26 July 2011

Is delusion an environmentally-enhanced trait?

Normally I thoroughly enjoy reading Christian Science Monitor. Their articles are well written and typically on point. This article, published yesterday from Anne Mulrine, left me scratching my head. While well written, I’m a little confused by the personalities she selected to quote through most of the article. Did she not have access to a Battalion Commander or his S-3?

Some of my favorite quotes from this article:

…says Col. Clay Hall, commander of the US Air Force’s 455th Expeditionary Operations Group (EOG). “There’s a feeling of, ‘Let’s use them to maximum effect.’ As we pull out,” with fewer and fewer US troops on the ground, “those engagements are going to become less and less effective.”

Since when is the Commander of a Group of flyers qualified to discuss the effectiveness of current or future ground operations? Sure he said, “There’s a feeling”, but again, this is not his lane. I'm not discussing whether he's correct or not, the point is that he's not a ground force commander. And honestly, could the reporter not find someone better to interview about ground operations than a pilot? How about look for someone, anyone, not wearing those awesome blue tiger stripes or a flight suit?


After dropping his bombs and being replaced by another team of Air Force fighter pilots, Sorenson returned to base and began listening to the battle on the radio.

I really don’t have anything bad to say about this other than to (once again) kick myself for not being a Zoomie.

And my absolute favorite.

“It’s a Pyrrhic victory is the bottom line.”

I’m sorry, what? Pyrrhic victory? The fact that the Taliban still has the capability to mass 300 determined fighters after a decade in this country is scary. And to say we have the enemy on his heels? Seriously, do you honestly believe that? This article is about the Taliban shifting operations to your Regional Command; as well as massing 300 determined fighters on one of your Platoons. And you, the Commanding General, think you have the Taliban on its heels in your area of operations? Luckily, that Platoon was able to fight its way out with seemingly outstanding support from our Air Force brethren. But RC East has been on the receiving end of massed Taliban attacks before, and they didn’t always end so well for us. Is this a TTP we truly want to replicate because their body count was a lot higher than ours?

How about a little candor? Why not try something like this, "The Air Force did a great job providing Close Air Support to beleaguered ground forces. My boys got pretty lucky with this one, but we won't always get that lucky. As the Commanding General of this Area of Operations, I am committed to disrupting, denying and defeating the insurgent networks operating in my area of operations well before they are able to mass to that level and attack my boys. again We got lucky with this, but I intend to take luck out of the equation and bring the fight to them before they can bring it to us like this again. Moving forward, my goals and plans may not progress perfectly; but we will do everything in our power, top-down, to keep a situation like this from happening again through comprehensive and holistic/integrated offensive operations directed against these networks."

If I were in RC East I'd get pumped reading something that honest and determined from my CG. Instead they get to read puffery and feel like their CG is willing to tempt fate with their lives to try for more Pyrrhic victories.

Syria & Organized Opposition

The Wall Street Journal reports that Syria's Cabinet is working on draft law to Allow Organized Opposition by "new political parties" who operate. I wonder if this move comes in light of the People's demand for change or as a strategy of the ruling party to control operations. Violence, of course, has been a major concern, but even though this strategy promises reform in order to quell violence the law may indeed spark more protests in opposition to this new-phased governance campaign.

Why - simply because its restricts the parameters of the protests and therefore hinders the dialogue the People want to have. Political parties (or their representatives) must submit an application to receive a license to organize and operate, upon which a Committee will conclude whether to grant license or not. I presume the Committee's "explanation" will be a forthright statement and will not include detailed reasons for or against, which will prove to be another point of contention for the People.

For example, criteria include "a ban on links or affiliation to any non-Syrian political groupings." Firstly, this pretty much will exclude almost everyone. The Committee, who will rule as a representative of the ruling party of the Syrian "state and society", can define "links" or "affiliation" according to their interpretation. Secondly, in effect, such definitions will enable the Committee to further define the strength or degree of relationship(s) between the organizing party who seeks a license and their "non-Syrian" link or affiliation. Citizen records, testimony, and avenues such as the Internet will most likely be used to confirm this.

Once again, we continue to deal with Socrates' Metaphor of the Cave: the State presents images to the People according to their worldview in order to met the objectives of their strategy. Even after the draft law is passed, lawyers will argue on behalf of the State that it is not supported by the Syrian Constitution, and the People will argue that the process is not working.

