Vae Victus

Classical Musings on a Modern World - Politics, Military Analysis, Dog Training, and More

Location: Chicago, IL

I am a consultant from chicago where I live with my wife, our dog, and two cats

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Another Sunday with a morning filled with coffee and the newspaper. Unfortunately for me, it also means a Clarence Page article and another attack in the Tribune's "War on the War" as I like to call it.

Going beyond what anything other than loony leftists have done to this point, Clarence Page finally says what all of the columnists and reporters have been hinting at these past few weeks - he says we should just leave Iraq. Of course, he couches it in some weasel words, but there isn't any other disceranable point in the article.

Why should we leave? In his view we don't have an exit strategy and need to come up with one. Instead of taking the President at his word (which has remained remarkably consistent throughout all of this), he instead reaches for the worst possible solution, an immediate or a target withdrawal. His claim is that the American troops are an "impediment" to the process we've tried to implement in Iraq, and that we'd be better off leaving.

There is almost certainly a target for troop withdrawals in Iraq, and it is almost certainly something the Military and the President doesn't want to share with its terrorist and Sunni adversaries in Iraq. Already American troop levels are below the peak at the war and there have been comments indicating that those levels will go lower. Certainly, one can opine about the types of operations that are being run in Iraq. There has been no more talk about Fallujah (not even the standard followup on what was once seen as the indication of a quagmire. I guess the operations there have been too successful for the media to report them) . Instead, operations are occurring on the border between Syria and Iraq now, sealing up areas that we didn't have the luxury of dealing with before, and American troops are being more and more proactive against the terrorists.

The central problem of Page's article is that he believes that the war is all of Iraq against the US. He states,
"Bush's recent speeches inaccurately cast the war as an us-versus-them battle with terrorists. In fact, the U.S. increasingly looks like an outside
force caught up in the crossfire of a developing civil war between multiple
Iraqi factions, principally the old Baath party and the ethnic factions of the
Kurds, Shiites and Sunni Muslims"

What Page fails to realize here is that this is war against 2 primary groups: the Sunni Baath party supporters who long for a return to the good old days and the hardened terrorists who have come from far away to fight the great and evil Americans. The Kurds and Shiites may not always love us, but we are on their side and for the most part, they've committed to a democratic process that recognizes different ethic groups and the rights of individuals.

American tactics are working and if the media would ever send a reporter outside of their Baghdad hotel they might see the results (can any of them claim 1/2 the level of courage that Michael Yon is showing?). Instead, we get baked over re-written reports from reporters who aren't truly reporting, but who are nonetheless pushing their beliefs into everything they write (or at least allowing those beliefs to choose which stories get reported). The worst thing for this effort would be for the US to state a "deadline" for withdrawal. That is a sure tactic to allow the terrorists to continue their efforts and to have a 'deadline' of their own.

However, Page doesn't want the reader to realize that the US does enjoy increasing support in Iraq and in other Muslim countries and that that support has shown up in recent polls. Interesting that he chooses to highlight a poll showing the President's support in Iraq being incredibly soft after a month of non-stop beatings by the press, but chooses to ignore a report showing that the a good part of the rest of the Islamic world is starting to notice and support the US.

Perhaps that is because Page isn't concerned with an honest portrayal of the situation. Perhaps he is more concerned with a humiliating loss for the President than he is with hoping for a positive outcome in Iraq.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Today's post concerns the recent Israeli retreat from Gaza. While this has been a hotly debated move by Sharon, it reflects, in my opinion, a positive view of Bush and the War on Terror. What I mean by that statement is that Sharon would never have pulled back from the Gaza if he did not think that the US was making progress in the WOT and if he did not trust Bush to support him if (and when) the Palestinian attempt to push the envelope.

Tactically, this move has several near term implications. One, it moves the Israeli defense back to a maintainable, realistic front outside of the Gaza, instead of attempting to maintain defenses amidst an overpowering Palestinian population majority. This seems consistent with Sharon's move toward a separation of the Palestinian and the Israeli people.

However, on the down side, it does give the Palestinians new routes for the importation of guns and weapons. Yet, I counter that the Palestinians already have ample access to guns and weapons - not to mention more than ample funding from their supporters in the Middle East and in Europe.

Overall, I think the tactical results are somewhat mixed and, in my mind, a wash.

