How war works Archives

April 4, 2004

The Sins of Kos

Dean Esmay has recently weighed in on Kos' comments about the murder of four civilians in Fallujah last week.

Dean, the kind soul that he is, remarks that "Zuniga's human," that he's said things he (Zuniga) now regrets, and observes (reasonably) that we've all done that before. Lord knows I have! :)

The problem is Kos hasn't really shown any remorse for his original comments. In fact, not only did he replace the original post with a milder one (the above link), this later post contains more than a little arrogant swagger.

For some reason I feel that Kos is not truly penitent. But that's just me.

And that's not why I'm posting about the situation now. To my mind nearly every blog that's posted about this (that I've read, anyway) has missed the point. The men that died in Fallujah were former members of the United States armed forces. They, too, served their fellow citizens. They, too, faced sacrifice, pain, hardship, and the very real chance of death in the service of their country.

Continue reading "The Sins of Kos" »

April 12, 2004

The Fog of War

While googling for extra sources for this post, I found out that -while Clausewitz is credited with the phrase "fog of war"- he never used that term in On War.

Apparently the closest he came was mentioning "fog and friction." defined as "The diverse difficulties and impediments to the effective use of military force."

Whether Clausewitz actually used the phrase or not, the uncertainty of war was a consistent theme in his work: "In war, everything is very simple. But even the simplest things are very difficult."

Continue reading "The Fog of War" »

Universal Translator

Looks like Star Trek's Universal Translator is getting closer.

Today's StrategyPage on "How to make war" (scroll down to the April 12, 2004 entry) mentions some interesting developments in document reading and computer translation.

First, there's the software developed by the Language Weaver Corporation, running under Windows on a server. This package can communicate with other servers or individual PCs.

The documents are scanned to electronic form, and then translated. It isn't clear from the article whether the OCR (Optical Character Recognition) application is part of the package or not. What is interesting is that as the database of correctly translated phrases grows, accuracy increases.

Favorite sentance: "Iraq, one of the places (China and Egypt being the others) where mankind created literacy, has never lost its fondness for writing things down."

Very cool.

Next we have the Phraselator. No "Ahnuld" jokes, please! And, yes, that really is what they named it. This doodad is about the size of a PDA like a Clie, or a Visor, and can accept Flash Cards with different phrases in different languages.

All the user has to do is speak English into the Phraselator, and the appropriate translated phrase is uttered by the device. But it isn't a general translator. The phrase has to be part of a pre-defined set on the Flash Card.

The interesting thing here is that the cards are customized for specific situations, such as the "Medic" card. The phrases are constructed for a simple response such as pointing (to where it hurts, for the Medic card, or "which way did they go?" {g}), or a yes/no answer.

Favorite sentance: "the troops agree that it sure beats sign language or thumbing through a phrase book. The locals like it because it's yet another neat American gadget, and one that won't kill them as well. "

Also very cool.

April 16, 2004

Fog of War Part 2

A few days ago, I wrote about the fog of war. After I published it, I realized I had forgotten at least one very relevant example: the bombing in Madrid, and how it affected the campaign against islamofacism.

At the time I decided that the omission wasn't that important; at least, not important enough to warrant an update in the original post.

After reading recent news articles, as well as blog posts, about the current situation in Iraq, I have decided that further comment is required.

Continue reading "Fog of War Part 2" »

April 17, 2004

Fog of war, postscript

Mark Adams has called me "a voice of reason" while commenting on my "Fog of War Part 2" post. As I said to him earlier, I hope he will resist the temptation to crow "you see, Bush was wrong!! Bush had no plan!!," and so on, since he is very much not a fan of the man.

This is one of the basic facts of warfare that I hope to eventually make clear to non-military folks: you don't just expect things to blow up in your face in a war: sooner or later you can guarantee it.

Here's an excellent example: in 1944 military intelligence (uh-oh, the dreaded "Who knew what, and when?" effect!) indicated that several eight inch (203mm) guns were sited on the Pointe du Hoc, located on a 100-meter high cliff that provided excellent coverage of the Normandy beaches. Those guns would wreak havoc among the thin-skinned transports and assault craft during the invasion.

They handed that choice assignment to the Rangers. The morning of June 6, the Rangers climbed ropes, rope ladders, and in some cases cut hand-holds into the face of the cliff to reach the top. The Germans gunned them down mercilessly, but in the end the Rangers took Pointe du Hoc.

They also took nearly 200 casualties, both dead and wounded.

The guns weren't even there. They were several miles inland. The Germans hadn't gotten around to moving them yet.

My point here is that if today's atmosphere prevailed in 1944, at least some of the Republican Party opposition would have immediately accused the Rooseveldt administration of incompetance, poor planning, and so on.

We don't need that. That won't win this war. And -unless the reader is someone who is adamant about troops in Iraq at all, and just doesn't care what happens to the Iraqis after we leave- that sort of sniping does not help at all.


I'm sure at least some of the readers are wondering what I would call an "acceptable" criticism of the Bush administration. Here's one:

While the number of active-duty divisions on hand did not originally seem critical, it is becoming apparent that we need to devote at least two of them to Iraq for the forseeable future; call it 5-10 years. Even rotating brigades in and out on a regular basis won't address the fact that a minimum number of troops will be required in Iraq for a while. This puts a noticable crimp in our strategic reserve. If things go wahooni-shaped in Syria, Iran, or North Korea in the next (say) five years, our current forces would be stretched thin, to say the very least.

As far as anyone knows, the Bush administration has given no indication that they have even considered a significant increase in our active-duty forces, with "significant" being defined as at least two new divisions

It is our belief that this, combined with (other enumerated sane criticisms) shows that the current administration does not take this threat of medieval kleptocratic islamofacism seriously. That they, in fact, have assumed that an American victory is some sort of 21st-century Manifest Destiny, without serious forethought as to how our victory is, in fact, manifest.

Vote for XXX in November.

At the risk of sounding egocentric, Bush should be glad I'm not on the other side this fall... :)

October 1, 2004

The Truth...

A long time ago, a man once asked "What is truth?"

The answer was debated pretty vigorously the next two thousand years...

Most of the time, I prefer discussing facts, over "truth". Or the lack thereof.

In this case, The Truth About Iraq.

From Blackfive:

Steven [Moore] was in Bagdad for nine months, from July of last year through April of this year, doing about a dozen polls and seventy focus groups, and advising Ambassador Bremer on Iraqi public opinion.

Since returning from Iraq, Steven was disgusted with how the media was portraying events in Iraq and thoroughly nauseated by Michael Moore (who has never been to Iraq) and the lies that he is propagating. So, Steven started The Truth About where he uses some of the polling information from Iraq to debunk some of the myths that have been created by the media.

As the saying goes, read the rest.

What impresses me about Moore's work is that actually backs up specific claims with specific fact. And links...

An excerpt from their homepage:

Welcome to The Truth About! The more than forty countries that comprise the Coalition Forces have done a great service to the Iraqi people, the American people and the world by deposing one of the most brutal and prolific killers in history.

Our goal is to help the American people better understand the situation in Iraq through sources other than the mainstream media - public opinion research, statistical analysis and personal accounts.

No snippy comments about moonbats; no "cut'n'run" sarcasm. Just a calm measured, and honest exploration of what's really going on over there.

This site should be in the toolbox of every blogger who supports the war.

October 11, 2004

Just what is a diversion, anyway?

AKA: "The Wrong War, at the Wrong Place, etc."

Recently, on Dean's World, Dale Eddy said cited a quotation that Germany and Italy declared war on America after FDR had "preemptively declared war on Germany and Italy."

This turns out not to be the case. Germany, followed by Italy, declared war on the US on December 11. Congress returned the favor that afternoon.

Continue reading "Just what is a diversion, anyway?" »

January 18, 2005

Fail Safe in the real world

Don Sensing links to a story about the man who said "No."

Stanislov Petrov was in charge of the Soviet Union's DEW system on September 26, 1983. Soviet pilots had just shot down KAL 007 three and a half weeks earlier.

Just after midnight the Oko ("eye") satellite array indicated a launch of five Minuteman II missles from Montana. Petrov had just a few minutes to warn the Soviet leaders who had to decide on a response, but something felt wrong to Lieutenant Colonel. Why only five?

So he told those leaders it was a false alarm: "I imagined if I’d assume the responsibility for unleashing the third World War — and I said, no, I wouldn’t.”

March 11, 2005

New info about Gunners Palace

If you don't know what Gunners Palace is yet, drop on by Mudville and read this. After you're done, read a review by Andrew Watkins, a D.C. resident and "military guy."

Everyone, and I mean everyone should see this movie. As everyone has been saying: it's not pro-war, nor is it anti-war. It's about the young men in the 2-3 Field Artillery.

You can get more information about the movie, and even sign up for the movie's newsletter, at

It is, alas, not showing in Ohio yet, but here's the latest list of theaters:

Continue reading "New info about Gunners Palace" »

June 18, 2006

One of God's producers

Jim Baen has been editing/producing excellent general SF and military SF for over twenty years, including Jerry Pournelle's series of anthologies; There Will Be War.

Today I found out (via Laughing Wolf at Blackfive) that Jim Baen has suffered a stroke.

I can't tell you how many truly excellent books I've read with which Jim Baen was involved. And even if you don't have a soft spot in your heart for the jarheads, squids, zoomies, and ground-pounders out there (and their stories), you should direct your attention to the work Baen has performed during his part of the DRM battle. To wit, the Baen Free Library.

Let us keep Jim Baen (and family) in our prayers.

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