Soccer stuff

Klinsmann to coach the Galaxy?

Beckham arrived, the Galaxy are still terrible, and people are getting frustrated.


Bigoted chants
from Newcastle fans towards Ahmed Mido, an Egyptian striker playing for Middlesborough:
"I just think this was ridiculous. Maybe some of them were drunk," the 24-year old Mido said. "It made me want to score goals. I was very delighted to score once and wanted another."
The Egypt striker ran toward the Newcastle fans after he scored, motioning toward them to be silent. He was yellow-carded for the celebration.
I saw Mido score for Tottenham against Middlesborough back in 2005, when my father and I went to White Heart Lane (we went because we couldn't get tickets to the Chelsea game). We had to sit in the away section because those were the only tickets we could get, and Middlesborough lost 2-0. Everyone around us was depressed and drunk, aside from some tourists like us (Chinese and clueless). I remember Mido's goal - he took a shot from the corner of the 18-yard box and slipped it under keeper Mark Schwarzer, who really should have stopped it. Jermaine Defoe scored an excellent goal that game, dribbling it on a counterattack and scoring from about 25 yards. I found the video of the two goals - between 30 seconds and 40 seconds in this video.


Anger over 'blasphemous' balls, BBC.

Americans gave soccer balls to Afghan kids. Problem - the soccer balls had flags of different countries on them, including the Saudi flag. The Saudi flag has the name of Allah on it. The perception was that Americans were telling Muslim children to kick Allah:
Afghan MP Mirwais Yasini said: "To have a verse of the Koran on something you kick with your foot would be an insult in any Muslim country around the world."
Cultural ignorance - somebody didn't do their homework.


Soccer: Paradox of sport - It's good for you, yet it kills - IHT

Antonio Puerta, a Sevilla midfielder, collapsed during a game and died shortly thereafter. When this happened I remembered Marc-Vivien Foe, the Cameroonian player who collapsed and died during the Confederations Cup in 2005. My dad sent me an article in the International Herald Tribune showing that this apparently is not an uncommon occurrence.

Knowledge is everywhere...

...and that's scary!

Can Open Source be giving comfort to the enemy
? At Chris Anderson's The Long Tail, found via Slashdot.

Chris Anderson is conflicted - he runs a website for makers of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) to share their experiences and knowledge. UAVs have clear military applications (like the US's Predator drone), but Chris figured that since the "bad guys" already UAVs, what's the harm in sharing amateur knowledge? And then:
But all that came to a head today when I read the main UAV newsgroup, and saw that Amir Aalipour, an Iranian in Tehran, had posted some pictures of his swing-wing UAV (shown), proudly bedecked with the colors of the Iranian flag. He's been following the discussion in these forums for some time and now wanted to come forward with his own impressive work.

...what should I do if Amir or someone like him from a country associated with Bad Stuff posts on our own forums looking for technical advice?
An interesting question. Some websites/software have the "check here if you are a terrorist" box, and don't let you use the software if you are dumb enough to check that box. But on an open-source site like Chris' there's no real way to tell what people are using the technology for unless they tell you. Chris only got uneasy after seeing Amir's UAV painted with the Iranian flag - had Amir not painted his UAV, no problems for Chris.

Amir is only 17 years old, reads Chris Anderson's website, and posted his own comment. Here's Amir's website. Most of his posts are in Farsi, but there are some English posts and also some pictures of his homemade UAV (very impressive). I tried to post a comment on Amir's post about the incident, but given that his site is in Farsi I don't really know whether I was successful.

Along the same kind of lines, Steven Levitt describes how he would attack the United States if he was a terrorist. He also wants to hear your ideas on how to create terror attacks:
Consider that posting them could be a form of public service: I presume that a lot more folks who oppose and fight terror read this blog than actual terrorists. So by getting these ideas out in the open, it gives terror fighters a chance to consider and plan for these scenarios before they occur.
Usually red-teaming is not so public...

The Anbar Awakening

LtC (retired) Dr. David Kilcullen has a new post up at the Small Wars Journal blog. It is very long, but worth reading as the thoughts of one of General Petraeus' inner circle. I posted a comment:

"a series of local political deals has displaced extremists, resulting in a
major improvement in security at the local level, and the national government is
jumping on board with the program. Instead of coalition-led top-down
reconciliation, this is Iraqi-led, bottom-up, based on civil society rather than
national politics."

I have two questions regarding this passage.

First - how has the national government jumped on board with these local political deals? From what I have read, the national government does not like these tactical alliances between mostly Sunni tribes and the Coalition because (as you acknowledge elsewhere in this piece) the Shia government thinks the Sunni tribes will use this brief peace as "breathing space" not for political reconciliation, but to prepare to fight the national government which many Sunnis see as a tool of Iran.

My second question is, where's the evidence of reconciliation? From what I have read, the Sunni tribes have a tactical alliance with the Coalition to kill AQI. There is no reconciliation or forgiveness involved - simply short-term self-interest that some (Tony Cordesman) think could disappear in a few months.

Cape Wind

John Robb had a post on his blog about the Cape Wind project, basically talking about how a large majority of Massachusetts residents and people on Martha's Vineyard all support the Cape Wind Project, but the Kennedy family is blocking it for some inexplicable reason.

I posted a comment mentioning that I saw a Daily Show clip poking fun at this ridiculous situation - the Kennedy family, generally liberal and in favor of green power, blocking wind turbines supposedly because it would ruin their view. For whatever reason I couldn't find the clip, but Barbara Hill of Clean Power Now emailed me a link to their site, where they had the clip.

The video expires on September 8th, but here it is for now:

Futbol vs. Football

Soob started this off by sending me this video of David Beckham kicking field goals. Maybe after his MLS career, Beckham can be a kicker for an NFL team - and risk serious injury to make less money than his monthly bank interest.

Unfortunately for Soob, he prefers the NFL, meatgrinder, industrialized, trench-warfare, brute-force-and-rage football. Real football has that ugly side to it occasionally... but at its best, (corny alert) football is art, with its own cultures (Brazilian, British, Serbian, Italian, American) - expressing joy, agony, creativity, skill, agility, patience.

...and of course, humor:

Thoughts on the surge

The following are my thoughts on the Surge. Every declarative statement of what Bush, Petraeus and those around them are thinking should be prefaced with "my opinion is." I don't have any special sources, these are just my impressions.


The surge is finally gaining momentum. Democrats and shaky Republicans are now saying "hmm, maybe we should keep the Surge going as long as is possible into April 2008" (video of one example). What that means is that the Surge is working. Why? Because it is accomplishing its goals.

The Surge, as outlined by the President, has in my mind always had as its primary goal the solidification of support among Congress for a continued American troop presence in Iraq. The method to achieving that goal was the creation of some momentary reduction in the levels of violence - or at least, the creation of the perception of reduced violence.

The supposed case for the Surge was to create 'breathing space' for Iraqi national politicians to reach some sort of agreement that reduces violence:
...our role is to provide an environment in which [Iraqi politics] becomes possible.
It is also important to note that the important part of the Surge is not the numbers, but the tactics. If you look at the numbers of Coalition forces in Iraq, the numbers of Coalition forces has fallen since November 2005. Instead, the important part of the Surge is the classical counterinsurgency tactics the Army has switched to - a "population-centric" set of tactics that focuses on protecting Iraqi civilians from unofficial protectors like militias, criminal gangs, insurgents, and terrorist groups (the previous set of tactics was "enemy-centric" - the primary idea was to kill bad guys).

Of course the notion that nine months of reduced (but still significant) violence would create an Iraqi political miracle was always absurd. Any reconciliation effort will take years if not longer, as a brief overview of recent such efforts will show. Instead, through the momentary lull in violence, Bush hoped to create the necessary political will in Congress to at least see a substantial American military involvement in Iraq through the end of Bush's term. The thinking goes that because "historically, counterinsurgency operations have gone at least nine or 10 years," the best shot we have at "winning" is to be able to show incremental, yet continual progress whenever Congress starts to waver in its commitment.

As its coming time for the first report card, Bush has gotten a little lucky. Through what seems to be a combination of the new tactics of the Surge, Iraqis getting fed up with al-Qaeda's nuttiness (I don't know any Arab men who don't smoke, which makes the al-Qaeda smoking ban very stupid), and sheer luck, the US was able to make some deals with Sunni tribal leaders in order to fight their common enemy. This has produced temporary but real declines in the levels of violence in al-Anbar that were unachievable through increased American forces and new American tactics alone. Tony Cordesman:
Without the unplanned uprising by the Sunni tribes, the US simply did not have enough forces to carry out the present level of operations if it had had to rely solely on the real-world capability of the official Iraqi Security forces.
The problem is that this decline in violence hasn't come through any lasting political accord, but through temporary agreements between Sunni tribes and the American military. As Tony Cordesman argues in the same piece, those agreements depend on "reasonably rapid central government action to give the Sunnis what they want. (US officers put the limit of tribal and Sunni patience at 130-180 days)." However the Iraqi government collapsed and has reformed with a governing minority of Kurds and Shia - no Sunnis, making it likely that the central government won't bribe the Sunni tribes sufficiently to keep the peace. In addition, the embrace of Sunni tribes by the US military further weakens (if thats possible) the central government, where all the attempts at "political progress" are being made. Thus "Ambassador Crocker and General Petraeus are actually working at cross-purposes."

The bottom line is that while the military progress on the ground is real, most of it is probably attributable to the temporary and probably unsustainable alliance between Sunni tribes and the US military. That alliance is dependent on the Sunni tribes getting what they want from the Iraqi central government. No goods, no alliance, and no more "military progress."

However - if all the positive spin on the Surge convinces Congress to vote for more funds, if the military progress create the political will in Congress to give military involvement in Iraq another Friedman Unit (six months), then President Bush, General Petraeus, and those who still believe in the mission in Iraq will have bought themselves more time to show more progress and convince Congress again to fund for six more months. That will mean the Surge will have worked.

In a way, this Administration is in the position of a gambler who has one more bet left. If they keep rolling the dice and winning, they keep playing, but one bad roll and they are bankrupt. That is how I see the Surge - a roll of the dice.


For one of the best, most thorough and yet readable recent surveys of the Iraqi situation, see Tony Cordesman, The Tenuous Case for Strategic Patience in Iraq. He went on the same trip Ken Pollack and Michael O'Hanlon went on, and came to slightly different conclusions.

Security at World Cup 2010

South Africa is known for its large numbers of (mainly white) mercenaries. South Africa appears to be one of the "big three" in terms of suppliers of mercenaries to Iraq, along with America and Britain.

South Africa is also hosting the World Cup in 2010. Some worries exist due to South Africa's crime rates.

With the United States likely withdrawing the majority of its 150,000 (ish) troops from Iraq before 2010, it's assumed that level of Private Military Company (PMC) involvement will drop proportional to the level of withdrawal of Coalition forces (although Jeremy Scahill has argued the opposite - that the US could just withdraw its soldiers and replace them with more mercenaries). Therefore its likely that there will be a bunch of unemployed South African mercenaries during the time of the World Cup. Some see this as a problem, while some see this as an opportunity!
With some "retooling", South African "mercenaries" working in hotspots like Iraq and Afghanistan could be used to provide security at the World Cup in 2010.
I say it's a win-win situation - employ the mercs so they aren't causing trouble, and achieve a temporary fix to the crime problem so that the World Cup can go off smoothly.

The only potential problem that I see is that alot of these guys supposedly worked for the apartheid regime - there could be a bad reaction to the hiring of these guys by non-white South Africans. Also, apparently there is a 1998 law against hiring mercenaries by the state - but that could probably be worked around by hiring them as temporary law enforcement officers instead.

A tale of two op-eds

Viewed from Iraq, where we just spent eight days meeting with American and Iraqi military and civilian personnel, the political debate in Washington is surreal... We are finally getting somewhere in Iraq, at least in military terms.
The infamous A War We Just Might Win by Michael O'Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack (I'll be taking his Military Analysis class this semester).

Compare with:
Viewed from Iraq at the tail end of a 15-month deployment, the political debate in Washington is indeed surreal... To believe that Americans, with an occupying force that long ago outlived its reluctant welcome, can win over a recalcitrant local population and win this counterinsurgency is far-fetched.
The War as We Saw It by Buddhika Jayamaha, Wesley Smith, Jeremy Roebuck, Omar Mora, Edward Sandmeier, Yance Gray and Jeremy Murphy (all NCOs with the 82nd).

Getting a job

Kent's Imperative (KI) posts on a topic near and dear to my heart - turning the thousands of dollars of tuition money I just paid last week (ouch) into something to do after I graduate.
...we seriously question whether the existing clearance system will be able to handle this volume of new, entry level recruits – particularly when they are geographically concentrated in a handful of areas. While the hiring sprees of the post 9/11 period were impressive, the creaking system shows no sign of reform.
A number of my friends are currently dealing with the negative consequences of the inadequate clearance system that KI points to as a bottleneck in processing new analysts into the Intelligence Community (IC). It's pretty frustrating to watch as people that I know would be able to contribute to the security of this country have their clearances delayed so long that they either miss the relevant internship entirely or are forced to take a different job instead. The issue here isn't even worthy candidates being denied clearances - it's that the clearance process takes so long (especially for anyone interesting enough to be sought-after by the IC) that people are forced to commit to think-tanks or similar jobs, and the IC loses human capital.

KI points to state and local intelligence gigs, as well as business intelligence, media analysis, private intelligence companies and private military companies as sources for jobs in the private sector. The problem as I see it is that these jobs are taking a lot of young talent who either a) can't get clearances fast enough, or b) would like to make enough money to own a house someday.

By the way, if anyone knows of any relevant offices, companies or jobs in Rochester, New York, drop me an email...

Giuliani's Foreign Policy Vision - the Ugly

This is the final, Ugly, part of "The Good, Bad and the Ugly" looking at Rudy Giuliani's foreign policy essay.

The Ugly
"We are all members of the 9/11 generation."
My only response is to send you to this Onion article from February 21, 2007: Giuliani To Run For President Of 9/11. When the absurd passes without notice, satire is dead.

"Whom we choose to talk to is as important as what we say... Holding serious talks may be advisable even with our adversaries, but not with those bent on our destruction..."
"...This is not to say that talks with Iran cannot possibly work. They could -- but only if we came to the table in a position of strength, knowing what we wanted."
"The lesson is never talk for the sake of talking... the theocrats in Iran need to understand that we can wield the stick as well as the carrot..."
"The time has come to refine the diplomats' mission down to their core purpose: presenting U.S. policy to the rest of the world."
Essentially Giuliani's conception is diplomacy is one of imperial diktat. Which is to say, it is exactly the same as Bush's vision of diplomacy his first 6 years in office (there are signs his stance on diplomacy is changing) and it will fail.
And as for talks with Iran from "a position of strength", that would require us leaving Iraq, as our 150,000 soldiers in Iraq are basically hostages to Iranian goodwill (see page 5 about American logistics in Iraq). In addition, our carrier task forces in the Persian Gulf are easily within range of Iran's Yakhonts and Raad cruise missiles, against which the U.S. Navy has no reliable defense, and our bases in the Persian Gulf are within range of Iran's 12 (at least) Kh-55 cruise missiles. The military situation between the US and Iran is one of offense and counter-offense, rather than defense, which points towards high casualties on both sides. The recent American tradition of launching airstrikes or cruise missiles on a third-world country with impunity is not applicable here. The American position of strength against Iran is a long-term economic one, not an immediate military one, so if Giuliani refuses to talk to Iran except from a position of strength, there is the prospect of a collapsing Iranian regime launching a war designed to capture southern Iraqi oil resources to shore up its own economy and solidify popular support. Such a war would be one American diplomacy could have prevented.

"For U.S. diplomacy to succeed, the U.S. government must be united... Members of Congress who talk directly to rogue regimes at cross-purposes with the White House are not practicing diplomacy; they are undermining it."
This is a direct attack against Nancy Pelosi and other members of Congress for visiting President Bashar Assad of Syria, a (bipartisan) visit that drew a lot of criticism from people who think Democrats should stay home and leave the Congressional trips to meet the Syrian dictator to Republicans like Arlen Specter, Frank Wolf, Robert Aderholt, etc. The notion that the President is the sole determiner of foreign policy is at odds with American history, but totally congruent with the Bush/Cheney vision of how government works.

"America must remember one of the lessons of the Vietnam War... Many historians today believe that by about 1972 we and our South Vietnamese partners had succeeded in defeating the Vietcong insurgency and in setting South Vietnam on a path to political self-sufficiency. But then American withdrew its support, allowing the communist North to conquer the South. The consequences were dire... a newly energized and expansionist Soviet Union, and a weaker America. The consequences of abandoning Iraq would be worse."
Giuliani repeats the myth that America's defeat in Vietnam was because it was "stabbed in the back" by liberals, Democrats, antiwar protesters, hippies, "the Other". The reasoning goes that since America never lost a major tactical battle yet lost the war, it must have been betrayed by un-American elements at home. This is similar to the reasoning of Paul von Hindenburg, Erich Ludendorff, and other Germans about Germany's loss of World War One. Both arguments are false. America lost Vietnam because its Army felt a possible conflict in Europe against the Soviet Army was a higher priority than the ongoing conflict against Vietnamese Communists (similar to John Nagl's argument), because of the irrationality, fear and overreaction of the policymakers who conceived and executed the policy (Barbara Tuchman's argument), and a variety of other reasons. The notion that many on the Right have that Democrats are "aiding the enemy" is scarily similar in my opinion to the "stabbed in the back" view in 1919 Germany and 1975 America.


Overall, Giuliani's essay demonstrates the same obsession with power that I wrote about earlier. His view of the world as driven by the twin engines of power and ideology pervades the entire piece. Such a Welanschauung leaves no little room for compromise - ideology structures goals, which, being ideological, are non-negotiable, and power determines the ability to accomplish those goals. For more on this by a better writer than me, see Glenn Greenwald's essay on Giuliani's authoritarian traits.

And what did Giuliani ignore? In 6000 words, he says nothing about global climate change, an indication of the audience he is playing to. There was also nothing about Pakistan, particularly odd as it is pivotal to the century-defining conflict Giuliani believes in. I assume this is because in the case of Pakistan, Giuliani's approach of American imperial dictation based on hard power is not only practically impossible but conceptually impossible, as it is widely acknowledged that we have no leverage over any key actors.

Giuliani still scares me.

The English game

The classic English football game - played during a downpour, terrible conditions, bad defending, scrappy, exciting, and an enthusiastic crowd (the empty seats in the front are because all the fans get into the higher seats which are covered by the stadium roof, but you can still hear them).

Fulham vs. Bolton, highlights at Footytube.

Giuliani's Foreign Policy Vision - the Bad

This is part 2 in a 3-part series (the Good, the Bad and the Ugly) looking at Rudy Giuliani's essay in Foreign Affairs.

"Above all, we must understand that our enemies are emboldened by signs of weakness... Our retreat from Lebanon in 1983 and from Somalia in 1993 convinced them that our will was weak."
This argument is used to bludgeon into submission those who wish to change policy by telling them it is a "sign of weakness." In fact America's "will" IS weak when concerning areas like Lebanon and Somalia, because Americans can't find them on a map. Why should we send our children to die in places we didn't even know existed? Those who advocate a militarist foreign policy typically berate Americans and their politicians for being "weak" when Americans refuse to support ill-conceived or ill-executed military blunders (like Iraq, Somalia, Lebanon, etc.). The blunder is American policy-makers trying to play hegemon with a public that isn't willing to accept the costs. Unfortunately this is an error made to some degree by all the candidates (at least all the ones that have a shot).
This argument is also related to something Ugly - the obsession many politicians, in my opinion especially those on the Right, have with showing strength and power. More on this in the Ugly section.


"The purpose of this fight must be to defeat the terrorists and the insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan and to allow these countries to become members of the international system in good standing... Our aim should be to help them build accountable, functioning governments that can serve the needs of their populations, reduce violence within their borders, and eliminate the export of terror."
Well at least Giuliani defines "victory" here. However this goal is out of reach in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Afghanistan has never had a functioning government by Western standards and one popping up soon is unlikely. Any government that is able to solidify power in Iraq and function normally will probably have accrued that power through the widespread use of violence, and thus could never be a member of the international system "in good standing."


Giuliani has a section of the essay titled "A Stronger Defense," in which he argues that "The idea of a post-Cold War 'peace dividend' was a serious mistake... we must rebuild a military force that can deter aggression and meet the wide variety of present and future challenges." Here is his wishlist:

  1. A minimum of ten new brigade combat teams
  2. More submarines
  3. More modern long-range bombers
  4. More in-flight refueling tankers
  5. A global missile defense system
  6. A constellation of satellites "that can watch arms factories everywhere around the globe, day and night, above- and belowground"
  7. Increased surveillance and screening at ports
Later if I have time I'll add up the cost of all these systems. Combined with a long-term presence in both Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as all the other places Giuliani says he wants to go, the budgetary pressure would be enormous. Add to this the fact that Giuliani doesn't harbor the same antipathy towards social programs that Bush does, plus a Democratic Congress likely to want to spend on social programs, and you have the possibility of a skyrocketing federal budget deficit.


"[The UN] has not lived up to the great hopes that inspired its creation... International law and institutions exist to serve peoples and nations, but many leaders act as if... institutions, not the ends to be achieved, were the important thing."

The idea that international institutions are tools to be discarded after they have served the purpose of some national state is short-sighted, in my view. I would have put this in the "Ugly" section, but Giuliani tempers this statement by saying in the next paragraph "the great objectives of humanity would become even more difficult to achieve without mechanisms for international discussion." From reading the whole section dealing with institutions it seems that Giuliani is trying to back off from appearing to be a John Bolton-esque UN "reformer" while still appealing to those pundits who feel the UN is a waste of time. In the end I think Giuliani's point is that nation-states matter and institutions don't, except to the extent that the United States can use them.

This concludes the relatively longer Bad section. Check back tomorrow for the truly Ugly stuff.

Giuliani's Foreign Policy Vision - the Good

Tom Barnett, TDAXP, and and commenters at Little Green Footballs (I don't really need to link to them) are all impressed with Rudy Giuliani's essay in Foreign Affairs. I am not. Of course in a nine page essay he says some things I agree with - I will highlight those first to get the distasteful task of agreeing with Rudy Giuliani out of the way, and then I will point to the somewhat longer list of things I think are silly and/or dangerous. In the spirit of Soob and his deconstruction of Obama's essay, I will list it as the Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

Because this post was getting really long and it's getting late, I will post the Good, Bad and Ugly parts as three separate posts.

"...the Voice of America program must be significantly strengthened and broadened... Our entire approach to public diplomacy and strategic communications must be upgraded and extended, with a greater focus on new media such as the Internet."
Bush has done effectively nothing to create a counter-narrative to the "imperialist America wants to kill all Muslims" narrative used by al-Qaeda to gain recruits. Giuliani would change that, something a lot of people have been calling for (especially MountainRunner).

"We should open [NATO's] membership to any state that meets basic standards of good governance, military readiness, and global responsibility, regardless of its location."
The argument for a "Global NATO" is, in my opinion, a good one.

"Foreign aid... does not lead to lasting prosperity because it cannot replace trade. Private direct investment is the best way to promote economic development. The next U.S. president should thus revitalize and streamline all U.S. foreign-aid activities to support -- not substitute for -- private investment in other countries."
"More people in the United States need to understand how helping Africa today will help increase peace and decency throughout the world tomorrow... Ultimately, the most important thing we can do to help Africa is to increase trade with the continent. U.S. government aid is important, but aid not linked to reform perpetuates bad policies and poverty."
I have posted my thoughts on the trade vs. aid debate before, here, here and here. His second quotation seems like a throwaway paragraph for the purposes of mentioning Africa and Darfur (Africa is mentioned all of one time, and if its importance is to "decency" rather than geopolitics, that means we will continue to effectively ignore Africa). However while I think policy towards Africa is important, I also don't think there's all that much individual governments can do - the most helpful interventions will come from institutions and private investment.


Sadly, that concludes the Good part. I'll post the Bad part and hopefully the Ugly part as well tomorrow.

Beckham Bends It

David Beckham scores his first LA Galaxy goal - appropriately enough on a free kick. Full highlights of the Galaxy vs. DC United game are below.

It's actually not Beckham's first MLS goal because this game was the semifinals of the Superliga tournement, a competition between American and Mexican teams. Beckham also recorded an assist on Landon Donovan's goal as the Galaxy won 2-0. The Galaxy will play the Mexican team Pachuca, who advanced past the Houston Dynamo in penalty kicks, in the final.

Personal stuff

There has been an RFI on recent changes to my romantic status.

On Sunday, August 5th, I asked Ruth, my girlfriend, to marry me, and she said yes. Actually I didn't really ask her, I just slipped the ring on her finger while we were watching our little bonfire down at the beach in the Finger Lakes. I guess I don't have the panache of TDAXP, but then again if I had asked her on my blog she never would have seen the question! We'll get married next summer.

We are planning to have the reception at the Rochester Science Museum. A cocktail hour in a room with a wooly mammoth in the middle - I'm excited.

Now back to your regular programming (of political rants and soccer videos).

Signal Boosting

Please Define America's Grand Strategy

Hoyapolitik is "A Blog from Alumni, Students, and Faculty of Georgetown's Security Studies Program." It's relatively new but should prove to be interesting (I will be put up a post there once I have something relevant to post about).

My comment:

...I think one key part of strategy is prioritizing. In that, all of the recent Foreign Affairs essays by the presidential candidates are pathetic - “our key allies are all of western europe, all of eastern europe, india, china, japan, korea, and russia, plus south america too, and of course israel, and by the way africa is very important too.”

My strategy would be a more indirect approach to the rest of the world. My 1st priority would be reorganizing American security structures - the intel community, military, etc., away from the Cold War legacy and towards new, more relevant structures. That would have to be priority #1 because of the amount of political capital it would take. My 2nd priority would be similar to yours, trying to influence and manage the process of globalization. My 3rd, related, priority would be spreading liberal constitutionalism, primarily through supporting private individuals and NGOs who are already doing that type of work.

Reinventing the Wheel

The New York Times website has a story called "You Win This War by Drinking Tea", on a book from 1943 guiding American servicemen who were deployed to Iraq on how to behave and interact with Iraqis (full text, 27 page pdf). A friend of mine sent me a link to this book a couple months ago but I forgot to write about it. From flipping through it, I would say it's a lot more useful than the index-sized "smart cards" soldiers get when they are headed to Iraq. The story also has part of an NPR interview with LtC John Nagl:

"NORRIS: In the foreword to the book, you write it’s almost impossible, when reading this guide, not to slap oneself on the forehead in despair, that the Army knew so much of Arabic culture and customs 60 years ago.

Lt. Col. NAGL: One really wishes that we’d have this book in our breast pockets when we arrived in Iraq in September of 2003. We learned on the ground things about Ramadan, for instance, and customs and courtesies during Ramadan the - that this book had, and that were sitting on a library shelf somewhere that I would’ve given my eye and teeth for to have had, well, when I actually really needed it."

Max Boot wrote a book (which I haven't read) about the numerous American involvements in "small wars" like insurgencies, police actions, peace keeping, etc. These wars are preserved in American culture in anecdotal ways like the Marine Corps hymn ("to the shores of Tripoli" refers to the 1801-1805 war between the United States and the Barbary pirates). However it seems that American war-fighting knowledge has to keep re-learning how to do these small wars, a point LtC Nagl raises in his book "Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife." Apparently the American military can only remember one thing at a time - given that, I suppose it's good that they prepared for the unlikely but catastrophic event (war with the USSR) and therefore prevented its happening.

If the military can only handle one task, it is further ammunition for Tom Barnett's idea - completely split the military in two (analagous to the Department of War and the Department of the Navy before they were unified in 1947) and have one part do big wars and one part do small wars.

Back from Vacation

I'll post something when I get caught up on stuff and get back in the blogging groooooove.

Various things

Tonight I am leaving to go on vacation for all of next week. So, this is the last blog post for a week and a half.

Various things:

Who'd have expected Newt Gingrich to show up at a conservative function and declare:
"Republican political doctrine has been a failure."

"None of you should believe we are winning [the War on Terror]... We are in a phony war ... we have not been taking this seriously."
Well then. I suppose he isn't running for the Republican nomination in 2008.

Also TED has released some videos from its conference in Africa last June. I'll post two of them

In the first, a clearly very nervous William Kamkwamba (I mentioned him earlier here) explains how he build a power-generating windmill out of a bicycle, wooden boards, a pulley and some plastic tubing. In the second, Nigeria's former finance minister continues the trade vs. aid debate.

Counterinsurgency metrics

I went to this event at the Heritage Foundation this morning, titled "When Do You Know You're Winning? Combating Insurgencies - Past, Present, and Future." You can watch video or listen to the mp3 of it yourself if you want to - everything was on the record. A few thoughts:

The "keynote speaker," Representative Thaddeus McCotter, Republican from Michigan, made the brilliant point that Iraq IS in fact the central front in the War on Terror, by showing a map of the Middle East, with Iraq in the middle of it. He then stated that "retreat" from Iraq would lead to Iranian revolutionary ideology dominating Iraq, and then Afghanistan, and then Pakistan - the dominoes would start to fall. He feels that the American effort in Iraq was failing between 2003-2006 because it was a "top-down" strategy, and now that General Petraeus is working with grassroots organization with a "bottom-up" approach, we will succeed. I can only assume that Representative McCotter will be calling for alliances with al-Sadr's Mahdi militia, a true grassroots organization, during his next address to Congress. McCotter ended with some Q & A - one person asked about Turkey, and his response was, "Turkey is screwed, too bad - they should have helped us out with the initial invasion, but they didn't, so I couldn't care less."

Dr. Stewart and Dr. Crane both talked about metrics in Vietnam and both were pretty interesting. They didn't quite agree but both stated their cases well. However the truly alarming thing was LTC Gian Gentile's presentation. LTC Gentile commanded a battalion in Baghdad up until a few weeks ago and is now a professor at West Point. He gave a rundown of the metrics he used. I'll list them in the order he presented them, which according to him is the order of importance:
Body count (which he acknowledged as "backwards" but justified by referencing some Eliot Cohen article in 2006 that argued "counterinsurgency is still war, and war's essential element is fighting")
Number of times he is attacked (he wants it to be as low as possible)
Number of dead bodies found on the street
Sectarian makeup of Iraqi units he's partnered with
Number of local tips he gets
Number of enemy captured

Opening shops on the main street
Keeping useful local leaders alive
"Normal" activity of people
Willingness of Sunnis to travel across Baghdad
Essential services, employment levels
These seem to be great metrics if your first priority is leaving Iraq with as many soldiers as possible, with little regard to the situation you are leaving to the guys relieving you. It is conducive to holing up in your Forward Operating Base and leaving only to react to events. There is no mention of the local political situation that the security situation is supposed to be oriented around. Furthermore he has as "metrics" things which aren't even nominally under his control, such as the makeup of Iraqi units and the willingness of Sunnis to travel in other commanders' Areas of Responsibility. His emphasis on body count as his primary metric was especially depressing - supposedly we had learned that was a poor metric back in Vietnam (and probably earlier).

LTC Gentile did say some useful things however - he pointed out that the situation can't be measured by quantifiable variables, and that gut feeling and judgment are the overriding variables, and that progress should be presented in a narrative form rather than through graphs, etc. (although some graphs are useful, especially these graphs). However I was left with a fair amount of questions:

Do the insurgencies use the inverse of our metrics? Or do they use different measures of success? I would expect the latter - that their metrics would be more focused on the political situation in Iraq.

Should there be separate measures - one for internal use, and one for public diplomacy towards the local population?

If the primary metric is the commander's gut feeling, wouldn't you run into problems, as many commanders are insulated from the actual situation on the ground and believe they are doing a good job?

If it takes time to develop metrics based on local conditions, aren't counterinsurgency practitioners more likely to pick metrics that show they are succeeding, or orient their counterinsurgency methods around things they can more easily measure?

Can commanders effectively evaluate their own performance? How do you balance the very granular nature of counterinsurgency, with very different local geographies, with the need for independent outside evaluation?

Climate change's impact on war

A while ago I noticed a Mother Jones blog entry highlighting a recent article in the journal Human Ecology titled Climate Change and War Frequency in Eastern China over the Last Millennium by David Zhang, Jane Zhang, Harry Lee, and Yuan-qing He. Wiggins over at Opposed Systems Design noticed it too. I got a copy of it and read it. I will first summarize the contents, and then add a few words of my own.

Article summary:

Zhang et al have a data set from the "Tabulation of Wars in Ancient China, dates 800 BC to 1911 AD. They looked at 899 wars between 1000 AD to 1911 AD. They divided China into "North" and "South" based on climate. The temperature data comes from compiling the five "most influential" climate series data sets. They then compared temperature fluctuations and frequency (and type and location) of wars.

They found that "wherever they occurred rebellions are always significantly correlated with temperature change," (407) as the temperature change leads to food shortages, famine and (relatively) heavier taxation by the state. Wars in the "South" region are also significantly correlated with temperature anomalies, despite the fact that the "North" region's climate is more vulnerable to temperature change. The authors believe this is because when climate changes affected the "North" region, northern Chinese migrated down into the "South" region, especially as China was frequently ruled by Northern tribes such as the Mongol and Manchu.

Essentially the authors look at the temperature data and see a cyclical pattern between warm and cold. During the warm period, agriculture expands and China is able to support a large population. During the cold period, agriculture contracts and China's population contracts via famine and resource wars. Economic stress forces tribes outside "civilized" China to attack China's borders, peasants rebel when they can no longer afford to pay taxes (the paper describes scenes from the Ming dynasty of Chinese eating bark, and when there was no more bark, digging up corpses and eating them - and then taxes on top of that).

The authors found "Almost all of the dynastic changes occurred in cold phases, with the exception of the Yuan dynasty, which collapsed 8 years after the end of a cold phase... largely a result of power struggles among different rebel groups"(412). They conclude that "it was the oscillations of agricultural production brought by long-term climate change that drove China's historical war-peace cycles" (413).


Basically, when a cold cycle hit, the amount of available food decreased in both North and South China. In South China, peasants rebelled at taxation, leading to war. In North China, tribes from the north who also felt pressure due to reduced food invaded. The Chinese dynastic state had enough food to feed northern tribes but not the whole of China. The state was weakened through peasant rebellions in the South, and tribes from north of China invaded. Those with power soon became those with food. In time, the climate cycle restarted, the northern tribes because the sitting dynasty, the climate warmed up, agriculture expanded, and China grew used to having more food just in time for another cooling period and more warfare.

Wiggins, at Opposed System Design, didn't have access to the paper, but from its summary, assumes "Zhang would be optimistic about the likelihood of peace in a warming future." The point of Zhang's article was not that cold periods lead to war and warm periods to peace. The point was that when societies adapt to a certain amount of resources, anything that leads to constraints on those resources will lead to conflict. Thus, current global climate change will most likely lead to conflict, even though it is warming rather than cooling. Human civilization has adjusted to climate of a hundred years ago. Any sudden shift that leads to a constriction on resources, whether its oil, arable land, housing, or water, will lead to conflict over that resource.

The logic is the same as if you have 3 toddlers with 3 GI Joes, and then took away two of them (the GI Joes, not the toddlers). You would then have 3 toddlers, each accustomed to having their own GI Joe, with only one GI Joe between them. What are the chances they would learn to share?

Article citation:
David D. Zhang, Jane Zhang, Harry F. Lee, Yuan-qing He. Climate change and war frequency in eastern China over the last millennium. Human Ecology. Volume 35, Number 4, August, 2007, Pages 403-414.

Soccer comedy

Two soccer videos. The first, the Daily Show's treatment of Iraq's recent Asia Cup victory.

The second, equally comical, is LA Galaxy versus FC Dallas in the Superliga (combined MLS/Mexico North American championship):