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Gaping in Dumbfounded Awe at the Audacity…

[ 0 ] July 20, 2006 |

Shorter United States Army LTC Ralph Kauzlarich: Pat Tillman’s parents are only unhappy about the death of their son and the subsequent Army coverup of that event because they aren’t Christian.

In an interview with ESPN.com, Kauzlarich said: “When you die, I mean, there is supposedly a better life, right? Well, if you are an atheist and you don’t believe in anything, if you die, what is there to go to? Nothing. You are worm dirt. So for their son to die for nothing, and now he is no more- that is pretty hard to get your head around that. So I don’t know how an atheist thinks. I can only imagine that that would be pretty tough.”

Asked by ESPN.com whether the Tillmans’ religious beliefs are a factor in the ongoing investigation, Kauzlarich said, “I think so. There is not a whole lot of trust in the system or faith in the system [by the Tillmans]. So that is my personal opinion, knowing what I know.”

Yeah. Because of their lack of religious faith, the Tillman’s don’t trust the system. Pat, who was also an atheist, clearly didn’t believe in anything. He gave up a lucrative NFL career to go fight in Afghanistan for… some reason.

Read the rest. Mike Fish and ESPN have done a good job; Fish conveys very well the life of a Ranger platoon in Afghanistan. The Army is clearly at fault here, not because Tillman died (these things, sadly, happen) but because of the subsequent efforts at covering its own ass.

Via Bloodless Coup. More from Attaturk.

Weisberg Should Take a Vacation

[ 0 ] July 20, 2006 |

Jacob Weisberg has decided that the most critical journalistic task surrounding the Israel-Lebanon War is the absolving of George W. Bush:

We do know enough, however, to divide responsibility for the current war among these players: Hezbollah, Hamas, Iran, Syria, and Lebanon. This has not stopped many analysts in Europe and the United States from laying blame for the violence squarely at a less obvious doorstep—that of the Bush administration.

I’m not sure why Israel escapes all blame, either, especially as the many analysts blaming Bush are also blaming Israel, but that’s not the key point. After all the idiocy being deployed on the Right in the last few days (is this World War III, or World War IV, etc.), and with all the productive commentary that could be made about the crisis, Weisberg thinks that his bandwidth is best spent defending George Bush from his leftist critics. As it happens, I don’t even wholly disagree; it’s hard to draw a clear line of responsibility to the Bush White House, and some have probably been too ready to make connections. Nonetheless, it’s interesting to see what Weisberg thinks an important contribution really is.

Via Mrs. Coulter, via Dan.

Clarification: To be sure, Weisberg can write anything he wants, and I bristle when people suggest, for example, that LGM should be covering some issue or another. But this is part of a pattern with Weisberg; regardless of the issue, he seems to find a way to attack liberals, rather than bother with conservatives who are making egregious and unsupportable claims.

The Czechs are Scaring Me

[ 0 ] July 20, 2006 |

I’m sure that everyone recalls this recruitment video for the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force (you just can’t watch it enough, really). At the apparently resurrected Defense Statecraft, Macgyver has assembled recruiting videos for the Czech Army, the Irish Army, and the Philippine Marine Corps.

The Czech Army looks badass…

Sink or Scrap?

[ 0 ] July 20, 2006 |

In April 2005 the USN sank USS America, a Kitty Hawk class supercarrier, off Virginia in order to determine how resilient US carriers were to particular kinds of attacks. In May of this year USS Oriskany was sunk to create an artificial reef. According to Defense News, USS Belleau Wood (an amphibious assault ship) and USS Forrestal (the first supercarrier) will be sunk within the next year. Why the sudden interest in sinking aircraft carriers?

