Archive for December, 2008

Three from Totten

December 19, 2008

Michael Totten’s posts are always widely linked, but that won’t stop us from pointing you to his gripping post on the hunt for a terrorist leader:

“If your men conduct any raids,” I said to Captain Todd Looney at Combat Outpost Ford on the outskirts of Sadr City, Baghdad, “I want to go.”

I have to disagree with this comment though: “Baghdad at night from the air looks more like a constellation of Christmas lights than, say, the brightly lit circuit board of Los Angeles.”  The electrical grid certainly is in poor condition but I am always surprised at the regular grids of fluorescent yard lights.  From the air at night, some parts of Baghdad don’t look terribly different from the flat suburban plains surrounding Midwestern American cities.

Since returning to Baghdad, Michael has also published two shorter pieces in Commentary magazine:

  • What’s Next in Iraq: “For the past two weeks I’ve been embedded with the United States Army in Baghdad, and I find myself unable to figure out what to make of this place.”
  • Iraq at the End of the Surge: “[M]y [last] piece was gloomy while [Michael] Yon’s piece was not, but Iraq is complex. Iraq produces good news and bad at the same time.”

500,000 Visitors per Day at Zawra Park

December 13, 2008

Gateway Pundit: “THOUSANDS Celebrate In Baghdad As Violence Falls.”  I’ve driven by that park.  Looks like fun.

Read the whole thing.

Elizabeth Warnock Fernea

December 10, 2008

Elizabeth Warnock Fernea, the pioneering scholar of Arab women and the Middle East, has died.  We reviewed her excellent Guests of the Sheikh here last month. The Los Angeles Times has a sympatheic obituary:

[W]hen she left [the Iraqi village of El Nahra] two years later, she had won over the women and the village with her efforts to learn their language and culture.

In “500 Great Books by Women” (1994), reviewer Rebecca Sullivan wrote, “The story of her life among the Iraqis is eye-opening, written with intellectual honesty as well as love and respect for the seemingly impenetrable society.”

Here is Guests of the Sheikh on Amazon, and here is the quasi-sequel, The Arab World. Here are her pages on Librarything and Wikipedia. Dr. Fernea wrote several books about women and Arab society and served as director of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Texas.

I spend some of my time in the rural areas south of metropolitan Baghdad.  Dr. Fernea’s book, which I read only a few weeks ago, opened a vital window onto rural Iraqi society.  Its acute observation and spare prose make it an American classic, like Dr. Fernea herself.

Gen. Petraeus on the Surge

December 8, 2008

General David Petraeus, CENTCOM commander and former commanding general of Multinational Force-Iraq, addressed the Heritage Foundation in October on the ideas underpinning the Surge.

The only way to secure the population is by liv­ing with them. You cannot secure the people of a neighborhood from a large base by driving through it a couple of times a day and returning to that large base. You have to locate with them, you have to share risk with them—and this in partnership with Iraqi forces. …

Between the period of December 2006 and August 2007, a very dramatic reduction in sectarian violence took place in Baghdad.

That came about because our forces went into those areas, tried to sit on the violence, to stabilize it, to bring it down, to go after the bad guys, to pro­mote local reconciliation, and then to start to deal with some of the other conditions in there in terms of markets, local commerce, and local governance.

Topics include strategic communications, detainee policy, training missions, population security, reconciliation.  This talk is an excellent review of the past and overview of the situation in Iraq today.  Read the whole thing.  Here is the transcript and here are the slides. Via Joe Katzman at Winds of Change.

Louis Vuitton?

December 8, 2008

As in other countries, counterfeit products are not unknown in Iraq. Here we have a selection of Louis Vuitton shoulder holsters.
Louis Vuitton
Sorry for the quality, I was shooting without a flash. Photo is a couple of months old.

Law and Literature

December 4, 2008

Here is a break from regular programming.  Every spring, Tyler Cowen of the economics blog Marginal Revolution teaches a class on “Law and Literature” at George Mason University.  He also posts his reading lists.  I like lists and books, so this year I got curious enough to compare the five available lists: 2009, 2008, 2007, 2005, and a list Dr. Cowen inherited from another professor, also in 2005.

The standouts are the Old Testament (particularly Exodus), Kafka’s In the Penal Colony, In the Belly of the Beast by Jack Henry Abbott, Tolstoy (Hadji Murad and/or Ivan Ilych), Melville (Moby Dick chapters on common law, “Bartleby,” Billy Budd), something called Borges and the Eternal Orangutangs by Fernando Verrissimo, and Blindess by Jose Saramago.

The Art of Political Murder by Fransisco Goldman appeared in 2008 and is back this spring.  Year’s Best SF 9 (stories written in 2003) and Glaspell’s Trifles appeared in 2007 and are back this year as well.  Henry James and Shakespeare appeared in 2005 and 2007 but have since dropped.

The balance of the list (about 30%) turns over every year and includes authors such as Arthur Conan Doyle, Orhan Pamuk, William Gibson, Eugene Zamiatyin, Mario Vargas Llosa, Eric Ambler, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, TH White, Thomas Pynchon, Isaac Asimov, Ha Jin, and PD James.  Dr. Cowen’s colleague relied more heavily on classical and philosopical sources (Plato, Sophocles, More, Milton).  There might be more turnover in the films since a different one is mentioned each year (Sia, Battle Royale, Double Indemnity).

One might add Dostoyevsky, Hugo, Orwell, Solzhenitsyn, or William Golding to the mix.  But the biggest omission is the New Testament reframing of Mosaic law.  In particular Romans 1-8 and 13-14 are a passionate analysis of the post-Resurrection status of law – by a trained Pharisee no less.

…[I]f it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin.  I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said “You shall not covet.”  But sin, seizing an opportunity in the commandment, produced in me all kinds of coveteousness.  Apart from the law sin lies dead.

Rom 7:7-8 (NRSV)

Full lists and links are below the break…