Sunday, November 18, 2012

Coping. . . Strategically

It goes without saying that PTSD, much like any medical condition, can be managed.  Diabetics have to manage their diet, and even the more severe cases of type I have insulin pumps to help cope.  Post Traumatic Stress is really no different.  There are things I have trouble doing, not because I'll "freak out" but because the memories associated with it are truly painful.  Does the average person wish to rip out their stitches if they have a gash their arm?  Why would they assume that I somehow enjoy reliving my memories of young men dying in truly horrible ways.  I have learned that the trick to ensuring that your life isn't like walking through a minefield, is to plan ahead your day, to make sure that you don't run afoul of the things that will "trigger" an event.  

It was almost a year after I had been CASEVAC'd out of Baghdad that I learned, much to my dismay, that a song that I loved could trigger an event.  You tend not to realize how sad Sweet Home Alabama is until it is played at a friend's funeral.  At first it would cause full on flashbacks, forcing me to relive his death, now however, after hearing it a few times on the radio, being caught unaware, I realized that I couldn't simply avoid it forever.  So I played this song on low levels, while trying to remember the good times I had with PFC Harrelson.  The laughter he and I shared, the time we were on guard together, and got into a deep debate about which was better 'Bama (which he planned on going to) or USC (which I planned on going to).  I still get a kick out of intentionally inflating the USC stats just to get him red faced. Now the song merely makes me uncomfortable rather than having me huddled in a corner crying.

There are things that make me angry.  Stolen Valor.  People talking about Call of Duty as if they had somehow actually been to a war.  People telling me that Iraq was an "illegal war", or somehow suggesting that I had a great old time raping and pillaging everything in sight.  Yes these things can make me angry.  Very angry.  Do I contemplate violence against such people?  Well, if you were in my shoes wouldn't you?  I've learned that working out, often strenuously, can help cope with this anger.  Draining away the things that got on your nerves and leaving you in a semi-blissful state.  I have also learned that walking away is one of the better things I can do.  If I stay and engage, I will no doubt get worked up, and want very much to put their face into the concrete.  This would be a less than optimal response.  

The problem is that some things will strike like a raw exposed nerve.  Some civilians don't understand why I can go from lukewarm to boiling in no time flat.  Even more, if they did know, wouldn't understand the titanic struggle it is to keep calm.  I know if I ever were to get into a fight with certain people I can cause serious harm, so its absolutely vital I maintain my cool.  Sometimes I have to detach my mind and think about something else entirely, sometimes I just have to shut my eyes and breathe deeply.  The hardest times is when its a boss, and you can not show disrespect.  In those times I have leaned that the best solution is to pull out a notepad and pretend to make note, but really make a list of things that calm me down.  I've also learned that if you are able, you just have to do a few pushups.  Its far better that than slam them against the wall to explain just why they're pissing me off (as much as that seems like a good idea at the time).

I have also learned, the hard way that the very direct method of talking used in the military is off putting.  People don't like it when you explain to them the numerous ways they screwed up little things, and the suggestion that they fix themselves, is just as often not well received.  I have learned that being quiet, except when trying to give needed information is better than speaking my mind.  I have tried hard to curb my swearing, often practicing speaking to a voice memo, with sample conversations, playing it back to myself to make sure that I wasn't swearing.  Unfortunately much like the physical aspect the mental aspect of dealing with the uninformed or the intentionally ignorant is taxing.  Thus I have turned to blogging, and writing in general, where I am free to let it out.  Much like a pressure cooker, if you do not let off steam it will not end well.

The hardest thing to cope with is the things that you don't expect.  The smells of burning diesel, or cooking pig, the sound of distant gunfire, or pops that sound like them. These things can pop up at random.  Even movies that you once enjoyed may remind you a little too strongly of events that happened.  I used to love the film "Midway", unfortunately there is a scene where Charlton Heston's son (in the movie)  gets hit, and his plane catches on fire.  I can tell you those screams are a little too real for me to deal with.  Getting pulled over by police is also a hazard.  I have learned that the flashing lights do not bode well for me.  I usually cover my eyes as much as possible, but if I've had a few, and the Designated Driver (DD) gets pulled over, the effect is crippling, and I feel the urge to run.  This has happened to me twice.  Both times did not end well.  I understand why they have the flashing lights, but there is just something about them at night that really disturbs me. 

If you are a Combat Veteran with post traumatic stress, I would tell you figure out what your triggers are.  What makes the experiences come back, and find some coping strategies that work for you.  Keep a journal, and track your progress.  You would be amazed how far you come in just a few short months.  Remember life will not be the same as it was before the war.  You need to deal with that.  You're not crippled, or infirmed, you're just going to have to deal with this.  Life is worth fighting for.  Don't give up because the days seem hard, and the nights endless.  You are not alone, and you can get through this. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

If you can suffer through the song one more time. . .

Let it never be said we don't have a sense of humor. 

Bread and Circuses

After watching the election unfold, and watching the coverage of the recent Petraeus scandal I am forced to conclude that the American public must be struck by the worst case of ADD in history.  We're learning details about the affair we shouldn't know, where and when he had his dalliances, the people involved and the convoluted nature seems to be getting worse and worse, and really it ought not.  But people keep tugging at the thread wanting to see if there's more to the story. 

Almost forgotten is the fact that defense contractors are set to lay off tens of thousands of workers.  lost is the fact that the "fiscal cliff" is very real and we are plunging headlong over it.  Lost is the fact that the Administration screwed up horribly in Benghazi.  Lost is that the Iranian Air Force fired on an unmanned drone.  Lost is the fact that the Euro is in serious trouble, and the dollar is not far behind.  Lost is the fact that Hurricane Sandy recovery is if anything worse than the Katrina efforts.  Lost is the fact that Obamacare when enacted is literally going to kill jobs and stall the recovery which has been anemic at best.

While I get that this whole story is just plain bizarre, and it gets even more so the more we find out,have we really forgotten the fact that there are a lot of very real issues that the election totally failed to deal with?  The Lame Duck congress will do absolutely nothing, of note, and chances are the Republican controlled House will do little if anything, because at least one of the new Senators elected was left of Lenin.  We are left with a real problem.  Literally nothing has changed.  Personally I would have opted for a complete victory for either Liberals or Conservatives, because either way we could have clarity on where we were going as a nation.  Being split almost exactly right down the middle is worse than anything else.

I try to remain positive, but when I try, to engage the odd passerby in a serious discussion about really anything but what was on TV last night, or the tabloid like bullshit coming out of the news, I am left with the sad conclusion that politicians don't talk about the issues, or ya know actually do anything about them, because the people they represent don't deal with any of those issues. 

We are being slowly sold down the river, and all the while having a grand old time watching all these pointless spectacles that distract us from how bad things are getting.  Ladies and Gentlemen, this is your country, and you are at the helm just as much as anyone else.  Food for thought as we plunge headlong over yet another waterfall.   

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Why Do I Miss the Army?

You know Jonn Lilyea is one of those guys you have to meet, I can imagine getting a dressing down from him was probably about as pleasant as masturbating with broken glass, but his post about why he misses the Army, got me thinking.  Perhaps Mr Twisted is right that there is something to be said for jointly embracing the suck.  Perhaps it is the Realities of facing death that draws men closer, but there had always been an ineffable element to why I loved the Army. 

If you actually read back, Oh my God did I hate this NCO and that.  I got screwed over and I had a PA that regularly threw temper-tantrums.  I've had Officers that had zilch for people skills, and would say the most insanely wrong things ("the Golden Bullet has been fired at all of us" for instance.)  I had an NCO that "lost" my paperwork to West Point.  I had an Officer write a review that made me look like the biggest shitbag that ever existed, thus killing my chances to ever get accepted (I still believe that I might have made it there and actually would have made a good Officer). 

But then I've had Great Officers.  Major (then Captain) Steven J. Richter, who sounded like a bad John Wayne impression, had an Audio Nervousa, a tumor in his ear, that prevented him from deploying.  He fought that off, taught himself how to walk again after the Army messed up the surgery, then deployed so he could lead his company.  He was a figure chiseled from stone, running marathons and loving that Army shit way too much.  How could you not love and follow a man like that?  I found out recently that he received a Soldiers Medal for his actions at the Fort Hood SRP site when Major Hassan tried to shoot it up.  A great man.

I had a CO that was built like a freaking tank.  Major (then Captain) Jermain Hampton, he was short, broad shouldered and to me looked like he could kick Ahnald's ass.  He always wore these really goofy Ranger Goggles when out in sector, and carried a shotgun as a secondary weapon instead of a pistol like most Officers.  He seemed so in control and confidant, that it was hard not to trust him when he gave you a command.  I only saw him lose it, twice, and both were truly memorable occasions.  This Iraqi we were questioning was lying to us about things we found in his house (a Russian mortar sight for instance was a toy "for baby baby mistar") Captain Hampton picked this guy up and slammed him into the wall.  "do you think I'm fucking around?"  I don't think any Hollywood action star could match the deadly seriousness in his voice. 

Despite that, this man really cared about his troops.  Shortly after assuming command, we had our first casualty.  He was moved to tears at losing a man he was just starting to get to know.  He always had time for his troops needs.  Even in the middle of his work out, he'd stop what he was doing and make sure his troops were alright.  Once in the middle of a pull up set he actually stopped me because I looked down in the dumps, and asked me what was wrong.  When I told him I thought my Girlfriend at the time was cheating on me he stopped everything to listen to what I had to say.  More than that, what really impressed me, was how he could keep total control of a company spread out over hundreds of meters, blocks, you name it.  He would snap out orders as if he was right next to them.  Truly amazed me. 

There were NCOs, too many to name, that put in long hours, and fought hard for the welfare of their troops.  They'd intentionally expose themselves to punishment, to let their troops go home early, or make sure that they got to meals.  On more than a few occasions, when meals were missed, I had NCOs pay for the meals of their Joes out of their own meager salary. The NCO is one of those positions that offers little reward or rest-bit, and yet we see so many that wear that mantle in ways that truly defy our understanding. 

I don't for a second, hurry up and wait.  I don't miss Mandatory Fun Days.  I don't miss CQ, or Staff Duty.  I actually do kind of miss cleaning weapons and shining boots, though I definitely don't miss having mirror shine boots for Motorpool Monday where i would proceed to scuff them up PMCSing vehicles.  I miss the ritual of bartering MREs bits, and the hilarity that would come out of that.  I really miss feeling like a total bad ass every time I "put my make-up" on.  But you know the one thing that I really miss above all?  It's the people.  From the Clueless Private to the General that just Will, Not Shut UP!   The Army is made up of people, from all walks of life, whose only binding similarity is the uniform they wear.  The coolest vehicles, the best weapon systems, the greatest gizmos, all fail utterly to make up for the people that make up our great military, and it is that which I miss most of all. 

The F**k Petraeus Bandwagon

One of the hardest pill to swallow in recent days is that this General a lot of us had held in such high esteem could fall so hard.  I don't want to make excuses for his actions.  They were point blank, wrong, and as the head of the CIA, he could have been compromised and blackmailed, if the wrong people found out about it.  Simply put, anyone in that position needs to be so squeaky clean that they are beyond reproach.  So I agree he had to go.

But it is hard to put into words how I feel about this.  To do so you'd need to know that I as a junior enlisted soldier, never met the man personally.  I never shook his hand.  Never heard him speak directly to a group of troops.  I heard a lot of scuttlebutt, and there was a great story about my brigade commander at the time having a really unpleasant experience, which at the time was fine by me.  A junior enlisted soldier loves to hear that a Colonel can get reamed by a superior officer, even if they never actually see it.  I can not speak to Petraeus the man.

I can speak to Petraeus the General.  You really need to know where the Army stood in 2005-2006 to understand why, his re-write of FM 3-24, was incredibly important and why his Observations, proved so pivotal.  It took a military that was starting to get demoralized by the increasingly grim news.  We were losing guys, and we were unable to stop the increasingly gruesome sectarian violence.  You'd have to have lost a friend, or been in a convoy that had been hit to really understand just how desperate the soldiers were for any sense of hope. What he told us was that it could happen.  That if we used the right methods, methods we weren't really accustomed to, we could pull off a victory. 

The Surge was our last chance.  Everyone knew it on an instinctual level.  You could tell, that there was a lot of pressure riding on all the Officers.  One screw up, even at the junior enlisted level could derail the whole thing.  Worst of all we knew the media was there, and over the past few years had come to the quite conclusion that they had not only taken sides, they were rooting for us to fail.  Whether or not that is actually the case is debatable, but "if it bleeds it leads", and what bleeds more than a war?  We were taking unbelievable risks, facing down IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devise), EFPs(Explosively Formed Projectiles), Snipers, complex ambushes, indirect fire, you name it.  There was a lot of equipment that came from Iran, and I even found the case for some American Surface to Air Missiles (SAMs), though we didn't find the missles that went with it.

