April 26, 2008
Iraq Briefing - 23 April 2008 - Meet the New Commander of MNC-Iraq
This briefing is by the new commander of Multi-National Corps - Iraq, Lt. Gen. Lloyd Austin III. Austin replaced Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno in February 2008, who at the time had been appointed Vice-Chief of Staff of the Army. This Wednesday Odierno was appointed commander of Multi-National Corps - Iraq, the position now held by Gen. David Petraeus. Petraeus, in turn, has been appointed the next commander of CENTCOM. Both of these changes require Senate confirmation and so even if approved they will not take their new jobs until later this summer.
As the second-highest commander in Iraq, Austin reports directly to Gen. Petraeus. Petraeus reports to the commander of CENTCOM, who was Admiral Fallon until last month. Until Petraeus is confirmed, Lt. Gen. Martin Dempsey is acting commander of CENTCOM. Dempsey reports to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.
This is Lt. Gen. Austin's first press briefing as commander of MNC-Iraq.
This video and others can be viewed at DODvClips. For some reason the transcript is not on the Defenselink site. I am trying to get one from Federal News Service, and if I do will post it or excerpts here.
Until then, please watch the video in its entirely. These briefings are good sources of information about what is happening in Iraq(which are also at The Pentagon Channel). The should be used to complement what we get from mainstream media and independent journalist-bloggers. Each source counter-checks and counter-balances the other.
April 23, 2008
Petraeus to CENTCOM, Odierno to MNF-Iraq
Today we have excellent news coming from the Pentagon. From CNN
Army Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, has been chosen to become chief of U.S. Central Command, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Wednesday
Petraeus would replace Adm. William Fallon, who said last month that he was resigning. Fallon said widespread, but false, reports that he was at odds with the Bush administration over Iran had made his job impossible.
In addition, Gates said, Army Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno, commander of the Multinational Corps-Iraq -- the No. 2 position in Iraq -- is being nominated to fill Petraeus' post. Odierno has been home from Iraq for only a couple of months but has agreed to return, Gates said.
The plan is for Petraeus to leave Iraq in late summer or early fall, Gates said, to ensure a smooth transition and plenty of time for Odierno to prepare.
Lt. Gen Odierno was slated to become the next Vice-Chief of Staff, but that is obviously now off.
Anyone who has followed the war in Iraq knows that these two men were the architects of our success in 2007. Along with a few others like Frederick Kagan and Jack Keane, they designed and implemented what is popularly known as the "surge".
Everyone is familiar with Gen. Petraeus. Odierno less so. Here's the short version for the uninitiated; Odierno was to Petraeus what Patton was to Eisenhower. Odierno is, in fact, known as the "Patton of Counterinsurgency".
I've blogged quite a bit about Petraeus and Odierno, and have covered most of their press briefings and/or appearances before Congress. Go to the sidebar under "Categories" and choose "Iraq" and "Iraq II 2007 - 2008".
Both commanders will have their work cut out for them. Adm. Fallon failed at CENTCOM in what was arguably his most important task; stopping Iranian interference in Iraq. His successor, Gen Abizaid, failed in this as well (Contrary to what the leftist blogosphere said, no Fallon was not the lone sane guy preventing the Bush Administration from bombing Iran). Petraeus succeeded in Iraq where his predecessors Sanchez and Casey failed, so he certainly has experience in saving losing situations.
As for Odierno, he is well suited to taking over command of MNF-Iraq. As he said during a press conference (I forget which, so sorry no link), he "got the memo" regarding the need to adopt true counterinsurgency warfare. He did a masterful job as commander of Multi-National Corps-Iraq, coordinating action between the divisional commanders, setting policy, implementing the "surge", and allocating resources.
I will have much more to say about this in the months to come. Both will have to be confirmed by Congress, and so will appear in testimony.
Richard Fernandez ("Wretchard") had this to say
Gen Petraeus has been nominated to head CENTCOM, according to the Washington Post. And Gen Odierno, his deputy, will take over command of ground forces in Iraq. I think this news will be received with great alarm and trepidation in Teheran.
As I've written in the past, I don't think an invasion or bombing campaign of Iran is in the works. What I think will happen (and it's just my own opinion) is that Petraeus plans take a hammer to all the places where Iran has poked its finger; turn its own allies against it with a combination of targeted force and politics.
More important than his battlefield successes in Iraq may be the implied victory in Pentagon politics that his nomination to CENTCOM chief suggests. It's important to remember that before the Surge, Petraeus' ideas were on the margin. Now they are in the mainstream.
Now it's the Democrats who need to "get the memo" about what's now mainstream.
There's also a great roundup of opinion over at Small Wars Journal. Read the whole thing, but here are two quotes:
Max Boot: Odierno spent the year from early 2007 to early 2008 working closely with Petraeus to supervise the implementation of the surge. They were by far the most successful team of commanders we have had in Iraq-potentially the Grant/Sherman or Eisenhower/Patton of this long conflict.
William Kristol: The allegedly lame duck Bush administration has--if this report is correct--hit a home run. CENTCOM is the central theater of the war on terror, and the president is putting our best commander in charge of it. What Odierno achieved as day-to-day commander in Iraq was amazing.
The Wall Street Journal approves
This means that both men will be able to build on the Iraq success of the last year, without losing time as new commanders learn the ropes. It also means that General Petraeus won't face a superior at Centcom agitating that he withdraw troops before Iraqis are ready to handle their own security. That was the case with former Centcom chief, Admiral William Fallon, who recently resigned with a well-deserved White House push. As a theater commander with a direct line to the Defense Secretary and President, General Petraeus also won't have to answer to service chiefs jealous of his success and resources....
If confirmed by the Senate, the pair will lead their commands into 2009 and the next Presidency. This means the next President will get the candid advice of Generals who will not want to jeopardize hard-won progress with a too-hasty withdrawal. As patriots, they will of course follow civilian orders. But knowing first-hand the sacrifice of their soldiers, they well appreciate the consequences for Army morale if the U.S. fails in Iraq. Who knows: Barack Obama might even listen if General Petraeus explains why retreat in Iraq would make victory in Afghanistan harder, not easier.
"I applaud Secretary Gates' recommendation to nominate General David Petraeus to become the next Commander of U.S. Central Command, and General Raymond Odierno to become the Commander of Multi-National Forces - Iraq. There is no doubt in my mind that General Petraeus and General Odierno are the absolute best men to take on these two critically important assignments.
"General Petraeus has won the admiration and respect of the entire country over the past fifteen months. As commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, he has overseen one of the most dramatic turnarounds in American military history, quite literally seizing victory out of the jaws of defeat in Iraq. There is no one better qualified or more capable to lead America's brave men and women in uniform in the Middle East, which remains one of the most strategically vital regions of the world for America's national security.
"I also strongly support the nomination of General Odierno. As commander of Multi-National Corps Iraq, General Odierno brilliantly adapted General Petraeus' overarching counterinsurgency strategy into operational art. As much as anyone else, he deserves credit for the extraordinary transformation in security conditions in Iraq over the past year.
"In addition, General Odierno's willingness to accept another tour in Iraq -- having only just returned to his family in the United States after fifteen months there -- is a testament to his extraordinary patriotism and inspiring dedication to duty. There is no one better qualified to succeed General Petraeus in Baghdad than General Odierno.
And here's Reid
The next CENTCOM commander and field commander in Iraq will have to help the next President with a number of critically important challenges: making America more secure, restoring America's power and influence in the world, fixing our costly strategy in Iraq, and articulating a more effective strategy for winning in Afghanistan and defeating Al Qaeda in Pakistan....Our ground forces' readiness and the battles in Afghanistan and against al Qaeda in Pakistan have suffered as a result of the current costly Iraq strategy. These challenges will require fresh, independent and creative thinking and, if directed to by a new President, a commitment to implementing major changes in strategy...The Senate will carefully examine these nominations and I will be looking for credible assurances of a strong commitment to implementing a more effective national security strategy.
As Michael Goldfarb points out, the statement is so political that Reid can't manage "a word of thanks or praise for the remarkable job Petraeus has done in Iraq."
When Army Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno began his second tour of duty in Iraq late in 2006 as the war's No. 2 commander, he was handed a battle plan that he and his staff quickly determined was out of touch with reality -- a set of precise timetables for handing over whole provinces to Iraqi security forces, regardless of their readiness.
"This race to victory based on a timeline did not pass the common-sense test," said a top Odierno aide, citing the threat of widespread violence.
So Odierno made a fateful move: He challenged his boss, Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr., to change the strategy. It was an opening salvo in the behind-the-scenes battle over what became known as the "surge."
And Odierno's challenge, though initially spurned, goes a long way toward explaining why he was nominated last week to succeed Army Gen. David H. Petraeus as the overall commander in Iraq.
The tall, intimidating artilleryman with a shaved head and a grave bearing was an early believer in what is now basic U.S. policy in Iraq. And he has proved he will stand up for it under fire.
Odierno's commitment to the new approach is all the stronger because he embraces it with the fervor of a convert. During his first tour in Iraq, in 2003 and 2004, critics charged that his dedication to overwhelming force and firepower was the antithesis of counterinsurgency doctrine.
As a result, although Petraeus has become the face of the war, it is Odierno who more truly mirrors the American military's experience in Iraq.
Read the whole thing
Hurray for Hillary
Yes, I actually wrote "Hurray for Hillary" as the title to this piece. What's more, I meant it.
It's hard to believe that it's come to this, but I am actually rooting for Hillary Clinton to win the Democratic primary. And it's not because I think she's the easier candidate to beat. At one time I thought she'd be the easier one to beat, but now I'm not so sure.
No, the reason I say "Hurray for Hillary" is that if a Democrat does get elected in November, I want it to be her. Or more precisely, I really don't want it to be Barack Obama. As such, I'm happy that she won big in Pennsylvania yesterday.
My opinion on Obama has changed considerably over the past several months.
On August 14th of last year, after he said something I disagreed with I wrote that
I almost hate writing these posts about Obama because I do like the guy. He's the only one of the Democrat candicates that I can imagine having a beer with and discussing politics. Hillary is the ice queen, Edwards is a phony, Dodd is too old, and Kucinich is too nutty. Obama seems like a genuinely nice guy, and sincere in what he says.
On January 8 of this year, after the "Hawkeye Caukeye", I wrote that
Obama is an awfully nice guy, and comes across as genuine, as I think he is. He's the only one of the Democrats that I can imagine having a real conversation with. Too bad he's completely wrong on all of the issues.
All that seems like ancient history now.
I'm sure you've already seen them, but if not here are the results from yesterday's primary in Pennsylvania
Sen Clinton __1,260,208 ___ 55% ___ 81
Sen Obama _ 1,045,444 ___ 45% ___ 69
If you calculate it out, Clinton really got about 54.6% and Obama 45.4%, so technically she didn't quite win by double digits. But everyone rounds these things, and so she can claim a double digit victory, and in a way perceptions count.
However, she still trails in committed delegates 1331 to Obama's 1487, with 2025 needed to win. Although she looks close, in reality their proportional system of awarding delegates means it'll be almost impossible for her to win in a straight-out manner.
As such, what she's no doubt hoping for is to convince the superdelegates that Obama can't win the general, and as such to support her. Given recent events, this is not an implausible scenario. Unlikely, but not implausible. For the superdelegates to give her the nomination would create civil war in the party. A delicious thought for Republicans, but Chairman Howard Dean will move heaven and earth to keep that from happening.
How Did We Get To This Point?
Barack Obama came out of nowhere. One day he's a state senator in Illinois, and the next he's running for U.S. Senate. When his Republican opponent, Jack Ryan, dropped out, leaving the gadfly Alan Keys to run in his place, most of us tuned out. I remember hearing that this Obama fellow gave a good speech but I didn't give him much thought. The next thing, though, I hear he's running for President. "Awfully presumptuous", I think, given his inexperience, but whatever. Lo and behold, the guy takes off like a bat out of hades. He beats Hillary Clinton time and again in the primaries.
But we hardly knew anything about him. As I wrote above, he seemed like a nice guy, if wrong on the issues.
Then the wheels started to come loose; his bizarre pastor Jeremiah Wright, associations with the terrorist William Ayers, we find out he attended at the Million Man March, various utterances of his wife, and finally his own remarks about "bitter" Americans "clinging to their God and guns"
But Obama cannot close the deal with Democrat voters.
