Monday, May 29, 2006


I am somewhat settled in my new temporary digs. Work is fine, but can't talk about it.

Here's some news items that have caught my eye in the last few weeks, (but I was busy getting ready for the deployment and did not have time to comment on them):

Washington Post May 15, 2006
On Baghdad Patrol, A Vigilant Eye On Iraqi Police

U.S.-Trained Allies Are Often Suspects
By Ellen Knickmeyer, Washington Post Foreign Service

BAGHDAD -- Second Lt. Will Shields started night patrol for his 2nd Platoon Delta Company with the Baghdad basics: a reminder to speed up instead of slow down if a bomb hits the convoy, and a heads-up on where to stash any victims of killings, sectarian and otherwise.

"We find any dead bodies, we've got three or four body bags," the 23-year-old Shields said.

"Hopefully, that'll be enough."

The young troops in his platoon briefly grumbled good-naturedly about whose Humvee always gets stuck hauling the corpses they find of equally young Iraqi men -- stiffened, blood-streaked and open-mouthed. Pretty much every day, U.S. and Iraqi troops are picking up apparent victims of Sunni-Shiite violence on the streets of Baghdad.

Since Feb. 22, when the bombing of a Shiite Muslim shrine in Samarra pushed sectarian tensions in Iraq to a new plateau, the U.S. Army units have quietly moved back into some neighborhoods that U.S. commanders had just turned over, with fanfare, to Iraqi security forces. Iraqi leaders asked for the return of the American troops into parts of central Baghdad in March, fearing that efforts to build a stable government would fall apart if they were unable to rein in the Shiite-Sunni killings, said Col. Jeffrey Snow, commander of the 1st Brigade Combat Team of the 10th Mountain Division.

After fighting for nearly three years to put down an insurgency waged by Sunni Arabs, the Americans now are also dealing with a bloody Shiite-Sunni power struggle fought largely through intimidation and murder. Part civil war, with open battles in Baghdad's mixed southern neighborhood of Dora and the northern Sunni neighborhood of Adhamiyah, and part mob-style violence, with bodies being dumped out of cars that then speed away, the struggle plays out mostly beyond the view of U.S. soldiers.

Mystified Americans often are reduced to helping clear away the unidentified Iraqis left sprawled -- their tortured hands clutching the air or wired together behind their backs -- on curbs, sidewalks and garbage-strewn lots.

"It may be making a statement, and it may work for the Iraqi people, but we have a hell of a time figuring out what the statement is," Snow said.

The Americans' problems are compounded by the fact that the same Shiite-led Interior Ministry police forces they are training to protect Iraqis are widely suspected in the killings -- if not as the executioners, then as allies to the Shiite militias blamed for much of the bloodshed.

"No police allowed," a hand-painted banner declares in Adhamiyah, a middle-class quarter of homes and gardens behind high brick walls that is one of the largest Sunni districts in Baghdad. In clashes last month, Adhamiyah homeowners took up guns to fight off what they took to be Iraqi police, possibly backed by Shiite militias, trying to enter the barricaded neighborhood.

US troops are increasingly getting caught in the middle of gun battles as Iraqis quarrel with each other. Members of the Shiite-led Iraqi National Police, the force being trained to replace the US military are, in many occasions, engaged in sectarian feuds against the Sunni population. Of course, this is not exactly what we trained them to do. Is this America's fight? Or is this a fight older than America itself?

A competent and non-sectarian Iraqi police force is a necessary ingredient in ensuring a stable Iraq. Any drawdown of our forces in the country depends on how well the Iraqi police force performs its duties. Now it's no longer just a matter of how well we train them but, will they do the right things once they are out on the streets or will they just become another armed faction in the low-grade Iraqi civil war?

There is some good news. Occasionally you'll hear about successful operations entirely planned and led by Iraqi forces. But many US troops who have worked with Iraqis will tell you that, overall, they exhibit an astonishing combination of daring, ineptitude, commitment, and unlawfulness. It's very difficult to eradicate ineffectiveness and improper conduct from any police or armed force, but it will be very difficult to decrease our presence in Iraq given the current state of the Iraqi security forces.

Other things I've thinking about Iraq and the Middle East:

Speaking of building up:

Honolulu Advertiser May 14, 2006
Guam A Focal Point For U.S. Military Plans
By Richard Halloran

The Air Force is surging ahead with plans to revitalize its bases on Guam from which to project power into the skies over the western Pacific and the islands and continent of Asia.

Bombers already are stationed regularly at Guam's Andersen Air Force Base on rotation from the U.S. Mainland, as are aerial tankers essential to long range operations.

My buddy Eddie blogged about Guam earlier this month. On a personal note, I always try to find a scuba diving connection to everything, and I hear that Guam has excellent diving spots.

If the US Central Command (CENTCOM) is building up in certain key spots in the Middle East, the US Pacific Command (PACOM) is also building up in one key spot: Guam. Taking into account the "tyranny of distance", Guam is in an ideal position to maintain a robust military presence in the Pacific without the political implications of having large numbers of US troops stationed in Japan and South Korea. Although given the poor state of Guam's infrastructure (fine for Marines), some significant improvements are in order before the Air Force truly feels at home ;-)

I've also been thinking about how where our forces where stationed in the past, and where they'll likely be stationed in the future. I've been in the service for almost a decade, and in those ten years the late 90s-early 2000s included Germany, South Korea, Japan, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait, among others. The near future might include Iraq (again), Qatar (again), Guam (for the first time), and...Bulgaria?

Here's another piece that caught my eye a couple of weeks ago:

Washington Post May 16, 2006
U.S. Restores Full Diplomatic Ties With Libya
Move Sends a Signal To Iran, North Korea
By Glenn Kessler, Washington Post Staff Writer

The United States restored full diplomatic relations with Libya yesterday, marking the end of a quarter-century of enmity and signaling to Iran and North Korea that similar rewards await countries that scrap their weapons of mass destruction.

Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi agreed to end his nation's nascent chemical and nuclear weapons programs in late 2003, capping years of talks between Tripoli and Washington over how Libya could end two decades of international isolation. Libya also took responsibility that year for the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, and agreed to pay as much as $10 million to the family of each of the 270 dead.

I also found a Libya-scuba diving connection.

Regardless of how Qadhafi reached the decision to reinstate diplomatic ties with the US, I see this event as a triumph of diplomacy: direct (and sometimes secret) talks with the faint threat of force in the distant background. Was the defeat of Saddam's regime in 2003 a factor? Maybe. Not surprisingly, many have seen Qadhafi's decision to end Libya's WMD programs as an indirect effect of the war in Iraq. The collapse of Saddam's regime had the opposite effect in Iran, where they have actually become more aggressive in their pursuit of WMD since 2003. The effects of the Iraq War should not be overstated; the truth is that Libya first articulated their interest in disarmament in the mid-1990s when it destroyed its chemical weapons plant in Tarhunah after successful negotiations with the Clinton Administration.

At some point, Qadhafi realized that re-establishing relations with the US was more beneficial to his regime than pursuing WMD. I think we also have to look at what elements Qadhafi perceived as a threat to his regime. The al Qaeda inspired and financed Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) attempted to assassinate Qadhafi in 1996; since then Libya has actually been at war against al Qaeda and associated movements and had offered cooperation to US officials in fighting al Qaeda cells in North Africa even before September 11, 2001. Qadhafi perceived Islamic extremists as a more ominous threat to his regime than the US or Israel, which are often perceived as one and the same in the Muslim Middle East. And above all else, Qadhafi wanted to stay in power through connectivity. And plugging yourself back to the US is perhaps the easiest way to achieve that enhanced connectivity, to go from dial-up to somewhere closer to wireless high-speed connection. In my opinion, the process should always be gradual, especially in the Middle East. Force-feeding connectivity is a dangerous proposition. Beyond the security aspect, there's also a financial aspect. A renewed connection with the US economy will probably benefit Libya's economy. It remains to be seen if Qadhafi will translate the renewed financial gains into benefits to the Libyan people. BTW, Libya also has oil. Maybe not a heavyweight compared to Saudi Arabia, but 3 million barrels a day - the estimated output once new technologies jump start Libya’s oil industry - would put Libya on par with Venezuela in terms of oil production.

This got me thinking; in terms of the instruments of national power - diplomatic, informational, military, economic (DIME) - in my opinion the Libya "operation" looks like this: "DImE"; while the Iraq operation (OIF) looks like this: "diMe".

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Deployment (From Hell)

The EBO-related posts generated some response among other bloggers. I'll respond o their critiques when I get a chance. Right now, my priority is to get ready for the 6-month deployment. After completing quite a bit of training and paperwork, I finally depart tomorrow. Six months away from "home". I put home under quotations because I just got to Virginia last year and have been on the road for a long time ever since. I want to say this have been, so far, the deployment order from hell, but that will be whining. Let's say, that it has been the "flexibility is the key to airpower" deployment order. First, they tell me is 4 months then, last month they tell me is 6 months. The location has changed twice. The job description I originally received turned out to be bogus (or so I heard from the dude I'm replacing). I'll find out when I get there, I guess. I am ready to get out of here, though. This is where teleportation will come in handy. I take off tomorrow and will arrive (if I'm lucky) on Wednesday. I'll try to post while out there, however, my main focus for the next weeks will be adapting to my new environment and learning my "new" job. I won't go into any of the other buffooneries, right now. The word "friction" comes to mind. To quote one of my (sadistic) NCOs: "The pleasure is in the pain." Good words to live by.

Special thanks to blogger buds Mark from Zenpundit and Eddie from Live from the FDNF for calling attention to my humble writings.

Please read critiques to my EBO posts from Kingdaddy at Arms and Influence and Robert Farley at Lawyers, Guns and Money, which BTW happens to be three of the four things that got me in trouble last time I went to Vegas. I'll respond to both critiques after I get myself situated. Part 3 of In Defense of EBO is still coming. Needless to say, like Ralph Peters, neither one of them offer an alternative to EBO beyond an attrition-based warfare approach, or what I call the "only-killing-win-wars" approach. Killing is undoubtedly part of warfare, but like I've said before, a strategy that consists of only killing "bad guys" is essentially the absence of strategy.

I've also been readind about Dan's trip to China on tdaxp. I envy the guy. I am actually planning a trip to Asia next year. It was originally semi-planned for this fall, but I had to changed my plans. God (and Uncle Sam) had other plans for me, I guess. I suspect that the Chinese will put together a folder on me as soon as I send my visa application though. I am eagerly awaiting the mega OODA Loop series promised by Dan before the China adventure. Will it top Dan's piece de resistance "Globalization Is Water - The Magic Cloud"? I sure hope so.

Also reading Curtis at Phatic Communion and his resilience- and Gap-related posts.

Here's some preliminary writings of ideas that I will expand upon in the near future:

The object of warfare is to affect our adversaries’ decisions and have him act according to our strategic interests; in the words of Clausewitz, war is “an act of force to compel our enemy to do our will.” Colonel John Boyd speaks of folding an opponent back inside himself by operating inside his observation-orientation-decision-action (OODA) loop. When we operate inside our adversaries’ OODA loop, we come into their view in ambiguous and unpredictable form, thereby producing confusion and entropy among them. As Boyd describes it in “Destruction and Creation”: “High entropy implies a low potential for doing work, a low capacity for taking action or a high degree of confusion and disorder.” An effects-based approach to operations emphasizes the use of synchronized sets of actions that include all aspects of military and other national power that might shape the decisions not only of our adversaries, but also the decisions of friends and neutrals.

Effects Defined

Effects consist of a full spectrum of outcomes, events, or consequences that result from a particular action. An effects based approach to operations stresses the value of connecting all actions (political, diplomatic, economic, and military) to operational and strategic outcomes. In the most basic sense, effects-based operations are planned, executed, assessed, and adapted to influence or change systems or capabilities in order to achieve desired outcomes. The three essential features of effects-based operations (EBO)—planning, employment, and assessment—cannot be separated from one another.

Origins: The Revolt of the Warfighters

Effects-based operations are not new, however, one can trace the current incarnation of the movement to the war experiences of young Air Force officers who were dismayed by the often senseless and ineffective use of airpower in Vietnam. When their turn to lead came, they were determined to do better. Their turn came when Iraqi forces invaded Kuwait in 1990. The planners on the U.S. Central Command’s (USCENTCOM) “Black Hole” air component planning team which was tasked with developing strategic targets during the Persian Gulf War developed an air campaign to achieve an “effect” on specific Iraqi systems that if removed from Iraqi control, would enable USCENTCOM to achieve its objectives and thus allow the U.S. and its allies to achieve their strategic goals.

Engagement Processes

There is a force application process that prescribes attacking multiple, vital targets simultaneously in an attempt to collapse an adversary’s system, and therefore leaving him with no means to respond, and, when he does respond, he does so in a manner that is favorable to us. If we think beyond merely “servicing” targets – the “only killing wins wars” mentality- and begin to think in terms of desired effects, this “kinetic option” becomes only one of the many options that are part of our range as warfighters.

EBO is an evolutionary idea that does not invalidate the customary notions of annihilation or attrition, but widens the options available to a commander.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

In Defense of EBO - Part 2

Ralph Peters wrote in the April 06 issue of Armed Forces Journal an article titled Bloodless theories, bloody wars; Easy-win concepts crumble in combat.

The so-called "bloodless theory" he's alluding to is effects based operations or EBO.

This is part 2 of my defense of EBO or more appropriately an effects-based approach to operations (EBO for short).

Read part one here.

If you can understand the concept of cause and effect, you can understand EBO. It's just common sense and it's not really all that complicated. It might require a tiny little bit more of brainpower than the alternative, target-based and objectives-based approaches, but not a whole lot more. For every action there's an effect. If I hit the brakes in my truck, I'll slow down and will eventually stop if I keep adding pressure to the brake pedal. If I want to accelerate I step on the gas. If I want to stay awake, I drink coffee. If I am thirsty, I drink water. If I want to get drunk, I drink alcohol. Within the realm of what I want to accomplish I have quite a bit of leeway: I can brew my own coffee using a variety of brands, I can go to a coffee shop, I can go to a convenience store, etc. I can drink bottled water, a sports drink, filtered water. I can drink beer, whiskey, vodka, etc. A lot of what we do on a daily basis is already effects-based. An effects-based approach is a common-sense and intuitive way to conduct operations. It can significantly add flexibility and empower all the players in an operation. I can't tell you how many times I've heard "Why are we doing this? Why are we hitting that target?" during real-world and exercise operations. I'll explain the alternatives on a future post.

To recap: Ralph Peters (an author I admire; the author of Fighting for the Future, which I consider a minor classic) argues that "The Allied bombing campaign (during WWII) certainly aided in that (Germany's) defeat, but it was not decisive in itself." I argue that the Allied air campaign was never meant to be decisive by itself. The Allied strategy called for an integration of different elements; an air campaign against Germany was one element. A ground and naval campaign were other crucial elements in defeating Nazi Germany. Peters does not even mention the role played by the US Navy in defeating Germany. He barely mentions the air campaign against Japan, to include the nuclear attack against Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the role that the campaign played in the surrender of Imperial Japan and the avoidance of a costly ground campaign in the Japanese home islands.

Peters writes:

"Compounding the damage, each of the services (except the Marine Corps) has fallen into the trap of designing its strategy to fit the systems it wants, rather than devising an honest long-term strategy, then pursuing the weapons best-fitted to support that strategy.

We have gotten the process exactly wrong."

Peters is not a big fan of the F-22. I supposed he's not a fan of the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), a system that will be used by the Marines as well as the Air Force and the Navy, hence the "joint" designation. The Air Force needs to replace the aging fleet of F-15s which are currently flying and that form the backbone of our air superiority capabilities. The F-22 is the solution (along with the training of our personnel to maintain our capabilities). The Air Force will stop pursuing air superiority and air supremacy capabilities when the USMC stops pursuing their amphibious warfare capabilities. End of story.

The Air Force is not the only service spending money on new equipment after the procurement holiday imposed upon us during the 1990's. The USMC's main acquisition programs today are the F-35 JSF, the V-22 Osprey, and the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (EFV). If you are going to judge strategy by the systems a service buys, then the USMC seems to be getting ready to refight the Korean War.

FX-Based Note: I love the Marine Corps. This is not a swipe at you guys. The USMC needs those systems to replace their aging equipment. My point is that you can't judge a "strategy" based on systems alone. Especially when we are fighting in a less "platform-centric" fashion. Peters makes it sound like the USMC is not procuring new systems, which is not true.

Peters writes:
"No sensible person would argue against the potential benefits of new military technologies — but those technologies must be relevant to genuine wartime needs, not merely sexy platforms for air shows. The services become so mesmerized by their in-progress procurement programs that any challenge to a system’s utility is treated as an attack on the service itself.

The truth is that we lie."

Speaking of airshows, check out my sweet airshow pics, (I write airshow the same way I write airpower: as one word).

On a more serious note: Soldiers, Marines, Airmen, Sailors. We are on the same team. I don't really know the motivation behind Mr. Peters' poisonous attacks against the Air Force, but I do know that they do more harm than good. Especially when we have Airmen serving alongside Soldiers, Marines, and Sailors in all sort of hot spots around the world (not just in Iraq and Afghanistan). One thing is to disagree about the procurement of the F-22, another thing is to distort history and blatantly attack an entire service under the guise of being an advocate for the Marines.

More to come on part 3. Mr. Peters also misrepresents Gettysburg as an EBO (when in fact is the anti-EBO) and later states that "only killing wins wars". I think our experience in Korea, Vietnam, and now Iraq are evidence that to win wars you have to do far more than just killing. Body counts are a very dangerous measure of success. How many North Koreans and Chinese died compared to our troops during the Korean War? How many Vietnamese died compared to Americans during the Vietnam War? How many Russians died compared to Germans during WWII? How many terrorists and insurgents have we killed in Iraq and Afghanistan? War is not a sport where whoever kills the most automatically wins. Strategies that merely consist of "killing", "search-and-destroy", "kill-capture", or "man-hunts", are recipes for disaster and, in essence, exemplify the absence of strategy.

Saturday, May 13, 2006


Personal Post Alert!:

I don't really care what anybody says. I have not read the reviews and probably never will, but the new Tool album ROCKS!

Already the soundtrack that I'll be taking on the road for Summer 2006 is shaping up pretty good.

Friday, May 12, 2006

In Defense of EBO

Ralph Peters wrote in the April 06 issue of Armed Forces Journal an article titled Bloodless theories, bloody wars; Easy-win concepts crumble in combat.

The so-called "bloodless" theory he's alluding to is effects based operations or EBO.

First of all, EBO is a methodology, an approach and a way of thinking used for planning, executing and assessing operations and not a new "theory" of war or a particular strategy. It is not an "easy-win concept", but rather a cross-dimensional, cross-discipline way of thinking that seeks to integrate all the instruments of power to the maximum extent possible. The effects-based approach is not mainly focused on winning quick decisive battles; the focus is on actions and the effect of those actions over an extended period of time.

Peters writes:
"During the Second World War, American and British air-campaign planners attempted to force the Nazi war machine into collapse by attacking crucial links in Germany’s national infrastructure. According to the theory, hitting well-selected individual targets would paralyze entire systems. So, at an enormous cost in lives and aircraft, we went after German rail junctions and ball-bearing plants, engine factories and Romanian oil fields."

It would have probably been more costly, in terms of lives and aircraft, to send C-47's full or paratroopers and drop them directly on top of the engine factories and Romanian oil fields. The best way to attack those targets, at the time, was using long-range bombers. Today, we would use stealth bombers with precision weapons and cruise missiles, technologies not available during WWII. Additionally, according to the United States Strategic Bombing Survey (USSBS) conducted after WWII, by at the start of 1945, US Army Air Force (AAF) bombardment had badly degraded German armament manufacture and had brought the German war-supporting economic infrastructure close to collapse.

Peters writes:
"We were, in short, executing Effects-Based Operations, or EBO, the current darling among “revolutionary” concepts."

Actually, most EBO practitioners would tell you that EBO is more an expansion than an outright "revolution". The fundamental idea behind the concept of effects-based operations is that of causal relationships: the connection between two things in which one event occurs as a result of another event. All actions have direct and indirect effects. But you also can achieve an effect via multiple means. This idea has been around for centuries. Sun Tzu’s writings actually express insights that we would regard as effects-based today.

Peters writes:
"Of course, the Wehrmacht had to be defeated on the ground. The Allied bombing campaign certainly aided in that defeat, but it was not decisive in itself. No matter how many railroad marshalling yards we struck, the Reichsbahn found work-arounds. As for bombing the industrial infrastructure, at the end of the war more than 90 percent of Germany’s production capabilities remained intact (contrary to popular belief), giving the defeated country a launching pad for its postwar “economic miracle.” In early 1945, German combat aircraft production was increasing. Those expensive attacks on “vital” nodes helped the war effort but could not have won the war alone had they lasted for a generation. Germany’s lack of home-country petroleum reserves severely hampered the Nazis — but the advance of the Red Army did vastly more to interrupt fuel supplies from the east than did the EBO efforts of the 1940s."

There is no question that the Wehrmacht had to be defeated on the ground. The Casablanca Directive, a policy document formulated by Roosevelt and Churchill in January 1943, made apparent that a ground campaign was part of the Allied strategy well before the start of the planning for D-Day. As D-Day was getting closer and the strategic air forces fell under the command of Gen Eisenhower in March 1944, the demands of the invasion received priority from all Allied air forces and he called for a transportation attack plan to directly support Operation OVERLORD.

However, strategic bombing preceding D-DAY did play a crucial role in Nazi Germany's defeat. The main problem was that one of our main pre-war suppositions proved to be incorrect: the German industrial infrastructure proved to be more resistant to attack than what we originally expected. However, the USSBS showed that aerial attacks had actually worn out the morale of the German people and had increased absenteeism to some extent in the later phases of the war. The attacks conducted by the AAF and the Royal Air Force (RAF) from July to December 1943 did not obliterate all of the German industrial machinery, but they did compel the Germans to disperse manufacturing functions at a critical point in the war.

Peters writes:
"The primary problem we face in preparing for future wars is an intellectually corrupt budgeting and procurement process, a system that forces the services — especially the Navy and Air Force — to make extravagant, impossible-to-fulfill claims for the weapons they wish to buy. It isn’t possible to argue that a system will be “useful.” To appear competitive, each system has to be “revolutionary.”"

Mixing EBO with the DoD's budgeting and procurement process is not only mixing apples and oranges but also smells like a red herring to me. The concept of EBO is not an effort by the Air Force or the Navy to line their coffers at the expense of land forces. EBO is not service specific and never discounts the human dimension in operations. EBO is a mind-set, not a template for procurement decisions.

Peter writes:
"Compounding the damage, each of the services (except the Marine Corps) has fallen into the trap of designing its strategy to fit the systems it wants, rather than devising an honest long-term strategy, then pursuing the weapons best-fitted to support that strategy."

Again, EBO is not a "strategy", it is a methodology. While EBO thinking is influenced by technological advances, many of its influences are as old as warfare itself and not based on new systems. Of course, EBO seeks to take advantage of new applications and new technologies, but it also tries to exploit our advantages in training, doctrine and operational concepts (the human element) to expose and exploit an adversary's vulnerabilities.

More to come, in part 2.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Sonny World Tour 2006

Currently I am going through that bitter-sweet transition period before a long (6-month) deployment. I won't see my friends and my things here in VA until at least November as the winter starts to set in. The last days are basically just a whirwind of training and other activities to get you ready to go out in good shape. There's also all the usual "getting your house and things in order" type of stuff that needs to be done before a long trip. There's also the good-byes.

There are two ways to see something like this: as a curse or as an opportunity. My whiny side sometimes tells me to treat it like a curse, after all I've never been more than 2 years in one place since I've entered the service and the sense of rootlessness can sometimes wear on you. My strong side, my "warrior" side tells me to stop whining so much and get on with the tasks at hand. I try to listen to the latter side, but the whiner is always somewhere deep inside and sometimes it comes out when I found myself alone and over-thinking and over-analyzing everything.

Over the next six-months I will go to places I have never been to before. I work closely with new people. I have no idea what I am going to be facing. I know roughly what I am going to be doing but I am not an expert in the area and they told me I am expected to learn quickly. Of course. I might see some old friends since my career field is kind of small (and "incestuous" in some way), however, I am actually going to be working primarily outside of my main area of expertise. Flexing some new muscles, so to speak. Expanding my horizons. All that good stuff.

