January 30, 2007
Webb Watch III: Distorting a Poll
I'm a bit tardy on this one but my weekend was rather eventful. Better late than never.
Once again it looks like Virginia Senator James Webb is all wet.
The majority of the nation no longer supports the way this war is being fought; nor does the majority of our military.
It looks like once again Jim Webb has stepped in it.
The poll cited as evidence of this claim is apparently one published in MilitaryCity in December. Both the Washington Times and an editorial in National Review mention the MilitaryCity poll as the source. I searched the Senatory's web site but could find nothing there.
On the surface, what the paper reports looks pretty bad
Only 35 percent of the military members polled this year said they approve of the way President Bush is handling the war, while 42 percent said they disapproved. The president’s approval rating among the military is only slight ly higher than for the population as a whole. In 2004, when his popularity peaked, 63 percent of the military approved of Bush’s handling of the war. While ap proval of the president’s war lead ership has slumped, his overall approval remains high among the military.
Just as telling, in this year’s poll only 41 percent of the military said the U.S. should have gone to war in Iraq in the first place, down from 65 percent in 2003. That closely reflects the beliefs of the general population today — 45 percent agreed in a recent USA Today/Gallup poll.
However, go down a bit further and you find this:
The mail survey, conducted Nov. 13 through Dec. 22, is the fourth annual gauge of active-duty mili tary subscribers to the Military Times newspapers. The results should not be read as representative of the military as a whole; the survey’s respondents are on average older, more experienced, more likely to be officers and more career-oriented than the overall military population.
Oops. Looks like the good Senator didn't read the whole article.
W. Thomas Smith Jr., former US Marine, writing in National Review points out that if morale is as low as the MilitaryCity poll would suggest it is, then reenlistment rates would be low. However, they are higher now than they were before 9-11. In addition, he says, all such polls show is that "soldiers and sailors gripe".
As mentioned above, the poll is very unscientific and thus is not to be trusted. Smith elaborates
...unlike polls conducted among the general populace, independent news polls taken solely among military personnel almost never reflect a consensus of the military, because most military personnel won’t participate. They’re extremely cautious about speaking on or off the record — even anonymously — without permission. The ones who are content and support the decisions of their superiors are often quiet, as are the discontented. But if one is to speak, it is usually the one who is perhaps disgruntled.
Finally, I'll simply point out that anti-war types are in the process of setting up a bunch of new rules regarding when we can use military force, and perhaps more importantly, when troops should be withdrawn.
They think they are being very clever, thinking "ha! a poll shows that the majority of military personnel think we should withdraw from Iraq, we can use this!"
So we'll call this one the "Jim Webb rule", and it goes like this: "Before and during all military operations, polls will be conducted of active-duty military personnel. If a majority do not approve of an operation, it will not be executed. If during execution they do not approve of the tactics or strategy, they will be changed. And if a majority lose confidence in the overall operation, the troops will be withdrawn."
But one day all this will be over. We will have either won or lost in Iraq. Someday a Democrat will be president. But there will still be an anti-war movement, who is going to remember all these little rules. The Democrat in the White House will have to face the real world, and will have to make tough decisions. One day he (or heaven forbid she) will have to order the use of military force.
And all these little rules are going to come back to haunt him.
January 27, 2007
Countering United for Peace and Justice in Washington DC
United for Peace and Justice, the big left-wing umbrella group, held a large anti-war protest on the mall today in Washington DC, and I was at the Free Republic counter-rally. It was a pretty wild day, and a complete report and photos follow.
UPJ consists of 90 national groups, and over 1,200 state or foreign ones. According to David Horowitz' excellent Discover the Network database on left-wing groups and people, they were formed on October 25, 2002, at the headquarters of the People for the American Way. The purpose, he says, was "to put a milder face on the anti-war movement", since up until then most anti-war protests had been organized by groups such as International ANSWER, Global Exchange, and Not In Our Name. These three groups were known for their extreme radicalism and ties to outright communist people and groups.
So did they succeed in putting that "milder face" on the anti-war movement? I went to their website and downloaded their national member list. Here are a few of the groups
CODEPINK: Women for Peace
Communist Party USA
Democratic Socialists of America
RainbowPUSH Coalition (Jesse Jackson)
Young Communist League (YCL)
Doesn't sound very mild to me.
But on to the events of the day. My first stop was the Navy Memorial on Pennsylvania Avenue. Code Pink had organized a pre-rally there, and the freakshow was off to a start.
FreeRepublic had set up a counter-rally across the street. After arriving, I joined them.
Here's the view from our position (as always, click to enlarge)
After they got underway at 10am, I decided to venture over there to see if I could get any better photos and maybe identify some of the more prominent leftists.
What is it with the left and their sexual double entendres? For that matter, what is it about them that they have to dress up in all these ridiculous costumes?
Here are Code Pink leaders Media Benjamin and Gael Murphy. Murphy's the one with the raised fist in the center, and Benjamin is right beside her. They were leading the crowd in chants such as "Bring Them Home Now!"
Across the street some of the Free Republic folks had bullhorns. They were shouting
"Code Pink Kills!"which could be clearly heard from where I was standing when I took the photo above. The charge that they kill is a reference to the trip Medea made to the December 2004 trip she and others took to Fallujah in which she and others basically gave aid and comfort to our enemies. From Discover the Network
During the last week of December 2004, Benjamin announced in Amman, Jordan that Global Exchange, Code Pink, and Families for Peace would be donating a combined $600,000 in medical supplies and cash to the terrorist insurgents who were fighting American troops in Fallujah, Iraq. Said Benjamin, "I don't know of any other case in history in which the parents of fallen soldiers collected medicine ... for the families of the 'other side.'
Next on the podium was US Army Colonel Ann Wright (Ret). After leaving the Army (still in the Retired Ready Reserve), she went to work for the state department, where she resigned over the invasion of Iraq. The Pinkos love her and she seems happy to be their tool. If you think that assessment harsh, consider that in August 2002 she went with them to Jordaon as part of a "peace delegation". See here , here, and here.
I heard her mention Joshua Sparling, who I had seen across the street with his father Mike and the Freepers earlier. Follow the link for the full story on Joshua, but suffice it for now to say that neither he nor his father are any friends of anti-war types. I know Mike fairly well from our Walter Reed Freeps. Anyway, I wasn't able to clearly hear what the Col said, so I continued wandering the crowd taking pictures. Later I discovered that he had gone over to make his pro-war views known to the Pinios. They invited him to say a few words at their podium, which he apparently did. Later he told me that they were very polite, so hats off where deserved.
Jane Fonda and Dick Gregory were there, and each spoke briefly. I kept trying to get photos of them, but there wasn't really a stage, it was hard to get close, and everytime I got them in the viewfinder and hit the button someone moved in the way. My cheap digital camera seems to have a small delay which is frustrating in these circumstances.
Media Benjamin introducted Fonda as "The Woman who freed our vaginas!"
You just can't make this stuff up.
Media and Gael then led the crowd in a series of chants. I wrote two of them down
Two, Four, Six, Eight, Who Do We Incarcerate? Bush! Bush!
Congress, Congress, Hear Us Shout! Women, Say; Pull Out!
Here's one more crowd shot of the Pinkos
But the Freakshow had only begun.
On To The March
By about 11:00 the Pinkos were done, and their protest broke up, with everyone heading to the Mall to join the rest of the UPJ gathering.
I didn't make it to the actual Mall where UPJ protesters were, but a map of their assembly area that you can download from their site shows booths for a whole variety of leftist groups; nuclear disarmament, anti-Israel, lesbian/gay/bisexual, anti-Guantanamo, you name it. Ever notice that they have a hard time staying on message?
The UPJ schedule was to hold a large protest in front of the Capitol building on the Mall, and then march along Constitution Avenue to the other side of the Capitol, then double back and march back to the Mall. The police had divided Constitution Ave in half lengthwise so that marchers coming and going wouldn't get intermingled.
Free Republic had secured a permit for a counter-protest at a park across Constitution Ave from the Senate wing of the Capitol building. There were two lines of fencing making for about a 30 foot space in between and where we would be, and after the fence nearest us there was a sidewalk, and we were told by our organizer to stand behind the sidewalk in the park itself. At the time it it seemed like a good plan to keep the two sides separate. I've counter-protested several of these anti-war demonstrations, and common sense says it's a good idea to keep people separate in situations where tempers might get out of hand.
Unfortunately, things didn't work out so well, and frankly I don't think the police did such a good job this time. Unlike in past demonstrations, this time the police allowed the protesters to come around the barrier at the end of the street and intermingle, or at least walk, on the sidewalk right by where we were standing.
Most of the time the lefties walked by us peacefully, and we held our tongues, but several times tempers flared and people got in each other's faces. I resolve ahead of time to keep my cool, and arguing with anyone who's going to march with UPJ is just a waste of time anyway. There's a time to get mad and a time not to. Now was a time to keep your cool.
Here's a shot of some of us, getting ready for the marchers. We numbered about 40, and they in the tens of thousands, but I never saw any full-sized American flags among the protesters. I saw a few small ones, but the few larger ones they had were desecrated with the peace symbol or something. Typical.
Here is our best banner. It's the type I've come to like; a positive message of support for our brave warriors.
Although they were supposed to start their march at 1pm, they were an hour late. Which was annoying to me because I really didn't want to be there all day, but I certainly wasn't going to leave. At this point our troops need our support, and I'm not going to have the leftists have the field to themselves. It seems to drive them nuts that anyone would dare to demonstrate against them, so of course we have to do it.
Unfortunately, the sun was in our faces, which is the worst position for taking photographs. Nevertheless I think most came our reasonably well.
So they started coming by at around 2, and it lasted until just after 4, and it was the usual assortment of nutcases. Here are a few representative photographs. When I get time I'll post more on my flickr account, so come back for that link.
I'll give them this, they're nothing if not creative.
Towards the end, this group came by and did a little song and dance for us. I didn't get the exact words, but they had it down pretty well.
As I mentioned, they hate to be counter-protested. We had a few bullhorns, and did some chants as they walked by. This prompted several to stand and argue with us. Unlike in past demonstrations, this time the police did not move to make them keep walking.
Here's one of the instances when some punk leftie who the police had unwisely let on the sidewalk couldn't control his temper and started gettiing into our faces. He actually had the white scarf-thing pulled up on his nose when he started in on us, typically weird leftie. Unbelievably, he went after Joshua Sparling and his girlfriend. I couldn't catch exactly what was said, but this guy got nasty with the baby-killer routine. In the photo below, Free Republic leader Kristinn is trying to move this idiot way. In case you didn't follow the link above about Joshua, or don't know who he is, he served in Iraq and lost part of his leg. Verbally abusing a wounded soldier is beyone dispicable.
This was actually the second time some idiot leftie got in Joshua's face. The first time his father had to walk between the two of them to cool things off.
There were lots of press there. I saw the New York Times, Associated Press, local news channels and a few others from around the country. Here's Joshua (black sunglasses) giving an interview
Finally the police realized that having lefties mixed up with us wasn't such a hot idea, and they closed off the sidewalk. Too late, I thought, but I guess better late than never. At any rate they did respond quickly a few times when it seemed like tempers were flaring, but if anything serious had broken out people would have been hurt before they could have intervened.
There weren't many chants this time, it seemed, but I made a few notes
End the Occupation, Commies out of DC!
Racist, Sexist, Anti-Gay! Right-wing Bigots, Go Away
The Lefties Favorite
At all anti-war demonstrations I've counter-protested, the lefties always make point of asking if we have served. They do seem to love their chickenhawk argument.
But it's a no win situation. If we say we didn't serve, we're chickenhawks. But it doesn't do you any good if you did serve, either. Standing right beside me was a guy who'd done two tours in Iraq. When a leftie came by with his Enlist! Enlist! chant, here's what happened:
Vet: I did! I served two tours in Iraq!
Leftie: Then if you like it so much go back!
I heard this exchange several other times with lefties and guys among us who were vets. You just can't win.
At the ANSWER anti-war demonstration Sept 24 2005, I had this exchange with a leftie demonstrator:
Leftie: Did you serve?
Me: If I had, would you then support the war?
Me: Then what difference does it make?
The leftie stood there in stunned silence. I had my answer.
At around 4ish they stopped coming by and we broke down.
Does Any of It Matter?
In a way, not really. Despite their numbers on the Mall, the member groups of United for Peace and Justice are a bunch of whackjobs that represent very few Americans. And it would be foolish to try and extrapolate public opinion from the relative numbers of groups today. It wasn't the anti-war left protesters that forced an end to US troops in Vietnam, it was middle-class public opinion. President Bush and General Petraeus have until the next election cycle to get Iraq right. I certainly hope they succeed, and think the latest plan to be a good one and very much worth trying.
Ok, one last photo of some of the lefties who got mixed up among us.
I told you it was a freakshow.
Here's what I've found so far
Lifelike Pundits also has some photos and a video of the Freeper rally across from the Navy Memorial.
Don't miss the additional photos I took which I posted at Photobucket. Not all of them are up yet, and I'll finish tomorrow or Tuesday so come back then.
January 26, 2007
This from today's Washington Times "Inside the Ring" column
Sen. James H. Webb Jr., Virginia Democrat and decorated war hero, gave the Democrats' response to President Bush's State of the Union address, and likened Iraq to the 1950-53 Korean War.
Mr. Webb said, "As I look at Iraq, I recall the words of former general and soon-to-be President Dwight Eisenhower during the dark days of the Korean War, which had fallen into a bloody stalemate. 'When comes the end?' asked the general who had commanded our forces in Europe during World War II. And as soon as he became president, he brought the Korean War to an end."
We think that is an apt comparison, but probably not for the same reason as Mr. Webb's.
Like Iraq, the U.S. war in Korea was dogged by poor planning, the wrong types of troops, failed tactics and major miscalculations, such as China coming to the communist north's defense. The American death toll: 36,000 in theater.
But in the end, America won. The north's invasion was reversed and the south was preserved. It matured into one of the world's great democracies, free markets and U.S. allies. And a free South Korea helped blunt Josef Stalin's plan for a communist Asia. What some have called the "forgotten war" was messy and unpopular. It drove Harry S. Truman from office. But it made the world a better place. It just took 30 years to realize it.
What's interesting is that at the time the Korean War was not necessarily seen as a victory. But there's also another war that we fought some time ago that didn't work out so well, but that most people today would say was absolutely necessary.
But before we get to that war, let's talk a bit about Korea.
My point here, btw, is not to go after Senator Webb. Both he and the President gave pretty good speeches the other night. As you may guess I thought the President did better, but that's not what I want to talk about here.
Our initial justificatioin for fighting the North Korean invasion was to simply preserve the integrity of the South. However, after we successfully turned the tide with the invasion of Inchon, President Truman changed his war goals and decided to liberate the entire peninsula. General MacArthur dismissed warnings that the Chinese would intervene if he got too close to their border. As we know, the Chinese did intervene in a massive invasion that inflicted tremendous casualties on US forces and drove us completely out of the north. A stalemate ensued that was only ended when newly elected President Eisenhower negotiated an armistice (not a peace treaty) with the Chinese and North Koreans.
We were so traumatized by the Chinese intervention that during the Vietnam War 15 years later we imposed strict requirements on our pilots when they attacked targets in the north. At the time, we saw the lesson of Korea as "don't piss off the Chinese or Russians or they'll intervene and cause a wider war".
Yet as the article from the Times points out, South Korea is a stable democracy today and generally a very good ally. Sure, we've got some current disagreements over policy with regard to the north (see "Sunshine Policy"), but all-in-all it's hard to find anyone today who doesn't think the Korean War was worth it. However, at the time Truman was much-criticized for it.
One-hundred forty-odd years ago the United States fought another war that was, at times, deeply unpopular. It was said to be an unnecessary war, one that could have been resolved by negotiation, the President was accused of changing his goals halfway through it, and of massively violating our civil rights. Further, the war was conducted incompetently and the reconstruction period afterwards solved nothing. The oppressed people it was supposed to benefit didn't get their rights for another hundred years.
I write, of course, of the American Civil War. President Lincoln suspended the writ of habeas corpus, probably illegally. While he initially justified the war simply to preserve the union, after the battle of Antietam he issued the Emancipation Proclamation, effectively introducing abolution as a justification and war goal. The Emancipation Proclamation was very controversial in the North, with some troops even threatening desertion over it.
Some Democrats in the North became almost violently anti-war. They became known as "Copperheads".
By 1863 and early 1864 the war was going very poorly for the North. The Federal Army was unable to meet it's recruiting goals, which led to the imposition of a draft. The draft proved so unpopular that riots in New York City broke out over it.
Because of these and battlefield setbacks, the war opponents gained much strength. They were able to take over the Democrat party to the extent that the Democrat Party Platform for the 1864 presidential elections demanded "that immediate efforts be made for a cessation of hostilities" and a negotiated peace with the South.
Of course, the North won and the Union was restored. But the Reconstruction period that followed was marred by political disputes up North, the long and short of it being that it ended in 1877 without the civil rights of blacks being assured. With the imposition of Jim Crow, a visitor to the South in the 1920s or 30s might be forgiven for wondering if in fact the Civil War achieved anything at all.
How We View History
Maybe I'm all wet, but it is my perception that the way we view events like the American Revolution, the Civil War, World War II is that "we were all in it together" fighting for a glorious cause. Because the Korean War is more recent, I think many people have at least some inkling of the controversies involved, at least that of the insubordination of General MacArthur.
But when I go back and read the history of these events, what amazes me is how much we fought with each other. The colonialists seemed to spend as much time bickering with each other as they did fighting the British. When you read about how the New Englanders opposed the selection of George Washington to lead the Continental Army soley because he was a Virginian, and they wanted "their man" in charge, you just want to go back in history and scream at them. And this is not to mention that only about 1/3 of the colonists even supported revolution. But this is how history works, I think.
So here we are today with the current situation in Iraq. I've made no secret of both my disappointment with how President Bush has done in handling it and the larger War on Jihad, but right now I'm even more disappointed by the anti-war crowd.
Laying that aside for the moment, we need to realize that wars that are seen as obviously necessary today were often quite controvesial at the time.
January 24, 2007
So the anti-war crowd's new line is that they want to win in Afghanistan but not in Iraq.
Last night at the State of the Union speech the Democrats didn't stand up when the President called for victory in Iraq.
How long before they won't stand up when there's a call for victory in Afghanistan?
But the anti-war crowd insists that no, they really and truely want to win in Afghanistan. It's just Iraq that they oppose.
And I believe them, too. I believe that right now that short of the International ANSWER/Code Pink left, they do want to win in Afghanistan. I believe that they want to win, as long as it is politically expedient, that is. Because as soon as it isn't, they'll want to cut-and-run there too.
Supporting the war in Afghanistan has become the latest tool to oppose the war in Iraq.
"We support more troops in Afghanistan!", we are cheerfully told.
Sorry, but I ain't buying it.
Iraq is important in a way that Afghanistan will never be. It is the center of the Middle East, where Afghanistan is a sideshow. I'm not going to review the good reasons we had to invade, suffice it to say that a loss there would be devastating to the West.
Defeat in Iraq will embolden the enemy in Afghanistan. It will also lead to a "redeployment" of forces by the jihadists, who will shift their forces from Iraq to Afghanistan. Do the Democrats realize that a pullout from Iraq will lead to increased attacks on our forces in Afghanistan? Are they ready for additional casualties there?
More to the point, are they willing to commit the money and resources necessary to win in Afghanistan? Sure, leaving Iraq will free up money. But my guess it that before it can be "redeployed" to Afghanistan most of the money be eaten up by domestic spending, with the big-spenders in the GOP happily going along with it. How long before they decide that money can be saved by pulling out of Afghanistan too?
Now, as a matter of record, I think that more troops in Afghanistan would be useful. But anyone who's even taken a cursory look at the situation there knows that as with Iraq it's pretty complicated, and solving it is not just a simple matter of sending more troops.
Besides, the issues in Afghanistan are larger than troop numbers. Let's quickly go over a few of the issues that are preventing a complete victory.
This past summer Pakistan signed an agreement with the Taliban essentially ceding control of North Waziristan to them. Two years ago they signed a similar one giving up South Waziristan. Waziristan is in northwest Pakistan and borders Afghanistan. I can't find the link as present, but have read that the Taliban have 20+ bases there, and al Qaeda at least 5.
So we just go in and take them out, right? Not so fast. Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf sits precariously atop a government that is full of anti-American and pro-Taliban Islamists, all of whom would like to overthrow him. Fifty years ago, when Pakistan was formed, it's goverment made a de facto agreement with the tribes of their wild northwestern mountainous
regions. This agreement effectively said "you don't bother us and we won't bother you. You don't support people who want to overthrow us and we'll let you govern yourselves."
It worked out fine until the US discovered that Osama bin Laden was probably hiding there, and we asked the Pakistani government to go and get him. They tried to do so, and thus effectively broke the fifty-year old agreement.
The Pakistanis didn't find OBL, and Musharraf was afraid that if he pissed off the tribes and Islamists too much they'd overthrow him. Since his army was being beaten by the tribes who were aided by the Taliban we chased out of Afghanistan, they decided to do the prudent thing and call a truce.
So if we simply flood Waziristan with American troops, we run a serious risk of all hell breaking lose in Pakistan and Musharraf being replaced with a radical Islamic government. Did I mention that Pakistan has nuclear weapons?
My point here: Since the anti-war crowd isn't willing to take risks in Iraq, what makes you think they'll take risks going after the Taliban inside Pakistan?
If this isn't enough for you to digest, there's the fact that we've been betrayed by our NATO "allies". The reason has more to do with changing demographics in Europe than anything else.
If you want one more vexing problem that won't be solved by adding more troops, there's the issue of the poppy fields. The Taliban make a ton of money off the stuff, and getting rid of it isn't easy. Similar to the situation in Central and South America, farmers grow the stuff because they make more money on it than with traditional food crops. Destroy the crops and they'll trade their plow for a gun and come after us. The only way to solve it that I can see is outbid the Taliban or find another more profitable crop for them to grow.
Will the anti-war crowd be willing to spend the money necessary to get rid of the poppy fields? How long before we're told that we need it here at home for a school lunch program?
Bush's Fault, Too
Although I'm sure some readers won't want to believe this, I do go after both sides when I think they are wrong. I make no secret of my distain for the anti-war left, and think that for all our mistakes the neo-cons are mostly right. But I've gone after the President for screwing things up both domestically and in Iraq, and I'm going to do it again.
Here's the bottom line: Bush fooled around for several years, letting Rumsfeld, Abizaid, and Casey continue on with their "light footprint" strategy. It didn't work. Last year saw the bombing of the Mosque/Golden dome and an escallation in sectarian violence. A year ago he should have fired his generals, if not Rumsfeld, and demanded that more troops be sent while he still had the political capital to do so. Now, finally, he's woken up, but at the political 11th hour.
The President gave a great speech last night, clearly and persuasively laying out the case for victory in Iraq. As with a change in war leadership, he should have done this a year ago.
We shouldn't be surprised that he's lost so much support. The American people want to win, but what they hate is a politician that doesn't seem to have the will to win. Now, the truth may be that Bush had the will but simply bought into the "light footprint" strategy, legitimately thinking that it would work. Perception, however, counts, and many Americans perceived that "light footprint" as a lack of will. Now at the final hour he's decided to send more troops, but many are so fed up that they won't give him one last chance.
There's also the fact that there aren't many more to send, because Bush and the GOP congress spent 6 years increasing domestic spending instead of building up the military.
Back to Iraq
The bottom line is that we're there in Iraq and a victory there for the Jihadists would be devastating for both the Middle East and entire Western world. The communist victory in Vietnam emboldened the Soviet Union for another 10 years. Let's not have another round of Carterism, please.
The most immediate effect of a withdrawal would be a slaughter in Iraq, and then an Iranian influenced or controlled Iraq. The Sunni Arab states would be in an uproar, so if you think there's instability now just wait until we pull out. And then, of course, there's the fact that parts of Iraq would become terrorist training centers. All of this would solve nothing, but would rather only mean fighting by American troops at a later date.
At least the Vietnamese didn't come after us here at home. The Jihadists want to convert the world to Islam or destroy us if we refuse. Laugh if you like but it's the truth. So if you think we've lost a lot of people in Iraq so far, we'll lose a lot more later if we don't win now.
New Rules for Going to War
If we take the anti-war crowd at their word, here are the new rules we'd have to adopt before committing American forces in the future:
• The UN Security Council must approve all US action before it is taken
• A majority of nations in Europe must approve of and participate in military operations
• France in particular must approve, though they need not actually participate
• Before any ground, sea, or air forces are committed, a limit is set on US casualties, and we withdraw all forces the moment that limit is reached
• Before ground, sea, or air forces are committed, a timeline for disengagement is established before we go in. We must withdraw forces according to the established timeframe regardless of whether the mission has been achieved
• Members of Congress have the right to change their mind at any time for any reason and demand an immediate withdrawal
• It at any time a poll of the American people show that their support for military operations goes below 50% the troops are to be immediately withdrawn
• It at any time a poll of active-duty military personnel show that their support for military operations goes below 50% the troops are to be immediately withdrawn
• It at any time a poll of active-duty military personnel show that they do not support current tactics and strategy, those tactics and strategy will be immediately changed.
• No one who has not served in the military may speak in favor of military operations
• No one who does not have at least one son or daughter of military age may express concern for the troops because obviously they do not understand what they're going through
January 21, 2007
No More Realism
Whatever foreign policy we as a nation adopt in the future, let it not be "realism".
Yes, the situation in Iraq is such that it must distress even the most die-hard Wilsonian optimist. Whatever mistakes we have made after our invasion, if Iraq comes totally unglued it will ultimately the fault of the Iraqis. If enough of them cannot or will not appreciate what we are trying to give them, in the final analysis that's not our fault. We have handed them a republic, and it is up to them to keep it.
Today, however, there seems to be a growing chorus of voices saying that we should return to a sort of "realism". Jim Baker and his Iraq Study Group are seen as wise sages counseling the naive, stupid, or evil (or sometimes all three) neo-cons of the Bush Administration.
People who call themselves liberals sneer at democracy, chorteling that all it has achieved was Hamas in control of the PA and Shiite extremists in power in Baghdad. It is assumed by many that the natural state of the Arabs is to be governed by dictators of one sort or another. Not only natural, but safer. More stable.
Who better to shred such thinking than Victor Davis Hanson:
Prior to Iraq, there was some American guilt over past realism, whether stopping before Baghdad in 1991, playing Iran off Iraq, cozying up to dictatorships, or predicating American Middle East foreign policy solely on either oil or anti-Communism. ... Arab intellectuals and much of the Western Left once decried Bakerism and called for a new muscular idealism that put us on the side of the powerless reformers and not with the entrenched authoritarians. But if we fail in Iraq, then again, fairly or not, the verdict will be far more sweeping than simply the incompetence of the Bremer proconsulship or the impotence of the Maliki government.
Indeed it will be. But even more important than that is something else:
... Democrats and liberals should likewise realize that for all their hatred of George Bush and the partisan points to be gained by coddling up to the libertarian and paleo-conservative Right, George Bush’s embrace of freedom was far closer to their own past rhetoric than almost any Republican administration in history. And such an effort to foster democracy was in the long run smart as well, since ultimately a free Iraq would be the worst nightmare of the Islamic jihadists — as we read repeatedly in the rantings of Dr. Zawahiri.
But it's true. George Bush is doing what liberals have always said we should do; spread democratic ideals instead of supporting dictators who would oppose the communists and/or sell us oil. The difference between them and him is that instead of giving speeches before Washington elites he put words to action.
We are in our current position precisely because of diplomats such as Brent Scowcroft and Jim Baker who value stability uber alles. Preserve the status quo at all costs. Don't rock the boat. As long as we get our oil, who are we to care if they want to live in the 9th century? Human rights? That was useful against the communists, but they're gone now.
You don't have to believe everything Natan Sharansky said in The Case for Democracy to believe that this policy was wrong. For too many years we ignored or pandered to whatever Arab or Persian dictator was in power as long as we got basing rights and a steady flow of oil. While such thinking held short-term benefits, you can only keep the lid on a pressure cooker for so long.
So we went into Iraq for a variety of reasons, WMD being the primary one but hardly the only. The resolution passed by Congress on October 11 2002 listed many reasons, one of which was:
Whereas the Iraq Liberation Act (Public Law 105-338) expressed the sense of Congress that it should be the policy of the United States to support efforts to remove from power the current Iraqi regime and promote the emergence of a democratic government to replace that regime;
Ok, so things haven't exactly worked out as planned. But all is not lost either, and readers of this blog know that I think it necessary that we give it our all to save the situation, and this means supporting the president's latest plan.
Once upon a time the left would have applauded, no, cheered, the thinking embodied in the Iraq Liberation Act. They're the ones, after all, who spent much of the Cold War denouncing the US policicy of supporting "authoritarian" regimes on the justification that they were better than "totalitarian" ones.
I understand that there's an anti-war movement. Leftist groups such as ANSWER and United for Peace and Justice will always be with us. Our media culture will create a Cincy Sheehan if none exist. What I don't understand, and what distresses me, is that so many in this country seemed to have joined with them.
In the article cited above, Hanson points out that whatever happens in Iraq, one day it will all be over. What then?
The Democrats are a strong and ever more vocal anti-war constituency. Some indeed, think Murtha or Rangel, are considered party leaders. The Republican party is flat-out in disarray, McCain and Leiberman seemingly being the sole voices of reason on the Hill.
Is it to be thought that Clinton's Kosovo adventure was the "perfect war"? Hanson again
Before Iraq, wild-eyed reformers talked of a new military paradigm of sanitized war, following from wins in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Kosovo, Panama, or Serbia. Bombing from on high with GPS ordinance and a few paratroopers or special forces were the supposed future — not old fashioned, everyday artillery, armor, and infantry.
That either/or dichotomy was, of course, absurd. But if we withdraw defeated from Iraq, like it or not, there will be the charge made that the United States should not commit sizable Army and Marine forces abroad on the ground — period, under any circumstances, at any time.
Vietnam and now Iraq will substantiate in greater detail what we tasted in Lebanon and Mogadishu — the impossibility of using large conventional forces in chaotic conflicts that will inevitably turn asymmetrical and terrorist. In that regard, an army on the shelf will fossilize, as we lose confidence that it can ever achieve anything worth its losses. Generals will promise victories in the sort of rare conventional wars they can easily win, and decline the more common messy ones they cannot.
John McCain puts some hard questions to the withdraw now crowd on his website. So far, I have not seen any serious answers. The left, the palecon right, and those simply out to save their own political skins are creating a monster, and if they succeed in their ambitions it is going to haunt us for a long time.
January 20, 2007
Good News from Iran
This can only be good news
Conservatives and reformists are openly challenging President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's hard-line nuclear diplomacy -- an unusual agreement across Iran's political spectrum -- with many saying his provocative remarks have increasingly isolated their country. ...
After a year of silence, reformists are demanding that Iran dispel fears that it is seeking to build atomic weapons, pressing for a return to the enrichment suspension policy under President Mohammed Khatami. Uranium enrichment can produce the material for either nuclear reactors or bombs.
"Resisting the U.N. Security Council resolution will put us in a more isolated position," said the Islamic Iran Participation Front, the largest reformist party.
Mr. Ahmadinejad's popularity already was weakened after his close conservative allies were defeated last month in local elections, which were widely seen as a referendum on his 18 months in power.
Even some conservatives warn that his confrontational tactics are backfiring.
"Your language is so offensive ... that it shows that the nuclear issue is being dealt with a sort of stubbornness," the hard-line daily Jomhuri-e-Eslami said in an editorial.
Some lawmakers on both sides of the political spectrum are considering impeaching Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki if the Security Council approves more resolutions against Iran.
No I do not think that this is all an elaborate ruse. It is not some sort of situation like Stalin's famous "show trials". I think that Ahmadinejad is genuinely losing popularity. The question is, does this mean that Iran is giviing up their pursuit of nuclear weapons?
The answer, I think, is "not necessarily". Better, "we shouldn't count on it".
It rather seems to me that they just see Ahmadinejad's rhetoric as counter-productive. The details of their nuclear program are no doubt a closely held secret, and it is doubtful that even many mullahs the Assembly of Experts or Council of Guardians know what is really going on. So when we read that "reformists are demanding that Iran dispel fears that it is seeking to build atomic weapons", that doesn't necessarily mean they aren't developing them.
After all, how many nations send "high-level delegations" to North Korea?
My conclusion is that it is a good thing that it is a good thing that Ahmadinejad is losing popularity, because he is a seriously crazy guy who I think would nuke Israel in a heartbeat if given the chance. Some of the more sane mullahs might be at least disuaded from doing so by Israeli or American nuclear weapons.
But even this doesn't get us completely off the hook. An Iran with nuclear weapons is unacceptable, whether they use them or not. It would destabilize the entire region, and soon thereafter we'd have a nuclear Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey, maybe even Jordan. Therefore, we still need to keep this issue on the front burner.
January 18, 2007
This morning's Washington Times brought news that the US Senate plans a vote against the Administration's new plan for Iraq
Senators introduced a resolution yesterday disapproving of President Bush's plan to send more troops to Iraq, setting up a confrontation with the White House, which warned that those who vote for it will face charges that they don't support the troops.
The resolution -- written by the top Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations and Armed Services committees and Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska -- has no binding effect on Mr. Bush, but the authors said they hope an overwhelming vote will prove the president lacks the support to move forward.
So virtually all Democrats and some Republicans are against sending more troops to Iraq. Why are they against it? What do they want to do about Iraq?
I can understand if you thought invading Iraq was a bad idea. I can also understand if you think that the Administration's new plan for victory in Iraq won't work. I can even sort of understand if you think we ought to pull the troops out immediately, and are willing to take action to back that up. What I cannot understand or tolerate are those who say that the new plan won't work, in fact no plan will work, are not willing to take the action that is necessary to force the President to bring the troops home immediately.
What I also will not tolerate are those who insist that we bring the troops home now but refuse to address the issue of what that would mean for the region.
But this group wants to pass a resolution against the troop "surge". They say it won't work. But they also say that no plan will work and that it's all hopeless.
Well if that's the case, why don't they at least try and force the president to pull the troops out immediately? It is true that the funds used to increase troop levels are already in the budget. But they could take measures that would ensure that the troops would not be there for long, because they could cut future funding, or at least promise to do so once the necessary budget items come on the schedule again. Heck, they could even try to impeach the president as a means for forcing the situation. Senator Kennedy and John Edwards at least have the courage of his convictions to demand just that.
So what is going on here?
First the Democrats. To propel themselves into power last November, they encouraged the buildup of a large and powerful anti-war constituency, which is made up of Internet groups such as MoveOn.org, Daily Kos, and consists of activists such as Cindy Sheehan and the gals of Code Pink. These anti-war activists are now demanding that the piper be paid.
On the other hand, these Democrats remember the aftermath of Vietnam, and the slaugher in Cambodia and Vietnam that followed the communist takeover. The right has blamed them for that mess for decades, and they don't want to get tagged with that again.
Then there's Hillary. She's got huge problems now with Barack Obama and John Edwards. So, likea good Clinton, she's trying to have it both ways. On the one hand she doesn't want to be seen as in bed with the anti-war left, on the other she knows that a pro-war Democrat will never get the party's nomination. She's looking at all this in her usual cold and calculating fashion, which has become a problem in itself.
Their plan seems to be to hope that the Administration fails to pacify Iraq before 2008 so that they can reap the political benefits. I think that Democrats want the new plan to fail (see this amazing poll) because a defeat would make them more powerful, and what they really want is to push their socialist domestic agenda. Therefore, to them the entire concept of a "War on Terror" (or whatever we're going to call it) is a distraction, never mind the Iraqi War. It's all about furthering their domestic agenda.
On the GOP side, it's a bit different. Some are simply looking to 2008 and many believe that if they stay pro-war they'll be punished at the polls. Although the GOP does not have what you'd call an anti-war element, it's no secret that many in the party believe that the war is lost.
John McCain seems like a modern-day Churchill, standing tall and all alone. While I disagree with him on issues like illegal immigration and campaign finance reform, he is a man of principle. There are fewer and fewer like him. In a statement on his website he has it right when he says that "the potentially catastrophic consequences of failure demand that we do all we can to prevail in Iraq." Further,
Those who advocate such a policy have a right – even an obligation – to join the debate on this issue. But I believe these individuals also have a responsibility to tell us what they believe are the consequences of withdrawal in Iraq. Do they not fear Iranian, Saudi, and Turkish involvement in Iraq? A wider regional war? A haven for terrorists? A humanitarian catastrophe? Do they truly believe that we can walk away from Iraq?
At this point, Senator, I don't think any of them care. Some are just out to save their political skins, and others see the US as the source of all the world's problems and American intervention is only justified if absolutely no national security issues are at stake and the mission is strictly humanitarian.
Sen Brownback of Kansas is looking to the presidency in '08, and just got back from Iraq convinced that all is lost. He's under the illusion that the problems in Iraq should be addressed by diplomacy. His website states that Sec Rice and VP Cheney should to to Iraq and "lay the groundwork for a meeting of leaders from all three major Iraqi groups to take place outside of Iraq." He says that "we must win in Iraq", so I'll give him partial credit. I just think that diplomacy without security is a fool's erand.
Sen Hagel doesn't even want to win. His statement on Iraq reads like it could have been written by John Murtha. What a disgrace.
Symbolism Over Substance
National Review weighed in today with an editorial appropriately titled "Counterproductive Symbolism". As they correctly note, "the only effect the resolution can possibly have is to weaken the commander in chief and dampen the morale of U.S. troops." One might add that it will also encourage our enemies. Apparently, however, gaining political advantage, or saving one's own skin, is more important. As the editors of NR conclude,
Critics of the war once believed that we needed more troops to succeed in Iraq. Now that they have been shown to be correct, and President Bush is finally acting on that fact, all the critics want to condemn the move. If they think the war is hopeless, they should put their own political necks on the line and try to cut off funds. We think that would be a terrible course to take on the merits, but at least those pushing it would be acting with honesty and a kind of honor — qualities in short supply at the moment in the U.S. Senate.Both have one thing in common; an unstated desire to see the Bush Administration order home US troops without Congressional intervention. Then they can claim that 1) Bush alone is responsible for the defeat, and 2) "See I told you the plan wouldn't work" But what if the new plan succeeds? I may have been too quick the other day to question the surge. Captain Ed reports that the Mahdi Army is under seige and that Task Force 16 is going after Iranians in Iraq. Both Democrats and Republicans such as Hagel will claim that it was their pressure that forced Bush to fire Rumsfeld and adopt new tactics. They'll say that they gave the plan a chance since they didn't cut off funds. They'll have no more trouble explaining away the resolution against the surge than they currently have explaining away all of their supposedly ernest statements about how certain they were that Saddam had stockpiles of WMD. After all, they know they'll have most all of the media on their side.
The bottom line is that Senator McCain is right; the stakes in Iraq are so high that we have to do all that we can do to win. If you disagree at least have the decency and courage of our convictions to demand an immediate withdrawal.
As you can tell I'm disgusted with the whole situation. The President and his administration may have mishandled the war, but at least they have a clear understanding of the stakes want to win. These hacks in the Senate are just playing politics.
January 15, 2007
Book Review - Because They Hate
It's 1978. I am thirteen years old. My family is in the third year of living in this bomb shelter, a tiny underground room that sits off to the side of a bombed-out pile of rubble that was once our beautiful home. Tonight the shelling is the heaviest it has been in two and a half years. The three of us, my elderly father and mother and me, sit in the dark on the corner of the bed.
We have been trapped in our shelter now for three days, anjd we are out of water. A shell hit near the entrance of our shelter, collapsing a wall of sandbags against our door and imprisoning us inside. We have given up trying to get it open.
No one knows we are trapped. For three days we have called out and screamed for help. But we are too far from the road for anyone to hears us amid the explosions.
The place was a small town in southern Lebanon. The writer, a young Maronite Christian girl named Brigitte Gabriel. Those manning the artillery pieces were Muslims of one faction or another, and they were attacking her town because the country was in the middle of a civil war.
Brigitte tells her story in Because They Hate: A Survivor of Islamic Terror Warns America. The first half of the book is autobiographical, where she describes her childhood in Lebanon and subsequent journey to Israel and eventually the United States. The second half is the warning to America, which reads pretty much like an extended editorial, albeit a fairly stident one. I suppose if I had spent seven years of my childhood in a 8x10 foot bomb shelter I might be a bit strident about radical Islam too, although at times it is a bit much.
I became intersted in this book after hearing Gabriel as a guest on one or another conservative radio talk shows. She speaks a mile a minute, reminding me of Camile Paglia with a Middle Eastern accent. Gabriel came across as knowledgeable about the Middle East and Muslims in general, and so after hearing about her book I put it on my Christmas list.
The Lebanese Civil War of 1975-1990 was a terribly complex affair, with many factions and foreign powers involved. All sides committed atrocities and war crimes, and alliances shifted back and forth many times. It was not quite all Muslim vs Christian, although that did characterize much of it. Rather than try and summarize the whole affair, I'll simply direct readers to the Wikipedia entry, which seems as good an account as any I could find.
What Gabriel saw was her childhood shattered by Muslim militias attacking her town and Christian miltias defending it. The Muslims had the upper hand in her region, effectively subjecting her village to a siege that lasted several years. In her account, snipers roamed the hills surrounding their town and artillery fire was a constant, which wa s why most families in the area had moved into makeshift underground bomb shelters.
Gabriel's view of the world changed dramatically when managed to get her mother to a hospital in Israel. Wounded by artillery fire towards the end of this seven year experience, the Israelis saved her mother's life. All her life she had listened to the Arab media describe the Israelis as devils. Her Maronite community apparently shared this extremist opinion. Her experience at the hospital changed her view of Israelis dramatically and made her question the Arab media accounts that she had heard all of her life.
The 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon ended the Muslim siege of her town and allowed her to resume a somewhat normal life.
To make a long story short, she got a job working as a secretary for an Israeli general at a nearby base , which eventually led to a job as a TV journalist at World News in Israel. Now exposed to all media sources from around the world, and able to meet and speak freely with journalists from many countries, she realized that much of what she had been told as a child was a lie.
Her story of her life in Lebanon and israel is the best part of the book. It moves quickly and Gabriel does not get bogged down in details fo the Lebanese Civil War. It is at once a gripping action-adventure story and tragic tale. This part alone makes the book worthwhile.
The second part of the book starts out fairly well, with chapters on the "Clash of Civilizations" and "Terrorists Among Us". The best chapter is arguably "Societies are Not Created Equal", where because of her personal knowledge of the Middle East she can speak with some authority. However, you can't help but notice that she tends to paint with too broad a brush, not taking into account individual differences in Arab/Muslim societies.
The book also could have used a good editor. Gabriel has a bad tendency to write like one speaks. There are altogether too many exclamation points and rhetorical questions. At times the subject of her writing drifts around, and while it's not hard to follow her points, it is a bit disconcerting
All this said, she is mostly right. Radical Islam is a threat to the very existence of the Western world. They do want to establish a global caliphate. Muslim societies are mostly terrible places, something we are finding out in Iraq. Muslim media spread unbelievable lies. There are moderate Muslims, but most in the West tend not to speak up, and those who do find themselves isolated or denounced by "mainstream" Islamic organizations. Political correctness and the refusal of many on the left to recognize that radical Islam presents a problem at all inhibit a strong response.
Now living in the Washington DC area, Gabriel is the founder of Ameican Congress for Truth, whose mission is to educate Americans on the threat posed by radical Islam. The book jacket describes her as "a journalist and news producer...terrorism expert... (who) travels widely and speaks regularly on topics related to the Middle East. She has appeared extensively on television and radio, and has given hundreds of lectures nationally and internationally."
No doubt she has made many enemies. In her book she describes some of her lectures at universities in which she required police protection. The entry about her at Wikipedia is nothing but a political hit piece (and a warning about it's reliability), one I intend to rectify at some point.
All in all a worthwhile book. Her warning is timely, and despite the book's faults we ought to take heed.
January 14, 2007
Enough of a Surge?
This is just what I was afraid would happen. Today's Washington Times carries a story from the London Sunday Telegraph (I can't find the link at Telegraph)
The military architect of the Iraq troop "surge" plan is criticizing the Bush administration, claiming the Pentagon is watering down the proposal for political reasons.
"You cannot try and do this piecemeal. We have to implement the whole package," retired Gen. John M. Keane told the Sunday Telegraph. The former Army vice chief of staff co-authored the "Choosing Victory" strategy paper, the main points of which were adopted by President Bush for his Iraq war plan.
Gen. Keane expressed his alarm after Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates testified on Capitol Hill that the troop buildup was expected to last "a matter of months" -- rather than the 18 months proposed by Gen. Keane.
Mr. Gates also said the full deployment of 21,500 additional troops, announced by Mr. Bush last week, might not be implemented. He suggested that only two or three of the five brigades proposed for Baghdad could be deployed initially, while the rest are held in reserve.
"That makes no military sense, although it might seem to make political sense," Gen. Keane said. President Bush has been criticized in the past for not listening to the advice of his top generals.
"We need all five brigades in Baghdad as soon as possible. It will take three to four months to clear neighborhoods of death squads and insurgents, and at least the rest of the year to establish proper security for the population," Gen. Keane said. "If you only wanted to stage a clearance operation, you could do that in a few months. But if we left then, the militia would just return as they have in the past."
Well this isn't good.
General Keane's plan is the one he developed jointly with Frederick Kagan, and is posted on the website of the American Enterprise Website. The White House has a "fact sheet" on The New Way Forward in Iraq, as well as a 12 page Powerpoint on their website. It also calls for 5 brigades to be sent to Iraq.
I would encourage everyone to follow the above links and download both the AEI plan and the White House "highlights" powerpoint. My quick take is that the White House version emphasizes Iraqi-US cooperation a lot more than does the AEI version, which focuses much more on what the US can do to destroy the terrorists and miltias. Take a look and let me know if you agree.
Dean Barnett also has an excellent "Surge FAQ" posted over at Hegh Hewitt's site that should put to rest a number of fallacies about what's going on that we've heard recently. Don't miss it.
It seems to me that two things could doom, or at least reduce, this plan's chance of success. The first is the one that President Bush only goes half-way in implimentation. The second is the Iraqis, Prime Minister Maliki in particular, do not hold up their end of the bargain. Right now I'm not sure which is the greater danger.
January 10, 2007
The President's Speech on a New Plan for Iraq
President Bush gave his much anticipated speech outlining a new strategy for victory in Iraq tonight, and here are my initial thoughts on the matter.
It was shorter than I thought it was going to be, only about 20 minutes by my count. President Clinton took that long just to warm up. Here is the transcript posted at Fox News.
First, if you don't already know, the President is apparently basing some of or much of his new strategy on the plan laid out by Frederick Kagan and Gen Jack Keane (Ret) of the American Enterprise Institute, called "Choosing Victory: A Plan for Success in Iraq". If you haven't already done so, I strongly encourage you to follow the link and download the "Interim Report", which is a 56 slide powerpoint in the form of an Adobe file. At the very least, please read the Executive Summary.
On with the speech. Following are excerpts
But in 2006, the opposite happened. The violence in Iraq - particularly in Baghdad — overwhelmed the political gains the Iraqis had made. Al Qaeda terrorists and Sunni insurgents recognized the mortal danger that Iraq's elections posed for their cause. And they responded with outrageous acts of murder aimed at innocent Iraqis. They blew up one of the holiest shrines in Shia Islam — the Golden Mosque of Samarra — in a calculated effort to provoke Iraq's Shia population to retaliate. Their strategy worked. Radical Shia elements, some supported by Iran, formed death squads. And the result was a vicious cycle of sectarian violence that continues today.
Well that's pretty honest. Not that I think he'll win applause from the Kos crowd, but the admission that the enemy's strategy worked is more than I think most presidents in history have been willing to say.
We benefited from the thoughtful recommendations of the Iraq Study Group...
In keeping with the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group, we will increase the embedding of American advisers in Iraqi Army units — and partner a Coalition brigade with every Iraqi Army division.
Ha. The President dismissed it out of hand is what he did, as well he should. Yes the ISG had a few good ideas, but most of them were bad. What the President did here was just thow them a bone for show.
The consequences of failure are clear: Radical Islamic extremists would grow in strength and gain new recruits. They would be in a better position to topple moderate governments, create chaos in the region, and use oil revenues to fund their ambitions. Iran would be emboldened in its pursuit of nuclear weapons. Our enemies would have a safe haven from which to plan and launch attacks on the American people. On September the 11th, 2001, we saw what a refuge for extremists on the other side of the world could bring to the streets of our own cities.
Bingo. Look, if you want to criticize the President and the dreaded neocons for mistakes made in the past go ahead. We'll take our lumps. But those who call for immediate withdrawal without a single thought as to the consequences are irresponsible in the extreme. For an example of one of the most mindless rants of this sort, read Senator Kennedy's speech at the National Press Club of earlier today. Rapid withdrawal will likely lead to a collapse of the Iraqi government and mass slaughter, but Kennedy seems not to care at all.
Back to the President:
The most urgent priority for success in Iraq is security, especially in Baghdad. Eighty percent of Iraq's sectarian violence occurs within 30 miles of the capital. This violence is splitting Baghdad into sectarian enclaves, and shaking the confidence of all Iraqis. Only the Iraqis can end the sectarian violence and secure their people. And their government has put forward an aggressive plan to do it.
Slide 12 of the Keane-Kagan plan (I told you to download it ;-) points out that "Baghdad is now the center of gravity in this conflict", and as such "We must act at once to improve security there." Slides 15-16 are maps of the city showing where the violence is occuring, and slides 17 and 18 outline the Iraqi militias and terrorist groups causing it.
Our past efforts to secure Baghdad failed for two principal reasons: There were not enough Iraqi and American troops to secure neighborhoods that had been cleared of terrorists and insurgents. And there were too many restrictions on the troops we did have. Our military commanders reviewed the new Iraqi plan to ensure that it addressed these mistakes. They report that it does. They also report that this plan can work.
In two posts last October (here and here) I discussed this effort, and that it failed partially due to a lack of American troops. We could clear, but we couldn't hold. It depended on the Iraqis to do the holding, and they just weren't up to it. Later in the speech the President admitted just his when he said that
In earlier operations, Iraqi and American forces cleared many neighborhoods of terrorists and insurgents — but when our forces moved on to other targets, the killers returned. This time, we will have the force levels we need to hold the areas that have been cleared.
I think that those who believe that we should stick to our "light footprint" strategy, which emphasizes training the Iraqis, are mistaken because Iraq is sliding into chaos faster than we can build up a viable Iraqi army.
The President then talked about deploying more Iraqi units to the fight. However, they can't do it on their own.
Our commanders say the Iraqis will need our help. So America will change our strategy to help the Iraqis carry out their campaign to put down sectarian violence - and bring security to the people of Baghdad. This will require increasing American force levels. So I have committed more than 20,000 additional American troops to Iraq. The vast majority of them — five brigades — will be deployed to Baghdad. These troops will work alongside Iraqi units and be embedded in their formations. Our troops will have a well-defined mission: to help Iraqis clear and secure neighborhoods, to help them protect the local population, and to help ensure that the Iraqi forces left behind are capable of providing the security that Baghdad needs.
ABC News is reporting that the "surge" has already begun.
The phrase "well defined mission" is critical, both for military and political reasons. Many questioned why we should send more troops to do the same thing. The President is trying to tell people that this will not be the case. The Executive Summary to the Keane-Kagan plan makes just this point
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.
As we all know, the Iraqi government not exactly been holding up their end of the bargain. The months-long squabbling to form a government was an embarassment. Many suspect that Maliki would just as soon let the Shia militias kill as many Sunnis as possible.
I have made it clear to the Prime Minister and Iraq's other leaders that America's commitment is not open-ended. If the Iraqi government does not follow through on its promises, it will lose the support of the American people — and it will lose the support of the Iraqi people. Now is the time to act. The Prime Minister understands this.
Does he? We should know the answer in a few short months.
This new strategy will not yield an immediate end to suicide bombings, assassinations, or IED attacks. Our enemies in Iraq will make every effort to ensure that our television screens are filled with images of death and suffering.
Not exactly "I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat", but close enough.
Kagan and Keane anticipate enemy reaction on slides 30, 31, and 32, and suggest how we should counter them.
A successful strategy for Iraq goes beyond military operations. Ordinary Iraqi citizens must see that military operations are accompanied by visible improvements in their neighborhoods and communities....
To give every Iraqi citizen a stake in the country's economy, Iraq will pass legislation to share oil revenues among all Iraqis. To show that it is committed to delivering a better life, the Iraqi government will spend 10 billion dollars of its own money on reconstruction and infrastructure projects that will create new jobs.
Slides 37-40 discuss such reconstruction. From what I understand, part of our problem with such past efforts is that A) we couldn't adequately secure the reconstruction efforts, leading to a loss of credibility when the terrorists blew something up, and B) We reconstructed everywhere, instead of only doing so in areas willing to cooperate with us. Now, hopefully, we will establish a real carrot-and-stick system; cooperate and you'll get reconstruction money, otherwise you're on your own.
We will double the number of Provincial Reconstruction Teams.
I've heard that these have been working out very well in Afghanistan, and have heard some frustration that they had not been used to as good effect in Iraq. Hopefully that will now change.
Succeeding in Iraq also requires defending its territorial integrity — and stabilizing the region in the face of the extremist challenge. This begins with addressing Iran and Syria. These two regimes are allowing terrorists and insurgents to use their territory to move in and out of Iraq. Iran is providing material support for attacks on American troops. We will disrupt the attacks on our forces. We will interrupt the flow of support from Iran and Syria. And we will seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq.
When I first heard this, and even when I read it later, I thought "that's pretty vague". I wasn't expecting him to announce airstrikes, but was hoping for something more.
But Michael Ledeen points out the sentence "And we will seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq." and asks what else can it mean other than we're going to go after the training and supply bases in Syria and Iran? It does sound like it, and I certainly hope we do it.
The challenge playing out across the broader Middle East is more than a military conflict. It is the decisive ideological struggle of our time. On one side are those who believe in freedom and moderation. On the other side are extremists who kill the innocent, and have declared their intention to destroy our way of life. In the long run, the most realistic way to protect the American people is to provide a hopeful alternative to the hateful ideology of the enemy — by advancing liberty across a troubled region.
Pretty close. If you think that the war is about "getting bin Laden", put your dunce cap on. It's about defeating radical Islam, plain and simple. We're always told that it can't be done with bombs and bullets alone, so spreading liberty (a bit different than democracy) is the only long term plan that makes sense to me.
Acting on the good advice of Senator Joe Lieberman and other key members of Congress, we will form a new, bipartisan working group that will help us come together across party lines to win the war on terror.
I have to think that Lieberman is almost persona non grata among Democrats these days when it comes to the war, but it works for me.
Most of the rest of the speech is fluff. The above are the main points.
I doubt that the speech will change many minds, at least in the anti-war camp. What will be interesting is to see if they actually have any alternative other than cut-and-run.
Those who want to win are divided on strategy, but at least we have ideas, many of which I outlined in previous installments of this series.
Either way, the President is going to push ahead and let congress squabble. Most anti-war Democrats don't have the courage of their convictions to cut off funds, but they don't have an alternate strategy to win, either. They seem to vaguely hope that the situation will simmer and the president will slowly bring home the troops. Iraq will fall into chaos and they can blame him. It would seem that he's determined not to let that happen, and is going to give it the 'ol college try one more time.
I say we support him on it. I'm going to write my Senators, Warner and Webb, as well as my Congressman Frank Wolf and let them know that I want them to support this effort. Yes I know that Webb will probably come out against it but he's going to hear from me anyway.
I wrote Rep Wolf and Sen Warner, but cannot find any email or web form contact information for newly elected Sen Webb, either on his new Senate web page or his campaign site. If you can find an email contact for him please leave one in comments. Until he gets around to setting this up I'll have to send him snail mail.
January 9, 2007
Walter Reed FReep #90 January 5 AAR - Down To A Science
Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these Freepers from the completion of their appointed duties.
The Honor Roll for FReep #90, outside of Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington DC: 3D-Joy, Albion Wilde, Bill from MD, Cindy-true-supporter, Daughter of tgslTakoma, Doctor Raoul, Fraxinus, Gavin, Jimmy Valentine's Brother, Just A Nobody, Kieth & Sarah from VA, Kristinn, PleaDeal, TFroatz, Son of tgslTakoma, tgslTakoma, Tom the Redhunter, and Trooprally [Mr. & Mrs]
Over a year and a half and we've seen just about everything, weather-wise; snow, drenching rain, blistering heat and freezing cold. During the summer months it stays light until 8pm and during the winter it's dark by the time we get there.
Sometimes we can deploy the MOAB and sometimes the weather is so bad that we can't put it up. When it's windy or rainy we bring out the "mini-MOAB". The flags go up regardless of weather, as nothing's going to stop Old Glory. Some of our more inventive FReepers have invented signs that will withstand the rain. All of the "regulars" by this point have learned to keep a sharp eye on the weather reports, and have clothing ready for any contingency.
This past Friday it was somewhat rainly and fairly windy, so we deployed the Mini-MOAB and flags.
We have special bags and/or containers for all of the flags, signs, and MOABs. The flags all get wrapped up in a certain way so as to fit their bags. The pvc pipes that make up the frame for the MOAB are all color-coded for easy assembly. We've even got a special hammer and tool for disassembly, so as not to break any of the fragile pvc joints.
tgslTakoma usually takes all of the components with her, usually with help from Trooprally [Mr. & Mrs] or PleaDeal. Trooprally [Mr. & Mrs] also FReeps the Quakers every Saturday, so the use some of the materials for that operation. Albion Wilde and Bill from MD each have banners that they bring and set up each week.
And, yes, we've got setup and takedown procedures as well. Everyone knows what to do whent they arrive, and what to do once the bus has come by and the rally is over.
In other words, folks, we've got this down to a science.
It would be incorrect, however, for you to get the impression that only the same group of people showed up every Friday.
Sure, we do have a group of "regulars" But even that group changes slightly as time has gone on.
And more to the point, every week people come by to join the FReep, and due to personal circumstances are only able to be with us for one or two Fridays. Sometimes they are FReepers from out-of-town who are in Washington DC or vicinity on a business trip. They stay an extra day just to take part in our Walter Reed rallies. Others come into town specially for the occasion, usually driving but sometimes flying in.
We've been visited by several Republican organizations, from the Young Republicans when a bunch of them were in town for a training conference, to Republican clubs from local colleges and universities such as the GW Republicans.
Washington DC, of course, is full of conservative think-tanks and lobbying organizations, and often interns will hear about us and drop by for a FReep or two.
Occasionally the press show up. This mainly happened when the Pinkos were at the gate, and there was thus more "excitement" by their standards. Now that it's "just" a pro-troops rally, I guess they don't figure we're worth covering. No matter.
And of course we always get Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Airmen and their families, both active duty and retired. Many come out from Walter Reed specifically to talk with us. Others come out to catch a cab or the Metro.
Dr. Raoul had on a fur hat with the hammer and sickle badge on it. I never did get a change to ask him where he got it, but I think he's got a new nickname now; Dr "Comrade" Raoul.
Here's the good doctor with some other intrepid FReepers. Besides Dr Raoul, we've got Kristinn, 3D-Joy, and TFroatz
Cindy-True-Supporter and Mrs. Trooprally confer on one of our corners.
Jimmy Valentine's Brother, Daughter of tgslTakoma, and Tom the Redhunter hold down the fort at the corner to the main entrance to the hospital.
A Debater Stops By
We didn't get any photos of him, but some pedestrian decided to debate PleaDeal and some others over the war. For once, she said, it was a civil conversation. PleaDeal explains
A nice lefty named Kevin (who looked remarkably like Eddie Murphy) had a spirited and civilized discussion with us about the war. We like guys like Kevin because, dispite his lack of knowledge beyond the MSM, he's not a moonbat and can actually think for himself. We invited him back to talk some more any time he liked.
Oh Yes, the Pinkos
The Code Pink people showed up as ususal too, about 50 yards away from us, or halfway down the street. Because they foolishly selected a spot not at an interestion, but just in the middle of the street, cars tend to drive by them before they are noticed. Here is a representative photo. Are they a sorry looking bunch or what?
Otherwise I'm not going to waste much ink on them as they're just not worth it. If you're not familiar, and want to know who they are, David Horowitz' DiscoverTheNetwork has a great write-up on Code Pink. In addition, if you scroll half-way down this post of mine to "The Case Against Code Pink" you can read about more of their nefarious activities. Last summer they took their anti-American circus to Jordan to try and undermine our war effort in Iraq, my report on that little stunt of theirs is here.
The Troops Arrive!
As regular readers of these AARs know, every Friday wounded troopers from Walter Reed are taken out to dinner at a nice DC restaurant, and some local charities pick up the bill. The bus(s) come back to Walter Reed sometime between 9 and 10:30 PM. Our objective is to be there to greet them. Here is one of the buses from last Friday
Every one of them is a hero.
Don't be shy! We'd love to have you FReep with us one evening! If you'd like more details please send me FReepmail and I'd be happy to provide more information.
* A special Thank You to Plea Deal for taking the photos for this AAR. Plea Deal blogs at Semper Gratus
* Thank you to BufordP for maintaining the BIG LIST of all Walter Reed FReeps
* Tom the Redhunter blogs at The Redhunter
January 8, 2007
New Plan for Iraq V
In previous installments of this series I introduced and discussed what I have been calling the Keane-Kagan plan, (officially it's “Choosing Victory, A Plan for Success in Iraq") as well as whether it was politically possible. See the bottom of this post for quick links to parts I-IV.
Much talk in the media centers around the so-called "surge"; the part of the plan to increase the number of US troops in Iraq by perhaps 30,000 or more. While increasing the number of troops is an important part of the plan, it is important to note that just as important is it's change in strategy.
Kate O'Beirne of National Review was at a briefing today by the plan's authors, where they stressed just this point:
Gen. Keane emphasizes that the surge in troops represents a wholly new military mission — to protect Iraqis in Sunni and mixed Sunni-Shia neighborhoods, i.e. to defeat the insurgency. The current military mission is to transition to Iraqi forces. Kagan and Keane both emphasized that the surge has to be both substantial (minimum 30,000 troops) and sustained (minimum 18 months). They explained that it would be desirable to have even a larger surge but current resources don’t allow for that and they don’t support any timetable other than that dictated by mission success. Gen. Keane points out that it will take some time to win the cooperation of the local population. The troop surge should be accompanied by a reconstruction package.
Among those who actually want to win the war, there are two competing views. One view says that increasing American troops and changing the strategy is key to success. The other says no, this is not the answer and only the Iraqis can win the war. As such, they say, the key is to increase the number of trainers.
In an editorial last Sunday, Oliver North argued that more troops simply means more targets for the insurgents. Increasing American troops "will not improve Iraqi willingness to fight their own fight, which is an imperative if we are to claim victory in this war." After talking with both Iraqis and American troops in his last visit there, he is convinced that the key to success is an increased training regimen.
Mario Loyola, writing at The Corner also opposes increasing the number of troops, but for different reasons. He agrees with North that only the Iraqis can win, that only they can establish security. In a post today he wrote that
"Clear, hold, and build" may work as counter-insurgency strategy, but I can't imagine that it can be as effective in a counter-terror or counter-death-squad mode. Terrorists and death squads have a much easier time hiding among the urban population than a guerrilla force, which sooner or later cannot escape the necessity of controlling territory — or at least be able to openly challenge the territorial control of coalition forces. It is one of the tragedies of the Iraq conflict that in the counter-insurgency dimension of the war, coalition forces were actually largely victorious in 2004 and 2005. But then Al Qaeda came up with its "civil war" strategy, and an effective counter-strategy has thus far eluded us.
I've got respect for both North and Loyola, but in this case I think they're wrong. The current strategy of training the Iraqis to do the job themselves simply isn't working. We're going backwards in Iraq, and it's time for a change. As Frederick Kagan says about increasing trainers in the executive summary to their new plan:
This approach cannot succeed rapidly enough to prevent defeat. Removing U.S. forces from patrolling neighborhoods to embed them as trainers will lead to an immediate rise in violence. This rise in violence will destroy America’s remaining will to fight, and escalate the cycle of sectarian violence in Iraq beyond anything an Iraqi army could bring under control.
Take the Gloves Off?
Another thing I've heard a lot of recently is that we ought to "take the gloves off" because our troops are severely constrained in what they may do. Loyola writes about this in the post of his linked to above, saying that our troops "aren't allowed to do half the things they know they should be doing, out of deference to the Iraqi government." Although this is the type of stuff that drives war supporters back home nuts and annoys the troops, it is necessary because "the Iraqi government must succeed in establishing security with its own forces, and this means that it must establish central authority, even if this means subordinating the authority of coalition forces and constraining their freedom of action."
Today on the Jerry Doyle show I was listening to his guest Col David Hunt (Ret) argue just the opposite. Col Hunt, who had just gotten back from Iraq, was talking about the various restrictions on US troops and how in his opinion they hurt our ability to destroy the insurgents and take down the militias. He said that unless we arrest or kill Muqtada al-Sadr and destroy his Mahdi Army increasing the number of troops won't matter. He pointed out that we had the war won for a few months after the invasion, but got soft and let the situation get away from us. Because the Iraqis stopped fearing us, they feel free to engage in violence, against us and against each other.
Victor Davis Hanson, also writing at The Corner today, recognized the danger North pointed out that increasing the number of Americans may just increase the number of targets. To keep this from happening he says that
If we have a surge, that means sending combined Iraqi-American units on proactive operations to destroy the terrorists and their supporters. If we don't, then the additional numbers will only offer bigger targets and added prestige to the terrorists who operate despite increased American investment.
Hanson doesn't exactly say we should take the gloves off and go for broke, but earlier iin the same post he said that the reason for the relative calm after our invasion was that Iraqis feared us, but that after a few months we turned to "reactive policing", and thus lost their respect.
Here's my take: On the one hand those who advocate removing the restrictions from our troops need to recognize that they are running a serious risk. The obvious benefit from such an action would be to kill more terrorists and militia members, which would hopfully make Iraqis (or the ones that matter, anyway), fear us. On the other is the law of unintended consequences. The risks are many; civil uprising, denouncement by the IIraqi government and thus perceived loss of legitimacy of our presence, the chance filming by a reporter of some "incident" that reflects badly on US troops, the list goes on.
If the situation weren't so dire I'd agree with Loyola that there are good reasons to keep the restrictions in place. But as I said earlier with regard to the strategy of training the Iraqis to do the job, it clearly isn't working and we need a change in direction.
President Bush's Turn
This Wednesday President Bush will give a major address in which he will lay out his plan for winning the war in Iraq. Word is that he was briefed on the Keane-Kagan plan and came away impressed.
Chances are, I believe, that he will announce some level of troop increase and change in strategy. I just hope that he is willing to send enough troops for a long enough period of time to matter, and that the change in strategy is serious. He's already changed commanders at CENTCOM and in Iraq, which was a good start. My fear is that this will be another half-measure; 10-20,000 troops for a short time and incremental changes in strategy. Such things won't work and I will be disappointed if that's what happens. We shall see.
January 6, 2007
The Hojjatieh and "Professor Crocodile"
Two days ago Michael Ledeen (hat tip ThreatsWatch reported that Grand Ayatollah Ali Khameini, the Supreme Leader of Iran , was dead. Yesterday Iran denied it. I've searched a few major news outlets and can find nothing on it.
Whatever the truth, I've seen a few reports that he has been ill for some time, so it is likely that he will not be with us much longer. Even is he is alive but ill, his power is obviouly diminished and jockeying for power has undoubtably shifted into high gear.
The good news is that the Hojjatieh were apparently not able to extend their influence in the elections to the Council of Experts (who elect the Supreme Leader) last Dec 15. Instead, "moderates" close to Ayatollah Rafsanjani won most of the seats. This would seem to diminish the power and/or influence of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Then again, trying to decipher the workings of the Iranian government is difficult even on a good day, because so much of what happens appears to be scripted.
By way of quick background, Khameini's bio on Wikipedia makes for useful reading. He was born in 1939, and was President of Iran from 1981 to 1989. He was elected by the Assembly of Experts to be the country's new Supreme Leader on June 4, 1989, shortly after the Ayatollah Khomeini died. The Assembly of Experts (sometimes incorrectly called the "council of mullahs") is the true power in Iran, and it's Supreme Leader has much more power than does the president.
The question that emerges now, or will very shortly, is who will succeed Ayatollah Khameini as Supreme Leader? Will the Hojjatieh gain or lose influence?
The ThreatsWatch post linked to above mentions a certain Ayatollah Yazdi. I first read about him a few weeks ago on in the comments section of this ThreatsWatch post, when post author Steve Schippert mentioned his name. I decided to do some poking around and here's what I've found out so far.
His Wikipedia entry tells us that he is "President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's spiritual advisor, and a member of Iran's Assembly of Experts." He is considered a fundamentalist in a nation where we in the West would consider just about all clerics fundamentalists. He is considered the leader of these fundamentalists, and is "an outspoken, and sometimes violent critic of the reform movement." Of course, he supports martyrdom operations and suicide bombers against Israel.
Although he is rumored to be the leader of the Hojjatieh, he has denied any link to them. Even if he was tied to them he would likely deny it, since the Ayatollah Khomeini banned the group in 1983. Given the opaque nature of what we know about Iranian politics, anything could be true.
In November 2005 an article about Yazdi appeared in The Telegraph which described him as "a hardliner to terrify hardliners". In Iran he is known by some as "Professor Crocodile", a nickname bestowed on him by a political cartoonist he later had thrown in jail.
According to the Telegraph article, Yazdi's influence waxed when he issued a fatwa in support of Ahmadinejad's presidential bid in 2005. Given the last election, however, one suspects his influence has since waxed. All will become clear when the next Supreme Leader is chosen.
A story by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty also discusses the possible reimergence of the Hojjatieh and accusations that Yazdi is a member or even the leader.
Further, a long article on a website of The Baha'i International Community (Wikipedia entry on the Baha'i Faith here) has much information on the Hojjatieh, including much I have not yet had time to read.
As if the practices and beliefs of the Hojjatieh as I described them in my initial post on the subject weren't weird and worrysome enough, we have stories about the Ayatollah Yazdi and his magic crystals to add to the mix.
From what I can tell, the Hojjatieh are in the "mystical" tradition of Islam (many religions, including Christianity, have their mystical sects, which I believe are usually regarded as heretical). Likewise, I believe that the Hojjatieh are regarded as at least somewhat heretical by most Shi'ites, especially given that Ayatollah Khomeini did ban the organization.
ThreatsWatch contributor Steve Schippert elaborates about the Ayatollah Yazdi and the Jojjatieh in this comment he posted on his site in response to a question of mine about Yazdi:
One thing to also keep in mind is that the Hojjatieh sect is extremely apocolyptic and bizarre in practice. Many respected writers - including Bernard Lewis and Amir Taheri - shy away from writing publicly the details of their practices. A well-informed friend in a position to know has said several times that they fear that their practices are so mystic and strange (“truly what you would expect in a comic book” - including the use of crystals, belief in meta-physical powers, etc.) that readers would question the authors’ credibility rather than the frightening nature of the Hojjatieh practices themselves.
Yazdi is paranoid and is said to sleep just a couple of hours each day. Again, according to a very well informed friend, Yazdi has good reason to be paranoid. The position he holds within the sect he gained - it was said - by killing his predecessor—-trying to remove his “third eye”. It’s barely believable. Surely some reading this here may think me off my rocker for even echoing what was told to me by an extremely reasonable, objective source who is most definitely not the sensational type. If his followers truly believe he caused a foe to spontaneously combust from afar…well, you’re beginning to see why so many credible writers run away from such stories, though they believe them true. Reasonable westerneres will dismiss such things, believing it truly impossible for a group of people to truly and faithfully subscribe to such things and beliefs.
This is what Ayatollah Mesbah-Yazdi and his young pupil Ahmadinejad bring to the leadership table of the world’s foremost state sponsor of international terrorism.
If, in an outside chance, Yazdi’s followers win enough seats in the Assembly of Experts from Friday’s elections (we’ll know Sunday, I believe), they will certainly seek to remove Supreme Leader Khameini - or if his health is as bad as reported, wait until Khameini dies - and replace him with Yazdi himself.
This is unlikely, as Khameini still holds the electoral trump: Power.
However, if the US sees Yazdi assume Khameini’s position, the cause for American military action will have exponentially increased.
The Hojjatieh - and Yazdi in particular - are that scary.
Note: Schippert later clarified that "the ‘credible writers’ of whom I speak do not believe that Yazdi caused a man to spontaneously combust. They believe that the Hojjatieh followers subscribe to this thinking, reasoned by the group to be a part of the mystic powers he is touted as having."
Schippert and many others believe that Ahmadinejad is a Hojjatieh true believer. Yazdi may be as well, and if Khameini is dead or dies soon, the balance of power could shift in their favor.
Of course I've no idea how much if any of this President Bush and his advisors are aware of, but the recent appointment of Admial William Fallon to replace General John Abizaid at CENTCOM shows that they are taking the threat from Iran very seriously.
I rather doubt that military action is on the table in the near term, but what if Yazdi or Ahmadinejad suddenly announced that the Mahdi ("12th Imam") had in fact returned?
It is easy to dismiss all this talk of the Hojjatieh and Mahdi as comic-book stuff. Certainly it is strange beyond our imaging. The fact, however, is that in order to defend ourselves against our enemies we have to understand them. And from what I'm beginning to understand what's going on in Iran is as scary as it gets.
The Noble and Knave of 2006
Every Saturday the Washington Times announces it's Noble and Knave of the week. At the end of every year, it lists all of the "winners", and lets readers vote on the Noble and Knave of the Year. A few weeks ago the Times listed the contestants, and today announced the winners. Here is today's Times editorial in it's entirety:
As always, the "Noble and Knave of the Year" contest wouldn't be possible without you, The Washington Times readers. Your continued support of the Saturday feature is as welcome as it is humbling. To all who voted, thank you. Now, on to the contest.
Barely edging out Cindy Sheehan for the No. 10 spot in the knave category was everybody's favorite country band, the Dixie Chicks, and their insufferable lead singer, Natalie Maines. Miss Maines, you might recall, has a history of self-righteous comments, but her latest was that she "didn't understand the necessity of patriotism." No doubt she does understand the millions of dollars in sales she earns every year, courtesy of the capitalist system the United States of America set up for her benefit.
Do you want to talk about No. 9 France? No? OK, moving right on to No. 8, Sen. Jim Webb from Virginia. Readers weren't particularly happy with Mr. Webb's snub of veterans down at a Virginia Beach event shortly after Mr. Webb unseated George Allen. Many readers also added that Mr. Webb's snub of President Bush during a reception at the White House influenced their vote. Another lawmaker who seemed to come out of nowhere last year was Rep. John Murtha from Pennsylvania. Mr. Murtha has spent most of his time in Congress parleying with undercover FBI agents, but he appeared on the front pages this year with a full-throated assault on the Iraq war -- which, as he discovered, is dangerous business, leading as it does to the saying of all sorts of incomprehensible things. Redeploy to Okinawa? The U.S. presence in Iraq is more dangerous than North Korea?
Then there were the perennial knaves, like the American Civil Liberties Union and nutty college professor Ward Churchill. The Editorial Page is considering banning these sorts of characters from the knave category for life just to give other knaves a chance -- which is why the Editorial Page was happy to see a newcomer making waves in the Idiot Department last year, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, earning the No. 4 spot. It was Mr. Nagin who said Hurricane Katrina was God's way of chastising Mr. Bush for the Iraq war. That kind of rhetoric apparently works down in the Big Easy, where voters rewarded Mr. Nagin with re-election.
Another newcomer on the scene whom the Editorial Page is expecting big things from in the future is Vermont Judge Edward Cashman. Judge Cashman is of the enlightened variety, the kind of judge who looks at a convicted child rapist and feels his pain. So he sentences said child rapist to just 60 days in prison. And if you disagree with his judicial acumen, well, then you're not as enlightened as Judge Cashman, the No. 3 Knave of the Year.
Your No. 2 Knave was a special case indeed. It isn't everyday that one of the world's top universities opens its doors to former members of oppressive regimes. Blame it on multiculturalism. That's what Yale University did when it admitted a former member of the Taliban -- which is fine, except that Yale still doesn't allow the Reserve Officer Training Corps on campus because of the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy, or so it says.
Only one vote separated Judge Cashman from Yale. There were, however, more than 130 votes that separated Yale from your Knave of the Year. Usually, the Editorial Page would tease readers a bit before unveiling the winner, but you know who it is. Yes, Jimmy Carter -- president, humanitarian, election observer, Nobel Peace Prize winner, world diplomat, author, peanut farmer, alleged plagiarizer, Israel-hater. Is there anything this man hasn't done? With the deaths of former Presidents Reagan and Ford, Mr. Carter's continuing presence on the world stage grows ever more wearisome. His place in history is assured, yet unfortunately it is next to the likes of the Cindy Sheehans of the world rather than the Fords and Reagans. By an overwhelming margin, Mr. Carter is the Knave of the Year.
As in years past, Nobles in this year's contest were a tough bunch to categorize. There were many Nobles on the list, like No. 10 David Dingman-Glover, a child cancer survivor, who overcame incredible odds and revealed extraordinary courage. And there were Nobles who, like No. 7 Oriana Fallaci, spent a lifetime fighting the good fight. Few people call Miss Fallaci a conservative. But Miss Fallaci was a conservative in the fact she knew how precious and rare a creation like Western Civilization is in world history. She looked on with horror as her beloved Italy slowly succumbed to the threat of Islamofascism. Unlike some of her compatriots, however, Miss Fallaci fought back with an unnerving writing style that earned her many enemies. Her death last year was a loss for all true lovers of freedom.
Speaking of courage, readers were impressed with the courage displayed by Dr. Ward Casscells (No. 9) and Staff Sgt. Michael Caldwell (No. 8). Dr. Casscells, now a colonel in the Army reserves, left a successful medical career to enlist. He knew his training would be better suited on the battlefield than in the patient room, especially during a time of war. Sgt. Caldwell, another example of exemplary courage, was wounded on the battlefield but instead of calling it quits decided, as he lay there on the operating table, to re-enlist. Both portrayed a duty to a cause higher than themselves.
Courage of a different sort was revealed by our Americans to the north, the No. 6 Alaskan villagers, who refused Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's offer of cheap oil. As many readers pointed out, this was no insignificant show of sacrifice. That far north and that far out of society's reach, oil is the lifeblood and it doesn't come cheap. Mr. Chavez knows this, which is why he made his offer. Alaskans threw it back in his face. Well done.
A bit closer to home was BB&T Corp.'s decision not to loan money to private developers who had obtained land by way of eminent domain. Readers told BB&T what they thought of that company policy by voting them into fifth place. Now, if only the Supreme Court could follow BB&T's example.
Of course what would a year in politics be without a major gaffe from Sen. John Kerry? Fancying himself a comedian, Mr. Kerry made a joke at Mr. Bush's expense, only it didn't come off that way. Many a pundit and conservative had their say, but it wasn't until the Minnesota National Guard, stationed in Iraq, took a picture that everyone finally got the punchline: "Halp us Jon Carry -- We r stuck hear in Irak." They were your No. 4 Noble.
It isn't often that a U.S. ambassador to the United Nations gets deserved recognition. So the Editorial Page was pleased to see readers honor John Bolton with third place. Unfortunately, Mr. Bolton was the victim of partisan politics and left the United Nations after only a year. But what a year. Have no fear, Mr. Bolton will be back, doing what he does best: Angering liberals and calling down tyrants. Hmm. Come to think of it, that is kind of what your No. 2 Noble has been doing well recently, albeit of a domestic variety. Bill Cosbyhas angered his fair share of liberals lately, as conservatives and parents applaud wildly in the background. There's even a book, "Is Bill Cosby Right?" analyzing the points Mr. Cosby makes so unapologetically as he tours the country. The Editorial Page will save you the time of reading: Yes, he is.
One day the Editorial Page hopes that it will not be honoring fallen U.S. soldiers as Nobles as frequently as it does. But that is not today. The country remains at war and Americans continue to die in service to their country, giving, as Abraham Lincoln said, "the last full measure of devotion." Nowhere is Lincoln's phrase more apt than when talking about Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael A. Monsoor, a member of the Navy SEALs. Petty Officer Monsoor was positioned on a rooftop with his fellow SEALs in Ramadi, Iraq, when a grenade hit him in the chest and rattled to the ground. Petty Officer Monsoor knew the blast would surely kill him and the two SEALs nearest to him. "He never took his eye off the grenade," said a SEAL later. "His only movement was down toward it." As one reader asked, "Is there anything more noble?" No, sir, there isn't, which is why Petty Officer Monsoor is the Noble of the Year.
January 5, 2007
New Plan for Iraq IV
In previous installments of this series I wrote about the proposed Keane-Kagan Plan to win the war in Iraq and whether or not it would work. Today it seems appropriate to write about whether from a political standpoint it stands a chance of being implemented.
We know that the vast majority of Democrats are opposed to any increase of troops in Iraq, whether for a short or long period of time. Most do not want a precipitous, immediate withdrawal, for they recognize that the country would likely descend into chaos and they'd be held responsible. They want a slow withdrawal that would take place over the next year or so.
What is not commonly recoginzed, I think, is that many conservatives and/or Republicans are now sour on the idea of a troop increase also. Robert Novak wrote yesterday that other than Sen John McCain and a few others, few Republicans in Congress support the new plan.
President Bush and McCain, the front-runner for the next presidential nomination, in pressing for a surge of 30,000 more troops, will have trouble finding support from more than 12 out of 49 Republican senators.
Republican leaders around the country, anticipating that the 2006 election disaster would prompt an orderly disengagement from Iraq, are shocked that the president now appears ready to add more troops.
I checked with prominent Republicans around the country and found them confused and disturbed about the surge. They incorrectly assumed that the presence of Republican stalwart James Baker as co-chairman of the Iraq Study Group meant it was Bush-inspired (when it really was a bipartisan creation of Congress). Why, they ask, is the president casting aside the commission's recommendations and calling for more troops?
Read the whole thing, but I think that those quotes capture the gist of the editorial.
If Novak's piece is accurate, then it's going to be difficult if not impossible for Bush to implement any new plan that requires an increase of troops. The authors of the Keane-Kagan plan, as well as many others, have stated that a short-term increase would solve nothing. Their plan calls for a committment of about 30,000 troops for at least 18 months.
President Bush can order the troops to Iraq, but only Congress can fund them. It would seem to me that we're nearing the point where Congress is going to pull the rug out from under the entire entreprise, and it might be a bipartisan effort.
Are the Iraqis Worth It?
Charles Krauthammer thinks not. The execution of Saddam Hussein has convinced him that the current Iraqi government is not worth supporting. Writing in today's Washington Post, he reviews the execution, which he calls "botched", and concludes that
We should not be surging American troops in defense of such a government. This governing coalition -- Maliki's Dawa, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim's Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq and Sadr's Mahdi Army -- seems intent on crushing the Sunnis at all costs. Maliki should be made to know that if he insists on having this sectarian war, he can well have it without us.
I don't agree, because I don't think that Krauthammer is asking the right question. The issue to me is that if we leave Iraq as it is, it will become a base for the jihadists. Yes I know that much or most of the killing now is sectarian and therefore not motivated by radical Islam. It's rather that a destabilized Iraq, heavily influenced by Iran, would become a base for terror.
But what I think doesn't really matter, because I'm sure no one on Capitol Hill is reading The Redhunter. President Bush wants to win the war, and Senator McCain is an important figure who holds a lot of sway. They're swimming against the tide, however, and I'm starting to become doubtful as to whether Bush can implement the new plan even if he wants to.
Just across the wires:
Bush intends to replace Gen. George Casey, his top military commander in Iraq, with Lt. Gen. David Petraeus, officials said. The president also will name Adm. William Fallon to replace Gen. John Abizaid at Central Command.
The naming of a new military team coincides with Bush's plan to announce next Wednesday in a major speech his long-awaited new strategy for the nearly four-year-old Iraq war, which could include sending up to 20,000 more troops to reinforce Baghdad and other key cities.
The President is going to give it a try. Although he should have done all this some months ago, better late than never. The question is whether he can scrape up enough political capital to implement the plan.
January 1, 2007
State of the War
The start of a new year is a good time to think about how we are doing in the war. Last August I said that we were losing, and I'm not completely sure now if my opinion has changed.
By "war", I don't mean just what's going on in Iraq or Afghanistan, but the overall war. Call it World War IV, the War Against Islamic Extremism, Islamic Fascism, Islamic Radicalism, or Islamism, just don't call it the War on Terror, because that term obscures more than it reveals the nature of our enemy.
Bill Roggio has just returned from Iraq, and he's posted a "State of the Jihad" on his site, from which I drew much valuable information for this post. As with almost all of his posts, Roggio doesn't present any conclusion of his own. His posts tend to be like newspaper stories (or how they should be written, anyway), where he simply states the facts as he sees them an invites the readers to reach their own conclusions.
The editors at StrategyPage also provide a useful country-by-country summary. Theirs is broader than Roggio's but less in-depth in any one theater.
Bret Stephens, in a piece published in today's Opinion Journal, also has much good material, covering areas that Roggio omits, such as Lebanon.
Iraq is the leading front in the war so it makes the most sense to write about it first. Whether it was right for us to invade or not is immaterial at this point. The fact is that if we win there we deal our enemies a setback, and if we lose they win a victory.
We seem to be in a state of stalemate, which I think favors our enemies. Weirdly, we don't have any one enemy, but it seems to be a mix of al Qaeda, various militias, die-hard Ba'athists, and plain old criminals. Their motivations are everything from jihad to ethnic rivalries to old-fashion criminal gain, and sometimes they all seem mixed together. Unlike in Vietnam, the insurgency is hardly united, but that doesn't seem to make it any easier to defeat.
The violence has, of course, risen during the year, which is a very bad thing, even if relatively few of the deaths were Americans.
From what I can tell, the Sunnis started or promoted the insurgency in it's early days as a way of getting the US out of Iraq and themselves back into power. The Shi'ites reacted by forming or building up their militias and going after the Sunnis. The Kurds (Sunni but not Arabs) did their own thing up north, the one part of the country that pretty much works. The Sunni supported al Qaeda-in-Iraq bombed the Golden Dome of the Al-Askaria Mosque in Samarra, and the whole thing escallated. My understanding is that because of Shi'ite retribution many of the Sunnis now regret their earlier actions, and are trying to make peace, but it might be too late. The Shi'ites are not going to give up their militias voluntarily, at least in the short term. What is going on now is little short of Shi'ite ethnic cleansing. Only the presence of US forces prevents it from escallating into a Rwanda or Kosovo-style slaughter.
The Iraqi government doesn't want to go after the Shi'ite militias because many of the ministers, not the least of which is that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki depends on Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army for his own position. The Iraqi Army is getting stronger, but some individual units will not fight against their own sect or clan. The Iraqi Police are riddled with death squad activity and are part of the problem.
A hanging is a terrible thing, but it was right that Saddam was executed, however the method. It won't win the war, but it does deny the die-hard Ba'athists the hope that he may someday return to power.
The reporting on Iraq is often seemingly contradictory. Read one story and you think all is lost. Read another and you believe that no, there is much progress. Christopher Hitchens talks about this phenomenon and concludes that "It isn't so much a matter of deciding who or what to believe, because both (the good and bad) may be simultaneously correct." One wonders if Americans had this problem deciphering the news during the Civil War or World War II.
Our plan to stabilize Baghdad in October (more here) failed, and now President Bush is considering a plan by academic Frederick Kagan and retired general Jack Keane, which is considerably different from what what we've tried over the past few years. With the Democrats now in charge of Congress, Bush's time to win is limited, and whatever he does next may be our last chance.
Afghanistan is arguably the number two front in the war. The defeat of al Qaeda and their Taliban allies dealt a huge blow to the Islamist movement, and they are determined to take the country back. As such, 2006 saw large Taliban-al Qaeda offensives. Unfortunately for them, they also saw large numbers of Taliban and al Qaeda killed. Bill Roggio estimates that 3,500 of 4,000 Taliban fighters have been killed in these offensives. The paradox they face is that if they remain dispersed, it is harder for us to find and kill them, yet if they mass for the attack, we can find and kill them easily.
The Taliban and al Qaeda are using their bases in Pakistan to attack in Afghanistan. Until we find a way to neutralize these bases, these attacks will continue. Our paradox is that if we go after these bases, we neutralize the Taliban/al Qaeda, but run a serious risk of destabilizing Pakistan with potentially disasterous consequences.
Although several NATO countries have sent troops, they have not sent nearly as many as they could have, this despite that Afghanistan is supposed to be the war that everyone agreed was the good one. Further, some NATO governments that have sent troops have placed such serious restrictions on them as to practically remove them from the fight altogether. Some are fighting quite honorably, so this is not meant to tar all Europeans.
As with Iraq, reports are contradictory. Michael Yon is worried and thinks we might lose the country, but other stuff I read makes me think that no, the Taliban and al Qaeda may stage offensives but we're handling them without too much difficulty.
In the end, I think we're winning in Afghanistan but have the potentiol to lose. 2007 will be a violent and possibly decisive year.
2006 saw us experience a serious setback in the war in Pakistan. The Taliban and al Qaeda forced the government to abandon the region called North Waziristan and sign the Waziristan Accord. In this accord the government officially ceded control of the aformentioned territory to the Taliban.
Although this development went largely unmentioned in the media, it was one of the worst setbacks we have suffered in this war. According to Roggio, al Qaeda operates at least 22 camps in this area, and the Taliban have set up their headquarters there. Although not as good as having Afghanistan, it does provide them with a safe-haven, vital for any terrorist group.
The US did nothing when this accord was announced, and from what I can tell have not done anything since. As mentioned earlier, it would be extremely risky for us to attack these bases. Not to do so, though, means that we will face continued attacks into Afghanistan and elsewhere. It is not an easy dilemna to solve, but most disturbing of all is our apparenty unwillingness to want to face the problem at all.
Until a few weeks ago this would have gone down as a huge setback in the war. Now we can cautiously put it in the "win" column.
Last summer the Islamic Court Union had taken over the country, or at least the southern part of it. Ethiopia sent in troops to bolster their allies. The ICU, or a part of it, declared a jihad against Ethiopia. After a 5 month standoff, in December Ethiopian forces launched a major offensive, which included air and ground forces. They drove the ICU from the capital, Mogadishu, who have fled to the south. As of this writing Ethiopian forces stand poised to move south in pursuit, and may already be doing so.
2007 will undoubtably see more fighting, as the ICU will likely turn to insurgent warfare.
It is highly probable that the US and our European allies have been deeply engaged in this conflice, albeit at the clandestine-diplomatic level. I would not be surprised if a few aid bills for Ethiopia and Somalia flew threw congress in the next few months.
Iran remains a problem for three reasons: 1) They are continuing to supply, train, and influence the insurgency and Shi'ite militias in Iraq, the cause of much of the violence, and 2) They are continuing their pursuit of nuclear weapons without much interference from the US or Europe, and lastly, 3) They are the biggest state-sponsor of terrorism in the world, for example being the main supplier to Hezbollah.
As such, we have to put Iran in the "loss" column.
It is unimaginable that we do not have a good idea where Iranian terrorist training and supply depots are. Further, the ones supplying the Iraqi militias etc are likely close to their border with Iraq. No doubt it would be risky to attack them for a variety of reasons. Yet as long as they remain operational it will be difficult to stabilize Iraq.
The administration seems to believe that the situation with regard to Iranian pursuit of nuclear weapons will resolve itself, because I cannot imagine that they actually think that their pursuit of Security Council resolutions and never-ending diplomacy will produce results. It is possible that they are right. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad did suffer a setback in their recent elections, and other reports have it that Iran could run out of oil in as little as a decade, which would deprive them of the funds necessary to produce nuclear weapons.
It seems to me that while it is possible that the nuclear situation will resolve itself, it is not very likely that this will be the case. As such, Iran remains our greatest long-term threat in the region.
The war between Hezbollah and Israel was inconslusive, and the Bush Administration mishandled the situation badly, urging Israel to accept a toothless Security Council resolution that has proved worthless in disarming Hezbollah. 2007 will likely see a revival of fighting between Israel and Hezbollah.
The promise of the Cedar Revolution of 2005/6 has been squandered. Bret Stephens, in the Opinion Journal piece cited above, points out that the Bush Administration followed up the revolution "with nothing". We apparently thought that presto, with Syria gone everyting would work out fine.
Lebanon is a mess, with Wikipedia describing it as "highly fragile." The country is a safe haven for Hezbollah, one of the most dangerous Islamic terrorist organizations on the planet. No doubt they are currently being resupplied by Iran through Syria, and in 2007 we can look forward to more attacks by them on Israel, with the possibility of a full-scale war likely.
Lebanon obviously goes in the "loss" side of the ledger.
Syria was not part of Bush's original "Axis of Evil" but should have been. A state sponsor of terror, Syria has been behind much of the insurgency in Iraq and terrorism perpetrated against Israel.
We have been unable or unwilling to stem either. As with Iran, it is almost certain that we know where the supply and training bases are in Syria. There are rumors that Rumsfeld wanted to attack some of them but was vetoed by Bush. Attacking them would be far less risky than going after similar bases in Iran, and would serve to warn Iran as well. As long as we defer from doing so we will face a continued problem from Syria, as from their perspective supporting terrorism has become largely cost-free.
That Syria is still supplying the insurgency in Iraq and Hezbollah in Lebanon means that we have to put this in the "loss" column. The status quo is not acceptable.
Bill Roggio maintains that wealthy Saudis continue to fund terrorism, and I am certain that he is correct. In addition, it is well known that much jihadist hate is preached from Saudi Arabian mosques. The government is willing to tolerate this behavior in a "deal with the devil"; we'll let you preach as long as you don't touch us. One day these chickens may come home to roost.
In addition, funding for many mosques built in the West comes from Saudi sources. Wahhabism as currently practiced is part of the Islamic extremism problem, and until it is dealt with will continue to be a source of trouble for us and support for movements such as al Qaeda.
On the good side, the kingdom avoided sliding into all-out chaos, as some feared it would in 2005, after a series of al Qaeda attacks. Here as elsewhere, the status quo favors the enemy. At best, we are in stalemate.
We can put Chechnya in our "win" category. Al Qaeda suffered a loss here in 2006.
Russian forces killed the jihadist leader, Shamil Basayev, and later wounded his successor, Doku Umarov. StrategyPage goes so far as to say that "the war against gangsters and Islamic radicals in Chechnya has been won."
This is clearly not a major front for the United States or Europe, at least not in the short run. However, with a declining native birthrate, and increasing Muslim birthrate, Russia needs to control Muslim extremism close to its borders.
In the Philippines 2006 also saw much success by government and US forces battling al-Qaeda linked Abu Sayyaf and Indonesian based Jemaah Islamiyah. We can also put it in our "win" category for the year.
Unfortunately, events in Thailand took a turn for the worse in 2006, forcing us to put it in the "loss" category. Muslims from the southern part of the country have increased their attacks, culminating in a series of bombs going off in the capital city of Bangkok New Years Eve.
The problem does not appear to be major as of now, so although we'll put it in the "loss" category it is not something with which we need be overly concerned as of now.
It will seem strange to some that Europe is even included in this analysis. Certainly there is no fighting there, and few acts of terrorism. But we only exclude it if we take the narrow, and in my view incorrect, view of this war as only being against al Qaeda and maybe Hezbollah. Instead, as I stated at the top, the war is against Islamic extremism in general, and Europe is home to plenty of Islamic extremists.
The year began with the "Cartoon Jihad", and ended with equally manufactured Muslim outrage over some remarks by the Pope. While many European newspapers bravely stuck up for their Danish brethern, the reaction by the elites was less than admirable. Many were unwilling to confront the extremists, and gave the usual excuses as why media outlets should "exercise restraint".
There are plenty more reasons for despair. A low-level intifada continues in Parisian suburbs. While some in Britain seem to have awoken, far too many still blame the US and Israel for their trouble with Islamic extremism, believing that if only the Israel-Palestinian problem were solved and the US got out of Iraq, all would be well. Surveys still show that 40-60% of British muslims want Sharia law in their communities, and I'm sure the figure is 100% among muslim leaders. Attempts to confront Muslims with evidence of their extremism are met with the usual cries of "Islamophobia", and debate usually stops.
There have been a few attempts to control the extremism, and demand accountability. From my perspective, though, they are too few and too feeble. Most importantly, there is no attempt to stop or limit immigration by Muslime.
The situation is getting worse in Europe, and although it is incrimental, we have to put it in the "loss" column as well.
Not a good year. All-in-all, probably an overall loss for the good guys. In the short erm I think the biggest challenge is Iraq, in the medium term Iran, and in the long term Europe itself.
In the end I remain confident that we will win, but at the rate things are going the cost may be quite high. We are currently in a sort of "funk", and our president seemed not to know quite what to do throughout much of the past year. It looks like the elections in November seemed to have shaken off much of the lethargy. I look forward to a much more active, and hopefully more successful, 2007.