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March 30, 2006

Iraqi Perspectives Project - Part IV

In this part we learn about Saddam's inner circle, and how his senior advisors "exhibited pathological behaviors". We also see how Saddam's obsession with internal revolt handicapped his army's ability to fight external enemies.

The Iraqi Perspectives project is "an unclassified historical report in book form on the Iraqi view of coalition military operations conducted in Iraq." Published in book form by the U.S. Joint Forces Command’s Joint Center for Operational Analysis, the project examines "the perspectives of the Iraqi civilian and military leadership involved in major combat operations gathered through interviews conducted during the fall and winter of 2003/2004, and an extensive review of Iraqi historical documents done in the months since then."

You can download the report here. It is 230 pages and about 7.5Mb.

This series will summarize the report chapter by chapter. I will provide commentary at the end of each part.

Previous Posts
Iraqi Perspectives Project summary
Iraqi Perspectives Project - Part II Introduction and Chapter I: The Nature of the Regime
Iraqi Perspectives Project - Part III - Chapter II: Skewed Strategy

CHAPTER III MILITARY EFFECTIVENESS

• Saddam was hardly the only thing wrong with Iraq; his senior officers exhibited pathological behaviors that are “a world apart from a Western conception of military professionalism”. Far from seeing themselves as impartial military advisors, their role was to carry out Saddam’s wishes “to the letter, no matter how infeasible or irrelevant to the military problem”.

• “Simply put, the Iraqi military’s main mission was to ensure the internal security of the Ba’ath dictatorship. It’s second was to fight wars.”

• American assessment of Iraqi military abilities before the war was fairly accurate.

• The Iraqis did things during the war that made no sense to American commanders. Within the Iraqi world view, however, they made perfect sense, for their primary objective was to do whatever Saddam wanted, no matter how objectively absurd it might be.

• For example, Saddam decided that rather than use his air force against the coalition, he would try and hide it as best he could. This took an important weapon away from his commanders, but Saddam believed that we would not send our ground forces very far into Iraq.

• Because the sanctions so hurt the Iraqi army, Saddam formed an organization called the Military Industrial Commission. It’s job was to develop “wonder weapons” that would save Iraq. Saddam put great faith in the eventual development of these weapons. Because the Commission’s leaders were so fearful of Saddam, they made promises that they knew they could not deliver.

• Senior officials lied to Saddam extensively and continually about the true state of Iraqi defenses. As a result, he never knew the true state of his military.

• Any report to Saddam had to be embellished with flowery rhetoric about what a great leader he was. This applied even to the most simple reports.

• After the war, some of the more capable military commanders we interviewed reported four additional factors that negatively affected military readiness:

o “The most irrelevant military guidance passed from the political leadership to the lowest level of military operations.”

o “The creation and rise of private armies.”

o “The tendency for relatives and sycophants to rise to the top national security positions.”

o “The combined effects of the onerous security apparatus and the resulting limitations on authority.”

• Conclusion: “Many senior Iraqi military officers blamed this “coup-proofing” of the regime for most of what befell the Iraqi Army during Operation Iraqi Freedom.”

My Take

The report goes into much greater detail on the "four additional factors that negatively affected military readiness" cited above, but I believe that you can get the gist of it from this summary.

It is clear that the Iraqi regime was much more fragile than we had believed it was. When our analysists looked at the Iraqi Army, they looked at it just as our guys looked at the Wehrmacht before D-Day. We examined their weaponry, expertise in handling it, the leadership capabilities of their junior as well as senior officers, their logistical trail, their communications, in short, everyting that we considered important.

What we failed to realize is that although Iraq was ruled by a Ba'athist regime ever bit as brutal as the Nazis, Saddam had completely co-opted the Iraqi Army in a way that Hitler never had with the Wehrmacht. The German Army managted to remain outside the Nazi structure, it kept and promoted it's own officers, and kept it's own tradition of excellence.

Not Just Our Leaders

But it wasn't just American military leaders who missed it; the entire press corps did as well.

Just as with the Gulf War, in the run-up to OIF we heard predictions of tens of thousands of American casualties, of a "Battle of Baghdad" that was sure to last for months, the "pause" during our invasion that was a sure sign of doom, millions of Iraqi casualties, a gigantic humanitarian crisis, on and on. Gateway Pundit has a collection of these and other predictions that turned out incorrect.

Natan Sharansky would smile if he read this. One of the points he made in his book The Case for Democracy was that dictatorships are much more fragile than they appear. While the aftermath was certainly more messy and difficult than we predicted, taking down the regime was much easier.

There are lessons here for everyone.

Posted by Tom at 9:31 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 29, 2006

Iraqi Perspectives Project - Part III

In this part we learn how Saddam Hussein wrecked the ability of the Iraqi Army to put up an effective defense of their country.

The Iraqi Perspectives project is "an unclassified historical report in book form on the Iraqi view of coalition military operations conducted in Iraq." Published in book form by the U.S. Joint Forces Command’s Joint Center for Operational Analysis, the project examines "the perspectives of the Iraqi civilian and military leadership involved in major combat operations gathered through interviews conducted during the fall and winter of 2003/2004, and an extensive review of Iraqi historical documents done in the months since then."

You can download the report here. It is 230 pages and about 7.5Mb.

This series will summarize the report chapter by chapter. I will provide commentary at the end of each part.

Previous Posts
Iraqi Perspectives Project summary
Iraqi Perspectives Project - Part II - Introduction and Chapter I, The Nature of the Regime

CHAPTER II SKEWED STRATEGY

• Up until the actual invasion occurred, Saddam believed it would not happen. To Saddam, the most important military event that occurred when he was ruler was not the Gulf War, but his war with Iran. He lost hundreds of thousands in that war, and after between it and the revolt by the Shi’a in southern Irar after the Gulf war, he was deeply suspicious and fearful of Iran. To him, then, Iran was the primary enemy.

• “After the 1991 Shi’a and Kurd uprisings Saddam gave his armed forces three priorities: first, secure the regime; second, prepare to handle regional threats; and third, defend against another attack by and American-led Coalition. Thereafter, only the air defense forces received significant resources in order to address the external threat.

• “Saddam always viewed Iran as the primary external threat, followed by Israel and then Turkey.”

• By 2002 Saddam knew we were trying to contact his generals to secure their cooperation in case we invaded. Because of this, he again turned up his internal repression, which had the effect of reducing the effectiveness of his military.

• Saddam set up an intricate and complicated set of organizations which spent their time spying on each other. Some even developed paramilitary capabilities. Saddam’s primary objective was to prevent a coup, and everything in this vast bureaucracy was devoted to this goal. His security restrictions severely degraded the military’s ability to defend the country from external threats. For example, because Saddam believed that officers might plot against him, units were forbidden to communicate directly with each other. In another example is that only a few units were allowed to have maps of Baghdad.

• The primary reason why Saddam thought that the United States would not attack with ground forces was his faith that Russia and France would intervene on his behalf. Their economic interests in his country, he believed, was so great that they would use their vetoes in the Security Council to prevent US action.

• Saddam knew how much the US relied on, indeed believe in, the power and effectiveness of air power. He also knew how much we hated American casualties. He therefore thought that we would hit him with air strikes on 2003 but there would be no ground invasion.

• Worst case, Saddam thought we might occupy southern Iraq. He held onto this view well into OIF (Operation Iraqi Freedom).


My Take

A western reader comes away with an overwhelming sense of waste and inefficiency after reviewing this chapter. We often or usually regard our own governments as inept in many respects, but they are models of perfection compared to that of Ba'athist Iraq. We didn't so much defeat the Iraqi military as did Saddam.

To a large extent I can understand Saddam's belief that we would not invade. After all, we "ran way" after taking what were to him insignificant casualties in Vietnam, Beirut, and Somalia. We could have easily gone all the way to Baghdad at the end of the Gulf War but did not.

But while this may have made sense in the 1990s, it no longer held true after September 11. As was made clear in Chapter I (Part II of this series), Saddam never understood the impact that day had on Americans.

Further, once resolution 1441 passed the Security Council in November of 2002, only someone completely deluded could not see that the Americans were serious this time. Yet Saddam would still not come clean with his WMD programs. It is clear now that all he had to do was open up completely, and all inspectors would find (at least in late 2002/early 2003) was ready-to-go production facilities; bad, but not a caus belli.

If World War II was, as Churchill said, the most preventable war in history, then the Operation Iraqi Freedom was the most telegraphed. Yet Saddam refused to believe the evidence mounting before his eyes. And now he is on trial for his life, which is just where he belongs.

Posted by Tom at 8:13 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 28, 2006

Iraqi Perspectives Project - Part II

In this part we begin to gain an understanding of the nature of the Iraqi regime, and how Saddam and his closest advisors lived in a world completely different from any a Westerner might imagine.

A DOD press release describes the Iraqi Perspectives Project as an

...unclassified historical report in book form on the Iraqi view of coalition military operations conducted in Iraq. Conducted by U.S. Joint Forces Command’s Joint Center for Operational Analysis, the Iraqi Perspective Project (IPP) is a research effort focused on coalition military operations in Iraq from March to May 2003. This project focused on the perspectives of the Iraqi civilian and military leadership involved in major combat operations gathered through interviews conducted during the fall and winter of 2003/2004, and an extensive review of Iraqi historical documents done in the months since then.

You can download the report here. It is 230 pages and about 7.5Mb.

Today we will cover the Introduction and Chapter 1: The Nature of the Regime. First I will summarize the report, then provide my analysis.

INTRODUCTION

- Saddam had a history of 'shooting the messenger"

- Saddam did not trust anyone but his sons and a few others, so the army did not receive adequate training. Saddam was afraid that it would turn on him. For example, he restricted units and officers from contacing each other, going as far as to prevent social contacts.

- The American experience in Vietnam influenced Saddam greatly. We had run away, he thought. Therefore, wouldn't we do the same with him? To him we “only” suffered a “mere” 58,000 dead in Vietnam. To Saddam this was a trifling amount. The lesson for him was that we would not risk taking many casualties.

- Saddam was amazed the we had stopped short during Desert Storm. After the Gulf War, he simply couldn’t imagine that we would actually go through with a ground invasion and go all the way to Baghdad.

- Saddam thought that just like with Desert Storm, in 2003 we would start with a sustained air campaign.

- Saddam turned General Patton's aphorism that “no poor dumb son of a bitch ever won a war by dying for his country, he won it by making the other poor dumb son of a bitch die for his” on its head. He perversely saw victory through how may Iraqis could die for him. He had an almost World War I view of war, that his mounting casualties meant that he was winning.

- During OIF (Operation Iraqi Freedom, the 2003 invasion) everyone in his government was afraid to tell Saddam bad news. Further, no one wanted to say that the military plans Saddam came up with were rubbish.

- During OIF Saddam was told his Saddam Fedayeen were being successful in attacking American supply convoys when in fact they were being slaughtered.

- “…Saddam and his advisors lived in a world determined by personal ideology and the narrow perspectives of people who grew up in small Iraqi villages. It is this insular mindset, and its subsequent manifestations that this book describes.”

I THE NATURE OF THE REGIME

- In the 1990s Saddam worried a lot about “international Zionism” and saw their troubles at the UN as being caused by "the Zionists". UN General Secretary Butros-Butros Ghali had a Jewish mother, and had married a Jew. Saddam believed that Zionists had driven the Mongols from Europe in the 13th century, and and had deliberatly pushed them toward Baghdad. The Mongols then sacked the city, leaving a mountain of skulls, which he blamed on the aforementioned Jews. As a result of this anti-Semetic paranoia, he and his security services were always on the lookout for internal "Zionist" plots.

- Saddam saw himself as a modern Nebuchadnezzar and Saladin, two heroes of ancient Iraq

- By 2003 Saddam was completely ignorant of the true state of the Iraqi army. Tariz Aziz said that Saddam “lost touch with reality during the 1990s”. He was in denial about his loss during the Gulf War, for example.

- Saddam made decisions himself, for example decided to invade Iran while on vacation and without consulting any advisors. Sometimes he did consult close relatives and advisors but did so erratically. He had “mystical” confidence in his own abilities.

- In the 1990s during meetings Saddam reminded advisors who disagreed with him about his past “right” decisions. He was infallible, he thought.

- Saddam did not recognize that for Americans, Sept 11 changed everything.

My Take

Nothing terribly earth-shattering so far. The Washington Times story I summarized in my introductory piece had more from later parts of the report, ones I will summarize this week.

However, one cannot help but notice similarites between Saddam Hussein and Adolf Hitler. Hitler too had delusions of granduer, believing himself to be the reincarnation of Frederick Barbarossa or Frederick II ("Frederick the Great"). Hitler's early triumphs such as the remilitarization of the Rhineland, Munich, the blitzkrieg invasion of Poland made him feel invinceable, with disasterous results later in the war. Hitler trusted no one but himself, and in the end lost touch with reality.

One shouldn't take these parallels too far, of course. But they are sometimes helpful in learning how to deal with an enemy.

Just as Osama bin Laden saw our withdrawals from Lebanon after the Marine barracks was bombed, and from Somalia after the "Black Hawk Down" episode as signs of weakness, so did Saddam see our loss in Vietnam in the same light. But while in 1991 we saw the Gulf War as a victory for us, Saddam came to see it as proof that we could always be counted on to stop short of driving all the way to Baghdad.

So we do now see why Saddam felt it safe to bluff, and lead us to believe that he had stockpiles of WMD.

Saddam wanted everyone to believe that despite the inspections and sanctions, he had outwitted the Americans, British, and "Zionists" and had kept a portion of his WMD stockpile. This way he could still look tough; always important for a dictator, whoee internal enemies are not always imaginary.

Posted by Tom at 8:45 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

WMD and the Foreign Minister

We're all to believe that Bush Lied! us into Iraq, but as more and more details emerge we learn just how stupid that claim is.

Last Thursday we learned from a Washington Post story that Saddam's last foreign minister, one Naji Sabri, was a spy for French Intelligence, who in turn passed his information to us. Sabri was paid some $100,000 for his services, and according to the story, was motivated entirely by money.

He supplied us information about Iraq's "chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programs more than six months before the war began in March 2003" according to the Post story.

Publicly Sabri was insisting that Iraq had no prohibited weapons of mass destruction. Privately, the sources said, he provided information that the Iraqi dictator had ambitions for a nuclear program but that it was not active, and that no biological weapons were being produced or stockpiled, although research was underway.

When it came to chemical weapons, Sabri told his handler that some existed but they were not under military control, a former intelligence official familiar with the situation said. Another former official added: "He said he had been told Hussein had them dispersed among some of the loyal tribes."

Wow

The White House was far more interested in trying to get Sabri to defect than in the information he was providing on Iraq's weapons programs, in part because the intelligence community did not trust him, another former intelligence official said.

What of it?

If I was an intelligence officer in the CIA, and had received information from other sources that Saddam did in fact have at least some stockpiles of WMD, this would seem to secure the case for me. Reread that second paragraph quoted above (the 6th in the story): What is says is that Sabri believed that at least some chemical weapons existed but that they had been hidden by loyal tribes.

No it is not the "smoking gun". No Sabri didn't confirm that Saddam had "huge stockpiles" or even the amounts that we believed he did have. But what he did say was that he thought that Saddam had at least some chemical weapons, and wanted nuclear or biological weapons.

Only a completely irresponsible person would dismiss this and say "oh that doesn't mean anything". No, a reasonable person, adding this to all of the other evidence, would conclude that Saddam was hiding stockpiles of chemical and maybe biological weapons.

Posted by Tom at 8:25 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 26, 2006

Reprisal, not Civil War

StrategyPage has it about right

Deaths from revenge killings now exceed those from terrorist or anti-government activity. Al Qaeda is beaten, and running for cover. The Sunni Arab groups that financed thousands of attacks against the government and coalition groups, are now battling each other, al Qaeda, and Shia death squads. It's not civil war, for there are no battles or grand strategies at play. It's not ethnic cleansing, yet, although many Sunni Arabs are, and have, fled the country. What's happening here is payback. Outsiders tend to forget that, for over three decades, a brutal Sunni Arab dictatorship killed hundreds of thousands of Kurds and Shia Arabs. The surviving victims, and the families of those who did not survive, want revenge. They want payback. And even those Kurds Shia Arabs who don't personally want revenge, are inclined to tolerate some payback. Since the Sunni Arabs comprise only about 20 percent of the population, and no longer control the police or military, they are in a vulnerable position.
After Saddam's government was ousted three years ago, the Sunni Arabs still had lots of cash, weapons, and terrorist skills. Running a police state is basically all about terrorizing people into accepting your rule. For the last three years, the Sunni Arabs thought they could terrorize their way back into power. Didn't work. Now the Kurds and Shia Arabs are not only too strong to defeat, but are coming into Sunni Arab neighborhoods and killing. Sometimes the victims are men who actually took part in Saddam era atrocities. But often the victims are just some Sunni Arabs who were in the wrong place, at the wrong time.

Monday Update

So who cares whether we call it a civil war or not? Some will say it doesn't matter what you call it, what's happening is what's happening.

I think differently. Words have meaning beyond saying them. They determine how we look at things, and influence public opinion. There are two meanings to every word; the connotative and the denotative. The first is the "dictionary meaning", the second the thoughts, images, and feelings that the term or word conjures up.

So when some people say Iraq is in a "civil war", most people who hear that don't run to the dictionary, or a book on military terms. They relate the term civil war to other civil wars they know about; the American Civil war, the Spanish Civil war, etc. And what they think of is two armies fighting each other in a somewhat conventional fashion.

This is why I agree with StrategyPage that Iraq is not in a civil war, and why we need to be careful in how we descrive things.

Other Opinions

I don't have time to sample a whole lot of what's out there, but here are the opinions of a few people that I respect, and a few somewhat disagree with me.

Charles Krauthammer wrote in Friday's Washington Post that Iraq was indeed in a state of civil war

This whole debate about civil war is surreal. What is the insurgency if not a war supported by one (minority) part of Iraqi society fighting to prevent the birth of the new Iraqi state supported by another (majority) part of Iraqi society?

By definition that is civil war, and there's nothing new about it. As I noted here in November 2004: "People keep warning about the danger of civil war. This is absurd. There already is a civil war. It is raging before our eyes. Problem is, only one side" -- the Sunni insurgency -- "is fighting it."
...

But let's put this in perspective. First, this kind of private revenge attack has been going on at a low level since the beginning of the insurgency. Second, it does have the effect of concentrating Sunni minds on the price of their continuing support for the random, large-scale and heretofore unanswered slaughter of Shiites that they either actively or passively support.

And, third, if the private militias are the problem, it is a focused and relatively narrow problem. Creating discipline and central control over the security services is a more manageable issue than all-out Hobbesian conflict.

Much as I respect Krauthammer, I think that the second two paragraphs I quoted contradict the first two. But what's interesting is that he doesn't really disagree with the StrategyPage analysis, he just doesn't see a problem with calling it a civil war.

Michael Yon also doesn't have a problem in calling it a civil war

Throughout 2005, I said in writing, on the radio and television that Iraq is in a state of Civil War. It had been in that state for decades. I’d point to all the kindling heaped around the country and point to the smoke on the horizon, but most people politely dismissed the warnings. Now the fire is bigger. Listen. Listen! Iraq is in a state of Civil War. Much bigger than it was a year ago, and next year it will be bigger still, if we do not recognize that there is a FIRE!

There is no reason why Iraq and its proud people cannot make it. There is nothing written in any holy scripture – so far as I know – that says Iraq cannot make it. Iraq can, but will it? Not if we don’t stop quibbling over definitions and just come to grips that the fire is growing. This is not a fire we can afford to leave to natural forces. Not in that tinderbox we call the Middle East.

Bill Roggio thinks that Iraq is not in a civil war yet, but that it remains a very real possibility

We argue the definition of civil war is far too broad, as armed conflict within a state is not the sole indicator of civil war. Key indicators of a civil war would include the breakdown of the political process and an unwillingness of the opposing parties to negotiate, the factionalization of the military and security institutions, and open warfare between the various parties. It is for these reasons we provided the indicators of a civil war in Iraq after the destruction of the dome of the Golden Mosque in Samarra.

So far, we have seen little indications of these signs coming to pass.
...

The threat of a civil war in Iraq is quite real, particularly if the political process breaks down. Iraq may be a step or two from a civil war, but it is not there yet

Richard Hernandez ("Wretchard") takes a middle ground at The Belmont Club

So what's the truth? The principle in determining truth should be to apply the factual indicator test. A civil war is a visible event whose indicators includes the insubordination of armed units, mass refugee flows, the rise of rival governments, etc. The test is whether those events are being observed. What famous individuals say about a situation is a shortcut for encapsulating a factual assessment; it describes reality as public figures see it but is not the reality itself. That remains a mystery until developments unfold. ...


Instead of insurgency the talking points have changed to how Sunnis might soon become victims of an ethnically hostile Iraqi army in a Civil War. Going from a boast of conquest to a portrayal of victim is usually an indicator of something. In my view, the shift of meme from the "insurgency" to a "civil war" is a backhanded way of admitting the military defeat of the insurgency without abandoning the characterization of Iraq is an American fiasco. It was Zarqawi and his cohorts themselves who changed the terms of reference from fighting US forces to sparking a 'civil war'. With any luck, they'll lose that campaign too.


Me - Monday Evening

As I said earlier, it matters what term we apply to the current situation in Iraq. Public support is percarious as it is, it the situation goes south it will deteriorate further. This week we had the administration hinting that troops would be brought home this year. One hopes that when they are brought home it is not because of a political decision, but that the generals on the scene truely believe it is safe to do so.

Most Americans, I think, still support our presence in Iraq because they believe that things are getting better, slowly but surely. If they believe that there is a civil war, therefore, even this support would quickly erode.

None of this is to say that we should hide or shade the truth. Not at all. My point, rather, is that we ought to be very careful as to the words and terms we use because it does matter.

And as such the situation in Iraq does not constitute what most people think of as a civil war. There are no rival governments sending armies in the field to do battle. Rival militias, like the Badr and Sadr brigades, are private armies, not those of warring governments. As StrategyPage observes, mose of the killings are reprisals by armed factions.

I won't go through what needs to be done in Iraq, because we all know that the two biggest challenges are that a government needs to be formed asap and we need to continue building and supporting the new Iraqi army. The faster and better we can achieve those goals, the better chance we have of bringing peace to that troubled country.

Posted by Tom at 10:07 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

March 25, 2006

Iraqi Perspective Project

Within a story in today's Washington Times on Russian spies in US Central Command was a mention of something called the "Iraqi Perspective Project: A View of Operation Iraqi Freedom From Saddam's Senior Leadership,"

I'm not going to write about the Russian spies, because that's been done well elsewhere. Check out this post at Flopping Aces, for example.

But check out what the Times article says about the report

The regime planned to restart production of weapons of mass destruction. It continued to hide scientists from U.N. inspectors right up to the time U.N. inspectors left and the war began.

A seized Dec. 15, 2002, memo, written by an Iraqi intelligence agent posing as a U.N. escort, states, "Inside Bader WMD inspection site, there are Russian and Turkish scientists. When we visited the site, they were forced to hide from inspectors' eyes."

And, Saddam continued to tell his commanders he still had such weapons. "For him, there were real dividends to be gained by letting his enemies believe he possessed WMD, whether it was true or not," the report said.

• The quickly assembled air strike on one of Saddam's residences, Dora Farms, in pre-dawn March 19, 2003, never had a chance of succeeding. Saddam had not stayed there since 1995.

• There was no evidence that Saddam or his top aides planned the insurgency, now in its fourth year; in fact, Saddam was sure the Americans would never advance on Baghdad.

"There were no national plans to transition to a guerrilla war in the event of military defeat," the report states.

This fact helps explain why commanders did not predict, nor plan for, the robust insurgency and al Qaeda terrorists now spreading violence.

Saddam's misguided belief that he would stay in power in 2003 was fed by the support he got from France and Russia, his top aide, Tariq Aziz, told U.S. investigators.

Very interesting, no?

By 2002 the sanctions regime was falling apart. As soon as it was gone, Saddam would restart his WMD programs. He'd already started two wars, there was no reason to believe he would not start a third.

The report also puts an end to the notion that we should have predicted the insurgency. Yes we mishandles it for the first year and a half, but no it was not predictable.

French perfidity is nothing new or unexpected. But I have been very disappointed by Putin. When Bush first reached out to him early in his presidency I had hoped that we might reach some understanding, some accord, or at least not work against each other. It's becoming more and more clear that Putin is reverting to his KGB Cold War Days.

The Report

I did some searching and you can download the report here (link courtesy of Welcome to Jermany)

It is of course a pdf file, and they authors have disallowed copy and paste of text. However, this is from the DOD press release on the report

U.S. Joint Forces Command will release on Friday, March 24 an unclassified historical report in book form on the Iraqi view of coalition military operations conducted in Iraq. Conducted by U.S. Joint Forces Command’s Joint Center for Operational Analysis, the Iraqi Perspective Project (IPP) is a research effort focused on coalition military operations in Iraq from March to May 2003. This project focused on the perspectives of the Iraqi civilian and military leadership involved in major combat operations gathered through interviews conducted during the fall and winter of 2003/2004, and an extensive review of Iraqi historical documents done in the months since then.

The project is the first such effort by the U.S. government to understand the views of an enemy military force since World War II, when the U.S. government conducted a comprehensive review of recovered German and Japanese documents, along with interviews of key military and civilian leadership.

The overall objective of this project was to learn lessons from Operation Iraqi Freedom, and use those lessons for ongoing transformation activities.

The report is 230 pages long. From reading the forwrd, the report is based on a two-year study in which they interviewed political and military officials of the Saddam Hussein regime and went through thousands of documents. The objective was simply to find out why the Iraqis made the decisions they did. The results were summarized in the Times article above. I do not have time to go through it tonight but hope this week to read through parts of it.

Posted by Tom at 9:13 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Useful Idiots

I wasn't going to write about this but I just can't take it anymore. Normally I try to provide what I hope are unique peerspectives on issues, and don't repeat the story-of-the-day that everyone else is talking about.

But this issue with the rescue of the Christian Peacemaker Teams hostages in Iraq has set me off.

Just to lay my cards on the table, I am a Christian, I go to church every Sunday and participate occasionally in mission programs. Currently I attend a non-denominational somewhat evangelical church. I used to go to a Presbyterian church, but changed when I moved to a different town. Over the years my reading had led me to conclude that the national leadership of the Presbyterian Church USA was hopelessly left-wing and so it seemed as good a time as any to sever that relationship.

That said, I do not believe nor would never insinuate that in order to be a Christian you have to be conservative. Far from it. One can certainly be liberal or even left-wing and still be a good Christian.

Nor do I question any one's personal relationship with God.

But what I will do is question people's public actions. And the actions of the Christian Peacemaker Teams(CPT) has been nothing short of reprehensible.

The Story

Some four months ago three members of a group called Christian Peacemaker Teams were kidnapped in Iraq. The kidnapped men were Norman Kember, Jim Loney, and Harmeet Sooden. It is not entirely clear as to who the kidnappers are, but according to the BBC Mr Loney "described the kidnappers as a criminal gang, apparently motivated by money. The same story, however, tells of a split in the gang, with some motivated more by ideology.

In a daring raid this past Thursday, British, Canadian, and US troops rescued the three hostages. The raid was led by a British SAS unit, which is their equivalent of our Navy SEALs.

These same kidnappers had just two weeks ago murdered fellow CPT member Tom Fox. Mr Fox had been beaten before being murdered.

Ingrates

So you think they'd be grateful to their rescuers, and help in locating other hostages so that they might be rescued too, right?

Think again

The London Telegraph has the story

The three peace activists freed by an SAS-led coalition force after being held hostage in Iraq for four months refused to co-operate fully with an intelligence unit sent to debrief them, a security source claimed yesterday.

The claim has infuriated those searching for other hostages.

Neither the men nor the Canadian group that sent them to Iraq have thanked the people who saved them in any of their public statements.

But wait, it get's worse. Yesterday the CPT issued a statement which reads in part

Harmeet, Jim and Norman and Tom were in Iraq to learn of the struggles facing the people in that country. They went, motivated by a passion for justice and peace to live out a nonviolent alternative in a nation wracked by armed conflict. They knew that their only protection was in the power of the love of God and of their Iraqi and international co-workers. We believe that the illegal occupation of Iraq by Multinational Forces is the root cause of the insecurity which led to this kidnapping and so much pain and suffering in Iraq. The occupation must end.

The initial statement contained not a single word of thanks to their rescuers. This was noted by many people, who chastised them for it. Later that same day (Thursday March 23) they added this addendum

We have been so overwhelmed and overjoyed to have Jim, Harmeet and Norman freed, that we have not adequately thanked the people involved with freeing them, nor remembered those still in captivity. So we offer these paragraphs as the first of several addenda:

We are grateful to the soldiers who risked their lives to free Jim, Norman and Harmeet. As peacemakers who hold firm to our commitment to nonviolence, we are also deeply grateful that they fired no shots to free our colleagues. We are thankful to all the people who gave of themselves sacrificially to free Jim, Norman, Harmeet and Tom over the last four months, and those supporters who prayed and wept for our brothers in captivity, for their loved ones and for us, their co-workers.

We will continue to lift Jill Carroll up in our prayers for her safe return. In addition, we will continue to advocate for the human rights of Iraqi detainees and assert their right to due process in a just legal system.

So they just forgot, huh? If you believe that I've got a bridge for sale.

Contradictions

Richard Hernandez ("Wretchard") of The Belmont Club pointed to this ABC News story

Peggy Gish, a member of the Chicago-based group for which the former hostages worked in Baghdad, said the men were bound and their captors left the building "right before the intervention." ...

Gish said the captives were not always bound during their captivity and were allowed to exercise regularly. The kidnappers provided medication for Kember, who had an undisclosed health problem. She said the three appeared physically fit despite their long captivity. "We do not know of any specific maladies, any particular illnesses, as a result," she said. "Even Norman (Kember) seemed fairly strong for what he had gone through."

Gish said the captives never learned why they were kidnapped or who their captors were. "Our team has never received any direct communication with them," she said of the captors, adding that no ransom was demanded or paid.

Gish also said she did not know why Fox was killed. "He was the only American," Gish said. "I don't know if that's the reason."

He then asks some relevant questions

Why did James Loney characterize his captors as "criminals" or Norman Kemper call them "criminals rather than insurgents" whose "motive was believed to be money" if "the captives never learned why they were kidnapped or who their captors were"? Although the captives were "not always bound during their captivity and were allowed to exercise regularly" they never learned a thing about why Tom Fox was killed. Did they bother to ask? Why would Fox be singled out as "the only American" if the captors were criminals interested only in money? Or are they now not sure?

Who Are the Christian Peacemaker Teams?

From the CPT website, their mission statement

Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) offers an organized, nonviolent alternative to war and other forms of lethal inter-group conflict. CPT provides organizational support to persons committed to faith-based nonviolent alternatives in situations where lethal conflict is an immediate reality or is supported by public policy. CPT seeks to enlist the response of the whole church in conscientious objection to war, and in the development of nonviolent institutions, skills and training for intervention in conflict situations. CPT projects connect intimately with the spiritual lives of constituent congregations. Gifts of prayer, money and time from these churches undergird CPT’s peacemaking ministries

Sounds innocuous enough. Lefty and naive, but noting special.

But then there's a photo of some of their protesters confronting some Israeli soldiers with the caption

CPTers "get in the way" of Israeli soldiers preparing to open fire on peaceful Palestinian protesters.

And then, regarding "Palestine"

A continuing presence in the Hebron District (West Bank) since June 1995. Team members stand with Palestinians and Israeli peace groups engaged in nonviolent opposition to Israeli military occupation, collective punishment, settler harassment, home demolitions and land confiscation.

Regarding Iraq

A Baghdad-based presence since October 2002. Team members accompanied the Iraqi people through the U.S.-led 2003 war and continue during the post-war occupation to expose abusive acts by U.S. Armed Forces and support Iraqis committed to nonviolent resistance.

And also

The primary focus of the team for eighteen months following the invasion was documenting and focusing attention on the issue of detainee abuses and basic legal and human rights being denied them. Issues related to detainees remain but the current focus of the team has expanded to include efforts to end occupation and militarization of the country and to foster nonviolent and just alternatives for a free and independent Iraq.

Not one word about terrorism that I could find. Anywhere.

Just from reading the CPT site, one could be forgiven for believing that the Israeli and American armies had no enemies to fight at all. To the CPT, insurgents and terrorists simply do not exist.

If they want to say that they are Christian, that they accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, I'll believe them. Their members might well spend other time participating in evangelism or other activities that are not political and more in line with Christians ought to be doing.

But there is little that is Christian about the Christian Peacemaker Teams organization itself. One searches in vain for any scripture or religions teachings on their site. Indeed, in their FAQ section they go to great pains to point out that they are not a missionary organization. Indeed, their actions seem to be entirely political.

They do say that "participants in CPT are Christians", that they "engage in regular spiritual reflection" and that "public and private prayer is emphasized". But that's about it. Nowhere is there a theological justification for their pacifism. There are a very few mentions of Jesus, but as far as I can tell there are no references to scripture anywhere on their website.

As always, David Horowitz has the scoop on the CPT at his database of the left Discover The Network. Here's part of it

Clearly, the evidence demonstrates the vast gap between CPT's claims to work for peace "through non-violent means," and its biased political agenda. CPT's strident advocacy is part of the NGO-led divestment campaign designed to promote demonization and isolation of Israel in the framework of the on-going political conflict.

They call themselves "peacemakers", I call them Useful Idiots.

Update

The Iraqi government is furious

Iraq's embassy to Canada lashed out at the Christian Peacemaker Teams Friday, calling them "phony pacifists" and "dupes" after the anti-war group responded to the rescue of three of its kidnapped activists by condemning the U.S.-led military intervention in Iraq.

In a statement obtained by the National Post, the Iraqi embassy called CPT "willfully ignorant" and "outrageous," and accused the Chicago-based group of being on the side of anti-democratic forces in Iraq.

"The Christian Peacemaker Teams practises the kind of politics that automatically nominate them as dupes for jihadism and fascism," the embassy's statement said.

"The statement shows they even share the rhetoric of the jihadists, even if they do it out of naivete. Despite their claimed affinity for 'non-violence,' this is false.

"Politically, they are on the other side of this war. Christian Peacemaker Teams are objectively on the side of the fascists, Saddam Hussein's loyalists and al-Qaida in Iraq."

It is abundantly clear that Christian Peacemaker Teams are opposed to and, in effect, at war with Iraqi democrats, Americans, the British, and the rest of the multi-national Coalition."

They don't mince words, do they? Can't say I disagree.

Posted by Tom at 12:06 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

March 22, 2006

The Rise of the "To Hell With Them Hawks"?

NR Cover 03 27 06.gif

The most important justification for our invasion of Iraq was of course that we had good cause to suspect that Saddam had stockpiles of WMD. Forgotten by most is that the Congressional Resolution which authorized force (Passed by House and Senate in October 2002) offered some 16 justifications. Not mentioned is what would happen to Iraq after the invasion.

It is well know that the President's views have been very much influenced by Natan Sharansky's 2004 book The Case for Democracy: The Power of Freedom to Overcome Tyranny and Terror (reviewed by me here)

Sharansky's formula for for defeating totalitarianism, whether of the communist or Islamofascist variety, is simple

When freedom's skeptics argue today that freedom cannot be "imposed" from the outside, or that the freed world has no role to play in spreading democracy around the world, I cannot but be amazed. Less than one generation has passed since the West found the Achilles heel of the Soviet Union by pursuing an activist policy that linked the rights of the Soviet people to the USSR's international standing. The same formula will work again today.

The President and Secretary Rice have largely adopted Sharansky's recommendations. As such, it is said that they are pursuing a "Wilsonian" foreign policy. President Wilson was an idealist, and it is said that Bush is also. Wilson's Fourteen Points, however, were silent on the issue of democracy or even self-determination. Wilson was more interested in peace than anything else.

The To "Hell With Them Hawks"

Rich Lowry has an article in the March 27 print issue of National Review titled The ‘To Hell with Them’ Hawks, And what’s wrong with them (subscription required to view it on-line)

Who is Lowry talking about?

These are conservatives who are comfortable using force abroad, but have little patience for a deep entanglement with the Muslim world, which they consider unredeemable, or at least not worth the strenuous effort of trying to redeem. To put their departure from Bush in terms associated with foreign-policy analyst Walter Russell Mead, they want to detach Bush’s Jacksonianism (the hardheaded, somewhat bloody-minded nationalism) from his Wilsonianism (the crusading democratic idealism). Democrats are headed in this direction too. But the tendency is problematic and, in its own way, as naïve and unrealistic as Bush at his dreamiest.

Lowry does not name anyone in his article, but Scott Johnson at Powerline believes he is talking about conservatives such as William F. Buckley, George Will, Jeffrey Hart, and John Derbyshire, and I think he's got it about right.

President Bush calls Islam a "religion of peace", and, not at all happy with simply knocking off the Taliban in Afghanistan and Ba'athists in Iraq, has set ourselves the task of nation-building. Specifically, to install some sort of democracy in the aforementioned countries.

"Nation-building" has been alternatively seen as good and bad in the post World War II era. Obviously it worked with Germany and Japan. We tried it in South Korea, and it seemed to work there, although it took a lot longer for true democracy to take root. Vietnam was just as obviously a failure, and doubt about nation-building began to set in. However, in the 1980s we took it upon ourselves to build up El Salvador as a bastion of hope against communist insurgencies in Central America. After a fitful start, we succeeded. Then, in the 1990s, we abandoned the concept again. Today we are invested in it lock-stock-and-barrel.

The problems that Bush has encountered are several, but Lowry's points can be boiled down to three

1 With the "cartoon intifada" the idea that "Islam" is a "religion of peace" looks ridiculous to many on the right.

2) "The Palestinian elections have undermined Bush’s contention that all people everywhere desire freedom in their hearts"

3) And the big one, Iraq. Lowry says that it "has reminded us of the enduring importance of culture" because it "suffers from a lack of a democratic culture, and its longstanding ethnic and tribal divisions have worked against us"

Unfortunately, given the daily headlines it doesn't help Bush much to point out that

1) One should never characterize an entire religion as anything. The real struggle is within Islam, between the moderates (yes they exist) and the extremists who want to silence them (see this interesting debate between Mansoor Ijaz and Andy McCarthy)

2) No one ever said that voting alone defined democracy. To have democracy you need democrats.

3) Contrary to popular belief, it was thought in the 1940s that democracy would never work in Japan or Germany because those countries had no history of pluralism. Further, in Germany at least the occupation did not go well all in the early years.

What the 'To Hell with Them' Hawks Want

According to Lowry, these hawks want "to write off reforming Islam, since they consider it inherently unreformable" and consider " the Iraq War as essentially lost". They want to pull out as soon as it is feasible.

They are not isolationists, or dreamy-eyed about negotiations or the UN. They have no problem with using force, they just don't want to stick around for very long afterwards.

A Time for Force

Col Harry Summers made the point in On Strategy: A Critical Analysis of the Vietnam War that in order to win a war you have to understand it's nature. Further, you have to tune your military strategy to achieve your political goals. This sounds obvious, but it is evidently lost on some people.

As such, there is a time to use overwhelming firepower to achieve your goals, and a time not to. Lowry says that

“To hell with them” hawks misinterpret the Vietnam War as badly as liberals. They are inclined to conclude that, if only the U.S. had really let loose in Vietnam, bringing to bear even more firepower, the war would have been won. On the contrary, it was only near the end of the war, when the U.S. started to fashion a true counterinsurgency strategy focusing on winning hearts and minds, on holding territory, and on training Vietnamese security forces, that we began to succeed. If there hadn’t been a catastrophic loss of political support for the war at home, this strategy might have held South Vietnam, and it didn’t involve — in a tactic “to hell with them” hawks tend to instinctively favor — bombing anyone back to the Stone Age.

As such, "we will need more engagement with the Muslim world rather than less", he says. To turn from the Muslim world after the riots over the cartoons would only be playing into the hands of the Islamofascists.

Lowry's Recommendations

Lowry says that we need to recognize that the wr in iraq is a counterinsurgency and act accordingly. Lt. Col. John Nagl makes just this point in his book Counterinsurgency Lessons from Malaya and Vietnam: Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife, reviewed by me here. The question here, I believe, is one of time; now that we've figured out how to fight in Iraq will we be allowed to win before political considerations at home force a troop pullout?

'To Hell with Them Hawks' do not believe that Islam can be reformed. Lowry does. He says that "like Christianity, Islam has within it resources that can be used both to promote liberty and peace and to repress" liberty. This is true, I believe. Only doesn't have to go back very far in Western history to find some truely abominable things. Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani says nicer things in English than he does in Arabic, as Lowry concedes, but asks "is this surprising? He is a conservative Shiite cleric, not an Episcopal minister. Not to realize that someone utterly different from us can still be an ally is a flat-out failure of imagination."

Our Dictator?

For much of the Cold War, and especially with regard to policy in the Middle East, the United States was accused of propping up dictators. Unfortunatly, this charge was usually true. The US tolerated and/or supported authoritarian regimes in South Korea, Taiwan, and throughout the Middle East. What do the critics want? A return to the days of "he may be a son of a bitch, but at least he's our son of a bitch"? (I've seen this quote attributed to both LBJ and Nixon)

We tried this once in Iran. In 1953, along with British Intelligence, we orchestrated the removal of Mohammed Mossadegh, and restored the monarchy, putting former Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi back on the throne. The Shah became more and more dictatorial as the years went by, prompting a revolution in 1979 that put the Ayatollah Khomeini in power. That didn't work out so well.

What do the 'to Hell with Them Hawks' want to do? According to Lowry

For believers in a clash in civilizations, the “to hell with them” hawks have an odd attitude toward their own. They want to put our civilization in a permanent posture of strategic defense. In Cold War terms, they believe in Containment rather than Rollback. Containment was a successful strategy, but especially so when Ronald Reagan invested it with aspects of Rollback, launching insurgencies against Communist states and engaging in unapologetic evangelism for the Western cause.

In short, they want to play defense. This, Rich says, is unacceptable. He concedes that for the moment, the 'to Hell with them Hawks' are in the ascendency. But "If we try their approach, it won’t be long until we are complaining yet again about the lack of realism in U.S. foreign policy, and yearning for something less simplistic and naïve."

The Response

Jed Babbin has written a piece in The American Spectator called Endgame Conservatives. Babbin is a good conservative. I've heard him on the radio many times, and gave his book Inside the Asylum: Why the United Nations and Old Europe are Worse Than You Think a positive review.

Babbin says that the "neo-Wilsonians such as he are profoundly wrong about the nature of this war and how we must fight it to win in the long haul". This is so, he says, because the " nascent Iraqi democracy is neither the center of gravity in this war nor a factor determinative of victory or defeat. Iraq is but one key campaign in a larger war and if it becomes a democracy that is a collateral accomplishment, nothing more." This is quite different than the assessment of most people who look at Iraq, for whom the establishment of an at least somewhat democratic government is seen as the key to stopping the insurgency.

Here is why Babbin says we are at war

We didn't invade Afghanistan and Iraq because they weren't democracies. If the lack of democracy were a casus belli we'd be at war with about two-thirds of the world. We counterattacked the Taliban because with malice aforethought they provided the base from which Osama bin Laden organized an attack that killed three thousand Americans and then refused to turn him over to us when we gave them the choice between doing so and war. In Iraq we sincerely believed that the Saddam Hussein regime posed a threat to Americans and attacked only after the UN failed, as it always does, to deal with such a threat. The only goal of this war, which Lowry and the others lost track of, is to end the threat of radical Islam and the terrorism that is its chosen weapon against us
.

We will win this war, he says, by "destroying the regimes that provide terrorists with weapons, funds, people, and sanctuary" and by defeating "the radical Islamist ideology" just as "we defeated the Soviet communist ideology."

Babbin denies that the global war on terror is like fighting an insurgency. What is it, then"

First, it is a war against nations that has to be fought both diplomatically and on the battlefields, both conventionally and otherwise. Second, it is an ideological war that can't be won with soft words and euphemisms. And third -- in Iraq, the Philippines, and much of the Horn of Africa -- it is both a counterinsurgency and war for ascendancy among tribes and religious sects.

Me: So how exactly do we fight the war? What type of government do we install in Iraq? Maddeningly, Babbin doesn't say. He denies that winning "hearts and minds" was important to winning Vietnam, and blames instead Johnson's on-again off-again incrementalist approach. Maybe so.

But by not offering any concrete alternative, Babbin opens himself to two criticisms:

1) That he just wants to 'bomb them back to the stone age' and leave it at that. Break it and then leave.

2) That all he wants to do is install another dictator, albeit one that is not as murderous as the old one, and is friendly to the US.

Neither of these are acceptable to me.

On the Positive Side for Babbin

Let's be clear that Babbin's criticism is from the right. He wants Bush to be more, not less, aggressive. He's upset because we're stalled in Iraq. In conclusion, he says that

Mr. Bush's democratization strategy, naive and Wilsonian, has put us in the posture of strategic defense. His original formulation -- that nations are either with us or against us -- has been whittled away to a confrontation-cum-engagement strategy that enables Iran to offer cooperation in Iraq while buying time to build nuclear weapons. The President is in the process of putting the UN in control of the Iran nuclear issue. This will result, in all probability, in allowing Iran enough time to achieve nuclear weapons. In Iraq, we are on the defensive because we haven't taken sufficient action to end the foreign interference that disrupts the nation-building effort. It's time to extricate ourselves from the Wilsonian policy quagmire....Let's press on with this war through the endgame and defeat the enemy decisively on both the military and ideological fronts.

Unfortunately, he never says how we are to extricate ourselves. However, I agree that we need to move on to dealing with Iran.

Posted by Tom at 9:35 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 21, 2006

Eating Soup with a Knife and the Question of Time

Without question the hottest book on Iraq right now is Counterinsurgency Lessons from Malaya and Vietnam: Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife by Lt. Col. John Nagl. I have not read it, and given my other obligations it will be some time before I have an opportunity to. However, since the author is making the talk-show rounds, and I thought a few comments were in order.

Nagl's book is based on his Ph.d dissertation. I'm not sure if he's still in the military or is retired, but from what I can gather from various sources he was operations officer during the 2004 battle for Fallujah. The story is that his book has not only become very influential among Army and Marine Corps officers, but was given to Rumsfeld himself during a visit to Iraq, although I can't find any definite confirmation of this.

But just in case you haven't heard about it, here's the book description on Amazon

Armies are invariably accused of preparing to fight the last war. Nagl examines how armies learn during the course of conflicts for which they are initially unprepared in organization, training, and mindset. He compares the development of counterinsurgency doctrine and practice in the Malayan Emergency from 1948-1960 with that developed in the Vietnam Conflict from 1950-1975, through use of archival sources and interviews with participants in both conflicts. In examining these two events, he argues that organizational culture is the key variable in determining the success or failure of attempts to adapt to changing circumstances.

Defeating an insurgency described by Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas Edward Lawrence, better known as "Lawrence of Arabia", as being like "Eating Soup with a Knife". In other words, you can do it, but it's messy and takes a long time.

There was also an article the other day in the Wall Street Journal about the book (subscription only), that was excerpted by Rich Lowry on NRO's The Corner

Col. Nagl's book is one of a half dozen Vietnam histories -- most of them highly critical of the U.S. military in Vietnam -- that are changing the military's views on how to fight guerrilla wars. Two other books that have also become must-reading among senior Army officers are retired Col. Lewis Sorley's "A Better War," which chronicles the last years of the Vietnam War, and Col. H.R. McMaster's "Dereliction of Duty," which focuses on the early years.

The embrace of these Vietnam histories reflects an emerging consensus in the Army that in order to move forward in Iraq, it must better understand the mistakes of Vietnam.

In the past, it was commonly held in military circles that the Army failed in Vietnam because civilian leaders forced it to fight a limited war instead of the all-out assault it longed to wage. That belief helped shape the doctrine espoused in the 1980s by Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Colin Powell. They argued that the military should fight only wars in which it could apply quick, overwhelming force to destroy the enemy.

The newer analyses of Vietnam are now supplanting that theory -- and changing the way the Army fights. The argument that the military must exercise restraint is a central point of the Army's new counterinsurgency doctrine. The doctrine, which runs about 120 pages and is still in draft form, is a handbook on how to wage guerrilla wars.

The Lesson

The point that Col Nagl makes is simple; we screwed up in our first two years in Iraq but we've got it right now. He's pretty critical of Army leaders and Secretary Rumsfeld. Fair enough. From time immortal wars have always been this way. Unless they are short, they never go quite the way either side thinks they will.

But despite what some people seem to think, yes counterinsurgencies can be won. With US help, the government of El Salvador defeated their communist rebels in the 1980s. Peru defeated the Shining Path in the 1990s. The Greeks defeated their communist rebels in the late 1940s, thanks to some timely aid authorized by President Truman. The classic case, of course, was the British defeat of communist insurgents in Malaysia in the 1940s and 50s. As Rich Lowry recounts

The Brits at first considered the insurgency primarily a military problem, and tried to take the guerrillas on in conventional military formations. These tactics not only failed to engage the guerrillas, who easily evaded the large jungle sweeps, but their heavy-handedness alienated the local population.

The British were losing. One observer thought the guerrillas were "probably equal to that of government in the matter of supplies and superior in the matter of intelligence." Guerrilla attacks had been fewer than 100 a month in mid-1949, but spiked to more than 400 a month by mid-1950. This is when, had the Brits operated in our media and political environment, New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd would have witheringly declared all lost, and calls from across the political spectrum would have gone up to quit.

With a patience born of fighting many "small wars" in dusty parts of the world, the British simply set about fixing what they had done wrong. Most fundamentally, they realized that counterinsurgency depends on winning a political battle for "hearts and minds" (a famous phrase that originated in the Malaysia fight). Military operations were conducted on a smaller scale. The Chinese population was secured from guerrilla influence. A Malaysian army was built, with Chinese involvement. Elections were organized and independence promised. Slowly, the air went out of the insurgency, which was officially declared over in 1960, 12 years after it began.

We made the same mistake in Iraq, and have made the same journey to our current counter-insurgency campaign.

Three Washington Post articles by Thomas Ricks, who was (or is) in Iraq tell the tale.
The Lessons of Counterinsurgency
U.S. Counterinsurgency Academy Giving Officers a New Mind-Set
In the Battle for Baghdad, U.S. Turns War on Insurgents
And let's not forget David Ignatious Fighting Smarter in Iraq from last Friday's Washington Post.

So contrary to what the critics would have you believe yes we are getting it right. We didn't at first, as I recounted in back in October of 2004 in What Went Wrong?

Wretchard, author of The Belmont Club(and arguably the best WOT blogger there is) doesn't share what is apparently becoming the "mainstream" opinion that we "got it all wrong at first but are now finally doing it right"

The US is not "finally becoming adept" at fighting in Iraq so much as reaping the result of a two pronged strategy. First, building up indigenous and de-Baathized forces (with a large Shi'ite and Kurdish component) and second, destroying the infrastructure of the insurgency.

He points to the impressive buildup of Iraqi forces as evidence(read his post for details or see the CENTCOM posture statement).

Wretchard concludes that

In retrospect three of the decisive weapons of victory in Iraq will have been the 190 military transition teams which raised the new Iraqi Army, the Transitional Administrative Law which made a new coalition government possible, and the US Armed Forces itself, which held up the shield behind which the training and political components could take shape. It now seems fairly clear that many of the 'far better' strategies which were suggested in 2004 and 2005 in place of CENTCOM's may not have been as good as they were made out to be. There were many calls for more American troops on the ground, up to 400,000 men. There were even calls for a return to the draft to rescue a "broken army". It had been suggested that it was a "mistake" to fire the old Saddamite Army, which alone could maintain control, or so it was said. In the end, CENTCOM's strategy did not prove so amateurish after all.

So much for the "More troops!" line that we've been hearing for the past three years. As the Brits found out in Malaysia, you win these wars not by sending in "More troops!" but by going back to counter-insurgency basics.

But the differences between Fall 2004 and Spring of 2006 are like the differences between the beginning of 1864 and the end of 1864. Once it looked like stalemate, then victory seemed possible if not assured.

The Question of Time

This morning I was listening to the Tony Snow show today, with guest host Brian Kilmeade (from Fox and Friends) standing in for Tony. Kilmeade interviewed Bill Hemmer, who is on assignement in Iraq for Fox News.

Hemmer was not all sun and roses, saying for example that things are more dangerous today, at least for journalists, than they were a year or so ago in Baghdad.

But his main point, and one that he stressed, was that he had spoken with many members of the US military, and they are convinced they can do it, that they can succeed, but they just need more time. "Give us more time" is what he heard again and again.

Will they be allowed to finish their job before political events in the US force a pullout, or a reduction in force before the job is done? We're already hearing about troops reductions scheduled for later this year, no doubt timed to coincide with the elections. Hopefully it won't be too soon.


Wednesday Morning Update

President Bush does the right thing

President Bush said yesterday that future administrations will have to grapple with how and when to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq, indicating that he doesn't see an end to U.S. commitments until at least 2009.

"That'll be decided by future presidents and future governments of Iraq," Mr. Bush said at his second press conference of the year, during which he also said Iraq is not in the middle of a civil war and defended his continued commitment of U.S. troops.

...
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid said Mr. Bush was signaling an open-ended commitment that "was never contemplated or approved by the American people."

When the American people signed up for World War II they never contemplated or approved keeping troops in Europe for another 60+ years, either. They thought that, like after The Great War, they'd all be brought home immediately after hostilities ended. Although I can't find it on the web at the moment, I do recall reading congressional testimony of the late 1940s whereby generals are grilled by congressmen who are not happy with what they are being told, that many US troops would have to stay in Europe for the indefinate future.

Was this a failure of the Roosevelt and Truman administrations? Of course not. Analogies are never exact, of course, which is why they call them analogies. The administration, and most of us war supporters, thought that the invasion aftermath would be easier (as Rich Lowry asked in "What Went Wrong" cited above, "We knew it would be difficult, but did it have to be so hard?"). Fair enough.

But as I've written in about a million posts, unless the war is very short, they always seem to go this way. Victory does not go to the side who doesn't make mistakes. Victory goes to the side that does not learn from them. And while we're not out of the woods yet by a long shot, we're learning a lot faster than the insurgents.

Posted by Tom at 9:35 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 19, 2006

The New Iraqi Army

"But why is it taking so long to build up the Iraqi army?"

"If only we'd have kept the old one together!"

These are two criticisms we often hear.

I dealt with the second one a few months ago, and you can go read it here if you like. I only mention it because the issues are tied together.

Getting back to the first, there were two very interesting letters posted last week on NRO's The Corner that can shed some light on the issue.

Both are anonymous, but I don't think that really matters, as they both ring true.

In the first one, the author says that not keeping (or recalling) Saddam's army was "a grave error" but that

...this also does not mean that a reconstituted Iraqi Army would have been performing at the level we are seeing now in the fall of '03 or even in the summer of '04. The most capable units, the Republican Guards and the more notorious Special Republican Guards, were either decimated in the fighting or filled with the types of thugs and regime supporters we were not about to keep around in significant numbers. The vast majority of Iraqi units were poorly trained, ineptly led and indifferently equipped. Their officers were largely ineffective and a professional NCO corps virtually non-existent. Even if the majority of the troops remained with their units, it would still take a great deal of time to train a new officer and NCO corps, provide them with new or refurbished equipment and train them in sufficient numbers.

Go and read the whole thing. The author is quite critical of the military and Bremer, and I suppose by implication the Administration.

In the second the author is also critical of Bremer, saying that the original plan was to keep elements of the Iraqi army. The decision not to do that was "... made at the last minute and that decision contradicted the original plan...."

That said, he points out that had we kept the old army, "Bremer is correct in saying the Shia and Kurds were not going to tolerate a reconstituted Sunni dominated Army."

Moving to the difficulties of creating a new army

The next time someone glibly says “We can take some kid off a tractor in Iowa and another one off the block in Baltimore and turn them into infantrymen in 16 weeks. Why is it taking 2 years to train the Iraqi’s?” Please slap them for me. First of all the 16 weeks number is just for basic training/bootcamp. Most service members then go to some specialist training. For some specialties this might last an additional year. Even infantrymen, artillerymen and tankers usually get another 10 weeks or so depending on service, branch, specialty etc. And that is just the privates.


In some posts last year, the invaluable Bill Roggio discussed "readyness" and how it is so often musunderstood by the media and war critics who like to claim that the new Iraqi army suffers low readyness. It's a complicated issue, and too much for me to summarize here now. Go to Roggio's post, read it, and follow his links.

Posted by Tom at 9:27 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

David Ignatius in Iraq

If the lefties who read this blog don't want to believe me, Victor Davis Hanson, Ralph Peters, David Frum, Oliver North, or any of the others that I regularly quote regarding Iraq, maybe they'll believe one of their own.

Today I bring you David Ignatius of the Washington Post. In his article of last Friday he writes

BAGHDAD -- Three years on, the U.S. military is finally becoming adept at fighting a counterinsurgency war in Iraq. Sadly, these are precisely the skills that should have been mastered before America launched its invasion in March 2003. It may prove one of the costliest lessons in the history of modern warfare.

I had a chance to see the new counterinsurgency doctrine in practice here this week. U.S. troops are handing off to the Iraqi army a growing share of the security burden. As the Iraqis step up, the Americans are stepping back into a training and advisory role. This is the way it should have happened from the beginning.

raq is still a mess. Traveling over Baghdad by Black Hawk helicopter, you can see piles of fetid trash on nearly every block and pools of raw sewage glinting in the sun. Car bombs and roadside explosions are still a daily feature of life, and the death toll remains horrific, especially for Iraqi civilians. But it would be a mistake to think that nothing is changing. The country is fragile, but it hasn't splintered apart.

I visited two bases where you can see the new U.S. strategy begin to take hold.

...

I wouldn't pretend that these two snapshots are an accurate representation of the whole of Iraq. If that were so, the country wouldn't be in such a mess. But this is the way this war is supposed to be going. It's a few years late, but the new U.S. strategy is moving in the right direction.



Even though Ignatius can't help but give us the "this is the way it should have happened from the beginning" routine, the message is clear enough; we are winning. It would be a tragedy to pull out now.

Yes, hindsight is 20/20. Everyone's a genuis on what ought to have been done. Oh, yes, "counterinsurgency" seems so obvious now.

Funny, though, I recall that before and during the initital invasion all of the talking heads were insisting that there was going to be a massive "Battle of Baghdad" that would tie down US troops for weeks or months. Oh yes, the "elite" Republican Guard would fight us house-to-house in a battle that would rival Leningrad.

More on Ignatius

Rich Lowry had some comments Friday on Ignatius' piece that I think are worth quoting at length

He argues that we finally have an effective counter-insurgency strategy in Iraq. A lot of people have written this lately, usually with the implicit suggestion that this is some sudden development, that out of nowhere these fairly effective Iraqi troops are appearing and contributing to a better counter-insurgency effort. But the strategy that is now beginning to bear fruit has been in place for a long time, as anyone would know who actually listened to what the administration was saying over the last year or more. All during the long, long period that the administration was scored for having no strategy in Iraq (a charge, I regret to say, echoed in this very Corner), the strategy that is now being recognized was in place. It just took time to take hold. Apparently few people anymore have enough patience to realize some things take time.

In this connection, Igantius writes of Iraqi forces standing up as we take a more of a support role, “This is the way it should have happened from the beginning.” Of course it should have. But sometimes the real world isn't so cooperative. The fact is that we started training Iraqi security forces right away, but we were going about it the wrong way and had to start again almost from scratch. Regrettable? Of course. But who seriously thinks you can plop yourself down into the middle of an alien culture and create a major new institution like a military without trail and error?

To maintain otherwise is magical thinking. David Brooks engaged in some of his own earlier this week in this column (TimesSelect). He criticizes Rumsfeld for not adjusting sooner to the fact that we were facing an insurgency. Fair enough. But what would this adjustment have chiefly meant, according to Brooks? More troops. The additional manpower could have helped. But...

Brooks also wrote an excellent column recently on the importance of culture. Knowing and negotiating the culture of a country is particularly important in a counter-insurgency, which is why, in terms of troop levels, it tends to be a qualitative rather than a quantitative problem: It's not necessarily how many troops you have, but what they're doing. I'm no military expert (obviously), but this is why I tend to dis-believe anyone who argues winning in Iraq just required X-number of additional troops.

Would these additional troops have had a complex understanding of Iraqi tribal politics? Would they have known all the key players on the ground in their area--who to trust and not to trust? Would they have gotten better intelligence tips from the Iraqi public? Would they have understood that the traditional American “kinetic” approach to warfare really doesn't apply in a counter-insurgency? I doubt it. All of this knowledge takes time to develop. It means being on the ground and tasting and feeling local conditions. It is conventional wisdom that we “wasted” the first year in Iraq. It is true that we were ineffectual during that year, but it wasn't wasted as long as we were learning and adjusting--as we were.

A final point. Any additional troops wouldn't have made much of a difference if they had been engaged in the kind of large sweeps without holding territory that we used for so long in Iraq. They might have made a difference, however, if they had been used to garrison every Iraqi town. But there was a judgment made that that would have been too heavy-handed and we should instead wait to hold territory until Iraqi forces were available to do it. You can argue with this strategic judgment, but it is not an unreasonable one. Indeed, the same people who suggest the administration didn't have a strategy now praise our approach in Iraq because, in the words of Igantius, “Americans are stepping back into a training and advisory role.” So does the administration get any credit for having had this as its goal--and consistently working toward it--for so long? Of course not.

I have criticized the administration at various times for not being realistic enough; the same applies to some of its (well-intentioned) critics.

Ditto that.

Posted by Tom at 9:01 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 18, 2006

Code Pink at it Again

From their latest on-line petition

We, the women of the United States, Iraq and women worldwide, have had enough of the senseless war in Iraq and the cruel attacks on civilians around the world. We've buried too many of our loved ones. We've seen too many lives crippled forever by physical and mental wounds. We've watched in horror as our precious resources are poured into war while our families' basic needs of food, shelter, education and healthcare go unmet. We've had enough of living in constant fear of violence and seeing the growing cancer of hatred and intolerance seep into our homes and communities.

(If you want the root URL, start here and select "Sign the Call Now". Also hat tip to Freedom Watch for finding the petition)

Uh, wait a second. So their objection to the war in Iraq is financial? That we're spending money there that we oh-so-desperately need here at home in the world's richest nation?

"...our families' basic needs...go unmet"

Basic needs? The federal budget this year will be over 2 trillion dollars, with less than 400 billion of that on defense. This doesn't even count spending by states and localities. And we still can't meet our "basic needs"?

The reality, of course, is that OIF has cost much less than most American wars, once one adjusts for inflation.

Also, aren't liberals the ones who are always telling us that we need to spend more on foreign aid?

For the record, I'm in favor of foreign aid, if it is done right. If we can pull this off (and I think we can), then our investment in Iraq will pay dividends for decades if not centuries to come. Stay tuned for a coming post on this subject.

Christopher Hitchens had something to say about this during the last presidential campaign

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.

This would mean that all the protest about dead and malnourished Iraqi infants was all for show. Surely that can't be right?

Afraid so, Hitch.

He continued

Whatever you think about the twists and turns of U.S. policy toward Baghdad in the last three decades, there can be no doubt of any kind that we have collectively incurred a huge responsibility there, much of it political but a good deal of it purely humanitarian. To demand that American funds be cut off or diverted, just as the country is fighting to rebuild and struggling toward a form of elections, is unconscionable from any standpoint.

"Unconsionable" pretty much sums up Code Pink. You can read all about them on David Horowitz database of leftist groups here. I exposed them (again) here last week. And just click on "Rallys and Protests" at right to read all about their fake vigils in front of Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington DC.

But Wait, There's More

What does Code Pink want? Here are their first three demands

- The withdrawal of all foreign troops and foreign fighters from Iraq;

- Negotiations to reincorporate disenfranchised Iraqis into all aspects of Iraqi society;

- The full representation of women in the peacemaking process and a commitment to women's full equality in the post-war Iraq;

Oh, my head is spinning.

Do these useful idiots not realize that if they got their way on the first the second two would not take place? No, they don't. These people actually think that if we left Iraq the insurgency would die by itself, that the only thing that keeps it going is the presense of foreign troops.

This, however, is not the case. To be sure, the presence of American troops provide propaganda value for recruiting and a rally cry.

But as General John Abizaid, CENTCOM commander, said in his statement before the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 14 2006, the enemy in Iraq is made up of three groups, each of which would continue to fight whether we were there or not

Iraqi insurgents are predominantly Sunni Arab and consist of three major elements: Iraqi rejectionists, Saddamists, and terrorists and foreign fighters. These groups operate primarily in four of Iraq’s eighteen provinces, where they receive varying levels of support from the Sunni population but are certainly not supported by all Sunni Arabs. Indeed, Sunni Arabs participate in all governmental activities and constitute a large number of Iraq’s security forces. These different insurgent groups have varying motivations but are unified in their opposition to U.S. and Coalition presence and their refusal to accept the authority of the legitimate, democratically-elected government of Iraq. While deadly and disruptive, the insurgency is also attractive to numbers of unemployed Iraqi young men and criminals.

The Iraqi rejectionists, mostly Sunni Arabs who want a return to their privileged status under Saddam, form the largest insurgent group. Their leadership is fragmented. They view themselves as an “honorable resistance” seeking to oust foreign occupation forces and unwilling to recognize the new-found power of groups previously excluded from political and economic life.

The Saddamists are mostly former senior officials from Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship. Their numbers are smaller than the Iraqi rejectionists. They seek a return to power by trying to de-legitimize and undermine the new Iraqi government through a campaign of mass intimidation against the Sunni population. They also conduct stand-off attacks with improvised explosive devices (IEDs), rockets, and mortars against U.S. and Coalition forces, Iraqi security forces, and government officials in an attempt to demoralize these groups. They exploit criminal elements to assist them with these attacks. The Saddamists lack broad popular support, but they harbor long-term designs to try to infiltrate and subvert the newly-elected government from within.

The terrorists and foreign fighters are the smallest but most lethal group. The al Qaida in Iraq (AQI) network, led by the terrorist Zarqawi, is the dominant threat within this group. AQI’s objective is to create chaos in Iraq by inciting civil war between Sunni and Shia through terrorist acts such as the recent bombing of the Golden Mosque in Samarra. Such mayhem, they believe, will topple the elected government of Iraq and drive Coalition forces from the country. This could enable AQI to establish safe havens for Islamic extremism within Iraq from which to launch terrorist attacks against other moderate regimes in the region. Zarqawi has pledged his allegiance to Osama bin Laden, and the goals of AQI support bin Ladin’s broader objective of establishing a Caliphate throughout the Middle East.



One may make the argument that none of these groups would exist if we hadn't invaded. This is only partly true, as the first two would be running the country, and as we all know now were partially in league with last. We went into Iraq for sound reasons, but that's not the point of this post.

None of the above three groups would support either the reincorporation of "disenfranchised Iraqis into all aspects of Iraqi society" or women's equality.

Code Pink ends their petiton by calling on

...world leaders to join us in spreading the fundamental values of love for the human family and for our precious planet.

Doll at Freedom Watch says it best: "The only fundamental values these morons seem to be spreading is their hate of George Bush and the War on Terror."

Ditto that.

Posted by Tom at 3:25 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

March 14, 2006

Myths of Iraq by Ralph Peters

Ralph Peters is recently back from Iraq and wrote about what he found at Real Clear Politics

During a recent visit to Baghdad, I saw an enormous failure. On the part of our media. The reality in the streets, day after day, bore little resemblance to the sensational claims of civil war and disaster in the headlines.

No one with first-hand experience of Iraq would claim the country's in rosy condition, but the situation on the ground is considerably more promising than the American public has been led to believe. Lurid exaggerations and instant myths obscure real, if difficult, progress.

Why do I keep reading this time and time again? Most of the non-msm types who go over there come back with the same thing; it ain't being reported right. Only Fox News seems to get it right also,

Here are some of the myths that Peters dispels

Claims of civil war. In the wake of the bombing of the Golden Mosque in Samarra, a flurry of sectarian attacks inspired wild media claims of a collapse into civil war. It didn't happen. Driving and walking the streets of Baghdad, I found children playing and, in most neighborhoods, business as usual. Iraq can be deadly, but, more often, it's just dreary.

Iraqi disunity. Factional differences are real, but overblown in the reporting. Few Iraqis support calls for religious violence. After the Samarra bombing, only rogue militias and criminals responded to the demagogues' calls for vengeance. Iraqis refused to play along, staging an unrecognized triumph of passive resistance.

Expanding terrorism. On the contrary, foreign terrorists, such as Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, have lost ground. They've alienated Iraqis of every stripe. Iraqis regard the foreigners as murderers, wreckers and blasphemers, and they want them gone. The Samarra attack may, indeed, have been a tipping point--against the terrorists.

Hatred of the U.S. military. If anything surprised me in the streets of Baghdad, it was the surge in the popularity of U.S. troops among both Shias and Sunnis. In one slum, amid friendly adult waves, children and teenagers cheered a U.S. Army patrol as we passed. Instead of being viewed as occupiers, we're increasingly seen as impartial and well-intentioned.

The appeal of the religious militias. They're viewed as mafias. Iraqis want them disarmed and disbanded. Just ask the average citizen.

The failure of the Iraqi army. Instead, the past month saw a major milestone in the maturation of Iraq's military. During the mini-crisis that followed the Samarra bombing, the Iraqi army put over 100,000 soldiers into the country's streets. They defused budding confrontations and calmed the situation without killing a single civilian. And Iraqis were proud to have their own army protecting them. The Iraqi army's morale soared as a result of its success.

Reconstruction efforts have failed. Just not true. The American goal was never to rebuild Iraq's infrastructure in its entirety. Iraqis have to do that. Meanwhile, slum-dwellers utterly neglected by Saddam Hussein's regime are getting running water and sewage systems for the first time. The Baathist regime left the country in a desolate state while Saddam built palaces. The squalor has to be seen to be believed. But the hopeless now have hope.

The electricity system is worse than before the war. Untrue again. The condition of the electric grid under the old regime was appalling. Yet, despite insurgent attacks, the newly revamped system produced 5,300 megawatts last summer--a full thousand megawatts more than the peak under Saddam Hussein. Shortages continue because demand soared--newly free Iraqis went on a buying spree, filling their homes with air conditioners, appliances and the new national symbol, the satellite dish. Nonetheless, satellite photos taken during the hours of darkness show Baghdad as bright as Damascus.

Take it from someone who's been there.

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Media Memes of the War on Terror

Chester posts on his blog some media memes of the War on Terror and asks how they might be categorized or classified. The ones he came up with are

-the US is disrespectful of Islam (the Newsweek story)

-the US routinely violates human rights (Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib)

-the Iraq war is analogous to the Vietnam war

-Iraq is perpetually on the brink of civil war

-extreme Islam should be tolerated (the refusal to publish cartoons)

-Iraq grows more violent by the day

Commenter El Jefe Maximo adds a few more

The US has driven Iran to build a bomb.

The Islamicist movement is a defensive response to US led globalization.

The Iraqi "resistance" is a legitimate response to foreign occupation.

The Iraqi government has no legitimacy because it was planted by a foreign occupation.

Saddam governed Iraq in the only way possible.

Al Sadr is a true Iraqi nationalist: he's uniting Sunni and Shia Iraqis against the Americans.

Islam good, Neocons bad.

Our overreaction to 9/11 feeds violence and Al Qaeda.

Peace only when we bring the troops home.

Violence in Iraq result of too few troops.

Pro US government in Iraq oppresses women and minorities.

Pro US government in Iraq tortures its opponents.

Dangerous if Iraqi government succeeds, because US may try this kind of intervention again.

Bush responsible for Katrina, Rita, Wilma and for too much/little rain and the crops not growing (okay, that was a joke...I think).

All this illustrates perfectly why I watch virtually no TV news anymore(including Fox). Newspapers are better, and readers of this blog know that I quote both the Washington Times and Washington Post regularly. But for the most part if you want to find out what's going on you'll have to visit the blogosphere, especially the sites I link to at right.

Chester is an Iraq war vet and his blog is a must-read. You'll find it as "The Adventures of Chester" at right under "War on Terror Analysis"

I'd send him a trackback but in order to try and get a handle on spam he's turned them (and comments) off for now.

Posted by Tom at 9:15 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

US Casualties Down in Iraq

A few days ago StrategyPage reported that US casualties are way down in Iraq

There were 6,790 U.S. troops killed and wounded last year, compared to 8,837 in 2004. That's a drop of 23 percent. But so far this year, the casualty rate for Americans is down 62 percent from 2005. Given that the main goal of the Sunni Arab terrorists is the expulsion of foreign troops, why the sharp reduction in attacks and casualties among the American forces? One of the least reported reasons is that U.S. troops have been winning the tactics and technology race with the terrorists. Although the media make much of terrorist innovations, less is said about the more frequent, and more effective, improvements in tactics and technology American troops are using. The cumulative effect has been steadily lower American casualties, and larger losses for the terrorists. Another reason for the decline is a sharp reduction in the number of Iraqis and foreigners committing terrorist attacks, and fewer Sunni Arabs fighting their government.

A month-by-month chart of US casualties in the war can be found on StrategyPage here.

Yesterday, StrategyPage posted an article in which they explained in more detail why our casualties were dropping (hat tip Austin Bay)

The violence has shifted away from American troops, who are suffering 60 percent fewer casualties this month than in the past year. and more towards Iraqi security forces and civilians. Part of this is because there are simply more Iraqi police and soldiers patrolling the streets and policing the neighborhoods. Where there are about two American advisors for every hundred Iraqi security troops, these Americans are there to advise, not fight. And the Iraqis are doing the fighting, and taking the casualties. American troops are still making raids and patrols, but there has also been a sharp decline in terrorist attacks. Some six months of sweeps and battles in western Iraq has shut down many of the Sunni terrorist sanctuaries. Indeed, many al Qaeda terrorists have fled western Iraq for towns and villages on the Iranian border. Iranians don't like to advertise the fact, but they do provide support to al Qaeda, despite al Qaeda's attacks on Shias (for being heretics.) Iran would also like to see a civil war (ethnic cleansing of Sunni Arabs) in Iraq. If that were to happen, Shia Arabs would be 75 percent of the Iraqi population, and likely to side with Iran on many issues.

As always, go and read the whole thing.

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March 13, 2006

The Morning Paper

A few quick stories from this morning's Washington Times

Hillary turns quiet on Wal-Mart ties

With retail giant Wal-Mart under fire to improve its labor and health care policies, one Democrat with deep ties to the company -- Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton -- has started feeling her share of the political heat.

Mrs. Clinton served on Wal-Mart's board of directors for six years when her husband was governor of Arkansas. The Rose Law Firm, where she was a partner, handled many of the Arkansas-based company's legal affairs.

She had kind words for Wal-Mart as recently as 2004, when she told an audience at the convention of the National Retail Federation that her time on the board "was a great experience in every respect."

But in recent months, as the company has become a target for Democratic activists, she has largely steered clear of any mention of Wal-Mart. Late last year, Mrs. Clinton's re-election campaign returned a $5,000 contribution from Wal-Mart, citing "serious differences with current company practices."

BRRRHHAHAHAHAAAAAA!!!!!

The hypicrisy of the Clintons knows no bounds. As if there was any difference between what Wal-Mart did 10 yeaculating polrs ago and what they do now. Hillary Rodham is as calculating as they come.

The radical pro-Castro group Code Pink is already bird-doging her for not being sufficiently anti-war. Now it looks like she's got the anti-Wal-Mart people on her case too. It'll be interesting to see how she tries to spin her way out of it.

Tapes reveal WMD plans by Saddam

Audiotapes of Saddam Hussein and his aides underscore the Bush administration's argument that Baghdad was determined to rebuild its arsenal of weapons of mass destruction once the international community had tired of inspections and left the Iraqi dictator alone.

In addition to the captured tapes, U.S. officials are analyzing thousands of pages of newly translated Iraqi documents that tell of Saddam seeking uranium from Africa in the mid-1990s.

The documents also speak of burying prohibited missiles, according to a government official familiar with the declassification process.

This falls into the category of "tell me something I don't already know". While so many on the left are convinced that "Bush Lied!" the truth is coming out, which is that whether or not Saddam had stockpiles of WMD at the ready in March of 2003, 1) he may well have simply moved it all to Syria, and 2) he was ready to rebuild anyway once the sanctions fell apart, which they were beginning to do.

Bill Tierney, the former Army warrant officer who originally translated the tapes is something of an oddball, which Byron York pointed out in an article on the National Review website. While this may be so, it speaks nothing to the tapes themselves.

Feingold pushes for Bush censure

Sen. Russell D. Feingold of Wisconsin, who is widely thought to be pursuing the Democratic presidential nomination for 2008, will introduce a Senate resolution today to censure President Bush for authorizing the wiretapping of telephone conversations of suspected terrorists.

In the House, Rep. John Conyers Jr. of Michigan, ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, will ask for the formation of a committee to investigate whether the president should be impeached.

Half of me says we ought to just ignore the Democrats and their antics. They're obviously more consumed with hatred of George Bush than interested in finding ways to help us win the War on Terror.

The other half of me says we ought to censure the Democrats for pretending that they never said what they did say(here and here too. Loyal opposition my foot.

Update

The Great One agrees that Feingold ought to face censure himself

As it happens, there is no constitutional basis for Congress voting to censure a president, just as there is no constitutional basis for a president issuing a proclamation of censure against members of Congress. Of course, Congress can pass any resolution it wishes, even if it has no force or effect. But this highlights how utterly irresponsible Feingold and his snarling supporters (all three of them) have become. He has now officially joined the pack of shrill leftists who — during the course of a war — embrace the tactics of Tokyo Rose and Jane Fonda.

The censure of a president was employed once in our history. In 1834, The Whig-controlled Senate voted to censure President Andrew Jackson, a Democrat, for vetoing an extension of the charter of the Bank of the United States. While legally meaningless, Jackson was deeply offended by it. And when his party regained control of the Senate in 1836, he insisted that the record be expunged — and it was. The primary proponent of Jackson's censure is largely unknown to history, as Feingold will be.

I know of nothing that Russ Feingold has proposed to make this nation safer from terrorists. He was the lone vote against the original Patriot Act and opposed recently renewing the watered down version. He opposes the president's exercise of his legitimate and traditional constitutional authority to intercept enemy communications during war. He opposes aggressive interrogation of al Qaeda terrorists detained at Guantanamo Bay. In fact, there's no record of Feingold supporting any measure that would protect this country from another 9/11. We haven't been hit since then, no thanks to Feingold.

Moreover, for all of Feingold's self-serving pronouncements about civil liberties, he (and his friend John McCain) have done more to damage the Bill of Rights than anything war-on-terror related, i.e., he is the co-author of the most egregious assault on political speech — the McCain-Feingold Bill — since the early Sedition Act, which, among other things, cost President John Adams his reelection (and defeated the entire Federalist Congress).

However, since Feingold has raised the prospect of censure, there's nothing to stop the Senate from censuring one of its own members. Indeed, the Constitution empowers both houses of Congress to discipline its members. If censure is such a cool idea, then perhaps it should be tried on Feingold. After all, if the standard is political disagreement, then he's fair game.

Ditto that.


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March 12, 2006

Victory Abroad, but Defeat at Home?

That Iraq has turned the corner and, if trends continue, is on the way to becoming a stable country should not be disputed most serious people anymore. The questions have changed from "can we turn things around" to "have we lost here at home?" And by "home" I mean not just the United States but the West in general. Further, I'm not just talking about Iraq, but survival as a civilization.

Does that sound apocalyptic? Perhaps it is. In twenty or thirty years we may be looking back on these times with the satisfaction of knowing that however hard the fight we won it at home and abroad. But thirty years ago it wasn't clear how the Cold War would turn out, contrary to what some would have you believe. When Carter was in office communism certainly was on a roll. It took the determined efforts of Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, Helmut Kohl, Lech Walensa, Pope John Paul II, and many others to defeat the Soviets. Of course, the leftists in our midst said the same things about them then as they say about George W Bush and the dreaded "neocons" today. But that's not what I want to talk about.

Iraq

The situation in Iraq is not the primary subject of this post, so rather than quote at length from others or my past writing I'm just going to provide a few quick links:

What You're Not Reading About Iraq by Bill Crawford

More Sunni - al-Qaeda Divisions: The Real Civil War
by Bill Roggio

Three Washington Post articles by Thomas Ricks, who was (or is) in Iraq:
The Lessons of Counterinsurgency
U.S. Counterinsurgency Academy Giving Officers a New Mind-Set
In the Battle for Baghdad, U.S. Turns War on Insurgents

Standoff in Iraq by Victor Davis Hanson, who just returned from Iraq

John, Meet Jack: We do have reliable information about how things are going in Iraq, by Richard Nadler, in which a group of Iraqi war vets make the point that yes, things are going much better than most of the US media would have you believe.

Then going back a bit further here are a few of my posts, most recent last

We're Winning
See I Told You So
War Update
Iraq War Update
Winds of War: Progressing in Iraq
How We're going to Win
We're Winning II

A Marine Reports - We're Winning

I could go on but I think you get the point. Just click on "Iraq" at right under "Categories" for all of my posts.

The problems we face, then are rather different than the one that idiots like John Murtha and his pals at Code Pink would have you believe.

The Naysayers

I wrote about these people last year and how they don't know any history other than Vietnam in my post called The Naysayers.

Once again, Victor Davis Hanson has them pegged in a recent article of his

But the latest criticism is more troubling, since it often comes from the “my perfect war, your lousy peace” school that, for some reason, never critiques the three-week removal of Saddam Hussein. Instead, it defends its evolving opposition to the war by advancing particular pet theories of reconstruction that were never followed. Rarely do we hear that most postbellum efforts are long, messy, and necessary, much less that the essence of war is lapse and tragedy, with victory going only to those who in the end err the least and endure. Anyone back in the United States can post facto write up a list of what ought to have been done in Iraq amid the heat and fire; but they at least need to factor in the conditions at the time that led the supposedly less bright on the ground not to anticipate their own inspired wisdom from afar.

Especially troubling are those who even before 9/11 demanded that President Clinton or Bush remove Saddam Hussein, but now consider such a move an abject blunder of the first order. Their advocacy helped us get in when there were dubious reasons to go, and their vehement criticism may well get us out when there are now better reasons to stay until Iraq is secure.


Iran

The problem with Iran is not so much Iran, as the trouble that dealing with them will cause throughout the Middle East. Or at least, might cause.

There is a very good chance that we will be forced to hit Iran with air strikes before the year is out. I stated my reasons for believing this in Toward the Brink last week.

The point to note here is that any strikes will certainly inflame the "Arab street", or rather, the street will be inflamed after some of the people are stirred up by radical troublemaker mullahs. There will certainly be riots in parts of Iraq. Although I doubt that the situation will be out of control, people will die and the news media will inform us that all is lost for the millionth time.

The Problem with Europe

Unless you've absolutely got your head in the sand (which would be the case if you depend on CNN and the New York Times for your news) you know by now that western Europe is infected with radical Islam, perhaps to the point of no return.

I wrote about this disease in What is Going on in Europe? and What is Going on in Europe II a few weeks ago. Again, I won't rehash everything, but will requote one part of Douglas Murray article which appreared in in The Sunday Times of London this past February 26

Murray had gone to Holland to speak at a conference about Islam in Europe. To give his readers an idea as to the current situation in Europe, he said that the threat to speakers was so high that they were asked by hotel staff if they wanted to register under false names. The police provided a personal security detail for everyone. Murray himself had a guard posted outside his hotelroom door.

The event itself was orderly and debate was conducted in scholarly fashion. But Murray talks about the situation in Holland and the rest of Europe

But the story of Holland — which I have been charting for some years — should be noted by her allies. Where Holland has gone, Britain and the rest of Europe are following. The silencing happens bit by bit. A student paper in Britain that ran the Danish cartoons got pulped. A London magazine withdrew the cartoons from its website after the British police informed the editor they could not protect him, his staff, or his offices from attack. This happened only days before the police provided 500 officers to protect a “peaceful” Muslim protest in Trafalgar Square.

It seems the British police — who regularly provide protection for mosques (as they did after the 7/7 bombs) — were unable to send even one policeman to protect an organ of free speech. At the notorious London protests, Islamists were allowed to incite murder and bloodshed on the streets, but a passer-by objecting to these displays was threatened with detention for making trouble.

Holland — with its disproportionately high Muslim population — is the canary in the mine. Its once open society is closing, and Europe is closing slowly behind it. It looks, from Holland, like the twilight of liberalism — not the “liberalism” that is actually libertarianism, but the liberalism that is freedom. Not least freedom of expression.

All across Europe, debate on Islam is being stopped. Italy’s greatest living writer, Oriana Fallaci, soon comes up for trial in her home country, and in Britain the government seems intent on pushing through laws that would make truths about Islam and the conduct of its followers impossible to voice.

...
Since the assassinations of Fortuyn and, in 2004, the film maker Theo van Gogh, numerous public figures in Holland have received death threats and routine intimidation. The heroic Somali-born Dutch MP Ayaan Hirsi Ali and her equally outspoken colleague Geert Wilders live under constant police protection, often forced to sleep on army bases. Even university professors are under protection.

Europe is shuffling into darkness.

Indeed it may be. All you have to do is read almost any of the entries on European blogs like USS Neverdock(UK) or Downeastblog(Belgium) to get an idea as to how bad the situation is over there with regard to the inroads that radical Muslims are making. While there is some resistance, all too often the response of the elites is to pander.

But I guess that's what happens when you've lost your own religion. I've traveled quite a bit in Europe, both as vacations and a mission trip. Most of the churches and cathedrals I went in were empty - except for the tourists. And I'm talking about Sundays.

America - At the Tipping Point?

In the United States we might be at our own tipping point; a reaction against Islam. And I don't mean radical Islam, either, folks, I mean Islam.

Commenter "Wanda" on Belmont Club's post Blowback said

Going back to Geraghty's comments and Wretchard's followup, I think that if this shift in Western opinion is happening (and I think it is) much more than just the ports deal is dead. President Bush is in imminent danger of finding himself left behind by the American people, and he doesn't seem to realize it. He could soon be in the same position as the leaders and spokesmen of the EU - a font of noble-sounding platitudes and maxims that nobody pays attention to anymore.

Meanwhile, he will have lost his ability to sway his own people's hearts and minds, because he invested everything in the cause of winning the enemy's hearts and minds. All the emphasis has been on persuading Muslims to change; how was it possible that nobody thought that WE might change too? That never entered into the calculations; it always seemed to be a given that the West would be eternally patient, open, and willing to woo the reluctant Muslim world. But while President Bush has been anxiously hovering over his delicate Islamic plant, watching for any promising little green shoot that might repay all his efforts, behind him his own garden has changed into a dangerous, bristling jungle. When he finally turns around, he won't know where he is anymore.

(hat tip Jim Geraghty on NRO)

Ouch. Although I think she overstates her case, she is definately on to something. Winds of Change thought it important enough to quote also, which is where TKS first saw it (note, be sure to read the WoC post).

The American people, or some of them anyway, have concluded that Islam as it is currently practiced is a dangerous religion. Many have concluded that "those people" aren't going to change.

Perhaps it is best said by Robert Tracinski in his postThe Lessons of the Cartoon Jihad

The West has long been aware that, while we hold freedom of speech as a centerpiece of our liberty, the Muslim world does not recognize this freedom. Before now, however, our worlds have rarely collided. The Muslims have not usually dared to extend their dictatorial systems to control our own behavior within our own cities. The Salman Rushdie affair—the Ayatollah Khomeini's 1989 death edict against the "blasphemous" novelist—was an ominous warning, but Americans did not take it seriously.

Now, seventeen years later, the Muslim fanatics are making it clear: you don't have to come to our country, you don't have to be a Muslim. Even in your own countries and under your own laws, you will not be safe from our intimidation.

For the whole Western world, this is an opportunity to learn an important truth about the goal of the Islamists. Their goal is not to achieve any specific political demand or settlement. Their goal is submission: our submission to their will, to their laws, to their dictatorship—our submission, not just to one demand, but to any demand the Muslim mobs care to make.

Europe particularly needs to learn this lesson. The Europeans have deluded themselves into thinking that this is our fight. If only Israel weren't so intransigent, if only the US weren't so belligerent, they told themselves—if only those cowboys didn't insist on stirring up trouble, we could all live in peace with the Muslims. And they have deluded themselves into thinking that they can seek a separate peace, that having the Danish flag on your backpack—as one bewildered young Dane described it—would guarantee that you could go anywhere in the world and be regarded as safe, as innocuous.

Now the Europeans know better. With cries of "Death to Israel" and "Death to American" now being joined by cries of "Death to Denmark", every honest European can now see that they are in this fight, too—and they are closer to the front lines than we are. Threats against American cartoonists, when anyone bothers to make them, are toothless; there is no mob of violent young Muslims in the United States to carry them out. European writers and filmmakers, by contrast, are already being murdered in the streets. The first people to find themselves living under the sword of a would-be Muslim caliphate are Europeans, not Americans.

The lesson here is not just that the Islamist ideology of dictatorship is a threat to Europe. It is also that the dictatorships themselves are a threat. The advocates of cynical European "realpolitik" deluded themselves into thinking that, if they just made the right kind of deals with Saddam Hussein, or with the Iranian regime, or with the Syrian regime, then the dictatorships over there would have no impact on us over here.

(again I am indebted to Jim Geraghty)

I will agree that some of the Europeans may know better, but hardly all or even a majority of them. Too many have been indoctrinated too thoroughly in "multiculturalism" and "tolerance" that they are unable to kill the viper even as it is about to bite them. Douglas Murray is probalby closer to the truth when he wrote that Europe was shuffling into darkness.

Can We Turn It Around?

Assuming that the situation here is as bad as the above essay concludes, can the Bush Administration reconvince a significant majority of the American people that we can indeed reform the Middle East?

Liberals we can write off. To them the entire War on Terror is a distraction from their main goal of putting us all under the rule of the EPA. They don't have different ideas on how to fight it, they just want it all to go away.

As for conservatives, well, there has obviously been much disappointment with President Bush and some of our congressional leaders. Out-of-control Federal spending and failure to reduce the size of government, failure to address illegal immigration, a zillion regulations that only seem to grow and grow, Harriet Myers, and more. I was not part of the anti-Dubai Ports World group, but could understand their position given the administration's failure to communicate the facts prior to letting information about it get out.

Only a fool, of course, would presume to know how a president will be treated by history based on opinion polls. Thomas Jefferson left office a despised man. The Civil War had grown so unpoplular that Abraham Lincoln for a time feared that he would lose the election of 1864. Harry Truman decided not to run for re-election in 1952 due to low approval ratings. Yet all three of these men are considered among our greatest presidents. On the other hand, Warren Harding was a very popular president, yet who today can even remember when he served?

I'll just let Jim Geraghty sum up my thoughts

I think most Americans wanted to see a lot more from their government over this(cartoon jihad). The opposition to the cartoons was signified by the photo of the London protester with the banner, “Behead those who insult Islam.” The Bush administration’s response was to say that violence wasn’t the answer; many folks would have preferred, “Like hell you will. Somebody insults your faith, you insult ‘em right back. The moment you threaten violence, we will knock your teeth down your throat.”

I hope President Bush “gets” this; I hope Karl Rove or someone is looking at this polling data and can figure out how to either mitigate or healthily express this impatient, angry, and sometimes ugly mood in America.

It’s not enough to say that the Democrats are worse.

Update

It as a post on Jim Geraghty's blog TKS on National Review called "Does President Bush See the Tipping Point" that prompted this post.

He's got a few additional thoughts on this issue today

Could the new president, voice of the West, say to the world’s one billion Muslims… choose?

What would happen if a leader of the West said, “No more maybes. No more, ‘yes, but.’ Get off the sidelines. Either bin Laden and his ilk have the right idea, or they don’t.

Seriously, if you agree with them, stop giving them half-credit and join them.
Please do so openly, so we know to kill you. And understand clearly – we will kill you. We will not submit to their vision of the world; and they cannot coexist with us. They will never stop trying to kill us; thus, the only day of peace will be when all of them are dead, or they have been persuaded that their vision is a futile one, a corruption of your faith’s beliefs.

If you oppose them, join us in opposing them with every resource, tool and ounce of determination we’ve got. You have your ways of war – let us introduce you to the nearly forgotten American tradition of letters of marque and reprisal. Let’s institute the first global terrorist hunt. American, Pakistani, Turk, Saudi, Muslim, Christian, Jew – it doesn’t matter your nationality or faith. You’re authorized to hunt down al-Qaeda wherever they scurry. Join us, and al-Qaeda will have no where left to hide, no one left to trust. The world as one has decided it’s a better place with them not in it.

This is it. Today’s the day you decide what side you’re on. No more debating, no more waiting to see who the stronger horse it. Trust me, it’s us. Decide what Allah really wants, and then act accordingly.”

How would the Muslim world react?

Thankfully, many would say that bin Laden never spoke for them, and they’re ready and eager to do whatever it takes to eradicate Islamist terror cells.

I suppose some Muslims would object to being forced to decide – a pretty revealing attitude, I think. But I can’t help but think that some Muslims, after years of seeing a faltering, doubtful, self-hating and equivocal West taking on the relentless faith of Islamist fanatics, would come off the fence.

Some of them would come off the fence and sign up on the other side. That’s fine. Then we would at least know those folks are our enemies.

And also

Right now, if you're a Muslim, and you denounce Islamism, there is a severe price to be paid - Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Irshad Manji, etc. Often you have to live in hiding and dodge death threats.

If you embrace and/or endorse Islamism, there is little price to be paid. The West won't attack you for what you say. You don't have to worry about some crazy Westerner suddenly pulling a Pym Fortyn or a Van Gogh on you. Heck, in London, you can preach jihad for years before the authorities even think about deporting you.

Thus, our message gets stifled; their message gets amplified.

But what if we changed that equation? What if the bad guys had to live in fear? What if they had to be careful about who they told, who was in the crowd they addressed, who was listening? I bet it would go a long way to slow down their efforts.

Or maybe the answer is a half-step down from my nasty gut reaction - don't kill the guy carrying a "behead those who insult my beliefs" sign, but don't let him do that without consequences: prosecute him for making threats.

Works for me. No doubt that groups like CAIR would announce that we were persecuting Muslims or some such tripe, but as Geraghty says, at least we'd know what side they were on.

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

March 10, 2006

Are You a "Crunchy Con"?

National Review Contributing Editor Rod Dreher has written a book called Crunchy Cons in which he attempts to describe what he believes to be a type of conservative that has not been identified elsewhere. I haven't read the book, but it is reviewed in the March 13th print issue of the magazine. If you have a digital subscription you can read the review here, otherwise you'll have to take my word for what's in the review.

However, over at National Review there is a Crunchy Con blog, with many of the editors weighing in. Check it out for more detail on what this is all about.

Every certain number of years traditional ideas of what it means to be a conservative and liberal undergo a change, or at least modification. Dreher believes that in the past several years a new type of conservative has emerged, one that he calls a "crunchy conservative", or "crunchy con" for short.

This is not to say that either group is ever monolithic. Greenpeace members and Teamsters both call themselves liberals, but while the former would fight to keep loggers from cutting down forests to save the Spotted Owl, the latter would solve the problem with a 12 guage and a pocketfull of birdshot.

Likewise with conservatives. Economic and social conservatives may vote for the same candidate, but will do so for different reasons.

Dreher believes that he has identified several attributes of this new type of conservative that he calls a Crunchy Con. Using the aforementioned book review, I am going to go through these attributes and find out whether I am a Crunchy Con or not.

Non-Materialistic

Traditional conservatives, Dreher says, worship the market, and by extension, consumerism. The "endless acquisition of stuff" seems to be the goal of all too many middle and upper-middle class people.

Dreher has no problem with a free market economy. Nor with buying things. It is more the attitude of "buy buy buy more more more", I think, than anything else, that he distains.

Tom - In this respect I agree with Dreher. My TV is 15 years old, and I have no desire to buy a high-definition set. I know and hear about people who think nothing of spending 20k on a home entertainment center, complete with mini-theater seating, and then of course invite their friends over who are all supposed to "oh and ah" over it all. Not me.

What's perhaps interesting about this is that I make my living doing market research in the consumer electronics field. My view is that just because it interests me on an intellectual level doesn't mean I want to run out and buy it all.

Distain for Shopping Malls and Tract Housing

Since crunchy cons do not care for unbridled consumerism, it follows that they don't care much for shopping malls.

Likewise, they don't want to live in a house that is the same or similar to the ones up and down the block from it. In fact, they don't want to live on blocks in surburbia at all.

Dreher says that crunchy cons prefer a "bungalow" arrangement, something cozy on a piece of land somewhat separated from one's neighbors. Gardens and other simple structures around the house are desired.

Tom - Well...I'm half and half here. Ok, less than half. I confess that I like shopping malls. I like wandering around in them, especially at Christmastime (crazy, I know).

I live in a traditional surburban townhouse, and probably will for some time. But I would definately prefer the "bungalow" in a woody area that Dreher describes. Economics and driving distance to work prevent this from becoming a reality.

Organic, Natural, Food

Crunchy cons hate McDonalds and love fresh organic foods.

Tom - I'm about 3/4 in here. A certified health and fitness nut, I eat more than my share of fresh fruit and vegetables (to the occasional amusememt of my coworkers). I also "must" go to the gym at least twice a week. However, I couldn't care less whether my food is grown organically or not. Call me cheap if you want but the organic stuff just costs too much.

I'm not much for fast food places either. Not to worry, however, I'm not the type of person who turns his nose up at rich food when I'm at at someone elses house. I'll eat whatever is served.

More Environmentalism

Crunchy cons are definately more concerned with the environment that most traditional conservatives. However, theirs is not the "people are evil to mother earth" of the Greenpeace types. Theirs is rather more a stewardship, the idea that we have been given dominion of the earth, and thus have an obligation to take care if it.

Tom - I am in sympathy here with the Crunchy cons. I don't like to see a forest chopped down to make way for yet another subdivision, but I realize that the land where my house sits was a woods less than twenty years ago. I distain the type of conservative who couldn't care less about the woods, steams and animals who inhabit them, and who think everything should be paved over in an endless stream of "development". But as with Dreher's crunchy cons, my attitude is also quite different than leftie environmentalists. I'm a fisherman and support hunting and gun rights 100%. If asked I tell people I am a conservationist, not an environmentalist.

Family over Prosperity

Crunchy cons will live in a smaller house and drive used cars if that is what it takes to maintain a stay-at-home mom. Giving up luxuries is vital to good child rearing, they believe.

Tom - I am single so won't comment much here. Suffice it to say that this is how I was raised, and my sister and sister-in-law gave up excellent careers so they could stay at home with their children.

Home Schooling

"Toss out the TV and homeschool the children", he says. Again, Dreher says that crunchy cons are willing to make economic sacrifices to make this happen. Their concern with the public schools is not the academics but with their moral decay.

He also has little patience for the "socialization" argument, that anti-home schoolers make; "look at the values predominating in youth culture today; is that really working for us?" Dreher retorts.

Tom - Again, without any children I cannot speak about myself. However, I will note that last summer I went on a mission trip to Scotland with maybe 30 people from my church, over half of whom were high-schoolers. During the trip I discovered that many were homeschooled. I know that this is anecdotal evidence, but I will tell you that they were as socialized as anyone else. In other words, they were perfectly normal teenagers.

Orthodox Religious Beliefs

There's not much here in the review, just that although faith is not required, most crunchy cons are religious, and tend to be orthodox.

Tom - I go to an independent evangelical church. No leftie mainstream protestant stuff for me.

Everything Else

The review doesn't mention traditional issues like abortion, foreign policy, or taxes. I assume that since Dreher is in tune with the rest of the staff at National Review at these issues, crunchy cons are too. But that may not be so, and you'll have to buy the book to find out.

So What You, Tom?

I'm about half in the cruncy con camp, but definately not all of the way.

Now it's your turn, are you a "crunchy con" or not?

Posted by Tom at 7:19 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

March 9, 2006

China - Taiwan: Endgame

Here's the short version of how a war over Taiwan might go. I will expand on this later when I have more time.

China will not, in my opinion, attempt an amphibious or airborne attack, because they do not have the logistical capabalities to support any troops they manage to get across the straights. Rather, they will announce a blockade of Taiwan, enforced with submarines and air power.

Commerce to and from Taiwan will immediately end. It doesn't really matter whether the PLA has the military capabilities or not, for no shipping company in the world will take such a risk.

China will then bombard Taiwan with a few hundred of the medium-range missiles, all armed with conventional warheads. The targets will mostly be military, along with ports and civilian airports. The damage will not be great, or even "military significant", but this is not the point. Their purpose is do demoralize the Taiwanese and convince them that they are helpless and that their leaders cannot defend them.

The United States will quickly bring forces to bear by sending as many carrier battle groups into the area as possible. I don't think it really matters whether a Republican or Democrat is in office, either will feel obliged to respond unless Taiwan did something particulally egregious to bring on the criris. Of course, we will already have submarines in the area, and China will already be missing several of theirs.

In the meantime there will be furious battles in the skies above and around Taiwan. I'm not sure how well the Taiwanese will do, and some of the reports I read are not encouraging. Losses on both sides will be severe, but in the short run I think the Taiwanese can hold their own. The US Air Force will be engaged with aircraft based in Japan, Guam, and Okinawa. Depending on the year this takes place (my theory is late 2008 - 2010), we will either have mostly F-15s, or a mix of F-15s, F-22s, and maybe some of the JSF F-35. If the latter aircraft are involved, the Chinese will find themselves short of planes very quickly.

At this point the Chinese will be demanding that the ROC government accept their terms for a cease-fire, which will amount to reunification under mainland rule. I don't know enough about Taiwanese politics or the people there to say how firm their resolve is, for right now I'm just stating the issues. Either way, the point is that China will try to force and an end favorable to itself before the US Navy arrives.

The Chinese military has a saying; "sink a carrier, win the war". It is important to note that this is not meant in a traditional military sense. What they mean is that by sinking or heavily damaging a carrier they believe that the American people will say "this isn't worth it", and will demand an end to hostilities. Given that there are some 6,000 sailors on one of these behemoths, the casualties would be astronomical whether the ship is sunk or not.

I don't know that the American people would definately respond in this manner, because it is also possible that they (the majority) will respond in by demanding the destruction of the entire Chinese fleet. It all depends, I think, on the circumstances that lead up to the conflict.

Assuming the Chinese are unsuccessful in inflicting serious damage on the American fleet, the war will soon turn against them. Time will work against China. The presence of several carrier battle groups will bolster morale on the island nation. We will turn the tables on the Chinese, blockading their ports, and sinking their ships or forcing them to hold up in port.

At this point the Chinese leadership will be desperate, and the most dangerous part begins. They will feel much pressure to threaten, or even use, nuclear weapons. They will certainly threaten the continental United States and our bases in the Pacific. They will also threaten Japan, whose navy and air force will be involved, albeit in limited roles.

The US response will be cautious. Having been successful up to this point, it would be foolhardy to provoke the Chinese leadership into making a rash decision. We will probably issue a statement saying that we will not attack the Chinese mainland, and will put forth a strong diplomatic effort to convince the parties to return to the status quo, perhaps with the promise of further negotiations in the future. Depending on the military situation, we might even announce that we were pulling a carrier battle group back a bit farther from China.

The big question is whether the Chinese leadership will get so desperate that they feel that they will use nuclear weapons in some limited fashion to "save face". If they do, they will most certainly not hit the United States itself, they might try to hit a carrier battle group, or come close enought to cause some damage. Lobbing a few missiles and then claiming a propaganda victory is not out of the question. Another, more frightening scenario, is that they hit Guam or Okinawa (where they could hit both the US and Japan).

All conjecture, of course. Heaven forbid it should come to any of this.

While you're hear, hop on over to The View from Taiwan, where Michael Turton has written a lengthy and very intesting fictional account of a war over Taiwan. Interestingly, his scenario also takes place in 20008.

Posted by Tom at 9:37 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

March 8, 2006

The US of Islam

Check out this map from an Islamofascist web site that NRO contributor Cliff May linked to today:


Islamic World.jpg


Kind of puts things in perspective, doesn't it?

Update

Go to Red Hot Cuppa Politics, where FrauBudgie has the inside story on this map and the group behind it.

Posted by Tom at 10:00 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Chinese Threat Update

Readers of this blog know that I have been worried about the possibility of conflict with China over Taiwan. In April of 2005 I wrote War with China: 2008 - 2010?", in which I set forth my reasons why I believe that if China makes a move, it will come shortly after the 2008 Olympics in Bejing. Nothing I have seen since then has changed my mind.

The good news is that the US military in general, and Secretary of Defense Don Rumsfeld in particular, are well aware of the danger.

In this post I am going to review some of the political and military developments since I wrote that post.

The Third Goal

Chinese foreign policy under the communists has centered around taking back three territories that they say they lost during the "century of humiliation": Tibet, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. China (People's Republic of China, or "PRC") took back Tibet in the 1950s, got Hong Kong in 1997, and now only Taiwan is left.

Getting back Tibet and Hong Kong were relatively easy, there was no one to oppose the former, and the British lease was up on the latter anyway. Taiwan poses a challenge. The United States has always said that it will oppose reunification by force, and indeed in 1979 Congress passed the Taiwan Relations Act, making this policy legally binding on the president.

Taiwan (the Republic of China, or "ROC") was for decades run by the authoritarian Kuomintang under Chiang Kai-shek. Starting in 1987, however, has evolved into a democracy. Although the Chinese communists have moderated since the days of Mao Tse-Tung, the spectre of a totalitarian giant attacking a peaceful democracy will not play well on the world stage.

The Chinese Military Build-Up

Those who accuse the United States of being recklessly adventuristic would do well to cast their eyes on the immense growth of the Chinese Army and Navy (PLA - Peoples Liberation Army, and PLAN, Peoples Liberation Army/Navy).

As Bill Gertz documented the massive Chinese ___ in his book "The Chinese Dragon Awakens", excerpted in the Washington Times last June. Gertz told about what he heard from Pentagon officials

China is building its military forces faster than U.S. intelligence and military analysts expected, prompting fears that Beijing will attack Taiwan in the next two years, according to Pentagon officials.

U.S. defense and intelligence officials say all the signs point in one troubling direction: Beijing then will be forced to go to war with the United States, which has vowed to defend Taiwan against a Chinese attack.

China's military buildup includes an array of new high-technology weapons, such as warships, submarines, missiles and a maneuverable warhead designed to defeat U.S. missile defenses. Recent intelligence reports also show that China has stepped up military exercises involving amphibious assaults, viewed as another sign that it is preparing for an attack on Taiwan.

The Problem with China

John Derbyshire, a longtime China watcher who writes for National Review, said the other day that "I try to keep tabs on the China watchers and their moods. The current mood is darkening." Indeed so. He pointed to a BBC article in which the Chinese announced a 14% increase in military spending, a huge amount by western standards. Derbyshire also quotes Australian sinologist Geremie R. Barme from the Jan '06 China Journal:

"With the accession of Hu Jintao ... many presumed that the relatively lax ideological rule of the Jiang Zemin years would continue. Ever-optimistic observers even thought that here, finally, China had a Soviet-style reformist of its own (recall putative Sino-Gorbachev's past, Qiao Shi for example).

"It was probably the 2003 commemoration of the 110th anniversary of Mao Zedong's birth, and the speech that Hu Jintao made at the Great Hall of the People in December that year, that put paid to such a notion..."

In other words, forget about a Chinese Gorbachev, much less a Yeltsin.

China is in an unusual situaion, one that I believe is without parallel this past hundred years, at least for a large nation. It is an officially communist country that has almost totally abandoned the economic tenants of communism. Yet the Communist Party of China maintains absolute rule, and immediately represses any perceived threat to it's power. It's only idiology is power for it's own sake.

The Chinese communists now practice a sort of "crony capitalism", whereby one can start a business and make money, but only by the grace of the state. An independent judiciary and what the West calls "rule of law" are non-existent.

This offers the average Chinese nothing to believe in. A seek out new religions such as Falun Gong, but given the persecution of believers by the state few take the risk. Most are apparently happy, for now, just trying to take part in the new Chinese semi-capitalist economy.

Chinese leaders are attempting to deal with this problem through the "Three Represents" campaign. As outlined in a paper last year by Jia Hepeng, published by the Cato Institute,

The Three Represents Campaign has long been considered to ensure that the Party expand its membership to include private entrepreneurs, redefine its societal role, modify its core tenets, and institutionalize its rule. The constitutional status of the slogans seems to corroborate that conclusion. The assertion, however, overlooks another side of the ideological movement: the CCP’s desire to absorb capitalists into a preexisting Party line and to indoctrinate them with the Party ortho-doxy. By doing this, the CCP is in fact strengthening its orthodox ideology so as to increase its authority and legitimacy.

Hepeng concludes that the ability of the communists to bring the capitalists into it's fold and get them to buy into their idiology (whatever it is these days) is "very limited". Thus the party will "continue its pragmatic policies in economic and social fields" but will relaunch similar campaigns everytime it detects a threat to it's legitimacy.

But the state knows that this will not work over time. It therefore does what all totalitarian nations eventually do; play the nationalism and anti-foreigner cards. In the case of China, this means making it appear that the "century of humiliation" (the 19th) and World War II were only yesterday. Their solution is to whip up popular passions over Taiwan, and at the same time whip up anti-Japanese and anti-American sentiment.

Chinese Threat Update

A recent BBC story headlines "Military Balance Goes Against Taiwan"

In its annual report to the US Congress in July last year, the Pentagon said China had 450 short-range ballistic missiles - considerably more than was previously thought - and was expected to deploy 75 additional missiles a year for some years to come.

All of them are based in the Nanjing military region opposite Taiwan.

These missiles are mostly equiped with conventional warheads. What China will do is use them in conjunction with an attempted naval blockade of the island. The Chinese know that their chances against the US Navy are dicey. However, they can rain missiles on Taiwan with relative impunity. Their hope is that they can force Taiwan into making favorable concessions that would lead to de facto reunification.

Chinese shipyards have been busy turning out ships, both civilian and military. In the past 10 years they have gone from being a minor player to the third-largest builder of ships in the world. Take a look at this chart of Chinese warships and it becomes apparent that China is busy replacing older ships and submarines with new models at a rapid pace.

China is not only on a building spree, they have been purchasing advanced Russian submarines at an alarming pace. Last year they purchased 8 Russian Kilo class diesel-electric subs, the best the Russians have to offer. No one should dismiss these simply because they are not nuclear powered. Since the Chinese are only going to send them to the waters around Taiwan, they do not need the range that nuclear power offers. Diesel-electic subs are very quiet when running on batteries, and in a few instances have been able to get within torpedo range of US carriers.

However, despite their growing numbers and new technologies, Chinese ability to use these new naval weapons effectively is open to serious question. They are currenly able to only keep a tiny fraction of them at sea at any one time. While they can "surge" during a crisis, it would appear that they do not have much confidence in their abilities as of yet.

The US has engaged Japan as an ally against China, something China has noted with growing alarm. In response, the Chinese have played the World War II card, as noted above, trying to whip up anti-Japanese sentiment at home, and playing to historical fears regionally in an attempt to scare off the Japanese. So far it has not worked.

The Japanese have the world's second largest defense budget, something that is not widely known, and put most of that money into their navy and air force, the two branches that would be the most useful in a war over Taiwan.

In an October 2005 interview in the Taipei Times, retired Japanese Rear Admiral Sumihiko Kawamura said that he does not yet see the PLAN as being a threat yet to the US or Japan. Commented Admiral Kawamura

Regarding PLAN's ability to project power, its range only extends to the waters around Taiwan. PLAN's submarines have a very limited ability to prevent the US and Japanese navies from projecting their power to the waters around Taiwan.

As for its ability to control sea lanes, it would be impossible for PLAN to control the waters between China and Taiwan if it faced a US and Japanese joint naval force. In contrast, within the so-called first island chain [islands including the Aleutians, Japan, South Korea, Okinawa, Taiwan, the Philippines and Singapore], PLAN has a very limited capability to deny the US and Japan command of the seas.

So if China invaded Taiwan, PLAN would not be able to sustain logistic support from China because it cannot control the waters between Taiwan and China.

Finally, China also has a limited capability to conduct a blockade of sea lanes.

While certainly true, it may be irrelevant. As noted above, China has been building not only naval forces but medium-range missiles as well. They will use these to bombard Taiwan and demoralize the population into demanding that it's government agree to terms favorable to the mainland Chinese. Even with the most aggressive anti-missile development and deployment, no system that I am aware of will be able to stop but a fraction of these weapons.

Chinese-Russian cooperation has become significant also, with the two countries engaged in sevaral joint military operations. Several times the two militaries have engaged in joint exercises. The issue is not that Russia would help China in a showdown, for they would not. The issue is that, one, China is learning advanced techniques from Russia, two, this provides Russia an opportunity to "show off" the weaponry they hope to sell China, and three a show of ideological unity over issues such as Taiwan and a joint desire to see the US replaced as having dominant influence in that part of the world.

China is also in bed with several African dictators, most notably those who govern Sudan, where they see a reliable supply of oil to feed their growing economy. China has several thousand troops in Sudan to guard the oil terminals, which is rare for a country that has traditionally not sent soldiers far from home. Zimbabwe is another country that has received much Chinese attention. Both the Sudan and Zimbabwe are among the most repressive regimes on the Aftican continent.


Let's not forget about the Internet, or "cyberwarfare", as it is sometimes called. Although these things are difficult to prove, there is much evidence that China is behind a series of attacks on US military computers. The biggest and most organized hacking was the 2003 "Titan Rain" incident

This was a massive and well organized attack on American military networks. The people carrying out the attack really knew what they were doing, and thousands of military and industrial documents were sent back to China. The attackers were not able to cover their trail completely, and some of the attackers were traced back to a Chinese government facility in southern China.

In 2005 they attacked the British parliament network, although the report cited above indicates that the "defense won the round". The US and British governments have stepped up security in the wake of these incidents. All of this, however, is just a test run for what will be all-out cyberwarfare if things get hot around Taiwan.

The US Response

GlobalSecurity provides a link to the US Pacific Fleet here. The Pacific Fleet consists of the 3rd Fleet and the 7th Fleet. The 3rd Fleet covers the eastern and northern Pacific, while the 7th is responsible for the western Pacific and Indian oceans.

The 7th Fleet consists of the following Battle Groups;
# Kitty Hawk Battle Group
# Nimitz Battle Group
# Vinson Battle Group
# Lincoln Battle Group
# Stennis Battle Group
# Reagan Strike Group

Each Battle Group consists of one aircraft carrier, two cruisers, two or three destroyers, one or two frigates, two attack submarines, and a supply ship.

In addition, the Pacific Fleet consists of Submarine Group 7 and Submarine Group 9, with a total of 31 attack boats. Attack submarines would, of course, operate on their own when not assigned a carrier. Surface force strike groups may be formed also, but likely would not operate this way in a war over China.

In a move designed to bolster our defenses in the western Pacific,StrategyPage reported recently that over the next 4 years, the US Navy will transfer six Los Angeles Class boats from the Atlantic to the Pacific. This brings the total number of Pacific fleet boats to 31, as opposed to 21 for the Atlantic fleet.

The United States also maintains much air power in the region, most notably on Guam , where we have a variety of aircraft stationed, including B-1bs and B-52s.

The Japanese maintain a fairly powerful navy, and a complete list of their ships can be found on the Global Security website. They lack aircraft carriers, and so their ships would need to be covered by aircraft based out of Japan.

Conclusion

Again, I see no reason to change my view that if China moves against Taiwan, it will be in 2008. I will quote the Naval War College paper cited in a previous post:

China’s military power will peak relative to that of Taiwan and the regional forces of the United States sometime between 2005 and 2008. In this window, improved naval and air capabilities—including ballistic and cruise missiles—will give China its best chance to effect Taiwan’s acquiescence. After 2008, Taiwan’s expected defensive gains and the seemingly exponential military advances of the United States will preclude a successful attack on the island
.

By "exponential military advances of the United States" the author is referring to US weapons systems like the F-22 fighter and Virginia class submarines.

Chinese military analysists watched US capabilities grow from the 1991 Gulf War to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and are alarmed at the increase in US capabilities. Any war over Taiwan will play to US strengths, unlike a situation like the insurgency in Iraq, which arguably does not. The US is at it's best in a tradional shoot-out, and the Chinese know full well that we spent over forty years studying how to fight the Soviet Navy

The reason I believe that China will wait until 2008 is that the Olynmpics will be held in Bejing that same year. They will not risk a boycott by attacking sooner.

In summary, there is a very real threat from China over Taiwan. We will come to the island's defense if it comes to war, and we have the military power to stop a Chinese attack or attempted blockade. A missile barrage aimed at destroying the morale of the Taiwanese people introduces an asymettrical concept whose results are problematical.

However, we should caution ourselves against "mirror image" thinking. Just becase our studies show that we can blunt a Chinese advance does not mean that they share our assumptions. By our way of thinking, the Chinese would not possibly want to risk the immense damage to their economy that would result from even a successful war. But as some of the evidence above indicates, ideology may be stronger than reason, and so we must be prepared for the worst.

Posted by Tom at 9:30 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

March 7, 2006

Leftist Whacko Items You May Have Missed

Two topics in this post
1) Leftist groups that fund the terrorist insurgents in Iraq
2) Leftist groups that have given their approval to killing American and coalition troops in Iraq

Funding Terrorism

Guess what leftist organizations are funding the terrorists in Iraq?

Besides Code Pink, that is.

European leftists, that's who. I missed this when it first came out last June, but this US News and World Report story documents how leftists in Europe

Turns out that far-left groups in western Europe are carrying on a campaign dubbed Ten Euros for the Resistance, offering aid and comfort to the car bombers, kidnappers, and snipers trying to destabilize the fledgling Iraq government. In the words of one Italian website, Iraq Libero (Free Iraq), the funds are meant for those fighting the occupanti imperialisti. The groups are an odd collection, made up largely of Marxists and Maoists, sprinkled with an array of Arab emigres and aging, old-school fascists, according to Lorenzo Vidino, an analyst on European terrorism based at The Investigative Project in Washington, D.C. "It's the old anticapitalist, anti-U.S., anti-Israel crowd," says Vidino, who has been to their gatherings, where he saw activists from Austria, Denmark, Germany, and Italy. "The glue that binds them together is anti-Americanism." The groups are working on an October conference to further support "the Iraqi Resistance." A key goal is to expand backing for the insurgents from the fringe left to the broader antiwar and antiglobalization movements.

Don't think that these people are just buying "humanitarian supplies" either

Some funds may be buying more deadly stuff; one leader boasted to Vidino that the campaign will send "everything it takes" for the resistance to win, including weaponry. Neither Iraq Libero nor Campo Antiimperialista responded to questions from U.S. News about where their funds end up.

The article makes clear that these people probably haven't raised a lot of money, but of course that isn't the point. One penny it too much. As is often said of Christmas presents, "it's the thought that counts." And this time the thought is murderous.

Code Pink's Funding Operation

At the top of this post I mentioned a group called Code Pink. They are an American-based radical pro-Castro group who's full name is "Code Pink Women for Peace"

In December of 2004 they gave some $600,000 in cash and supplies to the terrorists in Fallujah. This was just before the US attack that freed the city from the insurgents. David Horowitz has the full story on this group on his DiscoverTheNetwork.org database website here.

If you don't believe Horowitz go to Code Pink's website, where they admit to doing it. It was also reported on TurkishPress.com

License to Kill

A "World Tribunal on Iraq" was held in Istanbul on June 24, 25, and 26 of 2005, Democracy Now! sponsored the A full list of endorsers can be found on the World Tribunal website. Here are some of the ones you've probably heard of


American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee - NY Chapter
CODEPINK: Women for Peace
GreenPeace
International A.N.S.W.E.R
International Action Center
National Lawyers Guild - NYC chapter
Not in Our Name Project
The Greens/Green Party USA


Among their findings, taken directly from the World Tribunal website:

1. The invasion and occupation of Iraq was and is illegal. The reasons given by the US and UK governments for the invasion and occupation of Iraq in March 2003 have proven to be false. Much evidence supports the conclusion that a major motive for the war was to control and dominate the Middle East and its vast reserves of oil as a part of the US drive for global hegemony.

2. Blatant falsehoods about the presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and a link between Al Qaeda terrorism and the Saddam Hussein régime were manufactured in order to create public support for a �preemptive� assault upon a sovereign independent nation.

All of this is standard leftist patter. This next one is a bit more interesting

8. The imposition of the UN sanctions in 1990 caused untold suffering and thousands of deaths. The situation has worsened after the occupation. At least 100,000 civilians have been killed; 60,000 are being held in US custody in inhumane conditions, without charges; thousands have disappeared; and torture has become routine

So...they're against both the war and the sanctions the preceded it? Would they have prefered that Saddam be given free reign to rebuild his WMD after the Gulf War of 1991? Apparently so, for they give no indication anywhere that they see Saddam's Iraq as a threat.

But it's this next one that you ought to read very carefully

11. There is widespread opposition to the occupation. Political, social, and civil resistance through peaceful means is subjected to repression by the occupying forces. It is the occupation and its brutality that has provoked a strong armed resistance and certain acts of desperation. By the principles embodied in the UN Charter and in international law, the popular national resistance to the occupation is legitimate and justified. It deserves the support of people everywhere who care for justice and freedom.

"...the popular national resistance to the occupation is legitimate and justified."

Get it? It's ok to kill American and coalition soldiers. There is simply no other way to read that part.

I think it's ok to question the patriotism of these people.

Posted by Tom at 8:33 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

March 5, 2006

Toward the Brink

To the surprise of no one except maybe Jimmy Carter, the Iranians have spent much of the past two years tricking European negotiors into thinking that it had halted the processing of nuclear fuel while in reality they were busy installing equipment to do just that.

We know this because the Iranian in charge of talks with the Europeans said so. From today's Sunday Telegraph

In a speech to a closed meeting of leading Islamic clerics and academics, Hassan Rowhani, who headed talks with the so-called EU3 until last year, revealed how Teheran played for time and tried to dupe the West after its secret nuclear programme was uncovered by the Iranian opposition in 2002.

He boasted that while talks were taking place in Teheran, Iran was able to complete the installation of equipment for conversion of yellowcake - a key stage in the nuclear fuel process - at its Isfahan plant but at the same time convince European diplomats that nothing was afoot.

"From the outset, the Americans kept telling the Europeans, 'The Iranians are lying and deceiving you and they have not told you everything.' The Europeans used to respond, 'We trust them'," he said.

What makes this interesting is that the IAEA's (International Atomic Energey Agency) 35-member Board of Governors is going to take up Iran tomorrow at their meeting in Vienna. If they find that Iran has violated it's agreements, they will make a recommendation to the Security Council. Playing a dangerous game of brinksmanship, Iran has said that if this happens then they will start full-scale uranium enrichment.

As if they wouldn't do it anyway.

The Bottom Line

1) Unless there is a dramatic change somewhere, either in how we deal with Iran or a regime change(both unlikely), Iran will obtain nuclear weapons, probably this year. Sanctions are not going to work period.

2) Given that various leaders of Iran have stated that they will up and use these weapons against Israel, the latter has made it clear that they will not accept a nuclear Iran.

3) If it becomes known that Iran has a nuclear weapon, or is on the verge of obtaining one, Israel will present the US with an ultimatum; either you hit Iran or we will.

4) Given the uproar that would ensue after Israeli strikes, and the fact that they simply cannot do the job, the United States will have to act. This means a bombing campaign that will last at least a week or two.

We are moving towards the brink of war with Iran, and I am very pessimistic that it can be avoided. Regime change through an internal coup, while desireable and should be pursued, is a long shot. International sanctions and pressure will not change the Iranian leaders determination. Nuclear weapons in the hands of insane Iranian leaders is simply not acceptable.

We should not deceive ourselves into thinking that we can hit Iran without regional consequences, many of which will be unpleasant. If we thought the "cartoon intifada" riots were bad, get ready for worse. This is going to get ugly.

Posted by Tom at 10:01 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

March 4, 2006

India and the US Part II - Natural Allies?

I've always had a theory that the United States and India in the post World War II era were natural allies. With last week's announcement of a new strategic partnership between the two countries, this may now become a reality.

In Part I of my series on India, India and Moral Clarity in the Nuclear Age I discussed the details of the agreement on nuclear matters and moral clarity with regard to nuclear weapons. Because not all countries are the same, they should not be treated as such when it comes to posession of nuclear weapons. Whatever our disagreements with France, we do not have to worry that they are going to recklessly go around nuking other countries. Likewise with Israel.

Now I'd like to discuss what I believe to be recognition of what I believe to be the natural status between the United States and India; allies.

It has been almost an axiom in the post World War II world that democracies need to stick together to ward off dangers, whether the threat is from communist totalitarian countries or Islamofascist terrorists.

Not Always Allies

After gaining independence from the British and establishing themselves as a nation in 1950, India staked out it's foreign policy as a founding member of the Non-Aligned Movement. The Non-Aligned Movement consisted of those nations not formally allied with either the Soviet Union or United States during the Cold War. Some 100 nations joined, and although the organization still exists, it is not nearly as important as it once was. During the Cold War it's focus was on "national struggles for independence, the eradication of poverty, economic development and opposing colonialism, imperialism, and neo-colonialism," according to the article in Wikipedia.

I can understand why India took this path. Coming out of a period of long colonial subjugation to Great Britain, they needed to show their independence to the world. Since their geographical location precluded a direct military threat from the Soviets, there was no need for military alliances. Politically, they did not have much to worry about in the way of communist subervsion either, since most Indians were either devout Hindus or Muslims, they had no use for athiest totalitarian idiologies.

Unfortunately, India also handicapped herself by taking the path of socialism during this time. Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru modeled his economic policies off of the Soviet Union's 5 year plans, with predicatable results. In recent years India has shorn itself from these socialist policies and has largely adopted free market economies

None of my admiration for India, or support for the recent nuclear energy agreement, is to excuse some of the social problems within India. Although the caste system has been officially abolished, the problem of discrimination against the "untouchables" is a serious one. However, I reject a policy of moral absolutism. Only the morally blind cannot see a difference between India, and say, Pakistan, in the way each treats it's people.

Commonalities

The United States and India have many things in common that in my mind make us natural allies:

1) Democracy - Both countries share the same form of government. Just as importantly, both believe that this is the best form of government.

2) Capitalism - Both countries believe in free market economics. While Europe is veering more and more to socialism and protectionism, India seems to be moving toward more and more capitalism.

3) Trade - I don't have time to look up all the figures, but I do know that the United States is the #1 market for Indian companies(Economist). Several large deals, including a puchase by Air India of 50 Boeing airliners, is important for the United States. Some Americans may complain about outsourcing (while mysteriously never talking about insourcing), but in my view both countries are better off if we send them some of our lower skilled jobs.

5) Immigration - Again, I'm not going to look up the figures but you'd have to be pretty blind not to know that a lot of Indians immigrate to the United States. While this does not always result in stronger ties between the nations involved, I believe in this case it will. My guess is that many Indians are upwardly mobile economically, and will travel back and forth on business trips.

6) China - Both countries have problems with China. India fought a small border war with China in 1962, and the issues from that fight are still unresolved. This said, India has no desire to fight China again, given their problems with Pakistan. While we share a common concern, India will not want to be drawn into any war with China over Taiwan, for example. However, the real belefit is that a strong India will keep China from A) becoming too strong of a regional hegemon, and B) blocking any moves they might want to make to their southwest. India is thus more of a "blocking force" than anything else.

7) Islamic Terrorism - This is a much larger concern to India than is China, and one in which they will be much more willing to assist us. India has suffered several attackes by Islamic terrorists, and has no moral blindness about the threat.

8) Military Sales - During the Cold War India purchased most of it's weapons from a variety of sources, including or especially the Soviet Union. This appears to be changing. India, for example, is looking to purchase at least 126 new high-end multipurpose fighter aircraft, and the US government has given Lockheed Martin permission to bid on the deal with their F-16.

All the Right Friends

Victor Davis Hanson made the point last April that you are known by your friends, and one good thing about the United States under President Bush is that we have all the right friends...and enemies.

Who hates us? Those who love the UN hate us. Many western Europeans do as well. Mexico is upset with us because we complain about their dumping millions of their citizens on us. Islamic fanatics hate us.

In short, who exactly does not like the United States and why? First, almost all the 20 or so illiberal Arab governments that used to count on American realpolitik's giving them a pass on accounting for their crimes. They fear not the realist Europeans, nor the resource-mad Chinese, nor the old brutal Russians, but the Americans, who alone are prodding them to open their economies and democratize their corrupt political cultures. We must learn to expect, not lament, their hostility, and begin to worry that things would be indeed wrong if such unelected dictators praised the United States.

Not only do we have all the right enemies, Hanson continues, we have the right friends

Who then are America's friends? Perhaps one billion Indians, who appreciated that at a time of recession we kept our economy open, and exported jobs and expertise there that helped evolve its economy.

Millions of Japanese trust America as well. Unlike the Chinese, who on script vandalized Japanese interests abroad in anguish over right-wing Japanese textbooks, Americans — who at great cost once freed China — without such violence urge the Japanese to deal honestly with the past. After all, the Tokyo government that started the war is gone and replaced by a democracy; in contrast, the Communist dictatorship that killed 50 million of its own and many of its neighbors is still in place in China. At a time when no one in Europe seems to care that Japan is squeezed between a nuclear North Korea and a nuclear China, the United States alone proves a reliable friend. The French, on spec, conduct maneuvers with the ascendant Communist Chinese navy.

In addition, the eastern Europeans are among out best allies in the War on Terror. Many of their soldiers fight with us in Iraq. Australia has been alongside us every inch of the way as well.

Pakistan

In a world where Islamic terrorism was not an issue, we could treat Pakistan as it should be treated; as a pariah nation. It is a dictatorship, harbors innumerable Muslim fanatics, and is not only armed with nuclear weapons, but through the person of AQ Khan has spread knowledge of how to make them to other nations.

However, we do need Pakistan because Islamic terrorism is a fact of life and Pakistan is strategically located. We need them to fight al Qaeda and Taliban remnants. Since Osama bin Laden is likely hiding along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, we need their cooperation in our search for him. Musharaf may be an autocrat, but he is infinately better than a Khomeini, something that democrat absolutists need to keep in mind.

The United States, therefore, must maintain relations with both India and Pakistan. However, we need not treat them both the same, and must be clear that our cooperation with Pakistan is only one of convenience, while that with India is because of shared values.

The Future

To me the objectives are easy, if the implimentation difficult. We should work to increase relations in all of the areas listed above under "Commonalities". India will never be the ally that the UK or Australia are, as it has a tradition of independence and the geopolitical situation with regard to it is not the same. Nevertheless, India and the United States can and should increase our ties.

George W Bush has scored a diplomatic triumph. We need to support him, and urge Congress to ratify his achievement.


See also: Part I India and Moral Clarity in the Nuclear Age

Posted by Tom at 9:27 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

India and Moral Clarity in the Nuclear Age

Last week President Bush went to India to sign an historic agreement on nuclear energy:

Reversing decades of U.S. policy, President Bush ushered India into the world’s exclusive nuclear club Thursday with a landmark agreement to share nuclear reactors, fuel and expertise with this energy-starved nation in return for its acceptance of international safeguards.

Eight months in the making, the accord would end India’s long isolation as a nuclear maverick that defied world appeals and developed nuclear weapons. India agreed to separate its tightly entwined nuclear industry — declaring 14 reactors as commercial facilities and eight as military — and to open the civilian side to international inspections for the first time.


As indicated, this trip solidified agreements long in the making. In the July 18 2005 New Framework for the U.S.-India Defense Relationship, the two countries laid out the basis for a new relationship

The United States and India have entered a new era, We are transforming our relationship to reflect our common principles and shared national interests. As the world's two largest democracies, the United States and India agree on the vital importance of political and economic freedom, democratic institutions, the rule of law, security, and opportunity around the world.

In the joint statement announcing the new relationship, the two countries again stressed a common value in a committment to a democratic form of goverment

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Bush today declare their resolve to transform the relationship between their countries and establish a global partnership. As leaders of nations committed to the values of human freedom, democracy and rule of law, the new relationship between India and the United States will promote stability, democracy, prosperity and peace throughout the world.

Friday's joint statement reiterated this theme once again

President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today expressed satisfaction with the great progress the United States and India have made in advancing our strategic partnership to meet the global challenges of the 21st century. Both our countries are linked by a deep commitment to freedom and democracy; a celebration of national diversity, human creativity and innovation; a quest to expand prosperity and economic opportunity worldwide; and a desire to increase mutual security against the common threats posed by intolerance, terrorism, and the spread of weapons of mass destruction.

It is this last part that will be the subject of today's post.

Predicatably, the sniping has already started

Moral Equivalency Rears it's Head

From today's Washington Times

The new U.S.-India nuclear cooperation pact is complicating the Bush administration's efforts to rally international pressure against Iran's suspected nuclear-weapons programs.

Critics of the India deal in Congress and among arms-control activists say the concessions President Bush granted to India in the nuclear deal signed Thursday in New Delhi make it harder to preserve a united front against Tehran's efforts to build atomic bombs.

Some lawmakers in Congress, which must approve parts of the India deal, say the bad precedent it sets for Iran and other rogue states seeking nuclear weapons is enough to kill the accord.

The India deal "empowers the hawks in every rogue nation to put their nuclear plans on steroids now that they can no longer be isolated," said Rep. Edward J. Markey, Massachusetts Democrat and co-chairman of the congressional task force on nonproliferation.

The argument goes something like this; it is hypocritical for any nation who has nuclear weapons to tell another nation that it can't have them. Therefore if we are to rid the world of nuclear weapons everyone must be willing to get rid of their own as well.

This is no doubt what Iran will soon tell us (if they haven't already). Unfortunately all too many in the West will then immediately say "see, we told you so!" (if they haven't already)

But go back to the the July 18 2005 joint statement

President Bush conveyed his appreciation to the Prime Minister over India’s strong commitment to preventing WMD proliferation and stated that as a responsible state with advanced nuclear technology, India should acquire the same benefits and advantages as other such states.

Exactly. Guns in the hand of police officers are good. Guns in the hands of law abiding citizens are good. Guns in the hands of people with criminal records is bad. Just as banning all guns is foolish, so is bannning all nuclear weapons.

The UK and France each posess nuclear arsenals. Both maintain submarine fleets with nuclear armed missiles, so are relatively invulnerable. Therefore, theoretically either could destroy much of the United States. But whatever our differences with either, no one in any of the three countries would entertain such a notion even for a nanosecond.

To be sure, these analogies aren't perfect when it comes to rogue states like North Korea and Iran, but they never are, and that's why they call them analogies.

But as the editors of National Review pointed out yesterday

It takes a high degree of naivety to think that the deal will somehow affect the calculus of Iran, North Korea, or other would-be nuclear powers. Those states have their own reasons for wanting the bomb, and the thought of Kim Jong-Il or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad poring over the U.S.-India agreement and shouting “Eureka!” as he spots the loophole that lets him build his nukes is charming but absurd. India, for its part, will continue its nuclear-weapons development, deal or no deal. We’re not worried about that — but if you are, President Bush hasn’t changed anything for you.

Iran and North Korea can only play the moral eqivalency game if we let them. They try it because they know they have willing dupes in the West who take them up on it.

Let's welcome this new relationship with India. Recognizing that not all states are equal, and so not all nuclear weapons are equal, is long overdue. The agreement, like all treaties made with foreign powers, must still be ratified by Congress. We should encourage them to do so.

See also Part II: India and the US - Natural Allies?

Posted by Tom at 1:11 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

March 3, 2006

Options for Dealing with the Gulf States

As everyone knows Iran is determined to get nuclear weapons, and will likely have then before 2006 is out.

And as anyone who is at alll in touch with current events knows, this will lead to war. Whether the war starts just before they have something deliverable or not depends on luck and how good our intelligence is, but either way unless there's a miracle it's going to happen.

The only question is whether we'll be able to effectively take out the relevant sites in Iran.

While it would be foolhardy of me to attempt a complete answer to that question, I will look at one aspect of it.

And that is, where are we going to hit them from?

Let's take a look at a few maps of the region

First, an area-wide map,

mideastbig.gif

Just from this we can see a few things

1) Iran is an awfully big country

2) Unless we control the Persian Gulf, the Iranians will easily wreck havoc on shipping there.

3) While some of Iran is certainly accessible by carrier-based aircraft in the Indian Ocean/Arabian Sea, it sure would be nice to get the carriers into the northern part of the gulf so the plans didn't have to fly so far without refueling etc

Ok, you knew this already, you say.

So let's get close up

Persian_Gulf_map.png


Unfortunately this map does not have a scale, but it does give some idea of where we have military bases.

The point is this; we cannot fight a war with Iran without help from other countries in the Persian Gulf. And that includes the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

Now, I have been second to none in bringing you stories of Saudi Arabian perfidity. In my opinion George W Bush has been far too cozy with them, as was his father.

And yes, Iran's air force would not pose any real threat to our aircraft.

Taking out Iranian nuclear facilities will require more than planes on aircraft carriers.

It will require more than B-52s, B-1s, and B-2s, based on Diego Garcia, Guam, and Missouri.

It will take more than aircraft based in Iraq.

It will take aircraft based in the countries of the Persian Gulf.

GlobalSecurity gives some idea on the immense scale of operations needed to take down Iranian nuclear facilities

American air strikes on Iran would vastly exceed the scope of the 1981 Israeli attack on the Osiraq nuclear center in Iraq, and would more resemble the opening days of the 2003 air campaign against Iraq. Using the full force of operational B-2 stealth bombers, staging from Diego Garcia or flying direct from the United States, possibly supplemented by F-117 stealth fighters staging from al Udeid in Qatar or some other location in theater, the two-dozen suspect nuclear sites would be targeted.

Mansoor Ijaz, writing in National Review, elaborated on this a few months ago

A massive air campaign, which only the U.S. could launch, could require attacking as many as 100 sites, destroying a good part of Iran's air force before attacking its facilities, and causing a lot of collateral damage. Iran's retaliation could be to close the Straits of Hormuz and force a showdown with America's naval forces. Iran would probably manage to get a handful of ballistic missiles in the air. No Gulf country wants a nuclear Iran, but neither do they need another Gulf war.

His solution was to encourage an uprising that would overthrow the government. I agree that we should try this. But of course the probability of success is not high, and at any rate it is something we cannot count on. Therefore we must be prepared to strike.

Further, as Mansoor Ijaz points out, the gulf states will the the ones that might be hit in a war since they are right there. But if the US decides on airstrikes, the gulf states are targets no matter what. So their and our best security is for us to work with them on security matters. We can hit Iran fastest and hardest if we use bases located in their countries.

A complete order of battle for US forces in the gulf region can be found here on the Global Security website.

Military City also has a pretty good order of battle and includes forces in the Mediterranian.

Check them both out. There is simply no way we can hit Iran without the use of these bases, and have a a lot of them in the region.

Friends, Enemies, or Something Else?

Are the Arab countries in the Persian Gulf region our friends, our enemies, or something else entirely?

Today we have four options being promoted in the United States:

1) Zero Tolerance
They will remind us that every single Gulf region country is an autocracy, and while some are more oppressive than others, Liberty is a stranger in all of them. The governments of these countries falsely arrest and torture their own citizens and foreigners alike, they support radical clerics, and have been linked to most terrorist organizations at one time or another. I have posted many articles on Saudi Arabia, for example, documenting what they have done in this regard.

Their position is, roughly speaking, that we should have no military or political alliances with these countries at all. We can buy their oil, but security in this regard is their problem.

2) The Realists
They say you've got to accept the world as it is. These people can't be changed, at least not in our lifetimes, so don't bother trying. Besides, if you upset the apple cart you're liable to make things worse. Remember what happened to the Shah of Iran?

This attitude is typified by people such as former former General Brent Scowcroft and Zbigniew Brzezinski, National Security Advisor in the Carter Administration. Their mantra is "stablity uber alles".

3) The Alternative Energy Advocates
They believe that we can end our "oil addiction" and thus not need petroleum from this region. Perhaps so, at some point far into the future. I believe this to be dangerously misguided and unrealistic thinking. Given our level of technology, it will be a long time before we can significantly cut down on oil consumption. Pursuit of "alternative energy sources" may alleviate the problem somewhat, but anything to the degree that would make a serious difference would require far too much government coercion for me.

4) The Bush Doctrine
Then there's the new approach that George W Bush and his team are trying out. Although I have a few quibbles on the details, it is the one to which I subscribe.

The Bush Doctrine can be summarizsed as having four parts:

1) Pre-emption of security threats
2) Unilateralism when multilateralism fails
3) Strength beyond challenge
4) Extending Democracy, Liberty, and Security to All Regions

As a practical matter this means pushing the gulf countries to change their ways while working with them to counter threats such as Iraq and Iran. Unlike the old days, promotion of liberty will not be made with empty words. At the same time, we're not going to take the Carteresque approach whereby autocracies were turned into something worse; such as Iran going from the Shah to Khomeini.

It is my contention, that all things considered, the Bush Doctrine is the best option availabe. We ought to pursue it.

Posted by Tom at 9:15 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack