Daily Kos
Political analysis and other daily rants on the state of the nation

Thursday | April 03, 2003

Good morning from your substitute blogger


I'm Steve Gilliard and I've been posting comments here for the last few weeks. It's nice to move up to the big leagues.:)

First, let me thank Kos for the opportunity to post to his blog and I hope you'll find my posts interesting.

In my other online life, I'm the web editor and main writer for NetSlaves , where some of you have visited. I've been writing about the war lately, but most days we cover work, tech issues and other interesting, timely topics. We have blogs, but we're more of a webzine/bbs than a dedicated blog. We'll be five years old this December, and my partners Steve Baldwin and Bill Lessard have just published Netslaves 2.0: Tales of Surviving the Great Tech Gold Rush, available on Amazon . We're also having a book party on Wed, April 9, in New York City. More details on our site.

Enough with the commercial.

Many of you must be wondering how I know a fair amount about military affairs. Simply put, I don't read much fiction. My idea of a good time is reading about the Battle of Berlin or Special Operations. My personal library is filled with such books, at least the ones not about computers. I read this stuff since I was 9 and I've been blessed with a fairly good memory.

However, there are serveral resources I've come to rely on while surfing the web. You guys know the usual suspects, Phil Carter's Intel Dump, Venik's, Josh Marshall, and the BBC.

I also rely on four other sites: The Perry-Casteneda online map library at UT Austin, the Federation of American Scientists website, John Pike's Global Strategy.org, and Open Source Solutions

While I like The Agonist, much of it relies on Stratfor, and I have a problem with that.

Recently, I think here, Kos asked why the owner of OSS.net dumped on Stratfor. Well, in my experience, Stratfor is an amateur site which reproduces a lot of rumors which are dead wrong. OSS.net, which I strongly suggest you check out, is a very different animal. The people behind it were the advocates of open source intelligence. Open source intelligence is what we used to call in my library employee days, books, journals and magazines.

Open Source intel was pushed by a group of former military and intelligence officials to use public information to draw conclusions about intelligence issues. How effective is open source intelligence? The KGB spent many hours in the Central Library of the New York Public Library. It was estimated that 90 percent of their intelligence came from open sources.

In a test in the mid-1990's, the Open Source people had a contest with the CIA to gather basic information. The CIA could use classified resources, the open source people, open resources. The open source people had a far more complete picture when the contest ended.

While Stratfor gets into the guessing game, OSS.net analyzes their sourcing and compiles it with information already known. While it's fun to play the guessing game, OSS.net's methods are far more solid and reliable. Global Strategy.org is another open source intel provider. They've been quoted frequently in the media, and for good reason. Their stuff is solid and reliable. John Pike formerly worked for the Federation of American Scientists, and help build the data on their website.

You may be asking why use maps as well. Well, maps are facts and they eliminate many doubts and arguments. I rely on them whenever someone makes a claim about allied advances. My current wallpaper is a map of Baghdad. It helps to know exactly what the center of Baghdad looks like in context.

Why have I been so skeptical about the war and according to some, fairly accurate? Well, I read about the history of Iraq. Not a hard task to do. There are plenty of sources on the British in the middle east and a wonderful site called Britain's Small Wars, which covers British military involvement since 1945.

There are also a wealth of links from the military on Iraq which are very useful

Reading about Iraqi history and the Iraqi Army, all available to anyone who cared to read, made it clear that the war was very unlikely to go the way as suggested.

I'd like to make a couple of other points:

First, the right is now claiming that many of us said Afghanistan would turn into a quagmire. That was an argument I rejected out of hand. The Taliban were guerrillas with tanks, not an army with organization and disciplne. As third world Armies go, the Iraqis are effective and have been for some time. People forgot that they held together after the Gulf War, lesser armies have collapsed after such a catastrophic defeat, especially after losing 80,000 men as POW and maybe 100,000 killed.

But the Taliban were vunerable and they had disrupted the social order in a way which most people grew to hate them for. Comparing the Taliban to the Iraqi Army is like comparing a McDonald's burger beef-like flavor to prime beef served at Peter Lugers Steakhouse. The Iraqi Army, for good or ill, embodies the state and the nation. A very different thing.

Anyone who has read, even briefly, into Iraqi history, could have predicted a nationalist reaction. The Iraqis do not turn on their leaders in wartime. The British invaded Iraq in 1915 with nearly the same expectations of internal revolt and like now, it didn't happen.

Second, I am a writer. Not a military strategist, former officer or lecturer in military history or science. My opinions, while informed, are opinions. I would no more expect to tell a serving officer how to do his job than I would expect him to tell me how to write an article. I don't know anything about getting a unit from point a to point b. I can tell you how it's been done historically, and how the former officers I know did it, but I don't have ANY experience in the military.

Why is this an important point to make? Because neither does Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz or Newt Gingrich. Yet, they felt free to make policy based on their ideas. Which is a monsterous thing to have done. Horrific really. The fact that Rumsfeld let them do this, no, encouraged them, is a dereliction of duty which is beyond vulgar. Generals have no monopoly on being right, and unlike Kos, I am much less eager to advance Wesley Clark for high office. But when it comes down to it, I respect Wes Clark or Barry McCaffrey's opinions on military operations as much as respect my doctor's on my health. They are experts. Don Rumsfeld flew airplanes for a couple of years and got out. Perle and the rest of them haven't even done that.

It is one thing to have ideas, it is another to place human beings lives at risk because of those ideas. That is unforgivable.

It reminds me of the story of the British scientist Barnes-Wallace. He developed bombs to blow up the Ruhr Dams. His ideas were translated into action by Churchill and Arthur "Bomber" Harris. The raids on the dams were a success, BUT, nine crews were killed. Barnes-Wallace was so shaken by the losses, a light night for RAF Bomber Command, he never directly involved himself in military operations again.

The PNAC cabal feel no such reluctance.

Posted April 03, 2003 05:13 AM | Comments (57)


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