How To Recognize Good Guys (They Fight Bad Guys)

Bush Urges Unity in Iraq Government,” by Daniela Deane, Washington Post, 28 February 2006,

Security: Power To The People,” by John Robb, Fast Company, March 2006, (from ZenPundit).

Sadr City Hit by Wave of Bombings,” by Tom Iggulden, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 13 March 2006,

With all this defense spending, where is the SysAdmin’s money?,” by Tom Barnett, Thomas P.M. Barnett :: Weblog, 13 March 2006,

Sadr City Vigilantes Execute Accused Insurgents,” by Paul McGeough, The Sydney Morning Herald, 15 March 2006,

Al-Qaeda to blame, says Al-Sadr,” The Hindu, 14 March 2006,

While George Bush caves into terrorists, Iraq’s natural government continues to form. Even while the US gives the green light to terrorists, armed suburbs stand up to protect themselves.

The latest news comes from Muqtada al Sadr’s Mahdi Army, who apparently have executed four al Qaeda in Iraq terrorists that perputrated the Samara Mosque Bombing. This event, Iraq’s 9/11, was predictably greeted with promises of appeasement by US authorities. Iraq’s on the ground, who see their religion and life threatened by murderers, where less cowed.

SysAdmin Guerrilla

Obviously, standing up to terrorists has costs — costs George Bush isn’t willing to pay. Sadr City, where the insurgents were executed, was predictably bombed in retaliation.

Because of the incompetent public-sector “reconstruction” of Iraq,” we’ve ended up making Sadr and his City our near-enemies. This is idiotic. We hate al Qaeda and want a self-determining Iraq people. So do they. Unless George Bush succeeds in pulling defeat from the jaws of victory, Sadr will end as a valuable and natural U.S. ally in the region.

Sadr’s useless, but not for long. His future is coming on.

9 thoughts on “How To Recognize Good Guys (They Fight Bad Guys)”

  1. I agree that we need to be a lot more careful with who we bomb. But with the title, “Good guys are those who fight bad guys,” isn't this the mistaken assumption we made with bin Laden and Hussein back in the 80s?

  2. Dan,

    I am catching up on my blog reading. Excellent little post. I read some of your Gorillaz postings while I was way from home. While I was over there Moqtada al-Sadr was like a bad case of herpes, that would recede and then come back in a few months with renewed intensity. Now, the Shiite militias associated with the Madhi Army are pretty much running the show in Sadr City and not the US or even the Iraqi troops. I would not go as far as calling Moqtada a “good guy”. I don't see it that way. At least through my biased American eyes. I'll work a posting on FX-Based with my take on this dude. I hope you are feeling better. By the way Dan, since I see that you read Michelle Malkin's blog, I think that a Michelle Malkin-related post under the “Babes” category is in order for TDAXP. Keep up the good work,


  3. Curtis,

    I read the Robb's Cole/Rumsfeld/Sadr post [1]. Sadr has a good point

    “You said in the past that civil war would break out if you were to withdraw, and now you say that in case of civil war you won't interfere”

    Rumsfeld has repeatedly sought to minimze the exposure of American forces to SysAdmin warfare. I think this was the right decision. Trying to do things perfect with a Shinsheki-size force is a recipie for confrontation. It assumes Iraqis would rather have us do things very well than them do things acceptably. History doesn't support that interpretation.

    Rumsfeld is a wise secdef trapped under a currently foolish President. Unlike Macnamara, who was a terrible secdef trapped under a permanently foolish President.


    We didn't support bin Laden, and Hussein was a Soviet client, but your point is taken. Goodness and badness are qualitative [2] — they depend on the subject and the object of a sentence.

    Generally, a miminalist-ruleset (“enemy of my enemy is my friend”) is more conductive to peace and victory than a maximalist-ruleset .Insisting that the entire world be like us, now, before we do any actions that can aid them is a recipe to loss, whether it was in the Long Global War on Communism, the Long Global War on Terorrism, or any other struggle for globalization.


    Thank you for your kind wishes. As I write above, whether Sadr is good or bad depends on the context: whether we want to build a liberal Iraq ourselves or wish to spread the fire of liberty through the Middle East.


