The Costs of War: Osama, Afghanistan, and Iraq

National Journal has run an excellent story on the financial aspect of Osama bin Laden’s death. Frankly, it’s pretty sobering to think about. The article begins:
“By conservative estimates, bin Laden cost the United States at least $3 trillion over the past 15 years, counting the disruptions he wrought on the domestic economy, the wars and heightened security triggered by the terrorist attacks he engineered, and the direct efforts to hunt him down.”

It continues to discuss the implications of those economic costs, as well as the lack of direct economic benefits the U.S. has gained since incurring them. For example, WWII brought the U.S. out of the Great Depression and created an enormous middle class via the GI Bill. The only tangible advancement of this past decade is a great expansion in unmanned military technology (primarily aviation).

Continue reading “The Costs of War: Osama, Afghanistan, and Iraq”

Legitimacy, Legality, Ethics and Justice – Osama bin Laden’s Death

It’s amazing to think that Time magazine named Adolf Hitler “Person of the Year” in 1938 – I was reminded of that the other day – hence my decision to go with the Osama bin Laden (OBL) cover at right.

In reading opinion pieces the past week and a half since OBL’s death, I’ve come across a striking number of responses with two general lines of criticism: 1. that the raid was illegal, and 2. that the killing was unethical or immoral (i.e. unarmed execution or assassination). On first glance, I generally shrug off those sorts of comments, but, over time, I’ve decided that I need to educate myself further on the subject and develop a fact-based opinion. So here goes:

1. Was this legitimate as a military attack?

The appropriate lens for analysis of the operation in Pakistan is that which applies to military operations. The mission was famously undertaken by 79 Navy SEALS and supported by helicopters from the U.S. Army. Even if some of the information that enabled the raid was developed by CIA and other intelligence community assets, this was clearly a military operation, run by Joint Special Operations Command (and Vice Admiral McRaven).

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2 MAY – 8 MAY Training Week; Caregiver’s VA Benefits

51 miles this week, with a complete rest today (Sunday). So that’s 51 miles in 6 days of training. And, yesterday, I did 13.1 miles, a half marathon, in 1 hour, 31 minutes, or roughly a 7 minute/mile pace. I did two strength workouts, one on Tuesday and one on Friday, again focusing on the core, hips, and quadriceps. I’m up to three sets of 4 minutes with wall sitting, a good sign that I’m getting more strength into the knee joint.

Speaking of which, I missed my acupuncture appointment this week – just too busy. With Kevin (my brother) leaving, two papers to write, and seeing the midwife with Rachel on Friday, it just wasn’t in the cards. I still have pain in the joint, but not enough to keep me from running. I stretch it out post-run as much as I can, and have fairly good range of motion. I’m beginning to believe that this is a condition that will not go away, one that I’ll have to manage as opposed to solve. As long as I get my daily run, I guess I’ll take it.

Continue reading “2 MAY – 8 MAY Training Week; Caregiver’s VA Benefits”

American Policy Hypocricy, Part II

Every once in awhile, a subject comes along and just sort of hijacks your thoughts completely. As Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) famously stated in Inception, and ratified by my recent experience, the most resilient parasite is an idea.

And this idea is the criticism of American foreign policy as “hypocritical.” Two things drive me to dive back in, one more time, to the subject: one, I’ve been emailing around the horn with some friends about it this past week, and second, the receipt of a well-reasoned reply to the original post. And, I have to add a third: my first point wasn’t well written or clarified. The opinion was in the raw, and over this past week has tightened up a bit (which isn’t to say it’s perfect, by any stretch!).

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The Death of Osama bin Laden and the Insufficiency of the "Hypocritical American Policy" Argument

The image at right was in place this past Sunday (NZ time) morning, roughly 36 hours before Osama bin Laden was confirmed dead by President Obama. It’s a cricket field adjacent to the NZ National Botanical Gardens, where my brother Kevin and I would go to take Army physical fitness tests weekly while he was staying with us. It provides a timely entrance to my reflections on OBL’s death. Although it is tempting to respond to the nonsense that the image represents…(ok, briefly: what gains were made? How was it kept in secret? Why not fabricate definitive, conclusive evidence that Saddam was connected? Why “false flag” our way into a costly attrition?)…I’ll leave the image be. However, it is indicative of a certain segment of society (both in NZ and around the world) that must be mitigated from an information standpoint.

[Added 4 May: Apparently, Rashard Mendenhall of the Pittsburgh Steelers has the same questions about 9/11: “We’ll never know what really happened. I just have a hard time believing a plane could take a skyscraper down demolition style.”]

For example, with the death of OBL. So far, so good. The President’s speech was excellent, and the news coverage has been positive and informational (see this NY Times feature on the timeline and the graphic images of the raid). One thing that was, I think, noteworthy: upon logging on to the NY Times upon hearing the news (but before the President spoke), I read Ross Douthat’s column “Death of a Failure.” It’s heartening to know that an opinion writer had the foresight to know that, eventually, OBL would be no more. And that he ran with that thought, enough to provide some good analysis on the death’s meaning (in the end, not a whole lot). Taking that in mind, I have these few thoughts to offer to the many this occasion is generating.

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25 APR – 1 MAY Training Week; "Home Fires" NY Times Series

This past week shows continued development. Approximately 47 miles, including a 10 miler yesterday (at 7:30/mile pace). With today, being Sunday, off (trying to keep the Sabbath holy and, well, for family purposes). So 6 days, 47 miles, nearly an 8 mile/day average.

The broken foot still feels not quite right, but, certainly not broken anymore. I have a follow up in a couple weeks with the orthopedic doctor to confirm (via x-ray) that I haven’t left myself with a stress fracture. The knee continues to make progress, albeit slow. It still hurts in its own way, but the pain is slight enough to not warrant serious attention. I’m hoping for continued improvement each week until it’s just about gone entirely (but maybe that’s wishful thinking).

Continue reading “25 APR – 1 MAY Training Week; "Home Fires" NY Times Series”

NZDF and Recent Torture Charges

The May 2011 edition of Metro magazine, and Auckland-based publication, includes an article by Jon Stephenson entitled “Eyes Wide Shut: The Government’s Guilty Secrets in Afghanistan.” Unfortunately, the article is not published online, so even as I have read it, I don’t want to infringe on the publisher’s ability to make money…so I won’t scan and post online. I will, however, include some links to as to bring any readers up to speed on the issue if you haven’t read the piece.

(photo above: Lt. General Mateparae and PM John Key)

23 APR 11: Scoop News, “Torture & the SAS: The Gov’ts Guilty Secrets in Afghanistan”

22 APR 11: NZ Herald, “NZ SAS prisoners tortured”

26 APR 11: Op Ed, Dominion Post, “More than a day of remembrance”

The central challenge in this post is that, although I’ve posted some local coverage of the article in question, I’ll principally be responding to “Eyes Wide Shut.” I’ve made five main observations, which I will briefly walk through below. These are next day reactions, meaning, I’ve read the piece and had about 16 hours to reflect. So what follows are first reactions.

1. The nature of military operations and the concept of military necessity is wholly ignored. Continue reading “NZDF and Recent Torture Charges”