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August 30, 2007

Defense Vision Indeed

An editorial today in the Washington Times I think provides an opportunity to review some aspects of our national defense policy. William D. Hartung, identified as the director of the Arms and Security Initiative at the New America Foundation, wrote a piece called "Defense Vision MIA?"

Hartung is well intentioned, and unlike those on the far left genuinely cares about defending our nation. He has obviously given serious thought to matters such as how the DOD should be organized, and what weapons we should purchase. However, his thinking seems rather confused, and from this article it's hard to know exactly what he wants us to do

Here are some representative parts from his piece

...Mrs. Clinton's insistence on keeping "all options on the table" in dealing with potential adversaries — presumably including the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons — represents old thinking that should have no place in a post-September 11, 2001, foreign policy.

Ugh. I certainly hope it does not come down to it but if we are not able to stop Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons it's not too difficult to imagine a scenario in which we have no choice but to use them in self-defense. Although it's less likely, one can also imagine scenarios involving nuclear weapons with North Korea or China.

He then criticizes both Obama and Clinton for recommending that we add 80,000 troops to our armed forces

Advocating more troops raises an obvious question. What would the additional troops be for? Since all Democratic candidates claim to favor a withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from Iraq in relatively short order, the increase could not be meant to reinforce the U.S. presence there, unless they plan to maintain the occupation far longer than advertised.

Do Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama want to ensure that the U.S. military is ready to engage in future Iraq-style occupations? Do they contemplate multiple humanitarian interventions that would involve hundreds of thousands of troops? Or is the call for more troops simply a political insurance to insulate them from Republican claims they are "soft" on terrorism?

None of these rationales is persuasive. In fact, a case can be made that an increase in troop strength is just as likely to detract from U.S. security as improve it.

So then he thinks that we can deter our enemies through high-tech weaponry, right? Not exactly. He wants to cancel most of them too. His prescription?

Increasing Special Forces for use in antiterrorist actions is a reasonable mission but does not require 80,000 more troops. Some of these units can be developed by training personnel already in the armed forces, rather than using new recruits who would take several years to attain adequate readiness. Unless Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama can clearly articulate the mission or missions requiring additional forces, they would be better served sticking to the issue of how to rebuild forces at existing levels after the trauma of Iraq.

This works only in a world whereby all US military actions are limited to Chuck Norris style quick in-and-out hit and run raids. If all threats meet this need, great. Unfortuantely I rather think the world will have other ideas.

Here's his other big idea

One place to start would be canceling programs like the F-22 combat aircraft, the V-22 Osprey, and the Virginia class submarine. These systems were designed when the Soviet military was deemed the primary threat, rather than the current challenge posed by a loose network of terrorist groups waging unconventional warfare.
Here Harting reverts to everything that is wrong with modern liberal thinking on defense; cancel everything and build nothing in it's place. Substitute organizational changes for actual weapons. Sounds like Jimmy Carter and the B-1 all over again. Surely cancelling the Crusader was the correct move. I'm less certain about the Comanche, but I'll buy it. But what about the F-22, V-22, and Virginia class submarines? I think that if you look around the world it would seem reasonable to conclude that we might face any one of a number of enemies, and each would present a completely different challenge

Iraq and Afghanistan: Unlike Hartung, I want to stay in Iraq. Low intensity counterinsurgency. The need is for heavy weapons but small units. Lots of Special Forces are needed.
Iran: Air and Naval campaign: The need is for strategic bombers, aerial refueling, naval air, destroyers and frigates.
China: Any number of scenaries are actually possible. Most involve a shoot-out on the high seas, in which we're going to need every piece of high-tech equipment we can get our hands on.
North Korea: Absolutely unpredictable. It could turn into anything from a nuclear shoot-out, to a limited bombing campaign, to repelling a full-scale assault by the North Korean Army. The DPRK doesn't have much in the way of high-tech, but they do have a lot.
Venezuela or Cuba: Hard to imagine ground forces going to the former, but Cuba after Fidel remains unpredictable, and it's not impossible to imagine a US invasion. Low-tech forces should carry the day in either case, however.

So as we can see each scenario requires a completely different approach. It is my contention that we therefore need a little of everything. A balanced force is better than one in which we put all of our eggs in one basket.

The Israelis put most of their eggs into the airpower basket after their success in the 1967 war. As a result, for example they neglected artillery, thinking that their new F-4 Phantoms could serve as "flying artillery". As a result they nearly lost the 1973 Yom Kippur war, a loss that would have meant the end of Israel itself.

Further, it is not as if we can predict our wars. I laid out some obvious scenarios above, but history shows that we are usually surprised by how things develop. The Korean War took us by surprise. In the 1950s we prepared for nuclear war with the Soviets, only to find us fighing in the jungles of Vietnam the next decade. Weapons like the F-105, which was built as a short-range tactical nuclear bomber, ended up being used as a conventionbl bomber in Vietnam. For that matter, the VSTOL Harrier was built as a survivable tactical bomber for Europe (it could hide in the woods and be wheeled out to take off in a field), yet served in a conventional role in the Falklands War (in fact without it the British could not even have sent the task force forth).

Not Sitting Still

I don't have the time to go through the aircraft, submarines, and ships that our enemies might use against us, but suffice it to say that they aren't standing still. Let's not also be overconfident or arrogant with regard to our own capabilities. This attitude got a lot of US pilots killed during the early days of the Vietnam War, when we discovered that the MiG-21 was the equivalent of our F-4 Phantom, and their pilots nearly as good.

Further, some of our weapons are getting very old. The F-15 first flew in 1972. The F-16 in 1979, and the F-18 1982. The first Los Angeles class sub was launched in 1976. The CH-53 first flew in 1981, and the H47 in 1962. You get the point.

Yes all of the above systems have undergone major upgrades. I know all this. But you can only do so much with an old airframe. Sure, we could build a new helicopter instead of the tilt-rotar V-22 and it would be better than what is in the inventory. But we are really at about the limit of what you can do with helicopter technology, so it would be an exercise in the point of dimishing returns.

Instead of the F-22 Raptor we could rely on the somewhat less expensive F-35 Lightning II. This, however, would have been the equivalent of cancelling the F-15 and relying on the F-16. Ask any pilot about the wisdom of that potential decision.

And In Conclusion

We need to do two things. The first is to ensure that we have a balanced force. We need Special Forces, and we need F-22s. We need Virginia Class submarines and we need the MRAP. We cannot predict with any certainly who we might have to fight in the forseeable future, and different wars will require a different set of weapons.

The second thing we need to do is to simply spend more. Critics have a point when they say that the Army is stretched thin. The solution, however, is not to pull out of Iraq or anywhere else, but to build up the force. As the editors of National Review reminded us a few months ago how much our forces have shrunk recently

From 1974 to 1989, the Army had 770,000 to 780,000 active troops (all of them volunteers). Today, we have around 508,000. The Navy had 568 ships in the late 1980s; today it has 276, and its manpower is so reduced that it often has to helicopter sailors from homebound ships to outbound ones in order to keep them staffed. The Air Force’s number of tactical air wings has shrunk from 37 to 20, and the average age of its aircraft is 24 years (as compared with nine years in 1973).

There is disagreement about whether the armed forces should be restored to their Cold War size, but there is consensus among military analysts across the political spectrum that they are too small. Today’s strategic environment requires them to be able to engage in multiple regional wars and peacekeeping operations simultaneously, and still have enough resources left over to deter threats and respond to unforeseen dangers.

During the last part of the Cold War I think we spend about 8% of GDP on national defense. Today it's at about 3.7% or so. While we don't need to go back to Cold War levels, we do need to do more. The unfortunate fact of history is that there will always be another war.

Posted by Tom at 10:09 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 29, 2007

Book Review - God, Guns, & Rock 'N Roll

Theodore "Ted" Nugent - a.k.a. The Nuge, Uncle Ted, Terrible Ted, Sweaty Teddy, Deadly Tedly, Great Gonzos, The Atrocious Theodocious and The Motor City Madman

220px-Ted_Nugent_in_concert.jpg

Hard rock guitarist, with over 35 million albumns sold. Rifle, pistol, and bow hunter. Member of the Board of Directors of the NRA (second only to Oliver North in number of votes in the last election). National spokesman for the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE). Famously anti-drug and alcohol; "clean and sober my whole life!" Plays hard and works hard. Devoted family man. Special deputy sheriff in his home county in Michigan. Writes a newspaper column. Carries a sidearm whereever he goes, strapping it back on backstage after each concert. Writer and star of The Outdoor Channel's Ted Nugent Spirit of the Wild show. Hasn't bought meat from the grocery since 1969.

His heros are Rosa Parks and Fred Bear. The former needs no introduction, the latter is his hunting mentor.

Either you love Ted or you hate him. I'm definately in the former camp.

Anyone who's ever heard or seen him interviewed knows he is a man of strong opinions, and is not shy about speaking his mind. He speaks fast and is very articulate. Whether you agree with him on anything or not, you're forced to acknowledge that this is not your ordinary drug-addled rocker. Nugent is a man of energy and it shows.

I've never been much of a concert goer, and have never seen him live. Several years ago I switched over to contemporary Christian music, and so do not listen to the type of stations that play his music. In fact, I don't listen to much if any secular music at all anymore, but with Nugent I'll make an exception. He was one of my favorites from the old days.

I picked up his 2000 book, God, Guns, & Rock 'N Roll, while at my brother's house recently, deciding I needed a less intense book to read and review after all of the heavy political books I've been reviewing. "...less intense book" and I picked up something by Ted Nugent? What was I thinking....

Truth be told, the book is about 2% God, 8% Rock 'n Roll, and 90% Guns. He is a self-described "gun nut" and not in the slightest ashamed of it. In fact, he revels in it. Anyone who doesn't like it can go you-know-where as far as he is concerned.

