Wednesday, April 7, 2010

On Africa and gross oversimplification

Jeffrey Gettleman, the Africa Bureau Chief from the New York Times, has this ridiculous column on Foreign Policy's site. It's titled ''Africa's Forever Wars: Why the Continent's Conflicts Never End" and it features his usual drivel about senseless violence and the "baffling" nature of conflict in Africa.

I'll take a page from Texas in Africa and Derek Catsam--whose comprehensive criticism you should read--and paste the first two paragraphs to give you a preview.

There is a very simple reason why some of Africa's bloodiest, most brutal wars never seem to end: They are not really wars. Not in the traditional sense, at least. The combatants don't have much of an ideology; they don't have clear goals. They couldn't care less about taking over capitals or major cities -- in fact, they prefer the deep bush, where it is far easier to commit crimes. Today's rebels seem especially uninterested in winning converts, content instead to steal other people's children, stick Kalashnikovs or axes in their hands, and make them do the killing. Look closely at some of the continent's most intractable conflicts, from the rebel-laden creeks of the Niger Delta to the inferno in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and this is what you will find.

What we are seeing is the decline of the classic African liberation movement and the proliferation of something else -- something wilder, messier, more violent, and harder to wrap our heads around. If you'd like to call this war, fine. But what is spreading across Africa like a viral pandemic is actually just opportunistic, heavily armed banditry. My job as the New York Times' East Africa bureau chief is to cover news and feature stories in 12 countries. But most of my time is spent immersed in these un-wars.

They don't have ideologies? They don't have political grievances or clear goals? There are no political dimensions to these conflicts? They're un-wars because the rebels don't want to take the capital? What planet does he live on? This kind of nonsense drives me up the wall. I'll spare you the rest of my rant.

39 comments:

  1. Actually, some of that I agree with, Lil. While I don't much like an essentialist notion of "Africa," one could say that some of what we've come to discuss as "post-Maoist" has its origin in our understanding of the wars in Africa.

    I don't much care for his Friedmanesque blathering about "un-wars" that kills many hundreds of thousands of people, but one could make a point about the evolving nature of revolutionary war and how it's less and less obviously "political" in the Maoist sense, and much more a competition for resources.

    SNLII

    ReplyDelete
  2. Oh mon Dieu! The author's generalization and characterization of the African people is something that oculd be cut and pasted from 19th century US or early 20th centery colonialism. Reminds me of the passage,

    "The negro is not a man in the civilized sense but a savage incapable of rational thought, moral obligation, citizenry, or governance. Instead, he must be constrained by the whip lest he succomb to his sinful ways ravashing our women in rape and murder." - Paraphrased KKK writings circa 1929

    This essay is not post-maoism. It's modern racism under the guise of serious academic study.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Post-Maoist doesn't mean apolitical, and I've no idea how competition for resources (especially land resources) can be construed as non-Maoist. I think Kalyvas and Kocher's 2007 paper on ethnic cleavages in the Vietnam war suggests the reality was never as clear as the theory.

    Gettleman's little rant is symptomatic of too many journos: they see (and report), but don't understand. The conflicts they cover don't fit into their (mostly limited) understanding of war and politics, so they can't put individual incidents into larger context.

    And as Lil points out, he's just plain wrong. For a particularly good rebuttal from one of the most brutal African theaters, read Thierry Vircoulon's excellent chapter on the Ituri conflict in The Struggle over Land in Africa: Conflicts, Politics & Change

    ReplyDelete
  4. No, it's not, MikeF.

    Lil, I'm sorry but I found "Texas in Africa" to be equally as reductive.

    This was hilarious: "Of course, anyone who seriously studies the region will tell you in a heartbeat that the Congo war is not now and never was a "resource war."

    Except when it has been for several actors in the drama. Perhaps they didn't intend for the seizing and exploitation of mineral resources to be the goal of their use of force, but that soon became a key, if not the predominant, reason for continuing their part in the conflict.

    Or, just check out the acronym for the Mafia to see where its genesis really was.

    We can't overlook that aspect of conflicts in parts of Africa, and many people who seriously study the Congo would be the first to suggest it.

    If my time with the RUF or the NPFL, I noticed the same dynamic at play. Whether Foday Sankoh or Charles Taylor originally envisioned a Maoist revolutionary project that would lead to control of the state or not, by the end they really were just feral warlords who suckled off the public purse to further the more mundane goals of the pickpocket, not the statesman.

    There's a distinct school of COIN that's been around for some time that discusses the endogenous and exogenous inputs necessary to prosecute guerilla war and how the "people" really are used by many of these machines of insurgency as resources, not so much the center of gravity to be exploited for hearts and minds.

    I've spent too much of my adult life with or near LRA, RUF, NPFL and other "revolutionary" groups to believe that ideology, politics or anything like that proved remotely as important as finding fungible resources (including human beings) to be used to continue the operations, not that the operations were intended to capture capitals or present a compelling political narrative.

    Perhaps what should be said isn't that there aren't groups operating on these murky battlefields amongst the people that aren't "political" (when I mentioned Taylor I also thought "LURD", just as when I say "RUF" I also mumble something about my buddies the Komajors), but rather that many of these complex conflicts involve all sorts of groups that share space: Feral gangs, ethnic militias, criminal syndicates, "government" forces of dubious legitimacy, foreign fighters, UN-sponsored interventionist militaries and all sorts of other state, non-state and sectarian actors.

    At times, they entwine with each other, typically to either enforce chaos or attempt to arrest it.

    Sometimes I think the credo espoused by "Texas in Africa" is noble, but it's also misplaced and ultimately counter-productive.

    Part of understanding war is attempting to divine its nature, or so thinkers as diverse as Diderot to Hobbes to Clausewitz would tell us.

    I know that it's considered good cricket to always speak of the political, rationalist reasons for endemic bloodletting. But sometimes it's OK to discuss the manifestations of violence in non-state conflicts and to look beyond Maoist norms for "revolutionary" groups within them.

    SNLII

    ReplyDelete
  5. "Gettleman's little rant is symptomatic of too many journos: they see (and report), but don't understand. "

    And yet if I had to wager it, I would bet that Gettleman knows far more about the wars in his neighborhood than Kalvyas, who often has been faulted by those who practice COIN for his reductionist views of civil war violence.

    "And as Lil points out, he's just plain wrong. "

    So you say? OK. He's not fully right, but that doesn't mean about some guerilla groups he discussed (the LRA particularly), he's all that wrong.

    I could give a fairly decent synopsis of the "ideology," such as it is, of the LRA hierarchy. I could mention its Christianist goals, the pro-Achioli bent of the message and the cynical support it has received as a pawn of Khartoum.

    But I would be lying because it all would really be an attempt to gussy up the LRA into that which it is not, for at its heart it's really just a shakedown racket that exists because it steals children and fungible resources; gains by fear of murder, rampage and rape the bare resources it needs to subsist; and really can't be "negotiated" into a political accomodation that would make sense to it or its neighbors.

    In fact, the more one knows about LRA, the more obvious this is. That might not always have been so, but it's true today.

    We also should never default to the academic an assumption that he or she knows more about anything than the practitioners. There's a reason why tenure doesn't equate to practicality on the COIN battlefield.

    Academia gave us FM 3-24. But Joseph Kony gave us the LRA.

    SNLII

    ReplyDelete
  6. Perhaps what should be said isn't that there aren't groups operating on these murky battlefields amongst the people that aren't "political" (when I mentioned Taylor I also thought "LURD", just as when I say "RUF" I also mumble something about my buddies the Komajors), but rather that many of these complex conflicts involve all sorts of groups that share space: Feral gangs, ethnic militias, criminal syndicates, "government" forces of dubious legitimacy, foreign fighters, UN-sponsored interventionist militaries and all sorts of other state, non-state and sectarian actors

    Very much agree, and very nicely put. But I'd go one step further, and argue that even those groups aren't monolithic or mono-dimensional. Often the ideological or political element provides the internal psychological and external social legitimization for opportunistic predation masquerading as political conflict. Jean Hatzfeld's interviews with Rwandan genocidaires in Machete Season provides excellent insight on this point. Similar dynamics in the Balkans (esp. with Bosnian Serb paramilitary groups like Arkan's Tigers, made up of criminals recruited out of prisons) and Iraq (see Austin Long's and John McCary's work, respectively, on the economic agendas underlying the Anbar Awakening).

    ReplyDelete
  7. SNLII - I completely agree on the LRA. But they are a real outlier, beyond even the other West African groups you mentioned. They're also a very small group on which to hang a broader analysis of an entire continent's wars.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Lil, thanks for the link.

    Anon @12:46, for what it's worth, I the vast majority of serious scholars of the Congo do not consider the fighting there to be a "resource war" in the technical sense. We all agree that resources are used to fund the conflict, and that some of the violence is directed toward control of the mines. But that was neither the genesis, nor is it the ultimate aim of the armed groups involved in the trade.

    That's not just my opinion; it includes those who've spent quite a bit of time hanging out with the rebels. And, for what it's worth, I don't know many people who would term any of them "revolutionaries." Regime change hasn't been anyone's goal for a long time.

    For anyone who's interested in a very well-informed perspective on the current round of fighting in Congo, I highly recommend Pierre Englebert's new book, Africa: Unity, Sovereignty, Sorrow.

    ReplyDelete
  9. SNL II-

    Racist was my initial reaction. I'll temper it to paternalistic. I agree with much of what you posted, and I think it can be further simplified to some false assumptions we made with FM 3-24.

    1. It's our problem to fix.
    2. We can fix the problem.

    To be honest, my understanding of Africa is limited to three friends and family (FID practisioner, FAO, and missionary) that spend a lot of time on the continent. There stories are similar to what I saw in Iraq, but their methods are much different. In Iraq, we occupied. In Africa, they assist and help when they can. This distinction is relevant.

    Back to the essay and post-maoism. if we accept the equality of all men, self-determination, and the mutual dependency required for a social contract, then we can better understand this conflict. Men will fight and rebel over grievances. It could be anger, bitterness or greed, but those emotions will brew into an ideology.

    Most of the time in small wars, the rebellion is crushed early on. Sometimes, it grows into an insurgency; sometimes it becomes full blown in a civil war. What we're seeing now, the perceived hybrid wars, is nothing new. We're just looking at it from the lens of the modern day nation-state so it doesn't quite fit into what we want.

    But, to suggest that their is no purpose or intent behind the fighting is ridiculous.

    ReplyDelete
  10. MikeF - I agree with your final point, but in some cases existence as an armed group is the reason in and of itself. The LRA really doesn't have anything like a political agenda, and relies entirely on kidnapping and brutal inculcation for recruitment. They may serve the interests of some of their outside backers, but they themselves don't have an agenda.

    ReplyDelete
  11. First, I'm not sure that LRA necessarily is an outlier, so much as a pioneer.

    We tend to forget that it began as one thing and became quite another, just as RUF and NPFL began as something quite different from their ultimate fate, extortion rackets that really lacked any ideology or sectarian legitimacy.

    It's the arc of evolution that interests me, not the "politics" blandished originally or, more cynically, later to justify the progress toward what the revolutionary group became.

    Why are some of these groups -- LRA's tilt against the Ugandan government is one of the oldest on the continet -- disposed to become factories of violence depending solely on certain inputs and no hearts or minds to survive?

    I guess my real concern is that many essentialist arguments of "Africa" and the continent's wars kind of scare me, whether they come from Gettleman or "Texas in Africa."

    I won't even touch anything that would compare Austin Long's perceptive analysis about some Anbar militias to the LRA or Serbian outfits because I think the local context is so vital. At some point, the big picture analysis just becomes too muddled to be useful.

    Also, I've always hated the construct of "Africa." Africa is so amazingly complex that one would be hard pressed to define it as much more than a landmass.

    As for Post-Maoist, I don't know anyone who would suggest that it is somehow shorthand for "apolitical."

    Rather, it's become a means to discuss the shift between revolutions that once were nationalist, anti-colonialist and local to something that might be global; the "populations" involved difficult to manage and widely dispersed (even deterritorialized to the point of "virtual" existence); and the centers of gravity increasingly complex to the point of irrelevancy, leaving at times only the unstructured network of bottom-up insurgency itself.

    This is sort of the consensus a group of us are debating, the most prominent of whom are Dave Betz and John Mackinlay in the UK but which also has encouraged a very diverse bunch of Americans such as Gian Gentile, Austin Long and others.

    When I mention "Post-Maoist," that's really the footnoted version of what it is.

    SNLII

    ReplyDelete
  12. MK-

    "They don't have an agenda (political)."

    That sounds similar to some gangs I observed in Salinas, CA. So, what's the motive? Earlier, I stated greed. What I meant was the accumilation of power or money. While that may not fit with the accepted definition of political agenda, it might help to explain the situation a bit better.

    ReplyDelete
  13. "That sounds similar to some gangs I observed in Salinas, CA. So, what's the motive? Earlier, I stated greed. What I meant was the accumilation of power or money. While that may not fit with the accepted definition of political agenda, it might help to explain the situation a bit better." MikeF

    I was wondering about that as I read over some of this comment thread (because I am so very ignorant of the topics presented, I always appreciate the posts Lil!)

    Might stating different motivations be a better way to initiate discussion of such a broad topic than the concept of "unwars"? Because such an article, at such a length, can only be a beginning or introduction to concepts, I think. I suppose that is what the author meant by trying on the idea of "they are not really wars."

    Motivations vary and might be strictly political, money, pride, religious, sectarian, a mix of all mentioned, or whatever? Or is this such a straightforward thought that it's sort of a no-brainer?

    But why not start with the straightforward, and what you know, and work from there?

    ReplyDelete
  14. SNLII-

    "When I mention "Post-Maoist," that's really the footnoted version of what it is"

    Thanks for the clarification. Now, I'm tracking. What y'all are studying is indeed intriguing.

    ReplyDelete
  15. "Rather, it's become a means to discuss the shift between revolutions that once were nationalist, anti-colonialist and local to something that might be global; the "populations" involved difficult to manage and widely dispersed (even deterritorialized to the point of "virtual" existence); and the centers of gravity increasingly complex to the point of irrelevancy, leaving at times only the unstructured network of bottom-up insurgency itself.

    This is sort of the consensus a group of us are debating, the most prominent of whom are Dave Betz and John Mackinlay in the UK but which also has encouraged a very diverse bunch of Americans such as Gian Gentile, Austin Long and others." - SNLII

    Wow. That's really interesting.

    ReplyDelete
  16. SNLII - Fair enough - I misunderstood your initial use of the term.

    And of course on local context, but it doesn't mean there aren't recurring patterns.

    MikeF - I would agree, except that the LRA leads a pretty difficult existence in the bush. At this point, they're almost more a psychotic cult than anything else, inculcated by and inured to extraordinary brutality. To put it in perspective, when they kidnap a new group of children as recruits, they typically pick one or two that the rest have to kill with a mixture of weapons (knives, clubs, etc.) and bare hands, or be killed themselves. By traumatizing the kids it makes them vulnerable to inculcation and manipulation - a technique assisted by drugs. Also, kids are often forced to participate in subsequent attacks on their own communities so that they believe they can't ever go home.

    I know of no other group that is as extreme in its techniques, and so utterly lacking a goal other than continued existence. IMO, they are very much an outlier, and not representative of other groups.

    ReplyDelete
  17. PS The LRA has had little or no presence in Uganda for a couple of years now. They're in DRC, CAR, and Sudan. That's where they launch their attacks. That's where they forcibly recruit. Yes, they've been chased there by the Ugandan army, but they don't seem all that bent on making it back to strike a blow against the Ugandan government.

    ReplyDelete
  18. "At this point, they're almost more a psychotic cult than anything else, inculcated by and inured to extraordinary brutality." - MK

    So, is this a new phenomenon on this scale, or have there been such violent cults before. And also, it's almost unbearable to read that about the children.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Forget almost...

    - Madhu

    ReplyDelete
  20. MK-

    That is indeed sad, but I think it still falls under my description if I can say that without minimizing the scope. While the LRA may not directly attack the Uguandan gov't, they own their little safehaven for whatever it's worth.

    As for the children, this gets into the realm of psychology and religion. Can we or anyone heal those damaged hearts and souls? Trauma psychologists and missionaries would say yes, but it would be a long ardous process with direct supervision in a safe environment. Trying to regain faith, hope, and love, particularly given those circumstances is almost unfathomable.

    IMHO, for the leaders of the group, they will have to be kill/captured lest the cycle persist. If someone reaches the point where they can control children in such a manner, then they are non-recoverable.

    ReplyDelete
  21. @Madhu - And that's the abridged version. Reading the HRW reports about the LRA is stomach churning and heart breaking.

    To answer your question, I don't know, but I doubt that it's an entirely new phenomenon. Can't think of historical examples off the top of my head.

    ReplyDelete
  22. MK, the kidnapping, brutalization and use of child soldiers really is part of what I'm talking about. In fact, it might be the core concern.

    A fancy way some thinkers use to describe the sort of societal (including political) collapse that allows for children to become the main shocktroops in wars is through the concept of "total societal crisis." In these cases, not only have the trappings of the state collapsed, but also almost all the traditional cultural moorings that keep society in place.

    It's not a recent phenomenon (more Maoist conflicts in Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Peru and Colombia also used children, west Cambodia being my first blush with them as a young Marine), but it's become one that's more directed in West and Central Africa, more intentional, much as if child warriors were akin to other fungible inputs such as poppy profits, conflict diamonds or other resources seized during these messier sorts of wars.

    The use of children, to me, not only changes the nature of the revolutionary organization, but also the grammar of the violence, making it extremely difficult to predict the level or nature of the violence. Until you've faced an onrushing mob of 7-year-olds barely able to grip their AK-47s much less accurately fire them, perhaps it's difficult to understand the dislocating effect tots and killers has on even the most staid academic.

    In Sierra Leone, I encountered children who served all sorts of roles -- soldiers, commanders, trafficking mules, sex slaves, et al -- but the common experience was that of an otherworldly sort of war, one that took on fantastic proportions that defied any logic.

    Which isn't too surprising if we consider for a moment the psychology of children and the nature of their psycho-social development. Having children in an army, feral band or criminal syndicate therefore isn't surprising, but having children or those who spent their entire lives since childhood immersed in violence running these wars -- well, that leads to some very different sorts of conflicts, at least in my opinion.

    In the end, maybe Mary Kaldor was more right about some of this than Kalyvas.

    To me, LRA is a pioneer in the sense that Taylor and the RUF and others in West Africa were a precursor of a most unsettling future. But I also believe that there's a mix of ingredients that the NYT Bureau Chief and others haven't fully addressed: The unfettered access to cheap, light weapons; the easy exploitation in a globalized marketplace of fungible, stolen resources (including people); the creation of charismatic or sectarian-based warlords who cultivate personal loyalty and indoctrination over the inducements of ideology, politics or other traditional means of mustering support and legitimacy; the spread of a form of warfare, systemic use of sexualized violence and intentional terror inflicted against civilians, as the primary means of waging intra-state warfare, a sort of moral hurdle that must be jumped before the full exploitation of children might commence.

    Now, that's just off the top of my head, but those seem to be some precursors for arriving at a phenomenon like the LRA that really isn't (unfortunately) such a rare event.

    I've been mulling over just how good certain diasporic groups have been at returning some levels of child violence back to societal norms (which in Mackinlay's sense of Post-Maoism actually would retard the jump to certain batsh** crazy levels of child-like violence). But I'm still working that out.

    In other words, one piece to understanding how different these sorts of criminal, feral groups become is to remember that they must lose all their traditional moral, cultural moorings, including in this globalized world to the Fenian-like supporters abroad who might otherwise act as an ethical brake on the violence (instead of usually spurring it, as they would perhaps with the war in Afghanistan or Iraq).

    SNLII

    ReplyDelete
  23. Ok, wow. I post this, go to lunch and then meetings and...well, sorry for missing the conversation completely. Will read and come back. For the DC-based though, CSIS is hosting Anneke van Woudenberg for a discussion on the LRA. Next Thursday at 1:30. They're launching this: http://www.hrw.org/en/reports/2010/03/29/trail-death-0.

    ReplyDelete
  24. "For anyone who's interested in a very well-informed perspective on the current round of fighting in Congo, I highly recommend Pierre Englebert's new book, Africa: Unity, Sovereignty, Sorrow."

    I couldn't disagree more. It was terrible.

    SNLII

    ReplyDelete
  25. Ok, I've finally had a minute to read all of this. I think paternalistic is right Mike. Why does his tone have to be so condescending? Also agree on your conclusions re: post-Maoist (post-clarification).

    SNLII--great points and I think I agree with you. I wasn’t trying to say that I agreed with everything both authors of the links I posted said (and the essentialist arguments annoy me to no end), but I think that together, they provide good arguments for why the column is so problematic.

    On the LRA, I don’t think he’s wrong, I just think the LRA can’t be compared with most rebel groups and I really hope you’re wrong and they’re not a pioneer. Like MK said, in addition to your (I agree well-put) point, it’s way more complicated than that.

    His piece fails to address the implications of the “arc” you mention (it only briefly mentions Mugabe and the evolution in Zimbabwe). More, he casts African conflicts in yet more of “this is intractable” unhelpful babble. Beyond the fact that casting 'Africa' as a single entity is unhelpful and inaccurate (just like it would be for America or Europe or Asia or wherever), I think framing it in those ways detracts from a more useful discussion of what can be done about this problem (broadly defined), who should be doing it, how whatever “it” is can be best accomplished, who the right person/group/institution is to make it happen, whether certain people/groups/institutions should be involved in it all etc. It also fails to even entertain the notion that you might want to think about the things you mention at 3:33 SNLII.

    I think the piece is bad because the only thing it does is leave the reader the feeling that this problem is so intractable, she might as well forget about “what many conflicts in Africa have become—circles of violence in the bush, with no end in sight.” Basically, it amounts to “don’t worry, unless you’re an arrogant academic or an intrepid reporter, you won’t know about it anyway.”

    ReplyDelete
  26. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  27. Oops, I thought it was lost but then it came back...deleted the double entry. Haven't read the book Texas in Africa suggests so have no opinion.

    ReplyDelete
  28. Well, I agree with you about that, Lil. I feel hard pressed to actually defend the FP essay, because like you I think it was pretty crappy.

    I mentioned the LRA because I think he makes some good points there (even if he's factually wrong about some things; the LRA, for example, did hold territory and even tried to rule it in their uniquely crazy way).

    What I don't understand is how a reporter can manifest such an essentialist perspective about (of all places) Africa. He seems to have gotten around to all the players, but didn't seem to look much beyond the surface.

    But I have the same problem with those who say that politics or some rational understanding of power projection informs many of these conflicts, too, because I think we're being to kind to the actors to give them that sort of credibility.

    When people ask me what I can tell them about "Africa," I do the only Africanist dodge of speaking about many "Africas."

    When he goes on and on about Somalia, I'm actually thinking about several Somalias, just as when I think of other nations cursed with even worse colonialist borders I tend to imagine all their ethnic, linguistic, caste, ideological and other cultural distinctions.

    I would hazard, for example, to use Madagascar (a really Polynesian culture cast over an African perspective due to trade ties) and Guinea in the same sentence, except to note that the French ran both countries, and it's not just because I lived in Conakry.

    They're just not that close to each other geographically, politically or culturally.

    I've been wondering why he has this odd perspective. My only guess is that it's professional: He has a large bureau that takes in a lot of very diverse countries and so he tries to make some sense of ALL of them.

    This usually isn't a very good idea.

    SNLII

    ReplyDelete
  29. Anybody seen this article by Graham Wood in The National about the LRA? Exum says it's "GREAT", and I found it enjoyable and reasonably informative, but I know next to nothing about the subject. SNLII?

    ReplyDelete
  30. It won't open up for me, Gulliver. Maybe the site is flooded.

    The test for Exum to like something, however, is of three parts: 1) It must be something another CNAS thinker put out, no matter how tenuous its link to reality is; 2) Kilcullen took credit for inspiring it and then posed nude in Vanity Fair holding a copy of it instead of a skull, rose or other symbolic object; or, 3) It involves some obscure reference to a tavern in Beirut only three American ex-pats have ever visited, thereby gaining some arcane legitimacy to the author previously denied him by dint of hard work.

    It helps if McChrystal pops a woody at the mention of any of these three items, or Gian Gentile pops a vessel fulminating about them.

    SNLII

    ReplyDelete
  31. Which, in post-modernist fashion, requires me to recite the four-part test for something to excite interest to the Ink Spots:

    1. It somehow involves C.J. Chivers (he's sooooo dreamy);
    2. It's the latest impossibly inane conjecture by Tom Ricks, which then everyone says won't be discussed but shall, at Ink Spots, be hashed over iteratively in a rising crescendo of indignation, culminating with Gunslinger vowing to never read him again (if Ricks is unavailable, insert latest AFJ offering from Gentile, with Gulliver vowing to never read him again);
    3. It involves a Central African country and it is written in French and some calamity is befalling some poor people, especially if it is written by a French woman or someone else from a properly Francophone nation;
    4. It's new but cites in a hazy footnote some tangent Kalyvas made several years ago that must be reread for the seventh time, or the terrorists win.

    Bernard Finel will arrive to tell you why each of these four tests points to the same geo-strategic problem with empire and Madhu will recite the facts about some particularly itching ailment involving some part of the human digestive system that rarely gets mentioned in polite company.

    She will then compare this to Obama's health care policies, or the terrorists win.

    SNLII

    ReplyDelete
  32. SNLII!

    BEHOLD THE GLORY OF H.R. 3590 (an exerpt):

    http://www.opencongress.org/bill/111-h3590/show

    "(Sec. 3012)
    Directs the President to convene an Interagency Working Group on Health Care Quality. (Sec. 3013, as modified by Sec. 10303) Directs the Secretary, at least triennially, to identify gaps where no quality measures exist as well as existing quality measures that need improvement, updating, or expansion, consistent with the national strategy for use in federal health programs. Directs the Secretary to award grants, contracts, or intergovernmental agreements to eligible entities for purposes of developing, improving, updating, or expanding such quality measures. Requires the Secretary to develop and update periodically provider-level outcome measures for hospitals and physicians, as well as other appropriate providers. (Sec. 3014, as modified by Sec. 10304) Requires the convening of multi-stakeholder groups to provide input into the selection of quality and efficiency measures. (Sec. 3015, as modified by Sec. 10305) Directs the Secretary to:
    (1) establish an overall strategic framework to carry out the public reporting of performance information; and
    (2) collect and aggregate consistent data on quality and resource use measures from information systems used to support...."

    It goes on and on -- and on and on and on -- like that. Anyway, I never said the terrorists will win, just that the American people that lose!

    :)

    I'm just busting chops. I won't do that again.

    ReplyDelete
  33. I wonder how many people have bothered to try and read that thing?

    In a way, it doesn't matter, because quite a lot of it is simply empowering federal agencies to write rules for certain things - and then you have to play along. What those rules will be yet, well, as the excerpt shows, no one quite knows yet.

    And to be skeptical of all of this is somehow to be an obstructionist.

    But if there is one thing we oddballs that hang out here have in common, is it not our innate skepticism?

    ReplyDelete
  34. As much as I know we'd all like to discuss health care legislation marginalia, I very much regret to inform you that Ink Spots Resolution (I.S.R.) 3590 forbids it. Sorry!

    ReplyDelete
  35. Funny, but SNLII started it, you know.

    I won't post any more, I promise.

    (It's not marginalia - that's what all of it is like.)

    Okay, I'm done now! PROMISE

    - Madhu

    ReplyDelete
  36. Anybody seen this article by Graham Wood in The National about the LRA?

    No, but I just read it. Not impressed. For one thing, it seems to take the Ugandan military's word at face value on a lot of subjects. For another Wood seems over-awed by the UPDF - a perception that should have been dispelled by even a cursory look into what went wrong with Operation Lightning Thunder (the first joint Ugandan/Congolese/Southern Sudanese op against the LRA launched in Dec 2008).

    And no comparative perspective on the Brits/RSLA/UNAMSIL campaign against the RUF, or MONUC (and the FARDC, sort of) against militias in Eastern Congo, which should have been an obvious angle for this kind of story. And only the most cursory mention of external resupply, which should have been a central question: the LRA might be able extract food from locals, but they're not getting their hands on mortars by raiding villages.

    Maybe Ex liked it for the mention of a fellow King's alum. ; )

    ReplyDelete
  37. No, but I just read it. Not impressed.

    But needn't we keep in mind what sort of article this was, exactly? I'm not sure it's the right forum for comparative analysis.

    I do agree with you on the matter of supplies, as that issue is highlighted as a sort of mystery. Answers?

    ReplyDelete
  38. I'm not talking about extended discussion, but some acknowledgment that the challenge had been faced elsewhere (and in fact, in the same province of DRC) with greater success. Since it's trying to draw broader conclusions about insurgency (e.g. mention of Afghanistan and Iraq), it would make sense to look at the closest comparisons first, no?

    Resupply is a matter of intense conjecture. Most focuses on support by the Gov of Sudan (part of the larger conflict system in which Uganda backed the SPLM rebels that are now the Gov of Southern Sudan), but that may have at least partially dried up following the signing of the Sudanese Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2005. Some speculate about Acholi diaspora groups, but there's nothing firm. I'm not sure anyone (particularly any LE or intel outfit) has ever dug deeply enough to find out though. Oddly enough, they seem to be one of the few groups in that area that don't exploit natural resources.

    In terms of actual logistics, there are rumors that some of their attacks on villages are to create depopulated drop zones for air resupply. But I don't think that's ever been confirmed.

    ReplyDelete
  39. SNLII:

    Has "he's sooooo dreamy" CJ Chivers ever "posed" topless?

    http://gawker.com/279309/more-couples-of-the-times

    Just asking where there fits in any four-part tests you may administer,

    ADTS

    ReplyDelete