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What I don’t understand about the Mali fight

From a purely tactical perspective, that is. I keep seeing reports mentioning how the fanatics will melt into the desert and be difficult to root out.

Assuming resources — and I do understand that those are not generally applied — but, assuming resources, I don’t see how the Sahara could shelter them for long.

Water is limiting. Garrison every oasis for six months, and anybody hiding in the Sahara is done for. It’s also the worst place on earth to hide from satellite surveillance. Few clouds, few trees. So if pickup trucks start driving to camps in suddenly larger numbers, it could be visible. Assuming anyone used their satellites to look.

I get that fanatics can hide now and have hidden in the past because it’s a vast trackless area, you have to know the terrain, the regional governments don’t have or don’t devote the resources to it, etc., etc.

But it seems to me that right now there’s an opening to get the local knowledge. The Tuaregs are mighty pissed off with everyone, especially the fanatics who stole their revolution. They’re some of the most skilled desert dwellers there are. So give them Azawad, where they can run their own internal affairs, within a federated nation of Mali, where they can be part of a more viable economic unit, and give them the military data they need to wreak vengeance on the even more unsavory fundies.

If we believe in self-determination like we say we do, the first part is a worthy goal in itself. And for military effectiveness, I’d be willing to bet you couldn’t beat the second part.

Update, 2012-02-07. From McClatchy: “Aklinine Ag Bogali, who spent years traversing his desert homeland in northern Mali, described some of the caves there as so large that they open onto underground lakes.”


Although it does confirm what I was saying about the local knowledge of the Touareg.

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One people, one planet, one pollution

I was hiking yesterday and looked out to sea. This is what I saw.

An orange-brown band of dust? smog? all of the above? stretching over the whole horizon. There’s a larger composite picture here that shows more of the extent. (In the foreground, you can make out the Navy Seabees target practice range. That’s Anacapa Island shrouded in the distance.)

I’ve lived here for years and never seen anything like it. Ordinary Los Angeles pollution looks like this:


It’s more purple-colored, much fainter, and bigger toward LA, petering out toward the ocean. (The picture is from an old post where I was puzzling about wind direction.)

When I mentioned it at home, I found out that Beijing had an Airpocalypse around January 12th and the next few days, an immense pollution event that drowned the city in choking dusty smog.

View of Beijing smog.



NASA regularly tracks Chinese pollution across the Pacific, but it wasn’t usually still as thick as soup by the time it got here.

Well, it is now. I’m fairly sure that’s what I was seeing. Dirt pushed across the whole Pacific ahead of a huge storm system that also brought us rain later on. One to two weeks is how long it takes to get here from China.

This is not good.

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Corporations are people (NOT)

USNews, via Dvorak:

When Jonathan Frieman of San Rafael, Calif., was pulled over for driving alone in the carpool lane, he argued to the officer that, actually, he did have a passenger. He waved his corporation papers at the officer, … saying that corporations are people under California law.[…]

A carpool lane is two or more persons per vehicle, he said. The definition of person in California’s Vehicle Code is “natural person or corporation.”

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The only thing worse than running out of oil

This is the headline of an article on CNN:

“Damon’s film ‘Promised Land’ overlooks fracking’s boon to U.S.”

The boon of global climate change, I guess. The boon of flammable tap water. All that, and cheap gas.

Are we lucky, or what?

Like I said before, the only thing worse than running out of oil is not running out of oil.

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