I am going to spend a big chunk of those six months overseas and that's always a mixed blessing depending on the country or region of the world. East Asia (Japan, Korea, etc.) is always fun for me. I don't know what it is, but I always feel a special energy running through my veins every time I touch down over there. I just don't know what it is. Maybe is the fact, (as I have mentioned before) that Asian women are so beautiful. Maybe is the fact that there's so many freaking people everywhere you go, which I don't like that much. Maybe is the fact that every time I've driven in Seoul I've been inches from sure death, which I guess it's kind or expected seeing that most Koreans drive like stuntmen from some bad Hong-Kong action flick. Latin America is also fun in a semi-masochistic, magic-realism kind of way. Plus, I am a native Spanish speaker which always helps. (I know enough Korean to get myself in trouble and I know how to read the Korean phonetic characters, but I don't know what the words that I'm reading actually mean. I know enough Arabic -and look somewhat Middle Eastern, I guess- that I've had a group of Arabic men just basically tell me their tribe's entire history - by what I could understand- starting from Abraham or Ibrahim. All I could hear was Ibrahim this and Ibrahim that until we got to Mohammed and then it was Mohammed this and Mohammed that, until somehow we got to the Americans-in-Iraq part which I guess these dudes were kind of conflicted about, since they were pointing their fingers up in the air and looked midly irritated, but then gave me, and the other American dudes in the group, a warm-ish farewell and some honey from their little store. I've also been expected to translate to the rest of the Americans, until I clarified that I only knew some phrases...and in the Syrian dialect. Go figure.) Back to the Western Hemisphere, I always get the runs every time I go to Central America. The first time I went there, my (steoreotyping-prone) buds were expecting me to be the most resilient to whatever germs they have down there because I am Hispanic, I kind of believed it myself for a day or two, until I had to run for the nearest restroom, and I won't get to graphic, but I felt like my whole lower intestine was liquefying. Thank God you can get all sorts of medicines with no prescription down there. (Actually, you can do that in some - I gues most from what I hear - Korean drugstores too. Never tried it in Southwest Asia and probably never will.) Maybe too much information. Beer is also very cheap in Central American countries, which is always a plus. In some nicer places they even give you "free" appetizers as long as you keep buying alcohol. (My heart is also broken every time I go to places where there's so much poverty while a few privileged drive around in Mercedes and Land Rovers and live in what amounts to small fortresses.) They also have some good-looking and nice women down there. But, I am not going to either East Asia or Latin America. So it's not really a World Tour per se since I will mostly be traveling in one area of the world. But World Tour sounds cool and it makes me feel like a rock star.

These little posts are kind of sweet, since I don't have to do any research or prior reading and I don't need to sound coherent at all. Not that I normally do anyway. Now I have to continue writing my part of a big-ass post-exercise report that I need to turn in before I go. The fun never ends.

Effects-Based - Part 1

The fundamental idea behind the concept of effects-based operations is that of causal relationships: the connection between two things in which one event occurs as a result of another event. All actions have direct and indirect effects. But you also can achieve an effect via multiple means. This idea has been around for centuries. Good war time leaders have always concentrated on results and on the human element of war. In fact, great commanders since antiquity have all planned to directly attack the will of their opponents through speedy, decisive maneuver wars, but more often than not found themselves faced by enemies too large or too tough for that to be successful. Attrition warfare has never been the first (or a random) choice. It has been the only remaining option. Seizing the spirit of what many past strategists imagined, but never saw in reality, entails assiduous study and a new mind-set. An effects-based approach to operations is not a template or a formula. It is a way of thinking that takes advantage of causal relationships through the use of sound analysis and while this approach exploits the current technological revolutions in sensors, information technology, and weapons, it does not necessarily imply that technology will endow its users with guaranteed triumph. Technology, can hasten the development of a more mature effects-based approach, but it is only an accelerator, not the main engine behind the concept.

The effects-based approach is not mainly focused on winning quick decisive battles; the focus is on actions and the effect of those actions over an extended period of time. It focuses on political objectives, rather than military objectives.

Some Terms

The word “effects” is very vague. In the Air Force definition, taken from AFDD 2, “effects” are basically “the full range of outcomes, events, or consequences of a particular cause. A cause can be an action, a set of actions, or another effect.” We can also think about “effects” in terms of a number of classifications in order to guide the discussion.

Direct and Indirect Effects

A direct effect, also known as a first order effect, is the consequence of events with no intervening effect or mechanism between act and result. An action causes an effect. An effect can be achieved via different actions. Direct effects can have physical, functional or collateral results and are typically instant and easy to identify. A direct effect is an act that directly brings about an alteration in a condition; it is the actual physical impact of an action. A direct effect is one in which there is nothing in-between the action and the effect. I bombed all the oil refineries in country X; I destroyed the bomb refineries and I can see that they are burning.

An indirect effect, also known as a second or third order effect, is an outcome shaped through an intermediary effect or mechanism to create the ultimate result which may be physical, psychological, systemic, cumulative, or cascading in nature. An action causes an effect and that effect generates other effects. An indirect effect is an alteration in a condition that happens somewhere else in the system that can be traced back to the original act and effect. Indirect effects are likely to be delayed and may be hard to identify. I bombed all the oil refineries in country X; I destroyed the bomb refineries and I can see that they are burning and now the enemy tanks will have trouble refueling.

All actions have effects. All efforts should have clear objectives. EBO compels planners to deliberately link efforts with objectives and lower-level objectives with higher ones.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Airshow Beauties...And Movies

My base hosted an airshow this weekend. Naturally, I was there to photograph some of the beautiful machines on-scene.

Above is a picture of the F-35, the Joint Strike Fighter. Here's another look:

The Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) is built by Lockheed Martin and is part of the effort to replace the bulk of the US fighter fleet with stealth aircraft. The JSF will replace the F-16 and A-10 fighter and attack aircraft in the Air Force, early model F/A-18s in the Navy, and aging AV-8B Short Takeoff and Vertical Landing fighters in the Marine Corps. Specially configured but highly similar variants of the JSF will be built for each of those services.

