How wars expand

How wars expand

This is one way wars expand to engulf other countries. The longer this war goes on, the more risk there is of other countries becoming embroiled in the conflict. I hope Syria isn’t supplying Iraq with military equipment, and I hope that Iranian troops stay on their own side of the border. I don’t even want to think about what happens if Iraqi troops start bolting to Syrian territory and launching attacks from there.

Blowing it

Blowing it

The Washington Post today has a damning article on the Bush administration’s failed attempts to deploy troops in Turkey. It is pretty amazing to read that the as the US was trying to bully the Turks into accepting our troops, the Turkish prime minister was under the impression that he could leverage Turkey’s strategic position to stop the war. You can’t get much further apart than that.

Bush vs Blair

Bush vs Blair

Jake Tapper compares the performance of George Bush versus Tony Blair in their joint press conference. He also mentions something I hadn’t read — that the $75 billion in cash that the administration is asking for accounts for only 30 days of fighting. Does that seem realistic to you?

Mine spotting dolphins

Mine spotting dolphins

Apparently dolphins trained to identify underwater mines are being used to demine the shipping channel at the port of Umm Qasr. The dolphins have been trained by the US Navy to locate mines and send up floats indicating that a mine has been spotted. There are also some trained sea lions that are part of the program. I have to say that’s just about the coolest thing I’ve ever read. Hopefully the dolphins and sea lions like their jobs.

The rumor mill

The rumor mill

There are reports that members of al-Qaeda have joined the battle in Iraq. I find this completely unsurprising, and I don’t think that it means much of any thing with regard to al-Qaeda links to Iraq in the way that George Bush and Tony Blair would have us believe. al-Qaeda fighters have fought in the southern Philippines, Afghanistan, Somalia, Chechnya, Bosnia, Kosovo, and pretty much anywhere else that Muslims are fighting westerners, or even where Muslims are fighting each other. So I have a hard time seeing this as a smoking gun of any kind.

Surmising the situation

Surmising the situation

Despite the fact that I don’t know what’s going on in Iraq, it seems Bruce Rolston of Flit does. Here’s what he has to say about the torrent of information flowing out from the combat zone:

Sitting here, looking at a couple websites, I’ve been able to build up a 90% accurate picture of the strategic situation. There have been no surprises, no aces up Gen. Franks’ sleeve that I didn’t see coming hours or days off. Everyone in the world knows, if they care, roughly when the next U.S. armoured division is likely to arrive in Kuwait, how many tanks the U.S. lost yesterday, and to what… imagine how much more you’d have if you were the Iraqi commander and you also had the input of your own recce assets to feed into that.

By the way, I highly recommend Flit all the way around. Rolston’s military analysis is the best I’ve seen anywhere.

Keeping my two cents

Keeping my two cents

There are lots of times over the past week or two that I’ve wanted to post my two cents about what’s going on in Iraq. I’ll freely admit that I’ve obsessively kept up with what the media tells us is going on, mainly via a few really good Web sites. I’ve had theories about what’s really happening based on what the news tells us, I’ve made predictions to myself and to some people I talk to about what will happen next, and I’ve amateurishly plumbed the mental state of Saddam Hussein, George Bush, and plenty of the other people involved. But I haven’t posted any of that stuff here, and I’m glad about it.

In some ways, I think that the way this war is being treated both by the professionals and amateurs is far too dangerously close to the way we watch sports. When people get together to talk about sports, they speculate about why people performed badly in the last game, what play the coach will call next, and what moves their favorite team needs to make to get ready for next season. Most of the fun comes from prognosticating and then hoping against hope that you’re right, because then your fellow fans will see just how smart you are. I’m not saying that this analysis isn’t useful, either in sports or in war, but it’s also self indulgent. And, the bottom line for me is that I’m completely uninformed. If I think I know what’s really going on, I’m just engaging in self deception.

I could have talked about what finding a huge chemical weapons factory in Najaf means for the war effort, but we still don’t know whether that’s really what was found. I could talk about the disallowed Scud missiles that Iraq has been firing at Kuwait, except that it turns out they’re not Scud missiles at all. I could be discussing the mass surrender of Iraq’s 51st Infantry Division, except those reports were false. I could be talking about the positions and plans of various US units, except that I don’t really know where they are.

Posting has been thin here lately mainly because I’m not commenting on most of the news that I’m following. I hope that as many of our soldiers as possible return home safely, I hope that as few Iraqis as possible have their lives destroyed by this war, and I hope that when it’s all said and done, the world isn’t a worse place than it was before the war started. I’m not making any predictions, though.

Get real

Get real

Dick Cheney’s old company, Halliburton, was granted the contract to put out oil well fires in Iraq without a bidding process, and needless to say, this is being viewed with a skeptical eye in the media. That doesn’t make much sense to me. First of all, Dick Cheney was brought in to Halliburton because it relied so much on government business, not because they wanted to break into that market. Secondly, there is no company in the world more qualified to handle the oilfield problems than Halliburton. Thirdly, these fires need to be put out as soon as possible, every delay increases the danger of more fires and more pollution, and of more damage to Iraq’s oil production infrastructure. Going through a bidding process for this sort of work would be silly, because it’s almost guaranteed that Halliburton would win the business anyway. They were extremely effective in the aftermath of the Gulf War in getting the hundreds of oil well fires that the Iraqis lit under control, and it makes sense to give them the business. I’m all for slagging the Bush administration but remember that correlation does not imply causation.

By the way, if you’re interested in how putting out oil well fires works, check out this animation courtesy of Wild Well Control. They also have some intersting oil well blowout pictures, if you’re into that sort of thing.