Category Archives: Unconventional Warfare

Of All the Rangers to Get Killed….

Avonye ChisholmNo disrespect to the illustrated Ranger, SSG Avonye Chisolm. But he could have been in a pretty safe job — he was a kid with a GED who joined the Army to be a Culinary Specialist, which is what the bureaucracy calls a cook. Thousands of kids do that every year.

But… if you look at the image, you’ll see the rare combination (but fully earned on his part) of the tan Ranger beret and cook’s whites. Because he wasn’t content to sit in a mess hall (“dining facility”) and sling hash through the boring expedient of opening tray-packs.

He volunteered, and took on a challenge, and kept volunteering. Five times he went overseas to Operation Enduring Freedom. He attended the tough Ranger Assessment and Selection Program (RASP-1) with a cohort of would-be Rangers from combat and support specialties alike, and completed the course. (A continuation, RASP-2, is demanded of combat leaders only).

A U.S. Army Ranger died as the result of injuries sustained during an airborne proficiency jump August 24 at Galahad Drop Zone. Staff Sgt. Avonye John Cavon Chisolm, 26, sustained serious injuries during the airborne operation; he was transported to the nearest military treatment facility; then air-lifted to Memorial Health University Medical Center, Savannah, Georgia. He died August 25.The incident is under investigation. Chisolm was assigned to Company E, 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, at Hunter Army Airfield, Ga., as a Culinary Specialist Non-Commissioned Officer.

via U.S. Army Ranger died during training | Article | The United States Army.

He joined the Army in 2008, and volunteered for the Rangers right out of school. He appears to have had no assignments other than the 3rd Ranger Battalion and the 1st Battalion.

For a young guy, he liked going to leadership and logistic schools:

His military education includes the Basic Airborne Course, Ranger Assessment and Selection Program 1, Basic Leader Course, the Unit Prevention Leader Course, Lean Six Sigma Course-Black Belt, Lean Six Sigma Course-Green Belt, Demonstrated Logistics Course, the Advanced Leader Course and the Culinary Skills Advanced Course. He was a certified ServSafe Food Protection Manager.

The jump accident that took his life is a reminder that even the support guys in SOF are expected to keep these qualifications and currencies up, and that, as safe as the military has made things like parachuting (“relative safety”), it hasn’t made it “safe” at all (“absolute safety”).

His battalion commander, LTC Robert S. Brown of 1/75, had a powerful statement:

Staff Sgt. Avonye Chisolm represented the best of our Ranger leaders. He had an impact on every Ranger in this Battalion through his tireless work ethic, positive attitude and contagious smile. He made us feel like we could shoulder more than our fair share of the task, because he always led from the front. His loss will be felt across the organization and our thoughts and prayers are with his family during this difficult time.

One hopes his grieving family will find some comfort in the pride they can take in that statement.

And one hopes Chisolm’s soul will find eternal rest.

A Saga of Suckuppery

iran state sponsorEli Lake has a report in Bloomberg that should alarm anyone interested in Iran policy. He makes a strong case that the Administration was so fixated on appeasing the mullahs that command the terror state that it ordered the abandonment of pro-American activists — and even, a cut-off “burn notice” towards Iranians who risked their lives meeting with US intelligence. The article:

But Obama wasn’t just reluctant to show solidarity [with “Green Revolution” protesters] in 2009, he feared the demonstrations would sabotage his secret outreach to Iran. In his new book, “The Iran Wars,” Wall Street Journal reporter Jay Solomon uncovers new details on how far Obama went to avoid helping Iran’s green movement. Behind the scenes, Obama overruled advisers who wanted to do what America had done at similar transitions from dictatorship to democracy, and signal America’s support.

Solomon reports that Obama ordered the CIA to sever contacts it had with the green movement’s supporters. “The Agency has contingency plans for supporting democratic uprisings anywhere in the world. This includes providing dissidents with communications, money, and in extreme cases even arms,” Solomon writes. “But in this case the White House ordered it to stand down.”

The US — even under Obama — supported other uprisings, both democratic ones in Serbia, Georgia and Ukraine, and the islamist-terrorist uprising in Egypt that overthrew longtime US ally Hosni Mubarak.

Iran though is a very different story. Obama from the beginning of his presidency tried to turn the country’s ruling clerics from foes to friends. It was an obsession. And even though the president would impose severe sanctions on the country’s economy at the end of his first term and beginning of his second, from the start of his presidency, Obama made it clear the U.S. did not seek regime change for Iran.

[I]t’s striking the lengths to which Obama went to make good on his word. As Solomon reports, Obama ended U.S. programs to document Iranian human rights abuses. He wrote personal letters to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei assuring him the U.S. was not trying to overthrow him. Obama repeatedly stressed his respect for the regime in his statements marking Iran’s annual Nowruz celebration.

His quest to engage the mullahs seems to have influenced Obama’s decision-making on other issues too. When he walked away from his red line against Syria’s use of chemical weapons in 2013, Solomon reports, both U.S. and Iranian officials had told him that nuclear negotiations would be halted if he intervened against Bashar al-Assad.

Did this all pay off for Obama and the USA? Yes, and no, respectively.

