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September 30, 2008

A Childlike View of the World

David Gelernter knocks it out of the park with a piece in The Weekly Standard that will leave youngish yuppie liberal types seething.

His thesis is that the generation who grew up after the 60s Cultural Revolution know little about recent history, and most of what they do know is wrong. Recall Obama actually using the Kennedy-Khrushchev summit as a reason why he should meet with Ahmadinejad.

He calls them "gen-CR", and his indictment is stinging

We know what to expect of gen-CR. Unless they have grown up in regions or families with an unusually strong grasp of tradition, patriotism, and reality, gen-CR'ers tend to have a fuzzy view of history, an unconditional belief in tolerance and diplomacy, and contempt for the military and war-making. Their patriotism (such as it is) tends to focus on the "global community" or "the planet" or some other large, meaningless object. (Beyond a certain point, patriotic devotion spread too thin simply evaporates-which is a good way to get rid of it if you are, say, an English intellectual trusting to the European Union to eradicate this primitive emotion.)


To be sure, not everyone in a particular generation fits to type. After all, not all baby boomers burned their draft cards and protested the war in Vietnam. But there are certain general characteristics (dare we call them "stereotypes"?) of each generation.

On to some history:

His (Obama's) announcement that he would meet Mahmoud Ahmadinejad without preconditions shows exactly why a president must not merely know history but have a decently nuanced view. It was wrong for Chamberlain to meet Hitler and foolish for JFK to meet Khrushchev, but right for Begin to meet Sadat and for Churchill to make repeated long, dangerous journeys to meet Stalin.

We've all read leftie blogs gleefully point out that we were supposedly "allied" with Iraq during the Iraq-Iran war, and how in 1983 Reagan-envoy Donald Rumsfeld traveled to Baghdad and shook hands with Saddam, and how these supposedly illegitimized our 2003 invasion.

Never mind that we weren't really "allied" with Iraq. For awhile I tried to point out that we were very much allied with Stalin's Soviet Union, and yet as soon as the war ended fought a Cold War against them for 40 years, so did our onetime alliance with them illegitimize that too? Eventually I grew weary and gave up. Too many on the left today lack the moral clarity to understand the difference.

But other than racism, sexism, or the new one, "homophobia", Hemingway points out that "Gen-CR recoils from the idea of enemies." Last night I was listening to Dennis Prager on the radio say that when he spoke with Europeans they told him that what they didn't like about America was that we spoke about good and evil. Anecdotal to be sure, but it rings true.

Start with a given: An Obama administration might still bring about defeat in Iraq; speeded-up troop with-drawals might weaken this new democracy and bring on its collapse like a burnt-out log into a blaze of terrorist violence. But if it did-if the left's policies proved tragically mistaken-Obama's supporters would never know it. What would the collapse of America's noble project in Iraq look like in the funhouse mirrors of the New York Times, NBC, Time and Newsweek and NPR and the rest of the establishment media? "In the end, Bush policy plunged Iraq into chaos, but Obama was smart enough to pull out before more American lives were lost." And that's what Democrats would "know" about Iraq.

It would all just be another excuse to blame George W Bush and from which to seek political advantage, the better to put us all under the rule of the EPA.

Members of the CR generation who had mainstream, establishment educations have been trained like pet poodles to understand where romping is allowed and where it is forbidden. The permissible range of thought on such topics as protected minorities, protected species, protected psychosexual deviations, et al. is clearly spelled out from kindergarten onward.

Yup. I see more intolerance among the "tolerance" and "diversity" crowd than anywhere else. The push for gay marriage is about a lot of things, but marriage isn't one of them. Their real agenda is to force everyone to accept and approve of the gay lifestyle whether they want to or not. Anyone who deviates from correct thought will be severely punished.

You doubt me? Consider the fate of Harvard President Harry Summers, and before the incident that got him in trouble he was considered a right-thinking liberal:

To understand this generational shift in the making, consider the resignation of Harvard president Lawrence Summers in 2006, under attack for having said that, just possibly, the far greater number of male than of female scientists might have to do with innate differences between men and women-something that a large majority of working scientists (male and female) almost certainly take for granted (whether or not they are willing to say so). But Summers had expressed a forbidden thought, and (despite his abject confessions and apologies at the Harvard show trials) was duly banished. In the gen-CR age now approaching, such embarrassing accidents will no longer happen. Forbidden ideas simply won't occur to the Harvard presidents of the future.

The Obama generation in action.

Posted by Tom at 9:30 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

The Creepyness of Obamamania

Update - New video below the fold that's very disturbing.

You just can't make this stuff up.

If I hadn't seen the first one at Andrew Sullivan I would have thought it was a spoof.

The second is a perfect example of what Mark Hemingway calls Manipulated Child Syndrome.

My only question for Obama supporters is, if he's elected president, will we have to call him "Great Leader", or will "Dear Leader" suffice?

Update - New video

Newsbusters says this video is very real and is not a spoof.

Posted by Tom at 8:30 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 29, 2008

Iraq Briefing - 22 September 2008 - A Warning from Gen. Austin

Yes I know, the big issue today is the fiscal crisis and the bill that got voted down in the house, and why am I not writing about that? The truth is that I don't understand the economics of the matter and don't like writing about things I don't really understand. I'm no expert on Iraq or military matters but I do have a clue. So here goes:

This briefing is by the commander of Multi-National Corps - Iraq, Lt. Gen. Lloyd Austin III. Austin replaced Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno in February 2008, who at the time had been appointed Vice-Chief of Staff of the Army. On September 16 Odierno assumed command of Multi-National Corps - Iraq, replacing his one-time boss Gen. David Petraeus. Petraeus, in turn, has been appointed the next commander of CENTCOM.

As the second-highest commander in Iraq, Austin reports directly to Gen. Odierno. Odierno reports to the commander of CENTCOM, who was Admiral Fallon until last month. Until Petraeus assumes command of CENTCOM later this month, Lt. Gen. Martin Dempsey will remain as acting commander. Dempsey reports to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.

The divisional commanders report to the corps commander. The overall commander in Iraq sets strategy and the corps commander executes it. He carries out the day to day operations.

This and other videos can be seen at the DODvClips website. The Pentagon Channel also has videos and news stories, so visit it as well.

The transcript is on the DefenseLink site.

Unlike in his last briefing on Aug 18, in which I said that he "tends to skirt questions, is less conversational, and isn't as decisive in his answers" this time we get some real insight into the situation in Iraq.

Read out to find out about his stern warning...

Before we get to that, though, a progress report from his opening statement:

GEN. AUSTIN: ...We've had a productive month since my last Pentagon press conference. We've experienced continued low levels of violence, with 15 of the last 16 weeks remaining below the 200-attacks-per-week mark. In Baghdad, which as you know is a city of roughly 6 million people, we've averaged less than 4 attacks per day for the last 13 weeks. And this is truly remarkable and it would've been hard to imagine this just six months ago.

In another sign of progress, Anbar province, which was at one time the home of the Sunni insurgency, transitioned to Iraqi control just three weeks ago. This milestone would not have been thought possible a year ago, but because of the hard work of our men and women and our Iraqi partners, Anbar continues to maintain a very low level of violence, even after the transfer....

Combined coalition and Iraqi security force operations in the north, in the west and in Baghdad have put al Qaeda in disarray, and these operations have significantly reduced the number of foreign fighters coming across the border.

And while al Qaeda has a complex network that is good at reseeding these fighters, our actions to stem the flow of foreign fighters and our ability to take extremist leaders off the battlefield are having positive effects on the security conditions.

We've also had success against special groups criminals in the south. We've isolated them from the population and we've dealt considerable blows to their network of lethal accelerants.

Once again our efforts have put "al Qaeda in disarray". It has been a long time since I've heard any journalist challenge this assessment, so you know it must be true.

Then it's on to the Sons of Iraq (SOI). Note how the general uses his platform to issue a stern public warning to the Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki:

GEN. AUSTIN:....One of our primary focus areas as we move forward is transitioning the Sons of Iraq program to the Iraqi government. The volunteer movement that started in Anbar and spread across the rest of the country significantly contributed to the security successes that we are now taking advantage of.

The sons of Iraq have paid a heavy price fighting al Qaeda and other insurgent groups, and it's important that the government of Iraq responsibly transition them into meaningful employment. Prime Minister Maliki has assured me that the government will help those who help the people of Iraq. And so next week in Baghdad the government will accept responsibility for approximately 54,000 Sons of Iraq, and we will be there to assist in the transfer.

We spent the last few weeks working hand in hand with our Iraqi partners on this transition, and I'm confident that this will go well. And you should know that we will not abandon the Sons of Iraq. We'll continue to follow up in the future to ensure that they get paid and that they do in fact transition to meaningful employment.

This is a significant opportunity for the government to demonstrate to the Iraqi people and to the rest of the world that it is serious about reconciliation and about honoring its promises -- promise to the Sons of Iraq. And so with increased security comes different challenges, challenges that I am confident that we will continue to overcome with our Iraqi partners. As a result, I remain optimistic about the future of this country.

Wow. There's a lot here. Maybe I'm misreading this, but I don't think so. The SOI are mostly Sunni, an it is well known that the Shiite government of al-Maliki is suspicious of the SOI and sees them as a threat. There has been much recently about how Maliki was going to disband the SOI and basically just tell all of them to go home.

We, on the other hand, want to transition as many SOI as we can to paying civilian jobs or to positions in the Iraqi Police or Army.

The point is that the SOI should remain around forever. Once the insurgency is gone they've served their purpose. And it is not entirely unfair for Maliki to want them gone. The problem is that we have to do it the right way. If we just turn them lose when they've been expecting jobs, there will be trouble

The SOI (originally Concerned Local Citizens) were and are a sort of "super neighborhood watch." They have been paid out of the U.S. Treasury, and no we do not give them weapons, it's just that everyone in Iraq seems to have an AK-47.

Anyway, the point of the SOI was to get the Iraqis involved in their own defense, take ownership of their situation, and all that. If they have a stake in their future they'll fight for it and if they fight for it we win.

So it might not have sounded very tough when Austin said that Maliki had a "significant opportunity for the government to demonstrate to the Iraqi people", but I think it was "diplomese" for "you screw this up pal and you risk reigniting the insurgency."

Austin publicly mentioned Maliki's promise and is now publicly holding him to it.

Austin, as commander of MNC-Iraq, is in a position where he works directly with the top levels of the Iraqi Government. It is part of his job.

In his closing statement Austin came back to this again when he said that "And I'd like to close by saying that the government of Iraq will have a great opportunity over the next several months to make some significant progress and the Multinational Corps will stand side-by- side with them each step of the way." In other words, we'll help you but you had better come through.

Then Lt. Gen. Odierno explained the stakes last February in his "exit interview" when he left as corps commander:

What I worry about is, there's a window. And we need is some political progress in order to maintain this window. And if we don't maintain the window, the populate will feel that they have no where to turn and I don't know what will happen then, and so this is what makes this somewhat of a tentative security gain right now. Because unless you have the populace behind you you will not maintain security.

So if the Sunnis in the SOI get the impression that the government doesn't care about them then risk reigniting the insurgency. Odierno got it. Austin gets it. Let's hope that Maliki gets it. .

Two reporters followed up on this during the Q & A part of the briefing:

Q General, Bill McMichael, Military Times newspapers. You mentioned that next week the government of Iraq will accept responsibility for 54,000 Sons of Iraq. Could you give us some detail on what sorts of jobs they'll be put into? Are they all going to be accepted into the Iraqi security forces for training and integration into the ISF?

GEN. AUSTIN: Well, as you no doubt know, the total number of Sons of Iraq throughout the country is about 99,000. And 54,000 of that number reside in the Baghdad province.

And so we will start with the Baghdad province next month and transition that element first, and then we will begin to move to other parts of the country and transition those elements.

We set aside -- we said up front that about 20 percent of the total number of Sons of Iraq would go into the security forces, and so we're looking to get about 20 percent of the total population hired as policemen. There will be others that join the army, but the rest of that population will go into other types of jobs. We're working with the Iraqi government to help provide job skills and training for those that are interested. And we've made some progress there, but that will be -- that will take time.

But we should know or we should recognize that the government is committed to taking care of the Sons of Iraq. And I talked with Prime Minister Maliki and others that are senior leaders in the government, and they assure me that they will stick with the folks that have helped us or helped the country of Iraq over time, and they will ensure that these folks who have helped us are properly transitioned into civilian employment.

Q General, the 54,000 that are going to be transitioned out of the 99,000, that's in addition to the roughly 15,000 to 20,000 that have already started to be transitioned over into the ISF or into security forces jobs?

GEN. AUSTIN: Well, we've got about 9,000 that have gone into police forces, and so there will be a number of others that will transition into police forces. And so again, the total number of people that go into security forces will be about 20 percent.

And later:

Q Hi, General. JJ Sutherland with NPR.

I just wanted to follow up quickly on the SOI program. You're saying 54,000 of them will be transitioning to the government of Iraq. Does that mean they're coming off of the American payroll and going onto the Iraqi government payroll?

GEN. AUSTIN: Yeah, that's a great question. That's exactly what it means. That means, for that 54,000 in October, the Iraqi government for the month of October will begin paying their salaries.

Now, this is a deliberate process that we'll go through to hand off responsibility from us to the Iraqi government.

We'll work through, you know, all of the details to make sure that every individual's accounted for and they are paid, and most importantly that they, at some point in time, get meaningful jobs. But that's exactly what it means. It means beginning the month of October for that 54,000, the government of Iraq will pay their salaries.

Q ...what happens in October? I understand eventually you want to have them be plumbers of electricians, but in October, there are a lot of checkpoints that have been manned by the Sons of Iraq. Are those checkpoints all going to go away? Are they only going to be staffed by Iraqi police now? That's my question. It's not eventually, it's next month.

GEN. AUSTIN: Yeah, next month the Iraqi government will begin to work their way through this. And there's no question that some of them, some of the checkpoints, many of the checkpoints will be -- will be manned by Iraqi security forces. In some cases, there may be SOI that will be tasked to help with that work. But in most cases, I think the Iraqi government will be looking to transition people into different types of jobs.

So Austin implicitly acknowledges that transition is going to be a problem, and refused to be nailed down on a time line.

I'll follow the issue of transitioning the SOI and will report back as developments arise.

As always, there was much more of value in the briefing, so watch the whole thing

And ok, maybe it's not as big a deal as the financial mess but I thought it was important.

Tuesday Update

What timing, a Yahoo News/Time story appeared today about just this issue. Money quote:

The last time the U.S. was involved in disbanding large Iraqi military units, things didn't go well - the fateful 2003 decision to dissolve the Iraqi army proved to be a key strategic blunder that gave a massive boost to the insurgency. This week the U.S. will try again, transferring control of 54,000 of the 100,000-strong largely Sunni citizen patrols known as the Sons of Iraq (SOI) to a Shi'ite-led government many of them view with suspicion. The rest will remain on the U.S payroll, as part of a phased transfer.

Some 20% of these anti-al-Qaeda groups - many of whom had been insurgents paid by the U.S to switch sides - will be incorporated into the Iraqi security forces. The rest will be given civilian jobs or training in a bid to help reintegrate them into the general population. But it won't be that simple: after years of vicious sectarian violence, many Sunni Arab patrol members fear retribution from the government; and indeed, some government officials consider the SOIs as little more than thugs and murderers. And as is so often the case in Iraq, the U.S is being blamed - this time by Sunni allies, such as tribal leader Sheikh Saleh al-A'ghayde, who accuse the Americans of abandoning them.

There's some dispute over whether we really disbanded Saddam's army or whether it dissolved itself in the aftermath of the invasion, but I'm not worried about that right now. The important thing is that the Iraqi and American governments handle transfer of SOI personnel correctly.

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

September 21, 2008

Iran: How Long Should Israel Wait?

Caroline Glick thinks that we've waited long enough, and that it's time to strike Iran. From her column last Thursday in The Jersualem Post. After laying out her case that Iran is closer to obtaining nuclear weapons than many suppose, and that nothing we are doing will dissuade them, she concludes that

In light of Iran's unrelenting and rapid progress toward the nuclear finish line, it is clear today that while positive in their own rights, none of the actions the West is taking will succeed in blocking its path to the atomic bomb.

For that matter, the one option short of war that might have put an end to the mullahs' race to the bomb three years ago - namely supporting the Iranian people in their wish to overthrow their regime - cannot be adopted fast enough to prevent the likes of Khamenei and Ahmadinejad from pushing the button now.

Today, there is only one way to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Israel must bomb Iran's nuclear installations. Such a strike will not end Iran's nuclear program. It will not overthrow the regime. It will not cripple Iran's economy. It will not end Iran's active support for international terrorist groups.

She further admits that all an Israeli strike will do is delay that mullahs from obtaining nuclear weapons for a couple of years. Israel would likely only get in one strike. But it's clear that the Bush Administration will not act, and with five former secretaries of state saying that they want to talk, it's a forgone conclusion that our current course will result in a nuclear holocaust.

No doubt that an Israeli strike would cause a huge uproar, and Iran would find ways to retaliate. Glick doesn't mention this in her article, but I've no doubt she's familiar with the problems a strike would cause. She also doesn't say so, but I suspect has concluded that if elected president neither McCain nor Obama would strike either. That she still advocates one tells us how desperate the situation has become.

Why, then, does she want to strike when she knows that it would not permanently resolve that matter and would cause other proglems?

Following are a few excerpts from the rest of her column, but you should follow the link and read the whole thing yourself.

Iran is just a heartbeat away from the A-bomb.Last Friday the Daily Telegraph reported Teheran has surreptitiously removed a sufficient amount of uranium from its nuclear production facility in Isfahan to produce six nuclear bombs. Given Iran's already acknowledged uranium enrichment capabilities, the Telegraph's report indicates that the Islamic Republic is now in the late stages of assembling nuclear bombs.

It would be a simple matter for Iran to assemble those bombs without anyone noticing. US spy satellites recently discovered what the US believes are covert nuclear facilities in Iran. The mullocracy has not disclosed these sites to the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency, which is charged with inspecting Iran's nuclear sites.

As to the IAEA, this week it presented its latest report on Teheran's nuclear program to its board members in Vienna. The IAEA's report claimed that Iran has taken steps to enable its Shihab-3 ballistic missiles to carry nuclear warheads. With their range of 1,300 kilometers, Shihab-3 missiles are capable of reaching Israel and other countries throughout the region.

Russia has made clear that it will reject any further sanctions. Indeed it is intensifying its military and financial ties to Teheran. Moscow has pledged to have the Bushehr nuclear plant up and running by the end of the year. And Iran is already suspected of diverting plutonium from the plant to develop still more nuclear weapons.

Germany, too, has evinced no interest in curtailing its financial ties to Teheran. To the contrary, German trade with Iran expanded 12% in the last year, from $2.7 billion to $3b.

So the US will fail to pass additional sanctions against Iran in the UN Security Council. And this is a shame. But even if a miracle occurred and Russia, China and Germany agreed to adopt and enforce stiff sanctions against Iran, those sanctions would come too late to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

The uranium that the Iranians took from their Isfahan plant will be weapons grade and attached to Shihab-3 missiles or transferred to Hizbullah, al-Qaida or Hamas terrorists for use long before such hypothetical sanctions would even be noticed.

I found the Daily Telegraph article referenced above, so you can follow the link and judge for yourself.

Of course, Iranian progress toward nuclear weapons should not really be news. Just last Monday AFP reported that that IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) just released a report saying that "Iran has not suspended its enrichment related activities," which puts it (once again) in defiance of the Security Council.

Can more diplomacy succeed? Reuel Marc Gerecht reported last month in The Weekly Standard that

On July 30, Ali Khamenei demolished what was left of George W. Bush's Iran policy. Iran's clerical overlord also put paid to Senator Barack Obama's dreams of tête-à-tête, stop-the-nukes diplomacy. Ten days earlier the Americans, British, French, Germans, Russians, and Chinese had gathered in Geneva hoping to convince Tehran to suspend uranium enrichment. True to form, Khamenei told them all to stick it. The Islamic Republic will not cease and desist: "Taking one step back against the arrogant powers [the West] will lead them to take one step forward," Khamenei replied.

Now, yes I know that Gerecht is part of the evil neocon conspiracy, and Glick is Israeli. But the questions still need to be asked:

Should Israel strike Iran?

Should the United States support Israel in this endeavor, and if so, how much?

The answer to the first is what you balance an Israeli strike against. If you balance it against what you think is a stable status quo, then it looks foolish. If you believe that reports of Iranian progress toward nuclear weapons is the result of bad intelligence similar to what we experienced with WMD in Saddam Hussein's Iraq, you would also not want to strike. Lastly, if you think that a nuclear Iran could be contained you would be against a strike.

But if you are like Caroline Glick and myself, and believe that Iran is on the fast track to obtaining nuclear weapons and that they will most likely use them once they get them, then you balance all of the bad things that would happen in the wake of an Israeli strike against the millions of deaths from a nuclear war, and the balance tips the other way.

So if you accept the latter view, what should the U.S. do?

It's not an easy question to answer. There are a whole range of things that we could do to help. We could supply "bunker buster" bombs. We could allow an air route so as to reduce the need for refueling and enhance entry and exit routes. We could supply intelligence vital to making the strike more effective. And we could run cover for Israel diplomatically around the world, including at the UN.

We could try to do all but the latter clandestinely, but we have to work on the assumption that sooner or later the world will get out about whatever we do to help.

We also have to take into account that an Israeli strike will inflame Shiite passions in Iraq, a place were we hardly need trouble. Overt American support will make our task there all the more difficult. It is this, I think that holds us back the most.

Oh, that and the fact that Iran will no doubt retaliate by trying to close the Straits or Hormuz, and it would fall to to the U.S. Navy to keep them open, which would mean a shooting war with Iran. We would win, but it could get very messy. And the price of oil would skyrocket.

In the end we have to support Israel. I don't have the answers to the details, but I fear that doing nothing will be worse than doing something.

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

September 20, 2008

Book Review - Surrender is Not an Option

William F. Buckley Jr. once called Jeane Kirkpatrick "St. Jeane" for her work at the United Nations during the Reagan Administration. To those of us on the right who remember the odious Andrew Young as ambassador to the UN under Jimmy Carter, "St. Jeane" was a godsend. Instead of apologizing for our country as Young so often did, she put the dictators of the world on defense and forthrightly stated our case.

To conservatives, John Bolton is a sort of latter-day Jeane Kirkpatrick. To liberals, he is a loud-mouth "ugly American" who is brash and arrogant. Readers of this blog well know that I am in the former camp.

Bolton may not have had to clean up the mess of Young and the Carter Administration, but he had his work cut out for him nonetheless. The UN is corrupt, and at best useless and at worst a positive harm to US and Western values. It a swamp of kelptocrats whose purpose in life is to draw a salary and prevent Western values from taking hold in other regions of the world. Process, not progress, is the watchword of the day.

John Bolton made his mark when he got a recess appointment as Permanent US Representative to the UN, serving from August 2005 until December 2006. His book, Surrender Is Not an Option: Defending America at the United Nations, is mostly about his experience at that institution.

Bolton attended Yale University, graduating summa cum laude, and made his mark by standing up for conservative values in the face of much opposition. On "Class Day", which was just before graduation, he addressed the assembled parents and students with a few remarks. For his efforts he was heckled by the leftists, who could not stand any dissent. "A typical example of liberal 'tolerance'" he dryly remarks. In addition to his B.A. Bolton earned a J.D. from Yale.

His early career, from 1974 through 1999, was mostly spent in private legal practice, though with stints in the Reagan and first Bush Administrations in a variety of positions, perhaps the most important of which as serving as Assistant Attorney General from 1985 to 1989.

IN 1975 the United Nations General Assembly passed it's infamous Resolution 3379, which equated Zionism with racism. Repeal of this odious measure became the test by which Israel and many pro-Israel groups in the US would measure the UN.

At the State Department

During President George W. Bush's first term Bolton served as Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security. Among other things, he was influential in establishing the Proliferation Security Initiative(PSI), whose purpose it was to interdict WMD shipments around the world. Hardly a unilateral effort, it started out with eleven member states and has grown to 75 countries today. What made the PSI effective was that it was "an activity not an organization", while the UN was just the opposite.

His "happiest moment at State was personally "unsigning" the Rome Statue that created the International Criminal Court (ICC)" ICC advocates contend that it simply provides a framework for trying "crimes against humanity" where there was no other judicial system that could do the work. Bolton saw it as something that would be exploited by those with an anti-American agenda to go after American politicians and military leaders. Typically the State Department was against the "unsigning", because their main (seemingly only) concern was that our action would make others unhappy. Bolton, on the other hand, only considered the well-being of the United States, and the rest of the world could go fly a kite if they didn't like it.

Bolton also thwarted attempts by elements at the UN to sneak in "global gun control" provisions which would have superseded our Second Amendment. Many attendees of the UN Conference on Small Arms and Light Weapons had a hidden agenda, which Bolton smoked out and shot down.

The "catechism" of what Bolton calls the "Risen Bureaucracy" was that "North Korea(DPRK) can always be talked out of its nuclear weapons program." As it is, his conclusion after years of effort is that the DPRK "will never give up nuclear weapons voluntarily" but "often promises to do so," and those promises fool many people.

Among the players in the administration, Rice was always "maneuvering for position," and it was to know her true thoughts. Richard Armitage comes across poorly. Powell comes across well, and Nick Burns so so.

Appointment to the United Nations

As is well known Bolton's appointment to become ambassador to the United Nations generated much opposition in the Senate. Bolton took the entire exercise in stride, though, never seeming to become upset or bitter about how it turned out. His persona, in fact, seems to relish opposition. Of the senators who opposed him, Christopher Dodd is probably the biggest villain.

One of the charges against him was that he tried to pressure an intelligence analyst named Christian Westerman. While I have neither the time nor the inclination to investigage this story elsewhere, Bolton makes a persuasive case in the book that the charge was a fabrication.

The other charge was more personal, that he wasn't a nice person. My take is that Bolton is more just blunt, and won a lot of bureaucratic battles, the result being that several people used his confirmation battle to settle personal scores.

In the end he was not confirmed by the Senate, so President Bush gave him a "recess appointment", whereby he was made interim Permanent US Representative, which lasted from August 2005 to December 2006.

At the United Nations

Revelations about what became known as the Oil for Food scandal were hitting in full force as Bolton took up residence at Turtle Bay. Paul Volker, formerly chairman of the Federal Reserve, made his report, which was highly critical of much of the UN bureaucracy involved in oversight of the program. Although the report made waves (tsumanis, really), in the United States, the UN leadership made sure that the report went nowhere and was buried without a trace. Among other incidents this confirmed Bolton's view that the UN needed a major overhaul.

Much of his tenure there, then, was dedicated to reforming the UN. Secretary General Kofi Annan would pretend to go along, but in the end always stymied any attempt at real reform, preferring to move the deck chairs around a bit. The other force preventing reform was simply that many nations see the UN as a means to soak the richer nations of money, and the last thing they wanted was an organization that spotlighted their corruption and human rights abuses.

As such, one of Bolton's goals was to replace the UN's discredited Human Rights Commission with a newly designed "Human Rights Council". Rules for membership would be changed so as to keep the worst abusers off the council. With the old commission, the worst of the human rights abusers tried their hardest to get on the commission, the better which to prevent investigations into their own abuses, and to retarget the commission's energies toward their real enemy - Israel. Unfortunately, in the end the HRC is no better than the old commission. The abusers won.

One characteristic of the UN was it's focus on process over progress, or substance. As long as a peacekeeping operation reported back to the Security Council, everyone (except the United States) was happy. Heaven forbid anyone should ask whether the peacekeeping operation was making a difference, or that the diplomats were making any progress in resolving the conflict.

Another of Bolton's initiatives involved the DPRK. Since the Six-Party talks weren't going anywhere, he wanted to use the Security Council to force (diplomatically, of course) the DPRK to give up its nuclear weapons. Japan was to prove a strong ally in our efforts there. In the end, the deal achieved in February 2007 was "radically incomplete." It contained too many flaws, and represented the triumph of the "permanent government" of go-along-get-along bureaucrats. As mentioned earlier, neither talk nor incentives will persuade the DPRK to give up their nuclear weapons. In the end, only a collapse of the north and reunification will resolve the situation on the Korean peninsula.

Throughout his tenure, Bolton attempted to bring the issue of Iranian pursuit of nuclear weapons to the Security Council for serious sanctions, but to no avail. The EU-3 (UK, France, Germany), insisted that they could handle Iran through negotiations, believing that they could talk Iran out of pursuing nuclear weapons. Despite years of effort, no real progress was ever made. Instead, Iran used the time to perfect the fuel cycle and most likely work on bomb design. Bolton concludes, accurately I think, that the result is that we are on the "road to the Nuclear Holocaust."

The UN spends a lot of time, energy, and money on peacekeeping operations. Much of its efforts are focused on Africa, which is logical considering the troubles on that continent. The problem is that there is little desire to achieve actual results, the objective more being to simply "show concern," easy to do when the West is doing most of the financing. Even asking whether a given UN action or operation is helping or hurting the situation is "politically incorrect."

The Middle East, specifically the Israel-Palestine conflict, also consumes much time. Anti-Israel bias at the UN is pervasive. The double standards applied to Israel during its 2006 war with Hezbollah in Lebanon were breathtaking. Further, the war illustrated what is perhaps the biggest moral failure of the UN; its refusal to recognize that in most wars or conflicts both sides are not equally guilty, but rather most of the time one side is more in the right. But few at the UN were willing to see anything wrong with groups such as Hezbollah.

Lessons Learned

Feelers were sent out to key Senators to see if they may have changed their minds about Bolton at the end of his recess appointment in December of 2006, but to no avail. Deciding not to take another position in the Administration, Bolton retired from public service.

Bolton concludes that the EU will avoid confronting problems (such as Iran) and will "kick the can down the road" through endless negotiations. Process has been substituted for progress.

The UN badly needs reform, not so that "the US can get what it wants," as our critics (foreign and domestic) say, but rather so that it, too, can actually work towards solving problems rather than allow them to go on forever as long as there is a "process."

However, Bolton is not one who wants to withdraw from the UN. He sees it as useful, but warns that we must avoid "the trap of channeling all or most of our efforts through the UN system." We should look to and use other institutions, for example NATO and the OAS, when they suit our needs.

Another problem is our own State Department. Too many there see their role as pushing their own agendas rather than that of the president.

Unlike some who only make their true feelings known years afterward in a memoir, Bolton made his views known throughout his career. A fighter like Jeane Kirkpatrick two decades before him, he was an unabashed champion of the United States and Western values and didn't put up with any nonsense from anyone. While this no doubt earned him some enemies, it also earned him, and our country, much needed respect. It is a shame that the Senate did not have the wisdom to confirm him as ambassador.

The Book

Much of the book is a blow-by-blow account of the details of each of the subjects outlined above, as well as many more. Although rich in detail, it gets to the point while reading where I found myself skipping pages. While invaluable for the researcher, at times the detail can be a bit much for the general reader.

If you are of the type that believes that the UN is mostly corrupt, does as much harm as good, and should be hit over the head with a 2x4, then you will like this book. If you are of the sort who thinks that the US has too much power, uses it too often, and needs to be "reigned in," you probably don't like Bolton anyway so will not like this book.

Posted by Tom at 11:50 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 17, 2008

The Trouble with Afghanistan

Steve Schippert, writing for the military blog over at National Review, illustrates today why Afghanistan is so hard to win.

In the first post, he quotes an AP story in which the Pakistani military says they'll fire on U.S. troops that cross the border:

Pakistan's military has ordered its forces to open fire if U.S. troops launch another air or ground raid across the Afghan border, an army spokesman said Tuesday. ...

Pakistani officials warn that stepped-up cross-border raids will accomplish little while fueling violent religious extremism in nuclear-armed Pakistan. Some complain that the country is a scapegoat for the failure to stabilize Afghanistan.

Pakistan's civilian leaders, who have taken a hard line against Islamic militants since forcing Pervez Musharraf to resign as president last month, have insisted that Pakistan must resolve the dispute with Washington through diplomatic channels.

"The orders are clear," Abbas said in an interview. "In case it happens again in this form, that there is a very significant detection, which is very definite, no ambiguity, across the border, on ground or in the air: open fire."

The issue is that al Qaeda, Taliban, and their allies (see Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Schloesser's press briefing) are hiding out in the Waziristan region of Pakistan. This is an area that is not and has never been controlled by the government in Islamabad. Ever since 9/11, at our urging the Pakistanis have sent their military into Waziristan many times, and each time have been defeated. Because they can't do the job, we have sent in our military.

As Schippert notes, there was even apparently an agreement of the sort on the matter:

Rules of Engagement (ROE) agreed to since 2001 have stated that US forces can cross into Pakistan up to 6 miles if they are in "hot pursuit" of retreating Taliban/al-Qaeda attackers. That appears out the window with this order. It should be, or should be treated as such by American forces. If not, then there will most assuredly be an event of 'confusion' and a very hot battle with disastrous results.

Even this, it appears, is now out the window.

In his second post, Schippert quotes a Reuters story in which it looks like the Bush Administration may have thrown in the towel, at least as far as using overt acts of force is concerned.

The Bush administration is unlikely to use commando raids as a common tactic against militant safe havens in Pakistan due to the high-stake risks to U.S. policy in the region, officials and analysts say.

Bush approved a U.S. commando assault in Pakistan's South Waziristan on Sept. 3, without Islamabad's permission, as part of a presidential order on clandestine and covert operations, officials and sources familiar with the matter said.

Bush's authorization for the use of ground forces without Pakistani approval was part of a larger ramp-up in U.S. strikes against militant safe havens along the shared border with Afghanistan.

As the rest of the Reuters story makes clear, the reason we have been raiding into Pakistan is that the latter has been completely unwilling or unable to do anything about the terrorists in their country. U.S. officials grew frustrated with the enemy having a sanctuary, and decided to do something about it.

How Did We Get Here?

In the past seven years we have tried to persuade, bribe, threaten, and cajole the Pakistanis into doing something about the terrorists in Waziristan. As indicated earlier, they have tried but failed.

Part of the reason they have failed is that they're not entirely enthusiastic about the job. The reason for that is that far too many Pakistanis are sympathetic to al Qaeda and/or the Salafist tradition within Islam("Islamists"). It's not so much that they are "anti-American", though they are that too, but that they are Islamist. It is well known that the ISI (InterServices Intelligence, their version of the KGB, and basically a state within a state) is run through with Islamists. Given that the secret police (essentially what they are) are always very influential in such societies, we should not be surprised that not many people want to do much about al Qaeda, the Taliban, and their allies.

This was not what Pakistan was supposed to be. Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the "father of the nation", had in mind a secular state.

The story is of course quite complicated, but essentially the country started down the path to where it is today under the rule of General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq, who ran the place from 1977 until his death in a mysterious plane crash in 1988. He instituted Sharia law and long story short we now have massive Saudi (read Wahhabist) funding of Pakistani Madrassas. The Muslim Brotherhood is also active in the country.

Andy McCarthy outlines the whole sad story in an excellent piece published after Benazir Bhutto's assassination in which he starts off with a few arresting statistics:

A recent CNN poll showed that 46 percent of Pakistanis approve of Osama bin Laden.

Aspirants to the American presidency should hope to score so highly in the United States. In Pakistan, though, the al-Qaeda emir easily beat out that country's current president, Pervez Musharraf, who polled at 38 percent.

President George Bush, the face of a campaign to bring democracy -- or, at least, some form of sharia-lite that might pass for democracy -- to the Islamic world, registered nine percent. Nine!

That gets your attention.

No doubt the number of Pakistanis who support al Qaeda goes up and down, so who knows what the number is now. Nevertheless, the "real Pakistan", he says, is not a pretty place

The real Pakistan is a breeding ground of Islamic holy war where, for about half the population, the only thing more intolerable than Western democracy is the prospect of a faux democracy led by a woman -- indeed, a product of feudal Pakistani privilege and secular Western breeding whose father, President Zulfiquar Ali Bhutto, had been branded as an enemy of Islam by influential Muslim clerics in the early 1970s.

The real Pakistan is a place where the intelligence services are salted with Islamic fundamentalists: jihadist sympathizers who, during the 1980s, steered hundreds of millions in U.S. aid for the anti-Soviet mujahideen to the most anti-Western Afghan fighters -- warlords like Gilbuddin Hekmatyar whose Arab allies included bin Laden and Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, the stalwarts of today's global jihad against America.

The real Pakistan is a place where the military, ineffective and half-hearted though it is in combating Islamic terror, is the thin line between today's boiling pot and what tomorrow is more likely to be a jihadist nuclear power than a Western-style democracy.

Ouch. That's a reality wake up.

For a dissenting view see Max Boot's The Real Real Pakistan, in which he disagrees with McCarthy and says that the reason we're not liked over there because of our past support for dictatorships. I side with McCarthy, but Boot is no dummy and does make good points.

What are We to Do?

While additional troops from both the United States and our (mostly unwilling) allies are to be desired, this issue with sanctuary in Waziristan illustrates why Afghanistan is so difficult to win. While the insurgency in Iraq receives support from Syria and Iran, the insurgents there could never rely on those countries as absolute sanctuaries and still conduct a meaningful war in Iraq. Said another way, the insurgency there was winnable in Iraq alone without going after them in Iran or Syria. In Afghanistan it's not clear that it's winnable without destroying their bases in Pakistan.

Further, it's clear that any such drivel such as "we need to engage in hard-headed diplomacy" with the Pakistanis "on a basis of mutual respect" or that "we need to pressure the Pakistanis" that we hear, whether from Barack Obama or John McCain, can be dismissed out of hand. Anyone who thinks that the problem can be solved by diplomacy of any sort isn't paying attention.

Get out a map. We can't even get to Afghanistan except through Pakistan. According to Schippert, this time writing at ThreatsWatch, "70% of the NATO supplies reach the forces in Afghanistan" through the Khyber Pass, which is on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. The Point is that everything we do with Pakistan is like walking on eggs - if we lose Pakistan, or annoy them enough so that they shut off access through their country, we're going to have a heck of a time keeping anything going in Afghanistan.

I don't think there is a short-term solution. The best we can do is clandestine raids and try to buy what militias or local leaders ("warlords" as they're sometimes called in the press) that we can. We probably won't win in this area until we make progress in the overall war on jihadism. And that's too big a subject for this post, but one I've addressed elsewhere; look under "Categories" at right.

Schippert at the Threatswatch, agrees

However, the ultimate solution to the defeat of al-Qaeda in Pakistan is one centered on a popular civilian rejection of al-Qaeda and the Taliban where they lay in Pakistan's tribal areas along the Afghanistan border. This was how al-Qaeda was defeated in Iraq, and decisively so. The central question is how can we (to ideally though not assuredly include Pakistani forces) protect the citizens and their villages in order to embolden them to stand up against the terrorists? We need to identify who they are and how we can gain their trust - and be prepared to do what's necessary to keep it, just as we did in Iraq. But even more fundamentally, do enough of them actually even want to?

He's basically arguing along the lines of Walid Phares that it's a War of Ideas. I think there's a lot of merit to that.

But on the whole subject of Afghanistan and Pakistan, I'm open to all ideas.

Posted by Tom at 9:40 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 16, 2008

A New Commander in Iraq

Earlier today Gen. Ray Odierno took command of Multi-National Forces-Iraq. It was a well-deserved promotion, and Iraq and our country is the better for it.

Gen Petraeus, who turned over his command to Odierno, is a man who needs no introduction. He is well known as the man who saved Iraq, and our country's reputation, from our near-debacle in that country.

Ray Odierno is perhaps less well known. From November 2006 to February 2008 he was commander of Multi-National Corps Iraq, which oversaw the day to day operations. It is the job of the corps commander to carry out the strategy devised by the country commander (MNF-Iraq). Odierno was the man who implemented Petraeus' counterinsurgency strategy and made it work. Because he was to Petraeus what Patton was to Eisenhower, Frederick and Kimberly Kagan called him The Patton of Counterinsurgency.

The promotion, which was approved by Congress, also meant a rise from three-star Lieutenant General to four-star full General for Odierno.

Gen. Petraeus, meanwhile, will assume command of CENTCOM in late October, which oversees the entire region, including Iraq and Afghanistan. Once more, then, Odierno will report to Petraeus. Petraeus, in turn, reports directly to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.


Here's a brief news report from The Pentagon Channel of the change of command ceremony

Here's the entire ceremony

From the press release on the MNF-Iraq website:

The change of command occurs after incredible progress in the country, said Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, who traveled to Baghdad to participate in the ceremony.

"When General Petraeus took charge 19 months ago, darkness had descended on this land," the secretary said. "Merchants of chaos were gaining strength. Death was commonplace. Around the world, questions mounted about whether a new strategy - or any strategy, for that matter - could make a real difference."

Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, noted that a national intelligence estimate in January 2007 doubted whether Iraq could reconcile over 18 months.

"Here we are, 18 months later, and Iraq is a vastly different place," Mullen said during the ceremony. "Attacks are at their lowest point in four years, 11 of 18 provinces have been turned over - including the once-written-off Anbar province - to Iraqi security forces, who are increasingly capable and taking more of a lead in operations."

The Iraqi government is providing for its people, the legislature is passing laws and the courts are enforcing justice, the chairman said. "In more places and on more faces we are seeing hope; we see progress," the admiral said.

Odierno's bio is on his MNF-Iraq page.

Retired Army Chief-of-Staff Jack Keane, and scholars Frederick W. Kagan & Kimberly Kagan (all of whom were among the intellectual architects of the "surge"), have more in The Weekly Standard. There message is that although we have achieved much, it would be premature to simply declare victory now and pull out the troops:

On September 16, General Raymond Odierno will succeed General David Petraeus as commander of U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq. The surge strategy Petraeus and Odierno developed and executed in 2007 achieved its objectives: reducing violence in Iraq enough to allow political processes to restart, economic development to move forward, and reconciliation to begin. Violence has remained at historic lows even after the withdrawal of all surge forces and the handover of many areas to Iraqi control. Accordingly, President Bush has approved the withdrawal of 8,000 additional troops by February 2009.

With Barack Obama's recent declaration that the surge in Iraq has succeeded, it should now be possible to move beyond that debate and squarely address the current situation in Iraq and the future. Reductions in violence permitting political change were the goal of the surge, but they are not the sole measure of success in Iraq.

Reducing our troop strength solely on the basis of trends in violence also misses the critical point that the mission of American forces in Iraq is shifting rapidly from counterinsurgency to peace enforcement. The counter-insurgency fight that characterized 2007 continues mainly in areas of northern Iraq. The ability of organized enemy groups, either Sunni or Shia, to conduct large-scale military or terrorist operations and to threaten the existence of the Iraqi government is gone for now. No area of Iraq today requires the massive, violent, and dangerous military operations that American and Iraqi forces had to conduct over the last 18 months in order to pacify various places or restore them to government control. Although enemy networks and organizations have survived and are regrouping, they will likely need considerable time to rebuild their capabilities to levels that pose more than a local challenge--and intelligent political, economic, military, and police efforts can prevent them from rebuilding at all.

I'm sure this is just what Gen. Odierno will tell whoever is elected in November. If, heaven forbid, it is Senator Obama, I just hope he listens. Sadly, I doubt he will.

Posted by Tom at 10:15 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 14, 2008

Why I am Afraid of Barack Obama

John McCain may or not deserve to win the election.

Barack Obama, however, deserves to lose.

Senator Obama would be positively dangerous as president. So yes, in that sense I am afraid of him.

I am afraid of a president who:

- For 20 years sat and listened to a racist kook hatemonger preach "Black Liberation Theology," and only left the church when it became politically expedient for him to do so.

- Associated with an unrepentant ex-terrorist, William Ayers, and when confronted lied about the extend of their friendship (contending that Ayers is a mainstream member of the community).

- Attended the Million Man March, this an event presided over by the anti-Semite race hater Louis Farrakhan.

- Is pro-abortion. That's right, I said pro-abortion, not pro-choice, because he voted against the Born Alive Act (and then lied about why), opposes a ban on partial-birth abortions, and opposes parental notification for minors obtaining abortions(he's got a 100% rating from NARAL). Here, here, here, here, here, and here.

- Will not appoint judges who follow the constitution, but will rather make it up as they go along in order to push their political agendas.

- Supports giving drivers licenses to illegal aliens (here, here, and here).

- Wanted to cut-and-run from Iraq, and then opposed the surge, getting wrong the most important military-political decision he had to make while a U.S. Senator. He still gets it completely wrong as to why Iraq has turned around.

- Said:

"We can't drive our SUVs and eat as much as we want and keep our homes on 72 degrees at all times ... and then just expect that other countries are going to say OK."

- Will destroy the armed forces by cutting vitally needed future weapons systems.

- Nominated Joe Biden, the dumbest man in the Senate, to be his Vice-Presidential candidate.

- Is dumb enough to think that talking directly with the Iranians "without preconditions" will lead to anything useful.

- Proclaimed in his Berlin speech that he was a "citizen of the world".

- Is part of the party of Leni Riefenstahl, aka "Michael Moore".

- is part of the party supported by the Hollywood trash.

- Wrote an autobiography while still in his 30s. I mean, who does that?

Posted by Tom at 9:00 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 11, 2008

"The Inevitability of 9/11"


It is good to remember the victims of September 11, 2001

It is also good to remind ourselves of who did it.

But what is al Qaeda and should we have seen it coming?

Let's start with this excerpt from Walid Phares 2005 book Future Jihad:

Consider this: the 9/11 Commission released a tape, recorded a few minutes after the tragedy in Washington, in which a fighter pilot rushing to the scene over the Pentagon exclaims: "Gosh, the Russians got us!" Ten years after the end of the Cold War, the Russians were still being seen as the "strategic enemy," not the jihadists who had been attacking America and Americans for over a decade.