The thing is, there's hardly a dime's worth of differences between Obama and Clinton. The issues are that 1) each side had built-up a base of hard-core supporters before the primary even began, and these supporters are not willing to give up. 2) There are grave doubts about Obama based on his past associations and statements. He is charismatically shallow and people are beginning to see this.
The problem with Obama is both that his associations are so questionable and that he thinks it beneath himself to have to defend against these charges. At the last debate, he reacted to questions from George Stephanopoulos and Charlie Gibson with an attitude of "how dare you ask me these questions". You wouldn't know it given the whining from the left, but Stephanopoulos and Gibson are hardly right-wingers. And at least with Stephanopoulos, his questions to Obama on William Ayers were so gentle as to be almost softballs. Yet the left has gone into fits of rage over even this. It's one thing to say that you will be above gutter politics, another to be so arrogant and elitist to think that you don't have to answer questions about your past associations.
If you're against Obama you're against "hope" and "change".
Obama and his defenders claim that Clinton is simply engaged in "negative politics". In other words, they don't like any criticism of their candidate. Obama supporters can dish it out but can't take it. We all know that if McCain had sat in a church for 20 years listening to a racial hate-monger, or had known an abortion-clinic bomber, he'd be booted out of the Senate, let alone the presidential race.
Obama thinks that he can simply slough off talk about his associations and comments and only discuss the issues he wants to discuss. But to voters, and not just Republican ones, character matters. People don't like what they see in Obama. They're increasingly uncomfortable with him. There's a sneaking suspicion that "he's not who we thought he was". Worse, if you're a Democrat, you can hardly switch to Hillary if character is your main issue. They're caught in a bind.
Obama says that he doesn't take money from "lobbyists". But that's almost false advertising. It's been illegal for 100 years to take money directly from oil companies. Also, his definition of "lobbyist" is pretty narrow. Will he take money and support from civil rights and environmental groups? Why don't they count as "lobbyists"? The ACLU and GreenPeace don't represent anyone but their own members.
In the wake of all this new criticism, he's off his game. His concession speech last night sounded bitter to some. He flubs answers in press conferences and debates. It seems that he's only comfortable when he's on top, but can't handle stress or dissension. He only looks good in staged appearances where he's got a teleprompter and thousands of adoring fans.
If he's flustered so easily by a campaign, how can he possibly handle the the everyday events that come with the presidency, let alone a world crisis?
He also abandoned his "new style" politics. He lies about McCain's "100 years in Iraq". He said to The Washington Post today that he was going to bring up the old Clinton Scandals. The magic, it seems, is gone.
Obama doesn't realize that the problem is with Hillary Clinton, or with bitter middle Americans clinging to their Bibles and guns. The problem is that people are not comfortable with him. There are questions about his associations and positions, and worse he doesn't appear to want to address them.
As for McCain, he's following the old aphorism of "when your opponents are in the process of destroying themselves, get out of the way". I say, let them continue to destroy themselves.
April 21, 2008
Straight Talk from McCain on Islamic Terror
Senator John McCain must be doing the right thing, because he's under attack from all the right groups:
A coalition of American Muslim groups is demanding that Sen. John McCain stop using the adjective "Islamic" to describe terrorists and extremist enemies of the United States.
Muneer Fareed, who heads the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), told The Washington Times that his group is beginning a campaign to persuade Mr. McCain to rephrase his descriptions of the enemy.
"We've tried to contact his office, contact his spokesperson to have them rethink word usage that is more acceptable to the Muslim community," Mr. Fareed said. "If it's not our intent to paint everyone with the same brush, then certainly we should think seriously about just characterizing them as criminals, because that is what they are."
However, the Senator is not backing down
An aide to Mr. McCain, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee who is counting on his pro-Iraq war stance to attract conservative voters, said the senator from Arizona will not drop the word.
Steve Schmidt, a former Bush White House aide who is now a McCain media strategist, told The (Washington) Times that the use of the word is appropriate and that the candidate will continue to define the enemy that way.
"Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda represent a perverted strain of Islam at odds with the great many peaceful Muslims who practice their great faith peacefully," Mr. Schmidt said. "But the reality is, the hateful ideology which underpins bin Ladenism is properly described as radical Islamic extremism. Senator McCain refers to it that way because that is what it is."
As of this writing there's nothing on his campaign website about the issue, but in the "National Security" section of his issues page there are three he uses the term; "Islamist extremism" once and "violent Islamic extremists" twice.
Good for McCain. I would actually prefer that he use the term "jihad", as this is what our enemies use, I'll take what I can get. This is a lot better than virtually any Democrat, none of whom to my knowledge even use "Islam" or "Islamic" in their descriptions.
Senator Barack Obama doesn't even have list "national security" or "terrorism" (or related) in the pull-down issues menu on his website. The closest we get is "foreign policy" and "homeland security". However, there is absolutely nothing about terrorism, let alone Islamic extremism, in either of those two sections.
Senator Hillary Clinton isn't any better. We find nothing about terrorism or national security on the pull down website either. If you dig you will eventually find a window with the headline "Hillary's Plans", and if you click on "Security and Opportunity: Hillary's Foreign Policy Vision" it takes you to the website of the Council on Foreign Relations, and from there to an article on terrorism that she wrote that appeared in their Nov/Dec 2007 print edition. If the word "Islam" appears in it I couldn't find it.
For a pair that claims to want to fight the "real" war against al Qaeda in Afghanistan, they've got precious little to say about it. Maybe that's because they know their followers really couldn't care less.
The Islamic Society of Northern America
The The Islamic Society of Northern America seems to be an umbrella group who's membership consists of at least 8 groups as listed on their website:
* The Muslim Students Association of the US & Canada (MSA) * North American Islamic Trust (NAIT) * Islamic Medical Association of North America (IMANA) * Association of Muslim Scientists & Engineers (AMSE) * Canadian Islamic Trust Fund (CITF) * Muslim Youth of North America (MYNA) * Council of Islamic Schools of North America (CISNA) * Islamic Media Foundation (IMF)
Their mission statement and strategic goals:
ISNA is an association of Muslim organizations and individuals that provides a common platform for presenting Islam, supporting Muslim communities, developing educational, social and outreach programs and fostering good relations with other religious communities, and civic and service organizations.
* Imam Training and Leadership Development
* Involvement of Youth
* Sound Financial Base
* Public Image
* Interfaith and Coalition Building
* Community Development
I don't have time to check out the websites of each group listed above, but the ISNA site is pretty bland. However, David Horowitz' DiscoverTheNetworks has this to say about them:
Established in 1981 by the by the Saudi-funded Muslim Students' Association of the U.S. and Canada (MSA), the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) calls itself the largest Muslim organization on the continent. ISNA was created by MSA with the help of one of Palestinian Islamic Jihad's founding students, Sami Al-Arian.
Today ISNA's annual conventions draw more attendees -- usually over 30,000 -- than any other Muslim gathering in the Western Hemisphere. ISNA's mission is to function as "an association of Muslim organizations and individuals that provides a common platform for presenting Islam, supporting Muslim communities, developing educational, social and outreach programs and fostering good relations with other religious communities, and civic and service organizations."
ISNA focuses heavily on providing Wahhabi theological indoctrination materials to a large percentage of the mosques in North America. Many of these mosques were recently built with Saudi money and are required, by their Saudi benefactors, to strictly follow the dictates of Wahhabi imams -- an edict that affects the tone and content of the sermons given in the mosques, the selection of books and periodicals that may be read in mosque libraries or sold in mosque bookshops, and the policies governing the exclusion or suppression of dissenters from the congregations.
Now it becomes clear. The ISNA is part of the Wahhabist lobby described by Dr Walid Phares in The War of Ideas.
Stephen Schwartz, director, Islam and Democracy Program at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, had this to say about them in testimony before the Senate Subcommittee on Terrorism, Technology and Homeland Security on June 26, 2003:
The main organizations that have carried out this campaign (of Wahhabi control over mosques) are the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), which originated in the Muslim Students' Association of the U.S. and Canada (MSA), and CAIR....
Both ISNA and CAIR, in particular, maintain open and close relations with the Saudi government -- a unique situation, in that no other foreign government directly uses religion as a cover for its political activities in the U.S. For example, notwithstanding support by the American Jewish community for the state of Israel, the government of Israel does not intervene in synagogue life or the activities of rabbinical or related religious bodies in America.
How big is the problem of Saudi/Wahhabist influence in U.S. mosques? Schwartz says that
At the present time, Shia and other non-Wahhabi Muslim community leaders estimate that 80 percent of American mosques are under Wahhabi control. This does not mean 80 percent of American Muslims support Wahhabism...
So the Islamic Society of North America has no business telling anyone what to call anything, because they're part of the problem. To be sure, they're not a terrorist group. But they are spreading the hateful ideology of Wahabbism, which is one of three parts of the Islamic jihad that is trying to destroy the West.
That John McCain "gets it" means that he gets my vote this time around.
April 19, 2008
Book Review - The Last Days of Europe
With the enormous influence of Mark Steyn on the right, I suppose it's inevitable that any other books about Europe will be compared to his America Alone: The End of the World As we Know It. Steyn's basic thesis, if you're somehow unaware, is that through the power of demographics, Muslims are taking over Europe, and this-is-not-a-good-thing. Far from assimilating into Europe and adopting Western values, Muslim leaders, and most of their flock, want Europe to assimilate to Islamic law and values.
Historian Walter Laqueur lays out his vision in his 2007 bookThe Last Days of Europe: Epitaph for an Old Continent. Although he definitely has some differences with Steyn's apocalyptic vision, Laqueur largely agrees with his thesis that Islam is the future of Europe. .
There's a whole slew of books out with this theme; in addition to the above I've also read Melanie Phillips Londonistan. Also popular is Bruce Bawer's While Europe Slept: How Radical Islam is Destroying the West from Within. I haven't read this last one, but have heard him interviewed on the radio, and he is quite good. Bawer is a prolific editorialist, and his website is worth checking out the the links to his pieces. Lastly, The Force of Reason by the late Oriana Fallaci comes highly recommended by reliable sources, although again this is a book I haven't read.
All of these and other works say the same basic thing; that Europe is on the verge of a historic change, one that if it occurs will not be easily reversible.
There is much immigration to Europe, so much so that it will change the face of the continent forever. Laqueur runs through the demographic statistics that have become so familiar, the bottom line being that in every single European country the population will start to fall precipitously once the "baby boomer" generation passes from the scene. Native Europeans are simply not having enough babies to keep up current population levels, let alone grow. On the other hand, immigrants, especially Muslim ones, have a high birthrate, and their numbers are growing rapidly.
However, not all immigrants are Muslim, and the Muslims are not a monolithic bloc. While it is true that Muslims are resistant to assimilation, it is not clear that this will continue to be the case. So the continent "might be greatly diminished in stature and influence and in deep trouble. But it will not necessarily be predominantly Islamist."
Laqueur doesn't buy the popular notion that the plight of Muslims is because of racism. Other immigrant groups, notably Indians and those of "far eastern" descent, have done much better than Muslims. Further, Muslim girls do noticeably better than Muslim men.
Rather, "young people are told, day in, day out, that they are victims of society and that it is not really their fault." The youth culture of violence, Lacqueur says, has little to do with religion. They may attend Koran schools ("madrassas") regularly, but once out the door show little interest in Islam. He does not, for example, see a religious motive for the Nov 2005 riots in France.
Over the past several decades, Europeans have voted for themselves a vast array of social benefits. Funding these social assistance programs depended on a growing economy and, in the case of retirement benefits, a reasonable ratio of workers to retirees. In recent years economic growth has stagnated, and the number of people receiving benefits exploded. In order to bring in more payees, European governments promoted "temporary worker" programs.
Most of the Muslims immigrants were brought in to fill a need for labor during a time in the 50s and 60s when economies were rapidly growing. But things didn't turn out as expected. While some immigrants did the work that was expected of them, crime in their communities was much higher than among native European neighborhoods, and asocial behavior more commonplace. The problem was worse with second and third generation Muslim immigrants, who also decided that they needed "respect", and decided to get it with aggressive behavior on the streets. Far from adopt European ways and respect existing authority, they wanted to be the new authority, the new masters. All this, while complaining of discrimination, and taking offense at anything that criticized Islam even slightly.
Muslim immigration to Europe was "unplanned and uncontrolled". Initially brought in as "temporary workers", they simply didn't go home and noone made an effort to expel them. Because European economies are not growing as they did in the 1950s and 60s, the rationale for their existence has gone. But they have decided that they like Europe better than the countries of their birth, so see no reason to go home. Couple this with European's guilty attitude towards their colonialist past, and you've got permanent residents. Yet the host populations were never asked if they wanted permanent immigrants, and so never approved the decision.
Some native Europeans are resentful toward the new arrivals. Signs, traditionally in the vernacular, suddenly sprouted up in a multitude of foreign languages, and many of the immigrants showed no inclination to learn the any European language. Government programs, especially in housing, favored immigrants over natives. "Positive discrimination" ("reverse discrimination" or "affirmative action" in the U.S.) in the UK further exacerbated this resentment by natives.
All the while, too many immigrants became dependent on government aid, which not only fosters a culture of dependency, but creates an (attitude) of inferiority. More aid just results the perpetuation of the vicious cycle.
Anyone who dares criticize this massive immigration is typically met with the charge of "racism". Laqueur examines the charge and finds it wanting. Rather than help the newcomers find jobs, immigrants are flooded with offers of government aid, with program after program being made available to them. Indeed social workers have "taught newcomers how to manipulate the social security net." While initially resistant to the idea of taking handouts, they eventually overcame their apprehension to the point where Muslim clerics encourage their flock to take full advantage of government aid. The result is that all too many of the Muslim immigrants have adopted the attitude that they need not work to better themselves because the government will take care of all their needs.
The primary threat to Europe is not terrorism. Rather, the threat is from "Islamist organizations that officially disassociate themselves from al Qaeda-style activities but still believe in jihad, and other forms of violence". They are, Lacquer says, similar to the Nazis and fascists of the 1930s in that their method is "mass violence, (and) dominating the street, rather than in acts of individual violence".
While Russia may be able to create problems now, it's systemic problems are so severe that it poses no long-term threat to anyone. A declining population, high rates of alcoholism and drug use, and an AIDS epidemic will destroy it's potential to retain great-power status.
What does Laqueur see as the future for Europe? Muslims in Europe, he says, are too fractured and diverse be part of any monolithic caliphate. At the same time they show no sign of assimilating or (as a whole) of advancing themselves economically. No Muslim middle or professional classes seem to be emerging. As such, they will likely demand and receive regional autonomy. Sharia law will be introduced, though their be (at least in the short term) exemptions for non-Muslims.
At the same time, he sees Muslim fanaticism as being somewhat overrated. There are "centrifugal trends" in Muslim communities that will prevent monolithic blocs from emerging.
Native Europeans will not, in the end, resist these changes with enough force or in enough numbers from preventing it. Rather, a new form of appeasement will be the order of the day, as they will at all costs wish to avoid the great wars of the early 20th century. "Binational states" will most likely mark the new Europe. Self-censorship will become the order of the day; among native Europeans, at least.
In Laqueur's vision Europe will most likely suffer a slow collapse, rather than a swift, violent one. The decline is probably irreversible, but it will be the death of a thousand cuts, not one cataclysmic one.
Whether Laqueur, Steyn, or any of the others who write about this will be proven to be right is somewhat beside the point. What matters now is that we recognize that Europe has a tremendous problem and hiding behind political correctness will not make it go away. Phillips thinks that we still have a half dozen years or so to get a handle on the problem before the point of no return is reached. Others like Steyn are not even that sanguine. I don't know if Europe is still savable, but do know that it is so important that we have to try. An "America alone" may seem romantic and even attractive to that rugged individualist that fortunately still makes up a great amount of our citizens, but is not really tenable. Saving America will be a lot easier if we have allies, and in order to do that we have to save Europe. And the first step towards solving any problem is recognizing that it exists. As such, I recommend Laqueur's book as a step in that direction.
April 17, 2008
The Pope in America
Photo from Mike's America
Although I am am an evangelical Christian and not a Catholic, I have always found spiritual inspiration in the two popes that I have known in my lifetime. I remember when John Paul II made his first "world tour" in 1979, which included his dramatic first trip to Poland. Dubbed the "Pilgrim Pope", he visited some 117 countries during his papacy, traveling some 725,000 miles, and ministering to millions. Fluent or at least conversant in many languages, he usually required no interpreter.
JPII exhorted the faithful to "Be not afraid!" (Mt 14:27) three times during his sermon when first installed as Pope. While all Christians live (or should live) by that motto that we have nothing to fear as God is on our side, the Poles who were under the thumb of communism knew that it was also especially directed at them. Along with Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, and Helmut Kohl, he helped drive the nail in the coffin of that awful ideology.
JPII's legacy was his travels and ability to inspire millions. His successor, Benedict XVI ("B16"), will no doubt travel widely, but will never have the "rock star" status of the much younger JPII. I think that his legacies will be 1) to heal the church in the wake of the sex-abuse scandals that JPII sadly left untended, and 2) to challenge the rise of radical Islam with an intellectualism that few others can muster. As Joseph Ratzinger, he had been a professor of theology at both the University of Tübingen and the University of Regensburg in Germany. A dummy he's not.
It is not my purpose here to discuss all these things in any more detail than I already have. You can read the news for yourself as all the major outlets are giving the trip much coverage. Fox News has a whole page on the Papal visit, and the others do too I am sure. The Vatican also has a page dedicated to the trip, where they will publish all of his major statements and messages.
Sadly, I am sure there are many, or at least some, protestants who will poo hoo the Pope. You don't have to go far in some churches to hear someone say that they are a "recovering catholic" or some such thing; and have such a declaration met with approval. I recently left a small bible study group when one of the members said that the Catholic church was a "cult". I had tried to make the case that although I didn't agree with the Catholics on enough that I was going to stay protestant, but they would have none of it.
Not that Catholics have never uttered anything derogatory towards protestants. I'm sure a lot gets said behind closed doors that is equal to what I hear sometimes at protestant churches.
The good news is that most all of this is in fact said behind closed doors. The day when it was acceptable for Christians to publicly denegrate each other is thankfully mostly over.
We in the faith community all know that there is some animosity between groups of Christians, which is an unfortunate aspect of all religion.
The bottom line though is that both (or all) sides need to knock it off. I really couldn't care less whether you're a member of church A or B as long as you're a believer. What we need to do is spend our time with the lost, trying to bring them into the fold. As such, we need to be the salt of the earth and light of the world, and bickering amongst ourselves will not further that goal. So if the Pope's visit brings one lost soul to Christ and that person chooses the Catholic church, then I say all the better.
Some believers have a narrow view of what is acceptable doctrine, and others a wider view. I am obviously in the latter group. Obviously doctrine does matter, and there is a certain divergence point where you cease to be a Christian. Where that is reasonable people can debate, but it is there. I just take a wider view.
But even when I find someone or some group "out of bounds", I operate by one simple rule; I never say something in private that I would not say in public. I forgot to ask, but I wonder if the man in my (former) small group who said that the Catholic church is a "cult" would say that in public. Somehow I doubt it.
Occasionally I have have negative things to say about some churches that have veered to the left in their political statements and actions. I criticized the PCUSA when the passed a resolution divesting their investments from Israel (which the reversed after a firestorm of criticism). Criticizing a church over political matters is different than theological quibbling I think, because when they "go political" then they open themselves up to more scrutiny. This goes for conservative as well as liberal churches.
Either way I'm not going to worry much about what others think. I'm not a Catholic and won't become one, but am cheered by the Pope's visit and believe that he will a good defender of the faith and of the West.
April 15, 2008
Iraq Briefing - 14 April 2008 - "From Clear to Hold and Build"
This briefing is by Marine Colonel Pat Malay, commander of Regimental Combat Team 5, and Mr. Robert Carrington, who is the Embedded Provincial Reconstruction Team leader.
They are part of Multinational Force West, and began their current tour in January of this year. MNF-W is headquartered by the U.S. II Marine Expeditionary Force. Their area of operations include the cities of Ar Ramadi and Fallujah. Maj. Gen. John F. Kelly serves as commanding general for II Marine Expeditionary Force.
Maj. Gen. Kelly reports to Lt. Gen. Lloyd Austin, commander of Multi-National Corps - Iraq. Austin, in turn, reports to Gen. Petraeus, commander of Multi-National Forces - Iraq. Petraeus reports to the commander of CENTCOM, who was Admiral Fallon until last month. Until a permanent replacement is found, Lt. Gen. Martin Dempsey is acting commander of CENTCOM. Dempsey reports to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.
Here are what I found to be the most interesting parts of the briefing
Q Sir, it's Kristin Roberts with Reuters. I'm hoping you can give us a little detail about your efforts to incorporate the CLCs or the Sons of Iraq, the local folks there, into the Iraqi security forces or other government jobs, specifically how many want to be transitioned into the ISF and how many have been already.
COL. MALAY: All right. Well, I need to point out to you right off the bat that the Sons of Iraq are common to the Ramadi-Fallujah area. In Al Anbar, we progressed way past that months ago, and we have Iraqi policemen, we have provincial security forces, we have Iraqi highway patrol and the Iraqi army. That constitutes the security forces that we work with out here.
Getting the population involved in it's own defense is a primary goal of counterinsurgency. Because of the difficulties and time involved in getting Iraqi Police (IP) and Iraqi Army (IA) units up and running, one of the things Petraeus did was start a "Concerned Local Citizen" groups throughout Iraq. These were essentially neighborhood watch programs on steroids. A few months ago the Iraqis renamed them Sons of Iraq. The original CLCs grew out of the Anbar Awakening movement.
The idea was to get something for neighborhood defense up and running asap, and then later recruit from the CLCs to build IP or IA units. What Col Malay is saying is that they have gone through the CLC/Sons of Iraq stage and have already turned them into IP or IA units.
Q Hi, Colonel. This is Courtney Kube from NBC News. You spoke about the successes you're having in some of the bigger cities in your area of operations, but I'm wondering if you can talk a little bit about the more rural areas that your Marines have been moving into in recent weeks, specifically down in the southwestern part, near Rutbah. Can you talk about the economic situation there? And then, are you seeing foreign fighters continuing to flow into that area, and weapons? Can you update us on that situation?
COL. MALAY: Certainly, Courtney. You know, we're still very much working the clear, hold, build aspect of the counterinsurgency. We're well past clear in all of the areas, to include Rutbah, and now what we're concentrating on is hold and build. The hold is fulcrumed on how well the Iraqi security forces are able to integrate into the city areas and then extend out into those rural areas that you're talking about.
I wanted to comment quickly about the foreign fighters. Yes, they're still out there and we're still running into them, and we're finding them -- they're hard to find. They're hard to fix in place because they're running from us. But once we find them and we fix them, they're very easy to finish. We've had great success destroying them and a good portion of their network in the wadi systems, in particular around Rutbah.
Q Can you give us any -- sort of quantify the foreign fighters Have the numbers gone up, gone down, since you've been there, or even since the last time you were in the area?
COL. MALAY: Oh, goodness, last time I was here was 2004 and they were coming across literally by the busload, full-up weapon systems, grenades, chest plates, chest rigs, the whole thing. It's completely different now. These guys are few and far in between. When they see us, they run like crazy. They're living in caves in the wadis. And there's very few of them now.
The first goal of counterinsurgency warfare is to secure the population. Only when this is done can political and economic progress take place, as was explained in the a href="http://theredhunter.com/2008/03/book_review_us_army_marine_corps_counterinsurgency_field_manual_324.php">>U.S. Army / Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual (FM 3-24)
The point here is that we have secured the population in Col Malay's AOR (Area of Responsibility), western Al Anbar. The enemy is on the run.
Q Colonel, it's Al Pessin from Voice of America. I was planning to ask something that you partly already answered, where you talked about how much clearing, how much holding, and how much building. It sounds like most of the -- most of your AOR is in the hold and build phase. Can you, again, try to quantify the percentages for clear, hold and build? And as you move more towards this role that you say you're already playing to a large degree, the overwatch role, when does that translate into an ability for that area to function without so many U.S. Marines there?
COL. MALAY: Well, we're already well -- (audio break) -- three months, we've gone from five battalions to three battalions. We've taken a 40 percent cut in our combat power and a 30 percent reduction of personnel in my area of operations. And we're doing quite well with that because we're thickening the Iraqi security forces.... And what we're seeing is tremendous response and positive atmospherics from the locals.
I recently did a patrol in Baghdadi and I asked the people, hey, have you seen any Takfiri -- said, we haven't seen them here in 18 months, and if they ever come back we'll kill them and lay them in the street for you.
