Good Evening, Professor Falken: exsailor, a retired Lieutenant Commander in the Canadian Armed Forces, offers his own War Games scenario – an engaging choose-your-own-adventure riddle of sorts that underscores his feeling that
These men have more than enough education, experience, and intelligence to take care of this problem if only people (especially journalists), quit presuming to have the credentials to second-guess them…don’t be pessimistic. A whole lot of money has been put into this well-led, well-trained, well-equipped, and well-motivated military. Voluntary service, monetary and other incentives, steady modernization and excellent support have attracted excellent and well-motivated people. Appropriating exsailor’s form, UBLaw91 answers here, prompting exsailor to clarify that while “I am totally against the war…My post concerned the strategy, which has been under attack by the media.” A case of disagreeing with the message, but empathizing with the messenger. Pearl of Wisdom: mahndrsn, referring to Gordon Prange’s At Dawn We Slept, draws the parallel between the Japanese war games that tested the Pearl Harbor raid (flexible and varied) and those for the Battle of Midway (pre-ordained).Conspiracy Theorists in the Fray should note that mahndrsn places no credence into the FDR-in-the-know school. Statisticians and those who love them will find the phrase “the force multiplier for defending urban terrain is a factor of three” in Quercus’s response here. We Had Reservations for Last Night’s War: Citing another example of when “military bureaucracies routinely fail to adapt to new ideas, and insist, as one observer put it, on ‘fighting the last war’,” Thrasymachus posts
The Royal Navy, prior to World War II, would not allow British submarines to participate in wargames after dark, because it was too difficult for the British destroyers to find them. The exercises were scripted to allow the Royal Navy to believe they had the German submarine problem entirely under control. Of course, they didn’t. And curiously enough, the German U-Boat commanders weren’t gracious enough to withdraw from combat after dark. Ripping Van Riper: Yankee assails Van Riper for not understanding that war games, by their very nature, are “not an ‘experiment’ in the scientific sense. Van Riper, as a Marine Lieutenant General, should make that distinction, play only for the sake of ‘exercise’ and replace the whining attitude with the win/win outcome such exercises are designed to engender.” Betty_The_Crow: gets loose in the Fray, jumping on Donald Rumsfeld in a potent post-Sunday-Morning-roundtable rant here. A sampling:
He has either bought into various optimistic fabrications or engaged in a psychological warfare campaign that backfired…Either way he screwed up, and when people started noticing the disconnect between what he said and what seemed actually to be happening, he dumped responsibility for a plan that hasn’t gone far awry militarily but only politically, squarely on Tommy Franks…War games are based largely on intelligence estimates, and by all accounts Rumsfeld and company have done more to distort the interpretation of raw intelligence than a triple dose of Mr. Natural acid could…So in addition to coming under pressure to conduct the war in a fashion…more to Rumsfeld’s liking, the military planners were hampered by intelligence estimates that ranged from overly optimistic to hallucinatory. No sources have surfaced to confirm the Natty Acid tip…7:30 a.m.
Friday, Mar. 28, 2003
The seat of memory: Bradford McKee objects to the planned site for the Pentagon’s 9/11 memorial, but most in the Fray think that if the victims’ families want it that way, that is all that need be said. lindquest points out that
You can see the Pentagon and the impact site from Arlington Cemetery. I know because I know someone who witnessed the crash on Sept 11th from the cemetery. Maybe you can’t read their names or read all the statistics about it. But you probably can see all the benches facing the Pentagon and all the ones pointing in the opposite direction. That is all I will ever need as a Memorial.
Do you think the proposed Pentagon memorial takes away from the OKC one in that it is essentially a “copy” - all except for the 9:01 gate?
(dougg does.) andkathleen isn’t thrilled with the rash of sitting memorials
I dislike this tendency to use seating to represent each of the dead, but if that’s what they want, then why don’t they install a metal airplane seat for each of the passengers killed on the flight, and a metal office chair for each of the Pentagon workers killed? It would be as unsubtle as it is possible to get, which seems to be the goal.
It sometimes seems to me that all of the recent “grand memorializing” serves more to puff up the egos and emotions of the living than to honor and remember the dead, or the reason that they died …
I think maybe the Pope’s poetry’s first miracle was getting a positive review in Slate. I wonder what the next two will be? …
Outgoing: Since this is my exit from the Fraywatch blog, I will be abusively reflective. When I began as Fray editor last June, I noted that many of the star posters on my predecessor Moira Redmond’s list no longer posted, and I entertained thoughts of the decline of the Fray. (Moira partisans were only too happy to encourage these musings). Then I noticed that there were still plenty of brilliant folks around, new folks drawn in by whatever means, and became less anxious about decline. Instead, I opted for a Bartholomew Cubbins-style belief in plenitude. Nevertheless, the departure of a good poster is the loss of the chance to watch an intellect at work, and that is a tugging shame.
There is a natural poster cycle that depends on the novelty of the Fray and an abundance of free time, and little can be done about those. But there is also an increasingly prevalent pattern in which posters hone their skills in the Fray and then head off into the blogiverse to run their own shows. Some go pro (like Instapundit or Kassandra did), some leave and then return to the Fray (like TonyAdragna); some never leave (locdog). The prediction: As blogging becomes easier, it will pull away more of the best posters, particularly posters whose self-confidence (let’s call it) or potential earning power as a blogger trumps their need for interchange on a more or less equal plane.
(To get specific: doodahman, for sure could go solo, as could Betty_The_Crow, who is capable of this kind of sparkling concision:
Shokinaw sounds more like a small town in Florida than a military psychostrategy that didn’t work, which is possibly why Harlan Ullman, the guy credited with the story idea, appears to have lost his expert commentator cred. He showed up in the press and on radio several times last week, but I haven’t heard much from him this week other than this wistful op-ed piece.)
The things that will keep them and others around, if anything will, are the reliable community of interlocutors and the successful efforts of the Fray editor to find a way to feature their best work in a timely manner. (Without paying the posters, incurring liability for them, or spending more money on the vast Fray editing staff.) Fraywatch, I think, is a necessary part of that, but only a part. The next steps are not mine to take, but Kevin’s. And bearing responsibility for them is what I will miss most … JDC12:40 p.m.
Monitor Lizards: Deanne Stillman’s insistence that the U.S. Military isn’t sufficiently vetting its potentially radical Muslim troops riled up a bevy of Fraysters, most of which—uncharacteristically—bid hosannas for a Slate writer of the yugogurl variety. But mrachmuth-2 brought up a logical rebuttal, similarly framed here by Larry2, that profiling by religion is a slippery slope and submits Jonathan Pollard, a convicted American Jewish spy, as evidence. Fraywatch couldn’t find anyone taking up for Pollard. Greensuiter—about to be deployed as a soldier—objects strongly to Stillman, both conceptually and practically, and facetiously suggests:
I would just like to know your plan. Is it to keep Jews and Christians apart, or maybe entire battalions of Catholic, Jew, Hindu, Protestant and Islamic soldiers. It would be easy to do; our religion is on our dog tags so that if we do die for an “American” like you at least we can have the religious burial we believe in.
International Call: J_Mann doesn’t take an ideological posture against Kinsley’s premise that the Bushies can’t have it both ways when it comes to international law, but rather turns the argument on its head here. He then elaborates here to suggest respectfully that of the two possible scenarios. …
—The U.S. obeys International Law most but not all of the time, and complains most but not all of the time when other countries violate International Law. International Law is either enforced both it is convenient for all Security Council member countries, and some other times, such as Kosovo or Iraq. Other countries violate international law, some almost constantly, others chronically but sporadically, some rarely.
—The US never ever obeys International Law, and never complains when other countries violate the law. …
Parallel Barking: Naturally, a debate surrounding U.S. intervention into fill-in-the-hotspot stirs the partisan pot. hargroveman plays the Kosovo card here and when challenged by Drunk_in_Dallas—who avers that the United States was not alone in the Balkans, as they had brothers-in-arms with NATO—waves it off:
We are not alone now either. NATO partners helped Clinton because they are obliged to do so. NATO is a military alliance. Do you seriously mean to suggest that a NATO action is automatically sanctioned by “international law”?
