06 January 2008

Assorted "Must Reads"

Everyone else, it seems, on "Teh Internetz" updates in a frenzy of 'it happened 30 minutes ago' and I don't. Really. It's vacation. I don't read all the blogs I 'should' in order to update this one.

I don't find anything new. There are too many people out there looking too hard to find stuff that I almost never run across anything actually new.

First, a 2007 retrospective. Entitled The State of Jihad, 2007, by Bill Roggio. It's interesting. Some parts are a little unnerving if you aren't aware of the developments already. My biggest worry is Pakistan. Right now, the US seems damned if you do, and and damned if you don't. If we don't support Pakistan's government, then it could fall and be replaced by folks who are right in line with al-Qaeda and the Taliban. If we do support the current government, we are essentially supporting a cheap military dictator who rules like a petty tyrant, and doesn't pursue the war on his wanna-be Taliban types with the vigor we'd like to see. In fact, he's basically handed off one of the most dangerous parts of the world to the Taliban to rule as a fief. There is no force for democracy and change. Bhutto, for all her photogenic qualities, was just as corrupt and wiling to violate civil liberties as any other leader of a third-world nation. Her political party showed its true nature by annointing her 19 year old son as her heir apparent, leaving the apparatus of the party firmly in the hands of her husband, who was allegedly the driving force behind millions of dollars worth of money laundering and embezzlement. Democracy? My ass. Democracies don't put 19 year old college students in charge of political parties because they happen to have sprung from the loins of the former leader.

Here we have a discussion that addresses both the question of "what to do with Pakistan" and relates it to the biggest issues facing the West in the sense of "what to do with Islam". Frankly, it's pretty depressing, but highly informative.

I do have one hell of a post that I'd like you to read, if you haven't already. Major Andrew Olmstead's "In case of" letter. MAJ Olmstead was assigned to a MiTT, a Military Transition Team. What that means is that he and a handful of other officers and NCOs were assigned as advisors to an Iraqi Army unit, living and working with them and teaching them to be real Soldiers. It's folks like that who are tasked with creating a climate so that the rest of us can knock off this war and go back to drinking beer and telling OIF I stories to fresh-faced privates.
Anyway, Major Olmstead not only fought the war in the field, leading Iraqis and teaching their own leaders how to do their jobs, he fought it in the critical arena, the only arena we can possibly loose this war in. He wrote a column for his local paper. You can read his last post here, and dig through the archives for more. It ain't politics, it's just 'this is the war'. His unit was ambushed in Diyala Province and he and a captain were killed. Castle Arghhh! collected a large number of tributes, I cannot do more than link to that post.

On the topic of New Year's Resolutions, I found this post at Naturally Nerds. Now, anyone who knows me knows that I don't buy into that climate change nonsense, or believe in a great deal of environment regulations and governmental coercion. But I do think that it makes only common sense to want to reduce one's waste. It makes economic sense, and like charity, it's a good thing to do. I just resent assholes in government offices TELLING me to do this stuff. Anyway, due to not living on our land (yet) we can't get into serious gardening and so forth like the Nerds, but it's a thought.

Does your New Year's Resolution involve weight? An economist gives his idea on how to provide a real incentive to change your thinking about what you eat. I volunteer to hold anyone's marker for their weight loss goals. I'll cheerfully call it in if you don't do it.

Another Year in Review that's more small-picture and personal than Bill's. It's informative in its own way.

There was some good news in 2007 for a number of Marines, fellow vets of al-Anbar Province. Many of them were convincingly exonerated and every single one of the remaining Haditha Marines has had the charges against them downgraded greatly. Of course, for some members of the Media this is an occasion for lamenting, because there are not so many Pulitzers when your story gets discovered as total fiction. But it's good news for people that count.

The more I read about Fred Thompson, the more I agree with Foreign and Domestic on the subject of Presidential Candidates. It is Received Wisdom among the Media that he isn't "campaigning hard enough" and he "doesn't really want it". That's good. I don't want a Pres that "really wants it". The Media's received wisdom doesn't count for a pile of dog doo these days, given that their Annointed, Mrs. Hillary Rodham Clinton, can't pull better than third place in Iowa and her campaign is pretty much self-destructing because, well, no one likes her psycho ass.

Jerking back from politics for a moment, I thought this post really catches the essence of the suck that is being the spouse at home while your other half is deployed. Been on both sides of this, and I'd rather be deployed.

We have a winner in the "what to do with illegal immigrants" column. Apparently, Arizona decided that the way to step on illegals is to step on their employers. It seems to be working. And of course, the media is against it. Which is a huge argument for it, in my book.

Another Defensive Handgun Usage. Score one for the good guys. Do NOT break into a house in Coperas Cove, you idiots! It's nothing but senior NCOs and officers, and retired old farts. They ALL own guns, except for my buddy Dave who will probably kill you with a boar spear or a sword.

Finally, a Must Read on Military History. Perspective is something Americans lack. Liberals lack it to a greater degree than Conservatives (necessary, since to "conserve" something you must at least have an idea of what you are conserving) but most Americans are as ignorant of history as they are of particle physics. I find this unforgivable, given that as humans, we all have at least a minimum of insight into human nature, and that's all history is.

Money Quotes:

"Yet until the defeat in Vietnam, there was a sort of tragic acceptance of military error as inherent in war. Ours was once a largely rural population, inured to natural disaster and resigned to human shortcoming. Though Presidents Lincoln and Truman were both reviled, Americans still felt that ultimately the American system of transparency and self-criticism would correct wartime mistakes. Fault-finding and partisan grandstanding there were aplenty, but the common desire for victory usually overcame perpetual finger-pointing and serial despair. Pearl Harbor and its attendant conspiracy theories may have set the Greatest Generation back, but such losses, humiliation, and suspicion were hardly considered tantamount to American defeat."

"So we plowed on, accepting that in war choices are typically between the bad and worse. It was foolhardy not to escort convoys in early World War II; but Admiral King—always suspicious of British motives—erred because he believed that such a commitment would divert precious assets from the Pacific War, where the U.S., largely alone, had to face the Japanese fleet—far larger and more formidable than Hitler's. The Sherman tank trapped and incinerated thousands of Americans when torched by Panthers and Tigers. But Patton himself saw that its dependability, speed, and sheer numbers offered countervailing advantages in racing toward the Rhine."

"By the same token, for every purported blunder in Iraq, there is at least an understandable reason why errors occurred in the context of human imperfection, emotion, and fear. Such considerations do not mitigate the enormity of military mistakes, but they should foster understanding of how and why they occur. Such recognition might lend humility to critics and wisdom to the perpetrators—and prepare us to accept and deal with similar human fallibility in the future. So shoot looters—and CNN immediately would have libeled the occupation forces as recycled Saddamites. Level Fallujah—and Iraqis would have compared us to the Soviets in Afghanistan. Had we kept together the Republican Guard—if that were even possible—charges of perpetuating the agents of Saddam's genocidal regime would have followed, with unfavorable contrasts to our successful de-Nazification program after World War II. Granted, there were not enough American troops to close borders, monitor ammunition depots, and maintain order. But as a result, there were enough deployed elsewhere to discourage trouble in the Korean peninsula, reassure Europe and Japan of our material commitment to their security, fight the Taliban in Afghanistan, help keep order in the Balkans, and man dozens of bases worldwide."

"In past wars there was recognition of factors beyond human control—the weather; the fickleness of human nature; the role of chance, the irrational, and the inexplicable—that lent a humility to our efforts and tolerance for unintended consequences. "Wars begin when you will," Machiavelli reminds us, "but they do not end when you please." The star-crossed and disastrous Dieppe raid of August 1942 did not mean that D-Day two years later had to fail. When in March 1945 maverick General Curtis LeMay sent high-altitude precision B-29 bombers carrying napalm in low over Tokyo, with little if any armament, the expected American bloodbath did not follow—thanks to a ferocious jet stream and dark nights that meant the huge planes came in much faster and with better cover. "To a good general," wrote the Roman historian Livy, "luck is important." By contrast the American media went into near hysterics during the so-called "pause" in the three-week victory over Saddam, when an unforeseen sandstorm temporarily stalled our advance. Only later was it revealed that air operations with precision weapons had continued all along to decimate Saddam's static forces."

This will, of course, be read by Certain People of Certain Ideological Persuasions as a partisan piece, intended to rebut accusations of everything from barratry and mopery and dopery that have been leveled against the current administration. But this is a piece about War. It isn't party politics, it is a timeless and unchanging constant derived from the basics of human nature that was forgotten in this country some decades ago in a rush to overturn ALL the old Constants. War is what it is, and all of our best intentions cannot perfect it, improve it, or render it safe and family friendly. It is confusing. Go google what Clausewitz said about friction some time, if you want an education.

All we can do is achieve victory and restore a more perfect peace--or lose, and surrender our control over our own destinies.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

You're supposed to be reading your Church History....you have only 50 weeks left in the year, and the way I figure it, you need to read 1 volume (of your 24) every two weeks to catch up.

I am interested in your comments on what you are reading. Journalism is sometimes defined as the 'first draft of the history books'. We are making the history that others will study in the generations yet unborn. I think you will find many historical parallels between the ancients and todays events.

6:44 PM  

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