The year that was


Looking back over 2015, I’m amazed at all that’s happened for me personally. It began with the wide release of the movie version of American Sniper, which was a bigger hit than anyone could have wished for. Code Name Johnny Walker came out in paperback in February; in May, Taya Kyle’s dramatic telling of her story, American Wife, was released to wide acclaim. In the fall, Afro Samurai II, a video game I’d worked on, debuted – far earlier and much rockier than we’d wanted, but that’s the way things go.

Throughout the year, I had the privilege of meeting many readers and fans; I’ll always be grateful for their support and well wishes. I’m especially proud that I was able to help at a number of fund raisers this year, for libraries and veterans’ groups, among others. I also had the honor of speaking at the War College in Pennsylvania, and addressing a conference of people who work in our nation’s intelligence communities. There were trips to Texas, LA, and many points in between.

As the year comes to a close, I’m thinking of the many projects that have not yet come to fruition. A few will become a reality in 2016 – a new series with Dale Brown, a memoir detailing the incredible story of Ivan Castro, a blind Green Beret who triumphed over his disabilities by running marathons and going to the South Pole. Many more books, movies, and even a video game or two are in the wings.

I thank everyone for their help, encouragement, and criticism. Thank you for making my journey special, and may yours be twice as good.



On ISIS . . .

While Ramadi has been retaken in Iraq, in no sense has ISIS been fully defeated. That war will continue at least through 2016, and very likely beyond.

Why?

This story in the Atlantic ran back in March and is a bit dated, but what it says about the religious "thinking" behind ISIS remains relevant. Especially:

. .  .much of what the group does looks nonsensical except in light of a sincere, carefully considered commitment to returning civilization to a seventh-century legal environment, and ultimately to bringing about the apocalypse.
That's a recipe not only for fanaticism, but persistence.

Some caveats about the article: They ARE psychopaths, and the territorial gains were only possible because of the specific political conditions in both Syria and Iraq. Nor should "mere" political power be underestimated as a motivator.

And contrary to the article's conclusion, direct, violent, consistent confrontation is the only way to deal with the movement. Unfortunately, it's likely that, once ISIS is defeated, other somewhat similar "movements" will spring up until Islam's civil war runs its course.

One of the biggest problems in understanding what's going on is our understanding of our own history. We've been taught to think of war in terms of the 20th century Western wares, World War II especially. Even Vietnam does not supply the kind of metaphors or framework that truly apply here. And thinking long term while fighting short term is not something most humans are good at.

One of 2015's best . . .



Audible loves the audio edition of American Wife, which not coincidentally, was read by Taya herself.

We're on this page with nonfiction . . .

Thank you, everyone!
Check out Boone

I was on Tipping Point with Boone Cutler recently. Boone's radio and podcast is pretty unique; I can't think another that does so much for military members and their families, present and former.

You can check our interview out here.



Talking with Boone . . .

Had a fun time talking with Boone Cutler the other day; the interview is here:

http://tippingpointwithboonecutler.podomatic.com/entry/2015-12-13T00_26_20-08_00


AI advances . . .

. . . Or seeing is believing.

Item:

Computer researchers reported artificial-intelligence advances on Thursday that surpassed human capabilities for a narrow set of vision-related tasks.
The improvements are noteworthy because so-called machine-vision systems are becoming commonplace in many aspects of life, including car-safety systems that detect pedestrians and bicyclists, as well as in video game controls, Internet search and factory robots.


The article in Science.

(Shameless plug: Robotics and artificial intelligence are the focus of the new fiction series "Puppetmaster" I'm doing with Dale Brown, due out next summer.)



On ISIS insanity


Apart from the terrible loss of life, the most distressing thing about the San Bernardino murders has been the hyperbolic reaction around the country. People have lost all perspective not simply about ISIS and terrorism, but about our country and the values that have made it strong.

Every day seems to bring new outrages and idiocies. Half the country wants to trash the second amendment; the other half wants to get rid of the first. The fifth and the fourteenth are conveniently ignored. One Republican candidate to be commander in chief talks about carpet bombing ISIS, profoundly ignorant not only of ISIS but military science and capabilities. Donald Trump remains in a category by himself.

It’s easy to blame this circus on the “media,” which is always up for a good session of hyperventilation. But a lot of people who really do know better are talking like crazies as well.
ISIS is not the world beater that it’s being made out to be. It’s a collection of psychotic mass killers who are pretty good at PR as well as murder, and have managed to convince a very small number of sick and pathetic individuals that they too should give in to their psychosis and kill innocent people.

They are one aspect of the civil war that is tearing much of Islam apart. Like all terrorists, they must be dealt with viciously and relentlessly. They are a cancer, but they are neither omnipresent, invincible, or even all that powerful. They have thrived in an area of chaos and apocalyptic disaster; without those conditions, and met with appropriate force, they will shrivel and disappear.

The long term direction of Islam and its people is another matter. Their internal war has many aspects, but one of the strongest is a fight between values of modernity and an idealized (and demonstrably false) past. As a Westerner, I believe it is futile to fight the future, but perhaps that is hubris; in any event, even a lost cause can impose incredibly high costs.

While I do not believe that the U.S. and the West have taken a strong enough or effective enough strategy toward this war and its collateral damage, I do have to admit that there is no course that is not without difficulties or reverses. The U.S. has tried everything from direct intervention (Iraq) to laissez faire sneaking around the edges (Libya, Africa) with very mixed results; there are numerous pro and con arguments for any approach you take. In any event, I don’t think that the people who urge caution or disagree with me are un-American or in on some sort of plot to ruin America. They’re mistaken, badly in some cases, but if I can’t convince them with reason I am surely not going to win the day with name calling.

Name calling and hysteria is fun. It gets attention; it gets clicks and hits and sells ads and maybe makes a few people rich. But it makes it very difficult to keep things in perspective. And it makes it almost impossible to get real work done.

So what should we do?

1) Preserve the Second Amendment. There’s simply no evidence that strict guns law in America would have any impact on this threat.

2) Preserve the First Amendment – freedom of speech and religion. And keep due process (the 5th and 14th) as well. (People inciting violence, let alone committing it, are NOT protected by the First Amendment.)

3) Use military force proportional to the threat. That means ground forces where necessary – and admittedly, that does mean there will be casualties.

4) As for Iraq specifically, in an ideal world I would split the country in three, and help the Sunnis in the west defeat ISIS. That’s what should have been done after the invasion, or at worst during the so-called Surge. It’s unlikely to happen now, which means we’re probably stuck with more of the present muddle. Assuming that is the case, continued attacks against ISIS and support of the Shia-dominated Iraqi forces are the best of crappy options.

5) In Syria, the dictator has to go. The problem for us there isn’t so much ISIS, which everyone hates, but the other rebel groups, which are certainly better but not exactly friends of the West, let alone forward thinkers. While it’s tempting to let Russia and Hamas/Iran continue to get battered in the process – a real politics solution the Israelis seem to favor – the mass exodus from the war shows just how connected the world is. The best of the crappy solutions there is to concentrate on ISIS, then join whatever rump peace process results from the dictator’s eventual defeat. Syria shows that we can’t let future situations devolve into such chaos. Of course, it’s one thing to say that, and quite another to actually have a strategy to prevent it. What started as a democratic awakening in the Middle East has devolved into this. A fully engaged and foreign policy aimed at discouraging nutjobs from taking over the governments would be a start, though.

6) ISIS may be a top priority for us, but for much of the Middle East, the real conflict is between Iran and the Sunni nations. Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States are currently fighting what they perceive as a proxy war with Iran in Yemen. Their citizens are also funding or otherwise supporting groups including ISIS that don’t particularly like us – at best. Keeping both sides in check – and avoiding more nuclear proliferation – has to be largely accomplished by diplomacy. The Iran nuclear deal – such as it is – has to be vigorously enforced. Reading between the lines of the most recent commission reports, Iran seems to have hit a roadblock in its very real nuke development program, and it was that as much as the sanctions that made it willing to deal. It’s foolish to think that that it will completely renounce its intentions, and the most extreme pressure has to continue to be applied – if only to prevent the rest of the Middle East from arming as well.

None of this fits in a quick sound bite or even the sort of climax scene you’d expect from the author of Dreamland, et al. But the real world is more complicated than thriller fiction.

It’s also not as dangerous, not really. This isn’t a threat to lose your head over, let alone your freedoms.

Let me say one thing more: I know a lot of Muslims. They are all good Americans. A few of them are heroes. They and their families mean a great deal to this country and its future. They belong here. They hate the terrorists even worse than you do. For these Muslim Americans, America is still that shining light on the hill; talking to them, reminds me why I’m proud to be here, why I choke up even at a ballgame when the Star Spangled Banner is played.

If they’re going on a list, I’m signing onto that list with them.



Karma . . .

. . .  and bad karma at that. Item:

PALM BAY, Fla. -- Authorities say a man who may have hidden as officers investigated reports of recent burglaries in a Florida community was killed by an 11-foot alligator.

Story.
The whole world is reading . . .




. . .  well, almost. Some of the new translations out in the past few weeks.

Thanks!
It's about time . . .

Item:
Just hours after military action was approved, four British Tornado jets took off from their base in Cyprus to attack Islamic State targets in Syria. The first bombs were dropped on the Omar oil refineries in the east, that it’s believed were used to fund the terror group.

Story.


San Bernardino


It goes without say how all of us feel for the victims.

As I watched the tragedy and its aftermath unfold on the web via news reports and social media, I wasn't surprised that it was immediately seized on for political purposes. That's just where we're at these days. But I was struck by how many filters were at play, how so many people seemed to want to put it into a simple box of meaning - terrorist shooting, workplace shooting, deranged madman shooting - as if that might make it easier to cope with.

Reality is always more complicated than we wish.



Up & back



If this doesn't blow your mind . . . it should.

But is delivery free?


More on the Turks & Russia

Just to follow up in a more serious vein on things that aren't being explained very well in most media reports - the Russian aircraft was flying in area dominated not by ISIS, which is much further south and east, but in areas where the rebel groups are supported by Turkey. And if the radar plot published by the Turks is correct (it shows an orbit back after what I'm presuming was its bombing mission), the actions were either deliberately provocative, related to some sort of unexplained mishap, or inexplicably dumb.

The Syrian Turkmen rebels in that area of Syria aren't OUR friends, but they're also not ISIS, and continuing to call them that simply makes it harder for people to understand what's going on . . . which is hard to understand even when you know the players. The Turks want to get rid of Asad, and see these rebels as the best avenue. The Russians want to keep Asad, and see these rebels as the biggest threat. In this specific part of the situation, the countries are direct enemies. (And in fact, we're the ones who make fighting ISIS the top priority, not Turkey and certainly not Russia, despite its rhetoric and its claim that all rebels are ISIS.)

There are statements to the effect that the Russians are going to move anti-air missiles into the area. One wonders what they'll do when the Turks take those out -- which they are perfectly capable of doing. The problem with bluster is that eventually someone's going to call your bluff.

For the Turks, protecting their sovereignty - and the rebels they support - is critical to any attempt to project power in that region. They see not only Russia but Iran challenging that; their response is bound to be fairly aggressive. And it helps Erdogan at home as well ... assuming it goes well.

Addendum to the addendum: The NY Times today has published an article that does give a more comprehensive explanation of what's going on than we've seen to this point. (Usual NYT paywall.) At the very end of the article, a comment explains why it's very possible for this to escalate - Russia will most likely attack the Turkmen rebels in Syria in retaliation, not the Turks themselves, as the Russian aim is to prove that they remain a superpower - an image greatly damaged by the shootdown.


Cooperating against terrorism . . .

. . . actually requires cooperation. Otherwise this happens:

The Turkish military says it shot down an unidentified warplane Tuesday near the Turkish-Syrian border, contending it repeatedly violated Turkish airspace and ignored repeated warnings. Turkey's semi-official Anadolu news agency cites Turkish Presidential sources in reporting that a Russian SU-24 was "hit within the framework of engagement rules" in Syria's Bayirbucak area near the Turkish border.

Story.

One wonders how much of this incident may be due to the countries not cooperating, and how much to the ineptness of the Russian Air Force. They have not been covering themselves with glory over Syria, despite what their press says.

This seems like the Turks just said, enough's enough, jack-holes. . .




We could be number one . . .



At Goodreads - please vote if you can. Here's the page link:

 http://www.goodreads.com/choiceawards/best-memoir-autobiography-books-2015

And thanks for all the votes that got us to the finals.




We are all Parisians

My thoughts and prayers are with the French today.

We are all together in a fight against vicious evil and psychotic insanity; we must wage that war with unrelenting precision and violence. There is no other choice.


We will prevail.

Veterans Day

As we prepare for tomorrow's observances, I am reminded of something Omar Bradley said during his brief but critical* stint as head of the Veterans Administration:

Too frequently I have heard it said that the veteran expects too much. We might ask these critics this: Does the fault lie with the veteran who wants too much? Or with the civilians who offer too little? Is it too much to want a job that will pay enough to live? Is it too much to want a decent home in which to raise a family? Is it too much to want a chance for better income or career through education and training?

Happy Veterans Day to all veterans and their families, and thank you for keeping my family safe.

* The VA was quite a mess even then. Bradley presided over a sweeping overhaul. (Much of the credit for improvement should go to the civilians under him.) He wasn't known as a particularly brilliant speaker, but he was eloquent when speaking of the men who served under him in Europe and Africa, and he was a tireless advocate on their behalf.


Go Hogs . . .



Story:

A-10C Thunderbolt II attack aircraft operating out of Incirlik airbase in Turkey provided "devastating" close air support for U.S.-backed Syrian-Arab fighters in taking a town in northwestern Syria from the Islamic State, a U.S. military spokesman said Wednesday.

Link

Rogue on the phone . . .


... and on the bookshelf.

If you already have copies of Rogue Warrior, you can get the ebook too for $2.99 from Shelfie and Tor/Forge, our publishers.



Shelfie is a free smartphone app (shelfie.com) that gives readers a special deal on ebooks when they own the book in print. Shelfie is social media for books - members connect with new reads by exploring what the app calls "shelfies" — photos of real bookshelves.

It works on iPhones and Androids, and you can get the app on the Apple App Store, Google Play or at shelfie.com.

Just in time for Veterans Day

A national disgrace:

Despite billions of extra dollars poured into the agency in the last year and numerous reforms intended to improve veterans' access to care, whistleblowers and internal documents obtained by CNN reveal some VA facilities continue to grapple with appointment wait times of months or more.

Story.
Drink Beck's?

You've been played.

It hasn't been a German import since 2012, but you were charged as if it were. They played games with the label to make you think it was still coming from the country that gave us Okoberfest.

Not that they would admit it:

"We reached a compromise in the Beck's labeling case," said Jorn Socquet, Anheuser-Busch vice president for marketing. "We believe our labeling, packaging and marketing of Beck's has always been truthful, transparent and in compliance with all legal requirements."

Read more here: http://www.kansascity.com/news/business/national-international/article40429692.html#storylink=cpy
Right. And beer makes you smarter, richer, and better with the girls.

This article explains how to get a (partial) refund. Good luck finding your receipts.








There's only one reason . . .

. . . to have ballistic missiles. And it's not to hunt deer.

Iran's test of a ballistic missile earlier this week was a clear violation of a U.N. Security Council resolution and sends "a worrying message", French Foreign Ministry spokesman Romain Nadal said on Thursday.

Story.

So, here's a violation, where's the penalty?

I suggest removing the testing facility, which is a lot easier to blow up than the nuclear plants. I think the flight time would be between ten minutes and just over an hour, depending on your weapon of choice.

If there is no penalty, then surely there will be other violations, until the end result is all-out war.

40 years of Arthur . . .

. . . Monty Python style.



"Lost" animation sequences and commentary from Terry Gilliam.

Coming Home . . .

... Veterans, not me. At least not yet: I'm heading to LA this weekend to attend Politicon, which has been described as a Comicon for political junkies, except with the cos-play.

Which does take some of the fun out of it.

Among other things, I'll be on a panel talking about veterans readjusting to the civilian workforce once they come home - a problem since at least World War I. (Yes, my job is the historical angle.)

Omar Bradley - America's last five star general - didn't like to make speeches, but he did stump across country immediately after World War II encouraging employers to hire veterans. He made a convincing pitch: if these guys could fight their way across Europe, they could surely handle anything civilian life would throw at them.

There seem to be more programs if not more jobs these days, but it's still not an easy transition. I'm looking forward to hear about what's being done, and perhaps getting involved in things that should be done.

More on Politicon here.
Russia and Syria . . .


As absurd as Russia’s decision to send troops and weapons into Syria is, at least it shows pretty definitively how antiquated their weapons really are. It doesn’t make a huge difference in this fight, but their capabilities look to be about where the U.S. was during the Gulf War – the first Gulf War in 1990.

I watched one video that was supposed to show a pinpoint strike – and couldn’t help but notice the bomb craters from maybe a dozen other attacks, all of which had missed their mark.

Aside from saving Asad for a few more months, it’s hard to see what the Russian intervention will achieve in material terms. An alliance with Iran that will last until both countries realize they have no goals in common, except pissing off the U.S.? A base at the eastern Med suicide bombers can target?

Actually, they have that already. But they are getting press in the West at the moment; maybe Trump will pick Putin as his defense secretary.



Veterans and jobs . . .


I'm going to Politcon in LA next weekend to appear on a couple of panels. One is dealing with veterans and jobs. (It's actually entitled, "Never at East: Veterans Returning to Civilian Careers" and we have some very exciting panelists lined up.

My specific "area" is historical - Omar Bradley, WWII, and all that - but I'd love to give a shoutout to organizations that are helping men and women in the present. Anyone with a good story, please share or contact me to do so. You can put a comment in below, or send an email to author(at)jimdefelice.com

Heck, send me a smoke signal if you want. Just get in touch so I can help get the word out.

More on politicon here.
They forgot baseball games . . .


. . . which is where all our important business meetings are. Except for the ones during hockey season.

Explanations, as if any were really needed.

Defining evil


This is what success means to a nihilistic, psychopathic terrorist: you kill people who teach others to farm:
DHAKA, Bangladesh — The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for gunning down an Italian aid worker in the diplomatic quarter of Bangladesh's capital . . .A veterinarian in his early 50s, Tavella had spent extended periods of time traveling the world and giving instruction on how to raise animals, according to Italian media reports. He left for Bangladesh in late August and had a daughter.

Story.

RIP, Yogi



Great catcher, great philosopher.

Afro ships . . .



Sometimes it's a roller coaster, sometimes it's a horror show, all the times it's both. But I had fun, not least of all because it's a huge laugh to see how cool people try to pretend to be.

Congrats to the team. See some of you at the party.
Friends for benefits



Headed here this weekend. Maybe we'll see you there.
Me, talking . . .

Headed to Haverstraw library in Haverstraw, N.Y. this evening to talk about . . . whatever anyone wants to talk about, I guess. Definitely American Sniper and American Wife.

Their website.

What is it you do for a living?

From Publishers Weekly:

The survey also indicated that not only are many authors earning little, they are, since 2009, also earning less. Overall, the median writing-related income among respondents dropped from $10,500 in 2009 to $8,000 2014 in 2014, a decline of 24%. The decline came for both full-time and part-time authors with full-time authors reporting a 30% drop in income to $17,500 and part-time authors seeing a 38% decrease, to $4,500.

Story.


On CNN . . . 

Appearing on New Day Saturday morning - assuming I get up in time.

The show's web site here: http://www.cnn.com/shows/new-day
Always remember



In memory of our friends, their families, and the countless others affected.

So others might read . . .

. . . I'm a little late with this link, but a good cause is a good cause.

Literacy Day

(Click for the link.)

Is a lot too much?

Stephen King on writing a lot:

THERE are many unspoken postulates in literary criticism, one being that the more one writes, the less remarkable one’s work is apt to be.

King's take.

One point he doesn't make - some writers are prolific because they need the money. (Writers, especially novelists, don't make as much as you think.)

Disaster averted

Great piece on an RC-135 Rivert Joint fire this past spring. But the real scandal is the age of the plane - 55 years.

Maybe time for a complete upgrade, no?

From Omaha.com:


The stench of stale urine lingered in the air as 27 airmen from Offutt Air Force Base’s 55th Wing climbed aboard the RC-135V Rivet Joint jet late in the afternoon of April 30, 2015.
Most of the crew sat at consoles in the rear of the aircraft — call sign “Snoop 71” — trying to ignore the odor.
Soon they would have bigger problems than a broken toilet.
As the plane began to accelerate down the runway, flames erupted like a blowtorch near the ceiling in the aft galley. Excited shouts of “Fire! Fire!” filled the crew’s headsets.

Read the rest here.

Great job by the pilot and air crew. Rivet Joints are RC-135s - military versions of the Boeing 707 - used for signal and electronic intelligence.

Terps in the U.S. . . .

... and some of the problems they face.


My friend Johnny is included in this story from the LA Times.



Had a great one - thanks everyone.

Couldn't find the right time . . .

. . .  at least that was the excuse in 2012, according to Ehud Barak, when asked why Israel didn't attack Iran's nuclear program.

That's an excuse I wouldn't even try on my dentist when he asks why I haven't stopped by in a year.

There were different excuses, supposedly, in 2010 and 2011. The real reason seems to be the defense ministry's assessment that an attack would not be successful. But that begs the question - if the prime minister really wanted to launch an attack, why weren't real steps taken in 2010 to add that capability?

Story in NY Times.


Stairway to heaven . . .

. . . actually, an elevator to the stars. Item:

Thoth Technology Inc. has been granted both US and UK patents for a space elevator designed to take astronauts up into the stratosphere, so they can then be propelled into space.
The company said the tower, named the ThothX Tower, will be an inflatable, freestanding structure complete with an electrical elevator and will reach 20km (12.5 miles) above the Earth.



An early CIA film detailing the U2.

Losing Mosul . . .

. . . will the current Iraqi government hold Maliki responsible?

Iraqis can only hope.

Item:

BAGHDAD — Iraq’s former prime minister may face criminal charges for his role in the fall of Mosul to Islamic State militants last summer after an investigation named him among officials responsible.
Article.




Someone get the man . . .

. . . a good cigar.

A great tribute . . .

. . . to a great player, and an even greater father.





What I'm working on



The next book (or maybe it's the next-next one) is in there somewhere.
What China is up to . . .

. . . in the distant Pacific.

From the NY Times:
So far China has built port facilities, military buildings and an airstrip on the islands. The installations bolster China’s foothold in the Spratly Islands, a disputed scattering of reefs and islands in the South China Sea more than 500 miles from the Chinese mainland.

the story has excellent satellite pictures, not to mention a map showing how outrageously far from the Chinese mainland - or any land - the islands are. The article is the best mainstream media show-and-tell on the issue I've seen. It's here.

I have to admit, I wish I'd thought of this for Red China Rising.
The Doctor is different

A p.s. to yesterday's note on Watchman and Harper Lee:

Another beloved author had an old, unpublished book brought to the market this month: Dr. Seuss.

Random House has just brought out What Pet Should I Get?, which apparently was written in the late 1950s or early 1960s but never published. No outrage has greeted this work. On the contrary, even the NY Times, which has been generally critical of the Watchman publication, gave it what amounts to a rave over the weekend. (Review and some speculation on the book's back story, here.)

To Kill . . . a Watchman?

As a writer, it’s been interesting to watch the controversy over the publication of Go Set a Watchman, the novel Harper Lee wrote and then substantially rewrote as To Kill A Mockingbird. Most notable have been the many cries of outrage that the novel not be published, lest it somehow tarnish Ms. Lee’s reputation, or that of Mockingbird’s.

I don’t quite understand the reasoning of the latter – books stand on their own merit, no matter what else the writer has done or even the sources that they come from. But the idea that other work might debase a writer’s reputation is intriguing. It seems to come from a very Romantic (cap intended) notion of author as artiste, the same idea that would lead a poet of Coolidge’s era to burn all but a few select poems.

I suppose none of us want to be known for what we produce on our bad days. On the other hand, neither we nor our contemporaries are necessarily in the best position to judge what posterity will think of any of our work.

A subset of reactions give ample due to the editor who worked with her on Mockingbird. But few of them – I’m sure there must be a few, though I haven’t seen any – acknowledge that at least some of the editor’s suggestions might have been questionable, or at least more in line with her own perceptions than that of the author. Mockingbird is not only far more polished than Watchman; it is also considerably more palatable to the era’s book buying public. That’s a product of many choices, but most especially the decision to use a very young heroine as the narrator and to make her father Atticus Finch into a very, very uncomplicated hero. You have to wonder what a different editor in a different time might advised.

I’d guess that a more polished version of Watchman wouldn’t have been nearly so well received at the time. But now?

I will say one thing: it’s great to see an author and a book generate so much interest and veneration. Maybe books and literacy aren’t dead yet.



Sniper in Sweden

Just got this in:





American Sniper has now been translated into more languages than I knew existed.

Just kidding. Glad to see the book is still intriguing readers around the world. (I think it's now available in roughly thirty languages.) And the movie edition is still on the best-seller charts here.

Thank you!
Turkey & the Kurds

Just to prove exactly how tangled the Middle East knots are, Turkey today bombed ISIS's most effective enemy - a day after effectively upping its own campaign against ISIS.

That would be the Kurds, btw.

Is this any way to run a war? Only if you're the Turkish leader, apparently.

The Turks don't want their own Kurds to break away from their southeastern border area. But they have much bigger problems, both internally and with ISIS.

Washington Post story.
F-35 4; Su-35 0


A few weeks ago, a report circulated detailing one pilot's impression that the F-35 is a lousy close-in dog fighter. One of the websites that quoted from that report, War is Boring, just published a retraction "further thoughts" article.

Basically, the author uses a computer simulation to defeat four advanced Russian fighters at long range - which actually is what the F-35 is designed to do (as opposed to getting into a dogfight where cannons would be used).

Story is here. I'm not a big F-35 booster, but this is much more even-handed than much of the earlier reporting.

The F-35B, a Harrier replacement.


On Tennessee

With deep sorrow, my family and I join everyone in mourning the loss of the Marines in Tennessee.

We pray that the families and friends find comfort, and that justice is swift to anyone who assisted this cowardly act.

Our solution . . .

. . . to Iran's nukes.


(Because you just know they'll cheat.)
Iran deal

Here are the key timelines I'm interested in:

1) Finalization of an effective "Star Wars" anti-missile technology that will prevent Iran (and anyone else) from launching a ballistic missile nuclear attack and

2) Development of a workable plan (and deep-penetrating warheads) to render Iran's underground nuclear facilities unusable forever.

Once 1 & 2 are met, you can sign any deal you want.

A gift of time

Item:

Time will stand still for one second this evening (June 30) as a "leap second" is added to Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), the time standard by which most clocks are regulated. The International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service (IERS), which keeps track of time for the world, has decided that the extra second is needed to deal with Earth's irregular but gradually slowing rotation.
Article.

What will you do with your extra second?

Long live the A-10

Item:

The long-range plans of the Air Force and the Pentagon to retire the A-10 Thunderbolt took another hit Thursday from a non-partisan government report questioning Air Force projections on the savings from mothballing the fleet.
The Air Force estimate of $4.2 billion in savings over five years was unreliable and "may overstate or -understate the actual figure," the Government Accountability Office said in a preliminary report to Congress on the decision to retire the fleet.
Story.

(And a plug: Hogs website with links to the series.)



What to do about Iran

Item in today's NY Times:

Five former members of president Obama’s inner circle of Iran advisers have written an open letter expressing concern that a pending accord to stem Iran’s nuclear program may fall short of meeting the administration’s own standard of a ‘good’ agreement” and laying out a series of minimum requirements that Iran must agree to in coming days for them to support a final deal.

Story. Letter.

Gee, no kidding. Iran wants to build a nuclear bomb, and will build a nuclear bomb, no matter what. Any other conclusion is naive and ridiculous.

At this point, the best bad solution is to a) continue sanctions and b) destroy Iran's capability to deliver the weapons - in other words, destroy their missile projects, which is much easier than hitting the nuclear facilities, and their air force (ditto).

Make no mistake, the likely outcome of that is an accelerated program to develop the bomb. But that's going to happen anyway. And a ferocious enough attack might - emphasis on might - make Iran more willing to be serious in future negotiations.

Though I wouldn't bet on that.

An agreement that truly freezes the program would be better - you need time not so much for a regime change, but for improvements in anti-missile defenses - but that is not happening. And has never really been happening.

The next question will be what to do about Saudi Arabia's bomb, an even more difficult problem to address.

It jumps . . .



Slowly but surely (too slowly for many), the F-35 makes its way toward the front lines and full operational capability.

Less can be more

I spent last week with Ivan Castro, the Green Beret turned marathoner who, by the way, happens to be blind. In theory we were working on our new book - to be published next year by St. Martin's Press - but I think Ivan's real goal in having me come down was to kick my butt around the gym. He had me doing two-a-days, cardio and weights, and easily putting me to shame on both.

One thing I learned: If you ever get the opportunity to work on a Gravitron, remember that the weights are a counter-balance. In other words, twenty pounds is NOT the easy setting.

(It is a cool machine. Here's an instruction video here.)

E3 Afro trailer



Hopefully the demo will be ready for the floor . . .

Between God & Bill O'Reilly

... on the Bookscan best-seller list:


Rank
LW Rank
Title
Author
Publisher
Price
1
1
THE LIFE-CHANGING MAGIC OF TID
KONDO MARIE                  
RANDOM
   16.99 
2
2
THE WRIGHT BROTHERS          
MCCULLOUGH DAVID             
SIMON
   30.00
3
3
BILL O'REILLY'S LEGENDS AND LI
O'REILLY BILL                
MACMIL
   32.00 
4
4
AND THE GOOD NEWS IS...: LESSO
PERINO DANA                  
HACHET
   26.00 
5
6
AMERICAN WIFE: A MEMOIR OF LOV
KYLE TAYA                    
HARPER
   27.99 
6
8
THE ROAD TO CHARACTER        
BROOKS DAVID                 
RANDOM
   28.00 
7
5
STRENGTHS FINDER 2.0: A NEW AN
RATH TOM                     
PGW  
   27.95
8
10
THE WHOLE30: THE 30-DAY GUIDE
HARTWIG DALLAS               
HOUGHT
   30.00 
9
JJ VIRGIN'S SUGAR IMPACT DIET
VIRGIN J. J.                 
HACHET
   28.00 
10
7
JESUS CALLING: ENJOYING PEACE
YOUNG SARAH                  
HC CHR
   15.99 


There's a message in there somewhere.



Can't wait. Here's hoping it reaches the artistry and complex subtlety of Fallout 3,

(Not that the other installments were bad at all; just that for me that was the pinnacle . . . so far.)

Premiere is June 14.

World turned upside down

I don't think you could find a more powerful statement about decline than this:
After Russia annexed Crimea last year, Congress passed legislation that forced the Pentagon to stop buying Russian rocket engines that have been used since 2000 to help launch American military and intelligence satellites into space.
Now, that simple act of punishment is proving difficult to keep in place.

Only five months after the ban became law, the Pentagon is pressing Congress to ease it. It says that additional Russian engines will be needed for at least a few more years in order to assure access to space for the country’s most delicate defense and intelligence technology.
Story.

Or to put it another way, you get what you pay for, On the other hand, what did Khrushchev say about the rope they'd hang themselves with?
Millbrook Book Festival


Heading to beautiful Millbrook, NY today to take part in the Millbrook Literary Festival, where I'll sign books and talk about some of my recent efforts, including Taya Kyle's heroic story in American Wife as well as American Sniper and the latest Dreamland. But most of all I'll be there to support my favorite independent bookseller, Scott Myer, who has boosted my career and that of many, many authors, from day one.
More information on the day here.
The newest Dreamland...




... now available at your favorite bookstore.

Finally, the truth . . .

. . .  on ISIS and Iraq. Item:

WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter said Sunday that Iraqi forces had demonstrated “no will to fight” against the Islamic State, blaming them for a retreat that led to the terrorist group’s victory in capturing the Iraqi city of Ramadi.
Story.

When has the Iraqi army shown the will to fight? Not under Saddam in both Gulf Wars, not with a lot of American help during the occupation, and not now.

There have been and are exceptions, but for the most part, calling the army an army is like calling salamanders fearsome reptiles. (And yes, I know they're amphibians.)

So now that the truth is out - and recognized at the highest levels of American government - what happens next?