Friday, July 30, 2010

WikiLeaks and the Afghan War

It’s been five days since WikiLeaks released the raw intelligence data about the Afghan war.

If you are a true political junky you have probably devoured the reportage by The NY Times, The Guardian and Der Spiegel. If you’ve missed any of it I suggest you visit those sites and get caught up. Links below.

There are two questions that can be asked about this huge data dump: Has it done any harm and does it tell us anything about the progress of the war that we (as citizens here at home) didn’t already know?

Let’s talk about the possible damage. On this issue Don Smith, over at Fort Buckley, makes an excellent point. The data dumps revealed the names of numerous Afghan informants upon whom our forces relied. Those informants were ordinary Afghanis and not part of the Afghan government, police, political officials.

They have now been put in harm’s way and, worse, their reasonable expectation of confidentiality has been damaged...with the result that informants will be less likely to come forward in the future.

It’s argued by some that another source of damage is the fact that these reports reveal something about the response tactics of our forces; something that the Taliban somehow didn’t know. It’s not clear to me that this could be true, since the Taliban have been on the receiving end of those tactics and they’re not dummies.

So what do we at home know that’s new, really new? Not much, with the possible exception of the fact that the enemy now has heat-seeking missiles with which to bring down helicopters. I imagine they’re a bit more sophisticated than the weapons we gave the Mujahidin with which to torment the Russian bear.

For the rest of it, all the leaks do is confirm what we might already have assumed from news reports:

The Taliban are skilled guerilla fighters, whose mobility allows them to offset some of the advantages of heavily mechanized armies. Like all guerilla forces they have the advantage of invisibility, able to melt into the population, like fish in the ocean.

The Afghanis have apparently no real sense of “Nationhood.” Afghanistan is essentially a collection of tribal fiefdoms in which corruption (or what we recognize as corruption) is simply what they recognize as common practice.

Corruption is so commonplace that it became fodder for an American comic strip. Trudeau (Doonesbury) spent a week describing an Afghan commander and his soldiers systematically disassembling an army post and selling it off piecemeal.

Civilian deaths do us no good, and there have been a number of them. I believe that we have made every effort to avoid them. However, in the fog of war, especially in the sort of guerilla war that is Afghanistan, face this fact: These deaths are tragic, but unavoidable.

To the extent that we, as American citizens, continue to support this war, or fail to oppose it, the responsibility for those deaths are yours and mine

Finally, something we knew but didn’t want to face: It is cheaper for the Taliban to fight us than it is for us to fight them. The latest supplemental war funding bill was a shade less than 59 billion dollars. That’s 59,000 million dollars. Since we are planning to send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan that figures to almost 2 million dollars a soldier.

Perhaps it’s time for us, as citizens, as voters, to discuss what we really want to do about this war. Nine years is a long time; 1215 deaths and 6773 casualties is a high cost in human suffering; 90 billion dollars (Heritage Foundation estimate through 2010) is a lot of money.

Does the present state of the Afghan war represent success or failure? Ultimately it’s our call.

Here are some links:

Der Spiegel

The Guardian

NY Times

Fort Buckley

Re-posted from Http://

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Political Hit Pieces

I’m a big fan of the rough-and-tumble of political debates. When debate becomes character assassination I worry about the consequences for the health of our political system.

I’m sorry, but I’ve about had it with the repeated mailings from the McCain campaign about JD Hayworth. Now I happen to believe that Hayworth has the heart of a scoundrel; but I also believe that once McCain has pointed this out he should move on to outlining plans and programs for the next six years.

Assuming he’s elected, that is...and the rancorous progress of the Republican primary makes that less likely. How many Independents and quietly middle of the road Republicans are going to swallow McCain’s avidity for office? His rejection of hands-across-the aisle cooperation with Democrats in the interest of what’s good for the nation? The loss of his fabled status as a “maverick?” Your guess is as good as mine.

By the same token he has probably put paid to Hayworth’s chances, which leaves the Republican Party in bad shape.

And what about the third wheel in the campaign, Jim Deakin? He’s despised by the Hayworth supporters, because they are afraid he will take votes from Hayworth and hand the primary to McCain.

Frankly I can’t see a nickel’s worth of difference between the Tea Party convictions of any of them. Why not vote for Deakin?

The Tea Party conservatives are as interested in defeating McCain (in the primary) as his potential Democratic opponents would be (in the general.) For the sake of defeating McCain they are willing to risk sacrificing a Senate seat.

Before this primary season I’d have bet the farm on the proposition that no Democrat would be able to defeat McCain. But now the Democrats have a field of talented and aggressive candidates, any one of whom could defeat Hayworth or Deakin; and any one of whom stands a great chance of beating McCain, should he survive the primary.

Hard times ahead for the Republican Party.

Cross-posted to

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Primary Early Voting Begins Thursday

(Independents Welcome)

Not that anyone will notice, since that’s the day when SB 1070 becomes active and we’ll all be riveted by the events of the day. Still, the events surrounding “1070 Day” may wake you from political lethargy to the point that you’d want to vote.

It’s important to remember that Independents may vote in any of the four primaries...Republican, Democratic, Green or Libertarian. All you have to do is ask.

There are plenty of reasons for Independents to shoulder in to one of the four primaries. If there are no contests in the party you secretly favor you may want to nip over into the opposition primary and vote for the “weakest” opposition candidate.

Of course you may secretly favor a party in which there are a number of contestants in a race and you want to vote for your favorite.

Don’t forget there are races for more than state and national legislators. Governor, Attorney General, Secretary of State, Superintendent of Public Instruction, and Corporation Commission, among others. You may want to cast a ballot to deny some whacko a chance of election.

During early voting there are two ways of requesting an early ballot.

You may contact the Pima County Recorder on line and request an early ballot. To do that, click here.


You may also request a ballot by phone: 520-740-4330

If you would prefer to cast a ballot in person a number of polling places will be available. These are listed here, click.


Cross-Posted from

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Concealed Carry

I don’t really have a dog in this fight. Back in my pistol-shooting days I’d just drop my holstered weapon into a saddle bag and ride off; but I’m not shooting any longer.

As I’ve aged I do occasionally carry a walking stick and I wonder if now I might not carry my quite elegant sword cane. Clearly a weapon and clearly concealed.

Perhaps it was the coming change in our laws that helped call attention to the bumper sticker I saw yesterday:

Armed and Uneducated

Reposted from The Data Port at