Wednesday, November 4, 2015

The Bones of a Pomeranian Grenadier

Schlacht von Leuthen by Carl Röchling (Source)
With the recent announcement that the U.S. has decided to deploy American troops to Syria to "advise and assist rebel forces combating ISIS," I am reminded of an old saying attributed to the first chancellor of the German Empire, Otto von Bismarck:
Der ganze Balkan ist nicht die gesunden Knochen eines einzigen pommerschen Grenadiers wert.
This translates loosely to, "The whole of the Balkans is not worth the bones of a single Pomeranian grenadier." Of course, we're not talking about a soldier from Pomerania (in Germany, much of which is now Pomorze, in Poland). No, we're talking about American soldiers from Iowa, Florida, New York, Texas, etc. It's also not the Balkans (this time), no, it's the Middle East.

First of all, is there anywhere in the Middle East (outside of Israel) worth the life of an American soldier? Secondly, is this in the interests of the United States?

Let's take a peek at that all important (and often ignored and/or misunderstood) document, the Constitution, specifically the preamble...
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
The interests of the government of the United States should be focused primarily on those words written above. So will troops on the ground in Syria (or anywhere in the Middle East) advance the following?
  1. The formation of a more perfect Union?
  2. Establish Justice?
  3. Provide for the common defense?
  4. Promote the general Welfare?
  5. Secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity?
Those concepts apply to the citizens of these here United States, not to the citizens of Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan or any of a dozen other foreign places where Americans have been sent to die since the end of the Korean War.

Honestly though, from 1950 on we have not fought to destroy our enemies. I know, I know, there are reasons, nuclear reasons, why we have not, but why do we seem to continually do what Lyndon Johnson claimed he wouldn't do (in fact probably one of the few things that man ever said that I wholeheartedly agreed with)...
"We are not about to send American boys 9 or 10 thousand miles away from home to do what Asian boys ought to be doing for themselves." - Lyndon B. Johnson, 21 Oct 1964
Yet we did anyway. We still do that and it sickens me.

If we're going to fight, then damn it, FIGHT. Clear objectives need to be established, victory must be the goal.

I am convinced that this involvement in Syria is an inherently bad idea. Do we even know who all the players are? We have the loyalists fighting for Assad, the rebels fighting against Assad, ISIS fighting everyone who isn't ISIS, the Russians are involved, the Kurds are involved (and if the Kurds are involved you better believe the Turks are keeping a weather eye on the situation). Rest assured that every faction with a bone to pick is keeping an eye on this. You also better believe that Iran has their hands in this mess all the way up to their elbows!

I'm also convinced that there are no good answers here. Before getting too deeply involved in this colossal mess we need to consider something else said by Bismarck...
Anyone who has ever looked into the glazed eyes of a soldier dying on the battlefield will think hard before starting a war.
What if that soldier was your son, or daughter? Would you be that quick to commit American troops to some fight which is not directly in the interests of the people of the United States? I will tell you this, some day there will a reckoning. Some day.

We need to think hard, damn hard, before we go much further into this morass.

Your thoughts?

Rest in Peace Mr. Thompson...


  1. I agree with you but as we all know, the "Golfer-in-Chief" is going to do what he pleases regardless of
    what "We the People" want. I could go on but I won't, you said it all too well!!!

  2. Unfortunately, it seems to fit the administration's pattern of getting involved with no plan for winning, and with this administration I wouldn't doubt that they don't want to win, and wouldn't know how to win even if they wanted to do so, and will refuse to listen to those who could give them a plan for winning.

    Sending "advisors" in first and approaching war in a toe-dip manner seems to be the now standard beginning for Democrat war-making for some time now.

    1. Your last statement is what really bothers me. I remember all too well the last time that happened.

  3. I agree completely, and I will add this...I do not trust this President to be doing what needs to be done. I recognize that as a civilian I do not have all of the information needed to form perfect opinion about where we should be projecting power, and how. That is why we elect leaders to take care of that for us. But I know that I do not trust that the current occupant of the White House knows either. Therein lies the problem. You can't run you foreign policy by licking your finger and holding it in the air.

    1. Well said Bill, you make some very good points.

  4. Interesting--and thanks for the Fred Thompson clip--timely needless to say. As to the rest:

    We need to have a coherent and realistic National Defense strategy (what we now have, I can't say in polite company). Once we have that strategy, we need to equip, train and man our armed forces to implement that strategy and to do so without "Lawfare" and other PC impediments to victory in battle. All other claims upon the nation's resources must be secondary to that. Rinse. Repeat.

    So if that strategy determines that a stable and relatively peaceful Middle East is in the interests of our Nation--then we need to unflinchingly do what is necessary to achieve that object. As I understand it, just before the current inhabitant of the White House was elected, we had basically achieved much of that aim--a stable and relatively peaceful Iraq, an isolated Syria and Iran (albeit with obnoxious leadership) and the means to keep it so long term (the President at the time said "Think Korea").

    All of this was fecklessly thrown away for domestic political/ideological reasons, the blood and treasure wasted, and we are now (predictably to anyone actually paying attention) faced with having to do it all over again, though this time with both hands tied behind our collective back.

    If a stable and peaceful Middle East is actually not in our interests---or important enough---then yes, I agree. If it is: See above.

    Freely substitute "Pacific", "Eastern Europe", "Mediterranean littorals" or whatever for "Middle East" in the above equation.

    And that's MY two Indian Head pennies worth.

  5. I know it doesn't do any good to Monday morning quarterback, but I keep thinking about what was done drawing borders 100 years ago helped [sic] create this situation.

    It's overly simplistic... and much too late... to think we could put a wall around the whole place, evacuate all but the natives, and let them sort it all out for themselves.

    1. The European powers drawing those borders really did cause many of today's problems.

      Your last bit, great idea, agree that it's probably too late.

  6. Harlan Ullman ( ), who I tend to disagree with A LOT, has three good questions.

    1. Why has America lost every war it has started since vietnam?
    2. Why is it that the best Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps in the world cannot defeat an adversary which lacks those things?
    3. Why have we elected three consecutive (I'd argue four) presidents who were not ready for the job when they took office?

    Bonus question. How did McKinley lead a victorious COIN operation?

    1. That's a long video. I probably won't get to watch it until this weekend.

      I've never heard of this fellow Ullman. I checked him out in a most perfunctory way A complete checkout will take more time.

      That first question is confusing. Since Vietnam? We "started" some of those wars? I suppose that point could be debated.

      I would argue that the second question is spurious. The U.S. military wins battles, normally (since Korea) they handily defeat their adversaries on the field of battle. What the politicians achieve (or not) with battlefield success is another thing entirely.

      As to the third question, who defines what it takes to be "ready" for the job of President of the United States? Mr. Ullman? What are his qualifications for making that call? What are the criteria? I'm skeptical.

      I'm not sure how McKinley factors into this discussion. I need more data on that. Are we talking about the Spanish-American War? COIN in the Philippines?

      IMHO, those are not very good questions. But we can agree to disagree.

    2. Giap once stated that we defeated him militarily, and then Congress gave him South Vietnam.

    3. And that is the plain truth of the matter Scott.

    4. Bonus question. How did McKinley lead a victorious COIN operation?

      No Lawyers. Next question?

    5. I'll do a little more on this over at my place. Questions like this always come down to "what do you mean by..." I think Ullman is rather a knucklehead mix of progressive and neocon, but that's a superficial observation and labels are misleading, and in the context of this kind of discussion, decidedly unAmerican. If you call Grenada and Panama wars, then that's two where we had an unambiguous strategic aim and executed the plan, leaving an improved state of affairs behind us. The rest, probably not so much. I guess some of the 90's stuff in the Balkans fits in pretty well.

      The point I take from the second question is that we handily defeated insurgencies all down the line, from 1776 onward and including post-WWII and to some extent Korea (which is still a war by definition). Why can't we do this today? Rhetorical question, good to think about.

      I can't conclusively quantify readiness to assume the mantle of POTUS, but I can sure tell the difference between being a successful political campaigner and a leader, and I think that's the point.

      McKinley -- Clear, simple strategic goal, executed to task and standard. No finger in the breeze backing and filling. No throwing troops under the bus for political expediency. And no lawyers running the show, of course, which in a sense defines leadership as opposed to political/popularity campaigning.

      So yeah, lots of wiggle room in there, but good questions. This thing we call America can't be done without principled leadership and the principles have to flow from the Constitution, else it's something other than America. Most importantly, IMO, the leadership has to have it's genesis in the sovereign citizen, otherwise there's no possibility of a government exercising just powers constrained by consent of the sovereign.

    6. Thanks for clearing that up Shaun. It's what I figured you meant and Ullman doesn't really impress me that much, which is my initial impression. Can't wait to read your expansion on these thoughts at your place. Much to think about here.

    7. Re Ullman -- they'll give anyone the mike @USNWC. Must be a Rhode Island thing?!? ;)

  7. I tend to think the military strategy for most issues facing our current Administration is this: "We don't really want to do anything, but the polls say we have to do something, so let's do a little something, which really won't do anything, except f*** up everything." By the way, I can't read "We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union..." without singing it to the tune of that School House Rock song!

    1. I think you've hit the nail on the head.

      Oh and thanks, now that song is stuck in my head.

  8. That makes two of us!

  9. Is there anywhere in the Middle East (outside of Israel) worth the life of an American soldier? NO!
    Secondly, is this in the interests of the United States? HELL NO!
    nuff said...


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