The 9/11 Commission, Phares concludes, got it wrong. There was no failure of imagination. There was, however, a failure of education.

I'm not going to run through the entire run-up to the attacks of Sept 11, 2001, as I've done that elsewhere on this blog. For now I'll excerpt parts of Phares article that appears on Family Security Matters today, which itself is excerpted from Future Jihad, referenced above. Just be sure to follow the link and read the whole thing.

In the weeks preceding September 11, all over the world there were signs that the jihadists were lip to something unusual. A month before, I was observ­ing the proceedings of the Durban conference on racism and imperialism. The speeches of the jihadists demonized the West much more than usual in the less advanced chat rooms of the time - which now are discussed as evidence of pos­sible terrorist attacks - the Salafists had been announcing a great strike to come. I remember reading "America, we're coming, the Ghazwa is ready." I realized later that al Qaeda indeed called the attack "Ghazwa," a word, equivalent to raid, used by Arab historians to describe the fatah. This and other bits made me feel that something had snapped in the minds of the jihadists. Since I was swimming in jihad research at that time, I could not sleep during the last few nights before the attacks and have not slept easily on many nights since. Al­though it was hard to predict what might happen, at the same time it was easy to predict that something would. ...

I have studied every video and audiotape aired on TV by bin Laden since Sep­tember 11 and have been able to review his interviews since 1998 with al Jazeera. I have also reviewed other evidence, primarily in Arabic, that has enabled me to understand how al Qaeda thought. But more important by my own standards, I spent long hours before the tragedy interacting with Salafi activists and also In­ternet chatting with those whom I believe were linked to the organization or at least knew it extremely well. Al Qaeda's strategic thinking did not surprise me at all. Already, some twenty years ago, I had several exchanges in open media with persons Iwould now call intellectual precursors of al Qaeda's thinking process. From these combined sources of knowledge and all the material I have reviewed in the last few years, my assessment is simple: Osama bin Laden did not create al Qaeda. It created him.[iii] By this Ido not mean that bin Laden did not inspire his followers or was not charismatic: Not at all. But I believe that when historians look back and have access to a wider scope of information and testimonies, they will conclude that it was the "rings" that found the "lord," not the other way around. It may be too early to put the story together completely, but one can eas­ily see that not only was Osama naturally inclined to lead a radical movement for jihad, but a Salafi environment in Arabia[iv] readied him for the mission. A deep ji­hadi culture sculpted his personal wish to see the days of the caliphate return. Added to this was his life experience and drama. But first, he had to be immersed in Wahabi Salafi culture. Only in light of that does his contribution make sense.[v]

On February 22, 1998, Osama bin Laden appeared on television for about twenty-seven minutes and issued a full-fledged declaration of war against the kuf­far, America, the Crusaders, and the Jews. The text was impeccable, with all the needed religious references to validate a legitimate jihad. The declaration was based on a fatwa signed by a number of Salafi clerics.[xii] It was the most compre­hensive Sunni Islamist edict of total war with the United States, and it was met with total dismissal by Washington. It evoked a few lines in the New York Times, no significant analysis on National Public Radio, and no debating on CSPAN. The Middle East Studies Association had no panels on it, and the leading experts who advised the government downplayed it. During the 9/11 Commission hearings, U.S. officials said they noted it and that plans were designed to deal with it. As one commissioner asked, "This was a declaration of war. Why did not the President or anyone declare war or take it to Congress?" I asked the same question repeatedly from 1998 until September 2001, but my audience was much smaller on my campus in Florida. We must be careful not to miss these messages again.

Here was the leader of international jihad serving the United States and the infidels with a formal declaration of war grounded in ideological texts with reli­gious references: Why did no one answer him? "Expert advice" within the Belt­way ruled against it. Obviously, the Wahabis on the inside did not want to awaken the sleepy nation. If the U.S. government were to question the basis of Osama's jihad it would soon recognize the presence of an "internal jihad." For this reason, the debate about the declaration had to be suppressed and with it the warning about its upcoming threat. AlQaeda must have been stunned. They openly de­clare war on the infidels, and rather than responding, the Americans are busy ad­dressing political scandals instead. Osama must have thought: "Well, that's what the Byzantines did, when the sultan got to their walls centuries ago. They weren't mobilizing against the fatah, they were busy arguing about the sex of angels. This must be another sign from Allah that America is ripe. Let's hit them directly."

And hit us they did.

I realize that hindsight is 20/20 and all that. And for what it's worth, I don't blame either President Clinton or President George W. Bush. For that matter, I don't blame Roosevelt for not seeing Pearl Harbor.

What's important is that we study our enemy so that we know them, the better to defeat them. My take on the whole matter can be found in the category Jihadism and the War of Ideas of this blog.

Posted by Tom at 8:37 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 9, 2008

Afghanistan Briefing - 05 September 2008 - We're Not Winning

This briefing is by Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Schloesser, Commander of Combined Joint Task Force-101, and Commanding General, 101st Airborne Division. He spoke via satellite with reporters at the Pentagon last Friday.

There are two military operations in Afghanistan. Combined Joint Task Force-101 is part of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF). The other is International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), which is the NATO operation. Between the two OEF does the vast majority of the fighting. Besides the United States, Canada, the UK, and The Netherlands have done the most as part of OEF. ISAF consists mainly of European countries, and its Rules of Engagement prevent it from doing much serious fighting. Among other things, this violates the principle of Unity of Command, something pointed out by ret. Gen. Barry McCaffrey in his July report on the situation.

This and other videos can be seen at the DODvClips website. The Pentagon Channel also has videos and news stories, so visit it as well.

The transcript is on the DefenseLink site.

What is remarkable about this briefing is how different the questions from the reporters were compared to the Iraq briefings. In the latter, the journalists accept the claims of remarkable progress and direct their questions elsewhere. They've come to accept that we are winning the war against the insurgents and the "battle" is now moving to the political sphere.

With Afghanistan, however, the reporters clearly believe that we are in trouble. Many times during this briefing they asked Gen. Schloesser whether we were winning. Here's how it went:

Gen. Schloesser gave a very long and rather boring opening statement, which was notable for what he didn't say; that we're making progress. Since most of it is not worth reprinting, here are a few brief excerpts:

GEN. SCHLOESSER:..You know, we've got a lot of other coalition and international partners here in eastern Afghanistan, and I probably haven't done a great job of highlighting them to the public. I'd like to highlight one for you, and that is, is our Egyptian hospital. You know, I'd asked for some numbers just recently as I was preparing for this, and what I found out is that our great Egyptian docs and nurses and Corpsmen have treated over 31,000 local nationals in about a four- month time frame, since in April. That number is really amazing, and in counterinsurgency being able to do things like that is absolutely critical as we help improve the quality of life.

That Egypt supplies a hospital is great but the fact is that we need allies who will fight. As I've documented many times, we don't have many who will.

GEN. SCHLOESSER:..What we're trying to do is to address the enemy intent to really cut away our gains from last year in Khost, or Khost (using alternate pronunciation), which is a pretty significant province as far as commercial gains as well as people. And it's right on that area that borders between Afghanistan and Pakistan, a critical area, you know, for movement back and forth.

There is a road that we are trying to build. It's a $100 million road, 101 kilometers, between the city of Khost and the city of Gardez. It goes through a 10,000-mountain -- a 10,000-foot pass. It's a story unto itself, because we know the enemy has decided that they don't want us to build the road, they don't want to have the development in that area, and they realize that this road will help link government, whether it's from Kabul or whether it's from the province, to a bunch of villages as well as towns in that area.

Again, this is fine but what about defeating the Taliban and other various insurgent groups?

GEN. SCHLOESSER:..I would say definitely they'll continue to try to attempt what I -- what we would call, you know, spectacular attacks like you're seeing from time to time in Kabul and other cities, such as in Khost. They'll continue to use indiscriminate weapons, such as IEDs. Since January of this year through the end of August, they've increased their IED attacks in Afghanistan by about 30 percent over that same period of time last year. And I mean, it's really clear when I look at the numbers, though, the people that they're killing first and foremost are innocent civilians and then Afghan national security forces, predominantly police, Afghan National Army less so, and then the coalition forces even less after that.

I believe they're going to continue to drive a wedge between our international partners by deliberately causing civilian casualties, as well as attempting to weaken international resolve by targeting our alliance partner nations -- their forces here, rather. They're going to continue their attack against the symbols of governance, such as district centers -- those attacks are up 40 percent this year from last year -- as well as schools. And they'll continue to try to create a perception of pressure on Kabul, especially I think to disrupt the upcoming presidential elections which will occur here in 2009...


Enough. Long on hope and short on accomplishments. This sounds like Iraq circa 2006. It is not at all like the Iraq briefings we get.

Lastly, from his opening statement, here's something important:

GEN. SCHLOESSER:..I'm going to ask for more troops. I think it's pretty commonly known that I already have. And I'm optimistic that we'll potentially see them in the coming months...

That confirms what we've known; that we need more troops in Afghanistan. And I'll repeat what I've always said; we need a larger overall military, we do not need to take them from other areas where they're needed, as Iraq.

In 2004-5, when the insurgency heated up in Iraq, Bush and Rumsfeld took a gamble; that we could defeat it quickly with the troops we had. We lost.

Unfortunately if this story over at Yahoo News is right, Gen Schloesser is not going to get his additional troops.

On to the Q & A.

Q General, this is Bob Burns from AP. In regard to your request for additional U.S. troops, and given your stated expectation of very significant enemy activity this winter, how urgent is that requirement, and what are the consequences of not getting it in the next few months?

GEN. SCHLOESSER: Okay. Well, first let me just say that we're not losing a war out here, by any means, you know. So it's not something that is in extremis or it's life or death to the soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen that we have here. But however, if we're going to continue to make good progress in a timely way, which is what I believe the American people want and desire, and clearly that's what the international community wants, and the Afghans do, as well, then I believe that more forces are required. And I think that over the next several months we can put them, certainly, to good use.

Q Could you address the second part of my question about the consequences of not getting them in a timely manner?

GEN. SCHLOESSER: I'm sorry, I thought I did that in the front. We're not losing this war, and we won't lose them if those troops don't show up in the next several months. Again I'll reiterate, though, if we're going to try to do this in a more timely way and be as effective as I want to be and as I've laid out for you and, you know, maintain the momentum and get after this winter campaign, then we're going to need them, you know, within, say, the winter time frame.

Gen. Schloesser certainly seems defensive. Burns didn't even ask whether we were winning and Gen Schloesser went right to the "we're not losing this war."

And later, in another exchange with an unknown reporter:

GEN. SCHLOESSER:...Are we losing this war? Absolutely no way. Can the enemy win it? Absolutely no way. The Afghans won't allow -- and the Afghan National Army is well beyond that already.

Q (Off mike) -- follow up too quickly. I'm sorry. Are you winning?

GEN. SCHLOESSER: I'm sorry. I -- did you ask me if I'm winning?

MR. WHITMAN: (Off mike) -- yes, that was the follow-up question.

GEN. SCHLOESSER: Yeah, I'm sorry. I thought I'd answered it towards the end there. Maybe I got cut off.

What I said was -- is, at this point in time we need more resources to continue this endeavor in a timely fashion. We are not losing it, and the enemy cannot win, even given what we have here now.

But if we want to proceed onwards and make the improvements that I've laid out, yes, we're going to have to continue to do what I've asked and already said.

