Some lighthearted musings on the significance of NATO’s withdrawal schedule from Libya:
The UN Security Council voted unanimously today to end the authorization for humanitarian intervention in Libya at 11:59pm on October 31st. The UN did not comment on whether the ominous hour of NATO’s withdrawal—midnight on All Hallow’s Eve—is a sign of dire events to come. Let’s just all remember who was responsible when the Hellgate opens in Tripoli next weekend, and no-one has any air support to bomb the demon hordes that spew forth from its fiery maw.
This decision comes despite a request from Libya’s National Transitional Council to maintain military presence in the country until the new government can determine their security needs. The NTC, similarly, did not comment on whether those security needs included the possibility that Colonel Muammar Qaddafi might rise from his shallow grave as a Revenant Lich King, commanding an army of wights, ghouls, and inexpensive Sudanese mercenaries.
Full article can be found here.
And not only because between the three of them they have six.
A good friend of mine, Andrew Jensen, is about to set out to trek across Antarctica to the South Pole. His team-members include Richard Smith, a genial Briton who just completed an Iron Man in Switzerland, and Alan Lock, who will shortly become the first visually impaired person to trek to the South Pole.
Their undertaking is incredible on its own merits. But not content with shaming our courage and physical prowess, they challenge our moral gumption by doing it to raise money for two incredible charities: Sightsavers International and Guide Dogs for the Blind. Their IndieGoGo fundraising page can be found here. Check it out; I hear it does wonders for moral gumption.
For The Faster Times:
On November 22nd, the three team members of Polar Vision—Alan Lock, Andrew Jensen, and Richard Smith—will set a new record for Antarctic exploration. Alan Lock will become the first blind person to trek to the south pole. Because, as Lock puts it, “I would have done this anyways.”
Lock, 32, suffered from early onset macular degeneration eight years ago. An active duty navigator in Her Majesty’s Navy, he was forced to abandon his career as all but his extreme peripheral vision was reduced to an impenetrable white haze. As despondently furious as any rational human being would be at his loss, Lock rallied in spectacular fashion. He has risen from the ashes and set about conquering the world, one geographical monstrosity at a time.
Full article here. A much more in depth magazine article should be forthcoming.
(Photo credit: Flickr/isafmedia)
Luke Mogelson has produced an excellent investigative piece for NYT Magazine on the role that the new Afghan Local Police (or ALP, not to be confused with Afghan National Police, or ANP) are playing in provincial politics. The quick and dirty is that ethnic, tribal, and family affiliations are causing the ALP to serve as the proxy du jour for local militias—i.e. warlordism, i.e. the “bad old days” before the Taliban took over.
One thing many people fail to realize about the Taliban is that it actually was worse before they came to power. That was part of what enabled them to keep power, despite being morally equivalent to a homicidal pederast working for the Spanish Inquisition. Few Afghans appreciated the restrictions on their day-to-day lives that the Taliban imposed, but being forced to grow a beard was better than having Warlord A ride through and steal all your village’s food one week, then Warlord B ride through and slaughter all the village’s men for collaborating with Warlord A the next.
Some thoughts on the resurgence of protests in Syria, following Qaddafi’s downfall. The Arab Spring has carried on into the fall; whether it can add another dictator to the body count remains to be seen. Assad’s regime is considerably more cutthroat, powerful, and entrenched than any of the regimes overthrown thus far. It also has (perhaps had) Iranian backing. The effort necessary to topple each regime so far–Tunisia, Egypt, Libya–has increased exponentially as time goes on. The price of change in Syria will only be higher, and it is a bloody price to pay.
With news of the death of Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi sweeping the world yesterday, Syrian protests against the government of Bashar Al-Assad have taken on renewed energy. This resurgence has drawn international attention, as they maneuver to become the next potential domino in the sequence of violent change sweeping the region. The Arab Spring has toppled three governments thus far. Syria would represent the fourth, and possibly most the significant; certainly the most difficult.
President Assad, who has ruled Syria since his father’s death in 2000, has built a regime noted for its iron-fisted policies on dissent, aggressive foreign policy, and careful cultivation of Syria’s economy. Protesters in Syria took to the streets seven months ago, inspired by the revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia. Despite a brutal and widespread military crackdown, which is estimated to have cost over 3,000 lives thus far, their momentum has not abated.
Full article here: The Faster Times–Syrian Protests Become New Eye of the Arab Spring Storm
Going into a warzone takes a lot of equipment. And a lot of patience. Few things move with more deliberate, grinding slowness than a military bureaucracy. So while I waited for embed approval and/or the continents of Australia and Antarctica to merge, I put together a shopping list.
Big ticket items are fairly obvious. Flak jackets, for not being blown up. Cameras, for photographing other things being blown up. Helmets and impact-resistant sunglasses and flame-proof gloves, for further non-blow-upableness. Pants. Underwear doesn’t make the cut, with the long intervals of time between bathing and the extreme sweat-producing heat. I was explicitly advised to skip the undies and bring gym shorts to sleep in, so as to “let that junk dry out.” Wiser words.
(Flickr/The U.S. Army)
On July 8th, 1853, US Commodore Matthew C. Perry dropped anchor off the coast of Japan. His fleet of four steam-powered gunships had arrived near the city of Edo, the imperial capital, known to the world in later years as Tokyo. Until that landing, the Japanese had explicitly limited all outside contact with their nation to a single port–Nagasaki–and assiduously rejected all foreign involvement in Japan’s commerce or society. Their xenophobia was not without cause: many of Japan’s neighbors, including China, had become abject vassals to the quickly expanding empires of Great Britain, Holland, and France.
Commodore Perry was having none of this. He refused Japanese requests to move on to Nagasaki, and when his small fleet was encircled by Japanese ships, he calmly notified their commander that a refusal to disperse and allow him to land would result in the Japanese vessels’ prompt destruction.