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December 31, 2007

Flacking 4 Chavez

I watch very little TV, but yesterday while waiting for the football games to start the TV was tuned to CNN. This commercial came on, and it just about made my jaw drop

I knew Joe Kennedy was a leftie, but to flack for Fidel Castro wanna-be Hugo Chavez is way over the top.

Apparently this commercial has been out for a few months. Maybe I should just go back to not watching any TV at all. There also seem to be more than one, but this is all I can find at the moment.

Anyway, I did a bit of research and here's the background, courtesy of the Wall Street Journal

The arrangement is this: Mr. Chávez's Citgo--a Houston-based oil company owned by the Venezuelan government--is supplying home heating oil to Mr. Kennedy's Citizens Energy Corporation at a 40% discount. Citizens, a nonprofit outfit, says it passes the savings onto the poor, aiming to help 400,000 homes in 16 states that would otherwise have trouble heating their homes. In the process, Mr. Kennedy happens to get a high-profile publicity plug. If you think you qualify, says the television ad that drew our attention to this partnership, just dial 1-877-Joe-4-Oil.

Joseph P. Kennedy II, the useful idiot helping burnish Chavez' image, is the eldest son of the late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, who was of course the younger brother of President John F. Kennedy. Joe Kennedy was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from Massachusetts in 1986 and served until 1999.

As the OpinionJournal piece points out, "Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chávez is an ally of the Iranian mullahs, a supporter of North Korea, a close friend of Fidel Castro and a good customer for Vladimir Putin's weapon factories." Yet the former congressman has no problem in lending his name and time to help defend this man who is trying his best to subvert Venezuelan democracy.

Kennedy founded Citzens Energy in 1979, and since 1998 has been its Chairman and President. From a description on their website, he "founded the non-profit company in 1979 to provide low-cost heating oil to the poor and elderly." Among other things, they also say that "last year" they provided free energy to 170,000 households, 250 shelters, and 37 Native American tribes. Kennedy defended his choice to accept oil from Venezuela in an article posted at Common Dreams

... those who have no problem staying warm at night should not condemn others for accepting Venezuela's oil. Rhetoric means little to an elderly woman who has to drag an old cot from her basement to sleep by the warmth of the open kitchen stove or give up food or medicine to pay her heating bill. ...

When our partnership with Citgo was announced last year, US Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman praised the discount program as corporate philanthropy. "It's a charitable contribution," he said, "and I wish more companies did it." Charities like the Baseball Hall of Fame and the Muscular Dystrophy Association receive generous donations from Citgo, but no one is telling them to decline the gifts.

Criticism of our program isn't about cheap heating oil. It's all about Hugo. While conservative interests in this country don't like him, US businesses don't mind his money and his marketplace.

Even though doing business with Venezuela has been very good for capitalists, the issue at hand is Chávez and his politics of socialism. Before we accept the characterizations of him as a socialist threat to our way of life, we ought to look at our own country -- ironically, a system of socialism for the rich and free enterprise for the poor.

So, sure, we'll distribute Hugo's oil. Doing so is called compassionate capitalism. Right now, our country's vulnerable families fend for themselves, while the well-to-do can afford to throw snowballs at our program from the security of their warm homes and offices.

There are many issues here, and I'll try and go through a couple of them.

Kennedy is fairly cautious in his description of Chavez. In this and a Boston Globe article that I found, he's circumspect about Chavez, prefering to concentrate on the program itself.

But the entire program is based on the logical fallacy that two wrongs make a right. Kennedy justifies what he's doing because some American businesses operate in Chavez' Venezuela. But what if they didn't? What if we banned them from doing business there, much like the embargo on Cuba? Would Kennedy then break off relations with Citgo? Of course not. The argument is therefore invalid.

Looking around the internet, many leftists defend Kennedy by pointing out that we do business with Saudi Arabia. Again the argument falls for the same reason. I have stated many times on this blog (here's my biggest post on the matter) that we must take strong measures to cut back consumption of oil so as to wean ourselves from Middle East oil. Others have too, notably many on the staff of National Review, a pretty conservative publication by any measure. So attempts to claim that conservatives are just a bunch of hypocrites does not stand up to scrutiny either.

According to Kennedy, the source for aid does not matter. Would he then have accepted aid from apartheit South Africa? Again, of course not.

Kennedy spends much time bashing oil companies, blaming them for everything from high prices to their alleged lack of charitable giving. But this Investors Business Daily editorial, carried on CNN, puts the lie to both those claims

What this is really about is advancing Chavez's U.S. agenda, a big part of which is to blame U.S. oil companies for high oil prices.

High oil prices do squeeze the poor. But oil companies do not control them. Dictators such as Chavez do. Eighty percent of the world's oil is held by inefficient state oil companies. Venezuela is one of the worst, producing its oil with scab labor since a 2003 strike, and it has also confiscated at least $1 billion in U.S. oil assets since then. Some industry analysts estimate that Chavez adds as much as a third of the cost to world oil prices. No wonder he wants someone else, like Big Oil, blamed.

And also, with regard to charity, the editorial points out that

Oil companies, in fact, give far more to charity than Kennedy's $25 million program. In 2006, Chevron gave $90.8 million. British Petroleum (NYSE:BP) gave $106.7 million. Exxon Mobil (NYSE:XOM) gave $138.6 million.

As for the "discounted oil", it's supposedly sold to Citizen Energy at 40% of market value. The problem here is that such a deal only hurts the people of Venezuela. According to the CIA Factbook, the 2006 per capita income for Venezuela was $7,200, and for the United States $43,800. Which such figures do not take into account purchasing power and are therefore somewhat misleading, they are still a good rough indicator. The bottom line is that Chavez is hurting his own people with this program in pursuit of political goals. That Joseph P. Kennedy II eagerly participates makes him a useful idiot.

Perhaps we do need to do more to help poor and disadvantaged people in this country purchase energy. Maybe federal, state, and local governments need to revize their programs and spend more money. We might even need a special tax on electricity or natural gas to pay for it. If this is what Kennedy believes, then fine, he should make his case before the relevant legislative bodies. He should write newspaper editorials. He should solicit private citizens for donations. I try to keep an open mind, and am willing to be convinced we need to do more if he can make the case.

But what I am not going do do is approve of a blatantly political program who's main purpose is to shore up Hugo Chavez, who is trying to undermine democracy and pluralism in his own country and others around the world.

Posted by Tom at 6:34 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

December 26, 2007

Nobles and Knaves, the Contest

Every Saturday the Washington Times selects a "noble" and "knave" of the week. At the end of each year, the Times invites it's readers to select a noble and knave of the year. Here, then, is this year's contest

As 2007 comes to a close, it is time once again to look back over the year at the many saints and sinners, smart moves and stumbles profiled in our weekly "Nobles and Knaves" column with our annual contest. The winners (or losers) of the titles will be determined by you, the reader. Below is a review of our nominees. To vote, send an e-mail to noble@washingtontimes.com with "Nobles Contest" in the subject line or send a fax to 202-715-0037. Entries must be received by Jan. 1. When voting, please remember that only this year's nominees are eligible, and that votes sent en masse with the intention of unfairly weighting the nominees will not be considered.

For Noble of the Year, select three:

• Cpl. Jason Dunham, the Navy SEAL who used his body to smother an enemy grenade and save the lives of his fellow Marines. Cpl. Dunham did not survive.

• Hal Koster, the former co-owner of Fran O'Brien's Stadium Steakhouse, who lost his restaurant's lease at the Hilton Hotel but continued to host free steak dinners for wounded soldiers recuperating at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

• The French court that acquitted editor Philippe Val after he reprinted the infamous "Muhammad cartoons" in the French weekly Charlie-Hebdo.

• North Carolina State's Attorney Roy Cooper, who threw out charges against three Duke University Lacrosse players after the witchhunt and media circus started by now-ousted Durham County District Attorney Mike Nifong.

• Liviu Librescu, a Holocaust survivor and Virginia Tech professor, who was killed during the shooting spree while trying to barricade his classroom door, saving the lives of all of his students.

• Samantha Larson, 18, the youngest American to climb Mt. Everest and the youngest person to climb the "Seven Summits," or the tallest peaks on each of the seven continents.

• The 400 sixth-graders from a Dallas middle school whose "fun run" fund-raiser provided enough money for two clean-water-pump systems for rural villages in sub-Saharan Africa.

• Lee Edwards, who worked for 17 years to erect the Victims of Communism Memorial.

• F. Keith Miller, a Virginia high-school lunchroom worker who uses his bonuses to give a scholarship to a graduating senior.

• D.C. Superior Court Judge Judith Bartnoff for throwing out the ludicrous lawsuit filed by Roy Pearson for $54 million over a pair of pants allegedly lost by a dry cleaning company.

• Norman Borlaug, a Congressional Gold Medal recipient, who is credited with saving perhaps a billion lives after making substantial agricultural discoveries that staved off starvation all over the world.

• Rescue workers, for their tireless efforts at such national disasters as the collapsed bridge over the Mississippi River, a Utah coal mine collapse and the San Diego wildfires.

• Chen Guangchen, who was honored this year for his activism on behalf of the women in a Chinese province being forced to undergo late-term abortions and sterilization.

• Capt. Dan Rooney, an Oklahoma Air National Guard pilot and professional golfer, who created a fund-raiser at thousands of golf courses across the country, where an extra dollar would be charged to benefit the families of wounded soldiers.

• Senate Republicans, who voted down Sen. Jim Webb's amendment to the defense authorization bill which would have left the military short-staffed.

• President Bush, for vetoing the State Children's Health Insurance bill, that would have moved scores of children from private to government-subsidized coverage.

• The 14th Dalai Lama, who was awarded a Congressional Gold Medal for his lifelong pursuit of peace for Tibet.

• World Vision, the Christian humanitarian organization that donates unsaleable sports clothing to impoverished countries.

• John Kanzius, who may have developed a cure for cancer using his knowledge of radio waves.

• The Washington Redskins, for participating in the Harvest Feast food bank and donating holiday meals to needy families.

• The Washington Wizards, for donating money to the family of a woman who was disfigured in a domestic-abuse attack and helping them get back on their feet.

• Jeanne Assam, the volunteer security guard who took down a gunman on a shooting spree at a Colorado church.

For Knave of the Year, select three:

• Philadelphia Mayor John Street, who claimed that graphic images from Iraq have increased the city's gun violence and homicide rate.

• D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty, who snubbed first lady Laura Bush by refusing her invitation to sit together at the State of the Union address.

• Washington Post writer William Arkin, who called U.S. soldiers in Iraq mercenaries in an article he wrote for The Post's Web site.

• D.C. hospitals, for forgetting about the remains of more than 100 stillborn babies and fetuses that were found in morgue refrigerators long past the 30-day deadline for proper disposal.

• Iraqi insurgents, who used children as decoys to pass through a Baghdad security checkpoint and then detonated a car bomb, killing the children and three bystanders.

• U.S. District Judge Barry Ted Moskowitz, who gave light sentences to two executives from the Golden State Fence Co., who knowingly hired illegal aliens to build part of a border fence.

• Don Imus, the loud-mouthed radio host who called the Rutgers Scarlet Knights women's basketball team "nappy-headed hos."

• The New Sanctuary Movement, a religious-based cooperative aiming to harbor illegal aliens and provide legal counsel in their congregations.

• Planned Parenthood of Los Angeles, whose employees encouraged underage girls inquiring about abortion to lie about their age to avoid having to report cases of statutory rape.

• Angelina Jolie, the star of the movie "A Mighty Heart," based on the life of slain reporter Daniel Pearl, for trying to ban Fox News from the red-carpet premier even though the film is endorsed by the pro-free-press group Reporters Without Borders.

• Pat and Sheena Wheaton, the New Zealand couple who petitioned to name their baby "4real." When they were rejected, they settled on the moniker Superman.

• Michael Vick, former quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons, who was indicted and subsequently sentenced to prison for his involvement in an illegal dog-fighting venture and animal abuse charges.

• New Haven, Conn., Mayor John DeStefano, who offered sanctuary to the thousands of illegal immigrants in his city by offering ID cards to residents which provide access to city services.

• The Hawk 'n' Dove, a Capitol Hill watering hole that refuses entry to Marines unless they are in uniform or accompanied by a date.

• Keith Olbermann, for saying that Fox News is "worse than al Qaeda" and "as dangerous" as the Ku Klux Klan in an interview with Playboy magazine.

• The Islamic Republic of Iran, for, among other offenses made this year, publishing a booklet accusing Canada of human-rights violations.

• Ted Turner, CNN founder, who once again put his foot in his mouth when he said that North Koreans are skinny, and therefore healthy, ignoring the excessive starvation throughout the country.

• The seven George Washington University (GW) students who made satirical anti-Muslim posters to protest the conservative Young America's Foundation and their Islamo-fascism awareness week, and to portray them as bigots.

• GW President Stephen Knapp, who let the poster offenders mentioned above off with a slap on the wrist after vowing to take action against the perpetrators.

• Sarah Marshak, a Jewish freshman GW student, who drew swastikas on her own door to prompt school officials to work faster in finding the real perpetrator(s) who had tagged several other doors in a spate of racist vandalism.

• The six illegal aliens who were arrested for stealing supplies donated to the victims of the San Diego wildfires.

• Marine Sgt. Timothy Allen DeBusk of Topeka, Kans., for lying about receiving a Purple Heart in order to get a special vanity license plate.

My selections for Noble are 1) Cpl. Jason Dunham, 2) Hal Koster, and 3) The Washington Redskins.

And my selections for Knave are 1) Washington Post writer William Arkin, 2) The New Sanctuary Movement, and 3) Keith Olbermann.

Jan 6 Update: And The Winners Are...

From today's Washington Times:

Knave of the Year

The top scorers for Knave of the Year are both members of the press. They both made foot-in-mouth statements and they both should have known better. Keith Olbermann of MSNBC said, in an interview with Playboy magazine, that Fox News is "worse than al Qaeda" and "as dangerous" as the Ku Klux Klan. We're not aware of the news organization's involvement in deadly terror attacks or white supremacy, so we'll just assume that Mr. Olbermann is misinformed. His statements were crass and vulgar, and he is fitting company on this list of fools.

Without further ado, we give you the Knave of the Year: William Arkin. Although it was a narrow victory, voters pointed to Mr. Arkin as the worst offender for his remarks about American troops. In a column on The Washington Post Web site, Mr. Arkin referred to the troops as mercenaries and it wasn't only readers of our paper who were insulted. An editor's note above the article now explains that because of the incredible quantity of comments posted on the site, the comments section was actually shut down for that particular story. Mr. Arkin has since apologized for his use of the word "mercenary," but clearly he has not yet been forgiven.

Noble of the Year

And, at last, we are pleased to announce the winner of this year's Noble of the Year contest. On Jan. 11, Cpl. Jason Dunham became the first Marine awarded the Medal of Honor in the war on terror. Nearly three years after he used his body to smother an insurgent's grenade to save two fellow Marines, President Bush posthumously honored Cpl. Dunham for his incredible bravery and dedication to his mission. At the ceremony, Cpl. Dunham's father said "Jason believed that all men on this earth should be free. He also believed in his friends." We could not think of a more appropriate remark, nor of a man more deserving of the title Noble of the Year

Looks like other Times readers pretty much agreed with me.

Posted by Tom at 7:00 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

December 21, 2007

The December 2007 General Barry McCaffrey Report on Iraq

General Barry R McCaffrey (ret) is back from Iraq and has presented another thorough and honest report on the situation. You can read it in it's entirety on Michael Yon's website. As with his previous reports, there is good news and bad news. However, I think an honest reading is that his take on the situation is mostly positive.

Following is the complete report minus some of the introduction, in which he simply lists his sources (who he met with; Adm Fallon, Gen Petraeus, other generals, colonels, Iraqis, etc). You can also download it as a pdf here.

SUBJECT: After Action Report--General Barry R McCaffrey USA (Ret)



This memo provides feedback on my strategic and operational assessment of current security operations in Iraq. Look forward to providing lectures to faculty and cadet national security seminars.

Will provide follow-on comprehensive report with attachments of current unclassified data and graphs documenting the current counter-insurgency situation in Iraq.



The struggle for stability in the Iraqi Civil War has entered a new phase with dramatically reduced levels of civilian sectarian violence, political assassinations, abductions, and small arms/ indirect fire and IED attacks on US and Iraqi Police and Army Forces.

This is the unmistakable new reality --and must be taken into account as the US debates its options going forward. The national security debate must move on to an analysis of why this new political and security situation exists--not whether it exists.

General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker have provided brilliant collective leadership to US Forces and have ably engaged the Iraqi political and military leadership.


Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) has been defeated at a tactical and operational level in Baghdad and Anbar Province and is trying to re-constitute in the north and along the Syrian frontier.

The Iraqi people have turned on AQI because it overreached trying to impose an alien and harsh practice of Islam inconsistent with the more moderate practices of the Sunni minority. (16% of the population.) The foreign jihadist elements in AQI (with their enormous hatred of what they view as the apostate Shia) have alienated the nationalism of the broader Iraqi population. Foreign intervention across the Syrian frontier has dropped substantially. Most border-crossers are suicide bombers who are dead within four days while carrying out largely ineffective attacks on the civilian population and the Iraqi Police.

The senior leaders of AQI have become walking dead men because of the enormous number of civilian intelligence tips coming directly to US Forces. US and Brit Special Operations Forces are deadly against AQI leadership. Essentially AQI has been driven out of Baghdad and is now trying to reconstitute their capabilities.


The Iraqi Security Forces are now beginning to take a major and independent successful role in the war. Under the determined leadership of LTG Jim Dubik --both the equipment and force levels of the Iraqi Security Forces are now for the first time in the war at a realistic level of resource planning.

The previously grossly ineffective and corrupt Iraqi Police have been forcefully re-trained and re-equipped. The majority of their formerly sectarian police leadership has been replaced. The police are now a mixed bag-- but many local units are now effectively providing security and intelligence penetration of their neighborhoods.

The Iraqi Army has made huge progress in leadership, training, and equipment capability. The embedded US training teams have simply incredible levels of trust and mutual cooperation with their Iraqi counterparts. Corruption remains endemic. However, much remains to be done. This is the center-of-gravity of the war.

The ISF still lacks credibility as a coherent counter-insurgency and deterrent force. It has no national logistics and maintenance system. It lacks any semblance of an Air Force with a robust lift and attack helicopter force and fixed wing C-130 lift to support counter-insurgency. It lacks any semblance of a functioning military medical system to provide country-wide trauma care, evacuation, and rehabilitation. It lacks any artillery with precision munitions to provide stand-off attack of hard targets--or to assist in counter-battery fire to protect the population and military installations. It lacks any serious armor capability to act as a deterrent force to protect national sovereignty. (In my judgment the Army needs 9000+ wheel and track armored vehicles for their 13 combat divisions.)


There is no functional central Iraqi Government. Incompetence, corruption, factional paranoia, and political gridlock have paralyzed the state. The constitution promotes bureaucratic stagnation and factional strife. The budgetary process cannot provide responsive financial support to the military and the police--nor local government for health, education, governance, reconstruction, and transportation.

Mr. Maliki has no political power base and commands no violent militias who have direct allegiance to him personally--making him a non-player in the Iraqi political struggle for dominance in the post-US withdrawal period which looms in front of the Iraqi people.

However, there is growing evidence of the successful re-constitution of local and provincial government. Elections for provincial government are vitally important to creating any possible form of functioning Iraqi state.


There are 4 million plus dislocated Iraqis--possibly one in six citizens. Many of the intelligentsia and professional class have fled to Syria, Jordan, or abroad. 60,000 + have been murdered or died in the post-invasion violence. Medical care is primitive. Security and justice for the individual is weak. Many lack clean water or adequate food and a roof over their family. Anger and hatred for the cruelties of the ongoing Civil War overwhelm the desire for reconciliation.

There is widespread disbelief that the Iraqi government can bring the country together. The people (and in particular the women) are sick of the chaotic violence and want an end to the unpredictable violence and the dislocation of the population.


The economy is slowly reviving-- although there is massive 50% or more unemployment or under-employment.

The electrical system is slowly coming back-- but it is being overwhelmed by huge increases in demand as air conditioners, TV's, and light industry load the system.

The production and distribution of gasoline is increasing but is incapable of keeping up with a gigantic increase in private vehicle and truck ownership.

The Iraqi currency to everyone's astonishment is very stable and more valued than the weak US dollar.

The agricultural system is under-resourced and poorly managed--it potentially could feed the population and again become a source of export currency earnings.


The morale and tactical effectiveness of engaged US military forces are striking. The "surge" of five additional US Brigade Combat Teams helped. (Although we are now forced to begin an immediate drawdown because of the inadequate resources of the worldwide US Army.)

These combat forces have become the most effective counter-insurgency (and forensic police investigative service) in history. LTG Ray Odierno, the MNC-I Commander, and his senior commanders have gotten out of their fixed bases and operate at platoon level in concert with small elements of the Iraqi Army and Police. Their aggressive tactics combined with simply brilliant use of the newly energized Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRT's -- Superb State Department leadership and participation) for economic development have dramatically changed the tone of the war.

US Forces have now unilaterally constituted some 60,000+ armed "Iraqi Concerned Local Citizen Groups" to the consternation of the Maliki Government. These CLC Groups have added immeasurably to the security of the local populations -- as well as giving a paycheck to unemployed males to support their families. Although the majority of these CLC Groups are Sunnis - increasingly the concept is being extended to Shia Groups south of Baghdad.

The US battalion and brigade commanders have grown up in combat with near continuous operations in the past 20 years in the Balkans, Desert Storm, Afghanistan, and Operation Iraqi Freedom. Many of the Army combat forces are now beginning their 4th round of year+ combat tours in Iraq or Afghanistan. Many of the Marine units are now on their 5th tour of seven month combat deployments. The troops and their leaders are simply fearless--despite 34,000 US killed and wounded.

The US company and battalion commanders now operate as the de facto low-level government of the Iraqi state...schools, health, roads, police, education, governance. The Iraqis tend to defer to US company and battalion commanders based on their respect for their counterparts' energy, integrity, and the assurance of some level of security. These US combat units have enormous discretion to use CRP Funds to jump start local urban and rural economic and social reconstruction. They are rapidly mentoring and empowering local Iraqi civilian and police leadership.

Direct intelligence cooperation has sky-rocketed. The civilian population provides by-name identification of criminal leadership. They point out IED's. They directly interact with US forces at low level in much of the country. (There are still 3000+ attacks on US Forces each month...this is still a Civil War.)


The Sunnis Arabs have stopped seeing the US as the enemy and are now cooperating to eliminate AQI -- and to position themselves for the next phase of the Civil War when the US Forces withdraw.

There is no leadership that can speak for all the Sunnis. The former regime elements have now stepped forward --along with tribal leadership --to assert some emerging control.


The Shia JAM militia under the control of Mr. Sadr have maintained their cease-fire, are giving up rogue elements to be harvested by US Special Operations teams, and are consolidating control over their ethnic cleansing success in Baghdad--as well as maneuvering to dominate the Iranian affiliated Badr brigade forces in the south.

However, Mr. Sadr lost great credibility when his forces violently intervened in the Holy City of Najaf --and were videoed on national TV and throughout the Arab world carrying out criminal acts against the pilgrims and protectors of the Shia population.

Sadr himself is an enigma. He may well want back into the political process. He is not a puppet of the Iranians and may lack their real support. His command and control of his own forces appears weak. He personally lacks the theological gravitas of a true Shia Islamic scholar like the venerable Sistani. He may be personally fearful of being killed or captured by ISF special operations forces if he is visibly leading inside Iraq...hence his frequent absences to Iran at the sufferance of that government.


There is no clear emerging nation-wide Shia leadership for their 60% of the Iraqi population. It is difficult to separate either Shia or Sunni political factions from Mafia criminal elements- with a primary focus on looting the government financial system and oil wealth of the nation.

In many cases neighborhoods are dominated by gangs of armed thugs who loosely legitimize their arbitrary violence by implying allegiance to a higher level militia.

The Iraqi justice system...courts, prosecutors, defense attorneys, police investigators, jails for pre-trial confinement, prisons for sentences, integrity of public institutions--does not yet exist. Vengeance is the only operative law of the land. The situation is starting to change. The Iraqi Police will be in charge of most neighborhoods by the end of next year.


