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Liking or even tolerance for John Dolan-aka-Gary Brecher-aka-"The War Nerd" may vary among readers, but, in case anyone interested, he discusses the topic here, apropos this piece, on Ranger School.
Looking up my notes from a presentation I did way back when in 2006 on the Khedive's army (for an Arabic class), the following books might be useful (and apologies if any obvious, known already). Fahmy, Khaled. "All the Pasha's Men: Mehmed Ali, his Army and the Making of Modern Egypt." Earlier period, and with a lot of postmodern theoretical commentary, but still main source for Khedival army's initial formation and traditions. Dunn, Charles P. "Khedive Ismail's Army" [the obvious one] Ibid. "Americans in the Nineteenth Century Egyptian Army: A Selected Bibliography" Journal of Military History. [ ] (Largely but not entirely biblio of above, McE. Dye, William. "Moslem Egypt and Christian Abyssinia; Or, Military Service Under the Khedive, in His Provinces and Beyond Their Borders, as Experienced by the American Staff" [not online, and alluring enough that I had it borrowed by interlibrary loan.] De Leon, Edwin. "The Khedive's Egypt; or, The old house of bondage under new masters" [chapter on Army one of the few focused contemporary reports I could find, as opposed to memoir or anecdotal literature.] For uniform details, etc., when I checked this in 2006, the nearest I could find for ppt illustration purposes were in the Osprey book on Tel-el-Kebir. Since battle occurred before Kitchnener-Sirdar reorganization of Khedive Army, I imagined this was good enough for government work, but perhaps not for a serious work of historical fiction. Apologies again if each and all of the above grindingly obvious to one already researching the period.
Toggle Commented Aug 18, 2015 on Data Request at Sic Semper Tyrannis
To add a small footnote about Turkey, I'd note that, independently of the election results, the Turkish economy seems distinctly vulnerable. It could be that, having grown up in South America in the closing decades of the last century, I'm over-sensitive to lines such as, "Turkish companies were left heavily exposed as they grapple with record levels of hard currency debt left from an unchecked credit boom." , , but I've seen how these have the potential to become breaker of nations, or at least of said nations' foreign policy forward-policies.
Apropos Sy Hersh, significant that he ran his latest Bin Laden piece in the London Review of Books. Sotto-vocce-ish remarks I read were to the effect that the David Remnick who published the Obama panegyric "The Bridge" didn't really want to have anything to do with it. Remnick, anyway, a fairly horrific Russia hack back in the day, and under him the New Yorker now publishing stuff like George Packer wishing for new wars to cure his ennui,
Apropos, the hydra-headed Brookings (home to serious scholars as well as to people like Michael O'Hanlon and Ken Pollack) put out a pretty good study last week. "Stock buybacks: From retain-and reinvest to downsize-and-distribute" One sentence that struck me especially was, "MSV [Maximize Shareholder Value] is a theory of value extraction that lacks a theory of value creation."
Toggle Commented Jun 6, 2015 on Visa Switch and Bait at Sic Semper Tyrannis
I've been wondering why, to use Col. Lang's terminology, the Borg had become so surreal of late with the NYT putting in their front page that Assad supports ISIS. Perhaps it's a panicked reaction to the arrival of this force? ["Imagine", from the comment above, I think we arrived at the same set of claims from different sources] I don't mean to spam SST with Brecher/Dolan/War-Nerd pieces, but here, he made the point that, "At the moment, most of the bigger Shi’a and Sunni powers are contributing money, intel and volunteers. That’s where multi-national fighting forces become so important in the Syrian war. If most of your troop strength consists of local men, fighters tied to one neighborhood, then you’re going to be very weak offensively — which the Sunni have shown themselves to be in this war." So I can see how the arrival in theater of 15,000 "multi-national" Shiite forces men would alarm both Saudis and neocons.
