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November 30, 2004

Where are We? II

In the light of more research, it would appear that the pessimistic tone of the post I made immediately after the fall of Fallujah was not entirely warranted.

Jack Kelly puts the battle in the perspective of the history of insurgencies:

The rule of thumb for the last century or so has been that for a guerrilla force to remain viable, it must inflict seven casualties on the forces of the government it is fighting for each casualty it sustains, says former Canadian army officer John Thompson, managing director of the Mackenzie Institute, a think tank that studies global conflicts.

By that measure, the resistance in Iraq has had a bad week. American and Iraqi government troops have killed at least 1,200 fighters in Fallujah, and captured 1,100 more. Those numbers will grow as mop-up operations continue.

These casualties were inflicted at a cost (so far) of 56 Coalition dead (51 Americans), and just over 300 wounded, of whom about a quarter have returned to duty.

"That kill ratio would be phenomenal in any [kind of] battle, but in an urban environment, it's revolutionary," said retired Army Lt. Col. Ralph Peters, perhaps America's most respected writer on military strategy. "The rule has been that [in urban combat] the attacking force would suffer between a quarter and a third of its strength in casualties."

One key to victory, then, may be within our grasp; killing them faster than they can replenish their ranks. Victor Davis Hanson points out that the al Qaeda terrorist in Iraq seem not to "...know the requisite numbers of dead or wounded Americans necessary to break the resolve of the United States...." They lack any military sophistication. Such an ignorance is quite in contrast to that of Mao Tse Tung or Ho Chi Mihn, for example, who were well versed in military theory.

There are other reasons for optimism also. Looking back on various revolutionary movements, especially that of Vietnam, Eqbal Ahmad wrote in 1970 that

An outstanding feature of guerrila training is the stress on scrupulously "correct and just" behavior toward civilians.... Guerrillas' use of terror, therefore, is sociologically and psychologically selective.

They must do this in order to be successful, that is. The insurgent terrorists in Iraq are anything but selective in their methods. Their infamous bombs, roadside or otherwise, kill indiscriminately. This is bound to turn the population away from them sooner or later.

And, indeed, there is much evidence to support that most of the Iraqi people are quite grateful to us for our efforts to rid their country of these terrorists. Recently, Rich Lowry received an email from a father who's son fought in Fallujah. He said that his son had related to him that

Many residents of that besieged town left bedding for the Marines and soldiers, along with notes thanking them for liberating their town from the terrorists and inviting them to sleep in their homes if necessary.

Not going to read stories about things like that in the MSM anytime soon. Much better to concentrate on one Marine who shoots a terrorist who may have been playing dead.

Ahmad identifies other factors that a revolutionary movement must possess in order to win, and it is instructive to note that the insurgents in Iraq have few of them on their side. These are the things that a revolutionary movement must possess;

  • A coherent, consistant, ideology appropriate to the society involved
  • A new vision of society that is in congruence with the old culture
  • The symbols of revolution must derive from the local culture
  • A program that promotes shared goals common to a broad base of people
  • Functioning revolutionary institutions which are accountable to the population
  • Leaders with integrity, who promote and practice the ideals of the revolution
  • Sanctuaries are important, although not vital, to success
  • External help is vital

From what I can tell, the insurgents are a mixed bag of leftover Ba'athists, common criminals, Iraqi Islamic fundamentalists, Sunni sectarians (by which I mean they regard Shi'is as the main enemy), and foreign al Qaeda troops. There is no unifying philosoply. We would be blind, however, not to recognize that a fundamentalist al Qaeda style of Islam motivates most of them. Although they have a leader who is on our "most wanted" list, he hardly seems in the mold of a Ho Chi Minh or Fidel Castro. They are getting help from Syria and Iran, but even that is infinately less than what North Vietnam got from the Soviet Union and China.

Lt. Gen Tom McInerney (ret) pointed out on Fox News last week that in ten years Iraq could be a showcase for the entire region. The insurgents know this, and that is why they are fighting so hard. They must prevent a popular government from taking shape. "As Iraq goes, so goes the Middle East."

In a separate article than the one cited above, Hanson has identified four things that we need to look at to determine if we are winning.

  1. Is the United States winning it's engagements on the ground? Answer; Yes, and we are doing so in overwhelming fashion. We re far more successful in basic combat now than we were in Vietnam
  2. Are the terrorists winning widespread Iraqi support? Answer; so far no. Any "help" they are providing to Zarqawi and company come from fear, not sympathy.
  3. Does fighting the terrorists lead to a political resolution that offers manifest advantages to the majority of Iraqis, and is it recognized as such? Answer; yes, because there are scheduled elections, and because the Iraqis are taking more and more responsibility for their own defense.
  4. Is there a mechanism for the U.S. to ease out of Iraq? Answer; yes again, says Hanson, and "More so than we think."
As I and so many others have written, it really comes down to willpower; can we stick it out? Do we have the patience? The re-election of George W Bush ensures that we have at least four more years to get it right. The terrorists must have been hoping for a Kerry presidency and a return to Carterism, al-Zawahri's statements that "the results of the election do not matter for us" notwithstanding.

And, as Hanson points out in the editorial cited above, this is precisely how they think they can defeat us. As the press was once obsessed with Abu Ghriab, now they are fixated on the so-called "scandal" of a Marine shooting a terrorist who was likely playing dead.

We are not out of the woods yet, not by a long shot. But we are on the road to victory.

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The Biggest Roadblock

Two weeks ago the new Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas, continued to demand a "right of return" for Palestinian refuges.

If he means it, and sticks to this position, any peace talks are doomed.

The reason is quite simple. What the Palestinians intend on doing is flooding Israel proper (pre-1967 borders) with their people. Israel is a democracy, with an influx of some four million Arabs they could literaly vote the country out of existance.

On May 14, 1948, the state of Israel was proclaimed, in accordance with UN partition plan of a year earlier. The short version is that the land in what is today Israel and the West Bank was to be divided into two new countries; Israel and Palestine. The Arabs did not accept this arrangement, and invaded the new country of Israel with some five armies. A war ensued, and in the end the Israelis prevailed.

Most of the Arabs who lived in Palestine fled during the war. Why they did so depends one who you believe. The Israelis will tell you that they fled because Arab governments told them to. They broadcast messages to the Arabs who lived in Palestine to move out, to get out of the way of their invading armies. The Arabs say no, the Israelis chased them out. The truth is probably somewhere in between.

Either way, the point is that there are today somewhere around four million Palestinians who claim land in Israel proper. These are the decendants of the 1948 550,000 to 700,000 refuges.

There are currently some 6,800,000 Israelis. About 80% of them are Jewish. It doesn't take a political genius to figure out what Israel as we know it will cease to exist if four million hostile Arabs suddenly take up residence there.

Obviously, then, no sane Israeli will accept such a situation. The "right of return" is a deal-breaker.

But Abbas may not really mean what he says. His situation is precarious, as assassination is always near for any Palestinian leader who deviates from the party line. He may think that he "has to say these things" in order to remain in control.

On the other hand, we can only judge someone on what they say and do. Arafat was in the habit of telling western audiences the nice reasonable things that they wanted to hear, and then turning around and, in Arabic, delivering a fire-breathing speach in which he pledged to drive Israel into the sea. Abbas is going to have to do better if he wishes to obtain a country for his people.

The good news, is there is any, is that the Geneva Accord just agreed to by both parties calls on them to give up their "right of return." We'll know before long whether Abbas is up to the job.

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November 25, 2004

Proclamation of Thanksgiving

Proclamation of Thanksgiving

Washington, D.C. October 3, 1863

<> This is the proclamation which set the precedent for America's national day of Thanksgiving. During his administration, President Lincoln issued many orders like this. For example, on November 28, 1861, he ordered government departments closed for a local day of thanksgiving.

The holiday we know today as Thanksgiving was recommended to Lincoln by Sarah Josepha Hale, a prominent magazine editor. Her letters to Lincoln urged him to have the "day of our annual Thanksgiving made a National and fixed Union Festival." The document below sets apart the last Thursday of November "as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise."

According to an April 1, 1864 letter from John Nicolay, one of Lincoln's secretaries, this document was written by Secretary of State William Seward, and the original was in his handwriting. Fellow Cabinet member Gideon Welles recorded in his diary on October 3 that he complimented Seward on his work. A year later, the manuscript was sold to benefit Union troops and since then has disappeared.

By the President of the United States of America.

A Proclamation.

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consiousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the Unites States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln

William H. Seward,
Secretary of State

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November 22, 2004

An Inspiring Sermon

I don't usually comment on personal religious matters, but today I'm going to make a brief exception.

Yesterday at my church the sermon was delivered by Maj Gen David Hicks, Chief Chaplain of the United States Army. It would have been an honor at any time to have such an distinguished guest, but with the War on Terror in full swing it was truely special.

He spoke of his five trips to Iraq, and about how he went to see the troops in the field, those closest to battle. "Not all is bad as you see on TV," he reminded us, for "there are good things happening."

He also described how he had introduced President Bush at many occasions, and how he was truely a man of faith. The president is a "man of God for this hour" in our history, he told us.

His father had served in the Army during World War II. Because the Army was segregated, he served in an all-black combat unit. Nonetheless, he was always a huge patriot, and flew a large American flag on patriotic holidays.

When he joined the Army in 1958 he was regular infantry, stationed near the DMZ in South Korea. After about 10 years of service, God called him to the chaplaincy, just as the Lord called Samuel to service so long ago.

What is God challenging you to do today?

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November 21, 2004

My Next Vacation Destination

From the Washington Times "World Briefing" this morning

The United States is genuinely popular here — seen as a guarantor of Georgia's independence in the chaotic days of the collapsing Soviet Union — and a source of aid and strategic counterweight in the endless tug of war with Russia.

Mr. Saakashvili (President of Georgia) said he made a snap decision to offer more Georgian troops to guard U.N. personnel in Iraq after hearing Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry decry the lack of international help for the U.S.-led mission there. Georgia's contingent in Iraq will quintuple to about 850 in the coming weeks, making it the largest contributor to the multinational force in Iraq on a per capita basis.

"We owe a lot to the Americans," he said simply.

"If the United States fails in Iraq, it will be a disaster for the wider Middle East, and it will have direct repercussions on our part of the world," he said. "It is a risky mission, and we have been open with our own people about that. But the United States has helped us, and we see our participation and relationship with America as an investment in our own future security."
Just thought you might like to read that, given the usual BS we hear from the likes of Jacques Chirac and company.

And it has not gone without comment in the conservative press that in general eastern Europeans are much more supportive of our efforts in Iraq than those in the west. Recall how Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski denounced Senator Kerry over the latter's disparaging comments about coalition members, that it was a "trumped-up, so-called coalition of the bribed, the coerced, the bought, and the extorted." To be fair, many Italians were upset when Kerry insulted their contribution also. Nevertheless, it is fair to say that eastern European leaders have been more supportive of us.

No, I don't really make my vacation decisions based on the politics of the destination country. But I am glad that I saw France before the War on Terrorc because it would be awfully hard to spend money there now.

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November 19, 2004

Good News about the UN

"What", you say, "good news about the UN?"

Well, sort of.

Annan To Get Historic Vote of No Confidence

UNITED NATIONS - UN employees were readying on Friday to make a historic vote of no confidence in scandal-plagued Secretary General Kofi Annan, sources say.

The UN staff union, in what officials said was the first vote of its kind in the more than 50-year history of the United Nations, was set to approve a resolution withdrawing its support for the embattled Annan and UN management.

Annan has been in the line of fire over a high-profile series of scandals including controversy about a UN aid programme that investigators say allowed deposed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein to embezzle billions of dollars.

But staffers said the trigger for the no-confidence measure was an announcement this week that Annan had pardoned the UN's top oversight official, who was facing allegations of favouritism and sexual harassment.
Hat tip to the HQ of the Rottweiler Empire

And it couldn't have happened to a more corrupt, er, nicer guy. Here's the latest on the Oil-for Food scandal that Annan is intent on ignoring

Until this week, his regime was estimated to have stolen approximately $10 billion. But on Monday, the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations disclosed that Saddam and his cronies took more than $21 billion. The lion's share of the thievery (more than $17 billion) occured on the watch of U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan (1997-2003).

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Where Are We?

There are conflicting reports about how successful our operations in Fallujah have been in turning the tide against the insurgency. The Washington Times reports that

The top Marine officer in Iraq declared yesterday that victory in the battle of Fallujah has "broken the back" of the Iraqi insurgency, while another commander in the war on terror said Osama bin Laden is all but cut off from his terrorist operatives.

The twin statements declare success on the two main war fronts — Iraq and Afghanistan — where the U.S. military is fighting a deadly insurgency and trying to create lasting democracies.

General Sattler goes on to say that we have "broken the back of the insurgency." Yet the same article reports that this optimistic assessment is disputed by other officers
They said this week that the countrywide insurgency has shown itself to be an adaptable band of dedicated killers that likely will be able to recruit new members and sustain some level of violence for years, not just months.
Fox News articles mirror this pessimism
The recapture of Fallujah has not broken the insurgents' will to fight and may not pay the big dividend U.S. planners had hoped — to improve security enough to hold national elections in Sunni Muslim areas of central Iraq, according to U.S. and Iraqi assessments.

Instead, the battle for control of the Sunni city 40 miles west of Baghdad has sharpened divisions among Iraq's major ethnic and religious groups, fueled anti-American sentiment and stoked the 18-month-old Sunni insurgency.

Our main objective now, says one general, is to keep the insurgents from regrouping.

One fears that General Sattler's statements were simply meant for public consumption.

We all know that the key is getting Iraqis to do the job for us. But StrategyPage tells us that the problem is not just in getting the appropriate numbers of people trained and equipped:

The Sunni Arab police too often just run. To a lesser extent, so do Iraqi soldiers. Such cowardice is traditional. The concept of "stand and fight" is not widely accepted in Iraq.
This is one reason, the author says, why the insurgent terrorists use roadside bombs; they don't want to engage in traditional shoot-outs.

Yet more pessimism abounds at Der Spiegel

But commanders say they are baffled over how to combat an effective intimidation campaign that insurgents are waging against Iraqis, from political leaders and police chiefs to the women who do the laundry for troops at American bases.

"People are affected every day by criminality," said Senator Reed, a former 82nd Airborne Division officer. "The situation has not - is not - turning around."

On the other hand, Joe at AbleKaneAdventures is at the scene of the action. He writes that the elections will help to calm the situation. He also reports that time is working against the terrorists, as he believes that they are running out of people. The Iraqis will be able to run their own security, given time.

The Big Picture

To get a handle on the strategy each side is employing, and where future battles will take place, I can find no better writer than Wretchard at Belmont Club. Be sure to read The River War and River War 2.

Stratfor thinks that we shouldn't expect to see any similar operations anytime soon. Rather, "The U.S. military will likely move into a wait-and-see posture before shifting troops and committing them to specific operatons."

The Good News

The first bit of good news is that John Kerry was not elected president. His idea of solving the problem by holding summits and going to the UN would have done nothing but provided nice photo shoots to bolster his ego.

The anti-Bush left attempts to portay the president as "out of touch" and manipulated by evil neocons. Those with access to the facts know better. Last month Rich Lowry wrote that George Bush is very unhappy with the situation in Iraq, and that changes would be made during a second term.

Recent changes in adminstration personnel seem to bear this out. Tom Donnelly writes that with the resignation of Powell, Bush "...has at last decided to try to take charge of his foreign policy establishment." What this means to me is a less acrimonious relationship between State and Defense. Bickering between the two departments was the cause of much of the problems that we now face in Iraq.

The Clock is Ticking

Elections in Iraq are scheduled for January. It doesn't take a military analyst to see that the probability that they will not go off as smoothly as they did in Afghanistan is low. We can all imagine the worst-case scenario; a result not judged legitimate by a significant plurality of the Iraqi people.

I hope I am not being overly pessimistic here, but I will confess that was not a fun post to write. But we can take heart; far from loosing we are at worst not turning the tide fast enough, the right person was reelected so we will not leave, and as time goes on more and more Iraqis will be trained and will thus join us in the fight.

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Invite to a Debate

I've been invited to a debate over at the Words from Iraq forum. It will not surprise you that I cannot resist a challenge. Go take a look at how it's going. Leave a post or two yourself, if you'd like

Posted by Tom at 9:40 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 18, 2004

"Dear Leader" No More

Something big may be happening in North Korea.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-il has ordered the removal of his portrait from display throughout the Stalinist state, signaling a scaling back of the decades-old adulation of the supreme ruler, South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported yesterday.

The order to take down portraits was issued three weeks ago by Mr. Kim himself, who was concerned that he "has been lifted too high," the agency said.

Also yesterday, North Korea's official press dropped the glorifying description of "dear leader" for Mr. Kim, Kyodo News Service reported, citing the Japanese monitoring agency Radiopress.
Other news outlets reported this too. Experts were quoted as saying that the changes are "significant," although it is too early to say what it all means. One explanation is that
By deflating his own personality cult, Kim may be seeking to dodge some of the blame, say some experts. He also may be seeking to escape some criticism over North Korea's human rights record, they add.
It's even possible that they're taking a lead from Libya, or are at least seeking accomodation with the United States. The regime was hoping to deal with a Kerry presidency, and the election of Bush came as a "slap in the face," according to one news report:
With the last Bush administration true moderate, Secretary of State Colin Powell, out of the picture, the only option for the communist state is to reach out for help from other members of the six-nation disarmament talks.

"North Korea seems to be signaling that they want return to the talks now, realizing that the Bush administration, once inaugurated for a second term, will only get tougher since the past policies failed to reach a resolution and it will be more willing to flex its muscles," a diplomatic source said.

Who knows, Kim might even be reacting to pressure from his military. Although they were slavishly loyal to his father, Kim Il Sung, there were always rumors that they were less than pleased with a dynastic succession.

I'm no expert on North Korea, but I have read a fair amount about totalitarian countries. To the best of my knowledge, this is absolutely unprecidented. Never did anything like this happen in any of the totalitarian regimes of the twentieth century: Stalinist Russia, Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, China under Mao, none of them. As long as the dictator was in power, his cult of personality only grew bigger. Only after he was safely in the grave did his heirs dare to make changes.

Of course, all this may amount to nothing. but it got my attention, and these reports deserve to be followed.

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November 17, 2004

The Video

If you're not sure what the title refers to you didn't follow the news yesterday.

NBC pool reporter Kevin Sites was following some U.S. Marines into a mosque in Fallujah earlier this week. Insurgents regularly hide in mosques and use them as fortified positions from which they shoot at our troops. The previous day a different marine unit had come under fire from this very mosque. A marine saw a wounded insurgent laying on the floor and shot him. The NBC reporter caught the incident on tape, and it has since been broadcast by most media outlets. Al Jazeera is reportdly playing the tape over and over in an inflammatory manner.

Media Reaction

To their credit, most American newspaper outlets seem to be treating the incident fairly, with balanced stories. At the time of this writing (Wed AM) the story was not even mentioned on the CNN home page. I haven't seen much broadcast TV lately, so my investigation was only into the Internet and print media.

Even the New York Times quoted a human rights activist saying something favorable to the Marines:

"Obviously, the shooting of an incapacitated detainee is a fundamental violation of the Law of Armed Conflict," said James D. Ross, senior legal adviser to Human Rights Watch. "But if someone feigns being incapacitated or killed, and then uses that to trick someone and shoot them, that's a war crime, and might justify the shooting."
From what I've seen on the video, a reasonable interpretation is that the Marine thought that the insurgent (or terrorist) was faking it. And most articles in the American media that I've seen mention instances of booby-trapped bodies and even insurgents wearing explosive-filled vests in case they come close to our troops. See here, here, here, and here for examples.

Broadcast TV al Jazeera has been reportedly showing the video almost nonstop, in a manner sure to inflame the Muslim world. Their English-language site is a bitmore balanced, though barely, just enough to fool the unwary. Their Europe and North American site leads with an article highlighting the comments of Louise Arbor, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, who takes a predictably one-sided view of abuses in Fallujah.

"Human Rights" groups are outraged! at least accordiing to Al Jazeera, who eagerly reported their denunciations. I was watching Hannity and Colmes last night and human rights attorney Michael Gross was quick in his rush to judgement. Although he didn't say so directly, he left no room for doubt that in his opinion the marine was obviously guilty.

History and More History

The stories of legion of Iraqi soldiers violating the most basic rules of war: using mosques as military strongpoints and weapons storage depots, hiding behind women and children, hiding their weapons until the last moment, pretending to surrender and then opening fire, and booby-trapping their wounded and dead.

These tactics are not new to our history. World War II is filled with tales of the Japanese booby-trapping their dead and wounded. Vietnam...would take me too long to write about.

The British paper The Guardian, of all places, has a must-read piece written by a veteran of the Falklands War. He talks about "clearing the ground", that is, securing an area that has been taken:

The main purpose is to gather intelligence - paperwork, maps, radios. When you know that there have very recently been people in that area trying to kill you, do you go up to a body and start to rummage through pockets without knowing for sure that the guy isn't actually still alive and about to stick a 10-inch knife in you? So where there are bodies, you don't go near them. Not until you have put two bullets into each, fired usually from a range of several yards. Then one soldier holds back to provide cover while the other runs up, and first lies on top of the body to immobilise it and make it difficult for the enemy to use a firearm if he's lying doggo. Next the soldier rolls the body over towards his partner so that the covering man can check for any sign of a booby-trap. The idea of this is that, if there is an explosive device, the body itself will afford the first soldier some protection, while the other soldier will be out of range.
In short, our troops have every right to be distrustful of the insurgent terrorists. They have a split second to react to someone they think is playing dead. You get no second chances.

Muslim/Arab Reaction

Most Arabs or Muslims I saw interviewed were typically hypocritical. Here's one

“Look at this old man who was slain by them,” said Ahmed Khalil, 40, as he watched the video in his Baghdad shop. “Was he a fighter? Was anybody who was killed inside this mosque a fighter? Where are their weapons? I don’t know what to say.
A few more

"I am not a jihadist, I am just a normal Muslim but such scenes are pushing me to Jihad," said Dubai-based engineer Abdallah. "We don't expect this from the representative of democracy in the world."

"This is one of the things we saw on TV. God knows how many crimes they have committed which we have not seen," he added.

To be fair, the same story quoted a Saudi as saying something more reasonable

"If I was in the U.S. soldier's place I would have killed all the insurgents because they are mercenaries," said Saudi Zaher al-Saleh, a 32-year-old teacher. "They have turned the mosques into battlefields and they're killing civilians."

Unfortunately such sentiments do not seen characterisic of Muslim reaction.

Back to the Geneva Convention

The left in general, and anti-war crowd in particular, is always talking about the "Geneva Convention." A few months I posted on this subject as it related to the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. What the conventions actually say, as opposed to what some people seem to think that they say, is relevant in light of the current brouhaha.

The convention can be found here. Read it and learn it. Most leftist anti-war types will spout off about "Geneva Conventions" without knowing anything about them. I've more than one liberal in their place armed with this knowledge.

Wrechard has a typically insightful piece on this at Belmont Club.

Confidence is High

We can be confident in our military to investigate the matter thoroughly and fairly. We can and will police our own. There are other incidents in which troops have been arrested and charged. We did so with the Abu Graib scandal. We did so in Vietnam with My Lai. And we certainly don't need the "help" of the International Criminal Court.

What does it all Mean?

No matter what the facts, there are those who will treat this as Abu Graib II. They will use this to bash the United States military and by extension all of our efforts in Iraq. You don't need me to relate their predictably hateful attacks. As usual, they ignore or downplay the horrendous abuses of the terrorist insurgency, yet any perceived mistake on our part, or the part of a single soldier, and we are condemned without mercy. And let me state again that in my opinion the soldier was in the right.

We don't know all of the facts yet. But I'm certainly going to give our troops the benefit of the doubt. These Iraqi/Arab/Muslim insurgents/terrorists play dirty. Our troops have a right to be super-suspicious. Until I learn something conclusive otherwise, I'm on the side of the Marine.


Oliver North has a good editorial on this incident. Yes, I know, Ollie sees Marines as his kids, and sometimes it's as if they can do no wrong. That does not, however, make the facts he presents less valid. He makes the following points

  • On at least two different occasions insurgent terrorists fired at Marines from the mosque
  • The insurgent terrorists stored a large amount of munitions in the mosque
  • After the Marine shot the wounded/playing dead insurgent terrorist, the Marines held the rest at gunpoint until medics could be summoned
  • The insurgent terrorists have a record of booby-trapping bodies and of using white flags to lure our forces into ambushes.
Update II

Here's an email from a young Marine in Fallujah that puts the incident in perspective. Be sure to read it.

Update III

Powerline reports on what Baghdad residents think of the shooting: "Good Riddance!"

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November 15, 2004

A Few Sites You Should be Reading

Of course, I'm appreciative that you're reading this blog in the first place.

But other than this one, here are some other blogs that you should be reading:

The Homespun Bloggers (of which I am a proud member) is a great site to find new blogs. Every week you'll see a "best of." They've also got a new feature; a weekly symposium on a topic that confronts our nation. This week's question: "Is is time for the U.S. to end the Electoral College?" Head on over and check out the responses.

If you think that everything is bad news in Afghanistan and Iraq you haven't been reading Chrenkoff. Check out his "Good News from Afghanistan", "Good News from Iraq," and "Good News from the Islamic World" series.

The best site for War on Terror analysis is over at the Belmont Club. In addition to great analysis, Wretchard is a great writer, blending history and literature into his posts.

If you want to see idiotarians (i.e. liberals) skewered in a way you won't see elsewhere, head on over to the Headquarters of the Rottweiller Empire.

The other sites that I like can be found on my blogroll. Every one of them is worth checking out.

And, of course, don't forget my other blog site over at Conserva-Puppies.

Posted by Tom at 2:33 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Shadow War

In his book Shadow War: The Untold Story of How Bush is Winning the War on Terror, Richard Miniter sets out to answer three questions:

Where is Osama bin Laden? Why hasn't there been another terrorist strike inside the U.S. since September 11, 2001? Is President Bush winning the war?
Miniter answers the second two conclusively and well, and gives a credible case for his answer on the first. Unfortunately, several sections of the book, and one entire chapter, are essentially non sequiturs.

Where is Osama bin Laden?

Miniter makes the case the he is alive and well and living in Iran. The book was published in September 2004, well before bin Laden's pre-election videotape, when there was much speculation that he was dead. Miniter makes a good case that he is in Iran, though admits that it is quite possible that he is somewhere near the Afghan-Pakistani border.

John Kerry famously declared that we failed to get bin Laden at Tora Bora because we "outsourced" the operation. Tommy Franks answered that accusation by responding that one, we never knew for certain whether he was even there or not, two that we relied on Afghans because they knew the area better than us, and third, our Special Forces were heavily involved.

Richard Miniter describes Afghanistan and the Tora Bora region

(Superimposed over the United States on a map) Afghanistan stretched from Washington, D.C., to New Orleans and from Cincinnati to Atlanta. The implications were clear; Afghanistan is far bigger than most Americans realize and there remain many places for terrorists to hide. the land is a smuggler's paradise of deep ravines, caves, crevices, dry plains prone to visibility-destroying dust storms, and snow-caped peaks soaring high above the limits of American helicopters. (p. 14)
The mountainous environment "...made encirciling al Qaeda's forces at Tora Bora impossible." That, coupled with the distrust locals traditionally show to outsiders, meant that flooding the country or even a region of it would be foolish.

Why hasn't there been another Terrorist Strike since Sept 11, 2004?

It's not for lack of trying, answers Miniter. Rather, it is because we are defeating "...something like a plot a day."(p. 4)

Recall that a second wave of attacks by hijacked aircraft were planned for the days after Sept 11. Al Qaeda never got a chance to carry them out, because "afterwards, we never got time to catch our breath, we were always on the run," explained Khalid Shaikh Mohammed to his interrogators after his capture.

Much of the book is dedicated to telling the story of how the U.S. and it's allies defeated several terrorist plots. I won't give them away, other than to say that much of what he relates has not appeared in the papers. It is the result of good old-fashioned investigative journalism.

The Bush Administration is not spared criticism, however. "Visa Express," and their failure attempt to recruit informants inside al Qaeda come under scrutiny, for example. The feud between Condelezza Rice and Richard Clarke is dealt with at some length. Miniter seems to have a more positive assessment of Clarke than did Tommy Franks.

Is President Bush winning the War?

Yes, and in a thousand small battles. Many are related in the book, too numerous for me to list here.

Miniter makes the case that Saddam Hussein "...provided arms, training, and money to bin Laden." and details the Iraq - al Qaeda connection in an appendix.

There are many fronts in the War on Terror, most of which do not make the daily newspapers. One of them is on the oceans and at our port facilities. Al Qaeda hatched several plots to attack U.S. Navy ships, so far all of which have been successfully foiled. One of them even involved a traitor on a U.S. warship who sent sensitive information to his al Qaeda contacts about naval operations. The Navy and Coast Guard have gone from being reactive to adopting the Bush strategy of preemption. We are now actively stopping and searching suspicious ships on the high seas as well as when they enter port.

Miniter also discusses our successful operations in North Africa.

Fought largely by forces from the U.S. Army's European Command (whish is responsible for North Africa), the CIA, French Intelligence (many of the Saharan countries are former French colonies), and a panoply of African allies, the war on al Qaeda in North Africa has gone largely unnoticed in the American media. At the very least, this war shows that the Iraq War was not a distraction from President Bush's War on Terror, only a distraction for the press. (p. 89)
Much time is taken to discuss this cooperation with other countries. After relating the arrest of an important al Qaeda terrorist in the UAE, Miniter concludes that

The UAE alliance with the U.S. is just one of the many that the Bush Administration has negotiated - and others are said to be just as productive. With its dizzying number of alliances, the Bush administration's War on Terror is anything but unilateral. (p. 117)

Whither the Press?

Actually, says Minitar, most of the successes in the War on Terror are "no secret," such as the fact that Libya has renounced WMD. Why, then, has the press missed them? Why do they concentrate on Abu Graib and

While there is some merit to both of these suspicions, the root cause is something more subtle: a failure of imaginatioin. The media does not understanad the workings of the intelligence community or the military, and therefore does not understand the war.(p. 160)
Further, there is no context to the reporting. Rather, we get bits and fragments, and sensational headlines of "scandals," but no big picture. It's as if during World War II the press spent their entire time attacking Roosevelt over failure to prevent Pearl Harbor.

The War on Terror is not like World War II, but is more like the Cold War in that we are fighting an ideological enemy rather than a geographical one. To be sure, the Nazis and Fascists had their ideologies, but few others in the world wanted to adopt it. In our current war, we are fighting a movement which may at times have state sponsors but is not absolutely dependant on them. Therefore, success cannot measured in geographical terms, or even in terms of time. Imagine, Minitar asks, if a reporter had demanded that Harry Truman tell them how long it would take to win the Cold War.

Why did bin Laden want war with the U.S.?

Miniter says that the best answer he found came from a French(!) intelligence agent who specialized in counter-terrorism. In his view, bin Laden thought that

A massive attack on America's soaring skyscrapers and public offices would compel the infidel power to invade Afghanistan, forcing a final showdown between the "house of peace"(Islam), and the "house of war" (the infidels). (p.31)
Bin Laden expected to easily defeat us, just as he defeated the Soviets. He did not imagine that we would not adopt their failed strategy. To him, the jihad against the Soviets in Afghanistan was the "defining moment" in his life.

Oddly enough, some on the far left used as a reason why we should not have invaded Afghanistan. By doing so, they argued, we were simply "playing into his hands" or "doing what he wanted us to do." As Miniter shows, however, we are in fact winning the War on Terror; you just won't read about it in the papers.

Reason for Hope

Miniter provides much reason for hope that we will win the War on Terror. As stated earlier, he describes many small successes that usually don't make the papers. But history is also a guide, and it gives us reason for hope.

The fact is, the West is much better at being flexible, and adopting new strategies, than are the Muslim terrorists. Our experience shows as much. During World War II, we learned from our mistakes. At the start of the war we were surprised, not just tactically such as at Pearl Harbor, but also technically when we discovered our aircraft were far inferior to those of our enemies. We built new aircraft and developed new tactics. We went from initial surprise to recovery, to victory. Our enemies stayed with the same equipment and tactics throughout the war.

The same seems to be happening in this war. Is is we who are learning from our mistakes, and are developing new methods to combat our enemy. Al Qaeda, who thought we would fight like the Soviets had in Afghanistan, has not recovered or shown that they can adapt to our way of war. The reason, Minitar says, is that their experience in war has been much more limited. They simply do not have the institutional knowledge that we possess.

The non sequiturs

Miniter spends an entire chapter on the Madrid bombing and subsequent defeat of Prime Minister Jose Maria Anzar. He uses this to speculate on what might happen if we suffer(ed) a similar attack before our election, and to provide advice for the Bush Administration.

There is also a chapter on an alleged plot to kill President George W Bush. The "plot" turns out to be a fabrication, although in the end we developed a valuable relationship with Sudanese Intelligence that has helped in the War on Terror. Important as it may be, it's hard to see how it justifies an entire chapter.

It is hard to see how either of these tie into his thesis.

In Conclusion

The book is generally good, and is worth purchasing, but could have used a good editor. Minitar includes many facts and much information about the War on Terror that, to my knowledge, have not been previously published.

You may also want to visit amazon.com and read the reviews of this book there. This book has brought the Bush-haters out in force. You'll find that most of their reviews are quite childish and do not address the facts presented in the book. Nothing surprising there, of course.

Richard Miniter is also the author of Losing bin Laden; How Bill Clinton's Failures Unleashed Global Terror.

My next review: Inside the Asylum: Why the United Nations and Old Europe are Worse Than You Think, by Jed Babbin


I found an interview with Richard Miniter on "Blogs for Bush." (via Mud & Phud) Here's a sample of what he had to say:

Here's the key statistic: More 3,000 al Qaeda fighters have been seized or slain since 9-11 in 102 different countries. That shows that the effort is larger than the public has been told--3,000 may be equal to one-quarter of al Qaeda's total strength--and far more global than the public believes. If you destroy a division of the enemy and it does not score a comparable victory against you, you are winning. That is the position of the U.S. today.

The war is more than Iraq and Afghanistan: In all but a handful of those 102 cases, those captures and kills have occurred with the help of local governments. Forget the 30 allies we have on the ground in Iraq, we have almost 100 allies in the war on terror--including virtually every Muslim-majority country in the world.

I learned this firsthand by reporting in the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Egypt, Sudan, Iraq, Israel and beyond.

Posted by Tom at 10:16 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 13, 2004

A Perfect Knave

The Washington Times has named Kofi Annan their "Knave of the Week". It fits him perfectly.

Knaves: U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, for a week of sympathizing with terrorists.

Where to begin with the secretary-general?

Well, for starters, Mr. Annan offered a rebuke to American and coalition allies, which at this point includes Iraqis, for taking the battle to militants in Fallujah this week. In a letter to Mr. Bush, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and interim Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, Mr. Annan wrote, "I wish to share with you my increasing concern at the prospect of an escalation in violence, which I fear could be very disruptive for Iraq's political transition." There was more, but you get the idea. Mr. Allawi's reply will suffice as an appropriate rebuttal: "I was a little surprised by the lack of any mention in your letter of the atrocities which these groups have committed ... The same group who murdered so many of your staff in the bombing of the U.N. headquarters last year, has since murdered hundreds of innocent Iraqis and committed countless other atrocities."

Yet Mr. Annan has a soft spot for terrorists, as witnessed also this week by his mourning for late uber-terrorist Yasser Arafat. Gushing, Mr. Annan released a statement which reads in part: "President Arafat will always be remembered for having ... led the Palestinians to accept the principle of peaceful coexistence between Israel and a future Palestinian state. By signing the Oslo accords in 1993 he took a giant step towards the realization of this vision." In tribute to Mr. Arafat, Mr. Annan ordered the U.N. flags at half-staff on Thursday.

For the record, from the signing of the Oslo accords on Sept. 13, 1993, until September 2000, 256 Israeli civilians and soldiers were killed by Palestinian terrorist attacks. Since then, as the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs notes, 1,032 people have been killed. Giving Mr. Annan the benefit of the doubt that "President" Arafat was such a promoter of peace, he was amazingly ineffective.

For honoring a mass murderer and dishonoring the true champions of peace, Mr. Annan is the Knave of the week.

But Kerry wanted us to "exhaust the remedies of the United Nations" . Further, that we had to earn their respect:
You don't help yourself with other nations when you turn away from the global warming treaty, for instance, or when you refuse to deal at length with the United Nations.

You have to earn that respect. And I think we have a lot of earning back to do.

Senator, you're right that respect has to be earned. And the United Nations has not earned it. I just thank heavens that he wasn't elected president.

Posted by Tom at 10:45 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 12, 2004

Immigration and Economics

I had a debate with a friend of mine on the issue of immigration and the global economy. He sent me a copy of the Phyllis Shlafly Report titled "What the Global Economy Costs Americans"

I responded to him with a critique of her column. Sections are reprinted below.

What the Global Economy Costs Americans
by Phyllis Shlafly

The big argument for the tax cut just signed by President Bush is that it will create much-needed jobs. But one big question remains: will those jobs be created for
Americans, or will corporations simply hire more job-seekers from India and China?
First, do we really want these jobs to stay here?  Consider the consequences of forcing
corporations to keep these jobs here. To do these jobs, Americans will want to be paid
more than Indians or Chinese. The increased cost will be passed along to the consumer.
So your bills will eventually (maybe not immediately) go up. You'll pay more for many
services in the long run. Because either prices will have to go up, or corporate revinues
will have to go down. Lagging revinues means recession. Is this really good for the
American consumer?

Second, any discussion of outsourcing must also include insourcing. You don't hear so much
about it, but jobs are coming to the United States. And we are creating new jobs all the time.
In the short term both outsourcing and insourcing cause social dislocations causing politicians
to get involved. Thomas Sowell has an excellent editorial on this which you can find here.

It's time for Congress to call a halt to the scandal of the way big corporations hire foreigners at the same time they are laying off their American employees. The hiring of hundreds of thousands of foreigners is why this year's college graduates face the worst job market in recent memory.
When U.S. corporations built hundreds of plants in Third World  countries, we were
told not to worry about losing blue-collar
manufacturing jobs because we were
keeping the service jobs. Now the high-paying white-
collar service jobs are going
overseas, too, particularly jobs for engineers and computer

Follow the money. The big corporations hire aliens from India and China at half or
a third
the wages, work them long hours without overtime pay, and treat them like
servants unable to quit for a better job. What makes this racket possible
is the partnership
between corporations and government.

The wording in this article is a bit too conspiratorial for me, but I'll answer the substance

Yes "corporations" hire illegals because they can pay them less. And politicians are reluctant
to crack down because of the economics of the matter. What economics am I talking about?
Consider the consequequences of tossing all illegals out of the country. The jobs previously
done by the illegals would now be open. But Americans would refuse to take these jobs at the
same wage rates as the illegals were paid. Thus to fill these jobs corporations would have
to raise wages. The consequences of this would be higher prices paid by the consumer. Either
that, or lower corporate profits. And the consequences of lower profits are twofold; lower
investment in new plant and R&D, and lower stock prices. Do you want your 401k to tank?

Now, I am NOT saying that we should ignore illegal immigration. In fact, I'm in favor of a
cracking down. What I AM saying is that we need to understand the economic consequences
of doing so. Unfortunately the Eagle Forum newsletter you sent me makes no attempt to do so.

The corporations make political contributions to assure the passage of legislation that legalizes the importation of foreign cheap labor by the devices called H1B visas L-1 visas, and outsourcing....
I admit that I don't know enough about these issues to really comment on the details.

But the basic economics are clear enough; if you put a halt to these visas you will end up paying
higher prices as a consumer. This may or may not be what the public wants, but before we take
any decisions we need to understand the economic consequences. This article seems to think
that you can cut off visa's and we'll all live happily ever after.

Corporations hire people for less money because they're trying to stay competitive. They want
to offer a good service at a low price. There's nothing really conspiratorial about it.

Ok readers, tell me if I've got it right or not.

Posted by Tom at 2:42 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Yassir Arafat

When I first heard that Yassir Arafat was seriously ill and that his days may be numbered, my first response was "good." My second response was to ask forgiveness for that thought from the good Lord. I'm pretty confident, though, that Arafat will have a much tougher time getting through the pearly gates than me.

The plight of the Palestinian people is at once sad and maddening. Sad because so many of the live in such abject poverty, and are controlled by "leaders" who are nothing more than terrorists. It is maddening because they have brought so much of it on themselves. Their history is one of lost opportunities.

Arafat was as much trouble to the Arab nations among which he and his PLO lived as the Israelis against whom he fought. King Hussein had to use his army to chase him out of Jordan. He brought nothing but misery to the Lebanese when he used Beruit as a base. And his tenure as leader of the Palestinian Authority has only brought a much worse form of terrorism, suicide bombings, to the West Bank and Israel.

He stole upwards of a billion dollars from his own people. The money now resides in Swiss bank accounts. If the secret codes died with him, then that is just all the more money that he squandered for the "cause".

President Clinton gave Arafat his Palestinian nation on a silver platter and he turned it down. The excuse was that he would only be granted 95 or 98% of the West Bank, and the few Israeli enclaves left constituted an intollerable insult. The real reason, perhaps, is that he was so locked into his role as rebel that he could not handle the idea of actually leading a nation.

Perhaps the best insight into his character took place some years ago when it was reported that he threatened his own security chief with a pistol at a cabinet-type meeting. This showed Arafat as he truely was; the Arab equivalent to the teenager who robbed convenience stores grown up to be mafia don. He was nothing more than a street thug who managed to ingratiate himself with world leaders.

Now we have the sickening spectacle of these so-called leaders paying tribute to the fallen terrorist. It's bad enough that the man was actually awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Scenes such as the huge funeral with thousands of weeping worshipers are unfortunately the norm for such types. So many showed up for Stalin's funeral that crowd control became impossible and, in a macabre tribute to the dictator, hundreds suffocated.

Perhaps now the new Palestinian leadership will be able to break free of the bonds of the past that held Arafat so tightly. A look at their personal histories does not give one optimism, unfortunately. But it took a protoge of Stalin, one Nikita Khrushchev, to lead that country out of the darkness of terror. While Khrushchev remained a dictator (and indeed something of a warmonger), at least the mass murders stopped. It is not wishing for much to hope that the new Palestinian leaders can do as much.

Update I

So why did so many Westerners fall for his act? Max Boot, writing in the Sunday Washington Times, says that they are

Motivated by a combination of guilt for their countries' past conduct, a taste for vicarious revolutionary adventure, and condescension toward Africans and Asians thought incapable of Western standards, European and American intellectuals were willing to excuse any crime committed in the name of "national liberation."
Makes sense to me.

Update II

Charles Krauthammer thinks that with the death of Arafat the prospects for peace are more distant than most people think.

Posted by Tom at 8:20 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 11, 2004

Veterans Day

Thank you to all veterans of our Armed Forces, and to those currently serving.

At precisely 11AM President Bush will speak at the Veterans Day ceremony at Arlington National Cemetary and will lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. World War I ended at 11AM on November 11, 1918.

Here are some ways that all of us can support our troops:

Make a contribution to Fisher House. This Rockville MD foundation "provides temporary housing and other support services for military personnel wounded in the War on Terror and their families."

Not all soldiers in the field have families to write them. You can be a "pen pal" to a soldier by signing up at Adopt-a-Platoon. If you can get your office or family involved, you can support an entire platoon.

Treats for Troops provides another way to send care packages to our soldiers, sailors, and airmen.

You can donate your frequent flyer miles to troops to Operation Hero Miles so that they can make their way home when they get some R & R. When troops are granted leave, the government only pays their way to Germany or one of three airports in the United States; Baltimore/Washington International, Dallas/Fort Worth, or Atlanta. the troops must pay their own way after that.

Defend America has many great ways in which we can support our troops.

Show Thanks lists many organizations also.

Iraqi children need our help, too. By ensuring their successful future we safeguard American soldiers in the future. Helping Iraqi Schools does just what their name indicates.

Actor Gary Sinise helped launch Operation Iraqi Children. They also send school supply kits to Iraqi children, and are in need of our support.

Chief Wiggles runs Operation Give, which in addition to collecting toys for needy Iraqi children, is also in need of items for the hygene kits they also send.

Posted by Tom at 11:05 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 9, 2004

Keep the Electoral College

Now that another presidential election is over, it's that time again: a perennial debate over the Electoral College. Less than a week since Kerry conceded to Bush, there are posts and articles debating the issue.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution weighed in less than one week after the election:

Because a record popular vote almost didn't count, Electoral College flunks out on fairness curve.

The mini-drama that played itself out Wednesday morning over Ohio's vote was eerily reminiscent of the turmoil in Florida that greeted the nation four years ago. And while the suspense was short-lived and the results clearer in Ohio in 2004 than in Florida in 2000, it should never have happened.Because a record popular vote almost didn't count, Electoral College flunks out on fairness curve

The time has come — after the second election in a row where the results in one state ultimately determined the outcome of the election — for the nation to drop out of the Electoral College.

Their argument is that while Bush beat Kerry by 2.5% in the popular vote, a swing of 1% of the vote in Ohio would have swung the election to Kerry. And he could have become president like Bush did in 2000, without a majority of the popular vote. They also make the point that most polls show that the majority of Americans would like to see the Electoral College eliminated.

Commentary at a site dedicated to the elimination of the Electoral College expands on this "swing state" objection:

Because states matter more than people, the Electoral College encourages presidential candidates to focus on just 10-15 battleground states where the voters are somewhat equally divided in their choice of candidates. These swing states are up for grabs, so candidates spend most of their time, money, and attention there. States where voters are more like-minded either get taken for granted or written off as lost causes, neither of which does democracy any good.

Another site lists four arguments for abolishing the Electoral College, and four for keeping it. According to them, " Those who object to the Electoral College system and favor a direct popular election of the president generally do so on four grounds:"

  • the possibility of electing a minority president
  • the risk of so-called "faithless" Electors,
  • the possible role of the Electoral College in depressing voter turnout, and
  • its failure to accurately reflect the national popular will
"Proponents of the Electoral College system normally defend it on the philosophical grounds that it:"
  • contributes to the cohesiveness of the country by requiring a distribution of popular support to be elected president
  • enhances the status of minority interests,
  • contributes to the political stability of the nation by encouraging a two-party system, and
  • maintains a federal system of government and representation.
Others in favor of retention of the Electoral College concentrate on the "small state" argument:
It provides small states with a disproportionately larger say in the election; this is one of the Constitutional devices intended to keep small states from being dominated by large states.
Still others say that the Electoral College keeps election fraud to a minimum:
The direct election system is subject to types of fraud that are impossible under the Electoral College system. With direct elections, there would be an incentive for Nebraska to produce more Republican votes or Massachusetts more Democratic ones. Majority fraud would be hard to combat, because the majority party would also be responsible for counting the votes.
The 2000 election, of course, was one in which President Bush won the Electoral College but lost the popular vote. One columnist says that this is reason to keep, not abandon, the College (though not for the partisan reasons you might think):
Gore won the popular vote by 337,576, a margin of 3/10 of 1%. Bush won the Electoral College 271-267. What gave Bush the Electoral win? Basically a combination of what happened in 1876 and 1888. Bush won 13-6 in states with 6 or less electors. Close elections favor the winner of a vast majority of small states. Remember 1876?

Demographics show that Gore's campaign platform appealed primarily to the special interests of large urban populations--the Northeast, Great Lakes and Pacific Coast. Gore largely ignored most of the Rockies, Great Plains and South which was Bush's stronghold. Gore won 21 primarily urban states (including DC). Bush won widespread support in 30 states all across middle America. If Gore would have won just 1 more state he would be President & Florida wouldn't have even mattered.

Gore won the 2 most populous states, New York & California, by an overwhelming margin of 2,815,471. Narrowing that count down to just New York City and Los Angeles County, Gore won by 2,380,534. Which means that the rest of the United States, outside of those 2 metro areas, favored Bush by 2,042,958 votes. Remember 1888?

So whether you like it or not, the Electoral College did in 2000 exactly what it was designed to do. Without it the power of electing Presidents would rely primarily in a handful of the largest population centers including New York & California.
There are many arguments pro on con, and I'm not going to attempt to summarize them all. I think I've hit on the main ones.

The question is: Will the benefits of abolishing the Electoral College outweigh the disadvantages and risks?

The answer, to me, is no.

One thing that opponents of the Electoral College usually fail to take into account is the law of unintended consequences. Most of them who advocate elimination seem to imagine that only the good effects that they forsee will occur. They are locked into a static analysis model.

The reality is that when you change A, things change all down the line to Z. And the changes are often unpredictable. Given that we are the worlds longest running democracy, and the most successful one at that, we should give pause before making any changes.

The major assumtion that most opponents of the Electoral College seem to make is that the current two party system would stay the same, and that the only difference in our elections is that the winner would have a "true" mandate, as they would have a majority of the popular vote. But would that be the case?

For example, the Electoral College system keeps serious third parties from becoming anything more than temporary. This, I believe, is a very good thing. Most major countries with multiple parties have had severe problems that have caused them to change their systems to one that encourages only two or three parties. France during the fourth Republic and Israel during the seventies and eighties come to mind as prime examples.

Without the Electoral College, we might see a splintering of the major parties into smaller ones, each trying to get that plurality of the popular vote. These parties may form around ideological, economic, racial, regional, or even religious grounds. The current two-party system forces everyone into one of the two parties. There would be no reason for this if the Electoral College were abandoned.

If no one got a majority of the vote, we'd then be faced with a run-off election (who want's to go through two presidential elections?), or the election of a president without an apparent mandate.

This splintering of the parties may not happen, but that is not my point. My argument is that we cannot know what will happen, and the refusal of most proponents of change to even recognize that is disturbing.

The beauty of the Electoral College is that it gives a president who may not get a majority of the popular vote a majority of the EC votes and thus an apparent mandate. Thus in 1992, Bill Clinton got only 43% of the popular vote, but 68% of the electoral votes( 370 of 538). While I was hardly pleased that he won that year, objective analysis forces me to conclude that in order for our system to work, a president must feel that they have received a mandate.

My main objection to ending he Electoral College is that if it isn't broke, don't fix it. The system is not broke, The objections to the College, while important, are not worth the risk. We have the longest running, most successful democracy in history. Yes, there are times when we need to make changes. Enfranchisement of women and blacks and direct election of Senators were worth changing the Constitution over. This is not.


The Homespun Bloggers, of whom I am a proud member, are conducting a symposium on whether we should keep the Electoral College or not. Be sure to stop by and check out the discussion.

Posted by Tom at 2:39 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Other Battle

The news is, understandably, filled with news of the assault on Fallujuh.

But there's another battle taking place that deserves our attention, too. It is in the African country of Ivory Coast, and it involves French troops, who are engaged in battles with rioters. The Washington Times reports this morning that the situation is near anarchy:

Ivory Coast, once an oasis of stability in coup-ridden West Africa, stood at the brink of renewed civil war yesterday as French armored vehicles surrounded President Laurent Gbagbo's home and struggled to curb anti-French rioting in the streets of Abidjan.
The rioting has gotten almost out-of-hand in some areas of the country. A BBC report tells us
The earlier attack on its airport ignited anti-French feeling in Abidjan - a much bigger city - where mobs loyal to President Gbagbo went on the rampage.

Brandishing axes, machetes and clubs, they roamed the streets shouting "French go home!" and "Everybody get your Frenchman!" as French property was looted.

At Abidjan's airport, French and Ivorian forces exchanged shots and a French military plane was reportedly damaged.

Troops guarding a French base in the city fired tear gas at a crowd protesting at the destruction of the Ivorian planes and a French secondary school was also set alight

There's a temptation to engage in Schandenfreude - taking pleasure in the misfortune of others - and it is darn tempting, but I won't take that route. The French do have some UN resolutions (see listings 2003 & 2004) behind them. They were the colonial rulers of the country, and feel a responsiblilty to set the country right.

Ok, so far so good. I have not problem with what France or the UN are doing. I don't even care if they have any UN resolutions behind them or not. The issue to me is that the French are so two-faced about it; they have no problem sending troops where it suits their interests, but do everything in our power to thwart us when we do the same.

Posted by Tom at 1:50 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 8, 2004

Crying over Arafat

Would you cry over the impending death of Yassir Arafat? This BBC reporter evidently did:

Barbara Plett, BBC's Middle East correspondent, reported on a BBC Radio 4 program last Saturday her impressions of the sickly Arafat's departure. "When the helicopter carrying the frail old man rose above his ruined compound, I started to cry," she said.
They don't call it the "Biased Broadcasting Corporation" for nothing.

Their reporting got so bad during the 2003 invasion of Iraq the the crew of a British warship, the HMS Ark Royal demanded that BBC broadcasts be turned off.

Posted by Tom at 11:59 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

A Map is Worth a Thousand Words

We've heard a lot about a "divided America." Well, the division certainly isn't equal if you look at the geography.

This is the state-by-state map that you usually see of the presidential election.

Not take a look at the county-by-county breakdown.

No wonder the left is going bonkers over their loss. We've got them surrounded!

(hat tip to Mud & Phud)

Posted by Tom at 11:40 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Kofi Annan the the Rescue

If anyone needed another reason why the UN is at best utterly useless, and at worst positively harmful, we have this story from today's LA Times:

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has warned leaders of the United States, Britain and Iraq that another full-scale assault on the rebel-held city of Fallouja would further alienate Iraqis and disrupt elections planned for January.
Iraqi interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi was understandably "furious" when he read Annan's warning, sent in a letter to the Iraqi government. American and British officials are not at all happy either.

This is not the first time Annan has tried to undermine our efforts in Iraq. He has called our involvement there "illegal." He will only authorize the sending of 35 UN poll watchers for the upcoming elections. And he has refused to allocate resources to help in the prosecution of Saddam or any of his henchmen.

But Kerry wanted us to "exhaust the remedies of the United Nations." What remedies?

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November 5, 2004

But Should We Care?

Over on the other side of the pond, the Guardian has a roundup of what they see as world opinion as regards the election in particular and our role in a post 9/11 world in particular. Are they ever bitter over there.

Of the 14 articles that make up their post-election "America's Place in the World", all but two are critical, if not outright hostile, to George W Bush. One country friendly towards us is Israel. No surprise there. But the other is Russia, where there may be a New-Found Friendship. According to the author of that piece, in the aftermath of the Beslan massacre Russians have developed a more favorable attitude towards the United States. Funny what a terrorist attack on one's own soil will do to one's predilections.

A review of just a few of the articles will suffice

Poll Reveals World Anger at Bush

George Bush has squandered a wealth of sympathy around the world towards America since September 11 with public opinion in 10 leading countries - including some of its closest allies - growing more hostile to the United States while he has been in office.

Never mind that this is a load of bunk. The reality is different. I'm willing to believe that most Europeans were actually sympathetic (even if privately happy to see us humbled). The problem is that they simply do not see 9/11 as a cause for war of any sort. Afghanistan, maybe. But a broader war? No. They are far too cynical, too sardonic, to accept the idea that we can reform the Middle East. The idea of moral values driving foreign policy is quite beyond them.

The most condesending article was regarding opinion in Spain

A Mature Society Condemns the War

Generally speaking, the polls show the same pattern in almost every country: rejection of the Iraq invasion, contempt for the Bush administration and lukewarm support for Kerry, but no clear sentiment of anti-Americanism, no rejection of the Americans or of their society. Such is the case in Spain, where there has traditionally been anti-American sentiment on the extreme right and the extreme left, but not in the centre. This lack of anti-Americanism is evidence of a mature society.

Thi attempt to separate "Americans" from "Bush", seen in other Guardian articles too, grates. Do they not realize that in a democracy a government is a reflection of what the people want? Or is it that the only Americans they meet are the Michael Moore-types?

But should we care? Niccolo Machiavelli offered this response to his Prince

Here the question arises; whether it is better to be loved than feared than feared or feared than loved. The answer is that it would be desireable to be both, but, since that is difficult, it is much safer to be feared than loved, if one must choose.
We live in a time in which we might just have to choose. As Robert Kagan wrote two years ago
It is time to stop pretending that Europeans and Americans share a common view of the world, or even that they occupy the same world. On the all-important question of power — the efficacy of power, the morality of power, the desirability of power — American and European perspectives are diverging. Europe is turning away from power, or to put it a little differently, it is moving beyond power into a self-contained world of laws and rules and transnational negotiation and cooperation. It is entering a post-historical paradise of peace and relative prosperity, the realization of Kant’s “Perpetual Peace.” The United States, meanwhile, remains mired in history, exercising power in the anarchic Hobbesian world where international laws and rules are unreliable and where true security and the defense and promotion of a liberal order still depend on the possession and use of military might. That is why on major strategic and international questions today, Americans are from Mars and Europeans are from Venus: They agree on little and understand one another less and less. And this state of affairs is not transitory — the product of one American election or one catastrophic event. The reasons for the transatlantic divide are deep, long in development, and likely to endure.
If he is right, and I believe that he is, then the idea that holding summits will change matters was more than naive. Thank heavens John Kerry did not win the election and force us to witness several useless get-togethers by the world's leaders.

So yes, we should care. No, we should not compromise. As a result of the election it is they who will be forced to deal with us. We will see articles like those in the Guardian for a time. Let them get it out of their system. But at the end of the day they must come to grips with four more years of George W Bush. The American people have spoken, and they approve of his policies. American power and determination cannot be ignored.

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Do You Feel Embarrassed?

I don't, regardless of what the MSM says.

(hat tip lgf)

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November 4, 2004

Fair Weather Friends

Tim Cavanaugh writes in Reason something that I've been thinking for some time now;

One of the most dramatic and least surprising developments of Election 2004's final period has been President Bush's abandonment by the "liberal hawks," the collection of left-leaning thinkers, commentators, and pundits who approved of the invasion of Iraq as a progressive operation, offered well reasoned and often enthusiastic support for Bush in the prelude to the war, were granted their wish by the White House, and have now paid the president back with withering criticism and endorsements for John Kerry.

Thus, in late 2002 and early 2003, we found such luminaries as Christopher Hitchens, Paul Berman, Thomas Friedman, Fred Kaplan, Kenneth Pollack, Fareed Zakaria, Jeff Jarvis, Andrew Sullivan, Michael Ignatieff, and many others arguing for the expenditure of American lives and treasure in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

These days, none of those luminaries can summon a kind word for the president who acted in accord with their own arguments. Ignatieff dismisses the humanitarian intervention as a "fantasy." Sullivan has in recent days seized on the nebulous circumstances surrounding the disappearance of explosives at Al Qaqaa as evidence that Bush failed to keep order in postwar Iraq. Jarvis tells Reason, "though I think the execution of the war itself was good—Rumsfeld is really smart—the aftermath has been really fucked up." Friedman declares, "Iraq is a terrible mess because of the criminal incompetence of the Bush national security team, and we are more alone in the world than ever." Zakaria calls the president "strangely out of touch," unaware that his "attitude" is responsible for the problems of postwar Iraq. Pollack condemns "the reckless, and often foolish, manner in which this administration has waged the war and the reconstruction." For Kaplan, the only question is whether the Bush administration is "reckless or clueless." Berman is now relieved to recall that even while championing the invasion he was cautioning against the president's "rhetoric, ignorance, and Hobbesian brutishness," and declaring himself "'terrified' at the dangers [Bush] was courting." Even Hitchens, while standing by Bush's side (or is he?), criticized the administration's "near-impeachable irresponsibility in the matter of postwar planning in Iraq."

This is a neat arrangement of responsibility by the liberal hawks: All the blame falls on the president, none on themselves.
Here here.

This is not to say that no criticism of our post-invasion strategy is to be tolerated. Far from it. There is much to criticize, as Rich Lowry did in an article in National Review last month. But one can be critical and still be supportive. Sullivan et al have gone too far, abandoning the president when the going got tough.

The issue is that one cannot be a "sunshine patriot." If you're going to advocate military action, don't be surprised if the aftermath is not so peachy. Often forgotten is that the occupation of Germany was regarded as a failure before Marshall Plan aid kicked in several years after the war ended.

Thomas Paine had it right

These are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph
Now that the election is over we can call them on their lack of support during the critical period we have just gone through.

Posted by Tom at 11:41 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 3, 2004

Kerry Concedes

Finally, the moment we've all been waiting for.

John Kerry has conceded the election to George W Bush.

Victory hasn't been this sweet since 1984. Or this important.

Congratulations to you, Mr President, and everybody who worked to make your re-election possible.

And thank you, John Kerry, for doing the right thing and not putting the nation through the same thing we went through four years ago.

It has been written elsewhere that this election mirrors the race between Truman and Dewey in 1948, and I agree. Truman was not terribly popular, and neither was he well spoken. He was blunt and direct ("the buck stops here") but no one would say that he was eloquant. Thomas Dewey was cerebal but boring. The election took place at the dawn of the Cold War, just when it became evident that we were facing a new, and terribly dangerous threat. As I have written, I believe that Truman was just the person that we needed to run the country during those perilous times.

And I have made no secret of the fact that I believe that George W Bush is the right person to lead us today.

Truman was considered "divisive" at the time, but is considered to have been a very good president today. I believe that the same thing will be said about Bush fifty years hence.

Posted by Tom at 11:51 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 2, 2004

Come on Over...

To Conserva-Puppies, where I'll be posting comments as the election results come in tonight.

I'm back from the GOP party, where I celebrated Frank Wolf's reelection with a few hundred other happy Republicans.

So far, I'm cautiously optimistic.

Posted by Tom at 11:27 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Election Day Thoughts

I've been voting since 1980 and this is the first time I've been actively involved in campaigning. It's not as though I never cared, anyone who knows me knows how closely I follow the news and how passionately I take my politics. So why did I get involved this time?

The short answer is that George W Bush is the first president since Ronald Reagan that I have felt strongly about. I despised Gore in 2000, but didn't feel that passionately about Bush at the time. Bob Dole? Well, "it was his turn", but he wasn't going to beat Clinton and everyone knew it. George H W Bush was my hero during the Gulf War but then proceeded to squander the rest of his presidency.

I'm not going to go into why I think George W Bush is better than John Kerry to lead our nation, for an answer to that read the rest of this blog.

Today I stood outside one of our local voting places and handed out GOP literature. Loudoun County Virginia is fairly Republican, so I'm not worried about losing the state. The congressman that I've been working for these past few weeks, Frank Wolf, will also win handily. But there is the popular vote to consider, and every bit helps.

And then there is the main reason I've been out campaigning. Sure, I've sent money. They have my number on that score and I get the usual dozen mailings and emails each month. But there's been this nagging feeling over the past few months that this time I had to do more. "Time to get off your butt and do something," I told myself. If George Bush does loose, I could not look myself in the mirror the next day and say to myself "You did not lift a finger to help."

And I must say that I had a lot of fun campaigning. Today, in front of the polls, there I was, face-to-face with the Democrats handing out there literature. Arthur Chrenkoff (in a post of his that I can't find at the moment) was right, there is a certain comradere with the opposition in these situations. There were many times when turnout lighened up, and we used these times to chat it up with each other. We talked about everything but the election, of course.

But enough with that. It's time to grab a bite and get off to the party. I'll be on-line later tonight, regardless of how things turn out.

Here's hoping.

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