August 31, 2004
Blogging will be Light this week
Blogging will be light this week as I'm off on vacation. I'll try and put up a few posts tomorrow but that will be it until next week.
Other than that,
John McCain made a few great points in an otherwise lackluster speech last night. His delivery was atrocious, and was quite flat. He had the annoying habit of dropping his voice at the end of a sentence, right when he was getting to his point.
But he did say that the "status quo" that we supposedly had with Iraq was in fact unraveling. The choice, as he correctly said, was not between a stable status quo and war, but between a growing threat and war. Readers may recall that I said this myself in my "No Regrets" post.
Then there was Rudy
He gave what must be one of the best convention speeches I have every heard. Heck, it was one of the best I've ever heard period. He combined seriousness, humor, history, and an emotional tribute to 9/11. His parody of Edwards |Two Americas" was priceless. He endorsed Bush's policy of the strategic offensive against the terrorists, a concept I wrote about earlier this month. I did some channel surfing afterwards and all of the liberal commentators were almost speechless.
So far, so good for the GOP. We'll see how Arnold does tonight.
August 27, 2004
Random thoughts on Kerry and the Swift Boat Vets
What gets me is that Kerry demands, demands, that Bush denounce the swift boat vet ads. Much of the media go along with the game. Funny, though, I seem to recall that Michael Moore was at the DNC convention and even sat with Jimmy Carter. Has Kerry denounced moveon.org? Hardly.
In fact, Kerry and his legal goons are trying to get the FCC to issue sanctions against the Bush campaign for allegedly conspiring with the Swift Boat vets.
When the McCain Feingold bill was passed it seemed obvious to me that nothing would really change, that the money would just go in a different direction. It's like that kids game whereby you hit one and another pops up. Utterly predictable.
Kerry told us that his main qualification to be president was that he served in Vietnam, in combat no less. He issued forth no legislative proposals, and no foreign policy prescriptions other than vague generalities. He pointed to no legislation that he authored in the Senate as a guide. His entire campaign comes down to "vote for me because I am a war hero." Given this, it is utterly insane for him to then say that no one should examine that record, much less question it.
"Immoral and Unjust" or not?
So on the one hand Kerry and his sort tell us that the Vietnam war was "unjust and immoral." On the other they criticize Bush for not having fought in it.
Huh? Which is it, guys? Isn't it wrong to volunteer to fight in an unjust and immoral war?
Keep your Powder Dry, George
Karl Rove is well familiar with the old adage "never interfere when an opponent is in the process of destroying himself." George Bush is right to hold off on any ads for the time being. It also saves money.
A few weeks ago (I forget exactly) Kerry's legal goons sent letters to media outlets warning them not to run the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth ads. This episode has been documented well by other bloggers so I won't dwell on it here.
But aren't the vets just "exercising their free speech rights?" And aren't Kerry's letters having a "chilling effect" on free speech?
Liberals always hide behind the First Amendment whenever one of them gets caught saying something outrageous. Ah but so often the left doesn't want to debate, their tactic is to silence opposition. Check out this post from the Indymedia site, courtesy of Little Green Footballs.
Ok, I admit that I've never "gotten it" about what was so terrible about "soft money". Is it just me or can somebody help me out here? I've heard John McCain a hundred times on this issue and have yet to figure out what's so terrible. So what if organizations other than the political parties run attack ads? I never did understand the big deal here.
Everyone said that if you outlaw one thing another will pop up in it's place, and sure enough, here they are; the dreaded "527's".
It also sounds like "527" should be a Boeing product.
Tommy Franks on WMD
Tommy Franks reflects on the end of the war in his autobiography (p.548)
I was surprised that WMD were not used against our troops. And I am surprised that we have not found stockpiles of such weapons in Iraq. But I am gratified by the fact that regimne that used weapons of mass destruction to mjurder thougsands of it's own people will nver have a chance to use them on America.
It would have been inexcusable for the United States to allow Baathist Iraq to facilitate the nexus between weapons of mass terror and terrorists such as Abu Musab Zawahiri. Tens of thousands of average Americans I hvae met over the past year have convinced me that the majority of my fellow citizens understand that principle and agree.
I recall the eighteenth-century Brititish philopspher Edmund Burke, who reminded us that "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."
Count me as one of those citizens who understands, General Franks.
And on page 562
Colin Powell said recently that he was disappointed that some of the intelligence on Iraq's WMD program was "inaccurate and wrong and in some cases deliberately misleading." That, of course, is the nature of human intelligence. The issue is not whether the source of the intelligence information nwas telling the truth, but whether George Tenent, Colin Powell, and President George W. Bush believed that the information was true. I believe they didn. I know I did. And I do not regret my role in disarming Iraq and removing it's Baathist regime.
We know now that some expatriate Iraqis were telling us what we wanted to hear. And why did they do that? Because they wanted us to invade. They wanted their country back from the evil dictator who had stolen it from them. It's hard to defend their lies, but one can understand and sympathize with their motivation. They wanted a free Iraq. Is that so bad?
But of course to the left it's all "Bush lied!". Debating them on this is almost impossible. Try to explain that one can only lie if one knows that it is not true at the time it is said. Try patiently explaining that if you have good reason to believe one thing, yet upon further examination it turns out to be untrue, that is not a lie but a mistake. Try explaining that every other intelligence service on the planet had independantly reached the conclusion that Saddam had stockpiled WMD. Try explaining that King Abdullah of Jordan and Hosni Mubarak of Egypt personally warned Franks that his troops would be attacked with WMD. Your reward will be an ever more shrill cry of "But Bush Lied!!"
Tommy Franks on Friction
Tommy Franks reflects on Operation Iraqi Freedom in his autobiography American Soldier (p.544)
The terrorists at large in Iraq, and around the world, will continue to attack our forces where they're most vulnerable. And with each man or woman killed or wounded, with each crisis, with each investigation, the Washington blame game will be extended a few more innings. Bush should be booted; Rumsfeld fired. I am constantly amazed at the shallow thinking that underpins such commentary. Things go wrong in war. If war were easy and convenient, there would be too many of them. American's fight wars only when we are threatened. I wouldn't want it any other way.
I was amazed about how during Operation Iraqi Freedom the so-called "operational pause" was turned into a major coalition defeat. I was astounded that a week into the Afghan campaign pundits were talking of a "quagmire". These same journalists seemed to have learned nothing from Desert Storm a decade earlier.
Perhaps we should turn to our classics, to the Prussian general who understood the difficulties of war:
Everything in war is simple, but the simplest thing is difficult. The difficulties accumulate and end by producing a kind of friction that is inconceivable unless one has experienced war...Countless minor incidents - the kind you can never really foresee - combine to lower the general level of performance, so that one always falls far short of the intended goal...Friction is the only concept that more or less corresponds to the factors that distinguish real war from war on paper.
Karl von Clausewitz as quoted by Col. Harry Summers.
Guess what? War isn't easy. Things don't always work out the way we hope or think they will. Battles that despite careful planning defied our expectations; Anzio, Tarawa, First Bull Run, the list is endless. Assumptions are destroyed without hesitation. When we first went into Vietnam we did so with fighter aircraft unarmed with guns. We had assumed that all air-to-air battles would be fought with missiles, and that we'd be shooting down Soviet bombers. Assumption demolished.
Perhaps we should end this post by reflecting on the words of another general who was all too familiar with warfare;
It is well that war is to terrible, or else we should grow too fond of it.
General Robert E Lee
August 26, 2004
I feel sorry for those of you not in the Washington DC area, because you don't get the Times on your doorstep every morning. Honestly, I don't know how you do it. I moved from the Washington Post to the Times sometime in the late '80s and have never looked back. You can read it online, of course, but it's not the same thing. I realize that some of these stories have appeared elsewhere, but the Times is a good summary of what is going on, and I get it on my doorstep every morning.
A number of good stories in today's paper that I thought I'd pass along in case your paper missed them:
Unfit for Command
Inside the Beltway
compiled daily by John McCaslin has good stuff in it today
Rest assured, sir, President Clinton's national security adviser remains under Justice Department investigation after stuffing his stockings and britches with highly classified National Archives documents, some of which he proceeded to destroy.
Read also how Democratic strategist tells us of the campaign that "It's getting dirty". Guess she missed those moveon.org ads.
Inside Politics by Greg Pierce is a must read also. Find out why anyone who didn't serve in Vietnam betrayed their country according to a Democratic operative. And if you want to get really mad read what Christopher Matthews and Douglas Brinkly say about Michelle Malkin, who in my opinion is a national treasure.
Has your paper published a chart showing spending by left and right-wing 527 groups? I can't find it in the on-line version (another reason I am fortunate to get hard-copy every morning) but a summary shows that anti-Bush groups have spent 133.64 million, while anti-Kerry ones only 7.5 million. Article here. Funny how it only became a controversy when the swift boat controversy erupted.
Protesters reneg on deal
Big surprise, but a group that wants to protest the Republicans at the NYC convention reneged on a deal with the city. They're upset that a court has ruled against them.
An estimated 250,000 protesters yesterday were denied access to the grassy expanse of Central Park by a state Supreme Court judge, leaving the Aug. 29 marchers with a final destination of Seventh Avenue outside Madison Square Garden.
State Supreme Court Justice Jacqueline Silbermann turned down the legal plea from the demonstration's organizer, United for Peace and Justice, saying that the group was "guilty of inexcusable and inequitable delay" for filing a lawsuit last week with less than two weeks before the planned event.
United for Peace and Justice, an umbrella group for more than 800 like-minded enterprises, sued the city last week after backing out of a July 21 agreement with the city to hold the rally on a three-mile stretch of the West Side Highway. The group claimed that, after further investigation, staging the event there would be prohibitively expensive.
The complaint claimed that the city violated the state constitution by allowing cultural events such as concerts but failed to accommodate a political gathering. The city parks department said that the event, to be held on three sections of lush grass in Central Park, would ruin the park's lawn. Event planners anticipate 250,000 protesters during the event.
Justice Silbermann said in her 13-page ruling that, "at this juncture, however, plaintiff simply cannot be heard to bring a constitutional challenge to a march-and-rally plan it publicly and voluntarily agreed to on July 21, 2004 — more than one month ago. Indeed, even after plaintiff reneged on that agreement on August 10, 2004, it waited an additional week to bring suit, unnecessarily prejudicing defendants."
United for Peace and Justice promised that the rally will still take place, immediately posting to its Web site a message.
Read the whole thing. It only gets worse.
August 25, 2004
Letter from Najaf
This letter, by Marine Corps Major Glen Butler, was posted two days ago as an op-ed in the New York Times. Because the Times is subscription based, my link is to Blackfive, who posted it in it's entirety.
Hat tip to The Laughing Wolf for finding it first. Following are some excerpts, but you'll want to drop by Blackfive and read the whole thing.
I'm an average American who grew up watching "Brady Bunch" reruns, playing dodge ball and listening to Van Halen. I love the Longhorns and the Eagles. I'm you; your neighbor; the kid you used to go sledding with but who took a different career path in college. Now, I'm a Marine helicopter pilot who has spent the last two weeks heavily engaged with enemy forces here. I'm writing this between missions, without much time or care to polish, so please look to the heart of these thoughts and not their structure. ... I haven't had time to catch much CNN or Fox News, and although I've seen a few headlines forwarded to me by friends, I don't think the world is seeing the complete picture.
I want to emphasize that our military is using every means possible to minimize damage to historical, religious and civilian structures, and is going out of its way to protect the innocent. I have not shot one round without good cause, whether it be in response to machine gun fire aimed at me or mortars shot at soldiers and marines on the ground.
The battle has been surreal, focused largely in the cemetery, where families continue burying their dead even as I swoop in low overhead to make sure they aren't sneaking in behind our forces' flanks, or pulling a surface-to-air missile out of the coffin. Children continue playing soccer in the dirt fields next door, and locals wave to us as we fly over their rooftops in preparation for gun runs into the enemy's positions.
Sure, some of those people might be waving just to make sure we don't shoot them, but I think the majority are on our side. I've learned that this enemy is not just a mass of angry Iraqis who want us to leave their country, as some would have you believe. The forces we're fighting around Iraq are a conglomeration of renegade Shiites, former Baathists, Iranians, Syrians, terrorists with ties to Ansar al-Islam and Al Qaeda, petty criminals, destitute citizens looking for excitement or money, and yes, even a few frustrated Iraqis who worry about Wal-Mart culture infringing on their neighborhood.
But I see the others who are on our side, appreciate us risking our lives, and know we're in the right. The Iraqi soldiers who are fighting alongside us are motivated to take their country back. I've not been deluded into thinking that we came here to free the Iraqis. That is indeed the icing on the cake, but I came here to prevent the still active "grave and gathering threat" from congealing into something we wouldn't be able to stop.
Weapons of mass destruction or no, I'm glad that we ended the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein. My brother and other American jet pilots risked their lives for years patrolling the "no fly zone" (and occasionally making page A-12 in the newspaper if they dropped a bomb on a threatening missile battery). The former dictator's attempt to assassinate George H. W. Bush, use of chemical weapons on his own people, and invasion of a neighboring country are just a few of the other reasons I believe we should have acted sooner. He eventually would have had the means to cause America great harm - no doubt in my mind.
The pre-emptive doctrine of the current administration will continue to be debated long after I'm gone, but one fact stands for itself: America has not been hit with another catastrophic attack since 9/11. I firmly believe that our actions in Afghanistan and Iraq are major reasons that we've had it so good at home. Building a "fortress America" is not only impractical, it's impossible. Prudent homeland security measures are vital, to be sure, but attacking the source of the threat remains essential.
Now we are on the verge of victory or defeat in Iraq. Success depends not only on battlefield superiority, but also on the trust and confidence of the American people. I've read some articles recently that call for cutting back our military presence in Iraq and moving our troops to the peripheries of most cities. Such advice is well-intentioned but wrong - it would soon lead to a total withdrawal. Our goal needs to be a safe Iraq, free of militias and terrorists; if we simply pull back and run, then the region will pose an even greater threat than it did before the invasion. I also fear if we do not win this battle here and now, my 7-year-old son might find himself here in 10 or 11 years, fighting the same enemies and their sons.
When critics of the war say their advocacy is on behalf of those of us risking our lives here, it's a type of false patriotism. I believe that when Americans say they "support our troops," it should include supporting our mission, not just sending us care packages. They don't have to believe in the cause as I do; but they should not denigrate it. That only aids the enemy in defeating us strategically.
Anti-Americanism Parts II and III
Alex over at Wandering Mind has parts II and III of his "Anti-American series up. I posted on part one last week. Alex writes well on an important subject. Following are excerpts and my commentary, but you'll want to visit his site and read the whole thing.
In Part II Alex writes on "Religious Dogma and Anti-Americanism" in the Arab world.
Arabs feel humiliated, we are told. Citizens of these Arab regimes know, that after decades of going nowhere, they are falling behind. In reality they realize who is to blame. They will not gather to support leaders who have done nothing for them. They will however, gather for their faith, Islam. Their faith in God is untouched by despots. They see their faith in Islam as their only hope and their deliverance. God will save them, if only they are deserving.
Arab leaders understand this. It is yet another calculated way to deflect attention outward, away from themselves and their ineptitude and corruption.
Amen. Arabs can read their history, and they know that as recently as the 1690's a Turkish/Muslim army had laid siege to Vienna, Austria. A few hundred years before that, and they were in competition with Christendom for control of the Mediterranean. And before that, they were the dominant power. That this is not the case today is not just upsetting in the way we would think about it, for it has religious meaning to them Allah meant for them to rule over us. To them, therefore, they should not merely be equal with us now, they should be the world's only superpower.
Much is often made of the fact that in Muslim-dominated areas of old, they allowed enclaves of Jews and Christians to practice their beliefs. Europeans, at this point in history, would have forcibly converted or slaughtered Muslims had the situation been reversed. But what is left unsaid is that this "tolerance" was only acceptable as long as the Muslims were in control. When the situation was reversed, the tolerance disappeared.
In Part III, Alex reviews the concept of "Anti-Americanism as a Moral Imperative." When the Cold War was ongoing, the Soviets were the obvious enemy and the U.S. a friend, as it was our forces that provided most of the military protection for western Europe. Once that threat disappeared, "American has become the villain."
Like a dysfunctional family, Europe has finally found a way to exist without having to deal with it's own real problems. Anti Americanism provides that vehicle. Europeans need anti Americanism, to justify their own existence. Without anti Americanism, Europe would sooner, rather than later, slide back into her own pathologies. Witness the small flare when Jacques Chirac of France scolded Poland for her support of the US with regard to Iraq. Chirac told the Poles, to, "Stay quiet and mind your place at the European table".
The last 200 years have been the tape measure. America is stronger, faster, better. There is no getting around it. Not just in an economic sense, but in the artistic, educational, political and moral senses.
Our best days, as we say, are ahead of us. They always have been and always will be- it is how we are constructed. We always wonder what is over the horizon and strive to get there. We are not satisfied with what we know-- it is what we don't yet know that has been our obsession. We see the possibilities, the next great thing if only...
Europe's glories, many well deserved, are in the past
Correct, I believe. Added to that their desire for "nanny state" governments and you have real trouble. The Europeans have voted themselves so many benefits that they have become economically uncomplaining. Unemployment rates are several points higher than in the U.S. and they have no idea how to reduce them. As a result, they have set up a number of protectionist measures designed to keep U.S. companies at bay.
It is hubris on our part to think that we know and understand European history better than the Europeans know it themselves. Europeans do not understand our history.
American's are often accused, sometimes rightfully so, of not taking the time to understand other parts of the world. All fine and good. But why is it that other peoples are rarely asked to take the time to understand us?
August 24, 2004
Tommy Franks on "TV Generals"
A source of frustration - and amusement - to Gen. Tommy Franks and his staff were the "TV Generals" whose commentary was usually inaccurate.
At one point in the invasion, a huge sandstorm struck southern Iraq. Coalition forces were temorarily slowed by the bad weather.
Late that night, with the sandstorm still raging, Jim came back to my office. His face was set in an angry scowl.
"General," he said,m "you're always telling us not to get treed by pissants, but what am I supposed to do about these #$*&%# TV generals?"
"Check out this dude,", he said, indicating a passage he'd highlighted.
A pundits name was listed, followed by "Lt. Colonel, retired...senior war planner." I was beginning to see where Jim's frustration was coming from.
"Not just a war planner, General," he said. "A senior war planner."
I scanned the rest of the excerpts, shook my head, chuckled, and leaned back in my chair. I knew a number of these "experts" - many were much better TV analysts than they had been military officers.
...more than a few television pundits were ready to declare the campaign lost, the plan irreparable flowed. And one particular retired four-star was driving the bandwagon, with others clambering to get on board.
"Historical perspective, Jim," I said. "Lincoln's wife, Mary, called the Civil War correspondents the 'vampire press' for their attacks on the President. Those same reporters sang Lincoln's praises after Appomattox."
I watched a lot of TV during the invasion, and one TV general got it right; Lt General Tom McInerney. The rest of his Fox News compatriots did a good job too, but McInerney in particular hit the nail squarely on the head. He and another Fox News military analyst, Maj. General Paul Vallely, later wrote a book on how to win the War on Terror, called Endgame, which is pretty good and which I recommend.
August 23, 2004
One of the charges that the left often makes when arguing against the Iraq war is that we "supported" Iraq in the early '80s. I saw this charge again last week while debating with liberals on a website last week. Somehow, the fact that we "leaned" towards Iraq during their war with Iran means that our invasion was illegitimate. The logic of this escapes me, but that's not really what I want to discuss now. Rather, that if you want to understand why something happened, don't study just that time period, but examine what happened before the period in question.
Ok, this sounds obvious, right? Unfortunately I see mistakes along this line made frequently, and not just by the lefties mentioned above. I've decided to discuss three periods of history and common problems in understanding them;
- Our support of Iraq in the early '80s
- Restrictions on our military in general, and on pilots in particular, during the Vietnam war.
- Appeasement of Hitler in the 1930's
1. Support of Iraq in the early 1980's
In 1980 Saddam Hussein invaded his neighbor Iran. His objective was to seize the oil fields in the south of that country. Its basically old-fashioned greed. Iran was in the midst of their revolution and in a state of semi-chaos. He assumed that he could take advantage of that disorder to seize some territory.
This proved to be a miscalculation. He forgot the adage that there is nothing to unite a country like an external enemy. Iran thus united against their foe and put up a much stronger than expected defense. Far from easily seizing land, Saddam was soon faced with a serious war.
The United States looked on this with interest. The Persian Gulf region is vital to the economies of the Western world and as such we must be able to assure the continued flow of oil. The war threatened this transit, especially after Iran started to attack shipping in the gulf.
The Reagan administration therefore decided to "lean" towards Iraq. We supplied them with some arms and other material. Our navy conducted operations against the Iranians, attacking their mine-laying ships and off-shore platforms that they were using as bases. Don Rumsfeld, I believe, even made a trip to Iraq to meet with Saddam.
This "leaning"(the word we actually used at the time) towards Iraq is the basis of the charge the left levels against the Bush administration today.
But why did we lean towards Iraq? Ok, there's the obvious answer; "to protect the oil supply." But why did we think that supporting Iraq instead of Iran would accomplish this? Let's take our history backwards for a moment.
The Iranian Hostage Crisis
In order to understand U.S. policy in the 1980's we need to understand what happened in the late 1970s.
I was in my early college years when the Iranian Hostage Crisis occurred, and this is when I first really started to pay attention to politics. It was not a pretty introduction.
The sense of helplessness that most Americans felt was maddening. Here we were, a superpower, and yet we were unable to get our people back. We had just been through Vietnam and Watergate, with those humiliations fresh on our minds, and now this. Worse yet, our president was telling us that we would have to get used to a lower standard of living here at home.
I remember that my father was working in Washington DC at the time, and he'd tell us stories of the protests in the city: Protests, mind you, by Iranian "students" in support of the hostage takers. The protestors were protected by the police, whose protection they needed full well. The office workers would go out during their lunch break to observe these protests. My dad would tell us of normally calm, unsuitable men who would go ballistic at what they saw.
My point is that the anger towards Iran was intense and deep. We would have supported just about anyone who was willing to oppose the Ayatollah Khomeini and his regime.
More importantly, in the late '70s and early '80s it really did seem like the Iranians would be able to export their revolution to the rest of the area. The idea of the gulf states and Saudi Arabia falling to radical Islam was frightening indeed.
Contrary to what the left would have you believe, no one was under any illusions as to who Saddam was. We knew full well that he was a thoroughly rotten dictator.
We were right to support Iraq when we did, just as we were right to side with the Soviet Union against Nazi Germany. The threat of the Iranian revolution spreading throughout the region was quite real, and the consequences of it doing so could be devastating to the region and to our economy.
2. Restrictions during the Vietnam War
One of the most frustrating things about reading the history of this war that the restrictions upon our forces seem to almost dictate our defeat. These restrictions included, but were not limited to:
- Not being able to bomb surface-to-air(SAM) missile sites while they were under construction; the pilots had to wait until they were fully operational and thus able to shoot back.
- Not being able to bomb ships in Haiphong harbor that were off-loading massive amounts of war material that the North Vietnamese would then use against us.
- Not being able to attack North Vietnamese fighter bases. We had to wait until their aircraft were in the air to attack them.
- Entire areas of North Vietnam were "off limits", including ordinance storage areas.
- The pilots were often required to fly predictable strike routes again and again, the result being that North Vietnamese knew exactly when and where we were coming.
How in the world, one wonders, could we have been so stupid? And indeed that is exactly the charge that is most often made; that U.S. policy makers were "stupid". You hear it all of the time; on the radio, in movies, and in books. But could that really have been the case?
David Halberstam has said that the tragedy of Vietnam was not that we were led by stupid or evil people, but that it was our "best and brightest" who made the mistakes that led to our defeat.
(Sidenote; if you insist on thinking that because we won most of the tactical engagements we "really" won the war but were stabbed in the back by the media, please read my earlier post here, especially the conversation between the American and North Vietnamese colonels) .
How did this situation arise? Let's go farther back in history
The Korean Experience
After being surprised and suffering some initial defeats by North Korea's attack in 1950, the U.S. quickly recovered. General MacArthur staged a brilliant landing at Inchon, which, coupled with an advance from the southern city of Pusan, completely routed the North Korean army. Barely eight months after the war started, it looked like a decisive U.S. victory was at hand. Not only would we save our allies in the south, we were on the verge of capturing all of the north. It seemed that a huge defeat for the communists was at hand.
Then things went wrong in a big way.
For months the Chinese had been warning us not to come too close to their border. The Yalu river forms the border between North Korea and China, and the Chinese feared that we would take the opportunity to invade their country. The communists had recently taken control of the country and feared "imperialist aggression."
General MacArthur dismissed Chinese warnings, along with intelligence reports of Chinese troops massing for the attack. This proved to be a recipe for diasaster.
We were caught completely by surprise by the Chinese attack, and they overran several US divisions in the ensuing confusion. There was much bravery on the part of U.S. troops, but in the end our forces were pushed out of the north entirely and well back into South Korea. It was only with much effort and loss of life that we were able to push back to the original border again. A bloody stalemate along World War I lines developed, and after much negotiation an armistice was eventually reached.
To U.S. policy-makers, the lesson seemed clear: Do not let a small, regional war escalate into a larger one by provoking a larger, third, power.
When it came to Vietnam, we were deathly afraid that there would be an "incident" that would provoke the Chinese, or even Soviet involvement. This might even result in a new global war. Because the relevant parties all had nuclear weapons (China having exploded it's first device in 1964) the results might well have been catastrophic.
This, then, was the reason that we placed so many restrictions on our pilots. For example, because we knew that Soviet and Chinese technicians were helping to build the SAM sites, we feared that a bombing raid would kill them, and the Soviet Union or China might retaliate.
I am not defending the actions of our policy-makers. I am explaining them. As I stated earlier, we should have headed Stonewall Jackson's advice to "Never take council of your fears."
3. The Appeasement of Adolf Hitler
Of all mistakes that have occurred this century, it seems blindingly obvious that the policy of appeasement would lead us to war . How in the world could anyone have given in to his demands? "Peace in our time"? What a joke. The man was obviously going to overrun Europe.
Thankfully Winston Churchill saved Britain, and by extension at least half the world, from permanently Nazi occupation.
What seems especially odd is that it was widely believed at the time that those who advocated appeasement held the high moral ground. This attitude was held not just by the elite, but by a significant part of the population in the US and UK at the time. FDR faced stiff opposition in even providing minimal aid to Great Britain even after France had been defeated and she stood alone against the Nazi onslaught.
The Perceived Pointlessness of World War I
During "The Great War"(as it was known at the time) nationalist fervor ran high. Despite the slaughter in the trenches, most people on both sides believed the war worth fighting and decried attempts by a few "troublemakers'" to seek a negotiated settlement. It was only towards the end that the German people grew weary and their army broke. Even the French had been able to contain mutinies within their ranks.
It was after the war that it hit home; what did we go through all that for? Tens of millions had died, and for what? Persuasive answers were not forthcoming.
In Germany a "stabbed in the back" explanation took root. "We really won the war," it was believed, "but the Jews conspired to see us defeated."
In the UK pacifism took hold. King George V himself said the he would abdicate rather than allow his country to go though another such war.
The situation was perhaps the worst in France, where a malaise militaire set in to destroy morale within the ranks. They retreated behind their Maginot Line to recover.
We in the U.S. were disillusioned with the war as well. Woodrow Wilson had been completely outmaneuvered at the peace talks after the war and his Fourteen Points ignored. A congressional investigation (the Nye Commission) said that arms manufactures had conspired to get us into the war. The lesson, we thought, was to never again sell arms to belligerents.
The Great War was a huge shock the people of Europe. Such a thing was not "supposed" to happen. Even the Napoleonic wars of a hundred years earlier had not resulted in such devastation. The nineteenth century saw the development of what we today call "science". It was widely assumed that science would solve all of our problems and we would live in an age of unparalleled prosperity. Few imagined that the twentieth century would be among the bloodiest in history.
Anything, it was felt, was better than another war. Although now it seems so obvious, few at the time believed that Hitler would really launch another war, or that it could be more terrible than the Great War.
The above is not meant to be a complete history, or to list all causes or results for each war. It was mainly an exercise in historical review, which started off by frustration with yet another stupid leftist charge against Operation Iraqi Freedom. I am sure that readers will be able to add much insightful commentary and perhaps even correct some of my inevitable errors.
August 21, 2004
Politics and Military Decision-Making
The Redhunter Rates the Presidents
"Keep politics out of military decision making!" is a statement that I've heard again recently. It also makes no sense whatsoever.
We are currently in battle with radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's militia in the city of Najaf. I am not going to comment here on the details of the operation, nor in this post will I evaluate whether our strategy is correct. For now I'm going to briefly discuss the relationship between politics and military decision making.
One hundred fifty odd years ago the Prussian General and theorist Karl von Clausewitz wrote that
The only question...is whether...the political point of view should give way to the purely military(if a purely military point of view is conceivable at all)....Subordinating the political point of view to the military would be absurd, for it is policy that creates war. Policy is the guiding intelligence and war only the instrument, not vice versa. No other possibility exists, then, than to subordinate the military point of view to the political.
At this point we need to define our terms. In our current age the term "politics " usually conjures up the image of the ubiquitous smoke filled room, where deals are struck that are not necessarily in the public interest. The term has sinister overtones. But they are only one part of "politics" as properly defined. The word need have no sinister meaning. Merriam-Webster defines the term thus:
1 a : the art or science of government b : the art or science concerned with guiding or influencing governmental policy c : the art or science concerned with winning and holding control over a government
5 a : the total complex of relations between people living in society
Go back to the quote; "Policy is the guiding intelligence and war only the instrument, not vice versa". Now we see why there is nothing sinister about mixing politics and military decision making.
I believe that one reason why we often say that we should "keep politics out of warfare" is that we tend to view war by contrasting World War II with Vietnam. The former was the "perfect" war in that because the objective was total victory, "politics" was kept out of military decision making. That is not a completely accurate view, but leave that aside for the moment.
In Vietnam we had the opposite situation. We refused to fight for total victory and imposed restrictions on our troops, most notably upon our pilots. Targets were chosen in Washington and pilots told exactly what they could and could not attack. President Johnson is famous - or infamous - for having said "they(the military) couldn't bomb an outhouse without my permission."
All of this is accurate to a point. In a future post I will discuss why we imposed these restrictions on our military, and the answer may surprise you. For now, let's go back to Clausewitz to see why we should not view WWII as the "perfect" war:
In war many roads lead to success, and...they do not all involve the opponent's outright defeat. They range from the destruction of the enemy's forces, the conquest of his territory, to a temporary occupation or invasion, to projects with an immediate political purpose, and finally to passively awaiting the enemy's attacks.... Bear in mind how wide a range of political interests can lead to war, or...think for a moment of the gulf that separates a war of annihilation, a struggle for political existence, from a war reluctantly declared in consequence of political [pressure or of an alliance that no longer seems to reflect the state's true interests. Between these two extremes lie numerous gradations. If we reject a single one of them on theoretical grounds, we may as well reject all of them, and lose contact with the real world."
Most wars simply do not involve the total destruction of the enemy. Most wars are fought with limited means for limited aims. For example, in our own revolution we did not need to go to London and overthrow the king in order to win.
A few more quick historical examples should suffice to illustrate the range of gradations that Clausewitz was talking about.
As I stated earlier, World War II was the war of annihilation. It surpassed anything in modern times, save maybe the Napoleonic wars. It was also the exception. Check out my post "Presidents and Military Experience" and you'll see that it is the only war we fought in which both sides were trying to totally destroy the other.
Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative, on the other hand, is at the opposite end of Clausewitz' spectrum. It was never even built, yet had a profound impact on world history. Simply the decision to engage in a research program scared the Soviets silly and helped lead to their eventual collapse. That the left here derided it as something that could not work, for the Soviets (the only ones who counted) certainly believed that it could be. The reason for this can again be found in Clausewitz:
Combat is the only effective force in war; its aim is to destroy the enemy's forces as a means to a further end. That holds good even if no actual fighting occurs, because the outcome rests on the assumption that if it came to fighting, the enemy would be destroyed.
"...even if no actual fighting occurs." being the key phrase.
We might not have to totally smash al-Sadr to win. By the same token, he may not have to defeat our army in order to win.
August 20, 2004
Tommy Franks on Dick Cheney
A favorite liberal canard is that Dick Cheney runs the white house and that president is too dumb to do anymore than follow along passively.
Tommy Franks on page 349 of his autobiography:
Since 9/11, I'd attended four presidential briefings and more than twenty secure Video Teleconferences with the President and the National Security Council. Dick Cheney never asked more than one of two questions at each briefing, but they consistently cut to the core of the issue at hand. And he always sought information that would further President Bush's understanding of an important point. Cheney had been Secretary of Defense in the Gulf War, and I knew Bush had great respect for him.
Those Crazy Americans
Like all Iraqis, I hate Americans. Of course. Here is why:
The Americans, although they brought us freedom, acted without authorization from the United Nations. Arrogant Americans
The Americans, although they rescued us from Saddam Hussein, defied the will of many nations. Insular Americans.
The Americans won't leave Iraq, say newspaper reports. Get out, Americans!
Other newspaper reports say the Americans want to withdraw from Iraq as soon as possible after throwing us into chaos. Stay here, Americans!
The Americans spent tens of billions of dollars to liberate Iraq and help it become a prosperous democratic nation. Don't Americans care more about fixing their own problems? Crazy Americans.
The Americans started this whole war because of oil. That is why fuel costs are at record high levels in the US and is cheaper than water in Iraq. Selfish Americans.
The Americans are not using the necessary force to keep Iraq safe and secured. Lazy Americans! The Americans are also using excessive force in Iraq while dealing with the security problems. Brutal Americans!
The Americans support the Israeli terrorist government instead of the good peaceful people of Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Says it all. Violent Americans.
– Ali atIraqthemodel.com
Kerry's Flip Flop Olympics
Yes, you too can win a Gold medal! You may find this game to be more difficult to win, however, than anything at the one in Athems.
August 19, 2004
Anti-Americanism in Europe
The Wandering Mind has a very interesting piece on the causes of European anti-Americanism.
The author tells of a trip to Europe that he took some years ago. After dinner (and a few bottles of wine) his European guest asked him if he knew who so many Europeans were anti-American. Somewhat taken aback, our author objected. But his associate continued:
Europeans, he said, dislike Americans because, in a short period of human history, went on to surpass Europe in being the center of global influence. What was even worse, was that America was built by European 'garbage' as he put it. I started to object, but he immediately interrupted
He went on to explain that a century ago, Europe was only too happy to rid itself of the 'wretched refuse' and 'teeming masses'. The European elite and intellectuals thought that once rid of the annoying and newly demanding peasant class, Europe would once again regain it's rightful place as the center of the moral and political world, and thus preserve the imperialist relationships they had established, if not formally, then by necessity. Through benevolent noblesse oblige, Europe would assume control the economic and political fate of the 'lesser' nations. Without masses of lower classes, now demanding equitable political participation, Europe's destiny would be assured.
I was intrigued. he went on to explain further.Europe, he said, never got over the fact that, unleashed, those 'wretched refuse' and 'huddled masses'-- their very own-- went on to build success not only for themselves, but for their adopted country as well. He said that these unwanted masses of people understood what the elite and intellectuals of Europe never understood for themselves-- that given the opportunity, they were perfectly able to fend for themselves and succeed and thus become contributors.
Makes sense to me.
Of course, there seem to be as many explanations for European anti-Americanism as there are people who write about it. First, however, we need to define our terms:
Anti-Americanism is not merely criticism of particular policies or of a particular US president. It has become a sort of radical view that the USA is both wrong in principle and wrong in practice. It has become a generic, overt attack on America and on American standards, values and approaches, everywhere and in everything.Bob Kagan wrote about the "Power Gap" between the US and Europe in a Policy Review article a few years ago.
American military strength has produced a propensity to use that strength. Europe’s military weakness has produced a perfectly understandable aversion to the exercise of military power. Indeed, it has produced a powerful European interest in inhabiting a world where strength doesn’t matter, where international law and international institutions predominate, where unilateral action by powerful nations is forbidden, where all nations regardless of their strength have equal rights and are equally protected by commonly agreed-upon international rules of behavior.
He does not berate them for this attitude, but seeks to understand it. Their position is almost one of "if we can't lead then noone else can either."
Their tactics, like their goal, are the tactics of the weak. They hope to constrain American power without wielding power themselves.
We in the US have long attempted the Europeans to spend more on their militaries. They never did throughout the Cold War, and aren't going to start now. The Wandering Mind promises more on this topic. I'm going to follow his thread. Stay tuned.
The Predictable PCUSA
The Presbyterians are at it again. I wouldn't post on this except that they are a large church and considered somewhat "mainstream." You'd never guess how leftist the national leaders were just from knowing the people at your local denomination.
The 216th General Assembly was held in Richmond VA in June 26 - July 3, 2004. From the PCUSA (Presbyterian Church of the USA) website:
The paper on Iraq condemns the U.S. policy of pre-emptive military action against nations perceived as a threat to the United States as ethically indefensible and contrary to the “just war” theory that has been the basis of much Christian theology on warfare.
The paper approved by the Assembly calls the U.S.-led coalition's invasion of Iraq was “unwise, immoral and illegal,” and says further that, because it was not directly linked to the U.S. effort to deal with terrorism, it raises different moral questions than the U.S. bombing of Afghanistan in response to the Sept. 11 terror attacks on New York City and Washington, DC.
It also demands that the U.S. government “internationalize” the reconstruction effort in Iraq; that the United Nations play a leading role in recruiting and training Iraqis to re-establish the rule of law in the country, and reducing the role of the U.S. military as much as possible; and condemns “in the strongest possible terms” the torture and abuse of prisoners in U.S. custody anywhere in the world.
Unfortunately the stance on the Iraq war is not surprising. After all, the PCUSA is a member of the World Council of Churches (WCC), an organization that towed the Soviet line thoughout the Cold War. The PCUSA even links approvingly to an old WCC statement on the-then impending war in Iraq:
The Central Committee of the World Council of Churches, meeting in Geneva 26 August to 3 September, 2002:
Profoundly concerned and alarmed about the persistent efforts of the Government of the United States of America to gather international support for a new military action against Iraq with the stated objective of overthrowing the present government of Iraq;
The PCUSA, you see, believes that only the UN can authorize military action:
Remind President Bush that only the United Nations Security Council as a whole is capable of determining what qualifies as a breach of Security Council Resolution 1441 that provided for the return of weapons inspectors to Iraq.
They also advise young people to adopt "conscientious objector status" should the draft be reinstated (a singularly inappropriate concern for a post-Vietnam USA):
Tell young people about conscientious objector status. Use the resource Presbyterians and Military Service which is available online. There is no draft at the present time, however the process of establishing conscientious objector status can take time.I am not saying that the PCUSA must support the war. Nor am I saying that they should not discuss the moral and ethical issues of our time, such as war and peace. But if they're going to get involved in these issues, they need to at least address the issue honestly, and tell us what they would what would they do instead to rid the world of dictators such as Saddam Hussein. Unfortunately, a search of their website only reveals standard liberal nostroms, like "work for peace" - which means what? You can count on the PCUSA to take the liberal-left position on every issue.
August 18, 2004
Tommy Franks on George W Bush
On Gen. Tommy Franks first meeting with the president(p. 231):
When we were about to be seated for dinner, President Bush tapped a glass and said, "Bow with me, please." As he said grace, I was struck by both the eloquence and the simplicity of the prayer. And I ws reminded of the Pledge of Allegiance - One Nation, under God. There was a certain comfort in hearing the president of the United States pray to a "Heavenly Father." I was pleased on that night to have a man of faith on the White House.
And throughout the critical years of American history that followed, my opinion never changed.
Tommy Franks on Richard Clarke
I've been reading General Tommy Franks' excellent book "American Soldier", and he pulls no punches in his description of people. I like how he does it, too. He's not gratuitously mean, nor does he engage in ad hominem attacks. He lets the facts speak for themselves.
After being appointed CIC(Commander in Chief) of CENTCOM(Central Command) in 2000, Gen. Franks went to Washington for a series of meetings. One of the people he was to meet with was Richard Clarke, the counterterrorism specialist on the National Security Council(p.209-210). Franks met with Hugh Shelton, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, before going to see Clarke. Gen. Shelton warns him about Clarke:
"Clarke's been over at the NSC so long that he thinks he owns counterterrorism - and knows more about the subject than anybody in government," Hugh added. "He likes to talk, drops a lot of names, and thinks highly of himself. But in many ways he's not very practical. Be careful in dealing with him."
Wise advice, as Franks would learn.
Clarke's secretary had told my staff that he would see me in his "White House office." But the Pentagon driver took me to the Old Executive Office Building, a separate facility connected to the West Wing. A small point, I thought, as I climbed the marble stairs to Clarke's office.
I was interested in destroying the al Qaeda threat. But my visit with Clarke had not moved me any closer to that objective. I left his office hoping that my emphasis on practical solutions to real problems would spur him to home in on some real targeting opportunities. But I suspected that Dick was better at identifying a problem than at finding a workable solution.
Some months later Franks met with Clarke again(p. 226-227). Unfortunately Clarke was not any more helpful this time:
On January 9, 2001, in the waning days of the Clinton administration, Dick Clarke called me from the NSC to discuss the government's pursuit of Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda. He talked for a while without advancing any meaningful options. George Tenent had already briefed me on the Agency activities in Afghanistan and Central Asia, but I listened to Clarke patiently, because he said that the incoming administration was going to retain him in the counterterrorism position in the NSC.
As we spoke on the STU-III, Clarke shared sensitive information regarding the Predator Plus program. He told me the operation was moving ahead well and might soon reap results. He also said our HUMINT performance was improving, but did not elaborate.
"Great," I said. "We're standing by for target coordinates."
I never received a single operational recommendation, or a single page of actionable intelligence, from Richard Clarke.
Richard Clarke, it will be recalled, made a big splash earlier this year with the publication of his book "Against All Enemies." From the editor's review at Amazon:
Clarke, a veteran Washington insider who had advised presidents Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Clinton, and George W. Bush, dissects each man's approach to terrorism but levels the harshest criticism at the latter Bush and his advisors who, Clarke asserts, failed to take terrorism and Al-Qaeda seriously. Clarke details how, in light of mounting intelligence of the danger Al-Qaeda presented, his urgent requests to move terrorism up the list of priorities in the early days of the administration were met with apathy and procrastination and how, after the attacks took place, Bush and key figures such as Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, and Dick Cheney turned their attention almost immediately to Iraq, a nation not involved in the attacks.
Since then, Clarke's own credibility has been called into question on several occasions. Condolezza Rice undercut his claims in her testimony before the 9/11 commission. Clarke's claim that "fighting terrorism in general and fighting al-Qaeda in particular were an extraordinarily high priority in the Clinton administration," turns out to be not true.
Unfit for Command
"Unfit for Command" is being excerpted by the Washington Times this week. Check out the first installment here. Today's piece discusses his controversial Purple Heart awards.
Interestingly, if you look up the book on Amazon, you'll see that all nine customer reviews are by liberals who viciously attack the book. Most are ad hominem attacks without any substance. Looks like a "vast left wing conspiracy" at work here to discredit it, and do so quickly. They're scared, folks, and it shows.
August 17, 2004
And the Winner of the "We Told You So" Category is:
The federal assault-weapons ban, scheduled to expire in September, is not responsible for the nation's steady decline in gun-related violence and its renewal likely will achieve little, according to an independent study commissioned by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ).
Told you so. Or rather, gun owners like me have been saying this for years. We know perfectly well that "assault weapons" are hardly the weapons of choice for criminals.
The Washington Times has obtained a copy of the yet to be officially released report. The National Institute of Justice is part of the federal Department of Justice. They are to the DOJ what the Bureau of Labor Statistics is to the Department of Labor; a non-partisan bureau tasked with data collection.
"We cannot clearly credit the ban with any of the nation's recent drop in gun violence. And, indeed, there has been no discernible reduction in the lethality and injuriousness of gun violence," said the unreleased NIJ report, written by Christopher Koper, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania.
"It is thus premature to make definitive assessments of the ban's impact on gun violence. Should it be renewed, the ban's effects on gun violence are likely to be small at best and perhaps too small for reliable measurement," said the report, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Times.
The report also noted that assault weapons were "rarely used in gun crimes even before the ban."
Not exactly what Sarah Brady and her cohorts told us would happen.
The March 1999 Study
None of this is new. A study by the NIJ in March of 1999 told us exactly the same thing. The studies conclusion:
The public safety benefits of the 1994 ban have not yet been demonstrated.
The study did note that not enough time had passed to provide a definitive conclusion, hence the "yet" in the above sentence. However, with the new report, it should be clear that the "assault weapon" ban was largely an exercise in politics.
What is an "Assault Weapon" anyway?
This touches on one of the most controversial aspects of the gun-control debate.
Some will tell you that an assault weapon is "basically a semi-automatic firearm with a military appearance."
Others are a bit more clear in making sense of the current situation.
A genuine assault weapon, as opposed to a legal definition, is a hand-held, selective fire weapon, which means it's capable of firing in either an automatic or a semiautomatic mode depending on the position of a selector switch. These kinds of weapons are heavily regulated by the National Firearms Act of 1934 and are further regulated in some states. (See machine guns.)
However, current "assault weapon" legislation defines certain semi-automatic weapons as "assault weapons." A semi-automatic weapon is one that fires a round with each pull of the trigger, versus an automatic weapon which continues to shoot until the trigger is released or the ammunition supply is exhausted. These kinds of "assault weapons" are sometimes referred to as military-style semi-automatic weapons.
The Bottom Line
Still confused? Here's the bottom line: "Assault Weapon" is a term used to scare people. It has little real meaning today. The original definition was to describe fully-automatic shoulder fired weapons, commonly called "machine guns". In the early '90's the gun-control lobby redefined the term to mean any "military looking" weapon. In other words, any weapon they didn't like got redefined as an "assault weapon". They used it in an attempt to frighten people into agreeing with their proposed legislation. The media gladly parroted their words, and liberal legislators, knowing the effectiveness of words, picked up on this new definition of "assault weapon". The Brady Bill became law.
Ich bin ein Immigrant
Teresa Heinz Kerry, the first-lady-wannabe who let us all know that she speaks five(?) languages, is at it again.
"In a hokey attempt to help her husband score points with Mexican-American audiences, Teresa Heinz Kerry will now and then inform them that she's 'an immigrant, too.'
"Yeah, and I'm Pancho Villa," Dallas Morning News columnist Ruben Navarette wrote yesterday.
"All this talk about how John F. Kerry wants to grow up to be John F. Kennedy, and here it's Teresa who sets out to lay claim to Kennedy's legacy of empathy. 'Ich bin ein immigrant.' "
Why can't these people just be themselves? FDR never tried to hide the fact that he grew up rich and lived rich. He never tried to be someone he wasn't. He let the force of his ideas speak for themselves. He connected with people though "fireside chats", frank, honest talk about the Great Depression and what he planned to do about it. Ronald Reagan also never pandered in this fashion. He was who he was and that was that. John Kerry and his wife need to drop the pretense.
Kerry's other Vietnam Problem
Over the past few days a new story about John Kerry and his time in Vietnam has come out:
John Kerry and David Alston
Kerry's campaign keeps pointing to the men who sailed with Kerry on PCF-44 and PCF-94. One of them, David Alston, spoke at the Democratic convention in support of Kerry and remarked constantly about their service together.
But did Alston, who suffered real and serious wounds from battle, ever actually serve on Kerry's boat as he and Kerry claim?
The captain's research called this claim into question.
For years now we have been lead to believe that both Sen. Kerry and the Rev. David Alston had served together on the PCF-94 in Vietnam, and therefore, making David Alston an eyewitness to Kerry's actions and heroism. The fact that Sen. Kerry has used a now famous photo of himself together with David Alston and other crewmates while serving on swift boats in Vietnam, left little reason to believe otherwise. As with most anything having to do with Sen. Kerry -- nothing is ever as it first appears to be.
Alston was a speaker at the Democratic National Convention in which he repeated his claim that he served with John Kerry on his swift boat in Vietnam.
Captain Ed provides evidence that David Alston never served with John Kerry. The essence of the discrepancy with Alston's story is a "timeline problem". Tom "River Rat" Mortensen did some research and reported to Capain Ed that:
Kerry was on PCF-44 until at least until 21 January 69. He was in Saigon with Zumwalt on 22 Jan 69 (see below). Alston and Peck were wounded on 29 January 69. Below you will see they claim Alston was on the PCF-94 from “late January to mid-march” . This is impossible as Alston was wounded and hospitalized. There is no mention of Fred Short who received a medal, NCM w/c V, for the “Silver Star” action on 28 Feb 69.
I’m beginning to think the photo of Kerry with Alston was taken between 23 Jan and 29 Jan. For what reason, I don’t know. It may have been that Kerry was in a “crew familiarization” period with the guys on PCF-94 before the action that wounded and hospitalized Peck and Alston. What it says is Alston never served under Kerry’s command as he was wounded and hospitalized on the 29th. There is no record of Kerry being aboard PCF-94 on 29 Jan.
Here's why: David Alston received career-ending wounds in a January1969 mission on swiftboat PCF-94, which at the time was commanded by Del Sandusky. His wounds were so serious "that he was medevaced out to a hospital with head wounds and no records indicate that he ever returned to the unit." Fred Short replaced Alston on the boat Kerry, however, did not take command until January 30, 1969.
Indeed, in a picture of John Kerry and his swiftboat crew, taken on March 6, 1969, David Alston is nowhere to be seen. While it is possible he simply missed being in this photo, that is questionable because the photo shows a full compliment for a swiftboat of one officer and five crew. Further, the photo was taken after a ceremony in which Kerry was awarded the Silver Star. You would think that he would be present for this type of event.
But maybe they did serve together
Byron York of National Review checked into this story and his conclusion is that Alston did serve with Kerry, though only for a week or two. Further, they were only in combat together for two days. York interviewed Fred Short, Alston's replacement as gunner on PCF-94. and found him to be a credible witness:
In light of the timeline and interviews with the participants, it seems likely that Alston's time with Kerry was at most two weeks, and, if Short's recollection is correct, as little as one week. Given that, it is possible that some of Alston's public statements might have left audiences with the impression that he and Kerry were together for a longer period of time.
Given the timeline of events, it is understandable how Captain Ed reached his conclusion.
In addition, Alston has on at least one occasion seemed to give the impression that he was present for Kerry's Silver Star-winning actions on February 28
Kerry has sometimes left the impression that he was present when Alston was wounded.
However, York says, Alston was not present during that battle. At best, Kerry has been caught exaggerating his war experience. At worst the two of them have misrepresented their time together.
Captain Ed's Response
The captain seems to agree with York that maybe Kerry and Alston did serve together, even if for a short period of time. He does cite evidence, however, that casts doubt on Short as a credible witness.
Short gave an interview on April 29, 2003, in support of John Kerry in the early days of the campaign. In that interview, Short wildly exaggerated the ambush that Kerry fought through on 13 March.
Hoist by his own Petard
John Kerry has so far refused to release his full service records. This while using that record as the primary reason why voters should choose him in November. If Kerry's version of events is true, he could put an end to stories questioning his actions in Vietnam if he released those records. Why won't he?
The issues of whether David Alston served with John Kerry is still in doubt, in my opinion. Alston may be telling the truth. But this is one more discrepancy that John Kerry needs to clear up. If he had simply used his Vietnam service as one more "bullet point" on his resume, I'd say that we shouldn't pursue these stories. But he has made it central to his campaign. No doubt Kerry partisans will go on the attack and say that those who pursue these stories are "questioning his patriotism" or some such tripe. But Kerry cannot at once use his service as a central reason why voters should choose him as president, and then attack those who investigate that record.
Thank you to Mark from Colorado for alerting me to this breaking story.
Some bloggers dispute Byron York's version of events here. I don't have time to go through the whole thing now, but their conlusion is that "The evidence still shows David Alston never served under Sen. Kerry and that David Alston and the rest of Kerry's "Band of Brothers" still refuse to tell the truth."
August 16, 2004
WMD sent to Syria?
The Washington Times reports this morning on the continuing controversy over what happened to Saddams weapons of mass destruction. It has long been speculated that he was able to spirit them out of the country at the last minute, with the most likely destination being Syria. That our 4th Infantry Division was denied a northern attack route by Turkey may have kept that escape route open.
Today we learn that in fact there were suspicious activities going on at the Iraqi-Syria border:
Saddam Hussein periodically removed guards on the Syrian border and replaced them with his own intelligence agents who supervised the movement of banned materials between the two countries, U.S. investigators have discovered.
These trusted agents may have been put in place when WMD were sent across the border.
Two defense sources told The Washington Times that the ISG has interviewed Iraqis who told of Saddam's system of dispatching his trusted Iraqi Intelligence Service (IIS) to the border, where they would send border inspectors away. The shift was followed by the movement of trucks in and out of Syria suspected of carrying materials banned by U.N. sanctions. Once the shipments were made, the agents would leave and the regular border guards would resume their posts.
Of course, this does not prove that WMD was being sent across the border. But it is certainly possible, and it is suspicious. There was an increase in truck traffic just prior to the war.
"I think personally that those below the senior leadership saw what was coming, and I think they went to some extraordinary lengths to dispose of the evidence," said Gen. Clapper, who heads the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency. "I'll call it an 'educated hunch.' " ... Of activity on the Syrian border, Gen. Clapper said, "There is no question that there was a lot of traffic, increase in traffic up to the immediate onset of combat and certainly during Iraqi Freedom. ... The obvious conclusion one draws is the sudden upturn, uptick in traffic which may have been people leaving the scene, fleeing Iraq and unquestionably, I'm sure, material as well.
Read the whole thing.
An Olympic photo
Check it out here.
Thanks to Chief Wiggles for finding it first.
P.S. As I wrote last week, the Chief if having troubles with his shipping company, Atlas. The latest is that while their problems with Atlas have not been resolved, shipments of donated items have resumed at full capacity.
August 12, 2004
Pictures from Afghanistan
The following pictures were sent to me by Maj. Juan Jose Soto Perez, U.S. Army, who is fighting on the front lines there in the War on World Terrorism. Readers will recall that he sent a letter last week which I posted on the site.
The memorials remind me that wel need to set them up here too. I'm not aware of any in my area, but this is something I'll have to look into. We need to remind ourselves periodically of the sacrifices our troops are making.
The efforts of the soldiers, sailors, and airmen in places like Afghanistan may not make the papers every day but their efforts are going to win this war. My hat is off to them and they are in my prayers every day.
"Soldiers Memorial" - Picture
Picture from Afghanistan by Maj
August 11, 2004
A Sailor's story of 9/11
Immediately after the two airplanes hit the World Trade Towers the USS Ramage pulled out of Norfolk. They headed north to act as "plane guard" for New York City.
One of the sailors on board, Jeremy Bol, relates a story of one of their encounters with a civilian aircraft in the days following 9/11:
Our job was to listen in on the different radio signals to see if we could hear anything special going on or as a second ear for the bridge when planes wanted to land in New York. (Lets just say we weren't too friendly about people flying around at the time..."This is U.S. Navy WAR Ship. State your name, call sign, .........". We didn't even say what ship we were. The response I remember most was some brit pilot scared half out of his wits saying " this is such-and-such airlines flight xxx-xxxx...umm...please don't shoot."
Read the whole thing. His website is called "American Warmonger" and I've added him to my blogroll.
Jeremy Bol has clarified that he is no longer in the navy. As he says on his website, "Now it's time for me to indulge in what I swore to protect: FREEDOM."
August 10, 2004
Strategic Offensive I:
What we have Achieved in the War on Terror
I have been convinced for some time that there are a fair amount of people in the world who have not grasped the enormity of what we have done in Iraq.
To them we have panel opened a new era of danger by needlessly provoking Muslims. They say we have overreacted to 9/11. To them the war in Iraq was at best unnecessary, at worst immoral and unjustified.
They are not only mistaken, they have no strategic vision.
For what we have done is nothing short of revolutionary. We have gone to the heart of the enemy camp and destroyed his headquarters. We have seized his leaders and forced the others to flee for their lives. We have grabbed them by the throat and are slowly but surely strangling them.
No more are we probing the enemy listening posts and attacking selected, weakly defended targets. No more are we simply skirting around the periphery.
For a new Iraq, secure in it's borders and with a new spirit of freedom, will shine a light to the countries in the rest of the Arab and Muslim world. That light has already revealed those regimes to be decadent, corrupt, and uncaring towards their own citizens.
Nothing so far has been achieved without great difficulty. Harder times are sure to come. A safe and secure Iraq is not at all assured. Our experiment could still go awry, and Iraq could fall to the Jihadists.
The Nature of the Enemy
It will be objected that since the regime in Iraq was secular, it had no connection with religious terrorism in general or al Qaeda in particular. If they even concede the religious nature of the enemy they say that the terrorist organization is based on a fundamentalist(yet distorted) reading of the Koran, and Saddam was their enemy as much as ours. That this view has been shown to be incorrect (see here and here) does not disuade them.
This is a fundamental misreading of the situation. Al Qaeda is indeed an organization based on a fundamentalist reading of the Koran. Osama bin Laden's goal is to establish a seventh-century Caliphate across the Middle East. Thousands of Muslims have joined his organization, and millions more are sympathetic to it's goals.
One primary reason that they have joined or are sympathetic is that their own governments are corrupt and unresponsive to their needs. They are frustrated by the inability of their governments to provide for their needs, and are embarrassed by their military ineptness and technological backwardness. Saddam Hussein's regime was no different in this regard. It simply stood out because it was more overtly brutal than the others in the region.
As such, Iraq was a particularly virulent cancer in the Middle East. Saddam's regime was uniquely destabilizing. As I have written before, the situation was intolerable and the status quo unsustainable.
As a result of these conditions young Arab/Muslim men looked for an answer to their problems. Radical Islam appeared to provide those answers. Al Qaeda is simply the vehicle.
The nature of the governments in the Middle East is therefore a prime cause of terrorism. In order for conditions to improve, they must be changed. Ideally they will change through an evolutionary process, as revolution is an uncertain and dangerous business. We had no choice in Iraq, and the hope is that this serves as a beacon of hope to the people of the region, and as a ray of warning to their leaders.
To be sure, there are other causes for Muslim terrorism; the lack of a secular tradition, various cultural attitudes, and some of the teachings of Islam are problems. I do not wish to pursue those here, however.
What must be Done
During the worst days of the Cold War the threat of nuclear war kept us from doing anything more than simply containing the Soviet Empire. Only when they had become visibly decadent could we speak of true "rollback." And even then we could apply our military forces only at the periphery of the empire, at places such as Grenada.
But there is no such threat from the Arab and Muslim worlds. The worst-case scenario is that the terrorists could sneak one or more nuclear weapons into our cities. Such an attack is horrible to contemplate, but it would not end our civilization. That the Soviets could do so limited our options severely. We face no such limitations today.
On Strategy and Tactics
By invading Iraq not long after Afghanistan we maintained the Strategic Offensive. An understanding of this concept is crucial to whether we will succeed or fail in this war.
Strategy is the art and science of employing the forces of a nation to achieve the desired political result. These forces include not only military power, but economic, political, psychological, economic, and social forces as well. For example, North Vietnam was able to use our democracy against us during that war. The actions of the protestors sapped our strength and made us doubt the rightness of our cause. These factors are every bit as important as those which occur on the battlefield
Tactics are the minutiae of combat. They are the means by which one employs forces on the battlefield.
Karl von Clausewitz said that we needed to distinguish between "that which is merely preparation for war and war proper." The former is the tactics, the latter the strategy. In other words, it is one thing to train and equip an army. It is quite another to use that force to achieve the desired result.
It is crucial to understand that success on the battlefield (tactics) does not necessarily translate into overall success(strategy). A 1975 conversation in Hanoi illustrates the point:
"You know you never defeated us on the battlefield," said the American colonel.We can say that we defeated the Vietnamese on the battlefield all we want. Saigon, however, is now Ho Chi Minh City. There is more to winning wars than what occurs on the battlefield, which is a lesson we forgot during that war.
The North Vietnamese colonel pondered this remark a moment. "That may be so," he replied, "but it is also irrelevant."
The North Vietnamese were on the strategic offensive during the war. That they were also on the tactical defensive during most of it did not prevent their eventual success. Our refusal to invade the north or seriously attempt to disrupt operations on the Ho Chi Minh trail placed us on the strategic defensive, whether we wanted to admit it or not.
The purpose here is not to analyze that war in detail. Rather it is to set the stage for a discussion of the current one.
We must remain on the strategic offensive if we are to win the War on Terror.
John Kerry and his supporters imagine that "strong diplomacy" coupled with police-type actions would also place us on the offensive. They could not be more mistaken. This strategy of theirs is strictly defensive. The enemy would be the ones "calling the shots" and we would be relegated to a role of pursuit. That we would be on the tactical offensive by carrying forth raids by special forces would only give the illusion of offense. Our victories on the battlefield would not result in positive results in the general campaign.
By carrying the war to the enemy we have forced them to fight where we want to fight, at a time and place of our choosing. That they are carrying out ambushes and bombings does not change this, for these are merely tactical offensives, and do not change the basic nature of the campaign. By carrying the war to them we are on the offensive. We have taken the war into their neighborhood, and by doing so have kept it out of ours. As Dick Morris recently observed, “The fact is, that the reason we have not been attacked in the United States is that the terrorists are fleeing from cave to cave in Afghanistan and from building to building in Iraq — pursued by our heroic young men and women.”
The Strategic Offensive is not without risks. They have been well documented elsewhere, so there is no need to list them here. Yet we must be cognizant of what exactly constitutes a risk. We would do well to consider the words of Confederate General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson;
Never take council of your fears
Col Harry Summers evaluates this advice;
The key word is not "fears" since only a fool would disregard the very real dangers of the battlefield. The key word is "counsel" because if fears dominate thinking the resulting paralysis will only increase the hazard.
Jackson, as a student of history, knew what he was talking about.
In Vietnam we allowed our fear of creating a "wider war" to paralyze our thinking. The result was a multitude of restrictions on the targets our pilots could attack. Our fears were not unjustified, for the danger of a wider war was quite real. In the Korean War we turned a successful eight-month campaign to defeat the North Koreans into a bloody three year stalemate against the Chinese. We had ignored the danger that they might intervene and paid the price. However, we were so paralyzed by this fear in Vietnam that we lost all ability to think strategically.
We must not allow that to happen again. We must be quite sensitive the danger of a collapse of the Saudi regime, for example, but we should think creatively to overcome such a possibility. Taking calculated risks is acceptable, gambling with the lives of our soldiers is not.
The Alternative View
The alternative view seems restricted to the headlines of the day. The latest bombing, kidnapping, prison scandal photos, is all they see. They imagine that resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will have magical results. They fail to see that while resolution of that conflict would deprive the Jihadists of a recruiting slogan, it is not central to their demands. Others say that it is poverty that has caused so many to take up arms against us. Yet even a casual survey of the terrorists we face tells us that most of them came from solidly middle-class backgrounds. More to the point, virtually none of Osama bin Laden's demands are economic.
The alternative course of action recommended by the left would have no effect on the regimes in the Middle East. They would have no reason to change their policies. The people would have no cause for hope. Life as usual would simply go on.
And of course there is the fact that most of them simply abhor American power. They are embarrassed by who we are as a country and our role in the world. Witness the reaction to one of Mel Gibson's films, The Patriot. The left attacked the movie as jingoistic. The scene where Mel Gibson's character seizes the American flag and rallies the troops to victory was simply too much for the liberals to take.
The choice is clear; stay on the stategic offensive and the road to victory, or delude ourselves with a false strategy.
How will the Troops Vote?
Who will the troops in Iraq vote for in the presidential election? Here's what one soldier in Iraq has to say:
It's a mixed bag, as we should have predicted. I can understand how some soldiers could be mad a Bush. Let's face it, we did get the intelligence wrong on the WMD(maybe they did spirit it out of the country or bury it at the last minute, but we don't know that for certain yet). And virtually noone thought that the insurgency would be as fierce as it is.
The soldiers I know in the Army who are voting for Kerry in this election (which is a lot more than people would think) are voting for him because they're pissed off at Bush. They're pissed off because of Stop Loss, tour extensions, underestimating the amount of troops needed for Iraq, the Weapons of Mass destruction thing, the legitimacy of coming to Iraq, and they feel Kerry might also get us out of here faster. Stuff like that.
The soldiers I know who are voting for Bush are voting for him because they support him 110% on his Global War On Terrorism, and there is no shadow of a doubt that we did the right thing coming to Iraq. They feel Bush is doing a great job so far out here. A lot of the guys remember what happened to the military the last time a Democrat was in office. The guys I know who served in the military during the Clinton years, tell me all sorts of horror stories about the budget cuts. How they couldn't get any good training done, because they had no money for ammunition or anything. In training, if they ran out of bullets to fire, they would yell "Bang! Bang! Bang!" or yell "Budget Cuts! Budget Cuts! Budget Cuts!" to simulate shots being fired. Since Bush has been in office, we've never had those kinds of problems and there has been nothing but improvements in the military, we've had a couple small pay raises, and the quality of life has gone extremely up for people in the military.
And then there's people like me, who, even though he's kind of a nut, just might vote for Ralph Nader, just because he's the F-U vote.
That said, in another post he says that most of the troops support the war.
Send them a Letter
Slagelrock is coordinating an effort to send letters to our troops on the front lines. Stop by and help him out. They need to hear from us, and we need to let them know that we do support them and appreciate what they do.
His letter-writing campaign was inspired by a very disturbing letter sent from Iraq by Sgt Joe Roche. Last month he wrote a letter to Amy Ridenour that told of the effect that Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 was having on young troops who saw it:
Michael Moore's film, Fahrenheit 9/11, is making the rounds here at U.S. bases in Kuwait. Some soldiers have received it already and are passing is around. The impact is devastating.
Here we are, soldiers of the 1st Armored Division, just days from finally returning home after over a year serving in Iraq, and Moore's film is shocking and crushing soldiers, making them feel ashamed. Moore has abused the First Amendment and is hurting us worse than the enemy has.
There are the young and impressionable soldiers, like those who joined the Army right out of high school. They aren't familiar w/ the college-type political debate environment, and they haven't been schooled in the full range of issues involved. They are vulnerable to being hurt by a vicious film like Moore's.
We know this is all based on Moore's lies and deceptions. But we, I'm afraid, are a minority. Right now, just days away from what should be a proud and happy return from 15 months of duty in Operation Iraqi Freedom, your U.S. soldiers are coming back ashamed and hurt because of Moore's work.
Read the whole thing, and then go send the troops a let
August 7, 2004
More Multicultural Follies
If anything this story makes me more angry than the one in Miami about the employee fired for eating pork in the lunchroom. I'm reasonably sure that Lina Morales will win her case, and that most Americans see her as being in the right.
The New York Times today (August 4) reported on efforts in Canada to allow Muslims to apply Sharia in disputes over property, inheritance, marriage and divorce. The Times is late in reporting on the establishment of the Islamic Institute of Civil Justice in Canada. In “Justice Canadian Style,” responding to an April 28 article in the Washington Post addressing the same subject, I argued that Sharia is the antithesis of civil justice.
The Times report is distinguished from that of the Post by quotations that boggle the mind and reasoning that demands comment. For example, in introducing what would seem to be a Canadian multicultural ideal, the Times wrote, “The late Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau dreamed of a Canada in which distinctive customs and identities could live side by side in harmony. Turning nationalism on its head, there would be no dominant Canadian identity, no melting pot, no official culture.
The Times continued, “H. Donald Forbes, a political science professor at the University of Toronto, said he cannot be sure how Mr. Trudeau would have responded to the idea of Shariah tribunals, “but I think he would go along.” He added that as long as the arbitration is voluntary, Mr. Trudeau would probably have concluded that “this kind of meaningful accommodation was in the spirit of multiculturalism.””
What worries me is how American liberals are increasingly taking their lead from foreign countries. We're always hearing about the wonderful government-run health care in Canada and Sweden, and even Supreme Court Justices are citing foreign law.
Application of Shariah will present them with a dilemna, and I'm not sure how they'll work it out. On the one hand the dictates of multiculturalism demand acquiescence to minority demands (well, "oppressed" minorities anyway. Successful Asians need not apply). On the other, Shariah is anathema to Western beliefs.
I saw the battle lines drawn a few years ago when some Muslim women demanded to have their drivers license pictures taken while in full veil. The response of most politicians was quite tepid, with few willing to come out and say that their demand was ridiculous.
August 6, 2004
Kerry the Clueless
Yesterday I was watching Fox News(naturally) I saw a clip of John Kerry giving a speech. Then he said something that almost made me fall down:
"First of all, had I been reading to children, and had my top aide whispered in my ear, 'America is under attack,' I would have told those kids very politely and nicely that the president of the United States had business that he needed to attend to, and I would have attended to it,"
Unbelievable. Of course today it's front page news, at least in the Washington Times. I checked the on-line edition of the Washington Post but didn't see the story there.
What does this guy think he was going to do? Order F-15s around? Move firetrucks around New York City? Short of ordering a nuclear strike, the president does not get involved in the minutiae of decision making. That's why we have a national command structure. You know, John, generals, fire chiefs, and all that?
Sounds also like he's echoing Michael Moore. Don't tell me that Moore represents a fringe element in the Democratic party. Sounds like he's been mainstreamed, too, along with Evil Al. As I recall reading somewhere Moore was invited to sit in Jimmy Carter's box seat at the convention.
And then today this story:
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry has called for greatly increasing the size of U.S. special operations forces. Trouble is, if you talk to the folks in commando country at Fort Bragg, N.C., it's not that easy. Here's what one covert warrior told us:Oh but his military experience makes him uniquely qualified to be president.
"Special Forces [Green Berets] has been trying to drastically increase in size for the last five years. You don't just wave a magic wand and produce Special Forces soldiers. First of all, they are volunteers, and how many people out there want to, and are willing to, do the things we do? "The training facilities are finite. There are just so many that can push through the pipeline each year without lowering standards and cutting corners on training. The Clinton years gave us a drastically reduced Army. Since the Army is the pool from which we draw our recruits, normally on their second enlistment, where does he think we get enough candidates for SF training? "This shows his fundamental lack of understanding of Special Forces and how we work. President Bush and [Donald Rumsfeld] get it. They've let us do the things that we've trained for and advocated for years."
Chief Wiggles Update
As I reported yesterday, the Chief is having trouble with his shipping company. Today he reports that they did send a check, but there are insufficient funds in the bank to cover it.
This morning, we received an email from Barwil, the Kuwait company who was supposed to receive the $30,000 in security deposits from Atlas Line. They informed us that a check finally arrived for $20,000. The check was a company check from Atlas and not a bank check or cashier's check. Barwil informed us that it would take at least 20 days for them to cash the check and receive confirmation of funds deposited in their account. They asked us what we wished to do.
After recieving this information, we called Bank of America as that is the bank Atlas Line wrote the check from. We explained the reciept of the $20,000 check and asked if there were funds available to cover it in the account from which it was drawn.
Bank of America informed us that there were insufficient funds to cover that amount in the account.
Today's discoveries have been passed on to our attorneys and to the Attorney Generals office of the state of Georgia.
Above the Law
A Saudi envoy who allegedly carried out a sex attack on an 11-year-old girl has escaped prosecution after claiming diplomatic immunity.
The 41-year-old official, who works at the Saudi embassy in London, is alleged to have attacked the girl at a party at the home of another diplomat. He was arrested and taken to a local police station but immediately claimed diplomatic immunity.
Detectives were forced to release him without charge or an investigation as diplomats have legal immunity and cannot be prosecuted in the country in which they are staying.
A police source said: "It is very frustrating. It was a very serious allegation but there is nothing we can do."
August 5, 2004
The Chief helps run a charity, Operation Give, which sends toys to needy kids in Iraq. Click on over and see if you can help him out.
The Dilemma's of a Multiculturalist
If you're a committed multiculturalist, stories like this one must drive you crazy:
Oh the horror! Muslims had to watch someone eat pork.
A woman is suing her former employer, a telecommunications firm with Muslim workers and clients, claiming she was fired because she ate pork products in the company lunchroom.
Pork is unclean, according to Islamic beliefs, and Rising Star Telecommunications CEO Kujaatele Kweli said his company has a policy against openly eating or preparing the meat.
But the attorney for Lina Morales, an administrative assistant fired in March 2003, said the company admits there is no written policy against pork. And when Morales complained she was being disciplined for a policy of which she was unaware, she was fired for insubordination.
This story brings up a number of issues.
First, and rarely discussed, is the freedom an employer should have in setting workplace rules. As a halfway-libertarian, I'm willing to cut them some slack. I would typically give employers more rights than they currently have. Anathema to extreme civil-rights types, but there it is. However, in this case I think the employer went too far.
The larger question is the quandary of the multiculturalists over these sorts of situations. On the one hand they preach that we must respect all traditions. We must not "offend" anyone with overt displays of religion. As a result, the very word "Christmas" has been banned in the workplace, government and private industry alike.
But what situations where minority groups attempt to impose their beliefs on us? We now have demands that "Kwanza" be equated with Christmas and Hanukkah in "winter holiday" celebrations. On the one hand the multiculturalist must avoid "offending" the minority. On the other there has got to be a point where they say "enough is enough."
The rules in the Florida workplace also illustrate how many Muslims demand that we respect them but they refuse the same to us. You can be sure that if the shoe were on the other foot, and a Christian employer fired a Muslim, the incident would be all over the TV and in the headlines of the major newspapers.
It is my hope that many if not most Muslims in the US are probably as outraged by what the Florida employer did as I am.
Personally, I don't understand how someone could be offended at all by what someone else does. If my neighbor wants to put up a Hahukkah or Ramadan display( if there is any such thing for Ramadan) why should I care? If they want to talk about their holidays at work, what do I care? How does it offend me? I've never understood such things.
August 4, 2004
Presidents and Military Experience
In case you didn't know, John Kerry served in Vietnam. In combat, no less.
According to the Democrats this makes him uniquely qualified to be president. .
Their argument is that there is a positive correlation between combat experience and performance as president in foreign policy/military affairs. The opposite of which is that if you don't have combat experience you will be a poor president.
I've said it once and I'll say it again: There is no evidence that military service, let alone combat experience, affects one's performance as president.
In the interests of full disclosure, I have never served in the military.
Let's take a little walk through history and see what we find.
Barbary Coast Pirates 1801 - 1805 (1) Thomas Jefferson was president. No military experience. We were right to go to war against the north African pirates, although we did not achieve our goal of ending payments of tribute to them. It did at least weaken them, and it showed American resolve in a situation that required action. I'm going to give Jefferson an A for resolve, but only a C for his conduct of the war. A "B" grade overall.
War of 1812: 1812 - 1815 (2) James Madison was president. He had never served in the military. His conduct of the war was mixed. We gained none of our original war aims, but did garner world respect for confronting Great Britain over their impressment of American seamen. I give Madison a C.
Mexican War: 1846 - 1848 (3) James Polk was president. Polk never served in the military. Not all of our actions were admirable, but my decidedly un-PC view is that the war was inevitable and we largely did the right thing. Mexico may have laid claim to vast regions of what is today the southwestern US, but they controlled most of it in name only. The people of that area are better off today living under the US than they would be under Mexico. The American Indians (another un-PC term I realize) were going to be conquered by someone. It's a sad fact but there it is. I give Polk a B.
Civil War: 1861-65 (4) Abraham Lincoln, president. Lincoln had no military experience. One of the most interesting aspects of this war was how long it took the Federal Army to get it's act together. The outnumbered and outgunned Conferderate army defeated northern armies regularly for almost two full years. That Lincoln kept the north in the war is a tribute to his leadership. It is perhaps not commonly recognized that opposition to the war was quite fierce in the north, culminating in the draft riots that shook New York City in 1863. Things even got so bad that a former Union general, George McClellan, was able to run as a "peace" candidate against Lincoln in the 1864 election, this being over three years into the war. For keeping the war effort going in the face of stiff opposition, and for his willingness to fire generals until he got one who would fight, Lincoln gets an A+
Spanish - American War: 1898 (5) William McKinley was president. McKinley had served as a private in the Union Army during the Civil War. Like all of the other Republican presidents in the post-Civil War era, he used his war record to win election, doing what was then called"waving the bloody shirt". Here, too, I am going to take an un-PC view; that we did the right thing by entering the war and the world is the better for our actions. McKinley entered the war hesitatingly, which is a plus in my book as one should never be eager for conflict. I give McKinley a B.
The casus belli of the war was the sinking of the battleship Maine. We blamed it on a Spanish mine, when in all probability it was an internal explosion caused by coal dust. So our reason for going to war was flawed, which is why he doesn't get an A. It was obvious even at the time to sober observers that the probablility of a Spanish mine was remote. Yet the world is better off for us having done gone to war
There is of course a parallel here with the invasion of Iraq. Let's just get this out of the way right now: President Bush used WMD as the major reason for going to war with Iraq, and we didn't find what we expected to find. Unlike the Spanish-American war, however, there was overwhelming evidence that Saddam had WMD. The world is a better place for us having invaded, current difficulties notwithstanding.
World War I/The Great War: 1917-18(U.S. involvement) (6) Woodrow Wilson was president. No military experience. Wilson is, I think, the most overrated president in history. That most presidential ratings are done by liberal professors tells you why. My take is a bit different, but I am sympathetic to the position he found himself in in 1917. The war in Europe was pointless, with neither side really occupying the moral high ground. While the weight of the blame can be laid at Germany's feet, the British and French were hardly blameless themselves. The conduct of the war by the generals was atrocious, with millions of men dying in battles that gained them nothing. To be fair to Wilson, it would have been very difficult to resist the calls to war after publication of the Zimmerman Telegram and the sinking of the Lusitania. However, he set himself up by using "he kept us out of war" as his campaign slogan in 1916. He should have stuck to that pledge.
Even worse was his conduct after the war. His "Fourteen Points", which is one reason the liberal historians love him, was an exercise in naivete. He handled the proposed American entry into the League of Nations (another reason the liberals love him) badly, all of which culminated in a return to American isolationism. All of this resulted in our desire to stay out of the Second World War even when it was obvious that Nazi Germany had to be defeated. I give Wilson a D, and I'm being nice.
World War II: 1941-45 (U.S. involvement) (7) Franklin Delano Roosevelt was president. No military experience. FDR is in my opinion the greatest president of the twentieth century(Reagan being #2), partially for his leadership during this time of great danger. I rate him highly for two reasons; one, his conduct before the war, and two, his conduct during the war.
As stated earlier, the US returned to isolationist sentiments after WWI. When war broke out in Europe again in September of 1939, the US was firmly on the sidelines. Although most Americans sympathized with the British, we did not want to get involved. Yet FDR knew that if Great Britain were to fall, Europe may never be recoverable (the reason being complicated military stuff I don't have time to get into here). There were two things that needed to be done to stave off British defeat; keep the sea lanes open so they could continue to receive imports, and second, ship to them badly needed war material. There was much opposition in the US to our doing either.
FDR waged an undeclared, semi-secret war against German U-Boats during1941 (8), well before Pearl Harbor. He did this in the face of public opposition, with some polls showing up to 80% of the public wanting no involvement in the war(9). FDR could see the evil of Nazism, that it needed to be defeated, and that it would only occur if we got involved. He got us involved long before the public was ready to do so. This was true leadership, not poll-following.
He also proved an excellent wartime president. It is tempting to look back on conflicts such as World War II and view ithem as glorious crusades(there's another un-PC term) where we all linked arms and marched off to defeat some evil. The reality is usually different. In WWII the allies squabbled among themselves quite a bit, the most notable example being the friction between US General Patton and British Field Marshall Montgomery. While the coalition was never in serious danger of breaking up, there were many strains that only dedicated and skilled leadership could prevent from interfering in the war effort. FDR was one of those who provided such leadership.
I give Franklin Delano Roosevelt an A.
Korean War: 1950-53 (10) Harry S Truman and Dwight D Eisenhower, presidents. This is a difficult one to rate. Both presidents had military experience. Truman had been an artilleryman during the First World War with combat experience. Eisenhower was allied supreme commander in Europe during the second, although he never saw any combat himself.
Truman deserves high marks for his decision to enter the war, and for allowing General MacArthur to conduct the war as he saw fit. His low marks come for having let his Secretary of State Dean Acheson declare before the war that we would not defend South Korea. This declaration was read in Moscow as an invitation to war. Had Acheson's remark been rescinded, the war might never have occurred.
It is easy now to sit back and say that MacArthur should have been fired long before Truman finally did so. Much of the blame for the bloody stalemate that resulted from China's entry can be laid as MacArthur's feet. Certainly his behavior was so egregious that Truman would have been well within his rights to exercise his prerogative well before he did. On the other hand MacArthur was immensely popular back home (as it was Truman faced impeachment threats when MacArthur was relieved of command), and he did not want to disrupt operations by changing generals in mid-war. It is easy now to recommend a step that was then very unpopular.
Eisenhower assumed the presidency in 1953, his campaign promise having been "I will go to Korea". He did just that, and after some time, was able to secure a negotiated armistice with China and North Korea.
I give both presidents a B.
Vietnam War 1963-73 (11) John F Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon were presidents. JFK had combat experience in WWII as commander of PT 109. LBJ was in the ArmyAir Corps, but in typical fashion served only to further his political career, flying a few missions only almost as a stunt (12). Nixon was a naval officer during WWII but served in a non-combat role due to his religious beliefs as a Quaker.
The short version of the Vietnam War is that Kennedy started our involvement by sending advisors, Johnson turned it into a full-scale war, and Nixon continued the war for a few years and then got us out.
Kennedy's role was so short that he is impossible to rate. Despite what his partisans will say, there is no conclusive evidence as to what he would have done in later years. He is better rated for his actions during the Cold War(see below)
Johnson is easy to rate; F. I give him this grade for many reasons. First, as Col Harry Summers points out in his excellent book, he tried to fight the war "in cold blood" (13). He refused to make the public case for the war, as he felt it would interfere with his Great Society programs. Second, once engaged he refused to do what it would take to win the war, proudly proclaiming that the military "couldn't bomb an outhouse without my approval." To be sure, much of our hesitation was due to fears of Chinese involvement a la the Korean War, but this again is something he simply refused to deal with.
Richard Nixon inherited an impossible situation. By the time he assumed the presidency, there was no political will to do what it would take to win the war. The most he could do was try for a "peace with honor". This he largely got, although it was sabotaged by Congress who did not carry out their obligations to fund South Vietnam's defense. Then again, had he not become embroiled in the Watergate Scandal (of his own making), he would have been able to jawbone the Congress into doing the right thing. Nixon rates a B.
Cold War 1947 - 1990 (14) (15) I am only going to consider five presidents: Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Carter, and Reagan. Carter had been a nuclear submarine officer, having served under the legendary Admiral Hyman Rickover. Reagan served in the Army during WWII, his service being limited to making propaganda movies.
Harry Truman gets an A+. He took a number of steps which secured western freedom and stopped early communist attempts at expansion. He confronted Stalin and let him know in no uncertain terms that he would be met with force if necessary. In particular, aid to Turkey and Greece secured their freedom. NATO was organized during his term in office.
Eisenhower's record is mixed. I realize my opinion of him will be controversial. On the positive side, his Secretary of State, Allen Dulles, forged alliances around the world which worked to limit Soviet expansion. On the negative side he adopted a flawed military strategy called "massive retaliation." Under this doctrine the US cut back it's conventional forces and put the bulk of our spending in nuclear forces. Our declared policy was that if we went to war with either China or the Soviet Union, we would use all of our nuclear weapons against both countries (go back and read that sentence again). He basically handed over defense planning to General Curtis LeMay, who would have welcomed nuclear war. In addition, we decided to target Soviet cities ("countervalue") instead of their military forces(counterforce"). To be sure, the inaccuracy of the weapons of the day contributed to this decision. However, given the destructiveness of the large weapons of the day, it is my belief that a counterforce strategy would have worked quite well. Besides the general insanity of such a "strategy", the other effect was to render our military unable to respond to large or even medium-scale conventional conflict. I give Eisenhower a D.
The seminal event during Kennedy's administration was the Cuban Missile Crisis. Most scholars give him high marks. Donald Kagan, however, presents a different picture in his book (16). I'm not quite sure which side I believe, but I'll give Kennedy a B. He avoided a nuclear war and got the missiles out of Cuba algthough he had to make a secret deal to do so (we agreed to remove our missiles from Turkey).
Jimmy Carter is another easy one to rate. He gets an F. His theory that we suffered from an "inordinate fear of communism" resulted in Soviet expansion around the globe. The left today claims that we are not respected around the world due to the policies of George Bush. During Carter's presidency, we are not only disrespected, they didn't fear us either. They may not like us today, but they do fear us.
Ronald Reagan, on the other hand, gets an A. He met the Soviet threat head on and defeated it. His strategizing was of the highest order; discover the enemies weakness and exploit it. He realized that their weaknesses were the inherent immorality of their cause, and their weakening economy. He met the first by making clear statements, and the second by increasing defense spending and committing us to missile defense.
Gulf War 1991 -1991 (17) George H W Bush was president. He served during World War II as the pilot of a naval torpedo bomber. He saw combat on several occasions.
I rate his performance as a B. On the positive side he saw that war was necessary. On the negative side he did not go on to invade Iraq and end Saddam's rule. However, it is easy in hindsight to see what "should" have been done. At the time it was not quite so obvious. The coalition partners made it quite cleat that they would only cooperate so long as we limited our objectives to Kuwait. Saudi Arabia allowed our troops on their soil only with the promise that we not invade Iraq. The consequences had we gone ahead and done so could have been catastrophic.
War on Terror 2001-present (18) George W Bush is president. He was a fighter pilot in the National Guard but never served in combat.
I consider the war in Iraq to be part of the War on Terror, protestations on the left notwithstanding.
I'm going to give him a B. He gets high marks for the Afghan campaign, the decision to invade Iraq, and for the way the major combat operations phase went. The post invasion has not gone quite as well, but it is easy to nitpick now. What is often forgotten is that the situation in post-war Europe was much criticized at the time (19) (20).
Jefferson - no military experience - C
Madison - no military experience - C
Polk - no military experience - B
Lincoln - no military experience - A
McKinley - military and combat experience - B
Wilson - no military experience - D
Roosevelt - no military experience - A
Truman (Korean War) - military and combat experience - B
Eisenhower (Korean War) - military but no combat experience - B
Johnson - semi-military but no combat experience - F
Nixon - military but no combat experience - B
Truman (Cold War) - combat experience - A
Eisenhower (Cold War) - military but no combat experience - D
Kennedy (Cold War) - combat experience - B
Carter - military but no combat experience - F
Reagan - semi-military but no combat experience - A
George H W Bush - combat experience - B
George W Bush - military experience - B
The average rating of a president with no military experience is an B-
The average rating of a president with military experience only is a D+
The average rating of a president with combat experience is a B.
Bottom line? I can't see that military or combat experience makes any difference.
August 3, 2004
Good News from Iraq, part 7
I'll tease you with a few excerpts, but the piece is a must-read, so check it out in it's entirety
For every terrorist attack with all its terror and bloodshed there are countless stories of courage, determination, and resourcefulness on the part of the Iraqi people. And for every intelligence failure by the government agencies then, there is an intelligence failure by the media now. Which is why you are likely to have recently missed some of the stories below.
As planned, Iraq has opened its bond market, with the issue of the first post-war debt. 150 billion dinars ($104 million) were raised in three-month treasury bills at 5.5% interest rate. "Demand was healthy," according to the central bank's Chief Economist Mudher Kasim.
Meanwhile, the Iraqi stock market continues to expand: "The miniature Liberty Bell clanged. Elbows flew. Sweat poured down foreheads. Sales tickets were passed and, with a flick of the wrist, 10,000 shares of the Middle East Bank had more than doubled in value. The frantic pace Sunday of those first 10 minutes of trading typified the enthusiasm behind the Iraq Stock Exchange - a new institution seen as a critical step in building a new Iraqi economy."
"In recent months, Iraq's oil production has grown to more than two million barrels per day. At this rate, current oil output and oil exports now exceed post-invasion predictions. Experts had argued that funding shortages, lack of security, the problems of stabilizing a legitimate government, and technology shortfalls would severely limit Iraq's output. Despite the odds, Iraq's daily output reached a post-invasion record of 2.5 million barrels in March.
Read also the story of Iraqi Second Battalion, which patrols Doura, one of Baghdad's rougher neighborhoods: "In the past people on the streets did not greet us. Now we get a good reaction. They welcome us. Maybe they are proud of us," says Maj. Mehdi Aziz. More here about the US Army efforts to build the new Iraqi army from scratch.
A Counter to Al Jazerra
Alaa reports that
A new Iraqi Satellite T.V. station by the name AL FAYHAA " الفيحاء" (which is one of the complimentary names of the city of Basra) has started experimental limited hours of transmission in Arabic (6 hours daily) from the United Arab Emirates. This station seems to be an answer to our prayers with a clear patriotic message, which can be understood by the simple people. This is the first attempt at talking plainly to the people with a direct anti terrorist message reassuring and encouraging the ordinary man and spreading the ideas of hope and democracy.
I call upon all our well-wishers in the West to support this new effort to counterbalance the poisonous propaganda beamed by certain other media.
Speaking of his Fellow Vietnam Veterans
At the Democratic convention John Kerry tried to convey the impression that all of his former Vietnam comrades support his run for the presidency.
It turns out that quite a few consider him unfit to be our commander in chief. Swift Boat Veterans for Truth has this to say about him
Senator John Kerry has made his 4-month combat tour in Vietnam the centerpiece of his bid for the Presidency. His campaign jets a handful of veterans around the country, and trots them out at public appearances to sing his praises. John Kerry wants us to believe that these men represent all those he calls his "band of brothers."
But most combat veterans who served with John Kerry in Vietnam see him in a very different light.
Swift Boat Veterans for Truth has been formed to counter the false "war crimes" charges John Kerry repeatedly made against Vietnam veterans who served in our units and elsewhere, and to accurately portray Kerry's brief tour in Vietnam as a junior grade Lieutenant.
There's a photograph of Kerry and his fellow swift boat commanders that he used in a commercial called Lifetime.
Swift Boat Veterans for Truth has contacted surviving members of this group to find out how many actually support John Kerry, and discovered that of 19 Swift boat skippers pictured other than Kerry, 12 consider him unfit, 4 are neutral, two have died, and 1 is working with the Kerry campaign. Four other officers were not present for the photo session; all oppose Kerry.
Only 1 of John Kerry's 23 fellow Swift boat commanders from Coastal Division 11 supports his candidacy today.
Check out their site for the complete story.
The PC in PCUSA
I normally do not comment on religious matters in this blog, but I'm going to make an exception. I am a member of the Presbyterian Church (USA). Although my regular Sunday attendance is now at another denomination, I still go to PCUSA services in my old hometown often enough to keep track of their activities. But enough of that, and on with the post:
The Presbyterian Church USA is at it again.
The leftists who run the church HQ have decided that the policies of the state of Israel is so offensive to them that they will divest themselves of companies that do business in that country.
According to the General Assembly decision, any company which earns more than $1 million annually as a result of investments in Israel, or which invests more than $1 million a year in Israel, will be entered on a blacklist prepared for the church's leaders - the Presbyterians are likely to divest from any company that appears on this list.
This is important becuase we're talking about a mainstream church. You see their churches in most American towns and cities.
They've also got some 7 billion dollars invested in various funds and accounts. We're talking serious money
The church has tried to "clarify" their action, but I think the meaning is clear enough
In the aftermath of the storm over the divestment decision, the Presbyterian church plans to issue a clarifying statement soon, saying that it will not boycott every company that has investments in Israel, or earns profits from business with Israel.
The intention is to provide boycott exemptions to companies or entities which deal in education, social welfare and construction in Israel. The Presbyterians want to direct the divestment policy toward "companies that might cause damage and hurt the peace process," as Jay Rock phrases it.What drivel.
I've said it once and I'll say it again; is Israel perfect? No. Are the Palestinian groups all bad? No. But you'd have to be a moral idiot not to believe that Israel is infinitely better than the Palestinian Authority, or any of the competing Palestinian groups.
None of this is really surprising, though, to anyone who follows this church. Resolutions to oppose partial-birth abortion get voted down regularly at their national assemblies. And this is only the tip of the iceberg; they have taken a far-left position on virtually every issue; gun control, abortion, the war in Iraq, you name it. I only had time to link to one issue here so you can do the reseach yourself if in doubt but I've followed this closely for years.
If there's any good news in this church it is the Presbyterian Layman, a conservative group that acts as a watchdog.
Their membership numbers tell the real story; in 1965 the PCUSA had 4.2 million members. Today they're at 2.5.
What's both sad and frustrating, about it all is that so many of the individual denominations that make up this church are so good. The one that I went to (before I moved to Loudoun County) does good work both in the community and through it's mission projects. If all you did is attend this church and not pay attention to the activities of HQ, you'd never guess what leftists they are. How does the HQ get away with it? A letter to Glenn at Instapundit.com nails it:
I'm an elder in a PCUSA church and I am firmly convinced that the thing holds together--so far--solely backaches the pewdwellers have no clue what HQ is doing. HQ is in Louisville, but I've been dealing with that bunch of SDS retreads since they were on Riverside Drive in New York. They have been on the wrong side of just about everything that's been important in the last thirty years. In the days of the Cold War, I used to inquire if there were as many as one issue of US military or foreign policy in which the PCUSA disagreed with the USSR. Of course, in many cases one side or the other (presuming they were different sides) had a position and the other didn't. But nobody at HQ ever could tell me one where the two sides disagreed. They got mad when I asked. Once my term is over--end of the year--I am likely to leave. It's getting tougher to look my Jewish friends in the eye.