Monthly Archives: November 2011

Winter War

On this day 72 years ago today the Soviet Union invaded Finland in what became known as the Winter War.

In my tradition of marking the event, here’s a brief video of the war.

The experience of ‘New Europe’ in Afghanistan

This concludes my ongoing review of Hynek and Marton’s book on state-building in Afghanistan.

I combine the chapters on Poland. Lithuania and the Czech Republic not as a slight to the contributions of the three nations or any indication of fault with the  chapters but just that so many of the themes discussed throughout the book show up in these chapters and I don’t want to repeat myself too much.  So, please take as a given the general domestic and foreign considerations I’ve discussed in the earlier chapters as applying here as well except for the following.

Oddly enough, Poland seems to have resisted initial requests to join the war in Afghanistan and used its presence in Iraq as an arguement as to why it could not contribute forces to a second conflict.  This seems to be the opposite reaction most nations took and given that we are talking about the time period of 2003-2005 this sounds like a bad Polish joke (How’d the Poles avoid the dangers of going to war in Afghanistan?  They volunteered to go to Iraq.)

When they did decide to play a more active role in Afghanistan, the Poles sold it to their people as fulfilling their NATO obligation.  Despite all the nonsense spread here in the U.S. about ‘New Europe’ being more enamored with freedom than their Western counterparts, the Eastern Europeans were making a calculated play.  They were either new or perspective memebers of NATO and the prospects of a resurgent Russia was (and remains) a serious concern.  So, many adopted the strategy of participating in NATO’s wars as a way to ensure NATO protection.

Since the alliance hasn’t been tested (although the events in Georgia in 2008 must have made everyone quite jumpy) it’s not clear how effective that strategy was/is but it’s probably the best option they’ve had at guaranteeing their nationhood.  (btw, did you know that Baltic states don’t have any jet fighters in their inventory?  Shocking!)

Poland’s story seems to be one of coming to the party but not getting a seat at the table.  Despite having more than 2,500 hundred troops in country, they’ve not been able to parley that into direct influence in NATO.  That may be because Poland’s Afghanistan strategy has been (pure conjecture here) so explicit in describing it as a quid pro quo (at least in their eyes) for a guarantee to secure Eastern Europe.

The Czechs may be the one nation examined in the book to place economic considerations at (or near) the top of their list of reasons for taking part in Afghan operations.  The Czech Ministry for Business and Industry lobbied for a PRT in Logar to gain access to copper deposits there.

The Lithuanians seemed to bite off a bit more than they could chew, volunteering to run a PRT in Ghor province that they believed would be safe from the worst of insurgent and criminal activity.  They were disabused of that notion by 2008 and have also found that they weren’t able to provide the civilian component to the PRT and unwilling to pony up the cash required for reconstruction projects.

But, in one case their experience was similar to many other, larger coaliton partners:

On 19 Auguest 2009 (four and a half years after LIthuania made up its mind to establish and lead a PRT), after four and a half months of preparation and active discussions and adjustments by various institutions, the government of Lithuanaia finally endorsed [a national strategy].

Overall, the book is a well done look at the experiences of different national approaches to the war in Afghanistan and the domestic and international dynamics which shaped them.  While this book is probably aimed primarily for academic audiences, almost all the chapters would be a worthwhile read for those interested in the subject.  A hearty TwShiloh thank you to Peter for the opportunity to review this…definately worth the time.

Nordic News!

Wow…just, wow.  TONS of interesting news from way up North.

You may remember that last year there was a (semi)unsuccessful suicide bombing in Stockholm.  It now appears that the bomber called a phone number in Iraq the day of the attack and also received some funding from a dude in Scotland.  He also seems to have received some training in Syria and Iraq (apparently of highly dubious quality given the results of his attack).

Remember that weird murder I wrote about last month?  Sure you do.  An elderly couple were late for church choir practice and were found brutally murdered with little clue about motive.  Well, two individuals have been arrested in Poland for the crime.  There remain more questions than answers though.  The victims were bound with one dying from blunt trauma to the head and the other being strangled.  If this was a simple robbery AND the suspects wanted to kill the victims aren’t there better (more efficient) ways to kill than strangulation?

The Swedish army has decided to train some of its airborne soldiers in advanced tree climbing.  Why?  To set up get down if they parachute into trees?  To set up good sniper positions?  Well, no…

A Swedish airborne unit has decided to let soldiers take part in a course in advanced tree climbing, saying that the need to salvage unmanned drones from treetops requires them to be skilled climbers.

Fun fact:  If you treasure hunt in Finland, everything found more than 100 years old belongs to the state.  You can get reimbursed (around 20-200 euros) or donate the find and get a ‘certificate of honor’.

Awesome awesomenss (now with extra awesome!)

Since you’re going to have a extra long, TwShloh free weekend please entertain yourself with multiple viewings of the following:

Happy Thanksgiving!

No blogging until Monday…To my American readers, a very happy holidays.  Enjoy some good food, friends and family (well, as much as you can stand), and a weekend of good movies, sports or whatever floats your boat.
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To my non-American readers, you are among the many, many things for which I am thankful for.

May I recommend you consider yourself thankful you don’t have to worry about this nonsense…

Machiavelli – Now suitable for framing!

Don MacDonald is doing great work in his webcomic about Nicolo Machiavelli.  He also does offers Machiavelli fanboys/fangirls a bit of extra goodness through downloadable posters.

Don is a guy who takes his audience very seriously and so when I requested he use one of my favorite quotes from everyone’s favorite Florentine, he graciously agreed.  Here’s the picture but do yourself a favor and go to Don’s website to download the big version, suitable for printing.

Bzzz….bzzz…

So, last week I wrote about how threats can be seen (or misidentified, I suppose) in a couple of ways.  Adrian had an interesting comment that I thought deserved to be fleshed out a bit more.  So, his comment goes:

“Let’s say bees live in old tree stumps (I have no idea if this is true but let’s pretend). Assuming you want to eliminate the risk of bees permanently (rather than temporarily) from your area you could remove all the tree stumps in whatever radius bees travel from your house. If you’re the extreme type you could just pave everything over in a large radius, thereby not only denying bees a home but also getting rid of the flowers that bees are attracted to.”

i.e. ‘draining the swamp’

‘Draining the swamp’ implies (at least in my mind) ancillary benefits that will accrue, in addition to the primary one.

So, let’s assume that instead of bees we’re talking about mosquitoes.  Mosquitoes carrying a nasty bit of yellow fever.  We get the great idea to drain the swamp where the mosquitoes live (We won’t ask why we decided to live next to a swamp.  After all, lots of people made that decision.)  Hey, even if we don’t get rid of all the mosquitoes, though, we’re still to the good since we’ll have a whole bunch of fertile land instead of a nasty swamp.  Win-win.

We like to make all our projects to alter the environment swamp draining projects (ahem…) if we can’t make them about killing bears.  Sometime they may be.  But you never know.  I prefer to think of the Joni Mitchell song ‘Big Yellow Taxi‘.  Maybe you’ll get what you’ll want but maybe you’ll end up ruining everything.  Just sayin’.

LungHu follows up with the observation that bees can, in fact, be transformed into allies if you do another kind of environmental adjustments.  That adds yet another layer to the mix to consider.