Saturday, January 27, 2007

Those who lose their memory look pretty stupid. F-18 meet C-17

Wasn't this one of the reasons Steven Harper helped start the Reform Party in the first place? I guess it just goes to show talk is cheap and nothing matters until you actually get into government.

From the military perspective if the government has to backtrack on this then they're gonna lose a lot of respect. After all supporting the troops doesn't involve holding up suppliers for economic development. "We care about the military." Well start acting like it and get this stuff built. Or maybe the "new government" is just like the "old government" of Brian Mulroney.

Friday, January 26, 2007

New help for Afghanistan encourages the Europeans?

Nice to see that the Americans are stepping up in Afghanistan. I'm not sure I follow the logic that this will encourage the Europeans to do more. There are no specifics besides the American plan.

Here's a map from the BBC showing the NATO deployments in Afghanistan with country deployments shown. Yes Canada is listed. Remember the south and border region with Pakistan is the most dangerous.

Life is cheap, $2500 cheap!

NOTE: this was originally published back on 06/06/2006. Due to a problem with the earlier post I was unable to make necessary changes. Here it is in the new form. Since the analysis is true today I decided not to delete the article.

Washington Post has an article up talking about Haditha. The author writes that
Here is my contribution: It should explain everything and yet it explains nothing.
Well he's right about that. there seems to be an attempt by some parts of the media and administration flacks to somehow get around this by claiming stress. Now of course combat is one of the most stressful activities humans can experience but all the training that the armed forces are proud of is supposed to alleviate that stress as much as possible.

As a student of counterinsurgency I'm fascinated by the fact that the Marine Corps was famous in Vietnam for being extremely successful in counterinsurgency as opposed to the Army who tended to be rather sloppy. Makes you wonder what happened in the last 30 years.

There are those who say that the Good men and women are 99.9% of the forces, well there are roughly 130,000 US troops in Iraq that means there are 130 ticking time bombs. Makes you wonder if the Israelis would have any suggestions on weeding out the unstable characters.

The above article says that 15 of the families have been paid $38,000 which is where I get the average figure of around $2500 from. Life is cheap.

Sir, sir I have politely asked you not to mangle with my candied items, you leave me no choice but to politely ask you again

So much for Stephen Harper's criticism of the Americans about Maher Arar. Basically he supports Day's actions go figure and they will keep asking politely. I prefer my solution.

CTV Newsnet really needs a better French translator.

Steve you been in office for one year stop calling it the "new government" it's really starting to sound stupid.

Arar and Harper's majority

So they're cutting Maher Arar a big check. Well it's about time. now the question is what will Stephen Harper say about it today? Just what is he going to say about the Americans? The solution here is pretty obvious if Harper has the stones to do it. If the Americans misuse are intelligence will just stop providing it.

Remember Harper only needs 40% to get a majority less if the Greens split the vote. He needs about 5%-9% more. Wonder if "Captain Canada" could swing those votes. After all it's not like Bush can really shut down the border. And after the 2008 American election Harper with a majority can have a big celebration with the new president whomever they are and begin intelligence sharing again.

UPDATE: To bad it did not happen.

The Next Century by David Halberstam

The Next Century by David Halberstam this was published after the Soviets pulled out of eastern Europe but before the Soviet union disintegrated. It's Halberstam's attempt to explain how the cold war allowed the Japanese to take economic gains against the Americans. Funny thing is if you just replace Japan with China you here the same things today.

The first half of the book talks about Eastern Europe and just how decrepit it was.

Halberstam seems to be a little to excited about the Japanese. He talks about the extremely difficult school system. Failing to mention the high suicide rate. A lot of it comes off like grumbling about the "kids today" and how weak and soft they are as opposed to Halberstam's generation.

Interesting snapshot recommended.

Is available through Abebooks.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Well buying books from the U.S. was fun while it lasted

The United States Postal Service in their infinite incompetence is planning on getting rid of all forms of international surface mail. Specifically m-bags and letter post. First class airmail with a 13% increase to take its place. Suffice it to say this means I won't be buying as much material from the U.S. if this goes through. Something tells me this will have a pretty big impact on exports not that the current administration seems to care about the trade deficit. Stupid stupid move. Get those comments in before February 2ed!

A bookseller describes how to contact the USPS.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

When You Ride Alone You Ride with Bin Laden: What the Government Should Be Telling Us to Help Fight the War on Terrorism by Bill Maher

When You Ride Alone You Ride with Bin Laden: What the Government Should Be Telling Us to Help Fight the War on Terrorism by Bill Maher tries to explain what the Bush administration was doing wrong back in 2002.

It's a very mixed bag. Some ideas are good for example cutting back on oil imports and realizing where diamonds come from. Except to course for Canadian ones [which he doesn't mention]. However there is a lot here that's problematic or out right contradicts other sections. He whines that the Muslim community just has to suck it up over being harassed but then says security theater in airports is stupid. After all they should be looking for people who are nervous not necessarily a certain color. Well which is it? There's also quite a bit of flag-waving and ranting about how America is the greatest country on the planet.

I feel pretty ambivalent towards this there are some good and bad. Perhaps more interesting as a snapshot of America right after September 11th then as anything else.

Is available through Abebooks.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The Rants by Dennis Miller

The Rants by Dennis Miller this was the first collection of his humorous complaints about various topics from his HBO show. This was long before he sold his soul to Fox News and became very unfunny. What we have your are discussions of various topics from what men and women want to liberalism and religion. They're often quite funny but not for the easily offended. There's a lot of swearing involved.


Is available through Abebooks.

Monday, January 15, 2007

The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis

The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis consist of one side of a correspondence between a bureaucratic demon and his agent trying to tempt a soul. This was originally published in 1942.

Interesting discussion of Christianity follows from the oppositions perspective. There were a few things that the book helped explain as far as Christianity is concerned. So I found it useful for that. There were even some non-subtle criticisms of the wartime government of Britain thrown into it.

I did have some issues though. The thing that really stuck out was that Lewis really doesn't think much of women as a gender.

Recommended if you're interested in this sort of thing.

Is available through Abebooks.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Multiple copy check out for book clubs, what a great idea!

The Pikes Peak Library District has a new program that allows users to take out a set of books for a book club. What a terrific idea. This is the sort of outside the box thinking that libraries need to be competitive. It's not how fancy your catalog system is or how many gadgets you can cram onto a reference computer. It's about providing a service that people want to use.

Military Misfortunes: The Anatomy of Failure in War by Eliot A. Cohen and John Gooch

Military Misfortunes: The Anatomy of Failure in War by Eliot A. Cohen and John Gooch attempts to explain why military disasters happen. The authors suggest that most given reasons for failure are simplistic. This seems to be somewhat of a straw man. In any event they use business theory to show that most disasters have multiple causes. Which is something that I thought good military historians always did but apparently not.

Most of the book is made up of case studies. The studies are from the Gallipoli campaign through the 1973 Yom Kippur war. The studies are well researched and are pretty convincing. This is a new edition which in the last chapter talks about the American failure in Iraq to understand how to do counterinsurgency.

An interesting book certainly providing a new way to look at failure in war. Recommended.

Is available through Abebooks.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

It's not a surge if you don't leave

Notice how President Bush tonight was actually able to pronounce all the words? supposedly this time is different because cleared areas will not be given back to the insurgents. Now if American forces are required to do this then how exactly are they supposed to leave? After all the Iraqi military hasn't exactly shown to be a terribly useful force as of yet. Accelerated training? Rushing green recruits onto the front line isn't going to help.

There's a rule of thumb that says that you need 10 troops for every insurgent [it may not be a useful metric but it does exist]. So when Bush wants an increase of 21,000 soldiers they can handle 2100 insurgents. Something tells me there's more insurgents then that that aren't being engaged at the moment.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

The North Korean People's Army: Orgins And Current Tactics by James M. Minnich

The North Korean People's Army: Orgins And Current Tactics by James M. Minnich is simply a must-have book on the NKPA. Considering the current political instability in the region I wanted to learn more about the North Korean People's Army. This book does exactly that describing in great detail the offensive, defensive and artillery tactics and strategy that the NKPA uses.

There's a superb historical introduction which talks about how the NKPA grew from guerrillas who were fighting the Japanese. to a force which nearly conquered South Korea. There's a section on how the military was created prior to the Korean War which is something that isn't usually discussed in English sources.

There's an annotated bibliography, endnotes, glossary and short biographies of important leaders.

Most highly recommended! If you're even remotely interested in the Korean peninsula this is a must-read.

Is available through Abebooks.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Superb Afghanistan analysis

From a PDF briefing I found the link on Flit.

On NATO allies.
Let me just make one quick point. If you’re wondering what the importance of stand-aside forces is, take a look at the map. The French are supposed to be providing security in Kabul. They are only reactive, not proactive. Look where the German and Spanish forces are. Look at the limited areas we control as U. S. forces, and look at the importance of the British, Canadian and Dutch contribution. This cannot be won through American action, and it cannot be won unless NATO countries allow NATO to be effective.
And some more.
when you talk to people, I think the admiration for the Canadians, the British and the Netherlands is very high.
Steve and the boys in Ottawa need to get this guy in front of the Canadian media.

On the point of counterinsurgency.

To make things work and to win, you have to have a strategythat deals with the military side and the police side. You have to have criminal justice. That is one key element of governance. You have to have effective governance. You have to have incentives for national unity. If you fail in any given dimension, you tend to lose in counterinsurgency. This has been a message every since Malaysia, but it was also in the handbooks the U.S. issued after our campaign in the Philippines nearly a century ago – in fact, more than a century ago. These aren’t new lessons, but they’re lessons we have to learn.
The same stuff Sir Robert Thompson talked about back in the 1960s. There's some very interesting information in the rest of the briefing. The author shows what NATO is currently up against and how the upcoming campaign season will be make or break for the Afghan mission. There's also some straight talk about how the American administration has let down the Afghans, they need more American troops and aid money.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Ancient Iraq by Georges Roux

Ancient Iraq by Georges Roux is a superb introduction to the ancient history of Mesopotamia. This is a third edition which has been substantially changed from earlier ones.

The work describes Mesopotamia history from the time before written records through the territory being conquered by Alexander the Great and the Romans. Mostly it is a discussion of Sumer and Babylon. We get a clear discussion of archaeological evidence as well as material from day-to-day records, inscriptions and narrative history. The book makes all this material understandable and easy to follow which considering the thousands of years covered is an achievement.

Where the evidence exists there is discussion of military, political and social history. There's even a little bit of mathematical, medical and art history as well. The last 70 pages consist of endnotes with detailed suggestions for further reading and commentary on the sources.

I cannot recommend this more highly. A truly superb work.

Is available through Abebooks.

For more Iraq book reviews take a look at My Iraq bookshelf.

Adrian Mole And The Weapons Of Mass Destruction by Sue Townsend

Adrian Mole And The Weapons Of Mass Destruction by Sue Townsend is the most recent book about the adventures of the main character who still considers himself to be in intellectual at 34 even though he doesn't have much to show for it.

Unfortunately for most of the book i wanted to slap the character usually Adrian is sympathetic but not for most of this book. Just irritating. That being said there are some truly funny moments. His attempts to get back a deposit on a trip to Cypress he canceled because of Tony Blair's WMD dossier for example.

If your a fan of the series pick it up. Otherwise don't bother.

Is available through Abebooks.

Monday, January 01, 2007

The Blessed Place of Freedom: Europeans in Civil War America by Dean B. Mahin

The Blessed Place of Freedom: Europeans in Civil War America by Dean B. Mahin describes the participation of immigrants in the Civil War.

The book is divided into two sections. The first section describes the numbers and reasons for members of different European ethnicities to join the Army's of the north and south.

The second section provides commentary created by immigrants or foreign observers discussing various parts of the Civil War. Some of these are based around discussions of the military campaigns Gettysburg, Vicksburg and the Naval engagements. There's also a discussion of the political aspect of the war foreign recognition of the South and the issue of slavery. The author has obviously spent quite a bit of time in the archives. An impressive piece of scholarship.

There are a few minor irritations. In the first section we get repeated reasons for enlistment which had nothing necessarily to do with individuals being a particular ethnicity for instance signing up for a sense of adventure or for the money. This gets rather repetitive. There's no context given in the second section if the opinions given by the immigrants or onlookers were different from your average nativeborn American.

There are 2 appendixes which contain short biographies of foreign-born officers in the Union and Confederate military s.

Highly recommended. A different way of looking at the Civil War.

Is available through Abebooks.

2006 Book Awards

Here are my choices for the best of 2006. These are books I've reviewed. They weren't necessarily published in the last year but as the NBC summertime slogan goes "its new to me".

Best World War II book.

Lukacs, John The Duel: The Eighty-Day Struggle Between Churchill and Hitler

Best book on Afghanistan.

Fletcher, Arnold Afghanistan: highway of conquest

Best book on Iraq.

Rosen, Nir In The Belly of the Green Bird : The Triumph of the Martyrs in Iraq

Honorable mention to.

Schultheis, Rob Waging Peace: a special operations team's battle to rebuild Iraq

Best book on the Holocaust.

Bartov, Omer Mirrors of Destruction: War, Genocide, and Modern Identity

Best book on Insurgency/Counterinsurgency, Partisan and Guerrilla Warfare.

Hammes, Thomas X. The Sling and the Stone: On War in the 21st Century

Best humor book.

Fforde, Jasper The Eyre Affair

Honorable mention to.

Pratchett, Terry Thud! a novel of Discworld