22 February, 2007

Gas warfare in Iraq

Stratfor has some interesting things to say about the use of chlorine gas by Iraqi terrorists. Key points:

  1. they aren't doing it well (yet), and
  2. the psychological effect will likely be far more substantial than any physical effect could be.


Mark Steyn is always a fun read. A recent sample:

ACCORDING to my dictionary, the word "ally" comes from the Old French. Very Old French, I'd say. For the New French, the word has a largely postmodern definition of "duplicitous charmer who undermines you at every opportunity".
For the less enthusiastically obstructive NATO members, "ally" means "wealthy country with no military capability that requires years of diplomatic wooing and black-tie banquets in order to agree to a token contribution of 23.08 troops." Incidentally, that 23.08 isn't artistic licence on my part. The 2004 NATO summit in Turkey was presented as a triumph of multilateral co-operation because the 26 members agreed to contribute between them an additional 600 troops and three helicopters to the Afghan mission. That's 23.08 troops and a ninth of a helicopter per ally. In fairness, Turkey chipped in the three helicopters single-handed, though the deal required them to return to Ankara after three months.

And these days troops is something of an elastic term, too. In Norwegian, it means "fighting men who are prepared to stand shoulder to shoulder with the Americans, as long as they don't have to do any fighting and there are at least two provinces between their shoulders and the American ones". That's to say, Norway is "participating" in Afghanistan, but, because its troops are "not sufficiently trained to take part in combat", they've been mainly back at the barracks manning the photocopier or staging amateur performances of Peer Gynt for the amusement of US special forces who like nothing better than to unwind with five acts of Ibsen after a hard day hunting the Taliban.

15 February, 2007

Me Tarzan, you the world

From Ivan Eland, another note of sanity in an insane world.

American Chronicle: A Foreign Policy that Only Tarzan Could Love

What do I have to do to get involved with the Independent Institute? They often seem to say what I want to say, and usually they do a better job of saying it than I do.

A tough year for Bin Laden

Some interesting thoughts on Afghanistan and how it fits into the overall war. From Stratfor:

A new audiotape surfaced Tuesday from al Qaeda's deputy leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri. In this latest message, al-Zawahiri pledges allegiance to Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar, who he calls the leader of the worldwide jihadist movement. Even more striking, there is no mention whatsoever of al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden. This suggests that al Qaeda has been weakened to the point that a major shift in the leadership of the wider jihadist movement is under way. There is no proof that bin Laden is dead, but he is certainly missing in action...

These circumstances have created a situation that has allowed Mullah Omar to reassert himself as the leader of the jihadists...

In fact, the Taliban resurgence to a great degree has been made possible by the renewed al Qaeda commitment to the Taliban insurgency. Now that bin Laden is no longer leading al Qaeda, and with the Taliban revived as a major force, al-Zawahiri has no choice but to acknowledge Mullah Omar as the supreme jihadist leader. Al Qaeda's dependency on the Taliban (as opposed to the other way around) will create a struggle over operational planning and allocation of resources -- directly impacting the network's global reach.

12 February, 2007

One of the better observations I've seen in a while

DefenseLink News Transcript: DoD News Briefing with Secretary Gates

What I have said in my testimony is that I think that the words "civil war" oversimplify a very complex situation in Iraq. I believe that there are essentially four wars going on in Iraq. [my emphasis] One is Shi'a on Shi'a, principally in the south; the second is sectarian conflict, principally in Baghdad, but not solely; third is the insurgency; and fourth is al Qaeda, and al Qaeda is attacking, at times, all of those targets.

So I think I just -- you know, I -- it's not, I think, just a matter of politics or semantics. I think it oversimplifies it. It's a bumper sticker answer to what's going on in Iraq.

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02 February, 2007


I'm relearning that a lot of what of what we do to survive involves making choices to view realities in the best light possible. With that in mind, several high points:

My wife survived an unexpected case of Thyroid cancer. The Thyroid is now out,with over thirty of her lympth nodes. The surgeon was very thorough. A radioactive iodide treatment in a few weeks should simultaneously locate and destroy any remaining tumor.

Although we didn't get to visit her family over the holidiays, her mother drove up here and rescued us just when it was beginning to feel overwhelming. I'm lucky to have a mother-in-law like her.

Although the tumor attached itself to the vocal cords, it was removed with minimal damage. Susan needs some special training to get more of her voice back, but the recovery so far has been remarkable. She's singing again! (Quietly, to be sure, but so what?)

It's easy to look at the negative. Seeing the positive takes a little more effort--for me, at least--but it's a lot better for everyone, and there's a lot to be thankful for.