So as you can see, we -- we're pulling back. I haven't had Marines out in that area in months and months and months. And it is still very peaceful, very prosperous. And people are very comfortable with the fact that the Iraqi security forces and their governing bodies are giving them what they need to get on with their lives in the 21st century.
Takfir - "rendering (Muslim) opponents infidels", the purpose of which is to purify Islam against those who, in this view, have corrupted it. A (rough) Western synonym might be "inquisition". A Takfiri is someone who has adopted this version of Islam.
Iraqis, at least the Sunnis in al Anbar, have taken to calling the al Qaeda "Takfiris". A sort of term of opprobrium, it shows how AQI (al Qaeda in Iraq) has gone from being seen as allies against the infidel occupiers, to being seen as the lowest of the low. The Sunnis may not like us, but the hate AQI even more.
As such, we have been able to reduce our forces. All of this is very good news. Here's more on the same subject.
Q I have a question. Colonel, you were saying that a couple years ago you had a lot of foreign fighters running around in western Iraq there, western Anbar. Where did they come from? Were they, like, from Syria? Were they coming over the border from Syria, or where were they coming from? And how do you account for the reduction? Has the border been sealed off?
COL. MALAY: This was two years ago? I was in Fallujah. What I understood is a good many of them were coming across the Syrian border. And they came from all over the world. And why are they not here now? Well, quite frankly, I think we've killed a lot of them. I think that the enemy is having a more difficult time recruiting to the numbers that they had in the past. And no, they're not coming across.
As we all know our presence in Iraq attracted every Muslim who wanted to be the reincarnation of Saladin. It is pointless to argue whether this was part of a deliberate U.S. "flypaper" strategy or happened unexpectedly. What matters is that they came, they fought, and they died. And now they've not coming any more. Maybe they've gotten the message that the Democrats haven't; we're winning.
(In his closing) COL. MALAY: And no doubt about it, what I've seen in the last -- since I was here in 2004, it's mind-boggling the changes that have taken place here. I mean, we're past clear, we're past hold, and we're so far into build -- I mean, it's a civil society that we're building here.
For example, before, there was no government. There was no city council, and then we built one. But they couldn't drive around. You had to fly them anywhere before they could start to function. Now they get in their cars and they drive all over the place. They visit the governor at will. Places from al Qaim and Rutbah, they just get in the car, drive down the road, and they're taking care of business. So tremendous change, and if you're looking for a reason, it's because we've got some great servicemen and -women following orders and getting the job done out here.
Here the Col. somewhat contradicts his earlier statement that "what we're concentrating on is hold and build". It's a small matter, though. FM 3-24 makes clear that the nature of an insurgency can vary greatly from one village to the next, so in some areas we may still be more in the "hold" phase than others. In most of the briefings I've watched the commanders say that while AQI is on the run, it could come back if we're not vigilant.
After Somalia it became fashionable, on the right as well as the left, to say that we shouldn't engage in nationbuilding. The situation in Iraq has left us with little choice. We can either cut-and-run, which is what the left wants us to do (whether they like the term or not), or we can stay and make the country work. Staying involves nationbuilding.
As I have said many times, it's pointless to argue about the past. We are where we are. The good news is that if we stick to our current strategy we stand a very good chance of making Iraq work, which would be good for the U.S. and certainly for the Iraqis.
April 14, 2008
Obama and Clinton at the Compassion Forum
Yesterday evening presidential candidates and Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton participated in a "Compassion Forum" at Messiah College in Grantham Pennsylania. Messiah College is a private Christian institution. CNN broadcast the event. Here's what amounts to a mission statement from the website
Now more than ever, Americans motivated by faith are bridging ideological divides to address domestic and international poverty, global AIDS, climate change, genocide in Darfur, and human rights and torture. The Compassion Forum will provide the opportunity for candidates to discuss how their faith and moral convictions bear on their positions on these important issues.
The Compassion Forum will be a unique and unprecedented event. Each candidate will participate in a separate substantive conversation. This will not be a debate. Questions will be posed by co-moderators Jon Meacham, editor of "Newsweek," and Campbell Brown, anchor of CNN's Election Center.
This is not the first time the Democrats have openly discussed religion in such a forum. Last June, Obama, Clinton, and Edwards participated in a "Presidential Forum on Faith, Values and Poverty" that was sponsored by the Sojourners, a very liberal Christian group. I thought that Clinton and Obama did well in that one, but didn't much care for what Edwards had to say.
Let's see how the Democrat candidates did this time.
But first, let's state the obvious:
If Republicans did this the left would scream that they were "pushing their religion" on the country, and that if elected they would declare a theocracy and (somehow) force everyone to be a Christian. Yet in this presidential season the Democrats have participated in not one but two faith-based forums, and I haven't heard boo about it. If you think that these forums are an aberration and that it is only the right that "mixes politics with religion", just do some basic research on churches and associations like the Sojourners, the World Council of Churches, National Council of Churches, Presbyterian Church USA, Episcopalian Church USA, The Unitarian Universalist Association, Christian Peacemaker Teams.... and there are many more.
As I said in my post on the Democrats first forum, I was glad to see that they are not afraid of talking about faith. This is good. What we now have to do is get people to recognize that yes Republicans can and should talk about it too, and no, doing so does not portend the coming of a theocracy.
Both the religious left and religions right think that faith should play a role in public life, and that it should influence what you think about matters of public policy, and thus how you vote. The left is primarily concerned with what they call "social justice", and the right social conservatism (I can't think of an equivalent term so if you have an honest suggestion please leave it in the comments). This is how it should be.
Ok now that I've said that let's move on to the forum. CNN has helpfully posted a transcript.
Read the whole thing, but the parts about abortion are the parts I found the most interesting
MEACHAM: Senator, do you believe personally that life begins at conception?
CLINTON: I believe that the potential for life begins at conception. I am a Methodist, as you know. My church has struggled with this issue. In fact, you can look at the Methodist Book of Discipline and see the contradiction and the challenge of trying to sort that very profound question out.
But for me, it is also not only about a potential life; it is about the other lives involved. And, therefore, I have concluded, after great, you know, concern and searching my own mind and heart over many years, that our task should be in this pluralistic, diverse life of ours in this nation that individuals must be entrusted to make this profound decision, because the alternative would be such an intrusion of government authority that it would be very difficult to sustain in our kind of open society.
And as some of you've heard me discuss before, I think abortion should remain legal, but it needs to be safe and rare.
And I have spent many years now, as a private citizen, as first lady, and now as senator, trying to make it rare, trying to create the conditions where women had other choices.
I have supported adoption, foster care. I helped to create the campaign against teenage pregnancy, which fulfilled our original goal 10 years ago of reducing teenage pregnancies by about a third.
And I am committed to doing that. And I guess I would just add from my own personal experience, I have been in countries that have taken very different views about this profoundly challenging question.
Some of you know, I went to China in 1995 and spoke out against the Chinese government's one child policy, which led to forced abortions and forced sterilization because I believed that we needed to bear witness against what was an intrusive, abusive, dehumanizing effort to dictate how women and men would proceed with respect to the children they wished to have....
On to the other senator
REV. SAMUEL RODRIGUEZ, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL HISPANIC LEADERSHIP CONFERENCE: Senator Obama, the vast majority of Americans believe that abortion is a decision to be made by a woman, her family and her doctors. However, the vast majority of Americans similarly believe that abortion is the taking of a human life.
The terms pro-choice and pro-life, do they encapsulate that reality in our 21st Century setting and can we find common ground?
OBAMA: I absolutely think we can find common ground. And it requires a couple of things. Number one, it requires us to acknowledge that there is a moral dimension to abortion, which I think that all too often those of us who are pro-choice have not talked about or tried to tamp down. I think that's a mistake because I think all of us understand that it is a wrenching choice for anybody to think about.
The second thing, once we acknowledge that, is to recognize that people of good will can exist on both sides. That nobody wishes to be placed in a circumstance where they are even confronted with the choice of abortion. How we determine what's right at that moment, I think, people of good will can differ.
And if we can acknowledge that much, then we can certainly agree on the fact that we should be doing everything we can to avoid unwanted pregnancies that might even lead somebody to consider having an abortion.
And we've actually made progress over the last several years in reducing teen pregnancies, for example. And what I have consistently talked about is to take a comprehensive approach where we focus on abstinence, where we are teaching the sacredness of sexuality to our children.
But we also recognize the importance of good medical care for women, that we're also recognizing the importance of age-appropriate education to reduce risks. I do believe that contraception has to be part of that education process.
And if we do those things, then I think that we can reduce abortions and I think we should make sure that adoption is an option for people out there....
MEACHAM: Senator, do you personally believe that life begins at conception? And if not, when does it begin?
OBAMA: This is something that I have not, I think, come to a firm resolution on. I think it's very hard to know what that means, when life begins. Is it when a cell separates? Is it when the soul stirs? So I don't presume to know the answer to that question. What I know, as I've said before, is that there is something extraordinarily powerful about potential life and that that has a moral weight to it that we take into consideration when we're having these debates.
Both of these Democrats talk in circles and split hairs. Obama's fine words can't hide his radical left voting record on the issue. Clinton is no better. Both claim to want to reduce the incidence of abortion but their records say just the opposite. To them it's all a matter of providing enough condoms and "eduction" and maybe the pesky right-wingers will go away. Their real audience is the abortionist crowd who doesn't want the slightest restriction on their activities. Judging from this forum, they got what they wanted.
Some commentary I was reading today over at The Weekly Standard brought up this exchange
MEACHAM: Senator, we've heard about HIV/AIDS. Many people here are concerned about Darfur and a number of other humanitarian issues. Why do you think it is that a loving God allows innocent people to suffer?
MEACHAM: And we just have 30 seconds.
CLINTON: Yes. You know, that is the subject of generations of commentary and debate. And I don't know. I can't wait to ask him. Because I have...
CLINTON: I have just pondered it endless endlessly.
CLINTON: But I do want to just add that what that means to me is that in the face of suffering, there is no doubt in my mind that God calls us to respond. You know, that's part of what we are expected to do.
For whatever reason it exists, it's very existence is a call to action. Certainly in, you know, our...
There's no need to "ponder" the matter, Senator Clinton. The Bible is very clear on the subject, and it says that there are three reasons why God allows suffering:
1) The original sin of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden as told in Genesis 3
2) Heavenly events about which we know nothing about, as told in Job 1-2
3) Punishment for sin, much of the OT, but the book of Lamentations spells it out best
The catch is that we humans can never know which of the three applies to any given situation. Only a prophet can tell us such things, and there are no living prophets.
April 10, 2008
For Your Own Good
The police in Washington DC want to access to a network of surveillance cameras so as to better fight crime. From yesterday's Washington Times
D.C. officials are giving police access to more than 5,000 closed-circuit TV cameras citywide that monitor traffic, schools and public housing -- a move that will give the District one of the largest surveillance networks in the country.
"The primary benefit of what we're doing is for public health and safety," said Darrell Darnell, director of the city's Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency, who announced the initiative along with Mayor Adrian M. Fenty yesterday.
There are some 5,200 already in place, and they're operated by the public schools or housing authority. What's new here is that if this initiative passes the police will be able to use them.
Not to worry, though, right? Won't they only be used to stop drug deals?
Consider how they're used right now across the pond.
Digital speed cameras which capture drivers smoking or eating at the wheel are being introduced nationwide in a new move to hammer motorists.
Drivers will also face fines, bans and even jail for infringements such as driving without a seatbelt, using a hand-held mobile phone or overtaking across double white lines.
The hi-tech DVD cameras, which have instant playback, will also be used to provide photographic evidence against those eating sandwiches or rolling-up cigarettes at the wheel.
These are now considered serious offences under new guidelines drawn up for prosecutors
This in a country where the street crime and burglary is high and going nowhere but up.
The good news for residents of Washington DC is that council members are at least "wary" of their mayor's plan.
Conservatives like me normally bash groups like the ACLU, but this time they're right in their criticism of such plans. They even have a section of their website on the public video surveillance.
So, will our cameras eventually be used to peer into our car windows to see if we're eating while driving? Maybe and maybe not.
But we do know that in recent years we've seen the obsession with public safety taken to lengths never before thought possible. It was one thing to ban smoking in the workplace, quite another to to outlaw "trans fats" in restaurants. Maybe soon we'll be told that unless we acquiesce to laws against eating while driving, we're ogres who want to see people die needlessly, and if they're injured "we all pay for it".
Liberals are worried about FISA court this and FISA court that, and while I understand their concern I'm far more worried about the nanny-state police who want to put a camera on every telephone pole "for your own good".
