If anyone is curious what's going on with that, you can get the whole run-down at Defense Industry Daily - just read "Desert Leopards: Germany Selling Heavy Armor to the Saudis?".
As a bonus, DJ Elliott offers "The Missing Links: A Realistic Appraisal of the Iraqi Military."
The Torah is the Old Testament. The Talmud is a long, multi-volume series of rabbinic commentaries and applications of the Torah, as well as general discussions of philosophy, ethics, etc. Think of it as THE Jewish blog, with lots of manual links and comments spaced over a couple thousand years, plus unnoted commentary and arguments by all who study it. "The Essence of Judaism: On Teaching Judaism to Seventh Graders" is an entertaining explanation of how this process goes. Pirkei Avot (loosely, "The Wisdom of the Fathers") is the most frequently read and translated Talmud volume, since it deals only with general morals, ethics, and philosophy, and spends little to no time on halacha (Jewish law). That reach gives it an arguable place among the Great Books of civilization.
As a surprising demonstration of that reach, it turns out that the Talmud (I strongly suspect it's mostly Pirkei Avot) enjoys near-universal distribution in South Korea, of all places:
"Almost every house in South Korea has a translated Talmud. But unlike Israel, even Korean mothers study it and read from it to their young children. Yes, in a country of almost 49 million people, many of whom believe in Buddhism and Christianity, there are more people who read the Talmud - or at least have a copy of it at home - than in the Jewish state."
Turns out there's a reason for this...
"We were very curious about the Jews' outstanding academic achievements," explains South Korean Ambassador to Israel Young Sam Ma, who was a guest on Channel 1's "Culture Today" show.... We tried to understand the secret of the Jewish people. How do they - more than other nations - manage to reach such impressive achievements?... Jews read the Talmud from an early age, and we believe it helps them develop great abilities. This understanding led us to the conclusion that we should also teach children Talmud.... Young says he himself has been reading the Talmud since a very early age."
Beyondf the "In Search of Excellence" motif, Korea's own Confucian values also find strong echoes in the Talmud and Pirkei Avot - a phenomenon that has been noticed here when Jewish and Asian families have children who date. Promise of academic excellence + cultural affinity + curiosity of a foreign import... well, say no more.
Though I might venture to say a little bit more. "The Essence of Judaism: On Teaching Judaism to Seventh Graders" explains the essence of the part that goes beyond the book:
"In the following week, I begin with the semi-solemn warning that "now we are going to do something really difficult," and I recite the story of the physicist I.L. Rabi, who, when asked to explain his success as a physicist, attributed it to his mother, who each day when Rabi came home from school asked him not what he learned that day, but "did you ask a good question today?" 2 The assignment, then, was to ask three good questions about Judaism but not simple question of fact..."
You can read the Talmud, but without that kind of questioning engagement, it will lose the ingredients that made their way so strongly into Western culture, as they merged with the intrinsic ethics of science to form a larger whole.
Mind you, the Koreans are doing a pretty good job, beyond even the consumer items we've all become so familiar with. Not a lot of people realize this yet, but they're close to doing things in the defense arena that mirror Hyundai's auto success: designing and delivering capable, well thought out, reasonably priced alternatives. I expect we'll be hearing more about this in the years to come, as their land, air, and even naval products start gaining export traction.
Meanwhile, I've been noticing increased Israeli defense cooperation with South Korea for a few years now. Long-range Green Pine radars will become the anchor of South Korea's ballistic missile warning/defense system, they're buying Elbit's Skylark-II UAVs, an Israeli radar looks set to equip their locally-designed fighters and possibly their F-16s, etc. On the flip side, Israel looks set to buy Korea's supersonic T-50 Golden Eagles to replace its Skyhawk trainers, and probably serve a secondary fighters for the IAF.
I never thought there was more to it than mutual need, and a somewhat similar problem set. But, as usual, it seems there's more. And now you know the rrrrest of the story.
On the 11th hour, of the 11th day, of the 11th month, in 1918, the guns ceased. During Remembrance Day, the British Commonwealth countries remember those who came before, and those who came after, and all who have given in their nation's service. John McCrae's poem "In Flanders Fields" is a common accompaniment at ceremonies, where the wearing of poppies is customary (on the left lapel, or as close to the heart as possible), and organizations like the Royal British Legion, Royal Canadian Legion, et. al. are supported.
There's one more kind of remembrance I'd like to point out, and ask you to consider on this day. It's a remembrance of the Bloodlands...
Anne Appelbaum explains in "The Worst of the Madness":
"Murder became ordinary during wartime, wrote Milosz.... young boys from law-abiding, middle-class families became hardened criminals, thugs for whom "the killing of a man presents no great moral problem." Theft became ordinary too, as did falsehood and fabrication. People learned to sleep through sounds that would once have roused the whole neighborhood: the rattle of machine-gun fire, the cries of men in agony, the cursing of the policeman dragging the neighbors away.
For all of these reasons, Milosz explained, "the man of the East cannot take Americans [or other Westerners] seriously." Because they hadn't undergone such experiences, they couldn't seem to fathom what they meant, and couldn't seem to imagine how they had happened either. "Their resultant lack of imagination," he concluded, "is appalling."1
But Milosz's bitter analysis did not go far enough. Almost sixty years after the poet wrote those words, it is no longer enough to say that we Westerners lack imagination. Timothy Snyder, a Yale historian whose past work has ranged from Habsburg Vienna to Stalinist Kiev, takes the point one step further. In Bloodlands, a brave and original history of mass killing in the twentieth century, he argues that we still lack any real knowledge of what happened in the eastern half of Europe in the twentieth century. And he is right.... Snyder's ambition is to persuade the West - and the rest of the world - to see the war in a broader perspective.... The title of this book, Bloodlands, is not a metaphor. Snyder's "bloodlands," which others have called "borderlands," run from Poznan in the West to Smolensk in the East, encompassing modern Poland, the Baltic states, Ukraine, Belarus, and the edge of western Russia (see map on page 10). This is the region that experienced not one but two - and sometimes three - wartime occupations. This is also the region that suffered the most casualties and endured the worst physical destruction."
All that, and north to Finland, too. The Bloodlands are where the great wars started, and in those wars their name was earned. They are what so many fought for, and failed to fight for, and beyond the effect of those choices on us, lies their own story. Of war, and soldiers. Heroes, and villains. And remembrance.
Their stories, too, must be part of our remembrance. Lest we forget.
UPDATE: See also Canada's National Post today, as Father De Souza makes a similar point in "Karol Wojtyla's War."
We urge Congress to oppose any efforts to repeal the law and lift the policy of openly homosexual service in the military. A large number of associated concerns and costs are associated with the repeal, among them housing, legal status in various states, and moral objections from the majority of the force. The policy would also open doors to legitimate objections from polygamists and other groups who would feel discriminated against. The time is not now to consider such actions while our military is at war on more than two fronts.Jimbo - of course- signed both CJ's petition and recruited me to sign the one I signed. I called him about that, and will let him make his own explanations - I'll just say that it's not clear he had his serious face on when he signed CJ's.
"The US Military is professional and ready to adapt to the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell without compromising its mission. Echoing Sec. Def. Gates and ADM Mullen, we welcome open and honorable service, regardless of sexual orientation."Now I don't know why Andrew (and maybe Jim) are backpedalling from the clear position that sentence defines. I'm not.
We consider the US military the greatest institution for good that has ever existed. No other organization has freed more people from oppression, done more humanitarian work or rescued more from natural disasters. We want that to continue.
Today, it appears inevitable to us that the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy and law restricting those displaying open homosexual behavior from serving will be changed. And yet, very little will actually change. Homosexuals have always served in the US Military, and there have been no real problems caused by that.
The service chiefs are currently studying the impact and consequences of changing the DADT policy, and how to implement it without compromising the morale, order and discipline necessary for the military to function. The study is due to be completed on Dec. 1st. We ask Congress to withhold action until this is finished, but no longer. We urge Congress to listen to the service chiefs and act in accordance with the recommendations of that study.
The US Military is professional and ready to adapt to the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell without compromising its mission. Echoing Sec. Def. Gates and ADM Mullen, we welcome open and honorable service, regardless of sexual orientation.
Blake Powers- BLACKFIVE
Fred Schoenman- BLACKFIVE
David Bellavia- House to House
Bruce McQuain- Q&O
JD Johannes- Outside the Wire
Diane Frances McInnis Miller- Boston Maggie
Mark Seavey- This Ain't Hell
Michael St. Jacques- The Sniper
Mary Ripley- US Naval Institute Blog
John Donovan- Castle Argghhh!
Andrew J. Lubin- The Military Observer
Marc Danziger- Winds of Change
Greta Perry- Hooah Wife
If looks killed, there would be far more than 4,000 American ghosts trapped in Babylon's sand spunk.and action...
I had heard it before - the Hawaiians have a term for this visual hate. Da stinkeye, bruddah-man, bettah stay in Waikiki, haole, ya dig? I had seen it before - drunk college boys in pastel polo shirts with fat wallets should be more careful where they venture in the slums of the dirty South. And I had felt it before - scarecrow tourists with cameras and smiles and perfect white teeth didn't penetrate into the seedy backwaters of Dublin unless they wanted trouble. Have you ever knifed another man just to feel his very essence pour out of him in pools of running red and guts of unidentifiable slop onto the sidewalk?
Ummm. yes, we did. And no, no I have not.
Still, though, This was different. The flowers and hugs and cheers from the liberation only lasted a few months before one stare became ten stares, became one hundred stares. Suddenly the stare was the norm, house by house, block by block, and town to town, and all the flower petals dried up, and we suddenly recognized that those cheers of gratitude were actually pleas for salvation. There were thousands of them, and they were everywhere. This pattern of starbursting degeneration, roughly translated from Arabic, meant occupation.
"White 4, this is White I," I said.-
"White 4, this is White I," I repeated.
No fucking answer. Nothing but radio static.
I broke into a profanity-laced tirade, which culminated in my beating my hand mic against my helmet. Despite the tenseness of our situation, my rambling antics cracked a few of the guys up. Still nothing more than a very serious mind doomed with a clown's soul, I thought. Then I remembered Sergeant Spade still had radio communications from the Stryker, and I had him relay our update. Deep breath. We still had commo with the outside world.
"4 copies," Sergeant Spade yelled down from his hatch. "The section in cordon is still in position and reports that the IA are the only ones shooting now. Also, Steel still reports receiving contact in the south."
I looked over at Staff Sergeant Boondock, who just shrugged his shoulders. "Keep moving?" he suggested.
"Roger," I said, signaling to the soldiers to resume their column positions behind my Stryker. No more than twenty meters after we continued our movement, though, my Stryker came to a halt. I heard Sergeant Spade's voice rise in pieces above the engine and other extraneous noise.
"LT ... a bunch of guys ... waving ... civilian clothes ... they might be Sahwa ... armed."
While I didn't have the sights Sergeant Spade did in his hatch, a quick glance around my Stryker confirmed his report. There were definitely Iraqi men to our front who were definitely waving at us and definitely armed to the fangs with foreign rifles. The problem was, we couldn't walk behind the Stryker all the way north until we could confirm that these men were indeed Sons of Iraq. A series of shabby huts canalized the maneuverable terrain ten meters in front of our current position. The civilian world referred to this as a stalemate. The French called it an impasse. American soldiers knew it as a clusterfuck.
I felt compelled to instigate some course of action and remembered the first thing they taught us at the armor officer basic course: It was better to execute a shitty plan quickly than to wait around for the perfect plan. Well, I could do that. To hell with it, I thought, these bastards can't hit anything they shoot at anyway. Stepping around the side of the Stryker, I started walking toward the group of armed, faceless Arab men and told my guys to stay put. I took three steps, then felt a firm hand grab me from behind, at the neck collar, yanking me backward.
"No way, sir. Let me go first," Specialist Haitian Sensation said. He was nice enough to say it like I had a choice in the matter, as he had flung me back with the chiseled ease of someone who regularly benched twice my body weight. I regained my footing, smirked to myself, and followed, waving and loudly yelling all the friendly Arabic I could think of. The rest of the dismounts wedged out behind us.
Like an insurgency, PowerPoint has crept into the daily lives of military commanders and reached the level of near obsession. The amount of time expended on PowerPoint, the Microsoft presentation program of computer-generated charts, graphs and bullet points, has made it a running joke in the Pentagon and in Iraq and Afghanistan.
...As someone who periodically works for organizations that have PowerPoint embedded in their DNA, and who is pretty handy with a bullet list, this terrifies me. It's part and parcel of a kind of institutional thinking that is 180 degrees from what's needed in a dynamic, complex decisionmaking environment where information should be organically structured and encourage thinking instead of snappy five-word summaries of thought.
Commanders say that behind all the PowerPoint jokes are serious concerns that the program stifles discussion, critical thinking and thoughtful decision-making. Not least, it ties up junior officers - referred to as PowerPoint Rangers - in the daily preparation of slides, be it for a Joint Staff meeting in Washington or for a platoon leader's pre-mission combat briefing in a remote pocket of Afghanistan.
Last year when a military Web site, Company Command, asked an Army platoon leader in Iraq, Lt. Sam Nuxoll, how he spent most of his time, he responded, "Making PowerPoint slides." When pressed, he said he was serious.
"I have to make a storyboard complete with digital pictures, diagrams and text summaries on just about anything that happens," Lieutenant Nuxoll told the Web site. "Conduct a key leader engagement? Make a storyboard. Award a microgrant? Make a storyboard."
Despite such tales, "death by PowerPoint," the phrase used to described the numbing sensation that accompanies a 30-slide briefing, seems here to stay. The program, which first went on sale in 1987 and was acquired by Microsoft soon afterward, is deeply embedded in a military culture that has come to rely on PowerPoint's hierarchical ordering of a confused world.
As information gets passed up an organization hierarchy, from people who do analysis to mid-level managers to high-level leadership, key explanations and supporting information are filtered out. In this context, it is easy to understand how a senior manager might read this slide and not realize it addresses a life-threatening situation.What's true in NASA is equally true - if not more so - in the military.
At many points during its investigation, the Board was surprised to receive similar presentation slides from NASA officials in place of technical reports. The Board views the endemic use of PowerPoint briefing slides instead of technical papers as an illustration of the problematic methods of technical communication in NASA.
"PowerPoint makes us stupid," Gen. James N. Mattis of the Marine Corps, the Joint Forces commander, said this month at a military conference in North Carolina. (He spoke without PowerPoint.) Brig. Gen. H. R. McMaster, who banned PowerPoint presentations when he led the successful effort to secure the northern Iraqi city of Tal Afar in 2005, followed up at the same conference by likening PowerPoint to an internal threat.But from everything I hear, the PowerPoint culture is deeply embedded in the military.
"It's dangerous because it can create the illusion of understanding and the illusion of control," General McMaster said in a telephone interview afterward. "Some problems in the world are not bullet-izable."
In General McMaster's view, PowerPoint's worst offense is not a chart like the spaghetti graphic, which was first uncovered by NBC's Richard Engel, but rigid lists of bullet points (in, say, a presentation on a conflict's causes) that take no account of interconnected political, economic and ethnic forces. "If you divorce war from all of that, it becomes a targeting exercise," General McMaster said.
"THE battle to save some of the world's most endangered species is turning bloody, with wildlife charities deploying guns and military vehicles to protect elephants, rhinos and tigers from a surge in poaching.
At least one British organisation, Care for the Wild International (CWI), is buying military-style field equipment and supporting the deployment of armed guards, while the US-based International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) has bought night-vision supplies, ammunition and light aircraft.
WWF, formerly known as the World Wildlife Fund, has hired former SAS soldiers to train African wildlife wardens, and the Zoological Society of London is funding elephant-mounted patrols to protect rhinos in Nepal. The trend towards militarisation follows an estimated 150 deaths among game wardens in Africa in gunfights with poachers."
This strikes me as a good idea - note the game warden death toll. The military option will fail, absent measures that take local needs into consideration. But there comes a pint where it's clearly necessary, and I'd say we reached it a while ago.
I'd even go a step farther. Special Forces is not about being Rambo, so much as it's about forming productive relationships with locals; deepening institutional familiarity with key terrain, languages, and cultures; training both military and paramilitary forces; and building relationships with local military and paramilitary forces that can really help in a crisis. Anti-poacher work hits every one of these facets. Working with African militaries and game wardens would be both good policy, and excellent training for new Special Forces troops.
The UK's Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has spent the last 6 years chasing BAE systems over allegations that bribes were paid to secure foreign deals in a number of countries. Bribes are the least of the allegations involved in some international defense deals, and contract wins without inducements would be far more surprising in countries like Saudi Arabia, Tanzania, and South Africa. Nevertheless, the UK does have laws to prevent British firms from paying them, and the US Department of Justice chose to pursue the matter as well.
BAE Systems has settled with both governments, pleading guilty to technical violations but not criminal offenses, and paying about $400 million to the US DoJ, and GBP 30 million in the UK. I have the full history and details over at DID.
It will be interesting to see how future Saudi arms deals get done, given that bribes are a requirement.
Probably in partnership with Saudi firms, who will take care of the required bribes, all in return for slight adjustments in their workshare and payment rates over the life of the contract. Very likely even with partners and workshare/ recompense set, in part, by the Saudi authorities themselves as part of the deal. The foreign firms, whomever they may be, could end up becoming sub-contractors to Saudi firms, at least as far as the deal's official structure goes.
Anti-corruption laws do make a dent, but only in the small things, or in states without the combination of corruption and a culture of impunity. As long as they're determined to be corrupt on an official level, there will always be ways around it.
It will also be interesting to watch the consequences as more and more foreign firms from China, Brazil, Pakistan, India, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, et. al. continue to enter the global market for high-end weapon systems. Many of those states (plus Russia, plus France) have very different ideas about global anti-corruption laws, and are unlikely to conform.
As choices expand in the global arms marketplace - a trend that is already irreversible - anti-corruption laws will be only one area where the West's ability to influence global military developments is going to decline.
Der Speigel has spent a lot of time putting the pieces together regarding Israel's September 2007 air strike that destroyed the Syrian-Iranian-North Korean reactor at Al-Kibar. Their report makes for very interesting, even compelling, reading.