04 January 2007

Generally specific and Specifically general

Hopefully this will not be one of my ordinary long-form, link festooned posts. I doubt it, but one never can tell. It is meant to be more of an outlook on a thing or two than a pointed stick, but points get made, just the same.

Today's topic of fun and frivolity and use as a general sedative is my own personal viewpoint on Problem Solving and Troubleshooting. Yes, they are, to me at least, two entirely different classes of beastie, although they are inter-related and somewhat interdependent. There are times when I have said that I seem to live my life by cliches, rules of thumb, oxymorons and other such formulations of rules with generality and specificality attached to each. One of these, for me, is: don't wear loose fitting shirt sleeves at the kitchen table when soup is on the agenda. Of course I could not remember when I was coming down for the life of me *why* I made up that little rule for myself, and so made the soup, sat down, it was too hot to eat, a bright idea came to me, I reached over to the little desknote machine to start typing... and dragged my shirtsleeve into the soup. Next I shall just follow that general rule and be done with it instead of trying to remember *why* I made it.

I made it for good reason and feel quite stupid in not having followed it when it had pertinent operating parameters. That rule was made to solve a problem, the problem being getting a long sleeve into hot soup. The troubleshooting solution is to remove the shirt and put on a short sleeved one, which is far more time going up and down stairs and doing the changing and putting the previous shirt into the laundry pile and such than if I would have just followed the rule in the first place. In this case it is problem solving so that I do not spend more time on troubleshooting than fixing the problem so it doesn't happen in the first place.

Thus the decision spaces of Problem Solving and Troubleshooting become defined. And some folks really do start to scratch their heads and say 'huh?' about such so examples are necessary, but links will be deprived so I can talk in a form of Meta Analysis: one step removed from the actual analysis so as to give overall formulation.

In Iraq we have the US Armed Forces which have distinguished these two concepts implicitly in organizational structure. And every normal and regularized set of Armed Forces on the planet does this because it is just good 'common sense' and ingrained in the way wars are fought. About the only thing that really gets to me in this modern age is calling Soldiers by the term 'Warriors'. If you had done that to someone in the Roman Legion, you could very quickly find a Gladius at your throat telling you to take that slur back or you will be dead. Why is that?

Soldiers are Professionals. They refine, define and treat warfare differently than do 'Warriors'. Much of the pre-literate, tribal era still exists in terms like 'Glory of Battle' to describe something that was a press of thousands against thousands in a literal pressing mode, with all sorts of blood and entrails littering the battlefield that were being continuously stepped on as more men came forward to replace the fallen. The old glorious days of Warriors telling personal tales and boasting of deeds and such was over by then, but best keep the nomenclature and intended meaning as it works, more or less. The difference is that Soldiers fight as Units, Warriors fight as individuals with little coordination. By turning it into a Profession, the actual ability to take on enemies effectively was born and Warrior Hordes found themselves stopped by Roman Legions. The Hordes finally did get some sense knocked into them after a few centuries, both by direct experience and, actually, joining the Roman Army.

From this came two distinct objectives for Armies: one is to actually *get* an Army trained to fight cohesively, get good logistical supply for it, and get it used to maneuver, and the other part is the actual man-to-man and then unit-to-unit fighting. As forces diversified to cover special circumstances, say Sappers for siege warfare, suddenly having to know more than just how to stick folks with swords, spears or arrows became important and vitally so. An individual must learn to know about many specialties in a superficial and generalized way. Ergo, Generals.

Generals are the ones covering the Campaign side of things: supply, logistics, maneuver, reinforcements, and actually getting one's forces to the enemy who is doing the exact same thing to you. Once done more specific commanders will be the ones entrusted to array forces, ensure unit integrity and organize battle plans with some oversight of the General in charge of things. In conception this is Problem Solving to get to that point. By creating a system of Units on the move, getting to good territory, having properly assayed your needs way back when at the start of the campaign and then working with what you have got, you now have run into the Enemy. The Enemy has their own plans which throws yours into disarray. That is Trouble.

At the other end of this spectrum are the Boots on the Ground soldiers. They represent skill and expertise in their Profession and are trained to be that which rids you of Trouble. Axiomatically they are Trouble Shooters.

Now, how does this play out in a place like, say, Baghdad? Well I did post on that, but the larger analysis helps here.

MOUT is Military Operations in Urban Terrain, as opposed to gangland drive-by shootings. MOUT operations are to maximize your effectiveness on a unit to unit basis over that of an opponent by covering your unit-based weaknesses with other units so as to make an interlocking whole of operations. The Enemy, in this case terrorists/insurgents/jihadists and whatnot, are trying to perform Attrition Warfare and convince the People of the United States to lose heart and go home and leave them to build their nice little Islamic Empire, thank you very much.

Overall the Strategy in Iraq has been to quell the quietest areas, start operations in the next least quiet areas and spin up local forces to combat operations. Cities are avoided as a 'killing zone' in which untrained forces will soon get bogged down and the brute force method of removing buildings will be seen. So, bypass the cities and learn in town and smaller urban environments first and work your way upwards. This actually starts to bring the countryside on-board, although regaining trust after 1991-2 does require long years of proving we will be there and not just leave the folks to the next 'dictator du jour'. And Baghdad stops the forward motion of forces and reduces them to a crawl... even though US forces are skilled here, it is Iraqi forces that will need to hold the place. It is a trouble spot. And if you get the message that higher-ups want the trouble removed, as you would as a Theater Commander, you try to figure out what it takes to remove trouble, quickly and efficiently.

If this were a 'rebel city' bombing it to hell would be an option, but it isn't. No, these goons have no honor to form a government so that they can stand up and be decently killed by protecting someplace.

And the mix of forces is taking forever to get places with the constant changing of forces on the Iraqi side to get them real MOUT experience. Right now it is a multi-month clean-up operation ahead and that is, apparently, far too long for folks used to 30 second commercials. Thus the one group that can, effectively, target a disorganized set of foes who do not act together but only in a semi-coherent form as individuals and groups are those who can directly find it and target it. If you can get the trouble out of the system the plan, itself will begin to flow again and things will progress. And while you got quite some few folks as standard Troubleshooters, you need specialists: those trained for just this sort of long wait and then sudden action offensive.

They are called Snipers. They are the most efficient, bullet for bullet expended troubleshooters in any armed force and the US has a cadre of some of the best on the planet. In point of fact, in any operation that is ongoing the largest fear of ground forces, beyond what the next meal might be, is Snipers. You never know where they will be, they are damned patient and hard to find and having the buddy next to you suddenly die out of the blue and *thats it* is unnerving. The next couple might, or might not give some clue as to where the Sniper is. The reaction is called 'Going to Ground' or 'Eating dirt'.

Urban environments offer many pluses and minuses. It is harder to spot a Sniper in broken, chaotic cities, but Snipers also tend to have limited mobility in such. In operational cities, with civilians, you might be able to spot a Sniper easier, but crowds may not be of any help to protect you. And if you are alone.... well... thats it. Against small groups of the Enemy the concept of reload time was a major factor, but the latest in automatic weapons now decreases that considerably to something much more amenable to slow, continuous fire without breaking concentration.

So by analysis what you want to clear out Trouble in Problems are Troubleshooters. Then forces more along the line of regular shooters can deal with the disorganized folks left over. Target command, control and supply, stage simultaneous ground raids and get pairs of eyes overlooking the entire Trouble Set. A good General depends on his forces to know who can do what and inter-operate. Multiple specialties are necessary for MOUT environments or, indeed, any environment, and it is necessary to let Specialists guide operations so that overall effectiveness is enhanced via combined arms. In a Baghdad operation this will include regular ground forces, fast mobile armored forces, helicopters for evacuation and road interdiction, fixed wing assets for trouble spots not amenable to ground forces and some heavy armor for true strong points if they crop up. A General must know and respect the capabilities of the forces, perceived and real weaknesses and, in Western armed forces, entrust those whose lives are on the line to set up the 'real deal' and get it done.

After 4,000 years or so, the folks in Iraq want to do this and its taking them a bit to learn it.

Now lets switch to Afghanistan which is a true haven for specialists. Mountain terrain amplifies the effect of individuals to stop large formations of armies. Even in this high tech era, environment, terrain and all sorts of other nasty factors place limits on the capability of recon. and aerial interdiction. Small, self-sustained units able to live off the land with minimal need for resupply are key, here. Light, fast, maneuverable and able to instantly find cover are essential tools in this warfare. To the entire suite of US Special Forces, this is some version of the perfect training ground. Skill in survival, deep trust in your unit members, and understanding the locale are the keys to successful mountain fighting. The al Qaeda terrorists were scoffed at by the Afghan tribesmen, who saw going to blow yourself up as a coward's way to die. They hold to an older Warrior ethos and want to come back and tell the tale around winter fires...

Which brings us to the one Nation that trained the US in Mountain Warfare: Canada.

The Mountain Brigade formed up for WWII was formed with Canadian help as they had lots of experience in training in high, cold, mountainous terrain. This is a true specialty and a rare breed of soldiers. As an example of what happens if you *don't* have them, witness the decades of high mountain conflict between India and Pakistan. It is called 'The Battle of the Howitzers' for they can't train anyone enough to do real combat there. So, Canada with long, cold winters and their portion of the Rockies and Cascades, had lots of fun training in true arctic conditions with lack of oxygen! Such fun!

Now, getting trained up for work in Afghanistan, US Special Forces key in on this and their own training, adjust and 'go for it'. But one thing was lacking which was utterly surprising. A winter campaign. Apparently, Afghanis feel that fighting in the winter is... well... deadly. As in 'an anti-survival method with short life expectancy'. To the Canadians this felt 'Just Like Home'. I really do hope that this is a truly dreadful winter in the high regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan, for even the Talibe have never waged a Winter Campaign. Canada as far as I know, and I am sure the Soviets did something utterly daft during the winter there, like they did against Finland in WWII, and thus got to learn why it is 'anti-survival', is the only Nation to have had the skill and faith in their men to propose this. US Special Forces may have done so before this, and high honor unto them for doing something this Buffalonian who has been through a Yellowstone winter at near 40 below, appreciates. To the Canadians, well, its a Winter Campaign. So what happens when a highly experienced set of specialists are pitted against a set of poorly trained generalists in some of the most inhospitable climate and terrain on the planet? Spring will tell and may be the only way to find bodies...

And the Sniper?

I remember reading a fictional account where local special forces were known as 'Panthers' in the snow. They respected one man, a foreigner, above all. They called him a 'Ghost' as you would not know he was behind you until you felt the hand on your shoulder. The specialist of specialists. [And memory has played me wrong as it is an iconic movie, and a so-so book and the line came from the book, not the movie. Still, it fits so it stays.]

Flipping around in scale we move back to Iraq as a whole. Iraq is Problem Solving writ large and is something to be handled by the Commander in Chief. He was elected to do so and must have the intellectual knowledge, capacity and foresight to arrange for diplomacy, economics, and military venues to be crafted towards solving a problem. That is why the President *gets* all of those powers: a Committee cannot run wars or Foreign Policy with actual goals. The job of General Generalist of the Generals is the man in charge. He has to depend on everyone below him to know what they are about and what they are doing and actually tell him the truth about those things.

Being President does require dedication and knowing that it will age you beyond your years as you are in office and then still tear at you after you leave it. Not only the hardest job in the Land but probably on the Planet, at this point, is being that individual in charge of the US Government, Commander in Chief, Head of State and Final Pardoner. And you will get castigated for each and every decision you make in that office, even if it is in peacetime or relatively so. Seven decades ago we did not see it that way and the office grew to meet the challenges of a World War. The Cold War continued the problems and the pressure and heated up the job until it was destructive. No longer can someone expect to retire to write their memoirs in quietude. For all of that it is an absolutely vital part of the Nation and only an Individual can make the necessary hard choices, even if they are the WRONG ONES, so that the Nation can get its bearings and then move forward.

So Iraq, as a whole, is indeed a *problem*, and in that conception Nancy Pelosi is right that it needs to be treated as such. The solution is not a purely military one, although, at this juncture in history, little else will actually serve as 'troubleshooters' to get the problem's solution in motion. Where Ms. Pelosi is *wrong* however is in that she does not attempt to actually DEFINE the problem to be solved. And if there is any major failing of the current President it is in that realm and it is a failure the Nation has paid dearly for in the last 20 years.

The end of the Cold War removed the precepts of all then-current Foreign Policy. With the end of the USSR went all the 'balance of power', 'Realpolitik', and 'global geo-strategy' that went with it. All of that stuff actually created problems it could not handle in the way of non-State based actors, non-rational State actors and a return of non-State warfare. Starting with President George H. W. Bush then on to President Clinton and then President George W. Bush, what has been witnessed is a lack of any definition to Foreign Policy and the place of America within this new world that looks very much like a much older world in many ways.

By not putting forth any statement on the US and its attitudes on just what it is the Nation can work towards on the international arena, the Nation is left without compass nor bearings nor anything to help it understand just what America is in the modern world. The non-State actors of the Cold War have morphed into non-accountable power structures that believe that they have supremacy over Nations by not being a *part* of Nations. These are Non-Governmental Organizations, the United Nations and many corporations that act as a 'Law unto themselves' in Foreign Affairs. This is even before we get to Nationalist Terrorist who respect no borders and Transnational Terrorists that respect no laws and believe themselves to be the New Order of things. Added to that are Nation States that feel free to abuse diplomacy, wage non-State and illegitimate, undeclared War against not only immediate neighbors but on a global scale.

It is a very strange world where a segment of Free People are looking at non-representative and un-democratic institutions as a *solution* to the world's ills. They forget that being a part of that self-same world they are calling for a loss of their very own voice in world affairs. A President of a Free People can not afford to do that without putting the very basis for Freedom and Liberty at risk and in grave danger. By not stating and applying the statements of what the President sees as the outlook of the US upon such areas as the Middle East and the world as a whole, the foundations that allow the United States to stand *for* Freedom and Liberty for Individuals is undermined. Without having a conception of how the United States will deal with the world and stating what the basics for that outlook actually are and adhering to them, there is no support that can be legitimately given to *any* People, Nation or group thereof by any part of the political spectrum.

This is more than just a loss of direction on the part of a single President, as multiple Presidents from both Parties have had this exact same problem and the ills and enemies of the Nation have grown in size and danger without such leadership. The foundation of Leadership in a Republic based upon representational democracy is to put forward the actual, real viewpoints of how political groups view not only the United States as a Nation, but amongst Nations and then tell what that means for dealing with *other* Nations. By further not giving *any* viewpoint upon what is or is not the legitimacy of *any* Non-Governmental Organization that Nations have no recourse against to hold accountable, the political class of the United States puts the Union at the very mercy of these organizations without means of addressing them.

Thus Problem Solving in Iraq requires that it be recognized by its People, its placement geographically, its capabilities and its resources along with a larger framework that includes viewpoints upon its neighbors by the United States. This is *not* inviting tyrants and autocrats to a diplomatic table to divide up Nations. It *is* rendering judgment upon them by the President that was elected by the Nation and then apply the results of those viewpoints through Foreign Policy and, if necessary, military policy. Without the larger framework of what the Goals of the United States are in the Middle East, and clearly stating them and the sorts of objectives and milestones necessary to reach them, the United States is without course nor direction in a storm sea and people are bickering on if it is a good idea to actually pump water out of the Ship of State or let it sink. And yet by having no regional goals that can be stated and applied and no application of Foreign Policy *anywhere*, the Nation is in just that problem.

This most supreme of Generalists has a lot on his plate and any occupant of the Office has that placed upon them. Here a realm of political ideology that does not reinforce the actual values of individual Freedom and Liberty of the United States puts the Nation in the cross-hairs of every terrorist, tyrant, madman, or Empire Builder because they can clearly say that the US does not stand behind its beliefs. By not calling anti-democratic regimes by name and on their opposition to Freedom and Liberty and then *doing something* about that statement, the actual outlook loses power. And the Nation gets lost in a sea in which authoritarianism via dissolution arises.

Troubleshooting Baghdad is relatively easy: find the trouble and shoot it.

Problem Solving Iraq requires basis in the Precepts of American Liberty, statement upon the sanctity of the Individual to be Free, and recognizing that these things come at cost and price for those that wish to build them with us. Opposing the Nation so long as one does not ATTACK the Nation is of no concern, and America has had opponents since day 1 and has respectfully engaged such or not, as the case may be. Aiming to bring down the Nation and install non-democratic means of governance both at home and in the lands of our National Friends and Allies, is a grave threat to Liberty and Freedom for All Free People. Especially those under the yoke of tyrannical rule.

The cost in lives, blood and money to do this is very high and has ever been so since the Revolution.

The cost of *not* doing it is the final Death of Liberty and enslavement of mankind to Tyranny until the spark of Freedom is born anew in the eye of a slave. And the chains cast down once more in the hope that Freedom is worth the price of Death.

Because that is the price of not Solving the Problem of universal liberty and freedom

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