Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Ambush Alley Would Like to Kick Our Ass

Fascinating read, this Back to the Street without Joy: Counterinsurgency Lessons from Vietnam and Other Small Wars by Robert M. Cassidy on Parameters.

The "Street without Joy" is the title of a book by Bernard Fall that, according to Mr. Cassidy, explains why the French failed to defeat the Viet Minh during the Indochina War, which began in 1946. This war ultimately lasted nearly thirty years, but starting in 1954 it came to be known as the Vietnam War, a civil conflict in which the United States helped South Vietnam fight against North Vietnam and the Viet Cong. The "Street without Joy" is also the nick-name for Highway 1 on the coast of Indochina (the area now composed of Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia) also known as "Ambush Alley," and ironically, the place where Mr. Fall was killed by an IED during a Viet Cong ambush in 1967.

Mr. Cassidy draws not only from that conflict, but also from the Banana Wars, a series of conflicts in and around the Caribbean, including but not limited to Nicaragua, Mexico, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and Cuba (1909-1926); the Philippine Insurrection (or Philippine-American War 1898-1913); and even the Indian Wars of the early United States of America (1775-1890); chapters of history made no less pertinent by the passage of time to our present situation in Iraq, where we face a highly mobile enemy who is difficult to strike with a massive war machine.

Cassidy references Robert Taber's book, The War of the Flea: Guerrilla Warfare in Theory and Practice, in which Taber wrote:

"Analogically, the guerrilla fights
the war of the flea, and his
military enemy suffers the dog's
disadvantages: too much to defend;
too small, ubiquitous, and agile
an enemy to come to grips with. If
the war continues long enough
--this is the theory--the dog
succumbs to exhaustion and
anemia without ever having found
anything on which to close its
jaws or to rake with its claws."

And, in Cassidy's words:

"An overarching principle, though, is not
to fight small wars with big-war
methods--the goal is to gain results
with the least application of force
and minimum loss of civilian
(non-combatant) life."

While we might utterly dominate anyone who would be so foolish as to meet us in a conventional war, in the "war of the flea" we can easily have our asses handed to us. Which is not to say we can't win it, only that it requires a much different approach and execution.

"In small wars, tolerance, sympathy, and
kindness should be the keynote to our
relationship with the mass of the

Occasionally, numbers describing Iraqi support for our military in Iraq are bandied about. Some sites I've read suggest a healthy percentage of people living in Baghdad support us; other sites I've read suggest nothing of the sort. Cassidy makes the point that the support of the population is indispensable. So if we don't have it, we need to get it. Once people are on our side, we can work with them to reach a common goal. But convincing them to be on our side could be tricky considering how much ordnance we've dropped on Iraq so far.

Methods of engendering popular support include rebuilding infrastructure and showing respect and compassion to the civilians, particularly the women and children. Perhaps if untrustworthy companies such as Halliburton (google.com) weren't given no-bid contracts at our expense, we could get some serious work done. Why the American people tolerate such a blatant conflict of interest in the second highest office is beyond me (The Boston Globe). I can only assume people are not paying attention. That or perhaps they are all out fucking themselves right now.

Much more information can be found in the article. I am challenged by the sheer volume of essays and articles at Parameters.

Here's another good one from Parameters: In Praise of Attrition by Ralph Peters. In this essay, Mr. Peters underscores the importance of killing and how our military's troubles can be traced to a timidity that has crippled our armed forces ever since Vietnam.

We live in interesting times.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Eggnog can hurt you

OK, I measured stuff this time. Liquids lend themselves to that sort of thing and this recipe is all about liquids. Feel free to experiment with the amounts, of course. If you want you can put less booze in, for instance. But why would you want to do that?

Here's the ingredient list for about 8 servings. Feel free to double or triple the amounts as you see fit:

4 eggs (separated)

1/2 cup sugar (divided equally in two)

1/2 cup brandy

1 1/2 cups whisky

1 1/2 cups milk

1 cup heavy whipping cream (divided equally in two)

Fresh nutmeg

1. Mix half the sugar into the yokes. Set aside.

2. Beat whites until stiff, add other half of sugar.

3. Fold the yokes into the whites.

4. Slowly add the milk, the booze, and half of the cream.

5. Whip the remaining cream and fold into the mixture.

6. Ladle into cups, grind some nutmeg on top for aroma and decoration, and serve.

Seriously strong and tasty cups of egg and liquor goodness is what you'll have. So watch out. I was strongly influenced by (where "was strongly influenced by" means "shamelessly stole") this recipe here. And after drinking a couple of these you will be strongly influenced, too. So watch out. This delicious concoction is a great prelude to staying put, definitely not to driving.

Peace out.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

more nattering

This is from Bill O'Reilly's column on Foxnews:

"All loyal Americans should be hoping
that Iraq will stabilize and that
democracy will take root there. Even
if you don't support the war, the
goal of a free Iraq is noble. And
Americans are the good guys in Iraq.
And there's no other honest way to
see it. The situation could go either
way. Unfortunately, pray the good
guys win."

To use the phrase "loyal Americans" is to make yourself sound like an ass. It's as if you think we should be bowing and scraping and saying "Yes sir!" to whoever has more money or power, a king for instance. An American is a proud individual with a glorious history of defying those who would subject him or her. Americans are loyal to themselves and those things we hold dear, not to some nebulous ideal that's been woven from whole cloth and spun by pundits for mass consumption. Make no mistake: dissent is patriotic.

What if the Iraqis democratically vote to install a theocracy? Will those that support this war be satisfied? Or will the bombing continue until Iraqis vote the way they're told?

"Americans are the good guys in Iraq." This phrase desperately needs repeating. What with the growing number of starving children Washington Post, and over 15,000 civilians dead iraqbodycount.net, we need to repeat this one over and over and as loudly as we can if we expect anyone to ever believe it. Fortunately, as Foxnews proves, that's all it takes to convince many these days. They so effectively fabricated a connection between the guy that actually did the towers and Saddam that people actually thought attacking Iraq was a response to 911, and were pacified when George let Osama get away latimes.com.

"Unfortunately, pray the good guys win." This sentence is ironic. Is praying for the good guys to win really unfortunate? I'm going to assume that O'Reilly's poor grasp of English is at fault here. Or maybe the transcriber messed up the punctuation and what he really meant was: "The situation could go either way, unfortunately." But that doesn't make much sense either. Saying it could go either way sounds optimistic to me.

"Just today, 'The Boston Globe'
took two quotations from me
completely out of context. And that
aggressively secular newspaper will
do that all day long."

"Aggressively secular?" So, if The Boston Globe is a "secular" newspaper, is Bill implying that Foxnews is overtly religious? I can see religious people watching and listening and perhaps secretly masturbating to Foxnews, but I really hope people don't see it as a good source for spiritual guidance. That would be a tragedy of epic proportions. Although, I'm sure O'Reilly would enjoy playing the part of Father Bill (just keep the children away).

Or maybe Bill is making a reference to the Washington Times. Now, there's a religious newspaper. Owned and staffed by Moonies, it has no credibility, but the good Reverend Sun Myung Moon's paper is well loved by Foxnews Google.com. They quote it all the time. And it most certainly is a source of spiritual guidance for many, perhaps even Bill. Perhaps Bill even refers to the reverend as "Father," like all his followers do.

There's a picture: imagine O'Reilly being bounced on Reverend Moon's knee, big shit-eating grins on each of their faces. "Goo goo goo, Billy. Here's your copy for today's talking points. Be sure to throw in a few 'We are definitely not lying to you.' lines. Everybody loves it when you say stuff like that. It's so, hmm..., what's the word I'm looking for? Oh yeah: incredible." he says, laughing as he jabs Billy's fat, little tummy with his finger. "Now go get your daddy's crown."


Sunday, January 02, 2005

Los Gatos

So, we're doing the cat thing again. I still feel bad, but these guys are awfully cute. It's almost like I'm powerless in a weird, backwards sort of way, like I'm this clumsy Baby Huey sort of creature, or Lenny from Of Mice And Men just trying to love and be loved but wreaking havoc instead. But I should back up a little.

I've had dogs, cats, hamsters, guinea pigs, tadpoles/frogs, fish, hermit crabs, birds, and sea monkeys as pets for most of my life (not all at once, mind you). Since 1999, however, I've been living pet free, and I kind of liked it. It was sort of liberating to not have to worry about the well being of someone other than myself for a few years. Of course, I missed the warmth and companionship, but left to my own devices, I probably would have remained petless for a little longer and then ultimately would have gone for a dog. Since G came into my life, my priorities have changed a little.

G is my my fiancé. G's cat, Toonses, passed away a few months after we started dating. Toonses was found abandoned in a parking lot as a kitten and was, by all accounts, a fine friend and companion to her for many years. He developed a malady that was never properly diagnosed and despite a great deal of care and attention, many expensive trips to the vet, and a loving support staff that included not only G but also her mother and friends, he succumbed at a relatively early age. Needless to say, G has been jonesing for a kitten ever since. And I'm cool with that. I love animals: some of my best friends are animals.

A few weeks ago, G and I had a bit of a cat debacle. We decided to rescue a cat from a shelter and arrived early one morning to look at kittens. Most everyone was napping, but one fellow, a bright-eyed orange and white kitten named Cruiser, was up and talking to us. He also had a good rapport with the gal working at the shelter and just gave off a good vibe in general. We sat with him in one of the meeting rooms and after a few minutes of making him chase the bouncy thing on a string tied to a stick we decided he was the one for us.

One of the other gals at the shelter told us he was mouthy. "Mouthy?" I asked. By way of explanation she sort of gently clawed at my hand with her fingers. This mildly surprising and completely unwarranted (in my opinion) violation of my personal space did little to help us understand what she was saying, but we were caught up in the moment and let it go.

Mouthy, as it turns out, actually means bitey. Cruiser was all about biting. He was a very cool cat in many ways: only scratched the things we gave him to scratch--never the furniture, played with the toys we bought him, and wasn't at all skittish--a rare, fair feature in a cat, and had loads of personality. But he could not stop biting.

Every morning he'd climb onto our faces and bite us on whatever was exposed, purring like crazy the whole time. He'd never break the skin with his teeth but was less careful with his claws. It was near impossible to pet him at all without him trying to bite, and it was laborious to try and respond to his rough mode of play without encouraging him. Grabbing him by the scruff of the neck would temporarily settle him down. Another tactic I employed was carefully rolling his gums over his teeth so that he'd feel the force of his jaws on his own flesh whenever he'd try to bite. He was only trying to play, never did this in anger, but it was a deal-breaker nonetheless.

A trip to the vet illustrated the situation for us. The vet described Cruiser as an extremely aggressive cat and cautioned us against allowing him near small children. We're planning to raise a couple yard monsters in a year or so, which meant that Cruiser had to go. That simple. G called me at work to tell me this, weeping. We were still within the two week trial period, so I took him back.

We like to think that we did the right thing because he's still a kitten and this gives him a better chance to get adopted by someone else. Whereas if we'd kept him only to give him up the first time he took a swipe at the future half-pint, he'd be an adult cat, less cute, and therefore less adoptable. The more I think about it, though, the more I think I signed the little guy's death warrant when I spelled out the phrase "too aggressive" as our reason for returning him.

Ironically, we now have two kittens. It's as if we decided that because one was too much to deal with, two will be easier. And everyone assures us that it's true. With a pair of kittens, litter-mates even, they will work out their aggression on each other and leave the house and its occupants safe and intact. That's what everyone says, anyway. In the meantime, they've already ruined two pieces of expensive leather furniture. So much for popular theory.

One is a siamese mix and the other a tabby. I named the former Albrecht, and G named the latter Brodie. Brodie is named after the character in Mallrats who does the stink-palm. Albrecht is named after the German painter/engraver Albrecht Durer. They're great friends and inseparable, fighting, eating, sleeping, and charging from one end of the house to the other all day long. They are slowly becoming a little less skittish, but so far only Albrecht has shown any affinity for being a lap cat.

Their favorite hide-out is inside the bottom of a reclining chair in the living room. Kittens. Damn, they're cute. And I negotiated a deal where I get a dog when the imminent kids are just a few years old. Maybe I'll name it George.