Paying protection money was part of the cost of doing business in Afghanistan

Monday, September 28th, 2020

Westerners tend to be rather naive, as a recent recent Freakonomics podcast, When Your Safety Becomes My Danger (Ep. 432) illustrates:

Gretchen PETERS: I’ve heard the argument that paying protection money was part of the cost of doing business in Afghanistan. And I think it is a terrible, terrible argument. It’s just self-defeating for an organization to pay protection money and not deal with the problem from the start.

[...]

PETERS: He got a phone call one day from one of his team members saying the Taliban just fired a couple of R.P.G.’s at our project. Nobody’s been hurt. And so, he called up the Taliban commander and said, “What’s the problem? You told us you weren’t going to attack us anymore.” And he said, “No, no, nobody got hurt. We intentionally missed. But your payment’s due. You need to get over to the hawala market and send me my money.” And he said, “Oh, yes, I’m so sorry.” And went over and paid the money right away.

[...]

PETERS: So, the Taliban would fire warning shots when the bills were due. And they would often launch non-lethal attacks just before a contract was due. And that seemed to be an effort to try and get their security contracts renewed. And that would perpetuate this completely corrupt system.

[...]

Anja SHORTLAND: So, the question is, “Do you want to be economically active in territory that is controlled by the Taliban or not?”

[...]

SHORTLAND: If you do want to be active in that territory, you’ve got to make it somewhat in the interest of the Taliban. If they don’t get any economic benefit from your company being there, then they will attack you by any means possible.

[...]

SHORTLAND: You minimize the kidnapping by making sure that the people who control the territory get a certain flow of funds.

[...]

SHORTLAND: That is actually 99 percent of the business. So, it is disequilibrium behavior — as long as everyone pays, there is no need to kidnap anybody.

[...]

SHORTLAND: I started off with Somali pirates, and what really struck me about piracy was how many happy ends there were. How generally nonviolent it was from the moment that the pirates got on board, and how well the trades functioned.

[...]

SHORTLAND: I do find that if they work, then it is because somebody is making them work, somebody is creating institutions that turn what can be very tricky, one-off trades into repeated interactions. It’s about creating self-enforcing contracts.

[...]

SHORTLAND: When there is a famine in southern Somalia, and you want to get relief supplies in there, basically, you have to contract the trucking out and you have to accept that 50 percent of the supplies will disappear. So, the question is, “Do you want to provide relief supplies, knowing that a large proportion of it will end up in the hands of the Shabaab?” If you say no, then there is no way of delivering the aid.

[...]

SHORTLAND: That’s right. Or you’re trying to establish a protection protocol. But in general, it’s better for them to take their protection money and not bother anybody. And so, even if you’re working in a country that has an endemic kidnapping problem, it is possible for companies to keep their employees safe from kidnap by making some concession to whoever poses the risks to them.

Stephen DUBNER: When you say, “some concession,” usually in the form of some protection payment, yes?

SHORTLAND: Well, you would frame it in terms of, perhaps, a corporate social responsibility program, or you do a joint venture, or you do some community engagement. There are lots of words for this. The protection contract is implicit. It’s never spelled out. It is through subcontracting. And the more layers you can put between yourself and the warlord, the better this is going to work in terms of being caught by the media. It’s all about plausible deniability.

DUBNER: So, would “tax” be a better word generally?

SHORTLAND: Well, that’s effectively what it is. But if people are not really sure whether the cartel or the rebel group or the insurgents have the capacity to actually kidnap, they might skip a protection payment, which is effectively tax evasion and then they decide that they have to prove that they can do it, and then they will. And in a way, kidnap for ransom is a really good way of backing up that kind of threat because nobody needs to get hurt.

DUBNER: Now, of all the criminal enterprises and cartels and pirates that you’ve researched, how does the Taliban compare in terms of their efficacy and organization and ability to execute these plans?

SHORTLAND: Well, they control a lot of territory. And they use that territory to grow very high-value crops, like drugs. And therefore, they’re very well-resourced. And they also have a certain amount of legitimacy with the people whose territory they control. And therefore, they are very effective at delivering violence and that is and something that the U.S. government has recognized.

PETERS: In percentage, I can tell you that the Taliban were making about 25 percent of their budget in protection payments.

They can be martyrs on any given day, and traitors the next

Sunday, September 27th, 2020

T. R. Fehrenbach explains (in This Kind of War) the Korean character, as he saw it:

The Koreans, North and South, are by any standard a brave people, but they are mercurial, rising one moment to extremes of exaltation, dropping quickly back into despair. They can be martyrs on any given day, and traitors the next. They have been called, not without reason, the Irish of the Orient. And in some cases, not even rigid Communist training, with its denial of basic human nature, can eradicate the nature of the Korean peasant.

When it became daylight, Senior Colonel Lee Hak Ku walked softly up into a small village held by the 8th Cavalry Regiment. Ironically, he had to awaken two sleeping American soldiers carefully in order to surrender. When they took him to the rear, the young, hard, square-faced North Korean was very cooperative with his interrogators.

He supplied them with whatever information they desired about his division. It did not matter, whatever he told them, because the division had been destroyed as a fighting force. Other prisoners, though of lesser rank, had told the same story.

His surrender so impressed General Walker that, when he heard the news, he phoned Tokyo from Taegu. Senior Colonel Lee Hak Ku was the highest-ranking Communist prisoner to be taken by the U.N. during the Korean War.

And in captivity, he would do more damage to the U.N. cause than he had ever accomplished while serving in the Inmun Gun.

The man who asked first got the air support

Friday, September 25th, 2020

When the 38th arrived in Korea, T. R. Fehrenbach explains (in This Kind of War), Peploe abandoned a mountain of baseball bats, footballs, and other peacetime athletic equipment, and marched for the Perimeter, where the front was 30,000 yards, many times what a regiment could hold:

At this time the Air Force was not flying planes out of Korean bases — they had withdrawn their fighter squadrons to Japan. This meant that the supporting aircraft could remain over the front for only limited times — and Peploe figured that the man who asked first got the air support.

The Air liaison officer with the 38th became resigned to being kicked out of the sack an hour before dawn. But when the planes arrived over the Naktong, he was ready with his requests, and the strafing, rocketing, and napalming ahead of the 38th cleared the way for its advance.

[...]

With the fighters spreading havoc ahead of them, Peploe and the 38th suddenly found themselves at the Naktong. All along the roads they had passed abandoned AT guns and enemy dead.

Looking at the wide, twelve-foot-deep Naktong before him, on 18 September Peploe called Lieutenant Colonel Swartz, Division G-3. “Where are the boats?” Swartz said, “There aren’t any boats.”

Peploe ordered Skeldon’s 2/38 to send patrols across the river and to secure a bridgehead on the west bank. A dozen of 2nd Battalion’s hard, eager young men stepped forward, volunteering to swim across and secure the far shore. These men stripped, and under the guns of their comrades went into the muddy brown water. Halfway across, one of the volunteers floundered and had to be rescued by another soldier. Hauled gasping back to the bank, he admitted he didn’t know how to swim.

Moving cautiously along the west bank, the patrol found no enemy. And hidden in a large culvert beside the river, they found a cache of NKPA weapons, several collapsible boats, and one large boat capable of carrying thirty men.

Two squads went across in the two-man rubber reconnaissance boats, while Peploe talked to Division HQ again: “Let me go across in force.”

At noon, Colonel Epley, Division Chief of Staff, gave him permission to cross one battalion.

Within three hours E and F and 2/38 had crossed and had taken the high ground a mile west of the river. Behind them, combat engineers built rafts to float over the heavy weapons, then a bridge for the regiment’s vehicles.

Striking the disorganized enemy by surprise, the advance companies took more than a hundred prisoners, including a major and seven other officers. They also captured more than a hundred tons of ammunition, and many arms.

After an ordeal of six weeks, American forces had at last broken out of the Pusan Perimeter

The Division CG was frequently annoyed because he could not find Peploe in his office or near a phone

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2020

T. R. Fehrenbach describes (in This Kind of War), George B. Peploe, commander of the 38th Infantry:

Peploe felt soldiers should train in peacetime exactly as they trained in wartime. For an army has only two functions, to fight, or to prepare to fight. But Peploe faced the basic problem all officers who thought his way faced in the postwar years — hard, realistic training was unpopular, and it sometimes resulted in injuries.

While everyone admitted realistic training resulted in fewer dead upon the field of battle, a man injured or killed by accident on the training field soon had Congress down about an officer’s ears. And the people up above showed no willingness to back their juniors up. Many a general who would have walked up a hill blazing with enemy fire without thinking twice quailed in his polished boots on the receipt of a congressional letter.

Under the Constitution of the United States, Congress holds the power of life and death over the military, and no one would have it otherwise. History has shown very clearly that for democracy to continue, the people, and not the generals or even the executive authority, must have control over the military. The people must dictate its size, composition, and its use — above all, its use. But control does not imply petty interference.

The problem seems to fall eternally upon the ground forces. While few men, legislators or otherwise, have felt down the years that they could command ships of the line or marshal air armies without specialized training, almost any fool has felt in his heart he could command a regiment.

And throughout history, the men in the ranks have been the ultimate victims of such philosophy. In the eighteenth century, when the British Navy, hard-bitten, professional, and competent, ruled the waves, His Majesty’s regiments — “The thin red line of heroes, led by fools” — left their bones scattered across the world.

In the summer of 1950, while 80 percent of the officers of Peploe’s 38th Infantry had seen combat in World War II, many of his new fillers had never so much as thrown a live grenade. Some of them were not even infantry by branch. Immediately and energetically, Peploe went to work. He put his men in the field, and he was always in the field with them.

The Division CG, General Keiser, was frequently annoyed because he could not find Peploe in his office or near a phone.

The flash from the M72 FFE’s muzzle and back blast is less than that of an M9 pistol

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2020

U.S. Marine Corps’ new anti-tank rocket is its old anti-tank rocket, the M72 Light Assault Weapon (LAW), upgraded to destroy buildings and bunkers:

Equally significant, the M72 Fire From Enclosure (FFE) is designed to be fired from inside buildings, without the flash revealing Marine positions. [...] “When firing at night, the flash from the M72 FFE’s muzzle and back blast is less than that of an M9 pistol. The ability to fire from an enclosed position combined with reduced noise and flash allows Marines to maintain a covered and concealed position, reducing the enemies’ ability to identify the point of origin.”

The M72 FFE will come in two versions. The M72A8 anti-armor round will feature improved armor penetration. The M72A10 multi-purpose round is designed to destroy buildings and bunkers.

“The M72A10 incorporates an advanced warhead design with a multipurpose explosive and a self-discriminating fuse that operates in either fast- or delay-mode based on target construction,” said Richard Dooley, a Marine Corps project officer. “These advancements enable Marines to engage various targets, such as structures, bunkers and enemy personnel.”

The logistic tail continued to wag the fighting dog

Monday, September 21st, 2020

Throughout the war in Korea, T. R. Fehrenbach explains (in This Kind of War), the logistic tail continued to wag the fighting dog:

While certain commanders complained and warned, none ever took any effective steps to amend the front-to-rear ratio, which of course could not be done without drastically altering the logistical practices and standard of living of the United States Army. In fact, as the war progressed, the amount of supplies required to support the American troops increased. PX goods were assigned to every company, creating both a transport problem and a headache for some company officer who had better things to worry about.

Throughout the war, because of the continuing lack of motivation of U.S. personnel, every effort was made to raise morale by the supply of goods and luxuries to the troops. Unit PX’s carried tons of soft drinks and candy bars from battle to battle; they sold watches, cameras, and radios at tax-free prices, though the demand for these always exceeded the supply.

Actually, it was impossible to support overseas combat troops at anything like a decent American standard of living. The very nature and necessities of war forbade it. But every effort was made. Discussing the dozens of ships carrying fresh meats, poultry, and other goods from the States to Korea, one FECOM commander later wrote, “We can never again afford to support troops in battle with such logistic luxury.” But this commander took no steps to halt the trend.

The North Korean High Command concealed word of the landing from their men

Saturday, September 19th, 2020

FECOM hoped that the enemy would be demoralized by the news of the Inchon landing, T. R. Fehrenbach explains (in This Kind of War), but evidence indicates that the North Korean High Command concealed word of the landing from their men fighting on the Naktong:

The NKPA was in far worse condition than American Intelligence dared guess. Enemy losses in early September had been enormous; they will never be known with complete accuracy. Some idea of what was left to the People’s Army in middle September can be gleaned from a captured daily battle report that showed one battalion of the 7th Division at the following strength: 6 officers, 34 N.C.O.’s, 111 privates, armed with 3 pistols, 9 carbines, 57 rifles, and 13 automatic rifles. There were 92 grenades left to the battalion, and 6 light machine guns, with less than 300 rounds of ammunition for each.

All in all, the People’s Army could not have numbered more than 70,000 officers and men by 15 September, of which less than 30 percent were the original veterans of Manchuria and Seoul. Morale among the new inductees was low — only the fact that anyone who showed open reluctance to fight was shot held the army together at all. Almost all divisions were suffering badly from hunger. But the fact that the men of the Inmun Gun knew that their own fanatic officers and N.C.O.’s would shoot them kept the South Korean conscripts from surrendering.

The Navy and Marine Corps had never fully accepted the plan

Thursday, September 17th, 2020

In the summer of 1950, General MacArthur began to think in terms of strategic goals and sweeping maneuver, T. R. Fehrenbach explains (in This Kind of War), rather than grinding infantry warfare across the face of Korea:

Admiral Doyle, who would command the naval forces, told MacArthur, “The operation is not impossible, but I do not recommend it.”

[...]

There were better landing sites in other areas, true, but none that could so quickly pinch the vital nerves of the enemy. MacArthur was willing to take risks, provided the campaign could be brought to a rapid close.

[...]

Whatever the early American participation in the Korean conflict had been, amphibious assault by X Corps was no small operation. It involved more ships and men than most of the island operations of the Pacific War, and it could be accomplished only because of the skills and knowledge acquired by the Navy and Marine Corps during that war.

The Navy and Marine Corps had never fully accepted the plan; yet they carried it out to perfection.

[...]

It had been decided to land a battalion of Marines on Wolmi-do early in the morning; they would secure the island and hold it while the falling tide forced the fleet to retire. Then, in late afternoon, the fleet would surge back into the harbor, throw its landing craft against the sixteen-foot seawalls surrounding the city of a quarter-million people. The amphibious assault could not begin until past 5:00 P.M., when the tide was high enough to float landing craft over the slimy mudbanks of the harbor, and this left the attacking Marines only two hours’ daylight to land and secure their beachhead.

[...]

It took Taplett’s men exactly one hour and twenty-five minutes to overrun and secure the rocky, caverned, 1,000-yard wide island.

The 5th Marine veterans killed or captured some 400 North Koreans of the 226th Independent Marine Regiment on Wolmi-do. They suffered total losses of 17 wounded.

[...]

At 1733 the first landing craft of the 5th Marines grated against the seawall just north of Wolmi-do, near the center of Inch’on. Marines piled over the wall on scaling ladders or poured through holes blown in the barrier by naval gunfire. Within minutes they were in Inch’on’s streets. After a brief, vicious fire fight along the wall, the enemy broke. Twenty minutes after touching shore, a Marine flare ascended into the sky, signaling the capture of Cemetery Hill, an initial objective.

[...]

There had been only 2,000 North Korean troops in the Inch’on area. By 0130 on 16 September, the Marines had completely ringed the city and taken each of their initial objectives. They had lost only 20 killed, 174 wounded, and 1 missing.

[...]

Unfortunately, many of these casualties had been inflicted by trigger-happy naval gunners aboard LST’s, who had fired into the 2/5 Marines.

[...]

While fighting still raged from barricade to barricade, and from street to street inside the Korean capital, MacArthur issued U.N. Command Communiqué Number 9 on 26 September. MacArthur stated that Seoul was recaptured.

[...]

However, for two more days inside the city, from Seoul Middle School to the Kwang Who Moon Circle, from the Circle to the Court of Lions in front of Government House, the Marines had their hands full mopping up. Official communiqués studiously ignored this action.

[...]

MacArthur spoke, briefly for him, but in his usual sonorous and dramatic style:

“Mr. President: By the grace of a merciful Providence our forces fighting under the standard of that greatest hope and inspiration of mankind, United Nations, have liberated this ancient capital city of Korea….”

[...]

Little, stooped, wrinkled Syngman Rhee rose to speak. The man who had spent the greater part of his life in exile, now aging badly but still active and courageous, for a few seconds could not speak for emotion. He held out his hands in front of him, clenching and unclenching his fingers, and blew on their tips. Only those who knew Syngman Rhee well understood why his hands worked when he was under emotional strain — over fifty years before, Japanese officers had tortured him by lighting oil paper pushed up under his fingernails, and had finished by smashing his fingertips one by one.

[...]

Before abandoning the ROK capital, however, the NKPA and Communist officialdom had wreaked a frightful revenge on the helpless bodies of the old men, women, and children of the families of South Korean policemen, government employees, and soldiers. Thousands had been shot or otherwise executed. And from this time forward, learning what had been done in their captured cities and towns, the ROK Army and Government showed no mercy to any Communist, whether NKPA, guerrilla, or sympathizer. To a certain extent, Communist frightfulness was repaid in kind.

ROK officials were adamant in their determination never again to allow a Communist-sympathizing underground to exist in South Korea.

Sustained land warfare is extremely costly in blood

Tuesday, September 15th, 2020

As Americans discovered during 1861–1865, sustained land warfare is extremely costly in blood, T. R. Fehrenbach explains (in This Kind of War), and there has been a pronounced American distaste for such since:

It is probably no accident that no great American tacticians have evolved since the War Between the States, while at the same time American strategical thinking has been superb. Having been once in the forest, United States military men tended to see it rather clearly — they had trouble with the trees, but rarely got lost in them.

During 1941–1945, on the whole, German tactical execution of battle was superior to American; German officers and N.C.O.’s on unit level exhibited particular excellence in fighting. But throughout the war, American strategical planning remained first rate. While the Wehrmacht, under Hitler, floundered about from one crisis to another, American strategists never lost sight of their ultimate goal of destruction of the enemy.

Because Germans considered battle itself important, their technique was bound to be good, but they became lost in the trees, winning battles, losing the war. After the fall of France, Germany’s rulers never gave the Wehrmacht a clear, concise, strategical goal, because German planning never went beyond winning the West.

In the East, German planners again and again wasted their substance on transitory gains, while the Red Army never lost sight of its ultimate aim, which was to win the war politically as well as militarily. Significantly, while in 1942 Hitler struck deep in the Caucasus for oil, Russian military men always planned offensives for political effect, and for the control of populations. And while the Wehrmacht won many a tactical victory on the 1,800-mile Russian front, by 1942 it had no hope of controlling the Russian people, or of ultimate triumph.

Since the end of the Civil War, the United States has never been a massive land power. The ninety-two divisions raised in World War II never came close to matching either the almost four hundred of the Wehrmacht or the truly enormous field forces of the Soviets. But because the United States had Allies, such as Russians and Chinese, to keep the enemy heavily engaged on the ground, it was able to keep its commitment on land to a minimum.

If war is to have any meaning at all, its purpose must be to establish control over peoples and territories, and ultimately, this can be done only as Alexander the Great did it, on the ground. But because after the Civil War America’s Allies again and again took the terrible losses required to bleed the enemy, Americans gradually developed a belief in cheap victory.

In World War I, after Britain had suffered over 900,000 dead, and France more than 1,000,000, the United States threw her forces into the fray, to tip the scales at a loss of 50,000 killed in action.

In World War II, Russia lost more than 20,000,000 both military and civilian. Even agonized, stumbling France, in six weeks of 1940, lost more combat dead upon the field of battle — almost 500,000 — than did America during the entire war.

Without this sacrifice of our Allies all over the world, World War II could not have ended as it did, with the United States relatively unscathed.

More Americans died in thirty minutes at Antietam than died in thirty days of the Normandy beachhead.

But by concentrating to a large degree on sea and air power, the United States was able to add the strategic punch that knocked the Axis out of the war. Japan, particularly, as an island empire was peculiarly vulnerable to air and sea attack. And the main body of the Imperial Japanese Army, on guard against the Soviets in Manchuria, was never engaged by the United States.

It must never be forgotten that without the enormous holding power of American Allies, American industrial capacity of itself would not have been a determining factor. Even in 1944–1945, when the United States Army engaged an already strategically defeated Wehrmacht upon the ground of Europe, the effort strained the relatively small land combat power of America to the limit.

The Americans were just beginning to fight

Sunday, September 13th, 2020

By mid-September the NKPA had over run all South Korea except one tiny toehold in the southeast corner, T. R. Fehrenbach explains (in This Kind of War), but this toehold had given it unexpected trouble:

Its timetable calling for the Communization of all Korea by 15 August had been wrecked. Worse, the Inmun Gun, the People’s Army, had left the bones of its best men scattered along the Naktong River, and the survivors were rapidly bleeding themselves to death against American guns on the broiling hills and in the fetid valleys.

The People’s Army had almost shot its bolt. Less than 30 percent of the old China veterans remained, and these were dirty, tired, hungry, and in rags. Now only frequent summary executions and the threat of death could hold the newly drafted trainees in line.

[...]

The Inmun Gun had made its supreme effort, and failed — and the Americans were just beginning to fight.

He had never seen any troops so inept at first as Americans in battle

Friday, September 11th, 2020

Captain Walker had forty men left in Love Company, and about the same in Item, and no officers, T. R. Fehrenbach explains (in This Kind of War), when he reported Hill 314 secured:

In the first two hours of combat, 3/7 had taken 229 battle casualties.

On the hill Love and Item found more than 200 enemy dead, wearing American uniforms, boots, and helmets, holding American M-1s and carbines. They also found the bodies of four American GI’s, hands bound, shot, and bayoneted. And they found one officer, tied hand and foot, lying charred and blackened beside an empty five-gallon gasoline tin. He had been burned alive by the retreating enemy.

There was no place left to go, and all across the thin Perimeter Line American soldiers were stiffening. Hatred for the enemy was beginning to sear them, burning through their earlier indifference to the war. And everywhere, the first disastrous shock of combat was wearing off. Beaten down and bloody from the hard lessons of war, troops were beginning to listen to their officers, heed what their older sergeants told them.

A man who has seen and smelled his first corpse on the battlefield soon loses his preconceived notions of what the soldier’s trade is all about. He learns how it is in combat, and how it must always be. He becomes a soldier, or he dies.

The men of the 1st Cavalry, the 2nd, 24th, and 25th divisions in Korea were becoming soldiers. For underneath the misconceptions of their society, the softness and mawkishness, the human material was hard and good.

There had been many brave men in the ranks, but they were learning that bravery of itself has little to do with success in battle. On line, most normal men are afraid, have been afraid, or will be afraid. Only when disciplined to obey orders quickly and willingly, can such fear be controlled. Only when superbly trained and conditioned against the shattering experience of war, only knowing almost from rote what to do, can men carry out their tasks come what may. And knowing they are disciplined, trained, and conditioned brings pride to men — pride in their own toughness, their own ability; and this pride will hold them true when all else fails.

[...]

Erwin Rommel had written that he had never seen any troops so inept at first as Americans in battle — or any who learned the hard lessons more quickly once the chips were down.

They could not exploit their local successes

Wednesday, September 9th, 2020

When the North Korean People’s Army made a dramatic breakthrough early in the war, T. R. Fehrenbach explains (in This Kind of War), it revealed what was to be a continuing weakness of the Communist armies in Asia:

They could break through the U.N. lines, but they could not exploit their local successes. With poor communications and even poorer systems of supply, dependent solely upon manpower to move their resupply, the enemy could not move quickly enough to exploit, particularly in the teeth of superior airpower, armor, and artillery. To put it simply, faced with breakthrough, the U.N. forces could retreat, and counterattack faster than the Inmun Gun could press their advantage. Whenever the heavier-armed United States Army could form continuous battle lines and withhold a reserve, the Communist tactics were doomed to failure.

If the NKPA had had a mechanized force capable of moving on Miryang, and an air force able to keep the Fifth Air Force off their backs, their tough and aggressive infantry might easily have split the beachhead and precipitated a U.N. disaster.

The larger strategic goal was to puncture the myth of communist inevitability

Tuesday, September 8th, 2020

I don’t know how I missed this story by Steve Sailer about sci-fi author and polymath Jerry Pournelle:

Back in the mid-1960s, Jerry, his mentor Stefan Possony, and Leka, Pretender to the Throne of Albanian — who, by the way, is seven feet tall — started to organize an invasion of Albania by patriotic exiles to overthrow communist dictator Enver Hoxha.

The larger strategic goal was to puncture the myth of communist inevitability by rolling back one country. Hoxha had alienated the Soviets by denouncing Khrushchev’s 1956 policy of de-Stalinization. And he had earlier broken with Tito’s Yugoslavia, making his nearest ally Red China. So, invading Albania wasn’t likely to start WWIII.

King Constantine II, last King of the Hellenes, lent them his summer palace in Corfu, from which the hills of Albania are visible, as their headquarters.

Their sponsors in the U.S. government didn’t want to be seen providing the crucial air cover needed to allow the invaders to cross the channel from Corfu. And without air cover, it would just be another Bay of Pigs.

So Jerry and Co. persuaded King Hussein of Jordan, who owed a lot of favors to the U.S. and was amenable to liberating his fellow Muslims in Albania from the godless Communist tyranny, to promise his British-built air force would wipe out the 11-airplane Albanian air force on the ground in a surprise attack. Jerry thus spent a lot of time in Jordan training their pilots on how to pull off a sneak attack.

Back in Corfu on June 5, 1967, Jerry was called to the radio to hear the news: the Israelis had pulled off their own sneak attack, wiping out the Egyptian air force, and in the subsequent fighting later that day destroyed most of the Jordanian air force.

So, the liberation of Albania had to be called off.

Decades later, Jerry met the President of Israel, Ezer Weizman, who had been Chief of Operations in the Six Day War. Jerry explained how Weizman had wrecked his invasion of Albania. Weizman exclaimed to the effect that: You were that foreigner who was training the Jordanians how to pull off a sneak attack? We thought you were a Russian training the Jordanians to attack us!

Ben Espen mentioned the story in his review of Pournelle’s first novel, Red Heroin, a thriller written under the pen name Wade Curtis.

Saving lives obviously had preference

Monday, September 7th, 2020

The American way of street and town fighting, T. R. Fehrenbach explains (in This Kind of War), did not resemble that of other armies:

To Americans, flesh and blood and lives have always been more precious than sticks and stones, however assembled. An American commander, faced with taking the Louvre from a defending enemy, unquestionably would blow it apart or burn it down without hesitation if such would save the life of one of his men. And he would be acting in complete accord with American ideals and ethics in doing so. Already, in the Korean War, American units were proceeding to destroy utterly enemy-held towns and villages rather than engage in the costly business of reducing them block by block with men and bayonets, as did European armies. If bombing and artillery would save lives, even though they destroyed sites of beauty and history, saving lives obviously had preference. And already foreign observers with the United States Army — not ROK’s — were beginning to criticize such tactics.

Observers from France and Britain, realizing that war was also highly possible in their own part of the world, were disturbed at the thought of a ground defense of their homelands. For the United States Army, according to its history and doctrine, would choose the lives of its men over the continued existence of storied cathedrals. These observers wrote news releases — and soon Frank Muñoz could get no artillery on the enemy assembling in plain sight in the villages below him. When he asked Battalion to fire on the village, and burn it down, Battalion replied it could not. Fortunately, such orders in Korea were soon changed.

I saw an opportunity and I took it

Sunday, September 6th, 2020

Officer Ellifritz got a call about a stolen bicycle:

While I was speaking with my prisoner during the arrest process, I recognized that most of you will never be in such a position to talk candidly with a thief (who also had past arrests for felonious assault, kidnapping, rape, and a host of other crimes). Since I get this “honor” quite regularly, I’m happy to share the what I learn with you all.

Our thief today is homeless. He’s 32 years old and overweight. He’s a regular consumer of crack cocaine. He has no job and no place to live. He sometimes stays at friends’ apartments, but his permanent address is a local homeless shelter. The sum total of his possessions consisted of a change of clothes, a broken phone, and less than $4 cash.

When I asked the man why he stole the bike, his comment was enlightening:

“I took it because I have the chance to stay at my friend’s place tonight instead of the shelter. My friend lives in (the next town over) and it would be about a four hour walk to get there. It rained all day yesterday and it looks like it’s going to rain some more today. I just didn’t want to spend four hours walking in the fucking rain and getting soaking wet again. I figured a bike would be faster.”

He continued by saying: “I knew it was wrong to steal the bike, but I just don’t care. I didn’t want to get wet no more. I saw an opportunity and I took it. I’d do the same thing all over again if I got the chance. Biking is just faster than walking.”

The guy wasn’t rude or trying to play the role of a badass. He was just describing the daily realities for someone who lives in a world very different from the one in which you and I reside.

He wasn’t mentally ill. He knew right from wrong. But he had absolutely no remorse about taking a bike from some girl who probably needs it as just badly as he did. The thought of what the victim would experience didn’t even register in his mind. He “saw an opportunity” and took it. He took a college girl’s only means of transportation, because he didn’t want to be inconvenienced by a long walk.

This is what most folks don’t understand about serious criminals. The fact that the victim of the crime would be affected in a negative manner is not even an afterthought. Your feelings and concerns mean absolutely NOTHING to the criminal. He doesn’t care if you live or die, let alone how “inconvenienced” you will be if he takes all of your stuff or beats you within an inch of your life. If you literally had ZERO concern about the well being of your neighbors and fellow humans, what kind of atrocities would you be capable of committing? That’s something that few people consider.