“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Saturday, March 03, 2007

News From the War and Media Fronts

Some interesting media viewpoints on what is occuring in Iraq, and a short commentary on what it all means.

From Iraq the Model:

Operation “Imposing Law” continues in Baghdad. In contrast with previous operations to secure the city, this one is managing to not only keep the initial momentum, but the operation’s effects seem to be growing as well. . . I read today that the count of various death squads’ victims for this month is one half that of January, and little more than one third that of December of last year. This comes from the official figures reported by the Baghdad morgue.

The other number that’s become one of the important parameters for assessing the situation in the Baghdad is the number of displaced families that have returned to their homes since the beginning of Operation “Imposing Law.” This one too is giving a positive sign. The last official count by the authorities brought the total to little over 1,020 families in just two weeks.

The Fourth Rail provides some insight on the upcoming regional security summit to be held in Iraq with its neighbors and the U.S. in attendance:

While much of coverage on the upcoming regional summit in Iraq has focused on the rare convergence of U.S., Iranian, and Syria diplomats, the Iraqis are showing they plan on using the conference to pressure Syria. Hamid Al Bayati, Iraq's ambassador to the United Nations has said Syria's failure to prevent al Qaeda and Islamist terrorists from crossing the border will be on the agenda. "Most of the terrorists, especially suicide bombers" pass through the Syrian border, said Al Bayati, during a conference at New York University.

The relatively new Small Wars Journal blog has a trip report from a recent excursion to Iraq, and assesses the current situation there:

Overview. What is shaping up in Iraq? There are four ongoing wars. 1) Shiite mafias in the south, 2) Anbar Sunni extremists 3) Shiite ethnic cleansing around Baghdad 4) Sunni extremist car bombings in Baghdad.

What, then, is the biggest problem? How the Americans can infuse into the Iraqi army and police in Baghdad a sense of mission and even-handedness such that the Americans can withdraw from neighborhoods in eight to twelve months without backsliding.

The Online Version of the New York Times passes on analysis of exactly what is going on in Iraq right now, and stays with the body count/BDA theme to drive hits and visits. CBS News chimes in with more of the same, as does MSNBC. Better safe than sorry, I guess.

Not surprisingly, small town papers like The Fayetteville Observer (which admittedly has a slight advantage on the NYT, with it's stone's throw distance from Fort Bragg's gate) trumps the Gray Lady with some decent coverage of local 82d Airborne units deployed to Iraq; check out this account of an infantry company's raid on a suspected kidnapping and torture cell ringleader:

Al-Akabi [the suspected insurgent leader] had heard the paratroopers outside his house and opened the door just a crack to see out. When he saw Ciro at the door, the soldiers said, Al-Akabi went for a small silver pistol. Ciro fired and quickly forced his way into the house where Al-Akabi, wounded, was on the floor. Inside, Al-Akabi’s wife jumped on the sergeant and Al-Akabi reached for his rifle, Ciro said later. “I felt threatened, so I shot him again,” he said.

Al-Akabi was hit twice in the stomach. Other paratroopers rushed in and immediately started first aid. Minutes after the raid, the paratroopers carried the obese and naked Al-Akabi — bandages across his belly — out of the house to a waiting Humvee that raced him to a military hospital.

In the foyer of the house, Al-Akabi’s robes lay in the corner, next to several bloody bandages. Paratroopers fanned out, searching for weapons and evidence linking Al-Akabi to the kidnapping cell.

Several paratroopers stood in the house’s plush living room bagging up pamphlets and a CD. Al-Akabi’s cell phone was confiscated — a major find since it likely contains numbers to his associates and other leaders of the militia. Everything taken from the house was photographed and documented. The paratroopers call the process “CSI: Baghdad” because it’s more like police work than soldiering. But they have to be careful — Iraqi judges release suspects when the evidence is shoddy.

The paratroopers returned to Combat Outpost War Eagle elated.

