The Army Reflective Belt: Why America no longer wins wars

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Yesterday I went for a bike ride, approximately 18 miles total.  I rode my mountain bike out Fort Drum’s gate, had lunch at Buffalo Wild Wings, a coffee at Starbucks in downtown Watertown, then rode back.  I approached the gate guard with my ID card in hand. I was wearing civilian clothes because it was a day off for me.  The guard stared at me for longer than I expected before asking, in an extremely foreboding tone: “Where is your reflective belt?” The Army reflective belt is part of the physical training uniform and is also worn during some outdoor activity, even in broad day light.  Given that the Army’s current digital camo pattern couldn’t hide a Soldier in a 50 foot well, the idea that a green or yellow belt prevents many accidents during the day seems absurd. Joe makes fun of the belt all the time, asking if it deflects bullets.

Who cares about winning wars

I told the gate guard that I didn’t have my belt with me.  Usually I wear by belt on bike rides, but to be honest I wasn’t sure if I needed to wear it when I was out of uniform during the day.  Apparently I do, because the guard made if very clear that if I ever rode my bike to the gate again without a belt, the guards wouldn’t let me in.  The base is the size of a small town, so this green belt is valuable indeed and grants one elite status by actually allowing Soldiers to get to their homes.  I guess I would have been sleeping in the woods outside the gate without my belt.

The guard gave me a pass for my beltless sin.  As I rode my bike away, I grew increasingly pissed at the situation.  Here I was a guy who joined the Army out of a sense of duty, a married adult, with kids, a former cop who arrested people for real crimes–never because American citizens weren’t wearing reflective material–being told by some retired military fellow longing for his glory days that I couldn’t get back to the place where I lay my head because I didn’t have a green belt on.  Yeah, I know.  He was just doing his job.  Which is why I nodded my head and rode off without arguing with him.  Then it occurred to me that a general officer probably made the dumb reflective belt rule.  Someone responsible for an entire division in the most deployed unit in US military history actually made a rule this inane.  All the same time, General McChrystal was issuing rules of engagement in Afghanistan that said we couldn’t fire illumination rounds during firefights at night if we thought there was the smallest chance an empty illumination canister could fall on a farmer’s hut.  Never mind that we can’t see the enemy that’s shooting at us.

And so as I see it, this is a symptom of why America can’t finish off its modern day wars.  Its military is incredibly small minded.  We have the brightest, shiniest toys any Soldier could hope for.  We just have no idea what we’re doing strategically.  As I once said to an analyst buddy of mine in Afghanistan: “Stupid people place equal importance on all things.”

Don’t get me wrong.  The Army has some very smart people within its ranks.  But it is an utterly broken culture, devoid of the agility, creativity and openness needed to fight today’s wars.  We’re forced to rely on drone strikes in Pakistan and hope for the best.  The only units in the Army that possess the needed qualities to fight are special operations forces, and they know how ponderously dumb Big Army can be.  Many times, the special operators avoid working with regular military folk while deployed because they consider them amateurs.

As long as Soldiers know more about the regulations covering the proper wear of the reflective belt than they do Sun Tzu, expect America to continue making itself look foolish.

Are intellectuals overrated?

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In today’s America and Europe, few social classes are more respected than the intellectual.

What exactly is an intellectual? For this piece, I’ll go with the Collins English Dictionary definition:

 1) a person who enjoys mental activity and has highly developed tastes in art, literature, etc.

A problem, is that Americans tend to confuse intellectualism with logical thought and deep intelligence. The typical intellectual in America usually has a degree from Harvard, Princeton, or Yale.  To me, the intellectuals “highly developed tastes in art, literature” means they love a long, boring, pointless yarn, or obsess on a single brush stroke in a 19th century painting.  I’ve read books that intellectuals drool over, and by the time I finished (if I finished at all) wondered what the hell happened in the last 350 pages.  I guess that’s why I like Stephen Hunter’s books.  Hunter says that he only knows one way to write a story. It’s a series of events leading to a violent resolution of the problem.  Call me unsophisticated and barbaric, but I can’t make it through 10 pages of Umberto Eco.

Stephen Hunter’s main protagonist in his book, Bob Lee Swagger, is a metaphor for all sophisticated non-intellectuals.  A Vietnam veteran and sniper, he is the best marksman in the world, he hunts, he lives alone in a remote wilderness cabin, he can fix a car, live off the land, and kill a man when a man needs killing.  And he hates Umberto Eco.  Or at least I bet he hates Umberto Eco.

Who is actually more valuable to the world, Bob the Plumber, or Noam Chomsky?  If society fell apart, who would you rather have around?  A guy that could help build a system for clean water, or an MIT professor who’s hands would tremble if they touched a rifle?  I’m not saying that intellectuals have no place in the world, but like actors, they’re very overrated.  Most engineers are not intellectuals.  Yet they are responsible for designing the infrastructure that makes our nation so impressive.  Engineers don’t live in a world of unproven theory; they can’t or projects fail and people die.  Intellectuals on the other hand, are, as Ralph Peters states in his essay, Dogma and the Dead,

those men and women, freed from the necessity of labor, who prefer theory to reality and who footnote while others fight our nation’s battles.

Intellectualism is a primary reason for the decline in the status and capabilities of males throughout the nation. My father and grandfather could do so many more useful things than most men around today, including myself.  I know which buttons to push on an IPhone, but my father could weld, rebuild a motor, hunt and skin a deer, and repair the roof on a house.  I’m betting Noam Chomsky can’t do any of that.  Yet Chomsky is known world wide and his kind are revered and many would emulate him but not my grandfather.

Intellectualism breeds cowardice.  John Fowles, a noted intellectual and author in the 70s and 80s, states the following in his book The Magus:

 If a person is intelligent, then of course he is either an agnostic or an atheist. Just as he is a physical coward. They are automatic definitions of high intelligence.

Can we say he is wrong? When one thinks of an intellectual, does one think of a religious military man?  Instead, the man in uniform who believes in God is the butt of jokes from the Left.  He is a zealot, with little depth, who desires the abolition of the federal government, that all flag burners be hung, and all people of color be resigned to riding the back of the bus.

In truth, the intellectuals glibness is a shield from him having to do anything really tough or physical.  Most intellectuals are so cowardly as to even avoid sports.  There are of course exceptions.  But where is the intellectual sportsman nowadays?  It was not always this way.  Men used to be good at many things, and there were some who were masters of both physical and intellectual skills.  Many of our founding fathers fit this bill.

Thomas Jefferson:

“A strong body makes the mind strong. As to the species of exercises, I advise the gun. While this gives moderate exercise to the body, it gives boldness, enterprise and independence to the mind. Games played with the ball, and others of that nature, are too violent for the body and stamp no character on the mind. Let your gun therefore be your constant companion of your walks.”

Such men still exist, but are so exceedingly rare that we ascribe to them a moniker which denotes that they belong not in today’s age, but in the 15th century.  We call him a Renaissance Man.  

Indeed, so far removed are these types of men, they may as well be called Neolithic Man.  Read about Teddy Roosevelt, Thomas Jefferson, and Goethe.  Roosevelt spoke 9 languages, wrote 17 books, commanded the Rough Riders and lived his well-known Strenuous Life.  

Could Noam Chomsky wear suspenders like this? I think not.

Modern intellectuals are the masters of big, overgeneralized and many times, very bad ideas.  Education seems to be no guardian against byzantine theorems implemented on the masses “for their own good.”  Most intellectuals are excellent writers, thus their ability to persuade revolutionaries and even governments that their ideas just may work.  10,000 years of human civilization be damned.  Marx: Intellectual.  Al-Qaeda’s roots sprung from an Egyptian intellectual named Sayyid Qubt. The intellectual has a fantastic capability to criticize the best and ignore or become a supporter of the worst.  He thinks hes being smart and clever by being obtuse.  Thus the never ending screeds pronounced by intellectuals against the United States, and the quasi-adoration for tyrannical regimes and apologies for al-Qaeda.  They are critical of Abel, while finding a comrade in Cain.

An argument leveled against such movements as the Tea Party is that it is “anti-intellectual”. What the Left means by this, is that the Tea Party is not made up of intellectuals, but of people who actually work for a living.  The people who actually know how to fix a car or a toilet and enjoy a Stephen Hunter novel.  Chomsky is nowhere to be found in their libraries.  In truth, anti-intellectual in this case means people who can ponder the big picture, but who can do many other things, too.  Running a business and fixing an engine takes smarts and education.

At around the age of 28, I realized that I’d been wasting my life.  There was so much to learn and do and so little time.  A sense of urgency swept over me.  I had to obtain knowledge in everything.  I had to be an outstanding softball player in the city league I played in, become an expert marksman, read voraciously, learn a second language, write a book and go to war.  But there’s still so much to be done.

So, intellectuals have their place.  It’s just that the world could use a lot more John Galts and fewer Gore Vidals.  Unfortunately, the enrollment rates at universities for engineering and other “hard” sciences has significantly dwindled.  This is because intellectualism is, at its kernel, more about appearing smart than doing what is meaningful.  And this is because what is meaningful is tough.  A line repeated throughout my novel, For Want of Knowledge, is “Nothing good is easy.”  A little more respect needs be given to those who make the world go round on a daily basis.

In ending, here’s Robert Heinlein:

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.

The Gullible American

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We loved what Greg Mortenson had to say in his book, Three Cups of Tea. His message had many saying to Islamic extremists, “Schools? Well why didn’t you just say so?”

Eugene Burdick had it wrong. In his classic political novel, The Ugly American, Burdick portrays Americans fighting in a fictional nation against Communism as refusing to acknowledge the beliefs and needs of the local population. In fact, Americans will now believe almost anything the local population of Afghanistan tells them and they search for literature to reinforce what they hear.

We are as gullible as the girl on prom night whose date tells her he’ll love her forever. Honest.

For decades we’ve been sucking up whatever tripe Pakistan hands us. Meanwhile thousands of Haqqani terrorists rest comfortably in the Tribal Areas, awaiting the call to Paradise. The Pakistani intelligence services take our money with one hand and slip a knife between our shoulder blades with the other.

 Americans are so gullible we actually believe we’re Ugly Americans. And our enemies love it. While the Taliban, Haqqani Network and al-Qaeda conduct campaigns of assassination and terror, we worry that we’re not culturally sensitive enough. We trip over ourselves learning which hand to shake with and carefully study culturally acceptable verbiage and customs in Afghanistan.

Some want to portray Americans as thuggish jerks, and that the real message of Mortenson’s Three Cups of Tea is that we should be the opposite of The Ugly American. In reality we are like children in the hands of local Afghan warlords and insurgent masterminds who’ve played Realpolitik for decades and who laugh at the narratives presented by Mortenson.

Common decency is a must in counter-insurgency, but so isn’t wisdom and the willingness to pull a trigger when necessary. Schools can go a long way in bringing Afghanistan from the dark ages, but it’s an uncomfortable truth that dealing with zealots who have no stake in peace takes the cynicism and cunning of a gothic king.

My 1984 Experience.

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Last week I passed through the Frankfurt, Germany, Airport on my way back to duty in Afghanistan. I saw that German security was doing pat-downs. I don’t know if they were doing 100% pat-downs, but in any case when I passed through the medal detector, the alarm went off. I believe it was my watch. So I was moved to a secondary search area inside a low-walled booth where a male security officer did a pat down and another sweep with a hand-held metal detector.

The whole time I was trying to conjure my Patrick Henry Doppelganger: “Give me junkless plane rides or give me death!”

Alas. The spirit was not moved. I envisioned our Founding Fathers of demigod status, demanding freedom from English conscription and crushing taxes. Washington mustering his troops at Valley Forge. Surely a pat-down should entice my revolutionary spirit. Was I even a real American anymore? No outrage, no images of Nazi Germany dancing through my head. Had I become so weak that I’d even vote for Jimmy Carter if he decided America needed yet another bad president?

Oh, but wait. There is always that man of letters that one can clamor to if one wishes to see totalitarianism in every motive, in each new rule. especially when one can’t really find the material, negative impact of that rule. It’s all about ideals, don’t you know. Orwell.


What a great year. And what a great book for the rabble-rouser. At any moment I can make any law look like it was penned by a fascist, simply by calling out that famed year.


My 30 second pat-down was over. And none too soon. Because surely, surely I say, had it lasted one second longer, I’d have been whisked off to a concentration camp and had my knee caps drilled. Or I’d have been goose-stepping to the coffee shop just on the other side of the screening area. All my American values dashed, succumbing to inglorious junk-grabbing. And all because terrorism is winning.

At last, after that long 30 seconds, I cast off my Thought Crimes, and skipped–no shiny black boots to slow me–to grap a hot cup of joe. Freedom never tasted so good….

Dilbert and the world of military intelligence

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Read Dilbert. Then you’ll know exactly what the higher end of military intelligence work is like. A bunch of smart people who get bored and start arguing about the color of Power Point slides. I’ve never really worked in an office environment before the intel world, but I think it drives people insane. To the point where they can barely function in any other aspect of life other than intel. They’ll spend three hours tweeking a single PP slide, to get that just-right shade of green that the Colonel likes on his borders. Need real analysis on the psychological makeup of a dangerous insurgent leader? What will this guy do next? Will he cooperate with us if we offer peace? Is he only trying to get our help so that he can destroy his tribal enemies?

Well, don’t ask most people in the intel field. They can show you every nuance of the latest app. They can almost get Power Point to make coffee. But real analysis? No, that takes talent. You can barely teach it. The best analysts are the ones that just get it. Many won’t like my take on that. It’s not scientific enough. Oh but it is scientific, I’m just not describing it in a scientific way. Real Intel analysis has a human face. Nerds hate human faces. They feel much safer around 0011000101110111100111……

Then you’ll get the PHDs over at the Human Terrain Team. Good, smart people most of them. Speak multiple languages, write awesome reports. I’ve read them and used them recently. But then you’ll get that one PHD who’s just downright insane. The person that’s only here because they have a PHD. You know, the soft, social-science type. The one who’s completely out of their league in a war zone, so makes a great effort in messing up the daily lives of their allies, acting territorial. “Don’t try to steal my stuff!” I guess they just want to give the world a Coke. Instead, the world over here is smoking hashish and opium,  waving an AK and studying bomb-making.

So not cool. But Dilbert would be right at home over at HTT.

Shut Up and Act

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Tom, Matt Damon and George Clooney--have a cup! Actually, have two!

In a recent interview, self appointed history guru Tom Hanks stated that we killed the Japanese in WWII because “they were different.” He than goes on to imply that this is what is happening with Islam now. Please read the interview of Shangri La Tom here: http://www.newsrealblog.com/2010/03/10/tom-hanks-us-wanted-to-annihilate-the-japanese-because-they-were-different/

Yes, Tom- The Japanese were different. They loved mass torture and mass experimentation resulting in death. In fact, they were so different, they even decided to bomb Pearl Harbor when nobody else thought it was a good idea.

Yes, Tom, we called them bad names, like slant-eyes. Ever been in a fight, Tom? People call each other all kinds of bad names. One time a kid in school even called me a jerk as we tussled! Imagine the grief I’ve suffered for the past decades.

What these idiots in Hollywood don’t seem to understand is that they are rich, not because they are smart, or really important, but because we live in an era when technology allows the instataneous distribution of their product to millions of people. If Hula Hoop salesman could muster technology that made their products suddenly appear on the laps of drunk girls who had the urge to gyrate their hips, I suspect they’d be being interviewed too for their incredibly incisive views on history.

It’s terrible how much these knuckleheads have affected the people of the US and thus affected politics .

Oh good. I was worried about not having a trans-sexual in the cabinet.

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It’s fun watching my country’s culture collapse. I do it every day.

Our illustrious president has appointed the first transgender to a cabinet position. He/she is the technical advisor to the Commerce Department.

Russia can save capitalism

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Step aside, comrade. Mother Russia’s more willing to speak the truth than the Western governments. So listen.

This week, the Institute of Economic Analysis (IEA) in Moscow released a statement saying: the British Meteorological Office in Exeter probably manipulated data gathered from Russian temperature sensors.

Seems our friends at the Hadley Center in England didn’t like what they found from 40% of the sensors in Russia: There’s been no warming in the 20th and 21st century. So they ignored those sensors and only mentioned the 25% of sensors in Russia that did show temp increases. The 25% of sensors they used were ones located near urban population centers, which need adjustments for the heat-sink affect of cities. But of course, no adjustments were made.

Russian landmass constitutes 12.5% of the entire worlds land surface. This, along with the massive amounts of arctic lands there, makes Russia the best country in which to measure global climate changes.

Ironic, that it could be Russia that saves the world from economy-crushing cap and trade taxes and foolish restrictions on production.

Just because

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I mistrust all systemizers and avoid them. ~
Friedrich Nietzsche

In the Army, there’s a lot of “Just Because”.

We don’t know why we have formations, we just do. Drives me nuts.

“There’s just so many moving parts, we need to have accountability.” That’s what one 1LT told me.

Here at Wiesbaden Army Airfield, my unit is stationed with the 1st Armored Division: Old Ironsides. You know, only the most powerful ground unit in the entire fricken world. Yeah, the same armored fist that smashed the Nazis at Anzio. It flicked aside the forces of Saddam Hussein in Kuwait, destroying 768 enemy vehicles while losing only four men.

Well, the might 1st AD, many times, has five formations a day. One at morning PT (0630), one at work call (0900) one before lunch (1130) one after lunch (1300) and one at the end of the day (1700). They do it “Just Because.” Fortunately, my unit only has in the morning, sometimes another at the end of the day.

I always hear reasons for all the stuff the Army does, and I might get suckered into buying the proverbial bridge, but I’ve lived a long life before the Army. I know any organization can function without five formations or musters, a day. Has a lot of moving parts, huh LT? Sorry, but my company has far less people in it than a Super WalMart has. Bet WalMart doesn’t mke it’s people spend almost an hour a day (or more) standing around looking dumb and waiting to be told they can go eat.

