Sunday, May 29, 2011

From the Department of Relaxation Department:

My efforts at sleeping in  this morning were stymied by a mind that is used to waking up at 6 every single day of the last 2 years, so I rolled out to the pool at 8 this morning with the NY Times that was delivered to our room at the Old Edwards Inn. This Highlands retreat is pretty incredible - and the pool is no exception. Built into a stone lined courtyard, surrounded by hemlock and laurel blossoms and sky, the lukewarm saltwater is relaxation itself. Being the first one there makes it even better. 

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Mother's Day

Finally getting around to putting up some pictures from Mother's Day 2011, now 2 weeks late. It was a pretty durn good day - somehow, it just keeps getting better.



I don't know how on Earth I got so lucky to have a family like this. Thank you for making it happen, Mama.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Berry Juice


Having kids has allowed me the sweet return to absolute wonder.  I wish I had gotten on video Jack's face today when I handed him a basket at Rudd Farm and showed him the row of strawberries that were all his to harvest.  Dinner plates, those eyes were.  It didn't take him long to figure out if he stuck his finger into the side of the berry while picking it then I would request he not put it into the basket so it just had to be eaten.


"Oops, Jack eat this one, Momma?" is something I must have heard at least a dozen times today.  $7 for a giant basket of the sweetest freshest strawberries I've ever eaten.  Can't beat that.  Hello summer. I'm so glad you're here.


Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Many Faces of Jack

This is from several months ago, but I just found it and it cracks me up:

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


There is some good stuff percolating out there on the impact of Bin Laden. Make sure you read past the CNN and MSNBC and FOX commentary to the opinions of folks that make this their life's work. Here's sampling:

Rebecca Zimmerman has a great post on Small Wars Journal from which I borrowed the title of this entry:
But as I examine the reasons much of America is celebrating I cannot find justification for such brash, self-congratulatory cheer. And I am not alone, those friends of mine who have shouldered the greatest burdens of the last decade are somber and qualified in their reactions. 
To view Osama bin Laden as the gravitational center of global Islamist terrorism is to see the world as it was a decade ago. Terrorism and (mercifully) counterterrorism have evolved profoundly since then.

And Andrew Exum at Abu Muqawama notes the evolution of Abbottabad from Desert One:

Second, the reason we have some of these special operations capabilities -- specifically, the special missions units, the aviation unit, the headquarters element, and all the units that have not yet made the news and will not -- and the reason they work together so well is because you are witnessing the late stages of an evolutionary process that began in a cold desert base in Iran some three decades ago. You cannot understand why the U.S. military was able to execute this extraordinary operation deep in the heart of Pakistan without first understanding the failures of Iran in 1980. I've got Tim Harford's new book Adapt: Why Success Always Starts with Failure on my desk right now, and I'm thinking Tim should add our special operations forces as a case study in time for the paperback. 
Marc Ambinder and Jeremy Scahill, meanwhile, have primers on the organization and units behind the operations that I can't really comment on, but I will say that whenever people ask me to explain the task force, I don't say a word and simply point them here. (you gotta check out this link)

Finally, to keep some perspective, the Voice of America has this recap of AQ leadership:
Osama bin Laden, Saudi. Al-Qaida founder.
Abu Laith al-Libi, Libyan. Al-Qaida operative.
Omar al-Farouq, Kuwaiti. Al-Qaida operations chief for Southeast Asia.
Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, Jordanian. Al-Qaida in Iraq leader.

Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Yemeni. 9/11 planner.
Abu Faraj al-Libbi, Libyan. Senior al-Qaida operative.
Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Kuwaiti. Suspected 9/11 mastermind.
Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, Saudi. Al-Qaida operations chief in the Gulf region.
Abu Zubaydah, Palestinian. One of Osama bin Laden's top lieutenants.

Ayman al-Zawahiri, Egyptian. Age - 59.
Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah, Egyptian. Age - late 40s.
Saif al-Adel, Egyptian. Age about 50.
Anwar al-Awlaki, US/Yemeni citizen. 40 years old.
Adam Yahiye Gadahn. American convert to Islam. Age 32.
Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, Kuwaiti.
Ali Saed Bin Ali El-Hoorie, Saudi. Age 45.
Anas al-Liby (also known as Nazih Abdul-Hamed al-Raghie), Libyan. Age late 40s.
Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, Comoros Islands national. Age late 30s.
Fahd Mohammed Ahmed al-Quso, Yemeni. Age 36.

Monday, May 2, 2011

My Thoughts on Bin Laden

I first heard about Bin Laden this morning on the way to work. Doc got out the driveway before me, then backed up with her window down a said “We killed Osama.” I smiled, gave a little fist pump and said “Awesome.” Then I got in the car and went to work.

I enjoyed catching NPR’s coverage on the way in to Elon, and quickly scanned the blogs and news feeds (Small Wars Journal, Opinio Juris, Abu Muquwama, and the regular collection of bureaus) for what details were percolating up about this.. What struck me immediately in the comments to these articles, trending on Facebook and Twitter, and in discussion forums was the meathead, ugly American, “we got him and you can rot in hell, Islam” attitude that suddenly came to the forefront of so many people’s minds. I guess this underscores how sensitive an issue Osama Bin Laden represents. Apparently not so sensitive that many people (prior to today) gave it much thought in their day to day fretting over jobs, the economy, the price of gas, the 2012 election, Lindsey Lohan, etc. I guess the spontaneous celebrations are more of an emotional response by people looking for a bright spot in the news. I'll say I prefer a more considered, thoughtful, and insightful response of people that have worried and worked for years over these ideas and the role of America's power in the world. But of them all I liked Andrew Exum's post the best, about his gathering at the bar Sunday night for the press conference, because it hits close to home:
We went around, all of the veterans, each of us naming friends we had lost. I offered up Joel Cahill's name, and then that of Joe Fenty. I thought of the wives and young daughters those two men left behind, and I thought of so many more men and women who I never got the chance to know but who have given their lives since 2001.
I had told myself for years that the death of Osama bin Laden would not mean anything. Decapitation campaigns against sophisticated, mature terrorist networks, I knew, rarely yield strategic effects. But standing in that Washington bar, I was overcome with emotion.
If you consider the single-minded dedication with which the task force responsible for yesterday’s accomplishment has worked over the last decade, I think this reaction of the general public is a bit out of place. Certainly, those guys deserve a beer and a chance to celebrate. But I suspect, quiet professionals that they are, and given the investment they have in the mission in regards to training, lost friends, lost time at home, etc, that they will not be parading around waving the American flag and singing God Bless America on the steps of the White House. In fact, my first thought after “Awesome” was a quiet word of thanks to those guys and their families – not that there is no more work to do, but just the relief of a job - this job - well done. I bet among those gallant men there is some reflection, a strong sense of satisfaction, a remembrance of those lost along the way, and then a desire to kit up and get back out there.

As the details unfold of the mission, you’ll hear that they mocked-up a full scale compound for months of raid practice, (much like the Son Tay raid) and then had to pivot on the objective when an airframe had a mech failure. These are the best and brightest of America, as much or more as the denizens of any other tech, investment, industry or education sector of our county. You'll also hear about the intelligence yield from our program at Guantanamo and elsewhere, and the persistence and patience of our collection community in the targeting and planning of this operation. Try to remember about this stuff when you go back to your day to day lives and the worries that accompany them.

Now that everyone is paying attention to the War on Terror again, questions resurface about the character of our fight. What does this change? Certainly it is not the end, or even a big shift in the meaning of Al Qaida – AQ 2.0 has been in the game for several years and seems to have already executed their succession plan when Bin Laden was driven deep to hiding following Anaconda. Organized international terrorism is still a persistent and existential threat for the foreseeable future – instability across the globe still has the potential to breed unrest and sanctuaries in regions that we do not engage in a productive manner.  Will we continue to pay a billion (seriously) dollars a year to Pakistan? I bet not.

I do think that the one key achievement of the killing of Bin Laden is this - the US is now free to exit Afghanistan on the terms of our choosing, defining military and diplomatic goals, and even victory, free of the symbolic albatross that has hung ‘round our necks for so long. I haven't seen this mentioned much - perhaps it is just obvious. But this is really the #win in my mind – that the guys with 1/5 deployed to Sangin can go about their mission of engagement and COIN and stability operations – even “nation-building” – not as a placeholder for the greatest manhunt in our history, but because it is our enunciated national security policy. Or, if it is not, they can come home. But we can have that national conversation about what is an important exercise of our wealth, and power, and blood, independent of any iconic search for evil.

Hopefully this will also raise to the surface the continued work ethic and incredible sacrifice of our fellow citizens in uniform. If you have not heard of LtGen John Kelly, he has some particularly poignant remarks on the investment that these folks and their families have made in the future of our nation, at great peril to themselves and with increasingly little awareness of their real involvement. A friend reminded me just this weekend of one such example from my old haunt of Ramadi, where two young Marines from different worlds went face-to-face with the devil with fingers on the trigger. Cpl Yale and LCpl Haerter received the Navy Cross, posthumously, for their intrepidity, valor and dedication, but we don’t talk often enough about how important that spirit of service is to America. And we should, every day, consider that there are folks we call our neighbors that do not run from their post. Not for how long it takes to get the job done, if it takes 10 years or 6 seconds.

Semper Fidelis.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Just hanging out

Caroline tries to kiss her big brother while Jack "Cheese's" for the camera.

Entire album is here.

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