Risky Russians

Its rather impressive how consistent the Russian leadership is – in whatever political form it assumes,  Czarist, Communist, Putin era Oligarchism etc.  They may not be entirely predictable – other than in Eastern Europe where they constantly return to the same tactics fielded post WWII – but in terms of covert action, they have always followed a higher risk path than that of the United States.

One example of their risk tolerance  is their pattern of equipping their surrogates with more advanced weaponry.  Putting tactical nuclear missile launchers into Cuba, along with extremely advanced air defense systems tends to get less attention than the IRBM’s shipped there during the Cuban missile crisis. However it was the advanced anti aircraft missiles shoot down of an American U-2 which came just short of triggering the American air strikes that could have kicked off a far larger combat.  And the shoot down was actually offered by Soviet military officers in the field.

A few years later the Soviets were fully prepared to ship nuclear weapons to Egypt, which might well have resulted in the first actual nuclear exchange – between Egypt and Israel.

Never bashful to ship advanced weaponry, the Russians sent advanced missile artillery to Angola  and its surrogates used it to smash the American sponsored forces there.  The US had nothing comparable and held back from supplying equivalent weapons due to concerns of showing its hand in the conflict.  That has never been a problem for the Russians.  With all parties feigning neutrality in Laos, the Soviets shipped in tanks, heavy artillery and ran a large scale airlift operation. The United States responded with lesser weapons and more air strikes, by American pilots.  Great efforts were made to capture Soviet and Chinese advisers…as well as North Vietnamese fighting in Laos.  However when equipment or personnel was taken, the Soviets simply stonewalled – saying nothing.

The Soviet Union deployed all its weapons to Afghanistan, indeed there is good evidence that their combined field units took mobile atomic missile launchers along with them – which is their standard practice actually

Its the same thing we see today in the Ukraine,  Putin has no qualms about sending in advanced weapons and barely disguised Russian military – but when caught red handed, he just shuts up.  It really is impossible to embarrass the Russians into cooperation.  They practice deniablity with no guilt whatsoever.  Which is actually far less expensive and far more effective than the United States has done in the past, but a bit more like we are doing it in Yemen and elsewhere in current insurgency activities.  Still, on the occasion when we get caught, we do tend to at least apologize – not something you are going to see from Putin unless he really breaks pattern.

Taking Requests

As I mentioned in my last post I’ve completed the basic draft of the manuscript for my next book and will turn to the standard continuity rework of the whole thing …..chapter by chapter.  But after spending some intense time on both 9/11 and Benghazi I need a bit of a break before starting again all the way back at Pearl Harbor.  Its work that needs to be done before it goes to the first editor but I’d like to easy back into it. I’d still love to see some questions or comments about Shadow Warfare, we know its selling and given its somewhat controversial content I’m surprised to have received no comments here.

I have recently taken a few JFK related questions elsewhere and one of the things that keeps coming up is that people ask me why I didn’t cover certain topics or more particularly certain people in the SWHT or NEXUS.  In some cases such as the Chicago incident with Thomas Vallee, that was covered in detail in November Patriots, my first book – which is now out of print.   In other instances such as Thomas Beckham, Fred Crisman, and a slew of others – well I didn’t miss them and in some cases spent months or years researching them only to find them or their stories not solid enough to go in my books.

So, for a limited time only – about two weeks – as I’m gathering my energy to plunge back into the book in writing, if you have a question about a JFK related person, post it here and I’ll give you a top of the head assessment.  About anything is fair game except questions of who shot from where since I don’t pretend to know that sort of detail.  I’ll either give you a reply here if the item is not in my books or tell you where to look if it is…

Limited time offer – questions on the JFK conspiracy (or RFK for that matter) – good to the end of July…. no refunds, no money back…     Larry

 

 

Task Force Update

Well if anyone reading this has actually made it to the end of Shadow Warfare, you know that one of the things we tried to do was to outline the emergence of the Joint Special Operations Task Forces, their roles in the  counter-terror effort following 9/11 and at least some insight into where they operate, and what they do.

One of the first groups to go into the field was the Joint Special Operations Task Force for the Philippines (JSOTF-P).   Most people are aware that the majority of the 9/11 terrorists were out of Saudi Arabia and had trained in Afghanistan. Fewer are aware that they were operationally directed by individuals who had been very involved in setting up al Qaeda initiatives in Yemen, Indonesia and the Philippines.  The Philippines task force has been one of the most successful counter insurgency operations on record – to a large extent because the Philippines government got behind the effort and took a number of significant steps to make itself more trusted and more of a resource in the areas where the insurgents were operating.  In fact the effort has been successful enough that the southern campaign has been declared a success and JSOTF  Philippines is now moving from an operational role to a strictly advisory function.  By 2015 the Task Force will be disbanded and the remaining American military personnel assigned to a military advisory role.

This is a pretty notable success because the Philippines insurgency had been growing and raising a good deal of money through kidnapping and hostage taking.  Unfortunately the other Task Forces  – Horn of Africa and Trans Sahara – are having much tougher going.  As it always is, if the government they are working with is not in touch with its people, has “abandoned” regions, is largely focused in the region of the capital and above all develops a reputation for skimming its countries money – counter insurgency just does not work until that government changes. Right now Yemen in Horn of Africa and both Mali and Nigeria in Trans Sahara are in just that situation.  Its always a real trap for the United States and we have lost way to many service people trying to hold up governments which didn’t deserve it.  The link to this article on the Nigerian Army shows the considerable challenge in trying to assist its army with any task:

View story at Medium.com

Currently Washington is acting more pragmatically - and a lot less knee jerk like - than it has in the past.  Either sending very limited numbers of personnel or literally laying the cards on the table for the regimes involved.  Its a level of pragmatism we haven't seen since JFK started to lay down the law to the leadership in Saigon....only to be succeeded by that ultimate knee jerk politician - "if its good for the next election its good for me"  LBJ.   I suppose I shouldn't say ultimate, he certainly has company in that class.

But speaking a bit more about Task Forces, I've just finished by Benghazi writing in my newest manuscript  -  which has received tentative acceptance for publication - which deals with surprise attacks on America.  Its amazing what is in the actual data on Benghazi that has not been discussed in the media,  and how much of what has been in the press has proved to be just flat wrong (or misunderstood if you wish to be charitable).  In any event, we have know for some time that there was evidence of heavy CIA operations in Libya. Interestingly I find that not only was the Annex admittedly a CIA operations base (not a CIA station mind you but a clandestine ops facility with a Chief of Base - think Laos, Pakse and David Morales).   But beyond that the reports indicate that DOD  but not AFRICOM  was aware of the CIA Annex. Even more interestingly, there were Task Force Trans-Sahara military personnel stationed in Tripoli.  Its beginning more and more clear what the unarmed Predators were doing flying over far eastern Libya at the time of the attack, long after the NATO military operations were long over.  Think weapons convoys.

Forward Leaning

It’s really going to be a challenge to come up with the right phrases to describe the military confrontations that characterize the first half of the 21st Century.  The 20th Century was simple, you had World Wars, theaters of operation, etc.  You had the Cold War, which was a lot hotter than most folks realized at the time – that’s in my next book – and you had the undeclared warfare described in Shadow Warfare. But what do we call what’s happening now?   We have Putin reasserting a nationalist confrontation with the West, and even scarier some far right Russian types who appear to be pure racist Russo-Fascist and who want to see America destroyed to protest Russia (they also want Russian ethnic cleansing,  it all sounds revoltingly familiar).   You have Access Denial issues in the Pacific and the seemingly irrational North Korean leadership. Many of the old school military elements of the Cold War are resurfacing,  but with new missions.  Its striking to see a Cold War era B-52 in a maritime interdiction role in the western pacific, flying escort for a Navy carrier group.

And what are we going to do about al Qaeda, and ISIS which this week is now just IS and is building a new denied area all to itself.  In Shadow Warfare we predicted that one wave of the future was going to be the growth of military assistance missions, not large scale but relatively small scale missions to help any government in Asia or Africa threatened by Jihad insurgency.  That’s one prediction that seems to be pretty much right on and this week we see military missions returning to Baghdad – and soon to Kurdistan.  It all has the look and feel of the 20th Century American response to what was perceived as the global Communist conspiracy.  Perhaps it should, and in fact there may be a lot more reality to the national security threat of the radical jihadi ideology/religion than there ever truly was from a global communist movement – much of which was actually nationalism in action rather than true revolutionary Marxism.

