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    The War Nerd: Doing the math on Alawite casualty numbers

    The Sunday Telegraph said recently that Assad’s Syrian Arab Army (SAA) will collapse soon, because one-third of Syrian Alawite “males of military age” have already died fighting the Sunni. Lack of manpower, the theory goes, will doom the Alawites. There’s no denying that Assad’s forces have been looking weak lately. Islamic State has been making gains against them in the southeast, taking the only road connecting southern Syria with Iraq. Worse yet, in the minds of artsy Western news-chewers,…
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    The War Nerd: Escape from East Timor (Part Two)

    [Continued from Escape from East Timor: Part One] I saw it now, nosing through the gate like a shark sniffing around a tank. It made for us, but slowly, slowly. Time slows down, they say. So did the van. It cut across our bows and came very slowly to an almost-stop. The left side-window went down (it’s right-hand drive in Timor, so Mark’s ghoul scowl had to lean half-way across the front seat). My stomach did something funny. Knees…
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    The War Nerd: Escape From East Timor (Part One)

    BITOLA, MACEDONIA — Indonesia just executed two Australians by firing squad, putting a bit of a chill into bilateral relations. For me, this is great news. Until now, I had been led to believe that the tension between Indonesia and Australia was my fault. I wrote an article for Pando a few weeks ago, describing my visit to a remote Timorese Army base and giving a quick sketch of the horrors inflicted by the Indonesian Army (TNI) on…
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    The War Nerd: Bentleys for Houthis!

    The Saudis are finally getting some bang out of all the bucks they’ve spent on weapons over the past 50 years, with Saudi planes bombing Yemen for more than a month now. There was a short, very short, break in late April, when the campaign was supposed to shift gears to a more “political” phase, but that lasted, oh, a few hours. Literally a few hours. The break was announced on April 21, and on April 22, the inevitable headline…
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    The War Nerd: The Art of Turf War

    There’s a war on now in South African cities, but no one’s calling it what it is. South Africans, mostly Zulu, are attacking shops run by foreigners, driving the aliens (mostly Zimbabwean, Somali, Nigerian, Pakistani, or Bangladeshi) out of their neighborhoods. You can call these “riots” if it makes them seem smaller and safer, but the truth is, this is war. This is what war looks like, most of the time. Like most wars, this one is undeclared, chronic, unresolvable,…
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    The War Nerd: The Confederates who should’ve been hanged

    It’s a tricky question: Which representatives of Southern manhood should have danced in the air, come April 1865? I think we can all agree, Lost-Cause loons aside, that every Southern officer was a traitor who’d earned the right to dangle. But alas, if you go hanging every single officer of a defeated army, you can very easily end up with a nasty insurgency on your hands. Those men had brothers and cousins, quite a lot of them. In the 19th-century…
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    The War Nerd: To lighten the mood, here’s the cheery tale of Dammaj

    One of the weirdest stories to come out of the war in Yemen is the Siege of Dammaj. In a small way, it was a microcosm of the Sunni/Shia world-wide conflict. But a goofy, almost endearing microcosm, with a lot of enthusiastic kids flocking to a little Yemeni town, comic blog posts, and only a few casualties. You could cast Selena Gomez and Pharrell in the movie. At the moment I’ll take all the cheery stories I can get out…
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    The War Nerd: A Brief History Of The Yemen Clusterf*ck

    DILI, EAST TIMOR — I ought to be familiar with the Houthi, the Shia militia that’s now conquering most of what’s worth taking in Yemen. After all, the Houthis started in Saada Province, just a few miles due south of Najran, Saudi Arabia, where I was living a few years ago. But the truth is Yemen was totally closed off to everyone in Najran, and no one except a few networks of smugglers and spies who, from what I heard,…
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    Fear and Forgetting: The War Nerd in East Timor, Part One

    DILI, EAST TIMOR — I just got back from a week on a remote military base in East Timor, and boy is my soul tired. Before my week at that base, I would’ve sworn I didn’t have soul in the first place, but something sure got beaten up out there in the bush. I never wanted to go out there, to the provinces where it’s even poorer, muddier, grimmer than here in the so-called big city, Dili. They were…
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    The War Nerd: Why did Mohammed Emwazi become Jihadi John?

    Everybody knows by now that Jihadi John, that masked man with the bowie knife and the London accent, is actually Mohammed Emwazi, a rich boy from Maida Vale, one of the poshest neighborhoods in one of the most expensive cities in the world. Why, oh why, would a rich boy from a nice home go on to make snuff movies? That’s the whine you hear from the press. As always, first thing to do is question the question; why…

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