Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Fun new multilateralism…now including al Qaida!

In a previous post, I questioned the wisdom of involving ourselves in Libya’s internal civil war.


Now that we’ve let dozens of expensive missiles off the chain and lost one of my favorite airplanes (and shot some friendly villagers in the rescue of the pilot), I still think it’s a really bad idea.

In fact, a couple days ago, I coined the “Pulsipher Doctrine” to reduce the decision making process for involvement in military campaigns to simple mathematics. In this case, binary mathematics…

“If France and Italy are strongly in favor of the operation, don’t do it.”

       Pulsipher Doctrine, version 1

truckAs Jay Leno said last night, “Do you notice how shiny all the French planes are? It’s like they’ve never been used before!”

However, after reading press reports today of al Qaida support for the Libyan rebels, I have revised my doctrine:

“If France and Italy, or a worldwide terror network whom you are already fighting in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Somalia, Yemen, the Philippines and many other global garden spots, are strongly in favor of the operation, don’t do it.”

      Pulsipher Doctrine, version 2

That’s right folks…this fun new multilateralism is SO expansive and open minded that we’ve found ourselves indirectly allied with our mortal enemy. That can’t be a very good sign.

Kidding aside, let me list a few of the obvious problems with our involvement in Libya:

  • NATO is not the right organization for this. NATO’s charter is to defend member states (Libya isn’t one) against aggression – this is Article 5 of the NATO charter. Article 5 is why NATO was involved in Afghanistan after 9/11 – which is the first time Article 5 was ever invoked.
  • A “No Fly Zone” doesn’t normally involve interdiction of ground operations – a.k.a. blowing up tanks.
  • We don’t know who we are supporting. The same is true in Egypt, Bahrain, Tunisia, etc. Not every conflict involves good guys and bad guys. Sometimes two bad guys fight. Is that the case here? We don’t seem interested in finding out. The British sent a team in to make contact with the rebels in early March, and the rebels captured them and sent them packing in disgrace.
  • Finally, no one in the administration, from the president on down, seems to be able to elaborate on any plan or goals. They can tell us “no ground troops – ever” and “we’re going to quit soon”, but aside from informing Gadhafi of our limits, the rationale is a mystery wrapped in an enigma. If it is about saving oppressed people, there are plenty of those around who are daily being shot at and threatened and we don’t seem as eager to engage in those places.

So after complaining about two wars in Muslim countries – including one “war of choice”, President Obama has now chosen to start a third. What’s more, the “coalition” that Obama has joined (when he wasn’t busy with his NCAA brackets) is half the size of the Bush’s “unilateral” attack on Iraq. As reported, Bush’s coalition consisted of:

Coalition Countries - Iraq - 2003

Afghanistan Albania
Australia Azerbaijan
Bulgaria Colombia
Czech Republic Denmark
El Salvador Eritrea
Estonia Ethiopia
Georgia Hungary
Italy Japan
South Korea Latvia
Lithuania Macedonia
Netherlands Nicaragua
Philippines Poland
Romania Slovakia
Spain Turkey
United Kingdom Uzbekistan

Coalition Countries – Libya – 2011



Denmark France
Germany Greece
Italy Jordan
Morocco Norway
Poland Qatar
Spain United Arab Emirates
United Kingdom al Qaida*

*Italy and Germany were on the list, but have sort of bailed out at this point. Luckily al Qaida has been added to the Libyan coalition based on the new information reported above. And with so few members in the coalition, another participant does help pad the list.

As a side note, just let me say about the Iraq coalition, anytime you can get Ethiopia and Eritrea on the same side of anything, that’s pretty good diplomacy.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Target: Libya

oilrichThe news lately from Libya and hearing the names of important places in the conflict like Ras Lanuf, Sirte, Brega, Benghazi stirred my memory to a past military career - not my current one, my old one. I thought back to 1987 and my memories of anxious hours spent in missions over some of these exact same locations that occupy the news coverage right now.

I dug out one of my old target maps of the AO (Area of Operations) and memories came flooding back.


DSCF0359Missions start with a target briefing. In this case, you can see the target is the oil terminal at Ras Lanuf – so much discussed of late. Get ready for some $5 gas, people. We all have to sacrifice!



DSCF0365The next step is to select the proper armament for the mission. In this case, I will be taking one stick of Sidewinders – for self-defense against Libya’s still capable air force. I’ve got a couple Mavericks for stand off attacks on patrol boats or surface to air missile sites. For the actual target run, I’ve selected a mix of laser guided GBU-12 bombs and incendiary cluster bombs. How about a little fire there, Scarecrow?  Perfect for attacking an oil facility.

DSCF0369Sitting in the dark, my palms began to sweat. I review the map and mission brief. Then I kick the tires, light the fires and take off into the dark. 
My eyes wander between my various displays and controls and out the cockpit to see the inky blackness of the Gulf of Sirte. An alarm sounds – stealth or no, a patrol boat has a radar lock on me.

DSCF0378It’s already dawn as I approach Ras Lanuf. One of the things I remember about Libya in the 1980s was the startling lack of dimensionality in the structures.

I hit the target, drop down to Angels 2 and book it out of the air defense envelope.

Yes, I remember those many hours sitting in the dark office room of our Japanese apartment flying mission after mission over Libya, Iran and eastern Europe. Good old Microprose Project Stealth Fighter on the Commodore 64. So intense and yet so educational. I feel well prepared to watch the news now.
And I’m very glad that I still have my original C-64 (and several others). I also have my original copy of Project Stealth Fighter that I waited excitedly to be released back in 1987 (along with two other pristine copies I bought in case anything happens to the original).


On the other hand, maybe I should have spent more of those nighttime hours with my lonely newly married wife instead.

Friday, March 4, 2011

The new Microsoft “Transform” tablet…

…and I scored one for FREE!!!
You gotta love working at a company where you get great swag like a free tablet just for showing up at an all-hands meeting for the new, reorganized Interactive Entertainment Business (IEB) group.

This new tablet is super portable, lightweight and runs basically forever. These aren’t available publicly yet, but I am giving you a first glimpse right here.

ClosedYou can see here that this new tablet has a very familiar and approachable look. Other than the little Xbox logo in the corner, you could easily mistake this for any traditional pad of paper.

A deeper look shows that the while the familiarity remains, this is a much more sophisticated device.


FamiliarUIBy quickly flipping open the “smart cover”, the tablet is instantly ready for you to use. No long boot up sequence. Notice that it looks like a regular sheet of paper, but with a twist. The Transform tablet “pages” are imprinted with a special SmartGrid that actually helps the user keep their lines straight – both horizontally and vertically. And turning the pages requires just a swipe of a finger – although in this first release you do sometimes need to lick your finger first. That should be fixed in an update to be released soon.



The ability to manage your calendar and contacts is a must for any serious tablet contender. The Transform tablet doesn’t skimp on in these areas. The calendar shows a full year at a glance and allows you to zoom in on a single month, week or day simply by holding the tablet closer to your face.


When it comes to contacts, the Transform tablet allows you to store as many as 10(!) friends – which is way more than anyone who works in the software business will ever need.


GamesLike it or not, there’s no disputing the fact that the less sophisticated iPad has shown how important it is to have a lot of fun and engaging multiplayer games available. The Transform tablet not only has great games available right now, but thanks to the Smart Pad multitasking, you can play any number of games at the same time – limited only by how many fit on the page at the same time.

notesGames are not enough though. You need productivity too. Thankfully, the  Transform tablet support rich handwriting and drawing capabilities. You can easily take notes during a meeting and use simple gestures to make quick changes and modifications and save the notes for later use. You can easily add headings, bullets, and add emphasis – simply by using the gestures you already know!

I know what you are wondering…“Will this tablet connect with my the phone I have today?” You’ll be happy to know the answer is a resounding “YES!” You can easily set your phone on top of the pad to prop it up, or you can put the pad on top of the phone to keep dust off your phone. And you can use the phone at the same time as you use the tablet.

I, for one, am SUPER EXCITED about that Microsoft is finally, finally stepping into the tablet game and that they’ve not simply copied what competitors are doing. For example, it was a decision to go beyond just leaving out Cut & Paste (as with Windows Phone 7) but to eliminate electronics entirely – saving weight and improving overall reliability! How else to describe that than BOLD!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Musings on tyranny, rebellion and national sovereignty

The recent events in the Middle East and Africa – Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Oman, Bahrain, etc. - have me wondering about the right of sovereign nations when it comes to internal rebellion.

lincolnMany southern contemporaries considered Abraham Lincoln a tyrant. In fact, after shooting him, John Wilkes Booth famously jumped to the stage and shouted, “Sic semper tyrannis” (Latin for “Thus always to tyrants” and also the state motto of Virginia). To this day, there continues to be a slow simmering debate on the topic, as illustrated by Dave Gibson’s article from 2005. Brad Schaeffer rightly referred to “Lincoln the ‘tyrant’ – the Libertarian’s favorite bogeyman”. At the very least, it can be agreed that Lincoln suspended aspects of the Constitution in order to save the whole of it. To his defense, his was neither the first nor the last administration to take such measures during wartime and that historically seems to be within the authority of the Executive under our system. 

Clearly, I’m neither equating Gadhafi with Lincoln, nor coming out in libya1favor of tyranny generally here. Many of the leaders in these country were at best benign dictators and often far worse. Rather my point is to what extent the recognized government of a sovereign nation has the right to put down uprisings – particularly organized and armed uprisings – within its own borders. Despite press reports – which seem forever drawn to the romanticism of the “peasant uprising” – when the “protesters” start to look like the ones in this picture manning the anti-aircraft gun, they stop being civilians and start becoming legitimate military targets.

In all the political debates about Libya, no one is debating that Gadhafi is the recognized head of state of the recognized government of Libya and has been, unfortunately, for decades. And yet, there seems to be a strange level of comfort with other nations telling that government what they should do – perhaps at threat of force. As US Defense Secretary Robert Gates called out in Congressional testimony today, even imposing a no-fly zone requires a military attack against Libya.

Consider, though, if today South Carolina attacked Ft Sumter and seceded and the US federal government moved against them, would the UN put a no fly zone in-place and urge restraint? Would Lincoln have listened? Should he have?

One genius of the US as a federal republic is that it is NOT a democracy. Thomas Jefferson famously regarded democracy as “mob rule”. Plato, in his criticism of democracy, quoted Socrates:

“Democracy, which is a charming form of government, full of variety and disorder, and dispensing a sort of equality to equals and unequaled alike.”

Nation-states are not required to commit governmental suicide in order to legitimize every form of popular protest. If this were the requirement, we’d have had no recourse against the Confederacy, slavery would not have been abolished, and other portions of the United States would probably have seceded in subsequent years for other reasons.

When there is sufficient energy in a society to stand up for themselves and force a change (for better or worse), then those people and groups need to be willing to take the risks and establish their own legitimacy before other nations rush in to make things “right”. In fact, it is this very type of well intentioned external meddling that has led to long term instability in countries from Cuba to the Philippines to just about every country in Latin America. As a society, these countries were bestowed with representative governments before they had attained the level of literacy, education, and financial stability to prevent them from sliding into corruption – which is the tendency of all forms of government.