As is our tradition, do treat this as a semi-open weekend thread.
Happy birthday to me. I feel old. I say that every year. This year I am really feeling it. Where does the time go? I would like to thank one of the kind supporters of WARN who sent me some birthday monies that I will use to purchase a great graphic novel series they recommended. Big smiles and thanks to them.
For my birthday weekend, I will be going to the casino, seeing the new movie The Drop, attending a Star Wars themed burlesque show (anticipating your questions, no, I am not the star of the show), and eating at Maggiano's and Wildfire as my dinner treats to myself. I am a master of the mid high tier restaurant scene.
Any other Virgos in the house? How do you of lesser astrological signs celebrate/reflect on the anniversary of being forced out of your mother's birth canal?
A more important question: What did you think of President Obama's speech on ISIL and his plans to "destroy" the "threat" which they represent to the United States and its allies?
I was not impressed by Obama's speech. Its meandering detour to matters of the economy was vexing. He was describing events which have already taken place and/or are in process--the United States has likely already been doing on a covert level the things that Obama is now finally publicly proposing.
Obama sounds and looks tired. Given the difficulties he has faced both from the White Right at home, as well as the mess unleashed abroad by a failed Iraq intervention, and other meddling in the Middle East, even the legendary and mythic King Solomon would be made weary.
A more contemporary allusion: I was not expecting The King's Speech, but Obama's timbre channeled Robert Dinero's voiceover in the last act of the classic movie Casino. Like Dinero, Obama is trapped by a set of outcomes, none of which are desirable or good. Obama is a bound man.
There has been some very good and smart writing about the United States and ISIL that I would like to share. Daniel Drezner of Tufts University offered up a very smart examination of the divides between experts in the field of political science and the beltway wonks and talking heads who are actually called upon to craft (and sell) foreign policy.
One of the jokes in political science is that few politicians or policy makers actually pay attention to the findings in the field.
There are some exceptions of course, with the scholarship on Congress, voting, and some areas of international relations, being the most obvious. And there is also recent work by Larry Bartels and Martin Gilens which empirically demonstrates how the plutocrats are served as exclusive clients by Congress to the detriment of the American people and mass democracy. Their work should have been the lede on every news program. Alas, it was met with relative silence by the commentariat. The Fourth Estate fails the American people once again.
While the answers to questions and puzzles offered by political scientists are often ignored by politicians and policymakers, this has not stopped Republicans from seeking to defund the field. Why? Because recent empirical work on obstructionism and broken government has revealed how the hyper-partisanship of the Tea Party GOP has broken Congress. Thus, the Republican Party has decided to kill the messenger.
Drezner was one of the first scholars to blog as a means of engaging in public pedagogy via new media. In addition to his "serious", "inside" the discipline work, Drezner also wrote the excellent book Theories of International Relations and Zombies. If World War Z is the fun and provocative literary fiction distraction about the rise of the living dead, Theories of International Relations and Zombies is a fun yet grounded and serious examination of how theories of international relations can be used to understand the zombie menace.
Drezner's "What Political Science Can Teach Us About Combating the Islamic State" also linked to this work on ISIL from the resource Political Violence at a Glance. The latter is an excellent primer on ISIL and Obama's options.
Lots of folks like to play armchair policymaker and/or general. While it is easy to pontificate from the safety of one's computer or a TV studio, Obama is held accountable for the difficult choices that have to made on ISIL; but it is policy analysts, junior and senior military officers, as well as lower level officials and soldiers who will have to put their literal skin in the game as they enact the Obama administration's war plans on the street and ground level.
The website Balloon Juice has had some great guest posts from folks with military and foreign affairs experience about ISIL, and the types of planning and leadership involved in crafting a response it. As those of you who listen to WARN's podcast know, I am very interested in process.
These two essays by experienced mid-level military and diplomatic corps officers about ISIL are very helpful.
Adam Silverman's guest post about ISIL, criminology, and the religious/political radicalization of young men is especially illuminating. A useful quote:
Finally, there are other foreigners fighting with ISIL other than the Chechens. Most of these are coming from Europe. However, there are about twelve Americans who have gone and joined ISIL and maybe a 100 or so that have joined other groups involved with the Syrian Civil War. While this is not a good thing, the numbers of Americans involved barely registers as negligible. Moreover, what appears to be happening is that the normal development pattern that criminologists call neutralization and drift (.pdf download) is occurring. Sykes and Matza (1957), building on the differential association and social learning work of Sutherland (the Father of Modern Criminology), posited that young males seek out risk taking activities.
This is done through adopting behavioral norms that neutralize the rules promoting good conduct and retarding deviant, delinquent, and criminal behavior allowing them to drift into what is often illegal risk taking activities.
There is an age component to this, with most aging out by their mid to late twenties. From looking at cases of Muslim American, Muslim British, and Muslim youth from other European countries that have joined al Shabab or al Qaeda it appears that the normal patterns of neutralization and drift are at work. The difference is that unlike previous generation when the drift would be into a gang or hanging out with the wrong crowd, now there is a completely formed radical and reactionary movement that is looking to recruit from alienated and disaffected youth.I have had a good number of students who are in ROTC or returning military veterans who served in Iraq, Afghanistan, or some other theater in the "War on Terror". With two exceptions, they are all very much younger than me.
When I look at those men and women in their late teens and twenties, I can't help but to see their youth, how much more life experience they have then their peers, and that they are the ones who have to implement (meaning to kill and die for) the policy decisions made by old rich men (and a few women).
Combat Cav Scout nails it here:
Combat Cav Scout nails it here:
At the Operational level, the planning is generally aimed at creating the environment for the Strategic plans to come to fruition. It’s a smaller scale, generally with a shorter timeframe, with multiple contingency plans based on the enemy’s most likely course of action and the enemy’s most dangerous course of action. This is the domain of Theater headquarters, Corps, Divisions, and to some extent, Brigade-level mission planning. From Brigade level and below, the planning is at the Tactical level, down through Battalions and Squadrons to Companies, Troops, and Batteries, to the Platoon and finally to the Squad and Section. This is where the rubber meets the road...
While plans at the Strategic and Operational level are frequently thought up and drafted by people with advanced degrees and decades of experience, with access to all sorts of high-tech information systems and the latest intelligence in air-conditioned facilities with nice amenities, the guys and gals who attempt to make those plans a reality are usually High School graduates and recent College graduates, in many cases doing this for the first time in the real world, and they’re running on bad food, little sleep, too much caffeine and adrenaline, using equipment that’s often unsuitable and in varying states of disrepair, and possessing very little knowledge of the outside world and their part in it.
Things can go sideways very quickly at the tactical level with repercussions all the way up to the White House. All of the previous paragraphs should have led you to the realization that this shit is hard to do.Do you have any news items to share? Any important developments about matters of public or private concern to discuss?