Let's get steamed about quotas

Today's look at war from the cheap seats

Colombian quotas are killer

In Colombia, the war on drugs is probably never going to be over, but the country’s senior military commander is more worried about the actual war against rebel groups. And has told his commanders they need to bring in better numbers of killed, captured, or surrendered fighters. He’s not terribly picky about the figures, or about how accurate they are in the good guy/bad guy distinction.

“The orders are that you are operationally effective. Some told me they wanted a 10 percent increase, good, you do 10 percent. Some told me they wanted a 50 percent increase, but with no dead. Some said, ‘I want a 100 percent increase.’ There are some who have kept their word, and others that haven’t been able to.” — Major Gen. Nicacio Martínez Espinel and his new “Always Be Closing” approach to the war in Colombia

What’s got your average Colombian worried isn’t the quotas so much as the level of certainty the general’s requiring of his troops before they launch an attack: 60 to 70 percent “credibility or exactitude”. Which means he’s ok with 4 out of every 10 people in the village you’re going to raid being non-combatant civilians.

Which raises the specter of a mid-2000s Colombian trend of what they called “false positives,” where the military would flat out murder Colombian citizens and then dress them up in military fatigues. Or put a weapon by the body. To, you know, make the paperwork…work.

We’d like to believe that this is another banana republic gone awry, and that this kind of thing wouldn’t happen in good ol’ ‘murca. But we’ve got a president who’s happy to pardon war criminals because war’s a hard thing and hard men make hard choices. Like shooting an unarmed naked prisoner and trying to burn the body to hide the evidence. Those kinds of hard choices.

Colombia’s not alone in this approach, either: in the Philippines, their president’s urging his military to do similar things. Because they’re after bad men and probably need to do bad things to level the playing field. Which makes for a cool Vin Diesel revenge flick, but even he knows better than to try and take on the bad man on his terms.

Shot of the Day

When it’s literally your job to bang a drum all day, what would you do to blow off work?

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Moscow pretty supportive of US withdrawal

Because why bother with talking to the Afghan government about peace, a Taliban delegation arrived in Moscow this week to talk to other Afghan power brokers about what a peaceful negotiation to the end of hostilities in Afghanistan could look like.

Taliban officials met a delegation of powerful Afghan power brokers in Moscow in November and February, but those talks did not include members of Ghani's government.

Key to the process, per both the Boys from Balochistan and the Kremlin?

Foreign forces leaving the country.

And in case you’re wondering how the presser’s going, here’s a Russian journalist talking to the Taliban. I’m not sure what the Pashto is for “apoplectic,” but I’m pretty sure that applied here once she left.

Taliban would rather you not get out the vote

Attacks on schools in Afghanistan tripled between 2017 and 2018 according to a recent UNICEF report. Which we’d all like to think is because the Taliban hate education. Weird, since they tend to like to learn stuff. It’s in the name, after all. What they’re less excited about?

Schools being used as voter registration/polling places.

They put that out in September: don’t do it.

Unfortunately, in many places in Afghanistan, the most reliable structure in town tends to be the school. So they’ve been used to support elections.

Taliban have responded by blowing more of them up.

Trump gets pretty steamed about…steam

Let’s…forget for the moment that he’s on a ship that doesn’t have any catapults.

Like, at all.

And let’s forget the easy jokes about steam being the old way and Trump being the grumpy old man yelling about how he used to take the train to get taffy down by the wharf and throw it at the Bearded Lady.

He’s not wrong.

About the catapults, anyway.

The Navy’s costliest warship, the $13 billion Gerald R. Ford, had 20 failures of its aircraft launch-and-landing systems during operations at sea, according to the Pentagon’s testing office.

And it’s not just the catapults.

The launch-and-landing issue is separate from the ship’s lack of 11 functioning elevators to lift munitions from below deck, an issue that’s drawn scrutiny from Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman James Inhofe, an Oklahoma Republican.

Broken clocks twice a day aside, what Trump’s suggesting, that we rip out the current Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS), and replace it with a steam system, is completely impractical. And he really doesn’t understand how ships work. Like, at all.

Trump thinks steam would be simpler and cheaper. And wants to go back to that for business reasons. Even though doing so would mean starting all over again with ships that cost several billion dollars each. So not his best idea.

But he is right about the cost overrun.

He also bemoaned the original decision to go with EMALS over steam as “before my time a little bit” and grumbled that “this crazy electric catapult” was “$900 million” over budget.

Trump didn’t detail where he got those figures, but a 2017 report from the Pentagon’s Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation office estimated that the price tag for Ford’s EMALS would rise to $958.9 million, about $814 million more than analysts thought it would cost in 2004 when the contract began.

You missed your budget estimate by nearly a billion dollars.

Nicely done, Pentagon.

Put Trump on a morale patch, world loses mind

The patch he’s sporting in that shot from an official Pentagon social media account back in 2017 is the same one that aircrew wore on the USS Wasp during the president’s visit to the ship. Lots of folks are trying to make this about politics, and campaigning while in uniform, when the most likely answer is that someone got the bright idea that MAGA has an “A” in it, and this “aircrew” patch was born.

And this right here? Is why I heart Gen. Hertling.