There’s lots of other needless stuff, too. For instance, today we did a four mile ruckmarch. Look, I can smoke any dude on my base at rucking. Not bragging, just a fact. At the Soldier of the Year competition, I finished so far ahead of the second place guy, that I could even see him, and he was more than ten years younger. Point is, I like rucking. But the Army has to makes what should be a simple and enjoyable little walk so complicated as to ruin the potential for motivating soldiers to be better ruckers. Word was yesterday we were to have a 0600 formation with 35 pound packs. We’d step off at 0630. “Yeah, right, I told Donna, we’ll mull around until everyone’s grumbling and ready to go to sick call from aggrevation.

I was not to be disappointed. We stood outside in -10 degree Celsius weather, for 50 minutes waiting for the “Risk Assessment” to be signed by the company commander. A Risk assessment is an estimate and analysis of potential dangers to soldiers for any exercise or mission. But seriously, could a walk around the base be dangerous? Should I get a risk assessment when I walk the half mile to the chow hall for lunch? This is the damn American Army, the most powerful, badass killing machine this blood soaked planet has ever seen. Yet, by the time we finally started our march, the damn Boy Scouts would have been finished and roasting marshmallows. Oh, but we still had to get a lecture from the 1st SGT about extraneous stuff that was 1) Common sense and 2) Could have waited. One thing I’ve noticed is that anyone who makes it to a position of high authority in the Army really likes to hear themselves talk–a lot.

The minutiae in the the Earth’s Greatest Army would leave Alan Greenspan in a coma. Don’t walk on the grass. Always wear a hat outside. Want to take a day off? Need a commander’s approval sheet, a DA 31 leave form, a driver’s risk assessment. Want to sell your inoperable car to someone who just wants some spare parts? Both people need paperwork signed by the company and brigade commander. What. The. F!@#?. You’re telling that the brigade commander has nothing better to do in a time of war? On what basis would not sign the paper? That the car doesn’t work? That’s why you need the paper in the first place!

Oh–and don’t wear logos on your PT socks lest a Sergeant Major have a coronary and recommend you for firing squad. Why? Just because. I’ve got logos on my running shoes. That’s ok though. Just because.

Meanwhile our Predator drones are being hacked with hardware bought at the local electronic shops in Iraq. Shouldn’t we be focusing on that and defeating IEDs?

It’s too bad.There a re so many good things about being in the Army. So many things about it that I’m good at. I’m this brigade’s Soldier of the Year. That’s out of about 4000 soldiers. Yet, I find there to be massive deficiencies. The Army has it exactly backwards when it comes to how to be successful and happy. There’s ton of dime store self-help books that actually get it right: Don’t sweat the small stuff. Not only does the Army sweat the small stuff, in many cases it does so at the expense of its most important asset: Its soldiers.

May keep me from re-enlisting.

Logan’s Run–here we come!

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One of the first films I disctincly remember seeing as a youth is Logan’s Run. The movie’s based on a novel by the same name, written by William F. Nolan and George Johnson.

The dystopian horror story starts like this:

“The seeds of the Little War were planted in a restless summer during the mid-1960s, with sit-ins and student demonstrations as youth tested its strength. By the early 1970s over 75 percent of the people living on Earth were under 21 years of age. The population continued to climb — and with it the youth percentage.
In the 1980s the figure was 79.7 percent.
In the 1990s, 82.4 percent.
In the year 2000 — critical mass.”
Logan 3 and his vegan babe pose for pics in Copenhagen.

In order to combat the over population in the year 2116, it is law that people report for execution on the day they turn 21 years old. Sometimes people try to escape this fate and become Runners, and they attempt to make it to a secret coven of others like themselves–a space colony called Sanctuary. The government dispatches professional assassins, known as Sandmen to murder the Runners.

The main character–Logan 3, is himself a Sandman, who over the course of the book, becomes  a Runner.

The book also depicts a world where promiscuous sex and drug use are not frowned upon, and yet tobacco is illegal.

Sorry, but I can’t help but see some parrallels with what’s going on with the Global Warming issue. GW is now the great funnel through which all progressive agendas are poured: Population control, anti-meat rhetoric, environmentalism, totem-like worship of animals, anti-industrialism.

Think Logan’s Run can’t happen? I hope not, but how much farther is that dystopian vision from Diane Francis’ idea, as printed in the Canadian Paper: Financial Post?

Yup, you read correctly. Francis proposes a world-wide law preventing people from having more than one child.  As she states in ending:

“The only fix is if all countries drastically reduce their populations, clean up their messes and impose mandatory conservation measures.”

Spoken like a true liberal fascist.