Masters of the Obvious

Well, the day after E2 posted the droid post, a new report by Afghan “experts” was released. It is a complete crock, which couples blindingly obvious facts to a set of BS recommendations that are so wrong they can easily be dismissed an reasonably intelligent eight year old child (but not our betters in DC).  This low hanging fruit I cannot pass up.

So last July, Kabul was graced with a 72 hour visit from the brain trust of The Center for American Progress. As one might expect from the name of this fine organization, they are statists who want nothing to do with progress – if one defines  progress to mean getting things done in an efficient, appropriate manner.  No, they came to contribute their brain power and earn their seven digit salaries the new “old fashioned” way – by using their impressive academic credentials and political connections to write up a “point paper,” which contains no insight, no understanding, nothing new, and is, in the end, flat-out, demonstrably wrong. But you get that from your hyper-credentialed betters don’t you?

The CEO of The American Enterprise Institute and noted Afghan Expert John Podesta - we remember him from back in the days when he was Clinton's CoS - looks like he's aged well - a sleek no doubt savvy burecratic infighter to be sure. But he doesn't know a damn thing about Afghanistan. But he makes over a mil a year passing himself off as an expert - the ruling class in action no?
The CEO of the Soros funded  The Center for American Progress, fully connected democratic machine insider and noted Afghan Expert, John Podesta.  Remember him when he was Clinton’s CoS?  Looks like he’s aged well – rich people do age better than us working folk so bully for this chap. He still doesn’t know a damn thing about Afghanistan.

Here are  the blindingly obvious “insights” contained in the report linked above;  you ready?

1. Reset the relationship with President Hamid Karzai while still using leverage to advance reforms

2.  Clarify the message

3.  Support and invest in democratic institutions and forces

4.  Support a more inclusive peace process.

5.  Shift from a development strategy to a sustainable economic strategy

I kid you not; this is what several million dollars funding buys from DC think tanks. If I need to explain how wrong, stupid, boneheaded, or just plain ignorant these five ideas are, then you haven’t been reading FRI long enough. What the geniuses from the Center for American Progress are touting is to continue down the same path we have been on for a decade.   Typical statist bullshit from elites who, by virtue of their connections and political advocacy, will always be immune to the consequences of the disastrous policies they inflict upon the citizenry. So, as naturally as day follows night, this brings me to Harry Truman and the Berlin Airlift.

Co-author Brian Katulis – a Princeton man (who speaks Arabic !!!) and has written many books on the region.  Added plus; he was just on Hardball where one of the five viewers watching quoted him as saying “we got to move beyond this addiction to dictators” while discussing his support for the Muslim Brotherhood in taking out Mubarack but he also said that he was against removing the Iraqi dictator Sadam Hussain. “Shut up, he explained” when asked about the clear contradictions.  “I went to Princeton don’t you know.”

Message from E2: Stay with him folks, this is not an arbitrary tangent; he’s gonna bring it around.

How did the Berlin Airlift come about and why was it successful?  My understanding of that critical period in world history has been wrong for most of my life. Like many of you (I’m betting) the period between the end of the war and the blockade of Berlin was compressed in my memory: war ends, Marshall plan starts, the Soviets dick things up because they are stupid and the new Air Force sorts it all out with an impressive military airlift. That is not what happened.

The true story behind the Berlin Airlift is fascinating in many respects. First, there were three years of flailing about (which makes our efforts in Afghanistan almost appear to be favorable in comparison) before the Soviets started the blockade. Second, the men who rescued the effort from the disastrous, amateur hour, FUBAR exercise that it started out as got no credit, while the incompetent who created the mess became Chief of Staff for the Air Force.

The story behind the Berlin Airlift is the subject of a fascinating book by Andrei Cherny call the Candy Bombers. What I did not know before reading it was that nobody in Washington DC thought that Berlin could be supplied by an airlift.   Had the initial, unorganized, caffeine and adrenaline fueled effort started by Curtis LeMay continued, the conventional wisdom would have proved correct.

When Harry Truman asked his advisers what should be done about the blockade of Berlin their answers were uniform across the board: cut and run. Here was Harry Truman – a man considered to be the “accidental president” and also considered weak, indecisive and poorly educated.

