Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Required reading: "Arabs at War: Military Effectiveness, 1948-1991"

Anyone surprised by the failure of Iraqi Army units to stand and fight to defend the city of Ramadi would do well to read Kenneth M. Pollack's Arabs at War: Military Effectiveness 1948-1991. Pollack, a former military analyst at the CIA and Director for Persian Gulf Affairs at the National Security Council, examines the militaries of six different Arab countries and looks at how culture and politics impacted attempts to build effective military organizations. In the latter half of the 20th century, the Arab world proved unable, for a number of reasons, to field fully effective militaries.

Although Pollack's study concludes with the 1991 Persian Gulf War, his conclusions regarding Iraq's military are still interesting. Iraq's military was always hampered by the divide between Shia and Sunni. Under Saddam Hussein, Sunnis were favored with better weapons and superior training. Shia units were less well-equipped and their training was deliberately limited. Many of the limitations of the Saddam Hussein-era Iraqi military have carried over into the current Iraqi regime. The decision by George W. Bush to engage in de-Ba'athification ensured that the better trained Sunni officers were forced out of the Iraqi Army and replaced with Shia officers that may have owed their positions more to political connections than merit. The consequences are reflected in the very poor performance of the current Shia-dominated Iraqi Army.

Thursday, May 07, 2015

Annabel Lee #TBT

A little #TBT (throwback Thursday) action with some photos from my time aboard the M/V Annabel Lee.

The Annabel Lee's 1988 crew.

Also from 1988.

The Annabel Lee at Westover Plantation, around 1991 or 1992.

The Annabel Lee at Westover Plantation, around 1991 or 1992.

First mate of the Annabel Lee at Westover Plantation, around 1991 or 1992.

Saturday, May 02, 2015

Random Philosophy Major requests release from VCU

(Richmond, VA--May 2, 2015) Virginia Commonwealth University's Monroe Park Campus was rocked this morning by the sudden announcement that sophomore Philosophy Major Richard "Dick" Kampersutt would not be returning to VCU for his junior year. Kampersutt's request for a release came after a reported difference with the Philosophy Department's new head over whether analysis of Wittgenstein delved into substantive debate or whether it was merely a minor dispute over semantics and blah, blah, blah.

In response, the head of VCU's Philosophy Department, whose name escapes me at the moment, said some things about the need for respect in academic debates and some other stuff. Did you hear that Terry Larrier is transferring? Yeah, super bummed about that, but what can you do?

Anyway, when reached for comment about the, uh, philosophy thing we were talking about, VCU's President Dr. Michael Rao reportedly said: "We have a Philosophy Department?" Which on reflection seems kind of harsh.

Does anyone know where Larrier is transferring, or is this just some kind of exploring his options thing?

Anyway, that philosophy guy is looking for someone to sublet his apartment.

Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden Spring Plant Sale

The Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden Spring Plant Sale is underway. Yesterday was the first day of the sale, and it continues today, Saturday, May 2, 2015, from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m..