A Military Wife Writes About Two American Women in Kandahar

I’ve corresponded with blogger and milspouse Kanani for a while now (and hope to meet her soon), and been following her blog and posts on Facebook featuring pictures and stories from “Hub” her husband, a military surgeon at a forward surgery center – the kind of place that may save my son’s life if he’s unlucky – in Eastern Afghanistan.

Today she writes about the rising tensions in Kandahar and Argrendeb and the impacts on a small NGO that has been trying to do some good there.

…Arghand’s most recent dilemma was when co-op members wanted to quit and shutter the business. The reason? For an Afghan, being associated with the Americans had become too risky. Violence in Kandahar was on the rise, and retribution for working with the Green and Chayes gives the Taliban cause to murder or torture themselves or their families. In a Field Note written in March 2008, Chayes detailed the deteriorating conditions and risk.

“One of our cooperative members has left Arghandab. His family made it through the Jihad, the Mujahideen period, and Taliban rule, ensconced in the protective enclave of their pomegranate thicket. He has had to move because two unknown men with guns were lying in wait on his path to work, early in the morning when only he is abroad.”

Echoing this, Green tells readers that she and her sister have seen a jubilant atmosphere where the future seemed unlimited after liberation in 2001. However, these are “dark days of violence and paranoia.”

To me we have four heroes here – the two American women who chose to get involved in the context of Afghanistan itself, rather than sit safely at home and write about it (um, like I do…); a surgeon who could be making big dollars here who chose to enlist and go save young men like my son and help local Afghans with modern medicine – and his wife, whose life must have been turned upside down when he made that decision, and who writes with cleverness, energy, and insight about what she sees. Kanani continues:

To read the how Arghand International solved its dilemma, read the full text of her “Notes From The Field” available for download on the Arghand site. Click on “News” on the top. Then pull down “Notes From the Field.” From there, click on “Nov. 8 (Jennie) under 2009″ on the left sidebar. Arghand hand made, high quality, natural soaps may be purchased online from independent retailers throughout the U.S. Just search for “Arghand Soaps.”


Help the Cause in Afghanistan: 101 Ways To Help The Afghan People And Support Our Troops

Jim Hake of Spirit of America has a book out on ‘101 Ways to help the Afghan people and support our troops.’

It’s a useful and timely book, and buying it will help support Jim and SoA – who are doing great work these days.

Amusingly, when I contacted Biggest Guy’s company commander and offered to introduce him to SoA, his response was to refer me to the Family Readiness Group…hey, it’s Big Army.

Michael Yon on the Battle for Kandahar

I have an obvious interest in the activities of the 82nd Airborne, and this great backgrounder by Michael Yon on the upcoming activities in Kandahar and the valley of the Arghandab is definitely worth reading.

Mostly the enemy is gone for now. Each year, many Taliban migrate to Pakistan. The “snowbirds” return and fight during spring. Our signals intelligence people intercepted communications from a senior Taliban leader in Pakistan, to the senior surviving leader in Arghandab, who was then heading to Pakistan. The commander was ordered to return to Arghandab or risk losing to the Americans. U.S. officers at 5/2 said the Taliban commander was very upset by the order.

Colonel Tunnell would say, “It is our assessment that the enemy has been defeated in the near term in the southern Arghandab River Valley, which has given us a few months’ breathing space.” The Strykers will soon deploy to other missions in southern Afghanistan and will be replaced by the 82nd Airborne Division.

The Taliban in Arghandab got a serious whipping but they are not dead. The winter season is providing our side a brief opportunity to earn local support with various projects in a relatively unmolested environment, while the snowbirds are in Pakistan, no doubt plotting their return.

The Battle for Kandahar is on. Fresh troops in the United States have been given orders to get over here. The chapter called “Arghandab” will be crucial.


A Soviet Take On Afghanistan

As I continue to think about Afghanistan, I’m continuing to read what I can.

Here’s an interesting article by Nikolas K. Gvosdev, who examines the Soviet-Afghanistan war – from the Soviet point of view.

Then, in December 1991, the Soviet Union collapsed, taking down with it the gravy train that had enabled Najibullah to buy loyalties across the country. A series of defections followed, most notably that of Dostum, who, in the spring of 1992, joined forces with Ahmed Shah Masoud in an effort to block a Hekmatyar victory. These shifts in allegiance — not superior tactics or greater popular appeal of the mujahideen — ultimately brought down Najibullah’s government.

The initial stability of Najibullah’s government suggests that Afghans will assume responsibility for the fate of their government when the foreign footprint in their country has been sharply reduced — but only if an outside patron is prepared to supply and equip Afghan forces. The central government in Kabul is strengthened when it sends gifts to the provinces rather than collecting taxes from them. But someone has to pay for this. The United Kingdom lavished resources on India in the nineteenth century; the Soviet Union sent billions of rubles to Afghanistan. Is Washington prepared to play such a role today?

I don’t think that Afghanistan is hopeless, if we define our goals correctly. I am concerned that it becomes a territorial proxy battle in a territoryless war, and that we may overemphasize it at the expense of other – potentially more important – things we ought to be doing.

But since I don’t today know what those might be, I’ll wait to comment until I do.

An Instrumental Truth

The Juicebox Mafia writes about Climategate:

Something those of us who want to prevent catastrophic climate change need to remember is that we’re right. Not just factually right, but morally. But while it’s true that effective communications tactics employed by the other side have been helpful to their cause, ultimately the main thing that’s helped them has been the willingness of people who know better to act in a morally indefensible manner.

I’m fairly certain, for example, that Fred Hiatt wouldn’t strangle a baby polar bear just for cheap thrills. But he would run an ignorant Sarah Palin op-ed on climate, and repeatedly allow George Will to mislead people about climate science. What’s more, if Hiatt strolled around Washington soaked in the blood of polar bears he’d been strangling, people would treat him like a pariah. But instead his friends and colleagues and professional peers have evidently decided that he’s just a nice guy who happens to run a crappy-but-influential op-ed page.


Who could have known, at the time, that the climate deniers and contrarians had not yet launched their greatest and most devastating attack? Certainly, it was hard to imagine how they might pull off such a strike: They had virtually nothing going for them, no raw scientific materials to work with. All the science pointed to a greater-than-ever urgency of addressing the climate issue and a quickly closing window of opportunity for action. Within scientific circles, it was even becoming commonplace to discuss planetary modification, or geoengineering, as an alternative last ditch solution if we couldn’t stop runaway greenhouse warming in time.

But the skeptics were lying in wait. They didn’t need good science to make another sally: Their strength has always been in communication tactics anyway, and not scientific exactitude or rigor. And the U.S. public, never overwhelmingly sure about climate change, has long been susceptible to their smokescreens and misinformation campaigns.

You know, I’d say that given what’s emerging as we get – not only into the emails, but into the computer models and raw data that being unearthed, that concrete certainty like this can only be explained in one way:

…since the essential act of the party is to use conscious deception while retaining the firmness of purpose that goes with complete honesty. To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then, when it becomes necessary again to draw it back from oblivion for just so long as it is needed, to deny the existence of objective reality and all the while to take account of the reality that one denies – all this is indispensably necessary.

– 1984, Orwell.

Because truth isn’t just inconvenient, it’s instrumental.

I remain in the ‘not sure’ camp on AGW as science; but put me down into the ‘damn sure’ camp that making society-reshaping decisions on bad science isn’t about the science – it’s really about the reshaping.

Here’s What “Hide The Decline” Is About

From Jones/Briffa et al “High-resolution palaeoclimatology of the last millennium: a review of current status and future prospects” (pdf) – a very interesting paper.

Recent divergence between tree-ring growth and temperature

The final aspect of tree-ring studies that needs to be highlighted is what has become known as the ‘divergence’ issue. This refers to the apparent failure of some (established as temperature-responsive) tree-ring data to follow the trend in instrumental temperatures observed over the latter part of the twentieth century. Chronology time series that vary largely in parallel with changing temperature in earlier periods progressively fail to show the increasing trends that would represent a continuing positive response to the strong warming observed during recent decades. Originally this was noted primarily in certain northern high-latitude areas for ring-width data in Alaska (Jacoby and D’Arrigo, 1995) and in ring-width and particularly ring-density data, in more extensive regions of northern Europe and Russia (Briffa et al., 1998). In the earlier work, it was suggested that the cause of the North American observations was a shift from a direct dominant temperature control on tree growth to one where lack of available moisture becomes increasingly influential, possibly to an extent where the sign of the temperature influence becomes negative rather than positive (Jacoby and D’Arrigo, 1995; D’Arrigo et al., 2004).

Subsequently, various studies focused mainly on recent treegrowth in Alaska and Canada support the idea that current tree growth may no longer be responding positively to increased warming (Barber et al., 2000; Lloyd and Fastie, 2002; Davi et al., 2003; Wilmking et al., 2004; Driscoll et al., 2005; Pisaric et al., 2007). Other suggestions have been offered as the cause of the widely observed loss of temperature response over northern Eurasia. The increasing influence of drought has also been suggested as the cause (Jacoby et al., 2000), though other suggestions include possible reduced atmospheric clarity, localized persistence of spring snow cover and seasonal changes in ozone-related surface UV concentrations (Briffa et al., 1998, 2004; Vaganov et al., 1999; D’Arrigo et al., 2008).

The IPCC recently laid particular stress on this issue, pointing out that any significant shift in the recent growth response of trees would invalidate the assumptions that underlie the simple regression-based approach to reconstructing past temperature changes. This would imply an inability to recognize potential underestimates of the degree of warmth in earlier periods of reconstructions (Jansen et al., 2007). It is important to stress that not all high-latitude regions display this apparent decoupling between observed and dendroclimatically estimated temperatures (Briffa et al., 2007; Wilson et al., 2007).

However, the issue remains a crucial one. Unfortunately, a comparative scarcity of recent (ie, post-1980) tree-ring data remains a major obstacle to further exploration of the extent and causes. Hence we stress the vital requirement for widespread updating of major treering networks, as well as for the acquisition of data for new regions.

[emphasis added]

Go read the whole thing.


In honor of the amazingly stupid (politically, economically, and environmentally) EPA decision, here’s some interesting comments about AGW.

At the ‘climate denialist’ blog WattsUpWithThat, blogger Willis Eschenbach just posted an interesting analysis of some Australian raw climate data.

I’ll comment on that in a sec, but wanted to highlight this:

There are three main global temperature datasets. One is at the CRU, Climate Research Unit of the University of East Anglia, where we’ve been trying to get access to the raw numbers. One is at NOAA/GHCN, the Global Historical Climate Network. The final one is at NASA/GISS, the Goddard Institute for Space Studies. The three groups take raw data, and they “homogenize” it to remove things like when a station was moved to a warmer location and there’s a 2C jump in the temperature. The three global temperature records are usually called CRU, GISS, and GHCN. Both GISS and CRU, however, get almost all of their raw data from GHCN. All three produce very similar global historical temperature records from the raw data.

OK, this is – if true – the answer to one of the questions I hoped to get to in my ‘pet project.’ Without making any judgment on the quality of the datasets, the interesting issue is that if AGW scientists rely on one sole ‘master dataset’ rather than heterogeneous sets of data – and if the social pressure is to conform to that one master dataset – the risk of social drift and groupthink get raised substantially.

Now I’m not convinced that’s true – one reason I want to do my project is so that I can rule it in or out. But it is to me a vastly important issue, and one that needs to be exposed to the light of common understanding as quickly as possible.

I’ll make one more comment.

Critics like the bloggers at WattsUpWithThat and Climate Audit tend to do posts like this that tear into some ‘nugget’ of information. When I go read Climate Progress or Real Climate, what I’d love to see more of (and I’ve seen some) is someone taking on the claims made in this post and making an explanation of why it is that the argument there doesn’t hold water.

Here’s the core of Eschenbach’s claim:

What on earth justifies that adjustment? How can they do that? We have five different records covering Darwin from 1941 on. They all agree almost exactly. Why adjust them at all? They’ve just added a huge artificial totally imaginary trend to the last half of the raw data! Now it looks like the IPCC diagram in Figure 1, all right – but a six degree per century trend? And in the shape of a regular stepped pyramid climbing to heaven? What’s up with that?

Those, dear friends, are the clumsy fingerprints of someone messing with the data Egyptian style – they are indisputable evidence that the “homogenized” data has been changed to fit someone’s preconceptions about whether the earth is warming.

Take a look at his (detailed, thorough) post and post your own comment on what you think it means.

Anthropogenic Global Warming

So – while I try and pry some time loose to read papers and map influence and catalog sources – it seems like a good idea to put a stake in the ground and say what I believe today about global warming and the correct policy responses to it.

Is there AGW? Maybe. Even before Climategate, I was uncomfortable with the way the science was being handled and the way that obvious questions were only answered behind closed doors. But – I also think where there’s enough manure there well could be a pony, and we’d be foolish to completely ignore the risk given even moderate amounts of evidence.

I own fire extinguishers and guns and first aid gear and insurance policies because something might happen (and remember that in my case, it did). I spend money and time and effort to hedge the risk of the highly improbable. So do most of the climate skeptics out there.

So the idea that it’s ‘fake’ and therefore should be completely ignored is – to me – kinda foolish.

Equally foolish is the idea that we should harshly reshape society in a way that coincidentally meets the pre-existing prejudices of many of those who have found a new religion in AGW. That’s kind of like looking at a sex predator who conveniently discovers a religion that requires the people he chooses to have sex with him at will.

But I’m betting that there are things we can and should do that represent ‘affordable’ insurance policies.

Consultants are fond of four-square boxes…you know, quadrants. In this case, [easy/hard] and [high impact/low impact]. I might make it 3-dimensional and add [serves other goals/only for preventing AGW].

It seems like a no-brainer that we ought to decide on the [easy/high-impact/serves other goals] and do all that stuff now – while we’re figuring things out and trying to improve the science.

So I’m interested in what people think fits into that box. Comment away…