Col. Lang, Could I ask you to elaborate on the unfolding disaster you foresee? Specifically, I imagine that the Borg (after some hilarious attempts at minimization, such as today's hapless Pentagon colonel's arguing "I think it’s notable that it took ISIL a year to get this far in Ramadi.", ) might reverse and start comparing Baghdad to Saigon in 1975, etc.., which also seems unlikely. Going from the experience in Syria (which perhaps does not apply) militias are good enough to defend their home areas, and even now all of ISIS's captures have been (I think) of largely Sunni cities. I'm obviously not trying to suggest that having Sunni Iraq fall under ISIS control (and a Shia government possibly howling for Iranian infantry support) would *not* be a disaster. I just wanted to ask whether you think ISIS would be able to push its territorial control beyond Sunni areas. As a footnote, from the article here, it seems that ISIS's large-scale use of suicide bombers (on foot or vehicle-borne) as its "heavy weapons" support is not only difficult to suppress by air, but also to counter on the ground. "the White House announced that it was rushing shoulder-fired rockets to Iraq that were especially useful for destroying car bombs before they could reach their targets Read more here:"
Mark, Leander: In case you're interested in further background on Surkov, the guy that's being presented as Putin's postmodern Goebbels, do take a look at this long-ish post by Adam Curtis, While it *is* very suggestive, I always wonder whether Anglo-Saxons don't read too much into the formal thinking of this kind of character. To put it very glibly: in the same way that Germans tend to document everything, Russians tend to create overarching theoretical constructs for what they do. While these might make for far better reading than what would come out if you asked a Western PR person to write out an equivalent, I'm not sure the praxis would be all that different. On an unrelated and more general note, I think it's exactly a century since UK prime minister Asquith made his remark about how that, "the War Office keeps three sets of figures: one to deceive the public, another to deceive the Cabinet, and the third to deceive itself."
Not to indulge in what my father might have called "the agreeable if somewhat superficial charm of a Borgean narrative symmetry," but, as it happens, yesterday Mark Ames published a fascinating review-essay on Peter Pomerantsev's recent book. ( ) The book is "purportedly an inside look at how the Kremlin propaganda machinery functions, from a British repat who purports to have spent a decade working inside the state propaganda apparatus." I can't remotely do justice to all that Ames covered, but he does show the Russian version of these IOs got a big push when Yeltsin's re-election campaign sought the assistance of some of the same US campaign operatives that would later be involved in what Col Lang describes above as, "Worst of all it came to be consensual thought in the US government and among their co-opted media "friends" that it was normal to propagandize the American electorate in order to block political action intended to prevent or stop a war. This was an odd development for a country in which the United States Information Agency (USIA) was forbidden by law to direct its propaganda at US audiences." I mention this here not only because of the appalling reciprocal learning that appears to take place between Russian and American IO practitioners, but because the author of the book is involved in some of the worst of the foreign-policy bright ideas that frequently dismay SST readers. For example, "Last year, Pomernatsev co-authored another one of these slick Legatum white papers with an up-and-coming neocon from the late George W. Bush era, Michael Weiss. Together, Pomerantsev and Weiss summed up the threat Russia’s avant-garde political technologies pose to world order, warning: 'the struggle against disinformation, strategic corruption and the need to reinvigorate the global case for liberal democracy are not merely Russia-specific issues: today’s Kremlin might perhaps be best viewed as an avant-garde of malevolent globalization.' That Pomerantsev would team up with a neocon as compromised as Michael Weiss is enough to call into question the value of everything he’s written. During the late Bush years, Weiss worked for the neocon organ of Bill Kristol, the Weekly Standard; afterwards, Weiss headed up a neocon PR project, “Just Journalism,” which policed the English-language press for any journalism critical of Israel in the wake of its brutal war on Gaza in 2008-9. Then, as Syria descended into civil war, Weiss became one of the leading neocon warmongers pushing for America to invade Syria. Perhaps most troubling of all when it comes to Pomerantsev’s credibility — Weiss played a lead role in promoting the career of one of the most notorious academic frauds of our time, Elizabeth O’Bagy, the fake Syria “expert” whom Weiss teamed up with to argue for war in Syria. Apparently after O’Bagy was exposed as a fraud with no Syria credentials, Weiss skulked away, only to reappear with a new co-author—Peter Pomeranstev—and a new beat: Putin’s Russia. Despite having zero Russia background and expertise, Weiss has successfully reemerged lately as a Russia expert on various TV news programs — the Elizabeth O’Bagy of Putin critics — and Pomerantsev’s role in this partnership appears to be laundering Weiss’ credentials." I can't imagine that Ames' background would make him persona gratissima to all who follow SST, but I'd still strongly recommend this particular article. It has a great deal of obscure but directly-sourced information I have simply not seen elsewhere.
On the supply of suicide bombers for these assaults, Patrick Cockburn detailed a second source in a recent piece he wrote for the Independent about life in the IS-controlled territories.
Headline of this story not news for SST readers, but one detail caught my eye because so few journalists seem even to be aware that this kind of thing is important: "What emerges from the latest round of fighting is not only that IS retains the ability to launch offensives over a wide area, but that the Iraqi army very much depends on rushing a small number of elite combat units like so many fire brigades to cope with successive crises. One source in Baghdad told me that the number of troops useable for these purposes was about five brigades or some 15,000 soldiers. Other published reports suggest the number may be even smaller at 5,000 men drawn from the so-called Golden Brigade, an Interior Ministry Swat team and a unit known as the Scorpions. When these small but effective forces succeed in repelling an IS attack there is nobody in the regular army to hold the positions they have defended." [ Reminds me of something Edward Luttwak said way back when I interviewed him about American crypto-COIN aid against the Colombian FARC in the late 1990s (pre-Uribe), which he criticized for its emphasis on creating small elite Special-Forces-like units. (Quoting from very dim memory): "No, no--it's ridiculous. You can't win a guerrilla war with a single unit 'elite-ing' all around the country. Colombia needs to train its infantry, but instead they buy F-16 air-superiority fighters... The FARC should sue the Colombian government for not supplying enough of a challenge for them to develop into a proper guerrilla army." ] Back to Iraq: has anyone seen any breakdown of the different Shiite militias (however rough-and-ready) in terms of military effectiveness?
John Dolan/Gary Brecher taught ESL for a while at Najran. This piece about an insurrection in 2000,
Toggle Commented May 7, 2015 on Yemen Update 6 May 2015 at Sic Semper Tyrannis
Col. Lang, In Syria, do you think Hezbollah would be willing/able to send its own forces to halt the defeat of the Assad's army on the ground, the way that, in April 2013, its infantry were apparently the core of the force that re-took Qusayr ( ) and stabilized the front? Or has the strategic context changed too much?
Re contemporary journalists seemingly congenital inability to write intelligently about the kind of career pattern one sees with Petraeus, see also (fittingly, Petraeus's biographer also seems to fit the pattern). Author of above also wrote about similar journalistic-autism as displayed in biographies of Obama, for instance re what exactly his two parents were doing in Indonesia back in the day,
Apropos "ambition-fueled group think," To add a minor footnote --a question, really-- to the points made by that piece and by PL, there has to be a specific term (from marketing? or the literature on cons and fraud?) of goods that can be sold on either side of an outcome. I.e., if a bad thing happened w/o said good, then clearly said good was needed; if a bad thing happened *with* the good, then clearly not enough of the good had been purchased. "Training" (a lot, that) and "defensive weaponry" seem to function as such in the grotesque market of ideas that seems to structure so much of contemporary foreign-policy thinking.
Agree with the pro- arguments generally, but there's a tone that nags me in the way academic economists' discussion of free trade used to nag at labor people. I think one can might question whether the people reading this post be quite so casual if the key paragraph read, "I am confident that as MOOCs are implemented we will see some universities reconfigure themselves to rely more on part-time and less on full-time workers--and that this distortion will be one of the costs of MOOCs. But I don't expect this to be a large effect. And I do not believe that we are seeing it yet."
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One partial counter-argument to the issue of negative-results journals being low-status: they could appeal and be useful to first- or second-year grad students who've found, while doing replication work for methods-sequence courses, that fairly well-established results are actually incredibly fragile. The genesis Reinhart-Rogoff saga lay exactly in such a replication exercise by Thomas Herndon at UMass, and this is probably not uncommon. From my experience in a less pretigious social science, Paul Collier's late-90s finding on the positive relationship between immigrant diasporas and civil war onset kept showing up for over ten years in papers and state-of-the-question lit reviews despite being based on a dubious proxy (size of ethnic population in the United States for size of diaspora in the world) and that the removal of just two outliers (a couple of Burma/Myanmar country-decades) identified by the standard regression diagnostic tests made the whole result go away. Why not have sort of central quasi-journal or blog where this kind of findings can be posted (since usually they already exist in grad student's laptops as final papers)? Anonymity could take care of the pissing-off-present-or-current-bosses problem, since all that's needed is the replicated dataset and a demonstration of the problems.
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