April 27, 2004
Point A to Point B
I was reading Phillip Carter's "Hollow Force" in Friday's Slate, and he reminded me of one of my favorite military expressions: "amateurs study tactics—professionals study logistics." Carter explains:
The reason for this axiom is that even the simplest military task—like moving a unit from point A to point B—requires a Herculean logistical effort. Planes have to be scheduled; trains have to be contracted and loaded; ships must be diverted and filled with military equipment. Just consider what it takes to move a single tank company from Fort Stewart to Fallujah. Soldiers have to spend days inspecting and packing their vehicles before loading them onto trains that will take them to the port at Savannah, Ga. The trains will be met by more soldiers at dockside, who will work with longshoremen and contractors to put the tanks on a ship. Then the ship has to sail across to Kuwait, where it will be met by more troops and contractors. Only then can they roll north to Iraq. Moving one tank company costs a fortune and requires hundreds of people.
Reading this reminded me of a middle-of-the-night History Channel program I watched some months ago telling the story of the Army’s Quartermaster Corps in World War II. The Quartermaster Corps (QMC) is responsible for supplying soldiers in the field. They make sure the troops are fed, showered and clothed; supply gasoline and spare parts for equipment; and pack parachutes and deliver supplies via air-drop. Certainly their most solemn mission is what is termed "mortuary affairs". The Assistant to the Ground Quartermaster in Europe during WWII congratulated the QMC on
the successful accomplishment of the supply mission during 154 days of continuous combat, over 564 miles of enemy territory, under every conceivable condition of weather, terrain, and combat hazard, without loss of any supply and with a minimum loss of seven trucks (worn out) and three men wounded.
To get a sense of the importance of logistics to the Allied war effort, check out "POL on the Red Ball Express" by Dr. Steven Anders. Anders tells how the Quartermasters managed to continue supplying Bradley's First and Patton's Third Armies with gasoline even though the breakout from Normandy and mad dash across France put them well ahead of schedule. The decision to depart from the plan and let Allied forces advance as fast as they could resulted in what war correspondent Ernie Pyle called "'a tactician's hell and a quartermaster's purgatory'". The QMC responded gamely, setting up the Red Ball Express which, at its peak, used 6,000 trucks to deliver 800,000 gallons of gasoline per day to American forces.
Despite all we learned from WWII -- and presumably from other conflicts as well -- some say that the US has not managed logistics and supply lines well in Iraq. To be sure, the speed of 21st century warfare presents new challenges to logisticians (the mad dashes are madder, if you will), and in the case of Iraq one must keep in mind the ever-present challenge of joint (Army and Marine Corps) operations. But if you take the time to read about the Quartermaster Corps in WWII, passages like this one from a National Defense Magazine article really jump out at you:
The failures of the logistics apparatus during military operations in Iraq have been documented in various reports and studies. Soldiers and Marines have complained about shortages of basic supplies and difficulties in obtaining spare parts for ground vehicles and aircraft, among other gripes. As to why logistics has been a tough nut to crack, the explanation is that the system works very well at the "strategic" level, but collapses once the containers get unloaded from ships and cargo aircraft.... Designed for the Cold War, U.S. logistics systems can track all shipments and deliveries from the United States to overseas port of debarkation. But it lacks full "factory-to-foxhole" visibility of the supplies once they enter a theater of war.
In an effort to improve the situation, the Pentagon sent a group to set up the deployment and distribution operations center (DDOC) in Iraq under CentCom authority. According to the article, while the DDOC has improved the situation in Iraq it is an ad hoc, quick-fix solution to the military's "endemic flaws in battlefield logistics". And while endemic flaws call for systemic change, the creation of the DDOC has allowed the Pentagon brass to avoid committing to a suggested long-term alternative: the merger of the Defense Logistics Agency and Transportation Command into a four-star "Logistics Command".
April 26, 2004
I'd buy a beer for anybody that could recommend, for instance, some interesting commentary about the killing of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin or the non-capture of Ayman Al-Zawahiri or the non-killing of Herat's Ismail Khan. I'd buy a whole dinner for somebody who can link it all to the Peace of Westphalia.
--scottymac, found via Political Animal
I’ll skip the beer and go right for the dinner, since linking anything to the Peace of Westphalia is like the Kevin Bacon Game of international relations. And, for IR fiends like me, what could be better than a Kevin Bacon Game of international relations?
First, a little background on the Peace of Westphalia, which was signed in 1648. The first half of the 17th Century in Europe had been a tumultuous time. The Netherlands had been fighting the Spanish for their independence for eighty years (The Eighty Years’ War), and the religious factions within the Holy Roman Empire in Central Europe had been going at it to establish the Empire's "true" faith in what would come to be known as the Thirty Years’ War.
