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What’s that funny smell coming out of the NSA?

[ 0 ] October 23, 2006 |

Don’t they know how many people watch ‘Lost’ while stoned?

The CIA aren’t the only spooks with wacky recruiting stunts. The signals intelligence snoops over at the National Security Agency are trying out tricks of their own, to reel in potential employees. The latest, according to Defense Tech pal Siobhan Gorman: a first-ever series of TV ads, airing on episodes of “Lost” and “CSI.”



[ 0 ] October 23, 2006 |

Worse than you could imagine.

Every day the corpses pile up in the capital like discarded furniture — at curbside, in lots, in waterways and sewer lines; every day the executioners return. A city in which it was long taboo to ask, “Are you Sunni or Shiite?” has abruptly become defined by these very characteristics.

Once-harmonious neighborhoods with mixed populations have become communal killing grounds. Residents of one sect or the other must clear out or face the whim of fanatics with power drills.


The next night, an armor-piercing bomb hit the same squad, Gator 1-2. A sergeant with whom I had ridden the previous evening lost a leg; the gunner and driver suffered severe shrapnel wounds. “Timing is everything, especially in Iraq,” the captain and unit commander wrote in an e-mail informing me of the incident.

Meanwhile, Glenn Reynolds asks “So why are people so cranky?”

Sunday Battlestar Blogging: Pegasus (chock full o’ spoilers)

[ 0 ] October 22, 2006 |

A Mercury class battlestar, Pegasus entered service at some point between the First and Second Cylon wars. Her design represented a remarkable advance over that of the earliest battlestars, occupying nearly twice the volume of the Battlestar Galactica. Her armor, tactical speed, damage absorption capacity, and armament similarly exceeded the earlier ship. Automation advances made the operation of Pegasus possible with only half the crew of Galatica.

Undergoing an overhaul at the beginning of the Second Cylon War, Pegasus escaped theCylon attack only through employment of a “blind jump”. It is unknown how many other battlestars attempted similar maneuvers. After working back up, Pegasus, under the command of Admiral Cain, began shadowing a fleet of Cylon basestars. It was later discovered that the Cylon fleet was itself shadowing the Battlestar Galactica and a fleet of civilian vessels. Pegasus joined Galactica’s fleet, and under joint command the two ships launched a brief counteroffensive, destroying the Cylon “Resurrection Ship” and a basestar.

Following the battle, Admiral Cain was assassinated by a Cylon agent. She was replaced by Colonel Jack Fisk, who was himself assassinated by criminal elements. Command passed to Barry Garner, who died in an ambush involving three Cylon basestars. Garner was replaced by Commander Lee Adama, who helmed Pegasus for roughly eighteen months, including a year in orbit over New Caprica.

Pegasus joined the Battle of New Caprica late, and without her fighter squadrons. Pegasus’ intervention helped to ensure the survival and escape of Galactica, but Pegasus could not withstand fire from four Cylon basestars. Her last tactical maneuver involved a suicidal collision with a basestar, with the explosion resulting in the creation of debris that destroyed yet another basestar. Most of her crew survived. Although the Battle of New Caprica was strategically well thought-out on the part of the Colonial Fleet and tactical well executed, the decision to sacrifice Pegasus in order to save Galactica must be regarded as an error. In addition to her small size and large crew requirement, Galactica was aging and desperately in need of refit. A more well conceived operation would have sacrificed Galactica in favor of Pegasus. Although this might have reduced the damage caused to the Cylon fleet, trading in excess of 50% of the capital ship strength of the Colonial fleet for a fraction of Cylon strength cannot be regarded as a success.

This should serve as a discussion thread for BSG: Exodus Part II.

Sunday Battleship Blogging: HMAS Australia

[ 0 ] October 22, 2006 |

The Royal Navy effort to outpace the Germans in dreadnought numbers severely taxed the Royal Treasury. The Admiralty reasoned that since it fell to the Royal Navy to protect the Dominions, the Dominions ought to pay their fair shard. Accordingly, Australia, New Zealand, and Malaya all coughed up the dough for new battleships. Canada initially offered to fund three Queen Elizabeth type battleships, but the deal fell through on the collision of the Canadian domestic politics with an intransigent Winston Churchill.

HMAS Australia was the only of the three ships built to formally become a part of her Dominion’s Navy. An Indefatigable class battlecruiser, Australia carried eight 12″ guns in four twin turrets (two wing, one each fore and aft), displaced about 20000 tons, and could make 26 knots. Like her brethren, she carried inexcusably light armor protection (Indefatigable would sink from a magazine explosion at Jutland). Indeed, the armor scheme was if anything less optimal than that of the Invincibles. Commissioned in June 1913, Australia arrived Down Under in late 1913 and immediately became the flagship of the Royal Australian Navy.

Australia’s first mission at the beginning of the war was pursuit of German raiders in the Pacific. She tried to find the German East Asia Squadron, which at the time was wreaking havoc across the Pacific, but failed to engage. With the destruction of the East Asia Squadron at the Battle of Falkland Islands, and with the dominance of a friendly Japanese Navy in the region, Australia’s presence in the East was no longer required. In 1915 she returned to Great Britain and joined the 2nd Battlecruiser Squadron at Rosyth. Australia narrowly missed the Battle of Dogger Bank. In April 1916, the bad signalling endemic to ships commanded by David Beatty led to a collision between HMS New Zealand and HMAS Australia. Australia received serious damage, and did not return to service until early June. This prevented Australia from participating in the Battle of Jutland. This might have been for the best, given the poor performance of British battlecruisers in the line of battle.

The rest of Australia’s career was uneventful, although she served as a platform for a catapult launched aircraft in 1918 and was present at the surrender of the High Seas Fleet. HMAS Australia returned to Australia in 1919, again becoming the flagship of the Australian Navy. In 1921 she was placed in reserve. The framers of the Washington Naval Treaty understood that Australia would probably again join the Royal Navy in the event of hostilities (especially in the Far East), and thus included her in the Royal Navy count. Larger and newer ships carried the day, and Australia was scuttled off Sydney in 1924. Had Australia been retained in service (and presumably modernized in the interwar period), she might have been able to play some role in the defense of the Dutch East Indies in the early months of 1942. Her 12″ guns would have been welcome at the Battle of Java Sea, for example. Still, it’s hard to imagine that she could have played a decisive role, and most likely she would have fallen victim to air attack, a 24″ “Long Lance” torpedo, or the guns of the one of the far larger and more powerful Kongo class battlecruisers.

Trivia: Which American battleship was sunk by atomic weapons?

Layin’ Around in the Aftermath, it’s All Worse than You Think

[ 0 ] October 22, 2006 |

So I’ll meet you at the bottom if there really is one
They always told me when you hit it you’ll know it
But I’ve been falling so long it’s like gravity’s gone and I’m just floating

-Mike Cooley

Observations from the October 21 Louisville DBT show;

  • As most DBT fans agree, the biggest problem with the band is that it doesn’t have enough fellas playing the guitar. To remedy this deficit they’ve added steel guitarist John Neff for this tour.
  • The show was predictably outstanding, although they only played for 2 hours 15 minutes, which is probably the shortest full length performance I’ve seen them give.
  • The songs were well distributed across the band’s albums, perhaps relying a bit more heavily on “Southern Rock Opera” than they’ve done recently. They ended with Angels and Fuselage, the first time I’d heard that song live. Apparently, Lynyrd Skynyrd died 29 years ago Friday. They turned in the best performance of Let There Be Rock that I’ve yet seen, and also turned out a cover of Ain’t Talkin’ Bout Love.
  • Speaking of bands that died early, if his songs are even mildly autobiographical then it’s only by the wildest stroke of luck that Patterson Hood is still with us. Make sure to see him while you still have a chance.

[ 0 ] October 20, 2006 |

Friday Cat Blogging…Nelson

Why Does Jonah Goldberg Hate America?

[ 0 ] October 20, 2006 |

The only way to enjoy Jonah’s objectively pro-Islamofascist essay is as high comedy. While deconstruction and analysis might yield some mild entertainment, I think it’s better just to accept that it is what it is; a monumental tribute to narcissicistic self-delusion. It’s telling that the disaster that is Iraq is so evident that it makes even Jonah’s strawman caricatures of antiwar arguments look good compared to the case he’s been making since 2002.

More from Billmon.

Purge the Experts

[ 0 ] October 18, 2006 |

Dave and Gary both have both commented on Yglesias’ post on George Kennan and the appreciation of foreign policy expertise at the beginning of the Cold War. I’d like to further note that the situation that developed in the diplomatic and intelligence communities regarding China at the end of World War II is quite similar to what holds regarding the Middle East today. Although the story is a little more complex than this, essentially what happened was that knowledgeable experts on China repeatedly indicated that a Communist takeover was likely. Such warnings were ignored by policymakers, political appointees, and Congress (this was rather a bipartisan situation, although in fairness the Republicans tended to be worse than the Dems). When the Communists took over, the experts were blamed for not doing anything, and were purged as commie simps. Thus, for the first ten years or so following the establishment of the PRC, government expertise on China was in desperately short supply.

Air Power

[ 0 ] October 18, 2006 |

Evidence cannot discredit revolutionary doctrine, as the revolutionaries simply interpret new evidence in whatever way they see fit. Air power enthusiasts have taken rather a hit lately, first with the failure of air power to tame Hezbollah in Lebanon (to the extent that the IDF did damage to Hezbollah, it was almost entirely with ground force), and second with the recent Lancet report suggesting that the use of air power, in spite of increased precision, had led to tremendous Iraqi civilian casualties.

Undeterred, Major General Charles Dunlap Jr. (USAF) insists that air power is best available option for the delivery of US power. Disparaging “boots on the ground zealots,” he argued that great recent successes like the killing of Abu Musab al -Zarqawi point to the great capacity that air power still has to deliver victories.

Is air power the new face of successful war-fighting? Much to the dismay of the boots-on-the-ground zealots, or BOTGZ (pronounced bow-togs), the answer for today’s democracies may well be “yes.” During the summer, while U.S. ground forces in Iraq were distracted investigating potential war criminals in their midst, air power delivered a major success. The killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was, if not a decisive victory, still the best news of the season.

The summer was also marked by Israel’s extensive reliance on air power against Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Dunlap did not, apparently, give any thought to the fact that the killing of Zaqawi has had no noticeable effect on the insurgency, or that it has been widely recognized in Israel that the air campaign was a mistake, but nevertheless. Dunlap argues that air war avoids events like Abu Ghraib and Haditha, but mentions nothing of the incident of Qana or the bevy of similar misdirected attacks in Iraq and Afghanistan. Dunlap then insists that air power can win not only conventional conflicts but also counter-insurgency campaigns, and suggests that the Marine Corps should be folded into the Army, since excessive ground forces are unnecessary. That the liberal use of air power in conjunction with extensive use of ground troops in both Afghanistan and Iraq has notably failed to destroy the insurgency doesn’t appear to have occurred to the General. General Dunlap bemoans the fact that we can no longer simply Exterminat the Brutes,

Most important, their hearts and minds are simply not amenable to the reasoned techniques that underlay classic counterinsurgency texts. They are not rational actors in the sense that they are propelled by some political or social ideology; instead, they are driven by unyielding religious fanaticism. In the past, such insurgencies did exist and were crushed the old-fashioned way: by annihilation. That is not exactly a viable option in a world where human rights groups, the media and others too often choose to find something good about the most sadistic terrorist organizations.

but his laudatory remarks about the Viet Cong were, of course, not in evidence during the actual fighting, when it was commonly argued that Asians, Communists, or both put no value on human life and therefore could not be considered rational. I won’t bore you with additional quotes, as General Dunlap launches from this into simple fantasy, asserting against all evidence that US ground forces had no major impact on the collapse of Iraqi forces, that attempts to develop a counter-insurgency strategy to fight in Iraq amount to “fighting the last war”, and that developing an Arabic linguistic capability is useless. It’s important to remember in the context of so many senior officers coming out in opposition to the administration handling of the war that there remain portions of the military utterly hostile to any of the goals that progressives ought to hold, and furthermore that such officers tend to be concentrated in the Air Force, the branch most friendly to neoconservative doctrine (and, notably enough, to particularly virulent forms of evangelical Christianity).

A recent editorial in Warship:International Fleet Review captures the air power zealotry problem in particularly blunt language:

The culprits are the false prophets of air power. An air campaign starts with a target set, which might be informed by adequate intelligence and consists of targets, which are related to the casus belli and susceptible to accurate targeting. The promise of so-called surgical strikes against legitimate targets makes the use of force acceptable to policy-makers and opinion-formers on the left and the right of politics. However, as the air campaign progresses the intelligence becomes poorer and the targeting more challenging, even for precision weapons (which are only ‘precision’ in terms of means of delivery but are otherwise just as indiscriminate in such circumstances as any other munition). Therefore, inevitably there is ‘collateral’ damage. At the same time the intelligence becomes less reliable and the targets become more and more remote from the original set. Eventually the campaign ceases altogether to be intelligence-led and becomes capability-led: Rather than search out those targets which contribute to the campaign, the planners seek desperately for the targets which are susceptible to their available technology

The result is the destruction of anything that can be targeted, even if it has no military value. But the editorial reminds us why air power and its advocates remain so seductive. To civilians who want to vigorously use military power to achieve America’s ends, air power is a godsend. Wars can be fought cheaply, cleanly, and often. Weak minded, casualty conscious civilians can be ignored. Military advice can also be ignored, as long as it comes from either the Army or the Navy. In fairness, civilians who do not hold to neoconservative principles have been seduced by the idea of airpower, but the promise of airpower for a neoconservative foreign policy should be clear.


[ 0 ] October 18, 2006 |

Charles Pierce reminds me of my favorite conspiracy, Operation Northwoods.

In his new exposé of the National Security Agency entitled Body of Secrets, author James Bamford highlights a set of proposals on Cuba by the Joint Chiefs of Staff codenamed OPERATION NORTHWOODS. This document, titled “Justification for U.S. Military Intervention in Cuba” was provided by the JCS to Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara on March 13, 1962, as the key component of Northwoods. Written in response to a request from the Chief of the Cuba Project, Col. Edward Lansdale, the Top Secret memorandum describes U.S. plans to covertly engineer various pretexts that would justify a U.S. invasion of Cuba. These proposals – part of a secret anti-Castro program known as Operation Mongoose – included staging the assassinations of Cubans living in the United States, developing a fake “Communist Cuban terror campaign in the Miami area, in other Florida cities and even in Washington,” including “sink[ing] a boatload of Cuban refugees (real or simulated),” faking a Cuban airforce attack on a civilian jetliner, and concocting a “Remember the Maine” incident by blowing up a U.S. ship in Cuban waters and then blaming the incident on Cuban sabotage. Bamford himself writes that Operation Northwoods “may be the most corrupt plan ever created by the U.S. government.”

Great stuff. The Cold War military tended to be more reluctant to propose the use of force than civilian authorities, but Cuba is the important exception to that rule. For some reason, Castro drove the senior brass positively batty, to the extent that they were willing to kill people and subvert American democracy to get him. Fortunately, McNamara wouldn’t go for it, but I am again reminded of his statement in Fog of War that he wasn’t aware “in a sense” of the attempts to kill Castro.

"Does the White House Even Think About that Kind of Stuff?"

[ 0 ] October 18, 2006 |

Yglesias asks the above question in regards to the decision to announce unilateral space hegemony at exactly the same time that we’re trying to secure Russian and Chinese cooperation on North Korea. My short answer would be no; the elements of the administration committed to diplomacy and military policy respectively probably have so little to do with one another (and, indeed, view each other with suspicion) that it would likely not have occured to either to consult the other.

Speaking of ineptitude, someone mentioned last night at Drinking Liberally that the fact that the administration hasn’t apparently begun to plan for a post-11/7 reality in which the Dems control one or both houses of Congress should be cause for concern. Then we all had a big laugh at the notion of the administration preparing for the aftermath of anything…

Steel Drivin’ Man

[ 0 ] October 17, 2006 |


In “Steel Drivin’ Man,” Scott Reynolds Nelson argues that the John Henry story was no tall tale, and Henry himself no myth. Historians have long speculated that the John Henry ballads, which began circulating in the 1870’s, referred to a real railroad worker, but Mr. Nelson, with extensive documentation in hand, proposes a candidate. His John Henry is a former Union soldier, imprisoned for theft while on a work assignment in Richmond, Va., and leased out with other inmates to blast tunnels through the Allegheny Mountains for the new Chesapeake & Ohio Railway.

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