About this blog...

I am a former leader of a Human Terrain Team in Iraq. My intent with this blog was to identify relevant, open-source materials on Iraqi culture, society, politics, religion and economics - just about anything on or about the Iraqi population in general.

I am continuing the blog now only sporadically, as a means of information distribution in support of efforts to improve a vital program hamstrung by failures in execution.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Scary, Sicko or Sick: What's in a name?

The International Crisis Group recently released a great backgrounder on SCIRI. If nothing else, it's helpful for finally putting to rest the group's preferred acronym since they dropped "Revolution" from their old name -- the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq. (Apparently, we took care of that small matter for them.) You see, if you look in English language press since then, no one can decide if it's now SCII or ISCI or SICI or SIIC.* Originally, the group released a statement in May clarifying the English name as the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council (SIIC). Somebody didn't like that, though, so they amended it later:

The new name in Arabic was Al-Majlis al-‘Aala al-Islami al-Iraqi, the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council. Confusion in the media over the name’s translation – should it be SICI or SIIC in English? – led to an official announcement at the end of July that the English name would henceforth be 'The Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq', 'ISCI'."

There's a lot more to the report than the name change, though. After an introduction to the group's history, and its role in the Iran-Iraq war, the report details at length ISCI's recent relationship with both the US and Iran, and the potential future for both of those relationships. Even here though, the name change offers fair insight into the group's complex and evolving relationships with Iraq's two biggest foreign... um... "partners":

"The name change was made to suggest SCIRI’s transformation from an exile-based rebel group associated with the Islamic Revolution in Iran to a responsible party of government in Iraq...
This clarification [of the official "ISCI" acronym] appears to have been made at the urging of SCIRI’s backers in the Bush administration, who were concerned about the possible negative connotation of the words 'siic' and 'sici', which are close to the English 'sick' and 'sicko'..."

And no, I'm not making that last sick/sicko bit up. (Al Kamen can even vouch for it.) Never thought I'd say this, but if "sick and sicko" are the extent of our forethought these days, then the steady hand of Karl Rove at the helm of the spin machine is sorely missed...

A closer look at the group is valuable though, as they continue to play a pivotal role in the future of Iraq. In October, ISCI made a much-remarked and widely heralded agreement with its erstwhile rival, the Jaysh al Mehdi, led by Moqtada al Sadr. However, numerous reports and analysts have suggested that the truce is just a political show, and that conflicts between the two groups continue unabated.

*For what it's worth, here's a google scorecard for the terms:

Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council SIIC


Supreme Islamic Council of Iraq SICI


Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq ISCI


Supreme Council for Islamic Iraq SCII


Obviously, somebody (quite a few somebodies) didn't get ISCI's memo. Whatta bunch of sickos.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Playing with Numbers

There's been quite a bit in the press lately--Iraqi and international--about refugees suddenly returning to Iraq in droves. However, other reports have suggested that all the hype is just a government PR job that's been particularly effective, and that the numbers are pretty exaggerated.

This is important stuff, since it wasn't that long ago that all the reports were about refugees that were leaving the country in droves, or about the countries turning them away and the horrible conditions they faced in the few countries that would accept them.

Of course, all of this is beyond Iraq's internally displaced persons (refugees that don't cross a border)--both current and historical--and groups whose plight is so desperate that they came to Iraq as refugees.

It's no surprise that every little development gets lots of play in the media, though; as one of the reports noted, "returnees have essentially become a currency of progress".

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The psychology (and economics) of terrorism

An article in the current issue of The American discusses the origins of terrorism -- or more specifically, the origins of terrorists. The conclusion? The popular belief that terrorism is a nihilistic act born of poverty-induced desperation is not quite it. Specifically,

"the available evidence is nearly unanimous in rejecting either material deprivation or inadequate educa­tion as important causes of support for terrorism or participation in terrorist activities. Such explana­tions have been embraced almost entirely on faith, not scientific evidence."

Actually, most terrorists really are committed true believers, willing to die for their cause. Within the Muslim world, the researcher found a positive relationship between level of education and support for terrorism -- the higher your level of education, the more likely you are to support terrorism against Western (including Israeli) targets. Suicide bombers also tended to be better educated than the average population. He didn't find any strong correlation at all with wealth or poverty, although some evidence even suggests that suicide bombers had a slight tendency to come from a higher average socio-economic background than the rest of society.

What does this mean? That addressing terrorism is about more than addressing poverty, or putting military-aged males to work. (Although these things never hurt.) Fortunately, efforts are underway to address more than just poverty as a source of terrorism. Normally, I'd be a little leary of an American effort to introduce "religious enlightenment," but we've reached the point where it's time to give just about any innovative approach a try. Maybe we can just take a page from the Saudi's book, and distract them with Playstations...

These are important issues to address since another recent study finds that as a military tactic, the suicide bomber is increasingly "effective, numerous, adaptable and sophisticated."

Two things are important to remember with all of this, though. First, like any other social science, it's grossly oversimplistic to try and reduce a social phenomenon to one singe cause (such as economics or religious beliefs). You're doing great to even get a primary cause...

Second, and more important, is to recall that these studies are about global terrorism, and not an Iraqi insurgency. There might be significant overlap between these two phenomena, but then, there may not be. It's recently been suggested that little of the violence in Iraq (even little of the Sunni-insurgent violence) is related to the Salafi/Takfiri-type Al Qeada attacks. There may be something to this, since there's plenty to indicate that violence in Iraq has much more to do with political, religious or personal conflicts, or even plain old, racketeering-style profits.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Military Tourism

This post might not be all that relevant for the units the HTTs are here to support -- military tourism is hardly something most maneuver folks here are guilty of. But it was one of my biggest pet peeves when I was here last time--in the Green Zone--so I couldn't help but be disgusted when I stumbled upon this. The mentality associated with walking around this nation like it's your own little sight-seeing trip stuns me. You look at the backgrounds of the authors - a CA guy and an NGO guy - and you just expect better of them. Instead, every local they saw on their sight-seeing wound up seeing the ultimate in ugly American tourists. How can we claim any credibility in anything we do when they see that this is how seriously we take the responsibility we have assumed by doing what we as a nation have done here, and are claiming to do now.

I suppose it could be argued that by trying to explain the historical relevance of these sights, the authors are actually encouraging cultural understanding. It could be argued, that is, until you read tidbits like the fact that the 14 July Bridge was named for the 1985 revolution that overthrew the Hashemite monarchy. Yeah, that's right guys -- the Ba'ath Party finally thought to themselves "Hey, you know what? We're in the middle of a war with Iran, we've been running the country for almost 30 years, let's overthrow the monarchy!"

Thanks for the efforts you so very clearly expended in your time here, guys. There's nothing like a little understanding.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Arrested Development

There's a new article in Joint Forces Quarterly that has some useful observations on detention policies in a counter-insurgency. Among it's most useful observations: try not to arrest too many innocent people, be careful which confirmed insurgents you release and don't let them use your detention center as a training facility or base of operations. Ok, this should all be stunningly obvious, but it seems like one of the biggest problems with COIN doctrine are "practitioners" that read the manuals, say "duh, of course I would/wouldn't do that..." and then proceed to do the opposite. Too often, COIN seems to come down to having to do the smart thing that you really don't want to do. Hopefully, though, missteps will always be balanced with innovative ideas.

Governance Assessment

I'm a little behind, so this assessment from the Congressional Research Service is from earlier this month. It's a good rundown on the state of governance and security from Saddam forward, including the current state of things and options going forward (from partition to installation of a "strong man"). I'll keep to myself which of those going forward options I believe to be most culturally viable...

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

COIN in a Tribal Society

I posted some brief things a few weeks ago about COIN in a tribal society, but this longer monograph just went up on the SWJ blog. It's by William McCallister, the cultural adviser mentioned in a vignette I referred to a few weeks ago...

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

DOS Iraq Status Report

Think of this briefing as the national, embassy version of an O & I update. Not a lot of interest or utility for those of us focused on a local level, but still interesting for visibility on the national picture (or at least what's being reported...)

The "Other" Culture

When we talk about the HTTs being here to provide advice on local culture, we're talking about culture as the fabric that binds individual people into a society: religion, politics, power structures, language, organizations, economics, history -- everything. The other type of culture, though -- what you can call the arts, or high culture -- is one small part of that bigger, more important culture. Understanding this other type of culture is not necessarily something that offers immediate utility, but it's another chance to gain an insight on Iraqis - or at least some Iraqis.

You can see from the tags below that this stuff falls squarely into the "shallow news" tag; Some of these stories (the folklore story, the orchestra story) probably don't really reflect life for the majority of Iraqis. But these are all layers of what's going on here that a lot of us can forget about pretty easily...

An Iraqi singer performs Iraqi and Iraq-inspired pieces in Beirut, because "violence and oppression is killing their cultural identity" and "the meaning of tradition... has been lost in Iraq."

Nonetheless, the Iraqi National Folklore Ensemble and Iraqi National Symphony Orchestra continue to practice in hopes of soon performing again. But practicing or not, the singer's point might be driven home by the fact that the Folklore group has to practice in a secret location, and the Orchestra can't seem to keep their best musicians from fleeing the country.

Average Iraqis, though, still turn to the TV. Power may be limited in a lot of places, but the first thing anyone does when it comes on is hit that "on" switch. News is rarely the first choice, though -- favorites are Egyptian soap operas, the latest political satire, or good old escapist cartoons, movies and music videos.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Life during Ramadan

This short article isn't particularly hard-hitting, and doesn't offer any broader observations or insights. It's just a brief vignette about local Iraqi life during Ramadan...

NGOs and the choices they face

This new report from Tufts discusses the choices NGOs in Iraq are faced with -- working with the military vs. being seen as colluding with them (vs. being used by them); the fact that the humanitarian assistance that is often most necessary is usually the assistance that it is most dangerous to provide; trying to remaining neutral in a place where it's impossible to do so vs. the benefits and costs of explicitly or implicitly choosing one side.

Beyond NGOs, these are the dilemmas most Iraqis face in their daily lives -- particularly those that want to take an active role in their society by being involved with CF, GoI, SIIC, JAM, etc. These are dilemmas that it's good to understand, and important to be mindful of...

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Sunni and Shia engagement: effects of the surge

The lion's share of this article, as is clear in the title, is about the effect of the surge on engagement with and among the Shia. The most interesting analysis to me, though, is the first section discussing Sunni engagement, where the author points out that if nothing else, the Sunni leaders we've been dealing with since starting the surge have far more legitimacy among the Sunni than anyone who's been willing to deal with us previously. It kind of drives home the distinction between dealing with legitimate leaders on whatever terms we have to and trying to create leaders out of whatever shmoes are willing to deal with us on our terms...

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Tribal Engagement

This piece just came out on tribal engagement -- it's a great introduction to dealing with tribes in this environment. You can also check out this piece about factors unique to a tribal insurgency.

Friday, September 14, 2007

HTS in Afghanistan

CSM had an article last week on the HTS Team in Afghanistan...

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

IDP Update

It's no big secret that IDPs have become a big issue in Iraq -- it's a big part of the sectarian stuff that's been going on (along with a general refugee problem...) This week, an organization that specifically addresses the issue of displaced persons in Iraq released its mid-2007 assessment. An assessment of the IDP camps (from July 07) and a report specific to Baghdad IDPs (May 07) are also worth a look. Reports on the other governorates can be found here. Meanwhile, a recent article describes the life of Iraq refugees elsewhere in the Arab world, while another claims that the surge has increased the number of displaced persons....

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Culture is complicated

Noah Schachtman, over at the Danger Room, has a great vignette that illustrates why understanding the culture is about more than simply "being nice" to the locals...

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Ramadan Prisoner Release

Coalition forces announced this week that 50 prisoners a day will be released during Ramadan, which begins on 13 September. It's something we've done in previous years, and it's a common practice in the Muslim world. It happens in nations as varied as Egypt, Israel, Western Sahara, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, UAE, Afghanistan, Yemen, Morocco, Indonesia, Iran and in certain US States (on HBO, at least).

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Dropping the ball

I think enough has been written and observed about the soccer ball incident in Afghanistan that there's no need to make any heavy-handed observations or arguments about the role an HTT might have played in the planning. (Although, to be fair, this sounds more like a personal good-will initiative rather than a deliberate military effort, so an HTT probably wouldn't have actually mattered anyway...)

Monday, August 27, 2007

Once more, why we need HTS

Saturday's LAT had an article on troop morale. You can agree or disagree with the article itself -- odds are, she decided to write an article on low morale and went out and found evidence to support it (which would have been pretty easy). She could just as easily have decided to write an article on high morale, and she would have found evidence for that as well (it's out there too). This is the very reason why I have a tag called "shallow news."

But one factor, mentioned only in passing, highlights why it's so important that the Army as a institution develop a better understanding of the local population:

Soldiers' discomfort is compounded by the task of forging relations with people whom few trust, and who often make clear their dislike of the U.S. presence.

"All war is political, but usually privates and specialists don't have to think much about that part of it. In this conflict they do, to a much greater degree," Biddle said, referring to the community activities that troops have been drawn into. These include negotiating with tribal leaders who once harbored insurgents, striking deals with former insurgents to bring them into the Iraqi security forces, and listening to residents' complaints about lack of services.

"You have to help people despite the strong suspicion that lots of them mean you ill," Biddle said. "We're asking an awful lot of very, very young people."

The more we equip soldiers with knowledge of the population, the better prepared they are for this new type of mission. That understanding is equipment nearly as essential as a weapon or body armor.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Assessments Galore

For some reason, a ton of assessments have come out in the last few weeks. Maybe they're trying to preempt next month's report from the administration/GEN Petraeus (which will apparently be on Sep 11). Whatever the reason, here they are:
  • First to the numbers:
    • The first one is just a rundown of lots of numerical indicators from Iraq. It's from a blog, but all of his numbers are from major media sources. (That doesn't add a ton to the credibility, but at the very least, it's what's being reported.) The numbers are never clear, though: Iraq Slogger recently discussed a GOI official suggesting that there are a lot more detainees in Iraq than reported.
    • A report from the Fund for Peace based an analysis of 12 economic, social and pol/mil indicators over the last 4 years concludes that the only viable option remaining is to break Iraq into a "Union of Iraqi States" divided by sect and independent in every facet but economics. Even if you don't agree with the conclusion, the quantitative assessment of variables and factors that are exceedingly difficult to quantify can still be useful. So much of the writing about what's happening (and what should happen) in Iraq is anecdotal and opinion-based. The rare attempt to rigorously quantify something more complex than "number of attacks" is always a worthwhile contribution. An abridged version of the report is also available.
  • The Government of Iraq (GoI):
    • This Congressional Research Service (CRS) report assessing the GoI's progress towards meeting political benchmarks concludes that "little progress has been made on the most significant political reconciliation benchmarks, but there has been progress on some of [the] minor political milestones as well as on several security benchmarks." The report goes on to list each benchmark, its original deadline, and the current status. (For all the frequency with which they're discussed, this is the first time I've actually seen the benchmarks in detail...) And remember, the CRS is a nonpartisan research body--it's the same researchers doing the same work, regardless of who's in power.
    • The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) just put out this report on the progress of governance and public management (GPM). Actually, the report is on how to monitor and disseminate information about programs working on GPM (mostly for the GoI and aid agencies to coordinate programs). Since the system largely relies on self-reporting and voluntary coordination, it's not surprising that there are many projects that go unreported, and potential areas for collusion or conflict that are never coordinated. Although the report is more interested in reporting methodology, there are a lot of good charts and graphs breaking down GPM programs, and the GoI's level of cooperation with them. (You have to wonder about some of these goals, though. Does someone out there actually believe that the Iraqis are just clamoring for E-governance?? (p. 22))
  • This RAND Report is actually focused on potential Iraq strategies for the US. The recommendations here are completely devoid of cultural considerations, with suggestions like "Iraq's own security forces must become less sectarian" and arguments that the US should be "supporting a functioning national unity government, preventing a Kurdish takeover of Kirkuk [and] forestalling the formation of new autonomous regions."
  • Another CRS report discusses Iran's influence in Iraq. Comments about Iran supplying weapons to some of the militias and religious and political ties between Iran and some Iraqi-Shia leadership are nothing new. However, the formal economic ties between the two countries (a free trade zone around Basrah, providing electricity, aid for infrastructure like a new airport in Najaf) are the types of ties that form a lasting and durable relationship. Iraq is now Iran's second largest non-oil export market (anyone know who's first?), with Iraq buying nearly $1.3 billion in Iranian goods annually. [And note, I am NOT NOT NOT saying these Iran ties are a bad thing; these two countries are each other's largest neighbor -- it is nearly inevitable that they either be close trading partners or end up fighting, and it's hard to call anything inevitable good or bad. Pragmatically, there's no point in judging something that will have to be accepted anyway. This relationship with Iran is simply something to be aware of, and planned for.]
  • Meanwhile, Iraq Slogger has a translation of an email allegedly making the rounds among Baghdad locals assessing the relative safety of each Baghdad neighborhood. If it is what they claim it is, these kinds of local perceptions are pretty critical, if a little vague.
I remain tremendously behind on reading, so I'm sure there's more to come soon. But I'm going to post what I've got now...

Saturday, August 25, 2007

America's cultural blinders

This recent commentary in Foreign Policy holds America and Americans responsible for the turn things have taken in Iraq: we assumed that all peoples--including Iraqis--ultimately share our cultural values, and that was the source of most of our missteps. So, "through our refusal to deal with alien peoples on their own terms, and within their own traditions, we have killed any real hope of a positive outcome in Iraq." This is exactly why the Human Terrain System exists. (Full disclosure: The author, COL (Ret) Patrick Lang, conducted part of our initial training this summer.)

Internet access in Kuwait is pretty limited, so I haven't been reading much, which means I haven't been posting much. I've started to catch up a little in the last few days, though, so there should be lots to come as I catch up...

Friday, August 17, 2007

Yazidis in Iraq

The big discussion in the last few days has obviously been the big attack in the north. It didn't get much coverage at first (beyond this WP article), but the attack was on the Yazidis, one of the very small minority groups. The LAT finally had a decent discussion of the Yazidis yesterday.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Yet another assessment

This assessment was released last week by CSIS. Most of it is more geopolitical than anything else, making the case for the CF remaining in Iraq. But parts of it discuss the oft-cited improvement in tribal cooperation in the west (but with some actual numbers to back it up) and some of the emerging techniques and goals of JAM (along with the political response to JAM). The second half is a list of problems and challenges facing Iraq, but even those that are more Human Terrain-relevant are to abbreviated and shallow to be of any real utility.

Blogging from Iraq

This is a little old, but I'm still catching up on news from over the last week (I've been traveling). This is a WaPo OpEd from an Iraqi dentist, who also keeps a blog. Of course, this kind of single-person account can be dangerous -- it's impossible to discern how representative his sentiments and observations are (mistrusting the militias, for example, rather than seeing them as a source of security). This is a particularly relevant question given that he is an educated doctor blogging in English. But he nonetheless seems an articulate and conscientious observer, and at the very least, it can't hurt to see what he has to say. It may not represent the views of every Iraqi, or even most Iraqis, but it represents at least one.

Ayatollahs on the Ascent

ISN has an interesting piece today on self-declared Ayatollahs that are challenging the traditional Shia power structures. Moqtada al-Sadr is the best known in the west, but there are others that present even clearer challenges to Shia authority figures. Meanwhile, this Carnegie commentary discusses different models of Islamist participation in political processes.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Iran in Iraq

There's not a ton of original stuff in the Washington Post article on Basrah - most of it is stuff that's already been noted elsewhere. The interesting bit to me is the bit that Foreign Policy's blog, Passport, picked up on as well: that the Iranian influence in Iraq may have a lot more to do with Iraqi Shia using the Iranians than the other way around...

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Humanitarian Status

The NCCI (an organization that coordinates NGO work in Iraq) and Oxfam (a British aid organization) released this report last week on the humanitarian situation in Iraq. I haven't had a chance to review their stats and see how credible they sound, but it is probably a pretty good snap shot of the current status for a lot of the civilians - food, education, employment, refugees, water, electricity, etc...

Saturday, August 4, 2007

The Iraqi Stock Exchange

This story is a bit superficial, but I thought it was a little interesting. Apparently, Iraq has a functioning stock exchange. Now, it was launched in 2004, which probably means it was some sort of CPA thing that the Coalition decided to "bestow" upon Iraq as part of its reconstruction. But, the fact that it's still functioning, and even growing, is arguably a sign of something. I've always been a firm believer in the ability of economics and market forces to trump almost anything else--politics, religion, security, whatever--this could potentially be an indicator of that.

The Hand of Allah: Counter-productivity in Action

Sharon Weinberger over in the Danger Room -- Wired Magazine's defense technology blog -- has a great post about an Army spokesman demonstrating the need for Human Terrain Teams. Apparently, when describing a new guided MRLS system (a type of rocket the artillery guys use), some COL claimed that "the enemy" refers to the MRLS rockets as "the Hand of Allah." Nice.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

"Art will die in Iraq"

I'm largely hesitant to post (or use) much of what's published in daily newspapers or websites like CNN or BBC -- it's generally too "current" to provide much in the way of long-sighted analysis. Besides, much of the West's reporting from abroad (not just Iraq) conforms to a model of a reporter deciding what story they want to tell, and then looking for the evidence to illustrate that story, ignoring the question of whether everything on the ground actually conforms to the predetermined story.

Every now and then, though, I'll pass something on that seems unique, interesting or useful to me. This article is a pretty good profile of the state of high culture in Iraq -- painters, specifically.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

4 years in

This summary is just a brief overview, but it's a pretty fair rundown of everything if you're just looking for something introductory to give someone the highlights of the first four years. Most of his assessments seem pretty on to me.

Women and Islam

We've spent a lot of time in the last few years trying to force Western values onto a culture that doesn't necessarily share them: progress (rather than history); individual rights (rather than collective wellbeing); and women's rights. This new report from the Carnegie Endowment is an attempt to take a more balanced look at where women stand in Islam, where they're going, and where they see themselves.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Militia Services

It always seemed strange to me that none of the major militias in Iraq seemed particularly active in providing community services (other than security). This was a big component of the popular rise of both Hamas and Hezbollah, and it seemed strangely absent in Iraq. No more: JAM has begun providing services throughout Iraq while al Sadr distances himself from the government.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

CRS Assessment

Every so often, the Congressional Research Service updates their rundown on OIF. They published their most recent update this week.

Iraq Index

The Brookings Institution publishes an of indicators on Iraq. They describe it as:
a statistical compilation of economic, public opinion, and security data. This resource will provide updated information on various criteria, including crime, telephone and water service, troop fatalities, unemployment, Iraqi security forces, oil production, and coalition troop strength.
They update the index monthly, and you can always find the most recent version here.

Security Forces in Iraq

Two Americans argue in Financial Times that we need to stop training and arming security forces (since they'll only turn on each other, us or the Saudis) while an author in the Daily Star (Lebanon) claims that the only path to stability in Iraq is military dictatorship a la Turkey, Pakistan and Nigeria in various points of their history.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Institutions in the Middle East

This one is actually an example from Cairo that the author applies to the whole Middle East. Actually, I think it's probably applicable in any culture. But it's a useful observation given the work we're trying to do over there: it's a discussion of the way that informal institutions can often trump any formal, legal or rule-based structures and institutions.

Iraq's Human Terrain

The Army is creating a new unit called the Human Terrain System. Basically it's an effort to apply the lesson that the only way to defeat an insurgency is to understand, and to win over, the general population. One component of the System will be 5-man Human Terrain Teams (HTTs) that support units in the field, advising them on how to tailor their operations to the population. I am on one of those HTTs. Here's some info on the HTS:
  • Just about the only thing the Army has published on HTS
  • A George Packer article from The New Yorker
  • And, a post from the Danger Room, the defense blog over at Wired
I've always been a ridiculous news hound. Since I've started this job, I've begun turning that tendency towards Iraq stuff. So, I'll be using this blog to point to the most interesting new stuff that comes out on Iraq. There will be nothing classified or sensitive on here, so don't look for it. There probably won't even be much analysis on here, because however I might try to avoid it I don't want to risk accidentally giving analysis that draws on classified sources, even if they're unmentioned.

I see two primary audiences for this blog: other members of HTS, and personnel in the unit I'm supporting. This way I can pass on stuff I find interesting without cluttering up anyone's inbox. Anyone interested in the stuff I'm passing on can subscribe (Blogger is RSS capable -- you can click here to learn more about RSS Subscriptions) or just check in every now and then. Anyone not interested is spared the emails I would otherwise have been bothering them with.

And with that, I'll be passing on the first article momentarily...