Wednesday, May 30, 2007

On Memorial Day. Please read

As a veteran, currently serving in Iraq on a military project, I think it appropriate for us to pause and keep track of exactly how our freedoms are ours to enjoy and cherish. I have a unique perspective, I have lived in a communist dictatorship, and in an Islamic kingdom. Communists take power, and kill or imprison anyone who gets in their way. Kings were born into the job, and rule their "subjects" by "divine right". Personally, I hate Kings and Queens as bad I hate the communists. The French had the right idea, chop all their heads off. The Russians had a better idea, shoot the Tsar and the Tsarina, and the whole royal family, then soak the bodies in acid, and throw the bones down a mine shaft, good riddance to bad rubbish. When we say "Remember Pearl Harbor", we should also remember that WW2 was started by an emperor. WW1 was also started by an emperor. To hell with all of them.We are now engaged in a bitter and long-term conflict, to end Islamic terrorism, and bring peace and freedom to the people of Iraq. Our mission here is difficult, America's finest are watering the desert with their own blood. Last week, on my base here in Iraq, two of America's sons paid the ultimate price, and last week a brave and lonely soldier blew his brains out with his own rifle. As far as I am concerned, his life was sacrificed every bit as much as if he had been killed in combat. Combat killed him, even if indirectly. We Americans take our freedoms for granted, often paying little heed to the billions around the world, who have no say at all in the government that rules every aspect of their lives. In North Korea, you can be jailed, just for taking a different route to your work. In Saudi Arabia, you will arrested, taken to the public whipping post, and whipped with a bullwhip, then jailed for 6 months, if you take a drink of water in public, during the month of Ramadan. In Venezuela, two days ago, the dictator shut down a television station, just for saying things against the government. Remember:It is the soldier, not the poet that gives you freedom of speech.It is the Airman, not the reporter, that gives you freedom of the press.It is the Marine, not the Worshipful Master of your lodge, that gives you freedom of assembly.It is the sailor, not the local gun shop, that gives you the right to bear arms.It is the radio operator, working 12 hour night shifts, not the minister, that gives you freedom of religion.It is the tank mechanic, working under 12 tons of steel armor, on his back, with his arms up in grease, and not the politician, that gives you the right to vote.It is the computer jockey, working for less than he could earn at McDonalds, and not the lawyer, that gives you the right to counsel.We often speak, of our "God-given rights", and it is indeed a power greater than ourselves, which has endowed us with our freedoms. But every free breath we breathe, has been earned- by the blood of our young men and women, who are entombed on countless shores and jungles and deserts, all over this globe.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

27 May 2007

Sunday Afternoon. Had a whopper of a storm Friday night. First, dust then a "mud-rain". Huge drops of mud blowing against everything. I had heard of mud-rains, but I never saw one until Friday.

I have submitted my paperwork for a third year in Iraq. I like the work, and company treats me fairly. I just wish I could return to my old duty station at Al Asad. I may be able to get a transfer.

We had a communications blackout that lasted for 36 hours. Sadly, one of our troops here was killed by a roadside bomb, and the family had to be notified. I am sad to see America's Finest dying in this place.

I sent out cards to 100 of my friends and acquaintances, asking that they contact me, and so far I have received three (3) replies. I wish that people would reply when they get my cards, so that I can keep my address book up-to-date.

Mail arrived, and I got about 12 packages, some personal stuff for me, and some items for the troops.

Been feeling a little sick, I could not eat dinner last night, just not interested. The Satellite TV at the Rec Hall is broken down, so they are showing old DVDs and movies. I would like to see CNN/Fox again, I enjoy to keep up with the news. I hope the system is repaired by Monday, so that I can watch "Jeapordy".

I continue to be impressed by the food they serve here. Just marvelous. Today there was a delicious barbecued beef brisket. Tomorrow, there will be grilled T-Bone steaks and lobster tails. I just wish the dining hall could get eggs! I like hard-boiled eggs for breakfast, and there have been no fresh eggs on this post for 6 weeks.

