Embracing the Crazy

Only two strategic practitioners have covered themselves with glory in the past month:

If we accept Professor Lawrence Friedman’s recent proposition that “strategy is the creation of power”, both now and in the present, than no one has strategized better than Mad Mo and Crazy Carlos. They both show an intuitive grasp of this piece of ancient strategic maxim: if all you have is the Crazy, be the Crazy.

Your enemies will be so mesmerized by someone showing the Crazy in public that they’ll be drawn into your trap like lemmings to a lemming-zapper.

Mad Mo and Crazy Carlos look to be having the last laugh.

An honorable mention goes to Saddam Hussein, Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno, and James Tiberius Clapper. While Saddam and Kaddaffi are proven losers in making war on the people of other countries, they’ve done banner work making war on the people of their own countries. Odierno successfully drew on Saddam’s plan for crushing a revolt in Baghdad during the battle for that city in 2008:

At about the same time Odierno was targeting the Baghdad beltway, he tasked his staff to find out how Saddam Hussein had defended Baghdad against the many secret cells and gangs that wanted to upend his regime. The answer came back: Saddam had always maintained a complex perimeter around Baghdad that on paper looked like a series of concentric circles. Saddam had posted his Republican Guard in various towns that ringed the capital, and inside the city, he had stationed his Special Republican Guard. If it had worked for Saddam, thought Petraeus and Odierno, it might work for them against the insurgents.

Saddam peaked before his time. He might have made a living as a COIN lecturer at COIN seminars with a few different career choices.

Hosni Mubarak was apparently trying to run a play from the Saddam playbook too but he’s no Muammar Qaddaffi.

James Tiberius Clapper wins his asterisk for accidentally speaking the truth in a congressional hearing. Take pity on Clapper when he’s begging for COIN around downtown Washington after losing his own battle of the beltway.

The president may have made the list if he’d merely repeated the line “We expect all parties to respect the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to which they are a signatory.” and refused to do anything more without a UN Security Council Resolution. Unfortunately BO gave into political pressure and indulged in his Nerd Quotes Eighties Action Movie Lines schtick which always falls flat. If he’d ducked behind the principle of Wilsonian collective security he would have achieved the only certain strategic result Wilsonian collective security ever guarantees: collective inaction.

And that’s what his strategy was all along.

Maybe he’ll have better luck with his NCAA bracket picks.

9 thoughts on “Embracing the Crazy”

  1. Agree with Texpat!

    You should self E-publish (in keeping with the blogging ethos) your best stuff, JF. There is a lot of it and it would make a very funny and nice little book.

    I would buy a copy.

    Regarding the topic of your post, Pundita makes some related points:

    My fellow Americans, as it stands at this minute, our butts have been saved by the Germans, who hung tough at the G8 meeting in the face of British and French pressure to establish a no-fly zone over Libya. (See the AP link I provide below for details.)

    I understand that the French government is gravely concerned that France will be overrun by Libyan refugees if Gadhafi isn’t quashed. It’s a valid concern but if they were all that alarmed, they should have hung back to see how Gadhafi played his hand before they rushed to recognize the revolutionary ‘government.’ So now France is all the way out on limb, and now they hearing a sawing sound coming from Tripoli.

    That’s unfortunate. What’s even more unfortunate is that Japan’s crisis might mean they can’t continue being the second largest buyer of U.S. treasury bills and bonds (the Federal Reserve is the first). The Japanese people finance their government’s debt but now they’re also going to have to finance the rebuilding of a large swath of their country.

    What this means for the USA in the near term is that it can’t to afford to get embroiled in another open-ended war. We owe it to the Afghans — and the Iraqis — to finish what we started, which is a big enough financial drain. We cannot and should not ask China’s government to pick up whatever shortfall comes from Japan’s financing in order to bankroll our engagement in another hot war.

    So if the British and French want to establish a no-fly zone, they can go right ahead. If they want to arm the rebels with heavy weapons and put military advisors on the ground, go for it. If they want to send troops in, fine. But by God, for Americans the battle cry of this century must be, “America is not the maid!”

    Memo to the entire world: From here on, if you want Americans to do the dirty work then we get absolute authority, as we had in Germany and Japan at the end of World War Two, to dictate how a new government conducts itself after we’ve overthrown the old one. You can’t find more civilized societies than the German and Japanese ones. So the American exercise in true imperialism worked out very well.

    Since, however, we’ve been conducting faux imperialism. This has translated into putting our military in the role of The Maid — and our foreign office in the role of the CIA, as State pussyfoots around the world with USAID in tow, sowing phony democracy revolutions then shrieking for The Maid when its scheming and plotting blows up.

    And thus, we find ourselves today in the poetic position of depending on the Germans to think straight for the United States of America. This has saved us from being dragged into a civil war, in which our only right would be to pretend that the scoundrels we rescued from Gadhafi were dealing honorably with us.

    I caution that we’re not out of the woods yet. There’s no end to the machinations of State and critters such as Senator John McCain. Yesterday McCain teamed with Senator Joseph Lieberman to introduce a Senate resolution calling for prompt U.S. intervention in Libya, including recognizing the rebel ‘government’ and establishing a no-fly zone.

    And there is a faction in Washington that’s trying to make political hay from President Barack Obama’s dislike for playing Beulah every time the Europeans in NATO snap their fingers. And while he’s previously shown an ability to resist pressure from Britain and France he tends to govern by popularity polling. So if McCain et al. can whip up enough support among the American voting public for U.S. intervention, Obama might cave in, despite the advice from his secretary of defense to stay out of fray.

    The best that sensible Americans can do, in answer, is speed-dial their congressional representatives and shout into the phone, ‘No we’re not all Libyans now.’

    Before I return to finishing up part 2 of the Optical Illusion post, I should mention there have been big developments on the military front in Libya. See this report from Associated Press. Gadhafi is creaming the opposition, and he’s now being lavish in the use of air power.

    He’s also taken a page from the meerkat clans of the Kalahari Desert, who shoo poison snakes from their burrows by surrounding the snake in a wide circle, leaving an opening in the circle, then (carefully) harrying the snake until it takes the hint and leaves. As it stands now that’s his plan for Benghazi, only he intends to pick off the rebels in the desert as they take the opening he leaves for them on the outskirts of the city.

    The plan will save many civilian lives and save Benghazi from being bombed to rubble. So I hope the rebels take the opening before Gadhafi closes the noose, and that they don’t make Benghazi non-combatants into human shields.

    The rebel leaders should get out of Libya by any which way, right now, so they live to fight another day. Set up Radio Free Libya in Paris and study real hard on how to set up and run a truly democratic government.

    They should also stuff their ears with cotton and chant, ‘Lalalalala we’re not listening’ if State approaches them with a plan for how to stage a really cool peaceful democratic revolution in Libya


    I don’t know enough about the issue to know what, exactly, to think. I am skeptical, though. Pundita had another post where she talked about the way in which the US military is used as the “Maid” to mop up other people’s problems.

    The moral hazard of that position does not seem to sink into the heads of some people….

    But, again, I don’t know enough to know what I don’t know.

    – Madhu

  2. Maybe, Urkel-like* our president will stumble onto the right choices. I am wary of being dragged into something else when we don’t know where it will all lead and we don’t have a strong strategic rationale for any of it. Showing strength requires you know what you are doing. Plus, people take advantage of us. At worst, we will be stuck with another one of our client states.

    But I just don’t know.

    – Madhu

    (I love sitcoms, I may have to blog about that embarrassing habit of mine. An entire tv station exists for people like me, MeToo tv. Sitcoms all day long from the 50s, 60s, 70s, and so on: Cheers, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, that kind of thing.)

  3. Aarrgh! That was the maid post I linked. Goofed up urls but that is a good exceprt anyway.

    Now I’m done. More coffee….

    – Madhu

  4. “The answer came back: Saddam had always maintained a complex perimeter around Baghdad that on paper looked like a series of concentric circles. Saddam had posted his Republican Guard in various towns that ringed the capital, and inside the city, he had stationed his Special Republican Guard. ”

    So what did he have around the palaces? The Super Duper Extra Special Republican Guard?

  5. Of all these important and world changing personas, I will comment on the most important and far-reaching one —

    That would be Charlie Sheen of course.

    It occurs to me that Sheen may really be pullng an Andy Kaufman here, being so car-wreck compelling whacked out loopy to draw in hundreds of thousands of people, all of them turning to each other and saying WTF????….while he brilliantly knows exactly what he is doing, and laughs his hindquarters off the whole time.

    Or, he may be stone nuts.

    Thing is, this “live show” of his will tell the tale. I mean, *I* will guiltily click the latest Charlie Sheen link just to see the nuttiness du jour. But that’s just a link click, whoop de doo. Is what we have seen so far enough to do a ticketed live show?? Is he stage funny enough to do routine? Will he sing? Dance? Lecture? What is he going to do for the 90-120 minutes that will happen after the first 15 minutes of wack rant at CBS grows old?

    If he has something, he will be brilliant. If not, he will crash and burn, and yes, just like this list of people, Saddam in particular, hey, just like this little punk in the latest viral video who is going after that fat kid, anyone can rant and rave and sound like they’re all the sh–, but there comes a time when you have to put up or shut up, and when the outside world forces the truth about you upon you and everyone else.

    Saddam’s truth led to the noose. Odierno’s led to victory. Charlie Sheen may find his on stage on April 2nd.

    I wouldn’t pay one thin dime for such a show. Will I click a link on April 3rd, to see how it came out?

    Ha. What do you think?

  6. “…. he would have achieved the only certain strategic result Wilsonian collective security ever guarantees: collective inaction.”

    That would have been smart move and I wondered if B.O. was getting some good advice. I guess not. If one has the best interests of the U.S. at heart, when there are two choices of nasty tyrannical rule in another country surely the best choice for the president is the tyranny that is less threatening to his own country. Essentially, Gaddaffii is a business-as-usual old-school dictator and, if the rebel faction wins, the power in Libya will be something far worse for the U. S. (and western civilization) and the Libyan people will not be better off in any case.

    What a misguided bumbler.

  7. I agree with Tyouth. And since this is likely a Hillary Clinton-inspired operation, so to speak, maybe we need to put to rest the 2008 campaign idea that Hillary Clinton might have been a better president. Well, perhaps she might have reacted sooner when the rebels had the upper hand.

    In that case, the same question remains: but then what?


    @ Alex K. Henderson: ouch on that movie clip….

    – Madhu

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