Wednesday, January 31, 2007
Tuesday, January 16, 2007
Guardian on Iraq
Friday, January 12, 2007
War and the Social Sciences
Another interesting New Yorker thing here. It concerns a number of people, particularly an Australian officer and academic named Kilcullen, who have been pressing the Pentagon to make greater use of the social sciences in determining policy, specifically in dealing with counterinsurgency efforts in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere.
The project, speaking broadly, is to localise counterinsurgency efforts, making them more culturally sensitive, more efficient, and more geared to local politics and concerns. The idea is that Islamic militancy (and other problems like it) tends to be rooted and manifested locally, and that any good attempt to address them should be local as well.
The ethical concerns presented are simple enough, and are emblematic of the problems that generally face engaged intellectuals. On the one hand, trying to do change US policy in these sorts of places means signing on to the disastrous
In any event, the effort doesn’t seem to be getting very far. Funding and staffing for an interdepartmental office dedicated to the project seems to have been limited, and American actions over the last week or so don’t seem much in tune with it. Air strikes in
That said, ethical issues or no, these folks make a pretty good case, and are probably right in large part. If one is going to do what the Bush Administration insists upon, one might as well do it efficiently, carefully, effectively, right in short. That this opportunity will probably be missed represents one more tragedy in the current situation, the sort of footnote that makes it seem all the more unnecessary. In a few decades, the story of its failure may well be grimly fascinating.
Wednesday, January 10, 2007
The New Yorker has a nice editorial on Saddam Hussein’s execution, which I’ve been meaning to write on for some days now.
Quite the hash they’ve made of it, by all appearances. The Bush administration has apparently expressed displeasure at the heckling the former dictator received at the time of his death. I suppose this is reasonable enough. The jeering and so on were certainly inhumane—but then, so is hanging. It seems to me a poor response to the man’s truly abominable time in power to answer it in kind.
From what I gather, the American government attempted to have the execution delayed. The Iraqi prime minister of the moment apparently declined, out of fear that he could become a symbol of resistance if still alive (a martyr being evidently preferable). It is testimony to have far things have gone that he seems genuinely to have feared that the former president could go free, something that would probably have been unthinkable even a year or two ago.
But then, with running battles underway in