Movie Apperance: None that I know of...yet.

Here's an F-22 Raptor:

Ralph Peter's favorite jet. The stealthy F-22, in development since the mid-1980s, was recently declared battle ready. By that, the Air Force means it is able to swiftly defeat any aerial or surface-based air threat in the world today or projected to exist for a long time to come. The F-22 will allow US forces to gain entry into any combat theater of operations by destroying enemy air defenses—airborne or ground-based—and holding at risk targets well behind enemy lines.

The big "WARNING" sign just means that airshow attendants were not allowed to touch the plane. Pictures were OK, though.

Movie Appearance: Hulk. My favorite part of this otherwise crappy interpretation of one of my favorite comic-book characters is the battle between Hulk and an F-22 over the San Francisco Bay.

Book Appearance: Tom Clancy's Debt of Honor. A flight of F-22's goes up against a flight of Japanese F-15J's. The F-22's win. One of Clancy's best novels before he jumped the shark after The Bear and the Dragon.

Here's an F-16 Viper:

In the beginning, critics complained that the F-16 was too small and too slow and didn’t have the two engines necessary for flight safety. Pilots would never like it, they said. The Air Force would never buy it, they said. Long-range air-to-air missiles would render its agility moot, they said. The era of dogfighters was definitely over.

“They” were wrong.

Movie Appearance: Iron Eagle. One of the worst movies of all time. There are certain movie laws that I've discovered. One is: "If Louis Gossett Jr. appears in a movie, and that movie is not An Officer and a Gentleman, then that movie is a bad movie." Also known as: "You know the movie is in trouble when you see Louis Gossett Jr. on the opening credits." A similar law applies to Ben Affleck. Somehow, Iron Eagle spawned several atrocious sequels, further proof that Hollywood is run either by idiots, or the Devil.
Another Movie Appearance: X2: X-Men United. What is it with the Air Force being called to fight comic-book characters? X2 is actually a pretty good movie.

Here's an F-15E Strike Eagle:

A heavily modified, two-seat, dual-role variant of the original F-15, with weapons systems totally integrated for all-weather deep interdiction missions as well as air-to-air combat. F-15E has a strengthened airframe for increased gross weight at takeoff and maneuver at nine Gs throughout the flight envelope.

Movie Appearance: Air Force One. Technically, the ones that appear in the movie are F-15Cs, but close enough. I haven't seen F-15E's in any feature film.

Here's a Luftwaffe Tornado:

Designed and built as a collaborative project in the UK, Germany and Italy, the Tornado is in service with all three air forces and the German Navy. Tornado is also in service in Saudi Arabia and Oman. It is a twin-seat, twin-engined, variable geometry aircraft and is supersonic at all altitudes. The design authority for the Tornado is Panavia, the tri-national consortium which comprises British Aerospace, DASA of Germany and the Italian firm Alenia.

FX-Based Comment: When my brother saw this group of fighers, sporting the Iron Cross on the side of each aircraft, he asked me, "Aren't those the bad guys?" I was speechless for a while. I told him that those were German Air Force jets. "Are the Germans on our side now?", he asked. This despite the fact that me and other military members of my family have partied (hard) in Germany and he has seen (some) of the pictures. And the fact that one of our relatives is married to a German woman that he met while he was stationed in Germany. For the record, my brother is not retarded; he is actually smarter than me in many respects (not a huge accomplishment, but hey), maybe he's seen "Saving Private Ryan" too many times. What kind of history lessons are kids getting these days?

Movie Appearance: I remember watching a horrible (although probably not as awful as Iron Eagle) British movie that had some Tornados, but I don't remember the title.

Here a B-1 Lancer a.k.a Bone:

A long-range, air refuelable multirole bomber capable of flying missions over intercontinental range, then penetrating enemy defenses with the largest payload of guided and unguided weapons in the Air Force inventory. Of blended wing/body configuration, the B-1’s variable-geometry design and turbofan engines combine to provide greater range and high speed at low level, with enhanced survivability.

Movie Appearance: Real Genius. Mad props if you have seen (and like) this movie. As a child of the 80's, I grew up watching this movie, along with Red Dawn and Weird Science. Best Val Kilmer movie ever, which is really not saying much, but it's a fun movie. Real Genius intruduced me to bombers shooting lasers from the sky, and sleazy professors that take advantage of their smart students. Red Dawn introduced me to a world of AK-47's, RPG's and Hind helicopters, and American guerrillas on horseback. Weird Science introduced me to Kelly LeBrock in the shower and all the thoughts associated with that image.

And finally, here's a B-52 a.k.a BUFF:

A long-range, heavy multirole bomber that can carry nuclear or conventional ordnance or cruise missiles, with worldwide precision navigation capability. The B-52’s still-expanding weapons capability reflects its continued ability to perform a wide range of missions, including show of force, maritime operations, long-range precision strikes, close air support (CAS), offensive counterair, air interdiction, and defense suppression.

Movie Appearance: Dr. Strangelove. "Nuclear combat toe to toe with the Roosskies". Mandatory viewing.

Aicraft descriptions provided by the Air Force Magazine and the Federation of American Scientists in the case of the Tornado.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Darfur - Part 5


Objective: Prevent large-scale killings and restore order in Darfur.

The intention is to stabilize a large enough area of Darfur to establish bases from which to freely operate across the Darfur area of operations.

My (somewhat disorganized) version of the (Fantasy) Plan for Humanitarian Intervention in Darfur calls for the following force composition:

Both force packages will deploy with small units of reconnaissance and forward observers capabilities, supported by UAVs.

Both force packages will be able to operate in dispersed fashion. Spatial distribution will better enable responses to urgent situations throughout the AO. All coalition forces should be able to reach concentrations of noncombatants quickly and over the wide territory of Darfur, and respond to sudden threats against indigenous noncombatants. All coalition forces should be able to concentrate effects on any point and at any given time regardless of spatial dispersion.

This combination of forces will dictate the scope and course of future hostilities in Darfur and will eliminate the enemy's capability to threaten noncombatants in the future.

Both Force Packages operate under the command of a single Combined Task Force Commander.

Big Questions:


Interoperability is a big challenge and not easily achieved. Allied forces in both expeditionary force packages will consists of a combination of highly-integrated networked forces (coming from "Core" states) and nonintegrated, non-networked forces (some coming from "New Core" states, but most coming from "Gap" states). Effective conduct of military operations in Darfur will require US forces interoperability with both types of force. We have to live with the reality that some of our allies will lack or have very basic technologies needed to network forces. Interoperability is bound to improve shared situational awareness and will help forces conduct all sorts of operations along a spectrum of missions.

One advantage of operating with "Gap" and local allied forces is that they can be easily supported. These rag-taggish forces usually require less logistics support, are pretty good at operating from austere locations (because they come from austere locations) and are generally "lower-maintenance" than Core forces.

Coalition forces should also be prepared to interact with official and private relief organizations.

Of note: Some humanitarian organizations might be cautious to appear too integrated with coalition forces.


Currently, the US does not keep large forces in Africa. The first challenge/task is deploying to Africa, and then inserting a relatively large peacekeeping force into Darfur which is inhospitable, relatively inaccessible, out-of-the-way, undeveloped and unfamiliar to most coalition troops. Both force packages will have to travel to Africa via a combination of long-range airlift assets and rapid sealift assets. FP Lima will probably arrive in theater exclusively by air. The rest of the peacekeeping force will deploy to staging areas inside allied African nations (Djibouti, Ethiopia, etc.) and from there, will be inserted into Darfur via theater airlift and open lines of communication (LOC).

Insertion of Force Packages

XFP Lima is inserted into Darfur first. This force package can secure airheads (with possible help from inidigenous rebel forces) that will allow the insertion of FP Sierra. FP Lima must be able to operate inside Darfur with very little supporting infrastructure. FP Sierra will bring the equipment and personnel necessary to build a more robust infrastruture from which forces can operate. ISR assets and small recon units will obtain further information on the enemy, potential enemy, and any other characteristics of the Darfurian battlespace that might have been previously overlooked.

Establishment of airheads will provide locations for:


XFP Lima's tactical units will strike early and hard at the enemy's ability to defend itself. XFP Lima will operate and maneuver rapidly and freely across the Darfur theater of operations (which actually extends beyond the borders of the Darfur province) and conduct lethal attacks networked with precision-strike forces (mostly USAF and USN strike assets). XFP Lima's small SOF units will be supported by a variety of sensors that will provide enhanced awareness (e.g. UAVs) and will be able to find and direct precision air attacks against relatively large enemy units in the Darfur area of operations. These attacks will seek to harm the enemy while causing minimum damage to the Sudanese infrastructure. It is unknown at this time if enemy militias and other opposing forces will be prepared to attack allied forces or be inclined to flee at first sight.

XFP Lima will set the stage for the establishment of airheads that will enable in-theater mobility by air to entire expeditionary force.

Big Questions for Engagement Phase:

XFP Lima will find, identify, pursue, and destroy any early resistance to humanitarian operations. As operation progresses, XFP Lima's role will be mainly limited to quick strikes on scattered opposing forces and other time-critical operations. ISR assets networked with SOF will detect indications of enemy actions, however one major challenge will be dicriminating between combatants and non-combatants.

Big Challenges For Engagement Phase (and once XFP Sierra shows up to Darfur)

Things I Did Not Cover

The US can lead the effort but it might not have to dedicate a large amount of troops and resources to the effort. For something like this to work, it has to be accomplished by an international force. The good news is that many allied nations are actually concentrating in improving their abilities to operate in under conditions other than major war. The question is, will they have the resolve to act?

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Darfur - Part 4

I think that from now on, most posts on FX-Based will be part of a series. I can't really cover what I want to regarding some subjects in a single post. Besides, I will be very short on time from here until at least the end of the year.

Fog of War, "A blog devoted to International Defence and Security issues" is the lastest addition to the FX-Based blogroll. I meant to do this a few weeks ago but never got to it.

So, Jules at Fog of War mentions FX-Based and adds:

I’ve read with great interest Sonny's attempt, from FXbased, to draw a "fantasy" framework - as he has called it - for a U.S. led intervention in Darfur. But, as attractive such an idea might be, there is a strong likelihood that such an intervention is not going to happen.

I agree with the last sentence.

Eddie at Live from the FDNF also mentions yours truly and provides a good roundup of other blogs covering the Darfur debacle. Eddie's blog has done more to raise my awareness of Darfur than any other source

I liked Jules' summary of some of the players in the Darfur crisis. Citing from Fog of War. My comments in italics:

The Sudanese government is against any kind of international intervention.

The African Union - which has taken the initiative in Darfur since 2004 - has failed. (FX-Based comment: True.)

The U.N. - The international community has been moving too slow on this matter. (FX-Based comment: When has the UN moved fast on anything?)

The U.S. have recently put forward a stronger position stating that "genocide has to be stopped" in western Sudan and that "involvement by NATO should send a clear signal" to the Sudanese authorities.

NATO - The U.S.'s proposal of NATO deployment plan is still under consideration within NATO.

Transnational Islamist terrorism - Some observers have deemed that a western intervention in Darfur would play into the jihadists' hands, uniting all factions in a war against outsiders.

And my "favorite" player:

China seems to be the biggest player with much at stake: its increasing needs for overseas resources (see China, Africa, and Oil, from the Council on Foreign Relations). In exchange for oil, Beijing provides diplomatic support and weapons to Sudan (see China's role in genocide and China accused of prolonging bloodshed because of oil). An estimated 70% of Sudan’s oil flows to China, and an estimated 6 to 7% of China’s oil imports come from Sudan. It has also been estimated that 80% of Sudan’s oil revenue may be used to buy weapons.

The Chinese deserve a whole new post. At this point in history, China cares only about itself. I personally can't figure out the Chinese. Can they be a positive force for change (like we Americans are) anywhere in the world?

The fantasy plan continues.

The Adversary

The adversary consists of a combinations of elements of the Government of Sudan (GOS) and the Janjaweed. The adversary continues to terrorize the civilian population in Darfur by the systematic, coordinated and indiscriminate use of violence using deployed ethnic proxy forces. Aerial bombardment and attacks on civilians reportedly have occurred widely throughout the region. The number of casualties caused by aerial bombardment cannot be determined, but large numbers of Darfurians have been forced to flee their villages. Many of the reports detailing attacks on villages refer to government and militia forces, preceded by aerial bombardment, acting together to commit atrocities.

Most reports from civilians describe the following pattern in the attacks:

1) GOS aircraft or helicopters bomb villages.

2) GOS soldiers arrive in trucks, followed closely by Janjaweed militia riding horses or camels.

3) GOS soldiers and militia surround and then enter villages, under cover of gunfire.

4) Fleeing villagers are targets in aerial bombing.

5) The Jingaweit and GOS soldiers loot the village after most citizens have fled, often using trucks to remove belongings.

6) Villages often experience multiple attacks over a prolonged period before they are destroyed by burning or bombing

The Sudanese Air Force (SAF)

I would like to see the USAF (or USN) take a shot at these knuckleheads.

Despite Sudan's dire economic situation the SAF has actually undergone a recent modernization. The SAF order of battle contains aircraft and weapons that are considered credible threats to US forces. Of primary concern are modern MiG-29 Fulcrum aircraft, equipped with both AA-12 Adder and AA-11 Archer air-to-air missiles. The Fulcrum is equipped with advanced phased array "Slot Back" radar that can detect targets as small as a cruise missile. The Fulcrum also has an advanced infrared detection system (IRST) that can detect American strike aircraft day or night. Based on Jane's information, the SAF has at least 16 operational MiG-29s. These aircraft are probably operated by Russian mercenaries. In addition, the SAF is known to operate at least two MiG-23 Flogger aircraft. The MiG-29 squadron is located at Khartoun, while the two MiG-23s are based at Bur (Port) Sudan. The MiG-29 purchase represents an expenditure of approximately $400 million.

Reports indicate that Chinese jets sold to Sudan by China and Iran since the 1990s include over 40 Shenyang J-6 and J-7 jet fighters, and more recently some F-7 supersonic fighters, an improved version of the Russian MiG-21 Fishbed.

Based on Jane's, the Sudanese operate two modern air traffic control (ATC) radars that cover the southern approach to Darfur. Both of these Alenea-Marconi radars have a dual-use air defense capability along with civilian ATC.

According to Jane's, Sudan has 20 SA-2 Guideline SAM batteries, with associated Spoon Rest and Fan Song radars. Only three of the batteries are believed to be operational.

Friendly Forces Desired Conditions

Next post will cover the whole plan A-to-Z, phase-by-phase.

Further Reading:

Monday, May 01, 2006

Darfur Part 3

Some context for the last two posts and life in general: I am home after two weeks on the road. Military exercise. Huge exercise. My last two post were from an airport, and my quarters late at night, respectively. I was tired and not under ideal conditions when I posted and I found out I had some misspellings which I promptly fixed as soon as I had time at home. Everything went really well during this trip. I had an awesome time and learned a lot. Worked with some great people too. I will be on the road all summer and part of the fall fighting the good fight. Depending on where I am I might be able to post on some things that have been banging around in my cranium. My main priority right now is to get mentally and physically ready for the long time I'll be out there. Realistically, FX-Based might actually be in hiatus for several months due to my realignment of priorities in order to serve my country the best I can. I truly appreciate the comments made by Eddie, Federalist X, and Ben Singer on the Darfur posts. I always strive to answer all comments in one way or another, either in the "Comments" section, by e-mail or by answering as a separate post.

The last two post were fantasies based on reality. This post addresses reality and the contradictions of our world.

"Cool" fact before we continue: The Russians sold 12 MiG-29s to the Sudanese in 2004. Do you think these 4th generation fighters are being flown by Sudanese pilots?

Protests in US cities seek to "Save Darfur Now" Sun Apr 30, 10:35 PM ETWASHINGTON (AFP) - Tens of thousands of demonstrators, led by lawmakers and Hollywood star George Clooney, descended on Washington and other US cities to demand an end to the conflict in Sudan's Darfur region.

This has been brewing for months now. I expect to see more demonstrations full of college students, celebrities and politicians. My question is, are this the same people that want us out of Iraq? People seem to forget about our experience in Somalia. Logistically and operationally speaking, Somalia was far easier than what would be required to operate effectively in Darfur. What would the demonstrators do if we get troops in Darfur and a month (or less) into the operation CNN broadcasts images of one of our troops being dragged across the African sand by a "Janjaweed" horse?

What's the plan? Get out of Iraq and go to Darfur?The same people that criticize how much we screwed up in Iraq, where we had been involved for over a decade before the 2003 invasion, now want us to go into Darfur, a place we know next to nothing about and even military people struggle to find on a map. And yes, intervention in Darfur will require military power. The Janjaweed are unlikely to be deterred by strong language and protest signs. You have to go in there armed and willing to kill. And I seriously doubdt that any of the demonstrators will spill any blood in Darfur fighting the Janjaweed. Will these activists run to the nearest military recruitment office to enlist if the President announces that we are going into Darfur? My suspicion is that, if we go into Darfur (a huge if), you will see many of the veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq in western Sudan. Of course, the US will not go alone. The intervention might be US-led, but with another "coalition of the willing". I just don't see a lot of other countries lining up to send their troops to Sudan. Who will stop the killings? NATO? Think again. Remember Bosnia and Kosovo? It took American power to solve the situations there. And that was on NATO's own backyard. The UN? The African Union? No, and hell no. So, like a said before, if you live in Darfur and your people are victims of genocide, you’re pretty much SOL.

Somehow, these demonstrators think that the same US military that they claim misapplied its power in Iraq will do a better job in Darfur fighting another nasty group of guerrillas. Basically they are saying: "You guys fucked up in Iraq, (even though you had been operating in the area since at least 1990), but now get out of Iraq and please help the poor people of Darfur. Here it is on the map. It's in Africa. Don't fight the guerrillas in Iraq anymore. Fight the guerrillas in Africa now. They are Muslims too, by the way, and Arabs. Only in a different continent, and with much darker skin. Now ship all your troops, Humvees, tanks, planes and helicopters to Africa and save Darfur!" What a joke.

So it if makes you feel better, go ahead and march. Protest. Speak out. You might sleep better at night thinking that you did your part for the people of Darfur. But keep in mind that your march is a walking contradiction.

Further Reading:

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