Nicolas Sarkozy, president de la France, condemned the assassination of a Hamas commander in Dubai. He said that his country cannot accept such "executions."
Funny, I remember reading in Savage War of Peace how French agents whacked European arms dealers it believed were supplying the Algerian rebels.
NIGEL TREBLIN/AFP/Getty Images
I'd never read General Eisenhower's memoir of World War II, Crusade in Europe, partly because no one ever recommended it to me. So I was impressed when I began studying it over the Christmas break. The first half reminded me frequently of Grant's memoirs, especially the similarly straightforward prose, and I think also the modest career expectations. I liked it, and wondered why no one ever steered me toward it.
Then I got to the second half of the book, around the time of D Day. From then on, I found it much less honest and a whole lot more evasive. Huertgen Forest? A little unpleasantness, nothing to see here. General Montgomery? A fine chap, a little headstrong. The prose also went mushy. This extended softshoe routine, I thought, is why this book is all but forgotten.
Even so, I found the first 200 pages enjoyable and illuminating.
I thought the president's acceptance speech today for his Nobel Prize for Peace was surprisingly hawkish, especially about Iran:
... it's also incumbent upon all of us to insist that nations like Iran and North Korea do not game the system. Those who claim to respect international law cannot avert their eyes when those laws are flouted. Those who care for their own security cannot ignore the danger of an arms race in the Middle East or East Asia. Those who seek peace cannot stand idly by as nations arm themselves for nuclear war.
The same principle applies to those who violate international laws by brutalizing their own people. When there is genocide in Darfur, systematic rape in Congo, repression in Burma, there must be consequences. Yes, there will be engagement; yes, there will be diplomacy. But there must be consequences when those things fail. And the closer we stand together, the less likely we will be faced with the choice between armed intervention and complicity in oppression.
He's a contradictory man, this Obama. A couple of weeks ago he went to West Point to announce that he was reluctantly escalating the war in Afghanistan. I read that speech as an explanation and apology to his political supporters. Now he goes to pick up the Peace Prize and paradoxically defends the American use of force in the world. I read this speech as an apology to Martin Luther King, who was invoked six times in the speech, far more anyone else.
Now he says it: Sir Jeremy Greenstock believes the American invasion of Iraq was of "questionable legitimacy."
As a British naval historian friend I know once noted, the time when the British government could have helped -- and perhaps stopped the war -- was back in the winter of 2002-2003. Real friends speak up when a friend is making a big mistake. Instead, Tony Blair may have destroyed the "special relationship" by supporting the invasion when he should have opposed it. My friend said he believes Blair should be confined right now in the Tower of London.
It was good of the British to find and free their kidnapped countryman, Stephen Farrell of the New York Times, near Kunduz, Afghanistan. A lot of us had known about his disappearance and had worried about it, but had refrained from mentioning it in print.
My condolences to the Times for the loss of Sultan Munadi, its Afghan interpreter (mourned above), and to the British military for the lost of a commando. And to the villagers who lost an unknown number of civilians.
Now a question for the Times and other media outlets: It is fair to ask people not to report the kidnapping of reporters when the kidnapping of other defenseless people, like NGO workers, is routinely reported?
Marco Di Lauro/Getty Images
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
A veteran Special Forces trainer, one-time Sgt. 1st Class Kelly Stewart, fluent in German and knowledgeable about evasion techniques, is convicted in Vilseck, Germany, of sexual assault and kidnapping, and then sent to a hotel room escorted only by a sleepy member of his unit? And the Army is surprised that he takes off and disappears in the black Audi Q5? (But he eventually saw the light and turned himself in. But apparently not before taking some poison that wound him up in intensive care at Walter Reed. This guy is out to beat the astronaut lady who wore Depends.)
Andreas Rentz/Getty Images
I've been reading Morelock's terrific Generals of the Ardennes, which argues, among other things, that Gen. William H. Simpson did more to win the battle than did the far more celebrated Gen. George S. Patton, no matter what Francis Ford Coppola said in his screenplay.. The odd thing is that Simpson is all but forgotten now. I would have used a photo of him above (he looked a bit like a pit bull) but I couldn't find one on Flickr.
Win McNamee/Getty Images
I about fell off my chair when I read this lead on a story in the National Post of Canada:
The Ottawa university professor accused of killing four people in the 1980 bombing of a Paris synagogue will not be returning to work.
Hassan Diab's lawyer told a court on Monday that his client had expected to resume teaching a sociology class this week at Carleton University.
But in a terse statement released yesterday afternoon, the university said that a full-time faculty member "will immediately replace the current instructor, Hassan Diab."
This is pretty obscure as far as reading lists go, but then this is warm, muggy Wednesday in late July. So, via BBC, here is a list of suggested summer reading from the British Conservative Party's spokesman for foreign affairs:
- The Junior Officers' Reading Club: Killing Time and Fighting Wars by Patrick Hennessey
- A View from the Foothills by Chris Mullin
- Alan Clark: the biography by Ion Trewin (published mid-September)
- Pistols at Dawn: Two Hundred years of Political Rivalry from Pitt and Fox to Blair and Brown by John Campbell
- Electing Our Masters: The Hustings in British Politics from Hogarth to Blair by Jon Lawrence
- Whitehall: The Street that Shaped a Nation by Colin Brown
- Neville Chamberlain by Nick Smart (published August)
- Attlee's Great Contemporaries: The Politics of Character by Frank Field
- Harold Macmillan by Charles Williams
- Finest Years: Churchill as Warlord 1940-1945 by Max Hastings (published September)
- D-Day by Antony Beevor
- Blood Victory: The Sacrifice of the Somme and the Making of the Twentieth Century by William Philpott
- Democracy: 1000 Years in Pursuit of British Liberty by Peter Kellner
- The New British Constitution by Vernon Bogdanor
- The Life and Death of Democracy by John Keane
- Democracy Goes to War: British Military Deployments under International Law by Nigel D White
- Lords of Finance: 1929, The Great Depression - and the Bankers Who Broke the World by Liaquat Ahamad
- Keynes: The Return of the Master by Robert Skidelsky
- The Spectre at the Feast: Capitalist Crisis and the Politics of Recession by Andrew Gamble
- Restoring Financial Stability: How to Repair a Failed System by Viral V. Acharya and Matthew Richardson (eds)
- Europe's Tragedy: A History of the Thirty years War by Peter H. White
- Poland: A History by Adam Zamoyski
- The Generalissimo: Chiang Kai-shek and the Struggle for Modern China by Jay Taylor
- The Terrorist Hunters by Andy Hayman (currently withdrawn for legal reasons)
- Terrorism: How to Respond by Richard English
- The Defence of the Realm: The Official History of MI5 by Christopher Andrew (published October)
- The Pathans by Sir Olaf Caroe
I hope Tory MPs can expense Caroe's book -- it isn't cheap.
Patrick Little, a former British infantry officer, blasts the British military for not adjusting in recent years as the U.S. Army has. This is a bit ironic, given that one of the most influential American military books in recent years, John Nagl's Eating Soup with a Knife, was built on the notion that the British army of the 1950s was a "learning institution," while the American Army of the 1960s was not.
Writing in the RUSI Journal, Little charges that there are "serious systemic shortcomings" that aren't being addressed, most notably a command climate in which "bad news is routinely camouflaged."
The current climate, with themes of deteriorating communication, intolerance of dissent, tolerance of toxicity, poorly designed processes and perceived tolerance of inadequate senior officer performance, is a real obstacles to learning and adapting."
Where, he wonders, are. Nagls and Yinglings of the British military -- or a General Petraeus willing to listen to them and protect them?
He recommends several major reforms, including:
This all makes sense to me. I think he tends to think the U.S. military has changed more than it has, but he is correct in crediting our military has moved in the right direction.
(HT to JB)
Marco Di Lauro/Getty Images
I know it was just a momentary lapse, but I got a kick out of this mistake in the transcript of Tuesday's confirmation hearing to make Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal the commander of the war in Afghanistan:
SEN. UDALL: In a sense you're distinguishing as well between the big "T" Taliban and the little "t" Taliban. You talked about the hard-core Taliban elements that you believe are irredeemable, but you alluded to those Taliban who joined the fight because that's what Afghans do in the spring, join the fight because it's the only way they can provide for their families.
GEN. MCCHRYSTAL: Absolutely, sir. Like Admiral Stavridis, I'm a friend of David Kilcullen, and I think a lot of what he says about the accidental gorilla is true. And so I think what we've got to do is eliminate the people who do it for other than just absolutely strong ideological reasons.
More substantially, I also was struck by an exchange with Adm. James Stavridis, nominated to become commander of NATO and the top U.S. officer in Europe. It hadn't occurred to me that his ethnic Greek heritage would be of concern to certain members of NATO. But apparently the Turks have wondered a bit:
SEN. SAXBY CHAMBLISS (R-GA): . . . Admiral Stavridis, I was in your ethnic home, as you know, over the last week, and had the opportunity to observe what's going on in Greece, particularly with regard to what's happening with the migration of folks out of Afghanistan and Pakistan through Turkey, through Greece sometimes staying in Turkey, sometimes staying in Greece, causing some problems there. But Turkey obviously is a very strategic country right now. It's European orientation, NATO membership and enduring relationship make it a bridge of stability between the Euro-Atlantic community and the nations of Central Asia and the Arabian Gulf. How would you describe our relationship with Turkey today? And how would situation in Northern Iraq with the PKK and the KGK threaten that relationship?
ADM. STAVRIDIS: Thank you, Senator. It's probably worth nothing that although I'm ethnically Greek, my grandfather was actually born in Turkey, and came through Greece on his way to the United States. So I have I think a cultural understanding of both of those nations. Turkey is an incredibly important friend and ally to the United States. I would categorize our relationship at the moment, from what I can see before going to theater, if confirmed, and actually meeting with our Turkish military counterparts, from all that I can see it is a strong relationship. We are conducting a great deal of information and intelligence-sharing with our friends. We recognize the threat to Turkey posed by the Kurdish separatist movements. And I believe it is both an important and a strong relationship and one that I intend to focus on if confirmed.
Spain is permitting the children and grandchildren of people who fled the country after the fascist victory in the 1930s civil war there to apply for citizenship. Spain should be applauded more broadly for the way it has carefully and steadily moved from fascism to liberal democracy over the last 33 years.
So, Spaniards: Is it time to begin thinking about a museum of the Spanish Civil War? When I was there studying it earlier this year with a group from Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies we were amazed at how few historical markers had been erected. Spain needs something to balance Francisco Franco's horrible batcave of a tomb north of Madrid (shown at left). It was built with the labor of political prisoners. One professor on the trip likened it to a "cathedral of death."
Photo: PHILIPPE DESMAZES/AFP/Getty Images
Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military for the Washington Post from 2000 through 2008.