Thursday, March 06, 2003


Should U.S. and assembled coalition forces begin military action in the coming weeks against Iraq, the most important players won't necessarily be the fighter aircraft armed with a variety of smart weapons and precision-guided munitions. The most important single group of weapons systems will be the coalition special operations forces, the Israeli Arrow ballistic missile defense network, and the batteries of Patriot missile launchers that would back up the Arrow should it fail.

In my opinion, Saddam Hussein's likely first target for his arsenal of SCUD and evolved SCUD missiles will be Israel, perhaps within the first 18 hours or so of the first full-out coalition airstrikes. The importance of the Arrow missile system is on a paramount level, because it ensures that Tel Aviv can defend itself without having to literally enter the theater with its own combat aircraft. Hopefully our SOF professionals can destroy as many launchers before the Iraqis can juice up their weapons and fire them. Should the Arrows miss, and Iraq is lucky enough to get weapons off into the air, then the Patriots are the last line of defense.

In 1991, the SCUD hunt was considered a strategic liability vice kicking the Iraqis out of Kuwait. On the other hand, this time around, the SCUDs are part of the reason the coalition is going after Iraq in the first place.

Should conflict become a reality -- try to keep focus on western Iraq and the level of activity down there.

Wordplay Dump!
"Does Afghanistan = Hellmouth?" ZoMom Victoria Vergara
" We're dealing not with isolated terrorism...but with a broader movement to reject freedom, democracy and modernity itself." -- Robert Bartley, Wall Street Journal
"Being in the Marine Corps is like being in the Boy Scouts...except the Boy Scouts have adult supervision."--Overheard at a defense procurement conference in Virginia.

Wednesday, March 05, 2003


Chai To Ashes
Today is Ash Wednesday, beginning the Lent season. As a Catholic, I gave up chai tea and bagels with cream cheese, one of my favorite breakfast combinations. Nothing can beat the sugar rush of a grande vanilla chai from St. Elmo's down on Mt. Vernon Ave. in Alexandria.

Korean Posturing
The situation of the Korean peninsula has triggered a variety of the usual diplomatic-military moves. Earlier this week, an Air Force RC-135 recon plane was intercepted and shadowed by a quartet of North Korean MiGs. Conversely, in a pre-planned deployment, B-1 and B-52H bombers were sent to Guam. Now, this isn't exactly a "direct" response to the North Koreans' harassment of the RC-135. Indeed, if the U.S. wanted to send a clear message to the mercurial N. Korean despot Kim Jong Il, it could have added fighter escorts to the recon missions that operate in international waters.

The N. Koreans' action reminds me of the EP-3 incident in the Pacific two years ago, when a Chinese J-8 fighter collided with a Navy EP-3E maritime intelligence patrol aircraft, forcing the EP-3 crew to land on the Chinese island of Hainan and resulting in President Bush's first diplomatic test. The N. Koreans are certainly a problem, but we have a ways to go before we're talking major, war-like crisis. Granted, we can travel down that road rather quickly, but we aren't there yet.

Instead of bombers in Guam, I would have been more keen on actually providing protection for the RC-135s and other planes conducting intel missions. That would force the issue with the N. Koreans to see if they were actually serious about shooting down the aircraft. Four F-15s or F/A-18s flying escort for the recon jets would serve as a pretty durable deterrent, ensuring there won't be a "next time" for N. Korean MiGs to play chicken with unarmed aircraft.

The point here is that the N. Koreans want favorable terms for whatever constitutes an eventual "negotiating table." Kim wants the U.S. alone in bilateral talks. The U.S. is forcing the other countries in the region to deal with the Korean problem by pushing for a multilateral framework.

We were closer to a peninsula war in 1994, when the U.S. considered airstrikes to deprive the North of its nuclear reactors. Like I said earlier, the situation could deteriorate quickly, but other things have to happen -- such as N. Korean troop movements along the frontier, and if the MiGs actually fire one of their missiles.

Tuesday, March 04, 2003


Diplomat Games
The primary reason President Bush and the U.S. went to the UN Security Council for a "second" resolution authorizing force against Iraq was to offer political cover to Spain, Italy, and Britain. However, if that proposed resolution falls to a French, Chinese or Russian veto, the U.S. will proceed to act alone anyway. I think it was good sense to go to the UN insofar as that the interlude allowed the U.S. and the Brits to field major ground forces in the region.

As I said previously, Tony Blair can sustain a leftist insurrection, and successfully beaten back his own Labour party when it rebelled last week. Spanish PM Jose Maria Aznar, given recent electoral success, can ignore the antiwar leftist agitators that protest.

From a purely mechanical standpoint, this is interesting diplomacy. The French-German-Russo-Sino "axis" is organized on one common principle -- diminishing the power of the United States. This is really the first time such an axis has really taken the field. French President Chirac is risking his own country's standing. Usually, after France leaves the NATO flock, America forgives it. Whether or not the current Administration does after France's chicanery is at this juncture an open question.

Monday, March 03, 2003


I Didn't Do It, He Had It Coming
I saw Chicago on Saturday night, quite curious as to what the movie was about being that I have never seen the musical on stage before. Holy jumping Jesuits, it was a great movie. Catherine Zeta-Jones does a tremendous job, and Queen Latifah steals the show as "Mama."

Plus, I loved the way the overall production mocks the media. Working as a reporter, I can appreciate some of the dynamics that the movie exploits. Indeed, even though this movie is "set" in the past, it hits with a nail on the head the great media circuses of the 1990s -- the OJ trial, Impeachment, Election smackdown 2000, etc.

The humor is witty and sharp and the dance sequences some of the most energetic and demanding -- especially the "Cell Block Tango" scene.

Earlier in the weekend, I also had a chance to watch the hilarious Old School with fellow alumnus Sean Mullaney (F'00). In a way, it is basically "Animal House Lite", but it's still a gut-buster of a movie. Vince Vaughn in particular lends the movie a bit of attitude to make it great. And with various homages to other films, Old School is definitely a winner.