Another hostage crisis

The French intervention into Mali spilled over to other countries, as Islamic radicals in Algeria attacked a natural gas facility and seized at least 20 hostages, including  7 Americans, as well as French, British, and Japanese nationals.  From Reuters:

Islamist fighters seized dozens of Western and Algerian hostages in a dawn raid on a natural gas facility deep in the Sahara on Wednesday and demanded France halt a new offensive against rebels in neighboring Mali.

Three people, among them one British and one French, were reported killed, but details were sketchy and numbers of those held at Tigantourine ranged from 41 foreigners – including perhaps seven Americans as well as Japanese and Europeans – to over 100 local staff, held separately and less closely watched. [Read more…]

France starts its own Iraq

Back when the U.S.A. invaded Iraq, the French refused to join the “coalition of the willing” and opposed our efforts, leading to Americans making fun of French military prowess and making anti-French gestures such as re-labeling a favorite food indulgence as “freedom fries.”  But now the French–not us–have embarked on a military invasion of a Muslim country, the West African nation of Mali (a former French colony)  in order to quell al Qaeda terrorism and the establishment of an Islamist state.  Not only that, this is the work of the left-wing socialist government of President Francois Hollande, who is as far from a George W. Bush figure as one could imagine.  Evidently, the war on terrorism and fighting back against Islamic jihad is not necessarily a right/left, conservative/liberal issue. [Read more…]

Getting bin Laden: The Movie

I saw Zero Dark Thirty, the film about the hunt for Osama bin Laden. Earlier, the word was that it would be released just before the election, which had conservatives up in arms, fearing that a cinematic treatment of President Obama’s victory was Hollywood’s plot to get him re-elected. But there is nothing triumphalistic about this movie. Opponents of the war on terrorism will find lots of material in scenes of torture and brutality (as in killing terrorists in front of their children as they cry). And yet supporters of the war on terrorism will also find lots of material in the opening recording of phone calls from World Trade Center victims right before their deaths (talk about 911 calls), the continuing acts of terrorism throughout the movie, and in the heroism of both the troops and the CIA operatives who brought Osama bin Laden to justice. I think Zero Dark Thirty is what an objective treatment of a controversial issue by a work of art looks like. [Read more…]

Women in the “band of brothers”

Four women in the U. S. Army have filed a lawsuit  in federal court demanding that the military drop its practice of excluding women from combat.  Robert H. Scales, a retired Major General with combat experience, raises a concern that I haven’t heard before:

Infantry and armor soldiers alone do virtually all the intimate killing. Here’s where the issue gets hard for me. Intimate killing is done in small units, normally squads and teams. In these engagements they fight and often die not for country or mission but for each other. We borrow a phrase from Shakespeare’s “Henry V” and term this phenomenon the “band of brothers effect.” This is the essential glue in military culture that causes a young man to sacrifice his life willingly so that his buddies might survive. Contemporary history suggests that U.S. infantry units fight equally well when made up of soldiers of different ethnicities, cultures, intelligence and social background. The evidence is also solid that gays make just as good infantrymen as do straight men.

I’ve been studying the band of brothers effect for almost 40 years and have written extensively on the subject. We know that time together allows effective pairings — or “battle buddies,” to use the common Army term. We know that four solid buddy pairings led by a sergeant compose a nine-man, battle-ready squad. The Marine squad is slightly larger. We know from watching Ranger and special forces training that buddy groups form often spontaneously. But the human formula that ensures successful buddy pairings is still a mystery, and that’s the key stumbling block in the debate. Veteran SEALs, special forces, Rangers, tankers and line infantrymen will swear that the deliberate, premeditated and brutal act of intimate killing is a male-only occupation. But no one can prove it with data from empirical tests because no such data exist from the United States. They just know intuitively from battlefield experience that it’s true.

To be sure, women soldiers may be fit, they may be skilled and they may be able to “hang.” Many have proved with their lives that they are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice. But our senior ground-force leaders, as well as generations of former close combat veterans from all of our previous wars, are virtually united on one point: The precious and indefinable band of brothers effect so essential to winning in close combat would be irreparably compromised within mixed-gender infantry squads.

via Not yet time for women to serve in infantry – The Washington Post.

“Intimate killing.”  “Band of brothers.”  “Battle buddies.”  One would think that the intimate two-person bond between “battle buddies” would also be affected by homosexuality.  At any rate, it would seem that we should identify what the different units in our military are for and then determine what arrangements would make them more effective towards that end.

Pearl Harbor day

Today is the 71st anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, plunging the United States into World War.

See Attack on Pearl Harbor – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Do you think we will ever again have a world war; that is, war on a global scale?

The Iron Dome

Hamas has been firing rockets and missiles into Israel, sparking Israeli retaliation.  The two sides have agreed to a cease fire.   Israel managed to shoot down virtually all of rockets thanks to a new anti-missile system called “Iron Dome.”  Based on American technology, this is the most successful technology to defend against missiles ever devised.  From Slate’s Sarah Tory:

The debut of Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense shield has added a new element to the conflict, one that military officials are calling a “game-changer.” Why is Iron Dome such a significant addition to Israel’s military arsenal?

Iron Dome actually works. Israeli officials are claiming that the shield is destroying 90 percent of missiles and rockets it aims at that have been fired into southern Israel by Hamas. This level of success is unprecedented compared with older missile defense systems such as the American-made Patriot model used during the 1991 Gulf War. Israelis have almost always suffered far fewer casualties than Palestinians have, but Iron Dome has made that disparity even larger. As of Monday, Israel has reported three casualties, all of which occurred during a temporary malfunction in the missile-defense system.

The missile-defense system can detect rocket launches and then determine the projectiles’ flight paths. Iron Dome intercepts rocket or artillery shells only if they are headed for populated areas or sensitive targets; the others it allows to land. After pinpointing a rocket for destruction, Iron Dome fires a warhead that destroys the rocket within seconds. Currently, five Iron Dome systems are deployed in Israel. Most are located in the south, near Gaza, and each operates with a 45-mile radius.

Israeli officials point out that Iron Dome saves money despite the fact that the interceptors cost up to $100,000 each. The cost of rebuilding a neighborhood destroyed by a rocket attack—not to mention people wounded and lives lost—would be far greater than the cost of the interceptor. In addition, the system buys Israel time, allowing it to plan out an appropriate response without the political pressure that would be generated by hundreds of potential deaths. Experts have called Iron Dome’s success a crucial factor in deterring Israel from launching a ground assault on Gaza.

via Israel Iron Dome defense: How has missile defense changed battle in Gaza – Slate Magazine.