Friday, March 30, 2012

Israel and Azerbaijan

Something has been troubling me about Israel's focus on attacking Iran. Conspiracy theorists are all saying that Israel has been secretly given the go-ahead for an attack by the US. Political pundits are saying President Obama is using to situation in Syria as a way of appearing tough on foreign policy and by extension keeping Iran in check.

But given Israel's history in warfare, attacking Iran's nuclear facilities would lead to hostilities on its northern border. The Egyptian government is no longer friendly towards Israel and could cause problems for Israel on its souther flank. Therefore, the only way it makes sense for Israel to attack is they have another partner backing their play. The US does not seem to be in a position to back an Israeli led attack against Israel. The presence of Russian warships off the coast of Syria seems to be specifically to prevent US led airstrikes. If US airstrikes can be neutralized, or at least reduced, against Syria then strikes against Iran are even less likely to be successful.

But what if Israel's plans did not have to rely (or wait) for US airstrikes? According to an article on Foreign Policy, Israel has had a relationship with Azerbaijan since 1994. There are four airbases leftover from when Azerbaijan was part of the Soviet Union that could be used to recover Israeli fighters.

Azerbaijan - a nation with a majority-Turkic and majority-shia Muslim population - was briefly independent from 1918 to 1920; it regained its independence after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Despite a 1994 cease-fire, Azerbaijan has yet to resolve its conflict with Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh, a primarily Armenian-populated region that Moscow recognized as part of Soviet Azerbaijan in the 1920s after Armenia and Azerbaijan disputed the status of the territory. Armenia and Azerbaijan began fighting over the area in 1988; the struggle escalated after both countries attained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. Source: CIA Factbook

But if Israel gains access to runways and a means of flanking Iran's northern border, what does Azerbaijan gain? According to Foreign Policy:

Israel's deepening relationship with the Baku government was cemented in February by a $1.6 billion arms agreement that provides Azerbaijan with sophisticated drones and missile-defense systems. At the same time, Baku's ties with Tehran have frayed: Iran presented a note to Azerbaijan's ambassador last month claiming that Baku has supported Israeli-trained assassination squads targeting Iranian scientists, an accusation the Azeri government called "a slander." In February, a member of Yeni Azerbadzhan -- the ruling party -- called on the government to change the country's name to "North Azerbaijan," implicitly suggesting that the 16 million Azeris who live in northern Iran ("South Azerbaijan") are in need of liberation.Foreign Policy

Israel now gains not only a military advantage but also has politicized the plight of the Azeris in Northern Iran. But this also explains why Israel and Turkey have been having issues in the last few years.

The deepening Azeri-Israeli relationship has also escalated Israel's dispute with Turkey, which began when Israeli commandos boarded a Turkish ship destined for Gaza in May 2010, killing nine Turkish citizens. When Turkey demanded an apology, Israel not only refused, it abruptly canceled a $150 million contract to develop and manufacture drones with the Turkish military -- then entered negotiations with Azerbaijan to jointly manufacture 60 Israeli drones of varying types. The $1.6 billion arms agreement between Israel and Azerbaijan also left Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan "sputtering in rage," according to a retired U.S. diplomat.

The centerpiece of the recent arms deal is Azerbaijan's acquisition of Israeli drones, which has only heightened Turkish anxieties further. In November 2011, the Turkish government retrieved the wreckage of an Israeli "Heron" drone in the Mediterranean, south of the city of Adana -- well inside its maritime borders. Erdogan's government believed the drone's flight had originated in the Kurdish areas of northern Iraq and demanded that Israel provide an explanation, but got none. "They lied; they told us the drone didn't belong to them," a former Turkish official told me last month. "But it had their markings."Foreign Policy

Baku may be familiar to those of you that follow oil or know a little history of Rockefeller. Standard Oil had discovered huge oil reserves in Ohio and Pennsylvania but nothing like the oil reserves that were discovered in Baku in 1883. Standard Oil perfected its fracking techniques specifically to refine the thicker crude oil from Baku. Rockefeller was in direct competition with the Russians to gain access over the Baku oil fields but ultimately, the Russians took control.

The history of oil in Baku is important in understanding why Turkey is uneasy with the Israel-Azerbaijan relationship. But perhaps the best way to understand their concerns is by looking at the below map:

The Baku–Tbilisi–Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline is a 1,099 mile long crude oil pipeline from the Azeri-Chirag-Guneshli oil field in the Caspian Sea to the Mediterranean Sea. It connects Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan; Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia; and Ceyhan, a port on the south-eastern Mediterranean coast of Turkey. In part, this has allowed Turkey to gain greater economic influence. Russian specialists claim that the pipeline will weaken the Russian influence in the Caucasus. Hence Russia's support of Syria and reluctance to condemn Iran's nuclear program. The Russian Parliament Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Konstantin Kosachev stated that the United States and other Western countries are planning to station soldiers in the Caucasus on the pretext of instability in regions through which the pipeline passes.

Israel also gains access to the Baku oil fields which means it doesn't not need to worry about situations in Iran or Libya effecting the cost of energy. Israel is unlikely to back down from a confrontation with Iran and the US really isn't in a position to say one way or the other. Israel can destroy what it perceives as a grave threat (Iran's nuclear program) and recover its fighters safely in a friendly territory. The ramifications though of such an attack are huge. Turkey and Russia will view Israel's presence in Baku as destabilizing and aggressive. Russia will especially view the Israeli as a threat to its oil fields. Turkey will view the Israeli presence as a threat which could lead to Turkey eventually attacking Israel. The US is out of position to effect any influence on these matters. The US has decided it does not want a nuclear Iran, preventing an Israeli attack would essentially endorse Tehran's plans. Further, the US is not interested in a conflict that may pit US forces against Russia.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Saudi Arabia will act to lower soaring oil prices

It is clear that sustained high prices are starting to take their toll on European economic growth targets. They are contributing to trade balance deficits and feeding inflationary pressures. It is an unsatisfactory situation and one Saudi Arabia is keen to help address. In an interconnected world, European economic growth is in our national interest. No one benefits from a stagnating European economy and we want to do what we can to help encourage growth.
While the above sounds like good news for Europe and the US, Saudi Arabia's stance could create further tensions in the Middle East. Libya and Iran are also two larger OPEC producers and they may see higher oil prices as advantageous to their political ambitions. It could lead to tensions between Saudi Arabia and other oil producing nations. Or Saudi Arabia's stance could be seen as a way of appeasing the West just to garner protection.

On a related note, the UK is experiencing a fuel panic but for a different reason. Tanker drivers are planning to strike which would cripple the British economy. Roads Minister Mike Penning (the British equivalent to our transportation secretary) advocated British citizens stock fuel in jerry cans. The British firefighters union are throwing a fit pointing out the incredible dangers posed by people hoarding fuel in their homes. A house fire could rapidly spread out of control with people storing jerry cans of fuel.
Daily Mail

We are seeing $3.90 a gallon for fuel here in Ohio with no sign of prices dropping as we head into the summer vacation season. The increase seems to be based purely on speculation and not on any real reductions.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Tunisian Islamists step up demand for Islamic state

Thousands of Tunisian Islamists took to the streets on Sunday to step up their demands for the creation of an Islamic state in one of the most secular Arab nations.
Tunisia is where the Arab Spring begun last year. By changing out many of the regimes, the potential exists for many of these countries to become Islamist states. If Tunisia becomes the first to become Islamist, it will great the potential for pan Islamism. Northern Africa and the Middle East could become essentially one continuous Islamist state. Egypt and Libya also appear ready to vote in Islamist regimes (lead by the Muslim Brotherhood). Assad stepping down in Syria will save lives, but in so doing it has to be noted an Islamist state could be created.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Mohammed Merah

In that and other respects, he may fit the model of an Iron Man, a terrorist prototype and Salafi extremist who drives fast cars and motorbikes, enjoys the good life, is at ease with electronic gadgets and used a high tech video camera from a Formula One car to record his murderous rampage in high resolution for propaganda and posterity.

