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Posts Tagged ‘Iraq

Many things are complicated, but complexity seems to be the root of many big issues

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So what is the difference between something that is complicated, like space travel technology and the complexity of so many of the massive issues that bedevil our political leaders. David Segal writes clearly if not very hopefully about this!

While Gibbon seemed to find the cause of the demise of the Roman Empire in its adoption of the Christian faith, analysts today see that the increasing complexity of public affairs led to bankrupting the Empire and then its downfall at the hands of the pagan tribes.

Here is how Segal’s explanation ends much less than hopefully about our present complex issues:

Of course, nobody at Goldman Sachs or any other large financial institution meant to wreck the economy. The United States military didn’t invade Iraq or Afghanistan thinking that one day its efforts would be mounted on a bewildering PowerPoint slide. The engineers who designed the BP oil platform that exploded and sank and produced one of the largest oil spills in history built it with multiple back-up systems.

But complexity has a way of defeating good intentions. As we clean up these messes, there is no point in hoping for a new age of simplicity. The best we can do is hope the solutions are just complicated enough to work.

So the real challenge is whether solutions drawn up with the best of intentions will in fact be complicated enough to work!

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5 Blackwater mercenaries indicted

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Erik Prince, Blackwater founder and owner
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Well the other shoe fell, later but better than never. Here’s the link and the excerpt from AP News:

WASHINGTON – Wild, unprovoked gunfire and grenades killed 14 innocent Iraqis and hurt dozens more in a 2007 Baghdad attack, prosecutors said Monday in announcing charges with mandatory 30-year prison terms against five Blackwater Worldwide security guards.

The Justice Department called the shooting a shocking and devastating violation of human

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rights. The harsh words echoed the outrage of Iraqis, who have waited more than a year to see how the U.S. would respond to the shooting on a busy street in the Iraqi capital.

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Written by BobG in Dalian & Vancouver

2008/12/11 at 08:26

Juan Cole & his Napoleon connection

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Juan Cole has been and is recognized for the quality of his blogging about Iraq and the Middle East. Today I discovered that unsurprisingly he has a Napoleon connection. This is not surprising to me because Napoleon led an exceptional expedition to Egypt in the late 1790s.

A post of mine about a year ago still gets most daily views of any of my posts. So for all those Napoleon viewers here is another Internet connection which is clearly high quality for its content and suggested links to other Napoleon sites.

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Bush’s War

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It’s too much to hope that real voters in the US will give due consideration to the raw truth about the Bush’s War on Terrorism. But two separate media events this week should give them a lot to think about and the real evil doers seem to be Cheney and Rumsfeld. First Frontline ( aired “Bush’s War”. Then this morning via I found this piece about a truth telling essay by Mark Danner.

Both pieces tell a story of political skulduggery and incompetence difficult to contemplate, but devastatingly true, probably!

Here is the summation of Danner’s piece:

“So how, finally, do we “take stock of the War on Terror”? Let me suggest three words:

1. Fragmentation — brought about by “creative destabilization,” as we see it not only in Iraq but in Lebanon, Palestine, and elsewhere in the region;

2. Diminution — of American prestige, both military and political, and thus of American power;

3. Destruction — of the political consensus within the United States for a strong global role.

Gaze for a moment at those three words and marvel at how far we have come in a half-dozen years.

In September 2001, the United States faced a grave threat. The attacks that have become synonymous with that date were unprecedented in their destructiveness, in their lethality, in the pure apocalyptic shock of their spectacle. But in their aftermath, American policymakers, partly through ideological blindness and preening exaggeration of American power, partly through blindness brought about by political opportunism, made decisions that led to a defeat only their own actions — that only American power itself — could have brought about.

A small coven of America’s enemies, using the strategy of provocation so familiar in guerrilla warfare, had launched in spectacular fashion on that bright September morning a plan to use the superpower’s strength against itself. To use a different metaphor, they were trying to make good on Archimedes’ celebrated boast: having found the perfect lever and place to stand, they proposed to move the Earth. To an extent I am sure even they did not anticipate, in their choice of opponent — an evangelical, redemptive regime scornful of history and determined to remake the fallen world — lay the seeds of their success.”

Mark Danner is the author, most recently, of Torture and Truth: America, Abu Ghraib and the War on Terror (2004) and The Secret Way to War: The Downing Street Memo and the Iraq War’s Buried History (2007). He has covered the Iraq war from its beginning for the New York Review of Books. He teaches at both Bard College and the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California, Berkeley. His work is archived at

Written by BobG in Dalian & Vancouver

2008/03/27 at 09:25

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Napoleon developed principles for industrial warfare and …

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Cover of
Cover of Empire

‘The Utility of Force’ – New York Times

My life till I was about 5 years old was dominated by two wars, the Spanish Civil War and WW II.

Later on at age 70some, I decided to read about how those wars got started and how they were fought. I recently learned that a few key principles about fighting industrial warfare were worked out by Napoleon more than 200 years ago. They are well described in the First Chapter piece linked to above.

I also realize that there is a big difference between a principle and how it is put into action. In the end mass, industrial mass, will win as long as effective leadership is provided on the battle and home fronts. Napoleon understood and practiced that well until he over-committed the resources and means of communication he commanded. The same happened to Hitler.

The Allies, especially the French and the English, couldn’t apply those principles when WW II began and suffered many quick and humiliating defeats. Hitler was winning until Stalin worked out how to find the resources and shape his armed forces to break the back of the Nazi military juggernaut on the eastern warfront in several epic battles, including Leningrad, Stalingrad and Kursk.

Eventually American industrial and manpower resources as well as battlefield leadership finally came to grips with and defeated the more efficient Wehrmacht in Western Europe and the Japanese Empire in the Pacific.

In the end mass should win any contest of industrial war. Today the US has undertaken a war on terrorism in which the principles of industrial war don’t work any longer since this seems to be more of a war of shadows.

The Spanish Civil War did have some characteristics of a war of shadows until intervention by German and Italian forces turned the force of superior firepower against the under-armed and splintered Republican armed forces, which were refused support by the Allied democracies.

Those leaders, including Churchill at that time, were unwilling to confront the threat of military force deployed by the Axis powers and manifested greater anxiety about the USSR.

The day after I posted the above, I found this text in a review by Niall Ferguson, which seems to me the best description of the Iraq quagmire:

Still, “The Utility of Force” remains an impressive and absorbing work of military analysis. At his best, Smith is the Clausewitz of low-intensity conflict and peacekeeping operations. If, in the end, he does not quite solve the riddle of how to win the small wars of our time, he brilliantly lays bare the newfound limits of Western military power. The more Iraq looks like Bosnia on the Tigris — as a war amongst the people becomes another bloody war between peoples — the more prescient his book will seem.

Update 2008-10-20:

Ben Weider, founder and president of the International Napoleonic Society died at 85 years of age.

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