July 31, 2008
Extremism Among British Muslim Students?
From CNS News
British students are rejecting as biased and unrepresentative a new report that finds large minorities of Muslim students at universities in the country hold extremist views. But a scholar who has been probing radicalism in British universities called the report "extremely significant - and extremely worrying." "Those polled are, by their nature, going to constitute Britain's future Muslim elite," said Prof. Anthony Glees of the Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies at London's Brunel University. The report, released at the weekend, has stoked a long-running debate over the broader issue of the extent to which members of Britain's Muslim community hold opinions at odds with Western norms - and what to do about it. Billed as the most comprehensive of its kind, the report by the conservative Centre for Social Cohesion (CSC) is based on campus visits, attendance at meetings and face-to-face interviews. It is built around an opinion poll conducted by leading online polling firm YouGov, which in Glees' view "has an outstanding reputation for reliability." In its most startling finding, almost one in three Muslim students polled said it was justifiable to kill in the name of religion. Of that group, most said this was an acceptable action if their religion was under attack, while a small number said it was okay to kill to promote one's religion. Forty percent of respondents supported the incorporation of Islamic law (shari'a) law into British law, while 33 percent backed the introduction of a worldwide caliphate, based on shari'a. The poll surveyed 600 Muslim and 800 non-Muslim students at 12 prominent universities with active Islamic Societies (ISOCs), organizations claiming to represent the country's 90,000 Muslim students.
Wow. Let's go visit the website of the Centre for Social Cohesion (CSC) and see what we can find out.
Here are some of the key findings as taken from the summary:
Killing in the name of religion:
- Just under a third of Muslim students polled (32%) said killing in the name of religion can be justified - the majority of these said killing could be justified if the religion was under attack, and 4% of all respondents supported killing in order to promote and preserve that religion.
- 60% of active members of campus Islamic societies said killing in the name of religion can be justified. By contrast, only 2% of non-Muslims agreed.
- Half (50%) of Muslim students polled said they would be unsupportive of a friend's decision to leave Islam. A quarter (25%) said they would be supportive.
- Almost half (45%) of Muslim students polled said that apostates should be encouraged to reconsider their decision by Muslim elders and people that care about them.
- A minority (6%) said that apostates should be "punished in accordance with Sharia."
Views on women:
- Almost a quarter (24%) of Muslim student respondents do not feel that men and women are fully equal in the eyes of Allah.
- Female students (38%) were also more likely than males (27%) to perceive inequitable treatment of men and women in their local communities. While 37% of male Muslim students felt men and women were treated equally, only 26% of females felt the same.
- The majority (89%) of Muslim students polled said that men and women should be treated equally, 5% said they should not and 6% were unsure.
- Nearly three fifths (59%) of Muslim students polled felt it was important to Islam that Muslim women wear the hijab.
- Active members of university Islamic societies (51%) were over twice as likely as non-members (25%) to agree that "women should wear the hijab - female modesty is an important part of Islam."
Support for Sharia law in the UK and a worldwide Caliphate:
- Two fifths (40%) of Muslim students polled supported the introduction of Sharia into British law for Muslims.
- A third (33%) of Muslim students polled supported the introduction of a worldwide Caliphate based on Sharia law. A majority (58%) of active members of campus Islamic Societies supported this idea.
- Islam as a political project:
- Over a sixth (15%) of respondents said that Islam as a religion and Islamism as a political ideology were part of the same thing, and that politics is a big part of Islam. A quarter of active members of campus Islamic Societies agreed.
- Over half of Muslim students polled (54%) were supportive of an Islamic political party to represent the views of Muslims at Parliament. By contrast, over half (61%) of non-Muslims polled were unsupportive.
Compatibility of Islam with secularism and democracy:
- Over two fifths (43%) of Muslim students polled said Islam was compatible with secularism. Almost three in ten (28%) said they were incompatible and a further 29% were unsure.
- Over two thirds of Muslim students polled (68%) said Islam and the Western notion of democracy were compatible, with older students (age 35-54) being more likely (78%) than younger students (age 18-35) (67%) to agree. Active members of campus Islamic Societies (84%) were more likely (64%) than non-members to support this idea.
- Over three quarters of respondents (78%) said that it was possible to be both British and Muslim equally. Female Muslim students (81%) were more likely than males (73%) to say it is possible to be both British and Muslim equally.
Some of these are no big deal: "Half (50%) of Muslim students polled said they would be unsupportive of a friend's decision to leave Islam" is the type of thing you'll get if you survey members of any religion.
Other findings seem to be good news: "The majority (89%) of Muslim students polled said that men and women should be treated equally" is only partially tempered by "Almost a quarter (24%) of Muslim student respondents do not feel that men and women are fully equal in the eyes of Allah." The student's view of women is better than one might imagine. Unfortunately, it does seem at odds with most of what else I've read so it's hard to know what is going on.
"Over two thirds of Muslim students polled (68%) said Islam and the Western notion of democracy were compatible" is also generally good, though one wishes the number was still higher.
Much is bad news: "Two fifths (40%) of Muslim students polled supported the introduction of Sharia into British law for Muslims," "A third (33%) of Muslim students polled supported the introduction of a worldwide Caliphate based on Sharia law," "Just under a third of Muslim students polled (32%) said killing in the name of religion can be justified - the majority of these said killing could be justified if the religion was under attack", and "Over half of Muslim students polled (54%) were supportive of an Islamic political party to represent the views of Muslims at Parliament" are the most frightening.
The more involved in Muslim organizations, the worse the views: "A majority (58%) of active members of campus Islamic Societies supported (a worldwide Caliphate based on Sharia law)." This is disturbing because it is those who are active in politics who get their ideas put into practice.
There are several reasons to be wary of polls. The first of course are all the problems associated with bad polls; unrepresentative or insufficiently sized sample, poor questions, and biased researchers.
Second, people often don't want to tell the interviewer bad things, things that they know are overly controversial. Few people in the United States, for example, will tell a pollster that they are not going to vote for Barack Obama because he is black.
We also need to be aware that the fate of movements and ideas are not usually determined by poll numbers. Often in history a determined minority has held a majority hostage, or in extreme cases takes over a nation by revolution.
I don't have time to delve into each of these and other than stories in British newspapers announcing the story I can't find much about this poll on the internet, so take it for what it's worth. If I find more I'll post it.
On the other hand, polls showing this sort of attitude are nothing new. In February of 2006 I posted on a poll by the Sunday Telegraph that showed disturbing attitudes held by British Muslims. I've seen others as well. Read just about any article by American expatriate and gay-rights-activist Bruce Bawer on his website and you'll get the same picture.
July 29, 2008
Not Mike Huckabee
I found this story in today's Washington Times irritating
Prominent evangelical leaders are warning Sen. John McCain against picking former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney as his running mate, saying their troops will abandon the Republican ticket on Election Day if that happens.
They say Mr. Romney lacks trust on issues such as outlawing abortion and opposing same-sex marriage and because he is a Mormon. Opposition is particularly powerful among those who supported former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee in the Republican presidential primaries earlier this year.
"McCain and Romney would be like oil and water," said evangelical novelist Tim LaHaye, who supported Mr. Huckabee. "We aren't against Mormonism, but Romney is not a thoroughgoing evangelical and his flip-flopping on issues is understandable in a liberal state like Massachusetts, but our people won't understand that."
The Rev. Rob McCoy, pastor of Calvary Chapel in Thousand Oaks, Calif., who speaks at evangelical events across the country, told The Washington Times, "I will vote for McCain unless he does one thing. You know what that is? If he puts Romney on the ticket as veep.
"It will alienate the entire evangelical community - 62 million self-professing evangelicals in this country, half of them registered to vote, are going to be deeply saddened," Mr. McCoy added.
The idea that these evangelicals would sabotoge the election by not voting for McCain is infuriating.
They can claim all they want that Mormonism is not an issue, but I think that it plays a role whether they want to admit it or not.
I'm not happy with Romney's recent conversion to the conservative side of the social issues either. But the real question in any "flip" is whether the conversion is real or whether it is done for political reasons. From what I've read Romney has offered genuine reasons for changing his mind that makes sense.
If people don't like Mitt Romney, fine. I like him and have never made any secret of it. Of all the Republican candidates he was the most reliably conservative on the most issues (once you got past the flips, anyway), and had experience to credibly claim he could put words to action. He's got more business and management experience than any of the other presidential candidates in either party.
There seems to be a segment who won't trust anyone who hasn't been a conservative their whole life. Kathryn Jean Lopez dealt with this pretty well, I think, over at The Corner earlier today:
Mitt Romney -- is an example of someone who came to the wisdom of conservatism through practical experience. He saw its reasonableness in the face of liberal overreach. We should want to embrace such conversions. We should want to encourage people to get Right.
Or we can fervently close the door to them and their contributions and fresh blood. What a good move for a movement that needs re-energization and recruits.
Maybe it's just me, but the Democrats never seem to undergo such angst when one of their own flips to a more liberal position. Al Gore was famously pro-life while a senator, and underwent miraculous conversion when he decided to run for his party's nomination. Joe Lieberman became more liberal when Gore selected him for the veep spot. But too many on the right almost seem not to want anyone to come round to our point of view.
But all this said we have to admit that there is a lot of opposition to Mitt ROmney. If you still want to not trust him because of his flips, fine. But to say you won't vote Republican if he's on the ticket is madness.
Frankly, it goes to show how narrow-minded some of these evangelicals really are.
Not that this trait is unique to them; far from it. The Democrats have their own problems with their own special interest groups, many of whom exhibit the same attitude on their own issues as do the evangelicals in this article.
How Meaningful is the Article?
Before we go too far we need to evaluate the article itself. I haven't studied the issue so only have the polls cited in the article to go on. I am not certain how much influence the evangelical leaders cited in this article really have.
My own church is affiliated with the Calvary Chapel cited in the article (rather than a traditional protestant denomination where all churches are part of the same organization, each church in the Calvary network is an independent entity). I listen to a few preachers on the radio such as Charles Stanley and Greg Laurie, and I like James Dobson, but while I enjoy their message of personal salvation there's no way I'm going to pay attention to what any of them say about whom I should vote for.
The question is, how many evangelicals will?
Some really do take the advice of leaders such as Rob McCoy. Evangelicals like Pat Robertson have more support than we upper-middle class suburbanites like to admit. In the end, though, I think that most will get over their inhibitions and vote for a McCain/Romney ticket.
I even have to wonder how many people who attend an evangelical church have even heard of the leaders cited in this article. I hadn't.
All this said, I'm not necessarily advocating Romney for the veep spot. He would bring a lot to the ticket, but I'm not sure if such a high-profile selection would gain McCain more than he'd lose. McCain desperately needs someone who can talk economics, but it may be safer to pick a relative unknown.
The Problem With Huckabee
The worst person McCain could pick is Mike Huckabee. For starters, Huckabee is or at least was a Babtist pastor, and I want to keep my pastors in the pulpit and out of politics.
The religion issue also makes him easy to attack. It'd be easy to paint him as a religious extremist.
McCain would lose far more votes by choosing Huckabee than he would gain. In order to win this election we need to solidify the conservative base but also to win the middle. Huckabee would lose the middle. Hillary supporters who might under the right circumstances support McCain will flee from a ticket that includes Huckabee.
Huckabee fails two legs of the three-legged conservative stool. He is right on the social issues, which is why the evangelicals love him. But he fails the other two; economics and foreign policy. The Cato Institute gave him a "D" for his fiscal policy while governor of Little Rock. From what I recall him saying during the primaries, his foreign policy would be closer to Carter than to Reagan.
Then there's the issue of his one-liners. Huckabee fancies himself a comedian, and is known for his clever quips. The problem with this is that all it takes is one inappropriate comment to land you in hot water, and Huckabee already has a few of those under his belt. A few more and Republicans would be in the embarrassing position of watching McCain disavow his own vice presidential selection.
So it's accurate to say I've taken a strong dislike to Mike Huckabee. That said, I'd vote for McCain if he chose him.
I doubt that McCain will select either Mike Huckabee or Mitt Romney. While each would bring a particular strength to the ticket, each is controversial, and would alienate certain voters. The last thing McCain needs is that sort of controversy. I think he'll pick a relative no name who can talk economics and doesn't have a controversial background.
July 28, 2008
Iraq Briefing - 24 July 2008 - Confident and Capable Iraqi Leadership
In February Col. Tom James gave one of the most powerful presentations that I've seen as part of his Iraq briefing. It is worth following the link and watching it for yourself.
I was therefore pleased last Thursday to see him give another Iraq briefing. Col James commands the 4th Brigade Combat Team of the 3rd Infantry Division. James' brigade deployed to Iraq sometime around November of 2007. The rest of the 3rd ID deployed to Iraq in early 2007, and, having completed it's mission, deployed back home to Fort Stewart GA in May of this year. I am not sure why the deployment of the 4th Brigade Combat Team does not match the rest of the 3rd ID, and frankly do not have time to reach why this is so.
Briefing us with Col James is Brigadier General Abdul Amir, who commands the 31st Iraqi Army Brigade. Gen Amir is responsible for security in the Babil province, which is located 50 kilometers south of Baghdad. Both are connected via telecommunications link from Baghdad to the Pentagon briefing room.
I believe that they are part of Multi-National Division - Center, which is headquartered by the 10th Mountain Division.
What is most interesting about this briefing, I think, is simply that it featured an Iraqi co-hosting with the American. I've noticed this happening more often in these briefings, and is hopefully a trend. It is important because Americans need to see and hear from the Iraqis, and because the Iraqis need to step up and brief the American people on what they are doing. Most importantly, the Iraqis in these recent briefings appear confident and capable.
GEN. AMIR: ...Another reason for security improvement is the people roles of supporting the Iraqi security forces and provide information to the Iraqi security forces and to the U.S. forces, and also this increases the trust between U.S. and the citizens. The Sons of Iraq program also played great roles in improving the security situation. Also, the U.S. forces provide enormous economical projects to support farmers, civilians, schools, roads and clean up canals for farmers. All this creates a good cooperation and a great environment with the Iraqi and the Iraqi citizens.
Sons of Iraq, previously Concerned Local Citizens, or simply CLCs. Vital to winning the "hearts and minds",it moves the Iraqi people from bystanders to participants, which is so vital getting them "off the fence" and into our camp.
Back to General Amir's opening statement:
In addition to the security improvement, there was a great improvement in the capability of the Iraqi army. Last year we were working with two battalions. This year we are working with four battalions. Next year we will have new equipment, such as artillery forces. At this moment, at this time, we also -- we have Lieutenant Colonel McDowell (sp)) training our -- one of our platoons on a route clearance method and such missions like that.
One reads this and thinks, ok, I'm happy this is happening, but didn't they have artillery before we showed up? How is it that it seems that we have to start from the ground up? Yes yes, we allowed the old Iraqi Army to melt away and maybe should have tried harder to keep it (easier said than done), but once we started their new army surely they had old stuff they could have reconstituted?
Following Gen Amir, Col James gave his opening statement. Following are excerpts:
COL. JAMES:...First, a quick orientation to our operating environment. Babil province is located 50 kilometers south of Baghdad, on the key avenues of approach into the capital city. The population is an estimated 1.2 million Iraqis, 70 percent Shi'a and 30 percent Sunni. The majority of the Sunni population resides in the northern portion of the province, in and around the towns of Jurf al-Sakhr, Iskandariyah, Jabella and and Diyara (ph). Currently the majority of our combat brigade is positioned in north Babil.
We maintain a Military Transition Team, as well, further in the provincial capital of Hillah, and we are partnered with the 31st Iraqi army brigade under General Abdul Amir's command and control. And we also work very closely with the Babil police throughout the province.
Our mission is, in partnership with the Iraqi security forces, to secure the population, defeat extremists and neutralize resistance groups, increase the professionalism of the Iraqi security forces, build the capacity of government institutions and economic programs, and transition security and local development tasks to the Iraqi security forces and government over time.
The essential point of what I want to make today is this: The population feels secure and the quality of life is improving. There are two main reasons for this current condition. First, the Iraqi security forces have improved significantly and in partnership with coalition forces have drastically improved the overall security situation in Babil province. Second, the improved security has enabled positive growth in governance and economic systems, creating tangible improvement in the daily lives of Babil citizens.
Security improvements are based on three key factors: first, a highly professional and greatly improved Iraqi security force; second, the Sons of Iraq program; and third, combined security forces. That is Iraqi security forces and coalition forces living with the population, on distributed patrol bases and joint security stations throughout our area of operations.
We are focused on several key tasks looking to the future -- first, successful execution of free, fair and safe elections; second, GOI-driven SOI or Sons of Iraq transition to other productive employment; and third, assisting with professionalization of the Iraqi security forces; fourth, assisting with local economic development to increase employment opportunity; and fifth, basing adjustments of the Iraqi army and police into key locations we see that's required for security -- all of these tasks while simultaneously conducting relentless pursuit of extremists with our Iraqi partners.
Iraq provincial elections are scheduled for October 1 2008 but might be delayed. They are key because ultimately the people have to believe that their government represents them and has their interests at heart.
On to the Q & A. First was a discussion of the remaining security threats:
Q This is David Morgan from Reuters. Can you please rank for us the security threats that you now face in Babil province in terms of their importance and give us an assessment of their numbers and capabilities?
COL. JAMES: We sure can. General Abdul Amir, I'd like to defer to you first for a comment on that. What do you see as the primary threats in our area of operation?
GEN. AMIR: Babil province area of operation and northern Babil -- as I mentioned in my brief, there were some areas used to live under the control completely of al Qaeda. Some areas used to be under the control of the sectarian violence, which Sunnis and Shi'a lived together in these areas. But because we conducted numerous amount of operations -- joint operation between U.S. forces and Iraqi army forces, we were able to disable all these cells and enemies. We detained most of al Qaeda leaders in all of the areas.
Recently, all the area is under our control. We are conducting basically daily patrolling in several areas -- such area that encounter some sectarian violence such as the Jabella area. We are working through the tribes and pushing them forward for the national reconciliation. And we are -- patronage and held all these conference and ceremony for these tribes and tribal leaders so we could create a real reconciliation between the fighting tribes.
I would love to say and I would like to say that all area of operation in northern Babil is under control 100 percent. There is no threat from al Qaeda. There is no threat from the extremist militia and the outlaw militias. Thank you.
COL. JAMES: And I'd like to add to what General Abdul Amir says. And he is tracking 100 percent. The key here, though, is that as we plan for a potential threat in Babil province, we see the number one threat being extremists that are influenced by al Qaeda, that could potentially attack us with suicide vests, bombs or IEDs, and as well vehicle-borne IEDs on concentrations of population that may be observing a religious festival or something like that. But for the most part we've seen that the Iraqi security forces have been able to take that under control and prevent that from happening in the recent past here.
So we continue to work with that. So that's the first one. And then as he mentioned as well, the militia. The militia threat -- they're much more capable with the EFP and potentially indirect fire systems, but we have not seen that in Babil province in the past month and a half to two months, based on an aggressive Iraqi security force campaign supported by coalition forces.
"There is no threat from al Qaeda. There is no threat from the extremist militia and the outlaw militias." Pretty confident. I hope he's right. Col James didn't go that far, saying that "The organization related to al Qaeda is severely disrupted, as described by General Abdul Amir, and as well the militia are as well in Babil province."
Interestingly, the reporters didn't really challenge this statement. Also, it is in keeping with what else I've been reading about Iraq from other sources.
Q I think you said that the pace of attacks has now fallen off to about one per week. What element is responsible for these attacks, by and large, would you say? And how would you describe the attacks themselves?
COL. JAMES: I would answer that and then pass off to General Abdul Amir. We see that the recent attacks are IEDs of a primitive nature. What we're seeing is IEDs that are affixed to vehicles, that are targeting SOIs. And these are typically influenced by al Qaeda. And what they want to do is discredit the Iraqi security forces. And they're going after mid- to lower-level leaders in that program. And so that's the primary threat that we've seen over the last couple of weeks, and that is what General Abdul Amir has oriented his focus in the operation he described earlier on. So we continue to focus on that, and that is our primary threat. But like I said, that is significantly decreased and we're seeing less than one a week.
And one other point is al Qaeda -- the weakening over time is obvious to us based on their ability to deliver an effective IED. Typically, we have seen in the past the suicide vest or the deep- buried IEDs. We're not seeing those anymore. We're seeing them to be much more primitive and much more less effective. And we see this as a very positive thing.
"recent attacks are IEDs of a primitive nature" This is significant, because from 2003-07 what we read was that IEDs got more sophisticated each year. If the insurgents are using "primitive" ones now, this can only mean that we've killed or captured their top bomb makers and now it's the second or third string trying to make do.
Back to the elections. As we'll recall, early in Iraq's post invasion history, the Sunnis held out and didn't vote in several of the elections.
Q This is Jim Mannion from Agence France-Presse. You mentioned that one of your missions was to prepare for upcoming elections, and I'm wondering what, if any, effect the prospect of elections is having on security -- the security situation in your area. And I was wondering if these attacks involving the SOI were interfactional, or is it Shi'a against SOI? ...
COL. JAMES: If I could just add a couple of points to that as well, I had the distinct pleasure of attending several planning sessions -- with General Abdul Amir and Major General Fadil, the police chief of Babil province -- related to election security.
They have just over 20 sites that are registration sites they're securing. And they have a very detailed plan. And they've allocated and distributed resources, to protect those sites, to allow both Shi'a and Sunni to participate in registration.
And that is a true good-news story that we're seeing in Babil province, that General Adbul Amir mentioned, was that the Sunni want to participate. They held out last time and they see the fruits of democracy and want to pursue them. So that is a very positive situation.
Going back to the tail end of your question, about factions and about the IED strikes that we've seen to this point over the last couple of weeks, we see that as al Qaeda, Sunni-based extremists trying to influence the Iraqi security forces, correction, not the Iraqi security forces -- Sons of Iraq program, which is predominantly Sunni.
So we're not seeing sectarian violence at all at the levels that were in the past; very minimal if at all in Babil province. So this is just a al Qaeda attempt to try to discredit the Sons of Iraq program.
Watch the entire briefing.
The security situation is, for now anyway, under control. It is important to seize the moment and push ahead politically and economically. All Iraqis need to feel that their government represents them and has their interests at heart. The economy needs to show visible signs of improvement so that Iraqis will believe that their interests are best served in pursuing legal employment and business opportunities.
It'll be interesting to see how the average Iraqi reacts if elections are in fact delayed. This hasn't been something I've followed much but will have to get more informed. Hopefully the assessment by our briefers that the Sunnis' will fully participate in upcoming elections will hold true.
Important to note for the future is how well General Amir's 31st Iraqi Army Brigade continues to perform, especially once Colonel James' brigade deploys back home. Right now, though, it's so far so good.
July 25, 2008
Book Review - Liberal Fascism
At various points in my life I've read fairly extensively about Communism and Nazism. As a good Cold Warrior, I wanted to know as much as possible about the Soviet threat, as well as communist infiltration of the West. World War II was of great interest, and I studied not only the battles and weaponry but the Nazi leadership, ideology, and history as well.
The twentieth century being in large part a great struggle between democracy and Orwellian totalitarianism, this seemed to me natural. Today I read about Jihadism, and try to understand our enemy and their infiltration of the West. I think my book reviews show this pretty clearly.
But fascism was something that I never read much about. Part of this, I think, was that Mussolini's Italy was such a non-factor in World War II. Other fascist governments, such as Franco's Spain or Peronist Argentina, were not expansionist and relatively minor violators of human rights (relative I stress compared to what Hitler or Stalin wrought). As such I never studied them or fascist ideology. I had some vague notion that fascism was militarism coupled with extreme nationalism, but that was about it.
A few years ago I read a comment by Jonah Goldberg on National Review's The Corner blog that he was working on a book about fascism, and I thought "what a waste of time. We're in a war against radical Islam and he's investigating fascism? That can't be relevant to anything."
Was I ever wrong. The book that resulted from his years of research, Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning, is one of the most important books I've read about modern American liberalism, and its related twin, progressivism.
The book is now on many best seller lists, and Goldberg has a special Liberal Fascism Blog over at NRO where he answers readers questions and post news stories relevant to his thesis. Predictably, the book has thrown the left into a fit of rage, to the extent where Amazon had to delete several thousand "you suck" type "book reviews." The Amazon site was even hacked a few times and the photo of the book cover changed.
Unlike with most, the cover to this book is important. The fascism that Goldberg sees creeping up on us is not of the "hard" sort of a Mussolini or Hitler. Rather, it is the "soft" type of a Hillary Clinton.
The cartoon description of fascism which most people hold consists of two parts; 1) Extreme nationalism and 2) Militarization. While these are or can be aspects of fascism neither are central to it, at least in the way that most people think.
Book Objective and Thesis
Goldberg goes to some length to explain that no, he is not saying that all liberals are fascists or that being in favor of universal health-care coverage means that you are a fascist. Rather, his objective is to replace the cartoon image of fascism with a more historically based one, and in so doing demonstrate that it is modern liberalism, not modern conservatism that has its roots in fascism. More precisely, modern liberalism grew out of the progressive movement of the early twentieth-century, and progressivism in turn has it's roots in fascism and indeed in many cases was ideologically allied with it. Liberal fascism is different, Goldberg says, for what should be the obvious reason that modern liberals don't want to eliminate voting and line opponents up against the wall to be shot. This does not mean, however, that the ideological underpinnings are different.
Rather than go on and risk getting it wrong I think I'll just quote Goldberg himself:
In this book I have argued that modern liberalism is the offspring of twentieth-century progressivism, which in turn shares intellectual roots with European fascism. I have further argued that fascism was an international movement, or happening, expressing itself differently in different countries, depending on the vagaries of national culture. In Europe this communitarian impulse expressed itself in political movements that were nationalist, racist, militarist, and expansionist. In the united States the movement known elsewhere as fascism or Nazism took the form of progressivism - a softer form of totalitarianism that, while still nationalistic, and militarist in its crusading forms and outlook, was more in keeping with American culture. It was, in short, a kind of liberal fascism.
The term "liberal fascism" comes from a speech by H.G. Wells at Oxford University in 1932. He used it the term to describe what he called a need for a "phoenix rebirth of liberalism." Although known today as the science fiction writer who produced such works as "War of the Worlds", back then he was also known as a prominent progressive thinker. Today we see the term "fascism" as unreservedly evil, and the polar opposite of "liberal." What may surprise readers today is that his joining of the two - liberal and fascist - surprised no one in the audience, and was in fact well received.
Modern American liberalism is totalitarian but in a "smiley face" way, not like that of the twentieth century Orwellian nightmares; Soviet Russia and Nazi Germany. By "totalitarian" Goldberg means that it wishes to control every aspect of our lives; from the food we eat to the light bulbs we can buy to the very words that are deemed acceptable (try using "he" as a gender-neutral pronoun and see what happens).
When liberals promote these totalitarian goals they claim that they are not ideologically driven, but are rather "listening to the experts", or seeking to overcome the left-right divide with a "Third Way".
Goldberg is not saying that simply caring about the environment or physical fitness makes you a liberal fascist. What makes you a liberal fascist is insisting that everybody else care too, or forcing everyone else to eat healthy and live a healthy lifestyle and using the power of the state to do it. The reason usually given is that it's all "for your own good," or "we all pay for it".
From here out the headings are the titles of the book's chapters.
Benito Mussolini: The Father of Fascism
The ultimate roots of fascism can be found in the Romantic nationalism of the eighteenth century, which culminated in the French Revolution. Jean Jacques Rousseau was the father of fascism and Maximilian Robespierre its executioner.
However, we all associate fascism with the Il Duce himself; Benito Mussolini. What may surprise people - it certainly surprised me - was his Fascist party's political platform. Here is some of it:
- Lowering the minimum voting age to eighteen, the minimum age for representatives to twenty-five, and universal suffrage, including for women.
- "The abolition of the Senate and the creation of a national technical council on intellectual and manual labor, industry, commerce, and labor."
- End of the draft.
- Repeal of titles of nobility.
- "A foreign policy aimed at expanding Italy's will and power in opposition to all foreign imperialism"
- The prompt enactment of a state law sanctioning a legal workday of eight actual hours of work for all workers.
- A minimum wage.
- A creation of various government bodies run by workers representatives.
- The creation of various government bodies run by workers' representatives.
- Reform of the old-age and pension system and the establishment of age limits for hazardous work.
- Forcing landowners to cultivate their lands or have them expropriated and given to veterans and farmers' cooperatives.
- The obligation of the state to build "rigidly secular" schools for the raising of "the proletariat's moral and cultural condition."
- "A large progressive tax on capital that would amount to a one-time partial expropriation of all riches.
- "The seizure of all goods belonging to religious congregations and the abolition of all episcopal revinues."
- The "review" of all military contracts and the "sequestration" of 85% of all war profits."
- The nationalization of all arms and explosives industries.
Amazing. When you just see this he seems like a pretty good guy.
What's important to understand is that these weren't just words to Mussolini; he meant it. He didn't just use this platform as a trick to get into power, because he implemented as much of it as he could once he was in power. None of this is to excuse him, it's just a statement of fact.
Mussolini started as a socialist and became a populist. "Populism" is not really right-wing, it's more a phenomenon of the left. Populism is a "power to the people" ideology, and is usually a force on the left.
Mussolini made a big deal about "getting beyond labels" and seeking a "third way" between left and right. He promoted himself as a pragmatist who "made the trains run on time." To be sure, he governed as a dictator. But he was no Hitler or Stalin in his level of brutality. He won reelection in 1924 in what were reasonably fair elections, and his granting of womans suffrage gained him applause from no less a source than The New York Times.
Mussolini defined fascism as "Everything in the State, nothing outside the State." Mussolini himself coined the word "totalitarianism" to describe his system, and it's important to note that he meant it in a benevolent manner, as he saw his system as a humane one in which everyone was taken care of.
When Mussolini finally did write out his economic theories in the early 1930s, they looked more like standard socialism than anything else. His goal was to either nationalize industry or regulate it into submission. This was called "corporatism", but it hardly meant that he was in league with big business. Far from it, he was their enemy.
Adolf Hitler: Man of the Left
As with Mussolini's Fascists, Hitler's Nazis tried to transcend left-right labeling and promoted themselves as representing a "Third Way." This said, they campaigned as socialists, stealing issues from the communists because they were trying to appeal to the same worker base. The Nazis chose red as the background for their flag precisely because it was the color the communists used.
What made National Socialism - Nazism - different than other left-wing movements was it's adherence to what we today would call identity politics. With the Nazis it was Aryan supremacy, today it is the ethnic identity of minority groups. This is today something associated with the political left. Again, Goldberg stresses that this does not make modern-day identity groups neo-Nazis. What it does say is that the roots of progressive identity politics go back to the Nazis.
Just because the Nazis were anti-Semites does not make them right-wing, as antisemitism is hardly a phenomenon reserved for the right. Stalin and Karl Marx were a vicious anti-Semites, while Mussolini protected the Jews as long as he could against Hitlers desire to get at them.
Woodrow Wilson and the Birth of Liberal Fascism
Mussolini wasn't the world's first fascist dictator; that honor goes to Woodrow Wilson, President of the United States 1912-1920. If this sounds over-the-top, consider that Wilson arrested or jailed more political dissidents than did Mussolini during his first ten years in power. Wilson's ministry of propaganda was better than Mussolini's. Wilson sent more goons to beat up and harass opponents than did Mussolini (again, during the latter's rule in the 1920s. Mussolini got worse in the 1930s).
The "goons" who carried out Wilson's orders called themselves progressives. Their agenda consisted of eugenics (racial purity and weeding out the unfit), social Darwinism, and imperialism (real imperialism, not the cartoon sort ascribed to President Bush today). They worshiped the State and political power, didn't like organized religion, and looked down on individualism. They thought the U.S. Constitution was outdated and in need of change because it's system of checks and balances impeded quick action.
In short, Woodrow Wilson and the progressive movement of the time had all the bad attributes and more that the left assigns to President Bush and the neocons today.
Theodore Roosevelt also exhibited fascist traits. Much of his appeal was based on a cult of personality. Roosevelt's America would be more like the militarist and welfare state of Prussia than anything else.
Although his campaign slogan in 1916 was "he kept us out of war", when Wilson pushed Congress to declare war on the Central Powers in 1917 almost all progressives supported him. President Wilson then proceeded to set up what can only be described as a fascist police state. His ministry of propaganda, the Committee on Public Information, or CPI, was positively Orwellian in nature. The mission of the CPI was not simply to explain the rationale for war, but to "inflame the American public into "one white-hot mass" under the banner of "100 percent Americanism."" The CPI had offices around the country, and turned out an impressive number of pamphlets, posters, buttons and the like in eleven languages not including English. It hired a hundred thousand "four minute men" who went around the country giving four minute speeches promoting Wilson and the war effort.
In addition to the "four minute men", tens of thousands more were hired to knock on doors and ask residents to sign loyalty oaths, or pledges not to use a certain luxury good that was needed for the war effort. This effort extended down to children, who were asked to sign a pledge called "A Little American's Promise."
Worse than any of this was Wilson's Sedition Act, which banned "uttering, printing, writing, or publishing any disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language about the United States Government or the military." What this translated into was that any criticism of the war effort was forbidden. As an example of how it was enforced, the Postmaster General was given the authority to refuse to deliver any publication he deemed seditious, and there was no appeal to his decision. At least seventy-five periodicals were effectively banned by his refusal to deliver them.
Wilson's Justice Department created the American Protective League to enforce the Sedition Act. APL officers had the authority to read their neighbor's mail and tap their neighbors phones, all without a warrant. It had a "vigilante patrol" whose mission was put a stop to "seditious street oratory" and to physically assault draft dodgers. The Palmer Raids, named after Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer, were part of all this.
It is estimated that some 175,000 Americans were arrested for some violation of the Sedition Act or failing to demonstrate appropriate patriotism. Many, though how many is not known exactly, went to jail.
In the end, of course, Wilson left office peacefully, so he was not a Mussolini or Hitler. But his administration was fascist nonetheless.
Franklin Roosevelt's Fascist New Deal
A lighter version of Wilsonian fascism occurred during the administration of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt during the time of the Great Depression.
At the beginning of this review we noted H.G. Wells use of the term "Liberal Fascism" to describe his brand of socialism. Wells was an ardent admirer of FDR. The reason, of course, was that Wells saw Roosevelt as a liberal fascist.
As with Mussolini and Hitler, Roosevelt was obsessed with "the forgotten man". It wasn't a cynical act for any of them. All were genuinely concerned with the economic well being of the lower-middle classes. And indeed the economy prospered under Hitler. Again none of this is to excuse Hitler or Mussolini, it is just a statement of fact. Further, neither is it to insinuate that Roosevelt was no different than the two dictators. For all his flaws, Roosevelt, like Wilson, did respect the vote and the democratic process.
Many European fascists saw Roosevelt as a kindred spirit. Both Mussolini and Hitler saw their programmes as similar to Roosevelt's New Deal. Mussolini gave a good review of Roosevelt's book Looking Forward. The German press praised FDR and his New Deal.
A core tenant of fascism is the desire to militarize society whether there is an external war to fight or not. The whole point, in fact, of fascism is to mobilize. What is important to understand, though, is that it is society that is being mobilized, not the military. The military is usually involved, but it's participation is not really central to fascism. It is the cartoon version of fascism discussed above that only sees the military aspect of fascism.
The progressives supported American entry into World War I not because they wanted to defeat Germany, but because they saw it as an opportunity to advance their domestic policy goals at home. They wanted to militarize society. It was William James who came up with the term "moral equivalent of war" to justify mobilization for one cause or another.
The New Deal was all about the militarization of society. The premier New Deal project, the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) had actually been started during World War I. The National Recovery Administration (NRA) was modeled on Wilson's War Industries Board. The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) which constructed many city, state, and national parks, was the most explicitly fascist of all the programs. It's members wore uniforms and was rationalized as a program to "beef up the physical and moral fiber of an embryonic new army" (Goldberg's words).
Worse than the CCC was the NRA mentioned above. it was led by General Hugh "Iron Pants" Johnson, and man who questioned the patriotism of his critics in a manner that would have made Joe McCarthy blush. He continually referred to the NRA and it's mission in military terms, saying for example that "This is war - lethal and more menacing than any other crisis in our history." In fact, Johnson was an ardent admirer of Mussolini's fascist government.
The symbol of the NRA was the Blue Eagle. Usually depicted in textbooks as an innocent symbol that businesses put in their window to show that they went along with NRA guidelines("We do our Part" was the motto under the eagle), it was really the method by which Roosevelt and Johnson bullied businesses into joining. The NRA stuck it's tentacles into every aspect of daily life, or at least tried to. The Blue Eagle was used for propaganda in a way that Goldberg says is difficult to exaggerate, and indeed the whole thing was really more an exercise in state religion than economics. Heaven help any business that refused to sign up, because people were admonished by the government not to buy anything from businesses that didn't have the Blue Eagle in their window.
The bullying wasn't just verbal or economic; it often got quite physical. Johnson sent his goons to smash businesses that wouldn't sign up, and "G-Men" were used to spy on opponents. Goldberg says that "FDR used the post office to punish his enemies and lied repeatedly to maneuver the United States into war, and undermined Congress's war-making powers at several turns." The rationale was that as long as it was for the right cause the constitution didn't matter.
Goldberg is careful to note that despite the fascism in Wilson and Roosevelt's programs, at the end of the day they were not dictators. Neither sought to end elections, and neither cheated (at least not more than their opponents) to win. Theirs was a "nice" fascism.
The 1960s: Fascism Takes to the Streets
The New Left that arose during the 1960s and "took to the streets" had many characteristics of traditional fascism. It prided itself on it's call to unity, but "unity" is at best a morally neutral concept. The Mafia is "unified". Many of the calls to "direct action" were made without any concrete goals in mind, action itself being the objective.
The student groups that took over universities and ousted the faculty were using out and out fascist tactics.
While Nazism is evil, it does not follow that every Nazi was motivated by evil intent. Many Germans joined the Nazi party because they liked Hitler's economic populism, or thought that their country had been treated shabbily by the victors after World War I. But although one might say that Hitler's program had it's "good" parts, it obviously crossed the line into evil. As such, whatever the "good" parts of the New Left of the 1960s, much of it was outright fascist thuggery. '60s leaders such as Tom Hayden, Rennie Davis, Mark Rudd, Bernadine Dohrn and others were continually calling for more violence and more destruction, and would have set up an Orwellian totalitarian state if they could have.
The left does not understand that love of country does not by itself lead to fascism. Patriotism is not fascism. During the 1960s the left got the idea that displays of patriotism were fascist and that criticizing one's country was patriotic. Outright anti-Americanism became fashionable among the elite during this time.
From Kennedy's Myth to Johnson's Dream: Liberal Fascism and the Cult of the State
John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Baines Johnson did more than anyone else to establish the federal government as a sort of "state religion." Liberals have used the myth of Kennedy ("Camelot" and all that) to promote this idea, especially the idea that if he had lived we would never have gotten bogged down in Vietnam. The purpose of this was to expand federal power into all aspects of life.
Kennedy, like FDR, turned everything into a "crisis", the better which to whip up popular sentiment so he could get his programs passed. This crisis mongering is classic fascist behavior (though again this alone does not make him a fascist). Kennedy even created "crisis teams" to deal with issues and short-circuit the bureaucracy. Biographer Ted Sorensen counted sixteen "crises" in Kennedy's first 8 months in office alone.
"The Kennedy presidency represented...the final evolution of progressivism into a full-blown religion and national cult of the state." It was a rule by elites ("supermen") who had the special answers to our problems ("gnosticism"), all presided over by a "great man in the mold of Wilson and the Roosevelts" (cult of personality).
Remember, the progressives did not push their liberal totalitarianism because of the world wars or the Great Depression, they were glad that they occurred in that they gave them the opportunity to implement their existing ideas.
It was in the 1920s that American progressives redefined the term "liberal". Previously, the term had meant something along the lines of "individual and economic liberty without state control." It was "freedom from a dictatorial state". Led by John Dewey, they changed this to "freedom from want, from poverty, lack of education" etc. This meant that now the state had to get involved, and the idea of the activist state was born.
Liberal Racism: The Eugenic Ghost in the Fascist Machine
Modern-day liberals claim that they have always occupied the high ground on matters of race. Would that they knew their own history. It was the progressives, fathers of modern liberalism, who were the strongest backers of eugenics, one of the most racist and scary programs of the twentieth century.
If you're not familiar, eugenics is the idea that "human stock" can be improved through controlled breeding, much like we treat cattle or crops. While this might not seem too harmful on the surface, in actuality it led to practices such as state-enforced sterilization of the mentally retarded, those with Down's Syndrome and the like. It also led to much racism, as many white progressives wanted to "control the lesser races."
What is amazing is that the progressive infatuation with eugenics has been almost completely erased from history. We are supposed to believe that on matters of race, liberals have always been the good guys and conservatives the bad guys. In reality, close to the opposite was the truth. The fact is that it was the left that promoted eugenics, and conservatives who opposed it.
Progressives supported eugenics because it was one of the means by which they wanted to achieve their "utopia", or at least a better society. They saw it as all quite scientific. This may seem odd today, but remember that since progressives saw nations as bodies, and problems within them as a disease. Excise the disease and you cure the body.
Progressives admired Hitler's eugenics program. This, too, has been conveniently forgotten. But the reality is that until the truth about how far Hitler intended to go sank in, his ideas looked pretty good to progressives. As with all else, Goldberg stresses that this does not put progressives in league with Hitler, or make them Nazis. No progressive favored mass extermination. But it is a fact that many progressives of the 1930s admired Hitler's program.
In the now notorious case of Beck v Bell, Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes supported forced sterilization with his infamous justification that "three generations of imbeciles are enough." The lone dissenter on the bench was Pierce Butler, usually described as an "arch conservative." Goldberg points out that it was the reasoning in Beck v Bellthat "endures in the often unspoken rationale for abortion."
To be sure, just because so many if not most progressives fifty to a hundred years ago were racists doesn't mean that their liberal heirs are too. But it does mean that modern liberalism was built on it, something that liberals are loath to acknowledge.
Margaret Sanger, whose American Birth Control League became Planned Parenthood, was a terrible racist who wanted to use eugenics and abortion to reduce the black population and anyone else she deemed "unfit." She said this directly in her 1922 book The Pivot of Civilization; "More children from the fit; less from the unfit - that is the chief issue of birth control... We want fewer and better children...and we cannot make the social life and the world-peace we are determined to make, with the ill-bred, ill-trained swarms of inferior citizens that you inflict on us." The very stated purpose of her "Negro Project" was to use birth control to reduce the black population.
The mindset that promoted eugenics is that same one that supports abortion. Though the holocaust discredited eugenics, the idea behind it did not really disappear. "Family planning" is simply the term used today for what amounts to something very similar. Indeed, in a way Planned Parenthood is more eugenic that the old eugenicists, as abortion ends more black lives than heart disease, cancer, accidents, AIDS, and violent crime combined.
Liberal Fascist Economics
It is perhaps in the area of economics that fascism is the most misunderstood. In the left's cartoon version, fascism occurs when right-wing politicians conspire with big business to oppress "the little guy," or that European fascists were tools of big business. Nothing could be farther from the truth. In fact, as Goldberg demonstrates, "in the left's eternal vigilance to fend off fascism, they have in fact created it, albeit with a friendly face."
The fact is that the more free the market, the less fascist, and the more regulated and close to the political center, the more fascist. The far left, at outright government ownership, is socialist. Remember; it was Hitler and Mussolini who promoted themselves by claiming that they were neither left nor right but represented a "Third way."
Both Mussolini and Hitler were supported by small donations, and not, for the most part, by money from big corporations. Both denounced big business and the wealthy time and again, Hitler most notably in Mein Kampf. Their political platforms stressed regulating business and taxing the wealthy to benefit the working middle class.
Fascism is when the state says to business "You may stay in business and own your factories. In the spirit of cooperation and unity, we will even guarantee you profits and a lack of serious competition. In exchange, we expect you to agree with - and help implement, - our political agenda." This was not only the deal that Hitler and Mussolini made with big business in their respective countries, but it was pretty much the one that Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Delano Roosevelt imposed during the First World War and Great Depression as well. None of this can be called "right wing."
Indeed, as part of his New Deal FDR asked big business to write the very laws under which they would be regulated, and they happily obliged. In doing so they managed things so as to eliminate as much competition as possible through the simple expedient of making the laws so stringent that only the biggest of corporations could implement them. Thus, smaller competitors were regulated out of business.
Even more shocking, New Deal progressives studied Mussolini's corporatism, admiringly, in order to find things that they could apply here. The feelings were reciprocated across the Atlantic, with both Italian fascists and German Nazis praising Roosevelt and the New Deal.
"Fascism is the cult of unity, within all spheres and between all spheres." Therefore, as long as they followed the political goals of the regime they could keep their businesses.
it is forgotten today, but the Nazis were what we today would call "health freaks." Among their many campaigns were ones to reduce alcohol consumption by replacing beer with fruit drinks, fight smoking (before anyone else they saw the link between smoking and cancer) and promote organic foods.
In Nazi Germany, businesses proved their bona fides by being "good corporate citizens", not too different than what we have in the United States today. To be sure, what constituted being loyal differed considerably, but the philosophy is the same. In Germany it was firing Jews, in the United States today it is promoting "diversity" or "environmentalism."
Brave New Village: Hillary Clinton and the Meaning of Liberal Fascism
Goldberg uses Hillary Clinton's 1996 book It Takes a Village to Raise a Child as the example par excellence of modern-day fascist thinking. It's very title, indeed, is about as fascist as you can get. If the motto of the Mussolini's fascism was "everything in the State, nothing outside the the State, then the implicit motto of It Takes a Village to Raise a Child is "everything in the village, nothing outside the village." The message is clear; your children belong to "everyone" which in the modern world means the state.
All this does not, he stresses, mean that Hillary is evil. Far from it, for hers is "nice fascism", all meant for good. That she means it for well, however, does not make it less fascist.
"Civil society" has traditionally meant free and open "independent associations of citizens who pursue their own interests and ambitions free from state interference or coercion" and "the way various groups, individuals, and families work for their own purposes, the result of which is to make the society healthily democratic." It consists of churches, labor unions, all those clubs and organizations that people form for their own purposes and as long as they are not outright criminal are outside the control of the state.
Hillary has a different view of civil society. To her it is a "term social scientists use to describe the way we work together for common purposes." This is factually incorrect and startlingly totalitarian. There are no truly free associations or clubs in Hillary's world, for everything in her "village" is managed or controlled by the state to achieve "common purposes."
Hillary's "politics of meaning" is therefore a totalitarian philosophy. Again, this is "nice totalitarianism", but totalitarianism nonetheless. Also important to note is that she claims that she is promoting a "Third Way" approach.
Hillary and her cohort Marian Wright Edelman justify everything by saying that it's "for the children." And it's not just that she wants to make their current situation better; to her the children are in a state of crisis. Indeed, to her childhood itself was a crisis. There is no better to erase the wall between government and the private sphere than to declare a crisis.
Using "the children" as a propaganda tool to advance their goals was a brilliant political stroke. For Hillary it was just an opening to a broader political agenda. To her, families are not private units. Indeed, she has said that "As adults we have to start thinking and believing that there isn't really any such thing as someone else's child...For that reason, we cannot permit discussions of children and families to be subverted by political or ideological debate." It is indeed a favorite trick of the left to declare that one of their political goals is not in fact political, as anyone who has debated a liberal on the issue of "diversity" or "multiculturalism" has discovered.
Liberalism's entire "cult of the child" is similar, Goldberg says, to fascist thought. Children are controlled by their passions and feelings. Fascism is driven by will (see Leni Riefenstahl's Triumph of the Will). Our youth culture is driven by narcissism, so was fascism.
The New Age: We're All Fascists Now
When I was in high school in the 1970s I read both George Orwell's 1984 and Aldous Huxley's Brave New World. Both impressed me, but the former more than the latter, because I saw 1984 as a metaphor for the Cold War, which I saw as more relevant. Over the years I've reread each work once or twice, and recently have come to believe that while Orwell's work was more relevant for the twentieth century, Brave New World is the better warning for what we face today.
It was therefore flattering yet unsurprising to read that Goldberg has reached the exact same conclusion. The totalitarianism of a Hillary Clinton or Al Gore is not that of Hitler or Stalin, but it deprives us of our freedom nonetheless. Today's totalitarianism, or Liberal Fascist State, is one in which everyone is at least nominally happy. All of our needs are met, and indeed no Gestapo or KGB will be coming to break down our doors.
Environmentalism, Goldberg says, is fascistic partially because of it's "crisis mechanism." Al Gore and others preach the gospel of global warming and insist that the world will come to an end if we do not take immediate action. Anyone who demurs is denounced and called a 'denier" or worse. He and others like him will brook no debate. Worse, they insist on all sorts of measures that would create a sort of "economic dictatorship" of just the type that progressives have always wanted.
Environmentalism in general, and the "global warming" movement in particular, are totalitarian. Everything is or can be said to be an environmental issue. The new worry is our "carbon footprint", and every human activity is said to emit carbon, and therefore is to be regulated.
Environmentalism is also quite totalitarian because everything falls under it's aegis. Nothing is private, or out of the reach of environmentalism, because they see every activity as influencing the environment, and thus worthy of regulation. From the food you eat, to the material your sofa is made of, to the light bulbs in your house, they want to regulate it all.
There are many parallels with modern environmentalism and Nazism. Part of the Nazi program was centered on what we today would call "environmentalism." Nazi thinkers were worried about the whales, nature preserves, and "sustainable forestry". They were very concerned about eating habits, and there was a virtual "cult of the organic" among Nazi leaders. Hitler was a vegetarianism and Himmler pushed for animal rights legislation.
Interestingly, the Nazis used the same rationale that modern environmentalists use; "the common good supersedes the private good." A Hitler Youth manual instructed that "food is not a private matter!" and that "you have the duty to be healthy!" Today we hear smoking and trans-fats bans justified with the "we'll all pay" line.
The Tempting of Conservatism
Although fascism is a leftist ideology, and most fascist traits today can be found on the left, the right is not immune. Goldberg identifies three areas in modern conservatism where strains of fascism can be found.
The first is "nostalgia" to the extent that it romanticizes the past into something it was not. This leads to trouble when conservatives try and translate "traditional values" into national programs. Goldberg only devotes one short paragraph to this, and I'm not entirely sure what he means. Based on years of reading his writing at National Review, I know he's not saying that conservatives should not champion their values in response to the "kultursmog", or that anti-abortion laws are fascist.
The second area where Goldberg says conservatism gets into trouble is when in desperation it turns into "me too" conservatism. Here conservatives start to copy progressives, and it turns into a "liberal fascism light."
Lastly, conservatives are not immune to the temptation of identity politics. Sometimes conservatives are tempted to mirror-image liberal identity politics to give them a taste of their own medicine, such as a white conservative referring to himself as a "Euro-American" or some such. It is all very fine to hold conservative Christian values, for example, and of course to base one's voting or governance on such values. Proposing a Department of Judeo-Christian Culture, however, would be going too far.
Goldberg identifies Patrick J. Buchanan as the one conservative who has these characteristics. William F Buckley Jr, "officially" drummed Buchanan out of the conservative movement in 1991 by accusing him (and a few others) of Anti-Semitism in his book (and NRO article of the same title) In Search of Anti-Semitism. Ever though, Buchanan still hovers around the edges of the movement, and appears as a guest on certain conservative radio talk-shows.
Really more of a populist and neo-progressive than a conservative, Buchanan identifies himself as a "paleoconservative." Nevertheless, he has at various times come out against free market trading, the flat tax, in favor of capping executive pay, in support of higher unemployment benefits, and backs a "third way" type of governance. On foreign policy he is famously isolationist and generally opposes Israeli policies. The thesis of his latest book, Churchill, Hitler, and "The Unnecessary War": How Britain Lost Its Empire and the West Lost the World, that World War II was an unnecessary war, is downright bizarre.
For what it's worth, I wrote off Buchanan some time ago. First it was his isolationist foreign policy. Then, however, I became less and less comfortable with his talk about immigrants and the need to preserve our culture. I'm as anti-illegal immigration as the next conservative, and I want English as the official language of our country, but Buchanan takes it all too far. And if WFB says he's an anti-Semite, that's good enough for me.
The danger is that immediately upon reading the book you tend to be hyper sensitive to anything in the news that appears in the slightest fascist. It is tempting to see something fascist in all movements you don't like. I'll try and resist the temptation in the weeks and months ahead.
This warning acknowledged, I would be remiss if I pretended that there was nothing in the news that did not smack of fascism. The anti-smoking movement has morphed from something laudable into fanaticism. It's all very well to promote healthy living, but we've crossed the line when legislators want to ban "trans fats." And can't we live our lives the way we want without some sort of enforced "national service" plan?
All in all this is one of the most important books I have read in the past several years, and comes highly recommended, whether you end up agreeing with all of his conclusions or not. Goldberg has defined and explained a political ideology of which I only had a vague notion. He has also explained much about the history of the progressive movement that I had not known about. Get this book and read it.
July 23, 2008
Obama Wrong On Anbar
Senator Barack Obama wants us to believe that he would have been right about Iraq if only the Anbar Awakening had not occurred. Really.
I think that, I did not anticipate, and I think that this is a fair characterization, the convergence of not only the surge but the Sunni awakening in which a whole host of Sunni tribal leaders decided that they had had enough with Al Qaeda, in the Shii'a community the militias standing down to some degrees. So what you had is a combination of political factors inside of Iraq that then came right at the same time as terrific work by our troops. Had those political factors not occurred, I think that my assessment would have been correct.
Unfortunately for him, we have Steve Shippert of Threatswatch to explain what really happened. I had the pleasure once of meeting Steve, and have followed his work over at NRO's The Tank, and believe he knows what he's talking about. Here's Steve, (h/t The Corner):
Presidential Candidate Obama's statements in and about Iraq in the past 24 hours have been nothing less than shameless and disgraceful. While we strive to avoid political discussion at ThreatsWatch, criticism of his words transcends rank political partisanship if for no other reason than his claims are simply and flatly untrue, made in a war zone, during a time of war and while running to become the Commander in Chief of US Military Forces. This simply cannot stand unchallenged.
Not only does Senator Obama apparently think the Anbar Awakening and the Shi'a militia stand-downs that have occurred are somehow separate developments from the surge, which is a remarkable feat of logic in and of itself, but he is implying that they are part and parcel indigenous to what his 'plan' for 'political progress' would have afforded.
I would remind the candidate that the Anbar Salvation Council (which later grew exponentially and developed into al-Sahwa al-Iraq - the Iraq Awakening) started with one man, Sheikh Abdul Sattar Abu al-Risha, and seventy men fighting al-Qaeda in defense of their families, not in pursuit of a 'political' anything. They simply wanted to live and end al-Qaeda's assassination and murdering spree against their families and tribe. Sheikh Abdul Sattar, later assassinated by al-Qaeda in Iraq, had seen 10 family members, including 4 brothers, killed by al-Qaeda for their cooperation with US forces. He had had enough.
Obama's plan - unoriginal and pieced together like a quilt from others against the Iraq war - was entirely Baghdad-centric, about laws and revenue sharing and conferences. The Anbar Awakening had nothing to do with Baghdad when they began and when they turned the neighborhood tides in Ramadi and elsewhere in Anbar province. It was about killing the terrorists before the terrorists killed them. One must, after all, live to ultimately see progress on any scale beyond one's neighborhoods.
Obama wanted laws written, press conferences, and an immediate pull back of US troops. As Senator Chuck Schumer so brilliantly said at the time about 'the plan,' US forces were to withdraw post-haste to the periphery "in more of a counterterrorism role." This would have abandoned the Anbar Salvation Council - and Anbar Sunnis and Shi'a alike - entirely. It would have been feeding them to the bloodthirsty wolves of al-Qaeda so that domestic American political figures could champion themselves as 'ending a war' and conducting business "in more of a counterterrorism role."
This is precisely what I tried to scream when I wrote "This Is Counterterrorism, Senator" over a year ago for National Review Online. And winning the counterinsurgency is about aligning a population with us. Neither of these, counterterrorism nor counterinsurgency, could have been successfully addressed by 'The Plan' put forth by Obama and others in opposition to The Surge. The Surge was all about protecting the population within their own neighborhoods, while 'The Plan' was about abandoning said population to complete animals unassisted. Yet Obama - and surely others - would oppose it all over again.
The Iraqis have done what they have done for themselves in spite of the likes of Obama, Schumer, Pelosi and all the rest. What's more, now that The Surge has accomplished much of what it set out to do to help the Iraqis - again in spite of Obama, Schumer, Pelosi and the rest - a presidential candidate who opposed the surge, would still oppose The Surge and had absolutely no clue about the Anbar Salvation Council when it was pleading and begging for US support (since at least September of 2006) wants to champion their success as somehow his brainchild and a sign of the political development he envisioned?
One is left to suppose that he overlooks the fact that so many in Anbar and throughout Iraq are alive in spite of attempts to push such a sacrificial 'Plan.' There's no other way to describe it. Dead people - crucified, baked and beheaded - do not live to contribute to 'political progress.' Sheikh Abdul Sattar - and today, his brother Sheikh Ahmed al-Rishawi - understood this. Too many Americans seem flip to dismiss this comfortably from afar.
The Anbar Salvation Council didn't have a damn thing to do with political resolution. It needed to simply survive first; family by family, town by town, tribe by tribe. The movement that eventually saved Iraq laid ignored and unsupported until General David Petraeus changed that when he arrived to command The Surge that Obama said he would still oppose.
Obama's (et al) 'plan' and 'political' demands would have fed them to the wolves, slaughtered with their families while we were to have breathed a sigh of relief that the war was finally over. Funny thing about the Iraqis: They want to live, no matter what our politicians profess.
Today's remarks simply could not be left to stand unchallenged.
An excellent history lesson. It's obvious Obama has no idea what he's talking about. Like someone who's spent his entire life pursuing politics, he doesn't understand anything that's not political. Like his fellow Democrats (and some Republicans), the military is a strange and alien thing that he cannot get his arms around. All he gets is big-government deal making and legislation.
What proved successful was not political deal making but securing the population. Security first, politics second. This is the lesson of counterinsurgency that Gen Petraeus and Lt. Gen. Odierno understood and implemented. It's the thesis of the U.S. Army / Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual 3-24; the one written by the team led by then Lt. Gen Petraeus in 2006 and is the basis for everything we've done in Iraq since then. You'd think that by this time Obama would get it.
Laid out more formally, let's once again go over the factors that have led to our success. In the February 11, 2008, print edition of National Review, Wesley Morgan identified four interconnected efforts:
- The adoption of classic counterinsurgency tactics, with U.S. battalions spreading out among the population and earning their trust;
- The grassroots reconciliation of many Sunni and some Shiite communities;
- A series of meticulously planned corps-level offensives across Baghdad and its surrounding areas. All of these efforts have hinged on one major change:
- During 2007, every echelon of the U.S. command -- from the four-star headquarters down through the critical corps and division levels to the brigades and battalions in the field -- was closely integrated into a cohesive whole. Without this integration, none of the four efforts that have brought Iraq forward would have made much difference.
Last December VOA reporter Al Pessin asked Maj Gen Walter Gaskin, the USMC commander in Anbar, about why the Anbar Awakening occurred and whether it would have occured without US troops and the Surge:
Q General, it's Al Pessin from Voice of America. I wanted to ask you about the Awakening, and you talked a little bit about how there's this blood feud, and how the Anbaris have rejected the brutality of al Qaeda. Would you say that the progress that we've seen this year in Anbar had to do with something that MNF-I did? Or was it entirely indigenous to the inner workings of the people who live in the province?
GEN. GASKIN: I think it's a combination. You know, you can't separate the fact that this multinational corps and force out here was designed to eliminate al Qaeda.
And al Qaeda is a part of why the Awakening came about, is to awake and see that you can have self-reliance. We can join with the coalition forces and rid ourselves of the brutality and the caliphate and the just plain disregard for how the Anbaris live.
Now, it kind of manifests itself out here in Anbar because these were Sunnis -- (audio break) -- and therefore, they resisted the Taliban-like life -- the life and ideology that al Qaeda was bringing to this area. But it did not come without a cost. Al Qaeda was very brutal to the sheikhs, and this is a very tribal society. As a matter of fact, the sheikhs often say that we were tribal before we were Muslim, and therefore, this is a(n) anchor point within our society. And so when al Qaeda attacked that, they did some very brutal things to the sheikhs, did not follow customs allowing the sheikhs to die in the desert and not burying them within 24 hours. That's what I mean by the blood feud and that they have created a schism that I don't think will ever be repaired.
And because they really want to return to a life where they can have control of their own destiny, I see this as an opportunity since -- (audio break) -- have joined with al Qaeda -- with the sheikhs and the people against al Qaeda. This is going to work, and I think it's enduring.
Q But General, might that not have happened anyway without MNF-I, without the surge, without the new counterinsurgency strategy?
GEN. GASKIN: I doubt it. I think if you -- if you look at the history of the fighting here, you will see that several times the sheikhs have attempted to rid themselves of al Qaeda.
They started in about 2005 out in al Qaim, where the sheikhs raised up, calling themselves the Desert Protectors, put down brutally by al Qaeda. It started again in and around Ramadi, where 11 sheikhs raised up to try to rid themselves of al Qaeda and its caliphate and shura law. And 11 of -- of those 11 -- (audio break) -- were put down brutally.
And so again, in Ramadi with Sheikhs Sattar Abu Risi (ph) who started the Sahwa Allah Iraq, which is the Awakening movement. He had lost two brothers and a father in that fight. So he realized, too, that the joining of the coalition who had there to aid them in getting rid of al Qaeda, that we were better equipped, better trained and had a better principle (sic) of what was happening to them and all of that. This joining of us with them would not have happened -- it definitely would not have happened in the time frame for which we are experiencing now because al Qaeda was better organized, better financed and a lot more brutal than the Anbaris ever expected in dealing with them.
And so I think this was a -- (audio break) -- and it's proved to be ridding them of al
Qaeda and allow them to get on with their economic development and governance of this province.
I rather take Maj Gen Gaskin's word over that of Sen Obama.
July 22, 2008
Two Worthless Institutions
This story illustrates everything that is wrong with both the United Nations and the African Union:
ADDIS ABABA, ETHIOPIA (AP) - The African Union will ask the U.N. Security Council to suspend action for a year on the indictment of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir on Darfur genocide charges, Nigeria's foreign affairs minister said on Monday.
The African Union will make the request in an effort to allow progress in slow-moving negotiations to end the five-year-old conflict in Darfur, Nigerian Foreign Affairs Ojo Maduekwe told journalists.
He spoke after an emergency meeting of the African Union's Peace and Security Council, held to discuss the International Criminal Court's July 14 indictment of al-Bashir on charges of genocide and rape in Darfur.
The statute that set up the court allows the U.N. Security Council to pass a resolution to defer or suspend for a year the investigation or prosecution of a case. The council can renew such a resolution.
I used to blog a lot more about Africa and Darfur than I do today. I don't much anymore because nothing seems to ever get done. Thousands die and all we get are "slow-moving negotiations" and UN resolutions that don't achieve anything.
Some will blame the West, but the Africans themselves don't care themselves, either about Darfur or their other big disaster, Zimbabwe. I think half the reason they have troops in Darfur is to make the West happy. Just about a year ago Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe got a standing ovation from fellow African leaders.
So now we have an ICC (International Criminal Court) indictment. Big deal.
Few Western leaders will stick their necks out for Darfur or Zimbabwe, not because there's no oil, but because they'll get nothing but grief for doing so. The Africans will object if we holler too loud, and anything stronger gets problematical.
Awareness campaigns? I think everyone already knows.
Sanctions on the Sudan? We've already done what we can and they haven't done any good. Sure, we could punish China hoping that they turn up the screws on Khartoom, but that'll hurt our economy and sour relations with China.
Put the navy off the coast with a targeted blockade? We'll never get UN approval, and the legality of unilateral action is messy. Those today who proclaim the loudest that they "care" will be the first to protest direct military action.
The whole thing seems intractable. My long term solution is to completely revamp our international institutions, dumping the UN and forming ones based on shared values. I've written at some length about all this and I've said it all before so won't go into it again. Interested parties can go here.
July 19, 2008
Afghanistan Briefing - 16 July 2008 - Border Problems
This briefing was by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen. The former needs no introduction, and the latter is the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Last week they visited Kuwait, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
What was most interesting about this briefing was their frank discussion about the problems along the border with Pakistan. From Adm. Mullen's opening statement:
ADM. MULLEN:..As many of you know, I visited Kuwait, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan last week. For me, the trip was all about expectations -- expectations I had going over and new expectations I formed while I was there.
In Iraq, for example, I fully expected to find security conditions much improved, and they were. I did not expect, however, that those conditions would be at such a level that I could walk the Jamila market in Sadr City, or visit an outpost in what had recently been one of the most violent neighborhoods in Mosul, or that Iraqi security forces would now have the confidence and the command to take the lead as much as they are.
In Afghanistan, as I expected, the fight remains tough and complicated. One need look no further than the well-coordinated attack on the Wanat outpost this weekend to see that the enemy in Afghanistan has grown bolder, more sophisticated and more diverse.
My thoughts and prayers go out to the loved ones of those killed in the attack. And my best wishes go to those, American and Afghani (sic), who were wounded.
The bottom line is this. We're seeing a greater number of insurgents and foreign fighters flowing, across the border with Pakistan, unmolested and unhindered. This movement needs to stop. We simply must all do a better job, of policing the border region and eliminating the safe havens, which serve today as launching pads for attacks on coalition forces.
On to the questions from the press corps
Q Mr. Secretary, Admiral Mullen, you were just in Pakistan. Can you tell us how much of this increase in violence, do you believe, is related to Pakistan and what your message was to them, as to how much they need to do more?
And can you afford to wait, until next season or next year, to send more U.S. reinforcements to the commanders there, who have made it clear that they really believe they need more troops now?
ADM. MULLEN: I think the complexity, which we've talked about frequently in recent weeks, of the attacks was certainly represented in what happened in Wanat. And that is, it's a more sophisticated group.
They've been able to train in a safer environment in the safe havens in Pakistan. So that is -- it has become a significant contribution, and it's the freedom of movement across that border.
The increase in violence is tied certainly to that. It's also tied to what I said in my statement, which is -- which is we're generating a lot of increased contact. In particular, the Marines from the two battalions have as well. But the border there is a really critical issue that we're going to have to solve. And certainly that's a message that I delivered to each of the leaders that I visited in Pakistan, and it has to be solved sooner rather than later.
Q And the troops -- U.S. troops?
ADM. MULLEN: Clearly -- and I talked with all our leaders there, and they all indicated that, you know, they need more troops. That's -- that's not inconsistent with what I've said over a significant period of time. It really is, however, that combination of progress -- I mean, I didn't ask them about making progress. They sought me out to ensure that I understood they were making progress. It's a tougher fight. It's a more complex fight. And they need more troops to have the long-term impact that we all want to have there.
We don't need to give up the fight in Iraq to send more troops to Afghanistan. What we need to do is increase the size of the U.S. military. This is the Bush Administration's biggest failure. When it became clear that there was an insurgency in Iraq, they should have gone to Congress and asked for more funds. They did not. The reason, I think, is that Secretary Rumsfeld gambled that they could defeat the insurgency before the strain on our troops took it's toll.
Obviously they lost the gamble. Any history of counterinsurgencies should have told them that fighting one was not like World War II or the Gulf War. They take a long time to defeat, and there are no shortcuts. In fact, as Lt Col. (Dr) David Kilcullen has noted, the shortest time in the twentieth century that it has taken to defeat an insurgency is 10 years. This does not mean that counterinsurgents need the same number of troops the entire 10 years, far from it as insurgencies tend to peter out, not end World War II style. But it does mean that you'll need some level of forces there for many years.
Q Or are you also considering unilateral cross-border operations?
