The present-day U.S. military qualifies by any measure as highly professional, much more so than its Cold War predecessor. Yet the purpose of today’s professionals is not to preserve peace but to fight unending wars in distant places. Intoxicated by a post-Cold War belief in its own omnipotence, the United States allowed itself to be drawn into a long series of armed conflicts, almost all of them yielding unintended consequences and imposing greater than anticipated costs. Since the end of the Cold War, U.S. forces have destroyed many targets and killed many people. Only rarely, however, have they succeeded in accomplishing their assigned political purposes. . . . [F]rom our present vantage point, it becomes apparent that the “Revolution of ‘89” did not initiate a new era of history. At most, the events of that year fostered various unhelpful illusions that impeded our capacity to recognize and respond to the forces of change that actually matter.

Andrew Bacevich

Sunday, May 30, 2010

News of the Day for Sunday, May 30, 2010

A U.S. soldier from A Co., 3rd Battalion, 69th Armored Regiment, 1st Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division based at Fort Stewart, Ga., carries his belongings during a handover ceremony northeast of Baghdad, Iraq, Friday, May 28, 2010. The next step in the security agreement is the withdrawal of the first major wave of troops and this would reduce the force level from 92,000 to 50,000 troops by Aug. 31, 2010. (AP Photo/Karim Kadim)

Reported Security Incidents

Near Mosul

Bomb attack on convoy of an Iraqi army colonel injures 2 of his guards.

Qaim, near Ramadi

Gunmen kidnap 2 civilians and commandeer their vehicle.

Other News of the Day

As Iraq flounders without a government, basic government functions don't get done. McClatchy's Hannah Allam reports:

For hundreds of thousands of Iraqis . .., the delay in seating a new government, which already has lasted nearly three months, has complicated everyday errands and added bureaucratic frustration to lives that are hard enough thanks to persistent violence and the lack of basic utilities.

More than 100,000 new state jobs are on hold, and mundane tasks such as obtaining licenses and registering for pensions are backlogged until a new government is seated, Iraqi officials and Baghdad residents said this week.

Each day the political infighting drags on, more Iraqis begin to question their participation in the March 7 parliamentary elections, which the Obama administration had counted on to pave the way for an unimpeded withdrawal of U.S. forces by the end of next year.

Government-owned carrier Iraqi Airways is liquidated due to debts owed to Kuwait over stolen aircraft.

Scholars Douglas L. Kriner and Francis X. Shen analyze the sources of America's cannon fodder. Excerpt:

We demonstrate unambiguously that, beginning with the Korean War, disadvantaged communities have suffered a disproportionate share of the nation’s wartime casualties, while richer communities have been more insulated from the costs of war. Furthermore, the data suggest that this “casualty gap” between rich and poor communities has reached its widest proportions in the ongoing conflict in Iraq.


What would happen if the nation openly acknowledged the casualty gap? Would citizens rethink questions of war and peace? To find out, we conducted a series of original public opinion survey experiments with nationally representative samples of Americans.

We found that citizens informed about the existence of a casualty gap were significantly more likely to oppose ongoing military operations and less willing to support future ones than were their peers who were not informed about casualty inequalities.

As U.S. troops prepare to leave Iraq, they struggle to preserve impromptu in-country memorials to the dead and wounded. AP's Rebecca Santana tells the tale:

In words etched in stone, painted on concrete barriers, scribbled on hospital walls with magic markers, American troops in Iraq have followed a tradition as old as war itself: honoring their dead.

Now, as the United States prepares to dramatically decrease its military presence in Iraq this summer, American commanders are trying to decide what to do with the vast collection of plaques, street signs and painted concrete barriers dedicated to the men and women who shed their blood in this desert country.

In the Vietnam War, units brought home their memorabilia and memorials when they rotated out of the country. When the U.S. closed down bases around Germany at the end of the Cold War, the memorabilia also was preserved. Now, it's Iraq's turn. But preserving some of the memorials could prove difficult.

Afghanistan Update

Roadside bomb attack on a police patrol in the northeastern province of Badakhshan kills 7 officers.

Taliban torch 6 fuel trucks in Ghazni, destined for NATO forces in Kandahar. Separately, 4 Afghan civilians are killed in explosions in Khost, Nangarhar and Paktika and Ghor.

Gen. McChrystal claims that Taliban fighters are receiving training and arms from Iran. He offers no evidence for this assertion. From DPA: "The Iranian regime, which has built up a favorable relationship with President Hamid Karzai's government, has in the past repeatedly denied that it supports the Taliban and in turn accused the US of playing a 'double game' in the war-torn country. Afghan officials have also said they have no evidence that Iran is helping the Taliban."

As the peace Jirga looms, many are concerned about the possible outcome for women's rights. Al Arabiya compiles the story:

As Afghanistan's most powerful men arrive in Kabul for a major conference aimed at starting a peace process with the Taliban, many women are worried the event could lead to a compromise of their hard-won rights.

In an effort to end the nine-year conflict, Afghanistan is holding a peace jirga -- or an assembly -- of powerful leaders, tribal elders and representatives of civil society to consider President Hamid Karzai’s plans to open talks with Taliban. But even the remote possibility of a Taliban return has touched off concern about the fate of women who were banned from schools, the work place and public life during the Taliban rule from 1996 to 2001.


Concerned activists also point to the fact that women are not adequately represented at peace jirga, in which they represent a very small number of the 1,400 seats. And although between 30 and 50 women are expected to attend, none is involved in its planning. Some believe that women were only given a “symbolic” role to lure Taliban to sit at the negotiations table.

U.S. military investigation uncharacteristically admits culpability for a missile attack that killed 23 civilians in February. "U.S. military investigators found that "inaccurate and unprofessional" reporting by U.S. operators of a Predator drone was responsible."

Canada's senior commander in Afghanistan, Brigadier General Daniel Menard, is relieved of his command, for unspecified reasons but apparently involving fraternization.

Due to threats, some tribal elders from Ghazni will not attend the Jirga.

Taliban have captured a district in Nooristan, Afghan forces have withdrawn from the district center to avoid civilian casualties.

Quote of the Day

We too, we too, descending once again
The hills of our own land, we too have heard
Far off -- Ah, que ce cor a longue haleine --
The horn of Roland in the passages of Spain,
the first, the second blast, the failing third,
And with the third turned back and climbed once more
The steep road southward, and heard faint the sound
Of swords, of horses, the disastrous war,
And crossed the dark defile at last, and found
At Roncevaux upon the darkening plain
The dead against the dead and on the silent ground
The silent slain.

Archibald MacLeish