Strong opinions, weakly held

Tag: Iraq

Links for March 22

  • Exposure: Philip Gourevitch and Errol Morris on the photographs from Abu Ghraib in the New Yorker. Morris has a new documentary on Abu Ghraib coming out on April 25 called Standard Operating Procedure. It’s tough to believe that Donald Rumsfeld and George W Bush will never go to jail after reading this article.
  • Marginal Revolution: Why have burglaries declined? Globalization has made manufactured goods so cheap that the incentive to steal them has been reduced.
  • Compiler: New Wiki-Style Features Allow Anyone to Edit Google Maps. It’ll be interesting to see how this experiment works out.
  • Edmunds.com: We Test the Tips. Edmunds tested a bunch of “better gas mileage” tips to determine which ones will actually improve your car’s fuel economy. Driving less aggressively seems to offer the biggest bang for the buck.
  • Andrew Brown: The nerd is the enemy of civilisation. ELIZA creator on RMS and his friends at MIT in the 70s.
  • furbo.org: Vote for virtualization. Not allowing virtualization puts OS X behind the times.

Links from March 18th

  • The senselessness of war: A World War II German fighter pilot just learned that he shot down and killed his favorite author, Antoine de Saint-Exupery, who wrote The Little Prince.
  • Dave Shea on Mediatyping. Presenting the right markup for the user’s device.
  • John McCain seems to have run into the Shiite/Sunni confusion that plagues so many politicians. There’s not really much room for confusion here, and you’d think the senior Republican on the Senate Armed Services committee would have this down pat by now. This wasn’t a gaffe by the way, it betrayed a fundamental lack of understanding of the situation in Iraq and in the Middle East. I really want the person who gets “the call” at 3 a.m. to know that al-Qaeda is a group of radical Sunnis who are at war with the Shiite militias in Iraq that Iran supports. Heck, it would be nice if they knew that al-Qaeda in Iraq is not even formally affiliated with the al-Qaeda that attacked the United States on September 11, 2001.

John Robb on the surge

One thing that has annoyed me over the past year or so has been the persistent and perhaps willful misunderstanding of why violence is down in Iraq. There’s no question that the presence of more US soldiers has the effect of diminishing violence to a certain degree, but the real key has been co-opting the insurgents through a number of means. John Robb explains how this has worked:

What did happen with the Awakening, and the speed of the transition should be a clue to this, is that the US military opportunistically embraced the insurgency (in a move akin to IBMs embrace of open source development in the 90’s). This embrace showered autonomy, weapons, money ($300 per month x 60,000 participants), protection (from Shiite militias and the Iraqi government), and training on insurgent groups. By doing so, it replaced the ISI (Islamic State of Iraq, an al Qaeda affiliate) as the leading participant in the insurgency. The only “cost” to these insurgent groups, which were under extreme pressure from Shiite militias due to overreaching by the ISI, was to sacrifice the ISI. They rapidly complied.

I’m not saying this was a bad plan or the wrong thing to do, but I do think that the implications of paying off as many insurgents as possible so they won’t fight us are much different than the implications of defeating the insurgency militarily and imposing quietude on the country. The insurgents we’re got on the payroll are only going to be on our side until they get a better offer or until we quit paying them.

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