Ted Nugent is a controversial figure, for his hard-driving intense brand of rock 'roll as much for his politics. On the one hand, he's got enough money not to care whether you like him or not. On the other, he recognizes that there are plenty of people who would take away our Second Amendment and hunting rights if given half a chance, and so he has devoted much of his public life to ensuring that never happens.

Of course the liberals hate him.

He is active in dozens of organizations, some he founded himself, such as the Ted Nugent Kamp for Kids and the Ted Nugent United Sportsmen of America, to his member on the Board of Directors of the NRA, to many others as well.

Ted's god is the god of nature; the "Great Spirit", as he describes it. Nature is "God's creation", and it has a beauty nothing we create can match. He says he believes in the Ten Commandments, but never discusses Christianity or any other religion per se. Rather, to him spirituality is to be found in being part of nature. Hunting, fishing, and guns are all part of this. He sees hunting as feeding his family, as providing "life sustaining food" as he continually calls it. After killing an elephant or wild boar in Africa he goes to pains to describe how the local villagers use every part of the animal. To him this is the ultimate nexus between man and nature.

He doesn't just hunt with guns either, but I think actually prefers bow and arrow because he enjoys the challenge of having to get closer to his prey. The hunt to him is a very spiritual affair.

He has hunted with every major American Indian tribe, and I can imagine that Ted visualizes himself as being in their tradition. In another life he would be a great Indian chief, leading his warriors on the hunt. I imagine his people would have been very well fed.

Environmentalists want to preserve nature from man. Nugent, and other conservationists like him, want to preserve nature for man. The conflict between environmentalist, who sees man as essentially evil, and conservationist, who believes we can be enlightened stewards, is more than just hunter vs anti-hunter. It reveals a deep philosophical divide in how one views man and our relationship with nature. While I don't think he mentions the word "environmentalist" once in his book, he makes clear his distain for anti-gun and anti-hunters.

We are stewards of nature, but also a part of it. Hunting, camping, and fishing are not merely activities that we do on the weekend or when we're bored, they're part of our essence, of who we are. Life out of nature is unimaginable to Nugent. Buying one's meat at the grocery is unimaginable for him.

Other than on issues surrounding guns and hunting, Nugent reveals little on how he thinks about the other issues of our time. He has performed in Iraq for the troops in USO-sponsored shows, but of course that was after the book was written. Family means the world to him, and he describes homosexuality as "weird". On the gun issue alone I'm sure he votes Republican, but rather doubt he feels much affinity with social conservatives. And I'm sure he opposes big developers who want to plow under everything to make room for yet another shopping mall. As mentioned earlier, he spends much of his time making sure that there are plenty of animals for us to hunt. You'll find no greater friend of forests, wetlands, clean air and water than Ted Nugent.

I've never been one for hunting, but have done my share of fishing. I'm also above average in gun ownership, and a proud member of the NRA. Ted Nugent has received my vote for a place on the NRA Board of Directors in the past, and can count on it again. And who knows, if his next concert tour takes him near me, I may just go see him.

Posted by Tom at 8:50 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

August 28, 2007

The Senator Craig Affair

As I think we all know by now, Senator Larry Craig (R-ID) was convicted of misdemeanor disorderly conduct after being arrested in a men's toilet at the Minneapolis airport. This is actually a lesser charge to which he pled guilty, the original one being gross misdemeanor interference to privacy.

From news reports he went to court without a lawyer. He now says that he regrets pleading guilty and wishes that he had fought the charge. Mark Levin read the actual police report on his talk show earlier this evening, and it seems clear to me that whether or not Craig's behavior met the standards required for conviction (and it is a debatable point) it seems to me that in all probability he was looking for gay sex.

Ugh

Let me go on the record as saying that Senator Craig ought to resign immediately. If he does not, the Senate GOP needs to demand his resignation.

A quick search of google for "Larry Craig hypocrite" predicably turned up a few hundred hits. No doubt many leftists and those who hate social conservatives and our values are having a field day. The general charge is that social conservative values are wrong and evil because Senator Craig and others are hypocrites.

So what of this issue of hypocrisy?

I've dealt with all this before (see links at bottom), but give this unfortunate incident I may as well go through it again.

Hypocrisy is a bad thing, but it is not the worst thing. Worse than saying right but doing wrong, is doing and saying wrong.

Hugh Heffner is not a hypocrite. Disgraced preacher Ted Haggard is. Although both have done wrong, Heffner is clearly the worst of the two.

Either an argument is right or it is wrong. Arguments, like facts, exist in and of themselves. Whether they are correct or not is independent of the person making them.

Al Gore is a hypocrite on the issue of environmentalism. He preaches the gospel of global warming yet lives in an energy wasteful house. He jets around hither and yon. But does this mean that global warming is a fraud? Of course not. Whether global warming is real, is caused by mankind, and whether Kyoto is the proper response are completely separate issues.

So the charge of hypocrisy, even when accurate, says nothing about the rightness or wrongness of an argument. You can always find someone on the other side of an who is a hypocrite. If you insist that absolutely no one on the other side of a debate be a hypocrite, you're setting an unrealistic condition.

Surely one should avoid hypocrisy. More importantly, hypocrites themselves should not be the ones making the case. So Al Gore should not be the one making the case for global warming and Kyoto, and Mark Foley should not have been head of the house subcommittee on exploited children, or Ted Haggard should not have preached against the gay lifestyle, or Larry Craig being so vocal on "family values".

Much of the time, the charge of hypocrisy is a way of avoiding debate on the subject at hand. As such, I try and avoid using the charge as part of my arguments. I'm not saying I'm perfect here, folks, just that I don't use the charge of hypocrisy as a general tactic.

The bottom line is that people on the cultural left who cry hypocrisy at social conservatives are doing so because they don't want to change their lifestyle, and they want to avoid discussing values. For that matter, people on the right who obsess over whether Al Gore is an environmental hypocrite are guilty of the same thing. It's about that simple.

Previous

On Hypocrisy and Evangelicals
Hate and Self-Satisfaction

Update

A consolidation

1) Hypocrisy is a bad thing, but not the worst thing. Worse than speaking good but doing bad is speaking bad and doing bad.

2) Centering one's argument around the charge of hypocrisy avoids debating the issue on it's merits. This does not serve the public well.

3) People who claim that they can't take the other side's argument seriously because of "rampant hypocrisy" are setting an impossible standard. It is human nature that there will always be hypocrites on every side of every issue.

4) If you hold yourself to no standards or loose standards, you avoid the charge of hypocrisy. However, see #1.

Posted by Tom at 9:22 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 25, 2007

Why Wait for Petraeus?

General Petraeus is due to make his report to Congress on September 11. It would appear, however, that many in Congress have already made up their minds.

Senator Warner seems to have already made his decision. He's now announced that the President should announce a withdrawal right now. At a press conference in Washington yesterday

Virginia Senator John Warner said President George W. Bush should begin withdrawing troops from Iraq on Sept. 15 to show the Iraqi government that the U.S. commitment there isn't open-ended.

Bush should announce that ``we will start an orderly, carefully planned, thought-out redeployment,'' said Warner, 80, a Republican and former Navy secretary who three times chaired the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Thanks, Senator. Democrats didn't waste anytime using this against the President. From the AP

Democrats say the grim (NIE) report and Warner's conclusion bolster their position that Bush should change course and start bringing troops home this fall. Party leaders this year tried to pass legislation ordering troops home this fall, but repeatedly fell short of the 60 votes needed in the Senate to pass.

In addition, yesterday radio talk-show hostLaura Ingraham played several clips of various media talking heads crowing over Senator Warner's statement. They seem almost joyous that this could lead to the defections of more Republicans

Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, commander of Multinational Division-Center and 3rd Infantry Division, was asked directly about Warner's comments at a press briefing on Friday, and he swatted down the notion that in the short run we can safely withdraw troops.

Q: General, Jim Miklaszewski with NBC. After his visit to Iraq last weekend, Senator John Warner said yesterday that he's recommending to the president that the U.S. begin to withdraw its forces from Iraq as early as December. From somebody who's conducting combat operations on the ground there, what's your reaction to that? How do you think that would affect your ability to conduct those operations?

GEN. LYNCH: Yeah, thanks for that question, Jim. You know, what I find now -- as you all know, I was in Iraq, went away for 10 months, came back again -- and really the difference that's happening right now is twofold. One is, we're not commuting to work. In my battlespace there are 29 patrol bases that we have occupied, and we're out there with the local citizens. Being out with the local citizens allows us to let them know they're going to be secure, and as a result of that, they come to us with all sorts of actionable intelligence. And that's what happens.

And the other piece is the ability of the surge forces. You know, we now have units; we can take the fight to the enemy. If we were to lose that capability, I believe the enemy would just come back. What I've found studying the enemy is, he’s got amazing ability to fill the void. And it takes him about 48 hours. If it's an area that's no longer secure, he's going to fill that void in about 48 hours.

And any of the locals who are helping the coalition secure -- they're now subject to atrocious acts of violence, and we can't let that happen.

This is going to take some time. You know, we've always said the level of coalition forces is a function of three things. It's the level of the insurgency, it's the capability of Iraqi security forces, and it's the capacity of the Iraqi government at the national, provincial and local levels.

And in my battlespace right now, if soldiers were to leave, coalition soldiers were to leave, having fought hard for that terrain, having denied the enemy their sanctuaries, what happens is, the enemy would come back. He'd start building the bombs again, he'd start attacking the locals again, and he'd start exporting that violence into Baghdad, and we would take a giant step backwards.

So in my battlespace, in Multinational Division-Center battlespace, I need the forces I have until I can transition to sustained security presence by the Iraqi security forces. And that's going to take some time.

Earlier Lynch made clear exactly why it is important that Iraqis know that we are not going to pull out anytime soon but are going to stick it out.

We get to an area, the locals there, the first question they ask is, "Are you staying?" And once they're convinced we're staying, the question then becomes, "How can we help?" What we see as a result of that commitment is Iraqi citizens are coming forward and they're indeed saying, "What can we do to help?"

