CBC’s review of Shadow Company

GoogleVideo has CBC "The Hour" review of Shadow Company. The interviewer starts off with the standard "guns are cool" and sterotypical "mercenary" spiel. He misses the point pretty much throughout the interview, but the producer must’ve understood as the interview clips from the movie are well-chosen. While the interviewer didn’t, the clip of Robert Young Pelton set the tone of the purpose of the movie with expected eloquence: "[from the Coalition of the Willing it became the] Coalition of the Billing, which means that the coalition partners that have pulled out are being replaced by private security."

We asked by on CBC, Nick Bicanic shares his motivation for making the movie, which included the Fallujah incident with the Blackwater contractors (earlier commented on here). Specifically, Nick keyed on the American military response to the deaths and mutilation of the American civilians and not military personnel. (Not said was the decision to delay the Marine response was made at the "highest levels".) The severe and significant military response had lasting impact and seemingly more on par of a counter-attack than a punitative response to an attack on civilians.

The seperation we think we achieve by privatizing force — not US Armed Forces, Government, or OGA personnel but civilians — is clearly not accepted by others. Shadow Company notably has an interview with an insurgent saying the Fallujah ambush (against Blackwater) was an attack on the CIA.

Foreign policy by proxy? Clearly. The US government think there’s at worse a relationship with an agent through contracting by by the US government or private corporation (notably as part of Reconstruction). However, others (generally those outside the US government, US media, and US public) see a direct relationship and thus an attack on either is an attack against America.

Recruiting Dilemma

A six year old Pentagon document on Recruiting and Retention (also available here), written before the Global War on Terror, reflects a reality more pronounced today:

Fewer Americans have military experience than ever before. With a smaller force serving at fewer bases, there are increasingly fewer Americans who have direct experience with our military. Fewer people know someone who serves–or has served–in uniform. The transition from the draft to an all-volunteer force in the early 1970s also decreased broad military experience, knowledge, and understanding. Today, fewer elected officials, journalists, teachers, business owners, and employers have experienced military service.

Has this disengagement allowed a more expeditionary attitude and how much has it contributed to the use of private military companies?

Iraqis don’t admit they work at the US Embassy

This was interesting: Memo: Fear rules at Baghdad embassy.

A recent cable to the State Department from the U.S. embassy in Baghdad outlines a litany of fears and misery among Iraqi employees at the American diplomatic mission that threaten “objectivity, civility, and logic” among workers.

The collection of anecdotes from Iraqi workers in an undisclosed office in the embassy paints an extraordinarily bleak picture of life in the capital, where local employees do not dare reveal where they work, even to family members, for fear of retribution…

Let’s hope once the mission is accomplished in Iraq… no wait… well, when the new fortress / bubble is built, I’m sure there will be space for all.

Quote on the US Foreign Policy

"The Americans have run away again" — former-SADF (South African Defence Force) soldier in Afghanistan (who will remain anonymous as he’s serving with a private security company possibly in contravention to SA law).

Despite recalling "the facts as we knew them", the reality on the ground is a shifting foreign policy, and with it (foreign) public trust, does matter. While the Administration and Republican in Congress decry the Democratic proposals to "cut-and-run" and how that will send the wrong message, the message has already been sent in Afghanistan.

Prior to putting Afghanistan in the "win" column, focus, American and international, was shifted to Iraq. Put in the place of Afghani’s, and now Iraqis in light of the deterioriating situation there of our own allowance, one would choose a path of future security even it is not desirable. David Galula, in his book Counterinsurgency Warfare: Theory and Practice (PSI Classics of the Counterinsurgency Era), noted the very same when he wrote of examples in the early 1950’s. For example:

In July, 1954, during the Korean War, the aNationalists decided to make a raid on the mainland of China… The Communist garrison was made up of a regular battalion plus a thousand-man militia. The latter, the Nationalists thought, would put up no real fight. Indeed, every piece of available intelligence indicated that the population was thoroughly fed up with the Communists… The [Nationalist paratroopers] were virtually annihiliated. The militia fought like devils. How could they act otherwise when they knew that the Nationalist action was just a raid?

The Case for Cultural Diplomacy: Engaging Foreign Audiences

Making the case against the Clash of Civilizations and its wholesale aggregations (see other posts in the Cultural Warfare category), Helena Finn (in 2003) explains the need to engage. From the socio-political perspective this means listening and understanding. From the military-political persepective, this is the groundwork and foundation for Cultural Warfare. Either way, it is necessary to not see a binary world and not to assume that Arab speakers, Muslims, or some other "condition" as some would call it, as inherently defective and antagonistic to "us".

The Case for Cultural Diplomacy: Engaging Foreign Audiences (also at Foreign Affairs) abstract:

In the past few years there has been an alarming rise in anti-American sentiment around the globe, centered in the Middle East. To reverse this tide, the United States must begin working immediately to establish meaningful contact with the silent majority in the Muslim world, in ways other than through military force or traditional diplomacy. The anti-U.S. aggression witnessed today represents the boiling over of intense frustration, exacerbated by a sense that Muslims have somehow fallen behind. Rather than assuming that Islam is inherently more violent than other religions, U.S. policymakers should realize that there are practical causes of the widespread discontent in the Middle East, and try to offer practical solutions. As they do so, they should take inspiration from the successful cultural diplomacy of the Cold War, while tailoring their efforts to the new circumstances and enemies with which they are confronted. Cultural diplomacy is one of the most potent weapons in the United States’ armory, yet its importance has been consistently downplayed in favor of dramatic displays of military might.Like its predecessors during the early Cold War era, the Bush administration must realize that in waging its self-proclaimed war against extremism, winning foreigners’ voluntary allegiance to the American project will be the most important prize of all.

Cultural Warfare, continued

A vigourous discussion on an earlier post "How Not to Conduct Cultural Warfare" (to be continued here in a new category "Cultural Warfare") should have a greater obvious context with recent news. As Eccentric Star ("Murdered US Soldiers Linked to Rape & Murder of Iraqi Civilians") notes:

A link — however tenuous — between the two US soldiers who were abducted, tortured, and murdered in Iraq recently and the rape of an Iraqi woman and subsequent murder of her and her family is explosive. From an Iraqi’s perspective, this must make the insurgents who killed the US soldiers look more like righteous avengers than anything else.

At some point who we are, or rather how we see ourselves, becomes disjointed with what we do. At some point, what we do is who we are, especially if it is repeated often enough. Put yourself in the shoes of locals and consider the trend from their perspective. Cultural warfare and public diplomacy (wartime and peacetime sides of the same coin) does this and the Haditha videos (commented on in How Not to Conduct Cultural Warfare) reinforces stereotypes, the wrong stereotypes.

From the US side, Shawn Howard in The Difference Between Us and Them, writing before the news of the rape, echoed a sentiment leaning toward "kill them all, let [insert deity here] sort ’em out" (by the way, I’m not being politically correct, it’s just a tool to ack different perspectives… for all I care, assume God is written there):

…These insurgents have a long pattern of obscene violence that goes well beyond the rules of engagement.

I will not argue that the U.S. military and the private contractors are always choir boys….Also, when we find out about alleged atrocities, we investigate them and hold people accountable.  The insurgents are praised when they commit disgusting atrocities….

What we are fighting is a barbaric culture that refuses to develop into a civilized society.  Even if we stay for a decade, we will never be able to teach them to respect human life.  That is a fight we will not win.

This last paragraph essentially echoes Dan of tdaxp (in the comments here) in our recent discussion, most notably [for this discussion, I’ll move past the comment about investigating and holding contractors accountable]:

Iraq and Afghanistan are not Core [as in Core-Gap of Barnett’s Pentagon’s New Map] states that somehow went off the rails (like Germany and Japan did). They are from the deepest part of the AfroIslamic Gap.

As such a "hearts and minds," or even a narrow Westernization, strategy is out of the question . Attempting to make Iraqi Shia and Sunni like us because of who we are is a fools errand. So would attempting the reverse. Neither is much possible. We’re not going to enrage Iraqis with things like this. Too little, too late.

There is little need for our side to descend to aggregations of Them into a collective evil. It is wrong to say

…the "All in all, I’d rather not have Americans here right now" ship has long since sailed. Those Iraqis that support us do so because they think we can improve their lives…

There are more Iraqis that would support us if a) procedures and policies of both military and private forces and reconstruction efforts considered locals as assets and part of the solution, and b) fear keeps many from secretly or openly from supporting us and hence pushing away criminal and "insurgent" groups.

The reality is, now and in the past (another dig against tempo-centric and situational unaware 4GW here), that an overall environment is necessary to bring out allies as force multipliers (consider the role and purpose of the Green Berets and the fact we don’t need warm and cuddly friendships, just a mutual understanding who the bad guy is).