I received a new pair of running shoes in the mail, and they are perfect for this duty. I am not an exerciser, but I have to walk everywhere, because I still do not have a bicycle or a vehicle.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

22 May 2007

Tuesday afternoon. Summer is on the way. It was blindingly bright this morning, but I did not feel like wearing my sunglasses. Sunglasses are an important working tool in this environment. Heat is blistering, but I do not spend much time outdoors. The internet had a glitch, but eventually caught back up.

Decent lunch today, chili with spaghetti. The Rec Hall installed a sno-cone machine, and believe me, when you come in from the hot desert, a sweet/cold sno-cone is a delight. I hit up some of the lodges back in Virginia, to donate some additional syrup. Some individual already pledged to send some more syrup. God bless the Masons, they sure know how to support the troops.

After three weeks, with no mail arriving at all, some packages finally made it through. I ordered some personal items from, and somehow they flubbed the zip code, but the address on the order reads "FOB Sykes", so I think the post office, will eventually send it here.

The firm is going through some changes, and they have decided to end "automatic renewals" of the contracts here. No matter, the firm is going to examine each individual's duty performance, and make a decision. I am certain that my work performance is well in line with company standards, I get no complaints. Back in June 2006, when I asked for second year, the supervisor approved it, with a comment "You have done exemplary work, in an austere environment". While I agree 1000% with his comment about my doing exemplary work, I do not find Iraq all that austere. Fact is, there is a lot to like about Iraq.

I have spent 9 1/2 years of my career in foreign countries. I have been in worse places, and in better places. On the positive side, I have a decent CHU (containerized housing unit) which is the trailer where I live. I have a decent shower house, 50 yards from the front door, with unlimited hot water, and it is almost always vacant, no waiting to get a shower. I drop my laundry off about 100 yards from the trailer, and it gets washed, and I pick it up the next morning. The chow hall is excellent, only thing they do not have here is fresh eggs, I have not seen an egg in two months. The Rec Hall is great, plenty of space to chill out, and watch TV.

The job itself is fine, the equipment is indestructible, and operates with virtually no problems at all. I have only three interrogators, and one FDU (Field data unit computer), and one SARSS computer (down at the warehouse). As long as the internet is up and running , the equipment pretty much takes care of itself.

The firm wants photos of my equipment, and I told the senior engineer, I will take all the photos he wants, as soon as the firm provides me with a camera! We had a camera back at Al Asad, and we got some photos, but we never up-loaded any to the firm, to my knowledge. Unless the firm asks for something, why make waves?

The only thing I would like to have here, is a working Masonic square and compasses club. We are on a "gag order", and not permitted to advertise or put up any posters or flyers. Every other club on base, can advertise all they want to: The women's empowerment group, the model airplane builders, the domino tournament, all kinds of weight-lifting and physical exercise group, but not the masons. I hope the First sergeant here gets a transfer, and the new first sergeant is more amenable to the Freemasons.

I got to see the Preakness Stakes race on the television, I was rooting for "Street Sense", who ran one hell of a race, and then lost by a head. Well, he is an excellent horse, and even though he is not the winner of the Preakness, he will go on to a stud career. Imagine, retiring at the age of three to have sex the rest of your life.

I sent out contact cards to all the people in my address list, 100 cards in total. I am anxious to see how many actually respond. I sent the cards out when I was at Al Asad, and I got a couple of responses. Since the cards are free, and the postage is also free, why not try it again?

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

15 May 2007. The Ides of May.

An interesting country. I thought the winter rains were done, but the skies opened up at 0400am, and the rain hit the trailer so hard, I woke up. I had a couple of packages arrive at the post office, so I went down to get them. They were games for the troops, so I signed the form, and said I would be back to get them.

The rain turned the camp into a lake of mud. No matter, a day of heat and wind, will turn the place back into a dust-bowl again. Went down to the Rec Hall, and filed my morning report. The internet is functioning normally, so all the data is uploading properly, Thanks for small favors.

Lunch today was a plate of nacho chips with chili, cheese, sour cream, green onions. Delicious. A bowl of cookie and cream ice cream for dessert. Then back to the Rec Hall for "Jeapordy".

I have ordered some items on the internet, and they sure are slow in getting here. I ordered a package, and instead of it going to APO AE 09351, it wound up at APO AE 09381. Fortunately the UNISYS man there got the package, and then sent me an email, asking for my address. I emailed him back, and the package is on the way.

