Today's Blogs

Frenemies in Mesopotamia

Bloggers decide whether the new plan to arm and train aggrieved Sunnis in Iraq to fight al-Qaida is a good one. They also war-game the deployment of the Pentagon’s proposed “gay bomb” and give an F for effort to a Russian ninja terrorizing the Italian countryside.

Frenemies in Mesopotamia: A new strategy in Iraq will attempt to curb al-Qaida violence by funding and training Sunni Arabs to war against the terrorist group. Recruits to this new “outreach” program may include ex-members of al-Qaida—so the plan could give government cash to the killers of U.S. soldiers. The morality and strategic efficacy of such a policy has been sussed out by all the usual suspects.

Bush-critical conservative Andrew Sullivan can see the rationale, and it’s hard to second-guess ground-operations. In general, giving local commanders the flexibility to exploit rifts between our enemies is a good thing. … But directly arming them is a high-risk strategy … because they could turn around and use those weapons against U.S. troops in a heartbeat (we’re already training Shiite militias to do the same thing).”

Liberal Matt Yglesias thinks the United States should hand the Sunnis the entire struggle against al-Qaeda: “It’s simply impossible for the United States of America to be the main sponsor of a credible nationalist resistance to al-Qaeda. The only way to take advantage of Sunni Arab discontent with foreign fighters in Iraq is for us to step out of the way and stop trying to micromanage events. Instead, though, we insert ourselves into every embryonic promising trend and wind up wrecking it.”

To which righty Rich Lowry at the National Review’s The Corner responds: “The problem with that, as far as I can tell, is that if we absented ourselves, al Qaeda would prevail. At least that’s what guys on the ground seem to think.”

Lefty Tom Freeman at Freemania worries that if the plan is successful, “those militias will win popular appeal among their religious constituency. The logic of this (and I know logic can be hard to come by in US Iraq policy) is that more political legitimacy will accrue to these groups rather than to the national authorities. This would mirror the support among Shia populations for groups such as those linked to Muqtada al-Sadr.”

At Children of the Revolution, “Marzuq in Exile” writes: “While there are minor divisions among the Sunnis which the U.S. commanders are hoping to exploit, it seems highly unlikely that the loyalty of any Sunni muslim will suddenly fall in the opposite direction behind the Shiites and the U.S. installed Iraqi government. … We have spent more than $15 billion to build up the Iraqi army and police force, both comprised mainly of Shiites. Now we’re spending even more money to build up a Sunni militia? It’s almost as if the military were deliberately setting up a deeper future conflict to justify a never-ending occupation.”

Read more about arming the Sunnis.

Queen for a day: The Pentagon confirms that the military once researched a plan to develop a bomb that would purportedly use hormones to turn soldiers in the field gay. That way, they would be too busy canoodling each other to fight Americans. It’s almost too easy sometimes.

Liberal Michael J. W. Stickings at The Reaction wonders, “[W]hy didn’t they drop Playboy centerfolds behind enemy lines? It’d be cheaper than trying to develop new technology and the presumably ‘straight’ soldiers would still be distracted by their lusty desires. Even assuming that this was a plausible or worthwhile idea, how would this play with the right-wing Republican base?”

Lingual X”*  at Lingual Tremors is stunned by the shoddy research: “There are no references to other studies, to peer reviewed scientfic journals, it’s just a bunch of ‘trying to be science’ babble. … This has got to be r & d at its absolute best. This reads like some 3rd grade kids sitting in a tree house trying to figure out how to annoy the other kids in the neighborhood.”

This is clearly the story Gawker’s been waiting for: “The probability of a fruiclear weapon one day going off in an American city cannot be calculated, but it is larger than it was five years ago. … More fruiclear materials that can be lost or stolen plus more terrorists aspiring to mass destruction equals a greater chance of fruiclear terrorism and its attendant fabulousness.”

Read more about the “gay bomb.”

Ninja Red Star: A pensioner captured a Russian “ninja” who’d been robbing farmers in the Italian countryside. The ninja, a former Russian solider, says he was inspired by Robin Hood, which might explain the bow he wielded, but not the all-black garb reminiscent of 14th-century Japanese assassins.

Justin Lamb at First Let’s Make a List is underwhelmed by his tactics: “What kind of sad-ass ninja rides a bicycle? … You might as well ride a bottle rocket-powered saxophone. And how much of a failure of a ninja are you to have a cast member from the Apple Dumpling Gang scare you off?”

W at watching my odometer claims this ninja was clearly an impostor: “True ninjas are trained to honor the philosophy of ‘seppuku before capture.’ … It should be noted that this ninja was caught - a sign that his skills as a ninja aren’t honed to the fine art that one would expect of a true martial arts master.”

Read more about the Russian ninja.

Correction, July 10, 2007: This article originally misattributed the quote to Nikki Giovanni. ( Return to the corrected sentence.)