April 9, 2008
The Gen Petraeus - Amb Crocker Hearings Day 2
Before we get into today's testimony, did you know that today is Iraq Liberation Day?
On April 9, 2003, this image greeted television viewers worldwide:
Thank you to all American troops who have participated in Operation Iraqi Freedom, from the invasion to today!
As with yesterday, I listened to the testimony today on and off. Today Gen. David Petraeus and Amb. Ryan Crocker testified before the House Armed Services Committee.
Following are my impressions.
As with the Senators yesterday, the Representatives give longwinded introductions. Drew Cline says today's took thirteen minutes and 52 seconds between Chairman Ike Skelton (D-MO) the committee chairman, and Rep. Duncan Hunter, (R-CA) the ranking minority member. Ridiculous. I guess that's better than yesterday's 19 minutes, 57 seconds in the Senate Armed Services Committee, and 22 minutes, 47 seconds in the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, but it still seems like a bit much.
In his opening speech Skelton felt necessary to claim that we started the war on the basis of "false information" (as if WMD was the entire basis of the war, see the actual authorization for details). The supposed purpose for all this is that they're here to find out what's going on in Iraq, but most seem to have their mind made up.
Rep Hunter actually used his intro to tell Petraeus and Crocker what he wanted to find out today. In other words, Hunter laid out his expectations for what information he was looking to obtain. I always knew he was a stand-up guy.
Skelton, like so many others, is myopic when it comes to the war. They see it in the narrowest of terms; a war just against al Qaeda and only in Afghanistan. Frederick Kagan did a good job today of pointing out that the Democrat claim that they want to fight the "real war" against al Qaeda in Afghanistan is a lot of hot air; if they cared so much about the country they could vote for the supplemental defense appropriation that would send much needed money to our troops already there. Development money, not so much more troops, is what that country really needs.
Crocker said that "the era of US funded major infrastructure improvements is over" Congress will want to hear that.
Crocker also said that support from other Arab states "has not been strong" Me: That's because they fear a democracy in Iraq. The left tell us that everyone in the region, including Iran, wants a stable Iraq. Bunk. They may not want violence that spills over into their countries or sends refugees streaming into their countries, but what they really want is a weak Iraq that they can dominate.
Like Petraeus, he stressed the Iranian Quds forces that are causing trouble in Iraq. Wretchard over at The Belmont Club has perhaps the most insightful explanation for all the talk about Iran at the hearings yesterday
If America loses in southern Iraq, Iran will have strangled a nascent rival political power center on its border. But if America wins, then the Ayatollahs will be facing what amounts to a domestic challenge.
That's why I believed that the really big news in the Petraeus/Crocker testimony was their repeated emphasis on Iran. It's no accident. They want to focus the policy attention on Iran. Because the Iran/Southern Iraq phase will be the most important phase in the Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Iraq was always a two-front war, even from the days of the First Fallujah. In those days the US made a strategic decision to leave the south alone and deal with the Sunni insurgency first. Now that has been dealt with and the Syria/AQI front been substantially won. That's what the Petraeus charts are saying. On the clock of World War 2 History the defeat of the Sunni insurgency would correspond to the crossing of the Rhine. VE isn't there yet, but the enemy is in flight. Maybe there's still a Battle of the Bulge ahead for the Sunni insurgency/AQI, but they are essentially beaten, absent a blunder.
In response to a question by Hunter, Petraeus gave the Iraqi Armed Forces a "B minus or B". Some units are very good but some are "new". Says that the Iraqi special ops are very good. Also, that Iraqi deployment to Basra went very well.
Rep John Spratt (D - SC) gave a speech before asking questions. These politicians just can't stop from pontificating. Spratt even had his own cost charts. This is the new Democrat argument against the war, the one that the surge couldn't stop the violence, and that the Iraqis weren't making political progress, having been proven wrong.
Me: So now Freedom has a cost. Hope the Dems remember this. Spratt also complained that Iraq is taking resources from Afghanistan.
Had Spratt read Frederick Kagan on NRO yesterday, he would have learned that compared to past wars, this one's pretty cheap. Larry Kudlow makes similar points. As a percentage of GDP, this war barely registers. It's all that social welfare spending that's killing us.
With a 5 minute rule in the House, you'd think that the Democrats would would want to spend most of the time learning from the General and Ambassador. But that would assume that their purpose was to learn. Most, but not all, Democrats use their time to give speeches, with the question being purfunctory. Most Republicans get right into their questions.
Rep Jim Saxton (R-NJ) asked a real question instead of speechifying
But Rep Solomon Ortiz (D - TX) only speechified more than asked questions. He said that the security gains of the surge were "arguable". He stressed that the military had been stretched by the surge. Me: then authorize more money to expand the size of the force.
Petraeus to Ortiz: The troops "get it" with regard to counterinsurgency doctrine. We have much better equip than when I was a division commander. He also praised the MRAP family of vehicles and thanked Congress for voting the money for them.
Gen Petraeus and Amb Crocker are first-class gentlemen and scholars. They are absolutely unshakable and unperturbable.
Rep John McHugh (R - NY) brought up the British withdrawal from Basra, and how the lessons there may be learned about the dangers of a precipitous withdrawal from all of Iraq. Petraeus somewhat agreed, and also pointed out that this is why he opposes a timetable and wants withdrawal to be conditions based.
The most foolish question I heard was asked by Rep Vic Snyder (D - AR), who said that a commander (I didn't get the name) told him that we need 2,000 more troops in Afghanistan. He asked Petraeus how Congress should respond to that request. Petraeus, looking only barely incredulous at this bizarre question, responded "you're asking the commander in Iraq?" And then said words to the effect that "I only command the troops in Iraq, sir?"
It was clear that Snyder had no idea that the commander of MNF-Iraq doesn't follow the situation in Afghanistan in detail, and can't just order some of his troops to move to there. Sheesh!
Petraeus continued, half asking "I think you're already funding an increase for the Army/Marines?" in what almost looked like an attempt to help Snyder out of his predicament. However, Snyder ignored Petraeus and went on, saying that Afghanistan is not getting the troops they need because of Iraq. Me: oh brother. Snyder showed the "Anaconda Plan" chart (see yesterday's post), and complained that it didn't show social services. Crocker went into social services, and Petraeus "put in a soldier's plug for the PRTs"
Rep Buck McKeon (R - CA) had a fantastic quote from Osama bin Laden and how bin Laden sees the struggle in Iraq as central. I can't find the quote on the Internet, but if you've got the time you can go to McKeon's House webpage and watch the testimony.
McKeon asked Petraeus about troop morale. Petreus said that morale had been going down until sometime in 2007 (I didn't catch the exact date) when it started going up. Today morale is good overall, and the reason is because the troops can see tangible results and that believe that we are making progress. He also pointed out that reenlistment rates among troops in-theater was way up.
Rep Loretta Sanchez (D - CA) gave what must have been the longest speech disguised as a question that I heard all day. She talked about a report by Gen James Jones (USMC Ret) unofficially called the Jones Commission Report, which essentially criticized the new Iraqi Police. She seemed to go on forever. Good question, but she just went on for too long.
Petraeus said he agreed with the report and had in fact acted on it's recommendations. At the end of her question he even joked with her (again he is unflappable). He also said that the IP did need to be cleaned out but has now made much progress. The Italian Caribinieri have been helping out tremendously in training them.
The next rep, who's name I didn't get, asked about the benchmarks, and that the GAO said we'd only met 3 of 18(?) Crocker disagreed with that number, but annoyingly would not give a hard and fast number of how many had been met. But he did say that it's more complicated than just a checkoff. He said that you can check something off but are not getting reconciliation, and vice versa. But Crocker promised to get info on the benchmarks in writing to the committee next week (see this article for a comparison, where Frederick Kagan says that "Government of Iraq has now met 12 out of the original 18 benchmarks set for it, including four
out of the six key legislative benchmarks"). The bottom line is that the issue of reconciliation in Iraq is complicated and it's not a simple check-off of something on a sheet of paper.
Rep Ellen Tauscher (R - CA) brought up lots of polls and how at least her constituents are all against continuing the war etc. Me: So...we change direction every time the polls change? Petraeus tried to answer her question, and she basically cut him off. Petraeus had to then give her a lesson on how the military takes orders from the civilian authorities.
All in all the Democrats gave speeches and the Republicans asked questions. Maybe the Dems should have read Barham Salih's article in today's Washington Post, in which he sees real military and political gains in Iraq, if they don't believe the testimony they heard today.
Gen Petraeus and Amb Crocker? They were magnificent and could not be shaken. I feel good with them in charge over there.
Don't miss the background information, video, slides, and links to editorials and analysis pieces over at Small Wars Journal.
April 8, 2008
The Gen Petraeus - Amb Crocker Hearings Day 1
I managed to catch part of the hearings in the Senate Armed Services Committee and the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee today in which Gen David Petraeus and Amb Ryan Crocker testified. Below the fold are my notes, but first, here are most of the slides that Gen Petraeus used in his testimony (thanks to Michelle Malkin You can also download all them from the Senate website )
For context and explanation see the transcript of Gen Petraeus' opening statement at RealClearPolitics
(also, don't miss the excellent commentary on them at The Belmont Club)
What strikes me is that many of the Senators already seems to have minds made up. Some ask good questions and others just give speeches. The opening statements of the Senators I heard (Levin & McCain) indicate to me that they have their minds made up.
Sen. Kennedy, in particular, used most of his Q & A time to simply give a lecture. Kennedy complained about our "open ended commitment", yet this is the same guy who demands more and more money for an endless "war on poverty" which seems without end or success. Every year we hear the same thing from the libs; the poor are getting poorer and we need to spend more money on anti-poverty programs. Hello?
Did you also notice that Kennedy had the shortest "thank you for your service" of any of the senators? Even the other critical senators seemed genuine in their thanks but for him it was totally pro forma (video here).
Also, notice how the critics are almost totally dismissive of the sacrifices made by loyal patriotic Iraqis? They just totally ignore all this. When this was pointed out to Kennedy, he just brushed it aside with a "well there have been 4,000 Americans killed"
To a large extent that the whole thing is sort of a show, with everything said decided ahead of time. Each side is speaking really to the public.
Senators Leiberman (I-CT) and Inhofe (R-OK) asked good questions, as did Sen Reed (D-RI)
Some of the critics do bring up good points. The issue, it seems to me, is whether they state problems in order to find a way to solve them or are just looking for an excuse to withdraw.
We've all heard about how the Army is stretched too thin, and that troops are not getting enough rest time. This complaint is usually made as a veiled excuse to bring the troops home. Yet when the schools say that they are stretched we spend more money on education, and do not cut back on classes. When the military says it is stretched we cut back on commitments. It seems to me that the obvious solution to is to increase the size of the force.
Sen Collins (R-RI, or is that RINO-RI?) did the same thing. She said that they in congress are always told that progress is being made by Iraqi armed forces, yet problems continue. Again does this apply to other foreign aid? She says that as long as we take the lead in combat operations, the Iraqis will never step up to the plate. Well, as long as we provide handouts to poor countries around the world, why should they step up to the plate? Does the same logic not apply? Yet if the U.S. does not pony up for some new program designed to help Africa or wherever we are attacked as "miserly", and how dare we ask whether the money is well spent.
Sen Bill Nelson (D-FL) brought up the "retired general" complaint, saying that he'd heard retired Generals McCaffrey and Odom say that things weren't going swimmingly in Iraq. He did at least admit that the Iraqi parliament had been passed several of the laws required in the "benchmarks", but complained that they had not been implemented?. Again, the goalposts keep moving.
Sen. Warner (R-VA) asked whether the Iraq war made us safer. Gen Petraeus said "I do believe it is worth it", and Amb Crocker said that "Al Qaeda is our mortal and strategic enemy. To the extent that its capabilities have been diminished in Iraq, it makes our country safer." Not the best answers they could have given.
Sen Lindsey Graham (R-SC) on the other hand did well and pointed out the the surge changed the trend lines, which had been going in all the wrong directions. He admitted that the challenges were real, but sees the glass as half full and getting fuller rather than as half empty. Rather than everything falling apart he sees the surge has having reversed the negative trend lines. For all the grief conservatives have given Sen Graham he shone during the hearings. For what it's worth, he's a (Lt Col ? in the Army or Air Force reserve ? ) Graham's main thing was to point out that the trend lines are all in our favor. Also asked if Iraq as a failed state would negatively affect US national security and Petraeus said "yes"
Sen Ben Nelson (D-NE) wants the Iraqis to pay us back at least some of the money we've given Iraq. I've heard this also from the right. Well ok, I understand the complaint, but I see it as very shortsighted and spiteful. btw, are we asking countries who receive food or other assistance to pay us back? Do we even put realistic conditions on them for the aid? Or track it to make sure it isn't wasted, and if it is cut off future aid? And let's ask those on poverty assistance programs to pay us back also once they "step up to the plate" and get self-sustaining jobs.
At 1:55 the hearings adjourned. Code Pink members sang and held signs in the back of the hearing room. Boring....
All in all the Dems seemed less aggressive. There was no "willing suspension of disbelief" moments and no Movon.org "General Betrayus" ads. They seemed to have learned their lesson from a PR perspective, at least.
All in all, I'd say that the Democrats were shooting blanks. They may have satisfied their anti-war base but that's about it. Petraeus and Crocker told it straight; we're winning, success so far is fragile but if we cut-and-run all would probably be lost, and that a failed Iraq harms the U.S. We should listen to them.
April 5, 2008
Iraq Briefing - 03 April 2008 - "The Conversation Has Changed"
This briefing is by Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, commander of Multi-National Division - Central. the 3rd Infantry Division, also known as Task Force Marne. "Its major area of responsibility is the security zones located along the southern edge of Baghdad and scales from the border of Saudi Arabia to the border of Iran. MND-Center is headquartered by the 3rd Infantry Division from Fort Stewart, Georgia."
Maj. Gen. Lynch reports to Lt. Gen. Lloyd Austin, commander of Multi-National Corps - Iraq. Austin, in turn, reports to Gen. Petraeus, commander of Multi-National Forces - Iraq. Petraeus reports to the commander of CENTCOM, who was Admiral Fallon until last week. Until a permanent replacement is found, Lt. Gen. Martin Dempsey is acting commander of CENTCOM. Dempsey reports to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.
The 3rd ID is probably nearing the end of it's deployment in Iraq, having been there since February 2007.
Here's why Gen Lynch says that "the conversation has changed:"
From his opening statement:
MAJ GEN LYNCH: The first element of that progress was the surge forces gave us the opportunity to take the fight to the enemy. The second piece, and you'll see that in the tri-fold that you have, was that we changed our procedures. We focused on securing the population. And as a result of that, we needed to live with the population so we have built 57 patrol bases. And those 57 patrol bases, 25 of which are occupied by the Iraqi security forces as well, were with the population. So in general terms, 75% of my soldiers live with the population. Those patrol bases went to places that the enemy owned. We did these major operations and as a result of every operation, we now own the terrain and we could build the patrol base to help us secure the population. And what we have found is the local population, as a result of seeing the patrol base, come forward and they ask two questions. The first question is, "Are you staying?" And when the local population's convinced that we're going to stay, the next question is, "How can we help?" And as a result of that second question, what we have now in Multi-National Division - Center is almost 36,000 Concerned Local Citizens, the Sons of Iraq, who are securing their respective areas. We've always defined sustainable security as locals under positive control, securing their population. And that is what has happened across our area....
What had happened over the last 13 months is the conversation had changed. Early, with major attacks taking place, I'd find myself on patrol bases planning major operations, kinetic operations. What happened about the fall timeframe, based on the things I just talked about, the conversation changed. And after the first of the year, I was able to publish a new order that focused on capacity building. Now when I go to patrol bases, like today I went to one of my patrol bases, I immediately leave the patrol base and go visit with the population and talk to the people. Today it was in the Jezurdiyala[ph] area. Yesterday it was in Musayyib. And the conversation now has changed. It's no longer about security, it's about jobs. It's about capacity. It's about the economy. It's about local governance. And that's exactly where we were all the up until the 25th of March.
This is important because it shows how Gen Lynch has adopted classic counterinsurgency tactics. The "surge" was about a lot more than sending additional troops. Prior to Petraeus/Odierno, we concentrated our forces in 5 large bases, and sent them out on raids. While it may seem that this approach might better protect our troops, in reality it does not. The only way to win against insurgents is to protect the people, and the only way to do that is to live among them. To be fair to previous commanders, they didn't have the troops to send troops out to live among the populace. Prior to 2007 we were caught in a vicious cycle.
1-149 SOMETIMES, THE MORE YOU PROTECT YOUR FORCE, THE LESS SECURE YOU MAY BE. Ultimate success in COIN (counterinsurgency) is gained by protecting the populate, not the COIN force. If military forces remain in their compounds, they lose touch with the people, appear to be running scared, and cede the initiative to the insurgents. Aggressive saturation patrolling, ambushes, and listening post operations must be conducted, risk shared with the populace, and contact maintained...These practices endure access to the intelligence needed to drive operations. Following them reinforces the connections with the populace that help establish real legitimacy.
5-69 To protect the populace, HN security forces continuously conduct patrols and use measured force against insurgent targets of opportunity. Contact with the people is critical to the local COIN effort's success.
A-24 The first rule of COIN operations is to establish the force's presence in the AO (area of operations).... This requires living in the AO close to the populace. Raiding from remote, secure bases does not work.
Once security is established, the next step is to improve the well being of the people. Again, FM 3-24
5-1 ...Successful counterinsurgents support or develop local institutions with legitimacy and the ability to provide basic services, economic opportunity, public order, and security.
Insurgents exploit local grievances on various issues, and use them to try and win the support of the population. There is much in FM 3-24 about taking these grievances away from the insurgents.
So as we know, then, there was a spike in insurgent attacks on March 25. Gen Lynch explains
Now you can see in your graphics (see video for graphs. I am trying to obtain the charts) and you can see on this chart, there was a major spike of attacks coincidental with the operations in Basra and Baghdad. We've always said that inside of Iraq there are three types of enemy: Sunni extremists, Shi'a extremists, and then marked Iranian influence. And we've been fighting those three types of enemy as long as we've been here. We've had great effect against the Sunni extremists primarily because of the things that I talked to you about already. We truly have the Sunni extremists either killed or captured or have left our area or have gone to ground....
Now I'll show you exactly what happened. You can see that there are major Shi'a population centers across my area of operation and they are reflected on your graphic with these squares. What we had were attacks in those Shi'a population areas generated by Shi'a extremists....
In that period of time, 25 to 30 March, in MND-C's area, we experienced about 78 attacks all across the area. And the high on any one day was 28 attacks. Over the last four days now, we have reverted to the normal level of attacks. Yesterday we had one attack. The day before we had no attacks. When I left my headquarters today, there were no attacks across our entire operating environment which, again, is Mahmudiyah qaddah, Mada'in qaddah, Karbala, Najaf, Babil, and Wasit province. But in that period of time, 25 to 30 March, there were, indeed, attacks and a lot of those attacks took place in Wasit province in Al Kut
Now what I saw was I saw a tactical and an operational opportunity. Remember, three types of enemy: Sunni extremist, Shi'a extremist, and marked Iranian influence. And when the attacks increased, what happened is the Shi'a extremists in my area that we were having problems finding, came out of their holes. And as a result of them coming forward to conduct attacks against the Iraqi security forces, the Iraqi people, and the coalition forces, we could then take the fight to them.....
What happened over that six-day period of time, the local citizens came forward and showed us where the enemy was storing their ammunition and these weapons caches
Spin or no? Yes in that it would have been better if we had been able to get the Shia extremists without going through the attacks. No in that the nature of counterinsurgency is such that it's hard to identify the enemy unless he acts.
On to the Q & A. Some of the questions were tough, as they should be:
REP1: Yup. First question is you talk about this huge spike of activity and then completely back to where you were before. Doesn't that just show the power of Muqtada al-Sadr that when he issues the order, everything stops?
MAJ GEN LYNCH: Well, it shows three things. You know one is we were glad that Muqtada al-Sadr issued an order and the conventional Jaish al-Mahdi forces laid down their arms. We were happy about that. That had an affect and we're happy about that. The second thing that happened in my area is we took a lot of the enemy away. You can't do attacks if you are detained or killed. And we took a lot of their munitions away. So it's a combination of those three things.
Surely the reporter didn't expect a straight out yes or no. I think the answer is a qualified "yes".
REP8: Tina Susman from The LA Times. In terms of reconciliation in general, you know you say you can't reconcile with your friends, but would you say that there's been, on the Government of Iraq level, reconciliation with--solid reconciliation with anybody at this point? How satisfied are you with the process of government reconciliation?
MAJ GEN LYNCH: Sure. Nothing ever happens as quickly as you'd like. All of us would like to see all this reconciliation happen overnight. As a result of that, everybody stops shooting and everybody works toward a prosperous Iraq. So it doesn't happen as quickly as you'd like. The reconciliation that I see, Tina, on a daily basis, I find to be most encouraging.
Lynch went on to give several examples. Reconciliation is discussed in FM 3-24, and I have heard Lt Gen Ray Odierno (former commander of Multi-National Corps - Iraq) discuss this also.
1-102. Counterinsurgents remain alert for signs of divisions within an insurgent movement. A series of successes by counterinsurgents or errors by insurgent leaders can cause some insurgents to question their cause or challenge their leaders. In addition, relations within an insurgency do not remain harmonious when factions form to vie for power. Rifts between insurgent leaders, if identified, can be exploited. Offering amnesty or a seemingly generous compromise can also cause divisions within an insurgency and present opportunities to split or weaken it.
Oh, and as for the benchmarks? 12 of 18 have been met. As Frederick Kagan points out over at The Weekly Standard, "including four
out of the six key legislative benchmarks. It has made substantial progress on five more, and only one remains truly stalled." If that's not progress then I don't know what is.
Iran in Iraq
Iran is active in Iraq supplying parts of the insurgency with weapons and training. First from his opening statement and then some Q & A
MAJ GEN LYNCH: On one cache was 106 AK-47s, small weapons, 9 sniper rifles. You can see that on the 28th of March, a large cache that included 18 complete explosively-formed penetrators. These explosively-formed penetrators are killing my soldiers, killing the Iraqi security force soldiers, killing innocent Iraqi civilians, and are traced back to Iran....
Okay, this will scroll through the caches that we found. You can see rockets. You can see EFPs--that's an explosively-formed penetrator already rigged to be placed against one of our soldiers. You can see Katyusha rockets there - supplied, again, by Iran....
Many rounds, ammunitions, detonating cord. You can see that is a Katyusha rocket, an Iranian rocket, that's rigged--that's on a rail and is rigged to explode--to launch....
These Iranian munitions, placed in the hands of the Shi'a extremists, are causing devastating affects on Iraqi security forces, on the coalition forces, and your innocent Iraqi people. And that just has to stop....
So clearly there are Iranian weapons coming into Iraq. We've never actually intercepted any at the border, though, and this is sometimes used by cynics as "proof", or at least evidence, of another "Bush Lied!" conspiracy.
Blogger and independent reporter Michael Yon took a trip to the border and found out exactly why nothing has been intercepted; because it's a superhighway of commerce between the two countries. There is simply no way anyone could inspect every truck, so it 's easy to smuggle in weapons. After observing the situation Yon concluded that "we could probably put the entire Coalition on the Iraq-Iran border, and the area would not be sealed."
REP9: Abigail Housliner[ph]. Time Magazine. If you are practicing this aggressive outreach to anyone you said, if there is this significant Iranian influence in the south, then presumably that aggressive outreach - for something to really make a difference - you would have to talk to Iran. Do you feel that that's limiting you significantly? Do you think that's going to limit your progress if Iran is playing such a huge role and you can't negotiate with them and reach out to them in the same way that you are reaching out to people on the local level?
MAJ GEN LYNCH: I'm convinced that there are people reaching out to the Government of Iran. I'm convinced of that. And these are people from the Government of Iraq who ought to be legitimately negotiating with their neighbors. Remember, we've always said that the end state in Iraq is an Iraq that is at peace with its neighbors, is an ally in the war on terror, that has a representative government that respects the rights of all Iraqis, has a security force that can maintain domestic order and deny Iraq as a safe haven for terrorists. So the negotiations with neighboring countries ought to be happening by the Government of Iraq; and I believe that is, indeed, happening. I do know that there are overtures on the part of Iran that try to be helpful. But I can just tell you at my level, at my level, I'm still seeing Iranian munitions. At my level, I'm still attending memorial services for my soldiers who were killed by Iranian munitions. So all that has to stop.
REP9: Would you like to see the U.S. reach out - U.S. forces - in the way that you have worked with the Awakening Groups?
MAJ GEN LYNCH: Well, I believe it's important to have a dialog, an open dialog with all the actors to see what we can do to facilitate moving towards that end state in Iraq that I just described.
One wonders what exactly we say to the Iranian representatives and how they respond. So far I haven't seen any good information on this so if commenters have something it would be most appreciated.
Steve Schippert, writing on NRO's The Tank, points out that it was CENTCOM commander Adm Fallon's job to stop such shipments, and didn't. FM 3-24 states the obvious with regard to the matter
1-85. Access to external resources and sanctuaries has always influenced the effectiveness of insurgencies. External support can provide political, psychological, and material resources that might otherwise be limited or unavailable. Such assistance does not need to come just from neighboring states; countries from outside the region seeking political or economic influence can also support insurgencies. Insurgencies may turn to transnational criminal elements for funding or use the Internet to create a support network among NGOs. Ethnic or religious communities in other states may also provide a form of external support and sanctuary, particularly for transnational insurgencies.
Of course, it's easy enough to say we need to stop Iran from supplying the insurgents in Iraq, another to bring it about. This post isn't the place to explore that in detail.
There's much more in the interview, so again please watch the whole thing and follow along with the transcript.
All in all, we've made tremendous progress in Iraq, thanks to the hard work and dedication of the men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces, and the bravery of thousands of Iraqis. It's fragile, though, and could be lost if we pull out prematurely. Again, from FM 3-24
"It is a persistently methodical approach and steady pressure which will gradually wear the insurgent down. The government must not allow itself to be diverted either by counter-moves on the part of the insurgent or by the critics on its own side who will be seeking a simpler and quicker solution. There are no short-cuts and no gimmicks - Sir Robert Thompson, Defeating Communist Insurgency: The Lessons of Malaya and Vietnam, 1966
April 2, 2008
Throwing Cold Water on Flex Fuels
It is my position that the West in general, and the United States in particular, needs to find some way or ways to reduce our dependence on oil from states that mean us ill. By sending money to Saudi Arabia and other gulf states, we are literally funding their attempt to destroy us through a sort of "creeping sharia" motivated by a jihadist ideology. Because petroleum is, to some extent, a fungible commodity, we don't even have to directly import from a country for our consumption to help them. High U.S. demand keeps the price of petroleum on the world market high, helping Iran and Venezuela.
As such, one of the options I have investigated is "flex fuels", by which a car might run on a combination of gasoline biofuels(go here and scroll down for posts). "Biofuels refer alcohol fuels such as ethanol (E85) and methanol (E95). The former can be made from a variety of plant products, such as corn or sugar cane. Methanol can be made from wood products or
The biggest proponent of these fuels is Dr Robert Zubrin, who last year published a book called Energy Victory: Winning the War on Terror by Breaking Free of Oil. Dr Zubrin makes a powerful case, and is someone to be taken seriously. I haven't actually read his book, but saw some articles about it that made me look into biofuels as an alternative.
However, he has his detractors. Michael Grunwald (and presumably the editors) of Time are among them. The cover story on the current edition is "The Clean Energy Scam" and it is a direct attack on biofuels.
To set the stage, here are a few charts which show U.S. energy consumption that I got from the Heritage Foundation (click to enlarge)
So what do they have to say over at Time?
But several new studies show the biofuel boom is doing exactly the opposite of what its proponents intended: it's dramatically accelerating global warming, imperiling the planet in the name of saving it. Corn ethanol, always environmentally suspect, turns out to be environmentally disastrous. Even cellulosic ethanol made from switchgrass, which has been promoted by eco-activists and eco-investors as well as by President Bush as the fuel of the future, looks less green than oil-derived gasoline.
Meanwhile, by diverting grain and oilseed crops from dinner plates to fuel tanks, biofuels are jacking up world food prices and endangering the hungry. The grain it takes to fill an SUV tank with ethanol could feed a person for a year. Harvests are being plucked to fuel our cars instead of ourselves. The U.N.'s World Food Program says it needs $500 million in additional funding and supplies, calling the rising costs for food nothing less than a global emergency. Soaring corn prices have sparked tortilla riots in Mexico City, and skyrocketing flour prices have destabilized Pakistan, which wasn't exactly tranquil when flour was affordable.
Biofuels do slightly reduce dependence on imported oil, and the ethanol boom has created rural jobs while enriching some farmers and agribusinesses. But the basic problem with most biofuels is amazingly simple, given that researchers have ignored it until now: using land to grow fuel leads to the destruction of forests, wetlands and grasslands that store enormous amounts of carbon.
I think that "global warming" is a scam itself, so I don't buy into that argument. But the other arguments are more serious. The damage caused by using so much land to grow crops for fuel cannot be overlooked. Increasing demand without a corresponding increase in supply always drives up price, so unless there is an acre added to food production for every acre devoted to biofuel production, we will be hurting the most vulnerable on the planet. And while I'm no environmentalist, much preferring the term "conservationist", I do not want to see any more land than necessary be taken away from pure natural growth.
One of the leaders in biofuels has been Brazil, where they grow sugar cane which is turned into ethanol. Ethanol provides an impressive 45% of the country's fuel on only 1% of its land. Further, some think they can double their production of sugar cane by 2015 with no more effects on the Amazon. If we could achieve these numbers we would not only reduce the amount of money we give to the Saudi Wahhabists to fund our own destruction, we could reduce the price of petroleum worldwide and thus defund Iran and Venezuela.
The question is, can we?
the problem in Brazil, Grunwald says, is that so much of the Amazon
jungle rainforest has been cut down to make way for cropland that it stands a chance of becoming a "savanna or even a desert". Whether this is accurate or environmentalist hype I don't know, but it is something that cannot be dismissed.
Another question is that producing biofuels isn't free. It takes about a gallon of gasoline to get a gallon and a quarter of corn ethanol (a 1:1.3 ratio), so that's not very efficient. The ratio for sugar cane ethanol is better at 1:8, the fuel produces more energy per unit, and burns much cleaner to boot (for ratios and more see this National Geographic interactive).
Right now the American taxpayer is paying some $8 billion in subsidies to farmers to grow corn for ethanol. This seems rather silly given the poor return of corn ethanol. The problem is that once a subsidy is in place, it becomes very hard if not impossible to take it away. People base their lives around the product the subsidy is meant to produce, and will take their political vengeance on any politician who threatens to reduce it.
If not Corn then Sugar?
Can or should we produce sugar cane ethanol? The Time article doesn't address the issue, so I had to go elsewhere.
In July 2006 the USDA released a study titled: "The Economic Feasibility of Ethanol Production from Sugar in the United States" I don't have time to go through the whole thing, but here's a summary by James Jacobs, an Agricultural Economist at the USDA (and on who's page I found the link to the study)
The report found that at the current market prices for ethanol, converting sugarcane, sugar beets and molasses to ethanol would be profitable. "At this summer's unusually high price, I can conclude that it's economically feasible to produce ethanol from sugarcane and sugar beets," USDA Chief Economist Keith Collins said. However, there is not a clear-cut case that U.S. sugar will be commercially converted to ethanol anytime soon.
The study (and Jacob's article) point out that sugar ethanol can be obtained not just from sugar cane, but from sugar beets as well. This is important because the latter can be grown in northern states such as the Dakotas and Minnesota.
However, it costs about twice as much to convert either of these sugar crops to ethanol as it does corn. The economic break even point for sugar ethanol is when gasoline is at $2.35 per gallon or higher. Given current realities, it would seem that we're going to stay well above that price for the foreseeable future.
I don't have time right now to go through the whole article to see how much cropland it would take to produce how much ethanol, or what the effects may be of not growing other things on the land instead of sugar beets or sugar cane. These and other things must be taken into account.
I think that we should end corn ethanol as soon as possible. The negatives of such production vastly outweigh the benefits. The longer we wait the harder it will be politically to pull the plug.
However we should look into sugar crops as a basis for ethanol. I don't have time to go through the entire USDA report, but it would seem that we might be able to make headway in reducing our petroleum consumption by pursuing such a course.
Remember also that technology is not static. Technologies that look inefficient today may not be so tomorrow. Surely if we put our heads together and put our best scientists on the job we can come up with something better than what we have today.
In the end, it probably won't be any one magic technology or fuel that rids us of the national security vulnerability caused by so much petroleum consumption, but rather a combination of things. As such we should not put all of our eggs in any one basket, but spread out our research into a number of areas. One promising area, however, is sugar based ethanol.
Commenter Mike's America map is here
April 1, 2008
Walter Reed FReep 154 - March 28, 2008 - 3 Year Anniversary
Almost unbelievable that it's really been three years for this event. I've participated since August of 2005, and that itself seems long enough, so I my thanks goes out to those intrepid FReepers who started this FReep back in March of that year.
With this in mind, we had a special FReep planned for the Three Year Anniversary. When I got there just before 6:30, our usual starting time, FReepers were already on our corners holding their signs! I got out the MOAB and we set to work
Soon we had it up and the FReep truly began!
On the opposite corner more FReepers stood ready to show their support
Honor Roll of Attendees
Tom the Redhunter, Mr & Mrs Trooprally, Olney-Keith, VAFlagWaver, Sensi Ern, Lurker Bill, Mr & Mrs Kburi, PrezUSA222, USA4Ever, Fraxinus, Satin Patriot, Kristinn, BufordP (who lives! more about which later...), Chief, Ron G Kirby and his daughter, Cindy-true-Supporter, DaNang68, Saigon69, Taco Mama, Jimmy Valentine's Brother, Lurker Bill, Wo4Man, Lauren, and trueblackman.
In addition to local FReepers and friends, there were a number of people who were in from out-of-town. Thank you to everyone who made the trip to be with us!
Faith and Thumper from New York City.
RockerMom2MyHero, Anomoly99 and their son Chris the Hero, all of whom made the trip down from Westminster MD! They FReep every Saturday afternoon in Westmister to show their support for the troops.
zoomie81 and her daughter who made the trip down from New Jersey! zoomie81 has her hands full with the liberals in her state, but she keeps them on their toes. She's engaged in multiple political activities on a number of fronts, all of which serve to promote all of the right causes.
It was great to see Mr & Mrs Checkmate who came up from Florida!
Veeram and RLMorel came from Massachusetts.
Thank you to everybody for who traveled!
We also had at least two bloggers join us: Tantor, who blogs at Conservative Propaganda, and John Lilyea, owner of This Ain't Hell. I'm sure both of them will have posts up soon about this FReep, so check out their blogs and make them a part of your regular web surfing.
"Big John" Miska, Commander of VFW Post 8208 in Ruckersville VA joined us as well. In addition to his VFW duties, he is involved with AdoptASoldier, a program dedicated to supporting "wounded, injured, and ill troops at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and Bethesda Naval Hospital." Please consider contributing to their worthy program.
My apologies if you were left out. I tried to get everyone but probably missed a few folks.
A Brief History
Various FReepers have written an "After Action Report", or AAR, after each Walter Reed Friday evening FReep, which are posted on Free Republic. A complete list of all AARs and a link to each has been maintained by BufordP here.
Sometime in the spring of 2005 the radical leftist group Code Pink decided to hold an anti-war protest Friday evenings in front of Walter Reed Army Medical Center in northwest Washington DC. Word quickly got out and eventually made it to Free Republic. DC Chapter President Kristinn Taylor gathered what FReepers he could and made it his mission that the Pinko protests would not to unanswered.
The main entrance to Walter Reed runs along George Avenue, a fairly major road that runs from the Capitol Mall north and south into Maryland. There is a street running perpendicular right across from the entrance, so there are "four corners" right outside the entrance (I hope this is clear!)
Every Friday evening, then, Code Pink would hold their protest at the two corners by the main entrance. They had permits for these corners, so as we at Free Republic certainly respect the law there was nothing we could do. They did not have permits, though, for the two corners across the street, so Kristinn got them, and this is where the FReepers took up station.
In 2004, Hal Koster and Marty O'Brien, owners of the DC restaurant Fran O'Briens, took wounded warriers from Walter Reed out to dinner at their establishment. They and Jim Mayer, veteran who works at the Department of Veterans Affairs, got an idea whereby every Friday evening they would pick up some soldiers at Walter Reed and take them to the restaurant in their cars. As time went on, more and more troops wanted to go, and their cars no longer sufficed. One thing led to another, they rented a luxury bus (I think some charities pitched in as well) specially equipped to on and off load wheelchair bound patients, and made it a regular Friday evening event. Even when they lost their restaurant they continued the program, taking the troops out to other restaurants, embassies, and the like.
Stay with me now; the story is relevant because the bus returns to Walter Reed sometime between 9 and 10 pm. We FReepers have made it our mission to greet the bus with as many people, flags, signs and banners as we can muster. Having met both Hal and Jim, as well as many of the troops who have been on the bus, I can tell you that the troops are very glad to see friendly faces as they return home.
Also, there were a few instances where the Pinkos were still on their streetcorners when the bus arrived. We have witnessed the troops giving them the one-finger salute. After this incident, we noticed that the Pinkos started packing up and going home promptly at 9pm. Obviously their leaders took the decision that they did want their followers to see what the troops really thought of them, for it would be too demoralizing.
All of this took place "under the radar" and without any national attention, from the media or blogs. This is significant because without much publicity FReeper ranks were relatively thin, and it is a tribute to their perseverance that they kept up their vigil.
The very first AAR was posted by daughterofTGSL, and tells the story of how Code Pink organizer Gail Murphy sent her minions to try and infiltrate the FReepers. They were spotted immediately by tgslTakoma, who called her daughter who in turn called the police.
The story erupted onto the national scene on August 25 when Marc Morano of CNS News published a story on what had been going on.
The big conservative talk show hosts picked it up, and that week it was on shows such as Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Laura Ingraham. Hannity and Colmes had at least one segment on it, and I'm sure others did as well.
It was this week that I first heard about it too, and made the decision; I'll trek over to Walter Reed and see it for myself. I live in Loudoun County, which is just northwest of the city not too far away in Virginia. I brought my little digital camera and you can see my post on it here if you like.
During this phase the rivalry was pretty intense between the Pinkos and Free Republic. Given the anti-American attitudes of the Pinkos (see below for details), there was no love lost on our part for them. We razzed them mercilessly every Friday evening with a variety of signs and shouts.
Over time we also noticed that Code Pink also changed their signs and banners. When the whole thing began they had all of the usual nutcase stuff. Pinko Kevin McCarron had his infamous "Maimed for a Lie" sign and there was a lot of other disgraceful stuff as well. Just for old times sake, here's Kevin:
We so razzed them over this, and gave them such bad publicity on the Internet, that slowly but surely they put away the worst of their signs. Now all you see is bland stuff like "Support the Troops - Oppose the War" and "Money for VA Hospitals - Not War" which as you know hides their true nature.
Back to the narrative.
On January 21, 2006 everything changed.
Sometime earlier Code Pink forgot to renew their permits for their corners. FReeper and Protest Warrior ConcreteBob found out (it's all public information if you know where to look) and quickly filed applications for Free Republic so that we would have permits for all four corners outside the main entrance.
When Code Pink arrived that evening they found "their" corners occupied by FReepers, and when they tried to set up shop were told politely but firmly that they did not have permits for this area any more, we did, and to please leave immediately. They got the message and left, wandering half a block to another location where they licked their wounds. You can find my photos and report of that evening here if you wish.
This marked the end of serious confrontation between FReepers and Pinkos at Walter Reed. With the Pinkos no longer directly across the street, our mission somewhat changed as well. While they were still at the main entrance, we saw our role as much to counter them as to support the troops. With them gone, the urgency of the former was muted if not gone. Sure, we still had to be there otherwise the
cockroaches Pinkos would come back, but without them directly across the street the tenor of the event changed.
The Pinkos are still a half-block away, but they're not at a street corner, so they're not in a location where traffic has to stop and people have to look at them. My observation is that they're pretty much ignored by most drivers. Other drivers, we've noticed, honk and wave at us, and then honk again when they get down to the Pinkos. This is no doubt because Code Pink changed their signage and now actually have a few American flags that they haven't burned. Yet.
With no more need for them, we put away our anti-Code Pink signs. We have the "Burma Shave" signs, but even they pale in comparison who what we used to put up. Today almost everything we have is pro-troop or anti-terrorist. The reason for this is quite simple; the people who see the signs are 1) the troops, their families, and workers who come in and out of Walter Reed, and 2) motorists driving on Georgia Avenue. Our objective is to bolster the spirits of the former, and let the latter know that there are Americans dedicated to the troops, and maybe lift their spirits as well. As long as the Pinkos keep their place there's no need to directly counter them.
As such, the tenor and purpose of the FReep changed. For the most part we really do not even think about the Pinkos down the block. Sure, whoever is taking the pictures or writing the AAR will go down to see how many there are, but that's about it. Sometimes troops will come out of the hospital and go down there to argue with or just hassle the Pinkos, but even that's more just amusement than anything else.
Over time, Code Pinks numbers have dwindled while ours have stayed pretty steady. To be sure, if something big is going on that weekend each side will see boosted numbers. But what's interesting about the Pinkos is that none of their national leaders show up regularly. In fact, they almost never show up at all.
Also, most of their people who do show up don't do so until after 8:00. Given that they pack up promptly at 9, this has always seemed odd. One time they did, back in July 2006, Pinko leaders Media Benjamin and Gael Murphy staged a confrontation with us but got more than they bargained for.
Here's a photo of them from the three year anniversary evening. I took it early, while there were still only a few of them. All told I think they had about a dozen people show up, their usual number.
I've got a few more of them on my photobucket site (link below) but my camera doesn't do so well once it gets dark so that's all I'll post here.
The highlight of the evening is when the bus or buses with the troops and their families come back from their evening dinner. The driver turns on the inside lights and honks at us, and we wave our flags and signs like crazy.
The last thing I'll say before moving on is that if anyone thinks that our activities are just meaningless sign waving they are sadly mistaken. I do not say this to toot our own horn, but there's no other way to say it; the truth is that after having spoken to so many of the troops and their families (not to mention Hal Koster and Jim Mayer) that indeed they are quite buoyed by our activities.
Ok, so history didn't turn out to be so brief....but I thought you might like it. Now on to Code Pink and who they really are.
Who is Code Pink?
If you're not familiar with Code Pink, the best place for information is David Horowitz' excellent Discover The Networks website. He and his crew maintain a database on the leftist groups and leftist individuals. It is the best single place I know of for information on these people. From Discover The Networks, here's how Code Pink was started:
Launched on November 17, 2002, Code Pink for Peace describes itself as a "grassroots peace and social justice movement" whose self-defined mission is "to end the war in Iraq, stop new wars, and redirect our resources into healthcare, education and other life-affirming activities." Rejecting "the Bush administration's fear-based politics that justify violence," the organization calls instead "for policies based on compassion, kindness and a commitment to international law." Code Pink was founded by four radicals: Jodie Evans, Medea Benjamin, Diane Wilson, and a radical Wiccan activist calling herself Starhawk. Ms. Evans is the nominal leader of the organization, which works closely with Medea Benjamin's group Global Exchange and Leslie Cagan's antiwar coalition United For Peace and Justice.
As a parody of the Bush administration's color-coded security alerts (regarding terrorist threats), the "Code Pink Alert" warns that this administration poses "extreme danger to all the values of nurturing, caring, and compassion that women and loving men have held."
Note that Code Pink was formed several months before the invasion of Iraq. Note also that their name is a play on the entire War on Terror, not just something having to do with Iraq. Most libs say that they support the war in Afghanistan, just not the one in Iraq. This group apparently doesn't even want us fighting al Qaeda anywhere.
Pass the puke bucket and fast
I. Code Pink Aids the Insurgents in Iraq
Hold on to that bucket, because it gets better. Here's Code Pink in action:
During the last week of December 2004, Medea Benjamin announced that Code Pink, Global Exchange, and Families for Peace would be donating a combined $600,000 in medical supplies and cash to the families of the terrorist insurgents who were fighting American troops in Fallujah, Iraq. In an article dated January 1, 2005, the online publication Peace and Resistance reported that Rep. Henry Waxman had written a letter addressed to the American ambassador in Amman, Jordan to help facilitate the transport of this aid through Customs.
In other words, they gave $600,000 in supplies and cash to the terrorist insurgents trying to kill American troops. What a swell bunch.
II. Ok by them to Kill American Troops
If the above made you throw up, this will set your teeth on edge:
On June 24, 25, and 26 of 2005, a group called Democracy Now! sponsored a "World Tribunal on Iraq" whereby the United States and President Bush were placed on trial for crimes against humanity. They were - surprise - found guilty. Code Pink is listed as one of the endorsers of the event.
The Tribunal issued a "Declaration of Jury of Conscience" where in section I paragraph 11 you find this
11. There is widespread opposition to the occupation. Political, social, and civil resistance through peaceful means is subjected to repression by the occupying forces. It is the occupation and its brutality that has provoked a strong armed resistance and certain acts of desperation. By the principles embodied in the UN Charter and in international law, the popular national resistance to the occupation is legitimate and justified. It deserves the support of people everywhere who care for justice and freedom. (emphasis added)
In other words, it is ok by them to to kill American troops in Iraq. There's no other way to read that paragraph.
III. The "Beirut Communique"
Pinko Gael Murphy represented Code Pink at, and was a signatory to, what became known as the "Beirut Communique", a document which was drafted at during a strategy meeting anti-war and anti-globalization types in Beirut, Lebanon September 17-19 of 2004.
Here is a partial list of demands that the participants of the Communique drew up:
* We support the right of the people of Iraq and Palestine to resist the occupations.
* We call for the unconditional withdrawal and "coalition" forces from Iraq.
* We demand the end to the Israeli occupation of Palestine
* We demand the Right of Return be fulfilled....
* We ask for the release of all Palestinian and Iraqi political prisoners.
In another section, the express their "support for efforts by Iraqis to build a united national front against the occupation."
Although they claim that they "oppose war in all forms", there is not a single word in the communique condemning, or even mentioning, Palestinian, Iraqi, or al-Qaeda terrorism.
The bottom line is that although the media tend to treat Code Pink and similar groups as harmless anti-war protesters who just happen to get a bit carried away, the truth is that his is a hate-America group that has done everything it can to give aid and comfort to our enemies.
Back to the FReep
Let's get back to a more positive subject; the Three Year Anniversary FReep
During the winter it's not worth it to set up our "Burma Shave" signs, since it gets dark so early and drivers can't really see them. But now what with daylight savings time and a lengthening day, we decided to set them up. Even if you enlarge the photo you might not be able to read them, so here's what they say
Don't be Fooled
By Their Flags
Back a year or so ago when we first set them up the Pinkos would try and steal them or knock them down, but we got wise to their games and they don't try that anymore.
Here's a nice photo of the MOAB (Mother of all Banners) and flags behind it. There was a fairly stiff breeze, which can make the MOAB harder to hold, but flags look a lot prettier.
Dinner is Served!
Normally the most we do is bring a few snacks, coffee and hot chocolate, and maybe order pizza, but tonight was different. We had a grill going with hot dogs and many FReepers made some very nice dishes. We had all the utensils and drinks you needed so everyone had their fill of a very good dinner.
And the AAR wouldn't be complete without saying that VAFlagWaver's rum cake was the hit of the evening!
Truth be told I'm getting a bit hungry now just looking at those photos!
An Outdoor Movie Theater
Lurker Bill had prepared a DVD with photos of past Walter Reed Freeps, and brought his projector and screen to show everyone! He powered up his portable generator and off he went!
It was amazing and exciting to see all of those photos. Thank you, Bill!
Here are a few more of the FReep
What It's All About
Sometime around 9:30 or so the bus carrying the troops came down Georgia Avenue and turned into Walter Reed. It's always nice to have a good crowd to greet them!
With that another successful FReep was completed.
If you can't get to D.C. to join us but would like to do something for the wounded, you can find a wealth of ideas by FReepmailing
Tom the Redhunter,
Please also FReepmail them or any of us if you would like to join us at Walter Reed and would like additional information about parking, directions, what to bring, etc.
Come join us every Friday night between the hours of 6:30pm to approx 9:30pm.
* You can find all of Tom the Redhunter's photos for this Freep on my Photobucket site.
* You can find all of Mrs. Trooprally's photos for this Freep on her Photobucket site.
* Thank you to BufordP for maintaining the BIG LIST of all Walter Reed FReeps.
* Thank you to all FReepers who transport and store our many signs and banners every week.
* Tom the Redhunter blogs at The Redhunter
* Plea Deal blogs at Sempter Gratis
This post can also be seen at Free Republic