Landlocked and surrounded by four extraordinarily boring countries, Kyrgyz Republic (commonly known as Kyrgyzstan) has, in my opinion, the least appealing location of any country of any country on the globe. I suppose you could argue Poland has a worse location because it’s pinned between two historically violent superpower rivals (Russia and Germany). But at least Poles can get in their cars and drive to cool places like Prague, Vienna or Budapest. Get in a car in Kyrgyzstan and drive for 12 hours and you’ll find yourself in remote western China, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, or Uzbekistan. Podunkistans, all.
The Kyrgyz people have made a valiant effort to improve their lot. Despite general poverty, they have near universal literacy. It’s always fun to read about how poor you are. The Kyrgyz also use two of their most abundant edible natural resources, millet and horse milk, to make popular alcoholic beverages. Like I always say, when life serves you horse milk, make horse milkade.
Maybe I’m just an old fuddy duddy, but back when I was coming up, surprise was considered an essential element of successful warfare.
In fact, I can still recall that glorious day when I learned about the importance of surprise in war. It was 1832 and, just for fun, I downloaded the great Prussian military theorist Carl Von Clausewitz’s then-newly published “On War” to my Kindle. We didn’t have TV then, so we read German books for fun.
Anyway, it’s right there in Book Six, Chapter Three. That’s where Clausewitz lists “surprise” as one of the main factors of strategic success in warfare. In case you’re curious, the other five elements are terrain, strength of forces, popular support, morals, and an uplifting, jingoistic tune, preferably by Lee Greenwood.
Why the heck should you care what an old, dead German dude thinks of war? Well, before they were only good at cars and spicy mustard, Germans were also awesome at war. In fact, Clausewitz is probably the most influential western military thinker of the past 200 years after Edwin Starr. Though the modern battlefield would be almost unrecognizable to Clausewitz, his strategic principles still enhance our knowledge of how wars work.
To understand the importance of surprise, consider three of the most pivotal battles of the 20th century. Would Nazi Germany have so quickly trounced the French if Hitler had broadcast six months ahead of time that he was sending his blitzkrieg around French defensive fortresses? Of course not.
From London's Telegraph (h/t @letwits):
"We could consider this the biggest campaign of dog execution ever."
Turns out the U.S. invasion accidentally ruined Baghdad's ministry of dog murder. It's finally up-and-running again though.
Tomorrow is the first anniversary of the popular uprising following rigged presidential elections in Iran.
What's happening now? Other than systematic brutal repression of democratic will, not much. Khamenei and Ahmadidn't-win have successfully thwarted their opposition. Now they can focus on important things, like marching Iran in the direction of war.
Atlantans observed the anniversary today with a screening at the Carter Center of "For Neda" — a documentary about Neda Agha-Soltan, whose murder during last year's street protests was recorded on camera phones.
The documentary airs Monday on HBO and on YouTube right now.
Is it Monday morning quarterbacking to tell you I knew the euro was going come apart? They dont have quarterbacks in Europe so Im not sure what the equivalent figure of speech is. Monday morning corner-kicking? Monday morning beret knitting? Monday morning red wine decanting? Monday morning panini pressing? Monday morning nutella spreading?
Anyway, whatever European thingy you want to call it, Im telling you I knew it was gonna happen. Im no financial whiz. Not at all. But its just common sense, people. The euro is inherently unstable. Big chunks of greasy lamb meat and yogurt sauce wedged tight into folded pita? Everyone who has ever held a euro knows youve only got about five minutes before the pita soaks ups so much dripping fat and yogurt that it begins to crumble. Thats why they wrap them in tin foil.
And dont ever get me started on the mess euros makes when you put them in your wallet. Last time I went to Europe, I ruined two pairs of pants on the first day. Thank goodness for debit cards.
(Editor pulls columnist aside to explain mix-up).
Okay, so it appears I may have been slightly confused earlier about the precise nature of Europes currency crisis. The euro and the gyro are apparently two different things. This explains the annoyed look I kept getting from cashiers when I visited Vienna in 2007.
The euro crisis is actually about the viability of Europes common currency. Theres a growing likelihood some or all European countries will revert to their pre-euro national currencies.
I enjoy writing columns, but am nevertheless occasionally frustrated by the inherent limitations of written words.
Every couple of months, I think an audio recording of someone sighing in frustration, a video of someone pounding his head against a desk, or a photo of someone with her face buried in her hands would just as fully explain a foreign affairs conundrum as, say, actual words.
That's how I feel this week about the ongoing political confrontation between Iran and the United States same crap, different month.
Sure, the details change, but we've essentially been in the midst of a frightening, confusing standoff since 2003. That's the year the International Atomic Energy Agency castigated Iran for failing to disclose all of its nuclear activities and materials, as Iran is required to do under the terms of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Ever since then, we've been stuck at the same point asking the same questions: Is Iran actually developing a nuclear weapon? If yes, when will it be armed and ready? Can the U.S. convince the European Union, China, Russia and the United Nations to put the squeeze on Iran until it gives up its nuclear fuel enrichment program? Will the U.S. attack Iran to slow its nuclear progress? Will Israel attack Iran to slow its nuclear progress?
(Photo Illustration by Andisheh Nouraee)
Every decade has its defining question.
In the '70s, it was, "Who wears short shorts?" In the '80s, the nation wondered, "Where's the beef?" In the '90s, we struggled to answer one simple question: "Can't we all just get along?" And during the '00s, with two disastrous wars and the looming threat of terrorism, Americans demanded to know, "Whatcha gonna do with all that ass/All that ass inside them jeans?"
Barely four and a half months into the '10s, it's perhaps too early to say for sure what this decade's defining question will be. If I had to guess, though, I think it'll end up being something like: "Who should have nuclear weapons?"
Throughout May, world leaders are meeting in New York to help answer that question. The meeting is a conference to discuss the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Active since 1970, the NPT allows five of its 189 signatory nations to have nukes. The U.S., Russia, China, France and the United Kingdom are allowed to have nukes. In exchange for the privilege, the five nations agree to refrain from using a nuke against a non-nuclear state and work toward the eventual elimination of their arsenals. Additionally, all signatories are recognized to have an inalienable right to peaceful nuclear energy production.
(Photo illustration by Andisheh Nouraee)
A long time ago, current Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou killed his father (former Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou), then married his own mother. After a while, the crops stopped growing, the women of Greece stopped having babies and the tzatziki curdled in the silos. Horrified, the MILF-wife killed herself and Papandreou gouged out his own eyes, then flew so close to the sun that he melted his wings, torching Greece's bond rating along the way. The price of spits soared, rendering millions of Greeks with no place to cook their lamb. Chaos ensued.
Last week, the European Union and the International Monetary Fund responded by installing Zeus as Greece's interim prime minister. Greece's 12 major gods and Nia Vardalos are scheduled to gather on Mount Olympus next week to choose a permanent successor.
Sorry. That's what happens when a columnist on deadlines mixes the Economist, D'Aulaires Book of Greek Myths and ouzo.
For the past decade, Greece has basically been that guy who pays his credit card bill with another credit card. Greece's government went on a debt-financed spending spree made possible by general robust growth and easy credit.
(Photo Illustration by Andisheh Nouraee)
We in the Don't Panic!: Your War Questions Answered world headquarters are hard(ly) at work developing new and exciting ways of trivializing serious world issues for your infotainment.
One of the things I'm dicking around with is a podcast. I haven't decided on the final format yet, but in the spirit of "try it and see" I've started recording audio editions of the weekly column.
Any feedback would be appreciated.
I've already gotten some feedback. My wife pointed out to me last night that I sound way way way more smug when I read aloud than I do when I when I'm just talking. She's right, although I would point out that what sounds like "smug" is actualy just me not being entirely sure how to modulate by inflections for recording. In the spirit of matrimonial harmony, however, I promise next week's edition will sound at least 50% less smug.
You know, things aren't like they were when I was coming up. People today are big babies.
Back in my day, we didn't have peanut allergies. No sirree ma'am. If you suffered anaphylactic shock after eating a peanut, it was 'cause you were a sissy.
And we didn't have this "Internet" thing making everything so easy. If you wanted something, you had to work for it. You had to leave your house to steal music. You had to look a cashier in the eye when you purchased pornography. And you had to go to a library and hand-copy text out of a book when you wanted to plagiarize.
And back in my day, people had principles and honor, too.
For example, when one country fired a shot at another country, the other country would shoot back. You didn't question it. You just did it.
(Photo Illustration by Andisheh Nouraee)
"First, why would the president "go after" a governor? Ever...for any reason? The Justice Dept…
what happened with the 5 story "transitional housing" complex that was scheduled to be built…
@get a clue: a lot of the abandoned houses were bought by developers YEARS ago…
"Where were these Tea Party idiots when Bush was running the country into the ground…
On a side note what do you all consider Downtown? Here is the wiki entry:…