Obama eventually did get a nuclear deal with Iran. Solomon’s book shines in reporting the details of the diplomacy that led to the 2015 accord. …

Eventually, the Iranians wore down the U.S. delegation. At the beginning of the talks in 2013, the U.S. position was for Iran to dismantle much of its nuclear infrastructure. By the end of the talks in 2015, Secretary of State John Kerry and his team “agreed that Iran would then be allowed to build an industrial-scale nuclear program, with hundreds of thousands of machines, after a ten year period of restraint.”

Other U.S. red lines were demolished too. The final deal would allow the U.N. ban on Iranian missile development to phase out after eight years, and the arms embargo against Iran to expire after five. Iran would not have to acknowledge that it had tried to develop a nuclear weapon, even though samples the Iranians collected at its Parchin facility found evidence of man-made uranium.

Why such self-abasing appeasement?

In one particularly revealing passage, Solomon captures the thinking of Kerry, who engaged in detailed negotiations over the deal in the final months of the talks. …”War is the failure of diplomacy.”

Kerry’s diplomacy succeeded. But the Middle East got war nonetheless. “The Revolutionary Guard continues to develop increasingly sophisticated weapons systems, including ballistic missiles inscribed with threats against Israel on their nose cones,” Solomon writes in the book’s concluding chapter. “Khamenei and other revolutionary leaders, meanwhile, fine-tune their rhetorical attacks against the United States, seeming to need the American threat to justify their existence.”

When did appeasement ever have an outcome other than war, in the long term?

Principles vs. Counterterrorism

Law-ScaleAndHammerWe received a heads up from a friend who is a retired senior special operations officer. We think it deserves his full introduction and have edited it in the interests of his privacy. We’ll call him “Roger” because his real name is something else.

Invite your attention to following article by Dr. Kathleen Hicks, currently of CSIS [one of the “Government in Exile” crowd who move to think tanks when their party is out of power) and formerly of the Department of Defense:

Keeping America’s Principles In the Age of Terrorism – Defense One

 I have met Kat Hicks.  I see her as typical of the plethora of academically overeducated, operationally underexperienced females who get senior positions in administrations by virtue of who they know, who they’re married to, how much they contribute, etc.  There are several others of her ilk. 

To be fair, there are a small number of senior females who both have academic degrees and practical experience at the pointy end of America’s spear.  They can be shit hot.  Dr. Janene Davidson, USAFA grad, C-130 combat pilot, wife of Australian COIN guru David Kilcullen, and onetime boss of OSD Policy/Plans is one of those.  She is also part of the Government in Exile crowd. 

Back to Kat Hicks: In article at link above, her most critical point, IMHO, is the following:

It is hard to craft a winning political strategy that counsels Americans to simply be resilient in the face of challenges. Yet leaders have done it in the past: a resolute Winston Churchill guiding his country through the Battle of Britain and FDR admonishing Americans that “we have nothing to fear but fear itself.”

My rejoinder to Dr. Hicks would be this:

  1. In addition to whatever else he did or said, Winston Churchill, gave the British Special Operations Executive, Britain’s rough counterpart of the Office of Strategic Service’s (forerunner of Army Special Forces and the Central Intelligence Agency) an unambiguous mission order:  “Set Europe Ablaze.”
  2. With less flair, FDR granted MG William J. Donovan, Director of the Office of Strategic Services, comparable operational latitudes.
  3. Some 20 years later, in the Aden Protectorate, the British were having a terrorism problem.  Discreetly prominent among their response approaches were “Keenie Meenie” (Swahili for “snake in the grass”) operations,  Keenie Meenie operations were a low tech version of the targeted killing operation that we execute using drones.  As implemented by the British, Keenie Meenie involved dressing Special Air Service (SAS) operators in native Arab dress, arming them with sidearms and photographs of their assigned terrorist targets and having them walk the streets of Aden in areas where their targets were likely to be found.  When they located and ID’ed targets, they simply shot them dead at close range on the street and kept walking.  Simple and effective.  Almost certainly, IG/L (intelligence gain/loss) considerations had been coordinated and adjudicated ahead of time.  The SAS officer in charge of Keenie Meenie for much of its lifespan was named Peter de la Bierre.  Fast forward to 1991/92.  Peter de la Bierre had risen to Lieutenant General in the British Army and was the senior British Army officer in Operations DESERT SHIELD/DESERT STORM.  A SEAL phrase seems appropriate here:  “it pays to be a winner.”

We think the officer that “Roger” (not his real name) is thinking of is Peter de la Billiere, but that probably just means one or the other of us has got the name wrong.

We would concur with “Roger” that there are some policy-educated, operationally-experienced women in the community who are, in his words, “shit hot.” None of the names that comes to mind is as much a public figure as Ms Hicks or Ms Davidson, and in fact, all the ones we know are either still operational, stuck in HQ (and hating it), or retired (and hating it).

The problem with Hicks’s article, which is a bit gauzy and imprecise, can be summed up by comparing the quote that “Rog” pulled above, with this one from earlier in the same paragraph of her article:

The American experience through each of these prior periods has demonstrated that abandoning the letter and spirit of constitutional principles doesn’t pay.

Of course, one of the things the US did, that Hicks appears to be in denial about, is remove the “sea” of ethnic Japanese in which the Japanese espionage machine swam (and hid itself) from the spies’ American targets. To do this, many innocent Japanese immigrants and Japanese-Americans wound up being essentially incarcerated without particularized cause, and with only the merest nod in the direction of due process. American public opinion now says American public opinion then was wrong, but, in wartime, was it?

And that’s the problem with undeclared wars. This kind of risk-balancing, trimming, and second-guessing becomes the daily routine. Declared wars, conversely, provide more clarity, and historically, more and more significant royalties?

How Guns Caused Mideast Wars (per Amnesty)

Arms are loaded into a cargo Il-76 in Belgrade in January, bound somewhere south and east. BIRN photo.

Arms are loaded into a cargo Il-76 in Belgrade in January, bound somewhere south and east. BIRN photo.

How do the rebels and the governments in Libya, Syria, and Iraq (not to mention Iran’s pawns in Lebanon) manage to continue arming themselves with modern weapons, mostly of Russian or older Soviet design, when most of them are under embargo?

Would you believe, systematic cheating on UN embargos and laughably gauzy international “control” regimes? We knew you could! Just like Iraq kept arming up during a decade of sanctions, thanks in part to the corruption of UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and every other UN official or soi-disant “diplomat,” nowadays anyone who says he’s Sunni Moslem can get the Saudis to stand him an End User Certificate or three for the mayhem-makers of his choice; the UN is anybody’s for a few bribes; and the national intelligence services who might know enough about this traffic to disrupt it, would rather not do so. They’d rather exploit it.

The Soros-funded (-controlled?) Balkan Investigative Reporting Network is claiming that the arms in these post-“Arab Spring” conflicts are being provided by the USA and its allies. And they do have some evidence for it: Saudi EUCs, contracts let by American commands for “weapons to be employed outside the USA” (those contracts are probably for arms for Iraqi or Afghan military, actually).

Amnesty International, another NGO that seems to find error only in Western Democracies, is always good for some high dudgeon:

“The evidence points towards systematic diversion of weapons to armed groups accused of committing serious human rights violations. If this is the case, the transfers are illegal under the ATT (United Nations’ Arms Trade Treaty) and other international law and should cease immediately,” said Patrick Wilcken, an arms-control researcher at Amnesty International who reviewed the evidence collected by reporters.

And how many divisions has Amnesty?

But with hundreds of millions of euros at stake and weapons factories working overtime, countries have a strong incentive to let the business flourish. Arms export licences, which are supposed to guarantee the final destination of the goods, have been granted despite ample evidence that weapons are being diverted to Syrian and other armed groups accused of widespread human rights abuses and atrocities.

Naturally, they can find a political-appointee AMEMB who fingers the USA as the bad guy. Nobody’s as post-American as the zeroes in charge of American diplomacy.

Robert Stephen Ford, US ambassador to Syria between 2011 and 2014, told BIRN and the OCCRP that the trade is coordinated by the US Central Intelligence Agency, CIA, Turkey and Gulf states through centres in Jordan and Turkey, although in practice weapon supplies often bypass this process.

Why, if someone were to send arms to the Middle East, those peace-lovers there might just be corrupted by them!

BIRN and the OCCRP examined arms export data, UN reports, flight records, and weapons contracts during a year-long investigation that reveals how thousands of assault rifles, mortar shells, rocket launchers, anti-tank weapons, and heavy machine guns are pouring into the troubled region, originating from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Montenegro, Romania,  Serbia and Slovakia.


Since the escalation of the Syrian conflict in 2012, these eight countries have approved the shipment of weapons and ammunition worth at least 1.2 billion euros to Saudi Arabia, Jordan, United Arab Emirates, and Turkey.


While the number is scary-sounding, you don’t know what it means. A billion euros could be trillions of rounds of small arms ammunition… or it could be a few ships and aircraft.

According to a New York Times report from February 2013, a senior Croatian official offered the country’s stockpiles of old weapons for Syria during a visit to Washington in the summer of 2012. Zagreb was later put in touch with the Saudis, who bankrolled the purchases, while the CIA helped with logistics for an airlift that began late that year.

With the Saudis in it, you see why the islamist parties are the ones getting the arms. The same thing happened in Afghanistan in the 1980s, when we channeled aid through ISI and the guys who wound up with arms were ISI’s preferences — mostly, the hardcore islamists.

While Croatia’s government has consistently denied any role in shipping weapons to Syria, former US ambassador to Syria Ford confirmed to BIRN and the OCCRP the New York Times account from an anonymous source of how the deal was hatched. He said he was not at liberty to discuss it further.

Well, we guess that tells us who the confidential source of the Times article was.

And naturally, to the Amnesty drone for example, the weapons are the cause of the conflict:

“Proliferation of arms to the region has caused untold human suffering; huge numbers of people have been displaced and parties to the conflict have committed serious human rights violations including abductions, executions, enforced disappearances, torture and rape,” said Amnesty’s Wilcken.

Lord love a duck.

Let’s Tie Dissimilar News Stories Together, with Machiavelli

niccolo_machiavelli_statue-2We’re going to travel to different continents, where things are happening that are, to put it delicately, not what American foreign policy imagined would be the outcome.

The US global foreign policy, which we describe, fairly, we think, as “timid inaction,” is turning out… somewhat differently from the Garden of Eden its sheltered academic authors imagined.

And then we’ll ask you, what would Old Nick (not that Old Nick, but rather, his namesake: Niccolo Macchiavelli) do?

Dateline South Sudan

Nobody shows appreciation like an African, and on Monday, the Army of South Sudan and its leader, President Salva Kiir, displayed their appreciation for the US and the UN having midwifed their whole freaking country against an Arab campaign of extermination. They did this by going on a rampage of assault, rape, murder and even more rape against foreign (particularly white) aid workers. (We said “rape” twice. Yeah, they like rape).  A taste:

The soldier pointed his AK-47 at the female aid worker and gave her a choice.

“Either you have sex with me, or we make every man here rape you and then we shoot you in the head,” she remembers him saying.

She didn’t really have a choice. By the end of the evening, she had been raped by 15 South Sudanese soldiers.

A lot of Western aid workers — the ones who aren’t just all ate up with pat-the-little-Africans-on-the-head condescension — take these trips looking for the Mandingo experience. Curiosity satiated now, young lady?

Peter Grant: African immigrant, former soldier, pastor, and novelist, takes a dim view of the common sense of such do-gooders.

People, if you visit a part of the world – not just Africa, but anywhere – where human life is cheap, where torture and rape are everyday occurrences, where tribal and/or religious and/or ethnic divisions are excuses for savagery and bestiality of the worst kind, then the odds are pretty good that you’re going to experience those realities for yourself.  The locals don’t care that you’re there to help them.  They don’t care about your high-minded ideals, or your purity of vision of the new Utopia you’re trying to build for them.  To them, you’re “other”.  You’re “not one of us”.  You’re “an outsider”.  When what sensibilities the locals have are swamped by drugs, or alcohol, or emotional frenzy . . . that means you’re going to be a target, whether you like it or not.

Indeed. While this could happen “anywhere,” the actual anywheres where it seems to happen tend historically to be in subsaharan Africa.

One South Sudanese who had sought sanctuary among the aid workers was found by the South Sudanese soldiers, who were all members of one tribe. The man, a member of another tribe, was beaten and then shot twice in the head.

Then they shot him four more times, just to be sure. This is, after all, Africa, and this is how Africans honor diversity.

But hey, the aid workers could rely on the UN, right? After all, their compound was just about adjacent to the compound of the fabled Blue Berets.  Back to ABC News:

the U.N. peacekeeping force stationed less than a mile away refused to respond to desperate calls for help. …

The accounts highlight, in raw detail, the failure of the U.N. peacekeeping force to uphold its core mandate of protecting civilians, notably those just a few minutes’ drive away. The Associated Press previously reported that U.N. peacekeepers in Juba did not stop the rapes of local women by soldiers outside the U.N.’s main camp last month.

Hey, it’s the UN. They expect medals and bonuses for not participating in the rapes, or even initiating them, which is usually what the UN peacekeepers doThey’re not there to keep the peace: they’re security theater, and as individuals, they’re there for the money — a good percentage of which used to be ours, chump American taxpayers, before our lords and betters in Washington thought it was likely to be better spent by the UN Rape Circus.

“All of us were contacting whoever we could contact. The U.N., the U.S. embassy, contacting the specific battalions in the U.N., contacting specific departments,” said the woman raped by 15 men.

A member of the U.N.’s Joint Operations Center in Juba first received word of the attack at 3:37 p.m., minutes after the breach of the compound, according to an internal timeline compiled by a member of the operations center and seen by AP.

Eight minutes later another message was sent to a different member of the operations center from a person inside Terrain saying that people were hiding there. At 4:22 p.m., that member received another message urging help.

Five minutes after that, the U.N. mission’s Department of Safety and Security and its military command wing were alerted. At 4:33 p.m., a Quick Reaction Force, meant to intervene in emergencies, was informed. One minute later, the timeline notes the last contact on Monday from someone trapped inside Terrain.

For the next hour and a half the timeline is blank. At 6:52, shortly before sunset, the timeline states that “DSS would not send a team.”

About 20 minutes later, a Quick Reaction Force of Ethiopians from the multinational U.N. mission was tasked to intervene, coordinating with South Sudan’s army chief of staff, Paul Malong, who was also sending soldiers.

Remember, it was Malong’s so-called “Army” that was doing this in the first place. What could he send another unit for? Sloppy seconds?

But the Ethiopian battalion stood down, according to the timeline. Malong’s troops eventually abandoned their intervention too because it took too long for the Quick Reaction Force to act.

The American who was released early in the assault and made it to the U.N. base said he also alerted U.N. staff. At around dusk, a U.N. worker he knew requested three different battalions to send a Quick Reaction Force.

“Everyone refused to go. Ethiopia, China, and Nepal. All refused to go,” he said.

And of course, the commanders of those soi-disant “peacekeepers” were relieved — oh, wait, we’re just kidding. Of course there were no consequences for mis-, mal- or non-feasance by the UN Peacekeepers. There are never any consequences for mis-, mal- or non-feasance by UN Peacekeepers.

Well, fortunately for the aid workers who were American, and who were singled out for that, the US Embassy and the State Department responded, right?

Sure they did. Just like they did in Benghazi.

The U.S. Embassy, which also received requests for help during the attack, “was not in a position to intervene,” State Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau told reporters Monday. She said the U.S. ambassador instead contacted local government officials, and she noted that the Terrain area was controlled by South Sudanese government forces at the time.

Yes, we suppose “supine” is “not in a position to intervene.”

Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said that “during the fighting throughout the city, the U.S. Embassy in South Sudan responded to distress calls from the compound and urgently contacted South Sudanese government officials, who sent a response force to the site to stop the attack.”

But we know that the Embassy did not respond, except to have a tête-a-tête with the superiors of the very elements committing these outrages. And we know that nobody sent a response force. The attack stopped when South Sudan Army was all raped out. So Power is just lying, here.

Don’t be an innocent abroad.” That’s Peter Grant’s advice. It is the voice of experience, and wisdom.

The risks these aid workers face are not helped by the American policy of timid inaction.

Dateline, The Ruins of Syria

Here’s a snapshot:

It’s unclear which side is prevailing right now. All that’s clear is the destruction of Aleppo (quite possibly irreparable), the Assad-Hezbollah-Iran-Russia alliance on one side, and the prevalence of jihadists on the other.

What is President Obama’s response. The Washington Post (print edition) describes it as “Deplore. Wring hands. Repeat.”

Indeed, he has saddled our guys with restrictive ROE that give ISIL immunity if that have one civilian (fellow traveler, human shield, jihadi disguised as civilian, doesn’t matter) in their convoy.

This, the Post reminds us, is a far cry from Obama’s soaring rhetoric of 2012, in which he proclaimed that preventing mass atrocities “is a core national security interest and a core moral responsibility of the United States of America.” At that time, he promised to “increas[e] the pressure, with a diplomatic effort to further isolate Assad and his regime, so that those who stick with Assad know that they are making a losing bet.”

And what happens in a vacuum, class?

When Obama first rejected the idea [of a no-fly zone], Russian air power was not a factor in Syria. The Russians filled the void Obama left, just as ISIS did in Iraq.

This void-filling, and the terrorism and devastation it has produced, is the most important legacy of the Obama presidency on the world stage.

If the United States even has a policy in Syria, can anyone articulate it? Or is it just one more outpost on a front line of timid reaction everywhere?

Dateline, Greece, Turkey and the Eastern Med

The US is rumored to be withdrawing its nukes from Turkey in the light of Erdogan’s Islamist countercoup and seeming realignment with Iran and Russia.

Meanwhile, Greece is angling towards China, after finding that the EU was not going to keep the spendthrift state on the equivalent of welfare forever.

Constance Douris at the Lexington Institute notes:

Athens and Ankara may side with Beijing and Moscow when it comes to NATO security concerns involving China, North Korea and Russia….

Turkish Foreign Minister Cavusoglu has already made some worrying remarks about Turkey’s NATO membership. Cavusoglu has publicly justified Turkey’s growing relationship with Russia by stating, “Turkey wanted to cooperate with NATO members up to this point. But the results we got did not satisfy us. Therefore, it is natural to look for other options.”


Athens and Ankara have looked to Beijing and Moscow to further their interests.

Funny how something always fills a leadership vacuum, in the light of a US policy of timid inaction.

Dateline, Eastern Ukraine

Multiple sources are reporting a major buildup of Russian forces on the Ukrainian border. These forces are ostensibly carrying out a massive exercise just on the Russian side of the disputed border.

They could as easily be used to launch an invasion, which may be their real purpose. Or, they could simply be meant to unsettle and intimidate the Ukrainians.

In fact, Russia has seldom had such a free hand in the Near Abroad as they have right now. The President’s focus is, as usual, on his golf game and on his next transformative speech, which is rumored to be partial unilateral nuclear disarment (no tests, no first use, no updating of the 1970s and 80s vintage systems).

If Putin doesn’t roll into Ukraine, he may miss his best opportunity.

He faces a US whose foreign policy is timid inaction.

What Would Old Nick Say

Does anyone remember his answer to the serious question: “Is it better for a prince to be loved, or to be feared?”

Welcome to a world where the prince has pursued being loved much like those aid workers have, which is to say, passionately and unwisely; and consequently is not the least bit feared by anyone.

nick loved and feared


What do you think the Father of Statecraft would have to say about a foreign policy of global timid inaction?

Roman Army Personnel Management

SPQR-Milano-Galleria-Colonna-620x465The Roman Army was in many ways the model for every professional army of long-service soldiers today, and as much as things have changed, much of the Roman grunt’s life would be recognizable to today’s grunt, be he American, British, Russian or Chinese.

Whereas modern armies have regiments or brigades, the Romans had legions and auxiliary formations. A soldier tended to remain within his legion; to a point, legions promoted from within. The point was the equivalent of today’s commissioned officers, who were recruited solely from among the sons of the patrician and equestrian classes. Centurion was a crossover position, which might be filled by a long-service soldier from the plebeian order — who might then or later be elevated to the equestrian order based on his service — or might be filled by a professional officer of the equestrian order.

spqr eagle and emperorA legion was recruited, in theory at least, from Roman citizens, and auxiliaries might be trained and organized identically to the legion, but they were recruited from provincials, even freshly conquered ones. In effect, the auxiliary regiments were the Roman legions’ foreign legions! That is, at least, until recruiting fell short in the legions — then, recruiters would put the habeas grabbus on likely-looking Gauls and Germans or what have you. There was a fitness examination of a sort: Roman soldiers were expected to be at least 17 years old, 5’10” and strong, although, as ever in professional armies, the standards were observed to flex to some degree, to adapt to the available recruit pool. When recruiting was good, volunteers brought letters of recommendation from individuals known to the legion or auxiliary officers.

A recruit was given three aurei (gold coins) and swore an oath of allegiance. It was not to Rome or to some abstraction like the Empire, but personally to the Emperor; the whole Army swore the oath anew every year, and every time a new Emperor was crowned.

800px-Helmet_typ_Weissenau_01Pay varied sharply with rank. A simple soldier received 225 denarii (small copper coins, Roman pennies) a year; a centurion 5,000. Intermediate NCO ranks received other benefits. Some Latin terms translate directly as “pay and a half guy” and “double pay guy,” and there were special pays for standard bearers who bore the unit eagle or the Emperor’s portrait. In addition to pay, arms and some components of uniforms were provided. (As a rule of thumb, Legions were better armed and provisioned than Auxiliaries).

Defaulters were subjected to an escalating scheme of punishments surprisingly like the American Articles of War or Uniform Code of Military Justice, although with distinctly Roman penalties.

A minor offense might get a soldier whacked with a centurion’s staff, or he might be fined both his current pay and some of his retirement benefit. There were corporal and capital punishments for more serious offenses. There were also mass punishments: a dishonored unit might be disbanded, or decimated.

There was also a hierarchical system of honors for combat and service distinction, some stratified by rank (or by societal order), but others available to all ranks for bravery. Some of these were widely distributed post-battle, and others were very rare honors.

The retirement benefit, if a Roman gladius and pilum operator made it through his 25-year term of service, was significant: along with a lump sum of deferred pay which had been accrued during service, a retiree received a bronze tablet called a diploma militaria, which recounted his service, and if a non-citizen provincial, granted him Roman citizenship. Sometimes that citizenship grant extended to his children. (In the Republic and the early Empire, soldiers were forbidden to marry, but no one stopped them procreating). This benefit (the automatic grant of citizenship for honorable service in the auxiliary) was made moot in 212 AD, when Emperor Caracalla granted the Citizenship of Rome to all freeborn subjects of the Empire; however, retiring soldiers still received valuable considerations such as land grants.

There were three classes of discharge, and you needed the honorable discharge, missio honesta, to get that all important diploma (and citizenship). If you had been drummed out for bad conduct, cowardice, or whatever, you got the beautifully-named missio ignominiosa which was a perfect analog of today’s Dishonorable or Bad Conduct discharges. There was also an administrative discharge, missio causaria, used mostly for the wounded and ill.

Entire legions were raised far from Italy. But the usual Roman practice stationed provincial volunteers in provinces far from home, with a view to internal security. Legions were generally infantry; most Roman cavalry came from the ranks of the auxiliaries, although the auxiliaries also produced infantry formations. The Romans also had a wide range of support elements from engineers to transportation ferry and barge operators.

Whether in the legions or the auxiliary, on joining the Roman service, in a manner reminiscent of the French Foreign Legion (or more likely, the Legion Étrangère imitates the Roman practice), a provincial subject was given a Roman (Latin) name.


Alcock, Joan P. A Brief History of Roman Britain: Conquest and Civilization. London, 2011: Constable and Robinson.

Military “Leadership” Roundup

ITEM: Equality, Imposed not Earned

scales_of_justiceThe warrior (social justice, one each) in command of Fort Myer, is opening the officers’ club to all ranks. An article in the Washington Free Beacon quotes a bunch of drivel from the CO of the post about how “inclusive” the move is. He even invokes the memory of George S. Patton, who undoubtedly would have been a social justice warrior like himself.

He hasn’t read a biography of Patton, apparently. The commander, some tool named Col. Patrick Duggan, did get one thing right: he “said the values at the base ‘have changed.'” No $#!+, Sherlock.

The story is missing several key points: O Clubs as a social destination for officers have been in decline since the outbreak of anti-liquor Puritanism in the mid-1980s. When you don’t know which ass-kissing 2LT is snitching to the CO about how many drinks you had, the fun goes right out of drinking. And the policy seems driven as much by the idea of giving O Club privileges not to the relatively few NCOs and enlisted soldiers at Fort Myer, but to the teeming ranks of already-privileged government workers.

ITEM: And we Thought the Old ROE Were Bad

SF1CRESTEli Lake has a remarkable story on the Rules of Engagement (ROE) for US SOF in Syria. We have no direct knowledge of the current ROE.

Four U.S. military officials told me that the 300 or so U.S. special operators in Syria are under very strict rules of engagement. Because such rules are highly classified, these sources have requested anonymity.

But the rules in place, known as “last cover and concealment,” are highly restrictive compared to special operations missions in the war on terror before 2014. Those rules of engagement allowed for U.S. special operators to fight alongside the local forces they trained. The rules of engagement for Syria, according to one military officer, amount to: “don’t get shot.”

Like everything that comes out of Washington these days, they’re playing with the lives and effectiveness of our guys on the ground.

Major Adrian J.T. Rankine-Galloway, a spokesman for the Office of the Secretary of Defense, told me Wednesday, “Our forces always have the right to defend themselves, but they do not engage directly in offensive combat operations.”

However, it appears that if you do defend yourself, you’ve tripped the catch-me-F-me switch.

Behind the scenes, the restrictive rules of engagement have met opposition. U.S. military officials tell me key members of Congress as well as officers on the ground in Syria and Iraq have asked for the flexibility to do more. One such lawmaker is Mac Thornberry, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. The communications director for his committee, Claude Chafin, declined to discuss the matter in detail. But he said, “The chairman is concerned about the restrictions placed on our guys which limit their effectiveness in helping others.”

Lake took the exact same inference we did:

In some ways the rules of engagement for Syria are reminiscent of the restrictions placed on U.S. special operators in El Salvador in the 1980s. The U.S. forces in that tiny country helped train the embattled government’s counter-insurgency forces. But they were not allowed to go into battle with the forces they trained.

Not going on patrol with your Gs you’re training is really, really bad. In the 1980s, a Democratic Congress imposed that rule on USSF because, essentially, they wanted the Communist FMLN to win. Our guys argued at the time, and their advocates are arguing today, that:

  1. Not going on patrol is inimical to rapport building;
  2. It shakes G confidence in their instructors;
  3. It blinds the instructors to the actual performance of their Gs;
  4. It makes it impossible to measure G performance, and renders any performance metric that is issued corrupt and worthless;
  5. It loses the synergy that comes from cooperation in the field of USSF’s technical mastery and host nation personnel’s native cultural and locational knowledge.

Lake concludes that the essence of the current weasel ROE is: “Don’t get shot.”

Remember: when Washington says they have your back, they mean in their sights. 

ITEM: SecNav Shamed into Naming Ship for Hero

Er... yeah, in this post, that logo's sarcasm.

Er… yeah, in this post, that logo’s sarcasm.

After facing considerable backlash for announcing the naming of a several ships of the dwindling Navy for various living and dead Democrat politicians, the Secretary of the Navy, Ray Mabus, took a moment’s respite from “downsizing” the service he is supposed to be leading, and announced the naming of one ship for a sea-services hero, WWII Marine and posthumous Medal of Honor recipient John Basilone.

Recently, Mabus has announced ships named for Sen. Carl Levin, Rep. John Lewis, and former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. None served a day in the military; Levin and Lewis were Cold War draft evaders who sent other young men to serve in their place. Other prominent Democrats rewarded with ships in the class were the late Harvey Milk, a San Francisco councilman, Attorney General and Senator Robert F. Kennedy, and Supreme Court justice Earl Warren. Of them, only Warren (who served stateside as a junior Army officer in WWI) and Kennedy (who dropped out of an aviation commissioning program in 1946 to serve as a seaman apprentice on the ship named after his brother Joseph, who died in a flying accident in 1944) were veterans.

Most ships in the same class (DDG-51 Arleigh Burke) as the USS Basilone (DDG-122) are named after significant naval officers or medal of honor recipients, but Mabus has named some for Democrat politicians, including DDG-117 for former LBJ official and Washington Post executive Paul Ignatius (whose sons are well-connected journalists), and Sen. Daniel Inouye. Ignatius had served in the Navy, and Inouye served in the Army with distinction, losing his right arm and earning the Distinguished Service Cross, which was upgraded in 2000 to the Medal of Honor after passage of a bill that Inouye himself championed.

ISIL Tradecraft

ISIL flagThe attached file purports to be an ISIL Tradecraft manual for “brothers in non-moslem lands.” There are several indicators that suggest that this is not an official ISIL document:

  1. It’s crude, error-filled and unprofessional compared to usual ISIL output like Dabiq.
  2. The slang and situations referenced suggest the writer was an American with native English fluency, but little education.
  3. The explosives recipes are fanciful and indicate a complete unfamiliarity with explosives, suggesting a source other than ISIL, where the terrorist use of explosives is well understood.

So we assess that it is either the work of an immature juvenile American wannabe (50% probability), or a crude forgery (50%).  In any event, here it is.

mujahid guide to survival in the west.pdf

Why We Hate You: Guest Post by ISIL

Hoist high this Jolly Roger, and set yourself forth to roger with extreme jollity....

That seems to be a common subject of discussion here in the West: “Why do they hate us?” But why not go direct to the source? It turns out, they not only hate us, they don’t mind telling us why.

We’ll print the intro to the article in full:

Why We Hate You: And Why We Fight You

Shortly following the blessed attack on a sodomite, Crusader nightclub by the mujahid Omar Mateen, American politicians were quick to jump into the spotlight and denounce the shooting, declaring it a hate crime, an act of terrorism, and an act of senseless violence. A hate crime? Yes. Muslims undoubtedly hate liberalist sodomites, as does anyone else with any shred of their trah (inborn human nature) still intact. An act of terrorism? Most definitely. Muslims have been commanded to terrorize the disbelieving enemies of Allah. But an act of senseless violence? One would think that the average Westerner, by now, would have abandoned the tired claim that the actions of the mujahidin – who have repeatedly stated their goals, intentions, and motivations – don’t make sense. Unless you truly – and naively – believe that the crimes of the West against Islam and the Muslims, whether insulting the Prophet, burning the Quran, or waging war against the Caliphate, won’t prompt brutal retaliation from the mujahidin, you know full well that the likes of the attacks carried out by Omar Mateen, Larossi Aballa, and many others before and after them in revenge for Islam and the Muslims make complete sense. The only thing senseless would be for there to be no violent, fierce retaliation in the first place!

Many Westerners, however, are already aware that claiming the attacks of the mujahidin to be senseless and questioning incessantly as to why we hate the West and why we fight them is nothing more than a political act and a propaganda tool. The politicians will say it regardless of how much it stands in opposition to facts and common sense just to garner as many votes as they can for the next election cycle. The analysts and journalists will say it in order to keep themselves from becoming a target for saying something that the masses deem to be “politically incorrect.” The apostate “imams” in the West will adhere to the same tired cliché in order to avoid a backlash from the disbelieving societies in which they’ve chosen to reside. The point is, people know that it’s foolish, but they keep repeating it regardless because they’re afraid of the consequences of deviating from the script.

There are exceptions among the disbelievers, no doubt, people who will unabashedly declare that jihad and the laws of the Shari’ah – as well as everything else deemed taboo by the Islam-is-a-peaceful-religion crowd – are in fact completely Islamic, but they tend to be people with far less credibility who are painted as a social fringe, so their voices are dismissed and a large segment of the ignorant masses continues believing the false narrative. As such, it becomes important for us to clarify to the West in unequivocal terms – yet again – why we hate you and why we fight you.

They go on to list six reasons why they hate us, and elaborate on them. We’ll just list the reasons (to keep the post to manageable size).

We hate you, first and foremost, because you are disbelievers; you reject the oneness of Allah.

Gotta love a godling that’s so insecure he wants the votaries of his rivals murdered.

We hate you because your secular, liberal societies permit the very things that Allah has prohibited while banning many of the things He has permitted.

Their beef here seems to be superficially with gay rights, but “alcohol, drugs, fornication, gambling, and usury” all come in for dishonorable mention, and they blame it all on what they think is the underlying crime: “you separate between religion and state.”

In the case of the atheist fringe, we hate you and wage war against you because you disbelieve in the existence of your Lord and Creator.

Nothing ISIL does is likely to convince a single atheist that there’s any merit to a believer’s argument. They also make the point that they’re against science, except where it can be engineered into ways to perform the highest sacrament of their faith, to wit, murder.

We hate you for your crimes against Islam and wage war against you to punish you for your transgressions against our religion.

Infidel! I keeeel you!

Infidel! I keeeel you!

Think this is about invading Moslem lands? Nope. It’s about what really hurts these savages: mockery. “As long as your subjects continue to mock our faith, insult the prophets of Allah…. and openly vilify the laws of the Shari’ah, we will continue to retaliate, not with slogans and placards, but with bullets and knives.”

Yeah, that’s just certain to make people take you seriously, Achmed the Dead Terrorist.

We hate you for your crimes against the Muslims; your drones and fighter jets bomb, kill, and maim our people around the world, and your puppets in the usurped lands of the Muslims oppress, torture, and wage war….

Keep hating us, but that’s not going to make us quit. In fact, if you keep on, dear ISIL, you’re likely to find out what the Carthaginians, a group of moon-god worshipers who preceded you, found out. Or get the opportunity to learn the lessons of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

We hate you for invading our lands and fight you to repel you and drive you out.

dabiq-cover-breaking-the-cross-150x211Guess we’ll just have to kill you all, then. That can be arranged.

The whole article is on pp. 30-33 of the terrorists’ magazine, Dabiq, issue 15, “Break the Cross.”

This magazine is available at this link on the Clarion Project’s website.

While this is the most recent issue, they have an archive of every issue of Dabiq there, as well.

Who Else Celebrates Humayun Khan?

ISIL, that’s who. This illustration is scanned from p. 27 of the current issue of Dabiq, the terrorists’ English-language magazine.


But maybe “celebrates” is not the right word. Their point is nothing about Khan’s father, the Moslem Brotherhood immigration lawyer — they consider the Brotherhood to be weak-kneed apostates — but rather that fighting for the USA (or the “Crusaders,” as they put it) as Humayun Khan did, and not for Islamic terror, is a threat to any Moslem’s eternal life. As they put it, Khan, murdered by their allies in Iraq, died “as an apostate.”

A terrible fate indeed, for someone who would be raised up, 12 years later, as the model of Moslem-American patriotism. If ISIL’s theology is right, and the Khanfather’s Moslem Brotherhood variety of fundamentalist Islam is not.

Either way, it’s interesting to note that “Moslem-American patriotism” is not something that our Mohammedan enemies believe in at all. 

Here’s the Dabiq issue in question (.pdf, hosted like all issues at The Clarion Project). It’s very slick propaganda — and vile enough that you may want to wash afterwards. (Bacon soaked in bourbon is a good antidote to exposure to Islam, as is playing with a dog).

Evil empires never hide their light under a bushel. They’re proud of their evil. If you read Mein Kampf, all the nightmare that was evident in the full glory of Hitlerism 20 years later is there: inspiration by the communists and the Soviet terror state; the ethnic cleansing of Jews; the quest for Lebensraum at the cost of neighbors to the East — who had done nothing to harm a hair on a German head. If you read the output of Lenin and Stalin, and more than that, the convoluted documents of the Khrushchev, Brezhnev and Andropov eras, it’s impossible to misunderstand Soviet communism: its mission was world domination, and terror was one weapon in its arsenal. And there is no need to puzzle over the intentions of world Islam: its own would-be leaders are eager to tell us, eager enough that they happily translate their bile from their blessed, backward, beastly Arabic into the languages of civilization. Dabiq is the real-world equivalent of the speech Blofeld gives Bond about his evil intentions in what seems to be every Bond flick. It really needs to be mocked, in the spirit of Mike Myers’s Dr. Evil. But it is there to tell you what these comic-opera villains want to do.

It’s interesting that the late CPT Khan (may God have mercy on his soul) came to fame in the United States only after being featured at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, which happened only after he was featured the recent Dabiq. We’ve been assuming that the Moslem Brotherhood connections of Hillary girlfriend aide Huma Abedin turned him up, but we suppose it’s possible that somebody saw his headstone in Dabiq. We won’t assume that, that would be a post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy, but we recognize it as possible.