The generals are not Borgists. They are something worse …


(Editorial Statement)

The Borgist foreign policy of the administration has little to do with the generals.

To comprehend the generals  one must understand their collective mentality and the process that raised them on high as a collective of their own. The post WW2 promotion process in the armed forces has produced a group at the top with a mentality that typically thinks rigorously but not imaginatively or creatively. These men got to their present ranks and positions by being conformist group thinkers who do not stray outside the "box" of their guidance from on high. They actually have scheduled conference calls among themselves to make sure everyone is "on board."

If asked at the top, where military command and political interaction intersect, what policy should be they always ask for more money and to be allowed to pursue outcomes that they can understand as victory and self fulfilling with regard to their collective self image as warrior chieftains.

In Obama's time they were asked what policy should be in Afghanistan and persuaded him to reinforce their dreams in Afghanistan no matter how unlikely it always was that a unified Western oriented nation could be made out of a collection of disparate mutually alien peoples.

In Trump's time his essential disinterest in foreign policy has led to a massive delegation of authority to Mattis and the leadership of the empire's forces. Their reaction to that is to look at their dimwitted guidance from on high (defeat IS, depose Assad and the SAG, triumph in Afghanistan) and to seek to impose their considerable available force to seek accomplishment as they see fit of this guidance in the absence of the kind of restrictions that Obama placed on them.

Like the brass, I, too, am a graduate of all those service schools that attend success from the Basic Course to the Army War College.

I will tell you again that the people at the top are not good at "the vision thing." They are not stupid at all but they are a collective of narrow thinkers. pl

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80 Responses to The generals are not Borgists. They are something worse …

  1. Jack says:

    IMO, this conformism pervades all institutions. I saw when I worked in banking and finance many moons ago how moving up the ranks in any large organization meant you didn’t rock the boat and you conformed to the prevailing groupthink. Even nutty ideas became respectable because they were expedient.
    Academia reinforces the groupthink. The mavericks are shunned or ostracized. The only ones I have seen with some degree of going against the grain are technology entrepreneurs.

  2. Fredw says:

    You remind me of an old rumination by Thomas Ricks:
    Take the example of General George Casey. According to David Cloud and Greg Jaffe’s book Four Stars, General Casey, upon learning of his assignment to command U.S. forces in Iraq, received a book from the Army Chief of Staff. The book Counterinsurgency Lessons Learned from Malaya and Vietnam was the first book he ever read about guerilla warfare.” This is a damning indictment of the degree of mental preparation for combat by a general. The Army’s reward for such lack of preparation: two more four star assignments.

  3. Peter AU says:

    “They are not stupid at all but they are a collective of narrow thinkers.”
    I have found this to be the case with 80 to 90% of most professions. A good memory and able to perform meticulously what they have been taught, but little thinking outside that narrow box. Often annoying, but very dangerous in this case.

  4. Anna says:

    Since Afghanistan and the brass were mentioned in the editorial statement, here is an immodest question — Where the brass have been while the opium production has been risen dramatically in Afghanistan under the US occupation? “Heroin Addiction in America Spearheaded by the US-led War on Afghanistan” by Paul Craig Roberts:
    “…in 2000-2001 the Taliban government –with the support of the United Nations (UNODC) – implemented a successful ban on poppy cultivation. Opium production which is used to produce grade 4 heroin and its derivatives declined by more than 90 per cent in 2001. The production of opium in 2001 was of the order of a meager 185 tons. It is worth noting that the UNODC congratulated the Taliban Government for its successful opium eradication program. …The Taliban government had contributed to literally destabilizing the multibillion dollar Worldwide trade in heroin. …
    In 2017, the production of opium in Afghanistan under US military occupation reached 9000 metric tons. The production of opium in Afghanistan registered a 49 fold increase since Washington’s invasion. Afghanistan under US military occupation produces approximately 90% of the World’s illegal supply of opium which is used to produce heroin. Who owns the airplanes and ships that transport heroin from Afghanistan to the US? Who gets the profits?”
    —A simple Q: What has been the role of the CENTCOM re the racket? Who has arranged the protection for the opium production and for drug dealers? Roberts suggests that the production of opium in Afghanistan “finances the black operations of the CIA and Western intelligence agencies.” — All while Awan brothers, Alperovitch and such tinker with the US national security?

  5. gaikokumaniakku says:

    I am not sure that I understand what makes a Borgist different from a military conformist. The Borg from Star Trek were intelligent hyperconformists who wanted to eradicate planetary independence. However, you write that military elites have “a mentality that typically thinks rigorously but not imaginatively or creatively. These men got to their present ranks and positions by being conformist group thinkers who do not stray outside the “box” of their guidance from on high.”
    Possibly the implication is that a Borgist wants to eradicate nationalist distinctions, whereas the military elite want to uphold the traditions of nationalism. If this is the right line of thinking, I wonder what the military elite’s vision of “nationalism” is, because “nationalism” can mean different things to different people. Some people think Afghanistan is one nation with multiple ethnic groups, entitled to just one seat at the United Nations; other people think Afghanistan is a dozen nations, entitled to a dozen seats at the United Nations.

  6. J says:

    There needs to be a ‘re-education’ of the top, all of them need to be required to attend Green Beret think-school, in other words they need to be forced to think outside the box, and to to think on their feet. They need to understand fluid situations where things change at the drop of a hat, be able to dance the two-step and waltz at the same time. In other words they need to be able to walk and chew gum and not trip over their shoe-laces.
    By no means are they stupid, but you hit the nail on the head when you said ‘narrow thinkers’. Their collective hive mentality that has developed is not a good thing.

  7. divadab says:

    God help the poor people of Syria.

  8. J says:

    All right, I’ll admit that I’m a little prejudice. I’ve always admired the way the Green Beret think and operate.

  9. elaine says:

    Colonel, How much discretion does a General in theater have? Do they have to
    clear all of their decisions through the Pentagon? Or are they not supposed to have any opinions & just bide time awaiting orders? How does it work?

  10. David E. Solomon says:

    Colonel Lang,
    Your description of these guys sounds like what we have heard about Soviet era planners. Am I correct in my understanding, or am I missing something?

  11. DianaLC says:

    As a young person in eighth grade, I learned about the “domino theory” in regard to attempts to slow the spread of communism. Then my generation was, in a sense, fractured around the raging battles for and against our involvement in Vietnam.
    I won’t express my own opinion on that. But I mention it because it seems to be a type of “vision thing.”
    So, now I ask, what would be your vision for the Syrian situation?

  12. Bill Herschel says:

    This has been going on for a long time has it not? Westmoreland? MacArthur?
    How did this happen?

  13. turcopolier says:

    Bill Herschel
    Westmoreland certainly, Macarthur certainly not. This all started with the “industrialization” of the armed forces in WW2. we never recovered the sense of profession as opposed to occupation after the massive expansion and retention of so many placeholders. a whole new race of Walmart manager arose and persists. pl

  14. turcopolier says:

    The idea of the Domino Theory came from academia, not the generals of that time. They resisted the idea of a war in east Asia until simply ordered into it by LBJ. After that their instinct for acting according to guidance kicked in and they became committed to the task. Syria? Do you think I should write you an essay on that? SST has a large archive and a search machine. pl

  15. turcopolier says:

    David E. Solomon
    I am talking about flag officers at present, not those beneath them from the mass of whom they emerge. There are exceptions. Martin Dempsey may have been one such. The system creates such people at the top. pl

  16. turcopolier says:

    Your usual animosity for non-left wing authority is showing. A commander like the CENTCOM theater commander (look it up) operates within guidance from Washington, broad guidance. Normally this is the president’s guidance as developed in the NSC process. Some presidents like Obama and LBJ intervene selectively and directly in the execution of that guidance. Obama had a “kill list” of jihadis suggested by the IC and condemned by him to die in the GWOT. He approved individual missions against them. LBJ picked individual air targets in NVN. Commanders in the field do not like that . They think that freedom of action within their guidance should be accorded them. This CinC has not been interested thus far in the details and have given the whole military chain of command wide discretion to carry out their guidance. pl

  17. turcopolier says:

    Thank you, but it is real GBs that you like not the Delta and SEAL door kickers. pl

  18. turcopolier says:

    A lot of things SHOULD be. pl

  19. turcopolier says:

    “I am not sure that I understand what makes a Borgist different from a military conformist.” The Borg and the military leaders are not of the same tribe. they are two different collectives who in the main dislike and distrust each other. pl

  20. turcopolier says:

    Anna Their guidance does not include a high priority for eradicating the opium trade. Their guidance has to do with defeating the jihadis and building up the central government. pl

  21. turcopolier says:

    Peter AU
    Predictably there is always someone who says that this group is not different from all others. Unfortunately the military function demands more than the level of mediocrity found in most groups. pl

  22. turcopolier says:

    Trump would like to have better relations with Russia but that is pretty much the limit of his attention to foreign affairs at any level more sophisticated than expecting deference. He is firmly focused on the economy and base solidifying issues like immigration. pl

  23. turcopolier says:

    Bankers do not kill people in a literal sense. pl

  24. Peter AU says:

    The medical profession comes to mind. GP’s and specialists. Many of those working at the leading edge of research seem much wider thinking and are not locked into the small box of what they have been taught.

  25. turcopolier says:

    Peter AU
    The GPs do not rule over a hierarchy of doctors. pl

  26. J says:

    Combat Applications Group and SEALS don’t even begin to compare, they’re not in the same league as ‘real deal’ GBs. The GBs are thinkers as well as doers, whereas Combat Applications Group and SEALs all they know is breach and clear, breach and clear.
    There is more to life than breach and clear.
    Having worked with all in one manner or another, I’ll take GBs any day hands down. It makes a difference when the brain is engaged instead of just the heel.

  27. kao_hsien_chih says:

    A lot of technology entrepreneurs–especially those active today–are stuck in their own groupthink, inflated by their sense that they are born for greatness and can do no wrong. The kind of grand schemes that the top people at Google, Uber, and Facebook think up to remake the universe in their own idea of “good society” are frightening. That they are cleverer (but not necessarily wiser) than the academics, borgists, or generals, I think, makes them even more dangerous.

  28. FB Ali says:

    Col Lang,
    They are indeed “narrow thinkers”, but I think the problem runs deeper. They seem to be stuck in the rut of a past era. When the US was indeed the paramount military power on the globe, and the US military reigned supreme. They can’t seem to accept the reality of the world as it is now.
    Of course, these policies ensure that they continue to be well-funded, even if the US is bankrupting itself in the process.

  29. Peter AU says:

    I see your point pl and you are right.

  30. turcopolier says:

    He is still the Saudi Mukhtar for the US and most of the generals are still narrow minded. pl

  31. johnf says:

    “Syria war: Israeli fighter jet crashes under Syria fire, military says”
    Could this be a ‘casus belli’ for the US in the Middle East?

  32. johnf says:

    And this is unexpected:
    “Syrian Defense Ministry announces end of operations in Idlib, Aleppo.
    BEIRUT, LEBANON (2:30 A.M.) – The Syrian Ministry of Defense announced, tonight, that all operations in the Idlib and Aleppo governorates have concluded after several weeks of fighting.
    According to the spokesperson for the Ministry of Defense, the Syrian Arab Army completed their objectives in both Aleppo and Idlib after they successfully erased the Islamic State’s (ISIS) large pocket in this region of northern Syria…
    A military source told Al-Masdar News, tonight, that the Syrian Army is preparing for a long-term ceasefire with the rebel forces in this region of the country.”
    And this just in:
    “Syrian military says Israeli drone downed over western Damascus”

  33. LondonBob says:

    They seem to have deliberately completely ignored the issues and policy positions Trump ran on as President. It isn’t a case of ignorance but of wilful disregard.

  34. turcopolier says:

    I think that is true but, they were able to talk him into that, thus far. pl

  35. turcopolier says:

    What’s your grade? That would frame the discussion. Regular Army (active force) or ARNG? BTW, I am altogether in favor of the new tax laws and the budget agreement in spite of the deficits. Ivanka? A babe. pl

  36. DianaLC says:

    I’ve been reading this blog for some time. My question was facetious and written with the understanding of your statement about the generals not having a good grasp of “the vision thing” on their own.

  37. Terry says:

    So true and as others commented this is a sad feature of the human race and all human organizations. Herd mentality ties into social learning. Chimps are on average more creative and have better short term memory than humans. We gave up some short term memory in order to be able to learn quickly by mimicking. If shown how to open a puzzle box but also shown unnecessary extra steps a chimp will ignore the empty steps and open the box with only the required steps. A human will copy what they saw exactly performing the extra steps as if they have some unknown value to the process. Our massive cultural heritages are learned by observing and taken in as a whole. This process works within organizations as well.
    I suspect a small percentage of the human race functions differently than the majority and retains creative thinking and openness along with more emphasis on cognitive thinking than social learning but generally they always face a battle when working to change the group “consensus”, i.e. Fulton’s folly, scepticism on whether man would ever fly, etc.
    One nice feature of the internet allows creative thinkers to connect and watch the idiocy of the world unfold around us.
    “A natural desire to be part of the ‘in crowd’ could damage our ability to make the right decisions, a new study has shown.”

  38. Bill Herschel says:

    Walmart employs 1.4 million Americans. The military employs 1.3 million active duty soldiers.
    That’s a problem. Peace can’t be allowed to break out. And the best way to insure that it doesn’t is to kill the minimum number of people and export the maximum number of arms to keep people fighting with each other around the world.
    That is all about as far as conceivable away from any notion of a professional soldier.
    How do you stop this? Who will employ those 1.3 million… 1.3 million who have been brainwashed about “terrorism”, “communism”, “democracy”, “muslims”, etc. etc. etc.? Particularly in the context of the tsunami of social change that is about to hit with the advent of real artificial intelligence. Doctors? Their jobs are on the line and I suspect they don’t know it. Lawyers? Even worse.
    The following article was the start of an epochal change in medicine:
    Lasko TA, Denny JC, Levy MA (2013) Computational Phenotype Discovery Using Unsupervised Feature Learning over Noisy, Sparse, and Irregular Clinical Data. PLoS ONE 8(6): e66341. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0066341

  39. Bill Herschel says:

    I guess I should add, although it should be obvious, that the one thing that absolutely cannot under any circumstances be allowed to happen is real war. Then you have to figure out how to employ both the soldiers and the Walmart employees. Those that are still alive. And of course if you look at the behavior of the U.S. in Syria you see that we are about as interested in real war as we are in the arts.

  40. TV says:

    The military by definition is a rigid hierarchical structure.
    It could not function as a collection of individuals.
    This society can only breed conforming narrow leaders as an “individual” would leave or be forced out.

  41. Barbara Ann says:

    That part of our brain responsible for the desire to be part of the ‘in crowd’ may affect our decision-making process, but it is also the reason we keep chimps in zoos and not the other way around. Or, to put it another way; if chimps had invented Facebook, I might consider them more creative than us.

  42. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Do you think chimps are, per the Christian Docrine, in a State of Fall or in a State of Grace?

  43. outthere says:

    “he provided a “very rough first guess” that the over-all effect of the tax bill and the spending deal would be about 1.25 per cent of G.D.P. for this calendar year, and two per cent for the next.
    > That would be a substantial stimulus. It would be larger, for example, than the Economic Stimulus Act of 2008, which George W. Bush’s Administration introduced to try to head off a slump following a big fall in the real-estate market. That stimulus, which came in the form of a tax rebate, amounted to about one per cent of G.D.P. (It wasn’t enough to head off a recession. In fact, the National Bureau of Economic Research subsequently said that the recession had already begun in December, 2007.)
    > The Trump stimulus isn’t as big as the Obama stimulus of 2009 through 2011, which most Republican senators and congressmen vigorously opposed. That package, which consisted of a mix of spending and tax cuts, totalled about two per cent of G.D.P. each year. But, in February, 2009, when it was enacted, the economy was suffering through the deepest recession since the nineteen-thirties. The unemployment rate was 7.8 per cent, and G.D.P. was plummeting. If ever there was a textbook case of an economy crying out for a stimulus, that was it.
    > Today, by contrast, the economy is in the ninth year of an economic recovery that began in 2009. G.D.P. is growing at an annual rate of close to three per cent, and the unemployment rate stands at 4.1 per cent. Many economics textbooks say this is the sort of environment in which the government should be balancing its books, and perhaps even paying down debt, like a family salting away money for a rainy day. That’s what the Clinton Administration did during the late nineteen-nineties, when the national debt was much smaller than it is today.
    > The Republicans and Trump are embarked on the opposite course—confirming that the G.O.P.’s devotion to deficit reduction, which in 2011 prompted members of the Party to refuse to raise the debt ceiling, is purely cynical. Of course, we already knew this. The Reagan Administration and the George W. Bush Administration both raided the public purse to finance big tax cuts, and left the deficit much higher than they found it. The Trump Administration is merely following suit.”

  44. Adrestia says:

    This is an interesting discussion.
    The top in organisations (civil and military) are increasingly technocrats and thinking like systems managers. They are unable to innovate because they lack the ability to think out of the box.
    Usually there is a leader who depends on specialists. Others (including laymen) are often excluding from the decision-making-proces. John Ralston Saul’s Voltaires Bastards describes this very well.
    Because of natural selection (conformist people tend to choose similar people who resemble their own values and ways-of-thinking) organizations have a tendency to become homogeneous (especially the higher management/ranks).
    In combination with the “dumbing” of people (also of people who have a so-called good education (as described in Richard Sale’s Sterile Chit-Chat) this is a disastrous mix.
    Homogeneity is the main culprit. A specialists tends to try to solve problems with the same knowledge-set that created these.
    Not all (parts of) organizations and people suffer this fate. Innovations are usually done by laymen and not by specialists. The organizations are often heterogeneous and the people a-typical and/or eccentric.
    (mainly the analytical parts of )intelligence organizations and investment banks are like that if they are worth anything. Very heterogeneous with a lot of a-typical people. I think Green Berets are also like that. An open mind and genuine interest in others (cultures, way of thinking, religion etc) is essential to understand and to perform and also to prevent costly mistakes (in silver and/or blood).
    It is possible to create firewalls against tunnel-vision. The Jester performed such a role. Also think of the Emperors New Clothes. The current trend of people with limited vision and creativity prevents this. Criticism is punished with a lack of promotion, job-loss or even jail (whistle-blowers)
    IMO this is why up to a certain rank (colonel or middle management) a certain amount of creativity or alternative thinking is allowed, but conformity is essential to rise higher.
    I was very interested in the Colonel’s remark on the foreign background of the GB in Vietnam. If you would like to expand on this I would be much obliged? IMO GB are an example of a smart, learning, organization (in deed and not only in word as so many say of themselves, but who usually are at best mediocre)

  45. mikee says:

    The Syrians claim to have shot down an Israeli F-16 earlier today, while the Kurds shot down a Turkish helicopter.
    The Israeli’s say the F-16 was downed by an Iranian drone. Do they have that capability?

  46. Generalfeldmarschall von Hindenburg says:

    Isn’t the “Borg” really The Atlantic Council?

  47. ISL says:

    Dear Colonel,
    Would you then say that a rising military officer who does have the vision thing faces career impediments? If so, would you say that the vision thing is lost (if it ever was there) at the highest ranks?
    In any case, the existence of even a few at the top, like Matthis or Shinseki is a blessing.

  48. Anna says:

    Israelis as neo-Bolsheviks:
    Moscow: “Our special concern is the threat of escalation of tension inside and around the zones of de-escalation in Syria, the creation of which became an important factor for reduction of violence on the Syrian soil.” Moscow added that there were Russian service members stationed in Syria and said it considered any threat to their lives unacceptable.”
    “Netanyahu escalates tension with Syria knowing that the Syrian Arab Army has been battling ISIS and other Saudi and Turkish supported terrorist groups for the last 7 years, and that Syria is in no position to go to war with Israel at this time. Israelis have been bombing Syria regularly during this period, and today’s firm response from the Syrian army sends a loud message as a US made and tax payer donated F-16 jet was shot down over Syrian air space.”

  49. ex-PFC Chuck says:

    FB Ali:

    “When the US was indeed the paramount military power on the globe, and the US military reigned supreme. They can’t seem to accept the reality of the world as it is now.”

    That’s true not only of the US military but of US elites in general across all of the spectra. And because that reality is at odds with the group-think of those within the various elements that make up the spectra it doesn’t a hearing. Anyone who tries to bring it up risks being ejected from the group.

  50. Adrestia says:

    I forget an important part. I really miss an edit-button. Comment-boxes are like looking at something through a straw. Its easy to miss the overview.
    Innovations and significant new developments are usually made by laymen. IMO mainly because they have a fresh perspective without being bothered by the (mainstream) knowledge that dominates an area of expertise.
    By excluding the laymen errors will continue to be repeated. This can be avoided by using development/decision-making frameworks, but these tend to become dogma (and thus become part of the problem)
    Much better is allowing laymen and allowing a-typical people. Then listen to them carefully. Less rigid flexible and very valuable.

  51. kooshy says:

    Apparently, according to the last US ambassador to Syria Mr. Ford, from 2014-17 US has spent 12 Billion on Regime change in Syria. IMO, combinedly Iran and Russia so far, have spent far less in Syria than 12 billion by US alone, not considering the rest of her so called coalition. This is a war of attrition, and US operations in wars, are usually far more expensive and longer than anybody else’s.
    “The United States spent at least $12 billion in Syria-related military and civilian expenses in the four years from 2014 through 2017, according to the former U.S. ambassador to the country.
    This $12 billion is in addition to the billions more spent to pursue regime change in Syria in the previous three years, after war broke out in 2011.”

  52. It may “demand” it – but does it get it? Soldiers are just as human as everyone else.
    I’m reminded of the staff sergeant with the sagging beer belly who informed me, “Stand up straight and look like a soldier…” Or the First Sergeant who was so hung over one morning at inspection that he couldn’t remember which direction he was going down the hall to the next room to be inspected. I’m sure you have your own stories of less than competence.
    It’s a question of intelligence and imagination. And frankly, I don’t see the military in any country receiving the “best and brightest” of that country’s population, by definition. The fact that someone is patriotic enough to enter the military over a civilian occupation doesn’t make them more intelligent or imaginative than the people who decided on the civilian occupation.
    Granted, if you fail at accounting, you don’t usually die. Death tends to focus the mind, as they say. Nonetheless, we’re not talking about the grunts at the level who actually die, still less the relatively limited number of Special Forces. We’re talking about the officers and staff at the levels who don’t usually die in war – except maybe at their defeat – i.e., most officers over the level of captain.
    One can hardly look at this officer crowd in the Pentagon and CENTCOM and say that their personal death concentrates their mind. They are in virtually no danger of that. Only career death faces them – with a nice transition to the board of General Dynamics at ten times the salary.
    All in all, I’d have to agree that the military isn’t much better at being competent – at many levels above the obvious group of hyper-trained Special Forces – any more than any other profession.

  53. J says:

    Colonel, TTG, PT,
    Related to the escalating D.C. screw-up in Syria, D.C. (Mattis and crew) seem to forget the 800lb gorilla in the wood-pile, an 800lb gorilla when awakened that could really ruin Mattis and crew’s day before Mattis and company even know what hit them.
    Russia doesn’t appreciate it when their personnel are killed, which is understandable
    The head of the Russian staff is pissed, really pissed.
    Now back to the crux of the situation —
    The Military Doctrine of the Russian Federation,
    Article 24. The Russian Federation shall regard an armed attack against a member state of the Union State [of Russia and Belarus] or any actions involving the use of military force against that state as an act of aggression against the Union State and shall take retaliatory measures.
    Article 26. Within the framework of strategic deterrence measures of a forceful nature the use of high-precision weapons is envisaged by the Russian Federation.
    Article 27. The Russian Federation shall reserve the right to use nuclear weapons in response to the use of nuclear and other types of weapons of mass destruction against it and/or its allies, as well as in the event of aggression against the Russian Federation with the use of conventional weapons when the very existence of the state is in jeopardy.
    The D.C. screw-ups (Mattis and company) are walking on egg-shells with their Syria debacle and don’t even know it.

  54. J says:

    It was a Russian S400 system that the Syrians used to down the Israeli F16.
    The Israelis think they are modern day Davids, NOT. They are an ant in a woodpile that could fall on them because they tugged on the wrong piece of wood.

  55. Anna says:

    Let’s see if the collective thinking by the brass is going to be guided by the zionized US deciders towards the WWII or whether the patriotism and sanity prevail: “Israel Carries Out “Large Scale Attack” On Syria After Israeli F-16 Shot Down”
    “It must be remembered that the Israeli Air Force has acknowledged striking targets inside Syria at least 100 times over the past few years of the conflict, with the last attack prior to today’s events happening just earlier this week. Syria has frequently taken its case before the U.N., calling for official condemnation of the unprovoked attacks, but has been just as frequently rebuffed.
    In its now ‘open secret’ of a years-long pursuit of regime change in Syria, Israel has given covert support to al-Qaeda linked groups in Syria’s south – near the vicinity of today’s F-16 shoot down – which has involved weapons transfers and treatment of wounded jihadists in Israeli hospitals, according to The Wall Street Journal.”

  56. Mark Logan says:

    Peter AU said…
    “They are not stupid at all but they are a collective of narrow thinkers.”
    I’ve often pondered that concept. Notice how many of radical extremist leaders were doctors, engineers and such? Narrow and deep. STEM is enormously useful to us but seems to be a risky when implanted in shallow earth.

  57. turcopolier says:

    Mark Logan
    These narrow “but deep” thinkers were unable to grasp the nature of the Iraq War for the first couple of years. They thought of it as a rear area security problem, a combat in cities problem, anything but a popular rebellion based on xenophobia and anti-colonialism The IED problem? They spent several billion dollars on trying to find a technology fix and never succeeded. I know because they kept asking me to explain the war to them and then could not understand the answers which were outside their narrow thought. pl

  58. turcopolier says:

    War College selectees, the national board selected creme de la creme test out as 50% SJs (conformists lacking vision)in Myers-Briggs terms and about 15% NTs (intellectuals). to survive and move upward in a system dominated by SJs, the NTs must pretend to be what they are not. A few succeed. I do not think Mattis is an intellectual merely because he has read a lot. pl

  59. outthere says:

    Long ago when I was a professor, I advised my students that “the law is like a pencil sharpener, it sharpens the mind by narrowing it.”
    I tried to encourage them to “think backwards”. My favorite example was a Japanese fisherman who recovered valuable ancient Chinese pottery. Everyone knew where an ancient ship had sunk, but the water was too deep to dive down to the wreck. And everyone knew the cargo included these valuable vases. And the fisherman was the first to figure out how to recover them. He attached a line to an octopus, and lowered it in the area, waited awhile, and pulled it up. Low and behold, the octopus had hidden in an ancient Chinese vase. The fisherman was familiar with trapping octopuses, by lowering a ceramic pot (called “takosubo”) into the ocean, waiting awhile, then raising the vase with octopus inside. His brilliance was to think backwards, and use an octopus to catch a vase.

  60. turcopolier says:

    By your calculation people like Joe Stilwell and George Patton should not have existed. pl

  61. turcopolier says:

    the original GBS were recruited in the 50s to serve in the OSS role with foreign guerrillas behind Soviet lines in th event of war in Europe. Aaron Bank, the founder, recruited several hundred experienced foreign soldiers from the likely countries who wanted to become American. By the time we were in VN these men were a small fraction of GBs but important for their expertise and professionalism. pl

  62. Babak Makkinejad says:

    What do Americans mean by professionalism?

  63. Croesus says:

    Look on the bright side — Government by AI rather than elected representative could function with far less cost and corruption.

    Can AI pray?
    Pray for the people of Syria.

  64. ked says:

    Col, I think it might help people to think of “the Borg” – as you have defined & applied it – in a broader context. It struck me particularly as you ID’d the launching of our modern military group-think / careerism behavior coming from the watershed of industrialized scale & processes that came out of WWII. We note parallel themes in all significant sectors of our civilization. The ever-expanding security state, the many men in Gray Flannel Suits that inhabit corporate culture, Finance & Banking & Big Health scaling ever larger – all processes aimed to slice the salami thinner & quicker, to the point where meat is moot … and so it goes.
    I note many Borgs… Borgism if you will. An organizational behavior that has emerged out of human nature having difficulty adapting to rapidly accelerating complexity that is just too hard to apprehend in a few generations. If (as many commenters on STT seem to…) one wishes to view this in an ideological or spiritual framework only, they may overlook an important truth – that what we are experiencing is a Battle Among Borgs for control over their own space & domination over the other Borgs. How else would we expect any competitive, powerful interest group to act?
    In gov & industry these days, we observe some pretty wild outliers… attached to some wild outcomes. Thus the boring behavior of our political industries bringing forth Trump, our promethean technology sector yielding a Musk (& yes, a Zuckerberg).
    I find it hard to take very seriously analysts that define their perspective based primarily upon their superior ideals & opposition to others. Isn’t every person, every tribe, team or enterprise a borglet-in-becoming? Everybody Wants to Rule the World … & Everybody Must Get Stoned… messages about how we are grappling with complexity in our times. I just finished reading Command & Control (about nuclear weapons policy, systems design & accidents). I am amazed we’ve made it this far. Unfortunately, I would not be amazed if reckless, feckless leaders changed the status quo. I was particularly alarmed hearing Trump in his projection mode; “I would love to be able to bring back our country into a great form of unity, without a major event where people pull together, that’s hard to do. But I would like to do it without that major event because usually that major event is not a good thing.” It strikes me that he could be exceptionally willing to risk a Major Event if he felt a form of unity, or self-preservation, was in the offing. I pray (& I do not pray often or easily) that the Generals you have described have enough heart & guts to honor their oath at its most profound level in the event of an Event.

  65. turcopolier says:

    As a time traveler from another age, I can only say that for me it means devotion to a set of mores peculiar to a particular profession as opposed to an occupation. pl

  66. Barbara Ann says:

    Great example outthere.
    Another springs to mind: James Lovelock (of Gaia hypothesis fame) was once part of the NASA team building the first probe to go to Mars to look for signs of life. Lovelock didn’t make any friends when he told NASA they were wasting their time, there was none. When asked how he could be so sure, he explained that the composition of the Martian atmosphere made it impossible. “But Martian life may be able to survive under different conditions” was the retort. Lovelock then went on to explain his view that the evolution of microbial life determined the atmospheric composition on Earth, so should be expected to do the same if life had evolved on Mars. Brilliant backwards thinking which ought to have earned him the Nobel prize IMHO (for Gaia). Lovelock, a classic cross-disciplinary scientist, can’t be rewarded with such a box-categorized honor, as his idea doesn’t fit well into any one.
    Another example of cross-disciplinary brilliance was Bitcoin, which has as much to do with its creator’s deep knowledge of Anthropology (why people invented & use money) as his expertise in both Economics and Computer Science.
    This is they key to creative thinking in my view – familiarity with different fields yields deeper insights.

  67. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Thank you.
    So, akin to the idea of “A Calling”?

  68. Mark Logan says:

    They just wanted to know what kind of hammer and what size nails. I recall the absurd concept of “Government in a box”. McChystal’s book, IIRC. I suppose the solution had to be, for them, a checklist…it simply HAD to be.
    I suspect General Stan began to grasp the true scope, but far too late, and he knew it was too late. The net result was allowing himself to resign on the excuse of a minor scandal.

  69. Babak,
    I’d like to add to Colonel Lang’s words on professionalism, especially military professionalism. For many years, I felt I had a calling to be a Maryknoll missionary priest. Among us Catholics, this is also called a vocation. Rather than pursue these priestly vows, I took the oath as a commissioned officer in the Army and eventually entered the brotherhood of Special Forces. The devotion to something far beyond oneself and the dedication of one’s life, mind and soul to that devotion is the same in both.

  70. Babak Makkinejad says:

    I think that the Vikings did discover life on Mars.

  71. JTMcPhee says:

    REinforcing Groupthink: Seems to me that anyone looking for insights and understanding of the behaviors and thinking of the US military as a Great Joint Institution could benefit from just reading the DoD’s own “Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms,” This ongoing lexical project, which costs billions to create, update and promulgate, no doubt helps significantly in force-fitting conformity to the world view and preferences of those who control the content.
    Here’s how the hierarchy views this project:
    2. Terminology Categorization (Policy and Joint Doctrine)
    a. Military Terminology. Standardized military and associated terminology forms the foundation of joint doctrine. It enables the joint force to organize, plan, train, and execute operations with a common language that is clearly articulated and universally understood. Since 1948, military terms have been codified in the DOD Dictionary. Although different in purpose, policy documents also require standardized terminology. While some policy terms are included in the DOD Dictionary, the bulk are codified in the Terminology Repository of DOD (OSD/JS) Issuances. Policy terms may form the basis of doctrinal terms, further describe doctrinal concepts, or temporarily fill gaps in joint doctrine until adopted as extant practice. If included in the DOD Dictionary, policy terms should conform to the CJCSI 5705.01 and standing operating procedure guidelines.
    b. Policy and Joint Doctrine. Policy directs and assigns tasks, prescribes desired capabilities, and provides guidance for ensuring the Armed Forces of the United States are prepared to perform their assigned roles. Implicitly, policy can create new roles and requirements for new capabilities. Joint doctrine enhances the operational effectiveness of the Armed Forces by providing authoritative guidance and standardized terminology on topics relevant to the employment of military forces. Although joint doctrine is neither policy nor strategy, it serves to make United States policy and strategy effective in the application of United States military power. Terminology developed within policy and joint doctrine serves different purposes. The terminology required to support the employment of forces (doctrinal terms) may not be optimal for policy developers, whose purpose may be to illuminate resource or requirement documents. Terminology developed for DOD policy is not limited by the constraints imposed on doctrine terminology. Policy definitions may provide the basis for the doctrinal terms. Doctrinal terms cannot be in conflict with the law, regulation, or policy.

    The definitions change over time to reflect changes in doctrine and elevation of particular salient in policy and such. I do find it interesting that by the definitions given in several iterations of the collection, the US actions in the current state of play fit pretty neatly within the definition of “insurgency,” which is supposed to be a “bad thing:”
    insurgency — The organized use of subversion and violence to seize, nullify, or challenge political control of a region. Insurgency can also refer to the group itself. (JP 3-24)
    And of course something like this lexicon has to exist, to try to tie together all the often conflicting pieces of the “joint structure” (characterization aimed at papering over what used to be called “inter- and intramural-service rivalries?”). One recalls the story of the Tower of Babel…
    But I note that the document does not contain definitions of “war,” “victory,” “success,” and a lot of other salient terms one might think are germane to a notion of the institution as an effective “extension of diplomacy by other means.”

  72. turcopolier says:

    It costs billions to do this dictionary? Really” How about hundreds of billions, or perhaps trillions? Any evidence for the number or is that an editorial opinion? pl

  73. JTMcPhee says:

    Colonel, I can’t find the version of the dictionary or the article that I recall included info on costs as part of its covering pages, And you are right to challenge the “billions,” I should have typed “millions.” But how much does it cost, do you wonder, and maybe you have some experience that might inform this point, how much does it cost to continually do all the stuff that is lined out in this “Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Instruction” on how the dictionary and orthodoxy are to be maintained? That’s a process that has been in place over generations, now, since the 1980s at least.
    There are the raw (also unauditable?) dollar costs of updating and publication and compliance, and then there are the kinds of costs your post highlights that result from the institutional processes of making and reinforcing a box that all the smart people fit themselves into. In the context of the military thing being what it is, a long way from a Sun Tzu appreciation of “The Art of War.” America is not at all like the wonderful place I learned about in K-12 civics and history classes. Seems to me that Maj. Gen. Smedley Butler had it right.

  74. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Thank you.
    So this is different, qualitatively, than the idea of Professionalism bandied around among the “professional & managerial” classes?
    Nevdr heard anyone being called to be a programmer, as an example.

  75. Sid_finster says:

    If they are anything like the business world, they are good at repeating instituional prejudices and cherry picking facts as needed to support the preordained conclusion.
    Critical thinking, not so much.

  76. Keith Harbaugh says:

    Question 1: How much influence does the brass really have over policy?
    Very little on social issues, it seems to me.
    Does/did the brass really favor opening the military’s doors to open homosexuals and what the PC call “transgenders”?
    How many male-on-male sexual assaults have there been?
    In the Army I knew, as a ROTC cadet in the 1960s and on active duty in the 1970s,
    there was a strongly homophobic attitude.
    No one ever explained why,
    but IMO it reflected a very valid desire on the part of the Army
    to ensure that sexual desire did not taint the command relationship.
    As an example of how that can happen,
    consider the case of General Jeffrey Sinclair.
    That, of course, was a male/female relationship,
    but it doesn’t take much imagination to foresee
    similar homosexual superior/subordinate relations developing.
    Sure, the regs will forbid them, but they won’t stop them,
    anymore than the Navy’s regs prevented its current corruption scandal.
    Then we can also consider the sad fate of the outstanding Marine General and Chairman of the JCS, Peter Pace.
    My point is that the views of the brass carry zero weight in Washington
    when they conflict with the Washington political climate
    (which, IMO, is both revealed by and influenced by the Washington Post.)
    So if that Washington political climate supports intervention
    (as it certainly has regarding Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria),
    then the brass will bow to the prevailing winds.
    Besides, that no doubt will lead to more lucrative post-retirement gigs.
    Cf. Petraeus, David and Keane, Jack
    Question 2: Who/what caused the U.S. to support deposing Qaddafi?
    Did the brass play any role whatsoever in that decision?
    I think not.
    For what did influence it, see
    Question 3: Who/what caused the U.S. to intervene in Syria?
    Colonel, I totally agree with what I believe to be your position,
    that the interests of Israel played, at the least, a very large role in that decision.
    But, interestingly enough,
    there was another factor,
    what I not very tactfully call “The Liberal Airhead Factor”:

  77. LondonBob says:

    Not seen a comment about it but Justin Raimondo provides an analysis of the Trump Mattis relationship as described in the Washington Post.
    “He has repeatedly pressed Mattis and McMaster in stark terms to explain why US troops are in Somalia. ‘Can’t we just pull out?’ he has asked, according to US officials.
    “Last summer, Trump was weighing plans to send more soldiers to Afghanistan and was contemplating the military’s request for more-aggressive measures to target Islamic State affiliates in North Africa. In a meeting with his top national security aides, the president grew frustrated. ‘You guys want me to send troops everywhere,’ Trump said, according to officials in the Situation Room meeting.
    I live in hope Trump is learning and will begin to assert himself more.

  78. Ron says:

    Colonel Frank Kitson’s book – ‘Counter-Gangs’ was the book which insitutionalised false-flag synthetic terror waged by deep states. Kitson oversaw the killing on both sides of the Irish Troubles of the 1970s and 1980s, and even the paedophile ring that ran Kincora Boys’ Home, STILL uninvestigated, because PM May’s intransigence.
    On top of Casey’s ignorance then, was overlaid a little dangerous ‘knowledge’ rooted in a sociopathic and barbaric mentality (Kitson got to the highest knighthood of which the UK establishment was capable)

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