Saturday, September 26, 2009

Obama and Ahmadinejad

They are building a uranium enrichment nuclear reactor in Iran that can ultimately power a nuclear warhead. Only they forgot to tell the rest of the world.

The Ayatollah has told Ahmadinejad to say this is no violation. The puppet president complies. The real power in Iran obviously prefers the focus be on the recent unrest due to his nation's presidential election, but Obama has outplayed him. Even though the Iranian president says it would be a mistake to think they have not complied with all international bodies of law, Obama has placed Iran in a political position where they must now allow inspectors to examine the site in question or face economic sanctions by the international community.

For now, Obama has forced Iran's hand.

Typically, and without any sensitivity to their situation, Iran remains defiant. Ahmadinejad looks increasingly foolish.

According to
David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security: "Iran has said many times publicly that it has revealed everything to the IAEA, everything is known, and yet here you have a very important nuclear site that was not known to the IAEA and appears to only have been revealed to the IAEA by Iran after Iran was caught building it....one hopes that the intelligence information is truly solid. And then, if Iran does not cooperate with the inspectors, they're going to be in a far worse political position.

"Because it's one thing for the world, the international community, other nations to look and decide, is Iran going to build nuclear weapons in the future? They're much less interested in that. But they're always very concerned if a country refuses to allow the International Atomic Energy Agency to do their job when it concerns a facility that could be used to make nuclear weapons.

"And so if Iran doesn't come clean with this facility by letting the inspectors in, I think it's going to face a very hard time fighting off sanctions."


In an impressive use of US power,
Obama proved his understanding of global strategic flash points by pulling some missiles interceptors away from Russia and probably securely sharing some American satellite intelligence that clearly shows Iran is building a weapons grade nuclear reactor.

When you talk about nuclear warheads, the world still listens.


Significantly, unlike W. Bush, Obama waited to
form the basis for a genuine coalition that includes France, Russia, and China before using the data the US had in hand. Instead of acting unilaterally, as Bush did, Obama chose to be more inclusive, to respect the importance of our allies in what was apparently a series of close door meetings with key officials. Information was exchanged, ideas were sought, and although there is still much work to be done regarding cooperation with Russia and China, they are not alienated the way they were by the Bush administration.

Obama has made a brilliant chess move by setting this up months ago.
He understands the game of international patience much more than did W. Bush. But, to his credit, it does look like Bush had the "Axis of Evil" thing down pretty well in terms of global (rather than merely regional) flash points for possible human conflict. The context for this "axis" is so much better with Obama at the helm, however.

Deceit revealed on the international stage officially does damage to the political credibility of the country involved. This is basic diplomacy. Obama has been forthright and honest no matter how much Iran cries "ouch, foul, no fair...see? It's nothing." Obama has shown good faith by favoring Russia with the strategic decision on the missile interceptors in Poland. Now it is Russia's turn to show good faith. And surely China does not wish the remain alone of the great world powers to not clearly insist that honesty about nuclear intentions has no compromise.

Obama set all this up by playing off the rather predictable Ahmandinejad. Now, the inspection will happen and Iran will confirm that the grade of uranium produced will not be weapons grade at all and this will become the next stage of the debate. Is the reactor truly capable of producing weapons grade uranium even if it isn't being built specifically for that? Obama must hope that the international answer to that question is "yes it could." Because if it turns out to be "no it can't" the whole incident of not declaring the existence of the plant becomes murkier. And Obama could actually regret he ever mentioned the damn thing.

Hopefully, that will not be the case. At any rate, history will show that in this moment Obama was bold and took a calculated risk. As David Brooks put it last night: "But what struck me was, you don't write that check. You don't go into this level of urgency and even ultimatum, as Sarkozy did especially, unless you can cash that check, unless there's something behind that check.

"So, basically, today they made a bunch of threats, and so that made me think why -- what do we have in their pockets that makes them feel comfortable making these threats? And basically, it suggests to me that somewhere in the creation of a new sanctions regime, they've got something.

"And it suggests to me that, in the past week, the Russians have dropped hints that they would be supporting the sanctions. I have trouble believing they would have gone to such a level of urgency unless those hints were somehow real, because they have to be able to cash these checks. They've basically made an ultimatum."

Monday, September 21, 2009

Lotsa Rain


The white area in the NOAA "storm total" map above indicates at least 15 inches of rain within the last 24 hours. Various shades of purple are between 10-15 inches.

I don't remember a wetter September. It has rained practically every day for the last 2 weeks. Last night and this morning Atlanta got hit hard. There's a great deal of flooding in some places. I swore I'd never complain about rain again after the last few years of drought. So...I'm not complaining. But then, I don't live in Atlanta either. Jeez.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Obama Gets It Right

It is, of course, much easier to criticize in politics than to offer praise. Certainly, I have offered several posts chastising President Obama for various policies (mostly having to do with raising the public debt). But let's take a moment to highlight more than a couple of things that Obama has gotten right so far.

I applaud the way Obama has attacked the devious ways of the Bush administration by giving us
more honest accounting methods as reflected in the federal budget and by allowing our fallen soldiers the honor and dignity of photo recognition when they arrive back in our country.

The
appointment of Sotomayor was a choice I supported, even though I feel she is not the brightest bulb in the supreme court chandelier. It is in keeping with the tradition that began with the unfortunate choice of Clarence Thomas and with Chief Justice Roberts - mediocrity isn't usually politically controversial. I believe the liberal minority must be preserved and, if possible, expanded by Obama. I greatly prefer a liberal supreme court because such a court is more likely to interpret the constitution in the broadest possible terms, something I think more securely protects the rights of individuals.

Obama's
"green agenda" reversing much of the often-disastrous Bush administration environmental policies is a most welcome occurrence. As is his approach toward stem cell research by taking the Bush-sanctified witch-hunt aspect out of a scientific issue instead of making it some kind of moral one (the desire of the half-baked religious right).


I've already pointed out that Obama is right in terms of his foreign policy, particularly with respect to Iraq and Afghanistan.

Finally, and most timely, Obama has always
chosen to take the high road in politics. He has not lashed out at his opponents they way they consistently and often ridiculously lash out at him. This is surely a hallmark of the best kind of leadership. To clearly state that race is not the issue in the healthcare debate, as I posted recently, places President Obama in a higher class of individual. He does not take the easy route of crying foul as so many minorities do. He sets an example for us all to stay focused on the issues at hand and not interpret every setback or criticism as due to sex or race or national origin.

All in all, despite our differences, that is a very refreshing start to the Obama presidency.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Rootin' for the (damn) wild card

Well, the Atlanta Braves made things hard on themselves by playing only a "so-so" August, especially against the Philadelphia Phillies. Now, they are on fire again but it is a little late in the season to be making dramatic moves up in the standings. Being 8 games behind the Phillies with only 16 games to play means they need a collapse by Philadelphia in order to win the NL East.

That probably ain’t going to happen. Though Atlanta has won 7 games in a row, the Phillies have won 5 in a row and seem to be playing great ball.

But, tonight the Braves start a big weekend series at home against Philadelphia. The Braves need a sweep of the series, but not necessarily so they can possibly win the division. They need a sweep because they come in to tonight’s game trailing the Colorado Rockies by only 4 games in the loss column for the NL Wild Card spot.

Anyone who knows my love for baseball also knows that I hate the designated hitter rule, artificial turf, post-season games played at night, and even the fact that they lowered the height of the pitching mound by 5 inches after the 1968 season. Just don’t mess with baseball.

Add the damn wild card race to the list. I hate the whole concept of wild card teams and the three divisions in each league that came with it. There should be two divisions in each league (they did that in 1969 and I go along with it – so, see, I am flexible), one round of play-offs and then the World Series. Just don’t mess with baseball.

But, that’s where I find myself late in the 2009 season. Rooting for the Braves to be the damnable wild card team.

And they have an outside shot at it with just 16 games to play. They just have to go something like 13-3 and hope Colorado (along with a couple of other teams) goes something like 8-8. Yeah, it is a stretch.

If we had only played better in August. If our hitters had only supported our outstanding starting pitching earlier in the summer. If if if. Biggest word in baseball – or anything else.

The bottom line is we can not lose. We virtually have to win every game. We have to sweep the Phillies. We have to take the current winning streak to at least 11 games in a row.

That’s not impossible. The bats have been better in September. The pitching, which has been good all season, is only better now that we have Tim Hudson back, now that Vasquez, Jurrjens, that outstanding young kid Hanson, and the others have all shown they are potentially the most solid rotation in the major leagues.

You can go a long way with just pitching.

But the Phillies are just as hot as the Braves. So, a sweep is going to be difficult. Nevertheless, it is essential.

After all, even if I don’t like the system, rooting for a wild card Braves team in October is better than watching somebody else’s favorite team take the championship.

Let’s hope. (Late note. Ryan Howard crushes the Braves, 9-4. It is late, far too late for this to be happening.)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A Touchy Subject

Well is there anything more inflammatory in America than the issue of racism? Before I give you my take on that let's look at what former president Jimmy Carter had to say yesterday about the outrageous, spontaneous interjection by South Carolina congressman Joe Wilson during President Obama's big pitch for health care reform last week.

Carter called the shout of "You lie!" by Wilson racially motivated. Wilson apparently exhibited racism in such a remark. That's the most likely conclusion to be drawn.

Or is it?

I think Jimmy Carter is an exceptional person. He was, however, the least effective president of my lifetime. I once explained to some academic friends that Carter's presidency simply prepared him for the activity of the rest of this life. He has been a far more potent force since being president. Perhaps, in contrast to his time in office, our most effective post-president.

This is not to say Carter doesn't understand racism and bigotry. He does. And he is right to point toward the fact that millions of Americans probably don't like the fact that President Obama is a black man.

But, I think he is wrong about Wilson, or at least mostly wrong. Is Wilson a racist? I don't know. I do know that South Carolina is still a racist part of our country. Is it more racist than, say, Pennsylvania or Montana or even Illinois? I don't know. Racism is still very much an issue all across America (as Carter himself pointed out).

Making racism THE issue in Wilson's short, sharp outburst might be over-reaching, however. There are other issues that many Americans feel strongly about, including myself. We don't like massive, new government programs without definable cost controls.

This is called "socialism" by most countries. We have a certain measure of socialism in our own democracy. Indeed, "free" entitlements (along with the dumbing down of society) are a hallmark of what I would call "late-democracy." Generally speaking, the older the democracy the more massive and pervasive socialist government programs become. It is a natural gravitation. Debt, debt, and more debt.

I think the level of frustration exhibited by the ridiculous neo-conservative theatrics in the so-called town hall meetings on health care reform in August reflected an anger among a segment of the population that feels more government intervention, especially now in the midst of (or hopefully near the end of) the Great Recession, is not good for our future. Many people seem to be pretty pissed off with the whole idea of a new government agency running the health care of the country. We are, after all, choking more and more on Medicaid and Medicare with each passing year as it is.

But Carter didn't seem to think this well-exhibited anger at a proposed government policy was worth mentioning as a possible motivation for Wilson's ill-advised outburst. And this seems to me to be a rather shallow approach to things.

It seems more likely to me Wilson was simply expressing the neocon angst of August. The whole program stinks in his opinion. Indeed, most Americans have reservations about more government in the public sphere - bailing out Wall Street, bailing out people who never should have been approved for homes that couldn't afford to begin with, bailing out the big auto companies, trivializing risk in the financial sector as if when things are not bad enough you stand to lose as an investor, but if things are big and bad enough Uncle Sam will bail your ass out. Lesson learned: if you are going to approach risk, do it massively so you can qualify for government assistance.

There is an underlying anger here. While race might be part of it, it seems to me that it is a comparatively small part. There is a clear, underlying frustration across the fabric of America. That seems to me to be a better context for this event. Wilson is pissed at the president because what he is proposing, as it is presently proposed, is bad for the country. You have to have cost controls. Obama has none really. I already posted my discontent with the situation (see August 17).

So, playing the race card among apologists for a potentially harmful, long-term public program seems to me to be an oversimplification. Which brings me to perhaps a more profound point.

Though it would not be a fashionable sociological academic study to undertake, my personal opinion is that there seems to be a near-universal phenomenon among open and free societies that once a segment of society has been victimized, it is difficult for the victims themselves not to identify themselves as victims. This means that the "group-as-victim" concept to some degree contributes to the perpetuation of racism itself.

Bad things happen to everyone, but for a victimized group it is always because they are victims. This is nonsense. Racism cannot be overcome without the active participation of the victims to cease to automatically perceive of themselves as such. The victims perpetuate a myth of victimization that no amount of progress can overcome.

As I have mentioned in an earlier post, why is the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, not racist? Is the NAACP going away? Of course not. It is a group that, by definition, must interpret events in such a way as to perpetuate racism in order to continue to exist. It is a reflection of a deeper problem of race that involves not just the true bigots (and there are plenty of them in America) but it means that the perception of victimization itself is not a passive affliction.

It is difficult to even advance such an opinion as I just expressed. It tampers with too many underpinnings for too much of the way politics works. It is virtually impossible to talk about legitimate issues of race in the context that the so-called "victims" at some point in time are just as responsible for their perceptions of victimization as are the genuine forces they strive to overcome.

The song "We Shall Overcome" is wonderful. But you can never overcome anything as long as the very act of singing means that whatever is to be overcome will, by definition, remain forever in the future tense. There will not be a celebration song "We Have Overcome." That's just not the way victims ever define themselves. And former president Carter is no help in that regard.

Friday, September 11, 2009

I remember

The world changed on September 11, 2001. The way airports operate changed. The way your privacy is defined changed. We are still in two wars as a result of policies adopted post-9/11. One of those wars I have always opposed. The other I have always supported. I'm not sure we are "winning" either of them and the fallout from both will likely continue to be a symptom of how our world has changed.

Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11. In my opinion, that war was a dereliction of duty by an incompetent president who had no clue what victory meant and was misled by a fanatical advisory team. The war was in direct opposition to the Powell Doctrine. One day, I am sure we will hear how much Colin Powell disagreed with the absurd and myopic misuse of power wielded by the ilk of Chaney and Rumsfeld. That we have somewhat righted a terribly executed military policy in a country where our men and women should have never been serving as soldiers does not justify the war in any way.

Afghanistan is a different situation. There is where the highly decentralized organization of
al Qaeda found refuge. It is where the Taliban flaunted the fact that they supported Osama bin Ladin and his followers. That sanctuary could not be allowed to stand in the face of a postmodern Pearl Harbor. That we have not succeeded in either finding bin Ladin nor in squelching the Taliban does not in any way mean the mission should not go forward.

President Obama has seen all this and has rightly shifted the focus back to where it should have been all along. If victory eludes us it has more to do with our poorly advised and executed shift in focus toward Iraq than it does with our military policy in Afghanistan.

I will state, however, that there has never in the history of the world been a successful "
shotgun democracy." Democracy is a cultural symptom more than a (romanticized) ideal. Military policy cannot "plant the seeds" of democracy upon a culture. Iraq will eventually disintegrate, Afghanistan will never stabilize. Our mission should be to secure a military base in Iraq to help keep Iran in check (that's the most we can hope for) and to punish the protective infrastructure of al Qaeda.

I'm not sure either of those modest goals for these horrendous wars is
achievable. But, anything else is an American defeat no matter how whichever administration is in power tries to spin it.
"We have the wolf by the ears and we can neither hold him nor let him go."

Not an enviable position, to be sure. But then, we didn't ask to be attacked.
Fundamentalist Islam might disagree. But, radical Islam is an ideology and not a religion and they deserve no special intellectual respect. They understand the whip. I have no qualms about using it on them. While I applaud Obama's (rather idealistic) attempt to open up to the Islamic world, he is naive to think that the fundamentalist Islamic mindset is going to somehow be changed by his eloquence and openness. They will see him as weak, though mainstream Islam might appreciate his efforts more.

And there's
where the real war is being fought. Will the majority of reasonable Muslims in the world gain the support of their coming generations, or will the fundamentalists secure the hearts and minds of Islam's youth? If the latter is the course then further violence is inevitable.

I remember I was at work on September 11, 2001. When the towers fell there was just myself and the office manager around. Everyone else was out either trying to sell, consult or install something. The company president was in Fargo, North Dakota being trained on a new system.

He phoned in and expected business as usual. He had not heard any news of the events yet. We were working through a checklist of things to do when I interjected, "We are at war right now. I don't know who we are at war with but we are at war." He hesitated. It was only later that events caught up to his efficient business mind.

Jennifer was at home watching it all on TV. She was recording it on VHS tapes. We recently had the tapes converted to MPEG format.

Of course, none of us had known anything like this in our lifetimes.

But, the image that sticks with me most as I think back today about that time has to do with several days later. They grounded all flights in the United States for several days following 9/11. Our house is situated such that we often see as many as five or six passenger jets flying high overhead. So many routine flight patterns go over our land and are visible off to the west where we have an open view.

As I have posted before, I fly various flags from our front porch. Naturally, I had the American flag flying at this time. It had gotten tangled in the pole by an early autumn breeze several days after the tragedy. I went out late in the day and straighted the flag. As I was doing this I looked out to the west. It was about a hour before sunset. The yellow was giving way to hints of orange in scattered clouds.

In the distance there was the vapor trail of the first passenger jet I had seen in days. I watched it as it silently streaked across the sky, fading invisibly in the west.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Booster Power!

Of course, there was one other small detail about my post yesterday and these little "wrinkles" are what make Dow Theory so fascinating to me. The "non-confirmation" always sets up a possible "confirmation." Yesterday, in spite of the rare, cautious "double non-confirmation" the Dow was only about 33 points below a new high.

Today both the Dow and the Transports advanced to new highs - together. As I mentioned back in July there is no clearer sign under Dow Theory that the market will go higher in the near term. So, today was a booster rocket firing after the lift-off signal in July.

This market will most likely go higher. As always I'll stay tuned but the markets are traditionally considered "
leading indicators" and - for now - the Dow and the Transports like whatever it is they are seeing ahead. Pushing through 9,600 now puts us in a position to be looking at 10,350ish - the mark of the 50% Principle I mentioned yesterday.

My other Dow Theory guy,
Jack Schannep, continues to contend that the bear market is over. He wrote recently on his site that he thinks the Great Recession actually ended in June and the Dow could possibly hit 11,000 by November. Let's hope he's right.

So....upward!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

A Rare Dow Theory Signal

I said back on July 23 that I plan to be out of the market by October. Of course, plans can change. I'm always open to new information. But today something very rare happened and the time to exit the market (except for my positions in gold) might be fast approaching.

Back on August 27 the Dow hit its most recent highest high of 9580.63 but the Transports refused to match their most recent highest high. So, we had a classic Dow Theory non-confirmation. Not a big deal really. It just signaled caution.

Today the reverse happened, however. The Transports closed at 3806.75, a new high for the rally but the Dow closed at 9547.22, below their previous August 27 high. On his site tonight Richard Russell said he has only seen this "three times before in the last 60 years." He goes on...

"This is what I call a rare 'double non-confirmation.' First, the Transports were weak in that they could not confirm the Industrials. Today the Industrials were weak in that they could not confirm the Transports. These rare 'double non-confirmations,' in the past, have tended to signal the top."

Further signs of weakness will cause me to sell out of this rally - again, except for gold. Gold managed to stay above the apparently magical $1,000 per ounce mark for much of the day but finished down at $997.10. My gold stocks, some of which had been up about 20% in the last 3 days alone, were down significantly. But, I'm still way ahead so I can afford to be patient.

I don't know if it is Dow Theory but there's a trading maxim that goes: "In a Bull Market the Bull will try every way to knock you off his back. Ride the Bull." Which is what I intend to do because gold is in a solid Bull Market and has been since 2002. It's the "regular" markets that worry me.

The S&P and the Nasdaq hit new highs for the year today. Things seem fine. But, that "double non-confirmation" has me looking for the exits. I'm not sure this bear market rally has much further to run.

Why stay in at all? Why not just take the profits and be thankful for them instead of losing my ass in the Great Recession? The 50% Principle is in the back of my mind. According to that principle the current rally may test the mid-point between the highest high of the market back in 2007 and the lowest low from this March is about 10,350.

The Dow has already had an impressive rally, recouping about 38% of its losses. By comparison, the 1930 bear market rally recouped 52% of its losses - before plunging again.

So, there's some upside potential yet. And there's the possibility of plunge as well. The double non-confirmation, and its rarity, has me thinking get out. But simple inertia and greed keeps me in. Like I said, however, any further sign of weakness and I'll be out.

This is an interesting test to see how applicable Dow Theory, the oldest market monitoring theory, might still be today. Like I said, I'm always open to new information, especially from old, trusted sources.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Gaming Iraq - 1941

Several weeks ago I spent some evenings playing John Tiller’s latest PC wargame, War on the Southern Front. It features a lot of campaigns that I have read very little about. The German invasions of Yugoslavia and Greece, as well as the campaigns for North Africa and Sicily.

I was predominantly gaming the Gazala scenario, a huge victory historically for Rommel’s famed Afrika Korps. Tiller’s game models the biggest problem of the operation very well – supply. It was only by a tenuous thread indeed that German/Italian forces were able to out duel capable (but largely mismanaged) British and Commonwealth troops in the desert around Tobruk in 1942. Armored units don’t travel very far without fuel. I’ve always appreciated operational wargames that realistically feature logistics and supply as a reality curbing the appetite of any military endeavor.

My wargaming usually goes hand-in-hand with some reading on whatever subject is covered in the game. I don’t have much on North Africa in my library so I was thumbing through Gerhard Weinberg’s massive and superb single volume on the Second World War entitled A World at Arms when I stumbled upon a section regarding the middle east the year before the Battle for Gazala.

There was a little known pro-Axis coup in Iraq in the spring of 1941. These Iraqis were armed and supported in minimal fashion by Germany and Italy to overthrow their traditional colonel rulers – the British. For their part, the Brits wanted to secure the oil resources of the area for their struggling war effort. At the time Britain stood alone against the Axis powers in Europe. America and the Soviet Union were not in the war as yet. Germany had already conquered France among other nations.

This mid-east sideshow campaign drew my interest and I decided to explore it in the only wargame form I have at my disposal, a game called Lebensraum. That game is so large that it would take more than 10 times my existing game table space to place it all out. It stretches from impassible deserts in Africa to the arctic region north of Norway and from Ireland all the way to Tehran. All at about 15 miles per hex. The map is HUGE.

Lebensraum covers all of Europe on a vast scale. The game itself is oriented on its side with East up and West down, but I've rotated the map here so that it faces roughly North and South. See the tiny red square in the lower right corner? That's where the Iraqi situation I am posting about takes place. Pretty small by comparison with everything else.

This game would cost a small fortune if it had ever been published and it would have taken forever to set up the many thousands of game pieces reflecting everything from supply dumps and panzer divisions to battleships and long-range bombers. But, way back in 1999 Terry Shrum created Lebensraum in Aide-de-Camp - the first (and most arcane, I much prefer Cyberboard and Vassal) of several computer-based graphics programs specifically designed to play otherwise printed board games by email or even online.

Lebensraum offers a scenario that starts just before Hitler invaded Yugoslavia and Greece in April 1941 and, as part of that setup, it presents the situation in Iraq at the time of the coup, allowing the player to experience some of the difficulties faced by adversaries in a remote corner of a world at war.

This is how my mind often works. Like a pinball. I just follow it from one thing (the Battle of Gazala) to another thing (the Iraqi coup of 1941) and enjoy the ride. What follows is a bit about how the situation in Iraq is simulated in Lebensraum and a small taste of what it is like to play that game. I will only attempt to explain a few of the many rules and concepts of the game, however. More detail would require making an already lengthy post much longer.

Lebensraum (which means "living space") is what I would call a “grand operational” wargame. That is, it reflects military considerations at an operational level but it does so in an enormous strategic setting. Few other games compare. Europa perhaps comes the closest.

In the Iraqi coup the pro-Axis rebel forces may draw general and combat supply from Baghdad and a few other minor cities. But, the two British regiments stationed in Iraq at the time of the coup must obtain supply elsewhere. In this case the regiment garrisoning Basra may draw general supply from the end of a very long merchant shipping pipeline that connects the Persian Gulf back to Britain.
The general situation in Iraq on the first turn. Remember that North is now left in the game's orientation. Notice the British merchant ship and destroyer escort playing pieces off the coast of Iraq. Iran is above Iraq (east) on this map. The red line denotes the border between them.

The British navy is the undisputed master of the seas at this stage of the game and one great advantage of that is the control and protection of merchant shipping lanes to Cairo for the North African campaign and to the Persian Gulf for the Iraq sideshow.

The other British regiment stationed at the airbase at Habbaniya near Baghdad isn’t so lucky, however. Any supply line trace back to Basra goes through enemy (Iraqi) territory. Therefore, this regiment begins the game in a "lack of supply". If it remains in lack of supply at the beginning of the next turn it will degrade to "out of supply" status. The turn following that it will degrade to "isolation" status. Each level of supply deficiency leads of a greater danger of it being eliminated simply due to attrition alone. Luckily, there is a solution. Supply must be flown in by Bristol Bombay cargo planes stationed in Cairo.

Leapfrogging supply. The red circle at the bottom is Cairo, the middle one is Jerusalem, and Hibbaniya is at the top. Direct flight with cargo supplies from Cairo to Hibbaniya is not possible due to the extreme distance.

The cargo planes lack the range to carry a load of supplies all the way from Cairo directly to Habbaniya. Instead, they have to hop over to Jerusalem (Palestine is under British control) and then make the flight from there. One of Lebensraum’s many treasures for me is that it forces the player to think of military operations on this grand scale. It will take two turns (one turn in the game equals one week of real time) to get the supply to Hibbaniya. So the British regiment will have to deal with a lack of supply status for the first turn of the game. A lack of supply marker is placed beside it to denote this status.

The Iraqis can easily surround the base at Hibbaniya on the first turn. They greatly outnumber the British regiment and have a chance to force it to retreat, which will – in effect – eliminate it because it is surrounded and has no route of retreat available. But, the Iraqis also have a Tactical Doctrine (TD) of 0, which is an abstract measurement reflecting the Iraqis total lack of training. By contrast, the Brits have a TD of 2. This entitles them to advantages in combat against the lesser trained foe.

The British regiment at Hibbaniya appears to be in deep trouble. It is surrounded and does not have adequate supply. But things are actually not as bad as they seem.

In addition, the Brits have two squadrons of Fairey Battle tactical bombers available at Hibbaniya. Since the British have air superiority due to their uncontested half-squadron of Gloster Gladiator fighter planes, these Fairey Battle squadrons can be used in direct defense of the regiment. So, things are not as bleak as they at first appear. The modern tools of warfare weigh heavily on the poorly trained and equipped Iraqis.

The Iraqis actually have only a slight chance of eliminating the British unit at Habbaniya. They can only force a "combat option" on the British unit on a die roll of 1, reflecting a ten percent chance of eliminating the regiment. (Lebensraum uses ten-sided dice to determine the outcome of combat.) Still, this is the best they can hope for under the circumstances. Commonwealth reinforcements will be arriving from Basra in the coming turns and the situation will only get more difficult for the upstart pro-Axis rebels.

Nevertheless, the British must respond quickly if they wish to master the state of affairs. Control of Iraq is important to the British player for two reasons. First, as long as the coup lasts it penalizes the British player in terms of political points, which weakens its position in various ways in terms of diplomacy. Secondly, Iraq has two oil resource centers. The British need those oil centers in order to fight the larger war elsewhere.

It takes one turn to fly a supply point to Habbaniya from Jerusalem, but it is such a distance (almost 150% of the cargo squadron’s range factor) that the supply arriving on turn one cannot be used (it is “delayed”) until turn two. As previously mentioned, the Habbaniya regiment is in lack of supply. It cannot attack but otherwise functions as normal.

While cargo planes are leapfrogging from Cairo to Jerusalem to Habbiniya, the British merchant shipping lands a full infantry division from India at Basra. The shipping pipeline is limited as to how much can be delivered through it each turn. The pipeline leading, say, from America directly to Britain is larger and can handle the delivery of 4 or 5 times the amount leading to the Persian Gulf. But, since this part of the war is so small, there exists no need for a boarder shipping capacity.

The Commonwealth Indian division helps secure the situation in the south (right on the map orientation). The British regiment that was garrisoning Basra is now free to be transported via cargo planes stationed at Basra up to Habbaniya. These reinforcements, along with air superiority and tactical bombing abilities, enables Hibbaniya to withstand the desperate attack by the much greater number of inferior Iraqi infantry.

On the third turn, two regiments from another Indian division stationed in the Sudan arrive along with four supply points. (This complicates the British situation a bit in Africa as the Italians control most of East Africa with a rather large military force. How that situation is resolved is beyond the periphery of the Iraqi coup, however. I merely point it out so that the reader will understand how the game engages the player in the wider implications of decisions made during war time.)

On the fourth turn, the merchant shipping is able to bring a mobile supply source into play at Basra. This important transportation unit uses up all the merchant shipping allowance for this area in this turn, but supply points cannot be transported inland without it. The Indian units now have moveable combat supply, enabling them to attack at full strength. They advance north (left on the map orientation), driving back a couple of Iraqi regiments sent to delay them.

The Iraqis are forced to retreat back to Baghdad and end up being targeted by British air and ground assets until they eventually surrender. The entire process takes about 8 turns (weeks) as the siege takes awhile to wear the Iraqi resistance down.
Endgame in Iraq. The poorly trained Iraqi forces are pushed back into Baghdad and will eventually surrender to the Commonwealth forces, which now have complete control of the situation in terms of troops, supplies, and air squadrons. Notice the mobile supply unit station in Hilla on the right. Without that important unit the Indian troops would never have been able to advance toward Baghdad and put down the coup attempt.

Support from Germany and Italy for the Iraqis was historically limited to a few planes and supplies. This level of support is not represented in game terms. The Axis forces have their hands full invading Yugoslavia, Greece and Crete, building up forces for Rommel’s advance in North Africa, and defending against the first British bombing raids of the war to spend precious air resources attempting to supply a distant coup that has little chance of success.

Games like Lebensraum not only grant me an enjoyable insight into the history that they cover, but they also give me some repose from the routine demands of daily life and allow me to experience a mental flow that is relaxing yet stimulating. Time seems to pass quickly the more your mind is engaged. It is like playing a game of bridge or a game of chess from that perspective. For me, it is a welcome change from the grind of habits within a mental space that is not at all passive. The change of pace often allows me to regroup and look at “real world” issues in a fresh light, or at the very least to escape those issues in a way that nevertheless entertains while honing the mind.

It is good history but, more importantly, for me it is just plain fun.