FM newswire, 12 November – links to old-fashioned journalism

Today’s broadsheet from the FM website pressroom.  There are 4 sections, all with hot news.

  1. Links to 4 interesting articles of news and analysis
  2. Quote of the Day
  3. News about themes from 2 posts past on the FM website
  4. Thought for the day (-1)
  5. Plus an Afterword

(I)  Links to interesting news and analysis

(a)  State Tax Revenues Show Record Drop, For Second Consecutive Quarter“, Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government, October 2009 — “Fiscal 2009 Also Brought Record Overall Decline of 8.2% , or $63 Billion.”  See the key graphs here.

(b)  Too fearful to publicise peak oil reality“, Madeline Bunting, op-ed in The Guardian, 10 November 2009 — “The economic establishment accepts the world soon won’t be able to meet energy demands, but wants to keep quiet about it.”

(c)  Massive Defense Spending Leads to Job Loss“, Dean Baker (bio), Truthout, 11 November 2009 — The projected job loss from this increase (that we’ve had)  in defense spending would be close to two million.

(d)  In Afghanistan, Taliban surpasses al-Qaeda“, Washington Post, 11 November 2009 — “Although the war in Afghanistan began as a response to al-Qaeda terrorism, there are perhaps fewer than 100 members of the group left in the country, according to a senior U.S. military intelligence official in Kabul who spoke on the condition of anonymity. The official estimated that there are 300 al-Qaeda members in the tribal areas of Pakistan, where the group is based …”

(II)  Quote of the Day

Special Operations Chiefs Quietly Sway Afghanistan Policy“, Spencer Ackerman, Washington Independent, 9 November 2009:

Two senior military officers from the shadowy world of Special Operations are playing a large and previously unreported role in shaping the Obama administration’s Afghanistan and Pakistan strategy, a move that underscores that the internal debate has moved past a rigid choice between expansive missions to provide security for Afghan civilians and narrowly tailored missions to find and kill terrorists.

Navy Vice Adm. William H. McRaven, the commander of the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) at Ft. Bragg, N.C., and Vice Adm. Robert S. Harward, the deputy leader of the Joint Forces Command in Norfolk, Va., are attending and informing the strategy meetings that the White House began in September to refine its approach in Afghanistan.

… Debate about a “purely counterterrorism strategy” advocated by Vice President Joseph Biden was “bounced around at one point, but that has been cast aside,” said a National Security Council staffer who attends the meetings and who asked for anonymity because the debate is still ongoing, “mostly because JSOC has said ‘We’re going to do this anyway.’ And it’s not like they’re going to be in a supporting role.

Looks they are clear whose running US foreign policy, whatever delusions Team Obama might have.

(III)  Updates from posts past on the FM website

(a)  Tactical Air’s Gloomy Future“, Winslow Wheeler, Military.com, 9 November 2009 — For more about the inevitable replacement of manned aircraft by UAV’s, see:

(b)  Every phone call, email and internet click stored by ‘state spying’ databases“, The Telegraph, 9 November 2009 — Excerpt:

All telecoms companies and internet service providers will be required by law to keep a record of every customer’s personal communications, showing who they are contacting, when, where and which websites they are visiting.

Despite widespread opposition over Britain’s growing surveillance society, 653 public bodies will be given access to the confidential information, including police, local councils, the Financial Services Authority, the Ambulance Service, fire authorities and even prison governors.

For more information about this topic, see:

(IV)  Thought for the day (-1)

One Hour’s Stour, posted at Unqualified Offerings, 11 November 2009:

Wikipedia has the short, sad story of how Armistice Day – a holiday “dedicated to the cause of world peace” – became, as of 1954, a day honoring the military as such. I regret the change. The US already had Memorial Day for military members killed in action, and Armed Forces Day began in 1950. A third military-focused holiday would already be overkill even if it wasn’t a perversion of the original meaning of November 11 remembrances. As John Quiggin reminds us today, November 11 marks the blessed if temporary end to one of the great calamities – crimes – visited on people by their leaders, and by people on each other. It is meant to be a day dedicated to hating the waste and sin of war.

While the impulse behind Veteran’s Day seems “grass roots” enough, it depended on the assent of the powerful to enact it.You can see why the government would have embraced a chance to change that holiday’s focus. As for me, I’ll exercise my personal veto. Happy Armistice Day.

(V)  Afterword

Please share your comments by posting below. Per the FM site’s Comment Policy, please make them brief (250 word max), civil and relevant to this post. Or email me at fabmaximus at hotmail dot com (note the spam-protected spelling).

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7 thoughts on “FM newswire, 12 November – links to old-fashioned journalism

  1. Some day we will measure our strength, not by the weapons that we know how to use, but by the weapons that we know how to live without.

  2. Anent item II above, the NYT had this to say today: “Obama Purposely Taking Time on Troop Decision“:

    …officials said Mr. Obama pressed for clarifications on a series of questions. Where are the off-ramps for the military? What is the exit strategy? When will Americans and their allies hand responsibility to the Afghanistan government? Can the Afghan government improve its credibility?

    While much has been made of the four military options on the table – all of which revolve around how many troops to send and for how long – the president also made clear that he is not yet fully satisfied with these choices and will not approve an open-ended commitment. He has also asked, officials said, that some of the options be redrawn.”

    … A few hours before the meeting of his war council began Wednesday, Mr. Obama walked through the rain-soaked grass at Arlington National Cemetery. He stopped by Section 60, where 577 troops from Iraq and Afghanistan are buried. He moved slowly among the granite headstones etched with names of today’s wars, Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.

    If the above is true, whatever Obama’s decision is, and however it works out… it would appear we should all respect how he went about it.
    .
    .
    FM reply: That’s true only if you ignore the past. We’ve gone through this Kabuki before. After all this thumb-sucking, I’ll bet that he’ll make his decision still lacking either a strategy or any idea of its requirements in blood and money. Just as Kennedy and Johnson did.
    * How many troops would it take to win in Afghanistan?
    * Let’s blow the fog away and see what General McChrystal really said

    Worse, I fear he’s just stalling. Delaying the decision to escalate until after he gets the Peace Prize in Oslo on 10 December. Bad form to take it with fresh blood on his hands, however worthy the war.

  3. Obama no doubt thinks he can finesse his way out of the war using a sophisticated approach that balances the myriad of competing forces. And he has a snowballs chance in hell of doing it.

    He’s surrounded himself with people who have made a career making sure people like him take the fall for their disasters. There IS going to be a big time loser all this and the longer Obama aims for a win-win solution that satisfies everyone the surer it will be that it will be him.

    A good start would to call the militaries bluff on the COIN nonsense and tell them that in line with their great new doctrine troops will be deploying with their families to Afghanistan indefinitely. Maybe with something on the line they might win for a change.

  4. And on the other bloody hand, if Obama were looking for an auspicious moment to announce a step back from Afghanistan, Peace Prize Day might do?

  5. How to Spend More and More Money to Reduce to your Military Effectiveness

    There is an interesting fundamental conflict of interest between defense contractors and defense.

    Basically contractor profits go up the higher the cost of the weapon. Not only is this in straight profit but in addition the customer (government) is essentially funding the contractors R&D investment costs – that is a very substantial subsidy. So the incentive is for the contractor to make the very best equipment at the highest price even at ever decreasing rates of quality improvement. So militaries are urged to purchase ever fewer of higher and higher quality units.

    But in warfare at the simplest level the overall effectiveness of opposing forces varies according to the square of the ratio of opposing unit quality – the Lanchester square law. This means that if Blue has two units and side Red has four even if each of Blue units are twice as effective as Blues the fight is not fair – it favors Red 2 to 1. The quality of Blues units has to actually be 4 times greater for an even fight.

    Now there are lots of issues with this simple analysis – quality does not have a linear cost for instance – arming everyone with spears isn’t cost effective either. And there are undoubtedly discontinuities and thresholds and fixed costs that all distort the curves.

    But there is still a sweet spot in equipment complexity where the cost effectiveness – even though that is not the common perception and it certainly not in the interests of the contractors to point it out. When you look at US military equipment procurement over the last 20 years it’s fairly obvious that things have been pushed far away from the optimum.

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