JIEDDO, why we are losing the War on Terror in a nutshell
I just found out about JIEDDO the other day. What is JIEDDO? It’s a government bureaucracy of course. Granted, that’s not very helpful. JIEDDO stands for Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization. It was created in 2006 and has a budget of about 3 billion dollars a year. What is JIEDDO’s mission? In their own words:
“The JIEDDO shall focus (lead, advocate, coordinate) all Department of Defense actions in support of the Combatant Commanders’ and their respective Joint task forces’ efforts to defeat IEDs as weapons of strategic influence.”
OK, they are tasked with doing something about IED deaths, which kill and maim American and coalition troops in Afghanistan in increasing numbers, they are insurgent’s weapon of choice against US forces.
So, why is this a problem? Why does this make me despair? I’ll try to explain. First off, this is what is called a downstream solution. And in this case, it’s about as downstream as it gets. A downstream solution is where one tries to fix a problem far away from the source by attacking the symptoms of the problem. It’s like fighting malaria by shooting mosquitoes instead of draining the swamp. No matter how effective a mosquito gun one develops, it’s unlikely to ever fully cope with the problem, and even if it does, the cost may outweigh the gain.
And IEDs are mosquitoes. IED means Improvised Explosive Device. Or as soldiers of old called them, booby traps. A booby trap runs the gamut from excrement smeared stakes in a pit to sophisticated pop-up aerial mines for downing helicopters … with a nearly infinite range of variation in between. And one gets booby traps wherever a significant local population doesn’t want foreign troops in their land. And we are getting huge numbers of them in Afghanistan, more every year in fact. Compared to the, well, zero, that were set for our troops in occupied Germany and Japan.
In other words, it’s like setting up an expensive government bureaucracy to find a solution for bullets. It’s really that silly. First of all, the military actually has people experienced with IEDs and dealing with them is part of their job. So why, exactly, is a huge bureaucracy in the United States going to enhance their efforts? It’s not of course, it’s just adding another layer of spending on top of the problem. Well, unless one believes in magic, which is basically what they are claiming. The idea is that they will be able to build some sort of high tech device that will eliminate or severely mitigate the threat. And if the people building IEDs were brain-dead sheep who never ever changed their designs no matter what, it might just work. Back in the real world, there are hundreds of different types of explosives, ways to detonate them, and ways to hide them. And when one mixes and matches to suit, one has an infinite variety of IEDs, with entirely new variations invented all the time.
And what has this over 20 billion dollar investment brought us so far? Well, nothing, really, unless one counts the fact that if anything they delayed US troops getting certain types of body armour. Yes, adding another layer of bureaucracy to an organization slows the organization’s response time. What they have accomplished is to carefully lay the groundwork for making sure they get budgeted forever. Not that it required much groundwork, since as I explained, as long as we are sending troops where the locals don’t want them, there will be booby traps.
This sadly is the kind of thinking that has permeated our entire government. “War profiteer” used to be a dirty word, when was the last time one heard it bandied about in the media? The war profiteers are now running our country, and things like the JIEDDO are a wonderful example of how they can spend huge amounts of money on nothing other than providing cover for endless war. Peace used to be a good thing, but war is apparently vastly more profitable. During World War Two when we had an actual enemy and an actual war, things like JIEDDO either got rooted out as wasteful during the war, or at died on the vine after the war. Well, at least some of them.
Or to put it in perspective, the USA has spent more on JIEDDO than it has spent on aid to Afghanistan, the country we ostensibly are trying to win the hearts and minds of. I do think it really does illustrate what the War on Terror’s priorities really are … making money off of war forever. I don’t think it’s going to end well, especially if Iraq is any indication. That blog is coming up.
(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law, and I think it’s public domain. I got it on a sharing site. It’s pretty self evident why I choose this picture, it made me laugh. Or at least chuckle slightly. JIEDDO also illustrates nicely how byzantine and self fulfilling our government has become, Kafka would have been proud.)