I've finally tracked down the problem I was having with the RSS feeds. The short version is, Web 2.0 technology is still a bit twitchy. Or, at least, the way one service provider (not Typepad) was handling RSS was being helpful in an unhelpful way.
There's a problem with the RSS feed for Arms and Influence that is eating the time I would spend posting. Among other unfortunate side effects, the latest podcast isn't showing up in the iTunes Music Store. As soon as I the Typepad people help fix this problem, I'll get back to posting.
The links go to more information about these games. To purchase
games that are in print, check out online game retailers, such as Boulder Games or Fair Play Games. Otherwise, eBay is your best bet for finding out of print titles.
I had some minor sound editing issues during this podcast, so the quality is not as good as it should be. This problem should disappear by the next podcast.
The war in Afghanistan remains an uphill battle--quite literally, for the unit of the 10th Mountain Division profiled in this Salon article. Worth reading for a lot of reasons, not least of which is the work still left to be done. One of my greatest fears is that the Iraq hangover will cause many Americans to lose interest in Afghanistan, too.
Yesterday, I grumbled that American newspapers like the Washington
Post cover the Iraq war from a purely American perspective. In other words, the subjects of these
articles are American soldiers, American politicians and political appointees,
or American problems. Unfortunately, winning any counterinsurgency war requires
a deep understanding of the country where the civil war is taking place.
After I wrote that post, I realized that I left out an
important qualification. American journalists often do write about the citizens
of countries wracked by internal war. The content of these articles, while
sympathetic to the subject, are largely useless.
It’s hard to speak of these articles in the plural,
since they amount to re-wordings of the same story. Here is that
Ur-article, presented in the “fill-in-the-blank” format that I can neither confirm
nor deny reporters actually use:
___________ has lived in the village of ___________ for all [his/her] life. That was, until war came to the village.
Today, ___________ lives in [a refugee camp/fear].
“I don’t know where I’ll go, or what I’ll do,”
______________ said, clutching his ___________, a treasured keepsake. “Nowhere is safe.”
___________ story is all too familiar, in this war that
has claimed over ___________ lives. With the failure of negotiations between ___________ and ___________, there is no end to the violence in sight.
Still, ___________ clings to hope. “Every day I pray for
peace,” [he/she] said. "It’s all I can do."
What’s wrong with that? At the very least, this kind of
reporting draws attention to the conflicts themselves. Unfortunately, that’s
usually where the information stops.
After arousing sympathy and horror, the next step should be
a description of how these tragic circumstances came to be. Who’s fighting, and
why? What is the current state of the war? How is the conflict likely to unfold?
Is there anything the reader, or the reader’s elected officials, can do to
nudge these events towards an end to the suffering of people like [fill in the
That’s why I spoke highly of Digital Diplomat’s post about
the rivalry among Shi’ite factions in
Iraq, including SCIRI, the Army of
the Mahdi, and the Shi’ite dominated government. It’s also why many foreign
news sources do a better job of covering the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan
than the mainstream American news outlets. It’s also why it’s worth reading
blogs by the citizens of these countries (here's a sample list from Iraq), soldiers deployed to these war zones,
or even the occasional Middle East specialist,
such as the widely-cited Juan Cole.
No one deserves a Pulitzer for going to Iraq and
pointing a camera at the victims of a car bomb attack. Real reporting means
talking to the Iraqis, understanding the political forces propelling the war,
and writing clear, accurate, and useful stories. Otherwise, journalists are
behaving like besotted doctors who think their job is to describe the symptoms
their patients are suffering, without explaining the possible sources of their
ailments. (“Wow! Look at the lesions on that guy!”)
Here's another excellent post from Digital Diplomat. In this case, Justin is discussing the political snarl among competing Shi'ite factions. The Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) has pushed through the Iraqi legislature a bill that creates a semi-autonomous Shi'ite zone in the southern part of the country. Of course, that's the region through which oil exports pass into the Persian Gulf. Therefore, any group that dominates the new Shi'ite zone will have a great deal of clout.
Of course, SCIRI isn't the only Shi'ite faction around. The Army of the Mahdi has a different strategy in the great game of Iraqi politics:
As far as the Sadrists, the point of contention is that they will be
marginalized in the political sphere. An independent southern Shi’ite
autonomous zone will be controlled by the SCIRI and policed by its
militia. Under the central government, Sadr’s alliance with the Da’wa
party affords him a good deal of leverage and that leverage may well
Since the Bush Administration has worked hard to make US interests hostage to the Byzantine relations among Iraqi groups, you'd think that journalists might be covering current events in Iraq in just the terms that Digital Diplomat describes. Instead, today's Washington Post Middle East section is dominated by American journalists writing about Americans. Here are the headlines, as of this moment:
Majority of Americans Support Setting a Deadline for Troop Withdrawal, Poll Finds
Marine Killed in Anbar Province
No 'Brakes' on Iran Nuclear Effort
Bomber Targets Baghdad College; At Least 39 Students, 9 Guards Die
An Admonition on Intelligence
In other words, of the four stories ostensibly about Iraq, only one is really about Iraqis. Even that article is another article recounting another terrorist attack in another neighborhood in Baghdad. It is not a window into the political struggle that is driving the civil war, threatening to make the Iraqi constitution a waste of paper, and complicating efforts to fight insurgent groups like the ones who killed 48 Iraqis today.
Here's another parallel between Vietnam and Iraq: Americans talk about the war in a foreign country as if there were no people actually living there. At best, their supporting characters in a drama where the Americans play all the lead parts. The reality is exactly the opposite.