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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Gamble: General David Petraeus and the American Military Adventure in Iraq, 2006-2008. Crib Notes

Book Review & Notes
Book Title: The Gamble: General David Petraeus and the American Military Adventure in Iraq, 2006-2008.
Author: Thomas E. Ricks
Publisher: The Penguin Press
Year: 2009
Date Reviewed: May 20, 2009

1. Abu-Ghraib Spring 2004

2. Australian counterinsurgency expert David Kilcullen-the way to win at counterinsurgency is not to attack the enemy but instead protect and win over the people. Destroy the enemy, but not by killing him but by isolating him and making him irrelevant. The best insurgent is not a dead one, who might leave behind a relative seeking revenge, but one who is ignored by the population and perhaps is contemplating changing sides, bringing with him invaluable information.p.6

3. Haditha- 7:15 AM Saturday November 19, 2005. Kilo company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment. 24 Iraqi civilians, many of them women and children, KIA after a roadside bomb killed 1 Marine and wounded 2 others.

4. June 7, 2006 Abu Musab al-Zarqawi KIA at Hibhib, 35 miles north of Baghdad, by two 500 lbs bombs from an F-16. Arabic copy of Newsweek magazine found in rubble.

5. P.51 David Kilcullen describes the “Kiss of Death” in regards to the American failure to hold territory once it had gained it. “ Then…insurgents kill those who cooperated with us.”

6. P.160 . It is axiomatic that good tactics cannot fix a bad strategy, but that a good strategy tends to fix bad tactics, because the inappropriateness of those actions becomes self-evident when seen against the larger scheme. For example, in a mission where the top priority explicitly is protecting the people, there would be no excuse for an incident like Haditha.

7. Colonel H.R. McMaster , 3rd Armored Calvary Regiment– Rugby player with Ph.D. in History. Clear-Hold and Build. Tall Afar- Northwest Iraq. 2005. A city of 250,000 with smuggling routes to Syria pacified and exemplary of good COIN. First successful large scale Coin-op of the Iraq war.“Every time you treat an Iraqi disrespectfully, you are working for the insurgency.” Cut off the city from supply routes and then established 29 outposts in neighborhoods. COL Sean McMaster did the same in Ramadi in 2006-7.

8. The American Enterprise Institute. Right wing think-tank is the mecca for neo-cons. Birthplace of the Iraq invasion plan. Boxy building across the street from National Geographic Society’s headquarters in Washington D.C. also houses the Weekly Standard and the project for the new American Century (an advocacy group for an aggressive interventionist foreign policy).

9. P.168 Lt. Tim Gross, “Protect the innocent, punish the deserving.”

10. The Golden Dome Mosque in Samarra, 65 miles north of Baghdad. 6:44 AM; February 22, 2006. One of the most holy sites in Shia Islam destroyed by AQI. Not the spark for civil war (already occurring since March 2005) but like gasoline on a fire. Leads to mass exodus of Iraqi elite, sectarian violence and silences any American argument that enough troops are already on the ground. Considered by many as the tipping point for Rumsfeld’s flawed strategy.

11. P. 197. An old military aphorism holds that, “Amateurs talk tactics, but professionals talk logistics. In fact, real military insiders often focus on larger personnel issues—raising, training, and equipping the force—because that is the key to long-term, sustainable success.

12. P198. It is axiomatic that it is indigenous forces that finally put down insurgencies, not foreign militaries.”

13. P.215 LTC Jeffrey Kulmayer…all told the Americans arrived at local cease-fires with 779 local militias…Summer 2007-2008…some as small as 10 men, some as big as 800 armed fighters. We were imitating Saddam Hussein WWSD?

14. P.215. COL Gian Gentile asserts that “we did not fail”… “In my opinion, we succeeded.” Regarding the perception of pre-surge commanders being on a losing trajectory. Argued with COL Peter Mansoor on Small Wars Journal, and asserted that the real successes of the surge beginning in summer 2007 were due to the cease-fires with the Sunni insurgents and the Sadrists militias who then turned on AQI, plus al-Sadr’s decision to stand down.

15. P.231. 1986 Goldwater-Nichols Act Military reorganization which made the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs the principal military advisor to the president and the SecDef. Cut the service chiefs out of military operations. Also created the “combatant commanders” the powerful princes of the military: Central com-European com-Southern com- Pacific com-and two specialized HQs: SOCOM and Strategic com (for nuclear weapons)

16. P.249 On the Democrats pointing out that Petraeus’s goal to reduce troop levels down to 130,000 after 10 months only brought the numbers essentially back to pre-surge status. One Centcom officer gleefully summarized: “It was like doing a fifty percent mark-up, and then offering a half-off sale.”

17. P.283. One of the harshest lessons of the Iraq war, as well as earlier ones such as Vietnam, has been that a military victory doesn’t necessarily translate into a political gain—which is one reason that military operation can’t be judged in tactical terms.

Hiroshima: The world's bomb

Book Review & Notes
Book Title: Hiroshima: The World’s Bomb
Author: Andrew J. Rotter
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Year: 2008
Date Reviewed: May 18, 2009
Overall Score: B

1. P. 187. “Think of the kids who won’t get killed”, Truman wrote to his wife Bess on 18 July 1945 having heard about the Trinity test and having got Stalin’s agreement to enter the war.

2. LTC Paul W. Tibbets 29 year-old commander of the 393rd Bombardment Squadron, the business end of the 509th Composite group. Told about the Manhattan Project (MP) and given the best B-29’s and the best pilots.

3. The notorious Japanese Unit 731 operating in Manchuria (chemical / biological)

4. The Japanese launched over 9,000 balloon bombs from Honshu into the Pacific Northwest in late 1944 and early 1945 bearing antipersonnel and incendiary bombs which caused several casualties.

5. Japan planned on defending the mainland with “Ketsu-go” or the big push. An estimated 30 million Japanese would defend the island with tokkō weapons. Such as: the ōka (Cherry Blossoms) “flying bombs”, the shinyō, plywood motorboats with high explosives strapped to their hulls, the fukuryō, or “Crouching Dragons”, frogmen who stayed submerged and holding mines at the ends of long wooden poles would ram U.S. landing craft in the shallows off Kyushu. 5000 Kamikaze would also strike at the beginning of ‘Olympic’.

6. P.190 Mission No. 13. General Curtiss Lemay ordered the bombing of Hiroshima from the 509th HQ on Guam. At 8:15 AM, the bomb detonated over Hiroshima roughly 1,850 feet AGL. Little Boy (Uranium core) blew 43 seconds after leaving the B-29 Enola Gay. Approximate power equivalent to 20,000 tons of TNT.

7. P.193 Leslie Groves described Hiroshima as ‘an important Army base’. That was true, as far as it went. Hiroshima was HQ to the Japanese 2nd Army and Chogoka Regional Army, and it had been a major transit point for soldiers and supplies bound for war…the city’s ammunition depot was one of the country’s largest. There were also between 24,000 and 40,000 soldiers in Hiroshima that day.

8. P. 194 “There were approximately a quarter of a million people in Hiroshima on August 6, 1945.

9. The Japanese called the bomb: pika-don, or ‘flash-boom’

10. Everything is obliterated within 2.5 miles of Ground zero of the bomb aka: the hypocenter.

11. P.213 the Japanese Supreme War Council (the Big Six) debated over whether to accept the
Potsdam Declaration of complete surrender to America. They were torn over four major points or conditions: A.) the Kokutai, or the “right of the emperor to rule as determined by the Gods of antiquity”. B) Japan would be able to select which of their military commanders would go to trial for war crimes. C.) Japan would enforce its own disarmament. And D.) Japan would not be occupied by a foreign nation. We eventually agreed only to one condition, a modified version of Kokutai, wherein the Emperor was basically stripped of all of his power and humiliated in newspapers featuring the American General Douglas MacArthur seated above Hirohito at his palace.

