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October 31, 2005

Time to Fight

President Bush did us right today in nominating Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court.

Everything I have heard and read today tells me that he is highly qualified for the court, and is a judicial originalist. Virtually all conservative commentators are happy, and the liberals very unhappy. This alone tells me he was the right choice.

I, along with many other conservatives, were very displeased with the Miers nomination. It pained us to do so, but we had to tell the president that he made a bad choice. As many on the right did support the president's choice, there was an unfortunate split on the right.

The withdrawal of Miers, and nomination of Alito, should not only end that split but should and must unite us in the battle that lies ahead. We who opposed Miers have an obligation to give this battle 110%, and I for one pledge to do so. Those who supported Miers have an obligation to forgive past wounds and unite around our new candidate.

We've got a tough few months ahead, as we can expect the left to try and "bork" Mr Alito. If they succeed, it will be our own fault (assuming there are no skeletons in his closet.

Let the battle be joined.

Posted by Tom at 10:04 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

October 29, 2005

Burning Bodies in Afghanistan: Two Views

This past week a story appeared in the media about some US soldiers in Afghanistan who were allegedly buring the bodies of dead Taliban fighters. On Thursday Fox News reported that

Islamic clerics expressed outrage Thursday at television footage that purportedly shows U.S. soldiers burning the bodies of two dead Taliban (search) fighters to taunt other militants and warned of a possible violent anti-American backlash.

On Friday, the BBC added that

The US military has launched a criminal investigation into alleged misconduct by its troops in Afghanistan, including the burning of Taleban corpses.

The move came after an Australian TV station ran footage of what it says was US soldiers burning the remains.

The footage shows other troops apparently taunting residents of a nearby village, which they believed to be harbouring the Taleban.

The act of burning corpses is regarded as a sacrilege in Islam.

If true, does this act create a problem for the United States? Is it something that we should be concerned about?

To help answer this, let's consider the responses of two writers that I have come to respect; Michael Yon, and the editors of StrategyPage.com

James Dunnigan is editor-in-chief of StrategyPage.com, with Austin Bay and Adam Geibel as contributing editors. Al Nofi is senior editor and columnist. All are widely-aclaimed writers on military and political matters. In an October 25 editorial, they conclude that the action will have

...no impact in the Islamic world. That's because, in the Islamic media, stories like this are invented daily. You can check out the English language sites for media in Islamic countries for examples. Some wild stuff there. The Moslems who hate us won’t change their minds because of two burning bodies. Those Moslems who are down on Islamic terrorists won’t get very upset about two of them getting torched, even though cremation is frowned upon in the Islamic world (even for Islamic terrorists who burn fellow Moslems to death in the course of their operations, which explains al Qaedas sagging poll numbers.)

The impact of such actions by our troops may, however, hurt us at home because politicians will overreact:

It will hurt in those parts of the world where there is more concern for burned up Taliban than in the Moslem world. That's largely in the Western world, especially among some American politicians and pundits. How will this hurt? Congress can call for more “oversight” of U.S. military operations. The troops are already irked at the lawyers added to some staffs over the last decade. The lawyers are their to veto operations if there is too great a chance that the action will offend someone in the world and, ultimately, someone in Congress.

The real problem, they conclude, will probably come from local Afghanis

If the bodies were burned as a result of some psychological warfare operation, or just to clean up the battlefield, and the act offended the local Moslems, the troops will pay a higher price than any official investigation (which is already underway) can hand out. The troops have to deal with angry, and heavily armed, people every day
.

Michael Yon is a free-lance imbed with the US Army in Iraq. His experiences are widely quoted on popular blogs, such as Belmont Club. He is the author of Danger Close, and, from his website, "His dispatches have the benefit of his life experiences without drawbacks based on deadlines or demands of marketplace."

While Yon does not directly address the issue of the "burning bodies" in his last dispatch, he does have some things to say about the issue of treatment of prisoners which does have some bearing on the matter. He considers the letter we intercepted which had been sent by Usama bin Laden's deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who is in charge of Al Qaeda operations in Iraq. From this letter Yon concludes that

The author implies that most Muslims have a heart even for those they might once have considered enemies, warning that great numbers of Muslims who may have been supporters will instead turn against the terrorists because they do not approve of slaughtering hostages. Cynical westerners hearing that Muslims are generally peaceful people roll their eyes in disbelief, casting them in the general direction of the most recent homicide bomb attack. But here a top terrorist apparently takes pains to point out that devout Muslims are averse to slaughtering people. When Muslims react in anger about what we did at Abu G and other prisons, they are not merely posturing; they are deadly serious. Just as the terrorists lose support when they slaughter our people, we lose support when we abuse anyone.

Who is right? Both, perphaps, in their own way?

On the one hand, the amount virulence of anti-American and anti-Jewish propaganda coming from much of the Middle East is staggering. One only has to peruse a few translations of it from the invaluable MEMRI to get an idea of how bad it is. Also, we must unfortunately acknowledge that both liberal and conservative politicians at home will sieze on this and demand greater ovbersight, which will hamper our efforts in the field.

But is Yon right that such actions add fuel to the propaganda fire? Perhaps.

My initial take is that we should avoid incidents such as the "burning bodies" one as much as possible. We also have to realize that such things are going to happen in war no matter how much "oversight" we build into the process. Indeed, such things are part of the inevitable consequences of going to war in the first place, which is why such a decision must not be taken lightly.

This does not mean that we just shrug off such incidents as "these things will happen" and let it go at that. As the editors of StrategyPage point out in the article cited above, "Soldiers sent to Afghanistan go through many hours of cultural sensitivity training. They already know that one misstep can destroy lots of good will, and that in turn means fewer Afghans will pass on useful (often life saving) information, and more will fell inclined to take shot at Americans." In other words, Mr and Mrs Politician, there's no need for more of your "oversight", so lay off, please.

Between StragegyPage's conclusion that "stuff like this has no impact in the Islamic world" and Yon's view that "just as the terrorists lose support when they slaughter our people, we lose support when we abuse anyone", I think that both overstate their case, but in the end I am closer to Yon's position. Propaganda matters.

What do you think?

Posted by Tom at 2:14 PM

Iraq War Fallacies I: Why We Have a Military

As you can tell from the title, this is the beginning of a new series. Future installments will cover issues such as:

- We needed more troops in the initial invasion
- Bush lied about WMD
- The purpose of the war was to enrich Halliburton et al
- We should have kept the old Iraqi Army
- The IED is an unstoppable weapon that will lead to our defeat
- Because public opinion polls have turned, the war was a mistake
- We need to revamp or eliminate hummer/figher jets/tanks/ because all future wars will be like Iraq
- The effort in Iraq detracts from the war on terror
- Iraq is a quagmire

______________________________________________

They just can't let it go.

I was watching the news last Sunday while at my part-time job (electronics retail has this as a side benefit when things get slow) and I heard it again.

Someone (I didn't catch who) was being interviewed about hurricane preparations in one of the southern states, and the issue of the National Guard came up. The person being interviewed said words to the effect that "we'd be more prepared if more of the guard wasn't in Iraq", the clear implication by the tone of his voice being to admonish the Bush administration.

By now we've all heard this argument:

We shouldn't be in Iraq because we need the troops here at home to help with disaster relief

There are so many things wrong with this line of reasoning it's hard to know where to start. But before we get started, let's go over a few variations of this argument that we hear.

Variations

During the last election, we heard that the war in Iraq was using money that we "needed" at home. John Kerry made this part of his campaign pitch, saying that the administration requested

$200 billion for Iraq, but they tell us we can't afford health care for our veterans...We're spending $200 billion in Iraq while the costs of health care have gone through the roof and we're told we don't have the resources to make health care affordable and available for all Americans. They're charging 17 percent more for Medicare while making America pay $200 billion for a go-it-alone policy in Iraq. That's the wrong choice; that's the wrong direction; and that's the wrong leadership for America.

Although I don't have the link to prove it, I also specically recall hearing about school funding in particular. This argument is that since schools in the US are "starved of money", the money spent in Iraq is taking money that is badly needed at home.

However it is stated, the objection is really the same, that we need the troops or the money at home.

Why it is Dishonest

The argument is dishonest for a very simple reason; it's not the real objection. Afghanistan costs money. Our deployment of troops in Kosovo etc costs money. In fact, we have a lot of troops in a lot of places around the world period, yet one never hears objections to these deployments along the lines of disaster relief or financial necessity. Granted, we have more troops in Iraq and it costs more than the other places, but I really don't think that invalidates my point, which is that the disaster relief/financial necessity argument is a smokescreen.

Generally speaking, whether a war is right or wrong must be decided on issues other than financial need at home. Let's be honest, compared to most of the rest of the world in a country we are filthy rich(a good thing, I hasten to add). Consider;

We worry about computers in schools, while most of the world worries about roofs for their schools.

We worry about prescription drug benefits, most of the world worries about getting drugs period.

Either a war is right or it is wrong. The arguments used to justify a war can be many, as can the arguments against it. But to argue that it would cost too much just seems rather vulgar to me given that we live in the richest nation in the world.

During the last election campaign, many Democrats were making the "we need the money at home" argument. Christopher Hitchenshad some choice words for those who subscribed to this line of reasoning:

There is something absolutely charmless and self-regarding about this pitch, and I wish I could hear a senior Democrat disowning it. It is no better, in point of its domestic tone and appeal, than the rumor of the welfare mother stopping her Cadillac to get vodka on food stamps. In point of its international implications, it also suggests the most vulgar form of isolationism, not to say insularity. ...

The further implication is that this is a zero-sum game, and that a dollar spent in Iraq is a dollar not spent on domestic needs. In other words, that this hospital or school in New Jersey or Montana would now be fully funded if it wasn't for a crowd of Arab and Kurdish panhandlers. Could anything be more short-sighted than that? Have we not learned that failed states turn into rogue states, and then export their rage and misery? Would we not prosper ourselves—if the question has to be stated in this way—if the Iraqi economy recuperated to the point where it could become a serious trading partner?

This common-sense or self-interested objection doesn't exhaust the argument. A few years ago, many of the same liberals and leftists were quoting improbable if not impossible numbers of dead Iraqi children, murdered by the international sanctions imposed on Saddam Hussein. Even at its most propagandistic, this contained an important moral point: Iraqi civilians were suffering for the sins of their dictatorship (and from the lavish corruption of the U.N. supervision of the "oil-for-food" program). OK, then, we'll remove the regime and lift the sanctions. Happy now? Not at all! It turns out that 1) the Saddam regime was only a threat invented by neo-cons and that 2) we don't owe the Iraqi people a thing. Also, we could use the money ourselves.

I'd almost forgotten how good Hitch could be.

Posted by Tom at 2:00 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 27, 2005

Miers Withdraws

As the world knows by now, Harriet Miers withdrew her nomination to the Supreme Court.

And as readers of this blog know, I thought she was the wrong person for the job. And no, I am not really happy today. As the lead editorial on NRO says today, "No conservative should be in a celebratory mood now that Harriet Miers has withdrawn" Exactly right.

Further, I hold nothing against Mrs Miers. My objection was not really directed against her per se. She has been a good advisor to the president, and from all accounts is a good person and devout Christian. Further, when the president asks you to do something, and all the other advisors around him assure you you're fit for the job, it's awfully hard to say no.

But she did the right thing, and my hat is off to her. Now let's put this behind us and work to get a judicial conservative confirmed. I have faith that this time the president will make the right selection.

Posted by Tom at 4:38 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

October 26, 2005

Fake Vigil

Here they are, holding their fake vigil in my own home town

IM000688.JPG

What these people claim to be doing is holding a vigil to "mark the death of the 2,000th reported U.S. military death in Iraq and to say that the country’s pro-peace majority wants Congress to stop the deaths by stopping the dollars that are funding the war."

What they're really doing is exploiting war dead to push an insane agenda that at the least would result in more, not less, bloodshed in Iraq, and at worst an al-Qaeda run caliphate throughout the Middle East. AFPS thinks that we should end the war in Iraq immediately, regardless of the consequences. It's on their website here, check it out.

The organizers of this "vigil" are members of a group called the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), and they're a far left group that has been agitating for unilateral US disarmament for decades.

This time they're holding a series of parties (er, "vigils") to celebrate (I mean "mark") the death of 2,000 American soldiers (and I mean to include sailors, Marines, airmen and Coast Guard) in the liberation of Iraq. Acording to their website, there were 606 such "vigils" scheduled to be held today.

Why Do I Call them Fake?

I call them fake because their purpose is to demoralize the American people so that we pull our troops out of Iraq immediately, regardless of the conseqences. In it's entire history this organization has not shown a whit of concern for the welfare of American soldiers.

Let me make this clear: If you simply think we should not have gone into Iraq, that is fine. We can disagree on this. Further, if you think that President Bush and co have made a mess of matters, then fine, too, we can debate these points. But decent opponents of the administration believe that since we are there we must win. If you believe that we should pull out without winning, you are a "useful idiot" and I have no sympathy for you.

And yes, it matters who is organizing the protest or rally. The excuse "I'm just here to show my support/opposition to X but don't support the organizers" doesn't cut it. People have an obligation to check out the organization holding an event if they plan on attending. If you don't think so, imagine if a front group for the Klan held an anti-affirmative action protest. If it then became commonly known that the organizers were Klan members, would you accept that excuse from people who attended? I sure wouldn't.

You can read my post yesterday on the AFSC or simply go to DiscovertheNetwork.org and read all about them .

Unfortunately, they're not alone in exploiting our soldiers.

They're Not Alone

Not to be outdone, Moveon.org is running a TV commercial called "How many more?" This blogger says he saw it run on CNN (Hat tip Michelle Malkin).

The disgusting group Code Pink is also calling for "action" today. Did I tell you where they're going to celebrate New Years? Here's a hint; it's an island to the south of the US run buy a guy who wears old army uniforms and has a beard. If you miss that one you can go with them to Venezuela in late January.

Of course, Code Pink has a lot of experience at holding fake vigils. They hold one every Friday night outside the main entrance to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington DC.

And as I'm sure you all know by now, mother Sheehan says that she'll tie herself to the White House Fence "to protest the milestone of 2,000 U.S. military deaths in Iraq."

Much of the media is playing the game too. Check out this picture posted on MSNBC.

The Right Side

This USAF major points out why the accounting is bogus(hat tip K-Lo at NRO).

The US military doesn't think much of all this, either. U.S. Army Lt. Col. Steve Boylan, spokesman for the coalition in Iraq, has this to say in an email to the press

I ask that when you report on the events, take a moment to think about the effects on the families and those serving in Iraq The 2,000 service members killed in Iraq supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom is not a milestone. It is an artificial mark on the wall set by individuals or groups with specific agendas and ulterior motives.

The Col is right on all counts.

LGF has about a dozen posts on all this. Be sure to check them out.

And last, but most of all, go here to find out all about American heroes in Iraq.

Posted by Tom at 10:08 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

October 23, 2005

From Fake Vigils to Fake Parties

If Code Pink can hold fake "vigils" for American soldiers every Friday night (more here) outside the main entrance to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington DC, why can't another leftie group hold fake parties (er, "events") when our death toll in Iraq reaches 2000?

No reason at all, say the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC).

That's right, they're planning celebrations(drat, there I go again) across the country on the day after the 2,000th death is reported. If you don't believe me, go to their website and check it out.

Ugh. And no doubt our msm will faithfully cover these "vigils", without telling us who the AFSC really are. But you can get the scoop here, because I will tell you. After all, I don't call myself The Redhunter for nothing.

Before we get going, there's a bit of a spat in the blogosphere about what exactly these "events" AFSC is holding. Little Green Footballs calls them "a series of parties". Michelle Malkin links to lfg and says that AFSC "support(s) the troops...by partying over their deaths"

Well...calling them "parties" may be going a bit too far. What AFSC will do is more akin to Code Pink's fake "vigils" than outright "parties". In fact, they specifically suggest "candlelight vigils" as an appropriate way to mark the event.

They're Still Fake

Let's not let a small terminology quibble with lgf and Malkin obscure the real issue here, and that is that the AFSC is a far-left group that wants us to pull out of Iraq immediately regardless of the consequences. They are quite direct about this on their website. The first sentence of a news release dated December 22, 2004 reads:

The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), an international Quaker peace, justice, and humanitarian organization, is calling for the immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.

Why? From another section of their site:

The American Friends Service Committee believes that there is no military solution to the Iraq war. Continued fighting and occupation promises only further deaths and injuries, more widows and orphans, more separated families.

The way they want to "end the war" is to cut off funding:

The U.S. Constitution gives the Congress financial oversight. The time has come for our elected representatives to listen to the country’s pro-peace majority and end funding for this war.

They're going to hold these events all over the US. There's a place on their website where you can punch in your zip code, and see if there's one planned at a location near you. Lo and behold, I found that the moonbats are planning on holding one on the courthouse lawn of my own town! Ugh. Neadless to say, when the time comes, if I remember and have time I'll run up and take some photos for the blog.

Why do I call their "vigil" fake? Because like all these other leftie "end the war' groups, they claim to be oh-so-concerned with the killing. Their claim is that they want "to stop the deaths", and on their website they repeat the bogus claim that 100,000 civilians have been killed in Iraq "as a result of this war" (debunked here and here).

Two problems with this line of reasoning.

First, it's not as if Iraq was all tranquil and peaceful before we came along. Saddam was murdering his own people by the tens of thousands. Mass graves are uncovered every month in Iraq. In addition, let's not forget that he started two major wars; against Iran in 1980 and Kuwait in 1990. The first killed up to a million people on both sides (I can't find figures for the second at this moment). By invading we are reducing the killing in Iraq.

Yes, at this moment, people are dying. No one disputes this. But by the logic of the anti-war crowd, we should not have invaded France to expel Germany. Tens of thousands of French were killed by American and British bombs and shells. And we weren't terribly discriminate about our actions either, folks. It was a tough, dirty business. And you know what? Despite their distain for our current foreign policy the French do truely appreciate what we did for them (yes they really do).

Second, if we were to pack up and leave Iraq, we would face a bloodbath at least as bad as what happened in Southeast Asia after we left there in 1972. Between Vietnam and Cambodia, more people died after our withdrawal than during the war. The reason, of course, is that the communists exacted their revenge on the people. In Iraq, Al Quada would try to set up a calipate that would make the Taliban look tame by comparison. Even if they didn't succeed, it would be a bloodbath worse than what is going on now, because the Iraqi Army would have a very tough time of it.

Who are the American Friends Service Committee?

The best single source of information about them (and any other leftie group you may want to research) is David Horowitz' excellent DiscovertheNetwork.org website. Here are a few excerpts from his entry on the AFSC:

Although the AFSC has repeatedly denied being a Communist or Communist-infiltrated organization, it has in fact developed close affiliations with the Communist Party USA and various socialist and revolutionary groups. Because the AFSC views Communism as a desirable state, it actively assisted Communist nations in their elusive quest to achieve economic prosperity.

As AFSC author Ruth Anna Brown explains, "We have helped, or are helping, Communist countries reach the amount of economic growth and development necessary for them to allow a degree of relaxed domestic control. We are helping Communist countries to achieve greater benefits through peaceful co-existence than they could receive through war

In recent decades the AFSC has had no higher priority than to agitate for the unilateral disarmament of the United States.

Today the AFSC is a member organization of the Abolition 2000, Win Without War, and United for Peace and Justice anti-war coalitions. Moreover, the AFSC (which recently formed an alliance with the radical group MECha) also takes a strong stance against laws that would apprehend and punish illegal immigrants in the United States.Today the AFSC is a member organization of the Abolition 2000, Win Without War, and United for Peace and Justice anti-war coalitions. Moreover, the AFSC (which recently formed an alliance with the radical group MECha) also takes a strong stance against laws that would apprehend and punish illegal immigrants in the United States.

I think you get the idea. Basically, they hate the United States and everything this country stands for. They're ashamed to be Americans, and when they go overseas no doubt spend their time "apologizing" for our actions.

Crying Foul

Leftie blogs are, of course, crying foul over the exposure of the AFSC by lgf. You can go visit them and read their whining and moaning if you're up for a good laugh. Go to lgf here for the links.

Posted by Tom at 7:49 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

October 21, 2005

This is Embarrassing

Just when you thought the situation with Harriet Miers couldn't get any worse, the Republican National Committee sends this out:

An Open Letter to the Women Senators of the U.S. Congress:

We are (Republican) women from across the country. We are lawyers, judges, law professors and elected officials, from many backgrounds, and we are writing to you today to support the nomination of Harriet Miers as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court.

Like each of you, Harriet Miers has a record of firsts:

• First woman to serve as Counsel to the President. In this role, she has served as the top lawyer to the President and the White House.
• First woman elected President of the State Bar of Texas, in 1992.
• First woman to become President of the Dallas Bar Association, in 1985
• First woman hired at Dallas’s Locke Purnell Rain Harrell. In March 1996, her colleagues elected her the first female President of Locke, Purnell, Rain & Harrell, at that time a firm of about 200 lawyers. She was the first woman to lead a Texas firm of that size.

Each of you knows what it takes to achieve these extraordinary accomplishments: it takes brains, courage, tact, and the ability to keep your eye on the ball. These are traits that make for a successful Associate Justice: one who can achieve consensus among her colleagues, and find the common ground that makes for a majority decision.

Look at the many people and organizations that have been impressed by Ms. Miers’ intellect and communications skills. In a distinguished career as a trial lawyer, Ms. Miers has represented clients such as Microsoft, Walt Disney Co. and SunGard Data Systems Inc. These companies had their choice of dozens of lawyers, but chose Ms. Miers. Her peers in the Dallas Bar chose her to lead them, and so did the thousands of attorneys of the State Bar of Texas. She has won the respect and admiration of legislators both in her home state and in Washington.

Make no mistake. We do not argue that Harriet Miers deserves a spot on the Supreme Court because she is female. We do argue that being female has led her to have experiences and insights that add to her qualifications to serve on the Court. Like Justice O’Connor, she has broken ground for women in the legal community, and a new generation of women lawyers has been able to succeed because they have stood on the shoulders of attorneys like her.

Like Justice O’Connor, and many of the other finest justices to serve on the Court, Harriet Miers has real-world political experience. In 1989, she was elected to a two-year term as an at-large candidate on the Dallas City Council. She served as general counsel for the transition team of Governor-elect George W. Bush in 1994, and from 1995 until 2000, she served as Chairwoman of the Texas Lottery Commission, a voluntary public service position she undertook while maintaining her legal practice and other responsibilities. After then-Governor Bush appointed Ms. Miers to a six-year term on the Texas Lottery Commission, she served as a driving force behind its cleanup.

Ms. Miers would come to the Court as have 10 out of the 34 Justices appointed since 1933, including the late Chief Justice William Rehnquist and the late Justice Byron White—without prior judicial experience, but with a rich background in legal, political and civic life. Harriet Miers deserves the chance to bring her talents to the Court. We urge you to vote “yes” when it her confirmation is brought to the Senate floor.

Sincerely,

(the strongest bunch of female legal scholars, law school deans, bar association chairs, and elected officials you can tap—I’d be glad to assist)



Kathryn Jean Lopez posted this on NRO
yesterday, and as you may imagine, was utterly disgusted.

Well, so am I. Do I have to point out to my own party that being the first woman anything is not a qualification to sit on the Supreme Court?!?!

Yes I know that some of you point the the paragraph below all the "first" business and say "but it takes 'brains, courage, tact, and the ability to keep your eye on the ball' to achieve those things."

But none of those things, either, are reasons for conservatives to support her for the Supreme Court.

Once again, do I have to point out to my own party that liberals can have "brains, courage, and tact" too? They have certainly kept their "eye on the ball", steadily moving the court to the left for forty-plus years and making sure that key decisions such as Roe and Griswold do not get reversed.

If this letter had come from the DNC we'd be laughing. No, we'd be howling and rolling in the isles. Every right-wing blog would gleefully reprint it and use it as an example of political correctness.

But for it to come from our party is simply embarassing.

Posted by Tom at 8:24 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 19, 2005

North Korea (DPRK) - Threat Assessment

Following is the Theat Assessment regarding Syria that was jointly written by myself, Marvin Hutchins of Little Red Blog, and Bill Rice of By Dawn's Early Light. An introduction and explanation of these "Threat Assessments" can be found in my post on the matter here.

Following is our assessment of the threat posed by North Korea to the United States as of May 2005:


Introduction

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK, popularly known as “North Korea”) is perhaps the last of the old-style Stalinist, totalitarian regimes left on the planet. Its secretiveness and paranoia is legendary. It has earned it’s place in the “Axis of Evil” through its military threat to American interests if not the United States itself, sponsorship of terrorism and gross violation of human rights. North Korea’s current leadership is a threat to regional security, most notably South Korea. Japan and the United States are at risk due to nuclear missile threats. North Korea’s dire economic condition, owing to a regime that is geared solely for keeping itself in power, creates added security risks as it exports missiles, weapons, drugs and weapons technology to other unscrupulous nations.

Background

Korean history is long and complicated, and due to physical proximity, the peninsula has been much influenced by China. For our purposes we will limit ourselves to the start of the twentieth century.

After Japan defeated Russia in the Russo-Japanese War in 1905, Korea became a protectorate of Japan. Japan formally annexed the peninsula in 1910, and began a long reign of oppression that only ended with their defeat in 1945.

At the end of World War II the peninsula was divided into two occupation zones along the 38th parallel. The United States administered the Southern half, and the Soviet Union the Northern half. As in Germany, the division was only meant to last a short while, until elections could be arranged and a government formed. However, just as with the situation in Europe, divisions between the Soviet Union and the West quickly overshadowed ideas of post-war cooperation, and two governments in Korea were set up. In February of 1946, the Red Army, which occupied the Northern half of the peninsula, set up a communist government under Kim Il Sung. The U.S. refused to recognize the communist government and in 1948 helped set up a government under Rhee Syngman in the South.

In June of 1950 the DPRK invaded South Korea (Republic of Korea, or ROK). At the time this was seen as part of a global attempt by the communists to assert control over as much territory as possible, and post-Cold War research has confirmed that Joseph Stalin gave his blessing to the attack. After initial success by the North, United States forces, under the auspices of the United Nations, stopped the communist attack. After an ambitious amphibious attack at Inchon planned by Gen. Douglas MacArthur, routed the North Korean army along the Chinese border. Intervention by Chinese troops resulted in temporary defeats for the United States and her allies, who eventually stabilized the front around the 38th parallel. Long and arduous peace talks eventually produced an armistice. No peace treaty has ever been signed, so the parties are still officially at war. The 38th parallel dividing the two Koreas is the world’s most heavily militarized border.

The Korean War (1950 – 1953) became the defining event for the peninsula for the rest of the twentieth century, and indeed to this present day. The DPRK has never given up its desire to overrun the South, and maintains a very large military establishment. The government of the ROK used fear of Northern aggression to resist democratic reforms. The United States maintains some 32,500 troops in the ROK to maintain a forward defense (however, outside of Seoul) , though this will drop to 25,000 by 2008.

The first twenty-five or so years of South Korean history was marked by as series of authoritarian governments. Despite this, the South experienced strong economic growth, causing it to be labeled one of the “Asian-tigers”. However, popular dissatisfaction with the government came to a head after the 1979 assassination of Park Chunghee, with protests against authoritarian rule roiling the South for the next twelve years. Finally, in 1987, the government agreed to hold elections and Roh Tae-woo was elected president. This event started a process that led the South toward becoming a democratic government, which it is today.

The current ROK government under President Kim Tae-chung has adopted a “Sunshine Policy” towards the North. This policy stresses dialogue with the North, rather than military buildup and economic sanctions and is supported most strongly by the younger generation of Koreans that did not live through the Korean War.

The government in the North remains a hard-line communist dictatorship. It is perhaps the last fully Stalinist dictatorship in the world today. Its leader is Kim Jong Il, son of Kim Il Sung, who died in 1994. Their official governing philosophy is “Juche”, or “self-reliance”, and is marked by the extreme form of isolation that the government has imposed on its relations with the rest of the world. The North’s economy is a veritable “basket case”, and the agricultural situation has gotten so bad that starvation is commonplace in much of the country with some estimates as high as 3.5 million deaths .

Current Issues

Military – The DPRK is a significant military threat to the United States and our allies, most notably South Korea and Japan. Despite massive economic failure resulting in one of the lowest per capita incomes in the world, the DPRK maintains a million-man military (Korean People’s Army, or KPA) capable of doing significant damage to South Korea and other countries. Their quest for nuclear weapons, now probably a reality, makes them all the more dangerous.

One primary issue in a conventional war on the peninsula is that more than 25% of the South’s population lives near their Northern border. Seoul, the capital of the ROK, is less than forty miles from the DPRK. The KPA keeps most of its forces along the 120 mile DMZ . The KPA has built extensive underground fortifications housing thousands of artillery and short-range rocket launchers capable of inflicting massive damage on Seoul and its surroundings on short notice.

Despite the size of the KPA, it is a technologically backward force. Their strength is in shear numbers and firepower. That the United States would ultimately prevail in such a conflict, though with current strains on US forces in the War on Terror, the total devastation to South Korea would be extreme.

The KPA also maintains chemical and biological weapons, and has refused to sign international agreements banning such weapons. Although they are unlikely to possess much in the way of pathogens, they do have a large and mature chemical weapons industry. The KPA possesses and is capable of delivering all types of chemical weapons; blister, nerve, choking, and blood agents. The North’s desire for hard currency cannot be forgotten when examining their willingness to export such WMD technology to unstable regimes or terrorist organizations.

The North is currently engaged in developing long-range missiles that could theoretically carry nuclear warheads. The No Dong and Taepo Dong 1 can hit Japan, while the Taepo Dong 2, with a 4,000 - 6,000 km range, can strike U.S. basis in the Pacific such as Guam, as well as Alaska. A 3-stage version of the Taepo Dong 2 is under development, which may be capable of delivering a warhead to the western United States.

Most alarming of all is their relentless march toward obtaining nuclear weapons. Despite a variety of U.S. and allied approaches, ranging from all carrot to all stick, nothing has dissuaded them from this goal. The DPRK claimed in 2003, and formally in 2005, that they did in fact possess nuclear weapons, and although it is entirely possible that this was a calculated bluff, between this statement and other sources prudence dictates that we assume that they currently possesses 2 – 6 bombs. Whether they are deliverable on missiles, artillery, or even aircraft is another matter. Recent rumors suggest they intend on testing a nuclear device perhaps as early as June 2005.

Most significantly is the propaganda that emanates almost daily from the DPRK propaganda machine. Despite it being the worst sort of crude communist propaganda, it reminds us of the extreme threat that this nation poses to our allies and us.

Terror – the DPRK represents a terrorist threat to the United States and our allies. The nature of their threat takes on several forms, and is unique in the annals of terrorism around the world.

The history of DPRK terrorist activities is extensive and alarming. Rather than use proxy organizations, they have carried out operations themselves. “Fishing boats” have off-loaded agents who have gone ashore in Japan and kidnapped civilians walking along the beach. The Japanese victims were taken to North Korea where they were kept as virtual slaves and forced to teach Japanese to North Koreans.

In 1983 DPRK agents tried to kill South Korean President Chun Doo Hwan, who was visiting Burma (now Myanmar). In 1987, they bombed KAL flight 858, killing 115. South Korea believes that in 1996 DPRK agents killed one of their diplomats in Vladivostok, Russia. To this day they harbor four members of the 70’s era communist Japanese Red Army Faction terrorist group. In 1970 these Japanese hijacked a JAL airliner and flew it to North Korea, seeking asylum.

In the past the DPRK has been suspected of selling weapons to groups to separatist groups such as the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in the Philippines.

More recently is the likelihood that the DPRK has openly spread the threat of missile and nuclear terror via the A.Q. Khan network. The potential for further attempts to sell or give a nuclear technology or weapons to a terrorist group such as Al-Qaeda remains a primary concern.

Economic - While the DPRK does not represent an economic threat to the United States or our allies; the abysmal state of their economy concerns us both because of the human tragedy and the prospects for mass unrest in the case of regime collapse.

Civil – North Korea is one of the worst violators of human rights in the world. The government is a one-man dictatorship on the Hitler/Stalinist model. There is absolutely no freedom of the press, of religion, or any pretense of fair trails for those accused of a crime. Public executions are common. Forced labor camps, torture, even trafficking in North Korean “wives” for Chinese men. There is absolutely no civil society, as we understand it, in North Korea.

Assessment

The situation with regards to the DPRK is unfortunately bleak. The government of that country seems determined to continue its present course towards maintaining totalitarian control of the population, a failed economic central planning model, and a pursuit of nuclear weapons and the missiles with which to deliver them to a wide range of targets.

Various attempts over the years have been made to get the DPRK to change its ways, and none have succeeded. The history of the country forces us to assume the worst when dealing with it. Pyongyang seems to sway between ratcheting up the tension and bringing it back down again. Whichever tactic they adopt at the moment is designed to gain momentary advantage while they continue to pursue their nefarious goals.

Additionally we note that China may well be playing North Korea off against the United States in an attempt to divert us from Taiwan. While this is largely speculation, it is plausible given the lack of Chinese pressure on the DPRK on issues from nuclear weapons to a refusal to impose sanctions.

Recommendations

The editors recommend that the United States adopt (or continue to follow) the following policies with regards to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea:

1. Require multinational talks, the six-party talks including the U.S., China, Russia, South Korea, Japan and North Korea, to end the current nuclear crisis. Under no circumstance should the U.S. participate in bi-lateral negotiations with the DPRK.

2. Continue humanitarian aid regardless of the actions of the DPRK. While this does open the door to abuses, such as the possibility that the DPRK could divert aid to its military, we believe that the suffering of the North Korean people is such that food and medical aid needs to be sent regardless of “political” consequences. In order to avoid the abuses of the “Oil for Food” scandal, humanitarian aid needs to be managed through nations and organizations that have a proven record (i.e. not the United Nations).

3. The U.S. should consider potential further actions against the DPRK should they refuse to adhere to their pledge for a nuclear free Korean peninsula. This should include U.N. sanctions, an embargo of non-humanitarian aid, cessation of fuel supply and the permanent end to KEDO (Korean Peninsular Energy Organization).

4. We must pressure China to stop their forcible return of North Korean refugees. If China refuses to accept them, we should work towards finding them residence in South Korea or elsewhere.

5. A strong military presence needs to be maintained in the Republic of Korea. The DPRK needs to understand clearly that the United States will respond to military action on their part, and only our continued presences in the region or on the peninsula will ensure that. This remains an additional incentive for the U.S. to maintain a larger naval force structure and avoid the potential pitfalls of carrier fleet reduction.

6. The United States, Japan and our allies should continue to vigorously pursue all deployable options for missile defense.

Posted by Tom at 9:03 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 16, 2005

Syria - Threat Assessment

Following is the Theat Assessment regarding Syria that was jointly written by myself, Marvin Hutchins of Little Red Blog, and Bill Rice of By Dawn's Early Light. An introduction and explanation of these "Threat Assessments" can be found in my post on the matter here.

Following is our assessment of the threat to the United States posed by Syria, as of June 2005

Introduction

Syria concerns us for several reasons; it’is a military threat to the Middle East, it supports Islamic terrorism, it possesses weapons of mass destruction, and it continues to violate the civil and human rights of its own citizens. As such, it is likely that Syria only narrowly escaped inclusion in President Bush’s “Axis of Evil”. Syrian support for Islamic terrorists crossing the border into Iraq also represents a significant problem for the United States, for much if not all of our efforts in the War on Terror depends on success in Iraq.

Syria, however, also represents a great possibility for success. The Ba’athist regime of President Bashar al-Assad is relatively weak and could conceivably fall. Should this occur, the opportunity for the United States, Middle Eastern allies and the citizens of Syria to create a democracy is likely, although with caveats addressed later.

Background

Syria is an ancient region, whose history stretches back thousands of years. Throughout time it has been part of many great empires, including those of the Canaanite, Hebrew, Assyrian, Babylonian, Persian, Greek, Roman, Byzantine, and most recently, the Ottoman Turk. Syria is significant in the history of Christianity, Islam and Judaism.

After the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire in the wake of World War I, the region of Syria was charged to France under a League of Nations mandate. Following World War II, Syria was able to achieve its independence in 1946.

For the next fifteen years Syrian politics was marked by instability and a series of military coups. Syrian leaders eventually followed Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser's leadership, and in 1958 the two countries formed the United Arab Republic. The two countries failed to complete the merger and in 1961 Syria seceded from the pact.

In 1963 another coup was engineered, this time by the Arab Socialist Resurrection Party, who also called themselves Ba’athists. Ba’athism is a secular ideology that combines portions of Socialism, militarism, nationalism, and pan-Arabism. “Ba’ath” means “rebirth” in Arabic.

Various Ba’ath regimes have run Syria since the 1963 coup. In 1970, Minister of Defense Hafez al-Assad seized power in a bloodless coup. He ruled until his death in 2000, when his son, Bashar al-Assad was elevated to power.

The Assads are members of the Alawi sect of Islam, the largest religious minority in Syria at less than 15% of the population. 74% of the country is made up of Sunni Muslims, and the rest being Christian and Jewish. There is much speculation of the significance of the Alawi rise to power in Syria, as well of the significance of sectarian disputes in the daily governance of Syria. Much of it is no more than speculation and the application of generalizations based on broader Middle Eastern sectarian and ethnic disputes. [I’d rather not join in that speculation, aside from addressing the Kurd ethnic group, the rest of that debate is largely bunk with regard to Syria – (two of my best friends are political exiles from Syria and have shaped my view over the years). If you both prefer this remain as Tom originally worded it, I’ll gladly reverse my position – for the sake of Threats Watch at least.] [I think that reinserting Tom’s religious breakdown would be helpful, but we could agree to remove commentary from the numbers.]

Syria has been involved in all but one Middle-East war with Israel. And, as addressed in our Arab-Israeli Conflict assessment, remains a hindrance to the Middle East peace process. Arab armies, deployed from Syria, invaded Israel in 1948 shortly after the UN mandate to form Israel. In 1967, Syria amassed troops along its border with Israel, as did Egypt in the Sinai, and in the war that followed Syria lost the Golan Heights to Israel. In 1973 Syria along with Egypt attacked Israel again. Israel, once recovering from the attack, routed the Syrian and Egyptian forces. In Israel’s second offensive into Lebanon, in 1982, to destroy Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) forces, Syrian air forces engaged the IDF and were defeated.
Syrian policy towards Israel has been marked by continued hostility and support for the most extreme terrorist groups. Unlike Egypt and Jordan, who have signed peace treaties with Israel, Syria remains in conflict with Israel. Syrian support for terrorism goes back to the earliest days of Palestinian terrorist groups. These groups include Hamas, Hezbollah, Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC), Popular Struggle Front (PSF), Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) and the Abu Musa Organization (AMO). Syria appears to have turned a blind eye at best to Al-Qaeda and Arab fighters traveling into Iraq. Al Fatah and the PFLP-GC received funding, arms, and training from Syria. Syria even established it’s own terrorist group, the PFLP-GC, which was led by a Syrian army officer who broke off from the regular PFLP. Today Syria supports to some extent all three of the Islamist Palestinian terrorist groups; Hizbollah, Hamas, and Islamic Jihad, although most of its funding and attention goes to Hizbollah. The exception to Syria’s support for Islamic terrorist organizations has been the Muslim Brotherhood as exemplified by Assad’s attacks on the residents of Hama, where as many as 20,000 may have been killed to eliminate the Muslim Brotherhood and other opposition to Assad.

Like Iraq under Saddam Hussein, Hafez al-Assad pursued weapons of mass destruction, most notably chemical and biological weapons. Unlike Iraq, Syria still possesses them. Syria’s stockpiles of chemical weapons include the nerve agents sarin, tabun, and possibly VX. They also have produced mustard gas, a blister agent. Exact quantities are uncertain. Syria apparently has a biological weapons program but it is not known if they have produced significant quantities of any useable agents. There is no evidence of a nuclear program. Syria is known to possess older Soviet missile systems (including ballistic missiles) and North Korea redesigned Scuds missiles.

In 1976 President Assad sent his army into Lebanon, ostensibly to quell the civil war and to impose order. For the next twenty-eight years, Syria maintained some 16,000 – 20,000 troops in Lebanon, along with numerous intelligence personnel. In addition, perhaps a million Syrians work and/or live in Lebanon.

In recent months Syria has been forced to evacuate Lebanon as a result of public and world reaction to the assassination of Lebanese politician Rafik Hariri. Although the Syrian military has left Lebanon, the UN nor the US will assert that Syrian intelligence operatives have departed. .


Current Issues

Military – The Syrian military consists of some 400,000 troops. It is a conscripted force, with all Syrian men required to serve 30 months in the service upon 18 years of age. [Note: This is a part of the reason that my two friends and their families are exiled.] Historically, the modern nation of Syria received virtually all of its armaments from the Soviet Union. With the breakup of its chief supplier in 1991, the subsidized supply chain has been seriously disrupted. As a result, much of its equipment is now obsolete and in a poor state of maintenance due to lack of spare parts. It is a well-disciplined force, by Arab standards, although its officer corps suffers from the lack of initiative inherent in any Soviet-trained military.

While the Syrian military is not overly powerful relative to those of Israel or the United States, it is strong enough to cause trouble in the region. In concert with Egypt the Syrian military is and has been a threat to Israel. The Syrian army has also been used to dominate Lebanon and subjugate its citizens. Although it has recently pulled out of Lebanon, the possibility of a reinvasion bears watching. Lastly, like so many other authoritarian regimes, Syria uses its army to oppress its own citizens, sometimes with quite bloody results.

The Syrian military not only possesses chemical, and probably some limited amounts of biological weapons, but has the ability to deliver them through short-range missiles. The major part of their missile force is made up of Scud B, C, and D variants, with a range of 300km, 500km, and 700km respectively. Syria produces these missiles indigenously, having received technical assistance from China, Iran, and North Korea. While most of these missiles are fitted with conventional warheads, some of the longer-range ones no doubt have chemical or even biological warheads. Russia and Syria have discussed (in early 2005 the potential sale of additional arms including anti-aircraft missiles.


Terror – Syria is a direct sponsor of terrorism. Historically they have focused their attention on Israel, as outlined above. Since the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, Syria has been a major conduit for terrorists moving into Iraq. It is unclear how much of this is with the direct knowledge and support of the leadership of Syria, and how much with the support of “local leaders” or lower-ranking military officers acting independently. Regardless, given that the government has shown determined brutality in stamping out dissent, they certainly could end the infiltration of terrorists into Iraq if they were serious about a stable Iraqi government or making efforts at friendship with the United States.

As such, Syria must be counted as a major terrorist threat to the United States and the surrounding region, including Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine and Israel..

Economic – Syria is not an economic threat to the United States or any of our allies. Syrian oil revenue of some 60,000 barrels a day that were smuggled out of Iraq pre-war has now obviously come to an end, which was a good source of foreign income for Syria.

In May of 2004 the United States imposed sanctions on Syria under the Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act. The purpose behind this measure was to pressure Syria into ending its support for terrorist groups, its occupation of Lebanon, its support of terrorists in Iraq, and its possession of weapons of mass destruction. The act prohibits the export to Syria of anything other than food and medicine, and also halts most civil and commercial air traffic to Syria by US carriers. Due to the power of the US economy, it will also in general discourage foreign investment in Syria,

Civil – Syria is ruled by a dictatorship that allows for no expression of dissent, and brutally crushes all opposition with force. The Ba’athist party, and that of President Assad, is ideologically opposed to pluralism and democracy. Torture and “disappearances” are common. Freedom of expression and association are non-existent.

Syria has maintained close ties with Iran since 1980, supporting it during the Iraq-Iran war. A "Higher Iranian-Syrian Joint Committee" was created, whose purpose was to enable the two countries to cooperate better in economic and scientific fields as well as in sharing military and intelligence information. The two countries both support Hezbollah, and have cooperated in operations in Lebanon and the West Bank.

In February of this year, Syrian Prime Minister Naji al-Otari visited Teheran, no less than one day after the assassination of the Lebanese politician Rafiq al Hariri. The purpose of the visit was to strengthen ties between the two countries, and to shore up Iranian support for Syria, in the wake of U.S. pressure on Syria to end it’s support of terrorism in Iraq.

Assessment

While Syria remains a major threat to U.S. interests and our allies, it is our position that we are at a point where tremendous change in either the regime itself, or at least in the way that it behaves is required. Syria has recently been forced to evacuate its troops from Lebanon, and is thus on the strategic defensive. [should we include info about the Lebanese vote or is this too far off the path?] Many members of the Syrian military and government are likely dissatisfied with the rule of Bashar al-Assad, who has neither his father’s authority nor strategic sense. It is probable that he is currently occupied with attempting to shore up his power and stave off a coup from either the left or the right. A peaceful or democratic change in regime would dramatically reduce regional tensions and assist the development of a peaceful Iraq.

Syria is allowing terrorists and foreign fighters into Iraq. Short of an incursion into Syria, the US position is to conduct military assaults such as Operation Matador to decrease an organized threat and to send a clear message that foreign incursions will not be tolerated to the Syrian government. The editors of Threats Watch are aware that escalation to military confrontation may have unforeseen negative consequences. However, failure in Iraq is not an option and should be the driving focus of US foreign policy in the region. As such, if the flow of terrorists from Syria is not stemmed soon, stronger action must be taken.

Accordingly time is of the essence. If we do not act soon, Asad may be able to stabilize his rule, or if overthrown, equally odious Ba’athists or Islamist may take power. The potential also exist for civil war.


Recommendations

1. Infiltration of terrorists into Iraq from Syria must end immediately. This is not negotiable and is our highest priority. We must make it clear to the Syrian regime that we will not end our military actions at their border if they do not significantly curtail foreign fighters and terrorists into Iraq. The US retains the right to conduct strategic bombing attacks within Syria to route out safe houses and staging areas. If we are not able to quickly neutralize terrorists flowing into Iraq from Syria, we should take the following actions:
a. Our initial ultimatum to Syria should be made in private, to not humiliate or place in an untenable position Asad’s government. It should be made clear that our policy will be one of a carrot or stick, and that he can either chose the path of Ghadaffi of Libya or Hussein of Iraq. Confidence building responses would be met with an easing of trade restrictions on Syria.
b. Our military actions should come as close to the border with Syria as possible in conducting operations. If required, the US should consider limited strategic precision bombing missions within Syria against government command and control structures or foreign terrorist assets if intelligence proves actionable.

2. Syria must give up its weapons of mass destruction without condition. It must be made clear to the Syrian regime that their Baathist regime may go the way of Iraq’s if greater cooperation is not forthcoming.

3. The United States must make it clear that remnants of Syrian control of Lebanon must end. Syria must remove all intelligence assets from the country, and not be allowed to reassert even partial control by use of proxies such as Hizbollah. As such, it should be our policy to:
a. Encourage the formation of a Lebanese government that is truly representative of all its people. We must work with all relevant international institutions to effect this goal. Further, we should use a carrot-and-stick approach with regard to Syrian compliance, using all means at our disposal, economic and diplomatic
b. U.S. intelligence and diplomatic assets must pay close attention to Lebanon so as to judge Syrian compliance.

4. Human rights within Syria must be a part of U.S. policy. We must make it clear that we will only fully accept a Syrian government that is representative of its people, and that the one in power now does not qualify. To effect this a carrot-and-stick policy with regard to economic and diplomatic pressure should be applied as strongly as possible

5. As Israel is our strongest ally in the region, we must ensure that they have the necessary equipment to defeat Syria in a military confrontation. By doing so we ensure that the regime of Bashar al-Asad realizes that it cannot retake the Golan Heights by force.

6. Any negotiations with Syria over disputed territory or peace with Israel must be made with the condition that Syria must reform its government first to respect Western views of human rights. Once again, a carrot-and-stick approach should be used; first Syria reforms its government, then we will let them participate at the bargaining table.


Update
(not part of the original assessment)

MEMRI reports that a second high-ranking Syrian official has "comitted suicide":

Ghazi Kan'an – Second High Ranking Syrian Official to Commit Suicide in Bashar Al-Assad's Presidency

Syria's minister of interior and "strongman" in Lebanon for more than a decade Ghazi Kan'an is the second high-ranking Syrian official reported to have committed suicide since Bashar Al-Assad became president of Syria. The first was prime minister Mahmoud Al-Zu'bi, in June 2000.

American-Syrian Fighting

The New York Times reports that American and Syrian troops have clashed after cross-border "incursions" American troops (hat tip Belmont Club and The Fourth Rail):

A series of clashes in the last year between American and Syrian troops, including a prolonged firefight this summer that killed several Syrians, has raised the prospect that cross-border military operations may become a dangerous new front in the Iraq war, according to current and former military and government officials.

The firefight, between Army Rangers and Syrian troops along the border with Iraq, was the most serious of the conflicts with President Bashar al-Assad's forces, according to American and Syrian officials.
...
Some current and former officials add that the United States military is considering plans to conduct special operations inside Syria, using small covert teams for cross-border intelligence gathering.

The broadening military effort along the border has intensified as the Iraqi constitutional referendum scheduled for Saturday approaches, and as frustration mounts in the Bush administration and among senior American commanders over their inability to prevent foreign radical Islamists from engaging in suicide bombings and other deadly terrorist acts inside Iraq.

Increasingly, officials say, Syria is to the Iraq war what Cambodia was in the Vietnam War: a sanctuary for fighters, money and supplies to flow over the border and, ultimately, a place for a shadow struggle.


Posted by Tom at 9:04 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 15, 2005

Threat Assessments - Introduction

A few months ago, I entered into a venture with two other bloggers whereby we were going to start a new site, dedicated to tracking threats to our country. The enterprise didn't work out, but we did write several "Threat Assessment" papers, and when we parted it was agreed that we could each publish the documents. Over the next few weeks, I am going to post those papers on this site.

The assessments were jointly written by the three of us, which much editing and back-and-forth. After each is posted, therefore, due credit will be given to all three of us, as I want to make clear that they are not my work alone. However, since I am a co-author on each piece, and since I agreed to the final result, I take full responsibility for their content. Further, we were not able to finalize each one before parting. Feel free, therefore, to direct your comments to me alone.

Here is a list of the countries and areas of concern for which a Threat Assessment document was produced:

Sudan China North Korea Syria Afghanistan Islamic Terror

Here is an outline of our characterizations, or how we evaluated each country or area of concern

Characterizations

Military – The threat associated with a particular country, organization or entity in the form of conventional or non-conventional weaponry or war.

Terror – The threat or likelihood of terrorism associated with a particular country, organization or entity in the form of terrorism, attacks on combatants or non-combatants by combatants not aligned with, representing or serving the military interests of a recognized national government or regularly formed militias.

Economic – The potential to assert a nations economic interest through policy, trade, or other means. Generally limited to the actions directly aimed at weakening the economic credibility or influence of other global players in a particular market or industry.

Civil – How the citizens, or subsets of them, are treated within a nation or system of governance – ideology; focusing on civil and human rights, property, political and economic liberties, and religious freedom.

Posted by Tom at 9:24 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

October 12, 2005

Al-Zawahiri's letter to al-Zarqawi

In We're Winning II: What the Other Side Thinks, I mentioned a letter that American intelligence had intercepted, sent by Usama bin Laden's deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who is in charge of Al Qaeda operations in Iraq. At the time, the actual letter had not been released, so I depending on a Washington Post account of how a "senior administration official" described the letter to the Post reporter.

Earlier today, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released the text of the letter. You can find it here in both English and Arabic.

Several things seem apparent from my read of the letter

1) Just as the Post reported, the goals of Al Quada are to first "Expel the Americans from Iraq," second, to "Establish an Islamic authority or amirate, then develop it and support it until it achieves the level of a caliphate- over as much territory as you can to spread its power in Iraq". Third, "Extend the jihad wave to the secular countries neighboring Iraq." Last but not least, the "the clash with Israel" will occur.


2) They recognize that in order to achieve their goals they must win the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people: "The strongest weapon which the mujahedeen enjoy...is popular support from the Muslim masses in Iraq."


3) Ayman al-Zawahiri seems to think that the United States is on the verge of leaving Iraq. "Things may develop faster than we imagine", he says, and they goes on to draw a parallel to Vietnam.

The writer is either delusional, is so locked into an ideology he can't see reality, is watching too much CNN (joke alert there, liberal readers), or desperately trying to encourage al-Zarqawi, who he fears may becomming disillusioned.


4) In perhaps the most revealing part of the entire letter, al-Zawahiri fears that they are losing the battle:

I say to you: that we are in a battle, and that more than half of this battle is taking place in the battlefield of the media. And that we are in a media battle in a race for the hearts and minds of our Umma.

According to Wikopedia, Umma is defined as "the entire population of Muslims", and that "Umma is often cited by Muslim extremists as the path or the reason they engage in their struggle", where in the end "everyone converts or is converted to Islam."


5)The reason why they fear they are losing in the media becomes apparent in another part of the letter, where al-Zawahiri recognizes that many or most Muslims abhor their attacks on civilians:

>Among the things which the feelings of the Muslim populace who love and support you will never find palatable - also- are the scenes of slaughtering the hostages. You shouldn't be deceived by the praise of some of the zealous young men and their description of you as the shaykh of the slaughterers, etc. They do not express the general view of the admirer and the supporter of the resistance in Iraq, and of you in particular by the favor and blessing of God.

Although the language is couched in the best diplomat-speak, the true meaning is clear; we've got a public-relations problem among Muslims, who as supposed to be their supporters. Worse, they have no idea how to solve it. al-Zawahiri ends up blaming it on "the malicious, perfidious, and fallacious campaign by the deceptive and fabricated media." In other words, "forget the people, they don't 'get it'"


6) Al Qaeda sees the Shia as heretics, or as they put it, as "People of discernment and knowledge among Muslims know the extent of danger to Islam of the Twelve'er school of Shiism. It is a religious school based on excess and falsehood whose function is to accuse the companions of Muhammad { of heresy in a campaign against Islam...." However, they also recognize that their attacks on ordinary Shia civilians are creating problems. Al-Zawahiri warns al-Zarqawi that "Muslim admirers amongst the common folk are wondering about your attacks on the Shia", and that this really becomes a problem when mosques are attacked. Zawahiri raises many questions in the letter, but does not come to any real conclusions on the matter. He ends by simply warning Zarquai not to let his "eyes lose sight of the target", and that he is too far from the scene of battle to have all the facts.

7) The letter concludes with most of the flowery rhetoric we've seen in past writings, but also with a warning:

Please take every caution in the meetings, especially when someone claims to carry an important letter or contributions. It was in this way that they arrested Khalid Sheikh. Likewise, please, if you want to meet one of your assistants, I hope that you don't meet him in a public place or in a place that is not known to you. I hope that you would meet him in a secure place, not the place of your residence.

In other words, "the Americans have very good intelligence."


Concluding Thoughts

Strange, then, this war. we who support our efforts blame our media for getting it wrong, and so does Al-Qaeda. We think that our media is putting a negative spin on the news, they think it's virtually an arm of the US government. Either way, apparently Al-Jazeera isn't doing a good enough job.

Further, we need to take care and not simply consult our own sources of media when trying to reach conclusions about this war. I should do more of this myself, the only other Al Qaeda document I wrote about was Osama bin Laden's 1996 Fatwa.


Other Analysis

John Hinderaker of Power Line takes down the NYT's editorial on the letter and provides his own analysis. Hinderaker concludes that

Zawahiri's letter is a valuable document. It lays out al Qaeda's strategy for victory in Iraq and the world. It demonstrates al Qaeda's growing unpopularity, its weakness and its vulnerability to American intelligence. And it protests feebly against al Qaeda's descent into unalloyed nihilism and sadism--the ultimate destination of all totalitarian creeds. The Times says that it doesn't know whether Zarqawi received Zawahiri's letter or not, but it doesn't matter. If Zarqawi got it--or if he read it in the newspaper--he tossed it into the wastebasket.

Austin Bay, as usual, has important insights: "Strategic Analysis and Discussion, and "Zarqawi's Losing Strategy"(which I linked to yesterday). Money quote:

Zarqawi's murder spree has revealed fissures among Al-Qaida fanatics. Last week, the United States released a letter coalition intelligence believes Al-Qaida's second in command, Ayman al-Zawahiri, sent to Zarqawi. Zawahiri describes Iraq as "the greatest battle for Islam in our era." But Iraq has become a political and information battle that Zawahiri realizes Al-Qaida may be losing.

In February 2004, Zarqawi acknowledged a democratic Iraqi state would mean defeat for Al-Qaida in Iraq. To defeat democracy, he has pursued a strategy of relentless, nihilistic bloodbath. It's a brutal irony of war: In doing so, he is losing the war for the hearts and minds.

If you're not reading Bill Roggio you simply don't know what's going on. His coverage of the ground campaigns in Iraq simply cannot be found elsewhere. Roggio is cautiously optimistic:

Today's news of a compromise over the constitution must come as chilling news for al Qaeda high command...This constitutional compromise can drive a stake through the heart of al Qaeda's "hearts and minds" approach in Iraq. Al Qaeda's short-term goals of establishing a base of operations in Iraq and striking out at the greater Middle East may have to be pushed back to a mid or long term goal.


Lastly, CENTCOM weighs in on their website, providing "official" commentary and analysis.

Update

Apparently some people have started to speculate that the letter is a fake. Andrew McCarthy, writing on NRO, doesn't think so, and offers five reasons why:

First, the letter is dated July 9, but we don’t when it was intercepted. For obvious intelligence reasons, there is always a delay between interception and public release — as there was when a letter from Zarqawi to Osama bin Laden was intercepted in early 2004.

Second, al Qaeda has been collaborating with Shiites (such as Hezbollah) for over a decade, and — as Zawahiri stressed to Zarqawi — has reason to fear a backlash from Shiite Iran if it overdoes the sectarian violence because the mullahs are harboring scores of high-ranking al Qaeda members (probably including one of bin Laden’s sons).

Third, Zarqawi has always gone his own way and often had uneasy relations with al Qaeda’s hierarchy. They embraced him because he is ruthless and effective, not because they are crazy about him. Moreover, he has long had his own relationships with Iran and Hezbollah, and thus has his own ideas (which may differ much from Zawahiri’s) about how far he can go against the Shia without risking Iranian reprisals. (The Iranians may not like the anti-Shiite terrorism, but they will abide it to the extent its effect is to cause problems for the American occupation, which is militant Islam’s goal.) Plus, Zawahiri acknowledged in the letter that Zarqawi was on the ground in Iraq while he was not, and thus Zarqawi knows the situation best.

Fourth, while al Qaeda’s leadership is on the run (and thus not easy to send a check to), worldwide jihad fundraising is pouring into the site of the great battle, Iraq — where it is undoubtedly being pooled with piles of Oil-for-Food money. It should thus come as no surprise that Zarqawi’s circumstances allow him to dispense funds while Zawahiri’s are desperate.

Finally, the ostensibly strange “send greetings to Zarqawi” is easily explained. The substance of the 6,000-word letter leaves no doubt that Zarqawi was the intended recipient. But the letter ends by telling the unnamed addressee to say "Hello" to Zarqawi in Fallujah. This plainly is misdirection. Zawahiri probably does not know where Zarqawi is, and was plainly trying to confuse anyone who might intercept the letter. Plus, to lock onto Lawrence’s theory for a moment, if someone was trying to forge a letter from Zawahiri to Zarqawi in order to help the Bush administration (Lawrence’s transparent bottom line) why would that someone sow doubt about whether the letter was really intended for Zarqawi in the first place? That would defeat the purpose of the purported fraud.

Posted by Tom at 8:16 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

We're Winning II: What the Other Side Thinks

If all you do is read the headlines of the daily paper and catch the TV news all you get is "bomb of the day" coverage. You may get real analysis if you delve a bit deeper, but it still leaves something out:

What is the other side thinking?

We recently had reason to find out in letter from Ayman Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden's deputy, to Abu Musab Zarqawi, Al Qaeda leader in Iraq. The letter was captured in Iraq, but administration officials would not give details.

The story was first published in the Washington Post, although I first read about it on the invaluable blog Belmont Club

While the text of the letter itself was not released, we learn enough to gain some valuable insights into how Al Qaeda thinks the war in Iraq is going, and what their goals and objectives are.

From the Washington Post comes a description of the letter, and a clear and concise list of Al Qaeda's objectives:

First, expel American forces from Iraq. Second, establish a caliphate over as much of Iraq as possible. Third, extend the jihad to neighboring countries, with specific reference to Egypt and the Levant -- a term that describes Syria and Lebanon. And finally, war against Israel.

U.S. officials say they were struck by the letter's emphasis on the centrality of Iraq to al Qaeda's long-term mission. One of the two excerpts provided by officials quotes Zawahiri, a former doctor from Egypt, telling his Jordanian-born ally, "I want to be the first to congratulate you for what God has blessed you with in terms of fighting in the heart of the Islamic world, which was formerly the field for major battles in Islam's history, and what is now the place for the greatest battle of Islam in this era."

But bin Laden's deputy also purportedly makes clear that the war would not end with an American withdrawal and that anything other than religious rule in Iraq would be dangerous.

"And it is that the Mujaheddin must not have their mission end with the expulsion of the Americans from Iraq, and then lay down their weapons, and silence the fighting zeal. We will return to having the secularists and traitors holding sway over us," the letter reportedly says.

In one indication of tensions between the al Qaeda leadership and its Iraqi division, U.S. officials said, Zawahiri writes about the need to maintain popular support. He is critical of Shiite Muslims and says a clash between the Sunni-dominated movement and the Shiite sect is inevitable, officials said, but he rebukes the leader of Iraq's insurgency for its brutal tactics -- noting that hostages can just as effectively be killed with bullets rather than by beheading, officials said.

Wretchard, author of Belmont Club, concludes from this that

Implicit within Zawarhiri's message is an admission that the insurgency is headed for defeat unless it changes it's policies and thereby its fortunes. Al Qaeda must have viewed with mounting alarm the increasing numbers of Iraqi troops that the US can field against them. The campaigns against the Euphrates and Tigris lines and the seize and hold operations now in progress must be hurting them. Therefore, despite their theological antipathy for the Shi'ites it must have occurred to them that their car bombs, beheadings, outrages and gratuitous murders -- all dutifully reported by a media thinking it might chill American resolve -- were working against them; this brutality was driving the Shia and the Kurds into American arms. And now Zawahiri admits this policy may be leading to their defeat.

Austin Bay concurs that "Iraq has become a political and information battle that Zawahiri realizes Al-Qaida may be losing." Further, Bay reminds us,

In February 2004, Zarqawi acknowledged a democratic Iraqi state would mean defeat for Al-Qaida in Iraq. To defeat democracy, he has pursued a strategy of relentless, nihilistic bloodbath. It's a brutal irony of war: In doing so, he is losing the war for the hearts and minds.

Much to their dismay, we are not leaving Iraq as they hoped we would. We may or may not have as many troops as we need, we may or may not have always pursued the correct strategy, but as far as Al Qaeda is concerned, we are still there.

And just in case anyone doubted it, yes they really do want to establish an old-time caliphate throughout the Middle East, and destroy the state of Israel.

Another Message of Desperation?

This morning MEMRI posted a message by The Global Islamic Media Front (GIMF), which they describe as "an Islamist organization that posts online messages, usually associated with Al-Qaeda." The GIMF message was originally posted August 29, 2005, "on various Islamist forums" and is described as "a document dealing with the warfare policy of Al-Qaeda in Iraq."

The document describes how victory will be achieved:

The American forces will be forced to withdraw when the fatalities among their soldiers increase. They are, [in fact], numerous [even today], but the American media insists on distorting [the numbers].

It should be noted that Colin Powell's book, which deals with the mistakes made by the U.S. in the Vietnam War, explicitly states that one of the mistakes was distorting the number of American fatalities, [a measure] that was taken, he says, in order to preserve the morale of the American forces and to avoid an [undesirable] reaction among the American people.

What they are saying is that the American government and media are lying about the number of American casualties. I've never seen any credible evidence of this. If our government was lying, the media would have picked up on it by now. That the terrorists do not distinguish between our government and media is characteristic of totalitarian ideologies.

This message tells me that Al Qaeda is unhappy with the their military campaign. They know they are not killing as many Americans as they need to, and their followers probably know it too. Their may be dissention in their ranks, and in order to quell it they must claim that they are doing better than the American press is reporting, which they no doubt read.

As Jim Dunnigan pointed out last July, "Most Iraqis have become increasingly hostile to al Qaeda's suicide bombing campaign". While in the beginning they could draw Iraqi recruits, now they depend on "foreigners" for their troops. Further, they are seeing a decline in what is called "institutional memory"; as our forces kill or capture their "sergeants" and more experienced members, those who fill their ranks do not have the benefit of their experience.

Colonel Robert Brown is the commander of the Stryker-equipped 1st Brigade, of the 25th Infantry Division. They conducted offensive operations last August and September in Northwestern Iraq, near Mosul. At a DOD press conference last month, he spoke about the decline in insurgent capabilities. Initially, however, the insurgency fought well:

"There's a significant difference from when we got here last October. Last October, we faced a foreign fighter that was very well-trained. I remember watching attacks out -- we had an attack that involved about 60 foreign fighters in a pretty complex ambush. By complex I mean three or four forms of engagement. They'll hit you with an IED, small arms, mortars -- a very complex attack. We saw that regularly in November and December. We also defeated -- in one of those fights, we killed 40 terrorists, and we did not lose anybody, and we defeated them every time they tried to do that against us. We really worked hard and aggressively at getting out."

The insurgents were tough and well trained, and although we were successful in our missions, it had to be admitted that the ememy performed well. This, however, changed:

"And as we got to February and March, we saw a completely different foreign fighter. We've captured Libyans. We've captured Saudi, Yemenis, Algerians. And many of these -- one Libyan that we captured about a month and a half ago -- he was clearly brainwashed. And he was told that, you know, what was going on here and brainwashed to come and be a -- what he thought was -- he was going to be a foreign fighter against this crusade against the Muslim religion. He got here. He saw that was not correct. They told he was going to be a suicide martyr. He said he didn't want to do that. When we happened to capture him, several other foreign fighters and the cell leader that was orchestrating them, he was very happy to talk to us about what he had seen and what they had done.

And very interesting that younger foreign fighter that we're seeing now -- very poorly trained. We would call them more like RPGs for hire. And we believe it's the -- we know that the leadership is severely disrupted. Again, from -- about 25 percent of the attacks were very complex prior to elections, as I described. Now we're down to five percent are complex. And we're at the lowest number of attacks by far over the last three months. And that is -- clearly the foreign network is disrupted. The leadership is severely disrupted. We captured Abu Talha, the number-two al Qaeda leader in the north of Iraq. And right after that we got Abu Bara, Madhi Musa (sp), Abu Zab (sp), the next six leaders that would step up and take over. Nobody's taken over now. It's not a very popular position because if they step up, they get captured or killed. And so they're really disrupted, totally different."

Something else started to happen that we've seen time and time again, the population of the liberated area started to turn in the terrorists.

"The people have -- are fed up with the terrorist acts. I mean, I -- you know, I was -- witnessed one suicide VBIED that killed innocent women and children, and I've never seen evil like that. And the people -- Iraqi people saw that, and they know -- it's very clear to them that their government wants a brighter future for them, the Iraqi security forces want a brighter future, and the terrorists offer nothing but fear and intimidation and a very poor future"

Col Brown goes on and on, so be sure and read the whole thing.

The Other Side

So without an attempt to find out what the other side thinks, what they are saying, and what we are finding out about them you will never find out what is happening in Iraq.

To be sure, as Col. H. R. McMaster, commander of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, said to a reporter from Reuters in another press conference last month after being accused of painting too rosy a picture, "Nothing's rosy in Iraq, okay?" However, the enemy was "on the run".

And, as I said in We're Winning back in April, we're not out of the woods yet. But progress has been steady.

Oh, and another thing: Chester says we're winning too. That's another site you should be reading.

Posted by Tom at 7:38 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 11, 2005

Hate and Self-Satisfaction

This little tidbit from the Washington Times last week sums up, I think, why some people hate George W Bush:

"What those who despise President George W. Bush -- and there are many, judging by the reaction to the last election -- don't get is that any philosophy or political vision that lacks the concept of evil will not fly with a great many folks in America.

"Liberals tend to explain evil in the world as the product of bad luck, disease and other impersonal forces ... assault, battery, robbery, burglary, theft, laziness, recklessness and the like -- these are all due to sad circumstances in the lives of the offenders. ... It's always in the stars, not in ourselves, that the fault lies.

"... This is why when President Bush had the gall to use the phrase 'axis of evil,' and when Ronald Reagan earlier referred to the Soviet Union as 'the evil empire,' liberals smugly dismissed it all as shallow moralizing unworthy of sophisticated folks everywhere. ...

"I am convinced that one of the main reasons [President Bush] won the election is that many Americans simply could not abide some of Kerry's supporters, academics and other intellectuals who scoff at the belief that there are morally right and wrong actions that people engage in throughout the world. --

"They supported Bush, who at least appears to acknowledge an elementary fact about human life: some folks act badly and are responsible for their actions, while others act decently and should be recognized. Not until liberals produce a philosophical-political vision that makes room for this position will they stop being at odds with the bulk of Americans."

Tibor R. Machan in "For Liberals, No One's Evil" in the October/November issue of Free Inquiry

Very true, as far as it goes. Let's examine it a bit further.

Hypocrite!

This is a favorite charge, usually made by liberals about conservatives and religious leaders. It is also one that is usually made by people seeking to avoid either debate, or examination of their own moral failures, or both.

Before we go on, however, we need to distinguish between inconsistency and hypocrisy, for they are often mistaken for one another. Inconsistency is when a person does or says two things that are at odds with one another. In 1990 John Kerry voted against going to war with Iraq over Kuwait. When running for president in 2004, he said that he opposed the war in Iraq because we did not have a large international coalition. In taking this position Kerry was certainly inconsistent, but he was not a hypocrite.

An argument stands or falls on its own merits, not those of the person making it. Adultery is a sin, a bad thing. This is so whether the person admonishing us to be faithful to our spouses is faithful himself. It was either a good idea or not to invade Iraq, and whether or not the person making the case for invasion had ever served in the armed forces or not is irrelvant.

Hypcrisy is certainly something to be avoided, both in one's personal life and in recommending public policy. While the preacher who says that we must lead clean lives is certainly speaking the truth, if nothing else, his message is dimished if he is caught in bed with another man's wife.

Ramesh Ponnuru examined the charge of hypocrisy in the June 20th, 2005 edition of National Review (digital subscription required.

The traditional view of hypocrisy made allowance for the garden-variety sinner: His words and his beliefs may line up, but his actions fall short of them. The current view of hypocrisy makes no such allowance in practice. Any gap between words and actions is taken not to be merely evidence toward the verdict of hypocrisy, but to be the thing itself; and the words are judged at least as harshly as the actions. A subtle shift from integrity to authenticity has been made.

What makes this change more consequential is that journalists have adopted this view of hypocrisy and made it a standard for their coverage. The result is to tilt the political field against those who speak up for moral standards in public. A surefire way for a public figure not to be judged a hypocrite, and thus a good way for him to keep his moral lapses out of the papers, is not to uphold moral standards in public. (Betraying your vices does not run the same risk. When Hugh Hefner briefly decamped from the Playboy Mansion because it was not a good environment for his children, nobody called him a hypocrite.)

Ponnuru hit upon one of the most maddening characteristics of our modern culture; one in which the person who tries do live right but falls is considered a worse person than the person who doesn't try at all, and indeed flaunts his immorality. Considered even worse is the person who dares to tell others that they should live moral lives, yet who themselves yields to temptation.

Who is subjected to more abuse by the media and professionaly punditry; Monika Lewinsky or Jim Bakker?

To be sure, Bakker defrauded his followers of millions, so the analogy is not perfect (they never are). But consider their reactions when caught: Lewinsky seems proud of her affair with the president, while Bakker wrote I was Wrong, a 1996 mea culpa. I rather doubt we will ever see a similar book from Lewinsky, nor will one be demanded from her.

So we may conclude that while hypocrisy is something to be avoided, as a sin it has so en blown out of proportion that being a hypocrite is viewed as worse than someone who commits a sin and doesn't care who knows it. This is wrong.

But Why Such Satisfaction?

Why is it, after a religious figure gets caught in a scandal, that some people so much satisfaction in their fall? Several reasons, I think.

Some, usually religious folk themselves, think that the fallen was wrong to begin with. They may have objected to their style, or to their theology. But they usually keep their satisfaction to themselves, realizing that such thoughts are quite unchristian. And they are the minority, and not what this post is about.

No, the majority who vocally and gleefully exult in the fall do so for much worse reasons. And to find out why we need to go elsewhere for a minute, so stay with me.

Who has been in a situation whereby everyone else in the group wanted to do something that you knew was wrong. Maybe it was a situation when you were a kid and they all wanted to go to a place your parents had forbade you to go. Maybe it was on a business trip when "the guys" all wanted to go to a strip club and you demurred. Either way, the reaction is often the same; they make fun of you. You suddenly become the bad guy, the one who "doesn't want to have fun".

The reason for their behavior is obvious; somewhere inside they know that what they are doing is wrong, or unacceptable, or frowned upon by society. And it makes them feel better about themselves when they attack you.

It's the same reason we gossip; it makes us feel better about ourselves. People read Dear Abby, or watch Judge Judy, for the same reason; "I guess my life isn't really so screwed up. So-in-so is worse."

And this brings me back to the fallen leader. Most of those who are vocal in their satisfaction are that way because they themselves are doing things they ought not to be doing, and this is a way of justifying it to themselves.

Some will not like this, but that's just the way it is.

Bill Clinton

Almost time to get back to our president. Before I say why so many hate him, I think I owe my readers, especially any liberal ones, an answer to the question of why so many conservatives hated Bill Clinton.

Policy is always part of it, although this alone does not explain things fully. Sure, we hated "Clinton Care", but that was more Hillary. And we disliked that he cut so much from the military, but George H W Bush started that. And sure, he involved us in military ventures that had no bearing on national security, but they didn't cost much in lives or treasure.

And it wasn't really personality either. I can't tell you how many times I heard a fellow conservative say "I admit he'd be a great guy to go out and have a beer with, I just wouldn't bring the wife/girlfriend along!"

No, it was his lack of morals that so offended us. With Clinton it was a scandal-of-the-week, one thing after another, all culminating with the horrible Monika Lewinsky affair.

Back to George W Bush

All of this brings us back to George W Bush and our initial question of why some people hate him so.

First, we need to remember that such hatred is nothing new in our world. It is always tempting to view the times in which one lives as unique and special. While they may be in certain ways, we much avoid the temptation to view everything as if it has never occured before, perhaps in worse ways.

One only has to go back twenty-odd years ago to remember how another president was hated. What is interesting is that liberals said the same things about Reagan that they now say about Bush. They called Reagan stupid, an intellectual lightweight, that he was controlled by more powerful personalities around him, that he was a "cowboy" that would surely lead us to World War III, on and on it went. How they hated him, and how well I remember it. Then when he died they pretended like they'd liked and respected him all along.

Next, we cannot dismiss the fact that some genuinly dislike Bush for his politicies. It is always tempting to believe the worst about one's political enemies, and assume that their motives are always base. This we must avoid. So I will say that there are some who simply think Bush is wrong on this or that.

But by the same token it is clear that many on the left have simply become unhinged. Anyone who believes that "Bush lied!" about WMD, people who simply will not believe that it was an honest mistake, are part of this group. Those who believe that the slow federal response to hurricane Katrina was motivated by race hatred of blacks are also members. And it is these people that we will consider.

In my opinion, there are four primary reasons for Bush-hatred:

1) He got over his drinking problem
2) He is both religious and conservative
3) He believes that evil exists
4) He believes that morality matters

1) Consider that of the favorite "jokes" made by people such as Bill Maher is that President Bush has started drinking again, and is now beating his wife.

Let's face it, if you're doing something you ought not to be doing, and someone else who is doing the same comes clean, it makes you look bad. Thus there is a tendancy to attack the person who cleans up their act.

Now, I am not condemning all drinking, not at all. Nor am I saying that anyone who makes fun of Bush's old problem is themselves a drinker. If this is what you think you are missing the point.

My point is that there is a certain group of people in this country who simply cannot stand it when someone cleans up their act. To this group, once you have done wrong you are apparently supposed to wallow im misery the rest of your life, to prostrate yourself and always beg for forgiveness, or to engage in self-flagellation in the manner of Hawthorne's Arthur Dimmesdale.

2) People on the left don't like religious conservatives. Bush is in that category. 'nuf said.

3) A lot of people today have a problem with the term "evil", when applied to anyone other than Nazis or Klan members. Bush is derided as seeing the world in "black and white" terms, of having a "manichaean" outlook. Sophisticates on the left see Bush as being a simpleton, while a more astute viewers understand the nuances. Just as they derided Reagan for calling the Soviet Union an "Evil Empire", they sneer at Bush's "Axis of Evil".

4) Just as many cannot stomach the term "evil", they are uncomfortable in discussing morality. They usually say that they don't like "being preached to", but that doesn't hold water. The left has spent a lot of time and energy forcing its morality on everyone else, and just doesn't like it when they get a taste of their own medicine.

But the point here is that many on the right look around the country and are unhappy with what we see as a serious decline in parts of our culture. Whether it be the sitcoms where the "humor" is one sexual inuendo after another, the soft porn of an Abercrombie and Fitch catalog, the sexualization of girl children through the marketing of ever-more revealing clothes, or the in-your-face gay culture that we are all now supposed to unquestioningly accept, a lot of people do not like what they see. And it keeps getting worse, deviancy keeps getting defined downward.

It's not that George W Bush has made an attempt to change the culture, for he really hasn't. It's what he represents that bothers these people. By reforming himself and living a clean life, by being openly religious(and meaning it), and by having a wife who is not a policy-wonk with presidential ambitions, he is seen as being part of this group. And, in a way, he is.

They Can Come Home

Liberals can and should come home. It's not that complicated; drop the Hollywood crowd, do more than pretend that you recognize that religion has a significant place in American culture, speak about moral values in a meaningful way. But as Machan says, "Not until liberals produce a philosophical-political vision that makes room for this position will they stop being at odds with the bulk of Americans." Let's hope they do.

Posted by Tom at 7:51 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 6, 2005

Poor Man

Once, again, Al Gore has lost it.

He seemed OK at one point. Heck, during the '80s I almost thought he was on our side on certain issues, like abortion.

But ever since loosing to W in 2000, he has become positively unhinged.

There was the speech during which he ranted and raved like, well, Howard Dean. It wasn't so much what he said, although that was pretty loony too, as how he said it. As Glenn Reynolds pointed out, even Maureen Dowd mocked him for that one.

This time he's gone paranoid.

In a speech the other day at a media conference he said that American democracy was in "grave danger" because...conservative views are now voiced in the media.

I kid you not.

Ok, he didn't exactly say that word for word, just like he never exactly said that he "invented the Internet". But the meaning is plain enough.

He started off by reminiscing about the good old days when we had a "marketplace of ideas" in the media. Those days, according to Gore, were when Americans got virtually all of their news from the print media.

This "marketplace of ideas", he says, was "open to every individual", was based on a "Meritocracy of Ideas", and the "participants were all governed by an unspoken duty to search for general agreement."

So let me get this right. Back when in order to be heard you had to either work for a newspaper (still subject to your editor's whims), start a newspaper, or get a letter-to-the-editor published, this was a freewheeling "marketplace of ideas"? You've got to be kidding.

According to Gore, this is what went wrong:

And yet, as we meet here this morning, more than 40 years have passed since the majority of Americans received their news and information from the printed word. Newspapers are hemorrhaging readers and, for the most part, resisting the temptation to inflate their circulation numbers. Reading itself is in sharp decline, not only in our country but in most of the world. The Republic of Letters has been invaded and occupied by television.

Radio, the internet, movies, telephones, and other media all now vie for our attention - but it is television that still completely dominates the flow of information in modern America. In fact, according to an authoritative global study, Americans now watch television an average of four hours and 28 minutes every day -- 90 minutes more than the world average.

Television stations, Gore says, "...are almost completely inaccessible to individual citizens and almost always uninterested in ideas contributed by individual citizens."

I'll certainly be the first to agree that television is not exactly the source for news, whether you're watching Fox News or CNN. But a threat to our democracy?

And while they may not be directly accessible to individual citizens, in recent years we have seen that they can certainly be held accountable, so Gore is flat-out wrong here. To pick one example, CBS and Dan Rather were raked over the coals for the fake documents on George W Bush.

The reason Gore thinks television is so bad is because "...three-quarters of Americans said they believed that Saddam Hussein was responsible" for 9/11. That and the O.J. trial (Jonah Goldberg has the scoop on where Gore that that 3/4 figure. It's from some group called the Program on International Policy Attitudes). But again, a "threat to our democracy"? Come on.

Gore doesn't come out and say it, but it would seem he's talking about Fox News. As Goldberg says, "...you hear this from liberals all the time."

Earth to Al Gore: Televison is not a recent invention. It has been around for decades. Let's just be honest; the reason for your complaints is that you liberals lost your monopoly on it. No longer do we just have the big 3 and PBS. Fox News is beating CNN and MSNBC hands down in the ratings(hat tip USS Neverdock). And now we have the Internet to hold the rest of the liberal media accountable.

What exactly does Gore want to do about all this? He doesn't really say, other than that we must"...ensure that the Internet remains open and accessible to all citizens without any limitation on the ability of individuals to choose the content they wish regardless of the Internet service provider they use to connect to the Worldwide Web."

As if anything on the Internet other than child porn is going to be limited. Maybe he's against letting the UN get their hands on it, but he doesn't say.

Maybe he wants to bring back the so-called "Fairness Doctrine", which was anything but fair. Who knows.

Poor man, you do have to kind of feel sorry for him.

Speaking of the Media

This from today's Washington Times:

Robert Maginnis, a retired Army colonel and frequent military analyst on radio and TV, is touring Kuwait and Iraq, compliments of the Pentagon, to see how things are going firsthand.

After a dinner last night with Army soldiers, Mr. Maginnis reports to us:

"The soldiers expressed frustration with the fact that most of the U.S. news coverage about Iraq is bad, which contradicts their firsthand view. Two of those soldiers have children stationed with combat units in Iraq. These proud parents appreciate the importance of their Kuwait support mission. A lieutenant colonel volunteered that the American people support the troops but probably don't understand our mission, which explains why national support for the war is declining. A sergeant offered that support would increase if more people served and suggested that returning to a draft might help universal understanding."

Update

I had to run off to work this morning before finishing, and the juxtapositon of Gore's speech and Maginnis' comments should perhaps be explained (though most will get it).

Gore evidently things that the American people are being brainwashed by conservatives on the television news. He evidently believes that if only ordinary citizens had more opportunity to contribute to our national discourse, to speak out, then the lies of those dastardly conservatives would be exposed.

Maginnis' remarks, however, show just how far from reality Gore is. I've read this time and again, how when soldiers return home they are amazed by the press coverage, and how it differs from what they saw.

Unfortunately, Gore is not the only one who has become unhinged.

Dan Rather has also gone paranoid:

Rather spoke at the Fordham University School of Law in New York, and according to the Hollywood Reporter, he "said there is a climate of fear running through newsrooms stronger than he has ever seen in his more than four-decade career." The article said that Rather was "occasionally forcing back tears" while commenting how "politicians 'of every persuasion' had gotten better at applying pressure on the conglomerates that own the broadcast networks. He called it a 'new journalism order.'"

Walter Cronkite thinks we're all stupid:

We're an ignorant nation right now. We're not really capable of making the decisions that have to be made at election time and particularly in the selection of their legislatures and their Congress and the presidency of course. I think we're in serious danger. -- Walter Cronkite, on Larry King Live

Posted by Tom at 9:58 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 4, 2005

The Miers Morass

Ugh

I as disappointed as most other conservatives are in the selection of Harriet Meirs by President Bush for the Supreme Court.

The bottom line to the whole thing is that liberals are happy and conservatives are disappointed. That tells you all that you need to know.

I'm also sure you're read most reaction by now, so I won't bore you with quotes and links. Let's just get on with it.

Why the Disappointment

We on the right are disappointed because we finally have a chance to change the balance on the Supreme Court, and we feel that the president blew it. Or at least has risked blowing it, because Miers is a mystery candidate, one whos judicial philosophy is unknown.

Republican presidents do not have a good track record at picking Supreme Court justices. President Eisenhower selected Earl Warren and William Brennan. George HW Bush chose David Souter. Others, such as Sandra Day O'Conner, are at best described as "moderates".

So finally, we thought, after so many mistakes, President Bush has learned from history. And, after the brilliant selection of John Roberts, we thought we were on the right path.

The Importance of the Court

As I discussed in my post on John Roberts, it is through the courts that the left tries to impose it's agenda on us:


From gun control, to smoking, to quotas(er, "diversity"), to gay marriage, and now even to the Pledge of Allegiance, liberals have decided that getting judges to enact their agenda is better than trying to elect legislators.

And you can see why they would think so. Convincing the public that you are right is so time consuming and expensive. Legislators and governors who enact unpopular laws can be voted out. No, far better to circumvent representative government with a coterie of philosopher-kings. Socrates would have been proud.

As someone who believes that most issues should be decided by the people through their elected representatives, I favor a courts that actually read the constitution, do not make it up as they go along, do not try to impose their social agenda on us, and certainly do not take foreign law into account.

As such, it is not so much "conservatives" I want to see on the Supreme Court, as it is people who will apply the law as written, whatever it may be.

Why Harriet Miers is a Problem

The short, answer, of course, is that her philosophy is a mystery. She may not even have a judicial philosophy. Nothing in her career has forced her to consider Constitutional law.

Her qualifications are minimal, to say the least. Some conservatives have attempted to defend this by arguing that we need an outsider and such. Please. As Jonah Goldberg pointed out over on NRO, if Hillary Clinton appointed a close associate ("crony") of hers with a similar level of experience, would you defend her likewise?

And as Rich Lowry related;

Just talked to a very pro-Bush legal type who says he is ashamed and embarrassed this morning. Says Miers was with an undistinguished law firm; never practiced constitutional law; never argued any big cases; never was on law review; has never written on any of the important legal issues. Says she's not even second rate, but is third rate. Dozens and dozens of women would have been better qualified. Says a crony at FEMA is one thing, but on the high court is something else entirely. Her long history of activity with ABA is not encouraging from a conservative perspective--few conservatives would spend their time that way. In short, he says the pick is “deplorable.” There may be an element of venting here, but thought I'd pass along for what it's worth. It's certainly indicative of the mood right now...

Randy Barnett, writing in Opinion Journal, says much the same thing.

The Defense

Most of the conservative defenses that I have seen are using the "trust George Bush" argument. For all the wordyness of this article, for example, that's what it boils down to.

Sorry, that's not good enough.

Loosing His Base

The reason that's not good enough is that for all of his foreign-policy genuis, he has let us down on domenstic issues.

Name the issue; immigration, spending, legal reform, and what do you get? Not much. Some tax cuts, yes. But on most other issues we have not had progress.

President Bush therefore needed an issue that would rally his base. He needed a fight, something to give us reason to believe, to campaign, and yes to send money. At the very least he needs us standing by ready to help in case the nomination runs into trouble, as it just might.

As things stand now, he's on his own if this nomination goes south.

Scenarios for Trouble

A Paper Trail -
Miers was president of a law firm. Law firms have clients, many or most of them corporations. And we know what the left thinks of "corporations". So will the find "corporate polluters" among her clients? Some who didn't have the proper number of minorities on staff? Some who were, gasp, pharmaceutical firms? You can see where this could lead.

She Withers under Fire - Yeah I know, she's supposed to be "tough". But that isn't the issue. These Senators are going to ask tough questions, and they won't let up. What if she doesn't give coherent answers on complicated legal issues?

The "indiscretion" - In 1987 Presient Bush had to withdraw the nomination of Douglas Ginsberg when it became known that when he was younger he had used marijuana a few times. Suppose something surfaces in Miers' record that, while questionable, is not too bad. President Bush will be on his own. Conservatives will not fight for this nominee, nor will Republican Senators.

The "Crony" Charge

On the one hand, it's not a serious charge.'

"Crony" is simply a perjorative for "friend"

If someone is qualified, it does not matter as to whether the appointer and appointee knew each other or not. If the appointee is not qualified, it still does not matter.

But of course on the other had the charge of "cronyism" does matter, because perceptions count. People who say that it doesn't matter have a political tin ear, which leads me to...

A Political Tin Ear?

I have to wonder what Bush was thinking when he made this appointment. Did he now know that conservatives would react this way? If not, then shame on him. If so, then he's snubbing us. Which is worse I do not know.

Conclusions

We'll just have to take our lumps and move on. This is no reason to abandon the president on any other issue. Let's concentrate on finishing up Afghanistan and Iraq, and in fighting the war on terror. The simple fact is that we may have a Democrat in the White House in 2008, if for no other reason than that these things tend to go in cycle, and heaven knows I don't trust any of them on foreign affairs.

Posted by Tom at 8:53 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack