selenite0: (This is Terrible)
I first found T. R. Fehrenbach's This Kind of War when it was discarded from my dorm's library. I recently bought a Kindle copy to save having to carry around the heavy hardcover. It's a brilliant book, covering the Korean War from the viewpoint of American troops being shoved into a war their government hadn't prepared them for. I've heard an excerpt is mandatory reading for Army Generals. It covers war's horrors in depth--incompetent leaders, cowardly troops, atrocities, friendly fire, and the deaths of many, many civilians caught between the army. It also shows how ordinary men rose to become heroes and other learned to do their jobs well.

I recommend it to everyone with an interest in war.

What I can't recommend is the eBook edition I linked to. "Open Road Media" did the conversion. They butchered the book.

It's clear the original book was scanned, OCRed, then spell-checked. Numerous words had r/f or rn/m confusions. The spell-check cleaned that up for most of the text, well enough that I could follow it. Having read the book before I could usually guess what the proper word should be. A new reader who didn't know that units in the field would lay wires to have telephone communication with each other would be very confused when the "wife" was cut. The many Korean and Chinese names were also messed up. The common name "Il" was replaced by "II" throughout. Non-English words were frequently botched, for example "Wehrmacht" becoming "Wehnnact."

Captions and pull-quotes were mixed in with the main text, sometimes inserted directly in the middle of a sentence.

Worst for understanding the material was the total omission of the book's graphics. Fehrenbach provided over two dozen maps. They were crucial to understanding the tactical situations where units were outflanked and moving relative to each other. He also included scores of photographs, including some originally distributed by Communist news agencies, vividly showing the impacts of what he described.

I particularly miss the last picture in the book, one of the most poignant glimpses of war's cost I've seen:
This Kind of War
selenite0: (Been what I chose)
. . . or rather I soon will be, once the last of the insignia arrive in the mail.

On Saturday I was sworn into the Texas State Guard. I'm in the 4th Civil Affairs Regiment, exact assignment still to be determined. Our normal mission is disaster relief, such as helping out folks hit by wildfires. We specifically train for operating shelters. Helping house refugees in the wake of Katrina boosted the reputation of the TXSG. Currently they're trying to double their size to pick up more missions the National Guard is too busy to handle with it's deployments.

I'd read about the State Guard but hadn't thought they'd take me until I met a couple of members recruiting at Lockheed's "Preparedness Fair." I spend way too much time in front of a computer cranking out paperwork just to feed the bureaucracy. Now I have a chance to get out in the fresh air (or smokey air if we're dealing with wildfires again) and help people in need. It's also a form of military service, something I've been wanting to do since 9/11. Finding out that the Air Force's take on my reserve obligation is roughly "we'll call you if we get invaded by aliens" has been damn frustrating when there's a war on. Now I can serve, if not anywhere near a combat zone, at least picking up the tasks of the people who are getting deployed.

The "back" part of being back in uniform is a bit ironic, as nothing is usable from my old uniforms. After 14 years the pants don't fit any more. The AF promoted me while I was in the reserves, so the rank can't be recycled. I'm getting ACUs instead of BDUs. My specialty badge has been replaced by Buzz Lightyear's belt buckle. And I changed my name a decade back so the nametag can't be reused either. So my uniform is starting out from scratch.

I'm also going to need some new icons . . . the beard is gone.


May. 12th, 2009 11:12 am
selenite0: (scales)
Moore's Law of Mad Scientists* continues apace.

* "Every 18 months, the IQ required to destroy the world drops by 1 point"
selenite0: (Karl with beard and hat)
I've started a new journal for my political posts at [ profile] libertarianhawk. [ profile] selenite will continue for my posts on my personal life, technology, and gaming.

Plus the occasional silly meme, of course.
selenite0: (1st amendment)
Somebody in this is missing brains, and I don't think it's the zombies . . .

There's a review in Slate of a horror show tonight on Showtime. Dead troops from Iraq rise as zombies and start eating Republicans. The reviewer thinks "my guess is that most members of the military would get a kick out of this flick that praises the troops in Iraq". I don't know what he's basing that on--earlier in the review he says "zombies are the perfect metaphor for our soldiers in Iraq: They're shell-shocked, anonymous, and aren't asked to make very many decisions." That ain't praise in my book. He also says of the troops "we don't really have a clue as to what's on their minds." Apparently something as bold as asking them hadn't occurred to that reporter.
selenite0: (anvil)
. . . to have your project mentioned on the front page of the Wall Street Journal. (pay site)

PENTAGON JUGGLES weapons programs amid budget squeeze.

Senior Defense officials pored over options this week as Deputy Secretary England pushes to trim the huge Joint Strike Fighter jet program. Air Force officials are resisting.

Not that I can I claim it's what's most needed in the current war, but I'd hate to be hit by the layoff.
selenite0: (Hawk)
I took another look at the Sen. McCain speech I linked last week:
we should at last face facts and increase the standing size of the U.S. Army. It takes time to build a larger army, but had we done so even after our invasion of Iraq, our military would have more soldiers available for deployment now.

I wonder if this translates as "When I'm President I want enough divisions to invade two countries at once, so let's get started." More fodder for 2008 speculation.
selenite0: (Freedom)
Vodkapundit makes the case that [ profile] soldiergrrl is more important to winning this war than all the guys in tanks.

"The terrorists won First Fallujah. And for six months thereafter Fallujah was the world capital of terror – a terrorist city-state."

That's the power of the media, the arm of decision in action. Using little more than video cameras, terrorists convinced The Most Powerful Man on Earth™ to back down and grant them a victory they hadn't earned on the battlefield.

John McCain seems to agree:

Win the homefront. While we make improvements in our political-military strategy, the latest polls and protests at home show that we need a renewed effort to win the homefront. If we can’t retain the support of the American people, we will have lost this war as soundly as if our forces were defeated on the battlefield. A renewed effort at home starts with explaining precisely what is at stake in this war – not to alarm Americans, but so that they see the nature of this struggle for what it is. The President cannot do this alone. The media, so efficient in portraying the difficulties in Iraq, need to convey the consequences of success or failure there.

By "this war" I'm referring to the global struggle against Islamofascism, of which Iraq is only a part. I don't have that much hope in the media establishment becoming a useful part of the war effort. Not until someone else is in the White House at least. But the information side of the war is one place where the "militia" can try to make some contribution.
selenite0: (Hawk)
Iraq's gone through another vote. The most remarkable thing seems to be how few terrorist attacks there were on the polls, and how ineffective they were. The constitution isn't that big a deal for me, though. Any set of rules can only be as good as the people implementing them. So the elections for a new government in December will be what decides whether Iraq is headed for a rough democracy or a different tyranny.

I did stumble across a good piece of news on that front. The IRI did a survey in Iraq to predict the turn-out and support for the constitution. They also asked "Thinking about the referendum scheduled for October, who will have the most influence on your choice?" Only a third of the people listed "Religious figures" as their first or second choice. So if secular influences are already that widespread we can breathe a little easier about Iraq coming under sharia law.
selenite0: (Hawk)
I just discovered a post that eloquently describes a fear I've been grappling with for years now. The level of vitriol the liberals and conservatives are flinging at each other keeps growing. I was worried about that before the 2000 election and it's kept getting worse since. There's less and less tolerance of people in the middle. If these keeps getting worse, where will we end up? Possibly in a civil war, right here in America.

[ profile] rjlippincott thinks cycles of history make this civil war inevitable. I sure as hell hope not. Our system does seem to reward the factions for upping the pressure, so we may need to make some structural changes to fix thing. Proportional representation, instant runoff voting, and none-of-the-above could all adjust elections to give people options other than Good vs. Evil (as defined by whichever circle of friends you've landed in). The other option would be finding a centrist leader who can pull off a win in the current system. There's clearly a hunger for that--the votes for Ross Perot, John McCain, and Arnold Schwarzenegger show that. It's so strong that Kinky Friedman is being forced to take his own campaign for governor seriously, because so many people want him to be the alternative they're looking for. But the way the system is built it'd take a real hero to beat it, and I don't see an obvious one out there.
selenite0: (Hawk)
Okay, I'm a wargamer as a hobby. I recognize there's a lot of athletic competition metaphors that work well with war. And game theory has lots of applications to war.

But I still find it very strange that the NY Times is putting Iraq war news on the sports page.

BTW, read the article. Good account of US troops working with the new Iraqi forces.
selenite0: (Freedom)

Afghanistan just elected national and provincial legislatures. There's a couple of significant things here. The women are feeling freer, if marginally so (that's the hem of her burka on top of her head--I presume she'll be fully tented when she's walking home). The jewelry and bright outfit may be a better indication of how things are improving. There's also been very little violence despite extreme threats from the Taliban. So Afghanistan seems headed for the happy ending. Let's hope Iraq is doing this well in 2007.

Meanwhile, The President of Pakistan made a speech to the American Jewish Congress meeting. Since when was "Leader of Muslim country meets with Jews" a minor news story? I'd put this as one of the payoffs for Israel withdrawing from Gaza.

Hat tip to Varifrank.
selenite0: (Hawk)
Warblogger Donald Sensing bid farewell to his son, Lance Cpl. Stephen Sensing, as his unit deployed to Iraq.

My son and his fellows are producers of freedom, not mere consumers of it. And those who only consumed freedom will one night lie in their beds and think themselves accursed that they didn’t serve with them.

Good luck, and good hunting, Marine.
selenite0: (Hawk)
"It's a familiar sad, story. Once a large multinational enters a market, they start aggressively pushing their product with the result that local, homegrown industries can't compete and wind up going out of business."

From The Drink-soaked Trotskyite Popinjays For WAR (one of the greatest blog names ever)
selenite0: (Hawk)
I'm still keeping an eye out for a political group I could call home. There's definitely others who agree with me, including other self-proclaimed libertarian hawks, the Anti-Idiotarians, and the Party of the West (I think this is the best summary of the principles we agree on). The last link also has some discussion on how to organize, but the consensus seemed to be that none of us had the time/energy to take that on.

There are some groups that have a presence in the primaries without taking social-conservative stances, such as CLOUT and the Club For Growth. Unfortunately they seem to be single-issue groups on cutting taxes. Club For Growth says they're for "limited government" but I couldn't find anything on their site taking a stand on the Supreme Court decision on eminent domain. I'm sure taxes could get really low if the government just paid people by handing them fully built houses confiscated from former owners. I think "expanding freedom" is a better focus than lowering taxes.

One place where I might find like-minded people is in the movement to draft Condi Rice as a presidential candidate. Those seem to be folks who want an aggressive war policy but less government interference in our personal lives. Now whether Secretary Rice agrees with that domestic agenda is an unknown. It's also not that likely that she'll run, no matter how hard people try to draft her. Secretary of State is a full-time job, she'd have to quit to run a campaign. She's never run for an elected office before and would probably make some rookie mistakes. There's also going to be an incredible amount of personal abuse, at least an order of magnitude more than she's already gotten.

On the other hand--if she's running with Bush's blessing as his successor she might get the Republican nomination with a minimum of nastiness in the primaries. There'd be a Christian fundamentalist running against her which would probably make her look even more like a centrist. Imagine a centrist running for President--might even be the first one in twenty years to get more than 52% of the vote. The results depend on who the Dems nominate, of course. But that could lead to another lovely scenario--if Senator Clinton gets the nomination the US gets its first female president whoever wins.
selenite0: (Jamie Aug 05)
I've been wanting to post about several things, all too depressing for me to work up the motivation. We had lots of fun on 4th of July weekend. I went out to game with the local Browncoats, we went to the ORAC meeting, and had friends visiting. Independence Day we celebrated with a reading of the Declaration, Patrick Henry’s "Give me Liberty or give me Death!" speech, and watching 1776. By bedtime [ profile] celticdragonfly was wiped out so I put the kids to bed by myself. In honor of the day I gave them a patriotic goodnight song—The Battle Hymn of the Republic.

I’ve been reflecting on a line from that since:

As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free

That sums up a big part of the current war. Not that I’m part of "us" for this one. The Air Force has no interest in calling up reserve 13S’s (unless things get really horrible). The positions for civilians in Iraq don’t match my skill set . . . and let’s face it, expertise in building rockets is one of the things we went into Iraq to remove. So I’m on the home front.

Jamie, on the other hand, may be part of the "us" if this is still going on in seventeen years. Which is probably will, at some level, unless it gets bad enough for me to be called up. When he’s old enough I’ll get him the info on the options, including the pros and cons from my own experience. I’ll also point out its an important and necessary job that somebody has to do. [ profile] celticdragonfly will handle the case against signing up. No armtwisting or guilt trips—Jamie is not a vessel for dealing with my survivor guilt, he’s a free person with a mind of his own. But I want to make sure he hears the case for serving.

I’m not sure he’s going to hear it from anyone else. Bush’s speech last month was a competent rehash of the reasons for the Iraq campaign, but he shouldn’t have given it to the troops. He should’ve gone to a high school graduation and focused on "This is why it’s important, and we need YOU to help" instead of giving recruitment one sentence. From what I’m hearing the Army’s recruiters aren’t talking about duty or the mission either, just cash benefits (the Marines are apparently doing a better job). Bush needs to remember why he was given that political capital he’s spending—voters care about the war a lot more than social security. He needs to focus on maintaining popular support, not wander off to other issues.

I wonder if I’ll ever be able to vote for someone, instead of against.

The London bombings weren’t a surprise to me. War is something where the other side shoots back, and comes up with ways to trash your plans. I expect we’ll have more in the next couple of years. Rome and Copenhagen seem to be next on the list. Horrible as it was it wasn’t as bad as 9/11 and the Madrid bombings. Hopefully that means Al Qaeda and their fellow Islamofascists are continuing to weaken. It’s at least a data point that the "flypaper" strategy (sucking Al Qaeda’s money and recruits into Iraq to grind them up) may be working. Though "gambit" might be a better word for it than "strategy", at least from the viewpoint of the Iraqis and our troops.

(As an aside, here’s an article comparing AQ’s behavior to a traditional blood feud. An interesting analysis, but bad news if true. Ending the blood feud tradition among my ancestors required long-term occupation by foreigners and converting everybody to a new religion. If that’s what we’re headed for there’ll be a lot of work left for Jamie.)

The identities of the London bombers make think this is a fractal war. Britain and other nations have little islands of unassimilated Muslim immigrants, sustained by welfare payments. That’s a small-scale version of the world with the Arab nations refusing to assimilate into the global system while receiving piles of cash for oil they didn’t create. And an even smaller scale seems to be the case of the bomber whose family was assimilating and working hard while he spent his time at the mosque. If we can’t deal with it at all those levels we’re going to face the worst-case outcomes of the war. Iraq is an attempt to assimilate at the national level. America seems to be doing a better job of assimilating Muslim neighborhoods than the European nations, hopefully some of that can be transferred (but that might conflict with the existing European doctrines). The individual level is going to have to be handled by Muslims within their own families and neighborhoods. If they can’t fully assimilate into modern society, we need the Islamofascists to become like the Amish—isolated religious communities that practice their own ways without threatening their neighbors. Otherwise this will be a long war with only horrible ends possible.

And it sure would be nice if Jamie could say "No, Dad, we’re at peace, and they don’t need me. But I’ll think about it."
selenite0: (Looked so good on paper)
Safer Vehicles for Soldiers: A Tale of Delays and Glitches

The NYT is covering the saga of trying to get better vehicles for the troops in Iraq. The interesting part to me is what they left out--namely, why has the procurement process become so horribly cumbersome? The article considers it a force of nature, or an accidental by-product. Nope.

Every problem in there is a product of a Congressman trying to bring pork barrel dollars to his constituents while keeping them from going to another Congressman's district. All of those things--extra tests, drawn out selections, delays in payments--come from laws passed by Congress. Pentagon bureaucrats can work around some of the obstacles, but they know a Congressional committee will call them in front of the TV cameras for a whipping when something goes wrong. And something will. New system development is always error-prone, wars are even more so.

So how do we fix it? Simple. Give the people in charge of procurement the authority to make decisions, access to the people who know what's needed, and forgiveness for the inevitable percentage of mistakes they'll make. Even if that means a contract goes to the district of a junior Congressman of the minority party, or even ::SHUDDER:: buy it from foreigners. All that's needed is for Congress to pass one law giving up their ability to grab pork from the defense budget.

Or maybe the pork will fly away on its own.
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