Here's the video, which I encourage you to watch in it's entirety, because he talks about a lot more than I can cover in this post.

Throughout this war various people have said that the President wasn't listening to his generals, that he was letting Secretary Rumsfeld run the war all by himself. The other complaint was that we didn't have enough troops in theater.

With the firing of Rumsfeld and the adoption of the "surge" plan, the President has alleviated both concerns.

But I worry that some in congress have already made up their minds. As a result they want to get out ahead of the general and push their agenda before he shows up. I think this is what Warner was trying to do.

If he had simply recommended that we threaten Maliki et al with withdrawal if his government doesn't get its act together, that would be one thing. Such a recommendation would be premature, I think, but I wouldn't object quite so much. He appears to have gone much further, however, actually saying that we ought to actually start the withdrawal.

Earlier this month I wrote that based on comments by Senators Durbin and Casey, the Democrat line after Petraeus gives his report will be that although military progress has been made, political progress is lacking, so we need to withdraw the troops. If that's going to be the Democrat line, the one for Republicans who follow Warner may be that we need to withdraw to show the central Iraqi government that they need to get their act together or else.

Ralph Peters says that Senator Warner has got "green-zone view"

He's got target-lock on the Baghdad government's failings, and, a titan of government himself, he can't get beyond the perfidy, greed and sectarian viciousness of Iraq's politicians.

But the future of Iraq's government is, frankly, less than half of the equation at this point. Whatever may have been the situation is 2003, today Iraq is the main front in the war against Islamist terror and fanaticism. Our enemies have made it so.

Of the two simultaneous missions under way - maturing a responsible government and advancing our own strategic interests - the latter is far more important. In fact, it's vital. And on that track, we're making stunning progress.

Here is some additional insight on the issue of political progress from the editors of National Review

The new National Intelligence Estimate reports “measurable but uneven improvements in Iraq’s security situation,” and says a shift from counterinsurgency operations to efforts simply to train Iraqis “would erode security gains achieved so far.” On the other hand, the estimate is grim on the prospects of the Maliki government that, it predicts, “will become more precarious over the next six to 12 months.” Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has become a favored target of Democrats this week as they shift the focus from military progress to the failure to meet the political benchmarks set out along with the surge in January. Trying to placate her Democratic critics, Clinton said on Wednesday, “The surge was designed to give the Iraqi government time to take steps to ensure a political solution. It has failed.”

This is too simplistic. The surge has failed to enable legislative progress on the part of the central government (i.e., the benchmarks), but important political progress has been taking place in Iraq. The turn of the Sunni tribes away from al Qaeda and toward us is a crucial political development. If anyone had thought this was possible at the beginning of the year (it wasn’t even mentioned in the January 2007 NIE), it might have been included as a benchmark and considered the most important one. Are we really supposed to discount this political progress because it happened in a manner and on a timetable that no one would have predicted?
...

The Democrats’ counsel of despair would only make sense if we had sent another 30,000 troops to Iraq to pursue a new strategy and nothing had come of it. Instead, we have seen results and the NIE forecasts more (“modest”) progress on the military front if we maintain our counter-insurgency operations.

It has become a favorite line of the left that "there can be no military solution". This is not correct. It would be accurate to say that "there can be no purely military solution", but a "pure" military solution has never been our strategy and isn't now. Further, it is just as accurate to say that "there can be no purely political solution".

The question is the proper mix of the two. As I've said many times, I think now that we got it wrong our first several years; we put political progress ahead of military operations. The lesson, I believe, is that political progress can only come after extremist groups have been smashed by smart counter-insurgency tactics, which involves what the military calls kinetic operations. Sitting back, training Iraqis, and letting them go out alone doesn't work, at least not yet.

General Petraeus will give us all the facts when he makes his presentation to congress starting Sept 11. Members of Congress should at least wait until then before making their recommenations. In the meantime, they ought to listen to generals like Rick Lynch.

Posted by Tom at 10:00 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 18, 2007

Lt Gen Odierno discuses Operation Phantom Strike

Lt Gen Ray Odierno, Commander of the Multi-National Corps-Iraq, spoke Friday via satellite with reporters at the Pentagon. Odierno is second-in-command to Gen Petraeus. During the press conference he discussed Operation Phantom Strike, which was launched Aug 13. Phantom Strike follows Phantom Thunder, which was the first operation launched by MNF-Iraq after the last of the 5 "surge" brigades was in place. It began June 15 and ran until August 14.

Please don't just skip down and read the transcript. Odierno is arguably the most impressive and well spoken general we have, and does a good job, I think, in explaining our current strategy and what it will take to win. Most of the questions from reporters are good ones, so I think you'll get a lot out of watching the video.

This video can also be viewed at DODvCLIPS

Here's the transcript.

From the MNF-Iraq website, here are some excerpts from the press release on Phantom Strike

Multi-National Corps-Iraq launched a major offensive, Operation Phantom Strike, on August 13 in a powerful crackdown to disrupt AQI and Shia extremist operations in Iraq. It consists of simultaneous operations throughout Iraq focused on pursuing remaining AQI terrorists and Iranian-supported extremist elements. ...

Operation Phantom Strike is a joint Iraqi Security and Coalition Forces operation to eliminate remaining elements of AQI and other extremist groups, preventing them from causing further terrorism and inciting sectarian violence. Additionally, it will intensify pressure on extremist networks across the entire theater.

Moving on to the press conference, Gen Odierno makes clear the different reaction in Iraq to the recent massive suicide bombing by al Qaeda and the bombing of the al-Askari Mosque in Samarra in February 2006, whick kicked off a wave of sectarian violence so bad many started calling the situation in Iraq a civil war.

This past Tuesday, two Iraqi communities in Nineveh province were devastated when five vehicle and truck-borne improvised explosive devices exploded in Yazidi villages of Qataniyah and al-Jazeera, about 75 miles west of Mosul. Hundreds of innocent civilians were killed in these attacks, which bear all the hallmarks of an al Qaeda attack....

Last year such an attack might have triggered a spiral of revenge killings, but today such horrific events actually unite Iraqis of different ethnicities and confessions in their outrage. Today Iraqis feel that -- the appalling nature of this brutality, and it galvanizes their rejection of al Qaeda and other extremist elements.

Next he addresses the view that al Qaeda is not the main threat, or does not commit most of the worst violence

Q I was curious about sectarian violence. But so are you saying that -- al Qaeda is behind clearly the most sensational and perhaps outrageous violence, but are they behind most of the violence on the ground in Iraq?

GEN. ODIERNO: Based on -- I don't have August figures, but based on July figures, across Iraq -- again, this is vague, but al Qaeda/Sunni insurgents, which we believe most of them still operating in the Sunni insurgency are moving towards al Qaeda -- created about 52 percent of the violence across Iraq, and Shi'a extremists created about 48 percent of the violence across Iraq, based on our figures for July. And that varies by region, obviously. So I mean yes, they still -- they still have some capability. Now, if you compare that to January, when they were up about 70 percent of violence was associated with al Qaeda, we've clearly had a -- and I think that's a combination of two things, as I've said before -- we have degredated (sic: degraded) al Qaeda's ability to conduct operations in Iraq.

But in addition, I think we've seen a little bit of a surge in Shi'a violence based on support from Iran. So it's a combination of both of those factors.

On the status of the Sunni insurgency

Q Okay. General, Jim Miklaszewski with NBC. In talking about the emphasis on al Qaeda and Shi'a extremists, does that mean that Sunni insurgents are no longer considered a significant threat in Iraq?

GEN. ODIERNO: My assessment is -- I think I said this last month also -- my assessment is, with the Sunni insurgency, for the most part, in my mind -- and again, there's probably a few examples where this isn't true, but for the most part, they have made a decision. They have decided that "we're going to go with al Qaeda" or they have decided "we want to reconcile with the government of Iraq" and they're reaching out to coalition forces, like in Al Anbar, like in Abu Ghraib, like we're seeing in southern -- in Mahmudiyah, in Yusufiya, south of Baghdad, as well as we're starting to see now in Salahuddin province, in Tikrit, and how we're seeing now in Diyala province. So we're seeing it around the northern Sunni belts that in fact they're reaching out to us.

So I think it's becoming more and more clear: either you go to al Qaeda, or you come over and you want to reconcile with the government. I think that's where we are today.

One of the biggest concerns is the lengthy deployments due to a too-small military, and the effects this has on soldiers and their families.

Q General, Bill McMichael with the Military Times newspaper. A defense military -- rather a mental health task force has recently recommended giving troops at least one month off for every three months at the front, or some sort of ratio like that. You've rejected that, saying you couldn't get the job done if that were the case. I'd like to explore your thinking a little more along those lines. Are you rejecting their suggestions, or are you saying -- or acknowledging that the political pressure back home is simply too great to give troops that kind of break?

GEN. ODIERNO: No, I think what I rejected was the specific three month in, one month out. I clearly understand there's a problem. I want to make that very clear, that the stress -- there is significant stress here in Iraq. There's significant stress on the soldiers and Marines that operate here in Iraq. We -- what I said before, and I'll say it again -- we have programs that we work very closely with our local -- we don't dictate a policy at the corps level. What we do is we understand what the problem is, and at the small-unit level we try to do the best we can to rotate soldiers on -- sometimes it's a weekly basis, sometimes it's every couple weeks -- for short periods of time so they are not under constant stress. And the commanders are doing that at the very low level.

So, please, I have never rejected the concept that we have to have some sort of stress relief here.

What I rejected was that you're three months in and one month out -- that is very difficult to do here. But we have other ways to mitigate that, and so what we're trying to do is mitigate the risk of this increased stress on our soldiers and Marines, and we do that by rotating them out of these combat outposts and joint security stations back into bigger garrisons, and we do it based on unit responsibilities and capabilities.

Later, more on the same subject

Q General, Bill McMichael from Military Times again. I'll follow up my question Julian was going to follow up on, I think. What's -- do you think in your heart of hearts that these troops are getting enough of a break, the break that they are now being allowed from the front? And what are your concerns about the military's responsibility for the future mental health of these troops given the stress that they're under and given the length of these deployments, these 15-month deployments?

GEN. ODIERNO: Yeah. No, I do worry about it. I do worry about it. Fifteen months is a long time. None of us will deny that. It's a long time for every soldier and Marine and airman out here and sailor who's conducting 15-month deployments. It's a long time if you're the rifleman, it's a long time if you're a company commander, it's a long time if you're the commander of Multinational Corps-Iraq. It's a long time to operate in a stressful situation.
...

You know, when we started this, I would say sometimes when people were exhausted, mentally exhausted, that might not have been accepted. Everybody understands that now. Our leaders understand it. They look for it. They try to identify it. We don't always catch it. We don't always catch it. But I think our awareness is up, I think our programs are in place to collect data, and now it's incumbent on us to take care of these men and women, once they redeploy, to make sure they get the care necessary to help them to progress in the future.

In his concluding remarks, Gen Odierno first discusses recent successes, and stresses that they will only hold if the Iraqi government steps up to the plate.

Again, I continue to be cautiously optimistic about the progress we've made in security over the course of the past several weeks and months. Although our recent tactical successes are not yet enduring trends, we are headed in the right direction. However, the situation remains extremely complex, and different areas of the country will continue to advance at different rates. Some of the gains we made over the past month, like those in Al Anbar province, are more noticeable than other areas.

We understand that our recent tactical successes will only add up if Iraqis take advantage of them, and ultimately, the government of Iraq is the key to progress. We are setting the conditions and buying the government of Iraq time to improve their capacity in order to gradually and steadily empower the Iraqi government and not hand them too much too quickly. This means that's an imperative we continue to press on all fronts -- diplomatic, political, economic and governance -- in addition to our security efforts.

Finally, for all the stress of long deployments and the general hell of war, reenlistment goals are being met and exceeded

I was recently presented with a perfect example of just how remarkable these service men and women are, but before I get into that, I want to comment that two days ago in Multinational Corps-Iraq we reached our re-enlistment goals for fiscal year '07. We are now over 120 percent of our midterm requirements, over a hundred percent of our initial term requirements, over a hundred percent in our midterm requirements, and over 120 percent in our careerists, and this is six weeks early before the end of the fiscal year.

No doubt anyone interested in learning about what is happening in Iraq will want to check a variety of sources. But in my opinion if you're not watching or at least reading the transcripts of the press conferences, you're missing important information. Reading a news story is all fine and good, but you only get the parts that the reporter found important.

Odierno hit on a lot during the press briefing. He's optimistic, but says that the Iraqis will have to consolidate our successes for it all to hold. Our troops are doing a fantastic job, and we need to give them the time they need to complete the mission.

Update

Be sure and visit The Fourth Rail for Bill Roggio's summary of this new operation.

Special to The Fourth Rail is a piece by Wesley Morgan, who is a journalist writing for The Daily Princetonian, and is imbedded in Iraq. He summarizes Operations Phantom Thunder and Phantom Strike as follows:

The primary effect of Phantom Thunder, as intended, was to push al Qaeda and its affiliates out of Baqubah and Arab Jabour while preventing them from moving west again into Anbar. By coordinating two division-level offensives and a major push against enemy routes into Anbar, Multinational Corps Iraq has apparently accomplished this....

Multinational Corps Iraq is now in the beginning stages of Operation Phantom Strike, the follow up to Phantom Thunder, which will focus on clearing al Qaeda out of the rural areas of the Belts. Phantom Thunder lasted two months, and this new operation, also at the corps level, will probably continue into October. You can think of it as the second of two stages in clearing the Belts: Phantom Thunder to displace al Qaeda from its fortified urban strongholds in Baqubah and Arab Jabour, and Phantom Strike to a) prevent the organization from settling into the rural areas of the Belts and b) target any Mahdi Army activity that appears in neighboring rural areas in response to US and al Qaeda activity.

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

Why Africa Won't Reform

This story in Friday's Daily Telegraph tells it all

President Robert Mugabe has received a hero's welcome at the opening of an African summit, despite the turmoil at home in Zimbabwe. As he was introduced to the Southern African Development Community gathering in the Zambian capital Lusaka, dignitaries gave him thunderous applause in contrast to polite claps for other leaders. Mr Mugabe stood and smiled in acknowledgement before sitting down next to South Africa's Thabo Mbeki. Patrick Chinamasa, Zimbabwe's justice minister, said: "Political reform is not necessary in my country because we are a democracy like any other democracy in the world."Zimbabwe's last election in 2004 was widely regarded as stolen. Hundreds of thousands of people have left the country, which is also suffering serious food shortages.

Yesterday, a 15-year-old boy and a security guard died in a stampede by shoppers desperate to buy sugar in Bulawayo.

(h/t NRO)

Robert Mugabe has destroyed his country. And they see him as a hero.

Posted by Tom at 10:33 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

August 14, 2007

"just air-raiding villages and killing civilians"

I almost hate writing these posts about Obama because I do like the guy. He's the only one of the Democrat candicates that I can imagine having a beer with and discussing politics. Hillary is the ice queen, Edwards is a phony, Dodd is too old, and Kucinich is too nutty. Obama seems like a genuinely nice guy, and sincere in what he says.

But he's losing me and fast. Here's his latest

Grrrrr

" just air raiding villages and killing civilians", eh?

Either he mispoke, in which he shouldn't get the nomination, or he means it, in which case he's a dope.

No I'm not going to spend this post "debunking" his claim, because it's self-evident nonsense on its face.

But Wait, There's More

Senator Obama made his remarks before a crowd of 600 at a Nashua, New Hampshire, park yesterday, according to the Nashua Telegraph. The Telegraph also reports this

Obama pledged to engage China and Saudi Arabia in supporting a permanent, peaceful political solution in post-war Iraq and communicate with sectarian factions in that country.

Oh heavens.

I can't imagine why in the world China would help us anywhere in the Middle East, and Saudi Arabia is "the mother ship of the jihad", as Walid Phares puts it.

Why is it that the left wants to talk to our enemies and snub or attack our friends? Speaker Pelosi just about sat in Bashir Assad's lap during her trip to Damascus. Liberals opine about how we must, must, talk to Iran. But we must give ultimatums to Pakistan, and attack it's territory if they can't or won't take action themselves. This last apparently without the UN authorizations so necessary everywhere else.

President Carter's human rights campaign, laudable though it was in theory, always seemed more aimed at our friends than at our enemies. It resulted in Iran going from the Shah to Khumeini, and Nicaragua from Somoza to the Sandinistas. Surely the former in each case were bad, but so is Musharraf if you get down to it. But as with Iran and Nicragua, were Pakistan to fall into the hands of Islamists we'd all be much worse off.

Note that I'm no fan of our policies towards Saudi Arabia. And note also that Clinton was no better in this regard than Bush 41, 43, or any other American president, for that matter.

Moving along, Victor Davis Hanson slaps Obama down, and asks the pertinent question

Sen. Obama's remarks on foreign policy sound like, well, someone who just a few months ago was a local official of some sort....

Why do Democratic presidential candidates (cf. Kerry's 2005 remarks about U.S. troops: "And there is no reason, ... that young American soldiers need to be going into the homes of Iraqis in the dead of night, terrorizing kids and children, you know, women, breaking sort of the customs of the — of — the historical customs, religious customs.") seem to assume that our soldiers are serially killing or terrorizing civilians, rather than protecting them from terrorists while killing the latter?

Because they've got Vietnam on the brain, that's why.

Posted by Tom at 9:13 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 13, 2007

The Issue of Political Progress in Iraq

Two things are obvious about Iraq.

One, the "surge" (more properly Operation Phantom Thunder and now Phantom Strike) is making good progress, perhaps even better than expected. General Petraeus will likely give a very positive report on military operations in September.

Second, at the national level at least the Iraqis are not making the progress some in the United States they ought to make. Those who are determined to get US troops out of Iraq ASAP regardless of consequences will use this to make their case. Democrat Senators Durban and Casey said as much last week.

As with all such matters, the issue is terribly complicated and there are no easy answers. I'm going to make a case that we ought to stick it out in Iraq but I can see the other side. Some time ago Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer said last November of the Iraqis; "We have given them a republic and they do not seem able to keep it." Krauthammer is right about a lot, but I hope he's wrong here.

I'm going to cut to the chase; I think the editors of National Review had it right when they said that

Ultimately, reconciliation between the Sunnis and the Shiites is crucial. But it wasn’t going to happen in the next two months, whether the Iraqi parliament stayed in session or not. General Petraeus’s September report has come to be seen as a final test for Iraq, which makes sense only for Democrats hell-bent on leaving no matter what, and for nervous Republicans seeking a soft exit. We are beginning to see the fruits of a sound counterinsurgency strategy and, in this context, a debate focused on how to get out rather than how to consolidate our gains is shameful, however easy the sound bites are.

Cliff May points out that we are at least partially to blame for the lack of progress at the national level in Iraq

We are at least partly responsible for the Iraqi government's dysfunction. Watching the debates taking place in Washington — hardly the most inspiring example of democracy in action — Iraqis don't know whether we are going to stay to finish the job or abandon them to al-Qaeda terrorists and Iranian-backed death squads.

And as long as Iraqis think we are heading for the exit, what possible incentive do they have to make painful political compromises?

I think he's on to something and l I'll just quote myself on what I said the other day about why I think so

My thought is that we've had Iraq backward all along. We've put political progress ahead of military progress, and we should have done it the other way 'round. We hurried to set up one provisional government after another, draft a constitution, hold elections, etc. Our hope was that by doing these things we could take the "legitimacy" out of the insurgency.

