Saturday, December 23, 2006

F'ed Up Fridays - On Vacation
No FuF this week as I'm on vacation. We should return to normal next week.

I'm confused...
So, an "umbrella group" for Iraqi insurgents (I have a feeling that the media is lending them more credit with that description than they deserve) has offered the U.S. a truce.

Setting aside where I stand (you can probably guess) on how to respond to this proposal, I have a question.

Why can't we identify these guys and take them out? Or propose a summit to discuss terms—and take them out?

I just don't get that.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Does this spell doom for Netflix?:

You get a free rental on the spot, and Blockbuster still sends out the next movie in your queue. And yesterday they announced that the monthly coupon for a free rental can be used for movies OR video games.

Like the author, I've been using Netflix ever since college. In college I was turning a few movies a week. I would generally get something a couple of years old that I hadn't seen, and I'd put it on while I worked on econ problem sets.

When I entered the working world, that model didn't really fit anymore. Very rarely did I find I'd want to watch a movie after work, and I'd discover that by time the weekend rolled around, I often wasn't in the mood for it anymore. A couple of times I returned movies months later without having watched them.

Then I discovered TV shows on DVD. I watched several seasons of The Sopranos, the entire series of Homicide: Life on the Streets (highly recommended: watch the entire 1st season before making a judgement, it gets better after a few episodes), the first 4 seasons of The Shield, and the 1st 2 seasons of Lost by renting them on Netflix. I find that after work I still have the attention span for 45 minute episodes even though I don't want to watch a feature length film.

But, I think I'm dangerously close to being one of the high-velocity customers that the algorithm punishes, and so I may have to jump to this system. I was certainly pleased about this deal.

Now if only they could hire more knowledgeable sales clerks... but that's a different rant for a different day.

Bear with us...
My apologies that RFTR was down yesterday—despite Blogger's claim that the upgrade to "The New Blogger" would take only a minute or two, it took pretty much the whole day. We're good to go now, though.

Also, both Tanstaafl and I are on vacation for the next few days, with somewhat limited access to the internet. I have a post I've been working on that I hope to post over the holiday weekend, but may not appear until early next week.

We'll do our best, but please bear with us.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Iraq: Constructive Chaos
I was out of the loop for most of the weekend due to Christmas shopping and several hours of hanging new artwork in my apartment.

When I did pull my head up for some air (and some news) I discovered that the current talk in foreign policy circles is for a plan to send another 30,000 troops to Iraq to turn the tide. That seems to be overly optimistic and somewhat irrational thinking to me.

If we are going to persist in trying to stabilize the country, then we either need to triple the number of troops (impossible with only American forces) or at the very least, change the rules of engagement as Mr. Hanson suggests.

I do not however, think either option will work. I continue to believe that the only achievable option in America's national security interests is to get regional powers such as Iran, Syria, and Saudi Arabia engaged in Iraq.

However, unlike John Kerry, by getting them engaged, I do not mean that we should show up in Tehran on our knees and promise to ease sanctions and rhetoric if they help stabilize the country. Instead, I would allow those nations to engage each other as Iraq becomes the central battlefield in a region-wide conflict to establish a new Caliphate.

Some have argued (including myself) that Iran and Syria know that a chaotic Iraq is not in their long-term interests. Mr. Hanson disagrees:

Iran's own military commanders praise the present violence there for tying down American forces, and presumably giving them a pass to continue their bomb-making, whether nuclear or IEDs.
While this makes sense, the conclusion that I would draw, is that Iran will find the chaos in Iraq troublesome if it is no longer "tying down American forces."

At this point, a civil war in the country seems nearly inevitable, and we can not allow our troops to get caught in the middle. Therefore, we should:

1) Withdraw troops from Iraqi cities.
2) Station them at fewer but highly defensible bases in the desert.
3) Protect oil infrastructure against terrorist attacks.
4) Strengthen our quick reaction force capabilities and use them to hunt Al Qaeda and foreign terrorists.

These suggestions are not new, in fact they echo policy options in Rumsfeld's now famous memo.

The main objection to a policy of this nature is that without US forces securing the cities, Shiite death squads will eradicate any Sunnis in their paths.

I am less and less concerned that this will be a problem. Based on recent reports, I believe that the Saudi's will make good on their threat/promise and begin arming and funding the Sunnis in Iraq:
One hopes [President Bush] won't make the same mistake again by ignoring the counsel of Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United States, Prince Turki al-Faisal, who said in a speech last month that "since America came into Iraq uninvited, it should not leave Iraq uninvited." If it does, one of the first consequences will be massive Saudi intervention to stop Iranian-backed Shiite militias from butchering Iraqi Sunnis.
Mr. Obaid is trying to make this sound ominous, but I view it as promising.

Saudi Arabia knows that a nuclear-armed Iran with hegemeny over the Middle East will be very dangerous for them. They will fight tooth and nail to make sure that does not happen.

This war will draw in many of the surrounding counties. Jihadists will flood into the conflict to fight for the honor and glory of their tribes. They will forget, at least temporarily, their hatred for West and focus on annihilating other Arabs.

We can capitalize on their distraction as long as we A) make sure our troops have been withdrawn from the middle of the conflict and B) ensure that all sides know that anyone who uses the chaos as an opportunity to attack Israel will have a difficult time pumping their oil through the glass.