The parties finally got together and hammered out an agreement that gave Spain her independence from the Netherlands. Additionally, the Peace of Westphalia worked out the religious sparring via the recognition that the three denominations (Roman Catholic, Protestant Lutheran and Protestant Reformed) were entitled to equal rights within the Empire. In the beginning only the rulers of the territories within the Empire were granted this freedom, while their subjects were obliged to conform their religious affiliations to their leaders’. This prerogative of the sovereign to decide the religious character of his domain in the 17th century evolved into the modern concept of sovereignty, that is, a state’s right to govern itself free from the interference of an external power. (More detailed definitions here and here.) Put more simply, the Peace of Westphalia gave birth to the modern nation-state and defined the rules by which these states would interact. In many important ways, the rules remain the same even today.
The modern nation-state as it emerged from Westphalia continues to be the primary player in the international arena. This makes statehood the ultimate aspiration of many groups, and makes conflicts over statehood (or lack thereof) some of the most intense and violent in the world. According to the State Department's description of HAMAS as a foreign terrorist organization, "various HAMAS elements have used both political and violent means, including terrorism, to pursue the goal of establishing an Islamic Palestinian state in place of Israel." (emphasis added) The killing of the founder and spiritual leader of HAMAS, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, by Israel is the latest round in a age-old battle over who gets to have a state in the Holy Land.
But are Westphalian nation-states still the primary actors in the international arena? Some would say no, and would support that assertion with contemporary goings-on. The news was recently dominated by the fact that the Pakistani army almost caught Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden's second-in-command. Al-Zawahiri is one of the FBI's most wanted terrorists, but the fact that he is an Egyptian national is irrelevant (in fact, he opposes the current secular government in Egypt). He's a target because he's a high-ranking member of al-Qaeda, a non-state organization with as much or more influence than some nation-states in the world.
Finally, sovereignty is assumed to work in both directions -- Restatement of the Law Third (cited above) defines sovereignty as "a state's lawful control over it's territory generally to the exclusion of other states, authority to govern in that territory, and authority to apply law there." (emphasis added) In other words, sovereignty assumes the capacity to govern. When that capacity slips, what does that mean for a state's sovereignty? For example, what does the killing of Ismail Khan's son mean for Afghanistan's sovereignty? Mirwais Sadiq, who was the Civil Aviation Minister in addition to being the progeny of the powerful governor of Herat, was killed "in a clash with a commander recently put in place by [President] Karzai" in the latest indication that tensions between Khan, who has his own militia, and the central government are explosively high. A related question -- are states where nobody rules ("failed states") nation-states at all since nobody has the "authority to govern in that territory"?
This entry has been sitting in draft mode for several weeks as I debated whether or not I was confident enough on the final point connecting sovereignty with legitimacy and authority. Last week, Senator John Warner (R-VA) read the dictionary definition of the word sovereignty ("a supreme and independent power or authority in a state") when Deputy Secretary of Defense Wolfowitz testified in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee. That same afternoon, Hurst Hannum, Professor of International Law at the Tufts University Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy was asked by NPR's Robert Siegel if he Sen. Warner had the right definition. His response:
I think that definition is pretty close. Sovereignty, in a way, has two meanings. The international law meaning is when a state is fully independent, and is not subjected to the control of any other state. Then there's also the internal meaning, that is, the independence of the government or the legitimacy of the government within a state. (emphasis added, listen to the whole segment here)
I'm still a grad student at heart. Any anxiety I had about hitting the publish button dissipated when a professor made a point similar to mine.
April 21, 2004
It Just Keeps on Giving!
One of my favorite parts of our March vacation was teaching my Ñaña how to knit!
Ñaña (also known as T. around here) and I were on the same volunteer program in Ecuador, and we taught at the same school in the capital city of Quito. We met in the Miami airport en route to our Andean destination, and we've been thick as thieves ever since.
While living in Quito, T. lived with the most evil, cruel host mother of all time. How evil? When T. asked to learn how to knit, Evil Host Mother started her out on size four needles, instructed her to knit as tightly as she could, and smacked T’s hands when she made a mistake. Unfortunately, though unsurprisingly, T. gave up knitting after just one scarf. Fortunately, she also moved out of the Evil Host Mother's house shortly thereafter.
Fast forward a couple of years...
I learned to knit on the day T.'s daughter, Juli, was born. I found it to be a happy convergence of events -- I was constantly wanting to knit something new, and Juli was constantly growing out of the last thing I'd made. Now that I think about it, one can follow my knitting "career" by simply looking at the progression of projects destined for Juli: the Pink Hat, the Christmas Tree Hat, the baby blocks, and the Screaming Pink Sweater.
Fast forward a couple more years to this Spring...
While visiting T. and fam, I was surprised when she asked if I'd re-teach her to knit. After downing a glass of wine to dull her Evil Host Mother flashbacks, we sat down with the needles and yarn. Twenty minutes later, she was knitting along with ease. ("This is so much easier!" she kept exclaiming. Considering that I'd replaced the No 4s with No 8s, told her to knit loose, and never once threatened her with physical harm in the event of a mistake, I wasn't surprised.) I'd hoped to get her all the way through her dishcloth before leaving, but this vacation -- like all others -- ended too quickly.
As you might have noticed from the link above, T.'s birthday was last weekend. After I got back from vacation, I had an idea. This is what I gave T. for her birthday:
I can't say enough about the people at Angel Hair Yarn Co. -- they were so helpful in setting this up. This is not always the case with yarn stores (as we all know), so if you ever find yourself in Nashville, stop in and reward them for going the extra mile by buying some yarn!
Note: After my vacation, T. and I exchanged a series of e-mails about tips for beginners. She's an educator by trade (and a damn good one, at that), so she was able to give some pointers based on what she knows about how people learn. I'm hoping to post some of it here soon!
April 18, 2004
The Half-Year Sweater
Bet you didn't think I'd ever finish it... I sure didn't! This jacket took much longer than I thought -- the cabling was pretty tedious, so it was easy to put this aside when other projects caught my attention. But I stuck with it, and I'm glad I did.
There are a lot of things that I wish were different about this pattern*, but one of the parts I really like is how the pattern continues from the front panel up onto the hood.
*I'll write them up soon and add them to this entry!
April 14, 2004
A Friend Indeed
I've been reading Amy practically since I started reading on-line journals back in the 90s, so I feel pretty confident saying that her situation is proof positive that bad things can happen to good people.
But whether you "know" her or not, it's a fact that Amy's very good with needles -- sewing needles, knitting needles, you name it. If you're a knitter, you should check out her needle cases. (Martha Stewart sells needle cases for $49, but Amy's largest case is only $26... and you get to pick the fabric!) If you're not a knitter, but like the look of knit caps for your little ones, you should certainly peruse Amy's Tiny Toppers store.
Oh, and if you have any web design needs, Amy can do that, too!
By the way - do you know why I gave myself permission to cast on for Smooch? Here's a hint:
April 13, 2004
An Offering to the Yarn Gods
Smooch is underway!
Before I started, I read through the posts of other knit-bloggers who made Smooch last summer, hoping to avoid the initial confusion over the way the pattern was written. Little did I know that such confusion and ripping is a penance that must be paid to The Yarn Gods in order to attain a completed Smooch. You cannot avoid paying your penance, and thus, I could not avoid the confusion and the ripping.
In fact, the tiny little bit of Smooch you see in the picture was not long for this world -- it was ripped. However, I'm now happy to report that all of my ripping and restarting eventually satisfied The Yarn Gods, and I've completed both the picot edging the the lace-y Vs.
I'm loving the color of the Silk Cotton Aran so far, but I have some reservations about the "stiffness". Hopefully it won't affect the drape of the tank. I should be able to tell when I make some progress, but it will have to wait a couple days while I rest these old bones. Between battling Smooch, knitting diligently on a very heavy project all weekend, and several weeks of computer-intensive tasks at work my wrists and hands (and even one of my elbows!) are killing me!
April 12, 2004
I'm trying to tame (read: "purge") my stash these days. Lucky for me, Wendy and Liz provided the perfect way to use up some remnants -- and help out some four-legged friends at the same time! (It's an especially good outlet for all the acrylic yarn I accumulated when I was learning to knit, since the blankets have to be hardy enough for their new owners and frequent washings.)
I hope to post this pattern for use by fellow Critter Knitters -- I'm just waiting for one small piece of information before I write it up!
April 7, 2004
The log-cabin blanket is done (save for weaving in ends), and I'm really happy with the way it turned out. It still doesn't have an intended recipient, so I think I might hang on to it. After all of those stitches, I've grown attached to it! You can see the whole blanket here.
You might remember from this post that Sammie really loved this blanket when I started it. It only got more intense -- you would think that catnip was woven into the strands Mission Falls 1824 Cotton the way the cats carried on. Every time I laid out the blanket, there was quickly a cat on it, under it, next to it....
(Note: I apologize that the pictures are so dark -- I'll try to clean them up when I get home. They didn't look this bad on my computer last night! Update: I adjusted the pictures somewhat, and you can see the details a little better, but now the colors are off. Just imagine muted jewel tones as you look at the blanket!)
April 2, 2004
All Coming Up Roses...
And look what Alison did!