Category Archives: Unconventional Warfare

So, these are the Navy’s priorities

Screenshot 2014-07-19 22.13.16The Navy, like traitor, felon and jailbird Bradley Manning, has a thing called a Transition Plan, and it may be proceeding towards the same end. We’ll provide the document as a .pdf for you, but we thought we’d highlight a couple of the lowlights.

First, get a load of the cover of this thing! Decide whether they wanted to publish the annual report of some Silicon Valley high-tech, or a brochure for some overpriced college. So they split the difference. It has the college brochure One Cool Looking Brother, the obligatory Action Shots, and the Meaningless Slogan some marketing department MBAs agonized and argued over, in this case, “MOVING FORWARD… MOVING FORWARD…

Given that ships generally suck at backing up, that’s probably not a completely bad choice, but you have to wonder whether it was an attempt to suck up to the Administration’s E Ring suits, or hosts of sparsely-watched MSNBC shows, two practically interchangeable demographics.

The plan begins with a grinning picture (we’ll spare you) Ray Mabus, who’s getting antsy now that he’s only got two years left to name DDGs for Sacco and Vanzetti, an LHA USS Jane Fonda, and maybe an SSBN USS Benedict Arnold. And the plan is a very curious thing. Maybe it’s that we don’t have a Distinguished Naval Personage around the Manor, although we have thrown the dog in the fountain on a slow day, for comic relief. But the plan makes no sense to us… we can’t tell what they’re transitioning from or to, it’s almost as if in Ray Mabus World “transition” is an intransitive verb.

Anyway, the document includes an absolutely shocking set of goals. These are the Navy’s priorities:

  1. Take care of our people The DON is committed to attracting, developing and retaining a diverse total workforce trained and equipped to meet our strategic readiness objectives.
  2. Maximize warfighter readiness and avoid hollowness The DON will effectively size our force to meet strategic demands, maintain a credible, capable and combat ready military force.
  3. Lead the nation in sustainable energy The DON continues to support alternative energy efforts, realizing that energy independence is vital to our national security and the safety of our Sailors and Marines.
  4. Promote acquisition excellence and integrity

The DON is improving the execution of every program and increasing anti-fraud efforts, and leveraging strategic sourcing to take advantage of economies of scale.

5. Proliferate unmanned systems

The DON will integrate unmanned systems across the entire department ensuring that we can operate in any environment. Our global presence will be sustained and enhanced with our continued investment in unmanned systems.

6. Drive innovative enterprise transformation

The DON will continue to transform our business enterprise, ensuring that available resources are directed to our Sailors and Marines. 

Screenshot 2014-07-19 22.12.59Apologies for any brain-dead formatting. (WordPress ^$^&#^I#$!! But we digress). Apart from the fact that those are a politician’s anodyne and empty statements, worthy of a game of Buzzword Bingo except that everyone has a winning card, the priorities they reflect are remarkable. (Mabus is an anodyne and empty politician; a former one-term governor who was defeated for a second term, he got rich as a revolving-door crony capitalist, and has served in several political appointments). Indeed, those statements look so stupid we’re putting a screen-cap of the document here for those of you disinclined to download the whole anodyne and empty Buzzword Bingo thing.

Of course, Mabus’s lodestone, “diversity,” gets mentioned in Goal 1. And “sustainable energy” gets mentioned a couple further on. Those terms come up a few times in the document. But the mention of “combat ready military force” in Goal 2 is the only place the word “combat” appears in the whole thing. That’s not what this Secretary is transitioning this Navy towards, apparently. Some things a Navy might do don’t show up, either: “battle?” “Superiority?” “Dominance?” Those all get “No Results Found.” There is, however, a mention of the Navy’s element, the sea. Exactly one mention, on Page 11 (which is page 13 of the .pdf, thanks to the cover letter). Here’s the only context in which Ray Mabus’s Navy is concerned about the freakin’ sea:

Institutionalize environmental sustainability on land and sea

Well, we guess we can’t say that the Navy has no priorities. It has priorities, all right. But we think we can be forgiven for the thought that they are all the wrong priorities.

Here’s the document, if these samples haven’t already glazed your glazzies: Navy Transition Plan-Fy14-16-Final.pdf

You want sustainable energy, Ray Mabus? Go to the Naval Academy where, in a tomb reminiscent of Napoleon’s, John Paul Jones’s remains lie in honored repose, returned to the US after a century in a restless foreign interment. Wrap the old Admiral in a winding of varnish-insulated copper magnetic wire and call him an armature. Add a pair of magnets and brushes to take off the power , and zowie! Sustainable energy, as he spins.

US-Provided Weapons Handed Over in Syria

M198 howitzers and MTVR prime movers were surrendered to ISIL in Iraq. Now, more weapons are handed over in Syria.

M198 howitzers and MTVR prime movers were surrendered to ISIL in Iraq. Now, more, and more sophisticated, weapons are handed over in Syria.

On July 2nd, Middle Eastern news site Aydinlik Daily reported that $500 million in US support to the amorphous “Free Syrian Army” had wound up, instead, in the hands of the extremist group ISIS aka ISIL. (The former acronym is preferred by the media; the latter, by the intelligence community and military). Aydinlik reports, citing Syrian human rights group MIRSAD:

The Friends of Syria, led by the USA, had gathered in Qatar after the area named Qusayr near the Lebanese border was taken under control by the cooperation of the Hezbollah and the Syrian Army, and decided that the Free Syrian Army (FSA) should receive arms via the general staff.

According to the report by MIRSAD, the arms sent to the forces in Deir Ez-Zor was stolen by ISIS forces there.

The Syrian National Coalition is a group which receives support from the Friends of Syria. One of the leaders of the group, Michel Kilo, asserted in an interview with the al-Quds al-Arabi newspaper that $500 million-worth of arms went missing because of the conflicts between the opponents, and ending up being sold in Turkey and Iraq.

Even though Barack Obama stated that forming a moderate opposition group against the government in Syria was not a realistic plan, he had requested that $500 million-worth of weapons be send to the moderate groups in Syria.

It’s unclear whether we should believe these reports, as is common in reporting on the Middle East. What is not unclear is the incompetence and unpreparedness of the Administration in dealing with the breakout of ISIL, and the laughable limits of “soft power,” which allows the United States at best to have no effect, and at worst to promote our enemies.

It does sound just like the Administration to conclude that providing arms was a bad idea, and so to “only” dedicated half a billion to that project — which turned out to be a bad idea. The US could have supported a democratic resistance to Syria, but it would have required much earlier action, inconsistent with this Administration’s curious OODA Loop which is a cycle of golfing, fund-raising, dithering, and casting-away of blame for the resultant failure.

Some conspiracy theorists argue that the enemies of the USA and civilization in general are not the enemies of senior Administration figures. But we’ve seen no indication of the sort of baseline competence that allows one to identify an enemy three times out of five, from the folks currently screwing up the senior national security billets, most of whom are (1) academics without exposure to the real world, (2) speechwriters promoted beyond their narrow pale of competence, or (3) ideologues who are content discarding data so that pet theories may continue to be cherished.

Meanwhile, Fathi Bayoud’s Zaman Alwasi, “an independent electronic newspaper delivering fast, in-depth coverage of the events shaping Syria,” makes it clear that ISIS/ISIL does not have to pilfer or capture the weapons: the supposed “moderate” extreme islamists that the President has been comfortable sponsoring have happily signed on with the new terrorist group. Zaman Alwasi reporter Abdullah Raja:

Sources and eyewitnesses in the border town of al-Bukamal east Syria informed Zaman Alwasl that many factions affiliated with FSA have pledged allegiance with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) amid a huge public attendance, where their weapons have been handed over to “ISIS”.

The source said brigades of Ahl Al Athar, Ibin al-Qa’im, and Aisha have pledged allegiance to the State after clashes that ended quickly for the benefit of ISIS, while the leader of these brigades and factions have fled to the countryside of al-Bukamal into neighboring towns in Deir Ezzor province.

Moreover, tribal meditations have taken place with ISIS to enable those leaders to leave their positions safely after taking an oath of allegiance to the state, and therefore dominating much of Syria’s eastern oil-producing Euphrates River region, and its fast gains in Iraq’s Sunni Muslim provinces over the last three weeks, means the state now commands a large cross-border expanse of territory – in which al-Bukamal forms an important link, with the exception of some regime-held areas.

Maybe the Obama Administration really does support ISIL, but we’re inclined to think they’re just inept and ideologically blinkered. Meanwhile, we’re waiting for them to send the clue-deficient Susan Rice out in praise of ISIL’s Bloomberg-like nanny tendencies: they’re tobacco-banners and gun-banners.

In a related development, sources also informed Zaman Alwasl that the state’s primary concern now in al-Bukamal and its countryside is to apply an anti-smoking procedure “tobacco ban”, stressing that the smoking phenomena have disappeared from city’s neighborhoods, and that the group usually asks about two things at the checkpoints : first smoking, and then the weapon.

No word on whether they’ve also come out against the Big Gulp, which is their last major difference with the Manhattan extremist, Bloomberg.

Zaman Alwasi warns that the pan-Arab (and pan-Moslem) aspirations of the soi-disant Caliphate have already found realization in the erasure of the Iraq-Syrian border, which is under the control of ISIL on both sides.

One unexplored consequence of the US’s provision of arms in lieu of useful support to weak allies regionally, is that the US has lost control of quite a number of modern arms, including sophisticated ATGMs, late-model SAMs including MANPADS, armored vehicles with classified composite armor, and electronic equipment including encryption gear. You may rest assured that US competitors and enemies have, even now, secured samples of these technologies for technical intelligence exploitation. It’s a small consequence, compared to some of the larger ones, but it’s one more consequence of irresponsible action that was never considered before the President dithered and trimmed his way into a sort of a position.

Hat tip: Patrick Poole at PJ Media.

“Battery dead? You’re a terrorist!” –TSA mongs

tsa checkpointAmerica’s laziest, stupidest government agency recently took a step into heights of incompetence never imagined by Laurence J. Peter, when they declared themselves inspectors of your cell phone. Apparently they aren’t fully occupied groping and fondling dwarves, and so the Devil has found work for all those idle blue-gloved hands.

If your phone won’t turn on, something ours wouldn’t do this morning because we didn’t plug it in last night, then You Just Might Be a Terrorist™ and the mighty mongs of the TSA won’t let you come home. Let the Europeans deal with your terrorist ass, and your dormant iPhone, apparently.

Travelers flying directly to the United States from overseas are being asked to turn on their cellphones and laptops before boarding their aircraft, officials said Sunday.

The security measure calls for passengers whose devices cannot be turned on — thus proving that they’re real — to be denied boarding.

The Transportation Security Administration announced the added layer of security, apparently in response to reports that terrorists are designing bombs hidden inside smartphones and laptops.

“As the traveling public knows, all electronic devices are screened by security officers,” the TSA said.

via TSA heightening security on cell phones and laptops | New York Post.

“Security officers.” Ha. That’s a laugh, for human dross recruited from the hard-left tail of the bell curve. They hire on for the promise of a few dollars, the valuables in travelers’ bags, and all the gropes for which pervs hope. No one good, decent, honest, competent, moral, ethical or intelligent has ever been employed at TSA in any capacity whatsoever.

NIMBYs Never Sleep

Got my sparkle? On the hippies now.

“Jet, your target is way too many hippies.” “Tally hippies.” “Friendlies are south, make your runs from east or west, cleared to engage! Remain this frequency for BDA.”

Ah, yeah, rural Vermont, where gentrifying New Yorkers go to retire without being bankrupted by taxes, or murdered by The Diversity. And whose love for the peace and quiet is so great that they are making common cause with the “peace warriors” that they probably already knew in moonbat-marbled Manhattan. National defense? Half of them are flat against it, and the other half are just against it in their backyard.

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — Opponents of a plan to base 18 F-35 fighter planes at Vermont’s Burlington International Airport say the decision should be overturned because of noise, a loss of property values around the airport and the remote possibility one of the planes could crash.

Those are some of the arguments in the lawsuit filed on Monday asking a federal judge to overturn an Air Force decision to base the planes in South Burlington.

Air Force and Vermont National Guard officials say they are unable to comment about the lawsuit.

Among the issues in the lawsuit is that the planes are too loud and they would make more neighborhoods around the airport in South Burlington “incompatible with residential use.”

via Vermont F-35 foes file suit to block deployment.

Hey, if you don’t want to hear airplanes, dumb-ass, don’t build or buy your house in “neighborhoods around the airport.” There was a reason that price seemed too good to be true, genius.

(For what it’s worth, Hog Manor is under the downwind leg for the nearby ex-SAC base, which still hosts a number of KC-135s and both active and reserve aviators who fly the big tankers. They pass overhead at about 1000-2000′ AGL all the time. We think it’s awesome. Jets: the sound of freedom!)

We can understand how some Vermonters might not see it that way, when their idea of freedom usually involves drugs and cow-tipping. Hey, it’s a free country. It has to deploy fighters within reach of its ADIZ. Those two may have some points of correlation, if you think about it.

Our guess is that this lawsuit, given the weakness of its arguments, is not long for the courts. Maybe Ben and Jerry can make a new flavor afterward: Tears of NIMBYs. We’d hit that!

A Little Gun with Big Consequences

His last words were, “It is nothing.” But he was terribly wrong.

Even as badly maintained and pitted as it is, this FN M1910 Browning in .380 ACP has the classic lines John M. Browning designed into it over a century ago. It’s still a not-bad choice for a backup or concealed carry pistol, although most of them are in the hands of collectors. Not many collectors would want one in as terrible and pitted condition as this one, but then, this is not just “one.” It’s “the” pistol that fired the shots that ended the Age of Kings, mortally wounding Archduke Franz Ferdinand of the Austro-Hungarian Habsburg Dual Monarchy and his wife Sophie.  That assassination, by a Bosnian Serb pan-Slavic nationalist named Gavrilo Princip, led Austria to threaten Serbia (which had sponsored the assassination, providing this gun and other arms) with invasion. The Austrian threat produced a Russian counterthreat, a German counter-counterthreat, and Franco-British agreement to stand by their treaty obligations to Russia — if it came to that.

Gavrilo Princips Browning 1910

In the end, as we all know, it did come to that, to the detriment of nations and of generations.

Franz Ferdinand was an important figure. For one thing, the Emperor and King, Franz Josef, was old and unwell, and FF was his designated heir (he himself came to the position through tragedy, when the then-heir, his cousin Rudolf, committed suicide in 1889). From then, Franz Ferdinand was ready to take the reins. No one in the Habsburg court had thought out the fate of the monarchy beyond that, except that Franz Ferdinand’s and Sophie’s children were not eligible — their marriage was a love match between unequals, and so morganatic, a dynastic term meaning the kids’ blood was permanently attainted with the non-royalness of Sophie. It was only after the murder of FF and Sophie that Franz Josef began preparing Franz Ferdinand’s nephew Charles, who had been enjoying himself as an Army officer, for national leadership. They didn’t have long, as Franz Josef passed away in 1916, catapulting Charles onto the dual throne. All these consequences from a few pistol shots!

The murder is described in a book called Sarajevo, quoted at length in Wikipedia:

One bullet pierced Franz Ferdinand’s neck while the other pierced Sophie’s abdomen. … As the car was reversing (to go back to the Governor’s residence because the entourage thought the Imperial couple were unhurt) a thin streak of blood shot from the Archduke’s mouth onto Count Harrach’s right cheek (he was standing on the car’s running board). Harrach drew out a handkerchief to still the gushing blood. The Duchess, seeing this, called: “For Heaven’s sake! What happened to you?” and sank from her seat, her face falling between her husband’s knees.

Harrach and Potoriek … thought she had fainted … only her husband seemed to have an instinct for what was happening. Turning to his wife despite the bullet in his neck, Franz Ferdinand pleaded: “Sopherl! Sopherl! Sterbe nicht! Bleibe am Leben für unsere Kinder! – Sophie dear! Don’t die! Stay alive for our children!” Having said this, he seemed to sag down himself. His plumed hat … fell off; many of its green feathers were found all over the car floor. Count Harrach seized the Archduke by the uniform collar to hold him up. He asked “Leiden Eure Kaiserliche Hoheit sehr? – Is Your Imperial Highness suffering very badly?” “Es ist nichts. – It is nothing.” said the Archduke in a weak but audible voice. He seemed to be losing consciousness during his last few minutes, but, his voice growing steadily weaker, he repeated the phrase perhaps six or seven times more.

A rattle began to issue from his throat, which subsided as the car drew in front of the Konak bersibin (Town Hall). Despite several doctors’ efforts, the Archduke died shortly after being carried into the building while his beloved wife was almost certainly dead from internal bleeding before the motorcade reached the Konak.

It took about a month of cabled threats and ultimata, and then it was game on. Game would stay on for the next four-plus years, ending with Northern France and Belgium in ruins, Russia in an unholy revolution that brought forth a new Dark Age across Eurasia, Britain and Germany spent, with the cream of their youth interred in distant fields — if their remains were found at all. The last unconstrained kings in Europe were gone, Nicholas II and his whole family shot down like dogs, and Wilhelm II and his whole family in comfortable, if bitter, exile. Accidental king Charles I of Austria-Hungary died shortly after his family’s exile to Portugal.

But hey, the Serbs got their Serbian-dominated pan-Slavic Balkan nation.

Princip didn’t live to see it. He died soon after being sentenced to 20 years (the enlightened Habsburg were soft on crime, especially when committed by yout’s — Princip was 20), of complications from TB.

In the end, of course, Yugoslavia was short-lived, as nations go. It would be torn apart by civil war started by another malignant Serb, but that’s another story. (And against those two monsters, the Serbs did give us Nikola Tesla, so their accounts balance, unless you ask Edison).

The murder weapon fell, with a collection of Franz Ferdinand and Sophia artifacts and ephemera, into the hands of a priest, who dreamed of helping Austria-Hungary establish a museum in the memory of the murdered royal. But he hadn’t reckoned on Austria-Hungary and the dual monarchy themselves falling to the continental cataclysm that would extinguish as many hopes as it did lives over the next years. On his death, it passed to his order, and a group of Catholic monks had no real use for it, and no idea of how to get rid of it, so they hung on to it until quite recently. They didn’t take care of it, and it rusted deeply and badly. In time, the religious order passed the old father’s Franz Ferdinand collection to a museum in Vienna, perhaps fulfilling some portion of the late priest’s earthly desire.

There is something that draws one’s eyes to this Browning. It’s just a gun, just a tool. But the unintended consequences of the few shots this old gun fired should remind all of us never to shoot without due consideration.

One wonders what Gavrilo Princip would say about that.

Hat tip, John Richardson, who said:

If you don’t think the .380 Auto aka 9mm Browning isn’t a powerful round, show me another pistol cartridge that was used to start a world war. For it was with a FN Model 1910 chambered in .380 Auto (or 9mm Browning to be more precise) that Gavrilo Princip assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife Sophie, Duchess of Hohenberg 100 years ago today in Sarajevo.

via No Lawyers – Only Guns and Money.

From Infantry Company to… Hurling Team?

That’s what a bunch of New Hampshire National Guard soldiers did to try to keep the comradeship alive after a stint in Iraq in 2004-05. They took up the little-known (in America) Irish team sport of hurling, which if nothing else is great high-intensity PT.

Part 1:

Part 2:

It’s nice to have a military story to report that isn’t about Secretary Hagel establishing quotas for pedophiles, Congress zeroing out the ammo budget, or the President deploying guys because some 26-year-old speechwriter thinks it’s a good idea, and then leaving them hanging.

Hat tip, an Irish friend who’s been trying to explain hurling to us for about a year. Oddly enough, we think we served in SF with a relative of the officer in the video (who goes from CPT to LTC thanks to the magic of editing eight years of film down to a half hour.

The VA Scandal is not forgotten … by the Cartoonists

The following cartoons were made by various talented editorial cartoonists, and they show that regardless of the intention of the idiotic Bergdahl swap, somebody hasn’t forgotten the old geezers of the VA’s wait lists. Here’s Chip Bok, on 3 Jun 14:

chip Bok VA cartoon 3 June(You have to love Chip’s website, too: Not everyone can pun on his own name).

Here’s Steve Breen, on the 10th. (Wasn’t “Breen” one of the names Mad Magazine always used, like “Roger Kaputnik”?)

Stve Breen VA cartoon 10 Jun 14


Also on the 10th, Bob Gorrell:

Bob Gorrell VA cartoon 10 June 14

Ouch, Bob. That’ll leave a mark. Here’s Steve Kelley, from Friday the 13th:

steve kelley VA cartoon 13 June 14

We think that’s our favorite.

And finally, Chip Bok again, forget the date:

chip Bok VA cartoon



Of course, not everybody learns from pictures. Some need moving pictures, ideally with a sound track. For you, and you know who you are, here’s Remy with the VA music video:

He is so audited.


Science of Background-Matching Camouflage

You’ve all seen the scene from one of the Jurassic Park movies: the dinner-seeking dinosaur matches it’s background so perfectly, and blends in so perfectly, that it seems to vanish. This is a type of camouflage called background–matching (called “color resemblance” in Cott’s 1940 classic, Adaptive Coloration in Animals), and while it’s a bit speculative in dinosaurs, it’s been used for millennia by other animals — and may be used in the future by humans. We’ve seen it before in a Bond movie, too: the invisible Aston Martin.

Now see it with cube-shaped boxes on various settings around the MIT campus in Cambridge, MA.

Background Matching (“color resemblance”) is one of a very few broad methods of using color to conceal. The others are obliterative shading (countershading), disruptive coloration, and shadow elimination.

In the real world, how would such adaptive camouflage work? Andrew Owens of the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory et al. have conducted a study (.pdf) that tested a couple thousand people on 37 iterations of algorithmically developed camouflage. The camo tried to hide a cubic virtual box, and Owens and the team used six different algorithms to try to make the box disappear from multiple angles.

The results of the test can be restated simply:

  • Algorithmic camouflage was effective at making an object hard to find. It consistently took three times as long to find the box hidden by the most effective algorithm, compared to the one with the least effective.
  • The least effective algorithm was to simply average the colors of the background into a single neutral (presumably neutral, anyway) shade.
  • The most effective used some sophisticated math called a Markov Random Field and then hid any color boundaries by requiring them to map to the actual physical boundaries of the concealed object (in the test, a cube). How does that work? Because a viewer would see the color contrast boundaries if they appeared on any one face facing him, but would only see a boundary on an edge if he could see both of the two sides that formed that edge.

We may have failed at the “restated simply” task, but we gave it a shot. For a deeper understanding, or just to have the experiment explained and the conclusions restated complexly, do Read The Whole Thing™, and check out the lab’s page about the camo project, and MIT’s press release, which talks up the pros of camouflaging HVAC and other systems hardware in otherwise historical or natural place.

We, of course, saw the military utility foremost, but then, we are knuckle-dragging widowmakers and all that.

This is enabling research that will lead in due course to adaptive camouflage. Yes, an M1A1 or Stryker or MV-22 has far more facets that Owens’s cubes, and the technology to cover those vehicles economically with conformal displays for camo purposes has yet to make it out of the lab. But this paper is an important step (not a first step, of course, because the authors build, as ever in science, on prior work) towards the translation of this capability along the RDT&E chain from concept, to science, to engineering.

Along with Owens, Professor Bill Freeman, and visiting student Alex Flint from the MIT CSAIL, the team included UVA graphic-computing expert (and inventor of Photoshop tools) Connelly Barnes, and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute imaging & robotics researcher Hanumant Singh.

Note also that the paper has some useful stuff for those who want to understand how camouflage works and how to make it work better, in the bibliography and footnotes.

“How do I become a Navy SEAL?”

tridentNot sure why we get that question. When we do, we try to hand the questioner off to someone who can answer it — like a real-deal SEAL. Because we’re Army guys, and while we have some occasional contact with our triphibious brethren of the sign of the trident, we’re not qualified to tell you how to join them. They are, by definition: after all, every single one of them pulled it off.

Lately, the SEALs have been buzzing about a book that dispenses useful advice for SEAL “wannabes” — the kind who get their wannabe on by going to the Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL school, BUD/S (a rite of passage current SEALs are glad to have new young men attempt) rather than by just pinning a trident on an unworthy chest (something that has historically produced an epic beating, and removal of the unearned badge into SEAL safekeeping. Don’t even ask what happens to the cretins who have themselves tattooed with an unearned Budweiser).

That’s one of the cultural differences. Pretend to be SF, and we will taunt and mock you, and make you a laughingstock in a wide range of languages and cultures, and bring any of your plans which hinged on your pseudo-accomplishments down into ruination. Pretend to be a SEAL, and the frogmen are liable express their dissatisfaction with your course of action directly and robustly. It’s the frog way.

Anyway, the secret to success in SEAL training is not a lot different from that in Ranger RASP, SF Assessment & Selection, and other special operations forces’ selection processes: don’t quit. Or as Churchill might have put it, “If you’re going through Hell Week, keep on going.” But that simple advice is admittedly quite general in nature, and today’s candidates are seeking more-specific advice. And also, everybody knows that don’t quit is the answer, and also knows that it’s terribly hard to actually do. All the guys who dropped out, rang the bell and quit, knew don’t quit was what they needed to do, but somehow… they quit.

A SEAL officer thought that he would address both the desire for detail he sees in candidates, and the loss of human potential he sees over and over when young men who might have been SEALs drop out, often because they fell into behavioral ruts or traps.

If author DH Xavier has a single message, it’s that the young men who pass BUD/S are not supermen — that the average guy can, indeed, be a SEAL. If he mentally prepares himself for an arduous selection process that only seems physical, but is essentially mental, psychological, maybe neurological.

The book is, rather amusingly, called Breaking BUD/S. We bought a Kindle copy even though we’re not exactly in the demographic any more, and even though the Kindle edition is overpriced for an e-book.

Part three of Our Bergdahl Reaction

And yeah, we still owe you our personal recollections of a couple of the traded mullahs’ actions, and a couple of their underlings. Here, let’s give you James Taranto in the WSJ:

“If I’ve lost Neuman, I’ve lost Middle America.” That’s how we imagine President Obama reacting to being scathed by MAD magazine. The Usual Gang of Idiots tweeted a parody poster yesterday for “Barack Obama’s Unfortunate New Movie,” titled “Trading Private Bergdahl.” The tag line: “They got five Taliban leaders. We got one deserting weasel. The mission is a disaster.” Obama is depicted as the lead actor, with the Taliban quintet in supporting roles. The picture is rated “NC” for “No Congressional Approval.”

via Best of the Web Today: ‘Suck It Up and Salute’ – WSJ.

Taranto, who is to the best of our knowledge not a veteran, has a clear interest in and understanding of military culture, and he attributes the Administration’s tone-deafness on this issue to their lack of any such empathetic or intellectual link. First, he dismisses the idea that the Bergdahl swap was just a way to get the VA out of the news cycle:

There’s been speculation that the White House intended the Bergdahl release as a distraction from the Veterans Administration scandal. Certainly it has served as such a diversion, not to mention a reminder to be careful what you wish for.

But that theory would explain only the timing of the announcement, and perhaps its high-profile manner–that is, Obama’s appearance in the Rose Garden with Bergdahl’s eccentric parents the day after VA Secretary Eric Shinseki’s resignation.

The Bergdahl deal was a long time in the making. It was a strategic priority for the administration, so that it cannot be explained by the sudden need for a tactical diversion.

His position on this is worth considering. The Bergdahl swap was agreed upon before the 2012 election, but postponed because of the fear that an outcry (like the one Taranto’s piece is an element of today) would harm the President’s reelection prospects. We have no idea whether such a fear was rational or not, but Michael Hastings reported it in an adoring Rolling Stone profile of Bergdahl, before Hastings moved on to the Choir Invisible and the Stone moved on to a newer pop star, Dzhokhar “Flashbang” Tsarnayev.

There’s no question that the five creeps swapped for Bergdahl will return to the activities which landed them in Guantanamo in the first place. Even the President admits so. Taranto quotes him, on the possibility his latest releases will return to jihad: “Absolutely. That’s been true of all the prisoners that were released from Guantanamo.”

The best guide to future performance is past performance, and literally hundreds of former detainees have been killed or recaptured in combat or terrorist acts, or have been implicated by credible intelligence in those acts. Indeed, the ones that returned to jihad against our people and their own far outnumber the ones who have not. Taranto:

Obama was eager to free the quintet despite (let’s be kind) the threat they pose to America. In order to accomplish that end, he managed to overcome considerable resistance within the federal bureaucracy–precisely what he was unable to do or uninterested in doing when it came to assuring the veterans have access to health care, or for that matter, that the ObamaCare exchanges would function.

The Bergdahl deal, then, was a rare example of competent execution by this administration–albeit of a policy that was the product of atrocious judgment.

But the administration seems to have been taken completely by surprise by the hostile reaction to the deal’s purported upside, Bergdahl’s release. That Time report contains a clue as to why: “Obama’s move was an ultimate victory for those at the White House and the State Department who had previously argued the military should ‘suck it up and salute,’ says the official familiar with the debate.”

Here, he’s starting to key on a point we’ve made, both in these pages and at a dinner party last night with an interesting mixture of Americans and Canadians. Our take is that no one in the White House, State Department, or political-appointee E Ring had any clue that the Bergdahl release would be taken this way. Sure, Bergdahl though that the war in Afghanistan was futile and that the Americans were the bad guys, but that’s a common enough belief in Administration circles that no one found it odd. (In an infantry platoon, you can bet his mates found it odd indeed). It’s of a piece with Mr Obama’s tone-deaf West Point graduation speech, where he announced that he’d spared them the prospect of going to war, and paused to await the applause he, and his speechwriters, expected. Anyone who knew professional warriors could have told him it wasn’t coming, but no one who has access to him had done so.


Taranto makes other good points, and has a devastating juxtaposition of anti-American paragraphs from deserter Bowe Bergdahl and 1971-vintage John Kerry. By all means Read The Whole Thing™, but here’s how Taranto ties them together:

The young Kerry possessed considerably more social capital than it appears Bergdahl does. …

During his fourth Senate term, he successfully sought the 2004 Democratic nomination for president. He ran as a war hero; he was in fact a multiply decorated naval veteran of Vietnam. But he was caught flat-footed by the emergence of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, a group of fellow vets who remembered his slanders from 1971, for which he had never offered an apology or a renunciation.

As one of those veterans, Capt. George Elliott, put it in the bestselling book “Unfit for Command”: “In 1971-72, for almost 18 months, he stood before the television audiences and claimed that the 500,000 men and women in Vietnam, and in combat, were all villains–there were no heroes. In 2004, one hero from the Vietnam War has appeared, running for president of the United States and commander in chief. It just galls one to think about it.”

Kerry reacted with surprise and indignation to his fellow veterans’ dissent from his campaign narrative. It seemed he expected them to suck it up and salute–never mind that back in the 1970s, he himself had done anything but that.

This morning, notes, NBC’s Chuck Todd reported that a White House source had told him: “We didn’t know they [Bergdahl's platoon] was going to Swift Boat him.” It’s déjà vu, if you’ll pardon our French.

The media and left have come to use “swift-boating” as a term that, to them, means lies, even though the veterans criticizing Kerry and those criticizing Bergdahl are on solid factual ground. (For the key facts of the Kerry case, read Unfit to Command and Scott Swett’s less common inside story of SBVFT, To Set the Record Straight… which still didn’t set the record straight, in the media and on the left, but you can’t fault a guy for trying).

Taranto’s main point, that there exists a sort of blindness on the left to the military, is obviously purest genius, given that it agrees so well with our view.

The left’s blinkered view of military culture is perhaps best summarized by Elias Isquith, a young writer for, who yesterday explained the backlash against the Bergdahl deal as follows: “When a member of the military fails to adhere to the far right’s rigid formula of what a soldier should be (nationalistic, religious, obedient; conservative) right-wingers . . . come down on them [sic] like a ton of bricks.” He cited one example in addition to Bergdahl: John Kerry.

Isquith seems to imply that servicemen are fungible, each entitled to equal respect regardless of conduct. But the bitter criticism of Kerry in 2004 and Bergdahl today would carry no force if it came from mere “right-wingers.” It comes, instead, from servicemen and veterans who see the two men as having behaved dishonorably. Once again the left is being undone by its failure to comprehend the centrality of honor to military culture.

Isquith, of course, is not a veteran, and is probably from a family as innocent of military service as he is contemptuous of it, and he’s writing at a website populated by people who are, like him, utterly unacquainted with the people who fight America’s wars — except for the occasional tip-of-the-bell-curve outlier like Kerry or Bergdahl.