I really need some new shoes. I am wearing running shoes that I found in the garbage. I can't believe what people throw away! At my last post, I went dumpster-diving all the time. I found two excellent pairs of combat boots, exactly the right size.

I have made my first purchases on Ebay! I found a very nice sterling silver masonic lodge ring, and I was the high bidder ($12 I think). It arrived in the mail, and I am just delighted with it. I still have my stainless steel ring, It has a couple of "dings" so I am going to send it back to the manufacturer, so that he can clean/polish/rehabilitate the ring. I do love to wear Masonic "bling-bling".

The Rec Hall is pretty much empty during the day. I can watch almost anything I want on the TV. The staff leaves the TV on the news channel, so I watch a lot of CNN, Fox,etc.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

From an Iraqi Doctor!!

Dear Sir
I am Iraqi physician, I live now in Iraq-Baghdad and I'd red your blog on internet and i like it, i would like to know that there are alot of iraqi people and I one of them who support USA army and appreciate your sacrifies and we believe strongly that pull out of your troops specially in this critical moment will lead to blood bath more and more than what we are seeing now and I personally beleived in USA project in Iraq and I wish it to succeed and I wish that I can do something to support USA army here in Iraq because as I beleive USA win here mean a stronge and modern Iraq. I think the big problem now which stand against this project is a relegion problem, islamist both sunnis and shiit are working together against this project and the big mistake was to give the authority to islamic parties because this relgion parties donot represent a national interest they represent other countries like shiite who are working for Iran, USA s! hould work now to get ride of Islamic parties because they donot like USA just because they beleiv that christian donot like muslims and thats why you are facing such problem here they interprete any project as aconspiracy against them so they donot trust you, Iraq should govern by secular goverment, relegion should be separated from state, my opinion is to stope working of this islamic sectarian goverment and stope this islamic constitution and hire a secular goverment this will give a very good result because most of iraqi are secular in nature they love drinking like dancing and they enjoy life but the media and the parties in goverment give you diffrent picture inorder to let you beleive that this is islamic country and should be govern by islamic goverment.
I am sorry for this longe message but I have to tell you that there are alot of iraqi who stand with you in the war against terra and specially in Iraq, I would like to be a member of freemason but i couldnot find any lodg in iraq so it gives me great pleasure to accept me as a first iraqi member in your lodge.
Accept my best regards

Monday, May 07, 2007

A Bold plan for peace in Iraq

By Charles E. Martin

There is a path to victory here. I know what I am talking about. Ihave been in Iraq for 18 months. I have been from Kuwait to theSyrian border. I have been in a mortar attack, and been close enoughto hear the shooting. (I am a civilian computer tech, and not amilitary person). I have flown 90 combat missions in Iraq.Often in foreign policy, the player (In this case the USA), has tochoose from a number of bad choices. There are all kinds of badchoices in this desert. Instead of blaming President Bush, or badintelligence, or the CIA, or this or that, let's stop playing ablame game, as they said in Vietnam, there is enough blame to goaround for everyone.Since the objective of this exercise, is to get rid of SaddamHussein (mission accomplished), and bring freedom and the rule oflaw to the Iraqi people (not yet accomplished), we should step backand see how to get this operation through to a successful conclusion.There are a number of bad choices:1- Partition the country into separate nations: Sunni-stan, Shia-stan, and Kurdistan. Then let each individual group run their owncountry. This idea stinks on hot ice. It is not going to happen.The reason is OIL. The oil resources of this country are not evenlydistributed throughout the country. Locking two ethnic groups out ofthe oil money would never work, the war would just continue, aseveryone would be scrambling for the oil. You must remember, thatthis war is about power and greed. Religion and tribal causes aresecondary at best.2- Line up every military age male in the entire country, against awall, and shoot them. This will bring peace, but charges ofgenocide. Not a good plan.3- Pull out, and let them go at it, until someone comes up on top.This will result in a bigger genocide, than plan #2. The democrats,and other "surrender-clowns", do not realize, that if the USmilitary packs up their Army, and moves the entire operation to FortRiley, Kansas, that the Iraqi militias that are fighting in thiscountry, will not just drop all their weapons, and turn this countryinto a big "love-in". If the US military pulls out of Iraq,violence will INCREASE, not decrease, and more Iraqis will bekilled.If the US quits Iraq, there will be a full-blown civil war, betweenSunnis, Shias, and Kurds. The Shia government of Iran, willbankroll the Shias in Iraq, because the Iranians do not want a Sunnigovernment on their border. The Iranians want a friendly Shiagovernment running Iraq, that will give the Iranians more influencein the region, and put them that much closer to Israel.A blood-bath in Iraq, will result in some new strong-man coming topower here (Saddam II), and then the USA will have to come backhere, and start the whole process all over again.Or there is plan 4-I propose to declare that Iraq is henceforth a USA "protectorate".The USA can issue a proclamation, that the entire territory of Iraqis now under the sole control of the US government. (Like theBritish set up in Swaziland, and Basutoland in Africa). From nowon, the internal and external security of Iraq, will be the soleresponsibility of the US Government. The US will administer all ofthe mineral resources of the country, and sell petroleum. Therevenues will be deposited into an escrow account, and thendisbursed according to the directives of the US mineral andpetroleum authority.All borders will be closed, and any individual attempting to smuggleweapons or any military equipment into Iraq, will be summarily shot.Reconstruction of the country, rebuilding infrastructure,electricity, utilities, agriculture, civil engineering, etc. will beadministered by the US government.The current Iraqi government, constitution, and military forces willbe suspended for the duration for the adminstration of theprotectorate, and be restored at an unspecified date in the future,when the security and military situation is stabilized.Other nations will be invited and encouraged to participate in themilitary/security functions, but the USA will be prepared to go italone, if need be. Other nations will be invited and encouraged toparticipate in the humanitarian and infrastructure projects, as theysee fit. Non-governmental organizations, including the UnitedNations will be encouraged to participate as needed.The US government will then proceed to disarm all of the militias inIraq, and detain/imprison all internal terrorist forces.The US government will neutralize all terrorism in Iraq, and engagein "hot-pursuit" of terrorist forces who attempt to operate acrossinternational borders.Military bases will be established as permanent bases, with leasesin perpetuity.Provincial lines will be re-drawn to establish separatesunni/shiite/Kurdish political entities. Each individual group willbe assisted in setting up autonomous governments, responsible foradministering the internal affairs of each province. Similar to theCanton system in Switzerland.The capital area of Baghdad, and other major cities will be set upas inter-ethnic provinces, where administration of the cities willbe set up along the lines where cities are generally self-governing.Similar to the home-rule situation in Washington DC.The "new" constitution of Iraq, will be trashed, and a weakercentral government will be set up, ceding more power to theautonomous provinces. The central government will be non-sectarian,and political offices will be awarded on merit and popularsovreignty, without regard to faction or ethnic group.The new central government will be responsible for foreign policy,international trade, minerals management and revenue distribution,external defense, infrastruture management, etc.Once the security situation is stabilized, the US protectorateperiod will end GRADUALLY, and political power will be ceded to thenew central government, and the autonomous provinces.The new Iraq government, and the region as a whole, will be put onnotice, that sovreignty will depend upon the "good behavior"and "good faith" of all of the various factions in Iraq.This is a bold plan, but when you consider the alternatives, itmight just be the plan with the best chance of success.

