Monday, March 13, 2006

Council Winners

Late, as usual for me, but the Watcher's Council winners for the week are up.

Winner among council members was The Bloody Borders Project at Gates of Vienna, which, through painstaking work, actually manages to map (and graph) the "bloody borders" of Islam, a phrase made famous by Samuel Huntington.

Second place among council posts went to The Glittering Eye for From Way Up Here, a mighty bit of synthesis work (something Dave does particularly well), riffing on “The Breach” by New Sisyphus and Michael Reynolds' “A Not Entirely Crazy Idea.” Heck, even I'm in there somewhere.

Outside the council, I'm pleased to report the first-place post was Ex-Taliban at Yale: another changed mind? by blog-friend Neo-Neocon. I like her angle on the "ex-Taliban-at-Yale" story better than much of what I'm reading on the right-of-center blogosphere. Perhaps because, in part, like her, I believe in the transformative power of America and Americans on our one-time enemies. I remember the stories the old farmers told around Chester County, about the German POWs who were sent out there during World War II to labor in place of the young men then in uniform. How many of those average Germans went home with a great appreciation and respect for the U.S. that they never would have acquired had they simply been kept in pens at home.

Second place in this category was a tie. Just a Passing Thought... by Varifrank, a look at Iran's nuclear ambitions with some historical examples.

The other was Shop and Awe by Intel Dump, which is a fantastic post, for my money.

During 2003, I was an intelligence officer assigned to CENTCOM in support of Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom. I worked hard to win, but the military machine of which I was a tiny part can only secure a partial victory. If U.S. trade policy were better adapted to the post 9/11 world, we might ultimately win by dropping more currency than cruise missiles. Call it “shop and awe”.

I spent the initial phases of Iraqi Freedom in Qatar. Right after, we had declared “mission accomplished”, CENTCOM lowered the force protection level enough for a few of us go exploring the in the souk, or market, in Doha, Qatar. Two of us wandered into a shop selling beautiful Persian silk rugs.

“You are American soldiers?” the proprietor asked in accented English. Damn, the haircut gives us away every time.

“Yes sir,” I replied. “Where are you from in the world?”

“Iran,” he stated glaring defiantly from under his turban--a challenge probably borne from watching too much “reality” TV on Al Jazzera.

“Really?” I replied. “It’s too bad our two countries don’t get along better. My grandfather spent some time in Iran, and he loved it.” (After thirty years in the Air Force, his military adventures are so much better than mine.)

It wasn’t the reply he was expecting, and the glare turned into a quizzical stare. I started looking around. My family has several nice rugs from my grandfather’s travels so I know a little about them. I showed my buddy how the weave in the silk makes them appear to change colors based on the angle you look at them.

As they say, go and read the whole thing.