Recommended Reading (2009-12-13) – SUNDAY Edition

God, do I love maps. From Strange Maps: the new Turkish empire?

– A whole generation of French and Low Countries children are coming to terms with their fathers being Nazis. How widespread is this still? Aside from the rapes that occur in a lot of developing world conflicts, I think maybe the last time this happened on any kind of scale was Vietnam. But willingly?

– I think one of the most amazing things about the relative coherence of such a massive country as China is just how many ethnicities it manages to contain. China Hush has ‘family portraits’ of all 56 ethnic groups in the country. But why Russians?

– Russia and India are jointly developing a 5th generation fighter. This certainly took many by surprise, but this kind of thing always reminds me of Charlie Wilson’s take on India: “He considered them hypocrites, professing neutrality while firmly ensconced in the Soviet camp for decades.” Old habits die hard?

More after the jump…

– A pun on the Germans: “after World War II, they were gelded. They came into money but they lost their balls.” Is martial prowess an innate part of being German?

– Jeez, you send 30,000 troops to Central Asia and all of a sudden you’re Lyndon Johnson. Rep. David Obey, George McGovern, and Thomas Johnson and Chris Mason are all on the same wavelength. I have a couple problems with this. Johnson and Mason correctly point out that Vietnam saw much more of a contribution from coalition and allied forces, to the tune of roughly 70,000 troops. Wonderful as the NATO contingent of 17,000 is, it’s not nearly enough to accomplish anything of significance. At the same time, though, we are decidedly not fighting an offensive war. The emphasis on COIN and nation-building (i.e., ‘hearts and minds’), leads to a much different conflict than Vietnam. Sure, you can try to shoehorn the Strategic Hamlet Program in as a comparison, but the similarities just aren’t there.

There’s also a different attitude surrounding the civil-military-media relations. Martin Herz had probably the best summary of how the military lost the media war during Vietnam, and the same thing is not about to happen in Afghanistan. Besides the real-time ability to correct misconceptions and outright deceit, our ability to verify the veracity of atrocities and the like is much better than before. In the Esquire piece on UAVs I linked to before, there’s an amazing anecdote about a strike on an insurgent who’d been shelling an American position. After his car exploded, other insurgents came up and removed the mortar and other weapons – making it appear like an attack on a civilian. Yet the whole process was caught on film from unmanned aircraft thousands of miles overhead. This is a different war.

– The New York Times idolizes the monolithic Pashtun identity (“The War in Pashtunistan“). The ‘ethnic characteristics’ are something to be mindful, but I think you’ll find most people to be “fiercely independent.” In the ‘real’ Central Asia, perhaps there’d be a Pashtunistan. Or a Pathanistan.

– A North Korean tea party of Yentes? The center cannot hold…

– So often, ethnicity is defined as a shared language. But if languages are dying out at a record pace (half are about to become extinct), what happens to ‘ethnic’ identity? It could either bring people closer together, or just inflame tensions because now they’re able to understand what those lousy Chulym-speakers are saying.

3 thoughts on “Recommended Reading (2009-12-13) – SUNDAY Edition

  1. Dear Mrs (Mr)!
    I want to show you my Blog “The wars. Afghan…” with Url address http://nikg.wordpress.com/ . In the blog you can see photos from the contemporary war in Afghanistan, after 2003 and my scientific aricles about the history of Afghanistan in the end of XX century .
    Best wishes
    Nikolay Kotev

    Dear Mrs (Mr)!
    I want to show you my new Blog “Military Diplomacy” with Url address http://nkotev.wordpress.com . The blog is for the diplomatic history and foreign policy during the Second World War. You can see also the Zhukov`s Berlin`s Strategic operation in photos.
    Best wishes
    Nikolay Kotev

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