Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Civilian-military disconnect?

Mary L. Dudziak has an interesting post titled "A Growing 'Civilian-Military' Gap, and its Consequences."  She cites a revealing poll from Pew Research:

"A smaller share of Americans currently serve in the U.S. Armed Forces than at any time since the peace-time era between World Wars I and II," according to a new report from the Pew Research Center< (hat tip New York Times).
During the past decade, as the military has been engaged in the longest period of sustained conflict in the nation’s history, just one-half of one percent of American adults has served on active duty at any given time.1 As the size of the military shrinks, the connections between military personnel and the broader civilian population appear to be growing more distant.
The data reveals is "a large generation gap." According to the report, "more than three-quarters (77%) of adults ages 50 and older said they had an immediate family member –a spouse, parent, sibling or child – who had served in the military."  In contrast, for people under 50, "57% of those ages 30-49 say they have an immediate family member who served. And among those ages 18-29, the share is only one-third."

What's going on in Iran, again?

Another curious explosion in Iran, this time in Isfahan, the center of Iranian nuclear weapons research.  We've seen this before, of course.  The Washington Post gives a rundown of the known incidents:
A massive blast at a missile base operated by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps nearly two weeks ago was the latest in a series of mysterious incidents involving explosions at natural gas transport facilities, oil refineries and military bases — blasts that have caused dozens of deaths and damage to key infrastructure in the past two years.
Iranian officials said the Nov. 12 blast at the missile base was an “accident,” and they ruled out any sabotage organized by the United States and its regional allies. The explosion on the Shahid Modarres base near the city of Malard was so powerful that it shook the capital, Tehran, about 30 miles to the east.

Despite the official denial of foreign involvement in the latest blast, suspicions have been raised in Iran by what industry experts say is a fivefold increase in explosions at refineries and gas pipelines since 2010.
Explaining the increased number of industrial incidents is proving to be a predicament for Iranian leaders, who do not want to appear vulnerable at a time when Israeli leaders have been debating military intervention against Iran over its controversial nuclear program.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Hazing scandal hits Florida A & M Marching Band

I can't believe that I was so taken with Thanksgiving that I missed this story, a story that is incredibly sad on so many levels:
Robert Champion fell in love with music at about age 6 when he saw a marching band at a parade in downtown Atlanta. So mesmerized by the festivities, he came home, took out pots and pans and started banging away like a little drummer.
His passion led him to marching bands from middle school through college. He was a drum major for the famed Marching 100 band of Florida A&M University, a group that has performed at Super Bowls, the Grammys and presidential inaugurations. The prestige brought along a "culture of hazing" and a secret world that played a role in Champion's death, his family said Monday.
"It needs to stop. The whole purpose is to put this out there and let people know there has to be a change," Champion's mother, Pam, said at a news conference.
On Nov. 19, after the school's football team lost its annual game with rival Bethune-Cookman, Champion collapsed on a bus parked outside an Orlando, Fla., hotel. The 26-year-old junior had been vomiting and complained he couldn't breathe shortly before he became unconscious.
When authorities arrived about 9:45 p.m., Champion was unresponsive. He died at a nearby hospital.

The folly of the drug war (or "Why police care more about drugs than they care about you.")

This piece by Radley Balko confirms my worst suspicions:
As Jessica Shaver and I chat at a coffee shop in Chicago's north-side Andersonville neighborhood, a police car pulls into the parking lot across the street. Then another. Two cops get out, lean up against their cars, and appear to gaze across traffic into the store. At times, they seem to be looking directly at us. Shaver, who works as an eyebrow waxer at a nearby spa, appears nervous.
"See what I mean? They follow me," says Shaver, 30. During several phone conversations Shaver told me that she thinks a small group of Chicago police officers are trying to intimidate her. These particular cops likely aren't following her; the barista tells me Chicago cops regularly stop in that particular parking lot to chat. But if Shaver is a bit paranoid, it's hard to blame her.
A year and a half ago she was beaten by a neighborhood thug outside of a city bar. It took months of do-it-yourself sleuthing, a meeting with a city alderman and a public shaming in a community newspaper before the Chicago Police Department would pay any attention to her. About a year later, Shaver got more attention from cops than she ever could have wanted: A team of Chicago cops took down her door with a battering ram and raided her apartment, searching for drugs.

News you can use. Or Not.

Why do we have to turn off our electronic devices for takeoff and landing on airplanes?  No one knows.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Did we just outmaneuver China?

If I'm going to bash Obama when he gets things wrong -- which, let's face it, is pretty often -- it's only fair that I give him credit when he gets something right.  And it looks like he got something really right in the Far East. Walter Russell Mead:
The cascade of statements, deployments, agreements and announcements from the United States and its regional associates in the last week has to be one of the most unpleasant shocks for China’s leadership — ever.  The US is moving forces to Australia, Australia is selling uranium to India, Japan is stepping up military actions and coordinating more closely with the Philippines and Vietnam in the South China Sea, Myanmar is slipping out of China’s column and seeking to reintegrate itself into the region, Indonesia and the Philippines are deepening military ties with the the US: and all that in just one week. If that wasn’t enough, a critical mass of the region’s countries have agreed to work out a new trade group that does not include China, while the US, to applause, has proposed that China’s territorial disputes with its neighbors be settled at a forum like the East Asia Summit — rather than in the bilateral talks with its smaller, weaker neighbors that China prefers.
Rarely has a great power been so provoked and affronted.  Rarely have so many red lines been crossed.  Rarely has so much face been lost, so fast.  It was a surprise diplomatic attack, aimed at reversing a decade of chit chat about American decline and disinterest in Asia, aimed also at nipping the myth of “China’s inexorable rise” in the bud.

New additions to the library

Die Schlacht bei Adrianopel, by Ferdinand Runkel
Geschichte des Untergangs der antiken Welt, by Otto Seeck.

Yes, I just acquired two books that deal with the Battle of Adrianople.

In German.

Since I speak some German, this will be easier than the two books I got on the Battle of the Java Sea in Dutch, but this will still be a major project.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Inexcusable (or "Obama's plan is to simply say ‘no’ to new energy production.")

That is the only way to describe Obama's decision to delay a decision on the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada until after the 2012 elections:
[T]he talk between Mr. Obama and Ms. Clinton put the pipeline plan in the ditch. About an hour before the State Department issued a press release Thursday afternoon, Ms. Clinton called John Baird, Canada’s minister of foreign affairs, and broke the news.
The State Department, which has already spent 39 months reviewing the $7-billion project, concluded it will wait until the beginning of 2013 to render a decision on Keystone XL. First, it wants TransCanada to come up with an alternate route through Nebraska.
The decision left Canada’s oil industry, which had viewed Keystone XL’s approval as a slam-dunk, alternately gasping and fuming. Keystone XL was a major element of Canada’s energy growth ambitions. The pipeline derailment raises questions about Canada’s trade relationship with the U.S., the world’s largest energy consumer. The timing of the decision also stung, coming just before an APEC meeting in Hawaii where Mr. Obama is scheduled to sit down with Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Playing the Burma card

I didn't even know there was a Burma card for the US to play in East Asia.  Like most tyrannical, murderous regimes these days, the military junta that rules Burma is close to China.  Could that be changing?

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will visit Burma next month, in a thawing of diplomatic ties between the United States and the Southeast Asian nation whose strong-arm government has outraged the West.
The two-day trip, starting Dec. 1, would mark the first visit by a U.S. secretary of state in 50 years.
President Obama made the announcement Friday shortly after he began a series of meetings here with Southeast Asian leaders about regional security, including disaster relief. Obama is the first U.S. president to participate in a meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), whose chairmanship recently was awarded to Burma, also known as Myanmar. The main summit meetings will take place on Saturday.
Burma’s military rulers, who have held power since a 1962 coup, have taken a hard anti-democratic line, cracking down on opposition leaders including Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, who had been under house arrest for years.
But she was freed last year, and hundreds of other political prisoners have been released since then, suggesting that Burma might be signaling an opening to the West as a hedge in its relationship with China.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Is Iran in the middle of a civil war?

This past Monday I mentioned a rather odd explosion in Iran that was either at an ammunition depot or a missile base.  As if walking right out of an old beer commercial, Michael Ledeen says, "How 'bout both?"
This past weekend’s monster explosion at a Revolutionary Guards base outside Tehran has attracted the usual assortment of speculation and “informed information,” most of it sucked from the thumbs of pundits who feel they must write quickly.  There is still a scarcity of hard information, but I’m reasonably confident that:
–There were two explosions at the RG base at Bidganeh, one smaller, the other very large.
–At almost the same time, there was an explosion at another military base in the west, in Luristan.  The explosions seem to have been coordinated.
–The area around Bigdaneh is a military zone, with various facilities including two air fields, thus questions like “was it a munitions depot or a missile base?” are best answered “yes. Both.”

We are the XCIX percent

Past Horizons is showcasing a project to study the DNA of ancient Romans.  The article is titled "Roman DNA project gives voice to the silent majority:"

A new project to carry out DNA analysis on a group of skeletons who were immigrants to Rome, has been created by Kristina Killgrove, a biological anthropologist from Vanderbilt University.

Kristina has been raising money by Crowd-Funding in order to carry the project out and she has now exceeded the $6000 required to carry out the basic analysis of at least 20 individuals (the immigrants to Rome that she found through Sr/O isotope analysis). However, every additional contribution above the original target amount will help to test more samples.

This project will be the first to study the DNA of  immigrants to Rome and will help rewrite the history of everyday life there.

Be careful what you wish for

For years and years anti-Americanism was a major force in the politics of South Korea (in particular), the Philippines (where it combined with a temperamental volcano to drove out the century-old US military presence), New Zealand (which stupidly elected a leftist prime minister that dismantled their military) and Japan.  Now, it seems, they miss us:
Much is being made of China's unease at President Obama's initiative this week to raise the U.S. presence in the Pacific Rim. The real story is Asia's unease with China's expansionism. It wants America back.
Beijing was taken by surprise at the U.S. president's newfound interest in making America a presence again in the Pacific.
But in reality it was a sign that Asian states prefer a U.S.-centric Pacific over a China-centric one.
Up until now, the only message being sent by this White House was of kowtowing, isolationism and weakness in the face of a supposedly inevitably rising China.
The media made much of Beijing's discomfort at the new American assertiveness, as if there was something unnatural about it. "China uneasy over U.S. troop deal in Australia," blared the headline in the U.K. Guardian.
But Beijing's discomfort is irrelevant — it's a tyranny and Asia's neighborhood bully. It's not the model of economic development many believe, as its growing imbalances show. Nor is it a particularly peaceful presence.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Should Catholics be offended by Assassin's Creed now?

Awhile back I complained about the Assassin's Creed franchise's treatment of the Catholic Church.  Though I love all games in the series, I believe that Assassin's Creed 2 and Assassin's Creed Brotherhood, take too many gratuitous shots at the Catholic Church and the Catholic religion.  Though the Renaissance popes were often villainous (such as the Borgias) that should not reflect on the religion itself or on individual Catholics. 

Now I've just gotten Assassin's Creed Revelations, which takes place largely in Ottoman Constantinople about 60 years after the fall of the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) capital.  I've just started the game.  Interesting that so far in the game the Orthodox Christian Byzantines are resurrected as villains while the Muslim Ottomans are treated as heroes.  In Assassin's Creed Brotherhood the corrupt Pope Alexander VI (Rodrigo Borgia) and his son Cesare ruled Rome.  Since as the assassin you are trying to liberate Rome, in that sense making them villains makes sense.  In Assassin's Creed Revelations, even though Constantinople is the Ottoman capital, your goal is to liberate it from ... the Byzantines.  Huh?  It's like the designers of Assassin's Creed are determined to make Christians the enemy.

New additions to the library

The Crimean War: A History, by Orlando Figes
1781: The Decisive Year of the Revolutionary War, by Robert L. Tonsetic
Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin, by Timothy Snyder

I'm interested in seeing Bloodlands' coverage of Stalin's atrocities, which, though not nearly as systemic as Hitler's, were actually far worse.

And it may come as a surprise to many to hear that the Crimean War was more than The Charge of the Light Brigade.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Uh, giant crop circles?

What the hell is China building in the desert?

Why foreign policy matters

In spite of my vehement disagreement with and general abhorrence of social conservatism, my disgust with their increasing economic ruthlessness and my mistreatment at the hands of several Republicans, I nevertheless remain a Republican and will in all likelihood do so for the foreseeable future.  Why? Simply put, security issues.  In general, Republican are far, far tougher on issues of crime, defense and foreign policy than their opponents.  And, more than anything else, security issues are, going back to Hobbes and Locke, government's reason for existence.

Roger L. Simon touches on this in his latest piece, "It's the Foreign Policy, Stupid:"
“It’s the economy, stupid,” some dude named Carville once said. He was referring to what was the correct prescription for winning a presidential election — and it’s been gospel ever since.
He’s probably right. Except when it comes to actually being president, it’s something else altogether. “It’s the foreign policy, stupid” — because day one of being POTUS, you, and basically you alone, determine the foreign policy of the United States of America and much of the future and present of humanity.
And that’s not just because you wake up with an intelligence briefing that could make bald men lose their hair or because you are the Commander-in-Chief of the most powerful armed forces on Earth with all the life or death decisions that entails or because some unsmiling individual follows you around with the nuclear football, putting Armageddon in your hands.

Why are we fighting the Lord's Resistance Army?

Recently I came out in support of Obama's escalation of US involvement in fighting the Lord's Resistance Army in Uganda.  Nevertheless, I do no pretend to be fully versed in Obama's reasoning behind the move.  Harvey Glickman provides some possible reasons:
U.S. support for the anti-LRA war has not been an unmitigated success. The National Security Council authorized training and financial support for the December 2008 Operation Lightning Thunder, a joint Uganda-Congolese-South Sudan campaign. This resulted, however, in major casualties among Congolese civilians, with 200,000 people displaced and the LRA escaping to fight another day.
Somewhat puzzling about the new U.S. deployment “to protect civilians” — as stated by the U.S. Embassy in Kampala on October 17, 2011 — is the fact that the Ugandan army announced that the Kony/LRA problem is no longer a threat in Uganda, but a regional problem. So, apparently the UPDF is joining the U.S. in an African regional conflict. Uganda has been a leader in the African Union’s battle against the al-Shabaab terrorists in Somalia, and suffered a retaliatory bombing in Kampala by them in July 2010.

One of the most inexcusable acts ever perpetrated by Congress

The ban on incandescent light bulbs. 

In recent years Congress has put forth several pieces of legislation that are flat-out designed to hurt the American people.  Many such acts come from the environmental sphere.   The prohibition of incandescent bulbs is one.  Flat-out inexcusable.  Stupid.  Borderline malevolent.

Cap-and-trade is another.  Designed to lower our standard of living.  Making everyday, logical actions in some way painful.

That is not the behavior of a government with the best interests of its people at heart.  Or even with consent of the governed.

What's going on in Iran?

If you're like me (but, really, who is?) you follow events in Iran to determine if there's any hope for elimination of a self-styled enemy of the United States.  Now we are hearing of an odd explosion:
An Iranian exile group claimed Saturday that a blast near Tehran hit a missile base run by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, disputing the Iranian government’s account that it occurred at an ammunition depot.
Former Mujahedin-e Khalq spokesman Alireza Jafarzadeh, citing what he called reliable sources inside Iran, said that the explosion hit the Modarres Garrison of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps west of Tehran. The group, also known as the MEK, has in the past disclosed the sites of several key Iranian nuclear installations as well as details of their operations.

Jafarzadeh, now an author and commentator critical of Tehran’s clerical regime, said the Modarres Garrison belongs to the IGRC’s missile unit and the blasts “resulted from the explosion of IRGC missiles.” He did not say what triggered the explosion.

Friday, November 11, 2011

NCAA's treatment of Ohio State is arbitrary and capricious

Considering the, um, other major events in college football this week, it is not surprising the the new body slam the NCAA gave the Ohio State football program went relatively unnoticed.  But it was a body slam nonetheless:
Ohio State monitored Northeast Ohio booster Bobby DiGeronimo some. But not enough.
Though Athletic Director Gene Smith and former football coach Jim Tressel took steps five and six years ago to keep DiGeronimo away from the program, the university's failure to do more will cost the football team at least five scholarships over three years and has brought a more serious "failure to monitor" charge from the NCAA.
According to the NCAA report, Tressel once kicked DiGeronimo out of a locker he was hiding in while trying to listen to a pregame speech in 2001 or 2002. DiGeronimo called that report "baloney" and said "that's as low as I've heard," contending he had a pass to be in the locker room.
Yet as late as 2011, the school was surprised and unaware DiGeronimo -- once embraced as a friend of the program, particularly under former coach John  Cooper -- was still associating with players. Eventually, DiGeronimo gave money to some players at a 2011 charity event and overpaid others for work done at his company, according to the NCAA and Ohio State.
The school filed its response to the NCAA, and Thursday made the new charges and sanctions public. DiGeronimo, however, disputes several of Ohio State's assertions, including the forcefulness of Ohio State's message.

Syrian opposition trying to get army help?

Jess Hill on Twitter links to an interesting Al Jazeera report on defectors from Syria's army meeting with members of the Syrian National Council, the umbrella group opposed to Bashar al-Assad.  It's really just a short blurb, but an interesting one.  Here it is:
The Syrian National Council, a group of opposition figures based outside the country, met on Thursday with defected soldiers who belong to what is being called the Free Syrian Army, according to a statement posted by the Council on its Facebook page.
The SNC "stands by" the defectors "who refused the regime's orders to fire at the unarmed demonstrators," the statement said.
The Council delegation included members of executive office Samir Nashar and Farouk Taifor, who met with Colonel Riad al-Asad, a defected officer based in a Turkey refugee camp who has assumed a role as the face of the Free Syrian Army.
Asad confirmed his support for the Council, "which reflects the demands of the Syrian people," the release said. 
The Syrian Army's recent crackdown in Homs makes me wonder if this is part of a new push by the National Council for more army defections.

More true than you think

SportsPickle's satirical "High School Gym Class Syllabus."

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Jerry Sandusky Rape Case

put in context by Terry Pluto, the amazing columnist for The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer.  How dangerous is child rape for society?  Some chilling statistics:
According to the Department of Justice, about 3 percent of incarcerated men and 25 percent of women report being sexually abused as children. The state of Maryland found 1-in-3 women and 1-and-5 male inmates admitted being sexual abused as children.
Based on a dozen years of weekly jail ministry in Akron, I'd guess at least 25 percent of males that I've encountered had some type of damaging sexual experience at a young age. Men hate to admit what happened to them as children.
It does not excuse their crimes.
But there is so much truth in the saying, "Hurt people hurt people."
Read the whole thing.

I originally called this post "The Penn State Rape Case," but I changed it because think that title is unfair to a great university like Penn State (not necessarily its administrators), its students and alumni.  The biggest crime here was (allegedly) by Jerry Sandusky.  Without his (alleged) actions, none of this would have happened.

Meanwhile, in Syria

otherwise known as "Not Happy Valley," things get worse and worse:
Syrian troops on Monday routed government opponents in a neighborhood of Homs that had emerged in recent weeks as a center of armed resistance to the regime led by President Bashar al-Assad, dealing what appeared to be a serious setback to the protest movement and to an Arab League peace initiative designed to end the violence.
Homs residents and human rights groups said security forces stormed the Bab al-Amr neighborhood in the small hours of the morning, concluding a six-day assault in which dozens were killed and scores injured, many of them in tank bombardments.

Defected soldiers who had been defending the protest hot spot either fled to the surrounding countryside or were captured or killed, said residents and activists. Syrian troops combed through the neighborhood Monday detaining all the young men they encountered, and government supporters staged a noisy demonstration through the deserted streets.
The assault came as Assad’s government braced for the potential fallout from its failure to abide by the terms of an Arab League-sponsored peace initiative agreed to last Wednesday. Under the deal, Syria was to withdraw troops from cities, allow peaceful protests and release detainees.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

And before anyone else asks ...

No, I did not go to Penn State and have no affiliation with that school.  I am a proud alum of The Ohio State University and its marching band (by far the finest in the land).  And, yes, I do think that Jim Tressel and Ohio State have been royally screwed by the NCAA, an arrogant, hypocritical, two-faced organization that is beyond despicable.

Much of my family comes from Pittsburgh, and some of them are Penn State graduates.  So we have always paid attention to Penn State.  Even though our schools are rivals, we have always had the highest respect for Penn State and Joe Paterno.  When we went to Happy Valley in 2001 to see Ohio State play (and blow a 17-point lead to lose the game), we had a great time.  Great ice cream.  Fans were friendly and knowledgeable.  They love football and know the game as well as anyone.  Their respect for Joe Paterno was palpable, and his respect and love for them was obvious as well.  The Penn State Blue Band was a first-rate marching band, and the Silks were an excellent dance team. 

They had something really special in Happy Valley. 

Now that is all gone.

A few words on Mike McQueary

I originally posted most of the following in response to comments concerning the conduct of Penn State Assistant Coach Mike McQueary made in response to my post In defense of Joe Paterno.  But the issues facing McQueary are a bit different than those facing Paterno, so I think it deserves its own post and discussion. 

McQueary is taking an incredible amount of heat himself for his relative lack of action in the Jerry Sandusky case.  That he did not immediately run into the shower and, apparently, beat the crap out of Sandusky to protect the boy very near the top of that criticism.

And, indeed, McQueary bears far more "moral" culpability than Paterno does, because he witnessed the actual incident.  Maybe legal culpability as well.

That said, I'm going to play Devil's Advocate again.  Keep in mind a few things.

In defense of Joe Paterno

It is with shock and tremendous sadness that I am following the events coming out of State College, where Jerry Sandusky, a former assistant coach under Joe Paterno at Penn State, is charged with sexually assaulting at least 8 boys.  The grand jury presentment can be found on the website of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette here.  Be warned: it makes for very disturbing reading.  In my decades of historical research, I've read about some of the most brutal atrocities in history, and this document made even me uncomfortable. 

The charges against Sandusky are so disgusting, so vile that it can and does easily become a case of guilty until proven innocent.  For anyone associated with them.

Before I continue, let me tell you three stories from my personal experience:

Monday, November 7, 2011

More on army control of Egypt

No sooner does Barry Rubin do an article on how the last chance for civilization in the Middle East is the army than he writes another one, focusing on Egypt.  He starts out:
This is of tremendous importance. Only hours ago I wrote about how the Egyptian military felt forced by circumstances to play a bigger, longer political role in order to stem anarchy and prevent Egypt from becoming an Islamist state. Now there’s more evidence of that happening.
In an editorial that reflects also the Obama administration’s position, the Washington Post explained that the army having political power is bad and civilian rule is good:
The generals’ justification for their proposed decree will sound familiar to any student of the Mubarak regime: They claim to be protecting the country from Islamic fundamentalists, who appear likely to capture a plurality of seats in parliament.

Friday, November 4, 2011

The armies are the last bastions of civilization

Barry Rubin asks the question, Will Their Armies Save (Some) Arab States from Islamism?
Nowhere in the world is Mao Zedong’s dictum that political power grows out of the barrel of a gun truer than in the Middle East.
The armed forces have been the basis of power in the Arabic-speaking world and in Turkey, too. That’s why the nationalist dictatorships and traditionalist monarchies, which had seen so many coups and coup attempts in the 1950s and 1960s, had to find special ways to control the armed forces. They did so by special privileges, close intelligence watches, promoting officers on the basis of loyalty to the regime, and many other measures.
One of these was the creation of elite, parallel military formations. Examples include the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the Iraqi Republican Guard, the Saudi “White Army,” and others.

Speaking of allies from Hell

What's Turkey doing these days? I had always wondered why the Islamist regime agreed to host US missile defense installations.  Now we know: to hamper it.
In September 2011, America engaged Turkey in missile defense by providing Ankara with the same type of X-Band radar system that Israel was given in September 2008 by former U.S. President George W. Bush.  The deployment of that radar system into Turkey, later this year, will be located in the eastern part of the country, close to the Iranian border.
These radar systems are designed to alert technicians of incoming enemy missiles.  The U.S. Joint Tactical Ground Station (JTAGS) in Europe is to be the data hub for all U.S. supported European and Middle Eastern radar systems, including those in Romania, and in a U.S. Aegis ship in the Mediterranean.
However, the current U.S. agreement with Turkey has become problematic, according to Scheinmann.  "The Turks are saying that what they get from the radar site in their country will not be shared with Israel.  This is supposed to be a European-wide missile defense system, but, they have maintained their strong objection to anything Israeli.  If there were an Iranian missile launched towards Israel, they would not allow the sharing of information from their radar to help Israel."
What this means, Scheinmann explained, is that an incoming Iranian missile that would target Israel would probably go over Syria, south of the Turkish radar site.  It would be easier for technicians to track the precise location of the missile in milliseconds because they would be seeing the side view of it from Turkey, rather than a frontal view from Israel.  But Turkey is now planning to hinder such cooperation.  This inhibits protection for Israel from Iran's ballistic missile arsenal.

With a title like ...

... "The Ally From Hell," you know the article is about Pakistan.  And this article, a joint venture by The Atlantic and National Journal, is a doozy.  Most disturbing section:
There is evidence to suggest that neither the Pakistani army, nor the SPD itself, considers jihadism the most immediate threat to the security of its nuclear weapons; indeed, General Kayani’s worry, as expressed to General Kidwai after Abbottabad, was focused on the United States. According to sources in Pakistan, General Kayani believes that the U.S. has designs on the Pakistani nuclear program, and that the Abbottabad raid suggested that the U.S. has developed the technical means to stage simultaneous raids on Pakistan’s nuclear facilities.
In their conversations, General Kidwai assured General Kayani that the counterintelligence branch of the SPD remained focused on rooting out American and Indian spies from the Pakistani nuclear-weapons complex, and on foiling other American espionage methods. The Pakistani air force drills its pilots in ways of intercepting American spy planes; the Pakistani military assumes (correctly) that the U.S. devotes many resources to aerial and satellite surveillance of its nuclear sites.

Like chocolate sauce and sauerkraut

... some things are just not meant to go together.  Like, a dump and Hadrian's villa:

The noble descendant of a 17th century pope is fighting a battle against government plans to dump Rome's garbage at a site near one of the western world's most celebrated archeological sites - Hadrian's Villa.

Prince Urbano Barberini, whose bloodline is traced to some of Italy's most storied nobles families and individuals - including Maffeo Barberini, who became Pope Urban VIII in 1623 - says disposing of the capital's trash in a quarry near Hardian's Villa in Tivola could keep tourists at bay when the wind passes over the tons of garbage in the direction of the UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Who wants to bomb Iran?

Or, given recent media reports, I suppose the better question is, "Who doesn't?" Because there seems to be a line forming to do just that.

Israel (not surprising):

Over the past several days, Hebrew media reports have been engaged in intense speculation regarding a possible imminent Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear sites.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak appeared to have made a veiled reference to the issue again on Tuesday, when he told the Knesset that Israel may have to protect its vital interests alone, while other reports focused on comments by Interior Minister Eli Yishai, who stated this week that difficult decisions were “keeping him up at nights,” without elaborating further.

Israel is believed to have a fully prepared plan to launch such a strike, which would likely involve at least several hundred aircraft.

When Greeks and Turks agree

... given their history (Trojan War, Persian Wars, Alexander the Great, Seljuks v. Byzantines, Ottomans, etc.), it should perhaps give one pause.  Yet that's what seems to be happening.  Just after the Turkish government cleans out the top brass in its armed forces, the Greek government is now doing the same thing:
In a surprise move, on Tuesday evening the defence minister replaced the country’s top brass. An extraordinary meeting of the Government Council of Foreign Affairs and Defence (Kysea), which comprises the prime minister and other key cabinet members, accepted Defence Minister Panos Beglitis' proposal that the following changes be made to army, navy and air force and the general staff:

Sorry for the light posting

Been extremely busy this week, but also completely engrossed with The Confederacy's Last Hurrah: Spring Hill, Franklin & Nashville, by Wiley Sword.  I hope to have a big post on it this weekend.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

But ... but Obama said he was a "reformer."

Michael Totten on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's latest gambit:
The Syrian opposition is slowly arming itself—inspired, I presume, by the disposal of Moammar Qaddafi—and Bashar al-Assad is spooked. He thinks the West may want to gun for him next. And he says if the West does come after him that it will set off an “earthquake” in the region.
“Syria is the hub now in this region,” he said. “It is the faultline, and if you play with the ground you will cause an earthquake. Any problem in Syria will burn the whole region.”
In other words, he’ll set Lebanon and Israel on fire again. It’s what he does. And it’s why he needs to go.
Against thug dictators, peaceful resistance usually doesn't work.

The Line of the Night

After last night's Catastrophe in Kansas City, a Twitter pal of mine had this to say:
Jocelyn (@legalesque)11/1/11 1:05 AM
Saw this on Facebook: the flight home for Philip Rivers is going to be longer than Kim Kardashian's marriage.