- By Thomas E. RicksThomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military for the Washington Post from 2000 through 2008. He can be reached at email@example.com.
While Tom Ricks is away from his blog, he has selected a few of his favorite posts to re-run. We will be posting a few every day until he returns. This originally ran on February 4, 2011.
The fun I had helping a neighbor at Christmastime with the Audubon annual census of birds on our island inspired me to read Sibley’s Birding Basics. As I did, I was struck by how you could read some of his instructions as a supplement to David Kilcullen‘s recommendations on observing insurgents.
–"Watch the edges of the flock and pay special attention to outlying birds or those that act differently; they may be a different species."
–"Consider the time of day."
–"Anticipate the birds’ needs."
–"Follow the birds. If you find a number of birds in an area, consider why they might be there. Is there a concentration of food? Is it a warm or cool spot?"
–"Another important point for beginners to understand is that bird identification is not an exact science and often does not involve absolute certainty."
–"Looking at a bird with prejudice, having already determined that it is likely to be one species and leading only to confirm that identification, will lead you into error.… Guard against forming an opinion until all of the evidence is in."
Also, be ready for the unexpected: I was surprised that Sibley lists Central Park, smack in middle of the concrete canyons of New York City, as great bird-watching spot. The reason, he writes, is that migrating birds gravitate toward it, as "the largest patch of natural habitat in the area" — not unlike, he writes, a desert oasis.
Of course, both bird-watching and dealing with insurgents began by hunting them down and killing them, until those doing the shooting realized there often might be a better approach. With knowledge comes the understanding that hawks act differently from shrikes, and a strong tribe differently from a marginalized one.
Speaking of growing understanding, I finished reading Senator’s Son, which takes that as its theme. I enjoyed it enormously. More next week about that.
The Early Bird is dead; Israeli warplanes strike Syria; Assad will push to keep his CW factories open; How 60 Minutes is keeping Benghazi alive; Captain Kirk is the c/o of the Zumwalt, seriously; and a bit more.Gordon Lubold
Gordon Lubold is a national security reporter for Foreign Policy. He is also the author of FP's Situation Report, an e-mailed newsletter that is blasted out to more than 70,000 national security and foreign affairs subscribers each morning that includes the top nat-sec news, breaking news, tidbits, nuggets and what he likes to call "candy." Before arriving at FP, he was a senior advisor at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington, where he wrote on national security and foreign policy. Prior to his arrival at USIP, he was a defense reporter for Politico, where he launched the popular Morning Defense early morning blog and tip-sheet. Prior to that, he was the Pentagon and national security correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor, and before that he was the Pentagon correspondent for the Army Times chain of newspapers. He has covered conflict in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and other countries in South Asia, and has reported on military matters in sub-Saharan Africa, East Asia and Latin America as well as at American military bases across the country. He has spoken frequently on the sometimes-contentious relationship between the military and the media as a guest on numerous panels. He also appears on radio and television, including on CNN, public radio's Diane Rehm and To the Point, and C-SPAN's Washington Journal. He lives in Alexandria with his wife and two children.| Situation Report |