The Intellectual Wilderness There is nothing more useless than doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.

2015.11.30 21:47

Bad Art: Welcome Back From Leave

Filed under: Bad Art — Tags: , , , — zxq9 @ 21:47

I made a few sketches a few years ago while bored out of my mind in Iraq. This is one of them. First is the raw image version, the second is after I cleaned it up with gimp. I seem to have either never finished the cleanup, or just lost the finished version. But whatever.

Convoy receiving a welcome-back present.

Raw sketch image

Slightly processed version.

Slightly processed version.

The are signed using my nickname because I was still connected with the military at that time and there was a lot of fuss over whether or not exposing identities was a big bad thing or not. I chose to avoid the issue by never producing anything under my legal name for quite a while, and mostly put stuff on other sites (like this deviantart account to prevent finger pointing).

If I remember correctly, I was drawing this off of an AAR video of an incident that happened just as I started my second contract out there — bad luck. The reason I chose to draw this, though, was I wanted to try to draw an explosion in pencil, and had seen some really awesome explosion sketches on some sketch art sites. I think the explosion turned out OK, but the rest of the sketch isn’t particularly interesting. Meh. I’m pretty bad at drawing fences and trees (at least as background).

2007.08.14 09:49

Conveying Observations About Iraq and Other Garden Spots

Filed under: Ancient Posts — Tags: , , , , — zxq9 @ 09:49

I’ve been speaking today with several members of my battalion who recently returned from a rotation in Iraq about their feelings on which direction the country may be headed, what is working and what isn’t, and why we are where we are.

Understand that their views (and mine) are generally pro-invade-Iraq, but keep in mind that in Special Forces we work at a different level than most military units do and interact much more closely (and live with) with our Iraqi counterparts (or whatever our counterparts happen to be — Iraq isn’t the only thing going on, of course). We actively seek to understand our counterparts’ viewpoints and over time tend to absorb and adopt some of their views. While we understand where they believe themselves to be coming from, this does not necessarily extend to sympathizing with them in every respect (or sometimes any respect). One of the reasons that understanding doesn’t extend to sympathy is that, quite frankly, what many Iraqis (and Americans, for that matter) believe is reality is often not quite true — well, in the case of Middle Easterners very often much of what they believe is completely fabricated. As much as I bash the Western media the fact we have a free press does actually prevent us from going too far any one direction — and its easy to forget the vital function a free press serves until you spend some time in a place that lacks one (whether because government controls it or because local thugs violently enforce a specific view — and sometimes there’s not much difference between the two).

Understanding how a person’s values were enculturated, what experiences they’ve had and other things they have been exposed to does not mean that you must agree with them. You can understand all the why’s and still hold judgmental views on their society (as a culture or even a foreign subculture), how its run, or have very strong feelings against the way they do things. Understanding situation, motive, etc. doesn’t mean you agree with a Muslim teenager holding an RPG any more than it means you agree with a serial killer who keeps body part trophies in his fridge.

I’d like to explore things I’ve come to realize about places like Iraq if I ever get the time. Part of the problem is thinking hard enough and completely enough about the subject to organize the thoughts into something coherent enough for consumption outside of my own mind or my own little community of SF guys who all approach things from a background of similar experience. This may lead to a few essays over time that I’ll post elsewhere.

…unless I never write them. I’ve got a horrible backlog of essays I want to write and some that others want me to write… enough that a few folks have actually complained. Which is weird, since I thought nobody ever read this blog.

The Iraq issue in particular so strongly influences discourse in our society today and will frame political discourse across the world for decades that I feel compelled to explain the views I and most of the SF community have developed over a period of involvement with terrorism and Second and Third World problems that is much, much longer than this particular event we call the Global War on Terror.

2007.08.13 09:47

The Surge and Politics

Filed under: Ancient Posts — Tags: , , , — zxq9 @ 09:47

It seems that the much vaunted Surge is working in Iraq. I’ve been pretty slow to say anything of the sort, as I was not sure how to rate the “success” I keep hearing in the media. Weren’t the media types almost uniformly calling Iraq a huge waste of life, waste of time, America’s Vietnam, etc. for the longest time?

And now it seems that good news in Iraq is going to be very bad news to Left-wing Democrats who have based their entire last 7 years of political life on talking smack about the Iraq war, how bad it is and how everything bad, ever, is George Bush’s fault… (in honesty, the last 7 links were satire sites, here’s the opposite view… in a very schoolboyish, whiny tone…)

The biggest problem in Iraq is the absolute lack of leadership there. None of the Iraqis wants to make a decision, no matter what level of government they work in (or out of). The cultural concept of a “leader” in the Middle East (outside of Israel and maybe Jordan) is about defining someone whom the people serve, whereas the West views a leader as someone who serves the people. Very different views.

Some Iraqis seem to get it though, and it looks like there is finally some pressure building within their own socio-political structure to actually do something. Apparently the “civil war” in Iraq is more of an Al Qaeda ready-made media spin than a reality, and the calm permitted by the Surge is something at least a few Iraqi leaders want to take advantage of before its over. This is a golden opportunity for them to work together and actually settle their society a little, or at least unify against the looming Iranian threat (an Iran which has pretty scary plans for everyone in the region…). That said, the idea that the dusty bits of Iraq and the muddy bits of Iraq will suddenly see each other as part of a whole more than they see each other as proxy threats from Iran or Saudi is slim.

This new focus on civil leaders getting things done is probably thanks to the US Army’s new direction. While the media was busy characterizing the Surge as a combat technique, the real focus was always on providing enough troops not to beat up the enemy, but rather to have enough folks to leave behind in town once the ass-kicking was over with. The US Army has not lost any field engagements so far. This is often overlooked. The US Army focused on working with the Air Force and locals (generally lead by US Special Forces) to whip ass at an unprecedented rate. The enemy doesn’t stand a chance on the actual battlefield. If they did, they would have tried to invade the US a long time ago. That’s why the resort to terrorism, because they are not very difficult opponents in an open fight — it is interesting that enough of them are misguided to actually try fighting in the open, but that’s another subject.

The whole point of the Surge is to address local issues that make or break local societies. Fixing electric problems, getting shipments of food running like they are supposed to again, water services, sanitation, etc. All the things the Americans are spending so much money on trying to fix. We have plenty of troops to whip everyone’s ass in Iraq. America could, if it wished to, easily kill every single person in Iraq. But that’s never been the point, regardless what the hate-blinded over at The Guardian may think. The Surge gives us enough people to beat the terrorists out, keep them out for a time, and still have enough people to prod the local and national Iraqi leaders to actually do their jobs. Its sort of like having SF advisers for the political side of the nation, not just the military.

A note here on defining “terrorists” and how control works in Iraq: When we’re talking about Iraq today we’re not talking about 9/11 type terrorists (though some of these guys would love to volunteer for Wave 2), we’re talking about local, petty terrorists who act like unhinged mafia types. The game in Iraq is about local control and motivating local resources to make a drive at national control. Since no region is powerful enough to assert authority over the other two, Iraq is fundamentally unstable — so the next alternative is to look outside for assistance for your side. If you’re in the dusty bits that means Saudi, if you’re closer to the muddy bits then that means Iran, and if you’re a Kurd that means anybody else because you know you’re probably fucked if you can’t get an international energy deal going or convince the Russians to love you. So the “Surge” is providing some local stability but its not the thing that is really calming the violence — its the political interplay that the local stability is fostering so that the various factions can reassess their alignment with the US.

2007.06.27 00:22

Support for the Iraq Campaign

Filed under: Ancient Posts — Tags: , , — zxq9 @ 00:22

Watch out, everyone… “Republican support for the war is slipping” says this article. This means, of course, that two senators have decided that having the war move to America instead of stay in Iraq is a good idea.

Whenever I run farther than a half-marathon I start telling myself that walking sounds a lot better than running. It sounds like a great idea at the time, until I realize how crap I will feel at the end when I’m last place… so I keep running and step it up a notch to silence the rebellious dissent within my mind.

Stopping the war in Iraq for the reasons listed is preposterous at best and dangerous at worst, and with terrorists, I always assume the worst. They propose that the solution is to turn things over to the Iraqi Army and “its neighbors” and they will keep the bad guys busy so we can live peacefully in our sector of the world. Which neighbors are we talking about? Surely not Syria or Iran, I would hope. Not Saudi, a kingdom run by detached, elitist “royal” families who support us up front because they desperately need us to buy their dinosaur grease but who must pander to their bronze-age inhabitants who still (fervently) believe in a flat-world religion and wire money in support of our enemies. Jordan maybe? Jordan has enough problems of its own keeping bad guys from operating inside its own space, and has internal moral qualms about even doing that much to stop terrorism. Turkey? Maybe, sorta… depending on how their ongoing politico-social evolution turns out. But trust them to be the honest broker in the Kurdish situation? I think not… and on the flip side, trust the Kurds with anything Turkish? If the region were capable of maintaining its equilibrium then it would have found it long ago and we wouldn’t be in this mess in the first place.

This is a region of people whose basic logical assumption by which every other aspect of reality is postulated is that America is the embodiment of evil and all things not Muslim must be conquered, murdered or subjugated (and taxed under Islamic law) for there to be peace on Earth. This attitude extends to the various competing sects of Islam as well, so if the whole world were subjugated already, there would be plenty of fighting left to go around as every sect must fundamentally define the other sects as “false believers” who must be killed (subjugation for false believers is not allowable by the Koran or the Hadiths, let’s remember, for they are worse than non-believers by their own account). So once every sect but yours is dead and the whole world conquered and murdered or subjugated, then we can have peace… provided that no groups splintered from yours somewhere along the way and granted that nobody within your group accidentally draws any attention to concrete contradictions within your cult’s magic book (like provably false things, like the shape of the Earth or nature of the stars, for example).

The above situation does not describe a peace that I can accept. These are also not allies that make acceptable promises for this reason. I have had nice Muslim LBG’s working for me plenty of times, but I and they both know that in a few years things could turn ugly between us because just as I was using them to do a job, they are using me to survive because at the moment I was the biggest dog on the block.

Dog-eat-dog, that’s the way it goes. Let’s remain the biggest.

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