Wednesday, June 23, 2010

What General McChrystal May Have Planned All Along

President Obama removed Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal as commander of American forces in Afghanistan and tapped as his replacement the architect of the 2007 surge in Iraq, Gen. David H. Petraeus. 

None of this is surprising, of course.  The President certainly got counsel from his most-trusted military advisors, Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mullen  and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, to the effect that the remarks given by McChrystal and his aides, spoken outrageously on-the-record  to ROLLING STONE Magazine, constituted gross insubordination and disrespect for the chain of command, not to mention contempt for civilian authority.

In fact, McChrystal’s statements were so grossly insulting and intentionally inciting that one cannot simply shrug and attribute them to inadvertent slip-ups, in the macho atmosphere of a war zone.

Now, lest there be any mistake over motives, let me first establish one point: no one has been more vocal, across the last dozen years, in support of the United States Officer Corps, than I have been.  At  senior levels - the generals and admirals - these men and women make up one of the best-educated clades in American life, just after university professors and medical doctors.  Their dedication, discipline and courage are well-noted, but seldom remarked-upon is another fact -- that you cannot rise to flag rank in any service without developing a meticulous eye for detail and a facility for carefully studying the traits of both superiors and those under your command.

Hence, given the advanced warning they had, and extended period over which the ROLLING STONE interviews took place, the notion that all of this was just an aberration -- a momentary lapse into snarky, immature and impulsive gossip -- simply beggars the imagination.  Indeed, to claim that any of this was inadvertent is manifestly an insult to the general, himself.

Another thing that needs to be made-plain is that McChrystal's antipathy for democrats is not universal among his peers.  Indeed, I have long made a strong case that the US Officer Corps should be considered among the top victims of the insanity known as Neoconservatism.  That movement’s relentless war against every reservoir of sagacity and expertise - its one consistent program - has extended far beyond Tea Party populism, the War on Science, and the campaign to demolish and disable the US Civil Service (with effects we now see in the Gulf of Mexico).  It also featured the most outrageous meddling by politicians in military affairs - for political reasons - that we have seen since the Vietnam War.

The harm done by the neocons to the military, and especially the US Army is well-documented; when Bill Clinton left office, every Army and Marine brigade was deemed by military auditors to be  “fully combat ready.”  After George Bush was done, the number of “war ready” brigades was precisely zero.  And though the conversion of our land forces from supremely potent battlefield dominators to bedraggled counter insurgency swat-teams went uncriticized on the right, it contributed to desperate worry among the top members of the Officer Corps.  Well, most of them.

Resentment toward the Bushites finally crescendoed, in 2006, in a fuming, sub-surface rebellion, culminating with Donald Rumsfeld’s replacement, as Defense Secretary, by Robert Gates.  When I also saw that Adm. Mike Mullen was to become JCS Chairman, I knew that the neocons’ fanatically incompetent grip on our military had finally been pried loose... but that is another matter, drifting away from the topic at-hand.

Given that I think so highly of the Officer Corps (with allowances for the inevitable excesses of their testosterone-permeated realm), shall I sympathize with General McChrystal, for being fired?  Certainly his reputation for competence in managing field operations must have made the President’s decision as difficult as it was for Harry Truman to dismiss Douglass MacArthur, after similar levels of disrespect, during the Korean War.  Let there be no mistake, Obama did not want to do this.

But no, this was not (as McChrystal claimed in his public apology) just a lapse. A case of forgivable “stupidity.”  I do not believe that a man like McChrystal does anything without serious contemplation of the pros and cons.  It took weeks and many separate decisions to bring ROLLING STONE to his inner circle. Why, then, has nobody in the mass media even considered the simplest hypothesis --
-- that McChrystal did it all on purpose?

Am I serious?  Well, I do try to see the under-contemplated possibility.  And sure, my contrary quest for the alternative hypothesis can lead me down strange paths.  Nevertheless, in this case, there is ample precedent and incentive for the man to have done all this with full fore-knowledge and intent.
Consider the Liddy-North Effect, named for convicted criminals G. Gordon Liddy and Oliver North, whose conspiratorial efforts to undermine lawful government should have ensured perpetual infamy, but who instead went straight from prison to cushy roles as ranting hatchetmen in an oligarchy-subsidized punditry. What these men proved is that, unless you are caught eviscerating small animals or children on video, there is nothing -- no misbehavior -- that will prevent a prominent and macho critic of democrats from getting a paid gig on Fox News or Venom Radio.  Indeed, the more choleric, insulting and pyrotechnically disrespectful the behavior, the more likely you will get a plum slot.

Hence, it is with no lack of grudging respect that I predict this fellow will slip comfortably into whatever retirement engagement he has lined up, and we will see his face and hear his voice for the next 20 years, reading whatever talking points are put in front of him, whining - like Ollie North - about his Martyrdom at the hands of cursed liberals.

Hey, you gotta hand it to a tactician, who -- upon approaching inevitable retirement -- maps out the perfect campaign to optimize his results, forcing the hand of his boss, creating a situation where the president has no option at all, but to fire a “fighting general” and send him on his strategically planned way.

Ah, but respect or no, I’ll be glad to see him replaced by someone more typical of the Officer Corps. By a professional.  One who is also a citizen soldier.


=== OTHER POLITICAL ITEMS ===

The 20 world leaders at an economic summit in Toronto next weekend will find themselves in a country that has avoided a banking crisis where others have floundered, and whose economy grew at a 6.1 percent annual rate in the first three months of this year. The housing market is hot and three-quarters of the 400,000 jobs lost during the recession have been recovered.  Care to learn how it happened? 

This riff about the history of the US energy crisis is both hilarious and informative and demonstrates why it is NOT silly, but indeed heartening that a majority of American young people get a large portion of their news from the Daily Show with Jon Stewart! They aren’t fools.
J.M. Bernstein of the NY Times offers the following: “ More than their political ideas, it is the anger of Tea Party members that is already reshaping our political landscape.  As Jeff Zeleny reported last Monday in The Times, the vast majority of House Democrats are now avoiding holding town-hall-style forums — just as you might sidestep an enraged, jilted lover on a subway platform — out of fear of confronting the incubus of Tea Party rage that routed last summer’s meetings.  This fear-driven avoidance is, Zeleny stated, bringing the time-honored tradition of the political meeting to the brink of extinction.”

Bernstein goes on: “My hypothesis is that what all the events precipitating the Tea Party movement share is that they demonstrated, emphatically and unconditionally, the depths of the absolute dependence of us all on government action, and in so doing they undermined the deeply held fiction of individual autonomy and self-sufficiency that are intrinsic parts of Americans’ collective self-understanding.“

Offered up from the left: “The Coffee Party Movement gives voice to Americans who want to see cooperation in government. We recognize that the federal government is not the enemy of the people, but the expression of our collective will, and that we must participate in the democratic process in order to address the challenges that we face as Americans. As voters and grassroots volunteers, we will support leaders who work toward positive solutions, and hold accountable those who obstruct them.”

(Note, I often snarl “a plague on both your houses!” toward BOTH the right and left.  Sure, one side in particular is the worst threat to liberty and enlightenment, right now.  But I remember when it was the other.  I support these “coffee” alternatives.  But always with a wary eye.

=== The Power of Denial ===

Hey, I’m a parent.  I know first hand how natural it is, when confronted with unpleasant facts, to try to deny them away simply with “No, I didn’t!”  Heck it is probably humanity’s greatest talent.  But adults, especially in our civilization, are supposed to outgrow it.

Alas, you can’t beat doubt as a corporate strategy – especially if your product is life-threatening when used as directed”. New Scientist’s latest issue focuses on the Age of Denial. In particular how corporations manufacture doubt through PR campaigns, ads, slogans, hiring scientists & phony grass roots groups….all extensively used by tobacco, coal, chemical, fossil fuel industries.

Finally, a reminder:who wants culture war?  Who promotes it, as the best way to divide and weaken America?  Seriously. When talking to your favorite “ostrich”, mention that Fox is up around 10% owned by a consortium of Saudi princes. The truth.  Ask them why that should be.  And why their paranoia only works in one direction.

“Saudi billionaire investor Prince Alwaleed bin Talal held meetings this week with  Chairman and Chief Executive Rupert Murdoch to discuss investments, including Rotana Media, according to a statement from the prince's office Saturday. The meetings, which took place in New York on Jan. 14, "touched upon future potential alliance with News Corp., the statement said about a deal that would see News Corp. buy 10% of the existing shares in the company could be completed this month.”
Actually, it goes both ways.  Rupert Murdoch is buying 10% of Prince Talal’s media group... and Talal and his peers already own upwards toward 10% of Murdoch’s News Corp, parent of Fox News.  Ah, but smoking gun or no, there’s no effort to even hide any of this, because the populist culture warrior dittoheads will think what they are told to think.  And of course, it’s the liberals who are the traitors.

Okay.  Reminder time.  Cyclically, regularly (and always) keep checking on the Fox News Boycott.  You have a right to make your purchasing judgments based on many criteria.  Including a list of those who advertise with Glenn Beck.

79 comments:

Bytowner said...

You may be interested in the security measures undertaken by our current government up here in the run-up to the Toronto summit. I leave it to you to figure out what's being done wisely or not.

http://www.cbcnews.ca/g20

Tony Fisk said...

My initial reaction to McChrystal's comments was that he must have been drunk to have said them. If they were taken over the period of a month, they sound a bit more considered (either that or the man has a problem...)

Australia has also survived the GFC pretty well so far... although Rudd has received scant thanks for it! Ah well, the Oz government has been doing the opposition's job for it lately. Let's see how Gillard shapes up.

fuggr: an unskinned hearth rug

BillSeitz said...

I also believe it was intentional. But I think it's less about lining up a victim story and more about dodging the bullet of failure in Afghanistan.

Robert said...

While I don't have a specific URL in hand, I did see a news article recently about the shift in the drug market. Europe is becoming the new Cocaine haven, with it now sharing an equal level of profit as the United States.

Interestingly enough, cocaine use has dropped, as has heroin use. Afghanistan is still the largest (and primary) supplier of opium, with Russia and the Balkans being quite ineffective at stopping the transit of drugs.

Iran has proven very good at stopping the transit of drugs through its borders; if Obama ever wanted a doorway through which to open negotiations with Iran to normalize relations, the war on drugs and heroin would be the perfect front on which to do this. Sadly, Iran's quest for the Bomb will sideline this potential path as there's no normalizing relations with Iran so long as fears of a nuclear Iran remain.

This isn't to say drug use is necessarily declining. Instead, it's going synthetic. When you think of it, this is quite logical: growing opium or coca plants (or even marijuana) is fraught with problems, hard work, and the possibility of having your fields found and destroyed. Synthetic drugs don't need nearly the infrastructure, and can be hidden much more effectively.

The big problem for the illegal drug industry will be the current economic downturn. While the unemployed have more reason to buy and use drugs, their finances are nonexistent. We may see a surge in crime (despite the significant reduction in crime during the Great Recession), especially in those nations which have slashed budgets and cut into law enforcement funds to try and balance budgets.

And if, as I suspect, the European Union succumbs to a double-dip recession as cause-and-effect to the Austerity Budget Cuts, the crime wave may very well be centered in Europe. (The EU is a house of cards currently trembling under several breezes. If Greece, Spain, or Portugal succumb to a full-blown recession, you'll see other European nations dragged under in turn.)

Robert A. Howard, Tangents Reviews

Jumper said...

Corporate-manufactured doubt is formulated at "doublethink-tanks."

Tacitus2 said...

Since you are running out your standard points regarding the military (really, got this stuff on macrokey?) I suppose you will also want to mention that you know quite a few generals and admirals, and that they to a man despised Bush.
OK.
But in the spirit of contrariness, consider the possibility that they just maybe are not that enamoured with Obama either. Just a thought.

Still, Obama was right to fire McChrystal, and in Petreaus seems to have made a felicitous choice. The man has the respect of conservatives. And if he harbors a grudge against the MoveOn branch of the Democratic party he appears able to keep it to himself. A promising start, that.

Tacitus2

Abilard said...

@Tony

Your instincts were correct. In the article the reporter mentions going to bars with the general's aides, watching them get hammered, and recording their comments. Rather than quotes from the general himself, most of the words attributed to McChrystal come from these aides, gathered under the above circumstances.

I therefore think that Brin's contrarian hypothesis is incorrect. Instead I suspect that the comments merely reflect an entrenched contempt for left/urban/coastal/civilian culture. If so, that would imply that this contempt is so entrenched that such comments are no longer self-censored: like a 1950s man remarking that women should be in the kitchen, the speaker is unaware that any serious person could think differently.

Ilithi Dragon said...

Re Coffee Party:

I've been attending meetings for the local group here in York, and while our numbers have been small, and I can't say that it's a completely accurate representation of the group as a whole, I think we've been quite successful in promoting civil dialogue and honest discussion with the aim of finding common ground and a functional solution that works best for everyone. The last meeting I attended (I missed the last actual meeting because I hit a deer and totaled my car), we had no less than five distinct political views represented, six if you count the one subset, and nobody died! We were all able to sit down and talk with each other as mature adults, discuss things, share information and knowledge, and find that on a lot of issues, when you actually sit down and look them over, we don't really disagree all that much about what is wrong, or even why it's wrong. We have different ideas about how to fix it, and in some cases even what qualifies as 'fixed', but the spirit promoted in our group, at least, has been one of putting our different ideas for solutions together to find the best solution, or combination or hybridization of solutions.

Now, as I said, I can't say that reflects the group as a whole, and with any large, varied, dispersed group there's always going to be divergences in the ideologies and operations of local groups/cells, but in my activity on the group's official forums, that general spirit of mature, civil (but not dispassionate) discussion and debate, and working together to find common ground and a workable solution that best addresses the problems that we can all agree on (or at least accept), and a rejection of the shouting-match/pissing-contest/denial-of-everything-I-don't-like mindsets that have plagued political discussion of late, are quite common.

Whether or not it will last or catch on in the large scale, though, I cannot say.

Tacitus2 said...

Ilithi

Bummer 'bout the car. I dodge deer all the time, so far successfully. Hope you were uninjured.
Regards Coffee Parties.
Can you thumbnail describe the five different political views? Have you reached out with an actual invite to the local Tea Party? I know the York (PA?) area, and you could certainly find a few conservatives out that way without working too hard at it.

Tacitus2

John Kurman said...

Although the motive behind McChrystal's behavior is(was) painfully obvious to any student of human behavior beyond the age of eight, it still needs to be said. Of course he wanted out. But notice how everyone except Obama was abused? It was a tacit insult, but you never directly insult the Boss, not unless you really want to burn all the bridges. It reminded me of, wel,, not chess, to crude, but a game of Go. Things are going south in the land where Empires Go to Die.

As a cynic, I am never disappointed (well, maybe occasionally, when something nice happens). So, I'm practicing my deep breathing exercises now so that my head does not explode come November - when the largest ever collection of jellyheads, bluntskulls, halfwits, and drooling meatslappers assembles in Congress. Unless several good things start happening in the next few months, you better start steeling yourself right now for the migration of the Stupids.

Abilard said...

@Kurman

Never attribute motives when incompetence will suffice. It leads to paranoia and despair. :-)

John Kurman said...

Abilard,

Paradoxically (or necessarily?), paranoia and despair fule the flame of hope!

Ilithi Dragon said...

Tacitus,

Yeah, I was fine, and the damage to the car wasn't even all that bad (bad enough, but the insurance would have covered it), if the bastard hadn't managed to trip the airbag sensor, deploying both airbags. That was well over half the cost of damages right there.

For that meeting (yes, in York, PA (and if anyone here is in the area, you're more than welcome to come to our meetings, our next one is this Sunday afternoon)), we had two flavors of conservatives (including a Tea Party member/participant), a card-carrying Libertarian, a card-carrying liberal Democrat, a registered conservative Democrat, and a couple social-democrats (one registered Democrat and one independent (myself)).

Tim H. said...

Llithi, as I was told 25 years ago, "Don't you know you're supposed to do that with a gun?" Hope you've now got your bad luck out of the way for the year.

Ilithi Dragon said...

Hahaha... No, not likely. Not knowing my luck...
} : = 8 /

Robert said...

As Jim Lovell said in Apollo 13 (after the center engine failed during the initial ascent), "Looks like we've had our glitch for this mission." And we all know how that went. ^^;;

Rob H.

Anonymous said...

Another take on McChrystal:

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2010/06/the-night-beat-obama-borrows-the-military-back/58635/

Robert said...

Here's a couple of articles of interest. First, Newsweek claims that McChrystal's ouster doesn't actually change anything in Afghanistan because we're losing. Which depends on your definition of "losing" I suppose. There will probably be a nasty civil war in Afghanistan once we pull out. Indeed, I could see the Taliban forming their own mini-state, biting off a part of Afghanistan and Pakistan; if they just stayed there, I don't think there'd be much international interest at this point.

Sadly, as Pakistan is showing, the Taliban is greedy. They don't want a slice of the pie. They want the entire thing. Probably the only thing that would keep this from happening is having the U.S. arm every single citizen of Afghanistan before leaving so that they can defend themselves; the Taliban would find themselves in the middle of their own civil war. For every person they kill, for every terror tactic they pull, they would turn several people against them. (Especially if you arm the women. Considering how the Taliban treats women... I could see segments of an armed female populace refusing to be cowed and going to war against the Taliban.)

Unfortunately, whatever we do, a lot of people are going to die over there when we leave. Probably the only thing we could do would be to allow as many Afghani who want to emmigrate to move to the U.S. so to avoid persecution. But that would be political suicide; the Right would claim every single Afghani is a terrorist and going to take jobs and money from our country.

Oh, I've a tangential question: what is the current state of the U.S. Armed Forces? From what I understand, military recruitment is significantly up (which often happens when there is an economic downturn). Have we begun to repair the damage done by the Bush Administration to the Armed Forces? Are we going to be able to rotate in fresh troops rather than constantly recycling people until they break? Just curious.

---------

And now on to science. Here's an article explaining how scientists determined the hot Jupiter's orbital speed, mass, and wind speeds. I must admit, it's an inspired bit of science there, using doppler shifts used initially to determine the atmospheric content of the orbiting planet to not only determine orbital speed... but wind speed as well. I'm not entirely sure I trust the results as we're talking about something that doesn't even appear as its own pixel in a computerized picture of that star system... but it is still a truly inspired use of current technology to push the boundaries of science.

(I must admit some curiosity. Multiple radio telescopes are used to get a larger view of what's out there. Might that work with optical telescopes as well? If orbital telescopes were put up in the L-points of the Sol/Earth system, would we possibly have better resolution of images for examining distant stars and planets?)

----------

Finally, Asian Carp have been found beyond the electric barriers protecting the Great Lakes system. Despite this verified proof that the carp have bypassed the barriers, and that the Great Lakes are at risk, the Army Corps of Engineers has stated that this doesn't change anything and that they are not going to close the canals.

Rob H.

Tacitus2 said...

Rob
One of my sons is actually, as we speak, on Asian Carp deployment! He says it is unclear whether the carp would actually do well in Lake Michigan, its a vast difference from their preferred environment. And so far, the barrier has not definitively been breached. But its only a matter of time.
I advised him, in the event he shocks one up, to hand it off to his supervisor. Heads will roll once the carp are proven to be through, and you do not want your face associated with this disaster in any way.

Ilith
cool stuff on the coffee party. I am not actively involved in the local Tea party, but if I were I would advise having a "Tea and Coffee" table at events for polite discussion of the issues of the day. It should be possible to be both spirited and civil, while having a little fun in the process.

Tacitus2

Robert said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ian said...

The Canadian banks (and the Australian banks which are similar) were involved in securitisation etc just as much as were the US banks.

They fared better for two reasons:

1. The Canadian economy more broadly wasn't anywhere as badly affected as the US economy.

2. The Canadian industry, like the Australian, is highly concentrated with the big banks enjoying substantial market power - this is in opposition to the US market which is much more competitive.

The super-profits the Canadian banks earn from the higher fees they can charge Canadian consumers made them mroe creditworthy and cushioned them from market falls.

Canadians, and Australians,were partially shielded from the GFC - at the expense of the billions of dollars in excessive fees they pay out each and every year.

Ian said...

"Oh, I've a tangential question: what is the current state of the U.S. Armed Forces?"

The number of troops withdrawn from Iraq exceeds the number of troops newly deployed to Afghanistan.

That would appear to suggest the extraordinary pressure on the military over the past eight years should be easing.

Ian said...

Robert, I have to be frank and say that that Newsweek article is less than convincing.

For starters it attempts to portray counterinsurgency as all "hearts and minds" and ignores the fact that 2/3s of the additional combat troops planned are yet to be deployed to Afghanistan.

It also repeats a bunch of standard cliches about Afghanistan as an ungovernable land of "tribal warriors".

This ignores the century or so of Afghan history prior to the military coup and subsequent civil war in the 1970's.

It also fails spectacularly to suggest any possible alternative strategy.

Going home and letting the Taliban take over again is not a viable alternative, especially not given that their stated goal is to overthrow the Pakistani government, get control of their nuclear weapons and use them as a deterrent to keep the US at bay as they seek to overthrow the governments of Iran and the entire Muslim world.

Tim H. said...

The next time congress considers sending our armed forces to war, reading a couple of pieces of antique literature into the congressional record might ease some misunderstandings... Twain's "The war prayer"
http://www.midwinter.com/lurk/making/warprayer.html
and Kipling's "The grave of the hundred head"
http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_Grave_of_the_Hundred_Head
Just to remind the politicians what war naturally wants to be, and will at earliest opportunity.

Ian said...

A quick illustration of what the Canadian banks actually do as opposed to the romanticized view of them as virtuous proponents of old-fashioned narrow banking.

https://www.rbccm.com/securitization/cid-206672.html#

Darrell E said...

Robert Said:

(I must admit some curiosity. Multiple radio telescopes are used to get a larger view of what's out there. Might that work with optical telescopes as well?

This is called interferometry, a technique that combines one or more waves in such a way as to create useful interference patterns. Different interference patterns with different properties are created by changing the phase relationships between the waves. To date the most common use of interferometry in astronomical observing is to increase resolution. The use of interferometry was limited to radio telescopes for some time because it is a much harder technical challenge at shorter wavelengths. However, there are now several sizable optical observatories that utilize interferometry, such as the very impressive VLT at Paranal, an ESO facility.

To date interferometry has been used only for increasing resolution. But, interferometry can also be utilized to cancel out signals or parts of signals. And, though the concept has been around for awhile, there is now a working prototype of a "nulling" interferometer which can "null" the light from a star, but let the light from any planets around the star remain. This device can reportedly make the light from the central star appear 100 million times fainter.

If orbital telescopes were put up in the L-points of the Sol/Earth system, would we possibly have better resolution of images for examining distant stars and planets?)

Absolutely! There is a problem in actually implementing such a system though. It is an enormous technical challenge. The level of precision required is extreme. Combining signals from such distant objects, moving in relation to each other, at different rates. Very difficult.

Marino said...

e. Afghanistan, from the blog of Charles Stross

But Afghanistan? A fly-bitten wilderness with a rep for chewing up and spitting out invaders: so hostile that neither Pakistan nor Iran had any interest in trying to bite off chunks? It was once a second-tier Soviet satellite state; not hugely prosperous or progressive but vastly more modern and enlightened than the hell-hole familiar to us from news coverage today.

http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2010/05/27/once_upon_a_time_in_afghanistan?page=full

Leaving aside the issue of how it was systematically turned into a suppurating wound on the southern frontier of the former Soviet empire by the judicious application of US government aid to radical Mujahedin elements — it's darkly amusing to re-watch the James Bond movie The Living Daylights in view of subsequent events — the only obvious western interest in Afghanistan, post-2001, lay in nailing Osama bin Laden's headquarters group and depriving Al Qaida of the ability to use the relatively lawless area as a safe training ground.

David McCabe said...

A note about Somaliland in the NY Times.

rewinn said...

"...Going home and letting the Taliban take over again is not a viable alternative, especially not given that their stated goal is to overthrow the Pakistani government, get control of their nuclear weapons and use them as a deterrent to keep the US at bay as they seek to overthrow the governments of Iran and the entire Muslim world...."

1. Some would think the Iranians might have something to say about that last bit. A cynic and/or a practitioner of realpolitik would step out from between the mullahs of Teheran and the Taliban.

2. "Not a viable option" applies to the "counterinsurgency" strategy that failed so spectacularly in Vietnam last century and, for that matter, in the American Colonies about 230 years ago. Foreign troops, massive firepower and a corrupt local/central government are the best recruiters the other side could wish for.

3. "Going home" is not the same as "letting the Taliban take over again". We orchestrated the overthrow of the Taliban with few troops, a little money, and a little bit of brains (...but very few opportunities for contractors to skim off the top ...).

It really is time to face the fact that Afghanistan's neighbor have both a greater interest and a more effective strategy for a reasonably stable Afghanistan.

rewinn said...

As for the issue of an AQ training ground, it's worth noting Afghanistan never had and still lacks facilities for training terrorists to take over jetliners or make nuclear weapons.

If the Atlantic and the Pacific can't protect us against AK-47s, perhaps we need to rethink the aircraft carrier task force.

rewinn said...

I must apologize for 3 postings in a row, but did anyone notice that "Climategate" has been demonstrated to have been a total hoax:

"...not only did British investigators clear the East Anglia scientist at the center of it all, Phil Jones, of scientific impropriety and dishonesty in April, an investigation at Penn State cleared PSU climatologist Michael Mann of “falsifying or suppressing data, intending to delete or conceal e-mails and information, and misusing privileged or confidential information” in February. In perhaps the biggest backpedaling, The Sunday Times of London, which led the media pack in charging that IPCC reports were full of egregious (and probably intentional) errors, retracted its central claim—namely, that the IPCC statement that up to 40 percent of the Amazonian rainforest could be vulnerable to climate change was “unsubstantiated.” The Times also admitted that it had totally twisted the remarks of one forest expert to make it sound as if he agreed that the IPCC had screwed up, when he said no such thing.
.
..."
Newspapers Retract 'Climategate' Claims, but Damage Still Done

(p.s. ACORNgate: also a hoax, but the aristocracy won that one too.)

Ian said...

"As for the issue of an AQ training ground, it's worth noting Afghanistan never had and still lacks facilities for training terrorists to take over jetliners or make nuclear weapons."

The 9/11, London Subway and Madrid subway attacks were all planned in Afghanistan,led by agents trained in Afghanistan and funded by Afghan heroin money.

Leaving the Taliban in control of the opium-producing areas is equivalent to handing Bin Laden a cheque fro a coupel of billion dollars a year.

Cherry-picking examples of unsuccessful counterinsurgency actions (there are plenty of successful counterexamples including Iraq (both in the current decade and in the 1920's, Malaya, the Phillipines (both in 1900's during the US occupation and in 1970's with the New People's Army).

I'm also amused by the theory that "Afghanistan's neighbours" have the military wherewithal to achieve what the US can not.

(I'm less amused by the apparent belief that they, especially Pakistan, aren't already making major efforts against the Taliban.)

rewinn said...

Ian - Last point first:

I'm amused that you don't realize that both China's army and India's are a heck of a lot bigger than ours and their relevant technology is on par (...you don't need ICBMs to occupy villages). They absolutely have the wherewithal to alienate the population of Afghanistan more-or-less the way we have; they're just not foolish enough to try.

When it comes to cherry-picking counterinsurgency strategies, congratulations --- you win! If you think Iraq is a success please tell us which was the Taliban faction there that we killed off. I mean, let's be honest; in Iraq we paid the Sunnis to join us which was a pretty smart strategy, and somewhat comparable to the way we knocked off the Taliban in the first place. If you want to bribe the Taliban same way we did the Sunnis, well, o.k., that seems to be what Karzai wants.

Also in Iraq we took advantage of an already existing central government and weren't foolish enough to push the Kurds too hard on the matter of kowtowing to whoever runs Baghdad. In contrast, Karzai is the mayor of Kabul and the provinces don't seem to see any reason to obey him. Look how well Marjah went, eh?

And ... it's worth noting that insurgent technology has radically improved since the early massacres of the Phillipinos ... an instance of which America should be deeply ashamed ... or of the American native population's insurgencies. Vietnam is scarcely "cherrypicking"; it and the Soviet experience in Afghanistan revealed a huge change in the strategic balance ... which most nations other than the USA and USSR were wise enough to note and adapt to.

As for planning for 9/11 etc it was only in the vaguest terms in Afghanistan; the serious planning and flight training were in Europe and the USA and ... this is key ... the internet. We could occupy all of Afghanistan and so what? AQ is a great (albeit evil) exemplar of decentralized systems. We can't occupy every slum in the world and it's foolish to try.

Ian said...

:Vietnam is scarcely "cherrypicking";;

I'm not goign to respond to most of yoru points but you complain that Iraq is not sufficiently like Afghanistan to be a valid point of comparison and then invoke Vietnam.

Tell me what's the rival super-power arming the Taliban?

Where's their massive conventional army?

Do you seriously want to argue that Vietnam, a largely ethnically homogenous confucian society with a strong national sense of identity and a recent history of colonialism is a better guide to Afghanistan than Iraq - another Muslim country which is muli-ethnic state with a relatively brief history as an independent polity.

I'm not going to participate further in this debate because if I do I suspect I'm going to become irate and rism giving offense.

The polite reasoned tone of this blog is all rare on the internet and I don't want to spoil it.

Ian said...

:Vietnam is scarcely "cherrypicking";;

I'm not goign to respond to most of yoru points but you complain that Iraq is not sufficiently like Afghanistan to be a valid point of comparison and then invoke Vietnam.

Tell me what's the rival super-power arming the Taliban?

Where's their massive conventional army?

Do you seriously want to argue that Vietnam, a largely ethnically homogenous confucian society with a strong national sense of identity and a recent history of colonialism is a better guide to Afghanistan than Iraq - another Muslim country which is muli-ethnic state with a relatively brief history as an independent polity.

I'm not going to participate further in this debate because if I do I suspect I'm going to become irate and rism giving offense.

The polite reasoned tone of this blog is all rare on the internet and I don't want to spoil it.

Pat Mathews said...

You have a couple of spammers in your COmments column. One of them is singsong_like, who has two posts. The other is qishaya.

Robert said...

Posted without comment except to say that airlines are becoming bigger and bigger dicks. Truly, once high-speed rail is available across the U.S., I suspect the airlines are going to start losing business big-time.

And that the people who rescued the turtle afterward and sent it to the girls? Deserve a bonus. Even if they flew it cargo. ;)

Rob H.

Randy B. said...

"McChrystal's antipathy for democrats is not universal among his peers"

Obviously not, since Gen. McChyrystal himself had voted for Obama, and had banned FoxNews from TV sets in his HQ.

The funny thing is, until now, McChrystal would have been a good pick for Obama's running mate in 2012 if Afghanistan went well.

Robert said...

I almost wonder if he'll not run in 2012, and let Hillary run instead. It would truly screw over the Republicans. They'd have a woman candidate who is quite popular, has been a fairly effective Sec. of State, and who would run rings around Palin, the GOP's only current female candidate with half a shot at the White House.

Best of all, if Palin did run, a lot of Republicans would refuse to vote. They'd see two women candidates and feel utterly betrayed by the political parties and the loss of the Old Boys Network.

Ah, don't mind me. I'm just waxing silly here. ^^

Randy B. said...

BTW: In case anyone doubts my last post, here's a link:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ynews/20100624/ts_ynews/ynews_ts2817

rewinn said...

I'll respect Ian's desire to step out of this conversation, but it's important to consider that the Western Way of War (tm) is not the only one that has had massive technological or other improvements in the last half-century.

"Tell me what's the rival super-power arming the Taliban?"

The free market in weaponry. Insurgents have discovered that they don't need a superpower patron so long as they have cash. (And a cynic would suggest that so long as the insurgents are bleeding the world's #1 power, they'll never be very short of cash ... unless powers #2 through #149 are unwontedly scrupulous.)

"Where's their massive conventional army?"

Not needed and in fact it would be counter-productive.

It is said that the Byzantines had a rule against fighting the same barbarian tribe more than a couple seasons in a row, because after a while the tribe would learn the Byzantine ways and figure out how to win ... or at least how to cause too many casualties. Our civilian leadership has unwisely provided laboratories for insurgents to experiment in. When you include TBI PTSD and the like, our units are coming home with casualty rates of 30% and up. This is a poor long term strategy, quite apart from the strategic pointlessness of trying to take up the White Man's Burden in Afghanistan.

"Do you seriously want to argue that Vietnam, a largely ethnically homogenous confucian society with a strong national sense of identity and a recent history of colonialism is a better guide to Afghanistan than Iraq - another Muslim country which is muli-ethnic state with a relatively brief history as an independent polity."

Counterinsurgency strategy relies upon the development of a trusted central government which, to address the point, is less likely in highly fragmented Afghanistan
(whose recent history of Soviet-style colonialism doesn't seem to have been any happier than Vietnam's French colonialism BTW) than in the more historically unified Iraq or in Vietnam.

Please note also that Iraq's counterinsurgency "success" depended on letting the Kurds have their mini-state, and buying off the Sunnis. These aren't "counterinsurgency" doctrines, they're merely practical and don't depend on us actually holding, patrolling and shooting up the territory.

I feel great sympathy for the Afghans and have no doubt that most of them hate the Taliban, but they don't seem to like us much better. It's been nine years and we don't have an army of Afghans to rely on; isn't that a hint? We've seen this movie before and it doesn't end well.

And ...worst of all...we do not need Afghanistan; if we did, we would also need the Sudan, Yemen and a bunch of other places that we are not going to get. The strategy of occupying and pacifying every bit of dirt that bad guys may gather in has the math against it; meanwhile, our occupations are the best recruiting tools AQ could hope for.

It's time to act smarter. There is now a concensus even among Republican leaders that invading Iraq was a huge mistake; those of us who pointed this out all along might be worth listening to on Afghanistan.

Ian said...

"It's time to act smarter. There is now a concensus even among Republican leaders that invading Iraq was a huge mistake; those of us who pointed this out all along might be worth listening to on Afghanistan."

Seeing as I was one of the people vehemently opposed ot the invasion of Iraq, I agree.

Brendan said...

T2: Do you know if there are major differences between Asian and European carp? Cause the experience in Australia with carp is once they were introduced they quickly created environments in the rivers and lakes that suited them, doing things like disturbing the bottom to create a muddier, siltier environment. It was the environment change that lead to the drop in other species and over time domination of carp in our waterways.

Ian said...

Brendan,

The Bighead carp which is causing the problems in the US is much bigger than the common carp found in Australia.

Tacitus2 said...

Brendan
Asian "Bighead" Carp grow fast and appear able to outcompete many native species. Not sure as to the max. size of Asians vs. European carp both get pretty big.(actually there are numerous carp in England/Europe, mirror carp, common carp, and one or two others.
The Asian carp are also notorious for being excited by the sound of outboard motors...they jump right out of the water and have knocked fishermen out of their boats. In some redneck parts of the land they have Asian carp rodeos...cruise along with the motor humming and when the carp jumps smack 'em with a baseball bat! Take that, foreign imports!
Tacitus2

Anonymous said...

David, before you get too dewy-eyed over Canada, notice the change in government we had a few years back.

The Liberals got voted out and replaced with a neocon government. The Liberals ran up the budget surplus. The Tories had pretty well spent the surplus on tax cuts so we started the crisis with no cushion — just not as much in the hole.

When you see Flaherty (the current finance minister) talking about good financial planning, remember that it was Flaherty who, when provincial finance minister, misrepresented a deficit in the billions as a balanced budget — and who's party sold off public assets at fire-sale prices to cronies…

If you want to look at Canada as a model, you have to look at Cretien's government, not Harper's.

Catfish N. Cod said...

Completely off topic: a followup on a previously posted story, "Are Cameras the New Guns?", where it was noted that three states have made it illegal to train your Tru-Vu glasses... or your iPhone... on a cop during a pull-over.

Traffic Stops May Be Monitored For Quality Control Purposes

TheWatchfulBabbler said...

As noted above, McChrystal is actually a very liberal Democrat, and by all accounts had built a good relationship with Obama. He also had a very bad relationship with policy opponents in the Administration, including Biden, and had come to loggerheads with Holbrooke, largely over Karzai.

McChrystal screwed up, plain and simple -- he and his staff got used to this guy tagging along with him, they got drunk in Paris, spent way too long with him, and killed their careers. Arguably, McChrystal was ill-served by his aides, but he obviously encouraged an attitude that bordered on the edge of Article 88.

It's unfortunate that a fast-mover like McChrystal came to such a bad end, especially since he had actually built a softer, population-focused strategy in Afghanistan, which Petraeus may not keep in place. However, his inability to get along with policy opponents -- which violated unit of purpose constraints in counterinsurgency warfare -- was a major problem.

Sad day, really, but Obama had no choice in the matter. And, as we saw, McChrystal knew it.

David Brin said...

Wow. if you are right, then I plain shot off my mouth way too soon and based on too little info. Well, that's blogging for you. Neglecting the good habits of my journalistic background...

We'll see if Obama actually slides McCh SIDEWAYS into another job, instead of retirement...

Summer Seale said...

I just want to post my defense of the war in Afghanistan and Iraq (and elsewhere). And I know it probably isn't the best place to do it, but I feel compelled.

I'm left of center in almost every way. Anti-theist, pro-science, accept evolution and global warming as facts, pro-choice, pro-gay marriage...you get the picture, I hope.

However, that being said, I am a Hitchens type of "leftie". I absolutely supported the Iraq and Afghanistan wars for the exact same reasons as Hitchens does, but I would like to say that the way in which they were conducted was horrific and stupid beyond words. I absolutely disagree with the premise that we had no business being there, but I absolutely agree with the fact that we should have done a far better and much more intelligent job of it.

I really like this post and I was glad it was pointed out to me. But it wasn't just "Neocons" who supported the war. I, and a few other lefties, supported both wars for very logical, rational, and humanist reasons. I did so as an anti-theist, as a humanist, and as a liberal - for liberal values.

If anything, I am angry at the Bush administration for conducting these operations in the worst possible way. It would have been nice had we known if the Army Corps of Engineers would have been able to keep the power running in Baghdad (and elsewhere) when we took it, or kept the water flowing the same that they did with the oil. Or, indeed, even just protected the archeological museums. No, I won't forgive them for such blunders and absolute ineptitude. But I will say that I am grateful that they did finally go in and try to liberate both countries, incredibly flawed as the operations have been.

On to the General: I agree, I don't think it was accidental. Nobody rises to that level of leadership without being a serious politician and disciplinarian. There was another motive there and it should be quite clear to anyone with half a clue.

I do think we're experiencing a failure in Afghanistan, and I think it's fairly clear why. And there's only two solutions to it: Either you accept that we're there for a very long time (far beyond the pullout coming in 2011), or you think it's not worth the trouble and we pull out.

Summer Seale said...

While I support Obama, I think he made a mistake in Afghanistan. You either commit all the way, or you don't. Since I want Afghanistan to be a stable place, I wish he would have committed to it more fully. However, he didn't, and we're paying the price in the attitude of the Afghan people and leadership.

I'm willing to accept that people want to pull out, and I'm even willing to accept Obama's decision on it. My wishes are the opposite. But one thing I think everyone can agree on is that you have to do it all the way - either way, or it simply won't work.

I would like to point something out which doesn't appear to be remembered or discussed, for some reason: in 2001, in September, people were moaning and flagellating themselves over the fact that the reason the Taliban came around and were harboring Al Qaeda was because we had abandoned Afghanistan all throughout the 90's. People pointed out that it was, in part, our own fault that they were there to fill the vacuum after we had left. And right of them to do so, might I add. We were in part to blame for that disaster. Absolutely.

But you can't have it both ways. Either you're to blame for a mess and you agree to clean it up, or you agree that it's your mess and you think it's just not worth your time to fix it.

In my thinking, when a country creates a mess like that, it is incumbent upon them to be the helping hand to fix things and make amends. When you create a disaster, you bear all the responsibility to help clean it up. We, as a nation (The United States) need to accept our destructive roles in the past. And when it comes to it, we should be honorable and do what it is necessary to fix the things which we broke.

That is one reason I support the war in Afghanistan and Iraq. We did help out monsters in decades past, and we helped to create these terrible conditions we now see. It came back to bite us in the ass nine years ago, and it will keep doing so until we, or somebody else, helps to fix it.

Summer Seale said...

Now, all the talk is about withdrawal. I'm not sure that we have learned from history if we take such a step. It was clear on 9/11 why the Taliban was there, and it should be clear that it may very well happen again - possibly something even far worse.

So, on a historical level, on a humanitarian level, on a democratic level, and many other "liberal" levels, I find myself agreeing that we should stay in to the bitter end, for many more years if necessary. These are the reasons which made me agree with the action in the first place and this has not changed.

So, yes, our military is strapped beyond belief, but it doesn't mean that we can't regroup and plan anew. Our military has fought in the past under far more dire circumstances when we set clear goals and got everyone in on the fight. We never did so with Afghanistan and Iraq (yet another Bush failure, might I add), and we are now paying the price.

I think that Obama has to make a clear decision and not waver. Either you accept the consequences of pulling out and you do it all the way, or you go in all the way. There is no compromise in battle and I think that the good General was trying to let us know very directly about this kind of choice and situation at hand.

Again, before you flame me: I perfectly well accept the entire slew of failures of the Bush administration, and the indecision of the Obama administration, when it comes to the conduct of the wars. And I will even accept your notion, for many other logical reasons, that war will simply not work. I do think, however, that I have repeatable history on my side as well (as do others who point out that Afghanistan has never before been tamed), and that is something we can argue about until we are blue in the face. But the reason I had to pipe up and post a really long reply is that I wanted to point out that it wasn't just "crazy Neocons" who supported the wars. A few of us leftists felt differently than the rest of our groupthink, and we supported it for very left of center ideological (and some might say even long term practical) reasons.

I just hope that you understand why, and don't flame us all for having done so.

Thank you.

Ian said...

While I have zero military experience personally I have discussed the McChrystal case with a couple of friends who are vets.

Their view:

1. As their superior officer, McChrstal is responsible for the good order and discipline of his subordinates, instead he seems to have created a culture where insubordination was tolerated or even encouraged.

2. As CO, McChrystal should have maintained a certain distance from his subordinates even during their off-duty hours. Getting fallen down drunk with them, is definitely not appropriate behaviour.

Ilithi Dragon said...

Summer, I doubt you'll have to worry about being flamed here. We're often blunt in our criticisms, and we can sometimes be harsh when calling out something we feel is BS, but as long as you have enough of a thick skin that you're not mortally wounded by disagreement with or even firm challenge to your positions, you'll be fine. Being exceedingly civil yourself also helps here.

Dr. Brin is going to be one of the last people to throw someone out for having a dissenting opinion. You might have your opinion picked apart mercilessly, but as long as you don't go flaming or trolling yourself, you're very welcome here.

Summer Seale said...

ilithi Dragon,

Thank you. =)

I just wanted to speak my mind on that issue. Again, I hope it was ok and thanks for reassuring me.

Ilithi Dragon said...

Hey, a while back I read an article about the possibility of new, super-heavy elements much heavier than the known elements on the periodic table, that are naturally stable. I think it was linked to on here, but I haven't been able to find it again. Do you guys remember that, or happen to have a link to it?

Darrell E said...

I don't remember the particular article that was linked to from here, but the concept is called the "island of stability".

Here are a few links that might be helpful to you.

A New Scientist article, Hunting The Biggest Atoms In The Universe.

A Nova Science Now clip, Island Of Stability, Follow the decades long quest to create the elusive element 114.

The Wikipedia entry on the Island Of Stability.

rewinn said...

"It was clear on 9/11 why the Taliban was there, "

No. 9/11 had nothing to do with the Taliban.

As for Afghanistan in the REAL world:

* Would it be too much to ask the Afghans what THEY want us to do? I don't mean asking Diem/Theiu/Karzai; I mean the actual Afghan people, as indicated by their actions. If they supported our effort, would it take them eight years to build an army?

* The Taliban may be world-class A-holes but they are no threat to the USA. AQ is a completely different organization and has no trouble find hideyholes in other nations.

* Those who advocate occupying Afghanistan until it reaches what you consider an acceptable level of civilization need to give a principled reason for not doing the same in Sudan and a few other places.

* It may well be a "liberal" vision to project our democratic ideals by force onto other nations, as we did in Vietnam and are doing in Afghanistan. Liberals can be fools too.

If you have something people want, you don't have to force them to take it; they'll swipe it from you.

* Just because you want a pony, doesn't mean you can afford a pony. Just because you want to occupy Afghanistan until they become acceptable to you, doesn't mean you can afford to occupy Afghanistan until they become acceptable to you.

Jonathan S. said...

I must beg to differ with you, rewinn. The Taliban did indeed have "something to do" with the events of Sept 11, 2001 - they provided a stable base of operations and source of funding for al-Qaeda, the group ultimately responsible.

Now, I have yet to figure out what Iraq was supposed to have to do with any of this, especially since Saddam Hussein had already used up all those terror weapons the US sold him during his ten-year war with Iran. If we were going to displace someone just because he was a dictator who jailed dissidents, for instance, why not go after the House of Saud? They were always worse about that sort of thing than Saddam, who at least didn't seem to harbor any religious prejudices - part of why he was almost as widely hated in the region as the US...

Tim H. said...

Seems "shrub" thought the conquest of Iraq was destiny, turned out to be density. A good lesson in the pitfalls of wanting it NOW.

Tacitus2 said...

I've read accounts that suggest that Al-Queda was a less than welcome guest in Afghanistan, pretty much came in waving cash and running roughshod over the bumpkins.
But even a best case scenario makes the Taliban accessories after the fact, they certainly had the ability after 9/11 to round up Bin Laden and pals, hog tie them and dump them at the border. Failure to do so condemned the Talib as well.
Its easy to talk about how difficult the AfPak war is, and how much we would like to be done with the place. But politically the current admin cannot bail at this time.
Tacitus2

LarryHart said...


A Nova Science Now clip, Island Of Stability, Follow the decades long quest to create the elusive element 114.


Hey, anyone who regularly watches "Phineas and Ferb" knows that that element is Pizzazium Infinianide.

:)

spacechampion said...

I am trying to encourage a whistleblower fund be set up by a local citizen's group to award anyone coming forward -- with enough evidence to convict -- with any report regarding police involvement with the black bloc group at the G20 protests.

When the black bloc were smashing windows and burning cop cars, thousands of cops stood there and watched for 1.5 hours, waited for the black bloc to disperse into the peaceful protesters, and then attacked and arrested the peaceful protesters. Seems like a setup. Maybe there were cops among the black bloc, maybe there wasn't. I think the black bloc wanted the cops to attack the peaceful protesters and journalists so they could scream about police brutality, and I think the cops wanted the black bloc to riot so they could justify the huge security budget and justify arresting everyone among the protesters. It was win-win for both the cops and black bloc, and lose-lose for the peaceful protesters.

rewinn said...

”the Taliban did indeed have "something to do" with the events of Sept 11, 2001 - they provided a stable base of operations and source of funding for al-Qaeda”

So did Europe and Florida (base of operations) and Saudi Arabia (money). Either one would’ve been a lot easier to occupy.

If we want to play 6-degrees-of Kevin-Bacon, we can link George W Bush to 9/11 via bin Ladn. Perhaps that explains the pretzel-choking incident.

And the point remains: occupying Afghanistan does nothing but bleed our nation while recruiting for the bad guys.

"... they certainly had the ability after 9/11 to round up Bin Laden and pals, hog tie them and dump them at the border."

Very likely true, since the United States went to the bother of rejecting the offer.

None here mourn the overthrow of the Taliban; it's the continuing occupation that helps the bad guys.

"But politically the current admin cannot bail at this time."

Very likely true

"I think the black bloc wanted the cops to attack the peaceful protesters and journalists so they could scream about police brutality"

This sounds similar to the "Battle of Seattle" where I saw anarchists from Portland attempt pretty much the same thing. I don't know whether they were agents provocateurs or just jerks.

Tacitus2 said...

The belated offer to turn Bin Laden over to an unnamed 3rd Country (uh, ok, lets pick Yemen! or Somalia!)may have been lacking a degree of sincerity. IIRC, there was no plausible offer made to hand him over directly before the bombing campaign started.

Our negotiations with "real" governments in that part of the world have been rife with bait-n-switch, one could assume that a representative of a crumbling regime who may or may not have had the authority to deal could be considered less than compelling.

Tacitus2

Robert said...

For anyone who's interested, here's an article on the benefits and drawbacks of cooperation in space-based programs such as the International Space Station. One of the primary benefits is that it kind of forces us to continue spending more on the space program or else lose face; rather than being a drain on NASA's budget, it has been a means of ensuring NASA isn't slashed to fragments by people who'd rather spend the money elsewhere.

Also of interest is how Russian and American space technology is complementary. When our technology fails, Russian tech steps up to the plate. When Russian tech fails, ours proves quite able to handle the slack. While it might not be the most... economical of synergies, it did create a level of redundancy that was utilized multiple times when something failed to work as expected.

Rob H.

David Brin said...

History shows the best way to deal with the talibs.

1. First offer safe haven for women and children, then let the talibs "take" kandahar and form Pashtunistan (all the way to the border) and scare the willies out of Pakistan, so that Pakistan finally decides to purge its army and intelligence services of Talibs.

2. At the first sign of terrorism based from Pashtunistan, go BACK! conventionally and overwhelmingly, overcoming all fixed defensive positions as we did in 2002, If they stand and fight, half of the talib warriors die. If they flee at the first sign of fire, they appear to be little girls and lose cred.

3. Offer women and children who are sick of all this a "safe city". Before we evacuate agian.

4. Repeat.

Okay, I don't mean any of this! But what a fantasy...

Tim H. said...

A great fantasy, might almost have been doable, if we'd declared victory years ago, preferably with Osama's head on a pike.

"mingi", just doesn't sound right with merciless.

Tony Fisk said...

Think of the trailing 'i' as a pike with a head on it. A new way of spelling merciless!

Speaking of Pushtan might-have-beens reminds me we have to see how Farley's Spiders shape up this week.

Robert said...

What with the latest brinkmanship with the Republican party over the Finance Reform bill currently being worked over, I have to say that it might be in the Democrats best interest to let the bill die in filibuster. In short, let the Republicans kill reform of a bloated and corrupt banking system that is directly responsible for the unemployment of millions of Americans and the worse recession in recent history. And then start telling the American people that reform was inches away... and Republicans refused to allow it to pass because of their greed, being in the pockets of corrupt greedy bankers who stole billions from the American people and lined their pockets with bonuses paid for with TARP money that Bush signed into law.

The end result would be a mood whiplash against the Republicans. You'd probably see Democrat losses in the House and Senate minimized at worse, and possible gains. Because there is a lot of hatred of the banking industry by the American people, who see the bankers getting fat and lazy at their own expense.

And then, in 2011, alter the filibuster rule. One of the best suggestions I've seen was allowing the filibuster to gradually decline the number of votes needed to overcome it: start at 65 with the first vote, drop to 60 with the second, go down to 55 with the third, and 51 with the fourth vote.

Rob H., who has had it with the Republican party (and has nearly had it with the Democrats)

Anonymous said...

Do you have ongoing problems with videos being taken down? The one you posted about news via Jon Stewart was ordered removed from YouTube for copyright violations by Viacom.

mastorts: mammogram you only need to do once (thank God!)

The Mad Librarian

Ilithi Dragon said...

Interesting Op-Ed by Michael Gerson in the Washington Post.

TwinBeam said...

Completely off topic, but I just rented "Sleep Dealer", and would like to recommend it.

It's mostly in spanish with subtitles, and I wasn't expecting too much at first. But it projects a fairly likely near future, and does it from an interesting perspective.

This is real science fiction, unlike the usual Hollywood spectacle. It does center on a particular technology that is unlikely in the near future, but after a moment's reflection you realize that is irrelevant - it was necessary to the story, but not to development of a future very similar to that portrayed.

Robert said...

Here's an in-depth look at the Tuna trade, what's driving it, and a possible alternative. I have to warn you, the article is a New York Times article so it might be behind a subscription window - I was viewing it from work and don't have that problem. One of the interesting ideas the writer mentions at the end is the creation of a fish farm in Hawaii that avoids a lot of the problems with traditional fish farms and has a non-tuna that has a meat fatty enough to pass for white tuna meat. Sadly, it seems likely that the Bluefin tuna is going to go extinct from overfishing and farming.

-------

Also, the head of a Leviathan has been found. Leviathan melvillei very likely fed on other whales and on giant sharks, and was in many ways similar to the sperm whale, except that their huge teeth? Are on both upper and lower jaw. Now, if those puppies had still been around when man started going onto the oceans, I suspect we'd not be overfishing things. We'd probably be staying far away from the oceans and that big nasty monster that probably could bite holes in a good-sized ship. ^^;;

Rob H.

rewinn said...

"... IIRC, there was no plausible offer made to hand him over directly before the bombing"

True. So?

IIRC the method employed to capture bin Ladn failed epically.

In contrast, a counter-offer of "ok, let the Saudis try him" would suit our interests since, if rejected, it strengthens our hand and, if accepted ...

... Saudis have executions almost every Friday.

--
Dr. Brin's plan is drearily practical and therefore impossible.

--

Let the past be past. Right now, we can have neither a pony nor Afghanistan, (and we don't *need* either) but the political will to admit it is still weak.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Ilithi

Re; Micheal Gerson Op Ed

This was almost sensible - until he started equating comments that were intended to be private and comments that were intended for broadcast

The standards should be different,

In my opinion it is easy to see the difference between the grown-up party and the other one

On a slightly different note having the American GOP gives those of us in the rest of the world something to point to as a terrible example of what happens when money talks too much

Tacitus2 said...

Regards the Weigel dust up.

Two salient points not made are that Weigel was hired to cover the conservative world, a political philosophy that he apparently held in complete contempt. This is bad for the reputation of his employer, although it should be said that he actually did manage some decent work along the way.

Also, the whole concept of JOURNOLIST, the private group that seems to have been coordinating "message" is troubling to conservatives, as it should be to anyone who wants fair media reporting. It appears that it was a cross between and echo chamber and a clearing house for (democratic) talking points.

Tacky. And the sort of thing that further erodes public faith in mainstream media.

Tacitius2

Robert said...

For all the complaints about the Obama Administration dropping the ball concerning the BP oil gusher, at least they seem to have a decent evacuation plan in case of hurricanes. It makes a certain amount of sense that it would take longer to evacuate all of that equipment and the extra people, so planning this out ahead of time? Smart idea. Though I wonder how many people will see it that way.

----------

Next, Microsoft has patented a bipolar battery, which means you don't need to put the positive terminal on one side and the negative for the other. This has applications for the military, police, older people, and of course those of us who just can't seem to get batteries right. ^^;; What's more, Microsoft is willing to wave the royalties for sales to older people and people with physical impairments.

Remember when Microsoft was the Evil Empire? ^^;; They've gone soft!

---------

That's okay. Microsoft is being replaced with Apple as the new Evil Overlord, with Steve Jobs replacing Bill Gates as the Head Overlord. Let's see, "No, you are getting all worked up over a few days of rumors. Calm down," "You are most likely in an area with very low signal strength," and "telling the customer to "retire, relax, enjoy your family. It is just a phone. Not worth it," rather than listen to the complaints or do something effective against it? Hmm. Why'd we consider Microsoft to be the Evil Empire again? I don't know if they ever pulled such a massive dick move as Jobs has here.

I'm so looking forward to Jobs alienating his customer base further. I've not liked Apple's methods for a bit (little things like having to repurchase all your iTunes purchases if your hard drive suffers a corruption or if you get a new computer). I just hope enough people open their eyes and realize there's other products out there with companies that actually care for customers rather than seeing dollar signs walking around.

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And last? Someone went and did a parody musical for Conan the Barbarian - whoever was doing the singing managed to sound fairly close to Arnie. Hey, I'd go and see this musical! ^^

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