February 24, 2011

We're back in business, baby

It is getting increasingly difficult to come up with a plausible scenario that doesn't result in the significant deployment of either UN or other international coalition forces to Libya in the near-to-medium (within one year) term. IPB time...

UPDATE: A couple very smart people have emailed to take a contrary opinion. I respect all the really good points they've made, but I'm going to stick to my guns on this one a little bit longer. Unlike in Egypt, we're talking a crazy man with a lot of oil (of interest to the West) and therefore a lot of money. He's not going to leave of his own volition, and there's a lot of people willing to stick by him so long as that money holds out. I've soured personally on Martin/Graham "R2P" doctrine, largely for the same reasons Sullivan identifies here, but if this had happened before 2003 and Iraq I think there'd be no question that some kind of military action would have been called for at the UNSC days ago.

UPDATE, March 18: Ahem.

Posted by BruceR at 11:45 AM

February 08, 2011

Today's essential Afghan reading: Max Hastings

A throwaway but thought-provoking conclusion to the NYRB review (not fully online: subscription link here) by Sir Max Hastings (Bomber Command, Overlord, The Battle for the Falklands) of Afghan war correspondent and ex-soldier C.J. Chivers' The Gun, a history of the AK-47:

"But Chivers's book touches upon something important about the West's dealings with relatively primitive societies, and strongly demonstrated in Afghanistan today. We show ourselves consistently incapable of connecting with peoples who live on a different technological plane from ourselves. In my view, our current purposes in Afghanistan are honorable not only from our own perspective, but with respect to the interests of the Afghan people. I nonetheless believe that we shall fail there, in some degree because the AK-47, which every fighting tribesman loves, is a true manifestation of his society, however uneducated and primitive, while the Hellfire missile, the Chinook helicopter, and the Drone are not.

"Mikhail Kalashnikov forged a weapon that perfectly accords with the aspirations of hundreds of millions of people around the world who reject Western values..."

Posted by BruceR at 12:00 AM

February 02, 2011

Today's non-essential Afghan reading: Susan Sachs

I see Susan Sachs is writing freelance again from Kabul, although I'm not clear why the Globe and Mail felt the need to pick up today's dispatch.

Sachs, for those who don't recall, was fired by the New York Times after allegedly sending letters to the wives of two other Iraq war correspondents saying they were having affairs overseas. She doesn't accuse anyone of infidelity in the piece the Globe picked up, although that's probably the best you can say about it.

The interview with the Afghan defense minister does contain the interesting tidbit that he feels an Afghan army of 240,000 would be too small. Uh huh. But it's notable that neither Sachs nor the Globe desk editors could be bothered to check either a map or Wikipedia before relaying Gen. Wardak's opinion that "Jerai District" was calming down. Yeah, that'd be Zhari District. Don't worry, we only lost most of our 150-plus Canadian war dead there, no reason for you guys at Canada's national newspaper to know the accepted transliterated name of the place by this point.

(You know, I'm pretty sure British veterans don't have to put up with misspellings of "Sangin", or Americans with "Fallujah"... it's just sad to see it in our own papers. Just more evidence that those nearly four years of Canadians fighting in Zhari's actual impact on anything other than the survivors themselves will soon be pretty much measurable with a teaspoon...)

Gen. Wardak also offers us this awesomely WTF quote: "A few people... can make a very large area insecure. But that should not become a measurement of [whether] this province is safe or that province is not safe." You know, I've never seen the difference between measuring physical safety and physical security expressed so well before. Probably because there isn't actually any difference. Aw, hell, you know it's just a wacky interpreter error, let's just carry on...

What I do wish is rather than letting the Defence Minister continually wax lyrically to the steady parade of generally female Western foreign correspondents he seems to like to talk to, people would at least try to Google up what he said to the previous ones and compare occasionally. After a steady stream of optimism for the last four years, Wardak had an interesting gaffe-moment last month when he seemed to stray off the reservation a little in his sky-pie comments: he seems to have been safely roped back in now though. Maybe he was briefly unhappy about his son's $360 million logistics contract with the U.S., recently called into question?

Not that you'd know any of that by reading Sachs, though. Waste of print and ink.

Posted by BruceR at 08:45 AM