Aussies can't fight Taliban on Dutch food

Australian troops on the front lines in Afghanistan have seen their fair share of the horrors of war. But if there's one thing they won't put up with, it's European cuisine:

Troops [in the Oruzgan province] had passed on complaints about the "lousy" food, Senator Johnson says, to both Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon on recent visits.

Food is mainly supplied by the Dutch, which commands the provincial reconstruction taskforce in the province.

Australian Defence Force chief Angus Houston defended the soldiers' diet.

"Our soldiers all the way through have had the required amount of calories and the food has been of a very high standard," he said.

"I think the issue is, it's not Aussie food, it's European food and it's pre-prepared.

Worse, getting a taste of home seems to be a status symbol in the Aussie army: 

A major issue seems to be that while general troops are taking their supplies from the Dutch, their colleagues in the elite special forces have their own cooks dishing up the grub.

"Essentially, special forces have been eating Aussie food," Air Chief Marshal Houston said.

Top brass insist that the soldiers are getting good food, but "in total, 10 cooks will eventually be deployed to vary the diet of the soldiers." Whether they will be followed by an elite "Grandma's pies" batallion is at this point unconfirmed. 

AWAD AWAD/AFP/Getty Images


What are we learning from Iran's election?

Think you know something about Iran? Think again, says Fareed Zakaria in the latest issue of Newsweek:

In an interview last week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described the Iranian regime as "a messianic, apocalyptic cult." In fact, Iran has tended to behave in a shrewd, calculating manner, advancing its interests when possible, retreating when necessary ... The regime jails opponents, closes down magazines and tolerates few challenges to its authority. But neither is it a monolithic dictatorship.

Zakaria's observations were upheld yesterday as supporters of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad publicly (and peacefully) confronted those of his rival, moderate Mir Hossein Musavi. Musavi is challenging Ahmedinejad in the current round of presidential elections in Iran.

It's a little premature to make sweeping generalizations, but the fact that this demonstration of political freedom occurred at all suggests the United States deeply misunderstands its rival. Just as it's becoming clear now that Ahmedinejad doesn't represent "a monolithic dictatorship," it should be equally evident that vilifying Iran as an undemocratic, irrational power is neither accurate nor helpful.

(Hat tip: Andrew Sullivan)