12. P.216 At 10:00 AM in August 14th, 1945 the Emperor convened his 2nd imperial conference in five days…Hirohito spoke, his voice breaking… Continuing the war, he said, offered ‘nothing but additional destruction’. The American reply to the Japanese proposal he deemed ‘acceptable’ …for his part the emperor would broadcast a message over the radio to the Japanese people explaining to them why the end had come, why it was necessary to lay down arms. He recorded the message in his formal Japanese onto a phonograph record. Thereafter the ‘tears flowed incessantly’.

13. Among the circles of academics that discuss and debate the issue of the American use Atomic weapons against Japan the term “revisionists” refers to those considering whether the U.S. acceded to the Japanese surrender only after Stalin invaded Manchuria because they feared Russia would also snatch Japan. This group wonders if it was ever really necessary to drop the bomb on Japan or was the bomb primarily a warning to our primary future cold war nemesis and a demonstration of American power, a concept known as “atomic diplomacy”. Whereas, “Post-revisionism” regarding the bombing of Japan explores the morality and ethics of unleashing such a devastating weapon against a largely beaten foe.

14. P. 210 Fat Man bore messages written in chalk for the Japanese including this Haiku verse scrawled in the inside of the bomb’s tail-cone by engineer Harlow Russ: Sappy Jappy started scrappy, Bombed Pearl Harbor, Pretty Crappy. Jappy have reached end of scrappy, Bomb will knock Japan slappy happy.

15. P. 171 A poll conducted three days after Pearl Harbor claimed that 2/3 rds of Americans supported the indiscriminant bombing of cities in Japan, a sentiment sustained throughout the war.

16. Curtis Lemay’s XXI Bomb Group killed over 500,000 people with conventional incendiary attacks on and near Tokyo between March 9-10. Compared to the loss of life due to both Hiroshima and Nagasaki (approximately 300,000) one questions why the Japanese waited until after the A-bombs were dropped before deciding to surrender.

17. P.205 “Returning in early September to Hiroshima for the first time since she had been wounded by the bomb, Toshiko Sasaki, ‘horrified and amazed’, by the extent of the devastation , also saw something that ‘gave her the creeps’: Hiroshima was becoming verdant with new growth. ‘Over everything—up through the wreckage of the city, in gutters, along the riverbanks, tangled among tiles and tin roofing, climbing on charred tree trunks—was a blanket of fresh, vivid, lush, optimistic green.’ She saw ‘bluets and Spanish bayonets, goosefoot, morning glories and day lilies, the hairy-fruited bean, purslane and clotblur and sesame and panic grass and feverfew’. In less than two years, those that returned to Hiroshima were able to grow grains and vegetables on a scale that dwarfed production in nearby villages.

18. Mokusatsu (黙殺) is a Japanese word formed from two Chinese characters: "silence" (moku, 黙) and "kill" (satsu, 殺) and means the act of keeping a contemptuous silence. Some argue that the word was misinterpreted by the United States when the government of Japan used it as a response to American demands for unconditional surrender in World War II, which may have influenced President Harry S. Truman's decision to use the atomic bomb against Hiroshima and Nagasaki.[1]Premier Suzuki Kantaro used mokusatsu to dismiss the Allies' Potsdam Declaration in 1945, during World War II. The word was employed in the morning edition of the Asahi Shinbun during World War II on July 28, 1945 to designate the attitude assumed by the government to the Potsdam Declaration. Later that day in a press conference, it was used by the Premier Suzuki Kantaro to dismiss the Potsdam Declarations as a mere rehash of earlier rejected Allied proposals, and therefore, being of no value, would be killed off by silent contempt (mokusatsu). Suzuki's choice of the term was dictated perhaps more by the need to appease the military, which was hostile to the idea of "unconditional surrender", than to signal anything to the Allies.[1]

19. The Potsdam Declaration or the Proclamation Defining Terms for Japanese Surrender was a statement issued on July 26, 1945 for the surrender of Japan. The PD was issued by U.S .President Harry S. Truman, U.K. PM Winston Churchill, and President of the Republic of China Chiang Kai-shek that outlined the terms of surrender for the empire of Japan as agreed upon at the Potsdam Conference. This ultimatum stated that if Japan did not surrender, it would face, “prompt and utter destruction”. Japan’s initial rejection of the ultimatum, by promulgating the condition that they be allowed to keep their emperor (Kokutai), and the impending Russian entry into the war, led directly to Truman’s decision to drop the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 6 and 9,1945. Whether the ultimatum was intended to be acceptable without recourse to use nuclear weapons has been subject to considerable debate.

Joel Z. Williams Crib Notes: Outliers: why some people succed and some don't

Book Crib Notes
Book Title: Outliers: The Story of Success
Author: Malcolm Gladwell
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Year: 2008
Date Reviewed: April 27, 2009
Overall Grade: A+

1. P. 25 The way Canadians select hockey players is a beautiful example of what the sociologist Robert Merton famously called “a self-fulfilling prophecy”— a situation where “a false definition, in the beginning…evokes a new behavior which makes the original false conception come true.” Canadians start with who the best players are (they’re just picking the oldest every year) but the way they treat those “all-stars” turns them into great players, and makes their original false judgment look correct.

2. P.30. “The Matthew Effect” “For unto everyone that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance. But from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.” It is those who are successful, in other words, who are most likely to be given the kinds of special opportunities that lead to further success. It’s the rich that get the biggest tax breaks. It’s the best students who get the best teaching and the most attention. Success is the result of what sociologists call “accumulative advantage.”

3. P. 41. “The Ten Thousand Hour Rule” And what’s ten years? Well, it’s roughly how long it takes you to put in 10,000 hours of hard practice. Ten thousand hours is the magic number of greatness. The Beatles, Mozart, Bill Gates, Bobby Fischer, Bill Joy (Sun Microsystems) all put in about 10,000 hard practice hours.

4. P. 100-101. Psychologist Robert Sternberg asserts that the principal differences between the extraordinary talents of the world’s smartest man, Chris Langdon, and Manhattan Project theorist Robert Oppenheimer is “Practical Intelligence” versus “analytical intelligence”. Unlike analytical intelligence, which most geniuses have innately, they must develop PI though “concerted cultivation”. Because Oppenheimer possesses PI, he is able to talk his way out of attempted murder, whereas Chris Langdon can’t talk himself into college despite an IQ of 200. Langdon grew up under “accomplishment of natural growth.”

5. P.149. Autonomy-complexity-and a connection between work and reward are the three things most people would agree are necessary for work to be satisfying and meaningful.

6. P.155 the best law firm in the world is housed in the prestigious office building known as Black Rock in midtown Manhattan: Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen and Katz. There is no firm in the world that has made more money, lawyer for lawyer, over the past two decades. All sons of Jewish garment workers.

7. P. 166 “A Culture of Honor” usually tends to take root in highlands and other marginally fertile areas, such as Sicily or the mountainous Basque regions of Spain. Rocky, steep hills are not good for raising crops, so people there tend to raise goats or sheep. The culture of herdsmen is very different than the culture of people that grow crops. Raising crops requires lots of cooperation of others within the community, whereas a herdsman is mostly solitary. The farmer doesn’t worry about others walking away with his crops but the herdsman is always wary of theft of his livestock, and must sometimes make an example of those who would steal from him using threatening words and deeds. He must be willing to fight even the slightest challenge to his reputation, and thus a culture of honor is born. It’s a world where a man’s reputation is at the center of his livelihood and self-worth. (According to ethnographer J.K. Campbell.

8. P-260 The school year on average in the US is 180 days, South Korea=220, Japan=243

9. P.224 Rice Paddies and Math Tests. Rice paddies are small about the size of a hotel room. A typical Asian rice farm might consist of two or three paddies. A village in China of about 1500 might support itself on 450 acres of land which is about the size of an average American Midwestern farm. The paddies are meticulously kept and their hard clay beds have to be perfectly level. Water irrigation is controlled through a system of intricate gates and chutes. 3000 hours each year compared to 1000 by the IKung Bushmen in the Kalahari Desert in Botswana (mongongo nuts) and the peasants of Burgundy France and Russia.