Saturday, August 16, 2008

Administration and Iraqi government close to drawdown deal

How the Olympics and Georgia are completely pushing this off the radar is beyond me, but the question of opposition to the war and the exact timing of the pullout might be a moot question by 2009: link
American soldiers will withdraw from cities across Iraq next summer and all US combat troops will leave the country within three years, provided the violence remains low, under the terms of a draft agreement with the Iraqi Government. In one of the most detailed insights yet into the content of the deal, Hoshyar Zebari, the Iraqi Foreign Minister, has also told The Times that the US military would be barred from unilaterally mounting attacks inside Iraq from next year. In addition, the power of arrest for US soldiers would be curbed by the need to hand over any detainee to a new, US-Iraqi committee. Troops would require the green light from this joint command before conducting any operation. The Pentagon refused to comment last night on the proposals laid out in the draft agreement between Baghdad and Washington that covers the status of US forces beyond 2008. Britain will strike its own deal with Iraq but Gor-don Brown hopes to withdraw most British troops from Iraq by next summer, reducing the number of soldiers from 4,100 to “a few hundred” by then. Mr Zebari said in an interview: “Our negotiators and the Americans have almost brought it [the accord] to a close. It is not a closed deal but it is very close.”
This is good news, as we could really spare the resources to invest into Afghanistan - a country with a long history of appearing conquered and then exploding. In terms of the 2008 elections, it seems as though with this issue potentially out of the way and the economy recovering, we might actually have a debate about the issues I am most interested in: the limits of executive power, the future of civil rights in this country, and technological innovation (green technology and telecommunications). Oh sure, McCain could call Obama's opposition to the surge a bad decision that would have prevented the current progress from taking place (though some analysis has suggested it had more to do with the earlier Sunni Awakening). And Obama could say that the decision to go to war at all was a bad idea built on a series of frauds. But I think Americans are more interested about the future rather than the past in this election. I am fairly worried a pullout from Iraq will still leave a heavily balkanized country, rather ripe for a civil war from a historical perspective. Dividing neighborhoods by religion/ethnicity and putting up large concrete barriers between them might limit violence in the short term, but it doesn't make for a very cohesive nation. I mean look at this:

Friday, August 15, 2008

Poor design

Sorry I haven't updated in a while, I have been busying myself with some reading and general related work. More and more I am putting myself into the position of a GIS developer rather than an operator - creating tools with ESRI's ArcObjects API. Whether this is "real" programming or not depends, I suppose, on your definition. I still consider myself something of a novice to the actual field of computer science, but I feel comfortable creating custom scripts and operator tools for ArcGIS in C#, Python, VB.NET, and T-SQL. I could say I am going to the trouble of learning all of this because it increases my earning potential, but it's actually a lot of fun. Computers are rather poor at what the human mind generally does - analysis and higher order modeling - and human minds simply cannot match the power of computers to instantly recall and organize memory (not to mention their potential for networking with the vast knowledge of the internet). Interfacing with a computer at progressively lower levels greatly increases the collaborative power that comes as a result of normal use, and it is a joy to be working in such a way.