Kicking The Habit

Right now, anyone within five feet of me would know that I’m trying to give up tobacco.  It’s not pretty.  I can’t sit still, my head is continuously pounding, and even the nicest greeting I take and treat as though it were a direct and personal insult of my mother.

And still, I think I might be doing at least a little better than the Government is doing on Blackwater.

The good news is that, as reported at TPM, “The State Department may phase out or limit the use of private security guards in Iraq, which could mean canceling Blackwater USA’s contract or awarding it to another company in line with an Iraqi government demand, The Associated Press has learned.”

Hooray!  Let’s finally cut down on some of that privatization of the military.  You know how I feel about this stuff, I get really apprehensive about private military organizations because they aren’t under the jurisdiction of the UCMJ, or, as it turns out for companies such as Blackwater, under the jurisdiction of, well, anyone.

Now for the Bad News.  Don’t get your hopes up.  This is all just maybe, and the State Department freely admits that they really have no clue what they’ll do if they have to drop Blackwater.  There’s the idea of training Iraqis, but we’ve had problems with that one in the past.  Or… how about… wait for it… we hire on Blackwater as official temporary employees because that won’t cause any problems at all.

In truth, what I think we are seeing is little more than the State and Defense department going through a significant nic fit…  Smokers, you know EXACTLY what I’m talking about.  That whole self loathing, I don’t want another cigarette, I don’t need another cigarette, aw crap just one more and then I SWEAR I’ll quit.  Next thing you know, you’re up to two packs a day and shooting innocent Iraqis without provocation.


P. W. Singer, writing for the Brookings Institute, has an absolute must read about the addictive habit of Blackwater et al (h/t Abu Aardvark).

Our military outsourcing has become an addiction that is quickly spiraling to a breakdown. Many of those vested in the system, both public and private leaders, will try to convince us to ignore this cycle.  They will describe such evident pattern of incidents as “mere anomalies,” portray private firms outside the chain of command as somehow “part of the total force,” or claim that “We have no other choice.” These are the denials of pushers, enablers, and addicts. Only an open and honest intervention, a step back from the precipice of over-outsourcing, can break us out of the vicious cycle into which we have locked our national security.

And in case you’re wondering, this is what should probably be on the Surgeon General’s warning:

Allows policymakers to dodge key decisions that

carry political costs, thus leading to operational

choices that might not reflect public interest. The

Abrams Doctrine, which has stood since the

start of the all-volunteer force in the wake of

Vietnam, has been outsourced.

Enables a “bigger is better” approach to operations

that runs contrary to the best lessons of U.S.

military strategy. Turning logistics and operations

into a for-profit endeavor helped feed the

“Green Zone” mentality problem of sprawling

bases, which runs counter everything General

Petraeus pointed to as necessary to winning a

counterinsurgency in the new Army/USMC

manual he helped write.

Inflames popular opinion against, rather than

for, the American mission through operational

practices that ignore the fundamental lessons of

counterinsurgency. As one set of contractors

described. “Our mission is to protect the principal

at all costs. If that means pissing off the

Iraqis, too bad.”

Participated in a series of abuses that have undermined

efforts at winning “hearts and minds”

of the Iraqi people. The pattern of contractor

misconduct extends back to 2003 and has

involved everything from prisoner abuse and

“joyride” shootings of civilians to a reported

incident in which a drunken Blackwater contractor

shot dead the security guard of the

Iraqi Vice President after the two got into an

argument on Christmas Eve, 2006.

Weakened American efforts in the “war ofideas” both inside Iraq and beyond. As one

Iraqi government official explained even before

the recent shootings. “They are part of

the reason for all the hatred that is directed

at Americans, because people don’t know

them as Blackwater, they know them only as

Americans. They are planting hatred, because

of these irresponsible acts.”

Reveals a double standard towards Iraqi civilian

institutions that undermines efforts to build up

these very same institutions, another key lesson of

counterinsurgency. As one Iraqi soldier said of

Blackwater. “They are more powerful than the

government. No one can try them. Where is

the government in this?”

Forced policymakers to jettison strategies designed

to win the counterinsurgency on multiple occasions,

before they even had a chance to succeed.

The U.S. Marine plan for counterinsurgency

in the Sunni Triangle was never implemented,

because of uncoordinated contractor decisions

in 2004 that helped turn Fallujah into a rallying

point of the insurgency. More recently,

while U.S. government leaders had planned to

press the Iraqi government on needed action on

post-“surge” political benchmarks, instead they

are now having to request Iraqi help in cleaning

up the aftermath of the Blackwater incident.

You truly should read the whole thing.

As for what will happen next, I can’t tell you for sure, but I have a feeling it’s going to contain more denial, more promises of quitting, and a whole lot more falling off the wagon.  Trust me, I know a little something about addiction.

4 Responses to “Kicking The Habit”

  1. I was going to say sorry for not being around the past week and a half but since you are in quitting smoking mode…



    No man, it’s cool, when you coming back?

  3. Oh, and a little, hint, I plan on failing my whole quitting in about twenty minutes.

  4. Good to know I am missed. I just sent you an email, check it.

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