Alexander the Average
"A frustrated warrior class, always kept in check by liberal-minded officers, is the sign of a healthy democracy." --Robert Kaplan
Monday, December 26, 2011
Friday, November 11, 2011
A Comment About the Status of This Blog
I have let this blog lay fallow for a long time. I used to have more time and energy to keep it up, but that was before kids and harder jobs.
If you're finding this blog because of something else I've written, feel free to follow me on Twitter (@kris_alexander) or on Facebook. Plus, stay tuned for my upcoming novel: "Servants of the Light".
A note about my status. I haven't updated the bio on the side, but I am now back on active duty in the Army where I am a Major. I am currently earning a Master's Degree in National Security Affairs at the Naval Post-Graduate School in Monterey CA.
And, as always, my views are mine and mine alone.
Thursday, February 21, 2008
In the Debate Trenches
Should I have ironed my shirt? Not too much talk about defense and security issues. Boeing's stock might jump tomorrow morning with all this talk about the virtual fence.
I find it interesting that the "commander is chief" question has taken a launch excursion back into the health care issue, which is important. But, health care is a 300 meter target. Commander in Chief is a knife fight.
Okay, now we're back on track as our embassy in Serbia burns...
Rumble on the 40 Acres
The opening ceremony is underway with rousing music from the UT Band and Choir plus some general windbaggery from UT types. (Remember I'm at Texas Tech grad--get your guns up!)
Let's take a look at how the candidates stack up on issue that are near and dear to my heart: defense.
End the War in Iraq
Fulfilling Our Promises to Veterans
And one highlight: Building a 21st Century Military
- The Problem: The excellence of our military is unmatched. But as a result of a misguided war in Iraq, our forces are under pressure as never before. Obama will make the investments we need so that the finest military in the world is best-prepared to meet 21st-century threats.
- Rebuild Trust: Obama will rebuild trust with those who serve by ensuring that soldiers and Marines have sufficient training time before they are sent into battle.
- Expand the Military: We have learned from Iraq that our military needs more men and women in uniform to reduce the strain on our active force. Obama will increase the size of ground forces, adding 65,000 soldiers to the Army and 27,000 Marines.
- New Capabilities: Obama will give our troops new equipment, armor, training, and skills like language training. He will also strengthen our civilian capacity, so that our civilian agencies have the critical skills and equipment they need to integrate their efforts with our military.
- Strengthen Guard and Reserve: Obama will restore the readiness of the National Guard and Reserves. He will permit them adequate time to train and rest between deployments, and provide the National Guard with the equipment they need for foreign and domestic emergencies. He will also give the Guard a seat at the table by making the Chief of the National Guard a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Random, Sensless Acts of Journalism
As I posted at Danger Room (where I do most of my writing these days), I am covering the Austin Democratic debate as a *gasp* journalist. No, I haven't given up my day job, but hey if they'll let bloggers in, then why not?
My initial impression of the set up is pretty good. The logisitics of about 40 satilite trucks, security, credentialing, and chow even are daunting. I will not be on the debate floor. Instead they have a press areas/free speech zone. I'm in here with some serious journalists and publications--Forbes, The Economist. My seat is next to the crew from the Huffington Post, and Maureen Dowd--love her or hate her-- is in the room as well.
Here are some pics:
Thursday, September 06, 2007
Name the place:
War displaces the dominant economic and ethnic group from power and gives a previously oppressed ethnic group power and political enfranchisement. The invading Army, viewed as foreign occupiers, tries to impose order and rebuild the war-shattered land. The displaced former power group forms militias to resist the invaders and suppress the newly enfranchised ethnic group. Violence simmers for years.
Sound familiar? But, if you said Iraq, you’d be wrong. Try the American South during reconstruction. And how long did it take for “reconstruction” to work? When did the American Civil War really end? You could argue that it took the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to finally bring the Civil War to a close—a century of reconstruction, a century of Phase IV. And we still struggle with race issues to this very day, and in some quarters, the wounds are still raw, and it will always be the “War of Northern Aggression”.
Recently, the President said in a speech before the VFW that "One unmistakable legacy of Vietnam is that the price of America's withdrawal was paid by millions of innocent citizens whose agonies would add to our vocabulary new terms like 'boat people', 're-education camps' and 'killing fields'."
Predictably, his statements generated a storm of controversy on both sides of the political aisle, but nobody has really talked about what not withdrawing from Vietnam would have meant. My assessment is that had we not left Vietnam in the 70’s, we would still be there today, either in a role similar to our presence in South Korea or in a prolonged occupation of the North. Phase IV in Vietnam would have lasted for decades.
It is easy to misuse the lessons of history. In Iraq, the argument is that if we leave now, the country will descend into further violence and chaos. I have no doubt this is true. The killing fields of Southeast Asia may be repeated. However, history also provides more instruction on what staying in Iraq looks like. History tells us that Phase IV lasts forever.
And that is precisely the debate that we are not having. How long can we realistically stay in Iraq? How many lives and how much treasure are we willing to spend? How many decades are we willing to stay? That’s the question nobody is asking in any of the political debates.Update: In a Fred Kaplan article in Slate Stephen Biddle, a military analyst at the Council on Foreign Relations says that "the strategy in Iraq would require the presence of roughly 100,000 American troops for 20 years—and that, even so, it would be a "long-shot gamble.""
Sunday, August 19, 2007
Brave New War
My blogging buddy Jason Sigger over at Armchair Generalist has a great review of John Robb's "Brave New War". I read the book a couple months ago and really enjoyed it. I also got to interview Robb for Danger Room. He's an interesting and scary smart guy. I highly recommend checking out the book his blog.
Echoing some of Robb's conclusions in this month's Armed Forces Journal, retired Army Lt. Col. Scott Morrison asks the question: "What if There is No Network?"
Al-Suri's pragmatic doctrine, based on his personal experiences as well as his astute observations concerning the post-Sept. 11 operational environment from a jihadist perspective, borrows heavily from the "leaderless resistance" concept initially promulgated by Col. Ulius Amos. Al-Suri's work, in essence, provides the impetus for a revolution in jihadist affairs by suggesting transition to a highly decentralized autonomous jihad with emphasis on operational security and a de-emphasis on formal structure. Similar to our own doctrine of mission-type orders and mission-type command, which borrows deeply from German auftragstaktik, there is little doubt that individual jihadists are already cognizant of the overarching ideological mission and intent of their global struggle. This universally understood concept forms the framework for strategically complimentary yet operationally unsynchronized offensive terrorist action.
I've been toying with the term WikiWar as a way to describe this emerging phenomena.
Saturday, August 18, 2007
Not The Government Storms Los Angeles (Updated)
Want to learn how make somebody's eyes roll, and I mean nearly completely roll over to the back of their heads like the finale of a Blue Angels' show? Here's my secret: Tell them that your baby sister and her husband moved to L.A. with "the band" to chase fame and fortune. Works every time. Hell, I nearly even blinded this dude in my unit. Traumatic eye strain.
But, seriously, It seems that the band aka "Not the Government" has booked their first show in LA after making the trek from Texas to California. It's at some place called the Knitting Factory which I'm guessing is filled with twenty-somethings in ironic clothes. My LA reader(s) should attend the show and tip generously. Buy lots of T-shirts. Worship them like the rock gods that they are.
The good news is that my sister isn't totally assimilating to California. I asked her how she liked living in LA. Her reply: "It would be okay if it weren't for all the Californians." Sounds like Austin.
Update: This post is generating some nasty-grams in the comments sections and my email inbox. Some readers have taken exception to my tone. Yeah, yeah I get it. I'm old. I don't understand. Well, that's all bullshit. I do understand, and I'm a big fan of these guys too. It took a lot of balls to pack up the band and move to LA. And it showed a great deal of initiative and courage on the part of Brian, my brother in law. So regardless of whether or not they make it big, I think the band's display of commitment to their art speaks volumes about them as people. Everybody happy? If not, pound sand.
Labels: Blog Business
What Happened to the Civilian Reserve Corps?
Earlier this year, the president proposed the creation of a Civilian Reserve Corps. I blogged about it. I've been eagerly awaiting news about its formation...and waiting...and waiting.
I've done some goggling about it, and it seems that Charles Rangel proposed something like this way back in 2005. I guess that he's still waiting...and waiting...and waiting.
I guess all the delays come down to this fact: our military, not our nation, is at war. Therefore, there is no incentive to create bold programs like this, especially at the end of an unpopular president's term. What short-sighted thinking.
According to the United Nation's Population Fund:
The world is undergoing the largest wave of urban growth in history. In 2008, for the first time in history, more than half of the world’s population will be living in towns and cities. By 2030 this number will swell to almost 5 billion, with urban growth concentrated in Africa and Asia. While mega-cities have captured much public attention, most of the new growth will occur in smaller towns and cities, which have fewer resources to respond to the magnitude of the change.In other words, all future conflicts will revolve around urban areas, and the ability to keep cities up and running resides almost entirely outside of the military. Unpopular president and unpopular war aside, we ought to give some serious thoughts about how we fight and win the next war because its going to look a hell of a lot like Baghdad whether we like it or not.
Also, John Robb has some interesting things to say about life in the urban jungle.
The Laziest Blogger in the World
I have to admit it. The Army's blogging rules/crackdown intimidated me a little bit so I started blogging less and less. I also started working on a couple other blogs including Intel Dump while Phil Carter was in Iraq and Danger Room at WIRED where I do most of my blogging now. It's an honor to be part of both sites, but they really aren't "mine".
The recent revelations that the military itself and not bloggers are responsible for more OPSEC violations, has given me some encouragement. I never really blogged about current operations or anything that remotely resembled them. So, I'm not going to worry about it.
Bottom line: my fan(s) can take heart. I'm going to start post here some more, especially on things that don't fit elsewhere. Big Brother can also take heart. I'm not going to talk about what I do in the military or any operations that I participate in.
I don't think that I'll be able to generate the volume that I was doing in the hey-day of my blogging. (if there was such a thing) But fan(s) might want to stop by from time-to-time and see what I'm ranting about.
Labels: Blog Business
Friday, February 23, 2007
Chlorine: Don't Call it a Comeback
Cross-posted at Danger Room.
Chlorine is to WMD as Run/DMC is to rap: old school. The OG of WMD is making a comeback on the mean streets of Baghdad, and it isn’t good. Fellow Danger Room contributor Jason Sigger has pointed out the media hype that has followed these attacks. And he’s right so far. Chlorine is more hype than hurt, but it does at and ugly new facet to the war. So let’s put on our thinking hats and learn a little about our nasty little friend chlorine.
It’s everywhere and sometimes in large quantities. One of its primary uses is water purification so everywhere that there is water production, there is chlorine. Good news: in the US, Hazmat teams spend a lot of time dealing with it and training for releases. Lugging around a chlorine kit in a Level A suit is not fun (trust me), but dealing with chlorine releases is part of the curriculum for all Hazmat Technician training. There are releases, but fire departments with hazmat teams are ready.
This is not to say that these releases aren’t significant emotional events. According to the 2004 Emergency Response Guide (which every concerned citizen should know and love) the impact of chlorine release is as follows:
30 meters (100 feet)
240 meters or 800 feet
.2 km or
1.2 km or
2.4 km or 1.5 miles
7.4 km or 4.6 miles
Isolate means block off the area and have people in the hotzone protect or shelter in place. Protect downwind has you either evacuating the population or protecting them in place. (And you thought duct tape and plastic was one big joke.) The ERG distances are a rough estimate intended as a starting point in an emergency. Weather and terrain impact what the gas will do.
A large spill in an urban area is bad news. Chlorine gas is heavier than air so it tends to hug the terrain in a vapor cloud, especially at night. Given the right weather conditions, it might take hours for a cloud to dissipate as it moves downwind or downhill. In the US, communities are prepared for this, but is the Baghdad Fire Department Hazmat team ready? I sure hope so.
Chlorine attacks the body in two ways: 1) as an inhalation hazard where it produces choking, respiratory distress, and at high concentrations our good friend pulmonary edema. 2) as a contact hazard where it burns eyes, mucous membranes, and even moist skin where it reacts with moisture forming hydrochloric acid.
According to my NIOSH pocket guide (another great document BTW), Chlorine is Immediately Dangerous to Life and Health at 10 parts per million. Air purifying respirators (gas masks) are recommended for escape use at concentrations up to 5 parts per million with the appropriate filter. The odor threshold for chlorine is about .3 parts per million. In other words, if you smell it, you have plenty of time to mask up and get the hell out, but in order to enter the hotzone and take care of business, you need to be wearing a self contained breathing apparatus and a fully encapsulated chemical protective garment. Level A all the way.
At the smell threshold, people might begin feeling other effects such as burning eyes and nose. People are chemo-phobic so even those who aren’t in an area of dangerous concentration will be worried. And the worried well often find their way to hospitals where they can overwhelm even the best emergency rooms.
So chlorine might not be a weapon of mass destruction, but it sure as hell is a weapon of mass effect. A large release done the right way can send a city reeling. The use of chlorine as a weapon indicates to me that the insurgents are adapting and upping the ante. Imagine living in a city where there are explosions, shootings, and mayhem every day of the week. Now, add poison gas to the mixture. Life in Baghdad sucks worse everyday.
If I were a planner in Baghdad right now, I’d get smart on hazmat in a hurry because I’m guessing that this is just the beginning.
Notes: I debated about writing about this for fear of giving the insurgents information that they can use. They have the internets too. Therefore, I have omitted any reference to how US Forces deal with this threat. All the information that I have used is available in open source. I hope any of the bad guys messing with this stuff die painfully in a green cloud of choking death, but that’s just me.
Also, Dick Destiny has in interesting post on this. He makes some good points about the domestic panic over chemicals. Like I said, people are chemo-phobic. In the US, we’d be better served with a robust education program about sheltering in place than spending billions on protecting chemicals that are basically everywhere. Communities near chemical plants have been doing this effectively for years. Paging Wally Wise.Finally, the Chlorine Institute is a great resource for responders dealing with this substance. Hint, hint for all you Chemical Officers in the box.