The People will continue to protest emerging points of contention to the misunderstanding of the State.

17 June 2011

Social Welfare

Came across this article yesterday and revisited it today trying to decide whether it was worth a post. Since a) I have not posted really at all lately, and b) this is the most e-mailed NYT Op-Ed as of today, I figure it warrants a post. Up front, Nicholas Kristof is absolutely correct that the US Military is a social welfare experiment. The options for child care from a cost-based perspective are outstanding. And the military can be credited with a couple significant accolades for being ahead of the power curve in regard to social equality.

However, these are not the key points Kristof is trying to get across. Instead his main points are that the military should serve as a (or rather, the) model for universal healthcare and investment in human capital. Unfortunately, I disagree. Here’s why:

I think everyone would be pretty disappointed with military healthcare. From issues within the Army’s Warrior Transition Units to the military’s overemphasis on time and anti-inflammatory medication for seemingly any malady, military healthcare has significant issues. Many of my more left-leaning friends repeatedly make the argument that “at least you have healthcare”. Couldn’t argue with that logic. But what I can argue with is the level of care provided by the military. Have a significant orthopedic issue and want to see the world-renowned surgeon up the street? You’re either going to be denied or face significant hurdles trying to get up there even if the doctor accepts Tricare. Random aches and pains? You’ll likely never know what it was (and neither will your doctor), but you’ll absolutely receive a prescription for either Ibuprofen or Naproxen. Is this the best we can do?

On to the more military-relevant topic of Kristof’s Op-Ed, the topic of human capital investment. From the outside, the military’s use of career-level oriented schooling for the purposes of training and human capital investment sounds great. But in reality, the majority of students (past the basic course) attending their career-level oriented course have already spent a significant amount of time executing the positions for which they’re being trained. I spent nearly six months at the Captain-level school learning how to hold essential Captain-level positions within my branch. Would’ve been a decent education had I not already held almost all of the positions. And more importantly, the level the course was taught at was the level I taught my Lieutenants to think at. The Officer education system is woefully outdated, inadequate and expects too little from its students.

Kristof should spend a little more time talking to experienced Soldiers and Officers within the ranks before he makes such a bold conceptual assumption about the broader utility of military healthcare and human capital investment.

02 May 2011

UBL sans frontier

Amazin news.........inspiring......uplifting....satisfying.......Usama bin Laden is dead! Archenemy, if the US ever had one, is bested, defeated, and sent to the depths of the Arabian Sea. For all Americans, from those to whom 9/11 was as close as the War on Terror got to those who have spent years away from home killing and being killed, this is just and proper.

With UBL's demise the professional and lay speculation about the future of AQ and the global jihad is in full bloom. While "voices of reason" such as Sec. Napolitano are starting to warn that this is not the end of the War and that his end, though symbolic and fitting, does not mean GWOT is won and done, others are no less prophetic about the loss of faith the average mujahid may suffer, stuck as he is between the stone age and a democratic new middle-east (the NYT seemingly devoted the entire Op-Ed section on 2 May to the debate).

There is a voice that begs for redefinition when something momentous happens. Something that says "tomorrow is different than yesterday". Yet we must let history be the wax in our ears against this Siren's song. UBL was a leader in a 'global jihad'. 9/11 was the most successfull attack of a decade-old 'struggle against the Great Satan' (e.g. 1993 WTC bombing, 1998 Embassy bombings, USS Cole, etc). The Mujahid is the man that must be disuaded from fighting, persuaded to help, and/or killed and his wife must be likewise, for she instills the virtues of the jihad in her sons. The lessons of the coming weeks will shed some light on the pervasive divide between CT and COIN. Is it enough to physically hurt the agents of terror or must we "convert" the agents and their mothers away from it until some tolerable threshhold is reached?

I suspect the results will hardly solve anything. Our tendency to hyperbole and oversimplification will effectively and predictably guide us to "answers" that will hold until another defining moment that leads us to fear or jubilation. Or so the tendency has been. The Napolitano's of the world who see global terrorism as an endemic condition to last a lifetime are perhaps on the right side of the scale, although their tendencies have weaknesses a-plenty. InshAllah, we will overcome our tendencies. Then again, let's enjoy the moment and then go about our business.

23 April 2011

Weekly Update

Back from another long hiatus from the blogosphere. There’s so much going on in the world, yet every time I think I have something to say, I come across someone who’s already said it. Besides that, with my wife’s quickly approaching PCS and the end of my terminal leave/start of a new career, I have been a little keener on fly fishing, kayaking and carting around the 4-year-old blonde “princess terrorist” to her many sporting events and princess outings. Soon enough I’ll be back after it full time; until then I’ll continue to add to the site somewhat sporadically and hope we still have a couple interested readers by then.

Greg Mortenson and the Three Cups of Tea mess. Andrew Exum and Gulliver from Ink Spots covered most of what I would’ve said, and far more eloquently. Whether Mortenson tells tall tales or not, at this point, through the prism of his military relationship, is irrelevant. As Exum and Gulliver already covered, by the time Three Cups of Tea became a “must read” in military circles, most young Army and Marine leaders were already well on their way to diabetes from the gallons of chai (tea) we’d all poured down our throats over the course of multiple deployments. The media’s incessant linking to the Pentagon, and Counterinsurgency practice in general, really is lazy on their part.

Honestly, I am a huge Jon Krakauer fan; he is a genuinely fascinating individual. An old family friend, I always made sure I never missed a get-together when I knew he would also be in attendance. "Into the Wild" and "Eiger Dreams" still have a place front-and-center in my bookcase. Needless to say, big fan. What I’m not completely sure of at this point is Jon’s motive for exposing Mortenson in the way he did. Hopefully it’s pure investigative journalism for journalism’s sake and not something more wide-eyed and nefarious.

P.S. I came across this article from the Guardian on my phone tonight and had to link to it here. I’m sure Greg Mortenson is praying for a shiny ball to divert everyone’s attention anywhere else at this point.

Topic 2: Libya, naturally.

First off, what in the hell is John McCain doing parading around Benghazi? I love the guy, and it doesn’t take a PhD to figure out what he’s trying to effect with this act, but I’m not a fan of this move.

Tribes loyal to Qadhafi are telling the uniformed Libyan army to retreat from Misrata so they can fix the problem. My favorite quote from the linked article: “the tactic of the army is to have a surgical solution.” Right… nothing about artillery barrages, or really anything happening on the ground in Libya right now, can be equated with the term “surgical” in a war fighting context.

The Washington Post with Foreign Policy pretty much dropped the ball on more than half of this article. So hopefully Greg Jaffe, Edward Cody and William Branigin are reading this and will email me after so I can become their ISR contact.

1) 24/7 coverage over Libya by at least two Predators means that several units in Iraq and Afghanistan are not getting the support they need. Just by using the hokey math in the article, that’s at least four platforms that could be used in an operational theater where we have uniformed boots on the ground and therefore (hopefully) ground intelligence to tell the sensor operators where to look. I don’t know of a single unit that has ever said they received enough full motion video support; on the contrary it’s usually a big AAR comment for most units that they didn’t receive enough. ISR, especially long-duration FMV, is a low-density high-demand asset in both theaters. And shouldn’t priority of a ground support intelligence gathering asset like this be prioritized to US and NATO forces who are actually on the ground trying to win the first two wars we were involved in? If not to the uniformed warfighter on the ground, surely then we could be using these somewhere else where we’re chasing around elements of al Qaeda in Africa, Yemen, Pakistan, etc? The bottom line is that these platforms could (and should) easily be utilized elsewhere.

2) The unmanned aircraft can stay over an area for upwards of 12 hours at a stretch, making them much better at distinguishing rebel troops from loyalist forces than faster-moving fighter jets, which also must stay at higher altitudes. This was a decent attempt. Do the authors think our fighter pilots are trying to look out the cockpit glass from 14,000 feet up and trying to discern friend from foe? Maybe to get a general feel for what’s happening on the ground, but definitely not for PID purposes on the ground there with the grab bag of vehicles on both sides. Loiter time surely helps in allowing those watching “Kill TV” to take their time and make that solid PID. But this has everything to do with loiter time and nothing to do with flight speed of either aircraft or their respective preferred flight altitudes.

3) “Predators carry relatively small Hellfire missiles that are much more effective than precision guided bombs at striking enemy troops in heavily populated urban areas. This sentence receives an F for many, many reasons.

4) Discussing strikes in the context of Qadhafi forces hiding out in high collateral, urban areas: “The drones could open up targets there were previously off-limits to NATO aircraft. Possibly. I’m not there and I haven’t seen any of the target specs that these guys are working. There are a ton of “what if’s” here, so I’ll give them this one but very skeptically as one just need to consider the standard trajectory of a bomb versus a missile in an urban environment.

5) “Some European officials have lamented the absence of U.S. A-10 Warthog ground-attack jets — specifically designed for close air support — and AC-130 gunships. While the low- and slow-flying planes were deployed in small numbers during the first two weeks of the campaign, they were rarely used because of fears they would be shot down by the Libyan army. Piss off, get your own awesome CAS platforms! While you’re at it, buy even more of our awesome UAVs and fly them over Libya yourself. Maybe we can export our way out of this huge financial hole we’re in after all.

Lots more soon enough… until then many more fish to catch.

13 April 2011

No Frontline Fronts in Front of the Rear

Since the end of the Cold War there has been a trend, often addressed here and in other blogs/forums, of seeing "future war" as fundamentally different in a key aspect: symmetry. What symmetry means, of course, is up for debate. Is it a physical symmetry of forces? Well, Sun Tzu said the best battle is won before it is fought. So, attack with a great advantage of the best technology, the best troops, and best logistics. This seems to imply that the best way to fight a battle (i.e. a war) is against a weaker opponent...not much to do with symmetry. Then there is the metaphysical symmetry of engagement; the notion that we used to fight on a "front" that had a "rear". That the breakdown of this symmetry creates the a-symmetrical battlefield where the "front" is the "rear" and the "rear" is the "front". The idea, of course, that this is the new paradigm. Well then, what are we to do with Lybia then? In Lybia we have fronts, rears, cities cut off and under siege, forces retreating and advancing, all in an oddly familiar way. So too we have in Cote D'Ivoire as a faction advanced from its stronghold in the north on the capital and besieged its opponents. Again, the invasion of Iraq progressed along a front that moved rapidly from Kuwait to Mosul. Weird. Why do these exceptions to a paradigm exist? After all, if the point of a paradigm is to set the framework to understanding, then XXI century conflicts should fall under this new asymmetrical paradigm. Why do these other "things" exist? Perhaps the answer is best found in the one place where everything that has ever been tried can be found: history. These exceptions to the asymmetrical rule show us a couple of things. First, frontlines exist when opposing forces meet. As Fallujah was being cleared north to south, there was a front and a rear for both the coalition and the rebels. The continental fronts of WWI and WWII are historical oddities of the industrialized, multi-million man armies. The scale of the front is the important part. Second, and most important, is that the scale of the front is determined by the size of the weakest participant. For instance, when an infantry platoon engages a rebel squad, their front is 400 m wide and their rear extends 800m deep and the action lasts a few minutes to a few hours, thereafter closing the front. When a Division engages a Brigade, then the front could be 30 km wide and the rear extending 60 km deep. When an Army Group engages an Army then their AO (front + rear) can be 250km wide and 500 km deep and the action can last a few years, thereafter closing the front. A single war may have multiple fronts. TheUSSR was fond of naming their fronts in WWII, while the US likes to capture them with the term Campaigns (Italy campaign, Island Hopping, Normandie, North Africa etc). The front then is a point of engagement on a map. COIN, which is what Lybia is in the midst of (noting that their insurgents have serendipitously acquired an air force and a navy) has fronts too. Sometimes they are many and sometime few. Our intervention in Lybia has balanced the power of the insurgency with the government, allowing a front to stabilize. When the rebellion was weak it had multiple (nay, asymmetric) fronts, just as we have in OIF and OEF. As the rebellion grew in strength it was able to consolidate, allowing better territorial control and a more unified front. The concept of a front then, in the XXI century, is still valid. The problem with fighting a COIN fight is that the balance of power and distribution of forces of the participants create the possibility of something other than a continental front (remeber, it itself is an industrialized oddity, not the historic norm). So has a new paradigm in warfighting evolved since WWII that should force us to reimagine warfare? We shouldn't have to look much further than 500 yrs in the past to an astute observer of human nature for guidance. In The Prince, Machiavelli devoted some time to an interesting subject, the difficulty of conquering France vs. the ease of Alexander's conquest of Persia. I won't bore you with the details, but the conclusion was elegantly simple. A divided and poorly organized state is easier to conquer and harder to occupy. A united and well organized state is the opposite. I leave you with the thought that Afghanistan was always the former and until May 2003 (when we dissolved the organs of that organization) Iraq was the latter. In both there are fronts, and at those fronts scale is the determining factor, not an earth-shattering shift in the human condition necessitating a new paradigm.

09 March 2011

Jack of Everything (Follow-on comments to my previous post)

Really enjoyed the multiple, and broad, responses to my last post. Unfortunately, Blogger didn't like my 1000+ word response. So I decided that instead of cutting it into multiple comments I would just create a new post. My responses by commenter:

@ The Constitutional Insurgent:

I too mostly agree with what you wrote. Every NCO I’ve sent off to an NCOES over the last 3 years (at least) has already served at the level he was attending school for. This goes for 11, 13, and 35-series NCOs who have worked for me across multiple Battalions, so it’s not just a specific unit or MOS that’s behind the power curve.

We’re seeing a major transformation of the POI for the training centers right now. I think the first Hybrid Threat MRX happened just a couple months ago. Starbuck from WoI has a great post on the much ado about nothing that is the hybrid threat here.

In terms of phased operations, this is a major issue that I think many Officers across the board will (and are already) struggle with. My recent first-hand experience shows two types: the first is so tired of COIN/LIC/SASO/SOSO/SO/IW/AW/not-HIC that they see this merely as an opportunity to get back to the “good ol’ days” of getting their K on, and the second group is stuck in the minimization of collateral damage and win hearts and minds absolute far-left end of the spectrum of conflict. Neither, obviously, is better than the other; but more importantly it likely shows the lack of flexibility/adaptability in the thinking of many leaders. The ability to move fluidly along the spectrum of conflict and transition from Full Spectrum Ops to COIN to HA-type operations, or wherever in between, by phase or otherwise, is paramount. What I’ve seen over the last six months is leadership getting stuck on just one phase and forgetting about everything after that one specific phase. More in a couple paragraphs that should help finish this thought.

@ Pat:

Fully agree on all fronts. TRADOC has failed a half decade’s worth of Officers at least. I recently saw an entire Battalion fail one of their low-numbered firing tables; I’m sure a sizeable portion of that failure was attributable to TRADOC. Not that I’m discounting leaders’ responsibility in this, but if you don’t know your job it’s probably a lot more difficult to make it through gunnery tables.

This stroke of brilliance dawned on me as I sat here tonight next to Mama Mac studying for her next ACSC exam. What if the Army adopted a liberal arts style continuing education program for its Company Grade Officers? By this I mean a correspondence program where an Officer must complete one course focusing on a specific portion of the spectrum of conflict annually. The courses could be self-paced but with a mandatory completion date, take two to three months each, be tracked via AKO, accountable on OERs with no deployment waivers authorized, and focus separately on historic HIC, COIN, HA events/wars/uprisings, etc. I think a program like this would have tremendous benefits. It would help fill the gaps that TRADOC wasn’t able to get to. It would help span the spectrum of conflict and perhaps help broaden perspectives under GEN Dempsey’s new training plan. It would also help fill gaps in the Officer’s commissioning source education (think directional schools vs. USMA and Engineering vs. Military History undergraduate degrees). With a written paper or two in each course it would help Officers actually think in and write full sentences (which many cannot). With this program an Officer, while training for the hybrid threat or the Red Horde, would read Galula and Trinquier and learn about the Algerian War; they would learn about British CT efforts in Northern Ireland, WWII, etc., the options along the spectrum of conflict are numerous and would help fill gaps. I know as well as you that you can’t just expect most Officers to learn about this stuff on their own; most of them would rather play Call of Duty than read anything. And I know what many of you reading this are saying, but what about JRTC/NTC/MRX/CPX/field problems? The classes would be self-paced and two to three months long, if it’s mandatory you’ll find the time to do it. This sort of program probably would have kept me a little more sober (and out of trouble) as a young Lieutenant, so there’s another benefit. Enough with my diatribe, but I think the Army would be well served with a program like this.

@ Anonymous (JB… didn’t think I’d catch that did you?!)

I was actually considering a full post about the misapplication of the Full Spectrum Operations term and how most senior leaders are treating it solely as if it is HIC/MCO. Phase IV what? But instead of writing that post I decided to go fly fishing.

Now a couple disagreements from your comment.

First, I think Division and Corps-level exercises, while obviously difficult to execute and manpower intensive on subordinate units, are vitally important. Take I Corps as an example, who will be deploying relatively soon. Should their first non-digital exercise be in the combat environment in which they will take over day-to-day operations for? How do you truly test your systems?

Second, while I do agree with you that policy makers must understand and accept that actual Full Spectrum Ops should be off the table for the next couple years until the Army is back up to par. I think we’re seeing that now in the push back against military intervention in Libya. Or maybe that’s because policy makers have no idea what the goals of intervention would be, a logical stopping point for our intervention if you will, and are loathe to commit US forces to another open-ended operation. Perhaps. I digress. What I disagree with is your sentence where you say we should only do what we do well moving forward. In a perfect world sure, but I don’t see that world coming any time soon and we as an Army should be prepared to serve our Nation’s goals in whatever capacity POTUS decides to employ us in. A more realistic goal perhaps would be to train toward perfecting MCO and then implementing the broadening program I outlined above for CGOs; and then possibly expanding the ILE and War College-level cross-training opportunities for the best and brightest of each annual class. This could help create a solid cadre of senior-level SMEs on the core capabilities, strengths, weaknesses, etc, of each specific agency of the government. So with this kind of model you’d have a force trained for combat and leaders at every level able to understand and conceptualize Phase IV operations; with senior leaders able to maximize the efforts and contributions of all contributing agencies in a JIIM environment.

04 March 2011

Jack of all Trades

Just came across the GEN Dempsey article from last week's Army Times. This article really hasn't sat well with me over the last couple days. Some thoughts...

Many leaders have significant issues spanning multiple spectrum's of conflict, sometimes on multiple blocks, or in short amounts of time. The reality is that many formations and their leaders simply are not capable of spanning the full spectrum of conflict. This is my biggest issue with this article; the notion that we as leaders must narrow our focus to master only a few key constructs; the “military pentathlete” (or as I call it, Renaissance Ranger) is on his way out the door. In the early days of Iraq, we had formations trained for linear combat against uniformed enemy formations. Major Combat Ops were what they (we) did. As the situation worsened and gained complexity by the day, it quickly became apparent that our SOPs were not working. But many (most) units continued to hammer away. If we only work on and master a couple concepts, people will have a tendency to see through the prism of knowledge and experience; in essence, everything becomes a nail if all we’re carrying is a hammer. We learned the hard way that not everything is a nail, and that we needed to carry more than a hammer. I have already seen this regression to only carrying a hammer again firsthand over my most recent Reset phase of the training cycle.

2. Combined arms warfare is not lost, as many advocate. I would argue at the Battalion-and-below level it is (and has been) alive and well. At the tactical level, most Platoon Leaders and NCOs can effectively maneuver ground elements, provide task/purpose/EEI to FW and RW CAS as well as ISR platforms, while also coordinating with higher and adjacent units. These situations have been (and are) happening on a daily basis. Things get fuzzy at the Brigade level, and downright messy at echelons above Brigade. There’s nothing like being in the heat of a situation and receiving a flurry of mIRC messages or phone calls from someone at Division because the old man is watching and wants to know exactly what we’re up to 200+ miles from his current location. Apparently the myriad storyboards produced after an event just don’t provide quite the same level of satisfaction as watching a Squad Leader maneuver his fire teams near-real time (while also often providing near-real time feedback). So, perhaps the capacity to conduct combined arms warfare at the Division or Corps –level is a more accurate statement.

If we’re going to refocus our future doctrine and training plans to only a couple tasks, it seems imperative that we find a way to broaden leader’s skill sets so we don’t pigeon hole ourselves as an organization. Further, if a jack-of-all-trades doesn’t make a leader, why do we as Officers switch jobs as often as we do? I was always told it was because as a future Commander it would help me understand everything I would need to in order to effectively command. Parallels?

28 February 2011

An Open Letter to Baghdad's City Council

Came across this absolutely amazing article from Reuters about a week and a half ago; but doing the outprocessing dash across post prevented me from posting on it earlier. Fairly sarcastic responses to some of the better quotes; I couldn’t help myself.

"The U.S. forces changed this beautiful city to a camp in an ugly and destructive way, which reflected deliberate ignorance and carelessness about the simplest forms of public taste," the statement said.

Deliberate ignorance? Not sure about that. Most of us weren’t DELIBERATELY stupid; it was far more innocent and unintentional… this I can assure you. However, I do apologize for upsetting your discerning taste for architecture and urban planning by attempting to prevent scenarios like this. Beautiful city? Right, I’m sure it was just like Florence prior to March 2003.

"Due to the huge damage, leading to a loss the Baghdad municipality cannot afford...we demand the American side apologize to Baghdad's people and pay back these expenses."

Ok, I’ll take the bait.

Dear Baghdad, (let’s get this out of the way up front) I am sorry we were ever in your country. Be that as it may, I am sorry we had to set up so many Hesco and concrete barriers to protect you from each other… especially in Baghdad. I understand you are still targeting each other daily throughout most of the country, but we were unable to Hesco your ENTIRE country; instead only the areas we felt were most critical, volatile or dangerous at the time of emplacement. Unfortunately for you, most of Baghdad was akin to a level of Doom 3D and required massive amounts of dirt and concrete to separate one side from the other’s death squads. Timeouts just weren’t working anymore…

I’m also sorry that many of the locations of Joint Security Stations, checkpoints, etc., are right on roads, markets, or right in the middle of formerly volatile and deadly neighborhoods. Many of these locations were directed by YOUR security force leadership, but that obviously does not negate our responsibility at maintaining the pleasing aesthetics of your fair city. Yes it was our money that funded the security improvements to protect not only our warfighters, but yours, but that doesn’t excuse us either. But most of all, I am sorry we did everything we could think of to keep AQI out of the Shia neighborhoods, and the Special Groups out of the Sunni side of town at night. And I am also very sorry that we fortified the building that these politicians were sitting in when the Baghdad city council drafted this absurd statement. Oops, our bad. We’ll come pick those dirt and concrete barriers protecting you up first ok?

As far as a payback goes, great idea, we’ll subtract it from the $50 billion(ish) we’ve already spent there on reconstruction. Now you only owe use $49 billion. Pretty good deal, eh? Or you could just quit misappropriating the wealth from your massive oil reserves and pay for the removal of this dirt and concrete yourselves. Just one of many options.

The statement made no mention of damage caused by bombing.

Really? I seemed to have missed that during all the absolutely ridiculous finger-pointing from the Baghdad city (or possibly beladiyah too?) government. I wonder what the reconstruction bill for AQI or JAM would look like for Baghdad.

The heavy blast walls have damaged sewer and water systems, pavement and parks, said Hakeem Abdul Zahra, the city spokesman.

Hakeem, maybe if you built anything in the last century even remotely close to internationally accepted building standards this would not have happened. It’s a possibility I think we should not throw out. Oh, also refer back to the $50 billion(ish) we’ve already spent trying to rebuild your country and the significant amount of corruption at all levels of government that has seriously degraded our reconstruction efforts from day one.

Baghdad is badly in need of a facelift. Electricity and trash collection are sporadic, streets are potholed and sewage treatment plants and pipes have not been renovated for years.

Much of this statement is true, Baghdad as a whole is likely worse today aesthetically and structurally than it was eight years ago. It definitely does not mean we have not attempted to not only fix what we’ve broken but also modernize a lot of the stuff that was broken before we even got there; especially in Baghdad and even up north in Diyala. But, at least they have the right to voice absurd statements like this one today. And the right to not seat a national government for 9 months, which effectively paralyzed Provincial and below governments (which I experienced firsthand for most of 2010), who were leery of unintentionally crossing whatever master eventually was seated in Baghdad.

Time to take the lead and hold someone other than US Forces-Iraq accountable.