Daily Archives: June 23, 2010

COIN ain’t going anywhere…

Interesting news with the selection of General Petraeus to replace the newly unemployed General McChrystal. Quick thoughts:

COIN strategy isn’t going anywhere. You really couldn’t send a stronger message by putting the guy who wrote the book in charge of the war. Obama had a chance to put in a different commander and could have used the whole event to begin to pivot into a different strategy. Instead, he’s taking the Central Command commander and essentially moving him down a notch to focus on events in Afghanistan. I’m not sure if they’re going to expect Petraeus to continue his role as CENTCOM commander or how he’ll fit into the overall command structure.

Don’t hold your breath for a July 2011 withdrawal of troops. Given that Petraeus was just talking about the need to evaluate the situation in July 2011 and walking back any definitive commitment to troop withdrawals I expect this question to remain open. As the man said:

Petraeus, who described the planned date as “the beginning of a process,” said it “is not a date where we race for the exits. It is the date where we, having done an assessment, begin a transition.”

At this point I might even say that an extended operation is more likely now. People who don’t like the July ’11 date can point to this incident as interfering with the war and needing more time now that we have a new commander. Petraeus, who now will acquire near-mythic status as the white knight who ‘saved’ Iraq and was called in to do the same in Afghanistan (Gaius Marius, anyone?) is going to be hard to defy if he says we need more troops or time. Obama may have made a deal with the devil here. A quick shot in the arm of confidence by naming Petraeus at the cost of the ability to override the Afghan commander later.

Politically this probably won’t be a bad move. Does anyone believe Republicans will run against a war in 2012? And who else will the anti-war left have to turn to? It remains to be seen if its a bad move militarily.

Tactical restrictions will remain in place. For those grumbling about the need for troops to accept more tactical risk in order to secure long term gains this isn’t going to be good news. There’s no reason to believe that Petraeus will be more permissive of the use of lethal force. Hopefully, he’ll do a better job at translating his intent down to lower levels.

Kvick Tänkare

In some disappointing news, Peter over at The Strategist has decided to go on a (hopefully) temporary blogging hiatus.  Peter has been a consistently strong blogger both in terms of content and writing style and I’ve stolen more than a few ideas from him.  If you haven’t read his stuff before, I recommend trolling through his archives or check out his fiction at The Doomsday Device.   I’m hoping all my threats of visiting nuclear armageddon on New Zealand wasn’t the cause of his hasty withdrawal from the internet…

In unrelated news, I expect blogging to be light for about a week.  Not to worry, dear readers, just a couple days of tight schedules followed by a bit of time at my mountain redoubt where I’ll recharge the old batteries and hopefully come back with new tales to tell.  I might be posting or I might not, it all depends.  Stay loose…stay flexible.

EnglishRussia has some really cool pictures of what they describe as an underground river (isn’t that a sewer?).  Thank goodness we haven’t invented smell-o-vision yet.  I defy you to look and these and try to convince me that there are no such thing as mole-men.

Just in case you want more evidence of the scope of the impact humans can have upon the Earth.  The Swedish city of Kiruna has been a mining town for over a century.  They’ve pulled so much ore out of the ground that the bedrock is cracking and becoming unstable. From the municipality website:

It comes as no surprise that the mining activity affects the ground. The residential area called Ön (The island), close to the mine, was already phased out during 1960- 1970´s and is now a part of the fenced-in industrial estate. Part of the lake Luossajärvi has been drained and the road to the LKAB industrial estate has been relocated due to deformations in the ground.

It is estimated that around 10 % of the population in Kiruna C (pop. 18 000) will be directly affected in a 30-year period because they must leave their homes. But within the deformation zone we also find a lot of important public functions.

So, the Swedes are going to move the city a few miles away.  (h/t to my mom for pointing this out in a recent National Geographic)

And speaking of how doing stuff deep under the surface of the earth can affect us topside, I simply don’t get the continued ‘Drill, baby, drill’ attitude about deep sea drilling in the Gulf.  So the judge who overturned the moritorium on drilling said:

“If some drilling equipment parts are flawed, is it rational to say all are?” he asked. “Are all airplanes a danger because one was? All oil tankers like Exxon Valdez? All trains? All mines? That sort of thinking seems heavy-handed, and rather overbearing.”

To which I answer, ‘Yes, it is rational to say that.  Particularly if the inspectors of said planes, tankers, trains, etc. were too busy snorting coke off the bellies of industry personnel to notice that their contingency plans for spills in the Gulf talked about walruses.’ If a plane crashes, it’s not uncommon to ground the fleet until we figure out what the problem is and fix it.  You’ll forgive me if assurances from the oil drilling companies that they’ve done a thorough internal investigation and come up with a perfect rating don’t impress me.

And what’s with the bullshit about jobs?  Haven’t oil companies been blowing everyone out of the water (uh..probably a poor turn of phrase.  eds.) with record profits over the past several years?  Are we really to believe that those companies couldn’t scrape a bit of cash together to tide over oil workers for a few months until we either can be more confident about the safety of these operations or decide their simply too risky with our current technology?