28 February 2011

The Video Game War: A look back at the 1991 Gulf War

Today marks the 20th anniversary of the end of the 1991 Gulf War; the cease-fire coming into effect on this day. Rather than a full history (which would be predictable), I'm going to post a few thoughts on the war, how it was fought and the impact of it.

So here are some of my thoughts with the advantage of 20 years of hindsight and the disadvantage of not being old enough to remember the war at the time:
  1. Saddam made a massive gamble in the invasion of Kuwait that might well have worked had he tried it pre-glasnost. Had the Soviet Union, the main armer of Saddam Hussein's Iraq, vetoed a UN resolution or made clear it was prepared to come on Saddam's side in some form, then it is unlikely that Desert Storm would ever have been mounted as it was.
  2. Saddam Hussein could not have been allowed to control Kuwait's oil and threaten Saudi Arabia as well. That is a strong argument in itself. In addition, military invasion is no longer a justifiable way to resolve border disputes - it hasn't been since 1939.
  3. Some of Kuwait's PR moves to gain support for a risky UN-led operation could be argued to be a case of the end justifying the means. We'll never know if the US would have gone in without them.
  4. Desert Storm in itself was made possible by the clear technological superiority that the Coalition possessed. There is no way that Schwarzkopf's pincer movement could have been made without GPS and no way that Iraq's powerful air defence could have been handled without the F-117A.
  5. Taking out said Iraqi air defence on night one must be considered one of the best air strike operations in the 20th century.
  6. The "Scud" attacks may have helped Iraq by diverting resources onto a fruitless hunt from the TELs, but that is all.
  7. The primary duty of a commander is the protection of his own force; this may mean he has to use controversial methods to protect it. However, if there is a better way to do that does not have political ramifications, it should be taken. It's a case-by-case thing.
  8. The attack on the retreating convoys on the Basra road was militarily justifiable, but politically a mistake. Perception is important in any war.
  9. Controlling the media is a common part of modern war. The US lost in Vietnam due to free-roaming media. The Coalition would have a lot more difficulty with Twitter et. al today.
  10. We should have provided broader support to the 1991 Shia uprising; it could have prevented a lot of problems later.
  11. Saddam's armed forces were never the same after 1991; he never even got near the capability he had then.
  12. Things could have turned out very differently for the Coalition. Their rapid success may have coloured views on military action too much for the next decade and a bit.
  13. The 1991 Gulf War was arguably the last clear-cut "just war", although I am sure some would disagree with that.
Your thoughts?

22 February 2011

Change of plans

Some RL stuff and ongoing events that will probably warrant more coverage means that I'm trimming my planned series on the 20th anniversary of Operation Desert Storm to a single post around 28 February.

21 February 2011


From the fragmentary reports we've been getting, there is now open revolt against Colonel Gaddafi in the east of Libya.

I hope these are the last days of a vile leader who has supported many terrorist groups over the years.

18 February 2011

RTE: The Frontline Leader's Debate

This is quite possibly the first post I've written here about politics in the Republic of Ireland. My label system must be a Unionist, it kept correcting the Ireland label to "Northern Ireland" (or shouldn't that have been "Ulster").

Being a bit of an elections fan (I can still remember the moment I realised Bush had won the 2004 US election based on the Latino vote in the exit polls), I saw that BBC Parliament was showing Monday's Irish election debate yesterday and decided to record it.

I don't know a tremendous amount about Irish politics, but I've picked up bits here and there. I can't honestly remember the precise difference between Fianna Fail and Fine Gael, but there is one.

Ireland uses the Single Transferable Vote system for elections to the Dáil Éireann, the lower house of their bicameral legislature. This resulted in five parties being present at the debate rather than the three that turned up in the UK ones.

This debate was under the aegis of The Frontline, a weekly politics programme on Ireland's main public broadcaster, Raidió Teilifís Éireann (RTE). There was another debate yesterday, conducted in Gaelic on TG4 with only three paries, which appears to have got rave reviews. Enda Kenny, the Fine Gael leader, did not turn up to the TV3 debate, also in English (intended to be three-way) due to scheduling problems.

Let's get back to the RTE debate. The debate was basically "an audience member asks a question", then the five leaders had a discussion around it and kept interrupting each other. Pat Kenny was the host and frankly didn't do a brilliant job; he really should have reined the people in.

Our nearest neighbours, Ireland is both very similar and very different to our one. They've got a deficit problem and worries about healthcare. However, Ireland's a republic that emerged via a bloody war of independence and a civil war. It is a user of the euro and has a tiny military. There is also the massive issue of the recent IMF/EU bailout...

The most interesting issue that where we have concerns with people coming in; the Irish (who have a literally massive diaspora) have concerns about people leaving.

So without further ado, I shall give my impressions of the five leaders (from left to right on the screen):

John Gormley (Green)

The Greens were part of the government until recently before pulling out. Gormley demonstrates the very large difference between Green parties that are (or have been) in government and those are not. He was quiet, subdued and not exactly advocating a massive change to the economy. Otherwise, he was unimpressive.

Eamon Gilmore (Labour)

Based on the current polls, Labour are likely to be the junior partners in the new government with Fine Gael. Gilmore was a very muscular, thumping socialist of the old school; calling for a renegotiation of the bailout and wanting to put lots of money into creating jobs. Good, particularly for a guy who has become much more left-wing economically recently, but not brilliant.

Enda Kenny (Fine Gael)

The likely next Taoiseach (that's Prime Minister), Kenny is the leader of the Christian Democratic party Fine Gael ("Tribe of the Irish"). Kenny was strong and assured, advocating a private sector-led recovery (I hope that works - it's not here at the moment) and probably the best person there.

Micheal Martin (Fianna Fáil)

It's pronounced "me-haw", not "my-kal" (Irish names are different like that). As the successor to Brian Cowen as leader of the conservative Fianna Fáil (usually rendered in English "Soldiers of Destiny"), the outgoing PM, Martin is on a hiding to nothing. He wasn't very good at this. He's a bit like Gordon Brown in that regard.

Gerry Adams (Sinn Fein)

Ah, Gerry Adams... I'm familiar with him already through his involvement in NI. Leader of a very socialist party most well known for wanting a unified Ireland, Adams started off convincing then just went bizarre. Wanting to tell the IMF where to get off and getting accused by everyone of his sums not adding up, Adams managed to invoke the Irish Proclamation of Independence in a discussion on healthcare and also the "patriot dead" (those were died in the independence struggle). This might sound a little better in Ireland (the original IRA were socialists), but it sounded odd to me.

No-one wants to form a coalition with this guy and I'm not surprised.


Not a perfect debate, but a very interesting illumination into a land so similar and yet so different to ours.

I plan to watch the results if I can.

17 February 2011

Product placement 2

A follow-up to this.

Just re-watched the James Bond film The Living Daylights (still great) and have observed that you're going to need the product warning before all of them...

Mr. Bond is a living Brioni-clad Walther P99-carrying Aston Martin-driving advertisement...

(This post does not contain paid for advertising).

16 February 2011

14 February 2011

Product placement warning

BBC News article.

This is a bit silly in my honest opinion. Perhaps Ofcom are hoping to discourage it by making people do this.

I have seen some awful product placement in US shows; the other week on CSI: NY was essentially an i-Pad advert disguised as a whodunnit...

13 February 2011

There's probably a good football metaphor here (Review: 'Hustle' 7.5)

Hustle is now coming to the end of its seventh season and I wouldn't be surprised if the show goes on past ten. It may not be a show with massive amounts of depth, but at the end of the day it's highly entertaining and that does the job for most people.

After Ash Morgan, one of the five-person team of loveable con artists, has his favourite football team go into administration, he's not happy about it and wants to go after the corrupt agent responsible. He makes a passionate speech about the state of the beautiful game, which you could quite happily use in many a serious drama with only slight changes, then reminds the team that they could get a lot of money. The latter convinces them.

The target is Don Coleman, played by David Harewood, previously best known to me for Robin Hood. Like all the marks in this show, Harewood brings the ham and brings it well. He's a thoroughly slimy piece of work, without any redeeming features, but that's par for the course.

The con is reasonably standard but good nonetheless; the group decide to pass off Sean Kennedy as an elite Canadian football player - despite the fact he can't actually play (I won't reveal how they get around that). That's the convincer. Then they try to sell Coleman a US football club and then do some switcheroo that persuades Don to give the gang a lot of money.

There's a rather large snag involving a head injury here that is a refreshing little change to the show; the team's setback here isn't faked as part of the plot and it's only Coleman's sheer hubris that actually makes the con work.

All in all, it's a very enjoyable episode. It does drag somewhat, especially around the 20-minute mark, but there's some brilliant little gags and even Eddie the barman, who sometimes feels like an unnecessary source of comic relief, is actually rather funny for a change. Now, guys, pay your tab!

Emma, the sole female in the group, doesn't get a lot to do this week. Possibly for the best; she's the weakest character in the gang.

I've wondered recently who pulls the better cons; this crew or the Leverage team. Based on this, I'd have to say that the jury is still very much out.


11 February 2011

Exit Mubarak

After the disappointment of last night, I wasn't expecting this.

While there are understandably concerns about the future, this is a great day for the people of Egypt.

10 February 2011

Votes for prisoners

BBC News story.

I completely oppose the idea of giving any prisoners the vote. If you are sent to prison, you should not be able to vote to get out.

I'm not entirely sure that this vote is a good idea though; it could have serious repercussions for the devolved body elections - and the AV referendum.

I don't like the idea of this, but if it was a choice between prisoners voting and pulling out of the European Convention of Human Rights altogether, I'd have to go for the former.

03 February 2011

Trapped in Terra


(Contains strong language)

I've found this via a guy advertising it at RPG site Myth-Weavers. It's worth checking it; it's hilarious and very well-written. I'm looking forward to the next episode.

02 February 2011

Phoenix Roleplaying

Just to remind everyone that I have another blog.

Please check it out and Phoenix; you may well like it.

Lark Rise: 'tis a silly place. (Review: 'Lark Rise to Candleford', Episode 4.4)

One of the UK's main things it manufactures these days is costume dramas. The BBC have become world-renowned for them and ITV frequently produces some of high worth, most recently Downton Abbey, it's biggest hit that's not involved Simon Cowell for a while.

A few days ago, the BBC announced it would stop making its Sunday night costume drama Lark Rise to Candleford, arguing that they wanted to take it out on a high. If this is a high, I'd hate to see what a low looks like.
For those of you not familiar with the show, it is a loose adaptation of Flora Thompson's autobiographical novels about her childhood in 19th century Oxfordshire. It follows Laura - see what they did there? - a young woman, who moves from the sleepy village of Lark Rise to work at the Post Office in Candleford in the 1890s (it's 1897 now).

Each episode, some outside visitor or technical development threatens to disrupt the good orderly nature of life, there are a few arguments and eventually the situation is sorted out with everyone learning a valuable lesson about tolerance/patience/humility/whatever.

This episode is a case in point. The fair comes to town. Farmhand Alfie becomes champion at something called shin-kicking; Laura becomes Queen of the Fair for being the prettiest woman there (OK...) and Queenie Turrell, one of the local senior citizens, wins a pig.

What follows involves the postman taking slight at Laura's boyfriend saying his wife isn't that attractive, Alfie's nice but a bit stupid girlfriend Minnie the maid realising he cheated (his foot went over some line and he didn't say anything) and Queenie's husband Twister selling the pig for 8 shillings which he promptly spends on drink. However, all of these issues are cleared up by the end and everyone is friends again.

By the way, the pig ends up being dinner; there was no discussion on vegetarianism.
The BBC have a problem in not having ad breaks as their hour-long shows actually have about 56 minutes of content as opposed to c.42 for a commercial network. Quantity does not equal quality and it sometimes shows. Doctor Who is only 45 minutes and works exceptionally well as a result.

Here though a lot of that is here, there's other problems. It's just got silly. People constantly get the wrong end of the stick and don't find out until it's almost too late; the characters are predictable and the plots even more so. They've apparently stopped using the books and the show has done a Fonz. Yep, it's jumped the shark.

[Happy Days  fans will of course point out said show actually lasted seven years after that moment. Expressions don't need to be accurate, just funny]

Yes, this is supposed to be escapism, but it's just boring and that's the cardinal sin for any show.

It's not without its good parts; there were some genuinely funny moments, I liked the ending and the costuming continues to be brilliant. Even the moral stuff is good. However, these don't outweigh the silly parts.

I'm glad this is going; perhaps we'll get something better.
3/5. Because I'm feeling generous.

01 February 2011

Never let the facts get in the way of a good story...

I've just finished watching Elizabeth: The Golden Age. In it, Walter Raleigh is discovered to have secretly married one of the Queen's maids after getting her pregnant and is arrested for it.

While that did actually did happen; it didn't happen in 1588, but rather 1592. After the Spanish Armada...