Thursday, July 21, 2005

Iraq Roadmap to Victory: July Update

This is the second installment of my series where I have created some tracking tools to measure our progress in Iraq. The first post was just a draft where all the metrics were parked in neutral. Now, I've done some analysis and evaluation. I'm not going to link every source that I've used. I read far too much to keep track of it all.

I believe that this evaluation will meet with some controversy. My liberal readers will probably surmise that I'm giving an impression of too much progress. Conservatives might think that I haven't been generous enough. I think my evaluation is fair.

These charts illustrate some progress. Many of my metrics are trending towards the green. But, you should not that most of them are still evaluated as red or yellow. This means that we have a long way to go. Progress is incremental in some areas, glacial in others. It may take years of positive trending to fix some areas like infrastructure.

I will update these slides every month or two. If you don't agree with my assessments, by all means post your comments and your own evaluations. But, be prepared to back it up. If you want to rant, take it somewhere else. I value ideas over ideology.

One note on my analysis: These charts are the product of my own work from available open-source information and the occasional email from friends in Iraq. By no means do they reflect some official product that I've migrated into the blogosphere. Enjoy.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Flypaper, Supply, Demand and the Economics of Jihad

From the Boston Globe:

Study cites seeds of terror in Iraq

WASHINGTON -- New investigations by the Saudi Arabian government and an Israeli think tank -- both of which painstakingly analyzed the backgrounds and motivations of hundreds of foreigners entering Iraq to fight the United States -- have found that the vast majority of these foreign fighters are not former terrorists and became radicalized by the war itself.
However, interrogations of nearly 300 Saudis captured while trying to sneak into Iraq and case studies of more than three dozen others who blew themselves up in suicide attacks show that most were heeding the calls from clerics and activists to drive infidels out of Arab land, according to a study by Saudi investigator Nawaf Obaid, a US-trained analyst who was commissioned by the Saudi government and given access to Saudi officials and intelligence.

A separate Israeli analysis of 154 foreign fighters compiled by a leading terrorism researcher found that despite the presence of some senior Al Qaeda operatives who are organizing the volunteers, ''the vast majority of [non-Iraqi] Arabs killed in Iraq have never taken part in any terrorist activity prior to their arrival in Iraq."
But the impact of the foreign fighters has been enormous. They are blamed for the almost daily suicide attacks against US and Iraqi forces and have killed thousands of civilians, mostly members of Iraq's Shia Muslim majority. Their exploits have been responsible for much of the headline-grabbing carnage recently, contributing to the slide in American public support for the war.
Other fighters, who are coming to Iraq from across the Middle East and North Africa, are older, in their late 20s or 30s, and have families, according to the two investigations. ''The vast majority of them had nothing to do with Al Qaeda before Sept. 11th and have nothing to do with Al Qaeda today," said Reuven Paz, author of the Israeli study. ''I am not sure the American public is really aware of the enormous influence of the war in Iraq, not just on Islamists but the entire Arab world."
For example, while the unprovoked attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, were largely condemned by clerics as violations of Muslim law, many religious leaders in Saudi Arabia and other Arab nations have promulgated fatwas, or religious edicts, saying that waging jihad in Iraq is justified by the Koran because it is defensive in nature. Last October, 26 clerics in Saudi Arabia said it was the duty of every Muslim to go and fight in Iraq.

''These are people who did not get training in Pakistan or Chechnya, [and they] ended up going to Iraq because they considered defending Iraq a must for every Muslim to go and fight," said Rita Katz, director of the Search for International Terrorist Entities Institute in Washington and an Iraq native.
One indication that a heightened degree of Arab solidarity is a leading factor is that they are almost entirely Arabs and not Muslims from other countries, such as those who volunteered to fight in Afghanistan, Bosnia, and Chechnya. Another motivation, the studies and analysts contend, is the centuries-old struggle between the Sunni and Shia branches of Islam. All the foreign fighters are Sunnis, according to the analyses, and many of their targets are Iraq's majority Shia Muslims, who have gained political power in Baghdad for the first time in hundreds of years.
Intelligence officials worry that some of ''Iraq alumni" will use the relationships they build on the battlefields of Iraq and return to their home countries as hardened Islamic terrorists.
The CIA's National Intelligence Council concluded in a report earlier this year that ''Iraq and other possible conflicts in the future could provide recruitment, training grounds, technical skills, and language proficiency for a new class of terrorists who are 'professionalized' and for whom political violence becomes an end in itself."

Analysis: I’ve never been a big fan of the “flypaper” theory in Iraq and this article points out some of the flaws in that thinking. Afghanistan was flypaper in the 80’s and look where that got us. This article points out some interesting cultural undercurrents at work that I’m not sure we understood before the invasion.

The nature of the Sunni-Shia split was an underestimated factor. Killing infidels has a double meaning for Sunni Jihadis. If you’re a radicalized Sunni, you can go to Iraq and get the chance to kill Americans and Shia, a Jihadi two-fer. Plus, the murder of Shias has a twisted religious legitimacy attached to it. Not only are you attacking the infidel invaders, you’re also defending the “true” faith. It’s not really murder if I blow up a bunch of Shia kids, right?

I never really looked at it this way until it started happening. I knew that that Saddam’s regime had repressed the Shias, but I thought that had more to do with internal politics and the fear of Iran’s influence over the Shia population. I didn’t know how deep the animosity ran throughout the Middle East.

That type of strife is foreign to me. I was raised a Methodist. We might have had ideological differences with the Catholics down the street (too much kneeling and not enough fried chicken), but we weren’t making suicide vests in the church basement either. The Sunni-Shia split is like the troubles in Northern Ireland on crack and speed.

And this means continued problems for Iraq. The insurgents don’t have to kill Americans to win the perceptions management battle. All they have to do is keep murdering Shias to create a climate of instability and illegitimacy for the Iraqi government. A steady flow of foreign fighters insures the continuation of violence. A future-martyr from Saudi Arabia is only concerned about his own heavenly rewards. He doesn’t have to worry about the future Iraq that he is helping to create. A native Iraqi has a better chance at realizing what’s at stake for his and his family’s future. So stopping the flow of foreign fighters is key.

Of course, stopping the flow of foreign fighters is no easy task. You certainly don’t solve it by invading other countries like Syria. That just widens the playing field—and not to our advantage. So how do you stop the flow of Jihadis into Iraq? Border control and operations against recruiter cells in supplier countries certainly helps. But, we spend billions trying to secure our own borders against illegal immigration and drugs, and don’t have much to show for it.

Drugs and Jihad have one thing is common: Demand=Supply. There is a demand for martyrs and willing supply throughout the Arab world. I don’t think the call to Jihad is that much different from our country’s own experience in war. In the Civil War, joining the fight was preached from the pulpit in abolitionist churches. Going to war was God’s work. Later, during WWII, those not in uniform were castigated. Our current war is the first fought largely without that societal pressure so I think that we’ve forgotten how powerful it can be.

The pressures that our society created to fight also lead to the creation of big rewards for veterans. WWII vets are honored with the mantle of “Greatest Generation”. Imagine the power of this label, and witness the bitterness of the Vietnam generation at being robbed of similar glory.

Now imagine what is at work within the Arab world. There is a call to glory and sacrifice. The pressure and rewards within the context of their culture are great. A generation of young men is heeding the call. So how do we get ahead of this? How do influence the Arab world to get beyond the cult of murder?

First, we attack the demand. We must meet our objectives in Iraq and leave as quickly as we can. We can’t cut and run, but we can’t linger either. As long as we are “occupiers” then we’re creating demand for the Jihad.

Next, we address the hopelessness of the Arab world. I would never consider going to a foreign land to commit a murderous suicide. So why does that appeal to so many Arab men? We have to bring all our country’s resources to bear on this problem—economics, diplomacy, education, and whatever else Western culture can muster.

Finally, we need to examine what caused our own lack of understanding of the forces at work in Iraq. In the future, we need to fight smarter.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Thailand Terror

Well this sucks:

BANGKOK, Thailand - In a show of force, suspected Islamic separatists set off at least four bombs and fired at security personnel in an evening attack Thursday on a provincial capital in southern Thailand, killing at least one person.

Officials at the provincial hospital in Yala, the capital of the province of Yala, said police private Somporn Dulayanit was killed and 19 other people were injured, including three policemen.


"The five points where the bombs exploded are places where people go during the night — a hotel, two 7-Elevens, near a restaurant and near the railway station — all of which are usually crowded with people, so we can say that the troublemakers targeted on innocent people," he told Thai TV Channel 5.


The commander of the task force for the immediate area, Col. Kitti Intason, said the attackers set off a bomb at the provincial power station to cause a blackout before the other attacks.

After the bombs exploded, the attackers opened fire on crowds of people with automatic weapons, Kwanchart said. He declined to say how many attackers there were but said that one suspect had been arrested with a weapon.

The three weeks that my unit spend in Thailand last year at Cobra Gold were a wonderfully enriching experience. We made friends with many of our Thai counterparts, and I hope none of them were hurt. The Thai soldiers are tough and competent, and I wish them good hunting as they track down the murderers responsible for these attacks.

This is just further proof that we are facing a global insurgency that is gaining competence. Note how this attack was initiated. Knock out the power grid and then start killing. You can bet that this attack template will be disected and disseminated on all the Jihadi (or Arhabi as MAJ K calls them) websites. No doubt the bad guys will add this tactic to their kit bags. How long until something like this hits us here at home?

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

A Call to Curiosity

(Cross-posted on Intel-Dump)

Today we have the pleasure of another guest blogger. Tanya is a college student who is well on her way to being an asset to this country. Read and you’ll agree that “the kids are all right”.

Here's Tanya:

“Cultural understanding” is not a topic which comes up often in the United States. We may talk about the “culture wars” when it comes to our own domestic politics, and we may make references to a “clash of civilizations” when we speak about the Global War on Terror, but it wasn’t until recently that cultural understanding began to enter into public discourse. Now, according to Montgomery McFate, a cultural anthropologist and defense policy fellow at the Office of Naval Research, cultural understanding is a matter of national security.

McFate has written an article entitled, “The Military Utility of Understanding Adversary Culture,” for the latest issue of Joint Forces Quarterly, a magazine published by the National Defense University. She might as well have called it, “Why we should understand the enemy.”

It seems like common sense, really. McFate makes a reference to Sun Tzu’s famous saying, “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.” Considering the centuries between Sun Tzu’s writing and today, you would think that we would have managed to internalize the lesson, but as McFate makes clear in her article, today’s military lacks “the programs, systems, models, personnel, and organizations to deal with either the existing threat or the changing environment.”

I’m not an expert on military matters, but it’s not difficult to see that our lack of investment in cultural education is harming us in Iraq, and is likely to hurt us still more in the future. Everything from differences in body language to a different framework for social connections takes on a new importance when a misunderstanding means that someone gets shot.

We’ve all heard about the lag in translating Arabic language information. I can tell you that the hot language to be studying in college right now is Arabic. Give it three or four years, and we’re going to have a whole slew of International Studies majors with minors in Arabic or Islamic studies. And that’s a very good thing.

But it’s not enough. McFate mentions in her article that the military equivalent of an area studies specialist, the foreign area officer (FAO), has rarely experienced “deep cultural immersion totally outside the military structure, [so] most do not develop real cultural and social expertise.” It’s all very good if we have Arabic speakers who can translate, but translation does not necessarily imply understanding. The kind of immersion that we need in order to achieve understanding, at least in higher education, means that American students should be studying abroad.

And they do. Many colleges are proud of the percentage of their students who venture abroad for a semester or more. The problem is that the top destinations for American students are English-speaking countries (the UK, Scotland, Australia, and New Zealand), with Western European countries (France, Italy, and Spain) as second choices. It’s better than nothing, but not by much. The Institute of International Education publishes statistics which show that as of 2003, the Middle East is the last destination of choice for students studying abroad, right behind Canada and significantly behind Africa.

This means that we’re getting Arabic speakers who have never been anywhere in the Arab world. And while you might read about differences in social interaction in a classroom, there’s very little that compares to actually venturing into a marketplace and trying to bargain for your breakfast. Cultural understanding becomes much more imperative when a lack of it means you might not get fed (especially for a college student).

So we need programs to encourage American students to study outside of the Western, English-speaking areas of the world. One such program is the National Security Education Program (NSEP), which blogger Kris Alexander mentioned at one point with a, “Who’s heard of this?” comment. I’m actually involved with NSEP, and it’s a quality program. In exchange for a scholarship to study abroad for a semester or more in a non-traditional destination country (think Egypt, China, Uganda, and Romania), college students are asked to work for the government for one year in the Department of Defense, intelligence community, or Department of Homeland Security. The top destinations for scholarship recipients this year were Egypt and mainland China. The NSEP is an excellent program, a little bit like ROTC for languages, but it’s too small. Before September 11th, it was in danger of getting shut down for lack of funding.

Along the same lines, the National Defense University conducted a study on the feasibility of a Linguist Reserve Corps . The main conclusion reached was that such a program is indeed feasible, and very necessary. But we haven’t got it yet. And what languages are you most likely to study in high school, anyway? Spanish, French, maybe German. You’re probably more likely to study Latin than Arabic. If we’re going to have a Linguist Reserve Corps, we first have to train the linguists.

I attended a conference at Stanford University this past spring called the Forum for American-Chinese Exchange at Stanford (FACES). It brought together twenty students from the United States and twenty from China to speak on issues ranging from politics and economics to karaoke. What struck me most during the week-long conference was the caliber of the students from China. They didn’t just speak enough English to order food in a restaurant. They spoke enough English to stand up and ask top American scholars, lawyers, and businessmen complicated questions about finance, intellectual property law, and human rights. Did you get that kind of vocabulary from your high school French class? Or are you still stuck asking the direction to la Tour Eiffel?

There’s been quite a bit of alarmist language in the news today about China’s rise. The newspapers tend to focus on their military build-up vis-à-vis Taiwan, but occasionally you’ll hear mention of how many engineering and hard-science majors China, and Asia in general, is turning out in comparison to the U.S.. The National Defense University rolled out a paper on this as well. If there’s a real China threat for the U.S., I think it’s going to come from a new generation of highly educated, multi-lingual, motivated Chinese young people who will do the job better than Americans. And that’s not something we can meet or beat by putting more money into missiles.

So what do we need? There’s a certain arrogance in America that says, “I don’t need to learn another language, because everyone else is learning English.” Maybe they are, but don’t believe for a second that it follows that you’ll understand them, or that you’re actually speaking the same language. I think that, as a matter of national security, we need a revival of education in this country. And I don’t mean testing, and I don’t actually mean more money, although programs like NSEP could definitely use it.

We need to teach new languages in our high schools. We need to encourage students to study abroad in countries which don’t speak English. We need to send them where Americans aren’t necessarily welcome. And believe me, a lot of that is going to start with parents considering the possibility. I’ll be studying Mandarin in Beijing next spring on an NSEP scholarship. I know my parents would rather have me home, but all my dad is doing is sending me articles on the avian flu .

Keeping up starts with the realization that, if we believe we’re the center of the world, and that all roads lead to English and western culture, we’re not going to get to be on top for long. Mandarin Chinese is the second most-spoken language on the internet. Does anyone really believe that it’s going to stay second for long? And what language will it be after Mandarin? Let’s get ahead and stop playing catch-up.

We need a call to curiosity.

My Comments: The Closest thing that I got to any kind of exchange program in colllege was Spring Break in Mexico and my month in Korea doing Cadet Troop Leadership Training in ROTC. All my cultural knowledge came from books which is good up until a point--better than nothing but still not good enough.

A good friend of mine was a Middle Eastern Studies major at West Point. He traveled all over the region as a cadet and is a much better officer for it. I think Tanya's right about this issue. If we're going to lead the world, then we ought to get a lot smarter.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Your Homeland Security Tax Dollars at Work

Now this is an interesting use of your tax dollars.

LOS ALAMOS, N.M.-- Deep inside the cave-like laboratories of the legendary research center that created the atomic bomb, scientists have begun work on a Manhattan Project of a different sort.

In the wake of Sept. 11, 2001, they have been constructing the most elaborate computer models of the United States ever attempted. There are virtual cities inhabited by millions of virtual individuals who go to work, shopping centers, soccer games and anywhere else their real life counterparts go. And there are virtual power grids, oil and gas lines, water pipelines, airplane and train systems, even a virtual Internet.
The scientists build them. And then they destroy them.
"We're trying to be the best terrorists we can be," said James P. Smith, who is working on simulations of a smallpox virus released in Portland, Ore. "Sometimes we finish and we're like, 'We're glad we're not terrorists.'

But, some disagree on the value of this program:

Some urban planners have criticized the project for its cost -- each simulation can cost tens of millions of dollars -- and have argued that such modeling can never be precise. A book on public health threats by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, for example, notes that some critics say simulations "cannot provide clear evidence for or against any option." Advocates say the exercise is providing crucial information for protecting the country.

Analysis: The most powerful simulation in the world is not going to be able to account for human behavior. But, I see value in this program especially when I read this:

In one simulation, Smith unleashed the smallpox virus in a university building in downtown Portland, with several students becoming victims. Soon after the 10-day incubation period passed, hospitals throughout Portland began to report cases. Smith's computer chronicled the devastation. Day 1: 1,281 infected, zero dead. Day 35: 23,919 infected, 551 dead. Day 70: 380,582 infected, 12,499 dead.

The toughest variable in disaster planning is people and their behaviors, and a simulation that gives planners more insight into behavior is valuable. One of the artificialities in emergency exercises is always the human factor. It’s hard to “script” things like the Portland smallpox simulation.

Now, I do have one problem with this program. I’m in this business and I never heard of these simulations until I read about it in the Washington Post. Apparently they are classified. But, if they are so secret that responders can’t get access to the information, they are useless. Who is going to respond to a smallpox outbreak in Texas? Not the 100 pound brains in Los Alamos.

This illustrates a deeper problem in our homeland security efforts. Many federal programs are classified to the point that non-federal responders can’t get access to the info. Or if they do, it’s so watered down to the point of uselessness. Clearly some of this information needs to be classified, but we haven’t developed many solutions to getting it into the hands of the right people.

Of course no amount of simulation and planning can save us from this stupidity:

The HazMat threat.

The weakest point in America's defense against terrorism may be an inconspicuous little bridge a few blocks from the Capitol. Rail tanker cars filled with deadly chemicals pass over the bridge, at Second Street and E Street SW, on their journeys up and down the East Coast. The bridge is highly vulnerable to an explosion from below, and if deadly chemicals were released on it, they would endanger every member of Congress and as many as 250,000 other federal employees.
When antiterrorism experts try to predict what could happen in the next 9/11 attack, the dispersal of deadly chemicals is at or near the top of their list. An assault on a chemical plant or a rail car filled with chemicals would turn another unremarkable part of the infrastructure into a powerful instrument of death. An attack on a single rail tanker filled with chlorine could kill or seriously harm 100,000 people in less than an hour. Because of its location in the middle of official Washington, a chlorine leak from a rail tanker on the bridge at Second Street could endanger much of the federal government, including Congress and the Supreme Court.
Earlier this year, the City Council in Washington passed a law prohibiting the transport of ultrahazardous materials within 2.2 miles of the Capitol. But CSX, the railroad that operates the two main lines running through the district, has gone to court to challenge the law, which would add to its costs. It claims that city governments do not have the power to interfere with interstate rail shipping. A federal court has blocked the law from taking effect, though CSX has temporarily stopped shipping ultrahazardous materials on the rail line closest to the Capitol.
The Bush administration filed a brief supporting CSX in its challenge to Washington's law, and, incredibly, it has made no effort to do the job with federal regulation. When it comes to defending the nation from terrorism, the president and the Republican leadership in Congress have been unwilling to make large corporations, many of them big campaign donors, shoulder their share of the burden. Washington's residents and employees should not have to risk their lives to save CSX the cost of rerouting shipments of ultrahazardous materials.

Analysis: The quoted casualty figures from the chlorine leak in a railcar sounds a little alarmist to me. A lot of things would have to go “right” in order to produce that much devastation from a single rail car. But, make no mistake; there is some BAD stuff out there on the rails. Cities should absolutely have the right to establish hazardous materials routes that restrict the most dangerous cargo from transiting through densely populated areas. Even without terrorism, there are still plenty of transportation accidents that cause spills.

So the bottom line is that we’re spending millions of dollars a year running cool simulations that are so classified that no one can see them. And our nation’s capitol is may continue to be under threat from hazardous materials because re-routing them is bad for business. Like I said, the toughest variable in emergency planning is human behavior.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

And In Other News

Egypt's envoy in Iraq killed

(CNN) -- Egypt on Thursday confirmed that its top envoy to Iraq has been killed.
"The Ministry of Foreign Affairs expresses its deep sadness at the martyrdom of its ambassador, Dr. Ihab al-Sherif, head of the diplomatic delegation to Iraq," the Egyptian government said.

Analysis: This might be a stretch, but this might be an indicator of lack of coordination amoung the AQ groups. Clearly Dr. al-Sherif's murder is something the bad guys would want to time so in order to dominate the news cycle for a day or two. Now it's competing with the London story. So what does it mean? Another indicator that AQ has morphed into a much looser affiliation based movement than a centrally run organization.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

New Post up on Intel Dump


Blog Begging

Okay all you smart guys and gals out there, I need a little help. I'm trying to ramp up the performance of my reserve company, and tackle some tougher subject material in our training. So here are some things that I need:

  • Anything you've got (briefs, papers, etc) on Effects Based Operations (Hat tip to the "Big D" for his help on this)
  • A good brief that outlines the current status of "transformation". You know all that UEx and UEy stuff.
  • Any border patrol guys out there? (SGT L you reading?) Border security is a hot issue in Iraq right now, and I want to get smarter on intelligence support to border security.
  • Any other professional development material that you've found useful. Any other commanders out there? What worked for you?

Also, I'm moving forward with my assessment slides. I'll probably publish them this week. Now is your last chance for input.


Monday, July 04, 2005

Welcome New Readers

I'd like to welcome all the Intel Dump readers who have followed the links my way. If you're new, here are some of my best posts for you enjoyment. Welcome aboard.

Transformation, Nation Building, and the Federal Government

Are We There Yet? Creating a Roadmap to Victory in Iraq

Houston, We Have a Problem: Exploring the Impact of Nuclear Terrorism (Part 1)

Houston, We Have a Problem: Exploring the Impact of Nuclear Terrorism (Part 2)

Analysis: Better Spies, Better Intelligence

Bright Future: A Counter-Terrorism Strategy

How Do We Know We’re Winning?

Creating "Intelligent" Intelligence Soldiers

Sunday, July 03, 2005


Zane’s been having blood in his stool. It’s probably a milk protein allergy. Unless its not. It’s nothing that altering Julie’s diet won’t solve. Unless it doesn’t. The doctors say this is routine. Happens all the time. It’s nothing to worry about. Unless it isn’t.

I worry. It comes naturally to me. Perhaps it’s genetic. My late grandmother would worry when she didn’t have something to worry about. She was a child of the great depression. I’m not talking about the great depression where Renee Zellweger and Richard Gere razzle dazzle it. I’m talking about the Texas oil fields. Rough and hard where good, hardworking folks starve. She never got beyond worrying about the next bad thing that could happen.

I inherited that impending sense of dread. Zane gets this concerned look on his face that reminds me of my grandmother. Reincarnation? Or maybe he knows something’s up with that milk protein.

We found out that Julie was pregnant as my grandmother lay dying in Midland. It was hospice “death with dignity” time and she couldn’t talk. I called from Austin to tell her that Julie was pregnant. She couldn’t say anything back but I’m told that she smiled. One less thing to worry about. She died later that day.

She worried about details and was the busiest dying person that you ever saw. She had the hymns and a poem already picked out for her funeral. She labeled all her possessions divvying up who got what. She had packets of notes and trinkets made up for all the members of the family. I still haven’t had the guts to read the note she wrote to me. I’m guessing that she’ll be hounding me from beyond the grave to do better. She’ll probably be right. I worry about not living up to her expectations.

When I was mobilized in the reserves, my wife’s company went through seven rounds of layoffs. She’s an engineer at a high-tech firm, and the tech bubble hit them hard. I was deployed to Qatar when a couple rounds of layoffs hit. There I am in the middle of a war worried about making the rent. Somehow I’m guessing none of the executives at her company had the same concerns, golden parachutes and all that.

“Are you okay?” is a common line in emails in the sandbox. Except this time I was the one asking. We were going to buy a house and start a family when I got back. A layoff would derail our plans. Good, hardworking folks sometimes starve or at least can’t afford a down payment on that overpriced house in central Austin.

My profession is all about worrying. I am a pager carrying professional worrywart. Fire, floods, tornadoes, terrorism are all in my purview. It’s my job to try and prevent those “oh crap!” moments or at least lessen their impact. I worry about all that stuff so you don’t have to.

Personally I worry too. I worry about Zane. Will he be healthy? Happy? Am I up to this task? Can I set the conditions for his life to be a little better than mine? Every time I turn on the news there is something more to make me doubt it.

But, the biggest thing that I worry about—the thing that keeps me awake at night—is being in the reserves. I think it is becoming clear now that we have a much longer road ahead of us in the war than we anticipated. The vice-president says that the insurgency is in its death throes. I’m not so sure, but, hell, what do I know? Maybe he’s right. But, my grandmother was in her death throes for a year, and she still got a lot done.

I anticipate that I will probably get called up again. Rumor intelligence, RUMINT, has it that the legal groundwork has already been laid to call people up a second time. It is now a political issue. I’ve already done two years so legally I can’t be called back right now. But, how long can that be sustained? Sooner or later, I’ll get the call again. I don’t mind. I’ll do my duty.

But, what I do mind is the uncertainty of it all. The active force has a rotation schedule. Divisions and brigades know when and where they are going months in advance. They can prepare. This isn’t the case in the reserves. So far, we seem to be subject to a system that is completely arbitrary. I may not get called up again, but tomorrow I could have my company completely stripped away from me to fill holes in some other unit. I could go from having a cohesive team to nothing at all. I worry about that.

And I worry about the war itself. Will I die? How much of Zane’s life will I miss? If I go, will he know me when I come back? Of course, these are issues that every soldier wrestles with, but we do our best to plan around them. But, you can’t plan around it in the reserves right now, can you?

So this Fourth of July, I’ll fly the flag. I’ll drink beer and burn beef on the grill. But, in the back of my head I’ll be worried. Will I be around to teach my son what this holiday is all about?

I tell myself everything is going to be okay. Unless it isn’t.

Intel Dump

My first post as part of the new Intel Dump team is up. It's just a little introduction of myself. Funny thing is that I never really did that with this blog so you might want to go check it out. Or not.

I will still be posting here and probably cross-post things back and forth between the two blogs. There are certain subjects that will probably stay here where they belong, some that will stay there, and some that don't "belong" anywhere. But, hell, its a free country.