171030 War From The Cheap Seats

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Hello there, War Kids,Greetings from an undisclosed location. I can tell you that wherever I am, it's
 

5 NatSec Things

October 30 - Issue #4 - View online
Your Daily Look at War from the Cheap Seats

Hello there, War Kids,
Greetings from an undisclosed location. I can tell you that wherever I am, it’s Sunday, and I’m drowning out the sound of a nearby generator with Spotify’s Time Capsule, and they kicked it off with a track by the Bullet Boys. And that is just as horrible as it sounds. Based on the rest of the playlist, I have…terrible…taste in music. 
None of which is relevant to today’s helping of NatSec and snark, except that I’m making a slight adjustment in how this thing gets done. If I do it right, over time this feels more like me haranguing you at a party with my super smart ideas about what’s going in the world at war, and less like a summary of war-related tomfoolery. 
Because I’m keeping this as a letter for a reason. And I’d like to think that you’re cool with my being in your inbox ‘cuz at some level we get along. At least intellectually when it comes to knowing about the war things. So let me shut the fuck up and get to those. And, as always, thanks for reading.
Gary, Your War Editor

Who Wants To Be Our Next Ambassador To Nambia?
For the geographically-challenged, Nambia is not a country. Which is something our Cartographer-In-Chief probably should have been briefed on better before singing the praises of the healthcare system of place that doesn’t exist. Of course at the time he was talking about Namibia, so that at least was close. Would have been cooler, though, if he’d given a shout out to Wakanda. Less funny from a diplomatic standpoint, but still cooler. Even less funny is the current state of diplomatic relations between the US and African nations that do, in fact, exist. 
U.S. Troops Are on the Ground in Africa, but Diplomacy Is Missing in Action – Foreign Policy
Thing is, if you’re going to operate in places like Niger supporting Nigerien security operations, it helps to have State Department people in place. Like ambassadors and other competent officials who can help smooth the way for things like airstrikes and other things that go bang when they need to. Because security operations when you’re not involved in a no shit shooting war need to happen in concert with other diplomatic efforts. And what would help that would be to not piss off folks in the African Union. Looking at you, Rex!
Since, in theory, the goal would be to stabilize places like Niger and Chad, even if you put the latter on a travel ban list because they didn’t have enough passport paper to print up a recent passport sample. And the US military’s ramping up operations in the Lake Chad Basin rather than turning shit off in the wake of the Niger operation that killed four American soldiers on a patrol there. We should expect more casualties like this, at least until special operators figure out that they’re not in the Hindu Kush anymore. 
Used to Afghanistan, Special Operators Suffer From Lack of Support in Africa – Foreign Policy
The best part about this article? This is coming from a no-shit former Special Forces officer, calling out himself and members of his organization for not being as ready as they’d like to be for operations in a totally different theater of war. And the learning curve in Niger has been brutal.
The Special Forces have gone from a “if shit goes wrong, we’ll call in airpower,” to “if shit goes wrong, we’ll have to shoot our way out.” Which changes the calculus dramatically. And for troops used to doing it with plenty of bombs on planes overhead? This is a shitty way to learn that their mission in Africa is orders of magnitude different. 
I hate the headline, though: it’s not a lack of support, it’s not having overwhelming firepower from the air on your side. That’s different. That’s what you call a “constraint.” Same as if you want to bolt a howitzer to your right arm - the physics don’t work. Even if people want it to be otherwise. 
So we’re paying a lot attention to Africa today, huh?
Yeah. We are. Because the reason things like AFRICOM exist, and the reason the SF is deploying so many troops in advise-and-assist missions to the continent is avoid the next Iraq and Afghanistan. In theory. Except that if there isn’t a diplomatic component in place as well, relations and development will falter, and the low-level patrol-on-patrol gunfights are going to turn into full-fledged deployments. Which is something no one should want. 
Meet The New War, Same As The Old War
Remember the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization (JIEDDO)? In case you missed out on that billion dollar bust of an government initiative, do yourself a favor and read Kelsey Atherton’s account in Politico about how it all went…poorly.
When big data went to war — and lost
Now because there’s no such thing in the US military as new ideas anymore, JIEDDO is now the Joint Improvised Threat Defeat Office (JIDO), and they’re turning their attention to something Mr. Atherton knows a couple of things about: unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). I know, I know, we all like to call them drones, but we’re not being attacked by killer bees, kids. 
The Pentagon’s IED-Hunters Have a New Target: Drones - Defense One
So we’re bringing back the same folks who didn’t fix the IED problem to try and fix another, stupidly similar problem. Which is doing nothing to inspire confidence in my cynic’s heart. Because asymmetrical warfare will always have the same problem, and that is its…asymmetricalness. The ellipses were because I’m pretty sure that’s not a word. 
Because even though people would like to think that augmented reality is a solid alternative to live fire events, and that we can stop crime by building a wall between the US and Mexico, the fact is that every time you build something, some dude with a shovel is probably gonna go full Shawshank and get the fuck around that problem. 
Marawi insurgents used ‘rat-like’ tactics, including tunnels to sewers, during urban warfare against Philippine troops
And as shiny as new weapons systems are, and as much as part of the next war with any major power is also going to involve the information age, it’s likely, given the availability of beaches in places that want to take on the US in feats of strength, that amphibious operations with our allies involved will probably be a thing. And any operation named “Bold Alligator” had to have been a lot of fun to be a part of. 
But, there will always be times when what forces want outstrips what is possible. Like, not possible unless you violate more than a few laws of physics. Which is why engineers hate customers so much.
Marines Want a Truck-Mounted Rocket-Launcher that Fits in an Osprey
Because Marines don’t give two fucks about Newton. Just make it happen, already. Which is about as ‘murcan as it gets when it comes to getting what it is we want from the world.
That’s all we’ve got for today…if you like it, let me know. If you hate it, let me know that, too. And if you think someone else might like it, tell 'em, huh? We’ll be back tomorrow with more NatSec and snark. Until then, stay safe, stay healthy, and by all means, stay snarky. 
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