Ghost Wars

It only took me about three months but I have finally finished the 600-page book Ghost Wars, about events in Afghanistan and Pakistan leading up to 9/11. My favorite paragraph:

The [CIA] sent out a team of mechanics knowledgeable about Russian helicopters to try to resolve the [helicopter mechanical issue]. Massoud’s men took them to their Dushanbe airfield and opened up one of the Mi-17s. The CIA mechanics were stunned: Massoud had managed to patch an engine originally made for a Hind attack helicopter into the bay of the Mi-17 transport. It was a mis-matched, gum-and-baling-wire machine, a flying miracle. The CIA mechanics were so appalled that they did not even want Massoud’s pilots to fire up the helicopter’s rotors. They were afraid the whole thing would come apart and send shrapnel flying.

The freedom fighter leadership would fly in these helicopters.

I still find it amazing that one man who traveled in SUV caravans in third-world countries continues to stymie the most power empire in the history of the world. The book, which I highly recommend, lays the groundwork for how this all came to be. Reading it has been the biggest commitment I made all year.

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E :)
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I read that book about a year ago. It’s really heavy going, but definitely worth the read.

Jay Gatsby
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What you excerpted is the way every “start-up” operates, and for the most part, many large enterprises as well — but not for the same reason. In the case of the former, the old duct tape and bailing wire approach is the only viable method of remaining in the fight, while in the case of the former, Rube Goldberg schemes are simply a function of incompetence and laziness. Look at your company and ask yourself into which category it falls. Then ask yourself whether you still want to be working there five years from now.

Anonymous
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For someone who’s supposedly “wordly”, I find this troubling. If you’re reading this now, you’re way behind the power curve. Next you’ll be recommending a book on Chinese occupation of Tibet. I’d say, stick to cooking chicken breasts, leave the heavy lifting to the likes of Jay Gatsby, etc.

Jinxy
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Read THIS article from the Economist about the ancient tribal code of the Pashtuns and you’ll have an idea of why it’s so difficult to find UBL.

Anonymous
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Why do you find it so amazing?

One read of Star Wars, Episode IV, and it ain’t brain surgery.

Peter
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yeah – some dude in a cave pulled off 9/11, and the u.s. is actually trying to capture or kill said dude. ok.

interested in a bridge?

i mean, i guess i’m trying to earn a phd. – on some level – but it doesn’t feel like all that serious an effort, given that i’m prone to drinking heavily and surfing the internets. so, i guess you could say the u.s. government is hunting for bin laden.

and most honest people today will readily acknowledge the fact that Bush decided to _not_ capture bin laden in afghanistan, instead focussing on his conquest of iraq. fine. that was a conscious decision on his part – on the part of the u.s. goverment – to _not_ capture bin laden. fine. you may disagree with the decision, but it was made.

as for why it’d be extremely harmful to this country’s owners to actually capture bin laden, you have to remember that when the wall came down in germany, the final facade of the ‘cold war’ nonsense came crashing down. all of a sudden, there was no more evil empire, and the entire military-industrial-congressional complex had to justify its existence. the wsj talked about the ‘unsettling specter of peace’ (http://www.zmag.org/Chomsky/dd/dd-c04-s01.html). if you catch bin laden, you bring the whole charade down. we’d be building schools in america instead of iraq, and all those military folks would have nothing to do but pick their arses, retire early, etc. they’re all their own little napoleans – take away their military/funding and you take away their power – they’re not going to go out like that.

none of this is a new concept:
http://www.sonyclassics.com/whywefight/

just follow the language. that’s why this terror thing is a ‘network of networks’, so if the u.s. gubment accidentally catches this bin laden cia guy, they’ll have some other propaganda to spit at us. they’ll throw some ‘freeing the world’ nonsense at us, followed by ‘Iran is really dangerous – seriously’ stuff, and maybe a little ‘China is like, really really bad, or something’, etc. It doesn’t matter who – they just need anything to latch onto – something to get the chattering heads something to talk about and defend – keep us amurkans scared and keep those military dollars rolling in, that pentagon budget expanding.

fun:
http://www.endofworld.net/

the power of nightmares:
http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-1002626006461047517&q=power+of+nightmares

and read some bovard – he can put it down:
http://www.jimbovard.com/

Colonel Kurtz
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You guys don’t think Bush/Rethuglicans would allow Bin Laden to escape so that he could use him as a tool to keep people in fear and gain votes for elections do you???????? You guys don’t think they invaded Iraq, a country that has absolutely nothing but guns and oil, that could team up with Halliburton/Kellog Brown Root and help beef up their investment portfolio’s do you??????

Anonymous
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It’s just a matter of unbending intent and selfless dedication fueled by religious fervor in Afghanistans case. Similar “low tech” drove the US out of Vietnam with an enemy there strongly united by need for revolution.

Jay Gatsby
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Ack, nothing like finding a typo in a post. I meant “in the case of the latter”. As for what Anonymous said, Roosh just needs to update his reading list a bit more often. At least he’s reading, so you have to give him credit for that.

Jinxy
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Uh oh. Looks like Peter drank the Koo Koo Kool Aid.

Jewcano
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One 600 page book is the biggest commitment you’ve made all year? Dude, it’s December. And don’t let the fluffy text fool you; bailing wire and gum hold most of our military gear together (my attack sub was pretty heavy with nuclear-grade duct tape.) Oh, and to risk having the dorkiest post ever on this site, the Mi-24 and the Mi-17 have the same damned engine. It doesn’t take 5 minutes of the google to fact-check that one. Books with political agendas like that tend to be written by boobs.

Greg
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Peter, for someone who’s supposedly well-educated, you use juvenile logic to arrive at an unrealistically tidy answer. There isn’t some grand conspiracy to perpetuate an enemy, there really are people out there who want you dead and they’re pretty resourceful in avoiding the same fate for themselves.

Greg
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PS That movie you linked to looks interesting, I just added it to my Netflix cue. While I’m interested in looking at the facts of the matter myself, it seems the movie criticizes our rather large investment in defense. I wonder if the movie tests the hypothesis that it is precisely because we invest so much in defense that war is a relatively minor, regional affair these days. With us as a global hegemon with supremacy of military strength, we’ve structured the geopolitical system ensure no true large-scale conflict will happen. Massive wars such as WWI and II with mass casualties cannot happen today. While it’s regrettable we must make such a bargain, I’d take minor regional conflicts over massive world wars and I think you would too.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking there’s a “right” and “wrong” answer for everything, but reality works differently. Usually one has to take the lesser of two evils. I’d rather we were the kids who ran the classroom, with all the responsibilities and burdens that entails, than the kid with the short man’s complex (Ahmandinejad) or the chubby kid who eats his boogers (Kim).

Sean
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“Books with political agendas like that tend to be written by boobs.”

Jewcano, Roosh has never grasped that concept. He probably spends hours at the bookstore (cause he doesn’t recommend buying books, and this may be why it took so long for him to finish) browsing the politics section. In the end his brain is a mismash of Chomsky/Amy Goodman/etc “ideas” from which he developes a scattershot rant. Of course, then we get to read it and laugh, so it’s all good.

angrybarista
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my girlfriend bought this for me for my birthday; if the dcb loved it, i know i will.

A+

Anonymous
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dcb, you should check out http://www.stratfor.com

DF
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Greg, anyone with a modest knowledge of political science and military strategy will tell you that the advent of nuclear weapons are the impetus for proxy wars of the Cold War era (mutually assured destruction) not pure conventional military spending. The underlying reason for the MAD doctrine being that a direct conflict is far too destructive to either agent resulting in a Nash-Cournot equilibrium or a zero sum game (2 players as opposed to an infinite number). Subsequently, conflicts move to the periphery. In fact overextension, which manifests itself in excess military spending, is a greater threat to hegemony and has been shown to precipitate imperial decline. The key is finding the right balance of defense spending and policy. Eisenhower’s farewell speech in ’61 was concerned that such a balance would be co-opted by the military industrial complex, which does wield enormous influence today (but not control) whether you care to believe it or not. Most of the Iraq effort is outsourced to private companies with the exception of the soldiers on the ground. Logistics, supply, and in some cases high-end security is privately run. I’m not going to go into whether it’s right or wrong because we just won’t do it justice here but you get the drift.

The U.S. just doesn’t have the resources to take on every rogue country in the world. The genius of Bush Sr. is that he showed that you could deal with regional conflicts and rogue nations utilizing coalitions as opposed to unilateral hegemonic action, something Bush Jr. tried to do in Iraq but has failed doing so in rather spectacular fashion. In today’s world, you need to be more sophisticated and your simplistic ?short-man? and ?chubby man? analogy shows you’re not at the grown ups table yet.

Sean
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“shows you’re not at the grown ups table yet.”

The grown ups comment is always a sign someone is full of shit. A favorite go-to phrase of the blogosphere, and by now surely a cliche. Greg makes a great point about keeping conflicts relatively small. That is the M.O. and has been for years. Like it or not.

Roissy
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“The U.S. just doesn’t have the resources to take on every rogue country in the world.”

actually, we do. what we don’t have is the willpower to apply those resources to the task of leaving nothing but rubble behind. imagine if we had to fight the great wars of the 20th century constantly triangulating between actual foes on the ground and a fifth column media machine.

it’s not overextension per se as manifested in a large military umbrella that threatens hegemony; it’s the recruitment of non-citizens, foreign mercenaries, dual-loyalists, and subcontractors which acts to undermine imperial rule. and, fuck, if the world can’t function without an empire or two then it may as well be us steering the wheel. you’d rather china took over the role of imperial hegemon?

DF
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Roissy, the conquests of nations cannot be executed at a discount nor can it be so destructive that it would risk diplomacy and modern international frameworks. The context in which I use the term resources is for those resources which the U.S. has a willingness to utilize for the long term. First, we have shown a remarkable intolerance for casualties since the Vietnam Conflict and conquests require military presence in multiples greater than the local citizenry. Iraq has been exemplary in this even for the casual observer of military strategy. Therefore, we would need to have many more soldiers in active duty than is economically feasible to occupy all the rogue nations on earth. Second, leveling these countries to absolute rubble can undermine relations with non-aggressive nations and any future frameworks we would seek to create or have a vested interest in. We cannot use military force as our only diplomatic tool and annihilating any country that opposes us leaves us with few avenues in which to operate internationally. However, you do bring up two excellent points. The first is that the modern media machine is indeed a variable that complicates military strategy significantly. Second, is from where do we acquire our military professionals. I would posit that whom we recruit is symptomatic of overextension. Excessive military campaigns would necessitate more citizen-soldiers than we have available, which brings me again to my earlier point on resources, making overextension the antecedent of decline. I am not saying that we should give up our hegemonic status. Far from it! I am saying that we should do what we can to sustain it as much as possible because I don’t want China in charge.

Greg
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DF, thank you for putting me in my place. You’re right, I obviously don’t know what the hell I am talking about and should shut up…ex-cuh-yoooze me!

To address the point of nuclear vs. conventional weapons. You’re absolutely right that it is in large part due to nuclear arms that conflict was pushed to the periphery. This is national security 101.

However, I would posit that nuclear arms aren’t the only thing influencing the situation. The fact that our force multipliers are twice that of anyone else in the globe has to affect the equation somehow, and I think it’s correct to hypothesize that advantage keeps conflicts relatively brief, decisive and casualties low. Basically our large defense budget helps ensure we don’t become a world in which we have to compete on the battlefield with another superpower, whether directly or indirectly.

Put in simple terms, do you think that our investment causes more or less destruction in the world? I think there is less, but it’s certainly debatable. I know it’s cliche, but it’s true: peace through superior firepower.

As to the point about preventing decline due to overextension: It’s certianly something we always need to be mindful of. I do not agree with the premise that we have the resources to take care of all our enemies, but one shouldn’t swing the pendulum the other way and say we should not engage the enemy at all. Put in contemporary terms: Saddam and Iraq was our enemy, and thus at least was deserving of our wrath (whether we are willing to expend the resources necessary is another issue). But I wouldn’t ring the alarm bell about overextension yet. It seems the only resource in short supply to deal with Iraq is willpower, not anything material. If we want to put more troops on the ground, it wouldn’t be a difficult endeavor and we certainly have the resources to expend there for many many years to come.

Basically we agree that we should sustain our hegemony as long as possible. I think we also agree in principle that Iraq is a threat to that ability. That said, I think we might differ in that I don’t see the threat as fatal, nor critical. We’ve plenty of material resources to handle the strain of Iraq and perpetuate our hegemony, it’s just a question of will. Our massive defense industry, along with continued technological and logistical innovation, will take care of the job just fine.

Greg
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One more thought on that point. Shouldn’t we use our supremacy to be a force for good? I mean, it’d be pretty selfish of us to ensure our own safety through our investment in defense, but what about others who don’t have those resources? Isn’t it the American way to help the little guy? We should continue an interventionist foreign policy that encourages demoncracy and freedom. It may be idealistic, but since when are we completely cold realists (and who wants to be?)? Even so, I’m sure you’ve heard of the democratic peace argument. Free and democratic people just don’t have the same problems with each other than they do with nations who are not free or democratic.

Jinxy
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Greg drank the Kool Aid too.

Brevity is the soul of wit, ya’ll.

Gunslingergregi
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Except that China has 80 divisions we have ten. Also China has been helping us build are fighter jets lol Force multiplier going out the window. If other countries would decide to not send us any manufactured goods we would have a bad day wuoldn’t we as we don’t make very many actual goods. If we don’t have our own manufacturing base we can’t support our own war. If we go against someone who can bomb our convoy’s into what Saddams convoy’s looked like in the first Iraqi war. We will have a serious problem. We should probably prepare for that.