“There is a buzz in this town: The Americans are here, and they are not messing around,” said 1st Sgt. Harold Reynolds. “The sooner they can embrace us and we can embrace them, the sooner the country will turn around.”

The purpose of the above linkfest was not to sway opinions one way or the other on the war; rather, the linked articles and posts illustrate the comprehensive coverage provided by the newer media, especially when compared to the Iraq stories posted by mainstream, staid outlets. If one really wants to have an idea of what's going on in the war, scanning through some of the many excellent bloggers and regional media accounts is now the most effective way to get information (short of donning a uniform and going there yourself, of course!).

My guess is that the example of the old vs new media war coverage is intersubjective, too; that is, potential readers with interests other things, such as business, technology, and the like are probably relying more and more on new media outlets to gather and share information on their favorite topics.

It's a good time to be a blogger, but it's a better time than ever before to find and read your favorite blogs as well!


  1. Bob, it seems that there is too much determination in the media to defend their established opinion and then only with great reluctance want to open their previous positions to scrutiny and change.

    That is no longer limited to the MSM. It is true in the blogs as well, especially the bigger the blog gets, the more interest there is in them maintaining market share.

    Choose any of the large blogs and ask yourself how much any of them are open to doubt, introspection or creative destruction?

    I like using the blogs as a checking and balancing mechanism and they work wonders in placing a challenge to the MSM, but over time they become the establishment and I predict will be indistinguishable from the MSM.

    It would be interesting if the blogs would time-out and the process would be repeated at varying intervals. The audience could do it.

    Maybe one day we will have to shoot the Elephant.

  2. Deuce,

    Yes, as a typical blog becomes more established (and commercial), they typically apply more grigid orthodoxy to the subject material covered.

    Probably not in all cases, but more rules than exceptions, I am sure.

    Let's not shoot the elephant until we enjoy the fruits of our labors, and travel on the EB Gulfstream to liveblog at places like DAVOS, or the 08 presidential conventions, or the miss curacao pageant.

  3. Rufus,

    I don't know of any ONE place that rolls up all of the Iraq blogs/reports; I usually check out the fourth rail, CT blog, Mudville Gazette, and the like.

    Probably a good project for someone to put one together though, eh?

  4. bob w,

    Well balanced and well written. Thanks!



    Good to hear from you. I have read your comments at Kudlow for both education and entertainment.



    Places like the Elephant Bar are rare gems. One day its Rufus dominating, the next DR, etc. At the end of the day, all points of view seem to make their way onto the page, without managerial editing or deletion.


  5. Of course, that would be "it's", as in "it is".

  6. rufus,

    Seriously, your depth of knowledge and manner of presentation opens the "Dismal Science" to guys like me, who do well to tell a T-bill from a T-bone. It is a gift.

  7. Man, I would love to get Coulter and Edwards into the ring for three round bout. Maybe Nifong would referee. It would be too much to ask Anna Nicole to be the card girl, I guess.

  8. What do we get from this relationship, again?

    Turkey 'won't be launch pad' for attacks

    “Turkey, a close ally of the United States, did not allow US forces to enter Iraq from its territory during the 2003 invasion, although it does host US air bases.”

    Well, duh, Dude, they could park planes up my ass for a billion dollars. Like, go figure, what that’s about.

  9. Since I believe everything I read in the NYT, I know Baghdad is the most dangerous place in the entire Milky Way. So, how is that all the neighbors are coming for tea and biscuits next weekend?

    There is a message in this folks.

  10. Gents,

    Thanks for the feedback. It's a pleasure to write and post things that are near and dear to me and to get great comments (both for AND against the central points made)from readers.

    Deuce/Whit: How many more months before we roll out that EB Gulfstream again!?

  11. Bobalharb,

    Not too many trout in Eastern NC; I fish streamers and poppers mostly these days!

  12. I join the chorus in saluting a great post.
    Deuce has some "issues" regarding sullying his perfect objectivity with dirty artifacts such as "advertising."