I still don’t know what to call any of these various confrontations and conflicts but they are out there and very real.  If  you want to see the most current military assistance groups now forming, check out the following link, at least the geography will be familiar.

View story at Medium.com

 

 

Other Boots on the Ground Ch 25

If you don’t yet have “Shadow Warfare” and want to get a bit more of a feel for it, the editorial staff at Russ Baker’s news outlet have written about it a bit and with permission have posted all of Chapter 25. Thad chapter addresses what happens when you start to “prioritize” covert warfare. And as you will see if we ever get my next book out,  when you take professional military folks out of military actions – like say the defense of the country in 2001 – and hand it over to private companies, or agencies like the FAA or the State Department and their “managers”, well it can have a real downside.

If you would like to read the full chapter its online at the following link:

http://whowhatwhy.com/2014/06/22/from-soldier-of-fortune-to-contractor-the-american-shadow-warriors-evolution/

 

 

 

 

Where the Benghazi hearings won’t go

Russ Baker was good enough to use a short essay I provided  on the new Benghazi hearings in his news columns and I thought blog readers might find it interesting.  You can find it at the link below:

http://whowhatwhy.com/2014/06/11/where-congress-wont-tread-in-benghazi-hearings/

Those of you who may be reading Shadow Warfare will find the Benghazi hearings all too familiar by this point, if you are not reading it and are old enough – recall the Congressional response to the exposure of massive military operations in Laos and Cambodia, shock and outrage…..except of course it was all for show.

– Larry

 

Boots on the Ground in Africa

First, my apologies for not posting here much recently.  I’d deep into the final sections of my next book, at the moment dealing with both the failures in interdiction and failures in response during the attacks on America in 2001. As you can understand, its a big subject, there are tons of sources – some more than a little contradictory – and its taking a good bit of time to wrap my head around how to properly explore the subject in the broader historical context of surprise attacks.  I think it will be worth it though, lots of lessons to be learned, but it takes a lot of my limited concentration.

I’d hope to get some discussion going here on Shadow Warfare but either nobody has actually read it – or finished it – or they are in information overload.  I know its sold a few thousand copies and its made it into about 250 libraries, including some important military schools, in the first three months so perhaps some comment will show up soon.

In the interim, I thought I would bring your attention to some current shadow warfare events in Africa, many of which are a projection of the trends we identified in Shadow Warfare. Africa is definitely going to be the next arena of counter-insurgency, just as Syria will be for clandestine operations and the Western Pacific will be for access denial.  African counter-insurgency poses the same risk for getting into deep with sustaining essentially insupportable regimes – corrupt and dictatorial – that the United States fell into in Latin America in the 70/80′s.  The interesting thing is, this time its not just the United States that is exposed to that risk, its France, and China.  Yes, China.  China’s low profile involvement in Africa has escaped a lot of discussion but its there and growing.  For those interested in the developing story of new boots on the ground in Africa, I would recommend the following:

