Sunday, October 07, 2007

Miscellaneous commentary on various articles 'o the day from lovely southern Iraq

The shadow of the law.... another irrelevant photo- my shadow at about 11am out at the MOUT site as I watch the National Police do their thing.

No, really, it is actually fabulous weather now!

All of these are skimmed off of the Army Knowledge Online system's "Early Bird News"

1. Charge It To My Kids(New York Times)...Thomas L. Friedman...The struggle against radical Islam is the fight of our generation. We all need to pitch in — not charge it on our children’s Visa cards. Previous American generations connected with our troops by making sacrifices at home — we’ve never passed on the entire cost of a war to the next generation, said Robert Hormats, vice chairman of Goldman Sachs International, who has written a history — “The Price of Liberty” — about how America has paid for its wars since 1776.

The above is a continuation of a discussion that started a few days ago with the introduction of legislation to use taxes to pay for the war now rather than incur a debt that is paid off in the future. I like the idea. And I was likewise aghast at my fellow Dana's (Perino) response on this one.

2. On A Roll In Iraq(Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)...Jack Kelly...The collapse of al-Qaida's networks in Iraq is the chief reason why both U.S. casualties and Iraqi civilian deaths plunged in September, despite an increased operations tempo.

I think this one simplifies things a bit, but I'm still becoming more and more a believer in the "we're making progress" argument. I don't think we know entirely why things are getting better, and another article below explains that hard data are good to come by, but the "atmospherics" that I gather through questions asked of Iraqis and U.S. forces suggest that people perceive things are slowly getting safer- less indirect fire (mortars and rockets), fewer IEDs, and so on. Now, I don't know if all of the local citizens feel the blessings that are shared by the police and military I talk to, but the few that I talk to do seem to see things looking up a bit. I just pray that it is not just the calm before the storm or that folks are just waiting until we move out so they can have their power-grab violence orgy without fear of repercussions from the seemingly indiscriminant wrath of the U.S. military.

3. The Reality In Iraq? Depends On Who's Counting(New York Times)...Clark Hoyt...Welcome to the confusing world of statistics from Iraq, where news organizations disagree with one another, the news pages of The Times have disagreed with its Op-Ed page, and the Pentagon has appeared to disagree with its own top commander in Baghdad.

Yes, it is hard to ferret out "the truth"- even what one would think is objective like a body count is not so easy to pin down. Maybe a meta-analysis could provide an estimated effect size across the multiple reports.

4. Sure, He's Got Guns For Hire. But They're Just Not Worth It.(Washington Post)...P.W. Singer...The blunt truth is that while contractors are carrying out valuable roles, their overall effect has been to undermine the Iraq mission and the wider fight against terrorism. Worst of all, we have outsourced the most important core function of our government: to fight and win the nation's wars.

I have thought in the past about my two books to write from my experiences here- The contracting of the Iraq conflict, and The smells of Iraq. But I think everyone is pretty much covering the contracting story. Which leaves me just the one savory story. I'm debating whether to go with a reality approach, or the much lighter horror story approach which can only begin to get into the typical whiffs. I've not had a head cold since I've been here, which is the only sure way to gain a respite.

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