    Since the EB Gulfstream will remain but a dream w/o such material, I suggest you and Whit set Mr Deuce down for a little Reality Therapy Session.

    Once the Gulfstream is on order, I will be happy to add my excellence to the editing team.

  13. Salmon eggs and a good nap to address the aftereffects of the nooner.

  14. (along with the Beer, of course)

  15. FYI:

    My Walter Reed post is up here .

  16. “By contrast, No. 2 Zodiac, the serial killer saga from Paramount, was playing in 2,362 venues and made only $4 mil Friday for what should be a disappointing $11.5 mil weekend for star Jake Gyllenhaal and director David Fincher.”

    Yeah, I could’ve told the guy this was going to happen. Once you do a movie with sheep, the public expects sheep. Now, had he been smart and played a gay sheep herding serial killer, that would have been the ticket.

    Jake, you might as well face it, New Zealand is the place you want to be.


  17. bob w,

    Posted at your site:

    Thanks for a job well done!

  18. What I want to see is a burka clad pole-vaulter. Sure, call me cruel, as you sit there sniggering.

    Can I say that? “Sniggering”, I mean?

    Muslim Girl Ejected from Canadian Soccer Tournament (Update)

    Is the public ready yet for burkas and the high dive?

  19. rufus,

    Thanks for the link.

    I don’t know if you have seen it; and if you are into your liquor, later might be a better time to see it; but our pal Harrison has up a great essay with useful lessons for the entire ME theatre.

    Memoirs of a Colonel

    I posted a thought earlier at the BC, which awaits an answer:

    "allen said...
    Since I believe everything I read in the NYT, I know Baghdad is the most dangerous place in the entire Milky Way. So, how is that all the neighbors are coming for tea and biscuits next weekend?

    There is a message in this folks.
    3/03/2007 01:37:00 PM"
    Bing West Reports Back From Iraq


  20. rufus, you're back!

    Been busy this whole week, but right after that I jumped straight to the EB, 4th Rail and other blogs to get my daily updates. In fact, I rarely touch the mainstream media outlets now.

    Agreed that perhaps one day the blogosphere will become a parallel structure with that of the MSM, but as long as bloggers recognise that their role is supplementary, seeking to revise, improve - in short, acting like an ombudsman - rather than replacing the MSM entirely, then the Elephant Bar will always keep on running the way it has been: on incisive commentary from the proprietors and distinguished commentators.

    Kudos for a thought-provoking post!

  21. The "death squads", is that code for Shiia?

  22. Btw,

    have you guys had look at this?

    National Geographic has an article from February 28, 2007 entitled, "Mars Melt Hints at Solar, Not Human, Cause for Warming, Scientist Says"

  23. rufus,

    Using a collquy with DR as pretext, "J Willie" has up some fascinating stuff on the telephony (?) markets of Latin America and Brazil.

    The other day Elijah was blowing our doors off with avionics. Today J Willie is on with tele-communication. This site is great.

    Oh yeah, J Willie's stuff is near the end of the last two threads.


    Quetta, 2 March (AKI/DAWN) - Iran has started building a concrete wall along its border with Pakistan, from Taftan to Mand, to stop illegal border crossings. According to reports received here, the wall will be built from near the border town of Taftan, about 700km west of Quetta in the Baluchistan province. "The Iranian authorities started work on the wall about a month ago," according to Barkat Ali Khan, a Pakistani border town administration official.

    "The concrete wall will be 10 feet high (3m) and 3 feet(1m) wide," he said, adding that hundreds of workers could be seen building the wall.

    Iranian border security forces have reportedly given an ultimatum to the residents of a Pakistani border town to vacate the town within 10 days. Residents of Sorap in the western Mekran region in Baluchistan told a group of visiting journalists that they did not know why the Iranian border forces were asking them to leave their homes.



  25. Mətušélaḥ said...National Geographic has an article from February 28, 2007 entitled, "Mars Melt Hints at Solar, Not Human, Cause for Warming, Scientist Says"

    That's good, a solar cause...for months I thought they were blaming the Mars Melt on Americans driving all over the place with a couple of rovers.

  26. Those Iranians are so backward. Walls don't work.

    Just look at Berlin in the 60's
    or the Arizona border with Mexico last year.

    With a wall bisecting Berlin, cross border traffic ground to a halt.
    Without a wall in AZ, people flow through the border.

    See, proof positive that Walls do not work.

    In addition the Chinese were reported building a wall on their Korean frontier. Seems they understand, fully well, that walls do not work, either.

  27. To his credit, Bob W has captured succinctly the essence of the problem, as only an experienced hand could do:

    “It is shameful that wounded American Soldiers were housed in such atrocious conditions, and that after five years of war that procedures could not have been streamlined to free at least one group of people, the wounded, from the life-sucking procedural bureacracy that comprises the military's inner workings.”

    Military Medicine Morass

    While Mr. Gates is chopping away a dead wood, may I suggest the Air Force Secretary as an especially good candidate for termination?

    At Blackfive:
    “Some months ago, the Air Force Times reported the cancellation of a meeting of the services to develop the “Purple” plan you reference, when, in writing, the Air Force Secretary refused Air Force participation. Moreover, the Secretary let it be known, in no uncertain terms, that the Air Force would not in future have any interest in a fully integrated system. Now, this is just plain silly, not to mention insubordinate, since the proposed integration of military medical commands came as the result of Mr. Rumsfeld’s personal directive.
    “It would appear that the Air Force’s resistance to formal ratification of military medical integration has nothing to do with quality health care delivery at all; rather, the institution of the Air Force fears the loss of budgetary authority and some plum command billets.”

  28. Bill Roggio reports

    " ... U.S. and Afghan forces are said to be on a major offensive in Kunar province, one of the most violent in Afghanistan. The target is said to be a High Value Target, possibly Osama bin Laden or another senior al-Qaeda leader. "According to eyewitnesses and local reporters in Kunar province, Coalition forces launched a fierce attack on a small enclave in the village of Mandaghel, approximately 17 miles from the border with Pakistan, on Friday afternoon, The Blotter reported. "Warplanes pounded the positions; U.S. special forces and Afghan National Army soldiers moved in shortly afterwards."

    The joint U.S. and Afghan force is said to have struck at the compound of an "Islamic militant and suspected drug trafficker named Haji Aminullah." Kunar province has long been an al-Qaeda stronghold, notes The Blotter. The battle is said to be ongoing for the past 2 days.

    Two days, must be a heck of a "compound"

  29. Sorry, d'Rat. The US doesn't yet have a Fascist regime. So no Apartheid wall for you!

  30. mat,

    re: "The WALL"

    The UN is going to get right on this gross violation of human rights.

    To somewhat amplify DR, "Walls don't work, but the UN does." Where would we be without it?

  31. Allen,

    I like the UN. It gives us a view of where a country formally stands. It's a good a record to have.

  32. Desert Rat wrote, With a wall bisecting Berlin, cross border traffic ground to a halt. Without a wall in AZ, people flow through the border.

    You forgot to include the guys standing on the Wall with rifles shooting at attempted cross-border traffic. That's a very important component.

  33. What I want to see is a burka clad pole-vaulter.

    The Sharia dress code for women could be a problem on the un-even bars and in the figure skating finals as well. Like all things Muslim it is totalitarian in the extreme.

    'Hijab' is an Arabic word that describes Muslim women's entire dress code, which includes a veil and whatever else is needed to cover everything except the face and hands.
    The dress worn in public must cover the entire body except what has been specifically excluded, based upon the following verse:

    Allah Ta’ala (the Exalted) says:
    “And tell the believing women to lower their gaze and guard their private parts from sin and not to show off their adornment (Zeenah) except only that which is apparent, and draw their head covers (Khumur) over their necks and bosoms and not reveal their adornment except to their husbands, their fathers, their husband’s fathers, their sons, their husbands’ sons, their brothers, or their brothers’ sons, or their sisters’ sons, or their women (i.e., their sisters in Islam), or their female slaves whom their right hands possess, or old male servants free of physical desires, or small children who have no sense of women’s nakedness. And let them not stamp their feet so as to reveal what they hide of their adornment. And turn unto Allah all together, O you Believers, in order that you may attain success. [24: 31]

    6: Difference from the Clothing of Unbelievers
    Her clothing must not resemble the clothing of the unbelievers. This is a general ruling of the 'Sharee’ah' which encompasses not only dress but also such things as manners, customs, religious practices and festivities, transactions, etc. Indeed, dissimilarity with unbelievers is a precedent that was established by the first generation of Islam. ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Amr ibn Al-’Aas said: "The Prophet saw me wearing two saffron colored garments, so he said: “Indeed, these are the clothes of 'Kuffaar' (unbelievers), so do not wear them.”

    Number 6 kinda precludes wearing the same uniform as your Kufaar team mates. Of course the burka would not be needed at the EB where, 'scepting Ms T and Trish, there's nobody but you 'old male servants' hanging 'round ;^)

  34. So are you saying that it is not the Wall, but the Will to enforce the Law of the Land that secures a frontier, Ms T?
    The real and implied threats of armed guards does provide a serious backdrop to the idea of a Wall.
    Hadrian's Wall had no riflemen, but divided England for generations. Until the Legions left the Wall unguarded.

    Walls don't work
    Armed Patrols do.

  35. stoutfellow,

    It goes without saying that sky-diving would be out of the question. That's a shame; I do so like to be inclusive.

    We are unlikely to see female wrestling or high jump contenders either...

    When you get right down to it, by the process of elimination, you are left with competitive sitting. About the only thing coming to mind to enliven that would be fire ants.

  36. "In addition the Chinese were reported building a wall on their Korean frontier. Seems they understand, fully well, that walls do not work, either."

    Don't forget the Israelis and Saudis. Also haven't gotten the memo.

  37. The Road to Partition

    as per the Baker Plan?

    Partition and aggitation, under the flag of federalism

  38. Allen said, When you get right down to it, by the process of elimination, you are left with competitive sitting. About the only thing coming to mind to enliven that would be fire ants.

    At which point the Arab chix make their patented "Ululululululuulu!!!!" sound. If they are the Florida type (red and black ants) they will.

  39. Desert Rat said, Partition and aggitation, under the flag of federalism

    2Thes.2:3 "Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of partition..."

  40. Defeat?
    We're in the midst of success, like the Brits recently achieved in Basra.

    Most folk that take the position that the Green on Green violence is a step forward tend to have been members of the "wink & nod" Bush Foreign Policy School, back in the day.

    Folk that to this day believe that the Israeli air force is about to strike at Iranian nuclear capacity.
    With the help of Turkey or US.

    People that just do not believe the President and his staff members when they explain the US policy positions.
    It's expected of the radical left, to believe Mr Bush is lying, but when his "supporters" believe it, too.

    Sun Tsu advised knowing yourself as the key to 100 victories.

    To know the US, as habu's NVA Col. and Osama both knew, is to know our short attention span.
    To know ourselves is to admit it.
    To devise a strategy that denies what is known of self, is to chart a course to sure defeat.
    A "Plan" that calls for a decade of active low intensity conflict is a piss poor plan, for US.

    How to infuse the Iraqi with US moral standards & sense of fair play, in 8 to 12 months?

    That is a serious question?
    As well as the key to success?

    We'll get eyewash arrests for cash payments and logistical support.

    May as well leave now.

  41. Life, liberty, pursuit of property.

  42. This comment has been removed by the author.

  43. Mr Schaefer is advocating a solution in Kirkuk:

    "... Saddam Hussein “Arabized” the city by forcing Kurds to move away. Now returning Kurds are evicting Arabs. Some 40,000 homes are in dispute. Schafer’s solution: Build 40,000 new homes in Kirkuk. “Displaced Kurds have a choice – their old home or a new one,” Schafer said. “They can have their former home once an Arab family moves into one of the new houses.” This defuses the ethnic clash and, Schafer noted, “the economic impact of the construction program will be enormous.” ..."

    Using resettlement and reconstruction to achieve security and economic inpacts in Iraq. Mr Schaefer touts the idea for Kirkuk, I've advocated for it in Ramadi.

    Both seem smart, to me.

  44. The last of a dying breed

    Those that really want to believe

    To which even I plead guilty,
    despite my better judgement

  45. Why give land titles to Sunni Arab thieves? Explain.

  46. Make that Sunni Arab thieving murders and Jihadist terrorists.

    Why not just kill them en masse?

  47. California has a "bipartisan" plan in the works to start giving every child born in the state a $500 bank account, to "encourage a saving mentality."

    This is to include illegals, of course, since US Taxpayers have a sacred duty to give everything they and their ancestors worked for to the oh so deserving Mexicans.

    If they get enough people as angry as I am, we can have a nuclear solution.
    Problem solved.
    (except we'd still have the lilly livered jerks behind this shit to deal with here)

  48. The Mayans didn't know diddly when the Incas did, Bobal.
    Likewise for Stonehenge:

    "In this case, the 2,300 year old solar observatory at Chankillo is the earliest such structure identified and unlike all other sites contains alignments that cover the entire solar year. It predates the European conquests by 1,800 years and even precedes, by about 500 years, the monuments of similar purpose constructed by the Mayans in Central America."

  49. Maybe the plans to their propulsion systems will be found, and will save us from Global Warming.

  50. BBC reporting:
    Iraq crackdown on Shia stronghold

    An operation involving US-led forces is under way in Baghdad's Shia stronghold of Sadr City, the US military has said.
    A spokesman for the military would not confirm or deny reports that hundreds of troops were taking part.

    Meanwhile five people were detained in an early-morning raid by UK and Iraqi troops in the southern city of Basra.

    The raids came as Iraqi PM Nouri Maliki said he was offering an olive branch to insurgents who accepted the language of reconciliation and dialogue.

    Those who did not would fall foul of a security crackdown which would "cover every inch of Iraq", he said.

    We present in our hand a green olive branch, and in the other hand we present the law ... Operation Imposing Law started in Baghdad, it will cover every inch of Iraq

    Mr Maliki has said he will reshuffle his cabinet within the next two weeks.

    No details have been given, but reports quote unnamed officials as saying he is expected to dismiss all six ministers loyal to the Shia cleric, Moqtada Sadr, who has been criticised by the United States.

  51. U.S. troops to live in Sadr City
    Soldiers will join Iraqi forces inside militia stronghold

    By Liz Sly
    Tribune foreign correspondent
    Published March 4, 2007

    BAGHDAD -- The U.S. military has reached an agreement with representatives of the Shiite community in Baghdad's Sadr City enclave that will allow American forces to maintain a permanent presence in the militia stronghold for the first time since 2004, U.S. and Iraqi officials said Saturday.

    Under the agreement, the U.S. will open one of the joint security stations that are a prominent feature of the new Baghdad security plan, with American soldiers living alongside Iraqi forces in a police station just inside the impoverished neighborhood, said Rahim al-Daraji, one of Sadr City's two mayors.

  52. As to Mr Maliki changing his Ministers, change to whom?

    Will a Sunni aQ sympathizer gain the Ministry of Health?
    Or just another UIA man.

    Bet on another UIA name.

    Replacing Mr Powell with Ms Rice, how much did State change?
    Replacing Mr Rumsfeld with Mr Gates, the DoD?
    Will replacing the Sec of the Army change the 82nd's mission?

    I think not.
    Changing the names on the roster, going deep into the backbenchers, always a good sign or an act of despertation?

  53. rufus,

    Would you give the address of your link, please?