You can't understand, if you're sitting there, and never deployed why, going up and down Preadators and Pluto scared me so much.  You can't imagine why the thought of getting blown apart, wasn't something that you might see in a Hollywood movie.  It was very real.  One hit in the right spot with the right weapon and five men would die.  It happened, and that thought would fill us all with dread.  As a Medic, the thought of the guys that I had come to love, as brothers, torn apart in such a brutal fashion, and that I would be utterly powerless to do more than slap a bandage on them as they died. . . that kind of knowledge eats at you.

But Petraeus had a plan.  What's more is despite the initial push-back by the militias, by the end of August, you really were starting to see a difference.  The militias were taking a huge hit, because they had no idea who was informing on them.  We had all these elaborate plans to take down leadership of the militias, and when we did, we would strike without warning when least expected, with speed and, ferocity.  We were winning and I a soldier on the ground could see the difference.  

I watched live in Baghdad the "Petraeus Hearings"  I watched the "General Betray-us" adds gleefully rebroadcast by CNN International.  I watched the Code Pink fools make total asses of themselves, and there at the center of it all was our General.  He was cool as a cucumber, honest, open, forthright, and laid out not only that we were winning, but how we were measuring success, how we were winning the hearts and minds etc.  This show was all about him and he preformed beautifully.  The was didn't end that day for me, but it was really telling how almost overnight the coverage of the Iraq war almost ceased.  No one wanted to cover it anymore, which given our views of the media meant that they too were conceding that we were winning.  

The Army loved him.  He could do no wrong.  Even when he got "demoted" from CENTCOM to take over in Afghanistan we all took this as a ringing endorsement of a man who had become quite literally indefensible.  The sad fact is that he seemed to be the only commander who had the ability to defeat this new enemy we faced in the Global War on Terror (or whatever you want to call it).  More than that he inspired a lot of people how  to be a leader in it. 

With the announcement of his resignation and the salacious details, everyone seems to be jumping on the F**k General Petraeus bandwagon.  We have people coming out of the woodwork telling all sorts of stories about him, from the mundane to the truly insane.  I can't help but think that this has a lot to do with the celebrity status we gave him, but more than that there seems to be a real campaign out there to utterly destroy the man.  I can't imagine what further humiliation he can suffer, and to be honest I just don't want to follow this anymore.

All the validity of counterinsurgency will be lost.  I have little doubt that we will have to relearn lessons that will be tossed out in the wake of the scandal.  Already in Afghanistan we can see the failure of switching from a counterinsurgency to a counter-terrorism campaign.  Violence is up, and the Taliban is gaining power and ground.  While we seem to be able to drop tons of ordinance in a countries we're not even at war with, potentially creating new enemies down the road, we seem to be totally unable to make a political victory we so desire.  I can only shake my head with a great amount of despair, and walk away as one of the Army's true heroes is slowly torn down.  I'm not going to have any part in this. 

Monday, November 12, 2012

A Day of Reflection

Veterans day seems to be a day of celebration for a lot of people.  I think that it is celebrating that America is so worth fighting for, and worth trying to protect.  The sad fact is that there needs to be Veterans Day parades because the percentage of actual Veterans to say nothing of combat veterans is so low.  So we Veterans get dressed up, and put on the "dog and pony" show which a lot of us don't mind, because as we age we like to remember the young strapping lads and fine young ladies we used to be.  For some, the uniform, the medals or the recognition is validation of wounds both physical and psychological, in service to this great nation.

I have traveled to almost every state.  Americans despite ethnic background, despite political leanings, and despite religious beliefs or lack thereof realize that America is something truly special.  Its not just the shades of fall in the Maine forests. Or the Bostonians that don't want to pronounce their "R"s.  It's not something you find in the neon signs of Miami, or the swamps of the everglades.  It's not something you find in the Cornfields of Iowa, Indiana or Illinois, or the Great Plains of Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas.  It can't be defined by the evergreen forests of Oregon Washington and California, nor in the desert sunsets of Arizona and New Mexico.  The Beaches of Hawaii, while stunning do not hold the secret of why this nation produces so many people willing to die, if needs be, to defend it.

It is the people.  Get stuck on the highway in West Virginia or Pennsylvania, and you'll see, before long some complete stranger comes along to help.  Walk into any Church Mosque or Synagogue and tell them you're in trouble and about to lose everything.  Look at the faces of children who go to bed secure in the knowledge that they are safe.  Look at any mall in America and see the young men and women, free to love who they please without fear.

Old soldiers lose their physique, their once lean muscles give way to well earned bellies.  They never again have to hurry up and wait.  They'll never again eat chow that seems to have a life of its own, wonder why there are fewer and fewer puppies around the mess tent, or fight off the mice for their meal.  Eggs will come in actual eggs not in long tubes of . . . something.  Those old soldier's joints will be stiff, and sore from years of staying at peak condition, they'll have aches and pains they never complain about but feel all the same.  Those old soldiers may fade from the public consciousness, as time passes their conflicts slowly forgotten by a society that has an ever shorter attention span, but they'll know what they've done.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Please. . . Don't Thank Me

November 11th is Veterans Day in America.  Originally it came from Armistice Day, which we celebrated the end of the Great War (now just called WWI) which ended on the 11th hour of the 11th day, of the 11th month of 1918.  Interestingly enough the last casualty recognized in the war was actually an American which was the last country to enter the war.  In terms of tonnage used one can easily argue that not only one but several nuclear bombs were dropped over the Western Front in the form of weeks long artillery barrages.  Gas Warfare, Trench Warfare, Disease, unbelieveably high casualty rates, all but forgotten when just 20 short years after the war ended Germany decides they want round 2. 

It seemed a little silly to celebrate the end of a war that was little more than a prelude to another even more terrible (as if that were possible) war.  So Armistice Day became Veterans Day.  Now veterans from all wars are recognized together, and to some extent I think that's actually a good thing, because despite the change of tactics, the Soldier is essentially unchanged.  Look into the eyes of a soldier from WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, or Afghanistan, and there is something stark, and painfully similar.  the haggard weary but resolute look is something you don't forget. 

Eventually the war ends.  Eventually the veterans of the war come home, or the empty caskets are buried in their place.  The reaction that they receive is often varied and not at all consistent.  In WWII The country was overjoyed, and loved its service members, in Korea, the returning service members came back to a country that didn't seem to know that there was a war on.  Vietnam veterans were initially distantly accepted, but then openly scorned.  After Desert Storm all veterans are lionized and they are treated like heroes.  The problem is that despite what Hollywood might tell you, there are very few if any rousing victories.  There are hardly any rousing speeches.  When things go wrong usually they go wrong in a way that is horrific, or hilarious.  The way people perceive veterans is almost always wrong.  

For so long, I would avoid questions about Iraq.  I realized after writing about it here that I can help my fellow veterans and the civilians back home understand, but one thing I have never gotten over is people thanking me.  Thank you for your service.  I get why people say it, but to me, having come from a family that has all served at least one stint (no career officers or enlisted-men) joining the Army, even in a time of war didn't seem that special to me.  Why would people thank me for something I enjoyed?  I truly loved my job.  Even the PT, the Mandatory Fun-days, the Hurry Up and Wait, the FUBAR SNAFU and BOHICA moments.  I had fun, despite all my griping.  I don't understand, for the life of me why an 18 year old with nothing better to do doesn't think that one stint in say Germany, or Hawaii, or Florida, wouldn't be the best thing ever. 

Be that as it may, I know that people will not join up.  The class of people that serve seems to be more and more so an isolated class.  Whenever people finally meet one of these Soldiers Sailors Airmen or Marines they feel obliged to shake their hand and thank them from a job, they don't understand.  It seems all so incongruous, and it always comes out of the blue that I'm just not prepared for it.  Ever.  I always give the usual smart ass remark that we used to say almost every day in the Army; "Don't thank me, thank my recruiter".  But I've come to realize that this answer is if anything worse than just looking stunned (like I usually do). 

So here is what I would like to see happen.  If you want to thank me for my service, then please donate to the USO.  They did tons of good for me, and kept my spirits up as best as anyone could.  The USO in DFW was a welcome shelter when I was on my mid tour leave in 2004, and the ladies behind the bar (non-alcoholic) did their level best to make me feel at home.  This organization will go find celebreties to bring to the war zone for morale boosters.  Once they brought the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders.  Had my LT let me go see them I assure you my morale would have been very much boosted. 

If you feel shock or dismay at the things I and my fellow soldiers went through at the WTB then please donate to the Wounded Warrior Project.  The wounds war leaves on a soldier are extreme.  We're seeing men survive things that even 20 years ago would have been unheard of.  The support efforts for such men and women is not cheap, and often the WTBs and the VA system are just too overworked to provide the for the needs of these service members.  WWP goes in and helps where they can.  I can honestly say they have saved lives.

If you feel that you want to remind all the soldiers still out there fighting right now, that they are not in fact forgotten, then please donate to Soldiers Angels.  When I landed in Germany I had only my undershirt pants and boots.  Nothing else.  I didn't even have my wallet.  The people of Soldiers Angels Germany gave me clothes to see me through, and a pillow (still have the case) that was WAY better than the hospital pillows.  They would regularly send me care packages that made me feel like I wasn't being forgotten when I was in Iraq.  

This Veterans Day, I ask that you don't thank me.  I've been thanked for things that I'm not entirely sure I should be thanked for.  I'm a citizen now.  What I've done in my past is just that, past.  I ask that you take $5 and donate it to a charity.  Aside from that the only way I can say that you can really thank us is to join us.  

Friday, November 2, 2012

21st Century Hydra

You can call it revenge.  You can call it justice.  You can call it a well executed clandestine operation.  You can call it anything you like, the simple fact is that on the early hours of May 1st, 2011 some of the deadliest warriors this earth has ever known infiltrated a foreign country, assaulted a compound and killed one of the most recognizable men in the world.  A man who had directed a war against the West, and had callously ordered actions that caused the deaths of tens of thousands of people.

But that is not the end of the story.  There are hundreds, thousands of men who are just as callous, just as cruelly evil, who have just as few qualms about mass slaughter.  You can term such men anyway you wish, Insurgents, Jihadis, Terrorists, Criminals, Killers.  All are apt, and fit the profile.  All such titles can apply to any number of the groups currently engaging US forces or interests around the world.  The problem is that the enemy is amorphous.  Much like the Hydra of ancient myth, whenever we cut off one head, two more spring into place.  It is clear that you can't simply lop off heads willy-nilly, and yet that seems to be exactly our strategy since President Obama took office.

The solution seems childishly simple: starve them out.  But here too the simple idea becomes massively complicated.  Starve them out how?  Deny them propaganda victories?  If you are somehow able to undercut the ideology, then potentially you reduce or eliminate the "true believers" that the organization has to call on. Anyone who studies Mao will tell you its almost impossible to deny and insurgency propaganda victories, especially when the society being fought is a free society.  For starters, the idea of a free society lying to its people usually has severe and extreme back lash, so official propaganda is almost nonexistent. The insurgents also, usually get the benefit of the doubt, especially if the government or society you're fighting against isn't popular, or there is little to no official contact.  Also we as a society need to understand that what we say and do officially and unofficially matters and can have drastic consequences.    

The other solution would be to "starve" out the enemy would be financially.  Here too, this is not as easy as it sounds.  Take Afghanistan for instance.  The insurgent/terrorist activities there are being funded not only by Islamic "charities" but in a large part they are being funded by heroin, and marijuana growth and trafficking.  We can't slash and burn crops that net a farmer hundreds of dollars and tell him to grow food which would net only a couple of dollars.  Likewise our own laws on the subject of drug use and selling, seem to make it nearly impossible to stop it at our end.  The debate for treatment or legalization seem pretty silly, when we a a society can not control our urges enough to realize we are literally funding our own destruction on many levels.

In other parts of the Arabian peninsula , groups loosely called "al Qaeda" (though their actual link may be in name only)  are actually using pornography sites to fund their activities.  This is almost impossible to stop.  The internet is so massive that it would be nearly impossible short of shutting the whole thing down, to stop funding of this type.  Still other groups, many in the South Pacific, and Asia, are relying on the old tried and true method of kidnap and ransom, the idea is to find someone moderately well off, or wealthy, kidnap them, threaten to do horrible things to them until X amount of money is paid.  Most likely the victim is killed anyway, even if the ransom is paid.  The only way to stop that is for there to be more effective police world wide, which is a problem you can't go to the international community to solve.  When looking at these methodologies of funding it is almost impossible to choke off the money supply to "al Qaeda" groups. 

The last methodology of starving this Hydra we call "extremist Islam" is to deny it warm bodies.  I don't care what type of army you run, if you don't get new recruits it is only a matter of time before you wither and die.  Here's the problem, short of killing every Muslim male in the world, how will you deny the enemy warm bodies?  If we hypothetically had a tool or devise that could kill everyone that was an actual terrorist instantly, no muss no fuss, would that end the Global War on Terror?  The answer is, probably not.  someone somewhere would pick up the banner and start the whole mess all over again.  You can not simply kill your way out of this war.

So how do we as a society combat this threat?  Well first we have to acknowledge that yes we are at war, and it is really a war unlike any we have fought before though there are some similarities to the Cold War.  We have many tools at our disposal that can aid us, and these tools should be used.  Mass media, cyber espionage/sabotage, human intel (HUMINT), signals intel (SIGINT), we have very bright politicians, and economists, and we have a military that is second to none.  All of these tools seem disparate, and as they function now they are.  Much like pre-9/11 often times you will find agencies working cross purposes, or one agency is doing mission essential actions that will directly hinder the mission of another agency.  Getting everyone on the same sheet of music will continue to be an ongoing process, but the good news is that it is improving.  The solution it would seem would be more integration and a national conversation if you will, about the tactics and methodoligies that we as a nation should use.

to quote an enemy:

 Army cadres concern themselves solely with military affairs,
Government cadres with administrative jobs,
Party cadres with Party business.
They are like men standing on one leg. It is wrong for a cadre
to be acquainted only with one field. He will no be truly
proficient because army, mass, government and party work
forms a whole which would not be strong and complete should
one of its components come to miss.

    Ho Chi Minh- July 1952 (Ho's Selected Writings, p. 146)

Counter-insurgence is not a mission the Army or Marine Corps were designed to do.  Dropping 500LB bombs on a bunch of raggedy fighters in mud-brick huts, while effective tactically, strategically, and economically make no sense anymore.  We will need an organ (or organs) of government that can provide boots on ground policing functions, that is also politically attuned to the situations on the ground, and able to provide bureaucratic support to itself and the population we wish to support. Effective Counter Insurgency requires a greater cooperation between military/paramilitary and civilian organs of government than we have thus far seen or been willing to contemplate. 

This might be what the Army and Marine Corps become, or it might be what greater co-operation between FBI/INTERPOL the State Department, and some as yet unknown organ looks like.  One thing is clear, political appointees to posts in a counter insurgency area must not be ideologues.  The bureaucratic functions we deploy to support a flagging government must be far better than the ones we have in our own government (FEMA), and we will either need to re-task our military, or create an international police force that we can train up, deploy and leave in place for however long it takes.

Unfortunately this ideological war will most likely require more nation building as well.  Iraq was in a sad state in 2003, after years of neglect under Saddam, but that country was positively first world compared to Afghanistan or Pakistan.  The people will need to be taught not only what tools to use, but how to make the tools, how to distribute, and how to market the tools, to say nothing of actually how to use said tools.  Keep in mind we have had almost 500 years in this country to figure out what works and what doesn't.  Any serious nation building program would condense centuries of development into just one decade.

We also have to acknowledge, we can not do for them what they can not do for themselves.  The attitude and mentality that we can just come in and fix everything for them nearly lost the Cold War, has saddled America with crushing debt.  One could also argue that it was the mentality that lead to the Republic of Vietnam to be such a painful, and failed experiment.  If we go somewhere we will need to find quality people in the local populace and teach them trades vital to the proper running of a vibrant economy and nation.  In many Muslim nations, they simply do not have this knowledge, or worse have actively suppressed it. Our assistance, Military, Civil, and Political must always be stated at the outset to be temporary, with the overall goal that the populace is self sufficient, or nearly so by the end of the program. The Army's "Right Seat, Left Sear, Ride" model is apt here, regardless of the profession or vocation being taught.

Lastly we need to acknowledge that the war is in fact not over.  Not even close.  This is an ideological struggle for the hearts and minds of over a billion Muslims around the planet.  It will take time, blood and treasure much as the Cold War before.  It will require direct intervention at some point in the near to distant future, and that (those) intervention(s) may indeed be long term.  It is readily apparent that this problem will not "fix itself" and nothing can be served to the international community or to our own national interest by American Isolationism.    The world is simply too small for that to work anymore.  Yes we should be reticent to get involved in wars around the world, be we should also acknowledge that we, to some extent allowed this problem to become a major problem, and thus bare some responsibility to fix it.

Believe it or not, we can slay this monster.  It will not be easy, and will require a truly Herculean effort.  That is what America is good for.  We are very good at such actions, and we are very good at making things work when they seem like they shouldn't.  We are one of the few actors on the world stage that seems to be capable of carrying out more than talk.  We did not ask for or want this job, but it is ours nonetheless.