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December 29, 2006

New Plan for Iraq III

If we're going to surge troops, let's make sure we do it right, say Frederick Kagan and Jack Keane, authors of a proposal to win the war in Iraq that has received a favorable review by the White House. Writing in the Washington Post two days ago, they say that

We need to cut through the confusion. Bringing security to Baghdad -- the essential precondition for political compromise, national reconciliation and economic development -- is possible only with a surge of at least 30,000 combat troops lasting 18 months or so. Any other option is likely to fail.

The key to the success is to change the military mission -- instead of preparing for transition to Iraqi control, that mission should be to bring security to the Iraqi population. Surges aimed at accelerating the training of Iraqi forces will fail, because rising sectarian violence will destroy Iraq before the new forces can bring it under control.

Writing in the New York Post, Ralph Peters largely agrees. The theme of his article is do it right or not at all, but if we do it, go for broke:

Focus exclusively on security. Concentrate on doing one thing well. Freeze all reconstruction and aid projects. Halt every program and close every office that doesn't contribute directly to pacifying Iraq.

Empty the Green Zone. Pack off the contractors. Reduce the military's overhead to those elements essential to support combat operations. Make it clear to "our" Iraqis that it's sink-or-swim time. Remove our advisers from any Iraqi unit that can operate marginally without them (and let the Iraqis do security their way without interference).

Above all, establish unity of command: Stop pretending there's a fully functional government in Baghdad, recall our ambassador until the fighting's over and make this a purely military effort until Iraq has been pacified.

Peters may go a bit far in some of his ideas, but he's generally on the right track, as are Keane and Kagan; the war is still winnable, we must prevail, so no more half-measures.

Opinion on whether the Keane-Kagan plan is a good one or not is split, mostly but not exclusively along predictable lines.

Barack Obama and John Edwards, both presidential hopefuls, have come out against a troop surge surge. Hillary Clinton says that she's against it too, "unless it is part of a larger plan to end the violence in Iraq".

Democrat presidential candidates Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich of Ohio and Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack have are against a surge, as are Senators Joseph Biden and Christopher Dodd.

John Kerry says that he's against increasing the number of troops "absent some kind of political resolution in Iraq".

Unsurprisingly, Senator Joe Lieberman is strongly in favor of a surge. Writing in today's Washinton Post, he says that our basic problem in Iraq is a lack of security, and unless that is fixed, nothing else much matters. Money quote

In Baghdad and Ramadi, I found that it was the American colonels, even more than the generals, who were asking for more troops. In both places these soldiers showed a strong commitment to the cause of stopping the extremists. One colonel followed me out of the meeting with our military leaders in Ramadi and said with great emotion, "Sir, I regret that I did not have the chance to speak in the meeting, but I want you to know on behalf of the soldiers in my unit and myself that we believe in why we are fighting here and we want to finish this fight. We know we can win it."

On the Republican side, Senator John McCain has been calling for an increast in troop levels for some time. Recently he urged the president to reject the Baker-Hamilton recommendations and increase the level of troops in Iraq. As Larry Kudlow points out, if the president does decide to send in more toops, McCain's support will be crucial.

To be fair, there are some Republicans against a surge too, notably Rep Duncan Hunter, who believes that the job can be done with existing Iraqi troops.

Others, such as conservative blogger Paul Mirengoff of Power Line, are also skeptical, writing that "unless there is very good reason to believe that a sustainable troop surge can bring permanent security to Baghdad, it may be time to redefine what constitutes success."

Likewise, Glenn Reynolds points out that some generals are "not thrilled" with the idea of a surge either, because in their view "the strife in Iraq is mainly a military problem; in their view it is largely political, fed by economic distress."

So there you have it. Not a comprehensive survey, but I believe that from it we can reach a few conclusions. One, the hard left is unalterably opposed to any increase in troops no matter how good the plan. They do not care whether we win or lose, apparently seeing no ill effects from a loss.

A few Democrats hedge their bets. They say that they might be in favor of a troop increase, but only if certain vague conditions are met. Call me partisan, but think that they're just trying to have it both ways; if it succeeds they can say they were for it, and if it fails they can say that they had been against it all along.

On the left, Lieberman is the odd man out, but this is hardly a surprise. With the death of the Cold War Democrats over twenty or thirty years ago, he's the only one to have picked up the mantle of the late Henry "Scoop" Jackson.

On the right opinion is much more split. A few seem to have given up on the enterprise, some just think that a surge is the wrong strategy, and others will support it if their questions can be answered.

So in the end it all falls on mostly predictable fault lines. Those who turned against the war once it was discovered that there were no WMD do not think that anything we do can win it, and those in favor of the war believe that it can be won but are divided on strategy.

As I've mentioned in previous pieces on this matter, I think it can be won and that the Keane-Kagan plan represents our best choice for success. I used to think that more economic development and free elections would do the trick. I now believe that without security they don't matter so much, or at least they won't have as much effect as we would like.

New Plan for Iraq II
Here's the New Plan for Iraq

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

December 28, 2006

Gerald Ford - An Appreciation

My earliest political memories are of watching the 1976 Republican National Convention. My parents were supporters of President Ford, and therefore so was I. I was not the rebellious type, then or now. Besides, what Ford said and stood for seemed to make sense.

There was an interloper at the convention, who my parents felt threatened to split the party and thus lessen our chances of victory. All I remember was watching the TV cameras turn to someone called Ronald Reagan, who was sitting in the audience, and who waved to his fans who in turn cheered him. My parents didn't like this, for reasons not entirely clear to me at the time. In later years they became huge Reagan supporters, and it became evident that theirs was simply a call for party unity.

Ford of course lost the election, and so the first presidency I followed with any detail was that of Jimmy Carter. In the next four years the country seemed to careen from crisis to crisis, with the president having no clear idea of what to do about any of them.

The only thing I recall with any specificity about Ford's term was the Mayagüez incident, and it seemd to me that he did the right thing, given what he knew at the time he made the crucial decision to send in the Marines and Navy to rescue the captured crewmembers.

During one of their debates, Carter criticized Ford over his handling of the incident, which I thought terribly unfair.

In later years I, like most people, I suppose, remember Ford mainly for what he didn't do after leaving the presidency; criticize his successors. He went away to do...well I wasn't sure quite what he did all those years, but had the vague feeling it was sitting in some distinguished post somewhere offering sage advice in his usual steady manner.

Surely his brief term in office offers plenty for a conservative like me to criticize. "Whip Inflation Now" was just about the most silly economic plan of modern times. That he continued the Nixon/Kissinger policy of detente will also never endear us to him. But for all his policy errors, he proved a far better president than his successor. And when the 1980 election rolled around, he quickly agreed to campaign for the man who almost took the nomination from him in 1976.

The most important thing he did was pardon Richard Nixon. It was also the correct decision. That he did so knowing full well that it would cost him dearly polically is a tribute to his character and leadership.

Ford's legacy will be that of a steady hand on the helm in a time of national distress. He was refreshingly "boring", at a time when we needed someone with a steady temperament, someone who "looked" like a president and acted as such. He served our nation well when it was needed.

Jeanne Kirkpatrick - An Appreciation
Pope John Paul II - An Appreciation
Memories of Reagan
Yasser Arafat - An Unappreciation

Posted by Tom at 4:50 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 23, 2006

Nobles and Knaves, The Contest

Every Saturday the Washington Times names a Noble and Knave for the week. At the end of the year, they compile the winners, and invite readers to vote for a Noble and Knave of the year. Below I have copied the year-end contest from this morning's Times. At the end, I'll tell you who I voted for. On to the contest:

To vote, send an e-mail to nobleknave@gmail.com with "Nobles Contest" in the subject line or send a fax to 202-715-0037. Entries must be received by Jan. 1. When voting, please remember that only this year's nominees are eligible and that votes sent en masse with the intention of unfairly weighting the nominees will not be considered.

For Noble of the year, select three:

• The West Virginia coal miners, the 12 who tragically perished and the one who miraculously survived.
• BB&T Corp., for enacting a policy of not loaning money to private developers who have acquired land by way of eminent domain.
• Dr. Ward Casscells, now Col. Casscells, who, at 53, put aside a highly successful medicine career to join the Army Reserves.
• Peter Benchley, the writer who gave us "Jaws" -- and an inordinate fear of sharks -- died in February.
• Maryland state Sen. John Giannetti, who saved his primary challenger, Senator-elect Jim Rosapepe, from choking during a chance encounter at an Annapolis restaurant.
• Dana Reeve, who devoted her life to taking care of her late husband, actor Christopher Reeve, and who tragically died in March.
• Loudoun County Sheriff's Deputy Brian Sayre, for saving a hostage's life at a gas station with one incredible shot.
• David Dingman-Grover, the 11-year-old brain cancer survivor whose mano-a-mano battle with his tumor, which he had named Frank, became a symbol of courage.
• U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema, who, upon sentencing terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui to life in prison, told him flatly, "you will die with a whimper."
• Bill Cosby, who continues to challenge the country with his message of tough love, self-reliance and personal responsibility.
• Robert Rector, the Heritage Foundation fellow whose research helped expose the Senate's disastrous immigration "reform" bill.
• Staff Sgt. Michael Caldwell, who, while lying wounded on a hospital bed in Baghdad, took the oath of re-enlistment.
• Oakland A's pitcher Barry Zito's "Strikeout for Troops" campaign, which donated $500 for every strikeout thrown during the 2006 All-Star game to Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
• Laurie-Ann Fuca, for choosing to follow her son into the Army by enlisting herself at 41.
• Rep. Bobby Jindal, who helped his wife deliver their son when they couldn't get to the hospital fast enough.
• The Boy Scouts of America Omaha Scout Troop, for saving an 18-month-old girl from drowning.
• Steve "The Crocodile Hunter" Irwin, whose daring exploits with the wildest and most deadly of animals came to end with his death in September.
• Oriana Fallaci, the Italian writer whose unwavering and unapologetic defense of Western Civilization in the face of Islamist barbarism earned her a place as one of freedom's heroines. She died in September at 77.
• Park County, Colo., Sheriff Fred Wegener, for making the tough call to end a tragic school-shooting incident which took the life of a 16-year-old girl.
• Drs. Andrew Fire and Craig Mello, whose research into how to "silence" specific genes earned them the Nobel Prize this year.
• The Alaskan villagers, for refusing Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez's offer of cheap oil.
• Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael A. Monsoor, the Navy SEAL who in September threw himself on a grenade in Iraq to save his fellow SEALs.
• The Minnesota National Guard, whose members had the perfect rejoinder to Sen. John Kerry's "joke" that only the uneducated get "stuck" in Iraq: "Halp us Jon Carry -- We r stuck hear n Irak."
• San Francisco's Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps (JROTC), whose members saw the school board eliminate their beloved program.
• The off-duty Secret Service agent who was shot while trying to break up a fight at an Annapolis mall.
• Stevie Long, the 4-year-old "superhero" who managed to save his family by scaring off a burglar by dressing up as a Mighty Morphin Power Ranger.
• Ambassador John Bolton, who leaves the United Nations better than he found it, but not as good as he could have made it -- if given the chance.

For Knave of the year, select three:
• Vermont Judge Edward Cashman, for sentencing a confessed child rapist to just 60 days in prison.
• James Frey, for peddling a fictionalized autobiography, "A Million Little Pieces," and making millions off it.
• New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, for saying that Hurricane Katrina was an act of God in response to the United States being "in Iraq under false pretenses."
• Los Angeles Times columnist Joel Stein, who in a January column compared U.S. soldiers to corrupt politicians.
• The Colombian drug traffickers, for using puppies' stomachs to smuggle heroin into the United States.
• The Spotsylvania County, Va., Sheriff's office, whose officers were enjoying the, er, services of the Moon Spa while ostensibly investigating it for prostitution.
• U.S. figure skater Johnny Weir, who chose an Olympic setting to proudly wear a "CCCP" red sweatjacket.
• Yale University, for admitting a former member of the Taliban, but not the U.S. military.
• A Republican-controlled Senate, which drafted a budget blueprint that added $11 billion to federal spending, all the while claiming to be the party of fiscal responsibility.
• NBC's "Dateline," whose producers crafted an unethical scheme to ensnare NASCAR fans in a story on Arab-Muslim bigotry.
• Sen. Harry Reid, whose opinion on unilateralism versus multilateralism depends on which way the political winds are blowing.
• The Los Angeles Times and Paramount Pictures, whose idea of promoting "Mission: Impossible 3" was to have a series of wires and a ticking sound emanate from L.A. Times newsstands.
• The Cambridge, Mass., City Council, which in May declared Cambridge a "sanctuary" for the nation's 12 million-plus illegals.
• Ward Churchill, the University of Colorado professor who was found to be not only an anti-American extremist but also an academic poseur.
• The American Civil Liberties Union, which attempted to prohibit its own members from criticizing the free-speech organization.
• Helen Thomas, the so-called "Dean of the White House Press Corps" who didn't know the difference between contemptuous and contemptible.
• The Dixie Chicks, whose lead singer Natalie Maines told the London Telegraph in June that she "didn't understand the necessity of patriotism."
• Susan Roberts, a Davidson political science professor who in May wrote that the Supreme Court had the power to strike down constitutional amendments.
• Rep. John Murtha, for trying to backtrack from comments he made in June that the U.S. presence in Iraq was more dangerous to world peace than a nuclear North Korea.
• "Peace Mom" Cindy Sheehan, whose "Troops Home Fast" fast ended pretty, er, fast.
• The scoundrels who mugged a disabled Iraq war veteran outside a restaurant in Bethesda in August.
• The Stars, Stripes and Skates fund-raising organization, for writing a children's book which tried to make September 11 a "happy" event for kids.
• France, for having to be dragged kicking and screaming to provide troops for an international peacekeeping force in Lebanon that was its idea in the first place.
• The CBS producers of "Survivor," who had the idea of organizing contestants into racial groups for its upcoming season.
• Jimmy Carter, for this, that and about everything else he's done, written or said recently.
• John Edwards, whose crusade against Wal-Mart apparently doesn't keep him from shopping there.
• Senator-elect Jim Webb, for ditching veterans at a post-election event in Virginia Beach.

My Selections

As always, it was a difficult choice for both Noble and Knave. After some consideration, here are my selections:

For Noble of the Year
• Bill Cosby, who continues to challenge the country with his message of tough love, self-reliance and personal responsibility.
• Oriana Fallaci, the Italian writer whose unwavering and unapologetic defense of Western Civilization in the face of Islamist barbarism earned her a place as one of freedom's heroines. She died in September at 77.
• Ambassador John Bolton, who leaves the United Nations better than he found it, but not as good as he could have made it -- if given the chance.

For Knave of the Year

• The Dixie Chicks, whose lead singer Natalie Maines told the London Telegraph in June that she "didn't understand the necessity of patriotism."
• Rep. John Murtha, for trying to backtrack from comments he made in June that the U.S. presence in Iraq was more dangerous to world peace than a nuclear North Korea.
• A Republican-controlled Senate, which drafted a budget blueprint that added $11 billion to federal spending, all the while claiming to be the party of fiscal responsibility.

Posted by Tom at 3:07 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 21, 2006

New Plan for Iraq II

In a post earlier this week I predicted that there would be a shake-up in CENTCOM, that both Generals Abizaid and Casey would be replaced. It was reported yesterday in the LA Times that Abizaid would retire in March. However, the storys says that Abizaid made his decision a few months ago, so it was apparently not the result of any recent decisions to change strategy.

According to unnamed officers cited in the Times article,

Gates faces a clear choice between generals who have agreed with Abizaid's push to quickly hand over security responsibilities to Iraqi forces and a small but increasingly influential coterie of officers backing a more aggressive U.S.-led counterinsurgency campaign.

My guess is that he'll go for a general who favors the more aggressive strategy. This would mean that General George Casey will be replaced too, since he and Abizaid advocated the "small US footprint" strategy, and the rapid handover to Iraqi forces. The article says that Casey is due to leave his current assignment early next year, and the question then is whether he will go up or out.

I'll stick my neck out and say that Casey will not move up to become commander of CENTCOM. He'll either retire, or like General Ricardo Sanchez, he'll be "reassigned".

They're both good men and have tried their best. Even a casual reading of their biographies indicates that they're pretty smart, and there's no guarantee that if others had been in their place the situation would be better. By saying they need to be replaced i am not disparaging them. But Lincoln replaced his generals when they couldn't produce results, and Bush needs to do likewise.

More Troops?

New Sec Def Gates traveled to Iraq, and one of the things he discussed with commanders was whether more troops were needed. An AP story in the Washington Times has Abizaid noncommittal to the idea, and Casey more wary. Understandably, they want to know what their exact mission would be. Additional troops, they say "might only bring a temporary respite to the violence" while denuding other theaters of personnel who would be needed in a crisis.

Fox News "All Stars" Fred Barnes and Morton Krondake worried that if we do decide to send more troops, whether it will be enough to make any difference. Krondake refers to the Kagan-Keane plan that I reviewed in my "New Plan for Iraq" post on Tuesday, and says that it

... involves cleaning out the bad guys, holding the territory, having troops living in the neighborhoods to provide ongoing security, and then when the Iraqi security forces can take over, then you move on to Anbar. This is a two-year operation and the question is, is 30,000 enough to do it?

In other words, no more halfway measures.

The always insightful Mario Loyola also worries that more troops might not make any difference.

The generals know what they are talking about: There is no reason to believe that an increase in force levels will have any effect at all on the levels of violence in Baghdad. The violence is occurring in a security vacuum, but that doesn't mean that it's occurring because of a security vacuum. Remember Algeria in 1990s — a huge army was powerless against a modest insurgency. ...

The president has a problem: all the violence in Baghdad makes it look like we're losing the war, regardless the pace of reconstruction or political progress. Now the violence in Baghdad has become the political determinant of victory and defeat—and hence the primary focus of military strategy.

The generals have kept their eye on the ball: The deteriorating security situation in Baghdad is at root not a military problem but a political one. All the troops in the world will not reduce the violence if a political reconciliation continues to elude the major warring factions—and the increased presence of U.S. troops is more certain to increase the violence than reduce it. Occupation is a "toxin," as Abizaid points out, and "a wasting asset," as MacArthur once said.

On the other hand, Stanley Kurtz countered (on The Corner) that

Mario, the other day you said, “all the violence in Baghdad makes it look like we’re losing the war, regardless [of] the pace of reconstruction or political progress.” Yet it strikes me that there is no political progress, only regress. Baghdad is a Hobbesian anarchy of independent militias (see that Robert Zelnick article, “Iraq: Last Chance.”) In such an atmosphere, there can be no political stability and no hope for anything other than the dominance of militias. A troop surge may or may not work at this point, but I don’t see how we save Iraq without one. The current situation is not one of gradual military-political progress. It is one of hastening decline toward inevitable disaster if nothing substantially new is done to stop it.

Mario, you say that the “deteriorating security situation in Baghdad is at root not a military problem but a political one.” Well, that’s true in a sense. Yet politics, at its root depends on a monopoly of the legitimate means of force. In Iraq, there is no such monopoly on the national level. It exists–and then only tentatively–within tiny, local, militia controlled patches. So the root political problem is also, and simultaneously, a military problem. We either break the militias in the achingly slow, complicated, and methodical way recommended by Gerecht, or we concede that Iraq has fallen apart.

He also cites an editorial by Ruel Marc Gerecht in the New York Times, “In Iraq, Let’s Fight One War at a Time,” in which, after reviewing the situationwith the Shia militias, Gerecht's bottom line is that

The key for America is the same as it has been for years: to clear and hold the Sunni areas of Baghdad and the so-called Sunni triangle to the north. There will probably be no political solution among the Iraqi factions to save American troops from the bulk of this task. The sooner we start in Baghdad, the better the odds are that the radicalization of the Iraqi Shiites can be halted. As long as this community doesn’t explode into total militia war, Iraq is not lost, and neither is Mr. Bush’s presidency.

I tend to go with what Kurtz and Gerecht say. Loyola makes great points, and may well turn out to be right. To be honest the situation is so complicated, and I just don't have time to go through it all (it's amazing I get as much written here as I do), that I could be mistaken. But my impression is that waiting around for a political solution is not going to produce results.

So my assessment right now is to go with the Kagan-Keane plan, and replace the commanders.

Consequences of Failure

I know I keep harping on this, but it's so important that I think it a useful reminder whenever we're discussing Iraq strategy.

An article in yesterday's Washington Times tells of a CIA exercise in which some 75 analysists and outside experts conducted a simulation of what might happen if we were defeated in Iraq.

The CIA this month conducted a simulation of how the Iraq war affects the global jihadist movement, and one conclusion was that a U.S. loss would embolden al Qaeda to expand its ranks of terrorists as well as pick new strategic targets, according to sources familiar with the two-day exercise. ...

A source familiar with the simulation said it was a "red team" exercise in which participants played the role of global jihadists and war-gamed how the U.S. involvement in Iraq will influence their terror movement.

Although it takes no policy positions, the simulation's key finding appears to bolster Mr. Bush's contention that a U.S. loss in Iraq will have far-reaching ramifications.

Al Qaeda has made stopping democracy in Iraq a top priority, according to U.S. military officials. It has recruited hundreds of suicide bombers to come to Iraq and inflict mass casualties to spur a Sunni-Shi'ite Muslim civil war. The group wants to wear down U.S. troops to the point where they will retreat. Al Qaeda's ultimate goal is to turn Iraq and other Middle East countries into hard-line Islamic states, U.S. military officials say.

One key finding from the "red team" exercise is that al Qaeda will follow past practices. Jihadists perceived the victory over the Soviet Union in Afghanistan in 1988 as a seminal event that spawned the creation of al Qaeda under the direction of Osama bin Laden. Al Qaeda leaders thought that if jihadists could defeat a global power in one theater, it could bring down governments in other nations.


Bill Roggio is in Iraq, embedded with the Marines. While there, he's also been able to spend some time with the Iraqi Army. He reports on their shortcomings and successes. Check it out; what he says may not be quite what you expected.

Here's the New Plan for Iraq

Posted by Tom at 9:12 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 20, 2006

Walter Reed Freep #87: Santa Claus Comes to Town!

We didn't need the chemical hand warmers or multiple layers of cold weather gear that we needed last week, and fortunately my pen didn't freeze like Albion Wilde's did last week, but we did have a special guest: Santa Claus!

Honor Roll of Freepers:tgslTakoma, VAflagwaver, Jimmy Valentine's Brother, Kristinn, Cindy-True-Supporter, Doctor Raoul, Fraxinus, Mr. Trooprally, Mrs. Trooprally, TFroatz, Freeping_in_Silence, Citizen SMASH, VAFlagWaver, Just A Nobody,and finally, your writer for this AAR, Tom the Redhunter.

Unfortunately, our regular photographers were not able to show up, so I had to make do with my little HP 407 camera. It works well enough in the day, but night shots aren't so good. The flash isn't very powerful, so you get a dark background with the regular setting. It has a night setting, but this holds the shutter open for so long that any movement results in a blur.

Without further ado, here's Santa (aka tgslTakoma)

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Jimmy Valentine's Brother is behind Santa in the photo above.

TFroatz and Fraxinus hold down a corner

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Doctor Raoul, Citizen SMASH, and Mrs Trooprally outside one of the corners to the main entrance. . Doctor Raoul is an absolute encyclopaedia when it comes to leftist groups like Code Pink. A fascinating guy to talk to, he's got their number.

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Mr Trooprally seemed lonely on the other corner so I went over and joined him for awhile. When the pizza arrived, he and I alternated going over to our "picnic area" for refreshments. We didn't want to leave a corner empty!

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Freeping_in_Silence and VAFlagWaver share a hug for the camera. Fraxinus is in the background

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And if you care, here is the same old sad group of lefties down the street where noone can see them. After getting all four corners back in January of 2006, they've been relegated to this position. Good riddance!

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If you live anywhere near the Washington DC area please consider visiting us one evening! Especially if you have never participated in anything like this before, it will not be something you forget. If you're read many of these AARs, you'll know that the troopers and their families regularly come out and speak with us. Every one I've spoken with appreciates very much what we do.

* Visit BufordP's master list of all Walter Reed Freeps

* Tom the Redhunter blogs at The Redhunter

Posted by Tom at 8:00 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 19, 2006

Here's the New Plan for Iraq

There's a new plan for victory in Iraq.

Ok, it hasn't been officially adopted yet, but according to Fred Barnes a "senior advisor" said that the President's reaction after being briefed on it was "very positive."

The plan was authored by Retired General Jack Keane and Frederick W. Kagan, and is posted on the American Enterprise Institute's website. Here's a quick summary by Barnes

It envisions a temporary addition of 50,000 troops on the ground in Iraq. The initial mission would be to secure and hold the mixed Baghdad neighborhoods of Shia and Sunni residents where most of the violence occurs. Earlier efforts had cleared many of those sections of the city without holding them. After which, the mass killings resumed. Once neighborhoods are cleared, American and Iraqi troops in this plan would remain behind, living day-to-day among the population. Local government leaders would receive protection and rewards if they stepped in to provide basic services. Safe from retaliation by terrorists, residents would begin to cooperate with the Iraqi government. The securing of Baghdad would be followed by a full-scale drive to pacify the Sunni-majority Anbar province.

The Keane-Kagan plan is not revolutionary. Rather, it is an application of a counterinsurgency approach that has proved to be effective elsewhere, notably in Vietnam. There, Gen. Creighton Abrams cleared out the Viet Cong so successfully that the South Vietnamese government took control of the country. Only when Congress cut off funds to South Vietnam in 1974 were the North Vietnamese able to win.

Some people may be shocked to learn that yes, we did destroy the VC and most NVA troops in the south. Indeed, Linebacker II (December of 1972) put the fear of god into the communists to the point where they returned to the negotiating table as we wanted them to. As Barnes indicates, had not congress cut off funds the ARVN troops would have stood a fighting chance of holding off the NVA in 1974-75. But I digress.

On to the actual plan. I have not read the whole thing, as I just don't have time right now. Here's the important part of the executive summary on the AEI site

We must act now to restore security and stability to Baghdad. We and the enemy have identified it as the decisive point.

There is a way to do this.

o We must change our focus from training Iraqi soldiers to securing the Iraqi population and containing the rising violence. Securing the population has never been the primary mission of the U.S. military effort in Iraq, and now it must become the first priority.
o We must send more American combat forces into Iraq and especially into Baghdad to support this operation. A surge of seven Army brigades and Marine regiments to support clear-and-hold operations starting in the Spring of 2007 is necessary, possible, and will be sufficient.
o These forces, partnered with Iraqi units, will clear critical Sunni and mixed Sunni-Shi’a neighborhoods, primarily on the west side of the city.
o After the neighborhoods have been cleared, U.S. soldiers and marines, again partnered with Iraqis, will remain behind to maintain security.
o As security is established, reconstruction aid will help to reestablish normal life and, working through Iraqi officials, will strengthen Iraqi local government

This approach requires a national commitment to victory in Iraq:

o The ground forces must accept longer tours for several years. National Guard units will have to accept increased deployments during this period.
o Equipment shortages must be overcome by transferring equipment from non-deploying active duty, National Guard, and reserve units to those about to deploy. Military industry must be mobilized to provide replacement equipment sets urgently.
o The president must request a dramatic increase in reconstruction aid for Iraq. Responsibility and accountability for reconstruction must be assigned to established agencies. The president must insist upon the completion of reconstruction projects. The president should also request a dramatic increase in CERP funds.
o The president must request a substantial increase in ground forces end strength. This increase is vital to sustaining the morale of the combat forces by ensuring that relief is on the way. The president must issue a personal call for young Americans to volunteer to fight in the decisive conflict of this age.

Failure in Iraq today will require far greater sacrifices tomorrow in far more desperate circumstances.

It would seem to me that the key here is in the 3rd recommendation at top: "After the neighborhoods have been cleared, U.S. soldiers and marines, again partnered with Iraqis, will remain behind to maintain security." I base this on our attempt to secure Baghdad in October and why it didn't work; see my posts Baghdad Security Plan and Baghdad Security Plan II.

If adopted, will it work? Beats me. Opinions are a dime a dozen, and I'm sure there'll be a million of them soon, some undoubtably in the comments section of this post, too. Just on NRO's The Corner blog alone, opinions on increasing troop strength vary. Mario Loyola says that " if we send 60,000 more troops to Iraq, the effect on the violence could easily prove to be negligible-to-zero", and compares the situation to the insurgency that Algeria went through in the 1990s, which "arose volcanically in the very teeth of an enormous army that was fully in control of the security situation everywhere." On the other hand, Rich Lowry and others there have consistenly argued for more troops. Anecdotal evidence (sorry, no links) from a variety of other sources seems to indicate that we can clear, but we can't hold, because the troops are always needed elsewhere and the Iraqis can't or won't themselves.

General Keane discussed the plan on This Week with George Stephanopoulos (quotes from The Corner)

GENERAL KEANE: In terms of the strategy itself, it's a fundamental change in the mission. The mission, people are focusing on the surge of the troops, but the essence of it is we changed the mission to the security of the people in Baghdad. We've never taken that on as a military mission before. Our mission has been transition to the Iraqi security forces and we made some inadequate attempts to secure Baghdad twice in the past.

We cleared out the insurgents and the Shia death squads from the areas but never committed ourselves to phase two of the operation, which is significant, and that is to put a 24/7 force in the neighborhoods to protect the people and they do not go back to their bases at night. It is a security of the people that's the key to success.

Baghdad would probably take . . . well into the fall of the year. And then we would turn to al-Anbar with a different mission. . . . And that would take another six to seven months, and that would probably go into '08, as well.

The economic package to this is very important. It has two phases to it. The first one would be basic services while we're protecting the people. And then another economic package for enhanced quality of life services that would be tied to an incentive package in terms of their cooperation and their willingness to help us in turning over who the death squad members are and who the insurgents are.

And that takes time for the people to realize that this really is a secure situation. And bring the economic packages in and they begin to isolate the insurgents who are trying to sneak back in. Our problem in the past in Fallujah, in Samara, twice in Baghdad, has always been the same problem, we ran the insurgents out and we never put the protection force in to secure the people.

So Keane and Kagan are not just agitating for "more troops" without any real idea as to what they'd do. That's a good thing, too, because Ralph Peters has some very hard questions for anyone who would do so

What would the specific tasks be? "Restore security" is too vague - we need to identify no-nonsense objectives. And which new tactics would be authorized? Would the rules of engagement change?

How would we handle prisoners, given that a crackdown would generate tens of thousands (and the Iraqi system releases the worst offenders)? What if the Maliki government rejects our plan?

At that point, the think-tank boys give you a deer-in-the-headlights look and spurt empty generalities. Our military is supposed to figure out the pesky details.

But it's the details that make the difference between succeeding and failing.

Read the whole thing. Peters has often been very critical of the way we've been fighting in Iraq, but it's only because he wants us to win.

BTW, there is an existing plan, and it's on the White House website.

And I know I've said this many times, but it bears repeating what Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas Edward Lawrence, better known as "Lawrence of Arabia", said about defeating insurgencies, that it's like "eating soup with a knife". In other words, you can do it, but it's messy and takes a long time. (see my post on this here) This said, citizens of a democracy want to see progress. I think that the American people can be patient and can accept casualties, as long as they see the goal as worthwhile and that progress is being made. Fortunately we've got a president who doesn't give up easily.

Posted by Tom at 8:34 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

December 16, 2006

Iraq War Update

Time for a general update on where I think we are in this war. And although this post says it's about Iraq, it's really not just about that country. Iraq is only part of a larger war. And call this larger war what you will; Islamic fascism, extremism, or radicalism, or even just Islamism or Jihadism. Just don't use "War on Terror", because we're not fighting a tactic. Our enemy is the ideology that has infected Islam.

And just to make myself even more clear, no I do not believe that Islam is an evil religion, or even necessarily violent. I made that clear in this post. Islam in the way it is practiced does have a problem with intolerance, violence, and extremism, but that is another matter.

As such, it is a mistake to see Iraq or Afghanistan as "the war". They are theaters in the war. Important ones, to be sure, but only in the sense that France and the low countries were an important theater in World War II. Even then, our enemy was that varient of totalitarianism that went by Nazism or Fascism.


This is no doubt the most important theater of the war. Although some American liberals do not see it as part of the War on Islamic Fascism(the term I'll use), that's not what the radicals believe. They think that Iraq is the main front in the war. If some folks don't want to listen to President Bush, they ought to at least listen to the enemy.

Now, I know perfectly well that much of the problem in Iraq is intersectarian fighting.

But much of this was prompted by al Qaeda in Iraq, and their constant attempts over the past several years to prompt a civil war between the Sunnis and Shias.

The point is that the situation does not seem to be getting better. We are apparently in a sort of stalemate, which I would think in the long run favors those who want an Islamic dictatorship.

No doubt there is much we could and should have done differently. But even if we had not made the mistakes that, say, Thomas Ricks says we made, there is no guarantee that things would have turned out differently. As Charles Krauthammer said, "We have given the Iraqis a republic and they do not appear able to keep it". There is only so much that we can do. Either the Iraqis will pick up the ball and run with it or they won't. As StrategyPage reminds us, corruption and military incompetence is endemic in that part of the world, and awefully hard to overcome. To be fair, the Iraqis are just coming out of 30 years of vicious dictatorship. One wonders how we would have faired if, rather than George III, our colonies had been ruled by Louis XVI. Perhaps it's not a wonder the French Revolution turned out the way it did.

We also shouldn't blame the American people too much. There is a temptation on the right, I think, to become frustrated that American's won't tolerate a long war, even one that by historical standards isn't very costly (see chart). I think Mara Liasson has it right when she commented on Fox News that "I don't think the American people are rising up against casualties. I think that they're looking at Iraq and they don't see success. They see Iraqis killing each other, they don't see the government coming together, and that's the problem. I don't think it's the casualty level."

Here's the chart I referred to above, click on it to enlarge

It's also not that our troops aren't killing the enemy in droves. They are. But Iraqi PM Nouri al-Maliki has proven ineffectual, and can not or will not deal with either the insurgents or private armies such as the Badr Organization (armed wing of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI)) or the Mahdi Army (controlled by firebrand cleric Muqtada al-Sadr).


The consequences of failure could be horrific. Independent journalist Michael Yon is in Cambodia, and visited one of the museums dedicated to "The Killing Fields" of the 1970s. It's a post well worth reading, for the horrors inflicted by the Khymer Rouge rival anything the Nazis did. If we leave Iraq, it's quite possible the country could descend into Cambodia or Rwanda-levels of violence.

Retired General Barry McCaffrey spells out what withdrawal could look like:

We could immediately and totally withdraw. In less than six months, our 150,000 troops could fight their way along strategic withdrawal corridors back to the sea and the safety provided by the Navy. Several million terrified refugees would follow, the route of our columns marked by the burning pyres of abandoned military supplies demolished by our rear guard. The resulting civil warfare would probably turn Iraq into a humanitarian disaster and might well draw in the Iranians and Syrians. It would also deeply threaten the safety and stability of our allies in neighboring countries.

And this doesn't even speak to the general loss of US prestige and power that would no doubt result from a precipitous pull out. It would mean a return to Carterism, to the 1970s. Just as the Soviet Union was newly ascendant then, the Islamic Fascists would gain much strength if we lose in Iraq.

A Coming Change of Strategy?

Many of us wondered what President Bush would do about the report by the Iraq Study Group ("The Baker Commission"). Fortunately, he seems to have rejected most of it's conclusions, especially the ones that suggested that we essentially plead with Syria and Iran to help us stabilize Iraq. The question is, what comes next?

I think that the President is on the verge of a major announcement. I know you're also probably read that elsewhere, so I'm not claiming any special insight. Charles Krauthammer is one, for example. Fred Barnes also suggested as much on the Fox News Special Report with Brit Hume last Thursday night.

The President won't want to interrupt the holidays, so he will probably make it sometime in early January. He will, I predict, announce a fairly significant change in strategy. It will consist of two parts; a temporary "surge" of troops, and various leadership changes.

Many on the right, at least, have been advocating more troops as of late. The Washington Times and National Review(and here) have each advocated sending in more soldiers and marines. According to this story in the Los Angeles Times, it's what the Pentagon wants, and has recommended to the President be done.

To be sure, simply sending in more troops won't by itself do it. As Michael Ledeen points out, we ought to loosten up the rules of engagement as well. This is not without risk, because it will result in additional damage and casualties it will likely alienate some Iraqis (see this undated video of a firefight in Fallujah for a taste of realism).

I also think it likely that General Abizaid and General Casey will be replaced as well. They're both good men, but they've had their chance. Lincoln changed generals quite often when they weren't getting the job done. Unfortunately, President Bush has not. It is possible that he or Rumsfeld General Sanchez over Abu Ghraib, but there is no hard evidence to support this. Bush tends to appoint someone, and then stay with them until the bitter end. He stayed with Rumsfeld for years, and when he finally did fire him it was at the worst possible time, just after the GOP had lost the November elections so as to make a defeat look worse. Nevertheless, it's time for new blood at CENTCOM. We've got many talented generals, and it's time to give some of them the top slots.

Another benefit to doing these things is that it would show the Iraqi government, the militias, and the terrorists that yes we do mean business and no we're not going to quit the fight as you hope we will. Amir Taheri raised the point in an op-ed a few weeks ago that it's not just that we doubt the Iraqis; they doubt us, too; "uncertainty about the United States' policies is also the No. 1 issue of Iraqi politics", he reminds us. They can read history too, and know that from Vietnam to Beruit to Somalia, we've bugged out before victory was secured.

Additional Plans

I would be remiss to suggest that "more troops" or "new people" were all that was needed. The situation is more complicated than that.

First, we ought to beef up the size of our military as a whole. Now, as I pointed out even this is not so simple.

The LA Times story linked to above points out that

The problem with any sort of surge is that it would require an eventual drop-off in 2008, unless the president was willing to take the politically unpopular move of remobilizing the National Guard and sending reserve combat units back to Iraq.

But military officials are taking a close look at a proposal advanced by Frederick W. Kagan, a former West Point Military Academy historian, to combine a surge with a quick buildup of the Marines and the Army. That could allow new units to take the place of the brigades sent to Iraq to augment the current force.

I would think that all of this would require additional monies, which only Congress can provide. It is, of course, now controlled by the Democrats, many of whom want just the opposite of a troop buildup, especially in Iraq. At best, they will want presidential concessions in other policy areas. While some negotiating will be necessary, the president can stem the damage by playing the "Truman Card". President Truman, after suffering a loss of congress to the GOP in 1950, said something to the effect that "the heck with them, I'm just going to do what I well please for the next two years."

Clifford May, writing at National Review, provides six steps we might take:

We might start by stabilizing Baghdad — as we said we would. When the United States says it’s going to do something that should not mean trying for a while, then giving up. If stabilizing Baghdad requires more troops — or different commanders — send them. A victory in the Battle of Baghdad, the most diverse area of Iraq with more than a quarter of the country’s population, would have major and beneficial consequences.

Second, we are at war with al Qaeda and al Qaeda’s most lethal forces are in Iraq. So we must stay and fight them in Iraq. We don’t flee the battleground.

Third, when we chased Saddam Hussein from his palaces, we thought we had broken his regime. Big error. Baathist insurgents still need to be hunted down.

Fourth, we have to deal with the regimes in Iran and Syria. That means finally demonstrating that we can and will hurt them if they to continue to conspire to kill Americans and Iraqis who work with us. Once that is done, once they understand we have the power and the will to take them on, sitting down to talk may make sense.

Fifth, we intensify and accelerate the training of Iraqi forces so that sooner, rather than later, they can stand up to the bad guys on their own.

Sixth, we act as an honest broker between Iraq’s Sunni and Shia communities. Who else can play that role? It may be that these populations need fences to be good neighbors — a process of separation is already underway. We can make that process less painful and perilous. We ought to consider what Brookings scholar Michael O’Hanlon calls the Bosnian model: Each of Iraq’s ethno-religious groups would establish autonomy within a unitary Iraqi state. Oil wealth would be shared by all cooperating and stabilized areas of the country.

All of these things make sense, although with most it's not a question of what but how.

Charles Krauthammer boils it all down to two things we must do

First, as I’ve been agitating, establish a new governing coalition in Baghdad that excludes Moqtada al-Sadr, a cancer that undermines the Maliki government’s ability to work with us. It is encouraging that the president has already begun such a maneuver by meeting with rival Shiite and Sunni parliamentary leaders. If we help produce a cross-sectarian government that would be an ally rather than a paralyzed semi-adversary of coalition forces, we should then undertake part two: “double down” our military effort. This means a surge in American troops with a specific mission: to secure Baghdad and (together with the support of the Baghdad government — a sine qua non) suppress Sadr’s Mahdi Army.

A little better and more succinct than what May offered, I believe, although he is essentially on the right track.

Lastly, we'll go back to Barry McCaffrey, in the Washington Post editorial cited above, for his ideas on how to win:

First, we must commit publicly to provide $10 billion a year in economic support to the Iraqis over the next five years. In the military arena, it would be feasible to equip and increase the Iraqi armed forces on a crash basis over the next 24 months (but not the police or the Facilities Protection Service). The goal would be 250,000 troops, provided with the material and training necessary to maintain internal order.

Within the first 12 months we should draw down the U.S. military presence from 15 Brigade Combat Teams (BCTs), of 5,000 troops each, to 10. Within the next 12 months, Centcom forces should further draw down to seven BCTs and withdraw from urban areas to isolated U.S. operating bases -- where we could continue to provide oversight and intervention when required to rescue our embedded U.S. training teams, protect the population from violence or save the legal government.

Finally, we have to design and empower a regional diplomatic peace dialogue in which the Iraqis can take the lead, engaging their regional neighbors as well as their own alienated and fractured internal population.

Hmm. I agree with the investment, doubt that it's a good idea to advertise a drawdown schedule, and wonder what in the world he's talking about with regard to a "regional peace dialogue"? Sounds too much like Baker-Hamilton to me.

Conclusion: Krauthammer gets an A, Mays a B, and McCaffrey a D+. Surge troops, replace the generals, and increase the overall size of the military. Dare the Democrats to oppose you, Mr Bush. It's crunch time, we're playing catch-up football, and it's not just your place in history that matters, but whether we're going to win a victory in this war on Islamic Fascism or go back to the days of Carterism and malaise.

Posted by Tom at 8:30 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Webb Watch II: Knave of the Week

The Washington Times pegs Virginia Senator-elect James Webb as it's Knave of the Week.

Veterans down in Virginia Beach are quite miffed at Mr. Webb right now. The newly elected Democrat had promised to appear at a Veterans' Day event, only to back out the last minute. These things happen, especially for an incoming senator, but with Mr. Webb's petulant explanation, it's no wonder the veterans are angry.

In a letter to the Virginian-Pilot he wrote: "The logistics involved in getting from Northern Virginia to the event and then back again (four hours drive time each way — there was never an offer by the event's organizers to fly me there, or otherwise take care of transportation expenses), would have eaten up an entire weekend." Pity the poor senator-elect, who can't be expected to go anywhere these days without a private jet, and the great tasks he must attend to.

Such as? He continues: "This would have given me no time to prepare for orientation week." Orientation week; yes, one sympathizes. But then couldn't Mr. Webb have prepared in the eight hours of driving time? He concludes, "And quite frankly I am rather perplexed that there would not be a greater understanding of the circumstances that caused me to miss it."

Let's have Navy vet Larry McCauley answer that: "I did something I never did before — voted for a Democrat. He owes us."

For being "perplexed," Mr. Webb is the Knave of the week.

Ditto that.


Webb Watch I


Here's the story in the Virginia Pilot on the episode.

Posted by Tom at 1:16 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

December 12, 2006

When Will We Take Ahmadinejad Seriously?

Once again, Iranian President Ahmadinejad has threatened to destroy Israel

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Tuesday told delegates at an international conference questioning the Holocaust that Israel's days were numbered

Ahmadinejad, who has sparked international outcry by referring to the killing of six million Jews in World War Two as a "myth" and calling for Israel to be "wiped off the map," launched another verbal attack on the Jewish state.

"Thanks to people's wishes and God's will the trend for the existence of the Zionist regime is downwards and this is what God has promised and what all nations want," he said.

"Just as the Soviet Union was wiped out and today does not exist, so will the Zionist regime soon be wiped out," he added.

In case you've been living in a cave, he says this sort of thing just about every week. The Jerusalem Post has helpfully gathered a list of his statements on this and and other subjects. Here are a few

"If the West does not support Israel, this regime will be toppled. As it has lost its raison d' tre, Israel will be annihilated."

"Israel is a tyrannical regime that will one day will be destroyed."

Now, if this was coming from some pipsqueak who ran a no-name nation in some godforsaken corner of the planet, we could be excused for ignoring such insanity. But Iran is in the process of developing nuclear weapons, and it's anybody's guess as to when they'll have them.

Holocaust Denial Confence

The official name of this monstrosity, if you are interested, is the "Review of the Holocaust: Global Vision". It is being held right now in Tehran, under the official auspices of the Iranian government, and has been personally endorsed by Ahmadinejad. MSNBC provides some details

Ahmadinejad announced the conference would set up a “fact-finding commission” to determine whether the Holocaust happened or not. The commission will “help end a 60-year-old dispute,” he said.

The Tehran conference was touted by participants and organizers as an exercise in academic freedom and a chance to openly consider whether 6 million Jews really died in the Holocaust, away from Western taboos and the restrictions imposed on scholars in Europe, where some countries have made it a crime to deny the Nazi genocide during World War II.

It gathered 67 writers and researchers from 30 countries, most of whom argue that either the Holocaust did not happen or that it was vastly exaggerated. Many have been jailed or fined in France, Germany or Austria, where it is illegal to deny the Holocaust.

And their preliminary conclusion? That the Holocaust didn't happen

“Results of surveys so far show Holocaust is no more than a myth,” concluded Ali-Akbar Mohtashamipour, secretary general of the International Congress to Support Palestinian Intifada and former Iranian interior minister, in an interview with the Islamic Republic News Agency. He may be right about those results — staggering numbers of gun-toting, bomb-belt-wearing Hamas and Fatah members undoubtedly claim the Holocaust was a myth. “Saying that Holocaust is a myth does not mean that the Nazis committed no crimes in the course of World War II,” continued Mohtashamipour, as if to establish his credibility — it’s not that they like Nazis; they just hate Jews.

Guess who is there from the United States? David Duke.

Why the Conference?

It is no secret that throughout much of the Muslim world there is a schizophrenia about the holocaust; they deny that it occured, but then weirdly celebrate that it did. On the surface it may seem that Ahmadinejad is just engagin in more Jew-hatred. But I think he has something more in mind.

Michael Rubin
over at The Corner found a story in the Tehran Times which reveals all:

“If the holocaust is questioned officially, then the existence of the Zionist regime will also be questioned,” Iranian Foreign Minister Manuchehr Mottaki said here on Monday at a conference on the holocaust.

Get it? They're setting Israel up. They're getting all the pieces in place. First you delegitimize Israel, then you destroy it.

Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch

So what are we doing about all this? In a piece today on NRO, Rick Santorum isn't optimistic that official Washington will do anything to stop Iran

The president is not unaware of the situation in Iran, but his view of the country is informed by the advisers who surround him, a collection of people from the various sectors of the foreign-policy establishment. His intelligence team, led by the director of National Intelligence, will advise him that the opposition in Iran is weak and divided and that there is no legitimate exile community; thus we have no real alternative to either bombing the country or establishing by diplomacy a modus vivendi. The Pentagon will advise the president that our already stretched forces are unable to engage in another conflict. The State Department and our new secretary of Defense do not think that there is a casus belli and that our best hope for mitigating the many crises of that region is to negotiate with Iran. ...

The Democrats of course would never confront Iran because they attribute their wins in November to America’s growing dissatisfaction with Iraq. If continued instability in Iraq works to their political benefit, why would they change the subject to Iran, particularly when they have no solution to propose and have always been skeptical that military force will do anything to stop Islamic terrorism

Half of me thinks he's right. The other half thinks that in a year or so, if the President thinks that a Democrat will be elected in '08, he'll say the hell with it and order our military to hit Iran with everything we've got.

If we stay on our current course of of endless negotiations, not backed by any credible threats of sanctions or reprisals, Iran is going to get the bomb. Period. A few months ago I laid out three scenarios for what I think will happen when they get the bomb. None are pretty.

In another post shortly after that one, I proposed several courses of action designed to stop Iran from going nuclear. Most do not involve full-scale war, but some come very close.

Those who object to strong measures will point out the various risks associated with them. And let there be no doubt, the Iranians can hit us in several ways.

Imagine if the Western powers had invaded Germany in the mid 1930s. The resulting war would have cost many lives. We know today that it would have been less costly than World War II turned out to be, but of course we wouldn't have known that then.

I don't think the time is quite right for a military strike on Iran. But we have to act fast, and negotiations alone will prove fruitless. It's time for more serious measures, like the ones I outlined in the post linked to above. When Ahmadinejad says he's going to wipe out Israel, we need to take him seriously.

Posted by Tom at 7:44 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

December 11, 2006

Waking Up in the UK?

It's just possible that the British are finally getting it. After years of having their capital city lampooned as "Londonistan" for their sheltering of suspected and even known terrorists, some are recognizing the danger in their midst.

Last week Prime Minister Tony Blair gave a speech in which he - finally - seems to recognize that the excesses of multiculturalism have simply got to be reigned in. Here's the money quote

So it is not that we need to dispense with multicultural Britain. On the contrary we should continue celebrating it. But we need - in the face of the challenge to our values - to re-assert also the duty to integrate, to stress what we hold in common and to say: these are the shared boundaries within which we all are obliged to live, precisely in order to preserve our right to our own different faiths, races and creeds.

We must respect both our right to differ and the duty to express any difference in a way fully consistent with the values that bind us together.

So: how do we do this?

Partly we achieve it by talking openly about the problem. The very act of exploring its nature, debating and discussing it doesn't just get people thinking about the type of Britain we want for today's world; but it also eases the anxiety. It dispels any notion that it is forbidden territory. Failure to talk about it is not politically correct; it's just stupid.

Partly the answer lies in precisely defining our common values and making it clear that we expect all our citizens to conform to them. Obedience to the rule of law, to democratic decision-making about who governs us, to freedom from violence and discrimination are not optional for British citizens. They are what being British is about. Being British carries rights. It also carries duties. And those duties take clear precedence over any cultural or religious practice.

Ok, sure, this it tepid stuff. But in fairness, politicians must always tempter their words. If you read between the lines I think you'll agree that this is dynamite.

Of course, it's one thing to give a speech, quite another to put words into actions. We shall see. But it's a start.

There were two events, I believe, that hit Britons hard enough to wake them from their slumber. The first was the subway bombings of almost a year and a half ago. Blair addresses this in his speech

When I decided to make this speech about multiculturalism and integration, some people entirely reasonably said that integration or lack of it was not the problem. The 7/7 bombers were integrated at one level in terms of lifestyle and work. Others in many communities live lives very much separate and set in their own community and own culture, but are no threat to anyone.

But this is, in truth, not what I mean when I talk of integration. Integration, in this context, is not about culture or lifestyle. It is about values. It is about integrating at the point of shared, common unifying British values. It isn't about what defines us as people, but as citizens, the rights and duties that go with being a member of our society.


And what are these "unifying British values"? Blair defines them as "belief in democracy, the rule of law, tolerance, equal treatment for all, respect for this country and its shared heritage."

Again, so far so good. As for multiculturalism, he says that

The whole point is that multicultural Britain was never supposed to be a celebration of division; but of diversity. The purpose was to allow people to live harmoniously together, despite their difference; not to make their difference an encouragement to discord

I don't want to get into a big discussion on the whole business of diversity and multiculturalism, and there is some sillyness on these subjects in his speech, but I'll forgive him if he puts words into action.

Andrew Struttaford, writing at National Review, identifies the other incident that prompted this self-examination; the Muslim veil

It was, I feel certain, the first time that an article in the Lancashire Evening Telegraph ever triggered a national debate. In the article, written in October, its author, Jack Straw, the leader of the House of Commons and a former foreign secretary, disclosed that he asked any visitor who came to his office wearing a full Muslim veil to uncover her face when she spoke to him. Naturally, he only made this request if a female member of his staff was present. He’s a gentleman, you know. ...

If this wretched garment, in at least its more stringent forms, has more to do with misogyny than piety, so the hostility it provokes owes less to outraged feminism than to the mounting unease felt by many Europeans at the presence of the increasingly assertive and increasingly extremist Islam rising within their midst. It doesn’t hurt, of course, that there is something about the very appearance of the veil (and I am here referring to the burka and the only marginally less appalling nikab, a get-up that generously allows a clear view of the wearer’s eyes) that is alien, dehumanizing, and, in the context of Europe’s current troubles, thoroughly ominous. Little more than walking shrouds, these women seem like the harbingers both of future theocracy and the slaughter that comes in its wake.

I was cheered when this debate broke out. The full veil is certainly a tool of oppression, and it is among the wonders of the world why the self-styled "womens rights" types don't go ballistic over it.

To be sure, even if Blair is serious, and follows his fine words with action, it's still an uphill battle. The BBC most certainly does not get it. This BBC story is so unbelieveable it led David Frum to joke that Mark Steyn must have hacked their computers and posted a parody.


Posted by Tom at 8:51 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

December 9, 2006

Jeane Kirkpatrick - An Appreciation

I first started paying serious attention to politics at about the time Jimmy Carter became president. Our country seemed to drift from one crisis to another, and we suffered numerous humiliations and setbacks abroad. In the wake of Vietnam the Soviet Union seemed on a roll, with many nations falling to the communists during the 1970s. Demagogues across the globe realized that it was safe to insult the United States, and many lept at the chance.

Symptomatic of Carter's term was his ambassador to the United Nations, Andrew Young. For example, during the trail of Soviet dissident Anatoly (now Natan) Shcharansky, Young claimed that there were "hundreds, maybe thousands, of people I would categorize as political prisoners" in the United States. While he later said that he was not equating the Soviet Union with the United States, he never explained what he meant either. Carter stuck by him, but Young was finally forced to resign after he met with a representative of the PLO, which was contrary to administration policy.

Then came the election of Ronald Reagan and everything changed. No longer would we apologize for our role in the world. Integral to his view of the world was his appointment of Jeane Kirkpatrick as ambassador to the UN.

She quickly put other nations on notice that insults to the US, to which they had gotten used to making, would no longer be tolerated. Far from apologizing for the United States, she demanded that other nations, in particular communist ones, apologize for theirs. There was a new sheriff in town, and and this one didn't let anyone intimidate her.

Conservatives were impressed. in 1984 William F Buckley Jr wrote two columns about her called "St. Jeane of the U.N." (in Parts I and II) , which National Review has conveniently reprinted on their website. Buckley wrote that the media had managed to attach a stigma to the use of the term "cold war", a term that Kirkpatrick felt was the correct way to describe relations between the United States and the Soviet Union. When confronted, Buckley wrote,

Mrs. Kirkpatrick answers that “We have been manipulated into feeling that it is warlike behavior on our part to register the fact that [the Soviets] are waging a full-scale ideological combat against us. Also, in the U.S., where intellectual categories are the objects of fashion, it became terribly unfashionable to call the cold war ‘cold war.’”

She was never one for the idiologically fashionable.

"They Always Blame America First"

Kirkpatrick may be best known, however, for her speech at the 1984 Republican National Convention, in which she attacked liberals for blaming the United States whenever something went wrong in the world. The relevant part of her address is worth quoting at length:

They said that saving Grenada from terror and totalitarianism was the wrong thing to do - they didn't blame Cuba or the communists for threatening American students and murdering Grenadians - they blamed the United States instead.

But then, somehow, they always blame America first.

When our Marines, sent to Lebanon on a multinational peacekeeping mission with the consent of the United States Congress, were murdered in their sleep, the "blame America first crowd" didn't blame the terrorists who murdered the Marines, they blamed the United States.

But then, they always blame America first.

When the Soviet Union walked out of arms control negotiations, and refused even to discuss the issues, the San Francisco Democrats didn't blame Soviet intransigence. They blamed the United States.

But then, they always blame America first.

When Marxist dictators shoot their way to power in Central America, the San Francisco Democrats don't blame the guerrillas and their Soviet allies, they blame United States policies of 100 years ago.

But then, they always blame America first.

The American people know better.

They know that Ronald Reagan and the United States didn't cause Marxist dictatorship in Nicaragua, or the repression in Poland, or the brutal new offensives in Afghanistan, or the destruction of the Korean airliner, or the new attacks on religious and ethnic groups in the Soviet Union, or the jamming of western broadcasts, or the denial of Jewish emigration, or the brutal imprisonment of Anatoly Shcharansky and Ida Nudel, or the obscene treatment of Andrei Sakharov and Yelena Bonner, or the re-Stalinization of the Soviet Union.

The American people know that it's dangerous to blame ourselves for terrible problems that we did not cause.

They understand just as the distinguished French writer, Jean Francois Revel, understands the dangers of endless self- criticism and self-denigration.

He wrote: "Clearly, a civilization that feels guilty for everything it is and does will lack the energy and conviction to defend itself."

All you have to do is change the relevant proper nouns and the same speech could be delivered today.

Once a Democrat

Jeanne Kirkpatrick was perhaps the original neoconservative. While today it has become a term of opprobrium among liberals, back then it simply meant someone who had once been a Democrat but had become disillusioned with their party over it's adoption of a leftist foreign policy. Kirkpatrick had campaigned for Hubert Humphry, but had become very critical of President Carter and his policies. She became an advisor to Ronald Reagan, which led to her appointment as Ambassador to the UN.

Her most famous essay during her time of transformation was "Dictatorships and Double Standards" in 1979, published as a book with some of her other works in 1982. It was among the first serious political works I read and I found myself agreeing with it's precepts. In the piece she criticized Carter's foreign policy, and discussed the fate of the Shah of Iran and Somoza of Nicaragua. Her essential thesis was that by abandoning repressive rightist regimes, we allowed far worse ones to come to power. From the frying pan into the fire, as it were. She also pointed out that thus far no "socialist" or communist regime had willingly democratized, and that "the architects of contemporary American foreign policy have little idea of how to go about encouraging the liberalization of an autocracy."

Whatever one thinks of the details of her piece, it is hard to argue that Iran, for example is better off with its Khomeinist regime than it was under the Shah. It is very easy to moralize and say that you won't support a repressive government, but sometimes all the world offers is a choice between bad and worse.

She supported the Argentine junta led by General Galtieri in it's "dirty war" against leftist opposition. This provoked some criticism, some of it justified. I don't know enough about the situation in Argentinia to know whether a leftist government would have gone full-scale communist, and we can't go back and replay history using different variables.


In the end, though, what matters is that she was the right person at the right time. She, Reagan, and the others came to power at just the moment when it looked like the Soviet Union might win the Cold War after all. They stemmed, then reversed the tide, starting a series of events that eventually led to the collapse of the Evil Empire.

Along with Reagan, she was famously hated by the left. Their enthusiasm for international institutions such as the UN who's function seems to be more and more supporting dictators and terrorists, is distressing, to say the least. Her modern-day successor, John Bolton, is hated in a similar fashion. Appropriately, he is moving into her old office at the American Enterprise Institute.

Jeane Kirkpatrick, 1926 - 2006. RIP


In a post over at The Corner today, Stanley Kurtz reminds us of how the business of leftists on college campuses shouting down conservative speakers started in the 1980s

The silencing of conservative speakers by shouting campus mobs is a sadly too common occurrence nowadays. (Has anyone seen Lee Bollinger?) Yet the mother of all campus shout-downs was the drowning out of a talk by Jeane Kirkpatrick at the University of California at Berkeley in February of 1983. At the time, the practice of shouting down speakers was uncommon. So it shocked me when, as Berkeley grad student, I heard faculty members openly justifying that action with the claim that “oppressors have no free speech rights.” The Kirkpatrick incident was a key moment in my long, slow transformation from McGovern liberal to conservative.

Posted by Tom at 1:44 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

December 5, 2006

Freep #85 at Walter Reed - From Summer to Winter All in One Evening

It was another amazing evening outside of Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington DC. The faithful Freepers started gathering to show their support for our troops in the early evening, and before long we had all four corners covered.

And once again, the good citizens of Washington DC showed their support by honking and waving from their cars as they drove by on Georgia Avenue. At first I thought that it was my imagination, as we seemed to be getting more support from the passers-by than usual, but as I spoke with other Freepers they got the same impression too. Occasionally we'll get a thumbs-down, or a "bring them home!" shouted at us, but by far most are messages of support. Given what we read in the news, it is encouraging to know that whatever their view of the politics of the matter, the vast majority of Americans support the troops.

Without further ado, here is the list of Freepers who were in attendance: Albion Wilde, Bill from MD, BufordP, Cindy-True-Supporter, Danang68, Fraxinus, George and Ethel, ilovew, Jimmy Valentine's Brother, Just A Nobody, Keith, Kristinn, Mike, PleaDeal, R.T. Delta, Sarah, Sasha, Taco Mamma, TFroatz, tgslTakoma, Tom the Redhunter, Trooprally, VAFlagWaver

Readers of these AARs (After Action Reports) know that one of our objectives, and the original one, is to keep the communist-sympathizing Code Pink nutjobs away from the entrance of the hospital. Another, of course, is general support of our troops and their mission. But a third, one that I've thought about recently, is to make sure that the horror of having our troops spit on and called '"baby killers" that we went through after Vietnam is never repeated.

In this I believe we have been successful.

Through shame and exposure we have forced Code Pink to put away their "Maimed for a Lie" and "Enlist here to die for Halliburton" posters and replace them with messages such as "Love the Troops - Hate the War".

Now, you and I, dear reader, know full well that the Pinkos couldn't care less about the welfare of our troops. Most are too infected with Bush Derangement Syndrome to think that deeply. But it is a victory, is it not, when we can force them to rid themselves of the obnoxious messages of hate that they displayed in 2005 when they first started their anti-war protests outside of Walter Reed?

Take a look at their latest:

"Vigil" my foot, it's an anti-war protest.

I recall several Freeps last year when the Pinkos would bring out some of their older signs of the "No Blood for Oil" variety. We would hoot and holler at them from across the street, and sure enough, it would be gone the next week, if not that very same night.

Last night the same pathetic 8 or 10 Pinkos showed up, halfway down the street where no one sees them, and no one cares. To be sure, part of our mission is to make sure that never again are they at the entrance of the hospital.

Here are some of them, if you care. You'll notice that someone of them drags a poor wheelchair-bound lady out each night where they prop-up a sign in front of her.

But enough of them. As I said in my last AAR, the Pinkos are, in a way, irrelevant. We're there for the troops.

What Weather

While some of you, especially in the midwest, have been hit with blizzards, we had a warm spell last week, with temperatures reaching into the 70s on Friday. So when we showed up at Walter Reed that evening, most of us were in short sleeves. It was, however, very windy, so we were not able to deploy the MOAB as usual. Here is our "Mini-MOAB" that we deploy in bad weather

As the evening wore on, however, a new front moved in and the temperature dropped precipitously. By 9:00 it was in the low 40s, and when I checked the next morning my overnight thermometer showed freezing temperatures. While we started out dressed for summer, by the time the bus came all of us had our coats, hats, and gloves on.

The upside is that with the wind our flags looked beautiful. I'm at lower left in this photo, and behind me is Jimmy Valentine's Brother. I believe TroopRally is at right facing the other direction.

And, as you'll notice, I was in short sleeves, so the photo must have been taken early in the evening. Here's another of some Freepers later on, when we were bundled up. In the foreground are tgslTakoma and Danang68

Here's another of Taco Mamma who is having a hard time holding on to her flag. Beside her are Fraxinus and Ethel (in blue).


In addition to the usual honks and waves from the passers-by that evening, we received visits from other supporters.

The first was "Specialist Dale", a hospital worker. She came out right as we were gathering to say how much she and the troops inside appreciated what we were doing. She pointed up to the hospital and said that soldiers had even requested window rooms so that they could see us.

Not long later a lady who said that she worked for the DOD stopped by to tell us how much she appreciated what we were doing. She said that she was on her way in to pick up a wounded soldier (or Marine, I forget which) to take him to a special dinner at the White House. She said she would make sure and drive him buy us on her way out.

Now if you're a regular reader of these AARs then you know that this sort of thing happens every single time. Over the past year and a half we've heard messages of support from hundreds of troopers and their families.

And once again, anyone who thinks that all these rallies are meaningless exercises in feelgoodism is severely mistaken. Over the past year and a half I've heard from probably over a hundred troopers, their relatives, and WR employees, and I'll tell you that everyone in there knows that we're out there and the vast majority appreciate it.

I'll relate one story to you from a few weeks ago that will illustrate the point. I was standing outside of the main entrance, holding a "Support the Troops" sign as usual. Out come two of our warriors, and although both had long pants on I could tell that each was missing part of a leg and had on a prosthetic.

"Thank you for your support!" each said. "We're going downtown, can you point the way to the subway stop?" As the station is a few blocks off and it's a winding path through the streets to get there, there was no way I was going to let them walk. "Hop in my car and I'll take you" I said, and off we went. On the way they told me that one was Army and the other a Marine. One had been wounded in Fallujah and I forget where the other got hit.

Once again they started in on how much they appreciated what we were doing (and prefaced everything with "sir"). "Guys, thanks" I replied. "But all we're doing is standing on street corners holding signs. It's you who are doing the real work. We do this because we appreciate you." This went on for another minute, and ended as all these conversations do - I got them to agree that we each supported the other.

What an amazing bunch they are. Here were two guys, each with an injury they will carry with them for the rest of their lives, and here they are saying that they appreciate us. They're selfless and patriotic, and we are a fortunate nation indeed to have such men and women.

As usual, some of the troopers from the hospital came out to visit with us. We don't like to post close-up photos of them, so this is the back of the jacket of one of the soldiers:

Pretty cool, we thought.

A few more photos of Freepers having fun while saluting our troops. Here are Fraxinus, George, Kristinn and Ethel

"Lurker Bill" has become something of a one-man institution during these Freeps. Every Friday he arrives like clockwork and takes up his station on what we now call "Bill's Corner". His dedication is truely admireable. tgslTakoma, andBufordP are beside him at left. As you'll also notice, this photo was taken relatively early on, because by 8:30 or so tgslTakoma had on her red down coat and winter hat.

If You Can Make It...

If you live anywhere within driving distance of Washington DC, we'd love to see you for the evening. Many times over the past year Freepers and supporters have taken Friday off work to drive considerable distances to join us for the evening. There are many places to stay in the area, and of course if you want to make a weekend of it there's no better tourist spot than our nation's capital. Just a thought, but again we'd love to see you, and if you have questions send one or more of us a FreepMail.

* A special thank you to PleaDeal for taking all of the photos used in this post. She blogs at Semper Gratus.

This AAR has been cross-posted at Free Republic.

* Reports and photos of all Freeps are kept by BufordP (thank you, buddy!) at his master list of all AARs

Posted by Tom at 2:00 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

December 2, 2006

The Coming Loss of US Power Worldwide?

You don't have to go far to find advice on how to win in Iraq. Some say send more troops, others say that no, troop levels are not the problem and thus not the solution. I do not know which is right, but I do know this, that if we lose it will be a disaster that will rival or exceed that of the Vietnam debacle.

I extensively quoted from an article by David Rivkin the other day in which he laid out the situation with great clarity. Read the whole thing, but his conclusion is that

A U.S. loss in Iraq would be taken as a sign that the time had come to launch ever bolder attacks on American soil and against American interests overseas, and to push for the creation of a global caliphate. Thus, an America that fails to stop suicide bombings on the streets of Baghdad, Fallujah, and Ramadi is likely to face them on the streets of New York, Washington, and Los Angeles.

The bottom line is that, with our ability to project power against the Islamist forces dramatically diminished, we would have to fight a largely reactive war, focusing mainly on homeland defense against an emboldened enemy. History’s lessons concerning such warfare are not encouraging. To take but one example, the Roman Empire in the 4th century ceased strategic offensive operations and, ultimately, was overwhelmed by the barbarians.

I think he is exactly right. In a comment on The Corner, Victor Davis Hanson adds that it would not just be the perception of a loss of power, but an actual loss of power

If we lost in Iraq and fled, it would not be the perception at all, but the reality of power that would be gone, in the sense the United States would never in our lifetime intervene successfully again on the ground abroad-convinced it would inevitably lose.

I think we are also close to seeing the permanent end of any Anglo-American military collaboration. And there would be legitimate questions raised also whether the U.S. military could win any future war—given the knowledge that, barring some instantaneous victory, the American public would not allow it the time or the latitude to destroy its enemies.

Unfortunately it looks like we're headed down that direction.

It is possible that we could tangle with China over Taiwan. If we do, it will be quick and decisive. One way or another, within a week or two we'll know who's won. Likewise, if North Korea goes nuts and attacks the South, it won't last more than a month or so.

But both of those are hypotheticals. We're in a real war now, one against Islamic fascism or Jihadism. Like the Cold War it's going to take decades to win, but unlike it this one's going to be hotter more often.

Giving Up?

We're all aware that the Iraq Study Group, sometimes called the Baker Commission, is about to issue it's report. We've all also heard the various reports of what it will contain. I tend to fear the worst in these situations, and have a bad feeling that the Bush Administration is looking for political cover so that it can begin to withdraw troops - yes you read that right.

Mona Charen believes that we're about to give up.

America is the world’s hyperpower. No other nation or group of nations can challenge us militarily or economically. Unlike sickly Europe, we are growing, not contracting. But we are about to be defeated in Iraq by a few thousand cutthroats.

How did this happen? It’s simple: The only thing powerful enough to defeat us is ourselves, and we’ve done it.

The writing is not just on the wall, it’s on the floors, ceilings, tables, and chairs — we are about to give up.

Charles Krauthammer
says that it's more the Iraqis fault than ours:

We have given the Iraqis a republic and they do not appear able to keep it. ...

The problem is not, as we endlessly argue about, the number of American troops. Or of Iraqi troops. The problem is the allegiance of the Iraqi troops. Some serve the abstraction called Iraq. But many swear fealty to political parties, religious sects, or militia leaders.

He does see a "glimmer of hope" in the breakdown of the Shiite coalition, and says that we ought to try and form a new one that truely cuts across sectarian lines.

Lastly, we have Bill Kristol, who on Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace, declared that Four months from now, if things continue to slide downhill, if the president hasn't adjusted course, if hawks like Senator McCain haven't been satisfied that there's been an increase in troops or that we have a real strategy for victory, I think . . . we could be looking at a Democratic House and some Republicans who are willing to just pull the plug on Iraq.

He might be right.

Consequences Again

As I mentioned in the beginning, and in the other post of mine that I linked to, a loss in Iraq will embolden the Jihadists to a huge degree. Right now they're as tied up in Iraq as we are, but once we're gone, they'll be free to attack us elsewhere. And believe you me, they will.

As Rivkin said, we'd then be fighting a reactive war. The problem with defending against terrorism is that you have to be perfect, you have to stop them everywhere all of the time. The terrorists, however, can afford to lost most of the time as long as a few of their attacks are successful, because this is what our media will concentrate on.

Right now the ratio of US to insurgent casualties are incredible. Jim Geraghty has done the research

In Iraq, I’ve seen several sources cite “about 55,000” insurgents killed; they’re listed as “Iraqi insurgents,” but I have not seen any specification of what percentage are Iraqi and what percentage are foreign fighters.

As of this writing, the number of U.S. troops who have died in Iraq stands at 2,867. I’ve also seen the figure 2,493 for deaths from hostile action.

This suggests that about 22 bad guys are killed for every U.S. combat death; 19 to 1 if you use the total U.S. death figure.

I can find no clear and specific number as to how many Taliban and al-Qaeda have been killed in Afghanistan since the start of hostilities there in 2001. I would prefer a better source than Wikipedia, but they list 5,500 killed and 1,000 captured. According to Wikipedia, 187 Americans have died in hostile action, 102 died in non-hostile action.

Again, about 29 to 1 in terms of combat deaths, or 19 to 1 in terms of all U.S. deaths.

StrategyPage points out that contrary to the popular perception, Iraq is not the most dangerous place on the planet

There are other parts of the world that are more violent than Iraq. Africa, for example, especially Congo, Sudan and South Africa. Only South Africa has a sufficiently effective government to actually keep track of the death rate, mostly from crime, but it's over 50 per 100,000. It's worse in places like Congo and Sudan, but the numbers there are only estimates by peacekeepers and relief workers. In southern Thailand, a terror campaign by Islamic radicals has caused a death rate of over 80 per 100,

None of this is to say that the levels of violence in Iraq aren't unacceptably high. They are. My point is that that it's no reason to pull out. As I said in my last post, for the most part the same people who are telling us that we have to get out of Iraq because it's supposedly in a state of civil war were telling us that we had to get into Kosovo/Bosnia because it was, and now lament that we didn't go into Rwanda to stop that civil war.

But I've drifted off-topic. If we pull out of Iraq without winning, no country will trust us again. They'll make the smart play and make a deal with the Jihadists.

Don't think that we can put up the barricades and hide in our own countries. Mark Steyn is surely right when he says that Europe is already lost, to find out why read my post on his latest book.

So the left may get it's Vietnam, but unlike then the enemy will not be content to say at home and consolidate their power. The Vietnamese communists were nominally part of the worldwide communist movement, but unlike the Soviets they weren't expansionist. The Jihadists are, to say the least.

This goes so far beyond Iraq, and it's distressing that the anti-war liberals don't seem to know this, or even care to ask. At the least Iran will be even more emboldened than it is. Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Turkey will go nuclear as they won't trust the US. China may make it's move against Taiwan. Kim Jong Il may go even nuttier than he is and attack the South.

I wrote a few months ago in two posts that the stars seem to be aligning against us, and it's 1938 or even 1939 all over again. I see no reason to change the conclusions I reached in either of them.

Posted by Tom at 8:30 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Civil War? Not

There's been a lot of talk about whether Iraq is in a state of civil war or not. NBC News said that after "careful consideration" it has decided that it would now use the term "civil war" to label what was going on over there. In fact, as you shall see if you keep reading, the liberals in the media plan on using the term "civil war" as a reason for us to pull out of Iraq regardless-of-consequences.

StrategyPage has another view, one that I think is really more accurate. In a piece called "The Final Solution", and published almost a week before NBC's announcement, they say that

There's been a lot of talk about whether Iraq is in a state of civil war or not. NBC News said that after "careful consideration" it has decided that it would now use the term "civil war" to label what was going on over there. In fact, as you shall see if you keep reading, the liberals in the media plan on using the term "civil war" as a reason for us to pull out of Iraq regardless-of-consequences.

StrategyPage has another view, one that I think is really more accurate. In a piece called "The Final Solution", and published almost a week before NBC's announcement, they say that

Most of the Iraqi troops are Shia Arab, and they talk openly fighting for a "Sunni Arab Free" Iraq. Shades of the "Final Solution." While the faint hearted Sunni Arabs continue to flee across the border, or to the few Sunni Arab areas in Iraq that do not host Sunni Arab terrorist groups, many Iraqi Sunni Arabs have vowed to fight to the end. This is a major issue in the Arab world, where the struggle between the Sunni and Shia branches has long been fought without much violence. But in Iraq, this thousand year old feud is very real, very deadly, and being closely watched by Iraq's neighbors.

Ethnic cleansing has been a StrategyPage theme for several months now, and indeed it seems that is what is happening. James Robbins points out that most people think of a civil war as a situaion in which there are rival governments,, and concludes that

...this is not merely a civil war; it is an international conflict with significant regional impact. Reducing the conflict in Iraq to a civil war does not clarify our options. Maybe the people who are so committed to the expression can explain what difference it makes in policy terms, that is if this is anything more than a semantic game. If it is a civil war, what then? How does that affect our over all strategy? What changes need to be made? How can we win it? Unless this word play leads to concrete policy recommendations, it is a great waste of time.

The anti-war people are telling us that we have to get out of Iraq because it's in a civil war and we cannot stop civil wars. Or that it's not worth the price. Something along these lines.

But aren't these mostly the same folks who told us that we had to get into Kosovo/Bosnia because they were in a civil war and we had to stop it? And aren't they mostly the same people who go around saying "never again" with regard to Rwanda, where the fighting between the Tutsi's and Hutu's was a civil war if there ever was one?

Now, I think that President Clinton was right to stop the bloodshed in Kosovo and Bosnia. It became apparent that the Europeans couldn't put out a fire in their own backyard, and that the UN was as usual useless, so he did what he had to do. Good for him. I don't blame Clinton for not acting on Rwanda, as it was a situation that the UN was supposed to have been controlling, and it's easy to moralize after the fact.

No, what bugs me is these people who are using the term "civil war" as a political weapon.

So if the whole "civil war" business isn't about the reality on the ground, what is it about? In his Media Blog, Stephen Spruiell has it about right, I think:

Let's cut right to what this "civil war" fanfare in the media is really all about: It has nothing to do with the ongoing violence in Iraq, and everything to do with the fact that these media organizations, which are struggling to maintain their relevance in a rapidly changing industry, feel the need to assert themselves and remind the public of their importance, and what better way than by calling the war for the insurgents and starting a push to solidify public opinion in favor of immediate withdrawal?

Spruiell links to another post at NewsBusters where they post the "screen cap" from the NBC story, which says "Civil War: How Can the U.S. Get Out of Iraq?"

Get it? This is going to be the new theme of the anti-war crowd, that because Iraq is in a civil war we have to get out. Look for more of this to come.

As usual, some of the berst analysis is over at Belmont Club. Check out Wretchard's latest. Here are some of the most important parts:

The first and fatal miscalculation by the Sunnis was to think they could drive the US Armed Forces from Iraq, a gamble which they lost. Encouraged by the absence of a crushing campaign in northern Iraq, itself possibly caused by the absence of the 4ID from the OIF order of battle, and alienated by the American decision to "de-Baathize" Iraq, many former military Sunnis chose to continue resistance using guerilla tactics. ...

The Sunni insurgency compounded its military failures by ruthlessly suppressing any attempts by their ethnic leaders to participate in political process sponsored by the Coalition and by murdering any Sunni who came forward to join the new Army and Police. The result was that Sunnis were underrepresented in both the Constitutional convention and in the elections of 2005. It was a double-whammy. Not only were Sunni military resources depleted, but they self-selected themselves out of the American sponsored Iraqi government.

Westhawk observes that American officers believe that "Iraq’s Sunni Arabs will continue to fight because they believe they face either extermination or banishment if they do not." With the Sunni military struggle essentially hopeless, efforts to redress the balance within the Iraqi political process arrived too late. The door had been barred by Shi'ite extremism fueled by Moqtada al-Sadr and separately, the agents of Iran. In a remarkable display of nonstatesmanship, the Shi'ite parties headed by Iraqi PM Maliki and goaded by al-Sadr proved less interested in building an Iraq than upon obtaining revenge upon their former masters.

I suppose one can say that it's a civil war in the sense that you have two camps, Sunni and Shia, who are fighting each other. Each has a militia and/or terrorist/death squads. Unfortunately the debate is marred by bad faith on the part of some in the anti-war camp, such as NBC News, who are using the issue to advance their political agenda.

But either way, I'm not sure what difference it makes. If we went into Kosovo/Bosnia to stop a civil war, and are supposed to regret that we didn't go into Rwanda, shouldn't we stay to stop the violence in Iraq?

Posted by Tom at 8:00 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack