Friday, August 30, 2002

ZoNotes: I'm Movin' On

From the First to the Last
Today is my last day as Associate Editor for the Marine Corps Gazette. The last 2 years have been both productive and fulfilling, as I enhanced both my knowledge of the Marine Corps itself and the American defense establishment as a whole. I am grateful for having the time to develop strongly in these fields. The page has turned on a stimulating time in my life. As we leave the summer and proceed to the crisp serenity of the fall, I will be looking for gainful employment.

The Planes And Buses of August
The baseball players' union moved considerably on the issue of the luxury tax for baseball, but as Keith Olbermann of notes, the owners are the ones now playing the role of the hard-liners. Many many factors begin to play in these last hours before the Union strikes. First off, the players have already demonstrated tremendous goodwill by not striking immediately at midnight, which indicates that there is a deal to be made. Some $6 million separates the owners from the players in regards to the luxury tax. Everything else -- drug testing regimes, etc., don't particularly matter at this late juncture.
This is the "August 1914" for baseball -- with the competing elements caught somewhere between playing today and resorting to a strike. For logistical concerns, the union is already in virgin territory. Either the buses and charter flights move to take players to their Friday games or they don't. The union could really push the institutional envelope and send the players to their destinations, and if by noon no deal is reached, order the planes and buses to turn back to their respective cities.
Let me emphasize the point here that I think everybody is overlooking -- only one side here can kill the World Series. That group is the owners. The players can stop the season, but it's the owners who in 1994 called off the postseason and swallowed the cost of lost television rights. Both the creditors and Fox Network will call in debts with the owners. In fact, the very same "hawkish" "small-market" owners -- San Diego, Chicago White Sox, Boston, Houston that would rail against a deal are the same owners with so much to lose in terms of revenue. Again, DO NOT TRUST THE OWNERS. THEY CANNOT BE TRUSTED. With all that said, it's going to be a big weekend for college football. With the NFL a week away from the season opener, and baseball likely out of sync, college gridiron figures to dominate!

ZoDad contributes today's wordplay
"Opportunities sometimes exist outside of one's comfort zone"
as spoken by a purchaser (Deborah Norwood) for the Texas Building and Procurement Commission."

Thursday, August 29, 2002

ZoNotes Salvaje

Today I'm going to take a brief break from Iraq-talk and engage in some cotton candy discussion. Does anyone who watch tv know who the "good guys" are in Univision's Gata Salvaje? Every single character seems eminently unpleasant! Great theme song, though.

Buffy Rant
We're a little under a month from the 24 September premier of the 7th season of Buffy. The Parents Television Council, a right-leaning thinktank backed by the Media Research Center, rated the UPN demonslaying drama as the worst show on network television. How wrong can these guys be? The show's graphic violence, gutter-porn sex, and they-kiss-their-mothers-with-that-mouth? language was only a prominent feature in Season 6, and given the trajectory of the story arc, fit neatly into the stream. The show does a great job of exposing consequences of action and the gradual maturation of the show's protagonists. It is great high fiction and has a campy dynamic that doesn't make it too heavy. Plus, creator Joss Whedon has done a tremendous job asserting themes of struggle, conflict, fear, hope, redemption, and fulfillment. The uninitiated to the Buffy mythos should watch Seasons 2 and 3, which were especially strong and vibrant chapters that had some of the best episodes in modern television history, period. You don't get a finer blend of action, plot, and acting anywhere else -- ABC's Alias comes close, but gets too convoluted. Score one for Buffy, folks.

Top 5 Returns
A fellow ZoNoter once told me that the video game generation spawned an army of well-indoctrinated, hand-eye coordinated, violence desensitized, cyberwarriors ready for 4th-generation warfare. That's a pretty tough pill to swallow, especially when the protagonists for many of these games were chubby Italian plumbers or big angry gorillas. But, consider the reality. The Marine Corps is using the highly popular Operation Flashpoint to help train infantry units. The Army's latest recruiting drive includes a game on its website that sets the player on either career or individual mission tracks. All that said, this simulation nation that we live in binds us.
So, what do you think are the Top 5 video games of all time? Again, like previous Top 5 lists, the selections are purely subjective and no scientific analysis whatsoever will go into the evaluations.

"A vaccine must cure both the disease and the fear in order to work."

Wednesday, August 28, 2002

ZoNotes: Oh Baby Yoooooooou, Got What I Need!!! But you say I'm just a friend...

Third-Party Deterrence
Any American operation against Iraq aimed to depose Saddam Hussein must take into account both the strength of the Israeli deterrent and the willingness of the current leadership in Tel Aviv to use it once a major SW Asian war begins. Saddam's chemical/biological arsenal will most likely be fired not against massed allied invasion troops; instead, a series of toxin-armed SCUDS will most likely descend on Israel. During the Gulf War, the H.W. Bush Administration successfully restrained Israeli firepower after numerous SCUD raids tried to goad the Shamir government into action. The parameters are a lot different now. If a major chemical strike hits Tel Aviv, Haifa, or Jerusalem west of the Arab quadrant, the pressure for Israel to respond with its "undeclared" nuclear option will be enormous. In fact, what may be deterring Washington from immediate action against Baghdad is not the fear of a direct strike on American forces, but an indirect one against Israel. Technically, nothing binds Israel to Washington in the way that NATO binds European protection to the American presence there. Of Washington's major allies, Israel has the most independent armed component.

Once Israeli forces commit to the field, it will be nearly impossible to call them back. The Israelis likely have multiple forms of delivery -- artillery shells, "free-fall" bombs, precision-guided munitions, and missiles. Perhaps the only factor that could prevent the introduction of the nuclear arsenal is the presence of American troops in Iraq itself.

But, would Israeli PM Ariel Sharon hold back if sarin or botulism hit Israel's population? Israel's credibility and national survival would rely exculsively on Washington. And missiles may not be the only problem. Chemical-strapped homicide bombers could also follow or even coincide with SCUD raids.

The prospect of all these weapons being introduced in-theater must raise eyes at the Pentagon and at U.S. Central Command in Florida. Any American invasion force would then need to have an additional layer of protection -- tactical nuclear weapons of their own, targeted at whatever stockpiles remain in Iraq. What if Saddam fired chemical weapons at American bases in Turkey? That's an automatic Article V contingency under the North Atlantic Charter; the erstwhile reluctant NATO allies couldn't ignore that kind of strike. The dynamic of back-and-forth blows hasn't been explored -- we speak in abstract generalities. And remember, this is Iraq in a defensive posture. What happens when Iraq adds the nuclear layer to its bio-chem arsenal and decides to resume offensive operations?

"Recognizing a threat doesn't address it."

Tuesday, August 27, 2002

ZoNotes: It's Too Late, To Turn Back Now. I believe I believe I believe I'm Fallin' In Love...

I'm back from the hiatus. Hiatuses are for the birds.

Last night before I went to sleep I caught a couple of episodes of MTV's reality show about sorority life. For those familiar with my extracurriculars at Georgetown, the sorority depicted on the show is the IRC on estrogen.

All Roads Lead to Boulder?
On Saturday I caught snippets (on television, this movie, originally released on ABC as a weeklong miniseries, was packed into 8 hours on USA Network) of the film adaptation of Stephen King's apocalyptic epic The Stand. For those unfamiliar with the details: a U.S. government biological weapon is accidentally released into society, causing the death of over 99% of the world's population. The survivors, immune to the "superflu", descend upon either Boulder, CO and Las Vegas, NV, drawn to those places by the virtuous Mother Abigail or the evil Randall Flagg. A grand story ensues. I read parts of The Stand back in 1994 during my sophomore year in high school, and I thought that the chapters describing the chaos of the superflu were the thrust of the story. However, now, I think that the flu device was an instrument that King used to focus the fight between hope and despair, between the light and the darkness -- between good and evil. Every author needs a story like this, conveyed in different ways. Dare I say, the journey of the 4 survivors to combat Flagg in Las Vegas is broadly similar to Tolkien's Fellowship of the Ring journey to Mordor. I don't know where King got his inspiration for The Stand, but it is a spine-tingling read.

When the Branches Crossed
The Bush Adminstration's legal aides rolled out the concept that the 1991 congressional authorization for the use of force against Iraq is still in effect, legally freeing the Administration to pursue a military campaign absent legislative consent. That said, I don't think it's a good idea to completely bypass Congress on this issue. The argument is so unique and stretches the mandate for an Iraqi campaign so long that it's either going to work cleanly or fail miserably. I don't know which will happen yet. Look, I'm supportive of a preemptive, unilateral campaign against Iraq and Saddam Hussein. I would prefer to have at least one active participant ally (the UK) and passive nonopposition from the surrounding Arab states. The risks of letting someone like him manufacture and maintain a chem/bio/nuclear/radiological deterrent are unacceptable. I'm all for bucking the squishy backbone of the United Nations and the European Union, but the Administration would help itself if it secured some sort of "gold star" from Congress.

"It's only a lecture if the person you're talking to is listening."