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

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Update for Thursday, February 18, 2016

First, everybody please get a grip and chill out. The mass hysteria over some missing iridium 92 is absurd. The universe is freaking out because a briefcase containing less than 10 grams of the radioactive isotope went missing from the facility of a U.S. engineering firm in Basra, apparently in early November, and ohmygod maybe IS can make a dirty bomb from it! First of all, Basra is nowhere near anyplace where IS is to be found, it's a Shiite-dominated city where the only people likely to have this are either common criminals or Shiite militias. In the second place, it has a half-life of about 72 days, meaning that even if it was brand new freshly made when it was stolen there's less than 3 grams of it left now. So it would make a really crappy dirty bomb. At most it could substantially affect a few square meters and even that area would be completely safe within a few weeks. Sheesh.

An Iraqi court has sentenced 40 people to death over the massacre of captured soldiers near Tikrit in 2014. However, international observers have questioned the legitimacy of the trial. The massacre was perpetrated by IS and it is not clear that actual participants would be in Iraqi custody, nor that credible evidence against them could be obtained if they were. That the government blames the incident in part on Baathists makes the verdict seem all the more questionable.

The PKK is blamed for blowing up a pipeline carrying oil to Turkey from Kirkuk. (Note that this is going to be very unpopular with the KRG, which has already denounced the PKK.)

In Afghanistan, forces raid a hospital in Wardak and kill 3 people. The hospital is operated by a Swedish charity. As we learned from the still murky account of the U.S. attack on the MSF hospital in Kunduz, the ANA apparently considers health care facilities to be fair game if they treat wounded Taliban.

Five employees of the International Committee of the Red Cross are missing in Ghazni.

The group Transparency International makes the somewhat unsurprising announcement that unchecked corruption in the country is fuelling ongoing war, undermining the effectiveness of aid and threatening the survival of the state as it tries to ward off insurgents. It's about time somebody figured that out.

UN data shows that the rate at which U.S. air strikes are killing civilians is the highest in 7 years. Not clear whether this is the result of a change in the rules of engagement.

Two districts in Badakhshan are completely under insurgent control.