks to his strategic aim. This requirement, which would have been easily foreseen, had McChrystal presented Mr. Obama with a straightforward assessment of the very limited capabilities of the Afghan security forces, will now result in our forces being spread out to protect this region, assuming we want to protect the Marjah “ink spot.” The deployment of US pacification troops will probably take the form of an array of strong points and outposts, backed up with quick reaction reinforcements, kept on alert in nearby bases, together with airpower.

If our troops are being deployed this way, they will be unavailable for the upcoming Qandahar offensive. Moreover, they will become vulnerable to being attacked piecemeal in a series of irregular, but frequent hit and run attacks on bases and supply routes. This kind of rope-a-dope strategy will keep our troops on edge and put them under continual mental and physical stress — and they will be vulnerable to being ground down much like the British troops were last summer. The continuing pressure will naturally increase the jumpiness of our soldiers and marines and, if past is prologue, will likely increase their trigger-happiness, including more calls for artillery and air support. More firepower means more civilian deaths in the “pacified” region, and the rising bloodshed will play into the Taliban’s hands by alienating the hearts and minds of local population we claim to be protecting, a process which is already in progress.

This hydra of emerging pressures, which is probably just beginning to be appreciated, is probably why the looming offensive to secure Qandahar that McChrystal was broadcasting in April is now being scaled back in its aims.

Later this summer, as these problems become more apparent and American mid-term elections loom, we can expect to be subjected to a unseemly spectacle finger pointing and a search for scapegoats. In the end, the debacle will be fault of Obama and by extension the Democrat’s, because the President ignored Sun Tzu’s timeless wisdom, when he approved McChrystal’s fatally flawed plan, despite the cabled warnings of retired Army general Karl Eikenberry, his ambassador to Afghanistan.

Franklin “Chuck” Spinney is a former military analyst for the Pentagon. He currently lives on a sailboat in the Mediterranean and can be reached at

Journal: Chuck Spinney on Moral and Mental Collapse of the Federal Government

Ethics, Government, Legislation, True Cost

Chuck Spinney
Chuck Spinney

EMPHASIS: The larger result of this cynical behaviour is a widespread moral and mental collapse that is rapidly transforming our experiment in building a government of the people, by the people, and for the people into a sham that is more like a 21st Century corporatist mutation of 18th Century court of Louis XVI.

Viewed retrospectively, the political economy of Versailles on the Potomac admits to only two stages in the life cycle of any government program, be it defense, a bailout of the banks, healthcare reform, or anything else: (1) It is too early to tell, and (2) it is too late to do anything about it.

Nowhere is the decision-making conundrum implied by these stages more clearly evident than in the Military – Industrial – Congressional Complex, MICC, particularly in the acquisition of high tech weapon systems, but also in the decision to go to war.

Continue reading “Journal: Chuck Spinney on Moral and Mental Collapse of the Federal Government”

Journal: Rolling Stone on Sick and Wrong (Washington Corruption, Health Care Example)

Ethics, Legislation, Media Reports, Reform

Full Story Online
Full Story Online

SICK and WRONG: How Washington is Screwing Up Health Care Reform – and Why It May Take a Revolt to Fix It

Matt Taibbi

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Let’s start with the obvious: America has not only the worst but the dumbest health care system in the developed world. It’s become a black leprosy eating away at the American experiment – a bureaucracy so insipid and mean and illogical that even our darkest criminal minds wouldn’t be equal to dreaming it up on purpose.

The system doesn’t work for anyone. It cheats patients and leaves them to die, denies insurance to 47 million Americans, forces hospitals to spend billions haggling over claims, and systematically bleeds and harasses doctors with the specter of catastrophic litigation. Even as a mechanism for delivering bonuses to insurance-company fat cats, it’s a miserable failure: Greedy insurance bosses who spent a generation denying preventive care to patients now see their profits sapped by millions of customers who enter the system only when they’re sick with incurably expensive illnesses.

The cost of all of this to society, in illness and death and lost productivity and a soaring federal deficit and plain old anxiety and anger, is incalculable – and that’s the good news. The bad news is our failed health care system won’t get fixed, because it exists entirely within the confines of yet another failed system: the political entity known as the United States of America.

Just as we have a medical system that is not really designed to care for the sick, we have a government that is not equipped to fix actual crises. What our government is good at is something else entirely: effecting the appearance of action, while leaving the actual reform behind in a diabolical labyrinth of ingenious legislative maneuvers.  [Emphasis added.]






As Rolling Stone’s chief political reporter, Matt Taibbi’s predecessors include the likes of journalistic giants Hunter S. Thompson and P.J. O’Rourke. Taibbi’s 2004 campaign journal Spanking the Donkey cemented his status as an incisive, irreverent, zero-bullshit reporter. His latest collection is Smells Like Dead Elephants: Dispatches from a Rotting Empire