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Over the past few years the U.S. military has been engaged in an extensive internal debate about counter-insurgency warfare. This is partly a debate about COIN tactics and techniques — in other words, about how to do COIN better — but the more important debate is about the priority that COIN should receive in U.S. defense planning. Specifically, should the United States continue to focus primarily on preparing for “great power” wars and strive to retain “command of the commons” through air power, naval power, and other sophisticated warfare capabilities, or should it retool for the various small wars that it seems to have been fighting lately?… Unfortunately, this line of argument ignores the fact that these wars are the result of past American mistakes. The first error was the failure to capture Bin Laden and his associates at the battle of Tora Bora, which allowed Al Qaeda’s leaders to escape into Pakistan and thus ensured that the United States would become enmeshed in Afghanistan… The second mistake was the foolish decision to invade Iraq in 2003, which led us into yet another costly insurgency. Not surprisingly, those charged with waging that war eventually focused on COIN, because that was the problem they were expected to solve. But the only reason they had to do so was the fact that the Bush administration decided to wage an unnecessary war in the first place. In short, the current obsession with counterinsurgency is the direct result of two fateful errors. We didn’t get Bin Laden when we should have, and we invaded Iraq when we shouldn’t. Had the United States not made those two blunders, we wouldn’t have been fighting costly counterinsurgencies and we wouldn’t be contemplating a far-reaching revision of U.S. defense priorities and military doctrine. –“Building on 2 Blunders: the dubious case for counterinsurgency,” Stephen M. Walt, Foreign Policy
Bribing the Taliban with “bags of gold,”, and other cutting-edge military tactics, including: the Massive Ordnance Penetrator; chemical mortars; spontaneous combustion beams; build-your-own AR-15 kits; and radioactive tumbleweed
My love and I had come to Paris in search of the mythic cheeses said to thrive an ocean away from the FDA. At longing last, we were in our tiny rental in the Marais, hovered over a single plate, tasting a Langres. This cheese, as it’s described in one rather bland guide, originates from the high plains of Langres in Champagne. It is shaped like a cylinder and has a deep well on top called a fontaine, a kind of basin into which Champagne or marc may be poured. This is a pleasant way to eat this cheese, and is characteristic of wine-producing regions. We didn’t have the funds for Champagne on this evening, but we had managed to get tipsy on a serviceable vin de pays, which is also a pleasant way to eat a Langres….“It doesn’t play well with others,” [my love said,] the thick smack of pâté slowing her speech. “It doesn’t respect lesser cheese.” “It’s like a road trip through Arizona in an old Buick,” I offered. “It’s like Charlus, but early in Proust.” “It has a half-life inside your teeth.” “It has ideas.” “It gradually peels off the skin on the roof of your mouth.“ “It attains absolute crustiness and absolute creaminess.” The problem with most descriptions of cheese, the sort you ?nd in guides, is that they’re reductive. Of?cially, the Langres is sticky, wet, shiny, ?rm, and supple, “melts in the mouth,” and has “a complex mixture of aromas.” Such descriptions convey, at best, a blueprint of the tasting experience, like a score does a symphony.–“Illegal Cheese,” Eric Lemay, Gastronomica
One of the most notable characteristics of Ouija lore is the vast-and sometimes authentically frightening-history of stories reported by users. A common story line involves communication that is at first reassuring and even useful–a lost object may be recovered through the board’s counsel–but eventually gives way to threatening or terrorizing messages. One group of Ouija enthusiasts reported ghostly knocks on their apartment doors after contacting the spirit of a serial killer. Others claimed physical and sexual assaults from unseen hands after a night of Ouija experimentation. One famous murder trial in 1933 involved claims that Ouija had “commanded” an Arizona girl and her mother to kill the girl’s father. Hugh Lynn Cayce, the soft-spoken son of the famous American psychic Edgar Cayce, once cautioned that his research found Ouija boards among the most “dangerous doorways to the unconscious.” –“Ouija,” Parabola
I recently spent a semester teaching writing at an elite liberal-arts college. At strategic points around the campus, in shades of yellow and green, banners displayed the following pair of texts. The first was attributed to the college’s founder, which dates it to the 1920s. The second was extracted from the latest version of the institution’s mission statement:
The paramount obligation of a college is to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, and the ability to live confidently, courageously, and hopefully.
Let us take a moment to compare these texts. The first thing to observe about the older one is that it is a sentence. It expresses an idea by placing concepts in relation to one another within the kind of structure that we call a syntax. It is, moreover, highly wrought: a parallel structure underscored by repetition, five adverbs balanced two against three.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A naked man believed to be under the influence of LSD rammed his pickup truck into two police cars.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”