The strategic changes because of this move are what I find to be significant. The Israeli/Palestinian conflict is not one that lives in a vacuum, nor is it one that can be solved solely by the two parties concerned. Instead, it has become an international conflict - due to financial support for the Palestinians and for Palestinian terror coming from other states in the Middle East (and indirectly from European sources and even the UN), and due to the US's longstanding involvement in the conflict.

So, the strategic implications of the retreat from Gaza are ones that will have international implications, and Sharon's long term goal from this move is international, not local. The Israelis will never be able to end the conflict without first ending the international support for the Palestinians - international support that is less concerned with a Palestinian state and more concerned with the end of Israel. Unlike Jordan which was quite comfortable with killing and driving the Palestinians out of their territory, the Israelis have never been able to support such atrocities. Instead, they have allowed themselves to be pushed into fighting a low-level guerrilla war throughout most of the past 20 years. Unless they decided to conduct the war differently (a political and ethical non-starter), they have to force the Palestinians to realize that they have to deal with Israel as a sovereign entity, and that they can no longer count on the international support for their terrorist endeavors.

Pulling out of Gaza is an important part of this effort. Europe, despite their tepid support for the WOT, is starting to come to terms with the fact that they have a serious problem within their borders. The bombings in London and Spain along with the murder of the director in Holland are graphic reminders of the type of terrorism that they have supported in recent years - with the hope that the terror would be conducted elsewhere. Even France and Germany are starting to work to crack down on the radicals within their borders.

Leaving Gaza to the Palestinians means that the Palestinians get a de facto state of their own. It will be up to them to prove whether or not they can govern in a peaceful, constructive manner. If they do so, then the Sharon's move will have paid off. He will have a separate, but peaceful Palestinian state next door to Israel. That, however, is an unlikely outcome. Given the level of influence that Hamas has on the Palestinian state, it is likely that they will war with the more peaceful elements in Palestine and maybe even with the more warlike elements in a power struggle to determine the fate. Almost inevitably, one or more of these groups will attempt to gain support through a large scale attack on Israel.

If and when this happens, Sharon will have placed himself in a political position to take more drastic attempts to defeat Hamas (or any other leaders that threaten Israel). If it is a war involving other states, I imagine that Israel would be reluctantly happy as they would likely make short work of any force the Syrians or Egyptians would bring to such a war - however unlikely it is for the Egyptians to jeopardize their US funding by such a foolish move.

This is dependent upon the Europeans staying out of the conflict when it is clear that it was precipitated by the Palestinians. The US could in such circumstances give silent aid and support as well. All the situation does for Israel is give them sufficient political cover to do what needs to be done.

Why are the circumstances ripe for this sort of move? First, it is important to Sharon that someone like Bush is President. A weaker leader in the US, or one less committed to the WOT would have made it untenable for Sharon to risk such a move. Instead of retaliation for attacks, Sharon would have been pushed to accept more resolutions and more talks serving only to embolden the Palestinian aggressions.

Second, the very success of the WOT has made the retreat from Gaza possible. Saudi Arabia has been moving swiftly and harshly to crack down on terrorists in their country, while that hasn't shown a confirmed lowering of support and funding for the Palestinians, it can't help but take its toll over time. The overall success and improvement in Iraq - leading them down the path toward being an Islamic republic is another beneficial sign. Jordan and Egypt have both made moves to make themselves more open - and Egypt has even scheduled something of an open election for the coming year. I doubt that Egypt would consider such a move without the pressure of their people seeing that democracy can be implemented in the Middle east.

While this is a very complex situation and there are still great dangers in Israel's position, I see the current situation as an overall benefit to Israel, and as something indicating greater progress on the WOT than our media would have us believe.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Monday wasn't the usual Monday for us. I woke up relatively early and because I am not on a project this week was able to work at home. Over lunch I picked up our 2 year old German Shepherd who had been with his trainer over the weekend while we travelled. Fortunately, because he'd been playing non-stop for the past 48 hours, they gave him a very thorough bath before letting me take him home.

To introduce our Shepherd, Jacque, I need to describe briefly the different types of German Shepherds that there are in the modern world. Most people think of German Shepherd and they either make the connection to Rin Tin Tin or a German Shepherd that they knew when they were young. Unfortunately, it is no longer that simple.

At the broadest level the two categories are the German Shepherds (or GSD's) that come from Germany and follow the German breeding standards and those that have been bred for the American show ring and do NOT follow the German breeding standards.

Some time ago, the breeders who showed their dogs in the AKC ring decided that they knew better than the creaters of the breed and began to breed their dogs to produce an extremely smooth looking "flying side gait" so that when the dog was gaiting in the ring it looked almost as if it was flying. Unfortunately, this quest for one trait above the many other traits that a GSD is supposed to have led to these dogs looking radically different than their counterparts around the world, and perhaps more significantly led to them having very extreme differences in temperment and working ability. Dogs from these lines tend to have very thin long faces, can be tall, but with extremely deep chests, and look almost as if they are on an angle, their rear quarters are low to the ground due to the extreme angulation they have been bred to have. Some people have termed these dogs "ho ck-walkers" because their rear hocks almost hit the ground when running.

Unfortunately, these physical characteristics (and at time some extreme inbreeding) led to dogs that were no longer healthy and were not capable of being the type of dog the GSD was supposed to be - an all around WORKING dog capable of performing a number of useful tasks without a great deal of extra care and fuss. Indeed, the temperment issues of these dogs is the biggest issues. At one point, when Jacque was 1.5 years old we took him to the vet for his annual checkup. The vet was shocked because most of the GSD's she saw were attempting to hide when she came in to the room to see them.

The dogs bred under the German rules undergo a number of different tests prior to breeding. First is a standardized hip test to ensure they are free from Hip displasia - a cruel disease that has plagued the German Shepherd breed and a good number of other large dog breeds. The Germans have instituted a system to not only capture the hip score of the dog in question, but they also assign a number to that dog based on their pedigree - and later on how well the dogs progeny scores on the hip exams.

The second hurdle the GSD has to defeat is a working test. The original working test was actually doing the work. Shepherds knew which dogs could do the work and the ones that performed were the ones that were bred. However, a herding test was developed as well to test the ability of the dog to work in competitions. A dog that passes this test earns the HGH title. Additionally, as GSD's became dogs that worked in the military and in police departments a second test, the Schutzhund test, was developed. This test scores the dogs ability to do a complex obedience exercise, track a person's footsteps across a field to find an object, and finally to perform a protection exercise against a man with a bite sleeve. Note that the goal of this was NOT to produce dogs that were agressive or out of control, instead the goal was a dog with strong character and intelligence who could perform under stress.

Dogs who are bred under the German style breeding program come in many varieties and from all over the world - and often look quite different from what people expect a GSD to look like. As a quick example, there are West German working lines, West German showlines, Herding lines, East German lines, Czech lines and other smaller categories(check out for more pedigrees than you'd ever care to see), but more on that in a later. Suffice it to say that Jacque is mostly West German Show Lines with some herding lines as well.

He's been everything I expected and more, and the past 2 years have been a learning experience for both of us. He turned 2 years old in April and was recently weighed at just under 85 lbs. I consider him to be a true credit to the German breeding program. He is stable and clear headed enough to live in a crowded city, in our apartment, and to socialize with strangers and children. Yet, is also protective and can do the work that a German shepherd should be able to do. We are currently training him to get a Brevet title in French Ring (sort of the French equivalent of Schutzhund) before training him for his Schutzhund title. We may also dabble in showing him at German style conformation events, but need to find a mentor who can thoroughly evaluate whether or not we should put in the time. Either way, he is an incredible companion for my wife and I. He makes me feel much more comfortable about leaving her alone when I am away for work or business. Our little joke is that when she is walking him, he is her "Politeness enforcer"

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Just returned from the weekend away. My wife and I spent the weekend in St. Louis with my brother and his family helping them to celebrate the baptism of their newest member of the family, their second daughter. 5 hours driving there and another 5 hours to return sandwiched a very nice weekend with the family.

Of course, that meant we came home to a house made chaotic from the cats having free run for two days. Actually, the poor things get nervous when we leave and end up throwing up and feeling bad when we are away. It means a lot of cleanup when we come home, and it means we are forced to make it up to the little ones for few days :) This seems like a good time to describe our cats. The oldest, Isabell is a black/smoke female Persian of the doll-face variety. She is about 1 1/2 years old now, very small maybe 5 lbs, but very athletic. We like to say she is "furtive and small".

The second of the cats is Oliver. He is a orange Persian of the more common flat-faced type. Unfortunately for him, he was taken from his mother at too young of an age, and was of the overbred for show type of cat, so he has little ability to care for himself outside of a caring home, and even then is a bit clumsy. That said, he is SO very sweet and SO affectionate to us.

They are both our little babies despite their differing personalities and physical types. The similarity they share is how they came to be at our house. Something that most people don't realize is that Persians and some of the other purebred cats (especially those with long hair) are at extra high risk when donated to the shelters. Most of them are difficult to groom and require daily grooming that the shelters can't afford to provide. Additionally, many Persians with flat faces suffer from the sniffles and pick up respiratory ailments quickly. The sum of all of these things is that they are commonly put down first at the shelters.

A great organization in Northern Illinois and Southern Wisconsin picked up on this and has been working as a rescue organization for these loving, beautiful cats. That is where we got these two beautiful kitties.

To do a shameless plug, please go see the beautiful cats at :
If you can help them out they are very deserving and could use any donations or even foster help if you can provide it, and if you want a great cat, rescuing one of these would be a wonderful thing! It's been incredible for us welcoming them into our family. ..and knowing that we helped to save them.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Yesterday I mentioned an article by Steve Chapman in the Tribune. While it would be interesting to go through his article point by point to discuss its accuracy and debate everything in the article, I thought it would be more interesting to discuss the style of debate that he utilizes.

Once upon a time the use of logic was a key component of a debate. You put together facts in a way that created an argument and a logical conclusion. That seems to no longer be popular in today's media. Instead, I see what I call argument by "assertion". I consider this to be when someone makes a flurry of debatable statements that may or may not be accurate. Instead of creating a logical argument that can be refuted, the writer tends to put forth all of these statments at once in a way that shows them to be inviolable truths that should not be questioned - and in such number that any opponent would have to spend all of their time questioning their accuracy. Chapman's article of 8/18 takes exactly that approach. His basic premise is to question the idea that we can win the war in Iraq. Indeed, he says that the administration is waiting for a "miracle". Why they would require a miracle he doesn't really say - rather, it is assumed or "asserted" to be a fact.,1,1829186.column?coll=chi-news-col

As I look at his article, I have a hard time finding one verifiable fact in the entire mess. Let's use first two paragraphs of the article as an example,

"`I think about Iraq every day--every single day." No, those were not the
words of peace activist Cindy Sheehan, who is camped out by the Bush ranch in Crawford, Texas, hoping for a meeting with the president so she can ask what her soldier son died for. Those were the words of the commander in chief back in June.

It's nice to know that President Bush can make time in his schedule to notice the war on a daily basis. But maybe the time to think was before he invaded. Then the nation wouldn't find itself in the awful predicament posed by a war we can't afford to lose and can't afford to win."

Where to begin with that? He takes a simple, straightforward statement by the President and twists it to mean that the President has given little thought to the war - now or before we invaded. In the process, he manages to mention Cindy Sheehan (but conveniently doesn't mention that Bush met her last year), and defines the war as one "we can't afford to lose and can't afford to win".. Whatever the hell that means.

Shockingly, the rest of the article is even worse. He talks about the polls (with no context provided for their numbers). He tries to make statements by Rumsfeld and Bush seem to be contradictory. Then finally, he gets to the what seems to be the most important point of his article: Public Support. Is he really analyzing the public support for the war objectively? Or is he cheerleading for the opposition? I think you can guess from the way the article is written what his true purpose is...

For instance, he states the war was, "supposed to be brief and easy". He provides NO support for that statement when a simple google search would provide plenty of evidence to the contrary. Bush has pretty straightforward on this taking a lot of time - and didn't waver when they said the initial war would be a "quagmire" either.

As I dug deeper, I searched for other articles that Chapman had written about the war. Back in 2002, Chapman wrote an article about Afghanistan when we went to war with Iraq and made the claim that we were losing focus in Afghanistan. He seemed to think we were going to cut and run. Fortunately that hasn't been the case for us at all.,1,5826896.column?coll=chi-news-col

I find his closing comments for this article to be very telling, "Once we find ourselves knee deep in postwar Iraq, though, we'll feel an irresistible impulse to do as little as possible and get out as soon as we can, without much regard for the consequences. That's what we always do." His implication being that we were dumping Afghanistan after going to war with Iraq. That hasn't proven to be the case.. and I doubt that his analysis of Iraq is any more accurate.

Today's business: a long conference call for work, helping my wife prepare for our "church wedding" scheduled for this fall, and a Yankees/White Sox baseball game tonight. It's going to be a full day and is already a scorcher in Chicago.

Otherwise not a lot going on. My wife and I have started a renewed exercise program (again) as an effort to get into better shape and to look better for the wedding. It involves long walks with our German Shepherd and a pedometer to track the distances each day. There is the matter of a diet as well, but that is more her purview than mine!

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Today's post centers around the Chicago Tribune. In today's world of declining readership and lower ad revenue for newspapers, the Tribune corporation seems to be making a passing effort to appeal to some moderates and even conservatives by adding Victor Davis Hanson to their syndicated editorial rotation. That along with John Kass' excellent daily column make the paper almost readable.

That said, they just can't get away from being a cheerleader for the opposition in Iraq. Yesterday's column by Mary Schmich has to be one of the worst examples. Schmich, a mediocre writer on her best days, outdoes herself in writing that the "tide has turned". Relying on evidence provided from polls and a few forwarded emails. As she states, "Is a forwarded e-mail proof of anything? No. But it's another glimmer of a subtle shift that will eventually be as obvious as a beached whale." The hilarious part here is that the email comes from someone that she "thought" supported the war. The letter itself is described as coming from a, "Republican-leaning businessman", but we never learn whether or not there was a transformation in his views on the war or even if he IS a republican leaning businessman or just another troll setting out to influence public opinion ... (anyone notice how leftists love to portray themselves Republicans in order to criticize Republican viewpoints?)

As for the war itself, I guess we'll see. Personally, I tend to think of Schmich in the same way that I think of Jimmy Carter. If he believes one thing, it takes a hell of a lot of logic and thought for me to NOT believe the opposite.

But let's examine some of the particulars of this article: Is there really a large change in public opinion behind this article?
--Not really, but Schmich doesn't take any time to analyze the polls or the history of what polls supporting the war have shown or any of the internals of the poll itself. For instance, if she had bothered to look, the support for the war has been relatively evenly split since its inception. Just over a year ago, the war got 51% of people polled saying it was the right decision (Pew research center April/May poll)
Without going into the details of the Tribune poll (few details were provided in the article other than that it was a Gallup poll), Gallup has another poll that describes whether or not people think things are going "well" in Iraq:
This poll is more interesting as people have seemed to think that things are going "very/moderately badly" for most of the war. I don't see any evidence of Schmich's "Tide" anywhere in this data. Instead, I see a trend of people who remain pessimistic about the war, but are not in active opposition because of the lack of any better solutions.

What is Schmich's purpose for this poll anyway? We've already seen that she did little or no research for the article and couldn't be bothered to followup on a forwarded email to see if it was a real email or a plant and certainly couldn't be bothered to perform even perfunctory analysis of the polls she cites. Besides the fact that her logic tends to be garbled on the best days, it appears to me that her only real purpose was to add to the cheerleading that was continued in the Tribune today in Steve Chapman's article, "Time for Bush to face bitter choice in Iraq".

Chapman takes several approaches in this artile he mentions Cindy Sheehan, he mentions the polls, he criticizes them for not having enough men, he criticizes the progress of the Iraqi constitution, and criticizes the rationale for the war itself. Almost seems like the full list of talking points from If I have time, I'll work my way through them tomorrow in a different post. On a side note, it is interesting that so many Tribune columnists can talk about Cindy Sheehan, but none can bother to mention that she DID meet with Bush and that her opinions at the time were far different than they are now.

It will be fun to see what happens when the constitution is ratified in Iraq and when we start to withdraw troops (oops, guess we've already done a bit of that). I suspect that many of these cheerleaders of the opposition will conveniently forget what they wrote this past week. I won't, though, and hope that you don't forget either.

As I haven't written in my blog for over two years, I would suppose that an explanation (and a new introduction) is in order. My name is Alan. I am a 37 year old consultant from Chicago with strong interests in politics, philosophy, history, dog training and, of course, my wife.

I don't have a specific focus for this blog other than exploring the ideas that I find interesting and putting those ideas into words.