The Best Defense

Obama speaks, but Iraq is still there

It was an ambitious speech that President Obama delivered last night -- not just about Iraq, but also Afghanistan and the economy. I thought it amounted to a defense of his presidency. He continues to strike me as a guy who thought he was elected for domestic reasons and so seems to resent how foreign affairs intrude on his time. His rhetoric on the two subjects has the feel of two different men -- on foreign policy, kind of tired and clichéd, written by a committee, but on domestic affairs, kind of zingy. 

As he said in the speech, he was fulfilling a campaign pledge to get all combat troops out of Iraq by today. Unfortunately, it was a phony pledge -- the mission of the U.S. troops still in Iraq is, if anything, more dangerous today than it was yesterday. And so the core of the speech was hollow.

Meanwhile, in the under-reported Iraq story of the month, the Iraqi army chief of staff said the U.S. military needs to stay in Iraq for another decade. "If I were asked about the withdrawal, I would say to politicians: "the US army must stay until the Iraqi army is fully ready in 2020," said Lt. Gen. Babaker Zebari.

And in the second most under-reported story of the month, here is a comment from an Iraqi politician, quoted by the awesome Anthony Shadid of the New York Times:

A leading politician related a recent conversation he had with a top Iraqi general. The politician asked about the possibility of a coup. The general, he said, deeming the talk serious, pulled out a map of the capital and provided a disconcertingly elaborate plan to execute one: overturning trucks to block the route from the main American base to the Green Zone, seizing television stations, besieging Parliament, and so on.

Meanwhile, old Reidar Visser continues to produce some of the most insightful analyses of Iraqi politics. I first came across him three or so years ago when a member of Petraeus's staff said, "Don't ask me! If you want to understand Basra, read Reidar Visser."

And Anne Applebaum had a good piece on the long-term costs of the Iraq war, but loses points for concluding with the tired anecdote about Chou En Lai saying it is too early to tell on the French revolution.

Peter π/flickr

The Best Defense

Canadian booty camp goes maritime

Doing the mess around isn't just for Canadian land forces anymore. Lt.-Cmdr. Tina Hanratty, XO of Her Majesty's funny-looking Canadian Ship Moncton, was relieved for fraternization. Shouldn't it be "sororitization"?

The chief of Canadian land forces says that his three favorite songs are "Start Me Up" by the Rolling Stones, "Dancing in the Dark" by Bruce Springsteen, and "I Got a Feeling" by Black Eyed Peas. Funny, I thought those were the theme songs of HMCS Moncton.

Meanwhile, back in the US of A, Cmdr. Fred Wilhelm, the skipper of the USS Gunston Hall, walked the plank on allegations of sexual harassment, maltreatment of a subordinate, simple assault, conduct unbecoming an officer, drunk and disorderly conduct and use of indecent language, all of which are not cool. The command master chief got popped on similar charges. The XO got spanked for not doing anything about this.  

And the skipper of the USS Peleliu, Capt. David Schnell, got bounced for supposedly having improper and unduly familiar relationships with subordinates. I suspect this wasn't just playing Go Fish with sailors. Ditto for Cmdr. Mary Ann L. Giese, commander of Naval Computer and Telecommunications Station Bahrain, who got popped for multiple inappropriate relationships of varying degrees.  

The other services are lagging badly behind the Navy in weird cases. The Air Force could only cough up Col. Carey Steagall, who is heading off to the pokey for five months for adultery, viewing porn on his computer and sending dirty e-mails, among other things.  

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service -Midwest Region/flickr