View story at Medium.com

View story at Medium.com

Boko Haram and the Girls – The Larger Story

It’s hard to find the larger story in most of what is being written about the current kidnap and rescue operations in Nigeria. There is even little backstory connecting the Nigerian experience to the major news stories of Islamic insurgency in Mali and Algeria less than a year ago.
The Nigerian tragedy is being covered largely in terms of an ineffectual and corrupt central government, misusing its huge oil revenues, leaving its northern region in poverty and chaos, receptive to any alternative to a negligent central government and open to a brutal insurgency – one growing stronger and accumulating enough power to attack at will, even in the nation’s capital. Other than the issue of Nigerian oil, the exactly the same could have been written about Mali in 2013, leading up to international intervention to drive the insurgency back from its advance on the capital.
One of the few indications there is a larger story can be found in minor references to the fact that the kidnapped girls have been divided into smaller groups and taken across the Nigerian border into Chad, Niger and Cameroon. Another is that the current Boko Haram leader is a Sharia law student, having studied at the Borno State College of Islamic and Legal and Islamic Studies. The college played a major role in supporting the adoption of the Sharia penal code in Nigeria’s northern states beginning in 1999. The larger story is that there had been a radicalization of Islam across all of northern Africa, that radicalization has created a loose network of groups with the common goal of replacing each nation’s relatively open and loosely enforced system of Sharia law with a much more conservative and aggressively enforced legal system – comparable to the strict enforcement found in such Arab countries as Saudi Arabia.
Two factors have rapidly accelerated the growth and networking of these groups. The first has been the very well-funded work of Muslim non-governmental organizations such as the World Muslim League, the World Assembly for Muslim Youth and the Federation of Islamic Schools. Many of the North African schools have been staffed with extremely puritanical African Muslim, trained in the Middle East – often supported by extensive scholarship programs. The second was the very early, equally well funded outreach begun by Osama bin Laden, first working out of the Sudan. His efforts included a well-organized effort to “seed” radical organizers across North Africa, supplementing them with experienced fighters and arms smugglers – such experience being greatly desired by all the nascent insurgencies. His first targets included the more northern states such as Libya and Egypt but also included Somalia, demonstrating his understanding of the opportunity for a pan-African radical movement.
The larger story is also one of a loosely networked pan-Africa insurgency, one in which Al Qaeda itself had been subsumed into a much broader threat to a host of established regimes. Many of those regimes would be objectively considered as either corrupt or at best little concerned with their more remote and poverty stricken territories. With money from wealthy, fundamentalist sponsors on the Arabian Peninsula, with major opportunities for self-funding though extortion, kidnapping and human trafficking, and with the religious fervor of their cause, the insurgencies have become a multi-national threat to regimes from Somalia in the Horn of Africa, across Chad and Nigeria and westward to Mali, Mauritania and Algeria. The radical Islamic insurgency has evolved to become literally an international security threat – and the international community is responding. The underlying problem with that response is that it may put nations such as the United States, France and Britain in the position of providing military assistance to corrupt and essentially dictatorial governments – in the same fashion that those same nations often came to the assistance of brutal dictatorships facing communist insurgencies during the Cold War. The United States has more than a little of such bad experiences, in Shadow Warfare we explore the ramifications of military assistance and counter insurgency involvement with a number of Latin American dictatorships, especially those in the Southern Cone during the genesis of the Condor program.
For those wishing to explore current events in Africa in more depth than the current media treatment, I recommend the following War is Boring essay – the United States is going to have to tread the same fine line the French are facing.

View story at Medium.com

Governance

I hope anyone who listened to the Leonard Lopate interview enjoyed it – I continue to do more radio interviews with a two hour session tonight. Two hour interviews can get a bit tiring but hosts that do them are usually pretty lively and the discussion is broad so that helps.

Mr. Lopate asked some excellent questions and it was challenging to keep on top of them, dealing with deep questions in a span of 40 minutes is almost as much of a challenge as a two hour session.  In responding to his questions I realized that while potential readers may view Shadow Warfare as a tutorial on covert operations – which it is – or as a weighty “tome” on the history of the evolution of clandestine action – which it is – that most would not think of it in terms of a political commentary. Of course knowing that my co-author is a political science and government teacher, just finishing up his Masters work, you might suspect that links between deniable action and “governance” might creep into a 600 page book.

Well they do, but not unintentionally.  One of our goals for the book is to examine how the practice of deniable military action is linked to the American political system, not just in terms of the politics and personalities of the presidents who turn to it, and the trusted advisers who advocate it and persuade them to go covert, but in terms of the broader system.  As things turned out, our focus on covert warfare offers a large number of insights into our our three part system of governance works events are occurring outside of the public’s view.  Those insights are not especially comforting. One thing that becomes crystal clear is that the national security is brandished as a political weapon by all political parties and virtually all politicians far beyond the realm of logic or actual data. Perhaps my favorite is the speech by a Texas Congressman advocating the overthrow of a progressive but elected president in Guatemala becasue his land reform initiatives clearly suggested that the end result would be bombers attacking the oil refinements in his district; he was from Houston.   I assume he meant Soviet bombers since Guatemala had none itself.   Awarding him the lead in such things is difficult because there is strong competition, such as Henry Kissinger s remark that a country ought not be allowed to go Communist simply becasue its citizens voted for for it and were obviously too ill informed or just plain stupid to take care of themselves (Henry was exaggerating a bit there, again the country in question was leaning slightly socialist at most). Then again Henry has always been a person who felt he knew what was best, geopolitics being ascendent and collateral damage not being a primary concern.