Truman has a vice president he doesn’t trust, a secretary of defense who was clinically insane (a fact, not a smartass comment), and every general or admiral he asks tells him the same thing: we can’t do the airlift, we can’t fight the Soviets, we have to cut and run. There were two generals who did not agree with this advice – one was Lucius Clay, a man who never saw one day of combat having been forced to head up  procurement for the war effort before being appointed the military governor of Berlin. The other a distinctly unpopular general named Bill Turner, who turned the airlift from an exciting seat of the pants misadventure into an operation that ran like a metronome. Every three minutes a plane landed and every three minutes one took off. If there were more than three planes on the ground at the Berlin airport, somebody was in for a severe ass chewing once Turner determined who was responsible. Clay (like Truman) understood the psychological importance of not cutting and running. Turner was the only man who knew how to organize and run a proper airlift. We owe these two men a tremendous debt but I doubt any of you have ever heard of them before.  That is sometimes the price of being a real hero- others get the credit and you get sent home.

The Center for American Progress website doesn't have a picture of Caroline which I guess democrats can get away with. I thought all upper management had to be treated equally, I goggled Caroline suspecting she might be a food blister or have some sort of looks issue but she doesn't. There are plenty of clips of her being interviewed on TV etc... and she appears to be an attractive woman - but she doesn't have a pic on the executive bathroom section of workplace and this photo pops up when you goggle her name so I'm going with it
The Center for American Progress website doesn’t have a picture of Caroline Wadhams, the third author of this important paper.   I thought all upper management had to be treated equally regardless of gender so I googled Caroline, and found  plenty of clips of her being interviewed on TV etc… and she appears to be an attractive woman.  But she doesn’t have a pic on the executive bathroom section of her current workplace which is odd.   This photo pops up when you google her too so I’m going with it.  One can never go wrong with a picture of a Marine weapons platoon jocking up for a day of battle

What  I find fascinating  is that Truman stuck to his philosophical guns in spite of  every newspaper, every TV reporter, every flag officer, and every tenured parasite at the Ivy League schools  proclaiming him  wrong. This reminds me of President Bush and his experience before The Surge strategy was conceived in Iraq. When he asked the Joint Chiefs for advice, what he got is “keep doing exactly the same thing, only better”.

Where are we going to find leaders who will stand on principle, buck against the tsunami of toxic, ineffective advice thrown at them from elites who went to the “proper schools” for the “right credentials”? Why should we listen to three policy wonks who spent God only knows how much of our (taxpayer) money for three days inside an embassy that is as far removed from the real Afghanistan as the playground at the West Annapolis Elementary School?  The simple truth is that  the number of acceptable endstates in Afghanistan are limited and none of them involve “clarifying messages” or “resetting” (I hate that word now) relationships with President Karzai.

The best we can do is support regional leaders, train up a respectable security force and then get the hell out. We’ve had ten years of relationship resetting and clarifying of messages. What we need now is a leader to articulate in simple terms what we are going to do and when we are going home. And as Harry Truman proved long ago – sticking by the conviction that America is right and stands with the forces of good on this earth is the most effective way to move past the conflicting advice of the elites and into the pantheon of men who truly made a difference in their time. The men in that pantheon stuck to their guns – we need a leader who  will stick to his.

10 Replies to “Masters of the Obvious”

  1. Yeah, I think I’ll be posting my own response to this. I just wish I had me one of them international relations degrees and could therefore be an expert. 72 whole hours on the ground? I can not begin to thank the CAP enough for their level of in-depth insight in this report. As an aside, Colin Cookman over @ CAP does put together a pretty decent (and free) email newsletter of key AfPak news items. Follow him on Twitter @colincookman. Ah well, what do I know?

  2. You could have used this post for investments or just about any other endeavor where success ultimately depends on common sense but the complexity of the mission fools people into thinking they need a ‘sophisticated’ solution. Can’t tell you how many Harvard MBAs come into this business thinking they are going to write the book on how it’s done and end up hiding behind their credentials because their results do not measure up to their resume. Thank God I realized I was done with college about 2 years in – I finished up ASAP and got my ass into the real world, where the learning starts and we separate the men who get results from the boys who tell us how we ought to.

  3. >Secretary of Defense who was clinically insane (that is a fact not a smart ass comment)

    Forrestal was clinically insane as a fox. I mean, it was 1949 and he was seeing a Communist conspiracy in the highest levels of the US government. For this, he was mocked, hounded, treated with insulin shock for a month straight (when the USSR did this to their dissidents, we denounced it as “punitive psychiatry”,) then died under extremely suspicious circumstances. 60 years later, we know that there was, in fact, a Communist conspiracy in the highest levels of USG. Forrestal’s was one of the few voices raised against the Communists immediately after the war while the USG was tossing its former allies in China, Poland, Czechoslovakia, etc., under the Communist bus one after the other. He was the guy who got McCarthy to ring the bell. He paid the ultimate price for that-not just death, but post-mortem infamy, to the point that even though he was absolutely right, he’s in the history books as a loony.

    >every general or admiral he asks telling him the same thing: we can’t do the airlift, we can’t fight the Soviets, we have to cut and run

    Yes, it’s remarkable how 3/4 of the senior military leadership back then was completely ineffectual when it came to facing down the Communists, especially when you consider their firebreathing approach to the Axis a couple of years ago. They went from fashioning letter openers out of Japanese femurs to “we can’t kill our way out of this war, a political solution is required” in, like, three minutes, and haven’t recovered since.

    Of course, you can’t blame them. I mean, nobody gets to flag rank by not giving a shit about career prospects. When the punishment for taking the Communists seriously as a mortal enemy is historical oblivion (Turner and Clay,) a dismissal (MacArthur) or a death under suspicious circumstances (and boy, was there a spate of those for high-placed USG officials in the late 40’s. Forrestal, Patton, Laurence Duggan, Harry Dexter White…), and the reward for going easy on them is a sparkling career with a glittering legacy, well, what choice is a smart general or admiral going to make?

  4. B: Patton’s death was not mysterious, it was bad driving. I’ve read the nonsense about hidden snipers and rubber bullets, and i don’t buy it. What’s next? 9-11 was an inside job? Oh, that’s already out there. And as for McArthur, he was dismissed for a perfectly understandable cause….insubordination. His ego got the better of him.

    As usual, the Progressives use a lot of words to say precisely nothing. Words and phrases I hate? “sustainable”, which I assume to progressive means “we get and keep power and the hell with everyone else”. “Political Ecomony” which sound a lot like “command directed economy”. “Inclusive”…who’d we leave out?? The taliban don’t seem to want to play, but everyone in the Ivy Leage world has a say. Pity we can’t just turn the fight over to Company grade and below.

  5. Well, maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t. Nobody else in that car sustains any serious injuries, and Patton dies, right after he’s been mouthing off about the Communists and generally pissing in the political wind (the Morgenthau plan, etc.) Pardon me for thinking it’s possible that dudes who just got done incinerating a few million human beings and splitting the globe with Stalin might have schwacked one guy who got in the way.

    Macarthur got fired for mouthing off when he got sick of having to fight a war against Communist China with his hands tied. Once again, pissing in the political wind, which, once again, was blowing from the Left. You don’t like today’s progressives? Yesterday’s progressives were ten times more aggressive, and just as completely unprincipled. Unlike today’s apathetic progs, who don’t run shit even when they’re in charge, those guys were totally driven. Well, no wonder-that’s what half a century of uncontested global dominance does to you-you get soft.

    Nobody will ever turn anything over to company grade and below-company grade and below just haven’t been properly vetted to ensure that they will toe the line and throw the fight when called to do so. And what do you think the gameplan is, if not that?

  6. B: Yeah. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that today’s evil is not as bad as yesterday’s evil. A Marxist is a Marxist. Problem is most folks these days can’t tell the difference between a Marxist and a lemon tart. They’ve been blinded by Public Education and Popular Entertainment.
    I live in a college town and constantly hear from dewy eyed pollywogs how marvelous the world would be if we could just practice “real” socialism. When you start talking to them about the history of socialism, they stare at you like you’re a four eyed monster from Mars. They’ve never learned that soviets murdered 20 million folks BEFORE WWII. They question that German socialism (the Nazis) murdered six million Jews and other folks, like gypsies, Catholics, and college professors who disagreed with the party line. Even though they profess to hate the Nazis, they still maintain that the Holocaust never happened. None of them have read Shirer’s “Rise and Fall of the Third Reich”, and if they ever saw a copy of Hoover’s “Masters of Deceit” they probably broke out in a cold sweat and ran. Too many big words and hard ideas.
    I thank God that the people in power in the US today are incompetent tyrants, but I don’t believe for a second that they are less driven. Perhaps they are less principle driven ideologues seeking to change the world, and more focused on personal gain, which limits their activities. But if they ever decide to use the standard Marxist toolkit for controlling society, these folks will be every bit as bad as Stalin or Hitler.
    I’ve been a consumer of history books since I learned to read, I’m a “news junkie”, and I’ve spent most of my adult life training for war, or engaged in it. I’ve had the opportunity to talk to some of the guys who made the history of the 20th Century, for good or ill. And I’ve observed history in the making every day of my life. As a result, I know that the monsters every child fears, the monsters seen in movies and fiction, are not all that frightening. The monsters we must watch out for look just like us.
    Every soldier should understand the uses of sarcasm and hyperbole, as in my comment about turning things over to the young studs. Of course I wasn’t serious. Perhaps what I should have said was, we need to outlaw lawyers and politicians in war. At least then we might see more bad guys getting whacked and less bureaucratic nonsense like ROE that instruct Marines not to break wind in public.
    All of which has nothing to do with Tim’s excellent post, which I originally set out to agree with, before getting sidetracked by a discussion of contemporary conspiracy theories.

  7. great to see you back agin Tim. I hope you can post regularly.

    So which warlords? Where? Do we seal off Pushtunistan? Is anyone actually walking around that country besides you who is sussing things out? This is Humint 101.

    Karzai and cronies are looting as much as they can and stashing it in Dubai. The drug lords have their desired state of chaos in the South and other pockets. The Iranians and Pakis are doing their best to destabilize it all and we are basically sitting with our heads inserted deeply having wasted hundreds of billions of money we don’t have.

    A bud (Brigade CSM) just got blown up in what was supposed to be a quiet village. He’s going to be ok, but when they’re blowing up Brigade CSM’s, provincial governors, and police generals on a regular basis as well as some of the big cheeses, what then?

    I grew up with the Cold War and saw the other side up far too close. My mother typed Rise & Fall when Shirer was at CBS after he was deported from Germany after the declarations of war.It’s the same damned people. Only the name tags and flags have changed.

    Putin the Amazing is every bit our adversary as was Brezhnev. The Chinese have been plotting to hang us with the rope we sold them for 20 years (read Unrestricted Warfare. The Islamic Spring may turn into the nightmare winter. These people are not our friends and never will be.

    We know little more than we did going into Afghanistan 10 years ago, and more’s the shame.

  8. “The best we can do is support regional leaders, train up a respectable security force and then get the hell out. We’ve had ten years of relationship resetting and clarifying of messages.”

    So many, from military to contractors to all points in between, have given it their best. And really, that’s all we can do, even though we can argue over what is or was “the best.” But like you, I’ve reached a point where I just see this thing dragging on. I have to ask, “At what cost do we keep fighting for someone else?” Or maybe that is too simplistic. Perhaps the question is, “At what cost do we keep putting up with corruption? I think it costs us more in dollar and cents, or even blood. What it costs us is a pummeling in the way we see ourselves.”
    And it’s this last thing I want to pound upon. We have so much work to do with the current group of veterans, contractors and families when it comes to long term health services, this system can’t already keep up. We’re at a critical point here, and we have to see that this is costing us more in the long run than we might be able to provide for.

  9. Look, this kind of thing is anything but new. There’s a template for it, set in China and Vietnam. Arlington invades a place and sets up shop with a client government, State, the press, the universities and the Agency (and half of Arlington’s senior leadership) cockblock, pointing out every real and imaginary flaw in the Pentagon’s strategy and the client state’s corruption, every real and imaginary fuckup, mistake, waste, atrocity, etc commited by USF and the client state. The enemy’s bad sides are downplayed, or played off as a reaction to our meddling. Operational restrictions pile on, to the point that no USF can do anything. Eventually, the public gets tired of hearing it, at which point US forces get pulled out. Then the client state gets defunded, followed by a collapse. The NYT, State, the Ivies etc. go, “see? We told you so. Those dumbshits at the Pentagon don’t have a clue. Those guys were too stupid to win.” Massive political points for everybody involved.

    Truman spent 1945-1950 doing just that to the KMT and South Korea. Eisenhower continued in the same vein throughout the 1950s, e.g., Suez, Algeria and Cuba.

  10. A few years ago I would never have written this, but in light of the persistent and criminal incompetence in A-stan, it is increasingly my belief that the only, best option right now is to pull out, let the country go predictably into the s**tter until both A-stan and P-stan are sufficiently failed states that can be mucked out again. But next time, no imposition of 21st century government. Brute force, wipe out the bad guys and leave it up to the survivors to decide if they want us coming back again in another few years.

    This is, of course, as much of a fantasy as the CAP report as it would require a U.S. leader with a spine.

    Reality will be much uglier and will be along the lines of another 9-11 type attack on the U.S. which might trigger the appropriate level of lethal response needed for unlimited warfare.

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