May 31, 2004

Perils Of Ignorance In Media

Filed under: — Chap @ 3:31 pm

So the Guardian’s G2 section, which is sometimes very worthwhile when not cringeworthy, has a, um, less than worthwhile article up. The writer, presenting as evidence an email from one kid in college and a advocative website disguising as “objective” describing a bill being presented, has decided that A Military Draft In The US Is Imminent.

Never mind that the writer of the article, John Sutherland, has spectacular factual errors and omissions accompanying his hyperbole.

Last Wednesday, the American public was officially instructed to panic. Attorney general John Ashcroft and FBI director Robert Mueller – brows furrowed, faces grim – took over primetime TV to deliver a spine-chilling message to their fellow citizens: “Al-qaida attack imminent.”

When, where, and what form the outrage will take, is unknown. But something very, very awful is going to happen very, very soon.

Okay, that’s irrelevant, and the author misses the point of the press conference, but hey, what a nice compelling intro. He mentions it again at the end as a nice touch to maintain the irrelevance bring it all together.

On the same day that Ashcroft was terrifying his countrymen, I was emailed by an American student friend. He too is terrified. “The US legislature,” he wrote, “is trying to bring back the draft asap. Check it out at For some reason no major news networks or printed media in this country are carrying this story. If these bills go through, the only thing between me and military service is my asthma.”

He’s right. There is pending legislation in the American House of Representatives and Senate in the form of twin bills – S89 and HR163. These measures (currently approved and sitting in the committee for armed services) project legislation for spring 2005, with the draft to become operational as early as June 15.

(Links to the bills added by me so you can look at them)

Oh, how I feel for that poor, oppressed college student. Lucky for the asthma, eh? Good thing he’s right, right?

Okay, here are a few qualifers. First, there are all sorts of bills, all the time, and there is usually a call for the draft every year or two. Remember the New York gasbag who called for the draft last year using a BS racial card that didn’t work?

The Senate bill is a bill for National Service (read: not necessarily military). It was sponsored by Senator Fritz Hollings (D-SC). Note the D there. Note also the lack of cosponsors. The bill was read into committee, and that’s about it so far. It’s also not what our asthmatic collegian thinks it is.


To provide for the common defense by requiring that all young persons in the United States, including women, perform a period of military service or a period of civilian service in furtherance of the national defense and homeland security, and for other purposes. (my emphasis)

(By the way, there is no mention of Hollings being a D on his bio or on any of the pages I checked out on his web site. Interesting.)

Well, maybe the other one is what the article’s worrying about. The House bill has some cosponsors, including that gasbag Rangel, and five other representatives. All Democrats. And it has the same “civilian service or military service, yer choice” thing the Senate version does.

(b) FORM OF NATIONAL SERVICE- National service under this Act shall be performed either–

(1) as a member of an active or reverse component of the uniformed services; or

(2) in a civilian capacity that, as determined by the President, promotes the national defense, including national or community service and homeland security.

Okay, so far the gasping emailer has led the grasping journalist astray. Maybe the journalist’s skills in fact checking and getting to the story will help.

All young Americans are obliged to “register for the draft”.

And maybe not. You know, that 50% of the population, those without Y chromosomes, not being part of this particular party. It’s a stag Selective Service right now.

Okay, maybe the ability to have things put in perspective will win out.

On how many fronts can America fight its global war on terror with a “professional” army of half a million? Half a million and shrinking fast. Reservists are not re-enlisting. They signed up for the occasional weekend playing soldiers and some useful income, not death or glory.

Okay. And I’m getting emails with photos of reservists in theater re-upping en masse and giving the finger to guys like this is because why? You got real numbers to back this up? In my service, we’ve got too many folks staying in and have to deal with it as a problem to solve.

The merits of the proposed legislation aside (because that’s a separate issue, and one I’d be happy to discuss over a beer), we have:

  1. One email and a partisan website presented as sufficient evidence
  2. No evidence the journalist actually looked at the legislation
  3. A profound omission that the legislation is being sponsored by Democrats in a Republican-controlled Congress, and an omission of any context of why this would matter in terms of the antiwar argument put forward by the same Democrats, and
  4. Random bad information, passed as if God’s own truth.

It took me about ten minutes to look all this up, minutes Sutherland could have used wisely. Jason, I see why you have a website devoted to this stuff. Argh.

Some Things Never Change

Filed under: — Chap @ 12:14 am


May 30, 2004

Bill Cosby Responds to Media Criticism

Filed under: — Chap @ 11:09 pm

As close to a primary source as I can get right now. Bill Cosby spoke at an NAACP dinner celebrating Brown vs. Board of Education. He got a lot of heat for those remarks. Here’s his statement after the fact.

Statement from The Brokaw Company: Bill Cosby Responds to Media Criticism

Mr. Cosby points out that media critics such as Christopher Farley at Time

Magazine are flawed in their argument that African American literary greats

such as Langston Hughes and Zora Hurston honored the dialects that Mr. Cosby

criticized as a lack of language proficiency that further denies opportunity

to inner city blacks. “Clearly, Mr. Farley did not speak in dialect on ‘Good

Morning America’ nor would he probably have been hired by Time if he spoke

that way. Secondly, someone should question Mr. Farley whether Mr. Hughes or

Ms. Hurston knew standard English and chose to write in dialect.”

“I feel that I can no longer remain silent. If I have to make a choice

between keeping quiet so that conservative media does not speak negatively or

ringing the bell to galvanize those who want change in the lower economic

community, then I choose to be a bell ringer.”

Someone a few months back in the blogosphere, and I wish I knew where, said that at the beginning of the last century there was an articulated difference between those who had the “bad things happened–let’s just plow through it because we’re better than that” attitude versus the “bad things happened–someone owes us” attitude. Seems to me Cosby’s catching heat for precisely this reason.

MilBlogs Memorial Day: X-Craft

Filed under: — Chap @ 2:31 pm

Update: This post is from five years ago, when the world was a little different and there were more veterans alive than today. Due to the comment below, I’m sticking this on the front page for the 65th anniversary of D-Day. Over on Twitter I linked this S.L.A. Marshall description of the invasion; it’s hard reading but sometimes hard must be done.

Initially published 30 May 2004

New York Times front page, courtesy of the Library of Congress

Today, my friends and classmates meet in Talloires and Normandy, for a reunion and to be present for the sixtieth anniversary of the D-Day invasion. I cannot attend because I go to sea too soon and I wish I were there. I would gladly violate my personal boycott of French products for this occasion.

This isn’t emotional writing–it’s just history, and history that affects how I do my job today.

The American submarine force defines itself through its actions in the Pacific. The British submarine force, however, had significant exploits in the Atlantic. One of these operations enabled D-Day to happen.

In the Pacific, the US submarines Nautilus and Argonaut, small diesel boats, embarked two hundred and twenty two Marines led by a Colonel Carlson, who had spent time in China and took the phrase “work together”–gung ho–for the Marines’s own. They performed a raid on Makin Island. While the Marines were ashore the submarines went destroyer hunting. Upon the completion of the raid, some of the Marines weren’t there. They had been captured by the Japanese and beheaded.

I had the honor, once, of meeting some of these Marines, although I didn’t understand who these geezers were at the time. (Yes, I was an idiot.) I just knew they had done something important that they wouldn’t talk about. Fifty-some years later, they went back and found their compatriots and brought them home.

Some important lessons about amphibious warfare were learned on the Makin Island raid. More painful lessons were learned at the cost of innumerable Canadians at an early landing in Dieppe–on the tactical level, it was a bloody disaster on the level of a Gallipoli attack. Strategically, the Dieppe landing bought time and more importantly taught lessons that paid off on D-Day.

One lesson learned by the British was that you had to know where you were landing and what type of beach you were landing at. For this, they used a team called the COPP, and small submarines called X-Craft.

Tiny, weak, short legged X-Craft were small boats. A lieutenant commanded. They were towed to their operation area, a dangerous and exhausting feat in itself. They could carry things–explosives on a belt on the outside–but also small boats with people in it.

In other amphibious landings, some landing craft discharged troops in the wrong place, or landed where the sand was too soft for the machinery, causing men to die before they even could get to the beach. To counter this, pairs of men were put on tiny folding canoes and sent out on the submarines to perform beach feasibility surveys (what we call them today, anyway). In my last ship we did much the same as they did them–but we ride in a lot more comfort, and they invented it.

The survey complete, the X-craft beached themselves and turned lights on as navigation beacons for the ships riding in. The Americans refused this help and some of their craft landed a mile off target.

From a local history:

The southeastern tip of the Island housed the Most Secret of all establishments. COPP (Combined Operations Pilotage Parties) was based in what is now Hayling Island Sailing Club: a band of adventurers who had volunteered for Special Service without being told what this involved! Here the 57 officers and men, expert canoeists, swimmers and survivalists -trained in all weathers in strictest secrecy. Like the famous Cockleshell Heroes, their targets were those impossible for conventional attack and usually so dangerous that a COPP mission was regarded as a one-way ticket. COPPs specialised in the unorthodox – and on many occasions it worked.

Midget submarines, or Xcraft, 50ft long, 6ft wide, displacing 30 tons, were crewed by COPPists. Packed together inside were diesel engines (2 Gardineror Perkins), electric motor, air compressor, batteries, escape compartment-cum-heads, and canisters to re-cycle foul air. Then there was the crew and their gear, all the navigation and signalling instrumentation, food, water – every inch of space held some piece of equipment, some lever or wheel…or the cramped men. Keeping silence during a mission meant no movement: the hull plating was only 3/8 inch thick: in fact the crew could hear German asdic pinging off their hull, time for evasive action! Xcraft of the 12th Submarine Flotilla played a vital role on D-Day. They were to guide inthe first assault boats to the correct landing areas of Sword and Juno beaches. COPPists on an advance recce, using canoes, had secured samples from these beaches which proved the ground suitable for the advance-guard heavy tanks. Canoes used were folboats and could carry 480lbs; a tiny sail of camouflaged parachute silk could be hoisted on the mast, whose other function was for mounting a powerful signalling lamp.

A photo survey from the Museum of World War Two

A photo survey from the Museum of World War Two

Lt George Honour, RNVR had (most unusually) been briefed about the D-Day COPPs mission three weeks in advance. Such was the degree of secrecy demanded that he dared not go for a run ashore during that tense waiting period. He was to command X23 with a Sub/Lt and an Engine-Room Artificer as crew, but taking two extra men: navigation experts. This made for much increased discomfort in the tiny vessel.

X23 was ordered to sail on 2nd June, and was towed towards the French coast. Here the midget submarine was submerged for l7hrs 59mins. This detailing of the EXACT length of time indicates the ghastly strain of prolonged inactivity in confined quarters and foul air. On June 3rd they moved cautiously to within 1 & 1/2 miles of the beach, and checking their position through the periscope found they were spot-on – and German soldiers could be seen playing on the beach!

Expecting 5th June to be D-Day, the Xcraft thankfully surfaced after a further 12 hours underwater, to await their coded message via the BBC. Nothing. In great anxiety they tuned in again at 01.00: Invasion postponed 24 hours; this meant an extra 24 hours of hell waiting on the bottom. At 04.45 on 6th June they surfaced for action and flashed the guiding lights for the in-coming armada as planned. The crew watched landing-craft forging ahead to the beach and our troops swarming down the ramps to wade ashore, ant-like on the great sweep of sand.

The job done, X23 turned away for its rendezvous with HMS Largs; this proved the most dangerous time of the whole operation. Vessels of every kind were charging towards the shore – nothing should stand in their way now – least of all a tiny, barely visible midget submarine!

These guys were in desperate times, living in small metal tubes to try and make a difference. They were the first to land at D-Day. They weren’t celebrated in movies and song. They knew the chances were slim–three X-craft didn’t return from the Tirpitz attack just previously. But they did it anyway.

And they weren’t American. They were brothers-in-arms saving American lives with their efforts.

For this Decoration Day, I hope you will take a thought about the sacrifices being made around the world by all of us, and the Americans who died hard and without recognition–but who made the difference. Let us strive to live up to their ideals.


Some further reading:

USS Clueless – Notes on press bias

Filed under: — Chap @ 2:29 am

Den Beste is trying an experiment by posting his notes. I’ve done that on this site, for instance here, here and here.

So here’s a response in kind.

Irritating Pedantic Quibbles(irritating to den Beste, unfortunately, I think)

  • Some news organizations are not businesses–specifically government funded ones. This can be good or not (BBC 1945 vs. BBC 2003, Indian state TV news in 1970 vs. Indian state TV news today). It might have an effect on the shape of the model.
  • How does journalist and editor knowledge of the list of sampling error affect the news? Apparently not much.
  • How would the news environment that helped blow the USS Maine explosion reportage into the Spanish-American War be related? What use is that time frame in thinking about the media today?

Model Tweaks

  • Is the problem of who does news unnecessarily mixed into the model of what organizations do news? Is the move from blue collar to white collar and then professional J-schoolie different from the move from smaller independent media to bigger media attached to diversified companies? (Internal culture of reporters is part of this but not all.)
  • Is the issue as much sampling error is it is innumeracy, inability to present data (shades of Tufte versus USA Today), and utter lack of knowledge of the subject in specialist fields? P.J. O’Rourke got unique insights by hanging out and reporting that rather than looking to report stories.
  • There might be something to the effect news sources have on us as a society. The reporters certainly reveal their intent to influence–in unguarded moments.

Good Points

  • Floods of data are not knowledge. Filters and aggregators (data processors) are more important. That’s one big reason Instapundit is so popular.
  • There is no form of evidence which can be fully trusted. Well, yeah. What do we as citizens do with that knowledge is as important in the general sense.
  • The days of Murrow and Cronkite are gone. However, we’ve recently remembered here in the blogosphere how Cronkite’s opinion while reporting directly influenced Johnson’s decision not to seek reelection. Maybe that part is still here–or people want it to be. I realize that wasn’t his point but still might be important.

So, what kind of model is Mr. den Beste building here? I see he several times says something like it’s complex or unworkable. Maybe a better model can be teased out despite this complexity.

May 29, 2004

More About That Interview

Filed under: — Chap @ 9:40 pm

Maybe it took an interviewer with a different framework to get the kind of discussion I was wanting from President Bush.

I’m commenting here about the interview I mentioned about three posts down in my link dump. I’m not writing here to discuss my own faith, but I can say mine is not President Bush’s. However, in his words and actions here it’s clear he understands how to be a secular leader with a strong faith. He also isn’t kidding about being humble, strange as that may be to a European shocked at the actions our country has taken during this administration.

Do you have a particular message for Pope John Paul II, whom you will be meeting with shortly?

No. I’m there to listen. I will respond. If I would even dare give him a message it would be, “Hold the line.” … This will be my third visit with the Holy Father and I’ve been in awe in his presence. He is a strong man. He’s got a huge presence and it’s an honor to be with him. It truly is. He’ll have something to say. Believe me, he’ll use this as an opportunity to talk about a world problem or an issue, and he’ll do it in a loving way. I mean he’s the kind of person that makes you feel good.

I have had a small epiphany here. The dialogue between right and left has gotten nasty, with many on one side of the aisle being rather, um, focused in their dislike of the President. I saw some of this with President Clinton, who bore a lot of contemptuous speech from the military rank and file, but this is different.

I finally figured it out reading this thing. Pres. Bush is engaging in organizational change. The visceral reaction is similar to the reaction I saw around the Pentagon among senior leaders when the CNO started changing things–and as an aside I talked to my neighbor yesterday, who still characterizes his decision to get out of the Navy in the 1970’s as due to Zumwalt’s “orders that made the enlisted man not respect the officers any more” (translated: Zumwalt changed the culture and the old regime didn’t like it).

Change causes resentment, hate and discontent. Leaders who cause change pay a personal toll. President Bush must be effecting that change because the resentment has built in a significant way. But the man takes the long view.

Talk to you about history real quick. A president shouldn’t worry about how history will judge him. I’ll never know. I’ll know how short term history will judge me, if I’d ever read the editorial pages I’d figure it out, because they’re the ones writing the history. But when we try to do big things—accomplish big objectives—whether it be cultural change, or … the struggle we’re in—it’s going to take a while for history to really judge the accomplishments of a president and the true impact of a presidency. If you’re doing little things, then maybe 20 years from now we’ll be able to figure it out … But with big things it’s going to take awhile. And so when you hear this thing about, “Well he’s worried about his standing in history.” I’m not. And most short-term history will be written by people who didn’t particularly want me to be President to begin with.

He understands the personal cost of change well. Look at his comments here about Franklin Roosevelt.

Which presidents do you most admire?

Lincoln. Lincoln because he had a vision of the United States when he could have easily succumbed to pressures and said, “Let’s just end this thing quick and we’ll have two countries.” Lincoln because of the Emancipation Proclamation. Lincoln because he kept—in the midst of a country that was at war with each other—he kept this great vision of hope. You know, I’m reading the Alexander Hamilton book now, and I’m learning more about George Washington. It’s very instructive, by the way, to see what it was like during the Articles of Confederation. Here we live in a world where in one year’s time you know, democracy is supposed to be flourishing in Iraq and there’s those expectations. … We had trouble getting there ourselves that quickly. … You know, I just don’t know that much about him. I’d say Lincoln is the one I admire.

You know, I admired Reagan. He was a historic president because he, by sheer force of optimism, personality, and management style, was able to set a better standard for the presidency and lift the spirits of the country. He was a defining President.

Franklin Roosevelt. Here’s a guy who, in the face of another “ism,” saw the problems clearly and led. He led this country. The lend-lease program was contrary to popular opinion. It was said that it would cause his impeachment. Obviously, it failed. Yet he saw the stakes and led. He did what he felt was right and stood his ground.

It’s very interesting, I’ve got a brilliant guy who works for me and Mike Gerson—writes a lot of my speeches. And this person said, “You know the interesting thing about Franklin Roosevelt”—this is really in regards to the speech I’m going to give Saturday at the World War II memorial—”is that he was a president who, as his energy got drained from his body during his presidency, energy entered into the American body. This is a country that came out of Depression, was isolationist, refused to accept its responsible place in history, and rose up as a giant democracy. And Roosevelt’s body went from strong to weak during that period. It’s like he gave his soul for the process. … ”

I admire presidents who can see where they’re going and have the courage to lead—the tenacity and the will to lead.

Yep, it’s change that’s happening. This will be an interesting decade, seeing if and how this change happens.

(Hat tip, again: LGF)

Reporting in Baghdad Is Tough

Filed under: — Chap @ 3:32 pm

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this guy before. He asked for donations to send him to Iraq–and for that donation, he’d report for you. It is a great way to get some unfiltered news with a slightly different bias.

He’s reporting frustration with just getting his job done. I know the feeling–on the ship, as a staff, it once took an entire day just to make one successful phone call. And I have the advantage of being in homeport and not shot at like he’s having to deal with.

He’s got hard words to say. I’d believe it from him before I believed it from a CNN reporter, because this guy tells you what he’s going through to get the story and what his frame is to the best of his ability. He’s got his bias, I have mine, and there is enough in there that I can glean something iseful from it.

Oh, and unlike the CNN guy he didn’t spend a decade suppressing news that might prove bad to Saddam, like the truth.

Here’s the latest link. It’s worth the couple of bucks I paid.

Back to Iraq 3.0: Dear Friends

A Confession

Filed under: — Chap @ 3:14 pm

I confess–This waiting is killing me.

I am waiting for a selection board to determine my fate.

There are two types of boards in the military:

  1. Statutory boards, where Congress has laid down the rules by which the selection is made. This is what’s done for promotions to Commander or Captain, for instance.
  2. Administrative boards, where the service has a little more leeway. They determine just about everything else. They’re run almost the same as statutory boards because that helps protect against unfairness or excessive whiners.

The problem is that option 2 determines option 1. If you haven’t served in command it is much harder (read: impossible) to make rank after a certain point. Given our DOPMA regulations, that means that you get sent home after a period of time. That also means that one’s influence, the ability to get something done, plummets–unless very talented and very lucky.

I’m fine with that–the older one is, the harder it is to change the way things are done on the fly, and everyone including the CNO gets told to go home at some point–but my future mission options depend on the results of this one board. (I’ve had enough chances; this is my last shot.)

But. My chain of command includes no submariners. My commodore is TAD working with the Marines, as is everyone else who outranks me. The list is made, but at this time the organization plays “I’ve Got A Secret” until all the commanding officers have a chance to debrief all the selectees and nonselectees in person.

So I have no one to tell me what the status is, the gag order doesn’t lift for days after the weekend, and I have all of this weekend to worry about it.

I confess–this waiting is killing me.

Now Things Fit Together

Filed under: — Chap @ 2:51 pm

At the beginning of OIF there were indications that a blonde girl, part of a group of support personnel, was part of a convoy that missed a turn and got ambushed. Many were killed in a meeting engagement.

I say “there were indications” because the word was that this girl kicked ass. Clips used up, knifed, many enemy dead, our last woman standing was fighting hard and disappeared from the information net. We back in D.C. got this info–and I remember being amazed at the grit of this kid, walking the halls of the office telling people what we learned.

Later they rescued the kid and the press had a huge field day about the rescue. Then there was a backlash–oh why was this kid so famous, it’s not fair, et cetera. Note that “because it was dramatic video to us media types” was not used as a reason for the press attention.

I figured the foofraw over the rescue mission was just a case of “first reports are always wrong and always believed”. We’d have gone in whether or not; but there were folks like me who knew the first reports, and maybe some of those talked to reported on deep background.

Turns out there was some truth to those reports, just different. A different guy, in the same convoy, also got captured. He fought like a wounded lion, and then after he was captured the bastards shot him in the back.

So, there you have it. Convoy abmushed on an otherwise slow news week battlewise. Video of a rescue of a young woman soldier. The behind the scenes info causing the leaks or changing the narrative frame (them’s what know, ain’t telling, and them’s what’s telling don’t know). Spectacular heroism by a man who got caught in a bad place and died hard. Our mess cooks are still better fighters than their special forces.

Medals are won only when someone is there watching who can do the paperwork. Hundreds of medals are earned every day. Sometimes people even get credit for them.

This other heroism is the missing piece. It is why the Private Lynch story played the way it did.

Private Lynch had lots of attention, but she still barely survived a bad car accident, harsh treatment as a prisoner of war, and the burden of press attention and survivor’s guilt. She has a lot of life left to have this wear on her, no matter what went down that day.

SGT Walters, rest in peace. You died a hero, died hard, actions unknown but for the dedication of your mates and family. We won’t forget you this Memorial Day.

Link Dump

Filed under: — Chap @ 12:32 pm

Steven den Beste has a wonderful piece touching on the long term price those who survive pay in war–and how it can be handled with grace. With the lifesaving equipment we have now, things like this may become more common than not–although each war seems to have its specific kind of wounded.

Via Little Green Footballs, an interview with President Bush in Christianity Today. The poll to the left of it, by the way, completely misses the point. Related, and related to my earlier comment about the franchise nature of this warfare, is this post about how a small town used its clout to intervene in Sudan. Although I’m aware that the nation’s foreign policy must be executed at the national level, this group worked in support of that policy well. (Hat tip: Bunker.)

LGF also points to a new news aggregator that looks very interesting. On the front page is a link to video of Palestinian armed gunmen using UN ambulances for troop carriers.

Jason is in Iraq and has another great email. I recommend you subscribe. I am not linking to his secret photo page, of course, but it’s good.

If you want some Pacific news action, you could do worse than this military site.

On a lighter note: This little movie, via B3ta, is one of the cuter things I have seen in a while.

The Endless Argument

Filed under: — Chap @ 10:42 am

Usually in blog comment posts you get some guy who flings off a flame referring to the war and off to the races you go.

This guy seems to be a little more calm, if [arrogant]wrong[/arrogant].

So, here’s the thread and my responses.

This kind of pinging back and forth was the final third of my master’s program. Sometimes folks learned things. Sometimes, more often, not.

May 27, 2004

Stop The Problem, Stop The Clock

Filed under: — Chap @ 10:52 pm

Six very nice words to hear, because they mean that people stop shooting at me.

We were in a building pretending to be a deployed Expeditionary Strike Group. The ships all had watches set in the building, some flown in for the occasion. When I was on watch, I was in a room with a bunch of computer screens trying to look like my watchstation on the ship, and other rooms were other “ships” all linked up together. We had our radios, our books, our lists of immediate actions…and a couple of dozen senior guys waiting to play bad guy.

One of the better ideas over the last few years is to build this kind of training setup. The best training is to go actually do it, but to train a staff, it makes sense not to have all those ships with all those people on it go to sea solely for that reason. In addition, you can make some bad mistakes, learn from them, and not kill anybody on your side.

I consider that last part a plus.

We had a lot of contingency work to do–this is a small staff compared to the carriers (let’s see…they have an entire destroyer squadron staff, under their admiral, even though they have two CruDes ships and we’ve got three. They’ve got several submarine officers doing what I do, including an O-6 or senior O-5; here; you get me. They’ve got a full time xx guy, we have a LTjg with big collateral duties. Yup, this is a small staff). We did pretty well.

I spent a lot of time on gamesmanship on watch. You have to show the people evaluating you that you are doing what you are supposed to, so you have to be like a theater actor in a large house with bad sound, enunciating your actions so the instructor weenies don’t ping you. So I was overbearing and loud. Not that this is hard for me, by the way. Some of the junior officers working for me got a few “accelerated learning experiences”. Sometimes these two events were not related….

The scenario reflected some recent events, which was good. One set of folks has been very creative in solving some hard problems while deployed, and we are chomping at the bit to try these out, but the opportunity didn’t quite present itself in this scenario. On the other hand, we worked through some very nasty possibilites at sea and figured out how to prioritize the threats and manage the assets so that we didn’t get any undue risk. (I’m being deliberately vague here; you get the picture.)

On a rare break from emergency planning and standing watch, I went to grab a fat pill. On the TV was the announcement that they finally captured the loathsome London imam who’s been roaming free to direct war against us (Hamzi). What an ugly person in looks as well as heart.

One of the hardest things to deal with in this kind of situation is that in order to check certain skills or to ensure we know what to do when a certain situation occurs, the trainers set up “gotcha” moments. And there are a lot of egos flapping around–we’re all confident, we’re all forceful. So the “gotchas” sometimes get a little contentious. We have a good attitude, though, and dealt with it, learning what to learn instead of merely resenting the “gotcha”.

After entirely too much waiting, we got our grades and “improvement opportunities” (sensitive students we are. I would actually have thought slides that said “You Screwed Up Here” entertaining!) listed. We’ll work on those at sea soon enough…

Another In The Older Article Series

Filed under: — Chap @ 10:29 pm

In a previous job I worked with some very interesting people. At one point I had to scramble to find this article by Bernard Lewis.

I actually got to meet him once in a room full of Iraqi expats back in 2002. He was a rotund, happy fellow with an ascot and British accent, twinkling eyes, and much respect from the others in the room.

I have since learned that he is well known, and the antithesis of Edward Said.

The article is titled “The Revolt Of Islam“. Please take a look.


While I’m mentioning it, here’s the link to a pay site (NY Review of Books) with Lewis’s review that started a grand fight. Here’s the free part, since I’m too cheap to buy the article and too lazy to get it from the library:

Imagine a situation in which a group of patriots and radicals from Greece decides that the profession of classical studies is insulting to the great heritage of Hellas, and that those engaged in these studies, known as classicists, are the latest manifestation of a deep and evil conspiracy, incubated for centuries, hatched in Western Europe, fledged in America, the purpose of which is to denigrate the Greek achievement and subjugate the Greek lands and peoples. In this perspective, the entire European tradition of classical studies—largely the creation of French romantics, British colonial governors (of Cyprus, of course), and of poets, professors, and proconsuls from both countries—is a long-standing insult to the honor and integrity of Hellas, and a threat to its future. The poison has spread from Europe to the United States, where the teaching of Greek history, language, and literature in the universities is dominated by the evil race of classicists—men and women who are not of Greek origin, who have no sympathy for Greek causes, and who, under a false mask of dispassionate scholarship, strive to keep the Greek people in a state of permanent subordination.

The time has come to save Greece from the classicists and bring the whole pernicious tradition of classical scholarship to an end. Only Greeks are truly able to teach and write on Greek history and culture from remote antiquity to the present day; only Greeks are genuinely competent to direct and conduct programs of academic studies in these fields. Some non-Greeks may be permitted to join in this great endeavor provided that they give convincing evidence of their competence, as for example by campaigning for the Greek cause in Cyprus, by demonstrating their ill will to the Turks, by offering a pinch of incense to the currently enthroned Greek gods, and by adopting whatever may be the latest fashionable ideology in Greek intellectual circles. Non-Greeks who will not or cannot meet these requirements are obviously hostile, and therefore not equipped to teach Greek studies in a fair and reasonable manner. They must not be permitted to hide behind the mask of classicism, but must be revealed for what they are—Turk-lovers, enemies of the Greek people, and opponents of the Greek cause. Those already established in academic circles must be discredited by abuse and thus neutralized; at the same time steps must be taken to ensure Greek or pro-Greek control of university centers and departments of Greek studies and thus, by a kind of academic prophylaxis, prevent the emergence of any further classical scholars or scholarship. In the meantime the very name of classicist must be transformed into a term of abuse.

Stated in terms of classics and Greek, the picture is absurd. But if for classicist we substitute “Orientalist,” with the appropriate accompanying changes, this amusing fantasy becomes an alarming reality. For some years now a hue and cry has been raised against Orientalists in American and to a lesser extent European universities, and the term “Orientalism” has been emptied of its previous content and given an entirely new one—that of unsympathetic or hostile treatment of Oriental peoples. For that matter, even the terms “unsympathetic” and “hostile” have been redefined to mean not supportive of currently fashionable creeds or causes.

Lewis continues and it ain’t pretty, boys and girls.

Anyhow. I haven’t seen a comment in a while, so I figure I’m becoming that pathetic figure that the New York Times says bloggers are. That article “The Revolt of Islam” is worth a click anyway.

May 26, 2004

He Has Seen The Neocons…

Filed under: — Chap @ 11:09 pm

The director of the Defense and Security Committee of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly has a good article in Policy Review (and published in the Wall Street Journal here) that is not a bad introduction to those who haven’t already ingested Kagan’s “Of Paradise and Power”, Mead’s work on Wilsonians, Jacksonians et al, and so forth, duisguised as an essay on “neoconservatives”. It’s worth a look.

Cynics may be correct that many U.S. citizens are unaware of the actual content of the Constitution, but they are very aware of its basic purpose: to restrict the power of the government in the name of individual liberty. The U.S. Constitution is essentially a product of 18th-century Enlightenment thought that elevates the protection of individual liberty as a core purpose of government. As a result, many of the rights set down in it are protections against the intrusion of the state (e.g., “Congress shall make no law . . .”). Regardless of the number of individuals who can cite chapter and verse from the Constitution, most understand that it is a document designed to protect the citizen from an overreaching government.

This is a very different social contract from what is found in European constitutions. Those documents were generally drafted later and reflect social democratic ideas arising in the 19th century. As a result, they often establish expanded conceptions of what the state will provide its citizens, including social security, housing, and even environmental protection. Often those same constitutions also spell out what the citizen is expected to give the state in return, such as obligatory military service.

The difference is quite fundamental. The U.S. Constitution puts a premium on individual liberty and freedom from governmental interference in the citizens’ daily affairs. Most European constitutions place a premium on social harmony, reserving the right of the state to more directly affect the lives of its citizens for the provision of specific public goods. One can argue that those documents are a reflection of the values found in their societies or, conversely, that the values found in society are imposed by the system of governance flowing from the founding document. Either way, the end result is that Europe and the United States hold up different ideas about the role of government and the ideals that undergird the political system.

We should be skeptical of making vast generalizations based on such a cursory look at a few documents–clearly there are exceptions–but the assessment presented here is a condensation of longstanding comparative analyses. What is important to note, however, is that it is precisely those principles that distinguish the United States from Europe that neoconservatives have invoked to argue for the current direction of American foreign policy.

Grand conspiracy theories are not needed to explain the direction of American foreign policy. What is needed is an appreciation of the core ideas that have guided it over the years and how those ideas differ from what is found in European political thought. If the trans-Atlantic relationship is to recover from the current rift, it is important to understand the roots of the differences

May 25, 2004

A Little Inside Baseball

Filed under: — Chap @ 9:50 pm

As we wait for the second coming of Allah, perhaps a conspiracy theory that would be interesting to you:

American Digest: Allah Leaves Andy Kaufman Returns: Coincidence? I Think Not.

An Interesting Graduation Speech

Filed under: — Chap @ 8:48 pm

Via my friend F., who got invited to speak at this year’s GMAP graduation, comes this speech from Richard Lugar. I think it fit the idea of a graduation speech a lot better than some other graduation speeches I’ve been to.

We are sending you into a world that is uncertain and dangerous. We are asking you to be emissaries of international engagement within governments, corporations, schools, and communities that will not always recognize the urgency of solving global problems.

This is not new for Fletcher School graduates. The School itself was founded in troubled times. In 1933, this country and much of the world had entered the Great Depression. Many Americans believed that isolationism and protective tariffs would insulate our society and our economy from greater harm. This mistaken notion contributed to a deepening of the Depression and the onset of World War II. Today we face different global challenges, but the impulse to turn inward in difficult times is still present.

The experience of September 11, 2001, re-taught a grim lesson that our nation has periodically had to re-learn: trouble will find us whether or not we choose to be involved in the world. Because advances in transportation and communication have shrunk the world and because the United States is now universally regarded as the most powerful nation on Earth, this condition is inescapable.

The world is not benign if left alone. Our security depends on innumerable factors beyond our sovereign control. It may depend on educational practices in Pakistan, security at biological laboratories in Russia, or the skill of cyber-detectives in Germany. Similarly, our economic prosperity and environmental quality are deeply affected by the practices of nations far beyond our continent. Even maintaining individual health, once the sole province of the family doctor, now depends also on international epidemiologists and globally marketed pharmaceuticals.

My European friend expressed surprise that a speech that called for more effort and resources directed to diplomacy, and improvement in the international negotiation processes in the U.S. that result in unsatisfactory international agreements we have to refuse, was issued by a Republican.

To which I can only reply: C’est Eurosimplisme, non?

Wonder what he’ll say about that

May 24, 2004

Another Great Letter

Filed under: — Chap @ 9:45 pm

Via Smash, this spectacular letter from a Marine in the thick of it.

I could tell you stories of individual heroics of Iraqi soldiers. One specific example is of an Iraqi SgtMaj who came into our lines during the first days of fighting in Falluja. He made his way through the mujahadeen and risked being killed by us to tell us that he was concerned about the ICDC (Iraqi Civil Defense Corps) armory in town. He knew it was only a matter of time until the muj went for the armory to take the weapons. Honestly, I would have thought that they had already done it as the police stations and every other good piece of ground seemed to be occupied by the muj by that time. In short, he wanted to let us know that he was going back into the town to get the weapons. The Marines asked him if he wanted us to help. No. He only wanted us to take the weapons from him when he came back through. This guy took a couple young Iraqi soldiers with a truck and drove back through our lines into the hornets nest of Falluja. He went to the armory, emptied the weapons and ammo stored there and brought it back out through the fighting to us. We expected him to want to stay with us or to move on to Baghdad or some other safe area. He refused and stated that he was going back into the city as that was where his duty was. Not a coward by even the most cynical standard.

He’s also got a great analysis of the pressures facing the Iraqi trying to improve his homeland. The website is of letters home and really fascinating stuff–I saw some of it excerpted in Belmont Club earlier and didn’t know it. It’s going on the sidebar.

What I Told The School

Filed under: — Chap @ 9:35 pm

Here is what I sent off to my old high school at their request, for your perusal and frenetic derision. I’ll let you know what gets printed. It’s under the “more” tag–click it to relieve insomnia–and you’ve seen some of this before.


Training Starts Up

Filed under: — Chap @ 9:27 pm

Unlike this weekend, where I risked permanent carpal tunnel posting about all sorts of things, this work week will be lighter. The training we’re doing necessitates that I get home, oh, about 2030 or so. At least it did today.

May 23, 2004

170 Miles Run For $130

Filed under: — Chap @ 11:33 pm

Via Mudville Gazette, a call to act.

PRESS RELEASE: Project ChildHelp, Inc. and Runner Alex Estrella Join to Help Raise Funds for Orphans in the Memory of Michelle Witmer, an American Soldier from Milwaukee, who was Killed in Iraq on April 9, 2004. The Memorial Run for Michelle Witmer is Scheduled for Armed Forces Day (Run from May 13 – May 16, 2004) from Miami Beach, FL, to Key West, FL.

They only got a hundred and thirty bucks.

For crying out loud.

I found the PayPal button on the site and hit it. How about you?

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