But it kept prices low! This strikes me as almost the worst of capitalism and communism combined.
The company says it will donate money for research on forced labor. Here's a better idea: Why not just pay the former prisoners, or their families, decent back wages for the work they did? Better decades late than never.
Prison is a good place to learn to really listen to your own mind and your own body. I've learned to read much more deeply, for instance. For four months, I had nothing to read but the Bible, so I read it for all four months -- diligently, picking everything apart. Prison is like a monastery -- it's a place for ascetic practices. After a month here, I became a vegetarian. Walking in circles for an hour in that tiny dusty yard gets you into a pretty meditative state as well. We don't get much in the way of the news. But enough to get inspired. "
Later in the interview, she comments, in an aside, "unlike Putin, we're not chickenshit."
By Lt. Gen. Mark P. Hertling, US Army
Best Defense guest columnist
The Caucasus -- that historical causeway of conflict between Europe and the Middle East -- remains a complicated tangle of security concerns. Ethnic tensions still affect long standing territorial disputes, internally displaced indigenous people align with or oppose powerful diasporas, and an increasing nouveau riche -- an oil-fueled minority upper class -- is growing in an area once known only for desperate poverty.
While the Minsk Group spearheads the OSCE's efforts to find a political solution to the conflict in and around Nagorno-Karabakh, Armenia and Azerbaijan both remain frustrated with the lack of political resolve; military leaders on both sides proudly and unjustifiably claim they could "settle it" quickly. The recent Georgian experience with Russia has left significant cross-border scars that will likely not heal anytime soon, especially as Georgia desperately seeks NATO membership and European acceptance. The spider-web relations between Iran and Israel with many of those in this region confuses even the experts; and the border between Turkey and many of her allies -- especially Armenia -- are subject to political resolution of multi-generational disputes between those two countries.
All of these factors exist in a crucible surrounded on three sides by Turkey, Iran, and Russia. The potential for conflict is considered so plausible and the issues related to the interaction so confusing that a few years ago the U.S. Army's Training and Doctrine Command developed scenarios linked to the Caucasus to help prepare Majors for military contingencies. The U.S. Army's Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth uses the "GAAT" (Georgia-Armenia-Azerbaijan-Turkey) exercise as a thread of continuity throughout the course. Understandably there is no right or wrong answers to any of the questions posed to young field grade officers in the course, but the underlying conflict scenarios meet the requirement to analyze and exercise an extremely complex Joint, Interagency, Intergovernmental and Multinational resolution.
During a recent U.S. Army Europe (USAREUR) command visit to Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan, my young aide de camp -- a recent graduate of Leavenworth -- pronounced after accompanying me that she wished she had visited these countries before participating in "the GAAT." After observing the meetings with the regions' visionary political leadership, and seeing the capabilities of the emerging non-conscript militaries and the unique differences between the younger generation of professional leaders and the older generation of Soviet-trained generals, she proclaimed: "this is very different from what I learned in the classrooms at Leavenworth, Kansas."
ANNA ASRIYANTS/AFP/Getty Images
My first thought was that Syria shot down the Turkish F-4 because the Turks were probing Syrian air defenses. But then I remembered that the U.S. aircraft patrolling the northern Iraq no-fly zone flew out of Incirlik, Turkey, which meant that they zoomed along the northern Syrian border for years. We must have learned an awful lot about Syrian operations, and shared almost all of it with our Turkish friends, and other members of NATO.
So what more might there be to learn? Probably a probe to see how much deterioration there has been in Syrian defenses in the last year. But that would be a good use of a drone, no? (And are we sure there was a pilot in that F-4?)
The Israelis clearly also know a lot about Syrian defenses.
Meanwhile, Turkish jets conducted air strikes in northern Iraq. Interesting neighborhood.
I usually write this blog around 6 or 7 in the morning. There are days when my eyes kind of glaze over as I look at the overnight world news headlines: Bombs in Baghdad, drone strikes in Pakistan, and plane crashes in Nigeria.
So when some news comes out of an unexpected place, I pay attention. Few places on the planet can be more remote than a border post between Kazakhstan and China. That's where 14 soldiers and a game warden recently were killed in an unexplained incident. Reuters suspects drug smuggling. For all we know, could be a feud with aliens.
It's kind of like hearing the neighbors arguing late at night -- you can hear the shouts, but can't quite make out the meaning. That is, I don't quite understand the inside baseball here, but The American Conservative sets out to demolish neoconservative icon Leo Strauss:
Strauss was at best a mediocre scholar whose thought expressed a confused bipolarity between a very German and ahistorical Grecophilia on the one hand and a scattered, dogmatic, and unsophisticated apology for an American version of liberal universalism on the other.
This is the equivalent of one soldier calling another "a lardass REMF fobbit liberal." Why do I mention this obscure intellectual squabble in this blog? Because there are those who contend that followers of Strauss at the Pentagon and elsewhere in the Bush administration were instrumental in getting the United States to invade Iraq.
By Lt. Col. Tom Cooper
Best Defense guest columnist
As I walked into a meeting the other afternoon a colleague asked if I thought the Air Force would be around in 50 years. We struck up a conversation about Strategic Air Command (SAC) and where the Air Force has been -- an important thing to consider when thinking where the Air Force is headed and how to answer his question.
I told him the best story I've read of the Air Force's early days, SAC and the Air Force's place in national security is L. Douglas Keeney's 15 Minutes: General Curtis LeMay and the Countdown to Nuclear Annihilation. The book is more than just a story of LeMay, however, it shows his role in the establishment of SAC and SAC's place in history is significant.
LeMay set the tone for the early Air Force and in many ways the story of SAC is the story of the Air Force. LeMay's views on readiness were taught to him by Colonel Robert Olds. (Interestingly, one of the Air Force's most public faces during "the rise of the fighter pilot" was Robin Olds, the son of Robert Old. Fighter Pilot is the book to read on the son.) LeMay said that Olds taught him "the whole purpose of the Air Corps was to fly and fight in a war, and to be ready to fly and fight in that war at a given moment."
Keeney's describes a LeMay-led SAC that dominated the nation's military during this time and SAC's readiness is clear throughout the book:
--In 1954, SAC had a direct fixed capital investment greater than an estimated $8.5 billion -- only the cost of aircraft and installations. The largest company in the United States was Standard Oil of New Jersey which represented a $4.5 billion investment. SAC's 185,000 personnel trumped Standard Oil's 119,000 personnel as well.
--In 1959, SAC hit its pinnacle. It had 2,921 bombers and tankers, a number that would steadily decline as missiles took their position in the triad. SAC had forty domestic Air Force bases plus twenty-five overseas, with 412 bombers and tankers on alert -- 149 of which were on alert overseas. As a comparison, the Air Force currently has 159 bombers and 511 tankers.
--In 1960, with bombers and command and control aircraft airborne 24/7, SAC was completing an air refueling every 6.8 minutes. This is a testament to the training and readiness of Airmen during this period. A KC-135 and a B-52 joining to within feet of each other at jet aircraft speeds every 6.8 minutes is a level of readiness that sets a standard that would be difficult to achieve even today.
--In 1961, SAC ran tests to test the response time of the alert force. Reflecting Keeney's choice of title, President Kennedy directed a fifteen minute alert posture. Amazingly, the sharp edge of SAC crews at the time was well beyond this capability. With 50% of the total SAC fleet on ground alert (664 bombers and 494 tankers at the time) it was proven that this whole fleet could get airborne in eleven minutes. In fact, in a single minute 200 SAC aircraft could take off.
--The tension within the Air Force between manned-bombers and the ICBMs necessary to deliver nuclear weapons is a great insight to those folks who wonder if the Air Force is culturally flexible enough to continue its progression towards more remotely piloted aircraft. The same fears about keeping a "man in the loop" are evident but you see in the book (and history), the Air Force was able to resolve concerns about autonomy.
SAC's Cold War role winds down as the book ends in 1968 and is represented by the use of B-52s in Vietnam. "SAC wore Vietnam as a hair shirt," writes Keeney. The transformation from SAC's 1961 level of nuclear readiness to its support of conventional operations in Vietnam demonstrates a tension frequently evident within the Air Force. How does an Air Force balance its joint force support requirements and capability while ensuring its enduring strategic responsibilities are retained? Air Force operations since 9/11, the establishment of Air Force Global Strike Command and debates over numbers of F-22s during the recent period reflect this tension.
The book's other main theme is the effort it took to establish a robust warning system to ensure there would be "15 minutes" for SAC to get airborne and the history of the nation's nuclear weapons development enterprise. These stories, when presented in the context of a nation fearful of its destruction, are a fantastic history of the period.
A little known story was the Texas Tower early warning radars built off the east coast. He tells of the whole cycle from concept to eventual failure of this network of platform based radars. It is a great example of one Cold War activity that captures the fear of the period, the cooperation of industry and government, and most importantly good and bad leadership. The tale of Texas Tower 4 is particularly useful to students of leadership and how to handle a crisis.
Military decisions during the early Cold War provide a great lens to reflect on our current austerity. The post-Korea draw down led the Army and Marine Corps to a level barely able to survive and the tactical air forces shrunk to an equal level of unpreparedness for small wars. This imbalance is a lesson critical to our nation as we face the budgetary pressures of today. Favoring one way of fighting over another has proven itself to be more expensive and this book highlights that well.
So 15 Minutes tells the story of a very different Air Force than exists today. A very different Air Force may exist in 2030, but the Air Force will continue to be the service that our nation and the joint force trusts to control its air, space, and cyberspace and to be in position to hold any target globally at risk. This is why America's Air Force will endure.
However, it is important for a service built on technology to recognize that its culture has to adapt as fast as the technology while retaining its heritage, or people will continue to ask if it will survive another 50 years.
Lt. Col. Tom Cooper is the Air Force fellow at the Center for a New American Security. He is spending this year reading following a career flying the E-3 Sentry, SAMFOX C-9s in the 89 AW and C-40s as commander of the AF Reserve's active associate 54 AS. He has served on the Joint Staff and the Air Mobility Command staff.
Remember yesterday I mentioned David Wood as a good defense reporter? He has a terrific column today about what is going wrong in Afghanistan. I'll summarize it here, but only if you promise to click on this link and read the whole thing.
Wood begins with a good strong "lede" that manages to combine action and policy:
When a warning crackled over the radio of a suspected ambush ahead, Lt. Col. Rob Campbell swore softly and ordered his three armored trucks to a halt. What happened next illustrates why the U.S. war effort in Afghanistan is failing, why commanders here are asking for more manpower -- and why they are pleading for more time.
Then his main character strides into the picture, along with a succinct statement of the problem:
Leaping out with his M-4 carbine, Campbell, a tall cavalry officer with sandy hair and freckles, strode through the empty, sun-baked fields flanking the road while his men fanned out, checking the ground for IEDs, sweeping the fields for snipers. The Afghan police assigned to patrol this stretch of road? Nowhere in sight.
Campbell comes off as a good, thoughtful officer doing well, but conscious that time is running out. Anyway, read the whole thing -- one of the best things I've read on Afghanistan in awhile.
Meanwhile, NATO aircraft hit some hijacked fuel tankers in northern Afghanistan, killing a bunch of people. Some of them were insurgents, some of them children and other civilians trying to get the fuel the Taliban was distributing from the trucks for free. The total is somewhere between 50 and 90, it appears. My question: Does this air strike pass the Petraeus test, which I saw him apply in Mosul back in 2003-2004: Before taking any action, consider whether it will create more opponents than it stops. Anyway, this makes me wonder if NATO forces got snookered into the attack.
Paula Bronstein/Getty Images
Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military for the Washington Post from 2000 through 2008.