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  • Economics and Politics in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2010

    The first is from Iraq just weeks after the draw-down reached 50,000 U.S troops remaining:

    Nation Building Works
    August 30, 2010
    The New York Times

    The U.S. venture into Iraq was a war, but it was also a nation-building exercise. America has spent $53 billion trying to reconstruct Iraq, the largest development effort since the Marshall Plan. So how’s it working out?

    On the economic front, there are signs of progress. It’s hard to know what role the scattershot American development projects have played, but this year Iraq will have the 12th-fastest-growing economy in the world, and it is expected to grow at a 7 percent annual clip for the next several years.

    About half the U.S. money has been spent building up Iraqi security forces, and here, too, the trends are positive. Violence is down 90 percent from pre-surge days. There are now more than 400,000 Iraqi police officers and 200,000 Iraqi soldiers, with operational performance improving gradually. According to an ABC News/BBC poll last year, nearly three-quarters of Iraqis had a positive view of the army and the police, including, for the first time, a majority of Sunnis.

    The second is about Iraq's political climate, now seven years after the Baath regime was routed:

    Iraq's Blessed Affliction

    August 4, 2010
    The Wall Street Journal

    These struggles are often colored by sectarian and ethnic divides, and further complicated by politics of fear driven by Iraq’s political history of oppression, making compromise more difficult. The good thing, however, is that so far the political parties are referring to the Constitution and courts in their disputes, not resorting to violence.

    And then from Afghanistan, almost nine years since the start of Operation Enduring Freedom:

    Is Afghanistan Worth It?

    August 3, 2010
    The Wall Street Journal

    Consistency, in the sense of supporting a counterinsurgency strategy for Afghanistan similar to the one conservatives urged (and that worked) for Iraq after the abject failure of the "light footprint" approach advocated by Joe Biden. Responsibility, in the sense of keeping faith with those to whom we make commitments.

    This is not just a moral argument: The U.S. cannot remain a superpower if the suspicion takes root that we are a feckless nation that can be stampeded into surrender by a domestic caucus of defeatists. Allies or would-be allies will make their own calculations and hedge their bets. Why should we be surprised that this is precisely what Pakistan has done vis-a-vis the Taliban? It's not as if the U.S. hasn't abandoned that corner of the world before to its furies.

    How a feckless America is perceived by its friends is equally material to how we are perceived by our enemies. In his 1996 fatwa declaring war on the U.S., Osama bin Laden took note of American withdrawals from Beirut in 1983 and Mogadishu a decade later. "When tens of your soldiers were killed in minor battles and one American pilot was dragged through the streets . . . you withdrew, the extent of your impotence and weakness became very clear." Is it the new conservative wisdom to prove bin Laden's point (one that the hard men in Tehran undoubtedly share), only on a vastly greater scale?

    Posted Sep 9, 2010, 7:04 AM by John Kavanagh
  • Mars Sample Return - Boldest Spaceflight Challenge since Apollo
    Excellent article from Spaceflight Now describing the multiple missions being collaboratively planned by the United States and Europe to discover and excavate samples from the surface of Mars, launch them in to Mars orbit, rendevouz with a return orbiter, fly them back to Earth and land them safely on Earth's surface.

    Mars sample return mission could begin in 2018

    July 20, 2010

    The costly mission would blast off on an Atlas 5 rocket in 2018 and land two rovers on Mars with a single "sky crane" descent system...

    The European Space Agency's ExoMars rover and a $2 billion NASA Mars Astrobiology Explorer-Cacher mission are the leading candidates for the tandem project.

    Planners haven't decided on a schedule for the sample's return to Earth, and it's possible the the precious soil could wait for up to six years -- or even longer -- before NASA and ESA can afford to send a mission to bring it back.

    One sample return option involves launching the caching mission in 2018, skipping a launch opportunity in 2020, then sending the an orbiter to Mars in 2022 that would ferry the cargo back to Earth, according to McCuistion.

    Another mission could fly in 2024 to fetch the samples from the 2018 landing site and launch the cache into orbit around Mars, where it would dock with the return orbiter and begin the journey home.

    "When we write the history, that decision taken by the council will be seen as the turning point," Southwood said in a July 8 interview. "That will be the point at which the Europeans said the future Mars program is together with the United States."

    Posted Jul 20, 2010, 11:06 AM by John Kavanagh
  • Have We Forgotten What Exploration Means?
    What is needed is the incremental, cumulative build-up of space faring infrastructure that is both extensible and maintainable, a growing system whose aim is to transport us anywhere we want to go, for whatever reasons we can imagine, with whatever capabilities we may need.
    Posted Jan 26, 2010, 8:34 AM by John Kavanagh
  • Great*5 Grandfather Buried Down the Road
    Not too far from our home, on Salt Road, there lies Beeman Cemetery, an old frontier graveyard, with the tomb of one Nathaniel Gallop (1760-1843), my sons' Great Great Great Great Great Grandfather. He was born in Rhode Island Colony before settling in Clarence by way of Bennington, Vermont. Nathaniel Gallop begot Asa Gallop (1794-1881), also buried in Clarence, who begot Mary Gallop (1823-?) who begot Olive Boyer (1843-1911) who's last born Bessie Hetherly (1889-1975), after her  spouse passed away during her second trimester, gave birth to my wife's grandma Thelma. Along with their two direct ancestors, dozens of dead fifth or sixth cousins, five+ times removed, lie buried in the same old cemetery.
    Posted Nov 8, 2009, 8:29 PM by John Kavanagh
  • External Innovation for NASA

    If one follows the interrupted path preceding the design of the NASA Human Spaceflight Exploration Systems Architecture Study, you’ll find the NASA actively discarded advanced technology and highly innovative architectures in favor of those internal NASA concepts and technology that depended on the the existing capabilities of NASA Centers (Heavy Lift from Marshall, for example) and preserved requirements for the existing Shuttle workforce.

    Successful adoption of innovative concepts inside of NASA requires exceptional leadership. Otherwise, parochial Center and Contractor interests will prevail.

    Comment originally posted at Centauri Dreams' post NIAC Redux: A Visionary Future.
    Posted Oct 28, 2009, 12:58 PM by John Kavanagh
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