The Kurds are a successful separate autonomous state--with a functioning and rapidly growing economy, a strong military (Both existing Pesh Merga Forces and nominally Iraqi-Kurdish Army divisions), a free press, relative security, significant foreign investment, and a growing tourist industry which serves as a neutral and safe meeting place for separated and terrified Sunni and Shia Arab families from the south.

There are Five Star hotels, airline connections to Europe, a functioning telephone system, strong trade relations with Syria, enormous mutually beneficial trade relations with Turkey, religious tolerance, a functional justice system, and an apparently enduring cease-fire between the traditional Kurdish warring factions.

Kurdish adventurism and appetite to confront both their external neighbors and the Iraqi central state may have been tempered in a healthy way by the prospect of invasion from the powerful Turkish Armed Forces to avenge the continued cross-border KKP terrorism.

The war-after-next will be the war of the Iraqi Arabs against the Kurds --when Mosul as well as Kirkuk and its giant oil basin (and an even greater Kurdish claimed buffer zone to the south) is finally and inevitably absorbed (IAW the existing Constitution) by the nascent Kurdish state. The only real solution to this dread inevitability is patient US diplomacy to continually defer the fateful Kurdish decision ad infinitum.



The Iraqis are the key variable. The center of our military effort must be the creation of well-equipped, trained, and adequately supported Iraqi Police and Army Forces with an operational Air Force and Navy.

We have rapidly decreasing political leverage on the Iraqi factional leadership. It is evident that the American people have no continued political commitment to solving the Iraqi Civil War. The US Armed Forces cannot for much longer impose an internal skeleton of governance and security on 27 million warring people.

The US must achieve our real political objectives to withdraw most US combat forces in the coming 36 months leaving in place:

1st: A stable Iraqi government.

2nd: A strong and responsive Iraqi security force.

3rd: A functioning economy.

4th: Some form of accountable, law-based government.

5th: A government with active diplomatic and security ties to its six neighboring states.


An active counter-insurgency campaign in Iraq could probably succeed in the coming decade with twenty-five US Brigade Combat Teams. (Afghanistan probably needs two more US combat brigades for a total of four in the coming 15 year campaign to create an operational state-- given more robust NATO Forces and ROE). We can probably sustain a force in Iraq indefinitely (given adequate funding) of some 10+ brigades. However, the US Army is starting to unravel.

Our recruiting campaign is bringing into the Army thousands of new soldiers (perhaps 10% of the annual input) who should not be in uniform. (Criminal records, drug use, moral waivers, non-high school graduates, pregnant from Basic Training and therefore non-deployable, lowest mental category, etc.)

We are losing our combat experienced mid-career NCOs' and Captains at an excessive rate. (ROTC DMG's, West Pointers, Officers with engineering and business degrees, etc.) Their morale is high, they are proud of their service, they have enormous personal courage--however, they see a nation of 300 million people with only an under resourced Armed Forces at war. The US Army at 400,000 troops is too small to carry out the current military strategy. The active duty US Army needs to be 800,000 strong to guarantee US national security.

The National Guard and Reserves are too small, are inadequately resourced, their equipment is broken or deployed, they are beginning their second involuntary combat deployments, and they did not sign up to be a regular war-fighting force. They have done a superb job in combat but are now in peril of not being ready for serious homeland security missions or deployment to a major shooting war such as Korea.

The modernization of our high technology US Air Force and Navy is imperiled by inadequate Congressional support. Support has focused primarily on the ground war and homeland security with $400 Billion+. We are digging a strategic hole for the US as we mono-focus on counter-insurgency capabilities --while China inevitably emerges in the coming 15 years as a global military power.


The leadership of Secretary Bob Gates in DOD has produced a dramatic transformation of our national security effort which under the Rumsfeld leadership was characterized by: a failing under-resourced counter-insurgency strategy; illegal DOD orders on the abuse of human rights; disrespect for the media and the Congress and the other departments of government; massive self-denial on wartime intelligence; and an internal civilian-imposed integrity problem in the Armed Forces--that punished candor, de-centralized operations, and commanders initiative.

Admiral Mullen as CJCS and Admiral Fallon as CENTCOM Commander bring hard-nosed realism and integrity of decision-making to an open and collaborative process which re-emerged as Mr. Rumsfeld left office. (Mr. Rumsfeld was an American patriot, of great personal talent, energy, experience, bureaucratic cleverness, and charisma--who operated with personal arrogance, intimidation and disrespect for the military, lack of forthright candor, avoidance of personal responsibility, and fundamental bad judgment.)

Secretary Gates has turned the situation around with little drama in a remarkable display of wisdom, integrity, and effective senior leadership of a very complex and powerful organization. General Petraeus now has the complete latitude and trust in his own Departmental senior civilian leadership to have successfully changed the command climate in the combat force in Iraq. His commanders now are empowered to act in concert with strategic guidance. They can frankly level with the media and external visitors. I heard this from many senior leaders -- from three star General to Captain Company commanders.


It is too late to decide on the Iraqi exit strategy with the current Administration. However, the Secretary of Defense and CENTCOM can set the next Administration up for success by getting down to 12 + Brigade Combat teams before January of 2009 --and by massively resourcing the creation of an adequate Iraqi Security Force.

We also need to make the case to Congress that significant US financial resources are needed to get the Iraqi economy going. ($3 billion per year for five years.) The nation-building process is the key to a successful US Military withdrawal--and will save enormous money and grief in the long run to avoid a failed Iraqi state.

Clearly we must continue the current sensible approach by Secretary of State Rice to open dialog with Syria, Turkey, and the Iranians--and to focus Arab attention with Saudi leadership on a US diplomatic offensive to mitigate the confrontation between Israel and the Arab states. We must also build a coalition to mitigate the dangers of a nuclear armed Iran.

The dysfunctional central government of Iraq, the warring Shia/Sunni/Kurdish factions, and the unworkable Iraqi constitution will only be put right by the Iraqis in their own time--and in their own way. It is entirely credible that a functioning Iraqi state will slowly emerge from the bottom up...with a small US military and diplomatic presence holding together in loose fashion the central government. The US must also hold at bay Iraq's neighbors from the desperate mischief they might cause that could lead to all out Civil War with regional involvement.

A successful withdrawal from Iraq with the emergence of a responsible unified Iraqi nation is vitally important to the security of the American people and the Mid-East. We are clearly no longer on a downward spiral. However, the ultimate outcome is still quite seriously in doubt.

Barry R McCaffrey
General USA (Ret)
Adjunct Professor of International Affairs
Department of Social Sciences, USMA
West Point, NY.

In short:

The good news is that violence is down dramatically, AQI, the greatest military threat, has been largely defeated, we have the right leadership and strategy in place, ordinary Iraqi citizens are stepping up to the plate through CLCs (Concerned Local Citizens), the Kurdish region is a success, the economy is growing and currency is stable,

The bad news is that the central Iraqi government is virtually non-existent, the refugee situation is unacceptable, and U.S. military forces as a whole are too small.

Making progress but still not there are the Iraqi Security Forces (both army and police), Mr. Sadr and his Shia JAM militia have been sidelined but are still a threat, local government is being reconstituted, and the criminial justice system "does not yet exist" but should be in place "by the end of next year" (way late).

As McCaffrey says, the "center-of-gravity" is the Iraqi Security Forces. We are going to have to leave sooner or later, and unless we can generate indiginous forces that can defeat terrorists and control criminals, the country will disintigrate again.

A pretty thorough post on the Iraqi Security forces can be found in a post by DJ Elliot over at The Long War Journal.

The Latest Casualty and Violence Figures

The latest statistics on casualties and violence can be found over at The Long War Journal. Bill Roggio has posted several graphs, which he got from the "Measuring Security and Stability in Iraq" quarterly report was publicly released on December 18, 2007. Two are reprinted here:



I take two things from these figures: one, that we were losing Iraq in 2006, two, that the "surge" has greatly reduced violence, and three, that we're not out of the woods yet. Reducing violence to the levels of 2004 is a big accomplishment, but we've got aways to go. This, I think comports with Gen McCaffrey's report.


Barry McCaffrey on Iraq II
Barry McCaffrey on Afghanistan
Barry McCaffrey on Iraq I

Posted by Tom at 4:15 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

December 20, 2007

Book Review - In the Words of Our Enemies

To anyone who still needs evidence that there are countries and movements in the world who want to destroy us, Jed Babbin's In the Words of Our Enemies is the book for you. If you are already convinced, this book is still useful because it is full of quotes that can be used to bolster your case to naysayers.

What makes this book different is that it let's our enemies speak for themselves. Most of the book consists of quotes from various Muslim fanatics, Chinese and Russian leaders, and well known personalities such as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong-il, Fidel Castro, and Hugo Chavez. There is some editorializing, but that is the smaller part of the book. It is truely a tale told "in the words of our enemies".

Here are the chapters.

I Before Sept 11
II The Hate Factories
III The Hate Networks
IV The Hate Networks Aim at Iraq
V Iran: The Central Terrorist Nation, Long Before Sept 11
VI The Taliban, Pakistan, and Southwest Asia
VII Radical Islam Aims at Turkey
VIII China: The Emerging Enemy
IX Putin's Russia
X Kim Jong-il's North Korea
XI Fidel Castro's Cuba
XII Hugo Chavez: Castro on Steroids

Jed Babbin is a former Air Force JAG officer, who has also served as a deputy undersecretary of defense in the first Bush administration He is currently editor of Human Events, and his articles appear in many publicications. He also appears on TV and guest-hosts popular radio talk-shows.

Among his many books, I have read and reviewed Showdown: Why China Wants War with the United States and have read (but forgot to review) Inside the Asylum: Why the UN and Old Europe are Worse Than You Think

Here are a few of our enemies quoted by Babbin:

From an interview with Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, the "spiritual leader" of Hamas, before he was killed in an Israeli strike in 2004:

Question: Was the fact that the King of Saudi Arabia received you during your tour of the Arab states a message to the United States?

Yassin: It was an expression of appreciation on the part of Saudi Arabia for (our) activities for the sake of Palestine and to tell the world - especially the U.S. and Israel - that Saudi Arabia supports the path of jihad. Saudi Arabia has demonstrated strength and courage because it declared its position loud and clear, telling the U.S. that it supports the path of struggle to restore the plundered land. In other words, the weldcome I received was a clear message to the U.S. and a provocation of its policy.

This is from a 2004 sermon by Sheikh Ibrahim Mahdi, which was broadcast on Palestinian TV:

Blessings to whoever waged Jihad for the sake of Allah: blessings to whoever raidedfor the sake of Allah; blessings to whoever put a belt of explosives on his body or on his sons' and plunged into the midst of the Jews, crying "Allahu Akbar, praise to Allah, there is no God byt Allah and Muhammed is His messenger."

From an article titled "In the Shadow of the Lakes" by al Qaeda spokesman Suleiman Abu Gheith, posted at the website of the Center for islamic Research and Studies.

I lay (these arguments) before you so as to emphasize that we are continuing with our blows against the Americans and the Jews, and with attacking them, both people and installations (so as to stress) that what awaits the Americans will not, Allah willing, be less than what has already happened to them. America must prepare itself; it must go on maximum alert...because, Allah willing, the blow will come from where they least expet it.

Three statements taken from different speeches by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

Undoubtably, I say that this slogan and goal is achievable, and with the support and power of God, we will soon experience a world without the United States and Zionism and will breathe in the brilliant time of Islamic sovereignty over today's world.

Such people are using words like "it's not possible." They say how could we hae a world without America and Zionism? But you know well that this slogan and goal can be achieved and can definately be realized.

Our proposal is as follows: Since you brought this regime (Israel) over there, you yourselves pick it up, by the arms and legs, and remove it from there. This will make the peoples of the region improve their attitude toward you. These will be the first steps to a long-lasting friendship with the peoples of the region. this will be to your advantage.

Chinese General Zhu Chenghu, also a professor at China's National Defense University, made in 2005 a statement that many took to be a threat of nuclear war over Taiwan:

If the Americans are determined to interfere, (then) we will be determined to respond....We...will prepare ourselves for t he destruction of all of the cities east of Xian. Of course, the Americans will have tro be prepared that hundreds...of cities will be destroyed by the Chinese.

Babbin then adds

Heritage Foundation visiting fellow Larry Wortzel, who attended Zhu's speech, reportedly offered the general a way out, asking if he meant only that China would respond with nuclear weapons if America first attacked China with them. According to one report, Zhu insisted that a nuclear response would occur even if Amerca interfered with (the) conqeest of Taiwan using conventional weapons. When a public uproar ensued, China disavowed Zhu's remarks. The disavowal is entirely consistent with china's "Twenty-four Chartacter Strategy"

Statements by Kim Jong-il, Fidel Castro, and Hugo Chavez are entirely predictable. Putin doesn't come off so much as an enemy as a competitor, and as such the chapter on Russia is Babbin's weakest case.

Any quote is open to the "taken out of context" criticism (just read the hostile Amazon reviews), but if you say "kill all the Jews", there's not any context that makes sense. Besides, if anything Babbin leaves out too much, especially on our jihadist enemies.

You can also argue that intent is not capability, or that Ahmadinejad is not the real power, that these are just the words of a demagogue to stir up the masses and that they don't reall mean it... or a hundred other things. But I think history shows that we cannot afford to assume anything. At any rate, world leaders must be held responsible for what they say. So even is Saddam Hussein did not have stockpiles of WMD prior to our invasion, it was still his responsiblity to come clean, which he decidedly did not do. Therefore, he bears ultimate responsibility for what happened. So, then, do the people quoted by Babbin.

Some people, of course, will never be convinced that while imperfect, and West is good and worth defending. There are those who will excuse any evil, as long as it's perpetrators hate the United States and especially George W Bush.

None of this is to say that we must immediately bomb x and such a country. Babbin makes few policy recommdations, and reasonable people can disagree over what do do about madmen like Ahmadinejad of Kim Jong il. But we first have to get over the notion that there are no enemies out there that would dearly like to destroy us, or that all of their hatred is a rational response to specific American policies. Babbin's book goes a long way toward dispelling such notions.

Posted by Tom at 10:11 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Person of the Year - General David Petraeus

Since TIME did the wrong thing by awarding it's Person of the Year to Vladimir Putin, I'm going to do my small part to make up for it.

The Redhunter hereby awards it's first Person of the Year award to

General David Petraeus


At least TIME made him a runner-up. And, to be fair, the jury is still out on whether his new strategy will ultimately succeed, something Petraeus admits in the story.

Further, in my attempt to give TIME every benefit of the doubt, they do make it clear that

Person of the Year is not and never has been an honor. It is not an endorsement. It is not a popularity contest. At its best, it is a clear-eyed recognition of the world as it is and of the most powerful individuals and forces shaping that world—for better or for worse. It is ultimately about leadership—bold, earth-changing leadership

That's fine. I just don't agree that Putin was the most influential person of the year. At least they didn't sucumb to the narcissism of last year, when they made "you" the winner.

Certainly by October of last year, with the failure of General Casey's Baghdad Security Plan (Operation Together Forward), it was ever more painfully clear that what we were doing was failing. By December, even I was calling for Generals Abizaid and Casey to be replaced. Like our president, I'd stuck with them for far too long.

The political situation at home had seriously deteriorated. The elections had dealt the Republicans a huge loss, with both houses of Congress going to the Democrats. While the war was only one of several issues, it was an important one, and Bush finally got the message.

The new plan for Iraq was drafted by a variety of people, and I'm not sure I have the entire story straight, but in the end the best plan will not work unless the right person is in charge.

Then Lt Gen Petraeus had spent most of 2006 editing the U.S. Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual. This book has been the "bible" of our troops who are charged with executing what was termed the "surge" plan.

It took almost six months to get the 5 new "surge" brigades into place, but kinetic operations kicked off June 15 with the start of Operation Phantom Thunder.

We have since seen a dramatic turnaround in Iraq. Violence is down throughout the country. Al Qaeda, the greatest threat to stability, is on the ropes.

Much remains to be done, and even the most optimistic generals caution that "the progress that we've made thus far is fragile and not guaranteed."

True enough, but it is also accurate, I think, to say that without Petraeus and the new plan we'd only be talking about pulling out of Iraq today. By late 2006 the situation was untenable, and the public at the end of it's rope. General David Petraeus has given Iraq a chance for success.

It's more than that, though. Failure in Iraq would have had been devastating to all people around the world who care about liberty. Anti-war types delude themselves by thinking that it would only be a defeat for the Bush/neo-con/Republicans. It is vital that we win, and as such must pursue victory until all reasonable hope is lost.

For all these reasons and more, General David Petraeus is my Person of the Year.

Posted by Tom at 7:50 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

December 18, 2007

Iraq Briefing 17 December 2007 - Maj Gen Joseph Fil

Major General Joseph Fil, Commanding General of Multi-National Division-Baghdad and First Cavalry Division, providing an update on ongoing security operations in Iraq. MG Fil is at Camp Liberty in Baghdad, and is linked via teleconference to the briefing room at the Pentagon. Fil reports to LtGen Ray Odierno, who in turn reports to Gen David Petraeus.

This video can also be viewed at DODvCLIPS

MG Fil's last briefing was on Sept 21, although the video seems to have disappeared from The Pentagon Channel's website. It looks like they're only keeping them posted for about two or three months.

1st Cav is ending it's tour of duty, and its four brigades are in the process of packing and leaving Iraq and redeploying to Fort Hood and Fort Bliss. Taking their place is the 4th Infantry Division, commanded by MG Jeff Hammond.

The main point that I took from this briefing is that we have made tremendous progress, but that if we draw down too quickly we risk losing all that we have gained. Fil made this point a number of times. Here are the relevant excerpts:

The number of attacks against citizens in Baghdad has dropped by almost 80 percent since November of 2006. Murders in the province have decreased by 90 percent during that same time frame. The number of vehicle-borne IED incidents has also declined by about 70 percent, and the number of innocent people that are killed with these weapons -- (audio break) -- more. And we're finding more of them before they detonate. The number of roadside bombs has also decreased significantly, and we're finding more and more of them before they detonate.

I also attribute a great deal of the security progress to the willingness of the population to step forward and band together against terrorist and criminal militia. Without sanctuary, the insurgency cannot operate. They cannot plan and they cannot indiscriminately kill at the levels they did previously. Concerned local citizens are being trained to become part of the Iraqi security forces themselves. Iraqi citizens are providing tips to the Iraqi security and to the coalition forces, helping us to flush out criminal militias and insurgents.

Now, I want to be absolutely clear that while we have seen significant progress during our tour here, we are very mindful that it is fragile and that there is very tough work ahead. Al Qaeda is down, but it is by no means out. It remains a very dangerous enemy that maintains the ability to conduct attacks against the innocent, and we must continue to pursue them, to attack their networks even as they're trying to regenerate. Likewise, militia and criminal networks are still very potent threats who are continuously seeking to regain power and authority -- (audio break).

Q(Kristin Roberts with Reuters) General, is there a danger, looking ahead, of withdrawing U.S., coalition forces too quickly over the next year or so? And what would happen if, or what happens as we begin to withdraw forces out of Baghdad? And what is the risk of going too quickly?

GEN. FIL: I think there's absolutely a risk of going too quickly. There's no question that although the incidents of violence are down significantly here, they're down because we have a force presence that is almost throughout the city. And there are now Iraqi security forces working in conjunction with coalition forces nearly everywhere in the city, and they're supplemented by concerned local citizens.

I think it's clear that pulling out too quickly, before the Iraqis are truly able to take over these areas independently, would be very risky. And there are some areas in the city where, at this point, it would fail. They're simply not ready to stand entirely on their own.

MR. WHITMAN: (Pentagon moderator) ...But before I bring it to a close, let me throw it back to you in case you have any final words you'd like to say to us.

GEN. FIL: Well, thanks very much. Always a pleasure. And I thank you all for your attention on what I understand is a pretty early morning there in Washington, D.C. on a Monday, and I thank you for that. I would say that -- you know, in closing, that we recognize this is a very tough fight, and it is -- (audio break) -- it is by no means complete. The progress that we've made thus far is fragile and not guaranteed.

We also know that many of our troops gave all and that a grateful nation does mourn these fallen heroes with their families and their loved ones. And we will never forget them, their sacrifices -- (audio break) -- that the situation here is fledgling and very fragile, not guaranteed, and there is much work ahead.

I close by saying we're the finest fighting force in the world. Our soldiers are proven warriors who have faced the fires of enemy hatred and beaten it back with a purposeful professionalism, and they've achieved great success in many of their endeavors here in the Iraqi capital. These young men and women are from all walks of life. They're from all across our country and they've truly been my inspiration during this tour, and they are truly the standard bearers of freedom and they understand fully the meaning of the words "sacrifice," "honor" and "commitment."

You don't have to be a political genius to know that there is a very strong incentive for the president to bring a lot of troops home from Iraq. To do so would help whoever wins the GOP nomination, and given the political climate, it's going to be a tough battle no matter who wins.

On the Democrat side, Obama would bring troops home a lot faster than Hillary. Fil may have also intended his message for them as well.

Either way, the 1st Cav has fought long and hard in Iraq. The last thing Fil wants to see is it all go for naught because the policitians didn't have the gumption to stick it out. Whatever number we should keep in Iraq, I hope that the Bush Administration, as well as the Democrats, are listening to MG Fil.

Posted by Tom at 6:19 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 15, 2007

Iraq Briefing 10 December 2007 - Maj Gen Walter Gaskin

This briefing was by Maj. Gen. Walter Gaskin, Commanding General, U.S. Marine Corps, of Multinational Force West, II Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward). MG Gaskin is in Baghdad, linked by teleconference to the briefing room at the Pentagon. Gaskin reports to LtGen Ray Odierno, who in turn reports to Gen David Petraeus.

This video can also be viewed at DODvCLIPS

Much has been made of whether the "Anbar Awakening" occured because of or despite the "surge" strategy. Those who support the war say the former, opponents the latter. MG Gaskin was asked about this directly, and here is the exchange (23:15 into the video):

Q General, it's Al Pessin from Voice of America. I wanted to ask you about the Awakening, and you talked a little bit about how there's this blood feud, and how the Anbaris have rejected the brutality of al Qaeda. Would you say that the progress that we've seen this year in Anbar had to do with something that MNF-I did? Or was it entirely indigenous to the inner workings of the people who live in the province?

GEN. GASKIN: I think it's a combination. You know, you can't separate the fact that this multinational corps and force out here was designed to eliminate al Qaeda.

And al Qaeda is a part of why the Awakening came about, is to awake and see that you can have self-reliance. We can join with the coalition forces and rid ourselves of the brutality and the caliphate and the just plain disregard for how the Anbaris live.

Now, it kind of manifests itself out here in Anbar because these were Sunnis -- (audio break) -- and therefore, they resisted the Taliban-like life -- the life and ideology that al Qaeda was bringing to this area. But it did not come without a cost. Al Qaeda was very brutal to the sheikhs, and this is a very tribal society. As a matter of fact, the sheikhs often say that we were tribal before we were Muslim, and therefore, this is
a(n) anchor point within our society. And so when al Qaeda attacked that, they did some very brutal things to the sheikhs, did not follow customs allowing the sheikhs to die in the desert and not burying them within 24 hours. That's what I mean by the blood feud
and that they have created a schism that I don't think will ever be repaired.

And because they really want to return to a life where they can have control of their own
destiny, I see this as an opportunity since -- (audio break) -- have joined with al Qaeda -- with the sheikhs and the people against al Qaeda. This is going to work, and I think it's enduring.

Q But General, might that not have happened anyway without MNF-I, without the surge, without the new counterinsurgency strategy?

GEN. GASKIN: I doubt it. I think if you -- if you look at the history of the fighting here, you will see that several times the sheikhs have attempted to rid themselves of al Qaeda.

They started in about 2005 out in al Qaim, where the sheikhs raised up, calling themselves the Desert Protectors, put down brutally by al Qaeda. It started again in and around Ramadi, where 11 sheikhs raised up to try to rid themselves of al Qaeda and its caliphate and shura law. And 11 of -- of those 11 -- (audio break) -- were put down brutally.

And so again, in Ramadi with Sheikhs Sattar Abu Risi (ph) who started the Sahwa Allah Iraq, which is the Awakening movement. He had lost two brothers and a father in that fight. So he realized, too, that the joining of the coalition who had there to aid them in getting rid of al Qaeda, that we were better equipped, better trained and had a better
principle (sic) of what was happening to them and all of that. This joining of us with them would not have happened -- it definitely would not have happened in the time frame for which we are experiencing now because al Qaeda was better organized, better financed and a lot more brutal than the Anbaris ever expected in dealing with them.

And so I think this was a -- (audio break) -- and it's proved to be ridding them of al
Qaeda and allow them to get on with their economic development and governance of this province.

Two good questions, and I think MG Gaskin dispelled any notions that the Awakening would have happened without the surge.

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

December 13, 2007

Winning "Hearts and Minds" in Action

A story in today's Washington Times, I think makes it clear that we are winning hearts and minds in Iraq's Anbar province.

First, though, a rehash of what exactly "hearts and minds" means, because it is usually taken to mean what is is not; "getting them to like us". This was my impression until I found otherwise.

From the Small Wars Journal blog (authored by some pretty heavy hitters)

Counterinsurgency: FM 3024 / MCWP 3.33.5 defines the true meaning of the phrase hearts and minds as the two components in building trusted networks in the conduct of COIN operations:
Hearts” means persuading people that their best interests are served by COIN success. “Minds” means convincing them that the force can protect them and that resisting it is pointless. Note that neither concerns whether people like Soldiers and Marines. Calculated self-interest, not emotion, is what counts. Over time, successful trusted networks grow like roots into the populace. They displace enemy networks, which forces enemies into the open, letting military forces seize the initiative and destroy the insurgents.

I think Dr. David Kilcullen defined hearts and minds as two components of COIN operations quite nicely during a COIN seminar at Quantico, Virginia, several weeks ago.

In addressing the reality of hearts and minds Kilcullen explained how the following 1952 statement by General Sir Gerald Templer, Director of Operations and High Commissioner for Malaya, has been misinterpreted:

"The answer lies not in pouring more troops into the jungle, but in the hearts and minds of the Malayan People"

General Templer did not mean (or say) that we must "be nice to the population" or make them like us. What he meant, and his subsequent actions played out, was that success in COIN rests on the popular perception and this perception has an emotive ("hearts") component and a cognitive ("minds") component.

Read the whole thing.

Here are a few excerpts from the story in the Times, and I think you'll see how it's relevant

Terrorist attacks have dropped from an average of 75 a week in January to about 24 a week now as tribal sheiks cooperate with one another, Iraqi provincial authorities and U.S. forces.

"You can only trust people to do what is in their best interests," Col. Clardy said. "The Iraqis are doing what is in their best interest.

"They see their success and future will be built on the relationship they have, we hope, with their own government and with us being here as well, and with the Iraqi security forces to which they contribute their sons.

"At some point, they realized that was not going to happen" with al Qaeda in Iraq, or AQI as the terror group is known to the Marines.

"These are a practical people," Col. Clardy said of Anbar's residents. "But it takes trust. And we've built that trust, and so are the Iraqi security forces. People are now going to them to provide tips" about arms caches and the presence of terrorists.

Attempts to improve cooperation among the tribes still are slowed by the long distances and poor communications. The Marines are responding by providing regular helicopter rides to carry tribal and municipal officials to meetings with their provincial counterparts.

"When you get them in a room together, they solve problems," he said. "When you don't, they don't. And they don't always like being in a room together, but when they do, they work it out. They are a very compromising people. ... They don't like personal confrontation too much."

This sure sounds like "hearts and minds" to me. It's not about "making them like us", it's about making them choose. And so far, they seem to have chosen us and the Iraqi government.

Posted by Tom at 9:28 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 10, 2007

Saudi Influence in Academia

There's a big story in today's Washington Times about something I've been blogging about for some time now; the Wahhabist penetration of academia through use of oil money. Scholar Walid Phares has written extensively about this, most particularly in his books Future Jihad and The War of Ideas. I reviewed both here; see "Book Reviews" under "Categories" at right.

Here are a few excerpts, but you'll want to read the whole thing:

Two years ago this month, a Saudi prince caused a media splash — and raised eyebrows — when he donated $20 million each to Georgetown and Harvard universities to fund Islamic studies. ...

Some call the Saudi gift Arab generosity and gratitude for the years American universities have educated the elite of the Arab world. Others say the sheer size of the donations amounts to buying influence and creating bastions of noncritical pro-Islamic scholarship within academia.

"There's a possibility these campuses aren't getting gifts, they're getting investments," said Clifford May, president of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. "Departments on Middle Eastern studies tend to be dominated by professors tuned to the concerns of Arab and Muslim rulers. It's very difficult for scholars who don't follow this line to get jobs and tenure on college campuses.

"The relationship between these departments and the money that pours in is hard to establish, but like campaign finance reform, sometimes money is a bribe. Sometimes it's a tip."

As Phares noted in The War of Ideas, it all started after the 1973 oil embargo, when the Saudis realized they had a lot of power at their hands. They did some investigation and discovered that many American universities were eager for their money. As Phares documents, the Saudis also discovered that in return for the money college administrators were eager to believe the Saudi version of Middle East history.

The article is fair, pointing out that "The idea of giving endowed chairs to advance a point of view is not exclusive to wealthy Arabs." Mormons and Israelis have also gotten in on the action.

Influence buying is wrong no matter who does it. We should not, however, fall into moral equivalence. Saudi influence is far greater, and their kingdom is a totalitarian nightmare.

At the end, the article quotes Zuhdi Jasser, an American reform-minded Muslim that I have written about before and who "gets it".

Zuhdi Jasser, a Phoenix physician and a Muslim who is chairman of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, says Islamic governments are looking for a free pass.

"Islamists such as the radical fundamentalists seen with the Saudi Wahhabis exploit American universal tolerance to provide a vehicle for the dissemination of their propaganda free of critique," he said in an e-mail. "It is important to emphasize — 'free of critique' ... it is the tolerance which permits that.

"But I would hope that we correct our response not by changing our tolerance but by intensely critiquing political Islam and its incompatibility with our pluralistic democracy. America"s laboratory of freedom and liberty should not change."

The Wahhabists are one of the three branches of the jihad that is trying to destroy the West. Dr Jasser is probably correct in that an absolute prohibition on Saudi money would violate our tradition of tolerance. Rather, the best way to deal with the Wahhabists is to expose them for what they are.


If you still think that the problem of Saudi influence in either K-12 or our university system is exaggerated, please see these two articles by Stanley Kurtz:

Saudi in the Classroom: A fundamental front in the war

Taking Sides on Title VI: Middle East Studies reform goes partisan

Posted by Tom at 8:08 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

The NIE causes an outbreak of BDS

This letter to the editor, which appeared in Sunday's Washington Times, is typical, I think, of what many on the left have been saying after last week's release of the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE 20071203) on Iran

Not quite two months ago, President Bush said, "If Iran had a nuclear weapon, it'd be a dangerous threat to world peace. So, I told people that if you're interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be interested" in ensuring Iran not gain the capacity to develop such weapons.

However, in the past few days it has come out that all 16 of our intelligence agencies have determined that Iran is not developing nuclear weapons ("Estimate of Iran's nukes reversed," Page 1, Tuesday). Now we find out that Mr. Bush was told by these agencies before he made his bizarre reference to World War III that Iran wasn't making weapons. Mr. Bush lied — again.

We all know that Mr. Bush lied to get us into the Iraq war, and now he's doing the same thing again. Every time Mr. Bush says something stupid like World War III, the price of gas goes up 25 cents. Mr. Bush is a madman, and he's trying to start another war. Where is the outrage? Has America sunk so low that when the president tries to start another illegal war no one cares? And we wonder why America is no longer respected in the world community.


San Bruno, Calif.

Mr Perkel, apparently referring to the NIE, says that " it has come out that all 16 of our intelligence agencies have determined that Iran is not developing nuclear weapons."

But the NIE says no such thing. Mr Perkel is clearly possessed by Bush Derangement Syndrome.

Once again, here is what the NIE actually says:

A. We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program; we access with moderate-to-high confidence that Tehran at a minimum is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons....

• We assess with high confidence that until fall 2003, Iranian military entities were working under government direction to develop nuclear weapons.

• We judge with high confidence that the halt lasted at least several years. (Because of intelligence gaps discussed elsewhere in this Estimate, however, DOE and NIC access with only moderate confidence that the halt to those programs represents a halt to Iran's entire nuclear weapons program.)

We assess with moderate confidence Tehran had not restarted its nuclear weapons program as of mid-2007, but we do not know whether it currently intends to develop nuclear weapons.

Here is how the authors define high and medium confidence:

High confidence generally indicates that our judgements are based on high-quality information, and/or that the nature of the issue makes it possible to render a solid judgement. A "high confidence" judgement is not a fact or certainty, however, and such judgements carry a risk of being wrong.

Moderate confidence generally means that the information is credibly sourced and plausible but not of sufficient quality or corroborated sufficiently to warrant a higher level of confidence.

(boldface emphasis added)

Therefore, the NIE does not make the absolute statement that "Iran is not developing nuclear weapons."

What it says that Iran probably stopped its nuclear weapons program in 2003, we don't think they've restarted it, but aren't really sure.

These are distinctions with a difference, and those who want to criticize the president need to get it right.


The National Intelligence Estimate on Iranian Nuclear Capabilities
More on the NIE

Posted by Tom at 7:36 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 8, 2007

"Steynophobia" as part of the War of Ideas

Rather than deal with problems within their religion, some Muslims have decided that the only way to deal with those in the West who criticize them is to shut them down. Some call it "legal tourism", and it is an attempt to use libel and slander laws to silence anyone who dares to speak out about the way Islam is practicied by some Muslims. They don't have to win the suit to succeed, because the credible threat of a suit will serve to intimidate. As such, it's kind of like the case of the Flying Imams.

The latest incident to spur this concern is an attack on the author of America Alone, Mark Steyn. In October of 2006, MacLean's published an excerpt from America Alone; "The Future Belongs to Islam.". Six months later several Muslim law students approached MacLeans and demanded that they be allowed to put a five page response, without any editing, in the magazine. When the editor refused, they filed a "human right s complaint" against Steyn In a post on The Corner, Stanley Kurtz explains:

Late yesterday I stumbled across an article about a "human rights complaint" filed by the Canadian Islamic Congress (CIC) against Maclean’s, Canada’s most widely-read news magazine, for running a "flagrantly Islamophobic" excerpt from Mark Steyn’s book, America Alone. At least two Canadian Human Rights Commissions have agreed to hear these complaints. Only then did I find Steyn’s too-easily-missed late-night post from Wednesday on the controversy.

This is a big deal. The blogosphere has so far largely missed it, but this attack on Mark Steyn is very much our business. There may be an impulse to dismiss this assault on Steyn, on the assumption that it will fail, that Steyn is a big boy and can take care of himself, and that in any case this is crazy Canada, where political correctness rules, rather than the land of the free. That would be a mistake. The Canadian Islamic Congress’s war on Mark Steyn and Maclean’s is an attack on all of us. I’ll say more in a moment about how a Canadian case can reach into America, but let’s first take a look at the goings on up north.

The complaints against Maclean’s for publishing an excerpt from America Alone have been filed by several Canadian law students and by Faisal Joseph, a former crown attorney. Maclean’s published a total of 27 letters over two issues in response to Steyn’s piece–more responses than any Maclean’s cover story received over the past year. Yet when the law student’s demanded a longer response, Maclean’s was willing to consider it. The students then insisted that Maclean’s run a five-page article, written by an author of their choice, with no editing by the magazine. They also demanded that the reply to Steyn be a cover story, with art controlled by them, rather than the magazine. At this point, Editor-in-Chief Kenneth Whyte showed them the door, saying he would rather let Maclean’s go bankrupt than permit someone outside of operations dictate the magazine’s content.

The tiff over the excerpt from America Alone is only the tip of the iceberg. The Canadian Islamic Congress has actually accused several Canadian news outlets of Islamophobia. CIC issued a report entitled "Maclean’s Magazine: A Case Study of Media-Propogated Islamophobia," in which at least 18 articles were said to show anti-Muslim bias. Canada’s National Post has been similarly attacked. Here, journalist Andrew Coyne explains how he was accused of endangering Muslims merely for having penned the phrase: "...the massive backlash against innocent Muslims that failed to materialize..."

Although the more liberal Muslim Canadian Congress (MCC) has criticized CIC and defended Maclean’s, it’s worth noting that CIC has managed to successfully intimidate MCC in the past. Coyne notes that a spokesman for MCC resigned his post last year when the president of the CIC accused him of "smearing Islam." The charge of de facto apostasy left the MCC spokesman fearing for his safety.

What about the article in question–the actual excerpt from America Alone published in Maclean’s? Read it and you’ll see that Steyn is an equal opportunity savager. Enervated Europeans come in for every bit as much criticism as jihadi terrorists–more, really. The closer to home, the tougher Steyn gets. Of all European’s, Steyn is hardest on culturally "dead" Belgians, the country where Steyn’s mother and grandparents came from. The only really vicious insult in the piece is hurled at Steyn himself.

This piece by Ali Eteraz in the Guardian commendably repudiates CIC’s attack on free speech. Even so, none of Eteraz’s points against the actual substance of Steyn’s piece hold water. Steyn does not say that "all" Muslims are radicals. If anything, Steyn goes out of his way to say that matters are not so simple. For example, he notes that the radicalization of South Asian Muslims is recent, and explains that it’s the watery weakness of Europe’s own multicultural ideology that forces Muslim’s back onto radicalism for a sense of cultural coherence. If anything, the anti-free-speech attacks on Steyn and Maclean’s, by Western-trained lawyers, no less, show that Steyn’s concerns about poorly assimilated Western values are more than justified.

Ugly as this affair may be, can we assume that Steyn and Maclean’s will ultimately emerge unscathed–and that America, at least, is safe from this sort of crazy Canadian multiculturalism? No we cannot. However they’re resolved, these high profile cases take a toll on all concerned. More important, they send a chill over smaller fish.

American’s need to recognize the pattern here, and we also need to realize that it has already invaded the United States. American readers depend on international outlets. We often read our Steyn in Canadian publications. So an attack on Steyn in Canada is an attack on America. And recall the ongoing battle over "libel tourism," which resulted in attempts to use British law to pull Alms for Jihad from American library shelves. (Here’s the latest update on the libel tourism battle, and how it threatens free speech in America.) And take a look at this list of Muslim libel cases in America. (Be sure to read the end of that account for an understanding of how enervating and intimidating these cases can be–especially for targets less well-placed than Steyn or Maclean’s.)

Then consider my post from yesterday on the spread of "bias reporting systems" to American college campuses. As in Canada, these systems may begin in response to alleged "homophobia," (see the link to the article on Georgetown in my post), but they also open up opportunities for accusations of "Islamophobia." (The term itself shows the echo effect.) Making use of "bias reporting" to attack Georgetown’s Catholic culture will surely play into the hands of Georgetown’s Saudi-funded programs to promote "Muslim-Christian understanding." These programs are positive connoisseurs of "Islamophobia." Give them a bias reporting system–especially an anonymous one–and they could easily go to town. And for more on the influence of Saudi money on American education, sure to open the field to CIC-like attacks on "Islamophobia," see "Saudi in the Classroom."

Connect the dots and you will see that the attack on Mark Steyn in Canada is part and parcel of a world-wide assault on free speech that has already reached well into America. This is our battle. It is essential that there be widespread public condemnation of the attack on Mark Steyn. Not only does this "human rights" complaint have to fail, it has to fail miserably and with embarrassment. Otherwise, whatever the formal result, the chilling effect will be one more victory for the forces trying to destroy our rights.

Follow the link to Kurtz post for the links to stories about the controversy.

Don't hold your breath waitiing for the usual "civil rights" organizations to rush to Steyn's defense.

As you might imagine, there's been much discussion about this at The Corner, but the best was this link by Steyn him self to a piece by Roger Kimball who describes his own experiences in

As a publisher, I’ve so far had just a little taste of libel tourism. This spring, Encounter Books is publishing Willful Blindness: a Memoir of the Jihad, by Andrew C. McCarthy, who helped prosecute the “blind sheik” Omar Abdul-Rahman and other jihadists responsible for the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993. Just last week I received a message from one of the entities that helps distribute our books in Canada and Britain:
Can you please let us know if there are any references to Saudis and terrorist[s] in the book. We are just concerned that this book, could potentially create libel lawsuits as it could offend Saudis living in England and this has happened with many other US publications and we do not want to be jeopardized in selling this book.

Hello? So books offensive to Saudis are verboten?

They don't need to make it illegal to win, just intimidate publishers and and distributors enough so that they take a "hands off" position toward any book that discusses forbidden matters.

In the end, it's all part of the War of Ideas that Walid Phares so brilliantly describes in his book of the same name. The jihadists want to silence all who oppose them. We - supposedly - value free speech. Which idea will win?

Posted by Tom at 11:17 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 6, 2007

The Mitt Romney Speech

Today Mitt Romney gave THE SPEECH (transcript). The one that everyone has been waiting for, wondering if he'd really give it.

I think that he hit it out of the park. He said all of the right things and avoided all the things he shouldn't have spoken about. That said, he only gave it because he's down in the polls, especially in Iowa. If you're 4 runs behind in a ballgame, and you hit a homer with noone on base, you give yourself a boost but it doesn't win you the game. This is what Romney did for himself today.

Sean Hannity had it right when he said on his radio show today "I wish he hadn't had to give the speech. " Romney's been attacked by many people from all sides; the media, the liberals, and sadly, even from Republicals and Christians. His religion shouldn't even be an issue, but unfortunately it is to some people. Everyone draws the obvious parallel with John F Kennedy in the 1960 campaign, and it's an apt comparison; Catholicism then is what Mormonism is today.

What Romney spoke about today are things that make America great. I found it an inspiring speech, and he delivered it well.

It would have been wrong for him to get into matters of theology or doctrine. The most he got into it was when he said "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the Savior of mankind." That was it, and it was enough. Going any farther would have ben to open up a can or worms that was irrelevant to whether he'd be a good president.

While the speech included something for everybody, it was definately a speech meant to reach out to the religious right. This is the group he most needs to win over in order to win the nomination. He (rightly, I think) criticized those who "seek to remove from the public domain any acknowledgment of God." He also spoke about the empty cathedrals of Europe. I noticed the same thing every time I've been there.

But let me cut to the chase: No Mormonism is not a "cult", and it is disgraceful to say that it is. If you want to think that the book of Mormon is wrong or was invented by Joseph Smith, then fine. But the word "cult" is a loaded term, and must be used very sparingly, if at all. One might even say that "cult" is defined as "someone else's religion". I don't want to get into theology here, but I am an independent evangelical Christian. I attend a church that can fairly be described as conservative, but I but don't really consider myself a member of any church. Ask me my denomination and I'll say "Christian". I think that Mormonism is a variant of Christianity, but who really cares? The question here is whether Mitt Romney is fit for public office. And that he is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints doesn't matter one whit.

We've all seen the young Mormon men and women as they go through a neighborhood, two by two, knocking on doors. Apparently it's a rite of passage that they go through on their way from adolescence to adulthood. Some people laugh at them, others are
annoyed, and some offended. I admire them. I've done evangelical work, and find it difficult to approach strangers and speak with them about faith. I've had several young Mormons come to my door over the years, and they're always polite and nice when I tell them I've got my faith so no thank you, but "best wishes and God be with you." They like that and are always polite in return. Christians (or people of any faith, for that matter) who proclaim themselves offended by Mormons coming to their door ought to get out and try it themselves.

On another note, did you notice he actually used the word "jihad" during the speech? He said it to describe our enemies in this war. That our president could only do as much.

No matter what Mitt Romney said or didn't say he will not make everyone happy. So let's not quibble over this or that or pick the speech apart. He was ecumenical, mentioning other faiths. No you can't fit them all in, but he did a good job at mentioning enough to get the point across.

I'm not 100% satisfied with any of the Republican candidates. I'd like to do what Glenn Beck suggested today, and that was play Dr Frankenstein and take one part for each and stich them all together. There are definately things I like about Mitt Romney. If he wins the nomination, I'll campaign hard for him.

Posted by Tom at 8:41 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

December 5, 2007

More on the NIE

I've got a bit more time tonight and so want to quickly revisit the issue of the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE 20071203) on Iran (hat has caused so much comment. First off, let's take a look at what it actually says. Under "Key Judgements", we have, among other findings

A. We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program; we access with moderate-to-high confidence that Tehran at a minimum is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons....

• We assess with high confidence that until fall 2003, Iranian military entities were working under government direction to develop nuclear weapons.

• We judge with high confidence that the halt lasted at least several years. (Because of intelligence gaps discussed elsewhere in this Estimate, however, DOE and NIC access with only moderate confidence taht the halt to those programs represents a halt to Iran's entire nuclear weapons program.)

• We assess with moderate confidence Tehran had not restarted its nuclear weapons program as of mid-2007, but we do not know whether it currently intends to develop nuclear weapons.

• Tehran's decision to halt its nuclear weapons program suggests it is less determined to develop nuclear weapons than we have been judging since 2005. Our assessment that the program probably was halted primarily in response to international pressure suggests Iran may be more vulnerable to influence on the issue than we judged previously.

What's all this about "high or moderate confidence"? Here's where the Estimate gets interesting. Here's how it defines these two levels:

High confidence generally indicates that our judgements are based on high-quality information, and/or that the nature of the issue makes it possible to render a solid judgement. A "high confidence" judgement is not a fact or certainty, however, and such judgements carry a risk of being wrong.

Moderate confidence generally means that the information is credibly sourced and plausible but not of sufficient quality or corroborated sufficiently to warrant a higher level of confidence.

What the report does therefore not say is that "Iran has shut down it's program". It speaks in terms of probabilities and admits that it could all be wrong. Not that it is, but that it could be. Further, remember it was only with moderate confidence that it declared that as of mid-2007 "Tehran had not restated its nuclear weapons program."

Two more key findings bear quoting:

E. We do not have sufficient intelligence to judge confidently whether Tehran is willing to maintain the halt of its nuclear programs program indefinitely while it weights its options, or whether it will or already has set specific deadlines or criteria that will promot it to restart the program.

So they might be waiting to see if the political climate changes. What could they be waiting for? One possibility is to see if a Democrat wins the White House in 2008, especially one like Barak Obama or John Edwards. While this comment might seem overly partisan, I think it to be a fair one. Neither has shown any willingness to use military force against Iran, or to use it as a credible threat during diplomacy. Second is that they could be waiting to see if they can chase the U.S. out of Iraq. If they succeed there, their prestige will be enhanced and ours will fall. We will be less willing than ever to use force, and they will know it. Again, they could seize the opportunity to restart work.

And under "E"

• Our assessment that iran halted the program in 2003 primarily in response to international pressure indicates Tehran's desisions are guided by a cost-benefit approach rather than a rush to a weapon irrespective of the political, economic, and military costs. This, in turn, suggests that some combination of threats of international scrutiny and pressures, along with opportuities in Iran to achieve its security, prestige, and goals for regional influence in other ways, might - if perceived by Iran's leaders as credible - prompt Tehran to extend the current halt to its nuclear weapons program. It is difficult to specify what such a combination might be.

Certainly the bit about Iran being "guided by a cost-benefit approach" contradicts much of what I've written about the Iranian leadership. This in turn leads to a few observations

One, of the NIE is accurate, then why has the Iranian leadership, and especially President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, been so bellicose? With Saddam we learned that he was playing a double game; trying to convince his own people, party, and regional threats that he had WMD, while trying to convince us that he didn't. It doesn't seem likely that the Iranians are up to the same thing, but it's possible.

Two, as with Saddam, the Iranian leadership bears ultimate responsibility for our uncertainty. Saddam could have resolved the whole issue of whether he had WMD or not by simply opening up his country for honest inspections. Instead, the history of the mid-to-late 90s with him is one of deception after deception. Ditto with Iran. If they really aren't pursuing weapons then it's their responsibility to open up fully to inspections.

Three, as with others I have to question the accuracy of the NIE, because the Iranian leadership (and yes I know that their president does not hold total power) seems so driven by religious/historical objectives.

Also, under "E" is this

• We assess with moderate confidence that convincing the Iranian leadership to forgo the eventual development of nuclear weapons will be difficult given the linkage many within the leadership probably see between nuclear weapons development and Iran's key national security and foreign policy objectives, and given Iran's considerable effort from at least the late 1980s to 2003 to develop such weapons. In our judgement, only an Iranian political decision to abandon a nuclear weapons objective would plausibly keep Iran from eventually producing nuclear weapons - and such a decisiion is inherently reversible.

In other words, they're probably going to restart their weapons program and talking them out of it will be difficult. Why this one is only of "moderate confidence" is hard to know.

More Observations

If indeed they stopped in 2003, what was the "international pressure" that made them stop? One has to be Operation Iraqi Freedom, in which (yes) many countries besides the U.S. participated. Seems like a vindication of the Iraq war to me.

The left will claim a "victory for diplomacy", yet talk without the credible threat of force to back it up is meaningless. If indeed diplomacy worked, then it did so only because the Iranians knew that if they pushed too far we'd hit them.

The Bush Administration's policy on Iran has been to follow the European's lead, which has been negotiations, sanctions, and the use of international agencies such as the IAEA. Isn't that what the left wants? Or is the mere hint of military action so upsetting to them that it must be completely "off the table"? My own idiot Senator, James Webb, apparently thinks so.

As I said on Monday, if it's accurate, then the new NIE is certainly good news. The 2005 Estimate was to "assess with high confidence that Iran currently is determined to develop nuclear weapons despite its international obligations and international pressure...."

Other Opinion

Mossad and Aman aren't convinced that the NIE has it right. From the New York Times

Israel today took a darker view of Iran’s nuclear ambitions than the assessment released by United States intelligence agencies yesterday, saying it was convinced that Iran was pursuing nuclear weapons.

It said Iran had probably resumed the nuclear weapons program the American report said was stopped in the fall of 2003. “It is apparently true that in 2003 Iran stopped pursuing its military nuclear program for a certain period of time,” Defense Minister Ehud Barak told Israeli Army Radio. “But in our estimation, since then it is apparently continuing with its program to produce a nuclear weapon.”

The Israelis are hardly infallible, but they are to be taken seriously.

The editors of National Review aren't impressed either

First, the NIE says that Iran was indeed operating a covert nuclear-weapons program up to the fall of 2003. Until now, no NIE had held that such a program existed. The acknowledgement that one did is a big piece of news — even if not many people want to talk about it. Yes, the NIE also claims that Iran suspended weapons-related activities in 2003. But the question for policymakers is whether a regime that has, in the past four years, tried to build atomic bombs, should be trusted with civilian technologies that greatly increase its ability to make a bomb whenever it wishes to do so.

And that’s the second thing to remember about this NIE: It relies on an unrealistic distinction between civilian and military nuclear technologies. When it says Iran suspended its weapons program in 2003, what it means is that Iran isn’t currently designing or building warheads, or other components of nuclear weapons. But it concedes that Iran “made significant progress in 2007 installing centrifuges at Natanz.” And while the NIE judges “with moderate confidence” that Iran “still faces significant technical problems” operating the centrifuges, it does not question that the enrichment of uranium continues.

Of course, all this assumes that the NIE is accurate and impartial — and there is reason to doubt that. It’s no secret that careerists at the CIA and State have been less interested in implementing the president’s policies on Iran, Iraq, and North Korea than in sabotaging them at every opportunity. Sources close to the intelligence community question the objectivity of the NIE’s Iran conclusions, and tell us that three principal authors of the report are longtime critics of the administration’s policy who have axes to grind.

We can’t know for sure whether the claims in the NIE are correct. What we do know is this: The Islamic Republic is killing Americans in Iraq and Afghanistan. It has exported terror around the globe. It has powerful strategic reasons to want an atomic bomb: to counterbalance American influence, and to become a hegemon in the Middle East. And it continues to enrich uranium while refusing to allow the kind of intrusive and thorough inspections that would allow us to test its claim that it seeks nothing but electricity. Until that big picture changes, it would be irresponsible for any American policymaker to conclude that the Iranian threat had diminished.

Robert Rubin in the New York Daily News reminds us that

Just last month, IAEA Director Mohamed ElBaradei revealed Iran had a blueprint for a nuclear warhead provided by disgraced Pakistani nuclear scientist A.Q. Khan during a visit to Tehran in the 1990s.

Writing on the Media Blog at NRO Tom Gross has a host of good links and quotes, all from major publications. Here are a few

William J. Broad in The New York Times:

When is a nuclear program a nuclear weapons program? The open secret of the nuclear age is that the line between civilian and military programs is extraordinarily thin...

The Washington Post

While U.S. intelligence agencies have “high confidence” that covert work on a bomb was suspended “for at least several years” after 2003, there is only “moderate confidence” that Tehran has not restarted the military program. Iran’s massive overt investment in uranium enrichment meanwhile proceeds in defiance of binding U.N. resolutions, even though Tehran has no legitimate use for enriched uranium. The U.S. estimate of when Iran might produce enough enriched uranium for a bomb – sometime between late 2009 and the middle of the next decade — hasn’t changed.

Robert Baer (who is a former CIA field officer) in TIME magazine:

… Then there are the Gulf Arabs. For the last year and a half, ever since the Bush Administration started to hint that it might hit Iran, they have been sending emissaries to Tehran to assure the Iranians they’re not going to help the U.S. But in private, the Gulf Arabs have been reminding Washington that Iran is a rabid dog: Don’t even think about kicking it, the Arabs tell us. If you have to do something, shoot it dead. Which is something the U.S. can’t do. So how far is Iran from a nuke? The truth is that Iran is a black hole, and it’s entirely conceivable Iran could build a bomb and we wouldn’t know until they tested it...

The hard reality is that at this point President Bush doesn't have the political capital to "shoot it dead". That's the penalty for taking so long to get Iraq on the right track.


Bret Stephens, writing in the OpinionJournal, pointed out the other day that another NIE failed to anticipate that Nikita Khrushchev might place missiles in Cuba. From the Estimate

"The USSR could derive considerable military advantage from the establishment of Soviet medium- and intermediate-range ballistic missiles in Cuba, or from the establishment of a submarine base there. . . . Either development, however, would be incompatible with Soviet practice to date and with Soviet policy as we presently estimate it."

--Special National Intelligence Estimate 85-3-62, Sept. 19, 1962

Twenty-five days later our U-2 photographed the Soviets building a base for SS-4 missiles in Cuba, and the rest is history.

Posted by Tom at 7:30 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

December 3, 2007

The National Intelligence Estimate on Iranian Nuclear Capabilities

You're going to see a lot of the new National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran in the next few weeks. Here's how it was reported in the New York Times earlier today

A new assessment by American intelligence agencies concludes that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003 and that the program remains frozen, contradicting judgment two years ago that Tehran was working relentlessly toward building a nuclear bomb.

The conclusions of the new assessment are likely to reshape the final year of the Bush administration, which has made halting Iran’s nuclear program a cornerstone of its foreign policy.

The assessment, a National Intelligence Estimate that represents the consensus view of all 16 American spy agencies, states that Tehran is likely keeping its options open with respect to building a weapon, but that intelligence agencies “do not know whether it currently intends to develop nuclear weapons.”

Iran is continuing to produce enriched uranium, a program that the Tehran government has said is designed for civilian purposes. The new estimate says that enrichment program could still provide Iran with enough raw material to produce a nuclear weapon sometime by the middle of next decade, a timetable essentially unchanged from previous estimates.

But the new estimate declares with “high confidence” that a military-run Iranian program intended to transform that raw material into a nuclear weapon has been shut down since 2003, and also says with high confidence that the halt “was directed primarily in response to increasing international scrutiny and pressure.”

The next two paragraphs could have been written by the DNC. Look for them to be used quite a bit in the days to come.

Rather than painting Iran as a rogue, irrational nation determined to join the club of nations with the bomb, the estimate states Iran’s “decisions are guided by a cost-benefit approach rather than a rush to a weapon irrespective of the political, economic and military costs.” The administration called new attention to the threat posed by Iran earlier this year when President Bush had suggested in October that a nuclear-armed Iran could lead to “World War III” and Vice President Dick Cheney promised “serious consequences” if the government in Tehran did not abandon its nuclear program.

Yet at the same time officials were airing these dire warnings about the Iranian threat, analysts at the Central Intelligence Agency were secretly concluding that Iran’s nuclear weapons work halted years ago and that international pressure on the Islamic regime in Tehran was working.

So we can all relax and stop worrying about Iranian nukes, right? All that talk about an "Iranian threat" was just the evil neocons trying to scare us so they could drum up more business for Halliburton, wasn't it? Not so fast, and here's why:

First off, what makes the NIE the word of god? It will be described as holy writ by the left in the days to come, but just partisan politics talking.

Second, the NYT somewhat mischaracterized the NIE, as Tom Maguire points out on his blog (h/t Michelle Malkin), and says that the Washington Post was more accurate when it said that

Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003 in response to international pressure, and while it continues to develop an enriched uranium program, it apparently has not resumed moving toward a nuclear capability, according to a consensus judgment of the U.S. intelligence community released today by Director of National Intelligence John M. McConnell.

The assessment states "with moderate confidence" that "Tehran had not restarted its nuclear weapons program" as of mid-2007, but suggests that Tehran continues to keep that option open.

Third, the fact is that our intelligence agencies have not had a good record at figuring out the capabilities of other countries when it comes to weapons of mass destruction. Most of the time our enemies have developed weapons well before we thought they would.

The Soviet Union exploded their first atomic bomb in 1949, years before we thought they would. We based our estimate not knowing that we had been betrayed by spies. The first Chinese detonation was in 1964, again catching us by surprise. Ditto with the Indian bomb in 1974 and that of Pakistan in 1998.

We didn't think that Iraq was very far along in it's bomb program in the 1980s, which turned out to be wrong. After the Gulf War, the IAEA, with Hans Blix as it's director, went into Iraq and found out that their program was much more advanced than we had suspected. As Blix himself said "It's correct to say that the IAEA was fooled by the Iraqis".

On the other hand, we were obviously wrong in 2003. As it turned out, Saddam did not have the WMD that we thought he did. Whatever happened to it (unaccounted for to this day) it was not at the ready.

Further, the Manhattan Project itself was based on the Roosevelt's belief that Nazi Germany had an atomic bomb program. As it turned out, Germany had a small research program that never came anywhere close to developing weapons.

Let's not forget the "missile gap", which was used by then Senator John F Kennedy during the presidential race of 1960, in which he ran agains Vice President Richard M Nixon. The whole story is a bit complicated, but suffice it to say that several NIE reports in the late 1950s had it that the Soviet Union was or would over take us in Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs). Further, the USAF thought that the Soviets had more ICBMs than we did, but that the CIA said otherwise. Sen Kennedy seized on the NIE and USAF estimates and used them to attack the Eisenhower Administration, of which Nixon was of course a part, as being "weak on defense". Adding fuel to the fire was Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, who had a habit of saying that his country was turning out nuclear-armed missiles "like sausages". As it turned out, the "missile gap" was as illusory as the "bomber gap" of a few years earlier, something President Kennedy learned after taking office.

The point, if I have to spell it out, is that sometimes we get it right and sometimes we get it wrong. It's hard to know at the time, but it all seems so obvious in retrospect.

I am not saying that the new NIE is necessarily wrong. It might be right. But it's not holy scripture.

Other Opinion

It would certainly be good news if it turns out that the NIE is correct. I'd be happy if Iran was truely not pursuing nuclear weapons. If they are, then at some point we'll have to attack them. While an attack will stop or at least set back Iran, it will also lead to all sorts of negative consequences, not the least of which might be riots or demonstrations by Shiites in Iraq.

But how do we know that the NIE is right? Thomas Joscelyn, writing in The Weekly Standard, has five questions of the NIE that need to be answered before we can be assured of its accuracy.

Victor Davis Hanson points out that contrary to what at first glance seems to be a Democrat advantage, it actually puts them in something of a pickle

Are they now to suggest that Republicans have been warmongering over a nonexistent threat for partisan purposes? But to advance that belief is also to concede that, Iran, like Libya, likely came to a conjecture around (say early spring 2003?) that it was not wise for regimes to conceal WMD programs, given the unpredictable, but lethal American military reaction.

I hadn't thought of that when I first saw the NIE, but he's right; if in fact Iran stopped work on their bomb in 2003, it's really too much to believe that it's coincidence that OIF started at the same time.

In the same vein, Richard Fernandez of The Belmont Club also has a few questions, among them is "Why was Iran not provoked into further and more frantic efforts to develop nuclear weapons by the invasion of Iraq?" Maybe because the invasion had the effect the evil neocons said it would have? Maybe. Whatever caused them to shut off their program (again, if they did), "no new sanctions were imposed on Iran between 2000 and 2005" so it couldn't have been that.

And as to leftists who claim that the whole Iranian threat was "overblown" and that nothing needed to be done, " that is a perverted argument which reverses the order of things. The reason the Iranian bomb program was prevented or slowed was because it was taken seriously and the necessary counter-pressures were implemented." As always when it comes to Fernandez, read the whole thing.

Writing at The Corner, Cliff May thinks that it's all political: "The purpose of this NIE is to prevent Bush from using military force during the remainder of his term to destroy Iran's nuclear weapons program." Maybe. It's been known that the CIA in particular is full of people who don't like GWB.

Either way, there will be a lot more about this NIE in the days to come.

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

December 2, 2007

Newt Nails It

Many of us on the right are increasingly dissatisfied with the Bush Administration's handling of the "war on terror". Most of us aren't even really happy with that term, and those of us who accept it tend to do so only because either they don't think it can be changed or because none of the other choices seem better.

The president started out strong after 9-11, and it seemed that there was a new sheriff in town. The rest of the world saw that after those attacks on our homeland we did not hesitate in quickly going to Afghanistan and routing the Taliban and al Qaeda there. A little over a year later we removed another cancer in the region by quickly smashing the Iraqi army and rolling into Baghdad.

The outlaw regimes of the world trembled and the rest of the world looked on in awe.

This is the type of respect that I want for our country. When Democrats, reporters, news anchors ask "how can the U.S. regain the respect of the rest of the world" they are looking for a politically correct answer along the lines of "pull out of Iraq, apologize for invading, and only do what the UN allows us to do". But that's appeasement, not respect (As a side note, why is it that no one thinks to ask "what can the rest of the world do to gain our respect?")

When Iraq turned out to be more difficult than anticiplated we stumbled, and in the years that followed slowly lost our way. I've detailed all this in numerous posts on this blog, but no one does it better than Newt Gingrich.

Gingrich is simply one of the most brilliant speakers there is. I heard him last year at CPAC

In an article posted the other day at Family Security Matters, he takes us through the genesis of our problem and how to fix it. Following are the most important excerpts, but I encourage you to read the whole thing

Our current problem is tragic. You have an administration whose policy is inadequate being opposed by a political Left whose policy is worse, and you have nobody prepared to talk about the policy we need. Because we are told if you are for a strong America, you should back the Bush policy even if it's inadequate, and so you end up making an argument in favor of something that can't work. So your choice is to defend something which isn't working or to oppose it by being for an even weaker policy. So this is a catastrophe for this country and a catastrophe for freedom around the world. Because we have refused to be honest about the scale of the problem. ...

What's the primary source of money for al Qaeda? It's you, re-circulated through Saudi Arabia. Because we have no national energy strategy, when clearly if you really cared about liberating the United States from the Middle East and if you really cared about the survival of Israel, one of your highest goals would be to move to a hydrogen economy and to eliminate petroleum as a primary source of energy.

So then you look at Saudi Arabia. The fact that we tolerate a country saying no Christian and no Jew can go to Mecca, and we start with the presumption that that's true while they attack Israel for being a religious state is a sign of our timidity, our confusion, our cowardice that is stunning.

So we accept this totally one-sided definition of the world in which our enemies can cheerfully lie on television every day, and we don't even have the nerve to insist on the truth. We pretend their lies are reasonable. This is a very fundamental problem. And if you look at who some of the largest owners of some of our largest banks are today, they're Saudis.

So we accept this totally one-sided definition of the world in which our enemies can cheerfully lie on television every day, and we don't even have the nerve to insist on the truth. We pretend their lies are reasonable. This is a very fundamental problem. And if you look at who some of the largest owners of some of our largest banks are today, they're Saudis.

We have created our own nightmare because we refuse to tell the truth. We refuse to tell the truth to our politicians. Our State Department refuses to tell the truth to the country. If the president of the United States, and again, we're now so bitterly partisan, we're so committed to red vs. blue hostility, that George W. Bush doesn't have the capacity to give an address from the Oval Office that has any meaning for half the country. And the anti-war Left is so strong in the Democratic primary that I think it's almost impossible for any Democratic presidential candidate to tell the truth about the situation.

And so the Republicans are isolated and trying to defend incompetence. The Democrats are isolated and trying to find a way to say, "I'm really for strength as long as I can have peace, but I'd really like to have peace, except I don't want to recognize these people who aren't very peaceful.

None of our enemies are confused. Our enemies don't get up each morning and go, "Oh, gosh, I think I'll have an existential crisis of identity in which I will try to think through whether or not we can be friends while you're killing me." Our enemies get up every morning and say, "We hate the West. We hate freedom." They would not allow a meeting with women in the room.

Now what do we need?

We need first of all to recognize this is a real war. Our enemies are peaceful when they're weak, are ruthless when they're strong, demand mercy when they're losing, show no mercy when they're winning. They understand exactly what this is, and anybody who reads Sun Tzu will understand exactly what we're living through. This is a total war. One side is going to win. One side is going to lose. You'll be able to tell who won and who lost by who's still standing. Most of Islam is not in this war, but most of Islam isn't going to stop this war. They're just going to sit to one side and tell you how sorry they are that this happened. We had better design grand strategies that are radically bigger and radically tougher and radically more honest than anything currently going on, and that includes winning the argument in Europe, and it includes winning the argument in the rest of the world. And it includes being very clear, and I'll just give you one simple example because we're now muscle-bound by our own inability to talk honestly.

Iran produces 60% of its own gasoline. It produces lots of crude oil but only has one refinery. It imports 40% of its gasoline. The entire 60% is produced at one huge refinery.

n the 28 years since the Iranians declared war on us, in the six years since 9/11, in the months since Gen. Petraeus publicly said they are killing young Americans, we have not been able to figure out how to take down one refinery. Covertly, quietly, without overt war. And we have not been able to figure out how to use the most powerful navy in the world to simply stop the tankers and say, "Look, you want to kill young Americans, you're going to walk to the battlefield, but you're not going to ride in the car because you're not going to have any gasoline."

We had better take this seriously because we are not very many mistakes away from a second Holocaust. Three nuclear weapons is a second Holocaust. Our enemies would like to get those weapons as soon as they can, and they promise to use them as soon as they can.

I suggest we defeat our enemies and create a different situation long before they have that power.

I don't think we're quite at the point where we need to take out that single Iranian refinery, or blockade their shipping, but we're getting close.

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

December 1, 2007

The New Wonders of the Age

The desire of certain Western intellectuals to justify something that goes on in third-world countries, which to ordinary people seems barbaric, is nothing short of amazing. It's a sort of celebration of the "other", a romanticization of Rousseau's "noble savage". Put another way, it's moral relativism at it's worst.

Normal people, when informed about the African/Muslim practice of "female circumcision", or genital cutting, are horrified. But then you wouldn't be a member of the American Anthropological Association (AAA).

This very morning, at their annual meeting, they discussed whether this practice was .... I kid you not.

John Tierney in an editorial yesterday in the New York Times (h/t Lisa Schiffren at NRO) explains

Should African women be allowed to engage in the practice sometimes called female circumcision? Are critics of this practice, who call it female genital mutilation, justified in trying to outlaw it, or are they guilty of ignorance and cultural imperialism?

Those questions will be debated Saturday morning in Washington at the American Anthropological Association’s annual meeting. Representatives of international groups opposed to this procedure will be debating anthropologists with somewhat different views, including African anthropologists who have undergone the procedure themselves.

Unbelievable that this is going to even be debated. If there's still any doubt in your mind that the AAA is infected with the worst sort of cultural relativism, Tierney puts it to rest in a discussion of " critique of the global campaign against female genital mutilation, written by another participant in Saturday’s discussion, Richard Shweder of the University of Chicago."

Dr. Shweder says that many Westerners trying to impose a “zero tolerance” policy don’t realize that these initiation rites are generally controlled not by men but by women who believe it is a cosmetic procedure with aesthetic benefits. He criticizes Americans and Europeans for outlawing it at the same they endorse their own forms of genital modification, like the circumcision of boys or the cosmetic surgery for women called “vaginal rejuvenation.” After surveying studies of female circumcision and comparing the data with the rhetoric about its harmfulness, Dr. Shweder concludes that “‘First World’ feminist issues and political correctness and activism have triumphed over the critical assessment of evidence.”

I rather think Dr Shweder has the political correctness part backward.

To be sure that Tierney's description was right, I downloaded the good doctor's essay, and sure enough, right there on page 5 I found this

In this essay I suggest that in at least one very intimate cultural and family life domain the rules of the game have been imposed by the rich nations of the world in such a way that they invite moral critique. The critique is invited because activist organizations and governments in the rich nations of the world have tried to universalize their own cultural preferences and tastes with little regard for truth in advertising, and with considerable contempt for the democratic voice of majority populations in the particular poor countries most directly affected by the forceful expansion and willful imposition of American and European cultural perspectives. I am going to suggest that these “First World” governments and activist organizations (who, ironically, often frame their campaigns in a discourse of human rights) have actually acted in violation of several human rights, including rights to self-determination and rights to family privacy, among others, which they themselves often invoke in defense of their own cultural preferences and practices.

So opposing female genital mutiliation is rich countries imposing their morals on poor nations. This is bad because Dr Shweder maintains that a majority of the women in these countries support the practice, therefore it is ok.

Lisa Schiffren makes the obvious retort that "when the British forbade sutee, the locals, some women included, wanted to keep burning those widows." Did that then, make the burning of widows ok? According to Dr Shweder, apparently so.

All of this reminds me of nothing so much as the words of Malcolm Muggeridge, as he observed Western liberals as they traveled about the Soviet Union in the 1930s

They are unquestionably one of the wonders of the age, and I shall treasure...the spectacle of the travelling with radiant optimism through a famished countryside, wandering in happy bands about squalid, over-crowded towns, listening with unshakable faith to the fatuous patterr of carefully trained and indoctrinated guides, repeating like school-children a multiplication table, the bogus statistics and mindless slogans endlessly intoned to them.

There were...earnest clergymen who walked reverently through anti-God museums and reverently turned the pages of athiestic literature, earnest pacifists who watched delightenly tanks rattle across the Red Square and bombing planes darken the sky.... The almost unbelievable credulity of these mostly university-educated tourists astonished even Soviet officials used to handling foreign visitors....

From Muggeridge, "Chronicles of Wasted Time", as quoted in Paul Hollander's "Political Pilgrims"

Just as Western intellectuals then justified Stalin's Russia, Mao's China, and Castro's Cuba, today they justify female genital mutilation. They'll justify anything as long as the participants are anti-Western and they don't have to partake themselves.

If the American Anthropological Association had really wanted to learn something, they would have invited Ayaan Hirsi Ali to their little conference. It'll never happen, but I can dream.


More on the Western moral confusion front from Mark Steyn:

Just to reassure Jonah, my head did not explode at the BBC's description of the Sudanese mob as "good-natured". In fact, I didn't even roll my eyes or give a mild tsk. Such is the way of the world. Thousands of Sudanese men calling for the execution of a middle-aged schoolma'am over a teddy bear are "good-natured", while Martin Amis is a "racist" and I'm a "flagrantly Islamophobic" hatemonger.

Even so, it's impressive to see the speed with which poor Mrs Gibbons has been consigned to the same camp. As Tammy Bruce reports:

When asked by FOX News for a comment about the situation, a National Organization for Women spokeswoman said they were "not putting out a statement or taking a position."

Fortunately, other members of the sisterhood are. From The View:

WHOOPI GOLDBERG: You’d think if you’re going overseas, I mean, we had this discussion yesterday about people coming to America and learning the customs and knowing what is cool, and what isn’t cool. But I find that maybe we are not- and I say we just as European and American, we’re not as anxious to learn the customs before we go places. It’s just one of the reasons we’re called the ugly Americans.
What's so "ugly" about a British schoolteacher taking a job teaching Muslim schoolchildren in Khartoum? Never mind, the victim must have been asking for it. And, given that the prohibition against Mohammedan teddy bears was concocted out of whole cloth, even the most abjectly "sensitive" are bound to fall afoul of something or other. As The Belmont Club puts it:
The incitement here is not entirely on the Sudanese side. The supine behavior of the West, abject surrender to every demand, its willingness to shame and degrade itself without limit, is in large part responsible for the provocations now directed toward it.

Which is why there'll be more. In hostage negotiations, tough-talking governments say they won't make "concessions to terrorists". They mean prisoner releases and cash handovers. Yet we make equally critical psychological concessions with nary a thought.

Posted by Tom at 10:30 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack