Ok, random stuff which has been building up while I’ve been dealing with a back injury (really makes life miserable) and the late-summer-i-really-don’t-want-summer-to-end malaise…

1. U.S. and South Korean forces are conducting joint exercises, despite some anti-war sentiment in the South, and the usual saber-rattling from the North.  You just have to love totalitarian rhetoric sometimes:

North Korea said Sunday that it will “deal a merciless counterblow to the U.S. imperialists” and to South Korean “traitors,” in response to the U.S.-South Korea joint military exercise.

To quote that great film, Gross Pointe Blank:  Bing bing bing bing bang POPCORN.  Whatever.

And I don’t buy this talk of peaceful reunification for a moment…

2. China’s economy is now the second largest in the world; it’s all here in the NYT.  I’m not surprised…Also, I heard somewhere (can’t for the life of me remember where) that China, despite all that horrible air pollution, actually invests more into environmental sustainability and R&D than the U.S. does.  Not sure if that’s true, but again, I wouldn’t be surprised.

3.  And so it begins…General Petraeus is a far more diplomatic sort than General McChrystal ever was, but I sense that he’s sort of thinking along similar lines.  Well, maybe not.  From the sounds of it, General P still believes that current COIN strategy is the way to go, and will work–it just needs more time than the administration seems prepared to give it.

“The president didn’t send me over here to seek a graceful exit,” General Petraeus said at his office at NATO headquarters in downtown Kabul. “My marching orders are to do all that is humanly possible to help us achieve our objectives.”

General Petraeus’s public remarks, his first since taking over, highlight the extraordinary challenges, both military and political, that loom in the coming months. American soldiers and Marines are dying at a faster rate than at any time since 2001. The Afghan in whom the United States has placed its hopes, President Hamid Karzai, has demonstrated little resolve in rooting out the corruption that pervades his government.

And perhaps most important, the general will be trying to demonstrate progress in the 11 months until Mr. Obama’s deadline to begin withdrawing troops.

The date was chosen in part to win over critics of the war and to push the Afghan government to reform more quickly. But as critical battles to reclaim parts of the Taliban heartland have faltered, military commanders have begun preparing to ask the White House to keep any withdrawals next year to a minimum.

Good outcome from all this?  Maybe so, maybe no.  Certainly announcing a time table for withdrawal without coordinating with your generals doesn’t strike me as a smart move, but political considerations do condition military planning–and I firmly believe that they should do so, otherwise the military, instead of civilians, dictates policy.  I confess to being one of the doubters on counter-insurgency in Afghanistan, mostly because I find most of what COIN’s critics say to make more sense–and to be borne out on the ground (though that’s easy to say, from my comfortable chair in the air-conditioned library at the U of R).  Tomato, tomahto.  If it turns out well, I’ll be pleasantly surprised–that’s better than being cruelly disappointed, I always say!

Just to follow up, the Small Wars Journal blog has two interesting posts: one on Petraeus’ various recent interviews with the press, and the other by Robert Bunker, from USC, entitled “The Ugly Truth: Insurgencies are Brutal.” Interesting reading.

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