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Radically Inept
Wednesday, April 28, 2004
  The thing about Muslims is... And, a book review.

On the issue of Muslims
I was going to blog on this today anyway, but had been procrastinating until I visited Orcinus and found him pointing to this:
"Jay Severin, attempting to defend his indefensible suggestion that we should just kill Muslims:

Severin, who on his show yesterday afternoon vehemently defended the comment, said that anyone who listened to his show for 'any length of time longer than 10 minutes has heard me say that Muslims are not our enemies, that all Muslims are not terrorists.'

'But, thus far, all the terrorists killing us are Muslims, and that distinction is one I have made every single time, including last Thursday, and every single time that we have discussed the topic of Islam and the war on terror, as those of you who listen, at least most of us who listen know,' he said on yesterday's show."
So, here it goes.

Last night, at my usual attendance of the 'Democratic Town Hall in Exile' at Manuel's Tavern, I ran into Major General (Ret.) Larry Taylor, USMC. He's a regular and a fellow Georgia Tech alumnus, besides being a seriously well informed individual (it's not likely you can achieve that rank w/o being a pretty damn intelligent guy). We largely share the same views on the military, but we do not necessarily align on politics. He's more conservative (yeah, I found it odd that he shows at Manuel's, but...), where as I tend to be more contractarian. I should move to the point.

I asked him where he'd been the past couple of weeks, and he informed me he had been in Turkey with some other retired military types who'd achieved similar career heights. There were for of them all told, there at the invitation of the Turkish government. I asked him a few questions about what he had come away with, besides shopping, which he said they didn't have time for. But, when I posed the question about how the new party in power, which is more religious than the previous party, felt about Turkey's policy of being a secular government, he told me that exact issue had come up at a dinner hosted by the two major parties. He said at the dinner, there was a large banner with the word Merkez, meaning center, which he took to mean as the opposite of extreme. And, that while at that dinner, their hosts were a little distraught that in the previous week, Colin Powell had referred to Turkey as a Muslim Democracy. They asked this delegation to go back and try to impress on the American government that they were not a 'Muslim Democracy', but rather a 'Democratic country' with a large Muslim population similar to the US being a 'Democratic country' with a large Christian population. In fact, Larry (I call him that not out of disrespect, but since I no longer in the military, I prefer first names) said that the Turkish constitution is even stronger with regards to keeping religion out of government, than ours is. I also asked, and he responded fairly emphatically in the affirmative, if he thought that Turkey was a strong US ally. So, going back to Severin's idiotic remarks, he is doing a great disservice to our Muslim allies, albeit we don't have many, which is the reason we shouldn't be alienating those we have. Same goes for Colin Powell. In fact, this whole administration, especially with Baby Bush's repeated use of the word 'crusade', seems intent on doing exactly that: Alienating the few Muslim allies we have.

book review
Okay, now that we've got that out of the way, I wanted to let you know about a great book I recently read. Ah, you may ask, "Just how is this related to what you've posted above?" "You'll see," I respond.

About three weeks ago, again at the 'Democratic Town Hall in Exile' at Manuel's Tavern (see, first connection), I wound up seated next to Robert Coram at the bar. At that time, I too did not know who he was. But after we had introduced ourselves, I found out he was a writer of both fiction and non-fiction, and he found out I was ex-military. One of the things he did, and at that point I began to hold a grudge against him, is ask me the difference between low intensity conflict and fourth generation warfare, or something to that effect. Well, doing my best, I come up with a couple of ideas, and then I find out, he knows the answer. I hate people who ask me a question, allow me to stumble in trying to come up with an answer, when they already know it, and know it better than I do.

Regardless, he eventually he pops the question, "Have you ever heard of COL John Boyd?" I have to admit to total ignorance, and he proceeds to tell me he was the greatest military thinker since Sun Tzu, and the most influential unknown military thinker of our time (do you understand why I began to resent him). Well, as it turns out, he had written a biography of COL Boyd, called aptly enough "BOYD - The Fighter Pilot Who Changed The Art Of War". Well, I may have been proven a complete ignoramus, but I wrote down the title, and proceeded to check it out at my local library (I'd be damned if I'd give him the royalty benefit of buying the book). Sadly, it's an absolutely excellent book. Robert pulls no punches on Boyd's often negative personal qualities with regards to his family life and abrasiveness, and does an excellent job of presenting a man of great character, who truly did much to change American military thinking and doctrine. Though, the bureaucracy that is the Pentagon, changed as little as it could, and resisted almost everything Boyd tried to accomplish.

It also turns out, that it was the US Marine Corps which most readily changed it operations and tactics based on Boyd's work (note second connection). So, I asked Larry (remember him, ala third connection about Boyd and his influence), and Larry flatly stated that he considered himself a Boyd acolyte. Now that is high praise. He agreed that Boyd had indeed had a major influence on how the Marine war fighting doctrine, including Boyd's "Observe, Orient, Decide, Act (OODA) Loop, and his work on aerial combat. MEGEN Taylor was a Cobra Helicopter pilot among other things, and stated that Boyd's work demonstrated that it was possible for helicopters to actually defeat fixed wing aircraft in combat.

And, now I have to admit defeat, I'm going to go out and buy "BOYD - The Fighter Pilot Who Changed The Art Of War", copyright 2003, Little, Brown and Company, Boston, New York, London, by Robert Coram. The book is that good, and I want my own copy for reference, especially I want a copy of the bibliography on had to google search the references and read much of the material myself. Here's a guy who directly or indirectly got the F-16 and the A-10 Built. Who was a great fighter pilot, and who apparently was the greatest military theorist since Sun Tzu. It's worth the read, and even the price: $27.95 US.

Note: I'll probably do more stories from Manuel's over time, and as long as I continue to hang. It is a great place to meet people, and have intelligent conversations on a host of subjects. And, since they don't have a juke box, nor play the radio or it's equivalent, you can actually here what someone else is saying. Though, there are enough political junkies there, that you'll almost always have the TV on for a debate or major political speech, and enough sports (primarily baseball), that the game will usually be on one of the TVs. anyway, if you come to Atlanta, and you're here on a Tuesday, and if you like politics. you'll like Manuel's. 
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