June 29, 2004

Keegan on OIF 1 and the USMC

Filed under: — Chap @ 11:23 pm

People are talking about this article, and it’s all over the ‘sphere for the hour: John Keegan’s The Iraq War on National Review Online. Keegan is of course a very good military author (even though I first learned about him from a great polemic by Christopher Bassford!). So Keegan is well regarded as these things go.

I would like to point out something in the article. He mentions the Marines as a preferred force of choice, and if I read it right he gives this as the reason:

It is the uniformly ‘Marine’ character of the three United States Marine Corps divisions that give them their formidable fighting power. Even in the highly cohesive modern US Army, slight fault lines exist between infantry, armour, artillery and helicopter units; they are recruited separately and trained separately, at camps owned by the branch to which they belong. Marines, by contrast, all join together and train together and are Marines before they are infantry, armour or artillery. The mythology of the Marines, expressed in the Marine Hymn and the motto, Semper Fidelis (Always Faithful), together with a litany of Corps slogans ? including ‘A Marine Never Dies’ ? has poetic truth. If a recruit chooses to think otherwise, he will be put straight by the long-service NCO of the Corps, gunnery sergeants and sergeant-majors, who are tradition’s ultimate guardians. Marines are admired throughout the American armed forces and beyond, particularly by the British army and Royal Marines, who served with the USMC in Korea and the First Gulf War.

What Keegan doesn’t mention here is that the Marines had a faster and therefore more effective drive to Baghdad, and it wasn’t because they have short hair and catchy “Rrrrrr” growls when you walk by and they’re happy. The reason is twofold:

Marine units are self contained. Marines come in a package of force that sustains itself for a certain period. They already have all of their stuff, which Army didn’t have in place. When a MEB goes, it goes with all its stuff, and if you want more than the sustained period, there is a plan that gets tried out regularly to keep the stuff flowing.

I’m talking lots of stuff. Gas, beans, bullets, band-aids, you name it. It’s a lot of logistics, and that leads to the other reason the Marines did well:

Marines deploy regularly. Marines, as a single unit of force with lots of people, get on a ship with a bunch of Navy guys and sail far away. With all their stuff. On a regular basis. Army guys have not done this on a regular basis. I have not seen Air Force guys, even with the new expeditionary buzzwords, take the time to move everything useful for warfighting at Seymour Johnson AFB and send it to somewhere remote for an extended period.

I have seen this in little things like getting individuals to leave their command and go to a joint command for a short period. Army and Air Force aren’t used to this like Navy and Marines are–we’re more used to dealing with letting two guys in SK division go away for six months. It’s an expeditionary mindset versus a garrison mindset that gives you an advantage when war is a “come as you are” event.

That’s why STOM–Ship-to-Objective Maneuver–fits well with the CNO’s “Sea Basing” idea. They’ve been working to use the sea as a land maneuver space at the same time we’ve been working to improve the capabilities we have in our sovereign territory aboard ship–and both dovetail into a small force that can avoid the pain the Army had to go through when an armored division couldn’t get permission to land in Turkey to get to Iraq from the north.

Combine this all with the Marine love of the OODA loop and you get a little more insight into why the Marines could provide forces and take cities when Army could not (happened more than once during the war). It contributes to the phrase I heard in the Pentagon after the war that “this was the Marines’ decade.”

But don’t let on that I actually said anything nice about Marines. They’ll never believe you.

Professor Barnett’s Radio Wrestling Match

Filed under: — Chap @ 4:02 pm

On Point : The Pentagon’s New Map – 6/24/2004 is a radio program with Tom Barnett, Jack Beatty (senior Atlantic Monthly person), and a forceful moderator.

I must admit I was biased before listening to the program; I saw Barnett’s presentation right after the Esquire article and before the book came out. Although I’m not a devout follower, I was receptive to the prickly Professor Barnett’s views before I listened to the radio show.

That said, listening to this guy Beatty was unpleasant–to me it sounded like emotional assertions of how bad Barnett was without the reasoning to back up why Barnett’s ideas sucked so badly. (Maybe it’s my own bias against discussion shows on TV that sound like screaming matches.) It seems that Beatty is wrapped around his view of Iraq and that prevents him from even considering the rest of the world–and situations that drove the US into small wars as described by Max Boot in the book The Savage Wars Of Peace. Beatty also doesn’t seem to offer an alternative in his raking. (Actually, the one recommendation he makes–lifting agricultural subsidies worldwide–actually frees global trade and makes more globalization!)

I now understand why I liked the Atlantic so much a few years ago (Michael Kelly), and don’t like it so much nowadays.

Update: Do’h! Forgot to hat tip John Robb for the link!

June 28, 2004

IraqNow Alert…Coelecanth Found Alive

Filed under: — Chap @ 1:48 pm

I just met a midshipman on the ship.

The mid goes to college. He’s a junior. He’s studying journalism.

Journalism. At a fairly good J-school. With a minor in English Lit.

I talked to him for a little while–gave him what must have been a terrifying data dump about information warfare, what public affairs guys do (much different jobs), the difference between internal and external communication for large organizations, what public affairs guidance really means, narrative frames, why the Navy doesn’t do video press kits (hint: we’ve never done it before), who built the embedding program, why and what was good and bad about it, why he should care about thermodynamics, the works. I think the poor kid was dazed by the time he left my clutches. But a good dazed.

He mentioned how tough it was to be in ROTC and in journalism class. I have sympathy–I took shorthand in high school once, and was the chief engineer at the college radio station in LLLland, so I know about being the odd man out. He definitely was feeling like a fish out of water–hope he does okay.

It doesn’t help that the ship he’s doing his summer cruise on is tied to the pier. It takes extra special mentoring to help a midshipman learn well in that kind of situation.

So let’s say the kid makes it through and does his time in the Nav. What an opportunity to understand the world a little better! And what an opportunity for a pressroom to get someone with a little experience!


Filed under: — Chap @ 12:48 pm

All four of you know this stuff already.

Page 19. Four years ago.

This page, one year ago.

One more got paid for but not published.

One outline for an article that didn’t get finished before the subject got stale.

One should have been finished a long time ago.

One of these days I need to get off the stick.

Fire huh huh Fire

Filed under: — Chap @ 12:45 pm

I’ll be hosting the Bonfire of the Vanities in a lame attempt to get readers to my even more lame site. By gum, I’m going to get to Instapundit levels in two weeks or I’m going to be really disappointed.

What? Why are you giggling like that?


So, the Bonfire is kind of like the Carnival Of The Vanities, where people send in the best posts they see and all of them get put in one convenient place. Except that the Bonfire is where you supposedly send the worst posts so they can be ritually derided and scorned in the privacy of your own home. The current Bonfire will be the anniversary Bonfire, sort of like that one that got out of control about a year ago…check out WizBangBlog to see what the “worst of the worst” is going to be!

Kevin Aylward says:

Bonfire of the Vanities entries are due by Monday at midnight EDT. Send a link to your worst post along with any self serving excuses or clever self mocking to: bonfire at

That means I get to host this thing on 6 July, so I’ll be slaving over the Fourth weekend just for you. Get to it.

As for me, I’ll be looking for my worst post possible this week, and there’s a lot of competition here.

June 27, 2004

Nobody Got The Joke…

Filed under: — Chap @ 1:32 pm

about Molvania

June 26, 2004

Leo Strauss?

Filed under: — Chap @ 12:42 pm

So I keep hearing about this Strauss guy. Usually in the same phrase as “Jewish neocon cabal.” Who the heck is Strauss?

He even showed up in the weekly humor page I used to look at until it became a cri de coeur against our current government. So, it’s time for a little research, and you readers are to benefit. I think.

I first read this Public Interest article from folks who work at the Weekly Standard.

The controversy turns on a legitimate question: “What was Strauss up to?” – or, more precisely, “What was Strauss’s intention?” But it would be misleading to attempt to understand Strauss by ascribing to him an influence, whether beneficial or nefarious, on current policy debates, and then inferring from the alleged influence what his aims really were. It makes far more sense to turn first to Strauss himself – that is, to his writings – in order to understand his political teaching. Then one might evaluate his intentional as well as inadvertent influence on today’s policy debates.

Strauss was born in Germany in 1899 and settled in the United States in the late 1930s. He taught at several schools, most notably the University of Chicago. By the time of his death in 1973, he had written 15 books, most of which comment on the great texts of political philosophy, including the writings of Plato, Xenophon, Machiavelli, and Locke. But Strauss did not restrict himself to the narrow road of a single discipline: His works include interpretations of Thucydides’ history, Aristophanes’ comedies, and Maimonides’ Guide of the Perplexed. Successful as Strauss was as a teacher, it is above all his books—works such as Natural Right and History (1953), Thoughts on Machiavelli (1958), and Socrates and Aristophanes (1966) – that constitute his legacy. His extraordinary body of work makes Strauss more than just one learned voice among many in scholarly debates, worthy of respect perhaps, but not serious engagement. Indeed, it is no doubt some vague sense of Strauss’s status as a thinker that has aroused so much passion both in and out of the academy. His thought is of such a character that it defies indifference.

The link should come with a “heavy philosophy” alert, because it’s slow going. I think I would have to read it about twice more to really understand what they are talking about. This is apparently also true of Strauss’s work–and this is the reason I don’t read any philosophy, as “cool” as it would be to walk around with a Wittgenstein book on the ship. (Riiiight.)

Of course there is a blog about Strauss. And a post on another blog that asks the same darn thing and answers it more concisely than I am doing here, although it also references the article above.

This radio program is interesting: calm, adult, good information, totally opposite conclusion to the one I would make, smug worldview completely different from my own smug worldview. From the description of the radio program:

Leo Strauss was a conservative German Jewish political philosopher who taught at the University of Chicago during the 1950’s and 1960’s. He died in obscurity in 1973.

Over the last year or so the name Leo Strauss has come up time and again in some of the most influential newspapers and magazines in America – from The Weekly Standard, to The New Yorker, The New York Times, the Boston Globe and on the publications page of the American Enterprise Institute’s website.


Okay, so far, so good…

Because it seems the influence of Strauss’s political theories on contemporary politics in the U.S. can no longer be ignored.

Well, if that’s because you keep bringing it up, yeah…

And some go as far as to say that the use of manipulation and deception in current U.S. policy flow directly from the doctrines of Professor Strauss.

Now I get it. Turns out the author of the article who is discussing Strauss on the radio program is a guy named Earl Shorris, who works for Harper’s magazine. I know about Harper’s because their Index is one of the Things That Must Be Printed In Every Alternative Weekly In The World–and I stopped reading it shortly after 2001 because I finally got tired of it.

Shorris’s article is of interest (not on line for free, though), because it takes some good facts, some good ideas, and then shoehorns those to fit a worldview that doesn’t work to my view. It might have resonance to someone who unquestioningly nods in agreement with Harper’s Index lists. (By the way, the link above is about Shorris’s work with humanities education; it’s a great idea. I’m not so comfortable, though, with the implicit elitism that can be read into calling folks who are disadvantaged “them” and not “us”.)

Okay, conclusion time. Strauss was a teacher to a lot of folks currently in government. Like many of those (Victor Hanson, for instance), he spent a lot of time using classical Western works to get understanding. And he’s sufficiently dead enough to be a whipping boy to those who don’t like the administration.


Filed under: — Chap @ 9:42 am

Julian Sanchez at Reason’s Hit and Run makes the reporter’s complaint about how “too much stuff is classified.” He doesn’t understand why, and is frustrated because it isn’t already fixed by now.

Every time we hear reports of some document or another being de-classified “in response to critics” or some such thing, I invariably wonder: “If it’s not too vital to national security to be released for purely political reasons, why exactly was it classified in the first place? Wouldn’t it be wacky if transparency were, like, the default?”

This is a crossposting of my comment on the post.

Look, guys, I have a reeeeeally simple answer.

I work in a job that involves a security clearance and have seen this from that side.

If someone in my job releases something clasisifed accidentally, then their career is done after a big investigation–or they go to jail. (Or people die. Happens, you know.)

If they accidentally overclasify something, nothing near as bad happens. Maybe the information can’t get to where it needs to. Once or twice I might hear of someone getting embarrassed.

You do the risk analysis here.

The process also supports overclassification. If I have five thousand Power Point slides, I either:

(1) make a guess about the classification of each one and individually classify each slide,

(2) give it to somebody who is an expert at it (providing I can find one, and providing I have the time to do so, or providing that person is there), or

(3) put a little classification marking for the highest level for the whole brief on my master slide.

If I have an email program that makes me put a classification on every email, then I will err on the side of caution and not accidentally underclassify the email.

So there is an organizational imperative, and a process imperative that makes it inconvenient for someone on the outside wanting the information. To change this, you have to change both of these.

This is not hard to figure out once you get away from the black helicopter mindset.

June 24, 2004

Thank You For The Kind Words

Filed under: — Chap @ 3:50 pm

In a previous post I just put down what happened that day, not expecting to get the kind words that I did. I thank you all for your kindnesses. We’ll do okay.

Link Dump For Thursday

Filed under: — Chap @ 3:36 pm

Professor Cori Dauber asked me about some computer arcana relating to bookmarks, so I sent her my entire pile of bookmarks. This is unnecessarily revealing some of the links I plan to dole out over the months on this page–that’s the pile from which I draw when inspiration is not forthcoming. So I’d better start doling some of those links out sooner rather than later. Here are a few quick clicks that may be of interest.

  • A very nice webcam page with a view of the mountains south of Livingston, MT.
  • Something that might help me read blogs with no ability to surf underway: an RSS aggregator that mails the feed to you. (I haven’t tried it yet.)
  • Sky Watching My World is the blog of Cecile DuBois, notable for being the daughter of Cathy Seipp and a firebrand in her own right. Would that I were as coherent at fifteen as she is.
  • In study of the Middle East in this country, it appears as though there are two sets of followers: those who follow Edward Said, and those who follow Bernard Lewis. Martin Kramer is a Lewis follower, and has a web presence here. Kramer is also working in Tel Aviv, which would make some of his worldview more apparent.
  • You could do worse than to look at the Daily .Wav, which has been putting up strange little tidbits once a day for a long time now.
  • I am a student of Edward Tufte’s design ideas. Not that I have a Gill Sans fetish like Tufte has, but I understand a few things about how design is supposed to reveal information rather than obscure it.

Why is Nortel helping China jail Internet users?

Filed under: — Chap @ 9:37 am

There’s a point in this article from a Canadian newspaper that is instructive.

Canadian researcher Greg Walton, whose ground breaking work on China’s Golden Shield shed light on Nortel’s connection to the sinister program said the company’s technology helps China track individual internet users at homes, in cybercafes and in universities and businesses.

In a report published by the Montreal-based International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development, Walton disclosed that Nortel’s “Personal Internet” suite program has greatly enhanced the ability of Internet service providers to track the communications of almost half of China’s individual Internet users.

He pointed out that Nortel’s privacy statement for the Internet, which states it will not sell, rent or share personal data with any other organization, appears at odds with its work in China.

Former Liberal cabinet minister Warren Allmand, president of the International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development, in a statement following Walton’s report said: “Many companies, including notably Nortel Networks, until recently Canada’s largest firm, are playing key roles in meeting the security needs of the Chinese government.”

Some comments:

  1. Stopping the spread of technology is very, very hard even if companies don’t profit immensely from it. Dual use technology is even harder. I still won’t buy Toshiba because of their release of submarine propeller milling equiment to the Soviets–but it doesn’t matter, because all the lousy government computers in the staff at work are Toshiba. Stopping the spread of a technology is is a slowing measure, not a stopping one.
  2. When it comes to technology, different skills are needed in the human rights community than what they needed before. The Electronic Frontier Foundation is an example of where to find those skills (and perhaps 2600 if they weren’t as chaotically anarchic–maybe this conference would be interesting).
  3. The companies involved usually don’t even know how badly they’re being taken for a ride. Time Warner knew, for a little while. Many companies have successfully transferred infrastructure and knowledge for little or no gain to the foreign company.
  4. We don’t even know the national security aspects of this business imperative.

June 23, 2004

Emergency Leave

Filed under: — Chap @ 7:00 pm

Although the drive up to Pennsylvania was beautiful weather, and I worried my poor wife driving the twisty roads entirely too twistily for her preference, the next day was more conducive to a memorial service. Rain and gray filled the sky, clearing up enough for the attendees to arrive at the funeral home without having physical misery of rain and wet add to what they already were bearing.

My grandfather had wanted to be cremated. I never heard him discuss his religion, so the service was without priest or viewing. It was almost like I would imagine a Society of Friends meeting would be; a house that would fit well among its neighbors a hundred years ago in a small town that hadn’t changed much since then, open rooms with chairs, and mourners talking about their departed one.

The children ran the show. The only daughter and her husband had been taking care of both of my grandparents for many years, retired in fact to do so, and lived a few doors down in the small town. One of her brothers officiated, such as the officiating was, and for a man who never really showed me he was capable of much emotion in the brief moments I had seen him, he was for this day broken by sorrow. This loss was a shock, and fresh. He tried valiantly to get appropriate words out before he was struck dumb by his grief.

Several people talked about the man we honored. I heard of a different time, a different path, different interests than I had known as a grandchild. I can see where my path and theirs had converged–mutual interests–but the folks in the room, if they even knew who I was, would not have seen the same man I knew. I loved the grandfather I knew, but they loved him as well, and it was as if there were two different people to miss–one they talked about, and one I knew instead. I would have liked to meet the other guy, too.

After the children spoke, a few relatives mentioned some memories, and the floor was opened up so anyone could talk. A few took up the opportunity–a brother, a man helped by my grandfather and his family a long time ago, a person inspired by my grandfather’s work. I had thought about speaking, as the eldest grandchild (“from the prodigal grandson wing of the party”), but kept silent. I wore no uniform–no need to stand out here, and it would not be a comfort to discuss my vocation in this venue among folks who did not agree or understand.

My grandfather had not been doing well for a while. He had a stroke which robbed him of his language–something taken that had been a great source of pride and capability to him. There were decades-old family troubles, not his fault, that saddened him greatly–suffice it to say that I am distant from my family as a tertiary effect from bad things happening a long time ago and leave it at that. The distance of the family hurt him. His beloved garden had been tended for a while by someone else, and age had taken his rich dinners and desserts. His body was failing in other ways, too–he would have lost his mobility in a few months in another blow to his dignity. This was a man who died after a long and full life. Every life has an arc. But it still hurt.

After the service we had a reception in the Arty Restored House the daughter and her husband had built as a life project decades ago. There was much food and people were reverting back to normal speech. I spent a little more time with my grandmother. My grandmother hid it well, except once. She lost him on her birthday, and this was Father’s Day weekend. She started to talk, and spoke as a child lost when she talked about finding him in the morning. She had not touched a dead person before. She was shocked by how cold. She could not speak.

It was a very long drive back home.

June 21, 2004

Religion and Assimilation

Filed under: — Chap @ 9:50 pm

I had a very twisty drive today, and finished up in Amish country. It was a beautiful day, as if the weather was trying to make up for the bad reason I was driving. I noticed a horse and buggy that I passed had flashers attached.

That’s electric lights. On an Amish horse-drawn buggy.

It amazes me how in little ways like this we find how different groups comprimise with each other to live together in this society. It’s the key to our success.

It’s also food for thought for our current immigration.

June 19, 2004

More Out-Of-The-Box Language Training

Filed under: — Chap @ 7:35 pm

Remember that free Arabic language tutor I mentioned a while back? Here’s something similar, although I haven’t got my hands on it to check it out. First use of Unreal Tournament for actual military use besides Jason’s description of clearing tunnels last month.

Now being designed at the University of Southern California, the Tactical Language Training System helps students learn “situational Arabic” by inserting them into a realistic videogame as Special Forces operator Maj. John Smith (Maj. Kate Jones for women). The mission: enter a Lebanese village (an Iraqi version is planned) and talk your way into meetings with the mayor and a “Shiite leader of uncertain loyalties” to get help rebuilding a damaged water plant. The game is constructed from a stripped-down version of the popular Unreal Tournament—but without the guns. It employs voice-recognition and artificial-intelligence technologies so that the mayor and others react to Smith’s Arabic words and motions.

This is great training, if it works. Not all communication is verbal, and this might be able to address that.

War Thinking

Filed under: — Chap @ 1:53 pm

Some small links that proved good reading on current strategy.

Charles Johnson clearly shows the successful information war tactic for which I have no effective counter as a U.S. military man–using the power of the first story to publish, to get an incorrect and sympathetic word out as far as possible.

Amir Taeri discusses a couple of different successful strategies used against terrorists trying to take over countries. He’s got some useful observations.

And Jason has a secret page because he can’t blog. I think this one’s okay to post. Take a look at the photo on the bottom. That’s small wars in a nutshell, right there.

Our Next Exercise Will Be In Molvania

Filed under: — Chap @ 12:16 am

After talking with the Sixth Fleet guys, who seem to have forgiven me for that incident in Zagreb with the lead planner’s dentures, they’ve decided to send me to another planning conference with the military of Molvania. I’ve not spent much time in that country, so learning the language will be a challenge.

I look forward to the trip!

June 18, 2004

Another Information Fight?

Filed under: — Chap @ 10:21 pm

Here’s the research project. You’re welcome to critique–I figure it can’t hurt, but that’s the limit of my knowledge. Click on the “more” tag as usual.


The Best Logo I’ve Seen In A While

Filed under: — Chap @ 8:54 pm

So I was doing a little research for a friend.

In my research I found this page, with one of the best logos I have seen for a company.

you're missing a nice logo, man.

That about nails it.

Gunner Palace

Filed under: — Chap @ 7:19 pm

I had heard something about this, but it didn’t hit until I saw the clips on here. Somebody that actually understands soldiers, as far as I can tell, is making a movie. The clips on the page are ripping stuff–I want to see this movie and I want to see it now! Where can I buy the DVD?


Emergency Leave

Filed under: — Chap @ 6:54 pm

Luckily, I am not at sea right now. Unluckily, and most unfortunately, I will most likely need to take emergency leave for the next couple of days. I’ll drag my trusty ThinkPad along, but let’s just say I’ll be a little focused on other things than blogging.

I will be making a donation in lieu of flowers to the Muncy Public Library, in a town that actually has a Main Street and still has Fourth of July parades. The donation will not be adequate.

This will be a tough week. I have spent entirely too much time lately saying things like “this will be a tough week”. Things have got to start looking up one of these days.

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