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Saturday, November 29, 2003

This is interesting. Human Rights Watch is calling for the US to keep detainees in Guantanamo, rather than repatriating them to China. Guantanamo seems to be a bugaboo for many people concerned with human rights. I think the Bush administration made a big mistake announcing that there could be military tribunals for some those there, because it focused unnecessary attention on the detention of these people, a large majority of which aren't very friendly. This was a situation which should have been handled better by the administration: the people we're detaining clearly aren't prisoners of war as we traditionally think of them (in that there is no state which can sign a cease-fire or peace treaty that we would be able to send them back to) and they're not people that you want just floating around, ready to perpetrate terrorist attacks. So we were probably right to put them into detention in a more ambigious situation like at Guantanamo. But the administration's manifest incompetence has managed to screw it up beyond belief.

Saturday, November 22, 2003

America, Israel, the West Bank, and Iraq

Kevin Drum over at Calpundit has a pretty good synthesis of my feelings regarding our tactics against the guerillas in Iraq. At the same time, the comparison of Iraq to the West Bank is all too correct and completely wrong. Of course, the proper solution is not to get yourself put in this position, but that's another story.

Thursday, November 20, 2003

Over at Slate there's a pretty convincing explanation of why so many people are enthralled with JFK assassination conspiracies rather than accepting the obviousness of the truth. Basically, author David Greenberg says that people, especially those in the New Left, refused to believe that all the hopes and dreams for political and social change that went unfulfilled in the '60s, hopes that were symbolized Kennedy, and for that reason they just couldn't accept that JFK was killed by a deranged man with a gun. They had to have a reason why Kennedy, and by extension their own hopes and dreams, were cut down early, and therefore they couldn't accept the fact that Lee Harvey Oswald was solely responsible for Kennedy's death.

Call it 'collective cognitive dissonance.'

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

How to get more traffic to my blog...

I could write something patently offensive, obviously wrong, and somewhat homoerotic, like Kim duToit!

Nah.
Monica Lewinsky says that her past has hurt her love live.

To which I can only reply: No fucking shit.
LBJ's aides and relatives are quite rightly upset over the airing of 'documentary' on the History Channel on the assassination of President Kennedy. "The Men Who Killed Kennedy" apparently presented in one of its episodes a theory that LBJ was behind JFK's assassination. Unlike the right-wing hysteria over the Reagan documentary, LBJ's family and associates are fully justified in their anger at the History Channel for putting such complete and utter bullshit on the air, especially the night after they aired a wonderful account of JFK's presidency. Probably the best book on the Kennedy assassination is Case Closed by Gerald Posner, which just completely and totally demolishes all the conspiracy theories put forth by various whackos, nuts, and film directors over the years and proves conclusively that Lee Harvey Oswald was indeed the only man responsible for JFK's death.

I really don't know why JFK's assassination has brought all these nutcases out of the woodwork, let alone why anyone gives them any more credibility than Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell.

And quite frankly, if I were Lady Bird Johnson, I sue the History Channel's pants off.
So now we've started to level houses in Iraq. This strategy has me conflicted: yes, it doesn't exactly seem right to go around blowing up homes with howitzers, but at the same time it's pretty obvious that the Iraqi insurgents are using homes as their base of operations and mortar-firing positions. So they're a legit military target. But then again, we've seen how well this strategy works for Israel in the Palestinian territories. Nevertheless, it's not the same situation - the Israelis destroy homes of those related to terrorists, while it appears that we're just blowing up houses that have actually fired mortars or RPGs at our troops. But going around firing Hellfire missiles at homes isn't exactly a good way to win the 'hearts and minds'.

I think we need to get over Rumsfeld's assertion that these insurgents are 'dead-enders' - their command and control obviously isn't stupid. If they use urban-residential areas as their operational centers, we'll be forced to go in to those areas (like we are now). The commanders on the ground constantly say they need better intel - and they do - and that we have enough troops to combat the insurgency. We do have enough troops to fight the 5-10,000 man insurgency that Gen. Abazaid estimates is fighting us - but we don't have enough troops to fight the insurgency and keep the peace. And our troops on the ground are mostly heavy armored forces - like the 4th ID and 1st AD, as well as the 2nd and 3rd ACRs - that are more suited for all-out combat with another army than they are for counterinsurgency. Our light forces - the 101st and 82nd Airborne Divisions - are stretched thin in the north and west of the country, and at any rate are slated to be redeployed in a few months. Gen. Clark was right - we need a better force mix to fight the insurgency. Heavy armor isn't going to do it, and neither is a lightly-armored, Humvee-dependent unit like the 82nd Airborne. And we need to divert intelligence resources from the futile WMD hunt to collecting intel on the insurgents.

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Phil Carter's critique of the new Pentagon war plans for Korea and the Middle East (read: Iran and Syria) are spot on, and I agree with him almost completely. While I agree that they're not fatal, I think that there's definitely too much risk in these plans - risk that is accepted because of the percieved 'lessons' from the Second Gulf War.

The big issue, as Phil points out, is rear echelon security. This was a big issue in Iraq, and would have been something close to a disaster if the Iraqis had fought somewhat competently. Our future adversaries are going to be less likely to comply with Rumsfeld's plans than Saddam was. For instance, Iran would probably have a lot more suicidal paramilitaries like the Saddam Fedayeen than Iraq did - and these could wreak havoc in a lightly defended line-of-communication. North Korea seems to have a more conventional, armor-heavy force, but they've shown an affinity for special operations in the past (especially with cross-border raids).

And while I would probably be considered one of those people who probably thinks a little too highly of airpower, I think that planning for a major ground war by relying on airpower is a bad idea - while airpower is indeed the decisive factor in modern war, it can't hold ground (duh). By relying on small ground forces we open ourselves up to asymmetric warfare in newly-occupied territory. Which means we'll have a bitch of a time winning the peace.
Kevin over at Calpundit dissects Kausfiles' claim that Dean has been opportunistic and inconsistent re: his position on the Iraq war. The thrust of Kaus' argument is that Dean had previously been supportive of Bush in June 2002, but had turned against him as the Democratic base came out full bore against the war.

Actually, Dean's been rather consistent vis-a-vis Iraq. But I'll take issue with him here: he's accused other candidates, Wes Clark in particular, of being 'inconsistent' on Iraq, when, in fact, Clark and the other candidates have been just as consistent as Dean was on the war. Now Dean supporters will have to use the same arguments to defend their man that they knocked to savage Clark. Dean's hypermoralizing and condescension towards the other candidates on Iraq has been wearing thin for some time (especially towards Clark, from whom Dean admits he got much of his foreign policy ideas).

Despite his consistency on Iraq, I do believe Dean has been the most politically opportunistic candidate in the race. He is more than willing to flip-flop on his positions if he thinks it'll help him come primary time. He's really a hypocrite, accusing the other candidates of being inconsistent or flip-flopping while engaging in said behavior even more than his opponents.

This is one of the primary reasons I've been turned off from Howard Dean: his condescension and arrogance. Even though Kaus' story is shoddy, as usual, I can't say I'm sorry for Howie to get a comeuppance.
Right now, I'm listening to Neil Young's Are You Passionate from last spring. It's really quite a good album, and has received some bum press due to the presence of the 9/11 song "Let's Roll" (which I happen to like, but that's another discussion). Young's backing band is composed of elements of Booker T and the MGs rather than Crazy Horse (with the exception of "Goin' Home"), and the album has a distinctly more jazzy feel to it than his previous albums. It's an extremely interesting musical combination. Most of the songs are concerned with a melancholy relationship, with Young primarily concerned with getting the affection of a lover. The lyrics aren't trite, however, and the album flows nicely despite the rather obvious last minute inclusion of "Let's Roll". If I had to pigeon-hole this album, I'd say it resembles Cream's jazz-rock episodes more than anything else.

All in all, a great listen.
What's In A Name?

Over at Pandagon there's discussion on the naming of military operations and how the 1st AD's Operation Iron Hammer is eerily similar to an aborted Nazi operation against the Soviets during WWII. Also brought up is 1998's Operation Desert Fox (in case you're wondering, the most celebrated Nazi general of WWII, Erwin Rommel, was nicknamed the desert fox for his exploits in North Africa).

Now, I can definitely see the logic behind the reasoning in Pandagon's argument, but I don't think the military is that clever. Desert Fox was the latest in a long series of 'Desert' operations against Iraq (Desert Shield, Desert Storm, Desert Strike, and the aborted Desert Viper). I seem to recall there being a minor hubbub about it being called Desert Fox. Seriously, I don't think anyone named the operation after Erwin Rommel. They were probably thinking of adding the name of a swift, lethal animal like a fox to the common 'Desert' appellate for operations against Iraq.

As far as Iron Hammer goes, the powers that be were probably thinking it would sound impressive and strong. They probably weren't thinking of any historical allusions that could be made to Nazi Germany. Mistakes happen.
Kangaroo Jack is now in the house.

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