State Department has watched Gangs of New York, says "We don't have a gang, we have an army."
- I'm not wholly comfortable with non-military contractors doing military things. Not for the OMG Security Nation! thing that WaPo is pushing, because that's a completely unsurprising non-issue. But it makes the money easier to hide, removes huge chunks of oversight, and isn't, you know, proven to be legal. The people quoted are right, there is going to be a lasting presence in Iraq one way or another. That's another unsurprising non-issue. But hiding the same guns under a different hat makes the invasion one step closer to imperial occupation. It makes the military that much more permanent by putting under State, which will, of course, always be in Iraq (and any other country with a US embassy, for the record). So as a carrier of one of the blue passports, it means that I'm that much closer to being an imperialist. That's kind of disconcerting.
- I'm not going to act like I understand Congelese issues (except for Baloji, who is actually Belgian but hey), but I defer to Texas in Africa when I do. And this is, for me, the takeaway quote: "They don't understand why the overarching focus on minerals has come to dominate international discourse on the region while the vexing problems that actually drive the violence there - land tenure rights, citizenship rights, and the state's inability to establish a monopoly on violence - continue to fester." That is, with conflict minerals, the issue is the conflict, not the minerals. Minerals are going to be extracted one way or another, and it helps to be involved in some regard in order to guide the extraction to be somewhat sane. But that takes patience, a strong hand, and deep knowledge of the region. All of which are, of course, lacking. Really, its pretty similar to the Craig Murray and Uzbekistan drama, which I have been able to follow pretty well, and which there are two pretty distinct camps on. I'm firmly in the Hamm/Tucker "engagement is necessary" side, but there are plenty of smart people who aren't.
- How Russian (versus vaguely Caucasian/Central Russian) with a name like Dadaev is up for debate, but its still one of those "huh weird" sort of moments that happen in the mountains. And hey, Zaman wants to tell YOU about Ergenekon!
- Interesting article about "Team Canada", some sort of armed NGO hybrid. It's an interesting read that makes you realize that there are no dichotomies in Afghanistan whatsoever so stop writing like there are because there's not did you hear me there's not. Plus, the "Afghanistan is basically just Manitoba" is one of my un-sarcastic favorite quotes out there.
- I'm sure somebody would love to spin this in some asinine way, but I love these sort of articles. Life in Exotic, Oriental, Central Asia...just kind of goes. People grow up, have kids, and want to raise their kids with intrinsic moral compasses. So they go to Sunday School and Summer Camps. This seems to be part of Schwartz's CyberChaikana project, which is pretty cool. And again, Tajikistan for Tajikistan's sake. Not everything that happens there is about their foreign policy. Sometimes kids just want to learn to read and ask if God has a big toe.