After examining some 70 years of covert action, it becomes pretty clear that its largely driven by an administration’s calculus that it cannot build a case to take to Congress which would lead to anything other than a political fire storm.  That makes some sense given that national security is probably the most frequent challenge offered by either party against the sitting administration. In a rather strange fashion this often severely constrains administrations in terms of their political response, simply because they cannot talk about the real state of national security without compromising projects or intelligence. In some instances, if they do try to do so confidentially, history shows that the Congressmen involved are not unknown to use that information for political purposes as opportunity permits. The reality of the situation is that presidents tend to isolate themselves – and become isolated by Congress – on national security issues simply because the subject is so commonly used for political jousting.  Perhaps the most dramatic example of this I’m now aware of comes from my current book in progress rather than Shadow Warfare – where the Eisenhower Administration was literally forced to continue a huge bomber building program and an even more expensive air defense effort when it knew that the presumed “bomber gap” with the Soviet Union did not exist.  Ike’s choices were either to expose the nations dramatic new intelligence assets or to let his administration be battered for being weak on air defense, he was basically forced into military spending he knew was not truly justified by reality. But to

While the issue of national security political gamesmanship may not surprise anyone today, I suspect the number of actual incidents we detail in Shadow Warfare will.  But for those not surprised by the linkage between national security, Congressional hypocrisy and administration  excess (Iran-Contra being only one example of that) perhaps the level of compromise of the third element of our system of governance, the legal element, may be a bit of a shock. Basically it all comes back to the national security acts of the late 1940′s and early 1950′s, the acts which restructured the military, created new intelligence agencies and which produced the legal code required to make a great number of actions that were illegal under civil code, legal for the intelligence agencies.   The fact that the personnel of an intelligence agency, as fundamental to their primary mission, had to have legal protection for acts – carried out while the nation was not in a state of war – ranging from burglary, kidnapping and theft up to murder placed had the overall legal system in a real quandary.  The decision that protection of sources and methods might override even legal violations of employees – doing things not approved by the mission – had to override legal prosecutions stretched it even further. And its possible to argue that the decision that protecting non-employees – assets, informants, surrogates – from prosecution for illegal activities, in the name of national security and to protect sources and methods, may well have stretched it past breaking.

Beyond that, the fact that Congress itself has not revisited the national security act of 1947, and the fact that it refuses to pursue legal challenges to a number of questionable opinions on national security matters provided by the staff of various Attorney’s General, says a great deal about the state of current governance. So does the fact that the only fundamental legislation ever passed to restrict deniable action merely calls on the President to inform Congress of the action speaks to itself. That leaves Congress in the enviable state of being able to simply sit and wait until the action goes wrong, using it as political fodder, or to quietly leak it to the media, hoping for political points on the front end.  Not that Congress ever leads national security or intelligence information….

But enough of that, if  you have the book this will all become clear – I hope – and I need to rest for that two hour interview,    Larry

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NPR podcast on Monday

Hi folks, just wanted to let everyone know that Stu and I will be on the Leonard Lopate show tomorrow, Monday May 5th.  The show airs at 11 am Central time but will be archived as well.  You can access the broadcast though the following options:

http://www.npr.org/rss/podcast/podcast_detail.php?siteId=123970455

It should be interesting, Mr. Lopate covers a broad range of topics including writer and author interviews and the dialog will likely be broader than my more recent interviews which have generally been with hosts very much  focused on covert and clandestine operations.

I haven’t seen any posts here from readers of Shadow Warfare, perhaps its too early – after all it is a 600 page book.

Shadow Warfare has done well in library sales and at retail but not nearly well enough in Amazon sales – not sure why.  Given how much time went into digging out the actual details of intelligence agency operations, especially those of the Plans and Operations folks, I would have expected more people wanting to dig into that area.  Its also surprising that there seems to be little media interest in the deep background of contemporary covert and special operations, including those in the war on terror (now in transition from being referred to as overseas contingency operations to a variety of ops using “shield
in their descriptor).   I suppose I shouldn’t be too frustrated though.  In Shadow Warfare we present a Benghazi scenario relating covert Libyan activities to Syria.  A couple of months ago Seymour Hersh did much the same thing and drew virtually no comment.  Given his history and reputation, if he gets ignored I don’t feel too bad.  It appears various political agendas hold sway over that subject.

Enough author whining, I hope you find tomorrow’s interview interesting if you decide to listen in….   Larry