Apparently, the cost of scrap metal has crashed to the point that it is now cheaper to sink old ships than to scrap them (Forrestal would cost $65 million to scrap, and only $25 million to sink). 19 old Spruance class destroyers, for example, have been sunk while only five have been scrapped. Scrapping older ships also raises certain environmental concerns; French efforts to scrap the old carrier Clemenceau have run into all kinds of obstacles. Initially, Turkey refused to scrap the ship. After France sold the carrier to an Indian company for scrapping, Greenpeace lodged a series of protests regarding the ship’s transit through the Suez Canal and eventual dismantling. Clemenceau made it through the Canal, only to be refused by the Indians and sent back to France, where it currently rusts.

Defense News indicates that USN procedures for decontaminating old ships have improved to the degree that disposal at sea doesn’t pose a hazard. I’m a little bit suspicious of this; the bulk of the sinkings seem to have taken place since 2001, and I wouldn’t be surprised to find that either EPA standards had been gutted or enforcement has become lax. What Rumsfeld wants, Rumsfeld gets, especially when environmental concerns are the only obstacle.

Still, kind of an interesting phenomenon. The French are apparently asking for advice about how to dispose of their old ships, as are the British. I suppose that an end at sea is a little bit more poetic than the final trip to the scrapping yard.

3149 Dead Iraqi Civilians

[ 0 ] July 18, 2006 |

…in June alone.

Predicted wingnut reactions:

1. Still better than Saddam (which is true, if you wildly inflate estimate of the death toll under Saddam).
2. It’s the fault of Iran (these are the wingnuts who remain optimistic).
3. It’s the fault of the Iraqis (these are the wingnuts who are ready to move on to “Exterminate the Bastards”).
4. It’s the fault of the Democrats, except Joe Lieberman (all wingnuts will hew to this one).
5. Lies. All lies.

… in comments, FMGuru adds:

6. It still compares favorably to living in Detroit/Washington DC/some other city.
7. The spike in the death numbers shows just how desperate the terrorist resistance has become, and is a measure of [how] close President Bush’s strategy is to total victory.
8. Something something BILL CLINTON something.
9. Look! Over there! Two homos are fixin’ to get married!
10. What are we still talking about Iraq? That’s so last year. Now, about this mexicofascist reconquista…
11. You’re ugly and your butt smells and you like to smell your own butt.
12. Someone said something outre in a comment section somewhere! WHY WON’T LIBERAL BLOGS TAKE A STAND ON THIS?!??

… more substantively, it’s beginning to look as if Iraqi death rates are increasing while American casualty rates are stabilizing. This leads me to believe that (as Max Boot has suggested) American forces are becoming increasingly disconnected from the actual fighting in Iraq. The characteristics of the recent attacks (on either side) make this look a lot more like a civil war than a fight against terrorists or a traditional insurgency.

Seeking Answers to Stupid Questions

[ 0 ] July 18, 2006 |

The way in which Google Ads changes to reflect page content is always kind of fun to follow. The last couple days, presumably in response to several Israel-centric posts, we seem to be getting large numbers of ads for dating sites featuring “Single Jewish Women”. This makes me wonder if I’m missing some stereotypes, especially given that I’m not at all convinced that there are indeed large numbers of single Jewish women “in my area”.

1. Is there a large, untapped reservoir of single Jewish women?
2. Is there, conversely, a shortage of single Jewish men?
3. Are there lots of gentile men especially seeking Jewish women?
4. Are Jewish women big in lesbian circles?
5. Is there something about LGM that makes the engine believe that its more likely to be read by Jewish men, or gentile men seeking Jewish women, than by Jewish women?

UPDATE: An authority on the subject seems to think that 1,2, and 5 are true for a variety of reasons.

Craptastic Memorial

[ 0 ] July 18, 2006 |

On a subject completely unrelated to Israel and Lebanon…

I didn’t care for the National World War II Memorial, and I’m a big fan of World War II. One commenter suggested that it looks kind of like something that Albert Speer would have designed, but I don’t think that’s quite right. Albert Speer would, at least, have come up with something comprehensible and impressive. The World War II Memorial is neither.

The first problem is that the design is virtually incomprehensible. The gold stars are apparently representative of American war dead, 100 for each star, but the symbolic connection between a gold star and a hundred dead soliders is counter-intuitive and strikes me as inappropriate. Gold stars have several different meanings in American culture, and previous to the WWII Memorial I don’t believe any of them had anything to do with war dead.

The basic layout is a little bit better, as I can understand the reasoning behind the division between the European and Pacific theaters of operation. The citadels on either side include inscriptions commemorating major battles in each theater, which reminded me of the Arc De Triomphe. Unfortunately, the inscriptions don’t tell us anything important about the major battles, and give little sense (either concrete or abstract) as to how the campaigns played out, and why the particular battles were meaningful.

The worst part of the design is its most noticeable element, the 56 pillars around the plaza. Each pillar represents a state or territory. The official reason given for the erection of the pillars is to “celebrate the unprecedented unity of the nation during WWII”. This doesn’t make a bloody bit of sense, and I almost have to wonder if the architect was some sort of states’ rights fanatic. The states played virtually no independent role in the war; mobilization was carried out on a national scale, no state (other than Oregon) was attacked, and the major units had no particular connection to individual states (other than through the naming of battleships). Nevertheless, the most immediately apparent part of the design is this tribute to the individual states, as if World War II had been conducted in 1845 instead of 1945. Especially in the context of an increasingly mobile population (my grandparents lived in four different states during the war alone, and training was conducted on a national, not state, basis) the kind of connection that this memorial tries to evoke is simply artificial. No one fought and died in World War II out of loyalty to Utah, or New Hampshire, or Arkansas. The centrality of the state memorials to the design is an anachronism; it makes sense in the context of a Civil War memorial, but not a World War II Memorial. Moreover, the placement of the state markers isn’t even done well. Alaska and the Philippines are, for some reason, on the ETO half of the memorial. The markers are placed in order of entry to the Union which, while defensible in the abstract, has nothing whatsoever to do with American participation in the Second World War.

On to the second big weakness of the design, its genuinely unimpressive character. I understand why no one wanted to build something big and imposing on the site of the Memorial. A triumphal arch wouldn’t have been such a bad idea somewhere else, but a 160′ monument in between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument would have been unpopular with a lot of people. I’m actually think that a triumphal arch would have been fine even where the World War II Memorial currently stands (you could have recessed it into the ground a bit), but that’s probably a minority view. Given that, and given the importance of World War II both in US history (it marks the global ascendance of the US) and world history, I think it would have been appropriate to build an impressive monument somewhere else. On the other hand, the sole virtue that the World War II Memorial seems to have is that it doesn’t disrupt the Mall. But, if that’s the only thing you’re looking for in a monument, then you really oughtn’t to build one; good monuments are very bad at being inconspicuous.

Anyway, I thought it was terrible. Maybe I’m just really into triumphal arches, but I think that a well-designed one would have been fine between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial. Another alternative would have been two arches, one representing the PTO and one the ETO, on the north and south flanks of the Reflecting Pool. Or maybe not. But there had to be something out there better than what was eventually decided upon.

UPDATE: Apparently there is an established relationship between gold stars and World War II war dead. My bad…

The Other Conflicts…

[ 0 ] July 17, 2006 |

Dan has a nice run down of what’s going on in the other two Middle East conflicts.

Double Effect and Proportionality

[ 0 ] July 17, 2006 |

I have to concur with Matt; the destruction of Lebanese infrastructure cannot be seen as a proportional response to the kidnapping of Israeli soldiers. I like Israeli soldiers as much as the next guy, and I hope that the two kidnapped by Hezbollah will be returned safely, but destroying the transportation network of Lebanon (not even the aggressor) is hardly a reasonable action to take, either by the doctrine of double effect of the principle of proportionality.

Chait notes that Hezbollah started this, and that’s important as far as it goes, but it doesn’t go very far. The jus in bello restrictions apply regardless of whether the other side is abiding by them, and regardless of who started the conflict. They apply especially to the stronger side; Israel cannot claim to be in a situation of extreme duress. That said, and I again agree with Matt, firing on Hezbollah artillery sites even when in civilian areas would seem to be reasonable and legitimate under double effect.

Then again, I’m no expert in Just War theory.

And a Brief Military Assessment…

[ 0 ] July 16, 2006 |

Restating what should be some obvious points…

  • Israel has clear conventional superiority of Hezbollah and Lebanon, and can obviously do a lot of damage. However, the idea that Israel can destroy Hezbollah is absurd. If Israel could have destroyed Hezbollah, it would have done so at some point between 1982 and 2000. It’s clear that the IDF can hurt, but equally as clear that it can’t exterminate Hezbollah through military force alone.
  • If the IDF can’t do it, then the Lebanese obviously can’t do it. Suggestions that the Lebanese simply lacked the will to deal with Hezbollah are idiotic on their face. Will in this case is irrelevant; Lebanon (largely, but not solely, because of the interference of its two more powerful neighbors) is one of the least capable states in the world. If you think that the Lebanese Army could have destroyed Hezbollah, then you really don’t understand what a state is, and certainly know nothing of the relationship between states and non-governmental actors.
  • Dan seems cautiously optimistic about the idea of international assistance for Lebanese government forces in action to disarm Hezbollah, but I’m unconvinced. Various Lebanese militias managed to survive attacks from each other, Syria, Israel, and the United States in the 1980s, and I don’t see any reason to believe that the situation has changed.
  • The Israeli action has been defended on the pretense of establishing a reputation for resolve and national will. Who, I wonder, doubted Israeli resolve before three weeks ago? When I wasn’t looking, did Israel indicate that it was full of pansies? Or is it possible that a reputation for resolve does not, in fact, save you from terrorist attack? There’s probably a dissertation to be written in here somewhere, but to put it as briefly as possible, Israel seems to be a critical negative case for the idea that a reputation for resolve and will can deter attacks. Israel habitually responds to such attacks with overwhelming force, but either this never establishes for Israel a tough reputation, or a tough reputation doesn’t matter. As an aside, if you believe that the security fence has cut down on terrorist attacks in Israel fine and good, but a fence is about capabilities, not resolve.

UPDATE: In response to this last point, Alex notes in comments that the withdrawals from Lebanon in 2000 and from Gaza in 2005 may have left Israel with a reputation for weakness. There are two colossal problems with this argument. The first is that, in order to believe that the withdrawal in 2000 was consequential for terrorist behavior, you have to assert that Israel’s reputation for toughness was deterring attacks prior to 2000. This is an absurd claim. Second, the policy implications of this position are appalling. The argument seems to be that having occupied a territory, a state can never withdraw without suffering dire reputational effects. The implications of this argument for US Iraq policy are quite troubling; literally, the US will acquire a reputation for weakness if it EVER withdraws from Iraq. If there are multiple ways of interpreting a particular action (that is, if Hezbollah can interpret as weakness something that Israel interprets as strength) then the logic of the resolve argument collapses. If people can interpret things in any way they see fit then they can never be convinced that strong action actually indicates strength; they will always assert, rather, that it covers weakness.

And this is the empirical problem with the resolve argument. Because there are no measurable indicators of resolve (indeed, by the nature of the beast, such indicators are impossible), partisans of the reputational argument can invariably insist that the bad thing X is the consequence of weak policy Y. What, you beat five guys to death but left two standing? Weakness!!! In response to bad thing Z, which has no evident temporal connection to Y, the policy recommendation is simply “more toughness”. It’s an empty argument.

Iran and the Crisis

[ 0 ] July 16, 2006 |

Like Ezra, I think that Ze’ev Schiff’s assessment of the Iranian role in the Hezbollah attacks is plausible, with some caveats. The employment of a relatively modern surface to surface missile against an Israeli warship is a dead giveaway; while it’s possible that Hezbollah could have come up with the missiles and the training necessary to use them independently, it doesn’t seem very likely. But this leaves open the exact nature of the relationship between Iran and Hezbollah, and on this point I think there’s a lot of room for misstep.

First, even if we were to assume that Iran and Hezbollah are both unitary rational actors that have a close relationship with one another, it simply isn’t true that Iran “controls” Hezbollah to the degree that all Hezbollah activities can be laid at the feet of Iran. Hezbollah, whatever its connections with Iran, has its own set of interests and undoubtedly plays a regular game with its various sponsors. I don’t doubt that Iran has influence, but influence is much different than control. The United States has a lot of influence over its clients, but those clients nevertheless often act in ways we don’t care for, and embroil us in conflicts we don’t want. This isn’t an effort to excuse Iran, but it should make us hesitant about drawing neat, solid lines between Tehran and southern Lebanon.

Of course, a second problem is that Iran doesn’t really qualify as a unitary rational actor. No country does, but the military and foreign policy apparati of the Iranian state are byzantine, and do not act under the control of one entity. Rather, you have bureaucratic actors competing with one another, often with ends that are at odds. My guess is that someone in Iran thinks that attacking Israel through this method was a good idea, and a selection of other governmental officials think it was a terrible idea. Again, this hardly excuses Iran, but it does make the situation more complicated. It is extremely unlikely that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is sitting in Tehran carefully assessing whether the kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers will take the heat off of the Iranian nuclear program. This is the big problem with Schiff’s claim about Iran’s purpose in manufacturing a crisis; I very much doubt that the decision-making process was anything like what he suggests. Indeed, it seems problematic to me on its face, as the conflict with Lebanon would appear just as likely to refocus attention on Iran as it would to deflect it. As many have noted, the vultures are already clamoring for blood.

Matt has more.

Precedent

[ 0 ] July 16, 2006 |

The problem with a precedent is, of course, that someone might follow it. Rodger writes:

Given how the US reacted to the traumatic 9/11 attacks — wars against Afghanistan and Iraq that are still ongoing and adoption of a dangerous public doctrine of “preemptive” action that openly embraces preventive war — security scholars ought to be thinking seriously about India’s possible reaction to this week’s Mumbai commuter train bombings.

While the origins of the bombers remain unclear, and their connection to Pakistan unknown, it’s fair to acknowledge that the Indians have much better grounds for viewing Pakistan as responsible for the recent attacks than the US had for, say, Iraq. Pakistan and India of course have a grim history of conflict and war. It would hardly be unreasonable, under a doctrine of preventative war, for the Indians to view an attack on Pakistan as wholly legitimate and even required by the circumstances. Given the relatively close relationship between Pakistan and the United States, India could also reasonably assert that the “international community” is unlikely to do anything productive about Pakistani sponsored terrorism.

A neocon, such as Charles Krauthammer, might respond to this argument by suggesting that Pakistani cooperation in the War on Terror should be seen as a mitigating factor. Such a response would be unlikely to satisfy India, which is far more threatened by Pakistan than it will ever be by Iran or ever would have been by Iraq. The neocon is left, I think, with only a modified “good for me, but not for thee” argument, maintaining that as world hegemon the United States ought to have special leadership rights on intervention decisions. Again, this argument is unlikely to satisfy the world’s largest democracy.

The only argument we’re left with is a realist one; the United States should restrain India because an attack on Pakistan would be against our interests. Naked self-interest does not require the giving of reasons or explanations to countries like India. But this position leaves the notion of preventative war as reasonable act of internationalist policy in tatters; there seems no way to convincingly argue that the US ought to be capable of launching whatever preventative wars it fancies while India should be restrained from advancing its own interests.

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