I got home about 11 p.m. last night from the Barbara Bush dinner, turned the TV and on and very soon discovered (from FOX first, the others followed) that we were in the city. Still not claiming to understand the tactics (or the strategy, for that matter) of it all, I am impressed. Seventeen days into it and we are in Baghdad! While I know that this isnt quite the end, and that many bad things can happen, etc., still it is a very impressive accomplishment. And note not only with the minimal loss of American lives, but with the minimal destruction of the country. Very impressive. Robert Patton (the Generals grandson) praises General Franks mobility and flexibility while reminding us of General Pattons awkward time at the siege of Metz. In the meantime Ralph Peters beats up on Rumsfeld (overdone, I think) and here is the latest AP report on our incursion into the heart of baghdad. And here is a pretty useful map Baghdad. And, I almost forgot, as if to prove that justice has a sense of humor, Peter Arnett is now reporting for the pan-Arab satellite channel Al-Arabiya. Now that ought to settle any outstanding questions.
The Annual Dinner with Mrs. Bush was a great hit. She gave a fine speech, was very funny, and the 850 or so folks had a wonderful time. I just heard from C-SPAN that although they were going to run her conversation with the Ashbrook Scholars tonight, it has been pre-empted by some war coverage. C-SPAN says they will run it, and will inform of us when they will do so. I will pass it on to you, as soon as I hear from them. Sorry. Here is the story the Cleveland Plain Dealer ran on her talk. And Here is the Akron Beacon-Journal story.
Here is the way she began her talk (at my expense), as reported in the Ashland Times-Gazette (not on-line): "The tone of the Bush speech was set from the start, as she joked that when she first met the tuxedo-clad Schramm, she asked him what was for dinner. I didnt know it was a black-tie dinner--I thought he was a waiter, she said." Well, you get the drift. And I can see where the President got his fabled wit. She is a smart, lovely, and down to earth lady. Everyone had a great time.
An interesting article on the guerrilla warfare going on in Afghanistan from a reporter who spent a lot of time in Chechnya and wrote a good book about that conlfict.
I was greatly saddened to hear of the passing of Michael Kelly. He was a talented writer and editor, who will be greatly missed. I can think of no greater way to remember the man than directing readers to what many view as one of his finest op-eds. This article, which summed up the feelings of many Catholic moderates who felt betrayed by the the Clinton administration, is devastatingly written in the style of the Apostles Creed. Worth four strong cups, raised in his memory.
I am sorry to report that Michael Kelly, the Atlantic Monthly editor-at-large and Washington Post columnist who abandoned the safety of editorial offices to cover the war in Iraq, has been killed in a Humvee accident while traveling with the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division. See the
Washington Post story.
Mrs. Barbara Bush is here today for our annual memorial dinner and to talk to the Ashbrook Scholars which, I should add, C-SPAN is taping and will run sometime between 8pm and 11pm (Eastern time) on Saturday, so I will stop blogging for the day. So I end with this joke from todays Jay Nordlingers column:
The following joke — said to be current in Iraq — has been making the rounds here:
"The eight Saddam body doubles are gathered in one of the bunkers in downtown Baghdad. Tariq Aziz, the deputy prime minister, comes in and says, I have some good news and some bad news. They ask for the good news first.
"Aziz says, The good news is that Saddam is still alive, so you all still have jobs.
"And the bad news? they ask.
"Aziz replies, Hes lost an arm."
The Washington Post runs a truly remarkable story (by Peter Baker) about who really is responsible for saving Private Lynch. One good and noble Iraqi man, at great danger to himself, saw what was happening to her and went to the Marines and they went to work. Be prepared to shed tears.
Here is something I dont understand. Vast amounts of food was found (amid a starving population) by Brit and US forces. It was controlled by the UN. Is the UN responsible for this outrage? Like in Coriolanus, the people should be taking to the streets.
According to an article in the Wall Street Journal the battle between CNN, MSNBC, and FOX is serious and it in the end FOX may well turn out to be the winner. An informative read. (I had the wrong link, sorry. It is now correct).
Asks John Keegan in todays Daily Telegraph (London). Good question. Where are the casualties? They are minimal on the coalition side, but we dont even know how many Iraqis have been killed. And we dont know what happened to the ordinary Iraqi divisions. They disappeared. I paid a little attention to the TV news this morning and the military briefing and it seems to me that there is a very good chance that either (1) it is all but over, save for some mopping up operations, and maybe a few suicide bombers (of course, this sort of thing could last for months); (2) that the relative ease with which we have taken the airport, and the dissapearance of the Iraqi army, is just a ruse; it is possible that something serious will happen.
John Keegan thinks that this is a "deeply mysterious war." He doesnt understand--by any strategic analysis--why Saddams (or whoever is charge) defensive strategy is so casual, if not careless. He would like an explanation.
Heat seeking cluster bombs were used for the first time yesterday (I think). Here is a clear explanation of how they work. Amazing.
Secretary of State Powell said this at the closing of the fast-paced meeting of his EU and NATO counterparts in Brussels:
"I think the coalition has to play the leading role. But that does not mean we have to shut others out. There will definitely be a United Nations role, but what the exact nature of that role will be remains to be seen."
And the French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin said: "We must stabilize Iraq and the region. The United Nations is the only international organization that can give legitimacy to this."
And the Belgian Foreign Minister Louis Michel said: "I dont see how we could contribute to the reconstruction without the United Nations playing the key role."
Good. I think that is perfectly clear. There was also tentative agreement that NATO should consider deploying peacekeepers in Iraq.
ParaPundit has a very informative and clear essay (under the date "2003 April 3") on what we may expect our casualties to be when we go into Baghdad. Also note some thoughtful side issues, for example, why did Saddam allow the Republican Guard to be positioned so far out of Baghdad, how many paramilitary there are in the city, how difficult it is to even know the population of some of the cities we have taken, etc., (the links are useful). A very thoughtful read.
Twenty Taliban were killed in southern Afghanistan. Loyal Afghan forces and US special forces were involved. Perhaps this makes former CIA Director James Woolseys comments more understandable: "This fourth world war, I think, will last considerably longer than either World Wars I or II did for us. Hopefully not the full four-plus decades of the Cold War."
I dont know why I keep being surprised by the things that go on in politics, but once again I am surprised. Here is Senator John Kerry, in search of the Democratic presidential nomination, in search of votes from the left that otherwise migh go to Howard Dean, saying this: What we need now is not just a regime change in Saddam Hussein and Iraq, but we need a regime change in the United States. He maintains that a until we have a new president, we will be all alone in the world, etc. Amazing.
Do you know the difference between a battalion and a brigade, between a regiment and a divisin? If not, the thousand words or so below will help you. It is as clear as anything I have seen. (via Volokh Conspiracy).
MILITARY COMMAND JARGON: A TENTATIVE PRIMER. Which is the bigger unit: the 101st Airborne or the Seventh Marines? That’s an easy one: the 101st Airborne is much bigger; it’s a division, whereas the “Seventh Marines” refers to a regiment. I feel obliged to mention this because I just heard a television commentator refer to the “Seventh Marine Division” -- a blunder. It occurred to me that it might be useful to post a general summary of the sizes and commanders of the different infantry units in the Army and Marines. The usefulness will be twofold. In the event, however unlikely, that you aren’t at all clear on these points already, they may increase your understanding of the coverage of the war. If you are clear on these points already, you may know more about them than I do and be able to correct any mistakes that exist in what follows; I will amend it accordingly. I’m no expert. I know most of what little I do because my father was a Marine.
A "fire team" consists of a few men commanded by a corporal.
A squad consists of about twelve men (three teams) commanded by a sergeant – typically a total of thirteen soldiers.
A platoon’s size can vary, but it typically consists of three squads, or 39 soldiers, plus a platoon sergeant and a platoon leader -- a lieutenant.
A company consists of two or more platoons (usually three or four) -- typically between 150-200 soldiers -- and is run by a captain.
A battalion consists of two or more companies (e.g., three "rifle" companies plus a heavy weapons company) -- perhaps 700-800 soldiers -- and is run by a lieutenant colonel. Players of Stratego may be wondering at this point what a Major does. A major typically is an executive officer -- second in command -- in a battalion. Or he can run the battalion if lieutenant colonels are in short supply, or command a company if they are short of captains.
A regiment typically consists of three or four battalions and is run by a full colonel: around 3,000-5,000 soldiers.
A brigade typically consists of a couple of regiments, but also can be smaller than the numbers that formulation would suggest. They traditionally have been run by brigadier generals, but now in the Army brigades are commanded by full colonels. A reader informs me that the Army evidently no longer uses "regiments" as fighting units. Its brigades instead. (You can go here for some further explanation; you may have to scroll down, as I couldnt get the permalink to work.) The Marines, by contrast, only form brigades for particular and occasional purposes. Brigades and regiments are largely interchangeable for purposes of comprehending news coverage. The important thing is to distinguish them from divisions.
A division typically consists of three infantry regiments plus more: an artillery regiment, supply staff, intelligence staff, logistics staff, headquarters staff, motor transport people, a medical battalion, and some other headings, ending up with 15,000-25,000 or so soldiers -- 18,000 is the rule of thumb, but a paratrooper battalion could be attached, or a tank regiment, etc., with a resulting variation in numbers. It is run by a major general (a "two star" general). There also are distinct armored divisions; these differ because they consist mostly of tanks and other armor that support the infantry divisions. The Marine Expeditionary Force is a unit roughly on par with a division in its scale, though larger as it includes its own air support and other amenities.
A corps consists of two or more divisions (maybe 60,000 soldiers) and is run by a three-star general -- a lieutenant general. V Corps ("Fifth Corps") is the outfit in Iraq now. It is run by William Wallace.
A group of "corps" make up an "army" or a command -- in the case of Iraq, the central command -- which is run by a full (four-star) general. (There are no five-star generals now; Eisenhower, Bradley, and a couple of others from WWII had that distinction.) In this case the general is Tommy Franks, who oversees not only the V Corps but also the Air Force and Naval units there, etc.
Examples of usage:
The Seventh Armored Brigade (the "desert rats") is a British unit, a "brigade" because its too small to be considered a "division." "Brigades" are more common in British usage than American.
The "101st Airborne" (the "screaming eagles") is a division of the Army that traditionally consisted of paratroopers (plus support of various kinds), but now is a more general air assault division making extensive use of helicopters, etc. This division fought famously for Bastogne in the Battle of the Bulge during WWII. Many of the divisions and regiments you hear about now have storied histories, having participated in great battles of prior wars. It can be fun to go do a search for a regiment’s name; usually there are sources on the web providing some history.
Divisions go by numbers, as do regiments and battalions. So within the First Marine Division, there are infantry regiments that that have numbers of their own -- the first marine regiment, the fifth, and the seventh. An ambiguity can arise here that is related to the television miscue that precipitated this post: someone can refer to the "First Marines." This should not mean the first division; it should mean the first *regiment* (which is in the first division). The first division is better referred to as the First Marine Division. This is the division that went into Guadalcanal; it was the first bunch of Marines to fight in WWII (at least in an offensive capacity; thus I am setting aside the Marine detachment at Wake Island, which a reader reasonably reminded me not to overlook).
If someone refers to "the 31st infantry," on the other hand, this refers to a regiment, not a division. The resulting rule of thumb: when you refer to a division, use the word "division." If you refer just to a number -- the 31st infantry, or the 7th marines, or the 3d cavalry -- you are referring to a regiment. Yes, the “101st Airborne” is an exception; it’s a division. That’s why only rules of thumb are possible.
FOX News reports that more evidence has been discovered that indicates a close connection between al Qaeda and Ansar al-Islam in Northern Iraq. They report that between 75 to 100 members of al Qaeda have been killed or captured in Iraq. Some have escaped into Iran and the Iranian government has promised to give them up.
This is from todays International Herald Tribune. It considers in some detail the politics (which have already started in Brussels today) of the French (and others) trying to get some contracts to help rebuild Iraq once the war is over. They are afraid that the majority of said contracts will go to American and British firms.
A Washington Times editorial agrees with retired General McCaffreys suggestion in yesterdays Wall Street Journal that the Bush administration faces a substantial challenge in ensuring that the military retains the force structure necessary to deter aggressors in several potential theaters of battle. McCaffrey recommends that at least three National Guard Divisions be activated (about 50,000 men) to ensure that the United States retains the ability to simultaneously fight the war on terror while preventing regional powers like North Korea from menacing their neighbors. This will become a matter od discussion, as it should.
The renowned scholar Bernard Lewis explains why he remains cautiously optimistic about the future of Iraq, a more democratic future. He maintains that the current government of Iraq, because it stems from fascism (and then communism) to the Baath Party, is an importation from Europe and that it has nothing in common with an authentic Arab or Muslim past. As this was an example of a succesful (and most harmful) Western importation, so the reverse can be the case. A serious article, worth reading.
This New York Times story is a worth a look because of two great quotes. One, after elements of the 101st Airborne Division marched into a town named Ajaf, an Iraqi man was asked what he hoped the Americans would bring with them? The Iraqi said this: "Democracy, whiskey, and sexy." Maybe its not not life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, but it will do for now. Two, after clearing and exploding some land mines, some of which were made locally and some made in Italy, an American Lt. Col Duke DeLuca said this: "Europeans are anti-war, but they are pro-commerce." Lovely, especially when said by an American named Duke DeLuca.
German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said that he hoped Saddam Husseins government would collapse quickly. Another principled German stance accomodating itself to realpolitik. Now lets hear from the French.
More detail is emerging about Lynch’s capture by the Iraqi forces. Although wounded she killed a number of Iraqis and continued to fight to the death, as her fellows soldiers were falling around her. Then at the end, in close quarter combat, she was stabbed, then captured. Its not clear that her arms and legs were broken during the fight or after she was captured. One tough soldier.
Just a couple of interesting (and unrelated?) points to bring to your attention about the war by way of showing the difficulty of knowing what is really going on. First, this Moscow Times op-ed making the argument that when the coalition said that we were stopping to let the supply tail catch up with the troops, we were engaged in disinformation. We wanted the Iraqis to think we were slowing down (or even "bogged down"), that we had to wait for the food and water and ammo to catch up, that we didnt have enough troops, etc. Well, the author argues that this was a lie, and that it worked: it tricked the Iraqis into thinking that they had some more time before we attacked. They were wrong.
Second, it is being reported that special forces have blown up an Iraqi pipeline to Syria. This is just after we claimed that Syria is sending hardware (and troops?) to Iraq, and we warned them to stop.
This article from the Washington Times reports that “Outlawed Islamic extremist organizations that were routed by the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan in 2001 are making a comeback, riding a wave of anti-American sentiment. Recruitment in Pakistan of potential terrorists appears to be on the rise. Militant leaders freed from house arrest have returned to the mosques to rally the faithful against the United States.”
In Afghanistan, rocket attacks using weapons more sophisticated than those previously used have occurred in the capital, Kabul. The international Red Cross has suspended operations because one of its workers was killed in an attack. This follows the death of two American soldiers over the weekend in an ambush.
The war must be going well because the Foreign Minister of Saudi Arabia, Saud al Faisal, is defending the US against those who think that the US will take our Iran and Syria next. He said, in part:
"It is not within the character of the United States, at least not the United States that I know," he said at a news conference. "The United States is not an imperialist country. Nor is it a war-like country. The United States has values. Self-determination was coined by the United States."
Louis Michel, the foreign Minister of Belgium has said those Americans who planned the war "lack professionalism." He also said this:
"It’s incredible to throw so much power into a war while hinting that the whole thing had been worked out in advance, when in fact it appears that things aren’t so clear." Belgium, Belgium....I have to consult a map. It’s in Europe, isn’t it?
After all these years, former president Carter has finally found the appropriate genre for his thoughts and fulminations, fiction. He is writing a novel set in the south during the Revolutionary war.
The U.S. Navy has a new recruiting poster out. It’s attractive, and it reads: "LIFE, LIBERTY, AND THE PURSUIT OF ALL WHO THREATEN IT." I like it.
It is being reported that Jacques Delors, former president of the European Commission, has become one of the first senior French public figures to criticize Chirac for leading France into a diplomatic cul-de-sac. Also, I mentioned the other day that after the talk de Villepin gave in London, he responded to questions about which side should be victorious in the Iraq war by refusing to say which side he supported. Here is the Daily Telegraph artcile on that from March 28th.
AP reports that U.S. troops are within 35 miles of Baghdad, while FOX reports we are 19 miles out. Details aside, it seems to be pretty clear that the war seems to be going well, The New York Times wish to the contrary notwithstanding.
One answer is read Thomas Ricks’ fine book, Making the Coprs, which describes the first months of a group of Marine recruits. Here the marines learn the ethic of service, rather than the debased individualism most knew in civilian life.
From my own experience, most prominently three years of teaching and research at the U.S. Air Force Academy, I can attest that a different ethic prevails in the military. Obviously there are exceptions, but the expectations are that the needs of the institution prevail over the desires of the individual. This can lead to absurdities, such as a specialist in one area performing duties in another for which he is far less qualified, but the principle abides-- serving the greater good. The individuals involved may not enjoy the process, and it requires considerable management skill, but the system aims at certain mission results, not individual self-improvement.
The scandals at the Air Force Academy can be explained as a perversion of the team ethic, in which covering up for others’ indiscretion takes the place of the institution as a whole. There is much more to be said about this, of course.
Perhaps the best contrast to be made between the ethos of the military academies and that at virtually all other institutions of higher education can be seen in the debate over affirmative action at the University of Michigan. While higher education seems dedicated to the advancement of self-indulgence in its myriad forms, black students favoring affirmative action appear to break from this crowd of individualists. Unfortunately, this spiritedness is in the service of a form of a racial consciousness that defeats the liberating purposes of genuine liberal education. This is another spurious form of dedication to a cause or a community. (Incidentally, invoking military academy policy to justify affirmative action at civilian universities is a non-starter; academy admissions are largely through a political process to begin with, cadets being nominated by congressmen.)
The balance these black students and many others seek is to be found in citizenship and service to a nation founded on the principles of the Declaration of Independence. The left and much of the right will not offer great support toward this goal. Black students who are clearly superior and who resent being cast as beneficiaries of quotas are poised to be those who will next be asked "where do they get young men and women like this?"
A blogger recounts the following story about an experience of the embedded CNN reporter Martin Savidge (thanks to Eric Green) and his Marines:
Martin Savidge of CNN, embedded with the 1st Marine battalion, was talking with 4 young Marines near his foxhole this morning live on CNN. He had been telling the story of how well the Marines had been looking out for and taking care of him since the war started. He went on to tell about the many hardships the Marines had endured since the war began and how they all look after one another.
He turned to the four and said he had cleared it with their commanders and they could use his video phone to call home.
The 19 year old Marine next to him asked Martin if he would allow his platoon sergeant to use his call to call his pregnant wife back home whom he had not been able to talk to in three months. A stunned Savidge who was visibly moved by the request shook his head and the young Marine ran off to get the sergeant.
Savidge recovered after a few seconds and turned back to the three young Marines still sitting with him and asked which one of them would like to call home first, the Marine closest to him responded with out a moments hesitation “ Sir, if is all the same to you we would like to call the parents of a buddy of ours, Lance Cpl Brian Buesing of Cedar Key, Florida who was killed on 3-23-03 near Nasiriya to see how they are doing”.
At that Martin Savidge totally broke down and was unable to speak. All he could get out before signing off was "Where do they get young men like this?"
Sky News reports on Buster, an explosive sniffer dog, a springer spaniel used by the Brits, and how he found a large cache of arms in Iraq. Cute.
Mac Owens thoughtfully (and amusingly) considers the sniping going on in the press (mostly) between the civilian leadership and the military over the war plans and their possible edeficiencies. The whole thing is worth a read, but I quote the last paragraph which is partly in Marine talk:
"The snipers are essentially arguing that ’if’ decision-makers had listened to them, the coalition would be doing better than it is. But I am reminded what an old Marine once told me: ’If a frog had wings, it wouldn’t bump its ass when it jumped.’"
Aviation Week reports that we are using ten different kinds of drones in Iraq (but only had three different kinds in Afghanistan). And here is a report on what the UAVs will be like in the Army of the future. Strategy Page explains how the crew of a UAV Predator works. And here is the UK version of the UAV; one was shot down near Basra a few days ago. Interesting to note that I havent yet heard of any of our drones having been shot down.
When antiwar protestors showed up outside Fox News New York studio at Rockefeller Center, a producer got even with them by taunting them with messages on the neon news "zipper" that flashes news headlines around the corner of the studio building.
"Protestor auditions here today" said one news crawl. The better one was: "Michael Moore Fan Club to Meet in Phone Booth at 53rd and 3rd Ave."
Makes you proud to be an American.
Jeffrey Tiel puts forth a tight argument--by considering the doctrine of double effect and proprotionality--in favor of hitting the enemy hard when they hide behind civilians, schools, etc. He argues that this will end up saving civilian life, at the end.
This is to let you know that Mac Owens will be on CNBCs Kudlow and Cramer at 8:20 PM EST this evening. I hope youll join the millions of others who will give up OReilly and American Idol to watch this very exciting old Marine in action! Well, not really in action, but you know what I mean.
This is a BBC report on a large study of demographic changes in Europe. The year 200 was a watershed year, "Europe is now in a negative population momentum."
"On average, women in Europe now have a fertility rate of 1.5 births each.
If this continues until 2020, they say it could lead to at least 88m fewer people living in the EU in 2100, assuming constant levels of mortality and no significant effects of migration.
In 2000, the EU population was around 375m, so this would mean a fall of more than 23%."
U.S. Marines moved into a town in Southern Iraq to recover the body of a Marine killed in a firefight. According to intelligence reports his body was paraded through the town and then hanged in public. An officer with the First Marine Expeditionary Force said this: "We would like to retrieve the body of the marine but it is not our sole purpose." Good.
As I mentioned on Friday, Hanson spoke here (called "The Current War is not New")over lunch (circa an hour) and then conducted a four hour long seminar the next day for about eighty high school teachers. Now that seminar (called "The American Way of War") is also available on line. You can listen to it by clicking here. I recommend both. First class stuff.
There is now a web site you can link to if you are interested in the problem of grade inflation at Americas colleges and universities. It is hosted by a professor at Duke who has not given anything below a "B" in two years. It merits a serious look; very useful and clear. Here is an op-ed Prof. Stuart Rojstaczer (its his web site) wrote on it in the WaPo, and here is another on the problem by Harvey Mansfield. His solution is to give two grades, one public (phony) and one private (actual). Its a huge problem.
Steven Den Beste has a few good pages on why it is important that we not know a lot about the progress of this war. He uses the example of submariners in WWII, "the silent service." There is much going on that we know hardly anything about (why are there no missiles in the west of Iraq firing into Israel, etc), much of it having to do with the work of the special forces. And when we learn too much about what they do, all kinds of bad things can happen. Note this from Australia: the bad guys have found out that Australian special forces were involved in taking out Scuds in the western desert and the suicide bombers are coming after them especially.
Congratulations to this months winners of a No Left Turns mug! The winners are as follows:
Robert Don Gifford
James Lileks often says interesting things. Here is a sample:
"I watch all the news channels, and I have to hand it to Fox: their main war logo is designed to make some people pitch an absolute fit. They use the name of the campaign - Operation Iraqi Freedom - without scare quotes, and as it turns and shines to the sound of horns and snares, a jet flies into the picture AND TURNS INTO AN EAGLE. I imagine they mocked up a few logos, but this one seemed to contain the most Foxitude. Still, the person who signed off on these things wasnt satisfied. He thought for a moment, then said: the eagle needs to scream at the end.
Slapped foreheads all around. Of course! And so the eagle now screams as he leaves the frame. End result: one third of the audience doesn’t notice the screaming eagle. One third of the audience LOVES that screaming eagle. One third of the audience is quietly gratified by the knowledge that the screaming eagle just drives some people nuts. Or would, if they watched Fox.
Fox News! “We’re the network whose anchors can report American combat victories without sounding as if they soaked their underwear in cold water and filled them with sand. Now with thirty percent more predatory birdsong!”
Sometimes one statement sums up the character or essence of a thing better than anything else could. This is true if the statement is to the point, uses short and old words, and means to make a statement of fact about some massive issue that heretofore may not have been clear. If you have ever doubted--because of the Vietnam experience or because media bias--what the character of an American fighting man is, doubt no more. In this New York Times story, some 14,000 Marines are moving toward Baghdad, with pleasure, after winning a tough battle that lasted many hours. "A kind of electricity filled the air," the writer says. And here is the pregnant line: "We’re in bad-guy country," Col. John Pomfret said, surveying this newly captured piece of Iraqi territory. "I like it."
This article in today’s WaPo, by Thomas Ricks is informative (and not so much because it is still pushing the idea, which he pontificated on days ago, that there has been a change in strategy) but because by carefully reading it you learn so much more than you could from some TV newsguy or commentator. Pay attention to the way he lays out what the Army really wants, how the Marines look at things, and how they want to push ahead faster than the Army and that is not necessarily a good thing (see what he says about the consequences of the Marine’s succesful push ahead of plans in the Gulf War). The point is not that you should necessarily agree with Ricks, but that this kind of reporting is thoughtful and, therefore, educational. And here is the Seymour Hersh article from last weeks The New Yorker that criticized Rumsfelds war plan, and of which so much has been made.
Mac Owens uses the Peter Arnett debacle--and he reminds us, as did Hayward, that this is a very problematic character, prone to make things up--to clarify what the hubbub over the change in war plans means. Also see Macs good piece from Friday on keeping "the main thing" in mind. Very useful information.
The AP is reporting that there are Russian agents in Iraq trying to convince the Iraqis to allow them to take away sensitive information, as the country falls to the coalition. For those of you interested in more, go here. Also see this report from January. Obviously, this could be very interesting, but it shouldnt be all that surprising. The Soviets had a very close relationship with Iraq, and there is reason to think that a pretty close relationship has been maintained, both in intelligence matters, and in money matters. Remember that Yevgeni Primakov (former PM and spy) met with Saddam a few months ago. It was very hush-hush.
The latest Gallup Poll shows that the support for the war is holding steady at 70% (no change from a week ago). This is actually quite remarkable considering the TV news drumbeat against the war. The only thing that has changed in the week is that those who think that the war is "going very well" has declined from 53% to 33%, but those that think it is going "moderately well" has risen from 37% to 52%. Those who think that the war is going "badly" hasnt changed from 14%. I take all this to be good news. So far, the public sentiment is sound and hard.
Glenn Reynolds has a good op-ed at Tech Central on TV coverage of the war, and the embedded reporters in particular. He agrees with me that TV is doing an awful job, that embedded reporters are taking the side of the troops, and that the best coverage is still by bloggers. A number of good links included in the article. Good, short read.
I have watched many hours of TV news since the war started. I not only wanted to see what was going on, but also wanted to see what "spin" was being put on developments (or, maybe it should be re-phrased, what spin was being placed on non-developments!). Well, I am reporting to you that I am massively unimpressed. The coverage is pedestrian and prosaic and unbelievably repetitious. In one hour of FOX, for example, I watched them run the exact same footage of the peripheries of some skirmish at least four times. Almost nothing was explained about what we were watching. It is not true that a picture is worth a thousand words; it is not worth a hundred good words! The particulars of the events the camera sees have to be interpreted and explained. Besides, it is easy to get the impression that what the camera is seeing is really important (and it is not necessarily so). Perhaps this explain why some TV stations have taken to run some excellent still photographs of discrete individual events like a Marine carrying a wounded child away from the battlefield. This also explains why Ken Burns’ Civil War was so popular and so well done: discrete individual shots of things that are then explained or interpreted, usually poetically. If we had moving pictures of the battle of Gettysburg, it wouldn’t be as meaningful as the still shots of the battle and its aftermath. So for simple information on what is happening in Iraq I will stick with the blog sites I have mentioned to you already, The Command Post and The Agonist. In the end, nothing can replace the word. To paraphrase Lincoln, the great invention of the world is not television, but the word. Take this example that David Tucker brought to our attention a few days ago of an officer giving a speech to his men before they go into battle. He is Lt. Col. Tim Collins (age 42), commander of the Royal Irish battle group. Read this and tell me if Demosthenes ever did any better!
It is being reported by Dow Jones that some Iraqi troops from the North of Baghdad are being repositioned to the South of the city to back up Republican Guard units who are being heavily shelled by allied bombing.
I was watching FOX news at lunch and Geraldo was on from inside Iraq. The guy behind the desk made reference to the news going around that he had been disembedded. They both laughed and said it was not true. I take them at their word. Therefore, part of the post below on Geraldo is incorrect. Sorry.
This is Howard Kurtz in the WaPo talking about embedded reporters and the "armchair reporters" they have started to criticize. This is worth reading because the disjunction between those reporters who are in the field with our soldiers during a war have started--mirabile dictu--siding with them. Does this mean that they can’t be real reporters? Of course not. It just means that they are Americans. I’m amused the way this issue is coming up in the establishment media, but I’m glad it has arisen. The publication of Arnett’s anti-Americanism will help clarify. In the meantime, Geraldo Rivera was taken to Kuwait from Iraq (i.e., disembedded) by the US military because he gave away some troop deployment information on a live broadcast. Why do all these guys think that this is a game? Some are against us, and some are idiots.
Eric Davis is director of Middle Eastern Studies at Rutgers and writes on both the recent history of Iraq and explains why the possibility of making Iraq more moderate and democratic may not be as difficult as some people think. (Thanks to The Corner). Here is how he starts:
"Americans share two misperceptions of Iraqi politics and society. One is that ethnic conflict is endemic to Iraqi society. Another is that Iraqis lack a tradition of civil society, cultural tolerance, and political participation. Both perceptions are contradicted by the historical record. These faulty premises lay behind Washingtons unwillingness to support the Iraqi uprising of 1991, which came close to ousting the Baathist regime. It would be a great tragedy if the United States were to make the same mistake in 2003."
Here is the MSNBC report on the firing of Arnett, and here is the FOX News report (which is a bit more full and useful). And here is the transcript of the Iraqi TV interview from CNN. I saw parts of the interview last night (both FOX and CNN aired parts of it) and was not amused. I came across Arnett being interviewed on NBC this morning where he apologized and grovelled and Matt Lauer made clear (regretfully) in the process of the interview that he was let go by NBC. I was pleased to hear this. What Arnett did was an outrage, in my opinion. But it is also worth noting that he is a reflection of a certain kind of ideological reporter (and ideological academic, I might add). He doesn’t really have any understanding of what he is reporting on, or, if he does, it is permeated with a plain and simple anti-American bias. Arnett thinks that the USA is the cause of the all the mischief in the world, and that every two-bit tyrant and his cut-throat regime ought to be praised. I am glad he is gone but do you want to bet that he will not be unemployed for long? How about giving him a chair at Columbia and then maybe he can have some like-minded conversations with professors of anthropology who would like Americans killed in the war, the more the merrier. Here is Andrew Sullivan’s column (in full) from Salon
on that anthropology professor who called for a "million Mogadishus" and other fifth column elements, and how it is that they cannot distinguish between Saddam and Hitler and Bush. A good read.
So Peter Arnett finally found the line he could not cross. His anti-Americanism and biased reporting have been evident for years, if not decades, which is probably why he kept getting hired.
Trivia moment: Remember the infamous quote from an anonymous American military commander in the Tet offensive in Vietnam that went: "We had to destroy the village in order to save it"? Guess who reported that quote: AP reporter Peter Arnett. He never would identify the person who supposedly spoke this phrase. Possibly because Arnett made it up??
Those who know me understand that I am not exactly prone to exercise. How then do I get in the 20 minutes per day of cardiovascular exercise that doctors say is essential? I read the op-ed page of the New York Times, of course, and sit back and relax while my blood pressure rises. As always, this Sunday’s column by Maureen Dowd did not fail to give my ticker a week’s worth of exercise. Here’s a little taste of the article:
We’re shocked that the enemy forces don’t observe the rules of war. We’re shocked that it’s hard to tell civilians from combatants, and friends from foes. Adversaries use guerrilla tactics; they are irregulars; they take advantage of the hostile local weather and terrain; they refuse to stay in uniform. Golly, as our secretary of war likes to say, it’s unfair.
Richard Kahlenberg offers what he calls a third way on the question of affirmative action this morning, in an article recommending affirmative action based not on race, but on income.
The article is interesting because it honestly addresses a major problem with Bush’s 10-percent plan--a plan in which the top ten percent of students from all public high schools are given admission to the state university of their choice. According to Kahlenberg, such a program is difficult to understand except as a proxy for race, and the program is therefore susceptible to legal challenge. There certainly is precedent for this: In the wake of discriminatory practices at schools in the south, the Supreme Court applied a rigid level of review to schools which had previously taken race into account, and subsequently used a proxy to reach the same or similar racial results. If the Supreme Court were to strike the more quota driven affirmative action systems in question, the Court could take a similar approach when confronted with admission systems predesigned to reach similar racial outcomes.
Kahlenberg’s approach is also interesting because it does not raise the serious constitutional questions that race-based systems do. Essentially, government may consider your income status for a number of purposes--taxation, welfare and other benefits, etc.--where it would be impermissible to look at race. To put it in legal jargon, income-level is not a suspect classification.
Under an income-based preference system, in addition to poor Black and Hispanic students, a number of poor white and Asian students would be admitted with a preference. Leaving aside the class-based public policy issues for the moment, such a system is fine, unless you believe that every group is entitled to just so many admission spots and no more. Enter Jesse Jackson, who infamously stated that ending racial preferences in California would just lead to admitting more Asians. Perish the thought.
Thus, Kahlenberg’s income-based preference proposal faces opposition from two groups. There are some on the right who think that it is imprudent to enter into the quagmire of class-based entitlements, and there are those on the left (such as Jackson), who realize that if you use an admissions system that is not really just a proxy for race, then you will not get the results you desire.
This is a short review of a new book by Joanna Pitman that considers the history of our preoccupation with blonde hair: "Pitman takes us on a blonde history of the world. It is a history of sex and subterfuge, of prejudice and fantasy — the best kind of history." Its short.
Here is a symposium on the possibility of Iraqi and Arab democracy. Participants include Garfinkle, Ajami, Pollack, et al. Long.
Niall Ferguson (prof of financial history at New York University) writes a lengthy piece in The Chronicle of Higher Education about America as an empire. (It is an excerpt from a forthcoming book.) It is interesting enough of a read (the use of the British Empire by way of comparison is helpful) even if you don’t subscribe to his thesis. I don’t think America is an empire unless, and it’s a big unless, you consider it an "empire of liberty," as Jefferson did. But that is a different, and a longer argument. Still, worth a look.
Speaking of empire, you might want to glance at this piece on a famous scholar on things African and why he decided to leave African studies: he found it too depressing. And you might even want to read Doris Lessing on what used to be called the "jewel of Africa," and what Mugabe has done to it. It is depressing.
And, finally, this Boston Globe article asks why so many of the "pro-American imperialists" commentators are not born in America, e.g., DSouza, Boot, Steyn, Johnson. This is an interesting question that this article doesnt do justice to, but its a start.
This is from Saturdays New York Times (the Arts section). It attempts to quickly (and superficially, by using "hero" as a thread) go into why Churchill continues to resonate to the public in such times (this has been emphasized since 9/11 in part because good guys like Gulliani, Rumsfeld, et al, explicitly made reference to Winston). The reason is quite simple: Churchill was the last great and good man who found himself in the middle of a crisis that resembles the crisis we are in; he warned his country that they werent prepared to confront tyranny, then he prepared his country, and his country won and civilization was saved. That we can learn a lot from him goes without saying, that we cannot learn much from the author of this NYT piece is also true. Note with what approval he uses J.H. Plumb regarding Winstons Marlborough and his other works of history: "J. H. Plumb criticized them for philistinism and their author for showing no mastery of Marx and Freud." Silly man, that Plumb. The latest biography of Churchill (not cited in the article) is by Geoffrey Best, Churchill: A Study in Greatness. Best is an Oxford prof who was skeptical until he really started getting to know Churchills life and work. I recommend it. Here is the Amazon offering, in case you are interested in buying yourself an early Christmas present. It is, by the way, a great read, unlike most histories written by professors of history.
This first appeared in the Middle East Quarterly in 1999 and it tries to examine the structure, training, and leadership issues of Arab armies (lack of respect, trust, and openess being the main problems). Detailed and interesting, written by a military guy with years of experience in the area. Worth a look.
Here are two articles, based on public opinion polls, indicating that, despite the skeptical and skewed press reports, the public continues to be behind Bush and that that support has grown! This is worth paying attention to not so much because it is critical that polls be attended to on a daily basis--they should not--but because it is quite difficult to gauge the real mood of the public if you base your analysis solely on CBS, ABC, and CNN, etc. My sense is that the American people are resolved to be in this until victory is achieved. They are resolute and firm. If the establishment press cant abide that, well, thats too bad for them and shows how disengaged they are from the common sense of the American public. Here is the Newsweek article, and here is the Washington Times one.
This site shows you where the embedded journalists are (as well as the independents). Very useful. I note in passing that many of the embeds have shown, through their reporting, to be more on the side of our troops than those reporting who are not living with them. They see their virtues first hand and it becomes increasingly difficult to make use of them for political purposes as many of those who are not embedded do, for example, reporters for the New York Times who are assigned to Qatar.