Monday, September 13, 2010

Coping with IEDs

Strategy Page has an interesting piece on how the military is minimizing the threat of IEDs in Afghanistan. Here are a couple of excerpts:
The tactics and equipment that neutralized IED (Improvised Explosive Device, a roadside, or suicide car bomb) in Iraq, have arrived in Afghanistan. There are now 12,000 MRAP (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected) vehicles in Afghanistan, and they have played a major part in reducing NATO casualties there. In Iraq, the use of a similar number of MRAPs, reduced casualties from IEDs by over 60 percent. In Afghanistan, the math is similar. While 80 percent of hummers or trucks hit with IEDs result in one or more passengers killed, that only happens in 15 percent of MRAPs hit with IEDs. A year ago, About two-thirds of all casualties in Afghanistan were from roadside bombs. Thus these vehicles reduced overall casualties by about a third, and now IEDs create less than half the casualties.
Over the last year, the U.S. has been hustling to get MRAP vehicles to Afghanistan. At times, over 500 a month were arriving. Most of those coming in are the M-ATV model, designed for use in Afghanistan. A B-747 freighter can carry five M-ATVs per trip, but larger An-124s are also being used. The vehicles are moved by ship to a European or Persian Gulf port, to shorten the flight time (and enable a fully loaded B-747 to make it in one jump from the Gulf.)
In addition to many more MRAPs going to Afghanistan, the supply of explosives (nitrate based fertilizer) has been reduced by mandating the use of non-explosive fertilizers in Afghanistan. The U.S. also transferred its bomb detection techniques, and equipment, to Afghanistan, along with its methods of identifying and hunting down the teams that manufacture and place the bombs. These tactics greatly reduced the number of bombs being placed, and the MRAPs made those that did get used, much less effective. In some parts of Afghanistan, the use of IEDs has already declined enormously. This is usually due to finding the specialists who build the IEDs (and killing or capturing them) and destroying the workshops and supplies of bomb components.
I think the Obama administration seriously blundered by announcing a withdrawal date from Afghanistan, but other than that they seem to be doing all they can to protect our troops and to bring that conflict to a reasonably successful conclusion. Who'd have thought during the 2008 campaign that Mr. Obama would turn out to aggressively prosecute a war?

The New Literature

At Patheos Robert Velarde writes that film and tv are the new literature:
The Western world has, by and large, shifted from what Neil Postman called the Age of Exposition to the Age of Entertainment (Amusing Ourselves to Death, 1985). Contemporary culture has in many respects left behind the scholarly engagement of literary ideas and displaced them with film and television. We have shifted from a "Have you read?" mentality to a "Have you seen?" perspective.
While I firmly believe that literary people will always exist, they are now in the clear minority. This is unfortunate, since the great ideas of history are most commonly discussed in depth not on screen, but in print. Nevertheless, thoughtful films can indeed offer much to ponder philosophically and theologically, while even poorly constructed films can provide us with opportunities to discuss meaningful ideas.
Velarde is right, of course. Film affords us a rich mine of ideas, illustrations, and metaphors to aid us in bridging the social chasms that have opened up between people who live in different cultural worlds and hold to completely disparate worldviews.

Pundits often lament that our nation has become increasingly divided over the last couple of generations, that we don't really talk with each other so much as at each other, and that when we do talk it's as if we're broadcasting over a radio on one frequency while their "receiver" is set at a different frequency.

The medium of film (and music) can give a powerful assist to our attempts to communicate to our friends our own thoughts and convictions, and it has this critical advantage: It's a lot easier today to persuade someone to watch a film than it is to read a book.

Check out the rest of Velarde's column at the link.