  4. Dan,

    You are right. “Good” or “bad” in this case depends on the context. Sort of like one man's terrorist is another's freedom fighter. The reason I say Sadr is “bad” for us is because him and his militia are equally willing to conduct attacks against US forces as they are to go against “bad guys”, in this case Sunni Salafists. It's almost like saying the Bloods are good guys because they go against the Crips. Unfortunately, at this point, we are pretty much left with choosing the “lesser evil” that Sadr and his thugs represent. Sadr's views are far from liberal. We are in trouble when we rely on a character like Sadr to spread liberty through the Middle East. Sadr has actually cooperated with Sunni Salafists when it has suited his needs in the past. Now, that we are in the midst of a low-level civil war, it's doubtful that will happen again anytime soon, but it shows you that we should not count on Sadr to help us out. I am not a good source for unbiased opinion since I saw first-hand how the Jaysh al-Madhi engaged us in open warfare in An Najaf, Karbala, and Sadr City in Apr and Aug 04. The Iraqi governement has called repeatedly for Sadr's militia's disbandment. Additionally, there is evidence that Sadr's militia's been funded by the Iranian elements not friendly to the US. Basically, Sadr does not see himself or his militia as an ally to the US. Than could change. It might require some “backdoor” diplomacy. It can happen. I am not optimistic though. I think overoptimism is what got us where we are in the first place. Sorry for taking so much of your blog's space.

  5. Sonny,

    I agree with you completely. Sadr is no loving friend of the United States or our allies. We are not dealing with a Churchill in that man.

    I do not think I am being optimistic on Sadr or his dreams. Rather, we know his natural enemy is worse than he is. Just as the political-industrial-bureaucratic core of the Showa Empire was resurrected to turn against the true enemy (the Maos, the Kims, the Stalins), the forces of our petty foes are better served against our grand enemies than. The grand enemies of this struggle are the Totalitarian Sunni Islamists — the bin Ladens, the Zarqawis, the Saudis.

    The Sadrists did not attack the homeland of the United States. They have not attacked our embassies all over the world. They are not engaged in a long global war against us — they hardly could be, as even an alliance of all Shia would hold hardly more power than the Islamic Republic of Iran has now. They are not worthy of the title of foe.

    Now, if it's worth our time to fight them, of course we should. Yet in our war against Totalitarian Sunni Islam, it makes more sense to use the Sadrists as wedges against Anbar and Saudi-Occupied East Arabia than to try to remake Iraq in our own image.

    Better to have friends in a global war than enemies in small ones.

    Your comments are never a waste of space. It is an honor and a privilege to have public input by writers as intelligent, informed, and worthy as you.

  6. Dan,

    Thanks for the kinds words.

    I think we agree with each other on this one, we are just coming from different perspectives.

    If I had to choose between taking out AMZ or Sadr, the obvious choice would be the Jordanian dude.

    I think that is been proven that “killing bad guys” does not, by itself, constitute a sound COIN strategy. In the military, we tend to gravitate to what we do best “killing people and breaking their sh!t”. But no matter how many we take out, they keep coming. You take out an “emergent insurgent leader” (a very unsafe job title, especially if your name ends up in a operations planning slide), but after you kill or capture the dude, three more guys are ready to take that guy's place in the network. It never ends.

    That being said, Sadr is more a force of chaos than a SysAdmin leader. He does not have a clear plan for a viable Iraqi state (or even a Shiite state) other than one that includes strict compliance with sharia where intimidation would substitute anything looking like a democratic process.

    Now, you are right that is better to have friends in a global war than enemies, but Sadr never gaves us chance, and we have given him plenty of opportunities to work with us. Unlike AMZ, Sadr is actually pretty easy to find, and kill or capture, but what would we gain with that?

    There are no simple answers to this problem.

    This is fascinating subject to me. I posted my take on FX-Based. The first rule of warfare should be: Look at things as they are, not as your emotions color them.

    Take care, and have fun in China,


  7. Sonny,

    Thank you for your kind wishes, and your great comments. I agree that we agree, but from different perspectives.

    Reading your words here and at FX-Based [1], I'm reminded of some passages from Howard Bloom's “Global Brain” [2] where he describes the human body. Specifically, many bacteria are harbored by the body because their presence pre-empts the presence of more dangerous bacteria. These more-or-less harmless bacterial thugs are not attacked by the body's SysAdmin, because they and the microbes share common enemies in salmonella and other diseases.

    Perhaps this is a good way of viewing Sadr. As an acceptable thug in places that could be worse, but as something that should be prevented from doing harm on the level of Iraq's body politic


  8. Dan,

    Thanks for pointing me to Howard Bloom's book. I'll add it to my “to-read” list. Unfortunately, I have a lot of unread books in my house already. I am thinking about outsourcing my reading to the Indians. Some Indian kid in Bangalore can read my books, write and send me a tailored report on them, and be on call for whatever future questions I might have on the book.

    Sadr is a very dangerous man. And we keep playing into his hand. He is a toxic leader for the Iraqis. Short-term, he might seem like a relief to the woes of reconstruction, but in reality joining the ranks of a militia is a dangerous proposition, especially if you are facing the US in the battlefield. The problem for us is that, for the militias, just facing the US in battle represents a victory for them, no matter how many hundreds of foot-soldiers die every time they confront our troops.

    Sadr's idea of Iraq's future is basically an Iran-style theocracy. Not something palatable for the US, or even for the Core as a whole, and I something I suspect most Iraqis would reject. It is unlikely that he will negotiate with the US (at least in an overt manner) being that he derives much of his power and popularity from his confrontation with the US. We must keep trying, but so far all of our diplomatic machinations have gotten us nowhere with him. Only after facing Abrams tanks, JDAMs and Hellfire missiles has he been willing to (temporarily) capitulate.

    Speaking of SysAdmin. I don't know if you or Dr Barnett has covered it in his blog before, but from what pool of Americans would the SysAdmin force recruit? I read in BFA that the Chinese would be part of a global SysAdmin. I admire Dr Barnett but I almost spit my drink out laughing when I read that. The Indians I can (maybe) see. But the Chinese? How would those guys handle a Fallujah, a Karbalah, a Najaf, a Sadr City, or a Tall Afar? Come on. If you think those battles were bloody, imagine the Chinese unleashed in Mosul. Next, we can get the Russians to use their experience in Chechnya to “pacify” Ramadi. For all the whining and screaming about how we've handled things in Iraq, I dare you find me another country that could do a better job and with as much compassion as our troops have demostrated in the field.

    Thank you for taking the time to answer my comments. Ypu have an awesome site. Take care bro,


    PS: I think the Brazilians should be in charge of R&R in a SysAdmin force.

  9. Sonny,

    A great comment, as always. Let me try to answer it piecemeal.

    Outsourcing read isn't as crazy as it sounds. My instruction & cognition prof [1] has done research showing that good notes is the most important element in learning — more important than reading the material or attending the lecture yourself.

    In today's Washington Post, Prime Minister Jafari [2] says there has been on Mahdi Army attacks on Coalition forces. Is this true?

    I've noticed from that bad April that while AqiI preffered hit-and-run strikes, the Mahdi Army would fight in the open. It made it easy to destroy the Mahdi, but it also seemed like Sadr was doing that on purpose. “I'm a conventional fighter, not a terrorist, treat me that way” was the message I got.

    If Sadr would establish Iran 2 in Iraq, that would be an improvement from Saddamite Iraq. Iran's theocratic governing system has established constitutionism and secularism in the most important state in the Middle East. I generally agree with your assessment of Sadr, though, and think he wouldn't be up to the job.

    Barnett sees SysAdmin forces as older and more gender-balanced than the Leviathan — Military Police instead of Warfighters. He once said that we should have Chinese, Indian, and Russian troops in Iraq, because (approximate quote) “all three nations have a long history of killing Muslms. That way strategic despair would be helping us, not them.”

    (Barnett's description of how a global SysAdmin woudl work in Iraq reminded me of his fellow Marxist's Wagar's description of a future 'Core' invasion of Ukraine in 'A Short History of the Future' [3]. Precisely brutal. )


  10. Dan,

    Thanks for the response.

    As you can see from this NYT article [1] we are already outsourcing our game play to the Chinese, so my idea of outsourcing reading books and note taking to the Indians is not that far fetched. I would personally go with the Indians on reading my books. Some of the books I read are probably banned in China anyway.

    It is “true” that during Jafari's tenure as PM the Madhi Army has not launched a widesperead offensive against the Coalition on the same scale as the Apr-Aug 04 attacks in Karbala, Najaf and Sadr City. The PM during that time was Allawi. Jafari became PM after the Jan 05 elections. Of note, the Madhi Army “troops” don't wear name tags that say “Madhi Army” or carry ID's identifying them as such. They might wear some insignia or distintive head band when they decide to go overt, but they just as easily can engage our guys wearing a t-shirt and flip-flops. When it comes to insurgent groups, sometimes you can't easily tell who's who.

    After we “conventionally” defeated Sadr's forces in the fall of 04, and after a series of political compromises, his militia considerably scaled down the attcks against Coalition forces. Sadr is a smart guy and he probably understands that to “win” he does not have to engage our troops directly (a suicidal proposition for his foot soldiers), he only has to create enough chaos in Iraq to affect our fickle public opinion here in the States.

    Sometimes, I hate talking about my time over there, but Sadr wanted the conventional treatment and he got it in spades. We had Marines, soldiers, tanks, Bradleys, Apaches, Cobras, Vipers, Mud Hens, Preds, etc going after his guys. The only problem was we had to plan around the Iman Ali Shrine. The last thing we want it to do was hit that thing with a JDAM. Still, the whole campaign reminded me of two guys fighting in a small room with an expensive vase placed in the middle of the floor.

    I concur with your assessment, many times Islamic fighters engage in symbolic suicidal combat. Sadr knows that he can keep feeding guys to the American fire and so far he's had no shortage of willing young men to sacrifice for the cause.

    I don't think we wanted our intervetion in Iraq to result in Iran Junior. We'll see what happens.

    I'll talk to you later on the problems that I see with an “older, more gender balanced MP force”. Maybe I am getting it wrong, but from what I hear the SysAdmin force sounds to me like a Peace Corps on steroids at worst or the NYPD in cammies at best. The Peace Corps on steroids force sounds to me like a good source of hostages for AMZ and his kind. Besides, a pure SysAdmin force would probably not be able to handle intense combat against a determined opponent in urban environments like Fallujah, Ramadi, or An Najaf.

    Recipe for Hell-on-Earth: Invade Iraq, depose Saddam in 3 weeks, then we get out (and start planning for NK) and then we unleash a combined force of Chinese, Indians, Russians, and (why not?) Mongolians into Iraq. Then we can send Gerardo to report on the “progress” of whatever happens.

    Take care,



  11. Sonny,

    NYPD in cammies is probably closest. In “Blueprint for Action,” [1] Barnett lists the 1st 4-Star Military Police General as a hero of the future. Barnett moves most of the Army and USMC into the SysAdmin.

    In “Colossus,” which reads like Barnett with a British accent, Niall Ferguson [2] compares a future American military force to the imperial Civil Service. This is another way of thinking of the SysAdmin.

    Regarding Asiastic allies, check out these lines from Barnett's BFA brief [3], from the Rethinking the Future Nature of Competition & Conflict Seminar Series [4] (page 39)

    “One rule set for the Core, another for the Gap”

    “We must leave from grateful 'settlers' in our wake, not just bodies in smoking holes.”

    “America must prosecute the GWOT with Core defined rule set (no 'Dirty Harry approach')”

    Barnett sees the US and its SysAdmin allies creating a repeatable ruleset which gains legitimacy (a utilitarian, not normative, goal) because of wide adoption. The purpose of this is the “settling” of politically bankrupt states. Applying the cowboys-and-indians analogy to Iraq, if the Iraqi Sunni Arabs choice to fite the Core-Wide SysAdmin, they would become the Indians to the Shia/Kurdish Settlers. As the west settled, settlers gained the benefits of connectivity while the Indians 'gained' pacified reservations. On balance, a good thing.

    And a good message for others: don't fight the SysAdmin.

    (Phil and I have been talking messages [5] in another thread)

    For the hopeful view of the Islamic Republic of Iran, think in terms of correlation of forces. All in all, having a mideast power centered on constitutionalism and contracts helps more than it hurts. Granted, a free Iran is even better — but as Barnett says, “direction, not speed.”

    Hopefully the Islamic Republic won't last much longer, but the Arab world is in a far shittier state than Persia. For most of them, the IRI may well be an improvement.

    PS: A friend got really into the Final Fantasy MMORPG, until otaku started working it instead of going to school. Now that's a “reverse domino effect!” [6] 🙂


  12. Dan,

    Again, thank you for responding so promptly to my comments and I sincerely apologize for taking so much of your time and space on your site.

    1) I think Dr. Barnett's concept of a SysAdmin force is a sound one. But, you need to realize that it will take a cataclismic event to bring these change about. Is the SysAdmin force a different branch of the military? Are they civilians? Military? Is the SysAdmin a kinder gentler Army/USMC? The SysAdmin force would have to go into some pretty nasty places and be able to fight its way out if necessary. What group of American older, married, non-warfighter guys would volunteer to spend a year in (insert Gap country here), poorly armed (no Abrams, no Apaches and no Strike Eagles for the SysAdmin), living in a tent or if you are lucky, in a trailer, eating chow-hall food, getting paid a Gov salary, getting a occassional mortar or two lobbed at your base, etc, etc, etc. This SysAdmin guys would volunteer to do all this and they would not even have the prestige. let alone logistic support that soldiers, marines, airmen and sailors get. The Blackwater contractors are for the most part former special ops guys and get paid much more than your regular troop. In places like Iraq, you need warfighters. The Islamists would go after your guys whether they are Chinese, Korean, or Indian. People call for more troops on the ground, but when you actually use the troops i.e. Fallujah, Najaf, Tall Afar, etc., you hear the whining about how “brutal” our guys are. Duh! They are Marines!!! What are the Marines supposed to do? Use a bullhorn to clear Fallujah? “Guys, please, we need you to get out of the city so we can start rebuilding. Please put down your AK-47s and RPGs. You may take your Korans and your prayer mats with you. Have a nice day”. Some elemens (AMZ, Sadr) would never work with us no matter how touchy-feeely our forces get. The last thing you want is to send an emasculated force into the field and then have them outnumbered and outgunned by the enemy.

    2) Niall Ferguson is one of my favorite authors. I was actually reading Colossus on my flight from Qatar last year. All you have to do is read Chapter 6 “Going Home or Organizing Hypocrisy” to get a glimpse of the perils of creating a viable American SysAdmin force. What would be the incentive in a prosperous economy for an educated, 30-something, married, non-warfighter dude (or gal) to participate in some nation building project in the Middle East or Africa? Remember, you would be shipped off over there while the “real” Armed Forces are training or actually fighting the North Koreans, so your support will be thin at best. Are there guys like that out there? I suppose. But not enough to rebuild a nation. Outsurce the SysAdmin to the Chinese, Indians, or Brazilians? Sure. How are they going to get to the country they will “wage peace” on? With their brown water navies? With their limited air mobility assets? So, we pony up the naval and air assets and give them a ride to the would-be peace-waging location. Forget that our assets would already be tied up supporting the Leviathan force where they would be waging the war and preparing the way for the SysAdmin force. You see where this is going. The next large-scale overseas deployment by the PLA would be the first one I see. In war (and peace) it is all about logistics. Say what you may, but nobody does logistics like the US Armed Forces.

    Thanks for pointing me to Nathan Fick's video. Generation Kill is one of my favorite books.

    Take care,


    PS: Dealing with the current Iranian regime is like dealing with Hitler at this point. They should never get nukes. The worst thing we can do is side with the oppressors of the Iranian youth. Like Iraq, Iran will soon be free.

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