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4 HA: Military Archives

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July 13, 2011

Saudis Buying German Tanks?

By Joe Katzman at 07:37

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."

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  • Joe Katzman: Collect them all! Though the French would be upset about read more
  • Glen Wishard: Now all the Saudis need is a division's worth of read more
  • mark buehner: Its one thing to accept the Iranians as an ally read more

July 6, 2011

The Bulgogi Talmud: a Bestseller in... Korea?!?

By Joe Katzman at 00:19

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...

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Remembrance, 2010

By Joe Katzman at 01:28
Their Name Liveth

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.

A number of European countries know it as Armistice Day. Americans celebrate it as Veteran's Day.

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...

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July 16, 2010

PFC Norman Ehren "Mike" Murburg

By Armed Liberal at 16:43


PFC Murburg (2nd row, right - BG is 2nd row, left) was BG's best friend during Special Forces selection. He died during the land navigation portion of the selection. The cause of his death was set out by the Army to be snakebite, but his father had questions.

Now, finally, he has some answers.


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  • Glen Wishard: Kudos to the local reporter(s) who got the Army's attention read more

June 18, 2010

War, by Sebastian Junger

By Armed Liberal at 05:48

Kanani, from the Kitchen Dispatch sent me a copy of War almost a month ago.

The book sat on the dining table for a week before I sat down to read it. To be honest I was scared.

Not so much of what the book itself would show - I've read a lot about war and talked to a lot of people who have been in them - but because right now I'm a war parent - my son is at war. Today, right now, as I write this about a book about war, he is living it. And one of the ways I have dealt with the fear of it is through rationalizations. It's just a camping trip, with guns. It's no more dangerous than me riding my motorcycle, statistically. I box the fear up - the fear that he'll be killed or wounded, the fear that as I sit here comfortably on my sofa listening to music and writing on my laptop, he might be bleeding somewhere 12,000 miles away and that there is nothing, nothing I can do for him...the fear that he'll come back with his heart broken. Those fears have been put away, wrapped in my trust of his skills and smarts and luck and character, and I have gone on with my days.

But in truth, there's a better way to deal with fear and that is simply to take the box off the shelf, open it, and look inside.

So I picked the book up and read it in an afternoon.

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May 14, 2010

DADT Redux

By Armed Liberal at 15:33

So, since the petition went up, there's been a bit of churn on this issue.

CJ Grisham put up a counterpetition, asking that DADT not be dismissed, and stating that:
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.

Simon Owen, over at Bloggasm, did a pretty thoughtful piece on the 'nuance' in this discussion.

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  • zanzibar: good read more
  • toc3: By the way, don't slit your wrists. I have never read more
  • toc3: Marcus, I am completely in agreement with you as far read more

May 12, 2010

DADT Begone

By Armed Liberal at 23:52

Over at BlackFive is a letter to SecDef Gates asking him to repeal DADT. I signed it...

 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.

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  • Glen Wishard: Frankly, I do not appreciate that the military (as an read more
  • HamOnRye: As a former service member I support the removal of read more
  • Joe Katzman: I effectively signed this some time ago.... read more

May 7, 2010

'Kaboom' - A Soldier's Heart And A Novelist's Eye

By Armed Liberal at 07:19

So a month ago, I got an email asking if I'd like to read Matt Gallagher's book, Kaboom: embracing the suck in a savage little war. I remembered him as one of the more literary milbloggers, and I'm a whore for books anyway, so I said "sure."

The book sat, accusingly, on the dining table for the past three weeks, and finally I sat down to read it tonight.

I just finished it, and - gosh. Really, gosh. What a great book.

I've read most of the books from the front of this dragged-out, messed-up war. It's much like my efforts to sit down and talk to Iraqis or people who've lived there or people who've fought there - to try and get some glimpse of the reality that is hidden in the abstraction of the books about history, or policy, or strategy.

And I've read those books. Lone Survivor. Not A Good Day to Die. My War. Assassin's Gate. One Bullet Away. Imperial Life Inside the Emerald City. This Man's Army. The Unforgiving Minute.

This is a better book than those. Really.

It's a better book because it isn't a journalist's retelling of the bloody minutiae of battle a la Black Hawk Down. It makes no pretext of being a sweeping strategic view of the war. It is not a journey of personal growth (not explicitly). It's not a historian's view or a policy wonk's or a weapons and tactics fetishists. It is, simply, a very talented writer's telling of what he saw and felt and did in two years of combat in Iraq with no point of view except honesty.

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  • Shea: Excellent, I never knew his name, but the Kaboom in read more
  • Armed Liberal: Yes it is...and do, it's great. read more
  • Shea: I think I recognize some of the names he gives read more

The Deadly Decks of Afghanistan

By Armed Liberal at 18:35

powerpoint ranger-acu.gif

The NYT yesterday had an article on the PowerPoint Rangers in Afghanistan.
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.

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  • Bobby Bran: I like how the article argues from both sides of read more
  • Foobarista: Yup Joe. Powerpoint isn't a teleprompter, and isn't a substitute read more
  • Joe Katzman: I like Foobarista's rules - with 1 addition. The person read more

March 23, 2010

Wildlife Organizations Fighting Poachers With Bullets

By Joe Katzman at 02:56

The Times reports:

"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.

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  • toc3: This is one of those problems that., like drug trafficking read more

BAE Settles Bribery Charges with UK, USA

By Joe Katzman at 01:37

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.

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  • Joe Katzman: I'm not so sure about the British, Grim, but characterizing read more
  • Tim Oren: I wonder what is the correlation between countries where military read more
  • Grim: Hm. "We would never pay bribes, which is illegal. This read more

December 3, 2009

Israel's Operation Orchard: The Destruction of Al-Kibar's Reactor

By Joe Katzman at 01:35

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.

"The Story of 'Operation Orchard': How Israel Destroyed Syria's Al Kibar Nuclear Reactor"

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  • mark buehner: What a stupid comment that chuck cited. There's an old read more
  • Barry Meislin: Well, you know, Germans (or Russian, or Americans, or Brits, read more
  • chuck: This is what caught my eye, The attack was filmed read more
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