Delivery | The Daily Post

Write a new post in response to today’s one-word prompt. Not sure how to participate? Here are the steps to get started.

Source: Delivery | The Daily Post

 

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In 2011, before meeting up with Josh Wineera for the Irregular Warfare Summit in DC, I was working with the USAF’s Building Partnerships Team (nee Centre for Irregular Warfare) at Nellis AFB. That’s where I met John Mangan and how I got my fingerprints on this, his first novel.

Living rurally, we doing a lot of shopping online. We’ll support locally as best we can but often, greater selection and better cost win out. Online tracking means that we usually have a fair idea when a delivery is due to hit the main box so surprises are rare but nice.

Such was the case when I found this brown USPS envelope in the mailbox…rather heavy and suspiciously anonymous…I had forgotten that John had said he would send an advance copy down-under…

John asked for a hand with the Kiwi characters in his story – they appear late in the story but play key roles. Over the next six years, John and I played a game of cultural 20 Questions, the answers to which may provide background for his next novel(s). My part in the production was minor albeit over a period of years and unlikely to colour my thoughts one way or another (if anything, I am probably more likely to hold it to a higher standard because I have been involved in its development).

Bottom line up front: I liked Into a Dark Frontier. It’s a good contemporary tale; the characters are credible and well-developed and the story flows smoothly between chapters: it’s a good read in its own right. Set in an Africa not too long from now, the environment feels gritty, dirty and real.

At just over 300 pages, it is relatively short…a big plus. For me one of the marks of a good writer is that they can tell their story efficiently and economically without pages of back-story or monologue. I did think the beginning a little brief until I realised that it imparted all the reader needed to know about the main protagonist’s background.

I enjoy Tom Clancy, Larry Bond et al and their takes on technology-dependent modern warfare but the overly-repetitive descriptions of the inner workings of each and every weapon system wear me down after a while. How radios work, weapons shoot, and vehicles drive: we understand enough about these things to not need detailed descriptions. Also in the back of my mind is the thought that the military techno-thriller, as a take on reality, probably died with the myth of DESERT STORM, certainly it was dead in the water by 911.

The protagonists (bad guys) here are neither Third Shock or Eight Guards Army, nor some variation on the theme of revenge-focused, Death to America, Islamic jihadist. John had mentioned to me wanting a really evil villain for his next novel. The evil in his first novel will take some beating: the worst of the 1990s: Rwanda, Bosnia, Somalia mixed in with the randomness of Michael Myers…you probably get the picture.

The Kiwi characters don’t appear til late in the book. They play key roles in resolving the plot line and offer tremendous scope for both pre- and se-quels. Not just a novelty, their presence reflects the level that Kiwis are engaged in the international private security sector. As late arrivals, not a lot of space is committed to their back story and that’s not necessarily a bad thing (see above above concise writing). It does mean though that the character development that might shape a reader’s perception of their language hasn’t occurred.

There been some discussion about whether they actually sound like Kiwis or not. For most of the world the question is probably moot as most Kiwis speak so fast that no one can understand them anyway, even before any matters of Kiwi jargon, slang or incorporated Te Reo Maori come into play. It’s a challenge in spoken speech – which is why Ben Kingsley’s Mazer Rackham, an apparent Maori, sounds South African – and even more difficult with the written word. Personally, I rely on my take on the character from their description and actions to date to imagine how they speak. Within the limitations imposed by their late entry into the story, John has done a pretty good job introducing them into his ‘verse…they will rock in the ‘quels…

Was there anything I didn’t like? Yup. There is a long anti-globalism rant near the end of the book. It’s disproportionately long compared to other dialogues throughout the book and unfortunately detracts from the story. It feels a little like a shaggy dog story where this is the punchline. This message could have been delivered more effectively, woven through the story as the plot developed.

The mark of a great read for me is wanting more when I get to the end. John has certainly delivered that and had better not take another ten years to produce his next work. With only a few pages to go, I couldn’t see how he could resolve the plot line. He did and very effectively…

Recommended as a refreshing change from jihad and an insight into what might be in only a few years…

Into a Dark Frontier

by John Mangan

Published by Oceanview Publishing, 2017

ISBN 978-1-60809-261-1

On Goodreads

At Amazon

 

Identity | The Daily Post

Find inspiration in one of the popular topics on Discover. For this week’s Discover Challenge, focus on identity. You may use it simply as a one-word prompt, or tell us what the word means to you. Or you might publish a sketch that represents who you are or how you feel today, a poem about identity in our digital age, or a personal essay about who you once were.

Source: Identity | The Daily Post

I began drafting this post around the time of one of the recent active shooter incidents in the US. It says so much that such incidents are now so frequent that I cannot remember which it was, possibly Orlando…

The aftermath of each of these incidents is marked by bitter ‘weapon’ versus ‘ideology’ outbursts and exchanges. I do not thing that either side really gets the issues: each tragedy is little more than an excuse for each camp to dust off (not dust-off which is a far more noble act) respective meme collections.

It is America’s right to have whatever laws, rights and responsibilities that it wants to inflict on itself. I have no more problem with the Second Amendment than I do with the Fifth although I would offer that the rights of the Second should be read and applied in the context of their context i.e. as the people’s contribution to a well-regulated militia…the key phrase being well-regulated.

The ‘right’ to espouse an ideology probably falls under the First Amendment…the one that protects free speech…but again that comes with responsibilities. We have probably all heard of, if not actually read or heard the actual words, Oliver Wendell Holmes “crying fire in a theatre” quote. For the record, this is what he actually said to give context to those words:

The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theatre and causing a panic. It does not even protect a man from an injunction against uttering words that may have all the effect of force. The question in every case is whether the words used are used in such circumstances and are of such a nature as to create a clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evils that Congress has a right to prevent. It is a question of proximity and degree.

Those legally bent or who just like to read some exceptionable well-written English can read Justice Holmes’ full opinion in the Cornell University Law School Legal Information Institute Web site.

Contrary to the good Justice’s opinion – the key work in his theatre analogy is ‘falsely’ – in the information domain, the random and rabid shotgunning of the information militia (plural) is as destructive regardless of whether it has elements of truth or fact or not.

Every time those ideological memes fly, their sole function, intended or not, is to fan the flames of ideological conflict. As much as I thought it needed work (thought #1, thought #2), what we are seeing is the phenomenon that David Kilcullen theorised in The Accidental Guerrilla: the more something is ‘fixed’, the worse it gets. This is the irony of irregular warfare.

With regard to the active shooter incidents in America, there is another factor in play that may not be present or which is certainly less present in incidents. A large element of American psyche identifies with the ‘main in the white hat’, ‘one riot, one ranger’, the rugged individual standing against all odds, etc. This ethic is quite commendable and certainly not unique to the US. What sets it about in the US though is the accompanying mindset that a gun is what you use to resolve an issue.

We’re not on any sort of moral high ground here or in Australia where the national equivalent is a punch in the head, or the desire to deliver such but that ‘message’ has to be delivered up close and personal, it cannot be delivered from across the street or even across the room; and it is far easier to neutralise. In the UK, or parts thereof, the local equivalent maybe a cloth cap or the good old ‘Liverpool kiss‘…again, attacks with limited projection or lethality from afar…

It is this overwhelming cultural drive that guns solve problems that is America’s challenge. It’s not how many guns you have or what sort they may be. It’s not what you believe or who you disagree with. It’s not how accessible guns or unsocial ideologies may be. Those may all be separate concerns  but, weapon or ideology, it’s the drive to resolve what angsts you with a gun that is the problem…

Jump to 1:02 The Lone Rider

I love those rugged individuals roles immortalised by Clint Eastwood, John Wayne, Jan Michael Vincent, etc etc but I don’t build my life around them. When I have a beef with the local council or my employer or the grit truck driver or the mailman, I don’t feel I have to to take a gun to resolve the issue or make myself feel better.

It is one thing when the line between reality and fiction becomes blurred. It is quite another when those worlds begin to overlap…where the ‘final option’ becomes the only option…

Having said that, we can hum ‘Imagine‘ all we like…COIN 101 reminds us that cultural shift happens over generations but being honest about the problem is the first step towards a solution…

Weight(less) | The Daily Post

This week, share a photo of something marked by its weight

Source: Weight(less) | The Daily Post

In 2011, I was working at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida.

Just outside one set of the base gates, is the Air Force Armament Museum.

Just outside the Museum building, is (literally) the Mother OF All Bombs.

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The accompanying plaque really says it all…

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30 feet long…40.5 inches in diameter…21,600lbs…

Dear RNZAF, please note the second of the recommended delivery platforms…just open the door and tip it out…

Inside the Museum are many of its relatives, large and small, smart and not so smart…

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Something wicked….

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A couple of days ago, a friend had what he called a rant on Facebook…

Religion is not to blame for all the world’s problems. If you believe that the eradication of religion will fix humankind then your faith is more misguided than those you believe you are better than.

Religion is not the problem. If you believe there is no God (or Gods), then people cannot be doing God’s will. Therefore their actions are their own, and they choose to commit atrocities. This would indicate that the behaviour is in their (or our?) nature and is not the fault of religion. It cannot be both fantasy and the font of all evil. People will always find excuses for their actions.

I get to mix with many religious groups of different faiths and denominations. The vast majority are communities of people who are interested in living their lives with generosity, selflessness and tolerance. They do this actively in their wider communities – actually practising being nice to people without trying to convert them. Sometimes they seem like the last bastion of selflessness in our materialistic, consumer, celebrity-focused society. Working with them is refreshing.

Religion is not the problem nor the solution. It just is. However there are some evil bastards who will use any tools at their disposal for power. They should be the targets of our wrath, not the constructs they seek to pervert for their own means.

And… rest.

Wherever you sit in the political spectrum, whatever deity or belief system you may or may not support, this is a pretty damn fine summary of the foe we face in the second decade of the 21st Century.

For almost two and a half decades, we have submitted to the myth that war can be precise and sterile, safe almost, despite all contemporary and historical evidence to the contrary.

That ‘Greatest Generation’ succeeded because they mobilised their nations to defeat evil…not 8-5, not Monday to Friday, not just those who cared or those who needed the work…defeating evil is not something that others do…

That more may have died in less publicised and less public locations takes nothing from the attacks in Paris nor does it count that Paris once committed an act of war against us…Paris now is exactly what it is…a deliberate goad to the West…some people should be careful what they wish for…something more wicked this way may come and it’ll be looking to settle some scores…

What happened in Paris last week was evil. Sponsored and spurred by a small group of ‘evil bastards’…who will not be swayed let alone defeated by Tricolour photo filters…nor even the red of spilled blood…only the cleansing blue-white fire of instant sunshine…

Does New Zealand’s legal system favour some ahead of the rest of us?

ICCWC15As I See It By Terry O’Neill.

Does New Zealand’s legal system favour some ahead of the rest of us?

2014 Junior World Cup promising rugby star Tevita Li (19) was caught drink-driving in Auckland last May. Last week the Blues-contracted player was discharged without conviction by Judge Gus Andree Wiltens as long as he paid $210, the costs to establish his blood alcohol level. Judge Wiltens took into account that Li completed The Right Track programme and alcohol counselling, and justified his decision because, “A conviction would prove to be a real impediment to what so far has been a stellar career. All indications are that you can go a long way in rugby.”

A conviction possibly would restrict Li’s international rugby travel, and if he pursued a career overseas, teams may overlook him because of that black mark against his name. After his rugby days a clean record would keep the door open for his intention to follow his father into a police career. Another Blues player, George Moala, recently found guilty of assault with intent to injure, appears for sentencing in May, and will apply for a discharge without conviction. Try telling an ordinary 19 year old club rugby player that’d be a fair deal.

Recently I commented on former Olympic triathlete Kris Gemmell. The Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled Gemmell a 15 month ban after Drug-Free Sport NZ had appealed the NZ Sports Tribunal’s decision not to impose a sanction on him for missing a drug test in August, 2012. Last week the Tribunal cut his ban to 12 months stating his conduct would not be a violation under the new rules confirmed January 2015. Gemmell, basically vindicated, lost his International Triathlons Unions athletes’ committee role plus his position as its Global Head of Partnerships for the world triathlon series. He retired from international competition after the World Cup in 2012 but remained on the drug testing programme because he intended to involve himself in long distance racing.

Who had the self-righteous knife out at Drug-Free Sport NZ? Another graceless Tall Poppy blitz.

The Cricket World Cup kicks off next week amidst concerns for security during the tournament. If visitors seek easy access to NZ over the tournament period, visa-free entry is permitted provided an individual’s cricket interest is proved with, say, game tickets. This visa-free entry is primarily to allow ease of movement for cricket fans between NZ and Australia. Many “cricket supporters” from countries for which visas are usually required to enter NZ, have apparently used the “loophole” for easy entry. By last week 94 people had travelled here under the arrangement and others were prevented from boarding flights to NZ. Several Chinese passengers emphasised their intention to attend games and produced Cricket World Cup tickets as evidence but, ironically, those games were scheduled after their NZ departure dates.

And what a temptation to anyone “terroristically” inclined.

ENDS

Note: this version differs from that published in The North Otago Times.

Crisis in Syria and Iraq: All-in or all-out?

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Josh Wineera is having a busy week…a successful engagement at the New Zealand Association for Training and Development Conference, followed by this op-ed for Fairfax. For me, a most refreshing change from the ‘usual suspect;’ domestic talking heads that are being trotted out to ‘comment’ on the developing situation in the Middle East. Read on…

To use the Texas Hold’em poker analogy, Islamic State (ISIS) is ‘all-in’ to seize the major cities on the Syrian-Turkish border as well as swathes of regional areas in western and central Iraq. The actions are clinical, calculated and surprisingly conventional. The approach is one of simple arithmetic and follows an important principle of war – mass, or more plainly ISIS has the numbers. Unlike poker however, the stakes are not casino chips but rather millions of innocent victims caught up in yet another cycle of Middle Eastern violence.

While the much-vaunted precision-guided munitions continue to be dropped by U.S.-led coalition aircraft, the unrelenting nature of ISIS ‘boots on the ground’ is the decisive factor. Attrition of its fighters is not a concern. Thousands are ready and better positioned to be ordered into the fray. To coin the phrase, ISIS is currently the side that is the fastest with the mostest and many battles throughout history have been won this way.

So, if the tactic is to seize and hold the likes of Kobani or Anbar province on the other front in Iraq, how then might this contribute to the ISIS strategy? First and foremost a narrative is likely being developed to expose the limits and ultimate failure of the ‘West’ to effectively support the likes of the Kurds and even the Government of Iraq. This is certainly being helped along with media commentators such as Middle East correspondent Patrick Cockburn asserting the ‘U.S. strategy is in tatters as ISIS marches on’.

Second, and more chilling, is the perception that there is no safe place in the region to escape the onslaught. While some fight, the vast majority living under threat of mortal danger are not soldiers nor capable of putting up meaningful resistance. Capitulation and being resigned to the fate that awaits them under a barbarous regime appears inevitable.

But even with air power and small contingents of international land forces can anything really be done to roll back ISIS? At one end of the spectrum there are those that still believe this is not a fight for the West. Continued intervention is not the answer they decry.

Taken further, supporters of Edward Luttwak’s ‘Give War a Chance’ proposition argue that sitting on the sidelines and waiting until all belligerents become exhausted is a better plan. Standing by while foes battle each other is one thing, however giving a free hand for systematic cruelty and genocide is quite a different argument.

On this issue, if widespread butchery and carnage is the trigger for international reaction then according to Canadian journalist Neil MacDonald intervention in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo is more warranted.”ISIS’s acolytes are just apprentices at atrocity compared to some in the Congo”.

The other end of the spectrum leads to an all-in approach by countries that have the tenacity and dedication to endure what would be another long and frustrating campaign. The 2014 all-in version should include the familiar political, economic and military assistance. The time frame for favourable conditions would need to be measured in years not months. So how will these be different, have better outcomes, than the 2003-2011 version applied in Iraq? Politically, positive change has already occurred with Haider al-Abadi confirmed as Iraq’s Prime Minister. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed al-Abadi’s formation of a new inclusive Government in Iraq.

Oversight of political reform is paramount to ensure balance and avoid marginalising the Sunni population in particular. Economically the impact of change will be less disruptive as Iraq’s southern oil fields maintain productivity and buttress the financial markets. Inter-Governmental Organisations such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund are not expected to have to significantly intervene.

Which leaves the lingering question of military assistance. Right now the prime means of international intervention is air strikes and combat advisors. At best these immediate efforts will help the Kurds and the Iraqi Government stem the ISIS advances. Wishful thinking might even result in a stalemate. There is no quick fix. Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby has said “people need to understand we need a little strategic patience here…it is going to take a bit of time”.

While western governments continue to debate the merits and risks of deploying ground troops, a ready-made force is already being brought into action. A U.S. Government contract issued in August called for interested vendors to provide security assistance mentors and advisors. The private security community is naturally abuzz with new possibilities.

Eric Prince, founder of controversial security contractor Blackwater, has waded into the conversation. Calling the Iraqi Army inept after billions spent on training and equipping them, Prince suggests, “if the old Blackwater team were together, I have high confidence that a multi-brigade size unit of veteran American contractors or multinational force could be rapidly assembled and deployed to be the necessary ground combat team”. He goes on stating, “a competent professional force of volunteers would serve as the pointy end of the spear and would strengthen friendly but skittish indigenous forces”.

There is much irony in calling for private security companies to fill the void of trainers and mentors to the Iraqi security forces. A number still stand accused of delivering poor training last decade.

Whatever arrangements are put in place by international military forces or private security companies, the processes and methods of training Iraqi’s and even the Kurds must be transformed. Doing the same thing and expecting different results cannot be allowed to prevail. While a focus on technical skills is expected, installing a sense of duty and ingraining societal values to repulse the long-term intentions of ISIS will be essential.
What is clear is this is a poker hand that nobody except ISIS wants to play. Folding and forfeiting interest in the situation does not appear to be an option for those governments already committed. It’s time to ante up or move on. In the meantime millions across the region continue to bleed and live in fear.


Josh Wineera is a member of the New Zealand National Forum for the Council for Security Cooperation in the Asia Pacific. He is also a PhD candidate with the National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Otago. His doctoral research is on training foreign security forces.

Three things

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Paul Henry is back. Excellent! More excellent when they reunite him with Pippa to keep him honest…

2

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Stephen Hoadley has suggested that the best future for Afghanistan may be one split into North (for the normal people) and South (for the rabid nutjobs). This is one of the more coherent options to be put forward so far, especially as ongoing Karzai intransigence draws the US and NATO ‘zero option’ closer to reality…

dm claus…and in a timely and related comment, Doctrine Man reminds us that we need to think about outcomes before we launch into any knee-jerk good ideas for military deployments post- 2014 Afghanistan…like they used to say at the Tactics School “…every task must have a purpose…” i.e. it is not enough just to be or, worse, to be nice…

3

whaleHa-bloody-ha…there is such a thing as karma after all…while I don’t condone death threats at all – be nice to see proof of said threats though, Cam – I think that it is funny-as that this guy who quite happy lips off at all and sundry has been taken to task for being a dick…I can not believe that he had the gall to refer to someone else as ‘feral‘…

Zygons…Schmygons…

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I would like to say that I made a special effort to get up early on a Sunday morning for this but even for me on a sunny Sunday  morning, 9AM is comfortably civilised…

I only vaguely remember the first Doctor, William Hartnell, but grew up with the Patrick Troughton, Jon Pertwee and, to a lesser extent, Tom Baker takes on the role. I guess it would have been midway through the Tom Baker era that I grew up and gave up such childhood tales in favour of adult things like girls and beer…I remember think that the Doctors after Tom Baker’s #4 were quite silly and frivolous and the monsters pale in the face of the Daleks, Autons, Cybermen and Abominable Snowmen…

So now, fifty years on, where are we? The Doctor is now a major exploitable franchise being worked for all it is worth. I was a latecomer to the revitalised Doctor in the mid-2000s…I equated it with my memories of silliness and frivolity and that might never have changed if I hadn’t stopped over with friends on my way back from a trip to the UK and they were watching the finale of the Christopher Ecclestone series and I hooked drawn back into the world of the Doctor. I still haven’t seen any of that series bar the finale but loved the David Tennant era with companions Rose, Martha and Donna. I thought that that era ended well but have been unimpressed totally with the much more commercially-exploited Matt Smith era where the fez, fish fingers and custard, and the whole Amy Pond thing just left me cold – mercifully the BBC resisted the temptation to thrash the Pond thing any further in the 50th Anniversary special, The Day of the Doctor, that screened globally this morning…

If you haven’t seen it yet, you may not wish to read past this point…you have been warned…

There were too many cutesy distractions in this 75 minute special…although the multiple Doctor thing has been done before, there was no real sense of drama of impending threat in this story and what there might have been was continually eroded away by the Morecombe and Wise style of repartee between the Tennant and Smith Doctors: if the intention was to play the 50th for laughs, then the story should have reflected this…

The Zygons were never amongst the great or scariest of Doctor Who aliens…barely Second XI, if that…what value they added to this story is tenuous at best and resolution of this part of the plot really only seemed like a loose vehicle to enable the Tennant and Smith Doctors to work off each other. Take the Zygons out of the story, and you essentially have…the same story, just shorter – I’d be keen to see a Zygon-less bootleg version of The Day of the Doctor…

The time wasted on the Zygons could have been employed much more effectively to further develop the thirteen Doctor concept and the ultimate destruction of Gallifrey – an apparently pivotal event that the Smith Doctor regularly angsts about – we seem to have forgotten that the Tennant Doctor committed genocide on a universal level against the Daleks in his final series and that this has never been mentioned since. That may be because the Daleks have become like British Paints and ‘keep on keepin’ on‘ and so never did quite get genocided…

One of the things that I liked about the Tennant series was that it was all about hope, where the Smith era has been characterised by alternate frivolity and angst. It is revealed this morning that it was the (John) Hurt Doctor that pushed the button on Gallifrey as the only way to end the war between the Time Lords and the Daleks. Hurt’s depiction of the dilemma of sacrificing to few to save the many is very well done and if maintained, would have made this special an epic…unfortunate the writers succumbed to contemporary niceness and introduce an unlikely hope-based solution in which everyone (less the Daleks) gets to live happily ever after…

Although, yes, this is only a TV special and science-fiction at that, this is symptomatic of a malaise that seems to be affecting us more and more, a distancing from the realities of the world in favour of a cloud cuckooo vunderland where there are no harsh dilemmas and everything always turns out alright on the day. Sometimes  there are no real winners, just maybe lesser losers, where hard decisions have to be made…as much I may diss the Fulda Gapists that long for a return to the less complex days of conventional conflicts, one thing that those dinosaurs knew was the use of force as an instrument of, not so much national power, but of national survival…where the needs of the few are outweighed by the needs of the many.

This is not just in the sense of wielding the big nuclear stick but also in how even tactical actions are conducted where it may be necessary to risk one element in order to enable or save a larger formation, to employ area weapons to neutralise greater threats like air defence structures, or the growing spectre of accidental or deliberate release of bio-chem weapons…and sometimes civilians and other non-combatants get caught in the middle of all this and become part of ‘the few’…

…that war can be conducted in clean surgical manner is the ongoing Myth of Desert Storm that fails to take into account that there has not been a major force on force conflict since Vietnam and the October War in the early seventies…this myth ignores cold hard realities and results is military generations that are not capable of considering the hard issues and making those hardest calls where there are no winners…just lesser losers…ultimately it is NOT all about ‘the people’ but achieving national objectives…

So this morning we were presented, in the end, a happy happy joy joy ending instead of the deeper darker theme implied in the original idea…hope is nice but sometimes you have to be prepared to get down and dirty and make those tough decisions when hope is not enough…

With the (finally) demise of the Smith Doctor, the ball is now in the 13th Doctor’s court to restore some of the drama to the Doctorverse and dispel the silliness and frivolity that have been allowed to, Seeds of Doom-like run amok and dominate the ‘verse…

The great rift

Open Letter to My U.S. Government – This Veteran is Mad as Hell – Listen Up! That’s an Order
This good Catholic girl is mad as hell (and I never use that word, so that should tell you just how mad I am!) Read more…

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Yes, the great rift…and I am not referring to a major geographic feature in Africa…as an external observer, it has been fascinating and concerning to watch the US government slowly shake itself to pieces with impasse between both irresponsible factions in the Senate.

Impasses over budgets, national debt and welfare policy are not unknown nor that unexpected…the real concern is the manner in which the government has resorted to the most petty means to maximize the hurt and inconvenience for the people. This is clearly a campaign if not led, certainly endorsed at the highest levels – such pettiness could not be sustained otherwise. To bar survivors of ‘The Greatest Generation’ on what for some may be their first and last visit to the memorial erected in their honour is not only inexcusable, it is the sort of petty arrogance that would see governments unceremoniously evicted in almost every other western nation. It has already been pointed out that, when this happened in Australia in the 70s, the government was promptly sacked by the Governor-General.

 

How do you get to close Mount Rushmore or shut off the sea or prevent people from living in holiday homes on federal land? Yeah, sure, I get that government agencies have to close when staff can not go to work but closing websites and preventing photography or access to memorials that do not require staffing? Puhlease! Give us a break…

The scary thing about all of this is it displays the almighty rift between government apparently from the people, by the people and from the people and the people themselves – representatives who appear more interested in playing petty political games than actually doing their level best to ensure that the best interests not those they present – the actual people, not the endless and mindless lobby and special interest groups – are looked after. Big fail, Congress, epic fail, Senate, super epic fail, Mr President.

It is good to see people getting angry about this but will it do any good unless the system itself is changed, unless political representatives are made responsible to the people they apparently are from, by and for, unless that rift is closed…? As one of the comments on Cynthia’s blog states ‘…time to take your country back...’ And that’s not a call to war, it’s a call for change, to return to your core values – and  that includes putting big business back in its box – in all fairness to the reigning president, he did give the banks a thrashing when he first came to power – and perhaps a period of introspection about your place in the world…

That is all.

Carry on.

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How “We” Lost Yemen

How We Lost Yemen – By Gregory D. Johnsen | Foreign Policy.

yemen drone

Tonto used to say “We? White man..?” I haven’t seen the new version of The Lone Ranger so I’m not sure if Johnny Depp resists the temptation to weird this classic out…

The first thing that I like about this article is that it starts with “…drones, ships, and planes have all taken part in the bombardment...” and avoids the tendency of the uninformed to focus solely on the drone aspect of these attacks. Yes, for sure, we all know that ‘drone‘ isn’t the right word from a UAS geek perspective but as has been pointed out to me, the nice people at Merriam-Webster (the dictionary you use when you can’t afford real English!) still include as one of the definitions of drone “…an unmanned aircraft or ship guided by remote control…” Unfortunately, that definition is more apt than its other two definitions of drone as either “…a stingless male bee (as of the honeybee) that has the role of mating with the queen and does not gather nectar or pollen…” when we all know that the modern use can both collect and sting; or, and I had not seen this one before, “…one that lives on the labors of others…” although one might offer than a number of commentators on the so-called Drone Wars may be doing this.

The author asks why AQ continues to grow if this campaign has been so apparently successful – wasn’t it just not so long ago that victory in the war on terror was declared? Just as all the US and UK Embassy’s slammed the doors behind them as they knuckle down for yet another AQ-inspired assault? His answer? “…Faulty assumptions and a mistaken focus paired with a resilient, adaptive enemy…” I think that he is absolutely right and to these I would add reliance on resurgent but disproven ‘shock and awe‘ doctrine – we will so dazzle them with our technology that they can not fail to be overcome…yup…hasn’t worked for the last two decades and it’s not going to now…

Among the faulty assumptions are a demonstration of a total lack of grasp of military operations, culture and human factors – that, today, there are still people in power that believe that what work in one place will, without any supporting evidence work somewhere else: Yemen is not Pakistan is not Afghanistan is not Iraq. This is the same fundamental hubris error that the US made attempting to translate FM 3-24 from its successful implementation in Iraq to the total basket case that is Afghanistan (at any time).

Another is that there is some sort of subtle but vital distinction between launching strikes from an unmanned aircraft and launching them from a manned aircraft or a naval vessel or sharing the luff with a special operations team. Apart from avoiding the potential for inconvenient bodies to be displayed during News at 6, strikes from unmanned aircraft are really, as we all know deep down inside, just another form of national power employed in support of national objectives.

But…there’s always a but…might we assume that an inherent reluctance to be seen to put blood on the line by using drones further undermines national credibility especially in the absence of a declared or properly recognised or accepted conflict? Would the kinetic cross-border campaign against proponents of terror be more credible if it was conducted with manned resources i.e. to be specific, if human resources (a term I generally hate as aren’t resources things to be exploited?) aka nationals of the nation waging the campaign were actually doing the border crossing bit and not, as in the case of unmanned aircraft strikes, sitting back in the relative safety and comfort of an undisclosed top-secret location?

Although his model was flawed and needs further development, David Kilcullen was right – the accidental guerrilla not only exists but is created by precisely this sort of heavy-handed, poorly-formulated use of force. As the author of the article points out, the current campaign in Yemen is focusing on individuals and not on countering or neutralising the actual network in which they exist: control the water and the fish are yours for the taking…continue to play a short game and you are destined to play the short game forever – sort of like Happy Gilmore Hell…The article concludes:

The United States can do a lot of good in Yemen, but it can also do a lot of harm. And right now it is playing a dangerous game, firing missiles at targets in the hopes that it can kill enough men to keep AQAP from plotting, planning, and launching an attack from Yemen. After this terrorism alert that has sent America’s entire diplomatic and intelligence operatives in nearly two dozen countries scrambling, it may be time to rethink that approach in favor of a strategy that’s more sustainable — and more sensible too.

When you consider this statement – which I totally agree with – you might see the fundamental flaw (and irony) of a campaign strategy that employs shock and awe to conduct attrition warfare. As I recall, after the bloodbaths of WW1 and its sequel, we decided that we could do this war-fighting thing a lot smarter and developed concepts of manouevrism and asymmetry. It looks like the only ones that read all those books were the bad guys…