Random Thoughts

Lazy Sunday – Fun with Flower Photos

After too many days and weeks of rain and snow and late spring sleet the Sun shown bright and strong over Zurich on the second Sunday of April in the year 2008.  I took the opportunity to sun bathe and then set up flashes, picked up my Minolta 7D and Ricoh GRD and set about photographing the excellent garden on the terrace.

Flowers I

One of the coolest things you can do with off-camera lighting is balancing the power of Sunlight with the watt-seconds of your strobe.  Now, with powerful studio flashes from Alien Bees, Elinchrom, Profoto, and many others, this is easy.  But the technique is often overlooked by amateur photographers since normal camera flashes are too weak to balance, or to over-power the exposure from the Sun.

Flowers Setup

I set up two flashes, a Contax TLA280 and Metz MZ40-3i.  Gadget Infinity radio triggers were used to fire them.  I had to use direct flash, with both set to nearly full output, since the high afternoon sun made weaker flash settings and any umbrella diffusers useless.

This meant I could light the main parts of the garden and create a nice blue sky in the background.  The flowers take on a sort of unrealistic shine, a certain texture your eyes can’t perceive in reality.  Ah, but the magic of simple off-camera lighting makes the magic appear with little effort.

A number of photos were taken during this session with the Minolta 7D and 20mm lens, but the best were produced using the Ricoh GR Digital with a 28mm lens.  The near infinite depth of field of the Ricoh GRD coupled with the with wide angle of view of the 21mm and 28mm lenses produced nothing short of perfection for capturing the cool colors of the flowers to contrast against the deep blue sky.  The Ricoh GRD rendered excellent saturation and sharpness of the flower petals and sharp green stems.

Flowers V Flowers IV

The setup for this shot took all of 10 minutes and there was no real concept I was trying to communicate.  The motivation was keenly contained within a desire to play around with my cameras and flashes and produce an image I’d never seen before.

Flowers III

There’s little doubt that flash photography and flowers has been around for decades and countless photographers will produce more countless generic flower photos with deep blue skies and saturated petals.  However, these will stick in my memory for a while, mainly because I was just playing around, and that’s when all the really cool things are done, when we don’t mean to do anything beyond killing the time we find on our hands.

Marketing in Science and the Research World

Marketing – the act of shaping the ideas or desires of a population to the desire of the marketer.

Science – the collective process and knowledge of describing how the world works and how to harness it for the advancement of society.

Some say marketing amounts to brain-washing, manipulating the buying habits of consumers to fulfill the goal of making profit for a company.  Many consider Science to be a linear, established collection of facts created and assembled by scientists, who have the freedom to explore and bring new discoveries to light.  In all my academic experiences, through the Bachelor’s, the Master’s the PhD, in scientific conferences on biomedical and smart material topics, I have heard el-zipppo concerning one of the most important topics of modern science – how to market it all.

The warm, cozy idealization of science is that scientists have total freedom (within ethical boundaries) to make scientific discoveries, share that knowledge with the world, and contribute to making society a better place by understanding the natural laws that govern our world.

But how is this done?

First off, science requires money.  You need resources to do science: laboratory, workers, computers, raw materials, etc.  Where does the money come from?  The money to do science comes from public and private sources.  Public means the government gives money to scientists.  In the US organizations like the NIH and NSF distribute millions every year to scientists in research institutions (like universities) to do science, make discoveries, advance society.

But who gets what?

The funding request is where the marketing starts to become important.  If your idea isn’t well marketed and clearly described, no one will give you money.  Ideal marketing buzz words change throughout the years, currently some of the best include various combinations of biomedical and nano-technology.

The committees distribute money based on their assumptions and idealization of what is good science.  Those projects get funded.  Others are ignored.  If you want money, you need to ask for it.  Generally this entails writing up a funding request, an application, explaining what the money is for and why your project is so important as to get funded.  A committee reviews that request and gives you the money.  Well, if you’re a university researcher, the university gets that money, then they will no doubt take something like half of it because the university – of course, is first and foremost, a commercial entity (secondary a learning institution).  I wouldn’t say this is such a bad thing, but in general it’s not really understood.  In some ways it’s disingenuous to write up grant proposal and submitting it without full disclosure of how much money will actually be used for research purposes and how much will be taken by the university.

If you’re a research who is dependent on public or private funding, and this description covers, well, probably almost every researcher in the world, it’s important to educate yourself on proper marketing practices.  If you’re not marketing yourself and your research well, then the exposure you receive in the academic and research communities may be very small.  Good marketing could be as simple as setting up a website with clear descriptions of your research work and contact information.  Communicate your ideas and work to a large body of people and increase your ability to work with others in your field and remain open to new avenues and research directions.

The Modern Science Economy

An economy is generally defined as a system with surpluses and shortages.? This means that things become more expensive, have more value if there are fewer of them and there is a high demand to acquire them.?So when Pentax releases a new camera, like the K10D, and a lot of consumers buy that camera, and then need lenses to go with it – but the production of lenses isn’t enough to meet the demand of consumers, the prices of lenses on the open market (like eBay) will be very high.?

Science is generally not associated with the idea of an economy.? Science is thought of as a collection of financially independent knowledge.? It is the process of discovering new ideas and enabling a better society through the use of those new discoveries.? For this reason, the education of scientists and engineers generally doesn’t focus on economic or financial topics, with the exception of a few required classes here and there.? Certainly, there is little push to integrate economic ideals into the research process.

I visited a Basics in Management course last summer, and it took about five seconds to realize how one dimensional my pervious engineering education at Michigan State University had been.? The need for scientists to be well-rounded interdisciplinary students increases every year.? While connections between different technical areas are focused on such as: computers-biology, mechanical-materials, chemistry-physics, etc-etc, the idea of applying economic principles to the scientific process are generally ignored.

Research scientists are not exempt from the economic laws of society.? Sound management, marketing, and financing strategies are essentially for any research lab.

First off: Management

There’s an implied fallacy that the primary job of an academic professor is to do research and make scientific discoveries.? 20 or 30 years ago this may have been true, but the modern professor is first and foremost a manager. Understanding this concept and running your research lab according to sound management principles is essential to building a successful, sustainable research lab.

Most important: The Research Economy

An economy is a balance of surpluses and shortages, inside there’s competition between rats to win the race.? In the research world there’s a limited amount of available money, which is distributed through a biased, limited number of funding sources.? At any given time many different research labs are applying for the same funding.? The amount of awarded money depends on how well the submitted proposal was marketed.

Profit: The Product of Research

What is the product of a research lab?? Publications and know-how. Ideally the product of a research lab is pure knowledge, but knowledge is essentially useless if not effectively communicated.? How is this done?? Via publication of research results in peer reviewed journals.? Publications determine what the impact of a researcher’s worth is on the global scientific community.? So a basic question the manager of a research should be asking is:

“How can I streamline scientific production and increase profits?”

Profits in this case means the generation of publications and patents, since these are some of the main factors in increasing institutional funding for the coming years.

You could be a research scientist, a photographer, a blogger, a burger flipper, a teacher, a cab driver – whatever you do in life, learning and applying economic principles to your activities will put you in the position of understanding the world and lend more freedom to where you want to go in life.

Lazy Swiss Sunday – Bos Fulen

10,000 years ago, in the hunter-gatherer sense of our history, moving and beating the body to it’s core was needed for survival, so it is no surprise that some humans are not yet evolved enough sit in an office every day.

Bös Fulen is neither incredibly difficult, nor is deceptively easy to summit.  It’s the mountain to climb when you need to get away and are looking for a nice green – field – glacier – alpine climb for the day.

The starting point is Braunwald, situated at just over 1256 m it’s accessible by train in about two hours from Zurich.

Along the way we walked through the green fields and yellow and purple alpine flowers and came upon a group of four edelweiss.  The reclusive Alpine flower is placed on pretty much everything from hotel names, climbing stores, airplanes, and most souvenirs from Appenzeller, but are so rare that most people have never seen them in real life.

The summit of Bös Fulen is reached at 2801 m, after first climbing the glacier as high as possible, followed by free climbing the rock face.  You might find an old rusted piton here and there along the climb, but the hand holds are enough for one to feel secure.

There’s a bit of a scree field before the summit, and the keen climber will wait for those teams climbing ahead to summit before following the same line.  The alternative is to duck falling rocks and pray that one doesn’t take your fool head off.

Although it looked like a rather exhausting climb from below, the actual ascent was probably only like half an hour.  The hand-holds are bomber and the foot edges are wide enough to dance on.

The view from the summit is rather spectacular.  All the eastern alps are around, the klettersteig up Eggstöcke, the Glärnish Massif, Clariden and Ortstock.

Once in a while I get the feeling that mountaineering is for those who have realized the presence of their mortality, but not yet seen the wisdom in standing far away from the divide to this life, for one who needs some measure of sustenance to keep their fool unevolved spirits in line.

For the descent we traversed along the east ridge and then down the slope.  If you go too far you might notice the 1000 m drop down the east face, we didn’t stray too far and then boot-skied down the glacier.

The glacier was covered with small pockets of dust and dirt deposits.  They blow over from the Sahara and form these small depressions in the snow layer.  The dust absorbs more energy from the sun and then helps melt the glacier.  It’s like pricking someone a million times with a thin needle and after enough time all of their blood is gone.

If I return in ten years to climb Bös Fulen again, the likelihood that it will be climbable in the same condition is as absurd as buying a freezer in Alaska during December.  Bös Fulen is a fantastic climb for those who wish to see first hand the slow death of the last great European glaciers.

On the way back to Braunwald we happened upon a mountain rescue.  Nothing serious, looked like someone sprained their ankle and needed to be flown out.  Still, watching the rescue helicopter do a nose-dive landing was cool as all hell.

Some could write that mountaineering is a latent fool’s Provence.  Who taught the Swiss to climb?  Who conquered Everest and who starts the wars in the world?  Is it done by those with too much time and with nothing with which to lend fulfillment to their souls and have nothing to fill their days?  Is it like the writer who does not possess the courage to actually do something in this life, and takes to writing in an effort to provide an outlet for their ambitions?  Some might say so, but others might counter that mountaineering is also just a nice way to pass a lazy Sunday and take in the natural beauty which the world bestows upon those who seek the high-country.

All depressive attempts at writing aside, Bös Fulen is an awesome climb, and if you are so inclined I highly recommend it.

The Digital Age – Engineering for the People

The revolution in digital technology is well-documented, less know to the normal participant in society is what that revolution means for the wannabe-engineer.

How many times do you get an idea in your head and think, "why doesn’t anyone make that?"

50 years ago making anything besides a birdhouse was a monumental task.  Imagine all the engineering that went into the Ford Model-T or the Nazi V1 and V2 rocket systems.  Back before three-dimensional visualization car engineers had to keep a beer fridge in the office to be able to put those complicated car body designs into production with the nervous breakdown associated with piecing complicated three-dimensional part together in their heads.  There are three basic groups of technology that allow the current home-engineering to design and build a number of things under the sun.

Computer Aided Design (CAD), essentially the ability to draw and test your creations on the computer screen.  So if you want to know how strong the wing of your aircraft needs to be, you make the design in the computer, apply forces to it, and the computer tells you if it will break or not.  Countless millions of dollars are saved using software like ANSYS instead of hand-calculations and building prototypes for crash testing.  For some basic 3D CAD check out Google SketchUp.

Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD), modeling required to visualize fluid flow patterns around structures.  How aerodynamic is your car body?  What’s the lift coefficient of that new aircraft you’re designing?  What will that new custom body do to the acceleration of your custom hot-rod?  A list of free CFD packages is available at CFD_Codes.  For some aerodynamic lift calculations of an airfoil you can do some really cool analysis stuff with Airfoil-Analysis from RLM software.

On Demand Manufacturing (ODM).  It used to be, you’d need access to a full service machine shop with full-time technicians to help build your prototype.  This meant that the cost of launching a new product was impossible to attain for a normal person.  Now you can take your design for that 4×5 camera body or custom break-plate, send it to a custom CNC company like eMachineShop.  One their website you can design your part and pick the materials you need…and a few weeks later the aluminum milled creation is sitting on your doorstep.

Professional analysis programs like ANSYS can be a tad costly for the private home user.  The cost of ANSYS outside of the university student license umbrella is about as much as a nice car.  But like all computer-based technologies, what was breaking-edge five or ten years ago is now open-source enabled.  The number of free or low-cost shareware engineering programs available is truly impressive –  and means that even home computer users can setup a computer design and engineering environment to turn a little tinkering idea into a custom full-functioning prototype.

Coming up later: Design Your Own Plane and Composite Manufacturing

Pro Blogging and Life Lessons

I learned about a new profession about half a year ago, Professional Blogger.  The tie-in to professional photographer is amazingly similar and the concept is simple: You write about stuff that people on the internet want to read about in such a way that they continually check-back to your site, you sell advertising space and make money, enough to quit your day job.

I find pro blogging interesting because it’s a prominent example of how the internet has changed the way advertisers and the modern economy enable individuals to form economically feasible escapes from the traditional workforce.

Much like with professional photography, there appears to be a tendency for people to quit their jobs and put their energies into their blogs with the hope of pulling in six-figure incomes from writing stuff on the internet.  With blogging, as with any easy-entry market like photography: some might succeed, but many will be barely sustainable or just flat-out flop without a clear understanding of the market and a sound business plan.

Blogging is an even riskier industry to enter than photography since the number of possible imitators increases dramatically.  Now it’s not just every person who picks up a DSLR and puts in the time to learn, it’s also anyone with an internet connection.  The start-up investment is essentially just time, you can get a free blog from a number of sources and start publishing immediately.

ProBlogger.net is one of the most popular and no-doubt economically successful blogs on the internet today.  Problogger is successful because it publishes information about the niche that so many bloggers on the internet want to read about: Making Money from Blogging.  Everyone goes there to learn how to make a 6-figure income from typing on cyberspace.  In my view, it’s similar to photography, in that the best way to make money in a creative industry such as photography or blogging is to show other people how to take photos or blog.

Consider Luminous-Landscape.com, it probably has the largest wealth of quality information related to photography on the internet.  I started out my technical photo education there.  The primary author, Michael Reichmann is a successful professional photographer based in Canada.  However, a great deal of his success seems to be tied to producing video tutorials on photography and organizing photo workshop tours around the world, which is all promoted on his website.  The power of his words when it comes to cameras and photo equipment is impressive, but I don’t think he would be the icon that he is if it were not for the position he has very smartly put himself in – A Photo Guru of the Internet Age.

Another rising Internet Guru Star in this regard is David Hobby from Strobist.  As a photographer for the Baltimore Sun, he obviously knows his craft, but it’s the position he’s put himself in as the Off-Camera Flash Guru which will for sure provide an excellent platform for his future success.  Plus, he can create waves.  If he mentions a new flash, like the Vivtar 285HV, or the Westcott double fold umbrella reflector, there’s a good possibility that Midwest Photo Exchange will get a large number of orders almost overnight.

What about those that just blog, without it would seem, any specific niche?  The thing I like about RT Cunningham is that he doesn’t really have a niche, he just writes and people read it.  The interesting thing about www.untwistedvortex.com is that in general, it doesn’t tell you how to make money or fulfill any creative ambitions, but it’s ranked high and I can’t stop reading it.

In the past year that I’ve started doing the American Peyote blog on a normal basis I’ve learned many things, which aside from making money on the internet, I find very applicable to many facets of my life.  Producing blog entries keeps my mind moving and my writing skills primed.  Exploring money making opportunities from photography or blogging is exposing me to the marketing and economic realities you don’t learn about in engineering classes.

I gotten a better feeling for how information is digested in the internet world.  As a consequence, I started Klugmat.org to more effectively disseminate the knowledge gained from my PhD work.  Turning my PhD into a website means more exposure to more people for my work, since normally the number of folks who read your dissertation is extremely small.  There’s no money to be made, but I have faith in smart materials, and the prospect of exposing more people to this technology just seems like a cool thing to do.

I also discovered something else, one of my biggest visitor days was March 24th 2007, the day that I gave a presentation on Photography and Writing for Blogs at BlogCamp Zurich.  Despite the power of internet communication and high-speed connections, Technorati and BlogJuice, it was the act of physically giving a presentation to a group of real-live people which increased my blog exposure in Switzerland.

I don’t know if I’ll ever make a real go at monitizing the American Peyote blog or entering the stock photography game, but the things I’ve learned from studying these possibilities has greatly contributed to my success as a smart materials researcher and will no-doubt play a roll in my future adventures in life.

The Blog Reformed – Reborn – Refocused

The mind works fast when you think of killing your blog, and in my head it has been rebuilt.  Rebuilt for focus, purpose, not a rambling collection of things that I just throw up to make things seem more interesting in my life.  Not a news posting service of my life, that’s what emails and letters are for, but a platform to continue exercising my writing and creativity muscles.

The Basic Focus will be:

Travel and Photography

These are not random topics, it’s what I do when I’m not engineering, and hence the most natural choices for a blog niche.  Besides, many other people like to travel and make photos, so it seems like a good thing to share this ability with the rest of the world.

Travel will mean writing about trips in Europe and Switzerland, well, and anywhere else I find interesting to explore.  This is convenient since I’m flying to Japan at the end of August.

Topics about traveling in Switzerland will revolve around day and night trips.  Day trips in Switzerland mean climbing and mountaineering.  Night trips imply the underground scene, clubs and the flavor of the night found here.

Photography and writing are hard for me to avoid, and will have a place here as well.  Flash technique and writing work-flow ramblings will find their way onto the blog.  A random Search Engine Optimization (SEO) post or the application of what I’ve learned from the internet and how it applies to life might be written as well.

No doubt there will also be more general things like book reviews, the occasional political analysis, fashion, and tips on being creative and acquiring the tools you need to do the things you want to in life.

This means that a large number of posts from the archives have disappeared overnight, as if they never existed.  Google will be confused at first, but the update of the sitemap will lead to a gradual forgetting of these posts, which will be fragmented and devoured by time.

In the mean-time, side projects like KlugMat.org and Miris Photography will also develop, the digital age is a scary place, but once you begin to understand it, the possibilities of putting art and engineering in the hands of the people is a crazy but exciting prospect.

The End

The concept of killing my blog has been rolling around inside my head as of late.

If nothing is changed and nothing else mattered, then what was the point.

In general, there should be points to things, motivations, reasons – and without such constructs there’s only madness and chaos.

I killed by blog but have had another thought.

It will be rebuilt, stronger, faster, more focused, perhaps with a purpose, something like Steve Austin.

In truth, the old purpose was as a replacement for journal writing, and to explore the possibilities of the internet.  I did all of that and more or less it seemed to work.  But it was conceived of and executed as a chaotic experiment, at some point, you have to stop and wonder why?

The thing is – blogs can quickly turn into addictive and foul contraptions of humanity.  When you have one of these things they can take up a large amount of time and deflect attention from things in life that are far more important.

And therefore, this thing as it is now is coming to an end. What comes next is unclear, but if you’re looking for new free content to wrap you head around, check out my side project KlugMat – a portal and soon to be vault of smart materials and biomedical technology information.

Top Five to Do While You Live

1) Hit Rock Bottom

When all is gone to shit and there’s nothing good left in your life – there’s nowhere to go but up.  Hitting Bottom generally results from a combination of the notions that your life is pointless, that you’re unloved, your career plans have all failed, your significant other has left you or your favorite dog-cat-goldfish has died.  It could be worse.  Often Hitting Rock Bottom can be looked back upon as a marker in life, that point when you refused to continue taking things as they were presented and decided to find your own way.  Like many of the great experiences in life, you can’t "try" to hit the lowest of the low points, you have wait until your life gets so bad that there’s nothing else to call it.  It’s not the act of hitting bottom that means anything, it’s how you crawl out of the muck that’s important.

2) Go Nowhere, Do Nothing

I did this in Europe for a month and it was fantastic.  The premise is simple, clear your schedule and take off somewhere.  It’s hard to do nothing and go nowhere in the same location that you live your normal life.  I opted to take the night train to Vienna and then jumped around Eastern European cities until making it through Germany to Berlin and eventually back to Zurich before catching a flight to Detroit.  I only visited one museum and traveled with a backpack full of film and cameras, just one change of pants and a few shirts.  I had no purpose, just a universal train ticket that allowed free travel on any train in Germany, Austria, Poland, Czech, and Slovakia.  I traveled where and when I wanted, walked around photographing and writing in my journal with visits to a few friends here and there.  The experience can never be duplicated and I wouldn’t want to try – but once you’ve done it there will be no regrets.

3) Accomplish a Feat

Ulysses was the first to make these popular.  In this context, a feat can be anything that you didn’t previously know how to do.  Make a website, paint a picture, build a house, bake a cake, write a book, make soap, build a bike, run for public office, teach a class, whatever you’re interested in.  My feats have mainly included mountains.  In reality one of my first and most important feats was driving from Michigan to Colorado during Dec. 2002 to climb up Mt. Elbert.  It was only my second mountaineering experience. For a long term resident of sea-level Michigan, the climb was a crazy amount of physical exhaustion and an adrenaline hit like no other escaping the avalanche that was released during the descent to my base-camp at about 8:30pm on New Year’s Eve.   The point is that it should be new to you and a challenge.  Otherwise it’ll just be another day doing another job.

4) Confront Our Legacy

If you Go Nowhere and Do Nothing in Europe be sure to check out Krakow.  It’s a beautiful city with quiet streets, cheap beer, and awesome pierogi.  Sometimes we know via books and stories about the horrors humanity has perpetrated and think that we understand it.

Words don’t mean anything if there’s no connection to something tangible.  That’s the way we humans are most of the time.  If we don’t form a mental imagery connection to the words, then they might not really mean anything tangible.

You don’t know what tall is till you climb a mountain and the tern vast is just another adjective until you walk through the gates at Birkenau and look at the train tracks stretching out into forever.

Most of the place is gone and burned.  The razor wire fence is still standing and it stretches into the horizon.  If Auschwitz is an example of simplicity then Birkenau is a testament to vastness.  You walk the razor-wire corridors and break down and cry and you don’t know why.

At the end of the train tracks is the crematorium.  There’s a monument to the victims.  Read any basic history book and you’ll get the feeling that the Holocaust was the story of Nazi Germany exterminating the Jewish people of Europe.  If this is what you take away, you’re missing the point. 

"Never Again."  Is what we say.

"Never again" will the industrial machine of humanity seek to exterminate our brothers and sisters and neighbors like was done at Auschwitz.

We say this and we remember and we miss the point.  This is our history.  It’s not a collective failure to be laid on the heads of German History.  It’s not a deep wound to be eternally nurtured by the current generation of Jewish peoples.

It’s our history.  What’s our present?  What’s our future?

5) Become Vulnerable and Find Love

Few things in life are harder than letting go of inhibitions and fears and the emotional wall you’ve built to protect your tenderness.  I can’t imagine how one person could fall in love without letting down their guard fully and completely.  And I can’t imagine what a drab exercise in boredom my life would be like without love.

If you allow yourself to be vulnerable then love will creep into your life.  Love for a person, a painting, a piece of cake, a movie, the sunrise, the sunset, the beach, a song, a cat, a dog, your unborn children, a stranger, a sister, a brother, your parents, your in-laws, and everything else in between.

It’s the strongest power that exists and with it we have the ability to define our legacy and to save us from ourselves.

How the Afghan War is being Repeated in Iraq

Previously on an American Peyote Scribble:

Why post-WWII Germany is not 2007 Iraq

Iraq the Foolishness of Imitating post-WWII Germany
How the US Ignores History and Invites Disaster in Iraq

Now: How the Afghan War is being Repeated in Iraq – and how Iran is the New CIA

First, a question, is the presence of US troops in Iraq:

a) Helping Iraq
b) A good thing for the US
c) Playing into the hands of Iran

Some of the main puzzle pieces of the Middle East include Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Israel, Hezbollah, the US, and the CIA.

In 2007, the US is seen as the occupying power in a disorganized county (Iraq) with battling religious and political factions.  The US army is fighting the second most advanced guerrilla army ever known (the Iraqi Insurgency).

I say the second because I haven’t heard any reports of the insurgents using laser guided smart weapons to take down US helicopter gunships.  The Afghans were able take out the Soviet Hinds with CIA-designed and manufactured shoulder launched missiles and coordinate attacks via satellite communications.

But how is Iran playing the role of the CIA?

Basically, Iran is doing in 2007 to the US (using Iraq) what the US did to Russia (using Afghanistan) during the 1980’s.

If Iran pumps funding, weapons, and training into Hezbollah and the Iraq insurgency, the Cold War between the US and Iran can be waged on the Iraqi battlefield just as the US fought the USSR on the Afghanistan chess board.  The Iranian Government can bleed the US without the treat of nuclear retaliation.  The US can’t really do anything because currently there are no obvious links that in International Community would believe, which would support overt military action against Iran.

The official reply to such an idea from Iran is that, they want a stable Iraq, therefore, why would they add to instability in Iraq by aiding insurgent operations?  It’s true, Iran does want a stable neighbor.  But like all countries, Iran wants to be the stronger neighbor.  In particular, a neighbor with which Iran fought a decade-long war.  Iran wants a politically stable Iraq.  But Iran would rather have an unstable disorganized Iraq than an organized, stable neighbor with a US-backed military – they already have one of those in the form of Israel.

The US and Iran have been true political enemies ever since the US-backed Shahs was kicked out by the Iranian revolutionists in the 1979 Revolution.  The two countries can’t really engage one another in combat for many of the same reasons that the US didn’t engage the USSR – and that Israel currently can’t invade Iran.

Why mention the connection to Israel vs. Hezbollah?  What does that confrontation have to do with the US and Iran?

Iran can fight Israel using Hezbollah.  Hezbollah isn’t a country, it’s a political-terror organization.  As such, it doesn’t have a central nerve that an army can take out.  So, if Iran backs Hezbollah and Hezbollah uses that backing to attack Israel, Israel can’t just go and invade Iran.

The last time Israel launched an offensive against Hezbollah it didn’t result in anything but wasted resources and lives.  Hezbollah captured some Israeli soldiers so the Israeli army went in full force.  Hezbollah shot rockets into the cities while Israeli munitions pummeled the civilians that Hezbollah hid behind.

Both sides claimed victory.  Both sides gained nothing.

It’s a sure thing that nothing is to be gained from an all-out US-Iran war,  just as nothing has been gained during the Israeli-Hezbollah confrontations.  Iran would no-doubt ultimately loose against the full air and land powers of the US and Israel (who would join the attack), and in the end there’d be a bombed-out Iran which would need to be rebuilt, and another generation of religious warriors would cement their hate for the US and fill the power vacuum after the smoke cleared.

What purpose does such a scenario serve?

So to recap, what’s the ground situation in Iraq now?  The official government is backed by the US (not the USSR), battling an insurgency which is probably at least in part funded and organized by Iran (not the CIA).

Does post-WWII Germany have anything to do with 2007 Iraq?

Does the Soviet-Afghan War have some lessons for Iran vs. Israel vs. Hezbollah vs. the US?

See how History works?

What half-baked gutter-headed student of military history sitting in Washington D.C. didn’t see this coming?

Why did the US government allow such a logical progression of events to occur?

Why is the US military in the vulnerable position of trying to govern Iraq?

Why did the US get into this situation?  What was the point of the wars in Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq?  What would be the point of a US-Iran War?

As I see it, the goal of past and current wars of this type in Vietnam, Afghanistan and the Middle East is not about land control, oil, or the traditional sense of Victory (as in World War II).

The goal (from the US standpoint) is the establishment of stable people-lead governments with ideals of economic prosperity, who make positive contributions to the global existence of humanity.

This sort of sounds like a nice goal.  However, War: a tool of destruction, is not capable of building anything – least of all the stable economy of a country.  The people have to do that.

Political change must be primarily initiated and established by the people of the country – not by artificial outside influences.  No self-respecting Iranian wants a US invasion in the name of democracy.  That’s just a fact.  No Iranian citizen wants a US occupation of their country.  Nothing positive will be gained from a US invasion of Iran.

The US, Vietnam and China are excellent examples.  The artificial governments of the US (England), Vietnam (US), and China (Japan), were kicked out by the people of those sovereign nations.  Now the US, Vietnam and China are politically and economically stable (more or less) – productive countries contributing to the global stage.  In time, both Vietnam and China will most likely transfer to democratic models of governance, just like Iran will – if given time.

We can do better than the current situation in Iraq.  We owe it not only to those who have died but to the children of those who will survive and define the course of Iraq and the Middle East in 5, 10, 20, and 50 years from now.

How the US Ignores History and Invites Disaster in Iraq

The Prelude:

Why post-WWII Germany is not 2007 Iraq

Iraq the Foolishness of Imitating post-WWII Germany

The only logical analogy to be made for the current Iraq War – if one needs to be made, is the past war between the US and the Soviet Union.  One of the main battles of the US-USSR policy of confrontation was the Afghanistan War, a component of the Cold War – and officially fought between the Soviet army and the Afghan rebels.

The Soviet War in Afghanistan was used as the the surrogate battlefield for the Cold War between the US and USSR.  The US couldn’t engage the Soviet Union directly during the Cold War because, aside from having no real reason to, it would have resulted in a Nuclear Holocaust.  So the CIA was used to organize and execute the second really overt battle of the Cold War using US and Saudi money with Pakistan acting as the logistical distributer of weapons to the Afghan Rebels – who thanked Allah for the guns, not realizing it was the US and the CIA who enabled their victory over the Soviet army.

The US backed the Afghans by pumping money into the Jihad against the Russians.  This was largely enabled and orchestrated by Congressman Charlie Wilson.  Wilson knew the score in Vietnam concerning the situation of the Soviets pumping money into the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) to defeat the American and South Vietnamese forces.  Soviet weapons and training helped the NVA over-throw the US-backed South Vietnamese government.

In Afghanistan, Wilson wanted to help the Afghan rebels, but he also wanted bleed the Russian Army in Afghanistan, just like the Russians had bled the US Army in Vietnam.

In Vietnam the Soviet Union was able to wage war on the US military (without the threat of nuclear retaliation) via the NVA.  The difference is that the NVA knew this.  They knew where the guns were coming from, while many Afghans believed that their victory was the work of Allah – and maybe it was, but then you might need to accept the notion that Allah was/is working with the US, not a popular way of thinking.

In the Afghan War weapons distribution channels and training were handled by Pakistani Intelligence (ISI).  After the Soviet defeat and withdrawal Afghanistan was left to rebuild on its own.  Since the US never officially overtly directly supported the Afghan War, there was no established responsibility to stay for the rebuilding effort.  The Soviet Union was defeated, the war was over, and US attention turned to other matters.

After the Soviet withdrawal Afghanistan fell into chaos.  War-lords filled the power vacuum, ending in a country filled with Religious warriors with no one to fight and the most technologically advanced leaderless guerilla army the world has ever known.

What does the Afghanistan War have to do with the Iraq War?  Different countries, different armies, different political leaders, what’s the connection?

Jump to 2007

Just exchange a few puzzle pieces on the geo-political chess board.

To make the connection to the current Iraq War, all you have to do is move the geographic location, exchange the USSR and the US – Iraq becomes Afghanistan, and then Iran plays the role of the CIA (a similar game was played during the Vietnam War).

Coming up Next:

How the Afghan War is being Repeated in Iraq – and how Iran is the New CIA

Iraq the Foolishness of Imitating post-WWII Germany

Iraq 2007 is not post-WWII Germany

Why does following the model of post-WWII Germany not help the rebuilding effort in current-day Iraq?  What about US troop levels, stabilization, and rebuilding?

After the fall of the Nazi Regime, the main players of the Original Coalition of the Willing: England, the US and the USSR, who had pulled together to defeat the Nazi Regime – ensured the stability needed for Germany and other European countries to rebuild.  For Germany, rebuilding required the input of funding and resources, which could be distributed without fighting an insurgency or negotiating internal ethnic tensions.  There was the occasional action by the Nazi Werwolf units, but the vast amount of troops from England, the US, and Russia more or less kept the country stable.

Iraq-2007 is so unstable that rebuilding can’t even start yet.  Iraq is a menagerie of different city-level battles without defined enemy armies and milestones for victory.  If a town is taken by insurgent armies, it can be retaken by coalition forces, but retaken again by a new insurgent army the very next month (after the US forces move out).

I don’t think that the insurgents can be mentally beaten the way the German and Japanese armies were defeated.  Those armies were commanded by Hitler and the Japanese Emperor respectively, while the insurgents are not fighting under one specific destructible entity.

Should the US troop levels of post-WWII Germany be used as an indication of a successful military strategy in current-day Iraq?

Why were a number of US military bases built in Germany after WWII?  To ensure stability and rebuild the country?  Was this the only reason?  Well, maybe also because those military bases were the first line of defense against a Soviet expansion across Europe.  Such an expansion would have included the traditional infantry-Army-Air Force attack and the US Army and Air Force bases were in place to repel such aggression from beyond the Iron Curtain.

Pumping more money into Iraq and sustaining troop levels is pointless without a real strategy.  Using the analogy of post-WWII to validate the current US strategy in Iraq will not lead to the stabilization of the county or of the region – which was the only real reason the war was fought in the first place.  A similar strategy won’t work because the facts and events surrounding the US occupation of Iraq are very different from the US occupation of Germany.

Oh, well – I mean, the US could build Army bases to prevent an invasion from Iran.  That sounds logical, no?

Thinking outside the political box is required to fix Iraq-2007, because simply falling back on old success stories without considering the differences to the current situation is not going to lead to a solution.

So if lessons don’t exist in the rebuilding of post-WWII Germany, where does one look to for lessons on how the current Iraq War can be ended?

First, in my view, you need to consider the lessons of the US-USSR Cold War and the battle field of Afghanistan.

Coming up Next:

A bed-time story of how the US is Ignoring History and Inviting Disaster in Iraq