Another View of the U.S. Army in Iraq
Saturday, January 14, 2006, 01:19 PM - The World After September 11"Over the next few days here, as time permits, I plan to lay out my view of the war in Iraq. I have come to view the war as probably unwinnable, and the situation of American soldiers on the ground as painfully untenable."
That's the opening from "Shadows and Fog," a series of posts recently begun at Cliopatria by Chris Bray, a PhD candidate in history at UCLA and a US Army sergeant currently stationed in Kuwait. (I understand that he was within three months of defending his dissertation when he was called to active duty from the Individual Ready Reserve.) Bray also has a considerable background in journalism; his publication credits include pieces for Newsday, the Los Angeles Times, and the Washington Post.
Bray's perspective meshes well with that of British Brigadier Nigel Aylwin-Foster. In a brief weekend post, Bray notes Aylwin-Foster's critique and says that he suspects that Aywin-Foster is "largely correct in most of what he writes about American military operations there."
UK Brigadier Assails US Tactics in Iraq
Friday, January 13, 2006, 12:14 AM - The World After September 11Staff writer Thomas E. Ricks reports in the January 10 Washington Post:
A senior British officer has written a scathing critique of the U.S. Army and its performance in Iraq, accusing it of cultural ignorance, moralistic self-righteousness, unproductive micromanagement and unwarranted optimism there.See also UK officer slams US Iraq tactics in the January 11 BBC News.
His publisher: the U.S. Army.
In an article published this week in the Army magazine Military Review, British Brig. Nigel Aylwin-Foster, who was deputy commander of a program to train the Iraqi military, said American officers in Iraq displayed such "cultural insensitivity" that it "arguably amounted to institutional racism" and may have spurred the growth of the insurgency.
The article in question appears in the current (November/December 2005) issue of Military Review, which is published under the auspices of the U.S. Army Combined Arms Center, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
(Hat tip to Dr. William M. Donnelly, US Army Center of Military History)
Monday, December 12, 2005, 05:32 PM - The World After September 11
I never considered Blog Them Out of the Stone Age to be a milblog (military blog). Consequently I was surprised this weekend when Milblogging.com decided to add me to the comprehensive index it's building of milblogs. (See previous post.) Yet after mulling it over a bit, I figured, why not? Its webmaster probably knew better than I did what constituted a milblog.
Me, I would have thought you'd have to be a soldier--but then again Blackfive, the grand poobah of milblogs, is maintained by a veteran no longer in service. Well, then, a veteran--but come to think of it, I am a veteran, albeit of eight years in the Army National Guard. A veteran who has seen combat? Not in my case, unless you count my pitiless war on the mosquitoes at Camp Grayling, Michigan--but then many milbloggers are not combat veterans.
Hmm. I don't blog that much about combat operations in Iraq or Afghanistan. On the other hand, I do touch upon them from time to time and I have a category called The World After September 11 as a place to comment on the Global War on Terror. Furthermore, nearly all of my posts directly address military affairs, broadly conceived; whereas many (if not most) milblogs dwell heavily on current politics. Most of them are fervently conservative and hawkish on the war. But then again, milbloggers are at pains to tell you that their ranks contain a diversity of opinion. (And every now and then you actually run across an example of that.)
Having decided this might be a milblog after all, I've decided to educate myself more systematically concerning the MilBlogosphere. Here are links to a couple of good introductions to the subject:
Hugh Hewitt, Rise of the Milblog, Weekly Standard, March 12, 2004 - probably one of the most important early attempts to report the milblog phenomenon.
"Greyhawk,"A Brief History of Milblogs, Mudville Gazette, November 11, 2005 - A recent retrospective by one of the major milbloggers.
Part 1 - Part 2 (link not yet active)
Sunday, December 11, 2005, 09:53 AM - The World After September 11Milblogging.com, a site that aggregates content from close to a thousand military blogs, has a best milblog competition of its own: the 2005 Milbloggies.
UPDATE, Dec. 11, 1:31 p.m. - As it happens, Milblogging.com has added Blog Them Out of the Stone Age to its index, which makes it eligible for a Milbloggie in the "Best U.S. Civilian Milblog" category. Voting in this category has been light, so with your support, the blog actually stands a decent chance. All you have to do is register (it's painless and free), then go to this page and click "Add To Favorites."
Alternatively, you can cast your vote for Armchair Generalist, which is a civilian milblog that I recognize and recommend.
Two other civilian milblogs, Arms and Influence and War and Piece (both listed on A Few Good Blogs) do not yet seem to be indexed, so I've submitted them for inclusion.
FURTHER UPDATE, Dec. 12, 6:30 a.m. - Blog Them Out of the Stone Age is now in the lead for "Best U.S. Civilian Milblog;" my thanks to everyone who has cast a ballot thus far. I've tried to earn the distinction by submitting other blogs that merit inclusion as Civilian Milblogs. Arms and Influence and War and Piece now appear on Milblogging.com's index; I've just submitted Irregular Analyses and Victor Davis Hanson's Private Papers for inclusion as well.
Incidentally, if you wish to submit your own suggestions regarding milblogs, simply register at milblogging.com and fill out a submission form. It takes only a couple of minutes per blog.
FINAL UPDATE, Dec. 12, 9:37 a.m. - Sometime in the past few minutes, Blog Them Out of the Stone Age received its 30,000th hit. (The sitemeter count reads much higher, but that's because I transferred 6,702 visits from the WarHistorian blogspot site.) The milestone doesn't merit a post of its own, but I wanted to mention it somewhere. Here's as good a place as any.
Weblog Awards - Best Military Blog
Saturday, December 10, 2005, 03:36 PM - The World After September 11Voting is underway at Weblog Awards for this year's Best Military Blog. Among the fifteen nominees are Blackfive (which won last year), and Intel Dump, both listed on A Few Good Blogs. For links to the other nominees, click here.
A Culture of War
Saturday, December 10, 2005, 09:02 AM - The World After September 11From Ali Tabatabaey, a fifth-year medical student who works in Mashhad, Iran:
A few days ago, a 45-year-old relatively handsome but badly dressed and dirty patient came to the clinic with a peculiar accent, complaining of a burning headache. In just a few moments, he would change the way I looked at the world around me.The patient, who had come to Iran from Afghanistan, presented with "obvious signs of depressed mood and tinnitus." He reported having dreams (he would not call them nightmares) in which he was in the midst of a fire fight and trying to organize a defense. It turned out that the man had been a thirty-year veteran of the Mujahideen. The attending physician assessed him for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a covey of medical students looked on.
Obviously, the inquisitive minds of a group of young med students could not let him leave without asking about his experience as a captive. To no one's surprise, he had been tortured many times. He talked about being beaten unconscious while being interrogated by a Taliban officer and also of the Russians tying him to metal rods connected to an electrical generator (I had only seen such a thing in "Rambo," but this guy was sitting a few meters away and describing the feeling). This was no fun anymore, but the real surprise was yet to come.Complete post
I asked him about the war and the current state of his country. "I miss the war," he replied. OK. Let me get this straight. This guy's been wired up to low-voltage electricity by the Russians, been beaten unconscious by the Taliban, has spent 2/3 of his life running around valleys and mountains trying to resist the enemy, and HE MISSES THE WAR!
I can tell you he wasn't joking. He was insulted when we called his dreams "nightmares." He talked so passionately about the feel of a gun in one's hand and its smell that some of my fellow externs were tempted to try it out (thank God that's illegal here). He kept saying, "If someone came to me right now and asked me to go off to war, I would do so without hesitation."
There you have it. That's the problem with war. After a while, it becomes a culture. He is right. When all you've done since the age of 15 is shoot your enemies dead, changing your lifestyle can be difficult. War is one of those cureless diseases, which can only be prevented. Let's just hope his 10 kids don't grow up with the same culture.
Martin Van Creveld on Iraq
Wednesday, November 30, 2005, 07:19 AM - The World After September 11Martin Van Creveld has an op/ed piece in the most recent issue of The Forward. Van Creveld is a professor at Hebrew University and one of the world's best-known military historians.
The number of American casualties in Iraq is now well more than 2,000, and there is no end in sight. Some two-thirds of Americans, according to the polls, believe the war to have been a mistake. And congressional elections are just around the corner.
What had to come, has come. The question is no longer if American forces will be withdrawn, but how soon Ч and at what cost. In this respect, as in so many others, the obvious parallel to Iraq is Vietnam.
Wednesday, November 23, 2005, 09:54 PM - The World After September 11
The town of Barra Patuca on the Mosquito Coast of Honduras, July 2005
School in Barra Patuca in use as an improvised medical/dental clinic and pharmacy, July 2005
I reprint an email from Dr. Hector Gomez to our team leader on the July 2005 trip to Honduras that I've used as a framing device for the still on-going Heart of Darkness series of posts. I have not tried to correct Dr. Gomez's English; I think it reads fine, as perhaps more poignantly, as it stands:
Mike how are you I've been busy because the storms beta and delta have me with a lot of work with [medical] brigades and helping people I've a bad new for you Barra Patuca the last town that we visited in la mosquitia was destroyed 90% by beta storm was in this site was terrible and some sites near to Ceiba to my clinic in Ceiba was working 3 days a week I closed completly because the water inundated that and I had not insurance but my clinic in Roatan is growing I'm restarting everithing new now I haven't nothing in la Ceiba only the church and the public clinic but everithing is ok.If you'd like to help Dr. Gomez, you can send donations via Hands to Honduras. I'll follow up with a list of other recovery organizations to whom donations can be sent.
and this week I will send you the list of medicines
Yippy Yi Yo AK
Monday, November 21, 2005, 12:05 AM - The World After September 11
Cowboys take up AK47s to combat drug runners on Mexican frontier
From the London Daily Telegraph
As he careered along the rock-strewn gulley towards his silver mine deep in the Sonoran desert of southern Arizona, Roger McCaslin first checked his bowie knife, then his pistol, and finally his Kalashnikov. From the road, he had already noticed that something was wrong.
"The gate's broken and the door on the trailer's open. They've been here, I know it," he said ominously. "I just hope they've moved on - for their sake."
Full Story (Hat tip to John Maass)
Blueprint for Action
Saturday, November 5, 2005, 09:25 AM - The World After September 11
Blueprint For Action: A Future Worth Creating, Thomas P.M. Barnett's sequel to The Pentagon's New Map: War and Peace in the Twenty-first Century (2004)
is now out in hardback. I just picked up a copy from the library but have not yet had time to read it, nor have I seen many print reviews. (Indeed, Barnett's web site, which keeps careful track of such things, lists only two--from Publisher's Weekly and Kirkus--though doubtless a steady rain of them is coming.) But you can already find several in the blogosphere. Just conduct a search at Technorati.com using the keywords "barnett" and "blueprint for action."
Meanwhile, The Washington Post has a recent profile of Barnett headlined A Brain Pentagon Wants to Pick (registration required). Here's an excerpt:
Despite Controversy, Strategist Is Tapped as Valuable ResourceThe article then goes on to note that "Barnett is back in Washington to unveil his sequel work, "Blueprint for Action," in a closed-door speech this morning to a select group of about 500 up-and-coming military officers and defense officials at the National Defense University."
By Ann Scott Tyson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 19, 2005; Page A19
Global security guru Thomas P.M. Barnett is in the unique position of being embraced by Pentagon officials and top U.S. military commanders as a visionary strategist -- even as he openly blames the defense establishment for botching post-invasion operations in Iraq.
Barnett's best-selling 2004 book, "The Pentagon's New Map," offered a thesis on the American military's future global role that the Defense Department found so compelling and easy to grasp that it has invited him to advise and brief hundreds of senior appointees and officers on strategy. His book sold as many as 85,000 copies, and his prolific blog entries -- which mix humor with often cutting insights on Pentagon strategy -- are closely read in military and intelligence circles.