Mohammed Merah said he had trained in Afghanistan and Pakistan, both of which countries he visited in 2010 and 2011. A Kandahar prison official identified him as an al Qaeda bomber who was imprisoned for three years and escaped in a mass Taliban jailbreak in 2008, only to be rearrested and sent back to France

A new type of terrorist but really much of the same. An extremist who received training abroad only to return to country he originated from. He then enjoys his final months driving fast cars and presumably women and good food. He then commits murder and finally kills himself. How many more are already in France or here just waiting to start their rampage of violence?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Extremist suspect upends French presidential race

The specter of radical Islam's grip on France has threatened to overturn France's presidential race, in which Socialist Francois Hollande has long been the pollster's favorite to unseat the divisive conservative president, Nicolas Sarkozy.
CBS News

The French can show US conservatives a thing or two about the Islamic "boogeyman"and how to use it to use it to whip up jingoistic fervor. It doesn't help that gas prices here in the Buckeye state are around $3.99.

Poll: 'Anti-Semitic notions' on rise among French, other Europeans

Of the many stereotypes of the French, perhaps the most common (and least offensive) is that they are a very cosmopolitan people and thus open to other cultures. Anyone visiting France will notice there is "French culture" and then there is the rest of the world. French art became world renowned not because of a tolerance for different styles but because anything other than the French ideal was not tolerated.

The recent shootings in Toulouse highlight French intolerance. Anti-Semite feelings in France are not unknown but for years France has been more intolerant of Muslim culture. Muslim women especially feel discriminated against by numerous policies requiring them to remove their face or head coverings.

France's involvement with military actions against Libya was largely motivated not by feelings against Qaddafi but rather a desire to have access to oil. In turn, this strained relations between the Sarkozy government and French Muslims. The legacy of French imperialism throughout North Africa still echoes in the 21st Century.

As hostilities continue to escalate with Syria and Iran, we can anticipate seeing more violence in France.

LA Times

The Real Cost of War

"Typically, when your back is injured it's injured for life," McInroe says. These things just get worse, he says, and adds that veterans who were 50 percent disabled in 2008 will be 70 percent disabled in a couple of years. The peak years for World War II disability payments were in the 1980s, 40 years after Hiroshima and Nagasaki".
Houston Press

The alleged killings by SSgt Bales will keep PTSD at the forefront but the real cost of war is the physical injuries sustained from wearing body armor while maneuvering around rough terrain while wearing a pack. During the summer, temperatures rise over 120 degrees further breaking down the body. You get to do all of this while breathing in dust, diesel exhaust (from generators and vehicles), refinery exhausts, insects, viruses, bacteria, and other airborne pollutants. No wonder returning troops have persistent coughs and other respiratory ailments.

On top of all of this, troops are still required to PT. Most services still favor running, push-ups and sit-ups as a measure of physical fitness. Running on knees and hips strained from carrying all of that weight in theater means more injuries and joint damage.

We are going to see a whole generation of 30 and 40 year olds that will move like geriatric patients. By the time they are 50, many of these vets will need hip and knee replacements (if they haven't had to have them earlier).

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Troops stressed to breaking point

For military analysts, the reason is the nightmarish experience of sustained combat: Soldiers have been fighting the longest war in U.S. history, with frequent stressful deployments and compressed rest time back home.
Washington Times

You can't keep taking people away from their family and friends, inflict long deployments with many opportunities to be hurt or killed, and expect them NOT to show signs of stress.

I've written before about being deployed over the years missing birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, births, etc. Troops are not the same when they return, it takes months to re-assimilate back into the home (if they can). Knowing that they will have to do it all over again in 18 months makes it worse than anything WWII or Vietnam vets faced.

Russia and France equals a softened position on Syria

"We believe the Syrian leadership reacted wrongly to the first appearance of peaceful protests and ... is making very many mistakes," Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, told local radio station Kommersant-FM. Al Jazeera

The quote supports my thought that the Russian counter-terrorist Marines indicate a concern Assad may be overthrown by a coup. Russia has stood by the Assad regime but their deployment of troops would indicate their are losing their faith or patience with him.

The article also had this comment:
"In a bid to win Russian and Chinese support, France has watered down a proposed UN Security Council statement calling on the Syrian government and the opposition to immediately implement proposals by international envoy Kofi Annan to end the year-long bloodshed." Al Jazeera

This seems to paint the March 11th shootings in Toulouse, France where 3 French paratroopers, 3 children and a rabbi were killed.

The suspect is 24 years old, of French nationality and says "he belongs to al-Qaeda," Gueant told reporters. He said the suspect "wants to take revenge for Palestinian children" killed in the Middle East, and is angry at the French military for its operations abroad. The man was known to authorities for having spent time in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The shooting suspect is "talking a lot, claiming his jihadist convictions" and calling himself a "mujahedeen," Gueant said. USA Today

Could the shootings have convinced France to take a less hard-line stance against Syria? While I was researching the shooting, I came across this "A bomb blast outside Indonesia's embassy in Paris on Wednesday caused serious damage to surrounding buildings but no injuries...The bomb exploded around 5:45 am (0445 GMT), when the streets of western Paris were relatively quiet, blowing out windows in a 50-metre (54-yard) radius and setting fire to two cars."
Google News

If Paris was somehow coerced (either real or imagined) into changing their position, then we may see more attacks. It also casts recent events in Afghanistan in a new light. I still am unconvinced US military personnel (who have been engaged in Muslim countries since Desert Storm) would not know the books seized from the prisoners were Qurans. I think someone, somewhere was hoping that burning the Qurans would create enough of a backlash to pull the troops out. Do I have proof? No. I just have my experience that says someone would have pointed the importance of those books.

Then there is the strange case of Army Staff Sergeant Robert Bales who killed 16 Afghani civilians. According to the reports in media, Bales was scarred by several tours of duty, had recently watched a fellow soldier have his leg blown off, was facing marital problems back home and, on the day of the massacre, had been drinking heavily. But then there is this new report surfacing "Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, the Norwood native accused of killing 16 Afghan civilians, was ordered in 2003 to repay more than $1.5 million to a Carroll couple after it was alleged that he stole the couple's money as a financial adviser."Newark Advocate

Bales had been a financial advisor prior to joining the US Army. Somehow this finding did not concern the US Army, even though troops who have excessive debt are considered a security risk. Bales had also been recently denied a promotion. My point is this case seems to be the perfect storm to accelerate the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan. Whether by design or by accident, the Quran burnings and Bales massacre will have a major impact on US policy.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Russian Anti-Terror Troops in Syria

Now the Russian Black Sea fleet's Iman tanker has arrived in the Syrian port of Tartus on the Mediterranean Sea with an anti-terror squad from the Russian Marines aboard according to the Interfax news agency. The Assad government has insisted it is fighting a terrorist insurgency. The Russian news reports did not elaborate on the Russian troops' mission in Syria or if they are expected to leave the port.
ABC News

Now we are are getting somewhere. Rebel forces must be getting to Assad or Russia is afraid Assad is out-matched. In either case, Russian troops on the ground in Syria changes the dynamics. The Russian troops check any airstrikes by the US or NATO. If a guided bomb or missile goes awry, and they still do sometimes, and strikes a Russian troop there will be consequences. I don't know if President Obama and Secretary Clinton get Putin is a hardline Soviet (not a typo). As such, he is playing high stakes poker here and will put his troops in the way of US weapons if just to bolster anti-US feelings back home. Could be why there was a report of three carrier battle groups being dispatched to the region.

We should also pay attention to Iran. If Iran remains silent, it will prove that Tehran and Moscow have been in collusion. North Korea is providing the needed distraction to all of this keeping US forces spread thin, not to mention the turmoil now in Afghanistan.

Friday, March 16, 2012

North Korea rocket launch plan sparks US threat

Iran and Syria have been keeping the attention of the Obama Administration and the media for the past months. That could only mean that our latest "fearless leader", North Korea's Kim Jong-un, would have to claim some of the headlines for himself. The best way to do that is to of course shoot off a missile.

He plans to that exactly that next month. The Taepodong-3 is classified as an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) with a range of 10-20,000 kilometers and is able to carry an estimated payload of 500-1,000 kilograms. The stats translate to a missile easily capable of striking the United States with a warhead and unlike Iran, we know North Korea possesses nuclear warheads.

Worse, North Korea doesn't even need to worry about developing nuclear warheads anymore. Iran has the ability to produce the miniaturized components necessary to make the warheads. Iran also has the reactors necessary to produce the nuclear material. North Korea was able to achieve its advanced rocket technology through the acquisition of parts and technology from parts and technology from North Korea include Iran, Egypt, Pakistan, Libya, Syria, the United Arab Emirates and Vietnam. Of course Libya stopped selling components earlier this century but not before North Korea developed its capability.

Kim Jong-eun gains both press as well as Assad's gratitude for giving the US much to think about. It puts the Obama Administration in a really bad position going into an election cycle.

Yahoo News

North Koreas missiles

Airstrikes may not be the right decision

Hezbollah was formed in the early 1980s in response to Israel's invasion of Lebanon. Of course one nation's terrorist group is another nation's resistance movement. Hezbollah is considered a terrorist group by the US, UK, Australia, Canada and of course Israel. Most Arab and Muslim nations consider Hezbollah to be a resistance movement. The group wants the destruction of the "Zionist entity" more commonly referred to as Israel.

Although based in Lebanon, Hezbollah receives much of its weapons, training and finances from Iran through Syria. I was reminded of this linkage while reading about the latest events in Syria. The Assad regime has now killed over 8,000 people with no end in sight. There are increasing calls for airstrikes by the US to support the rebels.

By understanding the relationship of Iran and Syria to Hezbollah, it makes any military actions a potential flashpoint for Israel. Any attack on Syria risks pushing forces into either Lebanon (which borders Israel), Turkey or Iran. This could ignite conflicts outside of Syria with unforeseen outcomes. Forces fleeing into Lebanon could link up with Hezbollah and Hamas to create havoc in Israel. A huge influx of refugees from Syria into Turkey could destabilize the NATO country. Refugees fleeing into Iran could lead Iran into some type of armed response to forces attacking Syria.

The US and NATO have led airstrikes with the intended result of ousting Qaddafi but also created the unintended consequence of allowing the Muslim brotherhood to ascend to power. There is no guarantee that whoever comes in behind Assad will be friendly towards the West. Some may argue that the mixed results in Libya were due to the lack of boots on the ground. The current situation in Afghanistan disproves the notion that having boots on the ground will result in a stabilized situation. In fact, recent events in Afghanistan (the kill team, Quran burnings, and rogue soldier) have empowered a return of the Taliban.

Unlike Afghanistan, military operations could make Iran or Israel nervous. Syria shares a border and political connections with Iran meaning any conflicts could spillover. Iran could take the involvement of US forces in Syria as a prelude to an attack and put their military on high alert. In turn, this heightened state of alert by Iran could cause the Israelis to strike first as their tolerance for a nuclear Iran is much lower than the US.

Russian and Chinese vetoes prevented the U.N. Security Council from passing a resolution to condemn the Assad regime on October 4, 2011—and yet again on February 4, 2012. Secretary Clinton has been unable to convince either to change their position. For Russia, the need for a port in the Mediterranean means it will be unlikely that Moscow will allow the West to intervene. For China, it risks losing access to abundant oil reserves should hostilities break out in the Middle East.

People such as Senator John McCain are calling for intervention in Syria. Watching thousands die is certainly not what human beings should die. However, we must act with our minds and not just our hearts. The short-term goal of ousting Assad will have long-term implications that no one is really discussing. The Arab League has thus far only been a paper tiger. The US and Europe need to push them to broker a long-term solution, preferably one that does not mean further use of US military forces.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Panetta Safe After Nearby Truck Crash at Afghan Base

What a bunch of BS!

General Gurganus told reporters later that he had wanted a consistent policy for everyone in the tent, and that “I wanted to have the Marines look just like their Afghan partners,” noting, “You’ve got one of the most important people in the world in the room.”

First, they are US Marines and should be treated as US Marines and NOT as partners! US service members work for the President and by extension, the Sec Def. By disarming his own Marines, it implies Secretary Panetta felt uncomfortable with they very people he and his boss have sent into harm's way. Monarchs would have their knights disarm whenever there was a fear of a insurrection. Shoguns would have samurais remove their katanas (which is where the shorter wakizashis and tantos came in handy).

The Obama Administration, especially the Sec Def, seems to be very concerned about the increase violence being committed by their warriors. Now if they only would show the same level of concern for the incidence of suicide and domestic violence being committed by US veterans.

According to the New York Times, "Joint Base Lewis-McChord had 16 soldiers commit suicide last year, the most of any Army post, Army statistics show. Since 2003, 68 soldiers from the base have killed themselves, among the higher totals for the Army in that period, but still below Fort Hood, Fort Campbell and Fort Bragg."

NY Times

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Afghan government team attacked, Taliban fume over massacre

"The Islamic Emirate once again warns the American animals that the mujahideen will avenge them, and with the help of Allah will kill and behead your sadistic murderous soldiers," Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement, using the term by which the Islamist group describes itself.

In 1992, US forces arrived to provide humanitarian relief to Somalians who were starving as a result of the warlords. Then the following year, President Clinton ordered the capture of Mohamed Aidid setting in motion the events portrayed in the movie "Blackhawk Down". The former heroes who brought food were now seen as the enemy.

The US forgot, once again, a lesson from the past. Afghanistan did not ask us to come in an free them from the Taliban. We invaded their country looking for Osama bin Laden, then tried to couch the invasion by claiming we were there to liberate the Afghani people from the tyranny of the Taliban. After thousands of Afghani civilian deaths over the 10 years of the war, Osama bin Laden is shot in Pakistan. Is it any wonder that neither the Afghani people or military wants to be there anymore?

In the Boy Scouts, we are taught to leave the area better than you found it. The US is not going to be able to say that about Afghanistan. The Taliban is rebounding and will be stronger now than they were 10 years ago.


Tuesday, March 13, 2012


From the Air Force Association Daily News: "The international community must sustain a "fairly robust aid network" in Afghanistan after US troops withdraw in 2014 in order to ensure that the country doesn't revert to a safe haven for terrorists, said Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis, head of US Central Command. Speaking before the House Armed Services Committee last week, Mattis said the process of helping the Afghans reach self-sufficiency has been difficult since Afghanistan was a nation "where literacy and any kind of governmental organization [was] totally lacking." However, the need for foreign aid will eventually taper off as the Afghan economy grows, he noted. "Afghanistan is starting to get some economic vitality showing up from extraction industries," said Mattis. Its education system, he continued, is starting to churn out people "directly employable to do things that are more than just subsistent farming." He said the United States and its coalition partners have helped build logistics schools for the Afghan military so that it can "maintain the military infrastructure and equipment we're giving them."

Given the murders this past weekend, the Quran burnings, and last years "kill team" it seems unlikely that Afghanistan will become any other than a haven for terrorists.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Scores reported killed in two Syrian cities

New York Times

March marks the one year anniversary of the Fukushima nuclear reactor meltdown. However, March also marks the one year anniversary of the Syrian crisis. As the Arab Spring spread, Syrian rebels protested President Assad. Much like the Libyan protestors, the rebels were attacked by government forces. Unlike Libya, Syrian rebel forces have not been supported by NATO or US forces while Assad's regime is being supported by Russia, China and Iran.

According to The United Nations says at least 7,500 people have died so far in the crackdown. In comparison, the Department of Defense has identified 1,892 American service members who have died as a part of the Afghan war and related operations. According to Global Security, 4,282 Americans have died in Iraq operations. Both of the figures for US military deaths are for the entire duration, meaning in one year there have been more deaths in Syria than the US military has faced in both Iraq and Afghanistan combined!

The killings of 16 Afghani civilians by a rogue US soldier means the Pentagon and State Department will have to plan some type of withdrawal from Afghanistan and still be in a position to support actions in Syria. Outrage by Afghanis and Al Qaeda may increase the likelihood of an attack against US forces either overseas or even here in the US. The Presidential elections will also complicate matters as the current administration will not want to appear weak. Depending on which GOP candidate gets the nomination, he will be able to snipe President Obama on everything from national security to high gas prices.

The Syrian crisis needs to be brought to an end, however there is no easy way to accomplish this without involving the US in additional hostilities.

Al Jazeera

Interactive Map of Syria

Sunday, March 11, 2012

'Rogue' US soldier kills Afghans

A close friend of mine, who I met back in 2004 when we were both in Qatar, is deploying again. This makes her fifth rotation over to the AOR since 2004. Think about that for a moment, she has basically go over almost once every 18 month since 2004.

Operation Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom military members serve a 6-12 month rotation (depending on the branch of service) unlike counterparts from WWII or Vietnam. The good part is you get to stay connected to home. The bad part is going back, again and again. I've met Marines and soldiers who have deployed 10 times since 2002. These brave men and women have sacrificed a good part of their lives being away from loved ones. Yes they get to back for a while, but inevitably they go back missing important birthdays, graduations, or just family vacations.

The Department of Defense and Veterans Administration have been trying to deal with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), as something that happens after your return home. What isn't as widely addressed is the stress of going back. Imagine an infantrymen, combat engineer, Marine, or security forces who has lived through an attack. Now you come home, try to become the person you can never be again only to be sent back over again. Ground Hog Day but without Bill Murray. Imagine the dread and anger many of our troops must dealing with as the face yet another deployment.

A warning came last year after another "rogue" soldier was convicted of leading a "kill team" in Afghanistan. The overtones of the case show a complete dehumanization of the Afghani people in the minds of the "kill team" members. Then just last month, apathy lead to soldiers burning Qurans from a detention center. Analyst suspected the holy books had secret messages written in them by the detainees. Rather then store them, it was thought the most holy book of Islam should be incinerated. The soldiers apparently never thought to ask, isn't this going to piss of the locals?

Now another soldier has murdered 16 Afghanis. He went outside his base and methodically executed innocent civilians. While this is still being investigated, I suspect we will see the same level of detachment from his crime as the previous kill team leader.

Our service men and women have fought valiantly for nearly 10 years but the strain is beginning to show. PTSD is not waiting to manifest at home, now we are beginning to see it in theater. I fear more cases will occur unless troops are brought home. The Afghani people are furious with the very troops who fought so hard to provide them a safe and secure country.

'BBC News

Friday, March 9, 2012

Ohio earthquakes triggered by brine injection

"Hydro-Fracking, sometimes called hydrofracturing, is a well development process that increases the flow of water from a bedrock well by increasing the size and extent of the bedrock fractures that bring water into the well."--Schrader Well drilling website

Trying to find a non-politicized definition of hydro-fracking is difficult. The industry calls it a proven technological advancement. Environmentalists blame Haliburton for creating the processes that potentially increases toxicity of the surrounding environment.

From a purely geological and physics viewpoint, introducing liquid (especially in large quantities) means an increased potential for stuff to move that had been frozen in place by friction.

"Investigators from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources have confirmed that injection well fluid along a weakened geologic fault triggered the 12 earthquakes that occurred in the Youngstown area between March 2011 and January 2012. After investigating all available geological formation and well activity data, ODNR regulators and geologists found fluid from the Northstar 1 Class II disposal well intersected an unmapped fault in a near-failure state of stress, causing movement along that fault."

It seems to me that Haliburton may have given terrorists a new weapon to try out. Fracking near a fault line could result in devastating earthquakes. In my part of the country, we are always a little worried about the New Madrid fault. As it covers a multi-state area, fracking in say Arkansas could result in earthquakes effecting Memphis, Louisville and Cincinnati. It may not be as glamourous or easy as a bomb or hijacking an airliner but it could be even more effective. Hell even without terrorist intentions, it appears good old fashioned greed is causing us some major problems.

Farm and Dairy

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Panetta: 'International Permission’ Trumps Congressional Permission For Military Actions

Sessions: “Do you think you can act without Congress to initiate a no-fly zone in Syria?”

Panetta: “Our goal would be to seek international permission. We would come to the Congress to inform you and determine how best to approach this.”

George W. Bush was accused of an illegal war but it seems Barack Obama is heading down the same road.


Tuesday, March 6, 2012


Obama shifts location of G-8 summit from hometown of Chicago to his Camp David retreat

This from the same administration that has been questioning the ability of the UK to protect US Olympic athletes this summer?

The NATO summit is stills scheduled to be held in Chicago. The first World Choir Games to be held in the US will be hosted in Cincinnati. The former presents many anti-war protestors screen time while the latter affords the opportunity to create chaos. The G-8 apparently attracts an even more threatening cast of characters. What is most unusual is how quickly the location was changed. Surely the FBI and Secret Service were aware of the potential security risks hosting a major summit like the G-8 in Chicago. Big city, lots of buildings to hide shooters and bombs, the challenge of keeping tabs of multiple attends meandering around the city. Why now?

It would appear to be the situation in the Middle East with an increasingly belligerent Israel looking to smite Iran. The potential interruption to oil production has to be causing concerns amongst the European nations. A possible point of discussion may be giving a green light to begin hostilities. Gas prices here in the Buckeye state a creeping rapidly towards $4. We could easily $5 by the summer or higher if there is a conflict. Moving the G-8 to Camp David will allow attendees to be essentially sequestered from the media.

Washington Post

Monday, March 5, 2012

Is an India-China arms race brewing?

Just when it looked we were all set to watch a major flare-up in the Middle East, our friends in the Far East decided that they couldn't leave well enough alone. China's military build-up is well know but not as many people under the might of India.

India tends to be associated with more metephysicla things such as Hinduism and yoga. In reality, India is a warrior nation with a very proud and ancienty legacy. Shaolin monks learned martial arts from India.

Here we have two ancient cultures still locked over Arunachal Pradesh (north of Tibet) and could end-up having a modern war over the territory. According to Al-Jazeera, here's what we are looking at:



•China says it is to increase its military spending by 11.2 per cent in 2012 - to almost $110bn
•It wants to double that amount by 2015
•China's official defence budget is the second-largest in the world, after the US
•But its actual spending, according to some experts, may be as much as 50 per cent higher because China does not account for its expenditure on nuclear development and other programmes such as space

•India's military power pales in comparison with China. Yet, it too is significantly increasing spending on defence
•The 2012 Indian defence budget was set at $36bn - an 11.6 per cent rise on that of the previous year, but still less than half of that of China
•India has the tenth-largest military budget on the planet
•Fifty-one per cent of India's military budget is spent on maintaining its considerable land army of more than one million people

The one item left off? Nuclear weapons. India developed a nuclear capability and while China most likely has more, it still is a factor in this situation. While all eyes turn to Iran and Israel, one must wonder what will develop here in the next few years.

Al Jazeera English

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Putin claims victory in Russian election

"It is true that liberty is precious; so precious that it must be carefully rationed"-Vladimir Lenin

Putin claims victory and the specter of the Soviet Union just got a little more real. Putin ran and basically seems posed to be president for life. He was able to convince George W. that he was a good guy. Hillary and Obama may be harder to convince but may have no other choice. Cuts to our nuclear forces, military and a potential war with Iran means the US is in no position to be too antagonistic towards Russia. Time will tell if Putin will become more aggressive or turn into an elder statesmen of sorts. I'm betting on the former.

Read more:

Al Jazeera

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Cautious welcome for N Korea deal

"North Korea's pledge to suspend uranium enrichment, as well as nuclear and long-range missile tests, has received a cautious international welcome."

It has been three years since the last shipment of US food to North Korea. It is impossible for us in the West to imagine how desolate and desperate the situation must be in North Korea. Food shortages seem to be a way of life, yet North Korea has no shortage of long range weapons.

If Kim Jong-eun continues this line of negotiation, it could be a good sign for both the US and South Korea as well as Japan. He is a young, unknown leader that may not follow in his father's and grandfather's footsteps. However, all of the senior military officers were selected by Kim Il-Jong and share the elder Kim's view of the world. North Korea has been poised to attack the South and US forces for nearly 60 years. It remains to be seen if the latest in the Kim dynasty will be able to change his country's worldview.

BBC News