David Galula, writing in his 1965 CounterInsurgency Warfare: Theory and Practice, noted the clear need to get the population on your side which you do not do by alienating them. As an example, Galula cites mainland Chinese who, when expected to side with Nationalists during a quick hit and run in fact fought back viciously. Why? Because they knew where they were living and reality of the attack (not to free the people but simply to prick the side of Mao).

Does cultural intelligence matter? Consider this CS Monitor story "What US wants in its troops: cultural savvy" (and many other references to be posted soon, but the CS Monitor article was timely… posted this evening). If cultural awareness matters on the battlefield to diffuse or prevent tensions, why not in peacetime? Hence, public diplomacy… CW (cultural warfare) is a variant of PD (public diplomacy).

Knowing the terrain, both physical and social

Paul at Soft Power Beacon writes about situational awareness in Iraq:

…That said, Behn writes, some Iraqis will get their hair cut like famous Iraqi singers or Brazilian soccer players. None of this appears in any textbook on the Middle East; it’s just one more facet of Iraqi society that U.S. forces and policymakers must have people on the ground–outside the Green Zone–to understand.That said, Behn writes, some Iraqis will get their hair cut like famous Iraqi singers or Brazilian soccer players. None of this appears in any textbook on the Middle East; it’s just one more facet of Iraqi society that U.S. forces and policymakers must have people on the ground–outside the Green Zone–to understand.

Understanding how society ticks is critical to creating a secure environment. Cops working in gang territory know this, just as our military forces, acting like police forces, must become aware of this. This is situational awareness

“Recall the facts as we knew them in March 2003”

Leading off Blackwater’s TacticalWeekly, for Monday 6/26/06 is a quote from Senator John McCain: "recall the
facts as we knew them in March 2003." In the debate of whether Saddam Hussein
was actually attempting to acquire WMDs, who he may have sought to use them
against (directly or indirectly) and who he may have actually partnered with are
all lost in this debate.

Briefly, let us go back and consider the facts as we knew them in March 2003.
First, we were still working to put Afghanistan into the "win column" by
establishing rule of law and the reconstruction of societal and economic
infrastructure (all through intimately intertwined). Our military and political
attention, not to mention the world’s attention, was still focused on a region
that was clearly and without question a safe-haven for terrorists. We were in
the heart of Asia with a tremendous opportunity to demonstrate to the region and
world, across ethic and religious affiliations, there are alternatives to
Islamic extremism, growing poppies, and 15th Century education in a 21st Century
world, among others.

The facts as we knew them in 2003 were that Iraq did not pose an immediate
and dire threat to the United States. The facts as we knew them were that Osama
Bin Laden, al-Qaeda, the Taleban, and other extremist groups latching onto the
above for convenience were the dire threat. The trajectory of the Iraqi people
and the politics of Saddam Hussein did not point to collusion with OBL.

The facts as we knew them, and as hindsight makes even more clear, shows we
have squandered an opportunity to demonstrate an alternative path. There was
nothing to indicate, for example, the invasion of Iraq could not have waited
another year as we focused more time and energy from the United States and
marshaled the same from the global community into Afghanistan. During that year,
we could have entertained the French and others to build consensus, afterall, we
did not have to go in 2003. We could have better prepared Phase IV operations
(post-conflict), which were nearly completely ignored as the facts have shown in
both statements and deeds.

The facts, as we knew them in March 2003, do not support the timeline we
forced and more importantly, did not support abandoning effective operations in
favor of a distraction of global proportions that created a far larger problem
than it was supposed to eliminate. The fact is Iraq has become a more dangerous
powder keg and source of threat now than it was in 2003. The facts, as we knew
them in 2004 and 2005 demonstrate this. The facts as we know them in 2006
continue to reinforce this.

World Sporting Events… the distractions

Sporting events can be distracting, especially the World Cup and the Tour d’France (which started this weekend). It isn’t always the matches or races themselves, but the opportunity to see the world, literally. No, I’m not talking about German stadium architecture or the French countryside. In the spirit of cultural relations, I submit the following: FoxSports’ gallery of some fans at the World Cup and Pez Cycling News’ Distractions du Tour (and distractions for any other month).

Cultural Warfare, a quote

"Conventional warfare struck at the heart to kill and thenconquer;
Economic war struck at the belly to exploit and acquire
Cultural war strikes at the head to paralyze without killing, to
conquer by slow rot, and to obtain wealth through the disintegration of cultures
and peoples."
  — Henri Gobbard, La Guerre Culturelle