Ewe Interested: Given that bestiality is central to Lawrence v. Texas vis-à-vis the state’s prohibition of “deviate sexual behavior,” Ellen-differnet would pose this oddly relevant question to the Supreme Court as they consider the legality of homosexual sexual acts: “It’s legal to have sex with animals in Texas, but is it legal if the animal is of the same sex?” … KFA7:00 a.m.
Thursday, Mar. 27, 2003
The battle for the Fangooli J-curve: Robert Shapiro enters the Fray to respond to FredFrog’s contention that if the dollar falls, the dollar value of private American holdings abroad will rise (see Arbitriage below). For Shapiro, both he and Fred are right. How?
It depends on the currency in which those US assets are held. You’re right that the value of US assets abroad rises when the dollar falls, if they are foreign denominated assets. … But most US assets abroad are held in dollar-denominated form, just as so much trade (not involving the US) is now conducted in dollars.But thanks for reading closely.
Not to be put off by such kind words, FredFrog answers: “Robert Shapiro condescendingly—and utterly falsely—tries this on.” His point:
Goods denominated in dollars have no change in value for Americans when the value of the dollar changes. If the Fangoolistan Wombat doubles in value, this is of no importance to dollars in your offshore safe deposit box in some Fangooli bank. …’Fess up, Robert: you were asleep at the switch, you goofed, and you got it 180 degrees wrong. … JDC11:10 a.m.
Arbitriage: The Dismal Science Fray offers many reasons why Robert Shapiro’s dollar doomsday won’t come to pass. The simplest may be that pace Shapiro, the value of private holdings abroad rises as the dollar falls, as FredFrog contends here. But even if the dollar collapses, the Fray thinks the lesson of the UN’s recent failure to approve the Iraq invasion is that American trading partners are actually more likely to prop up the dollar. As Thomas describesthe mood in Japan:
Japan was so anxious for our help with N. Korea that they twisted arms for us at the UN Security Council. There’s no limit to what Japan would be willing to do (except the limit, written into Japan’s constitution by the US, on military spending).
The_Bell even thinks the Europeans will help here:
Are they willing to hurt themselves at all in order to punish us[?] Much as they might like to dream about the prospect, recent examples would suggest they would risk very little in practice. After all, in addition to their moral outrage and infuriation over disregard of international law, nations like France and Russia were as much motivated to oppose war because of economic concerns over their existing oil ties to Iraq and how a U.S. invasion and post-war occupation could impact them.
His long post offers several other compelling counterscenarios. …
Chapter 11: In which American airlines slough off debts and emerge with lower cost structures, thus forcing their competitors to cut prices until they enter … That’s the story dschuma tells here in answer to Dan Gross’s latest Moneybox. For d, airline bankruptcy isn’t a crisis so much as a way of doing business: “US carriers … have been going in and out of bankruptcy (and chapter 11) for decades.” In the downside of that cycle Loran worries about the sacrifices made in the name of low fares:
I don’t mean to sound callous, but if you expect top-level security, the finest equipment and an enjoyable flight experience, then we’re gonna have to pay more for the privelege.
In the next boom era, do we really only want 2 or 3 carriers flying, greatly enhancing their ability to gouge us? Some consolidation is needed, and will occur regardless of possible tax relief during the war. But we shouldn’t let it be this severe.
One way around this would be dschuma’s suggestion that the government “open up the US market to all airlines that meet US safety standards (and do not receive more than a certain percentage of money from home-government subsidies).” … JDC10:10 a.m.
Fashion Police: Taupe, Sand and other neutrals are apparently out in Modern Meso, in favor of a Woodland Green revival, despite the obvious incongruity with the desert landscape. timberwolf challenges Brendan I. Koerner’s placing the fashion faux pas at the feet of the Pentagon:
Slate’s answer about the Woodland fatigues is totally WRONG. The Woodland Camo garments are MOPP suits NOT Fatigues … they are used to protect against chemical weapons. You’ll find the troops wearing desert camo under them … or possibly nothing at all since they are hermetically sealed and feel like you’re wearing a plastic suit.
RuebenJames-4, in the same thread, snipes: “Yes and no. From the pics I’ve seen sometimes they’re wearing MOPP suits and sometimes they’re wearing woodland pattern BDU’s. … Fatigues went out nearly twenty years ago.” And Fins offers the inventory-spriracy here, while aptly named OliveGreen clears up the murky Alphabet Soup for all of us who don’t know our BDUs from our MOPPs.
Turkey Leg: A plucky doodahman goes slumming, dropping into Chatterbox to wax philosophical on the possible scenarios and implications up north:
It would be an easy matter to send guerrillas dressed in Kurd uniforms to attack Turkey, thus triggering an incursion. If this hasn’t happen, expect it. … Our ability to make good on … threats is directly related to how fucked up the war against Saddam goes. If the siege of Baghdad continues for weeks, and widespread resistence continues in the south, there just ain’t a whole lot Uncle Sugar can do militarily to keep the Turks out. … The greatest leverage comes from Europe, and Turkey’s desire to gain admittance into the EU. Now, gee, just WHO do you think can waive that little carrot around? Tyrannosaurus Tex? Nope. Try Le Worm and Der Burgermeister Meisterburger—war opponents. Plus, there’s a lot to be gained domestically and internationally by Turkey having a presence in their old provinces. … Man, life really does get complicated when you lead a life of deception and brigandage.
In a General Sense: To Chris Suellentrop’s suggestion that the networks invite a French general to offer a take on the coalition’s progress, mikerol suggests a high-ranking Napoleonic general “who came acropper in Egypt in the early 19th century.” … KFA6:50 a.m.
Wednesday, Mar. 26, 2003
Purgatorio Populism: Adam Kirsch is taking plenty for his celebration of the renewed popularity of Dante amongst publishers and highbrows. Ang_Cho gets things started:
Dante is all the rage? … What bizarre (under)world is Kirsch in? … I suspect that 99.9% of the population remains as ignorant of Dante’s D.C. … as the 99.9% of the population 700 years ago. The only difference is the .1% have a larger forum to babble about their trivial knowledge to the other 99.9% who really could give a shit. … Purgatorio is listening to people like Kirsch and DeaH attempt to tell us why Dante’ is relevant … I call such a world by it’s non-Italian name : “Grad School.”
Bardp takes exception to Kirsch’s parallel between the 13th Century medievalists and his perceived soullessness of the 21st Century here. Inevitably, some creative Frayster will position the Frays in their respective circles of hell. … KFA 12:15 p.m.
Project graylight: Rob_said_that sees dead people. Well, he sees Kevin Spacey thinking about dead people in the movie version of Peter Campion’s “Other People” here. Rob is already imagining the Oscar speech here when he says “I think of these poems as a journey.” (Actually, he’s asking posters to take a bit more time before they condemn the Tuesday poems.) Ted_Burke concurs that the poem is pictorial, to its detriment:
This is too snap-shot like for a dream work; dreams, for me, always hint at the world beyond the dreamer’s known imagery, almost always suggest a churning, evil and dangerous world. …
Noloe’s poem in response wrestles with the problem of depicting death in poetry and takes up Campion’s “chalky paste” by recalling a scene from another movie. In part:
We, as nightshade
best sneak up on it
and throw flour in its general direction
enough to see a hollow outline
there: The Invisible Man
He gets his star now, before I go. … JDC9:40 a.m.
Who’s been sleeping in my bed: Fraysters debate the merits of queer theorist George Chauncey’s amicus in the anticipated Lawrence v. Texas case—which could ultimately decriminalize homosexual sex—as framed by Kristin Eliasberg in jurisprudence. Chauncey’s friend o’ the court brief posits a historical model as its underlying argument, a departure whose legalistic strategy Dilan_Esper questions here, but one that Joe_JP feels may help further destabilize precedent Bowers v. Hardwick here. Fighting Fair: Fred Kaplan states that, “In all the sage forecasts of how this war might go, I don’t recall reading any that warned Iraqis might wage guerrilla warfare, yet this has been their strongest suit so far.” Nevertheless, it appears as if ShriekingViolet, in Bloghdad, may’ve beaten the War Stories piece by seven hours—an eternity in print journalism—with:
Which brings us to the hue and cry about Iraqi tactics in this war. … With regard to the guerilla tactics, these arise inherently from the nature of asymmetric warfare. When facing an enemy with superior firepower, one has three choices: surrender, attack the enemy on a level playing field (which would be suicide), or fight dirty. A moral concern for the lives of enemy civilians and POWs is a luxury that belongs only to a nation with superior firepower. … TheGrayGhostwriter joins a chorus of doubters here, wondering why the administration thought the war would proceed otherwise. Meanwhile, there’s some debate over Kaplan’s stats on the Battle for Stalingrad. JWorth offers some different numbers here and Larry2 here. Kaplan’s text has been updated to read, “The battle of Stalingrad, in 1942-43, lasted six months and left 1.5 million people dead.” General agreement now presides in the Fray over the duration of the siege, if not the number of casualties. …KFA6:45 a.m.
Tuesday, Mar. 25, 2003
Bradley Fighting STK Vehicle: Fred Kaplan is withholding judgment on the performance of the new, improved Patriot missile since the system “didn’t work” in Desert Storm. SGM (former Sgt. Maj. Bradley Cottrell) says that in his experience, the Patriots worked:
We would then send a team to that location to assist anyone who was hurt by the debris, determine if the warhead was still intact and to assist in the clean-up/recovery. ALL of the scuds launched at Riyadh were intercepted and destroyed. Some of the debris did cause injury and death, however, this was minimal compared to a direct hit by a Scud.
Regardless of the success rate, the image of soldiers aiding the wounded and assessing the damage at the same time evokes Anthony Swofford’s characterization of America’s military: “I want to be there in the aftermath, to watch us fuck it up, and then try to fix it, because that’s what we’ll do—fuck it up and try to fix it, because we are driven by that shrill crazy hope.” …
Icons of desire: Rob Walkersorts out advertisers’ options during wartime. As for the ads that aired during the Academy Awards, andkathleen thinks Sharon Stone’s post-coital spot for AOL is “frightening”:
She doesn’t ever want another good role again, does she? She’s taking Catherine Zeta-Jones as her inspiration, but she just has a no-underpants kind of mentality. Does she not see the difference between ‘slutty’ and ‘sassy’?
Sheckykathleen also says this about Pepsi: “Pepsi gets a new face every time I turn around…it’s worse than Joan Rivers.” Dilan_Esper points out that Pepsi’s “theme song,” “The Habañera, from Bizet’s Carmen, is about the danger of lust”
what was Pepsi thinking? Yes, the Habañera is sexy, but it is really a description of what Carmen will deliver to Don Jose: momentary pleasure followed by doom. And that’s a perfect description of what drinking a Pepsi will get you as well—immediate and temporary refreshment, followed by the lasting effects of rotten teeth and weight gain. …
D_E supposes that the ad works because Americans don’t know about opera. One American who should, though, is Pepsi star Beyoncé Knowles, who starred in MTV’s Carmen: A Hip-Hopera last year. …
Rachel-7 wonders whether advertisers have a standard “war clause” in their contracts—on the order of force majeure. Any entertainment lawyers out there? … JDC8:45 a.m.
POW-wow: Jack Shafer’s discussion in Press Box measuring Iraqi and American adherence to Geneva Convention’s Article 13 (humane treatment of POWs) vis-à-vis the cameras prompts BenK to ponder, among other things, where a free nation’s government ends and its media begin:
It is hard to say that the embedded journalists aren’t actually in some tangential way agents of the U.S. Military.James_T argues that POW-TV has some take-your-medicine benefits, thereby inviting a thread of contentious rebuttals, including a thoughtful response from NickatNite here.Pots & Kettles: A host of Fraysters echo the point—voiced in the piece—that full occupancy at Guantanamo attenuates Rumsfeld’s moral standing in the Geneva debate, though bsremover, goes one further, citing specifically the U.S.’s unwillingness to participate in the International Criminal Court. …KFA7:45 a.m.
Monday, Mar. 24, 2003
Moore or Less: Documentarian and Lens o’ the Left, Michael Moore, launched much debate amongst the Fray’s cinephiles and riled many a casual Oscar viewer including DaisyMiller here and Paucity_of_Substance, who feels Moore taxed the credibility of the anti-war camp, here.
AnyaFanya makes a salient point, suggesting that Moore’s comments were more an instance of Dog Bites Man:
Let’s be honest here. Who among us familiar with his work doubted what would happen when he won? Diplomacy certainly is not one of Moore’s tools…If anything, NOT behaving in the manner he chose last night would have alienated much more of his fanbase than his actual behaviour…What I found most interesting about his speech was the studied disinterestedness that most of the actors in the first few rows tried to display during it. Obviously not wanting to alienate fans on either side of the spectrum, most sat, hands folded, stonily staring straight ahead throughout Moore’s comments.
In the same spirit, MyMotoMike chooses to frame Moore’s grandstanding in the larger context of the venue…KFA3:10 p.m.
He takes a lickin’: Paul Boutin’s feature on the military’s love affair with the indestructible Itronix GoBook MAX documents how the $4,500 laptop can withstand not only a spill from a Humvee at lightning speed, but a spill from your four-year-old’s juice box. Boutin couldn’t avert a crushing blow from Charlotte2, who claims he fell prey to the company’s pub machine:
This company shamelessly is trying to leverage the war for their own gain. Panasonic is the defacto leader in supplying the military with ruggedized notebooks and always has been.
Itronix’s stock was recently de-listed. It appears that they are desperate to stimulate sales.
The reporter, Paul Boutin, got snookered by their PR machine and did not do his homework.
In a related post here, docmumf takes issue with Boutin for highlighting the Itronix when it represents only a fraction of the units at use. … KFA 10:25 a.m. But keeps on tickin’: In response to being called out as a tool for Itronix, Boutin formidably answers:
Charlotte, I think you’re right to dispute the subhead “military’s laptop of choice,” which I didn’t write but should have argued with. But the rest of your post reads like *Panasonic’s* PR machine at work to me.
Contrary to your claim, I heard about the MAX from techie friends who’ve owned or used Toughbooks and previous GoBooks. They were honestly excited about seeing the MAX in the hands of chem-bio teams on TV and, reportedly, here in New York. I tracked down CoBRA reps to find out why they chose the model they did, and tested it with them. Itronix’ public relations contractor (I suppose she’d enjoy being called a “PR machine”) didn’t enter the picture until the story was nearly done, when I asked her to confirm specs and customers.
Your post seems to imply that I should write about gadgets based not on genuine enthusiasm, but on unit sales or the financials of the companies that manufacture them. By that standard, the company that builds the Hummer wasn’t doing so hot in 1991, either… 12:45 p.m.
AnthoCYAnins: Jack Shafer reports on the CIA’s continuing effort to disavow responsibility for the forged documents that purported to show Iraq hoped to acquire uranium from Niger. EFriedemann, who has been on Shafer’s case about the story (see here and here) eats crow here. Omnibus1reader draws the literary conclusion here:
The White House seems to think that it needs back-up for its delusions of grandeur, and it hopes that CIA will indulge them with disinformation it can use.The ethics of this outfit are below the waterline so we’d better all hold our noses. Moby Dick is diving to the bottom of the ocean with the Pequod crew firmly holding the harpoon. Sauve qui peut.
More life during wartime: Many have called this the first internet war. But the internet seems only to have speeded things up. Perhaps it is the first Memento war, or the first TiVo war, in which live-or-digital-video combat and presidential addresses make for a dizzying reshuffle of the progress of battle, as historyguy reports here. …
Fearless flying: As usually happens when an expletive is used prominently, many in the Fray think Fred Kaplan is out of line when he chastises Americans: “We have grown too accustomed to viewing modern combat as a zipless fuck, a deathless bomb-fest, at least from our side of the ordnance, 10,000 feet up.” Irritated1 here and howdy here don’t like the usage while Ellen-differnet defends it here:
I’m slightly amused. First, I still have a bad habit of cussing that I picked up in the military. Second, you are offended by a word but are you equally offended by the death and mayhem of war?
(No one that I could find defends it as a 30-year-old Erica Jong-ism, one now canonized in Bartlett’s: “The zipless fuck is absolutely pure. It is free of ulterior motives … And it is rarer than the unicorn.”) Update: Joel_Dyer had the Erica Jong reference here …
Back to the lake: As many regular Fraysters know, this is my last week as Fray Editor. It has been my great pleasure and privilege to serve. As my successor, Kevin Arnovitz, gets up to speed, we will be sharing frediting duties this week. While we pass through the handoff zone, Fraywatch entries will indicate who has compiled them with initials before the time signature, thus: … JDC12:15 a.m.