And later, again we have this exchange:

Q Hi, General. Jeff with Stars and Stripes. I just wanted to see if I understood your answer to Tom's question correctly. When you said you are not losing, are you saying that you are winning?

Q (?) (Off mike) -- one more shot at it.

GEN. SCHLOESSER: I can see the columns tomorrow in all of the -- (inaudible). Look, you know, the truth is -- is that I -- I feel like, you know, we're making some steady progress. It's a slow win, I guess, is probably what we're accomplishing right on over here. It's not the way that I think both the Afghans, the international community and the American people would like to see us conduct this war. It will take longer the way we are doing it right now as far as the level of resources that we have. I'd like to speed that up.

So it's a slow win. I want to make it into a solid, strong win. It's going to take time, no matter what, but I'd like to do it in a more robust way.

Wow. You don't get anything like this in any of the Iraq briefings, and I've seen just about every one since the start of the surge in early 2007.

Whether we're losing in Afghanistan or not I don't know. But we're determinately not winning, and the reporters know it. And with all due respect to the general, we can lose - if we give up and go home. Do not discount this possibility. Afghanistan is a much tougher nut to crack than Iraq, and I can see a U.S. president someday deciding the whole thing's not worth it.

It'll be awhile before we can shift significant forces from Iraq to Afghanistan. It'd be nice if our "allies" would step up, but we all know they won't. In the meantime, the situation will most likely remain a stalemate.

Posted by Tom at 9:32 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 8, 2008

Coming War with Iran?

James Zumwalt thinks that a war with Iran is pretty much inevitable

This unavoidable war will be with Iran. Every American voter should understand this before casting a ballot. Every voter should understand the theocratic leadership in Tehran is of one dominant mindset. The mullahs, led by the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and current president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who serves at the former's call, are committed to developing a nuclear weapon for Iran. Mr. Ahmadinejad has made his convictions on this clear. An Islamist zealot, he believes the 12th imam will return to lead Islam to world domination. As the 12th imam can only return after global cataclysmic chaos, Mr. Ahmadinejad believes he must become the vehicle for creating this chaos. (As Tehran's mayor prior to becoming president, Mr. Ahmadinejad so convinced of the 12th imam's return - widened some city streets for the welcoming parade.) In 2006, observers at the United Nations heard Mr. Ahmadinejad pray to the 12th imam before delivering his speech.

When one understands all this, factoring in Mr. Ahmadinejad's past warnings about wiping Israel off the map and his lack of intimidation over retaliatory U.S./Israeli nuclear strikes (rationalizing the deaths of any Muslim victims will expedite their journey to an afterlife of rewards for their sacrifice), one understands why war with Iran is inevitable.

Everything I read tells me that the Iranian leaders - not just Ahmadinejad - are determined to get nuclear weapons. Our current approach of negotiations coupled with carrots and sticks will fail. Personal president to president talks of the sort Senator Obama wishes to engage in will not change matters. Until we change their government we are headed towards a nuclear Iran.

I've said this on this blog so many times my fingers are blue but another post is always worthwhile. Just go to "Categories" at right, find "Iran", and scroll down.

My disagreement with Mr. Zumwalt is on how it will play out. Here are the three scenarios that he offers:

(1) Least likely regardless of who wins the next presidential election, the United States, having been ineffective in numerous diplomatic efforts, gives Iran a final warning to stop its nuclear weapons development, followed by surgical strikes against its nuclear facilities.

(2) Israel, realizing its survival is threatened, conducts a pre-emptive strike against Tehran to knock out its nuclear development capability. This scenario is gaining momentum. Should such an attack - which Israel has already practiced - happen, the consequences to the United States, from Iran's perspective, would be the same as if the United States had initiated the attack itself....

(3) Most likely, having developed nuclear weapons as the United States and Israel stood by, Iran will conduct a coordinated nuclear attack on Israel and terrorist nuclear/EMP (Electromagnetic Pulse) attack upon the U.S. - to await a retaliatory strike by both countries. (Having lost any land-based capability to strike back but with its submarine fleet intact, Israel will still have a sub-surface capability to do so).

These scenarios are all quite plausible. I even agree with his probabilities. I don't see either McCain or Obama striking Iran as in his scenario #1.

Two years ago I wrote a post in which I laid out three scenarios for an Iran gone nuclear, one of which involved the all-out war posited by Zumwalt in #3 above.

Of the two other scenarios I offered, did not involve a war - at least an immediate war. I called it my "best case" for a nuclear Iran:

The American president assures Israel and the world that we have received "assurances" that Iran will not use it's nuclear weapons offensively. Faced with a cutoff of aid, Israel backs down and decides not to act.

Iran conducts a nuclear test. The Muslim world goes wild with approval.

However, Iran does not use its weapons. Perhaps Ahmadinejad is no longer in power, the mullahs restrain him, or the prospect of a nuclear retaliatory strike by Israel gives them pause. Egypt, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia announce that to assure their security, they have started their own nuclear bomb programs. Other countries in the region hurry to ally themselves with someone who has or will soon have nuclear weapons and shows the desire to protect them. None approach the United States.

Here there is a sort of Mutual Assured Destruction which keeps everyone from pushing the button. This is the scenario that the soothsayers of "stability" spin us to assure us that not to worry, for a nuclear Iran is manageable.

The idea is to sell it to as a parallel to the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union. "It worked then," we'll be told. "It can work again." "Containment" will again be the watchword of the day.

The problem with the parallel is threefold. One, we came very close several times to all-out war with the Soviet Union. The Cuban Missile Crisis was the most obvious incident, but there were many more. The Cold War was not as "stable" as some now portray it to be.

Second, at least the United States and Soviet Union were relatively stable countries. While it existed, there was virtually no chance of any terrorist or non-governmental group buying or stealing nuclear weapons from the Soviet Union. Not so regarding the Middle East. These are unstable governments, and any could be overthrown. It is also easy to envision the sale of nuclear weapons or nuclear weapons technology or material by sympathetic military personnel to terrorist groups.

Third, the leaders of both the United States and Soviet Union were sane. Terrible as the communists were, as good atheists they wanted to live. Iran is not ruled by sane leaders. Continuing with Zumwalt's #3 scenario:

As the United States reels from this devastating hit and Israel ceases to exist as was forewarned, Mr. Ahmadinejad, much as Emperor Nero was said to have done as Rome lay burning, will simply fiddle away his time. Awaiting the doom on Iran his actions will have wrought, Mr. Ahmadinejad will smile, firmly believing the 12th imam's return to be imminent and that Mr. Ahmadinejad's destiny to lead the imam home will be recognized.

The details of the 12th Imam, otherwise called the Mahdi, Muhammad al-Mahdi, or simply the "Guided One", are not so important. What is important is to realize that Ahmadinejad and many in the Iranian leadership believe in his return.

So even my "best case" scenario is only of a temporary MAD, in which I think the situation to be so unstable that war is more or less inevitable.

Conclusion - Zumwalt is right in that if Iran gets nuclear weapons there will be a war. Unfortunately I don't see any serious proposals to stop them.

(Quick note - as a Christian yes I believe in the return of Jesus as foretold in the book of Revelation. So, too, I supposed, does President Bush and for that matter Senator Obama. The difference between all three of us and Ahmadinejad is that we believe that the time and place of Jesus' return is strictly in God's hands, whereas Ahmadinejad and his fellows believe they can prompt it by certain actions on their part. Again, see "Iran" under "Categories" at right and scroll down)

Posted by Tom at 8:40 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

September 7, 2008

Proving Malkin Right

Michelle Malkin calls it like it is in her editorial today. Here's an excerpt:

There's something about outspoken conservative women that drives the left mad. It's a peculiar pathology I've reported on for more than 15 years, both as a witness and a target. Thus, the onset of Palin Derangement Syndrome in the media, Democratic circles and the cesspools of the blogosphere came as no surprise. They just can't help themselves.

Liberals hold a special animus for constituencies they deem traitors. Minorities who identify as social and economic conservatives have left the plantation and sold out their people. Women who put an "R" by their name have abandoned their ovaries and betrayed their gender. As female Republican officeholders and female conservative public figures have grown in number and visibility, so has the progression of Conservative Female Abuse. The astonishing vitriol and virulent hatred directed at Alaska's Republican Gov. Sarah Palin is the most severe manifestation to date.

As if to prove her right, several liberals left some rather unhinged comments. Here are a few

By: petemurray

1. Ms. Palin has rushed to make political capital from her Down's syndrome child. However, as Alaskan writer and herself a mother of a Down's syndrome daughter, and Democrat, Mary Mullen points out, all the programmes onwhich Alaskan parents of special needs children depend to assist them in helping their children maximize their potential were put in place under Democrat administrations and were opposed tooth and nail by the Republicans.
2. The political wedding of her pregnant 17 year old daughter is nothing less than child-abuse in the cause of political respectability. To pressurize this pregnant child into marriage at this age is to ignore the statistical fact that 95% of such marriages fail with sad personal consequences to all concerned. This child was impregnated when she was 16 and in most advanced societies "Levi" would not be preparing for marriage. He would be preparing his defence to charges of statutory rape.
3. Imagine what a field day Ms. Malkin and the other attack-dogs of the extreme right-wing press would have had if Chelsea Clinton had got herself pregnant at 16 rather than exercsing restraint and growing up a credit to herself and her parents.
4. Is feckless teenage parenting and the equally feckless failure of parents to inculcate decent values in their teenage children now off the agenda for conservative pundits?

September 7, 2008 at 3:35 p.m. | Mark as Offensive

By: SDindependent

It is Sunday, McBush has Palin sequestered, she is not allowed to take a singe question from anyone. According to the lobbyist that runs his campaign, Rick Davis she will not be interviewed until she is ready..... "READY". What the hell is this. She is not READY to answer a question from a reporter but she is READY to step in and take over the presidency.

This has got to be the most ominous scam on the American public since the Bush-Cheny Iraq War on WMD's claim.

September 7, 2008 at 2:18 p.m. | Mark as Offensive

By: kc

More spittle for Cons to lick up. Ms.hatelibs selling some of her wonder spittle for the gullible Cons to swill down. Drink it up and feel empowered by hate. Nothing more liberating in the world then being given permission to hate. Lick it up. Feel the power.
September 6, 2008 at 9:52 p.m. | Mark as Offensive

You can see that when Malkin wrote Unhinged: Exposing Liberals Gone Wild, she had no lack of material to draw from.

Posted by Tom at 8:29 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 6, 2008

Iraq Briefing - 04 September 2008 - The Meaning of Pink

Col. Scott McBride, Commander of the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), spoke via satellite with reporters at the Pentagon on Thursday. His current tour dates from October 2007.

McBride's 1st Brigade Combat Team is part of Multi-National Division North, also known as Task Force Iron. Responsible for an area including the cities of Balad, Kirkuk, Tikrit, Mosul, and Samarra. MND-North is headquartered by the U.S. Army's 1st Armored Division.

I'm not sure, but I do not think that the entire 101st is in Iraq. As such, my guess is that Col. McBride reports to Maj. Gen. Mark Hertling, Commander of Multi-National Division-North. Hammond reports to Lt. Gen. Lloyd Austin, commander of Multi-National Corps - Iraq. Austin, in turn, reports to Gen. Petraeus, commander of Multi-National Forces - Iraq (Gen Ray Odierno will assume command of MNF-Iraq sometime later this year). Petraeus reports to the commander of CENTCOM, who was Admiral Fallon until April. Until Petraeus assumes command of CENTCOM sometime later this year, Lt. Gen. Martin Dempsey is the acting commander. Dempsey reports to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.

This and other videos can be seen at the DODvClips website. The Pentagon Channel also has videos and news stories, so visit it as well.

The transcript is on the DefenseLink site.

There was much of interest in this briefing, but if you want to find out what I meant by "The Meaning of Pink" you'll have to read the excerpts below.

COL. MCBRIDE: ...As was pointed out, we're going on our 12th month being gone from Fort Campbell, Kentucky, and our brigade combat team of 4,000 soldiers continues to perform, in my opinion, exceptionally well.

I will tell you up front that the situation here continues to improve from a security standpoint. And having said that, we still have work to do.

There's still an active enemy out there that we are pursuing and going after every day. And all indicators across the board -- economic, governance and development of our Iraqi security forces -- is getting better. And it's significantly better than it was in January, February of this year, which -- when, in my opinion, was probably the low point of our tour.

So having said that, I'm happy to take any questions that you've got.

Although I did not include all of it, it was a very short intro. On to the Q & A

Q Colonel, this is Dave Wood from The Baltimore Sun. I know that you've been doing a pretty intensive job in terms of trying to penetrate the IED networks and that's sort of a multifaceted, multidimensional kind of -- part of the fight. How much of that are the Iraqis able to take over now? And do you see them taking over that fight, including the -- all the ISI hook-ups and everything else that goes into it, the battlefield forensics, any time in the near future?

COL. MCBRIDE: ...Okay. I'm going to answer that in two parts. One, the amount and volume of improvised explosive devices continues to decline in the province. The way that we've approached IED and -- combating IEDs is, we look at how they affect the population and their ability to move. If you look at MSR Tampa -- and MSR Tampa is a main highway that runs from Baghdad, runs through the length of this province and then runs all the way up to Mosul -- in November of 2007, probably 10 or 11 IEDs a day on MSR Tampa; today, an average of maybe one or two a day.

The important part of that is that those IEDs are largely ineffective. And for that reason, the population is able to travel those roadways. And my concern with IEDs, quite frankly, is not how they affect our forces -- and we have not had one soldier who's been seriously wounded on that main highway -- but how it affects the population and their ability to move. So that's how we've approached combating the IED network, because frankly, we've always seen it as a tactic the enemy uses to force use to lock down those highways and restrict the way the population moves.

And we've taken kind of counterintuitive approach, and now the population is moving on those highways. Economic commerce is moving. I think it's helped the economy, and the people believe they're safe on those highways.

The second point is, if you look at all the major -- the major supply routes or movement routes and then the auxiliary movement routes in our province, those are manned largely and secured largely by the Iraqi security forces. Our soldiers really aren't doing that. They are doing that on a day-to-day basis. So what the people see out there is the Iraqi army and the Iraqi police and the Sons of Iraq securing those roadways.

We've heard in other recent briefings that while the IED threat is still present, there are not only fewer of them but that they are less effective. Col Ted Martin, commander of the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, said that "we're seeing homemade explosives, low quality, and many that have improper initiation systems" in his briefing on August 4. Col. Tom James, commander of the 4th Brigade Combat Team of the 3rd Infantry Division said in his July 24 briefing of al Qaeda that "we see that the recent attacks are IEDs of a primitive nature." So we seem to have a trend.

Q Hi, Colonel. This is Jeff Schogol with Stars and Stripes. The Army is going to be holding a roundtable later today on suicide prevention. Can you talk about what trends you have noticed with suicides in your unit?

COL. MCBRIDE: Thankfully, we have not had any suicides in our outfit since we deployed. Back in back in May, it was about our halfway point, and I was doing some serious thinking about what we wanted to accomplish as a team our last six months. And one of those things was, as a goal, to go home without a soldier having committed suicide.

And really the key there is our junior leaders communicating and then listening to our junior soldiers, and then leaders talking to other leaders. That's -- one of the things I see is that many times, leaders at the rank of staff sergeant, sergeant first class, captain, who have been here two or three times and are leaders, are reluctant to share the struggles they have with other leaders. I encourage them to do that. I share the struggles I have, because I'm on my third deployment. ...

This is a serious issue that needs to be addressed continually.

Suicides are a favorite topic on the leftist blogs. One wonders, what was the suicide rate in previous wars? I hate to sound smart-alecy, but if you just listen to the left you'd think that suicide and post-traumatic stress syndrome were never problems before the war in Iraq.

Q Colonel, this is Andrew Gray from Reuters.... At what point do you think your area will be ready to have a smaller U.S force there? At what point will the Iraqis be able to take up more of the responsibility?

COL. MCBRIDE: I will tell you that having been here in 2006 and worked -- and having worked specifically in that job with the Iraqi security forces and then being here for a year now, they have improved dramatically. I was not encouraged in 2006 when I left here in September. And we got back here in October last year, and over that period of time, this Iraqi army and these Iraqi -- and these Iraqi police -- Iraqi national police that work with us have made dramatic improvements....

And the other thing I see is the quality of leadership is significantly better at the company and battalion level than what I saw two years ago, and that makes all the difference in the world.

Col. McBride went on but would not commit to a time frame. This is the standard answer all commanders give. It's all "conditions based" and they refuse to be locked to a date.

The other important point is that the Colonel sees dramatic improvement in Iraqi forces from his time in 2006 and today. I've also heard this from most other commanders, most of whom have also served multiple tours.

The next question is about the all important issue of political reconciliation. Remember that Col. McBride can only answer for his area of responsibility.

Q Colonel, it's Luis Martinez of ABC News. How would you rank the challenges that you face right now? Which is the greatest challenge? Is it still the security challenge or is it more the infrastructure or getting funds, let's say, from the central government into the provincial government?

COL. MCBRIDE: Five months ago, hands-down, I would have told you security was our greatest challenge. Security is still a challenge, but if I had to rate them now, it's governance, security, economics all kind of neck-and-neck here. Because of the increased security we've got here we're able to get on with some development and then governance.

So I am working very hard while paying attention to our security operations and tying the provincial government with the equivalent of the county governments and then the county governments with our equivalent of the city governments, because in this province there's an inherent distrust, at all levels, of each other. And it's mainly because they don't talk.

That's improved pretty dramatically in the past three months. I'll give you an example. We have the city of Ad Dawr. If you'll remember, just north of Ad Dawr, that's where Saddam Hussein was captured when he was captured. The people of Ad Dawr in 2005 did not vote in the elections, therefore they had no representation on the city council.

Ad Dawr lies about six or seven miles from the provincial capital of Tikrit. For the last two years, no one from the provincial government had been to Ad Dawr and visited their people or their government.

At my urging, working with my partner, the governor and the deputy governor and the provincial leadership, I encouraged them to go to Ad Dawr and listen to the people, go talk to the people. And we've done that twice and it's made a tremendous impact on that city.

About two -- about three weeks after that, things started to happen in that city, and then the population began to have a little bit of trust in their government. And then business owners came together and over a stretch of about one mile, as you run through the center of the city of Ad Dawr, which is about probably 65,000 people, they had painted every shop pink, which was quite amazing to see.

But I asked them, why did you paint everything pink? They said this is the color of peace and reconciliation.

But I think that effort by the provincial government to tie itself to that district made a huge difference. So that's taken up a large amount of our -- of my personal effort and efforts of junior leaders at their respective levels, to tie and to develop the trust so these different levels of government can work together and achieve something for the population.

Wow. What could Code Pink think of this?

Al Pessin, known by me for asking some of the more tough questions, followed up on Andrew Gray' earlier question about drawing down U.S. forces.

Q Colonel, it's Al Pessin from Voice of America. I want to follow up on two of the earlier questions. You said that Iraqi security forces have made dramatic improvements, and yet your unit will be replaced by a unit of similar size and capability. When do you see that changing? When will the Iraqis, with these dramatic improvements, be able to stand more on their own in that province? ...

COL. MCBRIDE: Okay. Okay. The first question, I guess back in 2006 I saw how -- I saw how ineffective they were, because they, in many cases, were at their infancy. So that's what I mean when I say a dramatic improvement. I would hope that in, you know, the next several months to the next year, we could look at -- if everything stays progressing at the way -- at the rate it is now, some reduction of forces here. And that's going to be -- and on a -- and I would say a repeated phrase, but that's going to be contingent upon conditions on the ground....

The Iraqi police are not progressing as quickly as the Iraqi army is. Their performance is uneven across the board. That's largely dependent on leadership. Most of these forces have their equipment. They have their cars. They have their weapons. It's dependent on leadership....

...I wouldn't advocate any drawdown yet, plus we have a huge geographical area where now I can push or we can push both our forces and Iraqi security forces out into deserts, both east and west, which -- frankly, six months ago, al Qaeda had their way in these deserts. They moved from north to south in the deserts, both east and west.

So a little while longer -- we don't -- we haven't held enough to do -- to -- to talk about a drawdown, in my opinion, in the province. And oh, by the way, if you talk to the provincial leadership here, they'll tell you, "We are not ready for you to leave. You need to stay. We're making progress. It's not time."

Two steps forward, one step back. In other words, a typical war. The friction is all around, yet we move forward, if slowly. The key is to fight smart and never get complacent. What works today might not work tomorrow.

"I wouldn't advocate any drawdown yet." I hope whoever is elected in November listens to the troops who are fighting this war.

Posted by Tom at 5:00 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 4, 2008

Gov. Sarah Palin at the RNC

Can we flip the ticket?

Gov. Sarah Palin was devastatingly effective last night.

Here's the video of her speech via C-Span:

She was positive and upbeat, and even delivered her barbs with a smile. Style and grace were the hallmarks of her address. Not a trace of bitterness that I could detect, despite unrelenting horribly negative coverage from most of the media and all of the left-wing blogosphere.

She and her family are ordinary people, not Ivy-league elitists who pander to the Washington press corps. No Harvard Law School, so sorry. She came across as "one of us" as it were. Someone who shares middle-class values, but clearly an extraordinary woman.

I was nervous before she went on. As she started, I could barely watch. Will she flop? Will she show nervousness and flub her lines? As it was, I needn't have worried. She was fabulous.

For the first time there's energy in this campaign. Gov Sarah Palin wowed the delegates at the RNC and has rallied conservatives nationwide.

For awhile now we've needed a Republican who is not afraid to go after corruption and pork-barrel politics in our own party. She went after them in Alaska, and succeeded.

Conservatives now have a real reason to vote for McCain, not just against Obama.

She could well be the face of the new Republican party.

She is the Democrats worst nightmare.

Also, did you see Rudy Giuliani, who went right before her and served as her warm up? He was incredibly effective. She couldn't have asked for a better lead-in.

Media attacks on Sarah Palin will only serve to rally conservatives, even, yes, social conservatives, around her. When will the media understand that if they want to destroy a Republican or conservative they should praise him or her? When will they understand that all these attacks only generate support?

Further, the withering media attacks and insinuations that she must be an idiot because she was only the governor for a short time made her speech all the better. Yes I know, "lowering expectations" and all that, but that's the point. When will the media learn that such attacks only make people look better when they end up performing well?

As always Mark Steyn said it better than I ever could:

I would like to thank the US media for doing such a grand job this last week of lowering expectations by portraying Governor Palin - whoops, I mean Hick-Burg Mayor Palin - as a hillbilly know-nothing permapregnant ditz, half of whose 27 kids are the spawn of a stump-toothed uncle who hasn't worked since he was an extra in Deliverance.

How's that narrative holding up, geniuses? Almost as good as your "devoted husband John Edwards" routine?

Heh heh.

The left hates her because she is a huge threat to them. Smart, attractive, articulate, a winning personality, an effective leader, and and most of all a pro-life conservative. In other words, everything that scares them.

No I don't know everything about her policy positions. But I do know that she is pro-life, pro-gun, pro-traditional family, small government, and with a son headed to Iraq must think right on foreign policy. Sounds like a winner to me.

Let's not have any nonsense about how "anyone can give a good speech that someone else writes" or that "well she didn't write the speech did she?" Ted Sorensen wrote John F Kennedy's speeches, and no one complains about that. Barack Obama has a speechwriter, and his name is Jon Favreau. No politician writes all of their own speeches. But by the same token all politicians do contribute or partially write their speeches. And if you think delivering them is easy, think again. Further, we now know that as with Rudy Giuliani who went just before her, the guy running the teleprompted messed up and got ahead of the speachgiver, so that at least for awhile both had to go it alone. And if you saw the governor of Hawaii, who went before Giuliani, well, she was awful, and not because of content but because of delivery.

Let's also not have any nonsense about how poor Obama has been savaged by the right so there's an equivalency. Please. Most all of the traditional media is in the tank for Obama, to the point where during the primaries Saturday Night Live felt compelled to do a skit about it. The media is in full attack mode against Sarah Palin, not to mention the left-wing blogosphere. I don't recall the media caring to investigate about Jeremiah Wright, William Ayers, or Edwards' extramarital affairs. All those stories were broke by the non-traditional media. But Sarah Palin? Suddenly everything about her and her family is fair game and a "teachable moment."

All this and she came through with style, grace, and humor last night. Surely she hit it out of the park.

But all these great things said about Sarah Palin said we shouldn't get too carried away. Sarah Palin has been at this for less than a week, and hasn't yet directly faced a hostile press or hit the campaign trail. And of course the debate with Joe Biden will be a huge test. So far so good, though.

She certainly wowed me last night and I am ready to go out and do more campaigning.

Onward to victory for McCain-Palin!

The text of her convention speech can be found here and here, and probably a hundred other places as well.

Here's the Youtube video of her address if for some reason the first doesn't work

Here's her bio video, which was aired at the RNC last night

Posted by Tom at 9:00 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

September 1, 2008

Gen. Barry McCaffrey Report - July 2008 - Afghanistan

Gen Barry McCaffrey (ret) has recently returned from Afghanistan and on July 30 issued an After Action Report. I know this post is a bit late but I was out of action for much of August. I haven't always agreed with Gen. McCaffrey, but he is an experienced soldier and his opinion seems honest and devoid of allegiance to either party.

You must download and read the report yourself. It is important to note that Gen. McCaffrey did not just wander around in Afghanistan for awhile talking to whomever he met, but had scheduled a series of meetings with a variety of military officers, diplomats, and advisers in different disciplines. As he notes up front

This report is based on a series of briefings and conversations at SHAPE (Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe) in Mons, Belgium and then subsequent field observations in Afghanistan while accompanying General John Craddock SACEUR (Supreme Allied Commander, Europe ) during his command update visit. I am very appreciative that the JCS Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen approved the trip and gave me his own take on the situation prior to my travel in theater.

The best part about McCaffrey's reports is that he lists his conclusions up front in quick easy to digest bullet points. Here is his "Bottom Line: Six Assertions," along with my comments after each:

1) Afghanistan is in misery. 68% of the population has never known peace. Life expectancy is 44 years. It has the second highest maternal mortality rate in the world: One of six pregnant Afghan women dies for each live birth. Terrorist incidents and main force insurgent violence is rising (34% increase this year in kinetic events.) Battle action and casualties are now much higher in Afghanistan for US forces than they are in Iraq. The Afghan government at provincial and district level is largely dysfunctional and corrupt. The security situation (2.8 million refugees); the economy (unemployment 40% and rising, extreme poverty 41%, acute food shortages, inflation 12% and rising, agriculture broken); the giant heroin/opium criminal enterprise ($4 billion and 800 metric tons of heroin); and Afghan governance are all likely to get worse in the coming 24 months.

Liberals and Democrats will not want to hear this, but the truth is that between Iraq and Afghanistan the latter is the tougher nut to crack. Iraq was always more winnable as long as we had the willpower, correct strategy, and number of troops. In other words, if you think Iraq is a mess wait until you read McCaffrey's entire report on Afghanistan. And by "mess", I'm not talking about our forces or those of our allies, but about the indigenous situation.

If we hadn't invaded Iraq but rather concentrated on Afghanistan as we're told we should have done, we'd most likely have a similar situation in Afghanistan to what we have today, and an Iraq mostly free of sanctions, causing trouble in the region, and on the way to rebuilding it's stockpile of WMD.

2) The magnificent, resilient Afghan people absolutely reject the ideology and violence of the Taliban (90% or greater) but have little faith in the ability of the government to provide security, justice, clean water, electricity, or jobs. Much of Afghanistan has great faith in US military forces, but enormous suspicion of the commitment and staying power of our NATO allies.

Suspicious of the "commitment and staying power of our NATO allies?" I thought this was the war we were all supposed to be in favor of? You mean that they're not committed?

3) The courageous and determined NATO Forces (the employable forces are principally US, Canadian, British, Polish, and Dutch) and the Afghan National Army (the ANA is a splendid success story) cannot be defeated in battle. They will continue to slaughter the Pashtun insurgents, criminals, and international terrorist syndicates who directly confront them. (7000+ killed during 2007 alone.) The Taliban will increasingly turn to terrorism directed against the people and the Afghan National Police. However, the atmosphere of terror cannot be countered by relying mainly on military means. We cannot win through a war of attrition. The economic and political support provided by the international community is currently inadequate to deal with the situation.

Sounds like the people running the Afghan campaign need to read Gen. Petraeus' U.S. Army / Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual 3-24. The "international community" also needs to be whacked over the head.

4) 2009 will be the year of decision. The Taliban and a greatly enhanced foreign fighter presence will: strike decisive blows against selected NATO units; will try to erase the FATA and Baluchi borders with Afghanistan; will try to sever the road networks and stop the construction of new roads (Route # 1 -- the Ring Road from Kabul to Kandahar is frequently now interdicted); and will try to strangle and isolate the capital. Without more effective and non-corrupt Afghan political leadership at province and district level, Afghanistan may become a failed state hosting foreign terrorist communities with global ambitions. Afghan political elites are focused more on the struggle for power than governance.

This doesn't portend well for the future.

5) US unilateral reinforcements driven by US Defense Secretary Bob Gates have provided additional Army and Marine combat forces and significant enhanced training and equipment support for Afghan security forces. This has combined with greatly increased US nation-building support (PRT's, road building, support for the Pakistani Armed Forces, etc.) to temporarily halt the slide into total warfare. The total US outlay in Afghanistan this year will be in excess of $34 billion: a burn rate of more than $2.8 billion per month. However, there has been no corresponding significant effort by the international community. The skillful employment of US Air Force, Army, and Naval air power (to include greatly expanded use of armed and reconnaissance UAV's : Predator, Reaper, Global hawk, and Shadow) has narrowly prevented the Taliban from massing and achieving local tactical victories over isolated and outnumbered US and coalition forces in the East and South.

"No corresponding significant effort by the international community." That Gen. McCaffrey hammers at this in each of his points is significant. The question is, why haven't they stepped up?

Liberals and Democrats usually point to Iraq and claim that we squandered post-9/11 goodwill through an ill-considered invasion. No doubt that it did not make us popular, and indeed earned us a good deal of enmity. But what would it say about our "allies" if indeed they were holding back in Afghanistan because of Iraq? It would say that they're a bunch of petulant children too immature to act in their own best interests because they did not get their way elsewhere. Tempting though it may be for me to say this is the reason for their behavior, I think it really lies elsewhere.

My take is that our "allies" do not support our efforts in Afghanistan for several interrelated reasons. The biggest problem is that they do not see the reality of the Jihadist threat. Most of them believe that the terrorists will leave them alone if they do not stir the hornets nest. After all, most do not even see the threat from within their own borders from their restless Muslim populations. Related to this is the effect of cradle-to-grave socialism on the psyche. It's what Mark Steyn called the "softening and feminization of the Western world" in his best-seller America Alone. In Europe, he says, "the soft culture is so pervasive - state pensions, protected jobs, six weeks of paid vacation, lavish unemployment benefits if the thirty-five-hour work week sounds too grueling - that the citizen is little more than a junkie on the state narcotic." Add to this the moral confusion of multiculturalism and you get a society in which the people don't care about anything but their own health care and pensions.

I'm not at all saying that the Bush Administration couldn't have done a better job. I've stated many times on this blog that they've done a miserable job at getting our message out and tapping our vast reservoirs of "soft power." What I am saying is that if you think that the reason NATO isn't stepping up is because of the Bush Administration and Iraq you're wrong.

6) There is no unity of command in Afghanistan. A sensible coordination of all political and military elements of the Afghan theater of operations does not exist. There is no single military headquarters tactically commanding all US forces. All NATO military forces do not fully respond to the NATO ISAF Commander because of extensive national operational restrictions and caveats. In theory, NATO ISAF Forces respond to the (US) SACEUR...but US Forces in ISAF (half the total ISAF forces are US) respond to the US CENTCOM commander. However, US Special Operations Forces respond to US SOCOM.....not (US) SACEUR or US CENTCOM. There is no accepted Combined NATO-Afghan military headquarters. There is no clear political governance relationship organizing the government of Afghanistan, the United Nations and its many Agencies, NATO and its political and military presence, the 26 Afghan deployed allied nations, the hundreds of NGO's, and private entities and contractors. There is little formal dialog between the government and military of Pakistan and Afghanistan, except that cobbled together by the US Forces in Regional Command East along the Pakistan frontier.

Part of the problem with establishing unity of command is that too many of our European "partners" simply do not want to fight. They're willing to contribute troops; as long as they're kept in safe locations where there is little chance they'll incur casualties. In other words, they're there so that they can say they are "doing something." The only countries really fighting are us, Canada, the UK, and The Netherlands.

This said, "without NATO we are lost in Afghanistan." We cannot do it alone unless we drastically increase our spending, and this is not going to happen. The next president has got to whack some sense into the Europeans.

How do we win? McCaffrey tells us that

The battle will be won in Afghanistan when there is an operational Afghan police presence in the nation's 34 provinces and 398 Districts. The battle will be won when the current Afghan National Army expands from 80,000 troops to 200,000 troops with appropriate equipment, training, and leadership and embedded NATO LNO teams. (Afghanistan is 50% larger than Iraq and has a larger population.) The battle will be won when we deploy a five battalion US Army engineer brigade with attached Stryker security elements to lead a five year road building effort employing Afghan contractors and training and mentoring Afghan engineers. The war will be won when we fix the Afghan agricultural system which employs 82% of the population. The war will be won when the international community demands the eradication of the opium and cannabis crops and robustly supports the development of alternative economic activity.

Elsewhere McCaffrey praises the "superb" U.S. troops but also that "much of our ground and air equipment is falling apart."

We need more troops, and more money for equipment. But we can get them both without taking them from the required fight in Iraq. I've said for a long time that we should spend more on our military. One thing we can do is eliminate wasteful things like the U.S. Department of Education and spend the savings building the five battalion US Army engineer brigade that McCaffrey talks about.

So we've got our work cut out for us in Afghanistan. Whoever is elected president will have the luxury of inheriting an Iraq that is mostly won (thank you to President Bush who finally saw the light). They'd better step up to the plate.

The December General Barry McCaffrey Report on Iraq
Barry McCaffrey on Iraq II
"The Most Brilliantly Led Military We Have Ever Fielded" (Iraq)
Barry McCaffrey on Afghanistan

Posted by Tom at 8:50 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack