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December 31, 2004

"Stingy"?

My apologies for the light blogging over the past week or so. I'm back on track now.

I just heard on the local news that six members of the Fairfax County Search and Rescue Team have left for one of the areas hit by the tsunami. This, mind you, from the ever so "stingy" United States. Although I haven't done the research to prove it, I'd be willing to bet good money that teams from all over the country are headed to areas damaged by the wave.

And by now many others have written about how, far from being stingy, we are quite generous in our aid. The points that I've heard made are along the following lines:

  • The initial $15 million pledge was just that; initial. More is sure to come. And, indeed, of this writing, President Bush has increased the amount to $350 million, and suggested that more may be on the way.
  • Direct food shipments are not taken into account in most of the calculations that purport to show that we do not contribute at the same level as other countries. In 2004 we will have provided $2.4 billion in food aid, cash, and other humanitarian relief.
  • Private aid is not counted in the figures usually cited, either. The U.S. is home to many charites that do good work around the world. Some send money or other needed items. Others send people to do work, usually through churches or organizations like the Peace Corps. One suspects that since these contributions are outside of the UN bureaucracy, and thus out of their control, they don't like them.
  • The U.S. military can and does provide resources that are simply unavailable elsewhere. the USS Abraham Lincoln Battle Group and other elements of the Seventh Fleet are headed for or are already in the area. They are carrying supplies and medical groups, and the helicopters to effectively distribute them.
  • The U.S. has set up a special coalition of nations to provide aid. They are, besides us, Australia, India, and Japan. Predicatably, a former UN bureaucrat, more concerned with her buddies losing their jobs than worrying about the victims of the tsunami, has cried foul. (hat tip lgf)
These are things that we often don't get credit for. But enough review of what you already know. All of these are good and true. And it's necessary to state them again and again.

I'd just like to add two more things we should get credit for but do not, things that I haven't seen yet elsewhere:

  • We have imposed a sort of pax Americana over the world that works to benefit all right-thinking people. The cost for this is enormous. And, contrary to what the lefties and assorted anti-America types of the new Fifth Column say, our military power does work to advance the values that we hold so dear.
This second is only partially tongue-in-cheek:
  • That we have to put up with all of the incessant complaining, bitching, moaning, whining, griping, gnashing of teeth, and just plain out anti-Americanism of so many around the world, especially western Europe and the UN, has got to count for something. We've even been blamed for the tsunami. The Brits to this day are derided as "imperialists!", yet their navy single-handedly ended the slave trade that was prevalent throughout much of the world(for which they get no credit, of course), and at no benefit to themselves. Like them, we will just have to shoulder our burden, and do what we know to be right.
Now go have a Happy New Year.

Posted by Tom at 6:21 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 24, 2004

A Savior is Born

Luke 2: 8-20

8And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ[a] the Lord. 12This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 14“Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”

15When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

16So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

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Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus

In 1897 eight-year old New York City resident Virginia Hanlon had a problem; some of her friends had told here that there was no Santa Claus. She went to her father and asked him; "Is there a Santa Claus?"

He suggested that she write to the "Question and Answer" section of The Sun, the newspaper he read. "If you see it in The Sun, it's so" he liked to say.

On September 11 her letter appeared:

Dear Editor—

I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, “If you see it in The Sun, it’s so.” Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus?

Virginia O’Hanlon
115 West 95th St
New York City
The task of responding was left to editorial writer Francis Pharcellus Church. It was not until the day after he died in 1906 that it was known that he had wrote what is arguably the most famous editorial reply in history.

Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours, man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The external light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies. You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if you did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived could tear apart. Only faith, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives and lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay 10 times 10,000 years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.


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December 23, 2004

Amazing What Some People will Believe

A quick perusal of the MEMRI website this morning brings forth this delightful story

Iran's Sahar 1 TV station is currently airing a weekly series titled "For You, Palestine," or "Zahra's Blue Eyes." The series premiered on December 13, and is set in Israel and the West Bank. It broadcasts every Monday, and was filmed in Persian but subsequently dubbed into Arabic.

The story follows an Israeli candidate for Prime Minister, Yitzhak Cohen, who is also the military commander of the West Bank. The opening sequence of the show contains graphic scenes of surgery, and images of a Palestinian girl in a hospital whose eyes have been removed, with bandages covering the sockets.

In Episode 1, Yitzhak Cohen lectures at a medical conference on the advances being made by Israeli medicine regarding organ transplants. Later in the episode, Israelis disguised as UN workers visit a Palestinian school, ostensibly to examine the children's eyes for diseases, but in reality to select which children's eyes to steal to be used for transplants.

In Episode 2, the audience learns that the Israeli president is being kept alive by organs stolen from Palestinian children, and an Israeli military commander is seen kidnapping UN employees and Palestinians.

Unbelieveable. Unfortunately such stories are all too common. It has been widely reported that Mein Kampf and The Protocols to the Learned Elders of Zion are best-sellers in much of that part of the world.

One of the things we did not anticipate was how different the thinking can be in other parts of the world. Steven Vincent has a series of excerpts from his new book In the Red Zone on the National Review website that touches on this subject. Here's one

She was a Sunni Muslim, an attractive, thirty-something writer, one of the few women I met who eschewed a scarf in public. And she was overjoyed at the demise of Saddam. "I am so happy! Freedom at last! The world is open to me now!" she exclaimed during a small social function at an art gallery in Karada. "Can you recommend some American magazines I might send my writing to?"

I promised I'd draw up a list of suitable periodicals, then added — carelessly, for this was my first trip to Iraq — "You must not mind seeing American soldiers on the streets."

The woman's smile vanished. Her brow darkened and she shook her head. "Oh, no. I hate the soldiers. I hate them so much I fantasize about taking a gun and shooting one dead."

Stunned by her vehemence, "But American soldiers are responsible for your freedom!" I replied.

"I know," the woman snarled. "And you can't imagine how humiliated that makes me feel."

He was a short, intense, bespectacled lawyer from Baquba, who claimed he had connections with anti-Coalition forces in the Sunni Triangle. As we drove through the desert into Baghdad, "I hate your country," he informed me. "Every time I see a U.S. tank I feel like it is crushing my skull."

Less startled by this expression — for this was my second trip to Iraq — I asked the attorney the cause of his feelings. As if explaining the most self-evident thing in the world, he replied, "America is occupying my country — as a patriot, of course I must resist." He fixed his wire-rimmed gaze on me. "Imagine if a foreign power was occupying America — wouldn't you resist?"

This is so illogical to us that it is hard to believe that people actually think this way. But we should not be surprised, for we hear this from our own left. I've often read some liberal/leftist say something like "well, how would you like it if someone invaded your country?" The obvious response is "If I were ruled by a murderous dictator and a democracy invaded, I'd love it!"

Perhaps we're just so used to the leftists saying this that we can't imagine that people in other parts of the world believe it too. I'm not sure.

Recently the Iraqi brothers who write the pro-democracy Iraq the Model blog visited the United States. Catherine Seipp writes about how the American Left views them

You might assume that a pro-America, pro-democracy Baghdad blog would be considered a good thing across the political spectrum here in the U.S., but unfortunately you would be wrong. Lefty bloggers complain that most Iraqis are not as pro-America as the Fadhil brothers, which might be true (although Omar and Mohammad — who, like Saddam and his crew, are Sunni — argue vehemently to the contrary). But so what?

Should we have refused to support the French Resistance in World War II because so many of their countrymen sympathized with the Vichy government? Or — a better analogy — if some Americans had tried to discredit anti-Nazi, pro-U.S. Germans after the war (because after all, Hitler had the support of the masses) should they have expected anyone here other than the American Nazi party to take them seriously?

<>Some leftists are convinced that they are backed by the CIA. Amazing what people will believe.

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UN Alternative Update

In an earlier post on the United Nations, I mentioned the PSI (Proliferation Security Initiative) as a possible replacement. Bill Gertz has a story in today's Washington Times that describes the program as largely successful

The war in Iraq has set the United States at odds with some allies, but the international community is strongly supporting a U.S.-led initiative to stop the spread of weapons of mass destruction.

More than 60 nations — including Russia and France, two key opponents of the Bush administration's policy toward Iraq — are supporting the 19-month-old Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI). The global effort to halt arms proliferation has also gained favor from the United Nations.
Not that I really care what the UN thinks, but so far so good. Here is what the PSI does
PSI, launched by President Bush in May 2003, was an outgrowth of the administration's effort to prevent weapons of mass destruction from reaching terrorists.

Its core participants include the governments of the United States, Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Singapore, Spain, Thailand and Britain.

But more than 40 other states have signed on to its principles and have chosen to keep their participation secret or limited.

The initiative is hoped to be the first step in creating a new global system to control the spread of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and missile systems.
It is important to note that the PSI is "an activity, not an organization." It is an ad hoc group of nations working in concert to achieve a particular goal.

This may be the wave of the future, or at least what we should be working towards. Many of us who see the UN as a failure, and NATO as limited, have been searching for alternatives. But permanent organizations and alliances may not work in a post-Cold War world. The PSI is a model that we should follow closely to see how well it works in upcoming years.

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December 21, 2004

Move the GOP to the Left?

Arnold Schwartzenegger believes that the GOP needs to move "a little farther left."

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-CA) told a German newspaper in an interview published on Saturday that he believes the GOP should move "a little further left" in order to attract new voters and to continue to build the Republican Party base.

"The Republican Party currently covers only the spectrum from the right wing to the middle, and the Democratic Party covers the spectrum from the left to the middle," Schwarzenegger explained in the newspaper interview. "I would like the Republican Party to cross this line, move a little further left and place more weight on the center."

The Hollywood action star explained that "this would immediately give the [Republican] party 5 percent more votes without its losing anything elsewhere."

While I have not checked around, I'm sure a lot of conservatives will be outraged.

It bothers me not at all.

The reasons for this are several. First, I'm comfortable that the Republican Party is solidly conservative at it's core. We may debate this or that issue, but at the end of the day we'll remain Pro-Life, Pro-Second Amendment, strong on national defense, in favor of low taxes, and so on.

Second, I am strongly against attempts to enforce ideological orthodoxy. This is not a contradiction to the previous paragraph. I am certain that the party as a whole will remain conservative, that we will have dissenters on this or that issue affects the whole not at all.

The reason that I am so against excommunicating people for, say, taking a pro-choice stand, is that to do so is the surest way to minority party status. Look at the Democrats: They are the ones who enforce ideological orthodoxy on their members. No one dare express an opinion that is not pro-choice or anti-affirmative action. To do so ensures that you will be marginalized.

The GOP, meanwhile, is the "big tent" party. That Rudi Giuliani and Arnold Schwartzenegger were able to give prime-time speaches testifies to this. That the opposite could happen in the Democratic party is inconceivable. As such, they are doomed to minority party status for the foreseeable future.

So if Arnold wants to say that we should move "a little further left" I say fine, let him have his say. It's not going to change anything and the fastest way to chase people out of the party is to insist on purity of thought.

Posted by Tom at 5:37 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Don't forget

Don't forget to make Conserva-Puppies a regular stop on your blog tour. It's a joint blog effort, and you'll find great posts and lively discussion by myself and other bloggers.

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December 20, 2004

The Unpopular UN

The battle over Kofi Annan's future at the UN is in full force. US Senator Norm Coleman, among others, has called for his resignation. The EU has come out in support of Annan.

Defenders of Annan have now taken to saying that Annan is in fact a great reformer. Shashi Tharoor, Under-Secretary-General at the UN, tells us so in a letter to the Washington Times

Your editorial "Kofi's dysfunctional institution" (Dec. 6) glosses over the fact that Kofi Annan has on many occasions been labeled the "reform" secretary-general. In 1997, his first blueprint for action on reform, "Renewing the United Nations," emphasized improved coherence and coordination and marked the momentum for change, evaluation and improved performance that has characterized his tenure.
First there is the "has...been labeled" line. That somebody has been called something good by unnamed sources proves nothing. Second, plans are worth a dime a dozen. It's the implementation that it important. Given the revelations of the Oil-for-Food Scandal now unfolding, any "reforms" were not serious.

In the rest of the letter the Under-Secretary lays out what has become the standard defense; we helped you (the US) set up elections in Afghanistan and are helping you in Iraq. This may be true, but it is beside the point. Given the amount of money the UN spends, they had better be able to help with a few elections. The real question is whether the benefits to the world outweigh the harm. And it seems pretty clear to me that the UN has done more harm than good.

Consider the experiences of Kenneth Cain, who has served in UN peacekeeping operations in Somalia, Rwanda, Haiti, and Liberia

Before my recent return, the last time I was in Rwanda was 10 years ago; I was counting skulls. A young U.N. human-rights officer, I was tasked with collecting evidence for the U.N.'s forthcoming war-crimes tribunal after the successful genocide of Rwanda's Tutsi minority by Hutu militias in 1994. We were looking for the mass graves of mass murder. We found them in churches, schools, gardens, latrines--anywhere Tutsis had gathered seeking protection or their killers had dumped their bodies, dismembered and entangled, like life-size rag dolls. Some 800,000 bodies rotted in the African sun.

But it isn't just the stench of death I remember so vividly; the odor of betrayal also hung heavily in the Rwandan air. This was not a genocide in which the U.N. failed to intervene; most of the U.N.'s armed troops evacuated after the first two weeks of massacres, abandoning vulnerable civilians to their fate, which included, literally, the worst things in the world a human being can do to another human being.

Cain relates how General Romeo Dalliare, the UN force commander, pleaded with Anan for authority to protect the minority Tutsis. Instead, Annan ordered Dalliare to "stand down" so that the UN would be seen as impartial.

"Impartial"? With regard to mass murder? But this goes to the heart of the problem with the UN; it is at best an amoral organization, at worst one that advances the interests of the dictatorships of the world.

The British Economist said that the failure of these forces to do anything in Africa made them "the world's least effective UN peacekeeping force" (Hat tip Belmont Club). Elites who tout the UN's "indespensability should note how the organization is perceived by the people it is supposed to be protecting

Indeed, it would be hard to exaggerate the UN's unpopularity. Some Congolese shake their fists or throw clumps of mud at passing UN patrols. Three months ago, militiamen burned 17 people to death while a detachment of MONUC troops 200 metres away, whose mandate authorised them to use force to prevent such massacres, did nothing. “Is MONUC here to do anything apart from count the bodies?” asked a Congolese witness.
The UN may be popular among liberal elites, but it is unpopular where it counts; among the people it is supposed to be protecting.

Why is the UN so ineffective? Wretchard gets to the bottom of it

The key problem facing the United Nations is lack of accountability not to its constituent institutions, though it lacks that, but to the individual inhabitants of the world. Its inefficiency, corruption and fantasy policies are the result and not the cause of its problems.
"Individuals" do not matter to dictatorships. And indeed many western Europeans do not seem interested at all in the spread of democracy, or see it as a benefit. The Oil-for-Food Scandal, as bad as it is, is but a symptom of a more fundamental problem. And it is one that "reform" will not solve.

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December 17, 2004

Racial Reconciliation

The Homespun Bloggers Symposium question of the week

What do you believe is necessary for true racial reconciliation to take place in American society? Does your solution involve coercive governmental remedies? Do you believe that Churches have an important role to play in this process?

My answer

Let us first define the problem. The question, I believe, relates mainly to white-black relations in our country. While Hispanics make up a large part of our nation, the issues with them or any of the other minority groups do not have the unique historical background that defines white-black relations.

The problem is that each side blames the other for the current problems that the "black community" faces. I put black community in quotation marks because as a committed individualist I always wince whenever someone tries to lump all people into a neat classification, as if everyone in that group thinks and acts the same way. With that caveat firmly in mind, however, for purposes of this discussion we will cautiously speak of groups of people.

In 1990 Shelby Steele wrote that he thought that "...the real trouble between the races in America is that the races are not just races but competing power groups." It is tempting to say that this is half-right, that the NAACP, for example, constitutes an institution dedicated to black power (which it does) but that since there is nothing similar on the white side we are not a power group. This, I believe, is incorrect. Whites do have power groups, but they are less well defined.

White Guilt

White guilt has been a powerful driving force among white people for over forty years. That such a syndrome developed is not only understandable, but perhaps necessary. Jim Crow lived for far too long in our country, and when he was finally extinguished white people felt that they had to make up for years of oppression.

It's initial result was the construction of LBJ's "Great Society" programs in the 1960's. The consequence of many of these programs has unfortunately been to further the misery of the black underclass. Further, as long as these programs exist, the situation in our country is not going to get any better. (Note; no time now for a detailed discussion of programs such as AFDC or affirmative action)

Today white guilt is mainly confined to liberals and leftists. Those of us usually considered conservatives have seen for some time that these programs were not only working, but are positively harmful. That the left is still consumed by feelings of guilt is demonstrated by the method with which they defend these programs; not through rational discussion but by name-calling and personal attacks. Daniel Patrick Moynihan discovered this in 1965 when he released his "Moynihan Report" showing black families to be in crisis because of the growth of single parenthood. For his trouble he suffered the indignity of being called "racist" and other epithets.

In order for progress to be made, the left must get rid of it's white guilt complex.

Conservative Compassion

At the same time, conservatives must not "write off" black people. That we do not get but a fraction of their vote is no excuse. Jack Kemp is right when he says that we must work to find solutions outside of the traditional leftist welfare state. Now, much work in this area has been done in the past fifteen or so years. The "Welfare Reform" bill passed during the Clinton years is a result of this effort.

There have been many other conservative thinkers who have written about this problem, and they are too many to list here. Suffice it to say that we must not be disheartened by the venom coming from groups like the NAACP, but must redouble our efforts. Survey after survey shows that many blacks hold quite conservative social views. If we work hard enough, and we must surely try, we can over time work to alleviate racial problems.

Black Acceptance

On the "other side" (augh, how I hate to divide us so) some (is that better?) black people need to accept that it is no longer 1955. The NAACP and other extremist groups need to recognize that what columnist Walter Williams has said; that the war against racial opppression has been won, and that it is over. We're not still fighting the Germans or Japanese, thus our military and foreigh policies have changed. Jim Crow is dead, but extremist groups cannot accept this simple fact.

Likewise, racial provocateurs such as Al Sharpton must be marginalized. It is to the everlasting shame of the Democratic Party that such people are not only tolerated but accepted with open arms. Media institutions fawn over Sharpton, and totally ignore his history. This must change if there is to be racial reconciliation. Jesse Jackson marginalized himself, but as long as Sharpton is accepted it will be difficult or impossible for changes to occur.

Lastly, the entire liberal obsession with "victimhood" must end. As Shelby Steele put it, in order "to move beyond the victim-focused black identity; we must learn to make a difficult but crucial distinction; between acual victimization, which we must resist with every resource, and identification with the victim's status."

The Role of the Government

This part is simple; coercion must not be involved. What goes by the euphamism of "affirmative action" has been a net loss for black people. The reasons for this are two: On the one hand it fosters dependancy. On the other, resentment.

The Role of Churches

I wish that I could say that churches could play a significant role. They may be able to effect some change at the local level, but nationally their effect so far has been harmful.

On the "white side" (arugh, there I go again) the mainstream churches are consumed with White Guilt. The Presbyterian Church USA, for example, is run by leftists (no ifs ands or buts, folks, they are way out in left field. I know because I'm a member). As the possiblilty of significan change within their national leadership seems remote, they are best kept out of any discussion process.

Same on the "black side". As long as the "Reverend" Jackson and Sharpton are given prominent places no progress can be made.

If churches are to have a role, it is at the local level. Individual churches can make contact with each other and set up joint-projects. For example, the mostly-white Presbyterian church in my old hometown works with the largely-black First Babtist church. They do joint charity projects. I'm not sure, however, that any of this will bring about any significant changes, but it is better than nothing.

The Bottom Line

Each side must make changes if we are to have racial reconciliation in our country. It behooves each side to make an honest accounting of their failures and prejudices. We have come a long way, and this must be recognized and celebrated, but still have a long way to go, and this, too, must be recognized.

Posted by Tom at 9:45 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 16, 2004

Institutional Paralysis

Wretchard nails the problem with the UN Security Council perfectly

The Security Council's structural defect is part of its design. It was meant to freeze international action, not promote it. Paralysis is a Security Council feature not a bug. While international multilateral action from recorded history has always been carried out by nations whose interests momentarily coincide, the Security Council was carefully constructed to consist of rivals whose interests clash, each with a veto over the other. The proposals put forward to limit international military action to the Security Council are tantamount to preventing alliance action because all "legitimate" international action is made the province of the parties in conflict.

Exactly why we need to develop an alternative institution(s) if we are ever to address post Cold-War realities. That the exact nature and structure of these institutions haven't been worked out to their final form isn't an argument for sticking with the failed UN. Even ad hoc alliances seem preferable to what we have now with the Security Council.


Posted by Tom at 11:35 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 15, 2004

Humvee Armor and the Secretary

As it turns out, the Homespun Blogger's weekly symposium question is about Secretary Rumsfeld and the Humvee armor question. I addressed the issue in this post:

It's been pretty well established that the incident the other day when Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld got some by tough questions from soldiers over Humvee armor was a setup. The reporter's behavior was completely out of line (and something of a braggart too). And Senators such as McCain and Biden, both of whom have been quite critical lately, are simply positioning themselves to run for president in '08. Further, we live in an age of style over substance, one in which the way a question is answered gets greater attention than the substance of the question at hand. But lapsing into despair over these things will not make them go away.

Ultimately, the question about the armor is valid. And it is inexcusable for Rumsfeld to have appeared startled by the question. After all, the issue of armor on Humvees and other vehicles has occupied the Pentagon for some time.

And unfortunately for Rumsfeld, it might get worse before it get's better. William Kristol, one of the most influential neoconservatives around, has declared in a Washington Post editorial that he no longer supports the Secretary. It seems to me that Kristol is entirely too hard on Rumsfeld, and seems unaware that the issue is actually fairly complicated.

And, before we write off our Defense Secretary over armor on Humvees, let's site back and take a deep breath. For the plain fact is that far from being the "arrogant, buck-passing" Secretary that Bill Kristol seems to think he is, Rummy is actually quite iconoclastic. He's trying to shake things up at the Pentagon far more than I think is generally realized.

Consequences

If there is any blame, it is in not anticipating that there would be an insurgency. We need to remember that we thought that what we were worried about was fighting a conventional battle against the Iraqi army. As such, our Army and Marine Corps was configured to fight just such a war. Armor on Humvees was simply not important in a traditional invasion, where armored vehicles such as the M-1 Abrams tank and Bradley M2/M3 fighting vehicle would lead the way.

But then, almost no one anticipated the insurgency. Recall that those who opposed the war warned of many dire consequences, but few if any mentioned a long insurgency. Most were focused on a conventional fight with the Iraqi army, or chemical attacks on our troops. Others told us that a civil war would almost certainly erupt, or that massive famine would ensue. Still others were certain that the "Arab street" thoughout the Middle East would erupt and chaos would ensue throughout the region, perhaps even toppling governments. But then if you're anti-war you are always forgiven.

That none of these things have happened seems not to matter to some of these critics. For the plain fact is that the requirements of an invading column and those of an anti-insurgent force are quite different. And it's not so simple to revamp overnight.

Armor on a Humvee has disadvantages, as has been pointed out elsewhere. One of them is slower speed, which can be a tactical disadvantage. Another is increased fuel consumption. In an insurgency, when you are operating from bases close to the scene of the action, this is not a big deal. But go back to the original invasion of Iraq (or of another country). This additional weight on the vehicles could very well have slowed down the invasion columns to the point where the Iraqis were able to put up a better defense. And this would have resulted in a longer conventional phase to the conflict. Which would have resulted in criticism from the usual suspects.

Some Marines in Fallujah have pointed out the pros and cons of armor to reporters who told them about the dustup with Rumsfeld

Asked whether he would prefer a closed Humvee with bulletproof windows, Munns said "it's a yes-and-no answer."

"An enclosed vehicle reduces your visibility and if you are not able to see an attack you might as well have no armor at all," he said. "It needs to be a fine balance between visibility and protection."

Munns said he prefers mobility over the weight of extra body armor.

The three Marines agree that the most exposed person is their gunner in the turret.

"He has to think about the bigger stuff, he is up there, more exposed than any of us," Munns noted.

History and More History

Here is where things get difficult. For me as a writer, that is. . Certainly it looks like up-armored Humvees are necessary in fighting the insurgency. Certainly also many soldiers are angry that they don't have enough armor. And maybe the Pentagon should have anticipated the need and got them out to the field faster. But, and I don't at all mean to sound callus here folks, but in the scheme of history this is not a huge screw-up. It is important and deserves our attention. Woe be the day when we shrug off what our troops tell us that they need.

And from most of what I read the Pentagon is and has been trying to get armor on the Humvees and trucks. Have their been mistakes, and should the job have been done faster and better? Perhaps so.

However, we need to put all this in the perspective of history. And if we take a little trip back through time, here are some things that we discover

  • We entered World War II with 80% of our torpedoes being defective. That's right, folks, up to 80% of the torpedoes that we fired didn't work for one or more of three reasons: they dove too deep, they failed to explode on contact, or they detonated en route to the enemy ship, the magnetic detector being the culprit (ideally a torpedo goes under the enemy ship and detonates to achieve maximum damage, thus a magnetic detector is required to detect the steel of the ship).
  • Not only did we enter the war with inferior and outright lousy tanks, we never did achieve parity with the Germanys. The reasons why we stuck with the venerable Sherman are many (and some quite valid), but that does not excuse the fact that we entered the war with inferior tanks. (Note to techies; yes I know this issue, like all others concerning military hardware, is very complex. See posts here, for example)
  • The Shermans that we did finally build couldn't deal with the hedgerow country in Normandy in the days and weeks after the D-Day invasion. The tanks became stuck in the hedgerows that were all over the area and became bogged down. Finally a US sergeant came up with the idea of welding a fork-like scoop to the front of the tanks. When they came to a hedgerow they were able to plow the hedges up and keep moving. None of this was anticipated, as arguably it should have.
  • However one comes down on the debate about US tanks, no one can dispute that our aircraft were almost universally inferior, especially to those the Japanese had. Our F4F Wildcat couldn't match the famous Mitsubishi Zero, the F2A Buffalo was a joke, the and TBD Devastator obsolete . At least theSBD Dauntless was a good aircraft.
  • We went into Vietnam with F-4 Phantom fighter aircraft that didn't have guns. In our infinite wisdom we had thought that the days of gunbattles in the sky were over and everything would be decided by missiles. Wrong. Pilots quickly discovered that while missiles were preferred, there were many cases where only a gun would do. To rectify the situation we strapped a gun onto the center hard-point of the Phantoms (or some of them anyway), and only later reincorporated a gun into the aircraft.

Rumsfeld the Rebel

Take this story that appeared in the Wall Street Journal recently. The Army was quite convinced that it had discovered the way to winning future wars. Speed, overwhelming firepower, and ever-better C4I capabilities would surely devastate future enemies. What we found out was that yes, we could win this way - as long as the enemy cooperated. As Clausewitz reminded us

In war the will is directed at an animate object that reacts
Rumsfeld understands all this perfectly and it working to change how the Army fights.

"We're realizing strategic victory is about a lot more than annihilating the enemy," says one senior defense official in Mr. Rumsfeld's office. Victory also requires winning the support of locals and tracking down insurgents, who can easily elude advanced surveillance technology and precision strikes. In some cases, a slower, more methodical attack, one that allows U.S. troops to stabilize one area and hold it up as an example of what is possible for the rest of the country, could produce better results, according to emerging Army thinking.

Mr. Rumsfeld acknowledges that the military, which is still organized "to fight big armies, navies and air forces on a conventional basis," must change in order to deal with guerrilla fighters and terrorists. "The department simply has to be much more facile and agile," he says in an interview. "We have got to focus more on the post-combat phase."

and further

A recent directive, prepared by Mr. Rumsfeld's office and still in draft form, now yields to that view. It mandates that in the future, units' readiness for war should be judged not only by traditional standards, such as how well they fire their tanks, but by the number of foreign speakers in their ranks, their awareness of the local culture where they will fight, and their ability to train and equip local security forces. It orders the military's four-star regional commanders to "develop and maintain" new plans for battle, hoping to prevent the sort of postwar chaos that engulfed Iraq.
But does it Matter?

Despite all of the good he has done in his position, Secretary Rumsfeld is under attack as never before. Regardless of what one thinks of Senators McCain and Hagel, when they call for his resignation we must pay attention. And when Bill Kristol adds his voice to the chorus, it's really time to sit up straight.

Perhaps the Humvee armor story is overblown. But if that is so it is more a case of the straw that broke the camel's back. Our inability thus far to put a lid on insurgency in Iraq has frustrated supporters of the war. That they should call for changes at the top should not surprise us.

Update

The editors of National Review, as usual, put some perspective on the issue of armor

Remember: When Rumsfeld showed up at the Pentagon for
his second stint as secretary of Defense, the army was hell-bent on building the Crusader, a "mobile" artillery system that couldn't even fit into a C-130 transport plane. It wanted to build the Comanche helicopter, an aircraft conceived in 1983 with our Soviet adversary in mind. The army was caught in a bad Cold War flashback. As the Wall Street Journal reported earlier this year, "Even as the armored Humvee proved itself in small conflicts around the globe, the Army failed to buy more because it was focused on preparing for major wars with other large armies — rather than low-end guerrilla conflicts."

It would be ironic if Rumsfeld lost his job over the issue of armor, when it was he who has been trying to revamp the military just so it could fight these "low-end guerrilla conflicts.

At this point, of course, everyone agrees on the need for more armored Humvees, which weren't originally conceived as combat vehicles. But in considering today's conventional wisdom, it is always useful to remember yesterday's. Before the roadside bombs really took hold as the Iraqi insurgents' weapon of choice, commentators were praising the British in Iraq for their unthreatening approach that emphasized soft vehicles and foot patrols. The Pentagon was criticized for its attachment to armor, not for having too little of it.

But hindsight is always 20/20 and if you're an anti-war commentator you are never held to account for what you said in the past.

Meanwhile, Republicans McCain and Hagel call for Rumsfeld's head. Once again, the editors of National Review

The get-Rumsfeld crowd — mostly Democrats, joined by the McCain-Hagel caucus and a few stray hawks — takes great umbrage at Rumsfeld's answer to a National Guardsman's question about an insufficient number of up-armored Humvees. Hagel intoned, “those men and women deserved a far better answer from their secretary of Defense than a flippant comment.” But Rumsfeld wasn't being flip. One wonders whether Hagel has even taken the time to read the full transcript of the secretary's remarks. The troops gave Rumsfeld a standing ovation at the end. Is it the position of the secretary’s critics that the troops were too stupid to realize they had just been belittled?

Further, Rumsfeld was certainly right when he said that you go to war with the army/military that you have. Long gone are the days when one had time to hold off the enemy with whatever was at hand while you built up your forces. Today we are almost required to see into the future. Unfortunately, noone has yet invented the necessary crystal ball.

Update II

Courtesy of the Greg Pierce at the Washington Times

The truth is trickling out on the true state of affairs concerning the armoring of U.S. vehicles in Iraq, the Media Research Center reports.

" 'It now appears that the premise of the question that caused an uproar around Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was, so to speak, off base,' [Fox New Channel's] Brit Hume noted Tuesday night in reminding viewers how two weeks ago National Guardsman 'Thomas Wilson said to Rumsfeld, quote, "our vehicles are not armored, we do not have proper armament vehicles to carry with us north," into Iraq.'

"But, Hume relayed, 'according to senior Army officers, about 800 of the 830 vehicles in Wilson's Army regiment, the 278th Calvary, had already been up-armored' at the time of his widely publicized question.

Posted by Tom at 11:15 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 14, 2004

Spying on the IAEA

Yesterday's Washington Post informed us that the United States has been tapping the phones of Mr. Mohamed ElBaradei:

The Bush administration has dozens of intercepts of Mohamed ElBaradei's phone calls with Iranian diplomats and is scrutinizing them in search of ammunition to oust him as director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, according to three U.S. government officials.
And what bad things might the good Mr. have done to warrant such treatment?

"Some people think he sounds way too soft on the Iranians, but that's about it," said one official with access to the intercepts.

After all, he is "well-respected inside the United Nations", so that should settle it, right? Wrong.

This is the same Mohamed ElBaradei who leaked the story about the 377 tons of missing explosives in Iraq just before the presidential election, in what seemed to many of us a blatant attempt to influence the outcome.

ElBaradei was never happy with the idea of US invasion, insisting in January of 2003 that Iraq should get "one more chance," that "we had not exhausted the peace process yet." But of course one can never "exhaust" a process. There are those who opposed the Gulf War and the invasion of Iraq by saying that war should be a last resort. Well yes, but what defines "last"? One can always try something else, or something once more.

While his work to end the proliferation of nuclear-weapons technology is laudable, he is of the moral-equivalence school:

We must abandon the unworkable notion that it is morally reprehensible for some countries to pursue weapons of mass destruction yet morally acceptable for others to rely on them for security — and indeed to continue to refine their capacities and postulate plans for their use.
Uh, no. Just as there is a difference between a gun in the hands of a criminal and a gun in the hands of a policeman, there is a difference between nuclear weapons in the hands of mullahs and nuclear weapons in the hands of the United States. There is also a difference between Israeli nuclear weapons and Iranian ones. But he wants Israel to give up theirs also.

Always one to have faith in internationals processes and inspections, he is "optimistic" about an agreement with Iran on it's nuclear program. And he will no doubt remain optimistic up to the very day they explode their first bomb. At that point he will say that he is "disappointed."

The reason why we should oppose his nomination to another term is that he has been a failure. Ever since he was appointed to his job in 1997, we have seen

  • India and Pakistan test their bombs
  • The A. Q. Khan network sell their Pakistani nuclear technology to heavens knows how many buyers
  • North Korea has probably built 1 to 4 bombs
  • The Iranians inch ever closer to obtaining a bomb
  • Libya has renounced their nuclear program and allowed full access by inspectors
Oh wait, that last one was the result of scaring Ghadaffi silly by invading Iraq.

To be sure, not all of this can be pinned on Mr ElBaradei. Not all of these developments are exclusively his fault. But he is part of a system that is such a failure that they are bound to happen. And rather than reassess the mantra of "inspections", "international law", or heaven forbid, the holy United Nations, he wants to keep going merrily along in the same direction.

However, it does point up to the failure of the current international system of endless inspections and Security Council debate. It may have worked, sort of anyway, during the Cold War when both the Soviet Union and United States had a mutual interest in preventing proliferation. Between the two of us, our influence was substantial enough to prevent our respective "client states" from acquiring the bomb. With the end of the bipolar world, nations are much more on their own.

Technical development has also proceded to the point where the bomb is now within reach of any nation that is serious about obtaining one. All that it takes is time and determination.

As readers of this blog can guess, all of this points to the need for a new "new world order". As I've said many times before, the UN system is outdated and hopelessly broken. New institutions must be developed, and will be the subject of future posts.

For another take on Mr ElBaradei, check out this MSNBC editorial. Fareed Zakaria points out that ElBaradei was more correct on whether Iraq had an active nuclear program in 2003 than our CIA said it did.

Posted by Tom at 11:00 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 13, 2004

Primary Responsibility

The Post-Cold War World

During the 1990's we ignored the fact that the world had undergone serious changes and that institutions that worked, or sort of worked, during the Cold War were broken and in need or repair or replacement. As the decade wore on, however, evidence mounted that all was not well. Persistent attempts by France and Russia to weaken the sanctions against Iraq, for example, were a warning sign. However, we kept our heads in the sand for a few reasons.

First was that the Gulf War seemed to go off so well. We had a large alliance that consisted of our traditional allies. The vote in the Security Council to expel Saddam from Kuwait by force was easily obtained. George H W Bush's "New World Order" seemed to be on the horizon.

Second, we were simply tired of foreign policy. We wanted to spend the "peace dividend" at home. The president we elected, Bill Clinton, reflected this focus on domestic policy.

It was not 9/11 or our immediate reaction to it that upset the apple cart. It was the War in Iraq that exposed the fissures that we had ignored for over ten years.

Broken Institutions, Broken Alliances

It is now clear to many of us that the United Nations and the international system that it represented is broken beyond repair.

As so many responders to last week's Homespun Bloggers Symposium question made clear, the system alliances developed during the 20th century has changed beyond all recognition. France, for example, which was always a sort-of ally, is now almost an enemy (see example here). Unlike Britain, France has never accepted the fact that they are no longer a world power. Part of that is because they never quite achieved the greatness they aspired to, only coming close several times. As I believe Victor Davis Hanson once wrote, France, like all declining powers, believes that it they cannot lead than noone else can either.

The Empire Strikes Back

The defenders of the status quo at all happy that their most important institution is under seige. They are in the early stages of mounting a counterattack to take the heat off of the inhabitants. On their side is the weight of bureaucracy and decades of accumulated self-interest. Against them is that it is dawning on many Americans that the emperor has no clothes.

The United Nations is in the grips of a crisis the likes of which it has never seen. It's head presided over the largest financial scandal in modern times. The truth of the Oil-for-food scandal is becoming known to all. It simply cannot be denied of covered up any longer. The mainstream media are forced to report it. Disgust within our country and others is palpable.

The situation has come to a head. For over ten years since the Cold War ended, we could ignore the reality that the UN, and especially it's Security Council, represented power arrangements that reflected the late 1940s, power arrangements that don't work anymore. That the UN cannot keep the peace was made clear in the 1990's, Rwanda being the main case in point. The Oil-for-Food scandal simply brought it all out into the open.

In a few recent posts, Wretchard, writing over at the Belmont Club, has surveyed the scene. They are most unhappy with the attacks being made on the UN, and seem to believe that the best defense is a good offense.

A summary of his two posts here and here brings forth these arguments that they are making in defense of their beloved UN:

  1. The responsibility for the Oil-for-Food scandal lies not with the UN bureaucracy, and certainly not with Kofi Annan, but with (surprise!) the Security Council! In particular, the United States and United Kingdom
  2. The main threat to world peace is an "out of control" United States
  3. International Law needs to be strengthened and made superior to the internal laws of individual nations (see also European Union)
  4. Only the United Nations can authorize any nation to take military action. Turned around, any military action without UN sanction is illegal
  5. In order to "tame" the United States, the Security Council should be expanded, with more nations being given permanent seats and veto power
Of course this is nonsense. Wretchard himself nails it
The key problem facing the United Nations is lack of accountability not to its constituent institutions, though it lacks that, but to the individual inhabitants of the world. Its inefficiency, corruption and fantasy policies are the result and not the cause of its problems. Nowhere is that failure more evident on a macro scale than in Kofi Annan himself and his management of the Oil-For-Food Programme.
Exactly. The scandals is only the symptom, not the problem. The problem with regards Iraq was that the Security Council would not even uphold it's own resolutions. It proved itself a paper tiger.

The idea that any democracy, be it the United States or France, should allow any institution that is made up of dictatorships of one sort or another, to dictate it's policies is morally offensive. And this brings us to the heart of the problem with the UN; that it is essentially an amoral institution, in which all nations are simply "member states." Right and wrong as we understand it mean nothing to the vast majority of them.

This may have been acceptable in 1945, but it is not now. At the time of Bretton Woods and Yalta, the great powers thought that they had to find some way to ensure a stable balance of power in the post-war world. Just as Bismark had done in Europe eighty years earlier, they set up a system in which the worlds great powers balanced each other out.

All of this is gone. The UN did not work out as planned, as was clear by the 1960's. We could tolerate it after that because the Cold War kept the West together. No more.

The New Threat

The most important responsibility that a state has is to provide for the security of it's citizens. The the most important issue a nation can make is when to use military force to ensure that security. And the only way a state can reliably ensure security by use of military force is when it is able to do so itself. No one else can make that decision but the citizens of the state in question.

Yet Kofi Annan and those who believe in the primacy of the UN want to end US sovereignty. The invaluable Jed Babbin documented this in a recent article. The UN recently issued a report regarding war. It is nothing less than an attempt to seize the legal ability to make war from us. Babbin writes that

Under the rules the panel recommends, preemptive war can only be undertaken when the Security Council says that a threat is imminent. It recommends five criteria for the Security Council to judge petitions for permission to preempt: the seriousness of the threat, proper purpose (what motivates the proposed preempter?), whether it is a last resort, whether proportional means are used, and whether military action is likely to have better or worse results than inaction. There will be many an occasion to debate these criteria, but only among the unserious. In short, and just for starters, these criteria mean: (1) sharing intelligence with the enemy and surrendering the advantage of surprise, essential to catching terrorists where they hide; (2) subordinating the decision to go to war to those who are opposed to our nation's interests; and (3) spending more young American lives than we must in order to pick a fair "proportional" fight. You might as well replace the Joint Chiefs with the Dixie Chicks. (The panel's report notes, graciously, that in cases of terrorists and WMDs, the Security Council may have to act more speedily and decisively. How that can be done with France and Russia as members remains to be explained.)

Changes to the U.N. Charter have to pass the Security Council, with the support of all five permanent members. We can, and will, veto the "preemptive war" rules in the Security Council. The panel recommends establishing a "peacebuilding commission" in the Security Council, presumably to have members, such as Syria, who have of late been non-permanent members of the Council. We can veto that one, too. Other nations will stand in line to veto some of the other "reforms."

We ignore or trivialize these developments at out peril. As long as we stay in the United Nations we lend legitimacy to this nonsense. "Fixing" the UN would require the approval of our sworn enemies.

Given that the primary responsibility of our government is to provide for our security, and the only way to do that is to maintain our sovereignty, the only option for dealing with the UN is to get out.

Posted by Tom at 11:03 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 12, 2004

Urgent Request

SlagelRock is collecting letters that he's going to send to the troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. Please take a minute and go to his site and write a letter. Long or short, it doesn't really matter. They need to know that we are behind them 100%, and that their sacrifices are recognized and appreciated. His deadline is Dec 17, so time is short.

Posted by Tom at 9:23 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 10, 2004

Symposium IV

This week's question was submitted by Arthur Chrenkoff:

The war on terror and the war in Iraq have caused deep fissures through the international political landscape, but arguably not simply and predictably "left" versus "right"; after all, President Bush is allied with a social democrat Tony Blair and ex-communists of Eastern Europe, while the anti-war coalition is also a motley crew of American and British paleo-conservatives, European right (France) and left (Germany) and many others.

So what does it all mean? What is the new divide in international politics? And will it last?

Arthur is correct in that the new division is not primarily traditional concepts of "right" vs. "left". They still exist, and the far-left is arguably more unified than the right, but that is a subject for another day.

During the Cold War, the most powerful alliances were among ideologically compatible leaders. Thus Reagan, Thatcher, and Kohl could lead the rest of NATO towards common goals, such as installing our own intermediate-range missiles to counter the Soviet SS-20s.

With the Cold War over these alliances have or are breaking apart. NATO has outlived it's original usefulness and now seems to serve primarily as a means of integrating eastern European countries into the West. Without a common enemy, the traditional NATO allies see little reason for unity. For example, six NATO countries have refused to send their military officers into Iraq to train Iraqi forces.

It was assumed by many that democracies would naturally band together to encourage the spread of their form of government throughout the world. The first Gulf War seemed to confirm this theory, with the nations of western Europe and the United States coming together against a traditional dictator. Ditto with Yugoslavia, when, after much hesitation and hand-wringing, NATO intervened to keep the slaughter to a minimum.

It was the aftermath to the Gulf War that saw the start of fissures. We were able to ignore them, however, and put them down to the traditional obstructionism we've come to expect from France and Russia. It was the run-up to the invasion of Iraq that saw the divisions widen to a point where recognition of a new reality became inperative.

The New Divide

Perhaps in the future I will come up with a single term to label each side, but no single one seems to apply just now. This may be because each side is not unified, but is itself made up of factions with disparate interests.

In One Corner

George Bush and Tony Blair lead a coalition that can be described as consisting of elements of the following; neo-Wilsonians, idealists, moralists, and those concerned about national security, and who wish to preserve their national sovereignty.

To this group, security threats are paramount. The threat will be addressed multilaterally if possible, unilaterally if necessary. Their short-term tactic is aggressive use of military force, and the long-term strategy is encouragement of the spread of democracy. They are skeptical of "international law". International institutions are useful insofar as they serve these goals.

Not all members of this group are in unity over all matters. The individual's right to self-defense is not at all viewed similarly in the US and UK; see horrifying example here.

Readers of this blog will be in no doubt that I am firmly in this group's corner.

In the Other Corner

Opposition to the first group is made up disparate elements also. The can be described as consisting of the following: freedom-skeptics who are advocates of a realpolitik-style of foreign policy, traditionalists whose only philosoply is that of retaining cold-war alliances and who's motto is "stability uber alles" (see Brent Scrowcroft), world government-types, and nationalists such as those in France or Russia who have no ideology or principles save what benefits their respective countries. Oh yes, we also have the re-emergence of the New Left, so ably documented by David Horowitz.

This description of the two sides seems unsatisfying. It was so much easier during the Cold War, when we had the "first world" of democratic states, "second world" consisting of the communist-bloc nations, and the "third world", into which we could lump everyone else. However, I am not sure that we can be so neat in our descriptions this time.

What Does it Mean?

Three things immediately come to mind:

One, simple recognition of new realities. Traditional Cold War alliances are dead, and continuing to pretend otherwise is folly. Thus John Kerry talk about "rebuilding alliances" was at best just so much useless twaddle, at worst dangerous as it refused to recognize basic facts that have become clear in the post-Cold War world.

Second, that we need to look towards building new alliances. I have no answers here yet, but explored this concept towards the end of my answer to last week's symposium question last week.

Third, we need to disengage ourselves from institutions such as the UN. This should occur simultaneously as our development of new alliances proceeds.

Will it Last?

Yes, and the fissures will widen further. War with China is a real possibility before the decade is out. I wrote about this a few months ago in a post, and interested readers can find details there. The point here is that such a war over Taiwan will exacerbate these divisions. Our prime ally will be Japan, and most western Europeans will be outraged by any military resistance to the PRC.

If we are successful in Iraq, as I think we will be, the spread of democracy in the Middle East will further inflame tensions. This will seem odd to traditionalists. They fail to realize that the French and Germans, for example, couldn't care less about the spread of democracy. They are safe and secure in their continent (or so they think, can you say "Iranian ICBM"?) and see their mission as developing a counterweight to the "hyperpower" that is the United States.

Posted by Tom at 10:38 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 7, 2004

Days of Infamy

In the first six to twelve months of a war with the United States and Great Britain I will run wild and win victory upon victory. but then, if the war continues after that, I have no expectation of success.

Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto
Commander in Chief
Imperial Japanese Navy
1940

The Admiral knew what he was talking about, for the war turned out almost exactly as he said it would. The first seven months following Pearl Harbor saw a series of defeats for the United States. Almost of our bases west of Midway were overrun and captured. Thousands of Americans were captured or killed. Thousands more of our allies, especially in the Philippines, lost their lives as they fought alongside us. Corregidor, Guam, Wake Island and the infamous Bataan Death March will be etched into our memories forever.

We all know, or are vaguely familiar with, the mistakes we made prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor. Anyone who has seen Tora Tora Tora knows that we picked up the first wave of Japanese aircraft on radar, for example, but believed that the planes were a flight of B-17s due in from the mainland. What is perhaps less familiar are the ones we made in the months to follow. We weren't ones to learn from our mistakes at first. General MacArthur allowed most of the aircraft under his command in the Philippines to be destroyed on the ground just as they were at Pearl only a few days before.

Further, many of the weapons that we had developed in the years prior to war failed to work as advertised. Most notorious were defective torpedoes, which suffered up to an 80% failure rate. Our aircraft were inferior to those of our enemy. Other pet theories, such as using high-flying B-17s to bomb moving ships, were shown to be unsound.

It's not that we didn't plan for the war. Quite the contrary, we had theorized about a war with Japan for almost fifty years. We even had a blueprint for it,called War Plan Orange, which was updated periodically. Interestingly, although the technology used during the actual war was different from what the authors of the plan envisioned, the plan still served as "... the foundation for the US response...."

President Roosevelt asked for a declaration of war from the Congress the day after the attack. The declaration, however, was only to involve Japan. Nazi Germany declared war on the US on December 11, before the Congress had acted. Presented with a fait accompli, Congress included Germany and Italy in it's declaration.

This series of events has always somewhat puzzled historians. Germany was under no obligation to come to the aid of Japan. Their Axis treaty was strictly defensive in nature, and since Japan had clearly initiated hostilities, it's provisions did not come into play.

Be that as it may, the events of early morning Sunday, December 7, 1941 was one of two defining events of the century for our country. The other was the redefinition of the role of the government that took place as part of Roosevelt's New Deal.

Prior to Pearl Harbor, we alternated between involvement in foreign affairs and isolationism. After the attack, we realized that we had not choice but to become involved. The world had changed, and we needed to keep up. Even those today who are called "isolationists" have little in common with those who bore that name prior to December 7.

We are now in a new war in a new century. The simiarities between September 11 and December 7 are many. But Admiral Yamamoto's words of so long ago are still relevant today. Now, just as then, the enemy would not only strike the first blow but would keep us off balance for some time. Our current War on Terror did not start September 11 2001. We only became aware of it's magnitude on that terrible day. The war started much earlier; perhaps as far back as the 1983 attack on our Marines in Beriut, certainly by the time of the embassy bombings in Kenya (1988) or the attack on the USS Cole (2000). Once roused from our slumber, however, our counterattack is both ferocious and unstoppable, as Admiral Yamamoto knew it would be then, too.

Our enemies today would do well to read our history.

Posted by Tom at 1:08 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Pearl Harbor

Pearl Harbor Originally uploaded by Tom the Redhunter.
This photo shows sailors in a motor launch rescuing a survivor of the attack. The USS West Virginia is burning in the background. The USS Tennessee is in the background. Both of them were among the eight battleships parked on "battleship row."

As an historical aside, note the distintive "cage masts" of the ships. Called "waste paper baskets" by their detractors, they were unique to American ships of the pre-WWII era. The idea was that they would be more resistant to gunfire than the traditional tripod mast. While this may have been so, they could not withstand hurricane force winds and were eventually discarded. When the ships were rebuild after the attacks the cages masts were replaced with tripod ones.

Posted by Tom at 11:42 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 6, 2004

Upcoming Iraqi Elections

Should we delay the elections in Iraq? There are pros and cons on each side. Although holding them on January 30 as scheduled is risky, it is my belief that they should not be delayed.

Here are the primary reasons why some are in favor of delaying the elections:

  1. If not enough people are able to vote the election will be seen as illegitimate. If the election is not seen as legitimate, the new government will not be accepted, and the insurgency will gain a propaganda coup.
  2. If election day monitors are chased from the polling places, the vote result will be questioned.
  3. Seventeen Iraqi groups (mainly Sunni, but also some Kurds) have called for a delay in elections. If elections go ahead as scheduled, and do not work out, they will not accept the new government. While not a majority, the Sunnis do constitute a large group within Iraq.
  4. Bottom line; if the election is seen as illegitimate, we may end up in a worse situation than the one we are in today.
  5. Former U.N. special envoy to Iraq Lakhdar Brahimi, who is described as the architect of the elections, says that elections cannot be held under current conditions.
  6. Fifty-five days is not enough time to secure the country enough to ensure a reasonably legitimate result.
  7. A delay would "...allow more time to persuade groups boycotting the election to take part and to bring calm to regions roiled by a tenacious insurgency."
  8. If the new government is not recognized as legitimate by Iraqis, it also may not be recognized by other countries around the world. This, too, would feed upon itself in a vicious cycle.
On the other side, here are the reasons why elections should be held as scheduled:
  1. There is little reason to believe that the security situation will be dramatically improved in a few months time. A delay longer than a few months risks exacerbating internal tensions, resulting in a situaion worse than the one we face today.
  2. A delay would be a morale and propaganda victory for the insurgents. They would be ever more determined to press home their attacks. It would also serve as a recruitment tool, and those who are now "sitting on the fence" might be persuaded to join their ranks.
  3. By the same token, a delay would demoralize the Iraqi government and security forces. Recruitment could drop, and we may not be able to build them up to the point that they can effectively operate independantly to take back their country.
  4. The flip side of #3 and #4 is that if we can pull off reasonably legitimate elections, they will serve as an enormous morale booster to the Iraqi government, people, and security forces. It will also demoralize the insurgents, having all of the opposite effects listed in #3.
  5. A delay would be seen by many Iraqis as "proof" that the U.S. has no intention of ever holding elections, and that we intend on stealing their oil turning the country into a colony. This line will be parroted by anti-American groups everywhere.
  6. Many of the Iraqi groups who are advoting delay are not operating in good faith. Their real objective is to gain political advantage, and to renegotiate power-sharing arrangements. For example, the Association of Muslim Scholars says that free and fair elections cannot be held as long as U.S. troops are even in Iraq.
  7. The major Shi'ite groups, including the religious leadership headed by Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, say that elections should proceed as scheduled. They represent the majority of Iraqis.
  8. Most of the country is actually fairly calm. The news media concentrates on the areas of turmoil. Thus, voting will proceed as planned, in an orderly and lawful manner, in most of the country. Most Iraqis, therefore, will see the results as being legitimate.
All in all, the primary reason for going ahead with elections as scheduled is that not to do so will be taken by the insurgents as a victory and by the Iraqi security forces as a defeat. And they will be right.

Excessive carping about U.S. failures during the occupation will not change matters in the near future. Reasoned analysis may serve us well for the future, but we we are in the situation that we are in, for better or worse. It seems the best course of action is to hold the elections as scheduled.

Arthur Chrenkoff has an article posted on Opinion Journal on Iraq and the elections. As has been the case in all of his "Good News from Iraq" series of articles, he demonstrates that all is not bad news coming out of that country:

It would be dangerous and very unwise to ignore or downplay all the bad things happening in Iraq right now; but it would be equally dangerous if without hearing other voices and other stories from inside the country we were to give up and walk away, leaving Iraqis alone to try to secure their future. The bombs are deadly, but the perception that in Iraq today there is nothing else but the bombs could prove even deadlier in the long run--for the Iraqis, the Middle East, and the West.
Indeed, he says, many Iraqis
...hardly recognize their country from the foreign media coverage. Westerners, too, both military and civilians, upon their return are often finding to their surprise and concern they had lived and worked in a different country to that their loved ones, friends and neighbors back home saw every night on the news.
Now go and read the whole thing.

(Hat tip to Jane for finding Arthur's article first)

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

December 1, 2004

Our Greatest Threat

Every week the Homespun Bloggers poses a symposium question for it's members. Following is this week's question and my answer to it.

What, in your mind, represents the single greatest long-term threat to the United States of America, and what should be done about it?

The greatest threat that we face is becoming more involved in international institutions such as the United Nations, and signing onto treaties such as Kyoto and the International Criminal Court. The reason why these represent such a threat is twofold: One, they infringe on our sovereighty, and two, they place unacceptable limits on our ability to respond to security threats. What makes these a problem for us is that the other nations involved in these organizations and treaties use them specifically to further their anti-America agendas.

Terrorism is a threat, yes. But they cannot bring us down, nor is it long-term. A nuclear attack by terrorists on one or more of our cities will be devastating, to be sure. This, however, we can recover from, terrible though it would be. The United States is good at fighting wars, and with enough will power we can and will win the War on Terror.

Infringement on sovereignty is the death of a thousand cuts. There will be no one moment when we give up our rights. Rather, it will be like the ever growing burden of regulations eminating from some governement bureacracy like the EPA. I see it as a long-term threat because it slowly but surely trespasses on our liberties, both individual and as a nation.

The Threat Next Time

As things stand now, we are able to act as we see fit to defend our country. If we think that a nation or group threatens us, we will do what we need to do to end that threat.

But this may not be the case in the future. As long ago as 1990, during the run-up to the Gulf War, it made me uneasy when George H W Bush's insisted on getting proper Security Council resolutions before taking any action against Iraq. I worried "what if the other nations don't vote how we want them to?" Even though we got what we wanted, I worried that this was setting a bad example. I didn't know how right I was.

Over the past few years we have seen the dangerous precident set back in 1990 come back to haunt us.

We almost lost our ability to act independenty this time, while planning actions in the war on terror.

We got what we needed from the UN Security Council for Afghanistan and al Qaeda. But that was an easy one. We had been directly attacked, and needed to respond.

On Iraq, it was a struggle just to get the Security Council to approve 1441. Kofi Annan declared that if the Us and others were to go outside the (Security) Council and take military action, it would not be in conformity with the charter." Iraq flouted UN resolutions for years with little consequence

But what about the next time we believe there is a threat that requires military action? Unless we suffer a direct, obvious attack such as what occured on Sept 11 2001, it is problematical as to whether we can get the resulutions we need.

The Failure of the UN

While the United Nations may have originally served a useful purpose, any benefits to membership are now clearly outweighed by it's drawbacks.

The turn came in the late 1960's when the UN experienced a surge in membership due to many former colonies achieveing their nationhood. These new nations quickly discovered that they could dominate the UN General Assembly. In the words of one author, the assembly became "...a strident, antineocolonialist ideological talkfest."

As we all know, the latest insult is the Oil-for-Food scandal. This has mushroomed into what is probably the biggest financial scandal in history. Latest estimates are that Saddam and his cronies took $21 billion. This under the watch of the UN. The organization has proved utterly incapable of investigating itself on this matter, and it is uncertain as to whether the Volcker commission will get to the bottom of it, given that he lacks subpoena power.

The Security Council used to be useful but is no longer so. Jed Babbin points out that with the end of the cold war, "...the alliances upon which it was founded no longer exist, and the interests of the powers that have a veto over Security Council resolutions have diverged to the point that consensus and action cannot be achieved."

But perhaps the biggest problem with the UN is it's assumption of moral equivalency. All nations, whether murderous dictatorships or benign democracies, are treated equally. The one nation that comes under regular attack: Israel.

Article 51 of the UN charter may say that each nation has the right to self-defense, but this is increasingly being rendered irrelevant. Kofi Annan is hardly the only critic of the U.S. to say that our invasion of Iraq was "illegal" because it did not receive "proper" Security Council authorization.

The European Frankenstein

The Europeans are in the process of destroying the sovereignty of individual nations. The proposed EU constitution is to be superior to the laws of individual countries (Article 10) Member states agree to take no measure inconsistent with the objectives of the constitution (Article 5, Section 2). Foreign and defense policy will be defined by the EU, not individual nations (Article 11, Section 4). To be sure, the constitution has not actually been adopted, as objections to some of it's many provisions have been raised. But it seems clear that any changes will not alter it substantially.

And it all started so innocently, as the "Common Market" (European Common Community), in the late 1950's. What was originally an agreement designed to facilitiate commerce has evolved into a supra-national state.

It is not that I think that we are on the verge of joining this monstrosity. It is rather that is serves as an example of how our enemies wish to restrict our ability to act freely. This is how they will do it. They will try to tie us in knots by involving us in as many treaties and international institutions as possible.

Terrible Treaties

One of the best things George W Bush has done is to extricate the United States from several treaties that were designed to work against us.

His first step was to remove us from the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty. While important, this was a treaty negotiated with a single other country (the Soviet Union) and thus is not the direct subject of this writing. It is important in that it signals a new attitude towards treaties.

The Kyoto global warming treaty was more insidious. It's sponsors claimed that it's purpose was to end the threat of global warming. However, even a cursory inspection of it's provisions revealed that it would have the effect of destroying the US economy. This treaty was a sop to the environmental extremists, and was taken up by anti-American third-worlders in an attempt to gain economic and political advantage. Again, President Bush did the right thing when he "unsigned" the US.

Most dangerous of all is the International Criminal Court. Our soldiers and politicians could be hauled before a court with judges from countries such as Libya or Sudan. They could be accused of "enviromental crimes" or "crimes against humanity." The recent incident of the young Marine in Fallujah illustrates the dangers perfectly. Insurgent terrorists commit atrocity after atrocity, and violate every rule of war known to man, and who comes under the harsh criticism of the world's elites? The Marine, of course. President Bush wisely repudiated this treaty too, and has even negotiated immunity for US forces serving as UN peacekeepers.

Judicial Tyranny

Our own courts have begun to buy into the idea that we should look to international law as a guide, even in instances when it does not directly apply. Justice Sandra Day O'Conner has several times extolled the role of international law (here, here, and here).

This may sound alarmist to some. After all, it will be said, Justice O'Conner was only saying that we need to look at other countries in cases where the US does not have much legal history, such as physician-assisted suicide. But the Netherlands, the country she suggests we look to, hardly is an example that we would want to follow.

More to the point, given the outrageous judicial activism that dominated much of the latter half of the twentieth century, we need to be more attuned than ever to what the counts are doing. Given that it is virtually impossible to remove a judge once installed, the damage a bad one can do is enormous.

Non-Answers

As Jed Babbin says, it a is fools errand to try and reform the United Nations. The General Assembly is powerless, and dominated by third-world kleptocrats. The Security Council is a relic of the balance of power that existed in 1945 (and barely even that, France only being on the council becuase we felt sorry for them). Any changes would require the approval of our enemies.

NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) is often touted as an alternative to the UN. It is said that since we were allied with them for fifty years against a common enemy, we are already well used to working with each other. This, however, ignores several factors.

First is simply the fact that the enemy that the treaty was designed to stop has gone away. The assumption that "the allies" still have common interests is not supported by the history of these past few years.

Second, do we serve the interests of the treaty or does it serve us? It seems that the attitude of so many on these things is "the treaty exists, therefore it must be good." It's as if we serve the interests of the treaty, not the other way around. The point is that we need to move away from the attitude that just because something has existed for a period of time it must not be changed.

Third, NATO is limited geographically. If there is an emergency in the Pacific rim, say with China, NATO is useless. The Europeans have no ability any more to project power beyond a very limited range.

Lastly, there is nothing in the NATO charter to authorize offensive action against third parties. Those who continuously berate the US for "illegal actions" would do well to read it's charter. The NATO treaty only stipulates that "...an armed attack against one of more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all...."

That said, NATO is still useful and should not be disbanded. But it is not the answer.

In an ideal world we would form a membership of democracies that was not geographically limited. The advantage is that members would consist of legitimate governments, those chosen and approved of by their citizens. However, not all democracies share common goals, as recent discord between the US and France illustrates. When it comes to military action, reliance on the cooperation of other democracies is unwise.

Possible Solutions

More encouraging is the Proliferation Security Initiative. The PSI is an initiative announced by President Bush in May of 2003 to counter the spread of Weapons of Mass Destruction. The president saw that other options were not working, and in September of 2003 advised the UN that we would do the job independently of them.

Members of the PSI are Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Singapore, Spain, the UK and the US. Members work together to interdict shipments of WMD or their delivery systems. While the Bush Administraton says that the PSI will "reinforce, not replace, other nonproliferation mechanisms," it seems that this is the wave of the future.

It would seem that this type of arrangement might be well suited for future challenges. Ad hoc arrangements of "like-minded" nations could be formed as needed. These could be based on regional needs as well as global ones.

The Council for a Community of Democracies may also provide a useful model. Although, as stated above, such organizations are not always well suited for military action, they can be quite useful in furthering our goals. And no goal is more important than the spread of democratic institutions and societies.

I can think of no one answer as an alternative to traditional international institutions. But in my mind they do represent an enormous danger and need to be replaced.

Lastly

Be sure and visit the Homespun Bloggers for other answers to this question. As of this writing, seven bloggers have responded with posts. I have deliberately not read their work yet, so as to see what I could come up with on my own, but once my piece is posted I'll read each one.

Update

Check out my post on my other blog site for more on this subject

Posted by Tom at 10:58 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack