Napoleon didn't need sleep. Two hours in the horizontal and he'd be ready for battle again. Jack Kennedy was also famous for not sleeping much, though he did manage to clock plenty of hours in bed. Lately, the entire country has been staying up past its bedtime, suffering from CNN disease. One can only imagine what it is like on the front lines, where night is punctuated by air raid sirens.
One man who can't sleep much is Gen. Colin Powell. This is a 24-hour-a-day, time-zone-straddling war. Powell has been forced to sleep a lot at the office.
"He may go home for dinner or he may go home for a few hours on the weekend, but he's here day and night," says a Pentagon insider. "I've watched his energy level, and he's got resilience and capacity and he's doing well."
Among combat soldiers, sleep loss is a deadly serious matter. The U.S. Army Aviation Desert Operations manual ("Southwest Asia Focus") has guidelines on how much sleep troops should get, and what to do if they don't get enough:
Three to four hours sleep each night will maintain mental task performance for five to six days.
Less than four hours sleep each night, over a three- to six-day period, will impair military effectiveness.
After 24 to 36 hours without sleep, decisions, calculations etc. should be cross-checked by a second person. Use a mix of rested and unrested soldiers as check and balance.
Twelve hours of sleep/rest (at least 8 to 10 hours sleep) are required after 36 to 48 hours of acute sleep loss.
There is even a quantitative assessment of how sleep loss affects ability: "Performance of mental tasks requiring calculations, creativity, and ability to plan ahead declines by 25 percent for every 24-hour period of semi-continuous work without sleep."
This isn't the first time Iraq has invaded Kuwait. It isn't even the first time Saddam Hussein has been responsible. In 1973, Iraqi troops overran a desert outpost 1 1/2 miles inside the border claimed by Kuwait. Two Kuwaiti policemen were killed. Iraq pulled out a week later and Saddam, at that time referred to by the Western press as the "top political leader" of his country, called the incursion a mistake.
"Let it be recorded as a mistake on the part of Iraq," Saddam said at the time. "But why is it exaggerated out of all proportion into a military invasion, and branded part of Iraqi ambitions?"
Clausewitzmania continues apace. We've got to clear something up. The latest sighting of the oft-quoted, not recently deceased Prussian military historian was yesterday, on the Op-Ed page of the New York Times. We have been keeping track of how the man's first name is spelled. The Times article referred to him as Karl von Clausewitz. This matches the spelling that we keep seeing in most newspapers, as well as that of Webster's New World Dictionary.
Yet, perplexingly, we have here the definitive text of "On War," edited by Michael Howard and Peter Paret, which says the guy's first name was Carl, with a C, which matches the spelling in the Library of Congress catalogue. What got us doubly confused was that Howard, an esteemed Yale professor of military history, wrote the Times article that appeared yesterday, with the K spelling. Which camp is he in?
"He would have spelled it himself with a C, but since then the Germans have preferred to spell it with a K," he told us. "In the 19th century, the Germans did tend to turn any name which was faintly un-German into a thoroughly German name."
Talk to Paret, was his final advice.
Paret, a scholar at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, gave the final, indubitable answer: "It should be C. It's true that for a while, German practice was to write his first name with a K, but he himself never did that. All the letters I have seen, and I own some myself, are all signed with a C."
Copy editors of the world, take note.
When word came of the massive oil slick in the Persian Gulf, there was immediate speculation that the Iraqis would light the oil and create a huge wall of flame preventing an amphibious assault by the Marines. Then, Saturday, the Pentagon announced that, indeed, some of the slick was on fire. All this was perplexing: Crude-oil slicks aren't particularly flammable. Then a new report Sunday from a pool reporter in the Persian Gulf stated that the slick was not on fire and had never been on fire at any point.
But then we saw pictures clearly showing that some of the oil was on fire.
What's going on?
Probably just that a small portion of the oil slick, right where it was gushing into the water, was burning, and the rest wasn't. The flames aren't likely to spread down the coastline. The oil's been in the water too long -- to burn a slick To you have to act fast. After the Exxon Valdez spilled its liquid cargo there was an attempt to light the slick, but it didn't work because the reaction to the spill was too slow.
Crude oil contains a variety of hydrocarbon molecules, and the most volatile ones -- the ones that catch fire -- quickly evaporate. Moreover, the adage that oil and water don't mix is not quite true. They don't blend, but they become interspersed. Within two days, an oil slick will form a butterlike emulsion that is up to nine parts water for every part oil.
Will there be a video game called Desert Storm? With laser-guided bombs? Antiaircraft artillery?
Roger Sharpe of Williams Electronics, which makes many of the stand-up arcade video games, says: "I think you'll see it. I think what's more likely, given what the lead times are, is that you'll first see something in the computer software market." In other words, people will be able to play Desert Storm on their home computers before the game ever hits the video arcades.
Sharpe is quick to say that he doubts his own company will make the game. "We're not that opportunistic. That's probably a little too sensitive. What we try to create is fantasy and escape, rather than reality-based situations. But I think that, yes, there are companies out there that do wonderful simulations."
A lot depends on the outcome of the war. Vietnam didn't inspire any games with names like Napalm or Search-n-Destroy. But the Konami company came out with a game called Contra a few years ago. Probably the most notorious game of all was Atari's Missile Command, in which the player tried to intercept nuclear ICBMs targeted at six cities. No matter how skilled the player, the rain of bombs eventually would prove overwhelming and the cities would be destroyed, the landscape replaced by a single mushroom cloud. The game was pulled off the market about the same time Ronald Reagan was elected to the presidency.
The blue domes. What are they? You see them behind those correspondents standing on that roof in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. They look like the domes of mosques, or maybe even overwrought skylights. Now Newsweek magazine weighs in with the big scoop: They are the rooftop cabanas for the swimming pool of the Dhahran International Hotel.