Saturday, March 18, 2006

Ray of Hope

The US is considering talks with Iran on ways to stabbilize Iraq. The path to any contact between Washington and Terhan will no doubt be tortuous but if the path leads to an open, frank exchange of grievances and concerns, I welcome the journey. Discussion is far preferable to military action, especially against a threat that is more pending than immediate. Of course, talks may just be talk. It took the US and North Vietnam four years to reach an accord after opening peace talks. Perhaps we won't require quited so much time to resolve this conflict.

Or maybe we will. The US spent most of this week demonstrating its new operating mode, which is to chopper Iraqis into battle. Operation Swarmer, billed as the largest air assault since the 2003 invasion, turned out to be more an exercise in transportation. No contact. No casualties (reported). No major captures. Six weapons caches. Lots of attention. The perfect operation. It tells me that Iraqi troops will not be on their own for a long time, a long time that will involve extensive US support.

Talking with Iran offers some possibilities but the reality is still uncertain.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

More Lost in Space

Same story. Different report.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Rockfish and the Slow Death of the Chesapeake Bay

A little-understood bacterium is wiping out the Chesapeake Bay’s rockfish population. This threat comes less than a decade after a moratorium on the fishery helped restore the population was lifted. Now a wasting disease is killing rockfish. The bay's future is uncertain:

...The disease...sends a grim message about the entire bay ecosystem. The rockfish remains bay conservationists' only success story -- a species nearly wiped out, then revived by fishing limits.

But as the number of rockfish surged, the fish remained in a body of water too polluted to support the level of life it once did. That made them vulnerable to a malady researchers did not see coming -- a signal, some scientists say, that controlling fish harvests is no longer enough to ensure long-term survival of a species.... (emphasis mine.)

Losing the ability to support life will be a legacy of our species. Growing population and increasing consumption are creating a world that is less able to support life. Oh sure, we aren’t killing ourselves outright (well, sometimes we do, 4,000 dead in Bhopal, for example) but we are killing something: the abundant life that characterized the earth well into the 20th century. Future generations will never experience the Chesapeake’s immense abundance or its pristine waters. Millennia of human enterprise had barely touched the bay until Europeans and their successors industrialized the bay and its tributaries.

The story tells me how little we know and understand about this planet and all its works. That’s why I always shiver when some expert tells me all is under control. All is not under control. This planet works to its own rhythms and cycles. Try as we might, we will be long time figuring it out. In the meantime we consume and pollute as if the planet can simply absorb it all and in doing so, we risk the future of life on Earth. Definitely not our lives or our grandchildren but future generations will have to cope with the diminished planet because of decisions and actions.

Watching the Chesapeake Bay slowly die is difficult; it’s part of my geographic consciousness. I grew up in Virginia. The bay was a prominent part of my state’s geography, history and culture. I lived, worked and played in the land it drained (including the Rockfish River). As a young analyst, I reviewed the myriad programs to preserve the Bay’s waters and fisheries from the mounting consequences of heavy development. I sailed with resource managers across industrial Hampton Roads and into marshy backwaters. I heard their accounts of how the bay was changing and losing its productivity. That was 1976. Thirty years later, the Chesapeake Bay is still, maybe even more, at risk.

The bay is diminished, too polluted to support the level of life it once did. With millions of people discharging sewage, chemicals and waste into the bay and its tributaries, it’s hard to imagine the Chesapeake Bay will ever return to what it was. Its demise is the planet’s loss.

Lost in Space

Via Needlenose comes the story of America's next generation military boondoggle: space-based weapons or, more poetically, rods from god.

Snark aside, the story is serious.

...In its outlook on space, the United States has a case of what my late Rand colleague Carl Builder called the "Icarus syndrome." The U.S. military is drawn, like Icarus, ever higher. Yet, if it became capable of waging war in space, the results would be as catastrophic as they were for Icarus when he flew too close to the sun.

Our image would be damaged. The financial waste would be enormous, as we spent huge new sums on ineffective or easily countered new weapons. Worst of all, others will fight back in space, and we would likely lose the satellite connectivity that contributes so much to the efficiency of our incomparable ground forces. In the "long war" against terror, waged against elusive enemies on the ground, losing access to space-based communications and targeting systems would be crippling....

Monday, March 13, 2006

PTSD in Everyday Life

Proof positive that war never leaves those who who experience it.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Some Links

J-Walk has an interesting link to a torn-up credit card application. The results are a bit disturbing, also humorous. Page Two of the application site carries an ad for cow abduction, also good for a laugh. The home page of the credit card application has a number of unusual items, including the height-weight sample and eye protection.

Honor and Courage

I wish I had this soldier's courage.

Slobo's Legacy

Even in death Slobodan Milosevic will continue to roil the former Yugoslavia and the world. For now the debate is on the circumstances of his death and the appropriate obsequies. Those who know Milosievic as the “Butcher of the Balkans” do not want to see him buried with any state honors. Serbian Nationalists want full honors. The family claims that refusing him permission to obtain medical treatment in Moscow killed him.

Milosievic’s wife, son and brother live in exile in Russia. The wife and son are wanted to answer charges in Serbia. They won’t be returning for a funeral anytime soon. Their home in exile is not surprising. Russia has been Serbia’s big power patron. Russia went to war for its Slavic brethren in World War I; harboring a few Serbs is no big deal. Although the world is demanding that Serbia surrender Mlatko Radijc, I’ve heard little of the same for the Milosevics in Russia.

Although Milosievic’s death precludes an individual verdict, his trial and others’ have documented much of the butchery in the wars that he launched on behalf of Serbian nationalism. The death and destruction of a modern nation shocked the world. There are still plenty of Serbian nationalist leaders who should answer for their actions during those wars. Milosevic’s passing does not end the proceedings.

Even without a final verdict from the court, Milosievic will forever be ranked as a man who brought death and destruction to his country. He was no Hitler or Stalin, Milosevic’s toll pales in comparison but it was substantial, something to be reckoned with. Bosnia, which suffered so much at the hands of Milosevic and his generals, is now suing Serbia in international court. The story is by no means over.