Longtime grasshoppers know that I am a First Amendment fundamentalist. That's the ideological reason I've been extremely reluctant to censor any comments. The other, more practical reason is that selectively censoring a nasty commenter only makes him look better. Why help a jerk stay just inside the lines?
I mention this because over the last week, one commenter clearly was going out of his way to be provocative and insulting. He was eroding the civility of the continuing discussion. One soldier wrote to ask that the commenter be banned for fear that the tone and type of comments would get Best Defense blocked on military computers.
Still, I didn't take action, and instead just asked him to tone it down. (I am not going to name him because I think that just would give him more of the attention he seems to crave.)
Then he made a crack along the lines of where is Lee Harvey Oswald when we need him. My stomach turned. I made a decision I had resisted for years. But instead of going to censoring, I asked FP's technicians to block his comments altogether.
This is, of course, just a short-term solution, because he can always comment under another name. This is where you all come in. The real long-term solution is for all of us to ignore those who degrade the discussions on this site. Resist temptation, and ignore his provocations. So I am thinking that in the future I might I post an occasional flag, along the lines of "Troll alert: Please do not respond to this person's comments." Do you think that would work?
I dunno what happened but for a time over the weekend I was unable to see any comments on this blog (and on other FP blogs). This is bad. Your comments make this blog. I've complained to the authorities.
I take as my text today Isaiah 19:9's crack about IT departments: "they that weave networks shall be confounded."
Hello BD commenters! I can see here that there are some concerns about the new commenting system, so I wanted to jump in and add a few comments myself.
First, I want to emphasize that you DO NOT have to sign into Facebook, Twitter, or any other social network, in order to comment. While we wanted to emphasize the option of using those accounts to our readers who already have them, doing so is not mandatory.
Here's how you can create an anonymous commenting account through the new system: Click on the LiveFyre logo below the gray box of text in any post created from Tuesday, March 27 onward. A pop-up screen will appear; click on "LiveFyre" on the left hand side of that screen. The system will prompt you to create a new account if you do not have one -- put in any user ID you'd like, and any email address that works for you. You will then be able to comment as normal on the site.
This account login is encrypted to protect your identity, making it even more secure than the FP login (one of our reasons for changing the system). LiveFyre asks only for your email account and a login ID, which can be whatever you choose in order to protect your anonymity. Adding your actual name to a LiveFyre account is optional.
While there is an option to post your comments to Facebook or Twitter, you do not have to do so. The default setting will not post your comments anywhere but on this site.
We at FP really appreciate the input that our commenting community provides, and are attempting to make commenting easier. We are trying to cut back on the spam and inappropriate comments that have been able to infiltrate our site, not to alienate valued readers such as the ones on this blog. We really want to keep your insights coming, which is why we left all existing comments on the site intact. Please ask me any questions or share any concerns you still have here, and I will do the best I can to answer.
TR: Clearly, she comes in peace. In a note to me, she adds:
There's no need to sign in using Facebook if he wants that information to remain private. If he creates a LiveFyre account, it will be completely anonymous -- just like the old Foreign Policy login. Does that help?
TR: I see a ray of light on yonder horizon. RVN SF VET, one of the skeptics, filed this report:
It works! And this time it didn't try to invade my privacy. Has anyone else noticed that the new system no longer offers to correct your spelling when you right-click on a misspelled word. I think that it is a missing link to the Word spell checker on my PC.
TR: If you have a big problem, please post about it or e-mail me, and I will forward to Cara and her team of hard-working IT dweebs.
In response to your many complaints about the screwy commenting software Foreign Policy uses, the computer dweebs have gotten a different system. They assure me it will work better.
Apparently two of the ways to comment are using Facebook or Twitter. There is a third way, that I recommend: I don't do any social networks, and I think there are enough twits in the world, so I will use Livefyre, which they tell me preserves anonymity if so desired, which I think many of you do.
Let me know how it works for you. And, as always, remember rule 2: Don't post comments while drunk.
The Army on Monday fired Col. Frank Zachar as commander of the 172nd Infantry Brigade, which is based in Grafenwohr, Germany. No hanky-panky alleged -- they are just saying he was a lousy commander. As if that were grounds for relief! Next thing you know, we'll see generals held accountable. Zachar looked destined for stars -- an Airborne Ranger who had been both to SAMS and the Army War College, and who posted Foreign Policy as one of his favorite links.
The command sergeant major also got the heave-ho.
Meanwhile, Tim Kane looks at why so many good officers, like my boss, are leaving the military voluntarily. Kane proposes more of a market orientation for handling jobs in the military. I like this idea, but wonder what it would do to the "suck it up" mentality that is the foundation of Army culture.
172nd Infantry Brigade/U.S. Army
By Joshua Keating
Best Defense chief awards correspondent and hype man
Tom was unable to post today because of some rare technical difficulties, but in his absence we got some great news here at FP world headquarters. The Best Defense has won the 2010 Digitial National Magazine award for best blog!
The photo on the left, taken just moments ago, shows the "Ellie" en route back to Washington in the victorious grip of Executive Editor Susan Glasser.
Congratulations to Tom as well as the incredible community of readers who've helped make this blog a must-read.
I apologize for the dumbass headline Foreign Policy's front page carried yesterday on my item about President Obama's visit to Dover Air Force Base. "Obama Has No Clue What War Is" was expressly not the point of what I was saying. The guilty party will be sentenced to attend a Joe Biden press conference, if the Geneva Convention allows that.
I mean, even our West Coast bureau complained about this. And rightly so.
Flickr user Mel B.
My CNAS hallmate Robert Kaplan has a good piece in the new issue of Foreign Policy, the mother ship. It is a real feat of globe-twirling, and I think is especially insightful on the futures of Iran (ascendant) and Pakistan (not). Among other things, he notes, geography naturally made Iran a state, and indeed "the ancient world's first superpower," while Pakistan is an artificial and probably doomed creation.
He does seem to call, between the lines, for a reconstitution of the pre-partition area, re-attaching Bangladesh (or whatever is left of it after global warming) and most of Pakistan. He wants to give the troublesome Pashtuns their own ungovernable state stretching from the Hindu Kush down to the western banks of the Tigris.
He also gets off this impressive three-cushion shot: "when a fear of Munich leads to overreach the result is Vietnam -- or in the current case, Iraq."
I don't plan to file on weekends. I do plan to try to add to this blog at least once a day during the business week. Thanks to everyone at Foreign Policy for their support this week, and to the amazing response from readers, including all the job offers. I have read every single comment posted, and been impressed and pleased by the civility and thoughtfulness shown.
Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military for the Washington Post from 2000 through 2008.