Friday, May 04, 2007

An interesting take on the MidEast!! Prospect Magazine Issue 134 , May 2007 The Middle of Nowhere Western analysts are forever bleating about the strategic importance of the middle east. But despite its oil, this backward region is less relevant than ever, and it would be better for everyone if the rest of the world learned to ignore it. by Edward Luttwak Why are middle east experts so unfailingly wrong? The lesson of history is that men never learn from history, but middle east experts, like the rest of us, should at least learn from their past mistakes. Instead, they just keep repeating them. The first mistake is "five minutes to midnight" catastrophism. The late King Hussein of Jordan was the undisputed master of this genre. Wearing his gravest aspect, he would warn us that with patience finally exhausted the Arab-Israeli conflict was about to explode, that all past conflicts would be dwarfed by what was about to happen unless, unless... And then came the remedy-usually something rather tame when compared with the immense catastrophe predicted, such as resuming this or that stalled negotiation, or getting an American envoy to the scene to make the usual promises to the Palestinians and apply the usual pressures on Israel. We read versions of the standard King Hussein speech in countless newspaper columns, hear identical invocations in the grindingly repetitive radio and television appearances of the usual middle east experts, and are now faced with Hussein's son Abdullah periodically repeating his father's speech almost verbatim. What actually happens at each of these "moments of truth"-and we may be approaching another one-is nothing much; only the same old cyclical conflict which always restarts when peace is about to break out, and always dampens down when the violence becomes intense enough. The ease of filming and reporting out of safe and comfortable Israeli hotels inflates the media coverage of every minor affray. But humanitarians should note that the dead from Jewish-Palestinian fighting since 1921 amount to fewer than 100,000-about as many as are killed in a season of conflict in Darfur. Strategically, the Arab-Israeli conflict has been almost irrelevant since the end of the cold war. And as for the impact of the conflict on oil prices, it was powerful in 1973 when the Saudis declared embargoes and cut production, but that was the first and last time that the "oil weapon" was wielded. For decades now, the largest Arab oil producers have publicly foresworn any linkage between politics and pricing, and an embargo would be a disaster for their oil-revenue dependent economies. In any case, the relationship between turmoil in the middle east and oil prices is far from straightforward. As Philip Auerswald recently noted in the American Interest, between 1981 and 1999-a period when a fundamentalist regime consolidated power in Iran, Iran and Iraq fought an eight-year war within view of oil and gas installations, the Gulf war came and went and the first Palestinian intifada raged-oil prices, adjusted for inflation, actually fell. And global dependence on middle eastern oil is declining: today the region produces under 30 per cent of the world's crude oil, compared to almost 40 per cent in 1974-75. In 2005 17 per cent of American oil imports came from the Gulf, compared to 28 per cent in 1975, and President Bush used his 2006 state of the union address to announce his intention of cutting US oil imports from the middle east by three quarters by 2025. Yes, it would be nice if Israelis and Palestinians could settle their differences, but it would do little or nothing to calm the other conflicts in the middle east from Algeria to Iraq, or to stop Muslim-Hindu violence in Kashmir, Muslim-Christian violence in Indonesia and the Philippines, Muslim-Buddhist violence in Thailand, Muslim-animist violence in Sudan, Muslim-Igbo violence in Nigeria, Muslim-Muscovite violence in Chechnya, or the different varieties of inter-Muslim violence between traditionalists and Islamists, and between Sunnis and Shia, nor would it assuage the perfectly understandable hostility of convinced Islamists towards the transgressive west that relentlessly invades their minds, and sometimes their countries. Arab-Israeli catastrophism is wrong twice over, first because the conflict is contained within rather narrow boundaries, and second because the Levant is just not that important any more. The second repeated mistake is the Mussolini syndrome. Contemporary documents prove beyond any doubt what is now hard to credit: serious people, including British and French military chiefs, accepted Mussolini's claims to great power status because they believed that he had serious armed forces at his command. His army divisions, battleships and air squadrons were dutifully counted to assess Italian military power, making some allowance for their lack of the most modern weapons but not for their more fundamental refusal to fight in earnest. Having conceded Ethiopia to win over Mussolini, only to lose him to Hitler as soon as the fighting started, the British discovered that the Italian forces quickly crumbled in combat. It could not be otherwise, because most Italian soldiers were unwilling conscripts from the one-mule peasantry of the south or the almost equally miserable sharecropping villages of the north. Exactly the same mistake keeps being made by the fraternity of middle east experts. They persistently attribute real military strength to backward societies whose populations can sustain excellent insurgencies but not modern military forces. In the 1960s, it was Nasser's Egypt that was mistaken for a real military power just because it had received many aircraft, tanks and guns from the Soviet Union, and had many army divisions and air squadrons. In May 1967, on the eve of war, many agreed with the prediction of Field Marshal Montgomery, then revisiting the El Alamein battlefield, that the Egyptians would defeat the Israelis forthwith; even the more cautious never anticipated that the former would be utterly defeated by the latter in just a few days. In 1973, with much more drama, it still took only three weeks to reach the same outcome. In 1990 it was the turn of Iraq to be hugely overestimated as a military power. Saddam Hussein had more equipment than Nasser ever accumulated, and could boast of having defeated much more populous Iran after eight years of war. In the months before the Gulf war, there was much anxious speculation about the size of the Iraqi army-again, the divisions and regiments were dutifully counted as if they were German divisions on the eve of D-day, with a separate count of the "elite" Republican Guards, not to mention the "super-elite" Special Republican Guards-and it was feared that Iraq's bombproof aircraft shelters and deep bunkers would survive any air attack. That much of this was believed at some level we know from the magnitude of the coalition armies that were laboriously assembled, including 575,000 US troops, 43,000 British, 14,663 French and 4,500 Canadian, and which incidentally constituted the sacrilegious infidel presence on Arabian soil that set off Osama bin Laden on his quest for revenge. In the event, two weeks of precision bombing were enough to paralyse Saddam's entire war machine, which scarcely tried to resist the ponderous ground offensive when it came. At no point did the Iraqi air force try to fight, and all those tanks that were painstakingly counted served mostly for target practice. A real army would have continued to resist for weeks or months in the dug-in positions in Kuwait, even without air cover, but Saddam's army was the usual middle eastern fa├žade without fighting substance. Now the Mussolini syndrome is at work over Iran. All the symptoms are present, including tabulated lists of Iran's warships, despite the fact that most are over 30 years old; of combat aircraft, many of which (F-4s, Mirages, F-5s, F-14s) have not flown in years for lack of spare parts; and of divisions and brigades that are so only in name. There are awed descriptions of the Pasdaran revolutionary guards, inevitably described as "elite," who do indeed strut around as if they have won many a war, but who have actually fought only one-against Iraq, which they lost. As for Iran's claim to have defeated Israel by Hizbullah proxy in last year's affray, the publicity was excellent but the substance went the other way, with roughly 25 per cent of the best-trained men dead, which explains the tomb-like silence and immobility of the once rumbustious Hizbullah ever since the ceasefire. Then there is the new light cavalry of Iranian terrorism that is invoked to frighten us if all else fails. The usual middle east experts now explain that if we annoy the ayatollahs, they will unleash terrorists who will devastate our lives, even though 30 years of "death to America" invocations and vast sums spent on maintaining a special international terrorism department have produced only one major bombing in Saudi Arabia, in 1996, and two in the most permissive environment of Buenos Aires, in 1992 and 1994, along with some assassinations of exiles in Europe. It is true enough that if Iran's nuclear installations are bombed in some overnight raid, there is likely to be some retaliation, but we live in fortunate times in which we have only the irritant of terrorism instead of world wars to worry about-and Iran's added contribution is not likely to leave much of an impression. There may be good reasons for not attacking Iran's nuclear sites-including the very slow and uncertain progress of its uranium enrichment effort-but its ability to strike back is not one of them. Even the seemingly fragile tanker traffic down the Gulf and through the straits of Hormuz is not as vulnerable as it seems-Iran and Iraq have both tried to attack it many times without much success, and this time the US navy stands ready to destroy any airstrip or jetty from which attacks are launched. As for the claim that the "Iranians" are united in patriotic support for the nuclear programme, no such nationality even exists. Out of Iran's population of 70m or so, 51 per cent are ethnically Persian, 24 per cent are Turks ("Azeris" is the regime's term), with other minorities comprising the remaining quarter. Many of Iran's 16-17m Turks are in revolt against Persian cultural imperialism; its 5-6m Kurds have started a serious insurgency; the Arab minority detonates bombs in Ahvaz; and Baluch tribesmen attack gendarmes and revolutionary guards. If some 40 per cent of the British population were engaged in separatist struggles of varying intensity, nobody would claim that it was firmly united around the London government. On top of this, many of the Persian majority oppose the theocratic regime, either because they have become post-Islamic in reaction to its many prohibitions, or because they are Sufis, whom the regime now persecutes almost as much as the small Baha'i minority. So let us have no more reports from Tehran stressing the country's national unity. Persian nationalism is a minority position in a country where half the population is not even Persian. In our times, multinational states either decentralise or break up more or less violently; Iran is not decentralising, so its future seems highly predictable, while in the present not much cohesion under attack is to be expected. The third and greatest error repeated by middle east experts of all persuasions, by Arabophiles and Arabophobes alike, by Turcologists and by Iranists, is also the simplest to define. It is the very odd belief that these ancient nations are highly malleable. Hardliners keep suggesting that with a bit of well-aimed violence ("the Arabs only understand force") compliance will be obtained. But what happens every time is an increase in hostility; defeat is followed not by collaboration, but by sullen non-cooperation and active resistance too. It is not hard to defeat Arab countries, but it is mostly useless. Violence can work to destroy dangerous weapons but not to induce desired changes in behaviour. Softliners make exactly the same mistake in reverse. They keep arguing that if only this or that concession were made, if only their policies were followed through to the end and respect shown, or simulated, hostility would cease and a warm Mediterranean amity would emerge. Yet even the most thinly qualified of middle east experts must know that Islam, as with any other civilisation, comprehends the sum total of human life, and that unlike some others it promises superiority in all things for its believers, so that the scientific and technological and cultural backwardness of the lands of Islam generates a constantly renewed sense of humiliation and of civilisational defeat. That fully explains the ubiquity of Muslim violence, and reveals the futility of the palliatives urged by the softliners. The operational mistake that middle east experts keep making is the failure to recognise that backward societies must be left alone, as the French now wisely leave Corsica to its own devices, as the Italians quietly learned to do in Sicily, once they recognised that maxi-trials merely handed over control to a newer and smarter mafia of doctors and lawyers. With neither invasions nor friendly engagements, the peoples of the middle east should finally be allowed to have their own history-the one thing that middle east experts of all stripes seem determined to deny them. That brings us to the mistake that the rest of us make. We devote far too much attention to the middle east, a mostly stagnant region where almost nothing is created in science or the arts-excluding Israel, per capita patent production of countries in the middle east is one fifth that of sub-Saharan Africa. The people of the middle east (only about five per cent of the world's population) are remarkably unproductive, with a high proportion not in the labour force at all. Not many of us would care to work if we were citizens of Abu Dhabi, with lots of oil money for very few citizens. But Saudi Arabia's 27m inhabitants also live largely off the oil revenues that trickle down to them, leaving most of the work to foreign technicians and labourers: even with high oil prices, Saudi Arabia's annual per capita income, at $14,000, is only about half that of oil-free Israel. Saudi Arabia has a good excuse, for it was a land of oasis hand-farmers and Bedouin pastoralists who cannot be expected to become captains of industry in a mere 50 years. Much more striking is the oil parasitism of once much more accomplished Iran. It exports only 2.5m barrels a day as compared to Saudi Arabia's 8m, yet oil still accounts for 80 per cent of Iran's exports because its agriculture and industry have become so unproductive. The middle east was once the world's most advanced region, but these days its biggest industries are extravagant consumption and the venting of resentment. According to the UN's 2004 Arab human development report, the region boasts the second lowest adult literacy rate in the world (after sub-Saharan Africa) at just 63 per cent. Its dependence on oil means that manufactured goods account for just 17 per cent of exports, compared to a global average of 78 per cent. Moreover, despite its oil wealth, the entire middle east generated under 4 per cent of global GDP in 2006-less than Germany. Unless compelled by immediate danger, we should therefore focus on the old and new lands of creation in Europe and America, in India and east Asia-places where hard-working populations are looking ahead instead of dreaming of the past. _________ Edward Luttwak is senior adviser at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington DC

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

2 May 2007

Summer is coming. I decided to get a haircut today. In this duty, and this climate, it is much easier, to just cut it all off, and get a military style cut. So I did. Strangely, this is the only place on the base where I use cash. The little micro-PX takes credit cards, so when I but something there, I use the plastic.

Woke up, not much appetite, so I got a shower and dressed. Battery went out on the rechargeable shaver, so I took it down to the Rec Hall, and put it on the transformer.

Not much appetite for lunch, so I ate an ice-cream bar. Each Wednesday, I have to submit a time sheet, detailing which project I worked on. So I rode the bus down to the office, and filled out the time sheet, and emailed it in.

Got an interesting masonic video, a couple of days ago, so I took it down to the rec Hall, and they were very nice to play it.

Guess I will take a package of supplies back to the rec Hall, and distribute it. Found out today, that I will getting a Gator vehicle. That will make it easier to get around on the base.