SEC. GATES: We have not -- we will take defensive actions. We have taken defensive actions when fired upon from places right across the border. Generally that's been in counterartillery. And beyond that, I think I won't say.
Q Mr. Secretary and Chairman Mullen, can you tie the two thoughts together of more troops for Afghanistan yet significant issues with the Pakistan border? Is it fair to say that no matter how many U.S troops you put in or coalition troops you put in Afghanistan, without some clarity or some solution to the border issue in Pakistan, it's not going to really reduce the level of violence in Afghanistan?
SEC. GATES: Well, I wouldn't -- let me take a stab at it and then turn to Admiral Mullen. I wouldn't say that no matter how many troops you put in, it wouldn't make any difference. I think clearly it would make a significant difference if you had additional forces.
There is no question that the absence of pressure on the Pakistani side of the border is creating an opportunity for more people to cross the border and to launch attacks. There are efforts underway to try and improve that on both the Pakistani side and on the Afghan and coalition side in Afghanistan. But I think clearly, as the admiral said earlier, there is a real need to do something on the Pakistani side of the border to bring pressure to bear on the Taliban and some of these other violent groups.
ADM. MULLEN: What I would add to that, Tony, is that, you know, where I flew -- which was pretty close to the border -- and in discussions with the brigade commander who's been there for almost 15 months, it's very clear that additional troops will have a big impact on insurgents coming across that border. And I think that would be the case.
It would be much better, clearly, if there was that pressure on the Pakistani side than without it. But clearly, additional troops there would have a significant impact. And so if you -- to get to your question of would it make any difference no matter how many you put in there, absolutely, it would make a difference.
Yes, we need more troops, but as long as the insurgents have a sanctuary in Pakistan problems will continue. The problem needs to be attacked on both sides of the border.
It's all very easy to talk about "pressuring Pakistan", quite another to actually change their behavior. And beyond that, it's not as if someone in Islamabad can simply issue an order and presto it's all solved. Pakistan lacks the capability to "sweep" the border area and deal with all insurgents. Time and again since 2001 they've sent their army into the border regions only to see it defeated.
More to the point, the Pakistanis have internal political difficulties that prevent them from taking decisive action. There is simply much sympathy for Al Qaeda and the Taliban among the population and the army, and especially inside their intelligence service, the ISI (Inter Services Agency). The sobering fact is that the political leaders cannot just issue orders and expect them to be followed.
Q You opened up with a couple of promotions. Yesterday Colonel H.R. McMaster was nominated for his first star, after having been passed over a couple of times. That was just a bare-bones list. Do you care to elaborate on what this means, if anything?
SEC. GATES: Probably not. (Laughs.) (Laughter.)
ADM. MULLEN: Let me -- actually, the one thing I would take some issue with is that he's, quote-unquote, "been passed over." I come from a position when you get selected for admiral or general, you go into the zone and it's an enormously small percentage that get picked. And actually, as years in the service, I think he's either got 23 or 24, having been selected a couple years after that myself, I'm not sure that he's not more junior than many people think.
Delighted with his selection, and I think it says an awful lot about where we are, the kind of fights that we're in and the kind of focus that we need.
I haven't followed Col H.R. McMaster's career as well as I probably should have, but to say he is a rising star (double entendre alert) in the army would if anything be an understatement. I'm hardly sure of all the issues surrounding his possibly delayed promotion, but the bottom line is that I'm glad to learn that he was in fact promoted. We need to hang on to soldiers like him.
Q One question for each of you, if I might.
Mr. Secretary, President Bush said in his news conference at the White House yesterday, quote, "We are surging troops in Afghanistan." Is that true? And if so, where are we surging them? How is that surge unfolding?
SEC. GATES: Well, I think that what the president clearly was talking about was the fact that we've sent some 3,500 Marines there. We sent them in the spring. They will come home in November. And that has represented a significant contribution and addition to our capabilities in Afghanistan, if only for the current fighting season.
They have gone into areas in the south where coalition forces and government forces have not been in a long time. And one of the reasons, sadly, that we have suffered so many casualties is that they are engaged in heavy fighting in areas where we have not been engaged before. So I think that's the surge that the president was talking about.
But I would go back also to the beginning of last year, because at the beginning of last year one of my first acts was to extend the brigade of the 10th Mountain Division in Afghanistan, and then we added another brigade in Afghanistan. You've also seen the Germans and the French up the ante in terms of the number of troops that they are sending. Those troops are going to be flowing from now forward. So I think that there is an effort to bring a number of additional forces to bear.
Obviously we've got work to do in Afghanistan. Oddly, despite the overall smaller size of the insurgency there relative to Iraq, it's the tougher nut to crack. It hasn't really ever had a central government, the infrastructure is lacking even by the standards of the region, the allied command is fractured (most Europeans won't accept our tougher ROE), there is a horrendous and seemingly intractable drug problem that the Taliban use to make tons of money, and the insurgent terrorists have a sanctuary in Pakistan, which for complicated reasons we can't get at.
Winning in Afghanistan is going to take a long time. Even with more troops it'll probably take ten, twenty, or more years. Although this is the war we're all supposed to support, I've noted time and again (and again) that we've basically been betrayed by our "allies." And sorry, but I don't accept the notion that it's all because the evil Bush Administration made them all mad with the invasion of Iraq.
Iraq Briefing - 14 July 2008 - The British in Basra
UK Army Maj. Gen. Barney White-Spunner, general officer commanding, Multi-National Division-Southeast, spoke via satellite with reporters at the Pentagon, July 14, 2008. Gen White-Spunner was connected via telecommunications link to the Pentagon from Camp Victory in Baghdad.
From the MNF-Iraq website, "MND-SE operates in the southern most part of Iraq, including the cities of Basrah, An Nasiriyah, Al Amarah. The division is headquartered by elements of the British and Australian militaries."
What is most interesting about this briefing is simply that it was the first one I've seen conducted by a non-American general in this setting. I fully realize that there's been no small amount of controversy surrounding the question of just how much the British have done over the past year. I've seen many reports that they more or less retreated to their compound outside the city and let the locals have at it. Word is then that it wasn't until recent operations by the Iraqi Army that Basra was secured.
But my purpose here is not to go through all that again, but simply to see what the British general has to say and what we might make of it:
GEN. WHITE-SPUNNER... But I think what I want to say just to start off with is that the last four months have seen a really overwhelming change in Basra.
If you'd been there in the spring -- and some of you may have been -- you'd have found a very different situation, because since then the tide has well and truly turned. And as a result of the Operation Charge of the Knights, which Prime Minister Maliki launched at the end of March, the Iraqi security forces reasserted their authority over Basra, which did degree -- had experienced a degree of violence and lawlessness. And whereas not so long ago the militias controlled parts of Basra, we now find people free to go about their daily business without fear of intimidation.
And the situation you find in Basra today is very similar to many other Middle Eastern cities, let alone Iraqi cities. And an air of normality has returned and the government of Iraq has very carefully managed the humanitarian situation, not that it ever got very serious, with only minimal coalition support. The curfew's been lifted and water and fresh food are obviously in plentiful supply.
But even more significantly, from our perspective, what Charge of the Knights did was to show that there was very little deep support for the militia in Basra. And once the leadership fled, the ordinary rank-and-file militia, if you like, very soon returned to normal life, which supports our contention that they weren't committed terrorists or committed militiamen. They were poor Shi'as who didn't have opportunities for jobs or whatever and have been perverted by the militias.
I don't deny that at the beginning, some elements of Iraqi security forces did wobble a bit, but the Iraqi government soon brought in reinforcements. And with a combination of our help and planning -- coalition help and planning and provision of combat and logistic support, the situation was very soon under control, showing a degree of speed and flexibility as I think would have been impossible only a year ago.
Central to the progress has been this concept of MiTTs, these Military Transition Teams that we have embedded with the Iraqi forces in roughly platoon-sized groups, as that gives us a far greater situational awareness about what's going on and allows us to go every step of the way with the Iraqis. And these MiTTs are still embedded across the city today.
I think the -- where we've got security, what we're doing at the moment is ensuring that security stays. With the Iraqi forces, we're putting in place in Basra a counterterrorist structure so that when those violent extremist elements do try to come back -- and some inevitably will -- then they're ready for them.
...the real issue now confronting Basra is economics, something the Iraqi government very much accepts. And this is really the key to the long-term success of Basra. The -- we've got security now, and we're going to make certain that security lasts. And at the moment, opinion polling shows us that security -- whereas it was 23 percent of population's prime concern a month ago, now only 8 percent of the population say that it is a major concern.
So we've got that security. What we've got to do now is get economic success. We've got to create jobs.
The first question went to the heart of the security issue; how permanent are the security gains?
Q General, this is David Morgan from Reuters. Would you say that the extremists in Basra have been decisively defeated? And when you say that many of them fled the city, where does it appear that they have gone to?
GEN. WHITE-SPUNNER: Yeah. The sound isn't the greatest, but I think I got the gist of that.
When I say the extremists have been decisively defeated, I think what has happened decisively is that the militias have lost control of the areas of Basra that they control. I do not think you will see militias reestablish control over areas of Basra again.
I do think that violent extremists, some of whom -- the leadership of whom fled, will try to come back, and I think we need to be ready for them. And that is why we are concentrating, with the Iraqi security forces, in putting this counterterrorist structure in place.
So I think the militias -- I think the insurgency has been decisively defeated. I think there will be an ongoing terrorist campaign for some time, because there are violent extremists who have seen their aims frustrated by what the Iraqis and the coalition have done together, and they're the people we've got to be ready for.
During the interview, Gen White-Spunner said that logistics was still a problem for the Iraqi Army, something we've heard time and again in these briefings. In the next question, Mike Mount with CNN asks whether the Iraqi Army can handle operations on their own:
Q (Mike Mount with CNN) If I could follow up, how much of that control is now you all or U.K. troops as opposed to Iraqi troops?
GEN. WHITE-SPUNNER: It's us in support of Iraqi troops. It's Iraqi troops in the lead with us very much in support. And the plans see the Iraqi troops being there and the Iraqi security forces, I should say, because obviously when you come to things like the border, it's not just the Iraqi army. It's the Iraqi police and also the DBE, the department of border enforcement which includes the coastal border guard because, of course, there is a large water border in the Basra area.
So what we're trying to do here is to get sustainable structures in place. We're out in support at the moment, and the Iraqis are in the lead. There will come a time when the Iraqis won't need us.
But I would emphasize that it is us supporting them. They're very much in the lead. This is an issue which they are really concerned about and they're absolutely determined to get right.
The next big issue Iraq faces is the upcoming elections
Elections go the heart of legitimacy. If people see the government as legitimate and as representing them, they will get "off the fence" and support the government. If not, they'll allow the insurgency to come back.
From the U.S. Army / Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual 3-24 (Essentially the "bible" for our troops in Iraq since it was published in Dec of 2006. Gen. Petraeus led the team that wrote it). A few excerpts:
1-4 Long term success in COIN depends on the people taking charge of their own affairs and consenting to the government's rule.
1-113 LEGITIMACY IS THE MAIN OBJECTIVE. The primary objective of any COIN operation is to foster development of effective governance by a legitimate government.
"Essential though it is, the military action is secondary to the political one, its primary purpose bieng to afford the political power enough freedom to work safely with the population" David Galula, Counterinsurgency Warfare, 1964
Here's the part of the briefing where they discussed elections:
Q This is Jim Mannion again. Did the provincial elections have any -- raise any special security concerns from your perspective?
GEN. WHITE-SPUNNER: Yeah. Elections are a big issue for us. What's really encouraging about elections is how seriously people are taking them, because if people weren't taking elections seriously, they wouldn't begin to take the results seriously, if you follow my logic. So the fact that there is so much interest in the elections, I think, is hugely encouraging. I think it shows how far Iraq has come. And it's really fitting in this current climate of increased security. So the elections -- i.e., the establishment of a democratic process -- should be so much to the fore, and I take enormous heart in that.
What are my particular concerns, to answer your question? I think to make certain that the voter registration goes ahead from the 15th of this month. We've got 34 voter registration centers across Basra province. And I'm confident -- having reviewed the plans of those in detail with the Iraqi security forces --I'm confident that that process will go ahead smoothly.
When we get to the elections themselves, I'm at the moment pretty confident that we will have free and fair elections here. Again, as I say, they're being taken very seriously. The security of the polling centers is something that's been taken very seriously by the Iraqis. So, if you like, concern in that we are determined that elections and the voter registration is going to go really well.
Specific concerns at the moment, not a huge number of detailed ones. You know, a few things like individual voting stations here and there, but nothing significant. Nothing at the moment that makes me think we're not going to have a really successful election in the autumn. And as soon as, of course, the election law is passed in Baghdad, then we'll be clear about a date for that.
July 16, 2008
Obama Wrong on Iraq - Again
Senator Barack Obama gave us his plan for Iraq in Monday's New York Times
In the 18 months since President Bush announced the surge, our troops have performed heroically in bringing down the level of violence. New tactics have protected the Iraqi population, and the Sunni tribes have rejected Al Qaeda -- greatly weakening its effectiveness.
We can send 15,000 more troops, 20,000 more troops, 30,000 more troops: I don't know any expert on the region or any military officer that I've spoken to privately that believes that that is going to make a substantial difference on the situation on the ground.
Barack Obama was dead wrong on the most important military decision of the Iraq War since the invasion. Why should anyone believe him now when he was so wrong then?
Back to his Op-Ed in the Times:
But the same factors that led me to oppose the surge still hold true. The strain on our military has grown, the situation in Afghanistan has deteriorated and we've spent nearly $200 billion more in Iraq than we had budgeted. Iraq's leaders have failed to invest tens of billions of dollars in oil revenues in rebuilding their own country, and they have not reached the political accommodation that was the stated purpose of the surge.
So even though the surge worked he would still have opposed it. In other words, he is invested in defeat. He opposed a strategy that by his own admission would have led to victory.
"The strain on our military has grown..." Then vote more money for a larger military. Let's reconstitute some of the units that Bush41 and Clinton deactivated. In World War II we fought two high-intensity wars on opposite sides of the planet at the same time. Now we're told that we can't even fight two low-intensity wars at the same time when they are a stones throw away from each other?
"(Iraq's leaders) have not reached the political accommodation..." False. 15 of the 18 benchmarks have been met, twice that of a year ago.
There's more, but eventually Obama gets to what his supporters want to hear about:
We can safely redeploy our combat brigades at a pace that would remove them in 16 months. That would be the summer of 2010 -- two years from now, and more than seven years after the war began. After this redeployment, a residual force in Iraq would perform limited missions: going after any remnants of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, protecting American service members and, so long as the Iraqis make political progress, training Iraqi security forces. That would not be a precipitous withdrawal.Unfortunately for Obama, the people who would know about "redeployment" don't think he knows what he's talking about
Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Hammond is commander of Multi-National Division Baghdad, which is headquartered by his 4th Infantry Division. Lt. Gen. Lloyd Austin is commander of Multi-National Corps - Iraq (Austin is #2 in Iraq. The divisional commanders report to him). (For more on each commander, here is Hammond's last press briefing (June 3), and here is Austin's last press briefing (June 23)).
Here's the same ABC news report in written form. Maj. Gen. Hammond:
"Instead of any time-based approach to any decision for withdrawal, it's got to be conditions-based, with the starting point being an intelligence analysis of what might be here today, and what might lie ahead in the future. I still think we still have work that remains to be done before I can really answer that question," Hammond said when asked how he would feel about an order to start drawing down two combat brigades a month.
Asked if he considered it dangerous to pull out if the withdrawal is not based on "conditions," Hammond said, "It's very dangerous. I'll speak for the coalition forces, men and women of character and moral courage; we have a mission, and it's not until the mission is done that I can look my leader in the eye and say, 'Sir, Ma'am, mission accomplished,' and I think it is dangerous to leave anything a little early."
But it's not just the fact that leaving on a timetable is militarily stupid. It's not as if we can just neatly pack our bags and catch the next flight out. We've got all sorts of, you know, things that have to be brought out. More from the ABC News report
Success on the battlefield is not the only complication with Obama's plan.
Physically removing the combat brigades within that kind of time frame would be difficult, as well.
The military has been redeploying troops for years, and Maj. Gen. Charles Anderson, who would help with the withdrawal, told us as we toured Camp Arifjan in Kuwait, "We have the capacity to do a minimum of two-and-a-half brigade combat teams a month -- can we expand that capacity? Sure. Can we accelerate? It depends. It depends on the amount of equipment that we bring back. And it's going to depend on how fast we bring them out...several commanders who looked at the Obama plan told ABC News, on background, that there was "no way" it could work logistically.
One wonders, can Obama not fine anyone competent to advise him on military matters?
Senator John McCain has a devastating take down of Obama's Op-Ed on his campaign website. Read the whole thing, but here are some of the highlights:
MYTH: Barack Obama Writes That He Opposed The Surge Because Of The Military Strain, Afghanistan Situation And The War's Monetary Cost. "But the same factors that led me to oppose the surge still hold true. The strain on our military has grown, the situation in Afghanistan has deteriorated and we've spent nearly $200 billion more in Iraq than we had budgeted. Iraq's leaders have failed to invest tens of billions of dollars in oil revenues in rebuilding their own country, and they have not reached the political accommodation that was the stated purpose of the surge." (Barack Obama, Op-Ed, "My Plan For Iraq," The New York Times, 7/14/08)
FACT: Barack Obama Said He Opposed The Surge In Iraq Because It Would Not Work Or Reduce Violence.* October 2006: Barack Obama Says We Cannot "Through Putting In More Troops Or Maintaining The Presence That We Have, Expect That Somehow The Situation Is Going To Improve." Obama: "Given the deteriorating situation, it is clear at this point that we cannot, through putting in more troops or maintaining the presence that we have, expect that somehow the situation is going to improve, and we have to do something significant to break the pattern that we've been in right now." (NBC's "Meet The Press," 10/22/06)
* July 2007: Barack Obama Says The Surge Had Not Worked In Iraq. Obama: "My assessment is that the surge has not worked and we will not see a different report eight weeks from now." (NBC's "The Today Show," 7/18/07)
* November 2007: Barack Obama Says The Surge Has Not Worked, And Had Potentially Worsened The Situation In Iraq. Obama: "Finally, in 2006-2007, we started to see that, even after an election, George Bush continued to want to pursue a course that didn't withdraw troops from Iraq but actually doubled them and initiated a search and at that stage I said very clearly, not only have we not seen improvements, but we're actually worsening, potentially, a situation there." (NBC's "Meet The Press," 11/11/07)
MYTH #3: Barack Obama Claimed Iraq "Never Has Been" The Central Front In The War On Terrorism
MYTH: Barack Obama Writes That "Iraq Is Not The Central Front In The War On Terrorism, And It Never Has Been." (Barack Obama, Op-Ed, "My Plan For Iraq," The New York Times, 7/14/08)
FACT: Iraq Has Been Called "The Most Important And Serious Issue Today" By Al Qaeda And "The Central Front" By Our Commanding General.* Osama Bin Laden: "The Most Important And Serious Issue Today For The Whole World Is This Third World War ... Raging In [Iraq]." BIN LADEN: "I now address my speech to the whole of the Islamic nation: Listen and understand. The issue is big and the misfortune is momentous. The most important and serious issue today for the whole world is this Third World War, which the Crusader-Zionist coalition began against the Islamic nation. It is raging in the land of the two rivers. The world's millstone and pillar is in Baghdad, the capital of the caliphate." (Text Of Bin Laden's Audio Message To Muslims In Iraq, Posted On Jihadist Websites, 12/28/04)
* General Petraeus: "Iraq is, in fact, the central front of al Qaeda's global campaign and we devote considerable resources to the fight against al Qaeda Iraq." (Gen. David Petraeus, Press Briefing, Arlintong, VA, 4/26/07)
Down the Memory Hole
Perhaps in an attempt to escape scrutiny, the Daily News reports that Obama has purged his campaign website of his criticism of the surge plan:
Barack Obama's campaign scrubbed his presidential Web site over the weekend to remove criticism of the U.S. troop "surge" in Iraq, the Daily News has learned.
The presumed Democratic nominee replaced his Iraq issue Web page, which had described the surge as a "problem" that had barely reduced violence.
Obama has a problem; on the one hand his base is hard left and hard antiwar. They will tolerate nothing less than an immediate withdrawal regardless of circumstances. They don't care what happens in Iraq, or if they do see any breakdown and civil war as something else they can pin on Bush and the evil neocons.
On the other hand he can't win with them alone, and must find some way to appeal to the center, or at least center-left. He's busy changing his positions on a number of issues, Iraq included. What's happening though is that he's tying himself in knots.
Obama is scheduled to go to Iraq very soon, in just a few weeks I think. He will meet with Petreaus, Austin, and probably Hammond and the other divisional commanders. They're all going to tell him the same thing; that his plan is whacked. What will he do then?
McCain has a problem of his own; he must hold onto his base, which wants to win, while appealing to the center, which wants to win but also get out. They want, I think, a sort of "withdrawal with victory." McCain's advantage is that he was right on the surge, and as such can claim that his plan to withdraw troops does so only because we have won or are winning.
"But We'll Fight in Afghanistan! Really!"
From Obama's Op-Ed in the Times
Ending the war is essential to meeting our broader strategic goals, starting in Afghanistan and Pakistan, where the Taliban is resurgent and Al Qaeda has a safe haven. Iraq is not the central front in the war on terrorism, and it never has been. As Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, recently pointed out, we won't have sufficient resources to finish the job in Afghanistan until we reduce our commitment to Iraq.
As president, I would pursue a new strategy, and begin by providing at least two additional combat brigades to support our effort in Afghanistan. We need more troops, more helicopters, better intelligence-gathering and more nonmilitary assistance to accomplish the mission there. I would not hold our military, our resources and our foreign policy hostage to a misguided desire to maintain permanent bases in Iraq.
Again, if we need more resources let's increase defense spending. The idea that we cannot fight two counterinsurgencies at the same time is ludicrous.
But what about the notion that Obama is a hawk on Afghanistan?
John McCain's campaign website throws doubt on the entire notion that Obama even cares about Afghanistan
MYTH #4: Barack Obama Says He Is Concerned About The Situation In Afghanistan
MYTH: Barack Obama Writes That We Must "Pursue A New Strategy" In Afghanistan."As president, I would pursue a new strategy, and begin by providing at least two additional combat brigades to support our effort in Afghanistan. We need more troops, more helicopters, better intelligence-gathering and more nonmilitary assistance to accomplish the mission there." (Barack Obama, Op-Ed, "My Plan For Iraq," The New York Times, 7/14/08)
FACT: As Chairman Of The Subcommittee On European Affairs, Barack Obama Has Failed To Hold Any Hearings On Afghanistan.
FACT: Barack Obama Has Never Been To Afghanistan; Skipped The Opportunity To Go In 2006.
FACT: Barack Obama Voted Against Providing Funding For Operations In Afghanistan.
* Barack Obama Voted Against Providing $94.4 Billion In Critical Funding For The Troops In Iraq And Afghanistan.(H.R. 2206, CQ Vote #181: Passed 80-14: R 42-3; D 37-10; I 1-1, 5/24/07, Obama Voted Nay)
I don't know the details on the funding bill and my guess is there's more to it than the McCain site is revealing, but you get the idea.
I think that if Obama gets his way and we abandon Iraq and "redeploy" troops to Afghanistan, the left will see how difficult that war really is. Afghanistan is larger, harder to get to, has less infrastructure (roads etc needed for moving troops), has a weaker national army, and has even less of a central government than Iraq. Add to this more ethnic groups and the fact that Afghanistan has never really been a centrally-controlled country. As if all this was not enough our enemy has a sanctuary in the Waziristan province of Pakistan, and you've got a real conundrum.
There also seems to be the idea that Afghanistan is "safer" than Iraq, but the truth is that on a per-soldier basis as many of our troops are killed and wounded there as in Iraq.
Further, if Obama thinks that more troops will help in Afghanistan, why did he say they wouldn't help in Iraq? How is Afghanistan different?
How badly will Obama's antiwar base really want to fight for Afghanistan once it is the war story in the news every day?
How long before they declare that the Afghan government isn't "stepping up to the plate" and that unless it meets certain benchmarks we're going to "redeploy?"
I think that (assuming again that Obama gets his way) once the left sees how difficult Afghanistan is they'll give up on it too. The excuse will likely be something along the lines of "the money is needed here at home for a badly needed school lunch program."
July 12, 2008
Iraq Briefing - 10 July 2008 - Changes Since 2006
This briefing was by Maj. Gen. Michael Oates, Commander of Multi-National Division-Center, and the 10th Mountain Division, and Major General Ali Salih Farhood OOothman (I am not certain of his unit's designation). They are connected via telecommunications link to the Pentagon from Camp Victory in Baghdad.
From the MNF-Iraq website, "Multi-National Division - Center, also known as Task Force Mountain, assists Iraqi Security Forces with security and stability missions in the area south of Baghdad ranging from Najaf to Wasit provinces. MND-Center is headquartered by the 10th Mountain Division (Light) from Fort Drum, New York."
The 10th Mountain Division replaced the 3rd Infantry Division (Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch) in this role on June 3.
Maj. Gen Oates reports to Lt. Gen. Lloyd Austin, commander of Multi-National Corps - Iraq. Austin, in turn, reports to Gen. Petraeus, commander of Multi-National Force - Iraq, who reports to the commander of CENTCOM, who was Admiral Fallon until last March. Until Petraeus takes his new position, Lt. Gen. Martin Dempsey is the acting commander of CENTCOM. Dempsey reports to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.
I have no information about the Iraqi chain of command and frankly do not have time to do the research.
What is most interesting about this briefing are the differences Oates sees in Iraq from his last posting here in 2006:
GEN. OATES: Ladies and gentlemen, I would just like to make a couple of brief observations. I've been back to Iraq now for about six weeks, and I previously departed here in late 2006. And there's three very distinct changes that I've observed. The first is the security situation is much improved over my last two tours here. In fact, it's indisputable that the level of attacks are phenomenally low, and that's a great development.
The second is the capability, competency and initiative of the Iraqi security forces is significantly better than when I left here in 2006.
And the third most significant thing I've seen different is that there is now a measure of Iraqi government action to address the basic needs of their population, and that was virtually unseen previously.
So we have some work left to go, and I'd like to highlight a couple of those. We are going to continue to work to improve the professionalism of the Iraqi security forces. But quite frankly, in most of my area of southern Iraq, they are already doing great work, most of it through their own initiative.
The second is, I believe we can coach some practical civics classes to some of the local governance to help them understand the sheer mechanics of assessing the Iraqi population's needs and how to go about funding and getting those programs under way.
Third is we need to continue to kill or capture the extremist group leaders and al Qaeda in Iraq, who threaten both the coalition force and the government of Iraq.
And finally, we need to focus on defeating the Iranian malign influence, principally the transfer of lethal munitions that comes largely through southern Iraq.
So we have some work yet to go. I've assigned some focus areas for my division for this year. The first will be that we assist the Iraqi government with achieving fair and safe elections in the fall this year.
The second is we will look at ways we can assist them at the local level in developing economics, so that they can begin a robust employment program for a great number of their males that still lack work.
Third is, we're going to professionalize the Iraqi army. This army, since it's been formed, has been fighting. They did not have the luxury we do of going to schools; they were fighting right out of the box. And now we intend to go back and rework some of those areas. We will work to defeat the Iranian clandestine lethal smuggling network as it proceeds through southern Iraq.
And finally, we will continue to work to defeat al Qaeda's influence and the special group leaders that operate in this area. And that's our focus for this year.
In summary, the improvements Maj. Gen. Oates sees are:
- Improved secutity, as evidenced by a lower level of attacks
- Improved Iraqi security forces
- The Iraqi government is starting to provide basic needs
The first lead to the second, which led to the third. You can have no progress without security, but in the end the Iraqis have to step up.
The things we have still to do are:
- Make sure the upcoming elections are free and fair. This is vital because gaining the confidence and trust of the populace is crucial to winning a counterinsurgency.
- Assist the Iraqis in their economic development, which means putting more men to work.
- Professionalize the Iraqi Army. In other words, take it from a "start up" to where it can not only fight on it's own but earn the respect of the Iraqi people.
At great cost, our troops have helped reduce violence in some areas of Iraq, but even those reductions do not get us below the unsustainable levels of violence of mid-2006. Moreover, Iraq's political leaders have made no progress in resolving the political differences at the heart of their civil war.
Maybe Mr "fight the smears" should work on getting his facts straight. No less a source than The New York Times says that "throughout Iraq, violence is at its lowest level in four years." Further, as of three months ago the Iraqis had met 12 of the original 18 benchmarks and have made substantial progress on 5 more. Not exactly "no progress."
What amazes me about our troops is how they are able to perform all sorts of tasks beyond direct warfighting. Winning an insurgency is about a lot more than killing bad guys. It's about building up the local economy and government, and you can't just rely on the State Department and USAID to do that.
Q General Oates, yesterday, General Dubik told the House Armed Services Committee that he felt as though Iraqi ground forces will be able to operate largely autonomously by the middle of next year, by next summer. Based on what you've seen so far there in your area of operations, would you agree with that assessment, in terms of what sort of progress they're making?
GEN. OATES: That's a great question. My observation over the last six weeks, watching the Iraqi army in particular operate in the southern areas and most recently in Maysan province and Amarah, is that they're very capable. They are seeking the initiative in planning their operations. And they just recently completed a very successful operation in Maysan province logistically and with their own planning.
I do believe that they are very capable.
I'm not prepared to give you a date on when they can operate autonomously, but I will tell you that my partner here, General Oothman, operates in his area with very little support from us, and when he needs certain capabilities that he does not possess, he asks and we provide. And I might ask him maybe to assess when he thinks his division might be fully capable without assistance.
Contrary to popular opinion, their maintenance program has actually gotten much better than what I recall from '06. And so while it's not where they want it to be, it is getting better.
And I would tell you, personally, the rate of change in the Iraqi army is what has impressed me the most. They plan their operations. They consult us but they do plan them. And then they initiate the action.
GEN. OOTHMAN: (Off mike) -- and to be independent in our effort now combating in this battle. We have some of our battalions are fully ready. In Karbala and Najaf, we have the authority over all the matters in Najaf and Karbala -- (inaudible). In the next five days we are going to have the authority of Al Qadisiyah.
The challenge we do face in general in the whole Iraqi army is the logistic and the supplies and the administrative work. For instance, we don't have any medic facilities or hospitals where we could take our injured or killed people to. We don't have the garages or the shops to fix and maintain our vehicles, especially the humvees.
At the beginning, we started concentrating on the battle and we neglected the administrative and logistic work. We are seriously working in concert with coalition forces to establish such administrative institution.
Time and again we hear this about the Iraqi Army. I've listened to just about every press briefing held by a division or brigade commander and they all say the same thing; the problem is not so much in the fighting capability of the Iraqis as it is in their logistics. They simply do not have all that they need. No medical facilities or hospitals is pretty bad.
We can't send them any more money. We can provide advice, but this is something that they're going to have to solve on their own.
Al Pessin gets to the heart of the matter and what most concerns most Americans; did the surge work and when can our troops come home?
As with all American commanders, Gen Oates is cautious in his response and won't provide dates or a timeline.
Q General Oates, this is Al Pessin from Voice of America. Can you tell us what the impact is on your area of the end of the surge and whether you think during the time that you're scheduled to be in Iraq, whether it would be possible to further draw down U.S. forces in your area without endangering the gains that have been made?
GEN. OATES: Sure. Let me start with the impact of the surge. I think the security situation is probably the best we've ever seen it, at least in my area, and I attribute that to three different things all working together. The first is, in fact we have done a great job both with the Iraqis and with coalition forces to really weigh into al Qaeda and the militia groups. They have been severely attrited, and although not completely defeated, they are not the force that they were a year ago.
The second is the capability of the Iraqi forces -- to include their police, but mostly their army -- has significantly improved. And they are largely in control of most of the neighborhoods in Iraq. And then the third thing is that the government of Iraq itself has taken positive steps to reach out to its population. And this can't be discounted. It's a significant impact in that people begin to realize, although they're not where they need to be to deliver essential services, they've made huge strides. And that's a major component of the security situation.
From the U.S. Army / Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual 3-24 (Essentially the "bible" for our troops in Iraq since it was published in Dec of 2006. Gen. Petraeus led the team that wrote it):
Chapter 6: Developing Host Nation Security Forces
6-1 Success in counterinsurgency (COIN) operations requires establishing a legitimate government supported by the people and able to address the fundamental causes that insurgents use to gain support. Achieving these goals requires the host nation to defeat insurgents or render them irrelevant, upholding the rule of law, and provide a basic level os essential and security for the populace. Key to all these tasks is developing an effective host-nation (HN) security force.
6-6 U.S. and multinational forces may need to help the host nation improve security; however, insurgents can use the presence of foreign forces as a reason to question the HN government's legitimacy. A government reliant on foreign forces for internal security risks not being recognized as legitimate. While combat operations with significant U.S. and multinational participation may be necessary, U.S. combat operations are secondary to enabling the host nation's ability to provide for it's own security.
6-29 Training HN (host nation) security forces is a slow and painstaking process. It does not lend itself to a "quick fix".
Back to the briefing:
GEN. OATES: (continued) With regards to our own troop status, I think right now we're looking at the current situation, and our mission really is to sustain the security environment we have. The next real milestone for me personally is the election period in the fall. I believe that if we can hold the security gains we have and continue to make progress in the areas I've already described, I think it would be an appropriate time at the election to make an assessment of where we're at. And if asked, I'll make that recommendation to my boss. I know that we are in this self-described period of assessment now and observing.
I will caution that the absence of attacks does not necessarily mean you have security. We do have fewer attacks. We're trying to see -- observe this time period to determine whether the security situation will hold.
Q Do you see the potential for further drawdowns as you move later into your time in the country into the winter and next spring?
GEN. OATES: I think the force allocations will be determined based on the situation on the ground. So, if the situation remains in good shape and we're able to continue to make progress with the professionalism of the Iraqi army, especially in the areas that General Oothman and I have described, I think that would be appropriate. Obviously, those decisions will be made by my seniors, but they'll certainly ask me about that and we'll provide an assessment at that time.
"The absence of attacks does not necessarily mean you have security." At first glance this seems to contradict what he said at the beginning, but I think here mostly serves as a caution. We on the right have been (rightly) trumpeting the decrease in the level of violence, and that's all fine and good as far as it goes. We should just be cautious about declaring victory too soon.
On the other side, the left needs to understand that we cannot withdraw the troops too soon, or we risk losing all that we have gained. Whoever wins the White House needs to listen to incoming MNF-Iraq commander Gen. Odierno before making decisions.
What threats remain?
Q General, this is Lisa Burgess with Stars and Stripes. A question for both of you, please. Which would you say is the greatest threat right now, with the understanding that both groups have been attrited, al Qaeda or the special militias?
GEN. OATES: I'll put that to the subject-matter expert first. And then I'll attempt to comment. Which, does he think, is the greatest threat? Or what is the greatest threat?
GEN. OOTHMAN: In my area of operations, I have the al Qaeda organization and I have the militias. In the capital cities of my provinces, I have the militias.
Actually the more threat in my AO are the militias, especially the special forces, Special Groups, they call them. They are trained and equipped by the Iranians.
Those groups, they don't face you in the field. I mean, they put IEDs and they try to stab our forces from the back of the politicians. The militias reach a level. They can't face our Iraqi army. Therefore most of them are in Iran.
Therefore the Iranians, they train them, equip them, provide the necessary materials they need. And they send them back through our borders, to assassinate some of the targets and politicians or our military leaders.
They can't face us, but they have certain missions, or they do have the rockets -- some rocket attacks. They have different kind of groups, some of them to launch rockets, others to put IEDs. Others try to assassinate leaders.
GEN. OATES: I would say currently my greatest concern is al Qaeda, not because they're terribly strong right now but because they remain very virulent. They remain dedicated and set in destruction of both the coalition force and Iraqis. They really don't have any problem attacking anyone, to include all innocent civilians. And so we know that they're actively trying to reenter Iraq and reestablish -- they have been seriously attritted, but they are very virulent and they are very dedicated.
The Shi'a extremist groups are very worrisome. As long as they continue to be supported by external actors, Iran in particular, I believe that they'll practice mischief in Iraq, and that's not helpful. But I believe that they present probably a longer-term threat than al Qaeda to the government of Iraq. And we're dealing with both these threats right now.
MR. WHITMAN: Generals, we have actually gone past the time that we've allocated for this. We certainly appreciate you taking the time. But before we bring it to a close, let me just throw it back to you in case there's any final thoughts that you have before we end this.
GEN. OATES: I appreciate the opportunity today.
It's not by mistake that General Oothman and I are here together. We do -- literally, in our area, everything is done together in partnership, and that's a very fundamental change across Iraq today as well. The Iraqi army is very capable, and I'm very proud to serve along with them. Make no mistake about it; they're taking the initiative in driving most of the operations, at least in my area right now. I remain here as a full partner to assist him in areas where he's still developing -- logistics, medical, intelligence, signal, those kinds of things -- and to provide whatever additional assistance I can to develop his officer corps and his NCO corps. But they are making huge strides.
I believe that this year we have a great opportunity, with the government of Iraq, with the elections beginning in the fall and the continued focus on developing economics, especially employment opportunities; that we can hold this security situation; that it will continue to improve.
And I'm very optimistic about the future.
There is no reason at this point for undue pessimism regarding Iraq. Caution, yes. There are many dangers and things that could go wrong. But we're on the right track and there's no need to change strategy now.
July 11, 2008
Odierno and Petraeus Confirmed
Yesterday the Senate confirmed Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno for his new position of commander of Multi-National Force - Iraq, and Gen. David Petraeus as commander of CENTCOM. The vote for Odierno was 96 - 1, with Petraeus by a vote of 95-2. The Hill reports that "Sens. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) and Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) opposed the confirmation of Petraeus, while only Harkin opposed Odierno."
Why did they oppose his confirmation?
Byrd's office released a statement saying his vote against Petraeus's confirmation reflects concern over constant turnover among U.S. commanders in Iraq, as well as Petraeus's "unwillingness to address questions regarding other regional issues, such as in Afghanistan or Iran, during his confirmation hearing."
Byrd also criticized the U.S. military's "stop-loss" policy, which he says is preventing 12,000 service members from leaving the service even though they have fulfilled their obligations.
"Sen. Harkin opposed these nominations because he does not believe that either Gen. Petraeus or Gen. Odierno will take us in the direction we need in Iraq, namely setting a timetable for redeployment of U.S. forces so that our country can begin to more effectively address the very real threat posed by terrorists around the globe," said Harkin spokeswoman Jennifer Mullin.
I'll give Byrd and Harkin this, at least they're honest. On the one hand I am happy to see the Democrats vote for them. On the other I wish they'd be consistent and come out in favor of the policies the two generals have been and will implement.
Most everyone is familiar with Gen. Petraeus. Lt. Gen. Odierno has received much less press, which is understandable, given the way the press operates. You just don't get anything beyond the surface in the mass media.
The short version is that during the "surge", Odierno was to Petraeus what Patton was to Eisenhower. He has been rightly described as "The Patton of Counterinsurgency"
Odierno took command of Multi MNC-Iraq on Dec 14, 1007, and on Feb 14 2008 was succeeded by Lt. Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III as part of normal rotation. Odierno had been nominated to become the Army's next vice chief of staff, a four star position. With the forced resignation of Admiral Fallon at CENTCOM, and the promotion of Petraeus to fill that void, someone was needed to command MNF-Iraq. There is no one better suited than Odierno.
Of course, the whackjobs at Code Pink had to stage a protest in the hearing room. Four of their members were arrested, something they brag about on their website. One of them even held up a sign saying "Generals Lie Soldiers Die." This particularly grates because Odierno's son, Army Capt. Anthony K. Odierno, lost his left arm in an August 2004 RPG attack in Iraq.
Petraeus will also be invaluable at CENTCOM, where his main task will be to thwart Iranian expansion. Adm. Fallon failed at this, and went public with his criticism of the administration, which is a big no-no, so was rightly fired (those who think he should not have been relieved of command should consider what they would say if a sitting general publicly criticized a President Obama). Also, if things should get rough with Iran, I can think of nobody better suited to handle sht situation than Gen. Petraeus.
Senator Joe Lieberman issued this fitting statement on their confirmation.
"I am very pleased by the Senate's bipartisan vote today to confirm General David Petraeus as 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 two best men to assume these two critically important commands.
"General Petraeus has won the admiration and respect of the entire country over the past eighteen 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. 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 have full confidence in 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 recently 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."
The Middle East, and indeed our nation's security, is in good hands with these two at the helm.
July 10, 2008
The Iranian Missile Tests and the Presidential Candidates
As I think we all know, yesterday and today Iran "tested" a series of missiles. The ones today were apparently anti-ship missiles, but yesterday's involved the Shahab 3, a weapon capable of hitting Israel.
It is important to note that the missiles were fired by Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps, not their normal military. The IRGC is somewhat analogous to the Schutzstaffel; the Nazi SS.
Just as interesting as the tests themselves was the reaction to them by the presidential candidates.
* Diplomacy: Obama is the only major candidate who supports tough, direct presidential diplomacy with Iran without preconditions. Now is the time to pressure Iran directly to change their troubling behavior. Obama would offer the Iranian regime a choice. If Iran abandons its nuclear program and support for terrorism, we will offer incentives like membership in the World Trade Organization, economic investments, and a move toward normal diplomatic relations. If Iran continues its troubling behavior, we will step up our economic pressure and political isolation. Seeking this kind of comprehensive settlement with Iran is our best way to make progress.
I cannot believe that he still has on his website that he wants "diplomacy with Iran without preconditions." Didn't he just go though this process of "clarification" in which he said that he wanted "preparations"?
And for those of you who think that Obama will rally Europe to our side, think again. They think that his position on Iran undermines them. From The Washington Post
European officials are increasingly concerned that Sen. Barack Obama's campaign pledge to begin direct talks with Iran on its nuclear program without preconditions could potentially rupture U.S. relations with key European allies early in a potential Obama administration.
Contrast this with John McCain. Yesterday he issued this press release, which you can find on his website:
"Iran's most recent missile tests demonstrate again the dangers it poses to its neighbors and to the wider region, especially Israel. Ballistic missile testing coupled with Iran's continued refusal to cease its nuclear activities should unite the international community in efforts to counter Iran's dangerous ambitions. Iran's missile tests also demonstrate the need for effective missile defense now and in the future, and this includes missile defense in Europe as is planned with the Czech Republic and Poland. Working with our European and regional allies is the best way to meet the threat posed by Iran, not unilateral concessions that undermine multilateral diplomacy."
Guess what? Obama is against missile defense. Oh, he says on his website he's for it
National Missile Defense: An Obama administration will support missile defense, but ensure that it is developed in a way that is pragmatic and cost-effective; and, most importantly, does not divert resources from other national security priorities until we are positive the technology will protect the American public.
But there are so many weasel words in there it's clear he'd never allow anything to be built.
Regarding the Iranian Republican Guards, McCain voted in favor of a Kyle-Lieberman designating Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a foreign terrorist organization, and Obama voted against it.
But today he says that the missile tests demonstrate the need for sanctions. But wait, the Kyle-Lieberman would have imposted sanctions on the IRGC. Which is it?
"It's my understanding that this missile test was conducted by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. This is the same organization that I voted to condemn as a terrorist organization when an amendment was on the floor of the United States Senate. Senator Obama refused to vote, called it a provocative step."
Obama is also a mind-reader
"It's in nobody's interest, including Iran's, I believe, to have a nuclear weapon that could trigger a nuclear arms race in the region."
I rather think that it's the Iranians who will decide what's in their best interests. And they've said about a thousand times that they'd like to wipe Israel off the face of the earth. What better to do that with than nuclear weapons?
Obama wants more sanctions and apparently endless diplomacy.
And it's part of the reason why it's so important for us to have a coherent policy with respect to Iran. It has to combine much tougher threats of economic sanctions with direct diplomacy, opening up channels of communication so that we avoid provocation but we give strong incentives to the Iranians to change their behavior.
I think we're already trying that, Senator. We are speaking with the Iranians. We do have sanctions. It's hard to imagine either doing much good. As I've said time and again, what we need is a policy of regime removal.
Here's McCain's take
Diplomacy plays a key role. There have been negotiations. There have been discussions. There have been packages of incentives offered to the Iranians which have been rejected time after time. There has been intense negotiations and diplomacy and there continues to be a role for it, but history shows us that when nations are embarked on paths that can jeopardize the security of the region and the world, then other actions besides diplomacy have to be contemplated and taken. That's why meaningful and impactful sanctions are called for at this time, and again, our European allies are ready to do that. President Sarkozy has indicated that. Prime Minister Brown has indicated that. Chancellor Merkel, and others have clearly indicated that they are ready to act, but it's time for action, and it's time to make the Iranians understand that this kind of violation of international treaties, this kind of threatening of their neighbors, this kind of continued military activity is not without cost, and those costs I think can be impactful."
So you can't paint him as a warmonger. But he's not a negotiations-forever military-strike-never guy. He seems to recognize that the the point of no return is approaching.
July 8, 2008
A Mosque in Your Backyard?
Many of the good people of Walkersville Maryland have decided that they do not want a mosque in their town. They are, of course, being portrayed as redneck racists by the developer who wants to build it:
Officials of this rural Frederick County town illegally discriminated against a Muslim group by barring it from building a mosque and holding annual conventions on land zoned for farming, the property's owner said in a federal lawsuit filed Monday.
The religious-bias complaint was filed by developer David Moxley, whose family-owned companies had planned to sell the group 224 acres in Walkersville for about $6 million. The group, Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA, was not part of the suit.
"I believe in the promise of America, and I will not allow a handful of bigots to deny that promise to these good people," Mr. Moxley said.
Walkersville Town Attorney Danny O'Connor denied the allegations....
"I've never seen a worse example of hostility toward a religious group accomplished through the zoning process as by the town of Walkersville," said the Moxleys' lawyer, Roman P. Storzer.
Now why would anyone not want a mosque in their backyard and an influx of Muslims?
Maybe because they've read too many stories like these:
The most senior judge in the UK says that he sees a role for sharia law in Britain
Britain's most senior judge reopened one of the most highly charged debates in Britain last night when he said he was willing to see sharia law operate in the country, so long as it did not conflict with the laws of England and Wales, or lead to the imposition of severe physical punishments....
Phillips insisted last night there was "widespread misunderstanding" of the nature of sharia law, and argued: "There is no reason why sharia principles, or any other religious code, should not be the basis for mediation or other forms of alternative dispute resolution [with the understanding] ... that any sanctions for a failure to comply with the agreed terms of mediation would be drawn from the Laws of England and Wales."
He also suggested sharia principles should be applied to marriage arrangements.
Like wife beating? Anyone who thinks it'll end with "conflict resolution" stand on your head.
British "sniffer dogs" now must wear booties when used in Muslim homes or mosques
Police sniffer dogs will have to wear bootees when searching the homes of Muslims so as not to cause offence....
Where Muslims object, officers will be obliged to use sniffer dogs only in exceptional cases. Where dogs are used, they will have to wear bootees with rubber soles. "We are trying to ensure that police forces are aware of sensitivities that people can have with the dogs to make sure they are not going against any religious or cultural element within people's homes. It is being addressed and forces are working towards doing it," Acpo said.
Yes yes, mustn't offend the Muslims, or they might, you know, get violent.
Oh, and they're also outraged over this ad the British police have been running
Muslims have complained over a police advert featuring a puppy sitting in an officer's hat.
A police force has apologised to Islamic leaders for the "offensive" postcard advertising a new non-emergency telephone number, which shows a six-month-old trainee police dog named Rebel.
The German shepherd puppy has proved hugely popular with the public, hundreds of who have logged on to the force's website to read his online training diary.
But some Muslims in the Dundee area have reportedly been upset by the image because they consider dogs to be "ritually unclean", while shopkeepers have refused to display the advert.
More from the Daily Mail
A postcard featuring a cute puppy sitting in a policeman's hat advertising a Scottish police force's new telephone number has sparked outrage from Muslims. Tayside Police's new non-emergency phone number has prompted complaints from members of the Islamic community. The choice of image on the Tayside Police cards - a black dog sitting in a police officer's hat - has now been raised with Chief Constable John Vine. The advert has upset Muslims because dogs are considered ritually unclean and has sparked such anger that some shopkeepers in Dundee have refused to display the advert.
Think this only happens in the UK? If you've got a service dog, don't take it to Minnesota
A St. Cloud State University student in a teacher-training program at Technical High School left the school in late April because he says he feared for the safety of his service dog.
The school district calls it a misunderstanding, and officials there say they hoped Tyler Hurd, a 23-year-old junior from Mahtomedi who aspires to teach special education, would continue his training in the district.
Hurd said a student threatened to kill his service dog named Emmitt. The black lab is trained to protect Hurd when he has seizures.
First they came for the dogs...
Remember that Mormon group got into trouble over allegations of polygamy? They went about it all wrong. If they'd just converted to Islam they'd be fine. If the coppers dared raid them they'd just claim "racism!" and "bigotry!" But nobody listens to such complaints if you're Mormon.
Maybe the good senior judge in Britain mentioned above should think about this before he signs his country up for sharia law:
Although polygamy is illegal in the U.S. and most mosques try to discourage plural marriages, some Muslim men in America have quietly married multiple wives.
No one knows how many Muslims in the U.S. live in polygamous families. But according to academics researching the issue, estimates range from 50,000 to 100,000 people.
Don't think that they're doing this in backwoods areas that are hidden from prying eyes. Try out in the open in New York City.
In Canada the men are taking full advantage of the situation
Hundreds of [greater Toronto area] Muslim men in polygamous marriages -- some with a harem of wives -- are receiving welfare and social benefits for each of their spouses, thanks to the city and province, Muslim leaders say.
In Britain they've even made it legal
Husbands living in a "harem" with multiple wives have been cleared to claim state benefits for all their different partners....
Ministers have decided that, even though bigamy is a crime in Britain, polygamous marriages can be recognised formally by the state - provided they took place overseas, in countries where they are legal.
If those stupid infidels will pay, why not?
Now, let me stop here and say what should be obvious; yes I know that not all Muslims in the West buy into this nonsense. I've profiled some who think otherwise. Unfortunately they're in the minority.
Don't assume that your local school will teach your children anything other than a sanitized history of Islam, either:
History textbooks being used by hundreds of thousands of public school students across the U.S. are blatantly promoting Islam, according to a new report by an independent organization that researches and reviews textbooks....
"Many political and religious groups try to use the textbook process to their advantage, but the deficiencies in Islam-related lessons are uniquely disturbing. History textbooks present an incomplete and confected view of Islam that misrepresents its foundations and challenges to international security."
The report finds that the texts present "disputed definitions and claims [regarding Islam] ... as established facts."
Muslim women must have their modesty:
• In Lincoln Park, Mich., Fitness USA relented when Muslim women demanded that the gym wall off a co-ed aerobic center from their women-only section because men could see them working out.
• In Bridgeview, Ill., a Muslim school says it wants its girls' basketball team to play road games against non-Muslim schools provided the public schools ban men and teenage boys from the game.
• In North Seattle, Wash., a public pool set up a swim time for Muslim women in which men, even male lifeguards, are banned.
They can't be around us infidels.
I think the Seattle Muslims get their ideas from their pals in the UK:
A father and his five-year-old son were turned away from their local swimming pool because they were the wrong religion.
David Toube, 39, and his son Harry were told that the Sunday morning session was reserved for Muslim men only.
Hackney Council, which runs the Clissold Leisure Centre in Stoke Newington, north London, claimed staff there had made a mistake.
However, the Muslim-only session was advertised on its website.
Banning infidels from the pool and fitness center has gone mainstream
On February 4, 2008, in an act of segregation disguised as "collaboration," Harvard University set the clock back fifty years by agreeing to ban men from a popular university gym for six hours each week to appease Muslim women. Harvard University spokesman Robert Mitchell stated to me that this was done at the behest of a group of women "whose religion does not allow them to remove their burqas and/or hijab in the presence of men."
The Harvard College Women's Center, which represents on its website that it supports "women that challenge, motivate, and inspire," quickly endorsed the policy of segregation. Its director, Susan Marine, told CNN, "It's just not possible for [the women] to be in a mixed environment."
Orwell would understand.
Harvard's not the only school getting in on the action.
Some public schools and universities are granting Muslim requests for prayer times, prayer rooms and ritual foot baths, prompting a debate on whether Islam is being given preferential treatment over other religions.
The University of Michigan at Dearborn is planning to build foot baths for Muslim students who wash their feet before prayer. An elementary school in San Diego created an extra recess period for Muslim pupils to pray.
At George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., Muslim students using a "meditation space" laid out Muslim prayer rugs and separated men and women in accordance with their Islamic beliefs.
Critics see a double standard and an organized attempt to push public conformance with Islamic law.
"Double standard"? Do ya think?
Don't you dare criticize any of this also, at least not in France.
Brigitte Bardot was yesterday found guilty of provoking discrimination and inciting racial hatred with a letter lambasting the influence of Islam on French culture. The 73-year-old former actor was not in the Paris court to hear the ruling and may well have viewed the result as a forgone conclusion. This was her fifth conviction for inciting racial hatred.
The charge arose out of a letter Bardot wrote to the then Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy in December 2006, protesting the slaughter of sheep at the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha. In it, the animal rights campaigner claimed that France was "tired of being led by the nose by this population that is destroying our country by imposing its acts." The letter was also published on Bardot's official website.
French anti-racism laws prevent inciting hatred and discrimination on racial or religious or racial grounds. Bardot has been convicted four times for inciting racial hatred.
I really hope no one thinks they have freedom of speech in Europe like they do in the U.S. We can enjoy ours...for the time being, anyway.
So maybe now we know why they don't want the mosque in Walkersville,
I was careless in my post and forgot to state why all these concessions to Muslims matter (I guess since I've said it before I didn't think I should run through it again. But for the sake of clarity I should). After all, one might ask, what difference does it really make whether Muslims get foot baths at our universities?
First, it's not about the foot baths. It's about power, about who shall have power over whom. And what these (not all, just the ones complaining) are doing is showing that they are the ones in control.
Second, it's about the hypocrisy. If Christians demanded a our equivalent of foot baths the ACLU and Americans United for Separation of Church and State would be on the case in a heartbeat.
Third, it is about immigration and accepting the values of your new country. No one is saying that immigrants must give up everything. There is a give and take process with any new immigrant group; the natives pick up things and the immigrants adopt new ways. But far too often Muslims are not adopting Western ways but rather insist that we accept their legal system. This cannot be allowed to continue.
On a related point, Stephen Schwartz, writing in The Weekly Standard, explains why sharia law won't work even if it's supposedly only used for "mediation or other forms of alternative dispute resolution."
At first glance, letting religious courts handle family and business disputes through voluntary mediation might seem harmless, and radical Muslim advocates of using sharia in Western countries often cite the precedent under which a Jewish religious court, or beth din, will settle such disputes between commmunity members who agree to have them so settled. But this assumes a lack of coercion and free recourse to the civil justice system as an alternative, conditions that don't prevail when dealing with some powerful and well-funded radical Islamic clerics.
In Britain, for instance, the problems of Islamic family relations have already spawned a
"Muslim marriage mafia." Because numerous British Muslim women are wed in Pakistan or India in a religious ceremony, and their nuptials left unregistered in Britain, they cannot obtain divorces in British civil courts. They are therefore drawn to notorious sharia courts operating in East London under the domination of adherents of the fundamentalist Deobandi interpretation of Islam, which produced the Taliban. The clerics running the East London divorce racket extort thousands of pounds from poor Muslim women to grant them divorces. Their decisions are guided only by personal whim, so long as money is handed over.
Submitting financial disagreements to sharia tribunals in Britain would probably produce a similar dominance by radical clerics. Worse, it would support a growing sense of segregation between the broader, non-Muslim country and the Muslim minority.
July 6, 2008
This is Encouraging
From today's Sunday Times of London
Iraqis lead final purge of Al-Qaeda
American and Iraqi forces are driving Al-Qaeda in Iraq out of its last redoubt in the north of the country in the culmination of one of the most spectacular victories of the war on terror.
After being forced from its strongholds in the west and centre of Iraq in the past two years, Al-Qaeda's dwindling band of fighters has made a defiant "last stand" in the northern city of Mosul.
A huge operation to crush the 1,200 fighters who remained from a terrorist force once estimated at more than 12,000 began on May 10.
Operation Lion's Roar, in which the Iraqi army combined forces with the Americans' 3rd Armoured Cavalry Regiment, has already resulted in the death of Abu Khalaf, the Al-Qaeda leader, and the capture of more than 1,000 suspects.
The group has been reduced to hit-and-run attacks, including one that killed two off-duty policemen yesterday, and sporadic bombings aimed at killing large numbers of officials and civilians.
American and Iraqi leaders believe that while it would be premature to write off Al-Qaeda in Iraq, the Sunni group has lost control of its last urban base in Mosul and its remnants have been largely driven into the countryside to the south....
Major-General Mark Hertling, American commander in the north, said: "I think we're at the irreversible point."
In February Maj. Gen. Hertling said he had AQI on the run. Looks like he wasn't blowing smoke.
But wait, there's more. From another story in the Times
Al-Qaeda is driven from Mosul bastion after bloody last stand
The murder toll is dropping, the insurgents are on the run. Our correspondent is on the front line as the Iraqi army takes control
Brigadier-General Abdullah Abdul, a senior Iraqi commander, said: "Al-Qaeda in Mosul is pretty much not able to do the attacks that they could do previously. They are doing small attacks and trying to do big ones but they are mostly not succeeding."
The Iraqis and Americans have got Al-Qaeda on the run. How have they come so far, so fast? ON the night of May 9, 87 "target packets" landed on the walnut desk of Abdul, the commander of the Iraqi army's 2nd Division.
The details of each named target were specific. One read: "Action: capture. Characteristics: white hair, hazel eyes, sunburnt skin. Alias: Abu Mohamed. Car: drives a station wagon. Residence: a two-story house painted black (with map attached showing location). Credibility of source: reliable."
By early the next morning - the launch day for Operation Lion's Roar to recapture Mosul - hundreds of police and army checkpoints had been set up across the city.
Iraqi security forces began conducting raids to round up the targets in the packets on Abdul's desk. Many of them were detained in the first two days. Two weapons caches were found and cleared.
It quickly became clear that the Iraqi army and the Americans' 3rd Armoured Cavalry Regiment were combining their forces effectively. American tanks formed cordons while Iraqi soldiers went from house to house.
First they said the surge wouldn't work. They were proven wrong. They they said the Iraqi government would never meet the benchmarks. They've met most of them. They still denigrate the Iraqi Army. It looks like the critics are being proven wrong on this one too.
This story in USA Today is also a must-read
Security in Iraq continues to improve even after the withdrawal of nearly 25% of U.S. combat brigades, increasing the prospects of further cuts in American forces.
Although U.S. commanders are cautious about predicting further withdrawals, interviews with military experts and recent official statements indicate growing optimism about the potential to pull out more forces.
"I believe the momentum we have is not reversible," said Jack Keane, a retired Army vice chief of staff who helped develop the Iraq strategy adopted by President Bush in January 2007.
There will be "significant reductions in 2009 whoever becomes president," said Keane, who regularly consults with Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki echoed Keane's optimism Saturday by declaring that "we defeated" the terrorists in Iraq. U.S. commanders remain cautious.
It was only a year and a half ago that we seemed on the verge of losing. It just shows how wars can sometimes be turned around by those determined to do so.
July 4, 2008
The Pledge of Allegiance
When I was a child I used to love watching Red Skelton's variety show on TV. Skelton was quite funny, but there was also a serious side to him. I was reminded recently of his "Pledge of Allegiance" skit, and thought that he explained what it means to be an American so well that it would be appropriate for an Independence Day post.
Sad to say, but it's hard to imagine many in show business today doing anything similar.
July 2, 2008
The Man Who Would Reform Islam
Every now and then we need reminding that there are Muslims who see the need to truly reform their faith. Dr Zuhdi Jasser of Phoenix Arizona is one such man. Dr Jasser is the son of Syrian immigrants, and his medical specialty is internal medicine and nuclear cardiology. He served as a Lieutenant Commander in the United States Navy, receiving an Honorable Discharge 1999. In March of 2003 he founded the American Islamic Forum for Democracy.
Dr Jasser fully supports the U.S. Constitution and Western concepts of liberty. He is opposed to sharia law. Unlike most moderates who say that they are against violence but do not see the need for an Islamic reformation, Dr. Jasser clearly sees that Islam is at a crossroads.
Here is Dr. Jasser being interviewed by Pat McMahon, host of "The Pat McMahon Show" on AZ-TV on Wed. June 25, 2008
And here is Part II
Good profile of Dr Jasser and his AIFD in this news report
We need to support people like Dr Jasser if we want to win this war on jihadism. Right now he seems a lonely voice in the wilderness, but that doesn't mean we just give up. Martin Luther didn't win in a day either.
Reform Muslims We Need
July 1, 2008
Iraq Briefing - 30 June 2008 - Support Needed from the Central Government
This briefing is by Col Lewis Craparotta, Commander of U.S. Marine Corps Regimental Combat Team 1. He is connected via telecommunications link to the Pentagon from Camp Fallujah, which is in the Anbar Province of western Iraq.
Regimental Combat Team 1 is part of Multi-National Force-West. MNF-W is headquartered by the U.S. I Marine Expeditionary Force. Their area of operations include the cities of Ar Ramadi and Fallujah.
Col Craparotta reports to the commander of I MEF, Maj. Gen. John Kelly. Kelly reports to Lt. Gen. Lloyd Austin, commander of Multi-National Corps - Iraq. Austin, in turn, reports to Gen. Petraeus, commander of Multi-National Force - Iraq, who reports to the commander of CENTCOM, who was Admiral Fallon until last March. Until Petraeus is confirmed by Congress for this position, Lt. Gen. Martin Dempsey is the acting commander of CENTCOM. Dempsey reports to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.
While many things were discussed, it seems that the ,main theme of this briefing is that localities in Col Craparott's area of responsibility need more support from the central government:
Q Hi Colonel, it's Courtney from NBC News again. Just to clarify, so the support that the area is looking for from the government of Iraq, is that all monetary or is there another -- any other kind of support that's still lacking? And is that the number one thing that you're hearing from the sheikhs when you go out and meet with them, or what are their main concerns? Are they concerned that the U.S. is going to draw down and the violence will return? Could you talk a little bit about those meetings that you have with them?
COL. CRAPAROTTA: Yes, Courtney. I think they're concerned about funds and the availability of funds down to the local governments. And we're still working through the whole process of how the money actually gets from the provincial government down to the local governments. But we're working that very hard and I think we're on- track in that area.
The other element of support that we need comes from the ministries. And I will tell you that we need support from the Ministry of Interior, for example, when it comes to our police force. We're short vehicles; we're short other resources. So again, some of the support from the ministries directly to the province have been lacking. And we expect that that support should pick up as we transition to provincial control and we tie that link between the provincial government and the national government.
Q Has this lack of resources caused any kind of operational problem? I mean, has the Iraqis -- have they not been able to complete a mission or have they had to borrow things from the United States?
COL. CRAPAROTTA: Well, we've been providing them training and support all along. That's part of our mission. But we're at a point now where if we can get this additional support from the central government, that in my view the -- certainly the policemen that I work with, we would see a -- we could see a dramatic increase in their effectiveness with some additional support.
Q Colonel, it's Mike Mount again from CNN. Keeping on the theme with this support, is this -- what's the cause of the delay? Is this the continued friction between -- you know, a Sunni-Shi'a thing between the two governments? I mean, why do you think the support will come after the turnover and why hasn't their been support up to now?
COL. CRAPAROTTA: I think, quite frankly, it's a matter of priorities.
And if you look at the provinces, the 18 provinces across the country, the priority is probably not as high in Al Anbar, based on the success we've had in the security situation here.
Therefore they've put some resources in other provinces that have been higher up on the priority list. But again I expect that some of that will change when we transfer to PIC(Provincial Iraqi Control).
There was more along these lines but you get the point. It's all part of what Clautzwitz called the friction of war. Yes we've made much progress since the "surge", but there are still problems and things that we and our Iraqi partners need to do better.
It will come as not surprise that another concern is how soon the Iraqis can take control of their own affairs
Q Colonel, you were pretty optimistic in your opening statement about the Iraqi police. I'm just wondering, have they caught up in terms of training to the Iraqi army? And how would you assess their readiness? And what more needs to be done?
COL. CRAPAROTTA: I think the police, certainly the police here in Fallujah and the police in Ramadi, are ready to take the lead.
I will give you an example. Yesterday, certainly, we sat down with the police and the army and talked about this incident in Karmah. And we decided there was a need to conduct an operation that has been -- was completed this morning. And the Fallujah District police chief, Colonel Faisal, when I asked him what he needed to execute the operation he told me that he would just as soon I watch my students go out there and execute and that he was confident he could do it, and if I was available to provide a QRF, that that would be enough.
Q Colonel, it's Luis Martinez with ABC News.
The Iraqi operation down in Basra required a shifting of forces within Iraq by the Iraqis themselves. How does that affect your situation or the security posture for your people inside Anbar province?
COL. CRAPAROTTA: Well, initially, we had some concern, because again, we're at a point where the surge was over here in AO East, and we were relying heavily on the Iraqi army and the Iraqi police. And when we transitioned forces outside of Anbar, we really reduced the amount of Iraqi army available to me by two-thirds. But the Iraqi police have been able to get the job done. And I know I keep saying it, but I have complete confidence in the police force, and I think their record over the past four or five, six months certainly speaks for itself if you look at the security situation here in AO East.
And this lead to a discussion on the impact of increased effectiveness of the Iraqi security forces
Q Yeah, I was -- Colonel, it's Luis Martinez again. I was going to continue on this line of questioning. Sound like a prosecutor -- (chuckles) - sorry about that. With the Iraqi forces no longer being -- with that brigade still remaining in Basra, how -- are you increasing patrols? I mean, you said that you were increasing reliance on the Iraqi police, but how does that affect your posture, in the sense that obviously they have different capabilities and different missions? COL. CRAPAROTTA: Well, without going into too much of what we're doing operationally, we are reducing some of our presence in the urban areas and relying more on the police there.
Good news, and hopefully the Iraqi forces will be able to keep a lid on the violence and destroy AQI if they raise their head.
The Colonel's closing statement is worth reprinting
COL. CRAPAROTTA: ...I'd just maybe close by saying that I hope as the Fourth of July approaches that everybody's as proud of the service of the fighting men and women as I am. They continue to do a tremendous job over here under very difficult circumstances. And they've earned both the respect and the admiration of the Iraqi people here in eastern Anbar.
The cooperation with the State Department and the work of the Embedded Reconstruction Teams cannot go unrecognized here today. They've enabled success, and the accomplishments that we've made in governance, economics and reconstruction would not have been possible without them. And I expect that their role will increase in the coming months as we transition to provincial Iraqi control.
And then lastly -- and I've said it several times -- is our Iraqi partners. These are brave leaders, and they see a future for this province and this country, and they work every day with that future in mind. They're sheikhs; they're soldiers; they're policemen, mayors, city council members. Each of them has stepped up for the people and the future of this country.
And we know the fight's not over, but we're going to win the fight together, with the support of the Iraqi people. And success for us is simply providing these citizens with the greatest opportunity to enjoy a safe and a prosperous future here in al Anbar.
So thank you very much.
Craparotta's mention of the vital work don by the ERT's illustrates the point that reconstruction facilitates reconciliation and solidifies security gains.
Reconstruction in Anbar was also discussed at a GRD Roundtable briefing in Iraq the other day. Col. Robert Vasta said that the reason why reconstruction is proceeding is that now there is security. No security, no rebuilding. That and partnership with the Iraqis are responsible for recent successes. 21 minutes into the video he says that improvements in security are "...impossible to emphasize how important that has been to the reconstruction of Iraq"