Archive for: July, 2006

Nation Building versus Nation Rebuilding, part 3

Jul 31 2006 Published by under Uncategorized

Last week, I wrote two posts on the differences between nation building and nation rebuilding. Toward the end of the second, I said this:

I think that a large portion of the problem here is not that we don't have the capability to do enough, but that we have not organized our capabilities in a way that would ease this type of process. As things currently stand, military-based nation building efforts are the worst way to provide comprehensive, broad-based improvements in war torn nations - except for pretty much all the others that have been tried. The military really does have some significant advantages in such situaitons - a broad variety of capacities (engineering, medical, logistic, etc) to use in rebuilding efforts, the ability to provide at least some security and counter-insurgency assistance, the ability to provide a wide range of training, etc. The problem is in the way that these capabilities are organized more than anything else, I think. More on that later.

In the comments, Yakov said this in response:

Why have we "not organized our capabilities in a way that would ease this type of process?" I think this is exactly what the insurgents end up interfering with, even if we tried to organize our military for it. The military is the bull in the pottery barn, and if we pull it back to the point where it does no harm, it isn't in a position to help or protect the menders. Those who seek to worry the bull do not meet it head-on, they encourage it to range into disadvantageous terrain where it can be attacked.
I think the reason we have not "organized our capabilities in a way that would ease this type of process" is that the reward structures in place are not designed to promote it. Lots of people are making lots of money off of this war, and politically, it has been very good for its proponents. As it starts looking more and more like a losing proposition, the money and resources will start to dry up, rather than be diverted into wiser and more helpful ideas. This war wasn't arranged by altruists.

With travel and family obligations, I haven't had much of a chance to respond to that until now.

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3 responses so far

We have met the enemy...

Jul 28 2006 Published by under Uncategorized

...and he is us.
Once again, it apears that someone in the service has used the incredibly stupid "don't ask, don't tell" policy as a weapon against another service memeber, resulting in the army forcing out someone that they need. In this instance, the victim was a gay military intelligence [feel free to insert comments about oxymoronity here] sergeant, schooled by the army at great expense as an Arabic linguist. According to the Chicago Tribune/AP article cited in Ed's post, some 800 individuals with critically needed skills have been discharged as a result of "don't ask, don't tell" in recent years. Strange as this might seem, it's not the only way that the Army has been using its personnel policies as a tool for efficient self-mutilation.

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2 responses so far

What my children really think of me...

Jul 27 2006 Published by under Uncategorized

A brief conversation in the car today:
Me: I don't know why, but for some reason grusome threats work with kids. They believe them less the more grusome they get, but they listen a lot more.
My mom: Yeah, I remember when you were little, I used to threaten to boil you in oil or hang you from the fire escape by your toes.
#2 Offspring: Do it, Nana!

4 responses so far

Santorum on Science and Scientists

Jul 25 2006 Published by under Uncategorized

Over at Pharyngula, PZ highlights a recent comment by Rick Santorum, the best-dressed man in the Senate, regarding Santorum's opinion on scientists and morality:

Most scientists unfortunately, those that certainly are advocating for this [embryonic stem cell research], and many others feel very little moral compulsion. It's a utilitarian, materialistic view of doing whatever they can do to pursue their desired goals.

After following the links back and watching the video clip of Santorum's comment, I discovered something that was almost shocking: he actually said other things in response to the same comment that were even dumber.

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12 responses so far

Nation Building versus Nation Rebuilding, part 2

Jul 24 2006 Published by under Uncategorized

Joseph responded to my last post with a thought-provoking comment on my blog, and added a brief post to his own noting the exchange and wondering if there is any neutral third party who might want to weigh in on our exchange. I'd like to second that request. Of course, since I'm incapable of just letting things rest where they are without further, I'd also like to address a few of the things that Joseph brought up in his comment.

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4 responses so far

Nation Building versus Nation Rebuilding

Jul 24 2006 Published by under Uncategorized

On Saturday, a post appeared over at The Corpus Callosum discussing an article that appeared in the Guardian concerning the rapidly deteriorating situation in Afghanistan. The main point behind the Guardian article is that the senior NATO commander in Afghanistan is very worried about the situation there, calling it "close to anarchy." The point to the Corpus Callosum article was a bit harder for me to grasp, and I might have misunderstood it, but it seemed to be that the problems in Afghanistan somehow provide a reason that we should pull out of Iraq - the logic seemed to be that we know Afghanistan is doing better than Iraq, so if Afghanistan is near anarchy then we can't be doing any good in Iraq and should leave.
That chain of logic suffers from at least one major flaw: the assumption that the situation in Iraq is actually worse than the situation in Afghanistan. Neither situation is good, but they are very different kinds of "bad," and they are bad for very different reasons. I'm not sure that the two can really be compared to each other, and even if they can I think it might be a toss-up as to which is worse.
The main difference between the situations in Iraq and Afghanistan stems from the basic nature of the problem in each country. In Iraq, the problem is one of reconstruction (nation rebuilding), while the situation in Afghanistan is really one of nation-building. Iraq, prior to the US invasion, had a reasonably good national infrastructure (albeit one that was somewhat degraded by years of sanctions). Afghanistan did not have that pre-existing foundation. In fact, in many ways the country had - has - less in the way of infrastructure than many other countries had centuries ago. For a good example of this, let's look at the medical infrastructure in Afghanistan.

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3 responses so far

Nice suit, schmuck.

Jul 21 2006 Published by under Uncategorized

Take a look at this post over at Stranger Fruit. The Santorum quote is good, but the outfit Santorum is wearing in the picture is better. He looks like a refugee from a bad 80s Televangelism special.

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My least favorite paperwork

Jul 21 2006 Published by under Uncategorized

It's been said that an army may travel on its stomach, but it moves through a morass of paperwork. There's a form for everything, and nothing gets done until the proper form gets filled out. I wouldn't be surprised if some soldiers are happy to finally get on the plane to head into the combat zone, if only because it means that they've finally finished all their pre-deployment paperwork. (Little do they know what awaits them when they arrive.) The paperwork for deployment isn't limited to the soldier, either. Us spouses get to do some too. Yesterday, I had to update what is probably the most disturbing form I've ever encountered: the "spouse preference form." This innocuously named sheet of paper is the form that you get to fill out to make it easier, should it become necessary, for the Army to inform you of your loved one's injury or death.

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Genome comparison 101

Jul 20 2006 Published by under Uncategorized

Over at The Loom, Carl Zimmer tells us that a group of academics and a Conneticut biotech company are about to begin sequencing the Neandertal genome. Sequencing the Neandertal genome gets them all of the possible "Damn, that's cool!" points, but it's also got the potential to greatly increase our understanding of human evolution - particularly if it's the start of a project to sequence more ancient hominids.

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4 responses so far

Oh my dear lord...

Jul 19 2006 Published by under Uncategorized

OK, I've been behind the times lately. I've got to admit it. I haven't had the time to check the news as much as usual. I haven't been able to keep up with the blogs. I have virtually no idea what's been going on in the world lately, except for a vague sense that the entire Middle East is just a tad less stable than usual.
So when I sat down for a couple of minutes tonight to watch the Daily Show, I have to admit that I thought Stewart had finally gone over the edge. It's good to be funny, after all, but there have to be limits. Accusing the President of the type of thing that could be construed - just about anywhere - as inappropriate physical contact just wasn't funny. The fuzzy video sort of looked like him, but it really couldn't have been, right.
I mean, even he couldn't be tha - I better check.
I don't believe it. It defies words. "National disgrace" comes close, but it still doesn't capture the true depth of this one.

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