It didn't work.

Hindsight is always 20/20, but we should have done this "surge" back in 2004 or at least 2005, and only when we'd squashed the terrorists worried about the political side.

The reason we got it wrong, I think, is that we have a tendancy to "mirror image" our thinking. We assume that hey, we can all get along without shooting each other, why can't they? We forget that the reality is that there are a lot of extremists over there who will shoot if they can't get their way politically. And before going in we completely underestimated extremism in Iraq. These people figure they can get what they want through violence, so they don't put much stock in what we consider normal political negotiations. Rather, they'll hold out for a better deal through violence.

Extremists will only negotiate in good faith when all violent options have closed; i.e., when the US military has crushed the insurgency.

All this is also why peace between Israel and Hamas or Fatah is a pipe dream. Or Israel and Lebanon. Until these terrorist organizations are destroyed or physically isolated there will never be peace.

David at The Thunder Run made another point to me in an email (which I won't print since it's private) that Iraqis are in fact making progress on the local level, and that this is in reality how most things get done in the US as well. He sees the war being won on the local level, both against al Qaeda and in the US military (primary leutenant colonels) working with local Iraqi leaders. As always he makes a good point and I tend to agree.

The bottom line is that the NRO editors have it right; Petraeus' Sept report is not a "final" report but an interim one, yes the Iraqis do eventually have to come together, but we ought to be talking about how to consolidate and expand on our victories, not how to cut-and-run.

Only time will tell if I'm right or not, but in the meantime Arnaud de Borchgrave throws some cold water on anyone who still looks at the situation in Iraq through rose-colored glasses

Mr. al-Maliki has little contact with his Cabinet ministers. Half are now off the job. The six Sunni ministers who resigned last week — and five independents who walked out this week — concluded the prime minister is not serious about reconciliation and national unity. They say he sees Iran, where he spent a few years in exile during the Saddam Hussein regime, as "more relevant to Iraq's future than the United States." Iran is here to stay as our neighbor, says Mr. al-Maliki's entourage. And Mr. al-Maliki remains close to Muqtada al-Sadr, the fiery young anti-U.S. cleric who heads the 15,000-strong Mahdi Army militia and also has close ties to Tehran.

With electricity down to an hour or two a day in Baghdad last week when temperatures hit a scorching 58 Celsius (134 Fahrenheit), and much of the city without running water, Mr. al-Maliki and his cronies, with the benefit of generators and air-conditioning, seem far removed from the urgent and monumental task of rebuilding the country. They gave their visitors the impression of being overwhelmed by the challenge. They don't want the U.S. military to abandon them, but at the same time wish them gone, a syndrome that borders on paralysis. Meanwhile, parliament gave itself a month off and many members went to European destinations to cool off.

The rest of the article isn't any better. He notes that "Iranian diplomacy has been diligent in laying the groundwork for an Iraqi satellite", and one of my fears is that we win the war only to end up with an Iraq that is no friend to the U.S.

If you'd like more bad news, there was this story in the Washington Post last Tuesday about how the British have been essentially defeated in Basra. The city is now a lawless place, with the Brits reduced to barracading themselves behind a makeshift fortress outside the city.

On the flip side of that story, though, is that the reason the Brits have lost is that they drew down their forces too soon.

Britain sent about 40,000 troops to Iraq -- the second-largest contingent, after that of the United States, at the time of the March 2003 invasion -- and focused its efforts on the south. With few problems from outside terrorists or sectarian violence, the British began withdrawing, and by early 2005 only 9,000 troops remained. British Prime Minister Tony Blair announced further drawdowns early this year before leaving office.

Hello Democrats and wobbly Republicans; we'll get the lawlessness of Basra if we draw down too fast.

The indefatiguable Michael Yon, who has spent a year and a half on the ground in Iraq as an independent journalist, believes that the charge that "there's no political progress" is bogus

False advertising is afoot. I write these words from Indonesia, soaking wet, having just returned from photographing rice paddies in a pouring rain, wearing a Florida Gators shirt. That means there is a green alligator on my chest. While supporting my team, my shirt perpetuates the myth that alligators are green, when in fact they are black when wet, gray when dry.The mantra that “there is no political progress in Iraq” is rapidly becoming the “surge” equivalent of a green alligator: when enough people repeat something that sounds plausible, but also happens to be false, it becomes accepted as fact. The more often it is repeated—and the larger the number of people repeating it—the harder it is to convince anyone of the truth: alligators are not green, and Iraqis are making plenty of political progress.

There may be little progress on political goals crafted in America, to meet American concerns, by politicians who have a cushion of 200 years of democracy. Washington might as well be on the moon. Iraqis don’t respond well to rules imposed from outside their acknowledged authorities, though I have many times seen Iraqi Police and Army of all ranks responding very well to American Marines and soldiers who they have come to respect, and in many cases actually admire and try to emulate. Our military has increasing moral authority in Iraq, but the same cannot be said for our government at home. In fact, it’s in moral deficit because many Iraqis are increasingly frightened we will abandon them to genocide.

Yon gives three reasons why he thinks the "surge" is working, and as I said earlier I think that if we can make the military side work then we have a chance at the political

1. Iraqis are uniting across sectarian lines to drive al Qaeda in all its disguises out of Iraq, and they are empowered by the success they are having, each one creating a ripple effect of active citizenship.

2. The Iraqi Army is much more capable now than they were in 2005. They are not ready to go it alone, but if we keep working, that day will come soon.

3. General Petraeus is running the show. Petraeus may well prove to be to counterinsurgency warfare what Patton was to tank battles with Rommel, or what Churchill was to the Nazis.

If you don't follow any of the other links in this piece, be sure to visit Yon's site. The photos alone are worth the visit.

Lastly are these thoughts from Jim Geraghty at NRO

Stuart Koehl of the Center for Transatlantic Relations at Johns Hopkins University-SAIS writes in with a good point:

The error being made—on your part as well as by others—is assuming that progress can only be made at the level of the national government. In fact, under the Iraqi constitution, the national government is rather weak, while traditionally real political power has been wielded on the local and regional level. And it is precisely at the local and regional level that we see real progress being made with regard both to power sharing and national reconciliation. Because of the social and constitutional structure of Iraq, political progress cannot be imposed from the top-down, but must percolate from the bottom up. To some extent, the members of the national assembly and the unity government are merely play-acting, posturing for the cameras until such time as a consensus emerges on the local level that will prompt them to act. The success of our counter-insurgency effort on the political front is not measured in the assembly chamber, but in the tribal councils. And there, we are definitely winning.

UPDATE: I should note that I'm hearing a similar vibe from others who have been to Iraq recently — relationships between the local tribal councils are going pretty well, while the national assembly is a mess. "The bottom up strategy is making progress, but the national government is and is going to be a disaster... I think this means we're headed toward a soft partition."

Well, if the Kurds don't declare formal independence, and nobody sponsors al-Qaeda, I say, "hooray, good job everybody, and good luck. We'll be in Kuwait if you need anything. We're outta here."

It might just come down to that.

Posted by Tom at 9:45 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 12, 2007

Update II: New Rules for Going To War

Well that was fast. Just last Monday I published an updated version of our New Rules for Going to War if Liberals Were in Charge, and here already have one more to add.

Here it is:

* Every fatality in a hostile area requires its own formal investigation. This will be known as the Cpl. Pat Tillman Rule.

Here are the compete rules, including our addition

• The UN Security Council must approve all US action before it is taken

• A majority of nations in Europe must approve of and participate in military operations

• France in particular must approve, though they need not actually participate

• Before any ground, sea, or air forces are committed, a limit is set on US casualties, and we withdraw all forces the moment that limit is reached

• Before ground, sea, or air forces are committed, a timeline for disengagement is established before we go in. We must withdraw forces according to the established timeframe regardless of whether the mission has been achieved

• Members of Congress have the right to change their mind at any time for any reason and demand an immediate withdrawal

• It at any time a poll of the American people show that their support for military operations goes below 50% the troops are to be immediately withdrawn

• It at any time a poll of active-duty military personnel show that their support for military operations goes below 50% the troops are to be immediately withdrawn. This is the Senator James Webb rule.

• It at any time a poll of active-duty military personnel show that they do not support current tactics and strategy, those tactics and strategy will be immediately changed.

• No one who has not served in the military may speak in favor of offensive military operations

• No one who does not have at least one son or daughter of military age may express concern for the troops because obviously they do not understand what they're going through. This is the Senator Barbara Boxer rule.

• All troops that are in the United States, and have seen combat, must not be returned to combat until they have had a rest period equal to their time in combat. Further, no National Guard or Reserve unit may be deployed for three years after a deployment. This is another Senator James Webb rule.

• US allies must contribute as many troops as does the United States, as measured as a percentage of their population. This is the Senator Barack Obama rule.

• Any active duty general or admiral who agrees with the administration must be a toadie and only telling them what they want to hear. Therefore, all advice will be taken from panels of retired generals, preferably those who have been critical of the administration.

* Every fatality in a hostile area requires its own formal investigation. This will be known as the Cpl. Pat Tillman Rule.

• All of the rules are null and void if the president is a Democrat. This is another Senator Barack Obama rule.

Posted by Tom at 8:57 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 11, 2007

Book Review - Showdown: Why China Wants War with the United States

Just about anywhere you look in the United States today, and the debate is over how much of a threat radical Islam is to us. Some say a lot, some only a little, but it's certainly the subject of much discussion. This is right and good, for certainly only those farthest to each end of the spectrum would argue that radical Islam isn't a threat at all.

China is something of a different story. People are starting to become aware that all is not well in the People's Republic, and that describing them simply as a "competitor" is insufficient. Much of the discussion revolves around predatory trade practices, and recently shoddy quality that has and can have fatal consequences for us and our pets for consumers of Chinese products.

Human rights is another issue of concern. The Falun Gong movement has made us aware that the Chinese authorities see any expression of religion as a threat. Even as the memory of the massacre of several hundred people in Tiananmen Square fades, issues such as brutal enforcement of China's "one child" policy, and environmental concerns and displacement of thousands of people stemming from projects like the Three Gorges Dam.

Otherwise, when we think of a military threat from China, most of us think of a war over Taiwan. That has certainly been the subject of most of my posts on the People's Republic.

Jed Babbin and Edward Timperlake do us a favor in Showdown: Why China Wants War with the United States, by showing us that the threat from China goes well beyond Taiwan.

The book is divided into three sections: The first is a Tom Clancy-style series of short chapters detailing several scenarios involving war between the United States, China, and other countries. In the second - very short - section, the authors recommend actions we should take to deter China. The third is the appendix, in which the major document is the 2005 report to Congress on the military power of the PRC by the Department of Defense.

The best is undoubtably the first section. The fictionalized wars take place between 2008 and 2012. Three things make them valuable: One, most of the scenarios are ones that many or most of us I think have not considered. Two, they bring politics into the decision-process in a way that is realistic, and in any real-world situation cannot be avoided. One valid cricitism of Tom Clancy's Red Storm Rising was that once the politicians had decided on war they largely disappeared from view. Third, the authors write each so that they are less of a military techothriller and more of a geopolitical warning; there's less bombs and bullets, and more strategizing by each side. Much of the action takes place "off camera".

No US president is ever named, but it is obvious in some of the ones occuring after the 2008 election that she is Hillary Clinton. In some she performs reasonably well as commander-in-chief, much less so in others. The importance of presidential decision-making is driven home.

The scenarios are as follows

* The War of National Unity - a fight over Taiwan
* The Second Korean War - The DPRK decides it is time to impose it's will on Seoul. Everyone gets dragged into the fight
* The First Oil War - The death of Fidel Castro prompts Hugo Chavez to invervene in Cuba. The Chinese support him in his power play. The United States does not sit idly by.
* The Sino-Japanese War - Beijing decides to take the oil and gas fields near the Japanese owned Senkaku Islands.
* World War Oil - Things really get ugly in the Middle East. Driven by an insatiable appetite for oil, on which all of our economies depend, everyone intervenes.
* The Assassin's Mace War - Cyberwar gets hot. Real hot.

Unfortunately despite all this, the authors don't really make their case; if you're looking for a tightly reasoned book with lots of documentation on Chinese intentions you'll have to look elsewhere. I picked the book up at CPAC 2007 in the hopes of getting Babbin's autograph, but then I missed his book signing.

My own theory, based mainly on some Naval War College studies, is that China will step up it's efforts to integrate Taiwan shortly after the 2008 Olympics, which are to be held in Bejing. They'll only resort to war as a last resort, or if the government in Taipei does something stupid like declares independence.

But as the authors stress, that's only one scenario in which we might end up having to fight China. Beijing has been all-too-friendly with our enemies around the world, from Iran to Venezuela. We need to take notice, and prepare accordingly.

Posted by Tom at 9:17 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 9, 2007

The Democrat Line in December

Via NRO, I think that Senators Richard Durbin Bob Casey are floating a trial balloon regarding what the Democrat line in September will be when Gen Petraeus comes to Washington and reports that the surge is making good progress

(though the image here is that of a woman, it quickly goes to Senators Durbin and Casey on CNN)

Note how the CNN anchor seems amazed that Durbin would admit to any military progress at all. It's as if he couldn't quite believe his ears at first.

What's going on here is that the Democrats have learned that the "surge" (more properly Operation Phantom Thunder) is working better than they expected, or as I should say, feared. And I'm not going to go through the evidence here, but all signs point to military success in Iraq, at least right now.

Rep James Clyburn accidentally spoke the truth when he said that it would be a “real big problem for us” if Petraeus’s progress report is good.

Petraeus is not someone they can mock or disparage and get away with it. They know that if they take this tack they'll look stupid and will lose half their party. The nutroots may want to hear that Petraeus is Bush's lapdog, but it won't play with Joe and Jane Average.

What they'll do then is say we should pull out of Iraq because the Iraqis can't get their act together at the federal level.

To a certain extent the Democrats will have a point. Ultimately the Iraqis do have to make political progress. But it's not quite that simple. As the editors of National Review pointed out last week

Ultimately, reconciliation between the Sunnis and the Shiites is crucial. But it wasn’t going to happen in the next two months, whether the Iraqi parliament stayed in session or not. General Petraeus’s September report has come to be seen as a final test for Iraq, which makes sense only for Democrats hell-bent on leaving no matter what, and for nervous Republicans seeking a soft exit. We are beginning to see the fruits of a sound counterinsurgency strategy and, in this context, a debate focused on how to get out rather than how to consolidate our gains is shameful, however easy the sound bites are.

My thought is that we've had Iraq backward all along. We've put political progress ahead of military progress, and we should have done it the other way 'round. We hurried to set up one provisional government after another, draft a constitution, hold elections, etc. Our hope was that by doing these things we could take the "legitimacy" out of the insurgency.

It didn't work.

Hindsight is always 20/20, but we should have done this "surge" back in 2004 or at least 2005, and only when we'd squashed the terrorists worried about the political side.

The reason we got it wrong, I think, is that we have a tendancy to "mirror image" our thinking. We assume that hey, we can all get along without shooting each other, why can't they? We forget that the reality is that there are a lot of extremists over there who will shoot if they can't get their way politically. And before going in we completely underestimated extremism in Iraq. These people figure they can get what they want through violence, so they don't put much stock in what we consider normal political negotiations. Rather, they'll hold out for a better deal through violence.

Extremists will only negotiate in good faith when all violent options have closed; i.e., when the US military has crushed the insurgency.

All this is also why peace between Israel and Hamas or Fatah is a pipe dream. Or Israel and Lebanon. Until these terrorist organizations are destroyed or physically isolated there will never be peace.

David at The Thunder Run made another point to me in an email (which I won't print since it's private) that Iraqis are in fact making progress on the local level, and that this is in reality how most things get done in the US as well. He sees the war being won on the local level, both against al Qaeda and in the US military (primary leutenant colonels) working with local Iraqi leaders. As always he makes a good point and I tend to agree.

The bottom line is that the NRO editors have it right; Petraeus' Sept report is not a "final" report but an interim one, yes the Iraqis do eventually have to come together, but we ought to be talking about how to consolidate and expand on our victories, not how to cut-and-run.

Posted by Tom at 9:22 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 8, 2007

Rethinking Fuel Consumption

It would be nice if we could reduce our consumption of petroleum, but not because I want to see Americans take mass transit or drive less. I'd rather like to increase efficiency through free-market initiatives, the objective of which is to reduce the money the Saudis take in from oil revenues, and thus deny them they money they use to spread their Wahhabist ideology. As former Director of the CIA James Woolsey said in testimony to Congress in November of 2005,

"On all points except allegiance to the Saudi state Wahhabi and al Qaeda beliefs are essentially the same."

Sczry stuff. Problem is, reducing our dependence on Middle Eastern oil isn't that simple. Mark Steyn to spoil my thesis. In today's NRO he wrote

First: American demand would have to fall precipitously to put a dent in the rise in global demand due to Asian industrialization. In 1990 China consumed 2.4 million bpd. Fifteen years later, it was 7 million bpd.
Second: Saudi oil is cheaply extractable oil. That's why King Abdullah gets the romantic hand-holding Presidential photo ops at Crawford and the Premier of Alberta doesn't. A reduction in global demand would hurt Canadians and other non-jihadist producers long before it hurts the Saudis.

Bottom line: Until we are in the post-oil era, the Saudis will always be oil-rich. The only way to change that is to turn oil into as valuable a commodity as a liquid buggy whip. That will take time and money and great innovation. Until it happens, we have to find other ways to throttle Wahhabist ideology, which is Saudi Arabia's real principal export.

Posted by Tom at 9:15 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

FReep 120 - Aug 3, 2007 - Enthusiasm for the Troops

Maybe the traffic was lighter than usual, maybe the FReeprs wanted to scoot out of work early, or maybe we all were just anxious to get to Walter Reed early so as to show our support for the troops.

But it wasn't long after I got there at 6:30 that all four corners were filled with FReepers showing their support for our troops.

And indeed what a magnificent job brave men and women in uniform are doing in Iraq and Afghanistan. Anyone who is not a Democrat or leftard (oh wait those are one and the same) knows that the "surge" (more properly Operation Phantom Thunder) has been making great progress. Ably led by Gen Petraeus and Lt Gen Odierno in Iraq, our troops have been cleaning al Qaeda out of their ratholes like the vermin they are.

While this post is not entirely about the war, I do want to take a moment and make you aware of The Pentagon Channel if you haven't been watching it already. On it the US military broadcasts a variety of shows, some specifically about Iraq and Afghanistan, others a general "Around the Services". Some of the most interesting are the press conferences. Be sure and check out the one held Aug 3 by Pentagon Briefing 03 August 2007"Col John Charlton and July 19 by Iraq Briefing 19 July 2007"Lt Gen Ray Odierno. Transcripts of each press conference can be found here.

Now back to the FReep

The first thing everybody noticed was that VictoryNY wore a - gulp - pink blouse! There was a lot of good-natured ribbing as we gave her a hard time about it. As with other women in the past who have joined us, it just slipped her mind that morning. Here she is inbetween VAFlagWaver and Jimmy Valentine's Brother

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The FReepers who came out tonight were Mr & Mrs Red, White and Blue, Chris Hill, Tom the Redhunter, VAFlagWaver, Fraxinus, tgslTakoma, Kristinn, Mr & Mrs Trooprally, BufordP, Jimmy Valentine's Brother, Lurker Bill, Maica, Plea Deal, BillF, Albion Wilde, 3DJoy, Cindy-True-Supporter, VictoryNY, George and Ethel, Pasquale, Craig, and LoRo

My apologies if I missed anyone.

As you probably remember from previous AARs (and definately know if you've ever been out with us), VictoryNY is one of the most spirited FReepers there is. Her energy and enthusiasm for supporting the troops is an inspiration to us all. Recently I've noticed that Jimmy Valentine's Brother has taken to "echoing" her cheers for the troops:

VNY: We Love Our Soldiers! JVB: Yes We Do!

VNY: Thank Our Brave Soldiers!
JVB: Thaaaaank You!

VNY: God Bless America!
JVB: Gooooood Bless!

Rumor is they get together during the week and practice.

No AAR would be complete, though, without a picture of the MOAB

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Here's a closeup of Craig, LoRo, and VictoryNY in her pink top!

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I am definately noticing an increase in honks and waves from people in their cars and trucks. Even the drivers in the city buses and Greyhound buses wave at us. Maybe it's just that we've been doing this for so long that they know to expect us and "know the drill" when they pass by, but I don't think it's my imagination. Maybe some of it is also just because people think our troops need more support now. Whatever the reasons I notice more support from passers-by.

It's even gotten to the point where I recognize certain cars, some even by the sound of their horns. There are a few people who have installed horns with unique sounds, a few for example that sound like that of a train.

Two newcomers to our groups were Mr & Mrs Red, White, and Blue. Hope to see the both of you again!

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We were also honored by the presence of Chris Hill, National Director of Operations for the Gathering of Eagles. As readers probably know, Gathering of Eagles is partnered with Melanie Morgan's Move America Forward, Protest Warriors, Free Republic, and other groups in holding a Rally on the Mall this coming September 15,. The occasion, of course, is General David Petraeus' September 15th report to Congress.

It is very important that we have a large turnout for this event. The communists of International ANSWER course, will be staging their own anti-war protest that day also.

Chris Hill is on the left, with Jimmy Valentine's Brother on the right.

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Here 3DJoy, VAFlagWaver, and Mr Trooprally share a corner

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Here is the obligatory photo of the communist sympathizers of Code Pink down the street. Pathetic bunch that they are, they could only muster 7 people all evening!

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We had a visitor that evening, a lady soldier who was working at Walter Reed for a month as part of her training in nursing. She's the the left in this photo, speaking with Mrs Trooprally and BillF.

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What It's All About

Here's the bus carrying our wounded warriors and their families turning into Walter Reed after an evening out. A huge THANK YOU to the troops for all of the work they do to make this a safer country!

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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.

PleaDeal was also kind enough to take photos for this FReep, and you can view all of hers 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 and banners.

* Tom the Redhunter blogs at The Redhunter

* Plea Deal blogs at Sempter Gratis

Posted by Tom at 8:23 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 7, 2007

Challenges on the Ground in Iraq

Once again commanders in the field confirm that the biggest problem facing the new Iraqi Army is logistics. The biggest problem faced by the local government in Iraq is bureaucracy. These issues were discussed by Lt Gen Ray Odierno (#2 to Gen Petraeus) at his July 19 press conference, and echoed by Col Stephen Twitty, Commander of the 4th Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division in his July 27 press conference,

Col John Charlton made this clear in his Aug 3 press conference. The press conference was at the Pentagon, with Col Charlton appearing via teleconference from Iraq. He commands the 1st Brigade of the 3rd Infantry Division, which is deployed in and around Ramadi in western Iraq.

A transcript can be found on the DefenseLink site here.

Be sure and watch the entire briefing, but here is the section about the Iraqi Army that I wanted to post. Col Charlton is responding to a question about when the Iraqi Army and police can take over so American forces can leave

But like I said in my opening remarks, what they lack, because they're such a new force, is all of those systems that are necessary to sustain them. We still provide them a lot of fuel; we assist them in getting weapons and ammunition, so it's that logistic space. Once that gets established, then I think that -- I am certain that this force can protect their area because they're so committed, but it's a matter of can they sustain themselves. I think probably in the next six to eight months we ought to be able to get a lot of those systems in place. We're working at it every day. The Iraqis are working it very hard, so I'm hopeful.

This said, the two Iraqi units in his area have made tremendous progress in staffing. When he took over the area, both units were only at 60% strength. Today one is at full strength, and the other 80%. Because of the additional American forces, and because we've convinced many sheikhs to come over to our side, more Iraqis are joining. In other comments he makes clear that the problems are not with fighting spirit but with supply; they simply don't have all that they need.

Here are his comments on the Iraqi government and how it works that bear repeating

Getting to the point of the provincial government, you know, their problem is -- it kind of -- it's tied to the way the Iraqi government works. One of the challenges we have is that the Iraqi government is organized along the ministries, and the money that comes down for services and for facilities comes through those ministries.

For example, if the mayor of Ramadi wants to build a new school, he has to turn to the director general of education for the city of Ramadi and request that that school be built. Then the director general at the municipal level then has to go to the director general at the provincial level, and that ultimately has -- that request has to go all the way up to the Ministry of Education to get the funding to build that school.

So it's very centralized, which means it's not as flexible and not as fast-moving as if, you know, the local government had a large budget and could do these things on their own.

Horrendous problems with Iraqi government bureaucracy (and more than a little sectarian hatred) are the problems Michael Yon relates in Bread and a Circus Part II of II, a tale about getting food to the starving people of Baqubah that has to be read to be believed.

So what of it all?

One, do not go away thinking that all is doom and gloom in Iraq because of the bits that I posted from Col Charleton's press conference. Watch the whole thing and read the transcript. There are many success stories and so it all has to be taken in context.

Two, this is what it's really like on the ground. It's not World War II, where the only think commanders had to be concerned with was finding and killing the enemy (or how not to be found and killed, depending on the situation!). In Bird's Eye View Yon describes the "hidden skill set" possessed by American commanders

I have wondered now for two years why is it that American military leaders somehow seem to naturally know what it takes to run a city, while many of the local leaders seem clueless. Over time, a possible answer occurred, and that nudge might be due to how the person who runs each American base is referred to as the “Mayor.” A commander’s first job is to take care of his or her forces. Our military is, in a sense, its own little country, with city-states spread out all around the world. Each base is like a little city-state. The military commander must understand how the water, electricity, sewerage, food distribution, police, courts, prisons, hospitals, fire, schools, airports, ports, trash control, vector control, communications, fuel, and fiscal budgeting for his “city” all work. They have “embassies” all over the world and must deal diplomatically with local officials in Korea, Germany, Japan and many dozens of other nations. The U.S. military even has its own space program, which few countries have.

In short, our military is a reasonable microcosm of the United States—sans the very important business aspect which actually produces the wealth the military depends on. The requisite skill-set to run a serious war campaign involves a subset of skills that include diplomacy and civil administration.

Third, most obviously sectarian hatred, the Arab penchant for corruption and Byzantine levels of bureaucracy, are all things that we underestimated when going into Iraq. From other things I've read it's seemingly as big a problem as the enemy, and one of the biggest things inhibiting success.

Hopefully military success will translate into political progress. I've thought for some time that we've had it all backwards; for 3 years we put political progress before military success and it didn't work. Now, with the "surge" (properly Operation Phantom Thunder), we've got it right. I think.

Certainly Gen Petraeus and his second in command, Lt Gen Odierno are top-notch and know what they are doing. The unsung heroes are the colonels and leutenant colonels who are fighting in the trenches alongside their troops. This is why I find press conferences by commanders such as Col Twitty and Col Charlton so interesting. I hope you found them informative also.

Posted by Tom at 10:00 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

The Crux of the Matter on "Global Warming"

So Newsweek now instructs us that anyone who denies what our betters tell us about global warming is on a par with 9/11 truthers and UFO chasers.

Ok, they don't actually come out and say that but it's the clear implication. It's this sort of article that made me cancel my subscription to Time and steer clear of newsmagazines in general over 20 years ago. There's simply no line between what's an editorial and what's a news story.

The real truth is that it doesn't really matter whether the earth is warming or not. If it is, there's nothing we can do about it.

Why, you ask? Mario Lewis sums it up

In 1998, Tom Wigley of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, a key climate adviser to Vice President Al Gore, published a paper in Geophysical Research Letters assessing Kyoto’s potential impacts on global temperatures and sea level rise. Wigley calculated that even if all industrial countries, including the United States, limit their emissions to the Kyoto target (roughly 5 percent below 1990 levels), and do so in perpetuity (no mean feat, since global energy demand, driven by economic and population growth, is growing rapidly), this would avert only 0.07C of global warming and only 1 centimeter of sea level rise by 2050. Such minuscule results would be too small for scientists to detect.

Also in 1998, the Energy Information Administration published a study of Kyoto’s potential impacts on U.S. energy markets and the economy. EIA concluded that Kyoto could lower GDP by tens to hundreds of billions of dollars annually, depending on the extent of emissions trading and other variables.

In short, the leading scientific and economic assessments published in 1998 revealed that Kyoto was all pain for no gain.

Exactly.

Posted by Tom at 7:36 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 6, 2007

Updated: New Rules for Going to War

If we took the left at its word we'd have some awfully strange and restrictive rules we'd have to follow before and during any conflict. They're not at all like classic Just War Theory but they seem to be what some people want. I first posted them last January but it's time to add some new ones. So here they are, with the new ones at bottom

• The UN Security Council must approve all US action before it is taken

• A majority of nations in Europe must approve of and participate in military operations

• France in particular must approve, though they need not actually participate

• Before any ground, sea, or air forces are committed, a limit is set on US casualties, and we withdraw all forces the moment that limit is reached

• Before ground, sea, or air forces are committed, a timeline for disengagement is established before we go in. We must withdraw forces according to the established timeframe regardless of whether the mission has been achieved

• Members of Congress have the right to change their mind at any time for any reason and demand an immediate withdrawal

• It at any time a poll of the American people show that their support for military operations goes below 50% the troops are to be immediately withdrawn

• It at any time a poll of active-duty military personnel show that their support for military operations goes below 50% the troops are to be immediately withdrawn. This is the Senator James Webb rule.

• It at any time a poll of active-duty military personnel show that they do not support current tactics and strategy, those tactics and strategy will be immediately changed.

• No one who has not served in the military may speak in favor of offensive military operations

• No one who does not have at least one son or daughter of military age may express concern for the troops because obviously they do not understand what they're going through. This is the Senator Barbara Boxer rule.

• All troops that are in the United States, and have seen combat, must not be returned to combat until they have had a rest period equal to their time in combat. Further, no National Guard or Reserve unit may be deployed for three years after a deployment. This is another Senator James Webb rule.

• US allies must contribute as many troops as does the United States, as measured as a percentage of their population. This is the Senator Barack Obama rule.

• Any active duty general or admiral who agrees with the administration must be a toadie and only telling them what they want to hear. Therefore, all advice will be taken from panels of retired generals, preferably those who have been critical of the administration.

• All of the rules are null and void if the president is a Democrat. This is another Senator Barack Obama rule.

Posted by Tom at 9:04 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 1, 2007

What A Waste

Today's news tells us that in it's infinite wisdom the Bush Administration is going to send millions in aid to the Palestinian authority

The U.S. is beginning work on tens of millions of dollars worth of aid projects aimed at boosting the Palestinian economy and President Mahmoud Abbas at the expense of Hamas. ...

The $2.5 million project, commissioned by the U.S. Agency for International Development, had been suspended after the January 2006 victory by the militant movement Hamas in Palestinian elections. The project got the green light after Mr. Abbas dismissed the Hamas government because of its violent takeover of the Gaza Strip.

What a waste of money.

Sarcasm aside, the reality is that there isn't much to choose from between Abbas' Fatah and Hamas.

Fatah is only "better" than Hamas in that at the moment they're shooting fewer people. Abbas, like Yassir Arafat, has learned to play the PR game. He's now considered the "moderate".

Fatah is a terrorist organization. It's charter calls for the destruction of Israel, and it's leaders still insist on the "right of return". Mahmud Abbas, Abu Mazen, or whatever name he goes by these days, is a holocaust denier who in his 1983 Ph.D disseration says that the "Zionists" were involved in a scheme with the Nazis to steal Arab land.

It is foolish of us to try and play Fatah off against Hamas. Ever since at least the 1993 Oslo Accords the United States and Israel have been trying to "strengthen" the "moderate" fatah against those we perceived were more radical. This strategy has resulted in neither a peace settlement nor a reduction in the strength of the radicals.

Despite what I just said I do not blame President Clinton for our current situation. While I think his strategy flawed, he did do the right thing in 2000 by inviting Yassir Arafat and Israeli PM Ehud Barak to Camp David in an attempt to hammer out an agreement. That it failed was soley the fault of Arafat.

I do blame the Bush Administration for continuing this flawed strategy. Not only does it not work for reasons discussed above, it puts a lie to the "with us or against us" regarding terrorism. Apparently only al Qaeda, and maybe Hezbollah, count as terrorist groups.

No Aid and No State

Not only do the Palestianians not deserve our aid, they do not deserve their own country. I used to buy into the "two state solution", but not anymore. It's not simply that they squander our aid, they vote terrorist organizations like Hamas into power. Those who say that we must "respect" the vote because it was (allegedly) "free and fair" are at best making a fake argument, at worst are moral idiots.

If the Palestinians vote for Hamas or Fatah they need to bear the consequences. And part of those consequences is that we stop sending them aid and refuse to meet with their leaders.

What I Would Do

My strategy would revolve around the recommendations made by Natan Sharansky in his 2004 book The Case for Democracy: The Power of Freedom to Overcome Tyranny and Terror. The idea would be to set up a series of preconditions that the Palestinian Authority would have to meet before they got any aid. More importantly, they would have to meet these requirements before we would resume peace talks.

Until then, let the Israelis finish their wall and have nothing more to do with them.

Posted by Tom at 8:18 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Here's an Idea Guaranteed to Stir Up Trouble

Let's invade Pakistan.

So says Barack Obama in a speech to the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars this morning

...let me make this clear. There are terrorists holed up in those mountains who murdered 3,000 Americans. They are plotting to strike again. It was a terrible mistake to fail to act when we had a chance to take out an al Qaeda leadership meeting in 2005. If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won't act, we will.

What exactly Obama means by "act" he doesn't actually say. Maybe he just means a strike with a Hellfire missile from a Preditor drone, maybe special forces lifted in by helicoper, maybe an invasion by the 10th Mountain Division... who knows.

Either way, Obama seems not to understand the import of his words.

The speech is full of tough talk. Obama sounds like a regular warmongering conservative through most of it, full of threats and intimidating talk. It's also full of several outright lies, such as his claiming that the Bush Administration followed a "a deliberate strategy to misrepresent 9/11 to sell a war against a country that had nothing to do with 9/11." But never mind that for now. Jim Geraghty "Fisks" the speech brilliantly over at NRO. I don't have the time tonight to go through it line-by-line.

The main thing that strikes me about the speech is that typical of the left these days it's always to fight another war, to send troops to another location, to talk tough to someone else. Wherever it is we're fighing, he's against it. But boy he's tough when it comes to doing something else. Call me cynical, but I rather think that this speech today is more a response to Hillary's criticsm than anything else. If by some accident he does become president something tells me that the Democrat left will make sure that none of these strong words become action.

It all reminds me of the latter stages of the Cold War, when most Democrats could be counted on to oppose whatever weapons system was currently being proposed by the Pengagon; but in favor of something that was safely years down the road.

Instead of going on, I think that John Podhoretz has it about right so I'll just quote him

Obama is full of it. This country is never — never — going to stage a major military action against Pakistan. Pakistan is a nation of 170 million people that has nuclear weapons and whose admittedly problematic and troublesome regime has, to some extent, cooperated with the United States in the war against Al Qaeda both in ways we know and ways we have no idea about. The concern that this strategically vital county might become an Islamic fundamentalist state is, should be, and will be paramount in every and all discussions about how to conduct the fight against Al Qaeda.

What's more, every serious person knows the United States won't invade Pakistan, even with Special Forces — since the reason we cancelled the proposed action against Al Qaeda in 2005 is that it was going to take many hundreds of American troops to do it. This isn't 15 people dropping like ninjas in the darkness. It's an invasion, with helicopters and supply lines and routes of ingress and escape. It would have had unforseen and unforeseeable consequences, but it would have been reasonable to assume the Pakistanis would have turned violently against the United States and hurtled toward Islamic fundamentalist control.

If the evil Bushitler Cheney Rumsfeld Monster wouldn't do it, nobody will do it. And you can bet there isn't a single person in line to run a Democratic State Department or Democratic Defense Department who would give the idea three seconds of thought. Obama is using Pakistan to talk tough, in the full knowledge that he will never actually pull the trigger.

Pakistani President Pervez Musharaff is hanging on by a thread. An attack into Pakistan would stir up an already unsettled hornets nest. If he were to be overthrown it is possible that radical Islamists would fill the void. This would be sending us from the frying pan into the fire. Just as the Shah was bad but Khumeini worse, it's hard to see a good outcome to a revolution in Pakistan.

For some reason I can't upload a map of the region tonight, but if you go and find one you'll discover that we can't get to Afghanistan without flying over Pakistan. Close that route off and we're screwed. The only other route from the Persion Gulf is over Iran, and I rather doubt they'll grant permission.

What I Would Do

There is no doubt that al Qaeda and the Taliban are in the Waziristan section of Pakistan, that this is a problem, and that as such we need to do something. That Obama doesn't seem to get that it's not so simple as making aid to Musharraf contingent on acting in the region, he is right that it is a problem we need to deal with.

I think that David Ignatius, writing in the Washington Post, has found the best idea

The best answer I've heard comes from Henry Crumpton, a former CIA officer who was one of the heroes of the agency's campaign to destroy al-Qaeda's haven in Afghanistan in late 2001. After retiring from the CIA in 2005, he served as the State Department's coordinator for counterterrorism. He resigned from State in February and is now a fellow at the EastWest Institute and a private consultant.

Crumpton argues that the United States must take preventive action but that it should do so carefully, through proxies wherever possible. The right model for a Waziristan campaign is the CIA-led operation in Afghanistan, not the U.S. military invasion of Iraq. Teams of CIA officers and Special Forces soldiers are best suited to work with tribal leaders, providing them weapons and money to fight an al-Qaeda network that has implanted itself brutally in Waziristan through the assassination of more than 100 tribal leaders during the past six years. It would be better to conduct such operations jointly with Pakistan, but if the government of Gen. Pervez Musharraf can't or won't cooperate, the United States should be prepared to go it alone, Crumpton argues.

"The United States has an obligation to defend itself and its citizens," says Crumpton. "We either do it now, or we do it after the next attack."

Crumpton proposed a detailed plan last year for rolling up these sanctuaries, which he called the Regional Strategic Initiative. It would combine economic assistance and paramilitary operations in a broad counterinsurgency campaign. In Waziristan, U.S. and Pakistani operatives would give tribal warlords guns and money, to be sure, but they would coordinate this covert action with economic aid to help tribal leaders operate their local stone quarries more efficiently, say, or install windmills and solar panels to generate electricity for their remote mountain villages.

This is a long-term plan but makes a lot of sense to me. CIA paramilitaries, mostly made up of ex-Special Forces and SEAL veterans, could do a lot of damage to al Qaeda and the Taliban. Crumpton's plan seems loosely modeled on the Vietnam-era SOG ("Studies and Observation Group") and other such operations.

So let's go get al Qaeda and the Taliban in Pakistan, but let's do so as quietly as possible.

Update

Looks like Obama's stirred up trouble in Pakistan with his comments. Nice guy, but not ready for prime-time.

Posted by Tom at 8:12 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack