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July 30, 2007

"A War We Just Might Win"

This Op-Ed in today's New York Times is getting a lot of plan in the conservative blogosphere, but I think it worth printing here because it is important (h/t NRO)

It's titled "A War We Just Might Win", and once again yes it's in the New York Times. Not by the editors, it is identified as a Op-Ed, but in the Times nonetheless. The authors are Michael E O'Hanlon and Kenneth M Pollack. Michael E. O’Hanlon is identivied as "a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution." Kenneth M. Pollack "is the director of research at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at Brookings." You don't have to go far into the Brookings Institution website to discover that it's not exactly a conservative think-tank.

Let's take a look at some of O'Hanlon and Pollack's key findings

Here is the most important thing Americans need to understand: We are finally getting somewhere in Iraq, at least in military terms. As two analysts who have harshly criticized the Bush administration’s miserable handling of Iraq, we were surprised by the gains we saw and the potential to produce not necessarily “victory” but a sustainable stability that both we and the Iraqis could live with.
After the furnace-like heat, the first thing you notice when you land in Baghdad is the morale of our troops. In previous trips to Iraq we often found American troops angry and frustrated — many sensed they had the wrong strategy, were using the wrong tactics and were risking their lives in pursuit of an approach that could not work.

Today, morale is high. The soldiers and marines told us they feel that they now have a superb commander in Gen. David Petraeus; they are confident in his strategy, they see real results, and they feel now they have the numbers needed to make a real difference.

I talked about the problem with the Iraqi Army in a previous post, about how the issue holding them back was logistics, not fighting spirit or even leadership. O'Hanlon and Pollack bolster that view

But for now, things look much better than before. American advisers told us that many of the corrupt and sectarian Iraqi commanders who once infested the force have been removed. The American high command assesses that more than three-quarters of the Iraqi Army battalion commanders in Baghdad are now reliable partners (at least for as long as American forces remain in Iraq).

In addition, far more Iraqi units are well integrated in terms of ethnicity and religion. The Iraqi Army’s highly effective Third Infantry Division started out as overwhelmingly Kurdish in 2005. Today, it is 45 percent Shiite, 28 percent Kurdish, and 27 percent Sunni Arab.

Much of the article consists of evidence to support the above conclusions, so follow the link and read it. For here let's go straight to their conclusion

In the end, the situation in Iraq remains grave. In particular, we still face huge hurdles on the political front. Iraqi politicians of all stripes continue to dawdle and maneuver for position against one another when major steps towards reconciliation — or at least accommodation — are needed. This cannot continue indefinitely. Otherwise, once we begin to downsize, important communities may not feel committed to the status quo, and Iraqi security forces may splinter along ethnic and religious lines.

How much longer should American troops keep fighting and dying to build a new Iraq while Iraqi leaders fail to do their part? And how much longer can we wear down our forces in this mission? These haunting questions underscore the reality that the surge cannot go on forever. But there is enough good happening on the battlefields of Iraq today that Congress should plan on sustaining the effort at least into 2008.

Good questions. But I would also hope that the politicians follow their final recommendation, that we sustain the surge at least into 2008.

Posted by Tom at 9:39 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

July 28, 2007

"Winning in Iraq, Losing in Washington"

Ralph Peters has it just about right, I think, when he says that " to a military professional, the tactical progress made in Iraq over the last few months is impressive." Based on most of the stories I've read he seems on target. We all know that we lost a lot of ground in 2006, and that Gen Casey's plan to secure Baghdad in October 2006, Operation Together Forward, didn't work. Now, however, we seem to have a game plan that works.

Peters lays out his case:

A trusted source in Baghdad confirmed several key developments that've gone largely unreported. Here's what's been happening while "journalists" focused on John Edwards' haircuts:

* Al Qaeda lost the support of Iraq's Sunni Arabs. The fanatics over-reached: They murdered popular sheiks, kidnapped tribal women for forced marriages, tried to outlaw any form of joy and (perhaps most fatally, given Iraqi habits) banned smoking. In response, the Arab version of the Marlboro Man rose up and started cutting terrorist throats.

* Since the tribes who once were fighting against us turned on al Qaeda, our troops not only captured the senior Iraqi in the organization - which made brief headlines - but also killed the three al Turki brothers, major-league pinch-hitters al Qaeda sent into Iraq to save the game.

Oh, and it emerged that the Iraqi "head" of the terrorists was just a front - in the words of one Army officer, Omar al Baghdadi was "a Wizard of Oz-like creation designed to give an impression that al Qaeda has Iraqis in its senior ranks."

* Al Qaeda has been pushed right across Anbar, from the once Wild West to the province's eastern fringes. The terrorists are still dug in elsewhere, from the Diyala River Valley to a few Baghdad neighborhoods - but, to quote that senior officer again, "our forces have been taking out their leaders faster than they can find qualified replacements."
...

* It isn't only al Qaeda taking serious hits. After briefly showing the flag, Muqtada al-Sadr fled back to Iran again, trailed by his senior deputies. Mookie's No. 2 even moved his family to Iran. Why? Though he's been weak in the past, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is now green-lighting Iraqi operations against the Jaish al Mahdi, the Mookster's "Mahdi Army."

* The Iraqi Police Tactical Support Unit in Nasiriyah came under attack by Mahdi Army elements accustomed to intimidating their enemies. Supported by a brave (and tiny) U.S. advisory team, the police commandos fought them off. Instead of a walkover, the militia thugs hit a wall - and got hammered by airstrikes, for good measure. Then the Iraqi police counter-attacked. The Mahdi Army force begged for negotiations.

* In Mosul, Iraqi army and police units stuck to their guns through a series of tough combat engagements, with the result that massive arms caches were seized from the terrorists and insurgents. In Kirkuk, Iraqi police reacted promptly to last week's gruesome car-bombing - in time to stop two other car bombs from reaching their intended targets.

* In Baghdad, the surge isn't only about American successes - Iraqi security and intelligence forces conducted a series of hard-hitting operations against both al Qaeda and Iran-backed Special Group terrorists.

But don't just take it from a former Army colonel. Here's General (as in 4 stars) Jack Keane, former vice-chief of staff, as interviewed by Rich Lowry of NRO. Keane, along with Frederick Kagan, wrote the draft of the plan popularly known as the "surge". Here are some key parts of the interview

Rich Lowry: How’s the surge going?

General Jack Keane: Well I think it’s going better than we had expected, particularly as it pertains to the security operation. The success that the security operation is achieving is, in my judgment, very definable.
...

Lowry: How much of a worry is it when you look at the numbers that some of the sectarian killings are bouncing back up somewhat?

Gen. Keane: What has happened is the al Qaeda are trying to provoke the same response in ‘07 that they achieved in ‘06 by killing Shia at unacceptable levels to the Shia and the Shia militias. The fact is that they have been unsuccessful at provoking that kind of response that they got in ‘06,

Lowry: How about the Sunnis?

Gen. Keane: What offers us so much promise is that the Sunnis themselves have broken, not all of them, but many of them have broken with the al Qaeda and have aligned themselves with us. ...

This is very significant and some Intel analysts who are looking at this in ‘07 believe that when we look back on ‘07 that not only will it be a turning point in what we did to secure Baghdad and the people. They believe that ‘07 will be looked through the prism of ‘08 or 9 or 10 as the beginning of the defeat of al Qaeda because what is happening to them is they’re losing their Sunni infrastructure support.
...

Lowry: How important are the political benchmarks everyone is talking about in Washington?

Gen. Keane: I think we make these things far more important than what they truly are. On the surface of it, certainly they all seem very reasonable, but when you get down to the practicality of it, some of them are clearly not executable at this time because this fledging government, 18 months into its existence, is not capable of making some of these major changes. We are asking them to pass five or six major laws that deal with the very survivability of the state, and we are asking them to do that in an almost six-month time frame. That is unrealistic...

Lowry: Conventional wisdom is that no matter how well the surge is going by the spring of next year, the president will have to start drawing down.

Gen. Keane: The surge, or the counter offensive as I like to describe it, was recommended to be a temporary operation, and for the people who were implementing it, they knew it was a temporary operation. Those of us who have looked at it quite a bit in the preliminary discussions, we believe that this was always a temporary operation that was going to last 12-18 months. And that sometime in ’08, late ‘08 at the very latest, we would probably be reducing back to pre-surge levels.

As Gen. Petraeus told me on the phone just over the weekend, the speed of which things are moving in terms of achieving more security and stability has surprised him, because of the cumulative affect of the application of military force in all these areas, all at the same time.

So far, then, so good. We'll certainly have all the facts laid out before us in September when Gen Petraeus makes his presentation to Congress.

But many in Washington don't want to wait. Back to Peters' editorial, appropriately titled "Winning in Iraq, Losing in Washington". He concludes by asking

Is success suddenly guaranteed in Iraq? Of course not. The situation's still a bloody mess. But it's also more encouraging than it's been since the summer of 2003, when the downward slide began.

Gen. Dave Petraeus and his subordinate commanders are by far the best team we've ever had in place in that wretched country. They're doing damned near everything right - with austere resources, despite the surge. And they're being abandoned by your elected leaders.

Posted by Tom at 10:50 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

A Tale of Two Generals

On Thursday, July 26, Lt Gen Ray Odierno and Lt Gen Aboud Ganbar held a press conference in Iraq that was broadcast to the Pentagon. Gen Odierno is Commanding General of the Multi-National Corps in Baghdad, and reports to either Gen Petraeus or his deputy, Lieutenant General G. C. M. Lamb, I'm not sure.

Gen Aboud Ganbar (or "Abboud Qanbar") is Commander of Baghdad operations for the Iraqi Army.

Watch the video and tell me if your reaction was the same as mine

This video can also be viewed at http://www.dodvclips.mil/?fr_story=8ad6775ac49c98f99d4e244f17f8100e03d03d98&rf=bm

Here's the transcript.

My take is that Odierno is a lot more impressive than Ganbar. Ganbar talked a lot but didn't always answer the question, or parts of a multi-part question. Odierno is more succicinct and off-the-cuff, while Ganbar seemed to give scripted answers.

At 29 minutes in, Ganbar gives his final statement. Note how he moves his pad of paper and pens around. Maybe I'm reading too much into this, but the way I read it is that he is not sure of himself and was nervous. Perhaps he's just not used to appearing before journalists who aren't controlled by the government. At any rate, he needs to attend Toastmasters. Odierno, on the other hand, is confident and his demenor gives cause for confidence.

Odierno is quickly becomming my favorite general, as his frankness and ability to communicate make him effective, I think, at give-and-take with the journalists. He sometimes seems frustrated by a lack of understanding back home what what he sees as progress in Iraq, and you can see his emotions just below the surface. Love him or hate him, he's clearly comfortable in dealing with the press.

Indeed, at the July 19 press conference, Al Pessin of the VOA said to him "You said it's part of your job to tell the story of the progress that's happening in Iraq, and you've been doing that. And we've had a virtual parade of your division commanders here through the briefing room TV screen doing the same thing...." indicating to me that Odierno has been assigned the role of primary communicator.

Compare this with Gen Ganbar, who seems to me almost a "type"; if hollywood had to invent a character molded in a totalitarian system that squashed all individuality, he would fit the bill.

Lest readers think I am being overly critical, I should note that all this tells us just how evil Saddam's system really was. From the comfort of our homes we wonder why Iraqi's won't "step up to the plate." On the one hand, fear of being killed by the insurgents is surely a prime cause; better to keep your head down. So too is concern that the Americans won't stick it out, so why risk being associated with them. But also I think we must take into account that totalitarian systems leach all initiative out of individuals.

As is so typical of any reporting from Iraq, all this leads to a good news-bad news conclusion. I'd follow Odierno up any hill. Let's just say that I hope Ganbar is better at commanding troops than he is at giving press conferences.

Posted by Tom at 12:18 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Real Iraqi Army

Yesterday Col Stephen Twitty, Commander of the 4th Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, spoke with reporters at the Pentagon via satellite:


It's also posted at DefenseLink. Read or watch the whole thing, but here are parts of his initial briefing

My observations and the indicators include that the Iraqi people are clearly rejecting al Qaeda and assisting coalition forces and Iraqi force in liberating their towns and villages, large numbers of Sunni tribesmen volunteering for the police as well as the army, a decrease in sectarian violence and displacement of individuals, willingness of armed groups to establish and observe cease-fires with coalition forces and Iraqi security forces. ...

I also want to highlight, though, that the Iraqi security forces do in fact continue to grow and get better. They have shown a willingness to fight and take casualties, which has not always been the case. They have greatly improved their tactical proficiency and have placed more effective command-and-control structures in place, such as the Baghdad Operational Command. Their special operational forces are operating side by side with coalition forces throughout the country.
...

The key difference of our ongoing operations is that we are not giving up any of the hard-fought gains. We are staying until the Iraqi security forces have the ability to control that battlespace. In this respect, we are working extremely hard with the government of Iraq to establish locally recruited police as well as coordinating with the Iraqi army to ensure long-term stability. This is a tough task and will require the concerted efforts of the government of Iraq with coalition support.

The part about "not giving up any of our hard-fought gains" is significant. Last October, General Casey, then in command of MNF-Iraq, tried to wrest control of the capital from the insurgents. As was reported at the time, we were able to clear areas of the city, but we weren't able to hold them bercause we didn't have enough troops. The other issue that caused the operation to fail was the miserable performance of several Iraqi Army units.

"The Real War"

Lastly, StrategyPage points out that for all the importance of military operations, one huge problem is the level of corruption in Iraq (and other third-world countries), which is at epidemic proportions. It makes it hard to get anything done

Corruption is pervasive throughout the Middle East, and so common that it is simply accepted by most locals and foreign visitors. But the inability to create a civil society leads to widespread incompetence in government. ...

Iraq, and most of the countries in the Middle East, are broken. They have been for a long time. We in the West have generally ignored it, because there were no workable solutions that were easily available. Then came the latest wave of Islamic terrorism.

So whether anyone likes it or not we're in Iraq, and leaving prematurely would be a disaster, not only for the Iraqi people, not only for the United States, but for the West as a whole. This war isn't just about al Qaeda or even Iraq. It's about a global jihadist threat. Even so, al Qaeda is our most dangerous enemy, at least in the short term. They're in Iraq, and that's one place we need to fight them.

Posted by Tom at 12:15 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 20, 2007

Interview with the General

Hugh Hewett interviewed Gen Petraeus this past Wednesday (h/t Belmont Club). Seeing how Petraeus is the man of the hour, and on whom so much rides, I think it appropriate to see what he has to say. Following are excerpts

HH: Do you think al Qaeda in Iraq is buckling, General Petraeus?

DP: Well, it’s probably too soon to say that, but we think that we have them off plan. Now having said that, they clearly retain and have demonstrated, tragically in recent, the past week or so, the ability to continue to carry out sensational attacks. They continue to demonstrate the ability to counterattack against our forces, and those of our coalition partners. But the detention, or the capture or killing of the number of leaders that we have taken out in recent months, and weeks, actually, and the progress in terms of just clearing areas of them…as you know, Anbar Province has really become quite relatively clear of al Qaeda.
...

HH: General, I want to go back to the surge. About how long have you had the full complement of troops that were necessary for the surge in place?

DP: Well, it’s about a month now, Hugh. We received the final Army brigade, the Marine expeditionary unit, and the combat aviation brigade in June, and they all went into operation about the mid part of last month. So it’s about a month that they’ve all been on the ground, and all of our forces have been engaged in what is a pretty comprehensive offensive operation in just about all of the belts around Baghdad, as they’re called, and then in also several neighborhoods in Baghdad that are of particular concern because of the activities in those neighborhoods of al Qaeda, or in some cases, of militia extremist elements.
...

HH: How are the capabilities of the Iraqi security forces? You spent a lot of time training them in the first part of the occupation, General Petraeus. What are their, what’s their effectiveness now?

DP: Well, frankly, it is uneven. There are some exceedingly good units. The Iraqi special operations force brigade, a commando battalion, a counterterrorist unit, some other elements, national emergency response unit, the intelligence special tactics unit, SWAT teams in just about each of the provinces, and a variety of other sort of high end units that we have helped develop, each of these is really quite impressive, and almost at the level, certainly in regional terms, of the special operations forces of our own country, again, in relative terms, speaking in regional comparisons. On the other hand, at the other end of the spectrum, there are still some units that have a degree of sectarian influence exercised within them, and some that are still being cleaned up after having suffered from sectarian pressures, and given into sectarian pressures during the height of the sectarian violence in 2006, and into 2007. There’s also, there’s a vast number of units, frankly, out there just doing what I would call a solid job, manning checkpoints, going on patrols, in some cases in the lead, in some cases alongside our forces, in some cases, following. But I can assure you that the Iraqi forces are out there very much fighting and dying for their country, They, in fact, their losses typically are some three or more times the losses that we suffer.

HH: General, what about the losses on the enemy? You mentioned that hundreds of al Qaeda fighters have been killed in the last couple of months, but are they suffering losses in the thousands every month? Or is it hundred, two hundred? What kind of force reduction’s going on there?

DP: Yeah, as you know, we try to avoid body counting, but inevitably, obviously, it is something we keep track of, because we’re trying to have some sense of the damage that we are doing to al Qaeda-Iraq, its affiliates, other Sunni insurgent groups, and also certainly to the Shia militia extremist elements. And the answer to that in a general sense is that they are losing many, many hundreds of their, of these different elements each month, certainly since the onset of the surge.

HH: And you mentioned foreign fighters infiltrating. Has that flow slowed or accelerated over the past five months?

DP: We do not think there has been much of a change in that. Again, it is something that is difficult to measure. Certainly, if you knew precisely how many were coming, or where they were coming, we’d obviously interdict them. And we do in fact interdict some, but not huge numbers. We do occasionally capture them in the act of preparing to, or trying to carry out a suicide attack or some other attack. In fact, we recently killed a fairly substantial element, 34 in one batch, some of which certainly were foreign fighters and had suicide vests and belts on, and we trying to re-infiltrate into Anbar Province and cause problems there. But we think the number of these foreign fighters, foreign terrorists who come through Syria, by and large, has remained roughly the same, and that is a big concern, because of those 60, 80, 90 or so who do come in per month, many of those end up being suicide bombers. And even though their numbers are relatively small in the grand scheme of affairs here, they can cause horrific casualties, indiscriminate death to Iraqi civilians, and really substantial damage, physically as well as psychologically.
...

HH: Some of the arguments about Iraq in the United States argue that it’s possible for American troops to withdraw to their bases and just strike at al Qaeda, sort of an Anbar only option, I guess. Does that make any sense to you at all, General Petraeus?

DP: Well, first of all, al Qaeda-Iraq is throughout pretty substantial parts of Iraq, and it is a significant enough network in capability that it is not going to be dealt with just by certainly, if you will, classical counterterrorist operations. Indeed, we are doing those. Our best operators in America and in the world are here in the largest number of anywhere in the world by several multiples, and conducting a very, very high operational tempo, and doing extraordinary operations. When I think back to the operations that we did, for example, going after war criminals in Bosnia, or something like that, you know, and one of those would be a big deal, and you’d dine off that for the next several months. On a nightly basis here, you know, ten or twelve serious operations are going down by those forces.

HH: Wow.

DP: And any one of those is far more significant than we conducted for decades. They are very sophisticated, very complex, very lethal sometimes, and very effective. Having said that, although they may be the most important operations, because they can take down, as they did the senior Iraqi leader in al Qaeda-Iraq, or kill the three al Turkey brothers, or what have you, it is also the weight of the operations conducted by the, if you will, the regular special forces, the Green Berets and the others that make up the special operations task force, and operate throughout the country as a very high operational tempo, and of our conventional forces. I mean, it is conventional forces who cleared Western Baquba. Certainly, augmented by, again, our special forces and our special mission unit elements, but they’re the ones that, you know, killed the 80 or 90 confirmed kill, and perhaps another 80 or so more, and captured a couple of hundred in addition to that as well. And they’re the ones who will hold that area against attempts that have already taken place by al Qaeda and their affiliates to try to get back into those neighborhoods.

HH: You know, that…in the forward to that manual that you wrote with General Amos, it said you needed a flexible, adaptive force led by agile, well-informed, culturally astute leaders. You’re just describing that kind of a force. Is it increasing in its lethality and effectiveness on an exponential basis, General? Has it become a more…

DP: It has very much so, Hugh, yes, very, very much so. In fact, people ask, you know, what are the big changes during the sixteen months that you were gone from Iraq? I left Iraq in September, ’05, returned in February, as you noted earlier. And there were two really significant changes. One was the damage done by sectarian violence. It is undeniable, it was tragic, and it has, as I mentioned earlier, ripped the very society, the fabric of Iraqi society. It’s caused very significant fault lines between sects and ethnic groups to harden, and it has created an environment that is much more challenging that before it took place. Beyond that, though, I typically will note that our leaders and our troopers get it about what it is that we’re trying to accomplish here in a way that certainly was not the case at the outset, or even perhaps a year or two into this endeavor. The typical leader here now has had at least one tour in Iraq, some have actually had two. They have, during the time they’re back in the States, they studied this. Of course, while we were back in the States, we revamped the counterinsurgency manual, as you mentioned, published that, revamped our other doctrinal manuals, overhauled the curricula of the commissioned, non-commissioned and warrant officer education systems in the Army, Marine Corps and the other services, completely changed the scenarios at our combat training centers, the one in the Mojave desert, the one in Central Louisiana, the one in Germany, and also captured lessons learned, created the ability to virtually look over the shoulder of those who are down range through expanded pipes in the military secure internet, just a host of initiatives have been pursued, changed organizations, changed equipment, and have given us capabilities, particularly in the intelligence realm, and with the proliferation of unmanned aerial vehicles, much larger pipes, the ability to shoot much bigger data, if you will, down them, and so forth. All of this has enabled our troopers in a way that certainly was not the case when we did the fight for Baghdad, or even, frankly, when I was here for my previous second tour. And so again, our leaders get it, our soldiers get it, they are these flexible, adaptable, thoughtful, culturally astute, and by and large, leaders and soldiers and Marines, and they are showing that on a daily basis here. That is not to say that it is anything at all easy about this, that the complexity is anything but just sheer enormous, or that this situation is anything but the most challenging that I’ve ever seen in some 33 years in uniform.

Richard Fernandez, author of the Belmont Club blog, has some typically insightful things to say about the war, in particular relating to growth curves, or how rapidly each side improves it's capabilities in response to changing circumstances. As he points out, we often hear about how the enemy is doing this or that better, how their IEDs improve, or their tactics change. We don't often hear about such changes on our side, but occur they do.

For example, as mentioned in the interview, along with Lt Gen James Amos, Petraeus wrote the Army's current Counter-Insurgency Field Manual. The bottom line is that we - finally - have an understanding of how to fight this war. As I pointed out in an earlier post, it is ironic that just at the time we're getting a grip on things many politicians pull out all the stops to bring-the-troops-home-immediately-regardless-of-consequences. Let's hope they fail.

Update

Apparenly the left is enraged that Petraeus had the temerity to appear on a conservative radio show and answer questions. Hewitt has a roundup of reaction by nutroots bloggers, including some pretty big names. Go and read his piece as you'll find the reaction of the left alternatively funny and sad. Hewitt's reaction to their outrage:

The decline of the leftwing netroots into one great, venomous snarl is far advanced, well-known, and much remarked upon by political observers from across the spectrum. But even given its deserved reputation for poisonous invective, the assault mounted against General David Petraeus surprises. General Petraeus made the unforgivable mistake in their eyes of appearing on my radio program and answering questions. Both because he agreed to be interviewed by a journalist favorable to victory and supportive of President Bush and because his answers suggest progress is being made in Iraq, Petraeus has been savaged by leftist bloggers big and little.

Apparenly Petraeus is not allowed to answer questions by anyone but a New York Times, Washington Post, or CNN reporter. He's also not allowed to say anything positive about current operations.

The ear-splitting shrieks of outrage at General Petraeus’ interview with me should be a huge signal that this is what the anti-war extremists fear most: The calm presentation of facts at length by those in a position to know them, engaged in an interview the unpredictability of which makes the exchange interesting. Speeches rarely hold the attention of an audience, which is why only small excerpts of them make it on air. Interviews –conducted professionally by a prepared host—can be riveting.

One the one hand I'd say we take John Hinderaker's advice and just "ignore these fringe characters" on the left, but it isn't so easy. They seem to have the ear of the Democrats in Congress.

Posted by Tom at 8:08 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 18, 2007

The End of Great Britain as We Know It

For an appalling display of the ignorance and stupidity of British youth, watch the latest edition of BBC TV’s Question Time.

May as well turn Westminster into a mosque right now and get it over with.

(h/t Melanie Phillips)

Posted by Tom at 7:46 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Running from Success

The editors of the New York Sun have it just about right, I think. This editorial appeared last week but may as well have come out today

What is shaping up may be the most astounding act of perfidy in the history of the Congress. The senate voted 82 to zero to confirm General Petraeus. The Congress underwrote his surge in a bipartisan show of support for a campaign to get control of Baghdad. It put only one basic condition on the expedition, which is that General Petraeus would have to come back in the fall with a thorough report. Our troops are now in the field, fighting heroically in one of the deadliest phases of the Battle to do just what the Congress ratified — and is making real progress.

Fortunately we now know Sen Reid's defeatist measure was defeated on a cloture vote. The fact that the dems even saw fit to stage their stunt sends a terrible message to the troops, and the wrong one to the jihadists.

An email posted by Rich Lowry on The Corner sums up what I've been thinking these past few weeks

Do you find it ironic that the change in strategy in connection with the surge seems to be working because it reversed course from (i) keeping a low U.S. troop profile, (ii) turning things over to the Iraqis sooner rather than later, and (iii) focusing on political reform rather than military success? These three approaches have not worked - and they have also been foremost in the advice of many war critics. The only exception I can think of (other than the advice to withdraw, of course) is the criticism that we did not have enough troops in Iraq. Of course, as soon as the surge was proposed, many critics dropped this line and opposed the surge.

Lowry's right, it is ironic.

The Senate voted to confirm General Petraeus knowing full well what he was going to do. Now that he's actually doing it, and it's working, some of them want to call it quits. This makes no sense and is politically dishonest. If they didn't want to send the additional five brigades that make up the surge, they shouldn't have voted to confirm him.

Of all the Senators who spoke last night in favor of continuing current operations, Jim Bunning (R-KY) and John McCain (R-AZ) stand out.

First, a few excerpts from Sen Bunning's remarks

The ink isn’t even dry on the President’s plan and Democrats are already declaring it a failure. This type of defeatist strategy is irrational and unfair.

It is important to remember the dangerous effect our debate here in Washington can have on the message we are sending to our enemies. Make no mistake our enemies are watching us.

They are watching us and using our debate on the war on Iraq to strengthen themselves.
...

Wake up America! If we withdraw from Iraq, the terrorists will likely follow us home. Democrats would like for us to believe that we can responsibly leave Iraq and the conflict will end. This is delusional.

Make no mistake if we leave Iraq prematurely there will be widespread chaos in the Middle East. Iran will work with Syria to dominate the region while Sunni states scramble to oppose them. They will use any means possible to acquire the resources to bolster their nuclear weapons program in an effort to combat the United States.

Next, from Senator McCain's speech

Mr. President, we have nearly finished this little exhibition, which was staged, I assume, for the benefit of a briefly amused press corps and in deference to political activists opposed to the war who have come to expect from Congress such gestures, empty though they may be, as proof that the majority in the Senate has heard their demands for action to end the war in Iraq. ...

During our extended debate over the last few days, I have heard senators repeat certain arguments over and over again. My friends on the other side of this argument accuse those of us who oppose this amendment with advocating “staying the course,” which is intended to suggest that we are intent on continuing the mistakes that have put the outcome of the war in doubt. Yet we all know that with the arrival of General Petraeus we have changed course. We are now fighting a counterinsurgency strategy, which some of us have argued we should have been following from the beginning, and which makes the most effective use of our strength and does not strengthen the tactics of our enemy. This new battle plan is succeeding where our previous tactics have failed, although the outcome remains far from certain. The tactics proposed in the amendment offered by my friends, Senators Levin and Reed – a smaller force, confined to bases distant from the battlefield, from where they will launch occasional search and destroy missions and train the Iraqi military – are precisely the tactics employed for most of this war and which have, by anyone’s account, failed miserably.


Posted by Tom at 7:30 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 17, 2007

The Polls! The Polls!

So Senator Webb thinks that we need to pull out of Iraq because a NYT poll says that 55% of enlisted soldiers say we should withdraw from Iraq. He said this in a debate with Sen Graham last weekend on Meet the Press. Webb also used this argument when he made the Democrat rebuttal to President Bush's State of the Union address last January.

It isn't just Sen. Webb, the anti-war folks in general use polling results incessantly to justify their demand that we withdraw now from Iraq.

Logically speaking this type of argument is called an enthymeme, which is a syllogism without one it it's parts; major premise, minor premise, or conclusion. Webb and those like him who use this argument don't spell out their reasoning, but based on what

We should base our policy on the latest poll
The latest poll on Iraq says that most people favor immediate withdrawal
Therefore we should withdraw immediately

If those who use polls as part of their argument deny that this is their argument, which part are they denying? Most likely they'd deny the major premise (line 1). Perhaps what they mean is

We should base Iraq policy on the latest poll
The latest poll on Iraq says that most people favor immediate withdrawal
Therefore we should withdraw immediately

or

We should base military policy on the latest poll The latest poll on Iraq says that most people favor immediate withdrawal Therefore we should withdraw immediately
But syllogisms 2 & 3 seem rather selective. If you're going to base Iraq policy, or military policy on the polls, why not policy in all areas? Why not decide other issues on the polls too, such as abortion, school choice, or illegal immigration? It is not clear why we should choose policy based on polls in one area and not another.

Perhaps, however, those who use polls as part of their argument are saying yet something else.

We should base our policy on poll readings if said poll holds firm over a period of time Polls on Iraq have said for some time that most people favor immediate withdrawal Therefore we should withdraw immediately

This is the only argument that really makes any sense. Unfortunately, those who make their argument based on polls rarely get into this level of detail, so I'm forced to guess.

Truth be told, I realize I am seriously overthinking this. My general observation is that people who make their arguments based on polls, whether they be conservatives or liberals, rarely think through what they are saying to this level. Most of they time they are simply pulling numbers to support a predetermined conclusion and we all know it.

And lets be clear, conservatives can be just as guilty of this as liberals. In the recent debate over the immigration (really amnesty) bill in Congress, some conservatives based their opposition to the bill on poll numbers which showed that the majority of Americans opposed the legislation.

But I think you need to be consistent. If you're going to use poll numbers to justify your position in one area, you've got to do it in others. You can't say, for example, that we should pull out of Iraq because the polls say we should, then take a position against school choice even though polls show the majority of Americans favor it.

We can get into a deep philosophical discussion on this whole matter of public opinion and public policy, and I'm sure it gets rather complicated, but since that isn't really the subject of this post I'll just touch on a few areas.

Of course in any republic public opinion matters. But this opinion gets to be expressed at regularly scheduled intervals called voting. The founding fathers were just as afraid of mob rule as they were of tyranny. They wanted a government somewhat insulated from the passions of the moment. This is one reason why our Congress is divided into two houses, in which the House most closely represents the immediate will of the people with the Senate a bit more insulated.

Once elected, should represenatives take notice of changes in the public mood? My answer is that yes they should take notice but they should be wary of making radical policy changes based on polls and focus groups.

A few months ago I wrote a post on the Democrat Party's "New Rules for Going to War" Two of my mock rules were

• 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

I guess I could call my latter rule the "Senator Jim Webb honorary rule for going to war".

It'd all be funny if it wasn't so pathetic. They didn't poll the troops in the Revolution, Civil War, WWII, or Korea, or any other war to see what they thought. Yes public opinion matters, yes it matters what the troops think. It's rather the modern obsession with polls, especially when they're used selectively and really to bolster predetermined conclusions that bothers me. And you just can't make public policy by turning to the latest poll, whether it's of the general public or the military.

Reasonable people can disagree about what exactly the public thinks we ought to do about Iraq, and how long they've felt that way. On the one hand I don't think it's nearly as clear cut as the anti-war left would have us believe, but at the same time there's no denying that there's a deep frustation and disillusionment.

But enough of my philosophical ramblings. The bottom line is that too many politicians and people in general use polls to justify predetermined positions. They also only use polls when it bolsters their position on an issue, and ignore them when they go against their position. I'm sure I've been guilty of this too on occasion. It's an easy trap to fall into.

The bottom line is that too many politicians, mainly in the Democrat Party but also in the GOP, are completely poll-driven and seem utterly devoid of principle. This needs to change.

Posted by Tom at 9:30 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

July 15, 2007

Consequences of Failure

What would happen if we left Iraq as soon as possible, as many now want? What if we just immediately halted offensive operations, returned to our bases, and began packing?

Austin Bay has come up with seven scenarios. Summarized, they are

1) Three new countries are formed; Kurdistan, Southern Iraq dominated by the Shia, and Anbar, controlled by the Sunni. The latter two fight over Baghdad, but the rest of the country is relatively peaceful.

2) Full-scale civil war between Sunnis and Shias breaks out. Sunni Arab states aid the former, and Iran the latter. Iran sees this as an opportunity to expand its border. The Kurdish north remains relatively peaceful.

3) Turkey invades the Kurdish north. This scenario can be combined with others.

4) The Iraqi state quickly becomes a Shia dictatorship. Sunnis are either massacred or flee (or a little of both). The Kurds throw in their lot with the Shia in return for limited autonomy.

5) Chaos. This differes from #2 in that the country devolves into many factions, instead of two or more large warring parties. More than in any of the other scenarios, in this al Qaeda is able to use the situation to build up a series of terrorist training camps in the country.

6) The Shia tribes "gang up" and expel virtually all Sunnis from the country (note; I am not clear on how this differs from #4)

7) The democratic government holds, and ultimately proves popular. After several months, the Iraqi Army defeats all major rivals.

As Bay accurately concludes, only numbers 1 and 7 benefit all Iraqis, the US, and the civilized world.

At this point there's no way I'm going to try and predict which would happen if we withdraw.

Ralph Peters, along with Austin Bay a retired Army colonel, thinks that the result will be a massacre along the lines of what happened in Cambodia when the Khmer Rouge took over.

I'll tell you what happens: massacres. And while I have nothing against Shia militiamen and Sunni insurgents killing each other 24/7, the overwhelming number of victims will be innocent women, children and the elderly

Bosnia? That was just rough-necking at recess compared to what Islamist fanatics and ethnic beasts will do. Given that Senate Majority Misleader Harry Reid and Commissar of the House Nancy Pelosi won't tell us what they foresee after we quit, let me lay it out:

* After suffering a strategic defeat, al-Qaeda-in-Iraq comes back from the dead (those zombies again . . .) and gets to declare a strategic victory over the Great Satan.

* Iran establishes hegemony over Iraq's southern oil fields and menaces the other Persian Gulf producers. (Sorry, Comrade Gore, even that Toyota Prius needs some gasoline . . . )

* Our troops will have died in vain. Of course, that doesn't really matter to much of anyone in Washington, Democrat or Republican. So we'll just write off those young Americans stupid enough to join the military when they could've ducked out the way most members of Congress did.

* A slaughter of the innocents - so many dead, the bodies will never be counted.

Obviously Peters does not subscribe to Bay's scenario numbers 1 or 7.

Assuming neither 1 or 7 occur, we should not think that repercussions will be limited to Iraq. As Michael Rubin points out

The idea floating around Washington that Iraq can be separated from Afghanistan is naive. The Iranians, who interfere in both, have the same objectives in both. Iraq is a laboratory. If strategies applied there cause the U.S. Congress to embrace defeat, then those same strategies will be applied in Afghanistan.

And how long before those who tell us we need to "redeploy" so as to better fight al Qaeda will decide that Afghanistan isn't worth it after all? Not too long, I'll wager.

Posted by Tom at 9:30 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

July 14, 2007

Determined to Lose

Charles Krauthammer, I think, summed up the situation pretty accuratcly when he said that

Finally, after four terribly long years, we know what works. We don't yet know if this strategy will work in mixed Sunni-Shiite neighborhoods. Nor can we be certain that this cooperation between essentially Sunni tribal forces and an essentially Shiite central government can endure. But what cannot be said -- although it is now heard daily in Washington -- is that the surge, which is shorthand for Gen. David Petraeus's new counterinsurgency strategy, has failed. The tragedy is that, just as a working strategy has been found, some Republicans in the Senate have lost heart and want to pull the plug.

By my count we're in the fifth phase of the war. The first was the original invasion in March and April of 2003. The second was the formation of the insurgency and our slow response to it. We lost much ground later that year and in early 2004. In late 2004 or early 2005 we found a new strategy, and for awhile it seemed to be working. This by my count marked the third phase. The bombing of the "Golden Mosque" (the Great Mosque of Samarra or al-Askari Mosque) in February 2006 ignited simmering sectarian violence that marked the start of the fourth phase. The situation steadily got worse and by the end of the year it was clear that our strategy was failing. President Bush replaced the Secretary of Defence, and the commanders of CENTCOM and MNF-Iraq. The new team immediately embarked upon a new strategy (popularly called the "surge"), with full operations commencing June 15 in Operation Phantom Thunder.

These ups and downs should not be unfamiliar to anyone who's read much history. Rarely do wars proceed in a nice linear fashion. Reverses are quite common, many occuring in the final year or so of fighting.

Kimberly Kagan has a good summary of current operations in the WSJ, and concludes that so far Phantom Thunder is working. However, "In Washington perception is often mistaken for reality", the perception being that operations have failed. Yesterday, for example, the House of Representatives voted 223-201 to demand a withdrawal of troops by April 2008. The view that we are doomed to fail, she says,

... isn't an accurate reflection of what is happening on the ground, as I saw during my visit to Iraq in May. Reports from the field show that remarkable progress is being made. Violence in Baghdad and Anbar Province is down dramatically, grassroots political movements have begun in the Sunni Arab community, and American and Iraqi forces are clearing al Qaeda fighters and Shiite militias out of long-established bases around the country.

This is remarkable because the military operation that is making these changes possible only began in full strength on June 15. To say that the surge is failing is absurd. Instead Congress should be asking this question: Can the current progress continue?

The answer, she believes, is yes. Read the whole thing.

As I think was fairly predictable, the interim report delivered yesterday on the "surge" is mixed. You can read the whole thing at the Washington Post website.

We hear a lot these days about the "benchmarks" that the Iraqi government is supposed to achieve. Of the 18 benchmarks, the interim report gives the Iraqi government a "satisfactory" mark on 10, "not satisfactory" on 7, and "mixed" on one.

Ryan Crocker, the U.S. Ambassador in Iraq, and 36-year career diplomat, says that "the longer I'm here, the more I'm persuaded that Iraq cannot be analyzed by these kinds of discrete benchmarks." The editors of the Wall Street Journal conclude from his remarks to the New York Times's John Burns in an interview on Saturday that

Mr. Crocker's comments are a useful reminder of the irrelevance--and disingenuousness--of much Washington commentary on Iraq. For proponents of early withdrawal, the "benchmarking" issue has provided a handy excuse to make the Iraqi government rather than al Qaeda the main culprit in the violence engulfing their country.

Some say that the reason we need benchmarks is to encourge, indeed force, the Iraqis to take hard decisions. Without them, the argument goes, the Iraqis will squabble endlessly and we will have to do all of the heavy lifting. This argument is not without merit, but I think it unpersuasive. To be sure, I wish the Iraqis had met them. However, the WSJ concludes that political reconciliation in Iraq will not happen

...if Congress insists on using troop withdrawals to punish Iraqis for their supposed political delinquency. The central issue is whether the Iraqis can make those decisions without having to fear assassination as the consequence of political compromise. The more insistent Congress becomes about troop withdrawals, the more unlikely political reconciliation in Iraq becomes.

That said, it's becoming increasingly clear that the issue of reconciliation has become a smokescreen for American politicians who care for their own political fortunes far more than they do about the future of Iraq or the consequences of Iraq's collapse for U.S. interests in the Middle East. Here again, they could stand to listen to Mr. Crocker.

"You can't build a whole policy on a fear of a negative, but, boy, you've really got to account for it," he said. "In the States, it's like we're in the last half of the third reel of a three-reel movie, and all we have to do is decide we're done here . . . and we leave the theater and go on to something else. Whereas out here, you're just getting into the first reel of five reels, and ugly as the first reel has been, the other four and a half are going to be way, way worse."

John Podhoretz also believes the benchmarks to be a smokescreen

(A)sk yourself this: If Iraq's politicians had agreed on a hydrocarbon law, would terrified Senate Republicans suddenly stiffen their spines and support the "surge" - the new military offensive in Iraq - they suddenly decided wasn't working about a week ago? The same "surge" that seems to be paying off with shocking rapidity in the once-left-for-dead province of Anbar?

Of course not.

Instead, as David Ignatius of the Washington Post believes, politicians are coalescing around the recommendations of the Jim Baker/Lee Hamilton Iraq Study Group, which would in opinion guarantee defeat. In my opinion, if Republicans think they can save their skins by hiding behind the ISG, they are sorely mistaken. Some even want to write its recommendations into law (Sens. Ken Salazar D-CO and Lamar Alexander R-TN), which would be a huge mistake.

Rather, as Mario Loyola says, Congress is shirking its responsiblies. They voted for this war, now that we (finally!) have a good strategy they want to abandon the effort. To be sure, it won't be easy, and we have a ways to go: "Phantom Thunder is meant to lay the groundwork for a “clear, hold, and build” operation set to commence in coming weeks. Stay tuned. The real offensive has yet to begin." Loyola concludes that

As things now stand, they (al Qaeda) cannot win. Their only hope is Congress. And now — at the very moment that our troops finally have the chance to prove they can win — a majority of the Congress wants to legislate defeat, by interfering in the strategic and tactical judgments of the constitutional commander-in-chief and his generals, and force them to do things that they are convinced will throw to the winds all that we have gained at such a terrible price.

If there's any good news on the political front, it's that President Bush is holding firm. Unfortunately, even this must be tempered with the distain in which he is held even by conservatives; witness Peggy Noonan's much talked about column yestery in which she is quite put off by his "seemingly effortless high spirits" in the midst of a huge crisis. A good mood and jocular attitude is just not appropriate for our current situation, she says.

Many in Congress seem determined to lose regardless of what happens on the ground. What it all comes down to is whether Gen Petraus and our troops can stabilize Iraq before Congress forces a pullout. Defeating an insurgency takes time, but time is running out.

Posted by Tom at 12:45 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 12, 2007

Al-Qaeda in Iraq, Al-Qaeda in Waziristan

If you're not watching the Pentagon Channel, you should be. Here's the Iraq Briefing 11 July 2007, conducted by Brigadier General Kevin Bergner spokesman for the Multi-National Force-Iraq. This one is about 48 minutes long, with most of the time devoted to Q & A with reporters. If you're used to watching the press conferences in Washington, you're in for a nice surprise here. The briefing is better, and the questions from the journalists a lot smarter. In addition, instead of just the usual CNN/Fox/WaPo bunch, you've got journalists there from around the world, so you get an international perspective from their questions.

You can read the transcript if you prefer that. Here's what I think was the most interesting exchange:

Q From your presentation, it would seem that if al Qaeda in Iraq were defeated, then it seems like most of the problems would go away. The sectarian strife would dissipate. You know, the Shi'ite militias would not be an issue. The Sunni insurgency would not be an issue. Are you saying, that it's al Qaeda and they're causing this and these other -- they're just facilitating these other problems?

GEN. BERGNER: Really what we're saying is that they are the principal threat within a complex security environment that involves al Qaeda. It involves other extremist organizations. It involves extremist militants and different militia organizations. They are clearly one of the principal -- they are clearly the main accelerant in sectarian violence and the greatest source of these spectacular attacks that are killing innocent Iraqis in such large numbers.

Q Despite the fact that their numbers are so small?

GEN. BERGNER: That's right. It's interesting, because there are -- if you looked at the number of foreign fighters that I have mentioned come into Iraq, their numbers are relatively small, but their effect is very, very devastating to the Iraqi people, because they're employed frequently as these suicide bombers. And so this isn't a monolithic security problem, but it is one where it is quite clear that al Qaeda is the principal threat and the principal destabilizing factor that is targeting the government of Iraq and their security forces.

Watch or read the whole thing, because earlier General Bergner addresses another question about al-Qaeda in which Jamie Tarabay of NPR asked "al Qaeda the main near-term threat, how about -- how do you classify, you know, the Shi'a militia groups, the Sunni insurgent groups? "

Bergner danced a bit around the issue of the militias, only saying that it was a "complex security environment", but in the end said that AQI (al-Qaeda in Iraq) "the principal near-term threat in Iraq" because they committed the "largest number of suicide attacks and spectacular attacks and (were)deliberately fueling sectarian violence" and that they had as as their "main purpose destabilizing the government of Iraq and implementing an Islamic state."

This issue of al-Qaeda is important not just because of what is going on in Iraq, but because of the larger War on Jihadism. We learned this week that U.S. intelligence sources have confirmed that the organization has rebuilt and is at least as strong if not stronger today than it was on September 11.

I can't find the actual report on the Internet but it's titled "Al-Qaida better positioned to strike the West." According to the Breitbart story

John Kringen, who heads the CIA's analysis directorate, echoed the concerns about al-Qaida's resurgence during testimony and conversations with reporters at a House Armed Services Committee hearing on Wednesday.

"They seem to be fairly well settled into the safe haven and the ungoverned spaces of Pakistan," Kringen testified. "We see more training. We see more money. We see more communications. We see that activity rising."

On the other hand, the invaluable Michael Yon reports from Iraq that al-Qaida is on the run. He says that they are losing in both the Anbar and Diyala provinces.

So what of it?

On the one hand I hate refighting the past. What's happened has happened. We are where we are in Iraq. If it pleases people to say that Iraq is a distraction from fighting al-Qaeda suit yeah whatever. True, al-Qaeda was not in Iraq prior to the commencement of OIF like they are today. However, I think that people who say that there was no connection between the Saddam Hussein regime and al-Qeada are wrong, and you can check out this blog for starters. But again, refighting the past is largely a waste of time.

The bottom line to Iraq is that al-Qaeda is there, and so if you are truely interested in fighting them you'll want to continue the fight in Iraq. If we can defeat them there we become the "strong horse". If we lose then we become the "weak horse."

No one in the Middle East or elsewhere will want to be allied with the weak horse. Those who talk about "redeployment" are deluding themselves. Leaving Iraq prematurely will be touted as a defeat by al-Qaeda and all jihadists and they will be right. Governments around the world will...make their own accomodations with the jihadists. They'll relearn an old lesson, that it's dangerous to be a friend of the U.S., but often profitable to be it's enemy (Speaker Pelosi's trip to Damascus, for example).

Obviously it isn't good if it's true that al-Qaeda is stronger. It's not clear from the report, though, that not having gone into Iraq would have changed anything. The report says that al-Qaeda has set up base in Pakistan.

P A K I S T A N.

A sovereign country.

Armed with nuclear weapons.

Most of the al-Qaeda are in the Warziristan province of Pakistan, a virtual no-mans land that the government has never really controlled. Last September we learned that the government signed something that has become known as the Warziristan Accords, which effectively ceded the province to local tribesmen, who harbor the al-Qaeda.

So... on the one hand we might attack Warziristan, but how? It's not exactly accessable. Air power will destroy known al-Qaeda camps, but will hardly defeat the organization. This will take ground troops, and the logistical barriers to getting any number of troops in there are formidable, even if we had them to send.

And we're not going to get any international support if we do. If you want to amuse youself by blaming this on President Bush and the invasion of Iraq go ahead and entertain yourself, but I don't think any serious person would conclude that any world body would "authorize" a U.S. attack on Pakistan.

Then there's the fact that any incursion into Pakistan would give the Islamists an excuse to try and seize power. Musharraf might be overthrown by them or opponents within the military, and heaven knows who might come into power. At any rate, it would seriously destabilize the country with quite unpredicable results. Did I mention that they have nuclear weapons?

I'm not saying the situation is insoluable. I am saying it defines an easy solution. Anyone with serious ideas on how to deal with al-Qaeda in Waziristan is invited to leave them in comments.

Posted by Tom at 9:00 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

July 11, 2007

The Nutter of Iran

Actually, I wish we could just dismiss Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as a nutter.

As it is, his country is earnestly pursuing nuclear weapons, and unless there is a regime change they likely have them in less than a half-dozen years. Yes yes I know, Ahmadinejad does not hold total power, that is the reserve of the Mullah-dominated Assembly of Experts. But it is more than just a ceremonial post. The President has significant influence over government policy. But I digress.

If Iran gets nuclear weapons, or looks like it is getting seriously close to obtaining them, there's going to be the mother of all wars in the Middle East, possibly the biggest on the planet since World War II. The reason is simple; nuclear weapons by themselves are not dangerous. Combine them with someone like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and you've got trouble. And even if Ahmadinejad is not in office when Iran goes nuclear, someone like him will be.

Arnaud de Borchgrave has collected some of Ahmadinejad greatest hits, and passes them along in his column today. Not that I have anything but a small readership, but anything that increases the dissemination of information about Ahmadinejad's rants can only be a good thing. Here goes

"This regime [Israel] will one day disappear.... The Zionist regime is a rotten tree that will be blown away by one storm.... The countdown for the destruction of Israel has begun. Zionists are the personification of Satan.

"In the case of any unwise move by the fake regime of Israel, Iran's response will be so destructive and quick the regime will regret its move forever.... The West invented the myth of the massacre of the Jews (in World War II) and placed it above Allah, religions and prophets."

Mr. Ahmadinejad's strategic recipe: "We don't shy away from declaring Islam is ready to rule the world.... The wave of the Islamist revolution will soon reach the entire world.... Our revolution's main mission is to pave the way for the reappearance of the 12th Imam, the Mahdi [a 5-year-old boy who vanished 1,100 years ago and who will lead the world into an era of peace and prosperity, but not before the planet is convulsed by death and destruction.

"Soon Islam will become the dominating force in the world, occupying first place in the number of followers among all other religions....

"Is there a craft more beautiful, more sublime, more divine, than the craft of giving yourself to martyrdom and becoming holy?... Do not doubt Allah will prevail, and Islam will conquer mountaintops of the entire world. Iran can recruit hundreds of suicide bombers a day. Suicide is an invincible weapon. Suicide bombers in this land showed us the way, and they enlighten our future.... The will to commit suicide is one of the best ways of life.

"By the grace of Allah we will be a nuclear power and Iran does not give a damn about [International Atomic Energy Agency] demands [to freeze enrichment of nuclear fuel]. Iran does not give a dam about resolutions.

"The Islamic Republic of Iran has the capacity to quickly become a world superpower. Iran's enemies know your courage, faith and commitment to Islam and... Iran has created a powerful army that can powerfully defend the political borders and the integrity of the Iranian nation and cut off the hand of any aggressor and place the sign of disgrace on their forehead.

"In parallel to the official political war there is a hidden war going on and the Islamic states should benefit from their economic potential to cut off the hands of the enemies."

Addressing a conference on "The World Without Zionism," Mr. Ahmadinejad said, "To those who doubt, to those who say is it not possible, I say accomplishment of a world without America and Israel is both possible and feasible."

Read the whole thing.

No I do not think we should bomb Iran - yet, anyway. Right now it looks like we are doing our dangest to squeeze Iran economically, and it is at least partially succeeding. You saw the riots over gasoline rationing a few weeks ago. Iran's economy is faltering, and it's young people restless. With any luck they'll overthrow the Mullahs and the process won't be too bloody.

Bottom line is that the CIA, MI6, and all of the other Western intelligence agencies better be pulling out all the stops to get rid of this regime, or the job will get passed to the US Air Force and Navy before you know it. My guess is that if Ahmadinejad is still in power this time next year President Bush will order military strikes, because he won't trust the next inhabitant of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave to do the job, especially since it might be a Democrat.

Posted by Tom at 10:31 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Walter Reed FReep #116 - July 6, 2007 - The Drink that Nearly Hit

Things got off to a lively start this time when just as we were setting up three guys in a car started yelling "F___ the Military!" to Kristinn as he was standing on the corner holding a "Support the Troops" sign.

Kristinn, not putting up with any nonsense, yelled "go back to Cuba!"

Usually this is as far as these episodes go. Once or twice a night some idiot will holler something at us. Sometimes we'll yell back, mostly we just let it go, as people who will insult someone holding a "Support the Troops" sign are not worthy of attention.

This time, though, the men in the car didn't let it go. They were stopped at the light on Georgia avenue when the initial exchange took place, but then turned down a side street and came back up to Georgia Avenue beside where Kristinn was standing. One of them threw a drink at him, but fortunately missed.

Wishing to record the evidence for the police in case the men came back, I went over and did my duty as one of the evening's photographers:

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All this may seem rather silly or unimportant. It is not. Having been at many rallies and protests over the past few years, I have seen tempers flare. I haven't seen any outright violence, but towards the end of the United for Peace and Justice protest last January, several men holding stakes like clubs attempted to approach our group from behind before they were stopped by police.

I'm not sure if Kristinn called the police this time, but we have done so in the past. Not that these FReeps are dangerous, the vast majority of citizens that we encounter are supportive. But occasionally you will run into someone who can't control themselves. Generally the best thing to do is defuse the situation yourself so it doesn't escallate. But I digress.

As we were setting up, a soldier who was coming out of Walter Reed stopped his car and rolled down his window to speak with us. He said he'd been wounded in Iraq two years ago, and had been in WR for most of the time since then. He just wanted to make a point of saying Thank You for the support. Kristinn, BillF, and me assured him that the feeling was quite mutual, that we were so very grateful for his service to our country. Mr Trooprally, who held down his corner alone for awhile, said that he had a soldier stop by and say essentially the same thing to him. Speaking of Mr Trooprally, here he is

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Here's the Honor Roll of Attendees for this week:

Tom the Redhunter, Kristinn, Plea Deal, Mr & Mrs Trooprally, VAFlagWaver, billF, Lurker Bill, Keith_Olney, Sensei Ern, Fraxinus, Cindy_True_Supporter, 3DJoy, Albion Wilde, PrezUSA222, Megan, Andrea, and Loro.

Energy levels went up a few notches when PrezUSA222 showed up and got out her "Straight Girls Love Men in Uniform" sign. Beside her are VAFlagWaver and Keith_Olney. PrezUSA222 is very strong in her enthusiasm and no doubt motorists are more motivated to wave and honk when they hear her "Thank our Brave Soldiers!" ringing out across the street.

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She soon had some competition, however, when Megan, Andrea, and Loro showed up and added their voices. Here are Loro and Andrea, with Lurker Bill in the background.

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A few minutes later a few of the troops came by to speak with us.

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Meanwhile, on our main corner quite a few Freepers had gathered

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Readers may not know it but Sensei Ern is our "motorcycle man" Here he is arriving

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He quickly took up position just outside the main entrance

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Love that New Sign

To spice things up one of our number made a new sign, which she hung from two trees just beside where Mr Trooprally was holding station. Beside the banner are Plea Deal, Mrs Trooprally, and Cindy_True_Supporter.

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While all this was going on a soldier who had served in Iraq came by and spoke with Keith_Olney, Fraxinus, and myself. He'd been a tanker who had been hit with an IED that he said punched a 10" hold in the bottom of his tank. The doctors had made valiant efforts to save his foot, and so far so good, "although I might still lose it", he said. He wanted to go back to Iraq, but said that given his injury that might not be possible. His second choice, he said, was to train new soldiers "and pass on what knowledge I have."

What an amazing bunch these soldiers are. Over the past two years we've met so many, and they never cease to impress me.

Ok, Ok, Here They Are

So what about the Pinkos down the street, you ask? Are they still there?

Barely

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Any fewer and they'll disappear. Which would be a good thing!

There was no bus for us to greet tonight, but that's no matter. We're going to do this for as long as necessary. We wait until the Pinkos leave (which is at 9pm sharp), and then break camp.

I'll leave you with this last photo of FReepers showing their patriotism. Here are Albion Wilde, 3DJoy, and Kristinn. Be sure and visit the Photobucket links below to see all photos from the FReep.

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If you can't get to D.C. to join us but would like to do something for the wounded, you can find a wealth of ideas by FReepmailing Albion Wilde, Cindy-True-Supporter, VAFlagwaver, or PleaDeal.

Come join us every Friday night between the hours of 6:30pm to approx 9:30pm.

Directions to our Walter Reed freep location from the Takoma metro station

* You can find all of Tom the Redhunter's photos for this FReep and more on myPhotobucket site

You can find all of Mrs Trooprally's photos for this Freep on her Photobucket site.

* Thank you to BufordP for maintaining the BIG LIST of all Walter Reed FReeps.

* Thank you always to Kristinn and tgslTakoma for all the work they do. Kristinn is president of the DC chapter and our chief organizer, and tgslTakoma hauls the MOAB, flags, most of the signs, and our "picnic table" back and forth every week. Thank you to Mr & Mrs Trooprally because they also transport and store many of our signs.

* Tom the Redhunter blogs at The Redhunter

* Plea Deal blogs at Sempter Gratis

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July 10, 2007

John McCain Holds Firm

About half the time Senator McCain drives me nuts, and I love him the other half of the time. Mention "McCain-Feingold", and I roll my eyes. Mention his desire for what is effectively amnesty for illegal aliens, and I grit my teeth.

But he is is great on other issues. If miraculously elected president he would hold the line on spending. He'd be much better at fighting the jihadists than President Bush. Love him or hate him, McCain is a man of principle. That time last year he slapped down Senator Barak Obama was simply precious.

Today I'm loving him.

Before we get to the main event, though, go watch this video of McCain slapping down Senator Barbara Boxer today on the Senate Floor. She started blathering about the polls, and he.. well, I don't want to spoil it for you.

McCain is just back from another trip to Iraq, and here are excerpts from his speech today on the floor of the Senate.

I would like to discuss America’s involvement in Iraq. The final reinforcements needed to implement General Petraeus’ new counter-insurgency strategy arrived several weeks ago, and last week I had the opportunity to visit these troops in theatre. From what I saw and heard while there, I believe that our military, in cooperation with the Iraqi security forces, is making progress in a number of areas. I’d like to outline some of their efforts, not to argue that these areas have suddenly become safe – they have not – but to illustrate the progress that our military has achieved under General Petraeus’s new strategy.

The most dramatic advances have been made in Anbar Province, a region that last year was widely believed to be lost to al Qaeda. After an offensive by U.S. and Iraqi troops cleaned al Qaeda fighters out of Ramadi and other areas of western Anbar, the province’s tribal sheikhs broke formally with the terrorists and joined the coalition side.
...

The Anbar model is one that our military is attempting to replicate in other parts of Iraq, with some real successes. A brigade of the 10th Mountain Division is operating in the areas south of Baghdad, the belts around the capital which have been havens for al Qaeda and other insurgents. All soldiers in the brigade are “living forward,” and commanders report that the local sheikhs are increasingly siding with the coalition against al Qaeda, the main enemy in that area of operations. Southeast of Baghdad, the military is targeting al Qaeda in safe havens they maintain along the Tigris River. These and other efforts are part of Operation Phantom Thunder, a military operation intended to stop insurgents present in the Baghdad belts from originating attacks in the capital itself. ...

I offer these observations, Mr. President, not in order to present a rosy scenario of the challenges we continue to face in Iraq. As last weekend’s horrific bombing in Salahuddin Province illustrates so graphically, the threats to Iraqi stability have not gone away. Nor are they likely to go away in the near future, and our brave men and women in Iraq will continue to face great challenges. What I do believe, however, is that, while the mission – to bring a degree of security to Iraq, and to Baghdad and its environs in particular, in order to establish the necessary precondition for political and economic progress – while that mission is still in its early stages, the progress our military has made should encourage all of us.

“It is also clear that the overall strategy that General Petraeus has put into place – a traditional counterinsurgency strategy that emphasizes protecting the population, and which gets our troops off of the bases and into the areas they are trying to protect – that this strategy is the correct one. Some of my colleagues argue that we should return troops to the forward operating bases and confine their activities to training and targeted counterterrorism operations. That is precisely what we did for three and a half years, Mr. President, and the situation in Iraq only got worse. I am frankly surprised that my colleagues would advocate a return to the failed Rumsfeld-Casey strategy. No one can be certain whether this new strategy, which remains in the early stages, can bring about ever greater stability. We can be sure, however, that should the United States Senate seek to legislate an end to the strategy as it is just commencing – should we do that, Mr. President, then we will fail for certain.

“Now that the military effort in Iraq is showing some signs of progress, the space is opening for political progress. Yet rather than seizing the opportunity, the government of Prime Minister Maliki is not functioning as it must. We see little evidence of reconciliation and little progress toward meeting the benchmarks laid out by the President. The Iraqi government can function; the question is whether it will.

“To encourage political progress, I believe that we can find wisdom in several suggestions put forward recently by Henry Kissinger. An intensified negotiation among the Iraqi parties could limit violence, promote reconciliation, and put the political system on a more stable footing. At the same time, we should promote a dialogue between the Iraqi government and its Sunni Arab neighbors – specifically Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia – in order to build broader international acceptance for the Iraqi central government, in exchange for that government meeting specific obligations with respect to the protection and political participation of the Sunni minority. These countries should cease their efforts to hand-pick new Iraqi leaders and instead contribute to stabilizing Iraq, an effort that would directly serve their national interests. Finally, we should begin a broader effort to establish a basis for aid and even peacekeeping efforts by the international community, keyed to political progress in Iraq.

“In taking such steps, we must recognize that no lasting political settlement can grow out of a U.S. withdrawal. On the contrary, a withdrawal must grow out of a political solution, a solution made possible by the imposition of security by coalition and Iraqi forces. Secretary Kissinger is absolutely correct when he states that “precipitate withdrawal would produce a disaster,” one that “would not end the war but shift it to other areas, like Lebanon or Jordan or Saudi Arabia,” produce greater violence among Iraqi factions, and embolden radical Islamists around the world.

“Let us keep in the front of our minds the likely consequences of premature withdrawal from Iraq. Many of my colleagues would like to believe that, should any of the various amendments forcing a withdrawal become law, it would mark the end of this long effort. They are wrong. Should the Congress force a precipitous withdrawal from Iraq, it would mark a new beginning, the start of a new, more dangerous, and more arduous effort to contain the forces unleashed by our disengagement.

“No matter where my colleagues came down in 2003 about the centrality of Iraq to the war on terror, there can simply be no debate that our efforts in Iraq today are critical to the wider struggle against violent Islamic extremism. Already, the terrorists are emboldened, excited that America is talking not about winning in Iraq, but is rather debating when we should lose. Last week, Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda’s deputy chief, said that the United States is merely delaying our “inevitable” defeat in Iraq, and that ‘the Mujahideen of Islam in Iraq of the caliphate and jihad are advancing with steady steps towards victory.’

“If we leave Iraq prematurely, jihadists around the world will interpret the withdrawal as their great victory against our great power. Their movement thrives in an atmosphere of perceived victory; we saw this in the surge of men and money flowing to al Qaeda following the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan. If they defeat the United States in Iraq, they will believe that anything is possible, that history is on their side, that they really can bring their terrible rule to lands the world over. Recall the plan laid out in a letter from Zawahiri to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, before his death. That plan is to take shape in four stages: establish a caliphate in Iraq, extend the “jihad wave” to the secular countries neighboring Iraq, clash with Israel – none of which shall commence until the completion of stage one: expel the Americans from Iraq. Mr. President, the terrorists are in this war to win it. The question is: Are we?

“Withdrawing before there is a stable and legitimate Iraqi authority would turn Iraq into a failed state and a terrorist sanctuary, in the heart of the Middle East. We have seen a failed state emerge after U.S. disengagement once before, and it cost us terribly. In pre-9/11 Afghanistan, terrorists found sanctuary to train and plan attacks with impunity. We know that today there are terrorists in Iraq who are planning attacks against Americans. We cannot make this fatal mistake twice.
...

Leaving prematurely would induce Iraq’s neighbors, including Saudi Arabia and Jordan, Egypt to Israel, Turkey and others, to feel their own security eroding, and may well induce them to act in ways that prompt wider instability. The potential for genocide, wider war, spiraling oil prices, and the perception of strategic American defeat is real, Mr. President, and no vote on this floor will change that. This fight is about Iraq but not about Iraq alone. It is greater than that and more important still, about whether America still has the political courage to fight for victory or whether we will settle for defeat, with all of the terrible things that accompany it. We cannot walk away gracefully from defeat in this war.

“General Petraeus and his commanders believe that they have a strategy that can, over time, lead to success in Iraq. General Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker will come to Washington in September to report on the status of their efforts, and those of the Iraqis. They ask just two things of us: the time necessary to see whether their efforts can succeed, and the political courage to support them in their work. I believe that we must give them both.
...

I wish we had planned to fight this war correctly the first time, but we can no more turn back the clock to 2003 than we can wish away the consequences of defeat by imposing some artificial deadline for withdrawal. Last week in Iraq, I met the bravest men and women our country has to offer, and not one of them told me that it was time to go, or that the cause is lost. They are frustrated with the Iraqi government’s lack of progress. They are buffeted by the winds of partisanship in Washington, talking today of surges and tomorrow of withdrawal, voting to confirm General Petraeus and then voting for a course that guarantees defeat. But in the end, they know that the war in Iraq is part of a larger struggle, a war of moderation and stability against the forces of violence and extremism. They recognize that if we simply pack up and leave, the war does not end. It merely gets harder.”

As I said, when he's on, he's on.

Posted by Tom at 9:20 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 9, 2007

As Goes Spain...

Aaron Hanscom just got back from visiting relatives in Spain, and his impression of the outward appearance of the country matches what I saw in Britain, France, and Belgium: "The cathedrals were beautiful and the cheese was great."

Ditto that. Anyone who hasn't been to St Pauls, Westminster, or any of the cathedrals in France is seriously missing out. Alas, it's all a facade.

Alas, my prolonged stays in Spain have taught me that the continent’s impressive outward appearances—massive cathedrals, a strong euro, great cheese—obscure a hollowness at its core. The truth is that Europe’s churches are largely empty; its welfare economies are unsustainable; and—most troublingly— its restive Muslim minorities seem unappeasable.

Spain was under Islamic rule for 800 years, and many Muslims blame Spaniards for the loss of Al-Ándalus. Spanish politician and terrorism expert Gustavo de Arístegui has documented how there is already a policy underway to reconquer land and monuments that were once under the domain of Islam. In an interview with me last year, Arístegui said, “Spanish society today is not willing or ready to accept the threat we face.”

My conversations with Spaniards this month gave me reasons for hope and despair. While most people seem to be coming to the reluctant conclusion that radical Islamists pose a threat to their way of life (the first step in defeating radical Islam), they remain unsure how to fight back.

Consider the conversation I had with my wife’s uncle at my brother-in-law’s wedding. I was prepared to be cornered by Miguel, who always finds time at family reunions to bombard me with political commentary. A supporter of the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (Partido Socialista Obrero Español – PSOE), he has generally agreed with Prime Minister José Luís Rodríguez Zapatero’s policies of appeasement. You can imagine my surprise when he told me that he had recently joined over a million Spaniards in Madrid to protest the government’s early release from prison of ETA terrorist José Ignacio de Juana Chaos. He also agreed with me when I told him that Muslim immigrants to Europe should be expected to assimilate into their new culture, rather than reject a Western lifestyle.

But Miguel wasn’t prepared to call certain Western values superior to radical Islamic values. When I asked him if we could agree to condemn honor killings (a practice spreading across Europe), he said no. Even when I pointed to his three beautiful daughters and reminded him that forced female genital mutilation was regularly practiced in many Muslim countries, he shrugged as if to say “that’s just the way they do things over there.”

Anecdotal, you say. Perhaps, but anyone who doesn't have his head in some left-wing blog all day knows that Hanscom's story rings true. Via Melanie Philips we have this tidbit from the Daily Mail

Up to eight police officers and civilian staff are suspected of links to extremist groups including Al Qaeda. Some are even believed to have attended terror training camps in Pakistan or Afghanistan. Their names feature on a secret list of alleged radicals said to be working in the Metropolitan and other forces. The dossier was drawn up with the help of MI5 amid fears that individuals linked to Islamic extremism are taking advantage of police attempts to increase the proportion of ethnic staff.

Astonishingly, many of the alleged jihadists have not been sacked because - it is claimed - police do not have the "legal power" to dismiss them. We can also reveal that one suspected jihadist officer working in the South East has been allowed to keep his job despite being caught circulating Internet images of beheadings and roadside bombings in Iraq. He is said to have argued that he was trying to "enhance" debate about the war. Classified intelligence reports raising concerns about police staff's background cannot be used to justify their dismissal, sources said.

Instead, the staff who are under suspicion are unofficially barred from working in sensitive posts and are closely monitored. Political correctness is blamed for the decision not to sack them. It is widely feared that "long-term" Al Qaeda sleepers are trying to infiltrate other public sector organisations in the UK.

Wonderful.


Update

I forgot about this last night, but a much better example of how far Europe has it's collective head in the sand comes from none other than the new British PM himself, Gordon Brown.

Gordon Brown has banned ministers from using the word “Muslim” in ­connection with the ­terrorism crisis.

The Prime Minister has also instructed his team – including new Home Secretary Jacqui Smith – that the phrase “war on ­terror” is to be dropped.

The shake-up is part of a fresh attempt to improve community relations and avoid offending Muslims, adopting a more “consensual” tone than existed under Tony Blair.

How exactly does "war on terror" offend Muslims? The fact is that most terrorist acts are committed by groups that claim to act in the name of Islam. Ignoring the problem won't make it go away. The problem is that too many Muslims refuse to recognize or do anything about the extremism in their midst.

If you won't believe me perhaps you'll believe Safraz Mansoor, writing in the left-wing Guardian (h/t Melanie Philips)

As tempting as it is to say ‘not in my name’ when faced with the terrifying facts of Islamic radicalism, the uncomfortable truth is that those who perpetrate and support such extremism do so in the name of Islam. It is no longer enough for British Muslims to pretend it is someone else’s problem or to retreat into the usual ritual of bashing the media. Denial is no longer an option and British Muslims need to accept that the cancer of extremism affects their entire community. They also must utterly and without equivication denounce the use of violence. One might think this would be a relatively straightforward matter but in the past even a simple denunciation has been difficult to extract from the self-appointed community leaders who seek to speak for Muslims.

Read the rest of Philips' post, because she quotes several other Muslims saying essentialy the same thing in other British papers.

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July 7, 2007

"The Dynamics are Changing"

Operation Phantom Thunder began on June 16, making today the 22nd day of offensive operations. The operation began when the last of the 5 "surge" brigades had arrived in Iraq and deployed into position. Sub operations include Arrowhead Ripper, Marne Torch, Commando Eagle, and Fahrad Al Amin.

Perhaps the most intersting dispatch was filed by Michael Yon two days ago in his update on Operation Arrowhead Ripper. He brings us this from Baqubah

The big news on the streets today is that the people of Baqubah are generally ecstatic, although many hold in reserve a serious concern that we will abandon them again. For many Iraqis, we have morphed from being invaders to occupiers to members of a tribe. I call it the “al Ameriki tribe,” or “tribe America.”

I’ve seen this kind of progression in Mosul, out in Anbar and other places, and when I ask our military leaders if they have sensed any shift, many have said, yes, they too sense that Iraqis view us differently. In the context of sectarian and tribal strife, we are the tribe that people can—more or less and with giant caveats—rely on.

Most Iraqis I talk with acknowledge that if it was ever about the oil, it’s not now. Not mostly anyway. It clearly would have been cheaper just to buy the oil or invade somewhere easier that has more. Similarly, most Iraqis seem now to realize that we really don’t want to stay here, and that many of us can’t wait to get back home. They realize that we are not resolved to stay, but are impatient to drive down to Kuwait and sail away. And when they consider the Americans who actually deal with Iraqis every day, the Iraqis can no longer deny that we really do want them to succeed. But we want them to succeed without us. We want to see their streets are clean and safe, their grass is green, and their birds are singing. We want to see that on television. Not in person. We don’t want to be here. We tell them that every day. It finally has settled in that we are telling the truth.

Now that all those realizations and more have settled in, the dynamics here are changing in palpable ways.

Good news certainly, but two more things need to happen in order for this success to matter.

One, the Iraqi security forces must be able to hold these areas themselves. We've cleared them, and are holding them now, but can't forever. David Kilcullen, Senior Counterinsurgency Adviser at MNF-Iraq, has said that after our clear and hold " the key activity (will be) to stand up viable local security forces in partnership with Iraqi Army and Police, as well as political and economic programs, to permanently secure them." Last October General Casey tried to secure Baghdad, but we didn't have enough troops to hold the areas we had cleared, and the Iraqis were not up to the job.

Second, military success must lead to political solutions. As Frederick Kagan made clear a few weeks ago, political solutions can only come after military success, but it must be clear that their is political progress.

The New York Times (h/t NRO) also has an article on Baquba (spellings vary), the provincial capital of the Diyala province. The insurgents used to rule this area with a heavy hand, imposing their own justice through a system of Islamc courts. The Times reporter acknowledges a new coalition between American forces and Sunni leaders. The good news is that this represents political progress on the local level

Capt. Ben Richards had been battling insurgents from Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia for three weeks when he received an unexpected visitor.

Abu Ali walked into the Americans’ battle-scarred combat outpost with an unusual proposal: the community leader was worried about the insurgents, and wanted the soldiers’ help in taking them on.

The April 7 meeting was the beginning of a new alliance and, American commanders hope, a portent of what is to come in the bitterly contested Diyala Province.

Using his Iraqi partners to pick out the insurgents and uncover the bombs they had seeded along the cratered roads, Captain Richards’s soldiers soon apprehended more than 100 militants, including several low-level emirs. The Iraqis called themselves the Local Committee; Captain Richards dubbed them the Kit Carson scouts.

“It is the only way that we can keep Al Qaeda out,” said Captain Richards, who operates from a former Iraqi police station in the Buhritz sector of the city that still bears the sooty streaks from the day militants set it aflame last year.

The American military has struggled for more than four years to train and equip the Iraqi Army. But here the local Sunni residents, including a number of former insurgents from the 1920s Revolution Brigades, have emerged as a linchpin of the American strategy.

The new coalition reflects some hard-headed calculations on both sides. Eager for intelligence on their elusive foes, American officers have been willing to overlook the past of some of their newfound allies.

Many Sunnis, for their part, are less inclined to see the soldiers as occupiers now that it is clear that American troop reductions are all but inevitable, and they are more concerned with strengthening their ability to fend off threats from Sunni jihadists and Shiite militias. In a surprising twist, the jihadists — the Americans’ most ardent foes — made the new strategy possible. Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, a predominantly Iraqi organization with a small but significant foreign component, severely overplayed its hand, spawning resentment by many residents and other insurgent groups.

The article goes on to discuss some of the cooperation between local residents and leaders with American forces. Tips from locals about the location of al Qaeda fighters have proven accurate.

Unfortunately, this progress on the local level is tempered by problems at the top.

But with Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki’s government showing scant progress toward political reconciliation and the American military eager to achieve a measure of stability before its elevated troop levels begin to shrink, American commanders appear determined to proceed with this more decentralized strategy — one that relies less on initiatives taken by Iraqi leaders in Baghdad and more on newly forged coalitions with local Iraqis.

Whether or not this works remains to be seen.

It's the lack of progress on the national level that has members of Congress worried. The latest Republican to defect is Senator Pete Domenici (N.M.). I a statement Thursday to reporters at a news conference in Albuquerque, he said that

"We cannot continue asking our troops to sacrifice indefinitely while the Iraqi government is not making measurable progress," Domenici said. "I do not support an immediate withdrawal from Iraq or a reduction in funding for our troops. But I do support a new strategy that will move our troops out of combat operations and on the path to coming home."

Domenici is trying to have it both ways, but what he's saying amounts to "let's abandon what we're doing now and give up." Saying that you want to "move our troops out of combat operations" is for all practical purposes the same as demanding an immediate withdrawal.

If you don't want to believe me on this take it from Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, commander of Multi-National Division-Center, and the 3rd Infantry Division. His part of Phantom Thunder is Operation Marne Torch. You can watch the video below, or read the transcript.

Here's the take-away

Q General, it's Jamie McIntyre from CNN. Just again to follow up on the same theme, if -- as you're no doubt aware, the mood in Washington is increasingly toward bringing those extra surge forces home sooner rather than later, in fact, some time in the next couple of months. How would that affect your ability to carry out your mission, given that you've said it's those surge forces that have given you the ability to go into these places?
GEN. LYNCH: It would be a mess, Jamie. It'd be a mess. Those surge forces are giving us the capability we have now to take the fight to the enemy, and the enemy only responds to force and we now have that force. You know, we can conduct detailed kinetic strikes, we can do cordon and searches, and we can deny the enemy the sanctuaries. If those surge forces go away, that capability goes away, and the Iraqi security forces aren't ready yet to do that.
So now what you're going to find if you did that, is you'd find the enemy regaining ground, re-establishing a sanctuary, building more IEDs, carrying those IEDs in Baghdad, and the violence would escalate. It would be a mess.

Call me cynical, but what I think if the withdraw-now crowd gets its way, they'll then blame the ensuing bloodbath on President Bush. Well, you can't have it both ways. If you want to say that we should halt Phantom Thunder and start to withdraw the troops, make your case. But don't do so without examining what will happen in Iraq as a result. Many on the left demand that conservatives (or at least neo-cons) take responsiblity for the failures thus far in Iraq. Fine. But if you're demanding an immediate withdrawal, will you take responsibility for what happens afterwards?

Posted by Tom at 11:27 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

July 6, 2007

Not Al Gore!

Edgar Allen Poe might roll over in his grave if he saw this parody, but it's just too funny to pass up.


Once upon a midnight dreary, as I wondered weak and weary
Why the Goreacle is such a tedious, monumental bore.
Surely in the loads of drivel, tripe to make a man’s brain shrivel,
Interspersed with jibes uncivil, there’d be something to explore?
Could that whole ungodly slideshow be but lies and nothing more?
Would that someone had kept score!

Frantically in search of answers to Al Gore’s extravaganzas,
Mine eyes did light upon a paper lying on my office floor.
‘Fore my eyes two words were forming, words that looked like “global warming”,
Soon I found myself a-storming, straight across my office floor
To snatch up that hopeful beacon like a ship in search of shore.
Wanting badly to learn more.

There, within its brittle pages, words of scientific sages
Summarized the essence of the Gorebot’s claims of yore.
Are the mountains’ snowy summits shrinking as the coolness plummets,
Or, as some say, due to forests fewer than there were before?
Who is right and free of folly with a hand on wisdom’s door?
Quoth the experts: “Not Al Gore.”

What about the winds a-blowing, are their forces ever growing Caused by global heating’s menace, doomed to rise forevermore? Or is the real truth quite another? Is there no rise in windy bother? Is it true our Earthly mother has less storms than e’er before? Who is using facts to silence his opponent’s witless roar? Quoth the experts: “Not Al Gore.”

Are the deserts getting bigger with unheard of vim and vigor
Leaving naught but arid wastelands as we watch the tempr’ture soar?
Or perhaps the sand’s retreating while poor farmers now are meeting
Ends on green land that was nothing but a sea of sand before?
One of the two sides is telling nothing but the truth; no more.
Quoth the experts: “Not Al Gore.”

Are the tundras really melting, caused by warming’s heavy welting
While the ursine ice floe dwellers float on ice cubes far from shore?
Or, perhaps, they’re getting colder, leaving nary an ice-free boulder
While the ice sheets cover more land than it did the year before?
Who had nailed this vital question with real science true and sure?
Quoth the experts: “Not Al Gore.”

I put the paper down and wondered where humanity had blundered
Putting faith in mindless cretins that sane people should ignore.
“There is one born every minute, with the brains G-d gave a linnet.”
I thought and saw the gospel in it, “thus it will be evermore.”
To whom should one turn for advice for what the future has in store?
Quoth the experts: “NOT AL GORE!”

Note: I changed some of the links from what Emperor Misha I had in "not Al Gore"

Posted by Tom at 8:25 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 5, 2007

Book Review: Unhinged: Exposing Liberals Gone Wild


Unhinged - by Michelle Malkin

Liberals, or at least a goodly portion of them, have come unglued these past 7 years. I don't mean that they're just mad at President Bush over Iraq or Katrina, or at Republicans in Congress over the Terri Schiavo affair.

I mean some of them have absolutely gone nuts.

Michelle Malkin documents this phenomenon in her 2005 book Unhinged: Exposing Liberals Gone Wild. It's 170 pages of, well, unhinged actions by liberals.

Just so we're clear, the purpose of this book was not to do some soft of scientific study of the left and right to see which side is worse. There's no "balance" in this book simply because that's not the point. And truth be told, this is not the type of book that I normally don't buy or review here. I picked it up mainly because she was at CPAC 2007, and wanted her autograph. I already had In Defense of Internment, so I chose this one.

Read the title again if you don't get it; her purpose is to "expose liberals gone wild". And expose she does.

Malkin provides example after example of one nutty liberal after another doing absolutely crazy things. Here are some of the subject areas.

- Racism and sexism. Some of the most vile attacks are on Condolezza Rice, but Malkin has received her share. "You are one sick gook" is among the nicer things they say about her. Most of what she reprints in the book is vile beyond description. Conservtives who happen to be minorities are regularly called an "oreo", "coconut", or "banana" (black/brown/yellow on the outside but white inside, if you're not familiar).

- For some reason many on the left seem not be able to communicate without resorting to foul language. I've seen much of this myself at many "anti-war" demonstrations.

- Ever since at least the 80s it has been typical of leftists to try and prevent conservatives from speaking at public events. As of late it has become fashionable to ambush and throw a pie at the face of the speaker.

- Assassination fascination. You don't have to go far on left-wing sites to read people wishing Bush or Cheney were dead. But we're not just talking about Internet posts. One Sarah Vowell even wrote a book about her fixation called Assassination Vacation. Another wrote a play called "I'm Gonna Kill the President!" the president, of course, being George W Bush. Yet a third example is Nicholson Baker's novel Checkpoint, another fantasy about murdering you-know-who.

- Hollywood. Sigh. We've always known that they're mostly a bunch of leftists, but ever since the election of George W Bush they've become... unhinged.

- Colleges and Universities get another big sigh. Ward Churchill may have gotten much of the media attention, but believe you me, he's not alone in his opinions.

- The hard left absolutely does not support the troops. Stories of stolen or vandalized yellow ribbons, keyed cars (ones that displayed an American flag or support the troops sticker) and such are legendary in places like Seattle. Leftist administrators and professors wage unrelenting war on military campus recruiters.

And all this was before the Amanda Marcotte affair.

The book is entertaining to read, though you can only take so much of it at any one sitting. Page after page of one crazy liberal after another gets to be a but much after awhile. If you want documentation on the above without buying the book, just go to her website and type "unhinged" into the search tool. Enjoy.

Michelle Malkin herself drives some liberals crazy.

Not like Ann Coulter, to be sure, who taunts liberals and so brings much of it on herself.

Only chapter of this book is about the hatred that is directed towards Malkin herself. No doubt that anyone in public life will receive death threats, and will receive messages of hate. But but with Malkin so much of it is racist and sexist in nature. Perhaps because she is an attractive woman, the sexual nature of the attacks is particulary vicious. And we all know that any minority (Malkin's parents are Filipino, her maiden name is Maglalang) conservative comes in for especially rude treatment. In 2005 she posted a sample of the hate mail that she receives every day. I'm sure nothing has changed.

This book has driven some liberals crazy. It's obvious fromt he reviews on Amazon that there's a war being raged by the left to bring the *star* rating for the book down. I suppose you can say the right is equally trying to drive the ratings up, my point is simply that if you read some of the left reviews I'll think you'll agree that some of them are, well, unhinged.

Interestingly, the author of the Publishers Weekly review on Amazon also can't resist taking a gratuitous shot at the book, saying that she

...scoured blogs, speeches, media commentaries and even transcripts from Oprah for material, though she misses the boat in a number of instances, most notably in her obliviousness to sarcasm and irony, and she overextends her analytical prowess by offering shallow, shoddy critiques of theater, literature and modern art.

"sarcasm and irony"? What a joke. The examples of unhinged behaviour she cites are pretty clearly from people who have gone round the bend.

Avoiding the Temptation

It's always tempting to think that "the other side" is worse in every respect; they're more corrupt, hypocritical, unreasoned, nasty, unhinged. It's also tempting to excuse certain behaviors when they occur on your side, while condeming it on the other. This temptation to be avoided.

An equal temtation to be avoided is falling into habit of throwing up your hands and saying the "both sides do it". Sometimes this is true, and sometimes it isn't. There are times when Republicans, as a whole, are more corrupt than the Democrats, and vice versa. Likewise, there are times when one side is more nasty than the other. I believe we live in a time where as a whole the left is nastier than the right.

Some of this, I think, is simply due to the fact that liberals were out of power in both houses of Congress and the presidency. We shall see what happens if a Democrat wins the White House in 2008 and they retain the House and Senate.

Yes It Occurs on the Right

When Code Pink leader Medea Benjamin says that "Whenever I appear on TV shows such as Hannity and Colmes or Bill O'Reilly, I receive vicious messages on my phone and threatening emails that scare my children and anger my husband with their variations on the theme of "Die, you ugly, communist, lesbian, American-hating bitch."" I believe her.

When Ralph Peters says he gets email from the Islam-hating right telling him that Islam is evil and that he is "a foolish "dhimmi," blind to the conspiratorial nature of Islam", I believe him too.

And we've all been to websites in which authors or commenters go too far in attacking the left.

Lastly, yes I recall the 1990s when it many on the right fell for every Vince Foster/Waco/ dead bodyguard/case of sexual harassment case out there. I felt the temptation, but always found myself backing off when reading "the other side".

The Final Analysis

In the end I have to agree with Malkin that these past several years the left is more unhinged than the right. The insults at Christians, the racist and sexist attacks, are simply unparalleled on the right. The outlandish behavior and outrageous statements come mostly from the left.

I also know this; that when (and it's always only a matter of time) the Democrats control the White House and at least one house of congress, I'll get out Unhinged and vow not to become a right-wing equivalent of the liberals that Malkin exposes. And I'll try and hold other conservatives to the same standard.

Michelle Malkin blogs at MichelleMalkin.com Her ground-breaking video blog is HotAir.com

July 26 Update

Michelle documents more unhinged leftist behavior. You won't believe some of this stuff. Given some of the stuff they say about her, I'd say she's one of the the bravest woman around. Keep on bloggin'!

Posted by Tom at 8:35 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 4, 2007

The Declaration of Independence

There's only one thing, really, to post today. If you haven't read it lately, take time to go through it in it's entirety

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

In Congress, July 4, 1776

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

—John Hancock

New Hampshire:
Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple, Matthew Thornton

Massachusetts:
John Hancock, Samuel Adams, John Adams, Robert Treat Paine, Elbridge Gerry

Rhode Island:

Stephen Hopkins, William Ellery
Connecticut:
Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, William Williams, Oliver Wolcott

New York:
William Floyd, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis, Lewis Morris

New Jersey:
Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart, Abraham Clark

Pennsylvania:
Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John Morton, George Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, George Ross

Delaware:
Caesar Rodney, George Read, Thomas McKean

Maryland:
Samuel Chase, William Paca, Thomas Stone, Charles Carroll of Carrollton

Virginia:
George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Nelson, Jr., Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton

North Carolina:
William Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn

South Carolina:
Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, Jr., Thomas Lynch, Jr., Arthur Middleton

Georgia:
Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, George Walton

Posted by Tom at 9:42 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack