That Whole Rigamarole

Monday, March 31, 2003

The Third World Shuffle

One aspect of daily life in modern America that wears me down is having my intelligence insulted. I think casino advertising is the biggest offender, but Mayor Richard M. Daley of Chicago runs a close second. In the middle of last night, he closed Meigs Field. Sent the dozers and backhoes out and dug big X's in the runway. It's probably legal: the airport belongs to Chicago, and Chicago is Daley's fiefdom.

The excuse (here's where today's insult to intelligence comes in) is that this step was necessary (in the middle of the night) to obviate some threat to downtown Chicago from aircraft on approach to Meigs. The serfs should take no notice of the facts that last week the Mayor denied any knowledge of specific threats on Chicago and that the Mayor has been trying to close Meigs for years.

Roe Conn observed on WLS this afternoon that the Mayor's actions were "sneaky and cowardly." That's on the mark, as was his observation that Chicagoans are probably used to Mayoral sneakiness but do not appreciate cowardliness. Of course, the election was several weeks ago and there is no significant political opposition to the Mayor, so he can do this sort of thing with impunity. The citizenry is either cowed or happy with their piece of the action. That's the Chicago Way.

Friday, March 28, 2003

Army Unit Lingo

If anyone is reading this and wants to sound more knowledgeable in referring to Army units, here are some pointers:

1. Don't always call the 3rd Infantry Division the "3rd Infantry." Say "3rd ID" (or "4th ID" when they get in country.)

2. Many Army combat arms battalions have 2 numerical designations. For example, 2nd Battalion, 70th Armored. You may wonder, "70th Armored what?" The answer is "70th Armored Regiment." So you say "2nd of the 70th", or "2nd of the 70th Armored." They may have some other common usage that I don't know about. You may see it written as 2-70.

3. What is a regiment? It's mostly a historical thing. For the most part, the Army fights in brigades, which can be part of a division or separate (such as 173rd Airborne.) Exceptions are Armored Cavalry Regiments, one of which is also on its way to Iraq, I believe. So if it's 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment, say "2nd ACR."

4. Different branches have different names for the same sizes of units. A company of Infantry or Engineers is probably about 100 to 200 soldiers. The same size unit of artillery is called a battery. If it's cavalry, it's called a troop. The next larger unit is a battalion, unless it's a cavalry unit, in which case it's a squadron. So 1-7th Cavalry is 1st Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment. More than one battalion of cavalry probably form a regiment, more than one battalion of infantry and armor probably form a brigade, and more than one Engineer battalion probably form a group.

Dispatch from the 4th Division (Mass Media) (Mechanized)

Rand Simberg checks in from a Bradlee somewhere in the Northeast Corridor. If you think depleted uranium is bad for you, wait until you hear about obtusium.

War Media Prediction

I was watch Maj. (Ret.) Bob Bevelacqua on Fox last night and he was making a great deal of sense (as SF types usually do.) His main point was that we need be in no hurry to storm Baghdad, and that the 4th Infantry Division will be very helpful when the time comes. He is sure that we will wait for them to be deployed before seeking a decisive engagment for Baghdad. He is almost certainly correct.

But that means a couple more weeks of the same general types of operations that we have seen during the past few days. My prediction: the "growing criticism" will continue to grow, and we will see the word "sitzkrieg" applied to this situation no later than Tuesday next week. It's so idiotic, but it's inevitable.

Wednesday, March 26, 2003

It's From Where?

Via Tim Blair I found a striking pro-war editorial from a paper called the Shanghai Star . It claims to be in China, but this editorial makes an awful lot of sense to have been approved by godless communist bastards. My favorite section:
If al Qaeda were mere criminals, rather than avatars of a world-wide radical Islamist onslaught against the existing global order, then the US action against Iraq might indeed be considered an over-reaction.

If, on the contrary, following in the wake of Nazism and Soviet Communism, Islamism (the totalitarian perversion of Islam) is a coherent planetary threat to secular liberal civilization, this time crossing Nazi-style suicidal fanaticism with Soviet-style megadeath weaponry, then those substantially obstructing the US in this struggle are indeed "with the terrorists". Few seriously doubt that Iraq is a determined enemy of the US and a deceitful terrorist state, one manifestly obsessed with procuring weapons of mass destruction. Its alignment in the already ongoing world conflict is therefore beyond serious dispute.

The solution, for most of the world, is to shelter behind the illusion that the world is still at peace. This, even while the flames of Islamist terror - characterized above all by the indiscriminate murder of civilians - spread across the planet, fanned by international cowardice, irresolution and even complicity. After a decade of Clintonian appeasement, culminating in the Manhattan atrocity, the US has had enough of this.

Uh, thanks, comrades! I guess those muslims way out west in China are common enemy. Or someone at the paper is off to re-education camp.

Centcom Briefing Follies

I was watching the Centcom briefing this morning, and the briefer (BG Brooks?) mentioned the blasts in the Baghdad marketplace that killed several civilians without immediately identifying the cause as Coalition weapon. Several reporters were not satisfied, especially an indignant lady from the CBC who asked, in essence, "Well, if it wasn't one of your bombs, then what was it?" and sat down huffily. I wanted him to say:
Well, let's see now. What could it have been? One possibility comes to mind: just hours ago the Iraqi forces were firing mortars at their own people in Basra. Certainly dropping a couple of shells into the marketplace in a Shi'ite neighborhood to stir up resentment would be only a footnote on Saddam's list of crimes against the population of Iraq. But we don't know what happened and we are investigating. Dipshit.

But all he said was "We don't know."

Tuesday, March 25, 2003

Trophy Building

Here in the Chicago area, we keep hearing rumors of how some "al-Qaeda types" (the President's great designation) have reconned the Sears Tower as a possible target. The Mayor got up today and said that the FBI has never mentioned anything like that to him. So doesn't that mean either: 1) he's a liar or 2) his stupid no-fly zone is just a PR stunt? My guess is 3) both of the above.

Attention to Detail

When I heard about the group of soldiers from the 507th Maintenance Company from Ft. Bliss who were captured after they got lost, I said to my wife "Now you know why I hate being lost." One of the things I really worked on when I was an Army officer was land navigation. At the time I guess I thought it was because I didn't want to let my men down (or make fun of me), but maybe I was able anticipate how important it could be to not take a wrong turn. I still tend to lose my temper quickly if I think I am in the process of getting lost, which I guess I should get over.

Great Expectations

I read some copy in an online news report today (I didn't save the link) that included the phrase "the war stretched into its sixth day." Yeah, quite a stretch to go 300 miles into enemy territory to take down a regime and still not be done in six days! Does our media's ignorance (maybe it's just self-absorption) know no bounds?

Saturday, March 22, 2003

Air Defense Update

Mayor Daley got his no-fly zone. Make no mistake, this is all about Richard M. Daley showing how much clout he has to get things for Chicago from the Feds. It affects the terrorist threats against Chicago almost not at all. I'm not sure that even with the combat air patrols that the governor mentions in the linked story that a pilot with criminal intent could be intercepted before smacking a building. Then there's the UAV scenario. That wouldn't all that hard to put together, either. The people who keep voting for the machine will feel good for a little while, and that's about the extent of the effects this new restriction will have, apart from inconveniencing pilots.

Dueling Protests

I was little disappointed to hear that the "support the troops" (or pro-war, if you must) rally in Chicago today wasn't well attended. The peace creeps also showed up at Federal plaza, despite not having the permit. The Tribune story includes the following gem:
At one point, some demonstrators supporting the troops got within 20 feet of the anti-war protesters, who shouted "killers, killers, killers."

A man from the troop supporters shouted back "idiots, idiots, idiots."

I can't really add a thing to that.

Thursday, March 20, 2003

Operation Iraqi Freedom as Aikido

InstaPundit uses terms such as "PR Jiu Jitsu" or "political jiu jitsu" to describe seeming to yield to the opposition as a prelude to an effective counterattack. I myself practice aikido, so I like to think of that same idea as an example of aikido, which indeed developed from jiu jitsu and other Japanese martial arts. We use the term "blend with the attack" to express the idea of not opposing an attack directly with muscle, but instead following and then re-directing the attack and using the energy against the opponent.

I am thinking now that maybe there never was a firm intent to use "shock and awe" in the beginning of this campaign in Iraq. Instead, we are responding to attacks proportionately, while putting our forces in better positions to deliver effective counterattacks. We can think of this as a little bit like aikido. And there is another analogy: in aikido we sometimes employ strikes called "atemi" that are not primary techniques, but are used in conjunction with techniques. The purpose of atemi is to stun or distract the opponent so that he is less likely to resist the technique effectively. These limited but precise attacks on leadership targets in Baghdad are a little bit like atemi. The Iraqi military has not been able to mount effective resistance, and these "atemi" are probably part of the reason why. I hope the aikido analogy holds up throughout the war, because to me that could mean that Iraq will end up subdued and harmless but not disabled or dead. Except for Saddam's circle and the major Ba'ath apparatchiks. They need to end up dead.

By the way, sometimes people describe aikido as "nonviolent." That doesn't really make much sense if you think about it. As one of my aikido teachers once said, "There is nothing nonviolent about throwing somebody to the ground." So the fact is, I practice violence a couple of times a week as a means of self-improvement. That's a little weird, but keep in mind that this is a violent world, and being able to approach violence in a thoughtful, ethical manner is a really useful skill.

Wednesday, March 19, 2003

Air Defense, Democrat Style

As a resident of the greater Chicago metropolitan area, I am treated to reports on Mayor Richard M. Daley at least several times a week. One of the things Mayor Daley does very well is complain about how Chicago is not being adequately supported by the Federal government. Usually support equates to cash money, but this week he wants the FAA to restrict the airspace over downtown Chicago. New York, Los Angeles, and Disney World have such restricted airspace, and it’s “not fair” that Chicago doesn’t have one.

The threat, you see, is someone in a general aviation aircraft, loaded with who knows what, flying into a building in Chicago. So if it were against the law to fly over Chicago, all those buildings would be safe. Get it? We also, says the Mayor, need to have the FAA keep track of who is flying these airplanes and what they are carrying.

Mayor Daley is apparently an expert politician (79% of the 34% voter turnout voted for him a few weeks ago) but he is also something of a buffoon with a broad authoritarian streak. This concern about aircraft and his preferred legalistic solution is great example of his worldview. There is almost no history of terrorist activity with small aircraft. And preventing a criminal from piloting a small aircraft into the City of Chicago would require air defense batteries and probably combat air patrols, not FAA rulemaking. A very good analogy would be the ban on handguns within Chicago. Places that allow citizens to carry handguns experience almost criminal incidents related to those guns. A quick look at the crime data for Chicago reveals that criminals don’t observe the handgun ban, and feel free to commit a wide range of crimes within the city. The restricted airspace would likewise inconvenience the law-abiding while doing nothing to deter the criminal.

Tuesday, March 11, 2003

Is it Smoking Now?

This AP Story just hit Yahoo! news. How about it, UNSC? Full cooperation? Serious consequences? Hello? Is this thing on?

Sunday, March 09, 2003

Sampler of Foolishness

This AP story has a quick roundup of some recent dopey statements from the political opposition. Let's take a few on.
But Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien and Democratic presidential contender Howard Dean warned that a U.S.-led war would give license to other nations who felt they needed to pre-emptively attack.

"It might be considered as a precedent for others to try to do the same thing," Chretien said on ABC. "Where do you stop? You know, if you can do that there, why not elsewhere?"

It's pretty obvious to anyone who examines the UN's record that countries do not feel restrained by its pronouncements. France jumped on the Ivory Coast, Russia is dealing vigorously with Chechenya, China has its way with Tibet. The US bombed Serbia. The precedence of UNSC irrelevance was established long ago.
"What is to prevent China, some years down the road, from saying, 'Look what the United States did in Iraq — we're justified in going in and taking over Taiwan?'" Dean said on NBC.

I trust that's a rhetorical question, Governor. What prevents them is their own military incapability and the threat of force by Taiwan and of course the US. American attack submarines would make short work of a Chinese attempt to supply an invasion force on Taiwan.
House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California drew a standing ovation from the Communications Workers of America Sunday as she stated her opposition to an Iraq war at this time. Bush has alienated allies in the war on terror, she said.

"Our country has never been greater," Pelosi said. "And yet we have never been more dependent on our friends and allies to keep our country secure."

This quote and the setup can only mean that the Dear Leader thinks that we need help from France, Germany, Russia, and Belgium to secure the Republic. And as far as the law-enforcement part of the war goes, she is partly right. Germany has been very active in hunting down the "al Qaeda types," not so sure about many of the others. German opposition looks to be pretty thin compared to that of France, probably in direct proportion to the margin Herr Schroeder enjoys in the Bundestag. (Or is it the Bundesrat?) Anyway, nothing succeeds like success, and I suspect that once Saddam is deposed and the Iraqis are dancing in the streets, we'll have the friends we need. One last dopey statement to review (Jimmy Carter is also mentioned, but he's been dealt with elsewhere.)
Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., and the top Democrat on the Armed Services Committee, said war could threaten the United States by fanning anti-American sentiment

"Anti-Americanism is a threat to us," Levin said on CNN. "We've got to lead the world. We shouldn't be treating the U.N. as an obstacle, but as an opportunity to rally the world against terrorist threats and not take unilateral actions which could fuel the terrorist response against the United States."

I probably caught Carl Levin's act for the first time a couple of weeks ago. What a tool he is. "We've got to lead the world." Yes, Senator, we do. That does not mean we go along with whatever France wants. As for treating the UN as an obstacle, well, that's what they are. They are a debating society, not an opportunity to rally the world against threats. One can pretty well count on the UN not acting against threats. Unilateral actions? Bring forth the list of supportive countries. UK, Australia, Spain, Italy, Eastern Europe, Japan. There are more, but that's plenty right there. Could fuel the terrorist response. Flash message to Senator Levin: the terrorist response began at least a decade ago. We will stop the response only by hunting down the terrorists and either killing them or putting them in jail. Pulling the plug on Saddam will provide a significant net boost to that effort, even if it does inspire a few Islamists to try for their 72 virgins.

In the House of the Peaceniks

Our church congregation includes a number of anti-war folks, not least the pastor. Today during the prayer segment of the service (makes it sound like a newscast, but I don't know a proper ecclesiastical term for it) one of the parishioners suggested that we pray for our enemies. I'm fine with that, I think it's a good idea. Our pastor accepted the suggestion, adding that he didn't think we should consider ourselves to have enemies, though he admitted that we "take enemies on in a corporate sense." Whatever that means. Flash message to our pastor: These guys knocked our buildings down, and they'll do ten times worse if they get the chance. They're enemies, no question. That doesn't mean we have to hate them as we prepare to kill them. The police officer doesn't necessarily hate the dangerous criminal, even as he or she goes every day into harm's way, prepared to kill someone if the need arises.

Tuesday, March 04, 2003

The Ethics of Torture

I skimmed this thread at Tacitus about whether or not someone should torture Khalid Mohammed to prosecute the war against al Qaeda. People are exercised in a thoughtful way, as is common at Tacitus's place. It occurred to me this morning that I'm pretty sure the Army has guys whose job is "Interrogator." There is already an Army policy as to what methods are appropriate in various situations, carefully crafted to conform with our official interpretation of the Laws of Land Warfare. I have no idea what the policy is, but I have little doubt that it exists.

Then, on my drive home through the biggest snowstorm of the season, I caught the "Chicago PM" show on WLS. A caller named "Bill" identified himself as a 26-year Special Forces veteran and Army SERE* school graduate. He sounded authentic to me. He described the methods used at that school, mentioning that they are for the most part implemented within the limits of the Geneva Conventions. He said they work just fine, and I believe him about that, too. He also mentioned that we (the US and/or the Army) have been "doing this for years." He said he worked against these same groups in Bosnia, and found that legal methods were effective. As I said, I'll bet he's right. It was an excellent call. I wish WLS/ABC would find out who he was and give him his own show.

*Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape