Wednesday, April 30, 2003

Stay tuned

Planning to hear Jan Kavan, President of the 57th General Assembly United Nations and Former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Czech Republic on Thursday night. Will blog a summary of his remarks.

And still more on the Santorum controversy

A friend of mine sent an article from the Cato Institute the noted libertarian think tank that argues the issues of private morality and public law and of course comes out for less government as you would expect from dedicated libertarians.

Do you buy their arguement?

Down to Five Quarters

California was the 31st state to join the USA. The US Mint has been releasing each year five coins with state designs. The California coin is set to circulate in 2005. To see the designs submitted to the US Treasury for evaluation.

Peruvian Dinner and Lecture

Went to a UCLA Alumni fundraising event. It included dinner at El Pollo Inka on Wilshire followed by a talk by Professor of Anthropology, Charles Stanish.

The food was okay. Have to confess it wasn't spectacular. It was three courses: salad, choice of chicken with rice or beef with rice followed by Picarones for dessert.

One nice bonus for me was winning TWO raffle prizes!

The talk was a quick overview of Peruvian history. Stanish wanted to study the rise and fall of a pre-modern civilization. He went to Peru to study the Incas.

At the height of their civilization, the Incas covered much of South America from Boliva/Peru to parts of Chile and Argentina. He said imagine an empire that at one end is in Paris and in the other is in Tehran and you get the sense of size of the Inca realm.

One wonders how such a great empire fell so quickly to a relatively small army of Spanish invaders. They arrived at a time when the Inca were weakened by disease and by civil war. The Spanish was able to form alliances with groups that opposed Inca rulership. And to top it off, the Spanish had horses so their mobility proved devestating to the Inca fighters.

Spain's colonial rule in South America was during the height of their powers. But eventually, the Spanish empire lost power and the nations of modern South America came about.

Peru has had its share of turmoil and dictatorships but has experienced more stability than most of South America. It is now growing reasonably well. Probably only Chile and Brazil have stronger economies.

One person asked about the "Shining Path" insurgency. Stanish said at one time these radical Maoists were powerful. But eventually, the Peruvian government was able to find and arrest its leaders and that pretty much disappated the movement.

Another person asked about economic development in Peru. Stanish reports that Lima is a thoroughly modern city and that its university is top notch. However, when you get out into the more rural areas, the disparity in wealth becomes obvious and that Peru in many ways is still a developing country. He commented that for the US talk of free trade, the US still has many trade barriers to South American agricultural products and other manufactured goods. He hopes the US will open up its trade so South American countries can grow more.

As far as tourism, Stanish says that the Peruvians are friendly people and that a non-stop flight can get in a little over 6 hours from LAX to Lima. He cautioned about the coca tea because even though it isn't the active form it will still make a drinker test positive in drug screening. The drug trade isn't as severe as in Columbia. He feels safer in Peru than in Los Angeles! English is spoken by many people so communication is usually not a problem.

Macchu Picchu is the most famous tourist destination. It was hard to find because it was things grew up and over it. Archeological evidence suggest that the location was simply too remote and that eventually the Inca gave up the location. He said the current theory is that Macchu Picchu served as a resort/retreat destination for the ruling Incas.

He had recently been at Yale to lecture and see the touring Macchu Picchu exhibit. He encouraged us to see it when it gets to Los Angeles at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.

Tuesday, April 29, 2003

Slice of Clam Story

So last Sunday, went to a Chinese seafood restaurant for dinner. It was a classic miscommunication story involving English speaking Chinese people (us) and limited English speakers (waiter). On the menu was GEODUCK clam. If you are curious to see what it looks like... go to the Geoduck trade association site. Anyway, we express interest in getting some and the guy said, yes, $28. Okay, a little steep but its a delicacy and we were having a special reunion. You see 10 years ago three of us drove across the USA and so we have kept in touch over the years and so we decided to do the reunion thing. And if you know CHINESE culture, that will involve FOOD and mostly likely SEAFOOD.

So we order the stuff and some less exotic fare.

And eventually bill came...


The clam dish cost over $90!!!!!

It was $28 *per pound* and the clam was over 3 pounds!

While we are talking about mollusks... did you know scallop can swim!

An excerpt:

The eye, or adductor muscle is the part of the scallop we eat here in the U.S. In Europe, the entire scallop is eaten. The adductor muscle is more developed in the scallop than in oysters and clams because scallops are active swimmers. They glide freely through the water and over the sea floor by snapping their shells together.


More on Santorum

Hugh Hewitt weighed in with a response to his buddies Postrel and Volokh:


My friends Virginia Postrel and Eugene Volokh are busy stuffing straw men and
then burning them. Both have written at length on why the Bible doesn't make
a great criminal law drafting guide. They are right, of course, and no one
is arguing that the Bible should be codified. No one. No where. No links
have yet been provided to the contrary.

The real argument, with which they have yet to tangle, is that morality
informs the electorate's choices for the various legislatures, and those
legislatures have passed law in keeping with their duties as they understand
them. Moral choices underlay every single statute in the land. The
Constitution prohibits some of these choices from informing law-making, such
as law that would seek to implement the moral vision of the first few of the
Ten Commandments. But the Constitution is largely silent on the issue of
sexual relations. One example of an exception: Laws prohibiting interracial
marriage, for example, have been struck down as violating the 14th Amendment).

Opponents of the effort to overturn the Texas anti-sodomy statute are
opponents of a convenient anti-federalism on matters sexual. Eugene and
Virginia are becoming quite intolerant of states that where the legislature
prefers traditional moral choices, and they seem to be impatient with the
difficult process of assembling legislative majorities to achieve their moral
vision. So they want five judges to impose it.

Who's the liberal?


I think Hewitt is half right here. Certainly nobody is going out there saying, "Let's form the Christian Republic of America." But the reality is that those with no religious foundation will say the law should reflect 1) consenting adults and 2) no harm to society and thus be fairly libertarian in approach to the separation of private morality and publice law. Those with religious values must decide whether they want to go with a minimalist libertarian legal approach or impose moral imperatives on a case-by-case basis. So in the minds of Postrel and Volokh who I believe are libertarians (they may be religious as well but in their approach to law they are seem libertarian) will feel any view other then there own would be a religious imposition.

Another example of this divide would be the current criminality of prostitution. A libertarian may or may not view prostitution as immoral but would probably not criminalize it. They would argue: it is a financial transaction between two consenting adult parties and therefore it is not the job of government to stop it.

However, someone who views it as immoral and views it as detrimental to society would seek legal sanctions against it.

Should we criminalize other relationships between consenting adults? For example, the government could choose (and I believe generally does) not to grant legal recognition and thus legal protections for an incestuous relationship by calling it a marriage. However, should the government prosecute an incestuous relationship where the couple has not sought the legal standing of a marriage?

Morally, I think it is unacceptable. But if I am a police chief or a state legislator, do I want to spend limited resources prosecuting them instead of catching criminals where there is no debate they should be prosecuted (murderers, robbers, fraud, etc.)? Probably not.

Hewitt makes a fair point that it is the legislators who are theoretically the most responsive to the local situation are the better branch to make that choice.

What do you think?

Monday, April 28, 2003

LA Times Festival of Books @ UCLA

Went to the big event at my old campus on Saturday. Had tickets to the session at 3:30 in Haines 39. The moderator was Larry Mantle of KPCC Airtalk. The four authors were on this panel because they were finalists for the LA Times Book Prize in Non-Fiction.

Mantle posed a few questions first to Judith Levine author of "Harmful to Minors: the Perils of Protecting Children from Sex." Her premise is that the overemphasis on abstainance sex education and restrictive laws are not helpful. She acknowledged her views made her extremely controversial. In particular was her comments on sexual abuse. She highlighted research that said female minors almost always viewed unwanted sexual advances as negative but that male minors did not always have such a negative reaction. Though she didn't say pedophilia is okay, her remarks pointed that way. She became a lightening rod for those remarks and became a target of a smear campaign.

I certainly don't think people should be smeared with false charges but if you are going to use your first amendment rights to speak out on controversial matters you shouldn't be surprised critics will use their first amendment rights to fight back.

In another particularly interesting exchange with Mantle was over statutory rape laws. Mantle following the logic of her arguements asked whether such laws made sense. Levine countered by saying it is a complex issue because what defines sex and what defines age of consent. She cited that in some states sex with a 16 year old would be statutory rape while in another it might not be.

Her topic was quite timely in light of the Sen. Santorum controversy. However, when we move from consenting adults where I'm cautious about trying to "legislate morality" to matters involving children, I would be less sanguine than she appears to be. She seems to believe that children are capable of dealing with sexual issues. I'm not comfortable with that supposition. It seems to me our sex drenched society robs the innocence of childhood.

Mantle then moved on to Timothy Ferris author of "Seeing in the Dark: How Backyard Stargazers Are Probing Deep Space and Guarding Earth from Interplanetary Peril." This was the one "feel good" book of the lot. Ferris described how of all the fields of knowledge only astronomy and mathamatics has amatuers who make significant contributions to the field. He talked about how technology has made it possible for many non-professionals to study the sky and add to the research of the PhD types that have access to the giant telescopes of the world.

It was pretty obvious that the other 3 authors were getting a lot of the questions. But the Mantle being the ever thoughtful host made sure the final questioner of the session would direct a question to Ferris. Interestingly, Ferris took that opportunity to put his subject into the context of the world events. He remarked that the startling advances in technology and science coincided with the rise of liberty through democracy. He believed the two were not unrelated phenomena. As such, recent world events have made us think about the value of democracy and what are the elements that actually make it work.

Samantha Power author of "A Problem from Hell: America in the Age of Genocide" and Kira Brunner editor of "The New Killing Fields: Massacre and the Politics of Intervention" were the final two panalists. Both recounted in their books examples of genocides and ethnic cleansings in recent history and the actions and in many cases inactions of the nations of the world. They both acknowledged that the USA is often in a "dammed if you do and dammed if you don't" situation in regards to slaughters throughout the world. They like multi-lateralism but realize it is hard to organize. They believe governments should do something to stop killings but realize that intervention still has to be on a case-by-case basis. Most helpful was their observation that the reason inaction is the default position of governments is because of domestic politics. Leaders are not going to be voted out for doing nothing but if they do something and it goes badly they will suffer domestic political consequences.

One interesting exchange with an audience question was in regards to the Armenian genocide at the hands of the Turkish. Power recounts that at one time the Turkish government was investigating it to identify responsibility but eventually dropped it and now more or less deny the slaughter ever happened. Power said that when governments acknowledge what happened there is often healing. She cited how Germany made sure everyone growing up in Germany knew what happened in the Holocaust.

An additional point about the Holocaust that they made was that in some perverse way the fact that we know so much about the Holocaust of WW2, we almost seem unable to believe it can happen again today. The idea of 800,000 people dying in Rwanda is incomprehensible.

Their presentations were informative but at times they "stepped on their points" by attacking the Bush administration's intervention in Iraqi. I don't think it was lost on all the audience members that with one breath they criticized the inaction (Rwanda) or lateness of action (Bosnia and Kosvo) and in the other breath belittled the US effort in Iraq. They seemed unable to give the USA any credit for taking a stand on Iraq.

Friday, April 25, 2003

Sen. Santorum Scrum

For those who follow the political scene by now have heard the flap over Penn. Sen. Santorum's remarks. My feelings are mixed. Having been influenced by Dennis Prager who often makes the point that there is a difference between what is moral and what is legal, I find that Sentorum is off base. However, he remarks do raise legitimate questions as to what degree personal morality should be governed by public law. Marriage is a personal matter but it has legal definitions. As it is right now, polygamy is illegal. However, if we define public law based on what consenting adults can do or desire to do, there would be no prohibition to polygamy. The same would be true of incest.

Many thoughts have been expressed on this issue and I've clipped a couple of items that sort of made sense to me.

Here is a clip from Volokh

[Eugene Volokh, 5:26 AM]
GOD AND CAESAR: I have often heard it said that the Ten Commandments are an important part of the foundation of American law, and I think that's true to a point. But here's a quick question for you: How many of the Ten Commandments are actually implemented as legally binding obligations under modern American law? (To avoid confusion, let's focus on the list in Exodus, chapter 20, King James Version, available here.)
It turns out that the answer today is pretty much 3.
Even if one thinks that the Bible is a proper source of legal guidance, a Biblical prohibition of something is not itself a sufficient reason for secular law to prohibit it, too -- as even many of the Commandments (which some say are among the most fundamental of the Biblical rules) demonstrate. There still has to be a second step of the argument: Not just that the Bible prohibits it, but that this prohibition is also one of the rules that should be imposed by secular law as well as religious law, as opposed to one of the many rules that should only be imposed by religious law. Those who want not just to live their lives by the Bible, but also order the secular law (at least in part) around the Bible must be able to explain why some particular provision that they suggest should be enforced (say, the prohibition on homosexuality) is more like "thou shalt not kill" or "thou shalt not steal" (for which we should be accountable to Caesar as well as to God) rather than like "thou shalt not covet" or "thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image" (for which we are accountable solely to God, coupled perhaps with the informal judgment of the community of the God-fearing).

Then there is this from Postrel:

A liberal society ought not to use criminal sanctions to punish actions merely because a particular religion, or even many religions, may deem them sinful. Eating live animals and shellfish--hence, eating oysters--is a sin in my religion, it's damned gross, and it can kill you. But I don't want to make eating oysters a crime.
Written by Virginia - Thursday, April 24, 2003


As it stands, I believe as a matter of personal morality that marriage is between one man and one woman and that should be the legal definition and should be defended. However, we do live in a society where other arrangements exist but they shouldn't be called marriage. Should we use the force of public law to discourage those other arrangements? Probably not.

Thursday, April 24, 2003

Downwardly Mobile

Came across this article in the Asian-American Christians for Social Justice news group. Ron Ornsby writes about the struggles he has had being a middle-class white guy interacting with blue collar Chinese men. Some excerpts:
My previous circle of Chinese contacts consisted largely of highly educated, appearance-conscious professionals. They were largely bilingual, using English more than Chinese to relate to me, and comfortable working with my Western time-task orientation. In sum, we had a great deal in common in education, work experience, and outlook.

But the middle-aged Chinese men standing before me on the street lived in an entirely different world. Most of these men held blue-collar jobs or worked as "day" laborers. Their plain-looking, outdated clothes, unkempt hair, and scruffy beards reflected their minimal concern for appearance. They were monolingual and largely mono-cultural. We had virtually nothing in common.
The contrasting realities of Jesus pre-incarnate experience in heaven and his human experience on earth can be summarized this way:

Reality in Heaven

Focus of worship
Served by all
No limitations
Completely understood

Reality on Earth

Focus of controversy
Servant of all
Total submission
Immersed in world's needs
All human limitations
Often misunderstood

Personal evaluation
Such a list is an oversimplification of Jesus' emptying process, but it can be directly applied to my situation. These contrasting aspects closely parallel the issues and decisions I face, as I attempt to leave the comforts of my American middle-class lifestyle and enter the lifestyle of blue-collar Chinese in Hong Kong. The degree to which my contextualization efforts succeed will depend in part on how effectively I work through these issues.
I realize that any progress I have made in crossing the class gap is solely due to the grace of God. The radical emptying of self Jesus modeled runs against the currents of society and the selfish desires of the heart. Thus, my taking on a blue-collar lifestyle is "supernatural." Study, reflection, and models can clear away mental fog, but only the Spirit of God can make us both willing and able.


Ornsby then goes on to discuss how the above practically takes shape in his situation. He addressed the issues of status, controversy, servanthood, submission, immersion and misunderstanding. In many ways, I found his observations to be much like how the post-modernists mind set is influencing how people react to and often reject Christian faith.

UPDATE: A reader (I'm amazed, somebody actually read this blog?!) wrote in asking for clearification as to the connection to post-modernism.

I guess why I felt the article had a post-modern feel to it was two fold.

1. The sense that Christians live in one world and others live in a different one. In our post-modern times, it can also be said it is post-Christian in that there isn't necessarily even a common language to discuss religious faith. So in his (the author's) circumstances the barrier was a class based one... but the barrier is similiar to what people of the same class experience where one is Christian and the other not a Christian and influenced by post-modern approaches.

2. The supremacy of relationship building before truth telling... the author's points on status, controversy, servanthood, immersion and misunderstanding all have the sense of the post-modern stuff we talking about... really pretty much having to strip away the old clothes of the traditional church and build relationships... in particular I was moved by his discussion on controversy... of sitting there and letting people bash Christianity so he can win an audience rather than an arguement. Also the misunderstanding section resonated too in that the modern emphasis on time and task led to misunderstandings.

The only section that wasn't post-modern was the submission part where he used the engine train analogy of everyone following along one dynamic leader. Post-moderns can operate that way but I think they prefer not to and rather like the joint decision making and group participation.

Hate haggling?

Virginia Postrel's latest NYTimes feature entitled, "How much is that Civic online?" describes the data suggesting that shopping for a car by the internet saves money *and* the haggling. Money paragraphs:
On the Internet, "everybody paid the white male price," Professor Zettelmeyer said. "Suddenly it became totally irrelevant what your race or gender or income or education was."

In their most recent work, which includes a survey of car buyers, the economists try to determine how Internet shopping lowers prices. They find two effects. Using the Internet makes consumers better informed and, hence, better able to bargain — the information effect. And the referral services use their own power to make sure dealers keep prices low — the contract effect.
"An element that we sometimes underestimate, which doesn't show up anywhere in the G.D.P., is the sheer amount of disutility that consumers derive" from dickering with car salesmen, Professor Zettelmeyer said.

Internet car shopping saves not just money. "A lot of people just dread this process," he said. "To the degree that we can reduce the dread factor, that is providing real value."

When my 1990 Nissan Maxima (170,000 miles) finally gives up the ghost, I'll have to look into doing this internet car shopping thing!

Wednesday, April 23, 2003

Dodgers lose 3-0 to the Reds. Thus, in 18 innings, the Dodgers have scored 2 runs against the worst team in the NL. Dodger pitching has been pretty solid but the offense is pretty weak.

Meanwhile, the Lakers got run out of Minnesota thus returning to Staples 1-1 in the series. All season, the problem has been a loss of defensive intensity and that showed last night. Also, the Lakers are vulnerable to the speedy guard and the power forward and it really showed last night as Kevin Garnett and Troy Houston torched the Lakers. The Timberwolves press seemed to confuse the Lakers as well. Jackson has a big job ahead to get the team ready for game 3. Now, they are the ones in a must win situation.

Wednesday, April 16, 2003

Two interesting articles in today's USA Today

The cover story in their Money section is about Kevlar, the strong but light fabric found in bullet-proof vests. As usual, the invention of the stuff was intended for a different purpose (material for tires) than what finally became its most important use (armor for police and military). I think I read in Virginia Postrel's "The Future and Its Enemies" a passage that said the old cliche, "the mother of invention is necessity" is not really true because so often the invention or innovation winds up serving a purpose other than the original intent (necessity) or is even a failed experiment a la the often told tale of Post-It Notes utilizing a glue that was too weak.


''The bullets knocked me over and took the wind out of me, but I didn't feel any pain,'' said the 21-year-old Ashline from the Army's 10th Mountain Division in Fort Drum, N.Y.

Both soldiers owe their lives to a retired 79-year-old woman in Delaware.

The Kevlar inside their vests was invented in 1965 by former DuPont chemist Stephanie Kwolek of Wilmington, Del.

''Not in a thousand years did I think the discovery of this liquid solution would save thousands of lives,'' says Kwolek, chuckling at the life-saving marvels of her creation. ''When I watch the war on TV, I take great pride in saying, 'We at DuPont invented that.' ''
It's all pretty heady stuff for Kwolek, who came up with Kevlar as a flameproof, ultra-light fiber to reinforce the tread of radial tires -- not save lives. At the time, there were fears of a future global energy shortage, and DuPont wanted something that would make tires lighter and cars more fuel-efficient.

Now, the material is used in more than 200 products, including bullet-resistant vests and helmets that have saved the lives of 2,749 police officers.

The other article that caught my eye as I read USA Today over lunch was about relgion. Do you ever wonder what happens to people when they leave their faith? The cover story in the LIFE section was entitled, "A season for new faiths" describes the results from a survey that asked such questions. More food for thought as ancient faiths try to adapt in our post-modern society.


This is salvation season, when Christians and Jews retell and rejoice in the stories central to their religions. And this year, thousands will celebrate under a new flag of faith -- as converts.
Tallying how many people have ''shifted their spiritual loyalties'' is difficult, says Egon Mayer, a co-author of the American Religious Identification Survey 2001. The survey of 50,000 people, conducted by the Graduate Center of City University of New York, updated a 1990 survey on religious identity.

It also asked for the first time whether someone had changed his or her religious preference, and 16% said yes. The biggest shifts were a move to no religion, not a new faith, or a move to shed any specific label. For example, ex-Catholics who now identify as Christian may be keeping Christ and their Catholic cultural heritage, but ditching the institutional Catholic Church, Mayer says.

Such statistics are snapshots of ''people on a journey that may not be over,'' says Ariela Keysar, another co-author of the survey, noting that 1% to 5% of people returned to their original religion.
''Often, people who are finding a faith are finding a family,'' says Rabbi David Wolpe of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles. ''That's a good reason. When you join a faith and a community that reinforces it, this can be more powerful and lasting than purely an intellectual conversion. You have entree to a world of lived belief as opposed to theoretical belief.''

He cites Ruth in the Bible, ''who tells Naomi (her Jewish mother-in-law), 'Your people will be my people.' Only then does she say, 'Your God will be my God.' ''

In the end, conversion statistics will never be neat, Mayer says.

This religion. That religion. No religion. Some or all of the above. The spirit doesn't always color within the lines.

''It's not a question of what the demographer says or the priest or rabbi say. In society, where the individual is the king, you are who you say you are. You go to a meditation retreat in the summer, but you still go to Mom's for the Seder and church for Easter Mass.''

Friday, April 11, 2003

CNN kept quiet in Iraq

Eason Jordan the news chief at CNN wrote in the NYTimes about the various horrible things CNN knew about in Iraq but kept quiet or else they would lose access to Iraq. Another item in the unbelievable file!! Is news gathering worth the lives lost by their silence? We shall see if there will be a firestorm over this. It would be pretty pathetic if CNN isn't roasted over this. Will the media itself lead the charge? Or will it take people outside to call them on this?

From Andrew

THOUGHTS FOR THE DAY: "Perhaps we cannot make this a world in which children are no longer tortured. But we can reduce the number of tortured children," - Albert Camus.
"The prison in question was inspected by my team in Jan. 1998. It appeared to be a prison for children - toddlers up to pre-adolescents - whose only crime was to be the offspring of those who have spoken out politically against the regime of Saddam Hussein. It was a horrific scene. Actually I'm not going to describe what I saw there because what I saw was so horrible that it can be used by those who would want to promote war with Iraq, and right now I'm waging peace."
-Scott Ritter, Time Magazine.
Ritter at one time was regarded as an "objective" observer of what is going on in Iraq. This kind of story calls his credibility into serious question. How could he KNOW this... and in good conscience defend the Iraqi regime. Unbelievable!

The "Jedi Knights" -- the transformation of the military

Saw a nice analytical piece from Slate by Fred Kaplan that explored the revolution that took place in military tactics.

So when and how did the U.S. military get this good? The elements of swift victory in Gulf War II have been well laid-out: the agility and flexibility of our forces, the pinpoint accuracy of the bombs, the commanders' real-time view of the battlefield, the remarkable coordination among all branches of the armed services (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines) and special operations. But these elements, and this degree of success, have not been seen in previous wars, not even in the first Gulf War 12 years ago. Three major changes have taken hold within the military since then a new war-fighting doctrine, advanced digital technology, and a less parochial culture.

The new doctrine was put in motion in 1983, a decade before Operation Desert Storm, when the U.S. Army's Command and General Staff College, at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., created an elite, one-year post-grad program called the School for Advanced Military Studies. The school's founder was a colonel soon promoted to brigadier general named Huba Wass de Czege (pronounced VOSS-de-say-ga). He was in the forefront of officers who had served in Vietnam, witnessed the disaster firsthand, and were eager to change the way the Army thought about combat.

In 1982, Wass de Czege had written a major revision of the Army's war-fighting manual, FM 100-5, the official expression of Army doctrine and the foundation for all decisions about strategy, tactics, and training.

Wass de Czege's rewrite outlined a strategy emphasizing agility, speed, maneuver, and deep strikes well behind enemy lines.

The advanced-studies school at Fort Leavenworth was set up explicitly to weave this new strategy into the fabric of the Army establishment.

By the time of Desert Storm, a small group of Wass de Czege's students had been promoted to high-level posts on the staff of Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf's Central Command. This group of officers, who self-consciously referred to themselves as the "Jedi Knights," designed the ground-war strategy of the first Gulf War, and it was straight out of Wass de Czege's book the feinted assault up the middle, the simultaneous sweep of armored forces up to the Iraqi army's western flank, the multiple thrusts that surrounded the Iraqis from all sides, hurling them into disarray before their final envelopment and destruction.

Written doctrines are one thing, actual operations another. However, the new structures and doctrines did breed, in the words of one Joint Forces Command publication, "a common joint culture." The institutional barriers of inter-service rivalry, even hatred, were gradually broken down. Once new technologies made joint coordination possible, and once the war in Afghanistan showed that coordination could reap tremendous advantages, resistance seemed futile.

Wednesday, April 09, 2003

Hussein Statue in Baghdad Toppled

Saw the live coverage this morning on all the channels in LA... 2, 4, 5, 7, 11... Just amazing! Of course, cautionary words eminated from DC and rightly so. There are still pockets of fanatics who plan to go out in a blaze of glory. There is speculation that the remanent of the regime has slipped out to Tikrit. So more work remains ahead to root out the last of the Baathists. And of course, the huge task of "winning the peace" is ahead beginning with restoring vital services like medical, water, food, and electricity. And then after that, to establish a new government that will accomodate all factions: Shia, Sunnis, Kurds, in country dissedents and exile Iraqis.

On a military note, two articles to draw your attention to. There undoubtedly will be more. Here is one that looks at the speed of the US/UK operations seen on MSNBC citing an AP article.



It began as a three-pronged assault.
??? Part of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Unit was in the center, driving north between the Euphrates and Tigris rivers. To the east, the rest of the unit advanced toward Baghdad along the Tigris. On the west, the Army's 3rd Infantry Division drove north along the west bank of the Euphrates. In all, the advance involved fewer than 40,000 men ?far smaller than the Iraqi force guarding Baghdad.
??? Every night, F/A-18 Hornet and F-14 Tomcat strike fighters screamed off aircraft carriers, hunting down Iraqi tanks, artillery and command centers to lay the groundwork for the next day's advance. B-52s and Tomahawk missiles added to the destruction.
??? Captured Iraqi soldiers described searching in vain for shelter during bombardments that turned Iraqi vehicles into pillars of smoke. Deprived of their equipment, Republican Guard troops began abandoning positions and shedding their uniforms.
??? Continual bombing of Iraqi communications and command centers in Baghdad apparently made it impossible for senior officers to mount an organized defense.
??? Here and there, advancing U.S. forces met spirited but often poorly organized resistance.
??? At dawn on Tuesday, April 1, the 4th Marine Regiment ?the middle prong of the advance ?moved on Diwaniyah, 80 miles south of Baghdad, and encountered Iraqis armed with rocket-propelled grenades, Kalashnikovs and machine guns.
????'The Iraqis were pretty determined,'' said Lt. Col. B.P. McCoy. The fighting lasted until mid-afternoon. At least 75 Iraqi troops were killed and 44 taken prisoner.
??? The Marines had no interest in occupying the town. They simply destroyed the Iraqi force and kept moving.
??? To the west, the 3rd Infantry Division was approaching the Karbala Gap, a narrow strip of land between the Euphrates and a reservoir west of the city of Karbala. It was a natural place for Iraqi forces to try to stop the advance.
The expected heavy resistance never materialized.
????'It was amazing,'' said Lt. Col. Scott Rutter.

And here is one that looks at the mistakes made by the Iraqi military found in the British newspaper, Telegraph written by John Keegan.


Iraq presents a considerable military problem to the invader, particularly one obliged to attack from the sea, as the British found in 1915-17. The point of entry, in the Gulf, is very narrow. Beyond, the terrain stretches away for 800 miles to the Turkish border and, although the central plain between the Tigris and Euphrates is almost as flat as a billiard table, the topography nevertheless presents major obstacles to an attacker making his way north at frequent intervals.

The key objectives are the cities, and most of them, Baghdad in particular, are protected by large water barriers. Saddam's correct strategy would have been to group his best forces in the south, to oppose the Anglo-Americans as far from the capital as possible, and then to conduct a fighting withdrawal up the valleys of the great rivers, leaving devastation behind.

The port facilities at Umm Qasr, Iraq's only deep-water harbour, should have been sabotaged at the outset. Then the bridges across the Tigris and Euphrates should have been blown in a step-by-step retreat, to keep the coalition out in the desert to slow its progress and to force it into the laborious and potentially costly procedure of emergency bridging.

The Americans had, presciently, brought several large bridging units with them, the best-equipped capable of constructing a ribbon bridge 800 metres wide, but they have not been required. Instead, the Iraqi defenders either abandoned the existing bridges intact or conducted the most feeble of efforts to deny them to the enemy.

Thus, instead of fighting to delay the American advance to Baghdad, Saddam allowed the two leading American formations, the 3rd Infantry Division and the 1st Marine Expedition Force, to arrive within striking distance of Baghdad very quickly indeed. Not only was space, the most valuable of all dimensions in an effective defence, surrendered without a fight.

Wednesday, April 02, 2003

Closing on Baghdad

News was breaking fast and furious Tuesday PM (Wednesday AM in Iraq). First came the reports of the 3rd Infantry and the 1st Marine making their moves after air attacks had weakened Republican Guard units blocking their paths to Baghdad. Second came the raid that freed PFC Jessica Lynch. And the final item was the statement from Hussein read by the information minister further fueling speculation of Hussein's condition.

Last Friday (post below -- More Iraqi War Analysis), I made some observations for the road ahead.

1. Clearly, the British need to gain control of Basra. This will take several days at least and maybe a week.

The British are taking Basra section by section. It is slow work but seems to be proceeding and may take another week or two. This maybe a foreshadow of the Siege of Baghdad.

2. The US has to secure its long supply line. If reports of supply problems are true that is priority number one and there will not be a big battle this weekend that some news outlets are forecasting. Franks must resist any political pressures to make an attack on Baghdad sooner rather than later. The welfare of his troops must be paramount.

We will only know months from now just how serious (or not) the supply problems were. But it seems by Tuesday, Franks gave the word for the 1st Marine and the 3rd Infantry to push ahead. Is it possible that maybe the media made too much of the problems? Wouldn't be the first time, eh?

3. With clear weather for the next several days forcasted, air efforts will shift heavily to hitting the Republican Guard units south of Baghdad.

Indeed, Coalition forces devoted the majority of sorties to hitting the Guard units.

4. Chemical weapons... the great unknown.... my fear is that Hussein will order their use. If the winds ever completely quiet down, he will fire them at coalition forces. His calculation is that what can the Coalition do if he uses them?

Still the wildcard. Saw on Nightline that Ted Koppel and the 3rd Infantry was in "MOP-2" with boots, pants and coats. If they get the warning, they have to get their gas masks and gloves on.

5. Bush and Blair strongly emphasized at Camp David that this is going to take time and will be difficult. This message will continue to be sent at every public statement.

Everyone remains cautiously optimistic. Baghdad awaits with the most fanatically loyal Baathists. It may involve slow section by section work like what the British are having to do in Basra. It ain't over yet. But to be knocking on the doorstep in just 2 weeks is good news.